Talk:Lao Tse

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 Definition (Also Laozi, Lao-tzu; 6th century BCE?) Chinese philosopher, traditionally said to be the author of the Daodejing (Tao Te Ching), the basic text of Daoism. [d] [e]
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  • What really is the most common spelling of this name in English? We should use that for the title. I'm not sure it is "Laozi."
  • "or perhaps even she" -- does anyone think that Lao Tse was, or even could have been, a woman? I'm skeptical.
  • "Various reports have him living somewhere between the 2nd and 6th century BC" -- we can't do better than that?
  • "Lao Zi is believed by some to have been a contemporary of Confucius (551-479 BC), and by others to be a teacher of Confucius." - Again, some sources here would be helpful. Saying "some believe X, others believe Y" does not help anyone to evaluate the merits of X and Y. To do that, we need to know who says X and Y, and why, and whether their opinions hold any weight among those who know about the subject.
  • "...but one popular account goes something like this..." There is no reason for what follows to be in bold and italics, right? Or even inset, or in quotation marks? That isn't actually a quotation, is it? If not, make it part of the text. (If anyone has ever actually said that.
  • "Some accounts of the story have Lao Tsu traveling to India upon his departure and becoming known as Buddha" -- something that interesting and dramatic needs more explanation and also a better source than some website.

--Larry Sanger 13:43, 18 January 2008 (CST)

Larry: I started addressing some of your concerns without even having read this post. I will continue to clean this up. Blessings... --Michael J. Formica 14:30, 18 January 2008 (CST)


Larry: The spelling of Laozi was taken directly from Philosophy, although I'm not sure who added it to that particular article.

Michael: The deleted Buddha reference can stay "excised" if you like, however "some website" is not the only place I have seen it mentioned. I don't personally believe it either, I just thought it was worth mentioning that some folks (usually Taoists) sometimes make this claim.

All: I will of course be happy to abide by the standard format for quotations and paraphrasing, I just don't know what they are. Perhaps I'll spend some time to read about them soon. Since I ripped this directly from my "Tao Te Ching" article, which was one of my first, I seem to recall the formatting was pretty much seat-of-the-pants style.

I do have to say that I'm dissapointed that there seems to be more interest in the spelling of the guy's name than the teaching.

Ch 18 of the Tao Te Ching ...knowledge and wisdom are born along with hypocrisy.... -Translation by Merel

Ch 65 The ancient Masters didn’t try to educate the people, but kindly taught them to not know. When they think that they know the answers, people are difficult to guide. When they know that they don’t know, people can find their own way. -Mitchell

Also, I noticed we have yet to begin an entry for respect. Perhaps someone will be able to assist with that one as well.--David Yamakuchi 16:52, 18 January 2008 (CST)

David: I think your additions and corrections are great. With regards the spelling, I am taking my cue from my teachers' notes...he's a Pure Heaven Taoist priest, but he is also a Han educated by Mandarins and speaks/writes about 12 dialects...go know. It would be an interesting excercise to ferret out which spelling comes from's clear we are wrestling with Han, Mandarin, Wade-Giles...blah, blah, blah...
I deleted the Buddha reference because I could find no point of reference for it. Gautama Siddhartha was a historical figure whose lineage is documentable. Although the idea that Lao Tse traveled to India and became the Buddha is a reasonable mythos, I thought it too easily discredited to be put out there as a statement of fact. Maybe we can spin it?
As for your comment on respect, well, and I quote: "If you don't want your writing to be edited mercilessly and redistributed at will, then don't submit it here." There was no disrepect intended. You get a bunch smart folks in a room and we are all going to fight for the Alpha spot. There was no disrepsect intended. Rest easy, knowing that your efforts are appreciated, and your presence most welcome. Blessings... --Michael J. Formica 19:53, 18 January 2008 (CST)

Michael: Thanks for _your_ additions and corrections as well. It's clear that your knowledge and credentials on the subject are to be respected ;-) And since I find myself on the subject again, I will (hopefully) conclude the matter with a quote from my favorite translation:

Ch 48 In the pursuit of knowledge, every day something is added. In the practice of the Tao, every day something is dropped... -Mitchell

Consider it dropped.--David Yamakuchi 20:19, 18 January 2008 (CST)

Calls for citations...

David: Just a heads up. I removed your citation needed template from the Lao Tse article. Larry is vehemently against ever using that or the fact template that you see at Wikipedia. This is based partly on the presumption that since we are vetted experts in our various fields, we know what we're talking about. I created one early on and it was summarily deleted within minutes, with a reprimand from several other editors...that's why you couldn't find it here.

As for that reference, it'll show up. I am compulsive about referencing, and you will rarely see me write something for which I cannot find some source. Blessings... --Michael J. Formica 06:38, 19 January 2008 (CST)

Michael: I did see the lack of a citation needed here, and I've never actually used one before _but_, the statement you made that Lao Tse was born in 604 B.C. is not really verifiable. While I will agree that you'll be able to find some references that says this is true, I will be able to find just as many references that say this is not. If you read the Stanford reference (and you might want to pack a lunnch for that BTW), you will find that there are more than one account of things.

Now, in terms of being vetted experts, and with all due respect to Mr. Sanger, my original entry was poo-poohed (sp?) for being a little wishy-washy in terms of the dates. I believe I said something like 600-200B.C., to which Larry responded "can't we do better?" The simple answer as I see it is NO! If we can't even be sure that the person existed, and there are conflicting accounts of the "real" history, my opinion is that is encumbent upon us as "experts" to present all sides of the story...which is at this point uncertain.

You sir, have stated as a fact something that was originally in the article as debated, _and_ removed my data that represents years of research on the subject. I am dissapointed. I will also point out that even though the data was immediately questioned by the Editor-In-Chief himself, it was not removed. We can't just go deleting things we don't like in articles. Consider the Holocaust entry, eh? The Talk page is used for that, and when that fails the Constables, I'm told, will be more than happy to assist.

That said, I am absolutely _not_ an expert on anything...except maybe my own experiences which I am attempting to selectively share so that we can all benefit from them. But what I can say with ceretainty is that (and since I believe _you_ were the one that added this article to the Religion workgroup, I'm sure you can understand) people can get kinda funny when you start misrepresenting their religion. Lao Tse is revered by many, and dismissed by many others. It's important that we try to consider everyone's opinion here, and not just the opinion that was taught at one particular school.--David Yamakuchi 11:44, 19 January 2008 (CST)

"Facts" about Lao Tzu

All: Since it appears that perhaps we are perhaps not all going to be in agreement on Lao Tse and what should be included in the article, I will now share some other "facts" that I have gathered from the Stanford website, so that we can hopefully somehow reach a compromise here. While I will be hesitant to declare their authors experts on historical Chinese Philosophy (perhaps we should seek an English-speaking instructor from say, Beijing University for example, for this), at least they are an entity that most English-speaking folks have heard of and the school is widely respected. Also, they support my point of view on the matter :-)

The quoted text below is all from [1] (Note, Stanford uses a different spelling than we have...whatever. Can we please not have to declare one spelling "correct". If you want the _true_ correct spelling of the name, I contend you will need to download a different set of fonts.

Also note that as anyone who studies anything written in an Asian language will find immediately, translations are not as straightforward as in western languages, say Latin or French for instance. Where quotes appear in the article it will be necessary to pick one translation over another and use it as a direct quotation even though another translation might be equally as valid.

The Shiji (Records of the Historian) by the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.-220 C.E.) court historian Sima Qian (ca. 145-86 B.C.E.) offers a “biography” of Laozi. Its reliability has been questioned, but it serves as a common point of departure for scholarly debate.

-Even in the earliest documents, we are not certain of the accuracy

Laozi was a native of Chu, according to the Shiji

-Not sure if Chu is Loyang or Honan, but this is the first time I have seen this. Previously, I had seen Chou specified. Are these the same? We could probably use more than one credible source here, and it seems likely that we could be dealing with "old" vs. "new" names.

In an influential essay, A. C. Graham (1986) argues that the story of Laozi reflects a conflation of different legends. The earliest strand revolved around the meeting of Confucius with Lao Dan and was current by the fourth century B.C.E.

Again the actual existence of the person is questioned. It will probably be viewed as a mistake, at least by some, to state anything about his existence as a "fact". I am aware of the Wikipedia disdain for "weasel words", but we may need quite a few of them for this article.

According to Fung Yu-lan, Sima Qian had “confused” the legendary Lao Dan with Li Er, who flourished during the “Warring States” period (480-221 B.C.E.) and was the “real” founder of the Daoist school (1983, 171).

-So, we are back to We just don't know for sure He could have lived anywhere from the 6th to the 3rd century B.C. (or B.C.E. if you prefer) if he (or she) even existed.

It's sad that the "true" story has been lost but, "cest la vie" as they say. Remember, this is only _one source_. I can find others references that make even more dramatic claims for Lao Tsu, like his actually being the Buddha[2] for instance...go figure.--David Yamakuchi 13:20, 19 January 2008 (CST)

What we do at Citizendium -- to repeat: we're NOT Wikipedia

I am baffled that so many words have been expended over a relatively simple matter. David: we do NOT add Citation Needed or Fact Needed or Source Needed to the text of *any* of our articles. That is simply not done at CZ.

What we DO do is this: if we see a statement in an article that, to us, seems lacking in a source, or citation, or reference, or whatever, and we feel strongly enough that there *should* be one, we simply go to the Talk page of that particular item and start a new section called, say, "Do we need a citation about the Lao Tse's love of blueberry pie?" And then we spell out our concerns in the text below. Discussion, I'm sure, will follow, and eventually a resolution that is satisfying to all will be arrived at.

What could be easier? Hayford Peirce 00:07, 24 February 2010 (UTC)

Really? I read the Ormus discussion recently Hayford, and I don't really feel now like this discussion went as badly as you describe.--David Yamakuchi 07:43, 11 May 2010 (UTC)

Romanization of the name

There are two main systems of romanization of Chinese words: Wade-Giles and pinyin. In Wade-Giles the name is Lao-tzu; in pinyin it's Laozi. There's also a third system, the old "Postal" romanization that produced such place-name spellings as Peking (for [W-G] Pei-ching or [pinyin] Beijing). I'm not sure where "Lao Tse" comes from; possibly from some ad hoc system used by early Jesuit visitors to China but not used at all today.

The Wade-Giles system was the most commonly used romanization system in English (and many other western languages) until the late 20th century. It is used today mainly by older scholars who were initially trained in it (and, I think, to some extent in Taiwan). Pinyin was declared the official romanization system by the government of the People's Republic, and is the system used in most scholarship today (and should, therefore, in my opinion, be used by CZ as well; I hope the Editorial Council will address this issue and seek advice from qualified scholars). The Britannica held out for W-G for quite a while, but today even they use pinyin with a single mention of the W-G in the intro; they don't even give "Lao Tse" as an alternate spelling for Laozi. (Of course, articles should give both romanizations, as well as commonly-found odd ones, in the intro or definition, and as redirects.)

By the way, Wikipedia fails (surprise!) in its W-G romanization of this name; they claim it's "Laosi," which is wrong on two fronts; one, there is no such syllable as "si" in W-G; and two, the syllables should have a hyphen or perhaps a space between them, but not run together as they are in pinyin. Bruce M. Tindall 15:10, 26 October 2010 (UTC)

I think 'Lao Tse' is an anglicisation; if it's in common use in English materials, then it would be appropriate to use it. If not, 'Laozi' would be better as Wade-Giles is disappearing nowadays, except in especially Taiwanese names. I believe that even in Taiwan, pinyin is becoming more popular. By the way, there is a CZ:Romanization page that I started to try to hammer out standards, but it has been quiet for two years. John Stephenson 15:26, 26 October 2010 (UTC)
A check of the Library of Congress catalog (which uses the pinyin spelling for its subject and author headings) shows that no English book cataloged in the last 20 years contains the spelling "Lao Tse" in its title. Many use pinyin and many use Wade-Giles, but the most recent one to use "Lao Tse" (actually, in this case, "Laotse") is a 1983 reprint of Lin Yutang's 1948 translation. So I'd say that while "Lao Tse" may have been common at one time, it's not in current use, and so it should be mentioned, but the article title, and more importantly, the repeated use of the name in the article text, should use pinyin. Bruce M. Tindall 15:41, 26 October 2010 (UTC)
Agreed, with a long list of redirects from all the alternate names. John Stephenson 15:51, 26 October 2010 (UTC)