The Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching) roughly translated as The Book of the Way and its Virtue is an ancient Chinese scripture. The work is traditionally said to have been written around 600 BC by the famous sage called Laozi. Laozi is said to have been a record-keeper of the Emperor"s Court of the Zhou Dynasty (about 11th century-221BC) but the authenticity of these dates and details of authorship are still debated.
In the current edition, the Dao De Jing is in two sections (Dao, containing chapters 1-37; and De, chapters 38-81), and uses around 5,000 Chinese characters. Each chapter is rather short, using few characters to express its often difficult ideas poetically.
Many believe that the Dao De Jing contains some universal truths which have since been independently recognized in other philosophies, both religious and secular. Each modern language interpretation (including even interpretation of the three-character title, of which there are dozens) differs at least slightly and occasionally profoundly from the next. Depending on how one reads them, some chapters could have three or more interpretations, ranging from practical wisdom for the common man to advice intended for kings to even the odd medical recipe.
This short and abstruse book is one of the most important in Chinese philosophy and religion, especially in Taoism, but also in Buddhism, because the latter - an Indian religion - shared many Taoist words and concepts before developing into Chinese Buddhism. (Indeed, upon first encountering it, Chinese scholars regarded Buddhism as merely a foreign equivalent of Taoism.) Many Chinese artists, including poets, painters, calligraphers and even gardeners have used the book as a source of inspiration. Its influence has also spread widely outside the Far East, aided by many different translations of the text into western languages.