Asia Online (TAO)
Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tzu
by Lin Yutang, 1948
The Wisdom of Laotse, Random House
More English versions
1. On the Absolute Tao
Tao the can be told of
Is not the Absolute Tao;
The Names that can be given
Are not Absolute Names.
Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth;
The Named is the Mother of All Things.
Oftentimes, one strips oneself of passion
In order to see the Secret of Life;
Oftentimes, one regards life with passion,
In order to see its manifest forms.
two (the Secret and its manifestations)
Are (in their nature) the same;
They are given different names
When they become manifest.
may both be called the Cosmic Mystery:
Reaching from the Mystery into the Deeper Mystery
Is the Gate to the Secret of All Life.
the people of the Earth all know beauty as beauty,
There arises (the recognition of) ugliness.
When the people of the Earth all know the good as good,
There arises (the recognition of) evil.
Being and non-being interdepend in growth;
Difficult and easy interdepend in completion;
Long and short interdepend in contrast;
High and low interdepend in position;
Tones and voice interdepend in harmony;
Front and behind interdepend in company.
Manages affairs without action;
Preaches the doctrine without words;
All things take their rise, but he does not turn away from them;
He gives them life, but does not take possession of them;
He acts, but does not appropriate;
Accomplishes, but claims no credit.
It is because he lays claim to no credit
That the credit cannot be taken away from him.
not the wise,
So that the people shall not scheme and contend;
Prize not rare objects,
So that the people shall not steal;
Shut out from site the things of desire,
So that the people's hearts shall not be disturbed.
in the government of the Sage:
He keeps empty their hearts
Makes full their bellies,
Discourages their ambitions,
Strengthens their frames;
So that the people may be innocent of knowledge and desires.
And the cunning ones shall not presume to interfere.
By action without deeds
May all live in peace.
is a hollow vessel,
And its use is inexhaustible!
Like the fountain head of all things,
Its sharp edges rounded off,
Its tangles untied,
Its light tempered,
Its turmoil submerged,
Yet dark like deep water it seems to remain.
I do not know whose Son it it,
An image of what existed before God.
It treats the creation like sacrificial straw-dogs.
The Sage is unkind:
He treats the people like sacrificial straw-dogs.
the universe is like a bellows!
Empty, yet it gives a supply that never fails;
The more it is worked, the more it brings forth.
many words is wit exhausted.
Rather, therefore, hold to the core.
Spirit of the Valley never dies.
It is called the Mystic Female.
The Door of the Mystic Female
Is the root of Heaven and Earth.
It seems to remain.
Draw upon it
And it serves you with ease.
universe is everlasting.
The reason the universe is everlasting
Is that it does not life for Self.
Therefore it can long endure.
the Sage puts himself last,
And finds himself in the foremost place;
Regards his body as accidental,
And his body is thereby preserved.
Is it not because he does not live for Self
That his Self is realized?
best of men is like water;
Water benefits all things
And does not compete with them.
It dwells in (the lowly) places that all disdain -
Wherein it comes near to the Tao.
his dwelling, (the Sage) loves the (lowly) earth;
In his heart, he loves what is profound;
In his relations with others, he loves kindness;
In his words, he loves sincerity;
In government, he loves peace;
In business affairs, he loves ability;
In hi actions, he loves choosing the right time.
It is because he does not contend
That he is without reproach.
(a bow) to the very full,
And you will wish you had stopped in time.
Temper 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 safe.
To be proud with wealth and honor
Is to sow seeds of one's own downfall.
Retire when your work is done,
Such is Heaven's way.
embracing the One with your soul,
Can you never forsake the Tao?
In controlling your vital force to achieve gentleness,
Can you become like the new-born child?
In cleansing and purifying your Mystic vision,
Can you strive after perfection?
In loving the people and governing the kingdom,
Can you rule without interference?
In opening and shutting the Gate of Heaven,
Can you play the part of the Female?
In comprehending all knowledge,
Can you renounce the mind?
spokes unite around the nave;
From their not-being (loss of their individuality)
Arises the utility of the wheel.
Mold clay into a vessel;
From its not-being (in the vessel's hollow)
Arises the utility of the vessel.
Cut out doors and windows in the house (-wall),
From their not-being (empty space) arises the utility of the house.
Therefore by the existence of things we profit.
And by the non-existence of things we are served.
five colors blind the eyes of man;
The five musical notes deafen the ears of man;
The five flavors dull the taste of man;
Horse-racing, hunting and chasing madden the minds of man;
Rare, valuable goods keep their owners awake at night.
Provides for the belly and not the eye.
Hence, he rejects the one and accepts the other.
and disgrace cause one dismay;
What we value and what we fear are within our Self."
does this mean:
"Favor and disgrace cause one dismay?"
Those who receive a favor from above
Are dismayed when they receive it,
And dismayed when they lose it.
does this mean:
"What we value and what we fear are within our Self?"
We have fears because we have a self.
When we do not regard that self as self,
What have we to fear?
he who values the world as his self
May then be entrusted with the government of the world;
And he who loves the world as his self -
The world may then be entrusted to his care.
at, but cannot be seen -
That is called the Invisible (yi).
Listened to, but cannot be heard -
That is called the Inaudible (hsi).
Grasped at, but cannot be touched -
That is called the Intangible (wei).
These three elude our inquiries
And hence blend and become One.
by its rising, is there light,
Nor by its sinking, is there darkness.
It cannot be defined,
And reverts again to the realm of nothingness.
is why it is called the Form of the Formless,
The Image of Nothingness.
That is why it is called the Elusive:
Meet it and you do not see its face;
Follow it and you do not see its back.
wise ones of old had subtle wisdom and depth of understanding,
So profound that they could not be understood.
And because they could not be understood,
Perforce must they be so described:
Cautious, like crossing a wintry stream,
Irresolute, like one fearing danger all around,
Grave, like one acting as guest,
Self-effacing, like ice beginning to melt,
Genuine, like a piece of undressed wood,
Open-minded, like a valley,
And mixing freely, like murky water.
can find repose in a muddy world?
By lying still, it becomes clear.
Who can maintain his calm for long?
By activity, it comes back to life.
who embraces this Tao
Guards against being over-full.
Because he guards against being over-full,
He is beyond wearing out and renewal.
the utmost in Passivity,
Hold firm to the basis of Quietude.
myriad things take shape and rise to activity,
But I watch them fall back to their repose.
Like vegetation that luxuriantly grows
But returns to the root (soil) from which it springs.
return to the root is Repose;
It is called going back to one's Destiny.
Going back to one's Destiny is to find the Eternal Law.
To know the Eternal Law is Enlightenment.
And not to know the Eternal Law
Is to court disaster.
who knows the Eternal Law is tolerant;
Being tolerant, he is impartial;
Being impartial, he is kingly;
Being kingly, he is in accord with Nature;
Being in accord with Nature, he is in accord with Tao;
Being in accord with Tao, he is eternal,
And his whole life is preserved from harm.
the best rulers
The people (only) know that they exist;
The next best the love and praise;
The next they fear;
And the next they revile.
When they do not command the people's faith,
Some will lose faith in them,
And then they resort to oaths!
But (of the best) when their task is accomplished,
their work done,
The people all remark, "We have done it ourselves."
the decline of the great Tao,
The doctrine of "humanity" and "justice" arose.
When knowledge and cleverness appeared,
Great hypocrisy followed in its wake.
the six relationships no longer lived at peace,
There was (praise of) "kind parents" and "filial sons."
a country fell into chaos and misrule,
There was (praise of) "loyal ministers."
wisdom, discard knowledge,
And the people shall profit a hundredfold;
Banish "humanity," discard "justice,"
And the people shall recover love of their kin;
Banish cunning, discard "utility,"
And the thieves and brigands shall disappear.
As these three touch the externals and are inadequate,
The people have need of what they can depend upon:
Reveal thy simple self,
Embrace thy original nature,
Check thy selfishness,
Curtail thy desires.
learning, and vexations end.
Between "Ah!" and "Ough!"
How much difference is there?
Between "good" and "evil"
How much difference is there?"
That which men fear
Is indeed to be feared;
But, alas, distant yet is the dawn (of awakening)!
people of the world are merry-making,
As if partaking of the sacrificial feasts,
As if mounting the terrace in spring;
I alone am mild, like one unemployed,
Like a new-born babe that cannot yet smile,
Unattached, like one without a home.
people of the world have enough and to spare,
But I am like one left out,
My heart must be that of a fool,
Being muddled, nebulous!
vulgar are knowing, luminous;
I alone am dull, confused.
The vulgar are clever, self-assured;
I alone, depressed.
Patient as the sea,
Adrift, seemingly aimless.
people of the world all have a purpose;
I alone appear stubborn and uncouth.
I alone differ from the other people,
And value drawing sustenance from the Mother.
marks of great Character
Follow alone from the Tao.
thing that is called Tao
Is elusive, evasive.
Yet latent in it are forms.
Yet latent in it are objects.
Dark and dim,
Yet latent in it is the life-force.
The life-force being very true,
Latent in it are evidences.
the days of old till now
Its Named (manifested forms) have never ceased,
By which we may view the Father of All Things.
How do I know the shape of the Father of All Things?
Through these (manifested forms)!
yield is to be preserved whole.
To be bent is to become straight.
To be hollow is to be filled.
To be tattered is to be renewed.
To be in want is to possess.
To have plenty is to be confused.
the Sage embraces the One,
And becomes the model of the world.
He does not reveal himself,
And is therefore luminous.
He does not justify himself,
And is therefore far-famed.
He does not boast of himself,
And therefore people give him credit.
He does not pride himself,
And is therefore the chief among men.
it not indeed true, as the ancients say,
"To yield is to be preserved whole?"
Thus he is preserved and the world does him homage.
says few words:
Hence it is that a squall lasts not a whole morning.
A rainstorm continues not a whole day.
Where do they come from?
Even Nature does not last long (in its utterances),
How much less should human beings?
it is that:
He who follows the Tao is identified with the Tao.
He who follows Character (Teh) is identified with Character.
He who abandons (Tao) is identified with abandonment (of Tao).
He who is identified with Tao -
Tao is also glad to welcome him.
He who is identified with character -
Character is also glad to welcome him.
He who is identified with abandonment -
Abandonment is also glad t welcome him.
He who has not enough faith
Will not be able to command faith from others.
who stands on tiptoe does not stand (firm);
He who strains his strides does not walk (well);
He who reveals himself is not luminous;
He who justifies himself is not far-famed;
He who boasts of himself is not given credit;
He who prides himself is not chief among men.
These in the eyes of Tao
Are called "the dregs and tumors of Virtue,"
Which are things of disgust.
Therefore the man of Tao spurns them.
the Heaven and Earth existed
There was something nebulous:
Standing alone, changing not,
Eternally revolving without fail,
Worthy to be the Mother of All Things.
I do not know its name
And address it as Tao.
If forced to give it a name, I shall call it "Great."
Being great implies reaching out in space,
Reaching out in space implies far-reaching,
Far-reaching implies reversion to the original point.
Tao is Great,
The Heaven is great,
The Earth is great,
The King is also great.
There are the Great Four in the universe,
And the King is one of them.
models himself after the Earth;
The Earth models itself after Heaven;
The Heaven models itself after Tao;
Tao models itself after nature.
Solid is the root of the light;
The Quiescent is the master of the Hasty.
the Sage travels all day
Yet never leaves his provision-cart.
In the midst of honor and glory,
He lives leisurely, undisturbed.
can the ruler of a great country
Make light of his body in the empire (by rushing about)?
In light frivolity, the Center is lost;
In hasty action, self-mastery is lost.
good runner leaves no track.
A good speech leaves no flaws for attack.
A good reckoner makes use of no counters.
A well-shut door makes use of no bolts,
And yet cannot be opened.
A well-tied knot makes use of no rope,
And yet cannot be untied.
the Sage is good at helping men;
For that reason there is no rejected (useless) person.
He is good at saving things;
For that reason there is nothing rejected.
- This is called stealing the Light.
the good man is the Teacher of the bad.
And the bad man is the lesson of the good.
who neither values his teacher
Nor loves the lesson
Is one gone far astray,
Though he be learned.
- Such is the subtle secret.
who is aware of the Male
But keeps to the Female
Becomes the ravine of the world.
Being the ravine of the world,
He has the original character (teh) which is not cut up.
And returns again to the (innocence of the) babe.
who is conscious of the white (bright)
But keeps to the black (dark)
Becomes the model for the world.
Being the model for the world,
He has the eternal power which never errs,
And returns again to the Primordial Nothingness.
who is familiar with honor and glory
But keeps to obscurity
Becomes the valley of the world.
Being the valley of the world,
He has an eternal power which always suffices,
And returns again to the natural integrity of uncarved wood.
up this uncarved wood
And it is shaped into vessel
In the hands of the Sage
They become the officials and magistrates.
Therefore the great ruler does not cut up.
are those who will conquer the world
And make of it (what they conceive or desire).
I see that they will not succeed.
(For) the world is God's own Vessel
It cannot be made (by human interference).
He who makes it spoils it.
He who holds it loses it.
For: Some things go forward,
Some things follow behind;
some blow hot,
And some blow cold;
Some are strong,
And some are weak;
Some may break,
And some may fall.
Hence the Sage eschews excess, eschews extravagance,
who by Tao purposes to help the ruler of men
Will oppose all conquest by force of arms.
For such things are wont to rebound.
Where armies are, thorns and brambles grow.
The raising of a great host
Is followed by a year of dearth.
a good general effects his purpose and stops.
He dares not rely upon the strength of arms;
Effects his purpose and does not glory in it;
Effects his purpose and does not boast of it;
Effects his purpose and does not take pride in it;
Effects his purpose as a regrettable necessity;
Effects his purpose but does not love violence.
(For) things age after reaching their prime.
That (violence) would be against the Tao.
And he who is against the Tao perishes young.
all things, soldiers are instruments of evil,
Hated by men.
Therefore the religious man (possessed of Tao) avoids them.
The gentleman favors the left in civilian life,
But on military occasions favors the right.
are weapons of evil.
They are not the weapons of the gentleman.
When the use of soldiers cannot be helped,
The best policy is calm restraint.
in victory, there is no beauty,
And who calls it beautiful
Is one who delights in slaughter.
He who delights in slaughter
Will not succeed in his ambition to rule the world.
things of good omen favor the left.
The things of ill omen favor the right.
The lieutenant-general stands on the left,
The general stands on the right.
That is to say, it is celebrated as a Funeral Rite.]
slaying of multitudes should be mourned with sorrow.
A victory should be celebrated with the Funeral Rite.
is absolute and has no name.
Though the uncarved wood is small,
It cannot be employed (used as vessel) by anyone.
If kings and barons can keep (this unspoiled nature),
The whole world shall yield them lordship of their own accord.
Heaven and Earth join,
And the sweet rain falls,
Beyond the command of men,
Yet evenly upon all.
human civilization arose and there were names.
Since there were names,
It were well one knew where to stop.
He who knows where to stop
May be exempt from danger.
Tao in the world
May be compared to rivers that run into the sea.
who knows others is learned;
He who knows himself is wide.
He who conquers others has power of muscles;
He who conquers himself is strong.
He who is contented is rich.
He who id determined has strength of will.
He who does not lose his center endures.
He who dies yet (his power) remains has long life.
Great Tao flows everywhere,
(Like a flood) it may go left or right.
The myriad things derive their life from it,
And it does not deny them.
When its work is accomplished,
It does not take possession.
It clothes and feeds the myriad things,
Yet does not claim them as its own.
Often (regarded) without mind or passion,
It may be considered small.
Being the home of all things, yet claiming not,
It may be considered great.
Because to the end it does not claim greatness,
Its greatness is achieved.
the Great Symbol
and all the world follows,
Follows without meeting harm,
(And lives in) health, peace, commonwealth.
good things to eat
And the wayfarer stays.
But Tao is mild to the taste.
Looked at, it cannot be seen;
Listened to, it cannot be heard;
Applied, its supply never fails.
who is to be made to dwindle (in power)
Must first be caused to expand.
He who is to be weakened
Must first be made strong.
He who is to be laid low
Must first be exalted to power.
He who is to be taken away from
Must first be given,
- This is the Subtle Light.
Fish should be left in the deep pool,
And sharp weapons of the state should be left
Where none can see them.
Tao never does,
Yet through it everything is done.
If princes and dukes can keep the Tao,
the world will of its own accord be reformed.
When reformed and rising to action,
Let it be restrained by the Nameless pristine simplicity.
The Nameless pristine simplicity
Is stripped of desire (for contention).
By stripping of desire quiescence is achieved,
And the world arrives at peace of its own accord.
man of superior character is not (conscious of his) character.
Hence he has character.
The man of inferior character (is intent on) not losing character.
Hence he is devoid of character.
The man of superior character never acts,
Nor ever (does so) with an ulterior motive.
The man of inferior character acts,
And (does so) with an ulterior motive.
The man of superior kindness acts,
But (does so) without an ulterior motive.
The man of superior justice acts,
And (does so) with an ulterior motive.
(But when) the man of superior li acts and finds no response,
He rolls up his sleeves to force it on others.
After Tao is lost, then (arises the doctrine of) humanity.
After humanity is lost, then (arises the doctrine of) justice.
After justice is lost, then (arises the doctrine of) li.
Now li is the thinning out of loyalty and honesty of heart.
And the beginning of chaos.
The prophets are the flowering of Tao
And the origin of folly.
Therefore the noble man dwells in the heavy (base),
And not in the thinning (end).
He dwells in the fruit,
And not in the flowering (expression).
Therefore he rejects the one and accepts the other.
were those in ancient times possessed of the One;
Through possession of the One, the Heaven was clarified,
Through possession of the One, The Earth was stabilized,
Through possession of the One, the gods were spiritualized,
Through possession of the One, the valleys were made full,
Through possession of the One, all things lived and grew,
Through possession of the One, the princes and dukes
became the ennobled of the people.
- that was how each became so.
clarity, the Heavens would shake,
Without stability, the Earth would quake,
Without spiritual power, the gods would crumble,
Without being filled, the valleys would crack,
Without the life-giving power, all things would perish,
Without the ennobling power, the princes and dukes would stumble.
therefore the nobility depend upon the common man for support,
And the exalted ones depend upon the lowly for their base.
is why the princes and dukes call themselves
"the orphaned," "the lonely one," "the unworthy."
Is is not true then that they depend upon the common man for support?
Truly, take down the parts of a chariot,
And there is no chariot (left).
Rather than jingle like the jade,
Rumble like the rocks.
is the action of Tao.
Gentleness is the function of Tao.
The things of this world come from Being,
And Being (comes) from Non-being.
the highest type of men hear the Tao (truth),
they try hard to live in accordance with it.
When the mediocre type hear the Tao,
they seem to be aware and yet unaware of it.
When the lowest type hear the Tao,
They break into loud laughter -
If it were not laughed at, it would not be Tao.
there is the established saying:
"Who understands Tao seems dull of comprehension;
Who is advance in Tao seems to slip backwards;
Who moves on the even Tao (Path) seems to go up and down."
character appears like a hollow (valley);
Sheer white appears like tarnished;
Great character appears like infirm;
Pure worth appears like contaminated.
Great space has no corners;
Great talent takes long to mature;
Great music is faintly heard;
Great form has no contour;
And Tao is hidden without a name.
It is this Tao that is adept at lending (its power)
and bringing fulfillment.
of Tao, One is born;
Out of One, Two;
Out of Two, Three;
Out of Three, the created universe.
The created universe carries the yin at its back
and the yang in front;
Through the union of the pervading principles it
be "orphaned," "lonely" and "unworthy" is what men hate most.
Yet the princes and dukes call themselves by such names.
For sometimes things are benefited by being taken away from,
And suffer by being added to.
have taught this maxim,
Which I shall teach also:
"The violent man shall die a violent death."
This I shall regard as my spiritual teacher.
softest substance of the world
Goes through the hardest.
That-which-is-without-form penetrates that-which-has-no-crevice;
Through this I know the benefit of taking no action.
The teaching without words
And the benefit of taking no action
Are without compare in the universe.
or one's own self, which does one love more?
One's own self or material goods, which has more worth?
Loss (of self) or possession (of goods), which is the greater evil?
he who loves most spends most,
He who hoards much loses much.
The contented man meets no disgrace;
Who know when to stop runs into no danger -
He can long endure.
highest perfection is like imperfection,
And its use is never impaired.
The greatest abundance seems meager,
And its use will never fail.
What s most straight appears devious,
The greatest skill appears clumsiness;
The greatest eloquence seems like stuttering.
Movement overcomes cold,
(But) keeping still overcomes heat.
Who is calm and quiet becomes the guide for the universe.
the world lives in accord with Tao,
Racing horses are turned back to haul refuse carts.
When the world lives not in accord with Tao,
Cavalry abounds in the countryside.
is no greater curse than the lack of contentment.
No greater sin than the desire for possession.
Therefore he who is contented with contentment
shall be always content.
stepping outside one's doors,
One can know what is happening in the world,
Without looking out of one's windows,
One can see the Tao of heaven.
farther one pursues knowledge,
The less one knows.
Therefore the Sage knows without running about,
Understands without seeing,
Accomplishes without doing.
student of knowledge (aims at) learning day by day;
The student of Tao (aims at) losing day by day.
By continual losing
One reaches doing nothing (laissez-faire).
He who conquers the world often does so by doing nothing.
When one is compelled to do something,
The world is already beyond his conquering.
Sage has no decided opinions and feelings,
But regards the people's opinions and feelings as his own.
good ones I declare good;
The bad ones I also declare good.
That is the goodness of Virtue.
The honest ones I believe;
The liars I also believe;
That is the faith of Virtue.
Sage dwells in the world peacefully, harmoniously.
The people of the world are brought into a community of heart,
And the Sage regards them all as his own children.
of life, death enters.
The companions (organs) of life are thirteen;
The companions (organs) of death are (also) thirteen.
What send man to death in this life are also (these) thirteen.
How is it so?
Because of the intense activity of multiplying life.
has been said that the who is a good preserver of hi life
Meets no tigers or wild buffaloes on land,
Is not vulnerable to weapons in the field of battle.
The horns of the wild buffalo are powerless against him.
How is it so?
Because he is beyond death.
Tao gives them birth,
Teh (character) fosters them.
The material world gives them form.
The circumstances of the moment complete them.
Therefore all things of the universe worship Tao and exalt Teh.
Tao is worshipped and Teh is exalted
Without anyone's order but is so of its own accord.
Tao gives them birth,
Teh fosters them,
Makes them grow, develops them,
Gives them a harbor, a place to dwell in peace,
Feeds them and shelter them.
It gives them birth and does not own them,
Acts (helps) and does not appropriate them,
Is superior, and does not control them.
- This is the Mystic Virtue.
was a beginning of the universe
Which may be regarded as the Mother of the Universe.
From the Mother, we may know her sons.
After knowing the sons, keep to the Mother.
Thus one's whole life may be preserved from harm.
Close its doors,
And one's whole life is without toil.
Be busy about its affairs,
And one's whole life is beyond redemption.
who can see the small is clear-sighted;
He who stays by gentility is strong.
use the light,
And return to clear-sightedness -
Thus cause not yourself later distress.
- This is to rest in the Absolute.
I were possessed of Austere Knowledge,
Walking on the Main Path (Tao),
I would avoid the by-paths.
the Main path is easy to walk on,
Yet people love the small by-paths.
(official) courts are spic and span,
(While) the fields go untilled,
And the (people's) granaries are very low.
(Yet) clad in embroidered gowns,
And carrying find swords,
Surfeited with good food and drinks,
(They are) splitting with wealth and possessions.
- This is to lead the world toward brigandage.
Is this not corruption of Tao?
is firmly established is not easily shaken.
Who has a firm grasp does not easily let go.
From generation to generation his ancestral sacrifices
Shall be continued without fail.
in the individual, character will become genuine;
Cultivated in the family, character will become abundant;
Cultivated in the village, character will multiply;
Cultivated in the state, character will prosper;
Cultivated in the world, character will become universal.
According to (the character of ) the individual,
judge the individual;
According to (the character of ) the family,
judge the family;
According to (the character of ) the village,
judge the village;
According to (the character of ) the state,
judge the state;
According to (the character of ) the world,
judge the world.
How do I know this is so?
is rich in character
Is like a child.
No poisonous insects sting him,
No wild beasts attack him,
And no birds of prey pounce upon him.
His bones are soft, his sinews tender, yet his grip is strong.
Not knowing the union of male and female, yet his organs are complete,
Which means his vigor is unspoiled.
Crying the whole day, yet his voice never runs hoarse,
Which means his (natural) harmony is perfect.
To know harmony is to be in accord with the eternal,
(And) to know eternity is called discerning.
(But) to improve upon life is called an ill-omen;
To let go the emotions through impulse is called assertiveness.
(For) things age after reaching their prime;
That (assertiveness) would be against Tao.
And he who is against Tao perishes young.
who knows does not speak;
He who speaks does not know.
Fill up its apertures,
Close its doors,
Dull its edges,
Untie its tangles,
Soften its light,
Submerge its turmoil,
- This is the Mystic Unity.
love and hatred cannot touch him.
Profit and loss cannot reach him.
Honor and disgrace cannot affect him.
Therefore is he always the honored one of the world.
a kingdom by the Normal.
Fight a battle by (abnormal) tactics of surprise.
Win the world by doing nothing.
How do I know it is so?
The more prohibitions there are,
The poorer the people become.
The more sharp weapons there are,
The greater the chaos in the state.
The more skills of technique,
The more cunning things are produced.
The greater the number of statutes,
The greater the number of thieves and brigands.
the sage says:
I do nothing and the people are reformed of themselves.
I love quietude and the people are righteous of themselves.
I deal in no business and the people grow rich by themselves.
I have no desires and the people are simple
and honest by themselves.
the government is lazy and dull,
Its people are unspoiled;
When the government is efficient and smart,
Its people are discontented.
is the avenue of fortune,
(And) fortune is the concealment for disaster.
Who would be able to know its ultimate results?
(As it is), there would never be the normal.
But the normal would (immediately) revert to the deceitful.
And the good revert to the sinister.
Thus long has mankind gone astray!
the Sage is square (has firm principles),
but not cutting (sharp-cornered),
Has integrity but does not hurt (others),
Is straight, but not high-handed,
Bright, but not dazzling.
managing human affairs, there is no better rule
than to be sparing.
To be sparing is to forestall;
To forestall is to be prepared and strengthened;
To be prepared and strengthened is to be ever-victorious;
To be ever-victorious is to have infinite capacity;
He who has infinite capacity is fit to rule a country,
And the Mother (principle) of a ruling country can long endure.
This is to be firmly rooted, to have deep strength,
The road to immortality and enduring vision.
a big country as you would fry small fish.
Who rules the world in accord with Tao
Shall find that the spirits lose their power.
It is not that the spirits lose their power,
But that they cease to do people harm.
It is not (only) that they cease to do people harm,
The Sage (himself) also does no harm to the people.
When both do not do each other harm,
The original character is restored.
big country (should be like) the delta low-regions,
Being the concourse of the world,
(And) the Female of the world.
The Female overcomes the Male by quietude,
And achieves the lowly position by quietude.
if a big country places itself below a small country
It absorbs the small country.
(And) if a small country places itself below a big country,
It absorbs the big country.
Therefore some place themselves low to absorb (others),
Some are (naturally) low and absorb (others).
What a big country wants is but to shelter others,
And what a small country wants is but to be able to
come in and be sheltered.
Thus (considering) that both may have what they want,
A big country ought to place itself low.
is the mysterious secret of the universe,
The good man's treasure,
And the bad man's refuge.
Beautiful saying can be sold at the market,
Noble conduct can be presented as a gift.
Though there be bad people,
Why reject them?
on the crowning of an emperor,
On the appointment of the Three Ministers,
Rather than send tributes of jade and teams of four horses,
Send in the tribute of Tao.
Wherein did the ancients prize this Tao?
Did they not say, "to search for the guilty ones and pardon them"?
Therefore is (tao) the treasure of the world.
Attend to no-affairs.
Taste the flavorless.
Whether it is big or small, many or few,
Requite hatred with virtue.
Deal with the difficult while yet it is easy;
Deal wit the big while yet it is small.
The difficult (problems) of the world
Must be dealt with while they are yet easy;
The great (problems) of the world
Must be dealt with while they are yet small.
Therefore the Sage by never dealing with great (problems)
who lightly makes a promise
Will find it often hard to keep his faith.
He who makes light of many things
Will encounter many difficulties.
Hence even the Sage regards things as difficult,
And for that reason never meets with difficulties.
which lies still is easy to hold;
That which is not yet manifest is easy to forestall;
That which is brittle (like ice) easily melts;
That which is minute easily scatters.
Deal with a thing before it is there;
Check disorder before it is rife.
A tree with a full span's girth begins from a tiny sprout;
A nine-storied terrace begins with a clod of earth.
A journey of a thousand li beings at one's feet.
who acts, spoils;
He who grasps, lets slip.
Because the Sage does not act, he does not spoil,
Because he does not grasp, he does not let slip.
The affairs of men are often spoiled within an ace of completion.
By being careful at the end as at the beginning
Failure is averted.
the Sage desires to have no desire,
And values not objects difficult to obtain.
Learns that which is unlearned,
And restores what the multitude have lost.
That he may assist in the course of Nature
And not presume to interfere.
ancients who knew how to follow the Tao
Aimed not to enlighten the people.,
But to keep them ignorant.
The reason it is difficult for the people to leave in peace
Is because of too much knowledge.
Those who seek to rule a country by knowledge
Are the nation's curse.
Those who seek not to rule a country by knowledge
Are the nation's blessing.
Those who know these two (principles)
Also know the ancient standard,
And to know always the ancient standard
Is called the Mystic Virtue.
When the Mystic Virtue becomes clear, far-reaching,
And things revert back (to their source)
Then and then only emerges the Grand Harmony.
did the great rivers and seas become the Lords
of the ravines?
By being good at keeping low.
That was how they became Lords of the Ravines.
Therefore in order to be the chief among the people,
One must speak like their inferiors.
In order to be foremost among the people,
One must walk behind them.
Thus it is that the Sage stays above,
And the people do not feel his weight;
Walks in front,
And the people do not wish him harm.
Then the people of the world are glad to uphold him forever.
Because he does not contend,
No one in the world can contend against him.
the world says: my teaching (Tao) greatly resembles folly.
Because it is great; therefore it resembles folly.
If it did not resemble folly,
It would have long ago become petty indeed!
have Three Treasures;
Guard them and keep them safe:
the first is Love.
The second is, Never too much.
The third is, Never be the first in the world.
Through Love, one has no fear;
Through not doing too much, one has amplitude
(of reserve power);
Through not presuming to be the first in the world,
One can develop one's talent and let it mature.
one forsakes love and fearlessness,
forsakes restraint and reserve power,
forsakes following behind and rushes in front,
He is doomed!
love is victorious in attack,
And invulnerable in defense.
Heaven arms with love
Those it would not see destroyed.
brave soldier is not violent;
The good fighter does not lose his temper;
The great conqueror does not fight (on small issues);
The good user of men places himself below others.
- This is the virtue of not-contending,
Is called the capacity to use men,
Is reaching to the height of being
Mated to Heaven, to what was of old.
is the maxim of military strategists;
I dare not be the first to invade, but rather be the invaded.
Dare not press forward an inch, but rather retreat a foot.
That is, to march without formations,
To roll up the sleeves,
To charge not in frontal attacks,
To arm without weapons.
There is no greater catastrophe than to underestimate the enemy.
To underestimate the enemy might entail the loss of my treasures.
Therefore when two equally matched armies meet,
It is the man of sorrow who wins.
teachings are very easy to understand
and very easy to practice,
But no one can understand them and
no one can practice them.
In my words there is a principle.
In the affairs of men there is a system.
Because they know not these,
They also know me not.
Since there are few that know me,
Therefore I am distinguished.
Therefore the Sage wears a coarse cloth on top
And carries jade within his bosom.
knows that he does not know is the highest;
Who (pretends to) know what he does not know is sick-minded.
And who recognizes sick-mindedness as sick-mindedness
is not sick-minded.
The Sage is not sick-minded.
Because he recognizes sick-mindedness as sick-mindness,
Therefore he is not sick-minded.
people have no fear of force,
Then (as is the common practice) great force descends upon them.
not their dwellings,
Dislike not their progeny.
Because you do not dislike them,
You will not be disliked yourself.
Therefore the Sage knows himself, but does not show himself,
Loves himself, but does not exalt himself.
Therefore he rejects the one (force) and
accepts the other (gentility).
is brave in daring (you) kill,
Who is brave in not daring (you) let live.
In these two,
There is some advantage and some disadvantage.
(Even if) Heaven dislikes certain people,
Who would know (who are to be killed and) why?
Therefore even the Sage regards it as a difficult question.
Heaven's Way (Tao) is good at conquest without strife,
Rewarding (vice and virtue) without words,
Making its appearance without call,
Achieving results without obvious design.
The heaven's net is broad and wide.
With big meshes, yet letting nothing slip through.
people are not afraid of death;
Why threaten them with death?
Supposing that the people are afraid of death,
And we can seize and kill the unruly,
Who would dare to do so?
Often it happens that the executioner is killed.
And to take the place of the executioner
Is like handling the hatchet for the master carpenter.
He who handles the hatchet for the master carpenter
seldom escapes injury to his hands.
people are hungry,
It is because their rulers eat too much tax-grain.
Therefore the unruliness of hungry people
Is due to the interference of their rulers.
That is why they are unruly.
The people are not afraid of death,
Because they are anxious to make a living.
That is why they are not afraid of death.
It is those who interfere not with their living
That are wise in exalting life.
man is born, he is tender and weak;
At death, he is hard and stiff.
When the things and plants are alive, they are soft
When they are dead, they are brittle and dry.
Therefore hardness and stiffness are the companions of death,
And softness and gentleness are the companions of life.
when an army is headstrong, it will lose in a battle.
When a tree is hard, it will be cut down.
The big and strong belong underneath.
The gentle and weak belong at the top.
Tao (way) of Heaven,
Is it not like the bending of a bow?
The top comes down and the bottom-end goes up,
The extra (length) is shortened, the insufficient (width) is expanded.
It is the way of Heaven to take away from those that have too much
And give to those that have not enough.
Not so with man's way:
He takes from those that have not
And gives it as tribute to those that have too much.
Who can have enough and to spare to give to the entire world?
Only the man of Tao.
Therefore the Sage acts, but does not possess,
Accomplishes but lays claim to no credit,
Because he has no wish to seem superior.
is nothing weaker than water
But none is superior to it in overcoming the hard,
For which there is no substitute.
That weakness overcomes strength
And gentleness overcomes rigidity,
No one does not know;
No one can put into practice.
the Sage says:
"Who receives unto himself the calumny of the world
Is the preserver of the state.
Who bears himself the sins of the world
Is king of the world."
Straight words seem crooked.
up a great hatred is sure to leave some hatred behind.
How can this be regarded as satisfactory?
Therefore the Sage holds the left tally,
And does not put the guilt on the other party.
the virtuous man is for patching up;
The vicious is for fixing guilt.
But "the way of Heaven is impartial;
It sides only with the good man."
there be) a small country with a small population,
Where the supply of goods are tenfold or hundredfold,
more than they can use.
Let the people value their lives and not migrate far.
Though there be boats and carriages,
None be there to ride them.
Though there be armor and weapons,
No occasion to display them.
Let the people again tie ropes for reckoning,
Let them enjoy their food,
Beautify their clothing,
Be satisfied with their homes,
Delight in their customs.
The neighboring settlements overlook one another
So that they can hear the barking of dogs and crowing
of cocks of their neighbors,
And the people till the end of their days shall never
have been outside their country.
words are not fine-sounding;
Fine-sounding words are not true.
A good man does not argue;
he who argues is not a good man.
the wise one does not know many things;
He who knows many things is not wise.
Sage does not accumulate (for himself).
He lives for other people,
And grows richer himself;
He gives to other people,
And has greater abundance.
Tao of Heaven
Blesses, but does not harm.
The Way of the Sage
Accomplishes, but does not contend.