Who Was Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu (5th – 4th century BCE) is a mysterious character if we consider the persisting uncertainties concerning his real life and the virtues which the mystical Taoists endowed him with.

Lao Tzu, the father of Taoism
Lao Tzu, the father of Taoism

Lao-tzu was a man from the Qu Ren village, Li district, Ku Prefecture from Chu Land. His family surname was Li, his first name was Er, his nickname was Dan.

As Max Kaltenmark shows with good reason, even the names the philosopher wore are not certain.
The two of them, Er and Tan, which mean “ears” and, respectively, “long ears”, are related to longevity and wisdom, as the wise old men of antiquity were represented with long ears. Moreover, in the ancient writings, these names are not found, but the name Lao-tzu which means the Old or venerable sage.

According to some traditions, Lao-tzu would have lived for about 160-200 years.


Lao-tzu’s career, as it results from Ssu-ma Ch’ien’s records, could be restricted at three significant moments:

Confucius meets Lao Tzu to talk about rites
Confucius meets Lao Tzu to talk about rites

– He seemed to be an archivist at the Royal Court in Chou;
– He was supposed to be visited by Confucius with whom he discussed about the rites;
– Disgusted at the Court’s life he retreated to West, and would have wrote a handbook of wisdom called Tao Te Ching.

Tao Te Ching

The book contains the philosophical concepts that condensed into Taoism, one of the mainstream currents of classical Chinese philosophy.

Here we find explanations of terms like wu, wu-wei or fu. And also indications about the meaning of the Tao and the best way to organize your life or rule the kingdom in accord with it.

Tao Te Ching is one of the fundamental works of classical Chinese culture.

Lao Tzu and the Modern Western Culture

It is difficult to explain the Taoist philosophy in terms of our Western culture. The reason is that western thinking and ethics have no similar or close ideas or concepts. However, Tao Te Ching is translated into many versions and read by a very broad audience. The obscurity of the text explain the confusing approach and the tendency to align the book to the Christian culture.

Online Resources

Should you need to know more about the true meaning of the Lao Tzu’s concepts you may take our simple PDF guide intended for beginners. Click here to learn more…

Related articles:
-> Tao Te Ching
-> Taoism
-> Taoism basic concepts