Daoism and Cct

History and Sources

What is the main source of information on Lao Zi’s life?

The main source of information on Lao Zi’s life is a biography written by the historian Si Ma Chen (145-86 B.C.E.) in his Records of the Historian. By this time a number of beliefs about the founder of Chinese Daoism were circulating, and Si Ma Chen himself was unsure of their authenticity. The biography, in fact, contains an account of not one, but three, men called Lao Zi. The first Lao Zi was a man named Li Er or Lao Dan who came from the village of Chu Ren in the Southern Chinese state of Chu. Li Er served as historian in charge of the official archives in the Chinese imperial capital of Loyang. He was a contemporary of Confucius and is reported to have granted an interview to the Confucian master when he came to Loyang seeking information on the Zhou dynasty ritual.


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