The Taoism of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu Explained

Taoism is not a religion. To the Taoists, gods and the afterlife are vague, almost non-existent. Taoism is all about here and now: the philosophy of how to live a pleasant life, without causing unnecessary commotion or distress.

       Tao, the Way, is a kind of natural law behind all of creation. The one who can harmonize with it will be at peace with existence.

March for our lives — Tao Te Ching.

Tao Te Ching

Each Chapter Explained

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu.
The major source to Taoist philosophy is the Tao Te Ching (also spelled Dao De Jing), written by the legendary Lao Tzu (Lao Zi) — somewhere between the 7th and the 4th century BC in China. Here is my complete translation of it, where I explain each chapter from a perspective also relevant in our modern life. The old Taoist philosophy classic still has a lot to teach us. Click the header to read the book.

Lao Tzu — the First Taoist

Lao Tzu, writer of Tao Te Ching. Statue in Quanzhou from the Song Dynasty, 960-1279.
The man honored with this big statue in Quanzhou is Lao Tzu (Laozi), legendary writer of the Tao Te ching. There are doubts that this one man wrote it, or that he ever existed, but here's the little we know about him from historical sources (click the header).

Fake Lao Tzu Quotes

There are lots of Lao Tzu quotes on the Internet. Unfortunately, many of them are fake. Lao Tzu never said so. Here are some of those quotes, and what gives away that they are fake (click the header).

Tao Te Ching Chapter 1
in 76 versions

Already by the first chapter of Tao Te Ching, the Taoist philosophy classic, the style of its interpretor or translator is quite clear. In 2004, I vacuumed the internet and my own library for versions of Tao Te Ching's Chapter 1. I found 75, from well-renowned sinologists to happy amateurs. Now I have also added my own version. The vagueness of the original text allows for very different interpretations, as you can see in the collection of translations (click the header).

James Legge's Tao Te Ching

Click the header to have a look at the translation of the Tao Te Ching, the Taoist philosophy classic, made by the Scottish sinologist James Legge (1815-97) in 1891. It is a splendid version, surpassing many of later dates — although the recent archaeological findings of Tao Te Ching manuscripts in Ma Wang Tui and Guodian were unknown to him.

Aleister Crowley's Tao Te Ching

The English magician and occultist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) made his own version of the Tao Te Ching in 1923. It is a very interesting and surprisingly clear version of the Taoist philosophy classic — worth reading also for those who have no interest in the occult (click the header).

The Taoism of Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu dreaming of a butterfly. Ink by Ike no Taiga, 18th Century.
Chuang Tzu (4th century BC), Taoist philosopher.

Next to Lao Tzu, the legendary writer of Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu (Zhuang Zi) is the most famous of the Chinese Taoist philosophers. He lived in the 4th century BC. According to tradition, he wrote the first seven chapters, called the 'inner' chapters, of the book given his name. His Taoist students are said to have written the remaining 'outer' chapters.

       Click the header to see the complete James Legge translation of the Chuang Tzu Taoist texts, published in 1891, divided into the 33 chapters. You can read them in any order, since they are not connected in a consecutive way.

Famous Taoists

Through the centuries, Lao Tzu had many followers, some more noted than others. The main Taoist philosophers all had their own ways of interpreting the Tao Te Ching and practicing the Tao principles. Here, the most prominent of the ancient Taoists are presented (click the header).

Tao Quotes

I extracted 388 quotes from the Tao Te Ching, sorted by 19 topics. Each quote has a link to its chapter in the book. Click the header for the introduction, or go directly to the topic of your choice. Here they all are:

  1. Tao, the Way Quotes

  2. Nature and the world Quotes

  3. Knowledge and wisdom Quotes

  4. Opposites and paradoxes Quotes

  5. Non-action and action Quotes

  6. Prevention and patience Quotes

  7. Moderation and modesty Quotes

  8. Humility and compassion Quotes

  9. Desire, wealth and greed Quotes

  10. Good and bad Quotes

  11. Role Models Quotes

  12. Simplicity, stillness and silence Quotes

  13. Fear and imperfection Quotes

  14. The female, child and family Quotes

  15. Yielding Quotes

  16. Rulers and government Quotes

  17. Longevity and death Quotes

  18. Seeing clearly Quotes

  19. War and violence Quotes

Tao Themes

Another section of this website divides the 81 chapters of the Tao Te Ching into seven different themes, which are prominent in the book and in Taoist philosophy. The whole chapters, not just quotes from them, are included on the theme pages. Click the header to read the introduction, or go directly to one of the seven themes. Here they are:

  1. Tao — The Way

  2. Te — Virtue

  3. Sheng Jen — The Sage

  4. Wu Wei — Non-action

  5. Moderation

  6. Ruling

  7. War

My Taoism Books:

Tao Te Ching — The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Te Ching

The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. The great Taoist philosophy classic by Lao Tzu translated, and each of the 81 chapters extensively commented. Click the image to see the book at Amazon (paid link).

       More about the book here.

Tao Quotes — the Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Quotes

The Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. 389 quotes from the foremost Taoist classic, divided into 51 prominent topics. Click the image to see the book at Amazon (paid link).

       More about the book here.

Fake Lao Tzu Quotes — Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Fake Lao Tzu Quotes

Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. 90 of the most spread false Lao Tzu quotes, why they are false and where they are really from. Click the image to see the book at Amazon (paid link).

       More about the book here.

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My Other Websites:

I Ching Online

The 64 hexagrams of the Chinese classic I Ching and what they mean in divination. Try it online for free.

Qi Energy Exercises

The ancient Chinese life energy qi (chi) explained, with simple instructions on how to exercise it.

Life Energy

The many ancient and modern life force beliefs all over the world explained and compared.

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Other Books by Stefan Stenudd:

Cosmos of the Ancients. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Cosmos of the Ancients

The Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods. Click the image to see the book at Amazon (paid link).

QI — increase your life energy. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Qi — Increase Your Life Energy

The life energy qi (also chi or ki) explained, with exercises on how to awaken, increase and use it. Click the image to see the book at Amazon (paid link).

Aikido Principles. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Aikido Principles

Basic concepts of the peaceful martial art. Aikido principles, philosophy, and fundamental ideas. Click the image to see the book at Amazon (paid link).

Life Energy Encyclopedia. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Life Energy Encyclopedia

Qi, prana, spirit, ruach, pneuma, and many other life forces around the world explained and compared. Click the image to see the book at Amazon (paid link).

Stefan Stenudd, Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction. Stefan Stenudd

About me

I'm a Swedish author and aikido instructor. In addition to fiction, I've written books about Taoism and other East Asian traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient thought and mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.