The Wisdom Page 


Chinese Wisdom

This addition to The Wisdom Page was prompted by an email message from Jia Jingjin (email), a student at China's Zhejiang Gongshang University. While generally approving of The Wisdom Page, she noted the lack of information about the Chinese wisdom traditions — and gently implied that I (Cop Macdonald) might want to do something about that. Based in part on her suggestions about what the most important Chinese works are, this page is the result.

Fortunately, full-text English language translations of many of these important works are available on the Internet. Below, you will find links to them as well as to some commentaries about them and other related works.

The I Ching

The traditional view is that the I Ching, or Book of Changes, is the oldest of the important Chinese wisdom texts, written by the Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi who lived from 2953 to 2838 BCE. Some modern scholars consider it a later work composed by more than one author, and probably between 475 and 221 BCE. In any event, the I Ching has been at the heart of Chinese thought over the millennia — associated with Taoism, Confucianism, and possibly predating both.

The I Ching is centered on 64 hexagrams, each consisting of an arrangement of six lines, some being solid "yang" lines and some broken "yin" lines. Each hexagram is associated with a commonly encountered state or process — some aspect of life — and with skillful and unskillful ways of dealing with the particular situation. The I Ching has been commonly used as a tool for personal guidance, particularly in decision-making. Three coins tossed six times define the hexagram, and the commentary associated with that hexagram provides the guidance. A more detailed discussion of the I Ching can be found in Wikipedia at

The Wilhelm-Baynes translation of the I Ching (translated first into German by Richard Wilhelm and from the German into English by Cary F. Baynes) is considered by most authorities to be the best translation. Of the several translations I've seen, it is the one that speaks most clearly to me. The James Legge translation of the I Ching, and his translation of other works, date back to the late 19th century.

I Ching Translation by Richard Wilhelm
I Ching Translation by James Legge

I Ching Survey of 54 different translations of the work
Information about The I Ching I Ching Wisdom website
Anthony Judge essays Documents relating to Patterns of I Ching

Transformation Metaphors Derived experimentally from the I Ching by Anthony Judge
An Anthony Judge essay: Sustainability through Magically Dancing Patterns — 8x8, 9x9, 19x19 — I Ching, Tao Te Ching / T'ai Hsüan Ching, Wéiqí (Go)
An Anthony Judge essay: Animation of Classical BaGua Arrangements — a dynamic representation of Neti Neti

Confucius and Confucianism

Confucius (551 to 479 BCE) is described in Wikipedia as a "Chinese thinker and social philosopher whose teachings and philosophy have deeply influenced Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese thought and life. His philosophy emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity." The books listed below are among the most important in the Confucian canon. The first three were long considered to have been written by Confucius, but his teachings are now thought to have been written down by his disciples after his death. Mencius lived more than 100 years after Confucius, and is an important figure in early Confucianism. Zi-si may have been a teacher of Mencius.

Lin Yü (The Analects of Confucius)
        Translation by Charles Muller
        Translation by the Editorial Board of Confucius Publishing Co. Ltd.
        Translations in many languages
The Great Learning (Ta Hsüeh)
        Translation by Charles Muller
        Translation by James Legge
The Doctrine of the Mean (Chung Yung)
        Translation by Charles Muller
        Translation by James Legge

Mencius (Meng-tzu)
        Selections translated by Charles Muller
        Translation by James Legge

The Center of Harmony (Zhong Yong) by Zi-si
        Translation by Sanderson Beck

Lao Tzu — Various English Translations of the Tao Teh Ching

The Tao Teh Ching is a central work in both Taoism and Chinese Buddhism. While the text's authorship is uncertain, tradition attributes it to one Lao Tzu (Old Master) of the 6th century BCE, "a record keeper at the Zhou Dynasty court" (Wikipedia). Like all deeply spiritual works it has been difficult to translate. Many scholars seek a textually-accurate translation where the textual accuracy in the second language mirrors the text in the first. The spiritually-focused translator seeks a translation in which the meaning underlying the original text is presented in the words and phrasing of the second language. Stephen Mitchell's translation is one of the second type and is my favorite.

Gabor Terrebess has done us a great favor by bringing together on the Internet thirty different translations of the Tao Teh Ching. And he has done it in such a way that it is very easy to compare one translation of a particular verse with another translation of the same verse. Below are the names of the translators. Start your journey through the Tao Teh Ching by clicking on any one of them.

Sanderson Beck    R. B. Blakney    Witter Bynner    Tom Byrn    Jim Clatfelter    Nina Correa    Aleister Crowley    Gia-fu Feng    C. Ganson    Tam Gibbs    T. (J.-T.) Gong    Chad Hansen    Robert G. Henricks    Ron Hogan    tom kunesh    D. C. Lau    James Legge    David Lindauer    Ned Ludd    John Mabry    Victor H. Mair    T. McCarroll    J. McDonald    P. Merel    Stephen Mitchell    Patrick E. Moran    Charles Muller    Stan Rosenthal    Octavian Sarbatoare    J. L. A. Trottier    Jerry C. Welch    John WorldPeace    Ted Wrigley    John C. H. Wu    Lin Yutang    Kwok, Palmer, Ramsay

Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi)

Chuang Tzu (these days more frequently called Zhuangzi) was a Chinese philosopher who lived in the 4th century BCE and is said to have authored the Taoist work that bears his name — or at least the first seven chapters of it. His students and followers are thought to have written the rest. Wikipedia has a brief description of the work at

The Complete Works Of Chuang Tzu translated by Burton Watson
Quotations from Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton
The Chuang Tzu translated by Lin Yutang
The Writings of Zhuangzi – Chuang Tzu translated by James Legge
Zhuangzi - "Being Boundless" translated by Nina Correa

Various Taoist Texts

Below are links to some other Taoist texts that you might find of interest.

The Texts of Taoism ( Part I, Part II) translated by James Legge
The Book of Lieh-Tzü translated by Lionel Giles
The Thai-shang translated by James Legge
T'ai-Shang Kan-Ying P'ien translated by Teitaro Suzuki and Paul Carus
Yin Chih Wen trranslated by Teitaro Suzuki and Paul Carus