The Essential Philosophy of Laozi

Taoism (Daoism) Dmystified
The Essential Philosophy of Laozi
History of his Theory practiced in China briefly Explained

Laozi (aka Lao Tzu) Is Equally Important and Famous as Confucius. But his philosophy was elliptically and popularly represented as mythologized Daoism(Taoism) against the more influential Confucianism. They both expound rationalism.

The quintessential philosophy of Laozi, as known since 2nd Century BC as Laoism (e.g. in Legalist Hanfeizi’s work Interpretation of Laoism). However, it was later hijacked and conventionally publicized as Daoism through efforts of the zealous religion-oriented and semi-literate people, i.e. socially savvy armchair intellectuals.

In the 2nd Century BC (180-141BC) of Emperors Han Wendi and Han Jingdi the book Laozi was the mandatory or all people study it. Though it was later replaced by The Analects of Confucius by Emperor Han Wudi(156-87 BC).

Before 180 BC, China had had been in turmoil for more than five hundred years, through both internal and external power struggle. People were then condemned to live in insecurity, uncertainty, chaos, restlessness, and poverty. The diligent practice of Laozi’s philosophy by these two Han Emperors, under the auspice of Huang-Lao, for measure of austerity and thriftiness, has brought the whole country back on its feet. People were also given a chance to be restful to enjoy tranquility, to pursue life, liberty and happiness.
The then necessitated name Huang-Lao is to affiliate Laoism to the very first founder of China—Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor of 2,650 BC; it was through Huangdi’s philosophy that China and the Chinese Nation were born. That era was known as ‘the Rule of Wen & Jing

The suppression of Laoism and the promotion of Confucianism was the beginning of the execution of the authoritarianism and the recoiling of libertarianism; it has also initiated the process of the closing of minds in China.

Down to the Eighth Century(627-649AD), Laozi– Li Erh was promoted by then Tang Emperor Li Shimin, who also had the surname Li, as the Genuine Ultimate Lord. His Laoism was promoted because of this viral ‘political assignment’. This once again encouraged the practice of Laoism economics, which was instrumental in making China again a wealthy country—in the Chinese history, for several centuries; it’s called “the Reign of Zhenguan Era–贞观之治.

Chiang Kai-shek in 1945, right after the defeat of Japanese, sympthetic to their divesting suffering of the aftermath of two atomic bombs, had preached mercy by quoting from Laozi “(A Sage) must requite all accusations and animosities with virtuous acts, no matter whether it is serious, minor, many, or few”(63.I)–the practice of De (arête;virtue).

Mao Zedong had read Laozi since his youth until his death. He considered it a treasured book for political thought and military strategies (Sun Tzu was Laozi’s personally disciple). Mao even held the opinion that Hegel’s dialectic method for thesis, antithesis and synthesis, adopted by Marx for communism, was originated by Laozi. Chou Enlai was also an ardent reader of Laozi, and he quoted from Laozi often. Deng Xiaoping too, embraced Laoism so deeply that he survived the unforeseen vicissitude brought by Mao’s purge in the name of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960’s. He has observed Laozi’s teaching on humility so well that he only let others address him Vice Premier while his influence was the greatest in the country after his resurgence. As recently as the year 2000, Jiang Zemin has also quoted from Laozi in his speeches.

Laozi has been commonly recognized, in modern Europe and USA, as the first & the earliest libertarian. His libertarian views were cited by economist from Ludwig Misses down to Freidrich Von Hayak, as well as his liberal social-political views. Libertarians, in politics and economics, all over the world commonly held the opinion that Laozi was the first and formost philosopher to expound this line of thinking.

Nietzsche was absolutely right to describe that the book Laozi embodies so much wealth of ideas that reading it is like fetching water from a well that has endless replenishment. It could go deeper and broader, as humanly possible, when one exerts to understand it more thoroughly. Like Laozi, Nietzsche also wrote philosophy out of the depth of his heart, i.e. deep-seated sincerity, about his keen observation, reasoning and feelings, rather than using dialectic techniques like most professional or Western philosophers. He was his own best critic due to his thorough self-knowledge—“Know thyself” motto of Delphi Gods.

Bertrand Russell said that the ethics Laozi has suggested reflected the highest principle, e.g. “Helping others to live the best possible life, yet not to take credit for it.”(Give but not take from other people)

Philosophers like Russell, Popper and Chern all admired Laozi that they were in search of a more appropriate logical translation to satisfy their background of working with framework of thoughts than dealing with piecemeal poetic thinking. Because Laozi was focusing on talking philosophy seriously, e.g. like Socrates and Plato, rather than uttering poems like poets Homer or Iliad.