Terebess Asia Online (TAO)


Taiyi shengshui
14 bamboo strips in bundle “C” in 郭店 Guōdiàn. [~300 B.C., discovered 1993 A.D.].

English by Dirk Meyer

English by Sarah Allan

English by Hilmar Klaus

English by Jennifer Lundin Ritchie

A Naturalistic Understanding of Taiyi sheng shui's Cosmology
by Yong-yun Lee

English versions of the Tao Te Ching

The Great One Gives Birth to Water
Translated by Dirk Meyer


Part One: Cosmogony

太一生水,水反薄太一,是以成天; [A]


天地 □□□ [ 復相薄 ] 也, 是以成神明; †[B]

神明 復相薄也,是以成陰陽;

陰陽 復相薄也,是以成四時;

四時 復 [ 相 ] 薄也, 是以成滄熱;

滄熱 復相薄也,是以成 溼燥;

溼燥 復相薄也,成 歲 而 止。


The Great One gives birth to water, water returns and joins with the Great One— that is how Heaven is accomplished;

Heaven returns and joins with the Great One—that is how the Earth is accomplished.

Heaven and Earth {repeatedly join with each other} —that is how the spirits and the illuminated are accomplished;

The spirits and the illuminated repeatedly join with each other—that is how yín and yáng are accomplished;

Yín and yáng repeatedly join with each other—that is how the four seasons are accomplished;

The four seasons repeatedly join {with each other}—that is how coldness and heat are accomplished;

Coldness and heat repeatedly join with each other—that is how moisture and dryness are accomplished;

Moisture and dryness repeatedly join with each other, [then] the year is accomplished and [the circle] stops.


故 歲者, 溼燥之所生也;


滄熱者,四時 [ 之所生也 ]; †[C]

[ 四時 ] 者,陰陽之所生;





From this follows that, as for the year, it was given birth to by moisture and dryness;

As for moisture and dryness, they were given birth to by coldness and heat;

As for coldness and heat, {they were given birth to} by the four seasons;

As for {the four seasons}, they were given birth to by yín and yáng;

As for yín and yáng, they were given birth to by the spirits and the illuminated;

As for the spirits and the illuminated, they were given birth to by Heaven and Earth;

As for Heaven and Earth, they were given birth to by the Great One.


是故太一藏於水、行於時、周而又 □ [ 始。 ] †

□□□ [ 故 ][ 太一 ][ 為 ] 萬物母,一缺一盈,以己為萬物經。 †[D]

此天之所不能殺,地之所不能埋,陰陽之所不能成。 [E]

君子知此之謂 [ 聖人 ]□□□□□[□] †[F]


From this follows that the Great One is stored in the water, moves with the [four] seasons, [finishes] a circle, and then {starts over again}: †

{Thus, the Great One is} the mother of the myriad things, once diminishing, once full, it takes itself to be the alignment of the myriad things. †

This is what Heaven is unable to kill, Earth is unable to smother, yín and yáng are unable to accomplish.

The gentleman (junzi) who grasps this is whom [we] call a {sagely person}… †


Part Two: Application

下,土也,而謂之地; [G]


道亦其字也。請問其名? [H]


… .Below is soil, yet we call it “earth”;

Above is vapor, yet we call it “heaven”.

“Dao” likewise is [just] its style-name—May I [thus] ask for its [real] name?


以道從事者必托其名,故事成而身長。 [I]

聖人之從事也,亦托其 名,



[For] he who carries out his service according to the “dao” must [also] consign

himself to its name; as a result, [his] task can be completed and his person can endure.

In carrying out his service, the sagely person must also consign himself to its name; as a result, [his] achievements can be completed and his person will not suffer harm.


天地名字並立,故過其方,不思相 當 □□□ †[J]

[ 天不足 ] 於西北 ,其下高以強。

地不足於東南,其上 □□□□□□□ [ 高以強 ][…] †[K]


As for Heaven and earth, their name and style-name were established simultaneously; as a result, once moving beyond these boundaries, [one] cannot think [of them] appropriately…†

{If Heaven does not suffice} in the northwest, that on its below [then] rises in strength.

If Earth does not suffice e in the southeast, that on its high {[then] rises in strength}…†


天道貴弱,削成者以益生者; [L]

伐於強,責於 □ [X] †[M]

□□□□□□ [ 是故 不足於上 ] 者,有餘於下; †



The way of Heaven values weakness—it reduces what is accomplished so as to add to [new] life;

It cuts back on strength [and] requests from {…}.

{This is why, that what does not suffice on high},… has a surplus on below;

[And] that what does not suffice on below has a surplus on high.


Dirk Meyer, Meaning-Construction in warring states philosophical discourse : a discussion of the palaeographic materials from Tomb Guodian One,
Doctoral thesis, Research School CNWS, Faculty of Arts, Leiden University, 2008, pp. 286-289.





“The Great One produced water”
Translated by Sarah Allan

Slips 10-13, 9, 14

What is below is soil, but we call it ‘earth'.
What is above is vapor, but we call it ‘sky'.
Calling it ‘Way' is using its honorific; may I ask its name? (10)
To undertake affairs by means of the Way, one must be entrusted with the
Thus, affairs are accomplished and the person long-lived.
If a sage, in undertaking affairs is entrusted with its (11) name,
Then merit is indeed achieved and his person goes unharmed.
The names and honorifics of ‘sky' and ‘earth' were established together.
Hence, if they transgress their correct positions, they will not match up.
[The sky is deficient] (12) in the northwest; what is below it is high and firm.
The earth is deficient in the southeast, what is above it [is broad and pliant.]
The way of the sky values weakness.
When one forms (cheng 成) by paring away, one produces (sheng 生) by piling
What is cut down by the strong is amassed by [the weak].
That is why what is insufficient [above] (9) has an excess below,
And what is deficient below, has an excess above. (14)


Slips 1-8 (The “Cosmogony”)

The Great One produced water (Da Yi sheng shui 大一生水). The water, on
return, assisted ( fu) the Great One, thus forming (cheng 成) the sky (tian 天).
The sky, returning, assisted the Great One, thus forming the earth (di 地).
The sky and earth again assisted one another (1), thus forming the numinous
and the luminous (shen ming 神明). The numinous and the luminous again
assisted one another, thus forming yin and yang (陰陽). Yin and yang again
assisted one another, thus forming the four seasons (si shi 四時). The four
seasons (2) again assisted one another, thus forming cold and heat (cang ran
倉然). Cold and heat again assisted one another, thus forming moisture and
aridity (shi zao 濕燥). Moisture and aridity again assisted one another, formed
a year (3) and that was all.
Therefore, a year is that which moisture and aridity produced. Moisture
and aridity are that which cold and heat produced. Cold and heat are that
which the four seasons produced. The four seasons (4) are that which yin
and yang produced. Yin and yang are that which the numinous and the
luminous produced. The numinous and the luminous are that which the sky
and earth produced. Sky and earth (5) are that which the Great One produced.
For this reason, the Great One hides in (cang 藏) water and moves with
the seasons. Circling and [beginning again, it takes itself as] (6) the mother
of the myriad living things. Waning and waxing, it takes itself as the guideline
of the myriad living things. It is what the sky cannot exterminate, what
the earth (7) cannot bury, that which yin and yang cannot form. The gentleman
who knows this is called [a sage]. (8)


Sarah Allan
The Great One, Water, and the Laozi: New Light from Guodian
T'oung Pao, Second Series, Vol. 89, Fasc. 4/5 (2003), pp. 237-285





The Great One Gave Birth to Water
Translated by Hilmar Klaus
after Henricks , 2000, pp. 123-129, and Ames & Hall , 2003, pp. 225-231.

slips (1-8):


The Great One Gave Birth to Water,

Die Große Einheit gebar das Wasser ,


Water returned and assisted Taiyi ” ,

das Wasser kehrte zurück  und half der Großen Einheit [„Taiyi “ ]


in this way developing heaven.

hier-durch entwickelten sie den Himmel .


Heaven returned and assisted Taiyi ” ,

Himmel und Erde kehrten zurück und halfen der Großen Einheit,


in this way developing the earth .

hier-durch entwickelten sie die Erde .


Heaven and earth [ repeatedly each other assisting ],

Himmel und Erde , wiederholt einander halfen sie ,


in this way developing (the “ Spiritual ” and the “ Numinous ” )
above and below ” .

hier-durch entwickelten sie (das Geistliche und Göttliche)
„ Oben
und Unten " .


above and below repeatedly each other assisting ,

Oben und Unten , wiederholt einander halfen sie ,


in this way developing Yin and Yang .

hier-durch entwickelten sie Yin und Yang .


Yin and Yang repeatedly repeatedly each other assisting ,

Yin und Yang , wiederholt einander halfen sie ,


in this way developing the four seasons.

hier-durch entwickelten sie die Vier Jahreszeiten .


The four seasons repeatedly repeatedly each other assisting ,

Die Vier Jahreszeiten , wiederholt einander halfen sie ,


in this way developing cold and hot.

hier-durch entwickelten sie Kälte und Hitze .


Cold and hot repeatedly repeatedly each other assisting ,

Kälte und Hitze , wiederholt einander halfen sie ,


in this way developing moist and dry .

hier-durch entwickelten sie Feuchtigkeit und Trockenheit .


Moist and dry repeatedly repeatedly each other assisting ,

Feuchtigkeit und Trockenheit , wiederholt einander halfen sie ,


they developed the (circle of ) the year, and the process came to an end.

so vollendeten sie das Jahr (seinen Zyklus), und der Prozess endete .


Therefore , the year

Daher : das Jahr


was produced by moisture and dryness ;

aus Feuchtigkeit und Trockenheit wurde es erschaffen;


moisture and dryness

Feuchtigkeit und Trockenheit :


were produced by cold and hot .

aus Kälte und Hitze wurden sie erschaffen .


Cold and hot

Kälte und Hitze


and the four seasons

und die Vier Jahreszeiten :


were produced by Yin and Yang .

aus Yin und Yang wurden sie erschaffen .


Yin and Yang

Yin und Yang :


were produced by   above and below .

aus „ Oben und Unten “ wurden sie erschaffen .


 Above and below:

Oben und Unten“ :


were produced by   heaven and earth .

aus Himmel und Erde wurden sie erschaffen .


Heaven and earth

Himmel und Erde :


were produced by the Great One .

aus der Großen Einheit wurden sie erschaffen .


This being so , the Great One is concealed in water

Daher ist die Große Einheit   verborgen im Wasser


and  moves with the four seasons .

und bewegt sich mit   den Vier Jahreszeiten .


It completes a cycle , but just

Sie vollendet einen Kreis , aber nur


[ to start thereby to make itself ]

[ beginnend, damit sich zu machen zur]


the mother of the ten thousand things ;

Mutter der Abertausend Geschöpfe ;


first it is depleted , then it is full ;

mal ist sie leer , mal ist es voll ;


so to make the beginning as the guiding principle of the “ ten thousand things . ”

so den Anfang zu machen zu   „ Abertausender Geschöpfe “   Leitprinzip .


This is something that heaven cannot destroy ,

Dies ist etwas , das der Himmel nicht zerstören kann,


( something that) the earth cannot conceal ,

( etwas , das) die Erde nicht verbergen kann ,


and Yin and Yang are there not able to bring to closure .

Yin und Yang sind da nicht fähig es abzuschließen .

君子知此之胃{ 謂} 。

The gentleman knows this is referred to as

Edle wissen : dies ist bezogen auf

[ □□□□□□□ 。 ]

(unreadable) ...[ “ the Way? ” ]

(nicht lesbar) ... [ „ den Weg? “ ]

slip 9:

天道貴 弱 ,

The Way of Heaven values softness .

Der Weg des Himmels schätzt die Weichheit .


It pares away at what has culminated ,

Er beschneidet, was   (über-) vollendet ist,


in order to benefit new life;

um so zu nützen (neuem) Leben.


it attacks the strong

Er greift an das Starke


and punishes the ( hard;

und bestraft (das Harte ;


it aids the soft

er hilft dem Weichen


and benefits the weak. )

und begünstigt das Schwache. )

slips 10-12:


What is below is soil ;

Was unten ist, ist der Erdboden ;


yet we refer to it [wei zhi] as the “ earth ” ;

doch wir beziehen uns darauf als die „ Erde “ ;


what is above is air ;

was oben ist, ist die Luft ;


yet we refer to it as “ heaven ” .

doch wir beziehen uns darauf als den „ Himmel “ .


In the same way , “ the Way ” is its designation [zi, 字 ].

 Das Dào entsprechend ist seine Bezeichnung .

青昏其名。 ?

But , may I ask , what is its name ? ” [ming 名]

Aber , mag ich fragen , was ist sein Name ? “


One who uses the Way to work at his tasks certainly  

Wer mit dem Dào arbeitet an seinem Werk


certainly he relies on its name ;

sicher verlässt er sich auf seinen Namen ;


for this reason his tasks are completed and he endures .

daher wird sein Werk vollendet und es überdauert .


When the Sage works at his tasks ,

Wenn weise Menschen arbeiten an ihrem Werk ,


he also relies on its name ;

auch sie verlassen sich auf seinen Namen ;


as a result his deeds are accomplished and he suffers no harm .

daher werden ihre Taten vollendet und sie erleiden keinen Kummer .


With heaven and earth , “ name ” and “ designation ” : together stand both of them.

Mit Himmel und Erde , „ Name “ und „ Bezeichnung “ : zusammen stehen beide.


Therefore : when we move beyond these domains ,

Daher : bewegen wir uns  jenseits dieser Bereiche ,


we can think of nothing that would fit [as its name] ( “ yet ” ).

nichts erkennen wir als geeignet [als sein Name] ( „ doch “ ).

天不足] 。

Heaven is in - complete ...]

Der Himmel ist un - vollständig ...]

slips 13-14:


... in the west-north.

... im Westen-Norden .


What is below it (i.e., the earth) is high [ “ and firm ” ] as the result of  violence .

Was unten ist (die Erde), ist hoch [ „ und fest “ ] infolge Gewalt.


The World [ “ earth and heaven ” ] is in-complete in the east-south .

Die Welt [Erde und Himmel ] ist un-vollständig im Osten-Süden .


What is above it (i.e., the sky) is low [ “ and soft ” ] as a result of violence

Was oben ist (der Himmel) ist niedrig [ „ und weich “ ] infolge Gewalt.


[when something is not there (in) above ]

[Wenn etwas nicht da ist (im) oben ]


there is a surplus ( in ) below ,

gibt es einen Überschuss ( im ) unten ,


when something is not there (in) below,

wenn etwas nicht da ist (im) unten ,

又餘於上。 ■

there is a surplus ( in )   above .

gibt es einen „ Überschuss “ ( im ) oben .




Roger T. Ames & David L. Hall, Dao De Jing : A Philosophical Translation
Random House Publishing Group, 2003, pp. 229-231.

LIU Da-jun
A probe into Da yi Sheng shui copied on the bamboo slips excavated at Guo dian

Yong-yun Lee
A Naturalistic Understanding of Taiyi sheng shui's 太一生水 Cosmology
http://cccp.uchicago.edu/archive/2010Creel-LucePaleographyWorkshop/Yong-yun Lee - on Taiyi sheng shui Cosmology.pdf