Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching is one of the most translated, most read, and most loved books in the world. Like the Bible and the Koran, this sacred text that contains the principles of Taoism is not only appreciated by those who practice the faith, but by all those who seek inspiration and guidance to navigate the difficult journey we call Life.
The Tao is considered to be one of the most profound texts ever written, and is a short script of around five thousand Chinese characters in 81 brief chapters or sections. It has two parts, “The principles of the way”, and "The principles of virtue", and it is known to many Tao followers as a gift for humankind. In its few pages it is possible to find an answer to every one of life’s problems, a solution to every situation, a balm to heal every wound: in the Tao Te Ching, the ancient Chinese culture is summarised and elevated, offering a complete guide to the world and the ability to direct one's actions with virtue and wisdom.
According to tradition, Confucius's reflections - which would later produce the basis of Confucianism - also originated from comparison with and discussion of Lao Tzu's thoughts: the two masters met in Luoyang, when Confucius went to the Imperial Library of the Zhou dynasty, where Laozi worked as a state archivist. Confucius was said to have learned more by listening to Laozi than by studying the books of the great Library.
The title Tao Te Ching is not easy to translate, and Tao, although it does not have an exact equivalent, has been called “the way”. “Te” can be translated as “integrity” or “virtue”, while “Ching” translates as “Book”. Therefore, an elegant English translation of Tao Te Ching could be “The Way of Integrity”.
Many sources say that Laozi left his work as a librarian to pursue a solitary life, according to others he left (the traditional image of him shows him riding a water buffalo towards the East while crossing the state of Qin) due to his disappointment in the decline of the Zhou Dynasty: China was engaged in bloody combat during that time; in fact those years in history have become known as “the years of the Warring States”. Taoism teaches us to respond to abuse and injustice with non-action, translated as Wu Wei. Evil always ends up coming back to those who commit it, and victory can only be achieved by stopping the cycle of evil, by not perpetuating it.