Lao-tzu and the Tao-te-ching

Edited by Livia Kohn & Michael LaFargue

Subjects: Religion
Paperback : 9780791436004, 330 pages, March 1998
Hardcover : 9780791435991, 330 pages, April 1998

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Table of contents

List of Tables and Figures



Editors' Introduction

Part I. Ancient Myths

1. The Origins of the Legend of Lao Tan

A. C. Graham

2. The Lao-tzu Myth

Livia Kohn

3. Lao-tzu in Six Dynasties Taoist Sculpture

Yoshiko Kamitsuka

Part II. Chinese Interpretations

4. A Tale of Two Commentaries: Ho-shang-kung and Wang Pi on the Lao-tzu

Alan K. L. Chan

5. Later Commentaries: Textual Polysemy and Syncretistic Interpretations

Isabelle Robinet

6. The Tao-te-ching in Ritual

Livia Kohn

Part III. Modern Readings

7. Influential Western Interpretations of the Tao-te-ching

Julia M. Hardy

8. The Thought of the Tao-te-ching

Benjamin Schwartz

9. Naturalness (Tzu-jan), the Core Value in Taoism: Its Ancient Meaning and Its Significance Today

Liu Xiaogan

Part IV. Critical Methods

10. Situating the Language of the Lao-tzu: The Probable Date of the Tao-te-ching

William H. Baxter

11. Recovering the Tao-te-ching's Original Meaning: Some Remarks on Historical Hermeneutics

Michael LaFargue

12. On Translating the Tao-te-ching

Michael LaFargue and Julian Pas

Appendix: Index to Citations from Tao-te-ching Chapters


List of Contributors


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


CHOICE 1998 Outstanding Academic Books

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.

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.


"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