The Sage in the Daodejing II

Earlier piece* Still earlier pieceManyul Im thread * Tang Dynasty Times thread * 不害 “not harm” * 不傷  “not hurt” * 聖 “sage” * Shen Dao

In the classic Chinese texts the “sage” 聖人was the highest category of human excellence. The sages were the legendary past rulers and founders (e.g. Wen Wang or the Duke of Zhou) together with hoped-for future saviors of equal merit. Both Confucius and Mencius demurred on their disciples’ suggestions that they were Sages, though Mencius did declare that Confucius was indeed a sage. The translation “sage” is not va very good one: the English word “sage” normally refers to a wise elder, but the Chinese sages were not only wise, but also holy and powerful, the founders or rulers of states, and their sageliness was apparent while they were still in their prime. (more…)

Published in: on October 23, 2009 at 9:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Shen Dao in the Daodejing

Text of Shen Dao.

Translation of Shen Dao (slightly different text.)

Many passages in the Daodejing remarkably resemble passages in Shen Dao. The dating of the Daodejing (which was produced in stages) is only approximate (roughly 350 BC to 250 BC is my guess), and the dating of Shen Dao is also uncertain, though he is thought to have  flourished sometime before 300 BC, making him senior to the final contributors to the Daodejing. (more…)

Published in: on October 22, 2009 at 6:36 pm  Comments (4)  

The Worthy in the Daodejing

The worthy 賢 in ancient Chinese texts

In Chinese philosophy the 賢, usually translated “worthy”, is a man of great merit (but not from the royal family or from one of the ruling noble families) who is brought to the ruler’s attention and appointed to high position. (Often worthies were descended from the nobility of conquered and abolished states). “Promoting the worthy” 尚賢 was a key doctrine of the Mohist school, but something like it was also advocated by Confucians. The goal, especially in the case of the Mohists, was a kind of meritocracy which would weaken the ruling families’ stranglehold on power and make government more responsive to the needs of the people. (more…)

Published in: on October 18, 2009 at 6:43 pm  Comments (1)  

The Early Layer of the Daodejing

(This supersedes my various earlier writings on this topic, the oldest of which is listed in the Bibliography)

I have argued that chapters 67-81 of the Daodejing (not part of the Guodian text) were the last chapters to be added and that they were probably written by a single author — possibly by the final author-editor who also selected and arranged the materials in chapters 1-66. I also more tentatively suggested that the  Dao 道 chapters and the Sage 聖 chapters in these first 66 chapters were different in origin; in these chapters Dao and the Sage appear together in the same chapter only twice, rather than the eight times which would randomly be expected. (more…)

Published in: on October 14, 2009 at 8:41 pm  Comments (3)  

The Last Fifteen Chapters of Laozi

(This is part of a project I’ve been working on for about 20 years, and supercedes all earlier efforts.)

Chapters 67-81 at the end make up the the only consecutive group of chapters in Laozi which is uniform enough to be briefly described. These chapters all recommend the closely-related virtues of foresight, patience, frugality, modesty, forbearance, generosity, mercy, and peacefulness. All of them are consistent and fairly similar in style, without the patchwork feeling of many of the earlier chapters, and all of them develop a single idea in an expository rather than a poetic fashion. (more…)

Published in: on October 9, 2009 at 9:35 pm  Comments (2)