Short Biography of Lao Tse
Known in China as one of the greatest philosophers, Lao Tse (Lao Tzu) has also been venerated as a deity who inspired and perhaps wrote the Tao te ching writings. His teachings make up an entire “way” of life – a religion in many respects. Through his Taoist teachings, many of which inspired Buddhism, its followers should be pure in thought, attain inner peace, and lead a life that flows with nature.
A contemporary of Confucius who outlived his Confucian teacher, Lao Tse founded what is still known as the School of Tao. Not a lot is known about his early life and many scholars even question his existence. One famous Chinese biographer named Ssu-ma Ch’ien is the only one who recorded anything regarding Lao Tse (Lao Tzu) and his life. However, his biography of Loa Tse contained accounts of three individuals with this same name. In fact, Lao Tzu means “old man” or “mature man” when transliterated. While his teachings are vague in many regards, he claimed that the “way” or Tao of life was to keep one’s ground, but much like a reed in the wind, bend when necessary. His overall goal was to bring people to a non-aggressive way of life. The biography claims Lao Tse lived beyond 129 years.
Loa Tse (Lao Tzu) supposedly worked in the capital of the Chou region of China when he became fed up with the corruption of the political situation of his country. He decided to take an early retirement in order to search for something more meaningful in life. The history of Lao Tse claims that he was passing through Loyang when he was asked to write down his beliefs about life – his teachings and his pursuits. In this book, he wrote only two sections, but they fully discussed the beliefs of Toa and Te. The Toa te ching became the holy book of a new movement known as Taoism.
Believed to also be inspired by Confucius, the followers of Taoism claim Lao Tse built on and surpassed Confucian thought. When compared to Confucian writings, the Tao te ching collection is believed to have been written over three to four centuries, each teacher adding his or her own take or way of thinking. The final version history was left with reveals all the major sayings of the school and was probably completed before the 4 th century BC. The book itself is somewhat complicated because it is made to rhyme in Chinese. Additionally, it is divided into chapters and is quite hard to follow because of its non-linear subject analysis. Lao Tse (Lao Tzu), whether he put together the entire collection or not, will always be regarded as one of the greatest philosophers, if not prophets, in the history of China.