Lao Tzu and Taoism

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Stanford University Press, 1969 - Religion - 158 pages
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Apart from Confucius, Lao Tzu is the most eminent figure in Chinese antiquity. The book attributed to him, the Tao Te Ching, is the classic statement of the system of thought known as Taoism. Much of the doctrine of the Tao Te Ching was later clarified and modified by the greatest of the Taoist philosophers and writers, Chuang Tzu, whose chief work bears his name.

The major ideas contained in these two early texts form the basis of this concise yet comprehensive history and analysis of Taoism, which also presents biographical information on Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu and an account of religious Taoism.

Largely because of its emphasis on passivity, quietism, and mysticism, Taoism never enjoyed wide popular or official favor, and it was gradually overshadowed by the more positive and active ideology of Confucianism. Through the centuries, however, its influence on intellectuals has led to much of China's greatest art and literature, not to mention a religion that has persisted as a spiritual force to the present day.


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In 5th century BC almost the same time as Buddha lived in India lived two philosopher sages in China-Confucius and Lao Tse. Chinese philosophy as we know today is mainly the contribution of these two.Lao Tse said that the body, even the bones of beings go back to dust and it is only their words that last or survive. Confucius preached a pious life and Lao Tse sometimes even contradicted what Confucious said. Once the two met. And when Lao Tse ridiculed the pious ways of the other confucious remarked: I have known the birds which fly and are shot down with arrows,animals that run caught in nets and fishes that swim in wicker leaps ; But I have never known a dragon that ascends to heaven on clouds and winds and today I have seen one. That one is Lao Tse .
This book states that the Budhists have borrowed the term Suthra from the Chung of Chinese. But sulbasuthra, Badarayana Brahmasuthra and similar others existed several thousand years before Buddha,Confucious or Lao Tse in India and it is more likely thtat Budhists had it from India itself.
Dr Suvarna Nalapat



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About the author (1969)

Max Kaltenmark is Professor of Chinese Religion and Literature at the University of Paris.

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