Virtue According to Laozi


You’ve heard of the ancient Chinese philosopher named Confucius. Some of you may have even read the Analects of Confucius (Chinese: 论语; Pinyin: LunYu).

Laozi.jpg/ Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Laozi.jpg/ Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Do you know that an equally notable figure in Chinese Philosophy is Laozi (Chinese script: 老子; Pinyin: Laozi). The term ‘Laozi’ in Chinese means ‘The Ancient One’. Very little is known about Laozi. No one can say for certain where and when he was born. According to Chinese traditional sayings, the following stories were told from one generation to the next:

  • It was said that Laozi’s mother carried him in her womb for many years, some would say eighty years! At his birth, therefore, his hair was already white; and he had long ear-lobes. The Chinese believe that the white hair of old-age signifies wisdom; and long ear-lobes signify long life. Thus he was called ‘Laozi’ or the ‘Ancient One’.
  • Laozi was an older contemporary of Confucius. At one stage, the younger Confucius had sought the older Laozi to discuss ‘ritual and propriety’.
  • History has never recorded the death of Laozi. It was popularly believed that he never died, but passed on into immortality.

The Daodejing – the Classic of The Way and the Virtue

The most important classic in Chinese history is the Daodejing (Chinese script: 道德经; pinyin daodejing). Dao, 道, refers to ‘The Way’ or ‘The Path’. De, 德, refers to ‘Virtue’. Jing, 经, means ‘Sacred Writings’.
The Taodejing is a 5,000 word rendition of ‘The Way’ and ‘The Virtue’. The manuscript is divided into 2 sections. The first section consists of 37 chapters dealing with ‘The Way’. The second section consists of 44 chapters dealing with ‘The Virtue’.
Although the author of the Daodejing has never been positively proven, the majority of people credit the sayings to be from Laozi. Laozi was said to have articulated the wisdom contained in the Daodejing to his most faithful disciple named Yinxi.

The Virtue Chapter in the Daodejing

Laozi’s thoughts on Virtue was introduced in Chapter 38 of the Daodejing. The Chinese script for Chapter 38 reads as follows:
Chapter 38 Daodejing

Translation of Chapter 38 of the Daodejing

The thoughts contained in Chapter 38 are so profound that I have attempted to translate it. You can read my translation of Chapter 38 below.
Chapt38 translate

Copyright 2014 Belinda Ong


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