Monday, January 24, 2011
The Chinese Character for Tao (Dao), "the Way"
I suppose there may be copyrights on the three representations of the Chinese character for Tao (the Way) shown at right of this text, but I simply want to show them as examples before presenting my new version of the character: I am prepared for anyone who wishes to call my new version the "comic book" version!
In "The Spirit of the Chinese Character" (Barbara Aria with Russell Eng Gon), the character, "tao," is said to have originally meant a "course of action," perhaps a military one, as the character combines "foot" or "to follow" with "the leader" -- a "head" topped with two plumes (in ancient days signifying the rank of general." To Confucius (the law-giver type), tao is the "way" of life rules and moral rectitude, while to Lao-tzu (the intuitive type) "Tao" is the fluid truth of the universe.
Just as its meanings were being transformed in the beginning, friends and I see still other images in the character. For instance, it is a ladder to one; to me, a ladder with broken rungs, suggesting how the Way is not straight and narrow and easy -- One sometimes goes into cul-de-sacs (one rung may break under foot), and one must take a leap or back out, having lost the main way (as Dante says in the first lines of his Divine Comedy) and continue the search to find the true Way, the search, constantly refined, that IS the Way -- Don't you think? Two ways of coloring my version -- just for the fun of it: