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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"When pure sincerity..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: When pure sincerity forms within, it is outwardly realized in other people's hearts.

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"When pure sincerity forms within, it is outwardly realized in other people's hearts."






This statement, accredited to Lao Tzu, is strange. Where could sincerity form other than within (a person's mind), and how can people's hearts be something outward? If the sentence would be trimmed and simplified it might make more sense, for example: one person's sincerity can be recognized by others. And that's no sensational revelation.

       Lao Tzu did state in many ways that the wisdom and insight of the sage would convince people, if not expressed in a pompous fashion. Spoken with humility, the truth will be accepted. Already in chapter 2 of Tao Te Ching it is stated about the sage (my version):


Because he demands no honor,
He will never be dishonored.


       And in chapter 49:


People turn their eyes and ears to him,
And the sage cares for them like his own children.


       Also, in chapter 66:


Because he does not resist,
None in the world resists him.



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       The source to the quote discussed here is not Tao Te Ching, but a later Taoist text called Wen Tzu after its presumed writer. According to the tradition, Wen Tzu was a direct student of Lao Tzu, contemporary to Confucius (551-479 BC). That was not necessarily the case.

       The oldest version of the text is from the tomb of a person who died in 55 BC, but may originally have been composed around 200 BC. It was discovered in 1973, reported in 1981, and the transcription of it in Chinese was published in 1995. The previously established version of the text is likely to have been composed at least 400 years later, not earlier than the 3rd century CE.

       The two versions differ mainly in that the newer one has Lao Tzu answer questions from Wen Tzu, whereas the older one has Wen Tzu as the teacher answering questions from a student of his.

       The English translation of Wen Tzu containing the exact quote discussed here is Further Teachings of Lao-tzu from 1991 by Thomas Cleary (page 20). As already the title indicates, it is based on the later version of the Wen Tzu text. Thus, the quote is accredited to Lao Tzu instead of Wen Tzu.

       There is not yet a complete English translation of the older text, but Paul van Els has written extensively about it in his doctoral thesis from 2006 and in a book published 2018.

       Considering the finding of the older version of the Wen Tzu text, it is safe to say that the quote should not be accredited to Lao Tzu.

Stefan Stenudd
September 22, 2020.



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Fake Lao Tzu Quotes - Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Fake Lao Tzu Quotes

Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. 90 of the most spread false Lao Tzu quotes, why they are false and where they are really from. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.



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