老 子 -- 誉 遍 全 球 而 历 来 未 被 了 解 的 哲 学 家

郑 鸿

  1. 《道 德 经》 和 其 作 者

    老 子 的 《道 德 经》 是 中 国 给 世 界 文 化 主 要 贡 献 之 一, 从 它 被 译 成 外 语 的 数 量 仅 次 于 《圣 经》 的 事 实, 可 想 见 其 重 要 性。 老 子 (约 前 570~? 年) 是 中 国 的 哲 学 始 祖 , 稍 长 于 历 代 被 尊 为 万 世 师 表 的 孔 子 (前 551~479年)。 根 据 司 马 迁 所 著 的 《史 记》 ;

    "老 子 者 楚, 苦 县, 厉 乡, 曲 仁 里 人 也。 姓 李 氏 名 耳, 字 聃。 周 守 藏 室 之 史 也。 ......"

    "孔 子 适 周, 将 问 礼 于 老 子。 老 子 曰: '......吾 闻 之 良 贾 深 藏 若 虚;君 子 甚 德, 容 貌 若 愚。 去 子 之 骄 气 与 多 欲 态 色 与 淫 志, 是 皆 无 益 于 子 之 身。 ......' "

    "老 子 修 道 德 其 学, 以 自 隐 无 名 为 务。 居 周 久 之, 见 周 衰, 乃 遂 去。 ......"

  2. 老 子 的 未 被 了 解 的 哲 学

    汉 朝 武 皇 (前 141~87年) 有 统 一 思 想, 独 尊 孔 子 之 学, 其 他 思 想 一 律 禁 止。 此 后 历 代 学 人, 无 意 深 入 研 读 《道 德 经》 , 故 始 终 未 获 知 老 子 思 想 全 貌, 究 其 原 因, 可 分 三 项, 现 简 述 如 下:

    (一) 因 不 了 解 原 意 而 被 忽 略 (见 参 考 资 料 第 一 篇)

    关 于 宇 宙 的 创 始, 西 方 科 学 家 直 到 1978年 才 接 受 "大 爆 论" 为 定; 老 子 对 宇 宙 创 始 的 思 索 各 章, 二 千 余 年 来 无 法 被 人 了 解, 内 容 类 似 玄 学。 现 在 细 读 他 的 宇 宙 论, 与 "大 爆 论" 的 宇 宙 创 始 过 程 相 比, 几 乎 完 全 符 合。

    (二) 因 误 解 而 被 谴 责

    在 相 反 哲 学 里, 他 所 说 "坚 强 处 下, 柔 弱 处 上" (见 76章), 与 常 识 正 相 反, 但 老 子 用 此 原 理, 阐 明 了 伪 装 和 以 寡 敌 众 的 游 击 战。 他 说: "行 无 行; 攘 无 臂; 扔 无 敌; 执 无 兵 。" (见 69章) 这 是 伪 装 的 精 华, 当 强 敌 侵 入, 志 在 速 胜。 老 子 主 张 守 军 应 牢 守 下 列 原 则: "将 欲 歙 之, 必 固 张 之; 将 欲 弱 之, 必 固 强 之; 将 欲 废 之, 必 固 兴 之; 将 欲 夺 之, 必 固 与 之"。 (见 36章)。 换 言 之, 守 军 应 柔 退 而 让 敌 军 扩 张; 疏 散 以 让 敌 军 增 强; 兴 盛, 占 地 甚 至 抢 劫。 待 敌 军 逐 渐 过 度 自 信 和 引 伸, 守 军 突 然 并 同 时 在 敌 两 侧 反 击 其 弱 点, 切 断 其 给 养 并 攫 取 其 给 养。 敌 军 先 惊 奇 再 纷 乱, 最 后 恐 惧 延 生 和 溃 退。 正 如 老 子 所 料, 最 后 一 幕 是 敌 军 的 被 压 缩、 削 弱、 消 灭 和 放 弃 一 切 战 利 品, 这 是 以 寡 敌 众 的 游 击 战 的 发 明。 但 是 南 宋 (1127~1279) 的 大 儒 完 全 误 解 老 子 原 意, 责 备 他 存 心 不 良, 引 人 投 入 陷 阱, 乃 利 己 损 人 不 道 德 的 行 为。

    (三) 因 竹 简 原 文 异 常 简 短 而 引 起 误 解

    竹 简 早 于 文 房 四 宝 的 发 明, 因 此 原 文 必 须 简 短。 老 子 说: "常 使 民 无 知 无 欲" (见 3章 ), "绝 圣 弃 知, 民 利 百 倍" (见 19章)。 因 此 后 世 学 者 都 认 他 为 愚 民 政 策 的 先 导 和 反 知 识 的 哲 人。 可 是, 如 把 老 子 所 说 澄 清 为: "常 使 民 无 利 己 之 知, 无 自 私 之 欲", "绝 多 欲 之 圣, 弃 利 己 之 知, 民 利 百 倍", 后 世 学 者 对 老 子 的 歧 视, 就 失 掉 根 据。 回 看 老 子 给 孔 子 的 赠 言, 这 些 简 单 的 澄 清 是 合 理 的。

  3. 了 解 老 子 思 想 整 体 的 过 程

    回 想 五 年 的 研 读 过 程, 有 很 多 次 已 感 觉 面 临 末 路。 幸 运 地 每 次 无 意 中 突 然 道 路 开 朗, 倖 免 前 功 尽 弃 的 后 果。 这 个 过 程, 令 我 想 起 杨 万 里 的 诗:

    万 山 不 许 一 溪 奔,
    拦 得 溪 声 日 夜 喧。
    到 得 前 头 山 脚 尽,
    堂 堂 溪 水 过 前 村。

参 考 书 籍 :《 老 子 思 想 新 释 》 , 郑 鸿 博 士 著,八 方 文 化 企 业 公 司 出 版 , 2000年 。

 

Lao Tzu-The World-Renowned But Misunderstood Philosopher In History
By: David H. Cheng

I . Lao Tzu and His Philosophy

  1. The Book and The Man

    The Tao-Te-Ching, or The Classic of Tao and Its Virtue, is one of the most important philosophical and literary work China has offered the world. That it ranks only next to the Bible as the world's most translated works attests to its importance and popularity. The well-known sinologist, Joseph Needham, who had worked and traveled for years in China during the Second World War, wrote in his monumental work, "Science and Civilization in China, Vol. 2: History of Scientific Thought":
    "The Tao-Te-Ching, which may be regarded as without exception the most profound and beautiful work in the Chinese language, has as its author Lao Tzu, one of the most shadowy figures in Chinese history..."

    The original script of the book was written in ancient Chinese style and carved on bamboo slips . The scholars hired by Lu Pu-wei, the Prime Minister of the Ch'in State before the ascension to throne of the First Emperor, and by Liu An, the Prince of Huan Nan in the Han Dynasty deserved much credit in modernizing the ancient script as well as making the text more readable. The process of producing the first edition for distribution must have taken a long time. Lao Tzu's book could have been in circulation during the Warring States period (480-221 B. C.) in view of its influence on many philosophers who came after him.

    Lao Tzu (About 570-? B. C.) was the first important Chinese philosopher. He was an elder contemporary of the much revered Confucius (551-479 B. C.). Information about Lao Tzu, the man, has been very sketchy due to the loss of important records during the wars among the feudalistic states. The Shih Chi, or the Record of the Historian, written by Ssu-Ma Chien, was the first complete book of Chinese history up to the early Han Dynasty. The book has been highly praised by scholars of later centuries for its accuracy and completeness. One drawback, however, is that its rich contents sometimes contain irrelevant accounts about which Ssu-Ma Chien was not completely sure. Regarding the first philosopher, he wrote:
    "His name was Li, private name, Erh, and courtesy name, Tan. He was an official of the archives of Chou Dynasty (1030-221 B. C.).
    He practiced Tao and Te. His learning aims at self-effacement and possessing no fame. Having lived in Chou capital for a long time, he realized it was in decline and left".

  2. Lao Tzu's Philosophy Rediscovered
    Lao Tzu's contributions in many areas of philosophy are unique in human history. Although his ideas were conceived in the 6th century B. C., most of them are still valid today. His invention of Tao as the universal law governing Nature, his speculations on Creation, his contrarian philosophy, his conviction that soft and weak are superior to hard and strong that led to his invention of guerrilla tactics and camouflage in military operation as well as his advocacy of democratic idea for governing human society, and of diplomatic intercourse among states for preservation of peace, etc., are not only valid, but also timely for the current world. Unfortunately, many of his unprecedented fine thoughts have been misunderstood and severely criticized by scholars, mostly Confucians, since Emperor Wu (141-87 B. C.) of the Han Dynasty decreed that only Confucian teachings were permissible at the exclusion of all others. A brief presentation of Lao Tzu's thoughts which have for centuries been neglected, disputed, and misunderstood, is now given below.

    1. Speculation On Creation
      Tao is an invention of Lao Tzu in his quest for the origin of the orderly universe. He was struck with the miracle of Nature and its beauty and believed that Tao is responsible. The opening chapter (ch. 1)* provides an insight into his motivation for studying the secrets of Nature and serves as a synopsis for the entire book. Lao Tzu says that Tao is empty (ch. 4), but the space is limitless and timeless (ch. 6), so are Heaven and Earth (ch. 7) which, of course, form the universe. He then introduces the concept of Non-Being which is defined as anything undetectable by human senses (ch. 14) such as the One. The principle of Tao is clearly a non-being, but is somewhat different from the One, which is boundless, a shape without form, an image without substance and a blurred ambiguity. The One can revert back to nothingness. In fact, the One is his first model of the young universe which, through natural evolution, now becomes a being having images, things and essence representing a model of the more advanced primordial material universe (ch.21). It is followed by another model with
      *Contents of numbered chapters can be found in References 1 &2 listed at the end of article a chaotic formation of matter moving around ceaselessly before the birth of Heaven and Earth (ch.25). He called this model Tao. Since he made no distinction between the terms Tao, the One and the universe, we consider them interchangeable.

      Lao Tzu's concept of Creation involves a dynamic, ever changing, universe. The whole process namely, Being" is born from Non-Being" (ch.40), is quite similar to what Western cosmologists accepted in 1978 as the Big Bang Theory of creation.

    2. Contrarian Philosophy
      A contrarian view is one opposite to that which is held by a great majority of people. Lao Tzu thought that although nothing in the world is softer than water, there is nothing better for conquering the hard and strong (ch. 78). But this is contrary to common sense because a harder material is always needed to shape a softer one and a strong army usually defeats its weaker opponent. However, the contrarian philosophy may prove to be valid if the relative rigidity of the two materials in question is very large. For instance, a sharp knife would be unable to cut through a pile of cotton balls; and a strong army may not destroy its weaker opponent which yields and disperses like guerrillas. This concept will be brought out later under Military Strategy and Camouflage.

      The way of heaven and the way of humanity are often contrary to each other (ch. 77). He maintained that water represents the ultimate good because it benefits all things without competing with them, and it stays at the lowest place and is closer to Tao (ch. 8). Lao Tzu implied that the common people in a feudalistic society is like water. They are powerless, poor, weak and have the lowest social status, but they must labor for a bare living while benefiting the ruling class without competing with them. The water surface is always flat symbolizing the people's desire for equality, a major ingredient for democracy.

      Lao Tzu's contrarian thoughts underlie the entire book. All the praises he heaped on the female characteristics of being receptive, soft and weak (chs.10, 28, 40) and being able to overcome the male through stillness (ch. 61) made it clear that he considered the female to be the stronger sex despite the fact that he lived in a male-dominated society.

    3. Military Strategy. Camouflage
      Lao Tzu expresses his strong opposition to war (ch. 30) and his deep contempt to weapons except in defense (ch. 31). In order to demonstrate the validity of his doctrine that soft and weak are superior to hard and strong, Lao Tzu makes some of the most profound and also controversial statements: "In order to contract it, first allow it to expand; in order to weaken it, first allow it to strengthen; in order to eliminate it, first allow it to grow; in order to take away from it, first allow it to receive" (ch. 36). Many leading Confucians in the Southern Sung Dynasty (1127-1279) accused him of deceit with the aim of misleading people and profiting from it. However, what Lao Tzu had in mind was not normal human interaction, but defense tactics against a strong invading army. It should not be a moral issue for a weaker defender to resort to surprise tactics (ch. 57). Sun Tzu (about 534-? B. C.), the author of the world's oldest military treatise which was probably a product of the Warring States period (481-221 B. C.), wrote:

      "It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war who can understand the way to carry it on. He who has learned the artifice of deviation will conquer..."

      This statement clearly reflects Lao Tzu's teaching that one should conduct military operations by surprise tactics (ch. 57). The defensive nature of war is implied in the verse (ch. 69): "I dare not be an aggressor, but a defender"; the guerrilla tactics in: "I dare not to advance an inch, but to retreat a foot"; and the camouflage in: "March without formation, raise no arms, face enemy undetected and hold hidden weapons". Now the defenders must yield (retreat) in order to allow the invaders to expand; disperse (weaken) to allow the invaders to strengthen; and grow by seizing territories and spoils. While the invaders gradually become over-extended as well as over-confident, the defenders then deliver a sudden, decisive and simultaneous attack along the flanks and at vulnerable positions of the invading army. This would cause total surprise, confusion and fears among the invaders, resulting in disorderly flight. The final phase of the war consists of contracting, weakening, eliminating and taking away from, the invaders just as it was described at the beginning by Lao Tzu. Again we quote Sun Tzu:

      "Success in warfare is gained only by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy's purpose. By persistently hanging on the enemy's flank, we shall succeed in the long run in capturing the Commander-in-Chief. This is called the ability to accomplish a thing by sheer cunning."

      How revealing are Sun Tzu's words of Lao Tzu's teachings!

    4. Political Philosophy. International Relation
      Lao Tzu was relentless in criticizing the selfish and heartless ruling class (chs. 53, 72, 74, 75). The ruling class of course also includes the sages who were employed by rulers as close advisors. Reading Lao Tzu's criticisms, the econo-political background of his time is vividly revealed. At the same time, we may also appreciate the reason that Lao Tzu acquired the reputation among the intellectuals in later centuries as a rebel. During mass rebellions in Chinese history, it is hardly surprising that the rebel leadership always raised the banner of Taoism which resonates naturally with the rebellious mood of the common people.

      His most important contribution to political philosophy was to urge the ruler not to have any preconceived idea, but to adopt people's ideas as his own (ch. 49). The ruler should establish the virtue of goodness and honesty among his people with himself setting the example at the top. In other words, the ruler would teach his people to be virtuous by giving lessons without words. This concept obviously suggests a government of the people and for the people, but not by the people. Under the circumstances of Lao Tzu's time, such a system was not only unthinkable, but also unprecedented. Even the Athenian Democracy, the first model for the Western Democracy, came about a century later. Lao Tzu advocated that the ruler should, for the love of his people, take no action against Tao which means practice Wu-Wei, remain tranquil so that the people will remain peaceful, plan no wasteful events so that the people will grow prosperous and entertain no selfish desire so that the people will remain simple and honest (ch. 57).

      In the area of international relations, we must be reminded that he was living at a time when wars and border conflicts had been going on almost continuously for about two centuries and the Chou Dynasty had long lost its influence in settling disputes, and its only option was to remain politically neutral. Lao Tzu, being strongly against aggression and war, prescribed two prerequisites for peaceful coexistence among the feudalistic states. The first was a worldwide movement to adopt the proto- democratic political system in which the ruler respects the wishes of his people; and the second was the resolution of international disputes through diplomatic intercourse among peace-loving states, especially the dominant and large ones. All are supposed to be based on mutually beneficial interests in economic and geographic interdependence (chs. 61, 66). It must have occurred to Lao Tzu that if the decision on war and peace rested with the free people in every state of the world, they would definitely opt for peace. Should disputes arise between states, accommodations must be sought through give-and-take without conceit, bravado or arrogance (ch. 30). Unlike waging wars for which victory is, by necessity, the only goal, diplomacy aims to make or maintain peace by gaining understanding of the opponents' views and seeking solutions based on mutual trust. In the twentieth century, it has taken two world wars within thirty years and an extremely dangerous and expensive cold war for world leaders to come to the same conclusion.

II . Lao Tzu's Influence On Chinese Culture

  1. His Influence On Philosophers After Him
    1. His Advice to Confucius
      According to the Record of Historian:

      "Confucius went to Chou to consult Lao Tzu about rules of propriety. Lao Tzu said to him: Those whom you talked about are dead and their bones have decayed, and only their words have remained. When the time is proper, the superior man rides in a carriage, but when it is bad, he covers himself up and staggers away. I have heard a smart merchant stores away his treasures as if his store is empty and a superior man with eminent virtue appears as if he is stupid. Get rid of your air of pride and many self-serving desires, your insinuating manners and lustful wishes. None of these is good for you. This is all I have to tell you.

      "Confucius left and told his students:

      I know birds can fly, fish can swim and animals can run. That which runs can be trapped, that which swims can be netted, and that which flies can be shot. As to the dragon, I don't know how it rides on winds and clouds and ascends to Heaven. Lao Tzu, whom I met today, is indeed like a dragon!"

      Reading carefully this episode, it is clear that Confucius had deep respect for Lao Tzu despite his stern lecture advising Confucius to rid of self-serving desires and lustful wishes. But Confucius's philosophy was rooted in the feudalistic system of government. He tried to protect the ruler and the noble ruling class, and promote humanity and justice as a means to bring order to the society. He advocated the rule of propriety to curb the misbehavior of the ruling class and the severe penal rules to punish the common people who committed crimes. On the other hand, Lao Tzu sympathized with common people and advocated that everyone should follow Tao, the universal law, and practice its virtue which is endowed by Nature to everyone at birth. He urged the ruler to set personal example for practicing the virtue of goodness and the virtue of trust. In other words, by setting example himself, he would give lessons to his people without word. This is quite similar to acquiring lessons by observing Nature, which is selfless, thus Nature's lessons are objective. On the other hand, Confucius's rules are man-made, and are therefore subjective and vulnerable to abuses.

    2. His Influence On Other Philosophers After Him
      Mo Tzu, born around the beginning of the Warring States period, was thinking in many ways like Lao Tzu, and also an activist for peace. He was sympathetic to the plight of the common people, strongly against wars of aggression and deeply respectful of the Heaven's way. It can hardly be coincidental that Mo Tzu's doctrines of universal love, non-aggression and the supreme authority of Heaven so closely resembled Lao Tzu's pure love, anti-aggression and deep faith in Heaven's way. In fact, Mo Tzu went further by claiming that the supreme Heaven had the ability to reward for the good and punish for the bad. It was therefore a religion which, in his judgment, could be more effective in promoting an orderly society than philosophical thought.

      Mencius arrived about one century later. He believed that human nature is basically good or virtuous, the same conviction held by Lao Tzu (ch. 55). He therefore advocated humane rule in which the ruler would devote himself to serve the people. This again sounds very much like Lao Tzu's teachings (ch. 66). Although Mencius ranks only next to Confucius in the Confucian School, it is hard to deny that he was heavily influenced by Lao Tzu.

      Chuang Tzu was a contemporary of Mencius and the foremost interpreter of Lao Tzu's thoughts. He concentrated on study of the ceaseless changes of Nature. However, despite his brilliant contribution to philosophy, he had a tendency to be romantic and mystic. On the other hand, Lao Tzu was not, by any stretch of imagination, a mystic. The combination of the thoughts of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, in later centuries called Lao-Chuang philosophy, has had the effect of discouraging scholars to make deep and separate studies of their thoughts. This historical error needs to be re-examined.

      Han Fei Tzu (d. 233 B. C.) was a founder of the Legalist philosophy and the first philosopher to comment on the Tao-Te-Ching. In fact, he was the one who gave a definition for Tao as well as for Te. He said: "what is eternal has neither change, nor any definite principle itself. Since it has no definite principle, it is not bound in any locality. This is why Tao cannot be told." However, this statement requires re-examination. Tao is eternal in the sense of existence, but not immune to change. Han Fei Tzu, like Lao Tzu, believed that everything evolves with time and said that an outdated law is harmful for its intended purpose. Therefore Tao should not be an exception to evolution either.

    3. Influence on Chinese People
      It is well known that Lao Tzu's philosophy was assimilated into Buddhism to form Zen Buddhism in the 6th century, and also into Neo-Confucianism in the 11th century. Its influence on Tao-Chiao or Taoist Religion, which began in the 3rd century, has been very superficial. It would be difficult to separate the individual influences of Zen Buddhism, Neo-Confucianism, Neo-Toism and Toist Religion on Chinese people as a whole. Lao Tzu's teachings to Chinese people such as in: working hard, being frugal, avoiding extremes, planning ahead, doing good deeds, believing in fate and chance, valuing central core in adversity, having humility at success, being humble with wisdom or wealth, etc., have formed, in various degrees, parts of an integral whole of the Chinese character. Depending on one's intellect and experiences, Lao Tzu's influence is uniquely interwoven and absorbed in one's character and outlook. Of course, depending on circumstances, exceptional behavior, good or bad, could always occur.

    4. Controversy on Dating
      During the first half of last century, many Chinese scholars challenged the traditional view that Lao Tzu was an elder contemporary of Confucius. Much fruitless arguments without definitive evidence on either side took place. In 1933,"A History of Chinese Philosophy" by Fung Yu-lan was published in which he considered Confucius as the first Chinese philosopher and claimed that the book by Lao Tzu was written by a hermit named Li Erh. This effectively moved Lao Tzu's date of birth almost two hundred years later than the traditional account. Fung's book was subsequently translated into English by D. Bodde in 1937 for Volume 1, and in 1953 for Volume 2. Thereafter, many Chinese scholars have tried to circumvent this issue, while Western sinologists have accepted it as the truth. During the subsequent twenty years or so, there were at least two Chinese scholars who reconfirmed the traditional account after extensive research. Reading Lao Tzu's constructive political philosophy in the references listed below, one would come to the same conclusion. It is important that this error be corrected, not only to restore the credibility of history, but also to facilitate further research on Lao Tzu's thought in the future.

    5. Controversy on Knowledge
      Lao Tzu said:

      "Always keep people ignorant and devoid of desire (ch. 3);

      "Reject sageness and abandon knowledge, then the people will benefit a hundred fold (ch. 19);

      "Abandon learning, then you have no worldly concerns (ch. 20);

      "Ancient rulers who were good at practicing Tao, did not aim to enlighten the people, but to keep them ignorant. The difficulty in governing the people is due to their excessive knowledge. Therefore, he who governs a state through knowledge is the robber of the state; he who governs a state not through knowledge is the blessing of the state. (ch.65)"

      It is not surprising that Lao Tzu has been severely criticized by nearly all Chinese scholars for nearly twenty centuries for his advocacy of mass ignorance and his apparent renunciation of knowledge. However, he never made it clear as to what kind of knowledge he really meant. If the above quotes are modified by adding one or two clarifying words, they would read as follows:

      "Always keep people ignorant of self-serving knowledge and devoid of selfish desire;

      "Reject sages and abandon self-serving knowledge, the people will benefit a hundred fold;

      "Abandon learning self-serving knowledge, then you will have no worldly concerns;

      "Ancient rulers who were good at practicing Tao, did not aim to enlighten people, but to keep them ignorant of self-serving knowledge. The difficulty in governing the people is due to their excessive self-serving knowledge. Therefore, he who governs a state through self-serving knowledge is the robber of the state, he who governs a state not through self-serving knowledge is the blessing of the state."

      Now it seems clear that Lao Tzu opposed self-serving knowledge, the source of human conflicts. Once one understands what Lao Tsu truly meant by "knowledge," then all the criticism over the last twenty centuries should dissolve. The correctness of this interpretation can be seen by reviewing the advice Lao Tzu gave to Confucius under II, 1, A.

III. A Personal Odyssey

It has not been an easy task to decipher The Tao-Te-Ching. The major obstacles included:

  1. The decree by Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty that singled out the Confucian Philosophy as the only one permissible at the exclusion of all others, thus leaving only one career path for scholars in succeeding dynasties. As a result, there has been not only no incentive to study Taoism, but also much prejudice against Lao Tzu's teachings. For instance, the criticism of Lao Tzu by leading Confucians of the Sung Dynasty for engaging in willful deceit is inconsistent with Lao Tzu's advocacy of responding to enmities with virtue (ch. 63). It seems impossible for the same philosopher to practice deceit and also advocate repaying enmities with virtue. This type of misinterpretation has not been helpful in clarifying Lao Tzu's thoughts.
  2. Lao Tzu's speculation on Creation must have been very difficult to comprehend. Without the recent discovery of the Big Bang Theory of creation by Western astrophysicists and cosmologists, the text dealing with Creation must have sounded very much like mysticism.
  3. The original text was on bamboo slips before the invention of paper and writing tools. As a result, it had to be very concise at the expense of clarity. Further, the traditional designation of the first thirty-seven chapters as the book of Tao and the rest as the book of Te is arbitrary and without logic. These factors have undoubtedly impeded efforts in deciphering the author's original intention.

Driven by curiosity, stimulated by reading numerous translations and commentaries in both English and Chinese, and motivated by a conviction that Lao Tzu is a more substantial philosopher than meets the eye, I embarked on a journey of uncertainty by setting a goal for understanding Lao Tzu's philosophy in entirety. Looking back on my five-year journey, I thought, on many occasions, that I had reached a dead end; but I was luckily rescued repeatedly by a subconscious and inexplicable brightening of the mind. My initial hope that the Tao-Te-Ching would be self-consistent, profound but making sense; and reflecting Lao Tzu's background and time, has been fulfilled. Now I am finally at peace with myself, but am overwhelmed by the great thoughts of the first philosopher in Chinese history. The whole process reminds me of a poem by Wan-li Yang of the Sung Dynasty:

Ten thousand mountains forbid a stream from rushing,
That causes day and night the stream's roaring protestation.
Staggering ahead to the end of the mountain range,
The stream flows in dignity past the front village.

References:

  1. David H. Cheng : On Lao Tzu, Wadsworth Philosophers Series (philosophy.wadsworth.com), Belmont, CA., 2000
  2. Cheng Hong: A New Interpretation of Lao Tzu's Thoughts (in Chinese) Global Publishing Co. Inc. (worldscientific.com/chinese/), River Edge, N. J., 2000
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