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Tao TE Ching (Vintage) Paperback – Special Edition, 15 Jun 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 25th anniversary ed edition (15 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English, Mandarin Chinese
  • ISBN-10: 0679776192
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679776192
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 1 x 27.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 726,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mr. E. Hall on 15 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback
Just to clarify things, the 25th-anniversary paperback edition does indeed contain the pictures and art work. oh! and are they moving. IMO adding to the text - no easy task! the photographer sought in her own words to, 'create photographs that teetered on the boundary between being and non-being' and their effect is profound.

I have looked at quite a few translations over the years and before this purchase. for me this is the best I have seen, not too scholarly, not overly poetic and interpreted; crisp and arresting at all levels. I have, at times, found that one line can be all I needed to read.

I don't think that you will be dissappointed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 138 reviews
81 of 83 people found the following review helpful
Opening up a space for the myriad things to advance. 14 May 2001
By tepi - Published on
Format: Paperback
Perhaps we need different editions of the Tao Te Ching for different moods. When we are in a more analytic and outward-directed mood we will turn to an edition such as that, perhaps, of Ellen M. Chen, an edition with a substantial and stimulating introduction and with very full and detailed commentaries.
When in a more receptive and intuitive mood, however, a mood in which the busy-ness of the rational intellect is stilled and the deeper levels of mind are open to more subtle influences, our needs become different. At such times we will perhaps benefit more from a stripped-down version of the Tao Te Ching, one that allows the text to advance directly and make contact with our sensibility without the distractions of notes and commentaries and suchlike.
Although it was first published in 1973, the fact that the edition of Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English has never been out-of-print suggests that it is an edition that has been working for many people, one that satisfies perfectly one side of our nature, the gentler and more receptive and aesthetic side, perhaps the wiser side.
Each Chapter of the Tao Te Ching is given on two large quarto-sized pages which hold the English translation, the brushed Chinese text, and the black-and-white photographs. The white pages also hold large areas of blank space, an 'Emptiness' or 'Openness' in which, as others have noted, the black texts and pictures are allowed room in which to breathe and be themselves.
The English translation is simple, pure, spare. Here is a brief example from Chapter 48, with my slash marks indicating line breaks in the original:
"In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired. / In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped. // Less and less is done / Until non-action is achieved. / When nothing is done, nothing is left undone."
The translation has been recommended by no less an authority than Alan Watts, himself competent in Chinese, who commented: "No one has done better in conveying Lao Tsu's simple and laconic style of writing."
The calligraphy is exceptional. It is brushed lightly and with sensitive though vigorous strokes in a range of styles whose size and weight harmonize perfectly with both text and pictures. Also noteworthy is that, in most cases, legibility has not been sacrificed to beauty for the structure of even complex characters can be readily discerned.
Even those who may not know Chinese will be subtly influenced by it, for all Chinese ideograms are characterized by an exquisite balance, and an economy and beauty which are precisely the qualities we find in Lao Tsu's text. The calligraphy floats on the page like clouds floating through a Chinese sky, and establishes a perfect mood.
The ability to appreciate Chinese calligraphy, though uncommon in the West, is not difficult to come by since all it involves is learning to open our eyes. A little application will quickly lead anyone to see that it is the world's supreme art form, a highly abstract, dynamic, and endlessly fascinating art form, and to understand what Lin Yutang meant when he said that "in the realms of art, [China] soared where others merely made an effort to flap their wings."
The spareness and beauty of both text and calligraphy are perfectly reinforced by the striking though unpretentious black-and-white photographs which are given on each page, photographs of such things as a branch poaking through the surface of a lake, a foot, a bird perched on a stump, a house on a rocky outcrop, snow heaped up on a leaf, a gull in flight, a rainstorm, a seashell, a burning candle.
These are the important things, seemingly simple though of infinite value as are the fundamental truths embodied in the lines of Lao Tsu.
Very close to the thought of Lao Tsu's Chapter 48 is an observation made by the great Japanese Zen Master, Dogen (+ 1200-1253):
"Conveying the self to the myriad beings to authenticate them is delusion; the myriad things advancing to authenticate the self is enlightenment" (Tr. F. H. Cook).
Life offers only two choices. We can reach out aggressively to grab. Or we can open up a space in ourselves and allow the myriad things of the universe to come forward and disclose themselves.
It's easy to see what Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English were trying to do in this book. It's also easy to see that they succeeded brilliantly.
By the way, not that it will matter to most but the calligraphy of Chapter 67 has been printed in reverse and what we see on the page is a mirror-image of the original...
213 of 230 people found the following review helpful
'This is called "following the light."' 26 Aug. 2001
By Marc Ruby™ - Published on
Format: Paperback
It is hardly difficult to understand the enduring quality of the Tao Te Ching. Written by Lao Tsu in the sixth century BC is a simple, quiet book that reflects upon our true nature and our behavior. Broken up into 81 'chapters' or short poems, it comprises a mere 5,000 words. Every other sentence is a memorable quote, and one can read it in an hour and study it for a lifetime.
What I do find remarkable is the durability of this particular edition. My copy is ancient, dating back to my college days. At frequent intervals it seems to come to hand and I will peruse it again and enjoy the clarity of this translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English. They have carefully chosen a simple, accessible style which I feel completely captures the nature of the Tao. "What is a good man? A teacher of a bad man.
What is a bad man? A good man's charge."
Accompanying the text are many fine examples of Gia-Fu Feng's calligraphy and Jane English's photographs. While I like Chinese calligraphy, I lack the understanding to make any judgement. I can only report that it shows flow and grace, and works perfectly with English's photographs. These latter capture, most often with natural images, a play of contrast which often is as calligraphic as the accompanying handwriting. Thus, the book itself is a careful balance between content and form.
At the end of the day, or in an otherwise tense moment, this volume has often been the source of the tiny bit of sanity that makes the next day possible. There is much to meditate on here and this edition is a precious resource for the seeking mind.
108 of 121 people found the following review helpful
Not Scholarly--Experiential! 21 Mar. 2001
By Elderbear - Published on
Format: Paperback
"The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao."
So begins this version of the Tao Te Ching. This book provides an experience of the Tao like few others. First, there is the blank page. Lots of white space. The absence, the void.
"The Tao is an empty vessel; it is used, but never filled."
"Profit comes from what is there, / Usefulness from what is not there."
Emptiness is the vessel which contains the words and images of this experience. Each chapter is written in both English and Chinese. I don't even pretend read Chinese, but the characters evoke a sense of something beyond ...
"The form of the formless / the image of the imageless / it is called indefinable and beyond imagination."
The English translation reads smoothly. This is not the awkward prose frequently stumbled over when a scholar attempts to reproduce the ambiguities of the original in a foreign tongue. These words play smoothly together. The text does
"not tinkle like jade / or clatter like stone chimes."
The final element in this alchemy is the photographs:
"Less and less is done / until non-action is achieved. / When nothing is done, nothing is left undone."
Absent in this volume are the reams of footnotes which clutter most Taos I've read. Absent, too, are chapters on historical background and the relationship to Confucianism. If you seek these things, seek elsewhere.
For me, this book has opened a way to the Tao.
47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Timeless Lessons, Beautiful Format. 15 Aug. 2000
By E. Garcia - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read a different version of the Tao Te Ching before deciding to buy. I wasn't enthralled by the other version, and I knew that the lessons in the Tao Te Ching were inspiring.
They say you can't judge a book by it's cover, but with this one, that may not be the case. The entire book is just like the cover: simple and beautiful. As Tao should be represented.
The book itself is about the size of a magazine and the cover will bend or crease easily if handled roughly. The pages, while nearly as thick as the cover, should shrug off abuse easily... which is why I've opted to leave this one on the coffee table every day.
What I found very nice (as another reviewer mentioned) is the fact that you see the lessons in English and in Chinese characters on the facing page. Equally as pleasing: beautiful black and white photos adorn every page, blending easily with the verse.
I cannot comment on the lessons contained in the book, as each individual will take what they choose from it. I would venture to guess that if you're bothering to read this review, you would find more than two of the epiphanies contained in the book useful.
While this edition may not wear as well as a hardbound copy would, it is definately worth its price, and a piece of your time.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Simple wisdom for eternity 11 July 2004
By Anyechka - Published on
Format: Paperback
This was the only personal book I had in my possession during my junior year of highschool when I was living with my paternal grandparents (most of the rest of my family's possessions were in storage in my other grandparents' house; long story). Since I discovered it on my parents' bookshelves in January of 1995, I have read it many times and never fail to experience the same sense of awe and agreement as I did the very first time. The ancient and beautiful words of Lao-Tzu helped to get me through a very tough year, and the description of the Tao as one, eternal, forever unchanging, the mother of the ten thousand things, unfathomable, unable to be truly grasped, nameless, elusive and intangible, and hidden deep yet ever present, strikes me as very similar to the Jewish belief in one God, one Divine Force which never changes and is unable to be fully grasped either. There are so many beautiful lines in here, so many true observations about human character, the Tao (or God, the Divine, Vishnu, Goddess, Great Spirit, however you call it), virtue, human nature, the nature of things. So many times Lao-Tzu points out that we cannot know something (like beauty, good, high, low, short, long, harmony, or softness) without experiencing its opposite. We are only able to see good as good because there is Evil in the world too, and beauty as beauty because there is ugliness. He also often mentions how these opposites can contrast and complement one another, follow one another, and overcome one another. One such example is that a small country can overcome a large nation which conquers it by submitting to it. I also love Chapter 31, which states that "[g]ood weapons are instruments of fear; all creatures hate them," going on to say that a wise man (or woman) only uses weapons when one has no choice, and that "war is conducted like a funeral."
This is one of the most famous and important holy books in world religion, yet unlike the longer and more complex works such as the Bible, Koran, and Vedas, this is amazingly simple, easy to interpret, not hard to read or to study, and easy to sum up: "Simply be."
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