Lao Tzu & Taoism

lao tzu

Despite being author of one of the wisest books ever written in the human history, very little is known about Lao Tzu.

Originally named Li Er (李耳) and Dan (聃) , Lao Tzu is believed to have written only one book – Tao Te Ching (道德经) . The book, however, is such a heavy weight it has put him as one of the most respected philosophers on the world’s literature map.

The book of wisdom has never failed to inspire and earned him praises from people far and wide. Among its staunch supporters are some of the finest minds of the human race.

Lao Tse lived about 2,500 years ago (4th century BC) during the Warring States Period, an era of cultural and intellectual vibrancy in ancient China.

It’s said that he worked as keeper of an imperial archive that gave him access to books that were hardly available elsewhere in his times.

Folklore has it that Lao Tzu was born not a baby, but a 62 year-old man with beard and long earlobes. He was conceived when his mother gazed upon a falling star and the gestation took unusually long.

Although Lao Tzu is one of the greatest thinkers in the Chinese history, he had not set his thoughts down in writing until he was requested to do so by the warden of the western border gate of the kingdom.

He was on his way to retreat from the turbulent state when the warden recognized him and persuaded him to write a book for posterity. He agreed, and this was how the 81 verses known later as Tao Te Ching came into being.

The book has become the foremost Taoist scripture, and Lao Tzu revered as the founder of Taoism.

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

Translation of Lao Tzu’s name: Lao Tzu literally means ‘old learned gentleman’, and 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 in other ways, such as Lao Tse.


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