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Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation Kindle Edition

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Length: 258 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2162 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (12 May 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003JPW0EW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #593,179 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Paperback
The Guodian tombs were unearthed in Jingmen, Hubei (China) in 1993. They were found to contain 804 bamboo (chu) slips, that preserved upon on them, a number of important Chinese wisdom texts - some known, some unknown. Amongst these texts was discovered the oldest known copy of the Dao De Jing - the Way of Virtue Classic - dating to around 300BCE. It compares favourably with the Mawangdui and Wang Bi versions, but has in edition an appended text entitled 'The Great One Gives Birth To The Waters.' Ames and Hall translate the entire Guodian Dao De Jing and this appended work.

The peperback (2004) edition contains 241 numbered pages, and is presented in what ammounts to two parts, with a number of explanatory chapters (9) dealing with Chinese philosophy and its finer points, a glossary of key terms forming the first part, and the translated text(s), with introduction and explanation forming the second part.

Ames and Hall present a very logical, and yet accessible translation. They have termed their translation of the earliest known version of Laozi's Daoist text as 'A Philosophical Translation', that although presented in the English language, nevertheless, conveys as near as possible the 'true' Chinese meaning and intent that lies with the Chinese source material. What is interesting is that Ames and Hall have managed to create a Western academic framework that allows ancient Chinese philosophical principles to be correctly observed and interpreted with the minimum of Western bias.

The result is a compelling 'literal' translation that may well appear unfamiliar to the general reader who has experienced other renderings. This may serve to indicate the 'freshness' of the translation under review.
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Format: Paperback
This 'philosophical translation' provides a fresh view of daoist (taoist) concepts, uncontaminated by ages of Christian and Platonic interpretations of Chinese philosophy. It becomes clear that our (Western) language(s)as well as our idealistic or essentialist ways of thinking stand in the way of grasping the meaning - we should not say the 'essence' here, of course - of the ancient thinking attributed to Laozi. The insertion of the original characters invite the reader to participate in the process of interpretation. Unfortunately, my level of Chinese is not really sufficient, but still I got an idea of what the authors are trying to do: scrape off the layers of interpretations that hinder adequate understanding. Whether the process philopsophy of Whitehead, which seems to inspire the authors, consitutes an adequate frame or not, remains to be seen.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa1db5174) out of 5 stars 29 reviews
79 of 84 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fef8e34) out of 5 stars Daoism realized! 5 Mar. 2003
By Michael Caley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I am now in my third decade of Taijiquan and Qigong play. I teach both of these Chinese forms. I have 14 different translations of the Dao De Jing, four of the Art of Warfare and five of the I Jing. For many years, I have been trying to make sense of the variations in translation. My experiences -- physical, mental and spiritual - from taijiquan and qigong have not always been congruent with my "rational" understanding of the written works.
Roger Ames translation s of the Dao De Jung, Yuan Dao and SunZi has dramatically changed everything. Ames has done what no one else has done. He has attempted to understand the Daoist writings within the classical Chinese mode of thought and then translate that into English without the accompanying Western dualistic (Cartesian) baggage that has imbued all previous translations.
Ames insights into classical Chinese "cosmology, ontology and epistemology are exemplary and amazingly revealing. No previous translation had achieved his depth of insight.
I am indebted to Roger for these wonderful translations and explications of traditional Daoist thinking and being. My "new" understanding of Daoist being in the world or as Roger says, "way-making", has allowed completely new insights and abilities to emerge from my taijiquan and qigong.
Anyone who has an interest in Daoism can do nothing better than to obtain copies of Ames Dao De Jing, Yuan Dao, Sunzi and Thinking from the Han. You will be, as I am, delighted with the concept of the Wu-forms and the idea that much of the Dao De Jing derives from traditional folks songs. Imagine singing or chanting the Dao! This connects, sympathetically, for me at least, to Australian songlines and to Dineh "harmony & beauty".
Ames work is essential reading for anyone who hopes to understand the classical Chinese worldview and become realized.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fef8f84) out of 5 stars Gives you the context you need to understand the original text 4 April 2006
By Peter Kwok - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Every translation tells you "what" the translator thinks the book should be saying, but only this one actually tells you "why" those words are presented the way they are. This book stands out as an example of what Ames calls the "self-consciously interpretive" style of commentary. (Hall died before the book was finished. So Ames had the last say in this book.)

This style is developed out of the belief that "any pretense to a literal translation is not only naive, but is itself a cultural prejudice of the first order." (Preface, p. xi) To neutralize prejudices, the translation of every chapter is immediately followed by a commentary, which serves as a "meta-translation" to reflect on translation and editing issues from the social background at the time of the writing of Tao Te Ching, to the tension among ideas from different traditions and across chapters. My experience tells me that one either hates or loves this kind of fragmentary, hoop-jumping, stop-and-go lecturing style. However, to me it is very close to that of the vast majority of annotations in classical Chinese scriptures. I find it quite convenient for referencing verses and ideas. So I am perfectly comfortable with (and even welcome) this format of presentation. Also, the authors' professional training in philosophy gives them the edge in presenting the kinds of problems that the ancient Taoists were trying to deal with and analyzing the flow of ideas. What some people may see as "pedantic" commentaries and footnotes actually challenged me to re-evaluate the aims and strategies of those Taoist projects. For that I thank the authors for their great services. But it does not necessarily mean that this style suits everyone (or every purpose).

However, whether you like this book or not, you have to give credits to the authors for being serious down to the most minute details, such as whether the presence of a connective "gu" (footnote 42, pp. 103, 207-208), "shiyi" (p. 10), or "yici" (p. 108) would entail the concatenation of successive chapters. Also, their text is mainly based on the archaeological findings at Mawangdui (168 BCE, discovered 1973) and Guodian (c. 300 BCE, discovered 1993) and the authoritative commentary of Wang Bi (27-91 CE). Throughout the book, fine points are cross-referenced to multiple expert opinions. In my opinion, any cost to this all-encompassing approach should be compensated by the authenticity and the quality of information given our current state of knowledge. Of course, one may insist that a translation should be nothing more than a translation. However, I beg to differ in this particular situation.

Casual readers may not realize that Tao Te Ching actually has no standard version. Not that it has no standard translation in English, but rather that there is not even a single "original" text in Chinese that everyone can confidently identify as _the_ writing of Lao Tsu. Every edition has something unique. Since the grammar of ancient Chinese is often-- and perhaps way, way too often-- too flexible for stable interpretation, any addition, omission, alteration, and even partition of key words can and do radically change the meaning of the same sentence (or what people think should be the same sentence) across editions. Needless to say, this posts a lot of difficulties for the readers. Every editor of Tao Te Ching had tried to "correct" his predecessors' "mistakes", only to generate yet other new confusion and controversy. Worse, without a historically accurate and philosophically coherent context, any "poetic" translation of Tao Te Ching that most people prefer can easily degenerate into wishful thinking on mysticism. The authors cannot (and did not claim to) stop the divergence in interpretations of the text, but they did try in good faith to be open and honest about it. They even adopt a dual translation system such that a hard-to-translate concept is given a literal approximation followed by a sound translation in parenthesis. Thus, even for a supposedly "simple" word like Tao, the book would translate it as "way-making (dao)". (Dao is the latinized translation of Tao. The latter was based on a different phonetic system.) For beginners, this practice may sound silly. But as you study more and more versions, you may come to appreciate what the authors had done.

In conclusion, I think this book should appeal to people who are in interested in knowing what Lao Tsu "really" said (or what the early Taoists were supposed to be saying). Even though this book does not have the final answers, it is still a reasonable place to start. However, as most reviewers would probably agree, I would not look for poetic awe or spiritual enlightenment in this piece of scholarly work because those are simply not the primary objectives of this book.
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa00aa2dc) out of 5 stars This translation is a revelation 8 Dec. 2006
By David R. Cross - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have read, and enjoyed, numerous translations of the Daodejing (some numerous times), but reading this translation has been a revelation. This is not a translation for the neophyte, or for those unwilling or unable to tackle some hearty philosophical discussion. But if you are a serious student of the Daodejing (not necessarily an academic), then reading this translation is a must. My general sense is that Ames and Hall have succeeded in their translation because they have managed to combine mature wisdom and serious philosophical insight. Translating the Daodejing into English is an extraordinarily difficult task that requires bridging a vast chasm between ancient China and the modern West, and this translation seems to have pulled this off about as well as it can be done (at least so far). Some specific features of the translation that make it stand out: (a) a worthy historical introduction, (b) an outstanding philosophical introduction, which by itself makes the book more than worth the price, (c) a worthy glossary of key terms, which appropriately avoids the "fallacy of the perfect dictionary", (d) a lively and accurate translation of the Daodejing itself, (e) with each passage/chapter accompanied by the translators' commentary, (f) a thematic index. I am enjoying this book immensely ... I can't recommend it highly enough.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fef8dec) out of 5 stars going to the source 16 Mar. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ames and Hall have pulled in the often-neglected cosmological origins of the DDJ, inspired by strips found with the Guodian strips.
The authors have been meticulous in picking through the intricacies of some fairly complex terms in a thorough, yet succinct, way.
I really really like the holistic perspective in the authors' interpretation of the verses. Instead of feeling like I'm being preached at from the pulpit, it feels like I'm sitting at a table over coffee and listening. It is with great sorrow that I read of Hall's passing. Knowing this team of writers will collaborate no more makes me sad.
51 of 66 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa00aa6fc) out of 5 stars Makes understanding the Tao harder, not easier 18 Jun. 2004
By Glen Ford - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The authors seem to have purposefully obfuscated their writing with liberal use of arcane references, and by choosing the *most* complex words and sentence structures to express their ideas. Read these quotations -- do you agree this is the way one would speak when trying to explain something to someone new to the Dao de jing?
"Experience is processual, and is thus always provisional. Process requires that the formational and functional aspects of our experience are correlative and mutually entailing." (p. 77)
"For the Daoist, dividing up the world descriptively and prescriptively generates correlative categories that invariably entail themselves and their antinomies." (p. 80)
"The dynamic field of experience is the locus in which the stream of phenomena is animated and achieves consummation..." (p. 90)
These examples are pretty representative of the commentary that accompanies the translation. But the translation itself, far from rendering the text as poetry, favors the same kind of overwrought techno-jargon, using words like "determinacy," "noncoercively," etc.
The *best* thing you could say is that this book is aimed at an academic audience already comfortable with technical terms like "underdetermined" (used throughout) -- an audience that fully understands the difference between "formational" and "functional aspects of our experience."
The worst you could say, I expect, is that the authors simply didn't care to write anything that could be useful to anyone who isn't already an expert on both philosophy and Chinese writings of the period.
Had I the choice, I would un-buy this book. As it stands, I have given up on it absolutely. The only use I can get out of it would be if in the future, the highly unpoetic translation maybe helps illumniate a different translation.
Take my advice: don't be too quick to reject my review (and other negative reviews here) as the grumblings of someone who didn't give the book a chance.
Leave this book to the experts. And shame on Ballantine for not marketing it as such.
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