Christian culture 基督教文化学刊

"Introduction" to The Texts of Taoism

Author: James Legge (1815-1897), famous sinologist, representative of the London Missionary Society in Malacca and Hong Kong, and first professor of Chinese at Oxford University



The “Introduction” to The Texts of Taoism by James Legge, which consists of 5 chapters, attempts to introduce a native religion of China to Western readers, i.e. Taoism. In the first chapter, Legge refers to an archaic Taoism dating from the period before Laozi. The second chapter analyzes the textual composition of the Tao Te Ching and The Writings of Zhuangzi, and presents Legge’s view on the authenticity of those two works. Having described the main characteristics of the system of Taoism, Chapter 3 is the longest and most important part of the book. Chapter 4 recounts some translated texts written by Sima Qian, a Chinese historian in Western Han Dynasty, concerning the lives of Laozi and Zhuangzi. The last chapter outlines Taoism as a religion after the Han Dynasty, the moral aspects of which are illustrated in relation to the given text - that is The Tractate of Actions and their Retribution - and Legge’s own view about Taoism is therein revealed.



James Legge; translation; Tao Te Ching; Lao-tzu; Taoism


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