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The Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth;
The named is the root of all things.
Therefore, the subtleties of Tao are always apprehended through their formlessness,
The limits of things are always seen through their form.
These two (the form and the formless) have the same source but different names.
Both of them can be called deep and profound,
The deepest and the most profound, the door of all mysteries.
When all the people in the world know the beautiful as beauty,
There appears ugliness;
When they know goodness as good,
There appears evil.
Therefore, by opposing each other,
Existence and non-existence come into being,
Difficult and easy form themselves,
Long and short are distinct,
High and low contrast,
Sound and voice harmonize,
Front and back emerge.
Thus, the sage manages affairs by "nonaction,"
And teaches by "saying nothing."
He leaves all things to grow and change without initiation;
Raises all things without making claim for his ownership;
Promotes all things without attributing them to his contribution;
And takes no credit for himself when the work is done.
It is because no claim is made that his credit cannot be forfeited.
Refrain from exalting capable men, so that the people shall not compete.
Refrain from valuing rare goods, so that the people shall not steal.
Refrain from displaying anything which arouses desires, so that the people's hearts will not be disturbed.
Therefore the government of (under Heaven) the sage lies in:
Simplifying the people's minds,
Filling their bellies,
Weakening their ambitions,
Strengthening their bones,
And always keeping the people innocent of knowledge and desires.
(Thus) anyone who thinks himself clever is afraid of meddling.
By handling affairs on the principle of nonaction everyone will do well.
Tao is invisible, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted.
It is so fathomless, like the ancestor of all things.
It covers its cutting edge,
It transcends entanglement,
It contains its light,
It mixes with its dust.
It has no form or image, but actually it exists.
I don't know where it was born of,
(I only know) it appeared before the Lord.
Heaven and Earth cannot be called benevolent letting all things emerge or perish of themselves.
The sage cannot be called benevolent letting all people live or die by themselves.
Isn't between Heaven and Earth like a bellows?
While vacuous, it is not inexhaustible;
The more it is drawn off, the more air it sends forth.
Much talk is doomed to a dead end,
It is better to keep to moderation.
The spirit of the valley is an immortal being,
It is called the subtle and profound female.
The gate of the subtle and profound female is the root of Heaven and Earth.
It exists formlessly,
But its utility is never won out.
Heaven is eternal and Earth everlasting.
Heaven and Earth can be eternal and everlasting because they don't exist for themselves,
And for this reason they obtain longevity.
Therefore the sage puts himself last,
But actually he stands foremost.
He has no regard for himself,
But his life is well preserved.
Is it not because he has no personal interests that his private ends are fulfilled?
The highest good is like water.
Water is apt to benefit all things and does not compete with them.
It dwells in places people disdain.
Thus it is closest to Tao.
(The best man should be like water)
In his dwelling he is at ease with lowness,
In his heart he is profound,
He is sincere in his dealings with others,
He is faithful in speech,
He is orderly in government,
He is competent in deeds,
He is timely in action.
It is because he is not competitive that he is without any faults.
To hold and to fill is not as good as to give up.
If a sword edge is sharpened to its sharpest,
It is hard to last long.
If your hall is filled with gold and jade,
Whoever could keep them safe?
To be proud with honour and wealth will bring misfortune.
To withdraw as soon as the work is done
That is Heaven's right way (Tao).
Can you keep the unity of soul and the body without separating them?
Can you concentrate the vital energy, keep the breath and achieve gentleness like an infant without any desires?
Can you cleanse and purify your profound insight without any flecks?
Can you love the people and govern the state without personal knowledge?
Can you recoil to take the feminine position in the course of Nature's opposition and change?
Can you perceive all and comprehend all without taking any action?
To let all things grow and increase,
To beget all things, but not to take possession of them,
To advance them, but not to take credit for doing so,
To be leader but not master of them,
- This is the most profound De (Te, or Virtue)
Thirty spokes are united in one nave to make a wheel,
But it is on the hole of the nave that the use of the carriage depends.
Clay is mixed to mold a utensil,
But it is on its empty space that the use of the utensil depends.
Doors and windows are cut out to form a room,
But it is on the vacancy within, that the use of the room depends.
Therefore, the advantage that existence brings to people rests exclusively upon the decisive role of nonexistence.
Iridescent colours cause blindness.
Beautiful music causes deafness.
Delicious food causes loss of taste.
Racing and hunting cause madness.
Rare goods tempt people to rob and steal.
Therefore the sage only wants to feed the people rather than to dazzle them.
That's why he goes for the former and turns down the latter.
(People) love vanity so much as to be easily alarmed,
And they consider the great trouble (vanity) as precious as their lives.
What does it mean "to love vanity so much as to be easily alarmed"?
Vanity is inferior in itself.
(And yet people) are pleasantly surprised when they receive it,
And also frightened when they lose it.
This is what it means "to love vanity so much as to be easily alarmed."
What does it mean "to consider the great trouble as precious as their lives"?
The reason that I have the great trouble (vanity) is that I have a body.
If I have no body,
What trouble could I have?
Therefore only those who value themselves above the world can undertake its important tasks.
Only those who love themselves above the world can be entrusted with its important tasks.
You look at it and it is not seen,
It is called the Formless.
You listen to it and it is not heard,
It is called the Soundless.
You grasp it and it is not to be held,
It is called the Intangible.
These three cannot be further inquired into.
It is the One in reality.
Its upper side is not bright,
Its underside is not dark,
Infinite and boundless, it is hardly namable,
It returns to a state with no shape or image.
This is called the shapeless shape, the bodiless image,
It is called the Vague and Elusive.
While meeting it, you cannot see its head,
While following it, you fail to see its back.
To hold on to the Tao of old in order to harness the things at present,
To be able to know the primeval beginning,
- This is called the Law of Tao.
The shi (Knower of Tao) in the old times is subtle, profound and generous, too deep to be understood by the common people.
As he is thus beyond people's knowledge,
I can only describe him arbitrarily.
(He is) cautious beforehand, like wading into a river in winter.
(He is) considering repeatedly, like one vigilant when threatened by neighbouring states' attack.
(He is) grave and reverent, like a visiting guest.
(He is) supple and pliant, like ice which is about to melt.
(He is) genuine and plain, like an uncarved block.
(He is) open and broad, like a quiet valley.
(He is) all-embracing, like a great muddy river.
Who can make the muddy water clear?
As it quiets down it will become clear.
Who can make stillness last?
It will gradually lose the peace as change arises.
He who preserves this Tao does not wish for overflowing.
It is precisely because there is no overflowing that he is able to succeed continually,
Though he looks conservative.
Try the utmost to make the heart vacant,
Be sure to hold fast to quietude.
All things are growing and developing,
And I see thereby their cycles.
Though all things flourish with a myriad of variations,
Each one will eventually return to its roots.
This return to its root means "tranquility,"
It is called "returning to its destiny."
"To return to its destiny" is called "the eternal,"
To know "the eternal" is called "enlightenment."
Not to know "the eternal" and to act blindly (will necessarily) result in disaster.
Only knowing "the eternal" can one embrace all,
Only embracing all can one be impartial.
Being impartial means you can be all-encompassing under Heaven,
By being all-encompassing under Heaven, you can be one with Nature.
Being one with Nature is in accord with Tao,
Being in accord with Tao is everlasting,
And so you can be free from danger throughout your life.
The best rulers are those about whom people know nothing but their existence.
The next best are those whom people love and praise,
The next best are those whom people fear,
The next are those whom people despise.
Only when one is not faithworthy, will faithless events take place!
So idle, (the best rulers) seldom issue any orders.
When some affairs are accomplished,
All common people will say "We are in ourselves."
When the Great Tao is abandoned,
The doctrines of benevolence and righteousness will come to light.
When knowledge and wisdom appear,
Great hypocrisy will also emerge.
When a family falls into dispute,
Filial piety and parental affection to children will be advocated.
When a country falls into disorder,
There will be loyal ministers.
Only when sageness and wisdom are discarded, can the people benefit;
Only when benevolence and righteousness are discarded, can the people return to filial piety and parental affection;
Only when skill and profit are discarded, can there be thieves and robbers no more.
These three (negative principles) are, however inadequate as a doctrine.
Therefore (as a positive instruction) we shall put people's understanding under this (guidance):
Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, and hold few desires.
Abandon learning and there will be no sorrow.
How much difference is there between approval and denouncement?
How much difference is there between good and evil?
What others fear cannot but be feared.
It has been so from times of old and the practice doesn't seem to end.
The multitude are so merry, as though going for a great banquet or ascending a height with a broad view in springtime.
I alone am indifferent, with no concern, like an infant that cannot laugh, wearied, indeed, as if I have no home to go to.
The multitude all have more than enough,
I alone seem to lack everything.
My mind is that of a stupid man totally in a muddle.
Common people are so brilliant,
I alone seem to be in the dark.
Common people are so demanding,
I alone seem to be tolerant: so broad and as the boundless sea, so vigorous as the untiring blowing wind.
The multitude have their ability,
I alone seem to be clumsy and incapable.
I alone differ from others, essentially because I have acquired Tao.
The content of the great "De" (Virtue) is in conformity with Tao.
The thing that is called Tao has no definite form.
So vague and elusive is it,
Yet in it the real exists.
So profound and obscure is it,
Yet in it the subtle essence was contained.
The essence is very concrete, and very real.
From the old time till now, its name stands unworn, by which we may know the beginnings of all things.
How do I know their beginnings?
Only by this (nature of Tao).
To yield is yet to be preserved wholly,
To be bent is yet to become straight,
To be hollow is yet to be filled up,
To be worn out is yet to be renewed,
To have little (knowledge) is yet to gain,
To have much (knowledge) is yet to be perplexed.
There the sage takes Tao (the One) as the instrument to observe destiny under Heaven.
He does not merely rely on his own eyes,
Therefore he is wise and penetrating;
He does not consider himself always in the right,
Therefore he is able to tell right from wrong;
He does not boast of himself,
Therefore he is given credit;
He does not think himself superior,
Therefore he is qualified for leadership.
It is precisely because he does not compete that nobody under Heaven could compete with him.
How could such old sayings be false as "to yield is yet to be preserved wholly"?
Truly they will preserve people well.
Saying few words fits in with Nature.
Therefore a whirlwind does not last a whole morning,
Nor does a rainstorm last a whole day.
Whoever makes them like this?
It is Heaven and Earth.
If (the fierce force of) Heaven and Earth cannot last long,
How much less man?
Therefore he who follows Tao (should know:)
The seeker of Tao is identified with Tao.
The seeker of De is identified with De,
He who seeks the loss (of Tao) is identified with loss.
He who is identified with Tao -
Tao is also happy to have him.
He who is identified with De -
De is also happy to have him.
He who is identified with the loss -
The loss is also happy to have him.
Only when one has no faith will faithless events take place.
He who wants to stand higher on tiptoe is not steady;
He who wants to double his step is unable to hasten;
He who only rests on his own eyes cannot see clearly;
He who considers himself always in the right cannot tell right from wrong;
He who boasts himself will be given no credit;
He who considers himself superior is not qualified for leadership.
From the point of Tao, (all these) are nothing but remnants of food and tumours of action, which all creatures detest.
Therefore those who possess Tao will stay away from them.
There was something undifferentiated and yet complete, which existed before Heaven and Earth.
Soundless and formless, it depends upon nothing external, operating in a circular motion ceaselessly.
It may be considered the root (Mother) of all beings under Heaven.
I don't know its name,
And call it Tao.
Inadequately giving it another name, I call it great.
The Great moves on,
The moving-on become remote,
The remote returns to the original point.
Therefore the Tao is great,
Heaven is great,
Earth is great,
And Man is also great.
There are four great things in the universe,
And Man is one of them.
Man follows the way of Earth,
Earth follows the way of Heaven,
Heaven follow the way of Tao,
Tao follows the way of itself.
The heavy is the root of the light,
The tranquil is the master of the hasty,
Therefore the sage travels all day, without leaving his baggage wagon.
Although enjoying a magnificent and comfortable life, he does not indulge himself in it.
How is it that a lord of ten thousand chariots belittles his own importance under Heaven?
Lightness necessarily leads to the loss of Root,
Hastiness necessarily results in the loss of mastery.
One who is skilled at travelling leaves no traces of his wheels or footsteps;
One who is skilled at speaking says nothing that can be found fault with;
One who is skilled at counting uses no tallies;
One who is skilled as closing needs no bolts, while it is impossible to open what he has shut.
One who is skilled at binding has no strings, while it is impossible to undo what he has bound.
Therefore the sage is always skillful at saving men,
And so no man is uselessly cast away.
This is called the hidden wisdom.
Therefore the good man is the teacher of the bad,
And the bad man is the material from which the good man learns.
He who does not honour his teacher and who does not greatly care for the material is greatly confused though he thinks himself wise.
Such is called yao-miao (subtle).
He who knows the masculine but keeps to the feminine, is ready to be the ravine under Heaven.
Being the ravine under Heaven, he is not parted from constant "De" (Virtue),
He returns to the simple state, like an infant.
He who knows the white (glory) but keeps to the black (obscure), is ready to be the (divination) instrument of under Heaven.
Being the instrument of under Heaven, he rests upon constant "De,"
He returns to the ultimate truth.
He who knows glory but keeps to disgrace, is ready to be the valley under Heaven.
Being the valley under Heaven, he will have plenty of the eternal "De,"
He returns to simplicity.
When the simplicity is broken up, it is turned into concrete vessels.
By using the breaking up of simplicity, the sage sets up government and leadership.
Therefore the perfect government does not arise out of artificiality.
He who desires to govern under Heaven and build up achievements will not succeed, which I assert.
"The under Heaven" which is a queer thing, cannot be handled arbitrarily.
He who acts arbitrarily will harm it,
He who holds on to it will lose it.
Therefore of all creatures (in themselves) some lead and some follow, some breathe and some blow, some are strong and some weak, some are baffled and some destroyed.
For this reason, the sage should discard the extremes, the extravagant and the excessive.
He who assists the rulers with Tao does not dominate under Heaven by force.
The use of force will soon incur requital.
Wherever armies are stationed, briers and thorns grow wild.
Great wars are always followed by famines.
Content yourself with your success and stop.
Do not seek to dominate under Heaven by force of arms.
Succeed but don't boast about it,
Succeed but don't brag about it,
Succeed but don't be arrogant,
Succeed and take it as you have to,
Succeed and don't attempt to dominate.
Things must grow old after reaching their prime, which is contrary to Tao.
Whatever is contrary to Tao will soon perish.
Weapons are instruments of evil,
They are disdained by everyone.
Therefore those who possess Tao stay away from them.
When at home jun-zi honours the left;
When at war he honours the right.
Weapons are the instruments of evil, not the instruments of jun-zi.
When he uses them unavoidably, he maintains an indifferent attitude.
Even when he is victorious, he doesn't think himself praiseworthy.
If he praises his victory, he is a man delighting in the slaughter of people.
He who delights in the slaughter of people will not succeed under Heaven.
On happy occasions, the left is honoured.
On unhappy occasions, the right is honoured.
The lieutenant-general stands on the left,
The senior general stands on the right.
That is to say that the arrangement of war affairs follows that of funeral ceremonies.
The war will slaughter the multitude of people.
So we should go to the battleground with sorrow and grief.
Even if it is won, we observe the occasion with funeral ceremonies.
Tao has no name forever.
Though the simplicity seems small, it may be subordinated to nothing under Heaven.
If kings and princes can preserve it, all creatures would submit of themselves to them.
(Yin and Yang between) Heaven and Earth unite to drip sweet dew.
Without the command of the people, it drips evenly over all.
Once there was government, there were names appearing.
Once there were names, one has to know where and when to stop.
By practicing moderation one can be free from danger.
Everything under Heaven is embraced by Tao, just like every river or stream running into the sea.
He who knows others is wise,
He who knows himself is enlightened.
He who conquers others can be called physically strong,
He who conquers himself is mighty.
He who is content is rich,
He who acts with persistence has will,
He who does not lose his root will endure,
He who dies physically, but preserves Tao will enjoy a long life.
The great Tao is like a river overflowing,
It can go left, it can go right.
All things owe their existence to it,
But it never interferes with them.
When its work is accomplished, it is unable to say where its credit is.
It protects and nourishes, but it does not claim to be master over them.
Always without its desire, it may be called small.
All things come to it as their home,
And yet it does not pose as their master.
It may be called great.
It is precisely because it never claims to be great, that it can achieve its greatness.
Whoever holds fast to the great image will become that one to whom all people under Heaven will come.
(Even if all people under Heaven) come to him they will not hinder each other,
And all enjoy comfort, peace and health.
Music and dainties will make passing guests stop,
(But) Tao, if spoken out, will be insipid and tasteless.
Being looked at, it is imperceptible,
Being listened to, it is inaudible,
Being utilized, it is inexhaustible.
In order to contract it, it is necessary to expand it for the time being.
In order to weaken it, it is necessary to strengthen it for the time being.
In order to destroy it, it is necessary to promote it for the time being.
In order to grasp it, it is necessary to give to it for the time being.
This is called profound insight (and also the reason why) the soft and the weak overcome the hard and the strong.
(Just like) fish cannot be taken away from deep water,
Effective weapons of the state cannot be easily displayed to others.
Tao invariably does nothing,
And yet there is nothing left undone.
If kings and princes can preserve it,
All things will submit to them spontaneously.
(After their) submission if any desires occur,
I should subdue them with the nameless simplicity.
The nameless simplicity is nothing but eradication of desires.
Eradication of desires will lead to quietude.
Thus the world will naturally find its equilibrium.
The superior virtue does not show itself in formal virtue,
In this way it really possesses virtue.
The inferior virtue rigidly sticks to formal virtue,
In this way it loses virtue.
The superior virtue takes no action to show itself, and need not do so purposefully.
The inferior virtue takes action to show itself, and does so purposefully.
The superior benevolence takes action to show itself, and does so on purpose.
The superior righteousness takes action to show itself, and does so on purpose.
The superior propriety takes action to show itself,
And when it gets no response, it will stretch its arms and retaliate.
Therefore, only when Tao is lost does De arise,
Only when De is lost does benevolence arise,
Only when benevolence is lost does righteousness arise,
Only when righteousness is lost does propriety arise.
The thing that is called propriety is really the want of loyalty and faithfulness and the beginning of disorder.
The thing that is called foresight is really the ornament of Tao and the beginning of ignorance.
For this reason the great man dwells in the thick and keeps away from the thin,
He dwells in plainness and keeps away from the ornament.
Therefore he rejects the latter and accepts the former.
From of old those that attained one principle (Tao)-
Heaven attained the One and became clear,
Earth attained the One and became tranquil,
Spirits attained the One and became divine,
Valleys attained the One and became full,
All things attained the One and became luxuriant,
Kings and princes attained the One and became heads of the kingdom.
What they strove to achieve was fulfilled by the principle (the One).
If Heaven couldn't have become clear it would soon crack.
If Earth couldn't have become tranquil it would soon be shaken.
If spirits couldn't have become divine they would soon perish.
If valleys couldn't have become luxuriant they would soon be extinct.
If kings and princes couldn't have maintained their majesty and nobility they would soon lose their kingdoms and states.
Therefore the noble takes the humble as it root,
And the high takes the low as its ground.
Just for this reason kings and princes call themselves the orphaned, the solitary and the unworthy.
Is it not regarding the humble as the root of the noble?
Is it not so?
Therefore to seek too much honour means to lose honour wholly.
So neither the noble jade, nor the humble rocks should one strive to be.
Reversion is the movement of Tao,
Weakness is the function of Tao.
All things under Heaven come into being from (visible) concrete beings,
An all beings come into being from invisible nonexistence (Tao).
When the highest shi hear Tao, they diligently practice it.
When the average shi hear Tao, they half believe it.
When the lowest shi hear Tao, (thinking it empty) they laugh greatly at it.
If they didn't laugh, it would be contrary to Tao.
Therefore there are some old sayings:
"The Tao that is bright seems to be dark;
The Tao that goes forward seems to retreat;
The Tao that is level seems to be uneven;
The lofty De (Virtue) looks like a humble valley;
The greatest glory looks like disgrace;
The greatest De looks insufficient;
The vigorous De looks inert;
The simple purity looks changeable;
The great square has no corners;
The valuable vessel is always completed lastly;
The greatest sound sounds faint;
The greatest form looks formless."
Tao is hidden and nameless,
It is only Tao that initiates all beings and brings them to completion.
Tao gives birth to the unified thing (One),
The One splits itself into two opposite aspects (Two),
The Two gives birth to another (Three),
The newborn Third produces a myriad of things.
The myriad of things contain the Yin and Yang within themselves as opposite forces,
Both of them (Yin and Yang) are unified with harmony in the invisible breath.
People disdain the "orphaned," "solitary" or "unworthy,"
And yet they are the very names by which kings and dukes call themselves.
Therefore all things may increase when purposely diminished,
And they may diminish when increased.
What people teach each other, I also teach:
"The violent and strong does not die his natural death,"
I will make that fact the beginning of my teaching.
The softest thing under Heaven is able to run in and out of the hardest.
The invisible force is able to penetrate that in which there is no crevice.
Thereby I come to know the advantage of doing nothing.
The instructiveness of not speaking and the benefits of nonaction are incomparable under Heaven.
Which is more dear to me, credit or life?
Which is more valuable, life or wealth?
Which is more harmful, gain or loss?
Therefore the excessive stint must cause enormous expenses,
The rich hoard must suffer a serious loss.
Whoever is contented will meet no disgrace,
Whoever knows when and where to stop will meet no danger,
And he is able to endure long without worry.
What is most perfect seems to be incomplete,
But its utility cannot be impaired.
What is most full seems to be empty,
But its utility cannot be exhausted.
The most straight seems to be crooked,
The greatest skill seems to be clumsy,
The greatest eloquence seems to stammer.
Rapid walking overcomes cold,
Being quiet overcomes heat.
By remaining quiet and tranquil, one will be the chief under Heaven.
When state politics are on the right track, war horses are used in farming.
When state politics are off track, even mares with foal have to be used in battle.
There is no calamity greater than discontentment.
There is no guilt greater than covetousness.
Therefore the contentment with knowing contentment is always contented.
Without going out of the door, one can now things under Heaven.
Without looking through the window, one can see the Way (Tao) of Heaven.
The farther one goes, the less one knows.
Therefore the sage knows without going through,
Understands without seeing,
And accomplishes without doing anything.
The pursuit of learning is to increase (knowledge) day after day.
The pursuit of Tao is to decrease (knowledge) day after day.
Decreasing and decreasing again, till one has reached nonaction (wu-wei).
Nonaction and yet there is nothing that is not done by it.
To govern all under Heaven one usually should not take any arbitrary action.
If one tends to do anything arbitrarily,
One is not qualified to govern all under Heaven.
The sage has no fixed personal will,
He regards the people's will as his own.
I take the people's will, if it is good, as good.
I take the people's will, if it is not good, as good too.
Thus goodness is attained.
I believe the people's will, if it is believable.
I also believe the people's will, even if it is unbelievable.
Thus faith is attained.
The sage dwells under Heaven, harmoniously keeping all the people under Heaven in confusion,
(While all the people concentrate upon their own eyes and ears),
Thus the sage treats them all as ignorant infants without desires.
When one is born, he will eventually naturally meet his death.
Three out of every ten people will enjoy long life,
While three out of every ten people will meet premature death.
Chances that one strives to live and will die are also three out of ten.
And for what reason?
Because that one intensively craves life (and contrarily he fails to attain his objective).
I heard that one who is good at preserving his life is not afraid of meeting tigers or rhinoceroses when traveling on the land, and he will not be injured of killed in fighting battles.
(To those who are good at preserving their lives)
The rhinoceros cannot butt its horns against him,
The tiger cannot fasten its claws in him,
And weapons cannot thrust their blades into him.
For what reason are all these?
Because he is out of the range of death.
Tao begets all beings,
And De fosters them.
The physical gives them forms,
And the vessels mark them accomplished.
Therefore all beings without exception venerate Tao and value De.
The veneration of Tao and valuing De, is not out of obedience to any orders, but is always like this.
Therefore Tao begets all beings,
And De fosters them, grows and raises them, makes them fruitful and mature, breeds them and protects them.
To give birth to them without taking possession of them,
To put them in motion without vaunting this as its merits,
And to be their sovereign without controlling them,
- These are called the profound De.
All the things in the world have their origin in something, which is their foundation (mother).
Having grasped the Mother as the foundation of all things, one can know her children as all things.
Having grasped the children as the thing, one must hold to the Mother as the foundation of all things.
Thus one will never encounter danger all his life.
Blocking the vent (of knowledge) and closing the door (of knowledge) can keep one from sickness all his life.
Opening the vent (of knowledge) and completing the enterprise (of knowledge) will make one helpless all his life.
So, perceiving the minute is "sagaciousness,"
Remaining soft and weak is "powerfulness."
Using one's contained light and reverting to one's sagaciousness of knowing the minute,
And thus keeping oneself from disaster, is to become accustomed to the eternal Way.
If I have a certain knowledge,
I will go along the highway (Great Tao),
And I will be afraid on nothing but the oblique way.
The highway is very even,
But the people are fond of the shortcut.
(Those who make) the palace very clear and neat, the field uncultivated and weedy, the granary empty and vacant, wearing glorious and coloured clothes, carrying precious and sharp swords, satiated with exquisite food and drink, possessing an abundance of wealth and property, can be called chieftain to robbers.
That is contrary to rationality (Tao).
He who is good at building cannot be shaken,
And he who is good at holding can lose nothing.
(According to the principle,) he can enjoy the sacrifice for posterity forever.
His "De" can be pure and true by carrying out the principle in his person;
His "De" can be abundant by carrying it out in his family;
His "De" can lead by carrying it out in the neighbourhood;
His "De" can be powerful by carrying it out in the state;
His "De" can be universal by carrying it out in the kingdom;
So (we should) His "De" can be abundant by carrying it out in his family;
Know a person in the perspective of a person,
Know a family in the perspective of a family,
Know a neighbourhood in the perspective of a neighbourhood,
Know a state in the perspective of a state,
Know the kingdom in the perspective of a kingdom.
How do I know the situation of all the things under Heaven?
By the method mentioned above.
The profundity of De contained should be compared to an ignorant infant without desires,
Whom poisonous insects will not sting,
Whom fierce brutes will not seize,
Whom birds of prey will not attack;
Whose bones are weak and whose sinews are soft, but whose grasp is firm;
Who does not yet know about intercourse of male and female but whose virile member may be excited, because it is full of physical essence;
Who cries all day long without its throat becoming hoarse, because it is peaceful and without desires.
To know the peace is called the eternal,
To know the eternal is called wisdom.
The desire for life enjoyment is a disaster,
And to subject physical essence to desire is to boast of powerfulness.
Things begin to become old when they have grown strong, which may be said to be contrary to Tao.
Contrariness to Tao brings death with it very soon.
He who knows does not speak,
And he who speaks does not know.
Blocking the vent (of knowledge), closing the door (of knowledge), covering the cutting-edge, going beyond entanglement, containing the light, and mixing with the dust,
- These can be called "the mysterious agreement."
So, (the person with "the mysterious agreement")
Cannot be treated intimately,
Cannot be estranged,
Cannot be given profits,
Cannot be injured,
Cannot be raised to nobility,
And cannot be made humble,
And can therefore be esteemed by all the people under Heaven.
A state should be governed in a natural way,
A war should be prosecuted in an unusual way,
And the kingdom should be controlled by doing nothing.
How do I know that it is so?
On the grounds:
In the kingdom the more prohibitive enactments there are, the poorer the people become;
The more weapons the people have, the greater disorder the state and clan fall into;
The more crafts and technics men possess, the more strange contrivances appear;
The more display of statutes there is, the more robbers and thieves there are.
So the sage said:
"I do nothing, then the people submit spontaneously,
I am fond of keeping still, then the people are righteous spontaneously,
I take no trouble, and the people naturally enrich themselves,
I have no desires, then the people naturally remain in primitive simplicity."
When the government is generous, the people will be honest and loyal;
When the government is severe, the people will complain.
O Misery! Happiness lies by its side;
O Happiness! Misery lurks beneath it.
Who knows the destination?
There is no master indeed.
The normal can at anytime become the abnormal,
The good can at anytime become the evil.
The delusion of the people (on this point) has persisted for a long time.
Therefore the sages is right as a square, but not stiff, has edges, but cuts nobody.
He is straightforward, but not aggressive, bright, but not dazzling.
For the rule of the people and the service of Heaven, there is nothing better than the principle of "parsimony."
Only by "parsimony" can one be unhurried and get ready early.
Being unhurried and getting ready early is what I call the repeated accumulation of the "De" of "parsimony."
With the repeated accumulation of De, one can victoriously overcome any obstacles.
The power which can overcome any obstacles is immeasurable.
With immeasurable power one can govern a state.
Having the foundation of government, one can maintain sovereignty very long.
This is called the Way in which one can plant the roots deep and make the stalks firm and maintain a long life.
Governing a great state is like frying a small fish (so frequent disturbance should be avoided).
Applying Tao to the kingdom can render ghosts harmless.
It is not that ghosts cannot function,
But that the function cannot harm men,
It is not that the function cannot harm men,
But that the sage never harms men at all.
So, men and ghosts will not harm each other,
Therefore both (men and ghosts) praise the De of the sage.
A great state lies lower (like rivers and seas into which all streams run),
To it all things under Heaven tend,
It considers itself as the female under Heaven.
The female always overcomes the male by stillness, because it is still and lies lower.
Therefore, a great state can, by lowering itself to small states, make the small states rely upon the big states.
Small states can, by lowering themselves to a great state, win trust from it.
Thus a great state sometimes makes small states rely upon it by lowering itself.
And sometimes, small states win the trust from a great state only by lowering themselves.
What the great state desires is to lead the small states,
And what the small states desire is to serve the great state.
Then each side gets what it desires,
But the great state should especially learn to lower itself.
Tao, as the abyss where all things are hidden, is effective and precious to good men, and must also be preserved by bad men.
Eloquent words can purchase honour from others,
And admirable deeds can put one above others,
How can it be abandoned by men, even in their evil deeds?
Therefore, when the Son of Heaven mounts the throne and the principal ministers come to their places,
It is better to offer Tao as a present (without any ceremonies),
Though there is the round jadeware, followed by the four-horse chariot.
Why is Tao so much valued from the old days on?
Can it not be said that (with it) one can get what he seeks for and be forgiven his sin?
Thus it is valued by all under Heaven.
Consider nonaction as and action, having no trouble as an affair and flavourless as a flavour.
No matter how hostile others are toward me,
I always repay them with "De."
Prepare for a difficult problem while it is easy,
Enter on a great task while it is still small.
All the difficult things under Heaven necessarily arise from the state in which they were easy;
All the great tasks under Heaven arise from the state in which they were small.
For this reason, the sage never does great things,
And he can accomplish great things just on that account.
Light promising makes on lose one's credit,
And thinking things easy leads to difficulties.
So, the sage, though he is very wise, pays much attention to the difficulties,
Therefore he is free from difficulties in the end.
The stability of things is easy to hold while they are stable;
Things are easy to deal with while they show no sign of change;
Things are easily broken while they are still fragile;
Things are easily dispersed while they are minute.
Deal with things before they have happened,
And get things in order before their disorder begins.
A huge tree which fills one's arms grows from a tiny seedling;
A high terrace which has nine storeys rises from a small heap of earth;
A journey of a thousand li begins with the first step.
He who takes action messes things up;
And he who holds things fast loses them.
Therefore, the sage does not fail in anything since he does nothing;
Does not lose anything since he holds nothing.
People often fail when they are about to succeed in their business.
If they are as careful at the end as at the beginning,
They would not ruin their business.
Therefore the sage's desire is to have no desire,
And he doesn't value rare goods.
(The Sage's) learning is to learn nothing, in order to remedy the fault that people often have.
Thus he helps the natural development of all things, and does not dare to act constrainedly.
From of old those who have carried out the principle of Tao do not enlighten the people with it, but make them foolish and simple with it.
What makes it difficult to govern the people is that they have too much knowledge,
Therefore to govern the state by wisdom is a disaster for the state,
And not to govern the state by wisdom is a blessing for the state.
It is a principle to now the two (by wisdom and not by wisdom).
Carrying out the principle forever is called the mysterious "De."
The mysterious "De" is very deep and far-reaching.
It is contrary to the nature of concrete things,
But leads to the greatest conformity.
The rivers and seas can become the masters of many streams just because they skillfully stay in lower valleys.
So they can be the leaders of many streams.
Therefore (he) who wants to rule over the people should show his modesty by his words.
He who wants to lead the people should place himself behind them.
In this way, the sage is above the people, but the people do not feel him as a burden.
He is in front of the people (leading them), but the people do not feel him as a hindrance.
Therefore all the people under Heaven revere him and do not tire of him.
Just because he does not compete with others,
Nobody under Heaven can compete with him.
All the people under Heaven say that my Tao is great,
But it is not like anything concrete.
Just because it is great,
It is not like anything concrete.
If it is like something concrete,
It would have been very small for long.
I have three precious things which I hold up and preserve:
The first if "tolerance";
The second is "economy";
The third is "to dare not go ahead of all the people under Heaven."
With tolerance, one can be brave;
With economy, one can be generous;
With not daring to go ahead of all the people under Heaven, one can be a leader.
Now, seeking bravery without tolerance, seeking generosity without economy, and seeking precedence without retreat will only end with death.
With tolerance, one can be victorious in war or strengthen himself in defense.
When Heaven is to save a person, it will protect him through tolerance.
He who is god at being a shi (officer) does not boast of his martialism;
He who is good at fighting does not resort to his rage;
He who is skillful in winning against the enemy does not wrestle with them;
He who is skillful in managing his men has a modest attitude toward them.
This is called the De of not contending with others;
This is called the power of making use of others' force;
This is called being in accord with the Way of Heaven,
Thus it has been a principle very long since.
A master in the art of war is very correct in saying:
"I dare not take the offensive, but prefer to take the defensive;
I dare not advance an inch, but prefer to retreat a foot."
This is called:
Disposing no lines of troops,
Raising no arms,
Confronting no enemy,
And grasping no weapons.
There is no disaster greater than underestimating the enemy,
Underestimating the enemy nearly makes me lose my "three precious things."
Therefore the side in grief conquers in case of the balance of the forces of two sides.
My words are very easy to understand, and very easy to practice.
But no one under Heaven is able to understand them or to practice them.
Speeches should have their main principle,
And deeds should have their master.
Because of their ignorance, the people are not able to understand me.
Those who are able to understand me are very few,
And those who are able to follow me are very heard to meet.
Therefore the sage (who is not understood) looks like he is wearing coarse grab, but he has a precious jade in his heart.
It is the best for one to know that he does not know;
It is an illness to pretend to know when he actually does not know.
Recognizing the illness as an illness prevents one from the illness.
The sage is free from the illness,
Because he recognizes the illness as an illness.
He can prevent the illness thereby.
When the people do not fear the force (of the ruler),
Something forceful and terrible would happen.
Don't force the people out of their houses,
Don't block their way of livelihood.
Only by not oppressing the people, can one make the people feel no oppression.
Therefore the sage seeks for self-knowledge, not for self-parade, for self-love, not for self-importance.
So, self-parade and self-importance should be abandoned and self-knowledge and self-love should be kept.
He who is brave in daring everything will be killed,
And he who is brave in daring nothing will live on.
Of the results of the two kinds of braveness, one is advantageous, the other is harmful.
When Heaven has some detestation,
Who can know its cause?
So even the sage feels it difficult to explain.
It is the Tao (Way) of Heaven:
Not to struggle and yet be good at winning,
Not to speak and yet be good at replying,
Without being called it comes of itself,
though slow, it plans skillfully.
The net of Heaven is vast,
It has large meshes, but it lets nothing escape.
Since the people do not fear death,
What is it for to frighten them with death?
If the people fear death and I can catch and kill those who make trouble,
Who dares to make trouble?
There is always someone who is in charge of inflicting death.
Inflicting death in place of those who are in charge of it can be described as hewing wood in place of a skillful carpenter.
Of those who hew wood in place of skillful carpenters, few have not cut their own hands.
The people suffer from famine because too many of the taxes are swallowed by their rulers.
Thus they suffer from famine.
The people are difficult to rule because their rulers are fond of taking action.
Thus they are difficult to rule.
The people take risks with their lives because the rulers take good care of their own lives.
Thus the people are forced to risk their lives.
Those who do not value their lives are wiser than those who overvalue their lives.
Man ahs a soft and weak body when he is alive,
Whereas his body becomes hard and rigid after his death.
All things, grasses and trees have tender twigs and branches when they are alive,
Whereas they become dry and withered when they are dead.
Therefore the hard and strong belong to death,
Whereas the soft and weak belong to life.
Thus the armed forces will be shattered when they become strong,
And trees will be broken when they grow strong.
The hard and strong are in the inferior position,
And the soft and weak are in the superior position.
Does not he Way (Tao) of Heaven resemble drawing a bow (and aiming an arrow at the target)?
When it is high, it will be brought down;
When it is low, it will be raised up;
When it is overfull, it will be diminished;
And when it is not full, it will be supplemented.
It is the Way of Heaven to diminish the excessive, so as to supplement the deficient.
This is not so with the Way of man -
It takes away from those who have not enough so as to supply those who have superabundance.
Who can supply all the people under Heaven by diminishing the excessive?
Only the man who has "Tao."
Therefore the sage promotes all things, but does not think the effort as his own,
Achieves merit, but does not claim credit for himself,
And does not wish to parade his wisdom and ability.
Nothing under Heaven is softer and weaker than water,
But in attacking the hard and strong, no force can compare with it,
For nothing can take its place.
The reason why the weak can overcome the strong and the soft can overcome the heard is known to all the people under Heaven,
But none would follow and practice it.
Therefore the sage said:
He who bears humiliation of the whole state can be the sovereign of the country.
He who bears the disaster of the whole state can be the king of all under Heaven.
Positive words seem to be negative.
When an attempt has been made to reconcile two sides in a great enmity, and there is surely some enmity remaining,
How can this be a good thing?
So, although the sage hold the counterfoil of receipt,
He does not force the debtor to pay back.
The moral man is as calm and unhurried as a bookkeeper is,
And the immoral man is as calculating as a rent collector is (while he is collecting the rent).
The Tao of Heaven has no partiality for any reason, and always helps the good man.
Let the state be small, and let the population be sparse.
Though there are various kinds of instruments, let them not be used;
Let the people not risk their lives, not move to distant places;
Though there be boats and carriages,
There is no occasion to ride in them;
Though there are weapons and military equipment,
There is no occasion to display them.
Let the people return to the use of knotted cord sin recording events, delight in their food, dress in beauty, dwell in comfort, and enjoy their life.
The neighbouring states are within sight of each other, and the cries of roosters and dogs can be heard by one another,
But the people do not have any contact with each other until they die of old age.
Sincere words are not fine,
Fine words are not sincere.
A good man is not eloquent,
An eloquent man is not good.
He who knows does not show off his learning,
He who shows off his learning does not know.
The sage has nothing to reserve.
He gains more since he does his utmost to help others,
And gets richer since he gives all to others.
The Tao of Heaven is beneficial to all things, but not harmful.
The Tao of the sage is to compete against nobody in what he does.