This page of the website is the gateway to Peter B. Roth’s ongoing project to better understand the Dao De Jing (also spelled “Tao Te Ching”), the famed writings of Laozi (Lao-Tzu). Peter has studied the 81 verses of this classic and was inspired to translate them himself in order to see what wisdom could be gleaned in the process.
Peter’s main aid in this endeavor has been a wonderful book by Jonathan Star: Tao Te Ching—The Definitive Edition. This book contains a liberal interpretation of the 81 verses, commentary, and a dictionary for each Chinese character seen in Laozi’s original work. To help give Peter some perspective in the translation of each verse, he has also referred to Chao-Hsiu Chen’s Tao Te Ching Cards, a deck of 81 cards that gives a more literal English translation of each verse.
After initially familiarizing himself with each of the 81 verses, Peter began his first round of translations with the intent of being as literal as possible without much concern for grammar. After translating each verse in this manner, he began his second round of translations, in which he attempted to polish the grammar and create a verse that had an underlying unifying theme. Peter chose to assume that each verse was expressing a particular point in order to increase the chances that he would understand the wisdom that the words were intending to convey. This same assumption will help Peter focus his commentaries when he publishes them.
Peter’s intention is to have at least one more round of translations at some point in the future in order to further refine his work. He welcomes reader feedback with what is currently published, for such feedback will have an impact on the next round of translations.
For those interested in reading more about Daoism beyond the works already referenced, Peter recommends reading Laurence Boldt’s book, The Tao of Abundance, which as the name suggests, deals with the subject of “abundance” from a Daoist perspective.
Use the buttons below to view Peter’s translation and commentary of any of the Dao De Jing’s 81 verses.