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Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching": A Translation of the Startling New Documents Found at Guodian (Translations from the Asian Classics) Paperback – 10 May 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; New Ed edition (10 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231118171
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231118170
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,360,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


Meticulously researched...Very readable and enjoyable. Library Journal

About the Author

Robert G. Henricks is a professor of religion at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he has taught since 1976. One of the most acclaimed authorities on classic Asian literature today, he has translated the highly regarded Lao-Tzu Te-Tao Ching and is the author of other books, including Philosophy and Argumentation in Third Century China and The Poetry of Han-Shan.

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First Sentence
Archaeologists made a major find in 1973 with the discovery of two copies of Laozi among a library of texts in a tomb at Mawangdui, South-Central China. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Howard Mitchell on 9 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback
Discovered in 1993 the Guodian version of the Tao Te Ching is still the oldest version of the text know and dates to around 300 BC. Robert Henricks has translated it and presents it here in a scholarly but readable fashion.

It must be emphasised that this version of the Tao Te Ching is only a partial one. Written on bamboo slips, only 31 chapters of the 81 found in later editions are present, and of these 15 are truncated. This is not due to damage of the text but rather it seems to it being a selection of the full text which Henricks believes was already in existence, in some form, around 300 BC.

The book begins with a 22 page introduction which describes the Guodian finds and the three bundles of bamboo on which the Tao Te Ching was written. Henricks discusses the contents of each bundle, the chapter divisions indicated (which often differ from other versions) and where chapters themselves differ in content - some are almost exactly as found in later versions, but others are shorter, some much so. Most interesting is Henricks' discussion of what the text means in terms of Taoist philosophy as the chapters present do not cover all the concepts found in the later editions. Henricks is a modest and unassuming academic and his discussion fully acknowledges the view of other scholars.

The main body of the book is a 86 page annotated translation of the text itself. Each verse is presented as an English translation with notes, followed by the Guodian text as found and the modern Chinese equivalents. As a professor of religion Henricks' translation naturally emphasises accuracy over an overly poetic reading. In a few cases the Guodian version is different in interesting ways.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lucas on 5 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
For anybody who would like to study and search for the 'true Tao' this is an unmissable book. Together with the Mawangdui translation (from the same author), this is one of the best books to understand what the original Tao might have been. There are three reasons for this. 1) Henricks based his translations on the oldest available sources of the Tao Te Ching (hundreds of years older than the sources many other translators use.) 2) Henricks clearly discusses his choices and uncertainties as translator (and also shares alternative opinions) and 3) in his short and precise textual translations, he often stays away from more specific interpretations (which are often tempting for translators, but further away from the often ambiguous Chinese.)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Impeccable Scholarship 10 Aug. 2000
By H R Kuehne - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is (and is likely to remain) THE definitive dissertation on one of the most influential and widely-translated works in the history of human thought. A word of caution, though: it is NOT an introductory text; it presupposes that the reader is already familiar with the 81 "chapters" of the _Tao_Te_Ching_ as they are conventionally presented. For those just beginning their study, either the Kwok/Palmer/Ramsay or the Feng/English volumes are the place to start: the lush watercolors in the former or the stark, almost surreal, black and white photographs in the latter -- and the beautiful calligraphy in both -- are invaluable aids to comtemplation while reading the text. If you then find yourself developing a scholarly as well as spiritual interest, Henricks' own earlier "Ma-Wang-Tui" translation is an excellent stepping-stone to his current work.
As I said originally, this is NOT a book for every reader, but, for its intended audience, it is a work without peer.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
An exceptional piece of work 6 Dec. 2000
By "grimsharpknife" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As a student of the Dao i have studied six different translations of the Dao de Jing intensly. I have never been able to pick one out as the best. All versions have something of the essense of the Dao, and all have something of the translators desires or his or hers own spiritual/philosophical background. But then the Ma-wang-tui texts were translated by Mr. Henricks and we were indeed closer to source. The translation of the older Guodian chapters casts an even brighter light on the text we are familiar with today. Was there an "old Master" who wrote the original? No matter what we believe there is no doubt that his work was added to again and again. I have often wondered about the content of some of the chapters and how different portions (within the same chapter) related to one another. I often suspected that often they were different chapters combined. This work bears that out. Compare this work with your favorite version and others. You will be suprised by the added clarity. This is not for everyone, but the time spent in study and comparison will benefit reader and practioner greatly. I highly recomend the Ma-wang-tui texts by Mr. Henricks as the best foundation in the "modern" Dao De Jing. And please throw away the Mitchell version if you own it--it rarely gets it right.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Scholar excellence on Taoist classic 12 Dec. 2000
By "giovanni77" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It was with amazement that I read about the new publication of the Guodian slip of Laozi, translated by Robert G. Henricks. This new treasury found in 1993 was studied upon by several Chinese and western scholars, including R.G. Henricks. He was one of the 31 scholars who attended the International seminar for discussion and study upon this new bamboo slip scripture.
It doesn't need explanation, to say that Mr Henricks is an extraordinary skilled and profound scholar in the Laozi realm of work. After translating and publishing his work on the Ma-Wang-Tui text of the Lao-Tzu - which proves over and over again to be a high-quality translation and commentary - it was but logical to find the 1st translation of the Guodian treasure to be translated and commented upon by him.
The Guodian version, named the Laozi, consists only of 31 chapters out of the 81 chapters we know today as being the complete Lao-Tzu work called the Tao Te Ching. It should be seen as an indepth study on the new Guodian version and I would not recommend this book to someone who has not studied the 'complete' Tao Te Ching prior to reading this book.
The Laozi is organized as it was written down on the bamboo slips; In three different Themes. For simplicity, Mr Henricks named these A, B and C. This division has a similar approach in Chuang-Tzu's work: three Sections making up his work: Inner section, Outer section and Miscellaneous. If this was intented is a thesis, but not a fact. It is opted this version to be one that's connected with the Guan-Dao school of Daoism. A great explanation is included on the completeness of the Guodian version compared to the philospical elements that are known in the later versions of the Lao-Tzu (Tao Te Ching).
For those who study and want to have new revelation upon the philosophy and Meaning of the Lao-Tzu, this book is a MUST read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating and informative 17 Nov. 2008
By Tim Farnum - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This translation of the oldest known version of Daodejing is fascinating. I've read dozens of translations of the modern versions and the same author's translation of the Mah-Wang-Dui text of the Daodejing, and this one gives another exhilarating glimpse into the evolution of a seminal book in world thought. Of particular interest to me are the instances in which this older text differs from later versions in ways that can be best explained by errors of copying which have led to changes in the meaning of a some of the lines. Many of these lines are easier to understand without the copying errors. (Go figure!) This book is required reading for any English-language reader who wants to develop a rich and layered understanding of the meanings of the Daodejing.
Most scholars were wrong about the tao te ching , but nobody noticed 14 April 2013
By peter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is the earliest version of the tao in existence. a translation of the guodian texts. Its somewhat different than other versions i have read and i have read a few .
It also has a few lines not known to later versions of the tao. that was the reason i bought it. and has different wording some lines moved around its interesting to say the least . I am grateful the author has made this available.
my problem was the commentary was so utterly boring and only interesting to someone who's doing some kind of in depth almost obsessive analysis of the history of the writing of the tao and also to much speculation on who the author / author's were/ was?. it was rather moot .
The main point i got out of this was that scholars have argued over the date of the tao te ching. most saying its a more recent invention younger than we thought.
BUT with the discovery of the goudian copy of the tao we know all the scholars were wrong about it. its much much older.
whats with all scholars always saying ancient historians are all liars/wrong/fake/ ? And to just assume they are inherently mistaken? well here we have the tao te ching is 3rd or 4th century ! just like the official histories say it was.
Also most scholars thought the Tao te ching was written over time in parts ( see D.C Lau's ritigns on this )
Well again they are wrong here is an almost complete tao and its basically the same as much later version in fact if anything things have been taken away over time not added !
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