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Decoding Dao: Reading the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching) and the Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu)

ISBN: 978-1-118-46567-7
272 pages
December 2013, Wiley-Blackwell
Decoding Dao: Reading the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching) and the Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu) (1118465679) cover image


Written by a leading authority on Chinese philosophy, Decoding Dao uniquely focuses on the core texts in Daoist philosophy, providing readers with a user-friendly introduction that unravels the complexities of these seminal volumes.

  • Offers a detailed introduction to the core texts in Daoist philosophy, the Dao De Jing and the Zhuangzi, two of the most widely read – and most challenging – texts in China’s long literary history
  • Covers the three main ways the texts can be read: as religious, mystical, and philosophical works
  • Explores their historical context, origins, authorship, and the reasons these seminal texts came into being, along with the key terms and approaches they take
  • Examines the core philosophical arguments made in the texts, as well as the many ways in which they have been interpreted, both in China itself and in the West
  • Provides readers with an unrivalled insight into the multifaceted philosophy of Daoism – and the principles underlying much of Chinese culture – informed by the very latest academic scholarship
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Table of Contents

Book Notes x

Chronology xi

Section One: The Context

Chapter One The Social and Political Background— Confucianism—Mozi and Mohism (Moe-ds) and (Moe-ism)—Yang Zhu and Shen Dao (Ya-ahng, Jew)— Language and Logicians—Trends During the Warring States Era—Cultural Heroes and Concepts—Summary 3

Section Two: Authors and Texts

Chapter Two The Dao De Jing—Why Does the Dao De Jing/Tao Te Ching/Laozi/Lao Tzu Have So Many Names?— Dao De Jing, The Author—Dao De Jing, the Text—The Dao De Jing, the Style of the Text—The Dao De Jing in the West— The Zhuangzi, the Author—The Zhuangzi, the Text—The
Zhuangzi, the Style of the Text—The Zhuangzi in the West—Issues in Translation—Summary

Chapter Three The Dao? A Dao? Dao? daos? dao?—Images: 49
Water, Women, Baby, Root, and Others—What Is the Problem?—Conventional Values: Pairs of Opposites— Being and Non-Being—Summary

Chapter Four Illogical Statements?—Decoding—Not Acting, Not Knowing, Not Desiring—Ziran, Self-So, Natural, Spontaneous—Language—Morality—Summary 70

Chapter Five War—Government, Society, and the Sage- Ruler—The Golden Age—Advice for Would-Be Sages—Losing dao—Summary 90

Chapter Six What Is the Problem?—Anti-Confucians— Anti-Mohists—Being Useless—Point of View—This and That—Knowing How—Knowing What—Summary 111

Chapter Seven Language: Convention and Culture—This/ That, True/False—Language Is OK, Up to a Point— How to Use Language—Clarity—Death— Transformation—Survival of Consciousness and an Afterlife—Immortality—Dao—Summary 132

Chapter Eight Public Life—The Golden Age—What Should We Do?—Mirror—Forgetting—Mind/Heart Fasting—Perfected People—The Relationship of the Dao De Jing and the Zhuangzi—Summary 156

Section Three: Developing Dao

Chapter Nine The School of Zhuangzi and Followers of the Dao De Jing—The Han Feizi—The Guanzi—Huang- Lao—The Huainanzi—The Liezi—The Han Dynasty and Beyond—Summary

Chapter Ten Organized Daoism—The Search for Immortality—Organized Groups—The Cult of Laozi— Modern Organized Daoism—The Mystical Reading— The Philosophical Reading—Modern Daoism—Dao Lite—A Lao-Zhuang Daoist—What Is Daoism and Other Problems 202

Glossary of Technical Terms 232

Glossary of Pronunciation 235

Further Reading 237

Bibliography 239

Index 252

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Author Information

Lee Dian Rainey is Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. She has taught Chinese philosophy for more than twenty years and has published widely in this area. Her publications include Confucius and Confucianism: The Essentials (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).
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Decoding Dao does an amazing job of making classical Daoist philosophy accessible to undergraduates today. Many years of experience teaching this subject and listening carefully to students' questions have resulted in a book which finally explains Daoism in a way that works for them and not just for experts. This is a great achievement pedagogically and an enormous help for any class teaching about Daoism and Chinese philosophy.” 
James Miller, Professor of Chinese Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada

This wonderful introduction provides historical context, keen analysis, and lively, accessible examples to help readers appreciate both surface meanings and the deeper significance of two essential—and beloved—texts of Chinese religion. Rainey’s great strength is to take very complex material and present it in an accurate, but friendly and accessible way.  This is an excellent companion book and textbook for any student—or general reader—anyone working his or her way through the Laozi or Zhuangzi.
Jennifer Oldstone-Moore, Wittenberg University

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