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Question for the Tao Te Ching/translator types out there...

jte

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Some quotes from the Tao Te Ching (D.C. Lau):

Book I, 24:

"From the point of view of the way these are 'excessive food and useless excresences'. As there are Things that detest them, he who has the way does not abide in them."

Book I, 31:

"It is because arms are instruments of ill omen and there are Things that detest them that one who has the way does not abide by their use."

Any more precise translation for "Things" out there? Any insight into what the author/s meant by this? I'm realistic about the level of specificity to expect on this (low), but any clarification is appreciated.

Thanks...

- Jeff
 

megabbobby

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weapons--just them being around shows 'want'
so they are automatically weak.
 

bradford_h

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Hi Jeff-
my Matrix version of Laozi will walk you through several alternate translations & give you the Chinese too. But it's a zipped Word file to download.
BTW, The Lau translation is definitely one of the better versions.
brad
 

jte

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Thanks very much, Brad. Looking through your translation and several others linked from your site, the particular phrasing appears to be a quirk of the Lau translation more than anything else.

It must have been a LOT of work putting together those translations. To show my appreciation, and for the edification of the Clarity readership ( ;-) ), hope you don't mind if I cut and paste the relevant passages below:

24

Those who stand on tiptoe do not stand (firmly)
Those who stretch strides do not make progress
Those who display themselves are less than clear
Those who are self-righteous are less than distinguished
Those who assert themselves lack merit
Those who glorify themselves do not endure
To someone on the path here
These suggest excessive indulgence and irrelevant action
Things somehow wrong to have
So those who have the way do not linger

31

Even the finest weapons are tools of ill omen
Things somehow wrong to hold
So those who have the way do not linger
A noble one, when home, honors the left
When working with weapons, honors the right
Weapons are tools of ill omen
They are not a noble one?s tools
Failing to gain satisfaction and still using them
Calm indifference is best adopted
Even in triumph there is no beauty
And those who are attracted to this
are in fact delighting in the slaughter of others
Now those who delight in the slaughter of others
Are then ill suited for use
in achieving any goal in the world at all

(In) auspicious affairs the left side is honored
(In) adverse affairs the right side is honored
An army?s lieutenant commander stays to the left
The army?s commander in chief stays to the right
A description of the funeral rites held at the end
Where the slaughter of others amounts to a multitude
Have compassion & lament & weep for them
(When) the battle is won
consider the funeral rites being held here

Once again, appreciate the help...

- Jeff
 

pocossin

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Jeff, you are mistaken about "I'm realistic about the level of specificity to expect on this (low), but any clarification is appreciated." If you were to compare serious translations of the Tao Te Ching and its paralleling texts, your specificity would be much higher.

Bradford's Matrix Laozi is easy to download, and you don't need Microsoft Word to use it. Wordpad works well enough.

D.C. Lau has been a blessing to me. I was laying in bed, thumbing through a used, paperback version I paid a dime for, when I noticed the relation between the chapters and the hexagrams.

Lau isn't always best, though. In chapter 71 he should not have innovated "difficulty" where all other translators have something like 'sickness' or 'disease'. Chapter 31 also isn't that good.

Lau says: "The text of this chapter is obviously in disorder and needs rearrangement...." This is untrue. The text follows a logical sequence from beginning to end. The topic at the beginning leads to the reasonable daoist conclusion at the end.

Part of Lau's problem is that he never understood what was inspiring Laozi. Chapter 31 is based on hexagram 24. Hexagram 24 concerns the national solstice celebration. Laozi, though, is thinking of military celebrations, the way they should be versus the way they are:

"This means that it is mourning rites that are observed.
When great numbers of people are killed, one should weep over them with sorrow.
When victorious in war, one should observe the rites of mourning."

Victory celebrations and national holidays are occasions for display of those fine weapons that are instruments of evil.

Another problem is that Mr. Lau never (so far as I can tell) recognized Laozi's fundamental categories. The majority of the chapters (I haven't counted) are based on the Heaven-Earth-Man categorical sequence. The first sentence of chapter 31 should be given as three independent clauses:

"It is because arms are instruments of ill omen and there are Things that detest them that the one who has the way does not abide by their use."

Arms are instruments of ill omen.
Things detest them.
The one who has the way does not abide by their use.

"ill omen" = bad spiritual influence = Heaven.
"things" = all things of nature, the 10,000 things = Earth.
"the one" = "the man who" = Man.

The tradition (I think) is that the Dao De Jing was written in just three days. This was possible because it is so tightly patterned. Once we recognize the pattern Laozi is following, then we know what should go in that place, no matter how approximate the translation is.

Tom
 

pedro

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Hey Tom, Im no doubt pointing the obvious, but when are you to make a book out of all this? I sure as heck would buy it!
Oh wait! youre writing it as we speak, right?
 

bradford_h

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Hi Jeff-
I do hope you got around to the Matrix version.
I didn't suggest the Simple translation because it didn't really answer your question. Just like with my Yijing, this version is only a sample "walk through" of the Matrix, with a focus more on literalness (and representing every Chinese word) than on literary merit.
Anyway, the Matrix should point out where Lau got his English terms.
 

jte

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Thanks Brad and yes, I looked at your matrix translation, too. In addition to several alternate translations.

And Tom, I appreciate your input about "the 10,000 things" - that intepretation seems to make lots of sense from the context.

You see, the specific phrasing of the Lau translation was confusing me - I thought that by "Things", capital T, he meant something like spirits/gods/spiritual beings. And I didn't expect high specificity about what *they* are from the text. That was what I meant.

As it turns out, the meaning is closer to "all things, the 10,000 things, things in the world".

The term specifically is wu4; from Brad's matrix:
entities, items, matters, things; of creation

So, I was just confused.

- Jeff
 

pocossin

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Pedro, thank you very much for the compliment. What I really want, though, is for fellow I Ching persons to investigate the Tao Te Ching for themselves. When you find out something for yourself and aren't just told about it, you reach a higher level of confidence and ability.

Tom
 

pedro

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No doubt about that, but I think you are in a better position to help us sort the details. For me I can only say I could be reading it over and over again without a clue as to whether it related to the Yi or not. Im actually quite impressed how you discovered the "mapping" specially with the repetition of several of the hexagrams in a sequence that I wouldnt find too intuitive
 

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