Top positive review
'Subtle Illumination.' Great Translation.
6 March 2016
Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo have achieved here an excellent, readily assimilated translation of the Tao Te Ching into English, which is rewardingly enhanced by Burton Watson's very helpful introduction, in which he clearly explains in succinct fashion all the salient points necessary for the best appreciation of the text. A helpful translators' preface and pronunciation guide are also included along with a glossary of Chinese words appearing at the end of the work, in which the western style alphabetical spelling of a variety of Chinese picture writing characters is given. Attractive calligraphic illustrations are dispersed throughout the work.
Not very much is known about Lao Tzu to whom authorship of the Tao Te Ching is attributed. Tradition has it that he was a contemporary of Confucius (551-479 BCE) and that the two of them met on at least one occasion, but we cannot be sure about this. Whereas Confucianism is very much a male orientated, good governance teaching from the top down aspect, Taoism confronts the vagaries of daily existence as experienced by every day folk. More is known about a later Tao teacher called Cuang Tzu whose teachings are found in The Book of Chuang Tzu, which is also available in English translations.
Some may find it beneficial to read a page of this work on a daily basis, returning to the beginning after the final saying has been read. Among other helpful attributes of the work is its function as an antidote to the humbug encountered in daily life, especially that of both political and religious kinds. Those with experience of Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism cannot fail to notice how it has been beneficially influenced by Taoism. Indeed, there may well have been a mutual influence. At the beginning of the work we are told that 'naming is the mother of ten thousand things.' and that names can name no lasting things. In a way, this sets the stage for the difference between Taoist and Confucianist priorities: mother orientated for the one and father orientated for the other, except that Taoism isn't really orientated at all. It's simply knowing what it is to truly BE, which is, of course, unbeable.