Tao Te Ching was written by Lao Tzu at the request of Yin Hsi, the Guardian of the Pass.
The intend was to provide a handbook of teachings dealing with the Way, or the path one should follow in order to avoid failure and attain success.
The Book is made of 81 chapters. The chapters are traditionally divided in two section: the Classic of Tao (the Way) (first 37), and the Classic of Te. Each chapter consists in a short essays on various topics and concepts.
The main concepts presented in this Book are: Tao, te, wu-wei, human perfection, p’u (simplicity), fu (returning), the power of the weakness, the valley spirit, water-like conduct, the art of ruling, military strategy. Some of these are explained in short in the Teachings section of this site.
Basically there are three themes developed in the Book:
- (What are) Tao and Te, the basics of Taoism;
- The (attainment of the) human spiritual perfection (sageness) in relation with the Tao;
- The art of ruling through applying the Taoist principles.
The book addresses three kinds of people: those who follow the Tao as sages, that is people retreated from this world and looking for the unity with Tao and spiritual perfection, the noble men who take part in the life of communities and the rulers who are guided as to how to lead their lands in a beneficial way.