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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 13 August 1998
I've bought several versions of the Tao Te Ching over the years, my favorite being that by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English. Le Guin's "rendition" startled me with its everyday language and showed the Tao in a new light.
Translations of this work vary considerably, so I was particularly impressed with Le Guin's inclusion of material explaining what led her to this undertaking and why she cast Lao Tzu's ideas the way she did. This honesty and the bare, simple beauty of her language seem to me very much an expression of the Tao.
In a world where everything seems so strident and competetive, this simple account of what one person found in this very old and much-loved book is more valuable to me than shelves full of scholarly, definitive, acclaimed, or approved translations.
This book not only talks about the Tao, it exemplifies the Tao.
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on 30 October 1997
After looking at dozens of translations, this is the one I kept. It hasn't lost all poetry, and seems true to the spirit of the Tao as I understand it. Still, it's readable by anyone who sits down with it and contemplates.
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on 27 June 2014
I have loved Ursula Le Guin since reading "A Wizard of Earthsea"" (because one of our children had ordered it from a school book club and then set it aside.) This doesn't pretend to be a translation. A writer with a lovely feel for language had researched the Dao and read practically every English version of Lao Tzu's book that she could get her hands on. Normally a person would be embarrassed to recommend something that's 'only' a paraphrase of other peoples' work, but this is the most satisfying "Tao Te Ching" I ever opened. It doesn't sacrifice beautiful language for the sake of some spurious "clarity". Other versions that force some personal interpretation on the reader of WHAT IT MEANS are nothing to do with the Dao. At the same time, versions by "purists" who don't care if the words appear in any order that is sensible to a Western reader don't help either. I was always a little bit disappointed in Le Guin's own poetry - (her prose seemed much more naturally lyrical to me). In this case she captures the poetic spirit of a unique philosopher, and in doing so, as far as I am concerned, builds a bridge across huge gaps in time and culture.
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on 4 October 2010
It's like a clear, cool spring, that bubbles at my bedside; I drink daily. Le Guin applies intelligence and art to rendering this famous text and makes it fresh for today. I can't compare it to the original as I have no ancient Chinese (funnily enough!). I can only hear it in the context of now and it chimes a true note.
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on 25 December 2012
My friend Jeremy said, back in the day, " course she's a Taoist!" I had no idea what he meant, not that I said so! But of course if you read The Left Hand of Darkness you can see it, and in a subtler way its there in everything she has written. And here she brings that understanding to the text itself. It's beautiful, done with a poet's sensibility. Worth anyone's money!
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on 1 November 2015
I have embarked on the suggestion by Wayne to study one verse for three days till the end and can't wait for the mornings, particularly the days when I get to read a new verse. Totally inspirational and mind expanding.
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on 26 August 2014
A beautiful book made special and understandable by the choices made by Ms Le Guin and her sympathetic descriptions of the texts. The poems are minimalist and thought provoking while also being simple. A lovely book to pick up and consider the philosophy of how to live in peace.
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on 19 October 2015
Amongst the various translations that came my way, this one is precious. Sensitive and sensible.
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on 26 April 1998
I had read Ursula's science fiction, and loved it.
I was walking through "a book store" and her

name caught my eye in the Eastern Thought

section. The rest is history. The Tao Te Ching

is a book that can help you survive in this

century, by remembering what to treasure the most.

Ursula's version is free of sexism, and other power-tripping sometimes added by Westerners.

She does an excellent job of helping us get to

the meaning of the Tao Te Ching, without destroying the beautiful poetry.
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on 21 September 1997
Le Guin notes, "This [book] is a rendition, not a translation. I do do not know any Chinese." Her interpretation joins the growing pseudo-genre of New Age personal takes on ancient wisdom, and as such, is interesting. However, packaged with the odor of scholarship on the title page, nowhere allowing the scholar mentioned to comment on the effect of his tutelage, it deserves to be set down a bit. Le Guin honestly rebukes her own efforts with "...so many Tao Te Chings have appeared or reappeared that one begins to wonder is Lao Tzu has more translators than he has readers." She says of Feng and English's translation that it is "literarily the most satisfying recent translation I have found." Many people agree with that assessment. She says of Legge's -- tellingly -- that Joseph Needham criticized his use of the term Lathe of Heaven "unreproachfully." Well, of course: No orientalist of Needham's stature would dare criticize Legge's accomplishments in any but the gentlest terms, for fear of bruising his mentor's shoulders. But why do so many comment on a text they cannot read? Chinese is not a lost language. Lao Tzu is not a lost author. And few if any sinologists will be leaping from bridges in despair over the beauties of this painfully dislocated verse.
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