Tao Teh Ching
Filename: GNL's Not Lao (Version 2.02) License
This document attempts to draw the texts of several popular English
translations of Lao Tse into a consistent and accessible context. It is
based on the translations of Robert G. Henricks, Lin Yutang, D.C. Lau,
Ch'u Ta-Kao, Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English, Richard Wilhelm and Aleister
This work is not a translation, but an interpolation. It does not
represent the original text; the original, if there was an original, has
been jumbled, mistranscribed and reinterpreted many times over many
thousands of years, and is here cast into a language that is incapable of
presenting its poetic structure and philological connections.
Even an original text, translated as faithfully as possible, might
remain inaccessible to the modern reader unable to place it within its
original context. The intention of this work is to construct a document
that closely corresponds with the best modern translations of Lao Tse, but
which is blunt, easy and useful to read within a modern context.
- The last three lines of chapter 28 have been moved to the end of
- The last three lines of chapter 39 have been moved to the end of
- The last three lines of chapter 47 oppose most translations.
- The first three lines of chapter 54 have been moved to the start of
- The last two lines of chapter 55, a repetition of the last two lines
of chapter 30, have been removed.
- The first line of chapter 60 has been moved to the start of chapter
- Chapter 64 is split into two chapters, 64a and 64b.
- In chapter 64a the order of the second and third paragraphs is
- The last four lines of Chapter 67 have been moved to the start of
1. The Way
The Way that can be experienced is not true;
The world that can be
constructed is not real.
The Way manifests all that happens and may
The world represents all that exists and may exist.
experience without abstraction is to sense the world;
with abstraction is to know the world.
These two experiences are
Their construction differs but their effect is the
Beyond the gate of experience flows the Way,
Which is ever
greater and more subtle than the world.
When beauty is abstracted
Then ugliness has been implied;
good is abstracted
Then evil has been implied.
So alive and dead
are abstracted from nature,
Difficult and easy abstracted from
Long and short abstracted from contrast,
High and low
abstracted from depth,
Song and speech abstracted from melody,
and before abstracted from sequence.
The sage experiences without
And accomplishes without action;
He accepts the ebb and
flow of things,
Nurtures them, but does not own them,
And lives, but
does not dwell.
3. Without Action
Not praising the worthy prevents contention,
Not esteeming the
valuable prevents theft,
Not displaying the beautiful prevents
In this manner the sage governs people:
Filling their bellies,
Weakening their ambitions,
strengthening their bones.
If people lack knowledge and
Then they can not act;
If no action is taken
The Way is a limitless vessel;
Used by the self, it is not filled
by the world;
It cannot be cut, knotted, dimmed or stilled;
depths are hidden, ubiquitous and eternal;
I don't know where it comes
It comes before nature.
Nature is not kind;
It treats all things impartially.
is not kind,
And treats all people impartially.
Nature is like a
Empty, yet never ceasing its supply.
The more it moves, the
more it yields;
So the sage draws upon experience
And cannot be
Experience is a riverbed,
Its source hidden, forever
Its entrance, the root of the world,
The Way moves within
Draw upon it; it will not run dry.
Nature is complete because it does not serve itself.
places himself after and finds himself before,
Ignores his desire and
finds himself content.
He is complete because he does not serve
The best of man is like water,
Which benefits all things, and does
not contend with them,
Which flows in places that others
Where it is in harmony with the Way.
Lives within nature,
Thinks within the deep,
Speaks within trust,
Governs within order,
Acts within opportunity.
He does not contend,
and none contend against him.
Fill a cup to its brim and it is easily spilled;
Temper a sword to
its hardest and it is easily broken;
Amass the greatest treasure and it
is easily stolen;
Claim credit and honour and you easily
Retire once your purpose is achieved - this is natural.
Embracing the Way, you become embraced;
Breathing gently, you
Clearing your mind, you become clear;
children, you become impartial;
Opening your heart, you become
Accepting the world, you embrace the Way.
Creating but not owning,
This is harmony.
Thirty spokes meet at a nave;
Because of the hole we may use the
Clay is moulded into a vessel;
Because of the hollow we may
use the cup.
Walls are built around a hearth;
Because of the doors
we may use the house.
Thus tools come from what exists,
But use from
what does not.
Too much colour blinds the eye,
Too much music deafens the
Too much taste dulls the palate,
Too much play maddens the
Too much desire tears the heart.
In this manner the sage
cares for people:
He provides for the belly, not for the senses;
ignores abstraction and holds fast to substance.
Both praise and blame cause concern,
For they bring people hope and
The object of hope and fear is the self -
For, without self,
to whom may fortune and disaster occur?
distinguishes himself from the world may be given the world,
regards himself as the world may accept the world.
Looked at but cannot be seen - it is beneath form;
Listened to but
cannot be heard - it is beneath sound;
Held but cannot be touched - it
is beneath feeling;
These depthless things evade definition,
blend into a single mystery.
In its rising there is no light,
its falling there is no darkness,
A continuous thread beyond
Lining what does not exist;
Its form formless,
Its name silence;
Follow it, it has no back,
it, it has no face.
Attend the present to deal with the
Thus you grasp the continuity of the Way,
Which is its
The enlightened possess understanding
So profound they can not be
Because they cannot be understood
I can only describe
Cautious as one crossing thin ice,
as one surrounded by danger,
Modest as one who is a guest,
as melting ice,
Genuine as unshaped wood,
Broad as a
Seamless as muddy water.
Who stills the water that the
mud may settle,
Who seeks to stop that he may travel on,
less than what may transpire,
Decays, but will not renew.
16. Decay and Renewal
Empty the self completely;
Embrace perfect peace.
The world will
rise and move;
Watch it return to rest.
All the flourishing
Will return to their source.
This return is
It is the flow of nature,
An eternal decay and
Accepting this brings enlightenment,
Ignoring this brings
Who accepts nature's flow becomes all-cherishing;
all-cherishing he becomes impartial;
Being impartial he becomes
Being magnanimous he becomes natural;
Being natural he
becomes one with the Way;
Being one with the Way he becomes
Though his body will decay, the Way will not.
The best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects;
The next best
are loved and praised;
The next are feared;
They have no faith in their people,
And their people
become unfaithful to them.
When the best rulers achieve their
Their subjects claim the achievement as their own.
When the Way is forgotten
Duty and justice appear;
and wisdom are born
Along with hypocrisy.
Then respect and devotion arise;
nation falls to chaos
Then loyalty and patriotism are born.
If we could discard knowledge and wisdom
Then people would profit a
If we could discard duty and justice
relationships would form;
If we could discard artifice and
Then waste and theft would disappear.
Yet such remedies
treat only symptoms
And so they are inadequate.
Reveal your naked self and embrace your original
Bind your self-interest and control your ambition;
your habits and simplify your affairs.
What is the difference between assent and denial?
What is the
difference between beautiful and ugly?
What is the difference between
fearsome and afraid?
The people are merry as if at a magnificent
Or playing in the park at springtime,
But I am tranquil and
Like a newborn before it learns to smile,
Alone, with no
The people have enough and to spare,
Where I have
And my heart is foolish,
Muddled and cloudy.
people are bright and certain,
Where I am dim and confused;
people are clever and wise,
Where I am dull and ignorant;
a wave drifting over the sea,
Attached to nothing.
are busy with purpose,
Where I am impractical and rough;
I do not
share the peoples' cares
But I am fed at nature's breast.
Harmony is only in following the Way.
The Way is without form or
But expresses all forms and qualities;
The Way is hidden
But expresses all of nature;
The Way is
But expresses all motion.
Beneath sensation and
The Way is the source of all the world.
How can I understand
the source of the world?
Accept and you become whole,
Bend and you straighten,
Decay and you renew,
Want and you acquire,
you become confused.
The sage accepts the world
As the world
accepts the Way;
He does not display himself, so is clearly
Does not justify himself, so is recognized,
Does not boast, so
Does not pride himself, so endures,
Does not contend,
so none contend against him.
The ancients said, "Accept and you
Once whole, the world is as your home.
Nature says only a few words:
High wind does not last long,
does heavy rain.
If nature's words do not last
Why should those of
Who accepts harmony, becomes harmonious.
Who accepts loss,
For who accepts harmony, the Way harmonizes with
And who accepts loss, the Way cannot find.
Straighten yourself and you will not stand steady;
and you will not be clearly seen;
Justify yourself and you will not be
Promote yourself and you will not be believed;
yourself and you will not endure.
These behaviours are wasteful,
And so they attract disfavour;
25. Beneath Abstraction
There is a mystery,
Ubiquitous and liquid,
It has no name, but I call it "the Way";
It has no limit,
but I call it "limitless".
Being limitless, it flows away
Flowing away forever, it returns to my self:
The Way is
So nature is limitless,
So the world is
And so I am limitless.
For I am abstracted from the
The world from nature,
Nature from the Way,
And the Way
from what is beneath abstraction.
Gravity is the source of lightness,
Calm, the master of
A lone traveller will journey all day, watching over his
Only safe in his own bed may he lose them in
So the captain of a great vessel should not act lightly or
Acting lightly, he loses sight of the world,
hastily, he loses control of himself.
The captain can not treat his
great ship as a small boat;
Rather than glitter like jade
stand like stone.
The perfect traveller leaves no trail to be followed;
speaker leaves no question to be answered;
The perfect accountant
leaves no working to be completed;
The perfect container leaves no lock
to be closed;
The perfect knot leaves no end to be ravelled.
the sage nurtures all men
And abandons no one.
And rejects nothing.
He attends to the smallest
For the strong must guide the weak;
The weak are raw
material to the strong.
If the guide is not respected,
material is not cared for,
Confusion will result, no matter how clever
This is the secret of perfection:
When raw wood is
carved, it becomes a tool;
When a man is employed, he becomes a
The perfect carpenter leaves no wood to be carved.
Using the male, being female,
Being the entrance of the
You embrace harmony
And become as a newborn.
strength, being weak,
Being the root of the world,
And become as unshaped wood.
Using the light, being
Being the world,
You perfect harmony
And return to the
Those who wish to change the world
According with their
The world is shaped by the Way;
cannot be shaped by the self.
Trying to change it, you damage
Trying to possess it, you lose it.
So some will lead, while
Some will be warm, others cold
Some will be strong,
Some will get where they are going
While others fall by
the side of the road.
So the sage will be neither extravagant nor
Powerful men are well advised not to use violence,
For violence has
a habit of returning;
Thorns and weeds grow wherever an army
And lean years follow a great war.
A general is well
To achieve nothing more than his orders:
Not to take
advantage of his victory.
Nor to glory, boast or pride himself;
do what is dictated by necessity,
Not by choice.
For even the
strongest force will weaken with time,
And then its violence will
return, and kill it.
Armies are tools of violence;
They cause men to hate and
The sage will not join them.
His purpose is creation;
purpose is destruction.
Weapons are tools of violence,
He uses them only when there is no choice,
calmly, and with tact,
For he finds no beauty in them.
finds beauty in weapons
Delights in the slaughter of men;
delights in slaughter
Cannot content himself with peace.
slaughters must be mourned
And conquest celebrated with a
The Way has no true shape,
And therefore none can control it.
a ruler could control the Way
All things would follow
with his desire,
And sweet rain would fall,
The Way is shaped by use,
But then the shape is
Do not hold fast to shapes
But let sensation flow into the
As a river courses down to the sea.
Who understands the world is learned;
Who understands the self is
Who conquers the world has strength;
Who conquers the
self has harmony;
Who is determined has purpose.
Who is contented
Who defends his home may long endure;
Who surrenders his
home may long survive it.
The Way flows and ebbs, creating and destroying,
the world, attending to the tiniest details,
Claiming nothing in
It nurtures all things,
Though it does not control
It has no intention,
So it seems inconsequential.
the substance of all things;
Though it does not control them;
So it seems all-important.
The sage would not
control the world;
He is in harmony with the world.
If you offer music and food
Strangers may stop with you;
you accord with the Way
All the people of the world will keep you
safety, health, community, and peace.
The Way lacks art and
It can neither be seen nor heard,
But its benefit cannot be
To reduce someone's influence, first expand it;
To reduce someone's
force, first increase it;
To overthrow someone, first exalt them;
take from someone, first give to them.
This is the subtlety by
which the weak overcome the strong:
Fish should not leave their
And swords should not leave their scabbards.
The Way takes no action, but leaves nothing undone.
When you accept
The world will flourish,
In harmony with nature.
does not possess desire;
Without desire, the heart becomes quiet;
this manner the whole world is made tranquil.
Well established hierarchies are not easily uprooted;
beliefs are not easily released;
So ritual enthralls generation after
Harmony does not care for harmony, and so is naturally
But ritual is intent upon harmony, and so can not attain
Harmony neither acts nor reasons;
Love acts, but without
Justice acts to serve reason;
But ritual acts to enforce
When the Way is lost, there remains harmony;
harmony is lost, there remains love;
When love is lost, there remains
And when justice is lost, there remains ritual.
is the end of compassion and honesty,
The beginning of
Belief is a colourful hope or fear,
The beginning of
The sage goes by harmony, not by hope;
He dwells in the
fruit, not the flower;
He accepts substance, and ignores
In mythical times all things were whole:
All the sky was
All the earth was stable,
All the mountains were firm,
the riverbeds were full,
All of nature was fertile,
And all the
rulers were supported.
But, losing clarity, the sky tore;
stability, the earth split;
Losing strength, the mountains
Losing water, the riverbeds cracked;
Losing fertility, nature
And losing support, the rulers fell.
upon their subjects,
The noble depend upon the humble;
call themselves orphaned, hungry and alone,
To win the people's
40. Motion and Use
The motion of the Way is to return;
The use of the Way is to
All things come from the Way,
And the Way comes from
When the great man learns the Way, he follows it with
When the common man learns the Way, he follows it on
When the mean man learns the Way, he laughs out
Those who do not laugh, do not learn at all.
Who understands the Way seems foolish;
Who progresses on
the Way seems to fail;
Who follows the Way seems to wander.
the finest harmony appears plain;
The brightest truth appears
The richest character appears incomplete;
heart appears meek;
The simplest nature appears inconstant.
square, perfected, has no corner;
Music, perfected, has no
Love, perfected, has no climax;
Art, perfected, has no
The Way can be neither sensed nor known:
sensation and transcends knowledge.
The Way bears sensation,
Sensation bears memory,
memory bear abstraction,
And abstraction bears all the world;
thing in the world bears feeling and doing,
And, imbued with mind,
harmony with the Way.
As others have taught, so do I teach,
loses harmony opposes nature";
This is the root of my
Water overcomes the stone;
Without substance it requires no
This is the benefit of taking no action.
And experience without abstraction,
by very few.
Health or reputation: which is held dearer?
Health or possessions:
which has more worth?
Profit or loss: which is more
Great love incurs great expense,
And great wealth
incurs great fear,
But contentment comes at no cost.
For who knows
when to stop
Does not continue into danger,
And so may long
Great perfection seems incomplete,
But does not decay;
abundance seems empty,
But does not fail.
Great truth seems
Great cleverness seems stupid;
Great eloquence seems
As spring overcomes the cold,
And autumn overcomes the
So calm and quiet overcome the world.
When a nation follows the Way,
Horses bear manure through its
When a nation ignores the Way,
Horses bear soldiers through
There is no greater mistake than following
There is no greater disaster than forgetting
There is no greater sickness than seeking
But one who is content to satisfy his needs
Without taking a step outdoors
You know the whole world;
taking a peep out the window
You know the colour of the sky.
more you experience,
The less you know.
The sage wanders without
Looks without seeing,
The follower of knowledge learns as much as he can every day;
follower of the Way forgets as much as he can every day.
attrition he reaches a state of inaction
Wherein he does nothing, but
nothing remains undone.
To conquer the world, accomplish
If you must accomplish something,
The world remains beyond
The sage does not distinguish between himself and the world;
needs of other people are as his own.
He is good to those who are
He is also good to those who are not good,
Thereby he is
He trusts those who are trustworthy;
He also trusts those who
are not trustworthy,
Thereby he is trustworthy.
The sage lives
in harmony with the world,
And his mind is the world's mind.
nurtures the worlds of others
As a mother does her
Men flow into life, and ebb into death.
Some are filled with
Some are empty with death;
Some hold fast to life, and thereby
For life is an abstraction.
Those who are filled with
Need not fear tigers and rhinos in the wilds,
Nor wear armour
and shields in battle;
The rhinoceros finds no place in them for its
The tiger no place for its claw,
The soldier no place for a
For death finds no place in them.
The Way bears all things;
Harmony nurtures them;
Use completes them.
Each follows the Way and honours
Not by law,
But by being.
The Way bears, nurtures,
Shelters, comforts, and makes a home for
Bearing without possessing,
Shaping without forcing,
This is harmony.
The origin of the world is its mother;
Understand the mother, and
you understand the child;
Embrace the child, and you embrace the
Who will not perish when you die.
Reserve your judgments
And you maintain your influence;
Speak your mind and take
And nothing will save you.
As observing detail is
So maintaining flexibility is strength;
Use the light but
shed no light,
So that you do yourself no harm,
53. Difficult Paths
With but a small understanding
One may follow the Way like a main
Fearing only to leave it;
Following a main road is
Yet people delight in difficult paths.
When palaces are
Fields are left to weeds
And granaries empty;
Bearing sharp swords,
Glutting with food and
Hoarding wealth and possessions -
These are the ways of
And far from the Way.
54. Cultivate Harmony
Cultivate harmony within yourself, and harmony becomes
Cultivate harmony within your family, and harmony becomes
Cultivate harmony within your community, and harmony becomes
Cultivate harmony within your culture, and harmony becomes
Cultivate harmony within the world, and harmony becomes
Live with a person to understand that person;
with a family to understand that family;
Live with a community to
understand that community;
Live with a culture to understand that
Live with the world to understand the world.
How can I
live with the world?
55. Soft Bones
Who is filled with harmony is like a newborn.
Wasps and snakes will
not bite him;
Hawks and tigers will not claw him.
His bones are
soft yet his grasp is sure,
For his flesh is supple;
His mind is
innocent yet his body is virile,
For his vigour is plentiful;
song is long-lasting yet his voice is sweet,
For his grace is
But knowing harmony creates abstraction,
abstraction creates ritual.
Exceeding nature creates calamity,
controlling nature creates violence.
Who understands does not preach;
Who preaches does not
Reserve your judgments and words;
and forgive disagreements;
Dull your wit and simplify your
Accept the world.
Profit and loss,
Honour and disgrace,
Will not affect
The world will accept you.
57. Conquer with Inaction
Do not control the people with laws,
Nor violence nor espionage,
But conquer them with inaction.
The more morals and
taboos there are,
The more cruelty afflicts people;
The more guns
and knives there are,
The more factions divide people;
The more arts
and skills there are,
The more change obsoletes people;
laws and taxes there are,
The more theft corrupts people.
take no action, and the people nurture eachother;
Make no laws, and the
people deal fairly with eachother;
Own no interest, and the people
cooperate with eachother;
Express no desire, and the people harmonize
58. No End
When government is lazy and informal
The people are kind and
When government is efficient and severe
The people are
discontented and deceitful.
Good fortune follows upon
Disaster lurks within good fortune;
Who can say how things
Perhaps there is no end.
Honesty is ever
Kindness is ever seduced;
Men have been like this for a
So the sage is firm but not cutting,
Pointed but not
Straight but not rigid,
Bright but not
Manage a great nation as you would cook a delicate fish.
govern men in accord with nature
It is best to be
Restraint makes agreement easy to attain,
agreement builds harmonious relationships;
With sufficient harmony no
resistance will arise;
When no resistance arises, then you possess the
heart of the nation,
And when you possess the nation's heart, your
influence will long endure:
Deeply rooted and firmly
This is the method of far sight and long life.
When you use the Way to conquer the world,
Your demons will lose
their power to harm.
It is not that they lose their power as
But that they will not harm others;
Because they will not harm
You will not harm others:
When neither you nor your demons
can do harm,
You will be at peace with them.
A nation is like a hierarchy, a marketplace, and a maiden.
wins her husband by submitting to his advances;
Submission is a means
So when a large country submits to a small country
will adopt the small country;
When a small country submits to a large
It will be adopted by the large country;
The one submits and
The other submits and is adopted.
It is in the interest
of a large country to unite and gain service,
And in the interest of a
small country to unite and gain patronage;
If both would serve their
Both must submit.
The Way is the fate of men,
The treasure of the saint,
refuge of the sinner.
Fine words are often borrowed,
deeds are often appropriated;
Therefore, when a man falls, do not
And when a man gains power, do not honour him;
remain impartial and show him the Way.
Why should someone
appreciate the Way?
The ancients said, "By it, those who seek may
And those who regret may easily absolve"
So it is the
most precious gift.
Attend to do-nothing;
Magnify the small,
Multiply the few,
Return love for
Deal with the difficult while it is yet easy;
the great while it is yet small;
The difficult develops naturally
from the easy,
And the great from the small;
So the sage, by dealing
with the small,
Achieves the great.
Who finds it easy to promise
finds it hard to be trusted;
Who takes things lightly finds things
The sage recognizes difficulty, and so has none.
64a. Care at the Beginning
What lies still is easy to grasp;
What lies far off is easy to
What is brittle is easy to shatter;
What is small is
easy to disperse.
Yet a tree broader than a man can embrace is born
of a tiny shoot;
A dam greater than a river can overflow starts with a
clod of earth;
A journey of a thousand miles begins at the spot under
Therefore deal with things before they
Create order before there is confusion.
64b. Care at the End
He who acts, spoils;
He who grasps, loses.
People often fail on
the verge of success;
Take care at the end as at the beginning,
that you may avoid failure.
The sage desires no-desire,
And returns to the places that people
He would help all people to become natural,
he would not be natural.
The ancients did not seek to rule people with knowledge,
But to help
them become natural.
It is difficult for knowledgeable people to become
To use law to control a nation weakens the nation.
to use nature to control a nation strengthens the
Understanding these two paths is understanding
Subtlety runs deep, ranges wide,
Resolves confusion and
66. Lead by Following
The river carves out the valley by flowing beneath it.
river is the master of the valley.
In order to master people
One must speak as their servant;
In order to lead people
must follow them.
So when the sage rises above the people,
do not feel oppressed;
And when the sage stands before the
They do not feel hindered.
So the popularity of the sage
does not fail,
He does not contend, and no one contends against
All the world says,
"I am important;
I am separate from all the
I am important because I am separate,
Were I the same, I
could never be important."
Yet here are three treasures
cherish and commend to you:
The first is compassion,
By which one
The second is restraint,
By which one finds
And the third is unimportance,
By which one finds
Those who are fearless, but without
Powerful, but without restraint,
Or influential, yet
Compassion is the finest weapon and best defence.
If you would
Compassion must surround you like a
A good soldier does not inspire fear;
good fighter does not display aggression;
A good conqueror does not
engage in battle;
A good leader does not exercise
This is the value of unimportance;
This is how to win
the cooperation of others;
This to how to build the same harmony that
is in nature.
There is a saying among soldiers:
It is easier to lose a yard than
take an inch.
In this manner one may deploy troops without
Bring weapons to bear without exposing
Engage the foe without invading them,
And exhaust their
strength without fighting them.
There is no worse disaster than
misunderstanding your enemy;
To do so endangers all of my
So when two well matched forces oppose eachother,
general who maintains compassion will win.
My words are easy to understand
And my actions are easy to
Yet no other can understand or perform them.
have meaning; my actions have reason;
Yet these cannot be known and I
cannot be known.
We are each unique, and therefore
Though the sage wears coarse clothes, his heart is
Who recognizes his limitations is healthy;
Who ignores his
limitations is sick.
The sage recognizes this sickness as a
And so becomes immune.
When people have nothing more to lose,
Then revolution will
Do not take away their lands,
And do not destroy their
If your burden is not heavy then they will not shirk
The sage maintains himself but exacts no tribute,
himself but requires no honours;
He ignores abstraction and accepts
Who is brave and bold will perish;
Who is brave and subtle will
The subtle profit where the bold perish
For Fate does not
And even the sage dares not tempt fate.
not attack, yet all things are conquered by it;
It does not ask, yet
all things answer to it;
It does not call, yet all things meet
It does not plan, yet all things are determined by
Fate's net is vast and its mesh is coarse,
Yet none escape
If people were not afraid of death,
Then what would be the use of an
If people were only afraid of death,
executed everyone who did not obey,
No one would dare to disobey
Then what would be the use of an executioner?
death because death is an instrument of fate.
When people are killed by
execution rather than by fate,
This is like carving wood in the place
of a carpenter.
Those who carve wood in place of a carpenter
injure their hands.
When rulers take grain so that they may feast,
Their people become
When rulers take action to serve their own interests,
people become rebellious;
When rulers take lives so that their own
lives are maintained,
Their people no longer fear death.
people act without regard for their own lives
They overcome those who
value only their own lives.
A newborn is soft and tender,
A crone, hard and stiff.
animals, in life, are supple and succulent;
In death, withered and
So softness and tenderness are attributes of life,
and stiffness, attributes of death.
Just as a sapless tree will
split and decay
So an inflexible force will meet defeat;
and mighty lie beneath the ground
While the tender and weak dance on
the breeze above.
Is the action of nature not unlike drawing a bow?
What is higher is
pulled down, and what is lower is raised up;
What is taller is
shortened, and what is thinner is broadened;
Nature's motion decreases
those who have more than they need
And increases those who need more
than they have.
It is not so with Man.
Man decreases those who
need more than they have
And increases those who have more than they
To give away what you do not need is to follow the Way.
the sage gives without expectation,
Accomplishes without claiming
And has no desire for ostentation.
Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water,
can better overcome the hard and strong,
For they can neither control
nor do away with it.
The soft overcomes the hard,
overcomes the strong;
Every person knows this,
But no one can
Who attends to the people would control the land and
Who attends to the state would control the whole world;
is easily hidden by rhetoric.
When conflict is reconciled, some hard feelings remain;
The sage accepts less than is due
And does not blame
For harmony seeks agreement
Where justice seeks
The ancients said: "nature is impartial;
serves those who serve all."
Let your community be small, with only a few people;
Keep tools in
abundance, but do not depend upon them;
Appreciate your life and be
content with your home;
Sail boats and ride horses, but don't go too
Keep weapons and armour, but do not employ them;
read and write,
Eat well and make beautiful things.
peacefully and delight in your own society;
Dwell within cock-crow of
But maintain your independence from them.
81. The Sage
Honest people use no rhetoric;
Rhetoric is not
Enlightened people are not cultured;
Culture is not
Content people are not wealthy;
Wealth is not
So the sage does not serve himself;
The more he
does for others, the more he is satisfied;
The more he gives, the more
Nature flourishes at the expense of no one;
So the sage
benefits all men and contends with none.
Tsaikung's Mysteries of the Tao
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