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To report the ongoing 20th Communist Party of China National Congress, China Daily, the official national English language media of mainland China, issued a video program titled 问道, with its English name given as "Blazing a Trail" .

In another example, that is, at a scenic spot of Mt. Kongtong in Gansu Province, there is “黄帝问道处” whose English version provided is "Site of Making Inquiry by Huangdi".

My understanding of the words is "asking around for direction".

So what does the phrase 问道 mean?

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    "Blazing a Trail" is a political translation. To translate it as ""Seeking a path or way", (which is a more accurate translation, taking the phrase at its ordinary meaning, like "...Making Inquiry by Huangdi"), would give the impression that the present political leadership of the People's Republic of China is "directionless", or "lost", and needed to 问道, (asking around for direction), before moving forward. Oct 21, 2022 at 2:38
  • @WayneCheah Could the 道 here possibly mean the true meaning of something, as in the case of 一人得道鸡犬升天? Oct 21, 2022 at 7:18

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Without another context, 问道 sounds like "seeking enlightenment (from Daoism)"

In this context: "问(seek) 道(way/ path)" -- seeking the way/ path (to build a strong China), the English name "Blazing a Trail" gave it away

Asking for directions is 问路 in colloquial Chinese; 问道 is a literary way of speech, as in the idiom 问道于盲

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  • I just want to add on about the 問道處 OP mentioned. The last character markes it as the site. This separates it into 問 for question and 道處 for path location, making it different from the other 問道 discussed grammatically.
    – zagrycha
    Oct 21, 2022 at 5:53
  • @zagrycha I don't agree with you. They are the same. Communist Party of China 问道, so did 黄帝. A scenic area built a site based on the story of a long time ago. Oct 21, 2022 at 7:27
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道 originally does mean “way”, but sooner the concept generalizes to a philosophical idea that means the principle/rule.(The way that the world runs -> the way that the human should follow) So 问道 means search/seek for the way that we should follow. It also implies that we are doing something fundamental, both theoretically and practically, so the title makes it philosophical. (Pay attention to this connotation since not everything can be raised to a philosophical level, suppose if you want ask the way when you were lost, better use 问路 rather than 问道)

Also, it's not appropriate to comprehend as if we were lost so we are seeking the way. According to the context, it means more like we are challenged, we are put into an uncertain world and we need to come up with our own solution, finding our own path. “Questioning the way” gives the audience a feeling that we are doing something essential.

Also worth mentioning that 道 is not a priviledge for Taoism. It's a shared concept among all the Chinese philosophers but everyone gives its own explanation and argues that they are correct. Here is one usage from Confucius, 吾道一以贯之。(My principle is the one and the only/My principle is always the same/My philosophy has a uniform way to understand and practice) There are also some philosophers aiming at unifying different 道 that different philosophers had proposed, the most famous is 王阳明。

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