The Daodejing – a new English version (2016)

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In 2016 Martyn published his new English version of the Ancient Chinese classic text, the Daodejing. The book is available from Enitharmon Press.




Listen here to Martyn reading ‘Three Treasures’ (Chapter 67) from his version of the Daodejing:

Reviews and Comment: a recent review by Shengchi Hsu in PN Review, March 2017: “Crucefix captures the spirit of Laozi’s philosophical inquiry through a poetics of ‘indirect direction’ that speaks in a transparent yet seemingly solid way”. Read the full review here: Daodejing – PN Review Mch 2017.

Here is another thoughtful and fulsome review of the book by John Snedding from LondonGrip (June 2016). Another review by Kathleen McPhilemy can be viewed here: Daodejing Sofia Review 2016. Ian Brinton’s review for Tears in the Fence can be read here.

Other critical views:  “Martyn Crucefix’s Daodejing uses a singing grounded style, faithful to the original, yet discerned afresh in poems that are unpunctuated, flowing, untrammelled. The simplicity of the Daodejing is paradoxical, a challenge to the ego, and to the soul – an authentic blueprint for living in this world and doing no harm and Martyn Crucefix’s limber and lithe versions carry and realise the many implications of the text, giving readers new access to this extraordinary universal message. Crucefix honours the Daodejing in accessible language that never loses its grasp on subtle presence and deep insight. This book travels the Way – a beautiful and profoundly-visioned accomplishment” – Penelope Shuttle

“In this wonderfully fresh-minted, clear-eyed translation, Martyn Crucefix has followed the Daodejing‘s advice: ‘attend well to your work then step away’. Along with its lucid and helpful introduction, Crucefix has created a book of memorably profound poetry with the lightest of touch” – Maitreyabandhu

“The original text of the Daodejing uses everyday words to convey complex and difficult ideas and to maintain this in translation is admirable. Martyn Crucefix’s new versions are to be commended for their use of simple language as well as for their emphasis on the feminine aspects of the Daodejing – a challenge to more conventional assumptions and certainly true to Daoist thinking” – Dr Olivia Milburn, Seoul National University


On the Daodejing

These 81 brief poems from the 5th century BCE make up a foundational text in world culture. In elegant, simple yet elusive language, the Daodejing develops its vision of humankind’s place in the world in personal, moral, social, political and cosmic terms. Martyn Crucefix’s superb new versions in English reflect – for the very first time – the radical fluidity of the original Chinese texts as well as placing the mysterious ‘dark’ feminine power at their heart.

Laozi, the putative author, is said to have despaired of the world’s venality and corruption, but he was persuaded to leave the Daodejing poems as a parting gift, as inspiration and as a moral and political handbook. Crucefix’s versions reveal an extraordinary empathy with what the poems have to say about good and evil, war and peace, government, language, poetry and the pedagogic process. When the true teacher emerges, no matter how detached, unimpressive, even muddled she may appear, Laozi assures us “there are treasures beneath”.

Brief video of Martyn at the StAnza Festival in March 2016 reading from this book: Click here.