Lao Tzu in Chinese / Japanese...

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  1. Lao Tzu / Laozi

  2. Zhuangzi / Chuang Tzu

  3. Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Excerpt

  4. Ultimate Goodness of Water

  5. Be Like Water

  6. Daodejing / Tao Te Ching

  7. Mercy / Compassion / Love

  8. Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33


Lao Tzu / Laozi

lǎo zǐ
roushi
Lao Tzu / Laozi Scroll

Depending on the romanization scheme you use, this man's name can be spelled Laozi, Lao Tzu, or Lao Tze. In older English usage, he was known as Laocius. He is believed to have lived around 500 B.C.

He was a Chinese philosopher, founder of Daoism/Taoism, credited with being the author of the sacred and wise book of Daoism/Taoism.

There is a theory that Lao Tzu's soul traveled to India and was reborn as the Buddha.

Zhuangzi / Chuang Tzu

zhuāng zǐ
Sōshi
Zhuangzi / Chuang Tzu Scroll

莊子 is the name of Zhuangzi or Chuang Tzu (369-286 BC).

Like Laozi or Lao Tzu, he was a Daoist author, poet, and philosopher.

Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 67
yī yuē cí èr yuē jiǎn sān yuē bù gǎn wéi tiān xià xiān
Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Excerpt Scroll

一曰慈二曰儉三曰不敢為天下先 is an except from the 67th Chapter of Lao Tzu's (Lao Zi's) Te-Tao Ching (Dao De Jing).

This is the part where the three treasures are discussed. In English, we'd say these three treasures are compassion, frugality, and humility. Some may translate these as love, moderation, and lack of arrogance. I have also seen them translated as benevolence, modesty, and "Not presuming to be at the forefront in the world". You can mix them up the way you want, as translation is not really a science but rather an art.

I should also explain that the first two treasures are single-character ideas, yet the third treasure was written out in six characters (there are also some auxiliary characters to number the treasures).

If Lao Tzu's words are important to you, then a wall scroll with this passage might make a great addition to your home.

Ultimate Goodness of Water

Quote from Lao Tzu
shàng shàn ruò shuǐ
Ultimate Goodness of Water Scroll

This quote is sometimes presented as, "Be like water".

However, this is an ancient quote from the great philosopher Lao Tzu. It basically suggests that the ultimate goodness and purity (in the world) is water. Many take this as a suggestion to be like pure/good water.

Be Like Water

Quote from Lao Tzu
ruò shuǐ
Be Like Water Scroll

若水 is part of a very old saying from Lao Tzu.

It these two characters, there is a suggestion to be like water. The full phrase is about the goodness and purity of water. So, when this suggests being like water, it is actually a suggestion to be a good person (one who does not dishonor himself/herself etc).

Daodejing / Tao Te Ching

The Great Book of Lao Tzu
dào dé jīng
Daodejing / Tao Te Ching Scroll

道德經 are the Chinese characters for the writings of Laozi/Lao Tzu known as the Dàodéjīng or Tao Tê Ching.

To breakdown the meaning of the characters:

道 means "way", though many refer to it as "the Way". It has been romanized as Tao or Dao. The Dao has been referred to by Confucius, Mencius, and other ancient Chinese philosophers.

德 means virtue, integrity, or morality.

經 in this context means canon, great book, sacred book, scripture or classic.

Mercy / Compassion / Love

ji
Mercy / Compassion / Love Scroll

慈 is the simplest way to express the idea of compassion.

This can also mean love for your fellow humans, humanity, or living creatures. Sometimes this is extended to mean charity.

This term is often used with a Buddhist or Christian context. The concept was also spoken of by Laozi (Lao Tzu) in the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching).

慈 is considered the direct translation of the Sanskrit word मैत्री (maitrī) Pali word मेत्ता (mettā). In this context, it means benevolence, loving-kindness, and goodwill.

This Chinese character is understood in Japanese but is usually used in compound words (not seen alone). Also used in old Korean Hanja, so it's very universal.


See Also:  Mercy | Benevolence | Forgiveness | Kindness

Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33

zhī rén zhě zhī yě zì zhī zhě míng yě shèng rén zhě yǒu lì yě zì shèng zhě qiáng yě zhī zú zhě fù yě qiáng xíng zhě yǒu zhì yě bù zhī qí suǒ zhě jiǔ yě sǐ ér bù wáng zhě shòu yě
Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33 Scroll

This is referred to as passage or chapter 33 of the Dao De Jing (often Romanized as "Tao Te Ching").

These are the words of the philosopher Laozi (Lao Tzu).

The following is one translation of this passage:
To know others is wisdom;
To know oneself is acuity/intelligence.
To conquer others is power,
To conquer oneself is strength.
To know contentment is to have wealth.
To act resolutely is to have purpose.
To stay one's ground is to be enduring.
To die and yet not be forgotten is to be long-lived.
Another translation:
To understand others is to be knowledgeable;
To understand yourself is to be wise.
To conquer others is to have strength;
To conquer yourself is to be strong.
To know when you have enough is to be rich.
To go forward with strength is to have ambition.
To not lose your place is to be long lasting.
To die but not be forgotten -- that's true long life.
A third translation of the second half:
He who is content is rich;
He who acts with persistence has will;
He who does not lose his roots will endure;
He who dies physically but preserves the Dao
will enjoy a long after-life.


Notes:

During our research, the Chinese characters shown here are probably the most accurate to the original text of Laozi. These were taken for the most part from the Mawangdui 1973 and Guodan 1993 manuscripts which pre-date other Daodejing texts by about 1000 years.

Grammar was a little different in Laozi’s time. So you should consider this to be the ancient Chinese version. Some have modernized this passage by adding, removing, or swapping articles and changing the grammar (we felt the oldest and most original version would be more desirable). You may find other versions printed in books or online - sometimes these modern texts are simply used to explain to Chinese people what the original text really means.

This language issue can be compared in English by thinking how the King James (known as the Authorized version in Great Britain) Bible from 1611 was written, and comparing it to modern English. Now imagine that the Daodejing was probably written around 403 BCE (2000 years before the King James Version of the Bible). To a Chinese person, the original Daodejing reads like text that is 3 times more detached compared to Shakespeare’s English is to our modern-day speech.

Extended notes:

While on this Biblical text comparison, it should be noted, that just like the Bible, all the original texts of the Daodejing were lost or destroyed long ago. Just as with the scripture used to create the Bible, various manuscripts exist, many with variations or copyist errors. Just as the earliest New Testament scripture (incomplete) is from 170 years after Christ, the earliest Daodejing manuscript (incomplete) is from 100-200 years after the death of Laozi.

The reason that the originals were lost probably has a lot to do with the first Qin Emperor. Upon taking power and unifying China, he ordered the burning and destruction of all books (scrolls/rolls) except those pertaining to Chinese medicine and a few other subjects. The surviving Daodejing manuscripts were either hidden on purpose or simply forgotten about. Some were not unearthed until as late as 1993.

We compared a lot of research by various archeologists and historians before deciding on this as the most accurate and correct version. But one must allow that it may not be perfect, or the actual and original as from the hand of Laozi himself.




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The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...

Title CharactersRomaji (Romanized Japanese)Various forms of Romanized Chinese
Lao Tzu
Laozi
老子roushi / roshilǎo zǐ / lao3 zi3 / lao zi / laozilao tzu / laotzu
Zhuangzi
Chuang Tzu
莊子
庄子
Sōshizhuāng zǐ
zhuang1 zi3
zhuang zi
zhuangzi
chuang tzu
chuangtzu
Daodejing
Tao Te Ching - Excerpt
一曰慈二曰儉三曰不敢為天下先
一曰慈二曰俭三曰不敢为天下先
yī yuē cí èr yuē jiǎn sān yuē bù gǎn wéi tiān xià xiān
yi1 yue1 ci2 er4 yue1 jian3 san1 yue1 bu4 gan3 wei2 tian1 xia4 xian1
yi yue ci er yue jian san yue bu gan wei tian xia xian
i yüeh tz`u erh yüeh chien san yüeh pu kan wei t`ien hsia hsien
i yüeh tzu erh yüeh chien san yüeh pu kan wei tien hsia hsien
Ultimate Goodness of Water上善若水shàng shàn ruò shuǐ
shang4 shan4 ruo4 shui3
shang shan ruo shui
shangshanruoshui
shang shan jo shui
shangshanjoshui
Be Like Water若水ruò shuǐ / ruo4 shui3 / ruo shui / ruoshuijo shui / joshui
Daodejing
Tao Te Ching
道德經
道德经
dào dé jīng
dao4 de2 jing1
dao de jing
daodejing
tao te ching
taoteching
Mercy
Compassion
Love
jicí / ci2 / citz`u / tzu
Daodejing
Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33
知人者知也自知者明也勝人者有力也自勝者強也知足者富也強行者有志也不失其所者久也死而不亡者壽也
知人者知也自知者明也胜人者有力也自胜者强也知足者富也强行者有志也不失其所者久也死而不亡者寿也
zhī rén zhě zhī yě zì zhī zhě míng yě shèng rén zhě yǒu lì yě zì shèng zhě qiáng yě zhī zú zhě fù yě qiáng xíng zhě yǒu zhì yě bù zhī qí suǒ zhě jiǔ yě sǐ ér bù wáng zhě shòu yě
zhi1 ren2 zhe3 zhi1 ye3 zi4 zhi1 zhe3 ming2 ye3 sheng4 ren2 zhe3 you3 li4 ye3 zi4 sheng4 zhe3 qiang2 ye3 zhi1 zu2 zhe3 fu4 ye3 qiang2 xing2 zhe3 you3 zhi4 ye3 bu4 zhi1 qi2 suo3 zhe3 jiu3 ye3 si3 er2 bu4 wang2 zhe3 shou4 ye3
zhi ren zhe zhi ye zi zhi zhe ming ye sheng ren zhe you li ye zi sheng zhe qiang ye zhi zu zhe fu ye qiang xing zhe you zhi ye bu zhi qi suo zhe jiu ye si er bu wang zhe shou ye
chih jen che chih yeh tzu chih che ming yeh sheng jen che yu li yeh tzu sheng che ch`iang yeh chih tsu che fu yeh ch`iang hsing che yu chih yeh pu chih ch`i so che chiu yeh ssu erh pu wang che shou yeh
chih jen che chih yeh tzu chih che ming yeh sheng jen che yu li yeh tzu sheng che chiang yeh chih tsu che fu yeh chiang hsing che yu chih yeh pu chih chi so che chiu yeh ssu erh pu wang che shou yeh
In some entries above you will see that characters have different versions above and below a line.
In these cases, the characters above the line are Traditional Chinese, while the ones below are Simplified Chinese.


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Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33 Scroll
Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33 Scroll
Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33 Scroll
Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33 Scroll


And formats...

Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33 Vertical Portrait
Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33 Horizontal Wall Scroll
Daodejing / Tao Te Ching - Chapter 33 Vertical Portrait
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A nice Chinese calligraphy wall scroll

The wall scroll that Sandy is holding in this picture is a "large size"
single-character wall scroll.
We also offer custom wall scrolls in small, medium, and an even-larger jumbo size.

A professional Chinese Calligrapher

Professional calligraphers are getting to be hard to find these days.
Instead of drawing characters by hand, the new generation in China merely type roman letters into their computer keyboards and pick the character that they want from a list that pops up.

There is some fear that true Chinese calligraphy may become a lost art in the coming years. Many art institutes in China are now promoting calligraphy programs in hopes of keeping this unique form of art alive.

Trying to learn Chinese calligrapher - a futile effort

Even with the teachings of a top-ranked calligrapher in China, my calligraphy will never be good enough to sell. I will leave that to the experts.

A high-ranked Chinese master calligrapher that I met in Zhongwei

The same calligrapher who gave me those lessons also attracted a crowd of thousands and a TV crew as he created characters over 6-feet high. He happens to be ranked as one of the top 100 calligraphers in all of China. He is also one of very few that would actually attempt such a feat.


Check out my lists of Japanese Kanji Calligraphy Wall Scrolls and Old Korean Hanja Calligraphy Wall Scrolls.

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