Confucius Meets Lao-tzu
Taoism Initiation Page. Confucius Meets Lao-tzu. The story of the meeting of Confucius and Lao-tzu in the state of Chou, while Lao-tzu was currator of the royal. Confucius and Lao Tzu met at a crossroad one day, as each walked a dusty Each aware he was in the presence of a wise man, Confucius and Lao Tzu " The sage rightly says: I take no action and the people of themselves are transformed. At the end of the meeting, Laozi felt that Confucius was an important enough the world orderly and peaceful and he was astounded to meet someone who.
His disciples questioned him, saying: A Dragon that coils to show off the extent of its body, that sprawls to display the patterns on its scales. My mouth simply fell open in amazement. How could I possibly offer such a Dragon advice? Lao-tzu was from Quren Village in the southern state of Chu. Confucius went to Zhou to ask him about the Rites.
Lao-tzu said to him: Nothing but their words has survived. When a Gentleman is in tune with the times, he rides a carriage; when he is out of tune, he makes his way disheveled as he is. I have heard that just as the best merchant keeps his stores hidden so that he appears to possess nothing, so the True Gentleman conceals his abundant Inner Power beneath an appearance of foolishness.
Rid yourself of Pride and Desire, put aside your fancy manner and your lustful ways. They will bring you nothing but harm. That is all I have to say. These things I know. Whatsoever runs can be trapped; whatsoever swims can be caught in a net; whatsoever flies can be brought down with an arrow. But a Dragon riding the clouds into the Heavens—that is quite beyond my comprehension! Today I have seen Lao-tzu. He is like a Dragon!
He lived in Zhou for a long time, but when he saw that the Zhou dynasty was in a state of de- cline, he departed.
The earlier Guodian texts see below are not divided into two parts, but in many places they employ a black square mark to indicate the end of a section. The sections or chapters so marked generally agree with the division in the present Laozi. Thus, although the chapter formation may be relatively late, some attempt at chapter division seems evident from an early stage of the textual history of the Daodejing.
Until about two decades ago, the Mawangdui manuscripts held the pride of place as the oldest extant manuscripts of the Laozi. In latethe excavation of a tomb identified as M1 in Guodian, Jingmen city, Hubei province, yielded among other things some bamboo slips, of which are inscribed, containing over 13, Chinese characters. Some of these, amounting to about 2, characters, match the Laozi see Allan and Williamsand Henricks The tomb is located near the old capital of the state of Chu and is dated around B.
Robbers entered the tomb before it was excavated, although the extent of the damage is uncertain. The bamboo texts, written in a Chu script, have been transcribed into standard Chinese and published under the title Guodian Chumu zhujian Beijing: Wenwu,which on the basis of the size and shape of the slips, calligraphy, and other factors divides the Laozi material into three groups.
Group A contains thirty-nine bamboo slips, which correspond in whole or in part to the following chapters of the present text: Groups B and C are smaller, with eighteen chs. There is one important clue, however.
Taking into account all the available evidence, it seems likely that different collections of sayings attributed to Laozi expanded and gained currency during the fourth century B. They would have been derived from earlier, oral or written sources. During the third century B. Even more recently, the growing family of Laozi texts welcomed another new arrival. In JanuaryPeking University accepted a gift of a sizeable collection of inscribed bamboo slips, said to have been retrieved from overseas.
Among them, we find a nearly complete version of the Laozi. Although the published material to date did not mention any carbon dating of the slips, the consensus among the scholars who have worked with them is that they date to the Western Han dynasty.
The Beida Laozi agrees with the Mawangdui manuscripts in another important respect; that is, Part 1 also corresponds to chapters 38—81 of the current chapter version, or the Dejing, and Part 2, chapters 1—37, or Daojing.
Like the Mawangdui manuscripts, the Beida Laozi also records the number of characters at the end of each part. In terms of wording, the Beida Laozi agrees with the Mawangdui manuscripts in many instances, although in some places it agrees rather with that of the received text. However, the Beida text agrees with the standard version at the beginning of Chapter 2, as opposed to the shorter formulation found in the Guodian and Mawangdui versions.
What is equally significant is that the sequence or order of the chapters is exactly the same as that in the received Laozi. The difference lies in the division of some of the chapters. Chapters 17—19 of the received text form one chapter in the Beida Laozi.
The same is true for chapters 6—7, 32—33 and 78— However, the current chapter 64 appears as two chapters in the Beida slips. Altogether there are 77 chapters. Each chapter is clearly marked, with a round dot at the start, and each chapter starts on a separate bamboo slip.
The Beida Laozi is almost intact in its entirety, missing only some 60 characters when compared with the received text. While it offers fresh glimpses into the development of the text, it does not provide any significant new insight into the meaning of the Laozi. A series of articles on the Peking University bamboo slips were published in the journal Wenwuno. The Beida Laozi was published in December and launched in February Although the majority of scholars accept the authenticity of the find, a notable critic is Xing Wen, who argues strongly that it is a forgery Xing ; for a critical discussion in English, see Foster In summary, two approaches to the making of the Laozi warrant consideration, for they bear directly on interpretation.
Some of these sayings were preserved in the Guodian bamboo texts. On this view, the Laozi underwent substantial change and grew into a longer and more complex work during the third century B. The Mawangdui manuscripts were based on this mature version of the Laozi; the original emphasis on politics, however, can still be detected in the placement of the Dejing before the Daojing.
Later versions reversed this order and in so doing subsumed politics under a broader philosophical vision of Dao as the beginning and end of all beings. As distinguished from a linear evolutionary model, what is suggested here is that there were different collections of sayings attributed to Laozi, overlapping to some extent but each with its own emphases and predilections, inhabiting a particular interpretive context.
Although some key chapters in the current Laozi that deal with the nature of Dao e. This seems to argue against the suggestion that the Laozi, and for that matter ancient Chinese philosophical works in general, were not interested or lacked the ability to engage in abstract philosophic thinking, an assumption that sometimes appears to underlie evolutionary approaches to the development of Chinese philosophy.
The Guodian and Mawangdui finds are extremely valuable. They are syntactically clearer than the received text in some instances, thanks to the larger number of grammatical particles they employ.
Nevertheless, they cannot resolve all the controversies and uncertainties surrounding the Laozi. In my view, the nature of Dao and the application of Daoist insight to ethics and governance probably formed the twin foci in collections of Laozi sayings from the start.
They were then developed in several ways—e. The demand for textual uniformity rose when the Laozi gained recognition, and consequently the different textual traditions eventually gave way to the received text of the Laozi. As mentioned, the current Laozi on which most reprints, studies and translations are based is the version that comes down to us along with the commentaries by Wang Bi and Heshanggong. Three points need to be made in this regard. First, technically there are multiple versions of the Wang Bi and Heshanggong Laozi—over thirty Heshanggong versions are extant—but the differences are on the whole minor.
Second, the Wang Bi and Heshanggong versions are not the same, but they are sufficiently similar to be classified as belonging to the same line of textual transmission. Third, the Wang Bi and Heshanggong versions that we see today have suffered change. Prior to the invention of printing, when each manuscript had to be copied by hand, editorial changes and scribal errors are to be expected.
Boltz and Wagner have examined this question in some detail.
The Sibu beiyao and Sibu congkan are large-scale reproductions of traditional Chinese texts published in the early twentieth century. The former contains the Wang Bi version and commentary, together with a colophon by the Song scholar Chao Yuezhi —a second note by Xiong Ke ca.
The Heshanggong version preserved in the Sibu congkan series is taken from the library of the famous bibliophile Qu Yong fl. Older extant Heshanggong versions include two incomplete Tang versions and fragments found in Dunhuang. Reportedly, this version was recovered from a tomb in C.
There are some differences, but these two can be regarded as having stemmed from the same textual tradition. Manuscript fragments discovered in the Dunhuang caves form another important source in Laozi research.
Among them are several Heshanggong fragments especially S. It is signed and dated at the end, bearing the name of the third-century scholar and diviner Suo Dan, who is said to have made the copy, written in ink on paper, in C. Over twenty steles, mainly of Tang and Song origins, are available to textual critics, although some are in poor condition Yan Students of the Laozi today can work with several Chinese and Japanese studies that make use of a large number of manuscript versions and stone inscriptions notably MaJiangZhuand Shima Boltz offers an excellent introduction to the manuscript traditions of the Laozi.
Confucius and Laozi, The Great Philosophers of the East
Lou and Lynn A major contribution to Laozi studies in Chinese is Liu Xiaoganwhich compares the Guodian, Mawangdui, Fu Yi, Wang Bi, and Heshanggong versions of the Laozi and provides detailed textual and interpretive analysis for each chapter.
In an article in English, Liu sets out some of his main findings. Commentaries Commentaries to the Laozi offer an invaluable guide to interpretation and are important also for their own contributions to Chinese philosophy and religion. Two chapters in the current Hanfeizi chs. Nevertheless, Laozi learning began to flourish from the Han period. Some mention will also be made of later developments in the history of the Daodejing.
The late Isabelle Robinet has contributed an important pioneering study of the early Laozi commentaries ; see also Robinet Traditionally, the Heshanggong commentary is regarded as a product of the early Han dynasty.
The name Heshanggong means an old man who dwells by the side of a river, and some have identified the river in question to be the Yellow River.
An expert on the Laozi, he caught the attention of Emperor Wen, who went personally to consult him. Recent Chinese studies generally place the commentary at the end of the Han period, although some Japanese scholars would date it to as late as the sixth century C. It is probably a second-century C. A careful diet, exercise, and some form of meditation are implied, but generally the commentary focuses on the diminishing of selfish desires. In this way, self-cultivation and government are shown to form an integral whole.
Yan Zun is well remembered in traditional sources as a recluse of great learning and integrity, a diviner of legendary ability, and an author of exceptional talent. The famous Han poet and philosopher Yang Xiong 53 B. The Laozi zhigui abbreviated hereafter as Zhiguias it now stands, is incomplete; only the commentary to the Dejing, chapters 38—81 of the current Laozi, remains. The best edition of the Zhigui is that contained in the Daozang Daoist Canon, no.
Judging from the available evidence, it can be accepted as a Han product A. Like Heshanggong, Yan Zun also subscribes to the yin-yang cosmological theory characteristic of Han thought. It describes the nature of the Dao and its manifestation in the world. It also points to an ethical ideal.
Laozi (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
The way in which natural phenomena operate reflects the workings of the Dao. In this way, the Laozi is seen to offer a comprehensive guide to order and harmony at all levels. Although it is mentioned in catalogues of Daoist works, there was no real knowledge of it until a copy was discovered among the Dunhuang manuscripts S. The manuscript copy, now housed in the British Library, was probably made around C. The original text, disagreement among scholars notwithstanding, is generally traced to around C.
A detailed study and translation of the work in English is now available Bokenkamp This underscores the central thesis of the commentary, that devotion to the Dao in terms of self-cultivation and compliance with its precepts would assure boundless blessing in this life and beyond.
Spiritual discipline, however, is insufficient; equally important is the accumulation of moral merit. These include general positive steps such as being tranquil and yielding, as well as specific injunctions against envy, killing, and other morally reprehensible acts.
The word xuan denotes literally a shade of dark red and is used in the Laozi esp. Alarmed by what they saw as the decline of Dao, influential intellectuals of the day initiated a sweeping reinterpretation of the classical heritage. Wang Bi, despite his short life, distinguished himself as a brilliant interpreter of the Laozi and the Yijing see A. Rather, Wang seems more concerned with what may be called the logic of creation. The ground of being, however, cannot be itself a being; otherwise, infinite regress would render the logic of the Laozi suspect.
We will come back to this point later. The transcendence of Dao must not be compromised. Nonaction helps explain the practical meaning of naturalness. In ethical terms, Wang Bi takes nonaction to mean freedom from the dictates of desire. This defines not only the goal of self-cultivation but also that of government.
The concepts of naturalness and nonaction will be discussed further below. The authority of the Heshanggong commentary can be traced to its place in the Daoist religion, where it ranks second only to the Daodejing itself. From the Tang period, one begins to find serious attempts to collect and classify the growing number of Laozi commentaries. An early pioneer is the eighth-century Daoist master Zhang Junxiang, who cited some thirty commentaries in his study of the Daodejing Wang Du Guangting — provided a larger collection, involving some sixty commentaries Daode zhenjing guangshengyi, Daozang no.
According to Du, there were those who saw the Laozi as a political text, while others focused on spiritual self-cultivation. There were Buddhist interpreters e. This latter represents an important development in the history of interpretation of the Daodejing Assandri Daoist sources relate that the school goes back to the fourth-century master Sun Deng.
Through Gu Huan fifth century and others, the school reached its height during the Tang period, represented by such thinkers as Cheng Xuanying and Li Rong in the seventh century.
The Laozi has been viewed in still other ways. The diversity of interpretation is truly remarkable see Robinet for a typological analysis. The Daodejing was given considerable imperial attention, with no fewer than eight emperors having composed or at least commissioned a commentary on the work. By the thirteenth century, students of the Daodejing were already blessed, as it were, with an embarrassment of riches, so much so that Du Daojian — could not but observe that the coming of the Dao to the world takes on a different form each time.
Approaches to the Laozi Is the Laozi a manual of self-cultivation and government? Is it a metaphysical treatise, or does it harbor deep mystical insights? Chapter 1 of the current Laozi begins with the famous words: The Laozi is a difficult text.
Its language is often cryptic; the sense or reference of the many symbols it employs remains unclear, and there seems to be conceptual inconsistencies. Traditionally, however, this was never a serious option. Consider, first of all, some of the main modern approaches to the Daodejing cf.
Stories of Lao Tzu, Confucius, and Chuang Tzu
One view is that the Laozi reflects a deep mythological consciousness at its core. Chapter 25, for example, likens the Dao to an undifferentiated oneness. The myth of a great mother earth goddess may also have informed the worldview of the Laozi Erkes ; Chenwhich explains its emphasis on nature and the feminine Chen According to Victor Mairit is indebted to Indian mysticism see also Waley According to Benjamin Schwartzthe mysticism of the Daodejing is sui generis, uniquely Chinese and has nothing to do with India.
Indeed, as one scholar suggests, it is unlike other mystical writings in that ecstatic vision does not play a role in the ascent of the Daoist sage Welch It is possible to combine the mystical and mythological approaches. Broadly, one could carve out a third category of interpretations that highlights the religious significance of the Laozi, whether in general terms or aligned with the tenets of religious Daoism. A fourth view sees the Laozi mainly as a work of philosophy, which gives a metaphysical account of reality and insight into Daoist self-cultivation and government; but fundamentally it is not a work of mysticism W.
The strong practical interest of the Laozi distinguishes it from any mystical doctrine that eschews worldly involvement. Remnants of an older religious thinking may have found their way into the text, but they have been transformed into a naturalistic philosophy. The emphasis on naturalness translates into a way of life characterized by simplicity, calmness, and freedom from the tyranny of desire e.
Sixth, the Laozi is above all concerned with realizing peace and sociopolitical order. It is an ethical and political masterpiece intended for the ruling class, with concrete strategic suggestions aimed at remedying the moral and political turmoil engulfing late Zhou China. Self-cultivation is important, but the ultimate goal extends beyond personal fulfillment LauLaFargueMoeller The Laozi criticizes the Confucian school not only for being ineffectual in restoring order but more damagingly as a culprit in worsening the ills of society at that time.
This list is far from exhaustive; there are other views of the Laozi. Different combinations are also possible. Graham, for example, emphasizes both the mystical and political elements, arguing that the Laozi was probably targeted at the ruler of a small state The Laozi could be seen as encompassing all of the above—such categories as the metaphysical, ethical, political, mystical, and religious form a unified whole in Daoist thinking and are deemed separate and distinct only in modern Western thought.
This concerns not only the difficulty of the Laozi but also the interplay between reader and text in any act of interpretation. But, it is important to emphasize, it does not follow that context is unimportant, that parameters do not exist, or that there are no checks against particular interpretations.
While hermeneutic reconstruction remains an open process, it cannot disregard the rules of evidence. Questions of provenance, textual variants, as well as the entire tradition of commentaries and modern scholarship are important for this reason. And it is for this same reason that the present article leaves the discussion of the Laozi itself till the end. The following presents some of the main concepts and symbols in the Laozi based on the current text, focusing on the key conceptual cluster of Dao, de virtueziran naturalnessand wuwei nonaction.
I propose that the two readings represented by the Heshanggong and Wang Bi commentaries both bring out important insight from the Laozi.
Dao and Virtue To begin with Dao, the etymology of the Chinese graph or character suggests a pathway, or heading in a certain direction along a path.