Lao-Tzu and Taoism


lao tzu

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

It is widely believed that he was author of Tao Te Ching (道德经), and lived in the 4th century BC, during the Warring States Period -- an era of vibrant cultural and intellectual development in ancient China.

Originally named as Li Er (李耳) and Dan (聃), it is said that he worked as keeper of an imperial archive, which allowed him access to the classics of the time.

Folklore has it that Laozi was conceived when his mother gazed upon a falling star. But the gestation period was so long that he was born not a baby, but a 62 year-old -- with beard and long earlobes. Lao Tzu's wisdom attracted followers, but he did not set his thoughts down in writing, until he was on his way to retreat from the turbulent state. At the western border gate of the kingdom, the warden recognized him and persuaded him to write for posterity. The result was the 81 verses of in Tao-Te Ching, the foremost text of Taoist belief.

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

Language note: If you are familiar with Chinese phonetics, Lao Tzu is pronounced as lao (second tone) zi (third tone). This is why the author is more widely known as Laozi in China instead.

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