Lao Tzu Biography

Born: c. 600 B.C.
Died: c. 200 B.C.
Birthplace: China
Best known as: Legendary founder of Taoism

According to legend, Lao Tzu (“old man” or “old sage”) was the ancient author of Tao Te Ching,

Childhood & Early Life

Lao Tzu was born in the Ku County of the state of Chu, the present day Luyi County of the Henan Province. His family name was ‘Li’ while, ‘Dan’ was his designation.

Legend says that he was born after spending eight or eighty years in his mother’s womb, for which he was called the ‘the old child’. At that time, the Zhou Dynasty flourished and he worked as a ‘shi’ or historian at the royal court.

Later Life:

Lao Tzu embarked on a voyage to the west, after an early realization that the Zhou Dynasty was on the verge of collapse. He traveled to the Xiangu pass to enter the state of Qin, where he met the guardian of the pass Yinxi, who insisted the philosopher to write a book. Upon his request, he began writing a book the ‘Daodejing’, which is the combination of ‘Dao’, which means, ‘way’ and ‘de’ ‘its virtue’. The book is a philosophical account and can be literally translated as ‘Classic of the Way of Power’. Following the completion of the book, the wise old man left Xiangu pass, and nothing was known about his whereabouts, thereafter.


  • By the 2nd century AD, Toism had become a religion and a very important part of people’s lives, consequently, Lao Tzu was worshiped as a divine creature, a reveler of truth and a savior of mankind, and as such, his life was beautified with several stories and legends.


  • One of the stories concerning his birth is that his mother bore him in her womb for 72 years and that Lao Tzu entered this world through her left flank, while another explains his family name by saying that he was born at the foot of a palm tree (li) and because of this, his family name was Li.


  • Lao Tzu, as several other Taoist masters, was credited with unusual longevity as it was believed to have reached the age of 150, and that he had incarnated innumerable times after his death to provide the rulers with proper instructions on the Taoist doctrine.


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