The Origins of the Legend of Lao Tan

Based on your reading of A.C. Graham’s “The Origins of the Legend of Lao Tan,” write a short summary, no more than a page (double-space, 12pt Times New Roman font), about the “historical” Laozi. Consider some of the following questions in your summary:

  1. What are the main sources we must rely on to understand something about the figure of Laozi? What is the nature of these sources? How reliable are they?
  2. What are some key elements, stories, characteristics, etc. of Laozi that arise in these accounts?
  3. What actors or groups were interested in Laozi’s story? Why?
  4. Can we in fact reconstruct a “historical” Laozi? Why or why not? How might we conceptualize this figure?



Write a short paper, no more than two pages (double-spaced, 12pt font, Times New Roman, addressing the following questions:


    What does the Guodian manuscript advocate as ideal characteristics of the sage?

    How should the sage conduct himself?

    How should the sage interact with others?


Please remember to provide evidence from the text in support of your arguments.


Procedure: Please submit your draft here by Wednesday, August 29 at 11:59 pm. Then, you will be randomly assigned two classmates’ drafts to edit, using the assigned questions (please refer to the Peer Review Example). Your responses are to be returned to the authors by Friday, August 31 at 11:59 pm. You are then to edit your essay and submit the final copy by Sunday, September 2 at 11:59 pm. You will not receive a grade for your draft, as it is a preliminary version. However, you will receive a peer edit grade based on the quality of your feedback. The peer edit grade will be input into the draft assignment.

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