"Those who know do not say; those who say do not know." -Lao-tzu
"The superior men are sparing in their words and profuse in their deeds." -Confucius
The 6th century B.C.E. was an amazing time of philosophical growth for ancient China. It was during that time that the two most influential spiritual leaders native to China, Confucius and Lao-tzu, are thought to have lived and taught. The philosophies that they practiced, Taoism and Confucianism, existed simultaneously in dynastic China, attracting countless numbers of followers over the past 2,500 years. The fascination of both the Eastern and Western worlds with these two legendary figures and the philosophies that they created remains strong.
The Old Master
Lao-tzu, translated as either "Old Master" or "Old Boy," is believed to be the author of Taoism. Very little is known of his life; he may not even have existed. According to myth, at his birth around 604 B.C.E., Lao-tzu came from the womb as an old man, white-haired and full of wisdom. He eventually took a position as head librarian of the Imperial Archives. Saddened by society's lack of goodness, Lao-tzu decided to leave his home in Luoyang to live out the rest of his life in quiet and solitude somewhere beyond the Great Wall of China, possibly near Tibet. As he passed through the city gates for the final time, the gatekeeper asked Lao-tzu to write down his parting thoughts. The "Old Master" agreed, and three days later returned with a small book. Lao-tzu then left civilization, never to return. His writings were titled the Tao Te Ching, and became the most important text of Taoism.
The Vinegar Tasters
Lao-tzu smiles while the Buddha and Confucius wince after they taste-test vinegar. The philosophies of ancient China are summarized in the faces of its three most colorful characters. According to Taoism, the entire universe and everything in it flows with a mysterious, unknowable force called the Tao. Translated literally as "The Way," the Tao...
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