Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-Yeh) and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism

Cambridge University Press (2004)
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Revolutionizing received opinion of Taoism's origins in light of historic new discoveries, Harold D. Roth has uncovered China's oldest mystical text -- the original expression of Taoist philosophy -- and presents it here with a complete translation and commentary. Over the past twenty-five years, documents recovered from the tombs of China's ancient elite have sparked a revolution in scholarship about early Chinese thought, in particular the origins of Taoist philosophy and religion. In _Original Tao,_ Harold D. Roth exhumes the seminal text of Taoism -- _Inward Training _ -- not from a tomb but from the pages of the _Kuan Tzu,_ a voluminous text on politics and economics in which this mystical tract had been "buried" for centuries. _Inward Training_ is composed of short poetic verses devoted to the practice of breath meditation, and to the insights about the nature of human beings and the form of the cosmos derived from this practice. In its poetic form and tone, the work closely resembles the _Tao-te Ching_; moreover, it clearly evokes Taoism's affinities to other mystical traditions, notably aspects of Hinduism and Buddhism. Roth argues that _Inward Training_ is the foundational text of early Taoism and traces the book to the mid-fourth century B.C.. These verses contain the oldest surviving expressions of a method for mystical "inner cultivation," which Roth identifies as the basis for all early Taoist texts, including the _Chuang Tzu_ and the world-renowned _Tao-te Ching._ With these historic discoveries, he reveals the possibility of a much deeper continuity between early "philosophical" Taoism and the later Taoist religion than scholars had previously suspected. _Original Tao_ contains an elegant and luminous complete translation of the original text. Roth's comprehensive analysis explains what _Inward Training_ meant to the people who wrote it, how this work came to be "entombed" within the _Kuan Tzu,_ and why the text was largely overlooked after the early Han period



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