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Even after a quarter-century of. An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. No cover image. Read preview. Synopsis This concise and reliable introduction to Taoism brings a fresh dimension to a tradition that has found a natural place in Western societies.

But they were certainly not concerns that were typical of the people of classical China whose values and practices were continuous with later Taoist values and practices. There are yet more distinctive features to the teachings of the Neiyeh. For instance, unlike the Tao te ching, the Nei-yeh has nothing at all to say about issues of gender.

But though the compilers of the Nei-yeh indeed teach that there are attitudes and behaviors that we should embrace or forego, there is no gender imagery associated with any of them.

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The Confucians and Mohists both shared that idea, in various formulations. Is the practitioner of its teachings ever to give any thought to anyone other than him- or herself? In the Tao te ching, the Taoist life is one in which one achieves self-fulfillment as one is selflessly benefiting others.

The Tao te ching may have developed in part from the same general tradition that produced the Nei-yeh, just as Mencius clearly did. It is known throughout the world, for it has been translated into every major language on earth, as well as many minor ones.

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There are over a hundred versions in English alone many of those by people who have never learned to read Chinese. In fact, the Tao te ching has been translated more often into more languages than any other work in history except the Bible. And, as in the case of the Bible, the unravelling of that process is an unfinished scholarly project that has been aided somewhat by recent archaeological discoveries.

Like our received text of the Chuang-tzu, it dates back only to the early centuries of the Common Era. Just as our Chuang-tzu was actually fashioned by Kuo Hsiang, our Tao te ching was finalized only when a young intellectual named Wang Pi — wrote a commentary to it. That state of affairs changed radically with two archaeological finds in the latter part of the twentieth century. Yet the silk manuscripts from Ma-wang-tui can be shown to date from two specific reign periods in the early Han dynasty—i.

And it did not really do much to tell us who had created the text in the first place, much less why, or what it meant for the evolution of Taoism.

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That situation changed only in the s, with the discovery of a set of engraved bamboo slips which correspond to various sections of what we call the Tao te ching. Scholars who examined those bamboo slips found seventy-one containing lines that correspond to passages of our Tao te ching. The original order of the materials within the Tao te ching seems to remain indeterminable. In the Ma-wang-tui manuscripts, what appears in our more familiar edition of Wang Pi as chapters 38 to 81 is placed at the beginning, before what we have always hitherto known as chapters 1 to And it is quite clear that none of the inscribers of the bamboo slips was following anything that corresponded either to our Wang Pi arrangement or to our Ma-wang-tui arrangment.

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Even before the discoveries at Ma-wang-tui and Guodian, some scholars explained the text as having originated as separate elements of an oral tradition, and that the unknown person s who collected them simply imposed no structure upon the resulting anthology. A few scholars speculated that the text once became deranged when strings binding the ancient bamboo strips came undone, but such imaginings do not withstand critical analysis.

A number of twentieth-century scholars, Chinese and Western alike, have taken the peculiar liberty of reorganizing the text itself.

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In the twentieth century, that attribution became subjected to increasing criticism, by Asian and Western scholars alike. And, in many regards, his annals are quite trustworthy. But when he attempted to sketch the lives of the great thinkers that the people of his own day imagined to have lived in the classical era of the past, he ran across a problem: there were little or no trustworthy data in his day regarding the identity of many of them.

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In other words, in all such traditions—as in later Taoism, as well—many people could not deal with the fact that they had a great text unless they could satisfy themselves that it was the product of a single great man. But such approaches to the text are unproductive and misleading, from several perspectives.

Only by understanding how the Tao te ching evolved, and the specific concerns and strategies of its final redactor, can one truly understand its contents. We certainly know that the Chuang-tzu evolved in such a way, though no archaeological discoveries have produced any older versions of that text. We also see in them at least five separate redactions of what appears to have been a given body of material—two from Ma-wang-tui and three from Guodian.

The logical deduction is that that body of material was continually being edited and re-edited, at least from the beginning of the third century BCE into the early Han period. Both assumptions are demonstrably false, in just the same way that it is false to assume that by reading the Christian gospels one can gain a full or accurate understanding of what Jesus taught, or that by reading the Buddhist nikayas one can gain a full or accurate understanding of what Gautama taught.

Unlike either of those communities, the one which produced the material that evolved into our Tao te ching quite clearly had no nominal founder. Nowhere in the Guodian slips, or even in the later Ma-wang-tui silk texts, do we find the characters lao-tzu. Nor is there any indication there—or in the received text, for that matter—that the contents represent the teachings of some single person.

But in no extant version of the Tao te ching does any such phrase appear.

The simplest and most reasonable conclusion is that none of the people who took part in shaping and redacting this text—either in pre-Han or in Han times— understood, or wished readers to understand, its teachings as having originated as the teachings of any single person, much less as one to which the community traced its origins.

In these regards, the Tao te ching, like the Nei-yeh, has little in common with the Analects or the Mo-tzu, much less with the Christian gospels or the Buddhist nikaya. Like Proverbs, its primary purpose is to provide the reader with profound—and reliably useful— advice about how to live, based on the lessons learned by members of previous generations. It is quite true that the Tao te ching—in the form that would eventually be transmitted through Chinese history—does give admonitions and advice for rulers. And, as in the Mo-tzu, some of those passages dispute, and even ridicule, Confucian assumptions and values.

Clearly, such socio-political positions are present in the received text of the Tao te ching. But there are two key reasons to believe that such positions were likely not present in the original body of material. It is for that reason that we should look to the Nei-yeh, not to any of those other materials, in trying to understand how the Tao te ching may have evolved, and what its teachings may have been at the various stages of its evolution. And it is here, of course, that all three can be understood as forerunners of, and sources for, later Taoism.

Though the Nei-yeh and Chuang-tzu mostly ignore socio-political concerns, all extant versions of the Tao te ching suggest that learning how to live in that way can conduce to wise and effective government. If we read the Tao te ching as though it represented the ideas of one person or group at one single time, its ideas about government certainly conflict with each other, as do its ideas about wise behavior in general.

The most famous of them involve the term wu-wei, whose varied meanings are often quite difficult to reconcile. While one or two chapters do exhort the reader to wei wu-wei i. Various literate members of the community or even members of various communities wrote down what seemed to them to be the wise lessons to remember. It remains to be seen whether such assumptions will continue to be accepted. But even before the discovery of the Guodian slips, scholars had begun to show that the Lao-tzu was the result of a comparable process.

One of those streams clearly flowed through a specific and most remarkable valley—where people had compiled a quite different set of teachings. This, of course, was the community that produced the Nei-yeh, one which clearly took no interest whatever in matters such as government or war. The community that produced the Nei-yeh articulated no concept of wu-wei—either as a practical behavior or as an exhortation to refrain from behavior. Yet in another nearby valley, another distinctive rivulet entered the stream.

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In addition, this voice produced poignant lines that are couched in the first person. The ideas that this party added to the material were totally apolitical, and were quite the opposite of pragmatism.

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For instance, one passage from this voice appears in chapter 20 of the received text: The multitudes are joyous, as though feasting after the great sacrifice of oxen, or as though climbing a terrace in springtime; I alone am unstirring, ah, giving no indication of what I might do , like an infant who has not yet begun acting like a child. Listless, ah, as though having nowhere to go back to. The multitudes all have more than enough; I alone seem to be lacking. Ordinary people are so bright and clear; I alone am benighted.

Ordinary people are so painstaking; I alone am stupefied.