Tao Te Ching and other Chinese Classic Writings

When I first started reading Lao Tzu’s Tao, it was all pretty words and muddy water. I kept on. I read different translations. I compared different interpretations of the same chapter, and investigated meanings and etymologies of given words.

When I encountered the I Ching, it was much the same. I worked with it slowly. I read different versions. I threw coins, observing how it directs the mind when one has a question.

Over the years, the mud began to settle a little, and the water became more clear. Yet, I still cannot say that I really understand either of these books, only that I work with them.

The traditional Chinese classic writings extend much further of course, to many other authors and pieces of literature. In addition to the two works mentioned above, I have found the writings of Chuang Tzu have been particularly helpful and enjoyable.

In terms of practicing T'ai Chi Ch'uan, I think it is useful to be aware that those practicing in previous centuries, even if they were not literate, would have a cultural foundation in the philosophies these works convey. The T’ai Chi Classics were certainly written with these older writings as a departure point, and often refer back to them. Allowing this literature to provide context and ground can be very helpful.

Below are links to some of the classic writings, many that I have as bookmarks use regularly. For links to specific books, DVDs, etc, you’ll need to go to the
Chinese Classic Writings Buy Stuff page. I have books of several translations of these, and keep them in different places (by the bed, in the living room, in the car...) so there is always one at hand. I also have some of these on my phone, and the iPhone app store has lots available, so you may want to check that out as well.

This page links to a list of several online translations of the Tao Te Ching

This page allows you to choose from the Tao Te Ching’s 81 chapters, and then provides several line by line simultaneous translations. For example, take a look at Chapter 68.

The Feminine Tao page focuses on gender-inclusive translations, and provides a different assortment of side-by-side translations for many chapters of the Tao Te Ching. You also get a breakdown of how the lines look in the ancient writing form.

Dr. Paul Carus published this translation of the Tao Te Ching in 1898, as “Lao Tze’s Tao Teh King.”

Here are the complete works of Chuang Tzu; one of many available translations, and handy.

Here is Giles’ translation of Sun Tzu’s Art of War