Tao Te Ching
THE TAOISM OF LAO TZU
Fake Lao Tzu Quote
"To see things..."
This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:
"To see things in the seed, that is genius."
Lao Tzu made no mention of either seed or genius in Tao Te Ching. The former is a word he might have used, but certainly not the latter. He spoke of the sage, who had an understanding of Tao, the Way. Although he knew that few understood it, he had no doubt they would be able to if they just listened. He wrote in chapter 70 (my version):
So, this is not a Lao Tzu quote, but it is very likely inspired by something he wrote — chapter 64 in Tao Te Ching. Its beginning reads:
This crux is well known also outside ancient China. There is an expression in English with the same message: to nip something in the bud. It was first recorded in 1606 in the play The Woman Hater, by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, published in 1607. In act 3, scene 1, the character Oriana says:
The oldest book I have found to contain the exact quote examined here is Creative Innovators from 1988, compiled by Dottie Walters, accrediting it to Lao Tzu (page 273). The book contains one more Lao Tzu quote, equally dubious (page 112): "Knowing others is wisdom, knowing the self is enlightenment." That quote is discussed in the chapter Knowing others.
One year earlier, though, a variation of the quote, beginning "if you can" instead of just "to," was published in Movers, Shakers, and Change Makers, by John Patrick Dolan (page 272). It gives Lao Tzu (spelled Lao Tsze) as the origin, mistakenly adding that he was the mentor of Confucius. I have not found the quote worded like that elsewhere.
There is another version of the quote floating around, with a shorter wording:
On the web, the quote started to appear a couple of years into this millennium — always, as far as I have seen, ascribing it to Lao Tzu and never giving a source for it.
I have not found any older source to the quote than the books from 1987 and 1988 mentioned above, though I suspect there is one somewhere. If this is not a quote from someone else, mistakenly accredited to Lao Tzu, it is probably a very short interpretation of chapter 63 or 64 in Tao Te Ching.
September 22, 2020.
More Fake Lao Tzu QuotesThere are many more fake Lao Tzu quotes examined on this website. Click the header to see a list of them.
Fake interview with the authorClick the header to read a "fake" interview with Stefan Stenudd, the author of Fake Lao Tzu Quotes.
My Other Websites:
I Ching OnlineThe 64 hexagrams of the Chinese classic I Ching and what they mean in divination. Try it online for free.
Qi Energy ExercisesThe ancient Chinese life energy qi (chi) explained, with simple instructions on how to exercise it.
Life EnergyThe many ancient and modern life force beliefs all over the world explained and compared.
Taoismen på svenska
Other Books by Stefan StenuddClick the image to see the book at Amazon (paid link).
Cosmos of the AncientsThe Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods.
Qi — Increase Your Life EnergyThe life energy qi (also chi or ki) explained, with exercises on how to awaken, increase and use it.
Aikido PrinciplesBasic concepts of the peaceful martial art. Aikido principles, philosophy, and fundamental ideas.
Life Energy EncyclopediaQi, prana, spirit, ruach, pneuma, and many other life forces around the world explained and compared.
Archetypes of MythologyJungian theories on myth and religion examined, from Carl G. Jung to Jordan B. Peterson.
About meI'm a Swedish author and aikido instructor. In addition to fiction, I've written books about Taoism and other East Asian traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient thought and mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.