By Richard Bertschinger
The Tao-Te Ching is the 'bible' of Taoism from around the second century BCE and yet still an obscure work, open to interpretation. Everyone knows the famous line – 'a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step', but what about 'the further you go, the less you know', 'more words count less', 'yield and overcome', 'the prince makes the poor his own'. One of the 'mystery' texts of China, here for the first time are its earliest commentators, Hoshang Kung and Wang Pi, placed alongside the original. Each in a fresh and clear new translation. The headings, some two-thousand years old, show the work to be part logic and part yogic, concerned with an absolute determinism (the Tao), self-nature, long-life and peace in the world, root and branch. Taoism believed the answer to life's problems lay in following Nature (Heaven's Way). They stressed living close to the natural world, the inter-connectedness of all things and the discovery of inner power, within ourselves. It is a practical work, giving instruction in meditation (or Qigong), government and even on how to cook a fish! In China, all future Taoist thought gained impetus from this 'old fellow by the river' Hoshang and the young court scholar Wang Pi, dividing thereafter into two strands - the rich, folk tradition and the scholarly. This translation promotes both views. None previously has given such a wide range of scholarship and allusion.