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Ancient Chinese philosopher, author of the Dào Dé Jīng

Laozi (also Lao-Tzu or Lao-Tze, Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ, literally "Old Master") was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is the reputed author of the Dao De Jing, the founder of philosophical Daoism and as a deity in religious Daoism and traditional Chinese religions.


Lao Tzu (c. 600 BC), by James A. Dorn, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay focusing on Laozi's teachings
Lao Tzu (the "Old Philosopher") is thought to have been an older contemporary of Confucius and arguably the first libertarian. In the Tao Te Ching ("The Classic of the Way and Its Virtue"), Lao Tzu discusses the relations among the individual, the state, and nature. Like 18th-century liberals, he argued that minimizing the role of government and letting individuals develop spontaneously would best achieve social and economic harmony ... At the center of his thoughts were the principle of wu-wei (nonaction or nonintervention) and the notion of spontaneous order.
Related Topics: China, Dào Dé Jīng, Government
Laozi, by Alan Chan, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2 May 2013
Major sections: The Laozi Story - Date and Authorship of the Laozi - Textual Traditions - Commentaries - Approaches to the Laozi - Dao and Virtue - Naturalness and Nonaction - Bibliography - Other Internet Resources
The name 'Laozi' is best taken to mean 'Old (lao) Master (zi),' and Laozi the ancient philosopher is said to have written a short book, which has come to be called simply the Laozi, after its putative author, a common practice in early China. When the Laozi was recognized as a 'classic' (jing)—that is, accorded canonical status in the classification of Chinese literature, on account of its profound insight and significance—it acquired a more exalted and hermeneutically instructive title, Daodejing (Tao-te ching), commonly translated as the 'Classic of the Way and Virtue.'
Laozi (Lao-tzu, fl. 6th cn. B.C.E.), by Ronnie Littlejohn, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Lengthy biographical essay, including picture; major sections: Laozi and Lao Dan in the Zhuangzi - Laozi and the Daodejing - The First Biography and the Establishment of Laozi as the Founder of Daoism - The Ongoing Laozi Myth
Laozi is the name of a legendary Daoist philosopher, the alternate title of the early Chinese text better known in the West as the Daodejing, and the moniker of a deity in the pantheon of organized 'religious Daoism' that arose during the later Han dynasty (25-220 C.E.). Laozi is the pinyin romanization for the Chinese characters which mean 'Old Master.' Laozi is also known as Lao Dan ('Old Dan') in early Chinese sources ... The Zhuangzi (late 4th century B.C.E.) is the first text to use Laozi as a personal name and to identify Laozi and Lao Dan.

Images - Lao Tzu
200x316 JPEG

Web Pages

Lao Tzu - Libertarian
Biography, picture and quotes, at Advocates for Self-Government
Was Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who was born as early as 600 B.C., the world's first libertarian? He very well might have been, according to libertarian scholar Murray Rothbard. ... Today, Tao-Te Ching is reportedly the second-most translated book in the world, after only the Bible. Along with Confucianism and Buddhism, Taoism is one of the main philosophical influences on modern Chinese thought.
Lao-Tzu |
Includes links and short summaries to essays by or about Laozi or podcasts related to him
Lao Tzu - Online Library of Liberty
Includes picture, short biography and links to quotes and works by the author
Lao Tzu (or Laozi) is remembered as the first philosopher of Taoism. He is often cited as a contributor to, if not the author of, the Tao-te Ching, the basic philosophical discourse on Taoism. His life is shrouded in mystery and legend, but it is generally accepted that he was active sometime in the early sixth century B.C. and served as a resident scholar, called a shih, at the royal court of the Shou.


The Ancient Chinese Libertarian Tradition, by Murray N. Rothbard, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1990
Review and commentary on the ideas of Taoists Lao-tzu (Laozi) and Chuang-tzu (Zhuang Zhou)
The first libertarian intellectual was Lao-tzu, the founder of Taoism. ... For Lao-tzu the individual and his happiness was the key unit and goal of society. If social institutions hampered the individual's flowering and his happiness, then those institutions should be reduced or abolished altogether. ... Chuang-tzu's scornful rejection of the king's offer ... was a fitting declaration from the man who was perhaps the world's first anarchist ...
The Ancient Roots of Chinese Liberalism: Westerners who think that authoritarian rule is China's natural state misunderstand its culture, by Liu Junning, The Wall Street Journal, 6 Jul 2011
Discusses the "Beijing model" as an alternative to Western economic liberalism in the future of China and reminds the reader of several Chinese scholars (Laozi, Mencius and the 17th century Huang Zongxi) who advocated liberal principles before John Locke
Indeed, what we now call Western-style liberalism has featured in China's own culture for millennia. We first see it with philosopher Laozi, the founder of Taoism, in the sixth century B.C. Laozi articulated a political philosophy that has come to be known as wuwei, or inaction. 'Rule a big country as you would fry a small fish,' he said. That is, don't stir too much. 'The more prohibitions there are, the poorer the people become,' he wrote in his magnum opus, the 'Daodejing.'
Related Topics: China, Freedom of Speech
China: Wealth but Not Freedom, by James A. Dorn, 21 Apr 2011
Contrasts China's recent economic growth and statements of government officials with the reality of the rights afforded to its citizens, in particular to Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, co-author of Charter 08
The great Chinese liberal Lao-Tzu understood the importance of freedom and limited government. For him and other Taoists, harmony cannot be forced; it must be natural. In the Laozi, also known as the Tao Te Ching, we read: 'The more restrictions and prohibitions there are in the world, the poorer the people will be.' Denying individuals the liberty to exchange ideas, to criticize the government and party, and to associate freely without the fear of repression makes people poorer by restricting the alternatives open to them.
Related Topics: China, Freedom of Speech
China's Legacy: The Thoughts of Lao Tzu, by James A. Dorn, South China Morning Post, 4 Sep 2007
Contrasts the teachings of Laozi with respect to government intervention with the lingering effects of Mao Zedong's legacy
Lao Tzu, thought to have been an older contemporary of Confucius (551-479BC), may have been the first libertarian. In writing the Dao De Jing he argued that if governments followed the principle of wu-wei (non-action), social and economic harmony would naturally emerge and people would prosper ... Although Lao Tzu did not have a fully developed theory of the spontaneous market order, he clearly recognised the importance of limited government ... Lao Tzu also recognised that when government leaves people alone, then "without being ordered to do so, people become harmonious by themselves".
Related Topics: China, Dào Dé Jīng, Government
Complex Societies Need Simple Laws, by John Stossel, 15 Mar 2012
Reflects on the "uncountable" number of laws and regulations in the United States as well as Britain, and elicits the views of Lǎozǐ, Hayek, Buchanan and Mises in favor of ending "the orgy of rule-making"
The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, sometimes called the first libertarian thinker, said, "The more artificial taboos and restrictions there are in the world, the more the people are impoverished. ... The more that laws and regulations are given prominence, the more thieves and robbers there will be." He complained that there were "laws and regulations more numerous than the hairs of an ox." What would he have thought of our world?
Harmony: Lao-tzu, by David Boaz, The Libertarian Reader, 1997
First section of part four, "Spontaneous Order"; includes a brief introduction and short excerpts of five chapters from the Tao Te Ching
Libertarian ideas ... arose in the West ... But elements of libertarian ideas in society can certainly be found in Eastern philosophy as well. One of the classic sources is the Tao Te Ching, thought to have been written in the sixth century B.C. by a scribe named Lao-tzu (or Lao Tse). Tao is sometimes translated "the Way," though another possible translation is "natural law." ... Lao-tzu urges the ruler ("the sage") to refrain from acting, to accept the good with the bad, to let people pursue their own actions ... Some libertarians consider the legendary Lao-tzu the first libertarian.
Related Topic: Dào Dé Jīng
Taoism in Ancient China, by Murray N. Rothbard, Economic Thought Before Adam Smith, 1995
Chapter 1, section 1.10; discusses the three schools of political philosophy and then concentrates on the Daoists, covering Lǎozǐ (Lao Tzu), Zhuāng Zhōu (Chuang Tzu), Bào (Pao) Jìngyán and the historian Sīmǎ Qiān (Ch'ien)
Both [Lao Tzu and Confucius] lived in a time of turmoil, wars and statism, but each reacted very differently. For Lao Tzu worked out the view that the individual and his happiness was the key unit of society. If social institutions hampered the individual's flowering and his happiness, then those institutions should be reduced or abolished altogether. To the individualist Lao Tzu, government, with its 'laws and regulations more numerous than the hairs of an ox,' was a vicious oppressor of the individual, and 'more to be feared than fierce tigers.'
Tauism, by William Elliot Griffis, Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States, 1899
Explains Taoism, first providing a brief summary of Laozi's life and how he came to write the Tao Te Ching and then discussing some of the concepts and mythology that evolved
... Lao-Tse ... was born in the feudal age of China, in the petty kingdom of Tsu, now the province of Honan, in 604 B. C. ... From early life he was an arduous student and much given to meditation. ... The sage devoted himself to expanding his doctrine of Tau (the Way), and shunned all notoriety. Before passing through the boundary gate, Yin Hsi, the warden and his admirer, persuaded the sage to commit his doctrines to writing. Lao-Tse complied, and wrote down what appear like lecture notes, which need further oral expansion.


Lao-Tzu Argues for Liberty in Ancient China, 1891
Short introduction to excerpts of chapters 57 to 60 of the Tao Te Ching, as translated by James Legge, Professor of Chinese at Oxford, see Sacred Books of the East, Vol XXXIX, edited by F. Max Müller
A state may be ruled by (measures of) correction; weapons of war may be used with crafty dexterity; (but) the kingdom is made one's own (only) by freedom from action and purpose ... In the kingdom the multiplication of prohibitive enactments increases the poverty of the people ... Let the kingdom be governed according to the Tao, and the manes of the departed will not manifest their spiritual energy. It is not that those manes have not that spiritual energy, but it will not be employed to hurt men. It is not that it could not hurt men, but neither does the ruling sage hurt them.
Related Topics: Government, The State
Selections from Lao-tzu (Laozi): Tao Te Ching (Daode-jing)
Thirty-seven translated excerpts from the Dào Dé Jīng, unidentified as to chapter or source [however, the translator appears to be professor A. Charles Muller at]
The Tao ["way"] that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the origin of heaven and earth
While naming is the origin of the myriad things.
Therefore, always desireless, you see the mystery
Ever desiring, you see the manifestations.
These two are the same—
When they appear they are named differently.
True words are not fancy.
Fancy words are not true.
The good do not debate.
Debaters are not good.
The one who really knows is not broadly learned,
The extensively learned do not really know.
Related Topics: Government, Taxation, War
Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) by Lao Tzu (Laozi)
Research, compilation and indexing by Michael P. Garofalo, M.S.; includes modern Chinese, 25 English and five Spanish versions, introduction, chapter and thematic indexes and extensive bibliography

Books Authored

Te-Tao Ching (Modern Library), 1993
Translated and with and introduction by Robert G. Henricks; partial contents: The Ma-wang-tui Manuscripts of the Lao-tzu and Other Versions of the Text - The Philosophy of Lao-tzu - Translator's Note - Te (Virtue) - Tao (The Way)
Related Topic: Dào Dé Jīng


EASTERN PHILOSOPHY - Lao Tzu, by The School of Life, 21 Nov 2014
Overview of Laozi's life, the Dao De Jing and Daoism, including discussion of some of the concepts of Laozi's philosophy

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Laozi" as of 14 Jul 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.