The reason I wrote in the title of this review that the translation "appears to be an excellent translation" is because I don't have enough scholarly knowledge of Taoism (nor of Chinese, for that matter) to be able to pass that kind of judgement. However, I can say truthfully that I was not only able to clearly understand Cleary's translation (and that almost-pun is intended), but I was also able to benefit from reading the translation. Previously, I have read Cleary's translation of the Tao Teh Ching and and the inner chapters of Zhuang Tzu, as well as his translations of selections from the Quran and from Imam Ali Ibn Talib's wisdom sayings from the Peak of Eloquence, which I found to be well translated (in fact, one of the best by a non-Muslim scholar that I have found to date, the other excellent Western translator being William Chittick). I also own Cleary's translations included in "The Taoist I Ching" and "The Secret of the Golden Flower" but want to delve into some of the more basic material on Taoism before tackling these more "advanced" selections.
Lui I-Ming's observations and meditations are just as valid today as they were in the early 19th century when he composed this gem. Some of the observations brought me back to when I was a 7 year-old boy (4 decades ago!) playing in my yard and looking at caterpillars crawling along the bushes in front of the house. A year later, I became interested in Astronomy and bought The Golden Book of Stars and learned about what I saw in the night sky, and how the sky changed with the march of the seasons. As a 7 or 8 year old boy interested in insects and the night sky, with none of the daily concerns that come to one as a responsible adult, it was a very happy time of my life. If the only thing Lui I-Ming's meditiations did was bring back the memories of those times, I would have considered the book worthwhile.
However, several of the meditations seem to be talking about my adult life and how I got to the place where I am right now. One such meditation is the one titled "The Flowers and Fruits of Plants and Trees". When I look at some of the decisions I've made in my life and how those decisions brought me to where I am now, I can't help but think that I am like the Tree that didn't bear fruit one year. One can learn from one's mistakes (hopefully) and return to the proper cycle, but it is better if one realizes there is an cycle and be able to know when one is straying from that cycle.
Again, I have no background in Taoism (with the exception of my own reading of the basic writings of Lao Tzu and Zhuang Tzu and reading about the tri-grams and hexagrams used in the I-Ching), so I can't make a very informed judgement about Thomas Cleary's translations. However, since I have found benefit from reading and reflecting upon Cleary's translations of Taoist literature, I have to conclude that Cleary must be doing something right.