The Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing (traditional Chinese: 德 ; simplified Chinese: 德经; pinyin: Dàodéjīng), originally known as Laozi or Lao tzu (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ), is a Chinese classic text. Its name comes from the opening words of its two sections: dào "way," Chapter 1, and 德 dé "virtue," Chapter 38, plus jīng "classic." According to tradition, it was written around the 6th century BC by the sage Laozi (or Lao Tzu, "Old Master"), a record-keeper at the Zhou Dynasty court, by whose name the text is known in China. The text's true authorship and date of composition or compilation are still debated.
The Tao Te Ching is fundamental to the Taoist school (Dàojiā 家) of Chinese philosophy and strongly influenced other schools, such as Legalism and Neo-Confucianism. This ancient book is also central in Chinese religion, not only for Taoism (Dàojiāo 教) but Chinese Buddhism, which when first introduced into China was largely interpreted through the use of Taoist words and concepts. Many Chinese artists, including poets, painters, calligraphers, and even gardeners have used the Tao Te Ching as a source of inspiration. Its influence has also spread widely outside East Asia, aided by hundreds of translations into Western languages.
The received Tao Te Ching is a short text of around 5,000 Chinese characters in 81 brief chapters or sections (章). There is some evidence that the chapter divisions were later additions - for commentary, or as aids to rote memorization - and that the original text was more fluidly organized. It has two parts, the Tao Ching ( ; chaps. 1 37) and the Te Ching (德 ; chaps. 38 81), which may have been edited together into the received text, possibly reversed from an original "Te Tao Ching" (see Mawangdui texts below). The written style is laconic, has few grammatical particles, and encourages varied, even contradictory interpretations. The ideas are complex; the style poetic.
Generations of scholars have debated the historicity...