The Zheng Tong DaoZang Translation


Foreword to the Translation of the DaoZang

by Norman Goundry

"I hardly know whether this apology is necessary. For the merits of my adaptation and translation must decide how far I have well bestowed my time and imperfect powers, in giving form and substance to the frail and attenuated Leaves of the Sibyl."
Mary W. Shelley, ‘The Last Man’, 1826

Daoism is an ancient and sophisticated cosmologic system with over 400 million followers – a significant number by any reckoning. The DaoZang constitutes the official canonical texts of Daosim, yet its contents have for centuries remained largely unavailable. Years ago, I dedicated myself to translation of the DaoZang. At the time, no one else seemed to be doing anything but recycle the same couple of works, especially the Tao Teh King, as it was first titled. At the present time, the situation is little changed.

The original DaoZang comprises approximately 1274 volumes. The volumes presented here appear to be from an exact reproduction of the copy of the BaiYun set by Commercial Press in 1923, which was the only complete set in the world at the time. As indicated at the beginning of each volume, the particular reproduction in my hands was produced in 1952 [1961 by the Western calendar] and is seemingly unique, in as much as it was not noted in any bibliography that I consulted.

The translations are presented here are in as simple and straightforward of a manner as possible. Some names and terms have been adopted from the works other authors as a matter of convention, as these are in the mainstream and aptly cover their targeted Chinese characters. I thank them for their contributions and wish them to be passed on. However, though they are the convention, I am not be totally bound by them.

I do not intend to engage in any perambulations concerning two picked-over works in particular: the Daode Jing and the Zhuangzi. That has been going on for almost 200 hundred years and still continues today. Rather, I do not take any sides with anyone but myself. I am secular – if that can be broadly defined as being a translator of sacred works, and not a preacher of sacred works.

As a matter of fact, I do not even know anymore if I am a Daoist. Monastic Buddhists had a designation for those individuals who cannot grasp the Transmission (of Buddha): they were sometimes pragmatically referred to as 'Rice Bags' (Chinese: 'MiDai'; Japanese: 'Mei Hyu'). This meant they could be used to do the menial tasks (be the bag) needed by those who dealt more directly with Enlightenment (the rice). I prefer this status. It allows me to get work done rather than talk about it.

Note that I am not an academic but simply an independent student of the DaoZang. Needless to say, I do have a great affection for its attitudes and ideas.

All readers are encouraged to provide feedback, whether specific or general. If the translations can be improved in any way that increases their value, please bring it to my attention. These are 'first-level' translations and as such mistakes are inevitable. If you think something is incorrect, please tell me where and why.

This website and the translations it contains are independent of any controlling bodies and I am not bound to any religious or philosophical group. There are no peer groups to query for permission and no pressure to color any texts in any way. Therefore, I am able to translate these works as agnostically as I can. This is only possible because the translation work and the website are entirely supported through individual donations. If you feel the work should continue, then please donate.

Those in need of further textual resources on Daoists works will find an excellent starting point in the widely available paper "Daoist Texts in Translation" by Louis Komjathy of Boston University.

For their kindness and understanding, I wish to sincerely thank the great and patient staff and supporters of the Asian Library of the University of British Columbia and its wonderful Asian Library, in Vancouver, B.C., and personal hero Joseph Needham.

On a less cerebral level, I wish to give thanks to the Garden Bay Hotel, where the beautiful views provide calm inspiration, and last but not least, the long-time secret inspiration and urgings of a certain, special person who is my beautiful Muse.