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Publisher's Summary

In this landmark modern-day rendition of the ancient Taoist classic, Ursula K. Le Guin presents Lao Tzu’s time-honored and astonishingly powerful philosophy like never before. Drawing on a lifetime of contemplation, she offers an unparalleled window into the text’s awe-inspiring, immediately relatable teachings and their inestimable value for our troubled world.

©1997 Ursula K. Le Guin (P)2009 Shambhala Publications

Critic Reviews

“Each day I open this book at random and receive a contemplative gift. These words are akin to water in the desert. (Terry Tempest Williams, author of Refuge)

“The type of work which the great Polish poet and Nobel laureate Wisława Szymborska meant when she spoke of ‘that rare miracle when a translation stops being a translation and becomes...a second original.’...The whole of Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching is well worth savoring - as much for the ancient substance as for Le Guin’s stylistic splendor.” (Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

“A student of the Tao for several decades, Le Guin has created an English text that will speak to modern readers in a fresh and lively way, while conveying the humor, insight, and beauty of the original.” (Lion’s Roar magazine) 

“Among the many translations of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, Ursula K. Le Guin’s new version is a special treasure - a delight. There is something startlingly fresh and creatively alive here, brought forth by Ms. Le Guin’s intuitive and personal ingenuity.” (Chuangliang Al Huang, founder of the Living Tao Foundation and coauthor (with Alan Watts) of Tao: The Watercourse Way

What listeners say about Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching

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I wanted to love this

but the "musical accompaniment" is so distracting, and sometimes louder than her voice. It should have been mixed better, and scaled WAY back.

19 people found this helpful

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Great version, not so great production.

I love Ursula LeGuin’s version of the Tao Te Ching. I was excited to hear her read it. I found the music distracting and even jarring at times. Is worth the $5.00 I spent on it.

7 people found this helpful

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Best English Translation

This translation straddles the line between literal translation and spirit of the text wonderfully. Le Guin pulled from a number of French and German translations to compile this little gem; and her performance of the work good. A lot of folks find the musical accompaniment distracting, so I guess it’s not for everyone, but I find it charming. It sort of pulls me back in when my mind wanders.

So grateful this finally made it to audible, YouTube took it down a couple months ago and I thought I’d lost my bedtime book.

I’d recommend sampling it to see if the music bugs you, but if you’re looking for an excellent translation or are just a fan of Le Guin it’s worth picking up.

6 people found this helpful

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Better than meditation, words to live by

Ursula does not disappoint and gives a thoughtful reading and interpretation of the Tao Te Ching that encourages reflection, thought an (in)action.

4 people found this helpful

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The music is great, actually.

I can't believe people are criticizing the music here! I actually think it's phenomenal and fits the content of the text perfectly -- in each chapter in a different way. This is a great text to sit and listen to, with your eyes closed, out on a porch alone (or in my case on a city rooftop). It's truly unbelievable that the original text was written 2,500 years ago, considering that all of it still applies today as a guide to living well, and even to understanding consciousness itself. Plus, Le Guin is the perfect person to provide a poetic interpretation of past translations. Couldn't be better.

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Great words, overwrought music

This book, in print, ebook, and audio is very dear to me. How much I looked forward to hearing the author read! How disappointing to hear flute and percussion compete with the words! The words are beautiful, so too the music. Each deserves its own space. Whoever did the final mix was listening more to what the music was saying and could not hear what the words were saying. Not the Way.

I highly recommend this book. I highly recommend the audio publisher release a version without any background music or noise.

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beautiful rendition

i found the music to fit well with the moving naration--nicely done!! makes it nice and easy to follow the way

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A treasure.

Read with depth and subtlety, with an atmospheric soundtrack, this interpretation is mesmerising. Love hearing Ursula K Le Guin read, it is a legacy that I am sure will bring great meaning and joy to many.

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A Gateway to understanding life

Listened to this years ago and lost the recoding. Feel gratitude deeply for rediscovering this translation and narration by one of our sages.

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Le Guin reading one of her inspirations..moving!

Technical issues

1) numbering of chapters is not the same as the physical book's is. The intro is given chapter one status and that puts chapter numbers one off

2) the intro of the physical book is abandoned and a name list is provided instead

fixes: identify intro as intro and not chapter 1
put chapter titles in chapter list

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  • L. Taylor
  • 02-06-21

Misguided production

This is unlistenable. For unclear reasons this text is presented with a musical accompaniment. This accompaniment consists of someone hitting chimes, plucking strings, and some pipe at random intervals, before, during and after speech. In my opinion, the instruments were introduced to suggest an atmosphere of mystique. The reading is also done in such a way. Both achieve the opposite and detract any actual mystique from the text.

I think these were misguided production decisions. I would advise a revision of the audio recording.

3 people found this helpful

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  • O. Sheehan
  • 12-12-20

Music ruins this reading

Very disappointing. It is impossible to concentrate on the words being read because the music is too loud and too forceful.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-04-22

all perfect thank you

Lao Tzu has left this treasure for humanity , i shall Say thank you for This beautiful Translation and the outstanding music .
great job , God bless .

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  • Annalie Wood
  • 10-05-20

intense and repeatable

This is short audiobook, but it takes so much concentration to follow that it seems much longer. It is an extended meditation on how to live 'The Way'. I don't know if I live the way but I will return to this spoken text time and again in meditation to find out.

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  • Robin
  • 10-31-21

sound effects ruin Le Guin

beautiful translation and narration.
contrived and distracting sound effects mastered louder than the narration.