February 16, 2008 at 6:43 pm #27539
I recently read your article on Hua Shan (http://www.healingtaousa.com/huashan.html). That article was very inspiring for me to read, thank you. I did some searching to see if Ren Fa Rong’s commentary on the Tao Te Ching, which was mentioned in that article, had yet been published in English. As far as a I found, it had not. Are there any plans for that to be published in English?
I have another question. If there were one Chinese language that would be most beneficial to learn for someone planning to study Chinese subjects and perhaps visit China in the future, which do you think that would be?
RyanFebruary 16, 2008 at 9:19 pm #27540
It doesn’t matter if you study Mandarin or Cantonese cuz the writing is the same. Just make sure you learn traditional CHinese characters so you can read the ancient writing and commentaries, although some have been reprinted in simplified Chinese (they are about 85% same).
AFTER you learn modern Chinese, you need to learn ancient Chinese. Although the writing is the same, the language is really different. Most modern Chinese (like 99.9%) don’t understand it. They can read and get vague ideas. I don’t know if it’s more different from modern Chinese than Ancient Greek is from modern Greek, but it’s tough. It’s hard to translate into modern Chinese and even harder to translate into English.
I once asked a friend of mine to translate a passage of the Dao De Jing into modern Chinese and it had like 3 times the number of characters. Then he said it was pretty close to the meaning he thought that passage had but confessed it wasn’t completely accurate, that that was impossible to do which supports Michael’s contention that it is a meditation manual).
My choice is to LIVE the dao rather than read about it. Nature will unfold it for you. You dont need to study any languages except the language of the tao, which qi gong and nei gong will develop for you. Or whatever your path is.
You will find that you can understand dao better than the ancients because our understanding of “it” has grown and evolved. It’s also far more prevalent in the West than in China. Hell, Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith, and others were daoist in their approaches to politics and economics. Western business management that emerged from the “tech age” is far more daoist than anything in China.
Anyway, China never really embraced daoism. They always preferred Confucianism and it shows with the complex social rituals and huge bureaucratic approach to every aspect of life, from buying a piece of fruit to the government of the land.
The 80s generation, as they call it here, understands Daoism way better than their parents and grandparents. They of course will deny it. They will say they’re not interested in it and never studied it. But they live it. How could you be more daoist than that?
I don’t mean to denigrate the ancients’ contributions. Obviously a necessary and illuminating phase of evolution. All i’m saying is don’t forget to be here now and discard the contributions that have evolved since and hiding in the nooks and crannies and beneath the veneer of modern life.
Anyway, good luck with it. I’m sure there is merit in the study of the ancients otherwise i wouldn’t do it. But in the final analysis Punk Rock brought me way closer to dao than anything in china. Then of course i was led to great teachers at tracker school, healing tao and other places. but i feel at the core being a punkass bike messenger from DC did the most for me in terms of pointing the way and forming a center.February 17, 2008 at 4:17 am #27542
A classic thorny bastard post – thanks!
Practically speaking, you want to learn Mandarin, not Cantonese, because its much more widepsread in use in terms of pronunciation, business, etc.
Taoist master TK Shih lived withme in the 80’s, and I thought I would learn Chinese from him. But he spoke Shanghai dialect, and i was warned not to learn it – it would limit me in china unnecessarily…..
mFebruary 21, 2008 at 6:26 pm #27544
Thank you both for replying. Thank you spongebob for your insights on language and about the Tao. A point of clarification that you might value, i think that Ren Fa Rong is actually a contemporary, not an ancient. Thanks for the advice on learning about the Tao through practice. This is something that I do value. I still would like to read Ren Fa Rong’s commentaries, because i think i would value them as well. So, Michael, what’s the update on the commentary? Also Michael, thank you for your calrification about Mandarin and Cantonese and different dialects.
RyanFebruary 24, 2008 at 6:49 pm #27546
Sorry, I glossed that. I have tried repeatedly to get it translated and published, and even found a top level western scholar willng to do the project if backed by a temple in Hong Kong that would assist financially. And I proposed it to Ren Fa Rong. I think he’s too busy being President of China Daoism Association AND hoping for a more commercial publisher that pays him for it. He came to the USA on surprise visit last summer (no publicity or advance warning) to investigate building a Quanzhen temple in California. I found out about this via my Chinese travel agent, who got called in to help.
I agree, it will be interesting to have a contemporary commentary in English by him, as there are not that many Daoists who bother to write. I may try again with him soon, let’s see. Or just write m own commentary…..:)February 24, 2008 at 10:45 pm #27548
Thank you for responding =)! I thought that you had intentionally not replied so that I would get some message or point from the earlier posts that did may not have sunk in enough. A Quanzhen temple in California would be incredible! I actually found your site by searching for Taoist temples, particularly monasteries, in America.
I suppose an English version of his commentary will be released when it is supposed to. I appreciate the efforts you’ve made to get it published. And a Michael Winn commentary, I’d have to pre-order that =).
PeaceFebruary 24, 2008 at 10:46 pm #27550
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