Dao De Jing
by Lao Zitranslated by James Legge
The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.
(Conceived of as) having no name,
it is the Originator of heaven and earth;
(conceived of as) having a name,
it is the Mother of all things.
Always without desire we must be found,
If its deep mystery we would sound;
But if desire always within us be,
Its outer fringe is all that we shall see.
Under these two aspects,
it is really the same;
but as development takes place,
it receives the different names.
Together we call them the Mystery.
Where the Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful.
and in doing this they have (the idea of) what ugliness is;
they all know the skill of the skillful,
and in doing this they have (the idea of) what the want of skill is.
So it is that existence and non-existence give birth the one to (the idea of) the other;
that difficulty and ease produce the one (the idea of) the other;
that length and shortness fashion out the one the figure of the other;
that (the ideas of) height and lowness arise from the contrast of the one with the other;
that the musical notes and tones become harmonious through the relation of one with another;
and that being before and behind give the idea of one following another.
Therefore the sage manages affairs without doing anything,
and conveys his instructions without the use of speech.
All things spring up,
and there is not one which declines to show itself;
and there is no claim made for their ownership;
they go through their processes,
and there is no expectation (of a reward for the results).
The work is accomplished,
and there is no resting in it (as an achievement).
The work is done,
but how no one can see;
'Tis this that makes the power not cease to be.
is the way to keep the people from rivalry among themselves;
not to prize articles which are difficult to procure
is the way to keep them from becoming thieves;
not to show them what is likely to excite their desires
is the way to keep their minds from disorder.
Therefore the sage,
in the exercise of his government,
empties their minds,
fills their bellies,
weakens their wills,
and strengthens their bones.
He constantly (tries to) keep them without knowledge and without desire,
and where there are those who have knowledge,
to keep them from presuming to act (on it).
When there is this abstinence from action,
good order is universal.
and in our employment of it we must be on our guard against all fullness.
How deep and unfathomable it is,
as if it were the Honored Ancestor of all things!
We should blunt our sharp points,
and unravel the complications of things;
we should lessen our brightness,
and bring ourselves into agreement with the obscurity of others.
How pure and still the Dao is,
as if it would ever so continue!
I do not know whose son it is.
It might appear to have been before God.
they deal with all things as the dogs of grass are dealt with.
The sages do not act from (any wish to be) benevolent;
they deal with the people as the dogs of grass are dealt with.
May not the space between heaven and earth be compared to a bellows?
yet it loses not its power;
'Tis moved again,
and sends forth air the more.
Much speech to swift exhaustion lead we see;
Your inner being guard,
and keep it free.
aye the same;
The female mystery thus do we name.
from which at first they issued forth,
Is called the root from which grew heaven and earth.
Long and unbroken does its power remain,
and without the touch of pain.
The reason why heaven and earth are able to endure and continue thus long
is because they do not live of,
This is how they are able to continue and endure.
Therefore the sage puts his own person last,
and yet it is found in the foremost place;
he treats his person as if it were foreign to him,
and yet that person is preserved.
Is it not because he has no personal and private ends,
that therefore such ends are realized?
The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things,
and in its occupying,
without striving (to the contrary),
the low place which all men dislike.
Hence (its way) is near to (that of) the Dao.
The excellence of a residence is in (the suitability of) the place;
that of the mind is in abysmal stillness;
that of associations is in their being with the virtuous;
that of government is in its securing good order;
that of (the conduct of) affairs is in its ability;
And when (one with the highest excellence)
than to attempt to carry it when it is full.
If you keep feeling a point that has been sharpened,
the point cannot long preserve its sharpness.
When gold and jade fill the hall,
their possessor cannot keep them safe.
When wealth and honors lead to arrogancy,
this brings its evil on itself.
When the work is done,
and one's name is becoming distinguished,
to withdraw into obscurity is the way of Heaven.
they can be kept from separating.
When one gives undivided attention to the (vital) breath,
and brings it to the utmost degree of pliancy,
he can become as a (tender) babe.
When he has cleansed away the most mysterious sights (of his imagination),
he can become without a flaw.
In loving the people and ruling the state,
cannot he proceed without any (purpose of) action?
In the opening and shutting of his gates of heaven,
cannot he do so as a female bird?
While his intelligence reaches in every direction,
cannot he (appear to) be without knowledge?
(The Dao) produces (all things) and nourishes them;
it produces them and does not claim them as its own;
it does all,
and yet does not boast of it;
it presides over all,
and yet does not control them.
This is what is called 'The mysterious Quality' (of the Dao).
but it is on the empty space (for the axle),
that the use of the wheel depends.
Clay is fashioned into vessels;
but it is on their empty hollowness,
that their use depends.
The door and windows are cut out (from the walls) to form an apartment;
but it is on the empty space (within),
that its use depends.
what has a (positive) existence serves for profitable adaptation,
and what has not that for (actual) usefulness.
Music's five notes the ears as deaf can make;
The flavors five deprive the mouth of taste;
The chariot course,
and the wild hunting waste
Make mad the mind;
and objects rare and strange,
men's conduct will to evil change.
Therefore the sage seeks to satisfy (the craving of) the belly,
and not the (insatiable longing of the) eyes.
He puts from him the latter,
and prefers to seek the former.
honor and great calamity,
to be regarded as personal conditions (of the same kind).
What is meant by speaking thus of favor and disgrace?
Disgrace is being in a low position (after the enjoyment of favor).
The getting that (favor) leads to the apprehension (of losing it),
and the losing it leads to the fear of (still greater calamity):
--this is what is meant by saying that favor and disgrace would seem equally to be feared.
And what is meant by saying that honor and great calamity
are to be (similarly) regarded as personal conditions?
What makes me liable to great calamity
is my having the body (which I call myself);
if I had not the body,
what great calamity could come to me?
Therefore he who would administer the kingdom,
honoring it as he honors his own person,
may be employed to govern it,
and he who would administer it with the love which he bears to his own person
may be entrusted with it.
and we do not see it,
and we name it 'the Equable.'
We listen to it,
and we do not hear it,
and we name it 'the Inaudible.'
We try to grasp it,
and do not get hold of it,
and we name it 'the Subtle.'
With these three qualities,
it cannot be made the subject of description;
and hence we blend them together and obtain The One.
Its upper part is not bright,
and its lower part is not obscure.
Ceaseless in its action,
it yet cannot be named,
and then it again returns and becomes nothing.
This is called the Form of the Formless,
and the Semblance of the Invisible;
this is called the Fleeting and Indeterminable.
We meet it and do not see its Front;
we follow it,
and do not see its Back.
When we can lay hold of the Dao of old to direct the things of the present day,
and are able to know it as it was of old in the beginning,
this is called (unwinding) the clue of Dao.
with a subtle and exquisite penetration,
comprehended its mysteries,
and were deep (also) so as to elude men's knowledge.
As they were thus beyond men's knowledge,
I will make an effort to describe of what sort they appeared to be.
Shrinking looked they like those who wade through a stream in winter;
irresolute like those who are afraid of all around them;
grave like a guest (in awe of his host);
evanescent like ice that is melting away;
unpretentious like wood that has not been fashioned into anything;
vacant like a valley,
and dull like muddy water.
Who can (make) the muddy water (clear)?
Let it be still,
and it will gradually become clear.
Who can secure the condition of rest?
Let movement go on,
and the condition of rest will gradually arise.
They who preserve this method of the Dao
do not wish to be full (of themselves).
It is through their not being full of themselves
that they can afford to seem worn and not appear new and complete.
and that of stillness guarded with unwearying vigor.
All things alike go through their processes of activity,
and (then) we see them return (to their original state).
When things (in the vegetable world) have displayed their luxuriant growth,
we see each of them return to its root.
This returning to their root is what we call the state of stillness;
and that stillness may be called a reporting
that they have fulfilled their appointed end.
The report of that fulfillment is the regular,
To know that unchanging rule is to be intelligent;
not to know it leads to wild movements and evil issues.
The knowledge of that unchanging rule
produces a (grand) capacity and forbearance,
and that capacity and forbearance
lead to a community (of feeling with all things).
From this community of feeling comes a kingliness of character;
and he who is king-like goes on to be heaven-like.
In that likeness to heaven he possesses the Dao.
Possessed of the Dao,
he endures long;
and to the end of his bodily life,
is exempt from all danger of decay.
(the people) did not know that there were (their rulers).
In the next age they loved them and praised them.
In the next they feared them;
in the next they despised them.
Thus it was that when faith (in the Dao) was deficient (in the rulers)
a want of faith in them ensued (in the people).
How irresolute did those (earliest rulers) appear,
showing (by their reticence) the importance which they set upon their words!
Their work was done and their undertakings were successful,
while the people all said,
'We are as we are,
benevolence and righteousness came into vogue.
(Then) appeared wisdom and shrewdness,
and there ensued great hypocrisy.
When harmony no longer prevailed throughout the six kinships,
filial sons found their manifestation;
when the states and clans fell into disorder,
loyal ministers appeared.
it would be better for the people a hundredfold.
If we could renounce our benevolence and discard our righteousness,
the people would again become filial and kindly.
If we could renounce our artful contrivances and discard our (scheming for) gain,
there would be no thieves nor robbers.
Those three methods (of government)
Thought olden ways in elegance did fail
And made these names their want of worth to veil;
But simple views,
and courses plain and true
Would selfish ends and many lusts eschew.
The (ready) 'yes',
and (flattering) 'yea';
--Small is the difference they display.
But mark their issues,
good and ill;
--What space the gulf between shall fill?
What all men fear is indeed to be feared;
but how wide and without end
is the range of questions (asking to be discussed)!
The multitude of men look satisfied and pleased;
as if enjoying a full banquet,
as if mounted on a tower in spring.
I alone seem listless and still,
my desires having as yet given no indication of their presence.
I am like an infant which has not yet smiled.
I look dejected and forlorn,
as if I had no home to go to.
The multitude of men all have enough and to spare.
I alone seem to have lost everything.
My mind is that of a stupid man;
I am in a state of chaos.
Ordinary men look bright and intelligent,
while I alone seem to be benighted.
They look full of discrimination,
while I alone am dull and confused.
I seem to be carried about as on the sea,
drifting as if I had nowhere to rest.
All men have their spheres of action,
while I alone seem dull and incapable,
like a rude borderer.
(Thus) I alone am different from other men,
but I value the nursing-mother (the Dao).
From Dao come,
their only source.
Who can of Dao the nature tell?
Our sight it flies,
our touch as well.
The forms of things all in it crouch;
There are their semblances,
Profound it is,
dark and obscure;
Things' essences all there endure.
Those essences the truth enfold Of what,
shall then be told.
Now it is so;
'twas so of old.
Its name--what passes not away;
in their beautiful array,
Things form and never know decay.
How know I that it is so with all the beauties of existing things?
By this (nature of the Dao).
the worn out,
He whose (desires) are few gets them;
he whose (desires) are many goes astray.
Therefore the sage holds in his embrace the one thing (of humility),
and manifests it to all the world.
He is free from self-display,
and therefore he shines;
and therefore he is distinguished;
and therefore his merit is acknowledged;
and therefore he acquires superiority.
It is because he is thus free from striving that therefore no one in the world is able to strive with him.
That saying of the ancients that 'the partial becomes complete' was not vainly spoken:
--all real completion is comprehended under it.
A violent wind does not last for a whole morning;
a sudden rain does not last for the whole day.
To whom is it that these(two) things are owing?
To Heaven and Earth.
If Heaven and Earth cannot make such (spasmodic) actings last long,
how much less can man!
Therefore when one is making the Dao his business,
those who are also pursuing it,
agree with him in it,
and those who are making the manifestation of its course their object agree with him in that;
while even those who are failing in both these things agree with him where they fail.
those with whom he agrees as to the Dao have the happiness of attaining to it;
those with whom he agrees as to its manifestation have the happiness of attaining to it;
and those with whom he agrees in their failure have also the happiness of attaining (to the Dao).
(But) when there is not faith sufficient (on his part),
a want of faith (in him) ensues (on the part of the others).
he who stretches his legs does not walk (easily).
he who displays himself does not shine;
he who asserts his own views is not distinguished;
he who vaunts himself does not find his merit acknowledged;
he who is self-conceited has no superiority allowed to him.
viewed from the standpoint of the Dao,
are like remnants of food,
or a tumor on the body,
which all dislike.
Hence those who pursue (the course) of the Dao do not adopt and allow them.
coming into existence before Heaven and Earth.
How still it was and formless,
and undergoing no change,
reaching everywhere and in no danger (of being exhausted)!
It may be regarded as the Mother of all things.
I do not know its name,
and I give it the designation of the Dao (the Way or Course).
Making an effort (further) to give it a name I call it The Great.
it passes on (in constant flow).
it becomes remote.
Having become remote,
Therefore the Dao is great;
Heaven is great;
Earth is great;
and the (sage) king is also great.
In the universe there are four that are great,
and the (sage) king is one of them.
Man takes his law from the Earth;
the Earth takes its law from Heaven;
Heaven takes its law from the Dao.
The law of the Dao is its being what it is.
the ruler of movement.
Therefore a wise prince,
marching the whole day,
does not go far from his baggage wagons.
Although he may have brilliant prospects to look at,
he quietly remains (in his proper place),
indifferent to them.
How should the lord of a myriad chariots carry himself lightly before the kingdom?
If he do act lightly,
he has lost his root (of gravity);
if he proceed to active movement,
he will lose his throne.
the skillful speaker says nothing that can be found fault with or blamed;
the skillful reckoner uses no tallies;
the skillful closer needs no bolts or bars,
while to open what he has shut will be impossible;
the skillful binder uses no strings or knots,
while to unloose what he has bound will be impossible.
In the same way the sage is always skillful at saving men,
and so he does not cast away any man;
he is always skillful at saving things,
and so he does not castaway anything.
This is called 'Hiding the light of his procedure.'
Therefore the man of skill is a master (to be looked up to) by him who has not the skill;
and he who has not the skill is the helper of (the reputation of) him who has the skill.
If the one did not honor his master,
and the other did not rejoice in his helper,
might greatly err about them.
This is called 'The utmost degree of mystery.'
Yet still his female feebleness maintains;
As to one channel flow the many drains,
All come to him,
all beneath the sky.
Thus he the constant excellence retains;
The simple child again,
free from all stains.
Who knows how white attracts,
Yet always keeps himself within black's shade,
The pattern of humility displayed,
Displayed in view of all beneath the sky;
He in the unchanging excellence arrayed,
Endless return to man's first state has made.
Who knows how glory shines,
Yet loves disgrace,
nor ever for it is pale;
Behold his presence in a spacious vale,
To which men come from all beneath the sky.
The unchanging excellence completes its tale;
The simple infant man in him we hail.
The unwrought material,
when divided and distributed,
becomes the Head of all the Officers (of government);
and in his greatest regulations he employs no violent measures.
and to effect this by what he does,
I see that he will not succeed.
The kingdom is a spirit-like thing,
and cannot be got by active doing.
He who would so win it destroys it;
he who would hold it in his grasp loses it.
The course and nature of things is such that What was in front is now behind;
What warmed anon we freezing find.
Strength is of weakness oft the spoil;
The store in ruins mocks our toil.
Hence the sage puts away excessive effort,
and easy indulgence.
Such a course is sure to meet with its proper return.
Wherever a host is stationed,
briars and thorns spring up.
In the sequence of great armies there are sure to be bad years.
A skillful (commander) strikes a decisive blow,
He does not dare (by continuing his operations) to assert and complete his mastery.
He will strike the blow,
but will be on his guard against being vain or boastful or arrogant in consequence of it.
He strikes it as a matter of necessity;
he strikes it,
but not from a wish for mastery.
When things have attained their strong maturity they become old.
This may be said to be not in accordance with the Dao:
and what is not in accordance with it soon comes to an end.
are instruments of evil omen,
it may be said,
to all creatures.
Therefore they who have the Dao do not like to employ them.
The superior man ordinarily considers the left hand the most honorable place,
but in time of war the right hand.
Those sharp weapons are instruments of evil omen,
and not the instruments of the superior man;
--he uses them only on the compulsion of necessity.
Calm and repose are what he prizes;
victory (by force of arms) is to him undesirable.
To consider this desirable would be to delight in the slaughter of men;
and he who delights in the slaughter of men cannot get his will in the kingdom.
On occasions of festivity to be on the left hand is the prized position;
on occasions of mourning,
the right hand.
The second in command of the army has his place on the left;
the general commanding in chief has his on the right;
is assigned to him as in the rites of mourning.
He who has killed multitudes of men should weep for them with the bitterest grief;
and the victor in battle has his place (rightly) according to those rites.
considered as unchanging,
has no name.
Though in its primordial simplicity it may be small,
the whole world dares not deal with (one embodying) it as a minister.
If a feudal prince or the king could guard and hold it,
all would spontaneously submit themselves to him.
Heaven and Earth (under its guidance) unite together and send down the sweet dew,
without the directions of men,
reaches equally everywhere as of its own accord.
As soon as it proceeds to action,
it has a name.
When it once has that name,
(men) can know to rest in it.
When they know to rest in it,
they can be free from all risk of failure and error.
The relation of the Dao to all the world is like that of the great rivers and seas to the streams from the valleys.
he who knows himself is intelligent.
He who overcomes others is strong;
he who overcomes himself is mighty.
He who is satisfied with his lot is rich;
he who goes on acting with energy has a (firm) will.
He who does not fail in the requirements of his position,
he who dies and yet does not perish,
It may be found on the left hand and on the right.
All things depend on it for their production,
which it gives to them,
not one refusing obedience to it.
When its work is accomplished,
it does not claim the name of having done it.
It clothes all things as with a garment,
and makes no assumption of being their lord;
--it may be named in the smallest things.
All things return (to their root and disappear),
and do not know that it is it which presides over their doing so;
--it may be named in the greatest things.
Hence the sage is able (in the same way) to accomplish his great achievements.
It is through his not making himself great that he can accomplish them.
the whole world repairs.
Men resort to him,
and receive no hurt,
but (find) rest,
and the feeling of ease.
Music and dainties will make the passing guest stop (for a time).
But though the Dao as it comes from the mouth,
seems insipid and has no flavor,
though it seems not worth being looked at or listened to,
the use of it is inexhaustible.
he is sure to make a(previous) expiration;
when he is going to weaken another,
he will first strengthen him;
when he is going to overthrow another,
he will first have raised him up;
when he is going to despoil another,
he will first have made gifts to him:
--this is called 'Hiding the light (of his procedure)'.
The soft overcomes the hard;
and the weak the strong.
Fishes should not be taken from the deep;
instruments for the profit of a state should not be shown to the people.
and so there is nothing which it does not do.
If princes and kings were able to maintain it,
all things would of themselves be transformed by them.
If this transformation became to me an object of desire,
I would express the desire by the nameless simplicity.
Simplicity without a name Is free from all external aim.
With no desire,
at rest and still,
All things go right as of their will.
and therefore they possessed them(in fullest measure).
(Those who) possessed in a lower degree those attributes (sought how) not to lose them,
and therefore they did not possess them (in fullest measure).
(Those who) possessed in the highest degree those attributes did nothing (with a purpose),
and had no need to do anything.
(Those who)possessed them in a lower degree were (always) doing,
and had need to be so doing.
(Those who) possessed the highest benevolence were (always seeking)to carry it out,
and had no need to be doing so.
(Those who) possessed the highest righteousness were (always seeking) to carry it out,
and had need to be so doing.
(Those who) possessed the highest (sense of) propriety were (always seeking) to show it,
and when men did not respond to it,
they bared the arm and marched up to them.
Thus it was that when the Dao was lost,
its attributes appeared;
when its attributes were lost,
when benevolence was lost,
and when righteousness was lost,
the proprieties appeared.
Now propriety is the attenuated form of real-heartedness and good faith,
and is also the commencement of disorder;
swift apprehension is(only) a flower of the Dao,
and is the beginning of stupidity.
Thus it is that the Great man abides by what is solid,
and eschews what is flimsy;
dwells with the fruit and not with the flower.
It is thus that he puts away the one and makes choice of the other.
Heaven which by it is bright and pure;
Earth rendered thereby firm and sure;
Spirits with powers by it supplied;
Valleys kept full throughout their void All creatures which through it do live Princes and kings who from it get The model which to all they give.
All these are the results of the One (Dao).
If heaven were not thus pure,
it soon would rend;
If earth were not thus sure,
'twould break and bend;
Without these powers,
the spirits soon would fail;
If not so filled,
the drought would parch each vale;
Without that life,
creatures would pass away;
Princes and kings,
without that moral sway,
However grand and high,
would all decay.
Thus it is that dignity finds its (firm) root in its (previous) meanness,
and what is lofty finds its stability in the lowness (from which it rises).
Hence princes and kings call themselves 'Orphans',
'Men of small virtue',
and as 'Carriages without a nave.'
Is not this an acknowledgment that in their considering themselves mean they see the foundation of their dignity?
So it is that in the enumeration of the different parts of a carriage
we do not come on what makes it answer the ends of a carriage.
They do not wish to show themselves elegant-looking as jade,
but (prefer) to be coarse-looking as an(ordinary) stone.
By contraries proceeds;
And weakness marks the course
Of Dao's mighty deeds.
All things under heaven sprang from
It as existing (and named);
that existence sprang from
It as non-existent (and not named).
when they hear about the Dao,
earnestly carry it into practice.
Scholars of the middle class,
when they have heard about it,
seem now to keep it and now to lose it.
Scholars of the lowest class,
when they have heard about it,
laugh greatly at it.
If it were not (thus) laughed at,
it would not be fit to be the Dao.
Therefore the sentence-makers have thus expressed themselves:
-- 'The Dao,
when brightest seen,
seems light to lack;
Who progress in it makes,
seems drawing back;
Its even way is like a rugged track.
Its highest virtue from the vale doth rise;
Its greatest beauty seems to offend the eyes;
And he has most whose lot the least supplies.
Its firmest virtue seems but poor and low;
Its solid truth seems change to undergo;
Its largest square doth yet no corner show A vessel great,
it is the slowest made;
Loud is its sound,
but never word it said;
A semblance great,
the shadow of a shade.'
The Dao is hidden,
and has no name;
but it is the Dao which is skillful at imparting (to all things what they need) and making them complete.
One produced Two;
Two produced Three;
Three produced All things.
All things leave behind them the Obscurity (out of which they have come),
and go forward to embrace the Brightness (into which they have emerged),
while they are harmonized by the Breath of Vacancy.
What men dislike is to be orphans,
to have little virtue,
to be as carriages without naves;
and yet these are the designations which kings and princes use for themselves.
So it is that some things are increased by being diminished,
and others are diminished by being increased.
What other men (thus) teach,
I also teach.
The violent and strong do not die their natural death.
I will make this the basis of my teaching.
that which has no (substantial) existence enters where there is no crevice.
I know hereby what advantage belongs to doing nothing (with a purpose).
There are few in the world who attain to the teaching without words,
and the advantage arising from non-action.
Which do you hold more dear?
Or life or wealth,
To which would you adhere?
Keep life and lose those other things;
Keep them and lose your life:
--which brings Sorrow and pain more near?
Thus we may see,
Who cleaves to fame Rejects what is more great;
Who loves large stores Gives up the richer state.
Who is content Needs fear no shame.
Who knows to stop Incurs no blame.
From danger free Long live shall he.
Of greatest fullness,
deemed a void,
Exhaustion never shall stem the tide.
Do thou what's straight still crooked deem;
Thy greatest art still stupid seem,
And eloquence a stammering scream.
Constant action overcomes cold;
being still overcomes heat.
Purity and stillness give the correct law to all under heaven.
they send back their swift horses to (draw) the dung-carts.
When the Dao is disregarded in the world,
the war-horses breed in the border lands.
There is no guilt greater than to sanction ambition;
no calamity greater than to be discontented with one's lot;
no fault greater than the wish to be getting.
Therefore the sufficiency of contentment is an enduring and unchanging sufficiency.
one understands (all that takes place) under the sky;
without looking out from his window,
one sees the Dao of Heaven.
The farther that one goes out (from himself),
the less he knows.
Therefore the sages got their knowledge without traveling;
gave their (right) names to things without seeing them;
and accomplished their ends without any purpose of doing so.
he who devotes himself to the Dao (seeks)from day to day to diminish (his doing).
He diminishes it and again diminishes it,
till he arrives at doing nothing (on purpose).
Having arrived at this point of non-action,
there is nothing which he does not do.
He who gets as his own all under heaven does so by giving himself no trouble (with that end).
If one take trouble (with that end),
he is not equal to getting as his own all under heaven.
he makes the mind of the people his mind.
To those who are good (to me),
I am good;
and to those who are not good (to me),
I am also good;
--and thus (all) get to be good.
To those who are sincere (with me),
I am sincere;
and to those who are not sincere (with me),
I am also sincere;
--and thus (all) get to be sincere.
The sage has in the world an appearance of indecision,
and keeps his mind in a state of indifference to all.
The people all keep their eyes and ears directed to him,
and he deals with them all as his children.
they enter (again) and die.
Of every ten three are ministers of life (to themselves);
and three are ministers of death.
There are also three in every ten whose aim is to live,
but whose movements tend to the land (or place) of death.
And for what reason?
Because of their excessive endeavors to perpetuate life.
But I have heard that he who is skillful in managing the life entrusted to him for a time travels on the land without having to shun rhinoceros or tiger,
and enters a host without having to avoid buff coat or sharp weapon.
The rhinoceros finds no place in him into which to thrust its horn,
nor the tiger a place in which to fix its claws,
nor the weapon a place to admit its point.
And for what reason?
Because there is in him no place of death.
and nourished by its outflowing operation.
They receive their forms according to the nature of each,
and are completed according to the circumstances of their condition.
Therefore all things without exception honor the Dao,
and exalt its outflowing operation.
This honoring of the Dao and exalting of its operation is not the result of any ordination,
but always a spontaneous tribute.
Thus it is that the Dao produces (all things),
brings them to their full growth,
and overspreads them.
It produces them and makes no claim to the possession of them;
it carries them through their processes and does not vaunt its ability in doing so;
it brings them to maturity and exercises no control over them;
--this is called its mysterious operation.
When the mother is found,
we know what her children should be.
When one knows that he is his mother's child,
and proceeds to guard(the qualities of) the mother that belong to him,
to the end of his life he will be free from all peril.
Let him keep his mouth closed,
and shut up the portals (of his nostrils),
and all his life he will be exempt from laborious exertion.
Let him keep his mouth open,
and (spend his breath) in the promotion of his affairs,
and all his life there will be no safety for him.
The perception of what is small is (the secret of clear-sightedness;
the guarding of what is soft and tender is (the secret of) strength.
Who uses well his light,
Reverting to its (source so) bright,
Will from his body ward all blight,
And hides the unchanging from men's sight.
and (put into a position to) conduct (a government) according to the Great Dao,
what I should be most afraid of would be a boastful display.
The great Dao (or way) is very level and easy;
but people love the by-ways.
Their court(-yards and buildings) shall be well kept,
but their fields shall be ill-cultivated,
and their granaries very empty.
They shall wear elegant and ornamented robes,
carry a sharp sword at their girdle,
pamper themselves in eating and drinking,
and have a superabundance of property and wealth;
--such (princes) may be called robbers and boasters.
This is contrary to the Dao surely!
Can never be uptorn;
What his skillful arms enfold,
From him can never be borne.
Sons shall bring in lengthening line,
Sacrifices to his shrine.
Dao when nursed within one's self,
His vigor will make true;
And where the family it rules What riches will accrue!
The neighborhood where it prevails In thriving will abound;
And when 'tis seen throughout the state,
Good fortune will be found.
Employ it the kingdom o'er,
And men thrive all around.
In this way the effect will be seen in the person,
by the observation of different cases;
in the family;
in the neighborhood;
in the state;
and in the kingdom.
How do I know that this effect is sure to hold thus all under the sky?
By this (method of observation).
Poisonous insects will not sting him;
fierce beasts will not seize him;
birds of prey will not strike him.
(The infant's) bones are weak and its sinews soft,
but yet its grasp is firm.
It knows not yet the union of male and female,
and yet its virile member may be excited;
--showing the perfection of its physical essence.
All day long it will cry without its throat becoming hoarse;
--showing the harmony (in its constitution).
To him by whom this harmony is known,
(The secret of) the unchanging (Dao) is shown,
And in the knowledge wisdom finds its throne.
All life-increasing arts to evil turn;
Where the mind makes the vital breath to burn,
(False) is the strength,
(and o'er it we should mourn.)
When things have become strong,
they (then) become old,
which maybe said to be contrary to the Dao.
Whatever is contrary to the Dao soon ends.
he who is (ever ready to) speak about it does not know it.
He (who knows it) will keep his mouth shut and close the portals(of his nostrils).
He will blunt his sharp points and unravel the complications of things;
he will attempter his brightness,
and bring himself into agreement with the obscurity (of others).
This is called 'the Mysterious Agreement.'
(Such an one) cannot be treated familiarly or distantly;
he is beyond all consideration of profit or injury;
of nobility or meanness:
--he is the noblest man under heaven.
weapons of war may be used with crafty dexterity;
(but) the kingdom is made one's own (only) by freedom from action and purpose.
How do I know that it is so?
By these facts:
--In the kingdom the multiplication of prohibitive enactments increases the poverty of the people;
the more implements to add to their profit that the people have,
the greater disorder is there in the state and clan;
the more acts of crafty dexterity that men possess,
the more do strange contrivances appear;
the more display there is of legislation,
the more thieves and robbers there are.
Therefore a sage has said,
'I will do nothing (of purpose),
and the people will be transformed of themselves;
I will be fond of keeping still,
and the people will of themselves become correct.
I will take no trouble about it,
and the people will of themselves become rich;
I will manifest no ambition,
and the people will of themselves attain to the primitive simplicity.'
The government that seems the most unwise,
Transfer interrupted!He is straightforward,
but allows himself no license;
he is bright,
but does not dazzle.
there is nothing like moderation.
It is only by this moderation that there is effected an early return (to man's normal state).
That early return is what I call the repeated accumulation of the attributes (of the Dao).
With that repeated accumulation of those attributes,
there comes the subjugation (of every obstacle to such return).
Of this subjugation we know not what shall be the limit;
and when one knows not what the limit shall be,
he may be the ruler of a state.
He who possesses the mother of the state may continue long.
His case is like that (of the plant) of which we say that its roots are deep and its flower stalks firm:
--this is the way to secure that its enduring life shall long be seen.
Let the kingdom be governed according to the Dao,
and the manes of the departed will not manifest their spiritual energy.
It is not that those manes have not that spiritual energy,
but it will not be employed to hurt men.
It is not that it could not hurt men,
but neither does the ruling sage hurt them.
When these two do not injuriously affect each other,
their good influences converge in the virtue (of the Dao).
--it becomes the center to which tend (all the small states) under heaven.
(To illustrate from) the case of all females:
--the female always overcomes the male by her stillness.
Stillness may be considered (a sort of) abasement.
Thus it is that a great state,
by condescending to small states,
gains them for itself;
and that small states,
by abasing themselves to a great state,
win it over to them.
In the one case the abasement leads to gaining adherents,
in the other case to procuring favor.
The great state only wishes to unite men together and nourish them;
a small state only wishes to be received by,
and to serve,
Each gets what it desires,
but the great state must learn to abase itself.
No treasures give good men so rich a grace;
Bad men it guards,
and doth their ill efface.
(Its) admirable words can purchase honor;
(its) admirable deeds can raise their performer above others.
Even men who are not good are not abandoned by it.
Therefore when the sovereign occupies his place as the Son of Heaven,
and he has appointed his three ducal ministers,
though (a prince) were to send in a round symbol-of-rank large enough to fill both the hands,
and that as the precursor of the team of horses (in the court-yard),
such an offering would not be equal to (a lesson of)this Dao,
which one might present on his knees.
Why was it that the ancients prized this Dao so much?
Was it not because it could be got by seeking for it,
and the guilty could escape(from the stain of their guilt) by it?
This is the reason why all under heaven consider it the most valuable thing.
to conduct affairs without (feeling the) trouble of them;
to taste without discerning any flavor;
to consider what is small as great,
and a few as many;
and to recompense injury with kindness.
(The master of it) anticipates things that are difficult while they are easy,
and does things that would become great while they are small.
All difficult things in the world are sure to arise from a previous state in which they were easy,
and all great things from one in which they were small.
Therefore the sage,
while he never does what is great,
is able on that account to accomplish the greatest things.
He who lightly promises is sure to keep but little faith;
he who is continually thinking things easy is sure to find them difficult.
Therefore the sage sees difficulty even in what seems easy,
and so never has any difficulties.
before a thing has given indications of its presence,
it is easy to take measures against it;
that which is brittle is easily broken;
that which is very small is easily dispersed.
Action should be taken before a thing has made its appearance;
order should be secured before disorder has begun.
The tree which fills the arms grew from the tiniest sprout;
the tower of nine stories rose from a (small) heap of earth;
the journey of a thousand li commenced with a single step.
He who acts (with an ulterior purpose) does harm;
he who takes hold of a thing (in the same way) loses his hold.
The sage does not act(so),
and therefore does no harm;
he does not lay hold (so),
and therefore does not lose his bold.
(But) people in their conduct of affairs are constantly ruining them when they are on the eve of success.
If they were careful at the end,
as (they should be) at the beginning,
they would not so ruin them.
Therefore the sage desires what (other men) do not desire,
and does not prize things difficult to get;
he learns what (other men) do not learn,
and turns back to what the multitude of men have passed by.
Thus he helps the natural development of all things,
and does not dare to act (with an ulterior purpose of his own).
not to enlighten the people,
but rather to make them simple and ignorant.
The difficulty in governing the people arises from their having much knowledge.
He who (tries to) govern a state by his wisdom is a scourge to it;
while he who does not (try to) do so is a blessing.
He who knows these two things finds in them also his model and rule.
Ability to know this model and rule constitutes what we call the mysterious excellence (of a governor).
Deep and far-reaching is such mysterious excellence,
showing indeed its possessor as opposite to others,
but leading them to a great conformity to him.
is their skill in being lower than they;
--it is thus that they are the kings of them all.
So it is that the sage (ruler),
wishing to be above men,
puts himself by his words below them,
wishing to be before them,
places his person behind them.
In this way though he has his place above them,
men do not feel his weight,
nor though he has his place before them,
do they feel it an injury to them.
Therefore all in the world delight to exalt him and do not weary of him.
Because he does not strive,
no one finds it possible to strive with him.
while my Dao is great,
it yet appears to be inferior (to other systems of teaching).
Now it is just its greatness that makes it seem to be inferior.
If it were like any other (system),
for long would its smallness have been known!
But I have three precious things which I prize and hold fast.
The first is gentleness;
the second is economy;
and the third is shrinking from taking precedence of others.
With that gentleness I can be bold;
with that economy I can be liberal;
shrinking from taking precedence of others,
I can become a vessel of the highest honor.
Now-a-days they give up gentleness and are all for being bold;
and are all for being liberal;
the hindmost place,
and seek only to be foremost;
--(of all which the end is) death.
Gentleness is sure to be victorious even in battle,
and firmly to maintain its ground.
Heaven will save its possessor,
by his (very) gentleness protecting him.
He who fights with most good will To rage makes no resort.
He who vanquishes yet still Keeps from his foes apart;
He whose bests men most fulfill Yet humbly plies his art.
Thus we say,
'He never contends,
And therein is his might.'
Thus we say,
'Men's wills he bends,
That they with him unite.'
Thus we say,
'Like Heaven's his ends,
No sage of old more bright.'
'I do not dare to be the host (to commence the war);
I prefer to be the guest (to act on the defensive).
I do not dare to advance an inch;
I prefer to retire afoot.'
This is called marshaling the ranks where there are no ranks;
baring the arms (to fight) where there are no arms to bare;
grasping the weapon where there is no weapon to grasp;
advancing against the enemy where there is no enemy.
There is no calamity greater than lightly engaging in war.
To do that is near losing (the gentleness) which is so precious.
Thus it is that when opposing weapons are (actually) crossed,
he who deplores (the situation) conquers.
and very easy to practice;
but there is no one in the world who is able to know and able to practice them.
There is an originating and all-comprehending (principle) in my words,
and an authoritative law for the things (which I enforce).
It is because they do not know these,
that men do not know me.
They who know me are few,
and I am on that account (the more) to be prized.
It is thus that the sage wears (a poor garb of) hair cloth,
while he carries his (signet of) jade in his bosom.
not to know (and yet think) we do know is a disease.
It is simply by being pained at (the thought of) having this disease that we are preserved from it.
The sage has not the disease.
He knows the pain that would be inseparable from it,
and therefore he does not have it.
that which is their great dread will come on them.
Let them not thoughtlessly indulge themselves in their ordinary life;
let them not act as if weary of what that life depends on.
It is by avoiding such indulgence that such weariness does not arise.
Therefore the sage knows (these things) of himself,
but does not parade (his knowledge);
but does not (appear to set a) value on,
And thus he puts the latter alternative away and makes choice of the former.
in defiance of the laws) is put to death;
he whose boldness appears in his not daring (to do so) lives on.
Of these two cases the one appears to be advantageous,
and the other to be injurious.
But When Heaven's anger smites a man,
Who the cause shall truly scan?
On this account the sage feels a difficulty (as to what to do in the former case).
It is the way of Heaven not to strive,
and yet it skillfully overcomes;
not to speak,
and yet it is skillful in (obtaining a reply;
does not call,
and yet men come to it of themselves.
Its demonstrations are quiet,
and yet its plans are skillful and effective.
The meshes of the net of Heaven are large;
but letting nothing escape.
to what purpose is it to (try to)frighten them with death?
If the people were always in awe of death,
and I could always seize those who do wrong,
and put them to death,
who would dare to do wrong?
There is always One who presides over the infliction death.
He who would inflict death in the room of him who so presides over it may be described as hewing wood instead of a great carpenter.
Seldom is it that he who undertakes the hewing,
instead of the great carpenter,
does not cut his own hands!
It is through this that they suffer famine.
The people are difficult to govern because of the (excessive) agency of their superiors (in governing them).
It is through this hat they are difficult to govern.
The people make light of dying because of the greatness of their labors in seeking for the means of living.
It is this which makes them think light of dying.
Thus it is that to leave the subject of living altogether out of view is better than to set a high value on it.
at his death,
firm and strong.
(So it is with) all things.
Trees and plants,
in their early growth,
are soft and brittle;
at their death,
dry and withered.
Thus it is that firmness and strength are the concomitants of death;
softness and weakness,
the concomitants of life.
Hence he who (relies on) the strength of his forces does not conquer;
and a tree which is strong will fill the out-stretched arms,
(and thereby invites the feller.)
Therefore the place of what is firm and strong is below,
and that of what is soft and weak is above.
The (part of the bow) which was high is brought low,
and what was low is raised up.
(So Heaven) diminishes where there is superabundance,
and supplements where there is deficiency.
It is the Way of Heaven to diminish superabundance,
and to supplement deficiency.
It is not so with the way of man.
He takes away from those who have not enough to add to his own superabundance.
Who can take his own superabundance and there with serve all under heaven?
Only he who is in possession of the Dao!
Therefore the (ruling) sage acts without claiming the results as his;
he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it:
--he does not wish to display his superiority.
and yet for attacking things that are firm and strong there is nothing that can take precedence of it;
--for there is nothing (so effectual) for which it can be changed.
Every one in the world knows that the soft overcomes the hard,
and the weak the strong,
but no one is able to carry it out in practice.
Therefore a sage has said,
'He who accepts his state's reproach,
Is hailed therefore its altars' lord;
To him who bears men's direful woes They all the name of King accord.'
Words that are strictly true seem to be paradoxical.
there is sure to be a grudge remaining (in the mind of the one who was wrong).
And how can this be beneficial (to the other)?
Therefore (to guard against this),
the sage keeps the left-hand portion of the record of the engagement,
and does not insist on the (speedy) fulfillment of it by the other party.
he who has the attributes (of the Dao) regards (only) the conditions of the engagement,
while he who has not those attributes regards only the conditions favorable to himself.
In the Way of Heaven,
there is no partiality of love;
it is always on the side of the good man.
I would so order it,
though there were individuals with the abilities of ten or a hundred men,
there should be no employment of them;
I would make the people,
while looking on death as a grievous thing,
yet not remove elsewhere (to avoid it).
Though they had boats and carriages,
they should have no occasion to ride in them;
though they had buff coats and sharp weapons,
they should have no occasion to don or use them.
I would make the people return to the use of knotted cords (instead of the written characters).
They should think their (coarse) food sweet;
their (plain) clothes beautiful;
their (poor) dwellings places of rest;
and their common(simple) ways sources of enjoyment.
There should be a neighboring state within sight,
and the voices of the fowls and dogs should be heard all the way from it to us,
but I would make the people to old age,
even to death,
not have any intercourse with it.
fine words are not sincere.
Those who are skilled (in the Dao) do not dispute (about it);
the disputatious are not skilled in it.
Those who know (the Dao) are not extensively learned;
the extensively learned do not know it.
The sage does not accumulate (for himself).
The more that he expends for others,
the more does he possess of his own;
the more that he gives to others,
the more does he have himself.
With all the sharpness of the Way of Heaven,
it injures not;
with all the doing in the way of the sage he does not strive.