The Book of Dao and its Virtue (Laozi)

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The Book of Dao and its Virtue ( 道德經 Daode Jing ), which is also called the Perfect Book of Dao and its Virtue ( 道德真經 Daode Zhenjing ), the Laozi and the Five-Thousand-Character Writ ( 五千文 Wuqianwen ), is one of the main Daoist scriptures. It was originally the representative work of the Daoist philosophical school of the Pre-Qin period. According to the Records of the Historian ( 史記 Shiji ), the book's author was "Laozi", the historian in charge of books of the Zhou dynasty during the Spring and Autumn period. The Commentary on Laozi, which was said to have been written by Heshang Gong of the Western Han dynasty, divided the book into 81 chapters, the first 37 chapters being The Book of Dao ( 道經 Daojing ) and the second 44 chapters being The Book of Virtue ( 德經 Dejing ). Thus the whole book was named the Book of Dao and its Virtue. In the Eastern Han dynasty, with the formation of the Huang-Lao school, the book evolved into a scripture of the Daoist Religion. The Five Pecks of Rice Tradition ( 五斗米道 Wudou Midao ) led by Zhang Ling and Zhang Lu taught its believers with the Book of Dao and its Virtue. Also, Xiang'er's Commentary on Laozi ( 老子想爾注 Laozi Xiang’er Zhu ) was written to elucidate the book from a religious point of view. Later, from the Wei and Jin dynasties to the Sui and Tang dynasties, Daoists explained and elaborated it from generation to generation. Over 60 explanations were counted in the Broad and Sacred Teachings of the Perfect Book of Dao and its Virtue ( 道德真經廣聖義 Daode Zhengjing Guangsheng Yi ) written by Du Guangting, a Daoist of the Tang dynasty, more than half of which were written by Daoist priests. Some explained the Dao of behaving oneself, some explained the Dao of governing the country; some took morality as their theme, some took non-being and non-nothingness as their focus, and some took the Twofold Mystery ( 重玄 Chongxuan ) as their key concept. Among them the Twofold Mystery school became an influential school at that time. After the Song dynasty, Daoist interpretations of the Book of Dao and its Virtue tended to be based on collected commentaries. The Collected Commentaries on the Perfect Book of Dao and its Virtue ( 道徳真經集注 Daode Zhenjing Jizhu ) by Peng Si includes more than twenty commentaries by authors of the Song dynasty. Many of the existing commentaries on the book are contained in the Daoist Canon of the Zhengtong Era ( 正統道藏 Zhengtong Daozang ). These commentaries give explanations to the Book of Dao and its Virtue from different points of view, such as Inner ( 內丹 Neidan ) and Outer Alchemy ( 外丹 Waidan ) and the numerology of the Book of Changes. They are a treasure for the study of the culture of Daoist Philosophy and Daoist Religion.