III. The third Religion in China is what is called Tâoism. It was, like Confucianism, of native origin, and its acknowledged founder was Lî R, called also Lî Po-yang, and, after his death, Lî Tan. More commonly he is designated Lâo-𝔷ze, translated by some 'the Old Philosopher,' and by others 'the Old Boy' from a fabulous story that his mother carried him in her womb for seventy-two years, so that when he was at length cut out of it, his hair was already white. His birth is referred to the year 604 B. C., so that he was between fifty and sixty years older than Confucius. There are accounts, hardly reliable, of interviews and discussions between the two men.
Lao-𝔷ze's system often goes with English writers by the name of Rationalism; but if that name be retained, the term must be taken in quite a peculiar sense. His doctrine was that of the Tâo, but it is not easy to determine what English term will best express the meaning of the Chinese character. The only record which we have of Lao-𝔷ze's views is the Tâo-teh King, or 'Classic of Tâo and Virtue,' a treatise of no great length. It was published at Paris in 1842, with a translation in French, by the late Stanislas Julien, under the title of 'Le Livre de la Voie et de la Vertu.' Appealing to the views of Kwang-𝔷ze and other writers of the Tâoist school, M. Julien says that 'Le Tâo est dépourvu d'action, de pensée, de jugement, d'intelligence,' and adds that 'it appears impossible therefore to take it for the primordial reason, the Sublime Intelligence, which created and rules the world.'
A translation in English was published, in 1868, by the Rev. Dr. Chalmers of Canton, under the title of 'the Speculations in Metaphysics, Polity, and Morality, of "the Old Philosopher."' Dr. Chalmers retains the term Tâo in his English Text, and says, 'I have thought it better to leave the word Tâo untranslated, both because it has given the name to the sect the Tâoists, and because no English word is its exact equivalent. Three terms suggest themselves,—the Way, Reason, and the Word; but they are all liable to objection. Were we guided by etymology, "the Way" would come nearest to the original, and in one