Global Laozegetics: Engaging the Multiplicity of Laozi Interpretations and Translations

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 October 2023) | Viewed by 51474

Special Issue Editor

College of Philosophy, Nankai University, Tianjin 300071, China
Interests: Chinese philosophy; Chinese religion; Daoism; commentarial traditions; translation; trans-linguistic interpretive lineages; hermeneutics; global philosophy; global history

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue of Religions introduces the study of “Global Laozegetics,” which offers a novel framework for engaging the Daoist classic Laozi or Daodejing. While previous scholarship has mostly focused on debating the “original” meaning of the Laozi text, we suggest that this might not be the most important topic to research. The study of Global Laozegetics instead prioritizes investigating the 1930 Laozi translations in 94 languages and the 2185 native Chinese commentaries as the keys to understanding the text’s place in history. Even if it were possible to determine the original meaning of the text, that conception would only be relevant to a brief moment in time. It cannot explain the varied ways in which the Laozi has been understood and applied across the ages. Therefore, we propose a focus on the complex history of Laozi exegesis in all languages to determine the entirety of its transmission, transformation, and reception to more fully comprehend the impact of the text around the globe.

The foundation of this Special Issue is the October 23–24, 2021, "International Conference on Global Laozegetics" at Nankai University. Religions has expressed interest in publishing selected conference papers, and the guest editor will send a direct invitation to authors of papers that have been judged to be appropriate for consideration; however, if other interested authors would like their work to be considered, we will gladly receive them with all due attention.

Topics which might be covered include: Laozi and hermeneutics; Laozi commentaries; religious Daoist Laozi; Buddhist Laozi; Confucian Laozi; Korean Laozi; Japanese Laozi; historical transmissions of Laozi; early Laozi translations; Laozi interpretations based on any religion or philosophy in any language; popular interpretations or translations of Laozi; methods of Laozi translation; peculiarities of Laozi translations in various languages; Persian Laozi; Filipino Laozi; Thai Laozi; interpretations of key Laozi concepts in commentaries or translations; historical connections between commentaries and translations; comparisons of Laozi interpretations within and without China.

Dr. Misha Tadd
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Laozi
  • Daodejing
  • Daoism
  • global philosophy
  • translation
  • commentary
  • hermeneutics
  • history of ideas
  • textual reception
  • interpretive lineage

Published Papers (26 papers)

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Research

21 pages, 1384 KiB  
Article
The Strategy of Interpreting the Daodejing through Confucianism in Park Se-dang’s Sinju Dodeokgyeong
by Heejung Seo-Reich
Religions 2023, 14(12), 1550; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14121550 - 18 Dec 2023
Viewed by 825
Abstract
This research study examines Park Se-dang’s Sinju Dodeokgyeong, which was the first complete exegesis of the Daodejing (DDJ) in Korea. This study investigates the theoretical strategies that Park used to interpret the DDJ from a Neo-Confucian perspective and also examines the logical [...] Read more.
This research study examines Park Se-dang’s Sinju Dodeokgyeong, which was the first complete exegesis of the Daodejing (DDJ) in Korea. This study investigates the theoretical strategies that Park used to interpret the DDJ from a Neo-Confucian perspective and also examines the logical missteps that Park took to force a unity between Neo-Confucianism and Daoism. The core method for interpreting the DDJ that Park utilized in his attempt to assert the compatibility of Neo-Confucianism and Daoism can be summarized as “interpreting Daoism through Neo-Confucian theory”. This research study breaks down Park’s strategy for reinterpreting the DDJ, dividing Park’s argumentation into four parts: (1.) clarifying the historical hereticalization of the DDJ; (2.) identifying the ethics and treasured virtues of Confucianism and Daoism; (3.) the study of the cosmologies of Confucianism and Daoism; and (4.) interpreting Daoist moral ethics through Neo-Confucian cosmological theory. Park Se-dang’s strategy for forcing unity between Neo-Confucianism and Daoism had its limits. Among other things, Park attempted but failed to narrow the gap between Confucian and Daoist ethics and cosmology by converting the concept of "heaven" in the DDJ into a humanized heaven. Eventually, even though Park’s strategy failed, his work inspired other Silhak scholars of Joseon up to the 19th century and had a clear impact on the many subsequent reinterpretations of the DDJ. Full article
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16 pages, 4149 KiB  
Article
A Paratext Perspective on the Translation of the Daodejing: An Example from the German Translation of Richard Wilhelm
by Xiaoshu Li and Yuan Tan
Religions 2023, 14(12), 1546; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14121546 - 16 Dec 2023
Viewed by 852
Abstract
In the German translation history of the Daodejing, the version rendered by the renowned German sinologist, Richard Wilhelm, has vigorously propelled the study of Laozegetics in Germany and stands as a translation of historical and scholarly significance. Wilhelm complemented the concise main [...] Read more.
In the German translation history of the Daodejing, the version rendered by the renowned German sinologist, Richard Wilhelm, has vigorously propelled the study of Laozegetics in Germany and stands as a translation of historical and scholarly significance. Wilhelm complemented the concise main text through the use of diverse, precise, and appropriate paratexts, granting his translation both readability and academic rigor. This ensures the admiration of general readers and the recognition of professional scholars. Tailored to the linguistic preferences and educational levels of German readers, Wilhelm frequently employed highly recognizable theological, philosophical, and literary concepts within the German cultural system to elucidate the Daodejing. This translation strategy effectively satisfies the expectation horizon of target readers. In the paratexts, Wilhelm constructs a philosophical framework of Daoism, compares the thought of Confucianism and Daoism, and broadens the dialogue between Chinese philosophical thought and Western intellectual traditions, thereby bestowing upon the Daodejing a renewed vitality in the German-speaking world. Full article
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11 pages, 1290 KiB  
Article
The Understanding and Translation of De 德 in the English Translation of the Daodejing 道德經
by Xiaojiao Cui
Religions 2023, 14(11), 1418; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14111418 - 13 Nov 2023
Viewed by 934
Abstract
This article investigates the translation of De 德 in the English translation of the Daodejing, compares and analyzes several representative translations, and tries to present the complexity and richness of the meaning of De in the thought of the Daodejing. The [...] Read more.
This article investigates the translation of De 德 in the English translation of the Daodejing, compares and analyzes several representative translations, and tries to present the complexity and richness of the meaning of De in the thought of the Daodejing. The article is divided into three parts. First, it briefly traces the concept of De back to the Shang 商 and Zhou 周 periods, thus laying the foundation for subsequent study. Second, taking Chapter 51 of the Daodejing as an example, it explores the meaning of “virtue”, which is the most important and common translation of De, in the context of the Daodejing and examines related terms such as “potency” and “inner power”. Finally, two representative translations of “Xuan De” 玄德 are examined and discussed. Full article
13 pages, 821 KiB  
Article
Variated Cultural Imagery of the Daodejing in the German-Speaking World Based on “Foreignization”: The Case of Dao and De
by Xue Tang
Religions 2023, 14(7), 918; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14070918 - 17 Jul 2023
Viewed by 867
Abstract
“Foreignization” (taguohua, 他国化) is an important concept in the Variation Theory of Comparative Literature. Through the collision, fusion and heterogeneous absorption of cross-heterogeneous cultural exchanges, the culture and discourse principles of one country are adapted through localization by the receiving country, [...] Read more.
“Foreignization” (taguohua, 他国化) is an important concept in the Variation Theory of Comparative Literature. Through the collision, fusion and heterogeneous absorption of cross-heterogeneous cultural exchanges, the culture and discourse principles of one country are adapted through localization by the receiving country, resulting in what this theory calls “foreignization”. Global Laozegetics continues its traditional interpretive-oriented stance by examining translations of the Daodejing from a Laozegetics perspective, demonstrating a new development in the study of Laozi’s doctrine. Thus, there is a need to explore new perspectives in the research on the German translations of the Daodejing. Taking the cultural imagery Dao and De as examples, this paper explores the background and causes of “foreignization” in German translations of the Daodejing and its impact on the dissemination of Laozi’s doctrine in the German-speaking world, summarizing its formation path and possible problems, with the goal of shedding light on the overseas dissemination of Chinese classics represented by the Daodejing. Full article
18 pages, 844 KiB  
Article
Three Early Russian Documents about the Daodejing: An Analysis
by Hongyan Zhang and Jing Luo
Religions 2023, 14(6), 766; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060766 - 09 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1385
Abstract
It has been nearly 200 years since the Daodejing and Daoist thought was first introduced to Russia in the first half of the 19th century. Although the study of Daoist philosophy and Laozi in Russia started relatively late, the Daodejing has been the [...] Read more.
It has been nearly 200 years since the Daodejing and Daoist thought was first introduced to Russia in the first half of the 19th century. Although the study of Daoist philosophy and Laozi in Russia started relatively late, the Daodejing has been the most translated classic of Chinese culture in Russia. The early dissemination of the Daodejing in Russia was deeply influenced by the government and religion, and there were some controversial and neglected materials that were difficult to verify due to the lack of documents and manuscripts. For example, the first translation manuscript of the Daodejing in Russia has almost become a rare book that is nearly impossible to find and inconvenient to read; the authorship of the first article introducing Laozi’s thought in Russia remains a mystery; the first complete translation was completed by a Japanese theologian living in Russia, but it has not received enough research attention. The insufficient research on the early dissemination of Laozi studies in Russia has had a negative impact on the studies of Laozi in Russia. Therefore, this paper, on the basis of various documentary and manuscript references, aims to conduct an in-depth analysis of the early dissemination of Laozi studies in Russia, paying particular attention to the three early Russian documents in the 19th century about the Daodejing, namely, the first translation manuscript of the Daodejing, the first article introducing Laozi’s thought in Russia, and the first complete Russian translation of the Daodejing. A detailed review of these three documents can help to correct some misconceptions and misunderstandings of the early dissemination of the Daodejing in Russia, and, to some extent, reveal the early dissemination characteristics of Laozi studies in Russia. Full article
18 pages, 896 KiB  
Article
Notes on the Laozi and Yan Fu’s Theory of Dao
by Suixin Zheng
Religions 2023, 14(4), 447; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040447 - 25 Mar 2023
Viewed by 1283
Abstract
In his Notes on the Laozi, Yan Fu constructs a new and unique theory of Dao that incorporates ideas from both Chinese and Western philosophies. Yan’s Dao is a unity of the physical and the metaphysical. It not only inherits the characteristics [...] Read more.
In his Notes on the Laozi, Yan Fu constructs a new and unique theory of Dao that incorporates ideas from both Chinese and Western philosophies. Yan’s Dao is a unity of the physical and the metaphysical. It not only inherits the characteristics of Dao in the Laozi, as the origin and destination of all things, but also adds materiality by being equated to Aether. Yan further draws on the principles of calculus to bridge the physical and metaphysical sides of Dao. However, his infusion of evolution into his Dao conception is incompatible with the cycles of reversion that are the characteristic motion of Laozi’s Dao and this leads to internal contradictions in Yan Fu’s vision. When applied to realpolitik, the principles of void and non-being expounded in Yan’s theory of Dao become embodied in democracy. It can be said that democracy is the ultimate result of applying this new theory of Dao to politics. Full article
14 pages, 1028 KiB  
Article
Translative Trends in Three Modern Greek Renderings of the Daodejing
by Dimitra Amarantidou
Religions 2023, 14(2), 283; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020283 - 20 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1311
Abstract
Many Chinese and Western scholars have looked into the relation between Daoist and Greek thought, implementing Greek philosophical vocabularies to explain or highlight the distinctness of Daoist terms. This paper offers a view of an alternative and unexplored area of such endeavors: the [...] Read more.
Many Chinese and Western scholars have looked into the relation between Daoist and Greek thought, implementing Greek philosophical vocabularies to explain or highlight the distinctness of Daoist terms. This paper offers a view of an alternative and unexplored area of such endeavors: the translation of Daoist philosophy in modern Greek. More specifically, I offer an account of the reception and interpretation of the text by looking at three renderings of the Daodejing 道德經 (or Laozi 老子) in modern Greek. I first summarize the translators’ methodologies, overall understanding of the Daodejing’s focus and current relevance, and views on authorship and translation, and identify a set of translative trends: reliance on familiar notions, frameworks, and cultural experiences; mystification; attention to poeticity; and emphasis on a perceived remedial function of the text for a modern Greek readership. I then look at the renderings and explications of the key notions dao 道 and de 德 in four passages as case studies. The final section sums up the findings and concludes that the dominant interpretive tendency and translative trend in the examined translations is the assumption of similarity between Daoist and more familiar beliefs and frameworks. Full article
18 pages, 3774 KiB  
Article
A New Portrait of a Daoist Sage: Jean-François Foucquet’s Interpretation of the Dao
by Sophie Ling-chia Wei
Religions 2023, 14(2), 263; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020263 - 16 Feb 2023
Viewed by 2132
Abstract
In the translation history of late imperial China, the Jesuit enterprise played a significant role in translating Western scientific knowledge, a role they performed in tandem with proselytization. The Jesuit Figurists’ re-interpreting and re-writing of the ancient Chinese classics pivoted on symbols, figures, [...] Read more.
In the translation history of late imperial China, the Jesuit enterprise played a significant role in translating Western scientific knowledge, a role they performed in tandem with proselytization. The Jesuit Figurists’ re-interpreting and re-writing of the ancient Chinese classics pivoted on symbols, figures, and Chinese characters. The father at the helm of this journey, Joachim Bouvet (1656–1730), embarked on his own Figurist path, navigating by the symbols, figures, and Chinese characters from the Yijing. His followers Joseph Henri Marie de Prémare (1666–1736) and Jean François Foucquet (1665–1741) continued on this track, each further developing his own interpretation of the Dao. Here I will present and explore Foucquet’s journey of the Dao and his presentation of the Christian God and Jesus Christ as Daoist sages by investigating his Chinese, French, and Latin manuscripts that discuss his reinterpretation of the Dao in the Chinese classics, especially the Yijing and Daodejing. In these manuscripts, Foucquet adopted typological exegesis and exhibited his inheritance of the Confucian-Christian-Dao synthesis from his senior Bouvet; he also identified the Dao as Deus and the Oneness of the Dao as the unity of the Holy Trinity. This micro-historical case study of Foucquet’s interpretation of the Dao shows how his navigating the strait between the Scylla and Charybdis of the emperor and the Holy See factored into his trajectory of interpreting the Dao; it also demonstrates that in response to being challenged by his own brothers in the Catholic Church, he cleaved to typological exegesis and Confucian-Christian-Dao synthesis. The significance of this paper lies in that the early understanding of the Dao was manipulated, especially among the Figurists, both as a tool for proselytization and as a bridge to link the East with the West. Full article
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16 pages, 2506 KiB  
Article
Reception History and Early Chinese Classics
by Tobias Benedikt Zürn
Religions 2022, 13(12), 1224; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13121224 - 19 Dec 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2652
Abstract
Thus far, the study of early China and its texts is dominated by originalist approaches that try to excavate the authentic meaning of the classics. In this article, I promote the idea that a shift in focus from the intentions of the authors [...] Read more.
Thus far, the study of early China and its texts is dominated by originalist approaches that try to excavate the authentic meaning of the classics. In this article, I promote the idea that a shift in focus from the intentions of the authors to the readers’ concrete responses could meaningfully accompany our research on the classics’ “original” meaning. Beyond merely illuminating the cultural and intellectual environments in which the various receptions were produced, such research on the classics’ myriad interpretations could also serve as a postcolonial catalyst, helping us identify field-specific trends and reading strategies that, often unnoticed, impact our understandings of early Chinese texts. In other words, reception history would not only give us insights into the history of early Chinese classics and the variegated worlds they inhabited. It would also help us illuminate and reflect upon the ways we researchers shape and preconfigure our visions of premodern China and its texts. Full article
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10 pages, 792 KiB  
Article
The Dissemination of Laozi’s Text and Thought in the Arab World
by Sana Hadhri, Zixiao Liu and Zhiyong Wu
Religions 2022, 13(12), 1177; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13121177 - 02 Dec 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1563
Abstract
Based on Chinese and Arabic literature, this paper summarizes the spread of Laozi’s text and thought in the Arab world. The specific course of dissemination can be divided into two stages: from 1966 to 2000, the Dao De Jing was disseminated on the [...] Read more.
Based on Chinese and Arabic literature, this paper summarizes the spread of Laozi’s text and thought in the Arab world. The specific course of dissemination can be divided into two stages: from 1966 to 2000, the Dao De Jing was disseminated on the basis of indirect translations; from 2000 to today, the spread of the Dao De Jing in the Arab world reached a climax when the first direct translation was published. Laozi’s text and thought have gained acceptance and popularity largely because of their soothing function and similarity to the Sufi spirit found in Arab culture. The spread of Laozi’s text and thought in the Arab world presents three features: a long and friendly history of cultural exchange has served as a foundation; languages such as English and French have functioned as intermediaries; and similarities between Sufism and Daoism have provided points of connection. Full article
21 pages, 1000 KiB  
Article
Four Approaches to Daodejing Translations and Their Characteristics in Korean after Liberation from Japan
by Heejung Seo-Reich
Religions 2022, 13(10), 998; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100998 - 20 Oct 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2573
Abstract
This article gathered and analyzed the Daodejing (DDJ) translations in Korean that appeared after the liberation from Japan and classified them into four perspectives: the perspective continuing Gyeonghak 經學 (Traditional Confucian exegetics), the literary and linguistic perspective, the religious perspective, and the philosophical [...] Read more.
This article gathered and analyzed the Daodejing (DDJ) translations in Korean that appeared after the liberation from Japan and classified them into four perspectives: the perspective continuing Gyeonghak 經學 (Traditional Confucian exegetics), the literary and linguistic perspective, the religious perspective, and the philosophical perspective according to the academic perspective and methodology of translation. Simultaneously, this paper clarified the translation characteristics by comprehensively examining the formation process of each perspective in their historical contexts. Although Daoism had been excluded from the academic curriculum during the pre-liberation era along with Buddhism as heresy, it was later hastily embraced within the category of Oriental Studies to build a cultural consensus when the modern and contemporary educational system was established. In the post-liberation era, the formation of each DDJ translation perspective is directly related to the academic status of Daoism during the modernization of the Korean educational system—a process in which the years 1990 and 2015 stand out as essential turning points. The characteristics of DDJ translations in Korean can be analyzed from five perspectives depending on the Ur-text, ideological perspective, linguistic methodology, national characteristics, and relation to Christianity. Full article
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16 pages, 404 KiB  
Article
The LATAM’s Laozi: The Reception and Interpretations of the Laozi in Latin America
by Filippo Costantini
Religions 2022, 13(10), 952; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100952 - 10 Oct 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1735
Abstract
The Laozi has a long and variegated exegetical history inside and outside of China. This history shows the flexibility of a text that is always able to transform and adapt to the specific cultural context and historical period in which it emerges. Due [...] Read more.
The Laozi has a long and variegated exegetical history inside and outside of China. This history shows the flexibility of a text that is always able to transform and adapt to the specific cultural context and historical period in which it emerges. Due to the expansion of Orientalism among Latin American intellectuals at the beginning of the 20th century, the Laozi, among other texts, began to propagate, producing a series of translations and original interpretations of the text. These works are the products of several Latin American writers who engaged with the Laozi mainly through the mediation of European and North American interpretations. From these cross-cultural interactions emerged some original interpretations and translations that created different ways of reading the Laozi. In this paper, I outline the major characteristics of the Laozi’s translations and interpretations in Latin America’s sub-regions. I draw a tentative sketch of what could be defined as the Latin American Laozi’s experience, better called the LATAM’s Laozi. Full article
14 pages, 594 KiB  
Article
“Non-Action” and “Assistance”: Laozi’s Thoughts on How to Treat Others
by Shuxun Ye
Religions 2022, 13(10), 914; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13100914 - 29 Sep 2022
Viewed by 1319
Abstract
How to treat others is a key topic in Laozi’s thought. Laozi not only advocates “non-action” (wuwei 無爲), or not interfering with others, but also hopes that actors will take some positive responsibilities for others. He expects that actors can implement the [...] Read more.
How to treat others is a key topic in Laozi’s thought. Laozi not only advocates “non-action” (wuwei 無爲), or not interfering with others, but also hopes that actors will take some positive responsibilities for others. He expects that actors can implement the instructions of Dao 道 and fulfill the role of “assisting others to achieve their self-so-ness but not daring to interfere” (chapter 64). He believes that “one person will become more abundant when he contributes to others” (chapter 81); that is to say, actors and others are always in the process of mutual attainment. What he claims can be summarized by the dual assertion “to do V1, but not to do V2” (V means a type of action), containing two kinds of responsibilities: the situations represented by “not to do V2” are concrete manifestations of “non-action,” which refers to the negative responsibility of non-interference with others, while the situations signified by “to do V1” are essentially a kind of action of assisting others, which is a positive responsibility for others. There is a subtle cooperative relationship between “assistance” and “non-action.” In a nutshell, what Laozi expects is a responsibility to support others to actualize their authentic self on the premise of earnestly respecting the spontaneity and autonomy of others. When the focus on “non-action” is broken through, we can grasp Laozi’s thinking deeply and expand our understanding of his thought. Full article
13 pages, 872 KiB  
Article
The Shifting Depictions of Xiàng in German Translations of the Dao De Jing: An Analysis from the Perspective of Conceptual Metaphor Field Theory
by Yubo Zhu and Weihan Song
Religions 2022, 13(9), 827; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090827 - 05 Sep 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1345
Abstract
Like the Bible, the Dào Dé Jīng is one of the most translated classics with worldwide influence, and its translation sets a good example in cross-cultural communication. Among the Dào Dé Jīng’s translations, the number of German versions is second only to [...] Read more.
Like the Bible, the Dào Dé Jīng is one of the most translated classics with worldwide influence, and its translation sets a good example in cross-cultural communication. Among the Dào Dé Jīng’s translations, the number of German versions is second only to the English ones. Since its introduction to the German regions, the Dào Dé Jīng has been popular among German-speaking scholars and readers, casting profound and far-reaching influences in various fields. Based on the theory of the conceptual metaphor field, the article explores the relationship between Dào 道 (way or Dao) and Xiàng 象 (Symbolic Imagery, images) in the Dào Dé Jīng and builds the mapping from Xiàng to Dào. In the Dào Dé Jīng, Laozi uses images (Xiàng 象) as collective concepts to illustrate his Dào and make his idea better understood. Thus, this article focuses on the translation of different key images (Xiàng) in six representative German translations of the Dào Dé Jīng and summarizes three main translation techniques used in translating Xiàng: shifting, conversion, and concealment. After balancing the cultural differences and translation requirements, the German translators take these techniques to translate Xiàng and make relevant concepts more understandable and acceptable for German readers, which facilitates the spread of the Dào Dé Jīng in the German regions. Inspired by the German translation of Xiàng, contemporary translators shall balance the cultural differences between the source language and target language, choose the appropriate translation strategies and techniques in translating ancient Chinese classics and make their translation a bridge between different civilizations. Full article
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16 pages, 385 KiB  
Article
Interpretive Trends and the Conceptual Construction of the Daodejing’s Dao in Russian Sinology: A Historical Overview
by Hongyan Zhang and Jing Luo
Religions 2022, 13(9), 825; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090825 - 05 Sep 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1340
Abstract
“Dao” is not only a core concept in the Daodejing, but is also an important keyword in Chinese classical philosophy. It encompasses the origin of all things in the universe, the laws of nature, and the laws of dealing with the world. [...] Read more.
“Dao” is not only a core concept in the Daodejing, but is also an important keyword in Chinese classical philosophy. It encompasses the origin of all things in the universe, the laws of nature, and the laws of dealing with the world. A historical review of Russian sinologists’ interpretation and conceptualization of “Dao” reveals the differences in philosophical understanding and translation strategies of those sinologists, and reflects the translation loss and compensation of Chinese classical philosophical keywords in the process of foreign dissemination. During the Imperial Russian Period, researchers regarded “Dao” as the revitalization of religious theology. During the Soviet Period, the aim of the Soviet researchers was to find the struggle between materialism and idealism in “Dao”. In the Post-Soviet Period, researchers gradually threw off the shackles of ideology, and began to conduct more diversified and multi-level research on “Dao” and the Daodejing. This article aims to discuss the research and translation of the Daodejing in Russia, paying particular attention to the dissemination and reception of “Dao” in Russia. It also endeavors to explore the interpretive trends of “Dao” in Russia and highlight the dissemination and understanding of Laozi thought in Russia. Full article
16 pages, 714 KiB  
Article
Avoiding the Trap of Parallelism: Interlocking Parallel Style in the Interpretation of Laozi 29
by Andrej Fech
Religions 2022, 13(9), 788; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13090788 - 27 Aug 2022
Viewed by 1339
Abstract
The present paper deals with a specific argumentative feature found in the Laozi, namely, “interlocking parallel style” or IPS. It shows how knowledge of this structure can be helpful for the understanding and interpretation of the text. At the same time, the [...] Read more.
The present paper deals with a specific argumentative feature found in the Laozi, namely, “interlocking parallel style” or IPS. It shows how knowledge of this structure can be helpful for the understanding and interpretation of the text. At the same time, the paper demonstrates that, in some cases, rigorously imposing IPS can be counterproductive. To this end, the paper analyses Laozi 29, the commentary to it penned by Wang Bi, as well as a close parallel in the fifth chapter of the Wenzi. Full article
11 pages, 463 KiB  
Article
Qian Xuexi and William Empson’s Discussion of Arthur Waley’s English Translation of the Daodejing
by Dadui Yao
Religions 2022, 13(8), 751; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080751 - 17 Aug 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1311
Abstract
Between June and August 1947, Qian Xuexi and William Empson exchanged 12 letters on the issue of Arthur Waley’s misinterpretation of the Daodejing. Through a thorough analysis of these new-found letters and Qian’s English translation of the Daodejing, I intended to [...] Read more.
Between June and August 1947, Qian Xuexi and William Empson exchanged 12 letters on the issue of Arthur Waley’s misinterpretation of the Daodejing. Through a thorough analysis of these new-found letters and Qian’s English translation of the Daodejing, I intended to show that the central arguments between Qian and Empson are around two major problems concerning Waley’s translation: Waley’s ideas of the Daodejing being part of the “Yoga-Quietism” tradition that Waley himself tried to invent, and Waley’s idea of opposing Daoism to Legalism. Qian firmly rejected that the ideas in the Daodejing were the same as some Western ideas. Neither did he accept that the ideas of the Daodejing were under the influence of either Western culture or Indian religious philosophy. Instead, Qian explained that the so-called “Yoga-Quietism” did not derive from China. Therefore, in his view, Waley’s approach was fundamentally problematic. Qian’s view eventually convinced Empson, who initially opposed Qian’s stance. Qian and Empson’s letters and Qian’s English translation of the Daodejing, though never published, indicate the value of Qian’s ideas and the meaning of their intellectual interaction. Full article
13 pages, 643 KiB  
Article
Challenge and Revolution: An Analysis of Stanislas Julien’s Translation of the Daodejing
by Can Zhang and Pan Xie
Religions 2022, 13(8), 724; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080724 - 10 Aug 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1976
Abstract
Retranslation constitutes a special case. as it involves a double creation of values that are determined not only by the ones inscribed in the source text but also by the ones inscribed in the previous translations. Therefore, retranslations initiate dialogues with and even [...] Read more.
Retranslation constitutes a special case. as it involves a double creation of values that are determined not only by the ones inscribed in the source text but also by the ones inscribed in the previous translations. Therefore, retranslations initiate dialogues with and even challenges to the previous versions. This paper, rooted in the concept of retranslation, focuses on the first complete published translation of the Daodejing in Europe, the 1842 Lao Tseu Tao Te King: Le Livre de la Voie et de la Vertu, by Stanislas Julien and investigates the revolutionary way Julien interpreted this ancient Chinese classic. Through an analysis of the paratexts and extratexts related to this French version and previous translations, this paper finds that Julien challenged the Christianized and Westernized interpretations of the Daodejing by the European missionaries and sinologists before him and proposed a new system of interpretation: to interpret the Daodejing from the perspective of Laozi and based on the Daoist classics and commentaries. Julien’s translation and interpretations have demonstrated his respect for heterogeneous cultures by acknowledging cultural differences, and he strengthened the authority of his translation by challenging the ideas in previous translations, which makes the retranslation an indispensable reference for the study of Laozi and Daoism. Full article
15 pages, 1755 KiB  
Article
What Is Global Laozegetics?: Origins, Contents, and Significance
by Misha Tadd
Religions 2022, 13(7), 651; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070651 - 14 Jul 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2471
Abstract
Mainstream scholarship on the Laozi or Daodejing generally focuses on the “original” text and its “original” meaning. However, the Chinese study of Laoxue 老學 (translated here with the author’s neologism “Laozegetics”) offers a valuable alternative, as it shifts focus to the hermeneutical and [...] Read more.
Mainstream scholarship on the Laozi or Daodejing generally focuses on the “original” text and its “original” meaning. However, the Chinese study of Laoxue 老學 (translated here with the author’s neologism “Laozegetics”) offers a valuable alternative, as it shifts focus to the hermeneutical and historical value of the 2185 Chinese, 430 Japanese, and 91 Korean relevant interpretations and commentaries on the classic. The inclusive perspective of Laozegetics has further inspired the author’s creation of the term “Global Laozegetics.” This even broader topic assumes both Laozi commentaries and translations (all 2051 in 97 languages) belong within a single field of research. To better introduce the study of Global Laozegetics to an English-language readership, this article will explore the history of the term Laoxue, review contemporary related research, and present the content and significance of applying the notion of Laozegetics to the globalized Laozi. Full article
15 pages, 1014 KiB  
Article
The Translingual Ziran of Laozi Chapter 25: Global Laozegetics and Meaning Unbound by Language
by Misha Tadd
Religions 2022, 13(7), 596; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070596 - 27 Jun 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2045
Abstract
Many scholars view translations of the Chinese classics as inevitably lacking fidelity to the “original,” asserting language difference as a fundamental impediment to cross-cultural understanding. The present study disputes this viewpoint by employing the perspective of Global Laozegetics. This notion affirms a fundamental [...] Read more.
Many scholars view translations of the Chinese classics as inevitably lacking fidelity to the “original,” asserting language difference as a fundamental impediment to cross-cultural understanding. The present study disputes this viewpoint by employing the perspective of Global Laozegetics. This notion affirms a fundamental continuity between the native Laozi or Daodejing commentarial tradition and its corresponding foreign translation tradition. Specifically, I will investigate a range of interpretations of the term ziran found in Laozi Chapter 25, including 16 traditional and modern Chinese readings and 67 translations in 26 languages. My broad investigation of this narrow topic will reveal a rich historical development of interpretation and translation, highlight the philosophical ramifications of different exegetical choices, deepen our understanding of the core Daoist concept ziran, and assist in confirming the basic premise of Global Laozegetics that language, even the original language of Chinese, is secondary to interpretive strategy when engaging with classical works. Full article
20 pages, 757 KiB  
Article
Rethinking Guo Xiang’s Concept of “Nothing” in the Perspective of His Reception of Laozi and Zhuangzi
by Yuhan Gao
Religions 2022, 13(7), 593; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070593 - 25 Jun 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2155
Abstract
Since Feng Youlan and Tang Yongtong, scholars have mostly understood Guo Xiang’s “supreme nothing” (至無, zhi wu) as “non-existence”, arguing that by denying Dao as the origin of the universe, the philosophical tradition of Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Wang Bi, he [...] Read more.
Since Feng Youlan and Tang Yongtong, scholars have mostly understood Guo Xiang’s “supreme nothing” (至無, zhi wu) as “non-existence”, arguing that by denying Dao as the origin of the universe, the philosophical tradition of Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Wang Bi, he strives to prove “self-generation” (自生, zi sheng) of all things. This way of interpretation not only leads to various dilemmas from the perspective of intellectual history, but also diverges from Guo Xiang’s own account of Dao. The purpose of this paper is to argue that Guo Xiang, instead of dismissing it, solidifies the opinion of Laozi and Zhuangzi on the transcendence of Dao through the concept of “supreme nothing”, and that the self-generation of all things is the logical endpoint of this reinforcement. The seemingly opposite viewpoints of transcendence and immanence, “Dao generates all things” and “All things are self-generated”, merge with each other in the context of the proposition “Dao follows nature” (道法自然, dao fa zi ran) in Laozi. Full article
12 pages, 540 KiB  
Article
The Hierarchy of Authorship in the Hermeneutics of the Daodejing
by Daniel Sarafinas
Religions 2022, 13(5), 433; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050433 - 12 May 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1525
Abstract
The question of the authorship of the Daodejing, otherwise known as the Laozi, is a hotly contested debate, and one’s stance on the existence and role of the author can have potential implications for one’s interpretation of the text. This paper [...] Read more.
The question of the authorship of the Daodejing, otherwise known as the Laozi, is a hotly contested debate, and one’s stance on the existence and role of the author can have potential implications for one’s interpretation of the text. This paper explores how notions of authorship of a text influence, often unconsciously, a reader’s interpretation such that the possible meaning generated within that text becomes limited, reduced, or terminated. Three hermeneutic frameworks, Authorial intentionalism, reader-oriented readings, and intention of the text, are problematized, revealing both how they contribute to the production of meaning, but more importantly how a lack of critical awareness of one’s own hermeneutic stance regarding authorship might terminate potential significance. These hermeneutic frameworks are applied to the work of contemporary scholars and translators of the Laozi in order to assess how implicit notions of authorship contribute to strengths and weaknesses in interpretations of the Laozi as it regards the production of meaning and significance. Being critical in nature, this paper is meant only to reveal how the reader’s unreflexive engagement with their attitude toward authorship can lead to problematic results in interpretation and translation of any work in general and the Laozi in particular. Full article
15 pages, 424 KiB  
Article
Wang Bi’s “Confucian” Laozi: Commensurable Ethical Understandings in “Daoist” and “Confucian” Thinking
by Paul Joseph D’Ambrosio
Religions 2022, 13(5), 417; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13050417 - 05 May 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2046
Abstract
Wang Bi’s work is often used as evidence for “Confucian” interpretations and translations of the Laozi. Those who argue that the explicit rejections of Confucian values in chapters 5, 18, 19, and 38 should actually be read as admonishing hollow imitation and [...] Read more.
Wang Bi’s work is often used as evidence for “Confucian” interpretations and translations of the Laozi. Those who argue that the explicit rejections of Confucian values in chapters 5, 18, 19, and 38 should actually be read as admonishing hollow imitation and the mere appearance of Confucian morality often cite Wang Bi. Additionally, this great philosopher is normally taken as a mere commentator who simply sought to synthesize Confucian and Daoist ideas. In this paper, I will argue that Wang’s project is, in fact, far more complex and nuanced. He develops his own philosophical system, which appreciates some underlying commensurability between the Laozi and Analects. Describing him as promoting a “Confucian” Laozi is inaccurate as he ultimately leans more heavily on “Daoist” concepts, such as “self-so” and “non-action.” In short, Wang Bi develops a unique philosophical system grounded heavily in various classics, and while his commentary on the Laozi is taken as “Confucian,” it is, in fact, far more complex. Full article
15 pages, 1042 KiB  
Article
Structure and Meaning in the Interpretation of the Laozi: Cheng Xuanying’s Hermeneutic Toolkit and His Interpretation of Dao as a Compassionate Savior
by Friederike Assandri
Religions 2022, 13(4), 347; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13040347 - 12 Apr 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2125
Abstract
Cheng Xuanying’s Expository Commentary to the Daode jing presents the Laozi as the origin of Daoism—a Daoism which, by his time in the seventh century, included many beliefs and concepts coopted from Buddhism. The commentary is representative of chongxuan xue (Twofold Mystery philosophy), [...] Read more.
Cheng Xuanying’s Expository Commentary to the Daode jing presents the Laozi as the origin of Daoism—a Daoism which, by his time in the seventh century, included many beliefs and concepts coopted from Buddhism. The commentary is representative of chongxuan xue (Twofold Mystery philosophy), which is characterized by the integration of Buddhist concepts and methods into the interpretation of the Laozi. Taking the integration of the Buddhist concept of the bodhisattva as universal savior of limitless compassion, this paper investigates the “why” and “how” of this cooption. The question of why Cheng Xuanying wanted to read the Daode jing as a testimony to Laozi and Dao being a compassionate, universal savior is addressed with a contextualization of the commentary in its time and location: early Tang Chang’an. Next, the paper discusses, in detail, the hermeneutic tools Cheng Xuanying used to achieve his reading. Cheng Xuanying integrated his commentary and the original text of the Laozi in a complex structure, combining the kepan technique, interlinear interpretation, and added structuring comments, in addition to what might be termed “strategic citations”. This paper analyzes how he worked with these means to construct arguments and specific readings of the Laozi. Full article
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17 pages, 366 KiB  
Article
The Original Text of the Daodejing: Disentangling Versions and Recensions
by Thomas Michael
Religions 2022, 13(4), 325; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13040325 - 06 Apr 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2423
Abstract
The Daodejing is counted among the greatest works of world philosophy and literature, but it is a short work that is exceedingly difficult to comprehend. Among several reasons for this is that no one knows the actual words and form of its original [...] Read more.
The Daodejing is counted among the greatest works of world philosophy and literature, but it is a short work that is exceedingly difficult to comprehend. Among several reasons for this is that no one knows the actual words and form of its original text. Assessing the differences between any two editions of it is a simple task when they are laid next to each other, but it is not possible to lay any edition of the Daodejing next to its original text to assess their differences, because no one has ever seen the original text of the Daodejing, and no one knows its actual words and form. Approaching the original text is only made possible through its representations and reflections in later editions that we do possess, some of them transmitted and others excavated. Any possible access to the original text, to any degree whatsoever, is dependent on how these later editions are managed. Sinology manages them with the recension category whereas Laozi Studies manages them with the version category. This study examines, disentangles, and assesses the different ways that these two categories are used with the intended effect of approaching the original text of the Daodejing. Full article
14 pages, 699 KiB  
Article
Rhetorical Questions in the Daodejing: Argument Construction, Dialogical Insertion, and Sentimental Expression
by Ai Yuan
Religions 2022, 13(3), 252; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13030252 - 16 Mar 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2648
Abstract
This paper provides a typology of rhetorical questions in the Daodejing and examines their functions on rhetorical effects and argumentative construction. This paper argues against a reading of rhetorical questions that translates them directly into propositional statements. Instead, the fact that rhetorical questions [...] Read more.
This paper provides a typology of rhetorical questions in the Daodejing and examines their functions on rhetorical effects and argumentative construction. This paper argues against a reading of rhetorical questions that translates them directly into propositional statements. Instead, the fact that rhetorical questions appear in one version of the text but not in others shows us the unique subtleties of meaning that rhetorical questions deliver. An awareness of the performative and dialogical functions elicited through rhetorical questions deepens our understanding of the persuasive power of the Daodejing. Furthermore, emotional sentiments within the text can be detected through the use of rhetorical questions which function to impress the readers/listeners while urging a point. A study of rhetorical questions in the Daodejing reveals textual differences across versions that transcend their wording, all the while motivating a new understanding of rhetorical questions based on classical Chinese texts enriches current definitions proposed in the field at large. Full article
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