Laozi's Classic of the Way and the Virtue


Dao de jing (Classic of the way and the virtue) is also known as the Laozi. It is the key work of Laozi, a philosopher, poet, and originator of Daoism, thought to have lived in the sixth century BC. It has two parts: Dao jing (Book of Dao, the way) in 37 brief chapters and De jing (Book of De, the virtue) in 44 chapters. The entire book has 5,000 or so characters, thus it is also called Laozi wu qian wen (The 5,000-character Laozi). The nucleus of the work is the dao, also seen as tao (the way or principle), expositions thereon, and explanations of ideas on nature, tranquility, and emptiness. The Laozi became a very important document of the Daoist school in the pre-Qin era (before 221 BC). Many annotations and commentaries on the work were produced over the course of centuries. Among the extant editions, the most influential is the Heshanggong version, named after the legendary Heshanggong (Riverside Sage), who is said to have lived during the reign of Emperor Wen of Han (180–157 BC). The two earliest surviving editions are: Laozi, written on bamboo tablets, found in a tomb near Guodian, Hubei, dating back prior to 300 BC; and another, also titled Laozi, known as the Mawangdui silk texts, found in a tomb dating from 168 BC. Shown here are the prefaces, table of contents, and juan one of a Song edition, printed in Jian’an by the Yu Family school. It is an early edition and very rare. It was consecutively owned by Huang Pilie, Tieqintongjianlou Library of the Qu family, and the studio of Chen Qinghua, Xunzhai, before entering the collections of the National Library of China.

Date Created

Publication Information

Yu Family School, Jian'an, Fujian


Title in Original Language


Additional Subjects

Type of Item

Physical Description

2 volumes ; 19.7 x 12.9 centimeters


  • Only prefaces, table of contents and juan 1 are included in the WDL presentation.

Last updated: May 11, 2015