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Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation [Paperback]

Roger Ames , David Hall
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 30 2003
In 1993, archaeologists unearthed a set of ancient bamboo scrolls that contained the earliest known version of the Dao de jing. Composed more than two thousand years ago, this life-changing document offers a regimen of self-cultivation to attain personal excellence and revitalize moral behavior. Now in this luminous new translation, renowned China scholars Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall bring the timeless wisdom of the Dao de jing into our contemporary world.

In this elegant volume, Ames and Hall feature the original Chinese texts of the Dao de jing and translate them into crisp, chiseled English that reads like poetry. Each of the eighty-one brief chapters is followed by clear, thought-provoking commentary exploring the layers of meaning in the text. This new version of one of the world’s most influential documents will stand as both a compelling introduction to Daoist thought and as the classic modern English translation.

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From Publishers Weekly

The authors offer two reasons for a new English version of the classic Chinese Daodejing, better known as the Tao te ching. First, the translators have the benefit of recent archeological finds of earlier versions of the text, particularly a portion discovered only in 1993, "The Great One Gives Birth to the Waters," included in an appendix. Second, as philosophers-Ames is a University of Hawai'i professor of Chinese philosophy and editor of the journal Philosophy East & West, and the late Hall was professor of philosophy at the University of Texas, El Paso-the translators wish to correct previous translations that, in their view, distorted the text by either "Christianizing" it or "locating it within a poetical-mystical-occult worldview." In contrast, Ames and Hall take a secular, pragmatist view indebted to Whitehead, Wittgenstein, James and Dewey. Their view is laid out through historical and philosophical introductions, a chatty glossary, an elegant and "self-consciously interpretive" translation and a chapter-by-chapter commentary. Any textual language that might seem to smack of God or a metaphysics of essences is reinterpreted to lose such trappings. Instead, Ames and Hall insist that the Daodejing aims to "prescribe a regimen of self-cultivation that will enable one to optimize one's experience in the world" and that its title should best be translated as Making This Life Significant. These claims are not completely persuasive: too often it seems that they are replacing one distorting set of Western spectacles with another. But their unconventional renderings-for example, translating dao not as the "way" but as "way-making"-provoke the reader to see the text with fresh eyes. This is a valuable find for anyone who wants to reengage a foundational work.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“A NEW ENGLISH VERSION OF THE CLASSIC CHINESE DAO DE JING . . . Provoke[s] the reader to see the text with fresh eyes.
This is a valuable find for anyone who wants to reengage a foundational work.”
Publishers Weekly

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
2.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Makes understanding the Tao harder, not easier June 17 2004
Format:Paperback
The authors seem to have purposefully obfuscated their writing with liberal use of arcane references, and by choosing the *most* complex words and sentence structures to express their ideas. Read these quotations -- do you agree this is the way one would speak when trying to explain something to someone new to the Dao de jing?
"Experience is processual, and is thus always provisional. Process requires that the formational and functional aspects of our experience are correlative and mutually entailing." (p. 77)
"For the Daoist, dividing up the world descriptively and prescriptively generates correlative categories that invariably entail themselves and their antinomies." (p. 80)
"The dynamic field of experience is the locus in which the stream of phenomena is animated and achieves consummation..." (p. 90)
These examples are pretty representative of the commentary that accompanies the translation. But the translation itself, far from rendering the text as poetry, favors the same kind of overwrought techno-jargon, using words like "determinacy," "noncoercively," etc.
The *best* thing you could say is that this book is aimed at an academic audience already comfortable with technical terms like "underdetermined" (used throughout) -- an audience that fully understands the difference between "formational" and "functional aspects of our experience."
The worst you could say, I expect, is that the authors simply didn't care to write anything that could be useful to anyone who isn't already an expert on both philosophy and Chinese writings of the period.
Had I the choice, I would un-buy this book. As it stands, I have given up on it absolutely.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Daoism realized! March 5 2003
Format:Hardcover
I am now in my third decade of Taijiquan and Qigong play. I teach both of these Chinese forms. I have 14 different translations of the Dao De Jing, four of the Art of Warfare and five of the I Jing. For many years, I have been trying to make sense of the variations in translation. My experiences -- physical, mental and spiritual - from taijiquan and qigong have not always been congruent with my "rational" understanding of the written works.
Roger Ames translation s of the Dao De Jung, Yuan Dao and SunZi has dramatically changed everything. Ames has done what no one else has done. He has attempted to understand the Daoist writings within the classical Chinese mode of thought and then translate that into English without the accompanying Western dualistic (Cartesian) baggage that has imbued all previous translations.
Ames insights into classical Chinese "cosmology, ontology and epistemology are exemplary and amazingly revealing. No previous translation had achieved his depth of insight.
I am indebted to Roger for these wonderful translations and explications of traditional Daoist thinking and being. My "new" understanding of Daoist being in the world or as Roger says, "way-making", has allowed completely new insights and abilities to emerge from my taijiquan and qigong.
Anyone who has an interest in Daoism can do nothing better than to obtain copies of Ames Dao De Jing, Yuan Dao, Sunzi and Thinking from the Han. You will be, as I am, delighted with the concept of the Wu-forms and the idea that much of the Dao De Jing derives from traditional folks songs. Imagine singing or chanting the Dao! This connects, sympathetically, for me at least, to Australian songlines and to Dineh "harmony & beauty".
Ames work is essential reading for anyone who hopes to understand the classical Chinese worldview and become realized.
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5.0 out of 5 stars going to the source March 16 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Ames and Hall have pulled in the often-neglected cosmological origins of the DDJ, inspired by strips found with the Guodian strips.
The authors have been meticulous in picking through the intricacies of some fairly complex terms in a thorough, yet succinct, way.
I really really like the holistic perspective in the authors' interpretation of the verses. Instead of feeling like I'm being preached at from the pulpit, it feels like I'm sitting at a table over coffee and listening. It is with great sorrow that I read of Hall's passing. Knowing this team of writers will collaborate no more makes me sad.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Utter Drivel Jan. 13 2004
Format:Hardcover
The authors have no concept whatsoever about the beauty and simplicity of this document.
Instead they use their academic doublespeak to try and intellectualize "The Way".
I highly recommend that THEY read Tolle's "Power of Now".
This book is stomuch-turning to anyone seeking a path to enlightenment.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Who are they kidding? Jan. 14 2004
By Mike
Format:Hardcover
Pretentious, self-indulgent, and a waste of money! Buy a different translation. I was more enlightened by Dr. Seuss's "Horton hears a Who". Too bad there isn't a zero star option.
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