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I read the Stephen Mitchell translation once but didn't retain much. Now, I have the Feng/English translation. What is the best way to study this?
I was thinking either
1. Reflect upon 1 verse per day via notepad
2. memorize favorite verses

Are there other good ways to get deeper appreciation and utility out of the Tao Te Ching?
Your brain will not get heavier with its own words. Seek nothing and nothing shall be.
Yep. That is the worst translation.
Recommend, well, everything else except mitchell. Everyone after mitchell did a lot of effort there.
A.c. muller is the best one I've read so far

It's free online!
Somewhat related: what is the best translation of the I Ching into English?
I have the Alfred Huang translation, but I don't recall why I chose it. Not sure if it is good or not
It's a short read.
Read it once a week, and some of the words will start slipping into your subconscious, and then into conscious awareness.

Some parts will never be understood without immersing yourself in other parts of Chinese thought, Taoist meditation, and so on.
So you will only grasp some parts from a lifetime of study.
What you understand as the correct interpretation will always be experienced through your own worldview.
An atheist will read the book differently than a Taoist energy master for example.
There can be no best, since the amount of ambiguity in the original means that any translation is necessarily reductionist.

I also have Huang, but now that I can read some of the original 文言文 I see just how arbitrary it is. I guess you wanna just find one you like that looks like its not translated by a hack
>I guess you wanna just find one you like that looks like its not translated by a hack

Not him but yeah. For example Ursula Le Guin couldn't read ancient Chinese but still did a "translation."
Big problem even with people who can read an original text is that that they use other translations for their translation. Worse when they just regurgitate errors or consensus without examination. We, in reality, don't have such an abundance of translations as it would seem. I expect part of this is because just being able to read a text doesn't mean you're fluent in its meaning.
>Stephen Mitchell
>Jane English
Those are the worst translations.
Ursula leguinn is worse than giafu. And Crowley is arguably worse than leguinn. Actually no I take that back, it goes Mitchell (worst), then leguinn, then Crowley.
Theosophical Society. Charles H Mackintosh's Tao. Find the PDF.
I just saw it as dialectics. would read again. this book and Neetch's Genealogy Of Morals were the most fun books I've read
I think Red Pine is good to have on hand. Doesn't have to be the final word. It strives for accuracy over poetry, so it's good to read alongside one that's more faithful to the poetry. It also has comments from taoists in the margins.
Fun fact... Heidegger also attempted this. The Chinese scholar he was working with decided he couldn't continue the project in good conscience since Heidegger couldn't stop projecting his own philosophy into it
The more translations you read the fuller understanding of it you will get
>It strives for accuracy over poetry
I don't think that's true at all. Red Pine's whole bit is that he's a poet-translator. It's been years since I read him but he definitely values readability over strict literal word by word translation.
It's true. I don't know if you read his Tao Te Ching. He explains his translation decisions. You should compare it to pretty much any other translation. Others compromise more for readability. Red Pine, with this one, is less smooth and more linguistically accurate. It's not unpoetic. He just respects the fact that the Tao is extraordinarily easy to mistranslate and wants to do it justice.
I believe this
i don't judge translations based on what the translator says but on what he's translated compared with the original text. I recall from his Stonehouse translations I read years ago that he'd sometimes translate Buddhist terminology as their Sanskrit, others as plain English, not as technical terms.
Anyway, let's take a look at a few lines from the very first chapter, bear in mind i'm far from an expert on Chinese, if i screw up hopefully someone will correct me
#1. 無名天地之始有名萬物之母
Red Pine: the maiden of heaven has no name; the mother of all things has a name

始 generally means beginning, RP opts for maiden. Beginning is more literal, but poetically maiden goes nicely with mother. As an image the character 始 is made of two components: women + mouth exhaling, which implies new life... pregnancy: the start! Red Pine includes mention of this in his commentary.

#2. 故恆無欲以觀其妙恆有欲以觀其徼
Red Pine: thus in innocence we see the beginning; in passion we see the end.

無欲, "non-desire" he translates as innocence, "欲" as passion. He ignores the preceding 恆 (constant, enduring), which he translates as "immortal" in the first lines of the chapter. 徼, "edge, boundary, periphery" he translates as end. For 妙, generally meaning subtle, mysterious, Red Pine again choses an alternative meaning: beginning, derived presumably from the character as an image being "women + small (quantity)" -> young. He cites an authority in the commentary to back this up. Here beginning is a less poetic choice than mysterious or somesuch, but also of an entirely different meaning. Some interpret 妙 and 徼 not as beginning and end but as the subtle and mysterious versus the edge, the outline, i.e. with desire we can't see beyond the superficial. Anyway who's right? How the fuck should I know! but it goes to show that when translating such things, it's not just the text translators rely on, but later authorities and their interpretations.

#3. 此兩者同出而異名同謂之玄玄之又玄衆眇之門
Red Pine: two different names, for one and the same, the one we call dark, the dark beyond dark, the door to all beginnings.
here he translates 眇 the same as 妙, as beginning. 眇 is made of two components: eye + small. It usually refers to someone very tiny and hard to see, "infinitesimal".
honestly ol' Legge, the dreaded Orientalist, is still most fun to read and he often made it rhyme too!

Always without desire we must be found,
If its deep mystery we would sound;
But if desire always within us be,
Its outer fringe is all that we shall see.
>As an image the character 始 is made of tow components: women + mouth exhaling, which implies new life... pregnancy: the start!

That's interesting. I've never seen anyone interpret it this way. I can see the logic, but it sounds quite strange to me. I've (very casually) looked up the etymology of the word, and here's the line:

Here, 初 means cutting a piece of cloth with knife, hence "the beginning of tailoring". Note that 'beginning' is the main point here. So it means 'the beginning of woman'. Maiden is apt in this sense, but it obscures the meaning of 'beginning'.

From my copy of Laozi, the line break makes it so that the translation should be more accurately rendered as:

"Nothingness" is named "the maiden of heaven"; "Thingness" is named "the mother of everything".
(Yes it's a shitty translation. The focus is on the form not on the wording.)

I have looked into the lines you gave. You seem to be referencing from some older non-standard edition of the text.

Here the standard text actually uses the word 常 rather than 恆, as a result it isn't 無欲, but rather


Here 常有常無 are actually nouns. The evidence is from Zhuangzi:
>「老聃聞其風而悦之,建之以常無有。」---- 莊子

You are right that 繳 means "boundary, periphery". There are actually 4 interpretations for this word. Red Pine uses one interpretation adopted by 王弼. In fact, 有欲無欲 is also the product of 王弼's interpretation, and was adopted for a really long time. But then numerous scholars had already pointed out that this read actually contradicts with the text. Here's what my copy's annotation says:


I trust that you can read Chinese, so not gonna translate it. Also this isn't the whole annotation. I skipped his citations on older commentaries etc.

So the result is not about beginning or end, neither is the second clause negative in the sense that 'you can't see beyond the superficial', but rather:

>From "nothingness", you can see the intricacy of Dao; from "thingness", you can see the delicacy of Dao.

The second clause is not an 'otherwise', it's actually a description of Dao in a different sense. 王安石's commentary put it in a Kantian distinction:

Here 徼 is linked with the vocab 端倪. In modern use, it comes closer to trickery, but an enlightening kind. For instance, we say 看破了端倪 when we figure out a magic trick, a mechanical puzzle, a hard problem, or how a crime is done etc. In other words, we unravel something.

Red Pine wasn't wrong in equating 眇 with 妙. In fact, the standard text uses 妙 not 眇. This agrees with what the text says in previous lines.

As to why the difference I cannot tell. From my experience, ancient characters can take on multiple different forms, all meaning the same. Another common reason is that someone copied the text wrong, leading to confusion. But I guess in this instance, both are acceptable. I'd say 'nuance' is closer in meaning here.
sauce? that's hillarious
>if i screw up hopefully someone will correct me

>As an image the character 始 is made of two components: women + mouth exhaling

the idea that 台 can mean mouth exhaling in completely new to me, and not in my dictionary of ancient Chinese, so if it's true a source is required but it sounds nonsense. Also wiktionary gives the 台 part as 始 as the phonetic component, so it's plain wrong to read is as semantic

>無欲, "non-desire" he translates as innocence, "欲" as passion

this is dumb, imo. Since 無 means 'to not have/without', there is clearly a parallelism between 欲 and 無欲. My dictionary gives passion for 欲 only as a Buddhist reading, whereas extremely common reading of 'desire' is more reasonable, although also a word that implied a sort of passive tendency instead of a explicit desire might be better. but overall, to translate as passion and innocence is unfounded

red pine seems to completely ignore the characters 同出, ‘together' + 'going/coming out [of somewhere/something]'. Also, the topic 此两者 is extremely literally saying 'these two things...', so to translate as 'for one and the same' seems dubious

Still, I think with such a text as this it's kinda interesting to translate it to your own taste, it can be a good text even if it's a questionable translation of the original
> You seem to be referencing from some older non-standard edition of the text.

What is the 所谓 standard version? The Mawangdui texts have 恆 instead of 常, and are the earliest version we have, so it's likely you are using a non-standard version



An example of the inherent reductionism in any translation. Those line breaks are not in the original; both translations are equally viable

>Here 常有常無 are actually nouns. The evidence is from Zhuangzi

ditto. why is 庄子 the authority on 老聃? We don't read 孔子 only in 朱熹's reading

>From "nothingness", you can see the intricacy of Dao; from "thingness", you can see the delicacy of Dao

how have you gone from 欲 to 'you can'?

Surprisingly good thread for /lit/ though
The Jonathan Star translate is the best.
If you disagree, you are woefully mistaken.
This is where reading traditional commentaries can be useful. Whether 无名is paired as a noun (nameless) or broken up as a noun 无 (non-being) and verb 名 (is called) has been a matter of contention. While line breaks for these are present neither in mawangdui nor guodian editions, Wang bi, from whom most editions of the laozi are taken, uses the latter reading while later commentators like Cheng xuanying use the former. So even later authors going back to the mawangdui (like victor mair) and guodian (gu zhengkun) editions have to make this choice. The important thing, to my mind, is that the translator consciously makes the choice in light of all the Chinese editions and traditional treatments from the Han up to at least the Tang, which is usually not the case.
The start of pic related also has 無名. I guess you could still read it as “is called 無‘, so ‘道 is ceaselessly called 無’ but I had to spend some time figuring out that meaning, and it seems to me ‘道 is ceaselessly without name’ is much more incontestable

Anyway, what other Classical Chinese texts do you like?
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We agree, except philosophically. I agree that what you mean by standard has been the historical standard. And it remains the historical standard, but you can believe that if the commentary tradition had different extant texts, the historical standard would have been different. So it’s to some extent arbitrary, and I don’t think we necessarily need to translate in light of it. After all, all tradition only grew because what had was already tradition was transcended.

And frankly I think it’s more Daoist to be unbidden by past interpretations (including our own)
By your logic would it not be even better to not know Chinese at all and just "translate" based on intuition (see Crowley's preface to his translation)? This is why I just find nebulous appeals to some daoist-ish epistemology uncompelling. The daoist intellectual tradition is not anti knowledge, and people who claim it is are usually just trying to justify their own ignorance
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>The daoist intellectual tradition is not anti knowledge

You've simply misread what I wrote. I respect, and obviously, use, the tradition. Otherwise how would I even begin to have learnt Chinese? It would be, without a tradition, as if I was trying to read an undeciphered script, and completely confabulating it.

But I also have space in my mind for two supposedly contradictory viewpoints. Philology is essential to any understanding. But so is creativity. The tradition was never static, but always growing off itself, through creativity. In reality, there was never a 'Chinese' that a given text was written in. Its interpretation would have also been contested at the time of its writing. Especially with a text as abstract as the Laozi.

Your argument would equally apply if it was applied in the 12th century to 朱熹. But you quote him as an authority. The fact that it's been a near millennium doesn't remove the fact that he creatively and arbitrarily read the texts in a new way, to some extent in light of the tradition at the time, to some extent not.

As for publishing, I think it matters little to people who are not invested enough to want to read the original whether it's 'authentic' or not. They wouldn't know what authentic was if it drew legs on their waist.
I suppose we are simply disagreeing over what constitutes philological due diligence. To my mind the least any aspiring translator can do is tune into major historical interpretations, especially now that at least for traditional commentaries have been translated into English (Wang bi, heshanggong, xianger, Cheng xuanying), whereas you are fine with simply visiting the main text as it exists in the Wang bi (and I might assume mawangdui, guodian) edition and not engaging the interlinear scholia?
>Tao Te Ching
You're doing it wrong. Start again.
>learning to write and using it to post on lit

Ur doin’ it wrang
Other anon, but I'm fairly sure one of the first thing this book tells you is not to tryhard with studying and just chill out and go with the flow.
This meaning, learn as much as you need to, but never stress over it, force it, or even feel like you're actively doing it if possible.

I've only recently read this though so other anons can feel free to elaborate or correct me.

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