Double translation of the Tao Te Ching?
August 20, 2005 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Help me identify a specific translation of the Tao Te Ching

I only encountered this book once, and made a few copies of some of my favorite passages, but didn't write down the title or author (who I believe was male). Google and A9 don't come up with anything from these quotes. The format of the book was either hardback or trade paperback, i.e. it was nice, but not oversized.

The most distinguishing feature of this book was that it included *two* versions of the Tao Te Ching: the first, a literal translation, as most of them are, the second, an expanded, authorial translation, not line-by-line but with a lot of poetic license, roughly twice or three times as long. Also, suprisingly, very good! Anyone know what copy I'm talking about? Thanks.
posted by wavejumper to Religion & Philosophy (8 answers total)
I don't know the answer to this, although I seem to remember encountering it. Have you read the Parent's Tao Te Ching? That is an outstanding version as well.
posted by mic stand at 12:13 PM on August 20, 2005

Was it this one?
posted by bricoleur at 12:26 PM on August 20, 2005

I own this version in hardcover. It is a small book, no bigger than a thin paperback, really. The hardback is grey.

There are two translations provided. One translation is simply the text.

The second translation contains Chinese glyphs from recovered texts on the left page, and prints the poetic translations from them both "put together" on the opposing page, translating Te Tao Ching from non-overlapping omissions in the recovered texts.
posted by Rothko at 12:42 PM on August 20, 2005

Can you post some of the passages that you did write down?

I own four translations, and my guess is that the one you encountered is Stephen Mitchell's . It consists of a translation done by him, which I think is fairly poetic in itself, as well as expanded notes (which are really meditations on the original verses, rather than translation notes) in the back.
posted by jgee at 2:19 PM on August 20, 2005

You could be thinking of "The Tao of the Tao Te Ching" as translated and commented upon by Michael LaFargue. Written pretty loosely translated on the left side of the page (my instructor prefered A.C. Graham, and I came to understand why...), with a poetic version on the right, with footnotes.
posted by salsamander at 3:02 PM on August 20, 2005

Here are reviews of various translations (with samples of the first few lines). Maybe one will sound familiar. Sartwell's review of the Henricks book: "It includes a character by character literal translation." Could that be the one you want? (edit: I note that this is the translation bricoleur and Rothko are suggesting).
posted by painquale at 10:42 PM on August 20, 2005

Response by poster: It may indeed be the Stephen Mitchell version jgee mentioned I'm looking for, though the font of that Amazon sample is not at all the same. I'll have to look at more Stephen Mitchell versions, but I have a Tao Journal by him and don't think so (in fact I've looked through every browsable copy on Amazon and it's none of them, nor is any of the text available on any indexed HTML page).

The format of this particular unknown book is: Tao Te Ching (80 pages), then Extended Poetic Version (~160 pages). Or, the order of the two could be reversed. The Extended Poetic version doesn't read at all like any of these Tao Te Ching samples. It's an entirely different style, not tight at all, just touching off on the corresponding Tao Te Ching verses. And it's really good!

The book's title does not have the word Tao in it, even, it's something about running water, etc., something to that effect. Well, thanks for your help, sorry I couldn't offer any of the actual text to jog your memories. I'm an idiot and left on my extended travels without the two pages I do have. Let me know if you come up with anything, there's a Tao out there for all of us.
posted by wavejumper at 8:33 AM on August 21, 2005

wavejumper, might it be Tao: The Watercourse Way by Alan Watts? Based on your description, I don't think it is but I thought I'd offer that book just in case you are conflating two different memories. I do it all the time, it drives me nuts.

If it isn't the one you are looking for, perhaps you will find it interesting anyways.
posted by jgee at 8:55 PM on August 21, 2005

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