Tao Te Ching
- The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be defined is not the unchanging name.
Non-existence is called the antecedent of heaven and earth; Existence is the mother of all things.
From eternal non-existence, therefore, we serenely observe the mysterious beginning of the Universe; From eternal existence we clearly see the apparent distinctions.
These two are the same in source and become different when manifested.
This sameness is called profundity. Infinite profundity is the gate whence comes the beginning of all parts of the Universe.
- Ch 1, as translated by Ch'u Ta-Kao (1904)
- Also as The called Tao is not Tao.
- The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.
- Ch. 1, Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English (1972)
- The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.
The unnameable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.
Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.
Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.
- Ch. 1, as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)
- The tao that can be described
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be spoken
is not the eternal Name.
The nameless is the boundary of Heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of creation.
Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery.
By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.
Yet mystery and reality
emerge from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness born from darkness.
The beginning of all understanding.
- Ch. 1, as translated by J.H.McDonald (1996) [Public domain translation]
- The way you can go
isn't the real way.
The name you can say
isn't the real name.
Heaven and earth
begin in the unnamed:
name's the mother
of the ten thousand things.
So the unwanting soul
sees what's hidden,
and the ever-wanting soul
sees only what it wants.
Two things, one origin,
but different in name,
whose identity is mystery.
Mystery of all mysteries!
The door to the hidden.
- Ch. 1, as interpreted by Ursula K. LeGuin (1998)
- The Tao is like a well:
used but never used up.
It is like the eternal void:
filled with infinite possibilities.
It is hidden but always present.
I don't know who gave birth to it.
It is older than God.
- Ch. 4, as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)
- The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.
- Ch. 5, as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)
- The Tao is called the Great Mother:
empty yet inexhaustible,
it gives birth to infinite worlds.
- Ch. 6, as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)
- The universe is deathless; Is deathless because, having no finite self, it stays infinite. A sound man by not advancing himself stays the further ahead of himself, By not confining himself to himself sustains himself outside himself: By never being an end in himself he endlessly becomes himself.
- Ch. 7
- Thirty spokes unite at the single hub;
It is the empty space which makes the wheel useful.
Mold clay to form a bowl;
It is the empty space which makes the bowl useful.
Cut out windows and doors;
It is the empty space which makes the room useful.
- Ch. 11
- A leader is best when people barely know that he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, "We did this ourselves."
- Ch. 17
- Since before time and space were,
the Tao is.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see.
- Ch. 21, as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)
- There is a thing inherent and natural,
Which existed before heaven and earth.
Motionless and fathomless,
It stands alone and never changes;
It pervades everywhere and never becomes exhausted.
It may be regarded as the Mother of the Universe.
I do not know its name. If I am forced to give it a name, I call it Tao, and I name it as supreme.
- Ch 25, as translated by Ch'u Ta-Kao (1904)
- A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving.
A good artist lets his intuition
lead him wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
and keeps his mind open to what is.
Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn't reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn't waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.
- Ch. 27, as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)
- A good traveller has no fixed plan and is not intent on arriving.
- As quoted in In Search of King Solomon's Mines (2003) by Tahir Shah, p. 217
- A true traveller has no fixed plan, and is not intent on arriving.
- Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.
- Ch. 33, as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)
- Scholars of the highest class, when they hear about the Tao, take it and practice it earnestly.
Scholars of the middle class, when they hear of it, take it half earnestly.
Scholars of the lowest class, when they hear of it, laugh at it.
Without the laughter, there would be no Tao.
- Ch. 41
- He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.
- Ch. 46
- By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning.
- Ch. 48, as translated by Raymond B. Blakney (1955)
- 'Block the passages, shut the doors,
And till the end your strength shall not fail.
Open up the passages, increase your doings,
And till your last day no help shall come to you.'
- Ch. 52 as translated by Arther Walley (1934)
- He who knows does not speak; he who speaks does not know.
- Ch. 56
- The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.
- Ch. 57
- Variant translation: The more prohibitions there are, the poorer the people will be.
- Shǐ yú zú xià。
- A journey of a thousand li starts with a single step.
- Ch. 64, line 12
- Variant translations:
- A journey of a thousand [miles] starts with a single step.
- A journey of a thousand miles started with a first step.
- A thousand-mile journey starts from your feet down there.
- As translated by Dr. Hilmar Klaus
- The mark of a moderate man
is freedom from his own ideas.
Tolerant like the sky,
all-pervading like sunlight,
firm like a mountain,
supple like a tree in the wind,
he has no destination in view
and makes use of anything
life happens to bring his way.
- Ch. 59 as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)
- Governing a large country is like frying a small fish.
- Charapter 60.
- Wise men don't need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren't wise.
The Master has no possessions.
The more he does for others, the happier he is.
The more he gives to others, the wealthier he is.
The Tao nourishes by not forcing.
By not dominating, the Master leads.
- Ch. 81 as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)
- I am not at all interested in immortality, only in the taste of tea.
- From Lu Tong (also spelled as Lu Tung)
- Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
- This quotation has been misattributed to Laozi; its origin is actually unknown. This quotation has also been misattributed to Confucius and Guan Zhong.
- What I hear, I forget. What I say, I remember. What I do, I understand.
- This quotation has also been misattributed to Confucius.
- When the center does not hold, the circle falls apart.
- This is a paraphrase of lines in "The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats.
Quotes about Laozi
- Helpmeat too, contrasta toga, his fiery goosemother, laotsey taotsey, woman who did, he tell princes of the age about. You sound on me, judges! Suppose we brisken up. Kings! Meet the Mem, Avenlith, all viviparous out of couple of lizards. She just as fenny as he is fulgar. How laat soever her latest still her sawlogs come up all standing. Psing a psalm of psexpeans, apocryphul of rhyme! His cheekmole of allaph foriverever her allinall and his Kuran never teachit her the be the owner of thyself.
- James Joyce in Finnegans Wake (1939)
- Comparison Chart Chinese characters with PinYin spellings of the Wang Bi, HeShang Gong, Mawangdui A and B, Guodian texts.
- Bamboo slips of the Guodian text Photographs of the Guodian Bamboo Slips with modern equivalents of the Chinese characters, PinYin and Wade Giles spellings, and English definitions.