Article Index


1.1 The Tao that can be told of is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
1.2 The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth; The Named is the mother of all things.
1.3 Therefore let there always be non-being, so we may see their subtlety, And let there always be being, so we may see their outcome.
1.4 The two are the same, But after they are produced, they have different names.
1.5 They both may be called deep and profound. Deeper and more profound, The door to all subtleties!

2.1 When all the people of the world know beauty as beauty, There arises the recognition of ugliness.
2.2 When they all know the good as good, There arises the recognition of evil.
2.3 Therefore: Being and non-being produce each other; Difficult and easy complete each other; Long and short contrast each other;
2.4 High and low distinguish each other; Sound and voice harmonize each other; Front and behind accompany each other.
2.5 Therefore the sage manages affairs without action And spreads doctrines without words.
2.6 All things arise, and he does not turn away from them. He produces them but does not take possession of them.
2.7 He acts but does not rely on his own ability. He accomplishes his task but does not claim credit for it. It is precisely because he does not claim credit that his accomplishment remains with him.

3.1 Do not exalt the worthy, so that the people shall not compete.
3.2 Do not value rare treasures, so that the people shall not steal.
3.3 Do not display objects of desire, so that the people's hearts shall not be disturbed.
3.4 Therefore in the government of the sage, He keeps their hearts vacuous, Fills their bellies, Weakens their ambitions, And strengthens their bones,
3.5 He always causes his people to be without knowledge (cunning) or desire, And the crafty to be afraid to act.
3.6 By acting without action, all things will be in order.

4.1 Tao is empty (like a bowl). It may be used but its capacity is never exhausted
4.2 It is bottomless, perhaps the ancestor of all things.
4.3 It blunts its sharpness. It unties its tangles. It softens its light. It becomes one with the dusty world.
4.4 Deep and still, it appears to exist forever.
4.5 I do not know whose son it is. It seems to have existed before the Lord.

5.1 Heaven and Earth are not humane. They regard all things a straw dogs.
5.2 The sage is not humane. He regards all people as straw dogs.
5.3 How Heaven and Earth are like a bellows. While vacuous, it is never exhausted. When active, it produces even more.
5.4 Much talk will of course come to a dead end. It is better to keep to the centre.

6.1 The spirit of the valley never dies. It is called the subtle and profound female.
6.2 The gate of the subtle and profound female Is the root of Heaven and Earth.
6.3 It is continuous, and seems to be always existing. Use it and you will never wear it out.

7.1 Heaven is eternal and Earth everlasting.
7.2 They can be eternal and everlasting because they do not exist for themselves, And for this reason can exist forever.
7.3 Therefore the sage places himself in the background but finds himself in the foreground.
7.4 He puts himself away, and yet he always remains.
7.5 Is it not because he has no personal interests? This is the reason why his personal interests are fulfilled.

8.1 The best (man) is like water. Water is good; it benefits all things and does not compete with them. It dwells in (lowly) places that all disdain. This is why it is so near to Tao.
8.2 (The best man) in his dwelling loves the earth. In his heart, he loves what is profound. In his associations, he loves humanity. In his words, he loves faithfulness.
8.3 In government, he loves order. In handling affairs, he loves competence. In his activities, he loves timeliness.
8.4 It is because he does not compete that he is without reproach.

9.1 To hold and fill a cup to overflowing Is not as good as to stop in time.
9.2 Sharpen a sword edge to its very sharpest, And the (edge) will not last long.
9.3 When gold and jade fill your hall, You will not be able to keep them.
9.4 To be proud with honour and wealth Is to cause one's own downfall.
9.5 withdraw as soon as your work is done. Such is Heaven's Way.

10.1 Can you keep the spirit and embrace the One without departing from them?
10.2 Can you concentrate your vital force and achieve the highest degree of weakness like an infant?
10.3 Can you clean and purify your profound insight so it will be spotless?
10.4 Can you love the people and govern the state without knowledge (cunning)?
10.5 Can you play the role of the female in the opening and closing of the gates of Heaven?
10.6 Can you understand all and penetrate all without taking any action?
10.7 To produce things and to rear them, To produce, but not to take possession of them, To act, but not to rely on one's own ability, To lead them, but not to master them - This is called profound and secret virtue.

11.1 Thirty spokes are united around the hub to make a wheel, But it is on its non-being that the utility of the carriage depends.
11.2 Clay is moulded to form a utensil, But it is on its non-being that the utility of the utensil depends.
11.3 Doors and windows are cut out to make a room, But it is on its non-being that the utility of the room depends.
11.4 Therefore turn being into advantage, and turn non-being into utility.

12.1 The five colours cause one's eyes to be blind. The five tones cause one's ears to be deaf. The five flavours cause one's palate to be spoiled.
12.2 Racing and hunting cause one's mind to be mad. Goods that are hard to get injure one's activities.
12.3 For this reason the sage is concerned with the belly and not the eyes, Therefore he rejects the one but accepts the other.

13.1 Be apprehensive when receiving favour or disgrace. Regard great trouble as seriously as you regard your body.
13.2 What is meant by being apprehensive when receiving favour or disgrace? Favour is considered inferior. Be apprehensive when you receive them and also be apprehensive when you lose them. This is what is meant by being apprehensive when receiving favour or disgrace.
13.3 What does it mean to regard great trouble as seriously as you regard your body? The reason why I have great trouble is that I have a body (and am attached to it). If I have no body, What trouble could I have?
13.4 Therefore he who values the world as his body may be entrusted with the empire. He who loves the world as his body may be entrusted with the empire.

14.1 We look at it and do not see it; Its name is The Invisible. We listen to it and do not hear it; Its name is The Inaudible. We touch it and do not find it; Its name is The Subtle (formless).
14.2 These three cannot be further inquired into, And hence merge into one.
14.3 Going up high, it is not bright, and coming down low, it is not dark. Infinite and boundless, it cannot be given any name; It reverts to nothingness.
14.4 This is called shape without shape, Form without objects. It is the Vague and Elusive. Meet it and you will not see its head. Follow it and you will not see its back.
14.5 Hold on to the Tao of old in order to master the things of the present. From this one may know the primeval beginning (of the universe). This is called the bond of Tao.

15.1 Of old those who were the best rulers were subtly mysterious and profoundly penetrating; Too deep to comprehend.
15.2 And because they cannot be comprehended, I can only describe them arbitrarily: Cautious, like crossing a frozen stream in the winter, Being at a loss, like one fearing danger on all sides, Reserved, like one visiting,
15.3 Supple and pliant, like ice about to melt. Genuine, like a piece of uncarved wood, Open and broad, like a valley, Merged and undifferentiated, like muddy water.
15.4 Who can make muddy water gradually clear through tranquillity? Who can make the still gradually come to life through activity?
15.5 He who embraces this Tao does not want to fill himself to overflowing. It is precisely because there is no overflowing that he is beyond wearing out and renewal.

16.1 Attain complete vacuity. Maintain steadfast quietude.
16.2 All things come into being, And I see thereby their return. All things flourish, But each one returns to its root.
16.3 This return to its root means tranquillity. It is called returning to its destiny. To return to destiny is called the eternal (Tao). To know the eternal is called enlightenment. Not to know the eternal is to act blindly to result in disaster.
16.4 He who knows the eternal is all-embracing. Being all-embracing, he is impartial. Being impartial, he is kingly (universal). Being kingly, he is one with Nature. Being one with Nature, he is in accord with Tao.
16.5 Being in accord with Tao, he is everlasting And is free from danger throughout his lifetime.

17.1 The best (rulers) are those whose existence is (merely) known by the people. The next best are those who are loved and praised. The next are those who are feared. And the next are those who are despised.
17.2 It is only when one does not have enough faith in others that others will have no faith in him.
17.3 (The great rulers) value their words highly. They accomplish their task; they complete their work. Nevertheless their people say that they simply follow Nature.

18.1 When the great Tao declined, The doctrine of humanity and righteousness arose.
18.2 When knowledge and wisdom appeared, There emerged great hypocrisy.
18.3 When the six family relationships are not in harmony, There will be the advocacy of filial piety and deep love to children.
18.4 When a country is in disorder, There will be the praise of loyal ministers.

19.1 Abandon sageliness and discard wisdom; Then the people will benefit a hundredfold.
19.2 Abandon humanity and discard righteousness; Then the people will return to filial piety and deep love.
19.3 Abandon skill and discard profit; Then there will be no thieves or robbers.
19.4 However, these three things are ornaments (wen) and are not adequate.
19.5 Therefore let people hold on to these: Manifest plainness, Embrace simplicity, Reduce selfishness, Have few desires.

20.1 Abandon learning and there will be no sorrow. How much difference is there between "Yes, sir," and "Of course not"? How much difference is there between "good" and "evil"?
20.2 What people dread, do not fail to dread. But, alas, how confused, and the end is not yet.
20.3 The multitude are merry, as though feasting on a day of sacrifice. Or like ascending a tower in the springtime. I alone am inert, showing no sign (of desires), Like an infant that has not yet smiled. Wearied, indeed, I seem to be without a home.
20.4 The multitude all possess more than enough. I alone seem to have lost all. Mine is indeed the mind of an ignorant man, Indiscriminate and dull!
20.5 Common folks are indeed brilliant; I alone seem to be in the dark. Common folks see differences and are clear-cut; I alone make no distinctions. I seem drifting as the sea; Like the wind blowing about, seemingly without destination.
20.6 The multitude all have a purpose; I alone seem to be stubborn and rustic. I alone differ from others, And value drawing sustenance from Mother (Tao).