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This is the talk page for discussing improvements to the Laozi page.

early comments 2005 - 2007[edit]

"ommision" I just reverted seems more fabulous than factual. Cite your sources. ~ Kalki 23:15, 24 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I didn't want to add this, as I don't quite know how things work around here, but I've heard of a saying by laozi:

I have three treasures which I hold fast. The first is mercy.

Dessydes 03:05, 4 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The Chinese edition of this page on wikiquote doesn't seem to have an equivalent of this attributed quote: "A true traveler has no fixed plan, and is not intent on arriving.", according to what I was told by someone who reads Chinese.

Can someone from the Chinese version verify it and add its Chinese version, please. meta:user:alif01

Stephen Mitchell's version of the Tao Te Ching is an interpretation, not a translation. Mitchell doesn't actually speak Chinese.[1] -- 23:56, 11 September 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Regarding the unsourced quotes:

  • "A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step." - This comes from chapter 64. It is more accurate to say "A journey of a thousand li begins from beneath your feet."
  • "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." - This is not part of the Tao Te Ching. It is misattributed to Laozi by people who didn't actually read the book.
  • "Governing a large country is like frying a small fish. You spoil it with too much poking." - The first sentence comes from chapter 60. The second sentence is not in the Tao Te Ching. It was added by Stephen Mitchell in his interpretation. -- 00:39, 12 September 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Regarding Chapter 60, first sentence "Ruling a big country is like cooking a small fish.", the Wing-Tsit Chan translation/commentary (Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, 1969) adds as a footnote "Too much handling will spoil it". Chan does not source this footnote to a particular commentator (all of the commentary in this book is translated from classical sources) which indicates that he sees "too much handling will spoil it" as more a translation than a commentary, something which would have been intrinsically understood by the reader.

Point taken but literally it means "Ruling a big country is like cooking a small fish" and only: while I admit it is intrinsically understandable, grammatically it isn't translation. --Aphaia 09:14, 18 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I am impressed with a bunch of translation linked as "external links" ... we need to have all of them? Now it seems to me sort of link directories ... --Aphaia 05:39, 21 September 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

In a just society, it is shameful to be poor. In a corrupt society, it is shameful to be rich.[edit]

I see this going around on the internet but cannot find any source. Did some more extensive searching and found (on wikiquote) that it was not even him:

“When a country is well governed, poverty and a mean condition are things to be ashamed of. When a country is ill governed, riches and honor are things to be ashamed of.” — Confucius (551–479 BC), 'The Analects', Chapter VIII (邦有道貧且賤焉恥也,邦無道富且貴焉恥也。)

(Attila.lendvai (talk) 15:21, 5 March 2014 (UTC))Reply[reply]

when your cup is full, stop pouring[edit]

Wayne Dyer attributes the quote: when your cup is full, stop pouring to Lao Tzu. Is this correct? Thanks, --Lbeaumont 02:03, 25 January 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Dyer is referring to Chapter 9:
Rather than fill it to the brim by keeping it upright

Better to have stopped in time;

Hammer it to a point,

And the sharpness cannot be preserved for ever;

There may be gold and jade to fill a hall

But there is none who can keep them.

To be overbearing when one has wealth and position

Is to bring calamity upon oneself.

To retire when the task is accomplished

Is the way of heaven.

-- 21:06, 16 October 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Note that many of the pictographic declarations in Tao Te Ching are interpreted, translated and paraphrased in many ways, and thus variants abound.
  • Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength; loving someone deeply gives you courage.
  • He who obtains has little; he who scatters has much.
  • The true free living human-being is the one that achieves his dream without depending on someone.
  • To lead people walk behind them.
  • To see things in the seed, that is genius.
  • When a nation is filled with strife, then do patriots flourish.
  • When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you.
  • It's only when a mosquito lands on your testicles that you realize there's always a way to solve problems without using violence
  • New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.
    • This is being widely circulated in picture form, attributed to Lao Tzu, but I can't find source details. Greenman (talk) 11:33, 28 May 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
    • This is being attributed to Lao Tzu on social media sites. I believe that it's misattributed, but can't confirm that it's not from the Stephen Mitchell interpretation. Cobalt137cc (talk) 12:49, 27 November 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    • One big tip off that it is in fact new age palaver is the word "depressed" which I don't recall being used in ancient Chinese vernacular. Jbgfour (talk) 04:58, 12 February 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    • Here's an attribution to Warren Buffet [2] Tomruen (talk) 12:58, 14 May 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    • This source says Junia Bretas, [3], and here [4] says in the comments: Tomruen (talk) 13:16, 14 May 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]
      • “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” This is NOT a Lao Tzu quote but a translation of “Depressão é excesso de passado em nossas mentes. Ansiedade excesso de futuro. O momento presente é a chave para a cura de todos oa males mentais.” By Junia Bretas, a Brazilian motivational speaker

Quotes about Laozi (unsourced)[edit]

  • I know how birds can fly, fishes swim, and animals run. The runner may be snared, the swimmer hooked, and the flyer shot by the arrow. But there is the dragon: I cannot tell how he mounts on the wind through the clouds, and rises to heaven. Today I have seen Lao-tzu, and can only compare him to the dragon.
  • I recall this was attributed to Confucius within an simplified version of the Zhuangzi - which I didn't perceive as an overly Confucius-friendly document. I look thru the full text (, but I don't see proper reference. perhaps parts of The Revolution of Heaven. Found references that it's from text translation (of what?) by James Legge.

Stephen Mitchell version[edit]

Please note that Stephen Mitchell's version, while a pleasure to read, is not a translation of Laozi. It is an interpretation that strays from the original work. Translations of the Daodejing vary in their quality. The Ivanhoe translation is said to be a good one. -- 20:50, 16 October 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I was about to write the same thing. Before adding a Mitchell translation, editors should check other translations to see whether the quote should properly be attributed to Mitchell rather than to Laozi Grover cleveland (talk) 19:52, 13 January 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Water your dreams"[edit]

Anyone able to find a source for this quote, widely attributed to Laozi?

Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.

I'll see what I can dig up. JesseW (talk) 15:42, 25 April 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What does this quote mean? Please if you have the answer, type below. I doubt anyone will ever read or answer my question. ~ —This unsigned comment is by 2605:a000:123b:c0:0:4166:a47:e288 (talkcontribs) .

To some extent it can mean whatever it indicates to any reader of the quote — but in whatever interpretations it might be given, it is very likely not credible as even a very loose translation of anything by Laozi; though it does seem to have spread widely on the internet, the earliest occurrence of such a statement actually published in print is in Thrive Through Menopause (52 Brilliant Ideas) (2008) by Monica Troughton, where it is attributed to Laotzu — but most likely it had already begun its career as a misattribution on the internet prior to that. The origins of it currently are obscure. ~ Kalki·· 04:19, 5 March 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"The words of truth are paradoxical"[edit]

I've seen this attributed to Laozi. Anyone know if this is correctly attributed? 16:35, 28 January 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The original quote seems to be: "The words of truth are always paradoxical!" – see [5], bottom of page. ~ DanielTom (talk) 16:47, 28 January 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"One does not walk into the forest....."[edit]

"One does not walk into the forest and accuse the trees of being off-center, nor do they visit the shore and call the waves imperfect. Why then do we look at ourselves this way?"

Another internet meme going around attributed to Lao Tzu, which I cannot find. If someone could find the actual source of this and add it to the misquotations section, that would be great.

2/13/2021: (don't know where the misquotations section is) It appears that this quote is more accurately a summarization of a blog post by Hindu Guru Ram Dass [1] [2]

Unsourced Leadership Quote[edit]

I've come across this quote multiple times, attributed to Lao Tzu but have not been able to track down any textual source for it. Does anyone have an idea where it comes from?

"Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say 'We have done this ourselves.'"

Uncle Jay (talk) 16:21, 15 August 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Uncle Jay: It may be from the Tao Te Ching:
« Pre-eminent rulers—the people are unaware of their existence:
Those of the second order—the people love and praise them:
Those of the third order—the people fear them:
Those of the fourth order—the people despise them.
Where confidence is lacking
How exceedingly will distrust flourish.
When his public duties are fulfilled and his plans have succeeded
The people all say—"We did this ourselves."
(translation by Orde Poynton). ~ DanielTom (talk) 20:55, 15 August 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@DanielTom Thanks for the find! Good to know there's at least a kernel of truth in the quote -- though I'm wondering if the rest is a modern embellishment for added inspiration.
If the two are really connected, what's the next step for figuring that out, or including it here? Is there a way to list something as the original quote plus modernizations/embellishments, one step short of Misattributed?
I apologize if I'm thinking in the wrong terms on this. I'm new to editing here and was just curious about this one: the quote seems pretty ubiquitous in certain circles, which is what brought me here, and I wanted to get to the truth of it.
Uncle Jay (talk) 15:16, 16 August 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Uncle Jay: The original quote is already listed in the article:

  • A leader is best when people barely know that he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, "We did this ourselves."
    • Ch. 17

The variant you mentioned is indeed very widely quoted, so I agree that it too should be included in the article (maybe under the "Misattributed" section, but I'm not sure). The easiest way may be to simply add another bullet point after "Ch. 17" stating something like:

  • A paraphrase of this quotation, with modern embellishments, is often attributed to Laozi: "Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. With the best leaders when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say, 'We have done this ourselves.'"

You can do this yourself. (I may do it eventually, if I can come up with better wording.) Thanks ~ DanielTom (talk) 16:23, 16 August 2017 (UTC) (P.S. Pinging @Kalki, native speaker, and article contributor.) ~ DanielTom (talk) 16:37, 16 August 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@DanielTom: I made the suggested changes, opting for a brief mention in the Tao Te Ching section and the full explanation in Misattributed, as I didn't see any other major comments in the main sections.

This is my first significant page edit, so please let me know if I messed something up. Thanks for the help! Uncle Jay (talk) 17:30, 16 August 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]


  • When the student is ready the teacher appears. When the student is truly ready the teacher disappears.

Blank part of page[edit]

Between "老子 Lǎozi (c. 6th – 5th century BC) was a Chinese monist philosopher; also called Lao Zi, Lao Tzu, Lao Tse, or Lao Tze. The Tao Te Ching (道德經, Pinyin: Dào Dé Jīng, or Dao De Jing) represents the sole document generally attributed to Laozi." and the beginning of the quotes the page is blank apart from the illustrations on the right. Is it possible for there to be some text next to the illustrations? Mcljlm (talk) 11:35, 8 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  1. [6], Ram Dass on Self Judgment
  2. [7], GoodReads: Quote by Ram Dass