OVERVIEW (World Philosophers and Their Works)
Perhaps more than any other ancient Chinese text, the Dao De Jing has been a center of philological dispute through the centuries. The first question is its authorship. The work is often attributed to Laozi. Sima Qian's Shi-ji (first century b.c.e.; Records of the Grand Historian of China, 1960; rev. ed. 1993), identifies Laozi as an official archivist in the capital Zhou, who lived in the late sixth century b.c.e. He was said to have composed the Dao De Jing all by himself shortly before he vanished beyond the mountains on the back of a blue water buffalo. In fact, the Dao De Jing contains many telltale features that point to its collective authorship; most probably it was not written by any single author but has grown into its present shape.
An understanding about the authorship of this work is important for a proper grasp of the central ideas behind the eighty-one short but epigrammatic and sometimes cryptic chapters in this work--for however poetically integrated these ideas may be around the central theme of a mystic quietism that dates as far back as the dawning of Chinese history, there are passages in this book alluding to the many different schools of thought that contended for intellectual dominance in the early Warring States period (403-222 b.c.e.). The voice (or voices, hereafter called the Daoist) speaking...
(The entire section is 303 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Dao De Jing Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!