The studies of Tao Te Ching in Europe in the first half of the XIX century

S. Kapranov
2020 Chinese Studies  
The article is devoted to the first European studies of Tao Te Ching in the framework of academic sinology, which took place in France in the first half of the nineteenth century. The works of the founder of the French Sinological School Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat and his students -Guillaume Pauthier and Stanislas Julien are considered. A particular attention is paid to the interpretation of the central to this text philosophical concept of Tao. Abel-Rémusat wrote the first scientific work on the
more » ... study of the Tao Te Ching (1831), in which he hypothesized the common origin of the ideas of Lao Tzu and Pythagoras and Plato. Pauthier, on the other hand, suggested that the philosophy of Taoism originated in India. Julien is the author of the first complete translation of the Tao Te Ching. Abel-Rémusat considered the Greek logos to be the best equivalent of the term Tao, but most often translated Tao as 'reason' (raison). Pauthier did not offer an unambiguous translation, but Julien first began translating the Tao as the Way. It is determined that J.-P. Abel-Rémusat, G. Pauthier and S. Julien, creatively rethinking and criticizing the legacy of the Jesuit missionaries, took the study of the Tao Te Ching beyond theology and formed the basis of scientific research of this book. It is worth to note that the Tao Te Ching was recognized to be a philosophical text, not a religious or poetic work. The first scientific interpretations of the concept of Tao were formulated; Along with the old translation of this term as reason, borrowed from the Jesuits, appeared a new translation, namely, Way, which became mainstream in the twentieth century. In addition, it was then that the hypotheses of foreign origin of Lao Tzu's philosophical ideas were first formulated -one of them, namely, the Indian hypothesis of Pauthier, has survived to this day. The works of these scholars also influenced the historico-philosophical reception of the Tao Te Ching and Taoism in general: Hegel relied on the work of Abel-Rémusat, and Schelling used the work of Julien. Finally, for the first time in Europe, a complete translation of the Tao Te Ching into one of the European languages, namely, French, was made and published, making it accessible to educated Western readers.
doi:10.51198/chinesest2020.02.005 fatcat:vcau2ei6jjbwtndagot6fiirqa