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Title: Dao De Jing
       A Minimalist Translation

Author: Lao Zi

Release Date: September 14, 2015 [EBook #49965]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK DAO DE JING ***




Produced by Bruce R. Linnell





Copyright (C) 2015 by Bruce R. Linnell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dao De Jing by Lao Zi

 

A Minimalist Translation

 

By Bruce R. Linnell, PhD

 

2015

 


Welcome to yet another translation of the Dao De Jing (DDJ), or Tao Te Ching in the old-fashioned spelling.  Why should you want to read this translation?  This version attempts to include an exact translation of every Chinese symbol in the original text, with as few added words and paraphrasing as possible.  This results in sentences which hopefully provide a more literal translation, but are bare and minimalist, sometimes awkward, and often doesn’t make sense.  You, the reader, will have to wrestle with some sentences, trying to wring out of them whatever meaning their author was trying to express 2300 years ago, instead of my simply telling you what I think they mean.  I also show you what words were translated exactly, what was interpreted, and what was added or left out, so you can see exactly how much the English translation has in common with the original Chinese.  I even point out alternative translations, so you can choose for yourself in some cases. 

 

Another difference is that while this translation is primarily based on the “Wang Bi” ancient manuscript (used by most translators), it presents some of the ideas from the earliest versions of the DDJ we have available, if those ideas are present in the majority of all the sources.

 

Finally, scholars have long speculated that different parts of the DDJ were written by different authors at different times.  By analyzing the symbols, phrases, and themes in each chapter, the chapters can be separated into at least three groups.  The appendix presents the chapters in these groups, so that the reader may better see the common themes each group focused on.

==============================================================

 

Who Wrote the DDJ and When?

 

There is a great deal of debate over these questions, enough to fill a book in their own right!  What follows is just a very brief introduction for the first-time reader who has no idea who “Lao Zi” was (please note that all dates are very approximate).

 

Although the author of the DDJ is always given as “Lao Zi” or “Lao Tsu” (old spelling), we have no historical proof of his existence.  A Chinese court historian named Sima Qian, who lived around 115 BCE, wrote a biography of Lao Zi (literally “old master”, unless Lao is a family name – in which case “master Lao”) that presents three different possible traditions, although the accuracy of any of them is doubtful.  The first says that Lao Zi was a contemporary of Confucius (500 BCE).  His family name was Li (“plum”), his given name was Er (“ear”), and he was posthumously called Dan (“long ear”). He was an official in the imperial archives, but when the Zhou dynasty began to decline, he decided to leave China.  When he reached the northwest border of China, the border guard asked him to write down his teachings, which resulted in a document of about 5000 characters in two sections.  Later in the same document, Sima Qian also speculates that Lao Zi may or may not have been Lao Dan (“old long ear”), an advisor to Duke Xian (370 BCE).  Finally, Sima Qian says that a man named Lao Laizi (“old returning master”) authored a Daoist book that had 15 parts, was born in the same province as Lao Zi, and also was a contemporary of Confucius.  These three accounts are further complicated by reported meetings between Confucius and someone called Lao Dan in various Confucian texts.

 

References to the DDJ by other ancient Chinese writers indicate that at least some parts of the DDJ were in existence by 300 BCE, and it was being referred to extensively by 250 BCE.  One linguistic analysis of the rhyme schemes indicates that it may have originated as early as 450 BCE, and if the DDJ contains the written version of earlier oral traditions, these rhymes may reflect its oldest origins (because rhymes are easier to memorize).  Other references and linguistic analyses place its beginnings around perhaps 375-325 BCE, and the earliest known written portions of it (described in the next section) date to about 300 BCE. 

 

So, some parts of the DDJ seem to have first appeared in written form between roughly 350-300 BCE, although its roots could be much older.  It certainly existed in some version of its finished form (roughly 5000 characters in 81 chapters) by 200 BCE. 

 

There is also debate on whether the text represents the work of mostly one author, or was added to by different authors over the course of about a century, or was later compiled from different traditions by one person. 

 

The most recent versions of the DDJ are separated into 81 chapters, and two major parts.  The first part, consisting of chapters 1-37, primarily discusses Dao, while chapters 38-81 primarily discuss De.  Ancient authors referring to the DDJ also speak of versions that are divided into 64, 68, or 72 chapters.

==============================================================

 

Different Versions of the DDJ

 

There are at least six different ancient sources of the text (all dates are approximate) :

 

“Guodian” (GUO) – discovered in 1993 and written around 300 BCE or slightly earlier, this version matches only about 31 chapters of the later versions of the DDJ, and its chapters are ordered completely differently than the later versions.  The Chinese symbols are so ancient that scholars disagree on what modern symbols they should correspond to, and there are occasional spots on the originals where the characters can no longer be read. 

 

“Mawangdui” (MWD) – discovered in 1973, there are two slightly different versions (“A” and “B”), obviously written by two different people, dating to about 200 BCE and 175 BCE respectively.  While all 81 chapters are present, both versions reverse the two major parts (“Dao” and “De”) compared to later versions.  In addition, the order of a few of the chapters within the parts is different, as is the order of some sections within the chapters!  The Chinese symbols are also so ancient that scholars disagree on what modern symbols they should correspond to, and there are many spots where the characters cannot be read. 

 

“Fu Yi” (FY) – Fu Yi was a scholar who lived around 600 CE and claimed that the version he presents and discusses was found in a grave that from his description could possibly be dated to around 200 BCE.

 

“Wang Bi” (WB) – written around 240 CE, this is the “standard” version that most translators use, although there are several slightly different variations of it.

 

“He Shang Gong” (HSG) – a legendary and possibly mythical person who may have lived around 170 BCE, but the work which presents and discusses the version of the DDJ associated with him is not mentioned by others until 300 CE.  Many scholars think this version was probably written closer to 300 CE and attributed to He Shang Gong to give it authority.  There are also many slightly different variations of this text available.

 

In comparing the six sources, it is easy to see the changes in philosophy of the early Daoists over the centuries.  In general, the three earliest versions (GUO, MWD/A, MWD/B) more-or-less agree with each other, the three later versions (FY, WB, HSG) more-or-less agree with each other (despite the tentative dating of FY to 200 BCE), the two groups are often slightly different from each other, and occasionally very different.  However, FY does sometimes agree with the three earlier versions.  Only the later versions contain the vast majority of criticisms of Confucianism, although even GUO has a few.

 

WB, HSG, and FY were chosen as sources for this translation mainly because their earliest manuscripts are complete, and the Chinese characters are “modern” enough that there is less doubt as to their meaning.  But there are occasional differences between them, so a 2/3 majority vote was used to determine which symbol to use.  This would result in a document which is essentially the same as WB, since WB and HSG are almost always the same.  However, in comparing all six sources (or fewer if the chapter is not in GUO, or the earlier symbols cannot be read), it becomes obvious that sometimes significant changes were made only in the most recent sources.  Thus a symbol was changed to the one used by the older sources if the majority of all available sources use the different symbol, and it adds to the understanding of the sentence.  In the case of a tie, the more recent symbol was used.  These rules were used for adding or deleting symbols as well.

==============================================================

The Translation Process

 

There are many reasons why translations differ, besides the problems inherent in translating from a language where : each symbol represents a word that has multiple (sometimes very different) meanings; tenses, articles, and plurals are not indicated; and one symbol can represent either a noun or adjective, another a verb or adverb, another all four!

 

  1. What source is used : for WB and HSG, which version of what source; in the oldest sources, what modern symbols to use
  2. Accurately knowing all the possible English meanings for each symbol (and sometimes pairs of symbols), including changes in meaning over the millennia, and understanding ancient idioms
  3. Having to pick just one meaning for each symbol
  4. Organizing each sentence into something that makes sense, which is helped by understanding something of ancient Chinese grammar

 

The cultural background, knowledge, biases, beliefs, and agenda of the translator affect every step but the first.  “Agenda” refers to how the translator approaches the content of the DDJ : as a work of mysticism vs. philosophy vs. military strategy vs. advice to emperors, etc.

 

The goals for this translation were :

 

Individual symbols are interpreted only when they either don’t make as much sense literally, or the resulting sentence would be awkward in English.  In some cases, if a symbol means two English words that both seem to fit equally well, they are combined into one phrase, such as “heart/mind” for (see the next section), or which can mean “mystery”, “profound”, “deep”, or “dark”, and is consistently translated as “deep and mysterious” or “deep mystery”, depending on the context.

 

The above goals hopefully help minimize, but cannot eliminate, translator bias.  The problem is that each Chinese symbol still has several meanings, and the translator must pick just one for each symbol (step 3) to create an English sentence that makes sense (step 4).  It is impossible to avoid translator bias here because the translator must choose what makes sense or feels right to them, in both word meanings and overall grammar.

 

For example, there is a line in chapter 58 :  where can mean “good fortune” or “happiness” and can mean “misfortune” or “disaster”, but by reflection with could also be interpreted as “unhappiness”.  can mean “lean on”, “rely on”, or “depend on”, so all of these are valid translations :

Misfortune is that which good fortune leans on.

Misfortune is that which good fortune relies on.

Misfortune is that which good fortune depends on.

Unhappiness is that which happiness leans on.

Unhappiness is that which happiness relies on.

Unhappiness is that which happiness depends on.

 

Beyond the differences between using “fortune” (less personal : what happens to you) versus “happiness” (more personal : how you feel), there are also subtle differences : saying that one “relies” on the other is different than saying that they mutually support each other (as possibly indicated by the sentence following this one, not shown here).   

 

Unlike the previous example, where the different translations for each symbol are more-or-less related, sometimes the choice the translator makes can affect the overall meaning or even the emotional impact of the sentence.  In chapter 20, there is a line : in which the last symbol can be variously translated into :

I alone seem lost.                   

I alone seem to have lost everything.

I alone seem to have been left behind.          

I alone seem to be forgotten.

Each of which says a completely different thing.

 

And in chapter 46, there is a line : where the first symbol can mean any of : “sin”, “crime”, “vice”, or “fault”, so (ignoring options for the other symbols), all of these are valid :

There is no sin greater than the capacity for desire.

There is no crime greater than the capacity for desire.

There is no vice greater than the capacity for desire.

There is no fault greater than the capacity for desire.

“Sin” of course has very negative religious connotations in the West, while “crime” and “vice” also have stronger negative associations than “fault”. 

 

But there are other, even more significant ways in which the translator’s choices affect the result.  Because of the many (sometimes unrelated) possible meanings of each Chinese symbol, it is possible to come up with multiple translations of the exact same sentence that are completely different in meaning!  For example, in chapter 41, there is a line : where can mean both “region” and “square”, while can be “border” or “corner”, so both of these are valid translations :

The greatest region is without borders.

The greatest square is without corners.

 

And in chapter 45 : where can be “skillful” or “clever”, and can mean “stupid” or “clumsy”, both of these are equally likely :

Great skillfulness seems clumsy.

Great cleverness seems stupid.

 

Finally, even when there is no ambiguity about the meaning of the individual symbols, it sometimes hard to determine what overall meaning was intended.  From chapter 35, there is a line : in which the first four symbols literally mean “words of Dao”, but does this mean “talking about Dao” or “the words that come out of Dao”?  It can be argued both ways due to subtleties in the meanings of the symbols, but there is a tremendous difference in meaning between the two translations.

 

In addition, there are a few symbols whose modern English meanings just don’t make sense within the context of the sentence, probably due either to transcription errors or changes in meaning over the millennia.  The English words used for these symbols are usually selected according to context.

 

==============================================================

 

Common Terms

 

Because the translation itself is meant to involve minimal interpretation and explanation, some of the words and phrases that are used repeatedly need to be discussed beforehand for clarity.  Keep in mind that volumes have been written about some of these concepts – these are just brief summaries for the reader new to Daoism.

 

Dao : most often translated as the “way”; according to various passages in the DDJ, Dao appears to be the way of nature (or the universe), the process of being in harmony with that way, the source that creates and nourishes all things, and absolute ultimate reality itself (and according to the opening lines of the first chapter, this description is completely inadequate); it is left untranslated so that readers may “fill in the blank” for themselves as they read; “the Dao” is used as little as possible because in English that implies that Dao is more of a thing than a process; Dao is sometimes referred to as “it” to avoid awkward grammar (or if it was written that way in the original Chinese), but do not think of Dao as a noun (just for fun sometime, try reading “Dao” as “Daoing”…); one exception is when “Dao of” is used (for example, “the Dao of heaven”) – this seems to be literally referring to the way heaven does things, so it is translated as “the Way of heaven”, but “Way” is capitalized to remind the reader that this is also Dao; similarly, “this Dao” seems to be referring more to “this way (of following Dao), and is translated “this Way”

 

De : most often translated as “virtue”, “integrity”, or “(inner) power”, De is described in chapter 49 as “goodness” or “virtue” and “honesty” or “trust”; De might be infused into things when they are created by/from Dao, or something that develops when Dao is fully expressed through a person; De seems to be both the quality of being virtuous and the power that comes from being virtuous, so it might best be thought of as “the power of one’s virtue” or “the power from one’s integrity”, but it is also left untranslated so that readers may “fill in the blank” for themselves as they read

 

“heaven” : a complex concept, this symbol seems to have connotations of the sky, nature (including people and societies), that which controls our destinies, as well as possibly that of a celestial god-like spirit (and/or perhaps ancestral spirits)

 

“heaven and earth” : everything, the universe, all that is

 

“the world” : literally “heaven under”, it is perhaps better thought of as “all things under heaven”; it is left as “the world” because the English grammar sometimes gets awkward using the more accurate phrase; some translate it as “the empire”, which gives the entire document a much more imperialistic and militaristic slant

 

“ten thousand creatures” : “ten thousand” as used here does not refer to a specific number, but means “innumerable” or “myriad”; together the symbols are perhaps better thought of as “all creatures and things”

 

“sage” : literally “holy man”; in the DDJ, a sage is anyone who fully embodies and expresses Dao and De; as the ruling class would have been one of the few literate groups in ancient Chinese culture reading the DDJ, it seems possible that references to the way the sage does things could have also been a subtle way of saying “this is what a wise ruler would do” (especially in chapters like 5, 57, and 66, where the sage seems to be the ruler)

 

“ever-constant” : while this is often translated as “eternal”, it probably had more of a sense of “constant” or “permanent” in ancient China; unfortunately “constant” doesn’t imply the enduring nature of “permanent”, nor does “permanent” imply the unchanging quality of “constant”, so “ever-constant” is used here

 

“heart/mind” : usually translated as either “heart” or “mind” (the symbol means both), “heart/mind” seems to be the best translation

 

“naturally so” : this has the connotation of something that happens spontaneously, without being forced (“of itself”, “of its own accord”, “on its own”); Dao is “naturally so”, and although the DDJ does not say so explicitly, presumably the sage acts “naturally so” as well

 

“uncarved block” (of wood) : just as a block of wood can be carved into virtually anything, in the DDJ the “uncarved block” represents the limitless undefined potential of our original nature

 

“non-action” : not passivity or lack of action, but spontaneous action taken at the proper time according to the situation

 

“non-interference” : to change the natural order of things as little as possible in achieving your goals

 

“without-knowledge” : not an absence of knowledge, but a kind of understanding that does not resort to pre-conceived ideas or rules

“without-name” : a reminder that things, concepts, and experiences are far more than the names we give them and ultimately cannot be described with words (in contrast to the Confucians, whose goal was to find the “correct name” for everything)

 

“without-desire” : not a total lack of desire, but desires that do not control us or our happiness; a sort of spontaneous, unattached desire

 

or “non-being” : the nameless absolute that is the source of all existence (“being”)

 

“strive” : to struggle or make vigorous effort to achieve something, perhaps competing against others to get it; the opposite of non-action

 

“yin” : the feminine principle; receptive, yielding, dark, cool, soft

 

“yang” : the masculine principle; aggressive, active, light, warm, hard

 

“qi” (ch’i, chi) : vitality, life energy, life force, vital energy

 

“virtue” : the traditional sense of moral virtue and  goodness

 

“stillness” : a mental/emotional stillness of the heart/mind

 

“valley” : the image of the valley is often used in the DDJ; a valley represents receptiveness (because it accepts all things that come into it), openness, and emptiness, and so is feminine in nature

 

“self” : often translated as “body” by others (it can mean either), it is my personal bias that this symbol seems to consistently refer to the sense-of-self, personality, or ego

 

or or or “returning” : the DDJ uses four different symbols to refer to the concept of returning, and it is used many times; beyond the everyday meaning, in the DDJ creatures and people often return to their source, true nature, or original state of pure and unformed potential; sometimes they just “return”, and from where or to where is not specified

 

“insight” : an intuitive, without-knowledge, understanding of what is; this is another personal bias – while the literal translations include “wise”, “clear”, “understanding”, “perceptive”, and “sight”, it seems that this symbol can be consistently interpreted as “insight” (which is in agreement with the literal translations); in addition, it is variously translated by other modern translators as “enlightenment” and even “insight”

 

“duties” : one’s personal and business affairs, responsibilities, etc.

 

“I” : on the rare occasions this is used, think of this as someone who is a sage-like Daoist rather than merely “the author”

 

“100 families” : in ancient times this phrase referred to the entire ruling class

 

“scholar” : around the time of the DDJ, this referred to the elite “intellectual” class of  Chinese society, the teachers and philosophers (Confucius would have been considered a scholar)

 

“ruler”, “king”, etc. : there are many symbols and euphemisms for various members of the nobility (“nobles”, “superiors”, “master of the people”, “son of heaven”, “master of 10,000 chariots”, etc.)

 

“high rank” : any position of power or admiration

 

While the DDJ is over 2000 years old, its wisdom is still applicable today, but don’t be fooled by the ancient wording!   “King” could today apply to anyone who runs things, manages others, or leads any kind of group (from the nation’s leader to a corporation CEO to…your boss), and “high rank” could apply to government officials, billionaires, or even movie stars.

 

 

There are also many Confucian terms used in the DDJ :

 

“kindness” : being benevolent, kindhearted, humane
“righteousness” (translated as “morality” to avoid religious associations) : having a sense of justice, doing

     the right thing, being morally upright

“propriety” : ritual courtesy and formality; proper etiquette
“wise”, “wisdom” : as it says
“truth”, “trust”, “honest” : as it says
“loyalty” : as it says
“courage”, “brave” : as it says

“honorable” : having a sense of honor or integrity; incorruptibility

“filial piety” (translated as “devoted children”) : respect your elders and parents, duty to your parents, care

     for the elderly
“compassion” : benevolence, mercy; as specifically applied to parents’ attitude towards their children, this is

     translated as “loving parents”

“noble man” : literally “son of the ruler”, this can mean “nobleman” (one who belongs to the nobility),

     but is also a Confucian term that means one who is noble or moral in character and embodies the above

     qualities; sometimes translated by others as “gentleman” or “superior man”

 

 

Many symbols in the DDJ are used to provide emphasis (similar to an exclamation point in English), and can either come at the end of a sentence or can be used to emphasize a word or phrase in the middle of a sentence.  Many translators ignore these latter symbols entirely, while others preface the emphasized word with “so…”, “such…”, “very…”, “oh,…”, etc.  Here, an exclamation point is used immediately after the word, but then the sentence continues on.  One symbol in particular implies that what precedes it is not only true but has always been true, which is translated as “indeed!”

 

==============================================================

References

 

Introduction : 

Laozi, by Alan Chan; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2009/entries/laozi/; 2009

 

Translations :

Dao De Jing : A Philosophical Translation, by Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall; Ballantine, New York;

2003 (note that this is a translation of the MWD sources)

Lao Zi zhi Dao De Jing : Two Literal English Translations, by Bradford Hatcher;

http://www.hermetica.info/LaoziA.htm; 2005

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, by D.C. Lau; Penguin Books, London; 1963 (this is a reasonably literal

translation, with minimal interpretation; note that his 1994 book is an MWD translation)

The Way and Its Power, by Arthur Waley; Grove Press, New York; 1958

These were mostly used for their own explanations of the more difficult passages and ancient Chinese idioms, but were sometimes used for comparison during the translation process.

 

 

Ancient Chinese Sources :

Comparisons of Chinese Versions, by Nina Carerra; http://www.daoisopen.com/Comparisons.html;

2005

These charts were used to compare the symbols between all sources, and for end-of-sentence and end-of-chapter markers.  I personally verified the WB symbols in these charts against several different references.

 

 


Key to Notations

Symbols used for the translation

 

• = end-of-line character appears in some source

 

(•) = symbol usually starts or ends a line

 

 

 

Of the 6 ancient sources (see Introduction), this translation uses WB except where the majority of the other sources disagree with it.  The notations for these changes are :

 

( ) = WB symbol has been changed

 

__ = WB symbol has been deleted

 

[  ] = symbol not in WB has been added

 

The final English translation

 

Sections separated by blank lines are the opinion of the translator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raw translation

underline = verbatim translation

 

italics = interpreted translation; exact translation is to the far right in [brackets]

 

underlined italics = combined literal meanings from one symbol

 

underline2 or italics2 or underlined italics2 =

2 symbols used to provide translation

 

{word} = equally likely translation of single symbol

[word] = symbol left out for grammatical clarity

[word] = word added for clarity that significantly

               influences the meaning of the sentence

 

word* = Confucian concept

word° = untranslatable; word is chosen for consistency

 

= all symbols in the sentence are the same in all or all but one of the sources (sentence is identical or essentially identical across all sources); this does not account for different symbols with the same meaning!

Footnotes and cross-references

 

Differences between the sources are sometimes noted, but not every difference is noted.

 

Footnotes in italics provide my own possible interpretations of the more difficult passages, which you may certainly ignore!

 


Chapter One

(•)

The Dao that can be spoken of is not the ever-constant Dao.

The name that can be named is not the ever-constant name.

That which is without-name is the beginning of heaven and

      earth.

That which possesses a name is the mother of the ten

      thousand creatures.

 

Therefore : always without-desire, thus you observe its

      subtle mystery.

Always possessing desires, thus you observe its external

      appearances.

These two, they arise from the same source but have

      different names;

This sameness is called their deep mystery.

 

Deep mysteries, and again deep mysteries –

The gateway of many subtle mysteries.

♦The Dao that can be spoken of is not the ever-constant

      Dao.

♦The name that can be named is not the ever-constant

      name.

[That which] is without-name is the beginning of heaven

      and earth.A

♦[That which] possesses a name is the mother of the

      ten thousand creatures.

Therefore : always without-desire, thus you observe its

      subtle mystery.

Always possessing desires, thus you observe its

      external appearances.                    [boundary,surface]

These two, they arise from the same [source]B but have

      different names;

This sameness is called their deep mystery.

Deep mysteries, [à] and again deep mysteries

The gateway of many subtle mysteries.

Notes :

A : this line and the next may just as likely be translated as

            Non-being is named as the beginning of heaven and

                  earth.

            Being is named as the mother of the ten thousand

                  creatures

either way, compare to #40, where the world and the ten thousand creatures are created from being

B : literally, “they have the same arising

 

Cross-references :

without-name : #32, #37, #41

mother : #20, #25, #52, #59

always/ever-constantly without X : #32, #34, #37

without-desire : #3, #34, #37, #57

mystery : #6, #10, #15, #27, #51, #56, #62, #65

      mysterious sameness : #56

gateway : #6, #10, #52, #56

 

 

Chapter Two

•        

(•)

•      

__ () •

(•)

In the world, when all know that the action of beauty is

      beautiful, then ugliness ensues.

When all know that the action of good is goodness, then

      not-good ensues.                   

 

Therefore : being and non-being create each other,

Difficult and easy complete each other,

Long and short contrast each other,

High and low lean on each other,

Tone and voice harmonize each other,

Before and after follow each other.

 

Thus the sage :

Lives by using non-action in his duties,

And practicing no-talking in his teachings.

 

The ten thousand creatures arise, but do not have a

      beginning.

Creating but not possessing;

Acting, but not concerned with the results;

Accomplishing tasks, but not dwelling on them.         

 

Now : only because there is no dwelling,

Thus the results do not depart.

 

In the world2, when all know that the action of beauty is

      beautiful, then ugliness°{evil} ensues.                                                                         [thereafter,afterwards]

When all know that the action of good is goodness, then

      not-good ensues.                       [thereafter,afterwards]

Therefore : being and non-being create each other,A

Difficult and easy complete each other,

Long{lasting} and short{brief} contrastB each other,                                                             [forever] [compare]

High{above} and low{below} lean on each other,C

Tone and voice{sound} harmonize each other,

Before{front} and after{back} follow each other.

Thus2 the sage2 :

Lives by [using] non-action in his duties,

And practicing no-talking in his teachings.             [performs]

The ten thousand creatures arise, but do not have a

      beginning.

Creating but not possessing;D

Acting, but not concerned with [the results];                                                                    [depend upon,rely upon]

Accomplishing tasks, but not dwelling on them.                                                                             [results,achievements]

Now : only because there is no dwelling,

Thus2 [the results] do not depart.

Notes

A : compare to #40, where non-being creates being

B : FY, MWD, and GUO all have different words here (for

example : “shape”, “form”, “mold”, etc.)

C : compare to #39, where low is the foundation of high

D : this line is missing in the earliest three sources; there is no indication in the original Chinese as to whether it is the sage or the creatures that are the ones acting in this and the following lines, so it is left ambiguous here as well

 

Cross-references

beauty and ugly : #20

non-being : #40, #43

tone and voice/sound (same symbol) : #41

non-action : #3, #37, #38, #43, #48, #57, #63, #64

      sage practices non-action : #43

teaching : #27, #42, #43

      no-talking in his teachings : #43

creates but does not possess : #10, #51

acting but not concerned : #10, #51, #77

accomplishing tasks : #9, #17, #34, #77

      and not dwelling on them : #9, #77

 


Chapter Three

使

使

使

使

使 __ •

[(•)] •

Not honoring those who are esteemable

Ensures that the citizens do not strive.

Not valuing rare goods

Ensures that the citizens do not act like thieves.

Not showing that which can be desired

Ensures that the citizens’ heart/minds do not become

      confused.

 

Thus the governing of the sage

Empties their heart/minds, fills their stomachs,

Weakens their ambitions, strengthens their bones.

 

By always ensuring that the citizens are

      without-knowledge and without-desire,

Those who make men wise will not dare to act.

 

Act with non-action, then all will be governed!

Not honoring [those who are] esteemable

                                                             [virtuous,talented]

Ensures that the citizens do not strive.                      [cause,make]

Not valuing rare2 [à] goods  

Ensures that the citizens do not act like thieves.           

                                                                     [cause,make]

Not showing [that which] can be desired

Ensures that the citizensheart/minds do not become

      confused.                                                [cause,make]

Thus2 the governing of the sage2

Empties their heart/mindsAfills° their stomachs,

Weakens their ambitions, strengthens their bones.

♦By always ensuring that the citizens are

            without-knowledge and without-desire,                   

                                                                     [cause,make]

Those who make men wise*B will not dare to act.

Act with non-action, then all2 will be governed !

Notes

A : presumably of striving, greed, and confusion

B : presumably referring to Confucians; earlier sources use the non-Confucian term “knowledgeable” instead of  “wise”

 

Cross-references

no striving : #8, #22, #66, #68, #73, #81

rare goods : #12, #64

without-desire : #1, #34, #37, #57

weak : #29, #36, #40, #55, #76, #78

strong : #29, #30, #33, #36, #52, #55, #67, #78

not daring to act : #64, #67, #69

non-action : #2, #37, #38, #43, #48, #57, #63, #64

act with non-action : #63

anti-Confucian : #18, #19, #27, #33, #38

 

Chapter Four

  () ()

• 

 

Dao is like a cup or bowl, yet use it and there exists no

      need to fill it.

Profound and deep!, it appears to be the ancestor of the ten

      thousand creatures.

 

It blunts their sharpness,

Loosens their tangles,

Softens their brightness,

Makes them the same as the dust of the world.

 

Deep and profound!, it seems to barely exist.

I do not know whose child it is –

Its image came before that of god.

Dao is like a cup or bowlA, yet use it and there exists no

      [need to] fill it.

Profound and deep !, it appears to be the ancestor of the

      ten thousand creatures.

It blunts their sharpness,                                  [dampens,subdues]

Loosens their tangles,B

Softens their brightness,C

♦Makes them the same as the dust of the world D.

Deep and profound !, it seems to barely exist.E                                                                             [might,maybe,perhaps]

I do not know whose [à] child it is –

♦Its image came before that of god{emperor}.

Notes

A : while the symbol used here only appears in one out of four sources, it gives the most straightforward translation;

Dao is like a cup in that its usefulness is in its emptiness (see #11 and #25)

B : this line could just as likely be translated as

            Clarifies their confusion

C : compare to #58, where the sage is bright but does not dazzle

D : according to Waley, “dust” is a metaphor for the “noise and fuss of everyday life”

E : compare to #6, where the spirit of the valley also “seems to exist”

 

Cross-references

use does not exhaust : #5, #35

blunt the sharpness : #56

loosen the tangles : #56

soften the brightness : #56

dust of the world : #56

 

Chapter Five

(•)

Heaven and earth are not kind –

Thus the ten thousand creatures become as straw dogs to

      them.

The sage is not kind –

Thus the 100 families become as straw dogs to him.

 

The space between heaven and earth,

How is it just like a bellows or flute?

It is empty, yet does not run out.

The more it moves, and the more it produces.

 

Too much talking is exceptionally exhausting,

Which is not as good as maintaining what is within.

Heaven and earth are not kind* –

Thus the ten thousand creatures become as straw dogsA to

      them.

♦The sage2 is not kind* –

Thus the 100 families become as straw dogs to him.

The space between [à] heaven and earth,

[How] is it just like a bellows or flute ?

♦It is empty, yet does not run out.                                                                   [subdue,submit,yieldàgive up,quit]

The more it moves, and the more it produces.

Too much talking is exceptionally exhausting,

Which is not as good as maintaining what is within.B

Notes

Only lines 5-8 are in GUO

A : Hall&Ames describe “straw dogs” as items that were carefully created for a sacrificial ritual, and treated with great respect during the ritual, but afterwards were casually tossed away and not given another thought

B : this sentence could just as likely end with “maintaining your center

 

Cross-references

100 families : #17, #49

use does not exhaust : #4, #35

 

Chapter Six

()

The spirit of the valley does not die –

It is called the deep and mysterious feminine.

 

The gateway of this deep and mysterious feminine – 

It is called the source of heaven and earth.

 

Unbroken, it seems to exist.

Using it takes no effort.

♦The spirit of the valley does not dieA

It is called the deep and mysterious feminine.

The gateway of this deep and mysterious feminine – 

It is called the source of heaven and earth.

Unbroken2, it seems to exist.B

Using it takes no effort.                       [diligence,hard work]

Notes

A :  the qualities (“spirit”) of a valley (receptiveness, openness, emptiness) never leave it

B : compare to #4, where Dao also “seems to barely exist”

 

Cross-references

die/death : #33, #42, #50, #67, #74, #75, #76, #80

valley : #15, #28, #32, #39, #41, #66

mystery : #1, #10, #15, #27, #51, #56, #62, #65

feminine : #10, #28, #61

gateway : #1, #10, #52, #56

 

Chapter Seven

(•)

(•) •

(•)

Heaven is eternal, earth is enduring.                           

The reason that heaven and earth can be eternal and

      enduring

Is because they do not live for themselves.

Therefore they can live forever.         

 

Thus the sage :

Puts his self behind others, yet finds his self before them.

Considers his self extraneous, yet his self survives.

 

Is this not because he has no self-interests?

Therefore he can achieve his self-interests.

Heaven is eternal, earth is enduring.                                                                            [forever] [for a long time]

♦The reason that2 heaven and earth can be eternal and

      enduring [entities]      [forever] [also] [for a long time]

♦Is because they do not live for themselves.A

Therefore they can live forever.       

Thus2 the sage2 :

Puts his self behind others, yet finds his self before them.B

Considers his self extraneous, yet his self survives.                                                                   [foreign,external]

Is this not because he has no self-interests ?        [selfish]

Therefore he can achieve his self-interests.       [selfish]

Notes

A : while this translation is more consistent with the sentiments that follow it, an equally possible translation is

     Is because they do not give themselves life

B : presumably meaning leading them; this line and the next are written in this awkward manner to emphasize that it is the personality or sense-of-self that is being talked about (in the translator’s opinion – see the Introduction and cross-references below)

 

Cross-references

self : #9, #13, #16, #26, #44, #52, #54, #66

before/behind others : #66, #67

 

Chapter Eight

[(•)] •

(•)

(•)

The highest virtue is like water –

Water’s virtue benefits the ten thousand creatures, yet it

      does not strive.

It dwells in places that everyone detests,

Therefore it is almost comparable to Dao!

 

In dwelling, the virtue is in the land.

In your heart/mind, the virtue is in being profound and

      deep.

In relations, the virtue is in being kind.

In speech, the virtue is in being truthful.

In governing, the virtue is in being honest and just.

In your duties, the virtue is in being competent.

In action, the virtue is in the timing.

 

Now : only because there is no striving,

Therefore there is no blame.

The highest virtue is like water

Water’s virtue benefits the ten thousand creatures, yet it

      does not strive.

It dwells in places that everyone2 detests,

Therefore it is almost comparable to Dao !

In dwelling, the virtue is in the landA.

♦In your heart/mind, the virtue is in being

      profound and deep.

In relations, the virtue is in being kind*.         B                                                              [getting along with,participating]

In speech, the virtue is in being truthful*.

♦In governing, the virtue is in being honest and just.

♦In your duties, the virtue is in being competent.

♦In action, the virtue is in the timing.

Now : only because there is no striving,

Therefore there is no blame.

Notes

A : although it is best translated as “land” here, this is the same symbol for earth, as in “heaven and earth”

B : this could also be translated as

            In giving, the virtue is in being kind

FY, MWD/A, and MWD/B all have differences in this sentence compared to WB and HSG and each other

 

Cross-references

be honest and just in governing : #57

no striving : #3, #22, #66, #68, #73, #81

      only because there is no striving : #22

 

 

Chapter Nine

()

滿

退

Holding and filling it

Are not as good as your stopping short.

 

Hammering and sharpening it

Can not be forever maintained.

 

When gold and jade fill a room,

There is no one who can protect it.

 

To have wealth and high rank, but with arrogance –

Then naturally their loss is your own fault.

 

When the task is successful, the self should let go of it.        

This is the Way of heaven.

Holding and filling itA

Are not as good as your stopping [short].                  [his]

Hammering° and sharpening itB

Can not be forever maintained.

When gold and jade fill a room,

There is no one who can protect it.                         [they]

To have wealth and high rank, but with arrogance{pride} –

Then naturally their loss is your own fault.                [his]

When the task is successful, the self should let go of it.                                   [result,achievement] [withdraw,step away]

♦This is the Way of heaven.

Notes

A : presumably, a cup; Lau says that this refers to a vessel in a temple that stood upright when empty but overturned when nearly full (thus you had to hold it to fill it up)

B : presumably, a sword or knife; you can only re-shape and re-sharpen it so many times

 

Cross-references

accomplishing tasks : #2, #17, #34, #77

      and not dwelling on them : #2, #77

self : #7, #13, #16, #26, #44, #52, #54, #66

Way of heaven : #47, #73, #77, #79, #81

 

Chapter Ten

(•)

(•) •

(•)

(•)

(•)

[] (•)

Carrying and managing a body while embracing the One,

Are you able to not separate them?

Concentrating your Qi to become soft,           

Are you able to be like a newborn infant?

Cleansing and clearing your deep and mysterious

      perception,

Are you able to be without blemish?

Loving the citizens and governing the nation,

Are you able to use non-action?

Opening and closing the gateway of heaven,

Are you able to serve as the feminine?

Attaining clear insight in all directions,                                   

Are you able to not use your knowledge?

 

Creating them and raising them,

Creating but not possessing,

Acting but not concerned with the results,

Leading yet not governing –

This is called deep and mysterious De.

Carrying and managing a body{soul} while embracing the

      One,

♦Are you able to not separateA them ?

Concentrating your Qi to become soft,                                                                                              [attain,bring about]

♦Are you able to [be like] a newborn infant2 ?

Cleansing and clearing your deep and mysterious

      perception,                        [remove,eliminate,wipe out]

Are you able to be without blemish ?

Loving the citizens and governing the nation,

Are you able to [use] non-action ?

Opening and closing the gateway of heaven,

♦Are you able to serve as the feminine ?

Attaining clear insight in all directions,                                                              [wise,sight] [four directions,all around]

Are you able to not use your knowledge ?

Creating them and raising them,

Creating but not possessing,

Acting but not concerned with [the results],B                                                                   [depend upon,rely upon]

Leading yet not governing

This is called deep and mysterious De.

Notes

A : that is,“keep from separating”

B : this line is not in the earlier sources

 

Cross-references

embracing the One : #22

Qi : #42, #55

soft : #36, #43, #52, #55, #76, #78

gateway : #1, #6, #52, #56

baby/infant/child : #20, #28, #49, #55

      newborn infant : #20, #28, #55

feminine : #6, #28, #61

creating but not possessing : #2, #51

acting but not concerned : #2, #51, #77

leading yet not governing : #51

mystery : #1, #6, #15, #27, #51, #56, #62, #65

deep and mysterious De : #51, #65

 

Chapter Eleven

(•)

Thirty spokes of a wheel share one hub;

In its emptiness exists the usefulness of the cart.

 

Mix water with clay thus making a vessel;

In its emptiness exists the usefulness of the vessel.

 

Cut out doors and windows thus making a room;       

In their emptiness exists the usefulness of the room.

 

Therefore : what exists thus makes a thing profitable;

Emptiness thus makes it useful.

Thirty2 spokes of a wheel share one hub;

In its emptiness exists the usefulness of the cart.    [just at]

Mix water with clay2 thus making a vessel;

In its emptiness exists the usefulness of the vessel.  [just at]

Cut out doors and windows thus making a room{house};                                                              [chisel,bore,pierce]

In their emptiness exists the usefulness of the

      room{house}.                                                 [just at]

Therefore : what exists thus makes a thing profitable;  [it]

Emptiness thus makes it useful.

Notes

 

Cross-references

 

 


Chapter Twelve

(•)

The five colors can make people’s eyes blind.

The five tones can make people’s ears deaf.

The five flavors can make people’s mouths dull.

Excessive hunting and horse racing can make people’s

      heart/minds become wild.  

Rare goods can make people’s behavior corrupt.       

 

Thus the sage :

Acts on what is inside, he does not act on what he sees.

Therefore he leaves that and chooses this.

♦The five colors [can] make people’s eyes blind.

The five tones [can] make people’s ears deaf.

The five flavors [can] make people’s mouths dull °.

Excessive hunting and horse racing [can] make people’s

      heart/minds become wild.           [hunt hunt] [gallop2]

Rare2 [à] goods [can] make people’s behavior corrupt.                                                           [undermine,harm,impede]

Thus2 the sage2 :

Acts on what is inside, he does not act on what he sees.A

Therefore he leaves thatB and chooses thisC.

Notes

Everything in the first five lines would have been enjoyed to excess only by the wealthy and the ruling class!

A : compare to #49, where the 100 families “follow their eyes”

B : presumably, acting on what he sees

C : presumably, acting on what is inside

 

Cross-references

rare goods : #3, #64

leaves that and chooses this : #38, #72

 

Chapter Thirteen

(•)

(•)

[] [(•)] •

[] [(•)] •

Favor and disgrace seem alarming.

High rank brings great suffering if you have a self.

 

What is meant by “favor and disgrace seem alarming”?

Favor makes you the inferior, so gaining it seems alarming.

Losing it also seems alarming.

This is what is meant by “favor and disgrace seem

      alarming”.

 

What is meant by “high rank brings great suffering if you

      have a self”?

I am the reason that I have great suffering, I who act like

      I have a self.

When I am without a self, how could I have suffering?

 

Therefore : he who is high ranking and uses his self to

      serve the world –

It seems he can thus be entrusted with the world!

He who is loving and uses his self to serve the world –

It seems he can thus be entrusted with the world!

Favor and disgrace seem alarming.

High rank brings great suffering if you have a self.

What is meant by “favor and disgrace seem alarming”?

Favor makes you the inferiorA, so gaining it seems

      alarming.

Losing it [also] seems alarming.

This is what is meant by “favor and disgrace seem

      alarming”.

What is meant by “high rank brings great suffering if you

      have a self”?

I am the reason that2 I have great suffering, I who act like

      I have a self.

When I am without a self, how could I have suffering?

Therefore : [he who] is high ranking and uses his self B to

      serve the world2

It seems he can thus be entrusted with the world2 !

♦[He who] is loving and uses his self to serve the world2

It seems he can thus be entrusted with the world2 !

Notes

A : Ames&Hall point out that “favor” here means something that is bestowed upon you by a superior at their whim, thus it emphasizes your inferiority to them; and since it could be taken away just as easily, merely gaining it is cause for “alarm” (worry, anxiety, etc.)

B : this is written in this awkward manner to emphasize that it is the personality or sense-of-self that is being talked about (in the translator’s opinion – see the Introduction and cross-references below)

 

Cross-references

self : #7, #9, #16, #26, #44, #52, #54, #66

serve the world : #39, #49

 

Chapter Fourteen

(•)

[ ]

[]

Look, it is not seen; its name is called elusive.

Listen, it is not heard; its name is called tenuous.

Grasp, it is not gotten; its name is called subtle and

      obscure.

These three things can not be investigated any further –

Therefore they blend and become one.

 

This one thing :

Its highest point is not bright;

Its lowest point is not dark.

Continuous and unending!, it can not be named;

It returns to non-existence.

It is called the form of that which is without-form;

The image of non-existence.

It is called confusing and indistinct.

Meet it and you do not see its beginning;

Follow it and you do not see its end.

 

Hold fast to the Way of the ancients

In order to master the present moment.

The ability to know the ancient beginning –

This is called the main principle of Dao.

Look, it is not seen; its name is called elusive°.

Listen, it is not heard; its name is called tenuous.        [rare]

Grasp, it is not gotten; its name is called

      subtle and obscure.

These three things can not be investigated any further –                                                                 [entities] [finer,closer]

Therefore they blend and become one.

This one thing :A                                                   [entity]

Its highest point is not bright;

Its lowest point is not dark.

Continuous and unending2 !, it can not be named;

♦It returns2 to non-existence.                          [thing-ness]

It is called the form of [that which] is without-form;

♦The image of non-existence.                         [thing-ness]

It is called confusing and indistinct.B

Meet it and you do not see its beginning;

Follow it and you do not see its end.                [back,rear]

Hold fast to the Way of the ancients

In order to master the present moment 3.                                                                 [control,manage] [present ’s existence]

The ability to know the ancient beginning

This is called the main principleC of Dao.           [discipline]

Notes

A : Only WB and HSG dropped this line

B : compare to #21, where Dao is also confusing and indistinct, and to #40, where Dao specifically “returns” and “weakens”

C : according to Waley, literally means “main thread” (as in “of the teaching”), so “principle” seems more appropriate than the modern definition of simply “discipline”

 

Cross-references

look, not seen and listen, not heard : #35

tenuous : #41

returning : #16, #19, #20, #22, #25, #28, #34, #40, #52,

                  #58, #60, #64, #65, #80

confusing and indistinct : #21

the ancients/elders : #15, #22, #38, #39, #62, #65, #68

 

Chapter Fifteen

(•)

(•)

() •

__

(•)

() [] [] __

The virtue of the ancients made they who were scholars

      subtle, mysterious, obscure, deep, and penetrating.

Their mysterious depths can not be understood.

 

Now : only because they can not be understood,

Therefore we try to emulate their appearance :

Hesitant!, as if crossing a winter stream.

Wary!, as if afraid of their neighbors all around.        

Respectful!, they are like a visiting guest.

Yielding!, like ice that is about to to break off.

Honest and genuine!, they are like the uncarved block.

Wide and open!, they are like a valley.

Unclear!, they are like muddy water.

 

Who can take muddy water and use stillness to slowly and

      gently make it pure and clear?

Who can take what is tranquil and use continual movement

      to slowly and gently bring it to life?

 

He who maintains this Way does not desire to be full.

Now : only because he is not full,

Thus he can be hidden and unfinished.

The virtue of the ancients made they who were scholars

      subtle, mysterious, obscure, deep, and penetrating4.

Their mysterious depths can not be understood.

Now : only because they can not be understood,

Therefore we try to emulate their appearance :                                                                                       [act like,become]

Hesitant !, as if crossing a winter stream.

Wary !, as if afraid of their neighbors all around.                                                                                            [scheming]

Respectful !, they are like a visiting guest.

Yielding° !, like ice that is about to to break off.                                                                                    [release,disperse]

Honest and genuine !, they are like the uncarved block.

Wide and open !, they are like a valley.

Unclear !, they are like muddy water.A            [confused,muddy]

Who can take muddy water and use stillness to

      slowly and gently make it pure and clearB?

Who can take what is tranquil and use continual movement

      to slowly and gently bring it to life?      [for a long time]

He who maintains this Way does not desire to be full.

Now : only because he is not full,

Thus2 he can be hidden and unfinished 2.             [not finish]

Notes

The last two lines are not present in GUO

A : in this sentence and the next, “muddy water” appears to be a metaphor for one’s state of mind, thus referring to churned-up thoughts and feelings

B : apparently referring to a purity and clarity of the heart/mind

 

Cross-references

the ancients/elders : #14, #22, #38, #39, #62, #65, #68

      virtue of the ancients : #65

scholar : #41, #68

mystery : #1, #6, #10, #27, #51, #56, #62, #65

fear/afraid : #17, #20, #72, #74

uncarved block : #19, #28, #32, #37, #57

valley : #6, #28, #32, #39, #41, #66

stillness : #16, #26, #37, #45, #57, #61

he who “possesses Dao” : #23, #24, #31, #65, #77

hidden : #41

 

Chapter Sixteen

[]

(•)

[]

•      

Attain the utmost emptiness.

Maintain a profound stillness.

 

The ten thousand creatures arise in unison,

And thus I observe their return.

Now : all the myriad creatures return to their source.

Returning to the source speaks of stillness.

Stillness is called returning to the natural order.

Returning to the natural order speaks of the ever-constant.

 

Knowing the ever-constant speaks of insight.

Not knowing the ever-constant is foolish and creates

      misfortune.

 

Knowing the ever-constant leads to tolerance.

Being tolerant leads to being just and unbiased.

Being just and unbiased leads to being kingly.

Being kingly leads to heaven.

Heaven leads to Dao.

Dao leads to what endures.

 

When the self disappears, there can be no danger.

Attain the utmost emptiness.

Maintain a profound stillness.          [sincere,devoted,true]

The ten thousand creatures arise in unison,                                                                   [together,simultaneously]

And thus I observe their return.

Now : all the myriad  creatures return2 to their source.                                                                                [multitudinous2]

Returning to the source speaks of stillness.

Stillness is called returning to the natural order.                                                                                  [order,destiny,fate]

Returning to the natural order speaks of the ever-constant.                                                          [order,destiny,fate]

Knowing the ever-constant speaks of insight.   [wise,sight]

Not knowing the ever-constant is foolish and creates

      misfortune.                  [arise,makes] [unfortunate,evil]

Knowing the ever-constant [leads to] tolerance.                                                               [allow,permit,forbear]

♦Being tolerant leads to being just and unbiased.                        [allow,permit,forbear] [thereupon,consequently]

♦Being just and unbiased leads to being kingly.                                                                          [thereupon,consequently]

♦Being kingly leads to heaven.               [thereupon,consequently]

Heaven leads to Dao.               [thereupon,consequently]

Dao leads to what endures.                                                               [thereupon,consequently] [for a long time]

♦When the self disappears, there can be no danger.

Notes

Only the first five lines of the entire chapter are present in GUO

 

Cross-references

stillness : #15, #26, #37, #45, #57, #61

returning : #14, #19, #20, #22, #25, #28, #34, #40, #52,

                  #58, #60, #64, #65, #80

knowing the ever-constant speaks of insight : #55

self : #7, #9, #13, #26, #44, #52, #54, #66

no danger : #25, #32, #44, #52

      when the self disappears, there can be no danger : #52

 

Chapter Seventeen

__

()

The existence of the best ruler is barely known to the

      people.

Next is one who they love and praise.

Next is one who they fear.

Next is one who they ridicule.

 

If the ruler does not trust enough, then he will not have

      anyone’s trust.

 

Thoughtful!, he values his words.

 

When tasks are accomplished and duties are successful,

The 100 families all say “we are naturally so”.

The existence of the best ruler2A [,he] is barely known [to

      the people].                          [highest superior] [below,inferior]

Next is one who they love and praise.                     [him]

Next is one who they fear.                                     [him]

Next is one who they ridicule.                                 [him]

If [the ruler] does not trust* enough, then he will not have

      anyone’s trust*.

Thoughtful !, he values his words.B                 [scheming]

When tasks are accomplished and duties are successful,                                                              [results,achievements]

The 100 families all saywe are naturally so2”.C

Notes

A :  literally means “highest superior”, which is also a euphemism for the emperor (and so is extrapolated to rulers in general)

B : in other words, he does not offer them lightly or often; this line is very difficult to translate, because WB uses a unique first symbol, while HSG&FY and GUO&MWD/B each use different symbols; however, the two earlier symbols can both mean “to scheme”, thus making a 4/5 majority in meaning; the rest of the sentence is so terse that it can be translated in numerous ways as well

C : under the proper rulership, everyone thinks everything just naturally works out right

 

Cross-references

fear/afraid : #15, #20, #72, #74

not trusting enough : #23

accomplishing tasks : #2, #9, #34, #77

100 families : #5, #49

naturally so : #23, #25, #51, #64

 

 

 

Chapter Eighteen

慧智

When the great Dao is abandoned,

There exists kindness and morality.

 

When intelligence and wisdom arise,

There exists a great deal of deception.

 

When the six relationships are not in harmony,

There exists devoted children and loving parents.

 

When the nation and the families are very confused,

There exists loyal officials.

When the great Dao is abandoned,

There exists kindness* and morality*.       [righteousness]

When intelligence and wisdom*A arise,

There exists a great deal of deceptionB.                       [false,fake]

When the six relationships*C are not in harmony,

There exists devoted children* and loving parents*.

When the nation and the families are very confused2,

There exists loyal* officials{ministers,subjects}.

Notes

By looking at all the sources, it is easy to see that this chapter grew more anti-Confucian over time!

A : the MWD texts use “knowledge” (a non-Confucian term) instead of “wisdom”; this whole sentence is absent in GUO

B : this symbol could also be interpreted as hypocrisy, pretense, lying, dishonesty, etc.

C : the six relationships refer to “all” the possible kinds of relationship in a family (in ancient China) : husband to wife, wife to husband, father to son, son to father, older brother to younger brother, younger brother to older brother

 

Cross-references

great Dao : #34, #53

nation and families : #57

anti-Confucian : #3, #19, #27, #33, #38

 

 

Chapter Nineteen

者以

(•)

Renounce sacredness, abandon wisdom,

And the citizens benefit 100-fold.

Renounce kindness, abandon morality,

And the citizens return to being devoted children and

      loving parents.

Renounce cleverness, abandon profit,

And thieves and bandits will not exist.

 

These three things thus make a civilized society, but are not

      enough.

 

Therefore : to ensure the citizens have a place to belong –

See the simplicity,

Embrace the concept of the uncarved block,

Less selfishness,

Fewer desires.

Renounce sacredness, abandon wisdom*,

♦And the citizens benefit 100-fold.

Renounce kindness*, abandon morality*,     [righteousness]

And the citizens return to being devoted children* and

      loving parents*.

Renounce cleverness, abandon profit,

And thieves and bandits{traitors} will not exist.

These three things thus make a civilized society, but are not

      enough.                       [entities] [formal,polite,culture]

Therefore : to ensure [the citizens] have a place to

      belongA –                                                [make,cause]

See the simplicity,

Embrace the [concept of the] uncarved block,

Less selfishness,

Fewer desires.

Notes

GUO is significantly different about what to renounce or abandon, and the results, and it uses no Confucian terms; as early as MWD/B and MWD/A some Confucian terms had appeared

A : perhaps meaning a place worth belonging to?

 

Cross-references

returning : #14, #16, #20, #22, #25, #28, #34, #40, #52,

                  #58, #60, #64, #65, #80

thieves and bandits : #57

uncarved block : #15, #28, #32, #37, #57

anti-Confucian : #3, #18, #27, #33, #38

 


Chapter Twenty

()

(•)

(•)

__

(•)

() (•)

(•)

() []

__

Renounce learning and be without worry.

 

“Yes” together with “yeah” –

What is their mutual distance or nearness?

Beautiful together with ugliness –

What is their mutual distance or similarity?

 

That which people fear, they are not able to not fear.

How ridiculous! They are not yet centered!

 

Everyone is very festive,

As if enjoying the Tai Lao sacrifice,

As if climbing terraces in the spring.

I alone am unmoved! –

Like one who has not yet given any sign,

Like a newborn infant who does not yet act like a baby.

Very tired and worn out!, as if without a place to return to.

 

Everyone all has more than they need;

I alone seem to have lost everything.

I have the heart/mind of a foolish person, indeed!!

I am very mixed up and confused!

 

Common people are very clear and bright;

I alone seem confused.

Common people are very observant and alert;

I alone am very gloomy and depressed.

Tranquil!, they are like the ocean;

I drift on the wind!, as if without a place to rest.

Everyone all has a purpose;
I alone am stupid and stubborn, and appear mean and

      shallow.

I alone am different compared to other people,

And value the food of the mother.

Renounce learning and be without worry.A

Yes” [à] together withyeahB

What is their mutual distance or nearness°?

Beautiful{good} [à] together with ugliness°{evil} –

What is their mutual distance or similarity?

That which people [they] fear, they are not able to not fear.

How ridiculous ! They are not yet centered !  

Everyone2 is [very] festive,                  [splendid,merry2]

As if enjoying the Tai Lao sacrificeC,

As if climbing terracesD in the spring.

I alone am unmoved ! –                                               [anchored]

Like one who has not yet given any sign,                              [his]

Like a newborn infant2 who does not yet [act like] a baby.                                                                       [him]

[Very] tired and worn out2 !, as if without a place to return

      to.

Everyone2 all has more than they need;    [surplus,excess]
I alone seem to have lost everything.                 [things lost]

I have the heart/mind of a foolish person, indeed! !

I am [very] mixed up and confused 2 !

Common people are [very] clear and bright 2;

I alone seemE confused.

Common people are [very] observant and alert 2;

I alone am [very] gloomy and depressed 2.

Tranquil !, they are like the ocean;

[I] drift [on the wind]F !, as if without a place to rest.

Everyone2 all has a purpose;                                  [use]
I alone am stupid and stubborn, and appear mean and

      shallow{rustic}.
I alone am different compared to other people,

And value the food of the mother.

Notes

This chapter seems to be the sage-like author poking fun at himself, describing how he appears to ordinary people who don’t understand him; the “very’s” scattered throughout the chapter are implied by repeated symbols; only the first 6 lines are present in GUO

A : many people over the centuries have suggested that this line should be the last in #19 for many good reasons; however, there is an explicit end-of-chapter marker in GUO at the end of #19 (which is not even followed by #20 in its  manuscript), so this line does indeed seem to belong here

B : formal versus informal, respectively

C : according to Lau, the Tai Lao sacrifice was a major feast where sheep, pigs, and ox were ritually sacrificed and eaten

D : in ancient China, terraces were man-made hills with paths cut into in their sides, leading up to a plateau at the top from which to view the surrounding landscape

E : only WB changed “seem” to “confused”, thus making “very confused”, keeping with all the other “very’s”

F : “drift” comes from HSG and FY (while they use different symbols, they have the same meaning, thus making a majority); the symbol in WB means “wind”, and so is incorporated into the added phrase; the “I” is added at the beginning to maintain the I/they alternation

 

Cross-references

beauty and ugly : #2

fear/afraid : #15, #17, #72, #74

baby/infant/child : #10, #28, #49, #55

      newborn infant : #10, #28, #55

returning : #14, #16, #19, #22, #25, #28, #34, #40, #52,

                  #58, #60, #64, #65, #80

observant and alert : #58

mother : #1, #25, #52, #59

 


Chapter Twenty One

()

() ()

() ()

() (•)

The greatest De is possible only when Dao is followed.

 

The action of Dao on creatures is just indistinct, just

      confusing.

Confusing! and indistinct!, within it exists image.

Indistinct! and confusing!, within it exists things.

Obscure! and dark!, within it exists essence.

Its essence is extremely real and true.

Within it exists truth.

 

From the present, reaching to antiquity,

Its name has not departed –

Thus I observe the father of the multitudes.

How do I thus know the father of the multitudes is like

      this?

By means of this.

 

♦The greatest De [it] is possible only when Dao is

      followed.                                      [allowed,permitted]

The action of Dao on creatures is just indistinct, just

      confusing.A                                                         [only] [only]

Confusing ! and indistinct !, within it exists image.

Indistinct ! and confusing !, within it exists things.

Obscure ! and dark !, within it exists essence.

Its essence is extremely real and true.

Within it exists truth*.

From the present, reaching to antiquity,                                                                                              [since] [ancient,old]

Its name has not departed

Thus I observe the father of the multitudes.                                                                            [examine,inspect]

How do I thus know the father of the multitudes [it] is

      like this ?

By means of thisB.

Notes

A : compare to #14, where something (presumably Dao) is also indistinct and confusing, and to #40, where Dao specifically “returns” and “weakens”

B : “this” could be referring to observing the action of Dao, or just observing the world in front of you, or to the teachings of the DDJ, or something else – you decide!

 

Cross-references

confusing and indistinct : #14

essence : #55

how do I thus know : #54, #57

by means of this : #54, #57

 

Chapter Twenty Two

[]

(•)

(•)   

(•) •

What is wrong then becomes whole and perfect.

What is bent then becomes straight.

What is hollow then becomes filled.

What is worn out then becomes new.

Have little, then gain.

Have too much, then become confused.

 

Thus the sage :

Embraces the One, thus serving as an example to the

      world –

He does not display himself, therefore he has insight.

Does not consider himself correct, therefore he

      distinguishes himself.

Does not boast about himself, therefore he possesses

      merit.

Does not brag about himself, therefore he endures.

 

Now : only because he does not strive,

Therefore no one in the world can strive against him.

 

That which the ancients say :

“He who is wrong then becomes whole and perfect” –

How can these be empty words?

Be truly whole and perfect, and return to it.

♦What is wrong{bent} then becomes whole and perfect.

What is bent then becomes straight.

♦What is hollow then becomes filled.

♦What is worn out then becomes new.

♦Have little, then gain.

♦Have too much, then become confused.

Thus2 the sage2 :

Embraces the One, thus serving as an example to the

      world2

He does not display himself, therefore he has insight.                                                            [show] [wise,sight]

Does not consider himself correct, therefore he

      distinguishes himself.       [manifest,displayàstand out]

♦Does not boast about himself, therefore he possesses

      merit.

Does not brag about himself, therefore he endures{leads}.                                                        [boast] [long,forever]

Now : only because he does not strive,

Therefore no one in the world2 can strive against him.                                                                              [together with]

That which the ancients [they] say :

He who is wrong{bent} then becomes

      whole and perfect” –

How can these be empty words ?

Be truly whole and perfect, and return to itA.

Notes

A : there is no indication what the “it” is referring to in the original Chinese, so you decide!  This symbol also means “them”, perhaps meaning “return to the ancients”?

 

Cross-references

embraces the One : #10

serves as an example to the world : #28

not displaying oneself (showing off) : #24, #47, #72, #77

display…insight : #24

correct…distinguishes : #24

boast : #24, #30

      boast…merit : #24

brag : #24, #30

      brag…endures : #24

no striving : #3, #8, #66, #68, #73, #81

      no one in the world can strive against him : #66

the ancients/elders : #14, #15, #38, #39, #62, #65, #68

returning : #14, #16, #19, #20, #25, #28, #34, #40, #52,

                  #58, #60, #64, #65, #80

 

 

Chapter Twenty Three

(•)

(•)

(•)

__

Minimal words are naturally so.

Therefore : strong winds do not last the entire morning,         

Sudden rains do not last the entire day.

 

Who makes these things?  Heaven and earth.

Even heaven and earth can not maintain them forever,

And so how much less can people?

 

Therefore : of those who engage in Dao –

He who Daos is one with Dao.

He who Des is one with De.   

He who loses is one with the loss.

 

For he who is one with Dao,      

Dao is also pleased to have him.         

For he who is one with De,     

De is also pleased to have him.           

For he who is one with loss,   

Loss is also pleased to have him.

 

If you do not trust enough, then you will not have

      anyone’s trust.

Minimal words are naturally so2.               [rare,infrequent]

Therefore : strong winds2 do not last the entire

      morning{day},                    [whirlwind,cyclone wind]

Sudden rains do not last the entire day.

Who makes these thingsHeaven and earth.     [entities]

Even heaven and earth can not maintain them forever,                                                                            [for a long time]

And so how much less can people ?                       [than]

Therefore : of those who engage2 in Dao

He who Daos is one with2 Dao.

                                            [same compared toàsame as]

He who Des is one with2 De.            [same compared to]

He who loses is one with2 the loss.      [same compared to]

For he who is one with2 Dao,              [same compared to]

Dao is also pleased to have him.                                  [gain,get]

For he who is one with2 De,                [same compared to]

De is also pleased to have him.A                                  [gain,get]

For he who is one with2 loss,              [same compared to]

Loss is also pleased to have him.                     [gain,get]

If you do not trust* enough, then you will not have

      anyone’s trust*.

Notes

A : this sentence and the next are very different across the sources, and the sentence before (about Dao) is not in the MWD’s

 

Cross-references

naturally so : #17, #25, #51, #64

he who “possesses Dao” : #15, #24, #31, #65, #77

not trusting enough : #17

 

Chapter Twenty Four

(•)

        

(•)

He who stands on tiptoe does not really stand.

He who stands astride can not travel.

He who displays himself does not have insight.

He who considers himself correct does not distinguish

      himself.    

He who boasts about himself is without merit.

He who brags about himself does not endure.

 

He who lives in Dao –
Calls these leftover food and unnecessary behavior.
Creatures detest them, no matter what.
Therefore : he who possesses Dao does not live by them.

 

He who stands on tiptoe does not [really] stand.
He who stands astride can not travel.

He who displays himself does not have insight.                                                                             [shows] [wise,sight]

He who considers himself correct does not distinguish

      himself.                          [manifest,displayàstand out]

He who boasts about himself is without merit.         

He who brags about himself does not endure{lead}.                                                                   [boasts] [long,forever]

He [who] lives in Dao  –
Calls these leftover foodA and unnecessary behavior.                                                                         [excess, remainder]

Creatures detest them, no matter what.
Therefore : he who possesses Dao does not live byB them.

Notes

A : presumably, the inedible scraps (not something good, as in “leftover turkey”)

B : there is some debate over the last symbol in this line – both FY and HSG use this symbol (making it a majority), and some WB versions also use it; other WB versions use , thus reading

            he who possesses Dao does not dwell with them

 

Cross-references

not displaying oneself (showing off) : #22, #47, #72, #77

      display…insight : #22

correct…distinguishes : #22

boast : #22, #30

      boast…merit : #22

brag : #22, #30

      brag…endure : #22

creatures detest them : #31

he who “possesses Dao” : #15, #23, #31, #65, #77

 

Chapter Twenty Five

(•)__

Something existed unformed yet complete,
Before heaven and earth were created.
Silent!  Empty!

Standing alone, not changing.
It circulates everywhere, and causes no danger.

It can be considered the mother of the world.

 

I do not know its name;

Its symbol is called Dao.
If I tried to make its name, I would call it great.
Being great speaks of departing.
Departing speaks of being remote.

Being remote speaks of returning.

 

Dao is great,

Heaven is great,
Earth is great,
The king is also great.
Within the realm exist four that are great,
And the king resides as one of them!

 

People follow the earth.
The earth follows heaven.
Heaven follows Dao.
Dao follows what is naturally so.

[Some]thing existed unformed yet complete,                                                        [mingled,blended,unstructured]
Before heaven and earth were created.
Silent ! Empty !

Standing alone, not changing.
It circulates everywhere2, and [causes]A no danger.    

It can be considered2 the mother of the world2.

I do not know its name;

Its symbol is called Dao.
If I tried to make its name, I would call it great.
Being great speaks of departing.
Departing speaks of being remote.

Being remote speaks of returning.

Dao is great,

Heaven is great,
Earth is great,
♦The king is also great.
Within the realm exist four that are great,  [region,territory]
And the king resides as one of them !

People followB the earth.
♦The earth follows heaven.
Heaven follows Dao.
Dao follows what is naturally so2.

Notes

A : “is in” could also be used here, but as the subject is Dao, this seems unlikely; this sentence is not in the three earliest  sources

B : “follow” as in “emulates” or “uses as a model for their own behavior”

 

Cross-references

no danger : #16, #32, #44, #52

mother : #1, #20, #52, #59

      mother of the world : #52

returning : #14, #16, #19, #20, #22, #28, #34, #40, #52,

                  #58, #60, #64, #65, #80

remote : #65

      remote and returning : #65

naturally so : #17, #23, #51, #64

 


Chapter Twenty Six

( )

[]

Serious serves as the source of frivolous.
Stillness serves as the ruler of restlessness.

Thus the noble man travels the entire day,

And does not stray from his wagon.

He is serious, even though glorious sights and feasts exist;

He lives above them, like this.

So how could one be the master of ten thousand chariots,

And conduct his self frivolously in the world?    

 

Be frivolous, then lose the source.
Be restless, then lose the rulership.

Serious{heavy} serves as the source of frivolous{light}.
Stillness serves as the ruler of restlessnessA.
Thus2 the noble man2*B travels the entire day,

And does not stray from his wagon.  [leave,depart,separate]

He is seriousC, even though glorious sights and feasts exist;

He lives above them, like thisD.          [transcend,jump over]
[So] how2 could [one be] the master of ten thousand

      chariots,E

And conduct his self F frivolously{lightly} in the world2?

                                                                                 [use]

Be frivolous{light}, then lose the source.
♦Be restless, then lose the rulership.

Notes

A : this symbol also means impatience, agitation, anxiety, etc; “stillness” and “restlessness” are presumably referring to inner, mental/emotional qualities

B : Only WB and HSG changed “noble man” to the non-Confucian term “sage”

C : traditionally, the first symbol of this sentence is considered to be the last symbol of the previous sentence (“heavy wagon”); but because the MWD’s have “fields” instead of “wagon” at the end of the previous sentence, and “heavy fields” makes no sense, it is parsed this way

D : presumably, by being serious and still

E : someone very important, such as the supreme ruler of a large nation (one with 10,000 chariots)

F : this is written in this awkward manner to emphasize that it is the personality or sense-of-self that is being talked about (in the translator’s opinion – see the Introduction and cross-references below)

 

Cross-references

stillness : #15, #16, #37, #45, #57, #61

      stillness and restlessness : #45

noble man : #31

self : #7, #9, #13, #16, #44, #52, #54, #66

 

Chapter Twenty Seven

•                  

(•)

A good traveler is without wagon track or footprint.

A good speaker is without flaw or disgrace.

A good accountant does not use counting tokens.

A good barrier is without bar or lock, yet can not be

      opened.

A good binding is without cord or restraint, yet can not be

      loosened.

 

Thus the sage :

Is always good at helping people,

Therefore he does not abandon people.          

Is always good at helping creatures,

Therefore he does not abandon creatures.

This is called following your insight.

 

Therefore : he who is a virtuous person is the teacher of he

      who is not a virtuous person.

He who is not a virtuous person is the resource of he who

      is a virtuous person.          

If the latter does not value his teacher,

Or the former does not love his resource,

Even if there is wisdom, there will be great confusion.

This is called the essential subtle mystery.

A good traveler is without [wagon] trackA or footprint.

A good speaker is without flaw{fault} or disgrace{blame}.

A good accountant does not use counting tokens2.                                                         [counter] [token method]

A good barrier is

 without bar or lock, yet can not be

      opened.                                     [obstruction,blockage]

A good binding is without cord or restraint, yet can not be

      loosened.

Thus2 the sage2 :

Is always good at helping people,

Therefore he does not abandon people.          

Is always good at helping creatures,

Therefore he does not abandon creatures.

This is called following your insight.                [wise,sight]

Therefore : he who is a virtuous person is the teacher of [he

      who] is not a virtuous person.

He who is not a virtuous person is the resource of [he who]

      is a virtuous person.                            [wealth,supply,support]

♦[If the latter] does not value his teacher,

♦[Or the former] does not love his resource,                                                                    [wealth,supply,support]

Even if there is wisdom*, there will be great confusion.

This is called the essential subtle mystery.

Notes

A: this symbol also has the connotation of “rut”, hence the track of a vehicle

 

Cross-references

one who is not virtuous : #49, #62, #81

teaching : #2, #42, #43

mystery : #1, #6, #10, #15, #51, #56, #62, #65

anti-Confucian : #3, #18, #19, #33, #38

 

Chapter Twenty Eight

谿

谿

        

(•)

Know your maleness, but maintain your femaleness.

Serve as a stream to the world.   

Serving as a stream to the world,

The ever-constant De will not depart,

Returning you to the state of the newborn infant.

 

Know your brightness, but maintain your darkness.

Serve as an example to the world.

Serving as an example to the world,

The ever-constant De will not falter,

Returning you to the state of the limitless.

 

Know your honor, but maintain your disgrace.

Serve as a valley to the world.

Serving as a valley to the world,

The ever-constant De will then be sufficient,

Returning you to the state of the uncarved block.

 

When the uncarved block is broken up, then it becomes

      tools.

When the sage uses it, then he becomes the senior

      government official.

Therefore : the greatest cutting does not divide.

Know your maleness, but maintain your femaleness.                                                                                  [his] [his]

Serve as a stream to the world2.

Serving as a stream to the world2,

The ever-constant De will not depart,

Returning2 you to [the state of the] newborn infant2.

Know your brightness, but maintain your darkness.                                                                            [his] [his]

Serve as an example to the world2.

Serving as an example to the world2,

The ever-constant De will not falter,                         [err]

Returning2 you to [the state of the] limitless2.               

                                                               [without highest]

Know your honor{glory}, but maintain your disgraceA.        

                                                                         [his] [his]

Serve as a valley to the world2.

Serving as a valley to the world2,

The ever-constant De will then be sufficient,

Returning2 you to [the state of the] uncarved block.

♦When the uncarved block is broken up, then it becomes

      tools.

When the sage2 uses itB, then he becomes the senior

      government official.                                                    [elder]

Therefore : the greatest cutting does not divide.C                                                                             [cut&make garments]

Notes

A : this could possibly be interpreted by reflection with “glory” as “humbleness” or “humility”, but it means “disgrace” everywhere else

B : by using “it”, this refers to the concept of the uncarved block; but the symbol also means “them”, which would refer to the tools

C : when the uncarved block is cut, it becomes (merely) tools; when the sage cuts, things are not divided up (see #58)

 

Cross-references

feminine : #6, #10, #61

returning : #14, #16, #19, #20, #22, #25, #34, #40, #52,

                  #58, #60, #64, #65, #80

De and returning : #60, #65

baby/infant/child : #10, #20, #49, #55

      newborn infant : #10, #20, #55

serve as an example to the world : #22

valley : #6, #15, #32, #39, #41, #66

uncarved block : #15, #19, #32, #37, #57

 

Chapter Twenty Nine

[(•)]

(•)

        

        

(•)

()

 

Would you take hold of the world and control it?           

I see you have no choice.

 

Now : the world is a divine vessel,

You can not control it (indeed!).

He who acts, ruins it;

He who grasps, loses it.

 

Therefore : creatures are

Sometimes active, sometimes passive,

Sometimes breathe heavy, sometimes breathe easy,

Sometimes strong, sometimes weak,

Sometimes oppressed, sometimes overthrown.

 

Thus the sage :

Removes the extremes,

Removes the extravagant and wasteful,

Removes the arrogance.

Would2 you take hold of the world2 and control it?                                                   [manage,handle,administer]

I see you have no choice3.                                       [he]

Now : the world2 is a divine vessel,                                                      [spiritual,supernatural,mystical,miraculous]

You can not control it (indeed!).                                                                                             [manage,handle,administer]

He who acts, ruins it;

He who grasps, loses it.

Therefore : creatures are

Sometimes active, sometimes passive,                                                  [might,maybe] [might,maybe] [submissive]

Sometimes breathing heavyA, sometimes breathing easy,B              [might,maybe] [snort] [might,maybe] [puff]

Sometimes strong, sometimes weak,                                                                         [might,maybe] [might,maybe]

Sometimes oppressed, sometimes overthrown.C                                                                  [might,maybe] [might,maybe]

Thus2 the sage2 :

Removes the extremes,

Removes the extravagant and wasteful,

Removes the arrogance{exalted}.

Notes

A : every source uses a different symbol here! 

B : it is hard to figure out what this sentence is trying to say (literally, “sometimes snort, sometimes blow” in WB);  and there is no concensus from the other sources, as they use

“exhale … blow”, “flatter … brag”, “breathe silently … breathe loudly”

C : other than WB and HSG, every source has a different pair in this line!

 

Cross-references

possess or take hold of the world or nation :

      #48, #57, #59, #61

have no choice : #30, #31

he who acts, ruins it : #64

he who grasps, loses it : #64

creatures sometimes X…Y : #42

strong : #3, #30, #33, #36, #52, #55, #67, #78

weak : #3, #36, #40, #55, #76, #78

 

Chapter Thirty

He who uses Dao to assist the master of the people

Does not use weapons or strength on the world,

For his troubles would likely return –

In the dwelling places of armies, thorns and brambles are

      produced,

And so what is left behind a great army must have a bad

      year.

 

He who has virtue gets results and stops.

He does not dare to take by using strength.

He gets results, but never brags.          

Gets results, but never boasts.

Gets results, but is not arrogant.

Gets results, but only when he has no choice.

Gets results, but never uses strength.

 

When creatures are robust but old,

This is called “not Dao”.

That which is “not Dao” has an early finish.

He who uses Dao to assist the master of the peopleA

Does not use weapons or strength on the world2,

♦For his troubles would likely return –                                                                               [be easy to,be liable to]

In the dwelling places of armies, thorns and brambles are

      produced,

And so what is [left] behind [à] a great army must have a

      bad year.B

He who has virtue gets results and stops.

He does not dare to take by using strength.

He gets results, but never brags.                                        [boast]

Gets results, but never boasts.

Gets results, but is not arrogant{proud}.

Gets results, but [only when he] has no choice3.

♦Gets results, but never uses strength.

♦When creatures are robust but old,

This is callednot Dao”.

[That which] is “not Dao” has an early finish.

Notes

The last 3 lines are not in GUO; several other lines are not in GUO or the MWD’s

A : presumably, an sage-like advisor to a ruler

B : presumably referring to harvests

 

Cross-references

strong : #3, #29, #33, #36, #52, #55, #67, #78

boast and brag :  #22, #24

have no choice : #29, #31

when creatures are robust but old : #55

“not Dao” has an early finish : #55

 

 


Chapter Thirty One

(•)

(•)

•     

__ __ () [(•)]

(•)

__ (•) •

[(•)]

[ ]

__

Now : fine weapons, they are not tools of good fortune.

Creatures detest them, no matter what.

Therefore : he who possesses Dao does not live by them.

When a noble man is in his dwelling, then he honors the

      left.

When he commands troops, then he honors the right.

 

Weapons, they are not tools of good fortune.

They are not the tools of a noble man.

When he has no choice but to use them,

To be calm and indifferent is superior –

Never pleased, indeed!

And he who is pleased enjoys killing people.

 

Now : he who enjoys killing people

Can not get what he desires from the world!

 

Therefore : in fortunate affairs honor the left,

In unfortunate affairs honor the right.

Thus the assistant general of the army resides on the left,

The supreme general of the army resides on the right.

 

Thus we say they are dwelling at a funeral :

When many people are killed,

Then mourn and weep with grief for them.

Victory in war thus means they will dwell at a funeral.

Now : fine weapons, they are not tools of good fortune.                                                                        [auspicious,lucky]

Creatures detest them, no matter what.

Therefore : he who possesses Dao does not live by them.

♦When a noble man2* is in his dwelling, then he honors

      the left.

♦When he commands troops2, then he honors the right.

Weapons, they are not tools of good fortune.                                                                          [auspicious,lucky]

They are not the tools of a noble man2*.

♦When he has no choice3 but to use them,

To be calm and indifferentA is superior

Never pleased, indeed!B

And he who is pleased [he] enjoys2 killing people.

                                                             [is happy,pleased]

Now : he who enjoys killing people          [happy,pleased]

Can2 not get what he desires from the world2 !                                                                                          [ambition,will]

Therefore : in fortunate affairs honor the left,

In unfortunate affairs honor the right.

Thus2 the assistant general2 of the army resides on the left,

♦The supreme general of the army resides on the right.                                                                  [highest,superior]

Thus we say they are dwelling at a funeral2C :

When many people are killed,

Then mourn and weep with grief 2 for them.           [thus]

Victory in war thus means they will dwell at a funeral2.

 

Notes

The first three lines are not in GUO

A : WB and HSG’s use of “indifferent” seems the most neutral, but the three earliest sources technically have the majority with “reverent”, while FY has “peaceful”

B : this line comes from the MWD’s and GUO; the later sources are very different (and do not agree with each other); regardless of the source, this line and the next can be translated many different ways due to the multiple meanings of (“pleased”, “beautiful”, “good”), and whether or not one assumes that weapons are still being talked about

C : Ames and Hall point out that ancient Chinese custom puts the place of honor on the left in happy events, and on the right in sorrowful events; thus in war, the supreme general sits on the right, acknowledging that war is a sorrowful event, just like a funeral

 

Cross-references

creatures detest them : #24
he who “possesses Dao” : #15, #23, #24, #65, #77

noble man : #26

have no choice : #29, #30

 


Chapter Thirty Two

__ •

[]

(•)

()

()

Dao is ever-constantly without-name.

 

Even though the concept of the uncarved block seems

      insignificant,

No one in the world can conquer it.

If nobles and kings could maintain it,

The ten thousand creatures would naturally obey.

Heaven and earth would join with each other,

Thus dropping a sweet dew.

There are no citizens who would make this happen,

Yet it would be naturally fair and impartial.

 

And so, begin to divide and you have names.

Once names exist,

Men should also be ready to know when to stop.

Knowing when to stop is the reason that there is no danger.

 

An analogy for the action of Dao in the world :

It is similar to a stream in a valley that becomes part of a

      large river or ocean.

Dao is ever-constantly without-name.

Even though the [concept of the] uncarved block seems

      insignificant,

No one in the world2 can conquer it.

If noblesA and kings could maintain it,

♦The ten thousand creatures would naturally obey.

Heaven and earth would join with each other,

Thus dropping a sweet dew.B

There are no citizens who would make this happen,    [they]

Yet [it]C would be naturally  fair and impartial.                     

And so, begin to divide D and you have names.                                                                             [cut&make garments]

Once names [also] exist,                                 [now that]

Men should also be ready to know when to stop.

Knowing when to stop is the reason that2 there is no

      danger.

An analogy for the action of Dao in the world2 :

It is similar to a stream in a valley that [becomes] part of a

      large river or ocean.                  [it] [together with,take part in]

Notes

A : while this symbol does literally mean “nobles”, it also specifically refers to a “Marquis”; the Western equivalents for the five grades of Chinese nobility (below the royal family) were Duke,  Marquis, Count (or Earl), Viscount, and Baron, in descending order

B : Waley comments that this phrase is used to indicate that the kingdom is at peace

C : “they” could be used here, referring to the citizens instead of this process

D : see #28, where the uncarved block is divided

 

Cross-references

always/ever-constantly without X : #1, #34, #37

without-name : #1, #37, #41

nobles (in general) : #37, #39, #42, #62, #80

      if nobles and kings could maintain it : #37

uncarved block : #15, #19, #28, #37, #57

ten thousand creatures would naturally… : #37

knowing when to stop : #44

no danger : #16, #25, #44, #52

valley : #6, #15, #28, #39, #41, #66

 

Chapter Thirty Three

He who knows people is wise;

He who knows himself has insight.

 

He who is victorious over people possesses power;

He who is victorious over himself is strong.

 

He who knows he has enough is wealthy;

He who uses force possesses ambition.

 

He who does not lose his place endures;

He who dies yet does not perish has longevity.

He who knows people is wise*;

He who knows himself has insight.                 [wise,sight]

He who is victorious over people possesses power;

He who is victorious over himself is strong.

He who knows he has enough is wealthy;

He who uses force2 possesses ambition.

He who does not lose his placeA endures;                                                                                 [for a long time]

He who dies yet does not perish has longevity.B

Notes

A : possibly meaning one’s center, source or root (but then why not use one of the many symbols used elsewhere for these words?), this may be referring to one’s station or position in life (ancient Chinese society was highly stratified); but on the other hand, that sounds very Confucian – so you decide!

B : this line has generated much speculation over the millennia; perhaps it refers to being remembered after you die, or the death of the “self”?

 

Cross-references

strong : #3, #29, #30, #36, #52, #55, #67, #78

knowing one has enough : #44, #46

die/death : #6, #42, #50, #67, #74, #75, #76, #80

anti-Confucian : #3, #18, #19, #27, #38

 

Chapter Thirty Four

()

•           

[] •            

[(•)]

()

( •)

[ •]

(•) __

Great Dao is like a vast flood!

It is able to flow left and right.

 

The ten thousand creatures depend on it in order for life,

And are not rejected.

It accomplishes its tasks successfully,

Yet does not possess a name.

It clothes and supports the ten thousand creatures,

But does not act as their master.

 

Therefore : since it is ever-constantly without-desire,

It can then be named insignificant.

 

Since the ten thousand creatures return to it

But it does not act as their master,

It can then be named great.

 

Thus the sage can achieve greatness   

Because he does not act great.

Therefore he can achieve greatness.

Great Dao is like a vast flood !

It is able to flow left and right.A

The ten thousand creatures depend on it in order for life,

      and are not rejected.                                     [decline,dismiss]

It accomplishes its tasks successfully, yet does not possess

      a name.                                     [results,achievements]

It clothes and supports the ten thousand creatures,

But does not act as their master.

Therefore : since it is ever-constantly without-desire,

♦It can then be named insignificant.

♦Since the ten thousand creatures return to it

But it does not act as their master,

It can then be named great.

Thus2 the sage2 [he] can achieve greatness     

Because he does not act great.

Therefore he can achieve greatness.B

Notes

A : in other words, everywhere

B : the last three lines are significantly different between sources.  What is used here comes from the MWD’s, and FY says the exact same thing with slightly different symbols (thus making it the majority).  But HSG reads

      Thus2 the sage2 is whole, but does not act great.

      Therefore he can achieve his greatness.

And WB reads (with no reference to the sage, presumably still referring to Dao from earlier in the chapter)

      Because it is whole, it naturally does not act great.

      Therefore it can achieve its greatness.

WB also switched from saying the sage is great to Dao is great in #67

 

Cross-references

great Dao : #18, #53

accomplishing tasks : #2, #9, #17, #77

always/ever-constantly without X : #1, #32, #37

without-desire : #1, #3, #37, #57

returning : #14, #16, #19, #20, #22, #25, #28, #40, #52,

                  #58, #60, #64, #65, #80

sage can achieve greatness : #63

 

Chapter Thirty Five

() ()

Holding fast to the great image,

The entire world comes towards you.

Comes towards you, and meeting with no harm,

There is the greatest peace and calm.

 

Music together with good food make passing guests stay,

But Dao’s words are bland!

They are without flavor.

 

Look for it, there is not enough to see.

Listen for it, there is not enough to hear.

Use it, there is not enough to exhaust.

Holding fast to the great image,

♦The [entire] world2 comes towards you.

Comes towards you, and [meeting with]A no harm,

There is the greatest peace and calm2.                                                                             [peace,calm calm,peace]

Music together with good food make passing guests stay,                                                                                  [cakes]

But Dao ’s words2 are bland !B

They are without flavor.

Look for it, there is not enough to see.

Listen for it, there is not enough to hear.

Use it, there is not enough to exhaust°.

Notes

A : “doing” could just as easily be used here, but since the sage is the one who does no harm in #58, #60, and #66, “meeting with” is used

B : the sentence-as-a-whole can be interpreted in two different ways (see the Introduction) : “speaking about Dao” or “the words that come out of Dao” (which is used here); also note that in the majority of the sources this line is a statement, not a question

 

Cross-references

no harm : #56, #58, #60, #66, #81

look, not seen and listen, not heard : #14

use does not exhaust : #4, #5

 

Chapter Thirty Six

When you are about to gather something,

You must have originally spread it out.

When you are about to weaken something,

You must have originally strengthened it.

When you are about to abandon something,

You must have originally been interested in it.

When you are about to seize something,

You must have originally given it.

 

This is called subtle and obscure insight.

 

What is soft and weak conquers what is hard and strong.

 

Fish can not escape from the deep;

The sharp tools of the nation

Can not be shown to the people.

When you are about to2 gather A something,       [inhale] [it]

You must have originally spread it out.

♦When you are about to2 weaken something,              [it]

You must have originally strengthened it.

When you are about to2 abandon something,               [it]

You must have originally been interested in it.

♦When you are about to2 seize something,                       [it]

You must have originally given it.

This is called subtle and obscure insight.          [wise,sight]

What is soft and weak conquers what is hard and strong.                                                                [victorious,beats]

Fish can not escape from the deep;

The sharp toolsB of the nation

Can2 not be shown to the people.

Notes

A : while the majority symbol here means “inhale”, MWD/A uses a symbol meaning to “pick up” or “collect”

B : presumably, weapons; compare to #80, where there is no place to display armor and weapons

 

Cross-references

weak : #3, #29, #40, #55, #76, #78

strong : #3, #29, #30, #33, #52, #55, #67, #78

soft : #10, #43, #52, #55, #76, #78

hard : #43, #76, #78

soft conquers hard : #43, #78

sharp tools : #57

 

Chapter Thirty Seven

Dao ever-constantly practices non-action,

Yet nothing is left undone.

 

If nobles and kings could maintain it,

The ten thousand creatures would naturally transform.

Transform, and if desire arises,

I would restrain it by means of the nameless uncarved

      block.           

 

In the state of the nameless uncarved block,

Men also would be without-desire.

Not desiring, thus they would be still –

And the world would naturally settle.

Dao ever-constantly [practices] non-action,

Yet nothing is left undone2.            [not made,become,act]

If noblesA and kings could maintain it,

♦The ten thousand creatures would naturally transform.

Transform, and if desire arises,

I would restrain it by means of the nameless2B [à]

      uncarved block.         [subdue,supress] [without-name]

In the [state of the] nameless2B [à] uncarved block,                                                                    [without-name]

Men also would be without-desire.

Not desiring, thus they would be still

And the world2 would naturally settle.

Notes

A : specifically, a Marquis (see #32)

B : this is actually “without-name” (see the Introduction and cross-references below), but cannot be easily worded that way here

 

Cross-references

always/ever-constantly without X : #1, #32, #34

non-action : #2, #3, #38, #43, #48, #57, #63, #64

yet nothing is left undone : #48

nobles (in general) : #32, #39, #42, #62, #80

      if nobles and kings could maintain it : #32

ten thousand creatures would naturally… : #32

without-name : #1, #32, #41

uncarved block : #15, #19, #28, #32, #57

      uncarved block brings without-desire : #57

without-desire : #1, #3, #34, #57

stillness : #15, #16, #26, #45, #57, #61

 

Chapter Thirty Eight

()

(•)

(•)

(•)

A man of highest De does not use his De, thus he

      possesses De.

A man of inferior De does not lose his De, thus he is

      without De.

 

A man of highest De uses non-action, and acts without

      motive.                                 

A man of inferior De coerces others, and has a motive to

      act.

A man of highest kindness coerces others, and acts

      without motive.       

A man of highest morality coerces others, and has a

      motive to act.

A man of highest propriety coerces others, and if there

      is no one who responds,

Then he rolls up his sleeves and keeps doing it.

 

Therefore : lose Dao, and later comes De.

Lose De, and later comes kindness.

Lose kindness, and later comes morality.

Lose morality, and later comes propriety.

Now : propriety is that which is merely the appearance of

      loyalty and honesty,

And the beginning of confusion.

 

He who is ahead in knowledge has the flower of Dao,

But the beginning of stupidity and foolishness.

 

Thus the greatest elders :

Live by Dao’s substance, and do not dwell on Dao’s

      appearance.

Live on Dao’s fruit, and do not dwell on Dao’s flower.

Therefore they leave that and choose this.

♦A man of highest De does not [use his] De, thus2 he

      possesses De.

♦A man of inferior De does not loseA his De, thus2 he is

      without De.

♦A man of highest De uses non-action, and acts without

      motive.                                         [because,in order to]

A man of inferior De coercesB others, and has a motive to

      act.                           [acts] [them] [because,in order to]

♦A man of highest kindness* coerces others, and acts

      without motive.        [acts] [them] [because,in order to]

♦A man of highest morality* coerces others, and has a

      motive to act.

               [righteousness] [acts] [them] [because,in order to]

♦A man of highest propriety* coerces others, and if

      there is no one who [thus] responds, [acts] [them] [they]

Then he rolls up his sleeves2 and keeps doing it.C

Therefore : lose Dao, and later comes De.

Lose De, and later comes kindness*.

Lose kindness*, and later comes morality*.  [righteousness]

Lose morality*, and later comes propriety*. [righteousness]

Now : propriety* is that which is [merely] the appearance

      of loyalty* and honesty*,            [thin coveràfacade]

And the beginning of confusion.

He who is ahead in knowledgeD has the flowerE of Dao,

But the beginning of stupidity and foolishness.

Thus2 the greatest elders2 :                            [elder men]

Live by Dao’s substanceF, and do not dwell on Dao’s

      appearance.                              [its] [its] [thin coveràfacade]

Live on Dao’s fruitE, and do not dwell on Dao’s  flowerE.                                                                          [its] [its]

Therefore they leave that and choose this.G

 

Notes

This chapter is anti-Confucian as early as MWD/B!

A : he does not lose De in that he is always trying to show that he has De

B : “coerces” is the same symbol as “acts”, but is used here to emphasize that it is the opposite of “non-action”

C : this line varies greatly between all the sources, and there is no majority; this comes from FY as it seems to make the most sense

D : this could also mean “future knowledge” and so is often translated as “foreknowledge”, “prescience”, etc.

E : fruit provides nourishment, whereas a flower is merely showy

F : compare to #50 and #75, where living for the “substance” is apparently a bad thing

G : presumably, appearance and the “flower” vs. substance and the “fruit” (respectively)

 

Cross-references

non-action : #2, #3, #37, #43, #48, #57, #63, #64

the ancients/elders : #14, #15, #22, #39, #62, #65, #68 

substance : #50, #55, #75

leave that and choose this : #12, #72

anti-Confucian : #3, #18, #19, #27, #33

 


Chapter Thirty Nine

(•)

((•))

(•)

(•) 輿 輿

Of those who in ancient times attained oneness :

Heaven attained oneness, thus becoming pure and clear.

Earth attained oneness, thus becoming stable.

Spirit attained oneness, thus becoming potent.

The valley attained oneness, thus becoming full.

The ten thousand creatures attained oneness, thus

      becoming alive.

Nobles and kings attained oneness, thus serving the world

      faithfully.

They attained it.

 

If heaven could not use its purity and clarity,

I fear it would split apart.

If earth could not use its stability,

I fear it would erupt.

If spirit could not use its potency,

I fear it would cease to be.

If the valley could not use its fullness,

I fear it would be used up.

If the ten thousand creatures could not use their life,

I fear they would be destroyed.

If nobles and kings could not use their high rank and

      prominence,

I fear they would fall.

 

Therefore : humility thus serves as the source of high rank;

Low thus serves as the foundation of high.

Thus nobles and kings call themselves orphaned, lonely,

        and unlucky.

Does this not mean that humility thus serves as the source?

Does it not?

 

Therefore : to attain exceptional popularity is to be without

      popularity –

Do not desire to be scarce like jade,

But common like rock.

♦Of those who in ancient times [they] attained onenessA :                                                                    [obtained]

Heaven attained oneness, thus becoming pure and clear.                                                               [obtained]

Earth attained oneness, thus becoming stable.                                                                    [obtained] [peaceful,tranquil]

Spirit attained oneness, thus becoming potent.                                                                               [obtained] [effective]

♦The valley attained oneness, thus becoming full.                                                                              [obtained]

The ten thousand creatures attained oneness, thus

      becoming alive.                                         [obtained]

NoblesB and kings attained oneness, thus serving the

      world2 faithfully.                                       [obtained]

They attained it.

If heaven could not use its purity and clarity,

I fear it would split apart.

If earth could not use its stability,            [peaceful,tranquil]

I fear it would erupt.                         [send out,issue,emit]

If spirit could not use its potency,

I fear it would cease to be.               [effectiveness] [stop]

If the valley could not use its fullness,

I fear it would be used up.

If the ten thousand creatures could not use their life,

I fear they would be destroyed.

If nobles and kings could not use their high rank and

      prominence,                                    [high level,above]

I fear they would fall.

Therefore : humility thus serves as the source of high rank;

Low thus serves as the foundation of high.C

Thus2 nobles and kings call themselves orphaned{lonely},

      lonely{widowed}, and unlucky 2D.             [not lucky]

Does this not mean that humility thus serves as the source ?

Does it not ?

Therefore : to attain exceptional popularity is to be without

      popularity –          

Do not desire to be scarce2 like jade,

But common2° like rock.E

 

Notes

A : presumably, oneness with Dao

B : specifically, a Marquis (see #32)

C : compare to #2, where high and low lean on each other

D : these two symbols together can also be translated as “worthless” or “unhappy”

 

 

Cross-references

the ancients/elders : #14, #15, #22, #38, #62, #65, #68

valley : #6, #15, #28, #32, #41, #66

nobles (in general) : #32, #37, #42, #62, #80

serve the world : #13, #49

orphaned, lonely, and unlucky : #42

 

 


Chapter Forty

The movement of Dao returns things.

The function of Dao is to weaken things.

 

The ten thousand creatures of the world are created from

      being;

Being is created from non-being.

♦The movement of Dao returns things.                          [entities]

♦The function of Dao is to weaken things.A                                                                          [usefulness] [entities]

The ten thousandB creatures of the world2 are created from

      being;C

Being is created from non-being.D

Notes

A : all creatures grow weaker as they age, and all man-made things decay and fall apart, which is the way (Dao) of the universe; this is why in #30 and #55 creatures which are old but still robust are “not Dao”; compare these first two lines to #14 and #21, where Dao’s action is indistinct and confusing

B : technically, the majority of the sources read “The creatures of the world…” but “ten thousand creatures” is such a standard saying everywhere else that it is retained here from the other sources

C : compare to #42, where creatures are created by “three”

D : compare to #2, where non-being and being create each other

 

Cross-references

returning : #14, #16, #19, #20, #22, #25, #28, #34, #52,

                  #58, #60, #64, #65, #80

weak : #3, #29, #36, #55, #76, #78

non-being : #2, #43

 

Chapter Forty One

(•) () •

退

(•) () ()

The superior scholar hearing of Dao works hard and

      practices it.

The average scholar hearing of Dao seems to keep it,

      seems to lose it.

The inferior scholar hearing of Dao laughs greatly at it.

If he did not laugh, it would not be qualified to be Dao.

 

Therefore : in the established sayings that exist, it is said –

Insight into Dao seems like darkness.

Advancing in Dao seems like retreating.

Smooth Dao seems knotted.

Superior De seems like a valley.

The greatest purity seems like disgrace.

The most extensive De seems like it is not enough.

Established De seems aimless.

Real and true character seems inconsistent.

 

The greatest region is without borders.

The greatest vessel is last to be completed.

The greatest tone is a tenuous sound.

The greatest image is without-form.

Dao is hidden and without-name.

 

Now : only Dao is good at beginning and also good at

      completing.

The superior scholar hearing of Dao works hard and

      practices it.                                                            [performs]

The average scholar hearing of Dao seems to keep it,

      seems to lose it.                                            [middle]

♦The inferior scholar hearing of Dao laughs greatly at it.

♦If he did not laugh, it would not be qualified3 to be Dao.

Therefore : in the established sayings2A that exist, it is

      said

Insight into Dao seems like darkness.               [wise,sight]

Advancing in Dao seems like retreating.

Smooth Dao seems knotted.B

Superior De seems like a valley.

♦The greatest purity seems like disgrace.

♦The most extensive De seems like it is not enough.

Established De seems aimless.

Real and true character seems inconsistent.        [change]

♦The greatest region is without borders.C

The greatest vessel is last to be completed.D            [late]

The greatest tone is a tenuous sound.                      [rare]

The greatest image is without-form.

Dao is hidden and without-name.

Now : only Dao is good at beginning and also good at

      completing.E

Notes

A : Ames&Hall comment that it is unknown whether “established sayings” is referring to proverbs in general, or a specific work that no longer exists

B : compare to #53, where “Dao is extremely even”

C : this line could just as likely be translated as

            The greatest square is without corners

but considering that the DDJ often refers to nations, this translation seems more appropriate

D : a euphemism for “great talents mature slowly”

E : although this line only survives in MWD/B of the three earlier sources, it is used here because it is much more straightforward and understandable than the later three

 

Cross-references

scholar : #15, #68

valley : #6, #15, #28, #32, #39, #66

tone and voice/sound (same symbol) : #2

tenuous : #14

hidden : #15

without-name : #1, #32, #37

 

 

Chapter Forty Two

()

(•)

Dao creates one.

One creates two.

Two creates three.

Three creates the ten thousand creatures.

The ten thousand creatures carry Yin and embrace Yang,

Pouring their Qi together, thus becoming harmonious.

 

That which people detest :

Being alone, orphaned, lonely, and unlucky –

Yet kings and nobles thus name themselves.

 

Therefore : creatures

Sometimes lose, yet they gain;

Sometimes gain, yet they lose.

 

That which people teach, I also teach :

Those who are bullies and hoodlums do not meet their

      natural death.

I will thus become their elder teacher.

Dao creates one.

One creates two.

Two creates three.

Three creates the ten thousand creatures.A

♦The ten thousand creatures carry Yin and embrace Yang,

Pouring their Qi together, thus becoming harmonious.

That which people [they] detest :

♦Being alone, orphaned{lonely}, lonely{widowed}, and

      unlucky2B –                                                            [not lucky]

Yet kings and noblesC thus name themselves.      [dukes]

Therefore : creatures

Sometimes lose, yet they gain;                                                                           [maybe,perhaps] [benefit,increase]

Sometimes gain, yet they lose.                                                                           [maybe,perhaps] [benefit,increase]

That which people [they] teach, I also teach [it] :

Those who are bullies and hoodlums do not meet their

      [natural] death.                  [bully,ruffian2] [obtain,get]

I will thus become their elder teacher.D

Notes

A : compare to #40, where creatures are created from being

B : these two symbols together can also be translated as “worthless” or “unhappy”

C : specifically Dukes (see #32), but in keeping with other chapters, this is interpreted more generally as “nobles”

D : is often translated as some variant of “senior teaching” (primary teaching, essence of teaching, principal teaching, etc.), but it also means “godfather” in the best sense of the term (friend and teacher), and this translation is consistent with #27, where a virtuous person is the teacher of a non-virtuous person

 

Cross-references

Qi : #10, #55

orphaned, lonely, and unlucky : #39

nobles (in general) : #32, #37, #39, #62, #80

creatures sometimes X…Y : #29

teaching : #2, #27, #43

die/death : #6, #33, #50, #67, #74, #75, #76, #80

 

Chapter Forty Three

        

The softest things of the world

Overrun the hardest things of the world.

 

Non-being can enter where there is no space in between.

Thus I know that non-action has benefits.

 

The teaching of no-talking,

The benefit of non-action –

Few in the world attain these.

♦The softest2 things of the world2                     [most soft]

Overrun the hardest2 things of the world2.                                                                            [gallop2] [most hard]

Non-being can enter where there is no space in between.

Thus2 I know that non-action [it] has benefits.

♦The teaching of no-talking,

♦The benefit of non-action

Few in the world2 attain these.      [rare,infrequent] [them]

Notes

 

Cross-references

soft : #10, #36, #52, #55, #76, #78

hard : #36, #76, #78

soft conquers hard : #36, #78

non-being : #2, #40

non-action : #2, #3, #37, #38, #48, #57, #63, #64

teaching : #2, #27, #42

      teaching of no-talking : #2

 

Chapter Forty Four

以長

Fame and self : which do you love?

Self and property : which is greater?

Gain and loss : which is the affliction?

 

Extreme desire must lead to great expense.

Collecting too much must lead to substantial loss.

 

Knowing when you have enough, there can be no disgrace.

Knowing when to stop, there can be no danger.

Then you can forever endure.

Fame and self : which do you love?

Self and property : which is greater?   [many,much,more]

Gain and loss : which is the affliction?              [sickness,illness]

Extreme desire must lead to great expense.                                                                                 [like,affection]

Collecting too much must lead to substantial loss.

Knowing when you have enough, there can be no

      disgrace.

Knowing when to stop, there can be no danger.

♦Then you can2 forever endure.                          [for a long time]

Notes

With the exception of a couple of “therefore”’s in some sources but not others, this is the only chapter for which virtually every symbol is identical across all sources!

 

Cross-references

self : #7, #9, #13, #16, #26, #52, #54, #66

knowing you have enough : #33, #46

knowing when to stop : #32

no danger : #16, #25, #32, #52

can forever endure : #59

 

Chapter Forty Five

()

Great achievement seems incomplete,

But its usefulness is not impaired.

 

Great fullness is like a cup or bowl,

Its usefulness is not exhausted.

 

Great straightness seems bent.

Great skillfulness seems clumsy.

Great debaters seem slow of speech.

 

Restlessness conquers cold.

Stillness conquers heat.

 

Purity and clarity along with stillness makes the world

      proper and correct.

Great achievement seems incomplete,               [lacking]

But its usefulness is not impaired.                    [harmed]

Great fullness is like a cup or bowlA,

Its usefulness is not exhausted.

Great straightness seems bent.

Great skillfulness seems clumsy.B

Great debaters seem slow of speechC.

Restlessness conquers cold.                 [victorious,beats]

Stillness conquers heat.                       [victorious,beats]

Purity and clarity D along with stillnessD makes the world2

      proper and correct{honest and just}.

Notes

A : the symbol used here only appears in 1/5 sources, but gives the most understandable translation (and matches the first line in #4)

B : this line could just as likely be translated as

            Great cleverness seems stupid.

C : this is a euphemism for stammering, but also represents a personal quality that Confucius recommended people cultivate

D : presumably referring to inner, mental/emotional qualities

 

Cross-references

stillness : #15, #16, #26, #37, #57, #61

      stillness and restlessness : #26

 

Chapter Forty Six

( )

(•) (•) •

When the world possesses Dao,

Riding horses are nonetheless used for manure.

When the world is without Dao,

War-horses are bred in the countryside.                                             

 

There is no fault greater than the capacity for desire.

There is no misfortune greater than not knowing when

      you have enough.

There is no error greater than desire for gain.

 

Therefore : knowing the sufficiency of having enough,

      there is always enough!

♦When the world2 possesses Dao,

Riding horses are nonetheless used for manure.                                                                     [still,yet,however]

♦When the world2 is without Dao,

War-horses are bred in the countryside.                                           

                        [military] [produced] [open spaces/outskirts]

There is no fault greater than the capacity for desire.A                                                                                         [ability]

There is no misfortune greater than not knowing when

      you have enough.

There is no error greater than desire for gain.

Therefore : knowing the sufficiency of having enough,

      there is always enough !B

Notes

A : this line is in every source except WB

B : The core of this sentence is “ of always ”, where can mean “enough”, “sufficient”, or possibly “satisfaction” (and by interpretation, “contentment”), so it can be translated in many ways; while I usually use the same English word for each symbol (when appropriate), in this case it seems clearer to use different words with equivalent meanings within the same sentence; this would be similar to changing the phrase “appears to have appeared” to “seems to have appeared”

 

Cross-references

knowing you have enough : #33, #44

 

Chapter Forty Seven

[]

[] ()

You do not have to go out the door

In order to to know the world.

You do not have to look out the window        

In order to to know the Way of heaven.                     

 

The farther you go out,

You know even less.

 

Thus the sage :

Does not travel, yet knows.

Does not display himself, yet has a reputation.

Does not act, yet accomplishes.

You do not have to go out the door

In order to to know the world2.

You do not have to look out the window                     [peep,spy]

In order to to know the Way of heaven.                     

♦The farther2 you go out,           [even more distance] [he]

You know even[more] less.                                        [he]

Thus2 the sage2 :

Does not travel, yet knows.

Does not display himself, yet has a reputation.                  [show]

♦Does not act, yet accomplishes.

Notes

 

Cross-references

Way of heaven : #9, #73, #77, #79, #81

not displaying oneself (showing off) : #22, #24, #72, #77

 

Chapter Forty Eight

()

()

The actions of those who learn daily increase.

The actions of those who Dao daily decrease.

Decreasing and again decreasing,

In order to arrive at non-action.

 

Use non-action, and nothing is left undone.

To take hold of the world, always use non-interference.

When you are compelled  to interfere,

Then you are not qualified to take hold of the world.

♦The actions of those who learn daily increase.

♦The actions of those who Dao daily decrease.

Decreasing [them] and again decreasing,

In order to arrive at non-action.

♦Use non-action, and nothing is left undone2.                                                                    [not made,become,act]

To take hold of the world2, always use non-interference2.

When you are compelled  to interfere°,A                                                                                  [he] [have,possess]

♦Then you are not qualified to3 take hold of the world2.

Notes

A : literally, when you “possess interference”; although does not ordinarily mean interfere, this is assumed by reflection from the previous line

 

Cross-references

non-action : #2, #3, #37, #38, #43, #57, #63, #64

nothing is left undone : #37

non-interference : #57, #63

possess or take hold of the world or nation :

      #29, #57, #59, #61

      by using non-interference : #57

 

Chapter Forty Nine

[]

  

The sage does not have a constant heart/mind,

Thus the 100 families’ heart/minds become his heart/mind.

 

He who is virtuous, I am virtuous to him.

He who is not virtuous, I am also virtuous to him.

Because De is virtue.

 

He who is honest, I am honest with him.

He who is not honest, I am also honest with him.

Because De is honesty.

 

The sage lives in the world, gathering it all in.

And so he serves the world, merging with their

      heart/minds.

 

The 100 families all pay attention to their ears and eyes,

And the sage treats them all like his children.

The sage2 does not have a constant heart/mind,

Thus the 100 familiesheart/minds become his

      heart/mind.

He who is virtuous, I am virtuous to him.

He who is not virtuous, I am also virtuous to him.

♦Because De is virtue.

He who is honest*, I am honest* with him.

He who is not honest*, I am also honest* with him.

♦Because De is honesty*.

♦The sage2 lives in the world2, gathering it all in2A.                                                                        [inhale inhale]

And so he serves the world2, merging with their

      heart/minds.B

♦The 100 families all pay attention to their ears and eyesC,

♦And the sage2 treats them all like [his]D children.

Notes

A : compare to #50, which refers to one who “takes in life”; “gathering” is used for consistency with #36; the repeated symbol implies “very”, hence completeness

B : this line can be translated in many ways, mainly due to the fact that the symbol for “merges” can also mean “muddled” or “whole”; also (his/their) could be referring to the sage or to the 100 families; the choices made here are consistent with the first two lines of the chapter

C : compare to #12, where the sage does not act on what he sees

D : adding “his” turns this line from something deragatory (“treats them all like children”, which seems out of character) into something that matches #42, where the sage becomes an “elder teacher” (literally, godfather)

 

Cross-references

100 families : #5, #17

one who is not virtuous : #27, #62, #81

serve the world : #13, #39

baby/infant/child : #10, #20, #28, #55

 

 

Chapter Fifty

                                              

(•)

()

(•)

Between coming out into life and entering death,

Followers of life are 3 in 10.

Followers of death are 3 in 10.

People whose lives are merely moving them towards the

      place of death

Are also 3 in 10.

 

Now : what is the reason?

Because they live life for its substance.

 

But I have heard that he who is skilled at taking in life

Can travel the mountains and does not meet rhino or tiger,

Can enter a battle not wearing armor or weapons.

The rhino has no place to thrust its horns,

The tiger has no place to use its claws,

The weapon has no place to allow its blade.

 

Now : what is the reason?

Because for him there is no place of death.

♦Between coming out into life and entering death,

FollowersA of life are 3 in 10B.                                  [10 has 3]

Followers of death are 3 in 10.                                  [10 has 3]

People whose lives are [merely] moving them towards the

      place of deathC                                                 [their]

Are also 3 in 10.                                              [10 has 3]

Now : what is the reason?

Because they live life for its substanceD.

But I have heard that he who is skilled at taking inE life

Can travel the mountains and does not meet rhino or tiger,

♦Can enter a battle not wearing armor or weapons.                                                                      [army,military]

♦The rhino has no place to thrust its horns,       [send,put in]

The tiger has no place to use its claws,              [employ]

♦The weapon has no place to allow its blade.

Now : what is the reason?

Because for him there is no place of death.

Notes

A : “follower” as in disciple or one who agrees with a particular way of looking at things

B : this phrase can also be interpreted as “13”, possibly referring to the 4 limbs and 9 openings of the human body, but when using “3 in 10” then the first five lines discuss 9 out of 10 people, and the remaining lines seem to talk about the tenth (presumably sage-like) person

C : there are many different interpretations of this phrase (and the entire sentence); presumably, the “place of death” is the end destination of the journey of life as opposed to a literal location (a more modern interpretation of the symbols is the “point of death”); while the symbols for this sentence come from WB and HSG and are technically a minority, the phrasing they use here matches that in the third line following

D : compare to #38, where living for the “substance” is apparently a good thing, and #75, where it is a bad thing

E : compare to #49, where the sage “gathers in the world”; the last part of this sentence could also be translated as “he who has virtue and takes in life

 

Cross-references

die/death : #6, #33, #42, #67, #74, #75, #76, #80

      follower of life and follower of death : #76

substance : #38, #55, #75


Chapter Fifty One

(•)

(•)

        

Dao creates them,

De raises them,

Things shape them,

Circumstances complete them.

 

Thus among the ten thousand creatures,

There are none who do not respect Dao and honor De.

Respect of Dao,

Honor of De –

Now : there is no one who commands this,

Yet it is always naturally so.

 

Therefore : Dao creates them, De raises them.

Leads them, nourishes them,

Shelters them, heals  them,

Supports them, protects them.

 

Creating but not possessing,

Acting but not concerned with the results,

Leading yet not governing –

This is called deep and mysterious De.

Dao creates them,

De raises them,

Things shape them,

Circumstances complete them.                   [conditions,situations]

Thus2 [among] the ten thousand creatures,

There are none who do not respect Dao and honor De.

Respect of Dao,

Honor of De

Now : there is no one who commands this,             [they]

Yet it is always naturally so2.

Therefore : Dao creates them, De raises them.

Leads them, nourishes them,

Shelters them, heals A them,                                                                 [booth,pavillion,rest house] [poison(ous)]

Supports them, protects them.                              [cover,screen]

Creating but not possessing,

Acting but not concerned with [the results],                                                                   [depend upon,rely upon]

Leading yet not governing

This is called deep and mysterious De.

Notes

A : Hatcher claims that (poison) can also mean its opposite, hence “healing”

 

Cross-references

naturally so : #17, #23, #25, #64

creating but not possessing : #2, #10

acting but not concerned : #2, #10, #77

leading yet not governing : #10

mystery : #1, #6, #10, #15, #27, #56, #62, #65

      deep and mysterious De : #10, #65

 

Chapter Fifty Two

The world had a beginning,

Which can be considered the mother of the world.

Once you have realized its mother,

You thus know her children.

Once you know her children,

Return to and maintain their mother.

 

When the self disappears, there can be no danger.     

 

Block your senses, close your gateway –

All your life you will not struggle.

Open your senses, be successful in your duties –

All your life you will not have relief.

 

Seeing the insignificant speaks of insight.

Maintaining softness speaks of strength.

Use your brightness to return to your insight.

Do not lose your self in misfortune.

This is called practicing the ever-constant.

 

♦The world2 had a beginning,

♦Which can be considered2 the mother of the world2.

Once you have realized its mother,                                                                            [now that] [gained,gotten]

♦You thus know her children.

Once you know her children,                                    [now that]

Return to and maintain their mother.

♦When the self disappears, there can be no danger.   

Block your senses°, close your gateway –       [his] [his]

All your life you will not struggle.                                                                       [lifelong2] [diligent,hard work]

Open your senses°, be successful in your duties – [his] [his]

All your life you will not have relief.               [lifelong2]

Seeing the insignificant speaks of insight.      [wise,sight]

Maintaining softness speaks of strength.

Use your brightness to return2 to your insight.                                                                             [his] [his] [wise,sight]

Do not lose your self in misfortune.

This is called practicing the ever-constant.A

Notes

A : while this could also be translated as

            This is called the ever-constant practice

the symbol for “practice” is instead “follow” in FY and MWD/A; since “the ever-constant following” doesn’t make since, the line is translated this way

 

Cross-references

mother : #1, #20, #25, #59

      mother of the world : #25

self : #7, #9, #13, #16, #26, #44, #54, #66

no danger : #16, #25, #32, #44

      when the self disappears, there can be no danger : #16

gateway : #1, #6, #10, #56

      block your senses, close your gateway : #56

returning : #14, #16, #19, #20, #22, #25, #28, #34, #40,

                  #58, #60, #64, #65, #80

soft : #10, #36, #43, #55, #76, #78

strong : #3, #29, #30, #33, #36, #55, #67, #78

 

Chapter Fifty Three

使

(•)

If I correctly use the tiniest bit of knowledge that I possess

While travelling on the great Way,

It is only walking off the path that I need to fear.

The great Way is extremely even,

But the citizens are fond of side paths.

 

Although the royal court is very well-kept,

The fields are very overgrown with weeds,

The granaries are very empty.

While at the court they wear refined multicolored silks,

Carry sharp swords,

Stuff themselves with drink and food,

And have an excess of wealth and goods.

 

This is called robbery and extravagance,

Not Dao, indeed!!

If I correctly use the tiniest bit of knowledge that I possess

♦While travelling on the great Way,

It is only walking off the path that I need to fear.

♦The great Way is extremely even,A

But the citizens are fond of [side] paths.

♦[Although] the royal court is very well-kept,

                                                 [remove,wipe outàclean]

♦The fields are very overgrown with weeds,

♦The granaries are very empty.

[While at the court] they wear refined{formal}

      multicolored silks,

Carry sharp swords,

Stuff themselves with drink and food,        [satiate,satisfy]

♦And have an excess of wealth and goods.

This is called robberyB and extravagance,

Not Dao, indeed! !

Notes

A : compare to #41, where “smooth Dao seems knotted”

B: a play on words, since (robbery) is also pronounced “dao”

 

Cross-references

great Dao : #18, #34

 

Chapter Fifty Four

__ ()

__

__

__

__

(•)

(•)

That which is well established is not uprooted.

That which is well embraced is not abandoned.

Thus children and grandchildren offer sacrifices, and so

      sacrifices do not stop.

 

Cultivate it in the self – your De will then be true and real.

Cultivate it in the family – its De will then be more than

      enough.

Cultivate it in the village – its De will then last forever.

Cultivate it in the nation – its De will then be abundant.

Cultivate it in the world – its De will then be everywhere.

 

Therefore : use your self to contemplate the self.

Use your family to contemplate the family.

Use your village to contemplate the village.

Use your nation to contemplate the nation.

Use the world to contemplate the world.

 

How do I thus know the world is like this?

By means of this.

That which is well established is not uprooted.                                                                                              [skillfully]

That which is well embraced is not abandoned.                                                                                             [skillfully]

Thus children and grandchildren offer sacrifices, [and so]

      sacrifices do not stop.A

Cultivate itB in the selfyour De will then be

      true and real.                                                       [his]

Cultivate it in the familyits De will then be more than

      enough.                                             [surplus,excess]

Cultivate it in the village – its De will then last forever.

Cultivate it in the nationits De will then be abundant.

Cultivate it in the world2its De will then be everywhere.

Therefore : use [your] self to contemplateC the self.                                                                              [observe]

Use [your] family to contemplate the family.              [observe]

Use [your] village to contemplate the village.    [observe]

Use [your] nation to contemplate the nation.   [observe]

Use the world2 to contemplate the world2.       [observe]

How do I thus know the world2 is like this ?

By means of thisD.

Notes

A : this line seems to merely be a “for example”; the main point of the first two lines then continues with the “cultivate” lines

B : presumably, De; but the original Chinese just says “it”, so you decide!

C : while the common meaning of this symbol is “observe” (as used elsewhere), here it is taken to mean to contemplate or meditate upon, with the connotation of examining a concept in order to see things as they really are

D : “this” could be referring to contemplating the previous things, or just observing the world in front of you, or to the teachings of the DDJ, or to something else – you decide!

 

Cross-references

self : #7, #9, #13, #16, #26, #44, #52, #66

how do I thus know… : #21, #57

by means of this : #21, #57

 

Chapter Fifty Five

[]

()

(•) •

(•)

使

        

He who embodies the substance of De

Can be compared to a newborn child :

Wasps, scorpions, snakes, and serpents do not sting him,

Fierce beasts do not seize him,

Birds of prey do not claw him.                                   

His bones are weak, his muscles are soft, yet his grasp is

      firm and strong.

He has not yet known the union of female and male, yet his

      penis rises.

He has the utmost essence, indeed!

He cries the entire day yet does not get hoarse.

He has the utmost harmony, indeed!

 

Knowing harmony speaks of the ever-constant.

Knowing the ever-constant speaks of insight.

Benefitting life speaks of good fortune.

Heart/mind making Qi speaks of strength.

 

When creatures are robust but old,

We call them “not Dao”.

That which is “not Dao” has an early finish.

He who embodies the substance of De

♦Can be compared to a newborn child2 :

Wasps, scorpions, snakes, and serpents do not sting him,

Fierce beasts do not seize him,

Birds of prey2 do not claw him.                                               [seize,catch,take hold bird] [roll around with hand]

♦His bones are weak, his muscles are soft, yet his grasp is

      firm and strong.

He has not yet known the union of female and male, yet his

      penis rises.                                        [baby’s genitals]

♦He has the utmost [of] essence, indeed!      [extreme,most]

♦He cries the entire day yet does not get hoarse.

♦He has the utmost [of] harmony, indeed!    [extreme,most]

Knowing harmony speaks of the ever-constant.

Knowing the ever-constant speaks of insight. [wise,sight]

Benefitting life speaks of good fortune.        A                                                                                    [auspicious,lucky]

Heart/mind making Qi speaks of strength.

♦When creatures are robust but old,

♦We call themnot Dao”.

[That which is] “not Dao” has an early finish.

Notes

The last sentence is in all sources except GUO

A : this sentence and the next are sometimes reversed in meaning, as their last symbols have both positive and negative interpretations

 

Cross-references

substance : #38, #50, #75

baby/infant/child : #10, #20, #28, #49

      newborn infant : #10, #20, #28

weak : #3, #29, #36, #40, #76, #78

soft : #10, #36, #43, #52, #76, #78

strong : #3, #29, #30, #33, #36, #52, #67, #78

essence : #21

knowing the ever-constant speaks of insight : #16

Qi : #10, #42

when creatures are robust but old : #30

“not Dao” has an early finish : #30

 

Chapter Fifty Six

    

    

(•)

(•)

He who knows does not speak;

He who speaks does not know.

 

Block your senses, close your gateway.

Blunt your sharpness,

Loosen your tangles,

Soften your brightness,

Be the same as the dust of the world.

This is called a deep and mysterious sameness.

 

Therefore : you can not gain it and be friendly,

Can not gain it and be unfriendly,

Can not gain it and benefit,

Can not gain it and cause harm,

Can not gain it and have high rank,

Can not gain it and be lowly.

 

Therefore you become valuable to the world.

He who knows does not speak;

He who speaks does not know.

Block your senses°, close your gateway.       [his] [his]

Blunt your sharpness,                     [dampens,subdues] [his]

Loosen your tanglesA,                                                          [his]

Soften your brightness,B                                                        [his]

♦Be [you] the same as the dust of the world C.           [his]

This is called a deep and mysterious sameness.

Therefore : you can not gain itD and be friendly,                                                                                  [love,in favor of]

Can not gain it and be unfriendly,

Can not gain it and benefit,

Can not gain it and cause harm,

Can not gain it and have high rank,

Can not gain it and be lowly.                          [worthless]

Therefore youE become valuable to the world2.

Notes

A : this line could also be translated as

            Clarify your confusion

B : compare to #58, where the sage is bright but does not dazzle

C : according to Waley, “dust” is a metaphor for the “noise and fuss of everyday life”

D : there is no noun in the original Chinese, so you decide what “it” is!

E : “it” (whatever “it” is in the previous lines) could just as reasonably be used here

 

Cross-references

gateway : #1, #6, #10, #52

      block your senses, close your gateway : #52

blunt the sharpness : #4

loosen the tangles : #4

soften the brightness : #4

dust of the world : #4

mystery : #1, #6, #10, #15, #27, #51, #62, #65

      mysterious sameness : #1

no harm : #35, #58, #60, #66, #81

being valuable : #62, #70

      therefore become valuable to the world : #62

 

 

Chapter Fifty Seven

(•)

[]

()                 

[]

() ()

(•)

Use honesty and justness when governing a nation.

Use strange and unusual tactics when commanding troops.

Use non-interference to take hold of the world.

How do I thus know it is like this?

By means of this :

 

The world has many prohibitions and taboos,

And the citizens become even poorer.

The citizens have many sharp tools,

And the nation and the families grow in confusion.

The people have too much knowledge and cleverness,

And strange things begin to increase.

Matters of law are increasingly proclaimed,

And more thieves and bandits exist.

 

Therefore : the sage says –

I use non-action, and the citizens naturally transform.

I cherish stillness, and the citizens naturally become

      honest and just.

I use non-interference, and the citizens naturally become

      wealthy.

I am without-desire, and the citizens naturally return to the

      state of the uncarved block.

Use honesty and justness when governing a nation.

Use strange and unusual [tactics] when

      commanding troops2.

Use non-interference2 to take hold of the world2.

How do I thus know it is like this ?

By means of this :

♦The world2 has many prohibitions and taboos,                                                                                 [avoid,shun,abstain]

And the citizens become even[more] poorer.

♦The citizens have many sharp toolsA,

And the nation and the families grow in confusion.

The people have too much knowledge and cleverness,

And strange things begin to increase.

Matters of law are increasingly proclaimed, &nbs