Laozi:an Ori­en­tal Sage

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Sun Hong­shan Edited Mary Frances Cap­piello

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.”

Leg­endary 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

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