Nguyễn Chiến Công

Dao De Jing - Book of Ethics

To read the vietnamese version, click here.

Most translations of the Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching (道德經) today are quite mediocre. A good translation doesn’t need too many footnotes or too much poeticization, but should be still understandable. Translators analyze with their personal and limited perspective, to lose the soul of the work. Because in the end, all knowledge is limited, understanding the wisdom of a certain philosophy (哲學) will help the translator go beyond the knowledge of words and its language.

The name 道德經 can be translated as Book of Ethics. Ethics in Western languages date back to ēthike (moral philosophy), which draws its origin from the word ēthos (manners). Meanwhile, in Chinese-related languages, 道德 is composed of [way] and [virtue]. The word itself is composed of [walking] and [head], and the word has [small step] and [heart] in it.

This work is said to be composed by 老子 [Lao Tzu], divided into 2 main parts: Upper and Lower. With erudite words, 81 chapters go through many topics from how to live to how to govern. The Dao De Jing may have been patched together by many authors, and we do not really know exactly who Lao Tzu was ; it doesn’t really matter. Due to many variations, the number of words in the Dao De Jing is still inconsistent:

* 2 copies of the Silk Book (帛书) written on silk found at Mǎ wáng duī (馬王堆), the first () version includes 5342 words, the second () version includes 5344 words.
* The book《道德經章句》by Hé Shàng Gōng (河上公) has 5201 words.
* The book《老子道德經注》by Wáng Bì (王弼) has 5162 words.
* The writing on bamboo cards found at Guō diàn (郭店) has over 13,000 words, of which more than 2,000 words are similar to other versions.

There are many profound parts and some obscure parts, yet not shallow.

The Dao De Jing is a work for rulers because it contains a lot of political thinking. But, there is a fundamental problem here: if one understands wu-wei (無為), one cannot become a king. To become kings and lords, one must want, that is, to have desire, and to have desire is to have action (有為). Wu-wei only has one way, which is to retreat, not do politics, because politics is fundamentally a passion for power and lust after all. Therefore, those who desire to be kings can’t understand the Dao De Jing, and those who understand do not want to be kings. Because of the lack of an existential investigation into the nature of thinking and the self. One cannot find order in disorder, one has to look at disorder and understand it first. The main theme of the work is non-action (無為), but for non-action to be, it must start from non-self (無我). And to be selfless, one has to understand the self beforehand. This should concern anybody, not just kings.

This is just a simple translation, for fun and mainly to learn Chinese, without any further judgment or analysis.


上經 [Upper part] - 道經 [Chapters on the Way]

一、 Chapter 1

The way that can be followed is not the eternal way. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth. Named is the mother of all things.
Without desires, one can observe the mystery of the Way. With desires, one can only see its manifestations.
Both share the same source, yet their names are different. Mystical or miraculous. It is the gateway to all wonders.

二、 Chapter 2

When everyone in the world knows that beautiful is beautiful, then ugly already exists. When everyone knows that good is good, then goodness ceases to be good.
Therefore, being and non-being create each other, difficult and easy complement each other, long and short shape each other, high and low lean on each other, sound and tone harmonize with each other, before and after follow each other.
Thus, the sage acts without effort and teaches without words.
To enable all things to flourish without hindrance, to create without claiming ownership, to act without relying on effort, to achieve success without seeking recognition.
Therefore, by not holding onto anything, nothing is lost.

三、 Chapter 3

Not venerating talented individuals prevents people from competing. Not valuing rare goods prevents theft. Not flaunting desires prevents people's hearts from becoming disorderly.
Therefore, the governance of the sage is empty-hearted, full-bellied, weak-willed, and strong-boned. This always causes the people to be unaware and without desire. It makes those with knowledge dare not act at all.
Following the doing of non-doing, surely there is nothing that cannot be governed.

四、 Chapter 4

The empty way is used continuously, yet there's no waste.
Such root is like the ancestor of all things.
Bend the sharpness, untie the tangles, soften the brightness, and merge with the dusty.
It seems still and silent, yet remains present.
We do not know where the Dao originates from. It seems to exist even before the highest deity.

五、 Chapter 5

Heaven and earth are impartial, regard all things as straw dogs.
The sage is not humane, regards all beings as straw dogs.
In the midst of heaven and earth, is it like a lock?
Empty yet lacking nothing, the more it gives out, the more it moves.
The more one talks, the harder it is to understand, rather hold back within.

六、 Chapter 6

The spirit of the immortal valley, that is the mysterious stream's fissure.
This mysterious cave entrance truly is the foundation of heaven and earth.
Vast and boundless like existence, it can be used without ever being exhausted.

七、 Chapter 7

The sky is long-lasting, the earth is enduring. The reason why the sky and earth can endure for so long is because they do not exist for themselves; therefore, they can sustain life indefinitely.
That's why the sage puts himself behind but remains in front, puts himself outside but still remains inside.
Could it be because of being carefree? Therefore, even personal matters are also carefree.

八、 Chapter 8

The highest goodness is like water.
Water benefits all creatures without contention, dwelling in places everyone dislikes, thus it is close to the Dao.
Choose the right land to stay, help others with sincerity, speak truthfully, from the depths of the heart, govern appropriately, rely on competence, and act at the right timing.
That person who does not contend, therefore does not make mistakes.

九、 Chapter 9

Keeping it full forever, one better stop.
Grasp the sharpness, one can't hold onto it for long.
With gold and jade filling the house, one can't keep hold of them.
Wealth and arrogance invite calamity upon oneself.
When things are done, when the heart is fulfilled, it's time to withdraw, that is the way of heaven.

十、 Chapter 10

Nurturing the soul of the Dao, can one avoid separation?
Channeling energy to the point of gentleness, can one be like a child?
Sweeping away the dark view, can one avoid mistakes?
Loving the people and governing the nation, can it be done without any doing?
The gate of heaven opens and closes, can one become soft and yielding?
Understand everything clearly, can it be without knowledge?
To be born like all things, to live as if possessions do not matter, to act without reliance, to be skilled without asking for position, this is the mystical virtue.

十一、 Chapter 11

Thirty spokes converge on a single hub; occupying emptiness makes the wheel useful.
Mixing earth to make utensils, occupying emptiness makes them useful.
Carving doors to make a house, occupying emptiness makes it habitable.
Therefore, use what is to gain advantage, and use what is not to achieve purpose.

十二、 Chapter 12

The five colors blind the eye. The five sounds deafen the ear. The five flavors dull the taste. Chasing and hunting induce madness in the heart. Possessions and wealth which are difficult to obtain bring harm.
Therefore, the sage prioritizes the belly over the eyes, thus discarding one to keep the other.

十三、 Chapter 13

Prestige and disgrace cause worry; self-esteem harms oneself.
Why do both honor and disgrace cause anxiety? Achieving honor makes one worry, losing it also makes one worry. Therefore, it is said that both honor and disgrace cause anxiety.
Why does self-esteem harm oneself? The reason for such great troubles is precisely because of having a self. If one doesn't have a self, what troubles could one possibly have?
Therefore, whoever values the world more than themselves can be entrusted with the world. Whoever loves the world more than themselves can be entrusted to take care of the world.

十四、 Chapter 14

Not seeing when looking is called flatness. Not hearing when listening is called silence. Not grasping when holding is called concealment. These three cannot be fully understood, so blend them into one.
Above, it is not bright; below, it is not dim. Vast and without a name, then returning to the place where there is nothing. This is the appearance of emptiness, the form of the formless, it is fleeting. One can't make heads or tails of it.
Hold onto the ancient Dao to govern present affairs. Understanding the original source is the essence of the Dao.

十五、 Chapter 15

A virtuous person is like a scholar, concealing mysterious elegance and grace, where knowledge cannot even reach. Because it cannot be understood, it is forced to be described.
Hesitate like crossing a river in winter. Suspect like danger is present from all sides. Dignified like a guest. Dissolve like ice. Unadorned like raw wood. Vast like a valley. Chaotic like muddy water.
Who can stop the muddiness, letting it gradually clear on its own? Who can remain calm and wait, allowing movement to gradually arise?
The person who adheres to the Dao does not desire to accumulate. Because he does not accumulate, he's able to conceal the new.

十六、 Chapter 16

The utmost empty mind maintains extreme stillness.
All things flourish, and one observes their return. All things spread out, yet they all return to their roots.
Returning to the source is called stillness; stillness is returning to one's destiny. Returning to one's destiny is the eternal Dao.
Understanding the unchanging is called wisdom. Not understanding the unchanging leads to mistakes and misfortune.
Understanding the unchanging leads to clemency. Clemency leads to equity. Equity leads to prosperity. Prosperity leads to divinity. Divinity leads to the Dao. The Dao leads to eternity. Without the self, there is no danger.

十七、 Chapter 17

The truly majestic is only to be known simply by its existence.
One level below, they love and praise. Lower still, they fear. Below that, they despise. If there is not enough sincerity, the people will not trust.
Leisurely, words are cherishly saved. When the work is accomplished and the task is completed, the people all believe it was achieved by themselves.

十八、 Chapter 18

When the Dao is lost, humaneness and righteousness come to be. When intelligence arises, hypocrisy occur.
When there is discord in the family, filial duties take place.
When the nation is in chaos, loyalty appears.

十九、 Chapter 19

Abandon deity and knowledge, people's benefits multiply a hundredfold
Abandon humaneness and righteousness, people will again be filial.
Abandon talent and profit, there will be no thieves or robbers.
These three things are merely superficial etiquette, not complete in any way.
Therefore, commands should depend on simplicity. That is to maintain a humble and straightforward demeanor. Having few private matters means having few desires.

二十、 Chapter 20

Abandoning knowledge ends all worries. Respect and despisal, how far apart are they? Good and evil, how different are they?
The place where people fear cannot be not feared. The wilderness is vast and endless.
People rejoice as if enjoying glory, like spring ascending to the podium.
I calmly face what is about to happen, like a child who doesn't yet know how to smile. Drifting as if having no place to return.
People have abundance, yet I alone am deprived. My mind is confused, ignorant and in darkness. In this haze, others are bright and clear, while I alone am dim and ignorant. People are bustling with activity, while I alone am despondent. Quiet and withdrawn like the ocean, roaming aimlessly like a strong wind. Everyone has their purpose, while I alone am foolish and insignificant.
Only I live differently from others, yet I cherish the mother above all beings.

二十一、 Chapter 21

The appearance of great virtue depends only on the Dao.
The Dao encompasses all things, being vague and obscure. Because it is not precise, it contains profound matters. Because it is not clear, there is place for existence. In its subtle and graceful nature, there is substance. In such a truthful essence, there is trustworthiness.
From ancient times to now, its renown has never faded, illuminating all things.
How do I know the state of all things at their beginning? Through this.

二十二、 Chapter 22

To be bent is to become whole, to be crooked is to become straight, to be hollow is to become full, to be worn out is to be renewed, to have little is to gain, to have much is to be confused.
Therefore, the sage embraces the Dao to serve as a model for the world. Not considering himself knowledgeable, he is wise. Not considering himself right, he is clear. Not boasting of his achievements, he achieves. Not being arrogant, he is capable.
Because he does not compete, no one in the world can compete with him.
From ancient times, people have said no matter how much bending, it still remains whole. Isn't this more than just empty words? Truly, what is whole will always return to its state.

二十三、 Chapter 23

To have few words is to be natural.
Because the wind does not blow all morning, and rain does not fall all day. Who created this? Heaven and earth. If heaven and earth cannot last forever, how much less can man?
Therefore, those who follow the Dao are in harmony with the Dao. Those who follow virtue are in harmony with virtue. Those who embrace loss are in harmony with loss. When in harmony with the Dao, the Dao joyfully accepts them. When in harmony with virtue, virtue joyfully accepts them. When in harmony with loss, loss joyfully accepts them.
Where there is insufficient trust, there is something not worth trusting.

二十四、 Chapter 24

A person who stands on tiptoe cannot stand firm. A person who takes long strides cannot move smoothly. A person who thinks they know is not enlightened. A person who considers themselves right is not clear. A person who claims achievements has no achievements. A proud person has no talent.
From the perspective of the Dao, these are excess belongings to discard. All things detest them, so those who possess the Dao are not attached.

二十五、 Chapter 25

There is something chaotic and formless that existed before heaven and earth. It is still, empty, standing alone, unchanging, and operates endlessly without rest. It can be considered the mother of heaven and earth.
We do not know its name, so we call it the Dao. Forced to name it, we call it the great stream. The great stream flows through, flows far away, and then returns.
Therefore, if the Dao is vast, the sky is vast, the earth is vast, and the ruler is also vast. In the realm of sky and earth, there are four great things, and the ruler holds one of them. People follow the laws of the land, the land follows the laws of the sky, the sky follows the laws of the Dao, and the Dao follows the laws of nature.

二十六、 Chapter 26

Heavy is the root of lightness. Stillness is the master of movement.
Therefore, the sage wanders all day without abandoning his luggage. Despite wealth and glory, he still maintains a noble and detached soul.
How can one who holds supreme power look down upon the people? Lightness surely leads to loss of roots, haste surely leads to loss of control.

二十七、 Chapter 27

Walking skillfully leaves no trace. Speaking skillfully leaves no mistakes. Counting skillfully does not require a measuring tool. Closing a door without using a latch, yet it's impossible to open. Tying a knot without a rope, yet it's impossible to untie.
That's why, the sage is skilled in rescuing people, so no one is abandoned. He's skilled in rescuing things, so nothing is abandoned. This is called inheriting the light.
Therefore, the skilled one is the teacher of the unskilled. The unskilled person provides an opportunity for the skilled one to help. Not respecting the teacher, not cherishing his experience, even with intelligence, one remains foolish. The skills lie in that.

二十八、 Chapter 28

Knowing strength, keeping gentleness, is to be a stream for the world. As a stream for the world, the eternal virtue does not depart, returning to purity.
Knowing brightness, keeping darkness, establishes principles for the world. Establishing principles for the world, the eternal virtue does not err, returning to infinity.
Knowing honor, keeping humility, is to be a valley for the world. As a valley for the world, the eternal virtue is fulfilled, returning to simplicity.
Simplicity becomes clemency; the sage uses it to govern effectively. Therefore, the great principle does not divide.

二十九、 Chapter 29

Those who desire to dominate the world, one sees it can't succeed. The spirit and vitality of the world cannot be grasped; trying to act is to fail, trying to hold on is to lose.
Therefore, things either go or follow, either inhale or exhale, either are strong or weak, either are raised or destroyed.
That's why, the sage abandons excessive extravagance and extreme extremes.

三十、 Chapter 30

If using the Dao to assist kings and lords, and not using military force to coerce the world, everything will go smoothly. Where soldiers encamp, thorns and brambles grow. After the grand army passes, surely there will be five years of hardship.
Therefore, there is nothing better than doing good to achieve results, without needing to exert force. Do it without arrogance, without boasting, without pride. Without any other choice, do without seeking forcefully.
Something strong surely ages fast; It is contrary to the Dao, and contrary to the Dao, it is soon to perish.

三十一、 Chapter 31

The best weapons are terribly harmful, everyone fears and hates them, and that's why, those with the Dao don't use them.
The gentleman values the left side when at home, and values the right side when using weapons. Weapons are implements of bad fortune; they are not the tools of the gentleman. They are used only when unavoidable, with a calm demeanor above all. Winning without grace while beautifying it is to fancy murder. And, those who like to kill cannot succeed in life.
Serendipity is on the left, misfortune is on the right. The deputy general is on the left, the chief general is on the right; this is the ceremonial etiquette used in mourning rites. When killing many people, one must weep and lament with pity. Even in victory, one must stand as the master of mourning.

三十二、 Chapter 32

道常無名。朴雖小, 天下不敢臣。侯王若能守之,萬物將自賓。天地相合,以降甘露,民莫之令而自均。
The eternal Dao has no name. Though simple and plain, no one in the world dares to underestimate it. If kings and lords can uphold it, all things will naturally submit. Heaven and earth will be in harmony, rain will fall in due season, and the people will act without coercion, naturally and justly.
Laws and regulations all have names. Once a position is attained, one should know when to stop; knowing when to stop means there will be no danger. Like the Dao with the world, it flows like a stream merging into rivers and the sea.

三十三、 Chapter 33

Knowing others is intelligence, knowing oneself is enlightenment. Conquering others is having strength, conquering oneself is being resilient. Knowing contentment is being rich. Being resilient is having willpower.
Not losing one's roots leads to enduring. To die without losing the Dao is longevity.

三十四、 Chapter 34

The great Dao flows everywhere; it can turn left or right. All things depend on it for life but it does not interfere. It accomplishes its work without claiming credit, nourishes all things without ruling over them. The eternal Dao is without desire; it can be considered small. Yet all things return to it without being ruled; it can be considered great.
That which ultimately does not consider itself great, thereby can achieve greatness.

三十五、 Chapter 35

That which holds onto the fundamental essence, the world will rally in its direction. All converging harmlessly, this is great peace.
Music and delicious food make the passerby stop. But when the Dao is spoken of, it seems bland and flavorless; it cannot be seen, it cannot be heard, yet it is inexhaustible in its use.

三十六、 Chapter 36

To shrink, one must first grow. To weaken something, one must first strengthen it. To abolish someone, one must first promote them. To take something, one must first give it away. This is called subtle wisdom. Softness overcomes hardness.
Fish cannot leave deep water; a nation's treasures should not be displayed.

三十七、 Chapter 37

The eternal Dao does nothing, yet nothing is left undone.
If kings and lords could uphold it, all things would transform themselves.
When transformation happens yet there's still desire for more, I would use the nameless simplicity to restrain them. This would lead to the absence of desire. Without desires, there is tranquility, and the world would naturally be at peace.

下經 [Lower part] - 德經 [Chapters on virtue]

三十八、 Chapter 38

The one with high virtue does not show off their virtue, and thus they have virtue. The one with low virtue strives to display their virtue, and thus they lack virtue.
The one with high virtue does not do, yet doesn't pretend, so there is no intention. The one with low virtue does not do, yet pretends, so intention is present.
The person of superior humaneness acts without intentionality. The person of superior righteousness acts with intentionality. The person of superior propriety acts, but when no one responds, they force it upon others. Therefore, when the Dao is lost, virtue appears. When virtue is lost, benevolence appears. When benevolence is lost, righteousness appears. When righteousness is lost, propriety appears. Propriety is the mere deceptive appearance of loyalty and faithfulness, and the beginning of disorder. Foreknowledge is the superficial embellishment of the Dao, and the start of great foolishness.
That's why, the great sage dwells in substance, not in the superficial. Live in reality, not in ornamentation. Thus, he discards the latter and embraces the former.

三十九、 Chapter 39

Old things that attained the Dao; Heaven attained the Dao and became clear. Earth attained the Dao and became tranquil. Deities attained the Dao and became sacred. Valleys attained the Dao and overflowed. All beings attained the Dao and flourished. When kings and lords attained the Dao, the world was harmonious. All because they achieved the Dao.
If heaven is not clear, it will crack. If the earth is not tranquil, it will decay. If spirits are not sacred, they will dissipate. If valleys do not overflow, they will dry up. If all things do not flourish, they will perish. If kings and lords are not esteemed, they will lose their thrones.
Therefore, honor takes humility as foundation, high takes low as base. Thus, kings and lords, in their humility, refer to themselves as humble servants of the people. Is this not indeed taking humility as foundation? Is it not true?
In the end, words exchanged don't matter. One should not shine like jade, but should be as rough as stone.

四十、 Chapter 40

Returning is the movement of the Dao. Yielding is the direction of the Dao.
All things in heaven and on earth come from the existence of something. Existence comes from nothingness.

四十一、 Chapter 41

The superior practitioner hears the Dao, diligently practices it. The average practitioner hears the Dao, has it yet like not having it. The inferior practitioner hears the Dao, laughs out loud. If one does not laugh, then it is not worthy to be called the Dao.
The ancients said: The Dao that is bright seems dark. The Dao that advances seems to retreat. The Dao that is flat seems to have rough patches. Virtue that is great seems like a valley. Greatness seems like yielding. Virtue that is ample seems lacking. Virtue that is honest seems inelegant. Virtue that is simple seems forever changing.
A great square has no corners, great talent matures slowly, great sound has few words, great substance has no form, the hidden Dao has no name. Only the Dao is generous and gives without expectation, yet it brings completion.

四十二、 Chapter 42

The Dao gives birth to One, One gives birth to Two, Two gives birth to Three, Three gives birth to the myriad of creatures. The myriad of creatures carry the Yin and embrace the Yang, blending their vital energies harmoniously.
People despise being humble servants, yet kings and lords call themselves so. Thus, in life, less is more, and more is less.
What the ancients taught, and what I now teach, is that fiendish brutes do not meet a natural death. Let us take this as a lesson.

四十三、 Chapter 43

The softest thing in the world can penetrate the hardest. The non-existent can enter where there is no space. I take knowing non-doing as useful.
To teach without words, to find usefulness in non-doing; few in the world can comprehend this.

四十四、 Chapter 44

Which is closer, fame or the body? Which is more important, wealth or the body? Gain or loss, which one is harmful?
Therefore, loving too much surely leads to much loss, possessing too much surely results in much loss. Knowing contentment avoids disgrace, knowing when to stop avoids danger, thus one can endure indefinitely.

四十五、 Chapter 45

The complete seems incomplete, yet its function is flawless. The infinitely full seems empty, yet its function is inexhaustible. The straightest seems curved, the most skillful seems clumsy, the best argument seems to yield.
Calm conquers agitation, cold conquers heat; clarity and tranquility bring order to the world.

四十六、 Chapter 46

When the world has the Dao, horses are used for hauling manure. When the world lacks the Dao, warhorses are born on the field.
No calamity is greater than not knowing what is enough. No sin is greater than greed. Therefore, knowing enough is enough, and it will always be enough.

四十七、 Chapter 47

Not leaving the house, yet knowing the world. Not looking out the window, yet see the way of heaven. The farther you go, the less you know.
Therefore, the sage knows without traveling, sees without looking, and achieves without doing.

四十八、 Chapter 48

Following studying, one learns a little more each day, and following the Dao, a little less each day. Less and less until one reaches non-doing.
Not doing yet nothing can't be done. Always gain the world without any incident. Taking the world forcefully is not enough to have the world.

四十九、 Chapter 49

The sage has no fixed opinions, takes the hearts of the common people as their own heart. Be good to the good, and also good to the not-so-good; how virtuous it is. Trust the trustworthy, and also trust the untrustworthy; how trustworthy it is.
The sage feels awkward among the people, but behaves with natural simplicity for the world. The common folk all focus their ears and eyes on the sage, who regards them all as small children.

五十、 Chapter 50

Life and death on the edge of a knife.
There are thirteen ways of living, thirteen ways of dying; the life of man inevitably leads to death, and there are thirteen ways to lead there. Why is this so? Because there are many forms of birth and growth.
It is said that those who nurture life well, do not encounter wild beasts on the road, entering the army does not lead to war. Rhinoceroses have nowhere to thrust their horns, tigers have nowhere to extend their claws, and weapons have nowhere to stab or slash. Why is this so? Because they do not advance towards death.

五十一、 Chapter 51

The Dao gives birth, virtue nurtures, things take shape, conditioning bring them to completion. That's why, all things honor the Dao and value virtues.
The Dao is respected, virtue is esteemed, operating naturally without anyone issuing commands.
Therefore, the Dao gives birth, virtue nurtures, always fostering and bringing to fruition, nourishing and protecting. To give birth without possessing, to act without relying on anything, to excel without claiming authority, it is the mystical virtue.

五十二、 Chapter 52

The world has its starting point, which is the mother of the heaven and earth. Once one grasps the mother, one understands the child. Once one comprehends all things, one returns to grasp the starting point. Thus, there is no danger throughout life.
Block all paths, close all doors, and worry not throughout life. Open all paths, allow the incidents, and throughout life, there's no saving.
To see the insignificant is insight, strength knows when to yield. Using the brightness of the child to restore the light of the mother, without leaving behind disaster. That is learning from the eternal.

五十三、 Chapter 53

If I am straightforward, I understand that, following the main road of the Dao, the only fear is to deviate. The main road is flat, yet people prefer shortcuts.
The court too divided, the fields too desolate, the granaries too empty. Dressing extravagantly, carrying sharp swords, eating and drinking in excess, possessing surplus wealth, they are arrogant and shameless thieves. Thus, is against the Dao.

五十四、 Chapter 54

A skilled builder cannot be overturned, a skilled holder cannot be slipped. Descendants and future generations continue to worship and honor ceaselessly.
To rely on the Dao and cultivate oneself, it is true virtue. To rely on the Dao and cultivate one's family, it is abundant virtue. To rely on the Dao and cultivate one's village, it is permanent virtue. To rely on the Dao and cultivate one's nation, it is flourishing virtue. To rely on the Dao and cultivate the world, it is great virtue.
Therefore, see what the self is through one's own self, see what family is through one's own family, see what village is through one's own village, see what nation is through one's own nation, see the world through the world. How can one know the world? By relying on the Dao.

五十五、 Chapter 55

Holding onto thick virtue is like a child walking naked. The poisonous snake does not bite, the wild beast does not pounce, the hawk does not snatch.
Weak bones and soft muscles but a firm grip, not knowing male from female but the penis pointing, this is vital energy. Crying all day but not hoarse, this is harmony. Knowing harmony is called constancy, knowing constancy is called enlightenment. Excessive desires for procreation lead to calamity. A strong heart exhausts the vital breath.
Something strong surely ages fast; It is contrary to the Dao, and contrary to the Dao, it is soon to perish.

五十六、 Chapter 56

Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know.
Block all paths, close all doors, blunt the sharpness, untangle the knots, soften the brightness, merge with the dust. This is called mystical unity.
Therefore, one cannot be intimate with it, nor be indifferent to it, nor use it, nor harm it, nor honor it, nor despise it. Thus, there is nothing more precious than that in the world.

五十七、 Chapter 57

Govern the nation with integrity, use wisdom to command the army, and without incidents gain the world.
How does one know this? Because: the more prohibitions there are in the world, the poorer the people become. The more sharp weapons the court possesses, the darker the nation grows. The more cunning and skillful people are, the more strange things arise. The more laws and regulations there are, the more thieves and robbers appear.
Therefore, the sage says: I don't do and the people naturally transform themselves. I enjoy tranquility and the people naturally become upright. I have no affairs and the people naturally become prosperous. I have no desires and the people naturally become simple.

五十八、 Chapter 58

When the commands are vague, the people are harmonious. When the commands are clear, the people are impoverished.
Therefore, calamity can be the place where blessings lean on, and blessings can be where calamity lurks. Who can truly know the ultimate outcome? What is not straightforward, right can become wrong, good can transform into evil. Mankind has long been in confusion.
Therefore, the sage is upright but does not harm, sincere but does not hurt, straightforward but not reckless, clear but not dazzling.

五十九、 Chapter 59

To govern people, nothing is better than moderation.
Being moderate, is to be on the right path sooner, following the right path should accumulate many virtues, accumulating high virtues can accomplish anything, accomplishing anything is to avoid impoverishment, to avoid impoverishment is to gain the nation.
Understanding the root and foundation of the nation allows for long-term existence. This is called deep roots with a firm foundation, observing the enduring Dao.

六十、 Chapter 60

To govern a large nation is like cooking a fresh fish.
Using the Dao to govern the world, even demons are not supernaturally powerful. Not only are demons not supernaturally powerful, but gods do not harm people. Not only do gods not harm people, but sages as well. Both do not harm each other, so virtue returns to that place.

六十一、 Chapter 61

A large nation in a low position, is the place where all under heaven flows through, the receptacle of all heaven and earth.
The female often overcomes the male by being still, taking stillness as a lower position. Therefore, if a large nation humbles itself before a small nation, it will gain the allegiance of the small nation. If a small nation humbles itself before a large nation, it will gain the protection of the large nation. Both will achieve their goals, so it is wise for the larger to be humble.

六十二、 Chapter 62

The Dao is the sanctuary of all things, the treasure of the virtuous, and the refuge of the wicked.
Good words can clearly show respect, and good deeds can increase one's worth. How can the wicked forget these things?
Therefore, establishing the heavenly prince, and the lords, even if they join their hands in presenting jade while riding ahead of their four horses, it is still not equal to sitting and offering the Dao.
Why did people in ancient times value this Dao so much? Isn't it because by seeking, one gains, and by committing offenses, one is forgiven? Therefore, all under heaven cherish it.

六十三、 Chapter 63

To do without doing, then the matter is also effortless, the taste is tasteless. Whether big or small, many or few, use virtue to repay grievances.
Solve difficult problems starting from the easy ones, accomplish great tasks starting from the small ones. Difficult tasks in life must start from the easy ones. Great tasks in life must start from the small ones. Therefore, the sage, before or after, never do great things, yet achieves great things.
Those who disregard promises are likely to lack sincerity, and words spoken too easily are difficult to fulfill. That's why, the sage sees only difficulty, yet in the end, nothing is truly difficult.

六十四、 Chapter 64

What is still is easy to hold, what is few is easy to count, fragile things are easy to break, very small things are easy to disperse. Do before there exists, govern before chaos happens.
A large tree starts from a small shoot. A nine-story tower starts from a pile of earth. Traveling thousands of miles begins with a single step.
Do, and do wrong is to spoil, to hold on is to lose. Therefore, the sage does not do, hence nothing is spoiled; he does not hold on, hence nothing is lost.
People often fail in their endeavors just before they are about to succeed. If they are cautious from beginning to end, then the task will not fail.
Therefore, the sage desires no desire, doesn't value hard-earned material wealth, learns what cannot be learned, returns to where people made mistakes by overdoing, helping all things follow their natural path without daring to overdo it.

六十五、 Chapter 65

In ancient times, those skilled in practicing the Dao did not make the people more knowledgeable; instead, they made them simpler and ignorant.
People are difficult to govern because of their many schemes. Therefore, governing a nation with clever tactics destroys the nation. Not using clever schemes to govern the nation brings blessings to the nation.
Knowing these two things is to be exemplary. Always exemplary is the mystical virtue. Such virtue is so deep and far-reaching that it seems to go against things, but in the end, it truly goes along with them.

六十六、 Chapter 66

The rivers and seas are able to become kings of a hundred valleys precisely because they are adept at being lowly.
Therefore, the sage, to sit above the people, must lower himself with words. To stand before the people, he must place himself behind. Hence, when the sage is above the people, they do not feel oppressed. When he is in front, the people do not feel harmed. Therefore, the world pushes him forward cheerfully and without weariness. Because he does not contend, the world absolutely does not contend with him.

六十七、 Chapter 67

The world all thinks that my Dao is grand, but it seems unworthy. Precisely because it is grand, it seems unworthy. If it has seemed worthy for a long time, then it is just a mere thing.
I have three treasures that I hold tightly. First is compassion, second is moderation, and third is not daring to stand before the world. Compassion makes one courageous, moderation makes one generous, and not daring to stand before the world earns long-lasting respect.
Now, abandon compassion to seek courage, abandon moderation to seek expansiveness, abandon staying behind to seek to stand in front, that is a perilous path.
Using compassion to contend will lead to victory, and using it to defend will ensure stability. Whoever is subject to divine assistance, compassion is used to protect.

六十八、 Chapter 68

A skilled general does not rely on brute force, adept in combat without getting angry, winning over enemies without engaging in conflict.
Using people skillfully means lowering oneself. This is called the virtue of non-contention, knowing how to use human strength is to harmonize with the pillar of heaven.

六十九、 Chapter 69

A military strategy says: dare not be the master but act as guests, dare not advance an inch but retreat ten inches.
It's called action without action, hiding the hand while using it, throwing without a target, capturing without needing troops.
No calamity is greater than underestimating an enemy; underestimating an enemy risks losing one's treasures. Therefore, in conflict, whoever is merciful will prevail.

七十、 Chapter 70

My teachings are very easy to understand and very easy to practice. Yet, no one in the world seems to understand them, and no one can practice them.
Words have roots, actions have masters.
Those who don't know thus, don't understand me. Few understand me, and even fewer follow me. Therefore, the sage wears a coarse cloth but holds jade in their heart.

七十一、 Chapter 71

Knowing that one doesn't know is the best. Not knowing but thinking that one knows is sickness.
The sage is not sick because knowing sickness is sickness itself.
Only knowing sickness as sickness is truly being free from sickness.

七十二、 Chapter 72

When the people do not fear authority, then authority becomes truly formidable.
Not despising where the people reside, not coercing where the people live. Not oppressing, hence not being resented.
Therefore, the sage knows without showing off, understands without boasting. Thus, letting go of one thing and keeping the other.

七十三、 Chapter 73

Strongly daring to act leads to death; strongly not daring to act leads to life. These two options either bring benefit or harm.
What heaven detests, who can know the reason why? That's why even the sage soul finds it hard.
The way of heaven does not contend yet skillfully wins, does not speak yet skillfully responds, does not call yet comes naturally, remains calm yet skillfully assesses.
The vast net of heaven is wide but nothing slips through.

七十四、 Chapter 74

People who are not afraid of death, how can they be intimidated by threats of death? If people are constantly afraid of death, and there are those who commit wrongdoing, they can be captured and killed. Who would dare to do it?
There are always people handling matters of killing.
An executioner is like a skillful carpenter. And so, someone who tries to replace the skilled who uses the axe to chop down trees rarely fails to injure their hands.

七十五、 Chapter 75

The people are hungry because too much tax is collected from above.
The people are hard to govern because those above made too many laws and regulations.
The people disregard death because those above them are greedy for life.
Only those who do not live for the sake of holding positions are the ones who possess virtue and value life.

七十六、 Chapter 76

A person is soft and weak when born, but becomes stiff and rigid in death.
All plants and trees are soft and weak when they are born, but they dry up and wither when they die.
Therefore, rigidity leads to death, while softness leads to life.
That's why, the strong army does not win, and the sturdy tree gets cut down.
Thus, being strong and perseverant is the lower position, and being gentle and yielding is the higher position.

七十七、 Chapter 77

The way of heaven is like drawing a bow, isn't it? When something is high, bring it down; when something is low, lift it up. When there is excess, reduce it; when there is deficiency, supplement it. The way of heaven is to reduce excess and supplement deficiency.
Humanity's way is not like that; it takes from those who lack to give to those who have excess. Who can have surplus to offer to the world? Only those who possess virtue.
Therefore, the sage accomplishes without boasting of their achievements. They succeed without possessing, because they do not seek to display their virtue.

七十八、 Chapter 78

In the world, there is nothing softer or weaker than water. Yet when it attacks the resilient, nothing can surpass it. Because nothing can alter it.
The weak conquer the strong, the gentle conquer the rigid; everyone in the world knows this, but no one can do it.
Therefore, the sage says: to take on the dirt and filth of the nation, that is called being the ruler of the land. To take on the misfortune of the nation, that is called being the emperor of the world. Honest words seem almost contradictory.

七十九、 Chapter 79

If one can resolve great resentment, surely there is still some minor resentment left. How can it be considered complete?
Therefore, the sage keeps their promises and yields without blaming others.
With virtue comes responsibility; without virtue, one demands repayment from others.
The way of heaven does not favor anyone; it always stays close to the virtuous.

八十、 Chapter 80

A small nation with few people possesses weapons tenfold or a hundredfold compared to its population, yet it does not deploy them. This makes the people value life and not seek to venture far.
Even if there are boats and carriages, there is nowhere to use them. Even if there are armed soldiers, there is nowhere to deploy them.
Make the people go back to using knotted cords¹ and use what they have. Let them enjoy good food, wear fine clothes, live in peace and comfort, and lead happy daily lives.
Neighboring nations can see each other, hear the rooster crowing and the dogs barking echoing back and forth, but the people live to old age without ever crossing paths with each other.
1. Before the invention of writing, people used knots to remember things.

八十一、 Chapter 81

Honest words are not fancy, and fancy words are not honest. A good person does not argue, and a person who argues is not good. A knowledgeable person does not boast, and a person who boasts is not knowledgeable.
The sage does not hoard; the more he helps others, the more he has. The more he gives, the more he gains. The way of heaven brings benefit without harm. The way of the sage acts without contention.