Lao-Tzu and the Tao-Te-Ching

ISBN 13: 9780791436004

Lao-Tzu and the Tao-Te-Ching

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9780791436004: Lao-Tzu and the Tao-Te-Ching

Examines the traditional and modern Western interpretations of the Tao-te-ching, and its author, Lao-tzu.

"There are so many things about this book that please me. It presents the most up-to-date scholarship on Lao-tzu and the Tao-te-ching. The essays approach the text and its legendary author from a broad spectrum of disciplines. Furthermore, the authors are uniformly both critical (in a positive sense, as all good scholars should be) and sympathetic (as befitting students of other cultures). I particularly appreciate the open-minded manner in which Buddhist art, legend, and scripture are dealt with here in spite of the fact that the subject could not be more Taoist. Finally, I am pleased by the international nature of the scholarship represented in this book--here we have the best work of Anglo-American, French, German, Chinese, and Japanese specialists brought together." -- Victor H. Mair, University of Pennsylvania

Lao-tzu and the Tao-te-ching presents a coherent collection of materials on the ancient Chinese classic and its author, describing traditional and modern Western interpretations. Written and edited by recognized international specialists in the field, this book brings Lao-tzu and the Tao-te-ching together to present current scholarship on their history and interpretation. Contributors include William H. Baxter, Alan K.L. Chan, A.C. Graham, Julia M. Hardy, Yoshiko Kamitsuka, Livia Kohn, Michael LaFargue, Julian Pas, Isabelle Robinet, Benjamin Schwartz, and Liu Xiaogan. Divided into four parts, the book provides a wealth of information on the influential Chinese classic.

Part One, "Ancient Myths," discusses who Lao-tzu was, how he developed into a god of religious Taoism, and how his divinity was represented in medieval Chinese sculpture. Part Two, "Chinese Interpretations," discusses the role of the text in traditional China, studying the major commentaries by Wang Pi and He-shang-kung, looking at about thirty commentaries and their philological and doctrinal interpretations and examining the ritual uses the text found in medieval Taoism. Part Three, "Modern Readings," contains a critical discussion of the Tao-te-ching's reception in the West, a general analysis of its major doctrines, and a contemporary Chinese vision of its possible relevance for life today. Part Four, "Critical Methods," presents recent findings on the Tao-te-ching's linguistic structure and probable date, a historical, hermeneutic enquiry into its original meaning, and an evaluative guide to seventeen major English translations.

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Review:

Fascination with the Tao-te-ching is never-ending. But until now, the curious have had very few avenues for exploring the many facets of Lao-tzu's work other than the myriad translations and their brief introductions. In Lao-tzu and the Tao-te-ching, scholars Livia Kohn and Michael LaFargue invite some of the top minds in ancient Chinese philosophy and language to apply their technical expertise to the Tao-te-ching. The result is a playground of ideas and information. In addition to penning an essay on the evolution of Lao-tzu into a full-blown Taoist god, Kohn also translates an essay from French and another from Japanese--and they are two of the best in the book. While religion specialist Julia Hardy rehashes influential Western interpretations of the Tao-te-ching, Isabelle Robinet, a French historian who studies China, introduces us to a few of the 700 or so Chinese commentaries. Japanese religious historian Yoshiko Kamitsuka does as well with a fascinating study of Taoist sculpture--its gods, its inscriptions, and its development. Here is the latest on who Lao-tzu was and when the Tao-te-ching was written, and what a difference it will make to your own reading of this perennial favorite. --Brian Bruya

About the Author:

Livia Kohn is Associate Professor of Religion at Boston University. She has written many books including most recently The Taoist Experience: An Anthology, also published by SUNY Press, and Laughing at the Tao: Debates among Buddhists and Taoists in Medieval China.

Michael LaFargue is Lecturer in Religious Studies and Director of the East Asian Studies program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is the author of The Tao of the Tao-te-ching and Tao and Method: A Reasoned Approach to the Tao-te-ching, both published by SUNY Press.

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