Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Dao in Dialogue Volume 49 Number 4, July/August 1996
by Kim Dramer and George Wang

A manuscript of the Dao de Jing, the book that forms the cornerstone of Daoist religious thought in China, has been found in a tomb in Jingmen City, Hubei Province. The Dao was found with four other manuscripts dating to the Warring States period (476-221 B.C.). While known manuscripts of the Dao were written in an opaque, semipoetic form, the newly discovered manuscript is written as dialogue, similar to Confucian texts.

The Dao is thought to have been written during China's Zhou period (771-221 B.C.) by Laozi, whose teachings remain influential in Chinese intellectual and spiritual life. The manuscript dialogue format appears to support recent thinking that views early Daoism as a political philosophy rather than an apolitical form of nature worship. The Dao could represent instructions on how to govern the state; some scholars have argued that the dialogue format suggests use in a classroom.

© 1996 by the Archaeological Institute of America