Monday, March 28, 2011

Line by Line - Verse 26, Line 1

Gravity is the root of lightness;
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

The heavy is the root of the light.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Heaviness is the root of lightness
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

To be light on your feet, you need a steady mind.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
While I could do this with any line in any verse, let's see how Jonathan Star parses this one out. For starters, the line reads in Chinese: Chung wei ch'ing ken. Each of these words can be translated different ways.
  • Chung: heavy, weighted or solid; genuine or real; gravity, substantial, important or serious; associated with the characteristics of generosity, stability and honesty.
  • Wei: is, makes or acts.
  • Ch'ing: lights[s], lightness, frivolous, easy, flimsy or "not taken seriously."
  • Ken: root, origin, initial cause, foundation or support.
As I hope you can see, it is easy to understand why translations sometimes differ significantly as each translator will alight on different definitions of the same words (though, in this case, the 3 translations above are fairly much in congruity).

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

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