Tao Te Ching

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The Tao Te Ching (UK: /ˌtaʊ tiː ˈtʃɪŋ/,[1] US: /ˌdaʊ dɛ ˈdʒɪŋ/;[2] simplified Chinese: 道德经; traditional Chinese: 道德經; pinyin: Dàodé Jīng [tâu tɤ̌ tɕíŋ] is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC sage Laozi. It is a fundamental text for both philosophical and religious Taoism. It also strongly influenced other schools of Chinese philosophy and religion, including Legalism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.


Striving for an excess of praise, one ends up without praise.
Know satisfaction and you shall not be imperiled; then you will long endure.
Tao Te Ching: Full text Translation, Notes, and Commentary by Victor H. Mair (1990)
  • The ways that can be walked are not the eternal Way;
The names that can be named are not the eternal name.
The nameless is the origin of the myriad creatures;
The named is the mother of the myriad creatures.
  • Chapter 1
  • When all under heaven know beauty as beauty,
already there is ugliness;
When everyone knows goodness,
this accounts for badness.
Being and nonbeing give birth to each other,
Difficult and easy complete each other,
Long and short form each other,
High and low fulfill each other,
Tone and voice harmonize with each other,
Front and back follow each other—
it is ever thus.
  • Chapter 2
  • The sage, in ruling,...
Always... ensures that
the knowledgeable dare not be hostile,
and that is all.
His rule is universal.
  • Chapter 3
  • The Way is empty,
yet never refills with use;
Bottomless it is,
like the forefather of the myriad creatures.
It files away sharp points,
unravels tangles,
diffuses light,
mingles with the dust.
Submerged it lies,
seeming barely to subsist.
I know not whose child it is,
only that it resembles the predecessor of God.
  • Chapter 4
  • Heaven and earth are inhumane;
they view the myriad creatures as straw dogs.
The sage is inhumane;
he views the common people as straw dogs.
  • Chapter 5
  • The valley spirit never dies—
it is called “the mysterious female”;
The gate of the mysterious female
is called “the root of heaven and earth.”
Gossamer it is,
seemingly insubstantial,
yet never consumed through use.
  • Chapter 6
  • If wealth and honor make you haughty,
you bequeath misfortune upon yourself.
  • Chapter 9
  • While you
Cultivate the soul and embrace unity,
can you keep them from separating?
Love the people and enliven the state,
can you do so without cunning?
  • Chapter 10
  • Thirty spokes converge on a single hub,
but it is in the space where there is nothing
that the usefulness of the cart lies.
Clay is molded to make a pot,
but it is in the space where there is nothing
that the usefulness of the clay pot lies.
Cut out doors and windows to make a room,
but it is in the spaces where there is nothing
that the usefulness of the room lies.
Benefit may be derived from something,
but it is in nothing that we find usefulness.
  • Chapter 11
  • We look for it but do not see it;
we name it “subtle.”
We listen for it but do not hear it;
we name it “rare.”
We grope for it but do not grasp it;
we name it “serene.”
These three cannot be fully fathomed,
Following behind it,
you cannot see its back;
Approaching it from the front,
you cannot see its head.
  • Chapter 14
  • Abolish sagehood and abandon cunning,
the people will benefit a hundredfold...
Abolish cleverness and abandon profit, bandits and thieves will be no more.
  • Chapter 19
  • There was something featureless yet complete,
born before heaven and earth;
it stood alone and unchanging.
We may regard it as the mother of heaven and earth.
Not knowing its name,
I style it the “Way.”
If forced to give it a name,
I would call it “great.”
  • Chapter 25
  • The Way is eternally nameless.
As soon as one begins to divide things up,
there are names;
Once there are names,
one should also know when to stop;
Knowing when to stop,
one thereby avoids peril.
  • Chapter 32
  • Rippling is the Way, flowing left and right!
Its tasks completed, its affairs finished,
Still it does not claim them for its own.
The myriad creatures return to it,
But it does not act as their ruler.
Eternally without desire,
It may be named among the small;
The myriad creatures return to it,
But it does not act as their ruler;
It may be named among the great.
  • Chapter 34
When the Way is lost, afterward comes integrity.
When integrity is lost, afterward comes humaneness.
When humaneness is lost, afterward comes righteousness.
When righteousness is lost, afterward comes etiquette.
  • Chapter 38
  • If feudal lords and kings were ever noble and thereby exalted, they would be likely to fall.
Therefore, It is necessary to be noble, and yet take humility as a basis.
  • Chapter 39
  • Striving for an excess of praise, one ends up without praise.
  • Chapter 39
  • Reversal is the movement of the Way;
Weakness is the usage of the Way.
All creatures under heaven are born from being;
Being is born from nonbeing.
  • Chapter 40
The Way gave birth to unity, Unity gave birth to duality, Duality gave birth to trinity, Trinity gave birth to the myriad creatures.
  • The Way gave birth to unity, Unity gave birth to duality, Duality gave birth to trinity, Trinity gave birth to the myriad creatures.
  • Chapter 42
Gain or loss, which is drearier?
Many loves entail great costs, Many riches entail heavy losses.
Know contentment and you shall not be disgraced, Know satisfaction and you shall not be imperiled; then you will long endure.
  • Chapter 44
No disaster is greater than discontent,
No crime is more grievous than the desire for gain.
Therefore, Contentment that derives from knowing when to be content is eternal contentment.
  • Chapter 46
  • Without going out-of-doors,
one may know all under heaven;
Without peering through windows,
one may know the Way of heaven.
The farther one goes,
The less one knows.
For this reason,
The sage knows without journeying,
understands without looking,
accomplishes without acting.
  • Chapter 47
never has a mind of his own;
He considers the minds of the common people to be his mind.
Treats well those who are good,
Also treat well those who are not good; thus is goodness attained.
Be sincere to those who are sincere, Also be sincere to those who are insincere; thus is sincerity attained.
The sage is self-effacing in his dealings with all under heaven, and bemuddles his mind for the sake of all under heaven.
The common people all rivet their eyes and ears upon him,
And the sage makes them all chuckle like children.
  • Chapter 49
  • The myriad creatures respect the Way and esteem integrity.
Respect for the Way and esteem for integrity are by no means conferred upon them
but always occur naturally.
The Way gives birth to them,
nurtures them,
rears them,
follows them,
shelters them,
toughens them,
sustains them,
protects them.
  • Chapter 51
  • The fields are choked with weeds,
The granaries are altogether empty.
Still there are some who
wear clothes with fancy designs and brilliant colors,
sharp swords hanging at their sides, are sated with food,
overflowing with possessions and wealth.
This is called “the brazenness of a bandit.”
Tire brazenness of a bandit is surely not the Way!
  • Chapter 53
Cultivated in the family, integrity is ample.
Cultivated in the village, integrity lasts long.
Cultivated in the state, integrity is abundant.
Cultivated everywhere under heaven, integrity is vast.
  • Chapter 54
When government is meddlesome,
the state is lacking.
Disaster is that whereon good fortune depends,
Good fortune is that wherein disaster lurks.
Who knows their limits?
When there is no uprightness,
correct reverts to crafty,
good reverts to gruesome.
  • Chapter 58
Being prepared means having a heavy store of integrity;
With a heavy store of integrity, he can overcome everything.
  • Chapter 59
  • What was the reason for the ancients
to value this so highly?
Did they not say:
“Seek and thou shalt receive; Sin and thou shalt be forgiven”? Therefore, It is valued by all under heaven.
  • Chapter 62
  • Act before there is a problem;
Bring order before there is disorder.
  • Chapter 64
  • A good warrior is not bellicose,
A good fighter does not anger,
A good conqueror does not contest his enemy,
One who is good at using others puts himself below them.
This is called “integrity without competition,”
This is called “using others,”
This is called “parity with heaven,”
—the pinnacle of the ancients.
  • Chapter 68
  • My words are
very easy to understand,
very easy to practice...
Those who understand me are few
The sage wears coarse clothing over his shoulders,
but carries jade within his bosom.
  • Chapter 70
  • To realize that you do not understand is a virtue;
Not to realize that you do not understand is a defect.
  • Chapter 71
  • The Way of heaven
does not war
yet is good at conquering
  • Heaven’s net is vast;
Though its meshes are wide,
nothing escapes.
  • Chapter 73
  • If the people never fear death, what is the purpose of threatening to kill them?
  • Chapter 74
  • The Way of heaven reduces surplus to make up for scarcity;
The Way of man reduces scarcity and pays tribute to surplus.
  • Chapter 77
  • The Way of heaven is impartial, yet is always with the good person.
  • Chapter 79
  • The sage does not hoard.
  • Chapter 81

Quotes about Tao Te Ching[edit]

  • Next to the Bible and the Bhagavad Gītā, the Tao Te Ching is the most translated book in the world. Well over a hundred different renditions of the Taoist classic have been made into English alone, not to mention the dozens in German, French, Italian, Dutch, Latin, and other European languages. There are several reasons for the superabundance of translations. The first is that the Tao Te Ching is considered to be the fundamental text of both philosophical and religious Taoism. Indeed, the Tao, or Way, which is at the heart of the Tao Te Ching, is also the centerpiece of all Chinese religion and thought.
    Naturally, different schools and sects bring somewhat different slants to the Tao, but all subscribe to the notion that there is a single, overarching Way that encompasses everything in the universe. As such, the Tao Te Ching shares crucial points of similarity with other major religious scriptures the world over.
    • Victor H. Mair, Preface to Tao Te Ching (Translation, Notes, and Commentary by Victor H. Mair)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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