Book I. The Character of Tao
1. On the Absolute Tao
The Tao the can be told of
Is not the Absolute Tao;
The Names that can be given
Are not Absolute Names.
The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth;
The Named is
the Mother of All Things.
Oftentimes, one strips oneself of passion
In order to see the Secret of Life;
Oftentimes, one regards
life with passion,
In order to see its manifest forms.
These two (the Secret and its manifestations)
Are (in their
nature) the same;
They are given different names
they become manifest.
They may both be called the Cosmic Mystery:
Reaching from the Mystery into the Deeper Mystery
Gate to the Secret of
2. The Rise of Relative Opposites
When the people of the Earth all know beauty as beauty,
There arises (the recognition of) ugliness.
When the people of the Earth all know the good as good,
There arises (the recognition of) evil.
Being and non-being interdepend in
Difficult and easy interdepend in
Long and short interdepend in
High and low interdepend in
Tones and voice interdepend in
Front and behind interdepend in
Therefore the Sage:
Manages affairs without
Preaches the doctrine without words;
All things take their rise, but he does not turn away from them;
He gives them life, but does not take possession of them;
acts, but does not appropriate;
Accomplishes, but claims no
It is because he lays claim to no credit
the credit cannot be taken away from him.
3. Action Without Deeds
Exalt not the wise,
So that the people shall not scheme and contend;
Prize not rare objects,
So that the people
shall not steal;
Shut out from site the things of desire,
So that the people's hearts shall not be disturbed.
Therefore in the government of the Sage:
keeps empty their hearts
Makes full their bellies,
Discourages their ambitions,
So that the people may be innocent of knowledge and
And the cunning ones shall not presume to interfere.
By action without deeds
live in peace.
4. The Character of Tao
Tao is a hollow vessel,
And its use is
fountain head of all things,
Its sharp edges
Its tangles untied,
Its light tempered,
Yet dark like deep water it seems to remain.
I do not know whose Son it it,
image of what existed before God.
Nature is unkind:
It treats the creation like
The Sage is unkind:
He treats the people like
How the universe is like a bellows!
it gives a supply that never fails;
The more it is
worked, the more it brings forth.
By many words is wit exhausted.
Rather, therefore, hold to
6. The Spirit of the Valley
The Spirit of the
Valley never dies.
It is called the Mystic
The Door of the Mystic Female
Is the root of Heaven and Earth.
Continuously, continuously, Book II. The Lessons of Tao
seems to remain.
Draw upon it
And it serves you with ease.
7. Living for Others
The universe is everlasting.
The reason the universe is
Is that it does not life for Self.
Therefore it can long endure.
Therefore the Sage puts himself last,
himself in the foremost place;
Regards his body as
And his body is thereby
Is it not because he does not live for Self
That his Self is realized?
The best of men is like water;
And does not compete with them.
It dwells in (the lowly) places that all disdain -
Wherein it comes near to the Tao.
In his dwelling, (the Sage) loves the (lowly) earth;
heart, he loves what is profound;
In his relations with others,
he loves kindness;
In his words, he loves sincerity;
In government, he loves peace;
In business affairs, he loves
In hi actions, he loves choosing the right time.
It is because he does not contend
That he is without reproach.
9. The Danger of Overweening Success
Stretch (a bow) to the very full,
And you will
wish you had stopped in time.
Temper a (sword-edge) to its very
And the edge will not last long.
When gold and jade fill your hall,
You will not
be able to keep them safe.
To be proud with wealth and
Is to sow seeds of one's own downfall.
Retire when your work is done,
Such is Heaven's
10. Embracing the One
In embracing the One with
Can you never forsake the Tao?
In controlling your vital force to achieve gentleness,
Can you become like the new-born
In cleansing and purifying your Mystic vision,
Can you strive after perfection?
In loving the
people and governing the kingdom,
Can you rule
In opening and shutting the Gate of
Can you play the part of the Female?
In comprehending all knowledge,
renounce the mind?
11. The Utility of Not-Being
Thirty spokes unite around the nave;
not-being (loss of their individuality)
Arises the utility of the wheel.
Mold clay into a vessel;
From its not-being (in
the vessel's hollow)
utility of the vessel.
Cut out doors and windows in the house
From their not-being (empty space) arises
the utility of the house.
Therefore by the existence of things
And by the non-existence of things we are
12. The Senses
The five colors blind the eyes of man;
The five musical notes
deafen the ears of man;
The five flavors dull the taste of
Horse-racing, hunting and chasing madden the minds of
Rare, valuable goods keep their owners awake at
Therefore the Sage:
Provides for the belly and not the eye.
Hence, he rejects the one and accepts the other.
13. Praise and Blame
"Favor and disgrace cause one dismay;
What we value and what
we fear are within our Self."
What does this mean:
"Favor and disgrace cause one
Those who receive a favor from above
Are dismayed when they receive it,
And dismayed when they lose it.
What does this mean:
"What we value and what we fear are
within our Self?"
We have fears because we have a self.
When we do not regard that self as self,
What have we to
Therefore he who values the world as his self Book III. The Imitation of Tao
May then be entrusted with the government of the world;
who loves the world as his self -
The world may
then be entrusted to his care.
14. Prehistoric Origins
Looked at, but cannot be seen -
That is called
the Invisible (yi).
Listened to, but cannot be heard
That is called the Inaudible (hsi).
Grasped at, but cannot be touched -
called the Intangible (wei).
These three elude our inquiries
And hence blend and become One.
Not by its rising, is there light,
Nor by its sinking, is
It cannot be defined,
And reverts again to the
realm of nothingness.
That is why it is called the Form of the Formless,
That is why it is called the Elusive:
Meet it and you do not see its face;
Follow it and you do not see its back.
15. The Wise Ones of Old
The wise ones
of old had subtle wisdom and depth of understanding,
that they could not be understood.
And because they could not be
Perforce must they be so described:
Cautious, like crossing a wintry stream,
Irresolute, like one fearing danger all around,
Grave, like one acting as guest,
Self-effacing, like ice beginning to melt,
like a piece of
Open-minded, like a
freely, like murky water.
Who can find repose in a muddy world?
still, it becomes clear.
Who can maintain his calm for
By activity, it comes back to life.
He who embraces this Tao
Guards against being
Because he guards against being over-full,
He is beyond wearing out and renewal.
16. Knowing the Eternal Law
Attain the utmost in Passivity,
Hold firm to the basis of
The myriad things take shape and rise to activity,
But I watch them fall back to their repose.
Like vegetation that luxuriantly grows
returns to the root (soil) from which it springs.
To return to the root is Repose;
It is called
going back to one's Destiny.
Going back to one's Destiny is to
find the Eternal
To know the Eternal Law is
And not to know the Eternal Law
Is to court disaster.
He who knows the Eternal Law is tolerant;
Being tolerant, he
Being impartial, he is kingly;
Being kingly, he is in accord with Nature;
Being in accord with Nature, he is in accord with Tao;
in accord with Tao, he is eternal,
And his whole life is
preserved from harm.
Of the best rulers
The people (only) know
that they exist;
The next best the love and praise;
The next they fear;
And the next they revile.
When they do not command the people's faith,
Some will lose faith in them,
then they resort to oaths!
But (of the best) when their task is
their work done,
all remark, "We have done it ourselves."
18. The Decline of Tao
On the decline of the great Tao,
and "justice" arose.
When knowledge and cleverness
Great hypocrisy followed in its
When the six relationships no longer lived at peace,
There was (praise of) "kind parents" and "filial
When a country fell into chaos and misrule,
There was (praise of) "loyal ministers."
19. Realize the Simple Self
Banish wisdom, discard knowledge,
And the people
shall profit a hundredfold;
Banish "humanity," discard
And the people shall recover love of
Banish cunning, discard "utility,"
And the thieves and brigands shall disappear.
As these three touch the externals and are inadequate,
The people have need of what they can depend upon:
Reveal thy simple self,
Check thy selfishness,
Curtail thy desires.
20. The World and I
Banish learning, and vexations end.
"Ah!" and "Ough!"
How much difference is
Between "good" and "evil"
difference is there?"
That which men fear
Is indeed to be feared;
But, alas, distant yet is the dawn (of
The people of the world are merry-making,
partaking of the sacrificial feasts,
As if mounting
the terrace in spring;
I alone am mild, like one
Like a new-born babe that cannot yet
Unattached, like one without a home.
The people of the world have enough and to spare,
But I am
like one left out,
My heart must be that of a
Being muddled, nebulous!
The vulgar are knowing, luminous;
I alone am
The vulgar are clever, self-assured;
I alone, depressed.
Patient as the sea,
Adrift, seemingly aimless.
The people of the world all have a purpose;
alone appear stubborn and uncouth.
I alone differ from the other
And value drawing sustenance from
21. Manifestations of Tao
The marks of great Character
Follow alone from the Tao.
The thing that is called Tao
Yet latent in
it are forms.
latent in it are objects.
Dark and dim,
Yet latent in it is the life-force.
The life-force being very
Latent in it are evidences.
From the days of old till now
Its Named (manifested forms)
have never ceased,
By which we may view the Father of All
How do I know the shape of the Father of All
Through these (manifested forms)!
22. Futility of Contention
To yield is to be preserved whole.
To be bent is to become
To be hollow is to be filled.
To be tattered
is to be renewed.
To be in want is to possess.
plenty is to be confused.
Therefore the Sage embraces the One,
And becomes the model of the world.
He does not reveal
And is therefore luminous.
He does not justify himself,
And is therefore
He does not boast of himself,
And therefore people give him credit.
He does not pride
And is therefore the chief among
Is it not indeed true, as the ancients say,
yield is to be preserved whole?"
Thus he is preserved and the
world does him homage.
23. Identification with Tao
Nature says few words:
Hence it is that a squall lasts not a
A rainstorm continues not a whole day.
Where do they come from?
does not last long (in its utterances),
less should human beings?
Therefore it is that:
He who follows the Tao is
identified with the Tao.
He who follows Character
(Teh) is identified with Character.
abandons (Tao) is identified with abandonment (of Tao).
is identified with Tao -
Tao is also glad to
He who is identified with character -
Character is also glad to welcome him.
is identified with abandonment -
also glad t welcome him.
He who has not enough faith
Will not be able to command faith from others.
24. The Dregs and Tumors of Virtue
He who stands on tiptoe does not stand (firm);
He who strains
his strides does not walk (well);
He who reveals himself is not
He who justifies himself is not far-famed;
He who boasts of himself is not given credit;
He who prides
himself is not chief among men.
These in the eyes
Are called "the dregs and tumors of
Which are things of
Therefore the man of Tao spurns them.
25. The Four Eternal Models
Before the Heaven and Earth existed
There was something
Standing alone, changing not,
Worthy to be the Mother of All
I do not know its name
address it as Tao.
If forced to give it a name, I shall call it
Being great implies reaching out in space,
Reaching out in space implies far-reaching,
implies reversion to the original point.
Tao is Great,
The Heaven is great,
The Earth is great,
The King is also
There are the Great Four in the universe,
the King is one of them.
Man models himself after the Earth; Book IV. The Source of Power
The Earth models itself
The Heaven models itself after Tao;
itself after nature.
26. Heaviness and Lightness
The Solid is
the root of the light;
The Quiescent is the master of the
Therefore the Sage travels all day
leaves his provision-cart.
In the midst of honor and
He lives leisurely, undisturbed.
How can the ruler of a great country
Make light of his body
in the empire (by rushing about)?
In light frivolity, the Center
In hasty action, self-mastery is lost.
27. On Stealing the Light
A good runner leaves no track.
A good speech leaves no flaws
A good reckoner makes use of no counters.
A well-shut door makes use of no bolts,
cannot be opened.
A well-tied knot makes use of no rope,
And yet cannot be untied.
Therefore the Sage is good at helping men;
that reason there is no rejected (useless) person.
He is good at
For that reason there is nothing
- This is called stealing the
Therefore the good man is the Teacher of the bad.
And the bad
man is the lesson of
He who neither values his teacher
Nor loves the lesson
Is one gone far astray,
Though he be
- Such is the subtle secret.
28. Keeping to the Female
He who is aware of the Male
But keeps to the Female
Becomes the ravine of
Being the ravine of the world,
He has the original character (teh) which is not cut up.
And returns again to the (innocence of the) babe.
He who is conscious of the white (bright)
But keeps to the
Becomes the model for the world.
Being the model for the world,
He has the
eternal power which never errs,
And returns again
to the Primordial Nothingness.
He who is familiar with honor and glory
But keeps to
Becomes the valley of the world.
Being the valley of the world,
He has an
eternal power which always suffices,
again to the natural integrity of uncarved wood.
Break up this uncarved wood
And it is shaped
In the hands of the Sage
become the officials and magistrates.
great ruler does not cut up.
29. Warning Against Interference
There are those who will conquer the world
And make of it
(what they conceive or desire).
I see that they
will not succeed.
(For) the world is God's own Vessel
It cannot be made (by human interference).
who makes it spoils it.
He who holds it loses
For: Some things go forward,
Some things follow behind;
some blow hot,
And some blow
Some are strong,
And some are weak;
Some may break,
And some may fall.
Hence the Sage eschews
excess, eschews extravagance,
30. Warning Against the Use of Force
He who by Tao purposes to help the ruler of men
all conquest by force of
For such things are wont to rebound.
Where armies are, thorns and brambles grow.
The raising of a
Is followed by a year of dearth.
Therefore a good general effects his purpose and stops.
He dares not rely upon the strength of arms;
Effects his purpose and does not glory in it;
purpose and does not boast of it;
Effects his purpose and does
not take pride in it;
Effects his purpose as a
Effects his purpose but does
not love violence.
(For) things age after reaching their
That (violence) would be against the Tao.
he who is against the Tao perishes young.
31. Weapons of Evil
are instruments of evil,
Hated by men.
Therefore the religious man (possessed of Tao) avoids them.
The gentleman favors the left in civilian life,
military occasions favors the right.
Soldiers are weapons of evil.
They are not the
weapons of the gentleman.
When the use of soldiers cannot be
The best policy is calm restraint.
Even in victory, there is no
And who calls it beautiful
one who delights in slaughter.
He who delights in
Will not succeed in his ambition to rule
[The things of good omen favor the left.
The things of ill
omen favor the right.
The lieutenant-general stands on the
The general stands on the right.
That is to say,
it is celebrated as a Funeral Rite.]
The slaying of multitudes should be mourned with sorrow.
victory should be celebrated with the Funeral
32. Tao is Like the Sea
Tao is absolute and has no name.
Though the uncarved wood is
It cannot be employed (used as vessel) by
If kings and barons can keep (this unspoiled
The whole world shall yield them lordship
of their own accord.
The Heaven and Earth join,
And the sweet rain
Beyond the command of men,
evenly upon all.
Then human civilization arose and there were names.
Since there were names,
It were well one knew
where to stop.
He who knows where to stop
May be exempt from danger.
Tao in the world
May be compared to rivers that run
into the sea.
33. Knowing Oneself
He who knows others is learned;
He who knows
himself is wide.
He who conquers others has power of
He who conquers himself is strong.
He who is contented is rich.
He who id
determined has strength of will.
He who does not lose his center
He who dies yet (his power) remains has long
34. The Great Tao Flows Everywhere
The Great Tao flows everywhere,
(Like a flood)
it may go left or right.
The myriad things derive their life
And it does not deny them.
its work is accomplished,
It does not take
It clothes and feeds the myriad things,
Yet does not claim them as its own.
(regarded) without mind or passion,
It may be
Being the home
of all things, yet claiming not,
It may be
Because to the end it does not claim
Its greatness is achieved.
35. The Peace of Tao
Hold the Great
and all the world follows,
Follows without meeting harm,
lives in) health, peace, commonwealth.
Offer good things to eat
And the wayfarer stays.
But Tao is mild to the taste.
Looked at, it cannot be seen;
Listened to, it
cannot be heard;
Applied, its supply never
36. The Rhythm of Life
He who is to be made to dwindle (in power)
first be caused to expand.
He who is to be weakened
Must first be made strong.
He who is to be laid
Must first be exalted to power.
who is to be taken away from
Must first be
- This is the Subtle Light.
Gentleness overcomes strength:
Fish should be
left in the deep pool,
And sharp weapons of the
state should be left
can see them.
37. World Peace
The Tao never does,
Yet through it everything is
If princes and dukes can keep the Tao,
the world will of its own accord be reformed.
When reformed and rising to action,
Let it be
restrained by the Nameless pristine simplicity.
Is stripped of desire (for
By stripping of desire quiescence is
And the world arrives at peace of its own
The man of superior
character is not (conscious of his) character.
Hence he has character.
The man of inferior character (is intent
on) not losing character.
Hence he is devoid of
The man of superior character never acts,
Nor ever (does so) with an ulterior motive.
man of inferior character acts,
And (does so) with
an ulterior motive.
The man of superior kindness acts,
But (does so) without an ulterior motive.
man of superior justice acts,
And (does so) with an
(But when) the man of superior li acts
and finds no response,
He rolls up his sleeves to
force it on others.
Tao is lost, then (arises the doctrine of) humanity.
humanity is lost, then (arises the doctrine of) justice.
justice is lost, then (arises the doctrine of) li.
li is the thinning out of loyalty and honesty of heart.
And the beginning of chaos.
The prophets are
the flowering of Tao
And the origin of folly.
Therefore the noble man dwells in the heavy (base),
And not in the thinning (end).
He dwells in the
And not in the flowering (expression).
Therefore he rejects the one and accepts the other.
39. Unity Through Complements
There were those in ancient times possessed of the One;
Through possession of the One, the Heaven was clarified,
Through possession of the One, The Earth was stabilized,
Through possession of the One, the gods were spiritualized,
Through possession of the One, the valleys were made full,
Through possession of the One, all things lived and grew,
Through possession of the One, the princes and dukes
became the ennobled of the people.
- that was how each became so.
Without clarity, the Heavens would shake,
the Earth would quake,
Without spiritual power, the gods would
Without being filled, the valleys would crack,
Without the life-giving power, all things would perish,
Without the ennobling power, the princes and dukes would
therefore the nobility depend upon the common man for
And the exalted ones depend upon the lowly for their
That is why the princes and dukes call themselves
"the orphaned," "the lonely one," "the unworthy."
Is is not true then that they depend upon the common man for
Truly, take down the parts of a chariot,
And there is no chariot
Rather than jingle like the jade,
Rumble like the rocks.
40. The Principle of Reversion
Reversion is the action of Tao.
the function of Tao.
The things of this world come from
And Being (comes) from Non-being.
Book V. The Conduct of Life
41. Qualities of the Taoist
When the highest type of men hear the Tao (truth),
they try hard to live in accordance with it.
When the mediocre type hear the Tao,
to be aware and yet unaware of it.
When the lowest type hear the
They break into loud laughter -
If it were not laughed at, it would not be Tao.
Therefore there is the established saying:
understands Tao seems dull of comprehension;
advance in Tao seems to slip backwards;
on the even Tao (Path) seems to go up and down."
Superior character appears like a hollow (valley);
white appears like tarnished;
Great character appears like
Pure worth appears like contaminated.
Great space has no corners;
talent takes long to mature;
Great music is faintly
Great form has no contour;
And Tao is hidden without a name.
It is this
Tao that is adept at lending (its power)
42. The Violent Man
Out of Tao, One is born;
Out of One, Two;
Out of Three, the created universe.
created universe carries the yin at its back
and the yang in front;
Through the union of the pervading
To be "orphaned," "lonely" and "unworthy" is what men hate most.
Yet the princes and dukes call themselves by such
For sometimes things are benefited by being taken away
And suffer by being added to.
Others have taught this maxim,
Which I shall teach
"The violent man shall die a violent death."
This I shall regard as my spiritual teacher.
43. The Softest Substance
The softest substance of the world
Goes through the
Through this I know the benefit
The teaching without words
benefit of taking no action
Are without compare in
44. Be Content
Fame or one's own self, which does one love more?
self or material goods, which has more worth?
Loss (of self) or
possession (of goods), which is the greater evil?
Therefore: he who loves most spends most,
hoards much loses much.
The contented man meets no
Who know when to stop runs into no danger -
He can long endure.
45. Calm Quietude
The highest perfection is like
And its use is never
The greatest abundance seems meager,
And its use will never fail.
What s most
straight appears devious,
The greatest skill appears
The greatest eloquence seems like stuttering.
Movement overcomes cold,
(But) keeping still overcomes
Who is calm and quiet becomes the guide for the
46. Racing Horses
When the world lives in accord with Tao,
Racing horses are
turned back to haul refuse carts.
When the world lives not in
accord with Tao,
Cavalry abounds in the countryside.
There is no greater curse than the lack of contentment.
greater sin than the desire for possession.
Therefore he who is
contented with contentment
shall be always
47. Pursuit of Knowledge
Without stepping outside one's doors,
know what is happening in the world,
Without looking out of
One can see the Tao of heaven.
The farther one pursues knowledge,
The less one
Therefore the Sage knows without running about,
Understands without seeing,
Accomplishes without doing.
48. Conquering the World by Inaction
The student of knowledge (aims at) learning day by day;
student of Tao (aims at) losing day by day.
One reaches doing nothing
He who conquers the world often does so
When one is compelled to do
The world is already beyond his conquering.
49. The People's Hearts
The Sage has no decided opinions and feelings,
But regards the people's opinions and feelings as his own.
The good ones I declare good;
The bad ones I also declare
That is the goodness of Virtue.
honest ones I believe;
The liars I also believe;
That is the faith of Virtue.
The Sage dwells in the world peacefully, harmoniously.
people of the world are brought into a community of heart,
the Sage regards them all as his own children.
50. The Preserving of Life
Out of life, death enters.
The companions (organs) of life
The companions (organs) of death are (also) thirteen.
send man to death in this life are also (these) thirteen.
How is it so?
Because of the intense activity
of multiplying life.
It has been said that the who is a good preserver of hi life
Meets no tigers or wild buffaloes on land,
Is not vulnerable to weapons in the field of
The horns of the wild buffalo are powerless against
How is it so?
Because he is beyond
51. The Mystic Virtue
Tao gives them birth,
(character) fosters them.
The material world gives
The circumstances of the moment complete
Therefore all things of the universe worship Tao and exalt
Tao is worshipped and Teh is exalted
Without anyone's order but is so of its own accord.
Therefore Tao gives them birth,
Teh fosters them,
Makes them grow, develops them,
Gives them a harbor, a place
to dwell in peace,
Feeds them and shelter them.
It gives them birth and does not own them,
Acts (helps) and does not appropriate them,
Is superior, and does not control them.
- This is the Mystic Virtue.
52. Stealing the Absolute
There was a beginning of the universe
be regarded as the Mother of the Universe.
From the Mother, we
may know her sons.
After knowing the sons, keep to
Thus one's whole life may be preserved
Stop its apertures,
Close its doors,
whole life is without toil.
Open its apertures,
Be busy about its affairs,
one's whole life is beyond redemption.
He who can see the small is clear-sighted;
He who stays by
gentility is strong.
use the light,
And return to clear-sightedness -
not yourself later distress.
- This is to rest in the
If I were possessed of Austere Knowledge,
Walking on the Main
I would avoid the by-paths.
the Main path is easy to walk on,
Yet people love
the small by-paths.
The (official) courts are spic and span,
(While) the fields
And the (people's) granaries are very low.
(Yet) clad in embroidered gowns,
And carrying find
Surfeited with good food and drinks,
are) splitting with wealth and possessions.
is to lead the world toward brigandage.
Is this not
corruption of Tao?
54. The Individual and the State
Who is firmly established is not easily shaken.
Who has a
firm grasp does not easily let go.
From generation to generation
his ancestral sacrifices
Shall be continued without
Cultivated in the individual, character will become genuine;
Cultivated in the family, character will become abundant;
Cultivated in the village, character will multiply;
Cultivated in the state, character will prosper;
in the world, character will become universal.
According to (the character of ) the
According to (the character of ) the
judge the family;
According to (the character of ) the village,
judge the village;
According to (the character of ) the state,
judge the state;
According to (the character of ) the world,
judge the world.
How do I know this is so?
55. The Character of the Child
Who is rich in
Is like a child.
insects sting him,
No wild beasts attack him,
And no birds of prey pounce upon him.
are soft, his sinews tender, yet his grip is strong.
the union of male and female, yet his organs are complete,
Which means his vigor is unspoiled.
whole day, yet his voice never runs hoarse,
means his (natural) harmony is perfect.
To know harmony is to be
in accord with the eternal,
(And) to know eternity is called
(But) to improve upon life is called an
To let go the emotions through impulse
is called assertiveness.
(For) things age after reaching their
That (assertiveness) would be against Tao.
he who is against Tao perishes young.
56. Beyond Honor and Disgrace
He who knows does not speak;
He who speaks does not
Fill up its apertures,
Close its doors,
Dull its edges,
Untie its tangles,
Submerge its turmoil,
- This is the Mystic
Then love and hatred cannot touch him. Book VI. The Theory of Government
Profit and loss cannot
Honor and disgrace cannot affect him.
Therefore is he always the honored one of the world.
57. The Art of Government
Rule a kingdom by the Normal.
Fight a battle by (abnormal)
tactics of surprise.
Win the world by doing nothing.
How do I know it is so?
Through this: -
The more prohibitions there
The poorer the people
The more sharp weapons there are,
The greater the chaos in the
The more skills of technique,
The more cunning
things are produced.
The greater the number of
The greater the number
of thieves and brigands.
Therefore the sage says:
I do nothing and the
people are reformed
I love quietude and the people are
righteous of themselves.
I deal in no business and
the people grow rich by themselves.
I have no
desires and the people are simple
and honest by themselves.
58. Lazy Government
When the government is lazy and dull,
When the government is efficient and smart,
Its people are discontented.
Disaster is the avenue of fortune,
(And) fortune is the
concealment for disaster.
Who would be able to know
its ultimate results?
(As it is), there would never be the
But the normal would (immediately) revert
to the deceitful.
And the good revert to the
Thus long has mankind gone astray!
Therefore the Sage is square (has firm principles),
but not cutting (sharp-cornered),
not hurt (others),
Is straight, but not high-handed,
Bright, but not dazzling.
59. Be Sparing
In managing human affairs, there is no better rule
than to be sparing.
To be sparing is to forestall;
To forestall is to be
prepared and strengthened;
To be prepared and strengthened is to
To be ever-victorious is to have infinite
He who has infinite capacity is fit to rule a
And the Mother (principle) of a ruling country can long
This is to be firmly rooted, to have deep
The road to immortality and enduring
60. Ruling a Big Country
Rule a big country as you would fry
Who rules the world in accord with Tao
Shall find that the spirits lose their power.
It is not that the spirits lose their power,
But that they cease to do people harm.
It is not (only) that
they cease to do people harm,
The Sage (himself)
also does no harm to the people.
When both do not do each other
The original character is restored.
61. Big and Small Countries
A big country (should be like) the delta low-regions,
Being the concourse of the world,
(And) the Female of the world.
The Female overcomes the Male by
And achieves the lowly position by quietude.
Therefore if a big country places itself below a small country
the small country.
(And) if a small country places itself below
a big country,
It absorbs the big country.
Therefore some place themselves low to absorb (others),
Some are (naturally) low and absorb (others).
What a big country wants is but to
And what a small
country wants is but to be able to
come in and be
Thus (considering) that both may have what they
A big country ought to place itself
62. The Good Man's Treasure
Tao is the mysterious secret of the universe,
The good man's
And the bad man's refuge.
Beautiful saying can be sold at the market,
conduct can be presented as a gift.
Though there be bad
Why reject them?
Therefore on the crowning of an emperor,
appointment of the Three Ministers,
send tributes of jade and teams of four horses,
Send in the tribute of Tao.
Wherein did the ancients prize this
Did they not say, "to search for the guilty ones and pardon
Therefore is (tao) the treasure of the
63. Difficult and Easy
Taste the flavorless.
it is big or small, many or few,
Requite hatred with
Deal with the difficult while yet it is
Deal wit the big while yet it is small.
The difficult (problems) of the world
dealt with while they are yet easy;
The great (problems) of the
Must be dealt with while they are yet
Therefore the Sage by never dealing with great
He who lightly makes a promise
Will find it
often hard to keep his faith.
He who makes light of many
Will encounter many difficulties.
Hence even the Sage regards things as difficult,
And for that reason never meets with difficulties.
64. Beginning and End
That which lies still is easy to hold;
which is not yet manifest is easy to forestall;
That which is
brittle (like ice) easily melts;
That which is
minute easily scatters.
Deal with a thing before it is
Check disorder before it is rife.
A tree with a full span's girth begins from a tiny sprout;
A nine-storied terrace begins with a clod of earth.
A journey of a thousand li beings at one's
He who acts, spoils;
He who grasps, lets slip.
Because the Sage does not act, he does not spoil,
does not grasp, he does not let slip.
of men are often spoiled within an ace of completion.
By being careful at the end as at the beginning
Failure is averted.
Therefore the Sage desires to have no desire,
And values not objects difficult to obtain.
Learns that which is
And restores what the multitude have
That he may assist in the course of Nature
And not presume to interfere.
65. The Grand Harmony
The ancients who knew how to follow the Tao
Aimed not to enlighten the people.,
But to keep
The reason it is difficult for the people to
leave in peace
Is because of too much
Those who seek to rule a country by knowledge
Are the nation's curse.
Those who seek not to
rule a country by knowledge
Are the nation's
Those who know these two (principles)
Also know the ancient standard,
And to know
always the ancient standard
Is called the Mystic
When the Mystic Virtue becomes clear,
And things revert back (to their
Then and then only emerges the Grand
66. The Lords of the Ravines
How did the great rivers and seas become the Lords
of the ravines?
By being good at keeping
That was how they became Lords of the Ravines.
Therefore in order to be the chief among the people,
One must speak like their inferiors.
to be foremost among the people,
One must walk
Thus it is that the Sage stays above,
And the people do not feel his weight;
And the people do not wish him harm.
Then the people of the world are glad to uphold him forever.
Because he does not contend,
No one in the world can contend
67. The Three Treasures
All the world says: my teaching (Tao) greatly resembles folly.
Because it is great; therefore it resembles folly.
If it did not resemble folly,
It would have
long ago become petty indeed!
I have Three Treasures;
Guard them and keep them safe:
the first is Love.
The second is, Never too
The third is, Never be the first in the
Through Love, one has no fear;
doing too much, one has amplitude
Through not presuming to be the first in the
One can develop one's talent and let it
If one forsakes love and fearlessness,
restraint and reserve power,
behind and rushes in front,
He is doomed!
For love is victorious in attack,
invulnerable in defense.
Heaven arms with love
Those it would not see destroyed.
68. The Virtue of Not-Contending
The brave soldier is not violent;
The good fighter does not
lose his temper;
The great conqueror does not fight (on small
The good user of men places himself below others.
- This is the virtue of not-contending,
called the capacity to use men,
Is reaching to the
height of being
Mated to Heaven,
to what was of old.
There is the maxim of military strategists;
dare not be the first to invade, but rather be
Dare not press forward an inch,
but rather retreat a foot.
That is, to march without
To roll up the sleeves,
To charge not in frontal attacks,
To arm without
There is no greater catastrophe than to
underestimate the enemy.
To underestimate the enemy might entail
the loss of my treasures.
Therefore when two
equally matched armies meet,
It is the man of
sorrow who wins.
70. They Know Me Not
My teachings are very easy to understand
very easy to practice,
But no one can understand them and
no one can practice them.
words there is a principle.
In the affairs of men
there is a system.
Because they know not these,
also know me not.
Since there are few that know
Therefore I am distinguished.
Therefore the Sage wears a coarse cloth on top
And carries jade within his bosom.
Who knows that he does not know is the highest;
to) know what he does not know is sick-minded.
recognizes sick-mindedness as sick-mindedness
The Sage is not sick-minded.
Because he recognizes sick-mindedness as
Therefore he is not
72. On Punishment (1)
When people have no fear of force,
Then (as is the common practice) great force descends
Despise not their dwellings,
Dislike not their progeny.
Because you do not dislike them,
You will not be disliked yourself.
Therefore the Sage knows
himself, but does not show himself,
but does not exalt himself.
Therefore he rejects the one (force)
accepts the other (gentility).
73. On Punishment (2)
Who is brave in daring (you) kill,
Who is brave in not daring
(you) let live.
In these two,
some advantage and some disadvantage.
if) Heaven dislikes certain people,
Who would know
(who are to be killed and) why?
Therefore even the Sage regards
it as a difficult question.
Heaven's Way (Tao) is
good at conquest without strife,
and virtue) without words,
Making its appearance
Achieving results without obvious
heaven's net is broad and wide.
With big meshes, yet
letting nothing slip through.
74. On Punishment (3)
The people are not afraid of death;
Why threaten them with
Supposing that the people are afraid
And we can seize and kill the
Who would dare to do so?
happens that the executioner is killed.
And to take the place of
Is like handling the hatchet for
the master carpenter.
He who handles the hatchet for the master
seldom escapes injury to his hands.
75. Punishment (4)
When people are hungry, Book VII. Aphorisms
It is because their rulers eat too
Therefore the unruliness of hungry
Is due to the interference of their
That is why they are unruly.
people are not afraid of death,
Because they are anxious to make
That is why they are not afraid of death.
It is those who interfere not with their living
That are wise in exalting life.
76. Hard and Soft
When man is born, he is tender and weak;
death, he is hard and stiff.
When the things and plants are
alive, they are soft
they are dead, they are brittle and dry.
hardness and stiffness are the companions of death,
And softness and gentleness are the companions of life.
Therefore when an army is headstrong,
it will lose in a battle.
When a tree is hard, it will be cut
The big and strong belong underneath.
The gentle and weak belong at the top.
77. Bending the Bow
The Tao (way) of Heaven,
Is it not like the bending of a
The top comes down and the bottom-end goes
The extra (length) is shortened, the
insufficient (width) is expanded.
It is the way of Heaven to
take away from those that have too much
And give to those that
have not enough.
Not so with man's way:
He takes from those that have not
And gives it as
tribute to those that have too much.
Who can have enough and to
spare to give to the entire world?
Only the man of Tao.
Therefore the Sage acts, but does not possess,
Accomplishes but lays claim to no credit,
he has no wish to seem superior.
78. Nothing Weaker than Water
There is nothing weaker than water
But none is superior to it
in overcoming the hard,
For which there is no substitute.
That weakness overcomes strength
And gentleness overcomes rigidity,
No one does not
No one can put into practice.
Therefore the Sage says:
"Who receives unto
himself the calumny of the world
Is the preserver
of the state.
Who bears himself the sins of the
Is king of the world."
words seem crooked.
79. Peace Settlements
Patching up a great hatred is sure to leave some hatred behind.
How can this be regarded as satisfactory?
Therefore the Sage
holds the left
And does not put the guilt on the other party.
the virtuous man is for patching up;
The vicious is
But "the way of
Heaven is impartial;
It sides only with the good man."
80. The Small Utopia
(Let there be) a small country with a small population,
the supply of goods are tenfold or hundredfold,
more than they can use.
Let the people value their lives and not
Though there be boats and
None be there to ride
Though there be armor and
No occasion to display
Let the people again tie ropes for reckoning,
Let them enjoy their food,
Beautify their clothing,
Be satisfied with their
Delight in their customs.
neighboring settlements overlook one another
So that they can
hear the barking of dogs and crowing
of cocks of
And the people till the end of their days shall
have been outside their country.
81. The Way of Heaven
True words are not fine-sounding;
words are not true.
A good man does not argue;
he who argues is not a good man.
the wise one
does not know many things;
He who knows many things
is not wise.
The Sage does not accumulate (for himself).
lives for other people,
And grows richer
He gives to other people,
And has greater abundance.
The Tao of Heaven
Blesses, but does not
The Way of the Sage
but does not contend.