Laozi：an Oriental Sage
Laozi (Li Er, 571– 471 BC) was a great thinker and the founder of Taoism. He has influenced human culture for over 2,500 years.
Laozi (Li Er, 571–471 BC) was a great thinker and the founder of the Taoist School. As he has influenced human culture for over 2,500 years, he is honoured as “the father of Chinese philosophy” and is also popularly called “taishang laojun” (the Grand Supreme Elderly Lord) by Chinese people.
During the Spring and Autumn Period (770–476 BC), the states that were at war unleashed widespread chaos. Despite living in that period, Laozi was indifferent to worldly concerns and understood the primordial Way of the universe with his superlative wisdom. He composed a great philosophical book— Laozi, or Tao Te Ching. The book is a rare classic that has maintained its influence on China for more than 2,000 years.
One of the most famous lines in
Tao Te Ching was translated by British sinologist Arthur David Waley (1899– 1966): “The Way that can be told of is not an Unvarying Way; the names that can be named are not unvarying names.” As this line shows, the Tao Te Ching is so profound and all-encompassing that it is acclaimed as “the king of classics.” Lu Xun (1881–1936), a leading figure of modern Chinese literature, once said: “If you don't read the Laozi, neither will you understand the Chinese culture, nor the true meaning of life.”
Laozi was fond of studying from the time he was a child. After he grew up, he served as a librarian at the imperial court of the Zhou Dynasty (11th century–256 BC), where he acquainted himself with ancient laws and regulations. He was later appointed imperial historian. In 518 BC, with the approval of Duke Zhao of Lu (reign: 542–510 BC), Confucius (551–479 BC), together with his student Nangong Jingshu, went to Luoyang to visit Laozi. Confucius, then a young scholar, consulted Laozi about many questions. He was so impressed with the answers that he thought highly of Laozi, saying: “As for birds, I know they can fly; as