UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An investigation into the Guodian Laozi Lundin Ritchie, Jennifer


This thesis is focused on the recently discovered archeological text called the Guodian Laozi (also known as the Dao De Jing). The Guodian edition is the oldest known copy of the text, and it is surprisingly different from the received edition. It is ostensibly 'incomplete' and confusingly 'disordered.' Many 'characteristic' themes are absent. The majority of the material is focused on rulership, but it is not discussed in traditional terms or sequence. In addition, previously-unseen material, called Taiyishengshui or 'The Great One Gives Birth to Water,' was appended to it, which included a previously unseen cosmology. Scholarly debate continues as to the nature and purpose of both the Taiyishengshui and the Guodian Laozi as a whole. This thesis ties together archeology, philosophy, history, and cognitive science to support the idea that the Guodian Laozi was meant to be a tool for rulership, and specifically used for instructing the crown prince Qingxiang of Chu, who was preparing to assume the throne near the end of the Warring States. Since the dominant theme of the Guodian Laozi appears to be rulership, I developed a new lens through which to read it, based on the embodied experience of Verticality, which includes the entailments of power and authority. Section 1 introduces the text and explains why the Guodian Laozi is considered such an extraordinary find. Section 2 discusses the theories proffered by various scholars as to why the Guodian Laozi was found in such an unexpected state, and gives evidence for why the Taiyishengshui should be considered an integral part of the text. Section 3 explicates my own theory as to the nature of the Guodian Laozi, and shows how the dating of the material, as well as the philosophical contents of the material, support that thesis. In Section 4, I employ conceptual metaphor theory and blending theory to create a new lens through which to read the Guodian Laozi. In Section 5, I apply the new lens to the text, showing that this new lens reflects the philosophical contents of the Guodian edition better than the more traditional lens of yin and yang.

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