Dao De Jing

(ca. 300–200 BCE)

The Dao De Jing (also called Tao Te Ching) is by far the most important text of the immense Daoist canon, known as the Daozang. The significance of this text was recognized by both philosophical and religious schools within Daoism, each offering a great variety of interpretations of its content. Attributed to the legendary sage Laozi (also known as Lao-tzu), an older contemporary of Confucius, but probably compiled during the late fourth and third centuries b.c.e., the Dao De Jing expresses in a highly compressed style the basic religious, philosophical, and political beliefs of this ancient tradition centered on the concepts of the Dao (“the Way”) and De (“power“ or “virtue”).

Interpreted as a religious text, the Dao De Jing contains teachings on the nature of the Absolute, human relations toward the Absolute, practical lessons for everyday life, the ideal of human existence (the ideal of a sage), and hints on immortality as the ultimate goal of a sage. Its succinct,...

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Laozi passing through the Western Gates on his way out of China (Yale University Art Gallery)

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