Historians are not sure who Lao Tzu was. It is possible that
he was Confucius' instructor but this is inconsistent with other documents.
The time period in which he lived is debatable. It is believed the
Lao Tzu is a nickname or a title. This nickname could mean "old man"
This was found in http://www.massart.edu/community/GALEBN/LaoTzu.html
The whole poem is a metaphor. He uses a wheel, a vessel, and
a house to illustrate how people misinterpret what is useful and what is
Man of Highest Power
We found three metaphors in this poem. The first is,"Now ritual
is the mere husk of loyalty and promise-keeping". This metaphor symbolizes
a husk of corn. The outside of the husk symbolizes loyalty and the
inside symbolizes promise-keeping. The second metaphor is,"Foreknowledge
may be the 'flower of doctrine'". An example of this would be an
apple tree, the apples on the tree are what is important, not the flower.
The third metaphor is,"Therefore the full-grown man takes his stand upon
the solid substance and not upon the mere husk". This means that
man knows what is most important, priorities are in order.
The two poems symbolize the importance that humans place on superficial
things and lose sight of what is most important.