Lao-tzu leaves on his water buffalo
LAO-TZU (c. 604-c. 531 BC) is the author of the world-famous Chinese classic Tao Te Ching and considered as the originator of the ancient Chinese Taoism. There are many popular accounts of his life, and facts and myths are so mixed that it is somewhat difficult to tell each from the other.
According to popular biographies, Lao-tzu worked as the Keeper of the Archives for the royal court of Zhou. This a llowed him broad access to, among other classics of the time, the works of the Yellow Emperor, China’s earliest recorded ancester and founder of the original Chinese civilization. He never opened a formal school. Nonetheless, he attracted a large number of students and loyal disciples. Traditionally regarded as an older contemporary of Confucius, he is said in a variety of stories to have given counsel to the latter about rituals.
Traditional accounts state that Lao-tzu grew weary of the moral decay of the city and noted the Zhou kingdom's decline. At the age of 160, he ventured west to live as a hermit in the unsettled frontier. At the western gate of the city, or kingdom, he was recognized by a guard. The sentry asked the old master to produce a record of his wisdom. The resulting book is said to be the Tao Te Ching.