Tao Te Ching in many languages
September 10, 2006 6:35 AM   Subscribe

The Tao Te Ching in dozens of languages and translations, with a lovely side-by-side comparison tool.
posted by Wolfdog (19 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Bonus wiki link: strokes for drawing the character.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:37 AM on September 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Det är bra.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 7:01 AM on September 10, 2006

This is an awesome tool. On the other hand, I think there are some copyright issues here. I know the Feng-English translation is copyrighted, and I suspect the Addiss-Lombardo is among others.
posted by selfnoise at 7:32 AM on September 10, 2006

No LeGuin version, though that might have to do with the copyright issues mentioned above.
[this is good, and now favorited in my browser]
posted by exlotuseater at 8:11 AM on September 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Ooh, oh my goodness this is cool. I have a few translations lying around and I always end up with two or three different ones open to the same chapter trying to distill the essence of the original out of them. I've been wanting to read the Henricks translation for a while - I love the simple clarity of his phrasing.

The Feng translation is the first one I read and probably the first one a lot of people read - I think its poetic mystery and lovely photography on the facing pages are major reasons for the great popularity of the Tao Te Ching today.

Thanks for this post!

NB if you buy a hard copy of the Jonathan Star, the character by character verbatim translation is invaluable and nearly hypnotic if you go for that kind of thing. His interpretive translation is very idiosyncratic and, um, interpretive, though; I guess he figured that having the verbatim translation in the same volume gave him a bit of leeway.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:17 AM on September 10, 2006

The Le Guin version is also not a translation, according to the author. I think she has a lot of insight into Taoist thought (judging by her novels) but she does make some interpretations that are probably beyond the scope of a translation. Hard to say, though, considering the weird language and enigmatic nature of the original text.

I really like the Addiss-Lombardo translation.
posted by selfnoise at 8:24 AM on September 10, 2006

Over 140 different English translations of Chapter 1 of the Tao Te Ching have been posted here.

posted by Bureau of Public Secrets at 8:25 AM on September 10, 2006

Thank you. :)
posted by bim at 8:34 AM on September 10, 2006

See also this excellent Chinese-English side-by-side, previously seen on Mefi.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:49 AM on September 10, 2006

two contemporary sayings sum up all this wisdom:
1. whatever is, is
2. so it goes...
posted by Postroad at 8:56 AM on September 10, 2006

i like beatrice tao too.
posted by amethysts at 9:06 AM on September 10, 2006

This is great, thanks so much. I have a few English translations, but getting the chance to compare them with translations in other languages is wonderful.
posted by billpena at 9:08 AM on September 10, 2006

Great! Selecting a favorite verse and bouncing around between 84 different translations enlightening...or not.
posted by kozad at 9:27 AM on September 10, 2006


Oh, all right: [the gateway to all mystery]
posted by languagehat at 11:05 AM on September 10, 2006

I was reading my third translation when a lion crashed through my window. I fled with my laptop computer, of course, but plummeted down a steep decline. I managed to catch a root on the way down, and there I hung. Below me, in a river, I could see hungry alligators, and above me was the lion, pawing the side of the ravine. Just then, the root started to give way. I noticed my laptop computer still tucked under my arms, and did what anyone else would: I read a passage from the fourth translation.

posted by Astro Zombie at 12:06 PM on September 10, 2006

This is great. I always liked comparing different translations of the Bible at the Unbound Bible.
Take a look at Beck

Whoever is desireless, sees the essence of life.
Whoever desires, sees its manifestations.
These two are the same,
but what is produced has names.
They both may be called the cosmic mystery:
from the cosmic to the mystical
is the door to the essence of all life.

vs Crowley:

To understand this Mystery, one must be fulfilling one's will, and if one is not thus free, one will but gain a smattering of it.
The Tao is one, and the Teh but a phase thereof. The abyss of this Mystery is the Portal of Serpent-Wonder.

posted by oraknabo at 1:07 PM on September 10, 2006

That's pretty cool Astro Zombie, but when you woke, were you a crow's foot or a grub? ;)
posted by halonine at 1:23 PM on September 10, 2006

A little from column a ...
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:52 PM on September 10, 2006

I did a LOT of work on the TTC when I was in graduate school. Of the many books in Classical Chinese that don't lend themselves well to translation, this thing is probably at the top of the heap. It doesn't help that there are now two main versions, one received and one archaeological. Reconciling them ain't easy. There are also several important commentaries, and they're seriously at loggerheads about interpretations. Hard to get all of this across in translation, you'd need 100 pages of endnotes to explain it all. Some people in fact do this, but unless you're actually comitted to studying the thing I don't know that anyone ever reads them!
posted by 1adam12 at 10:47 PM on September 10, 2006

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