Posted by: glue | May 15, 2008

Lao Tzu at the Gate

gate

According to legend Lao Tzu was keeper of the archives at the imperial court. When he was eighty years old he set out for the western border of China, toward what is now Tibet, saddened and disillusioned that men were unwilling to follow the path to natural goodness. At the border (Hank Pass), a guard, Yin Xi (Yin Hsi), asked Lao Tsu to record his teachings before he left. He then composed in 5,000 characters the Tao Te Ching (The Way and Its Power).

Lao Tzu and the gatekeeper

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Responses

  1. As the following quotation from R. L. Wing’s preface to his translation of the Tao Te Ching indicates, the concept “Te” (pronounced der) is synonymous with Aristotle’s notion of “virtue,” associated with entelechy. This notion of “virtue” as potential (power, life) is at the heart of both Western (alphabetic) and Eastern (ideogramic) metaphysics.

    “The word ‘Te’ [in Tao Te Ching] is frequently translated as ‘virtue,’ which is an unfortunate word choice for a very important concept. In the West, virtue suggests righteousness, but in fact ‘Te’ is a term that refers to the potential energy that comes form being in the right place and in the right frame of mind at the right time. The early Chinese regarded the planting of seeds as ‘Te,’ and ‘Te’ came to mean stored energy or potentiality, and sometimes magic power. Not until the widespread popularity of Confucian ideals centuries later, did ‘Te’ begin to take on the meaning of socially imposed moral conduct, and this was eventually translated into English as ‘virtue.’ Following the lead of a number of other modern translators, I have returned the meaing of ‘Te’ to its original concept, ‘Power.'”
    R. L. Wing, The Tao of Power (1986).


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