This book takes the structure of Chinese words as its framework. Many words (though not all) are pictures, and oftentimes, understanding the picture helps illuminate the meaning.
Studying Taoism in the United States is undeniably shaped by translation. Oddly, studying Taoism in China is, in some ways, also influenced by translation: classical Chinese is hard to decipher even for current scholars, and the books are interpreted into contemporary Chinese. But by looking at the word-pictures and understanding what the ancients were trying to convey, we can have wonderful keys to the deeper meanings of Taoism.
With the help of Edward Thi, a professor and calligrapher, I explored the origins of each word. The pictures led me back to the beginnings of the Chinese language, and thus the beginnings of what it meant to follow the Tao.
In this companion volume to 365 Tao, Deng Ming-Dao explores the central features of Taoism and their application to everyday life. Divided into sections with names like “Nature,” “Silence,” “Devotion” and “Self,” Deng’s individual meditations focus on virtues like charity, kindness, patience and diligence. Each meditation is preceded by a drawing of an ancient Chinese ideogram of which Deng offers a translation and an extended reflection on the drawing’s meaning, or instruction, for following the Tao. For example, in his reflection on travel, he illustrates the various ways in which the act of traveling is synonymous with following the Tao. In his words, “to travel means to trust the Tao.” Deng’s poetic conversations on the harmony and balance of living the Tao in everyday life should have broad appeal.
– Publishers Weekly
In his introduction, Ming-Dao explains that Tao is “literally the movement of all life … the total ongoing of the universe,” and that to live according to Taoist principles is to go along with this movement, this flow. Ming-Dao notes eight “special qualities” of people who internalize Taoism: simplicity, sensitivity, flexibility, independence and being focused, cultivated, disciplined, and joyous. The body of the book consists of texts based on Chinese characters emblematic of certain aspects of the Taoist way, including specific aspects of nature, silence, conduct, moderation, devotion, teaching, self, and union. In his clear and concise definitions of each concept, Ming-Dao provides a running history of Tao, a summary of Tao practice, and suggestions for how the study of Taoism can enrich everyday life in the Western world.
– Donna Seaman, Booklist