There are only about 5000 Chinese characters in Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching) written by Lao Zi, reading it is easy but comprehending it even in Chinese requires constantly review and reflection; the life experience and the state of mind could bring different level of understanding by expanding the comprehension with an opened mind. When it’s already challenge in comprehending it in Chinese, then we can imagine the challenge of translating the Chinese ancient wisdom to other language which often leads to a narrow interpretation.
道 可 道, 非 常 道; 名 可 名, 非 常 名
dào kě dào , fēi cháng dào ; míng kě míng , fēi cháng míng
This is the first sentence in Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching).
The English translation based on my personal comprehension is:
The path that can lead forwards is an abnormal path;
The name that can be named is an abnormal name.
When reading this text today, I question myself again:
What is normal? What is abnormal? Is it based on my own self-perception or actuality? Is it only one or is there various from time to time? How much do I really know about who I am? Am I sure what I know is sufficient? Am I certain for what I want, where to go and how to move forwards?
These are questions I had when I first read the Tao Te Jing more than 40 years ago. I am still questioning myself today, from time to time.
Despite the challenge, many foreign sinologist are doing their best to translate this Chinese ancient wisdom in different languages. One translation written by Ursula K. Le Guin “A book about the Way and the power of the Way” caught my attention today. She wrote: The way you can go isn’t the real way; the name you can say isn’t the real name. With this translation, my question will be
What is real? What is not real? Is what I can see or what it sees me? Where to go and what to say?
So what is your interpretation about “Dao” (the path, the way) from this first sentence?
When having a cup of tea, am I drinking just a cup of tea? or enjoying a moment of true me? That’s the charm of tea through tea time.
#daodejing #taoteching #taoism #laozi #laotzu #chineseancientwisdom #chinesephilosophies