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On the chapter divisions in the Lao-tzu

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 December 2009


The Ma-wang-tui texts of Lao-tzu have seemingly confirmed two points long held to be true by many scholars: (1) that the text from an early date, if not right from the outset, was divided into two parts; and (2) that—while it is not claimed that the Ma-wang-tui texts represent the original text—it was not originally divided into chapters. This latter conclusion is open to debate since, although there are neither chapter numbers nor names in the Ma-wang-tui texts, there are punctuation dots (·) in part II of text A, often placed at the beginning of one of our present chapters. However, absence of punctuation elsewhere, and the failure of what there is to completely coincide with present chapter divisions, would seem to indicate at least that the present eighty-one chapter divisions—thirty-seven in part I and forty-four in part II—were not yet (c. 180 B.C.) uniformly observed.

Copyright © School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 1982

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1 For a general introduction to the two Ma-wang-tui texts of the Lao-tzu, found at Ma-wang-tui (in Changsha, Hunan) in 1973, see my article, ‘Examining the Ma-wang’tui silk texts of the Lao-tzu: with special note of their differences from the Wang Pi text’, T'oung Pao, LXV, 4–5, 1979, 166–99.

2 Much has been written on the division of the text into two parts, a ‘Tao ching’ and a ‘Te ching’. While most scholars accept the two-fold division as basic, somefeel the titles ‘Tao’ and ‘Te’ came later, and there is debate about when this first became a ching, a ‘canon’ or ‘classic’ (though in most passages translated in this paper I use ‘book’ for ching). Ssu-ma Ch'ien in Shih-chi 63 (Peking: Chung-hua, 1959), vn, 2141, simply refers to a book with ‘sections I and II’. There is nothing in the Ma-wang-tui texts to indicate that the Lao-tzu was yet (early second century B.C.) referred to asa ching. However, the texts are divided into two; and the division embraces the same material as that embraced in the present twofold division of the text, and ‘Tao’ and ‘Te’ are used asthe titles of the two sections, at least in text B. At the end of part I of that text we find ‘Tao, 2426 [characters], and at the end of part II, ‘Te, 3041 [characters]’. For the Ma-wan-tui texts see Ma-wang-tui Han mu po-shu (Peking: Wen wu, 1980), I, 124, 113. For the many opinions and arguments on thetwo-fold division and the references to ching, ‘classic’, see the following: Ma Hsülun} Lao-tzu chiao-ku123 (Peking: Chung-hua, 1974), 13–19; Chu Ch'ing-yüan (or Chu Ch'ien-chih), Lao-tzu chiao-shih (Taipei: Shih-chieh, 1968), 1–2 (of the text itself); and Chiang Hsi-ch'ang, Lao-tzu chiao-ku (Taipei: Ming-lun, 1971), 1–2 (of the text itself). Also, in English, see Wing-tsit Chan, The Way of Lao Tzu (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963), 74–5

3 See my article, ‘A Note on the question of chapter divisions in the Ma-wang-tui Manuscripts of the Lao-tzu’, Early China, IV, 1978–9, 49–51. The dots occur at the beginning of the present chapters 46, 51, 53, 57, 63, 64, 69, 73, 75, 76, 80, and 1, and in the middle of chapters 46, 51, 52, 72, 75, and 81.

4 SeeDuyyvendak, J. J. L., Tao Te ching: the book of the Way and its virtur (London: John Murray, 1954), 4Google Scholar.

5 Chan, The Way of Lao Tzu, 75–6.

6 This is quoted in the commentary to Tung Ssu-ch'ing's (Sung) preface t his Tao-te chen-ching chi-chieh, HY 705 (text no. 705 in the list of the works in the Tao-tsang according to the Harvard-Yenching Index to the Taoist Canon, Tao-tsang tzu-mu yin-te, Peking, 1936; reprint, Taipei, 1966). For the text of the preface itselfsee Cheng-t-ung tao-tsang (Taipei: I-wen, 1977), xxi, 16875. That Liu Hsin calls the sections of the Lao-tzu ‘ching’ would seem to confirm, if this is authentic, that the Lao-tzu had ‘classic’ status by this time.

7 See Yen Lin, Chung-wai Lao-tzu chu-shu mu-lu(Taipei: Chung-hua ts'ung-shu wei-yüan-hui, 1957), 27. K‘ung’s commentary and chapter divisions are no longer extant; they are noted by Chu Te-chih in his Lao-tzu t'ung-ifan-lieh.

8 The text is HY 693. In Cheng-t'ung tao-tsang, see xx, 16154–235. Inthe Tao-tsang text, the noted essay is called ‘[Yen] Chün-p‘ing’s explanation of the division of the two books’. Yen Tsun is actually Chuang Tsun. His name was changed by Pan Ku to avoid the taboo on the name of Emperor Ming of the Han (Liu Chuang, r. A.D. 58–75). SeeCheng-t'ung tao-tsang, xx, 16156, the appended commentary toYen Tsun's ‘Shuo-mu’.

9 See Yen Ling-feng's ‘“Ku-shen-tzu hsü” yü “shuo–mu” i wei-wu’, in Yeng Ling-feng (ed.), Wu-ch'iu pei-chai Lao-tzu chi-ch'eng (Taipei: I-wen, 1965), I, 6a–9b. Most convincing is his argument on p. 7a thatpart II of the Tao-taang'a Ku-shen-tzu chu has forty chapters, not thirty-two.

10 HY 693; Cheng-t'ung tao-tsang, XX, 16156.

1 Tr. by Wing-tsit Chan, The Way of Lao Tzu, 203.

12 Hu's ‘T'i’ is included with the prefatory material to Yen Tsun's commentary in Yen Ling-feng's Wu-ch'iu pei-chai Lao-tzu chi-ch'eng, 1.

13 HY 705; Cheng-t'ung lao-tsang, XXI, 16875.

14 See Wing-tsit Chan's review of the evidence in The Way of Lao Tzu, 76–82.

15 For Ko Hsüiian's ‘Preface’ see Yen K'o-chüin's Ch'üan shang-ku san-tai Ch'in, Han, san-kuo, liu-ch'ao wen emphasis, II, 1460, in the Chū-bun edition (Kyoto, 1972).

16 HY 705; heng-t'ung tao-tsang, XXI, 16875.

17 i.e. by ending part I with our own chapter 36 and then beginning part II with 37; or by removing a chapter from part I and placing it in part I I; or by combining two chapters in part I and splittingtwo in part II.

19 See Chu Ch‘ing-yüan’s Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 2, where a statement from Tung Chiung's Tsang-shu chih is cited by Wang Ch'ang.

19 See HY 679, Cheng-t'ung tao-tsang, xix, 15416.

20 Quoted by Yen Ling-feng in ‘Pien Yen Tsun Tao-te chih-kuei lun fei wei-shu’, in Wu-ch'iu pei-chai Lao-tzu chi-cheng, 7ab.

21 This is the base text for Chu Ch‘ing-yüan’ Lao-tzu chiao-shih. Chiang Hsi-ch'ang notes it as the ‘peis’ text in his Lao-tzu chiao-ku, and Shima Kunig, in Roshi kosei (Tokyo: Kyūko, 1973) notes this as ‘Lung-hsing kuan pei’.

22 For example, is written with in both cases. Variant characters and variant readings also coincide from time to time.

23 Chan's translation, The Way of Lao Tzu, 119.

24 ibid., 146.

25 See p. 2 in Chu Ch‘ing-yüan’s Lao-tzu chiao-shih where he cites the findings of Hung I-hsüan.

28 The third line of 26 is ‘Therefore the sage travels all day …’ (Chan, he Wayof Lao Tzu, 146).

27 HY 704, Cheng-t'ung tao-tsang, XXI, 16874.

28 Chan, The Way of Lao Tzu, 236.

29 HY 676, Cheng-t'ung tao-tsang, XIX, 15233–73.

30 See HY 692, Cheng-t'ung tao-tsang, XX, 16127–54.

31 Han shu, 30, VI, 1729 (using the Chung-hua shu-chü edition [Peking, 1962]).

32 We have no dates for the first three; Liu Hsiang's dates are 79–8 B.C. The first three titles again (see n. 3 above) seem to indicate that the Lao-tzu was considered a ching, ‘classic’, by the end of Former Han. Ma Hsü-lun thinks not. He argues that this is an anachronism on the part of Pan Ku. (See his Lao-tzu chiao-ku, I, 13). For evidence he points to the fact that Liu Hsiang's text is simply on the Lao-tzu, and he feels that the other three texts were written before Liu Hsiang's so they are listed before it by Pan Ku.

33 Cited in Chu Ch'ing-yüan's Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 2.

34 SeeKenneth, Ch'en, Buddhism in China: a historical survey (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964), 36'7Google Scholar.

35 See Ma Hsü-lun, Lao-tzu chiao-ku, I, 16.

36 See ibid., 20.

37 The ‘Yii-Lao’ chapter ‘illustrates’lines from thirteen chapters, 46, 54, 26, 36, 63, 64, 52, 71, 64, 47, 41, 33, an

38 See J a o Tsung-i's study, Lao-tzu Hsiang-erh chu chiao-chien (Hong Kong: Tone Nam 1965).

39 Wing-tsit Chan (The Way of Lao Tzu, 75) points out that scholars also cite the lack of chapter divisions in Lu Te-ming's (556–627) Lao-tzu yin-ias evidence for a Sui (581–618) or early T' ang (618–907) origin of the divisions.

40 That is to say, the first and last lines of a chapter and much of what lies in between are cited in sequence, set off from lines from others chapters. Chapters set off in this way are our 38, 58, 59, 60, 46, 50, 53, 54, 26, and 47, and one could possibly make a case for chapter 36. It is possible, however, and I will raise this point again later on, that Han Fei-tzu saw chapters 58, 59, and 60 as one unit, and the same applies to 53 and 54.

41 This fragment is not found in the Ch'i-lϋeh fragments assembled by Yen K'o-chϋn in Ch'uan shang-lcu san-tai Ch'in, Han, san-kuo, liu-ch'ao wen, I, 351 (bottom)-353 (top).

42 I think this is Yen Ling-feng's conclusion also—see his Ma-wang-tui po-shu Lao-tzu shih-t'an(Taipei: Ho-lo t'u-shu, 1976), 5–6. At least he concludes that it was divided into eighty-one chapters by the time of Liu Hsiang.

43 At the end of Tung Chung-shu's biography (Han shu, 56, vin, 2526) we find: ‘Liu Hsiang acclaimed Tung Chung-shu as one whose abilities were those of a minister of kings.’ (Cited from Fung Yu-lan's History of Chinese philosophy, transl. byBodde, Derk. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953, II,17Google Scholar.)

44 See Yao Nai, Lao-tzu chang-i (T'ung-ch'eng Wu-shih ch'ung-k'an pen (1870).

45 See his Lao-tzu chiao-ku, III. 643–74.Google Scholar

46 See Yen, Ling-feng, Lao-tzu chang-chϋ hsin-pien Taipei: Chung-hua wen-hua, 1954), Vol.IGoogle Scholar.

47 See D. C. Lau (tr.), Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching (Baltimore and London: Penguin Books, 1953), especially the appendix, ‘The nature of the work’, pp. 113–74; also p. 51 of the introduction.

48 In the Ma-wang-tui texts, what to us is chapter 24 comes between 21 and 22, 41 is between 39 and 40, and 80 and 81 come between 66 and 67.

49 While he maintains the present eighty-one chapters and present chapter sequence, J. J. L. Duyvendak, like Yen Ling-feng, considers that when the arrangement into eighty-one chapters was done, some lines (being on slips of bamboo in bundles) were disarranged and moved out of their original context (see Duyvendak, tr., Tao Te Ching, 5). Thus, following the suggestions of Ma Hsϋ-lun and others, he makes some thirty shifts of material from one place in the text to another (he indexes these on p. 16). Of these changes, only two are borne out by the Ma-wang-tui texts: (1) the omission of the line ‘It is only when one does not have enough faith in others that others will have no faith in him ’(Chan, 141) from the end of chapter 23; and (2) the omission of the line ‘Even the sage considers it a difficult question’ (Chan, 228) from chapter 73. But these omissions occur in other texts as well.

50 Although in the course of the analysis that follows I will indicate a fourth, ‘common’ or ‘standard’ chapter format.

51 Chu gives his own opinions on the rhymes and also collates the conclusions of twelve other scholars: Chiang Yu-kao, Wu Yϋ Ku Yen-wu, Chiang Yung-chih Yao Wen-t'ien, Teng T'ing-chen Li Keng-yϋnL i u Shih-p'ei Hsi T'ung Ch'en Chu and Karlgren. He also, on occasion, cites the work of Takeuchi Yoshio.

52 In Gōteborgs Hōgskolas Ārsskrift, XXXVM, 3, 1932, 145Google Scholar.

53 See chapters 2, 8, 1 5; also similar endings in 41, 60, a nd 75.

54 See chapters 7, 34, 66, and 71.

55 Occurring, not only at the end, however, in chapters 10, 14, 27, 30, 51, 52, 53, 55, 59, 68, and 74.

56 Chapters 12, 38, 72.

57 See chapters 21 and 54; also 50 for a similar pattern.

58 Chapters 24, 28, 29, 39, 44, 46, 47, 56, 58, 62, 63, 69, 70, 81.

59 For further discussion on this point, see below. Note that D. C. Lau {Lao Tzu: Tao (Te Ching, 23) draws attention to the fact that chapters dealing with the ‘way of Heaven’ tend to be put together near the end of the book, chapters 71–81.

60 See D. C. Lau, Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching, 166.

61 Ma, Hsϋ-lun, Lao-tzu chiao-ku, III, 644Google Scholar.

62 For the theory that even ssu had an en sound at this time see Chu Ch'ing-yϋan, Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 17–18. For the rhymes of chapter 5 see ibid., 16.

63 See Ma-wang-tui Han mu po-shu Peking: Wen Wu, 1980), I, 117, text B: text A has a lacuna. (This work hereafter cited as MWTHMPS.) But note that Ma-wang-tui chapter 14 has ‘hold on to the Way of the present’

64 MWTHMPS, I, 118Google Scholar.

65 Karlgren (‘The poetical parts in Lao-tsī, 9) rhymes chi and tu with tso and fu

66 See their article, ‘ Shih-t'an Ma-wang-tui Han mu chung ti po-shu Lao-tzu’ Wen wu 1974 II P. 4.

67 See MWTHMPS, I, 118.Google Scholar

68 See Kao Heng and Ch'ih Hsi-chao as cited in n. 66. Also Wing Tsit-chan, The Way of Lao Tzu, p. 135, n. 1. On the rhyming of yu with p'u and yϋ see Chu Ch'ing-yϋan, Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 49.

69 Though Ma Hsϋ-lun (Lao-tzu chiao-hu, m, 649) puts it at the start of the present 19.

70 See Cheng-t'ung tao-tsang, XIX, 16826, and XIX, 15242.

71 See MWTHMPS, I, 119–20.Google Scholar

72 Tr. by Chan, The Way of Lao Tzu, 143. The first two lines are reversed in the Ma-wang-tui texts.

73 ibid., 139. Again, the first two lines are reversed in the Ma-wang-tui texts.

74 Osamu, Kanaya, ‘Hakusho Rōshi ni tsuite—sono shiryōshō no shohoteki gimmi’ in Chūgoku tdsvgakushi no tembō to mosalcu (Tokyo: Sobunsho, 1976), 190Google Scholar

76 See MWTHMPS, I, 121.Google Scholar

77 Linguists are not agreed on the archaic rhyming of k'ai('A well-shut door needs no bolt, and yet it cannot be opened', Chan, 147) with the other finals in the series, chi , che ts'e , and chieh. See Chu Ch'ing-yϋan,Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 71, and Karlgren, ‘The poetical parts in the Lao-tsī‘, 12, for the various opinions. The Ma-wang-tui texts have ch'iinstead of k'ai; ch'i probably presents fewer problems. See MWTHMPS, I, 121.Google Scholar

78 ibid. The Ma-waug-tui texts have ‘Therefore the good man is the teacher of the good’.

79 Chan, The Way of Lao Tzu, 149.

80 SeeMWTHMPS,I, 122Google Scholar

81 See their article, ‘Shih-t'an Ma-wang-tui Han mu chung t'i po-shu Lao-tzu’, 4.

82 Chan, The Way of Lao Tzu, 149 and 151. For the second line the Ma-wang-tui texts (MWTHMPS, I, 122) have ‘is used’ instead of ‘uses i t ’ Thus the translation should be ‘But when the sage is used’, which is parallel to the uncarved wood being broken up, and altogether makes better sense.

83 See Chu Ch‘ing-yϋan, Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 90 and 92.

84 That is, hsi, chang jo ch'iang, then ch'ϋ, yϋ Jjj, to, and yil. Also see Chu Ch'ing-yϋan, Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 94.

85 Chan, The Way of Lao Tzu, 164.

86 See his Lao-tzu chiao-hu, in, 655.

87 See Karlgren, ‘The poetical p a r t s in t h e Lao-tsī, 13. Also see Chu Ch'ing-yϋan, Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 94, where he cites t h e opinion of K u Yen-wu. The last two lines are also rhymed: yϋan(water) rhymes with jen(people).

88 See MWTHMPS, I, 102.Google Scholar

89 ‘Hakusho Roshi ni tsuite’, 189.

90 Dots which seem to indicate chapter divisions, and which are placed at the beginning of the chapter, are here found at the begining and end of these opeininglines. See MWTHMPS, I, 103.

91 For the rhymes (uü, tsu, te, and) see Chu Ch'ing-yüan, Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 121.

92 The Ma-wang-tui texts (MWTTHMPS, I, 104) omit the ‘virtue’ (te) from the second of these lines.

93 See MWTHMPS, I, 104.

94 For the rhymes see Chu Ch'ing-yüan, Lao-tzu chiao-shih 131–2. Three of the first four lines are rhymed (with sheng , hsing, and ch'eng). Then the second saying has an AB pattern with sheng -hsü, ch'angr -yü, ch'ngshu, and yang -fu.

95 All translated by Chan, The way of Lao Tzu, 192. For the rhymes see Chu Ch'ing-yüan. Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 134–5. The first part has one rhyme throughout: shih, mu , mu, tzu, mu, tai. The rhyme words īn the second part are tui (a), men (B), ch'in (B), tui (A), shih (C), chiu (C). In the third part we have just one rhyme: ming, ch'iang, kuang , yang, ch'ang.

96 See MWTHMPS, I, 105, and Chan, The Way of Lao Tzu, 192

97 See MWTHMPS, i, 106–7.

98 For the rhyme see Chu Ch'ing-yüab, Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 150, 153.

99 See Han, Fei-tzu chi-shih (Taipei: Shih-chieh, 1963). I, 340–59.Google Scholar

100 See chu Ch'ing-yüan,Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 156, then 153, 159, In 59 the rhyme words are se fu, te, etc.; at the end of 58 the rhyme is ssu and yao; at the beginning of 60, hsien and shen. Also see Karlgren, ‘The poetical parts in the Lao-tsī’, 17.

101 Cahpter 57 ends with shih, fu, and p'u. Chatpter 58 begins with men men, ch'un ch'un. See Chu Ch'ing-yüan, 150, 153, and Karlgren. 17.

102 See Karlgren, ‘The poetical parts in the Lao-tsī, 17. SEe also Chu Ch'ing-yüan, Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 153.

103 See MWTHMPS, I, 108.

104 ibid., 110.

105 ibid.

106 Henricks, ‘A note on the question of chapter division in the Ma-wang-tui manuscripts of the Lao-tzu’, 50.

107 See Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 184. The rhyme words are wei, chih, ai, and kuei.

108 ibid., 195

109 See MWTHMPS, I, 113.

110 ibid., 109–10.

111 See his ‘Hakusho RŌshi ni tsuite’, 190.

112 See MWTHMPS, I, 109.

113 See his Lazo-tzu chiao-shih, 200. He argues that ‘knowledge’ (chih) in the first part rhymes with ‘accumulate’ (chi) and ‘more’ (to) in the second.

114 See his Lao-tzu chiao-ku, III, 662–3.

115 See Chu Ch'ing-yüan, Lao-tzu chiao-shih, 137. The rhyme words are ch'u, wu, hsuü, and yü.

116 ibid., 139. The rhyme words are pa, tuo, and cho.

117 See MWTHMPS, I, 112.

118 ‘Hakusho RŌshi ni tsuite’, 185.

119 I noted earlier the ‘way of Heaven’ chapters in 71–81; chapters 73–76 all deal in some way with death.

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