Lao tzu (.c 500 BCE)
Dao De Ching

Original Electronic Texts at the web site World Civilization, George Ouwendijk, CCNY.

Ouwendijk's introduction: The Dao De Ching was written in the sixth century BCE by Lao Tzu. This period in Chinese history is known as the period of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. This was a time in which the power of the Zhou emperors was on the decline. Foreign, "barbarian" invaders began to encroach on Chinese imperial territory. Local Chinese warlords began to fight amongst themselves and to challenge the authority of the emperors. Ancient Chinese historians themselves refered to this time as The Period of the Warring States. The Dao De Ching was written in this time of civil war and upheaval. It presents a philosophy that can be viewed as a response to the disruption of Chinese society. Significantly, the philosophy of Daoism was only one of numerous philosophical systems that developed during the period of the Warring States. Ancient Chinese historians also had another name for this time: The Period of the Hundred Flowers. What were these "Hundred Flowers"? These were the flowers of philosophy.


The Dao that can be followed is not the eternal Dao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the origin of the universe
While naming is the origin of everything.
Therefore, always desireless, you see the mystery
Ever desiring, you see the manifestations.
These two are the same--
When they are appear they are named differently.
Their sameness is the mystery,
Mystery within mystery;
The door to every profundity.


All in the world recognize the beautiful as beautiful.
Herein lies ugliness.
All recognize the good as good.
Herein lies evil.
Being and non-being produce each other.
Difficulty and ease bring about each other.
Long and short delimit each other.
High and low rest on each other.
Sound and voice harmonize each other.
Front and back follow each other.
Therefore the sage abides in the condition of wu-wei (non-action).
And carries out the wordless teaching.
Here, the myriad things are made, yet not separated.
Therefore the sage produces without possessing,
Acts without expectations
And accomplishes without abiding in her accomplishments.
It is precisely because she does not abide in them
That they never leave her.


If you do not adulate the worthy, you will make others non-contentious.
If you do not value rare treasures, you will stop others from stealing.
If people do not see desirables, they will not be agitated.
Therefore, when the sage governs,
He clears peoples minds,
Fills their bellies,
Weakens their ambition and
Strengthens their bones.
If the people are kept without cleverness and desire
It will make the intellectuals not dare to meddle.
Doing wu-wei, there is no lack of manageability.


Heaven and Earth last forever.
The reason that Heaven and Earth are able to last forever
Is because they do not give birth to themselves.
Therefore, they are always alive.
Hence, the sage puts herself last and is first.
She is outside herself and therefore her self lasts.
Is it not through her selflessness
That she is able to perfect herself?


Thirty spokes join together in the hub.
It is because of what is not there, that the cart is useful.
Clay is formed into a vessel.
It is because of its emptiness that the vessel is useful.
Cut doors and windows to make a room.
It is because of its emptiness that the room is useful.
Therefore, what is present is used for profit.
But it is in absence that there is usefulness.


Get rid of "learning" and there will be no anxiety.
How much difference is there between "yes" and "no"?
How far removed from each other are "good" and "evil"? . . . .


If you understand others you are smart.
If you understand yourself you are illuminated.
If you overcome others you are powerful.
If you overcome yourself you have strength.
If you know how to be satisfied you are rich.
If you can act with vigor, you have a will.
If you don't lose your objectives you can be long-lasting.
If you die without loss, you are eternal.


The Dao is always non-existent
Yet there is nothing it doesn't do.
If the ruler is able to embody it
Everything will naturally change. . . .


Return is the motion of the Dao.
Softening is its function.
All things in the cosmos arise from being.
Being arises from non-being.


The Dao produces one, one produces two.
The two produce the three and the three produce all things.
All things submit to yin and embrace yang . . . .
That which is taught by the people I also teach:
"The forceful do not choose their place of death."
I regard this as the father of all teachings.


In studying, each day something is gained.
In following the Dao, each day something is let go of.
Let go and again let it go.
Until there is nothing left to do.
Not-doing, nothing is left undone.
You can possess the world by never manipulating it.
No matter how much you manipulate
You can never possess the world.


When the government is relaxed.
The people are relaxed.
When the government is anxious.
The people have anxiety.
Misfortune depends upon fortune.
Fortune conceals misfortune.
What has a definite delimitation? Or abnormality? . . . .


Do without "doing."
Get involved without manipulating.
Taste without tasting.
Make the great small,
The many, few.
Respond to anger with virtue.
Deal with difficulties while they are still easy.
Handle the great while it is still small.
The difficult problems in life
Always start off being simple.
Great affairs always start off being small.
Therefore the sage never deals with the great
And is able to actualize his greatness.
Therefore the sage treats things as though they were difficult,
And hence, never has difficulty.

Source: Translation by S. Mitchell at Su Tzu' Chinese Philosophy Page

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