Tao Te Ching: A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way

By Lao Tzu

This book is fascinating: a translation, but not quite — more like a total reinterpretation. This is “a personal and poetic meditation”, filtering the original text through Le Guin’s unique, endlessly wise and perceptive worldview.

In Le Guin’s own words, this is “a rendition, not a translation.” It’s based on the 1898 edition, which itself contained both translation and transliteration. This edition was written with collaboration from J.P. Seaton, Professor of Chinese at UNC Chapel Hill.

It’s a strikingly designed book; a beautiful rich blue-teal highlight color accentuates the black of the main text.

In addition to the main text of the Tao Te Ching, the book contains an introduction and several “Notes” from Le Guin — on the particulars of this version, the sources, the wording, texts, chapters… She talks about the “how” and the “why” of this edition; her desire to capture the poetry, the “terse, strange beauty” of the text. And, my favorite feature: it also contains brief footnoted commentaries by Le Guin for many of the book’s 81 chapters.

I haven’t yet read any version of the Tao Te Ching, but I have my eye on this one — it seems to not only render the meaning text in beautiful language, but frame its ideas with a perspective I trust to do it justice.

Anticipated Pre-Ratings:

  • Craft: 5
  • Fun: 3
  • Beauty: 5
  • Information: 3
  • Distinctness: 4
  • Personal Fit: 4

Average: 4.0

Additional information:

  • ISBN: 978-1570623950
  • Publisher: Shambhala

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