Lao Tzu & Taoism

lao tzuAlthough revered as founder of Taoism, very little is known about Lao Tzu as a person.

Lao Tzu goes by a few names.  He was originally known as Li Er (李耳) and Dan (聃) , but is now generally known as Lao Tzu (Loazi).

What is widely believed is that he authored the well-known book of wisdom Tao Te Ching (道德经), and lived in the 4th century BC during the Warring States Period, an era of cultural and intellectual vibrancy in ancient China.

As keeper of an imperial archive, he had the rare privilege of accessing to literature hardly available to others.

There is an fascinating folklore about his birth.  It is said that Lao Tzu was conceived when his mother gazed upon a falling star.  The gestation took unusually long.  When he finally arrived in this world, he was born not a baby, but a 62 year-old man with beard and long earlobes.

While Lao Tzu’s wisdom bestowed him followers, he did not set his thoughts down in writing.  When he was on his way to retreat from the turbulent, at the western border gate of the kingdom the warden recognized him and persuaded him to write a book for posterity.  He agreed, and the product was the 81 verses that made up Tao-Te Ching, the foremost Taoist scripture.

It is believed that Lao Tzu was older than Confucius. When the two gentlemen met, Confucius was awed by the sage.  He described to his disciples later by saying, “In him I saw the dragon riding on the clouds”.

Translation of Lao Tzu’s name:   Lao Tzu is pronounced as lao (third tone) zi (third tone), and so he is more widely known as Laozi (老子) in China.  In the West, his name is often also translated as Lao Tse.


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