Translated By: Seten Tomh
Laozi, literally “Old Master,” probably lived during the Warring States period of the 4th century BCE. This was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by war, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation, leading to the first unified Chinese empire known as the Qin dynasty. Laozi was an official in the imperial archives, a scholar who worked as the Keeper of the archives for the royal court of Zhou. This allowed him broad access to the works of the Yellow Emperor and other classics of the time. Laozi never opened a formal school but attracted a large number of students and loyal disciples. Laozi grew weary of the moral decay of life in Chengzhou and, noting the kingdom’s decline, travelled west to live as a hermit in the unsettled frontier at an advanced age. At the western gate he was recognized by the guard Yinxi. The sentry asked the old master to record his wisdom for the good of the country before he would be permitted to pass. The text Laozi wrote was the Tao Te Ching.