Ancient Chinese philosopher, author of the Dao De Jing
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  • Laozi

    Laozi (also Lao-Tzu or Lao-Tze, Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ, lit. "Old Master") was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is best known as the reputed author of the Dao De Jing and the founder of philosophical Daoism, and as a deity in religious Daoism and traditional Chinese religions.

    Although a legendary figure, he is usually dated to around the 6th century BCE and reckoned a contemporary of Confucius, but some historians contend that he actually lived during the Warring States period of the 5th or 4th century BCE. A central figure in Chinese culture, Laozi is claimed by both the emperors of the Tang dynasty and modern people of the Li surname as a founder of their lineage. Laozi's work has been embraced by various anti-authoritarian movements as well as Chinese legalism.

    Reference

    Laozi, by Alan Chan, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2 May 2013
    Major sections: The Laozi Story - Date and Authorship of the Laozi - Textual Traditions - Commentaries - Approaches to the Laozi - Dao and Virtue - Naturalness and Nonaction - Bibliography - Other Internet Resources
    "The name 'Laozi' is best taken to mean 'Old (lao) Master (zi),' and Laozi the ancient philosopher is said to have written a short book, which has come to be called simply the Laozi, after its putative author, a common practice in early China. When the Laozi was recognized as a 'classic' (jing)—that is, accorded canonical status in the classification of Chinese literature, on account of its profound insight and significance—it acquired a more exalted and hermeneutically instructive title, Daodejing (Tao-te ching), commonly translated as the 'Classic of the Way and Virtue.'"
    Laozi (Lao-tzu, fl. 6th cn. B.C.E.), by Ronnie Littlejohn, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
    Lengthy biographical essay, including picture; major sections: Laozi and Lao Dan in the Zhuangzi - Laozi and the Daodejing - The First Biography and the Establishment of Laozi as the Founder of Daoism - The Ongoing Laozi Myth
    "Laozi is the name of a legendary Daoist philosopher, the alternate title of the early Chinese text better known in the West as the Daodejing, and the moniker of a deity in the pantheon of organized 'religious Daoism' that arose during the later Han dynasty (25-220 C.E.). Laozi is the pinyin romanization for the Chinese characters which mean 'Old Master.' Laozi is also known as Lao Dan ('Old Dan') in early Chinese sources ... The Zhuangzi (late 4th century B.C.E.) is the first text to use Laozi as a personal name and to identify Laozi and Lao Dan."

    Images

    TheAdvocates.org - Lao Tzu
    200x316 JPEG

    Biography

    Lao Tzu (c. 570 BC)
    Part of the Goodrich Seminar Room; includes bibliography, works about Laozi and links to Adam Smith, Buddha and Confucius
    "Lao Tzu's work on Taoism is primarily an instruction for rulers. It says, for example, that the rule of the prince should go unnoticed by his subjects if he rules in conformity with the way of the universe. ... Lao Tzu did argue that a people ruled lightly in accordance with the Tao will become peaceful and prosperous. Moreover, the Tao says that concerns about government and its intrusiveness are common to all peoples and all times."

    Web Pages

    Lao Tzu - Libertarian
    Biography, picture and quotes, at Advocates for Self-Government
    "Was Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who was born as early as 600 B.C., the world's first libertarian? He very well might have been, according to libertarian scholar Murray Rothbard. ... Today, Tao-Te Ching is reportedly the second-most translated book in the world, after only the Bible. Along with Confucianism and Buddhism, Taoism is one of the main philosophical influences on modern Chinese thought."
    Lao-Tzu | Libertarianism.org
    Includes links and short summaries to essays by or about Laozi or podcasts related to him
    Lao Tzu - Online Library of Liberty
    Includes picture, short biography and links to quotes and works by the author
    "Lao Tzu (or Laozi) is remembered as the first philosopher of Taoism. He is often cited as a contributor to, if not the author of, the Tao-te Ching, the basic philosophical discourse on Taoism. His life is shrouded in mystery and legend, but it is generally accepted that he was active sometime in the early sixth century B.C. and served as a resident scholar, called a shih, at the royal court of the Shou."

    Articles

    China's Legacy: The Thoughts of Lao Tzu, by James A. Dorn, South China Morning Post, 4 Sep 2007
    Contrasts the teachings of Laozi with respect to government intervention with the lingering effects of Mao Zedong's legacy
    "Lao Tzu, thought to have been an older contemporary of Confucius (551-479BC), may have been the first libertarian. In writing the Dao De Jing he argued that if governments followed the principle of wu-wei (non-action), social and economic harmony would naturally emerge and people would prosper. ... Although Lao Tzu did not have a fully developed theory of the spontaneous market order, he clearly recognised the importance of limited government and voluntary exchange for the creation of wealth."
    Related Topics: China, Government
    Harmony: Lao-tzu, by David Boaz, The Libertarian Reader: Classic and Contemporary Writings from Lao Tzu to Milton Friedman, 1997
    First section of part four, "Spontaneous Order"; includes a brief introduction and short excerpts of five chapters from the Tao Te Ching
    "... elements of libertarian ideas in society can certainly be found in Eastern philosophy as well. One of the classic sources is the Tao Te Ching, thought to have been written in the sixth century B.C. by a scribe named Lao-tzu (or Lao Tse). Tao is sometimes translated 'the Way,' though another possible translation is 'natural law.' ... Lao-tzu urges the ruler ('the sage') to refrain from acting, to accept the good with the bad, to let people pursue their own actions."
    Tauism, by Wm. Elliott Griffis, Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States, 1899
    Explains Taoism, first providing a brief summary of Laozi's life and how he came to write the Tao Te Ching and then discussing some of the concepts and mythology that evolved
    "... Lao-Tse ... was born in the feudal age of China, in the petty kingdom of Tsu, now the province of Honan, in 604 B. C. ... From early life he was an arduous student and much given to meditation. ... The sage devoted himself to expanding his doctrine of Tau (the Way), and shunned all notoriety. Before passing through the boundary gate, Yin Hsi, the warden and his admirer, persuaded the sage to commit his doctrines to writing. Lao-Tse complied, and wrote down what appear like lecture notes, which need further oral expansion."
    The Ancient Chinese Libertarian Tradition, by Murray N. Rothbard, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1990
    Review and commentary on the ideas of Taoists Lao-tzu (Laozi) and Chuang-tzu (Zhuang Zhou)
    "The first libertarian intellectual was Lao-tzu, the founder of Taoism. ... For Lao-tzu the individual and his happiness was the key unit and goal of society. If social institutions hampered the individual's flowering and his happiness, then those institutions should be reduced or abolished altogether. ... Chuang-tzu's scornful rejection of the king's offer ... was a fitting declaration from the man who was perhaps the world's first anarchist ..."
    China: Wealth but Not Freedom, by James A. Dorn, 21 Apr 2011
    Contrasts China's recent economic growth and statements of government officials with the reality of the rights afforded to its citizens, in particular to Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, co-author of Charter 08
    "The great Chinese liberal Lao-Tzu understood the importance of freedom and limited government. For him and other Taoists, harmony cannot be forced; it must be natural. In the Laozi, also known as the Tao Te Ching, we read: 'The more restrictions and prohibitions there are in the world, the poorer the people will be.' Denying individuals the liberty to exchange ideas, to criticize the government and party, and to associate freely without the fear of repression makes people poorer by restricting the alternatives open to them."
    Related Topics: China, Freedom of Speech
    Complex Societies Need Simple Laws: We need to end the orgy of rule-making at once and embrace the simple rules that true liberals like America's founders envisioned, by John Stossel, 15 Mar 2012
    Reflects on the "uncountable" number of laws and regulations in the United States as well as Britain, and elicits the views of Laozi, Hayek, Buchanan and Mises in favor of ending "the orgy of rule-making"
    "The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, sometimes called the first libertarian thinker, said, 'The more artificial taboos and restrictions there are in the world, the more the people are impoverished. ... The more that laws and regulations are given prominence, the more thieves and robbers there will be.' He complained that there were 'laws and regulations more numerous than the hairs of an ox.' What would he have thought of our world?"
    Related Topics: Law, Economics, Society
    Libertarianism in Ancient China, by Murray N. Rothbard, Economic Thought Before Adam Smith: An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought - Volume I, 1995
    Excerpted from chapter 1, section 1.10 "Taoism in ancient China"; discusses the Legalist, Confucian and Taoist schools of political philosophy and then concentrates on the latter, covering Laozi, Zhuangzi, Bao Jingyan and the Confucian historian Sima Qian
    "Both men lived in a time of turmoil, wars and statism, but each reacted very differently. For Lao Tzu worked out the view that the individual and his happiness was the key unit of society. If social institutions hampered the individual's flowering and his happiness, then those institutions should be reduced or abolished altogether. To the individualist Lao Tzu, government, with its 'laws and regulations more numerous than the hairs of an ox,' was a vicious oppressor of the individual, and 'more to be feared than fierce tigers.'"
    The Ancient Roots of Chinese Liberalism: Westerners who think that authoritarian rule is China's natural state misunderstand its culture, by Liu Junning, The Wall Street Journal, 6 Jul 2011
    Discusses the "Beijing model" as an alternative to Western economic liberalism in the future of China and reminds the reader of several Chinese scholars (Laozi, Mencius and the 17th century Huang Zongxi) who advocated liberal principles before John Locke
    "Indeed, what we now call Western-style liberalism has featured in China's own culture for millennia. We first see it with philosopher Laozi, the founder of Taoism, in the sixth century B.C. Laozi articulated a political philosophy that has come to be known as wuwei, or inaction. 'Rule a big country as you would fry a small fish,' he said. That is, don't stir too much. 'The more prohibitions there are, the poorer the people become,' he wrote in his magnum opus, the 'Daodejing.'"
    Related Topics: China, Freedom of Speech

    Writings

    Lao-Tzu Argues for Liberty in Ancient China, 1891
    Chapters 57 to 60 of the Tao Te Ching, as translated by James Legge, Professor of Chinese at Oxford, see Sacred Books of the East, Vol XXXIX, edited by F. Max Müller
    "A state may be ruled by (measures of) correction; weapons of war may be used with crafty dexterity; (but) the kingdom is made one's own (only) by freedom from action and purpose. ... In the kingdom the multiplication of prohibitive enactments increases the poverty of the people; the more implements to add to their profit that the people have, the greater disorder is there in the state and clan; the more acts of crafty dexterity that men possess, the more do strange contrivances appear; the more display there is of legislation, the more thieves and robbers there are."
    Related Topics: The State, Government
    Selections from Lao-tzu (Laozi): Tao Te Ching (Daode-jing)
    Thirty-seven selections from the Dao De Jing, unidentified as to chapter or translator
    "The Tao [“way”] that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.
    The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
    The nameless is the origin of heaven and earth
    While naming is the origin of the myriad things.
    Therefore, always desireless, you see the mystery
    Ever desiring, you see the manifestations.
    These two are the same--
    When they appear they are named differently.
    Their sameness is the mystery,
    Mystery within mystery;
    The door to all marvels."
    Related Topics: Government, Taxation, War
    Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) by Lao Tzu (Laozi)
    Research, compilation and indexing by Michael P. Garofalo, M.S.; includes modern Chinese, 25 English and five Spanish versions, introduction, chapter and thematic indexes and extensive bibliography

    Books Authored

    Te-Tao Ching (Modern Library), 1993
    Translated and with and introduction by Robert G. Henricks; partial contents: The Ma-wang-tui Manuscripts of the Lao-tzu and Other Versions of the Text - The Philosophy of Lao-tzu - Translator's Note - Te (Virtue) - Tao (The Way)

    Videos


    EASTERN PHILOSOPHY - Lao Tzu, by The School of Life, 21 Nov 2014
    Overview of Laozi's life, the Dao De Jing and Daoism, including discussion of some of the concepts of Laozi's philosophy

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