September 28, 2008 at 7:34 pm #29238
A fellow named Stephen Chang said that the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching is usually a mistranslation, that it does not say “the Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao”, but that it says that “the Tao is speakable, there is no eternal Tao” [because it’s always changing.]
He also discussed history of Chinese medicine and said that the Chinese used to do allopatic surgery, but then they found herbal medicine.
Here’s a link to the video. The sound in the video is kind of messed up, but i think it’s worth the watch:
RyanOctober 4, 2008 at 5:24 pm #29239
Something i think that’s important to remember when people talk about the “original Chinese” version of the Tao Te Ching is that there are various Chinese versions which can say different things.
I opened my copy of the Tao Te Ching, Ellen M. Chen translation and commentary (1989). Here’s the first stanza of the first chapter as she translated it (she sourced multiple Chinese versions in her translation, btw. i think her main one was the Wang Pi commentary):
“Tao that can be spoken of,
Is not the Everlasting (ch’ang) Tao.
Name that can be named,
Is not the Everlasting (ch’ang) name.”
And here is most of her commentary for that stanza:
“In its opening statements the Tao Te Ching points out the limitations of language, spoken or recorded, in conveying to us the nature of ultimate reality. Language, as Bergson points out, is invented to express and deal with the determinate and immobile (1929: 275). The everlasting, transcending all determinations, cannot be spoken or named.
All religious traditions speak of the Absolute as beyond speech and name. The Tao Te Ching, however, is unique in the reason why Tao is beyond speech and name. The everlasting transcends the finite not because it is “a being than which no greater can be conceived” (Anselm), but because it is a cyclical movement or becoming. The everlasting (ch’ang) Tao is thus a verb, not a noun.”
I think that last sentence is pretty significant, and that Stephen Chang might appreciate the view of the everlasting Tao as a verb. It reminds me of how sometimes the Yijing is called the Book of Unchanging Changes.
RyanOctober 10, 2008 at 3:07 am #29241
chang is correct, in my opinion, but his translation is not. Chad Hansen has done the best work on this first line translation, and points out that tao means “speaking”, not just Way, and “chang” means constant, not Eternal.
The Tao/speaking that can be spoken of is not a constant Tao/speaking.
The implication is NOT that there is an Eternal or Absolute Tao, as per most religions, but rather there is only a unique Way/Speaking for each person, i.e. Tao is about Process expressed through each unique soul’s unfolding/speaking.
michaelOctober 13, 2008 at 7:37 pm #29243
I liked that translation, thanks. It also reminds me of the translation of Way-Making.
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