English version by
by Paul J. Lin, 1977
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The Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao;
The Name that can be named is not the eternal Name.
The Nameless [non-being] is the origin of heaven and earth;
The Namable [being] is the mother of all things.
Therefore constantly without desire,
There is the recognition of subtlety;
But constantly with desire,
Only the realization of potentiality.
The two come from the same source,
Having different names.
Both are called mysteries,
More mystical than the most mystical,
The gate of all subtleties.
When all in the world recognize beauty as beauty, it is ugliness.
When they recognize good as good, it is not good.
being and non-being beget each other,
hard and easy complement each other,
long and short shape each other,
high and low rely on each other,
sound and voice harmonize with each other,
front and back follow each other.
Therefore, the Sage administers without action and instructs without words.
He lets all things rise without dominating them,
produces without attempting to possess,
acts without asserting,
achieves without taking credit.
And because he does not take credit, it will never leave him.
Exalt not the worthy, so that the people will not fight.
Prize not the rare treasure, so that they will not steal.
Exhibit not the desirable, so that their hearts will not be distracted.
Therefore in governing, the Sage
empties the people's hearts and fills their stomachs,
weakens their will and strengthens their bones.
He always keeps them void of knowledge and desire, so that those who know will not dare to act.
Acting through inaction, he leaves nothing ungoverned.
Tao is empty, used yet never filled.
It is deep, like the forefather of all things.
It dulls sharpness, and sorts tangles,
Blends with the light, becoming one with the dust.
So serene, as if it hardly existed.
I do not know whose son it is.
It seems to have preceded God.
Without kindness heaven and earth treat all things as straw dogs.
Without kindness the Sage treats the people as straw dogs.
The space between heaven and earth is a vacuum like a bellows,
Emptied, but inexhaustible.
The more it moves, the more it yields.
Too much talk often brings exhaustion.
Is it not better to keep to the middle path?
The Valley Spirit never dies.
It is called the mystic female.
The door of the mystic female is the root of heaven and earth.
Being interminable and seeming to endure,
It can be used without toil.
Heaven lasts; earth endures.
They last and endure because they do not live for themselves.
And thus can live forever.
Therefore, the Sage positions himself behind and yet stays ahead.
He denies himself and so is preserved.
Is it not because of his selflessness
That he completes his own?
The man of supreme goodness resembles water.
Water benefits all things
Without competing with them,
Staying in places that men despise;
Therefore, it is very close to Tao.
Dwelling in good places,
Having a heart that loves the profound,
Allying with benevolence,
Inviting trust with words,
Being righteous in governing,
Managing all things well,
Moving at the right time.
Just because he does not compete,
The man of supreme goodness frees himself of blame.
Hold [a cup] and fill it to the brim;
Is it not better to stop in time?
Hammer and sharpen [an edge];
It cannot last long.
Fill a hall with gold and jade;
They cannot be protected.
He who is rich, honored, and arrogant brings blame upon himself.
He who withdraws after achieving success and performing duty adheres to the Tao of heaven.
Keeping one's ying poh and embracing the One,
Can man not depart from it?
Breathing intensely to induce softness,
Can man be like an infant?
The mystic vision being pure and clean,
Can it be without flaw?
Loving the people and governing the state,
Can man be without action?
Opening and closing the gate of heaven,
Can it not be the female?
Discerning and understanding the four corners,
Can man do so without knowledge?
To produce and to raise;
To produce without possessing;
To act without asserting;
To develop without controlling;
This is called the profound virtue.
Thirty spokes converge in a nave;
just because of its nothingness [void] the usefulness of the cart exists.
Molded clay forms a vessel;
just because of its nothingness [hollowness] the usefulness of the utensil exists.
Doors and windows are cut into a house;
just because of their nothingness [emptiness] the usefulness of the house exists.
Therefore, profit from that which exists and utilize that which is absent.
The five colors blind man's eyes.
The five notes deafen his ears.
The five tastes spoil his palate.
The chase and the hunt make his heart go mad.
The rare treasures constrain his actions.
Therefore, the Sage provides for the belly and not for the eyes;
He rejects that to prefer this.
Favor and disgrace are likely to cause fear.
Highly respect great trouble as one respects his own body.
What is meant by "favor and disgrace are likely to cause fear"?
Favor is for the inferior:
Obtaining it, one will fear it.
Losing it, one will fear it.
This means that "favor and disgrace are likely to cause fear."
What is meant by "highly respecting great trouble as one respects his own body"?
"I have great trouble because I have a body;
When I no longer have a body, how can I have trouble?"
Therefore, one who respects himself for the world can be lodged with it;
One who loves himself for the world can be entrusted with it.
Looked at, it cannot be seen;
it is called colorless.
Listened to, it cannot be heard;
it is called soundless.
Grasped, it cannot be obtained;
it is called formless.
These three cannot be investigated further,
so they merge together to make one.
The upper part is not bright;
The lower part is not dark.
So subtle, it cannot be named,
But returns to nothingness.
This is called the shape without shape,
the image without image.
This is called indistinct:
confronting it, one cannot see the head;
following it, one cannot see the back.
Grasp the Ancient Tao to manage present existence.
Thus we may know the beginning of the Ancient.
This is called the record of Tao.
The Ancients who made themselves the best
Were subtle and penetrating
And deep beyond knowing.
Because they were beyond knowing,
we can only try to describe them:
Cautious, as if crossing the river in winter.
Circumspect, as if afraid of the neighbors on four sides.
Dignified, as if a guest.
Expansive, as melting ice.
Unspoiled, as unhewn wood.
Broad, as a valley.
Opaque, as turbid puddles.
Who can calm the turbid and clear it gradually?
Who can stir the inert and bring it gradually to life?
One who keeps this Tao does not wish to be filled.
And because he is not filled,
he can be sheltered and beyond renewal.
Attain the ultimate emptiness;
Maintain the absolute tranquility.
All things rise together.
And I observe their return ...
The multitude of all things return each to their origin.
To return to the origin means repose;
It means return to their destiny.
To return to their destiny means eternity;
To know eternity means enlightenment.
Not knowing eternity is to do evil things blindly.
To know eternity means having capacity.
Capacity leads to justice.
Justice leads to kingship.
Kingship leads to Heaven.
Heaven leads to Tao.
Tao is everlasting.
Thus the entire life will be without danger.
Of the best, the people barely know of his existence.
Of the next best, the people love and praise him.
Of the next one, the people are afraid of him.
And of the next, the people despise him.
He who does not trust others enough will not be trusted by them.
Therefore, hesitating, one should carefully choose his words.
When he accomplishes his task and the things get done,
The people all say: "We have done it by ourselves."
When the Great Tao is abandoned,
There are human-heartedness and righteousness;
When knowledge and wisdom arise,
There is great hypocrisy;
When the six relations are not in accord,
There are filial piety and paternal affection;
When a country is in disorder,
There are loyal ministers.
Banish sagacity; forsake wisdom.
The people will benefit a hundredfold.
Banish human-heartedness; forsake righteousness.
The people will recover filial piety and paternal affection.
Banish craftiness; forsake profit.
Thieves and robbers will no longer exist.
Those three are superficial and inadequate.
Hence the people need something to abide by:
Abandon learning; then one has no sorrow.
Between "yes" and "no", what is the difference?
Between good and evil, what is the difference?
If I should fear what the people fear,
Then where is the end of my fear?
Lustily the people seem to be enjoying a feast
Or ascending a tower in the springtime.
I alone am unmoved, showing no sentiment,
Like a baby who does not yet know how to smile.
So weary, I seem not to know where to return.
While the multitudes have plenty,
I alone seem to be left out.
My heart is like a fool's.
While the common people are so bright,
I alone am so dull!
While the common people know how to differentiate,
I alone cannot see the difference.
Boundless as the sea,
Aimless as the breeze,
I seem to have no stop.
All the people have their purpose,
But I alone am stubborn and despicable.
I alone differ from the others
And value getting nourishment from the Mother.
The feature of great virtue is to follow only Tao.
Tao is something elusive and vague!
Though vague and elusive, in it is the image.
Though elusive and vague, in it is the substance.
Obscure and dim, in it is the spirit.
The spirit is truly genuine; in it is credibility.
From ancient times until now,
Its name has never disappeared.
By this the beginning of all things is known.
How can I know the beginning of all things?
To yield is to have the whole.
To be crooked is to be straightened.
To be hollow is to be filled.
To be worn out is to be renewed.
To have a little is to get more.
To have a lot is to be confused.
Therefore the Sage sets an example for the world
By embracing the One.
By not insisting on his view, he may become enlightened.
By not being self-righteous, he may become illustrious.
By not boasting, he may receive credit.
By not being arrogant, he may last long.
And just because he does not compete, the entire world cannot compete with him.
The Ancients say: "to yield is to have the whole."
Are these merely words?
Truly the whole will return to him.
To spare words is to be natural.
Therefore a whirlwind does not last all morning,
And a sudden shower does not last all day.
Who causes this?
Heaven and earth.
If even Heaven and earth cannot last long,
What can man do?
Therefore one dealing with Tao will resemble Tao.
Dealing with virtue, one will resemble virtue.
Dealing with loss, one will resemble loss.
If one resembles Tao, Tao is pleased to accept him.
If one resembles virtue, virtue is pleased to accept him.
If one resembles loss, loss is also pleased to accept him.
By not having enough credibility,
One will not be trusted [by others].
Those who rise on tiptoe cannot stand.
Those who stride cannot walk.
Those who hold to their views cannot be enlightened.
Those who are self-righteous cannot shine.
Those who boast cannot receive credit.
Those who are arrogant cannot last long.
In the light of Tao, they are like left-over food and burdensome wens,
Even despised by all creatures.
So those with Tao do not want to stay with them.
There is a thing formed in chaos
Existing before Heaven and Earth.
Silent and solitary, it stands alone, unchanging.
It goes around without peril.
It may be the Mother of the world.
Not knowing its name, I can only style it Tao.
With reluctance, I would call it Great.
Great means out-going.
Out-going means far-reaching.
Far-reaching means returning.
Therefore, Tao is great.
Heaven is great.
Earth is great.
The king is great.
In the universe, there are four great things,
and the king is one of them.
Man abides by earth,
Earth abides by heaven,
Heaven abides by Tao,
Tao abides by nature.
Heaviness is the foundation of lightness.
Serenity is the lord of rashness.
Therefore the Sage who travels the whole day never leaves his heavily covered carts.
Though there are spectacles of splendor, he stays composed and aloof.
Why as a ruler of ten thousand chariots would he treat himself lightly in the world?
Lightness will lose the foundation.
Rashness will lose the lord.
A good walker leaves no trail.
A good speaker leaves no grounds for blame.
A good counter needs no calculator.
A well-closed door needs no bolt
and still cannot be opened.
A well-tied knot needs no binding
and still cannot be untied.
Therefore the Sage is always able to save his people
and there is no one forsaken.
He is able to save all things
and there is nothing wasted.
This is called inherited enlightenment.
Therefore the good man is the teacher of the bad.
And the bad man is the material for the good.
He who fails to value the teacher and cherish the material,
Is utterly lost in spite of his knowledge.
This is called crucial subtlety.
Knowing the male and keeping the female,
One will become the river of the world.
Being the river of the world,
One will not digress from constant virtue,
And will return to being a baby.
Knowing the white and keeping the black,
One will become a model of the world.
Being a model of the world,
One will not deviate from constant virtue,
And will return to the infinite.
Knowing honor and keeping disgrace,
One will become the valley of the world.
Being the valley of the world,
One will be content with constant virtue,
And return to the unhewn wood.
Unhewn wood when scattered will become vessels.
The Sage makes use of them to become the chief officer.
Therefore the great system will not be cut apart.
He who wants to take the world and act on it will not be able to achieve, I know.
The world is a sacred vessel
Which cannot be acted on.
To act on it is to destroy it.
To seize it is to lose it.
So the things
Either lead or follow;
Either whistle or blow;
Either are strong or weak;
Either defeat or fall.
That is why the Sage abandons the excessive, the extravagant, and the extreme.
Those who aid the ruler with Tao do not use military force to conquer the world.
Because this will invite retaliation.
Where the army stays, briers and thorns grow.
After a great war comes the year of adversity.
The good man stops after getting results.
Without daring to conquer.
He achieves results without bragging,
Achieves results without exalting,
Achieves results without arrogance,
Achieves results with reluctance,
Achieves results without conquering.
A thing in its prime soon becomes old;
This is not Tao.
Not being Tao, it is sure to die early.
Fine weapons are the tools of evil;
All things are likely to hate them.
So those with Tao do not want to deal with them.
The gentleman who stays at home values the left;
In war, he values the right.
Weapons are the tools of evil,
not the tools of the gentleman.
When he uses them unavoidably, he is most calm and detached
And does not glorify his victory.
To glorify means to relish the murder of people,
Relishing the murder of people,
One cannot exercise his will in the world.
Happy occasions prefer the left.
Sorrowful occasions prefer the right.
The lieutenant-general is placed on the left.
The general-in-chief is placed on the right.
This means observing this occasion with funeral rites.
Having killed many people, one should lament with sorrow and grief.
Victory in war must be observed with funeral rites.
Tao is constantly nameless.
Though the unhewn wood is small,
No one in the world dares to subjugate it.
If dukes and kings can keep it,
All things will become guests by themselves.
Heaven and earth conjugate in dropping sweet dew;
People without being ordered are fair to each other.
In the beginning of creation, all were given names.
Having names, they know their limits.
Knowing their limits keeps them from danger.
Thus Tao is to the world
As brooks and valleys are to rivers and seas.
To know others is to be clever.
To know oneself is to have discernment.
To overcome others takes force.
To overcome oneself takes strength.
To be content is riches.
To act perseveringly takes will.
Not to lose one's place means one can last long.
To die without extinction means longevity.
The great Tao overflows,
able to move left and right.
All things rely on it for life,
But it does not dominate them.
Completing its task without possession,
Clothing and feeding all things,
Without wanting to be their master.
Always void of desire,
It can be called Small.
All things return to it
Without its being their master;
It can be called Great.
Just because the Sage would never regard himself as great,
He is able to attain his own greatness.
Hold on to the great image
And the whole world will follow.
Following without harm, in safety, peace, and comfort.
Music and viand will cause the traveler to stop.
But Tao spoken by mouth is flavorless and bland.
Looked at, it cannot be seen.
Listened to, it cannot be heard.
Used, it will never be exhausted.
About to shut it, let it first be opened.
About to weaken it, let it first be strengthened.
About to destroy it, let it first be advanced.
About to snatch it, let it first be given away.
This is called the subtle wisdom.
The soft overcomes the hard;
The weak overcomes the strong.
As fish cannot be separated from deep water,
The state's sharp weapons cannot be shown to the people.
Tao is always inactive.
But it leaves nothing undone.
If dukes and kings can keep it,
Then all things will be naturally transformed.
If transformation raises desires,
I would suppress them with nameless simplicity.
Nameless simplicity means being without desires.
Being without desires and with tranquility,
The world will keep peace by itself.
He with the highest virtue
Does not display his virtue
And so has virtue.
He with the lowest virtue
Does not let go of virtue
And so has no virtue.
He with the highest virtue does not act
And nothing is left undone.
He with the lowest virtue acts
And has intent to act.
He with the highest human-heartedness acts
And has no intent to act.
He with the highest righteousness acts
And has intent to act.
He with the highest propriety acts
And if there is no response,
Bares his arms to apply force.
When Tao is lost, virtue appears.
When virtue is lost, human-heartedness appears.
When human-heartedness is lost, righteousness appears.
When righteousness is lost, propriety appears.
Propriety is the thinness of loyalty and honesty,
And the beginning of disorder;
Foreknowledge is the ornament of Tao,
And the beginning of ignorance.
Therefore, great gentlemen stay in the thick, and not in the thin.
They stay with the substance, and not with the ornament.
So they reject that to prefer this.
Those of ancient times obtained the One:
Heaven obtained the One for its clarity;
Earth obtained the One for its tranquility;
The Spirit obtained the One for its divinity;
The Valley obtained the One for its repletion;
All things obtained the One for their lives;
Dukes and kings obtained the One for the rectitude of the world.
What causes these is the One.
Without clarity, Heaven could not avoid disrupting.
Without tranquility, Earth could not avoid explosion.
Without divinity, The Spirit could not avoid dissolving.
Without repletion, The Valley could not avoid dissipating.
Without life, All things could not avoid perishing.
Without rectitude and dignity, Dukes and kings could not avoid falling.
Therefore, distinction has humility as its root;
The high regards the low as its foundation.
Therefore dukes and kings call themselves
Orphans, widowers, and starvers.
Does this not mean regarding humility as a base?
He who is most praise-worthy
Does not need any praise.
He prefers to be neither rare as jade,
Nor as common as rocks.
Returning is Tao's motion.
Weakness is Tao's function.
All things in the world are produced by being.
And being is produced by non-being.
The superior man, on hearing Tao,
Practices it diligently.
The average man, on hearing Tao,
Regards it both as existing and not existing.
The inferior man, on hearing Tao,
Laughs aloud at it.
Without his laughter, it would not be Tao.
Therefore the established word says:
The luminous Tao seems obscure.
The advancing Tao seems retreating.
The even Tao seems rough.
The highest virtue seems empty.
Great whiteness seems blackened.
Broad virtue seems insufficient.
Established virtue seems secret.
Pure substance seems fluid.
The great square has no corners.
The great vessel is late in completing.
The great voice sounds faint.
The great image has no shape.
Tao is concealed and has no name.
Yet only Tao is good in giving and completing.
Tao begets One.
One begets Two.
Two begets Three.
Three begets all things.
All things carry the female and embrace the male.
And by breathing together, they live in harmony.
What the people hate is being orphaned, widowed, and starved.
But kings and dukes call themselves these names.
Therefore everything can be augmented when diminished, and diminished when augmented.
What the people teach, I teach too.
The violent and fierce cannot die a natural death.
I will become the father of teaching.
The world's softest thing gallops to and fro through the world's hardest thing.
Things without substance can penetrate things without crevices.
Thus I know the benefit of inaction.
But teaching without words and benefitting without action are understood by few in the entire world.
Of fame and life, which is more dear?
Of life and wealth, which is more worthy?
Of gain and loss, which is more distressing?
Therefore, loving in excess incurs great cost.
Overhoarding brings heavy loss.
To know what is enough means to avoid disgrace.
To know where to stop is to avoid danger.
Thus one can last long and endure.
Great completion appears to be imperfect,
Yet its usefulness is never exhausted.
Great fullness appears to be empty,
Yet its usefulness is unlimited.
Great straightness seems bent.
Great craftiness seems clumsy.
Great eloquence seems to be stuttering.
Hastiness overcomes the cold.
Serenity overcomes the hot.
Calmness and serenity become the rectitude of the world.
In a world with Tao,
racing horses are drawn back [to the fields] for dung.
In a world without Tao,
war horses are raised outside the city.
No crime is greater than having desires.
No calamity is greater than not knowing contentment.
No fault is greater than longing for gain.
Therefore, the contentment of knowing contentment is always contentment.
Without going out-of-doors,
One can know the whole world.
Without looking out of windows,
One can see the Tao of heaven.
The farther one goes, the less one knows.
Therefore, the Sage does not go and yet knows,
Doesn't see and yet names,
Doesn't act and yet completes.
The pursuit of learning increases daily.
The pursuit of Tao decreases daily,
Decreasing more and more
Until it reaches the point of inaction.
Inaction: then nothing cannot be done by it,
Therefore the capture of the world should always be done by inactivity.
As for activity, it is insufficient to capture the world.
The Sage has no constant heart [mind].
He takes the people's heart as his heart.
Good men, I treat well.
Bad men, I also treat well.
Therein I attain goodness.
Honest men, I trust.
Dishonest men, I also trust.
Therein I attain trust.
The Sage in his position in the world,
Yieldingly harmonizes the people's heart with simplicity.
The people all strain their ears and eyes.
And the Sage regards them all as infants.
Coming out means life; going in means death.
Three-tenths of men are disciples of life.
Three-tenths of men are disciples of death.
Three-tenths of men actually have life, but strive for death through activity.
Why is this so?
Because they over-nourish themselves.
So I have heard that he who is capable of sustaining life
Can travel on land without ever encountering a rhinoceros or tiger;
Can enter a battle without ever being touched by arms and weapons.
The rhinoceros cannot charge him with its horns.
The tiger cannot attack him with its claws.
Weapons have no place to lodge their blades.
Why is this so?
Because he has no grounds for death.
Tao begets them.
Virtue nurtures them.
Matter gives them form.
Circumstances bring them into completion.
Therefore all things not only respect Tao but also value virtue.
Yet Tao is respected and virtue is valued.
Without being ordered, they come naturally.
Therefore Tao begets them.
Virtue nurtures them, grows them and rears them, perfects them and ripens them, nourishes them and shelters them.
Begetting without possessing;
Acting without asserting;
Developing without controlling;
This is called mystical virtue.
The world had a beginning
Which was the mother of the world.
Having known the mother, we know the son.
Having known the son, we keep the mother.
Thus, through life, we are without danger.
Block the passage;
Shut the door;
Throughout life there will be no toil.
Open the passage;
Multiply the activities;
Throughout life there will be no cure.
To discern the small is called enlightenment;
To preserve weakness is called strength.
Use the light;
Return to enlightenment;
Leave nothing to harm the body;
This is called practicing the constant.
If only I could have a little knowledge, I would walk in the Great Tao,
Being afraid only of acting on it.
The Great Tao is very smooth,
But people prefer the by-paths;
The court is very well kept;
The fields are full of weeds;
And the granaries are extremely empty.
To wear embroidered clothes,
To carry sharp weapons,
To be satiated in food and drink,
And to have excessive treasures and goods -
This is called robbery and extravagance.
Really, this is not Tao.
To be built well is not to be toppled.
To be held fast is not to slip.
With this, children and grandchildren will never stop offering sacrifice to their ancestors.
With this to cultivate oneself, one's virtue will be true;
With this to cultivate the family, its virtue will be plentiful;
With this to cultivate the community, its virtue will last long;
With this to cultivate the nation, its virtue will be abundant;
With this to cultivate the world, its virtue will be good.
Examine a person with a person,
Examine a family with a family,
Examine a community with a community,
Examine a nation with a nation,
Examine a world with a world.
How can I know this is the way of the world?
Maintaining an abundance of virtue is comparable to being an infant.
Poisonous insects will not sting;
Ferocious beasts will not seize;
Predatory birds will not pounce;
The bones are tender, the sinews are soft, but the grasp is firm.
Not knowing the union of male and female,
The organ is fully formed;
This is the zenith of essence.
Howling and screaming all day without getting hoarse;
This is the zenith of harmony.
To know harmony means to be constant;
To know constancy means enlightenment;
To benefit one's own life is ill-fated.
To let one's heart direct vigor is to become stark.
Things in their prime will become old;
This is not Tao.
Being not Tao means to die early.
The one who knows does not speak.
The one who speaks does not know.
Block the passage.
Close the door.
Dull the sharpness.
Loosen the tangles.
Blend with light.
Become one with the dust.
This is called mystical identity.
One can be neither close to it, nor far from it;
One can neither benefit it, nor harm it;
One can neither value it, nor despise it.
Therefore, it is valued by the world.
Rule the state with rectitude.
Direct the army with trickery.
Capture the world through inactivity.
How can I know it shall be so?
When the world is full of taboos and prohibitions,
The people will become very poor.
When the people possess many sharp weapons,
The nation will become more chaotic.
When the people possess much craftiness,
Trickery will flourish.
When law and order become more conspicuous,
There will be more robbers and thieves.
Therefore the Sage says:
I do not act and the people reform themselves;
I love serenity and the people rectify themselves;
I employ inactivity and the people become prosperous themselves;
I have no desires and the people become simple by themselves.
When the government is sluggish and dull,
The people are honest and content;
When the government is discriminating and exacting,
The people are wily and restless.
Calamity is what good fortune depends on.
Good fortune is what calamity hides in.
Who knows their utmost?
Is it not better to have no rectitude?
Rectitude returns to trickery;
And goodness returns to evil.
The people's delusion has long existed.
Therefore, the Sage is square but not cutting;
is honest but does not hurt;
is straight but does not bully;
is bright but does not shine.
In governing the people and serving heaven,
There is nothing like thriftiness.
Only through thriftiness can one submit [to Tao] early;
Having submitted early, one accumulates virtue.
Having accumulated virtue, one can overcome everything.
Having overcome everything, one can know no limits.
Knowing no limits, one is able to rule a nation.
Possessing the mother of the nation, he may last long.
This is called the deep root and firm stalks,
And the way to longevity and everlasting vision.
To rule a large nation is as to cook a small fish.
In a world with Tao prevailing,
Ghosts will not become goblins.
Not that ghosts will not become goblins,
But God will not hurt the people;
Not that God will not hurt the people,
But the Sage will not hurt them either.
When both will not hurt each other,
All virtue will converge to them.
A large state is like the low land;
It is the focus point of the world
And the female of the world.
The female always conquers the male by serenity.
In serenity, she puts herself low.
Therefore, the large state puts itself beneath the small state,
And thereby absorbs the small state.
The small state puts itself under the large state,
And thereby joins with the large state.
Therefore, one either puts himself beneath to absorb others,
Or puts himself under to join with others.
What the large state wants is no more than to feed the people.
What the small state wants is no more than to join and serve the people.
Both have their needs satisfied.
Thus the large ought to stay low.
Tao is the refuge of all things:
The treasure of the good man and the shield of the bad man.
Beautiful words can be for sale.
Good deeds can become gifts to others.
If a man is bad, can he be forsaken?
Therefore when the king is crowned and the three dukes are installed,
Though large, priceless jade preceding a team of four horses can be offered,
It is not as good as sitting down and offering this Tao.
Why did the ancients treasure this Tao?
Wasn't it said:
"With this Tao, the seeker will obtain, and the guilty will be spared"?
Therefore it is valued by the world!
Acting by inaction;
Doing by not doing;
Tasting by not tasting.
Whether it is great or small, whether it is much or little,
Always repaying malice with virtue.
Planning difficulties from the easier.
Employing the great from the small.
The world's difficult things surely begin with the easy.
The world's great things surely begin with the small.
Therefore, the Sage never does anything to be great
And so accomplishes greatness.
To take one's promises lightly results in little confidence.
To take things too easily results in much difficulty.
Therefore, even the Sage takes things seriously.
And never has any difficulty.
Things at rest are easy to hold.
Things unbegun are easy to plan.
Fragile things are easy to shatter.
Tiny things are easy to scatter.
Manage things before they exist.
Set things in order before they become chaotic.
A tree as big as one's embrace originates from a rootlet.
A nine-story terrace begins with a heap of earth.
A thousand-li journey starts from beneath one's feet.
To act means to fail;
To insist means to lose.
The Sage does not act and therefore never fails;
He does not insist and therefore never loses.
When the people undertake to do something,
They almost always fail at the point of success.
One should be cautious at the end as at the beginning,
Then there will be no failure.
Therefore the Sage desires no desires,
Values not the rare treasures,
Learns from the unlearned,
Reverses the faults of the people,
And assists all things in their natural development,
Never daring to interfere.
The Ancients who were good in practicing Tao
Did not teach the people with intelligence
But kept them in ignorance.
The people are hard to govern when they know too much.
Therefore, one who rules the nation with knowledge robs the nation.
One who does not rule the nation with knowledge brings good fortune to the nation.
To know these two things means to know the standard.
To constantly know the standard is called mystical virtue.
Mystical virtue goes deep and far.
It returns with all things to reach great harmony.
Rivers and seas become the kings of one hundred valleys
Because they are able in putting themselves below;
So they can become their kings.
Therefore, for the sake of staying above the people,
The Sage must lower himself with words.
For the sake of staying ahead of the people,
He must put himself behind them.
Therefore, the Sage stays above and the people do not feel the burden.
He stays in front and the people do not consider him harmful.
Therefore the whole world delights in exalting him without tiring.
Because he does not compete,
The whole world cannot fight with him.
The whole world says that
My Tao is great but seems to resemble nothing.
Because it is great, it seems to resemble nothing.
If resembling anything, it would have become small long ago.
I have three treasures
To be kept and treasured;
One is compassion.
The second is thriftiness.
The third is not daring to be ahead of the world.
Through compassion, one can be brave.
Through thriftiness, one can be expansive.
Not daring to be ahead of the world,
One can be the master of the vessels.
Now to abandon compassion and to be brave,
To abandon thriftiness and to be expansive,
To abandon the rear and to be in front -
That means death!
Compassion, in attack, will bring victory;
In defense, it will hold firmly.
When heaven is going to save a person,
It will protect him with compassion.
One who makes a good general is not warlike;
One who makes a good fighter is not angry;
One who makes a great conqueror of his enemies does not strive;
One who knows how to manage the people well places himself under them.
This is called the virtue of not competing.
This is called the power of using people.
This is called the match of Heaven, the ultimate of the Ancients.
The commander of war has said:
"I dare not be a host, but be a guest.
I dare not advance one inch, but withdraw a foot."
To set up a march as if without one.
To stretch the arm as if without one.
To confront the enemy as if without one.
To grasp war weapons as if without them.
No calamity is greater than taking the enemy lightly.
Taking the enemy lightly almost makes me lose my treasures.
Therefore, in raising arms against each other,
The one with pity will win.
My words are very easily understood, and very easily put into practice.
Yet no one in the world is able to understand and to practice them.
My words have their root; my deeds have their lord.
Just because the people do not know, they do not know me.
Those who know me are few.
Those who emulate me are rare.
Therefore, the Sage wears coarse clothes on the outside,
And bears precious jade near his breast.
He who knows that he does not know is the best.
He who does not know but pretends to know is sick.
He who realizes the sickness is sickness
Doesn't have any sickness.
The Sage is without sickness
Because he realizes the sickness is sickness.
Therefore, he doesn't have any sickness.
If the people do not dread power,
There will be the appearance of great power.
Do not restrict their living quarters.
Do not disturb their livelihood.
Just because one does not annoy them,
He will not be annoyed by them.
Therefore, the Sage knows himself but does not display himself.
He loves himself but does not distinguish himself.
Therefore, he rejects that to prefer this.
To be brave in daring is to be killed.
To be brave in not daring is to live.
Both of them are either beneficial or harmful.
Who knows the real reason for heaven's hatred?
Even the Sage would find it difficult.
The Tao of heaven does not compete, but is good in winning;
does not speak, but is good in responding;
does not summon, but things come by themselves;
behaves calmly, but is good in planning.
The net of heaven is so vast.
Although it is wide open, it loses nothing.
If the people do not fear death,
Why threaten them with death?
If we let the people always fear death,
And we capture and kill those who use trickery,
Who would dare [to use trickery]?
Those responsible for executions perform executions.
But those who perform executions for them
Are doing no more than carving wood for the greater carpenter.
And those who carve wood for the great carpenter
Can rarely fail to injure their own hands.
The people are starving
Because the man on top devours too much tax money.
So they are starving.
The people are hard to govern
Because the man on top is too active in governing.
So they are hard to govern.
The people think little of death
Because the man on top strives for a rich life.
So they think little of death.
Therefore it is better to do nothing for one's life
Than to value it.
In life, man is supple and tender.
In death, he becomes rigid and stark.
Myriad things such as grass and trees are supple and frail in life,
And shrivelled and dry in death.
Therefore, the rigid and stark are disciples of death,
While the supple and weak are disciples of life.
Therefore the army that uses strength cannot win.
The tree that stands firm will break.
The strong and large are subordinate;
The soft and weak are superior.
Perhaps the Tao of heaven resembles the drawing of a bow.
When it is high, lower it.
When low, raise it.
When excessive, diminish it.
When deficient, replenish it.
The Tao of heaven diminishes the excessive and replenishes the deficient.
The Tao of man is not so - while decreasing the deficient, it supplies the excessive.
Who can supply the world with overabundance?
Only the man with Tao.
Therefore the Sage acts without exalting his ability.
He achieves without dwelling upon it.
He does not want to display his superiority.
Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water.
Yet, in attacking the hard and strong, nothing can surpass it.
Because nothing can exchange places with it,
Use weakness to overcome strength,
Use softness to overcome hardness.
None in the world do not know this.
But none can practice it.
Therefore the Sage says:
To suffer dishonor for the state
is to be the lord of the community;
To bear the calamity of the state
is to be the king of the world.
True words seem paradoxical.
The settlement of great grudge always leaves some residue grudge!
How can this be remedied?
Therefore, the Sage retains the left stub of the contract,
And does not make claims on others.
The man with virtue keeps the contract,
While the man without virtue collects the tax.
The Tao of heaven plays no favoritism;
It is always for the good man.
The state may be small; its people may be few.
Let the people have tenfold and one-hundredfold of utensils,
But never make use of them.
Let the people weigh death heavily
And have no desires to move far away.
Though there be boats and carriages,
No one will ride in them.
Though there be armour and weapons,
No one will exhibit them.
Let the people return to tying knots and using them.
Relish their food,
Appreciate their clothes,
Secure in their homes,
Happy with their customs.
The neighboring states will be so close that they can see each other, and hear the sounds of roosters and dogs.
But the people will grow old and die,
Without having visited each other.
Sincere words are not kind;
Kind words are not sincere.
One who is good will never argue;
One who argues is not good.
One who knows does not know all;
One who knows all does not know at all.
The Sage does not store things for himself.
The more one does for others,
The more he has for himself.
The more one gives to others,
The more he keeps for himself.
The Tao of heaven is to benefit others without hurting them.
The Tao of the Sage is to act without competing.