The Tao Te Ching, Daodejing or Dao De Jing (道德經: 道 dào "way"; 德 dé "virtue"; 經 jīng "classic" or "text"), also simply referred to as the Laozi, is a Chinese classic text. According to tradition, it was written around 6th century BC by the sage Laozi (or Lao Tzu, "Old Master"), a record-keeper at the Zhou dynasty court, by whose name the text is known in China. The text's true authorship and date of composition or compilation are still debated, although the oldest excavated text dates back to the late 4th century BC.
The text is fundamental to both philosophical and religious Taoism (Daojia, Chinese: 道家, Pinyin: Dàojiā; Daojiao, Chinese: 道教, Pinyin: Dàojiào) and strongly influenced other schools, such as Legalism, Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism, which when first introduced into China was largely interpreted through the use of Daoist words and concepts. Many Chinese artists, including poets, painters, calligraphers, and even gardeners have used the Daodejing as a source of inspiration. Its influence has also spread widely outside East Asia, and is amongst the most translated works in world literature.
The Wade–Giles romanization "Tao Te Ching" dates back to early English transliterations in the late 19th century; its influence can be seen in words and phrases that have become well-established in English. "Daodejing" is the pinyin romanization.