Interesting Translation

I continue to be somewhat surprised at the number and quality of Tao Te Ching translations which are on the internet.  My most recent find is one by
Stan Rosenthal.   The page links to quite a lengthy introduction.  Here is a relevant quote from that introduction:

Even a brief glance at various translations of the work of Lao Tzu will illustrate how such a 'hidden curriculum' surreptitiously imposes itself upon even the most honest of men, thus creating a major problem for the reader. This is the case even for the reader who merely hopes to see an accurate English rendering of the work, but the reader's problems are compounded if he or she seeks a translation which presents a reasonably accurate description of Taoism (Tao Chia), the 'system' of which the Tao Te Ching is a major work. It must be said of the existing English translations, that most treat the Tao Te Ching as a literary or poetic work, whilst many others treat it as a work of mysticism, rather than a work of classical scholarship, which I believe it to be, describing the key concepts of Taoist philosophy (tao chia) expressed in a poetic manner. My intention here has been to provide a translation suitable for those readers wishing to discover something of that philosophy, as described in one of its major works.

True to his introduction, the translation is, in fact, a bit wordier and "academic" than many of the others.  However it still retains a very good flow and emotional depth of some of the more "poetic" translations.  Here is the entire first chapter:


Even the finest teaching is not the Tao itself.
Even the finest name is insufficient to define it.
Without words, the Tao can be experienced,
and without a name, it can be known.

To conduct one's life according to the Tao,
is to conduct one's life without regrets;
to realize that potential within oneself
which is of benefit to all.

Though words or names are not required
to live one's life this way,
to describe it, words and names are used,
that we might better clarify
the way of which we speak,
without confusing it with other ways
in which an individual might choose to live.

Through knowledge, intellectual thought and words,
the manifestations of the Tao are known,
but without such intellectual intent
we might experience the Tao itself.

Both knowledge and experience are real,
but reality has many forms,
which seem to cause complexity.

By using the means appropriate,
we extend ourselves beyond
the barriers of such complexity,
and so experience the Tao.

 I look forward to including this translation along with the others as this diary continues forward.



Filed under Tao Te Ching Translations, Taoism

3 responses to “Interesting Translation

  1. Holly Holmes-Meredith

    I found your web site while searching for taoism and hypnothrapy which is my topic for a doctorate dissertation in ministry.
    I am quoting several vrsions of the Tao te Ching in my writing. If I publish my work do I need translator or publisher permission to use currently published translations or are all translations public domain?
    The two translations I am using the most are by Stephen Mitchell and Jane English.
    I appreciate any help or resources!

  2. I don’t know about Jane English, but I am pretty sure that Stephen Mitchell’s translation is not public domain. The Tao Te Jing itself is in the public domain, of course, but many of the translations are not, they are copyright by the author or publisher. Technically, I should not be using some of those translations here, but they are available on the web. There are a few translations which are either old enough to be public domain or have been released into the public domain.

    I would think that if you do a google search on copyright guidelines that you can get the information that you need on how to properly cite and quote sources in both academic and for publication writing.

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