Article Index


1.1 There are ways but the Way is uncharted; There are names but not nature in words:
1.2 Nameless indeed is the source of creation But things have a mother and she has a name.
1.3 The secret waits for the insight Of eyes unclouded by longing; Those who are bound by desire See only the outward container.
1.4 These two come paired but distinct By their names.
1.5 Of all things profound, Say that their pairing is deepest, The gate to the root of the world.

2.1 Since the world points up beauty as such, There is ugliness too.
2.2 If goodness is taken as goodness, Wickedness enters as well.
2.3 For is and is-not come together; Hard and easy are complementary; Long and short are relative;
2.4 High and low are comparative; Pitch and sound make harmony; Before and after are a sequence.
2.5 Indeed the Wise Man's office Is to work by being still He teaches not by speech But by accomplishment;
2.6 He does for everything, Neglecting none; Their life he gives to all, Possessing none;
2.7 And what he brings to pass Depends on no one else. As he succeeds, He takes no credit And just because he does not take it, Credit never leaves him.

3.1 If those who are excellent find no preferment, The people will cease to contend for promotion.
3.2 If goods that are hard to obtain are not favoured, The people will cease to turn robbers or bandits.
3.3 If things much desired are kept under cover, Disturbance will cease in the minds of the people.
3.4 The Wise Man's policy, accordingly, Will be to empty people's hearts and minds, To fill their bellies, weaken their ambition, Give them sturdy frames
3.5 and always so, To keep them uninformed, without desire, And knowing ones not venturing to act.
3.6 Be still while you work And keep full control Over all.

4.1 The Way is a void, Used but never filled:
4.2 An abyss it is, From which all things come.
4.3 It blunts sharpness, Resolves tangles; It tempers light, Subdues turmoil.
4.4 A deep pool it is, Never to run dry!
4.5 Whose offspring it may be I do not know: It is like a preface to God.

5.1 Is then the world unkind? And does it treat all things Like straw dogs used in magic rights
5.2 The Wise man too, is he unkind? And does he treat the folk Like straw dogs made to throw away?
5.3 Between the earth and sky The space is like a bellows, Empty but unspent. When moved its gift is copious.
5.4 Much talk means much exhaustion; Better far it is to keep your thoughts!

6.1 The valley spirit is not dead; They say it is the mystic female.
6.2 Her gateway is, they further say, The base of heaven and earth.
6.3 Constantly, and so forever, Use her without labour.

7.1 The sky is everlasting And the earth is very old.
7.2 Why so? Because the world Exists not for itself; It can and will live on.
7.3 The Wise Man chooses to be last And so becomes the first of all;
7.4 Denying self, he too is saved.
7.5 For does he not fulfilment find In being an unselfish man?

8.1 The highest goodness, water-like, Does good to everything and goes Unmurmuring to places men despise; But so, is close in nature to the Way.
8.2 If the good of the house is from land, Or the good of the mind is depth, Or love is the virtue of friendship, Or honesty blesses one's talk,
8.3 Or in government, goodness is order, Or in business, skill is admired, Or the worth of an act lies in timing,
8.4 Then peace is the goal of the Way By which no one ever goes astray.

9.1 To take all you want Is never as good As to stop when you should.
9.2 Scheme and be sharp And you'll not keep it long.
9.3 One can never guard His home when it's full Of jade and fine gold:
9.4 Wealth, power and pride Bequeath their own doom.
9.5 When fame and success Come to you, then retire. This is the ordained Way.

10.1 Can you govern your animal soul, hold to the One and never depart from it?
10.2 Can you throttle your breath, down to the softness of breath in a child?
10.3 Can you purify your mystic vision and wash it until it is spotless?
10.4 Can you love all your people, rule over the land without being known?
10.5 Can you be like a female, and passively open and shut heaven's gates?
10.6 Can you keep clear in your mind the four quarters of earth and not interfere?
10.7 Quicken them, feed them; Quicken but do not possess them. Act and be independent; Be the chief but never the lord: This describes the mystic virtue.

11.1 Thirty spokes will converge In the hub of a wheel; But the use of the cart Will depend on the part Of the hub that is void.
11.2 With a wall all around A clay bowl is molded; But the use of the bowl Will depend on the part Of the bowl that is void.
11.3 Cut out windows and doors In the house as you build; But the use of the house Will depend on the space In the walls that is void.
11.4 So advantage is had From whatever is there; But usefulness rises From whatever is not.

12.1 The five colours darken the eye; The five sounds will deaden the ear; The five flavours weary the taste.
12.2 Chasing the beasts of the field Will drive a man mad. The goods that are hard to procure Are hobbles that slow walking feet.
12.3 So the Wise Man will do What his belly dictates And never the sight of his eyes. Thus he will choose this but not that.

13.1 "Favour, like disgrace Brings trouble with it; High rank, like self, Involves acute distress."
13.2 What does that mean, to say That "favour, like disgrace Brings trouble with it"? When favour is bestowed On one of low degree, Trouble will come with it. The loss of favour too Means trouble for that man. This, then, is what is meant By "favour, like disgrace Brings trouble with it."
13.3 What does it mean, to say That "rank, like self, Involves acute distress"? I suffer most because Of me and selfishness. If I were selfless, then What suffering would I bear?
13.4 In governing the world, Let rule entrusted be To him who treats his rank As if it were his soul; World sovereignty can be Committed to that man Who loves all people As he loves himself.

14.1 They call it elusive, and say That one looks But it never appears. They say that indeed it is rare, Since one listens, But never a sound. Subtle, they call it, and say That one grasps it But never gets hold.
14.2 These three complaints amount To only one, which is Beyond all resolution.
14.3 At rising, it does not illumine; At setting, no darkness ensues; It stretches far back To that nameless estate Which existed before the creation.
14.4 Describe it as form yet unformed; As shape that is still without shape; Or say it is vagueness confused: One meets it and it has no front; One follows and there is no rear.
14.5 If you hold ever fast To that most ancient Way, You may govern today. Call truly that knowledge Of primal beginnings The clue to the Way.

15.1 The excellent masters of old, Subtle, mysterious, mystic, acute, Were much too profound for their times.
15.2 Since they were not then understood, It is better to tell how they looked. Like men crossing streams in the winter, How cautious! As if all around there were danger, How watchful! As if they were guests on every occasion,
15.3 How dignified! Like ice just beginning to melt, Self-effacing! Like a wood-block untouched by a tool, How sincere! Like a valley awaiting a guest, How receptive! Like a torrent that rushes along, And so turbid!
15.4 Who, running dirty, comes clean like still waters? Who, being quiet, moves others to fullness of life?
15.5 It is he who, embracing the Way, is not greedy; Who endures wear and tear without needing renewal

16.1 Touch ultimate emptiness, Hold steady and still.
16.2 All things work together: I have watched them reverting, And have seen how they flourish And return again, each to his roots.
16.3 This, I say, is the stillness: A retreat to one's roots; Or better yet, return To the will of God, Which is, I say, to constancy. The knowledge of constancy I call enlightenment and say That not to know it Is blindness that works evil.
16.4 But when you know What eternally is so, You have stature And stature means righteousness And righteousness is kingly And kingliness divine And divinity is the Way Which is final.
16.5 Then, though you die, You shall not perish.

17.1 As for him who is highest, The people just know he is there. His deputy's cherished and praised; Of the third, they are frightened; The fourth, they despise and revile.
17.2 If you trust people less than enough, Some of them never trust you.
17.3 He is aloof, as if his talk Were priced beyond the purchasing; But once his project is contrived, The folk will want to say of it: "Of course! We did it by ourselves!"

18.1 The mighty Way declined among the folk And then came kindness and morality.
18.2 When wisdom and intelligence appeared, They brought with them a great hypocrisy.
18.2 The six relations were no more at peace, So codes were made to regulate our homes.
18.4 The fatherland grew dark, confused by strife: Official loyalty became the style.

19.1 Get rid of the wise men! Put out the professors! Then people will profit A hundredfold over.
19.2 Away with the kind ones; Those righteous men too! And let people return To the graces of home.
19.3 Root out the artisans; Banish the profiteers! And bandits and robbers Will not come to plunder.
19.4 But if these three prove not enough To satisfy the mind and heart,
19.5 More relevant, then, let there be A visible simplicity of life, Embracing unpretentious ways, And small self-interest And poverty of coveting.

20.1 Be done with rote learning And its attendant vexations; For is there distinction Of a "yes" from a "yea" Comparable now to the gulf Between evil and good?
20.2 "What all men fear, I too must fear"- How barren and pointless a thought!
20.3 The reveling of multitudes At the feast of Great Sacrifice, Or up on the terrace At carnival in spring, Leave me, alas, unmoved, alone, Like a child that has never smiled. Lazily, I drift As though I had no home.
20.4 All others have enough to spare; I am the one left out. I have the mind of a fool, Muddled and confused!
20.5 When common people scintillate I alone make shadows. Vulgar folks are sharp and knowing: Only I am melancholy. Restless like the ocean, Blown about, I cannot stop.
20.6 Other men can find employment, But I am stubborn; I am mean. Alone I am and different, Because I prize and seek My sustenance from the Mother!