English version by
Wing-Tsit Chan, 1963
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The Tao that can be told of is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth; The Named is the mother of all things.
Therefore let there always be non-being, so we may see their subtlety, And let there always be being, so we may see their outcome.
The two are the same, But after they are produced, they have different names.
They both may be called deep and profound. Deeper and more profound, The door to all subtleties!
When all the people of the world know beauty as beauty, There arises the recognition of ugliness.
When they all know the good as good, There arises the recognition of evil.
Therefore: Being and non-being produce each other; Difficult and easy complete each other; Long and short contrast each other;
High and low distinguish each other; Sound and voice harmonize each other; Front and behind accompany each other.
Therefore the sage manages affairs without action And spreads doctrines without words.
All things arise, and he does not turn away from them. He produces them but does not take possession of them.
He acts but does not rely on his own ability. He accomplishes his task but does not claim credit for it. It is precisely because he does not claim credit that his accomplishment remains with him.
Do not exalt the worthy, so that the people shall not compete.
Do not value rare treasures, so that the people shall not steal.
Do not display objects of desire, so that the people's hearts shall not be disturbed.
Therefore in the government of the sage, He keeps their hearts vacuous, Fills their bellies, Weakens their ambitions, And strengthens their bones,
He always causes his people to be without knowledge (cunning) or desire, And the crafty to be afraid to act.
By acting without action, all things will be in order.
Tao is empty (like a bowl). It may be used but its capacity is never exhausted
It is bottomless, perhaps the ancestor of all things.
It blunts its sharpness. It unties its tangles. It softens its light. It becomes one with the dusty world.
Deep and still, it appears to exist forever.
I do not know whose son it is. It seems to have existed before the Lord.
Heaven and Earth are not humane. They regard all things a straw dogs.
The sage is not humane. He regards all people as straw dogs.
How Heaven and Earth are like a bellows. While vacuous, it is never exhausted. When active, it produces even more.
Much talk will of course come to a dead end. It is better to keep to the centre.
The spirit of the valley never dies. It is called the subtle and profound female.
The gate of the subtle and profound female Is the root of Heaven and Earth.
It is continuous, and seems to be always existing. Use it and you will never wear it out.
Heaven is eternal and Earth everlasting.
They can be eternal and everlasting because they do not exist for themselves, And for this reason can exist forever.
Therefore the sage places himself in the background but finds himself in the foreground.
He puts himself away, and yet he always remains.
Is it not because he has no personal interests? This is the reason why his personal interests are fulfilled.
The best (man) is like water. Water is good; it benefits all things and does not compete with them. It dwells in (lowly) places that all disdain. This is why it is so near to Tao.
(The best man) in his dwelling loves the earth. In his heart, he loves what is profound. In his associations, he loves humanity. In his words, he loves faithfulness.
In government, he loves order. In handling affairs, he loves competence. In his activities, he loves timeliness.
It is because he does not compete that he is without reproach.
To hold and fill a cup to overflowing Is not as good as to stop in time.
Sharpen a sword edge to its very sharpest, And the (edge) will not last long.
When gold and jade fill your hall, You will not be able to keep them.
To be proud with honour and wealth Is to cause one's own downfall.
withdraw as soon as your work is done. Such is Heaven's Way.
Can you keep the spirit and embrace the One without departing from them?
Can you concentrate your vital force and achieve the highest degree of weakness like an infant?
Can you clean and purify your profound insight so it will be spotless?
Can you love the people and govern the state without knowledge (cunning)?
Can you play the role of the female in the opening and closing of the gates of Heaven?
Can you understand all and penetrate all without taking any action?
To produce things and to rear them, To produce, but not to take possession of them, To act, but not to rely on one's own ability, To lead them, but not to master them - This is called profound and secret virtue.
Thirty spokes are united around the hub to make a wheel, But it is on its non-being that the utility of the carriage depends.
Clay is moulded to form a utensil, But it is on its non-being that the utility of the utensil depends.
Doors and windows are cut out to make a room, But it is on its non-being that the utility of the room depends.
Therefore turn being into advantage, and turn non-being into utility.
The five colours cause one's eyes to be blind. The five tones cause one's ears to be deaf. The five flavours cause one's palate to be spoiled.
Racing and hunting cause one's mind to be mad. Goods that are hard to get injure one's activities.
For this reason the sage is concerned with the belly and not the eyes, Therefore he rejects the one but accepts the other.
Be apprehensive when receiving favour or disgrace. Regard great trouble as seriously as you regard your body.
What is meant by being apprehensive when receiving favour or disgrace? Favour is considered inferior. Be apprehensive when you receive them and also be apprehensive when you lose them. This is what is meant by being apprehensive when receiving favour or disgrace.
What does it mean to regard great trouble as seriously as you regard your body? The reason why I have great trouble is that I have a body (and am attached to it). If I have no body, What trouble could I have?
Therefore he who values the world as his body may be entrusted with the empire. He who loves the world as his body may be entrusted with the empire.
We look at it and do not see it; Its name is The Invisible. We listen to it and do not hear it; Its name is The Inaudible. We touch it and do not find it; Its name is The Subtle (formless).
These three cannot be further inquired into, And hence merge into one.
Going up high, it is not bright, and coming down low, it is not dark. Infinite and boundless, it cannot be given any name; It reverts to nothingness.
This is called shape without shape, Form without objects. It is the Vague and Elusive. Meet it and you will not see its head. Follow it and you will not see its back.
Hold on to the Tao of old in order to master the things of the present. From this one may know the primeval beginning (of the universe). This is called the bond of Tao.
Of old those who were the best rulers were subtly mysterious and profoundly penetrating; Too deep to comprehend.
And because they cannot be comprehended, I can only describe them arbitrarily: Cautious, like crossing a frozen stream in the winter, Being at a loss, like one fearing danger on all sides, Reserved, like one visiting,
Supple and pliant, like ice about to melt. Genuine, like a piece of uncarved wood, Open and broad, like a valley, Merged and undifferentiated, like muddy water.
Who can make muddy water gradually clear through tranquillity? Who can make the still gradually come to life through activity?
He who embraces this Tao does not want to fill himself to overflowing. It is precisely because there is no overflowing that he is beyond wearing out and renewal.
Attain complete vacuity. Maintain steadfast quietude.
All things come into being, And I see thereby their return. All things flourish, But each one returns to its root.
This return to its root means tranquillity. It is called returning to its destiny. To return to destiny is called the eternal (Tao). To know the eternal is called enlightenment. Not to know the eternal is to act blindly to result in disaster.
He who knows the eternal is all-embracing. Being all-embracing, he is impartial. Being impartial, he is kingly (universal). Being kingly, he is one with Nature. Being one with Nature, he is in accord with Tao.
Being in accord with Tao, he is everlasting And is free from danger throughout his lifetime.
The best (rulers) are those whose existence is (merely) known by the people. The next best are those who are loved and praised. The next are those who are feared. And the next are those who are despised.
It is only when one does not have enough faith in others that others will have no faith in him.
(The great rulers) value their words highly. They accomplish their task; they complete their work. Nevertheless their people say that they simply follow Nature.
When the great Tao declined, The doctrine of humanity and righteousness arose.
When knowledge and wisdom appeared, There emerged great hypocrisy.
When the six family relationships are not in harmony, There will be the advocacy of filial piety and deep love to children.
When a country is in disorder, There will be the praise of loyal ministers.
Abandon sageliness and discard wisdom; Then the people will benefit a hundredfold.
Abandon humanity and discard righteousness; Then the people will return to filial piety and deep love.
Abandon skill and discard profit; Then there will be no thieves or robbers.
However, these three things are ornaments (wen) and are not adequate.
Therefore let people hold on to these: Manifest plainness, Embrace simplicity, Reduce selfishness, Have few desires.
Abandon learning and there will be no sorrow. How much difference is there between "Yes, sir," and "Of course not"? How much difference is there between "good" and "evil"?
What people dread, do not fail to dread. But, alas, how confused, and the end is not yet.
The multitude are merry, as though feasting on a day of sacrifice. Or like ascending a tower in the springtime. I alone am inert, showing no sign (of desires), Like an infant that has not yet smiled. Wearied, indeed, I seem to be without a home.
The multitude all possess more than enough. I alone seem to have lost all. Mine is indeed the mind of an ignorant man, Indiscriminate and dull!
Common folks are indeed brilliant; I alone seem to be in the dark. Common folks see differences and are clear-cut; I alone make no distinctions. I seem drifting as the sea; Like the wind blowing about, seemingly without destination.
The multitude all have a purpose; I alone seem to be stubborn and rustic. I alone differ from others, And value drawing sustenance from Mother (Tao).
The all-embracing quality of the great virtue follows alone from the Tao.
The thing that is called Tao is eluding and vague. Vague and eluding, there is in it the form. Eluding and vague, in it are things. Deep and obscure, in it is the essence. The essence is very real; in it are evidences.
From the time of old until now, its name (manifestations) ever remains. By which we may see the beginning of all things.
How do I know that the beginning of all things are so? Through this (Tao).
To yield is to be preserved whole. To be bent is to become straight. To be empty is to be full. To be worn out is to be renewed. To have little is to possess. To have plenty is to be perplexed.
Therefore the sage embraces the One And becomes the model of the world.
He does not justify himself; therefore he becomes prominent. He does not boast of himself; therefore he is given credit. He does not brag; therefore he can endure for long.
It is precisely because he does not compete that the world cannot compete with him.
Is the ancient saying, "To yield is to be preserved whole," empty words? Truly he will be preserved and (prominence and credit) will come to him.
Nature says few words. For the same reason a whirlwind does not last a whole morning. Nor does a rainstorm last a whole day.
What causes them? It is Heaven and Earth (Nature). If even Heaven and Earth cannot make them last long, How much less can man?
Therefore he who follows Tao is identified with Tao. He who follows virtue is identified with virtue. He who abandons (Tao) is identified with the abandonment (of Tao). He who is identified with Tao - Tao is also happy to have him.
He who is identified with virtue - virtue is also happy to have him. And he who is identified with the abandonment (of Tao) - the abandonment (of Tao) is also happy to abandon him.
Those who lack trust will not be trusted. It is only when one does not have enough faith in others that others will have no faith in him.
He who stands on tiptoe is not steady. He who strides forward does not go.
He who shows himself is not luminous. He who justifies himself is not prominent.
He who boasts of himself is not given credit. He who brags does not endure for long.
From the point of view of Tao, these are like remnants of food and tumours of action, Which all creatures detest. Therefore those who possess Tao turn away from them.
There was something undifferentiated and yet complete, Which existed before heaven and earth. Soundless and formless, it depends on nothing and does not change. It operates everywhere and is free from danger. It may be considered the mother of the universe.
I do not know its name; I call it Tao. If forced to give it a name, I shall call it Great.
Now being great means functioning everywhere. Functioning everywhere means far-reaching. Being far-reaching means returning to the original point.
Therefore Tao is great Heaven is great. Earth is great. And the king is also great.
Man models himself after Earth. Earth models itself after Heaven. Heaven models itself after Tao. And Tao models itself after Nature.
The heavy is the root of the light. The tranquil is the ruler of the hasty.
Therefore the sage travels all day Without leaving his baggage. Even at the sight of magnificent scenes He remains leisurely and indifferent.
How is it that a lord with ten thousand chariots Should behave lightheartedly in his empire?
If he is lighthearted, the minister will be destroyed. If he is hasty, the ruler is lost.
A good traveller leaves no track or trace. A good speech leaves no flaws. A good reckoner uses no counters.
A well-shut door needs no bolts, and yet it cannot be opened. A well-tied knot needs no rope and yet none can untie it.
Therefore the sage is always good in saving men and consequently no man is rejected. He is always good in saving things and consequently nothing is rejected. This is called following the light (of Nature).
Therefore the good man is the teacher of the bad, And the bad is the material from which the good may learn.
He who does not value the teacher, Or greatly care for the material, Is greatly deluded although he may be learned. Such is the essential mystery.
He who knows the male and keeps to the female Becomes the ravine of the world. Being the ravine of the world, He will never depart from eternal virtue, But returns to a state of infancy.
He who knows the white and yet keeps to the black Becomes the model for the world. Being the model for the world, He will never deviate from eternal virtue, But returns to the state of the non-ultimate.
He who knows glory but keeps to humility Becomes the valley of the world, He will be proficient in eternal virtue, And returns to the state of simplicity (uncarved wood).
When the uncarved wood is broken up, it is turned into concrete things. But when the sage uses it, he becomes the leading official. Therefore the great ruler does not cut up.
When one desires to take over the empire and act on it (interfere with it), I see that he will not succeed.
The empire is a spiritual thing, and should not be acted on. He who acts on it harms it. He who holds on to it loses it.
Among creatures some lead and some follow. Some blow hot and some blow cold. Some are strong and some are weak. Some may break and some may fall.
Therefore the sage discards the extremes, the extravagant, and the excessive.
He who assists the ruler with Tao does not dominate the world with force. The use of force usually bring requital.
Wherever armies are stationed, briers and thorns grow. Great wars are always followed by famines.
A good (general) achieves his purpose and stops, But dares not seek to dominate the world.
He achieves his purpose but does not brag about it. He achieves his purpose but does not boast about it. He achieves his purpose but is not proud of it. He achieves his purpose but only as an unavoidable step. He achieves his purpose but does not aim to dominate.
(For) after things reach their prime, they begin to grow old, Which means being contrary to Tao. Whatever is contrary to Tao will soon perish.
Fine weapons are instruments of evil. They are hated by men. Therefore those who possess Tao turn away from them.
The good ruler when at home honours the left. When at war he honours the right.
Weapons are instruments of evil, not the instruments of a good ruler. When he uses them unavoidably, he regards calm restraint as the best principle.
Even when he is victorious, he does not regard it as praiseworthy, For to praise victory is to delight in the slaughter of men. He who delights in the slaughter of men will not succeed in the empire.
In auspicious affairs, the left is honoured. In inauspicious affairs, the right is honoured. The lieutenant general stands on the left. The senior general stands on the right. This is to say that the arrangement follows that of funeral ceremonies.
For the slaughter of the multitude, let us weep with sorrow and grief. For a victory, let us observe the occasion with funeral ceremonies.
Tao is eternal and has no name. Though its simplicity seems insignificant, none in the world can master it.
If kings and barons would hold on to it, all things would submit to the spontaneously.
Heaven and earth unite to drip sweet dew. Without the command of men, its drips evenly over all.
As soon as there were regulations and institutions, there were names. As soon as there were names, know that it is time to stop. It is by knowing when to stop that one can be free from danger.
Analogically, Tao in the world may be compared to rivers and streams running into the sea.
He who knows others is wise; He who knows himself is enlightened.
He who conquers others has physical strength. He who conquers himself is strong.
He who is contented is rich. He who acts with vigour has will.
He who does not lose his place (with Tao) will endure. He who dies but does not really perish enjoys long life.
The Great Tao flows everywhere. It may go left or right.
All things depend on it for life, and it does not turn away from them. It accomplishes its task, but does not claim credit for it. It clothes and feeds all things but does not claim to be master over them.
Always without desires it may be called the Small.
All things come to it and it does not master them; it may be called the Great.
Therefore (the sage) never strives himself for the great, and thereby the great is achieved.
Hold fast to the great form (Tao), And all the world will come. They come and will encounter no harm; But enjoy comfort, peace, and health.
When there are music and dainties, Passing strangers will stay.
But the words uttered by Tao, How insipid and tasteless! We look at it; it is imperceptible. We listen to it; it is inaudible. We use it; it is inexhaustible.
In order to contract, It is necessary first to expand. In order to weaken, It is necessary first to strengthen. In order to destroy, It is necessary first to promote. In order to grasp, It is necessary first to give.
This is called subtle light. The weak and the tender overcome the hard and the strong.
Fish should not be taken away from water. And sharp weapons of state should not be displayed to the people.
Tao invariably takes no action, and yet there is nothing left undone.
If kings and barons can keep it, all things will transform spontaneously. If, after transformation, they should desire to be active, I would restrain them with simplicity, which has no name.
Simplicity, which has no name, is free of desires, Being free of desires, it is tranquil. And the world will be at peace of its own accord.
The man of superior virtue is not (conscious of) his virtue, And in this way he really possesses virtue. The man of inferior virtue never loses (sight of) his virtue, And in this way he loses his virtue.
The man of superior virtue takes no action, but has no ulterior motive to do so. The man of inferior virtue takes action, and has an ulterior motive to do so.
The man of superior humanity takes action, but has no ulterior motive to do so. The man of superior righteousness takes action, and has an ulterior motive to do so. The man of superior propriety takes action, And when people do not respond to it, he will stretch his arms and force it on them.
Therefore when Tao is lost, only then does the doctrine of virtue arise. When virtue is lost, only then does the doctrine of humanity arise. When humanity is lost, only then does the doctrine of righteousness arise. When righteousness is lost, only then does the doctrine of propriety arise.
Now, propriety is a superficial expression of loyalty and faithfulness, and the beginning of disorder. Those who are the first to know have the flowers of Tao but are the beginning of ignorance.
For this reason the great man dwells in the thick, and does not rest with the thin. He dwells in the fruit, and does not rest with the flower. Therefore he rejects the one, and accepts the other.
Of old those that obtained the One: Heaven obtained the One and became clear. Earth obtained the One and became tranquil. The spiritual beings obtained the One and became divine.
The valley obtained the One and became full. The myriad things obtained the One and lived and grew. Kings and barons obtained the One and became rulers of the empire. What made them so is the One.
If heaven had not thus become clear, It would soon crack. If the earth had not thus become tranquil, It would soon be shaken. If the spiritual beings had not thus become divine, They would soon wither away.
If the valley had not thus become full, It would soon become exhausted. If the myriad things had not thus lived and grown, They would soon become extinct. If kings and barons had not thus become honourable and high in position, They would soon fall.
Therefore humble station is the basis of honour. The low is the foundation of the high.
For this reason kings and barons call themselves children without parents, lonely people without spouses, and men without food to eat. Is this not regarding humble station as the basis of honour? Is it not?
Therefore enumerate all the parts of a chariot as you may, and you still have no chariot.
Rather than jingle like the jade, Rumble like the rocks.
Reversion is the action of Tao. Weakness is the function of Tao.
All things in the world come from being. And being comes from non-being.
When the highest type of men hear Tao, The diligently practice it. When the average type of men hear Tao, They half believe in it.
When the lowest type of men hear Tao, They laugh heartily at it. If they did not laugh at it, it would not be Tao.
Therefore there is the established saying: The Tao which is bright appears to be dark. The Tao which goes forward appears to fall backward. The Tao which is level appears uneven. Great virtue appears like a valley (hollow). Great purity appears like disgrace. Far-reaching virtue appears as if insufficient.
Solid virtue appears as if unsteady. True substance appears to be changeable. The great square has no corners. The great implement (or talent) is slow to finish (or mature). Great music sounds faint. Great form has no shape.
Tao is hidden and nameless. Yet it is Tao alone that skillfully provides for all and brings them to perfection.
Tao produced the One. The One produced the two. The two produced the three. And the three produced the ten thousand things.
The ten thousand things carry the yin and embrace the yang, and through the blending of the material force they achieve harmony.
People hate to be children without parents, lonely people without spouses, or men without food to eat, And yet kings and lords call themselves by these names.
Therefore it is often the case that things gain by losing and lose by gaining.
What others have taught, I teach also: "Violent and fierce people do not die a natural death." I shall make this the father of my teaching.
The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world. Non-being penetrates that in which there is no space. Through this I know the advantage of taking no action.
Few in the world can understand the teaching without words and the advantage of taking no action.
Which does one love more, fame or one's own life? Which is more valuable, one's own life or wealth? Which is worse, gain or loss?
Therefore he who has lavish desires will spend extravagantly. He who hoards will lose most heavily.
He who is contented suffers no disgrace. He who knows when to stop is free from danger. Therefore he can long endure.
What is most perfect seems to be incomplete; But its utility is unimpaired. What is most full seems to be empty; But its usefulness is inexhaustible. What is most straight seems to be crooked.
The greatest skill seems to be clumsy. The greatest eloquence seems to stutter.
Hasty movement overcomes cold, (But) tranquility overcomes heat. By being greatly tranquil, One is qualified to be the ruler of the world.
When Tao prevails in the world, galloping horses are turned back to fertilize (the fields with the dung). When Tao does not prevail in the world, war horses thrive in the suburbs.
There is no calamity greater than lavish desires. There is no greater guilt than discontentment. And there is no greater disaster than greed.
He who is contented with contentment is always contented.
One may know the world without going out of doors. One may see the Way of Heaven without looking through the windows. The further one goes, the less one knows.
Therefore the sage knows without going about, Understands without seeing, And accomplishes without any action.
The pursuit of learning is to increase day after day. The pursuit of Tao is to decrease day after day.
It is to decrease and further decrease until one reaches the point of taking no action. No action is undertaken, And yet nothing is left undone. An empire is often brought to order by having no activity.
If one (likes to) undertake activity, he is not qualified to govern the empire.
The sage has no fixed (personal) ideas. He regards the people's ideas as his own.
I treat those who are good with goodness. And I also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained.
I am honest to those who are honest, And I am also honest to those who are not honest. Thus honesty is attained.
The sage, in the government of his empire, has no subjective viewpoint. His mind forms a harmonious whole with that of his people. The all lend their eyes and ears, And he treats them all as infants.
Man comes in to life and goes out to death.
Three out of ten are companions of life. Three out of ten are companions of death. And three out of ten in their lives lead from activity to death. And for what reason? Because of man's intensive striving after life.
I have heard that one who is a good preserver of his life will not meet tigers or wild buffaloes, And in fighting will not try to escape from weapons of war.
The wild buffalo cannot butt its horns against him, The tiger cannot fasten its claws in him, And weapons of war cannot thrust their blades into him. And for what reason? Because in him there is no room for death.
Tao produces them. Virtue fosters them. Matter gives them physical form. The circumstances and tendencies complete them. Therefore the ten thousand things esteem Tao and honour virtue.
Tao is esteemed and virtue is honoured without anyone's order! They always come spontaneously. Therefore the Tao produces them and virtue fosters them. They rear them and develop them. They give them security and give them peace. They nurture them and protect them.
(Tao) produces them but does not take possession of them. It acts, but does not rely on its own ability. It leads them but does not master them. This is called profound and secret virtue.
There was a beginning of the universe Which may be called the Mother of the Universe.
He who has found the mother (Tao) And thereby understands her sons (things), And having understood the sons, Still keeps to its mother, Will be free from danger throughout his lifetime.
Close the mouth. Shut the doors (of cunning and desires). And to the end of life there will be (peace) without toil.
Open the mouth. Meddle with affairs. And to the end of life there will be no salvation.
Seeing what is small is called enlightenment. Keeping to weakness is called strength.
Use the light. Revert to enlightenment. And thereby avoid danger to one's life - This is called practicing the eternal.
If I had but little knowledge I should, in walking on a broad way, Fear getting off the road.
Broad ways are extremely even, But people are fond of bypaths.
The courts are exceedingly splendid, While the fields are exceedingly weedy, And the granaries are exceedingly empty.
Elegant clothes are worn, Sharp weapons are carried, Food and drinks are enjoyed beyond limit, And wealth and treasures are accumulated in excess. This is robbery and extravagance. This is indeed not Tao (the Way).
He who is well established (in Tao) cannot be pulled away. He who has a firm grasp (of Tao) cannot be separated from it. Thus from generation to generation his ancestral sacrifice will never be suspended.
When one cultivates virtue in his person, it becomes genuine virtue. When one cultivates virtue in his family, it becomes overflowing virtue. When one cultivates virtue in his community, it becomes lasting virtue. When one cultivates virtue in his country, it becomes abundant virtue. When one cultivates virtue in the world, it becomes universal.
Therefore the person should be viewed as a person. The family should be viewed as a family. The community should be viewed as a community. The country should be viewed as a country. And the world should be viewed as the world.
How do I know this to be the case in the world? Through this.
He who possesses virtue in abundance May be compared to an infant. Poisonous insects will not sting him. Fierce beasts will not seize him. Birds of prey will not strike him. His bones are weak, his sinews tender, but his grasp is firm.
He does not yet know the union of male and female, But his organ is aroused, This means that his essence is at its height.
He may cry all day without becoming hoarse, This means that his (natural) harmony is perfect. To know harmony means to be in accord with the eternal. To be in accord with the eternal means to be enlightened.
To force the growth of life means ill omen. For the mind to employ the vital force without restraint means violence.
After all things reach their prime, they begin to grow old, Which means being contrary to Tao. Whatever is contrary to Tao will soon perish.
He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know.
Close the mouth. Shut the doors. Blunt the sharpness. Untie the tangles. Soften the light. Become one with the dusty world. This is called the profound identification.
Therefore it is impossible either to be intimate and close to him or to be distant and indifferent to him. It is impossible either to benefit him or to harm him. It is impossible either to honour him or disgrace him. For this reason he is honoured by the world.
Govern the state with correctness. Operate the army with surprise tactics. Administer the empire by engaging in no activity. How do I know that this should be so? Through this:
The more taboos and prohibitions there are in the world, The poorer the people will be. The more sharp weapons the people have, The more troubled the state will be.
The more cunning and skill a man possesses, The more vicious things will appear. The more laws and orders are made prominent, The more thieves and robbers there will be.
Therefore the sage says: I take no action and the people of themselves are transformed. I love tranquillity and the people of themselves become correct.
I engage in no activity and the people of themselves become prosperous. I have no desires and the people of themselves become simple.
When the government is non-discriminative and dull, The people are contented and generous. When the government is searching and discriminative, The people are disappointed and contentious.
Calamity is that upon which happiness depends; Happiness is that in which calamity is latent.
Who knows when the limit will be reached? Is there no correctness (used to govern the world)? Then the correct again becomes the perverse. And the good again will become evil. The people have been deluded for a long time.
Therefore the sage is as pointed as a square but does not pierce. He is as acute as a knife but does not cut. He is as straight as an unbent line but does not extend. He is as bright as light but does not dazzle.
To rule people and to serve Heaven there is nothing better than to be frugal.
Only by being frugal can one recover quickly. To recover quickly means to accumulate virtue heavily. By the heavy accumulation of virtue one can overcome everything. If one can overcome everything, then he will acquire a capacity the limit of which is beyond anyone's knowledge. When his capacity is beyond anyone's knowledge, he is fit to rule a state.
He who possesses the Mother (Tao) of the state will last long.
This means that the roots are deep and the stalks are firm, which is the way of long life and everlasting vision.
Ruling a big country is like cooking a small fish.
If Tao is employed to rule the empire, Spiritual beings will lose their supernatural power.
Not that they lose their spiritual power, But their spiritual power can no longer harm people. Not only will their supernatural power not harm people, But the sage also will not harm people.
When both do not harm each other, Virtue will be accumulated in both for the benefit (of the people).
A big country may be compared to the lower part of a river. It is the converging point of the world; It is the female of the world. The female always overcomes the male by tranquillity, And by tranquillity she is underneath.
A big state can take over a small state if it places itself below the small state; And the small state can take over a big state if it places itself below the big state.
Thus some, by placing themselves below, take over (others), And some, by being (naturally) low, take over (other states).
After all, what a big state wants is but to annex and herd others, And what a small state wants is merely to join and serve others.
Since both big and small states get what they want, The big state should place itself low.
Tao is the storehouse of all things. It is the good man's treasure and the bad man's refuge.
Fine words can buy honour, And fine deeds can gain respect from others. Even if a man is bad, when has (Tao) rejected him?
Therefore on the occasion of crowning an emperor or installing the three ministers, Rather than present four large pieces of jade preceded by teams of four horses, It is better to kneel and offer this Tao.
Why did the ancients highly value this Tao? Did they not say, "Those who seek shall have it and those who sin shall be freed"? For this reason it is valued by the world.
Act without action. Do without ado. Taste without tasting.
Whether it is big or small, many or few, repay hatred with virtue.
Prepare for the difficult while it is still easy. Deal with the big while it is still small.
Difficult undertakings have always started with what is easy. And great undertakings have always started with what is small.
Therefore the sage never strives for the great, And thereby the great is achieved.
He who makes rash promises surely lacks faith. He who takes things too easily will surely encounter much difficulty.
For this reason even the sage regards things as difficult. And therefore he encounters no difficulty.
What remains still is easy to hold. What is not yet manifest is easy to plan for. What is brittle is easy to crack. What is minute is easy to scatter.
Deal with things before they appear. Put things in order before disorder arises.
A tree as big as a man's embrace grows from a tiny shoot. A tower of nine stories begins with a heap of earth. The journey of a thousand li starts from where one stands.
He who takes action fails. He who grasps things loses them. For this reason the sage takes no action and therefore does not fail. He grasps nothing and therefore does not lose anything;
A sane man is sane in knowing what things he can spare, In not wishing what most people wish, In not reaching for things that seem rare.
Therefore the sage desires to have no desire, He does not value rare treasures. He learns to be unlearned, and returns to what the multitude has missed (Tao). Thus he supports all things in their natural state but does not take any action.
In ancient times those who practiced Tao well Did not seek to enlighten people, but to make them ignorant.
People are difficult to govern because they have too much knowledge. Therefore he who rules the state through knowledge is a robber of the state; He who rules a state not through knowledge is a blessing to the state.
One who knows these two things also (knows) the standard. Always to know the standard is called profound and secret virtue.
Virtue becomes deep and far-reaching, And with it all things return to their original state. Then complete harmony will be reached.
The great rivers and seas are kings of all mountains streams Because they skillfully stay below them. That is why they can be their kings.
Therefore, in order to be the superior of the people, One must, in the use of words, place himself below them. And in order to be ahead of the people, One must, in one's own person, follow them.
Therefore the sage rejoices in praising him without getting tired of it.
It is precisely because he does not compete that the world cannot compete with him.
All the world says that my Tao is great and does not seem to resemble (the ordinary). It is precisely because it is great that it does not resemble (the ordinary). If it did resemble, it would have been small for a long time.
I have three treasures. Guard and keep them: The first is deep love, The second is frugality, And the third is not to dare to be ahead of the world.
Because of deep love, one is courageous. Because of frugality, one is generous. Because of not daring to be ahead of the world, one becomes the leader of the world.
Now, to be courageous by forsaking deep love, To be generous by forsaking frugality, And to be ahead of the world by forsaking following behind - This is fatal.
For deep love helps one to win in the case of attack, And to be firm in the case of defense. When Heaven is to save a person, Heaven will protect him through deep love.
A skillful leader of troops is not oppressive with his military strength. A skilful fighter does not become angry.
A skilful conqueror does not compete with people. One who is skilful in using men puts himself below them.
This is called the virtue of non-competing. This is called the strength to use men. This is called matching Heaven, the highest principle of old.
The strategists say: "I dare not take the offensive but I take the defensive; I dare not advance an inch but I retreat a foot."
This means: To march without formation, To stretch one's arm without showing it, To confront enemies without seeming to meet them, To hold weapons without seeming to have them.
There is no greater disaster than to make light the enemy.
Therefore when armies are mobilized and issues joined, The man who is sorry over the fact will win.
My doctrines are easy to understand and very easy to practice, But none in the world can understand or practice them.
My doctrines have a source (Nature); my deeds have a master (Tao). It is because people do not understand this that they do not understand me. Few people know me, and therefore I am highly valued.
Therefore the sage wears a coarse cloth on top and carries jade within his bosom.
To know that you do not know is the best. To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease. Only when one recognizes this disease as a disease can one be free from the disease.
The sage is free from the disease. Because he recognizes this disease to be disease, he is free from it.
When the people do not fear what is dreadful, Then what is greatly dreadful will fall upon them.
Do not reduce the living space of their dwellings. Do no oppress their lives. It is because you do not oppress them that they are not oppressed.
Therefore the sage knows himself but does not show himself. He loves himself but does not exalt himself. Therefore he rejects the one but accepts the other.
He who is brave in daring will be killed. He who is brave in not daring will live.
Of these two, one is advantageous and one is harmful. Who knows why Heaven dislikes what it dislikes? Even the sage considers it a difficult question.
The Way of Heaven does not compete, and yet is skillfully achieves victory. It does not speak, and yet it skillfully responds to things. It comes to you without your invitation. It is not anxious about things and yet it plans well.
Heaven's net is indeed vast. Though its meshes are wide, it misses nothing.
The people are not afraid of death. Why, then, threaten them with death?
Suppose the people are always afraid of death and we can seize those who are vicious and kill them, Who would dare to do so?
There is always the master executioner (Heaven) who kills. To undertake executions for the master executioner is like hewing wood for the master carpenter. Whoever undertakes hewing wood for the master carpenter rarely escapes injuring his own hands.
The people starve because the ruler eats too much tax-grain. Therefore they starve.
They are difficult to rule because their ruler does too many things. Therefore they are difficult to rule.
The people take death lightly because their ruler strives for life too vigorously. Therefore they take death lightly. It is only those who do not seek after life that excel in making life valuable.
When man is born, he is tender and weak. At death he is stiff and hard.
All things, the grass as well as the trees, are tender and supple while alive. When dead, they are withered and dried.
Therefore the stiff and the hard are companions of death. The tender and the weak are companions of life.
Therefore, if the army is strong, it will not win. If a tree is stiff, it will break.
The strong and the great are inferior, while the tender and the weak are superior.
Heaven's Way is indeed like the bending of a bow. When (the string) is high, bring it down. When it is low, raise it up. When it is excessive, reduce it. When it is insufficient, supplement it.
The Way of Heaven reduces whatever is excessive and supplements whatever in insufficient. The way of man is different. It reduces the insufficient to offer to the excessive.
Who is able to have excess to offer to the world? Only the man of Tao.
Therefore the sage acts, but does not rely on his own ability. He accomplishes his task, but does not claim credit for it. He has no desire to display his excellence.
There is nothing softer and weaker than water, And yet there is nothing better for attacking hard and strong things. For this reason there is no substitute for it.
All the world knows that the weak overcomes the strong and the soft overcomes the hard. But none can practice it.
Therefore the sage says: He who suffers disgrace for his country Is called the lord of the land. He who takes upon himself the country's misfortunes Becomes the king of the empire. Straight words seem to be their opposite.
To patch up great hatred is surely to leave some hatred behind. How can this be regarded as good?
Therefore the sage keeps the left-hand portion (obligation) of a contract And does not blame the other party.
Virtuous people attend to their left-hand portions, While those without virtue attend to other people's mistakes.
"The Way of Heaven has not favourites. It is always with the good man."
Let there be a small country with few people. Let there be ten times and a hundred times as many utensils. But let them not be used. Let the people value their lives highly and not migrate far.
Even if there are ships and carriages, none will ride in them. Even if there are arrows and weapons, none will display them.
Let the people again knot cords and use them (in place of writing). Let them relish their food, beautify their clothing, be content with their homes, and delight in their customs.
Though neighbouring communities overlook one another and the crowing of cocks and the barking of dogs can be heard, Yet the people there may grow old and die without ever visiting one another.
True words are not beautiful; Beautiful words are not true.
A good man does not argue; He who argues is not a good man.
A wise man has no extensive knowledge; He who has extensive knowledge is not a wise man.
The sage does not accumulate for himself. The more he uses for others, the more he possesses of his own.
The Way of Heaven is to benefit others and not to injure. The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete.