Lao Tzu Biography

Who was Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu picture
Lao Tzu riding the ox on his way to the West

Lao Tzu (translated the old or venerable sage) is traditionally known as the father of Taoism. He lived during China's Warring States period (about 6th century BC) and worked as an archivist at the emperor court in Ch'u. There he met Confucius with whom he talked about the rites.

Rites were the subject-matter of Confucius' teachings. Taoism didn't bother with such themes stressing the need for education and ethics in order to promote the state's welfare. Therefore the dialogue of these two masters shows a clear demarcation between their specific way of thinking.

Lao Tzu preached the retirement and seclusion, while Confucius insisted on the practicing the humanhood and rightness as main virtues of the leading circles.

Later on, disguised by the court decline, Lao Tzu would have left his job and departed to the West. He was asked by the Guardian of the Pass to write a book of teachings and thus come into being the Tao Te Ching (translated The Classic of Tao and Te).

Tao and Te are the basic concepts in Taoist philosophy developed by Lao Tzu. Thus Tao is the Supreme Principle that rules the universe and Te - the power or virtue ascribed to It.

Confucius meets Lao Tzu
Confucius visiting Lao Tzu
 to talk about rites
In conclusion, one could trace four main features of Lao Tzu's biography:

1. He worked as an archivist at the royal court in Ch'u; 

2. He was supposed to be visited by Confucius and talked about the rites;

3. He preached the retirement from the world as a way of life;

4. He would have left the Court, wrote the Tao Te Ching, and disappeared without a trace.*

Lao Tzu would have lived 160 years or more than 200 because he followed the Tao and nourished hs life.

*Read our commentary on the Death of Lao Tzu, a story by Chuang Tzu

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