Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Lao-tzu's Taoteching” as Want to Read:
Lao-tzu's Taoteching
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book* *Different edition

Lao-tzu's Taoteching

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  136,532 ratings  ·  5,704 reviews
One of the best-selling English-language translations of the Taoteching.
“A refreshing new translation. . . . Highly recommended.”—Library Journal

“With its clarity and scholarly range, this version of the Taoteching works as both a readable text and a valuable resource of Taoist interpretation.”—Publishers Weekly

“Read it in confidence that it comes as close as possible to e
Paperback, 200 pages
Published November 1st 2009 by Copper Canyon Press (first published -600)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Lao-tzu's Taoteching, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
John An online search will pull up a pdf with 8 translations, the Bureau of Public Secrets archive links to many, and there is an Hungarian site (in Englis…moreAn online search will pull up a pdf with 8 translations, the Bureau of Public Secrets archive links to many, and there is an Hungarian site (in English too) which has data on nearly a hundred. So far I found Ursula Le Guin's anarcho-eco-feminist "creative interpretation" congenial, if free. Jonathan Star achieves a balance of the literary and scholarly; his "definitive ed." has transliterations of each ideogram with multiple meanings so you can "assemble your own'! Gia-Fu Feng + Jane English convey the TTC in a popular version many like; I found as have others Stephen Mitchell's influenced by his Zen bent. Like ULG, SM as with many "translators" does not know classical (or modern) Chinese; they both worked from Paul Carus' 1898 transliteration. Red Pine's and David Hinton's renderings show a blend of scholarship and accessibility from two who truly know Chinese. Finally, the classical Chinese is different than the modern version, which makes me wonder if one needs to be a native speaker of modern Chinese to claim translation credibility, as some born-bilingual interpreters insist. P.S. Thomas Merton adapted Chuang Tzu's tales, unfortunately not the TTC. (less)
Gary Jaron Leguin's is her own variant of the text based on her studying other translations and using her father's copy of Paul Carus version which has and Chine…moreLeguin's is her own variant of the text based on her studying other translations and using her father's copy of Paul Carus version which has and Chinese to English glossary of all the words of the text. She intuits her own English version. Not exactly a translation. Mitchell also does not read Chinese but pulls off the same trick. His has a Western/Christian bias that creeps into his translation occasionally and thus I don't care for it.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.26  · 
Rating details
 ·  136,532 ratings  ·  5,704 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Lao-tzu's Taoteching
The book that can be reviewed is not the constant book.

The review which reviews can be neither full of review nor lacking.

But as the river changes course over seasons must the reviewer neither review nor not review, but follow the constant review.
Jun 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm an unbeliever and have been since the first time I played hooky from Sunday services and the Eye in the Sky didn’t say boo. So it may seem strange that I’m reviewing the Tao Te Ching, the widely known and influential Taoist text, written by Lao-Tzu and poetically translated in this edition by Stephen Mitchell. For me, the Tao Te Ching is more folk wisdom than religious treatise and is more useful than a million sermons.

Where the Tao Te Ching parts company with religious attempts at morality
Ahmad Sharabiani
Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu

The Tao Te Ching, also known by its pinyin romanization Dao De Jing, is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC sage Laozi.

The text's authorship, date of composition and date of compilation are debated. The oldest excavated portion dates back to the late 4th century BC, but modern scholarship dates other parts of the text as having been written—or at least compiled—later than the earliest portions of the Zhuangzi.

The Tao Te Ching, along with th
Sep 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those wanting to hear the other version
Recommended to Dolors by: the voices
Shelves: read-in-2014
“The Tao is always nameless” (Chapter 71)

Trying to narrow down the philosophy of the Tao Te Ching with limiting words is to violate its primordial essence. How can one describe the Universe, the natural order of things, the incessant flowing from being to non-being, the circular unity of a reality traditionally mismatched in dualistic terms?

The Tao Te Ching doesn’t provide answers because there needn’t be questions, just the harmony of moulding to the landscape rather than trying to impose a p
Aug 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Philosophers, Followers of Eastern Thought
This is, by far, my favorite translation of the Tao Te Ching. I own a few others and they're all well and good, but this one is the one I continually read from and refer to when people ask me about the Tao.

The translation is well done, it captures the nature of the text well, and it flows fairly evenly. It's not overly flowery or ornate, it gives you the basics of what you need to understand the various entries and assist in understanding what Tao is (i.e. the the Tao named Tao is not the great,
Eddie Watkins
There are many translations of the Taoteching, nearly every one of which is probably worth reading, but this is my favorite version. I can’t attest to the accuracy of the translation, but having read so many different translations of the same text I feel like in some strange way I have a grasp of the original; as if a blank space (the Chinese original) has been given shape and definition by all the English versions surrounding it. But anyway... while I like the spare sensitivity of the language ...more
Gerrie Williams
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing. I've read many books out there and this is the best one. Very enjoyable read! I highly recommend it. I bought this book at discounted price from here: ...more
Concatenated thoughts. Review #1 ✔ - #2

They come to be and he claims no possession of them,
He works without holding on,
Accomplishes without claiming merit.
Because he does not claim merit,
His merit does not go away.

The Tao Te Ching is a classical text credited to Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu (6th century) and on which Taoism is based. It consists of 81 short chapters written in poetic form which, using a pithy language brimming with evocative and, at times, repetitive contradi
Heidi Parton
Nov 15, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This version irritates me a lot, largely because of Stephen Mitchell's arrogance in writing it (I'll go into that in a bit). This is not a translation (which Mitchell was at least gracious enough to make clear in the back of the book); it's a translation of various translations. The problem with this is that a translation of a translation turns out the same way that a copy of a copy does: while some of the original words and phrases are identifiable, there's a lot that's lost or skewed.

For examp
"If you realize that all things change, there's nothing you will try to hold on to.

Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn't possess
acts but doesn't expect.

The Tao Te Ching helps us understand the principles of Taoism, which is an ancient school of philosophy that is still applicable today. Lao Tzu invented Taoism in the 6th century BCE which has been passed on to generations.

This book definitely is not a one time read. Something to keep co
Jonathan O'Neill
4 ⭐

The Tao is definitely the most beautifully elusive and intangible philosophy that I've had the pleasure of trying to wrap my head around. Everything about it drips with mystery and mysticism, right down to it’s purported author, the enigma that is Lao Tzu. I really made an effort to understand what was meant by each and every poem. I read Ursula K. Le Guin’s rendition alongside this, more scholarly translation, by D.C.Lau and I listened to multiple audio versions, driving to and from work, bu
Concatenated thoughts. Review #1 - #2 ✔

Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn't possess,
acts but doesn't expect.

The Tao Te Ching is a classical text credited to Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu (6th century) and on which Taoism is based. It consists of 81 short chapters written in poetic form which, using a pithy language brimming with evocative and, at times, repetitive contradictions, provide guidance on how humanity may have a ha
Sean Barrs
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This was immensely interesting to read, though I found myself somewhat aggravated by the passivism that ran through the writing.

It's almost like a poetical treatise on humility, but what of ambition and a drive to make the world a better place? Should we all accept our station in life and never aim to improve? I think not. It accepts things as they are (however they are) and cannot conceive of a better future. Everything should stay the same, and exist within the natural order of things.

But ho
Jonathan O'Neill
4.5 ⭐

I have delved deeper into the ‘Tao Te Ching’ in my review of the more scholarly translation by D.C.Lau which you can find HERE.
In this space I just want to focus on what Ursula K. Le Guin brings to the table and what exactly makes her rendition of the classic, unique from the plethora of other translations and renditions that are available.

I have to commend D.C.Lau for his fantastic translation of the Tao, which includes a wonderful introduction as well as two very informative appendices. B
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion-other
(review after rereading:)
This book's contents and history have both a sense of vagueness, but not in a bad way, in my opinion. It's somewhat uncertain when it was written (circa 4th-3rd century BC), the author's life details are largely invented, and the existence of the author is not quite certain either (Lao Tzu is just his title, and also it's not known if the text is by one author, or a group of authors worked over some years). It was first translated in the late 1700s, and the oldes existin
Farhan Khalid
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When people see things as beautiful, ugliness is created

When people see things as good, evil is created

The master leads by emptying people's mind

The Tao is like an empty vessel

It can never be emptied and can never be filled

Master doesn’t take sides

The spirit of emptiness is immortal

The location makes the dwelling good

Depth of understanding makes the mind good

A kind heart makes the giving good

Integrity makes the government good

Accomplishment makes your labors good

Proper timing makes a decision go
I read this translation by Sam Torode every day on my phone, with a hard copy of another translation I will review soon. The simplicity of Torode's translation makes it my favorite so far and lines up with the Taoist philosophy of simplicity. I may consider other works translated by Torode. He has some interesting works out there, such as "The Song of Solomon."

Update: 3.14.18
Third translation I've read, my favorite of the three. I love this book of philosophy. It gives great common sense
Onaiza Khan
This is just mindblowing.
ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos) withdrawn
This version of the Dao De Jing, translated by Richard John Lynn, is highly recommended to those who are not looking for the touchy feely Laozi. Rather it is a translation for those interested in ancient Chinese thought. A wonderful translation.

The Dao De Jing was probably written, by author or authors unknown, in the fourth century B.C.E. and "is primarily addressed to the ruler who would be a sage-king and is mainly concerned with achieving the good society through harmony with nature....". Th
A short read but worth taking the time with.

I really enjoyed mulling over the short passages, and taking the time to re-read them and really think about what the words meant. So many incredibly great lines, full of inspiration.

It will confuse people looking for face-value prose but for the deep thinkers this will really challenge you to think about life in all its intricacies, and to question your own nature. Great read.

Highly recommend for the more spiritually inclined, or those looking for pur
Aug 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The description of this book is wrong:

"Like Stephen Mitchell, acclaimed author and poet Ursula K. Le Guin has attempted a nonliteral, poetic rendition of the Tao Te Ching"

It's nothing like Mitchell's pretty but totally opaque translation. LeGuin gives you readable ideas, arguments in poetry, a philosophy to ponder. Of all the translations I have encountered, this is the only one that gives you a point of entry into the rich treasury of ideas in the Tao Te Ching.
I knew Ursula Le Guin was interested in Taoism : one only has to read “The Left Hand of Darkness” (, her Earthsea stories (, or even “The Dispossessed” ( to see an ever-present underlying theme of balance, of difference and unity – and of compassion. But I had no idea she had actually written an English version of the “Tao Te Ching” until Saturday, when I was idly browsing t ...more
Nov 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
The Tao Te Ching definitely shines without dazzling. It fits in for me with Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and the Sermon on the Mount. Books of universal wisdom, truth, and peace that should be read again and again and again. Straightforward words often do sound paradoxical.

Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This has got to be one of the most perennially beguiling, elliptical things ever written. And it seems all the more mysterious to me because so much of it is couched as this extremely practical, almost Machiavellian political advice. Having been schooled entirely in the western intellectual tradition, with its notions of hierarchy, dualism and progression (historical, socio/cultural or otherwise), this was a complete mind-fuck to me. It sort of reminds me of Heidegger, with those really crazy, c ...more
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.”

I’ve had this book for years and only now found the inkling to have a look. It is very slim and can be read quickly, although as all poetry, it takes time to properly ingest...

Lao Tzu seems to like 'twisting' words from noun to verb and vice versa. In that fashion, I was reminded of one of my favourite poems from Emily Dickinson (Much Madness is divinest Sense - 620) and William Blake. These are however quite diff
James Henderson
The Tao Te Ching is a book that cannot be read directly. Unfortunately, I have little experience reading books indirectly, so I found this a difficult book to read, end even more difficult to discern what was being said by the author.
A friend told me that he thought Heraclitus, the Greek pre-Socratic philosopher, was somewhat like Lao Tzu. Heraclitus said "you can't step in the same river twice". He believed that reality was a flux composed of a unity of opposites. I suppose it is possible to c
It is by being alive to difficulty that one can avoid it.
As much as I wished to write a review for Tao Te Ching, I'd abandoned the prospect of writing a review a couple of days ago. Too many changes over the past few days that I couldn't summon the will to write as I had intended to. To bring a little peace, I opened my journal to write and my eyes fell to the last line I'd written, the line I've quoted from Tao Te Ching, and it almost magically assuaged the tremors of my mind.

Whether Lao T
Feb 04, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aspiring sages
3 - not collecting treasures prevents stealing.
13- accept disgrace willingly
23- he who does not trust will not be trusted
46- he who knows that enough is enough will always have enough
57- the more rules and regulations, the more thieves and robbers there will be

lowlights: eh, pretty much the whole translation. i guess this version is popular because it has nice calligraphy of the original chinese and BW photos of nature accompanying the english translation. but despite not having read
Interesting in that round-about way, the way ambiguous wordplay in poetry tend to be. Overall though it couldn't hold my attention for long. I had to stop and restart a page several times because my mind wandered. It had nothing to do with the content of the writing, but rather the soothing rhythmic "beat" that made it easy for me to not focus. Half the time I didn't even realized I was doing it until I reached a photo page.

This book might be better as an audio. That soothing rhythmic beat woul
Dec 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: achievers, lost souls, curious
To a Westerner, the Tao Te Ching presents another perspective for understanding meaning and effectiveness. For example, the Tao Te Ching shows how movement towards progress creates movement against progress, "Do not exalt the worthy, and the people will not compete... Do not display objects of desire, and the people's minds will not be disturbed. Therefore the ordering of the sage empties their minds, fills their bellies... and causes the wise ones not to dare to act. He does nothing, and there ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
German speaking Beta Reader 1 6 Jan 29, 2020 02:13PM  
Secular Sangha: A...: Tao Te Ching 5 15 Nov 04, 2018 04:43AM  
Theme of the Tao Te Ching 24 191 Nov 17, 2017 07:06AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please add page count 6 30 Sep 26, 2017 08:35AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please add cover 6 19 May 21, 2017 02:39PM  
Power Growth When adeptness apprenticeship 6 19 May 16, 2016 12:02AM  
Favorite Translation 13 227 May 15, 2016 05:25PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Analects
  • The Art of War
  • The Bhagavad Gita
  • The Dhammapada
  • Meditations
  • Siddhartha
  • Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice
  • The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
  • A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose
  • The Prophet
  • The Tao of Pooh
  • The Way of Zen
  • The I Ching or Book of Changes
  • The Book of Chuang Tzu
  • The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
  • Be Here Now
  • Beyond Good and Evil
  • Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Lao Tzu (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ; Wade-Giles: Laosi; also Laozi, Lao Tse, Lao Tu, Lao-Tsu, Laotze, Laosi, Lao Zi, Laocius, Lao Ce, and other variations) was a mystic philosopher of ancient China, best known as the author of the Tao Te Ching (often simply referred to as Laozi). His association with the Tao Te Ching has led him to be traditionally considered the founder of Taoism (pronounced as " ...more

Articles featuring this book

Today we're shining a spotlight on some of the top-rated translated books on Goodreads. Doing so not only promotes the universal joy of...
100 likes · 75 comments
“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
“Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.”
More quotes…