Das
Tao Te King
von
Lao Tse
English by
Shi Fu Hwang
http://www.sanmayce.com/

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1

Understanding The Tao

Lao Tze says,
The Tao is that on which one can always tread.
That on which one cannot always tread is not the Tao.
And fame is that of which one can always remember.
That of which one cannot always remember is not fame.
All things are without names prior to the formation of Heaven and Earth.
And names are brought out to classify various things.
Since there is no name in the very beginning, why should one care about fame!
Hence, those who are constantly free of desire of fame shall see the Tao's subtle secret.
Those who bear desire shall see the end lying in front of them.
Both two types of men ferment their thinking in the same place, yet they will experience different fates.
Both their fates shall be up to Heaven.
Beyond our heaven, there are other heavens: whoever knows this shall find the gate of the Tao.



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2

The Rise Of Relative Opposites

Lao Tze says,
When the people in the world gain a knowledge of that which is beautiful,
they will also gain a knowledge of that which is ugly.
When they gain a knowledge of that which belongs to the realm of the good,
they will also gain a knowledge of that which belongs to the realm of the bad.
Existence and non-existence shall rotate to take place;
difficulty and ease impress people by the prepossession;
length long and short are acknowledged in comparison;
tallness and lowness confront to make contrast;
harmonious musical pieces, the notes and tones interdepend;
that which is before or behind leads or follows the other.
Therefore, there is a sage who likes to do business without the intent to control fate and conveys his instruction without speech.
All things make an effort to prosper, and there is no one who comes to interfere with them.
Moreover, the one who gives life to all things does not claim ownership of them;
works laboriously for them, and does not expect a reward in return;
establishes the feat for them, and does not confess the achievement.
Because it does not confess the achievement, no one can forget the achievement.



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3

Acting Without The Intent To Control Fate

Lao Tze says,
When I don't promote those men of high character to the position of authority and give them gifts, then people will not strive to follow their examples.
When I don't value those things which are difficult to attain, then people will be kept from becoming thieves.
When I don't let people see things which will excite evil desires, their minds will be kept from becoming disordered.
Therefore, when a sage is in charge of the government, he prefers to humble people's minds, feed their stomachs, weaken their ambitions, and make their frames strong.
He constantly keeps them from knowledge and from desire, and those who have knowledge would not presume to act against this rule.
When practicing acting without the intent to control fate, there is no evil which can't be cured.



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4

The Character Of The Tao

Lao Tze says,
The Tao in the void state works on everything.
It guards against fullness.
Its depth is unfathomable, as if it were the honored ancestor of all things.
It blunts the sharp points, sets in order the tangles, tempers the light, and agrees with the obscurity of others.
How pure and still the Tao is, as if it would ever stand.
I do not know its origin, and it seems to have existed before the coming of all gods.



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5

The Heaven And The Earth Are Not Benevolent

Lao Tze says,
When Heaven and Earth proceed their works, they do not consider benevolence,
they regard all things as straw-made dogs.
When the sage proceeds his work, he does not consider benevolence,
he regards all people as straw-made dogs.
Between Heaven and Earth, space functions like a blacksmith's bellow.
It is void, but is not out of function.
Once it is set in motion, a continuous stream of production will issue from it.
And the people who like to talk face the same consequence;
the more they talk, the more shortage others will know.
There is no better way than to model after the Tao, and keep oneself in the void state also.



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6

The Not Dying Secret

Lao Tze says,
The man who knows the way of nourishing his spirit shall attain immortality.
The man who has attained immortality used his nose and mouth well.
The outlet of the nose and mouth can breathe the elements,
which are the roots of the Heaven and the Earth.
In gentleness and perpetuity, he shall proceed to breathe.
By diligence and attention, he shall practice the exercise.



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7

Being Selfless Can Fulfill The Selfishness

Lao Tze says,
The Heaven has endured a long existence, so has the Earth.
The reason they can last so long is that they never go out of their way to seek life, hence they can be everlasting.
The sage understood this secret, put himself last, and became first at length.
He treated himself as extraneous, preserving his person safe and sound.
Cannot one who is selfless fulfill the selfishness?



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8

On Water

Lao Tze says,
Ultimate goodness shall be found in water.
Water is good at helping all things, being free of conflict with them.
It stays in places that most people despise, so it is closest to the Tao.
It provides benefit wherever it stays,
illustrates the example of good men's hearts by forming the depth of the abyss,
distributes to the needy one to demonstrate benevolence,
reflects genuine images to interpret credibility,
removes dirty things to purify the government,
transforms to different shapes to display its capability,
moves as the seasons change to show timeliness.
Because water never competes with others, hence no one will resent it.



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9

The Danger of Overweening Success

Lao Tze says,
A full utensil in hand has to be halted.
The blade sharpened to the thinnest edge, cannot be endured long.
A hall full of jewels and gold, can never be safely guarded.
A man who takes pride in richness and nobleness, has his downfall because of the seeds he sowed.
Recess at the day of success, such is the way of Heaven.



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10

Embracing The True One

Lao Tze says,
By clothing a good frame and embracing the holy one, cannot your soul be kept from leaving?
In concentrating the breath and making the body supple, can't you turn into a baby again?
By taking the eyes' dirt and consulting scriptures, can't you become blemishless?
To love people and exercise government, can't this be kept from being publicly known?
Cannot your mouths, eyes, and ears, the gate of Heaven remain soft when opening and closing as females usually do?
When you understand the truth and fully discern them, do you not depend on acting without the intent to control fate?
The one which gives all things' lives, and thus rears them, gives the lives, but does not claim ownership;
it works laboriously for them, but does not expect reward in return.
Even when they are fully grown up, it does not dominate them.
I shall say this really can be regarded as the mystic virtue.



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11

The Utility of The Void

Lao Tze says,
It takes thirty spokes to share one nave.
Because a nave is a void space, we can have the use of the cart.
People knead clay to make a bowl.
Because a bowl is void in the center, we can use the bowl.
People cut out of a wall to make a door and a window.
Because they are void spaces, we can have the use of apartments.
Thus, this is something we can gain, that the positive existence shall serve for profitable adaption,
and that which has no existence shall serve for its purpose.



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12

Senses

Lao Tze says,
A variety of colors (five colors) can blind the eyes.
A variety of sounds (five tones) can deafen the ears.
A mixture of flavors (five flavors) can vitiate the mouth of taste.
Hunting and horse chasing will make men's minds wild with excitement.
Goods hard to procure will bring character with harm.
Hence, the sage seeks to satisfy one's belly, rather than one's eyes.
Of the former one he does approve, of the latter he does reject.



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13

Honor And Disgrace

Lao Tze says,
Honor and disgrace alike give rise to fear,
because this is the fear that the great calamity might fall upon the corporeal self.
What is honor?
And what is disgrace?
Honor means that he who was low before has been promoted.
Since he has been promoted, he is afraid of losing his promotion, which is disgrace.
Thus he who has been promoted lives in fear that he may be degraded.
And he who has been degraded is haunted by the dread that his degradation may last forever.
That is why honor and disgrace alike give rise to fear.
What is the meaning of fearing the great calamity coming upon the corporeal self?
How we can sense that the great calamity is due to the fact that we inherit corporeal self.
If we don't inherit the corporeal self, what kind of calamity can afflict us?
Therefore,
one who has regard for his personal health is more important than he who governs the world, and is eligible to be trusted with the world;
one who loves himself should be put before he who governs the world, and is qualified to be handed over the world.



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14

Invisible, Inaudible, And Intangible

Lao Tze says,
Something which we look at, and cannot see, shall be called 'invisible'.
Something to which we listen, and cannot hear, shall be called 'inaudible'.
Something which we seize, and cannot grasp, shall be called 'intangible'.
These things are not available to be researched for realization when taken singly;
hence when we unite them again, we obtain the true one.
Its upper part is not bright, and its lower part is not obscure.
It works in its way perpetually without an end, but we can't know its motive.
Then this can be traced in the state of nothingness.
This is called the form of formlessness, and semblance of nothingness;
this is called the fleet of indeterminable.
We can neither retrace to see its beginning, nor can we expect to see its end.
When we hold the primordial Tao, we can rule today's being.
Since we can know the beginning of Heaven and Earth, we know the outline of the Tao.



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15

Tao-practician's Manner

Lao Tze says,
The Tao-practitioners of old times had subtle wisdom and depth of understanding, and could comprehend the will of Heaven.
They were so profound that they could not be understood:
I will make an effort to describe what sort of men they appeared to be.
Cautiously observed, they were like those in enemy territory;
dignified like a guest;
self-effacing like ice that is melting away;
unpretentious like a piece of undressed wood;
open-minded like a valley;
and mixing freely like turbulent water.
Who can make the turbulent water still and let it gradually become clear?
Who can settle down the perpetual movement and let the condition of rehabilitation gradually arise?
They are those who preserve this Tao guard against overdoing.
It is through guarding against overdoing that their previous possessions are not lost, and they will again procure newness.



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16

Seek The Extremity of The Void

Lao Tze says,
Whoever seeks the extremity of the void will preserve genuine stillness.
When all existence alike goes through the process of transformation, it returns to its original state.
All existence is prosperous as prosperous flowers and leaves which finally decay and return to their roots.
This returning to their roots is what we call the action of being still;
and the action of being still is a response to the rule of relapsing to one's origin.
The rule of relapsing to one's origin is the absolute, the unchanging rule.
To know that unchanging rule is to be enlightened;
to know not the absolute rule leads to haphazard action and evil issues.
The knowledge of the absolute and the unchanging rule produces the capacity of inclusiveness, and the capacity of inclusiveness produces the character of justice.
The character of justice goes on to become the king-like character.
And the king-like character goes on to become the heaven-like character.
In that likeness to heaven, such character possesses the Tao.
He who possesses the Tao endures for a long time, and the end of his corporeal life is exempt from all danger of decay.



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17

The Ancient Government

Lao Tze says,
In the highest antiquity, people only knew that there were rulers.
Next were those they loved and praised.
Then there were those they feared.
And finally there were those they despised.
Thus it was when the ruler was deficient in the Tao faith that his people ensured him with want of faith.
How irresolute are those who appreciate reticence.
Although the work was completed and the undertaking successful, all the people would say, 'it happened to us naturally.'



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18

The Tao Is Not In Use

Lao Tze says,
When the great Tao is not in use, benevolence and righteousness come into vogue.
When wisdom and shrewdness appear, there ensures great hypocrisy.
When six kinships no longer live at peace, filial piety and lenity find their manifestation.
When the state falls into chaos, loyal ministers appear.



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19

Realize The Simple Self

Lao Tze says,
If sanctified tenets can be renounced, and craftiness given up, people will thus profit hundredfold.
If worship of benevolence can be renounced, and adoration of righteousness given up, people will resume filial piety and lenience.
If artful contrivance and scheming for gain can be given up, there will be no thieves or robbers.
These three epigrams may not be enough for guidance.
I'd bid even more as:
Sight the simplicity, arms enfold plain and true, extinguish selfish mind and eschew lust.



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20

The World And I

Lao Tze says,
When knowledge is discarded, there will be no worries.
Yes, or pretending to say yes, how much are they different?
One is good the other is evil.
The difference is too great.
Most men fear the kings of knowledge, who are certainly formidable.
The world is full of fornication, and its motion cannot be discontinued.
Lasciviousness exceedingly holds people's minds, which they anticipate to enjoy as hungry men at full banquets, as men feel comfortable mounting towers in spring.
I alone keep quiet, as a baby who is not fully grown up, and has no desire in his mind.
To and fro, I walk; I can't find a place to stay.
People all have had sufficiency, while I still remain in destitution.
My behavior is like a fool in people's eyes.
Secular men are fast and make haste; but I do not intend to fetch anything.
Vast is the sea; its water flows to where there is no end.
People all seem to have had great achievement, while I am still naughty and stubborn.
I am different from others.
I rely on the Tao too much, as a baby longing for mother's milk.



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21

The Tao Never Leaves This World

Lao Tze says,
The great Teh is comprehensive, and it follows the ways of the Tao.
The Tao is that which is vague and uncertain.
Within the vague and uncertain, there are pictures.
Within the vague and uncertain, there is substance.
Feeble and unclear as it is, there is spirit within.
The spirit is genuine, with credibility within.
From ancient times until now, the Tao has never left this world; it lives with and looks after all things.
How do I know the Tao lives with all things?
From their daily conduct I know.



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22

Futility of Contention

Lao Tze says,
Be bendable, you will assure wholeness.
Be wronged, you will be proven right.
Be empty, you will be filled.
Be worn out, you will be renewed.
The scanty deserves to gain.
The superfluous becomes lost.
Thus the sage insists on recommending the true one for the world to model after.
A man sees clearly, because he doesn't claim self-righteousness.
A man gets credit because he doesn't boast his merit.
A man has longevity because he doesn't claim importance.
Therefore I say that whosoever gives up a contest, there will be no one who can compete with him.
The ancient epigram goes like this:
Be bendable, you will assure the wholeness.
Is this an airy saying?
Actually, this saying has already preserved many men.



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23

Be Less, This Is The Spontaneous Rule

Lao Tze says,
Be less, this is the spontaneous rule.
Hence a gusty wind does not persist through all morning.
A sudden downpour does not persist through a whole day.
Who makes them so?
The Heaven and the Earth.
Even the Heaven and the Earth don't like to perform a long work, what more can be expected from men?
Thus,
Whoever devotes himself to the Tao will know the Tao's essence.
Whoever devotes himself to the Teh will know the Teh's essence.
Whoever devotes to the loss will know the loss's essence.
Whoever matches the Tao's essence will find pleasure in the Tao.
Whoever matches the Teh's essence will find pleasure in the Teh.
Whoever matches the loss will find pleasure in the loss.
Those men who can't believe what I said already have disbelieving hearts.



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24

Those Which Are Against The Tao

Lao Tze says,
He who stands on tiptoe can't persist long.
He who walks by striding can't go far.
He who sees everything in his eyes can never be shrewd.
He who claims self-righteousness will never be exalted by others.
He who steals others' feats for himself is a worthless person.
He who boasts of his merit can't enjoy a long life.
Viewed from the Tao's standpoint, these men are like remains of a meal, or a tumor on the body, which no one would like.
Hence, a Tao-practician should not become one of them.



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25

The Four Eternal Models

Lao Tze says,
There was something nebulous and complete which came into existence before the Heaven and the Earth.
It was soundless and formless, stood alone, and would not change, reached everywhere and was in no danger of being exhausted.
It is capable of being the mother of the world.
I do not know its name, and I give it the designation of the Tao, and it is further described as the great.
Being great it receded.
Receding, it became remote.
Having become remote, it turns back.
Therefore,
the Tao is great,
the Heaven is great,
the Earth is great,
and the Kingship is also great.
In the universe there are four elements that are great, and the Mankind is one of them.
The Mankind takes his law from the Earth,
the Earth takes its law from the Heaven,
and the Heaven takes its law from the Tao.
The law of the Tao is its being what it is.



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26

Gravity and Serenity

Lao Tze says,
Gravity is the root of lightness.
Serenity is the ruler of hastiness.
Hence the sage practices the Tao all day long,
leaving no serene mind and heavy attitude.
Though a king can have seraglios and harems, he has to avoid approaching them.
Regretful are kings nowadays, they are very powerful, having ten thousand chariots and riders;
yet their attitude is light before the eyes of the people.
Light attitude will cause the loss of their subordinates;
hasty mind will cause the loss of their thrones.



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27

Procuring Enlightenment

Lao Tze says,
The skillful traveller leaves no wheel track;
the skillful speaker makes no slip of the tongue;
the skillful reckoner uses no tallies;
the skillful closer needs no bolts, while it is impossible to open what he has shut;
the skillful binder uses no strings or knots, while it is impossible to loosen what he has bound.
In the same way the sage is always skillful at saving men, and there is no rejected person;
he is always skillful at saving things, and there is no rejected thing.
This is called 'procuring enlightenment.'
Therefore the man of skill is a master of he who has no skill;
and he who has no skill is the servant of he who has skill.
If one does not value his master, and the other does not love his servant, intelligent as they are, they might be perplexed.



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28

Keeping to Pristine Simplicity

Lao Tze says,
He who has manhood's strength and takes upon him the female's feebleness;
his inclusiveness is worthy of being looked up to as the world's dale.
Being the world's dale, absolute virtue will not leave him;
further he will enter into a baby's attribute.
He who has the reputation of the pure, and takes upon him the reputation of the unclean;
he is worthy of being looked up to as the world's model.
Being the world's model, absolute virtue will not be in short, further he will be able to attain extreme bliss.
He who has a glorious status, and takes upon himself a humble situation;
is worthy of being looked up to as the world's valley.
Being the world's valley, absolute virtue is sufficient in him;
he will enter into the state of pristine simplicity.
When pristine simplicity is broken off, it turns to appear in various utensil's shapes.
The sage who realizes the importance of pristine simplicity thereby selects the officers.
Therefore the great perfection shouldn't be cut into pieces.



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29

Warning Against Interference

Lao Tze says,
If there is a king who wishes to take over the world and establishes a man-made order, I can predict that he will not make it at all.
For the world is of divine entity and it can't be subjugated to a man-made order.
Whoever wants to try will result in failure.
Whoever insists on his point of view will plunge in loss.
Because,
when one wishes to march forward, others just follow reluctantly;
when one wishes to breathe making a thing warm, others blow it cold;
when one wishes to strengthen it, others wish to weaken it;
when one wishes to sustain it, others wish to destroy it.
Hence the sage puts away excessive effort, extravagance, and easy indulgence.



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30

Warning Against The Use of Force

Lao Tze says,
If the king assists himself with the Tao, he will not assert his mastery in the world by force of arms.
He always seeks a consummate result.
Whenever a host has encamped, there will be briars and thorns grown.
In the sequences of great armies there are sure to be bad years.
The skillful ruler knows to attain a good result, he doesn't dare continue his operations to complete his mastery.
In anticipating a good result, being self-opinioned is not appropriate.
In anticipating a good result, take action only when there is no alternative course.
In anticipating a good result, being masterful is not appropriate.
When things have attained strong maturity, they become old.
This may be said to be not in accordance with the Tao.
And what is not in accordance with the Tao soon comes to an end.



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31

The Unlucky Emblem

Lao Tze says,
The strong military force is an unlucky emblem to the state, thus all living creatures would abhor it.
The Tao practicians should not promote it too.
The upright man ordinarily considers the left hand the most honorable place, but in time of war the right hand.
The military force is an unlucky emblem, it is not the emblem for the upright man.
It is manipulated on the compulsion of necessity.
Calm and repose should be prized;
victory is not regarded as a beautiful work.
Whoever regards victory as a beautiful work, he is one who takes delight in killing men.
Whoever likes to kill men will not succeed in his ambition to rule the world.
On occasion of rejoicing, precedence is given to the left;
on occasion of mourning, precedence is given to the right.
The second in command of an army has his place on the left;
the chief commander has position of the right;
this says: a funeral is taking place.
The lamentation is observed for the numerous dead who were killed on the battlefield.
Thus, a victory ceremony is being held in the funeral rite.



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32

Tao Is Like The Sea

Lao Tze says,
The Tao is not designated as a certain type.
The pristine simplicity is just a small display of the Tao.
Though it is small, whoever in exercise of this method, will make no man in the world daring to treat him as a servant.
If the duke or the king knows to exercise this method; all existence will express obedience and loyalty to him.
Heaven and Earth unite and send down sweet dew which without the direction of men, reaches equally everywhere as of its own accord.
As soon as it proceeds to action, it has a way.
When it once has that way, men can know to rest in it.
When they know to rest in it, they can be free from all risk of failure and error.
The relation of the Tao to all the world is like that of great rivers and sea to streams and valleys.



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33

Knowing Oneself

Lao Tze says,
He who knows others is intelligent, while he who knows himself is enlightened.
He who conquers others has the power of muscles, but he who conquers himself is strong.
He who knows contentment is rich, but he who is determined has strength of will.
He who does not leave the resource will endure, but he who knows to keep as still as a dead body but remain dynamic will enjoy longevity.



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34

The Great Tao Flows Everywhere

Lao Tze says,
The great Tao flows everywhere.
There is no discrimination of what is the right and what is the left.
All existence lives up to it, and it denies no one.
It doesn't claim credit, though there is achievement.
It loves and nourishes all existence but does not lord over them.
It appears ambitionless and is regarded as less important.
All existence returns to it, and it doesn't dominate them.
Certainly this is great.
This is the reason that the sage never regards himself as great,
thus he deserves to be titled as great.



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35

The Peace In The Tao

Lao Tze says,
When the king of men holds the great image, the whole world's people turn to rally round him.
When people turn to rally round him, and do not commit loss and harm, then the world shall become peaceful and secure.
He who takes delight in the Tao, and enjoys it, the true one will stay with him.
The Tao's teaching is as dry as a course of tasteless dish.
It cannot be seen, nor can't be heard.
However, it will never be exhausted in its application.



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36

The Doctrine of Reversion

Lao Tze says,
A man who wants his opponent to become a greedy man should allow him the chance to expand his benefit first.
He who wants to weaken his competitor should let his ambitions grow first.
He who wants to demolish his adversary should let him achieve first.
He who wants to plunder his enemy should let him have the storage place first.
These are subtle but effective stratagems.
The feeble will overcome the strong.
But fishes shouldn't leave the deep; a state's strategy shouldn't be shown to any person who is not concerned with it.



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37

The World In Peace

Lao Tze says,
The Tao's accomplishment is constantly made through acting without the intent to control fate, yet leaving nothing undone.
If the king of men insists on practicing the Tao, all existence will transform themselves in their natural courses.
When they transform and go out of their way, the king of men should guide them back to a pristine simplicity which was unknown to the world before.
Namely, the pristine simplicity of being desireless.
To be desireless is cultivated by being still.
It is by this stillness that this world is settled down in peace naturally.



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38

Degeneration

Lao Tze says,
The superior Teh is not conscious of virtue, thus it matches the essence of virtue.
The secondary Teh is conscious of virtue, thus it leaves the essence of virtue.
The man of the superior Teh works by acting without the intent to control fate; the people think he has done nothing else.
The man of the secondary Teh does work by acting with the intent to control fate and the people think he has done a lot of work.
The man of benevolence has done a lot of work, but through acting without the intent to control fate.
The man of righteousness has done a lot of work, this is through acting with intent to control fate.
The man of ritualism has done a lot of work, however he can't get the resonance of approval, thus he would force others to express their appreciation.
Therefore,
when the Tao is not in use, they seek benevolence;
when the benevolence is not in use, they seek ritualism.
However, the ritualism is the production of the lack of the loyalty and the faith, and it is even the beginning of confusion.
The above mentioned men understand Tao's extravagance only.
They are the founders of stupidity.
Henceforth, a true great man should choose Tao's abundance instead of Tao's deficiency.
He should choose Tao's essence instead of Tao's extravagance.
Thus, a Tao practician should learn to choose the former, and despise the latter.



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39

The Power of The Tao

Lao Tze says,
Old things which have the correctness are:
It is by correctness that
the Heaven becomes bright and pure, and the Earth firm and sure;
the spirits divine;
the valleys full;
all existence lively;
and the kings just for the world's model.
All these are the results of correctness.
If the Heaven were not so pure, it would soon rend.
If the Earth were not so sure, it would break and bend.
If the spirits were not so divine, they would lose their prophesy.
If the valleys were not so full, they would parch.
If all existence were not so lively, they would be extinct.
If the kings had no morality, they would collapse from their throne.
Therefore, dignity finds root in meanness, and the lofty find their stability in lowness.
Therefore, the kings self-styled themselves by the solitary, the unworthy, and the virtueless.
Didn't these mean that dignity finds its root in its meanness?
Didn't these?
So, when we analyze a cart's construction, we can't find a part named cart.
As for me, I would neither appreciate being regarded as a jade rare and expensive, nor as a stone popular and cheap.



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40

Being and Non-Being

Lao Tze says,
Reverse movement is how the Tao does go;
gentleness is the course it chooses to show.
All existence under heaven sprang from Being;
that Being sprang from Non-being.



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41

The Qualities of Tao-practicians

Lao Tze says,
The students of the highest class, when they hear about the Tao, try hard to put it into practice.
The students of middle class, when they hear about the Tao, seem to be aware and yet unaware of it.
The students of the lowest class, when they hear about it, laugh greatly at it.
If it were not thus laughed at, it would not be the Tao.
Therefore, I try to give a few words about the Tao-practicians:
Those who are advancing in the Tao seem drawing back.
The Tao's way is even but seems like a rugged track.
The superior Teh is inclusive to anything as a valley.
The purest character seems humiliating.
The abundant Teh seems destitute.
And the Teh is established secretly as a thief proceeding to do his work.
Its solid truth seems to undergo change.
Its largest square does no corner show.
The great masterpieces are slow in completion.
The hugest note is seldom sounded.
The greatest image has no certain form.
The Tao is hidden, and has no name, but it is adept at lending its power and bringing fulfillment.



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42

Violent Man's Fate

Lao Tze says,
From Tao arises one;
from one arises two;
from two arises three, and from three arise all things.
All things leave behind them the obscurity (Ying), and go forward to embrace the brightness (Yang) and inherit the blending property of the two harmonized polarities.
What men dislike is to be called solitary, unworthy, virtueless;
and yet those kings and princes regard them matching to their status.
So those things are benefitted by being harmed, others are harmed by being benefitted.
While other men have taught their precept, I have my own,
- the violent man shall die a violent death.
I will make this the basis of my teaching.



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43

The Softest Thing

Lao Tze says,
The softest thing in the world dashes against and overwhelms the hardest;
that which is without form can go through where there is no crevice.
Through this I know that acting without the intent to control fate can be advantageous.
The advantage of teaching without speech and acting without the intent to control fate is incomparable in the world.



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44

Gain And Loss

Lao Tze says,
Which means more to you, fame or self?
Which brings more to you, self or property?
Which ails you more, gain or loss?
The cost of the thing which you love is dear.
The treasure unscrupulously laid up shall result in heavy loss.
However, the contented man will not suffer disgrace.
A man who knows his limitations will not incur danger.
Namely, he can survive forever.



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45

Purity And Stillness

Lao Tze says,
The greatest accomplishment seems to have blemishes, but when applied, it is long enduring.
The greatest fullness seems to be vacant, but when applied, it is inexhaustible.
The greatest straightness seems crooked.
The greatest craftiness seems stupid.
The greatest eloquence seems dumb.
Restlessness overcomes the cold;
being still overcomes the heat.
Purity and stillness give correct law to all in the world.



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46

On Contentment

Lao Tze says,
When the world lives in accord with the Tao, racing horses are sent to the dung-cart.
When the world lives not in accord with the Tao, the war-horses breed on the border.
There is no sin greater than to sanction ambition;
no calamity greater than not being contented;
no fault greater than the wish to obtain.
Therefore, he who is content with contentment shall be always content.



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47

Pursuit of Knowledge

Lao Tze says,
Without stepping outside the door, a man can know what has taken place in the world.
Without looking out the window, a man can discern the Tao of Heaven.
The farther a man goes out, the less he knows.
Therefore, the sages got their knowledge not through visiting there;
gave their names to things not because they had seen them;
and accomplished their ends not because they ever had intent to control fate.



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48

Govern The World By No Business

Lao Tze says,
He who devotes himself to learning from day to day increases his knowledge.
He who devotes himself to the Tao from day to day diminishes his intention.
He diminishes it and again diminishes it, till he arrives at doing without intention.
Having arrived at this point of doing without intention, there is nothing left undone.
He who manages the world's affairs does so by giving himself no trouble.
If he troubles himself, he is not qualified to manage the world's affairs.



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49

People's Minds

Lao Tze says,
The sage doesn't have an invariable mind, he takes people's minds as his own mind.
Those who are good to him;
he treats well;
and those who are not good to him;
he treats well too;
thus all become good to each other.
To those who are sincere;
he is sincere;
and to those who are not sincere;
he is also sincere;
thus all become sincere.
The sage in the world pays scrupulous attention to everything.
However, he treats his living with indifference.
The people all offer their eyes and ears to help him, and he deals with them all as his children.



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50

The Preserving of Life

Lao Tze says,
Men come forth from their mothers' wombs and live;
and they enter dust, and die.
Those men who depend on the three and ten to live;
die by the three and ten also.
Those who were living will be sent to the place of death by the three and ten.
And for what reason?
Because they made excessive stores to perpetuate their life.
For I have heard it is said that one who excels in safeguarding his own life does not shun the rhinoceros or tiger when travelling on land, nor does he avoid buff coat and sharp weapon at entering a host.
The rhinoceros finds no place to fix its claw on him, nor the weapon a place to admit its point on him.
And for what reason?
Because there is no place of death on him.



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51

The Mystic Virtue

Lao Tze says,
The Tao is the one to give existence;
and its attribute, the Teh, is responsible for nurturing it.
In this way all things are formed.
They are brought forth to maturity according to their condition.
Therefore, all existence without exception honors the Tao and exalts the Teh.
This honoring of the Tao and exalting of the Teh is not decreed through an authority, but through spontaneous tribute.
So it is that the Tao gives existence;
and its attribute, the Teh, completes, matures, maintains and shelters.
It gives life but doesn't claim the possession of it.
It carries all things through their processes but does not boast its ability.
It brings them to maturity, but does not control them.
This is called the mystic virtue.



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52

Learning The Absolute

Lao Tze says,
Since the beginning of the universe, there was the Tao which may be regarded as the mother of all existence.
When a man knows about the mother, he has to know about the son.
When he knows about the son, he proceeds to guard the mother that belongs to him, to the end of his life he will be free from all peril.
Let him keep his mouth closed, and shut up his eyes, and all his life he will be exempt from toil.
Let him keep his mouth open, and his eyes be used to examine the affairs, and all his life there will not be safety for him.
The perception of smallness is clear-sighted;
the guard of the soft and tender grows strong.
He who uses his light reverting to become bright, will ward all blight from his eyesight.
This is the so-called learning of the absolute.



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53

Taoku or Tao

Lao Tze says,
Make me have sudden enlightenment,
I can implement great Tao in government.
Still I am afraid I might go astray.
Great Tao is a smooth and easy highway,
My noblemen like to walk on its trails.
Your courtyards are new and pretty,
Your people's farms are still unfilled.
There is nothing in their barns.
You wear your embroidered gowns,
Walk with sharp-bladed swords.
You satiate with good food and drink,
Collect abundant wealth beyond your deserving.
I shall call you Taoku, the bandit's chief,
For you have never practiced the way of the Tao.



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54

The Individual and The World

Lao Tze says,
He who is skillful in establishment shall establish the Tao in his heart so that no one can pluck it.
He who is skillful in enfolding arms shall enfold the Teh in his arms so that no one can take it.
From generation to generation his ancestral sacrifices shall be continued without fail.
When this precept is applied by whomever to instruct himself, his character will be made true;
applied to his neighborhood, his neighborhood will thrive;
applied to the state, his state will find good fortune;
applied to the world, the world will inherit with good traditions.
In this way he can observe the others in comparison with the self;
observe others' families in comparison with his own family;
observe others' neighborhoods in comparison with his own neighborhood;
observe others' states in comparison with his own state;
observe the world before in comparison with what it is now.
How do I know that this effect is sure to hold all in the world?
By observation.



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55

The Character of The Child

Lao Tze says,
He who has in himself abundant Teh, the attribute of the Tao, is like a baby.
Poisonous insects will not sting him;
fierce beasts will not seize him;
and birds of prey will not pounce upon him.
A baby is weak with tender bones and feeble sinews, but his grasp is firm and tight.
He doesn't know men and women's affairs, yet his virile member may be excited, showing the perfection of his vigor.
He cries all day long without his throat becoming hoarse, thus showing the perfection of his harmonious constitution.
When one knows harmony, he knows the absolute.
When he knows the absolute, he deserves to be called the enlightened.
But he who knows the life-increasing arts transforms himself by having an evil heart.
He who lets his emotions go through impulse is called strong.
When things become strong in maturity, they become old,
which may be said to be contrary to the Tao.
Whatever is contrary to the Tao ends soon.



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56

The Noblest One

Lao Tze says,
He who knows the Tao does not care to speak about it;
he who is ever ready to speak about it does not know it.
Therefore the Tao practician would rather close his eyes and shut up his mouth, in order to frustrate his ambition and untie the confused knot in his heart.
Further, he proceeds to temper his brightness, and brings himself into agreement with obscurity.
Then he deserves to be called the one in accordance with Heaven.
Such a one cannot be treated familiarly nor distantly, rendered with profit or injury, made noble or mean.
Hence he is regarded as the noblest one in the world.



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57

The Art of Government

Lao Tze says,
A state may be ruled by measures of justice;
the military force may be handled with tactics of surprise;
but the world is kept in peace by freedom from action and purpose.
How do I know that is so?
Through these:
In the world the multiplication of prohibitive enactments increases the poverty of the people.
The more assertions are put into influencing the people's thinking, the greater chaos there is in the state.
The more acts of crafty dexterity men possess, the more cunning things are produced.
The larger the number of statues displayed, the more thieves and robbers there are.
That is why a sage has said,
'I will do by acting without intent to control fate, and the people will be transformed of themselves.
I will be fond of keeping still, and the people will be righteous of themselves.
I will take no trouble about it, and the people will become rich of themselves.
I have no desire, and the people will strive for the pristine simplicity of themselves.'



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58

An Easy Government

Lao Tze says,
When the government is dull and drowsy, its people are simple and sincere.
When the government is sharp and shrewd, its people are dishonest and deceitful.
Disaster is that by which side fortune is to be found.
Fortune is that beneath which disaster lurks.
Who would be able to know its ultimate results?
If a king of men cannot dispense with correction, correct subjects will in their turn become distorted, and a good government will in its turn become evil.
The delusion of the ruler on this point has indeed subsisted for a long time.
Therefore the sage inherits correctitude like a square symbol, but punishes no one.
He inherits honest property, but tells no tales.
He is straightforward, but allows himself no license.
He is bright, but does not dazzle.



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59

A Way To The Longevity

Lao Tze says,
If a king of men knows to regulate human affairs by using the way of Heaven, he should know there is nothing better than to be sparing.
It is only by being sparing that an early obedience to the Tao is effected.
That early obedience is what I call the repeated accumulation of the attributes.
With the repeated accumulation of those attributes, there comes the conquest of every obstacle in the way.
Of this conquest he knows not what shall be the limit, and when he knows not what the limit shall be, he is qualified to be the ruler of a state.
He who possesses this motherly method of governing may continue to hold his rulership.
This method may be compared to a giant tree with its roots deep and its flower stalks firm;
and it is also a way which leads to enjoy long life and eternal gazing.



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60

Governing A Great State

Lao Tze says,
Governing a great state is like cooking small fish.
The king of men knows to pacify his kingdom by using the Tao;
the dead men's ghosts will not manifest their spiritual energy.
Not only will those ghosts not manifest their spiritual energy, but they will not hurt men.
Not only will they hurt men, even the sage in exercise of his government will not disturb those ghosts.
As these two do not injuriously affect each other, so in the Tao's attribute, the living and the departed both find their rest places.



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61

The Large And Small States

Lao Tze says,
Like water, a large state should keep a low profile as it goes down stream, in order that it becomes the pivot of the world.
The female is the master of the world.
The female always overcomes the male by being still.
Stillness may be considered as a sort of abasement.
Thus a large state, by abasing itself to smaller states, annexes the small states;
while small states, by abasing themselves, affiliate themselves with larger states.
In one case the abasement leads to gaining allies, in the other case it procures favors.
The large state wishes only to increase population;
small states wish only to be guarded.
Each gets what it desires, but the large state must learn to abase itself first.



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62

The Most Valuable Thing

Lao Tze says,
The Tao is the refuge for all existence, a treasure to men of correctitude, and a guard of less capable men.
Its admirable words can purchase honor;
its noble deeds can raise a man above others.
The less capable man should not be rejected.
That's why there is the king being selected as the Son of Heaven, and three premier ministers are arranged on their positions.
Although riding chariots pulled by four horses and studded with precious stones is a great honor,
it is even more honorable to ride on a chariot which is made of the Tao.
Why was it that the ancients prized this Tao so much?
Was it not because it could be found by seeking, and the guilty could be pardoned by it?
This is the reason why the whole world considered it the most valuable thing.



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63

Difficult And Easy

Lao Tze says,
He who practices acting without intent to control fate will find that there is no business which is troubling him to manage.
He who can taste a tasteless thing will learn to regard what is small as great, and a few as many;
and to recompense injury with kindness.
He will deal with things that are difficult while they are easy,
and handle things that would become great while they are still small.
All difficult things in the world arise from an original state of having been easy,
and all great things arise from an original state of having been small.
Therefore the sage never attempts to achieve a great feat.
He who makes promises lightly rarely keeps good faith.
He who likes to think things will be easy will find them difficult.
Therefore the sage sees difficulty even in what seems easy, so they are always free of difficulties.



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64

Beginning And Ending

Lao Tze says,
That which remains still is easy to hold;
that which has not yet given indication of its presence is easy to measure against;
that which is brittle is easily broken;
and that which is minute is easily dispersed.
Deal with a thing before its disorder has made its appearance, and govern an affair before its confusion has begun.
A tree which fills the arms grows from a tiny sprout;
a tower of nine floors rises from a heap of earth;
a journey of a thousand li begins at one's feet.
He who acts with an intent to control fate does harm;
he who takes hold of a thing in the same way loses his hold.
The sage works without an intent to control fate, and therefore does no harm.
He does not lay hold so, and therefore does not lose his hold.
People who conduct their affairs often ruin them on the eve of their success.
If they are careful at the end, as they were careful at the beginning;
then there would be no ruined affairs.
Therefore, the sage desires what other men do not desire, and does not value objects which are difficult to obtain.
He learns what other men do not learn, and turns back to what the multitude of men have passed by.
Thus he assists all existence to develop in a natural course, and does not dare to act with an intent to control fate.



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65

Mysterious Excellence

Lao Tze says,
In ancient times, those who learned the Tao in exercise of the government would work not to enlighten the people, but rather to make them ignorant.
The difficulty in governing the people arises from their having much craftiness.
He who tries to govern a state by his craftiness is a scourge to the state;
and he who does not try to do so is a boon to the state.
He who knows these two different results finds in them an absolute rule.
Ability to know this absolute rule constitutes what we call the mysterious excellence.
Profound and far-reaching is this mysterious excellence;
showing indeed its possessor to be contrary to others, but leading him to be completely obedient to the Tao.



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66

The Lord of Waters

Lao Tze says,
That the reason whereby the rivers and sea can be the lord of a hundred streams is because they know to afford a low level, thus they can be the lord of hundreds of streams.
Hence the sage who intends to lead the people from above has to speak humbly to the people.
He who intends to walk ahead to guide the people has to seek his own benefit after seeking the people's.
In this way,
although he has placed himself above the people, the people do not feel his weight,
and though he has his place before the people, the people will not feel it is an injury to them.
Therefore,
all in the world are glad to enthrone him to be the lord, and do not weary of him.
Because he does not strive, no one finds it possible to strive with him.



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67

The Three Treasures

Lao Tze says,
All the people in the world would say that my Tao is too great and that there is nothing similar to compare it with.
Now it is just because of its greatness that nothing similar can be compared with it.
If anything can be found similar to it, for long its smallness has been known.
At the same time, there are three precious things which I prize and hold fast.
The first is charity;
the second is economy;
and the third is shrinking from being the first of the world.
With that charity I can be bold.
With that economy I can be liberal.
Shrinking from being the first of the world, I can become a vessel of the highest value.
Present day kings give up charity, and are all for being bold;
give up economy, and are all for being liberal;
give up following behind, and rush in front;
of which the end is death.
For the result of using charity in battle is sure to be victory,
and firm maintenance of its ground in defense.
Heaven will save its possessor, his charitable attribute will protect him.



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68

The Way to Triumph

Lao Tze says,
He who is skillful as a good warrior assumes no martial posture.
He who is skillful as a good gladiator will not rise in anger.
He who is skillful in vanquishing his foes will keep apart from them.
He who is skillful in employing will keep a low profile.
All these are the attributes of non-contention,
the methods of using man's abilities,
the way of matching with Heaven's secret,
and the highest art of antiquity.



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69

The Art of War

Lao Tze says,
A master of strategy once said,
'I do not dare to be the first to arouse a war.
I prefer to be passive to rise against an invasion.
I do not dare to march an inch.
I prefer to withdraw a foot.'
This is called proceeding to make an action without walking, to resist without lifting arms;
to dart without facing enemies, and to seize them without combating.
There is no calamity greater than to lightly engage in war.
To do that nearly results in the loss of the three precious things I mentioned before.
That is why when opposing armies meet, the sorrowful side conquers.



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70

They Know Me Not

Lao Tze says,
My words are very easy to know and very easy to practice;
but there is no one in the world who is able to know and able to practice them.
In my words there is a traditional precept and a ruling art.
It is because that they do not know these, that men do not know me.
That is why there are few that know me, and there are even fewer that model after me.
There is a sage who wears coarse clothes and hides jade in his bosom, which anyone shall see.



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71

Exemption From Sick-Mindedness

Lao Tze says,
To know and yet think you don't know is the highest attainment;
not to know and yet think you know is sick-minded.
It is simply in being pained at the thought of having sick-mindedness that one is free from being sick-minded.
The sage is not sick-minded because he knows the pain that would be inseparable from sick-mindedness and therefore he is totally exempted from this sick-mindedness.



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72

On Gentility

Lao Tze says,
The time when people do not fear punishment is the time when a great dread will descend upon them.
Let them not thoughtlessly indulge themselves in their ordinary life.
Let them not act as if they are weary of what life depends on.
It is by avoiding such indulgence that such weariness does not arise.
Therefore the sage knows himself, but does not parade his knowledge;
loves himself, but does not value himself.
Therefore he rejects the punishment and accepts the gentility.



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73

On True Boldness

Lao Tze says,
He who is fearless in his daring to do wrong goes against the Tao, and meets with death.
He who is fearless in his not daring to do so, remains alive.
Of these two cases one is apparently advantageous, and the other harmful.
But when Heaven's hate imposes on a man, who would know why?
On this account even the sage feels it is difficult to understand.
The way of Heaven does not contend yet skillfully excels in overcoming;
it does not speak yet skillfully responds to asking;
it does not summon yet attracts men to it.
It is unselfish and magnanimous, yet its plans are skillful and effective.
The net of Heaven spreads wide with its meshes far apart;
yet it lets nothing slip through.



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74

On Punishment

Lao Tze says,
The people do not fear death;
what purpose is in trying to frighten them with death?
Supposing the people are afraid of death;
I could always seize those who do wrong, and put them to death.
Who would dare to do wrong?
There is a regular one who presides over the execution of death.
He who would execute death on behalf of the executioner is what is described as chopping wood on behalf of the great carpenter.
Seldom is it that he who undertakes the chopping on behalf of the great carpenter does not hurt his own hands.



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75

On Valuing Life

Lao Tze says,
The people suffer from hunger because their superior agencies have imposed a heavy tax, thus they are hungry.
The people are difficult to govern because their superior agencies are too fond of meddling, thus they are difficult to govern.
The people make lightly of dying because of the excessive costs in seeking the means of living, thus they think lightly of dying.
Therefore the benevolent should be those who do not interfere with people's living;
instead of those who value people's living.



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76

Strong and Weak

Lao Tze says,
A man at his living is tender and weak and at his death adamant and strong.
Living creatures and plants at their living are soft and supple and at their death dry and withered.
Thus those who are adamant and strong are the concomitant of death;
and soft and weak, the concomitant of life.
Hence he who relies on the strength of his forces can not win,
and a tree which grows to be strong will invite the feller.
Hence the rule:
The big and the strong stay underneath and the soft and the weak exist above.



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77

Bending The Bow

Lao Tze says,
May not the way of Heaven be compared to bending a bow?
The upper end is where Heaven presses down, and the bottom end is where Heaven lifts up.
So the extra length is shortened;
the insufficient width is expanded.
It is the way of Heaven to reduce from those that have too much, and increase to those that have not enough.
It is not so with the way of Man.
He takes away from those who have not enough to add to those that have too much.
Who can have too much and spare to give to the entire world?
Only he who is enlightened in the Tao.
Therefore the sage works without claiming his endeavor.
He achieves his task and does not rest arrogantly in it.
For he does not wish to display his superiority.



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78

Nothing Weaker Than Water

Lao Tze says,
There is nothing in the world softer and weaker than water,
and yet for attacking things that are hard and strong, there is nothing that can surpass it.
For there is nothing so effectual that can take its place.
Every one in the world knows that the soft overcomes the hard,
and the weak the strong, yet no one can put this knowledge into practice.
Therefore a sage has said,
'He who receives unto himself the calumny of the nation entitles himself to the lordship of the state;
he who bears the nation's direful woes shall be looked up to as the king of the world.'
Words that are strictly true seem to be opposed to common senses.



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79

Peace Settlement

Lao Tze says,
When a reconciliation is made between two parties, surely a grudge still remains in one of them.
How can this be counted as a decent method?
Therefore the sage guards against this method.
He keeps the left-hand tally, and does not insist on the fulfillment of it by others.
So he who has the attribute of the Tao keeps the tally;
while he who has not the attribute of the Tao keeps the record of taxing.
In the way of Heaven, there is no partiality of love;
it is always on the side of a good man.



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80

Perfect Government

Lao Tze says,
The king of men should always think that his state is little, and his people a small population.
He would attribute the governing responsibility to ten or a hundred tribal elders.
His government would never consider to draft people's implements for government use.
Further, he would make his people's looking after departed ancestors estates an important duty, thus they would not move elsewhere.
Though the king of men has boats and carriages, he would have no occasion to ride on them.
Though he had buff coats and sharp weapons, he would have no occasion to use them.
He would make the people return to their pure custom which they used in antiquity - the knotted cord to remember events.
At that time, they thought their coarse food sweet;
their plain clothes beautiful;
their poor dwelling places restful;
and common simple ways sources of enjoyment.
There should be a neighboring state within sight, and the voices of fowls and dogs should be heard all the way from hither to thither, but the people to an old age, even to death, have no intention to visit each other.



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81

The Way of Heaven

Lao Tze says,
Sincere words are not charming and charming words are not sincere.
Those who know the Tao do not like to dispute;
and the disputing persons do not know the Tao.
Wise men do not have to own vast knowledge, those with vast knowledge are not wise.
The sage doesn't like to accumulate things for himself.
The more he works for others, the more he possesses of his own;
and the more he gives to others, the more blessings he receives in return.
The way of Heaven is full of sharpness but injures no one.
The way of sages is to make an effort but to consider not the competition.


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