Laotzu's Tao and Wu Wei, by Dwight Goddard and Henri Borel, , at sacred-texts.com
1. p. 62. This is a fact. Chinese priests are in the habit of repeating Sutras which, to judge by the sound, have been translated from the Sanscrit into Chinese phrases of which they do not understand one word.
2. p. 64. The "Yellow Emperor" is a legendary emperor, who appears to have reigned about the year 2697 B.C.
3. p. 64. That which follows in inverted commas is an extract translated from the twelfth chapter of the "Nan Hwa King."
4. p. 65. The following passage, as far as the sentence "and the Millions return again into One" is an adaptation--not a translation--of the first section of "Tao-Teh-King." Laotsu's wonderfully simple writing cannot possibly be translated into equally simple passages in our language. This rendering of mine-arrived at partly by aid of Chinese commentators--is an entirely new reading, and is, to the best of my knowledge, the true one. One of the most celebrated, and, in a certain sense, one of the most competent of the sinologues, Herbert Giles, translates of this first section only the first sentence, and finds the rest not worth the trouble of translating! (compare "The Remains of Lao Tzü," by H. A. Giles, Honkong, China Mail Office, 1886). This same scholar translates "Tao" as "the Way," not perceiving how impossible it is that that which Laotsu meant--the highest of all, the infinite--should be a "way," seeing that a way (in the figurative sense) always leads to something else, and therefore cannot be the highest. Another still more celebrated sinologue, Dr.
[paragraph continues] Legge, translates "Tao" as "Course," and out of the simple sentence: "If Tao could be expressed in words it would not be the eternal Tao" he makes: "The Come that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging course." The whole secret is this: that the sign or word "Tao" has a great number of meanings, and that in Confucius's work "Chung Yung" it does as a matter of fact mean "Way"; but in a hundred other instances it means: "speech expression, a saying." Laotsu having, in one sentence, used this sign in two different senses, nearly all translators have suffered themselves to be misled. The sentence is as simple as possible, and in two of my Chinese editions the commentators put: "spoken," and: "by word of mouth." But of all the sinologues only Wells Williams has translated this sentence well, namely thus: "The Tao which can be expressed is not the eternal Tao." Although the construction of the phrase is not accurately rendered, at any rate Williams has grasped the meaning.
After my work had already appeared in the periodical De Gids, I saw for the first time Professor de Groot's work "Jaarlijksche feesten en gebruiken der Emoy Chineezen," from which I gathered that he agreed with me in so far as to say also that "Tao" was untranslatable--a sub-lying conception "for which the Chinese philosopher himself could find no name, and which he consequently stamped with the word 'Tao.'" Professor de Groot adds: "If one translates this word by 'the universal soul of Nature,' 'the all-pervading energy of nature,' or merely by the word 'Nature' itself, one will surely not be far from the philosopher's meaning."
Although the term holds for me something still higher yet I find Professor de Groot's conception of it the most sympathetic of all those known to me.
5. p. 69. This "Wu-Wei"--untranslatable as it is in fact--has been rendered by these sinologues into "inaction"--
as though it signified idleness, inertia. It most certainly does not signify idleness, however, but rather action, activity--that is to say: "inactivity of the perverted, unnatural passions and desires," but "activity in the sense of natural movement proceeding from Tao." Thus, in the "Nan Hwa King" we find the following: "The heavens and the earth do nothing" (in the evil sense) "and" (yet) "there is nothing which they do not do." The whole of nature consists in "Wu-Wei," in natural, from-Tao-emanating movement. By translating Wu-Wei into "inaction" the sinologues have arrived at the exact opposite of the meaning of the Chinese text.
Laotsu himself does not dilate further upon the subject. What follows here is my own conception of the text. The whole first chapter of the original occupies only one page in the book, and contains only fifty-nine characters. It testifies to Laotsu's wonderful subtlety and terseness of language that he was able in so few words to say so much.
6. p. 69. This sentence is translated from the "Tao-Teh-King" (chapter ii).
7. }p. 69. From the 56th chapter. This sentence is also to be found in 15th chapter of the "Nan Hwa King."
8. p. 74. This runs somewhat as follows in the 6th chapter of the Nan Hwa King: "The true men of the early ages slept dreamlessly, and were conscious of self without care."
9. p. 76. This episode is translated from the 18th section of the "Nan Hwa King." By the "Great House" Chuang-Tse meant, of course, the universe, and this expression "house" lends to the passage a touch of familiar intimacy, showing Chuang-Tse to have the feeling that the dead one was well cared for, as though within the shelter of a house.--H. Giles, who renders it "Eternity," which does not appear at all in the Chinese text, loses by his translation the confiding element which makes Chuang-Tse's speech so touching. (Compare "Chuang Tsy," by H.
[paragraph continues] Giles, London, Bernard Quaritch, 1889.) The actual words are: "Ku Shih" = Great House.
10. p. 78. In almost all the temples is a chamber in which the Mandarins lodge, and where Western travellers may usually stay for the night, and probably for longer periods.
11. p. 80. The following, to the end of the sentence: "Poetry is the sound of the heart," has been translated by me from a preface by Ong Giao Ki to his edition of the Poetry of the Tang-Dynasty. Ong Giao Ki lived in the, first half of the eighteenth century.
12. p. 89. The Chinese do really preserve their treasures in this careful manner. It is usual for an antique figure of Buddha to lie in a silk-lined shrine, the shrine in a wooden chest, and the chest in a cloth. It is unpacked upon great occasions.
13. p. 90. Such a figure as the above-described is not a mere figment of the author's imagination--such figures really exist. A similar one is in the possession of the author.
14. p. 90. The Soul-Pearl "Durmâ."
15. p. 92. The figure in the author's possession is by Tan Wei. Another great artist was Ho Chao Tsung, of certain figures by whom I have also, with very great trouble, become possessed. These names are well known to every artist, but I have endeavoured in vain to discover anything nearer with regard to them. They became famous after death; but they had lived in such simplicity and oblivion, that now not even their birthplace is remembered. One hears conjectures, but I could arrive at no certainty.