Lao Tsu, an older contemporary of Confucius, was keeper of the imperial archives at Loyang in the province of Honan in the sixth century B.C. All his life he taught that "The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao"; but, according to ancient legend, as he was riding off into the desert to die - sick at heart at the ways of men - he was persuaded by a gatekeeper in northwestern China to write down his teaching for posterity. The essence of Taoism is contained in the eighty-one chapters of the book - roughly 5000 words - which have for 2500 years provided one of the major underlying influences in Chinese thought and culture, emerging also in proverbs and folklore. Whereas Confucianism is concerned with day-to-day rules of conduct, Taoism is concern with a more spiritual level of being.
Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing, teaching no-talking. The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease, Creating, yet not possessing, Working, yet not taking credit. Work is done, then forgotten. Therefore it lasts forever.
Jane English, whose photograps form an integral part of this book, holds an BA from Mount Holyoke College and has received a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin for her work in high energy particle physics. She is at the moment teaching a course in Oriental thought and modern physics at Colorado College (with Gia-fu Feng as guest lecturer). She was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1942.
As one of the philosophical gem of China, Tao Te Ching is themost-translated Chinese classic. A translator has to face the dilemma ofdomestication and foreignization when dealing with the oriental languagestyle. Retaining the culture and strangeness of the target language, theforeignized translation reflects the respect for the source language andculture, which has become the trend for translation. The quantitativeanalysis on the basis of 55 authoritative translation versions of Tao TeChing indicates the foreignization in phonetics, image and structure, whichis the promotion of many new expressions and multicultural merge.
Tao Te Ching has 81 chapters in two parts, the Tao Ching (chaps.1-37) and the Te Ching (chaps. 38-81) with brief and ambiguous wording whichencourages various interpretations. As a gem of oriental wisdom, Tao Te Chinghas great influence in the world. According to the statistics of Knut Walffrom University of Nijmegen in 1989, Tao Te Ching has 252 versions in 17European languages from 1816 to 1988, which is the most translated Chineseclassics and lists only next to the Bible among all the translated worldliterature. Holmes Welch (1965), the professor from Harvard University saysthat the book is a famous puzzle which everyone would like to feel he hadsolved.
Tao Te Ching has been translated into many Western languages,mostly to English, German, and French. Among all these translated versions,the English ones top the list. Since John Chalmers, the English missionarytranslated the book into English in 1868, many scholars have tried totranslate and interpret the book. In history, there appeared three stages oftranslating Tao Te Ching. The first one started from 1868 to 1905 when mostof the translators were English Congregationalists including the most notedone, James Legge whose version is most faithful and rigorous. The second tideis from 1934 to 1963 when many sinologists such as Arthur Waley and WitterBynner translated the book. In 1973, the unearthing of two original silktexts of the Tao Te Ching in Ma-Wang-Tui tomb aroused the third tide oftranslation when many Chinese and foreign scholars cooperated to translatethe book. In this period, the versions of D. C. Lau, Victor H. Mair andRobert G Henricks are the most influential. Since 1990s, the enthusiasm forthe translation of Tao Te Ching has showed no signs of decreasing and anaverage of 4.6 English versions of Tao Te Ching has been published each year.The versions by Thomas Cleary (1991), Michael Lafargue(1992) and A. S. Kline(2003) are comparatively renowned. Till now there are over 180 Englishversions of the classic and it can be expected that the figure will stillclimb in the future.
Many Chinese and western scholars have studied the Englishversions of Tao Te Ching. Wang Rongpei (1992) elaborates "Tao", theabstract keyword with profound meanings. Erin M. Cline (2004) discusses twointerpretations of De in Daodejing. Feng Xiaoli (2009) analyzes the versionof D. C. Lau. Yoav Ariel and Gil Rez (2010) explains the adoption of anaphoror cataphor of qi (Jt) in the first chapter of the book. However, the studyon the foreignization of the book has been rare. The paper has an analysisand comparison of the domestication of foreignization of Tao Te Ching on thebasis of 55 authoritative English versions by the noted translators such asJames Legge, Arthur Waley, Lionel Giles, Aleister Crowley, Gia-Fu Feng &Jane English, Robert G Henricks, and Stephen Mitchell etc.
As a kernel category with various levels and structures in Chinesephilosophy, Tao (zhang Liwen, 1989) can be summarized with eightconnotations: 1) Way or rules; 2) origin of the universe; 3) one; 4)nihility; 5) Taichi; 6) mind; 7) chi; 8) humane. In other words, Tao can beelaborated as the origin of nature, rules, movement process, and the way ofpolitics and ruling the country. It appears 74 times in 37 chapters of thebook with various meanings. According to the 55 authoritative Englishversions of Tao Te Ching, we can find that the main translation of the wordas follows:
In dealing with the common and similar images, most Chinese andwestern translators adopt the original images of the author. For example, inthe eighth chapter, the author takes the water as a metaphor to express hisyielding, void and tranquil outlook of the world and his "female"value: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. (Pinyin: Shangshan ruo shui, shuishan li wanwu er buzheng.) The omnipresent water contributes to all livingthings in the world. It is appropriate and natural to describe the highestgoodness with the nutritious water which never makes a display of itselfbecause the readers can understand easily and clearly what the supremegoodness is by the image popular home and abroad. In the 55 authoritativeEnglish versions such as James Legge and Victor H. Mair, all the translatorsadopt the original imageby Lao Tzu unanimously and translate the sentence as:The highest excellence is like that of water. (tr. James Legge) or Thehighest good is like water. (tr. Victor H. Mair)
Moreover, in dealing with the unique image loaded with Chineseculture, most translators adopt the original images as well. Take a sentencein the fifth chapter: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Pinyin: Tiandi buren,yi wanwu wei chugou) as an example. In ancient China, chugou (straw dog) isthe sacrifice which the author uses to describe the worthless and uselessthings or opinions. In the 55 English versions, some translators use theambiguous "sacrificial images", or domesticate it as guinea pigs,grasses of field, or used talismans which are more easily for the westernreaders to understand, or even cancel the images. However, most versionsadopt straw dogs directly or amplify the cultural connation as sacrifice ofstraw dogs (Witter Bynner, 1944), offering straw dogs (Tolbert McCarroll,1982) and ritual straw dogs (Tormond Byrn, 1997), which fully express theloaded cultural connotation. 2b1af7f3a8