Teh Ching and Taoism are as inseparable from each other just
as the Bible is from Christianity and as indeed are all of
the other books, scriptures or sutras associated with other
religious and spiritual belief systems. Therefore a knowledge
of the Tao Teh Ching is essential in fostering a proper understanding
of Taoism; the Tao Teh Ching being (Tao=Way - Teh=Virtue Ching=a
Book), a ancient book of 81 short verses or chapters expounding
"the way of virtue" or 'the way of least resistance'.
there are some peculiar problems associated with discussion
or debate on the Tao Teh Ching - not least because it begins
with the words:
Tao can be talked about, but not the Eternal Tao.
Names can be named, but not the Eternal Name.
As a consequence
of this, those that do respect or appreciate the Tao Teh Ching
... do not talk (or write) about it! Therefore, the most common
presentations of the Tao Teh Ching are as complete reproductions
of simple chapter and verse without commentary; faithfully
translated and staying as close to the 'inscrutable' original
are over 40 translations of the Tao Teh Ching into English
generally available now in book form. All in all I expect
there are now in fact hundreds of 'interpretations' available
in print but many of these, ranging from the glossy coffee
table copies to the pocket sized guides are, quite frankly,
a waste of space and many of these 'versions' show only the
worst effect of what happens when saying what it is ("speaking
of") becomes saying what someone wants it to be.
Of those available on the Internet (disregarding those by
Alistair Crowley and Timothy Leary - see my previous sentence)
the one that is in my opinion by far and away the best can
be found @http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/taoism/ttcstan3.htm#1.
This link given will take you directly to the verses. However,
this same site also has some excellent introductory notes
(by Stanley Rosenthal (Shi-tien Roshi) British School of Zen
Taoism Cardiff, September 1984) which can be found at @http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/Taoism/ttcstan2.htm.
from this online publication as above there is only one other
that I may personally recommend, this being Charles Mullers
editorial for the Resources for East Asian Language and Thought
There are several items of great interest at this site including
a Chinese/English dictionary along with five Chinese Classics
@http://www.hm.tyg.jp/~acmuller/fiveclassics.htm including the Tao Teh Ching @http://www.hm.tyg.jp/%7Eacmuller/contao/daodejing.html.
to those sites mentioned above, I would like to take this
opportunity to recommend one other website that is packed
with straight forward information in encyclopedic form, that
being "wikipedia @http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page.
On the subject of "Taoism" @http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoism wikipedia says, thereby immediately confirming the inseparability
of Taoism, ancient and traditional Chinese culture and The
Tao Teh Ching:
Though specific religious aspects are not mentioned in
the Tao Teh Ching, as Taoism spread through the population
of China, it became mixed with other, pre-existing beliefs,
such as Five Elements theory, alchemy,
ancestor worship, and magic spells. Attempts to procure
greater longevity were a frequent theme in Taoist alchemy
and magic, with many extant spells and potions for that
purpose. Many early versions of Chinese medicine were
rooted in Taoist ways of thought, and modern Chinese medicine
is still in many ways concerned with Taoist concepts such
as qi and the balance of yin and yang.
quoted above also presents a table of linked contents which
includes very readable pieces on: 1 Introduction and historical
context 2 The Dao De Jing [the Tao Teh Ching] 3 Taoist Philosophy
3. Wu Wei 4 The Taoist Religion (as above) and 5 Taoism Outside
Of China. External Links provided there also connect to a
Taoism Information Page and the Resources for East Asian Language
and Thought, this last being subject of my recommendation
earlier as a very good translation and presentation of the
Tao Teh Ching (Daodejing).