Approximately September last year I stumbled upon a particular app in the Android market: a Tao Te Ching app by Barclay Osborn. It contains the original Chinese and three public domain translations (specifically: a translation from 1891 by James Legges, D. T. Suzuki and Paul Carus’ 1913 translation and Dwight Goddard and Henri Borels’ 1919 translation). There is another Tao Te Ching app on the Android market, but I don’t like the one translation it has.
I had heard of the Tao Te Ching before and read some extracts here and there. However, it was only after reading the first three chapters in these parallel translations that my curiosity really got piqued, and I decided I want to blog my way through it. It consists of only 81 “chapters”, with each chapter typically having only two to five paragraphs, with just a couple going up to about eight. The challenging part will be grappling with multiple translations in order to try to get a better understanding of the layers in the original poetic Chinese.
I will probably work with those three public domain translations, in addition to one contemporary one. Stephen Mitchell’s is a very popular translation, while one of my friends recommended Ursula K. Le Guin’s translation. There are a whole host of recent translations available. More recommendations welcome, which one should I get?
How will I approach the Tao Te Ching? Who knows. Likely I will compare its wisdom with the various forms of Christianity I’ve come across in my upbringing and recent past. I might try to avoid too much scholarly input on my first pass. Possibly my approach to the Tao Te Ching will thus be similar to Hugh Elliot’s approach to the Bible during the first years of his blog Bible Versus?
Or not. I’m pretty sure I will supplement it with interesting bits from Wikipedia. There’s just too many interesting things to simply ignore all of it. For example, the question of the historicity of Laozi (the claimed author, according to tradition), or something about how hard it is to translate classical Chinese.
Would anyone be interested in explicitly joining me on this endeavour? I could share the public domain translations, but only extracts from whichever recent translation I choose.