Rediscovering the Roots of Chinese Thought
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Rediscovering the Roots of Chinese Thought

   Laozi's Philosophy

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CHEN Guying Translated by Paul D'Ambrosio
140 Pages
January 2015
ISBN 978-1-931483-61-2


This book translates Lao Zhuang xinlun, a key work of contemporary Chinese. It offers a unique discussion of the Laozi, arguing—in contrast to standard Western scholarship—that the text goes back to a single author and identifying him as an older contemporary, and even teacher, of Confucius. This places the Confucian Analects after the Laozi and makes the text the most fundamental work of ancient Chinese thought.

Chen explores these debates regarding these points, providing evidence based on materials excavated from Mawangdui and Guodian. His book is fascinating documentation of contemporary Chinese arguments and debates previously unavailable in English. It is nothing less than a complete revision of the history of Chinese thought with Daoism as its major focus.


CHEN Guying 陈鼓应 was born in Fujian province in 1935. He received his degree in philosophy from National Taiwan University, where he taught for most of his life. In the 1980s, he returned to live part time on the mainland, where he still teaches at Peking University's Center for Daoist Studies. The author of numerous works on Daoist thought, often in comparison with Western philosophy, Chen is among the most influential living scholars of Chinese thought. Still vibrantly active, he runs various conferences and academic projects, forever stimulating new ventures and contributing to the wider appreciation and deeper understanding of Daoist thinking.


Paul D’Ambrosio德安博was born in Boston, Mass., and received his Ph.D. from the National University of Ireland in 2012. He works as an adjunct professor at Merrimack College, Fudan University, and East China Normal University (both in Shanghai). Specializing in include early Daoist and Wei-Jin period philosophy, he is the author of several articles and has a book in preparation.


This book provides invaluable insight into the thought and scholarship of one of the most original and influential contemporary Chinese Daoist philosophers. Chen's reflections on the history of the Daode jing and the ideas expressed in this foundational classic are simply fascinating. Paul D’Ambrosio's elegant translation is both faithful to the original and philosophically acute.

The book is a precious resource for Western readers interested in Daoist thought and the cultural history of China which will massively to broaden their understanding of how the Daoist classic came about and what it means to contemporary Chinese thinkers.—Hans-Georg Moeller, University of Macau.


This translation makes available for the first time to an English reading audience the groundbreaking work of one of contemporary China's leading voices in the study of early Daoism. Rediscovering the Roots of Chinese Thought pushes back hard against the current trend of scholarly opinion claiming that Laozi never lived and that he did not write the Daode jing. Masterfully arguing that that these views are no longer tenable, Chen acknowledges Laozi as the first philosopher of the Chinese tradition and situates the Daode jing at the very origins of Chinese philosophy, a force that motivated and inspired all other Chinese schools of thought.

The book fundamentally changes the way we read the Daode jing. It challenges us reconsider the entire history of Chinese thought. The book is a must for anybody interested in Daoism and Chinese philosophy. It its impact will be felt for a long time to come.—Thomas Michael, Boston University


1. Laozi before Kongzi

   —Laozi as Kongzi's Teacher; Laozi before Lunyu; Modern Scholarship; Laozi's Influence on Mozi; Conclusion

2. Laozi's and Kongzi's Teachings

   —Naturalism versus Rule by Virtuosity; The Importance of Society; Heavens, Dao, and Virtuosity; Human Innate Tendencies; Humaneness and Responsibility; Conclusion

3. The Early Laozi

   —The Guodian Versions; Moral Values; Philosophical Development; Issues in the Guodian Laozi

4. Laozi's Thought

Dimensions of Dao; Practical Application; Ontology and Experience

5. Laozi and Pre-Qin Philosophy

Mainstream Daoism; The Jixia School and Huang-Lao; Laozi's Impact; Conclusion