'Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching' is translated by D.C. Lau, and published by Penguin Books in their 'Penguin Classics' series. It is currently in its seventeenth printing, the first edition dating from nineteen sixty-three. Although this translation is written in a style which I find rather too literal for my own taste, it carries a very lucid introduction, as well as footnotes, a glossary and a reference section, all of which recommend it to the reader who wishes to check reference sources.
'Truth and Nature', by Cheng Lin, published in Hong Kong, does not claim to be a translation, but interprets the Tao Te Ching in a very interesting manner. Two arrangements of the Chinese text are included, one according to the arrangement of Wang Bih. The reader wishing to use the original language as a source will find the Chinese text in this edition of value. It must be emphasized however, that there are a number of Chinese texts available. Whilst these usually conform to Wang Bih's arrangment of the text, they do vary in detail.
'The Simple Way of Lao Tsze' (sic) is a very pleasant analysis of the Tao Te Ching first published by 'The Shrine of Wisdom' in London some sixty years ago. It contains many footnotes, and is an interpretation rather than a direct translation, attempting to describe the 'spirit' of Taoism, and doing so without pretence. However, some readers may find the nomenclature somewhat esoteric (although it is only reasonable to expect that the same criticism might be levelled at my own interpretation).
'Lao-Tzu: "My Words are very easy to understand" ' by Man-jan Cheng, translated by Tam C.Gibbs, and published by North Atlantic Books, is a Confucionist (rather than Taoist) rendering. It therefore contains material of value to the student who wishes to 'see both sides of the coin'. This edition consists of a series of lectures by Man-jan Cheng, and includes the Chinese texts of both the Tao Te Ching and the lectures. The printing of the Chinese characters is large and clearly printed, which commends it to the student requiring a text in the 'original' language, although it must be emphasized that there are a number of differences between the Chinese text in this edition and that of Dr. Wu, mentioned immediately below.
The translation by Dr. J.C.H. Wu is in its eighteenth printing, a fact which will not surprise any reader of this delightful little edition. Small in size, and containing an excellently drafted Chinese text, this translation is likely to appeal to the reader who is of the Catholic faith.
'The Way and Its Power' is the title of the translation by Arthur Waley, published as 'A Mandala Book' by Unwin Paperbacks. As the translator himself says, it "represents a compromise...", but even so it is possibly the most widely read translation in the U.K. It is for this reason that it is included it as a reference work worthy of reading. The use of the word 'power' in the title of this translation provides a clue to the style of the translator, who employs very strong academic (but non-Taoist) arguments, which are made in his copious introduction.
The translation entitled 'Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu', translated by A.J. Bahm, and published by Frederick Ungar is well supported by notes in an 'afterword'. The translation itself is written in a very pleasant and easy-to-read style, which is (unfortunately) unusual for the work of a professor of philosophy.
'Tao: A New Way of Thinking' by Chang Chung-yuan, published by Harper and Row, is a translation which contains excellent commentaries and footnotes. The translator undoubtedly has expert historical and philosophical knowledge which he puts to good use in this excellent edition, in which he compares various aspects of Taoist philosophy with that of European philosophers.
The tenth translation used for my own researches is 'The Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu' translated by James Legge as one of a two volume set of 'The Texts of Taoism', published by Dover Publications. Although written in eighteen-ninety, this translation withstands the test of time extremely well. The translator was very knowledegable in his subject, as well as of Chinese philosophy, literature and religions, and does not hesitate to state his opinions, arguing a strong case where these differ from those of other translators from the Chinese.
Because of the changes in calligraphic style mentioned earlier, any student wishing to conduct their own research into the Chinese text of the Tao Te Ching will need to be at least familiar with the relationship between modern and classical Chinese characters.
An outstanding book covering the 'middle period' is the 'Ch'ien Tzu Wen' (Thousand Character Classic) of Chou Hsing-szu, written some time between 507 and 521 A.D., an excellent English language edition being that edited by F. W. Paar, with calligraphy by Fong-Chih Lui, and published by Frederick Ungar in 1963. This edition also carries translations in French, German and Latin. Although it is not a rendering of the Tao Te Ching, it contains many passages from that work.
'Chinese Characters' by L. Wieger, translated from the French by L. Davrout (mentioned previously) is a lexicon with etymological lessons, but also contains both a phonetic dictionary and a dictionary of characters arranged by 'radicals' (the means by which it is possible to 'find' a character written in 'Kanji', the root form of both Chinese and Japanese writing in a dictionary). This book also contains a number of examples of 'early period' characters which will be of value to those readers interested in the calligraphy and other graphic communication.
In similar vein, 'Analysis of Chinese Characters', by G.D. Wilder and J.H. Ingram, published by Dover Publications, complements the work of Wieger, listing one thousand and two characters, together with derivations and modern alternatives.
Chang Hsuan's work on 'The Etymologies of 3000 Chinese Characters in Common Usage', published by Hong Kong University Press, also shows the derivations of many Chinese characters, from the 'small seal' script. Unfortunately however, this book contains virtually no English and is therefore intended primarily for the student who is already proficient in the Chinese language.
The earliest form of Chinese writing predates even the Tao Te Ching, and possibly originates from the same period as the original I Ching of Fu Hsi. This writing consists of characters inscribed on bone, shell and antler horn, the collection being known as 'The Couling-Chalfant Collection of Inscribed Oracle Bones'. The collection has long been dissipated, some pieces being in the Royal Scottish Museum (Edinburgh), some in the Carnegie Museum (Pittsburg), other pieces in the British Museum (London), and the remainder in the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago). Fortunately though, an excellent catalogue exists, drawn by F.H. Chalfant, edited by R.S. Britton, and published by the Commercial Press, Shanghai, in 1935. This book illustrates each of the pieces, showing the characters inscribed on the original material. It is a particularly valuable work for those interested in tracing the origins of many of the Chinese characters in use to this day. Translations are not provided.
The philosopher Chuang Tzu, a follower of Lao Tzu, did much to clarify the somewhat criptic style of his teacher. The book 'Chuang Tzu' translated by H.A. Giles, published by Unwin Paperbacks, renders the sayings of the later master into English in a clear and fine literary style. This book, said to have been originally written by Chuang Tzu himself sometime between the fourth and third centuries before the Christian era, contains a number of references to the Tao Te Ching. For this reason it is a valuable book, but its value is increased by the humour and depth inherent in Chuang Tzu's writing.
It may be of interest to some readers that the dictionaries I have used are Lin Yutang's 'Chinese English Dictionary of Modern Usage', published by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Andrew Nelson's 'The Modern Reader's Japanese-English Character Dictionary', published by Charles E. Tuttle.
Since it may seem strange that I have used a Japanese dictionary to translate a Chinese work, it is perhaps worth mentioning that many Japanese characters are Chinese in origin, and that the characters in Andrew Nelson's dictionary are listed in a sequence, and according to a system different from the same characters in the dictionary by Lin Yutang. Although the spoken Chinese and Japanese languages differ considerably, the written Japanese language has its roots in the Chinese. I therefore use the Japanese dictionary as a 'cross-reference' for finding the meaning of characters which I have difficulty in locating by Lin- Yutang's arrangement.
Since I have acknowledged the work of other translators and interpreters, it
would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the help I received from my own
teachers, each of whom attempted to aid my understanding and development in his
own unique manner. The reason why I refrain from mentioning them by name in
print is not due to disrespect, but rather out of respect for the Taoist belief
"To boast of one's teachers
is to try to give credence
to one's own words."
Fortunately it is not considered boastful to mention in print, one's own students. It is therefore with pleasure and gratitude that I acknowledge the help I have received from those who consider me their teacher, and through whose questions I have gained so much. On this occassion my special thanks go to Ian (and his wife, Jeanette) for their company, the help they provided without being asked, and for their patience; to Michael, who did most of the proof-reading; to Jackie who transcribed my notes to the 'word processor' (which does not know that its 'sixty-four bit binary system' is an outcome of Taoist 'yin-yang' philosophy) and who tried to ensure that what I had written made sense; and to Judith, particularly for providing me with a copy of her B.A. dissertation 'A Comparison of Plotinus and Chuang Tzu', which was of great help in explaining some of the more obscure phrases in other translated texts.
Finally, I take this opportunity (on behalf of Judith and all other members of the English speaking Zen Taoist community) to thank Professor Cavendish, former Professor of Philosophy at Saint David's University College, Lampeter, who personally supervised her dissertation, which is of value to us all.
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