Article Index

John C.H. Wu (Translator)

1.1 Tao can be talked about, but not the Eternal Tao; Names can be named, but not the Eternal name.
1.2 As the origin of heaven-and-earth, it is nameless: As "the Mother" of all things it is nameable.
1.3 So, as ever hidden, we should look at its inner essence: As always manifest, we should look at its outer aspects.
1.4 These two flow from the same source, though differently named;
1.5 And both are called mysteries. The Mystery of mysteries is the door of all essence.

2.1 When all the world recognizes beauty as beauty, this in itself is ugliness.
2.2 When all the world recognizes good as good, this in itself is evil.
2.3 Indeed, the hidden and the manifest give birth to each other. Difficult and easy complement each other. Long and short exhibit each other;
2.4 High and low set measure to each other; Voice and sound harmonize each other; Back and front follow each other.
2.5 Therefore, the Sage manages his affairs without ado, And spreads his teaching without talking.
2.6 He denies nothing to the teeming things. He rears them, but lays no claim to them. He does his work, but sets no store by it.
-2.7 He accomplishes his task, but does not dwell upon it. And yet it is just because he does not dwell on it That nobody can ever take it away from him.

3.1 By not exalting the talented you will cause the people to cease from rivalry and contention.
3.2 By not prizing goods hard to get, you will cause the people to cease from robbing and stealing.
3.3 By not displaying what is desirable, you will cause the people's hearts to remain undisturbed.
3.4 Therefore, the Sage's way of governing begins by Emptying the heart of desires, Filling the belly with food, Weakening the ambitions, Toughening the bones.
3.5 In this way he will cause the people to remain without knowledge and without desire, and prevent the knowing ones from any ado.
3.6 Practice Non-Ado and everything will be in order.

4.1 The Tao is like an empty bowl. Which in being used can never be filled up.
4.2 Fathomless, it seems to be the origin of all things.
4.3 It blunts all sharp edges, It unties all tangles, It harmonizes all lights, It unites the world into one whole.
4.4 Hidden in the deeps, Yet it seems to exist forever.
4.5 I do not know whose child it is; It seems to be the common ancestor of all, the father of things.

5.1 Heaven-and-Earth is not sentimental; It treats all things as straw-dogs.
5.2 The Sage is not sentimental; He treats all his people as straw-dogs.
5.3 Between Heaven and Earth, There seems to be a Bellows: It is empty, and yet it is inexhaustible. The more it works the more comes out of it.
5.4 No amount of words can fathom it: Better look for it within you.

6.1 The Spirit of the Fountain dies not. It is called the Mysterious Feminine.
6.2 The doorway of the Mysterious Feminine Is called Root of Heaven-and-Earth.
6.3 Lingering like gossamer, it has only a hint of existence; And yet when you draw upon it, it is inexhaustible.

7.1 Heaven lasts long and Earth abides.
7.2 What is the secret of their durability? Is it not because they do not live for themselves That they can live so long?
7.3 Therefore, the Sage wants to remain behind, But finds himself at the head of others;
7.4 Reckons himself out, But finds himself safe and secure.
7.5 Is it not because he is selfless That his self is realized?

8.1 The highest form of goodness is like water. Water knows how to benefit all things without striving with them. It stays in places loathed by all men. Therefore, it comes near the Tao.
8.2 In choosing your dwelling, know how to keep to the ground. In cultivating your mind, know how to dive in the hidden deeps. In dealing with others, know how to be gentle and kind. In speaking, know how to keep your words.
8.3 In governing, know how to maintain order. In transacting business, know how to be efficient. making a move, know how to choose the right moment.
8.4 If you do not strive with others, You will be free from blame.

9.1 As for holding to fullness, Far better were it to stop in time!
9.2 Keep on beating and sharpening a sword, And the edge cannot be preserved for long.
9.3 Fill your house with gold and jade, And it can no longer be guarded.
9.4 Set store by your riches and honour, And you will only reap a crop of calamities.
9.5 Here is the Way of Heaven: When you have done your work, retire!

10.1 In keeping the spirit and the vital soul together, Are you able to maintain their perfect harmony?
10.2 In gathering your vital energy to attain suppleness, Have you reached the state of a new-born babe?
10.3 In washing and cleaning your inner vision, Have you cured it of all dross?
10.4 In loving your people and governing your state, Are you able to dispense with cleverness?
10.5 In the opening and shutting of heaven's gate, Are you able to play the feminine part?
10.6 Enlightened and seeing far into all directions, Can you at the same time remain detached and non-active?
10.7 Rear your people! Feed your people! Rear them without claiming them for your own! Do your work without setting any store by it! Be a leader, not a butcher! This is called hidden Virtue.

11.1 Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub; It is the hole in the centre that the use of the cart hinges.
11.2 We make a vessel from a lump of clay; It is the empty space within the vessel that makes it useful.
11.3 We make doors and windows for a room; But it is these empty spaces that make the room livable.
11.4 Thus, while the tangible has advantages, It is the intangible that makes it useful.

12.1 The five colours blind the eye. The five tones deafen the ear. The five flavours cloy the palate.
12.2 Racing and hunting madden the mind. Rare goods tempt men to do wrong.
12.3 Therefore, the Sage takes care of the belly, not the eye. He prefers what is within to what is without.

13.1 "Welcome disgrace as a pleasant surprise. Prize calamities as your own body."
13.2 Why should we "welcome disgrace as a pleasant surprise"? Because a lowly state is a boon: Getting it is a pleasant surprise, And so is losing it! That is why we should "welcome disgrace as a pleasant surprise."
13.3 Why should we "prize calamities as our own body"? Because our body is the very source of our calamities. If we have no body, what calamities can we have?
13.4 Hence, only he who is willing to give his body for the sake of the world is fit to be entrusted with the world. Only he who can do it with love is worthy of being the steward of the world.

14.1 Look at it but you cannot see it! Its name is Formless. Listen to it but you cannot hear it! Its name is Soundless. Grasp it but you cannot get it! Its name is Incorporeal.
14.2 These three attributes are unfathomable; Therefore they fuse into one.
14.3 Its upper side is not bright: Its under side not dim. Continually the Unnameable moves on, Until it returns beyond the realm of things.
14.4 We call it the formless Form, the imageless Image. We call it the indefinable and unimaginable. Confront it and you do not see its face! Follow it and you do not see its back!
14.5 Yet, equipped with this timeless Tao, You can harness present realities. To know the origins is initiation into the Tao.

15.1 The ancient adepts of the Tao were subtle and flexible, profound and comprehensive. Their minds were too deep to be fathomed.
15.2 Because they are unfathomable, One can only describe them vaguely by their appearance. Hesitant like one wading a stream in winter; Timid like one afraid of his neighbours on all sides; Cautious and courteous like a guest;
15.3 Yielding like ice on the point of melting; Simple like an uncarved block; Hollow like a cave; Confused like a muddy pool;
15.4 And yet who else could quietly and gradually evolve from the muddy to the clear? Who else could slowly but steadily move from the inert to the living?
15.5 He who keeps the Tao does not want to be full. But precisely because he is never full, He can remain like a hidden sprout, And does not rush to early ripening.

16.1 Attain to utmost Emptiness. Cling single-heartedly to interior peace.
16.2 While all things are stirring together, I only contemplate the Return. For flourishing as they do, Each of them will return to its root.
16.3 To return to the root is to find peace. To find peace is to fulfill one's destiny. To fulfill one's destiny is to be constant. To know the Constant is called Insight. If one does not know the Constant, One runs blindly into disasters.
16.4 If one knows the Constant, One can understand and embrace all. If one understands and embraces all, One is capable of doing justice. To be just is to be kingly; To be kingly is to be heavenly; To be heavenly is to be one with the Tao;
16.5 To be one with the Tao is to abide forever. Such a one will be safe and whole Even after the dissolution of his body.

17.1 The highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware. Next comes one whom they love and praise. Next comes one whom they fear. Next comes one whom they despise and defy.
17.2 When you are lacking in faith, Others will be unfaithful to you.
17.3 The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words. When his task is accomplished and things have been completed, All the people say, "We ourselves have achieved it!"

18.1 When the Great Tao was abandoned, There appeared humanity and justice.
18.2 When intelligence and wit arose, There appeared great hypocrites.
18.3 When the six relations lost their harmony, There appeared filial piety and paternal kindness.
18.4 When darkness and disorder began to reign in a kingdom, There appeared loyal ministers.

19.1 Drop wisdom and abandon cleverness, and the people will be benefited a hundredfold.
19.2 Drop humanity, abandon justice, And the people will return to their natural affections.
19.3 Drop shrewdness, abandon sharpness, And robbers and thieves will cease to be.
19.4 These three are the criss-cross of Tao, And are not sufficient in themselves.
19.5 Therefore, they should be subordinated To a Higher principle: See the Simple and embrace the Primal, Diminish the self and curb the desires!

20.1 Have done with learning, And you will have no more vexation. How great is the difference between "eh" and "o"? What is the distinction between "good" and "evil"?
20.2 Must I fear what others fear? What abysmal nonsense this is!
20.3 All men are joyous and beaming, As though feasting upon a sacrificial ox, As though mounting the Spring Terrace; I alone am placid and give no sign, Like a babe which has not yet smiled. I alone am forlorn as one who has no home to return to.
20.4 All men have courage enough and to spare: I alone appear to possess nothing. What a fool I am! What a muddled mind I have!
20.5 All men are bright, bright: I alone am dim, dim. All men are sharp, sharp; I alone am mum, mum! Bland like the ocean, Aimless like the wafting gale.
20.6 All men settle down in their grooves: I alone am stubborn and remain outside. But wherein I am most different from others is In knowing to take sustenance from my Mother!