Tao Te Ching
THE TAOISM OF LAO TZU
Tao Te Ching
The subject is a hot one, so new books will appear as you read this, but I believe that some of the sources listed below will not that quickly be obsolete.
I have added a short comment to every version listed. It's just my personal opinion, so don't trust it any longer than you find it useful. Once you have started your own exploration of the subject, there's no guide more trustworthy than your own inkling.
As for the resources on the Internet, they change so quickly that I can only recommend a Google search (or whatever search engine is the most prominent one, when you read this). Notice that different spellings give partly different search results. For example, Tao Te Ching, Dao De Jing, and Daodejing searches differ, although the major search engines regard them as synonymous. The same is true for Lao Tzu, Lao Zi, and Laozi. Many complete translations of the Tao Te Ching are available on the Internet.
Blakney, Raymond B.: LAO TZU
USA, New American Library 1955.
A straightforward and clear version of the text, with elaborate comments and explanations.
Bynner, Witter: THE WAY OF LIFE ACCORDING TO LAOTZU
New York, Day 1944.
An American version, which is also its subtitle. It's based on English versions of that time. In the effort to clarify the chapters, he allows himself to deviate quite far from Lao Tzu's text.
Chen, Ellen M.: THE TAO TE CHING
New York, Paragon 1989.
With a knowledge that is only surpassed by the categorical attitude, Chen presents a version that includes but is far from dominated by the Mawangdui manuscripts. Lots of facts are also included, as well as far-reaching personal interpretations of Taoist philosophy and how to apply it.
Cheng, Man-jan: LAO TZU: MY WORDS ARE VERY EASY TO UNDERSTAND
California, North Atlantic Books 1981. Translated to English by Tam C. Gibbs.
Cheng comments the chapters of the text in short lessons, focused on the principles of Taoism. The explanations are so short that they don't add much to the text itself. The Chinese text is included in the book.
Cleary, Thomas: THE ESSENTIAL TAO
San Francisco, Harper Collins 1993.
The East Asian Studies PhD has translated several Taoist and Buddhist texts, which have been published in a number of different volumes. This one contains the texts of both Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu. His translation is competent, although his choice of words is sometimes odd, deviating from the usual solutions.
Crowley, Aleister: THE TAO TEH KING
1918. Several editions in print.
The famous occultist made his own very personal interpretation of the text, where the hexagrams of I Ching have also been used. Crowley is always worth reading, although it's not certain that he speaks according to the Tao of Lao Tzu.
Duyvendak, J.J.L.: TAO TE CHING
London, Murray 1954.
This professor in Chinese fills his version of the text with elaborate comments, including linguistic and philosophical aspects. This version is one of the few that met the approval of the prominent sinologist Bernhard Karlgren.
Feng, Gia-fu & English, Jane: LAO TSU: TAO TE CHING
London, Wildwood 1973.
This version is simple and rewarding, although it isn't always in accordance with prevalent opinion. It lacks commentaries, but is richly illustrated with both calligraphy of the chapters and mood-filled photographs.
Henricks, Robert: TE-TAO CHING
New York, Ballantine 1989.
The professor of religion manages a very trustworthy version of the text, based primarily on the manuscripts of Mawangdui. Because of their order, he has reversed the words of the title. His comments are knowledgeable and precise. The Mawangdui texts in Chinese are also included. This is a major work on the Mawangdui findings.
Henricks, Robert: LAO TZU'S TAO TE CHING
New York, Columbia University Press 2000.
In this book, Henricks concentrates on the findings in Guodian, which are competently presented and examined. They are also compared to the Mawangdui and Wang Pi versions. The texts are included in Chinese. The problem with the book is that the order of the chapters is according to the findings, which makes it difficult to use as a reference. Hopefully, Henricks finds a solution for it in a coming edition.
Ivanhoe, Philip J.: THE DAODEJING OF LAOZI
Indianapolis, Hackett 2002.
The historian of Chinese thought has made a straightforward and clean translation of the text, a learned introduction to it, and comparisons between other translations. There are also many informative notes.
Jiyu, Ren: A TAOIST CLASSIC: THE BOOK OF LAO ZI
Beijing, Foreign Languages Press 1993.
This Chinese version translated to English also contains precise explanations that focus on how to understand the philosophy of the text and of Taoism. The interpretation and the perspectives are frequently quite far from those of most Western translators, which makes the book particularly interesting to study.
Julien, Stanislas: LE LIVRE DE LA VOIE ET DE LA VERTU
Julien was a professor in Chinese at the Paris University. His French version is the first printed one in a Western language. It is still in print, as a facsimile. Unfortunately, no English translation of it seems to be in print.
Karlgren, Bernhard: NOTES ON LAO-TSE
Bulletin of Östasiatiska Museet, nr. 47/1975. Offprint.
The world famous Swedish sinologist finally published, just three years before his demise, a version of the text. He did so in a way as modest as was his habit – in a magazine of the Stockholm East Asian Museum. His interpretation is precise and clarifying, but the comments are minimal. At the time of his interpretation, the findings in Mawangdui were not at his disposal.
Lau, D.C.: LAO TZU: TAO TE CHING
London, Penguin 1963.
This professor of Chinese literature gives a knowledgeable and clear interpretation of the text. The book also contains explicit comments and explanations. In later editions of this book, Lau includes the findings in Mawangdui and Guodian.
Legge, James: THE TAO TEH KING
London, Oxford 1891.
Legge's historically significant version has extensive explanations with many references to the Chinese pictograms and their meaning. Still, his translation is aged, especially because of its effort to create poetry, which makes it deviate considerably from the wording of the original.
Le Guin, Ursula K., and Seaton, J. P.: LAO TZU: TAO TE CHING
Boston, Shambhala 1997.
The famous fantasy and science fiction writer has made an elegant and very clear version of the text, in collaboration with a professor of Chinese. There are some comments, especially on how the chapters should be understood and on some linguistic aspects.
Mair, Victor H.: TAO TE CHING
New York, Bantam 1990.
This professor of Chinese bases his interpretation on the Mawangdui manuscripts. The books also contains extensive comments, especially those comparing the text with the ideas of ancient India.
Maurer, Herrymon: TAO: THE WAY OF THE WAYS
England, Wildwood 1986.
These interpretations and comments are aimed at explaining the text's spiritual content, which is done quite cryptically at times. In spite of the late date of this version, Maurer is unfamiliar with the Mawangdui manuscripts.
Mitchell, Stephen: TAO TE CHING: A NEW ENGLISH VERSION
USA, Harper & Row 1988.
This version, with very limited comments, seems to be made without noticeable knowledge of the Mawangdui manuscripts. Still, it has its merits as a simple and direct interpretation of the text. Later editions have made it to the bestseller lists.
Ryden, Edmund: LAOZI: DAODEJING
Oxford University Press 2008.
This version includes the Mawangdui and Guodian findings. The introduction and comments are learned, but the wording in the translation sometimes gives the impression of being dated. Ryden translates Te as "the life force," which is similar to Arthur Waley's choice of "the power."
Star, Jonathan: TAO TE CHING
New York, Tarcher Penguin 2001.
The subtitle says that this is the definitive edition, which can be discussed. But its material is very rich. The interpretation of the text is given in Star's own words, but also word by word parallel to the Chinese signs – completely according to the Wang Pi version. There is also some other valuable material in the book. It is quite useful to the devoted student of the Tao Te Ching. In spite of its late publishing date, the Guodian manuscript seems unknown to the author. That might be corrected in later editions.
Ta-Kao, Chu: TAO TE CHING
London, Mandala 1959.
Ta-Kao allows himself to rearrange the text according to what he feels is the most probable. That can be discussed. Otherwise, his interpretation is straightforward and clear. The comments are sparse.
Wagner, Rudolf G.: A CHINESE READING OF THE DAODEJING
Albany, State University of New York Press 2003.
This is a translation of the Wang Pi commented version of the Tao Te Ching, which is the most cherished one in Chinese literature, a classic in its own right. The translation is very competently done, and so are the expert comments. The Chinese text is included. A must for the study of Wang Pi as well as Lao Tzu, but not an easy book to digest.
Waley, Arthur: THE WAY AND ITS POWER
London, Unwin 1934.
Waley's cherished version is assisted by elaborate comments and a long introduction. His interpretations of the chapters are not always the most probable, but his book has won the respect of several important sinologists.
Wilhelm, Richard: TAO TE CHING
London, Arkana 1985. Translated by H.G. Ostwald.
The first edition of Wilhelm's important interpretation in German was published in 1910. In later editions it was reworked considerably. The comments from 1925 are elaborate about both the language aspects and the ideas of the text. Wilhelm also made a widely spread version of the I Ching, where he had C. G. Jung write the foreword. It's a pity he didn't do the same with the Tao Te Ching.
Wing, R. L.: THE TAO OF POWER
New York, Doubleday 1986.
This version includes the Chinese writing, also calligraphy as well as other illustrations of interest. The writer has allowed himself the freedom of adapting some of the wordings to modern concepts. The findings in Mawangdui seem not to be used at all.
Yutang, Lin: THE WISDOM OF LAOTSE
New York, Random 1948.
The famous Chinese author made a pleasant interpretation, bordering on religious devotion. The book also contains a quantity of comments and explanations.