Tao-tê-king das heilige Buch vom Weg und von der Tugend

by Laozi

Other authorsGünther Debon (Translator), Lao-tse (Author)
Paperback, 1987



Call number

CI 9321 T171



Stuttgart Reclam 1987


In 81 brief chapters, Lao-Tzu's Tao Te Ching, or Book of the Way, provides advice that imparts balance and perspective, a serene and generous spirit, and teaches us how to work for the good with the effortless skill that comes from being in accord with the Tao-the basic principle of the universe. Stephen Mitchell's bestselling version has been widely acclaimed as a gift to contemporary culture.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Fledgist
The review that can be written is not the eternal review.
LibraryThing member jinuu
I own and have read many translations of the Tao Te Ching, but this one is by far my favorite. Written in plain, common sense English, it renders the difficult philosophy accessible and easier to understand.
LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
I was totally surprised to find out that this is actually a political treatise but less surprised to learn that quiescence is strength.
LibraryThing member wildbill
Written by Laozi shortly before the Analects of Confucius this classic Chinese text has been more frequently translated than any book except the Bible. It is one of the foundations of East Asian thought that is still read today. The Tao Te Ching provides a combination of spirituality, common sense
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advice and a little nonsense to remind us that we live in world that cannot be known. Much of the text is open to a wide variety of interpretations. The beginning is a famous quote that provides a good example:

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

There is an important thought conveyed in those two lines that loses its' meaning if you try to reduce it to an objective fact.

On the other hand the following lines are simple good advice about how to live your life.

In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.
In speech, be true.
In ruling, be just.
In business, be competent.
In action, watch the timing.

One of the author's favorite devices is the use of contradictions to express an idea.

When the Tao is present in the universe,
The horses haul manure.
When the Tao is absent from the universe,
War horses are bred outside the city.

The Tao Te Ching is eighty-one verses and each time I read it I discover something new. For me that is the hallmark of a truly great book. The edition I have is filled with full page pictures and has the original Chinese on the opposite page from the translation.
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LibraryThing member datrappert
As D.C. Lau points out in his highly readable introduction to this Penguin Classics edition, it is highly unlikely that Lao Tzu was an acutal person, despite stories of Confucius once going to see him. Instead, the contents of the Tao Te Ching seem to be a distillation and compilation of early
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Daoist thought. Like the Analects of Confucius, there are passages that are corrupted and whose meaning is either unfathomable or in dispute. There are also certain ideas that are repeated in nearly identical phrases in different parts of this very short work. Compared to the Analects of Confucius, this is a shorter, easier read, but like that work, I’m sure it benefits from reading in multiple translations and from reading more about it—not just of it. Since the Teaching Company doesn’t have a course on this book as they do for the Analects, I’ll just have to rely more on my own first impressions. Daoist philosophy (or Taoist, if you want to use the old spelling—but Daoist is how you pronounce it) is intriguing because it seems to rely on not taking action rather than on actually doing anything. It is full of things such as, “He who speaks doesn’t know.” And “He who knows doesn’t speak.” You’ll be nodding your head at things like that, comparing them to your own life experience. Putting such ideas into practice, however, seems problematic. No wonder some famous Daoists were monks. I’m not sure how following the precepts in this book would work in most people’s lives, unlike, for example, applying a few Buddhist tenets. I’m sure they wouldn’t fly at my house when it’s time to wash the dishes. But I’m trivializing things here. Just trying to wrap your mind around these concepts and spending a while contemplating them is beneficial. We do, for instance, act far more often than we should. How many times can we think of when not doing something would have served us better? But we just felt compelled to act, since that seems to be part of our human nature. Not to mention being easier to explain to your friends if your act goes wrong. I’m still trivializing, I guess. I highly recommend reading this well-done translation and its commentary. There are, for instance, a lot of ebooks available that give you an old translation of this work—which may be a fine translation for all I know—but without some context, you will lose much of the pleasure of reading. People who write books with titles that include “before you die” in them should immediately die themselves before they can write more such books. But if you’re an intelligent person, and if you have a little time to spare and an interest in philosophy, give this a try and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
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LibraryThing member jveezer
Like it should, the Tao Te Ching arrived exactly when I needed it. The Tao helped me get through a really rough patch of my life: a dissolving marriage, unbelievable animosity and accusations, and stressful negotiation of parental rights through a nasty family court process. Reading it over and
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over helped me get through that process with my dignity and without saying or doing anything I now regret or asking for anything that was above and beyond what was reasonable and best for my kids.

"Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?"

That’s Verse 15. I went back to it again and again. I didn’t get a fair parenting plan but the Tao helped me accept that too.

The edition I read back then was the Tao Te Ching: An Illustrated Journey, translated by Stephen Mitchell. Not only did it make me a Taoist but it sent me on a mission to see who Stephen Mitchell was and what else he had to say. Meaning I’ve since read his versions of the Bhagavad Gita, Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke (reviewed here), the Second Book of the Tao, and The Gospel According to Jesus. I enjoyed and admire all of this books.

One of the things I especially love about Mitchell’s translation is that it refuses to gender everything male. Mitchell states his position on gender in the foreword to the trade edition of this translation (not included in the Providence Press edition) as:

"The reader will note that in the many passages where Lao Tzu describes the Master, I have used the pronoun “she” at least as often as “he.” The Chinese language doesn’t make this kind of distinction; in English we have to choose. But since we are all, potentially, the Master (since the Master is, essentially, us), I felt it would be untrue to present a male archetype, as other versions have, ironically, done. Ironically, because of all the great world religions the teaching of Lao Tzu is by far the most female. Of course, you should feel free, throughout the book, to substitute “he for “she” or vice versa."

Since my first contacts with the Tao I’ve delved deeply into the Yoga Sutra of Patañjali and see a lot of parallels with my yoga and the Tao.

"Weapons are the tools of violence:
all decent men detest them.

Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is his highest value.
If the peace has been shattered,
how can he be content?
His enemies are not demons,
but human beings like himself.
He doesn’t wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men?

He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral."

That’s verse 31 and very reminiscent of the Bhagavad Gita and possibly a realistic way to look at the world and the perceived “necessity” of force. Krishna might say this same thing to Arjuna. But it’s even a bit too much for someone who has taken the great vow of yoga and ahimsa, or non-harm.

The Tao has great lessons to teach our politicians and citizens in an increasingly nationalistic world as well:

"A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers.
He thinks of his enemy
as the shadow that he himself casts.

If a nation is centered in the Tao,
if it nourishes its own people
and doesn’t meddle in the affairs of others,
it will be a light to all nations in the world."

I could go on and on with the passages I’ve highlighted in the six different editions I own. But I think I’ll leave it at that for now and talk about this edition specifically.

You can imagine how excited I was to see a private press edition of the Tao. Any edition would be on my wish list but a version of Stephen Mitchell’s text made it that much more exciting for me. I was a bit blindsided by it, to tell the truth, with Norman Clayton reaching out to me to let me know that his Providence Press had just published it. Not only that but I had somehow missed it at CODEX, which just goes to show you I need to give myself more time to walk the tables there. Norman had remembered me mentioning my admiration for Stephen Mitchell’s Tao in one of the posts here (probably the Arion Press Rilke?) and that I would love to see a private press edition. And viola, he reached out!

Providence Press is the book imprint of Norman’s Classic Letterpress, which designs and prints for individuals and organizations, including a recent book for the Book Club of California. The stated mission of Providence Press is to “produce books as beautiful as the writing is wise.” While Clayton had already been considering the Tao Te Ching as his first book under the imprint, when Norman moved to Ojai California he learned that Stephen Mitchell lived there, having moved there years previously also from the Bay Area. After contacting Mitchell, and with his generous encouragement, this edition was born. A nice little bit of bookish serendipity,

The Providence Press edition as designed and printed by Norman is simple, understated, and elegant. Like the Tao. The sole illustration, a photograph by Norman’s mother Burneta Clayton, is on the front cover. The Tao is presented here just as verse; no commentary or notes or other distractions. Each verse is beautifully placed on the page with crisp typography using the Davanti typeface. I really applaud the choice of a Coptic binding done by Molly Dedmond as this type of binding was used in early (Christian) spiritual texts, and thus has spiritual roots. It is also nice that this type of binding allows the book to lie flat when studying or meditating on the Tao.

Ursula K. Le Guin, another student of the Tao and favorite author of mine, has this to say about the Tao:

“It is the most lovable of all the great religious texts, funny, keen, kind, modest, indestructibly outrageous, and inexhaustibly refreshing. Of all the deep springs, this is the purest water. To me, it is also the deepest spring.”

AVAILABILITY: Printed in an edition of 125, copies of the edition are still available from Classic Letterpress

FORTHCOMING: Next up for Providence Press is an edition of the Heart Sutra, again in Stephen Mitchell’s translation. Check the presses website in upcoming months for information and I’ll try to keep you posted.

WISHLIST: Given the Providence Press’ mission to “produce books as beautiful as the writing is wise,” I’d love to see some texts that have never (to my knowledge) received the fine press treatment. Two that come to mind are the Yoga Sutra of Patañjali and the anonymous Cloud of Unknowing.
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LibraryThing member bkinetic
Laozi's set of 81 brief chapters sets forth the philosophy of Taoism. The author cautions the reader that words alone cannot faithfully describe his subject, the Tao or the way of the universe, which in our time has led some to dismiss this perspective due to its ambiguity. Enigmas and apparent
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contradictions appear frequently, which compelled me to pause to contemplate what Laozi was trying to convey. The necessity of pausing and reflecting makes reading this material fulfilling, especially when I felt I moved closer to understanding.

I found the three jewels of Taoism appealing: Compassion, frugality (also translated as restraint and moderation), and humility (or not seeking to be first). Laozi is also persuasive in advocating selective gradual change rather than confrontation.

This book is not for the been-there-done-that crowd, who see the ideal life as a experience of episodes of serial consumption. Instead the truths here are intended to be revealed though a combination of experience and contemplation. Some have wisely recommended memorizing some of the chapters, allowing the enigmas and puzzles to remain with us and perhaps to be solved later on with the help of experiential and contextual diversity.

The edition I read was translated by Thomas H. Miles and his students. It served my purpose well, though at times I would have appreciated some additional commentary to supplement the helpful existing guidance. Miles' translation also has some useful introductory material in which key terms are defined, insofar as that is possible within Taoism. I intend to read other translations to get a better idea of the range of interpretations.
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LibraryThing member varwenea
This book version: First, it is beautiful with inspiring/matching Chinese artwork including a texture look. Secondly, love that this version has English text with the Chinese text for each chapter every two pages, with the Chinese in the correct vertical from right to left with extra bonus points
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that the Chinese is done in calligraphy style. Thirdly, a very long introduction proved to be very educational and fitting. Now, the ding – the translation is too casual, using modern language that I personally don’t like, at one point using words like “me, me, me” in reference to selfishness. Hmm, I can read a little bit of Chinese, and I can promise you that’s not what the original text reads! The quotes below should give more flavors of this.

Tao Te Ching (TTC), when read with my modern metropolis city girl mind, instructs “The Way”, “The Virtue”, and the “The Coda” as a reminder to the simplicity of life, easily forgotten as we plow forward with our day-to-day to-do list. Contrary to Chapter 41 where “Those who think that the Way is easy will find it extremely hard”, I think the Way is hard and still find it extremely hard! TTC also depressed me a bit (true statement). If life is supposed to be following the way of ‘nothing’, then I sure have been working my ass off for no good reason. If wisdom and knowledge is to be condemned and vilified, then part of my identity is evil. The unspoken expectation, then and now, was simply always be ‘more’, quite not the ‘Tao’.

Of course, I’m not taking TTC literally. The complexities of living do not readily allow for it. (Try and explain TTC to the IRS.) Instead, I take from it a few nuggets that are meaningful. Here’s an abbreviated list:

Introduction: 1) “Wu-Wei doesn’t mean just sitting about doing nothing. It means ‘being’, it means being receptive, and it means going beyond our egos in what we do and how we do what we do.” 2) “I see the essence of the Tao as poetic, with all that implies, and all we still have to learn – to really be here, and to let go.”

Ch1 (Start of Tao): “Following the nothingness of the Tao, and you can be like it, not needing anything, seeing the wonder and the root of everything.” --- Meaning that nothing is something.

Ch 2: 1) “Neither future nor past can exist alone.” --- Acceptance and remembrance of who you were and who you have become. 2) “Life is made – and no one owns it.”

Ch 20: Seek and want nothing. “What do the people want? Money and things. And yet I find I have nothing, and I don’t care. I am as unambitious as any fool.”

Ch 28: Learn to yield, learn to bend, learn to think anew. “Understand the thrust of the yang – but be more like the yin in your being… Be like a stream… Be newborn – be free of yourself…”

Ch 38 (Start of Te): Reminded me of leadership, a truly good leader. “A Man of Te rules by Wu-Wei, doing nothing for himself or of himself… A man who rules with compassion, acts through it – and no one even realizes.”

Ch 44: “If you’re not always wanting, you can be at peace. And if you’re not always trying to be someone, you can be who you really are.”

Ch 67: “I have three priceless treasures: Compassion, Thrift, Humility… These days people scorn compassion. They try to be tough. They spend all they have, and yet want to be generous. They despise humility, and want to be the best.”
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LibraryThing member TobinElliott
Read, but not necessarily digested.

Read, but not necessarily understood.

I'm not smart enough to rate this one.
LibraryThing member le.vert.galant
This translation with commentary by Ellen M. Chen has the reputation for being the best contemporary explication of the Tao Te Ching. I can't claim to have glanced at more than a few of the scores of translations currently available, but I did find that this had the terseness that I expect mimics
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the original. Also, the translation is careful to use the same English word to represent a given Chinese word whenever it appears in the text. This doubtless makes the translation less poetic, but it brings out the rigor of the Taoist philosophy.

The commentary is amazing. Chen takes a philosophical rather than religious approach to the Tao Te Ching. Her commentary not only draws on Chinese texts from the Confucian, legalist, and Taoist traditions, but also on such western philosophers as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Thomas, Hegal, Proudhon, Marx, Freud, and Wittgenstein (the Tao is like that "whereof one cannot speak"). The result is a book that places Taoism in a global philosophical context, emphasizing its commonalties and, especially, its differences with other schools of thought.
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LibraryThing member gbill
Profound writing, and I love this edition for including the chinese characters and beautiful photography.

Ch. 20 is my favorite:
"Give up learning, and put an end to your troubles.

Is there a difference between yes and no?
Is there a difference between good and evil?
Must I fear what others fear? What
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Other people are contented, enjoying the sacrificial feast of the ox.
In spring some go to the park, and climb the terrace,
But I alone am drifting, not knowing where I am.
Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile,
I am alone, without a place to go.

Others have more than they need, but I alone have nothing.
I am a fool. Oh, yes! I am confused.
Other men are clear and bright,
But I alone am dim and weak.
Other men are sharp and clever,
But I alone am dull and stupid.
Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea,
Without direction, like the restless wind.

Everyone else is busy,
But I alone am aimless and depressed.
I am different.
I am nourished by the great mother."
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LibraryThing member shawn_flecken
Probably the greatest religious/philosophical text ever written by man. This is the epitome of "deep."
LibraryThing member gbsallery
Not a patch on Machiavelli, yet written from the same point of view: as advice for a would-be leader. The Tao Te Ching speaks from a point of view which I find very hostile, that of providing wisdom for an aspiring leader of a hegemonistic and ambiguous state. The advice includes tips on keeping
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your peasants stupid and happy, and much mystical mumbo-jumbo which doesn't stand up to ten seconds' solid thinking. Mysteriously popular.
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LibraryThing member Pattern-chaser
Daoist classic of oriental wisdom. Not easy to appreciate without help....
LibraryThing member duck2ducks
Pretty good, but the few poems I had encountered before reading this in its entirety proved to be the best of the bunch. Some are inspiring and beautifully written, while others are plainer - but that's to be expected of a work composed by a multitude of hands over many years. Really great ideas
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and values to reflect upon and try to keep in mind though, which is where this book earns most of its praise.
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LibraryThing member beau.p.laurence
had to get this version for a class. written by a Western philosopher who struggles to grasp the deeper meaning in Lao Tzu's words. so much is "lost in translation." get the version by Jonathan Star instead.
LibraryThing member heidialice
Classic, beautifully translated (and beautiful accompanying photographs). This is comforting in its timelessness, and shakes me out of being stuck in my head. A text I return to over and over.
LibraryThing member kawgirl
You will not find a better, more accessible translation of the Tao te Ching than this one. Mitchell's translation is a must read.
LibraryThing member pansociety
The basic text of Taoism, filled with wisdom of the awareness of the Universe of the ancient Chinese.
LibraryThing member www.snigel.nu
A very thorough and yet comprehensive translation and interpretation of Daodejing. Complete with a chapter discussing the text and its implications.
LibraryThing member colinwu
Not something to be read cover to cover but as something to pick up occassionally and open randomly - then contemplate (or meditate) on what you've read. Some of the language has obviously been updated.
LibraryThing member hydrolith
I'm rereading this on my PDA on my walk across Japan (the book itself is a beautiful object, well laid out and full of nicely reproduced classic Chinese paintings, but too heavy to be carrying). I've been surprised how much I'm getting out of it, even though I've read it dozens of times. The
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lessons it speaks of are being hammered into my bones every day on the road.A lot of people seem to dislike Mitchell's translation because it isn't written in faux "Confucius say" speak, or because it isn't a literal translation that is painful to read and incomprehensible without a thousand footnotes about ancient Chinese culture. Instead, it is written in plain modern English, simple and smooth like a river stone. It might not be the best translation -- though, when it comes to the Tao Te Ching, multiple translations and footnotes should be read to get a real feel for and understanding of the text -- but this one is definitely my favourite. Compare these translations of the beginning of Chapter 8:The highest goodness, water-like,Does good to everything and goesUnmurmuring to places men despise;But so, is close in nature to the Way.The highest excellence is like (that of) water. The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things, and in its occupying, without striving (to the contrary), the low place which all men dislike. Hence (its way) is near to (that of) the Tao.The supreme good is like water,which nourishes all things without trying to.It is content with the low places that people disdain.Thus it is like the Tao.Which of these is the best translation? I don't know, but I know I prefer to read the one that flows clearly like water.
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LibraryThing member shawnd
I liked this version a lot. I am likely paraphrasing other reviewers when I say it is accessible, sensible, stylistic, and modern. Modern meaning it's been sanitized a bit more than most, for example "The Master doesn't seek fulfillment; Not seeking, not expecting; she is present, and can welcome
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all things. So use of the female and male 'tense'. Also missing some of the more abstract or even abstruse general metaphysical terms found in some translations. A good starter Tao for the first timer.
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LibraryThing member jjmcgaffey
Philosophic fluff. Most of the good lines quoted something - from Shakespeare to Star Wars (not quotes exactly - evoke, more like). The glosses were interesting (why did Mitchell say it that way?) and amusing ("One gives birth to Two: Oy!"
LibraryThing member co_coyote
One of the classics. This translation by Jane English is one of my favorites. Plus, the pictures are wonderful. Great memories of winter camping are conjured up, for some reason.


Original language


Original publication date

400 BC


3150067987 / 9783150067987
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