Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.

The Dao De Jing

Dao De Jing brings together the basic and most important points of ancient Chinese wisdom. It was designed to promote a stable social order at a time of great political and social unrest, primarily because warlords were competing with one another. The basic message of the book is that the natural order, the boundlessness of the universe, is more stable and enduring than any political order. Human learning, in contrast to rest and meditation, is an uncertain path to salvation and enlightenment.

604 – 531 BCE

The Dao De Jing (also known as Tao Te Ching) is a religious text of Daoism (Taoism, pronounced DOW-ism). The text is short, made up of 81 brief chapters. Its shortness, however, does not reflect its importance in the history of Chinese philosophy. Philosophy is a branch of study that looks for a general understanding of values and reality. Traditionally, the Dao De Jing was thought to have been written by the Chinese sage, or wise man, Laozi (also spelled Lao-tzu; 604–531 bce). Laozi, a name that means “Old Master,” is believed to have been a record keeper and librarian in the court of the Zhou Dynasty (also called the Chou Dynasty, c. 1100–256 bce). The details of the authorship of the Dao De Jing, however, are still questioned. Little is known, for example, about the life of Laozi, primarily because no records about him survive from that time. The earliest mentions of him date to about 400 bce, and it was not until about 100 bce that a biography of him was written. Some scholars believe that the author of the Dao De Jing may, in fact, have been several men who composed the book over the years.

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