Translation by James Legge
1.1 The Tao that can be trodden is
not the enduring, unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is
not the enduring and unchanging Tao.
1.2 Having no name, it is the Originator
of heaven and earth; having a name it is the Mother of all things.
1.3 Always without desire we must
be found. If its deep mystery we would sound; but if desire always
within us be, its outer fringe is all that we shall see.
1.4 Under these two aspects, it is
really the same; but as development takes place, it receives the
different names. Together we call them the Mystery. Where the
Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful.
2.1 All in the world know the beauty
of the beautiful, and in doing this they have the idea of what
ugliness is; they all know the skill of the skillful, and in doing
this they have an idea of what the want of skill is.
2.2 So it is that existence and non-existence
give birth the one to the idea of the other; that difficulty and
ease produce the one the idea of the other; that length and shortness
fashion out the one the figure of the other; that the idea of
height and lowness arise from the contrast of the one with the
other; that the musical notes and tones become harmonious through
the relation of one with the another; and that being before and
behind give the idea of one following another.
2.3 Therefore the sage manages affairs
without doing anything and conveys his instructions without the
use of speech.
2. 4 All things spring up, and there
is not one which declines to show itself, they grow, and there
is no claim made for their ownership; they go through their processes,
and there is no expectation of a reward for the results. The work
is accomplished, and there is no resting in it as an achievement.
The work is done, but how no one can see; It is this that makes
the power not cease to be.
3.1 Not to value and employ men of
superior ability is the way to keep the people from rivalry among
themselves; not to prize articles which are difficult to procure
is the way to keep them from becoming thieves; not to show them
what is likely to excite their desires is the way to keep their
minds from disorder.
3.2 Therefore the sage, in the exercise
of his government empties their minds fills their bellies, weakens
their wills, and strengthens their bones.
3.3 He constantly tries to keep them
without knowledge and without desire, and where there are those
who have knowledge, to keep them from presuming to act on it.
When there is this abstinence from action, good order is universal.
4.1 The Tao is the emptiness of a
vessel; and in our employment of it we must be on our guard against
fullness. How deep and unfathomable it is, as if it were the Honoured
Ancestor of all things!
4.2 We should blunt our sharp points,
and unravel the complications of things; we should attempt our
brightness, and bring ourselves into agreement with the obscurity
of others. How pure and still the Tao as if it would ever so continue
4. 3 I do not know whose son it is.
It might appear to have been before God.
5.1 Heaven and earth do not act from
any wish to be benevolent; they deal with all things as the dogs
of grass are dealt with. The sages do not act from any wish to
be benevolent; they deal as the dogs of grass are dealt with.
5.2 May not the space between heaven
and earth be compared to a bellows? It is emptied, yet it loses
not its power; it is moved again, and sends forth air the more.
Much speech to swift exhaustion lead we see; your inner being
guard, and keep it free.
6.1 The valley spirit dies not, aye
the same; The female mystery thus do we name. Its gate, from which
at first they issued forth, is called the root from which grew
heaven and earth. Long and unbroken does its power remain, used
gently and without the touch of pain.
7.1 Heaven is long enduring and
earth continues long. The reason why heaven and earth are able
to endure and continue thus long is because they do not live of
or for themselves. This is how they are able to continue to endure.
7.2 Therefore the sage puts his own
person last, and yet it is found in the foremost place; he treats
his person as if it were foreign to him, and yet that person is
preserved. Is it not because he has no personal and private ends,
that therefore such ends are realized?
8.1 The highest excellence is like
that of water. The excellence of water appears in its benefiting
all things, and in its occupying, without striving the low place
which all men dislike. Hence its way is near to that of the Tao.
8.2 The excellence of a residence
is in the suitability of the place; that of the mind is in abysmal
stillness; that of associations is in their being with the virtuous;
that of government is in its securing good order, that of the
conduct of affairs is in its ability; and that of the initiation
of any movement is in its timeliness.
8.3 And when one with the highest
excellence does not wrangle about his low position, no one finds
fault with him.
9.1 It is better to leave a vessel
unfilled, than to attempt to carry it when it is full. If you
keep filing a point that has been sharpened, the point cannot
long preserve its sharpness.
9.2 When gold and jade fill the hall,
their possessor cannot keep them safe. When wealth and honours
lead to arrogance,this brings evil upon itself.When the work is
done, and one’s name is becoming distinguished, to withdraw
into obscurity is the way of Heaven.
10.1 When the intelligent and animal
souls are held together in one embrace, they can be kept from
separating. When one gives undivided attention to the vital breath,
and brings it to the utmost degree of pliancy, he can become as
a tender babe. When he has cleansed away the most mysterious sights
of his imagination, he can become without a flaw.
10.2 In loving the people and ruling
the state, cannot he proceed without any action (purpose of )?
In the opening and shutting of his gates of heaven, cannot he
do so as a female bird? While his intelligence reaches in every
direction, cannot he appear to be without knowledge?
10.3 The Tao produces all things
and nourishes them; it produces them and does not claim them as
its own. it does all and yet does not boast of it; it presides
over all, and yet does not control them. This what is called ‘The
Mysterious Quality’ of the Tao.
11.1 The thirty spokes unite in
the one nave; but it is on the empty space for the axle, that
the use of the wheel depends. Clay is fashioned into vessels but
it is on their empty hollowness that their use depends. The door
and windows are cut out from the walls to form an apartment, but
it is on the empty space within that its use depends. Therefore
what has a positive existence serves for profitable adaptation,
and what has no positive existence, serves for actual usefulness.
12.1 Colour’s five hues from
the eyes their sight will take; music's five notes the ears as
deaf can make; the flavours five deprive the mouth of taste; the
chariot course, and the wild hunting waste make mad the mind and
objects rare and strange. Sought for men’s conduct will
to evil change.
12.2 Therefore the sage seeks to
satisfy the craving of the belly and not the insatiable longing
of the eyes. He puts from him the latter and prefers to seek the
former. He eats for nouishment and not for pleasure.
13.1 Favour and disgrace would seem
equally to be feared; honour and great calamity, to be regarded
as personal conditions. He takes the middle path.
13.2 What is meant by speaking thus
of favour and disgrace? Disgrace is being in a low position after
the enjoyment of favour. The getting that favour leads to the
apprehension of losing it, and the losing it leads to the fear
of still greater calamity. This is what is meant by saying that
favour and disgrace would seem equally to be feared. And what
is meant by saying that honour and great calamity are to be regarded
as personal conditions? What makes me liable to great calamity
is my having the body; if I had not the body, what great calamity
could come to me?
13.3 Therefore he who would administer
the kingdom, honouring it as he honours his own person may be
employed to govern it, and he who would administer it with the
love which he bears to his own person may be entrusted with it.
14.1 We look at it and we do not
see it, and we name it ‘the Equitable’. We listen
to it, and we do not hear it , and we name it ‘the Inaudible’.
We try to grasp it and so not get hold of it, and we name it ‘the
Subtle.’ With these three qualities it cannot be made the
subject of description; and hence we blend them together and obtain
14.2 Its upper part is not bright,
and its lower part is not obscure. Ceaseless in its action, it
yet cannot be named and then it again returns and becomes nothing.
This is called the Form of the Formless, and the Semblance of
the Invisible; this called the Fleeting and Indeterminable.
14.3 We meet it and do not see its
Front; we follow it and do not see its Back.When we can lay hold
of the Tao of old to direct the things of the present day,and
are able to know it as it was of old in the beginning, this is
called clue of Tao.
15.1 The skillful masters of the
Tao in old times with a subtle and exquisite penetration, comprehended
its mysteries, and were deep so as to elude men’s knowledge.
As they were thus beyond men’s knowledge, I will make an
effort to describe of what sort they appeared to be.
15.2 Shrinking looked they like those
who wade through as stream in winter; irresolute like those who
are afraid of all around them; grave like a guest in awe of the
host; evanescent like ice that is melting away; unpretentious
like wood that has not been fashioned into anything vacant like
a valley, and dull like muddy water.
15.3 Who can make the muddy water
clear? Let it be still, and it will gradually become clear. Who
can secure the condition of rest? Let movement go on, and the
condition of rest will gradually arise.
15.4 They who preserve this method
of the Tao do not wish to be full of themselves. It is through
their not being full of themselves that they can afford to seem
worn and not appear new and complete.
16.1 The state of vacancy should
be brought to the utmost degree, and that of stillness guarded
with unwearying vigour. All things alike go through their processes
of activity, and then we see them return to their original state
. When things in the vegetable world have displayed their luxuriant
growth, we see each of them return to its root. This returning
to their root is what we call the state of stillness; and that
stillness may be called a reporting that they have fulfilled their
16.2 The report of that fulfillment
is the regular, unchanging rule. To know that unchanging rule
is to be intelligent; not to know it leads to wild movements and
evil issues. The knowledge of that unchanging rule produces a
grand capacity and forbearance, and that capacity and forbearance
lead to a community of feeling with all things. From this community
of feeling comes a kindliness of character; and he who is king-like
goes on to be heaven-like. In that likeliness to heaven he possesses
the Tao. Possessed of the Tao, he endures long; and to the end
of his bodily life, is exempt from all danger of decay.
17.1 In the highest antiquity, the
people did not know that there were their rulers. In the next
age they loved them and praised them. In the next they feared
them, in the next they despised them. Thus it was that when faith
in the Tao was deficient in the rulers a want of faith in them
17.2 How irresolute did those earliest
rulers appear, showing by their reticence the importance which
they set upon their words. Their work was done and their undertakings
were successful, while the people as said, ‘We as we are,
18.1 When the Great Tao ceased to
be observed, benevolence and righteousness came into vogue. Then
appeared wisdom and shrewdness, and there ensued great hypocrisy.
18.2 When harmony no longer prevailed
throughout the six kinships, filial sons found their manifestation;
when the states and clans fell into disorder, loyal ministers
19.1 If we could renounce our sageness
and discard our wisdom, it would be better for the people a hundredfold.
If we could renounce our benevolence and discard our righteousness,
the people would again become filial and kindly. If we could renounce
our artful contrivances and discard our scheming for gain, there
would be no thieves nor robbers.
19.2 Those three methods of government,
thought olden ways in elegance did fail and made these names their
want of worth to veil; but simple views, and courses plain and
true would selfish ends and many lust eschew.
20.1 When we renounce learning we
have no troubles. The ‘yes’, and ‘yea’
– small is the difference they display. But mark their issues
good and ill – what space the gulf between shall fill? What
all men fear is indeed to be feared; but how wide and without
end is the range of questions asking to be discussed!
20.2 The multitude of men look satisfied
and pleased; as if enjoying a full banquet, as if mounted on a
tower in spring. I alone seem listless and still, my desires having
as yet given no indication of their presence. I am like an infant
which has not yet smiled. I look dejected and forlorn, as if I
had no home to go to. The multitude of men all have enough and
to spare. I alone seem to have lost everything. My mind is that
of a stupid man; I am in a state of chaos. Ordinary men look bright
and intelligent, while I alone seem to be benighted. They look
full of discrimination, while I alone am dull and confused. I
seem to be carried about as on the sea, drifting as if I had nowhere
to rest. All men have their spheres of action, while I alone seem
dull and incapable, like a rude borderer. This I alone am different
from other men, but I value the nursing mother, the Tao.
21.1 The grandest forms of active
force from Tao come, their only source. Who can of Tao nature
tell? Our sight flies,our touch as well. Eluding sight, eluding
touch, the forms of things all in it crouch; eluding touch, eluding
sight, there are their semblances, all right. Profound it is,
dark and obscure; things’ essences all there endure. Those
essences the truth enfold of what, when seen, shall then be told.
Now it is so; it was of old. Its name – what passes not
away, so, in their beautiful array, things form and never know
How know I that it is so with all the beauties of existing things?
By this the nature of the Tao.
22.1 The partial becomes complete;
the crooked straight, the empty full; the worn out, new. He whose
desires are few gets them; he whose desires are many goes astray.
22.2 Therefore the sage holds in
his embrace the one thing of humility, and manifests it to all
the world. He is free from self-display, and therefore he shines;
from self-assertion, and therefore he is distinguished; from self-boasting,
and therefore his merit is acknowledged; from self-complacency,
and therefore he acquires superiority. It is because he is thus
free from striving that therefore no one in the world is able
to strive with him.
22.3 That saying of the ancients
that the partial becomes complete was not vainly spoken; all real
completion is comprehended under it.
23.1 Abstaining from speech marks
him who is obeying the spontaneity
of his nature. A violent wind does not last for a whole morning;
sudden rain does not last for the whole day. To whom is it that
(two) things are owing? To Heaven and Earth. If Heaven and Earth
cannot make such (spasmodic) actings last long, how much less
23.2 Therefore when one is making
the Tao his business, those who are
also pursuing it, agree with him in it, and those who are making
manifestation of its course their object agree with him in that;
even those who are failing in both these things agree with him
23.3 Hence, those with whom he agrees
as to the Tao have the happiness
of attaining to it; those with whom he agrees as to its manifestation
have the happiness of attaining to it; and those with whom he
in their failure have also the happiness of attaining (to the
(But) when there is not faith sufficient (on his part), a want
faith (in him) ensues (on the part of the others).
24.1 He who stands on his tiptoes
does not stand firm; he who stretches his legs does not walk easily.
He who displays himself does not shine. He who asserts his own
views is not distinguished. He who vaunts himself does not find
his merit acknowledged. He who is self-conceited has no superiority
allowed to him. Such conditions, viewed from the standpoint of
the Tao, are like remnants of food, or a tumor in the body which
all dislike. Hence those who pursue the Tao do no adopt and allow
25.1 There was something undefined
and complete, coming into existence before Heaven and Earth. How
still it was and formless, standing alone, and undergoing no change,
reaching everywhere and in no danger of being exhausted. It may
be regarded as the Mother of all things.
25.2 I do not know its name, and
I give it the designation of the Tao. Making an effort to give
it a name I call it The Great.
25.3 Great, it passes on in constant
flow. Passing on, it becomes remote. Having become remote, it
returns. Therefore the Tao is Great; Heaven is Great; Earth is
Great; and the Sage/King is also great. In the Universe there
are four that are Great and the Sage/King is one of them.
25.4 Man takes his law from the Earth;
the Earth takes its law from Heaven. Heaven takes its law from
the Tao. The Law of the Tao is its being what it is.
26.1 Gravity is the root of lightness;
stillness the ruler of movement.
26.2 Therefore a wise prince, marching
the whole day, does not go far from his baggage wagons. Although
he may have brilliant prospects to look at, he quietly remains
in his proper place, indifferent to them. How should the lord
of myriad chariots carry himself lightly before the kingdom? If
he do act lightly, he has lost his root of gravity; if he proceeds
to active movement, he will lose his throne.
27.1 The skillful traveler leaves
no traces of his wheels or footsteps; the skillful speaker says
nothing that can be found fault with or blamed; the skillful reckoner
uses no tallies; the skillful closer needs no bolts or bars, while
to open what he has shut will be impossible; the skillful binder
uses no strings or knots, while to unloose what he has bound will
be impossible. In the same way the Sage is always skillful at
saving men, and so he does not cast away any man; he is always
skillful at saving things, and so he does not cast away anything.
This is called ‘hiding the light of his procedure.’
27.2 Therefore the man of skill is
a master to be valued by he who has not the skill; and he who
has not the skill is the helper of he who has the skill. If the
one did not honour his master, and the other did not rejoice in
his helper, an observer, though intelligent, might greatly err
about them. This is called ‘The utmost degree of mystery.’
28.1 Who knows his manhood’s
strength, yet still his female feebleness maintains; as to one
channel flow the many drains. All come to him, all beneath the
sky. Thus he the constant excellence retains. The simple child
again, free from all stains. Who knows how white attracts. Yet
always keeps himself within black’s shade. The pattern of
humility displayed, displayed in view of all beneath the sky.
He in the unchanging excellence arrayed, endless return to man’s
first state has made.
Who knows how glory shines, yet loves disgrace, nor ever for it
is pale; Behold his presence in a spacious vale, to which men
come from all beneath the sky. The unchanging excellence completes
its tale. The simple infant man in him we hail.
28.2 The unwrought material when
divided and distributed forms vessels. The sage, when employed,
becomes the Head of all the Officers of Government and in his
greatest regulations he employs no violent measure.
29.1 If any one should wish to get
the kingdom for himself and to effect this by what he does, I
see that he will not succeed. The kingdom is a spirit like thing
and cannot be got by active doing. He who would so win it destroys
it. He who would hold it in his grasp loses it.
29.2 The course and nature of things
is such that what was in front is now behind. What warmed anon
we freeze find. Strength is of weakness oft the spoil. The store
in ruins mocks our toil. Hence the sage puts away excessive effort,
extravagance and easy indulgence.
30.1 He who would assist a lord
of men in harmony with the Tao will not assert his mastery in
the kingdom by force of arms. Such a course is sure to meet with
its proper return.
30.2 Wherever a host is stationed,
briars and thorns spring up. In the sequence of great armies there
are sure to be bad years.
30.3 A skillful commander strikes
a decisive blow, and stops. He does not dare, by continuing his
operations to assert and complete his mastery. He will strike
the blow, but will be on his guard against being vain or boastful
or arrogant in consequence of it. He strikes it as a matter of
necessity, he strikes it, but not from a wish for mastery.
30.4 When things have attained their
strong maturity they become old. This may be said to be not in
accordance with the Tao, and what is not in accordance with it
soon comes to an end.
31.1 Now arms, however beautiful,
are instruments of evil omen, hateful, it may be said, to all
creatures. Therefore they who have the Tao do not like to employ
31.2 The superior man ordinarily
considers the left hand the most honourable place, but in time
of war the right hand. Those sharp weapons are instruments of
evil omen, and not the instruments of the superior man. He uses
them only on the compulsion of necessity. Calm and repose are
what he prizes. Victory by force of arms is to him undesirable.
To consider this desirable would to delight in the slaughter of
men. He who delights in the slaughter of men cannot get his will
in the kingdom.
31.3 On occasions of festivity to
be on the left hand is the prized position. On occasions of mourning,
the right. The second in command of the army has his place on
the left, the general commanding in chief has his on the right.
His place that is assigned to him as in the rites of mourning.
He who has killed multitudes of men should weep for them with
the bitterest grief and the victor in battle has his place according
to those rites.
32.1 The Tao considered as unchanging,
has no name.
32.2 Though in its primordial simplicity
it may be small, the whole world dares not deal with one embodying
it as a minister. If a feudal prince or the king could guard and
hold it, all would spontaneously submit themselves to him.
32.3 Heaven and Earth under its guidance
unite together and send down the sweet dew, which, without the
directions of men, reaches equally everywhere as of its own accord.
32.4 As soon as it proceeds to action,
it has a name. When it once has that name, men can know to rest
in it. When they know to rest in it, they can be free from all
risk of failure and error.
32.5 The relations of the Tao to
all the world is like that of the great rivers and seas to the
streams from the valleys.
33.1 He who knows other men is discerning,
he who knows himself is intelligent. He who overcomes others is
strong. He who overcomes himself is mighty. He who is satisfied
with his lot is rich. He who goes on acting with energy has a
33.2 He who does not fail in the
requirements of his position, continues long. He who dies and
yet does not perish has longevity.
34.1 All pervading is the Great
Tao. It may be found on the left hand and on the right.
34.2 All things depend on it for
their production, which it gives to them, not one refusing obedience
to it. When its work is accomplished, it does not claim the name
of having done it. It clothes all things as with a garment, and
makes no assumption of being their lord. It may be named in the
smallest thing. All things return to their root and disappear
and do not know that it is it which presides over their doing
so. It may be named in the greatest things.
34.3 Hence the sage is able in the
same way to accomplish his great achievements. It is through his
not making himself great that he can accomplish them.
35.1 To him who holds in his hands
the Great Image of the invisible Tao the whole world repairs.
Men resort to him, and receive no hurt, but find rest, peace,
and the feeling of ease.
35.2 Music and dainties will make
the passing guest stop for a time. But though the Tao as it comes
from the mouth, seems insipid and has no flavour, though it seems
not worth being looked at or listened to, the use of it is inexhaustible.
36.1 When one is about to take an
inspiration he is sure to make a previous expiration. When he
is going to weaken another, he will first strengthen him. When
he is going to overthrow another, he will first have raised him
up. When he is going to despoil another, he will first have made
gifts to him. This is called Hiding the Light,’
36.2 The soft overcomes the hard,
and the weak the strong.
36.3 Fishes should not be taken from
the deep. Instruments for the profit of a state should not be
shown to the people.
37.1 The Tao in its regular course
does nothing for the sake of doing it and so there is nothing
which it does not do.
37.2 If princes and kings were able
to maintain it, all things would of themselves be transformed
37.3 If this transformation became
to me an object of desire, I would express the desire by the nameless
simplicity. Simplicity without a name is free from all external
aim. With no desire, at rest and still, all things go right as
of their will.
38.1 Those who possessed in highest
degree the attributes of the Tao did not seek to show them, and
therefore they possessed them in fullest measure. Those who possessed
in a lower degree those attributes sought how not to lose them,
and therefore they did not possess them in fullest measure.
38.2 Those who possessed in the highest
degree those attributes did nothing with a purpose, and had no
need to do anything. Those who possessed them in a lower degree
were always doing, and had need to be so doing.
38.3 Those who possessed the highest
benevolence were always seeking to carry it out, and had no need
to be doing so. Those who possessed the highest righteousness
were always seeking to carry it out, and had need to be so doing.
38.4 Those who possessed the highest
sense of propriety were always seeking to show it and when men
did not respond to it, they bared the arm and marched up to them.
38.5 Thus it was that when the Tao
was lost, its attributes appeared. When its attributes were lost,
benevolence appeared. When benevolence was lost righteousness
appeared. And when righteousness was lost the proprieties appeared.
38.6 Now propriety is the attenuated
form of good heartedness and good faith and is also the commencement
of disorder. Swift apprehension is only a flower of the Tao and
is the beginning of stupidity.
38.7 Thus it is that the Great man
abides by what is solid and eschews what is flimsy; dwells with
the fruit and not with the flower. It is thus that he puts away
the one and makes choice of the other.
39.1 The things which from of old
have got the One (the Tao) are – Heaven which by it is bright
and pure; Earth rendered thereby firm and sure; Spirits with powers
by it supplied; Valleys kept full throughout their void; All creatures
by it supplied; valleys kept full throughout their void; all creatures
which through it do live Princes and kings who from it get the
model which to all they give. All these are the results of the
39.2 If Heaven were not thus pure,
it soon would rend; If earth were not thus sure ‘it would
break and bend; without these powers, the spirits soon would fail;
if not so filled the drought would parch each vale; without that
life creatures would pass away; princes and kings without that
moral sway however grand and high, would all decay.
39.3 Thus it is that dignity finds
its firm root in its previous meanness and what is lofty finds
its stability in the lowness from which it rises. Hence princes
and kings call themselves Orphans’ ‘men of small virtue’
and as ‘carriages without a nave.’ Is not this an
acknowledgement that in their considering themselves mean they
see the foundation of their dignity? They do not wish to show
themselves elegant looking as jade, but prefer to be a coarse
looking as an ordinary stone.
40.1 The movement of the Tao by
contraries proceeds and weakness marks the course of the Tao’s
40.2 All things under heaven sprang
from it as existing and named; that existence sprang from It as
non-existence and not named.
41.1 Scholars of the highest class,
when they hear about the Tao, earnestly carry it into practice.
Scholars of the middle class, when they have heard about it, seem
now to keep it and now to lose it. Scholars of the lowest class,
when they have heard about it , laugh greatly at it. If it were
not thus laughed it would not be fit to be the Tao.
41.2 Therefore the sentence makers
have thus expressed themselves. The Tao when brightest seen, seems
light to lack. Who progress in it makes seems drawing back. Its
even way is like a rugged track. Its highest virtue from the vale
doth rise. Its greatest beauty seems to offend the eyes. And he
has most whose lot the least supplies. Its firmest virtue seems
but poor and low, its solid truth seems change to undergo. Its
largest square doth yet no corner show a vessel great, it is the
slowest made; Loud is its sound, but never word it said. A semblance
great the shadow of a shade.
41.3 The Tao is hidden and has no
name but it is the Tao which is skillful at imparting to all things
what they need and making them complete.
42.1 The Tao produced One. One produced
Two. Two produced three. Three produced all things. All things
leave behind them the obscurity out of which they have come, and
go forward to embrace the Brightness into which they have emerged
while they are harmonized by the breath of vacancy.
men dislike is to be orphans, to have little virtue, to be as
carriages without naves, and yet these are the designations which
kings and princes use for themselves. So it is that some things
are increased by being diminished and others are diminished by
42.3 What other men thus teach, I
also teach. The violent and strong do not die their natural death.
I will make this the basis of my teaching.
43.1 The softest thing in the world
dashes against and overcomes the hardest. That which has no substantial
existence enters where there is no crevice. I know hereby what
advantage belongs to doing nothing with a purpose.
43.2 There are few in the world who
attain to the teaching without words and the advantage arising
44.1 Or fame or life, which do you
hold more dear? Of life or wealth to which would you adhere? Keep
life and lose those other things. Keep them and lose your life.
Which brings sorrow and pain more near?
44.2 Thus we may see who cleaves
to fame rejects what is more great. Who loves large stores gives
up the richer state.
44.3 Who is content need fear no
shame. Who knows to stop incurs no blame. From danger free long
live shall he.
45.1 Who thinks his great achievements
poor shall find his vigour long endure. Of greatest fullness deemed
a void. Exhaustion never shall stem the tide. Do thou what is
straight still crooked deem. Thy greatest art still stupid seem,
and eloquence a stammering scream.
45.2 Constant action overcomes cold,
being still overcomes heat. Purity and stillness give the correct
law to all under heaven.
46.1 When the Tao prevails in the
world they send back their swift horses to draw the dung carts.
When the Tao is disregarded in the world, the war horses breed
in the border lands.
46.2 There is no guilt greater than
to sanction ambition; no calamity greater than to be discontented
with one’s lot; no fault greater than the wish to be getting.
Therefore the sufficiency of contentment is an enduring and unchanging
47.1 Without going outside his door,
one understands all that takes place under the sky; without looking
out from his window one sees the Tao of Heaven. The farther that
one goes out from himself the less he knows.
47.2 Therefore the sages got their
knowledge without traveling; gave their right names to things
without seeing them; and accomplishing their ends without any
purpose of doing so.
48.1 He who devotes himself to learning
seeks from day to day to increase his knowledge; he who devotes
himself to the Tao seeks from day to day to diminish his doing.
48.2 He diminishes it and again diminishes
it, till he arrives at doing nothing on purpose. Having arrived
at this point of non-action, there is nothing which he does not
48.3 He who gets as his own all under
heaven does so by giving himself no trouble with that end. If
one take trouble with that end, he is not equal to getting as
his own all under heaven.
49.1 The sage has no invariable
mind of his own; he makes the mind of the people his mind.
49.2 To those who are good to me
I am good and to those who are not good to me, I am also good.
Thus all get to be good. To those who are sincere with me I am
sincere. To those who are not sincere with me I am also sincere
and thus all get to be sincere.
49.3 The sage has in the world an
appearance of indecision and keeps his mind in a state of indifference
to all. The people all keep their eyes and ears directed to him
and he deals with them all as his children.
50.1 Men come forth and live. They
enter again and die.
50.2 Of every ten, three are ministers
of life to themselves. Three are ministers of death.
50.3 There are also three in every
ten whose aim is to live but whose movements tend to the land
or place of death. And for what reason? Because of their excessive
endeavours to perpetuate life.
50.4 But I have heard that he who
is skillful in managing the life entrusted to him for a time travels
on the land without having to shun rhinoceros or tiger, and enters
a host without having to avoid buff coat or sharp weapons. The
rhinoceros finds no place in him into which to thrust its horn,
nor the tiger a place in which to fix its claws, nor the weapon
a place to admit its point. And for what reason? Because there
is in him no place of death.
51.1 All things are produced by
the Tao and nourished by its outflowing operation. They receive
their forms according to the nature of each, and are completed
according to the circumstances of their condition. Therefore all
things without exception honour the Tao and exalt its outflowing
51.2 This honouring of the Tao and
exalting of its operation is not the result of any ordination
but always a spontaneous tribute.
51.3 Thus it is that the Tao produces
all things, nourishes them, brings them to their full growth,
nurses them, completes them, matures them, maintains them, and
51.4 It produces them and makes no
claim to the possession of them; it carries them through their
processes and does not vaunt its ability in doing so; it brings
them to maturity and exercises no control over them. This is called
its ‘mysterious operation.’
52.1 If I were suddenly to become
known and put into a position to conduct a government according
to the Great Tao, what I should be most afraid of would be a boastful
52.2 The great Tao is very level
and easy but people love the byways.
52.3 Their courtyards and buildings
shall be well kept, but their fields shall be ill cultivated and
their granaries very empty. They shall wear elegant and ornamented
robes, carry a sharp sword at their girdle, pamper themselves
in eating and drinking and have a superabundance of property and
wealth. Such princes may be called robbers and boasters. This
is contrary to the Tao surely.
53.1 What Tao’s skillful planter
plants can never be uptorn. What his skillful arms enfold from
him can never be borne. Sons shall bring in lengthening line sacrifices
to his shrine.
53.2 Tao when nursed within one’s
self, his vigour will make true. And where the family it rules
what riches will accrue! The neighbourhood where it prevails in
thriving will abound and when it is seen throughout the state,
good fortune will be found. Employ it the kingdom over, and men
thrive all around.
53.3 In this way the effect will
be seen in the person, by the observation of different cases.
In the family, in the neighbourhood, in the state and in the kingdom.
53.4 How do I know that this effect
is sure to hold thus all under the sky? By this method of observation.
54.1 He who has in himself abundantly
the attributes of the Tao is like an infant. Poisonous insects
will not sting him. Fierce beasts will not seize him. Birds of
prey will not strike him.
54.2 The infants bones are weak and
its sinews soft, but yet its grasp is firm. It knows not yet the
union of male and female. Yet its virile member may be excited
showing the perfection of its physical essence. All day long it
will cry without its throat becoming hoarse showing the harmony
in its constitution.
54.3 To him by whom this harmony
is known, the secret of the unchanging Tao is shown. And in the
knowledge wisdom finds its throne. All life increasing arts to
evil turn. Where the mind makes the vital breath to burn, false
is the strength, and over it we should mourn.
54.4 When things have become strong,
they then become old, which may be said to be contrary to the
Tao. Whatever is contrary to the Tao soon ends.
55.1 He who knows the Tao does not
care to speak about it. He who is ever ready to speak about it
does not know it.
55.2 He who knows it will keep his
mouth shut and close the portals of his nostrils. He will blunt
his sharp points and unravel the complications of things. He will
attempt his brightness and bring himself into agreement with the
obscurity of others. This is called the ‘Mysterious Agreement.’
55. 3 Such a one cannot be treated
familiarly or distantly. He is beyond all consideration of profit
or injury, of nobility or meanness. He is the noblest man under
56.1 A state my be ruled by measures
of correction. Weapons of war may be used with crafty dexterity.
The kingdom is made one’s own only by freedom from action
56.2 How do I know that it is so?
By these facts. In the kingdom the multiplication of prohibitive
enactments increases the poverty of the people. The more implements
to add to their profit that the people have, the greater the disorder
is there in the states and clan. The more acts of crafty dexterity
that men posses, the more do strange contrivances appear. The
more display there is of legislation. The more thieves and robbers
56.3 Therefore a sage has said, ‘I
will do nothing of purpose, and the people will be transformed
of themselves. I will be fond of keeping still and the people
will of themselves become correct. I will take no trouble about
it and the people will of themselves become rich. I will manifest
no ambition and the people will of themselves attain to the primitive
57.1 The government that seems the
most unwise oft goodness to the people best supplies. That which
is meddling, touching everything will work but ill and disappointment
Misery! Happiness is to be found by its side. Happiness! Misery
lurks beneath it. Who knows what either will come to in the end?
57.2 Shall we then dispense with
correction? The method of correction shall by a turn become distortion
and the good in it shall by a turn become evil. The delusion of
the people on this point has indeed subsisted for a long time.
57.3 Therefore the sage is like a
square which cuts no one with its angles, like a corner which
injures no one with its sharpness. He is straightforward, but
allows himself no license. He is bright, but does not dazzle.
58.1 For regulating the human in
our constitution and rendering the proper service to the heavenly,
there is nothing like moderation.
58.2 it is only by this moderation
that there is effected an early return to man’s normal state.
That early return is what I call the repeated accumulation of
the attributes of the Tao. With that repeated accumulation of
those attributes there comes the subjugation we know not what
shall be the limit. When one knows not what the limit shall be,
he may be the ruler of a state.
58.3 He who possesses the mother
of the state may continue long. His case is like that of the plant
of which we say that its roots are deep and its flower stalks
firm. This is the way to secure that its enduring life shall long
59.1 Governing a great state is
like cooking small fish.
59.2 Let the kingdom be governed
according to the Tao. The manes of the departed will not manifest
their spiritual energy. It is not that those manes have not that
spiritual energy but it will not be employed to hurt men. It is
not that it could not hurt men, but neither does the ruling sage
59 .3 When these two do not injuriously
affect each other, their good influences converge in the virtue
of the Tao.
60.1 To illustrate from the case
of all females the female always overcomes the males by her stillness.
Stillness may be considered a sort of abasement.
60.3 Thus it is that a great state
by condescending to small states gains them for itself and that
small states by abasing themselves to a great state win it over
to them. In the one case the abasement leads to gaining adherents.
In the other case to procuring favour.
60.4 The great state only wishes
to unite men together and nourish them. A small state only wishes
to be received by and to serve the other. Each gets what it desires
but the great state must learn to abase itself.
61.1 Tao has of all things the most
honoured place. No treasures give good men so rich a grace. Bad
men it guards and doth their ill efface.
61.2 Its admirable words can purchase
honour. Its admirable deeds can raise their performer above others.
Even men who are not good are not abandoned by it.
61.3 Therefore when the sovereign
occupies his place as the Son of Heaven, and he has appointed
his three ducal ministers, though a prince were to send in a round
symbol of rank large enough to fill both the hands and that as
the precursor of the team of horses in the court yard, such an
offering would not be equal to a lesson of this Tao, which one
might present on his knees.
61.4 Why was it that the ancients
prized this Tao so much? Was it not because it could be got by
seeking for it and the guilty could escape from the strain of
their guilt by it? This is the reason why all under heaven consider
it the most valuable thing.
62.1 It is the way of the Tao to
act without thinking of acting, to conduct affairs without feeling
the trouble of them, to taste without discerning any flavour,
to consider what is small as great and a few as many and to recompense
injury with kindness.
62.2 The master of it anticipates
things that are difficult while they are easy, and does things
that would become great while they are small. All difficult things
in the world are sure to arise from a previous state in which
they were easy and all great things from one in which they were
small. Therefore the sager, while he never does what is great,
is able on that account to accomplish the greatest things.
62.3 He who lightly promises is sure
to keep but little faith. He who is continually thinking things
easy is sure to find them difficult. Therefore the sage sees difficulty
even in what seems easy, and so never has any difficulties.
63.1 That which is at rest is easily
kept hold of. Before a thing has given indications of its presence
it is easy to take measures against it. That which is brittle
is easily broken. That which is very small is easily dispersed.
Action should be taken before a thing has made its appearance.
Order should be secured before disorder has begun.
63.2 The tree which fills the arms
grew from the tiniest sprout. The tower of nine stories rose from
a small heap of earth. The journey of a thousand li commenced
with a single step.
63.3 He who acts with an ulterior
purpose does harm. He who takes hold of a thing in the same way
loses his hold. The sage does not act so and therefore does no
harm. He does not lay hold so and therefore does not lose his
hold. People in their conduct of affairs are constantly ruining
them when they are on the eve of success. If they were careful
at the end, as they should be at the beginning they would not
so ruin them.
63.4 Therefore the sage desires what
other men do not desire and does not prize things difficult to
get. He learns what other men do not learn and turns back to what
the multitude of men have passed by. Thus he helps the natural
development of all things and does not dare to act with an ulterior
purpose of his own.
64.1 The ancients who showed their
skill in practicing the Tao did so, not to enlighten the people,
but rather to make them simple and ignorant.
64.2 The difficulty in governing
the people arises from their having much knowledge. He who tries
to govern a state by his wisdom is a scourge to it, while he who
does not try to do so is a blessing.
64.3 He who knows these two things
finds in them also his model and rule. Ability to know this model
and rule constitutes what we call the mysterious excellence of
a governor. Deep and far-reaching is such mysterious excellence,
showing indeed its possessor as opposite to others, but leading
them to a great conformity to him.
65.1 That whereby the rivers and
seas are able to receive the homage and tribute of all the valley
streams is their skill in being lower then they. It is thus that
they are the kings of them all. So it is that the sage (ruler)
wishing to be above men, puts himself by his words below them
and wishing to be before them, places his person behind them.
65.2 In this way though he has his
place above them, men do not feel his weight, nor though he has
his place before them, do they feel it an injury to them.
65.3 Therefore all in the world delight
to exalt him and do not weary of him. Because he does not strive,
no one finds it possible to strive with him.
66.1 All the world says that, while
my Tao is great, it yet appears to be inferior to other systems
of teaching. Now it is just its greatness that makes it seem to
be inferior. If it were like any other system, for long would
its smallness have been known.
66.2 But I have three precious things
which I prize and hold fast. The first is gentleness; the second
is economy; and the third is shrinking from taking precedence
66.3 With that gentleness I can be
bold; with that economy I can be liberal; shrinking from taking
precedence of others I can become a vessel of the highest honour.
Now a days they give up gentleness and are all for being bold;
economy and are all for being liberal; the hindmost place and
seek only to be foremost; all of which the end is death.
66.4 Gentleness is sure to be victorious even in battle, and firmly
to maintain its ground. Heaven will save its possessor by his
gentleness protecting him.
67.1 He who in Tao’s wars
has skill assumes no martial port. He who fights with most good
will to rage makes no resort. He who vanquishes yet still keeps
from his foes apart. He whose chests men most fulfill yet humbly
plies his art. Thus we say,’ he ne’er contends and
therein is his might. Thus we say men’s wills he bends.
That they with him unite. Thus we say, like Heaven’s his
ends, no sage of old more bright.
68.1 A master of the art of war
has said, I do not dare to be the host to commence the war. I
prefer to be the guest to act on the defensive. I do not dare
to advance an inch. I prefer to retire a foot. This is called
marshalling the ranks where there are no ranks; baring the arms
to fight where there are no arms to bare; grasping the weapon
where there is no weapon to grasp.
68.2 There is no calamity greater
than lightly engaging in war. To do that is near losing the gentleness
which is so precious. Thus it is that when opposing weapons are
actually crossed, he who deplores the situation conquers.
69.1 My words are very easy to know,
and very easy to practice, but there is no one in the world who
is able to know and able the practice them.
69 .2 There is an originating and
all comprehending principal in my words, and an authoritative
law for the things which I enforce. It is because they do not
know these, that men do not know me.
69.3 They who know me are few and
I am on that account the more to be prized. It is thus that the
sage wears a poor garb of hair cloth, while he carries his signet
of jade in his bosom.
70.1 To know and yet think we do
not know is the highest attainment. Not to know and yet think
we do know is a disease.
70.2 It is simply by being pained
at the thought of having this disease that we are preserved from
it. The sage has not the disease. He knows the pain that would
be inseparable from it and therefore he does not have it.
71.1 When the people do not fear
what they ought to fear, that which is their great dread will
come on them.
71.2 Let them not thoughtlessly indulge
themselves in their ordinary life. Let them not act as if weary
of what that life depends on.
71.3 It is by avoiding such indulgence
that such weariness does not arise.
71.4 Therefore the sage knows these
things of himself, but does not parade his knowledge; loves, but
does not appear to set a value on himself. Thus he puts the latter
alternative away and makes choice of the former.
72.1 He whose boldness appears in
his daring to do wrong, in defiance of the laws is put to death.
He whose boldness appears in his not daring to do so lives on.
Of these two cases the one appears to be advantageous and the
other to injurious. When Heaven’s anger smites a man, who
the cause shall truly scan? On this account the sage feels a difficulty
as to what to do in the former case.
72.2 It is the way of Heaven not
to strive and yet it skillfully overcomes. Not to speak and yet
it is skillful in obtaining a reply, does not call, and yet men
come to it of their own accord. Its demonstrations are quiet and
yet its plans are skillful and effective. The meshes of the net
of Heaven are large; far apart, but letting nothing escape.
73.1 The people do not fear death.
To what purpose is it to try to frighten them with death? If the
people were always in awe of death and I could always seize those
who do wrong and put them to death, who would dare to do wrong?
73.2 There is always One who presides
over the infliction of death. He who would inflict death in the
room of him who so presides over it may be described as hewing
wood instead of a great carpenter. Seldom is it that he who undertakes
the hewing instead of the great carpenter does not cut his own
74.1 The people suffer from famine
because of the multitude of taxes consumed by their superiors.
It is through this that they suffer famine.
74.2 The people are difficult to
govern because of the excessive agency of their superiors in governing
them. It is through this that they are difficult to govern.
74.3 The people make light of dying
because of the greatness of their labours in seeking for the means
of living. It is this which makes them think light of dying. Thus
it is that to leave the subject of living altogether out of view
is better than to set a high value on it.
75.1 Man at his birth is supple
and weak. At his death firm and strong. So it is with all things.
Trees and plants in their early growth are soft and brittle; at
their death dry and withered.
75.2 Thus it is that firmness and
strength are the concomitants of death; softness and weakness
the concomitants of life.
75.3 Hence he who relies on the strength
of his forces does not conquer; and a tree which is strong will
fill the outstretched arms, and thereby invites the feller.
75.4 Therefore the place of what
is firm and strong is below, and that of what is soft and weak
76.1 May not the Way or Tao of Heaven
be compared to the method of bending the bow? The part of the
bow which was high is brought low, and what was low is raised
up. So heaven diminishes where there is superabundance, and supplements
where there is deficiency.
76.2 It is the way of heaven to diminish
superabundance and to supplement deficiency. It is not so with
the way of man. He takes away from those who have not enough to
add to his own superabundance.
76.3 Who can take his own superabundance
and therewith serve all under heaven? Only he who is in possession
of the Tao.
76. 4 Therefore the ruling sage acts
without claiming the results as his. He achieves his merit and
does not rest arrogantly in it. He does not wish to display his
77.1 There is nothing in the world
more soft and weak than water, and yet for attacking things that
are firm and strong there is nothing that can take precedence
of it. For there is nothing so effectual for which it can be changed.
77.2 Every one in the world knows
that the soft overcomes the hard and the weak the strong, but
no one is able to carry it out in practice.
77.3 Therefore a sage has said, ‘
He who accepts his state’s reproach is hailed therefore
its altar’s lord. To him who bears men’s direful woes
they all the name of king’s accord.
77.4 Words that are strictly true
seem to be paradoxical.
78.1 When a reconciliation is affected
between two parties after a great animosity, there is sure to
be a grudge remaining in the mind of the one who was wrong. And
how can this be beneficial to the other?
78.2 Therefore to guard against this,
the sage keeps the left hand portion of the record of the engagement
and does not insist on the speedy fulfillment of it by the other
party. He who has the attributes of the Tao regards only the conditions
of the engagement, while he who has not those attributes regards
only the conditions favourable to himself.
78.3 In the Way of Heaven, there
is no partiality of love. It is always on the side of the good
79.1 In a little state with a small
population I would so order it, that though there were individuals
with the abilities often or a hundred men, there should be no
employment of them. I would make the people while looking on death
as a grievous thing, yet not remove elsewhere to avoid it.
79 .2 Though they had boats and carriages,
they should have no occasions to ride in them though they had
buff coats and sharp weapons they should have no occasion to don
or use them.
79 .3 I would make the people return
to the use of knotted cords instead of the written characters.
79 .4 They should think their course
food sweet, their plain clothes beautiful, their poor dwellings
places of rest, and their common simple ways sources of enjoyment.
79 .5 There should be a neighbouring
state within sight and the voices of the fowls and dogs should
be heard all the way from it to us, but I would make the people
to old age, even to death, not have any intercourse with it.
80. 1 Sincere words are not fine.
Fine words are not sincere. Those who are skilled in the Tao do
not dispute about it. The disputatious are not skilled in it.
Those who know the Tao are not extensively learned. The extensively
learned do not know it.
80.2 The sage does not accumulate
for himself. The more that he expends for others, the more does
he posses of his own. The more that he gives to others, the more
does he have himself.
80.3 With all the sharpness of the
Way of Heaven it injures not. With all the doing in the way of
the sage he does not strive.