Early Dao and Sage Dao
(Daojing and Shengjing )
A much earlier and significantly different version of my work,
from before I had seen the Guodian text: A Stratification of Laozi,
Journal of Chinese Religions, Vol. 23, No. 1, 1995, pp. 1-28.
Starting from Lau’s thesis that the Daodejing (DDJ) is an anthology of writings of diverse origin, together with the common hypothesis that the DDJ consists of a relatively more mystical layer and a relatively more political layer, in this article I divide DDJ into two parts, roughly equal in length, which I call Early Dao (the Daojing 道 經; the mystical and metaphysical part) and Sage Dao (the Shengjing 聖 經; the part speaking more of strategy and state service).
My first step was simply to sort whole chapters of the unedited Wang Bi (WB) DDJ text into two groups on the basis of explicit textual criteria. There was one exception: I divided chapters 05 and 28 on well recognized fault lines, leaving the parts of these chapters in which the Sage appears in Sage Dao , and putting the remainder into Early Dao.
This gave me a DDJ of 83 “chapters”: 44 Early Dao chapters and 39 Sage Dao chapters. The phrase Sage 聖 人 is seen 26 times in the Sage Dao, but (by definition) never in Early Dao. (The word 聖 appears alone in chapter 19 of Early Dao, but sageliness is there rejected). Besides 聖 人 there are only a few few Sage Dao key words or phrases (難, 爭, and 天 道 / 天 之 道) commonly seen in Sage Dao passages but never in Early Dao passages, but nine words and phrases are seen at least 5 times in Early Dao but never in Sage Dao (足,門 ,中,象, 同, 沖, 不 殆, 辱,and 母) and to these can be added can be added eleven more words and phrases found only in Early Dao, though less often, which are the sole expressions in the Daodejing of the mother-and-child theme or other themes of central importance (牝, 雌, 赤子, 嬰兒, and 赤子 and 無名, 氣, 精, 陰, 陽, and 復 歸 ). Early Dao chapters make up 80% of the Guodian text (25 passages), while Sage Dao chapters make up only 20% (6 passages). Guodian chapters make up 56% of Early Dao but only about 30% of the Daodejing as a whole.
If Early Dao and Sage Dao are read separately, it will be seen that Early Dao includes the great majority of the metaphysical and mystical passages, while Sage Dao includes the great majority of the passages dealing with strategy and state service. (At the bottom I have posted the Wang Bi Chinese text of the Deodejing, divided into Early Dao and Sage Dao as defined here).
Early Dao and Sage Dao: 道 經 與 聖 經
Interpretation of the text remains both the starting
point and the conclusion of the critical task.
— P. M. Thompson, “On the Formal Treatment of Textual Testimony”, pp. 89-106 in Sarah Allan and Crispin Williams, eds., The Guodian Laozi, Society for the Study of Early China, 2000.
More than 50 years ago D. C. Lau argued that the DDJ is a rather loose anthology, united by nothing more than “a common tendency of thought”, which had been assembled by one or more editors from a variety of sources, and then later divided into sometimes-arbitrary chapters.1* He suggested that the book had been put together somewhere around 300 BC under the auspices of the Jixia school in the state of Qi, and that it had appropriated the ideas and perhaps even the words of many thinkers whose other writings have mostly now been lost: Yang Zhu, Sung Keng, Yinwenzi, Liezi, Guanyinzi, the Primitivists, and Shen Dao.
While I agree that the DDJ is an anthology, I believe that the DDJ’s editors were active, purposeful, and selective. Much of the DDJ’s apparent incoherence disappears if you put the passages in a different order and divide them into subgroups. Furthermore, there are certain consistencies from the beginning to the end of the DDJ. One unique consistency is that there are no proper names in the book – no mention of any teacher, cultural hero, god, Chinese state, or historic individual or event – not even any mention of Laozi. Cosmology is also held to a bare minimum – rather than any of the more elaborated cosmologies, we read about 天 地 and the 萬 物 ( Heaven and Earth and its myriad beings).
And while I do believe that the DDJ can be divided into two contrasting parts, it can also be seen that the later authors of the DDJ listened to the earlier authors and developed their ideas, and such themes as “stillness” jing 靜 (chapters 15, 16, 26, 45, 57, and 61), desirelessness wu yü 無 欲 (不 欲 / 寡 欲: chapters 01, 03, 19, 34, 37, 46, 57, 61, 64, and 77), and confusion hun 渾 / 混 / 昏 (14, 15, 18, 20, 21, 25, 49, and 57) are developed in all layers the DDJ, even though their significance in one context is somewhat different than it is in the other.
About two decades ago I published two articles which are precursors of this one. In the first I found historical layers in the DDJ, and in the second I discussed the early Chinese philosopher Yang Zhu, whose message, I believe, played a key early role in the development of Daoism.2* Since those articles were written, the Guodian text has become available3* Roth has translated the Nei Ye chapter of Guanzi4*, I have read and translated the Thompson edition of the surviving writings of Shen Dao5*, and Perkins has made a detailed argument that chapters 67-81 of the DDJ are a distinct group strongly influenced by Mohist ideas.6* It is time for me to revise and further develop the argument of my earlier articles.
My starting point, then as now, has been the familiar hypothesis that the traditional DDJ is a hybrid text comprised of a sometimes-mystical first group of passages discouraging ambition and stressing “nurturing life” and “keeping the body whole”, together with a second group of passages which, while building on some of the earlier themes, focus on statecraft, strategy, and the world of politics. My new understanding of the DDJ here has much in common with that of my earlier articles, but it is also substantially different in many important respects: in particular, the partial Guodian text of the DDJ has provided me with many essential clues which had not been available to me before.
My division of the Daodejing into an earlier Early Dao (Daojing 道 經) and a later Sage Dao (Shengjing 聖 經) is textually grounded, but it is motivated by the general understanding of Warring States Chinese history sketched below though, because of the destruction of documents and the heavily edited condition of most of those that have survived, this context is only knowable in broad outline. My sketch is especially derived from the writings of Arthur Waley, Tang Junyi, and A. C. Graham.7
THE DDJ IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Between the time of Confucius (ca. 500 B. C.) and the unification of China under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C., the small and medium-sized Chinese states were absorbed by the larger states in a series of increasingly brutal wars until finally only Qin remained. In a process which was already well under way in the time of Confucius (who dedicated his life to resisting it) the ancient traditionalist, ritualistic states were gradually replaced by militaristic, bureaucratized despotisms.
When the traditional states and their way were destroyed, the life of the surviving nobility was massively changed. The rulers of the victorious states dedicated themselves to a narrow range of specific goals: increasing agricultural productivity, making tax collection more efficient and more ruthless, building up larger and more powerful armies, and increasing the tax base by annexing more land in order to support an ever-more-luxurious royal lifestyles and ever-larger armies…. ad infinitum until defeat or final victory. During this period, capable men from ignoble families often replaced the proud aristocrats.
For Chinese aristocrats of that era violent death (either on the field of battle or as the outcome of court intrigues) had been an ever-present possibility. But before the consolidation of China into a few large states, aristocrats had had substantial autonomy and had at least shared in the glory. As the consolidation proceeded, the Chinese ruling class was transformed from a ranked group of semi-autonomous hereditary lords into a dependent group of well-rewarded but servile functionaries who who held office at the king’s pleasure and performed specific tasks assigned by him. The high functionaries of the surviving states, though they had great power and wealth, were also virtual slaves subject to sudden disgrace, public humiliation, and a cruel death. Court life remained the focus of wealth and power, and though it had lost many of its attractions, the surviving aristocrats from the destroyed states often had little choice but to accept the new reality and offer their services to one of the surviving states.
Early Chinese philosophy developed within this context and consisted of attempts either to resist the new order or to make the best of it. Confucius and the Confucians argued for a return to an idealized and reformed version of the earlier tradition. Mohists accepted and promoted many of the new rationalized political forms but, in a kind of utilitarian altruism, argued that the state should work for the interests of the people as a whole rather than just for the interests of the state and the royal family. The Legalists – Shang Yang, Hanfeizi, Shen Dao, Shen Buhai, and many others who are now little more than names on a list – accepted the new order, treating government as a technical business dedicated to advancing the interests of the state and of the ruler. Their writings taught rulers (but also officials) the cunning, competent, ruthless methods they would need to survive and flourish under the new order.
Yang Zhu’s philosophy, as a philosophy of private life rather than of public life, differed from all of these. Little is known about Yang Zhu, and his teachings have survived only in the polemics of his adversaries and in a few fragments (among which I think might be included several chapters of the DDJ). It has even been suggested that he was an entirely legendary figure, but in the late 4th century B.C. Mencius spoke of him as a real-world contemporary of Mozi (d. 367 B.C) while opposing both of them and caricaturing them as symmetrical opposites: pure selfishness and pure altruism.
Yang Zhu taught that the ambitious who dedicated themselves to state service in the pursuit of fame, wealth, and luxury were endangering what was really important to them (their life 生 sheng, their body 身 shen, and their heart / mind 心 xin) in the pursuit of lesser things which are valueless if these important things are gone. Glory and reputation are just words, and they entail dependency n the opinions of others, and the pursuit of these unreal things endangers what is real. Someone is better off living humbly and dedicating themself to long life and the nurturing of his vitality than they would be taking enormous risks in the pursuit of meaningless glory. Even public disgrace and demotion might not be intrinsically bad things, since they might save a man’s life by removing him from the struggle.
Before the time of the philosophers (of whom Confucius is the first whose words have been passed down to us in any length) there had been a sharp line between the splendid aristocrats at court and the ignoble majority of peasants, craftsmen, tradesmen, common soldiers, and beggars. All value converged on the royal court, where honors, positions of authority, and precious goods were distributed to noblemen by the king in a graded system of ranks, and the highest honors went to successful military men. In the traditional states a person’s merit depended on their proximity to the court and their rank within it. Everyone outside the world of the court was regarded as barely human, without merit or culture and only of any value at all as a taxpayer, a foot soldier, or some sort of lackey. The lives of aristocratic males were devoted to rising as high as they could in the court hierarchy in order to enjoy the fruits of their success. For aristocrats, no alternative career was really possible.
But as government became more despotic, bureaucratic, and efficient, public service and participation in court life, while remaining the main source of wealth and luxury, lost some of their appeal as they became more servile, and in any case the court was inaccessible to the unluckier of the dispossessed and degraded aristocrats. In this context the Yangists developed a philosophy and ethic for men who lived in retirement away from the court. Besides speaking against pride, ambition, and war, Yang Zhu himself probably primarily counseled prudence and temperance (as does a fair proportion of the present Daodejing), but as time went on this new private world became increasingly rich, and the Daodejing, as a handbook for this new world, now includes meditations, mystical poetry, subtle philosophical doctrines, and passages pointing toward forms of self-care of the taiji / meditational type (some of which had perhaps been learned from Chinese or even non-Chinese shamans and healers).
It probably wasn’t long before some of the new practices started creeping into the world of the court. Presumably those still in government would at times look enviously at those living peacefully in retirement and try to adopt as much of that lifestyle as they could. Simultaneously, some of those in retirement might find themselves in real poverty and wonder whether it might be feasible to reach some kind of accommodation with the state. Whereas the Yangist Daoism of the道 經 Daojing rejected public service and military service entirely, the Sage Daoism of the 聖 經 Shengjing merely proposed taking an inglorious, relatively low position in the hierarchy and working slyly from there, retreating to retirement whenever it seemed prudent. In the state context, late Yangist ideas came into dialogue with the Confucian, Legalist, and Mohist philosophies, developing and critiquing these ideas to produce the political, strategic Daoism of Sage Dao. Dobson even suggested that eventually the highest levels of the bureaucracy became infested with late Yangists, who used their positions merely as sources of income in order to finance luxurious forms of the “nurturing of life”, and in chapter 75 the DDJ seems to speak against something of that kind.*7
Graham spoke of Yang Zhu’s privatism as a metaphysical revolution, and it may have been that, but I think that it more importantly was a transvaluation of values: the creation of a worthy private world, not defined as a kind of privation, and the transfer of the focus of value from public to private life and from the state to the person (and his family).*8
DAO AND THE SAGE IN THE DAODEJING
The above sketch of the history early Chinese philosophy shows the rationale behind my partitioning of the text of DDJ. In what follows I will use a combination of textual, stylistic, and topical criteria to differentiate Early Dao (the 道 經 Daojing) from Sage Dao (the 聖 經 Shengjing).
My three main textual criteria can be simply stated. First, the Sage 聖 人 is found only in Sage Dao. Second, chapters 67-81 at the end of the Daodejing, none of which are part of the GD text, are part of Sage Dao. Third, the words or phrases 難, 爭, and 天 道 / 天 之 道 are seen many times in Sage Dao but never in Early Dao, while the words or phrases 足, 門, 象, 同, 沖, 辱, 母, 牝, 雌, 嬰, 赤 子, 精, 氣, 陰, 陽, 象, 不 殆, 復 歸, and 無 名 / 不 名 are found only in Early Dao. There are a certain number of adjustments that need to be made beyond these three criteria, but these points classify the great majority of the Daodejing in one group or the other. By and large, Sage Dao is more clearly defined than Early Dao, which I think is because Sage Dao is the product of a single later tradition, which was responsible for editing the Daodejing, whereas Early Dao consists of those passages from various earlier sources which the Sage Dao editors chose to include.
The Sage 聖 人 defines Sage Dao and thus does not appear in Early Dao at all, but the word Dao 道 does not define Early Dao, since it also appears often in Sage Dao. However, these two words are seen in the same chapter less often than would be expected. Dao 道 appears in 37 chapters of the DDJ, and the Sage 聖 人 in 26 chapters. Randomly they would be expected to appear together in a chapter 12 times, but in fact they are seen together in only 6 chapters (chapters 47, 60, 73, 77, 79, and 81), and only in a few specific contexts. All but two of these co-appearances (in chapters 47 and 60) are in the DDJ’s longest consecutive group of chapters not included in the Guodian text (chapters 67-81), and five of the six appearances of the word 道 Dao are in the phrase 天 道 / 天 之 道 “Dao of Heaven”, which Perkins has argued subordinates 道 to天 and is a marker of Mohist influence.
The Sage is seen in 8 of the final 15 chapters, while Dao is seen in only 5 of them – but in 4 of these 5 cases Dao is seen in the same chapter as the Sage. By contrast, in chapters 1-66 Dao is seen in half the chapters, 33 times, and the Sage is seen in 19, but they are seen together in a chapter only twice (in chapters 47 and 60), whereas 9 co-appearances would be expected.
In 20 of the chapters in which the Sage appears, it is as part of stereotyped phrases of the type 是 以 聖 人 “Therefore the Sage….”, which in at least some cases seems to be an editorial marker. In one Early Dao chapter (chapter 19) sageliness is simply rejected (絕 聖) and in many DDJ chapters, all of them Early Dao chapters, non-Sages appear in places where the Sage would seem to belong: 上 善 “The highest good” (08), 古 之 善 為 道 “Ancients well versed in the Way”” (15), 太 上 “The greatest” (17), 孔 德 “Those of great Virtue” (21), 上 德 “The highest Virtue” (38), 大 丈 夫 “The great man” (38), 得 一 者 “Those who have achieved Oneness” (39), 善 攝 生 者 “Those good at preserving life” (50), and 含 德 之 厚 者 (55) “Those possessing Virtue in abundance”. The Sage stands on his own as the main topic in only 5 Daodejing chapters (chapters 05, 28, 49, 60, and 81, all in Sage Dao by definition), and I think that these chapters deserve special attention, since they tell us who the Sage actually is, rather than just using him in a set formula. (Chapter 60 is unique: both one of the few chapters in which Dao and the Sage appear together, and one of the few chapters in which the sage stands alone as a topic, and for this reason I think this chapter deserves special attention).
DIVIDING THE DDJ: FIRST STEP
33 SAGE DAO CHAPTERS, 48 UNCLASSIFIED CHAPTERS
Below I work with an unedited Wang Bi text, and all I do at this stage (except for dividing and redistributing two chapters in the very last step) is to sort whole Daodejing chapters into the two groups of Early Dao and Sage Dao. In the later stages I will change the sequence of the chapters to put them into topical-historical groups, divide and redistribute a few chapters, and edit the texts of each chapter with special attention to the new discoveries of the last 60 years or so. But the basic rationale of my division of the Daodejing into the Early Dao and Sage Dao groups should be apparent in this first step.
To the 26 Sage chapters I then add the 15 chapters at the end of the Daodejing (chapters 67-81) to Sage Dao. Since the Sage is included in 8 of these 15 final chapters this adds a net of 7 chapters to bring the total to 33. These 33 chapters are the initial version of Sage Dao, and the 48 remaining unclassified chapters are mostly but not all Early Dao.
THE 33 / 48 DIVISION
|Sage Dao (the Shengjing 聖 經): Chapters 67-81, plus all other chapters in which the Sage is found in the WB text.|
02 03 05 07 12 22 26 27 28 29 47 49 57 58 60 63 64 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81
|The remaining 48 unclassified chapters|
01 04 06 08 09 10 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 21 23 24 25 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 48 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 59 61 62 65
DIVIDING THE DAODEJING: SECOND STEP
This 33-48 division, based on explicit criteria, is the foundation of my work and reasonably satisfying as it stands, but there are adjustments which can be made on the basis of somewhat more subjective considerations (based on key words) which will produce more satisfactory groups. By trial and error I found two groups of key words which are found almost entirely either in the 33 chapter Sage Dao group on the one hand, or in the 48 chapter unclassified group on the other., but not both The disjunction between these two groups of key words is strong evidence that Early Dao and Sage Dao as I have defined them are meaningful subgroups within the Daodejing, and the key words seen in the unclassified chapters will serve as the core of an Early Dao which is better defined than just “not Sage Dao”.
SAGE DAO KEY WORDS
SAGE DAO KEY WORDS
|Key Words||Sage Dao: 33 chapters (Chapters 67-81, plus all other chapters in which the Sage is found in the WB text).||Unclassified: 48 chapters|
|02 03 05 07 12 22 26 27 28 29 47 49 57 58 60 63 64 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81|
|01 04 06 08 09 10 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 21 23 24 25 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 48 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 59 61 62 65|
(26 total) . .
|02 03 05 07 12 22 26 27 28 29 47 49 57 58 60 63 64 66 70 71 72 73 77 78 79 81|
|None. The word 聖 is seen in chapter 19, but not the phrase 聖人, and in any case 聖 “sageliness” is rejected.|
|難||02 03 12 63 64 73 75||65|
|敢||03 64 67 69 73 74||30|
|爭||03 22 66 68 73 81||08|
|天 道 / 天 之 道||47 73 77 79 81||09|
|50x in 33 chapters|
(1.5 per chapter)
|4x in 48 chapters|
(0.09 per chapter)
EARLY DAO KEY WORDS
|Unclassified: 48 chapters||Sage Dao, first step: 33 chapters (Chapters 67-81, plus all Sage chapters).|
|…………………………||01 04 06 08 09 10 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23 24 25 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 48 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 59 61 62 65||02 03 05 07 12 22 26 27 28 29 47 49 57 58 60 63 64 66 / 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81|
|母||01 20 25 52 59||–|
|牝 / 雌||06 10 20 55 61||28|
|嬰 / 赤 子||10 20 55||28|
|無 名 / 不 名||01 32 34 37 41 42||–|
|精 / 氣 / 陰 陽||10 21 55||–|
|象||04 14 21 35 41||–|
|不 殆||16 25 32 44 52||–|
|足||17 19 23 28 33 35 37 41 55|
|門||01 06 10 20 52 56|
|象||04 14 21 35 41|
|同||01 04 11 23 56|
|沖||04 05 16 42 45|
|復 歸||14 16 51||28|
DIVIDING THE DAODEJING: SECOND STEP
Of the 48 unclassified chapters, 4 chapters (Chapters 08, 09, 30, and 65) can be classified as Sage Dao based on key words, 20 chapters (Chapters 01, 04, 06, 10, 14, 16, 20, 21, 25, 32, 34, 35, 37, 41, 42, 44, 52, 55, 59, and 61), can be classified as Early Dao based on key words, and 24 chapters still cannot be classified (Chapters 11, 13, 15, 17, 18, 19, 23, 24, 31, 33, 36, 38, 39, 40, 43, 45, 46, 48, 50, 51, 53, 54, 56, and 62). This gives us the following table :
|DIVIDING THE DAODEJING: SECOND STEP|
|Sage Dao (37 chapters)||Early Dao (20 chapters)||Unclassified (24 chapters )|
|02 03 05 07 08 09 12 22 26 27 28 29 30 47 49 57 58 60 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71|
72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81
|01 04 06 10 14 16 20 21 25 32 34 35 37 41 42 44 52 55 59 61||11 13 15 17 18 19 23 24 31 33 36 38 39 40 43 45 46 48 50 51 53 54 56 62|
DIVIDING THE DAODEJING: FINAL STEP
From this point, while I can make an argument for any of my choices, my methods are eclectic and (if you will) subjective, and there is no pretense of rigor. At the same time, as I have proceeded the outlines of the two groups have become clearer, so it became less difficult difficult to see where a given chapter should go. I put 21 of the 24 unassigned chapters in Early Dao, the exceptions being chapters 36, 53, and 62. I divided chapters 05 and 28 on long-recognized fault lines, putting one part of each in Sage Dao and the other in Early Dao. My criteria were primarily thematic but I also took into account location in the text and stylistic similarities with chapters already assigned. There were a certain number of chapters which puzzled me and some of my choices were probably mistaken. In any case, here is the final division:
|FINAL DIVISION OF THE DAODEJING|
|EARLY DAO: 44 chapters||SAGE DAO: 39 chapters|
|01 04 05b 06 10 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23 24 25 28a 30 31 32 33 34 35 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 48 50 51 52 54 55 56 59 61||02 03 05a 07 08 09 12 22 26 27 28b 29 36 47 49 53 57 58 60 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81|
FINAL DISTRIBUTION OF KEY WORDS
|聖 人||–||02 03 05a 07 12 22 26 27 28b 29 47 49 57 58 60 63 64 66 70 71 72 73 77 78 79 81|
|難||–||02 03 12 63 64 65 73 75|
|爭||–||03 08 22 66 68 73 81|
|天 道 /|
天 之 道
|–||09 47 73 77 79 81|
|母||01 20 25 52 59||–|
|雌, 牝||06 10 15 28 55 61||–|
|嬰 / 赤 子||10 20 28 55||–|
|無 名 / 不 名 /|
不 知 其 名
|01 25 32 34 37 41||–|
|精 / 氣 / 陰 陽||10 21 42 55||–|
|象||04 14 21 35 41||–|
|不 殆||16 25 32 44 52||–|
|復 歸||14 16 28 52||–|
|足||17 19 23 28 33 35 37 41 55||–|
|門||01 06 10 20 52 56||–|
|象||04 14 21 35 41||–|
|同||01 04 11 23 56||–|
|沖||04 05 16 42 45||–|
The Early Dao / Sage Dao contrast I have found is about what I was looking for. Early Dao is mystical and metaphysical but also practical, a philosophy of private life and self-cultivation which warns against participation in public life, though it also has traces of a political teaching. Early Dao includes most of the Yangist writings, most of the devotional poetry, and most of the examples of what might be called magical thinking, but the examples of cosmological and yin-yang thinking are very few compared to what is seen in other texts of that period thought of as Daoist.
I believe that editors affiliated with Sage Dao selected the Early Dao chapters from a larger body of writings produced within several traditions, and that it represents the part of their tradition that the Sage Dao editors wished to keep. Many Early Dao themes are also seen in Sage Dao: prudence, temperance, mercy, minimal action. Somewhat surprisingly, all of the “Primitivist” chapters (chapters 03, 12, 63, 75, and 80)are in Sage Dao, as are a large group of chapters recommending “not daring” and disparaging violence and anger.
While Sage Dao speaks of the same public world as the Legalists, Mohists, and Confucians, and while it responds to and develops ideas from these philosophies, its message is not derivative but entirely its own, and much of it can be seen to be public applications of principles (e.g. restraint, forbearance, and self-effacement) which were first presented in Early Dao. The DDJ’s survival and proliferation when many of the other “Daoist” writings were being lost is probably accounted for by its practical relevance for public life and for government.
I have worked very conservatively so far – with only two exceptions I have merely sorted whole chapters of the unedited Wang Bi DDJ. I did this because I wanted to present the Early Dao / Sage Dao contrast as starkly as possible, without raising other questions which might distract the reader and derail my presentation. In later publications I plan to go on to the other questions, dividing many more chapters, editing the texts of the chapters in light of the new variant texts as well as the Jiang Xichang variants, and changing the sequence of chapters in order to show subgroups.
Standing by itself, any particular piece of evidence I have brought forward – the presence or absence of the Sage or one of the other key words in a chapter, the presence or absence of a chapter in the 67-81 group or in the Guodian text – would be no more than suggestive. Furthermore, some of the classifications I made at the very end might be regarded as arbitrary. But the way that these multiple criteria reinforce one another to divide the DDJ into 2 discrete parts – above all the way that, once chapter 28 has been divided, the 16 Early Dao keywords in their 38 chapter-appearances are never seen in the same chapter as one of the 54 chapter-appearances of the Sage or one of the Sage Dao words – argues that the Early Dao / Sage Dao distinction that I have found is in the most important sense real, and I believe that this distinction should be an important clue for future interpretations of the DDJ. But as Thompson said (more or less), the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The final test of the Early Dao / Sage Dao distinction is how well it illuminates the meaning of the Daodejing.
1. D .C. Lau, Tao Te Ching, Chinese University of Hong King Press, 1982.
2. John J. Emerson, “A Stratification of Lao Tzu”, Journal of Chinese Religions, Volume 23, Fall 1995, pp. 1-28; John Emerson, “Yang Chu’s Discovery of the Body”, Philosophy East and West, Volume 46-4, October 1996, pp. 533-566.
3. Robert Henricks, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (Guodian), Columbia, 2000
4. Harold Roth, Original Dao, Columbia, 1999;
5. P. M. Thompson, The Shen Tzu Fragments, Oxford, 1979; P. M. Thompson, A Translation of the Shen Tzu Fragments, vol. 3 of unpublished dissertation, U. Washington, Seattle.; John Emerson, A Translation of Thompson’s Shen Dao.
6. Franklin Perkins, “Divergences within the Laozi: A Study of Chapters 67-81”, T’oung Pao, #100, 2014, pp. 1-32; Franklin Perkins, “The Mozi and the Daodejing”, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, vol. 41 #1-2, Mar-Jun 2014, pp. 18-32.
7. W.A.C.H. Dobson, tr., Mencius, Toronto, 1963, p. xvi
8. A. C. Graham, Disputers of the Tao, Open Court, 1989; Tang Junyi, Zhongguo Zhexue Yuanlun: Yuandao Bian, Xinya Yanjiu Suo, 1976; Arthur Waley, The Way and Its Power, Grove, 1958.
8. John Emerson, “Yang Chu’s Discovery of the Body”, Philosophy East and West, Volume 46-4, October 1996, pp. 533-566.
Sarah Allan and Crispin Williams, eds., The Guodian Laozi, Society for the Study of Early China, 2000.
Beida Daodejing, http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_57c4f8f10101jlcx.html
Chinese Text Project, Wang Bi Daodejing, http://ctext.org/dao-de-jing
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Early Dao chapters in Wang Bi Text
20 絕學無憂，唯之與阿，相去幾何？善之與惡，相去若何？人之所畏，不可不畏。荒兮其未央哉！衆人熙 熙，如享太牢，如春登臺。我獨怕兮其未兆；如嬰兒之未孩；儽儽兮若無所歸。衆人皆有餘，而我獨若遺。我愚人之心也哉！沌沌兮，俗人昭昭，我獨若昏。俗人察 察，我獨悶悶。澹兮其若海，飂兮若無止，衆人皆有以，而我獨頑似鄙。我獨異於人，而貴食母
31 夫佳兵者，不祥之器，物或惡之，故有道者不處。君子居則貴左，用兵則貴右。兵者不祥之器，非君子之 器，不得已而用之，恬淡為上。勝而不美，而美之者，是樂殺人。夫樂殺人者，則不可以得志於天下矣。吉事尚左，凶事尚右。偏將軍居左，上將軍居右，言以喪禮 處之。殺人之衆，以哀悲泣之，戰勝以喪禮處之。
38 上德不德，是以有德；下德不失德，是以無德。上德無為而無以為；下德為之而有以為。上仁為之而無以 為；上義為之而有以為。上禮為之而莫之應，則攘臂而扔之。故失道而後德，失德而後仁，失仁而後義，失義而後禮。夫禮者，忠信之薄，而亂之首。前識者，道之 華，而愚之始。是以大丈夫處其厚，不居其薄；處其實，不居其華。故去彼取此。
39 昔之得一者：天得一以清；地得一以寧；神得一以靈；谷得一以盈；萬物得一以生；侯王得一以為天下 貞。其致之，天無以清，將恐裂；地無以寧，將恐發；神無以靈，將恐歇；谷無以盈，將恐竭；萬物無以生，將恐滅；侯王無以貴高將恐蹶。故貴以賤為本，高以下 為基。是以侯王自稱孤、寡、不穀。此非以賤為本耶？非乎？故致數譽無譽。不欲琭琭如玉，珞珞如石
Sage Dao chapters in Wang Bi Text
60 治大國若烹小鮮。以道蒞天下，其鬼不神；非其鬼不神，其神不傷人；非其神不傷人，聖人亦不傷人。夫兩不相傷，故德交歸焉。 62 道者萬物之奧。善人之寶，不善人之所保。美言可以市，尊行可以加人。人之不善，何棄之有？故立天子，置三公，雖有拱璧以先駟馬，不如坐進此道。古之所以貴此道者何？不曰：以求得，有罪以免耶？故為天下貴。
64 其安易持，其未兆易謀。其脆易泮，其微易散。為之於未有，治之於未亂。合抱之木，生於毫末；九層之 臺，起於累土；千里之行，始於足下。為者敗之，執者失之。是以聖人無為故無敗；無執故無失。民之從事，常於幾成而敗之。慎終如始，則無敗事，是以聖人欲不 欲，不貴難得之貨；學不學，復衆人之所過，以輔萬物之自然，而不敢為。
69 用兵有言：吾不敢為主，而為客；不敢進寸，而退尺。是謂行無行；攘無臂；扔無敵；執無兵。禍莫大於輕敵，輕敵幾喪吾寶。故抗兵相加，哀者勝矣。 70 吾言甚易知，甚易行。天下莫能知，莫能行。言有宗，事有君。夫唯無知，是以不我知。知我者希，則我者貴。是以聖人被褐懷玉。