Translated by



Tao Te Ching Or the Tao and its Characteristics From a 1891 edition. ISBN 978-1-775411-64-2 © 2008 THE FLOATING PRESS. While every effort has been used to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information contained in The Floating Press edition of this book, The Floating Press does not assume liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in this book. The Floating Press does not accept responsibility for loss suffered as a result of reliance upon the accuracy or currency of information contained in this book. Do not use while operating a motor vehicle or heavy equipment. Many suitcases look alike. Visit www.thefloatingpress.com


Contents * Part 1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 3 .

17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 Part II 38 39 4 .

40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 5 .

64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 6 .

Part 1 * 7 .

8 . The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name. three Always without desire we must be found. Its outer fringe is all that we shall see. two (Conceived of as) having no name. If its deep mystery we would sound. it is the Mother of all things. it is the Originator of heaven and earth. But if desire always within us be.1 * one The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao. (conceived of as) having a name.

Together we call them the Mystery. it receives the different names. 9 . but as development takes place.four Under these two aspects. Where the Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful. it is really the same.

2 * one All in the world know the beauty of the beautiful. that difficulty and ease produce the one (the idea of) the other. 10 . and in doing this they have (the idea of) what the want of skill is. that length and shortness fashion out the one the figure of the other. that (the ideas of) height and lowness arise from the contrast of the one with the other. and in doing this they have (the idea of) what ugliness is. they all know the skill of the skilful. that the musical notes and tones become harmonious through the relation of one with another. and that being before and behind give the idea of one following another. two So it is that existence and non-existence give birth the one to (the idea of) the other.

'Tis this that makes the power not cease to be.three Therefore the sage manages affairs without doing anything. they go through their processes. and there is no claim made for their ownership. they grow. and conveys his instructions without the use of speech. and there is no resting in it (as an achievement). The work is done. and there is no expectation (of a reward for the results). four All things spring up. and there is not one which declines to show itself. The work is accomplished. 11 . but how no one can see.

not to show them what is likely to excite their desires is the way to keep their minds from disorder. empties their minds. and strengthens their bones. weakens their wills.3 * one Not to value and employ men of superior ability is the way to keep the people from rivalry among themselves. not to prize articles which are difficult to procure is the way to keep them from becoming thieves. three He constantly (tries to) keep them without knowledge 12 . in the exercise of his government. two Therefore the sage. fills their bellies.

and without desire. to keep them from presuming to act (on it). and where there are those who have knowledge. good order is universal. 13 . When there is this abstinence from action.

and unravel the complications of things. How pure and still the Tao is. as if it would ever so continue! three I do not know whose son it is. and bring ourselves into agreement with the obscurity of others. It might appear to have 14 .4 * one The Tao is (like) the emptiness of a vessel. and in our employment of it we must be on our guard against all fulness. we should attemper our brightness. as if it were the Honoured Ancestor of all things! two We should blunt our sharp points. How deep and unfathomable it is.

been before God. 15 .

5 * one Heaven and earth do not act from (the impulse of) any wish to be benevolent. yet it loses not its power. two May not the space between heaven and earth be compared to a bellows? 'Tis emptied. and keep it free. Much speech to swift exhaustion lead we see. 'Tis moved again. they deal with the people as the dogs of grass are dealt with. The sages do not act from (any wish to be) benevolent. and sends forth air the more. Your inner being guard. they deal with all things as the dogs of grass are dealt with. 16 .

Used gently. 17 . from which at first they issued forth. The female mystery thus do we name. aye the same. Is called the root from which grew heaven and earth. and without the touch of pain. Its gate. Long and unbroken does its power remain.6 * The valley spirit dies not.

Is it not because he has no personal and private ends.7 * one Heaven is long-enduring and earth continues long. he treats his person as if it were foreign to him. and yet that person is preserved. The reason why heaven and earth are able to endure and continue thus long is because they do not live of. and yet it is found in the foremost place. two Therefore the sage puts his own person last. This is how they are able to continue and endure. that therefore such ends are realised? 18 . or for. themselves.

the low place which all men dislike. and that of (the initiation of) any movement is in its timeliness. that of associations is in their being with the virtuous. that of (the conduct of) affairs is in its ability. The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things. that of the mind is in abysmal stillness. that of government is in its securing good order. and in its occupying.8 * one The highest excellence is like (that of) water. Hence (its way) is near to (that of) the Tao. without striving (to the contrary). three 19 . two The excellence of a residence is in (the suitability of) the place.

And when (one with the highest excellence) does not wrangle (about his low position). no one finds fault with him. 20 .

two When gold and jade fill the hall. If you keep feeling a point that has been sharpened. and one's name is becoming distinguished. to withdraw into obscurity is the way of Heaven. than to attempt to carry it when it is full. their possessor cannot keep them safe. this brings its evil on itself. When wealth and honours lead to arrogancy. the point cannot long preserve its sharpness. When the work is done.9 * one It is better to leave a vessel unfilled. 21 .

and brings it to the utmost degree of pliancy. they can be kept from separating. he can become as a (tender) babe.10 * one When the intelligent and animal souls are held together in one embrace. cannot he (appear to) be without knowledge? 22 . cannot he do so as a female bird? While his intelligence reaches in every direction. he can become without a flaw. When he has cleansed away the most mysterious sights (of his imagination). cannot he proceed without any (purpose of) action? In the opening and shutting of his gates of heaven. two In loving the people and ruling the state. When one gives undivided attention to the (vital) breath.

and yet does not control them. This is what is called 'The mysterious Quality' (of the Tao). it produces them and does not claim them as its own. 23 .three (The Tao) produces (all things) and nourishes them. it presides over all. it does all. and yet does not boast of it.

but it is on the empty space (within). that their use depends. and what has not that for (actual) usefulness. but it is on their empty hollowness. 24 . Therefore. but it is on the empty space (for the axle). Clay is fashioned into vessels.11 * The thirty spokes unite in the one nave. that the use of the wheel depends. that its use depends. The door and windows are cut out (from the walls) to form an apartment. what has a (positive) existence serves for profitable adaptation.

and not the (insatiable longing of the) eyes. The flavours five deprive the mouth of taste. and the wild hunting waste Make mad the mind. and objects rare and strange. 25 .12 * one Colour's five hues from th' eyes their sight will take. Music's five notes the ears as deaf can make. men's conduct will to evil change. two Therefore the sage seeks to satisfy (the craving of) the belly. He puts from him the latter. Sought for. and prefers to seek the former. The chariot course.

And what is meant by saying that honour and great calamity are to be (similarly) regarded as personal 26 . two What is meant by speaking thus of favour and disgrace? Disgrace is being in a low position (after the enjoyment of favour). to be regarded as personal conditions (of the same kind).13 * one Favour and disgrace would seem equally to be feared. honour and great calamity. and the losing it leads to the fear of (still greater calamity):—this is what is meant by saying that favour and disgrace would seem equally to be feared. The getting that (favour) leads to the apprehension (of losing it).

honouring it as he honours his own person. 27 .conditions? What makes me liable to great calamity is my having the body (which I call myself). what great calamity could come to me? three Therefore he who would administer the kingdom. if I had not the body. may be employed to govern it. and he who would administer it with the love which he bears to his own person may be entrusted with it.

We look at it, and we do not see it, and we name it 'the Equable.' We listen to it, and we do not hear it, and we name it 'the Inaudible.' We try to grasp it, and do not get hold of it, and we name it 'the Subtle.' With these three qualities, it cannot be made the subject of description; and hence we blend them together and obtain The One.

Its upper part is not bright, and its lower part is not obscure. Ceaseless in its action, it yet cannot be named, and then it again returns and becomes nothing. This is called the Form of the Formless, and the Semblance of the Invisible; this is called the Fleeting and Indeterminable.


We meet it and do not see its Front; we follow it, and do not see its Back. When we can lay hold of the Tao of old to direct the things of the present day, and are able to know it as it was of old in the beginning, this is called (unwinding) the clue of Tao.


The skilful masters (of the Tao) in old times, with a subtle and exquisite penetration, comprehended its mysteries, and were deep (also) so as to elude men's knowledge. As they were thus beyond men's knowledge, I will make an effort to describe of what sort they appeared to be.

Shrinking looked they like those who wade through a stream in winter; irresolute like those who are afraid of all around them; grave like a guest (in awe of his host); evanescent like ice that is melting away; unpretentious like wood that has not been fashioned into anything; vacant like a valley, and dull like muddy water.


four They who preserve this method of the Tao do not wish to be full (of themselves).three Who can (make) the muddy water (clear)? Let it be still. 31 . It is through their not being full of themselves that they can afford to seem worn and not appear new and complete. and it will gradually become clear. Who can secure the condition of rest? Let movement go on. and the condition of rest will gradually arise.

The knowledge of that unchanging rule produces a 32 . unchanging rule. and that of stillness guarded with unwearying vigour. not to know it leads to wild movements and evil issues. we see each of them return to its root.16 * one The (state of) vacancy should be brought to the utmost degree. When things (in the vegetable world) have displayed their luxuriant growth. and that stillness may be called a reporting that they have fulfilled their appointed end. All things alike go through their processes of activity. To know that unchanging rule is to be intelligent. This returning to their root is what we call the state of stillness. and (then) we see them return (to their original state). two The report of that fulfilment is the regular.

In that likeness to heaven he possesses the Tao. and to the end of his bodily life.(grand) capacity and forbearance. Possessed of the Tao. and he who is king-like goes on to be heaven-like. 33 . From this community of feeling comes a kingliness of character. and that capacity and forbearance lead to a community (of feeling with all things). is exempt from all danger of decay. he endures long.

while the people all said. of ourselves!' 34 . two How irresolute did those (earliest rulers) appear. In the next they feared them. showing (by their reticence) the importance which they set upon their words! Their work was done and their undertakings were successful. Thus it was that when faith (in the Tao) was deficient (in the rulers) a want of faith in them ensued (in the people). In the next age they loved them and praised them. 'We are as we are. (the people) did not know that there were (their rulers). in the next they despised them.17 * one In the highest antiquity.

18 * one When the Great Tao (Way or Method) ceased to be observed. two When harmony no longer prevailed throughout the six kinships. when the states and clans fell into disorder. benevolence and righteousness came into vogue. and there ensued great hypocrisy. (Then) appeared wisdom and shrewdness. filial sons found their manifestation. 35 . loyal ministers appeared.

If we could renounce our benevolence and discard our righteousness. But simple views. it would be better for the people a hundredfold. and courses plain and true Would selfish ends and many lusts eschew. If we could renounce our artful contrivances and discard our (scheming for) gain. there would be no thieves nor robbers. two Those three methods (of government) Thought olden ways in elegance did fail And made these names their want of worth to veil.19 * one If we could renounce our sageness and discard our wisdom. 36 . the people would again become filial and kindly.

'— Small is the difference they display. as if enjoying a full banquet. The (ready) 'yes. my desires having as yet given no indication of their presence. as if mounted on a tower in spring. but how wide and without end is the range of questions (asking to be discussed)! two The multitude of men look satisfied and pleased.20 * one When we renounce learning we have no troubles.' and (flattering) 'yea. But mark their issues. I alone seem listless and still. I am like an 37 . good and ill.— What space the gulf between shall fill? What all men fear is indeed to be feared.

infant which has not yet smiled. while I alone seem dull and incapable. drifting as if I had nowhere to rest. like a rude borderer. 38 . The multitude of men all have enough and to spare. My mind is that of a stupid man. I am in a state of chaos. but I value the nursingmother (the Tao). Ordinary men look bright and intelligent. I seem to be carried about as on the sea. They look full of discrimination. while I alone am dull and confused. I look dejected and forlorn. as if I had no home to go to. All men have their spheres of action. while I alone seem to be benighted. (Thus) I alone am different from other men. I alone seem to have lost everything.

So. eluding sight. 'twas so of old. Those essences the truth enfold Of what. 39 .21 * The grandest forms of active force From Tao come. Things' essences all there endure. Things form and never know decay. eluding touch. Who can of Tao the nature tell? Our sight it flies. Now it is so. all right. when seen. Profound it is. Eluding sight. our touch as well. Its name—what passes not away. dark and obscure. shall then be told. How know I that it is so with all the beauties of existing things? By this (nature of the Tao). their only source. There are their semblances. Eluding touch. The forms of things all in it crouch. in their beautiful array.

40 .

full. from selfassertion. and therefore his merit is acknowledged. the worn out. from self-complacency. He is free from self. new. He whose (desires) are few gets them. straight. the empty. three 41 . he whose (desires) are many goes astray. It is because he is thus free from striving that therefore no one in the world is able to strive with him. and therefore he acquires superiority. the crooked. and therefore he is distinguished.display. from selfboasting.22 * one The partial becomes complete. and manifests it to all the world. two Therefore the sage holds in his embrace the one thing (of humility). and therefore he shines.

42 .That saying of the ancients that 'the partial becomes complete' was not vainly spoken:—all real completion is comprehended under it.

those who are also pursuing it. agree with him in it. If Heaven and Earth cannot make such (spasmodic) actings last long.23 * one Abstaining from speech marks him who is obeying the spontaneity of his nature. a sudden rain does not last for the whole day. while even those who are failing in both these things agree with him where they fail. how much less can man! two Therefore when one is making the Tao his business. and those who are making the manifestation of its course their object agree with him in that. 43 . To whom is it that these (two) things are owing? To Heaven and Earth. A violent wind does not last for a whole morning.

three Hence. those with whom he agrees as to the Tao have the happiness of attaining to it. (But) when there is not faith sufficient (on his part). those with whom he agrees as to its manifestation have the happiness of attaining to it. 44 . a want of faith (in him) ensues (on the part of the others). and those with whom he agrees in their failure have also the happiness of attaining (to the Tao).

he who stretches his legs does not walk (easily). he who asserts his own views is not distinguished. he who displays himself does not shine.24 * He who stands on his tiptoes does not stand firm. Such conditions. (So). he who vaunts himself does not find his merit acknowledged. are like remnants of food. viewed from the standpoint of the Tao. Hence those who pursue (the course) of the Tao do not adopt and allow them. or a tumour on the body. he who is selfconceited has no superiority allowed to him. 45 . which all dislike.

and undergoing no change. standing alone. it 46 . coming into existence before Heaven and Earth. Passing on. three Great.25 * one There was something undefined and complete. How still it was and formless. Making an effort (further) to give it a name I call it The Great. reaching everywhere and in no danger (of being exhausted)! It may be regarded as the Mother of all things. and I give it the designation of the Tao (the Way or Course). two I do not know its name. it passes on (in constant flow).

Having become remote. and the (sage) king is one of them. Heaven takes its law from the Tao. Earth is great.becomes remote. 47 . Therefore the Tao is great. Heaven is great. it returns. In the universe there are four that are great. four Man takes his law from the Earth. The law of the Tao is its being what it is. the Earth takes its law from Heaven. and the (sage) king is also great.

he quietly remains (in his proper place). does not go far from his baggage waggons. two Therefore a wise prince. he has lost his root (of gravity). stillness. 48 . the ruler of movement. Although he may have brilliant prospects to look at. he will lose his throne.26 * one Gravity is the root of lightness. if he proceed to active movement. How should the lord of a myriad chariots carry himself lightly before the kingdom? If he do act lightly. indifferent to them. marching the whole day.

' two Therefore the man of skill is a master (to be looked up to) by him who has not the skill. This is called 'Hiding the light of his procedure. and so he does not cast away any man.27 * one The skilful traveller leaves no traces of his wheels or footsteps. while to unloose what he has bound will be impossible. the skilful binder uses no strings or knots. and he who has not the 49 . he is always skilful at saving things. the skilful reckoner uses no tallies. the skilful speaker says nothing that can be found fault with or blamed. and so he does not cast away anything. In the same way the sage is always skilful at saving men. while to open what he has shut will be impossible. the skilful closer needs no bolts or bars.

skill is the helper of (the reputation of) him who has the skill. though intelligent. If the one did not honour his master. This is called 'The utmost degree of mystery. and the other did not rejoice in his helper. might greatly err about them.' 50 . an (observer).

free from all stains. Endless return to man's first state has made. The pattern of humility displayed. Who knows how white attracts. Displayed in view of all beneath the sky. Yet loves disgrace. The simple child again. Thus he the constant excellence retains. yea. nor e'er for it is pale. all beneath the sky. All come to him. Yet still his female feebleness maintains. Yet always keeps himself within black's shade.28 * one Who knows his manhood's strength. He in the unchanging excellence arrayed. Who knows how glory shines. 51 . As to one channel flow the many drains.

52 . when employed. and in his greatest regulations he employs no violent measures. when divided and distributed. The simple infant man in him we hail. forms vessels. To which men come from all beneath the sky. becomes the Head of all the Officers (of government). two The unwrought material. The sage.Behold his presence in a spacious vale. The unchanging excellence completes its tale.

If any one should wish to get the kingdom for himself, and to effect this by what he does, I see that he will not succeed. The kingdom is a spirit-like thing, and cannot be got by active doing. He who would so win it destroys it; he who would hold it in his grasp loses it.

The course and nature of things is such that What was in front is now behind; What warmed anon we freezing find. Strength is of weakness oft the spoil; The store in ruins mocks our toil. Hence the sage puts away excessive effort, extravagance, and easy indulgence.


He who would assist a lord of men in harmony with the Tao will not assert his mastery in the kingdom by force of arms. Such a course is sure to meet with its proper return.

Wherever a host is stationed, briars and thorns spring up. In the sequence of great armies there are sure to be bad years.

A skilful (commander) strikes a decisive blow, and stops. He does not dare (by continuing his operations) to assert and complete his mastery. He will strike the blow, but

four When things have attained their strong maturity they become old. He strikes it as a matter of necessity.will be on his guard against being vain or boastful or arrogant in consequence of it. but not from a wish for mastery. This may be said to be not in accordance with the Tao: and what is not in accordance with it soon comes to an end. he strikes it. 56 .

victory (by force of arms) is to him undesirable.—he uses them only on the compulsion of necessity. hateful. 57 . and not the instruments of the superior man. but in time of war the right hand. it may be said. two The superior man ordinarily considers the left hand the most honourable place. are instruments of evil omen. To consider this desirable would be to delight in the slaughter of men. Calm and repose are what he prizes. however beautiful. and he who delights in the slaughter of men cannot get his will in the kingdom. Therefore they who have the Tao do not like to employ them. Those sharp weapons are instruments of evil omen. to all creatures.31 * one Now arms.

three On occasions of festivity to be on the left hand is the prized position.—his place. the general commanding in chief has his on the right. and the victor in battle has his place (rightly) according to those rites. on occasions of mourning. 58 . He who has killed multitudes of men should weep for them with the bitterest grief. the right hand. that is. is assigned to him as in the rites of mourning. The second in command of the army has his place on the left.

reaches equally everywhere as of its own accord. has no name. two Though in its primordial simplicity it may be small. considered as unchanging. If a feudal prince or the king could guard and hold it. all would spontaneously submit themselves to him. which. the whole world dares not deal with (one embodying) it as a minister. 59 .32 * one The Tao. three Heaven and Earth (under its guidance) unite together and send down the sweet dew. without the directions of men.

five The relation of the Tao to all the world is like that of the great rivers and seas to the streams from the valleys. it has a name. they can be free from all risk of failure and error. When they know to rest in it.four As soon as it proceeds to action. When it once has that name. 60 . (men) can know to rest in it.

he who dies and yet does not perish. he who overcomes himself is mighty. he who knows himself is intelligent.33 * one He who knows other men is discerning. two He who does not fail in the requirements of his position. He who is satisfied with his lot is rich. he who goes on acting with energy has a (firm) will. continues long. 61 . He who overcomes others is strong. has longevity.

When its work is accomplished. which it gives to them. All things return (to their root and disappear). it does not claim the name of having done it. It clothes all things as with a garment. and do not know that it is it which presides over their doing so.—it may be named in the smallest things. and makes no assumption of being their lord. not one refusing obedience to it. two All things depend on it for their production.—it may be named in the greatest things. three 62 .34 * one All-pervading is the Great Tao! It may be found on the left hand and on the right.

Hence the sage is able (in the same way) to accomplish his great achievements. 63 . It is through his not making himself great that he can accomplish them.

though it seems not worth being looked at or listened to. Men resort to him.35 * one To him who holds in his hands the Great Image (of the invisible Tao). and receive no hurt. the whole world repairs. two Music and dainties will make the passing guest stop (for a time). peace. 64 . the use of it is inexhaustible. seems insipid and has no flavour. but (find) rest. and the feeling of ease. But though the Tao as it comes from the mouth.

he will first have raised him up. 65 . instruments for the profit of a state should not be shown to the people. when he is going to despoil another. when he is going to overthrow another. he will first strengthen him.36 * one When one is about to take an inspiration. he will first have made gifts to him:—this is called 'Hiding the light (of his procedure). and the weak the strong. when he is going to weaken another. three Fishes should not be taken from the deep. he is sure to make a (previous) expiration.' two The soft overcomes the hard.

66 .

Simplicity without a name Is free from all external aim. all things would of themselves be transformed by them.37 * one The Tao in its regular course does nothing (for the sake of doing it). two If princes and kings were able to maintain it. three If this transformation became to me an object of desire. 67 . at rest and still. and so there is nothing which it does not do. I would express the desire by the nameless simplicity. With no desire.

68 .All things go right as of their will.

Part II * 69 .

three 70 .38 * one (Those who) possessed in highest degree the attributes (of the Tao) did not (seek) to show them. and therefore they possessed them (in fullest measure). and therefore they did not possess them (in fullest measure). and had need to be so doing. (Those who) possessed them in a lower degree were (always) doing. two (Those who) possessed in the highest degree those attributes did nothing (with a purpose). and had no need to do anything. (Those who) possessed in a lower degree those attributes (sought how) not to lose them.

righteousness appeared. when its attributes were lost. and is also the commencement of disorder. and had need to be so doing. six Now propriety is the attenuated form of leal-heartedness and good faith. and when righteousness was lost. four (Those who) possessed the highest (sense of) propriety were (always seeking) to show it. and had no need to be doing so. (Those who) possessed the highest righteousness were (always seeking) to carry it out. five Thus it was that when the Tao was lost. 71 . and when men did not respond to it. and is the beginning of stupidity. benevolence appeared. the proprieties appeared. when benevolence was lost. its attributes appeared. they bared the arm and marched up to them. swift apprehension is (only) a flower of the Tao.(Those who) possessed the highest benevolence were (always seeking) to carry it out.

and eschews what is flimsy. 72 .seven Thus it is that the Great man abides by what is solid. It is thus that he puts away the one and makes choice of the other. dwells with the fruit and not with the flower.

39 * one The things which from of old have got the One (the Tao) are— Heaven which by it is bright and pure. Valleys kept full throughout their void All creatures which through it do live Princes and kings who from it get The model which to all they give. Spirits with powers by it supplied. Earth rendered thereby firm and sure. two If heaven were not thus pure. 73 . it soon would rend. All these are the results of the One (Tao).

' 'Men of small virtue. They do not wish to show themselves elegantlooking as jade. 74 . would all decay. without that moral sway.' and as 'Carriages without a nave.If earth were not thus sure. creatures would pass away. However grand and high. the drought would parch each vale. three Thus it is that dignity finds its (firm) root in its (previous) meanness. If not so filled. Princes and kings. 'twould break and bend. and what is lofty finds its stability in the lowness (from which it rises).' Is not this an acknowledgment that in their considering themselves mean they see the foundation of their dignity? So it is that in the enumeration of the different parts of a carriage we do not come on what makes it answer the ends of a carriage. Without that life. the spirits soon would fail. Hence princes and kings call themselves 'Orphans. Without these powers. but (prefer) to be coarse-looking as an (ordinary) stone.

two All things under heaven sprang from It as existing (and named). that existence sprang from It as non-existent (and not named).40 * one The movement of the Tao By contraries proceeds. 75 . And weakness marks the course Of Tao's mighty deeds.

when they have heard about it. Its even way is like a rugged track. Scholars of the lowest class. when they hear about the Tao. seems light to lack. when they have heard about it. earnestly carry it into practice. seem now to keep it and now to lose it. If it were not (thus) laughed at. 76 . two Therefore the sentence-makers have thus expressed themselves:— 'The Tao. Scholars of the middle class. Who progress in it makes. seems drawing back.41 * one Scholars of the highest class. laugh greatly at it. when brightest seen. it would not be fit to be the Tao.

Its firmest virtue seems but poor and low. but it is the Tao which is skilful at imparting (to all things what they need) and making them complete. the shadow of a shade. Its greatest beauty seems to offend the eyes. Loud is its sound. but never word it said.Its highest virtue from the vale doth rise. it is the slowest made. Its solid truth seems change to undergo. 77 . And he has most whose lot the least supplies.' three The Tao is hidden. Its largest square doth yet no corner show A vessel great. A semblance great. and has no name.

All things leave behind them the Obscurity (out of which they have come). Three produced All things. to be as carriages without naves.42 * one The Tao produced One. two What men dislike is to be orphans. and yet these are the designations which kings and princes use for themselves. So it is that some things are increased by being diminished. One produced Two. and go forward to embrace the Brightness (into which they have emerged). three 78 . while they are harmonised by the Breath of Vacancy. Two produced Three. and others are diminished by being increased. to have little virtue.

What other men (thus) teach. The violent and strong do not die their natural death. 79 . I will make this the basis of my teaching. I also teach.

43 * one The softest thing in the world dashes against and overcomes the hardest. and the advantage arising from nonaction. I know hereby what advantage belongs to doing nothing (with a purpose). two There are few in the world who attain to the teaching without words. 80 . that which has no (substantial) existence enters where there is no crevice.

Who cleaves to fame Rejects what is more great. Who loves large stores Gives up the richer state.44 * one Or fame or life. 81 . Keep them and lose your life:—which brings Sorrow and pain more near? two Thus we may see. To which would you adhere? Keep life and lose those other things. Which do you hold more dear? Or life or wealth.

three Who is content Needs fear no shame. From danger free Long live shall he. 82 . Who knows to stop Incurs no blame.

Thy greatest art still stupid seem. Exhaustion ne'er shall stem the tide. Do thou what's straight still crooked deem. deemed a void.45 * one Who thinks his great achievements poor Shall find his vigour long endure. two Constant action overcomes cold. Purity and stillness give the correct law to all under heaven. being still overcomes heat. Of greatest fulness. And eloquence a stammering scream. 83 .

When the Tao is disregarded in the world. no fault greater than the wish to be getting. Therefore the sufficiency of contentment is an enduring and unchanging sufficiency. the war-horses breed in the border lands. two There is no guilt greater than to sanction ambition. no calamity greater than to be discontented with one's lot. they send back their swift horses to (draw) the dung-carts. 84 .46 * one When the Tao prevails in the world.

and accomplished their ends without any purpose of doing so. the less he knows. one understands (all that takes place) under the sky. two Therefore the sages got their knowledge without travelling. The farther that one goes out (from himself). without looking out from his window. 85 .47 * one Without going outside his door. gave their (right) names to things without seeing them. one sees the Tao of Heaven.

If one take trouble (with that end).48 * one He who devotes himself to learning (seeks) from day to day to increase (his knowledge). he is not equal to getting as his 86 . there is nothing which he does not do. he who devotes himself to the Tao (seeks) from day to day to diminish (his doing). three He who gets as his own all under heaven does so by giving himself no trouble (with that end). Having arrived at this point of non-action. till he arrives at doing nothing (on purpose). two He diminishes it and again diminishes it.

own all under heaven. 87 .

To those who are sincere (with me). The people all keep their eyes and ears directed to him. I am sincere.—and thus (all) get to be good.49 * one The sage has no invariable mind of his own. and 88 . and to those who are not sincere (with me). two To those who are good (to me). I am also sincere. three The sage has in the world an appearance of indecision. he makes the mind of the people his mind. and keeps his mind in a state of indifference to all. I am also good. I am good. and to those who are not good (to me).—and thus (all) get to be sincere.

89 .he deals with them all as his children.

but whose movements tend to the land (or place) of death. three There are also three in every ten whose aim is to live. four 90 . And for what reason? Because of their excessive endeavours to perpetuate life. they enter (again) and die.50 * one Men come forth and live. two Of every ten three are ministers of life (to themselves). and three are ministers of death.

and enters a host without having to avoid buff coat or sharp weapon. nor the weapon a place to admit its point.But I have heard that he who is skilful in managing the life entrusted to him for a time travels on the land without having to shun rhinoceros or tiger. 91 . And for what reason? Because there is in him no place of death. The rhinoceros finds no place in him into which to thrust its horn. nor the tiger a place in which to fix its claws.

Therefore all things without exception honour the Tao. and exalt its outflowing operation. and nourished by its outflowing operation. nourishes 92 . three Thus it is that the Tao produces (all things). They receive their forms according to the nature of each.51 * one All things are produced by the Tao. and are completed according to the circumstances of their condition. two This honouring of the Tao and exalting of its operation is not the result of any ordination. but always a spontaneous tribute.

them. maintains them. brings them to their full growth. four It produces them and makes no claim to the possession of them. and overspreads them. it carries them through their processes and does not vaunt its ability in doing so. nurses them. completes them.—this is called its mysterious operation. it brings them to maturity and exercises no control over them. 93 . matures them.

to the end of his life he will be free from all peril. and proceeds to guard (the qualities of) the mother that belong to him. When one knows that he is his mother's child. Let him keep his mouth open. and all his life he will be exempt from laborious exertion.52 * one (The Tao) which originated all under the sky is to be considered as the mother of them all. we know what her children should be. and shut up the portals (of his nostrils). two When the mother is found. and 94 . three Let him keep his mouth closed.

(spend his breath) in the promotion of his affairs. 95 . and all his life there will be no safety for him. Reverting to its (source so) bright. Will from his body ward all blight. five Who uses well his light. the guarding of what is soft and tender is (the secret of) strength. four The perception of what is small is (the secret of clearsightedness. And hides the unchanging from men's sight.

They shall wear elegant and ornamented robes. carry a sharp sword at their girdle. pamper themselves in 96 . but people love the by-ways. and their granaries very empty. and (put into a position to) conduct (a government) according to the Great Tao.53 * one If I were suddenly to become known. two The great Tao (or way) is very level and easy. but their fields shall be ill-cultivated. what I should be most afraid of would be a boastful display. three Their court(-yards and buildings) shall be well kept.

eating and drinking.—such (princes) may be called robbers and boasters. This is contrary to the Tao surely! 97 . and have a superabundance of property and wealth.

What his skilful arms enfold. 98 . From him can ne'er be borne. His vigour will make true. two Tao when nursed within one's self. Sacrifices to his shrine. And when 'tis seen throughout the state. And where the family it rules What riches will accrue! The neighbourhood where it prevails In thriving will abound.54 * one What (Tao's) skilful planter plants Can never be uptorn. Sons shall bring in lengthening line.

three In this way the effect will be seen in the person. four How do I know that this effect is sure to hold thus all under the sky? By this (method of observation). in the neighbourhood.Good fortune will be found. And men thrive all around. in the family. by the observation of different cases. and in the kingdom. Employ it the kingdom o'er. 99 . in the state.

55 * one He who has in himself abundantly the attributes (of the Tao) is like an infant. fierce beasts will not seize him.— showing the perfection of its physical essence. All day long it will cry without its throat becoming hoarse. three 100 . birds of prey will not strike him. but yet its grasp is firm. two (The infant's) bones are weak and its sinews soft. and yet its virile member may be excited. Poisonous insects will not sting him.— showing the harmony (in its constitution). It knows not yet the union of male and female.

(The secret of) the unchanging (Tao) is shown. which may be said to be contrary to the Tao. And in the knowledge wisdom finds its throne.To him by whom this harmony is known. Whatever is contrary to the Tao soon ends. All life-increasing arts to evil turn. 101 . (False) is the strength. they (then) become old. Where the mind makes the vital breath to burn.) four When things have become strong. (and o'er it we should mourn.

and bring himself into agreement with the obscurity (of others).' three (Such an one) cannot be treated familiarly or distantly. He will blunt his sharp points and unravel the complications of things. he will attemper his brightness. two He (who knows it) will keep his mouth shut and close the portals (of his nostrils). This is called 'the Mysterious Agreement. 102 . he who is (ever ready to) speak about it does not know it.56 * one He who knows (the Tao) does not (care to) speak (about it).

he is beyond all consideration of profit or injury; of nobility or meanness:—he is the noblest man under heaven.


A state may be ruled by (measures of) correction; weapons of war may be used with crafty dexterity; (but) the kingdom is made one's own (only) by freedom from action and purpose.

How do I know that it is so? By these facts:—In the kingdom the multiplication of prohibitive enactments increases the poverty of the people; the more implements to add to their profit that the people have, the greater disorder is there in the state and clan; the more acts of crafty dexterity that men possess, the more do strange contrivances appear; the more display there is of legislation, the more thieves and robbers there are.


Therefore a sage has said, 'I will do nothing (of purpose), and the people will be transformed of themselves; I will be fond of keeping still, and the people will of themselves become correct. I will take no trouble about it, and the people will of themselves become rich; I will manifest no ambition, and the people will of themselves attain to the primitive simplicity.'


That which is meddling. and disappointment bring. The delusion of the people (on this point) has indeed subsisted for a long time.58 * one The government that seems the most unwise. Oft goodness to the people best supplies. touching everything. Misery!—happiness is to be found by its side! Happiness! —misery lurks beneath it! Who knows what either will come to in the end? two Shall we then dispense with correction? The (method of) correction shall by a turn become distortion. Will work but ill. and the good in it shall by a turn become evil. 106 .

but allows himself no license.three Therefore the sage is (like) a square which cuts no one (with its angles). 107 . He is straightforward. but does not dazzle. (like) a corner which injures no one (with its sharpness). he is bright.

two It is only by this moderation that there is effected an early return (to man's normal state). three 108 . there is nothing like moderation. That early return is what I call the repeated accumulation of the attributes (of the Tao). With that repeated accumulation of those attributes. there comes the subjugation (of every obstacle to such return). Of this subjugation we know not what shall be the limit. he may be the ruler of a state. and when one knows not what the limit shall be.59 * one For regulating the human (in our constitution) and rendering the (proper) service to the heavenly.

109 . His case is like that (of the plant) of which we say that its roots are deep and its flower stalks firm:—this is the way to secure that its enduring life shall long be seen.He who possesses the mother of the state may continue long.

but neither does the ruling sage hurt them.60 * one Governing a great state is like cooking small fish. It is not that those manes have not that spiritual energy. their good influences converge in the virtue (of the Tao). 110 . two Let the kingdom be governed according to the Tao. and the manes of the departed will not manifest their spiritual energy. but it will not be employed to hurt men. three When these two do not injuriously affect each other. It is not that it could not hurt men.

—it becomes the centre to which tend (all the small states) under heaven. down. 111 . three Thus it is that a great state.61 * one What makes a great state is its being (like) a low-lying. by condescending to small states. gains them for itself. win it over to them. two (To illustrate from) the case of all females:—the female always overcomes the male by her stillness. Stillness may be considered (a sort of) abasement. In the one case the abasement leads to gaining adherents. by abasing themselves to a great state. and that small states.flowing (stream).

four The great state only wishes to unite men together and nourish them.in the other case to procuring favour. and to serve. 112 . but the great state must learn to abase itself. a small state only wishes to be received by. Each gets what it desires. the other.

62 * one Tao has of all things the most honoured place. Bad men it guards. and doth their ill efface. and he has appointed his three ducal ministers. Even men who are not good are not abandoned by it. though (a prince) were to send in a round symbol-of-rank large enough to fill both the hands. No treasures give good men so rich a grace. two (Its) admirable words can purchase honour. three Therefore when the sovereign occupies his place as the Son of Heaven. (its) admirable deeds can raise their performer above others. and 113 .

114 . four Why was it that the ancients prized this Tao so much? Was it not because it could be got by seeking for it. and the guilty could escape (from the stain of their guilt) by it? This is the reason why all under heaven consider it the most valuable thing. such an offering would not be equal to (a lesson of) this Tao.that as the precursor of the team of horses (in the courtyard). which one might present on his knees.

to consider what is small as great.63 * one (It is the way of the Tao) to act without (thinking of) acting. to taste without discerning any flavour. to conduct affairs without (feeling the) trouble of them. while he never does what is great. and does things that would become great while they are small. and all great things from one in which they were small. and a few as many. All difficult things in the world are sure to arise from a previous state in which they were easy. two (The master of it) anticipates things that are difficult while they are easy. is able on that account to accomplish the greatest things. 115 . and to recompense injury with kindness. Therefore the sage.

116 . and so never has any difficulties.three He who lightly promises is sure to keep but little faith. Therefore the sage sees difficulty even in what seems easy. he who is continually thinking things easy is sure to find them difficult.

order should be secured before disorder has begun. Action should be taken before a thing has made its appearance. that which is brittle is easily broken. before a thing has given indications of its presence.64 * one That which is at rest is easily kept hold of. the tower of nine storeys rose from a (small) heap of earth. the journey of a thousand li commenced with a single step. three 117 . it is easy to take measures against it. that which is very small is easily dispersed. two The tree which fills the arms grew from the tiniest sprout.

and therefore does not lose his bold. he learns what (other men) do not learn. they would not so ruin them. and turns back to what the multitude of men have passed by. 118 . and does not prize things difficult to get. (But) people in their conduct of affairs are constantly ruining them when they are on the eve of success. If they were careful at the end. he does not lay hold (so). and does not dare to act (with an ulterior purpose of his own).He who acts (with an ulterior purpose) does harm. as (they should be) at the beginning. Thus he helps the natural development of all things. he who takes hold of a thing (in the same way) loses his hold. four Therefore the sage desires what (other men) do not desire. and therefore does no harm. The sage does not act (so).

while he who does not (try to) do so is a blessing. three He who knows these two things finds in them also his model and rule. not to enlighten the people. He who (tries to) govern a state by his wisdom is a scourge to it.65 * one The ancients who showed their skill in practising the Tao did so. Ability to know this model and rule constitutes what we call the mysterious excellence (of a 119 . two The difficulty in governing the people arises from their having much knowledge. but rather to make them simple and ignorant.

Deep and far-reaching is such mysterious excellence. but leading them to a great conformity to him.governor). showing indeed its possessor as opposite to others. 120 .

do they feel it an injury to them. nor though he has his place before them. is their skill in being lower than they. puts himself by his words below them. wishing to be above men. two In this way though he has his place above them. men do not feel his weight. So it is that the sage (ruler). three 121 .—it is thus that they are the kings of them all.66 * one That whereby the rivers and seas are able to receive the homage and tribute of all the valley streams. wishing to be before them. and. places his person behind them.

Because he does not strive. 122 .Therefore all in the world delight to exalt him and do not weary of him. no one finds it possible to strive with him.

The first is gentleness. and the third is shrinking from taking precedence of others. the second is economy. while my Tao is great.67 * one All the world says that. three 123 . it yet appears to be inferior (to other systems of teaching). If it were like any other (system). Now it is just its greatness that makes it seem to be inferior. for long would its smallness have been known! two But I have three precious things which I prize and hold fast.

—(of all which the end is) death. four Gentleness is sure to be victorious even in battle. I can become a vessel of the highest honour. economy. and firmly to maintain its ground. and are all for being liberal. Nowa-days they give up gentleness and are all for being bold. Heaven will save its possessor. and seek only to be foremost. by his (very) gentleness protecting him. with that economy I can be liberal. 124 . shrinking from taking precedence of others. the hindmost place.With that gentleness I can be bold.

'He ne'er contends.68 * He who in (Tao's) wars has skill Assumes no martial port. He whose hests men most fulfil Yet humbly plies his art. 'Men's wills he bends.' Thus we say. 'Like Heaven's his ends. He who fights with most good will To rage makes no resort.' Thus we say.' 125 . He who vanquishes yet still Keeps from his foes apart. Thus we say. And therein is his might. No sage of old more bright. That they with him unite.

To do that is near losing (the gentleness) which is so precious. he who deplores (the situation) conquers. I prefer to be the guest (to act on the defensive). baring the arms (to fight) where there are no arms to bare. two There is no calamity greater than lightly engaging in war. I do not dare to advance an inch. grasping the weapon where there is no weapon to grasp. I prefer to retire a foot. 'I do not dare to be the host (to commence the war).69 * one A master of the art of war has said. Thus it is that when opposing weapons are (actually) crossed. advancing against the enemy where there is no enemy.' This is called marshalling the ranks where there are no ranks. 126 .

127 .

two There is an originating and all-comprehending (principle) in my words.70 * one My words are very easy to know. but there is no one in the world who is able to know and able to practise them. and I am on that account (the more) to be prized. while he carries his (signet of) 128 . and an authoritative law for the things (which I enforce). and very easy to practise. It is because they do not know these. three They who know me are few. that men do not know me. It is thus that the sage wears (a poor garb of) hair cloth.

jade in his bosom. 129 .

not to know (and yet think) we do know is a disease. The sage has not the disease. He knows the pain that would be inseparable from it. two It is simply by being pained at (the thought of) having this disease that we are preserved from it. and therefore he does not have it.71 * one To know and yet (think) we do not know is the highest (attainment). 130 .

three It is by avoiding such indulgence that such weariness does not arise. that which is their great dread will come on them. four 131 . let them not act as if weary of what that life depends on.72 * one When the people do not fear what they ought to fear. two Let them not thoughtlessly indulge themselves in their ordinary life.

but does not parade (his knowledge). 132 . but does not (appear to set a) value on. loves. himself. And thus he puts the latter alternative away and makes choice of the former.Therefore the sage knows (these things) of himself.

not to speak. Who the cause shall truly scan? On this account the sage feels a difficulty (as to what to do in the former case). two It is the way of Heaven not to strive. and the other to be injurious.73 * one He whose boldness appears in his daring (to do wrong. he whose boldness appears in his not daring (to do so) lives on. in defiance of the laws) is put to death. and yet it skilfully overcomes. But When Heaven's anger smites a man. Of these two cases the one appears to be advantageous. and yet it is skilful in (obtaining 133 .

but letting nothing escape. and yet its plans are skilful and effective. The meshes of the net of Heaven are large. and yet men come to it of themselves.a reply. does not call. 134 . Its demonstrations are quiet. far apart.

does not cut his own hands! 135 . to what purpose is it to (try to) frighten them with death? If the people were always in awe of death.74 * one The people do not fear death. who would dare to do wrong? two There is always One who presides over the infliction death. Seldom is it that he who undertakes the hewing. instead of the great carpenter. He who would inflict death in the room of him who so presides over it may be described as hewing wood instead of a great carpenter. and put them to death. and I could always seize those who do wrong.

two The people are difficult to govern because of the (excessive) agency of their superiors (in governing them). It is through this that they are difficult to govern. It is this which makes them think light of dying. It is through this that they suffer famine. three The people make light of dying because of the greatness of their labours in seeking for the means of living. Thus it is that to leave the subject of living altogether out of view 136 .75 * one The people suffer from famine because of the multitude of taxes consumed by their superiors.

137 .is better than to set a high value on it.

softness and weakness. are soft and brittle. (and thereby invites the feller. (So it is with) all things. at his death. the concomitants of life. Trees and plants. two Thus it is that firmness and strength are the concomitants of death. dry and withered. three Hence he who (relies on) the strength of his forces does not conquer. firm and strong.76 * one Man at his birth is supple and weak.) 138 . at their death. in their early growth. and a tree which is strong will fill the outstretched arms.

four Therefore the place of what is firm and strong is below. 139 . and that of what is soft and weak is above.

and supplements where there is deficiency. and to supplement deficiency. two It is the Way of Heaven to diminish superabundance. three Who can take his own superabundance and therewith 140 . (So Heaven) diminishes where there is superabundance.77 * one May not the Way (or Tao) of Heaven be compared to the (method of) bending a bow? The (part of the bow) which was high is brought low. He takes away from those who have not enough to add to his own superabundance. and what was low is raised up. It is not so with the way of man.

141 .serve all under heaven? Only he who is in possession of the Tao! four Therefore the (ruling) sage acts without claiming the results as his. he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it:—he does not wish to display his superiority.

but no one is able to carry it out in practice. three Therefore a sage has said. and yet for attacking things that are firm and strong there is nothing that can take precedence of it.78 * one There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water. two Every one in the world knows that the soft overcomes the hard. 142 .— for there is nothing (so effectual) for which it can be changed. 'He who accepts his state's reproach. and the weak the strong.

143 .' four Words that are strictly true seem to be paradoxical. To him who bears men's direful woes They all the name of King accord.Is hailed therefore its altars' lord.

while he who has not those attributes regards only the conditions favourable to himself. the sage keeps the lefthand portion of the record of the engagement. three 144 . (So).79 * one When a reconciliation is effected (between two parties) after a great animosity. there is sure to be a grudge remaining (in the mind of the one who was wrong). And how can this be beneficial (to the other)? two Therefore (to guard against this). he who has the attributes (of the Tao) regards (only) the conditions of the engagement. and does not insist on the (speedy) fulfilment of it by the other party.

In the Way of Heaven, there is no partiality of love; it is always on the side of the good man.


In a little state with a small population, I would so order it, that, though there were individuals with the abilities of ten or a hundred men, there should be no employment of them; I would make the people, while looking on death as a grievous thing, yet not remove elsewhere (to avoid it).

Though they had boats and carriages, they should have no occasion to ride in them; though they had buff coats and sharp weapons, they should have no occasion to don or use them.


I would make the people return to the use of knotted cords (instead of the written characters).

They should think their (coarse) food sweet; their (plain) clothes beautiful; their (poor) dwellings places of rest; and their common (simple) ways sources of enjoyment.

There should be a neighbouring state within sight, and the voices of the fowls and dogs should be heard all the way from it to us, but I would make the people to old age, even to death, not have any intercourse with it.


the disputatious are not skilled in it. the more does he have himself. Those who know (the Tao) are not extensively learned.81 * one Sincere words are not fine. three With all the sharpness of the Way of Heaven. it injures 148 . two The sage does not accumulate (for himself). Those who are skilled (in the Tao) do not dispute (about it). The more that he expends for others. fine words are not sincere. the more that he gives to others. the extensively learned do not know it. the more does he possess of his own.

not. with all the doing in the way of the sage he does not strive. *** 149 .

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