In an unbroken flow of couplets, Thomas Meyer’s translation of the Daode Jing captures the supple thought of this ancient Chinese text: “best to be like water / always useful / never difficult / settling in low-lying places . . .” Here, the insights of Laozi are rendered as conversational rather than scholarly, intimate rather than formal. As Meyer explains in his afterword, “The Daode Jing is table talk. An old man, not holding forth really, but just telling someone what he knows. After dinner, the dishes pushed aside, a glass of whiskey, a cigarette. Or a pub and a pint of beer, even.” Conceived as such, this Daode Jing offers a vibrant mixture of paradox and plain sense, humor and compassion.

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