Asian sacred texts, German classics form new collection

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jan 15, 2015 - 21:12
  • Updated : Jan 15, 2015 - 21:12

“Olje Classics,” a book series offering Asian and Western classics at an affordable price, recently printed its 13th installment.

Published by local nonprofit organization Olje Foundation, the four-volume series includes two sacred texts of Taoism, “The Zhuangzi” and “The Liezi” ― which are titled after Chinese philosophers ― the Hindu scripture “The Bhagavad Gita” and the German classic novel “The Sorrow of Young Werther” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

“The Zhuangzi,” which dates back to the late Warring States period (481-403 B.C.) in ancient China, contains anecdotes, allegories and parables that serve as a foundational text in Taoism, along with another Chinese classic “The Laozi.” Shin Dong-jun, a researcher of Chinese classics, translated this version with an emphasis on Zhuangzi’s leadership exemplified in the text, comprising both ancient and modern commentaries from China, Korea and Japan. 
The four new volumes of “Olje Classics,” a book series of Asian and Western classics (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)

Both “The Liezi” and “The Bhagavad Gita” are translated by Jung Chang-young, a scholar who has in the past translated numbers of oriental classics from India, Tibet and China into easy Korean.

“The Liezi” is an easy-to-read fable, writes Jung in the book. He wants the readers to feel freedom, abundance and tranquility through the book.

“The Bhagavad Gita,” composed of 700 verses in 18 chapters, is one of the most widely read Hindu religious texts in the world. The scripture, detailing a dialogue between Pandava prince Arjuna and his teacher and charioteer Krishna, is a key work for understanding Indian religions. Moreover, the book has largely influenced cultural and political aspects in the country, added Jung.

German language and literature professor Lee In-ung helmed the translation of Goethe’s semiautobiographical novel “The Sorrow of Young Werther.”

“This book is required reading for middle and high school students,” Lee writes in the book. “It is not a coincidence that this book has been loved by so many students and adults alike over the years. There is good reason and value behind the book.”

The foundation issues 5,000 copies of the book series every quarter, as an effort to promote education through classics.

Of them, 4,000 copies are for sale, available at local bookstores priced at 2,900 won ($3) for each book. The remaining 1,000 copies are donated to different venues, including public libraries in rural areas, military bases, welfare organizations and schools.

Local businesses Samsung and SK Telecom funded a large part of the latest installment of the series.

With the new editions, “Olje Classics” currently consists of 53 titles, all works of Asian and Western literature.

By Ahn Sung-mi (