Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Sayings of Lao Tze By Lionel Giles, M.A.


This is Lionel Giles' translation of the Tao te Ching, from the Wisdom of the East series. Giles (1875-1958) was Keeper of the Department of Oriental Books and Manuscripts at the British Museum.

He also translated Sun Tzu's Art of War . This translation is long out of print, which is a shame, because it is a very clear English rendition of this very difficult and profund text.

The mention of this classic, or "Treatise of the Way and of Virtue" (as it may be translated for want of better English equivalents), brings us naturally to the vexed question as to whether the text which has come down to us can really be attributed to the hand of Lao Tz ŭ, or whether it is not rather a garbled and unauthorised compilation of his sayings, or even the mere forgery of a later age.

The Chinese themselves, it may be remarked, are almost unanimous in denying its authenticity. It has been urged that we must make allowance here for Confucian bias; but the internal evidence alone should suffice to dispel the notion, to which many eminent sinologues have clung, that the Tao Tê Ching in its present form can possibly represent the actual work of Lao Tz ŭ.

On the other hand, it is highly probable that much of it is substantially what he said or wrote, though carelessly collected and pieced together at random. Ss ŭ-ma Ch’ien, who published his history in 91 B.C., and was consequently removed from Lao Tz ŭ by a much longer period than we are from Shakespeare, tells us that the Sage wrote a book of five thousand and odd words; and, indeed, by that time the Tao Tê Ching may possibly have existed in something like its present shape.

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