These 81 brief poems from the 5th century BCE make up a foundational text in world culture. In elegant, simple yet elusive language, the Daodejing develops its vision of humankind’s place in the world in personal, moral, social, political and cosmic terms. Martyn Crucefix’s superb new versions in English reflect – for the very first time – the radical fluidity of the original Chinese texts as well as placing the mysterious ‘dark’ feminine power at their heart.
Laozi, the putative author, is said to have despaired of the world’s venality and corruption, but he was persuaded to leave the Daodejing poems as a parting gift, as inspiration and as a moral and political handbook. Crucefix’s versions reveal an astonishing empathy with what the poems have to say about good and evil, war and peace, government, language, poetry and the pedagogic process. When the true teacher emerges, no matter how detached, unimpressive, even muddled she may appear, Laozi assures us “there are treasures beneath”.