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Qin biographies     Qin and Dao     Zhuangzi     Other illustrations: Laozi riding an ox and stone rubbing 首頁
Laozi and the Qin
 
This website has numerous references to Laozi, both the person and the book (i.e., the Dao De Jing2), but the only reference to him playing the qin is in the illustrations from the life of Confucius, as at right. There is no mention of the qin in either of the famous books attributed to him, the Dao De Jing or the Yi Jing.3
老子 1
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Laozi playing qin for Confucius
"Laozi's grave", west of Louguan
Marker: Grave restored in 19984

Qin melodies that connect to Laozi include Qing Jing Jing, Kongtong Wen Dao, Cai Zhen You and perhaps Yi Zhen.

There are a number of legends concerning Laozi himself, but little historical information. According to Shi Ji Annal 63 he was from a town in southern Henan near the Anhui border (or in Anhui), but spent most of his life in Zhou, at that time a small state centered on modern Luoyang. Then, realizing the decline of Zhou, he headed west, eventually departing from society at Louguan (west of modern Xi'an). Illustrations commonly show him riding on an ox because, after having delivered the Dao De Jing to Yin Xi at Louguan, he is said to have disappeared westward traveling on such an ox. Liexian Zhuan relates some of the legends about Laozi.

Annal 63 of Shi Ji gives a short introduction to Laozi and several other philosophers.5 It says Laozi was from Quren, apparently near the modern town of Luyi in Henan province.6 It adds that when Laozi was working as a "scribe in the Zhou office of archives" Confucius came to Zhou intending to ask him about the rites. Laozi told Confucius to "give up your arrogant airs, many desires, contrived posturing and overweening ambition",7 and that Confucius came away calling Laozi a "dragon". (The Shi Ji biography of Confucius says while in Zhou to study the rites he happened to meet Laozi; it does not record Confucius' reaction to Laozi's advice.) The biography of Laozi continues (trans. Nienhauser8),

Laozi cultivated the Way and its virtue. His teaching emphasized hiding oneself and avoiding fame. After living in Zhou for a long time, he saw Zhou's decline, and left. When he reached the pass, the Prefect of the Pass Yin Xi said, "Since you are going to retire from the world, I beg you to endeavor to write a book for us." Laozi thus wrote a book in two sections which spoke of the meaning of the Way and its virtue in five thousand and some characers and then departed. No one knows where he finally ended.

The biography then adds some information, which it considers speculative, about Laozi's writing, life span (160 or over 200), and being Grand Scribe 儋 Dan of Zhou. It mentions descendants of Laozi, concluding by saying followers of Confucius do not get along with followers of Laozi, and vice versa.

The book of Zhuangzi recounts numerous conversations between Laozi and Confucius. And, contrary to the Shi Ji account above, Zhuangzi, Chapter 3, discusses Laozi's funeral. As for this, at the remote (in 2005) spot shown at right there is a small building that claims to contain the grave of Laozi. The marker suggests that its use of the word "grave" is symbolic: it says that the year after he dictated the Dao De Jing to Yinxi, Laozi rode up into the heavens from here at 大陵山 Daling Mountain, adding that it was restored in 1998 through the efforts of a Ms. Li Shixiu.9

One can find online illustrations (see #9 聞禮老聃) of Confucius discussing the rites with Laozi. For Daoist accounts of their meeting(s) see the book of Zhuangzi and the melody Cai Zhen You.

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Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Laozi 老子
29481.7/5: proper name .224 老聃 Lao Dan; /7: another name of the 道德經 Dao De Jing (see next footnote). His biography in Shi Ji is Annal 63 (GSR VII, p. 21ff). Also known as 伯陽 Boyang (538.313 Laozi's style name, giving Shi Ji as the source, but I have not found it there). Information also in Wikipedia, etc.
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2. Dao De Jing 道德經
Chinese references on this site often refer to this book simply as "Laozi". Some English translations say "The Book of Laozi". There are at least a dozen translations of this book into English.
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3. Yi Jing 易經
Wikipedia describes the tradition that Fu Xi devised the trigrams and Wen Wang organized and interpreted the hexagrams before Laozi finalized their understanding. As with the Dao De Jing there have many translations of the Yi Jing, often romanized as I Ching. Although no qin melodies mention Laozi or the Yi Jing, see a footnote to the melody Feng Lei Yin. The translation usually used in this website is Alfred Huang, The Complete I Ching.
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4. Images
The two photos were taken at 西樓觀台 West Louguantai by JT, 2005, Louguantai is west of modern Xi'an.
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5. 莊子 Zhuangzi, 申不害 Shen Buhai and 韓非 Han Fei
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6. "曲仁 Quren in 楚 Chu". 鹿邑 Luyi is about 60 km south of 商丘 Shangqiu in eastern Henan province (compare Zhuangzi and see comment).
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7. 去子之驕氣與多歟,態色與淫志
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8. Romanization changed to Mainland pinyin.
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9. My local county map shows Laozi's grave just west of 樓觀台 Louguan Tai, but no Daling Shan (大陵山 5960.1103 only Daling: not here). As for restoration of the site, the marker says that 李世秀 Ms. Li Shixiu of 徐州 Xuzhou in Jiangsu province "因風有慧根,崇奉老君,時有緬懷之志,今施善舉,解囊奉獻,重修此墓 because of her 'innate intelligence for enlightenment' (ABC), belief in Laozi, and for some time having had the aim of cherishing his memory, has now done this charitable act, opening her purse strings to respectfully present the restoration of this grave".
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