Read this new English translation of the Daodejing to learn more about the timeless wisdom of Laozi, one of China’s most famous philosophers.
Daodejing Chapter 1
The way that can be spoken of is not the constant way;
The name that can be named is not the constant name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named is the mother of the myriad things.
Therefore, by always remaining free of desire you can observe its secrets;
While by always remaining full of desire, you can observe its manifestations.
The two emerge from the same source,
But they have different names;
Call them both mysteries;
Mystery upon mystery;
The gateway to all secrets.
Daodejing Chapter 2
When the whole world knows to regard beauty as beauty, there is ugliness.
When the whole world knows to regard good as good, there is evil.
Thus, something and nothing nurture each other;
Difficult and easy complete each other;
Long and short give form to each other;
High and low depend on each other;
Note and sound harmonize each other;
Front and rear follow each other.
That’s why the sage:
Conducts his affairs with effortless action;
Spreads his teaching without words;
Lets all things unfold without initiating them;
Lets them grow without claiming possession of them;
Gets things done without expecting any gratitude;
Achieves his goals without claiming any credit.
It is precisely because he does not claim any credit,
That it stays with him forever.
Daodejing Chapter 3
Do not single out the gifted for praise,
To ensure that the people never contend;
Do not prize rare goods,
To ensure that the people never steal;
Do not display objects of desire,
To ensure that the people’s hearts will never be restless.
That’s why the sage rules his people by:
Emptying their minds;
But filling their stomachs;
Weakening their ambitions;
But strengthening their sinews.
Always keeping the people free from knowledge and desires,
To ensure that those with knowledge will never dare act.
By acting with effortless action,
There is nothing that he cannot govern.
Daodejing Chapter 4
The Dao is an empty vessel;
It is used and never fills up.
It’s so deep that it is like the origin of all things.
Blunt the sharpness;
Untangle the knot;
Soften the glare;
Merge with the dust;
Invisible and formless, it always seems to be present.
I have no idea who gave birth to it.
It seems to have existed before the Lord did.
Daodejing Chapter 5
Heaven and Earth are not humane,
They treat all things as straw dogs.
The sage is not humane;
He treats all people as straw dogs.
The space between Heaven and Earth is just like a bellows!
It’s empty but inexhaustible;
The more it moves, the more it yields.
Too many words will only lead to failure;
Better to stay centered.
Daodejing Chapter 6
The spirit of the valley never dies;
It is called the mysterious female.
The gateway of the mysterious female,
Is called the root of Heaven and Earth.
Like a fine slender thread,
It appears to go on forever;
No matter how much it’s used,
It’s never exhausted.
Daodejing Chapter 7
Heaven is infinite and Earth is eternal;
The reason why they last so long,
Is because they do not exist for themselves;
Thus, they can continue to endure.
That is why the sage:
Places himself at the back,
But finds himself at the front;
Has no consideration for himself,
But stays safe and secure.
Because he is selfless;
He is perfectly fulfilled.
Daodejing Chapter 8
The highest good is like water;
Water brings good to all things without competing with them;
It settles in places that people disdain;
Thus it is similar to the way.
In choosing your home, it is the location that counts;
In cultivating your mind, it is depth that counts;
In dealing with others, it is goodness that counts;
In speaking, it is good faith that counts;
In governing, it is order that counts;
In handling affairs, it is ability that counts;
In action, it is timing that counts.
By not competing with others,
You won’t be singled out for reproach.
Daodejing Chapter 9
Holding a cup while filling it to the brim,
Is not as good as stopping in time;
Hammering a blade until it is sharp,
Will not preserve its edge for long.
When your hall is stuffed with gold and jade,
Nobody will be able to protect it.
When riches and honors lead to arrogance;
Disaster will inevitably follow;
Retire when you have accomplished your goal;
This is the way of heaven.
Daodejing Chapter 10
Can you nurture your spirit and embrace oneness,
Without letting it go?
Can you concentrate your vital energy and reach a state of suppleness,
Like a new-born baby?
Can you polish and clean your mystery mirror,
So that you leave it untainted?
Can you love your country and care for your people,
With effortless action?
Can you play the role of the female,
Opening and closing the gates of Heaven?
Can you understand everything instinctively,
Without employing knowledge?
Bearing and nurturing;
Bearing without possessing;
Acting without taking credit;
Leading without dominating.
This is called mysterious virtue.
Daodejing Chapter 11
Thirty spokes share a wheel hub;
But it’s the empty space at the center of it that makes the cart useful.
Clay is shaped into a pot;
But it’s the empty space inside it that makes the pot useful.
Doorways and window bays are cut for a room;
But it’s the empty space in these openings that makes the room useful.
To enjoy the full benefit of something,
Harness the usefulness of nothing.
Daodejing Chapter 12
The five colors blind your eyes;
The five sounds deafen your ears;
The five flavors dull your taste buds.
Chasing and hunting make you lose your mind.
Pursuing rare objects leads you astray.
That is why the sage heeds his stomach and not his eyes,
Thus, he rejects the latter and adopts the former.
Daodejing Chapter 13
Favor and disgrace are equally stressful.
High rank is a source of great trouble just like your body.
What does it mean that favor and disgrace are equally stressful?
Favor can lead to your downfall;
Gaining it is as stressful as losing it;
That is why favor and disgrace are equally stressful.
What does it mean that high rank is a source of great trouble like your body?
The reason I have great trouble is that I have a body.
If I didn’t have a body, what trouble would I have?
If you value the world as much as you value your body,
You can be trusted to govern it.
If you love the world as much as you love your body,
You can be trusted to take care of it.
Daodejing Chapter 14
What you look at but cannot see is called the invisible;
What you listen to but cannot hear is called the inaudible;
What you touch but cannot hold is called the intangible.
These three are undefinable.
Thus, they are joined as one.
From above it is not bright;
From below it is not dark;
It is so vague as to defy description;
It reverts to a state of nothingness.
This is called the form that has no form,
The image that has no substance;
This is called the indistinct and indistinguishable.
Facing it, you cannot see its front;
Following it, you cannot see its rear.
Hold fast to the ancient Dao to master the here and now.
The ability to know the beginnings of antiquity,
This is called the essence of the Dao.
Daodejing Chapter 15
The great masters of antiquity who were adept in the Dao,
Were subtle, clever, mysterious, and perceptive;
Their thoughts were too profound to be understood.
Because they could not be understood,
The best I can do is describe their appearance:
Cautious as if crossing a river in winter,
Alert as if aware of danger from all sides;
Dignified like a guest;
Yielding like a melting block of ice;
Simple like an uncarved block of wood;
Open-minded like a valley;
Opaque like muddy water.
Who can remain calm until the mud settles?
Who can remain tranquil until the right time to act arrives?
Those who embrace the Dao never seek fulfillment;
Precisely because they never seek fulfillment,
They can always renew themselves.
Daodejing Chapter 16
Reach perfect emptiness;
Maintain perfect stillness.
All things emerge,
I observe them return.
All things grow and flourish,
Each one returns to its root.
Returning to the root is called stillness;
This is what is called regaining to your destiny.
Regaining your destiny is called the constant.
Knowing the constant is called serenity.
Not knowing the constant leads to recklessness and violence.
Knowing the constant leads to tolerance;
Tolerance leads to impartiality;
Impartiality leads to enlightenment;
Enlightenment leads to Heaven;
Heaven leads to the Dao.
The Dao leads to resilience,
And to living out your days free from danger.
Daodejing Chapter 17
The best leader is one whose presence is unknown to his people;
The next best is one who is loved and praised;
The next is one who is feared;
The worst is one who is despised;
When a leader has no trust in his people,
The people have no trust in him.
The best leader reflects and chooses his words carefully.
When his objective is achieved and the work is done,
The people all say, “We did it ourselves.”
Daodejing Chapter 18
When the Great Dao is abandoned,
There is “humanity” and “rightness”.
When “knowledge” and “wisdom” appear,
There is great hypocrisy.
When family relationships are not harmonious,
There is “filial piety” and “parental love”.
When a country falls into chaos and disorder,
There are “loyal” ministers.
Daodejing Chapter 19
Reject sophistry and discard knowledge;
The people will benefit a hundredfold.
Reject humanity and discard rightness,
And the people will rediscover filial piety and parental love.
Reject trickiness and renounce profit,
And there will be no thieves or bandits.
These three teachings are mere cultural adornments and inadequate.
The people need something that they can depend on.
Cherish simplicity and embrace the uncarved block of wood;
Reduce selfishness and minimize desires.
Daodejing Chapter 20
Reject learning and your troubles end.
How much difference is there between yes and no?
How much difference is there between good and evil?
If you have to fear what other people fear,
Your fears will be endless!
Everyone is out having fun,
As if enjoying a holiday feast,
As if ascending a terrace in spring.
I alone am quiet and show no emotions;
Like a new-born baby who has not yet learned to smile;
Like someone who has no home to go to.
Everyone has plenty;
I alone have nothing.
I have the mind of a fool, understanding nothing.
Everyone sees things clearly;
I alone am confused.
Everyone is sharp;
I alone am dull,
Drifting like the ocean waves,
Aimless like the gusting wind.
Everyone has a purpose.
I alone am ignorant and uncouth.
I alone am different from the everyone else,
I prize being nourished by the mother.
Daodejing Chapter 21
The greatest virtue is achieved by following the Dao and the Dao alone.
As a thing, the Dao is,
Elusive and intangible;
Intangible and elusive!
Yet within it is an image;
Elusive and intangible!
Yet within it is a substance;
Dim and dark!
Yet within it is an essence;
The essence is real;
And within it is something that can be trusted;
From ancient times until now,
Its name has never disappeared.
Through it, I can see the beginning of all things.
How do I know how all things began?
Because it is here within me.
Daodejing Chapter 22
To yield is to be whole.
To bend is to be straight.
To be empty is to be full.
To be exhausted is to be renewed.
To have little is to gain.
To have too much is to be troubled.
That is why the sage embraces the one and sets an example to the world.
He does not show off and therefore shines.
He does not promote himself and is therefore revered.
He does not boast and is therefore honored.
He does not seek glory and therefore endures.
Because he does not contend,
Nobody in the world contends with him.
The ancient saying “to yield is to be whole” is indeed true.
When you are whole, all things will come to you.
Daodejing Chapter 23
Nature rarely talks.
A whirlwind does not last all morning;
A rainstorm does not last all day.
What causes them to be like that?
Heaven and earth.
If Heaven and earth cannot make them last very long,
How can people hope to do so?
When you open yourself to the Dao, you will be at one with the Dao.
When you open yourself up to virtue, you will be at one with virtue.
When you open yourself to loss, you will be lost.
When you are at one with the Dao, the Dao will happily embrace you.
When you are at one with virtue, virtue will happily embrace you.
When you are lost, loss will happily embrace you.
If you do not have sufficient faith in yourself, nobody will have faith in you.
Daodejing Chapter 24
People who stand on tiptoe are not steady.
People who take the longest strides cannot keep up the pace.
People who show off do not stand out.
People who promote themselves are not respected.
People who boast achieve nothing
People who brag do not last.
According to the Dao,
They are like leftover food and excess fat.
All creatures detest them.
Therefore, followers of the Dao avoid them.
Daodejing Chapter 25
There is something mysterious and all-encompassing,
That came into being before Heaven and earth.
Silent and formless,
Independent and unchanging,
All-pervading and inexhaustible,
It may be considered the mother of all things under Heaven.
I do not know its name;
I call it the Dao.
If forced to give it a specific name,
I would call it “the Great”.
Great means it is boundless.
Boundless means it reaches everywhere.
Reaching everywhere means it returns to itself.
Therefore, the Dao is supreme;
Heaven is great;
Earth is great;
Humanity is great.
There are four great powers in the universe;
Humanity is one of them.
Humanity models itself on earth.
Earth models itself on Heaven.
Heaven models itself on the Dao.
The Dao follows its own nature.
Daodejing Chapter 26
The heavy is the root of the light;
The tranquil is the master of the agitated.
That’s why the sage travels all day without losing sight of his baggage train.
No matter how magnificent the view is,
He stays calm and dispassionate.
Why would the lord of a great realm,
Take his own life lightly when governing the world?
To take things lightly is to lose the root.
To be agitated is to lose control.
Daodejing Chapter 27
An excellent driver leaves no tracks.
An excellent speaker makes no slips.
An excellent accountant uses no tallies.
An excellent gateman needs no bolts to secure a door,
But nobody can open it.
An excellent binder needs no knots,
But nobody can untie the binding.
This is why,
The sage excels at taking care of everyone;
So abandons no one.
The sage excels at taking care of everything;
So wastes nothing.
This is called intuitive wisdom.
Therefore, those who excel are the teachers of those who don’t;
Those who don’t excel provide object lessons for those who do to learn from.
If you don’t value your teachers,
If you don’t care for your object lessons,
No matter how knowledgeable you think you are,
You are greatly deluded.
Such is the essential truth.
Daodejing Chapter 28
Know the male,
But keep to the female.
Be a ravine to the world.
As a ravine to the world,
Constant virtue will never leave you,
And you will return to being an infant.
Know the bright,
But keep to the dark.
Be a model to the world.
As a model to the world,
Constant virtue will never be wanting,
And you will return to the limitless.
But keep to disgrace.
Be a valley to the world.
As a valley to the world,
Constant virtue will always be sufficient,
And you will return again to the uncarved block of wood.
When the uncarved block shatters, it is transformed into utensils.
The sage makes use of them,
And becomes the lord of all the officials.
Therefore, the deepest cut doesn’t sever.
Daodejing Chapter 29
Those who seek to take over the world and control it,
I do not think they can succeed.
The world is a sacred vessel;
It cannot be controlled or held on to.
Those who try to control it will spoil it.
Those who try to hold on to it will lose it.
Therefore, among all things,
Some lead and some follow;
Some breathe gently and some blow hard;
Some are strong and some are weak;
Some succeed and some fail.
That’s why the sage avoids excess, extravagance, and pride.
Daodejing Chapter 30
Those who assist a ruler with the Dao,
Never counsels him to conquer the world by force of arms.
It something that is sure to rebound.
Wherever armies have been camped,
Brambles and thorns grow wild.
After great wars are over,
Years of scarcity and famine follow.
Good generals focus only on achieving results.
Not winning by force.
They achieve results without glorying in them.
They achieve results without celebrating them.
They achieve results without taking pride in them.
They achieve results only because they have no other choice.
They achieve results without using force.
Things that resort to force age quickly;
This is called going against the Dao.
Going against the Dao leads to an early end.
Daodejing Chapter 31
Weapons are instruments of doom.
Everyone hates them.
Therefore, followers of the Dao avoid them.
When residing at home, a gentleman favors the left side.
When waging a war, a gentleman favors the right side.
Weapons are instruments of doom,
Not the instruments of a gentleman.
When compelled to use them;
He should do so without relish.
Even in victory there is no glory.
Those who celebrate victory are gloating over killing others.
Those who gloat over killing others must never be allowed achieve their worldly ambitions.
In times of joy, the left side is given precedence;
In times of grief, the right side is given precedence.
In times of war, the second-in-command stands on the left;
The general stands on the right;
This the same way as the mourning rites are conducted.
When great numbers of people are slaughtered,
We should mourn them all with heartfelt grief.
When victorious in war,
We should observe the occasion with the mourning rites.
Daodejing Chapter 32
The Dao forever has no name;
Although the uncarved block of wood is small,
No one in the world can subordinate it.
If princes and kings are able to harness it,
All things will submit of their own accord.
Heaven and earth will come together,
And cause sweet dewdrops to fall.
The people will share them fairly without being ordered to.
Only when the whole is divided are names required for each part.
When there are names,
You need to know when to stop.
Knowing when to stop averts trouble.
For the Dao is to the world,
What streams and rivulets are to the rivers and seas.
Daodejing Chapter 33
Those who know others are wise;
Those who know themselves are enlightened.
Those who conquer others have force;
Those who conquer themselves are strong.
Those who know they have enough are wealthy.
Those who persevere have willpower.
Those who do not lose their roots endure.
Those who die but are not forgotten live forever.
Daodejing Chapter 34
The great Dao flows everywhere,
Both to the left and to the right.
All things depend on it for life;
It never turns away from them.
It accomplishes its work,
But it claims no credit for it.
It provides for and nourishes all things,
But it does not claim to be the master them.
Since it is without desires, it can be called small.
All things return to it;
But it doesn’t act as their master.
It may be called great.
Because it never claims to be great,
It achieves greatness.
Daodejing Chapter 35
Grasp the great image,
The whole world will flock to you;
Flocking together but causing no harm to each other,
Living in comfort, peace, and tranquility.
Music and good food may make a passerby pause.
But when you speak of the Dao,
It leaves a bland and flavorless taste.
When you look at it, you cannot see it.
When you listen to it, you cannot hear it.
But when you use it, you cannot exhaust it.
Daodejing Chapter 36
If you want to shrink something, you must first stretch it.
If you want to weaken something, you must first strengthen it.
If you want to destroy something, you must first raise it up.
If you want to take something, you must first give it.
This is called subtle enlightenment.
The soft and weak overcome the hard and strong.
Fish cannot leave deep water;
A state must not make a show of strength.
Daodejing Chapter 37
The Dao takes no action,
But leaves nothing undone.
If princes and kings are able to stay true to it,
All things will be transformed of their own accord.
If, during their transformation, desire should arise within them,
I will calm them down using the nameless uncarved block of wood.
This will free them of desire.
Being free of desire, they will be tranquil;
And the world will find peace of its own accord.
Daodejing Chapter 38
Superior virtue isn’t conscious of its virtue;
That’s why it truly possesses virtue.
Inferior virtue never loses sight of its virtue;
That’s why it possesses no virtue.
Superior virtue acts effortlessly without an ulterior motive;
Inferior virtue acts arbitrarily with an ulterior motive.
Superior goodness acts arbitrarily without an ulterior motive.
Superior righteousness acts arbitrarily with an ulterior motive.
Superior propriety acts arbitrarily, but when there is no response,
It stretches out its arms and forces people to comply.
Therefore, when the Way is lost virtue appears;
When virtue is lost, goodness appears;
When goodness is lost, righteousness appears;
When righteousness is lost, propriety appears.
Propriety is a superficial expression of loyalty and faithfulness;
And the beginning of disorder.
People who only grasp these last three principles can see only the flower of the Way;
And will lapse into stupidity.
Therefore, the wise concerns themselves with:
The thick instead of the thin;
The fruit instead of the flower.
Therefore, they reject the one and accept the other.
Daodejing Chapter 39
Of those in the past that attained the One:
Heaven attained the One and became pure.
Earth attained the One and became tranquil.
The spirits attained the One and became divine.
The valleys attained the One and became fertile.
All things attained the One and came alive.
Kings and lords attained the One and the world became peaceful.
From this we may conclude:
Without purity, Heaven would soon have cracked.
Without tranquility, Earth would soon have broken apart.
Without divinity, the spirits would soon have perished.
Without fertility, the valleys would soon have become barren.
Without life and growth, all things would soon have become extinct.
Without moral leadership, kings and lords would soon have fallen.
Therefore, the noble takes the humble as its root;
And the high takes the low as its foundation.
Thus, kings and lords call themselves orphaned, lonely, and unworthy.
This is a case of taking the humble as the root, isn’t it?
For this reason, high renown is the same as no renown.
Do not strive to shine like jade;
Or to be as dull as a stone.
Daodejing Chapter 40
Reversion is the movement of the Way.
Weakness is the function of the Way.
All things in the world come from being;
Being comes from non-being.
Daodejing Chapter 41
When wise people hear of the Way, they practice it diligently.
When ordinary people hear of the Way, they half-believe in it.
When ignorant people hear of the Way, they laugh at it out loud.
If they did not laugh at it, it would not be the Way.
Therefore, it is said:
The Way that is bright seems to be dim;
The Way that advances seems to retreat;
The Way that is smooth appears to be uneven.
The highest virtue seems as empty as a valley.
The purest white seems tarnished.
The grandest virtue seems insufficient.
The sturdiest virtue seems fragile.
The deepest integrity seems capricious.
The most perfect square has no corners.
The greatest vessel is unfinished.
The greatest music is faint.
The greatest image has no shape.
The Way is hidden and nameless.
But the Way alone is adept at initiating all things,
And bringing them to completion.
Daodejing Chapter 42
The Way produces One;
One produces Two;
Two produces Three;
Three produces to all things.
All things carry yin and embrace yang;
Blending these two vital forces to achieve harmony.
What people hate most is being orphaned, lonely, and unworthy;
But this is what kings and lords call themselves.
Often a gain can come from a loss,
And a loss can come from gain.
What others teach, I also teach:
The violent don’t die a natural death.
I shall make this the central plank of my teaching.
Daodejing Chapter 43
The softest things in the world run in and out of the hardest.
The immaterial force enters the impenetrable object.
Through this I know the value of effortless action.
Few in the world understand the value of teaching without words,
And the benefits of effortless action.
Daodejing Chapter 44
Fame or life: which matters more?
Life or material wealth: which is more valuable?
Loss or gain: which is worse?
Thus excessive greed is bound to cost you dear in the end.
A vast hoard of wealth is bound to result in a heavy loss.
People who are contented will suffer no disgrace.
People who know when to stop will meet no harm.
As a result, they live a very long time.
Daodejing Chapter 45
The greatest perfection seems to be incomplete;
But it never outlives its usefulness.
The greatest fullness seems to be empty;
But it can never be exhausted.
The straightest line seems to be crooked.
The greatest skill seems to be awkward.
The greatest eloquence sounds like stammering.
Movement overcomes cold.
Tranquility overcomes heat.
Quiet and tranquility put the world in order.
Daodejing Chapter 46
When the world follows the Way,
Warhorses work on the farms.
When the world doesn’t follow the Way,
Even mares in foal are conscripted into battle.
There is no greater crime than wanting too much;
There is no greater misfortune than being discontented with what you have;
There is no greater evil than greed.
Knowing when enough is enough and being satisfied with it is true contentment.
Daodejing Chapter 47
You don’t have to step outside your door,
To know the ways of the world.
You don’t have to look out your window,
To see the way of heaven.
The further you go,
The less you know.
So, the wise:
Know without traveling,
Understand without seeing,
And accomplish everything without doing anything.
Daodejing Chapter 48
The pursuit of learning requires accumulating knowledge every day.
The pursuit of the Way requires letting go of your desires every day.
Let go and let go again,
Until you reach a state of effortless action;
With effortless action nothing is left undone.
To rule the world, you must not act arbitrarily.
If you act arbitrarily, you are not fit to rule the world.
Daodejing Chapter 49
The wise have no ego;
They take the mind of the people as their own.
They are kind to the kind;
They are also kind to the unkind;
Virtue is kindness.
They are faithful to the faithful.
They are also faithful to the unfaithful.
Virtue is faithful.
When the wise govern the world,
They put aside their personal desires,
To help everyone return to their natural state of simplicity.
When the people turn their ears and eyes towards the wise,
They care for them like their own children.
Daodejing Chapter 50
We come alive into the world and leave it dead;
Three out of ten people love life;
Three out of ten people prefer death;
Three out of ten people rush from birth to death.
Why is this so?
Because they live to excess.
It is said that people who know how to live properly,
Walk the earth without encountering rhinoceroses and tigers,
And are not killed or wounded in battle.
The rhinoceroses cannot gore them with their horns;
The tigers cannot fasten their claws upon them;
And the weapons cannot pierce them with their blades.
Why is this so?
Because they are out of the range of death.
Daodejing Chapter 51
The Way produces all things.
Virtue nourishes them.
Substance gives them physical form.
The environment completes them.
Therefore all things venerate the Way and honor Virtue.
The Way is venerated and Virtue is honored;
Not because it is decreed but because it is natural to do so.
Thus the Way produces all things;
And Virtue nourishes them;
Rears them and develops them;
Shelters them and comforts them;
Raises them and protects them;
It gives them life without possessing them;
It raises them without taking any credit for them;
It guides them without controlling them;
This is called subtle and profound Virtue.
Daodejing Chapter 52
The universe had a beginning;
It’s called the mother of the universe.
If you find the mother,
You understand her children.
If you understand the children and still cling to their mother;
You will always live free from danger.
Block the holes;
Shut the doors;
And for all your life your strength will not fail you.
Open the holes;
Meddle with affairs;
And for all your life you will be beyond salvation.
Seeing what is small is called enlightenment;
Holding on to weakness is called strength.
Use the light;
Return to enlightenment;
And thus stay clear from danger.
This is called practicing the eternal.
Daodejing Chapter 53
If had only a grain of wisdom;
I would walk along the Great Way;
And only fear straying from it.
The Great Way is smooth and straight;
But there are people who like to be diverted from it.
The courts are corrupt;
The fields are full of weeds;
And the granaries are empty;
Yet some wear extravagant clothes;
Carry sharp swords;
Gorge themselves on food and drink;
And have more wealth and possessions than they can ever use.
They can be called robber barons.
This is surely against the Way.
Daodejing Chapter 54
What is firmly established cannot be uprooted.
What is firmly held cannot slip loose.
In this way, the ancestral sacrifice is carried on,
From generation to generation.
When cultivated and practiced in the person,
Virtue becomes real.
When cultivated and practiced in the family,
Virtue becomes abundant.
When cultivated and practiced in the community,
Virtue is everlasting.
When cultivated and practiced nationwide,
When cultivated and practiced worldwide,
Virtue becomes universal.
Therefore see the person as a person,
The family as a family,
The community as a community,
The nation as a nation,
And the world as universal.
How do I know that the world is like this?
By means of this.
Daodejing Chapter 55
People who possess Virtue in abundance are like a newborn baby.
Poisonous insects will not sting him;
Ferocious beasts will not pounce upon him;
Predatory birds will not swoop down on him.
His bones are supple;
His muscles are tender;
But his grip is firm.
He has never known the union of male and female;
But his organ is aroused;
For his vital essence is at its height.
He can cry all day without going hoarse;
For his innate harmony is at its peak.
To know harmony is to be in accord with the eternal.
To know the eternal is to be enlightened.
To take too much pleasure from life is ill-omened.
To control the breath excessively with the mind causes strain.
When things have reached their prime you start to grow old.
This is called going against the Way.
Whatever goes against the Way will perish soon.
Daodejing Chapter 56
People who know do not speak.
People who speak do not know.
Block the vent;
Shut the door.
Smooth the sharpness;
Untie the tangle.
Soften the glare;
Smooth the dust.
This is called the subtle and profound union.
Therefore, people who have attained it:
Can neither be approached nor abandoned;
Can neither be favoured nor disgraced;
Can neither be honored nor debased.
For this reason, they are the most esteemed people in the world.
Daodejing Chapter 57
Govern a state using natural justice.
Wage war using surprise.
Govern the world using effortless action.
How do I know this?
By the following:
The more restrictions there are, the poorer the people will become;
The more sharp weapons people have, the more troubled the state will be;
The more clever and cunning people are, the more strange things will happen;
The more rules and regulations there are, the more thieves and robbers there will be.
Therefore the wise say:
If I don’t interfere, the people will automatically transform themselves.
If I love tranquility, the people will automatically do what is right.
If I don’t meddle, the people will automatically prosper.
If I have no desires, the people will automatically live in a good and simple way.
Daodejing Chapter 58
When a government is open and fair,
The people are honest and sincere.
When a government is repressive and intrusive,
The people are crafty and cunning.
Fortune is rooted in misfortune;
Misfortune lurks beneath fortune.
Who knows what the ultimate result will be?
There is no fixed definition of what is normal.
Normal can suddenly turn into abnormal;
Good can suddenly turn into evil.
The people have been confused for a long time.
Therefore the wise are:
Pointed but do not pierce;
Sharp but do not cut;
Straightforward without being offensive;
Bright without dazzling.
Daodejing Chapter 59
In leading the people and serving Heaven,
Nothing beats moderation.
Only by moderation can you be ready early.
To get ready early means to build up Virtue in abundance.
By accumulating Virtue, you can overcome any difficulty.
If you can overcome any difficulty, you will know no limits.
Without any limits, you are capable of leading a country.
If you lead like the mother, you will long endure.
This is called having deep roots and a firm foundation;
The Way of long life and eternal clarity.
Daodejing Chapter 60
Governing a large country is like cooking a small fish.
When the world is run in accordance with the Way;
The spirits lose their powers.
It is not that they lose their powers;
But that their powers no longer harm people.
Not only do the spirits not harm people;
But the wise also do not harm people.
Since these two do not harm each other;
They all live together in peace.
Daodejing Chapter 61
A large state is like a low plain where all the rivers meet;
A place where everything comes together;
It is the female of the world.
The female always overcomes the male with tranquility;
In her tranquility, she lies in a lower place.
A large state wins the allegiance of a small state,
By lying in a lower place than the small state.
A small state wins the support of a large state,
By lying in a low place than the large state.
A large state can win the allegiance of a small state by lying in a lower place than it;
And a small state can win the support of a large state by lying in a lower place than it.
Large states want to bring small states into their orbit,
Small states want to enjoy the embrace of large states.
Thus both sides get what they want.
A large state should learn to lie in a lower place.
Daodejing Chapter 62
The Way is the source of all things.
It provides treasure for the good and refuge for the bad.
Fine words can gain respect from others.
Noble deeds can impact others.
If a person is bad, why should they be rejected?
So when an emperor is crowned,
Or when the three ministers are appointed;
Instead of sending gifts of jade carried by a team of four horses,
Remain still and give the Way.
Why did the ancients prize the Way so much?
Did they not say:
Seek and you will find;
Sin and you will be forgiven.
For this reason, the Way is prized by the whole world.
Daodejing Chapter 63
Act with effortless action.
Manage without interfering.
Taste without tasting.
Make large tasks small;
Make many tasks few.
Meet objections with Virtue.
Achieve difficult tasks through simple steps.
Achieve major tasks through small steps.
The most difficult tasks in the world,
Must be made easy from the start.
The biggest tasks in the world,
Must be made small from the start.
For this reason, the wise never strive to be great;
As a result, they accomplish greatness.
People who make promises lightly deserve little trust.
People who take tasks lightly will encounter huge difficulties.
For this reason, the wise always regard things as difficult;
As a result, they never encounter any difficulties.
Daodejing Chapter 64
It’s easy to manage a stable situation.
It’s easy to nip a problem in the bud.
It’s easy to shatter something that’s brittle;
It’s easy to scatter something that’s minute.
Deal with matters before they happen.
Put them in order before chaos emerges.
A tree that is large enough to wrap your arms around,
Grows from a tiny shoot.
A nine-story tower,
Rises from a pile of earth.
A journey of a thousand miles,
Starts with a single step.
If you interfere in something, you will always fail.
If you cling too tightly to something, you will lose it.
For this reason, the wise don’t:
Interfere in things and thus do not fail;
Hold on to things too tightly and thus do not lose them.
People often fail at the threshold of success.
If they remain as careful at the end as at the beginning;
They will not fail.
For this reason, the wise:
Seek freedom from desire;
Do not value rare treasures;
Learn without learning;
Rectify the mistakes that the people have made;
Make sure all things follow their own nature;
Without daring to interfere.
Daodejing Chapter 65
In ancient times, people who excelled in following the Way,
Did not use it to enlighten the people,
But to keep them on the path of simplicity.
Now, the people are difficult to lead,
Because they have become too cunning and crafty.
Therefore, governing a country with craftiness is a disaster for it;
Governing a country without craftiness is a blessing for it.
If you understand the difference between these two models,
You have grasped the fundamental principle.
Staying true to the fundamental principle is called subtle and profound Virtue.
Subtle and profound Virtue is deep and far-reaching.
It leads all things back to universal harmony.
Daodejing Chapter 66
The river and the sea can be the kings of the mountain streams,
Because they are good at lying below them.
That is why they can be the kings of the mountain streams.
For this reason, if the wise want to stand above the people,
They must speak to them from below.
If they want to lead the people,
They must follow them from behind.
In this way, when the wise stand above the people,
They are not oppressed.
When the wise lead the people,
They are not obstructed.
That is why the whole world will delight in praising them;
And never grow tired of them.
Because the wise do not compete with others,
Nobody in the world competes with them.
Daodejing Chapter 67
The whole world says that my Way is great because it is like nothing else.
It is great because it is like nothing else.
If it were like everything else,
It would long ago have become insignificant.
I have three treasures that I cherish.
The first is kindness.
The second is moderation.
The third is not daring to place yourself ahead of everyone else.
Kindness allows you to be courageous.
Moderation allows you to be generous.
Not daring to place yourself ahead of everyone else allows you to lead the world.
Courageousness without kindness;
Generosity without moderation;
And leadership without refraining from placing yourself ahead of everyone else;
Are fatal mistakes.
For this reason, people who show kindness will be victorious in battle.
And remain safe when defending themselves.
Heaven will rescue and protect them with kindness.
Daodejing Chapter 68
Great military commanders are not warlike.
Great soldiers do not get angry.
Great conquerors do not engage with the enemy.
Great leaders place themselves below their people.
This is called the virtue of non-competition.
This is called harnessing people’s strength.
This is called the union with Heaven;
The supreme principle of the ancients.
Daodejing Chapter 69
A military commander once said:
“I dare not take the offensive, but would rather stay on the defensive.
I dare not move forward an inch, but would rather retreat a foot.”
This is called advancing without advancing;
Raising your arm without striking;
Holding your weapon without using it;
Attacking your enemy without engaging them.
There is no greater disaster than underestimating the enemy.
Underestimating the enemy is tantamount to losing everything you hold dear.
For this reason, when two evenly-matched armies battle,
The side that retreats first will win.
Daodejing Chapter 70
My words are very easy to understand and to practice.
But no one in the world can understand and practice them.
My words have their own source.
My deeds have their own master.
It is only because people do not understand this,
That they fail to understand me.
That so few people understand me is why I am treasured.
For this reason, the wise wear coarse clothes but conceal jade underneath them.
Daodejing Chapter 71
Knowing what you don’t know is best.
Pretending to know what you don’t know is a flaw.
Only people who recognize it as a flaw,
Can avoid the flaw.
The wise are free from this flaw,
Because they recognize it as a flaw.
For this reason, they aren’t flawed.
Daodejing Chapter 72
When the people lose their fear of a despot’s power,
A terrible calamity will take place.
Do not force people out of their homes.
Do not oppress them until they have no reason to live.
If you don’t oppress them,
They won’t rise up against you.
That’s why the wise:
Know themselves, but do not show off.
Cherish themselves, but don’t put themselves on a pedestal.
They discard the one,
And choose the other.
Daodejing Chapter 73
People who are brave out of daring will be killed.
People who are brave out of not daring will survive.
Of these two kinds of bravery, one is advantageous and one is harmful.
Heaven hates what it hates;
Who can know the reason why?
For this reason, even the wise find it difficult to understand.
The Way of Heaven does not compete;
But it excels at winning.
It does not speak,
But it excels at answering.
It isn’t summoned,
But it arrives by itself.
It is spontaneous,
But it excels at planning.
Heaven’s net is large and vast.
It is widely meshed,
But it lets nothing escape.
Daodejing Chapter 74
If the people are not afraid of dying,
What’s the point of trying to frighten them with execution?
To make sure that the people live in constant fear of death,
We would have to round up all the troublemakers and execute them.
But who would really dare to do that?
There is generally an official executioner appointed for this task.
Trying to carry out executions in the place of the official executioner,
Is like trying to cut wood in the place of a master carpenter.
Of those who try to cut wood like a master carpenter,
Very few avoid injuring their hands.
Daodejing Chapter 75
The people starve,
Because their rulers levy too much grain tax.
That is why they starve.
The people are difficult to govern,
Because their rulers interfere too much.
That is why they are difficult to govern.
The people make light of death.
Because their rulers lead lives of excess.
That is why they make light of death.
Only those who do not lead lives of excess,
Are best at understanding the true value of life.
Daodejing Chapter 76
When alive, people are soft and supple.
When dead, people are hard and stiff.
All things like plants and trees are soft and tender while alive.
When they are dead, they are dried and withered.
For this reason, the hard and stiff are companions of death.
The soft and supple are companions of life.
That’s why a powerful army will never win.
An unbending tree will easily break.
The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and supple will rise.
Daodejing Chapter 77
The Way of Heaven is like drawing a bow.
If the tension on the string is too high, decrease it;
If the tension is too low, increase it.
If the string is too long, shorten it.
If the string is too short, lengthen it.
The Way of Heaven takes from those who have too much;
It gives to those who do not have enough.
The Way of Humanity does the opposite.
It takes from those who do not have enough;
It gives to those who have too much.
Who has more than enough to give to the world?
Only people who follow the Way.
That’s why the wise act without taking credit.
They accomplish their task without dwelling on it.
They have no desire to make themselves look superior.
Daodejing Chapter 78
Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water.
But no force is better at attacking the hard and strong.
For this reason, there is no substitute for it.
The soft overcomes the strong;
The weak overcomes the hard.
Everyone in the world knows this;
But no one puts it into practice.
That’s why the wise say:
“Those who shoulder the disgrace of their country,
Are fit to rule it.
Those who take responsibility for the misfortunes of their country,
Are fit to rule the world.”
The truth sounds like its opposite.
Daodejing Chapter 79
After two bitter enemies have made peace,
There is sure to be some bitterness left behind.
How can this be considered good?
That’s why the wise honor their part of an agreement
But do not demand payment from the other party.
People with Virtue fulfill their obligations;
People without Virtue require others to fulfill their obligations with the zeal of a tax collector.
The Way of Heaven has no favorites.
It always stays with the good people.
Daodejing Chapter 80
Keep the state small with few people,
Make sure it has powerful tools but that they never need to be used.
Make sure the people do not feel moved to risk their lives by migrating far away.
Although they have boats and carriages, give them no reason to ride in them.
Although they have armor and weapons, give them no reason to display them.
Let the people return to knotting cords and using them;
Enjoying tasty food;
Wearing beautiful clothes;
Feeling comfortable in their homes;
Delighting in their customs.
Although neighboring states are in sight of one other;
And hear each other’s cocks crowing and dogs barking;
Their peoples may grow old and die without even meeting each other.
Daodejing Chapter 81
Truthful words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
Good people are not argumentative.
Argumentative people are not good.
People who have true wisdom do not show off their learning.
People who do not show off their learning have true wisdom.
The wise never hoard.
The more they do for others, the more they have.
The more they give to others, the greater their abundance.
The Way of Heaven is to benefit and not to harm.
The way of the wise is to act without striving.