about laozi-老子

Laozi, also known as Lao Dan, is one of the great philosophers and thinkers of ancient China. He is revered as the founder of the Daoist school of thought and is honored as the Daoist ancestral figure in Daoism. Laozi’s philosophy is primarily articulated in his work “Tao Te Ching,” a philosophical collection comprising 81 chapters that encapsulate his profound reflections on the universe, Dao, virtue, politics, and life.

Laozi’s major influence is manifested in the following aspects:

  1. Founder of Daoist Philosophy: Laozi established the Daoist school, emphasizing the concept of “Dao” as the primal force in the universe, representing all-encompassing natural principles. This had a profound impact on the development of Chinese philosophy.
  2. Influence of “Tao Te Ching”: “Tao Te Ching” is Laozi’s magnum opus, expounding on the concepts of “Dao” and “De” and advocating the philosophy of “wu wei” or “non-action.” It underscores a natural, simple, and non-interfering way of life, becoming central to Daoist and Daoism beliefs.
  3. Impact on Political Ideas: Laozi’s political reflections, advocating “wu wei” in governance, encourage rulers not to overly intervene but to let things unfold naturally for optimal governance. This philosophy had an impact on ancient Chinese political thought and rulership.
  4. Formation of Daoist Beliefs: Laozi is revered as one of the founders of Daoism, holding titles such as “Tai Shang Xuan Yuan Huang Di” and “Tai Shang Lao Jun.” His influence is integral to the development of Daoist beliefs and practices.
  5. Cultural Inheritance: Laozi’s philosophical ideas permeate various aspects of Chinese culture, influencing literature, art, and moral perspectives. Many idioms and proverbs about “wu wei” and harmonizing with nature originate from the “Tao Te Ching.”


Laozi’s father, Lao Zuo, served as the Sima (military commander) of the Song state. During an attack by the Chu state on Song, Lao Zuo, while commanding the defense of Pengcheng, was tragically struck by a hidden arrow from the forces of Yu Shi, a subordinate of the Chu army. The arrow penetrated his chest five inches, causing him to fall from his horse and succumb to his injuries. With the loss of their leader, the Song army lost its cohesion, scattering in disarray as they fled.

At that moment, Lao Zuo’s family members were in the military camp, including several serving women, a dozen or so officers, and dozens of guards. Upon hearing of Lao Zuo’s death and witnessing the oncoming enemy forces, the family members hastily took to their carriages, engaging in both battle and escape. By nightfall, although the pursuers were no longer visible, only two serving women and a carriage driver remained by the side of Lao Zuo’s widow. Fearful of pausing even momentarily, the driver, guided by the stars and moonlight, continued forward in darkness, choosing paths without discernment, heading southwest.

As dawn broke on the second day, although the pursuers were no longer in sight, Lao Zuo’s widow suddenly felt abdominal pain. Unbeknownst to others, she was seven months pregnant, and with Lao Zuo setting out with determination for victory, she joined him with their entourage. Now, facing the defeat and the sorrow of losing her husband, she fled to another country, burdened by anxiety, physical exhaustion, and the pain of childbirth. The serving women, in a state of panic, and the driver quickly halted the carriage by the roadside and rushed to the nearby village to seek help from an elderly woman. In a matter of moments, cries of a newborn echoed from within the carriage—a premature male infant was born. This child was none other than Laozi.

Born frail with a large head, wide eyebrows, and ears, Laozi’s eyes were like clear and deep pearls, and his nose featured a prominent bridge. Due to his elongated ears, he was given the name “Dan.” As he was born in the Year of the Tiger, his neighbors affectionately called him “Little Tiger,” meaning “Xiao Lao Hu” in Chinese. Because the people in the Jianghuai region referred to “cats” as “li er” (tiger cubs), and the sound of “li” coincided with “Li Er,” his nickname “Li Er” persisted through generations, eventually becoming his formal name.