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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.
This text is the first chapter of the Daodejing / Tao Te Ching.
The text reads:
道可道、非常道。名可名、非常名。 無名天地之始 有名萬物之母。故常無欲以觀其妙、常有欲以觀其徼。此兩者同出而異名。同謂之玄。玄之又玄、衆妙之門。
This classical Chinese passage comes from the Mawangdui (馬王堆帛書) text.
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).
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.
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.
This 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.
This is the Mawangdui version of Daodejing chapter 81.
This text is the ninth chapter of the Daodejing / Tao Te Ching.
The text reads:
持而盈之、不如其已。揣而梲之、不可長保。 金玉滿堂、莫之能守。 富貴而驕、自遺其咎。 功遂身退、天之道。
This classical Chinese passage comes from the Mawangdui (馬王堆帛書) text.
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The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Title||Characters||Various forms of Romanized Chinese|
Tao Te Ching
|dào dé jīng|
dao4 de2 jing1
dao de jing
|tao te ching
Tao Te Ching - Chapter 1
|dào kě dào fēi cháng dào míng kě míng fēi cháng míng wú míng tiān dì zhī shǐ yǒu míng wàn wù zhī mǔ gù cháng wú yù yǐ guān qí miào cháng yǒu yù yǐ guān qí zhēng cǐ liǎng zhě tóng chū ér yì míng tóng wèi zhī xuán xuán zhī yòu xuán zhòng miào zhī mén|
dao4 ke3 dao4 fei1 chang2 dao4 ming2 ke3 ming2 fei1 chang2 ming2 wu2 ming2 tian1 di4 zhi1 shi3 you3 ming2 wan4 wu4 zhi1 mu3 gu4 chang2 wu2 yu4 yi3 guan1 qi2 miao4 chang2 you3 yu4 yi3 guan1 qi2 jiao3 ci3 liang3 zhe3 tong2 chu1 er2 yi4 ming2 tong2 wei4 zhi1 xuan2 xuan2 zhi1 you4 xuan2 zhong4 miao4 zhi1 men2
dao ke dao fei chang dao ming ke ming fei chang ming wu ming tian di zhi shi you ming wan wu zhi mu gu chang wu yu yi guan qi miao chang you yu yi guan qi jiao ci liang zhe tong chu er yi ming tong wei zhi xuan xuan zhi you xuan zhong miao zhi men
|tao k`o tao fei ch`ang tao ming k`o ming fei ch`ang ming wu ming t`ien ti chih shih yu ming wan wu chih mu ku ch`ang wu yü i kuan ch`i miao ch`ang yu yü i kuan ch`i chiao tz`u liang che t`ung ch`u erh i ming t`ung wei chih hsüan hsüan chih yu hsüan chung miao chih men
tao ko tao fei chang tao ming ko ming fei chang ming wu ming tien ti chih shih yu ming wan wu chih mu ku chang wu yü i kuan chi miao chang yu yü i kuan chi chiao tzu liang che tung chu erh i ming tung wei chih hsüan hsüan chih yu hsüan chung miao chih men
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|
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
Tao Te Ching - Excerpt
|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
Tao Te Ching - Chapter 81
Tao Te Ching - Chapter 9
|chí ér yíng zhī bù rú qí yǐ chuǎi ér zhī bù kě cháng bǎo jīn yù mǎn táng mò zhī néng shǒu fù guì ér jiāo zì yí qí jiù gōng suì shēn tuì tiān zhī dào|
chi2 er2 ying2 zhi1 bu4 ru2 qi2 yi3 chuai3 er2 棁 zhi1 bu4 ke3 chang2 bao3 jin1 yu4 man3 tang2 mo4 zhi1 neng2 shou3 fu4 gui4 er2 jiao1 zi4 yi2 qi2 jiu4 gong1 sui4 shen1 tui4 tian1 zhi1 dao4
chi er ying zhi bu ru qi yi chuai er 棁 zhi bu ke chang bao jin yu man tang mo zhi neng shou fu gui er jiao zi yi qi jiu gong sui shen tui tian zhi dao
|ch`ih erh ying chih pu ju ch`i i ch`uai erh chih pu k`o ch`ang pao chin yü man t`ang mo chih neng shou fu kuei erh chiao tzu i ch`i chiu kung sui shen t`ui t`ien chih tao
chih erh ying chih pu ju chi i chuai erh chih pu ko chang pao chin yü man tang mo chih neng shou fu kuei erh chiao tzu i chi chiu kung sui shen tui tien chih tao
|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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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.
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.
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.
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