The daoist view
Dao De Jing
Book of the Way and its Power
(attributed to Laozi)
Based on various translations and
edited by Samuel D. Fohr, Ph.D.
Dao De Jing (attributed to Laozi)
Book of the Way (Dao) and its Power (De)
            This version of the Dao De Jing was originally based on the translations of R. B. Blakney, Witter Bynner, Wing-tsit Chan, Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, D. C. Lau, C. S. Medhurst, Sohaku Ogata, D. T. Suzuki and P. Carus, Arthur Waley, John C. H. Wu, and Lin Yutang.  The best of these was the one by Chan, and it had been relied on the most. However, he often put things in a less direct way (compared to the original) in order to appeal to Western literary values.  Those of intermediate value included Wu’s, Lau’s, Waley’s, and Lin Yutang’s.  The most inaccurate were those by Blakney, Feng and English, Medhurst, and Suzuki and Carus.  Bynner’s poetic version was an interpretation more than a translation.  Ogata rightly called his version a Zen interpretation.  Other newer translations have been consulted, such as those by Robert Henricks (2), Victor Mair, Thomas Cleary, Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo, Ellen Chen, Richard John Lynn, Michael Lafargue, Philip Ivanhoe, Moss Roberts, and Jonathan Star.  Those by Henricks, Addis and Lombardo, Mair, Ivanhoe, and Lynn are the most useful.  Star’s word by word account is indispensable.  But the translations by Starr, Chen, and Roberts are most often rather wild, to use a word from the Dao De Jing, and the other new translations (including some I didn’t mention) are rather imaginative, paying too much attention to style and too little to substance.  Not every line in this version is taken from one or another of these translations.  In many cases, wholly original sentences appear.  In other cases, small changes were made in order to facilitate understanding of the material and/or to make it more readable.
            The best translation of “Dao” is “Way,” but it has been left mostly untranslated in this version.  The word “De” is usually translated as “virtue,” but the word “virtue” has come to have connotations completely foreign to the meaning of “De” in the Dao De Jing.  De is the power or influence or presence or manifestation of the Dao the world.  I have translated it as “Power.”  Some versions have Chapters 38-81 first and 1-37 last.  According to Henricks, the division of the text into 81 chapters seems to have been arbitrary, with 81 being “the perfect ‘yang’ number, the product of nine times nine.”  Furthermore, what are now parts of the same chapter were in many cases separate units, as in Chapters, 32, 46, 51, 52, 64, and 75.  On the other hand, chapters 17 and 18 were originally one chapter, and Chapters 5, 16, 20, 52, and 63 originally contained fewer lines.  For instance, Chapter 63 originally consisted of the first three and last three lines, and Chapter 5 originally consisted of only lines five and six.  We can add to Henricks’ comments that sometimes identical lines appear in different chapters, e.g. some lines in Chapter 56 appear in Chapters 4, 52, and 62.
                                                                                                                               Samuel D. Fohr
Part I
The Way that can be told of is not the constant (chang) Dao.[1]
            (The Dao called “Dao” is not the constant Dao.)
The name that can be called is not the constant name.
As the source of Heaven and Earth (alt.: the ten thousand things) It is nameless.
The named is the mother of all things.[2]
Therefore, let there always be Non-Being (wu, alt.: lack of desire, wu yü), so that we may learn its hidden mysteries (miao).
And let there always be Being (yu, alt.: desire, yu yü), so that we may see its manifest forms.
The two come from the same source, but are called different names.
            They both may be called mysterious.
Mystery of mysteries,
The gate of all wonders.
When the people of the world (all under Heaven) know beauty as beauty,
There arises ugliness.
When they know the good as good,
There arises what is not good.
In this way being (is, yu) and non-being (isn’t, wu) produce each other,
Difficult and easy complement (complete) each other,
            Long and short contrast (form) each other,
High and low determine (fulfill) each other,
[Instrumental] sound and voice harmonize each other,
Front and back accompany (follow) each other.
Therefore the sage is devoted to non-action (wu-wei),[3] teaching without words.
All things arise from the sage but he claims no possession of them.[4]
            He acts but does not claim credit.
He accomplishes his task but doesn’t dwell on it.
It is precisely because he doesn’t dwell on it that his merit remains             with him.
Not to honor men of worth will keep the people from contention.
Not to prize goods which are scarce will keep the people from theft.
Not to display what is desirable will keep people’s minds from being disquieted.
Therefore in governing the people, the sage:
Empties their minds,
Fills their bellies,
Weakens their ambitions,
And strengthens their bones.
He keeps the people unlearned and desireless,
And the learned (zhi) afraid to act.
When non-action (wu-wei) is the rule, order prevails.
The Dao is empty,
Yet when used its capacity is never exhausted.
It is bottomless,
But seems to be the ancestor of all things.
It blunts sharp edges.
It unties tangles.
It softens glare.
It becomes one with the dust [the dusty world].
Deep and still, it appears barely to exist (subsist).
I do not know whose child it is.
It seems to have existed before the Lord.[5]
(Heaven and Earth (tian di) are not humane (benevolent).[6]
They regard all things as straw dogs.[7]
            The sage is not humane.
He regards all people as straw dogs.)
Heaven and Earth are like a bellows.
While empty, a bellows is never exhausted.
The more it is worked, the more it produces.
(Much talk is exhausting.
 It is better to keep to the center (to focus within, zhong).)
            Lines in parentheses are not in the earliest known version.
The spirit of the valley never dies.
It is called the mysterious female.
The gate of the mysterious female is called the root of Heaven and Earth.
It is constant, and seems to have existed forever.
Use it without effort (toil, exhaustion, qin).
Heaven is constant (chang) and Earth everlasting (jiu).
Constant and everlasting because they do not exist for themselves.
            For this reason they can be constant.
Therefore the sage puts his person (self, shen) last and ends up first,
Puts aside his person (self) and is preserved.
Is it not because he is without thought of self that he is able to accomplish his self-            interest?
The highest good is like water.
Water is good; it benefits all things and does not contend with them.
It dwells in [lowly] places that all disdain.
This is why it is so near to the Dao.
In dwelling, the good is the earth.
In mind, the good is the profound.
In associations, the good is humanity (ren).
In words, the good is sincerity (xin).
In government (zheng), the good is ruling fairly.
In handling affairs, the good is competence.
In activities, the good is timeliness.
It is because one is not contentious that one is above reproach (without blame).
Filling it to the brim by holding it upright
Is not as good as stopping in time.[8]
Beat a sword-edge to its very sharpest.
            And the [edge] will not last long.
When gold and jade fill the hall,
There is no way to guard them.
To be proud with honor and wealth,
Is to invite misfortune.
Withdraw as soon as your work is done.
Such is Heaven’s Way (Dao).
Can you discipline (cultivate) your physical soul (vital force)[9] and embrace the One          (oneness, unity, yi) and never let them part (keep undivided)?
Can you concentrate your breath (ch’i) down to the softness of an infant?
Can you clean and purify your profound insight so it will be spotless?
Can you love (care for, ai) the people and govern the state without knowing?[10]
Can you play the role of the female in the opening and closing of the gates of Heaven?
            Can you be aware of the four corners of the earth without taking any action?
To give things life and rear them,
To give them life, but not take possession of them,
To act but not claim credit,
To foster but not lord over them,
This is called the mysterious Power (De).
Thirty spokes are united (yi) around the hub to make a wheel.
But it is on the non-being (wu) at the center that its utility depends.
Clay is molded to form an implement (vessel, bowl).
But it is on its non-being that the utility of the implement depends.
Doors and windows are cut out to make a room,
But it is on its non-being that the utility of the room depends.
Thus, while being has its benefits, non-being makes it useful.
The five colors dazzle (blind) the eyes.
The five tones deaden the ears.
The five flavors spoil the palate.
Riding and hunting make the mind go wild.
Scarce goods hinder one’s progress.
Therefore the sage is concerned with the belly and not the eye.[11]
            Thus he rejects the one but accepts the other.
Favor and disgrace are upsetting (alarming).
Regard honor as great trouble, like your body (person, self, shen).
            Why is favor upsetting?
            Favor is degrading (debasing).
Getting it is alarming,
Losing it is alarming.
Why should you regard honor as great trouble, like the body?
The reason why I have great trouble is that I have a body.
If I have no body,
What trouble could I have?
Therefore whoever honors (values) his body more than the world (as the world) may be    entrusted with the world.
Whosoever loves (cares for, ai) his body more than the world (as the world) may be          entrusted with the world.[12]
We look at It and do not see It;
It is called “the invisible (the dim).”
We listen to It and do not hear It;
It is called “the inaudible (the faint).”
We feel about for It and do not touch It;
It is called “the subtle” (wei).
These three do not admit of further scrutiny,
And actually blend into one (yi).
Rising, It is not bright, and setting It does not cause darkness.  (It’s top is not bright and
            its bottom is not dark.)
Continuous, It cannot be described,[13]
Always returning to where there is nothing.
            This is called the formless form.
The image of nothing,
Elusive and indistinct,
Meet It and you will not see Its face,
Follow It and you will not see Its back.
Hold on to the Dao of old,
In order to master the things of the present.
Knowledge of the ancient beginning,
This is called the thread of the Dao.
Of old, those who were masters of the Dao,
Were subtly mysterious (wei miao) and profoundly penetrating ( alt.: subtle, mysterious,             profound, and penetrating).
Too deep to be completely understood.
And because they could not be completely understood
I can only attempt to describe their appearance:
Cautious, like one crossing a frozen stream in the winter;
Watchful (hesitant), like one fearing one’s neighbors;
            Reserved, like one visiting;
Yielding, like ice about to melt;
Unspoiled, like a block of uncarved wood (pu);
            (Open and broad, like a valley;)
Undifferentiated (completely mixed), like muddy water.
Who can be muddy and yet, settling, slowly become limpid?
Who can be as dead and yet, stirring slowly, come to life?[14]
            The one who preserves this Dao does not want to be full.
(It is precisely because he does not want to be full that he is beyond wearing out and         renewal.)
            Lines in parentheses are not in the earliest known version.
Attain complete (absolute) emptiness
Hold fast to stillness (to the center, zhongearliest known version).[15]
            The ten thousand things stir about,
And I see thereby their return (sitting still we await their return – earliest known version).
            All things flourish,
            But each one returns to its root.
(This return to its root is called stillness,
And is the fulfilling of its destiny.
To fulfill one’s destiny is called the constant.
To know the constant is called insight (ming, to be enlightened).
To act in ignorance of the constant will lead to recklessness (errant behavior) and
He who knows the constant is all-embracing (open-minded).
Being all-embracing, he is impartial.
Being impartial, he is kingly (universal).
Being kingly, he is like Heaven.
Being like Heaven, he is in accord with the Dao.
Being in accord with Dao, he is everlasting (jiu),
And is free from danger throughout his lifetime.)
            Lines in parentheses are not in the earliest known version.
The best of all rulers is barely known to his subjects (As to the best rulers, those below    them are just aware of their presence).
Next comes the ruler they love and praise,
Next comes the one they fear,
Next the one who is despised.
When a ruler has no faith (xin, trust) in his people, they become faithless (bu xin, there      will be no trust in return).
            Hesitant, the best ruler puts a high price on every word.
When his task is accomplished and his work done
The people all say, “It happened to us naturally.”
When the great Dao declines (is neglected), humanity and righteousness arise.[16]
(When learning (zhi) and smartness appear, there emerges great hypocrisy.)
When the six family relationships[17] become disharmonious, there is talk of filial piety and             paternal love.
When disorder reigns in the state, there is praise of loyal ministers.
            In the earliest known version the second line does not appear.
Abandon sageliness and discard learning (zhi);[18]
            Then the people will benefit a hundredfold.
Abandon humanity and discard righteousness;
Then the people will return to filial piety and paternal love.
Abandon skill and discard profit;
Then there will be no thieves or robbers.
However, these three things are superficialities (adornments) and thus not adequate.
Therefore let people hold on to these:
Reveal (manifest, exhibit) plainness,
Embrace simplicity,[19]
            Reduce selfishness,
Curb desires.
            (Earliest known version of first six lines)
Eliminate knowledge, get rid of distinctions (argumentation),
And the people will benefit one hundredfold.
Eliminate skill and discard profit,
And there will be no thieves or robbers.
Eliminate hypocrisy (transformation), get rid of deceit (planning),
And the people will return to filial piety and paternal love.
Abandon learning and you will no longer have worries.
Between “yes” and “yeah” how much difference is there?[20]
            Between good and evil how great is the distance?
What others fear I must also fear. (Those who are feared must accordingly fear others.)
(How foolish (crazy, wild)!  And the end is not in sight.
The multitudes are merry (xi, xi) as though feasting on a day of sacrifice,
Or ascending a terrace in spring.
I alone am inert (still), showing (giving) no sign (wei zhao)
Like an infant that has not yet smiled.[21]
Forlorn (cheng, cheng), I seem to have no home to return to. (Alt: Wearied (lei, lei),
            I seem . . .)
            The multitudes all have an excess,
            I alone seem to want.
Mine is indeed the mind of a fool (yu),
Muddled and confused (tun, tun).
Common folk are brilliant (zhao, zhao),
I alone am dim (hun, hun).
Common folk are sharp (discerning, cha, cha),
I alone am dull (men, men).
            I drift like the sea,
Like a wind blowing about, seemingly without destination.
The multitudes all have a purpose,
I alone seem to be stubborn and rustic.
Truly, I differ from all others,
And value (prize) sucking from Mother’s breast (value the Mother’s food).)
            The section in parentheses is not in the oldest known version.
The nature (appearance) of great (vast) Power (De) follows (proceeds) from the Dao         alone.
What is called the Dao is elusive and indistinct.[22]
Though indistinct and elusive, within It are images (forms).
            Though elusive and indistinct, within It are things.
Deep and obscure,[23] in It is an essence.[24]
The essence is very real (zhen),
In it is the genuine (the trustworthy, xin).
From the time of old until now, Its name has been preserved.
By It we may see the beginning (origins) of all things.
How do I know that the beginnings (origins) of all things are so?
Through this.[25]
To yield is to stay whole.  (The bent stays whole.)
To bend is to remain straight.  (The crooked becomes straight.)
To be empty is to be full.  (The empty is filled.)
To be worn out is to be renewed.  (The worn out becomes renewed.)
To have little is profitable.  (The little becomes much.)
To have a lot is perplexing.  (Much becomes confusing.)
Therefore, the sage embraces the One (unity, oneness, yi).
            And becomes the model for the world.
He does not show (display) himself; therefore he is luminous.
He does not justify himself; therefore he is eminent.
(He does not boast; therefore he is given credit (merit).)
He does not brag; therefore he can endure for long.
It is precisely because he does not contend that the world cannot contend with him.
Is the ancient saying, “Yield and you will remain whole” (“bent stays whole”) empty        words?
Truly he will be whole.
            The line in parentheses is not in all versions.
Sparing indeed is nature of its talk.
The whirlwind will not last the morning out.
The cloudburst ends before the day is done.
What produces these things?
Heaven and Earth.
And if they cannot make these things last long,
How much less should people!
The follower of the Dao is identified with the Dao.
The follower of Its Power (De) is identified with Its Power (De).
The follower of Its loss is identified with Its loss.
The Dao gladly welcomes one who is identified with the Dao.
Its Power (De) gladly welcomes (accepts, gains, de) one who is identified with Its Power (De).[26]
And Its loss gladly welcomes one who is identified with Its loss.[27]
Whoever stands on tiptoe is not steady.
Whoever takes long strides cannot maintain the pace (go far).
Whoever shows himself is not luminous.
Whoever justifies himself is not eminent.
Whoever boasts of himself is not given credit (merit).
Whoever brags will not endure for long.
From the standpoint of Dao,
These are like “excessive food and extraneous activity,”
Which all creatures detest.
Therefore a follower of the Dao does not abide with them.
There was something undifferentiated (featureless, unformed), yet complete,
Which existed before heaven and earth.
Silent and formless, it stands alone and unchanging.
It operates everywhere but does not weary. (Alt: It pervades all things without limit.)
It may be considered the mother of all under Heaven.
I do not know its name;
I call it “Dao.”
If forced to describe it, I shall call it “Great.”
Now being great means functioning everywhere (means overflowing);
Functioning everywhere (overflowing) means going far;
Going far means returning.
Therefore the Dao is great,
Heaven is great,
Earth is great,
And man (alt.: the king) is also great.
There are four great things in the world, and man (the king) is one (yi) of them. 
Man models himself after Earth.
Earth models itself after Heaven.
Heaven models itself after the Dao.
And the Dao models itself on its own nature.
The heavy is the root of the light.
The still (calm) is the ruler of the restless.
Therefore the sage, though he travels all day, will never stray far from his baggage.
Even in the presence of magnificent (glorious) scenes, he remains calm and indifferent.
Now, then, can a lord with ten thousand chariots behave lightheartedly in his empire?
If he is lighthearted, his root is lost.
If he is restless, his ruler [ship] is lost.
A good traveler leaves no tracks.
A good speech has no flaws.
A good reckoner uses no counters.
A good closer needs no bolts, and yet the door cannot be opened.
A skillful binder needs no cord, yet no one can release what has been bound.
Therefore the sage is always good in saving people and consequently no one is rejected.
He is always good in saving things and consequently nothing is rejected.
This is called the path of illumination (insight, ming).
Therefore the good person is the teacher of the bad,
And the bad is the material on which the good works.
Whoever does not value (prize) the teacher, or greatly care for the material,
Is greatly deluded even though learned (knowledgeable).
            Such is the essential secret.
One who knows the masculine (the male) but keeps to the feminine (the female)
Becomes the ravine of the world.
Being the ravine of the world,
The Power (De) will never desert him,
And he will return to the state of the infant.
One who knows the white and yet keeps to the black[29]
Becomes the model (pattern, exemplar) for the world.
Being the model for the world,
The Power (De) will not wane (falter),
And he will return to the infinite (the unlimited, the boundless).
One who knows glory but keeps to disgrace
Becomes the valley to the world.
Being the valley of the world,
The Power (De) will always fill him
And he will return to the state of original simplicity.
When the original simplicity shatters it becomes implements (instruments). [30]
The sage makes use of these as the leading official.[31]
Hence, the great carver (governor) does but little carving (splitting).[32]
When one desires to control the world and act on it,
I see that he will not succeed.
The world is a sacred vessel and should not be tampered with.
Whoever does anything to it ruins it.
Whoever lays hold of it loses it.
Among creatures some lead and some follow.
Some blow hot and some blow cold.
Some are strong and some are weak.
Some survive (succeed) and some succumb.
Therefore, the sage
Discards the extremes, the extravagant, and the excessive.
He who assists the ruler with the Dao,
 Does not dominate the world[33] with weapons.
            (Such deeds usually rebound.
Wherever troops have encamped, briers and thorns grow.
In the wake of a mighty army, bad harvests follow without fail.)
A good [general] achieves his purpose and stops;
He dares not seek to seize through force.
He achieves his purpose but does not brag about it,
He achieves his purpose but does not boast of it.
He achieves his purpose but is not proud of it.
(He achieves his purpose but only as an unavoidable step.)
This is called achieving one’s purpose without force.
Such deeds are good and endure.
(Once things reach their prime they grow old.
This is not [in accord with the] Dao.
What is not [in accord with the] Dao soon ends.)
            Lines in parentheses are not in the earliest known version.
Weapons, however fine, are instruments of ill-omen.
They are hated.
Therefore, men of the Dao do not abide with them.
The nobleman (ruler) when at home honors the left,[34]
When at war honor the right.[35]
Weapons are instruments of ill-omen,
Not the instruments of a nobleman.
When he uses them unavoidably, he regards calm restraint as the best principle.
Even if they bring victory, he does not regard them as things of beauty.
For to regard them as things of beauty is to delight in killing people.
One who delights in killing people will never have his way (gain his wishes) in the world.
Therefore in auspicious affairs we honor the left,
While on occasions of mourning we honor the right.
Thus the second in command stands on the left,
While the commanding general stands on the right as in funeral ceremonies.
For the killing of multitudes, let us weep with sorrow and grief.
Let us observe the occasion of a victory with mourning rites.
The constant (enduring) Dao has no name.[36]
Though It is simplicity itself [37] and small, none in the world (in Heaven or Earth) dare       regard It as inferior (as their subject).
If lords and princes would cling to It, all things would submit to them spontaneously.
Heaven and Earth unite to drop sweet dew.
Without the command of men, it drips evenly over all.
As soon as there are regulations and institutions there will be names.[38]
            As soon as there are names, know the limits of names.
It is by knowing these limits that one can be free from danger.
The Dao is to the world what the ocean and rivers are to streams.
Who knows others is learned.
Who knows himself is enlightened (ming, possessed of insight).
            Who conquers others shows strength.
Who is master of himself is truly strong.
Who is contented is rich.
Who perseveres has willpower.
Who doesn’t lose his place is lasting.
Who survives his death (dies without perishing) is long-lived.
The great Dao flows everywhere,
And spreads to the left and right.
All things depend on It for life and It does not turn away from them (and does not depart             from them).
It accomplishes Its task, but does not claim credit for it.
It clothes and feeds all creatures but does not claim to be master (ruler) over them. [39]
            Forever free of desires,
            It may be called The Small.
All things turn to It, yet It will not be their master (ruler);
            It may be called The Great.
Therefore (the sage) never attempts to be great, and thereby achieves greatness.
Hold fast to the Great Image [Dao], and all the world will come.
They come and will encounter no harm; but enjoy security and peace.
Music and sweets will induce the passing stranger to pause.
However the Dao, when declared, seems thin (insipid, bland) and tasteless!
When looked at, it can hardly be seen,
When listened for, it can hardly be heard.
But when used It is inexhaustible.
What is to be shrunk must first be stretched.
What is to be weakened must first be strengthened.
What is to be rejected must first be established.
What is to be taken must first be given.
This is called the subtle light (wei ming).[40]
The soft and the weak overcome the hard and the strong.
            As fish should not leave the deep,
The sharp weapons of the state must not be revealed.
The constant Dao takes no action[41] (yet nothing is left undone – added in some versions).
            Should lords and princes be able to cling to It,
All things will be transformed of their own accord.[42]
            If, after transformation, they should have desires,
I would restrain them with that nameless simplicity.[43]
            With the nameless simplicity there is no desire,
With no desire there is tranquility,[44]
And all under heaven will settle of their own accord.
The man of superior Power is not conscious of his Power as such,
And in this way he really possesses Power.
            (Superior De is not conscious of De and thus really is De.)
The man of inferior Power never lets one lose sight of his Power,
And in this way he is without Power.
            (Inferior De is conscious of De and thus is not De.)
The one does nothing of a purpose and nothing is left undone.
The other is always busy but much is left undone.
The man of superior humanity (ren) takes action, and has no ulterior motives.
The man of superior righteousness (yi) takes action, but has ulterior motives.[45]
The man of superior propriety (li)[46] takes action,
But when people do not follow his lead, he will roll up his sleeve and force his way on      them.
Therefore, when the Dao is lost, Its Power (De) is extolled.[47]
            When its Power (De) is lost, humanity is extolled.
When humanity disappears, righteousness is extolled.
When righteousness is lost, propriety is extolled.
Now propriety is the thin husk (the thinning) of loyalty and faithfulness, and the
            beginning of disorder.
Foreknowledge is but the flower of the Dao and the beginning of folly (yu).
            Hence the great man
            Abides in the thick, not the thin,
In the fruit, not the flower.
Therefore, he rejects the one but accepts the other.
Of old these things obtained the One (yi):
Heaven obtained the One and became clear,
Earth obtained the One and became stable,[48]
The spirits obtained the One and became divine.
The valleys obtained the One and became full.
The ten thousand creatures obtained the One and bore their kind.
Lords and princes obtained the One and became rulers of the empire.[49]
            It is the One that makes these what they are.
Without what makes it clear, Heaven would split.
Without what makes it settled, the Earth would shake.
Without what makes them divine, the spirits would wither away.
Without what makes them full, the valleys would dry up.
Without what enables them to bear their kind, the ten thousand creatures would perish.
Without what makes them rulers (noble), the lords and princes would fall.
The mighty (noble) must have the humble as its root,
The high must have the low as its base.
Thus lords and princes refer to themselves as orphans, desolate (destitute) and needy        (hungry).
This is taking the humble as one’s root, is it not?
Thus, too much praise is no praise.[50]
            Rather than jingle (dazzle) like jade,
Rumble like rocks.  (Be stolid like a stone.)
Reversal is the movement of the Dao.
Weakness is Its function.  (Yielding is how it works.)
All things in the world come from Being (yu).
And Being comes from Non-Being (wu).
Part II
When superior students hear the Dao,
With effort (qin) they practice It.
When average students hear the Dao,
Sometimes they keep It, sometimes they lose It.
When inferior students[53] hear the Dao,
They laugh heartily at It.
If they did not laugh at It, It would not be the Dao.
Therefore there are the sayings:
The Dao which is bright appears to be dark.
The Dao which goes forward appears to fall (retreat) backward.
The Dao which is smooth (level) appears rough.
The highest Power (De) appears like a valley.
The greatest purity appears sullied (soiled).
Ample Power (De) appears as if insufficient.
Firm Power (De) appears as if unsteady.
            (Alt.: Simple truth (zhen) appears to change.)
            The great square has no corners.
The great implement (qi) is slow to be fashioned.
The great note is hardly audible.[54]
            The Great Image has no form.
The Dao is hidden and nameless.
Yet the Dao alone is good at providing (alt.: beginning) and good at completing.
The Dao bore the One (yi).
            The One bore the two.
The two bore the three.
And the three bore the ten thousand things.
The ten thousand things carry the yin [on their backs or shoulders] and embrace the yang,
And through blending these two breaths (ch’i) they achieve harmony.[55]
What people hate
Is to be orphans, desolate or needy (destitute or hungry).
And yet kings and princes call themselves by these names.
Therefore things sometimes increase (yi) by being diminished
            And diminish by being increased.
Therefore, what others have taught, I teach also:
“The violent will not come to (gain, de) a natural end.”
So I shall make this the father of my teaching.
The softest thing in the world rides roughshod over the hardest.
Non-Being penetrates that in which there is no space.
Through this I know the benefit (yi)[56] of taking no action.
The teaching without words and the benefit of taking no action,
            Few in the world can reach (realize).
Which is closer, your name (reputation) or your body (self)?
Which is dearer, your body or your possessions?
Which is worse, gain (de) or loss?
The covetous will spend extravagantly.
The hoarder will lose more heavily.
The contented will never suffer disgrace.
The one who knows when to stop is free from danger.
Therefore he can last long.
Great accomplishment (completeness) seems to be lacking (defective),
But its utility never wears out.
Great fullness seems to be empty,
But its utility never runs out.
Great straightness seems crooked.
Great skill seems clumsy.
Great eloquence seems like stammering.
Movement overcomes cold,
[But] stillness overcomes heat.
Pure stillness is the norm (the standard, zheng) of the world.
            In the earliest known version line 7 reads: Great advances (gains) seem like                retreats (losses).
When the Dao prevails under heaven, fleet-footed (swift) horses are relegated to
            fertilizing the fields.
When the Dao does not prevail under heaven, war horses are bred in the suburbs.
There is no bane (vice) worse than desire.
There is no greater curse (disaster) than discontent.
There is no fault (defect) more grievous than covetousness (desire for gain, de).
Whoever is contented with contentment (with knowing he has enough) will always be       contented.
One may know the world without going out of doors.
One may see the Way of Heaven (Heaven’s Dao) without peering through the window.
The further one goes, the less one knows.
Therefore the sage knows without going about,
Names (Identifies) without seeing,
And accomplishes without acting (bu wei).
In pursuit of learning every day there is more (yi).
In the pursuit of the Dao every day there is less.
One does less and less until one reaches the point of taking no action (wu wei).
            No action is undertaken, and yet nothing is left undone.
(The world is won by not meddling (shi) with it.
If one meddles with it, one is unfit of win the world.)
            The lines in parentheses are not in the oldest known version.
The sage has no set mind.
He takes as his own the mind of the people.
“Those who are good I treat with goodness,
And those who are not good I also treat with goodness.”
This is the De of goodness.
“Those who are trustworthy (xin) I have faith (xin) in,
And those who are faithless I also have faith in.”
            This is the De of trustworthiness.
The sage, in dealing with the world, has no subjective viewpoint.[57]
            His mind forms a harmonious whole with that of the people.
Their eyes and ears are always occupied with one thing or another,
And so he treats them all as children.[58]
A person enters to life and exits to death.
Three out of ten are companions of life.
Three out of ten are companions of death.[59]
And three out of ten are on their way from life to death.
            Why is this so?
Because of their intensive striving after life.
I have heard that one who is a good preserver of his life
When traveling over land does not avoid tigers or rhinos.
And in fighting does not arm himself.
There is nowhere for a rhino to butt its horns,
There is nowhere for a tiger to fasten its claws,
And there is nowhere for weapons to lodge their blades.
            How is this?
Because in him there is no place for death (no mortal spot).
(Alternate version of first six lines)
Man enters to life and exits to death.
The companions of life are thirteen.[60]
            The companions of death are thirteen.
And the companions of the movement from life to death are thirteen.
Why is this so?
Because of the way we abuse these thirteen (strive after life as life).
Dao gives them life (Dao bears them).
Its Power (De) fosters (nurtures) them.[61]
            Matter gives them physical form.
Circumstances complete them.
Therefore all things esteem the Dao and honor Its Power (De).
The Dao is esteemed and Its Power is honored without anyone’s command.
This happens spontaneously.
The Dao gives them life and Its Power (De) fosters them.
It raises them and develops them,
Shelters them and comforts them,
Nourishes them and protects them.
To give them life but not to claim possession of them.
To act, but not claim credit,[62]
To be their lord, but not their master.[63]
This is called mysterious (profound) Power (De).
There was a beginning of the world,[64]
Which may be called the Mother of the world.
Having known (gained, de) the Mother,
Thereby knowing her children [things],
And having known her children,
Keeping to their mother,
One will be free from danger throughout life.[65]
            Block the openings.
Shut (bolt) the doors (gates),[66]
And to the end of life you will not be worn out (you will not toil, qin).
            Unblock the openings,
Meddle in affairs (shi).
And to the end of life you will be beyond help (there will be no relief).
Seeing what is small is called insight (illumination, ming).
            Keeping to pliancy (softness) is called strength.
Use the light (guang),
Return to illumination (ming),
            And thereby avoid disaster.
This is called practicing[67] the constant.
            The middle six lines appear on their own in the earliest known version.  The first         part and last part appear to go together.
If I had the least bit of knowledge,
In walking on the great Dao, I should fear only straying.
The great Dao is very even (level, smooth),
But people are fond of bypaths (rough paths).[68]
The courts are very splendid,
While fields are very weedy,
And the granaries are very empty.
Elegant clothes are worn,
Sharp weapons are carried,
Foods and drinks are enjoyed beyond limit,
And wealth and treasures are accumulated in excess.
This is called robbery.
This is definitely not the Dao.
What is well planted[69] cannot be uprooted.
What is well grasped[70] will not slip loose.
Consequently, the offering of sacrifices by descendents will not cease.
Cultivated in the person
            Power (De) will be genuine (zhen, real, true, pure).
            Cultivated in the family
            Power will overflow.
Cultivated in the village
            Power will endure.
Cultivated in the state
            Power will flourish (abound).
Cultivated in the world
            Power will be universal (everywhere).
Look at the person through the person.[71]
            Look at the family through the family.
Look at the village through the village.
Look at the state through the state.
Look at the world through the world.
How do I know the world is like that? 
By this.[72]
One who possesses the Power in abundance (who is filled with De)
May be compared to an infant.
Wasps, scorpions, and vipers do not strike him.
Fierce beasts will not seize him.
Birds of prey will not maul him.
His bones are weak, his sinews tender (pliant, soft), but his grip is firm.
He does not yet know the union of male and female,
Yet his member (organ) gets aroused (erect).
This means that his vitality is at its height.
He may howl and scream all day without becoming hoarse.
This means that his harmony is at its height.
To know that harmony is to be in accord with the constant.
To know the constant is to have insight (ming).
To strain to increase (yi) life is called ominous,
To control the breath (ch’i) with one’s mind is called forcing things (violence).
Once things reach their prime, they grow old.  This is not the Dao.
What is not the Dao soon ends.[73]
            In the oldest known version the third from last line begins: To control the vital
            force (energy, qi) . . . .
One who knows does not speak;
One who speaks does not know. [74]
            He blocks the openings,
Shuts (bolts) the doors (gates),
Blunts sharp edges,
Unties knots,
Softens bright light (guang),
Becomes one with the dust [dusty world].
This is called the mysterious (profound) merging (union, identification).
Therefore one cannot be close (intimate) with him (Therefore one cannot gain (de)             closeness with him, etc.)
            One cannot be distant (indifferent) to him.
            One cannot benefit him
One cannot harm him.
One cannot honor him
One cannot disgrace him.
For this reason he is honored by all.
“Govern the state with straight forward procedures (zheng),
            Operate the army with surprise tactics.”
But win the world by not meddling in affairs (wu shi).
            How do I know that this is so?
            By this:
The more taboos and prohibitions there are in the world,
The poorer the people will be.
The more sharp weapons the people have,
The more disordered the state will be.
The more clever and skillful the people are,
The more bewildering (strange, grotesque, qi) things will appear.
The more laws and ordinances (alt.: prized goods) are made prominent,
            The more thieves and robbers there will be.
Therefore the sage says:
I take no action (wo wu wei) and the people transform themselves.
I am fond of tranquility and the people are naturally upright (zheng).
I do not meddle in affairs (wu shi) and the people of themselves become prosperous.
I have no desires and the people of themselves achieve simplicity (become like the             uncarved block).
            In the earliest known version the first of the last four lines is:  I do not meddle in        
            affairs . . . .
When the government is dull (men, men),
The people are pure (shun, shun).       
When the government is sharp (cha, cha),
The people are lacking (que, que).
“It is on disaster that good fortune perches;
It is beneath good fortune that disaster crouches.”
Who knows what the end (ultimate) result will be?
Where there is no norm (no fixed standard, zheng)
The normal (zheng) may turn into the abnormal (qi),
            And the good may become evil.
Surely mankind has been deluded long enough (jiu).
Therefore the sage is square-edged but does not cut,
            He is sharp but does not stab,
He is straight but does not encroach,
He is bright but not dazzling.[75]
To rule people and to serve Heaven there is nothing better than frugality (thrift, keeping   things in reserve).
Only by frugality can you submit[76] quickly.  (Alt.: Only by frugality can you prepare      early.)
To submit quickly means to accumulate Power (De) heavily.
By the heavy accumulation of Power (De) there is nothing you cannot overcome.
If there is nothing you cannot overcome, then no one knows your limit.
If no one knows your limit, you are fit to rule a state.
If you possess the Mother of the state you will last long.
This is called deep roots and a firm base.
This is the Dao of long life and seeing far (and lasting, jiu, vision).
            An alternate reading of the last two lines is:  This is called the Dao of deep roots,
            a firm base, long life, and seeing far.
Ruling a big country is like cooking a small fish.
When the world is ruled by the Dao,
The demons lose their power.
Or rather, it is not that they lose their power,
But their power can no longer harm people.
Not only will their power not harm people,
But the sage will also not harm people.
As neither does any harm,
Power (De) will be accumulated for the benefit of the people (Alt.: Then De flows and      returns.).[77]
A large state is like the lower reaches of a river.
The meeting place of all under heaven,
It is the female of the world.
The female always overcomes the male by stillness.
Being still, she takes the lower position.
Hence, the large state, by taking the lower position absorbs (wins over) the small state.
And the small state, being naturally low is absorbed by (is won over by) the large state.
The one, by placing itself below, wins over the other,
And the other, being naturally low, wins over the one.
After all, what a large state wants is but to unite and care for others
And what a small state wants is merely to join and serve others.
Since both large and small states gain (de) what they want
The large state should take the lower position.
The Dao is like the southwest corner of the house.[78]
            (Alt.: The Dao is the center toward which all things flow.)
            It is the treasure of the good
And the refuge of the bad.
Beautiful words can be traded,
And noble deeds can gain the respect of others.
But even if a man is bad, why should he be rejected?[79]
Therefore on the occasion of enthroning an emperor (the Son of Heaven) or installing the   three ministers,[80]
Rather than present large pieces of jade preceded by teams of four horses,
It is better to keep one’s seat and offer this Dao.
Why did the ancients value this Dao so highly?
Did they not say, “Those who seek shall gain (de) It and those who have done evil shall
            be forgiven?”
This is why It is honored by all under Heaven.[81]
Do that which consists in taking no action (Act without acting, wei wu wei).
Attend without meddling (shi wu shi).
            Relish the tasteless.
(“Repay hatred with virtue (de).”[82]
Prepare for the difficult while it is still easy,
Deal with the big while it is still small.
                Difficult tasks were once easy,
And great tasks were once small.
Therefore the sage never attempts to do the great,
And thereby achieves greatness.[83]
One who makes rash promises rarely keeps good faith.)
In all affairs big or small, considering things easy leads to frequent difficulties.
Therefore, even the sage treats things as difficult.
And no difficulties get the better of him.
            Lines in parentheses are not in earliest known version.
What remains still is easy to hold.
What has given no sign (wei zhao) is easy to plan for.
            The brittle is easy to crack.
And the minute is easy to scatter.
Deal with things before they appear.
Put things in order before disorder rises.
A tree as big as a man’s embrace grows from a tiny shoot.
A tower of nine stories begins with a heap of earth.
The journey of a thousand li[84] starts from where one stands (alt.: starts with one step).
Whoever does anything to it ruins it.
Whoever lays hold of it loses it.[85]
For this reason the sage takes no action (wu wei)
            And therefore does not ruin anything.
He grasps nothing
And therefore he does not lose anything.
In handling affairs, people often ruin things when they are close to success.
If one remains as careful at the end as at the beginning, there will be nothing ruined.
Therefore the sage desires to have no desires, and does not value (prize) scarce goods.
He learns to be unlearned, and returns to what the multitude has passed by.
In this way he supports all things in their natural state[86] and dares not take any action.
In ancient times those who practiced the Dao well
Did not use It to enlighten (ming) the people,
But to make them ignorant (yu).[87]
People are difficult to govern when they are too learned.
Therefore, to rule the state with learning
            Is to plunder the state;
To rule the state not through learning
Is to bring good fortune to the state.
One who knows these two things also knows the standard (model, pattern).
Constant knowledge of the standard is called the profound De.
This profound Power (De) is deep and far-reaching.
And with it all things return.[88]
Then the great confluence is attained.[89]
The great rivers and seas are kings of all mountain valleys, because they excel in staying    below them.
That is why they can be kings.
Therefore, in order to be above the people,
One must, in the use of words, place oneself below them.
And in order to lead the people,
One must in one’s person follow behind them.
In this way the sage dwells above the people and they do not feel his weight.
He dwells in front of them and the people do not feel threatened.
Therefore the world (all under heaven) rejoices in praising him without getting tired of       doing so.
Is it not because he does not contend
That no one in the world can contend with him?[90]
All the world says (All under Heaven say) that my Dao is great, and resembles nothing     else.
It is great precisely because it resembles nothing else.
If it did resemble anything else, it would long before now have become small.
I have three treasures which I hold and cherish (guard):
The first is deep love,[91]
            The second is frugality,
And the third is not daring to place myself first in the world (first under Heaven).
Having deep love enables me to be courageous.
Frugality enables me to be generous.
Not daring to place myself first in the world enables me to last as chief minister.[92]
            Now, to be courageous while forsaking deep love,
To be generous while forsaking frugality,
And to take the lead in the world while forsaking the rear,
            This is fatal.
Through deep love, one will triumph in attack
And be impregnable in defense.
Heaven arms with deep love those it would save (aid, establish).
A skillful soldier is never aggressive.
A skillful fighter is never angry.
A skillful conqueror never antagonizes (is not contentious).
One who is skillful in using men puts himself below them.
This is called the virtue (de) of non-contention.
This is called strength in using men.
This is called matching Heaven,
The highest principle of old.
Army strategists have a saying:
“I dare not play the host but play the guest.
I dare not advance an inch but I retreat a foot.”
This means:
To march (move) without moving (hsing wu hsing),
To roll up one’s sleeve without showing one’s arms,
To confront enemies without seeming to meet them,
            To hold weapons without seeming to have them.
There is no greater disaster than to make light of the enemy.
Making light of the enemy will cost me my treasures.
When matched armies are joined in battle,
The side which grieves[93] will win.
My words are very easy to understand
And very easy to practice,
But none in the world (under Heaven) can understand them,
And no one can practice them.
My words have an ancestor; my deeds have a Lord.
It is because people do not understand this that they do not understand me.
Few people understand me, and for this reason I am valued (honored).
Therefore the sage wears coarse clothes and caries jade within his bosom.[94]
To know you don’t know (zhi bu zhi) is best.[95]
To not know but think you know (bu zhi, zhi) is a disease (sickness).[96]
            Only when one recognizes disease as disease can one be free from it.
The sage is free from the disease.
Because he recognizes this disease to be a disease, he is free from it.
When the people do not fear authority,
Great authority is attained.
Do not constrict their living space.
Do not overburden their means of livelihood.
It is because you refrain from over burdening them that they will not tire of you.
 Therefore the sage knows himself but does not display himself.
He loves himself[97] but does not honor himself (regard himself highly).
Thus he rejects the one but accepts the other.
To be brave in daring leads to death.
To be brave in not daring preserves life.
Of the two, one is beneficial, the other harmful.
Heaven hates what it hates – who knows why?
Even the sage considers it a difficult question.
It is Heaven’s Way (Dao) not to contend, yet it skillfully overcomes.
It does not speak, yet skillfully responds.
It is not summoned, yet comes of itself.  (It does not summon, yet things come.)
It is at ease, yet skillfully lays its plans.
Heaven’s net is indeed vast.
Though its mesh is coarse, nothing slips through.
If the people are not afraid of death,
Why, then, threaten them with death?
Suppose the people were afraid of death and we could seize those who behaved
            perversely (abnormally, qi) and kill them.
            Who would dare to do so?
The master executioner [Heaven] is always set to kill.
To undertake executions for the master executioner is like hewing wood for the master       carpenter.
Whoever undertakes to hew wood for the master carpenter rarely escapes injuring his        own hands.
The people starve because the ruler takes too much tax-grain.
Therefore they starve.
They are difficult to rule because their ruler is fond of action.
Therefore they are difficult to rule.
The people take death lightly because they strive after life so intensely.
Therefore they take death lightly.
Only those who do not strive after life
Are more worthy than those who value (prize) life intensely.[98]
At birth people are soft and weak.
At death, hard and stiff.
All things, the grass as well as trees, are tender (soft) and supple while alive.
When dead, they are withered and dry.
Therefore the hard and the stiff are companions of death.
The soft and weak are companions of life.
Therefore the unyielding (stiff) army will not win in battle.
And the stiff tree will be broken.
The stiff and the great are laid low,
While the soft and the weak take the higher position.
Is not the Way (Dao) of Heaven like the drawing of a bow?
The high is pulled down,
The low is lifted up.
It takes from (diminishes) what has an excess.
It supplements the deficient.
The Way (Dao) of Heaven
Is to take from what has in excess in order to supplement the deficient.
The way (dao) of man is otherwise.
He takes from those who do not have enough to give to those with excess.
Who has excess and will use it to give to the world?
Only the man of Dao.
The sage acts yet does not claim credit.
He accomplishes his task yet doesn’t dwell on it.
He has no desire to display his worth.
In the world, there is nothing softer or weaker than water,
And yet there is nothing better for attacking hard and stiff things.
For this reason there is no substitute for it.
The weak overcomes the stiff and the soft overcomes the hard.
All the world knows this.
But none can put this principle into practice.
Therefore the sage says:
One who bears his country’s disgrace
Is called lord of the altars to the soil and grain.
One who bears his country’s misfortunes
Is called king of the world.
True (straightforward, zheng) words seem paradoxical.
There can be reconciliation after great hatred, but some hatred is bound to remain.
How can this be regarded as good?
Therefore the sage takes the left-hand portion of the contract.[99]
            And does not make claims on others.
People with Power (De) attend to their own obligations.
While those without Power (De) attend to collecting from others.
“The Way (Dao) of Heaven has no favorites, yet is always with the good person.”
Let there be a small country with few people.
Let there be ten times and a hundred times as many implements (weapons),
But let them not be used.
Let the people take death seriously and not migrate far.
Even if there are boats and carriages, none will ride in them.
Even if there are weapons and armor, none will display them.
Let the people return to the use of knotted cords [in place of writing].
Let them relish their food,
Beautify their clothing,
Be content with their homes,
And delight in their customs.
Though neighboring states overlook one another
And the crowing of cocks and barking of dogs in the one can be heard in the other.
The people there will grow old and die without ever visiting one another.
Sincere (truthful, trustworthy, genuine, xin) words are not beautiful;
            Beautiful words are not sincere.
The good do not argue (dispute);
Those who argue are not good.
The knowing are not very learned.
The very learned do not know.
The sage does not hoard.
The more he acts for others, the more he has.
The more he gives to others, the more he possesses.
The Way (Dao) of Heaven is to benefit but not to harm.
The Way (Dao) of the sage is to act but not to contend.
[1] “Constant” is meant as changeless and everlasting.
[2] I use the phrase “all things” for the more literal “the ten thousand creatures (things).”  Similarly in Chapters 2, 4, and many other Chapters such as 28 and 29, I use “the world” for “all under Heaven.”
[3]Wu-wei” does not mean doing nothing.  It means acting in a non-egoistic way, or without conscious purpose or agenda.  It refers to selfless action.
[4] The sage is being identified with Dao. Cf. Chapter 23 for more about this.  Instead of this line, earlier versions have:  The ten thousand things (all things) arise, but he does not begin them (start them, tell them [to do so]).
[5] “Lord” refers to Heaven which was thought to be the ruler of the universe.  The authors of this book do not actually believe there is any such ruler.
[6] It is said that Heaven and Earth and the Sage are not ren.  “Ren” means humane or compassionate.  One might say they all have an attitude of detachment or indifference, or are dispassionate.
[7] “Straw dogs were used for sacrifices in ancient China.  After they had been used, they were thrown away and there was no more sentiment attachment to them.” -  W. Chan
[8] “This refers to a vessel which is said to have been in the Temple of Chou (or Lu).  It stands in position when empty but overturns when full.” – D. C. Lau  In the oldest known version, lines 3-4 read:  When swift flowing waters gather against it, It cannot hold out very long.  “But what is the point of lines 3 and 4?  The answer might be provided in the following words of L. Kang (c. 196-264):  ‘When a tree stands above all the rest in the forest, the wind is sure to break it; and when a mound stands out from the shore, the fast flowing water is sure to overwhelm it.’” – R.G. Henricks
[9] “Man has two souls, the p’o which is the soul of the body and the hun which is the soul of the spirit.  After death the p’o descends into the earth while the hun ascends to heaven.” – D. C. Lau  “As generally understood, hun is the spirit of man’s vital force, expressed in man’s intelligence and power of breathing, whereas p’o is the spirit of men’s physical nature, expressed in bodily movement.” – W. Chan
[10] The first three lines constitute meditation instructions.  The fourth line may be related in that it suggests governing without knowing.  A newborn infant has no knowledge of the world, having not yet distinguished anything in his consciousness, not even knower from known, much less me and world.
[11] “All commentators agree that the belly refers to the central or fundamental things of life and the eyes refer to the superficial things of life.” – W. Chan
[12] In the oldest known version, lines 1, 3-6 read:
            Favor is disgrace, like bondage.
            Why is favor disgrace?
            Favor is degrading (puts you in a dependent or subordinate or inferior position).
            Getting it is bondage,
            Losing it is bondage.
[13] The Chinese for “continuous” is “sheng, sheng.”  It means going on and on like a piece of rope with no beginning or end, boundless.
[14] Meditation instructions
[15] Meditation instructions
[16] The Chinese character for humanity is “ren” and for righteousness is “yi.” “Yi” is sometimes translated as “justice.”  However, as in Plato’s writings, in this case “just” means right.  This “yi” is a different character from that of Chapters 10, 11, and 22, which is translated as “the One” or “unity” or “oneness.”
[17] “Father, son, elder brother, younger brother, husband, and wife.” – W. Chan
[18] When it says “abandon sageliness” it means something like don’t put on sagely airs.  There are several characters in Chinese that are pronounced zhi.  There is one which means learning and another which means knowing, perceiving or being acquainted with something.  Only the first refers to abstruse knowledge or scholarship.  I always translate the first character as “learning” (as in Chapters 3 and 18) and the second as “knowledge.”
[19] Literally:  Reveal the undyed silk, embrace the uncarved block (pu).
[20] Some would translate this as “Between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ (approval or disapproval) . . .”
[21] Meditation instruction
[22] Shadowy in the sense of being vague and indistinct.  See Chapter 14.
[23] Or indistinct or dim.
[24] “The word “ching” (essence) also means “intelligence.”  “Spirit” “life force” (vital force). – W. Chan
[25] Some commentators think “this” refers to the Dao.  Others, that it refers to everything that has gone before in the chapter.
[26] See footnote 61.  There is another character pronounced de which means gain or obtain.  It is found in many chapters including Chapters 31, 39, 42, and 56.
[27] The last line of Chapter 23 (which I have omitted) is the same as Chapter 17, line 5.
[28] In some versions Chapter 24 comes between Chapters 21 and 22.
[29] This line refers to the principle of yin and yang.  They probably first meant sunless and sunny, then female and male, and finally general terms for the fundamental and opposing forces or principles of nature. – D. C. Lau.  “Generally speaking, Yin stands for a constellation of such qualities as shade (‘on the north side of the hill’) darkness, cold, negativeness, weakness, femaleness, etc.; while Yang (‘on the south side of the hill’) denotes light, heat, strength, positiveness, maleness, etc.  The Yin-Yang experts regarded the interaction of these cognates as the explanation of all change in the universe.” – R. B. Blakney.  Yin is the cosmic passive force, Yang the active force. – W. Chan.  “In Zoroastrianism Darkness is essentially evil; the principle of Light, essentially good.  The fundamental concept of Yin and Yang is quite different.  They are two interdependent and complimentary facets of existence, and the aim of Yin-Yang philosophers was not the triumph of light, but the attainment in human life of perfect balance between the two principles.” – A. Waley.  They are the Active Pole and Passive Pole of Universal Existence.
[30] “Original simplicity” is literally: the state of virgin wood, the uncarved block, pu.  We could then say:  “When the uncarved block splinters . . .”  “P’u (also translated as ‘uncarved block’) is the most frequent metaphor in the Tao Te Ching for expressing the utter simplicity of the Way . . . The Old Chinese pronunciation of p’u was phluk.  This is almost certainly related to the English word ‘block,’ which probably derives from the Indo-European root bhelk (beam).” – Victor H. Mair
[31] Alternative: The sage uses these as leading officials.
[32] Nobody seems sure of the translation of these last three lines.  Interestingly, the word “qi” which I have translated as “implements” occurs in many places in the book, but in this chapter, Chapter 41, and Chapter 67,  the lines in which it occurs seem terribly difficult to translate.  “Leading official” and “chief minister” (Chapter 67) are literally: Lord of the implements.  The last line contains the quotation of a saying. It involves a play on the word “zhi” which can mean to carve or to rule.  For this reason some translations have “the great ruler” instead of “the great carver.”
[33] Literally: what is under heaven.  The same is true of “world” in Chapter 29.
[34] “Symbolic of good omens.” – W. Chan
[35] “Symbolic of evil omens.” – W. Chan
[36] See Chapter 1.
[37] Literally: Though it is an uncarved block . . .
[38] Literally: Once the block is carved there will be names.  Names, in a sense, carve up the world conceptually and artificially.  We think that if we have a name for something we understand it fully, and that it is entirely different from things with other names.  But the world is messy, not clear-cut.
[39] Or: All creatures (the ten thousand things) entrust their lives to It, yet It does not act as their master.
[40] See Chapter 27.
[41] According to one version:  The Dao endures without a name.
[42] See Chapter 32.
[43] Literally: that nameless virgin (or uncarved) block.
[44] Two ways to try to achieve peace:  chasing desires vs. eliminating desires
[45] He does not practice wu-wei or non-ego motivated action.  He acts with an agenda, plotting and scheming.
[46] An expert at rites, rituals, and ceremonies, as well as etiquette.
[47] This refers back to the first four lines.
[48] Or “steady.”
[49] Or “become upright and firm (secure).”
[50] According to another text, this line should read, “A carriage is more than the sum of its parts.”  This makes no sense in the context of the second stanza.  Other translations in line with the present one are: “Hence the highest renown is without renown,” and “Too many carriages are like no carriages.”
[51] In some versions Chapter 40 comes between Chapters 41 and 42.
[52] I agree with Lin Yutang in making this chapter the first of Part II, instead of Chapter 38 as is usually done.
[53] The vulgar, students of the lowest type.
[54] It would have been better to say:  The great splash makes no ripples, but see Chapter 14.
[55] “It is often understood that the One is the original material force or the Great Ultimate, the two are yin and yang, the three are their blending with the original material force, and the ten thousand things are things carrying the yin and embracing yang.  The similarity of this process to that of the Book of Changes, in which the Great Ultimate produces the Two Forces (yin and yang) and then the myriad things, is amazing.  The important point, however, is not the specific similarities, but the evolution from the simple to the complex.  This theory is common to nearly all Chinese philosophical schools.  It should be clearly noted that the evolution here as in the Book of Changes, is natural.  Production (sheng) is not personal creation or purposeful origination but natural causation.” – W. Chan.  Yin and yang are also referred to as two breaths or forces generative of life.
[56] This is a different character from the yi of Chapter 19, etc. which is pronounced the same way.  It appears in Chapters 42, 43, 48, and 55.  It means:  increase, more, gain, benefit.
[57] Or, has no personal opinions or views.
[58] These last two lines can be translated:
             Ordinary people fix their eyes and ears on him,
            And he treats them all as his children.
[59] Three out of ten are still growing, three out of ten have begun to deteriorate, and three are in between.  As in the answer to the famous question of the sphinx, first we walk on four limbs, then on two limbs, and then on three (including a cane).
[60] The thirteen are the four limbs and nine apertures of the body.
[61] “The relationship between Tao and te is not clearly stated, but it seems clear the te follows Tao (Ch. 23) and that, while Tao produces all things, it is te that fosters them.  Furthermore, in ancient Chinese classics, te (virtue or characteristic) is often equated with te (to obtain).  It is generally understood that while Tao is what each thing has obtained from Tao.  In this sense, te is its virtue or characteristic.  When Ho-Shang Kung equated te with ‘one’ in his commentary, he probably had this in mind.” – W. Chan
[62] Alternative translation: but not make them dependent (or coddle them). The same line appears in Chapters 2, 10, and 77.
[63] See Chapter 10
[64] As in Chapter 25, I used the word “world” for the more literal “all things under heaven.”
[65] See Chapter 16 and Chapter 50.
[66] The openings are the sense organs and the doors are the doors of the mind.  Meditation instructions.
[67] “Forty-two texts, including the Fu I text, listed by Chiang His-ch’ang, have hsi (to follow) instead of hsi (to practice), but the two words were interchangeable.” – W. Chan   “Ming” and “guang” both literally mean light, although the latter is considered a bright light.  It seems we are supposed to use the light of the Dao to reach illumination or enlightenment.
[68] This chapter is all about how people make life into a struggle.  Note how the message here contrasts with the Christian idea, “narrow is the road.”
[69] In the Dao
[70] By the Dao
[71] Or, through the eyes of the person, or, form the viewpoint of the person.
[72] By knowing myself or what is within me.
[73] See Chapter 30.
[74] According to the earliest known version: One who knows It does not talk about It, One who talks about It does not know It.
[75] The point of these lines is that the sage is honest without condemning others.
[76] To the Dao.  See Chapter 55.
[77] “This sentence is not clear and commentators and translators have interpreted it in their own way.” – W. Chan. 
[78] “ . . . The most highly honored place in the house, where family worship was carried out, grains and treasures were stored, etc.” – W. Chan
[79] This line has been translated in various other ways.  Perhaps it ties in with the next to last line.
[80] Grant tutor, grand preceptor, and grand protector. – W. Chan
[81] See Chapter 56.
[82] The word translated as “virtue” (good deeds) is “de” – the same word as the one which refers to the Power of Dao. 
[83] See Chapter 34 which contains almost identical wording.
[84] “A li is about a third of a mile.” – W. Chan    Alternate translation:  A height of 800 feet.
[85] See Chapter 29.
[86] See Chapter 25, last line.  In my opinion, the idea of this line is related to the idea expressed in the next to the last line of Chapter 65.  The phrase translated as “on its own nature” in Chapter 25 is literally “the self-so,” and the phrase translated as “in their natural state” in Chapter 64 is literally “their self-so.”  The phrase is “zi ran” which can also mean as it is or own nature or such as it is.
[87] “The doctrine of making people ignorant has been criticized more than any other doctrine taught by Lao Tzu.  However, one must remember that his whole philosophy is against cunning, deliberation, and overdevelopment of knowledge.  Moreover, the Taoist sage himself is expected to be ignorant.  Perhaps he means the same thing as the ancient poet who sang:
            Without awareness or knowledge
            Follow the principle of the Lord.
The outstanding Neo-Confucianist, Chang Tsai, says, ‘If one does so (follows the principle of the Lord) deliberately or consciously one will lose the principle of Nature.’  But too many rulers in Chinese history have adopted the policy of keeping the people ignorant, and, rightly or wrongly, critics have held Lao Tzu responsible.” – W. Chan  In defense of the writers of this book I would say that they were afraid that learning would lead to cleverness and craftiness which in turn would be used for bad purposes.  The character “yu” turns up in Chapters 20 and 38 where it means foolish.  It also means simple.
[88] See Chapter 16.  See also the end of Chapter 64.
[89] See the beginning of Chapter 61 and Chapter 62.  An alternate reading:  Then the great congruence (compliance) [with the Dao] is attained.
[90] See Chapter 22.
[91] A number of translators use the word “compassion” rather than the phrase “deep love.”
[92] See Note 32 to Chapter 28. Literally “implement” (“qi”) rather than “chief minister.”
[93] Scholars are not sure about the meaning of the word translated “grieves.”  Other possibilities are: “yields” and “has deep love (compassion).”  But noting Chapter 31, “grieves” or “sorrows” is the best choice.
[94] “Rich people, in times of tumult, dressed up as peasants and hid their jade treasures under their clothes.” – A. Waley.
[95] Alternate translation: To know without thinking you know is best.
[96] Alternate version:  bu zhi, bu zhi – Not to know you don’t know is a disease.
[97] In the sense of caring for himself.
[98] See Chapter 50.
[99] And hence becomes a debtor.
[100] In some versions, Chapters 80 and 81 are placed between Chapters 66 and 67.