The most widely read of the Asian classics, Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching offers a series of insightful spiritual observations on life and human nature. Part poetry, part paradox, always stirring and profound, the text has been inspiring readers since it was written over two thousand years ago. This extraordinary masterpiece is also one of the most frequently translated books in all of history, in part because it is simply impossible to translate into a Western language in a strictly literal way; there are just too many Chinese characters in the text that convey multiple meanings. This leads many translators to burden the text by having their translation explain too much, thereby losing the clarity of terse poetry that is so often found in the original. The extraordinary strength of Sam Hamill's translation is that he has captured the poetry of Lao Tzu's original without sacrificing the resonance of the text's many meanings and possible interpretations. The result is a beautiful and deeply meditative rendering, one that is a delight to read over and over again. Accompanying Sam Hamill's translation are eighteen original calligraphies by one of the great masters of the art form, Kazuaki Tanahashi. Each calligraphy is of one Chinese word or character from the text itself, presented facing its appearance in the translation. Hamill then, in a caption to the calligraphy, offers just some of the many ways in which the Chinese character could be translated into English, giving the reader a fuller sense of the amazing richness of the original text and some idea as to the process of translation itself.
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Published October 18, 2005
Religion & Spirituality, Law & Philosophy.