Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching is a fundamental Taoist text, perhaps the major Taoist text - although the works of Chuang Tzu are generally more accessible and fun! Hopefully I've not strayed too far from the original in this translation. My translation is, you see, a student's translation into various languages of a personal interpretation of the Tao Te Ching, based upon a collection of English translations, some amateur analysis of the Chinese text, and a longtime study of Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Zen Buddhism (itself a mixture of Taoism and Buddhism), and Han Shan (whose work I love but find difficult to categorize).
But this is more than a translation exercise for me. I am working slowly, researching and considering each chapter individually, and asking my Taoist friends for their thoughts too. Translation into another language also makes me think more about the meaning; and as a final exercise, I then translate back into English!
There are many translations of the Tao Te Ching. They usually differ from each other in many respects, sometimes subtly but often significantly. For example, in Chapter Two we find mention of Beauty and Ugliness. Some translations state that Beauty becomes Ugliness when we recognize it as Beauty. Others state that there is no distinction until we make one; once we define Beauty, we have also defined Ugliness.
The latter interpretation is also mine. Chinese being what it is, or was, and this document having been passed down through the ages, and Taoism itself having changed over the years due to the influence of religions and other philosophies, I believe that the Tao Te Ching as it appears most frequently today contains much more paradox and mystery than was originally intended.
I also find that many chapters of the Tao Te Ching contain two messages. Once again, consider Chapter Two. Both of the abovementioned interpretations are reasonable. Beauty can become ugly when actions resulting from that recognition become extreme. What to do? For now, I use the message that I consider to be of primary importance.
Something to consider...
The superior man, as soon as he listens to Tao, earnestly practices Tao.
An average man, hearing of Tao, sometimes remembers it and sometimes forgets it.
An inferior man, hearing of Tao, ridicules it.
- Lao Tzu #41
When idiots read my poems they don't understand and sneer.
When average people read them they reflect and say they're deep.
When worthies read my poems they react with full-face grins.
- Han Shan #144
These passages are similar, but I prefer the attitude of Han Shan.
More joy, and less overt seriousness.
More like Chuang Tzu than Lao Tzu.