When Confucius met Lao Tzu
UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization )has previously done a statistical analysis of cultural masterpieces, discovering that the works that most entered foreign language publishing circulation were “the Bible,” followed by Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching.” The reason why there is such a shocking amount of translation, printing, and reading of Lao Tzu’s work is that it contains the human spirit of the world’s constant speculation and alertness.
There are two literary giants in the history of Chinese literature – Confucius and Lao Tzu. When I was in school, we learned the writings of Confucius, but I never really had the chance to learn the philosophy of Lao Tzu until later in life.
Confucius’s writings are more about moral code and conduct: of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and faith. He writes on restraint and of conforming oneself. The Tao, the Way of Lao Tzu, is the teaching that the purpose of man’s journey on earth is to go back to the origin. He instead writes of introspection and of finding oneself.
Lao Tzu and Confucius did meet each other a few times in China when they lived about 2,500 years ago. According to “Shiji,” or “The Records of the Grand Historian,” one such instance was when Confucius went to Luo Yang, the capital city, to meet Lao Tzu to enquire about rituals and proper etiquette.
When he came back from his meeting, he didn’t speak for three days. His students grew concerned and asked their teacher what had happened. Confucius said: “I know how a bird can fly. I know how a fish can swim. But I do not know how Lao Tzu could rise and fly like a sublime dragon riding on clouds in the sky.”
“Birds can fly but will fall at the hunter’s arrow. Fish can swim but will be caught by the fisherman. Beasts can run but will drop into people’s nets and traps. There is only one thing that is out of man’s reach. That is the legendary dragon. A dragon can fly into the sky, ride on clouds, dive into the ocean. A dragon is so powerful, yet so intangible to us. Lao Tzu is a dragon, and I will never understand him.”
This is all the more reason for me to post Lao Tzu’s teachings, which I will do about once a week every Wednesday. May we all gain enlightenment from his words.