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How To Find The Best Translation Of Lao Tzu’s Tao The Ching - Translation by James Legge

Updated on April 11, 2013
Tao Te Ching Translated by James Legge
Tao Te Ching Translated by James Legge | Source

Over the years there have been many translations into English of Lao Tze’s Tao The Ching or Way of Virtue classic Taoist text. I am student of the Tao and a student of a Tao-Confucius Master who is an expert on the Tao The Ching and who has studied how Chinese characters originated. For two and a half years we went through the chapters of the Tao The Ching character by character. He showed me how the characters came to have their meaning and because of this, I was able to understand obscure and profound teachings of Lao Tzu.

I have read many translations of the Tao The Ching and brought each version to my teacher. It was his opinion that the most accurate rendering of the Tao The Ching is translated by the English Chinese scholar James Legge. I must point out however, that Mr. Legge’s commentary was not received with the same appreciation as his translation. Still, if you are looking to understand Lao Tzu, it would be wise to study Mr. Legge’s book in order to at least have an accurate translation.

I should warn the reader that the Tao The Ching is shrouded in parables and can be understood on many levels, some mundane, others profound.


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    • LouisPearlGG profile image

      Louis Pearl G.G. 4 years ago from Northern California

      Dear Sir,

      Thank you kindly for your comment. As Lao Tzu said; "Not exalting the gifted prevents quarreling." That being said, I have both copies and I like Jane English for the pictures, however, the poetry of Mr. Legge is not only beautiful, it is more accurate. In case you are unaware, much of the Tao The Ching is in parables with deep profound meaning for those who are able to access their secrets. For the English speaker, the Jane English translation will make it very difficult to understand the parables.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      I think some would disagree, because just because a translation follows a meaning, it does not necessarily follow the poetic virtue of the original. I am not a Chinese speaker so can only comment on what I feel, and I feel that the Jane English translation is true to the spirit. Is the James Legge translation more accurate? I cannot really say.

      That is one reason the prophet Mohamed (pbuh) forbid the translation of the Holy Koran. If you want to read the Koran you have to study classical Arabic, and none of the translations of this book have any value.

      Time to retire--my work is done!

    • LouisPearlGG profile image

      Louis Pearl G.G. 4 years ago from Northern California

      Nice site.

      Do you know the meaning of the Valley Spirit Never Dies? Or do you know the meaning of the following?

      The Tao begot One,

      One begot two,

      Two begot three,

      And three all else.

    • profile image

      Amy Putkonen 4 years ago

      I love this. I have not read this one, so I may have to buy it! Thanks. You may be interested in checking out this blog... It is my blog (disclosure) but we have a lot of fun discussing the Tao and I would love for you to give me feedback.