Hua Hu Ching?

I have recently been thinking alot about the so-called 'lost books of Lao-Tzu' myself. I was wondering exactly why these 'lost books' aren't noted in the typical line-up of the quintessential Taoist books: Lao Tzu (or the Tao Te Ching'), Chuang-Tzu, and Lieh-Tzu. The two 'lost books' I know of are the one you mentioned, 'Hua Hu Ching', and also 'Wen-Tzu' (I've only found one version of this book in print).

The 'Hua Hu Ching', by my understanding though, is not so much a lost book as it is a series of very old orally-transmitted teachings that have only recently been put to text. Now, it goes without saying that oral traditions are as easy to write down as getting a brush and some paper, so maybe it was a book like the Tao Te Ching of which all the copies were lost in course of history, but was maintained nonetheless by oral tradition. That's possible, too. But, if we can't find any copies of it in ancient print, or find references to it by ancient authors that read it in their lifetime, it would be foolish to assume such a thing. At any rate, the Hua Hu Ching as it is offered in books today is a transcribed set of oral teachings by the modern day Taoist masters.

Hua Hu Ching is certainly a different type of Taoist book than the traditional literary pieces, probably most like the Tao Te Ching though. The Hua Hu Ching differs from the Tao Te Ching in that it reads more like an instruction manual than does the latter. The Tao Te Ching reads almost as though it never needed an audience, sounding as if it were a master talking to nobody in particular...which lends quite a profound undertone to the book. The Hua Hu Ching, on the other hand, is much more personalized, which I think is a result of the fact that it is really the transcription of teachings that don't come from anywhere else these days except for masters of more traditional Taoist schools/temples. The book literally sounds like a Master directly talking to his, being the reader. This isn't necessarily a negative thing by any means, but it is a way in which it differs from more traditional pieces...a bit of practical orthodoxy rubs off that, in the humble opinion of theologians, inevitably works to slightly obscure the purest attitude of the religion. I guess that this is why it is not considered to be a 'quintessential' Taoist piece, but rather a 'supplement' of sorts that does nonetheless work to round out the diversity of Taoist thought.

As far as Wen-Tzu goes, I actually just got my hands on a copy and have yet to thoroughly read it; I've only flipped through it. The majority of the book seems to be a Taoist book in the format of a 'Lao Tzu Press Conference', and Question and Answer forum. Questions are posed, and Lao Tzu's answer follows. I'll update this thread on Wen-Tzu once I've had a chance to take it in.

In the previous posting about the Hua Hu Ching, I mentioned that I would add some information about Wen-Tzu. Wen-Tzu is an interesting book for anyone interested in Taoist literature.

As it turns out, Wen-Tzu could be called a 'Lost Book of Lao-Tzu'. Unlike the Hua Hu Ching, Wen-Tzu is a verifiably an old book, that did exist during the Warring States era of China's history. However, the Wen-Tzu is nothing of a lost book to the Chinese, who have known of its existence for a very long time as the book for 'understanding the mysteries'. Wen-Tzu is only a 'lost' book to a Western world that essentially chose to ignore it for one reason or was always there.

This is not to say that there aren't reasons that it was overlooked by Western translators and professors of religion. And not surprisingly, it seems to me that it is for the same reason that the Hua Hu Ching, too, remains a 'lost'/'ignored' book. Many different schools of thought are blended in Wen-Tzu, so that the book ends up becoming a bit too 'hybridized' for the taste of Western theologians that want the 'essence' of the Taoist attitude.

Of course, many different schools of thought also made it into the modern-day compilations of Chuang-Tzu and Lieh-Tzu, too. Mo-tzu and Kung-Fu-Tzu are two different philosophers whose ideas began to intermingle with the philosophy of Lao-Tzu.

Overall, I can't say that there is any particularly important reason that only Lao-Tzu, Chuang-Tzu, and Lieh-Tzu are singled out as the flagship Taoist books. Maybe it's some latent preference on the part of Westerners to establish a trinity ;-) Or, maybe it is just that these three books, be it a matter of coincidence or otherwise, seem to say all that really needs to be said about the religion that so abhorred spoiling the Tao by talking too much about it.

"He who knows does not speak, he who speaks does not know."