Who is Lao Zi (Lao Tzu)?

Who is Lao Zi (Lao Tzu)?

June 25, 2021 Off By Felso

Lao Zi (Lao Tzu), (pronounced Laotian). In some sources, his name is also referred to as Lao Tsu, Lao Tse, Laotze or Laozi. In Lao Chinese, Zi means ‘older’ and Zi means ‘master’, ‘wise’. The author of the Tao Te Ching book is the wise Laozi. He is an important Chinese philosopher who is considered the founder of Taoism.

According to Chinese legends, Laozi was born in the 6th century BC in Ku province of the Ch State (K Xiàn), that is, in the town of Lùyì, present-day Henan province. Scholars say he may have lived in the 4th century BC, China’s Hundred School of Thoughts and Warring States Period. There are many legends about it. According to a rumor, he was an archivist in the imperial library of the Zhou Dynasty; At the age of 80, he left China, tired and upset that people did not follow the path of natural beauty and well-being. While passing through the Hangu border crossing, guard Yin Xi asked Laozi to write down his teachings before he left, and he wrote the Tao Te Ching. According to some, Laozi was Huang-di, the legendary yellow emperor of China. According to another view, the Tao Te Ching consists of texts written by different authors, all using the pseudonym Laozi.

Sima Qian, one of the famous historians of China, wrote the biography of Laozi as follows in his work Shiji (shi-ji) written in 100 BC: “Lao-Tzu was born in the village of Chü-jen in Li-hsiangg in the Kum district of the Chou state. His own name is Erh, his family name is Li, and his pen name is Tan. He is the historian and library keeper of the Chou dynasty empire.” Accordingly, his real name is Li Tan (Lao-Tan). Lao-Tzu is a nickname given to him; It means “Old Wise”. His year of birth, known in Chinese oral tradition as 604 BC, is not recorded in Shiji. This shows that the date was determined later. However, this document is accepted as the best proof that he is alive.

According to mythology, Laozi’s mother was conceived by the light, and 80 years later she gave birth to a boy with white hair and a white beard. This is where the nickname Laozi, the old boy, comes from. This legend was taken further and his date of birth was dated to 1321 BC and he was shown as a holy person. It was then called Lao-chun. According to some researchers, most such fabricated stories were written after Buddhism to gain popularity in Buddhist stories.

Lao-Tzu, who developed a different vision of the path leading to order, peace and enlightenment in China in the 6th century BC, gave great importance to nature, very different from Confucius. Confucius argued that certain emotions, which should not occupy a large place in the life of a civilized, intelligent and well-educated person, are by no means natural. Lao-Tzu, who had a great faith in nature, attributed great importance to the feelings of people who did not go through education and did not have enough training. For Confucius, the way to a good life is to develop harmonious relationships in society; It consisted of following the customs and traditions developed by the ancestors. For Lao-Tzu, however, the road was much more mysterious. It could not be expressed, it could not be explained in terms of a manual or philosophy. However, a person could find this way and organize his life accordingly.

This is how Confucius and Lao-Tzu determined Chinese philosophy and strongly emphasized harmony as the ideal state of both the individual and society. While both insisted on an encompassing view of human life, a solid personal character became life’s highest purpose. However, the personal could not, for these philosophers, be defined in individual terms of the isolated being. Indeed, where the Confucian expressed the person and the personal in social terms, the Taoist argued that what determines the person is to be in harmony with nature.

See:

– What is Taoism?
– The way and the power of the way in Tao

Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM)