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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Liberal translation of an ancient classic
Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Tao te Ching is a refreshing departure from most literal translations of such works. The fact that he attempts to translate the meaning as opposed to the language of the text is what makes it refreshing as well as suspect. The reader must rely upon Mitchell's spirtual background to have faith that they are reading a book by Lao Tzu...
Published on May 28 2004 by Dave Hovde

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why read a paraphrase instead of a translation?
As Mitchell admits, he doesn't read Chinese. Instead of calling this a "translation," he calls it an "English version." But why would you want to read a loose English paraphrase by someone who can't read either the original or the early Chinese commentaries on it when you could read a translation by any one of a number of gifted and insightful scholars?
The...
Published on April 26 2002 by bryan12603


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Liberal translation of an ancient classic, May 28 2004
By 
Dave Hovde (Madison, WI United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tao Te Ching Personal (Paperback)
Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Tao te Ching is a refreshing departure from most literal translations of such works. The fact that he attempts to translate the meaning as opposed to the language of the text is what makes it refreshing as well as suspect. The reader must rely upon Mitchell's spirtual background to have faith that they are reading a book by Lao Tzu as opposed to Stephen Mitchell. This is a good book for a reader seeking an easy to read Tao. More serious readers should consider reading a more standard translation prior to reading this book. Despite this caveat, I found this to be an excellent second book and read it more often that the more literal translation that I also own.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece Translation, Aug. 25 2010
By 
Reflection Haiku "Lily Wang, Author" (California, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Paperback)
The soul of Chinese literature is poetry: from oldest "Book of Odes" to TangShu (Tang poetry) to SongZu (Song dynasty poetry) to YungQu (Yung dynasty poetry) . Underneath this glorious landscape were Lao Tzu's (551 B.C.) influences running through gem-like poems by Wang Wei, Li Po, Mon Ho Jung(701-761) and reached the sea of Japanese Haiku poets, Basho, Buson and Issa(1763-1827). It is obviously the prerequisite read for anyone who wants to understand Chinese culture and philosophies of Zen. Lao Tzu's impact goes further beyond that: as the "most widely translated book in world literature, after the bible," TAO TE CHING finds religious and political leaders, business owners and enlightened masters, readers and writers alike worldwide, return to the source of his words and find its use inexhaustible.

In certain times of ancient Chinese history, TAO TE CHING was reserved for emperors and rulers, while commoners were instructed to study Confucius and Mencius. This is because Lao Tzu's spiritual scripture is liberating and best suited for people ready to unlearn what they learned, let go of their egos and emptied their minds from the world of experience for the being of higher innocence. Thus Lao Tzu teaches truth through words of paradox:

All streams flow to the sea
because it is lower than they are.
Humility gives it its power. (66)

In 81 brief chapters that contains a mere 5000 Chinese words, Tao Te Ching "looks at the basic predicament of being alive and gives advice that imparts balance and perspective, a serene and generous spirit (Book cover). Mr. Mitchell interprets Lao Tzu, the erudite librarian and eminent scholar in his own time correctly when he writes, "it's clear from his teachings that he deeply cared about society, if society means the welfare of one's fellow human beings; his book is, among other things, a treatise on the art of government, whether of a country or of a child." The reactions upon reading Lao Tzu's words range from "babbling" to "lofty" but actually his teaching couldn't be easier:

I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures. (67)

TAO TE CHING in its original Chinese text is referred to as "one of the wonders of the world". Every word written by Lao Tzu is a microcosmic image of macrocosmic world, complete with sound, tone, shape, rhythm symmetry and metaphoric resonance. It is the Chinese written characters that makes TAO TE CHING (and Chinese Poetry) an Art of art's kind. Through translation, it is all lost. What can be saved is the philosophical wisdom of Lao Tzu and Mr. Stephen Mitchell, through his own genius had masterfully rendered Tao Te Ching into English poetry with brilliance. It takes a poet and a scholar to translate another. If Lao Tzu is the most-read Chinese philosopher in the West today, we have Mr. Mitchell's New English Version to thank for. While Mr. Mitchell's translation is the best place to start, other works such as Dr. Wu's translation that has original Chinese text in it are also recommended. They are puzzle pieces for a better glimpse of the continent of the Way. But as proverb goes, "don't look at the hand that points to the moon. Look at the moon." Ultimately, we should all be looking at the truth that Lao Tzu is pointing to within us, be it English or Chinese.
(This text refers to the Hardcover edition.)

Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching (Asian Institute Translations, No 1)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Incredible Book for anyone who is seeking a path or just trying to better understand themselves and find inner peace!, May 9 2013
By 
N. Kunkel "Egedrian" (Regina, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Paperback)
If your someone like myself your a skeptic when it comes to anything religious. I'm an ex-christian brought about by some very bad experiences in my youth which caused me to search for a different path. Many years later I got involved in Tai Chi, and talking with my Sifu we got onto the topic of this. I figured I would buy it and give it a read. It was something that showed to me that if only I had found this knowledge 20 years ago life would have been far easier. But even now it just gives you a way of looking at things that calms your mind and brings about ways of dealing with life's inconsistencies more easily. Coupled with my Tai Chi training I have found life to be much more easily dealt with and I am much harder to come to anger.

For any person from any religion this is a great read, not to try and steer a person from their path but to offer other options of looking at the world to better understand it and yourself. Because from what I have found the more options a person has to view the world from, the far easier it is get through it with less stress, and more success!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why read a paraphrase instead of a translation?, April 26 2002
By 
bryan12603 (Poughkeepsie, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tao Te Ching Personal (Paperback)
As Mitchell admits, he doesn't read Chinese. Instead of calling this a "translation," he calls it an "English version." But why would you want to read a loose English paraphrase by someone who can't read either the original or the early Chinese commentaries on it when you could read a translation by any one of a number of gifted and insightful scholars?
The standard defense of a "version" like Mitchell's is that he has some special insight into the text that entitles him to interpret it. But the danger of an interpretation like Mitchell's is that it projects modern Western preconceptions onto the Tao Te Ching instead of allowing us to be challenged by the powerful, paradoxical, and even frightening original text. In fact, Mitchell projects Zen Buddhist and New Age ideas into his "interpetation." (And, No, Zen Buddhism is not the same as Taoism, any more than Catholicism is the same as Judaism.) Someone who actually reads the original Classical Chinese, and is familiar with the historical and cultural context in which the text was composed is much more likely to be insightful about the text. Another common comment is that someone like Mitchell doesn't get lost in boring scholarly stuff. But there are plenty of exciting, fun to read translations by people who can actually read the original. The first Tao Te Ching translation I read was by D.C. Lau. He was a truly great scholar, but his translation is very elegant and very readable. Other terrific translations by people who actually know the "text and context" include those by Victor Mair, Robert Henricks, and Philip J. Ivanhoe. (Ivanhoe's translation is available both as a separate book, and as part of the anthology he co-edited, Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy.)
Oh, and the "editorial review" that Amazon lists above is actually not a review of Mitchell's translation at all. (There is no way to report that using their "corrections" button.)
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars not a good beginning, Jan. 26 2004
By 
L. Neal "poetis" (Sacramento, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tao Te Ching Personal (Paperback)
i purchased this on a whim, and, if i could i would sell it back for the simple reason that i find Mitchell distorts the essence of the way by trying to define it thereby limiting it. If one reads the Tao te Ching, one learns that "the way that can be named is not the eternal way" to quote another, truer version of the text.
i have several versions of this ancient classic, and this is my least favorite. it diverges too far away from the essentials. It seems to me that Mr. Mitchell got carried away with the sound of his authority. Sort of like the sound of one hand clapping, as it were.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is little more than Taoist blasphemy., April 13 2002
By 
James L. Nammack (Lexington, Kentucky USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tao Te Ching Personal (Paperback)
Mitchell claims his most empowering qualification for writing this version of the Tao Te Ching is that he has been an ardent student of Zen for many years. This is akin to claiming that virginity is an automatic qualification for knowledgeably expounding on sexual love.
Mitchell's Zen influence is apparent throughout. Instead of trying to be true to Lao Tzu's intent, Mitchell obviously delights in simply trying to make Lao Tzu's teachings as mystical-sounding as possible. In the very first chapter, for example, Mitchell begins:
The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.
Wow. How mystic.
Far better would be something like this:
The true Tao is not the Tao you may think it is;
The essence of the word Tao lies deep within, not merely
in its surface meaning.
This rendition is flawlessly faithful to both Lao Tzu's words and intent. Its meaning is naturally deep, but without artificially trying to make Tao Te Ching passages seem like a series of irrelevant Zen koans.
Three lines down, Mitchell adds:
Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.
Lao Tzu never taught the nonsensical notion that we should rid ourselves of desire. When we are hungry, we desire food. When we see someone in need, we often desire to help. Only corpses are free from desire. And that is the way it should be. A common attribute of Chinese Taoists is that they are relatively free of sexual fears, phobias, and repressions. Their sexual desires, therefore, are often quite unfettered.
A better rendering of that same passage would be something like:
Through the void, we can understand the latent
interconnections,
And through the physical, we can understand the limitless
manisfestations.
The only thing a reader will learn from Mitchell's version is precisely what Taoism is not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your money on this trash., March 28 2002
This review is from: Tao Te Ching Personal (Paperback)
This may be a best seller, but don't waste your money. It is New Age dross, with Lao-tzu flaunting concepts that were politically correct in California in the 90's. Mitchell is totally ignorant of all religious and philosophical aspects of Taoism, and admittedly cannot read Chinese. Loosely based on other versions, Michell ad libs whenever he fancies. Where the Chinese texts literally says: "not competing so no blame," Mitchell interprets: "When you are content to be simply yourself and do not compare or compete, everybody will respect you." Even fortune cookies read better.
Tao Te Ching describes a peace-loving country that gives saddle horses the mundane task of hauling manure. In contrast, the people in the war-mongering country raise warhorses outside the towns. Mitchell boldly substitutes this with contemporary images: When a country is good "factories make trucks and tractors," and when a country is bad "warheads are stockpiled outside the cities." He has turned Tao Te Ching into... manure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom and Poetry Divinely Intertwined, July 17 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Tao Te Ching Personal (Paperback)
I have only read one other version of the Tao Te Ching. The other was very pretty and well respected. It also made very little sense, was sexist, and had little if anything to do with my life. Stephen Mitchell, after 14 years of Zen training, has brought this amazing and beautiful work into our times. With non-sexist language and beautifully illustrating examples, he shows the modern westerner how to truly comprehend and embrace this wise and simple philosophy. Mitchell sometimes strays from the literal translation, but always for the better, and never without letting the reader know. His notes in the back are amazingly insightful and include the literal translations of the few parts he's changed. I read from this amazing and beautiful book every day.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book!, Jan. 4 2014
By 
Ryan (Kirkland Lake, ON, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Paperback)
If you like Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Tao Te Ching, this is an excellent buy. I find Mitchell's translation to be simple and yet very eloquent. It does not feel like a 'westernized' translation, nor does it feel incomprehensible.

This book is really beautiful. Before buying it, I thought it might be too plain, or utilitarian when I saw the gray cover. Upon getting the book and opening it, I was very pleased. The pages are a creamy colour with beautiful numbering of the 'chapters' in red at the top of each page. The spacing of words and verses in the book make it very attractive and accessible for a short reading session or reading through the entire book in a single sitting.

Ultimately, my notes above are rather irrelevant to why you might enjoy this book. The Tao Te Ching is a wonderful work of wisdom. It's lessons are beautiful and resonate with one's inner nature. The Tao is one of many sources to draw spiritual instruction and refreshment from. I suggest reading it through many times and meditating on certain parts and see where that takes you.

The Tao is priceless, this copy of the Tao Te Ching is excellent value for the price.
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5.0 out of 5 stars new cover, same book., Dec 13 2013
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This review is from: Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Paperback)
the cover is different on the edition i got and it is a prettier cover than the original. but the book inside is still full of the same insight and wisdom.
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Tao Te Ching: A New English Version
Tao Te Ching: A New English Version by Stephen Mitchell (Paperback - Aug. 24 2006)
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