Article Index



41.1 On hearing of the Way, the best of men Will earnestly explore its length. The mediocre person learns of it And takes it up and sets it down.
41.2 But vulgar people, when they hear the news, Will laugh out loud, and if they did not laugh, It would not be the Way.
41.3 And so there is a proverb: "When going looks like coming back, The clearest road is mighty dark." Today, the Way that's plain looks rough, And lofty virtue like a chasm; The purest innocence like shame, The broadest power not enough,
41.4 Established goodness knavery, Substantial worth like shifting tides. Great space has no corners; Great powers come late; Great music is soft sound; The great Form no shape.
41.5 The Way is obscure and unnamed; It is a skilled investor, nonetheless, The master of accomplishment.

42.1 The Way begot one, And the one, two; Then the two begot three And three, all else.
42.2 All things bear the shade on their backs And the sun in their arms; By the blending of breath From the sun and the shade, Equilibrium comes to the world.
42.3 Orphaned, or needy, or desolate, these Are conditions much feared and disliked; Yet in public address, the king And the nobles account themselves thus.
42.4 So a loss sometimes benefits one Or a benefit proves to be loss.
42.5 What others have taught I also shall teach: If a violent man does not come To a violent death, I shall choose him to teach me.

43.1 The softest of stuff in the world Penetrates quickly the hardest; Insubstantial, it enters Where no room is. By this I know the benefit Of something done by quiet being;
43.2 In all the world but few can know Accomplishment apart from work, Instruction when no words are used.

44.1 Which is dearer, fame or self? Which is worth more, man or pelf? Which would hurt more, gain or loss?
44.2 The mean man pays the highest price; The hoarder takes the greatest loss;
44.3 A man content is never shamed, And self-restrained, is not in danger: He will live forever.

45.1 Most perfect, yet it seems Imperfect, incomplete: Its use is not impaired. Filled up, and yet it seems Poured out, an empty void: It never will run dry. The straightest, yet it seems To deviate, to bend;
45.2 The highest skill and yet It looks like clumsiness. The utmost eloquence, It sounds like stammering.
45.3 As movement overcomes The cold, and stillness, heat, The Wise Man, pure and still, Will rectify the world.

46.1 When the Way rules the world, Coach horses fertilize the fields; When the Way does not rule, War horses breed in the parks.
46.2 No sin can exceed Incitement to envy; No calamity's worse Than to be discontented, Nor is there an omen More dreadful than coveting.
46.3 But once be contented, And truly you'll always be so.

47.1 The world may be known Without leaving the house; The Way may be seen Apart from the windows. The further you go, The less you will know.
47.2 Accordingly, the Wise Man Knows without going, Sees without seeing, Does without doing.

48.1 The student learns by daily increment. The Way is gained by daily loss, Loss upon loss until At last comes rest.
48.2 By letting go, it all gets done; The world is won by those who let it go!
48.3 But when you try and try, The world is then beyond the winning.

49.1 The Wise Man's mind is free But tuned to people's need:
49.2 "Alike to be good and bad I must be good, For Virtue is goodness.
49.3 To honest folk And those dishonest ones Alike, I proffer faith, For Virtue is faithful."
49.4 The Wise Man, when abroad, Impartial to the world, Does not divide or judge. But people everywhere Mark well his ears and eyes; For wise men hear and see As little children do.

50.1 On leaving life, to enter death:
50.2 Thirteen members form a living body; A corpse has thirteen, too: Thirteen spots by which a man may pass From life to death. Why so? Because his way of life Is much too gross.
50.3 As I have heard, the man who knows On land how best to be at peace Will never meet a tiger or a buffalo; In battle, weapons do not touch his skin.
50.4 There is no place the tiger's claws can grip; Or with his horn, the buffalo can jab; Or where the soldier can insert his sword. Why so? In him there is no place of death.

51.1 The Way brings forth, Its virtue fosters them, With matter they take shape, And circumstance perfects them all: That is why all things Do honour the Way And venerate its power.
51.2 The exaltation of the Way, The veneration of its power, Come not by fate or decree; But always just because By nature it is so. So when the Way brings forth, Its power fosters all: They grow, are reared, And fed and housed until They come to ripe maturity.
51.3 You shall give life to things But never possess them; Your work shall depend on none; You shall be chief but never lord. This describes the mystic power.

52.1 It began with a matrix: The world had a mother Whose sons can be known As ever, by her.
52.2 But if you know them, You'll keep close to her As long as you live And suffer no harm.
52.3 Stop up your senses; Close up your doors; Be not exhausted As long as you live.
52.4 Open your senses; Be busier still: To the end of your days There's no help for you.
52.5 You are bright, it is said, If you see what is small; A store of small strengths Makes you strong.
52.6 By the use of its light, Make your eyes again bright From evil to lead you away. This is called "practicing constancy."

53.1 When I am walking on the mighty Way, Let me but know the very least I may, And I shall only fear to leave the road.
53.2 The mighty Way is easy underfoot, But people still prefer the little paths.
53.3 The royal court is dignified, sedate, While farmers' fields are overgrown with weeds; The granaries are empty
53.4 and yet they Are clad in rich-embroidered silken gowns. They have sharp swords suspended at their sides; With glutted wealth, they gorge with food and drink. It is, the people say, The boastfulness of brigandage, But surely not the Way!

54.1 Set firm in the Way: none shall uproot you; Cherish it well and none shall estrange you; Your children's children faithful shall serve Your forebears at the altar of your house.
54.2 Cultivate the Way yourself, and your Virtue will be genuine. Cultivate it in the home, and its Virtue will overflow. Cultivate it in the village, and the village will endure. Cultivate it in the realm, and the realm will flourish. Cultivate it in the world, and Virtue will be universal.
54.3 Accordingly, One will be judged by the Man of the Way; Homes will be viewed through the Home of the Way; And the Village shall measure the village; And the Realm, for all realms, shall be standard; And the World, to this world, shall be heaven.
54.4 How do I know the world is like this? By this.

55.1 Rich in virtue, like an infant, Noxious insects will not sting him; Wild beasts will not attack his flesh Nor birds of prey sink claws in him. His bones are soft, his sinews weak, His grip is nonetheless robust;
55.2 Of sexual union unaware, His organs all completely formed, His vital force is at its height.
55.3 He shouts all day, does not get hoarse: His person is a harmony. Harmony experienced is known as constancy; Constancy experienced is called enlightenment;
55.4 Exuberant vitality is ominous, they say; A bent for vehemence is called aggressiveness.
55.5 That things with age decline in strength, You well may say, suits not the Way; And not to suit the Way is early death.

56.1 Those who know do not talk And talkers do not know.
56.2 Stop your senses, Close the doors; Let sharp things be blunted, Tangles resolved, The light tempered And turmoil subdued; For this is mystic unity
56.3 In which the Wise Man is moved Neither by affection Nor yet by estrangement Or profit or loss Or honour or shame. Accordingly, by all the world, He is held highest.

57.1 "Govern the realm by the right, And battles by stratagem." The world is won by refraining. How do I know this is so? By this:
57.2 As taboos increase, people grow poorer; When weapons abound, the state grows chaotic;
57.3 Where skills multiply, novelties flourish; As statutes increase, more criminals start.
57.4 So the Wise Man will say: As I refrain, the people will reform: Since I like quiet, they will keep order;
57.5 When I forebear, the people will prosper; When I want nothing, they will be honest.

58.1 Listlessly govern: Happy your people; Govern exactingly: Restless your people.
58.2 "Bad fortune will Promote the good; Good fortune, too, Gives rise to the bad."
58.3 But who can know to what that leads? For it is wrong and would assign To right the strangest derivations And would mean that goodness Is produced by magic means! Has man thus been so long astray?
58.4 Accordingly, the Wise Man Is square but not sharp, Honest but not malign, Straight but not severe, Bright but not dazzling.

59.1 "For ruling men or serving God, There's nothing else like stores saved up."
59.2 By "stores saved up" is meant forehandedness, Accumulate Virtue, such that nothing Can resist it and its limit None can guess: such infinite resource Allows the jurisdiction of the king;
59.3 Whose kingdom then will long endure If it provides the Mother an abode.
59.4 Indeed it is the deeply rooted base, The firm foundation of the Way To immortality of self and name.

60.1 Rule a large country As small fish are cooked.
60.2 The evil spirits of the world Lose sanction as divinities When government proceeds According to the Way;
60.3 But even if they do not lose Their ghostly countenance and right, The people take no harm from them; And if the spirits cannot hurt the folk, The Wise Man surely does no hurt to them.
60.4 Since then the Wise Man and the people Harm each other not at all, Their several virtues should converge.