Dao De Jing -First Half


Chapter 01
The Tao that 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.
Therefore, one shall strip oneself of desires in order to see the secret of Life;
with desires, one can see its manifestations.
These two (the secret and its manifestations) are in their nature the same;
They are given different names when they become manifest.
They may both be called the Mystery.
When we go deeper into the Mystery,
we arrive at the Gate to the Secret of All Life.

Chapter 02
    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 interdependent in growth;
Difficult and easy interdependent in completion;
Long and short interdependent in contrast;
High and low interdependent in position;
Tones and voice interdependent in harmony;
Front and behind interdependent in company.

Therefore the Sage:
Manages affairs without action;
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;
He acts, but does not appropriate;
Accomplishes, but claims no credit.
It is because he lays claim to no credit
That the credit cannot be taken away from him.

Chapter 03
      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:
He keeps empty their hearts
Makes full their bellies,
Discourages their ambitions,
Strengthens their frames;
So that the people may be innocent of knowledge and desires.
And the cunning ones shall not presume to interfere.
By action without deeds
May all live in peace.

Chapter 04
Tao is a hollow vessel,
And its use is inexhaustible!
Like the fountain head of all things,
Its sharp edges rounded off,
Its tangles untied,
Its light tempered,
Its turmoil submerged,
Yet dark like deep water it seems to remain.
I do not know whose Son it it,
An image of what existed before God.

Chapter 05
Nature is unkind:
It treats the creation like sacrificial straw-dogs.
The Sage is unkind:
He treats the people like sacrificial straw-dogs.
How the universe is like a bellows!
Empty, yet 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 the core.

Chapter 06
The Spirit of the Valley never dies.
It is called the Mystic Female.
The Door of the Mystic Female
Is the root of Heaven and Earth.
Continuously, continuously,
It seems to remain.
Draw upon it
And it serves you with ease.

Chapter 07
The universe is everlasting.
The reason the universe is everlasting
Is that it does not life for Self.
Therefore it can long endure.
Therefore the Sage puts himself last,
And finds himself in the foremost place;
Regards his body as accidental,
And his body is thereby preserved.
Is it not because he does not live for Self
That his Self is realized?

Chapter 08
The best of men is like water;
Water benefits all things
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;
In his 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 ability;
In hi actions, he loves choosing the right time.
It is because he does not contend
That he is without reproach.

Chapter 09
Stretch (a bow) to the very full,
And you will wish you had stopped in time.
Temper a (sword-edge) to its very sharpest,
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 honor
Is to sow seeds of one’s own downfall.
Retire when your work is done,
Such is Heaven’s way.

Chapter 10
In embracing the One with your soul,
Can you never forsake the Tao?
In controlling your vital force to achieve gentleness,
Can you become like the new-born child?
In cleansing and purifying your Mystic vision,
Can you strive after perfection?
In loving the people and governing the kingdom,
Can you rule without interference?
In opening and shutting the Gate of Heaven,
Can you play the part of the Female?
In comprehending all knowledge,
Can you renounce the mind?

Chapter 11
Thirty spokes unite around the nave;
From their 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)
Arises the utility of the vessel.
Cut out doors and windows in the house (-wall),
From their not-being (empty space) arises the utility
of the house.
Therefore by the existence of things we profit.
And by the non-existence of things we are served.

Chapter 12
The five colors blind the eyes of man;
The five musical notes deafen the ears of man;
The five flavors dull the taste of man;
Horse-racing, hunting and chasing madden the minds of man;
Rare, valuable goods keep their owners awake at night.
Therefore the Sage:
Provides for the belly and not the eye.
Hence, he rejects the one and accepts the other.

Chapter 13
“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 dismay?”
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 fear?
Therefore he who values the world as his self
May then be entrusted with the government of the world;
And he who loves the world as his self –
The world may then be entrusted to his care.

Chapter 14
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 –
That is 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 there darkness.
Unceasing, continuous,
It cannot be defined,
And reverts again to the realm of nothingness.
That is why it is called the Form of the Formless,
The Image of Nothingness.
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.

Chapter 15
The wise ones of old had subtle wisdom and depth of understanding,
So profound that they could not be understood.
And because they could not be understood,
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,
Genuine, like a piece of undressed wood,
Open-minded, like a valley,
And mixing freely, like murky water.
Who can find repose in a muddy world?
By lying still, it becomes clear.
Who can maintain his calm for long?
By activity, it comes back to life.
He who embraces this Tao
Guards against being over-full.
Because he guards against being over-full,
He is beyond wearing out and renewal.

Chapter 16
Attain the utmost in Passivity,
Hold firm to the basis of Quietude.
The myriad things take shape and rise to activity,
But I watch them fall back to their repose.
Like vegetation that luxuriantly grows
But 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 Law.
To know the Eternal Law is Enlightenment.
And not to know the Eternal Law
Is to court disaster.
He who knows the Eternal Law is tolerant;
Being tolerant, he is impartial;
Being impartial, he is kingly;
Being kingly, he is in accord with Nature;
Being in accord with Nature, he is in accord with Tao;
Being in accord with Tao, he is eternal,
And his whole life is preserved from harm.

Chapter 17
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,
And then they resort to oaths!
But (of the best) when their task is accomplished,
their work done,
The people all remark, “We have done it ourselves.”

Chapter 18
On the decline of the great Tao,
The doctrine of “humanity” and “justice” arose.
When knowledge and cleverness appeared,
Great hypocrisy followed in its wake.
When the six relationships no longer lived at peace,
There was (praise of) “kind parents” and “filial sons.”
When a country fell into chaos and misrule,
There was (praise of) “loyal ministers.”

Chapter 19
Banish wisdom, discard knowledge,
And the people shall profit a hundredfold;
Banish “humanity,” discard “justice,”
And the people shall recover love of their kin;
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,
Embrace thy original nature,
Check thy selfishness,
Curtail thy desires.

Chapter 20
Banish learning, and vexations end.
Between “Ah!” and “Ough!”
How much difference is there?
Between “good” and “evil”
How much difference is there?”
That which men fear
Is indeed to be feared;
But, alas, distant yet is the dawn (of awakening)!
The people of the world are merry-making,
As if partaking of the sacrificial feasts,
As if mounting the terrace in spring;
I alone am mild, like one unemployed,
Like a new-born babe that cannot yet smile,
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 fool,
Being muddled, nebulous!
The vulgar are knowing, luminous;
I alone am dull, confused.
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;
I alone appear stubborn and uncouth.
I alone differ from the other people,
And value drawing sustenance from the Mother.

Chapter 21
The marks of great Character
Follow alone from the Tao.
The thing that is called Tao
Is elusive, evasive.
Evasive, elusive,
Yet latent in it are forms.
Elusive, evasive,
Yet latent in it are objects.
Dark and dim,
Yet latent in it is the life-force.
The life-force being very true,
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 Things.
How do I know the shape of the Father of All Things?
Through these (manifested forms)!

Chapter 22
To yield is to be preserved whole.
To be bent is to become straight.
To be hollow is to be filled.
To be tattered is to be renewed.
To be in want is to possess.
To have plenty is to be confused.
Therefore the Sage embraces the One,
And becomes the model of the world.
He does not reveal himself,
And is therefore luminous.
He does not justify himself,
And is therefore far-famed.
He does not boast of himself,
And therefore people give him credit.
He does not pride himself,
And is therefore the chief among men.
Is it not indeed true, as the ancients say,
“To yield is to be preserved whole?”
Thus he is preserved and the world does him homage.

Chapter 23
Nature says few words:
Hence it is that a squall lasts not a whole morning.
A rainstorm continues not a whole day.
Where do they come from?
From Nature.
Even Nature does not last long (in its utterances),
How much 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
He who abandons (Tao) is identified with abandonment (of
He who is identified with Tao –
Tao is also glad to welcome him.
He who is identified with character –
Character is also glad to welcome him.
He who is identified with abandonment –
Abandonment is also glad t welcome him.
He who has not enough faith
Will not be able to command faith from others.

Chapter 24
He who stands on tiptoe does not stand (firm);
He who strains his strides does not walk (well);
He who reveals himself is not luminous;
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 of Tao
Are called “the dregs and tumors of Virtue,”
Which are things of disgust.
Therefore the man of Tao spurns them.

Chapter 25
Before the Heaven and Earth existed
There was something nebulous:
Silent, isolated,
Standing alone, changing not,
Eternally revolving without fail,
Worthy to be the Mother of All Things.
I do not know its name
And address it as Tao.
If forced to give it a name, I shall call it “Great.”
Being great implies reaching out in space,
Reaching out in space implies far-reaching,
Far-reaching implies reversion to the original point.
Tao is Great,
The Heaven is great,
The Earth is great,
The King is also great.
There are the Great Four in the universe,
And the King is one of them.
Man models himself after the Earth;
The Earth models itself after Heaven;
The Heaven models itself after Tao;
Tao models itself after nature.

Chapter 26
The Solid is the root of the light;
The Quiescent is the master of the Hasty.
Therefore the Sage travels all day
Yet never leaves his provision-cart.
In the midst of honor and glory,
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 is lost;
In hasty action, self-mastery is lost.

Chapter 27
A good runner leaves no track.
A good speech leaves no flaws for attack.
A good reckoner makes use of no counters.
A well-shut door makes use of no bolts,
And yet 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;
For that reason there is no rejected (useless) person.
He is good at saving things;
For that reason there is nothing rejected.
– This is called stealing the Light.
Therefore the good man is the Teacher of the bad.
And the bad man is the lesson of the good.
He who neither values his teacher
Nor loves the lesson
Is one gone far astray,
Though he be learned.
– Such is the subtle secret.

Chapter 28
He who is aware of the Male
But keeps to the Female
Becomes the ravine of the world.
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 black (dark)
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 obscurity
Becomes the valley of the world.
Being the valley of the world,
He has an eternal power which always suffices,
And returns again to the natural integrity of uncarved wood.
Break up this uncarved wood
And it is shaped into vessel
In the hands of the Sage
They become the officials and magistrates.
Therefore the great ruler does not cut up.

Chapter 29
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).
He who makes it spoils it.
He who holds it loses it.
For: Some things go forward,
Some things follow behind;
some blow hot,
And some blow cold;
Some are strong,
And some are weak;
Some may break,
And some may fall.
Hence the Sage eschews excess, eschews extravagance,
Eschews pride.

Chapter 30
He who by Tao purposes to help the ruler of men
Will oppose all conquest by force of arms.
For such things are wont to rebound.
Where armies are, thorns and brambles grow.
The raising of a great host
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;
Effects his purpose and does not boast of it;
Effects his purpose and does not take pride in it;
Effects his purpose as a regrettable necessity;
Effects his purpose but does not love violence.
(For) things age after reaching their prime.
That (violence) would be against the Tao.
And he who is against the Tao perishes young.

Chapter 31
Of all things, soldiers are instruments of evil,
Hated by men.
Therefore the religious man (possessed of Tao) avoids them.
The gentleman favors the left in civilian life,
But on 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 helped,
The best policy is calm restraint.
Even in victory, there is no beauty,
And who calls it beautiful
Is one who delights in slaughter.
He who delights in slaughter
Will not succeed in his ambition to rule the world.
[The things of good omen favor the left.
The things of ill omen favor the right.
The lieutenant-general stands on the left,
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.
A victory should be celebrated with the Funeral Rite.

Chapter 32
Tao is absolute and has no name.
Though the uncarved wood is small,
It cannot be employed (used as vessel) by anyone.
If kings and barons can keep (this unspoiled nature),
The whole world shall yield them lordship of their own
The Heaven and Earth join,
And the sweet rain falls,
Beyond the command of men,
Yet 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.

Chapter 33
He who knows others is learned;
He who knows himself is wide.
He who conquers others has power of muscles;
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 endures.
He who dies yet (his power) remains has long life.

Chapter 34
The Great Tao flows everywhere,
(Like a flood) it may go left or right.
The myriad things derive their life from it,
And it does not deny them.
When its work is accomplished,
It does not take possession.
It clothes and feeds the myriad things,
Yet does not claim them as its own.
Often (regarded) without mind or passion,
It may be considered small.
Being the home of all things, yet claiming not,
It may be considered great.
Because to the end it does not claim greatness,
Its greatness is achieved.

Chapter 35
Hold the Great Symbol
and all the world follows,
Follows without meeting harm,
(And 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 fails.

Chapter 36
He who is to be made to dwindle (in power)
Must first be caused to expand.
He who is to be weakened
Must first be made strong.
He who is to be laid low
Must first be exalted to power.
He who is to be taken away from
Must first be given,
– 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
Where none can see them.

Chapter 37
The Tao never does,
Yet through it everything is done.
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.
The Nameless pristine simplicity
Is stripped of desire (for contention).
By stripping of desire quiescence is achieved,
And the world arrives at peace of its own accord.

Chapter 38
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 character.
The man of superior character never acts,
Nor ever (does so) with an ulterior motive.
The 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.
The man of superior justice acts,
And (does so) with an ulterior motive.
(But when) the man of superior li acts and finds no response,
He rolls up his sleeves to force it on others.
After Tao is lost, then (arises the doctrine of) humanity.
After humanity is lost, then (arises the doctrine of) justice.
After justice is lost, then (arises the doctrine of) li.
Now 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 fruit,
And not in the flowering (expression).
Therefore he rejects the one and accepts the other.

Chapter 39
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,
Without stability, the Earth would quake,
Without spiritual power, the gods would crumble,
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 stumble.
therefore the nobility depend upon the common man for support,
And the exalted ones depend upon the lowly for their base.
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 support?
Truly, take down the parts of a chariot,
And there is no chariot (left).
Rather than jingle like the jade,
Rumble like the rocks.

Chapter 40
Reversion is the action of Tao.
Gentleness is the function of Tao.
The things of this world come from Being,
And Being (comes) from Non-being.

>To be continued.

Translation by Lin yutang



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