Tao Te Ching is doublessly one of the wisest ever written in the human history.
Written by the sage Lao Tzu, it’s a major work of Taoism — a major school of thought in the Chinese culture. Although no one knows exactly when it was written, archaeological excavations show it can date back to as far as 2500 years ago during the Warring States Period of China.
Tao Teh Ching is made up of 81 chapters, written in the style of verse. The chapters are divided into two parts. Part one comprises of chapters 1-37, and part two 38-81. Part 1 centres on Tao, or ‘The Way’; while Part 2 on Te, or ‘The Virtue’. Some editions of the book reverse the order.
The two words – Tao and Te – make up the first two characters of the book title, while the third character Ching means scripture. The title of the book, therefore, may be interpreted as ‘a scripture of The Way and The Virtue’.
Timeless & Universal
One of often-asked questions about Tao Te Ching is whether it’s a religious text.
When the book was written, there was no Taoism as a religion. The religion emerged in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 -220 AD), hundreds of years after the book was written. It’s, therefore, unlikely that Lao Tzu wrote the book with the religion in mind, or that he expected his book would one day become the primary scripture of a religion and he worshiped as founder.
On the other hand, many people read the book without religious connotation. They see it as a work of philosophy, rather than religion.
Traditionally in China, the people who view Tao Te Ching as a philosophy identify themselves as Daojia (道家); and those who see it as a religion regard themselves as worshippers of Daojiao (道教). Both approaches are known as Taoism in the West.
Tao Teh Ching played a key role in the promotion of Buddhism in China. When Buddhism was first introduced into the country, Taoism was used as a vehicle, as people in the country was more familiar with its lingo. It is for this reason that the book is also widely read by Buddhists in China.
Over the centuries, Tao Te Ching has transcended historical and cultural confines. Since its introduction in the late 19th century, it has been read far and wide throughout the world. It’s timeless and universal!
Tao Te King is a book of wisdom. It gives insight and inspiration, whatever areas of interest that you’re in, from cosmology, self development and longevity to leadership.
To truly enjoy the work, go beyond the surface. Understand the underlying unified principles that hold the whole work together and apply the teachings to whatever you do in life.
Despite its widespread influence, the book is not easy to read. The language cryptic. If you find difficult to fully comprehend it, you are not alone. Don’t feel dismayed. You don’t have to read the entire book to benefit from it. Enjoy whatever that you can absorb, and be thrilled as what it can help you to derive more from life.