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Taoism
Taoist philosophy, yin and yang, the five elements; and their relationships to tai chi

The Tao Te Ching

 

The Tao 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'.

However, there are some peculiar problems associated with discussion or debate on the Tao Teh Ching - not least because it begins with the words:
verse 1.
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 as possible.

There 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.

Internet resources
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.

Aside 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 website @http://www.human.toyogakuen-u.ac.jp/~acmuller/index.html.
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.

Further 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:

The Taoist Religion
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.

The page 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).

 

 


 

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'.

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