(E book philosophy) [lao tzu] the tao-te-ching (three translations)Document Transcript
Tao Te Ching
BLACK - J. Legge, Translator
RED - Stanley Rosenthal, Translator
BLUE - S. Mitchell, Translator
Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION: THE TAO TE CHING, LAO TZU, TAOISM AND ZEN..............................................................4
NOTES ON THE INTERPRETATION.................................................................................................................8
THE TAO AND ITS NAME .............................................................................................................................10
Tao Te Ching................................................................................................................................................16
1 - THE EMBODIMENT OF TAO ...................................................................................................................16
2 - LETTING GO OF COMPARISONS.............................................................................................................17
3 - WITHOUT SEEKING ACCLAIM.................................................................................................................20
4 - THE UNFATHOMABLE TAO ....................................................................................................................21
5 - WITHOUT INTENTION ............................................................................................................................23
6 - COMPLETION .........................................................................................................................................24
7 - SHEATHING THE LIGHT...........................................................................................................................25
8 - THE WAY OF WATER..............................................................................................................................26
9 - WITHOUT EXTREMES.............................................................................................................................28
10 - CLEANING THE DARK MIRROR.............................................................................................................29
11 - THE UTILITY OF NON-EXISTENCE .........................................................................................................30
12 - THE REPRESSION OF DESIRES ..............................................................................................................31
13 - UNMOVED AND UNMOVING...............................................................................................................32
14 - EXPERIENCING THE MYSTERY..............................................................................................................34
15 - THE MANIFESTATION OF THE TAO IN MAN.........................................................................................35
16 - RETURNING TO THE ROOT...................................................................................................................37
17 - LEADERSHIP BY EXCEPTION .................................................................................................................38
18 - THE DECAY OF ETHICS..........................................................................................................................39
19 - RETURNING TO NATURALNESS............................................................................................................40
20 - BEING DIFFERENT FROM ORDINARY MEN...........................................................................................42
21 - FINDING THE ESSENCE OF TAO............................................................................................................44
22 - YIELDING TO MAINTAIN INTEGRITY.....................................................................................................45
23 - ACCEPTING THE IRREVOCABLE ............................................................................................................47
24 - EXCESS..................................................................................................................................................48
25 - THE CREATIVE PRINCIPLE OF TAO........................................................................................................49
26 - CENTRING.............................................................................................................................................51
27 - FOLLOWING THE TAO ..........................................................................................................................52
28 - RETAINING INTEGRITY .........................................................................................................................54
29 - TAKING NO ACTION .............................................................................................................................55
30 - A CAVEAT AGAINST VIOLENCE.............................................................................................................57
31 - MAINTAINING PEACE...........................................................................................................................58
32 - IF THE TAO WERE OBSERVED...............................................................................................................60
33 - WITHOUT FORCE: WITHOUT PERISHING.............................................................................................62
34 - WITHOUT CONTRIVING........................................................................................................................63
35 - THE BENEVOLENT HOST.......................................................................................................................64
36 - OVERCOMING......................................................................................................................................65
37 - THE EXERCISE OF LEADERSHIP.............................................................................................................66
38 - THE CONCERNS OF THE GREAT............................................................................................................67
39 - SUFFICIENCY AND QUIETNESS .............................................................................................................70
40 - BEING AND NOT BEING........................................................................................................................72
41 - SAMENESS AND DIFFERENCE...............................................................................................................73
42 - THE TRANSFORMATIONS OF THE TAO.................................................................................................75
INTRODUCTION: THE TAO TE CHING,
LAO TZU, TAOISM AND ZEN
There is frequently some confusion between three practices, each of which is generically termed
'Taoism'. Since this confusion exists, it is important that the prospective student of Taoism can
distinguish between them. The three activities, or practices of Taoism are Philosophical or
speculative Taoism, Religious or esoteric Taoism, and Alchemical or 'debased' Taoism.
The earliest of these is Philosophical Taoism (Tao-chia), which is believed to have developed
between the sixth to the second century before the Christian era, from the earlier 'Yin -Yang'
school of philosophy, whose teachings it inherited and integrated into its own 'philosophical
system' through the 'I Ching', now (unfortunately) most widely known as a work of 'divination'.
Philosophical Taoism is generally thought to have been based on the 'Tao Te Ching' of the
possibly legendary Lao Tzu, and the work of his follower, Chuang Tzu, which is known through
the book which bears his name, and is otherwise without title.
The major development and establishment of Religious Taoism (Tao-chiao) took place during
the two Han dynasties (from 206 B.C. to 220 A.D.), and considered the Tao Te Ching as divine
teaching, using specific interpretations of Lao Tzu's work as one of its own primary scriptures.
The Religious Taoists deified Lao Tzu, describing him as the 'T'ai Shang Lao-chun'. In later
centuries, Religious Taoism was to become a very powerful movement throughout China, where
it was widely practiced, at least until the middle of the twentieth century.
The earliest known reference to Alchemy (in Eastern and Western Literature) is in the 'Shi-chi',
written about eighty-five B.C., but the 'Chou'-i ts'an t'ung ch'i' of Wei Po - yang (c.200 A.D.) was
probably the first major alchemical text to use a Taoist work to this end, some authorities
believing the treatise to be a derivation of the I Ching. This form of alchemy was referred to by
the Philosophical Taoists as 'debased Taoism'.
Of these three 'forms' of Taoism (or practices which called themselves Taoist), Religious and
Alchemical Taoism are not mentioned in the text of this work, other than where they, and similar
practices, were referred to, usually indirectly, in the Chinese text (and then usually in a derisory
Readers of both the I Ching and the Tao Te Ching will readily appreciate from many of Lao
Tzu's statements, that he was certainly well versed in the concepts explained in the earlier work,
and accepted its major precept, that all things are always in a state (or process) of change ('I
Ching' means 'Book of Changes'). However, even allowing for the age of the I Ching, and the
certainty that its concepts were well known in China at the time of Lao Tzu, it would seem, from
historical records, that the Tao Te Ching was considered to be a perplexing book, even in the
period in which it was written. Although not mentioning either Lao Tzu or the Tao Te Ching (nor
the I Ching) by name, many of Chuang Tzu's stories (which are probably apocryphal) serve to
illustrate and explain points from the Tao Te Ching. If there were no confusion or doubt,
presumably such explanatory material would not have been required.
In its original form, the Tao Te Ching (as it is now known) is believed to have consisted of
eighty-one short chapters, these being arranged in two sections, known as the 'Tao Ching' and the
'Te Ching'. The first of these was comprised of thirty-seven chapters, and the second of forty-
four chapters. The length of the original work is said to have been approximately five- thousand
characters, and it is probable that these were written on bamboo strips or slats, which would then
have been bound together to form two scrolls, each appearing somewhat like a venetian blind
with vertical slats.
These were a common form of 'record' in the period of Lao Tzu, this being known as 'The Period
of the Warring States'.
Since it is not known with absolute certainty that a person named 'Lao Tzu' actually lived during
the period of the warring states, to categorically describe the Tao Te Ching as the work of Lao
Tzu would be without sufficiently valid historical foundation. Even the 'biography of Lao Tzu'
which may be found in the 'Historical Records' (Shih-chi) of Ssu-ma Ch'ien (second century
B.C.) is not without its inconsistencies. This record describes Lao Tzu as having been an
archivist of the Court of Chou, and further states that he is said to have personally instructed
Kung Fu Tzu (Confucius).
It is in this last statement that one inconsistency may be found, for other chronicles state the date
of the death of Lao Tzu to precede that of the birth of Kung Fu Tzu by nearly half a century.
Even the author of the 'Historical Records' states his doubts as to the authenticity of the
information available regarding Lao Tzu, and some scholars maintain that the Tao Te Ching does
not present a distinctive or single point of view.
They argue that it is probably a compilation or anthology of sayings from various writers and
schools of thought, reaching its present form in the third century B.C. Conversely, according to
legend, it is said that on his retirement from public office, Lao Tzu headed west, and that the
guardian of the pass to the state of Ch'in requested that he write a treatise on the Tao before
departing. It is then that Lao Tzu is supposed to have sat for two days, in which time he wrote the
Tao Te Ching, after which he left, some writers stating that he was never heard of again, others
describing his ascent to heaven in the form of a magnificent dragon.
Whichever story we believe concerning the existence of Lao Tzu, we may reasonably conclude
(at least) that there is much contradictory evidence. Although I cannot offer conclusive proof that
he did exist, I do not believe that the contradictions prove that such a person did not exist, and
neither do I believe they prove the Tao Te Ching to have been written by more than one person.
As I have stated, the reasons for my beliefs are admittedly without sufficient 'hard evidence' to
withstand strong philosophical questioning, but they are offered here for those who might wish
to know of an argument contrary to current academic opinion.
Since one meaning of the words 'Lao Tzu' is 'Old Man', it is very unlikely that they were used as
an ordinary (or 'proper') name, but could well have been a 'nickname'.
Some authorities claim that this was so in the case of the person in question, the nickname
possibly being derived from the fact (?) that he was born with white hair, like that of an old man.
This theory seems to borne out by the fact that the second character, can also be used to mean
'child'. However, in the context of teaching and learning, it also means 'master' or 'scholar'
(compared with 'pupil' or 'student').
Furthermore, and for the purpose of this discussion, more importantly, the same two characters
which form the Chinese 'Lao Tzu' form the words 'old scholar', pronounced as 'roshi' in Japanese,
a title usually reserved in that language for a master of Zen teaching.
This means that 'Lao Tzu' is the Chinese equivalent to the Japanese 'Roshi'. For this reason I
believe there probably was a person called Lao Tzu, but that Lao Tzu was his title, rather than his
name. It may of course be that there were many 'old scholars', all known by that title, but the
existence of many has never been considered proof of the non-existence of one.
At this juncture it is perhaps necessary to mention briefly the historical and philosophical
relationship between Taoism, Ch'an and Zen. The word 'Zen' is the Japanese pronunciation of the
Chinese 'Ch'an', the system attributed to the 'Bodhidharma' (in Japanese 'Daruma'), described by
followers of Zen Buddhism as the twenty-eighth Buddhist Patriarch, who is said to have arrived
in China in 526 A.D.
Although well known to followers of Zen, it is not always known to others that the Bodhidharma
then spent nine years in the earliest Chinese Buddhist temple, which had by that time been in
existence for over four hundred years. Furthermore, during that period, the original Buddhism of
India had undergone many changes in China, much of its teaching having been adapted (Tibetan
Buddhists might claim, 'adulterated') by its proximity to Taoism.
Today, in the West at least, the most widely known sects of Zen are Buddhist. However, even
before its acceptance by Buddhists, Ch'an (or 'Zen') was accepted by the Chinese followers of
Philosophical Taoism (Tao Chia) as an adjunct to their own philosophy and practices. So it was
that the 'non-religious' aspects of Zen and Taoism became integrated into the system known in
China as 'Ch'an Tao-chia'.
It is probable that we will never know all the reasons for this two-way integration which
occurred between Tao-chia and Ch'an, but some of the reasons become apparent when we learn
something of the similarities between the philosophies underlying the two systems. It will
hopefully suffice to mention that the practitioners of each group probably felt an affinity with the
'fluidity' of thought and action of the practitioners of the other, recognizing this as stemming
from the same philosophical source as their own. Similarly, it is very likely that the members of
both groups appreciated the 'ethics' of the other, since both philosophies emphasize the
development of the individual as a prerequisite to the development of society.
Notwithstanding any inaccuracies in my own interpretation of events, of even greater historical
significance is the fact that from about six hundred A.D., the survival of Philosophical Taoism
was made possible only through its adoption by Ch'an. Had it not been for this fact, the
antagonistic attitude of the Religious Taoists, combined with their growing governmental power,
might easily have resulted in the forceful demise of Taoist Philosophy as it is known today.
As to the continued integration and co-existence of Taoism and Zen, we fortunately need look no
further than the words of the great Zen scholar, Professor D.T. Suzuki, who said,
"To ask a question about Zen is to ask a question about the Tao."
All this is of course intended to illustrate the links between the two practices which use the same
written characters ( ) as a teaching name or honorary title, and that this title may have been used
by the author of the Tao Te Ching wishing to retain his anonymity.
If this was the case, it could have been either for reasons of personal safety on the part of the
author, or out of deference to his own teachers. Any reader who has knowledge of the history of
China during the period of the warring states will readily appreciate, and hopefully sympathize
with the first of these reasons, but the second reason perhaps requires some explanation. This is
Carrying out one's work in an unostentatious manner is an important aspect of Taoist teaching, as
is respect for one's teachers. In some instances these two principles were adhered to so rigorously
that a writer or painter might either not sign his work at all, or use a pseudonym compiled
(possibly as an anagram) from the names of his most revered teachers. It is therefore possible
that the author of the Tao Te Ching used the pseudonym 'Lao Tzu' as an acknowledgement of his
own teacher, using the title 'old scholar' to refer to that teacher as he might have been known and
referred to by his own students.
It is quite likely that the title 'Roshi', used in Zen (Japanese Ch'an) developed as an 'official title'
from its earlier Chinese usage. In Zen, it is thought to be rank bad manners to use the real name
of one's own teacher in a published work, at least in the context of he or she being one's own
teacher (for reasons which I have attempted to explain in the 'Acknowledgements' section), but it
is quite acceptable to refer to him (or her) by an honorary title. Combine any of these
possibilities with the fact that one's own teacher may have been given or have chosen a 'teaching
name' (a pseudonym under which a teacher may work) and it becomes easier to understand why
it is impossible to be definitive regarding the 'real name' of the author or authors of the Tao Te
Ching. For the purposes of this discussion however, I wish to continue from the assumption that
the Tao Te Ching did have an author, and that we may, without too much 'license', refer to him
as Lao Tzu.
The second factor which causes me to believe that we should not completely disregard the
legend of the writing of the Tao Te Ching concerns its cryptic style. The basis of my belief is
twofold. In the first instance, if, as legend tells us, Lao Tzu completed his writing in two days, it
is not surprising that it was cryptic, since this would have required him to write at a rate of two
and one half thousand words each day. It may therefore be that he wrote as succinctly as possible
in order to complete his task as quickly as possible, so that he could continue on his journey into
Those who know the Tao Te Ching will also know that Lao Tzu did not teach that a task should
be rushed; rather, he taught that all things should occur in their natural time. This leads to my
second point regarding the cryptic style of the original work. We know that the keeper of the
pass, who made the request for a written copy of Lao Tzu's thoughts, was a well known Taoist of
the period named Yin Hsi, also referred to as 'Kwan Yin'. As a Taoist, he would certainly have
been familiar with the teachings of Lao Tzu, even though, as he himself is supposed to have told
the old philosopher, because of the nature of his work, he had not been able to avail himself of
personal tuition from the master. It could be that the 'vagueness' (or seemingly esoteric nature of
the first chapter) is due to the fact that Lao Tzu would have had no reason to explain the Tao to
someone who was already versed in Tao-chia.
I believe we can assume that, although possibly not nationally famous, Lao Tzu would certainly
have been well known in his own province. This would certainly seem to be the case, since Yin
Hsi either recognized the figure of Lao Tzu, or his name, otherwise he would not have made his
request to that particular traveler.
Assuming the keeper of the pass to know something of the teaching of Lao Tzu, his request
could have been made in the form of a list of questions, to which Lao Tzu might have written the
answers in the form of brief (or cryptic) notes, as an 'aide memoire'. This might of course also
account for the apparent discontinuity of the completed work. If the text were written in answer
to a number of questions, the sequence of the text would conform to that of the questions, which
might easily have been prepared by Yin Hsi over a period of time, in the hope that the occasion
might arise when he would meet with a scholar such as Lao Tzu, with whom he could then
discuss his questions. This could account for the apparent repetitions in the text, for two
questions both phrased in a similar manner, would presumably be answered in a similar manner.
This concludes the summary of my own beliefs regarding the legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te
Ching, other than to add the rider used frequently even by those who disagree totally with my
own interpretation of the legend. This is that, irrespective of the authenticity of the legend and
the problem of identifying its authorship, the majority of scholars date the origin of the text of
the Tao Te Ching no later than 400 B.C. Furthermore, there is virtually no dissent among
scholars as to its great value as a philosophical, literary and historical work.
NOTES ON THE INTERPRETATION
The text of the Tao Te Ching follows immediately after these notes, the arrangement following
the convention set by Wan Bih in the third century A.D. Each of the eighty-one sections is
shown in English, the text being as brief as English grammar will permit, whilst still retaining
sensibility. The differences between my own rendering of the text and those of other translators
will seem to some readers to be minor; to others they may seem radical. In either case, the reader
is of course free to compare the texts by referring to those editions cited earlier in these notes.
The Chinese characters employed as chapter headings are written in a style approximating to the
period in which the original text was written. The style is commonly known as 'small seal script'.
Readers wishing to use modern Chinese characters for their own researches may of course refer
to any or each of the Chinese texts mentioned at the end, and there are of course many others.
'Small seal script' is by no means the earliest written form of Chinese, but it is certainly one of
the most aesthetically pleasing and easiest to read. Being more pictographic than later forms, the
symbolism of the images contained within the small seal characters is easier to understand than it
is in later forms. Modern Chinese script is virtually always more stylized, and (if hand written)
frequently more 'freehand', and therefore sometimes difficult for the inexperienced reader to
Each small seal script chapter heading provides an approximate rendering of either the English
title beneath or beside which it appears, or of the key concept or concepts embodied in the text of
that chapter. As with the Chinese text itself, there are a number of different 'authentic' chapter
headings. In most instances I have used a 'traditional' heading, but where even the traditional
meaning is unclear I have used the heading I believe to be most appropriate to the contents of the
chapter. Following the usual conventions, horizontally presented script should be read from left
to right, and vertically presented script should be read from top to bottom, the right hand column
As I have stated earlier, because of the cryptic nature of the original text, and also because of the
difference between the structure of English and Chinese grammar, a completely literal translation
of the Chinese text would make little if any sense to the reader not versed in both the written
Chinese language and the concepts of Taoism.
This means that virtually any intelligible English rendering of the Tao Te Ching is bound to be
longer than the original Chinese text. The variation in the length of many English (and Chinese)
texts of the Tao Te Ching will be readily apparent to the reader of those translations listed in the
There are many valid arguments for and against the inclusion of commentaries on the text in any
edition of the Tao Te Ching, but in this instance I hope that the English rendering will 'speak for
itself', thus serving the purpose for which it is intended. It is for this reason that no separate
commentaries are included.
The text in this edition is somewhat longer than that found in most other translations. There are
two reasons for this, the first being that it includes certain expansions resulting from points raised
in discussion by my own students. In those instances where there was apparent lack of clarity in
my original drafts, additions have been made to clarify the concepts involved. (Where additions
have been made to the most commonly available Chinese and English editions, the addition and
the reason for its inclusion are annotated in the appendix at the end of the book.) The second
reason is the form of interpretation employed, the rationale of which is now briefly described.
I do not believe it is by accident that the Tao Te Ching can be interpreted at many different levels
without contradiction. The actual interpretation placed upon the text by any translator will
depend on many factors, as has already been discussed. However, there is no doubt that Tao-chia
and Ch'an are both very much concerned with individual development, maintaining that this is
essential to a healthy society.
It is from this particular viewpoint that the rationale for this interpretation has developed.
Although other translators have certainly raised this issue, to the best of my knowledge this is the
first rendering to give priority to this aspect of the Tao Te Ching. It was because my own
students requested such an interpretation in English, and because we were unable to find such an
interpretation that I undertook the translation and interpretation presented here.
British School of Zen Taoism
Cardiff, September 1984
THE TAO AND ITS NAME
Naming things enables us to differentiate between them, but names are words, and words easily
give rise to confusion. They do not replace the thing or direct experience of the thing which they
name, but only represent or describe it. Consider a thing such as a strawberry. If we wish to find
the word 'strawberry', we look in a dictionary; if we wish to find a description of a strawberry,
we look in an encyclopedia. But if we are hungry, we do not go to the library, but to the field
where fine strawberries may be found. If we do not know where there is such a field, we might
seek guidance as to where fine strawberries may be found. A book on the Tao is like such a
It can point us in the direction of the strawberry patch, but cannot provide the fruit itself. It can
give an idea of the taste of Tao, but of itself, has no taste to compare with direct experience of
Consider now three things: There is the universal principle which enables all things to be, and to
flourish naturally; there is the name 'Tao', by which that universal principle is known; and there
are words which describe the manifestations of the Tao.
Even the name 'Tao' is only a convenience, and should not be confused with the universal
principle which bears that name, for such a principle embraces all things, so cannot be accurately
named nor adequately described. This means that Tao cannot be understood, for it is infinite,
whereas the mind of man is finite, and that which is finite cannot encompass that which is
Although we cannot understand Tao, we are not prevented from having knowledge of it, for
understanding stems from one of the two forms of knowledge. It stems from that which is called
cognitive knowledge, the knowledge born of words and numbers, and other similar devices. The
other form of knowledge, cognitive knowledge, needs no words or other such devices, for it is
the form of knowledge born of direct personal experience. So it is that cognitive knowledge is
also known as experiential knowledge. Cognitive and experiential knowledge both have their
roots in reality, but reality is complex, and complexity is more of a barrier to cognitive
knowledge than it is to experiential knowledge, for when we seek cognitive knowledge of a
thing, that is, understanding of it, the knowledge we gain of that thing is understanding only of
its manifestations, which is not knowledge of the thing itself.
We may seek to understand a thing, rather than to experience it, because, in a world beset with
manmade dangers, it is frequently safer to understand than to experience. Tao is not manmade,
and there is nothing in it to fear. So it is that we may experience Tao without fear. When we
cease to seek cognitive knowledge, that is, cease to seek understanding of a thing, we can gain
experiential knowledge of that thing. This is why it is said that understanding Tao is not the same
as knowing Tao; that understanding Tao is only to know that which it manifests, and that
knowing Tao is to be one with the universal principal which is Tao. This is to say that knowledge
of Tao is not the same as understanding Tao. To know Tao is to experience both Tao and the
manifestations of that universal principle. As human beings, we are born as manifestations of
If this seems complex, the reason is because Tao is both simple and complex. It is complex when
we try to understand it, and simple when we allow ourselves to experience it. Trying to
understand Tao is like closing the shutters of a window before looking for a shadow. We might
close the shutters to prevent anyone from discovering our treasure, but the same shutters prevent
the moonlight from entering the room. All there is in the room is darkness, and in total darkness
we cannot find the shadow, no matter how hard or diligently we seek.
We call one thing a shadow, and another darkness, but the shadow is darkness, and the darkness
shadow, for in reality, both darkness and shadow are absence of light, yet we call one shadow
and the other darkness. The shadow is darkness in the midst of light, but within total darkness,
the shadow seems to disappear, for darkness is a shadow within shadows. We may think that the
shadow has been destroyed when all light is removed, but it has not been wiped away; in reality
it has grown, but we need light even to see that form of darkenss which we call a shadow.
Such is the pursuit of the universal priciple called Tao, that if we seek to understand it, we
prevent the very means by which it may be found, for the only way in which we might find Tao
is through the experience of Tao. We find Tao when we do not seek it, and when we seek it, it
leaves us, just as the silver moonlight leaves the room when we close the shutters. We find and
know Tao when we allow ourselves to find and know it, just as the moonlight returns when we
allow it to return.
We do not need to seek Tao as we seek physical treasures such as jade or gold. We do not need
to seek Tao as we seek such treasures as fame or titles. We do not need to seek the treasure of
Tao, for although the greatest of treasures, it is also the most common. Perhaps it is because it is
so common that so few men find it; they seek it only in mysterious and secret places, in chasms
and caves, and in the workplace of the alchemist. The Tao is not hidden in these places, and is
hidden only from those who frequent and inhabit them, secretively, and with the shutters closed.
Just as darkness may be known as the absence of light, so to may light be known as the absence
of darkness. When we experience darkness and light as having the same source, we are close to
the Tao, for Tao is the source of both darkness and light, just as it is also the source of all other
natural things. When we experience ourselves as part of Tao, as a shadow or reflection of the
universal principle, we have found it, for it is said that "Experience of Tao is Tao".
1. KNOWLEDGE OF 'THE TAO', AND EXPERIENCE OF THE TAO.
There is a way in which we may conduct our lives without regrets and in such a manner as
assists in developing and realizing our individual potential, without harming others, or inhibiting
the realization of their potential, and which is beneficial to a healthy society. Such a way of life
may of course be conducted without a name, and without description, but in order that others
may know of it, and so as to distinguish it from other ways in which life may be conducted, we
give it a name, and use words to describe it. When discussing or describing this way in which
life may be conducted, rather than refer to it in full, for convenience, we refer to it as 'the way',
meaning simply that the discussion is concerned with this particular way, not that it is the only
way of conducting one's life. In order that we might distinguish it more easily from other ways,
we refer to it also by its original name, which is 'Tao'.
By intellectual intent, that is, through thought and words, and by considering ourselves as non-
participating observers of this way of life, we may gain knowledge of its manifestations; but it is
only through participation that we can actually experience such a way of life for ourselves.
Knowledge of anything is not the same as the thing of which we have that knowledge.
When we have knowledge of a thing but do not have experience of it, in trying to describe that
thing, all we can describe is our knowledge, not the thing itself. Equally, even when we have
experience of a thing, all we can convey is knowledge of that experience, not the experience
Knowledge and experience are both real, but they are different realities, and their relationship is
frequently made complex by what distinguishes them, one from the other. When they are used
according to that which is appropriate to the situation, we may develop that way of life which
enables us to pass through the barrier of such complexities. We may have knowledge of "Tao",
but Tao itself can only be experienced.
2. LETTING GO OF OPPOSITES.
It is the nature of the ordinary person, the person who is not yet at one with the Tao, to compare
the manifestations of the natural qualities possessed by things. Such a person tries to learn of
such qualities by distinguishing between their manifestations, and so learns only of their
So it is that the ordinary person might consider one thing beautiful when compared with another
which he considers to be ugly; one thing skillfully made compared with another which he
considers badly made. He knows of what he has as a result of knowing what he does not have,
and of that which he considers easy through that which he considers difficult. He considers one
thing long by comparing it with another thing which he considers short; one thing high and
another low. He knows of noise through silence and of silence through noise, and learns of that
which leads through that which follows.
When such comparisons are made by a sage, that is a person who is in harmony with the Tao,
that person is aware of making a judgment, and that judgments are relative to the person who
makes them, and to the situation in which they are made, as much as they are relative to that
which is judged.
Through the experience and knowledge through which he has gained his wisdom, the sage is
aware that all things change, and that a judgment which is right in one situation might easily be
wrong in another situation. He is therefore aware that he who seems to lead does not always lead,
and that he who seems to follow does not always follow.
Because of this awareness, the sage frequently seems neither to lead nor follow, and often seems
to do nothing, for that which he does is done without guile; it is done naturally, being neither
easy nor difficult, not big or small. Because he accomplishes his task and then let’s go of it
without seeking credit, he cannot be discredited. Thus, his teaching lasts forever, and he is held
in high esteem.
3. WITHOUT SEEKING ACCLAIM.
The talented person who is also wise, retains humility, and so does not create rivalry. The person
who possesses material things, and who does not boast of his possessions, does much to prevent
stealing. Those who are jealous of talents, skills or possessions of others, easily become
possessed themselves by envy.
The sage is satisfied with a sufficiency; he is not jealous, and so is free of envy. He does not seek
fame and titles, but maintains his energy and keeps himself supple. He minimizes his desires, and
does not train himself in guile. He thus remains pure at heart. By acting in an uncontrived
manner, the harmony of the inner world of his thoughts and the external world of his
environment is maintained. He remains at peace with himself.
For these reasons, an administration which is concerned with the welfare of those whom it
serves, does not encourage the seeking of status and titles; it does not create jealousy and rivalry
amongst the people, but ensures that they are able to have a sufficiency, without causing them to
become discontent, therefore the members of such an administration do not seek honors for
themselves, nor act with guile towards the people.
4. THE UNFATHOMABLE TAO.
The mind should not be filled with desires. The individual who is at one with the Tao is aware of
the distinction between that which is needed as a sufficiency, and that which is a desire, or
merely wanted rather than needed.
It is the manner of the Tao that even though continuously used, it is naturally replenished, never
being emptied, and never being as full as a goblet which is filled to the brim and therefore spills
its fine spring water upon the ground. The Tao therefore does not waste that with which it is
charged, yet always remains a source of nourishment for those who are not already so full that
they cannot partake of it. Even the finest blade will lose its sharpness if tempered beyond its
mettle. Even the most finely tempered sword is of no avail against water, and will shatter if
struck against a rock. A tangled cord is of little use after it has been untangled by cutting it. Just
as a fine sword should be used only by an experienced swordsman, intellect should be tempered
with experience. By this means, tangled cord may be untangled, and seemingly insoluble
problems resolved; colors and hues may be harmonized to create fine paintings, and people
enabled to exist in unity with each other because they no longer feel that they exist only in the
shadow of the brilliance of others.
To conduct oneself without guile is to conduct oneself in a natural manner, and to do this is to be
in contact with nature. By maintaining awareness of the way of nature, the wise person becomes
aware of the Tao, and so becomes aware that this is how its seemingly unfathomable mysteries
may be experienced.
5. TRANQUIL BUT UNCEASING.
Those things which are in opposition with each other are not benevolent towards each other, and
may even treat each other with contempt or malevolence. Although the creatures which are born
of nature may be in opposition with each other, nature itself is in opposition to nothing for there
is nothing for it to oppose. It acts without conscious intention, and it is therefore, neither
deliberately benevolent, contemptuous, nor malevolent. In this respect the way of the Tao is the
same as the way of nature. Therefore, even when acting in a benevolent manner, the sage does
not act from any conscious desire to be benevolent.
Through his manner of breathing like a babe, he remains free of conscious desire, and so retains
his tranquility. By this means he is empty of desire, and his energy is not drained from him.
6. THE MANIFESTATION OF TAO THROUGH COMPLIMENTARY OPPOSITES
All physical things possess certain natural qualities, such as size, shape and color. Since the
universal principle encompasses all things, so it encompasses their natural qualities. Being
possessed by all things, natural qualities are general to all things, but in order to relate to a
quality, we think of it as it exists relative to a particular thing, and to ourselves. We therefore
think of and describe a quality according to how it is manifested through one particular thing
compared with another. Thus, we judge one thing to be big, compared with another thing, which
we think of as small; one person young, and another old; one sound noisy, and another quiet.
Equally, we judge and compare by thinking of the aesthetic quality in terms of its manifestations,
'beautiful' or 'ugly'; morality in terms of good or bad; possession in terms of having or not
having; ability in terms of ease or difficulty; length in terms of long or short; height in terms of
high or low; sound in terms of noisy or quiet; light in terms of brightness or darkness.
Although many of the manifestations which we compare are judged by us to be opposites, one to
the other, they are not in opposition, but are complimentary, for even extremes are nothing other
than aspects or specific examples of the quality which encompasses them. Both big and small are
manifestations or examples of size, young and old are examples of age, noise and quietness are
aspects of sound, and brightness and darkness are extremes of light.
It is the nature of the ordinary man to compare and judge the manifestations of the naturally
occurring qualities inherent in things and in situations. It is not wrong to do this, but we should
not delude ourselves into believing that we thereby describe the quality rather than a
manifestation of the quality.
Whilst all judgments are comparative, a judgment is frequently, if not always, relative to the
individual who makes that judgment, and also to the time at which it is made. To the young
child, the father may be old, but when the son reaches that age, it is unlikely that he will consider
himself old. To the child, the garden fence is high, but when the child grows bigger, the same
fence is low. The adult in his physical prime knows that to run ten miles, which is easy at that
time, will become more difficult as he becomes older, but that that the patience required to walk
will become easier.
The sage knows that qualitative judgments, such as old and young, big and small, easy and
difficult, or leading and following, relate as much to the person who makes that judgment, as
they relate to the thing or action described. Consider a sage and an ordinary man sitting on a hill
in the late evening, looking down on the road below.
When darkness has fallen, they both see the light of two lanterns approaching, one yellow, the
other red, bobbing gently as their bearers pass by. From the positions of the two lights, the
ordinary man knows that the bearer of the yellow lantern leads the bearer of the red. As he
watches, he sees the red lantern draw level with the yellow, and as they pass beneath him, the red
lantern preceding the yellow.
The ordinary man wonders why the two lantern bearers do not walk side by side. The sage, who
has seen what his companion has seen, thinks it right that the two travelers should do as they
have done, to walk side by side through the night, neither leading and neither following the
other. The sage is aware that he who seems to lead does not always lead, and that he who seems
to follow does not always follow. Because of this, the sage frequently seems neither to lead nor
follow, and often seems to do nothing, for that which he does is natural, being neither easy nor
difficult, not big or small.
Those changes which occur naturally in life, the sage accepts as natural, accepting them as an
opportunity for learning, whilst realizing that knowledge is not his possession. Because he knows
that the credit for learning is due to the willingness of the student, he teaches without teaching,
but by allowing his students to observe the virtue of observing natural qualities, rather than only
comparing and judging their manifestations. He does this without seeking credit, and continues
without contriving to be given credit. Because of this, his teaching lasts forever, and he is held in
The gifted person retains humility and thus prevents jealousy. The person who does not boast of
his possessions prevents stealing. Only those who have greed are perplexed by envy. The wise
person is therefore satisfied with a sufficiency, and is free of envy. He does not seek fame and
titles, but keeps himself strong and supple. He minimizes his desires, and does not train himself
in guile. He thus remains pure at heart. By acting in an uncontrived manner he maintains his
Tao Te Ching
1 - THE EMBODIMENT OF TAO
The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and
unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and
(Conceived of as) having no name, it is the Originator of heaven
and earth; (conceived of as) having a name, it is the Mother of all
Always without desire we must be found,
If its deep mystery we would sound;
But if desire always within us be,
Its outer fringe is all that we shall see.
Under these two aspects, it is really the same; but as development
takes place, it receives the different names. Together we call them
the Mystery. Where the Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that
is subtle and wonderful.
Even the finest teaching is not the Tao itself.
Even the finest name is insufficient to define it.
Without words, the Tao can be experienced,
and without a name, it can be known.
To conduct one's life according to the Tao,
is to conduct one's life without regrets;
to realize that potential within oneself
which is of benefit to all.
Though words or names are not required
to live one's life this way,
to describe it, words and names are used,
that we might better clarify
the way of which we speak,
without confusing it with other ways
in which an individual might choose to live.
Through knowledge, intellectual thought and words,
the manifestations of the Tao are known,
but without such intellectual intent
we might experience the Tao itself.
Both knowledge and experience are real,
but reality has many forms,
which seem to cause complexity.
By using the means appropriate,
we extend ourselves beyond
the barriers of such complexity,
and so experience the Tao.
The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.
The unnamable 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.
2 - LETTING GO OF COMPARISONS
All in the world know the beauty of the beautiful, and in doing
this they have (the idea of) what ugliness is; they all know the skill
of the skilful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what the
want of skill is.
So it is that existence and non-existence give birth the one to
(the idea of) the other; that difficulty and ease produce the one (the
idea of) the other; that length and shortness fashion out the one the
figure of the other; that (the ideas of) height and lowness arise from
the contrast of the one with the other; that the musical notes and
tones become harmonious through the relation of one with another; and
that being before and behind give the idea of one following another.
Therefore the sage manages affairs without doing anything, and
conveys his instructions without the use of speech.
All things spring up, and there is not one which declines to show
itself; they grow, and there is no claim made for their ownership;
they go through their processes, and there is no expectation (of a
reward for the results). The work is accomplished, and there is no
resting in it (as an achievement).
The work is done, but how no one can see;
'Tis this that makes the power not cease to be.
We cannot know the Tao itself,
nor see its qualities direct,
but only see by differentiation,
that which it manifests.
Thus, that which is seen as beautiful
is beautiful compared with that
which is seen as lacking beauty;
an action considered skilled
is so considered in comparison
with another, which seems unskilled.
That which a person knows he has
is known to him by that which he does not have,
and that which he considers difficult
seems so because of that which he can do with ease.
One thing seems long by comparison with that
which is, comparatively, short.
One thing is high because another thing is low;
only when sound ceases is quietness known,
and that which leads
is seen to lead only by being followed.
In comparison, the sage,
in harmony with the Tao,
needs no comparisons,
and when he makes them, knows
that comparisons are judgments,
and just as relative to he who makes them,
and to the situation,
as they are to that on which
the judgment has been made.
Through his experience,
the sage becomes aware that all things change,
and that he who seems to lead,
might also, in another situation, follow.
So he does nothing; he neither leads nor follows.
That which he does is neither big nor small;
without intent, it is neither difficult,
nor done with ease.
His task completed, he then let’s go of it;
seeking no credit, he cannot be discredited.
Thus, his teaching lasts forever,
and he is held in high esteem.
When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.
Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.
Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn't possess,
acts but doesn't expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.
3 - WITHOUT SEEKING ACCLAIM
Not to value and employ men of superior ability is the way to
keep the people from rivalry among themselves; not to prize articles
which are difficult to procure is the way to keep them from becoming
thieves; not to show them what is likely to excite their desires is
the way to keep their minds from disorder.
Therefore the sage, in the exercise of his government, empties
their minds, fills their bellies, weakens their wills, and strengthens
He constantly (tries to) keep them without knowledge and without
desire, and where there are those who have knowledge, to keep them
from presuming to act (on it). When there is this abstinence from
action, good order is universal.
By retaining his humility,
the talented person who is also wise,
The person who possesses many things,
but does not boast of his possessions,
reduces temptation, and reduces stealing.
Those who are jealous of the skills or things
possessed by others,
most easily themselves become possessed by envy.
Satisfied with his possessions,
the sage eliminates the need to steal;
at one with the Tao,
he remains free of envy,
and has no need of titles.
By being supple, he retains his energy.
He minimizes his desires,
and does not train himself in guile,
nor subtle words of praise.
By not contriving, he retains
the harmony of his inner world,
and so remains at peace within himself.
It is for reasons such as these,
that an administration
which is concerned
with the welfare of those it serves,
does not encourage status
and titles to be sought,
nor encourage rivalry.
Ensuring a sufficiency for all,
helps in reducing discontent.
Administrators who are wise
do not seek honors for themselves,
nor act with guile
towards the ones they serve.
If you overesteem great men,
people become powerless.
If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal.
The Master leads
by emptying people's minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion
in those who think that they know.
and everything will fall into place.
4 - THE UNFATHOMABLE TAO
The Tao is (like) the emptiness of a vessel; and in our
employment of it we must be on our guard against all fullness. How
deep and unfathomable it is, as if it were the Honored Ancestor of
We should blunt our sharp points, and unravel the complications of
things; we should temper our brightness, and bring ourselves into
agreement with the obscurity of others. How pure and still the Tao
is, as if it would ever so continue!
I do not know whose son it is. It might appear to have been before
It is the nature of the Tao,
that even though used continuously,
it is replenished naturally,
never being emptied,
and never being over-filled,
as is a goblet
which spills its contents
upon the ground.
The Tao therefore cannot be said
to waste its charge,
but constantly remains
a source of nourishment
for those who are not so full of self
as to be unable to partake of it.
When tempered beyond its natural state,
the finest blade will lose its edge.
Even the hardest tempered sword,
against water, is of no avail,
and will shatter if struck against a rock.
When untangled by a cutting edge,
the cord in little pieces lies,
and is of little use.
Just as the finest swordsmith
tempers the finest blade
with his experience,
so the sage, with wisdom, tempers intellect.
With patience, tangled cord may be undone,
and problems which seem insoluble, resolved.
With wise administrators, all can exist in unity,
each with the other,
because no man need feel that he exists,
only as the shadow of his brilliant brother.
Through conduct not contrived for gain,
awareness of the Tao may be maintained.
This is how its mysteries may be found.
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.
5 - WITHOUT INTENTION
Heaven and earth do not act from (the impulse of) any wish to be
benevolent; they deal with all things as the dogs of grass are dealt
with. The sages do not act from (any wish to be) benevolent; they
deal with the people as the dogs of grass are dealt with.
May not the space between heaven and earth be compared to a
'Tis emptied, yet it loses not its power;
'Tis moved again, and sends forth air the more.
Much speech to swift exhaustion lead we see;
Your inner being guard, and keep it free.
Nature acts without intent,
so cannot be described
as acting with benevolence,
nor malevolence to anything.
In this respect, the Tao is just the same,
though in reality it should be said
that nature follows the rule of Tao.
Therefore, even when he seems to act
in manner kind or benevolent,
the sage is not acting with such intent,
for in conscious matters such as these,
he is amoral and indifferent.
The sage retains tranquility,
and is not by speech or thought disturbed,
and even less by action which is contrived.
His actions are spontaneous,
as are his deeds towards his fellow men.
By this means he is empty of desire,
and his energy is not drained from him.
The Tao doesn't take sides;
it gives birth to both good and evil.
The Master doesn't take sides;
she welcomes both saints and sinners.
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.
Hold on to the center.
6 - COMPLETION
The valley spirit dies not, aye the same;
The female mystery thus do we name.
Its gate, from which at first they issued forth,
Is called the root from which grew heaven and earth.
Long and unbroken does its power remain,
Used gently, and without the touch of pain.
Like the sheltered, fertile valley,
the meditative mind is still,
yet retains its energy.
Since both energy and stillness,
of themselves, do not have form,
it is not through the senses
that they may be found,
nor understood by intellect alone,
although, in nature, both abound.
In the meditative state,
the mind ceases to differentiate
and that which may or may not be.
It leaves them well alone,
for they exist,
not differentiated, but as one,
within the meditative mind.
The Tao is called the Great Mother:
empty yet inexhaustible,
it gives birth to infinite worlds.
It is always present within you.
You can use it any way you want.
7 - SHEATHING THE LIGHT
Heaven is long-enduring and earth continues long. The reason
why heaven and earth are able to endure and continue thus long is
because they do not live of, or for, themselves. This is how they are
able to continue and endure.
Therefore the sage puts his own person last, and yet it is found in
the foremost place; he treats his person as if it were foreign to him,
and yet that person is preserved. Is it not because he has no
personal and private ends, that therefore such ends are realized?
When living by the Tao,
awareness of self is not required,
for in this way of life, the self exists,
and is also non-existent,
being conceived of, not as an existentiality,
nor as non-existent.
The sage does not contrive to find his self,
for he knows that all which may be found of it,
is that which it manifests to sense and thought,
which side by side with self itself, is nought.
It is by sheathing intellect's bright light
that the sage remains at one with his own self,
ceasing to be aware of it, by placing it behind.
Detached, he is unified with his external world,
by being selfless he is fulfilled;
thus his selfhood is assured.
The Tao is infinite, eternal.
Why is it eternal?
It was never born;
thus it can never die.
Why is it infinite?
It has no desires for itself;
thus it is present for all beings.
The Master stays behind;
that is why she is ahead.
She is detached from all things;
that is why she is one with them.
Because she has let go of herself,
she is perfectly fulfilled.
8 - THE WAY OF WATER
The highest excellence is like (that of) water. The excellence
of water appears in its benefiting all things, and in its occupying,
without striving (to the contrary), the low place which all men
dislike. Hence (its way) is near to (that of) the Tao.
The excellence of a residence is in (the suitability of) the place;
that of the mind is in abysmal stillness; that of associations is in
their being with the virtuous; that of government is in its securing
good order; that of (the conduct of) affairs is in its ability; and
that of (the initiation of) any movement is in its timeliness.
And when (one with the highest excellence) does not wrangle (about
his low position), no one finds fault with him.
Great good is said to be like water,
sustaining life with no conscious striving,
flowing naturally, providing nourishment,
found even in places
which desiring man rejects.
In this way
it is like the Tao itself.
Like water, the sage abides in a humble place;
in meditation, without desire;
in thoughtfulness, he is profound,
and in his dealings, kind.
In speech, sincerity guides the man of Tao,
and as a leader, he is just.
In management, competence is his aim,
and he ensures the pacing is correct.
Because he does not act for his own ends,
nor cause unnecessary conflict,
he is held to be correct
in his actions towards his fellow man.
The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.
In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.
When you are content to be simply yourself
and don't compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.
9 - WITHOUT EXTREMES
It is better to leave a vessel unfilled, than to attempt to
carry it when it is full. If you keep feeling a point that has been
sharpened, the point cannot long preserve its sharpness.
When gold and jade fill the hall, their possessor cannot keep them
safe. When wealth and honors lead to arrogance, this brings its evil
on itself. When the work is done, and one's name is becoming
distinguished, to withdraw into obscurity is the way of Heaven.
The cup is easier to hold
when not filled to overflowing.
The blade is more effective
if not tempered beyond its mettle.
Gold and jade are easier to protect
if possessed in moderation.
He who seeks titles,
invites his own downfall.
The sage works quietly,
seeking neither praise nor fame;
completing what he does with natural ease,
and then retiring.
This is the way and nature of Tao.
Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.
10 - CLEANING THE DARK MIRROR
When the intelligent and animal souls are held together in one
embrace, they can be kept from separating. When one gives undivided
attention to the (vital) breath, and brings it to the utmost degree of
pliancy, he can become as a (tender) babe. When he has cleansed away
the most mysterious sights (of his imagination), he can become without
In loving the people and ruling the state, cannot he proceed
without any (purpose of) action? In the opening and shutting of his
gates of heaven, cannot he do so as a female bird? While his
intelligence reaches in every direction, cannot he (appear to) be
(The Tao) produces (all things) and nourishes them; it produces
them and does not claim them as its own; it does all, and yet does not
boast of it; it presides over all, and yet does not control them.
This is what is called 'The mysterious Quality' (of the Tao).
Maintaining unity is virtuous,
for the inner world of thought is one
with the external world
of action and of things.
The sage avoids their separation,
by breathing as the sleeping babe,
and thus maintaining harmony.
He cleans the dark mirror of his mind,
so that it reflects without intent.
He conducts himself without contriving,
loving the people, and not interfering.
He cultivates without possessing,
thus providing nourishment,
he remains receptive
to changing needs,
and creates without desire.
By leading from behind,
attending to that
which must be done,
he is said to have attained
the mystic state.
Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child's?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from you own mind
and thus understand all things?
Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.
11 - THE UTILITY OF NON-EXISTENCE
The thirty spokes unite in the one nave; but it is on the empty
space (for the axle), that the use of the wheel depends. Clay is
fashioned into vessels; but it is on their empty hollowness, that
their use depends. The door and windows are cut out (from the walls)
to form an apartment; but it is on the empty space (within), that its
use depends. Therefore, what has a (positive) existence serves for
profitable adaptation, and what has not that for (actual) usefulness.
Though thirty spokes may form the wheel,
it is the hole within the hub
which gives the wheel utility.
It is not the clay the potter throws,
which gives the pot its usefulness,
but the space within the shape,
from which the pot is made.
Without a door, the room cannot be entered,
and without windows it is dark.
Such is the utility of non-existence.
We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.
We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.
12 - THE REPRESSION OF DESIRES
Color’s five hues from th' eyes their sight will take;
Music's five notes the ears as deaf can make;
The flavors five deprive the mouth of taste;
The chariot course, and the wild hunting waste
Make mad the mind; and objects rare and strange,
Sought for, men's conduct will to evil change.
Therefore the sage seeks to satisfy (the craving of) the belly, and
not the (insatiable longing of the) eyes. He puts from him the
latter, and prefers to seek the former.
Through sight, the colors may be seen,
but too much color blinds us.
Apprehending the tones of sound,
too much sound might make us deaf,
and too much flavor deadens taste.
When hunting for sport, and chasing for pleasure,
the mind easily becomes perplexed.
He who collects treasures for himself
more easily becomes anxious.
The wise person fulfills his needs,
rather than sensory temptations.
Colors blind the eye.
Sounds deafen the ear.
Flavors numb the taste.
Thoughts weaken the mind.
Desires wither the heart.
The Master observes the world
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His heart is open as the sky.
13 - UNMOVED AND UNMOVING
Favor and disgrace would seem equally to be feared; honor and
great calamity, to be regarded as personal conditions (of the same
What is meant by speaking thus of favor and disgrace? Disgrace is
being in a low position (after the enjoyment of favor). The getting
that (favor) leads to the apprehension (of losing it), and the losing
it leads to the fear of (still greater calamity):--this is what is
meant by saying that favor and disgrace would seem equally to be
And what is meant by saying that honor and great calamity are to be
(similarly) regarded as personal conditions? What makes me liable to
great calamity is my having the body (which I call myself); if I had
not the body, what great calamity could come to me?
Therefore he who would administer the kingdom, honoring it as he
honors his own person, may be employed to govern it, and he who would
administer it with the love which he bears to his own person may be
entrusted with it.
The ordinary man seeks honor, not dishonor,
cherishing success and abominating failure,
loving life, whilst fearing death.
The sage does not recognize these things,
so lives his life quite simply.
The ordinary man seeks to make himself
the centre of his universe;
the universe of the sage is at his centre.
He loves the world, and thus remains unmoved
by things with which others are concerned.
He acts with humility, is neither moved nor moving,
and can therefore be trusted in caring for all things.
Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.
What does it mean that success is a dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
you position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.
What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.
When we don't see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?
See the world as yourself.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as yourself;
then you can care for all things.
14 - EXPERIENCING THE MYSTERY
We look at it, and we do not see it, and we name it 'the
Equable.' We listen to it, and we do not hear it, and we name it 'the
Inaudible.' We try to grasp it, and do not get hold of it, and we
name it 'the Subtle.' With these three qualities, it cannot be made
the subject of description; and hence we blend them together and
obtain The One.
Its upper part is not bright, and its lower part is not obscure.
Ceaseless in its action, it yet cannot be named, and then it again
returns and becomes nothing. This is called the Form of the Formless,
and the Semblance of the Invisible; this is called the Fleeting and
We meet it and do not see its Front; we follow it, and do not see
its Back. When we can lay hold of the Tao of old to direct the things
of the present day, and are able to know it as it was of old in the
beginning, this is called (unwinding) the clue of Tao.
The Tao is abstract,
and therefore has no form,
it is neither bright in rising,
nor dark in sinking,
cannot be grasped, and makes no sound.
Without form or image, without existence,
the form of the formless, is beyond defining,
cannot be described,
and is beyond our understanding.
It cannot be called by any name.
Standing before it, it has no beginning;
even when followed, it has no end.
In the now, it exists; to the present apply it,
follow it well, and reach its beginning.
Look, and it can't be seen.
Listen, and it can't be heard.
Reach, and it can't be grasped.
Above, it isn't bright.
Below, it isn't dark.
it returns to the realm of nothing.
Form that includes all forms,
image without an image,
subtle, beyond all conception.
Approach it and there is no beginning;
follow it and there is no end.
You can't know it, but you can be it,
at ease in your own life.
Just realize where you come from:
this is the essence of wisdom.
15 - THE MANIFESTATION OF THE TAO
The skilful masters (of the Tao) in old times, with a subtle
and exquisite penetration, comprehended its mysteries, and were deep
(also) so as to elude men's knowledge. As they were thus beyond men's
knowledge, I will make an effort to describe of what sort they
appeared to be.
Shrinking looked they like those who wade through a stream in
winter; irresolute like those who are afraid of all around them; grave
like a guest (in awe of his host); evanescent like ice that is melting
away; unpretentious like wood that has not been fashioned into
anything; vacant like a valley, and dull like muddy water.
Who can (make) the muddy water (clear)? Let it be still, and it
will gradually become clear. Who can secure the condition of rest?
Let movement go on, and the condition of rest will gradually arise.
They who preserve this method of the Tao do not wish to be full (of
themselves). It is through their not being full of themselves that
they can afford to seem worn and not appear new and complete.
The sage of old was profound and wise;
like a man at a ford, he took great care,
alert, perceptive and aware.
Desiring nothing for himself,
and having no desire
for change for its own sake,
his actions were difficult to understand.
Being watchful, he had no fear of danger;
being responsive, he had no need of fear.
He was courteous like a visiting guest,
and as yielding as the springtime ice.
Having no desires, he was untouched by craving.
Receptive and mysterious,
his knowledge was unfathomable,
causing others to think him hesitant.
Pure in heart, like uncut jade,
he cleared the muddy water
by leaving it alone.
By remaining calm and active,
the need for renewing is reduced.
The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.
Their wisdom was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it;
all we can describe is their appearance.
They were careful
as someone crossing an iced-over stream.
Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Shape-able as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
The Master doesn't seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.
16 - RETURNING TO THE ROOT
The (state of) vacancy should be brought to the utmost degree,
and that of stillness guarded with unwavering vigor. All things
alike go through their processes of activity, and (then) we see them
return (to their original state). When things (in the vegetable
world) have displayed their luxuriant growth, we see each of them
return to its root. This returning to their root is what we call the
state of stillness; and that stillness may be called a reporting that
they have fulfilled their appointed end.
The report of that fulfillment is the regular, unchanging rule. To
know that unchanging rule is to be intelligent; not to know it leads
to wild movements and evil issues. The knowledge of that unchanging
rule produces a (grand) capacity and forbearance, and that capacity
and forbearance lead to a community (of feeling with all things).
From this community of feeling comes a kingliness of character; and he
who is king-like goes on to be heaven-like. In that likeness to
heaven he possesses the Tao. Possessed of the Tao, he endures long;
and to the end of his bodily life, is exempt from all danger of decay.
It is only by means of being
that non-being may be found.
When society changes
from its natural state of flux,
to that which seems like chaos,
the inner world of the superior man
remains uncluttered and at peace.
By remaining still, his self dethatched,
he aids society in its return
to the way of nature and of peace.
The value of his insight may be clearly seen
when chaos ceases.
Being one with the Tao is to be at peace,
and to be in conflict with it,
leads to chaos and dysfunction.
When the consistency of the Tao is known,
the mind is receptive to its states of change.
It is by being at one with the Tao,
that the sage holds no prejudice
against his fellow man.
If accepted as a leader of men,
he is held in high esteem.
Throughout his life,
both being and non-being,
the Tao protects him.
Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.
Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.
If you don't realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.
17 - LEADERSHIP BY EXCEPTION
In the highest antiquity, (the people) did not know that there
were (their rulers). In the next age they loved them and praised
them. In the next they feared them; in the next they despised them.
Thus it was that when faith (in the Tao) was deficient (in the rulers)
a want of faith in them ensued (in the people).
How irresolute did those (earliest rulers) appear, showing (by
their reticence) the importance which they set upon their words!
Their work was done and their undertakings were successful, while the
people all said, 'We are as we are, of ourselves!'
Man cannot comprehend the infinite;
only knowing that the best exists,
the second best is seen and praised,
and the next, despised and feared.
The sage does not expect that others
use his criteria as their own.
The existence of the leader who is wise
is barely known to those he leads.
He acts without unnecessary speech,
so that the people say,
"It happened of its own accord".
When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.
If you don't trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy.
The Master doesn't talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, "Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!"
18 - THE DECAY OF ETHICS
When the Great Tao (Way or Method) ceased to be observed,
benevolence and righteousness came into vogue. (Then) appeared wisdom
and shrewdness, and there ensued great hypocrisy.
When harmony no longer prevailed throughout the six kinships,
filial sons found their manifestation; when the states and clans fell
into disorder, loyal ministers appeared.
When the way of the Tao is forgotten,
kindness and ethics need to be taught;
men learn to pretend to be wise and good.
All too often in the lives of men,
filial piety and devotion
arise only after conflict and strife,
just as loyal ministers all too often appear,
when the people are suppressed.
When the great Tao is forgotten,
goodness and piety appear.
When the body's intelligence declines,
cleverness and knowledge step forth.
When there is no peace in the family,
filial piety begins.
When the country falls into chaos,
patriotism is born.
19 - RETURNING TO NATURALNESS
If we could renounce our sage-ness and discard our wisdom, it
would be better for the people a hundredfold. If we could renounce
our benevolence and discard our righteousness, the people would again
become filial and kindly. If we could renounce our artful
contrivances and discard our (scheming for) gain, there would be no
thieves nor robbers.
Those three methods (of government)
Thought olden ways in elegance did fail
And made these names their want of worth to veil;
But simple views, and courses plain and true
Would selfish ends and many lusts eschew.
It is better merely to live one's life,
realizing one's potential,
rather than wishing
He who lives in filial piety and love
has no need of ethical teaching.
When cunning and profit are renounced,
stealing and fraud will disappear.
But ethics and kindness, and even wisdom,
are insufficient in themselves.
Better by far to see the simplicity
of raw silk's beauty
and the uncarved block;
to be one with oneself,
and with one's brother.
It is better by far
to be one with the Tao,
removing the wish,
but being compassionate.
Throw away holiness and wisdom,
and people will be a hundred times happier.
Throw away morality and justice,
and people will do the right thing.
Throw away industry and profit,
and there won't be any thieves.
If these three aren't enough,
just stay at the center of the circle
and let all things take their course.
20 - BEING DIFFERENT FROM
When we renounce learning we have no troubles.
The (ready) 'yes,' and (flattering) 'yea;'--
Small is the difference they display.
But mark their issues, good and ill;--
What space the gulf between shall fill?
What all men fear is indeed to be feared; but how wide and without end
is the range of questions (asking to be discussed)!
The multitude of men look satisfied and pleased; as if enjoying a
full banquet, as if mounted on a tower in spring. I alone seem
listless and still, my desires having as yet given no indication of
their presence. I am like an infant which has not yet smiled. I look
dejected and forlorn, as if I had no home to go to. The multitude of
men all have enough and to spare. I alone seem to have lost
everything. My mind is that of a stupid man; I am in a state of
Ordinary men look bright and intelligent, while I alone seem to be
benighted. They look full of discrimination, while I alone am dull
and confused. I seem to be carried about as on the sea, drifting as
if I had nowhere to rest. All men have their spheres of action, while
I alone seem dull and incapable, like a rude borderer. (Thus) I alone
am different from other men, but I value the nursing-mother (the Tao).
The sage is often envied
because others do not know
that although he is nourished by the Tao,
like them, he too is mortal.
He who seeks wisdom is well advised
to give up academic ways,
and put an end to striving.
Then he will learn that yes and no
are distinguished only by distinction.
It is to the advantage of the sage
that he does not fear what others fear,
but it is to the advantage of others
that they can enjoy the feast,
or go walking, free of hindrance,
through the terraced park in spring.
The sage drifts like a cloud,
having no specific place.
Like a newborn babe before it smiles,
he does not seek to communicate.
In the eyes of those
who have more than they need,
the sage has nothing, and is a fool,
prizing only that which of the Tao is born.
The sage may seem to be perplexed,
being neither bright nor clear,
and to himself, sometimes he seems
both dull and weak, confused and shy.
Like the ocean at night,
he is serene and quiet,
but as penetrating as the winter wind.
Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
Other people are excited,
as though they were at a parade.
I alone don't care,
I alone am expressionless,
like an infant before it can smile.
Other people have what they need;
I alone possess nothing.
I alone drift about,
like someone without a home.
I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty.
Other people are bright;
I alone am dark.
Other people are sharper;
I alone am dull.
Other people have a purpose;
I alone don't know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind.
I am different from ordinary people.
I drink from the Great Mother's breasts.
21 - FINDING THE ESSENCE OF TAO
The grandest forms of active force
From Tao come, their only source.
Who can of Tao the nature tell?
Our sight it flies, our touch as well.
Eluding sight, eluding touch,
The forms of things all in it crouch;
Eluding touch, eluding sight,
There are their semblances, all right.
Profound it is, dark and obscure;
Things' essences all there endure.
Those essences the truth enfold
Of what, when seen, shall then be told.
Now it is so; 'twas so of old.
Its name--what passes not away;
So, in their beautiful array,
Things form and never know decay.
How know I that it is so with all the beauties of existing things? By
this (nature of the Tao).
The greatest virtue is to follow the Tao;
how it achieves! Without contriving.
The essence of Tao is dark and mysterious,
having, itself, no image or form.
Yet through its non-being,
are found image and form.
The essence of Tao is deep and unfathomable,
yet it may be known by not trying to know.
The Master keeps her mind
always at one with the Tao;
that is what gives her her radiance.
The Tao is ungraspable.
How can her mind be at one with it?
Because she doesn't cling to ideas.
The Tao is dark and unfathomable.
How can it make her radiant?
Because she lets it.
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.
22 - YIELDING TO MAINTAIN
The partial becomes complete; the crooked, straight; the empty,
full; the worn out, new. He whose (desires) are few gets them; he
whose (desires) are many goes astray.
Therefore the sage holds in his embrace the one thing (of
humility), and manifests it to all the world. He is free from self-
display, and therefore he shines; from self-assertion, and therefore
he is distinguished; from self-boasting, and therefore his merit is
acknowledged; from self-complacency, and therefore he acquires
superiority. It is because he is thus free from striving that
therefore no one in the world is able to strive with him.
That saying of the ancients that 'the partial becomes complete' was
not vainly spoken:--all real completion is comprehended under it.
Yield, and maintain integrity.
To bend is to be upright;
to be empty is to be full.
Those who have little have much to gain,
but those who have much
may be confused by possessions.
The wise man embraces the all encompassing;
he is unaware of himself, and so has brilliance;
not defending himself, he gains distinction;
not seeking fame, he receives recognition;
not making false claims, he does not falter;
and not being quarrelsome,
is in conflict with no one.
This is why it was said by the sages of old,
"Yield, and maintain integrity;
be whole, and all things come to you".
If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up.
The Master, by residing in the Tao,
sets an example for all beings.
Because he doesn't display himself,
people can see his light.
Because he has nothing to prove,
people can trust his words.
Because he doesn't know who he is,
people recognize themselves in him.
Because he has no goad in mind,
everything he does succeeds.
When the ancient Masters said,
"If you want to be given everything,
give everything up,"
they weren't using empty phrases.
Only in being lived by the Tao can you be truly yourself.
23 - ACCEPTING THE IRREVOCABLE
Abstaining from speech marks him who is obeying the spontaneity
of his nature. A violent wind does not last for a whole morning; a
sudden rain does not last for the whole day. To whom is it that these
(two) things are owing? To Heaven and Earth. If Heaven and Earth
cannot make such (spasmodic) actings last long, how much less can man!
Therefore when one is making the Tao his business, those who are
also pursuing it, agree with him in it, and those who are making the
manifestation of its course their object agree with him in that; while
even those who are failing in both these things agree with him where
Hence, those with whom he agrees as to the Tao have the happiness
of attaining to it; those with whom he agrees as to its manifestation
have the happiness of attaining to it; and those with whom he agrees
in their failure have also the happiness of attaining (to the Tao).
(But) when there is not faith sufficient (on his part), a want of
faith (in him) ensues (on the part of the others).
Nature's way is to say but little;
high winds are made still
with the turn of the tide,
and rarely last all morning,
nor heavy rain, all day.
Therefore, when talking,
to be silent and still.
He who follows the natural way
is always one with the Tao.
He who is virtuous may experience virtue,
whilst he who loses the natural way
is easily lost himself.
He who is at one with the Tao
is at one with nature,
and virtue always exists for he who has virtue.
To accept the irrevocable
is to let go of desire.
He who does not have trust in others
should not himself be trusted.
Express yourself completely,
then keep quiet.
Be like the forces of nature:
when it blows, there is only wind;
when it rains, there is only rain;
when the clouds pass, the sun shines through.
If you open yourself to the Tao,
you are at one with the Tao
and you can embody it completely.
If you open yourself to insight,
you are at one with insight
and you can use it completely.
If you open yourself to loss,
you are at one with loss
and you can accept it completely.
Open yourself to the Tao,
then trust your natural responses;
and everything will fall into place.
24 - EXCESS
He who stands on his tiptoes does not stand firm; he who stretches
his legs does not walk (easily). (So), he who displays himself does
not shine; he who asserts his own views is not distinguished; he who
vaunts himself does not find his merit acknowledged; he who is self-
conceited has no superiority allowed to him. Such conditions, viewed
from the standpoint of the Tao, are like remnants of food, or a tumor
on the body, which all dislike. Hence those who pursue (the course)
of the Tao do not adopt and allow them.
He who stretches
beyond his natural reach,
does not stand firmly
upon the ground;
just as he
who travels at a speed
beyond his means,
cannot maintain his pace.
He who boasts
is not enlightened,
and he who is self-righteous
does not gain respect
from those who are meritorious;
thus, he gains nothing,
and will fall into disrepute.
boasting and self-righteousness,
are all unnecessary traits,
the sage considers them excesses,
and has no need of them.
He who stands on tiptoe
doesn't stand form.
He who rushes ahead
doesn't go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can't know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can't empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.
If you want to accord with the Tao,
just do your job, then let go.
25 - THE CREATIVE PRINCIPLE OF TAO
There was something undefined and complete, coming into
existence before Heaven and Earth. How still it was and formless,
standing alone, and undergoing no change, reaching everywhere and in
no danger (of being exhausted)! It may be regarded as the Mother of
I do not know its name, and I give it the designation of the Tao
(the Way or Course). Making an effort (further) to give it a name I
call it The Great.
Great, it passes on (in constant flow). Passing on, it becomes
remote. Having become remote, it returns. Therefore the Tao is
great; Heaven is great; Earth is great; and the (sage) king is also
great. In the universe there are four that are great, and the (sage)
king is one of them.
Man takes his law from the Earth; the Earth takes its law from
Heaven; Heaven takes its law from the Tao. The law of the Tao is its
being what it is.
The creative principle unifies
the inner and external worlds.
It does not depend on time or space,
is ever still and yet in motion;
thereby it creates all things,
and is therefore called
'the creative and the absolute';
its ebb and its flow extend to infinity.
We describe the Tao as being great;
we describe the universe as great;
nature too, we describe as great,
and man himself is great.
Man's laws should follow natural laws,
just as nature gives rise to physical laws,
whilst following from universal law,
which follows the Tao.
There was something formless and perfect
before the universe was born.
It is serene. Empty.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of the universe.
For lack of a better name,
I call it the Tao.
It flows through all things,
inside and outside, and returns
to the origin of all things.
The Tao is great.
The universe is great.
Earth is great.
Man is great.
These are the four great powers.
Man follows the earth.
Earth follows the universe.
The universe follows the Tao.
The Tao follows only itself.
26 - CENTRING
Gravity is the root of lightness; stillness, the ruler of
Therefore a wise prince, marching the whole day, does not go far
from his baggage wagons. Although he may have brilliant prospects to
look at, he quietly remains (in his proper place), indifferent to
them. How should the lord of a myriad chariots carry himself lightly
before the kingdom? If he do act lightly, he has lost his root (of
gravity); if he proceed to active movement, he will lose his throne.
The natural way is the way of the sage,
serving as his dwelling,
providing his centre deep within,
whether in his home or journeying.
Even when he travels far,
he is not separate
from his own true nature.
Maintaining awareness of natural beauty,
he still does not forget his purpose.
Although he may dwell in a grand estate,
simplicity remains his guide,
for he is full aware, that losing it,
his roots as well would disappear.
So he is not restless,
lest he loses the natural way.
Similarly, the people's leader
is not flippant in his role, nor restless,
for these could cause the loss
of the roots of leadership.
The heavy is the root of the light.
The unmoved is the source of all movement.
Thus the Master travels all day
without leaving home.
However splendid the views,
she stays serenely in herself.
Why should the lord of the country
flit about like a fool?
If you let yourself be blown to and fro,
you lose touch with your root.
If you let restlessness move you,
you lose touch with who you are.
27 - FOLLOWING THE TAO
The skilful traveler leaves no traces of his wheels or
footsteps; the skilful speaker says nothing that can be found fault
with or blamed; the skilful reckoner uses no tallies; the skilful
closer needs no bolts or bars, while to open what he has shut will be
impossible; the skilful binder uses no strings or knots, while to
unloose what he has bound will be impossible. In the same way the
sage is always skilful at saving men, and so he does not cast away any
man; he is always skilful at saving things, and so he does not cast
away anything. This is called 'Hiding the light of his procedure.'
Therefore the man of skill is a master (to be looked up to) by him
who has not the skill; and he who has not the skill is the helper of
(the reputation of) him who has the skill. If the one did not honor
his master, and the other did not rejoice in his helper, an
(observer), though intelligent, might greatly err about them. This is
called 'The utmost degree of mystery.'
The sage follows the natural way,
doing what is required of him.
Like an experienced tracker,
he leaves no tracks;
like a good speaker, his speech is fluent;
He makes no error, so needs no tally;
like a good door, which needs no lock,
he is open when it is required of him,
and closed at other times;
like a good binding, he is secure,
without the need of borders.
Knowing that virtue may grow from example,
this is the way in which the sage teaches,
abandoning no one who stops to listen.
Thus, from experience of the sage,
all might learn, and so might gain.
There is mutual respect twixt teacher and pupil,
for, without respect, there would be confusion.
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.
What is a good man but a bad man's teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man's job?
If you don't understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.
28 - RETAINING INTEGRITY
Who knows his manhood's strength,
Yet still his female feebleness maintains;
As to one channel flow the many drains,
All come to him, yea, all beneath the sky.
Thus he the constant excellence retains;
The simple child again, free from all stains.
Who knows how white attracts,
Yet always keeps himself within black's shade,
The pattern of humility displayed,
Displayed in view of all beneath the sky;
He in the unchanging excellence arrayed,
Endless return to man's first state has made.
Who knows how glory shines,
Yet loves disgrace, nor e'er for it is pale;
Behold his presence in a spacious vale,
To which men come from all beneath the sky.
The unchanging excellence completes its tale;
The simple infant man in him we hail.
The unwrought material, when divided and distributed, forms
vessels. The sage, when employed, becomes the Head of all the
Officers (of government); and in his greatest regulations he employs
no violent measures.
Whilst developing creativity,
also cultivate receptivity.
Retain the mind like that of a child,
which flows like running water.
When considering anything,
do not lose its opposite.
When thinking of the finite,
do not forget infinity;
Act with honor, but retain humility.
By acting according to the way of the Tao,
set others an example.
By retaining the integrity
of the inner and external worlds,
true selfhood is maintained,
and the inner world made fertile.
Know the male,
yet keep to the female:
receive the world in your arms.
If you receive the world,
the Tao will never leave you
and you will be like a little child.
Know the white,
yet keep to the black:
be a pattern for the world.
If you are a pattern for the world,
the Tao will be strong inside you
and there will be nothing you can't do.
Know the personal,
yet keep to the impersonal:
accept the world as it is.
If you accept the world,
the Tao will be luminous inside you
and you will return to your primal self.
The world is formed from the void,
like utensils from a block of wood.
The Master knows the utensils,
yet keeps to the block:
thus she can use all things.
29 - TAKING NO ACTION
If anyone should wish to get the kingdom for himself, and to
affect this by what he does, I see that he will not succeed. The
kingdom is a spirit-like thing, and cannot be got by active doing. He
who would so win it destroys it; he who would hold it in his grasp
The course and nature of things is such that
What was in front is now behind;
What warmed anon we freezing find.
Strength is of weakness oft the spoil;
The store in ruins mocks our toil.
Hence the sage puts away excessive effort, extravagance, and easy
The external world is fragile,
and he who meddles with its natural way,
risks causing damage to himself.
He who tries to grasp it,
thereby loses it.
It is natural for things to change,
sometimes being ahead, sometimes behind.
There are times when even breathing
may be difficult,
whereas its natural state is easy.
Sometimes one is strong,
and sometimes weak,
and sometimes sick,
sometimes is first,
and at other times behind.
The sage does not try
to change the world by force,
for he knows that force results in force.
He avoids extremes and excesses,
and does not become complacent.
Do you want to improve the world?
I don't think it can be done.
The world is sacred.
It can't be improved.
If you tamper with it, you'll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you'll lose it.
There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger.
The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides at the center of the circle.
30 - A CAVEAT AGAINST VIOLENCE
He who would assist a lord of men in harmony with the Tao will
not assert his mastery in the kingdom by force of arms. Such a course
is sure to meet with its proper return.
Wherever a host is stationed, briars and thorns spring up. In the
sequence of great armies there are sure to be bad years.
A skilful (commander) strikes a decisive blow, and stops. He does
not dare (by continuing his operations) to assert and complete his
mastery. He will strike the blow, but will be on his guard against
being vain or boastful or arrogant in consequence of it. He strikes
it as a matter of necessity; he strikes it, but not from a wish for
When things have attained their strong maturity they become old.
This may be said to be not in accordance with the Tao: and what is not
in accordance with it soon comes to an end.
When leading by the way of the Tao,
abominate the use of force,
for it causes resistance, and loss of strength,
showing the Tao has not been followed well.
Achieve results but not through violence,
for it is against the natural way,
and damages both others' and one's own true self.
The harvest is destroyed in the wake of a great war,
and weeds grow in the fields in the wake of the army.
The wise leader achieves results,
but does not glory in them;
is not proud of his victories,
and does not boast of them.
He knows that boasting is not the natural way,
and that he who goes against that way,
will fail in his endeavors.
Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
doesn't try to force issues
or defeat enemies by force of arms.
For every force there is a counterforce.
Violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon oneself.
The Master does his job
and then stops.
He understands that the universe
is forever out of control,
and that trying to dominate events
goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself,
he doesn't try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he doesn't need others' approval.
Because he accepts himself,
the whole world accepts him.
31 - MAINTAINING PEACE
Now arms, however beautiful, are instruments of evil omen,
hateful, it may be said, to all creatures. Therefore they who have
the Tao do not like to employ them.
The superior man ordinarily considers the left hand the most
honorable place, but in time of war the right hand. Those sharp
weapons are instruments of evil omen, and not the instruments of the
superior man;--he uses them only on the compulsion of necessity. Calm
and repose are what he prizes; victory (by force of arms) is to him
undesirable. To consider this desirable would be to delight in the
slaughter of men; and he who delights in the slaughter of men cannot
get his will in the kingdom.
On occasions of festivity to be on the left hand is the prized
position; on occasions of mourning, the right hand. The second in
command of the army has his place on the left; the general commanding
in chief has his on the right;--his place, that is, is assigned to him
as in the rites of mourning. He who has killed multitudes of men
should weep for them with the bitterest grief; and the victor in
battle has his place (rightly) according to those rites.
Weapons of war are instruments of fear,
and are abhorred by those who follow the Tao.
The leader who follows the natural way
does not abide them.
The warrior king leans to his right,
from whence there comes his generals' advice,
but the peaceful king looks to his left,
where sits his counselor of peace.
When he looks to his left, it is a time of peace,
and when to the right, a time for sorrow.
Weapons of war are instruments of fear,
and are not favored by the wise,
who use them only when there is no choice,
for peace and stillness are dear to their hearts,
and victory causes them no rejoicing.
To rejoice in victory is to delight in killing;
to delight in killing is to have no self-being.
The conduct of war is that of a funeral;
when people are killed, it is a time of mourning.
This is why even victorious battle
should be observed without rejoicing.
Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.
Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is his highest value.
If the peace has been shattered,
how can he be content?
His enemies are not demons,
but human beings like himself.
He doesn't wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men?
He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral.
32 - IF THE TAO WERE OBSERVED
The Tao, considered as unchanging, has no name.
Though in its primordial simplicity it may be small, the whole
world dares not deal with (one embodying) it as a minister. If a
feudal prince or the king could guard and hold it, all would
spontaneously submit themselves to him.
Heaven and Earth (under its guidance) unite together and send down
the sweet dew, which, without the directions of men, reaches equally
everywhere as of its own accord.
As soon as it proceeds to action, it has a name. When it once has
that name, (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 the great
rivers and seas to the streams from the valleys.
The Tao is eternal, but does not have fame;
like the uncarved block, it’s worth seems small,
though its value to man is beyond all measure.
Were it definable, it could then be used
to obviate conflict, and the need
to teach the way of the Tao;
all men would abide in the peace of the Tao;
sweet dew would descend to nourish the earth.
When the Tao is divided,
there is a need for names,
for, like the block which is carved,
its parts then are seen.
By stopping in time
from torment and conflict,
strife is defeated, and danger averted.
The people then seek the wisdom of Tao,
just as all rivers flow to the great sea.
The Tao can't be perceived.
Smaller than an electron,
it contains uncountable galaxies.
If powerful men and women
could remain centered in the Tao,
all things would be in harmony.
The world would become a paradise.
All people would be at peace,
and the law would be written in their hearts.
When you have names and forms,
know that they are provisional.
When you have institutions,
know where their functions should end.
Knowing when to stop,
you can avoid any danger.
All things end in the Tao
as rivers flow into the sea.
33 - WITHOUT FORCE: WITHOUT
He who knows other men is discerning; he who knows himself is
intelligent. He who overcomes others is strong; he who overcomes
himself is mighty. He who is satisfied with his lot is rich; he who
goes on acting with energy has a (firm) will.
He who does not fail in the requirements of his position, continues
long; he who dies and yet does not perish, has longevity.
Knowledge frequently results
from knowing others,
but the man who is awakened,
has seen the uncarved block.
Others might be mastered by force,
but to master one's self
requires the Tao.
He who has many material things,
may be described as rich,
but he who knows he has enough,
and is at one with the Tao,
might have enough of material things,
and have self-being as well.
Will-power may bring perseverance;
but to have tranquility is to endure,
being protected for all his days.
He whose ideas remain in the world,
is present for all time.
Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.
If you realize that you have enough,
you are truly rich.
If you stay in the center
and embrace death with your whole heart,
you will endure forever.
34 - WITHOUT CONTRIVING
All-pervading is the Great Tao! It may be found on the left
hand and on the right.
All things depend on it for their production, which it gives to
them, not one refusing obedience to it. When its work is
accomplished, it does not claim the name of having done it. It
clothes all things as with a garment, and makes no assumption of being
their lord;--it may be named in the smallest things. All things
return (to their root and disappear), and do not know that it is it
which presides over their doing so;--it may be named in the greatest
Hence the sage is able (in the same way) to accomplish his great
achievements. It is through his not making himself great that he can
All things may act, without exclusion,
according to the natural way,
which fulfills its purpose silently,
and with no claim.
Being an aspect of natural order,
it is not the ruler of anything,
but remains the source of their nourishment.
It cannot be seen; it has no intention,
but all natural things rely on its presence.
When all things return to it,
it does not enslave them,
so unmanifested, its greatness prevails.
Modelling himself upon the Tao,
he who is wise, does not contrive,
but is content with what he achieves.
The great Tao flows everywhere.
All things are born from it,
yet it doesn't create them.
It pours itself into its work,
yet it makes no claim.
It nourishes infinite worlds,
yet it doesn't hold on to them.
Since it is merged with all things
and hidden in their hearts,
it can be called humble.
Since all things vanish into it
and it alone endures,
it can be called great.
It isn't aware of its greatness;
thus it is truly great.
35 - THE BENEVOLENT HOST
To him who holds in his hands the Great Image (of the invisible
Tao), the whole world repairs. Men resort to him, and receive no
hurt, but (find) rest, peace, and the feeling of ease.
Music and dainties will make the passing guest stop (for a time).
But though the Tao as it comes from the mouth, seems insipid and has
no flavor, though it seems not worth being looked at or listened to,
the use of it is inexhaustible.
The wise man acts at one with the Tao,
for he knows it is here that peace is found.
It is for this reason that he is sought.
Whilst guests enjoy good music and food,
as these are supplied by a benevolent host,
a description of Tao seems without form,
for it cannot be heard and cannot be seen.
But when the music and food are all ended,
the taste of the Tao still remains.
She who is centered in the Tao
can go where she wishes, without danger.
She perceives the universal harmony,
even amid great pain,
because she has found peace in her heart.
Music or the smell of good cooking
may make people stop and enjoy.
But words that point to the Tao
seem monotonous and without flavor.
When you look for it, there is nothing to see.
When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear.
When you use it, it is inexhaustible.
36 - OVERCOMING
When one is about to take an inspiration, he is sure to make a
(previous) expiration; when he is going to weaken another, he will
first strengthen him; when he is going to overthrow another, he will
first have raised him up; when he is going to despoil another, he will
first have made gifts to him:--this is called 'Hiding the light (of
The soft overcomes the hard; and the weak the strong.
Fishes should not be taken from the deep; instruments for the
profit of a state should not be shown to the people.
It is the way of the Tao,
that things which expand might also shrink;
that he who is strong, will at some time be weak,
that he who is raised will then be cast down,
and that all men have a need to give,
and also have a need to receive.
The biggest fish stay deep in the pond,
and a country's best weapons
should be kept locked away.
That which is soft and supple,
may overcome the hard and strong.
If you want to shrink something,
you must first allow it to expand.
If you want to get rid of something,
you must first allow it to flourish.
If you want to take something,
you must first allow it to be given.
This is called the subtle perception
of the way things are.
The soft overcomes the hard.
The slow overcomes the fast.
Let your workings remain a mystery.
Just show people the results.
37 - THE EXERCISE OF LEADERSHIP
The Tao in its regular course does nothing (for the sake of
doing it), and so there is nothing which it does not do.
If princes and kings were able to maintain it, all things would of
themselves be transformed by them.
If this transformation became to me an object of desire, I would
express the desire by the nameless simplicity.
Simplicity without a name
Is free from all external aim.
With no desire, at rest and still,
All things go right as of their will.
The way of nature is not contrived,
yet nothing which is required
is left undone.
Observing nature, the wise leader knows this,
and replaces desire with dispassion,
thus saving that energy, otherwise spent,
which has not been wasted away.
The wise leader knows
his actions must be
without the use of forced energy.
He knows that more
is still required,
for he also knows
that he must act
without deliberate intent,
of having no intention.
To act without contrived intent
is to act without contriving,
and is the way of nature,
and so is the way of the Tao.
The Tao never does anything,
yet through it all things are done.
If powerful men and women
could enter themselves in it,
the whole world would be transformed
by itself, in its natural rhythms.
People would be content
with their simple, everyday lives,
in harmony, and free of desire.
When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.
38 - THE CONCERNS OF THE GREAT
(Those who) possessed in highest degree the attributes (of the
Tao) did not (seek) to show them, and therefore they possessed them
(in fullest measure). (Those who) possessed in a lower degree those
attributes (sought how) not to lose them, and therefore they did not
possess them (in fullest measure).
(Those who) possessed in the highest degree those attributes did
nothing (with a purpose), and had no need to do anything. (Those who)
possessed them in a lower degree were (always) doing, and had need to
be so doing.
(Those who) possessed the highest benevolence were (always seeking)
to carry it out, and had no need to be doing so. (Those who)
possessed the highest righteousness were (always seeking) to carry it
out, and had need to be so doing.
(Those who) possessed the highest (sense of) propriety were (always
seeking) to show it, and when men did not respond to it, they bared
the arm and marched up to them.
Thus it was that when the Tao was lost, its attributes appeared;
when its attributes were lost, benevolence appeared; when benevolence
was lost, righteousness appeared; and when righteousness was lost, the
Now propriety is the attenuated form of leal-heartedness and good
faith, and is also the commencement of disorder; swift apprehension is
(only) a flower of the Tao, and is the beginning of stupidity.
Thus it is that the Great man abides by what is solid, and eschews
what is flimsy; dwells with the fruit and not with the flower. It is
thus that he puts away the one and makes choice of the other.
A truly good man is unaware
of the good deeds he performs.
Conversely, a foolish man must try
continuously to be good.
A good man seems to do little or nought,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
A foolish man must always strive,
whilst leaving much undone.
The man who is truly wise and kind
leaves nothing to be done,
but he who only acts
according to his nation's law
leaves many things undone.
A disciplinarian wanting something done
rolls up his sleeves,
enforcing it with violence.
It may be that goodness still remains,
even when the natural way is lost,
and that kindness still exists
when goodness is forgotten.
It may be that justice still remains
when the people are no longer kind,
and when this is lost, that ritual still remains.
However, ritual may be performed
only as an act of faith,
and may be the beginning of confusion,
for even divination and the such
are but the flowery trappings of the Tao,
and are the beginning of great folly.
He who is truly great
does not upon the surface dwell,
but on what lies beneath.
It is said that the fruit is his concern,
rather than the flower.
Each must decide what it might be he seeks,
the flowery trapping,
which comes to summer fullness first,
or the fruit which is beneath.
The Master doesn't try to be powerful;
thus he is truly powerful.
The ordinary man keeps reaching for power;
thus he never has enough.
The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.
The kind man does something,
yet something remains undone.
The just man does something,
and leaves many things to be done.
The moral man does something,
and when no one responds
he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.
When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of true faith,
the beginning of chaos.
Therefore the Master concerns himself
with the depths and not the surface,
with the fruit and not the flower.
He has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality,
and lets all illusions go.
39 - SUFFICIENCY AND QUIETNESS
The things which from of old have got the One (the Tao) are--
Heaven which by it is bright and pure;
Earth rendered thereby firm and sure;
Spirits with powers by it supplied;
Valleys kept full throughout their void
All creatures which through it do live
Princes and kings who from it get
The model which to all they give.
All these are the results of the One (Tao).
If heaven were not thus pure, it soon would rend;
If earth were not thus sure, 'twould break and bend;
Without these powers, the spirits soon would fail;
If not so filled, the drought would parch each vale;
Without that life, creatures would pass away;
Princes and kings, without that moral sway,
However grand and high, would all decay.
Thus it is that dignity finds its (firm) root in its (previous)
meanness, and what is lofty finds its stability in the lowness (from
which it rises). Hence princes and kings call themselves 'Orphans,'
'Men of small virtue,' and as 'Carriages without a nave.' Is not this
an acknowledgment that in their considering themselves mean they see
the foundation of their dignity? So it is that in the enumeration of
the different parts of a carriage we do not come on what makes it
answer the ends of a carriage. They do not wish to show themselves
elegant-looking as jade, but (prefer) to be coarse-looking as an
From the principle which is called the Tao,
the sky, the earth, and creativity are one,
the sky is clear, the earth is firm,
and the spirit of the inner world is full.
When the ruler of the land is whole,
the nation too is strong, alive and well,
and the people have sufficient
to meet their earthly needs.
When the daytime sky is dark
and overcast like night,
the nation and its people
will surely suffer much.
The firmness of the dew filled earth
gives it its life;
the energy of the inner world
prevents its becoming drained of strength;
its fullness prevents it running dry.
The growth of all things
prevents their dying.
The work of the leader should ensure
the prosperity of the populace.
So it is said,
"humility is the root
of great nobility;
the low forms a foundation
for the great;
and princes consider themselves
to be of little worth".
Each depends on humility therefore;
it is of no advantage to have too much success,
so do not sound loudly like jade bells,
nor clatter like stone chimes.
In harmony with the Tao,
the sky is clear and spacious,
the earth is solid and full,
all creature flourish together,
content with the way they are,
endlessly repeating themselves,
When man interferes with the Tao,
the sky becomes filthy,
the earth becomes depleted,
the equilibrium crumbles,
creatures become extinct.
The Master views the parts with compassion,
because he understands the whole.
His constant practice is humility.
He doesn't glitter like a jewel
but lets himself be shaped by the Tao,
as rugged and common as stone.
40 - BEING AND NOT BEING
The movement of the Tao
By contraries proceeds;
And weakness marks the course
Of Tao's mighty deeds.
All things under heaven sprang from It as existing (and named);
that existence sprang from It as non-existent (and not named).
The motion of nature
is cyclic and returning.
Its way is to yield,
for to yield is to become.
All things are born of being;
being is born of non-being.
Return is the movement of the Tao.
Yielding is the way of the Tao.
All things are born of being.
Being is born of non-being.
41 - SAMENESS AND DIFFERENCE
Scholars of the highest class, when they hear about the Tao,
earnestly carry it into practice. Scholars of the middle class, when
they have heard about it, seem now to keep it and now to lose it.
Scholars of the lowest class, when they have heard about it, laugh
greatly at it. If it were not (thus) laughed at, it would not be fit
to be the Tao.
Therefore the sentence-makers have thus expressed themselves:--
'The Tao, when brightest seen, seems light to lack;
Who progress in it makes, seems drawing back;
Its even way is like a rugged track.
Its highest virtue from the vale doth rise;
Its greatest beauty seems to offend the eyes;
And he has most whose lot the least supplies.
Its firmest virtue seems but poor and low;
Its solid truth seems change to undergo;
Its largest square doth yet no corner show
A vessel great, it is the slowest made;
Loud is its sound, but never word it said;
A semblance great, the shadow of a shade.'
The Tao is hidden, and has no name; but it is the Tao which is
skilful at imparting (to all things what they need) and making them
On hearing of the Tao,
the wise student's practice is with diligence;
the average student attends to his practice
when his memory reminds him so to do;
and the foolish student laughs.
But we do well to remember
that with no sudden laughter,
there would be no natural way.
Thus it is said,
"There are times when even brightness seems dim;
when progress seems like regression;
when the easy seems most difficult,
and virtue seems empty, inadequate and frail;
times when purity seems sullied;
when even reality seems unreal,
and when a square seems to have corners;
when even great talent is of no avail,
and the highest note cannot be heard;
when the formed seems formless,
and when the way of nature is out of sight".
Even in such times as these,
the natural way still nourishes,
that all things may be fulfilled.
When a superior man hears of the Tao,
he immediately begins to embody it.
When an average man hears of the Tao,
he half believes it, half doubts it.
When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
he laughs out loud.
If he didn't laugh,
it wouldn't be the Tao.
Thus it is said:
The path into the light seems dark,
the path forward seems to go back,
the direct path seems long,
true power seems weak,
true purity seems tarnished,
true steadfastness seems changeable,
true clarity seems obscure,
the greatest are seems unsophisticated,
the greatest love seems indifferent,
the greatest wisdom seems childish.
The Tao is nowhere to be found.
Yet it nourishes and completes all things.
42 - THE TRANSFORMATIONS OF THE
The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three;
Three produced All things. All things leave behind them the Obscurity
(out of which they have come), and go forward to embrace the
Brightness (into which they have emerged), while they are harmonized
by the Breath of Vacancy.
What men dislike is to be orphans, to have little virtue, to be as
carriages without naves; and yet these are the designations which
kings and princes use for themselves. So it is that some things are
increased by being diminished, and others are diminished by being
What other men (thus) teach, I also teach. The violent and strong
do not die their natural death. I will make this the basis of my
The Tao existed before its name,
and from its name, the opposites evolved,
giving rise to three divisions,
and then to names abundant.
These things embrace receptively,
achieving inner harmony,
and by their unity create
the inner world of man.
No man wishes to be seen
as worthless in another's eyes,
but the wise leader describes himself this way,
for he knows that one may gain by losing,
and lose by gaining,
and that a violent man
will not die a natural death.
The Tao gives birth to One.
One gives birth to Two.
Two gives birth to Three.
Three gives birth to all things.
All things have their backs to the female
and stand facing the male.
When male and female combine,
all things achieve harmony.
Ordinary men hate solitude.
But the Master makes use of it,
embracing his aloneness, realizing
he is one with the whole universe.
43 - AT ONE WITH TAO
The softest thing in the world dashes against and overcomes the
hardest; that which has no (substantial) existence enters where there
is no crevice. I know hereby what advantage belongs to doing nothing
(with a purpose).
There are few in the world who attain to the teaching without
words, and the advantage arising from non-action.
Only the soft overcomes the hard,
by yielding, bringing it to peace.
Even where there is no space,
that which has no substance enters in.
Through these things is shown
the value of the natural way.
The wise man understands full well,
that wordless teaching can take place,
and that actions should occur
without the wish for self-advancement.
The gentlest thing in the world
overcomes the hardest thing in the world.
That which has no substance
enters where there is no space.
This shows the value of non-action.
Teaching without words,
performing without actions:
that is the Master's way.
44 - SUFFICIENCY
Or fame or life,
Which do you hold more dear?
Or life or wealth,
To which would you adhere?
Keep life and lose those other things;
Keep them and lose your life:--which brings
Sorrow and pain more near?
Thus we may see,
Who cleaves to fame
Rejects what is more great;
Who loves large stores
Gives up the richer state.
Who is content
Needs fear no shame.
Who knows to stop
Incurs no blame.
From danger free
Long live shall he.
A contented man knows himself to be
more precious even than fame,
and so, obscure, remains.
He who is more attached to wealth
than to himself,
suffers more heavily from loss.
He who knows when to stop, might lose,
but in safety stays.
Fame or integrity: which is more important?
Money or happiness: which is more valuable?
Success of failure: which is more destructive?
If you look to others for fulfillment,
you will never truly be fulfilled.
If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself.
Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.
45 - CHANGES
Who thinks his great achievements poor
Shall find his vigor long endure.
Of greatest fullness, deemed a void,
Exhaustion ne'er shall stem the tide.
Do thou what's straight still crooked deem;
Thy greatest art still stupid seem,
And eloquence a stammering scream.
Constant action overcomes cold; being still overcomes heat. Purity
and stillness give the correct law to all under heaven.
In retrospect, even those accomplishments
which seemed perfect when accomplished,
may seem imperfect and ill formed,
but this does not mean that such accomplishments
have outlived their usefulness.
That which once seemed full,
may later empty seem,
yet still be unexhausted.
That which once seemed straight
may seem twisted when seen once more;
intelligence can seem stupid,
and eloquence seem awkward;
movement may overcome the cold,
and stillness, heat,
but stillness in movement
is the way of the Tao.
True perfection seems imperfect,
yet it is perfectly itself.
True fullness seems empty,
yet it is fully present.
True straightness seems crooked.
True wisdom seems foolish.
True art seems artless.
The Master allows things to happen.
She shapes events as they come.
She steps out of the way
and lets the Tao speak for itself.
46 - MODERATING DESIRE AND
When the Tao prevails in the world, they send back their swift
horses to (draw) the dung-carts. When the Tao is disregarded in the
world, the war-horses breed in the border lands.
There is no guilt greater than to sanction ambition; no calamity
greater than to be discontented with one's lot; no fault greater than
the wish to be getting. Therefore the sufficiency of contentment is
an enduring and unchanging sufficiency.
When the way of nature is observed,
all things serve their function;
horses drawing carts, and pulling at the plough.
But when the natural way is not observed,
horses are bred for battle and for war.
Desire and wanting cause discontent,
whilst he who knows sufficiency
more easily has what he requires.
When a country is in harmony with the Tao,
the factories make trucks and tractors.
When a country goes counter to the Tao,
warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.
There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.
Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.
47 - DISCOVERING THE DISTANT
Without going outside his door, one understands (all that takes
place) under the sky; without looking out from his window, one sees
the Tao of Heaven. The farther that one goes out (from himself), the
less he knows.
Therefore the sages got their knowledge without travelling; gave
their (right) names to things without seeing them; and accomplished
their ends without any purpose of doing so.
The Tao may be known and observed
without the need of travel;
the way of the heavens might be well seen
without looking through a window.
The further one travels,
the less one knows.
So, without looking, the sage sees all,
and by working without self-advancing thought,
he discovers the wholeness of the Tao.
Without opening your door,
you can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out your window,
you can see the essence of the Tao.
The more you know,
the less you understand.
The Master arrives without leaving,
sees the light without looking,
achieves without doing a thing.
48 - FORGETTING KNOWLEDGE
He who devotes himself to learning (seeks) from day to day to
increase (his knowledge); he who devotes himself to the Tao (seeks)
from day to day to diminish (his doing).
He diminishes it and again diminishes it, till he arrives at doing
nothing (on purpose). Having arrived at this point of non-action,
there is nothing which he does not do.
He who gets as his own all under heaven does so by giving himself
no trouble (with that end). If one take trouble (with that end), he
is not equal to getting as his own all under heaven.
When pursuing knowledge,
something new is acquired each day.
But when pursuing the way of the Tao,
something is subtracted;
less striving occurs,
until there is no striving.
When effort is uncontrived,
nothing is left undone;
the way of nature rules
by allowing things to take their course,
not by contriving to change.
In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.
True mastery can be gained
by letting things go their own way.
It can't be gained by interfering.
49 - THE VIRTUE OF RECEPTIVITY
The sage has no invariable mind of his own; he makes the mind
of the people his mind.
To those who are good (to me), I am good; and to those who are not
good (to me), I am also good;--and thus (all) get to be good. To
those who are sincere (with me), I am sincere; and to those who are
not sincere (with me), I am also sincere;--and thus (all) get to be
The sage has in the world an appearance of indecision, and keeps
his mind in a state of indifference to all. The people all keep their
eyes and ears directed to him, and he deals with them all as his
The sage is not mindful for himself,
but is receptive to others' needs.
Knowing that virtue requires great faith,
he has that faith, and is good to all;
irrespective of others' deeds,
he treats them according to their needs.
He has humility and is shy,
thus confusing other men.
They see him as they might a child,
and sometimes listen to his words.
The Master has no mind of her own.
She works with the mind of the people.
She is good to people who are good.
She is also good to people who aren't good.
This is true goodness.
She trusts people who are trustworthy.
She also trusts people who aren't trustworthy.
This is true trust.
The Master's mind is like space.
People don't understand her.
They look to her and wait.
She treats them like her own children.
50 - THE VALUE SET ON LIFE
Men come forth and live; they enter (again) and die.
Of every ten three are ministers of life (to themselves); and three
are ministers of death.
There are also three in every ten whose aim is to live, but whose
movements tend to the land (or place) of death. And for what reason?
Because of their excessive endeavors to perpetuate life.
But I have heard that he who is skilful in managing the life
entrusted to him for a time travels on the land without having to shun
rhinoceros or tiger, and enters a host without having to avoid buff
coat or sharp weapon. The rhinoceros finds no place in him into which
to thrust its horn, nor the tiger a place in which to fix its claws,
nor the weapon a place to admit its point. And for what reason?
Because there is in him no place of death.
In looking at the people, we might see
that in the space twixt birth and death,
one third follow life, and one third death,
and those who merely pass from birth to death,
are also one third of those we see.
He who lives by the way of the Tao,
travels without fear of ferocious beasts,
and will not be pierced in an affray,
for he offers no resistance.
The universe is the centre of his world,
so in the inner world
of he who lives within the Tao,
there is no place
where death can enter in.
The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and her has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind,
no resistances in his body.
He doesn't think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day's work.
51 - THE NOURISHMENT OF THE TAO
All things are produced by the Tao, and nourished by its
outflowing operation. They receive their forms according to the
nature of each, and are completed according to the circumstances of
their condition. Therefore all things without exception honor the
Tao, and exalt its outflowing operation.
This honoring of the Tao and exalting of its operation is not the
result of any ordination, but always a spontaneous tribute.
Thus it is that the Tao produces (all things), nourishes them,
brings them to their full growth, nurses them, completes them, matures
them, maintains them, and overspreads them.
It produces them and makes no claim to the possession of them; it
carries them through their processes and does not vaunt its ability in
doing so; it brings them to maturity and exercises no control over
them;--this is called its mysterious operation.
All physical things arise
from the principle which is absolute;
the principle which is the natural way.
All living things are formed by being,
and shaped by their environment,
growing if nourished well by virtue;
the being from non-being.
All natural things respect the Tao,
giving honor to its virtue,
although the Tao does not expect,
nor look for honor or respect.
The virtue of the natural way
is that all things are born of it;
it nourishes and comforts them;
develops, shelters and cares for them,
protecting them from harm.
The Tao creates, not claiming credit,
and guides without interfering.
Every being in the universe
is an expression of the Tao.
It springs into existence,
unconscious, perfect, free,
takes on a physical body,
lets circumstances complete it.
That is why every being
spontaneously honors the Tao.
The Tao gives birth to all beings,
nourishes them, maintains them,
cares for them, comforts them, protects them,
takes them back to itself,
creating without possessing,
acting without expecting,
guiding without interfering.
That is why love of the Tao
is in the very nature of things.
52 - RETURNING TO THE SOURCE
(The Tao) which originated all under the sky is to be
considered as the mother of them all.
When the mother is found, we know what her children should be.
When one knows that he is his mother's child, and proceeds to guard
(the qualities of) the mother that belong to him, to the end of his
life he will be free from all peril.
Let him keep his mouth closed, and shut up the portals (of his
nostrils), and all his life he will be exempt from laborious exertion.
Let him keep his mouth open, and (spend his breath) in the promotion
of his affairs, and all his life there will be no safety for him.
The perception of what is small is (the secret of clear-
sightedness; the guarding of what is soft and tender is (the secret
Who uses well his light,
Reverting to its (source so) bright,
Will from his body ward all blight,
And hides the unchanging from men's sight.
The virtue of Tao governs its natural way.
Thus, he who is at one with it,
is one with everything which lives,
having freedom from the fear of death.
Boasting, and hurrying hither and thither,
destroy the enjoyment of a peace filled life.
Life is more fulfilled by far,
for he who does not have desire,
for he does not have desire,
has no need of boasting.
Learn to see the insignificant and small,
grow in wisdom and develop insight,
that which is irrevocable,
do not try to fight,
and so be saved from harm.
In the beginning was the Tao.
All things issue from it;
all things return to it.
To find the origin,
trace back the manifestations.
When you recognize the children
and find the mother,
you will be free of sorrow.
If you close your mind in judgments
and traffic with desires,
your heart will be troubled.
If you keep your mind from judging
and aren't led by the senses,
your heart will find peace.
Seeing into darkness is clarity.
Knowing how to yield is strength.
Use your own light
and return to the source of light.
This is called practicing eternity.
53 - EVIDENCE
If I were suddenly to become known, and (put into a position
to) conduct (a government) according to the Great Tao, what I should
be most afraid of would be a boastful display.
The great Tao (or way) is very level and easy; but people love the
Their court(-yards and buildings) shall be well kept, but their
fields shall be ill-cultivated, and their granaries very empty. They
shall wear elegant and ornamented robes, carry a sharp sword at their
girdle, pamper themselves in eating and drinking, and have a
superabundance of property and wealth;--such (princes) may be called
robbers and boasters. This is contrary to the Tao surely!
When temptation arises to leave the Tao,
banish temptation, stay with the Tao.
When the court has adornments in profusion,
the fields are full of weeds,
and the granaries are bare.
It is not the way of nature to carry a sword,
nor to over-adorn oneself,
nor to have more than a sufficiency
of fine food and drink.
He who has more possessions than he can use,
deprives someone who could use them well.
The great Way is easy,
yet people prefer the side paths.
Be aware when things are out of balance.
Stay centered within the Tao.
When rich speculators prosper
While farmers lose their land;
when government officials spend money
on weapons instead of cures;
when the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible
while the poor have nowhere to turn-
all this is robbery and chaos.
It is not in keeping with the Tao.
54 - CULTIVATING INSIGHT
What (Tao's) skilful planter plants
Can never be uptorn;
What his skilful arms enfold,
From him can ne'er be borne.
Sons shall bring in lengthening line,
Sacrifices to his shrine.
Tao when nursed within one's self,
His vigor will make true;
And where the family it rules
What riches will accrue!
The neighborhood where it prevails
In thriving will abound;
And when 'tis seen throughout the state,
Good fortune will be found.
Employ it the kingdom o'er,
And men thrive all around.
In this way the effect will be seen in the person, by the
observation of different cases; in the family; in the neighborhood;
in the state; and in the kingdom.
How do I know that this effect is sure to hold thus all under the
sky? By this (method of observation).
That which is firmly rooted,
is not easily torn from the ground;
just as that which is firmly grasped,
does not slip easily from the hand.
The virtue of the Tao is real,
if cultivated in oneself;
when loved in the family, it abounds;
when throughout the village, it will grow;
and in the nation, be abundant.
When it is real universally,
virtue is in all people.
All things are microcosms of the Tao;
the world a microcosmic universe,
the nation a microcosm of the world,
the village a microcosmic nation;
the family a village in microcosmic view,
and the body a microcosm of one's own family;
from single cell to galaxy.
Whoever is planted in the Tao
will not be rooted up.
Whoever embraces the Tao
will not slip away.
Her name will be held in honor
from generation to generation.
Let the Tao be present in your life
and you will become genuine.
Let it be present in your family
and your family will flourish.
Let it be present in your country
and your country will be an example
to all countries in the world.
Let it be present in the universe
and the universe will sing.
How do I know this is true?
By looking inside myself.
55 - MYSTERIOUS VIRTUE
He who has in himself abundantly the attributes (of the Tao) is
like an infant. Poisonous insects will not sting him; fierce beasts
will not seize him; birds of prey will not strike him.
(The infant's) bones are weak and its sinews soft, but yet its
grasp is firm. It knows not yet the union of male and female, and yet
its virile member may be excited;--showing the perfection of its
physical essence. All day long it will cry without its throat
becoming hoarse;--showing the harmony (in its constitution).
To him by whom this harmony is known,
(The secret of) the unchanging (Tao) is shown,
And in the knowledge wisdom finds its throne.
All life-increasing arts to evil turn;
Where the mind makes the vital breath to burn,
(False) is the strength, (and o'er it we should mourn.)
When things have become strong, they (then) become old, which may
be said to be contrary to the Tao. Whatever is contrary to the Tao
He who has virtue is like a newborn child,
free from attack by those who dwell
in the way of nature, the way of the Tao.
The bones of the newborn child are soft,
his muscles supple, but his grip is firm;
he is whole, though not knowing he was born
of the creative and receptive way.
The way of nature is in the child,
so even when he shouts all day,
his throat does not grow hoarse or dry.
From constancy, there develops harmony,
and from harmony, enlightenment.
It is unwise to rush from here to there.
To hold one's breath causes the body strain;
when too much energy is used,
for this is not the natural way.
He who is in opposition to the Tao
does not live his natural years.
He who is in harmony with the Tao
is like a newborn child.
Its bones are soft, its muscles are weak,
but its grip is powerful.
It doesn't know about the union
of male and female,
yet its penis can stand erect,
so intense is its vital power.
It can scream its head off all day,
yet it never becomes hoarse,
so complete is its harmony.
The Master's power is like this.
He lets all things come and go
effortlessly, without desire.
He never expects results;
thus he is never disappointed.
He is never disappointed;
thus his spirit never grows old.
56 - VIRTUOUS PASSIVITY
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.
He (who knows it) will keep his mouth shut and close the portals
(of his nostrils). He will blunt his sharp points and unravel the
complications of things; he will temper his brightness, and bring
himself into agreement with the obscurity (of others). This is called
'the Mysterious Agreement.'
(Such an one) cannot be treated familiarly or distantly; he is
beyond all consideration of profit or injury; of nobility or
meanness:--he is the noblest man under heaven.
Those who know the natural way
have no need of boasting,
whilst those who know but little,
may be heard most frequently;
thus, the sage says little,
if anything at all.
Not demanding stimuli,
he tempers his sharpness well,
reduces the complex to simplicity,
hiding his brilliance, seemingly dull;
he settles the dust,
whilst in union with all natural things.
He who has attained enlightenment
(without contriving so to do)
is not concerned with making friends,
nor with making enemies;
with good or harm, with praise or blame.
Such detachment is the highest state of man.
Those who know don't talk.
Those who talk don't know.
Close your mouth,
block off your senses,
blunt your sharpness,
untie your knots,
soften your glare,
settle your dust.
This is the primal identity.
Be like the Tao.
It can't be approached or withdrawn from,
benefited or harmed,
honored or brought into disgrace.
It gives itself up continually.
That is why it endures.
57 - SIMPLIFICATION
A state may be ruled by (measures of) correction; weapons of
war may be used with crafty dexterity; (but) the kingdom is made one's
own (only) by freedom from action and purpose.
How do I know that it is so? By these facts:--In the kingdom the
multiplication of prohibitive enactments increases the poverty of the
people; the more implements to add to their profit that the people
have, the greater disorder is there in the state and clan; the more
acts of crafty dexterity that men possess, the more do strange
contrivances appear; the more display there is of legislation, the
more thieves and robbers there are.
Therefore a sage has said, 'I will do nothing (of purpose), and the
people will be transformed of themselves; I will be fond of keeping
still, and the people will of themselves become correct. I will take
no trouble about it, and the people will of themselves become rich; I
will manifest no ambition, and the people will of themselves attain to
the primitive simplicity.'
With natural justice, people must be ruled,
and if war be waged, strategy and tactics used.
To master one's self,
one must act without cunning.
The greater the number of laws and restrictions,
the poorer the people who inhabit the land.
The sharper the weapons of battle and war,
the greater the troubles besetting the land.
The greater the cunning with which people are ruled,
the stranger the things which occur in the land.
The harder the rules and regulations,
the greater the number of those who will steal.
The sage therefore does not contrive,
in order to bring about reform,
but teaches the people peace of mind,
in order that they might enjoy their lives.
Having no desires, all he does is natural.
Since he teaches self-sufficiency,
the people who follow him return
to a good, uncomplicated life.
If you want to be a great leader,
you must learn to follow the Tao.
Stop trying to control.
Let go of fixed plans and concepts,
and the world will govern itself.
The more prohibitions you have,
the less virtuous people will be.
The more weapons you have,
the less secure people will be.
The more subsidies you have,
the less self-reliant people will be.
Therefore the Master says:
I let go of the law,
and people become honest.
I let go of economics,
and people become prosperous.
I let go of religion,
and people become serene.
I let go of all desire for the common good,
and the good becomes common as grass.
58 - TRANSFORMATIONS ACCORDING
The government that seems the most unwise,
Oft goodness to the people best supplies;
That which is meddling, touching everything,
Will work but ill, and disappointment bring.
Misery!--happiness is to be found by its side! Happiness!--misery
lurks beneath it! Who knows what either will come to in the end?
Shall we then dispense with correction? The (method of) correction
shall by a turn become distortion, and the good in it shall by a turn
become evil. The delusion of the people (on this point) has indeed
subsisted for a long time.
Therefore the sage is (like) a square which cuts no one (with its
angles); (like) a corner which injures no one (with its sharpness).
He is straightforward, but allows himself no license; he is bright,
but does not dazzle.
When the hand of the ruler is light,
the people do not contrive,
but when the country is severely ruled,
the people grow in cunning.
The actions of the sage are sharp,
but they are never cutting,
they are pointed, though never piercing,
they are straightforward, not contrived,
and not without restraint,
brilliant but not blinding.
This is the action of the sage,
because he is aware
that where happiness exists,
there is also misery and strife;
that where honesty may be found,
there is occasion for dishonesty,
and that men may be beguiled.
The sage knows that no-one can foretell
just what the future holds.
If a country is governed with tolerance,
the people are comfortable and honest.
If a country is governed with repression,
the people are depressed and crafty.
When the will to power is in charge,
the higher the ideals, the lower the results.
Try to make people happy,
and you lay the groundwork for misery.
Try to make people moral,
and you lay the groundwork for vice.
Thus the Master is content
to serve as an example
and not to impose her will.
She is pointed, but doesn't pierce.
Straightforward, but supple.
Radiant, but easy on the eyes.
59 - GUARDING THE TAO
For regulating the human (in our constitution) and rendering
the (proper) service to the heavenly, there is nothing like
It is only by this moderation that there is effected an early
return (to man's normal state). That early return is what I call the
repeated accumulation of the attributes (of the Tao). With that
repeated accumulation of those attributes, there comes the subjugation
(of every obstacle to such return). Of this subjugation we know not
what shall be the limit; and when one knows not what the limit shall
be, he may be the ruler of a state.
He who possesses the mother of the state may continue long. His
case is like that (of the plant) of which we say that its roots are
deep and its flower stalks firm:--this is the way to secure that its
enduring life shall long be seen.
By acting with no thought of self-advancement,
but with self-restraint,
it is possible to lead,
and genuinely care for others.
This happens by acting virtuously,
and leaving nothing to be done.
A foundation virtuous and firm,
rooted in receptivity,
is a prerequisite of good leadership,
and for a life both long and strong.
He whose virtue knows no limit,
is most fitting to lead.
His roots are deep,
and his life protected
by his meditative practice,
as the bark protects the tree.
For governing a country well
there is nothing better than moderation.
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.
Nothing is impossible for him.
Because he has let go,
he can care for the people's welfare
as a mother cares for her child.
60 - RULING
Governing a great state is like cooking small fish.
Let the kingdom be governed according to the Tao, and the manes of
the departed will not manifest their spiritual energy. It is not that
those manes have not that spiritual energy, but it will not be
employed to hurt men. It is not that it could not hurt men, but
neither does the ruling sage hurt them.
When these two do not injuriously affect each other, their good
influences converge in the virtue (of the Tao).
To rule a country,
one must act with care,
as when frying the smallest fish.
If actions are approached,
and carried out in the natural way,
the power of evil is reduced,
and so the ruler and the ruled
are equally protected.
They will not contrive to harm each other,
for the virtue of one refreshes the other.
Governing a large country
is like frying a small fish.
You spoil it with too much poking.
Center your country in the Tao
and evil will have no power.
Not that it isn't there,
but you'll be able to step out of its way.
Give evil nothing to oppose
and it will disappear by itself.
61 - HUMILITY
What makes a great state is its being (like) a low-lying, down-
flowing (stream);--it becomes the centre to which tend (all the small
states) under heaven.
(To illustrate from) the case of all females:--the female always
overcomes the male by her stillness. Stillness may be considered (a
sort of) abasement.
Thus it is that a great state, by condescending to small states,
gains them for itself; and that small states, by abasing themselves to
a great state, win it over to them. In the one case the abasement
leads to gaining adherents, in the other case to procuring favor.
The great state only wishes to unite men together and nourish them;
a small state only wishes to be received by, and to serve, the other.
Each gets what it desires, but the great state must learn to abase
A great country remains receptive and still,
as does a rich and fertile land.
The gentle overcomes the strong
with stillness and receptivity.
By giving way to the other,
one country may conquer another;
a small country may submit to a large,
and conquer it, though having no arms.
Those who conquer must be willing to yield;
to yield may be to overcome.
A fertile nation may require a greater population,
to use its resources to the full,
whilst the country without such natural wealth
may require them to meet its people's needs.
By acting in unity, each may achieve
that which it requires.
When a country obtains great power,
it becomes like the sea:
all streams run downward into it.
The more powerful it grows,
the greater the need for humility.
Humility means trusting the Tao,
thus never needing to be defensive.
A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers.
He thinks of his enemy
as the shadow that he himself casts.
If a nation is centered in the Tao,
if it nourishes its own people
and doesn't meddle in the affairs of others,
it will be a light to all nations in the world.
62 - SHARING THE TREASURE
Tao has of all things the most honored place.
No treasures give good men so rich a grace;
Bad men it guards, and doth their ill efface.
(Its) admirable words can purchase honor; (its) admirable deeds
can raise their performer above others. Even men who are not good are
not abandoned by it.
Therefore when the sovereign occupies his place as the Son of
Heaven, and he has appointed his three ducal ministers, though (a
prince) were to send in a round symbol-of-rank large enough to fill
both the hands, and that as the precursor of the team of horses (in
the court-yard), such an offering would not be equal to (a lesson of)
this Tao, which one might present on his knees.
Why was it that the ancients prized this Tao so much? Was it not
because it could be got by seeking for it, and the guilty could escape
(from the stain of their guilt) by it? This is the reason why all
under heaven consider it the most valuable thing.
The source of all things is in the Tao.
It is a treasure for the good,
and a refuge for all in need.
Whilst praise can buy titles,
good deeds gain respect.
No man should be abandoned
because he has not found the Tao.
On auspicious occasions, when gifts are sent,
rather than sending horses or jade,
send the teaching of Tao.
When we first discover the natural way,
we are happy to know that our misdeeds
are in the past, where they belong,
and so are happy to realize
that we have found a treasure.
The Tao is the center of the universe,
the good man's treasure,
the bad man's refuge.
Honors can be bought with fine words,
respect can be won with good deeds;
but the Tao is beyond all value,
and no one can achieve it.
Thus, when a new leader is chosen,
don't offer to help him
with your wealth or your expertise.
to teach him about the Tao.
Why did the ancient Masters esteem the Tao?
Because, being one with the Tao,
when you seek, you find;
and when you make a mistake, you are forgiven.
That is why everybody loves it.
63 - BEGINNING AND COMPLETING
(It is the way of the Tao) to act without (thinking of) acting;
to conduct affairs without (feeling the) trouble of them; to taste
without discerning any flavor; to consider what is small as great,
and a few as many; and to recompense injury with kindness.
(The master of it) anticipates things that are difficult while they
are easy, and does things that would become great while they are
small. All difficult things in the world are sure to arise from a
previous state in which they were easy, and all great things from one
in which they were small. Therefore the sage, while he never does
what is great, is able on that account to accomplish the greatest
He who lightly promises is sure to keep but little faith; he who is
continually thinking things easy is sure to find them difficult.
Therefore the sage sees difficulty even in what seems easy, and so
never has any difficulties.
Act without contriving;
work naturally, and taste the tasteless;
magnify the small; increase the few,
and reward bitterness with care.
Seek the simple in the complex,
and achieve greatness in small things.
It is the way of nature
that even difficult things are done with ease,
and great acts made up of smaller deeds.
The sage achieves greatness by small deeds multiplied.
Promises easily made are most easily broken,
and acting with insufficient care
causes subsequent trouble.
The sage confronts problems as they arise,
so that they do not trouble him.
Act without doing;
work without effort.
Think of the small as large
and the few as many.
Confront the difficult
while it is still easy;
accomplish the great task
by a series of small acts.
The Master never reaches for the great;
thus she achieves greatness.
When she runs into a difficulty,
she stops and gives herself to it.
She doesn't cling to her own comfort;
thus problems are no problem for her.
64 - STAYING WITH THE MYSTERY
That which is at rest is easily kept hold of; before a thing
has given indications of its presence, it is easy to take measures
against it; that which is brittle is easily broken; that which is very
small is easily dispersed. Action should be taken before a thing has
made its appearance; order should be secured before disorder has
The tree which fills the arms grew from the tiniest sprout; the
tower of nine stories rose from a (small) heap of earth; the journey
of a thousand li commenced with a single step.
He who acts (with an ulterior purpose) does harm; he who takes hold
of a thing (in the same way) loses his hold. The sage does not act
(so), and therefore does no harm; he does not lay hold (so), and
therefore does not lose his bold. (But) people in their conduct of
affairs are constantly ruining them when they are on the eve of
success. If they were careful at the end, as (they should be) at the
beginning, they would not so ruin them.
Therefore the sage desires what (other men) do not desire, and does
not prize things difficult to get; he learns what (other men) do not
learn, and turns back to what the multitude of men have passed by.
Thus he helps the natural development of all things, and does not dare
to act (with an ulterior purpose of his own).
If problems are accepted,
and dealt with before they arise,
they might even be prevented before confusion begins,
In this way peace may be maintained.
The brittle is easily shattered,
and the small is easily scattered.
Great trees grow from the smallest shoots;
a terraced garden, from a pile of earth,
and a journey of a thousand miles
begins by taking the initial step.
He who contrives, defeats his purpose;
and he who is grasping, loses.
The sage does not contrive to win,
and therefore is not defeated;
he is not grasping, so does not lose.
It is easy to fail when nearing completion,
therefore, take care right to the end,
not only in the beginning.
The sage seeks freedom from desire,
not grasping at ideas.
He brings men back when they are lost,
and helps them find the Tao.
What is rooted is easy to nourish.
What is recent is easy to correct.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter.
Prevent trouble before it arises.
Put things in order before they exist.
The giant pine tree
grows from a tiny sprout.
The journey of a thousand miles
starts from beneath your feet.
Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.
Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He remains as calm
at the end as at the beginning.
He has nothing,
thus has nothing to lose.
What he desires is non-desire;
what he learns is to unlearn.
He simply reminds people
of who they have always been.
He cares about nothing but the Tao.
Thus he can care for all things.
65 - VIRTUOUS GOVERNMENT
The ancients who showed their skill in practicing the Tao did
so, not to enlighten the people, but rather to make them simple and
The difficulty in governing the people arises from their having
much knowledge. He who (tries to) govern a state by his wisdom is a
scourge to it; while he who does not (try to) do so is a blessing.
He who knows these two things finds in them also his model and
rule. Ability to know this model and rule constitutes what we call
the mysterious excellence (of a governor). Deep and far-reaching is
such mysterious excellence, showing indeed its possessor as opposite
to others, but leading them to a great conformity to him.
Knowing it is against the Tao
to try to enforce learning,
the early sages did not contrive
to teach the way of the Tao.
There are two ways of government.
One is to be cunning, to act with guile,
and to contrive to cheat the people.
When this way is used to rule,
the people grow in cunning,
and contrive to cheat the ruler.
The second way to govern the land,
is to do so without contriving.
People so governed are truly blessed,
for they are governed with virtue,
and virtuous government is fair to all,
thus leading to unity.
The ancient Masters
didn't try to educate the people,
but kindly taught them to not-know.
When they think that they know the answers,
people are difficult to guide.
When they know that they don't know,
people can find their own way.
If you want to learn how to govern,
avoid being clever or rich.
The simplest pattern is the clearest.
Content with an ordinary life,
you can show all people the way
back to their own true nature.
66 - LEADING FROM BEHIND
That whereby the rivers and seas are able to receive the homage
and tribute of all the valley streams, is their skill in being lower
than they;--it is thus that they are the kings of them all. So it is
that the sage (ruler), wishing to be above men, puts himself by his
words below them, and, wishing to be before them, places his person
In this way though he has his place above them, men do not feel his
weight, nor though he has his place before them, do they feel it an
injury to them.
Therefore all in the world delight to exalt him and do not weary of
him. Because he does not strive, no one finds it possible to strive
The sea is the ruler of river and stream,
because it rules from well beneath.
The teacher guides his students best,
by allowing them to lead.
When the ruler is a sage,
the people do not feel oppressed;
they support the one who rules them well,
and never tire of him.
He who is non-competitive
invites no competition.
All streams flow to the sea
because it is lower than they are.
Humility gives it its power.
If you want to govern the people,
you must place yourself below them.
If you want to lead the people,
you must learn how to follow them.
The Master is above the people,
and no one feels oppressed.
She goes ahead of the people,
and no one feels manipulated.
The whole world is grateful to her.
Because she competes with no one,
no one can compete with her.
67 - THE THREE PRECIOUS
All the world says that, while my Tao is great, it yet appears
to be inferior (to other systems of teaching). Now it is just its
greatness that makes it seem to be inferior. If it were like any
other (system), for long would its smallness have been known!
But I have three precious things which I prize and hold fast. The
first is gentleness; the second is economy; and the third is shrinking
from taking precedence of others.
With that gentleness I can be bold; with that economy I can be
liberal; shrinking from taking precedence of others, I can become a
vessel of the highest honor. Now-a-days they give up gentleness and
are all for being bold; economy, and are all for being liberal; the
hindmost place, and seek only to be foremost;--(of all which the end
Gentleness is sure to be victorious even in battle, and firmly to
maintain its ground. Heaven will save its possessor, by his (very)
gentleness protecting him.
Those who follow the natural way
are different from others in three respects.
They have great mercy and economy,
and the courage not to compete.
From mercy there comes courage;
from economy, generosity;
and from humility, willingness to lead from behind.
It is the way of sickness to shun the merciful,
and to acclaim only heroic deeds,
to abandon economy, and to be selfish.
They are sick, who are not humble,
but try always to be first.
Only he who is compassionate
can show true bravery,
and in defending, show great strength.
Compassion is the means by which
mankind may be guarded and saved,
for heaven arms with compassion,
those whom it would not see destroyed.
Some say that my teaching is nonsense.
Others call it lofty but impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,
this nonsense makes perfect sense.
And to those who put it into practice,
this loftiness has roots that go deep.
I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.
68 - WITHOUT DESIRE
He who in (Tao's) wars has skill
Assumes no martial port;
He who fights with most good will
To rage makes no resort.
He who vanquishes yet still
Keeps from his foes apart;
He whose hests men most fulfill
Yet humbly plies his art.
Thus we say, 'He ne'er contends,
And therein is his might.'
Thus we say, 'Men's wills he bends,
That they with him unite.'
Thus we say, 'Like Heaven's his ends,
No sage of old more bright.'
An effective warrior acts
not from nihilistic anger,
nor from desire to kill.
He who wins should not be vengeful.
An employer should have humility.
If we wish for peace and unity,
our dealings with our fellow man
must be without desire for self-advantage,
and carried out without contention.
The best athlete
wants his opponent at his best.
The best general
enters the mind of his enemy.
The best businessman
serves the communal good.
The best leader
follows the will of the people.
All of the embody
the virtue of non-competition.
Not that they don't love to compete,
but they do it in the spirit of play.
In this they are like children
and in harmony with the Tao.
69 - THE USE OF THE MYSTERIOUS TAO
A master of the art of war has said, 'I do not dare to be the
host (to commence the war); I prefer to be the guest (to act on the
defensive). I do not dare to advance an inch; I prefer to retire a
foot.' This is called marshalling the ranks where there are no ranks;
baring the arms (to fight) where there are no arms to bare; grasping
the weapon where there is no weapon to grasp; advancing against the
enemy where there is no enemy.
There is no calamity greater than lightly engaging in war. To do
that is near losing (the gentleness) which is so precious. Thus it is
that when opposing weapons are (actually) crossed, he who deplores
(the situation) conquers.
Arguments may be won by waiting,
rather than making an aggressive move;
by withdrawing rather than advancing.
By moving without appearing to move,
by not making a show of strength,
but by conserving it well;
by capturing without attacking,
by being armed, but with no weapons,
great battles may be won.
Do not underestimate
those you enjoin in battle,
for this can result in losing
what is of greatest value.
When a battle is enjoined,
by remembering this,
the weaker may still win.
The generals have a saying:
"Rather than make the first move
it is better to wait and see.
Rather than advance an inch
it is better to retreat a yard."
This is called
going forward without advancing,
pushing back without using weapons.
There is no greater misfortune
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means thinking that he is evil.
Thus you destroy your three treasures
and become an enemy yourself.
When two great forces oppose each other,
the victory will go
to the one that knows how to yield.
70 - HIDDEN IDENTITY
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
There is an originating and all-comprehending (principle) in my
words, and an authoritative law for the things (which I enforce). It
is because they do not know these, that men do not know me.
They who know me are few, and I am on that account (the more) to be
prized. It is thus that the sage wears (a poor garb of) hair cloth,
while he carries his (signet of) jade in his bosom.
Though the words of the sage are simple,
and his actions easily performed,
they are few among many,
who can speak or act as a sage.
For the ordinary man it is difficult
to know the way of a sage,
perhaps because his words
are from the distant past,
and his actions naturally disposed.
Those who know the way of the sage
are few and far between,
but those who treat him with honesty,
will be honoured by him and the Tao.
He knows he makes no fine display,
and wears rough clothes, not finery.
It is not in his expectancy of men
that they should understand his ways,
for he carries his jade within his heart.
My teachings are easy to understand
and easy to put into practice.
Yet your intellect will never grasp them,
and if you try to practice them, you'll fail.
My teachings are older than the world.
How can you grasp their meaning?
If you want to know me,
look inside your heart.
71 - WITHOUT SICKNESS
To know and yet (think) we do not know is the highest
(attainment); not to know (and yet think) we do know is a disease.
It is simply by being pained at (the thought of) having this
disease that we are preserved from it. The sage has not the disease.
He knows the pain that would be inseparable from it, and therefore he
does not have it.
To acknowledge one's ignorance
shows strength of personality,
but to ignore wisdom is a sign of weakness.
To be sick of sickness is a sign of good health,
therefore the wise man grows sick of sickness,
and sick of being sick of sickness,
'til he is sick no more.
Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a disease.
First realize that you are sick;
then you can move toward health.
The Master is her own physician.
She has healed herself of all knowing.
Thus she is truly whole.
72 - LOVING THE SELF
When the people do not fear what they ought to fear, that which
is their great dread will come on them.
Let them not thoughtlessly indulge themselves in their ordinary
life; let them not act as if weary of what that life depends on.
It is by avoiding such indulgence that such weariness does not
Therefore the sage knows (these things) of himself, but does not
parade (his knowledge); loves, but does not (appear to set a) value
on, himself. And thus he puts the latter alternative away and makes
choice of the former.
The sage retains a sense of awe, and of propriety.
He does not intrude into others' homes;
does not harass them,
nor interfere without request,
unless they damage others.
So it is that they return to him.
'Though the sage knows himself
he makes no show of it;
he has self-respect, but is not arrogant,
for he develops the ability to let go of that
which he no longer needs.
When they lose their sense of awe,
people turn to religion.
When they no longer trust themselves,
they begin to depend upon authority.
Therefore the Master steps back
so that people won't be confused.
He teaches without a teaching,
so that people will have nothing to learn.
73 - ACTING WITH A SUFFICIENCY
He whose boldness appears in his daring (to do wrong, in
defiance of the laws) is put to death; he whose boldness appears in
his not daring (to do so) lives on. Of these two cases the one
appears to be advantageous, and the other to be injurious. But
When Heaven's anger smites a man,
Who the cause shall truly scan?
On this account the sage feels a difficulty (as to what to do in the
It is the way of Heaven not to strive, and yet it skillfully
overcomes; not to speak, and yet it is skilful in (obtaining a reply;
does not call, and yet men come to it of themselves. Its
demonstrations are quiet, and yet its plans are skilful and effective.
The meshes of the net of Heaven are large; far apart, but letting
A brave man who is passionate
will either kill or be killed,
but a man who is both brave and still
might preserve his own and others' lives.
No one can say with certainty,
why it is better to preserve a life.
The virtuous way is a way to act
without contriving effort,
yet, without contriving it overcomes.
It seldom speaks, and never asks,
but is answered without a question.
It is supplied with all its needs
and is constantly at ease
because it follows its own plan
which cannot be understood by man.
It casts its net both deep and wide,
and 'though coarse meshed, it misses nothing in the tide.
The Tao is always at ease.
It overcomes without competing,
answers without speaking a word,
arrives without being summoned,
accomplishes without a plan.
Its net covers the whole universe.
And though its meshes are wide,
it doesn't let a thing slip through.
74 - USURPING THE TAO
The people do not fear death; to what purpose is it to (try to)
frighten them with death? If the people were always in awe of death,
and I could always seize those who do wrong, and put them to death,
who would dare to do wrong?
There is always One who presides over the infliction death. He who
would inflict death in the room of him who so presides over it may be
described as hewing wood instead of a great carpenter. Seldom is it
that he who undertakes the hewing, instead of the great carpenter,
does not cut his own hands!
If the people are not afraid of death,
they have no fear of threats of death.
If early death is common in the land,
and if death is meted out as punishment,
the people do not fear to break the law.
To be the executioner in such a land as this,
is to be as an unskilled carpenter
who cuts his hand
when trying to cut wood.
If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you aren't afraid of dying,
there is nothing you can't achieve.
Trying to control the future
is like trying to take the master carpenter's place.
When you handle the master carpenter's tools,
chances are that you'll cut your hand.
75 - INJURING THROUGH GREED
The people suffer from famine because of the multitude of taxes
consumed by their superiors. It is through this that they suffer
The people are difficult to govern because of the (excessive)
agency of their superiors (in governing them). It is through this
that they are difficult to govern.
The people make light of dying because of the greatness of their
labors in seeking for the means of living. It is this which makes
them think light of dying. Thus it is that to leave the subject of
living altogether out of view is better than to set a high value on
When taxes are too heavy,
hunger lays the people low.
When those who govern interfere too much,
the people become rebellious.
When those who govern demand too much
of people's lives, death is taken lightly.
When the people are starving in the land,
life is of little value,
and so is more easily sacrificed by them
in overthrowing government.
When taxes are too high,
people go hungry.
When the government is too intrusive,
people lose their spirit.
Act for the people's benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.
76 - AGAINST TRUSTING IN STRENGTH
Man at his birth is supple and weak; at his death, firm and
strong. (So it is with) all things. Trees and plants, in their early
growth, are soft and brittle; at their death, dry and withered.
Thus it is that firmness and strength are the concomitants of
death; softness and weakness, the concomitants of life.
Hence he who (relies on) the strength of his forces does not
conquer; and a tree which is strong will fill the out-stretched arms,
(and thereby invites the feller.)
Therefore the place of what is firm and strong is below, and that
of what is soft and weak is above.
Man is born gentle and supple.
At death, his body is brittle and hard.
Living plants are tender,
and filled with life-giving sap,
but at their death they are withered and dry.
The stiff, the hard, and brittle
are harbingers of death,
and gentleness and yielding
are the signs of that which lives.
The warrior who is inflexible
condemns himself to death,
and the tree is easily broken,
whichever refuses to yield.
Thus the hard and brittle will surely fall,
and the soft and supple will overcome.
Men are born soft and supple;
dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plats are born tender and pliant;
dead, they are brittle and dry.
Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible
is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life.
The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.
77 - THE WAY OF THE TAO
May not the Way (or Tao) of Heaven be compared to the (method
of) bending a bow? The (part of the bow) which was high is brought
low, and what was low is raised up. (So Heaven) diminishes where
there is superabundance, and supplements where there is deficiency.
It is the Way of Heaven to diminish superabundance, and to
supplement deficiency. It is not so with the way of man. He takes
away from those who have not enough to add to his own superabundance.
Who can take his own superabundance and therewith serve all under
heaven? Only he who is in possession of the Tao!
Therefore the (ruling) sage acts without claiming the results as
his; he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it:--he
does not wish to display his superiority.
The Tao is as supple as a bow;
the high made lower, and the lowly raised.
It shortens the string which has been stretched,
and lengthens that which has become too short.
It is the way of the Tao to take from those
who have a surplus to what they need,
providing for those without enough.
The way of the ordinary person,
is not the way of the Tao,
for such people take from those who are poor
and give to those who are rich.
The sage knows that his possessions are none,
therefore he gives to the world;
without recognition, doing his work.
In this way he accomplishes
that which is required of him;
without dwelling upon it in any way,
he gives of his wisdom without display.
As it acts in the world, the Tao
is like the bending of a bow.
The top is bent downward;
the bottom is bent up.
It adjusts excess and deficiency
so that there is perfect balance.
It takes from what is too much
and give to what isn't enough.
Those who try to control,
who use force to protect their power,
go against the direction of the Tao.
They take from those who don't have enough
and give to those who have far too much.
The Master can keep giving
because there is no end to her wealth.
She acts without expectation,
succeeds without taking credit,
and doesn't think that she is better
than anyone else.
78 - SINCERITY
There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water,
and yet for attacking things that are firm and strong there is nothing
that can take precedence of it;--for there is nothing (so effectual)
for which it can be changed.
Every one in the world knows that the soft overcomes the hard, and
the weak the strong, but no one is able to carry it out in practice.
Therefore a sage has said,
'He who accepts his state's reproach,
Is hailed therefore its altars' lord;
To him who bears men's direful woes
They all the name of King accord.'
Words that are strictly true seem to be paradoxical.
There is nothing more yielding than water,
yet when acting on the solid and strong,
its gentleness and fluidity
have no equal in anything.
The weak can overcome the strong,
and the supple overcome the hard.
Although this is known far and wide,
few put it into practice in their lives.
Although seemingly paradoxical,
the person who takes upon himself,
the people's humiliation,
is fit to rule;
and he is fit to lead,
who takes the country's disasters upon himself.
Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.
The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.
Therefore the Master remains
serene in the midst of sorrow.
Evil cannot enter his heart.
Because he has given up helping,
he is people's greatest help.
True words seem paradoxical.
79 - FULFILLING ONE'S OBLIGATIONS
When a reconciliation is effected (between two parties) after a
great animosity, there is sure to be a grudge remaining (in the mind
of the one who was wrong). And how can this be beneficial (to the
Therefore (to guard against this), the sage keeps the left-hand
portion of the record of the engagement, and does not insist on the
(speedy) fulfillment of it by the other party. (So), he who has the
attributes (of the Tao) regards (only) the conditions of the
engagement, while he who has not those attributes regards only the
conditions favorable to himself.
In the Way of Heaven, there is no partiality of love; it is always
on the side of the good man.
When covenants and bonds are drawn
between the people of the land,
that they might know their obligations,
it is commonplace for many
to fail to meet their dues.
The sage ensures his dues are met,
'though not expecting others to do the same;
in this way he is virtuous.
He is without virtue of his own,
who asks of others that they fulfill
his obligations on his behalf.
The way of nature does not impose
on matters such as these
but stays with the good forever,
and acts as their reward.
Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else,
there is no end to the blame.
Therefore the Master
fulfills her own obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others.
80 - STANDING ALONE
In a little state with a small population, I would so order it,
that, though there were individuals with the abilities of ten or a
hundred men, there should be no employment of them; I would make the
people, while looking on death as a grievous thing, yet not remove
elsewhere (to avoid it).
Though they had boats and carriages, they should have no occasion
to ride in them; though they had buff coats and sharp weapons, they
should have no occasion to don or use them.
I would make the people return to the use of knotted cords (instead
of the written characters).
They should think their (coarse) food sweet; their (plain) clothes
beautiful; their (poor) dwellings places of rest; and their common
(simple) ways sources of enjoyment.
There should be a neighboring state within sight, and the voices
of the fowls and dogs should be heard all the way from it to us, but I
would make the people to old age, even to death, not have any
intercourse with it.
A small country may have many machines,
but the people will have no use for them;
they will have boats and carriages
which they do not use;
their armor and weapons
are not displayed,
for they are serious when regarding death.
They do not travel far from home,
and make knots in ropes,
rather than do much writing.
The food they eat is plain and good,
and their clothes are simple;
their homes are secure,
without the need of bolts and bars,
and they are happy in their ways.
'Though the cockerels and dogs
of their neighbors
can be heard not far away,
the people of the villages
grow old and die in peace.
If a country is governed wisely,
its inhabitants will be content.
They enjoy the labor of their hands
and don't waste time inventing
Since they dearly love their homes,
they aren't interested in travel.
There may be a few wagons and boats,
but these don't go anywhere.
There may be an arsenal of weapons,
but nobody ever uses them.
People enjoy their food,
take pleasure in being with their families,
spend weekends working in their gardens,
delight in the doings of the neighborhood.
And even though the next country is so close
that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking,
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it.
81 - MANIFESTING SIMPLICITY
Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere. Those
who are skilled (in the Tao) do not dispute (about it); the
disputatious are not skilled in it. Those who know (the Tao) are not
extensively learned; the extensively learned do not know it.
The sage does not accumulate (for himself). The more that he
expends for others, the more does he possess of his own; the more that
he gives to others, the more does he have himself.
With all the sharpness of the Way of Heaven, it injures not; with
all the doing in the way of the sage he does not strive.
The truth is not always beautiful,
nor beautiful words the truth.
Those who have virtue,
have no need of argument for its own sake,
for they know that argument is of no avail.
Those who have knowledge of the natural way
do not train themselves in cunning,
whilst those who use cunning to rule their lives,
and the lives of others,
are not knowledgeable of the Tao,
nor of natural happiness.
The sage seeks not to have a store
of things or knowledge, for he knows,
the less of these he has, the more he has,
and that the more he gives,
the greater his abundance.
The way of the sage is pointed
but does not harm.
The way of the sage
is to work without cunning.
True words aren't eloquent;
eloquent words aren't true.
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.
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND REFERENCES
'Tao Te Ching', translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, is published by Wildwood House. It
concerns itself with the 'spiritual level of being', and contains Chinese characters written in a
cursive form which although not always easy to read, are certainly aesthetically pleasing.
However, the photographs which illustrate this edition are also pleasing to the eye, and it is as
much for the illustrations as for the translation that this edition is recommended.
'Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching' is translated by D.C. Lau, and published by Penguin Books in their
'Penguin Classics' series. It is currently in its seventeenth printing, the first edition dating from
nineteen sixty-three. Although this translation is written in a style which I find rather too literal
for my own taste, it carries a very lucid introduction, as well as footnotes, a glossary and a
reference section, all of which recommend it to the reader who wishes to check reference
'Truth and Nature', by Cheng Lin, published in Hong Kong, does not claim to be a translation,
but interprets the Tao Te Ching in a very interesting manner. Two arrangements of the Chinese
text are included, one according to the arrangement of Wang Bih. The reader wishing to use the
original language as a source will find the Chinese text in this edition of value. It must be
emphasized however, that there are a number of Chinese texts available. Whilst these usually
conform to Wang Bih's arrangement of the text, they do vary in detail.
'The Simple Way of Lao Tsze' (sic) is a very pleasant analysis of the Tao Te Ching first
published by 'The Shrine of Wisdom' in London some sixty years ago. It contains many
footnotes, and is an interpretation rather than a direct translation, attempting to describe the
'spirit' of Taoism, and doing so without pretence. However, some readers may find the
nomenclature somewhat esoteric (although it is only reasonable to expect that the same criticism
might be levelled at my own interpretation).
'Lao-Tzu: "My Words are very easy to understand" ' by Man-jan Cheng, translated by Tam
C.Gibbs, and published by North Atlantic Books, is a Confucionist (rather than Taoist)
rendering. It therefore contains material of value to the student who wishes to 'see both sides of
the coin'. This edition consists of a series of lectures by Man-jan Cheng, and includes the
Chinese texts of both the Tao Te Ching and the lectures. The printing of the Chinese characters is
large and clearly printed, which commends it to the student requiring a text in the 'original'
language, although it must be emphasized that there are a number of differences between the
Chinese text in this edition and that of Dr. Wu, mentioned immediately below.
The translation by Dr. J.C.H. Wu is in its eighteenth printing, a fact which will not surprise any
reader of this delightful little edition. Small in size, and containing an excellently drafted Chinese
text, this translation is likely to appeal to the reader who is of the Catholic faith.
'The Way and Its Power' is the title of the translation by Arthur Waley, published as 'A Mandala
Book' by Unwin Paperbacks. As the translator himself says, it "represents a compromise...", but
even so it is possibly the most widely read translation in the U.K. It is for this reason that it is
included it as a reference work worthy of reading. The use of the word 'power' in the title of this
translation provides a clue to the style of the translator, who employs very strong academic (but
non-Taoist) arguments, which are made in his copious introduction.
The translation entitled 'Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu', translated by A.J. Bahm, and published by
Frederick Ungar is well supported by notes in an 'afterword'. The translation itself is written in a
very pleasant and easy-to-read style, which is (unfortunately) unusual for the work of a professor
'Tao: A New Way of Thinking' by Chang Chung-yuan, published by Harper and Row, is a
translation which contains excellent commentaries and footnotes. The translator undoubtedly has
expert historical and philosophical knowledge which he puts to good use in this excellent edition,
in which he compares various aspects of Taoist philosophy with that of European philosophers.
The tenth translation used for my own researches is 'The Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu'
translated by James Legge as one of a two volume set of 'The Texts of Taoism', published
by Dover Publications. Although written in eighteen-ninety, this translation withstands the
test of time extremely well. The translator was very knowledgeable in his subject, as well as
of Chinese philosophy, literature and religions, and does not hesitate to state his opinions,
arguing a strong case where these differ from those of other translators from the Chinese.
Because of the changes in calligraphic style mentioned earlier, any student wishing to conduct
their own research into the Chinese text of the Tao Te Ching will need to be at least familiar with
the relationship between modern and classical Chinese characters. An outstanding book covering
the 'middle period' is the 'Ch'ien Tzu Wen' (Thousand Character Classic) of Chou Hsing-szu,
written sometime between 507 and 521 A.D., an excellent English language edition being that
edited by F. W. Paar, with calligraphy by Fong-Chih Lui, and published by Frederick Ungar in
1963. This edition also carries translations in French, German and Latin. Although it is not a
rendering of the Tao Te Ching, it contains many passages from that work.
'Chinese Characters' by L. Wieger, translated from the French by L. Davrout (mentioned
previously) is a lexicon with etymological lessons, but also contains both a phonetic dictionary
and a dictionary of characters arranged by 'radicals' (the means by which it is possible to 'find' a
character written in 'Kanji', the root form of both Chinese and Japanese writing in a dictionary).
This book also contains a number of examples of 'early period' characters which will be of value
to those readers interested in the calligraphy and other graphic communication.
In similar vein, 'Analysis of Chinese Characters', by G.D. Wilder and J.H. Ingram, published by
Dover Publications, complements the work of Wieger, listing one thousand and two characters,
together with derivations and modern alternatives. Chang Hsuan's work on 'The Etymologies of
3000 Chinese Characters in Common Usage', published by Hong Kong University Press, also
shows the derivations of many Chinese characters, from the 'small seal' script. Unfortunately
however, this book contains virtually no English and is therefore intended primarily for the
student who is already proficient in the Chinese language.
The earliest form of Chinese writing predates even the Tao Te Ching, and possibly originates
from the same period as the original I Ching of Fu Hsi. This writing consists of characters
inscribed on bone, shell and antler horn, the collection being known as 'The Couling-Chalfant
Collection of Inscribed Oracle Bones'. The collection has long been dissipated, some pieces
being in the Royal Scottish Museum (Edinburgh), some in the Carnegie Museum (Pittsburg),
other pieces in the British Museum (London), and the remainder in the Field Museum of Natural
History (Chicago). Fortunately though, an excellent catalogue exists, drawn by F.H. Chalfant,
These two works, the Tao Te Ching and Chuang-tzu, comprise the most ancient strata of Taoism
known to us. They exalt the mystery, simplicity and vast intelligence of the primal, humble Tao,
and emphasize that we must empty out, die to self/personal ―face,‖ and thereby humbly return to
the ―chaos‖-like (hun-tun) Tao-Source in full consciousness, thereafter letting spontaneous, non-
striving action (wu-wei) flow from the Tao.
Two other important early Taoist works are the Huai-nan-tzu, the record of talks of eight great
Taoist adepts at the court of Prince Liu An, composed approximately 150 years after the
Chuang-tzu, and the Wen-tzu, composed circa 100 BCE after Taoism went underground with the
ascendancy of a rigid Confucian ideology. The Lieh-tzu, 3rd-4th century CE, with some earlier
material, is a far less profound Taoist work, a collection of folk tales with a philosophy
alternating between mere fatalism and hedonism (the Yang-chu chapter).
These five Taoist texts comprise the “contemplative,” “mystical,” “philosophical” Taoism,
or Tao-chia, which appeals to individuals with highly refined, intuitive natures who don’t find
complete fulfillment in the Confucian ideal of righteousness and a controlled family and social
order. Tao-chia inspired a Neo-Taoism (hsüan-hsüeh) metaphysical movement of the Wei-Chin
dynasties (220-420 CE), led by Wang Pi (d.249), Ho Yen (d.249) and Kuo-Hsiang (d.312)
against a Confucianism at that point grown excessively scholastic.
Meanwhile, more popular, organized forms of “religious Taoism” or Tao-chiao were
emerging in the late Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) and subsequent Wei-Chin era, based on the
Lao-tzu, Chuang-tzu, et al., but more strongly patterned after the activity of the court magicians
(fang-shih), involving shamanic, yogic, spiritualist and magic practices. (Henri Maspero and
Izutsu think some of these practices pre-dated Chuang-tzu and Lao-tzu in the southern Ch’u
state.) The earliest and most prominent of these religious Taoist schools were the theocratic,
liturgical, magical Meng-wei Heavenly Master Taoism (also known as Wu-tou-mi ―Five Pecks of
Rice‖ Taoism), founded in the mid-2nd century CE by the long-lived Chang Tao-ling and his
son and grandson, later headquartered on Lung-hu Shan/Mountain in Kiangsi province; T’ai-
p’ing Supreme Peace Taoism, founded by Chang Chüeh in 2nd century, based on repentance of
sins, healing ceremonies and the book on commanding spirits miraculously gotten by the semi-
legendary Yò Chi; the equally popular Ling-pao Magic Jewel Taoism (4th/5th century CE,
liturgical, influenced by Buddhism, emphasizes fasting and reliance on celestial deities), founded
by Ko-hsòan, Hsu Ling-ch’i, et al; and Shang-ch’ing Highest Purity Taoism (elite, monastic,
meditative, and mystical, based especially on Chuang-tzu and the Yellow Court Canon), founded
in 370 CE by Yang Hsi and the two Hsu’s, father and son, atop Mao Shan (near Nanjing).
Through the Sui-Tang dynastic era (581-905), when Taoism flourished under state patronage,
other religious Taoist schools emerged, focusing on repentance, healing, invoking of spirits, use
of talismans, magical formulae, etc. From 907-1368 religious Taoism assimilated the rise of a
Buddhist-influenced, ascetic, contemplative Ch’ing-wei tao Tantric ―Thunder Magic‖ sect from
Hua Shan and Lungmen Shan in west China, a martial Pei-chi tao or Pole Star Taoism from Wu-
tang Shan in Hupei province, and a sorcery-oriented Taoism of central and south China, Shen-
hsiao Taoism, founded by Lin Ling-su c1116. All these religious Taoist schools more-or-less
combined in the early 1200s to comprise a common Taoist legacy, Cheng-i (Zhengyi) Way of
Right Unity Taoism, headed by priests (usually married) who practice healing via the invoking
of spirits (shen), releasing of ghosts/demons (kuei) (an often quite draining work said to decrease
the overall lifespan of the priest), recitation of magical formulae, utilization of talismans (fu-lu),
sacred water (fu-shui), sacred dance (yü-yen), ascetic practices and sublimation of energies.
Cheng-i (Zhengyi) religious Taoism is the most visible, colorful brand of Taoism in Taiwan,
Hong Kong, and areas of China today, featuring the Black Head Taoist priests and the more
heterodox Red Head priests, the former performing Chiao "cosmic renewal" rituals for living and
deceased souls, while the latter do the Chiao ritual only for the living. As explained by Michael
Saso, there are three main forms of Chiao ritual, lasting 3 or 5 days, each involving spirit-
contact, blessing and healing of humans, and, for the Black Head priests, releasing of souls from
hell. (Note: the priests, who often perform a kind of shamanic function in ―traveling to the Prior
Heavens‖ during meditation, are to be distinguished from the tang-ki mediums who are
possessed by spirits.) There are nine grades of religious Taoist attainment (the 1st is highest);
with grade 6 comes the ability to summon spirits for the Chiao rite of cosmic renewal. The
power of ordaining priests and discerning the spir-its is given to the Celestial Master (t’ien-shih)
of Lung-hu Shan mountain, a successor of Chang Tao-ling. The 63rd Celestial Master, General
Yang-sen, was evicted from Lung-hu Shan in 1931 by the communists and came to Taiwan in
the 1950s; he died in 1977 at age 98. A distant relative is the 64th Celestial Master.
Next to Cheng-i Taoism, the most important school of Taoism is the Ch’üan-chen (Quanzheng)
sect, or Complete Reality school, which integrated Ch’an Buddhist and neo-Confucian elements
with religious Taoism and adopted the simplicity, naturalness and non-obsessiveness of the early
contemplative Taoism, and their brand of ―returning to the Source‖ and meditating on the open,
creative emptiness of the Tao. This Complete Reality school looks to the legendary Chung-li
Ch’üan and his disciple Ancestor Lü Yen (9th-10th century) as its founders. Ch’üan-chen
Complete Reality Taoism split into a Southern ―dual cultivation‖ school, founded by Lü’s
disciple Chang Po-tuan (983-1082) (this school finally became extinct), and a Northern ―Pure
Serenity‖ school, founded by Wang Che/Wang Ch’un-yang (1113-71) and his 7 adepts (in-
cluding renowned female adept, Sun Pu Erh). This Northern Ch’üan-chen Taoism,
headquartered at Pai-yün Kuan (―Monastery of the White Clouds,‖ built in 739 CE) in Beijing, is
still being practiced in many parts of China today, from the cities to the mountains, and is
becoming well-known in the West through the translations of many works by Thomas Cleary.
(See also Bill Porter/Red Pine’s book on Taoist hermits.)
Japanese and Communist Chinese forces destroyed much of Taoism in China in the 1930s and
1940s, but it survived and flourished in Taiwan and, to some extent, in Hong Kong. After the
heavily oppressive Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Taoism (and other faiths) have resurged in
mainland China. A recent report tells of 1,700 active Taoist temples-monasteries in China, with
26,000 priestly/monastic initiates, a third of them women. Important Taoist practice areas and/or
pilgrimage spots in China are Tai Shan (south of Jinan in Shandong province), Hua Shan (in
Shangxi east of Xi’an), Mao Shan (near Nanjing), and the aforementioned Lung-hu Shan (in
Kiangsi), Pai-yün Kuan monastery in Beijing, and Wu-tang Shan (in W. Hupei, near Shensi
border). A number of old masters still teach in these places and in Taiwan, Hong Kong,
Singapore and Korea.
Ch’i-kung (Pinyin: qigong) energy practices based on Taoist and quasi-Taoist disciplines became
widely, wildly popular in China and elsewhere in the 1980s, practiced by some 100 million
Chinese, with many charismatic leaders; the Chinese Communist Party began to suppress it in
the 1990s, heavily so from 1999 on.
Ni Hua Ching, Yan Xin, Mantak Chia, Dr. Baolin Wu, Moy Lin-shin, Hou Shu-Ying, Da Liu,
and Fu Yüan Ni are some of the Taoist and/or ch’i-kung adepts living in America whose
teachings on meditative and yogic Taoism are easily available, and gaining many students.
The Taoist scriptural canon is the huge Tao-tsang, comprising c200,000 pages divided into three
major sections (tung), seven subsections in all, of more than 1,600 books. They address many
topics, not just spirituality, including botany, astronomy, etc. Most of these works use arcane,
multi-level symbolic language and alchemical terms. Many of the works were purportedly
revealed by the deities (shen) to humans, in other words, they were channeled works. The Tao-
tsang began to be compiled in the 8th century and a definitive version was printed in the early
Taoist practitioners of all schools engage in purifying and strengthening the ―Three Ones‖ (san-
i), the three aspects of primordial Life-Force: spirit (shen), breath-energy (ch’i), and sexual
essence (ching). This is achieved via a host of techniques: 1) meditation practices like ―sitting-
forgetting‖ (tso-wang, discussed by Chuang-tzu and Lao-tzu, et al), ―emptying‖ (as discussed by
Lao Tzu and outlined in the Yellow Court Canon scripture of Mao-shan, attributed to Wei Po-
yang and inspired by lady Taoist Wei Hua-ts’un), the Zen-like Ch’üan-chen meditation of
―returning to the Source‖ and ―mind abiding nowhere,‖ and the many visualization exercises of
religious Taoism; 2) internal alchemy (nei-tan) through orbital breathing (t’ai hsi) and other
breathing practices (fu-ch’i, hsing-ch’i, and lien-ch’i), and various physical and energy-body
exercises such as tao-yin, hsi-sui-ching, i-chin-ching, pa-tuan-chin, t’ai-chi ch’üan, hsing-i-
chüan, kung-fu, and ch’i-kung; and 3) the ―bedroom art‖ sexual energy practices (fang-chung
shu) wherein male and female ―join and exchange energies‖; but these sexual practices are
actually heterodox for the celibate monastics of the Ch’üan-chen, Shang-ch’ing and Three
Mountain Alliance schools of Taoism who evolve to grades higher than grade six. Monks/nuns
strengthen and purify ching entirely on an inner level, without actual sexual intercourse. These
monastics and many other Taoists also practice vegetarianism as a way of purifying and
strengthening the three life forces.
The goal for all true Taoists is ming, Illumination or Enlightenment, or wu-wei chih-Tao, ―the
non-striving Way of Transcendence,‖ and a life of healing and blessing sentient beings with the
power (te) of Tao.
Yu Tao Ho-i—―Let us join as one with the Tao.‖
BASIC TERMS:(utilizing the old Wade-Giles system of transliteration,
which has been used by so many scholarly books over the last 100 years; the Pinyin system is
currently in use)
Tao (Pinyin: dao): the primordial, fundamental Way or Principle, the Dark Mysterious Source
(hsüan-ming or fu), the Great Beginning (t’ai-ch’u), original Non-Being (wu), from which
emanates the One, or Being (yu), the Two (the yang and yin polarities of Heaven-and-Earth,
t’ien-ti), the Three, and thence the ―ten thousand things‖ (wan-wu), or play of phenomena. The
Tao is not only an ultimate metaphysical Ground (or Groundless Ground) which is dark (chan)
and empty (hsü or ch’ung), but also the Tao is, in Its Self-manifesting aspect, also personalized
as mu (Mother), tsao wu che (Creator), t’ai-i (Supreme One), or t’ien ti (Heavenly Emperor).
t’ien tao: the great Way of Heaven, the absolute standpoint of Reality itself, a viewpoint
transcending all relativistic viewpoints; the natural activity of this ultimate principle.
shêng-jên (Lao-tzu’s term), chên-jên, chih-jên, shên-jên, ta-jên (Chuang-tzu’s terms): the sacred
man, true man, ultimate man, divine man of the Tao, who has died to self and ―face‖ and
returned to abide as the Source; functioning out of sacred chaos (hun-tun), in the manner of a
holy fool (yü-jên) flourishing in ―sacred stupidity‖ (yü), aimless wandering (fu yu) and
―demented drifting‖ (ch’ang k’uang), all his/her actions flow spontaneously as ―non-action‖ or
―non-striving‖ (wu-wei), infused with a natural, not contrived, jên-i, benevolence and
righteousness. The sage is a shih-fu, enlightened teacher, for those individuals whom he/she
tso-wang: ―sitting-forgetting,‖ or ―sitting in oblivion,‖ Chuang-tzu’s term for the most refined
kind of Taoist meditation, characterized by objectless attention or pure awareness and inner/outer
stillness (the opposite of this is tso chih, ―sitting galloping,‖ the restless mind, also known as
ch’êng hsin, ―fixed mind,‖ or what Lao-tzu calls ch’ang hsin, constant [rigid] mind‖).
wu-wei: ―non-doing,‖ meaning spontaneous, desireless, flowing action unburdened by the sense
of ―doership‖ or deliberate effort or confused hesitancy, but which flows from the Tao’s
―intelligent chaos‖ (hun-tun); closely related is tzu-jan, ―action spontaneously happening of
itself,‖ governed/inspired by Tao. Lao-tzu: ―The sage does nothing, yet nothing is left undone.‖
hsin-chai: mental ―fasting‖ or purification of egocentric thinking (Chuang-tzu); chai refers to
bodily fasting regimens, often practiced in early and later Taoism.
wu hua: Chuang-tzu’s term for the ―transmutation of things,‖ the ―chaotification‖ leading one to
intuitive realization of the Tao and the new way of life, a state of consciousness in which nothing
any longer remains ―itself‖ and anything can be anything else. This and similar terms suggesting
chaos (hun-tun) as an ideal are contrasted with luan, the contrived social order and artificial way
of being human, that is actually a profound kind of disorder.
fu/fan or ta kuei: Lao-tzu’s terms for the great Return to realization of the Source or Tao; one
hears the in-junction to make the fu ch’i ch’u/ken, ―return to the beginning/root,‖ to the Source.
ta chueh: the Great Awakening from the dream of life.
hsüan-t’ung: the enlightened state of being one with the Tao (Lao-tzu’s term).
pao-i: ―embracing the One,‖ losing egocentricity and realizing identity with the Tao (Lao-tzu’s
ming: illumination/enlightenment; Chuang-tzu’s term for the profound enlightened intuition
which obviates all relativistic judgments/distinctions such as life-death, me-you, this-that, right-
wrong, pleasure-pain. Lao-tzu uses ―ming‖ for the intuitive insight concerning one’s true nature
t’ien ni (heavenly leveling), t’ien chên (heavenly equalization), man yen (no limits): Chuang-
tzu’s terms for the state free of judgments, when one abides as enlightened and chaos-like
tzu: the ―Child,‖ the principle of softness, suppleness, and gentleness that Lao-tzu emphasizes as
the way of sages. Mu is the ―Mother,‖ the Tao/Source, known via the childlike attitude.
p’u: Lao-tzu’s ―uncarved block,‖ designating the childlike innocence and natural simplicity of
one who has returned to the Source and acts according to wu-wei.
wu-yu and wu-chih: ―no being‖ and ―no knowledge,‖ egolessness and freedom from
t’ai-i/t’ai-chi: in philosophical Taoism, the Supreme One, Ultimate Reality; it would be
personalized into the highest Taoist deity. (Shou-i, ―preserving the One,‖ is the brand of
meditation which visualizes t’ai-i as a deity of light whose luminosity should be ―gathered and
collected,‖ especially in the antechamber of the heart).
ch’ang/wu suo hua: the changeless, eternal Real/Absolute (the Tao), subsuming all changing
hsü: voidness/the Void, the creative ―emptiness‖ of Tao, which is without form (pu-hsing).
ling fu: the secret part of the heart which is the center of spiritual activity.
hun: higher soul, involving mental and spiritual functions; p’o: lower soul, involving bodily
functions (when hun and p’o separate, death occurs).
te: the Tao’s power to animate and exalt a creature in the true way; a person’s virtue or blessing
t’ien li: the natural course of things determined by Heaven/the Tao; related to pu te i, ―that which
cannot be evaded,‖ that which is determined by the Divine as fate.
wan: the ―play‖ or creative activity of the Tao.
pen-wu: Neo-Taoist Wang Pi’s term for the original non-being/pure being, ultimate reality,
which is the original substance, or pen-t’i, the one underlying principle uniting all phenomena.
wu-hsin: ―no mind,‖ the idea in Wang Pi and another neo-Taoist, Kuo Hsiang, that the sage has
―no deliberate mind of his own.‖
yang-yin: the two basic principles governing the dynamics of the phenomenal universe, yang
denoting the bright, active, initiating, fiery, male aspect, and yin denoting the dark, passive,
receptive, watery, female aspect; the ideal is to have these operating in balance.
wu-hsing: the five elements or energies which govern the dynamics of ―matter,‖ symbolized as
water, fire, wood, metal and earth, especially crucial to Chinese yoga and medicine.
tan-t’ien: the elixir-fields or ―furnaces‖ of energy in the body; there are three of these: 1) the top
tan-t’ien at the ―third eye‖ in the head; 2) the middle tan-t’ien near the heart, and 3) the bottom
tan-t’ien in the region below the navel; a Taoist meditates on these to increase and purify the
life-force energy (ch’i) in these areas.
san-i: ―the three ones,‖ the three deities, ruled over by t’ai-i, who guard the 3 tan-t’ien against
ghosts and evil forces. San-i also refers to the three principles of spirit (shen), life force (ch’i)
and sexual essence (ching) energies, the three basic energies involved in a Taoist’s spiritual
ch’i/yüan ch’i (Pinyin: qi): the subtle life-force energy, the all-pervasive, formless, proto-
material that also flows through the 12 primary meridians in humans; it is increased in the human
system via proper breathing, eating, visualization, and sublimation of sexual essence. Ch’i
connects one to Tao.
ch’i-hai: the ―ocean of breath,‖ a point 2-3 fingers’ width below the navel where the ch’i is
stored; also called the Yellow Court (huang-t’ing), this energy site is meditated upon during
many breathing exercises as a way of returning awareness to the primordial condition.
ch’i kung (qigong): mastery of ch’i; a set of external, moving (tung-kung) and internal, passive
(ching-kung) exercises to increase, harness, and distribute the ch’i energy.
nei-ch’i: the ―inner breath‖ of subtle energy stored in the body, distinct from wai-ch’i, the outer
breath of inhaling air; a person’s nei-ch’i corresponds to the universal, primordial ―breath‖ or
subtle energy (yüan-ch’i); a Taoist adept conserves and increases this inner-breath subtle energy
through sublimating thoughts/desires, saliva and sexual essence.
tum-mo: the ascending, voluntary ―governor‖ current of subtle-energy rising from the perineum
up through the coccyx and on up through the backbone to the crown and thence descends along
the forehead and nose, ending in the gums; it connects 31 psychic centers and governs all yang
jen-mo: the descending, involuntary ―conception‖ subtle-energy current that begins below the
eyes and moves down through the upper lip, throat, chest, pit of the stomach, navel, belly and
down to the perineum; it connects 27 psychic centers and controls all yin channels. The tum-mo
and jen-mo are utilized in the important ―microcosmic orbit‖ (hsiao chou t’ien) energy-breathing
technique of Taoist yoga.
nei-kuan/nei-shih: ―inner viewing‖ of the original Self or Tao; on the phenomenal level,
visualization of interior of body, energy flows, and deities (shen) residing in different body
ts’un-ssu: a religious Taoist meditation upon a certain object, be it the ―Three Jewels‖ (san-pao)
of Tao, the Tao-tsang canon, and Lao-chün/Lao-tzu (patterned after the Buddhist triple-refuge in
the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha); ts’un-ssu also can be ts’un-shen, visualization of deities
(shen) inhabiting the body’s regions.
nei-tan: inner alchemy, the esoteric yogic Taoist practice (especially widespread in the Ch’üan-
chen school) of developing an immortal soul (the deathless ―sacred embryo,‖ ch’ih-tzu or sheng-
t’ai) from the three life-preserving energies: ching (sexual essence), ch’i (vital life force) and
shen (spirit). This is achieved by sublimation of thoughts and various forms of special breathing
and meditation; one purifies the sexual essence, transforming it into ch’i, then purifies and
transforms ch’i into shen and then purifies shen and returns to nothingness (lien-shen-fu-hü),
integrating self with cosmos and with Tao. Nei-tan is contrasted with wai-tan, outer alchemy,
which works with chemical substances, primarily gold and cinnabar (red mercury ore), to create
the elixir of immortality (ch’ang-sheng pu-ssu).
t’ai-hsi: ―embryonic breathing,‖ a Taoist longevity meditation practice, involving holding the
breath (pi-ch’i) and then allowing it to circulate (hsing-ch’i), thereby creating an immortal body
nourished by the subtle breath (shen-t’ai); at the death of the adept, this immortal body separates
from the corpse and the practitioner becomes an immortal (hsien).
t’u-ku na-hsin: breathing exercise of ―disposing the old [breath] and acquiring the new,‖ a
complete exhalation, followed by the fullest possible inhalation. On the exhalation, various
sounds are made to tone different internal organs (the sound ―ch’i‖ strengthens the lungs; ―ho,‖
the heart; ―hsü,‖ liver; ―hu,‖ pancreas; ―ch’ui,‖ kidneys; ―hsi,‖ stomach and alimentary).
fu-ch’i: allowing the breath to circulate in the five internal organs (wu-tsang: lungs, heart,
pancreas, liver, kidneys) and thence to the extremities and orifices.
hsing-ch’i: ―allowing the breath to circulate‖ slowly through body via the energy channels,
utilizing visualization and kinesthetic-sensing techniques.
lien-ch’i: ―melting the breath,‖ a more advanced practice, in which breath is held and its power is
allowed to flow unimpeded throughout the body; when one can no longer hold the breath, it is
released; this is done ten or more times; practiced at intervals of 5-10 days.
tao-yin: ―stretching and contracting [of the body]‖; a Taoist practice of guiding the breath
through certain bodily movements. Pa-tuan-chin, the ―8 Brocades,‖ is another one of these.
t’ai-chi ch’üan (taijiquan), hsing-i-ch’üan (xingyiquan), pa kua chang (baguazhang), hsi-sui-
ching, i-chin-ching, kung-fu: Taoist-influenced martial arts; the first 3 are rather more ―inward.‖
fang-chung-shu: ―bedroom arts‖ of Taoist sexual techniques wherein a man and woman ―join
energies‖ (ho-ch’i) and, by exchanging yin and yang force, increase and harmonize their life-
force; the male refrains from ejaculation, and ch’i energy is sublimated to regenerate visceral
organs and brain. Collective sexual orgies, as well as private practice of the bedroom arts, have
gone on since the Han Dynasty, practiced by the Taoist schools Way of Supreme Peace and
Five-Pecks-of-Rice Taoism, continuing until the Sung dynasty. The highest form of this practice
involves huan-ching, returning the sexual essence to intermingle with breath and body and with
the brain (pu-nao). Note that huan-ching pu-nao can be practiced by solitary celibates; when the
genital organs are aroused simply through healthy circulation and an energized bodymind, any
sexual energy can be transmuted into ch’i, thence into shen, and energy raised from the lower
tan-t’ien to the higher ones. Actual physical intercourse between male and female partners is
eschewed by the monastic forms of Taoism, such as Ch’üan-chen Taoism, and the higher grades
of Cheng-i Taoism.
yang-hsing: ―nourishing the life principle,‖ collective term for all the immortality practices,
mental and physical, of religious Taoism, including meditation, visualization of deities, breathing
exercises, calisthenics, martial arts, and outer/inner sexual-energy practices.
wu-shih ch’i-hou: the ―5 periods and 7 time-spans,‖ the various stages and phases of the
meditative path, ac-cording to one Taoist schema. The 5 wu-shih: 1) mind is restless, rarely still;
2) mind is less restless; 3) mental calm and movement are in rough balance; 4) mind is calm
most of time; 5) mind is capable of abiding in pure stillness. The 7 ch’i-hou: 1) subsiding of
passions, worry and sorrow; 2) outer appearance of adept becomes like a child, body supple and
mind at peace; supernatural powers attained; 3) adept reaches level of an immortal (hsien); 4)
body-purification, perfection of energy (ch’i), and adept becomes a ―true man‖ (chen-jên); 6)
purification of mind, harmony with all forms; adept becomes perfected human being; 7) the
adept transcends all rites, rules and ego-motivated action, and attains highest spiritual realization,
lu: the spirit registers, the lists of names and attributes of deities invoked by the Taoist priest; fu-
lu: magical talismans, in the form of strips of paper, metal or bamboo, inscribed with lines of
characters which protect the wearer against illness due to demons; employed by priests (tao-shih)
and celestial masters (t’ien-shih) of religious Taoism, especially in the Cheng-i sect.
tao-shih: the scholarly, priestly, leaders of religious Taoist congregations, who supervise all the
rituals and ceremonies; in the Cheng-i tradition, they are usually married, living in a town or
village near a monastery (kuan); in the Ch’üan-chen tradition, they are celibate and usually live
in the monastery. The tao-shih are ruled by a shaman-like celestial master (t’ien-shih).
hsien: an ―Immortal,‖ a highly adept Taoist; the best-known are the pa-hsien (―Eight
Immortals‖); they are said to live mainly on three islands, Fang-chung, P’eng-lai, and Ying-chou;
a number of immortals are also said to dwell in the western paradise in the K’un-lun Mountains,
presided over by Hsi Wang-mu, the Royal Mother of the West.
fei-sheng: ascending to Heaven in broad daylight, an ability of the highest adepts; often one
ascends on a dragon (lung) or a crane (ho), both symbols of immortality.
t’ien: ―Heaven‖; one religious Taoist conception of Heaven is patterned after the Buddhist
notion, involving 36 heavens on 6 levels—the levels of desire, celestial forms, formlessness,
heaven of the gods, the heavens of the 3 pure ones (san-ch’ing) inhabited by the celestial
venerables (t’ien-tsun); and, finally, the ta-luo-t’ien, the mysterious, inscrutable, Source-like
Heaven of the Great Web, presided over by Tai-i, Supreme One.
san-ch’ing: the three deities (t’ien-tsun) and their heavens, ruled, respectively, by Yüan-shih
t’ien-tsun, the Celestial Venerable of the Primordial Beginning; Ling-pao t’ien-tsun, the
Heavenly Venerable of the Magic Jewel; and Tao-te-t’ien-tsun, the Heavenly Venerable of the
Tao, otherwise known as Lao-tzu; sometimes the Jade Emperor, Yü-huang, is venerated as a
fourth t’ien-tsun. These beings are akin to Buddhist bodhisattvas, who help all beings attain
san-kuan: the ―three rulers‖—T’ien-kuan (Ruler of Heaven, bestows good luck), Ti-kuan (Ruler
of Earth, forgives sins), and Shui-kuan (Ruler of Water, helps one overcome obstacles);
veneration of these three goes back to early religious Taoism.
san-hsing: the ―three stars,‖ or gods of good fortune, popular in Chinese folk art; they are
historical personalities who, having passed into the light, have been deified. They include Fu-
hsing, Lü-hsing, and Shou-hsing/Shou-lao (the last is the popular god of long life). Other
important personages in Chinese folk religion are Ts’ai-shen, god of prosperity; Tsao-chün,
―Lord of the Hearth,‖ the Taoist fire and kitchen deity who is protector of the family; Wen-
ch’ang, god of literature, especially helpful to people taking exams; the men-shen, ―gods of the
doorway,‖ the guardians of the gate of domestic and public buildings; the t’u-ti deities who
protect each temple, public building, street and area of a city, who in turn are overseen by the
ch’eng-huang, city gods.
kuei: the dead; a ghost, spirit or demon, helped by paper money offerings and ceremonial
IMPORTANT PERSONS in TAOISM and
MODERN QUASI-TAOIST QIGONG
Huang-ti, the Yellow Emperor of ancient mythical times, said to have reigned for a full century
in the middle of the 27th century BCE. He is venerated as one of the two founders of religious
Taoism (along with Lao-tzu), and credited with creating important elements of human culture
such as the calendar, musical scales, and classic theories of medicine. He supposedly wrote about
various meditation, breathing, calisthenic and sexual exercises of his day to bring unification of
body, mind and spirit and thereby increased longevity. He attained transcendent immortality and
serves as prototype of those adepts who ascended to heaven; he is thus regarded as the First
Ancestor of Taoism and the Chinese people.
Lao-tzu (Laozi), ―Old Boy,‖ is the title, rather than the name, of a beloved old sage reputed to
be founder of contemplative Taoism. His ―biography‖ in Grand Historian Ssu-ma Ch’ien’s
Historical Records (1st cent. BCE), a blend of facts with myth and legend, says he was from the
K’u district of southern Ch’u state (today’s Lu I district in Honan province), and was an elder
wise contemporary of the northerner K’ung-fu-tzu/Confucius (551-479). On at least one alleged
visit between the two sages, Lao-tzu taught Confucius the latter the way of humility and
simplicity, the way of dropping pride, desires, overbearing manner and ambition to reform the
world. Lao-tzu, says Ssu-ma Ch’ien, served as curator of the dynastic archives at the court of the
king of Chou, which would have given him access to all the best works of that and prior eras, but
in his old age he left his post in sadness over the silliness and pettiness of the Chou officials to
wander off on a buf-falo as a mystic-hermit into the K’un-lun mountains of the West, abode of
Goddess Hsi-wang Mu. But not before transmitting his teachings to a border guard, Yin Hsi, at
the Jade Gate at Han Ku Pass. These teachings, in over 5000 characters in 81 short chapters,
became the classic little contemplative Taoist work, Tao Tê Ching, which emphasizes the
mystery and magnificence of the Tao, naturalness, simplicity, humility and ―non-action‖ (wu-
wei). Such a sage likely actually lived and flourished around the 6th century BCE. Ssu-ma says
Lao-tzu’s personal name was Li Erh; by the 2nd century BCE he was already being deified under
the name Lao-chün, ―Master Lao‖ and linked with Huang-ti as divine founder of Chinese culture.
Through the centuries he was said to have not only become identified with the Tao Itself, but
also to have become a free immortal who could descend to confer sacred texts and talismans
upon ripe Taoist adepts whenever needed.
Chuang-tzu (Zhuangzi) (369-286 BCE), an historical individual, was apparently born in Meng,
a district north of Shang-ch’iu (Shang Hill) city, in the east of what is today Honan Province. He
likely wrote the first seven books of the work that carries his name (the Chuang-tzu). He was a
married teacher who emphasized ―sitting-forgetting‖ (tso-wang) meditation, humility, and
spiritual liberation via return to the mysterious source, the Tao. His work utilizes great humor
and also droll critique of less enlightened views. He and Lao-tzu are considered the founders of
philosophical Taoism (Tao-chia), and Taoists of the later ―religious‖ schools (Tao-chiao) also
look to these two sages as having laid the foundation for their work. Ssu-ma Chi’en’s Historical
Records state: ―There was nothing he had not studied, but he was firmly rooted in the sayings of
the Old Master…. The aged scholars of the time were unable to ward off his [intellectual]
attacks. His words were as expansive as the sea, unrestrained, phrased to suit himself. Hence no
one … was able to make a tool of him.‖
Lieh-tzu (350-250 BCE), like so many of the ancient Chinese teachers, is better seen as
purported author of a composite book rather than as a person of identifiable history. Chuang-tzu
hails him as a Taoist philosopher and adept, and he may have actually been a contemporary of
Chuang-tzu. Lieh-tzu is said to have authored the work named after him, though most of this has
been lost, and the present motley work is one that did likely not appear until the Wei and Chin
dynasties (220-420 CE), composed by later authors who denied the reality of free will, preached
a kind of laissez-faire philosophy far less profound than the Tao Te Ching, Chuang-tzu or Huai-
nan Tzu, and utilized ideas from ancient folk tales and myths. Much of this Lieh-tzu is found in
Liu An / Huai-nan-tzu (d. 122 BCE), was a prince with thousands of scholars under his
patronage, and the most prominent Taoist philosopher between ancient contemplative Taoism
and the religious Taoism of the 2nd-4th centuries CE. He is the editor or writer of a lengthy,
multi-faceted work that bears his name, said to be based on the teachings of 8 great Taoist adepts
at his court; he kept alive the ideas of Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu and other ancient philosophers.
―His originality is negligible,‖ writes Wing-tsit Chan, ―but he maintained Taoism at a time when
Confucianism had just assumed the dominant and exclusive role in government as well as in the
realm of thought…. He kept the fire of Taoism burning and helped to make possible the emer-
gence of Neo-Taoism.‖ He plotted a rebellion against the corrupt regime of his time, failed, and
committed suicide to save face for his family.
Yü Chi (2nd century CE), also known as Kan Chi, was the semi-legendary, saintly visionary of
northeast China. He was often visited by spirits who revealed a book, the T’ai-p’ing Ch’ing-ling
Shu, The Great Peace Book of Pure Commands, entailing a method for commanding spirits to
bring blessings and cure illness. Yü Chi may thus be seen as one of the founders of religious
Chang Tao-ling (34-156 CE), also known as Chang Ling, founded Wu-Tou-Mi-Tao, ―Five
Pecks of Rice‖ Taoism, which gets its name from the fact that his fee as a healer was five pecks
of rice. Working in Szechwan Province, he used magical formulae, talismans (fu-lu) and sacred
water (fu-shui) to cleanse sins, drive out demons, and effect his cures, all of which brought him
many followers. He is retrospectively considered the first Celestial Master (t’ien shih), a title
first used for his grandson, Chang Lu, who, along with his mother, an important court-priestess
of the Wei dynasty, expanded his grandfather’s movement throughout China. All the Celestial
Masters of this school, which would later incorporate other streams and come to be known as
Cheng-i (Meng-wei) Taoism, are blood descendents from Chang Tao-ling.
Chang Chüeh (d. 184 CE), founded T’ai-P’ing Tao, Way of Supreme Peace Taoism; influenced
by Yü Chi’s book. He became a preacher of peaceful egalitarianism and was renowned as a
healer, allegedly having several hundred thousand followers. He held large public services for
repentance (chai) so as to effect healings. Chang Chüeh and his brothers were murdered during
the Yellow Turban rebellion that he led.
Chang Hsiu (d. 190 CE) was general of the Han Dynasty and founder of another early religious
Taoist movement, involving the view that illnesses were a consequence of evil deeds, requiring
healing ceremonies during which time sacrifices were made to the ―Three Rulers‖ (Heaven,
Huang-lao-chên was the main god of the T’ai-p’ing tao school; he is ruler of the world and
appears again and again in human form as Taoist masters, such as Lao-tzu.
Wei P’o-yang (2nd century CE) was the author of the oldest known alchemical work in the
world, the Chou-i ts’an-t’ung-ch’i; it tells the way to produce the inner elixir of immortality.
Hsu Ling-ch’i established Ling-pao liturgical Taoism, which developed the great ceremonies of
renewal (chiao) and burial, prominent today in the Cheng-i tradition of religious Taoism.
Hua T’o was a renowned Taoist physician of the 2nd/3rd century CE, who helped develop the
tao-yin exercises and wu-ch’in-hsi (―5 Animals‖) set of ch’i-kung practices to stimulate ch’i.
Wei Hua-ts’un (251-334) was the semi-legendary female libationer regarded as the spiritual
founder of the prestigious, influential, meditation- and monastic-oriented Shang-ch’ing Taoist
movement at Mao-shan as a result of her postmortem appearances and guidance to its male
founders Yang-hsi, Hsu-hui, and his brother Hsu-mi. It is said that she had been educated in the
classics and Taoist texts, and enjoyed visitations from many of the immortals, who revealed to
her the basic scriptures of the Shang-ch’ing tradition.
Ko Hung (284-364) was a physician and author of the Pao-p’u-tzu, a compendium of Taoist
inner alchemical methods for achieving immortality; he advocated veneration of T’ai-i.
Wang-pi (226-249), Ho Yen (d. 249) and Kuo Hsiang (d. 312), are three outstanding sages of
so-called ―neo-Taoism‖ (hsüan-hsüeh). Wang-pi clarified and elaborated upon Lao-tzu in his
important commentary on the Lao-tzu / Tao Te Ching—not only the earliest and most famous
commentary on this ancient text, it gives us a reliable first ―critical edition‖ of the Tao Te Ching,
no doubt the best of several versions available to Wang Pi (this edition is equal in
quality/reliability to the Ma Wang Tui versions A and B of the Tao Te Ching unearthed in 1974,
dating to 206 BCE, now our oldest complete copies of the text). Kuo Hsiang wrote an important
commentary on the Chuang-tzu. These Neo-Taoists tended to replace the idea of Tao, which they
interpreted as non-being, with that of Heaven (t’ien), which, for Wang-pi and Ho Yen, unifies all
forms into one identity. (Kuo Hsiang celebrates the multiplicity of Nature over any unicity.)
Freedom from likes and dislikes, as in Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu, is crucial in the thought of all
three of these sages.
Sun Ssu Mo (581-682) was an eminent Taoist physician; in his Ch’ien-chin Fang he extensively
catalogued diseases and cures, and wrote about massage and acupressure, breathing methods,
calisthenics, sexual techniques, food and herbs, and cultivation of the spirit.
Lü Yen (Lü Tung-pin or Lü Tzu) lived late in the T’ang dynasty (618-905 CE) and was the
disciple of the legendary adept Chung-li Ch’üan. Ancestor Lü, who is one of the most popular
of the ―8 Immortals,‖ is considered a founder of the Ch’üan-chen tao school of Complete Reality
Taoism, which integrated contemplative Taoism, the most refined aspects of religious Taoism, as
well as Zen and Confucianism.
Chang Po-tuan (983-1082) was a disciple of Lü’s disciple Liu Ts’ao, and founded the Southern
―dual cultivation‖ sect of Ch’üan-chen tao, Complete Reality Taoism.
Wang Che/Wang Chung-yuan (1113-1171) supposedly was taught by Ancestor Lü and Chung-
li Ch’üan themselves; he founded the ―pure serenity‖ Northern sect of Complete Reality Taoism,
which emphasizes meditation, purity and spiritual liberation. He had seven enlightened adepts,
including Ma Tan Yang and his wife Sun Pu Erh Niang, the latter a great poetess; both
received a title from the emperor attesting to their spiritual achievements; Sun Pu Erh is regarded
as one of the Immortals. Another eminent female adept-disciple of Wang Che was Chou Hsüan-
ching, whose son also became an adept.
Liu Te-jen (12th century) established the Teaching of the True Great Tao school of religious
Taoism in 1142 (defunct after the 13th century), based on Tao-te ching, wu-wei, contentment,
altruism; this school eschewed all magical and physical longevity practices.
Chang San-feng, a legendary figure, supposedly hailed from Wu-tang Shan monastery in the
14th century, and was believed to be a master of all the arts and arcana of Taoism. He is the
alleged founder of the t’ai-chi-ch’üan / taijiquan martial art exercise. Though scholars are fairly
sure he never even existed, a huge amount of writing is attributed to him, blending Southern and
Northern Ch’üan-chen tao and older magical Taoist religious practices. On his legend, see Anna
Seidel’s A Taoist Immortal of the Ming Dynasty: Chang San-feng in Self and Society in Ming
Thought, Columbia Univ. Press, 1970.
Liu I-ming (c.1737-1826), after being cured of a grave illness by a Taoist adept, left home at age
19, studied under at least two great teachers, and, at age 60, began to write many brilliant
commentaries on Taoist classics, as well as many essays, songs and poems of his own, revealing
the ―secret‖ natural, simple way of inner alchemy according to a very pure form of teaching as
given in the Northern sect of Complete Reality Taoism.
Li Ch’ing Yuen (18th to early 20th centuries) was renowned as a 250 year old Taoist adept and
Celestial Master of the Cheng-i school, profiled by 63rd Celestial Master General Yang Sen
(1879-1977). Master Li was evidently married 14 times, one of the ―proofs‖ of his mastery of
various Taoist arts. His age is controversial, not accepted by official agencies.
Ch’en Chieh-san (d. 1901) was the foremost Cheng-i Taoist priest in Taiwan’s public forum; he
trained his daughter, Ch’en A-kuei, as an orthodox Blackhead Taoist priest, considering her to
be more spiritually evolved than his son; she, in turn, helped train her son, Chuang-ch’en Teng-
yun (1911-76), who was the leading Cheng-i Taoist master of northern Taiwan (his life and
teachings were profiled by Michael Saso).
Loy Ching-Yuen (1873-1960s), a Taoist healer and martial art master from Shanghai who later
lived in Hong Kong and the USA. A few books of his teachings have been compiled by
La Pa (contemporary) is one of the main leaders of the Taoist monastery at Wu-tang Shan (in
western Hupei province near Shensi border), a scenic site spared by the Red Guard and visited
by 1,000 pilgrims daily. La Pa oversees the training of 100 monks and nuns there; they live a
celibate, vegetarian, contemplative life according to Ch’uan-chen monastic rules. La Pa is thus a
bonafide Taoist of the authentic monastic tradition.
Ni, Hua-ching, born (c1915?) in the same town as famous taijiquan teacher Zheng Manqing
(Cheng Man-Ching), studied Daoist internal cultivation and k'ung-fu from a young age with his
saintly father, Yo San Ni (c1877-1967), a Taoist adept and well-known doctor of Chinese
medicine whose treatments were sought by many patients for their efficacy; he also set up a
school for general studies and various Taoist arts that flourished until the Communists shut it
down in 1966 when Mao commenced the Cultural Revolution. Yo San was put him on trial that
same year. For some decades he had also seasonally gone on teaching tours to various centers
and monasteries. Yo San had had the opportunity in his early youth after his father, a doctor, died
treating people in a smallpox epidemic, to travel with a tailor to many temples and monasteries,
and then later as a soldier was stationed in the mountains, where he met many masters in the
ancient lines of mountain Taoism, mostly of the Ch’üan-chen Taoist tradition. Ni Hua Ching, a
headstrong youth more interested in military solutions to China’s problems, was shifted out of
the public school into his father’s school when young and then eventually was given permission
to travel around and study with different teachers. He knew famous Taoist t’ai-chi-ch’üan /
taijiquan martial artist Yang Cheng-Fu (1883-1936) and studied taijiquan with Cheng-Fu’s
older brother, Yang Shao-Hou (1862-1928), and with Chang Ching-Ling, a senior student of
both Cheng-Fu and his father Yang Chien-Hou (1842-1917). Ni Hua Ching left mainland China
in 1949 before the Communist takeover, on his father’s advice. As lifelong friends with Zheng
Manqing, when the latter established his school in northern Taiwan, Ni Hua Ching established
his Chinese medical practice in the south. Altogether, Ni spent some 27 years teaching Chinese
medicine and Taoist arts in Asia. Zheng established a taijiquan school in New York in the 1970s;
Ni, who settled in the U.S. in 1976, established his Union of Tao and Man center in Los Angeles
and in 1989 his Yo San Univer-sity of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Ni lived what he preached,
a simple, yogic lifestyle, and wrote over 50 books in Chinese and 18 in English. He practiced
Chinese medicine and taught Taoist philosophy well into his 80s. His sons Maoshing (a
respected doctor of Chinese medicine and acupuncture) and Daoshing, born in Taiwan, carry on
Yang Zhenduo, Shi Ming, Fong Zhi Qiang, Fu Zhong Wen, Ma Yu Liang, Wang Xi Kuei,
He Yen Lu are some of China’s other most accomplished taijiquan masters; Da Lui (1904- )
was primarily responsible for introducing t’ai chi/taiji to the U.S. in the 1950s; president of the
T’ai Chi Ch’üan Society of N.Y., he wrote many books on Taoism. Other prominent Chinese
taijiquan masters in the U.S. include Abraham Liu (Los Angeles), Fu, Shu Yun (1919- ) and
husband Meng Chao-Hsun (1919- ; New Jersey), Jou, Tsung Hwa (N.J.), Benjamin Peng
Jeng Lo, Yu, Cheng-Hsiang (1929- ; N.Y.), Liang Shouyu (Vancouver), Dr. Yang, Jwing-
Ming (Boston), and Huang, Wei-Lun (Miami).
Master Huang Xingxian (1910-92) of Fujian Province from the age of 14 trained in Baihe
(White Crane), Lohan (18 Buddha boxing) and Nei Gung (Taoist Internal Alchemy), under the
well known Fujian White Crane Master Xie Zhongxian (1852-1930) and later under Master
Pan Chun-nien who also educated Huang in Chinese Medicine and the Literary Classics. Later
Huang opened a school in Shanghai where he trained together with his friends Chung Yu-jen (in
Taiji), Chiang Hai-ching (in Xingyi) and Yang Chih-ching (in Bagua). He also studied Taiji
with Wan Lai-sheng (China Martial Arts Champion 1938). In 1947, having moved to Taiwan,
he began Taiji with Zheng Manqing, direct disciple of Yang Cheng-fu. Quickly Huang entered
the inner-school and in later years came to be regarded as Zheng’s most accomplished disciple.
From 1958 onward Huang lived and taught in Singapore and Malaysia until his death in 1992,
establishing 40 schools and teaching 10,000 people throughout Southeast Asia.
Wang Hsiang-chi (1886-1963) developed the martial art of i-ch’üan, Mind-Boxing, a formless
standing meditation, an even more purified form than the hsing-i-wu-hsing-ch’üan (xingyi wu
xing quan) 5 Element Body-Mind Boxing which he learned from famous boxer Kuo Yun-shen.
Jiang Weiqiao (1873-1958), born in Changzhou (Jiangsu province), in 1914 authored a famous
book Yin-shizi Jingzuofa (―Yinshizi’s method of quiet sitting‖), thus becoming one of the first
experts to introduce ch’i-kung/qigong exercises to the wider public beyond the more limited
circles of Taoist/Buddhist energy practices. He had cured himself of serious pulmonary TB with
his own self-taught techniques at age 28, before going on to study in Japan (as did many Chinese
intellectuals of that era), where he learned Tien-t’ai Buddhist energy practices, which greatly
influenced his methods that he taught the public. Through the 1950s, before his death at age 85,
Jiang continued to popularly promote chi’-kung/qigong for health maintenance and disease
prevention. He supervised the qigong clinic in Shanghai, gave many public lectures about
qigong, and contributed several important publications related to qigong practice.
Liu Guizhen (1920-1983) is said to have been the first to popularize the term ch’i-kung/qigong
(―work on ch’i/qi‖) in the 1950s in his popular book on the subject. (The term was first used in
the 3rd century by Xu Xun, a Taoist transcendent.) Hailing from Hebei province, he worked as a
Communist activist during the civil war but had to return home due to severe health problems in
1948. There, he began to learn Neiyang Gong (―Inner-Nourishing Qigong‖) from his uncle, the
fifth successor of this style of qigong. Neiyang Gong was created some 300 years ago and was
only taught orally to a single successor of each generation. After practicing Neiyang Gong for
100 days, Liu Guizhen returned to work with full health. Since 1949—the year of the founding
of the People’s Republic of China, Liu Guizhen began teaching Neiyang Gong in state-owned
clinics to patients with chronic illnesses, with such excellent results that in 1954 he established
the first qigong clinic in Tangshan city. In 1956, the clinic was enlarged and moved to the city of
Beidaihe, where it became the center of qigong treatment in China. Liu Guizhen in 1957
published two books related to neiyang gong and qigong. His significance is not only in
introducing neiyang gong to the public but also in reexamining popular qigong methods and
applying them for purposes of respectable medical treatment. The Cultural Revolution stopped
his work in 1964; he was allowed to teach and practice again only in 1980 after a long period of
political abuse. Unfortunately, he died in 1983, preventing him from significantly continuing his
illustrious career in qigong education and treatment. It is surely due to Liu Guizhen and Jian
Weiqiao’s pioneering efforts that Qigong became a major trend of practice and belief in China in
the 1980s, with approximately 200 million practitioners, and countless popular qigong
organizations and courses, and hundreds of teachers and publications on the subject.
Ma Litang (1903-89), of the Beijing region, was one of China’s foremost ch’i-kung/qigong
masters, teaching the Liuzijue, or Six Healing Sounds form of qigong, as well as many other
Taoist practices; he was nationally famous as a martial artist (dubbed ―Iron Leg‖ for his powerful
kick) as well as a traditional Chinese medicine doctor who effected many cures via ch’i-kung,
making him strongly sought out by government leaders, et al. He is succeeded by his daughter,
Ma Xuzhou, an internationally renowned Chinese doctor and medical qigong master who
specializes in acclaimed treatment of eye diseases.
Yan Xin (1950- ), born in a small village in Sichuan province, was trained from age 4 by a series
of some 30 masters. He served as a physician for several years at Chongqing Research Institute
of Traditional Chinese medicine where he became known as the ―angel doctor‖ for his highly
successful cures. During the massive breakout of ―Qigong fever,‖ he came to great prominence
in 1986, despite his youthful age, as China’s most famous qigong master, hugely popular for his
abilities to heal, see through walls, and project qi/ch’i over great distances, all of which were
scientifically verified at Beijing’s prestigious Qinghua University that year, but later questioned,
perhaps for political (masquerading as scientific) reasons. Yan Xin is said to have harbored
political ambitions, and, feeling pressure from the government, he fled China in 1990. He has
since toured the U.S. as a kind of ―emperor-in-exile.‖ His teachings are deeply spiritual, and not
as ―loony‖ or ―new age‖ as many of the popular qigong celebrities. Dozens of books and videos
are available on his talks. His International Yan Xin Qigong Association (IYXQA) has chapters
in over 100 countries.
Zhang Hongbao (1954-2006), an intensely controversial figure, was born in Harbin and studied
law in the USA before going on to become a high-level academic and government consultant. He
then became hugely famous and wealthy as a qigong master in Beijing. He was accused by the
Communist government of being a criminal serial rapist (tarring political dissidents with the
brush of sexual crimes is common, according to Chinese publisher Richard Long of Dacankao
News Service), yet ZHB (as he is known) was virtually worshipped by his disciples, many of
whom in the 1990s followed him in refuge to a stronghold near Qingcheng Shan, central
Sichuan, where he was linked with the Yi Guan Dao secret society. He had founded in 1988 a
style or school of qigong known as Zhong Gong (―China Health Care and Wisdom Enhancement
Practice‖), which by the latter-1990s claimed to have 38 million followers. Zhang’s lucrative
business empire, dismantled in the latter 1990s by the government, was centered on the
Tianhua/Kylin Group, composed of some 60 companies, and based in Tianjin; the group
reportedly employed 120,000 workers, mostly in qigong-related education, publication and
health-product ventures. ZHB himself wrote many large tomes on qigong and its various
applications, including medical. After several attempts on his life by the CCP (Chinese
Communist Party), ZHB tired to gain asylum when he came to the U.S. territory of Guam in
2000, but was arrested for lack of proper paperwork. The Chinese embassy wanted to extradict
him to China, where it was almost certain he would be executed for his dissidency. (A
diplomatically sticky issue: Granting him asylum would amount to the USA telling China that it
doesn’t believe China’s criminal charges against him, thus reinforcing China’s perception that
Washington acts as an agent for domestic groups that Beijing believes are intent on eroding the
power of the Communist Party.) ZHB would be released by the Bush administration in 2001 and
allowed to settle in California. Meanwhile, the CCP raised numerous lawsuits against him, only
to eventually drop them. Moreover, lawsuits began to be brought against ZHB by Chinese
dissidents who feared he was using his considerable wealth and influence to take over the pro-
democracy movement abroad. The re-sultant pro- and con- divide among dissidents over ZHB
split the Chinese democracy movement in the West. Nonviolent groups like the China Support
Network eschewed his recommendation of violent regime-change. From 2003-5 he had to deal
with criminal charges in the USA that he had beaten his Chinese housekeeper, a charge to which
he pleaded no contest. He was thrice elected president of a Chinese government-in-exile by one
dissident group (among several); the aim was to install him as president of China after the hoped-
for fall of the Communist Party. But all to no avail. Zhang Hongbao died at age 52 in a car
accident (a head-on collision with a tractor-trailer truck) in Arizona on July 31, 2006, while
scouting locations for a meditation center. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that in a 2005 article,
ZHB, who might indeed have once been privy to insider knowledge, warned that China’s
Communist govt had developed a post-nuclear super-weapon which it had already deployed to
create several recent large-scale earthquakes (including the one responsible for the terrible Asian
Tsunami), and, with an outer-space power-outage microwave technology, had created massive
blackouts in the USA and Europe as test-cases for probably something far more longlasting and
destructive in the future. The ravings of a madman? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Li Hongzhi is the controversial founder of the huge Taoist-Buddhist-New-Age hybrid qigong
cult of Falun Dafa or Falun Gong (―Law of the Falun/Wheel Breathing Exercise‖). Its adherents,
who at its peak in China numbered from 2 to 60 million, depending on either the government or
the movement’s figures (60 million would make 4 million more than the Communist Party
membership), are involved in developing xin-xing, ―heart/mind nature,‖ giving up bad habits,
and cultivating zhen, shan and ren, truthfulness (return to True Self), benevolence/compassion,
and forbearance/tolerance/endurance. Unlike Zhang Hongbao’s Zhong Gong, Li Hongzhi and
Falun Dafa apparently harbor no political aspirations. Yet Falun Dafa has been especially
targeted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government for persecution and suppression
after a silent Falun Dafa rally (protesting its banned status as a cult) outside the Beijing
government compound on April 25, 1999 attracted such a large overnight crowd without
warning—some 10,000 faithful—that President Jiang Zemin and the CCP feared a significant
political force had arisen to challenge their hegemony. Stunned by the protest, Jiang was terrified
by the fact that Falun Dafa’s list of members included many retired CCP elders and military
officials. The 1999-2000 crackdown was the most intense since the massacre following the
Tianamen Square student uprising of 1989. According to Pureinsight, a Falun Dafa website, Li
Hongzhi introduced Falun Dafa on May 13, 1992 at the fifth Middle school in Changchun City,
China. From 1992 to 1994, he travelled across China, giving more than 54 lecture series and
teaching the five basic Falun Gong qigong exercises, including gentle movement and meditation,
to large halls and then stadiums full of students. Since then Li’s followers spread the practice
widely through China and around the globe. Li began giving lectures outside of China, and left
China altogether in 1995, eventually settling in the New York area in 1997. He continues to
lecture at Falun Gong conferences for mostly ethnic Chinese. Clearwisdom.net, the Falun Gong
official website, states: ―Li was born into an ordinary intellectual’s family in the city of
Gongzhuling, Jilin Province, China, on May 13 (the eighth day of the fourth month by China
lunar calendar), in 1951.‖ This date is celebrated as the Buddha’s birthday. Most Falun Gong
members see Li as a Buddha, the highest Buddha of all time. The CCP claims that Li was born
on July 7, 1952 and that he ―changed his date of birth to make it coincide with the birthday of
Sakyamuni.‖ The official biography by his followers states that at the age of four Li began
studying under his first master, Dharma Master Quan Jue, ―the 10th heir to the Great
Dharma/Law of the Buddha School.‖ After eight years, this Master let Li be guided by a new
master. ―Over a period of about a dozen of years, he received instructions successively from
more than 20 masters from both the Buddha School and the Tao School.‖ Li supposedly attained
several supernormal abilities including levitation, teleportation, invisibility, and telepathy, and an
understanding of ―the truth of the universe and the origin, development, and future of humanity.‖
According to an August 1999 article published in the Beijing Review (a state-controlled Chinese
journal) between 1970-78 Li played trumpet with a song-and-dance troupe at a PLA farm and the
Jilin Provincial Forest Armed Police Troop. In the following four years, this account says he was
an attendant at a guest house of the Forest Armed Police Troop. Li was reportedly discharged
from military service in 1982, and went to work in the security force of the Changchun Cereals
and Oil Company. In 1992, he quit his job and began teaching Falun Gong to the general public.
On July 29, 1999, after the onset of the massive persecution of Falun Gong, Chinese authorities
issued a nationwide arrest warrant for Li Hongzhi, but Interpol has denied the request. By March
2000, some 45,000 Falun Dafa practioners had been arrested, some 10,000 sent to labor camps,
many tortured, and some apparently killed. The vastly diminished movement has had to go
underground in China (sustained by safe houses and secret Internet networking), even as it grows
abroad. In interviews with the media, Li, who has authored some basic books on Falun Dafa,
usually deflects attention from himself and emphasizes the understanding and practice of
Dharma (a Buddhist term); he wants Falun Dafa to be spread freely and made available to all
free of charge. Yet in conferences with his devoted followers, who view him as ―the main
Buddha,‖ he makes cryptic remarks about his Divinity. As early as 1996, Li was hinting that he
wasn’t an ordinary human but rather a reincarnated Deity of many past lives. In more recent
years he has announced to followers that he has saved humanity from destruction and that
―without me, the cosmos would not exist.‖
Zhang Xiangyu, a barely literate woman from remote Qinghai province, was hailed in the late
1980s as one of the ―4 Great Masters‖ of qigong by her half-million followers. An apocalyptic
visionary, she claimed to communicate with an alien being who promised he could cure all
diseases through her. In 1990, she was taken into custody by the Beijing Communist Party
government, which considered her a fraud (and no doubt a political threat, as well. Lin Lianting,
a qigong master from Shandong province, was executed by the govt. in the early 1990s, likely
for the same reason.) She was sentenced in 1993, and remained in jail until 1995. (Note: in the
continuing crackdown by the CCP, qigong teacher Shen Chang, said to have as many as 5
million followers, was arrested on anti-cult charges and sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2001
for tax evasion.)
Madam Guo Lin (1906-84) founded ―Walking Qi Gong‖ in 1970; in 1949 she had a uterine
cancerous tumor removed, but it reappeared in 1960 and spread to her bladder; doctors gave her
only 6 months to live. She began practicing the qigong her grandfather taught her as a child, with
no results, but with more research, including study of some ancient texts, and ardent daily
practice, she created a modified form of qigong that cured her condition. From her experience
she believed this qigong could help others in their fight against disease, so in 1970 she began
giving lessons in her New Qigong Therapy, which combined movement and meditative (quiet)
qigong. By 1977 her successful results led her to publicly announce that qigong could heal
cancer; predictably, Guo Lin’s classes grew to 300-400 students daily. Eventually, in her
traveling around China, she came to have thousands of students and many thousands of cancer
Other qigong adepts/teachers: Zhang Baosheng was invited in 1982 to Beijing by the
government and certain scientists to demonstrate his qigong abilities; he became famous as one
of China’s ―supermen‖ of the new human science of paranormal abilities based on qi energy. Fu
Weizhong and Zhang Ruming are prominent qigong masters and teachers of Taoist philosophy
living in Beijing, which is not only the nation’s capital but headquarters of the strongly urban-
based qigong movement. Lin Ho-sheng is a qigong master of the Shanghai area, being
intensively studied by specialists at the Shanghai Medical Research Hospital for his
demonstrated ability to anaesthetize patients for major surgery through transmission of his qi to
patients. Chen Linfeng (1962- ) learned qigong exercises at an early age from his father and a
Buddhist monk; in 1976, with the demise of the Cultural Revolution, he began his public
vocation as a faith healer, and has since founded a branch of qigong training which he calls
Huiliangong (The Skill of Wisdom and the Lotus).
―Kwan Saihung‖ is the name of a Taoist workshop teacher in the eastern USA said in a series of
huge-selling books by Deng Ming-dao (all published by HarperSF, beginning with The
Wandering Taoist in 1983) to have studied the way of Cheng-i Taoism and Ch’ing-wei Thunder
Magic under the Grandmaster of Hua-shan. After ―years of intensive training,‖ Saihung was
―encouraged by his master‖ to travel through Hong Kong, Japan, Europe, and the U.S. It has
been revealed that ―Kwan Saihung‖ is a native New Yorker named Frank Kai; whether ―Deng
Ming-tao‖ is another pseudonym for Kai is not known. Scholars have determined that the books
under Deng Ming-tao’s name are but historical novels lifting their material from other sources.
Hou Shu-Ying, born in the 1930s, learned qigong from a Buddhist monk in China from age 7;
he has become a famous healer and teacher of qigong and was awarded the title of National
Qigong coach in China. Since 1985 he has headed his Ch’i-Kung Health Center in Toronto,
Canada, along with a Vancouver branch.
Mantak Chia (1944- ), founder of the Healing Tao Center in Huntington, NY (1979), and author
of many books on Taoist healing and energy work, was born in Thailand, grew up in Hong
Kong, where he trained under Master Lu in t’ai chi ch’üan, Yoga, and Aikido; after returning to
Thailand he learned various Taoist esoteric practices from Cheng Sue Sue, a student of Yi-Eng,
a refugee Taoist master from China; he learned Buddhist Palm and Kundalini Yoga from Master
Meugi in Singapore; then learned the Taoist-Buddhist-Ch’an synthesis from Master Pan Yu of
Hong Kong; he learned Shao-lin ch’i-kung exercises from Master Cheng Yao-lung; Mantak
Chia was authorized to teach and heal by Master Yi-Eng, and with his wife, Maneewan (1944- )
leads workshops around the world, transmitting energy and clarifying esoteric practices.
Dr. Baolin Wu (1950- ) entered Pa-yün Kuan White Cloud Monastery in Beijing at age 4 and
was cured of leukemia during his training with Master Du (who lived to be 116 years old,
fancifully said to have physically disappeared at death in a puff of fragrant red smoke); Dr. Wu
(who holds a medical degree in Western medicine) served as director of Ch’i Kung and Chinese
Medicine at Takua Hospital in Koldore, Japan, and became Ch’i Kung Director at the
International Academy of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine in Santa Monica; he emphasizes
healing through energy-transfer and via the ch’i inherent in nature.
Dr. Stephen T. Chang is trained in Chinese and Western medicine, philosophy, theology and
law; he established the Foundation of the Tao in the late 1970s, and wrote several books on
various aspects of Taoism.
Sophia Delza, a student of Grandmaster Ma Yueh-Liang of Shanghai, expert exponent of the
Wu Chien-Chuan system of taijiquan, now is a world-renowned teacher herself of this art and
also Chinese dance at various organizations in New York, including the U.N.
Daniel Wang is a ch’i-kung, t’ai-chi, and kung-fu master with 30 years experience, former coach
and team leader of the Beijing T’ai Chi team, teaching in Santa Monica, CA.
SUGGESTED READING(a select list of English language sources):
Andersen, Poul, The Method of Holding the Three Ones: A Taoist Manual of the Fourth Century
A.D., London: Curzon, 1980 (a basic early text of the Mao-Shan Shang Ch’ing sect).
Blofeld, John, Taoism: The Road to Immortality, Boulder, CO: Shambhala, 1978; Taoism: The
Quest for Immortality, Shambhala, 1979 (by a Western scholar and practitioner who lived in
Boltz, Judith, A Survey of Taoist Literature, Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California, 1987 (fine
analysis of sources).
Bokenkamp, Stephen, Early Daoist Scriptures, Univ. of Calif., 1997 (works of the 2nd to 6th
Chan, Wing-tsit, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1963
Chia, Mantak, Healing Energy through the Tao, Santa Fe, NM: Aurora, 1983; and many other
works all published by his Healing Tao Center, POB 1194, Huntington, NY 11743 (Taoist
Secrets of Love, Bone Marrow Nei Kung, etc.)
Ching-Yuen, Loy, The Book of the Heart: Embracing the Tao (T. Carolan & B. Chen, Tr.),
Shambhala, 1990; The Supreme Way: Inner Teachings of the Southern Mountain Tao (T.
Carolan & Du Liang, Tr.), Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1997 (by a Taoist teacher of
healing and martial arts, from Shanghai).
Chuang-tzu—of various versions and analyses of sage Chuang-tzu, see Burton Watson, The
Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, NY: Columbia Univ., 1968, Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings,
Columbia U., 1996; A.C. Graham, Chuang-tzu: The Seven Inner Chapters & Other Writings
from the Book Chuang-tzu, London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1981; Victor Mair (Ed.), Experimental
Essays on Chuang-Tzu, Honolulu: U. of Hawaii, 1983; Mair, Wandering on the Way: Early
Taoist Tales & Parables of Chuang Tzu, U. of Hawaii, rev. ed., 1998; Thomas Merton, The Way
of Chuang Tzu, NY: New Directions, 1965; David Hinton, Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chap-ters,
Counterpoint, 1997; Lin Yutang, Chuangtse: Mystic & Humorist, ; Clae Waltham (Ed.), Chuang
Tzu: Genius of the Absurd, NY: Ace, 1971 (James Legge’s 1891 transl.); and two 19th-cent.
works by Herbert Giles: Chuang Tzu, Mystic, Moralist & Social Reformer; Chuang Tzu, Taoist
Philosopher & Chinese Mystic.
Chung-yüan, Chang, Creativity and Taoism: A Study of Chinese Philosophy, Art & Poetry, NY:
Julian Press, 1963; Tao: A New Way of Thinking, Harper & Row, 1975; and other works. Cleary,
Thomas (Trans.), The Essential Tao, 1991 (Tao Te Ching & Chuang-tzu); Wen-Tzu:
Understanding the Mysteries, 1991; Vitality, Energy, Spirit: A Taoist Sourcebook, 1991;
Immortal Sisters: Secrets of Taoist Women, 1989; The Secret of the Golden Flower, 1991;
Understanding Reality: A Taoist Alchemical Classic, 1987 and The Inner Teachings of Taoism,
1986 (both by 11th cent. adept Chang Po-tuan); Awakening to the Tao (by 18th cent. adept Liu I-
ming), 1988; The Book of Balance and Harmony, 1989; Back to Beginnings: Reflections on the
Tao, 1990 (by 16th cent. adept Huanchu Daoren); Practical Taoism, 1996; Taoist Meditation:
Methods for Cultivating a Healthy Mind and Body, 2000; all published by Shambhala (available
Cooper, J.C., Yin and Yang: The Taoist Harmony of Opposites, 1981; Chinese Alchemy, 1984;
Dean, Kenneth, Taoist Ritual and Popular Cults of Southeast China, Princeton Univ. 1995.
Eskildsen, Stephen, The Teachings & Practices of the Early Quanzhen Taoist Masters, SUNY,
Girardot, N.J., Myth and Meaning in Early Taoism: The Theme of Chaos (hun-tun), Berkeley:
Univ. of Calif. Press paper ed., 1988 (rich scholarship on mystical process of Tao-chia).
Goullart, Peter, The Monastery of Jade Mountain, London: The Travel Book Club, 1961 (an
exquisite portrait of life in various Taoist monasteries in the 1920s and 1930s before the
Huai-Chin, Master Nan, Working Toward Enlightenment: The Cultivation of Practice, Samuel
Izutsu, Toshihiko, Sufism and Taoism: A Study of Key Philosophical Concepts, Berkeley, CA:
Univ. of Calif. Press ed., 1984. (Highly recommended work by an eminent scholar).
Kirkland, Russell, Taoism: The Enduring Tradition, London: Routledge, 2004 (very
Kohn, Livia (Ed.), Daoism Handbook (2 vols.), Leiden: Brill, 2001 (fine articles from 30
scholars); Kohn (Ed.), Daoist Identity: History, Lineage, & Ritual, U. of Hawaii, 2002; Kohn,
The Taoist Experience: An Anthology, SUNY, 1993; Early Chinese Mysticism: Philosophy &
Soteriology in the Taoist Tradition, Princeton, 1991; Taoist Meditation & Longevity Techniques,
Center for Chinese Studies, 1989; Monastic Life in Medieval Daoism: A Cross-Cultural
Perspective, U. of Hawaii, 2003; The Daoist Monastic Manual: A Translation of the Fengdao
Kejie, Amer. Acad. of Religion, 2004; Daoist Body Cultivation: Traditional Models &
Contemporary Practices, U. of Hawaii, 2006 (by a respected scholar).
Lieh-tzu—see translations by A.C. Graham, The Book of Lieh-tzu, Columbia Univ. Press,
1990/1960, and Lionel Giles, Taoist Teachings from the Book of Lieh Tzu, London: John Murray,
Loewe, Michael, Ways to Paradise: The Chinese Quest for Immortality, UK: Allen & Unwin,
Lu K’uan Yü (Charles Luk), Taoist Yoga: Alchemy & Immortality, Samuel Weiser, 1973.
Maspero, Henri, Taoism and Chinese Religion (F. Kierman, Trans.), Amherst: Univ. of Mass.,
Ni, Hua Ching Master, 8,000 Years of Wisdom: Conversations with Taoist Master Ni, Hua Ching
(2 vols.), 1983 (includes his translation of Tao Te Ching), Attaining Unlimited Life: Teachings of
Chuang-tzu, Taoist Inner View of the Universe & the Immortal Real, Workbook for Spiritual
Development of All People, Tao: The Subtle Universal Law, Mysticism: Empowering the Spirit
Within, Eternal Light: Teachings of My Father, Grandmaster Ni Yo-San, and many others,
published by The Union of Tao & Man, Santa Monica, CA.
Palmer, Martin, Travels through Sacred China: Guide to the Soul & Spiritual Heritage of China,
Porter, Bill (Red Pine), Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits, SF: Mercury House,
Robinet, Isabelle, Taoism: Growth of a Religion (Phyllis Brooks, Tr. from the original French
1992 ed.), Menlo Park, CA: Stanford U., 1997; Taoist Meditation: The Mao-shan Tradition of
Great Purity, SUNY Press, 1993 (from the 1989 French ed.).
Roth, Harold (Tr. & Ed.), Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundations of
Taoist Mysticism, Columbia Univ., 2004 (valuable contribution clarifying early Taoist
Saso, Michael, The Teachings of Taoist Master Chuang, New Haven, CT: Yale Univ., 1978;
Taoism & the Rite of Cosmic Renewal, Pullman, WA: Wash. State Univ., 2nd ed., 1990; Blue
Dragon White Tiger: Taoist Rites of Passage, U. of Hawaii, 1990; The Gold Pavilion: Taoist
Ways to Peace, Healing, & Long Life, Boston: Tuttle, 1995; Saso & David Chappell (Eds.),
Buddhist & Taoist Studies (2 vols.), U. of Hawaii, 1977, 1987 (by a fine Western scholar who is
also an ordained Taoist priest).
Schipper, Kristofer, The Taoist Body, Univ. of California, 1994 (by another ordained Taoist
Tao Te Ching—for recommended translations of this classic, see Ellen Chen (1989), Red Pine
(Bill Porter) (1996), Wing-tsit Chan (1963), Gia-fu Feng (1972), Henry Wei (1982), Lin Yu-tang
(1942), D.C. Lau (1963/1982), Arthur Waley (1943), John Wu (1961), Paul Lin (1977), Michael
LaFargue (1992), S. Addiss & S. Lombardo (1993), Robert Henricks (1989/2000), Victor Mair
(1990), Stephen Mitchell (1988), David Hin-ton (2000), Jonathan Star (2001), D. Hall & R.
Ames (2003), Chad Hansen (2004), Stan Rosenthal, et al. (Over 100 English translations have
been made since John Chalmers’ 1868 version.) See L. Kohn & M. LaFargue (Eds.), Lao-tzu &
the Tao-Te-Ching, SUNY, 1998.
Towler, Solala, A Gathering of Cranes: Bringing the Tao to the West, Atrium, 1996 (interviews
with nine Chinese Taoist adepts in the West) (Towler edits the non-scholarly but quite interesting
periodical The Empty Vessel: A Journal of Contemporary Taoism).
Welch, Holmes, & Anna Seidel (Eds.), Facets of Taoism: Essays in Chinese Religion, Yale U.
Press, 1979; Welch, The Parting of the Way: Lao Tzu & the Taoist Movement, Boston: Beacon
rev. ed., 1971 (insightful).
Wong, Eva, The Shambhala Guide to Taoism, 1997; Cultivating Stillness: A Taoist Manual for
Transforming Body & Mind, 1992; Nourishing the Essence of Life: The Outer, Inner & Secret
Teachings of Taoism, 2004; Harmonizing Yin & Yang: A Manual of Taoist Yoga Internal,
External, Sexual, 1997, publ. by Shambhala.
Yates, Robin, Five Lost Classics: Tao, Huang-lao, and Yin-yang in Han China, Ballantine, 1997.
--See Taoism Info Page at www.religiousworlds.com/taoism/. The Taoist Restoration Society,
www.taorestore.com, supports Taoism in China and has interesting articles and interviews. See
Ingrid Fisher-Schreiber, et al, The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy & Religion, Shambhala
ed., 1989 (for her definitions of key Taoist terms). See academic articles on Taoism in J. of
Chinese Philosophy, the Harvard J. of Asiatic Studies, Philosophy East & West, J. of the
American Oriental Society, J. of Asian Studies, etc. For good analysis of schools and cults of
Taoism, see ―Taoism‖ section at website Overview of World Religions, St. Martin’s College
(UK), Philosophy, Theology & Religion: http://philtar.ucsm.ac.uk/encyclopedia/taoism/. See
Internal Arts Magazine (1986- ; John Painter, Ed.), POB 1777, Arlington, TX 76004 (fine
articles on qigong, taiji, scientific studies of qi and exposés of hoaxes).