If the Tao can be talked about, it is not the
If the Name can be referred to, it is no longer
the real name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and
The named is the mother of ten thousand
Always observe from formless viewpoint,
then one can see the wonderful changes.
Always observe from the viewpoint of forms,
so one can see the manifestation.
Both, though differing in name, are made of
the same source.
From the same source, it appears fathomless.
Ever fathomless, it is the gate to wonderful
Under heaven all can see beauty, for there is
All know there is good, for there already is
Therefore having and not having emerge
Difficult and easy lie opposite to each other.
Long and short compare;
High and low lean upon each other.
Voice and sound harmonize each other;
Front and back follow each other.
Therefore, the saint exercises ‘non-action’ to
do things, and exercises ‘non-talking’ to teach.
He initiates nothing, and allows ten thousand
things to grow:
Raising, yet not possessing;
Working, yet not considering he did it;
Achieved, yet he does not consider that he
Therefore, all the work he did lasts forever.
Not exalting the elite dampens quarrels.
Not collecting precious things prevents
Seeing nothing attractive, there will be no
disturbance in peoples’ minds.
The saint therefore rules by making people
empty their thinking and stuffing their bellies;
By weakening their ambitions and
strengthening their bones.
Make people lack knowledge and desire.
Make smart intellectuals dare not try to
Exercise “non-action” to rule and all will be
The Tao is invisible, but its power is infinite.
Though it appears unfathomable, it appears as
if it is the source of ten thousand things.
Blunt the sharpness, resolve the tangles, soften
the glare and settle the dust.
The immense cannot be sure of its own
existence, and cannot tell where it comes from.
It is as if it existed before there was God.
Heaven and earth appear to have no kindness
and treat everything as just a sacrifice.
The saint appears to have no kindness. They,
too, treat people as merely sacrifices.
Isn’t the space between heaven and earth like
The more the empty space, the more it offers;
The more it moves, the more it generates.
Saying many words is like counting numbers
backwards only leading to exhaustion.
Hold fast to the center.
The spirit that turns food into life never dies:
It is called the original reproductive life
The gate connects to the original reproductive
It is the root of heaven and earth.
This is barely noticeable, yet it yields its
The Universe is everlasting.
Why does the Universe last forever? Because
it does not bear itself, therefore, it is everexisting.
Therefore, the saint stays behind his body as if
his body goes ahead of himself.
And since he stays out of his body, his body
It is because he is rid of his consciousness of
self that he gains his true self.
The highest good is just like water:
It benefits the ten thousand things instead of
competing with them.
It even flows into places people reject, so it is
almost like the Tao.
It chooses the right place to stay.
Its good heart is big and deep.
Deal with others with gentleness and
Speak with truth.
Governing everything well.
Always act with right timing.
Only when there is no need for conflict, then
there is no fault.
Rather disclaim than possess in full.
When the point is sharp, it will soon become
A house kept full of jade and precious jewelry
is impossible to guard from theft.
Claim wealth and titles, and trouble will
Withdraw when the work is done.
This is the way heaven’s Tao works.
While carrying body and consciousness and
embracing the only One Power, can you avoid
the separation of body and conscious ness?
Flowing life energy and becoming supple, can
you be like a new born baby?
Washing and cleansing your mind to obtain the
true original vision, can you be without
Loving all people and governing the country,
can you apply no cleverness?
Opening and closing of the gates of heaven,
can you also coordinate the female power?
Understanding and reaching to everything in
the universe, can you exercise non-action?
Allowing a thing to emerge, to grow, to
nourish it yet not possess it, to work at it yet not
control it, lead it yet not dominate it –
This is so called the Great Te.
Thirty spokes share a wheel’s hub; it is the
center hole that makes it a useful vehicle.
Mold clay into a pot; it is the hollow space
within that makes it a useful vessel.
Cut out doors and windows of a room; it is the
enclosed open space that makes it useful as a
Therefore, to benefit from having something,
one must also employ having nothing to achieve
The five colors blind your eye. The five
sounds deafen your ear. The five flavors ruin
Too much hunting and games confuse your
Precious things lead one to steal.
Therefore, the saint is guided by what he feels
and not by what he sees.
He rejects the other way and chooses this
Honor and disgrace are fearful.
Treat misfortune equally as you treat your own
Why be fearful of honor and disgrace?
Honor and disgrace arise from a false sense.
Gaining honor or disgrace makes one fearful.
Loss of honor and disgrace also make one
Therefore it is fearful to have honor and
Why should one treat misfortune as part of his
The reason I have misfortune is because I
have a body.
If I do not treat my body as my own, why
should I have any misfortune?
Care about the world as you care about your
body, as if you can be trusted to care for the
Love the world as if you love your body—as
if you can be trusted with the world.
Look, but you cannot see it – it is formless.
Listen, but you cannot hear it – it transcends
Grasp, but you can hold nothing – it is
These three are unfathomable: Therefore they
are merged as one.
From above it reflects no light; from below it
casts no shadow.
Impossible to comprehend, it cannot be
Eventually it returns to nothingness.
So it is called a form without form, a shape
without shape. It is called vague and subtle.
Encounter it from the front and you can’t see
its head. Follow after it and you can’t see its
Hold onto the ancient origin as you deal with
Knowing the origin is the law of Tao.
The ancient masters were subtle, mysterious,
profound and aware. The extreme depth of their
knowledge is hard to understand.
Since they are unfathomable, allow me to try
very hard to describe their appearance in this
Watchful, just like crossing a winter stream.
Ever alert, like aware of surrounding danger.
Courteous, like facing very important guests.
Yielding, like ice about to melt.
Appearing so simple and real, like an
uncarved block of wood.
So hollow and deep, like a big canyon.
So unclear, he is like muddy water.
Resting, won’t the mud settle and the water
become clear again?
Can’t he rest knowing that stillness will again
awaken into action?
Knowing the way of the Tao, he never seeks
to be full.
Never full, even the worn out need not be
Attain to the utmost inward weakness.
Focus firmly in the purest state of stillness.
Suddenly, the ten thousand things will appear
in circular sequence.
And then everything will develop and flourish
and then return to the source of the void.
Returning to the source is the stillness.
The stillness is unchanging; the unchanging is
Knowing the constant is wisdom. Straying
from the constancy leads to disaster.
Knowing constancy, you will then be able to
be tolerant. With tolerance, you will be
Being openhearted, you will lead. Being a
leader, you will attain heaven.
Attaining heaven, you will be at one with the
Tao. Being at one with the Tao is eternal –
The best ruler is hardly recognized by the
Then come those who they know and love,
then those who they fear, then those who they
He does not have faith in them, so they have
no faith in him.
A true leader can accomplish his aims without
too much talking. When his goal is achieved,
people will say, ‘We did it!’
When the great Tao ceases to prevail,
Then people can only count on kindness and
Then wisdom and intelligence are born and
the great hypocrisy begins.
Then there is no peace within the family, so
people are asked to display filial piety and
Then the entire country is in a state of
confusion and disorder, thus many loyal
Renounce holiness and give up wisdom, the
people will benefit a hundred times over.
Stop touting “kindness”, throw away notions
of “morality,” and people will be filled with
fidelity and love.
Give up cleverness, ignore the idea of profit,
and there will be no more theft or robbery.
These three only fix the surface; they are
It is more important to help people embrace
To hold one’s true nature;
To restrain from being selfish and curtail
Give up learning and become worry-free.
Is there a difference between obey and
command? Is there a difference between good
I fear what everyone else fears: so long this
has been such a pointless idea. I wonder when
it will stop.
Everyone else is indulging themselves, as if
enjoying the sacrificial feast of the ox.
As if in spring some enjoy climbing the
terrace at the park.
I alone seem unaffected and lost,
Like an innocent baby that hasn’t yet learned
I alone have no place to go.
Others have more than enough, but I alone am
I feel like a fool: as if I were confounded.
Everyone else appears bright, but I alone am
Everyone else appears to be so smart, but I
am the only one who is confused.
I like to be as unpredictable as the immense
ocean, as unstable as the gusty wind.
Everyone else acts capable, but I’m the only
one who acts stubborn and foolish.
I am different but I am nourished by the great
The Great Te follows nothing but Tao, though
Tao is elusive and subtle.
It seems elusive and subtle, and yet within it is
It seems subtle and elusive, and yet within it is
It appears vague and subtle, and yet within it
is an essence.
This essence is very real, and therein lies a
From the very beginning until now its name
has never been erased.
Thus I can see and perceive everything within
How do I know everything within the
creation? Because of this.
It yields and becomes whole;
Bends and can yet become straight;
Stays low and can be filled;
When old gains renewal.
To be little always gain;
If reaching the state of too much, become
Therefore wise men hold to the very One
Power and are humble to the whole world.
He does not promote himself: he shines.
He draws no attention to himself: he is given
He need not boast: he receives recognition.
Since he doesn’t brag, he leads.
He need not quarrel, so no one can quarrel
The ancients say, “To yield is to be
preserved.” This is no empty saying.
If you are truly whole, all things will come to
To use few words is natural.
Look! A gusty wind will not last all morning.
Showers can’t last the whole day.
Who drives the wind and the showers?
Heaven and earth!
Even heaven and earth cannot make things last
How is it possible for man?
Rather, men who exercise the Tao should be
one with the Tao;
He who exercises the Te should be one with
He who exercises loss should be with being
He who is at one with the Tao, Tao will like
to be with him.
He who is one with Te, Te will always like
to be with him.
He who is at one with the loss, the loss will
like to be with him.
If there is not enough faith, one will never
have any faith.
One will fail to stand on only his toes.
One can’t walk if he tries to hop.
He who tries to make himself stand out will
not be visible.
He who is self-righteous will not earn respect.
He who boasts of himself will get nothing.
He who brags will not lead.
Extra effort to reach Tao is like extra food and
The saint avoids self-effort.
Something mysteriously formed, born even
before heaven and earth;
In the loneliness and the void, standing alone
and unchanging, ever present and moving
It is the mother of heaven and earth.
I do not know its name. Let’s just call it Tao.
For lack of a better word, let’s call it the
So great, let’s call it the disappearing.
Disappearing into far away—let’s call it the
Having gone so far, eventually it returns – so
let’s also call it the return.
Therefore, Tao reaches to the greatest, so the
heavens reach to the greatest; the earth reaches
to the greatest, and men also can reach to the
In the universe, these are the four great
powers – and man is one of them.
Man following the earth.
The earth follows the heaven.
And the heaven following the Tao.
And the Tao following the Law of Nature.
The heavy is the root of light.
The stillness is the master of action.
Therefore the saint, traveling all day, does not
lose track of his heavy luggage.
And even though there are distractions of
beautiful things to see, he remains unattached
Why should the lord of ten thousand chariots
forget his status and treat himself lightly?
To become light is to lose the root.
To be in action is to give up one’s mastership.
A good traveler leaves no wheel marks; a
good speaker utters no mistakes; a good counter
needs no counting rods.
Lock doors so well, even without a lock, no
one can open it.
Good knot-makers use no cords or ropes, yet
no one can loosen what they tie together.
Therefore, the saint takes care of everyone
and rejects none.
He takes care of all things and rejects nothing.
This is called “following the wisdom.”
One who is good at helping others can be
followed by those who do not know how. And
those who do not know howto help others are
the followers of the one who knows how.
If the leader is not appreciated by the
followers, and the followers are not cared for
by the leader, and he appears as a clever man,
he is indeed lost.
This is a mysterious secret.
Always aware that there is the male-like
force, yet hold on to the female-like force, as
the stream to the world.
Like the stream to the world, then the Te will
not depart, and one becomes as if an infant
Ever aware of the bright white, still hold onto
the core of dark – being very humble towards
Being very humble towards the world, the Te
never changing returns to the state of the
Aware of honor, still remain humble – hold
onto the disgrace.
Rather be the low valley of the world. Being
like the valley of the world, the original Te
within becomes resourceful, and it becomes the
state of the original uncarved block.
The original uncarved material can be made
into countless useful products.
The saint uses it to lead and rule.
Thus the greatest ruler rules as if the best
trimming cuts little.
Can anyone take over the world and improve
it? I can see it is impossible.
God made the world, and no one should
endeavor to improve it.
If anyone tries to change the world, one will
ruin its wholeness.
If anyone tries to hold the world, one will fail
and lose it.
Some things lead and other things follow
Sometimes breathing gently, other times
Sometimes weak, other times strong:
Sometimes only trimming things a little,
sometimes bringing down the whole thing.
Therefore the saint avoids overdone, wasteful
Whenever you assist a ruler with Tao, do not
depend on military force to conquer the world,
for the consequences would return very rapidly.
Thorn bushes spring up wherever the army has
been; famine years follow after a great war.
If responding by force, just react and repel the
Never depend on force to conquer.
After you achieve goals, never glory in them.
After you achieve goals, never boast. After you
achieve a goal, never be proud.
Achieve goals, because there is no other
Achieve goals with no coercion.
Anything being strong is followed by decay.
This is not how Tao works.
Whatever goes against the Tao will meet
with an early end.
Military forces are instruments of disaster; all
creatures hate them.
Therefore those possessing the power of Tao
never come close to them.
Gentlemen prefer to sit at the left: but during
war prefer to sit at the right.
Army weapons are instruments of fear; they
are not a gentleman’s choice. He uses them only
when he has no choice.
And he treats the entire action with a peaceful
mind. Even victory brings no cause for
For to rejoice in victory leads to delight in
killing: For to delight in killing, you can never
win the world.
On celebrated occasions prefer the left: on
mournful occasions prefer the right.
The second general stands on the left, the chief
general on the right.
This indicates that war is conducted as if it
were a funeral.
When many people are being slaughtered,
they should be mourned with a sorrowful heart.
A victory celebration must be observed as if
it were a funeral.
Tao is forever undefined.
Even though it is minute, no one can ever
If kings and lords could possess it, the ten
thousand things would naturally follow.
Heaven and earth would come into harmony
and sweet rain fall.
The people would get along well in harmony.
Once the initial organization is established,
there are many names; there will be no more
need for names.
The wise know restraint.
Knowing restraint prevents destruction.
The Tao in the world behaves just like a
stream flowing home to the rivers and oceans.
To know others leads to true wisdom; to know
the self leads to enlightenment.
Overcome others and you possess true force;
to master the self develops true strength.
He who knows he has enough is truly rich.
Determined to execute, possess true will
He who stays in principle endures.
Those who continue to prevail after the body
dies possess true eternal life.
The great Tao flows everywhere, reaching to
the left and to the right.
The ten thousand things thriving on it, it
nourishes everything with no reserve.
It accomplishes its purpose and makes no
It raises the ten thousand things, and yet
doesn’t claim lordship.
It can be called very small.
While all the ten thousand things return to it, it
still claims no lordship.
It can also be called very great.
It does not claim its greatness, and is therefore
All men will come to him who possesses the
Those who come, they all enjoy harmony, rest,
happiness and peace.
Passersby may stop for beautiful music and
Once you try to describe the Tao, it seems
without substance or flavor.
It cannot be seen, it cannot be heard, and yet
one can continue to tap it and it cannot be
To make it shrink, allow it first to expand. To
make it weak, allow it first to be strong.
Before it can be cast down, one must first
allow it to be raised.
Before seizing, first give.
This is true observation: Soft and weak will
overcome hard and strong.
Just like fish cannot leave deep waters,
powerful weapons cannot be visually displayed
The Tao prevails without action.
If kings and lords firmly possess it, the ten
thousand things would take care of themselves.
If the ten thousand things start to take care of
themselves, kings may still try to act upon them.
I would place them under the nameless tool.
With the nameless tool, they would return to
Achieve without desire, with no action – and
thereby the world would be at peace.
One who possesses the Great Te doesn’t
follow the social virtue, he therefore possesses
the true Te.
One who possesses low Te follows the social
virtue firmly; he therefore has no Te.
Men who possess Great Te follow the nonaction
principle, and need not perform action
for virtue’s sake.
Men who possess low Te must try hard to act
and win the result of being virtuous.
Men who truly possess kindness exercise it
and need not perform kindness.
Men who are truly just exercise justice and
take a lot of action to achieve it.
If a man with a high level of social dignity
performs his social task and no one responds,
he will roll up his sleeve to repel anyone who
disagrees with him.
When people fail to connect with Tao, they
count only on their own Te.
When people fail to connect to their own Te,
they count on being kind.
When kindness is lost, there is justice.
When justice is lost, people can only count
on social ritual.
Now, social ritual is a lack of faith and
loyalty, the origin of the chaotic.
People claiming to have vision only show a
flowery embellishment of Tao. It is the
beginning of ignorance.
Therefore a great man stays in the thick faith
and not on the thin cleverness; stays on the
result and not on the glory.
Therefore he rejects the latter and takes the
These things, from ancient times, all arise
from the only One Power.
Heaven is formed by the only One Power and
The earth is also formed by the only One
Power and is stable.
The gods are all powered by the only One
Power and become spiritually functional.
The rivers receive the only One Power and
The ten thousand things, created by the only
One Power, become alive.
In order for kings and lords to be followed by
their countrymen, they must possess the only
All these are powered by the only One Power.
Heaven may fall apart and lose its clarity.
The earth may split and lose its stability.
The gods may cease to function spiritually
and be invalidated.
The rivers may run dry and lose their
The ten thousand things may die out.
The kings and lords may lose their leadership
and the countries fall.
Therefore the high rank is rooted in the low
The high uses the low as its foundation.
Therefore, princes and lords consider
themselves as “orphaned,” “widowed,” and
Do they not use low rank as their root? Don’t
If everyone is socially low and humble, then
there aren’t any socially low and humble
No one wants to behave “nobly” and tinkle
like jade or put on humility and clatter like
The Tao moves toward the direction of
The Tao acts with the function of weakening.
Everything under heaven is created having
forms: forms created from the formless.
The top wise men hear of the Tao and practice
it diligently. Average intellects hear of the Tao
and think about it once in awhile. Lower
average people hear of the Tao and laugh out
If there is no big laughter, then it is not
referred to as the true Tao.
Just like it is said, “The bright path of Tao
Going forward on the curved road of Tao
sometimes appears like retreat.
The easy way of Tao seems rough.
The highest Te always seems like a low
Great purity seems soiled.
A wealth of Te always seems inadequate.
The strength of the Te seems weak.
Real seems unreal.
The great square has no corners.
A great work takes a long time to complete.
The highest notes make little sound.
The greatest image has no shape.
The Tao is hidden and nameless:
Only the Tao nourishes and brings everything
The Tao created the one. The one flows into
two. The two generate the three.
And the third kind of power at work begot the
ten thousand things.
The ten thousand things all carry Yin power
and embrace Yang power.
Yin and Yang power achieve harmony by
combining their two powers through the third:
Men dislike being “orphaned,” “widowed,”
or “worthless.” But this is how kings and lords
Therefore, things in reduction lead to gain:
adding on to it may cause decrease.
What others teach, I also teach: “A violent
man cannot die peacefully”
This will be the root of my teaching.
The most refined travels freely, even through
the most dense.
The invisible can penetrate even through
objects without space.
This is how I know the effectiveness of nonaction.
Delivering messages without words and
effecting results without action are understood
by very few.
Fame or self: Which is more important?
Self or wealth: Which is worth more?
Gain or loss: Which is more harmful?
Therefore, desire for many things results in
Whoever stores up much has much to lose.
Those who know contentment will not be
He who knows restraint will not suffer harm –
he will endure.
Great achievement seems flawed so its
usefulness does not wear out.
Great fullness seems empty, yet can never be
Great straightness seems bent.
Great skillfulness seems awkward
Great eloquence seems dumb.
Just like movement overcoming cold and
stillness overcoming heat
One in stillness and tranquility leads the
When the Tao is offered to the world, the war
horses haul manure for farming.
When there is no Tao in the world, war horses
are bred outside the city borders.
There is no greater sin than not knowing when
to stop, no greater curse than wanting more.
Therefore, the person who knows contentment
will always have enough.
Never going outdoors, yet he knows
everything under heaven.
Never looking outside of the window, he can
see the Tao of heaven.
He who tries to act, the farther he searches,
the less he knows.
A saint takes no action to investigate, yet
He doesn’t need to appear everywhere but he
is well known.
He doesn’t take action, and yet he
In the pursuit of studying world affairs, every
day your knowledge accumulates.
In the pursuit of the Tao, every day you
You abandon more – you reduce. You no
longer need action — you reach non-action.
In non-action, there is nothing that cannot be
Rule the world by non-action power.
Rule the world by full action, it is not true
A saint need not be concerned about others.
He just lets other people alone – lets their
minds do whatever they like.
Those who are good I treat as good. Those
who are not good I also treat as good.
It is Te with good faith.
I have faith in people who are trustworthy. I
also have faith in people who are not
It is Te with trust.
The saint rules the world by the heart of
simplicity and sincerity.
He treats everyone with a childlike mind.
Stay out, live. Stay in, die.
In our life, three out of ten may live after birth,
three out of ten may die after birth. And the
chance to encounter death in his life while one
lived after birth is also three out of ten.
Why so? Because he only tries very hard to
He who truly knows how to live can walk on
land without fear of encountering a rhinoceros
or tiger, and need not be equipped with armor
and weapons when encountering an army.
For rhinoceroses find no place to thrust their
horn, tigers find no place to claw, and weapons
find nowhere to place sharp edges.
Why so? Because he never enters the death
All things are created from the Tao. They are
nourished by the Te.
They are formed into matter. They are shaped
by opposite powers.
Thus the ten thousand things all follow the Tao
and possess the Te.
Everything, therefore, is not forced or
demanded. All are in the way of the nature of
things – following the Tao, possessing the Te.
Therefore, all things are created from the
power of Tao.
They are nourished, developed, cared for,
sheltered, comforted, grown and protected by
Creating them without claiming ownership,
acting without demanding credit, guiding
without taking authority – this is original Te.
Since the origin of the universe is the mother
of all things, knowing the mother one also
knows the son.
Knowing the son, still also remaining firmly
connected with the mother, through one’s whole
life he will encounter no danger.
Shut your knowledge, close the door of your
cleverness, and life is ever full.
Open your knowledge, be busy with all your
knowledge, and life is beyond hope of
One who understands the very small
One who observes yielding to force also
Employ one’s inner light and return to insight.
Bringing no harm to self – thus is knowing the
If I have clear sense, I will practice the great
Tao and my only fear will be straying from it.
Staying in the great Tao is easy, but people
love to make shortcuts.
The court is kept in splendor, yet the farm
fields are full of weeds and the granaries are
People who wear fine clothes, carry sharp
swords and enjoy their fill of good food and
drink. They have a surplus of possessions. What
This is certainly not the work of Tao!
A good builder builds a foundation that cannot
be uprooted. One who knows how to grasp
firmly so that what is grasped does not slip
Te can even be passed down and honored
from generation to generation.
Apply it to yourself, and the Te will be real.
Apply it to the family, and the Te will abound.
Apply it to the village, and the Te will reach
Apply it to the nation, and Te will be
Apply it to the world, and the Te will be
Therefore apply the Te to the whole body to
look at the body; apply the Te to the whole
family to look at the family; apply the Te to the
whole village to look at the village; apply the
Te to the entire nation to look at the nation;
apply the Te to the whole world to look at the
How do I know the world? By looking with
He who is filled with the Te is like an infant.
Poisonous insects will not sting a newborn
baby; ferocious beasts will not pounce upon
him; birds of prey will not attack him
A newborn’s bones are weak, his muscles
soft, but his grip is firm.
He has no experience of the union of man and
woman, but his sexual energy is whole. It is
because his life energy is full and strong.
He could cry all day without becoming
hoarse. It is because he is in perfect harmony.
Knowing harmony is called the constancy.
Knowing constancy is called wisdom.
Trying to improve one’s well-being by living
in a gross life leads to disaster.
Trying to exhaust your life energy causes
strain. Striving to be big and strong is followed
only by exhaustion and age.
This is not the way the Tao works. Whatever
is contrary to how the Tao works will not last
Those who really know do not talk. Those
who talk do not know the truth
Shut knowledge. Close smart senses. Act dull
rather than be sharp.
Free from one’s problems, store the
Be at home with the down to earth. This is the
state in which you are united with the Tao.
Unconcerned with friends and enemies, with
gain and harm, with honor and disgrace.
This therefore is the most preferred
achievement in the world.
Rule a nation with normal justice and wage
war with unusual tactics.
Practice non-action to govern the world.
How do I know this is so? Because of the
The more taboos for people there are, the
poorer are the people.
When men have more sharpened weapons,
there is more chaos in the country.
The more men rely on cleverness and
ingenuity: the more novelties abound.
When rules and regulations grow, there are
more thieves and robbers.
Therefore the saint says: “I apply the power of
non-action and the people are orderly.
I am in stillness and the people become
honest. I am at peace and the people prosper.
I have no desires and the people return to
lives of simplicity and goodness.”
With less government the people are simple.
When the government is intrusive, the people
Happiness is rooted in misery, and that misery
hides underneath happiness. Who knows where
this will end?
And as soon as there appears to be no honesty,
honesty becomes abnormal,
And goodness can turn into evil. For a long
time, people don’t know who to follow.
Therefore the saint’s policies are straight but
not stiff, sharp but not cutting,
Straightforward but not losing control, shining
but not unbearably blinding.
In dealing with people, and connecting to
heaven, nothing is better than storing up the
Only by practicing charging up and storing the
power can one be well prepared.
Well prepared ahead of time, one must
heavily charge and store up his Te.
Armed with heavily charged up and stored up
Te, one overcomes anything. If one can
overcome anything, the potential is unlimited.
With unlimited potential, one can easily rule
the state. With this as the foundation of the state,
it will last long.
As if planting deep roots – stand firm,
everlasting, and long-visualizing.
Ruling a big country is like cooking a small
Ruling the world with Tao – evil will lose its
It isn’t that evil has no spiritual power, but
rather evil’s spiritual power will become
harmless to the people.
Not only will the spiritual power of evil harm
no one, the saint harms no one.
Both powers cannot hurt each other, and
therefore the Te returns to the original state.
A large country is like a river delta. Where
streams flow to meet is like the mother of the
The female always overcomes the male with
stillness, and remains still and lower in
Therefore if a large country takes a lower
position than a smaller country, it will conquer
the smaller country.
And if a small country takes a lower position
to a large country, it can affiliate with the large
Therefore, those who would be great should
yield, and those who are great become so by
A large country wishes to expand its
oversight; a small country needs to serve
If each finds what it wants, then it is right for
the large country to yield.
The Tao is the source of the ten thousand
It is the treasure of the good man, and even
also well kept by the bad man.
Beautiful words can buy honor; deeds that
appear honorable can win respect.
Even if a man is bad, how can anyone
Therefore, on the day the emperor takes his
throne, or the three ministers of state are
installed, do not send a gift of jade and a team
of four horses. Instead, stay still and offer the
Tao to them
Why did everyone like the Tao so much in the
past? Isn’t it because you can get what you need
and are redeemed when you sin?
Therefore this is the most valued treasure
Practice non-action and execute by non-doing
as if tasting the tasteless.
Regard the small as if it were large, and the
few as if it were many.
Counter hostilities with the Te.
Plan for difficulties while a situation is still
simple to solve: act on big things while they are
In the universe, difficult things start out easy.
In the universe, large things arise from the
The saint does not strive to be great, and
eventually achieves greatness.
Otherwise, those who make quick promises
rarely earn trust. Those who regard things
lightly end up with plenty of difficulties.
Because the saint respects difficulties, as a
result he has no difficulties.
It is easy to maintain a situation while it is
still at peace. Plan for change before it happens.
While still weak, it is easy to be shattered –
while it is still small, it is easily scattered.
Act on it before it happens. Create order
before it becomes chaos.
A tree so big that it takes many men to
embrace it starts from a tiny shoot.
A nine-story terrace rises from a bucket of
earth. A journey of a thousand miles starts
beneath one’s feet.
Whoever tries to act on it will ruin it;
whoever tries to hold on to it loses it.
The saint performs non-action and so is never
He does not have to own and therefore he
does not have to lose.
People usually ruin things right when they are
on the verge of success.
So be just as careful at the end as you were at
the beginning, and you’ll have no failure.
Therefore the saint seeks not to desire and
does not value precious goods.
He learns how to not need to learn— to
avoid repeating others’ mistakes.
He uses non-action to help the ten thousand
things find their own nature, but dares not take
In ancient times those who knew the Tao did
not try to enlighten others, but rather tried to
keep them simple.
Why are people so hard to govern? Because
they are too clever.
Rulers who depend on cleverness to rule,
harm the state. Those who rule without
depending on cleverness are instead a benefit to
These are the two alternatives. Understanding
the difference between the two is knowing how
to employ the Great Te.
The Great Te comes from a deep source and
is therefore powerful and far-reaching.
The Te works by making everything return to
its original state and eventually will make
everything return to a state of great harmony.
The reason why oceans are the kings of a
hundred streams is because they lie below
them. Therefore an ocean is able to be the king
of a hundred streams.
If the ruler would like to guide the people, his
words must be humble.
If he would like to lead them, he must follow
In this way when the ruler leads, the people
will not feel burdened.
When he stands in front of them, he poses no
obstruction to them.
The whole world will support him happily
and will not tire of him.
Because he does not confront them, so he does
not meet with confrontation.
The whole world says that my Tao is great
and is like nothing else.
It is because it is great that it seems to stand
apart. If it did not stand apart, it would have
become insignificant long ago.
I have three types of practical messages that I
hold and treasure: The first is mercy, the second
is storing up, the third is not being ahead of
From mercy comes courage; from storing up
comes immensity; from yielding comes
Instead, nowadays men give up mercy yet try
to be courageous. They forsake storing up, but
try to pretend immensity. They do not believe in
yielding, and instead always try to be first.
This is sure to end in death.
For mercy will win any battle and strengthen
defense. Heaven prevails and protects with
A top gentleman does not depend on martial
action. A superior warrior never fights with
He who always overcomes never confronts.
He who always leads is ever humble.
This is known as the Te of non-confrontation.
This is known as the ability to borrow other’s
This is so-called “matching with the power of
heaven” that was known since ancient times.
There is a saying among soldiers: “I dare not
make the first move but would rather respond
secondly; I dare not advance an inch but instead
retreat a foot.”
This is called not needing to line-up to face
the enemy, no need to lift an arm, no need to
confront the enemy, no need to hold a weapon.
There is no greater disaster than
underestimating the enemy. By underestimating
the enemy, you may forget my precious advice.
Therefore when the battle is between two
equal armies, the side of mercy will win.
My words appear very easy to understand and
appear very easy to practice, yet no one in the
world understands or practices them.
All my words refer to ancient beginnings. All
my actions follow the Lord’s will.
Because people have no true knowledge, they
therefore cannot understand what I am talking
Those that know what I am talking about are
few; those that can follow what I am talking
about are lucky.
Just like someone wearing coarse clothing yet
holding a precious jewel against his chest.
To know you don’t know is strength. Not to
know yet think you know is a handicap.
If one knows he is flawed, then he is not
The saint is not flawed because he knows he
is flawed. Therefore he is without flaw.
When people lack a sense of authority, there
will come the great authority.
There is no need to restrict their home lives.
You do not need to exploit them at work.
Simply because you do not need to oppress
them, they will not weary of you.
Therefore the saint knows self and does not
need to appear; he treasures self instead of
He rejects after and chooses the front.
If one is simply brave and daring he will be
One who is brave enough admits to what he
will not dare to do. He will stay alive.
In these two cases, one is good and the other
Heaven hates some things. Who knows the
The Tao from heaven does not need to strive,
and yet it always overcomes;
Does not need to speak, and yet is well
Does not need to summon, yet is supplied with
all its needs;
Seems slow, yet follows a good plan.
Heaven’s net is ever large and wide. Though
its meshes are coarse, yet nothing slips through.
If people are not afraid of death, it is of no use
to threaten them with death.
And if people live in constant fear of death,
and if acting contrary to society means a man
will be killed, who will dare break the law?
There is always an executioner in charge of
killing. If you try to kill in his place, it is like
trying to take the place of a master carpenter at
If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter,
you will cut your own hand.
The people are starving because the rulers eat
up too much from taxes. That’s why the people
The people are difficult to rule because the
rulers like to act and interfere. That’s why they
are hard to rule.
The people take death lightly because the
rulers demand too much of their own life.
That’s why the people take death lightly.
Nevertheless, those who cannot value their
life are smarter than those who value their lives
When people are born, they are gentle and
weak. At death they are hard and stiff.
Green plants are pliant and tender while
living. When they’re dead, they are withered
Therefore the stiff and unbending follow
death. The supple and yielding follow life.
Thus an army depending only on its strength
never wins a battle.
A tree that is stiff is easily broken.
The hard and strong will prove inferior. The
supple and weak will prove superior.
The Tao in heaven acts like the drawing of a
bow. To aim at the goal, the high is lowered
and the low is raised.
If there is excess it is reduced: if there is not
enough it is increased.
The Tao in heaven works to take from what’s
excessive and give where there is deficiency.
The Tao of man works differently: He takes
from those who lack in order to give to those
who already have too much.
Who can have more than enough and give it to
the whole world? Only the man possessing the
Therefore the saint works behind the scene.
He achieves what has to be done without claim.
He does not even show his true knowledge.
In the whole world, nothing is softer or more
yielding than water. Yet for attacking the hard
and strong, nothing can do better. It is
The weak power always overcomes the strong
power; the supple eventually overcomes the
Everyone in the world knows this fact, yet no
one can put it into practice.
Therefore the saint says: ‘One who burdens
himself with the humiliation of the nation is fit
to rule the people’s daily affairs. One who
assumes responsibility for the country’s
disasters deserves to be king of the world.’
True words often sound backwards.
After resolving a bitter quarrel, some
resentment is bound to remain. How can this be
Therefore the saint keeps his loan receipt but
does not push for repayment.
A man with the Te performs as if he has a loan
receipt but does not push for repayment. One
without the Te always requires others to pay
what they owe, as if he is a tax collector.
The Tao in heaven is fair. It blesses good men
all the time.
Small, the size of the country, and few, the
number of people:
Though there are all kinds of tools and
equipment available, they are not needed.
Make people take life seriously and do not
Though they have boats and carriages, nobody
uses them. Though they have armor and
weapons, nobody displays them.
People return to the knotting of rope to keep
They enjoy their plain food; they consider
their clothes beautiful; they feel safe and secure
in their homes. They are happy with the way
that they live.
Though they can see adjoining states, and the
sounds of cocks and barking dogs can be heard
across the border, they will nonetheless grow
old and die without ever bothering to visit them.
Words of faith are not beautiful. Beautiful
words are not faithful.
Good men offer no skillful words. Those who
talk skillfully are not good.
Those who know the truth possess no
knowledge. Those who possess knowledge do
not know the truth.
The saint never tries to accumulate. The more
he does for others, the more he has. The more
he gives to others, the greater his returns.
The Tao in heaven is very powerful but does
The Tao possessed by the saint is performing
work without confrontation.