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Laozi

Laozi (also spelled Lao Zi, Lao Tzu, or Lao Tse) is a major figure in Chinese philosophy whose historical existence is debated. Chinese tradition states that he lived in the 6th century BC but many modern scholars claim that he may have lived in approximately the 4th century BC, during the Hundred Schools of Thought and Warring States Period (475-221BC). He is credited with writing the seminal Taoist work, the Dao De Jing, and became a popular deity in the Taoist religion's pantheon.

  His life

Little is known about Laozi's life. His historical existence is strongly debated, as is his authorship of the Dao De Jing. Nevertheless, he has become an important culture hero to subsequent generations of Chinese people. Tradition says he was born in Ku County of the State of Chu, which today is Luyi County of Henan province, in the later years of Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC). Some legends say he was born with white hair, having spent eight or eighty years in his mother's womb, which is given as an explanation for his title, which can be both read as "the old master" and "the old child". 

According to the tradition, and a biography included in Sima Qian's work, Laozi was an older contemporary of Confucius and worked as an archivist in the Imperial Library of the Zhou Dynasty court. Confucius intentionally or accidentally met him in Zhou, near the location of modern Luoyang, where Confucius was going to browse the library scrolls. According to these stories, Confucius, over the following months, discussed ritual and propriety, cornerstones of Confucianism, with Laozi. The latter strongly opposed what he felt to be hollow practices. Taoist legend claims that these discussions proved more educational for Confucius than the contents of the libraries.

Afterwards, Laozi resigned from his post, perhaps because the authority of Zhou's court was diminishing. Some accounts claim he travelled west on his water buffalo through the state of Qin and from there disappeared into the vast desert. These accounts have a guard at the western-most gate convincing Laozi to write down his wisdom before heading out into the desert. Until this time, Laozi had shared his philosophy in spoken words only, as was also the case with Socrates, Jesus, the Buddha and Confucius (whose Analects were most likely compiled by disciples). Laozi's response to the soldier's request was the Dao De Jing.
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