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Ways can be guided; they are not fixed ways.

Names can be named; they are not fixed names.

"Absence" names the cosmic horizon,

"Presence" names the mother of 10,000 natural kinds.

Fixing on "absence" is to want to view phenomena.

These two, emerging together, we name differently.

Conceiving of them as being one: call that "fathomless".

Calling it "fathomless" is still not to fathom it.

...the door to a cluster of puzzles.





When all the social world regards beauty as "beauty",

Here already is "ugly".

If all treat mastery as "being good at" things,

Here already is "not being good at" things.

Thus "presence" and "absence" mutually sprout.

"Hard" and "easy" mutually inform.

"Long" and "short" are mutually gauged.

"High" and "low" mutually incline.

"Sound" and "tone" mutually blend.

"Before" and "after" mutually follow on.

Using this" sages don't act on constructs in addressing affairs;

they practice a "don't-use-language" teaching.

10,000 natural kinds are made by it

Yet don't express anything.

Sprouting, you don't treat them as "existing".

Acting on constructs, you don't rely on anything.

Success taking form, you don't dwell on it.

In general, they simply don't dwell on it,

And in that, they don't lose it.



Don't elevate the outstanding:

Then your subjects will not contend.

Don't value hard-to-get goods:

Then your subjects won't act as thieves.

Don't display the desirable:

Then your subject's minds will not be muddled.

Using these: The way a sage maintains order:

Empties their minds,

Stuffs their guts,

Weakens their resolve,

And strengthens their bones.

He fixes on making his subjects lack knowing and desiring.

Makes the wise not presume to act on constructs.

Act on the construct "lack acting on constructs" 

Then nothing is not ordered.


​​Ways permeate, but in using them

Part remains unfilled.

Oh! Deep!...Like the ancestor of 10,000 natural kinds.

Treat what they make "sharp" as "dull"

Treat what they make "tied" as "loose"

Treat what they make "bright" as "blurred"

Treat what they make "dust" as "together"

Oh! Profound!...Like they partly exist.

I don't know whose offspring they are.

They predate the lord of signs.





The cosmos is not humane.

It treats 10,000 natural kinds as straw dogs.

Sages are not humane.

They treat the people as straw dogs.

Is the space between heaven and earth (the cosmos)

Not like a bellows pipe?

Emptying, it doesn't warp.

Moving, it produces more.

Much discourse, counting to the limit,

Best to stay near the middle.





The valley's spirit never gives out.

This is called "the fathomless female".

The gate of the fathomless female:

This is called "the source of the cosmos".

Silken! It's as if it exists.

In using it, relax.





The sky is old and earth is enduring.

The reason the cosmos can survive and endure is that

it avoids self-creation.

Hence they can be old and enduring.

Using this: sages, in putting their being last,

Their being comes first.

In treating their being as outside,

Their being exists.

Is this not their lacking self-focus

So they can give their self-focus form?





Advanced mastery is like water.

Water, good at benefiting 10,000 natural kinds, doesn't contend.

Where it settles repels the human crowd.

Hence it is close to paths.

In dwelling, master "the land".

In mentality, master "depth".

In associations, master "humanity".

In discourse, master "possibility".

In activity, master "timing".

In general, simply don't contend

Thus avoid criticism.




Grasping, we fill it up.

It is better to let it be.

Measuredly, you sharpen it;

You cannot preserve the edge for long.

When gold and jade fill the fall,

We can't preserve any of it.

being rich an valued, we are proud.

The error of self-destruction!

When success flows, retreat:

This is a natural way.





In general: in mustering your vitalities,

Enveloping them as one,

Can you avoid distinguishing?

In concentrating life-force and making it supple,

Can you be a child?

Polishing your unfothomed vision,

Can you eliminate all flaws?

In loving the nation and putting the subjects in order,

Can you avoid acting on constructs?

In opening and closing the heavenly channel,

Can you act the female role?

In discerning all within the four directions,

Can you lack know-how?

Generate it, nourish it:

Generating it we don't treat it as "present".

Acting on constructs, we don't rely on them.

Becoming "elder" we don't preside.

These are called "unfothomable virtuosities".





Thirty spokes join one hub.

The cart's use lies where they are absent.

Throwing clay to make a vessel;

The vessel's use lies where the clay is absent.

Sculpting windows and doors to make a room;

The room's use lies where they are absent.

So we treat having something as beneficial and treat lacking something as useable.





Five colours stupefy human eyes.

Five tones desensitise human ears.

Five flavours numb human mouths.

Horse racing and hunting derange human minds.

Hard-to-get goods pervert human behaviour.

Using this: sages act for the belly,

Not the eye.

And so discard "that" and take up "this".





Favour is as disgraceful as a warning.

Value your calamities as part of your being.

Why say "favour is as disgraceful as a warning"?

Bestowing favour is treating you as lower.

Receiving favour is like a warning.

Losing it is like a warning.

This is why I say "favour is as disgraceful as a warning".

Why say "value your calamities as part of your being"?

What makes it possible for me to have calamities

Is treating myself as having a being;

Further, if I had no being,

What trouble could I have?

Hence in valuing: treat your being as the social world.

The social world may be delivered to one like that.

In caring: treat your being as the social world.

The social world can be entrusted to one like that.





If you look and fail to see:

Its name is "remote".

If you listen and fail to hear:

Its name is "rarefied".

If you touch and fail to feel anything:

Its name is "subtle".

These three cannot give us warning signs.

Hence blending, we treat them as one.

Its elevation does not sparkle.

It's depth is not murky.

Stringlike, it cannot be named.

It belongs to no natural kind.

This we call "the condition of being in no condition,

A sign of no natural kind".

This we call "confused and indistinct".

Facing it you don't see its head;

Following it you don't see its rear.

If you grasp ancient ways

To deal with what's here today,

You can know their ancient origins.

This is called a way's record.





Those in ancient times who mastered being scholars

Were mystifyingly subtle and inscrutably penetrating.

So deep they cannot be comprehended.

Generally, precisely because they cannot be comprehended,

We are forced to use constructs to imagine them.

Cautious - like crossing a stream in winter.

Ambivalent - Mmm! As is fearing those an all sides.

Exacting - Mmm! As is a guest.

Mutable - Mmm! As ice on the point of melting.

Unaffected - Mmm! As uncarved wood.

Munificent - Mmm! As a valley.

Obscure - Mmm! As muddied water

While muddy, who can gradually become clean with calmness?

While tranquil, who can gradually come to like with relentless activity?

Whoever secures this way

Doesn't desire filling.

Generally, precisely because unfilled,

Hence they can shroud established forms.





Go to the limit of emptiness;

Maintain a quiet steadiness and

The 10,000 natural kinds will rise together.

I use this to view these reactions:

Generally, natural kinds flourish and

Each returns to its root.

Returning to the root, call it "quietude".

This I call responding to fate.

Responding to fate, call it "fixed".

Knowing what is fixed, call it "discerning".

Not to know what is fixed is wantonly taking risks.

"Encompassing" leads to "fair";

"Fair" leads to "kingly";

"Kingly" leads to "natural";

"Natural" leads to "ways";

"Ways" leads to "enduring";

They don't end with burial.






best leadership is when those below know it s present.

After that

Is one that, feeling kin to, you extol.

After that

Is one you dread.

After that

Is one you despise.

When accuracy is inadequate in it

There will be inaccuracy in it.

Reflectively - Mmm! His valuing of discourse!

Success takes form; dealings follow on one another

And the people all say "we did this ourselves".





When the Great Way is cast aside we have

"humanism" and "morality".

When intuitive wisdom emerges we have

"great artifice".

When great kinships do not blend, we have

'filiality" and "affection".

When states and great families become

deranged and disordered, we have

"loyal ministers".





Terminate "sageliness', junk "wisdom",

Your subjects will benefit a hundredfold.

Terminate "humanity", junk "morality",

Your subjects will respond with filialty and affection.

Terminate "artristy", junk "benefit",

There will be no thieves and robbers.

there three,

Treated as slogans are not enough.

So now consider to what they belong:

Express simplicity and embrace uncarved wood.

Lessen "self-focus" and diminish "desire".





Terminate learning and have no worries.

"Uh huh" and "Huh uh"?

How much separates them?

"Masterly" and "Clumsy"?

What's the mutual separation between them like?

What humans fear

Cannot not be feared.

Futile - Mmm! Not focused yet.

The human crows is radiant

Like joining in a celebration

Or a spring procession up on a terrace.

I alone am placid - Mmm! It indicates nothing to me yet.

Like an infant not yet a baby.

Languorous - Mmm!





To encompass a permeating virtuosity

Is simply following ways.

Treating ways as a natural kind is

Simply confused! Simply superficial!

Superficial - Mmm! Confused - Mmm!

Within them, signs are are present.

Yawning - Mmm! Murky - Mmm!

Within them, germination is present.

Their germination is superlatively authentic.

Within it reliability is present.

From the past to the present

Their names don't go away.

And reads out the origin of multitudes.

With what do I know the form of the origin of multitudes?

With this.





"Crooked" implies "intact",

"Twisted" implies "straight",

"Vacuous" implies "filled",

"Worn out" implies "new",

"Less" implies "getting",

"Excess" implies "confounded".

Using this: sages embrace one

And treat it as the social world's paradigm.

Do not look inward, hence are discerning.

Do not affirm inward, hence are verifiable.

Do not attack inward, hence have success.

Do not emphasise inward, hence survive to be elders.

In general: they simply do not contend.

Hence in the social world none can contend with them.

This is what the ancients meant by "crooked implies intact".

Could that be empty rhetoric?

Ground yourself on what is intact and return to it.





Rare discourse is so of itself.

Inherently, a whirlwind does not last through the morning.

A sudden storm does not last through the day.

What makes these? The cosmos.

If the cosmos cannot make even these winds endure,

How much more is it the case for human windiness?

Regarding, then, those who pursue dealings in ways:

Those of ways are blended in ways.

Those of virtuosity are blended in virtuosity.

Those of loss are blended in loss.

Those who are blended in ways, ways leisurely incorporate them.

Those who are blended in virtuosity, virtuosity leisurely incorporates them.

Those who are blended in loss, loss leisurely incorporates them.

When reliability is inadequate in it

Unreliability emerges in it.





Those who tiptoe dot not stand.

Those who stride do not walk.

Those who gaze inward are not discerning.

Those who affirm inward are not verifiable.

Those who attack inward do not succeed.

Those who empathise inward do not become elders.

When these are in ways,

We say: "Excess provision; redundant practice.

Some natural kinds avoid them."

Hence those with ways, don't address them.





There is something formed as a mixture.

It emerged before the cosmos.

Solitary - Mmm! Inchoate - Mmm!

Standing alone ad immutable.

Permeating all processes without limit.

We can deem it the social world's mother.

I don't know its name.

To assign an ideograph to it, we say "way".

Forced to construct a name for it, we say "great".

"Great" is to say "far-reaching".

"Far-reaching" is to say "reversing".

So ways are great;

Nature (sky) is great,

Earth is great,

And kings are also great.

Within a region there are four "greats".

And the king is one among them.

Humans follow patterns on earth.

Earth follows nature (sky).

nature follows ways.

Ways follow what is so of itself.





Deem "heavy" as the root of "light",

Deem "calm" as the leader of "uproar".

Using this: sages walk all day

Without ever letting go of their heavy load,

Even while at sublime overviews,

Comfortably perched and transcendent.

What do we say then,

When a ruler of 10,000 chariots

Takes the social world lightly compared to his own well-being?

"Light" entails losing the root.

"Uproar" entails losing the leader.





Masterful performance ignores other' ruts and footprints.

Masterful discourse ignores flaws and blaming.

Masterful tallying doesn't need calculating devices.

Masterful closing doesn't need bars and bolts

And still can't be opened.

Masterful securing doesn't need rope or restraint

And still can't be loosened.

Using this: sages fix on mastery at saving humans.

So no human is abandoned

They fix on mastery at saving natural kinds,

So no natural kinds are abandoned.

Call this "doubled discerning".

Hence masterful humans

Are the instructors of those who are not.

Humans who are not masterful

Are material for those who are.

Were one not to value his instructor,

Not to care for his material,

Even if wise, he would be seriously misguided.

Call this the important secret.





To know it is male

And sustain its female aspect

Is to act as the social world's ravine.

To act as the social world's ravine,

Fix on virtuosity, avoid distraction,

And return to infancy.

To know it is white

And sustain its blackness

Is to act as the social world's paradigm.

To act as the social world's paradigm,

Fix on virtuosity, avoid lapses,

And return to the absence of ultimates.

To know it is sublime

And sustain its disgrace

Is to act in the social world's valley.

To act as the social world's valley,

Constant virtuosity is sufficient

To return to uncarved wood.

If wood is split then regard it as an artefact.

Sages use it

And are regarded as officials and elders.

So great systems do not cut.




Desiring to take up and act on the whole social world,

I see that as impossible.

The social world is a spirited artefact.

It cannot be enacted as construct.

Those who enact constructs for it, destroy it.

Those who grip it, lose it.

Hence, some natural kinds perform,

Some conform.

Some snort,

Some blow,

Some are strong,

Some are weak.

Some wear down.

Some collapse.

Using this: sages abandon extremes,

Abandon extravagance,

Abandon expansiveness.





Those who use ways to help human rulers

Do not coerce the social world with arms.

Their dealings favour reciprocity.

Where we place division,

Thorns and briars grow.

In the wake of a great army

Inevitably lie years of calamities.

Mastery bears fruit - period!

Do not presume, with that, to coerce.

Bearing fruit, avoid pitying.

Bearing fruit, avoid domineering.

Bearing fruit, avoid pride.

Bearing fruit, treat it as out of your control.

Bearing fruit, avoid coercing.

If natural kinds are robust, they get old.

This is called "don't guide".

"Don't guide" ends quickly!





In general, beautiful martial displays

Are inauspicious artefacts.

Natural kinds should perhaps eschew them.

Hence our ways should not include them.

If the leader is in place then we value left.

If we use martial force then we value right.

Martial force

Is an inauspicious artefact.

It is not a leader's artefact.

If beyond your power, you use it,

Treat detachment as the elevated attitude.

When victorious don't treat war as an art form.

And those who treat it as an art form

Make killing humans into entertainment.

If you make killing humans into entertainment,

Then you cannot work your resolve in the social world.

Auspicious dealings favour the left,

Inauspicious dealing favour the right.

Its discourse, we address in funeral rituals.

Killing humans in crowds,

With bitter grief we cry over them.

Victory in war is addressed in the funeral rite.




Ways fix on a nameless uncarved block.

Although small,

None in the social world can make it serve.

If fief-holding kings could sustain it,

10,000 natural kinds would treat themselves as honoured guests.

The sky and earth would intermingle and make sweet dew.

Subjects, without instruction, would put themselves in parity.

As you start to institutionalise, there are names.

As soon as there are names,

Generally, you really should know to stop.

If you know how to stop, you can avoid danger.

Think of the role of ways in the social world

As like brooks and ravines flowing into rivers and oceans.




The other-knowing are wise.

The self-knowing are discerning.

Those who triumph over others have muscle.

Those who triumph over themselves are commanding.

Those who know what enough is are affluent.

Those who practise strenuously have resolve.

Those who don't lose their place are enduring.

Those who die and don't disappear are long-lived.





The Great Way is everywhere - Mmm!

Can it treat what is to the right as to the left?

With 10,000 natural kinds depending on it to live

It communicates nothing.

Successes taking form; it does not name it "present".

Supporting and nourishing 10,000 natural kinds;

It does not act as owner.

Fixed on lacking desire; it can be named by "small".

10,000 natural kinds return to it

And it does not act as landlord.

It can be named as "great".

Given that it never treats itself as "great".

It can, thus, complete what's great about it.





Grasp great signs;

The social world moves and does not harm;

Tranquility and peace are supreme.

With entertainment and feasting,

Passers-by stop as guests.

A way's coming out from the mouth...

Isn't it bland...its lack of flavour?

Look at it; there is not enough to see.

Listen to it; there is not enough to hear.

Use it; there is not enough given.





In desiring to contract it,

You must basically have regarded it as "expanded".

In desiring to weaken it,

You must basically have regarded it as "strong".

In desiring to dissipate it,

You must have basically have regarded it as "thriving".

In desiring to take it,

You must have regarded it as "given".

This is called subtle discerning.

Soft and pliant win over hard and coercive.

Fish cannot leave watery depths.

The state's beneficial artefacts

Should be displayed to humans.




Ways fix on not acting from constructs.

Yet nothing is not assigned a construct.

If fief-holding kings could sustain it,

10,000 natural kinds should self-transform.

If transforming encounters desires to construct,

I will mollify them with nameless uncarved wood.

Nameless uncarced wood is,

Generally, being about to lack desires.

Don't desire, use serenity;

The social world should stabilise itself.





Higher virtuosity does not act out "virtuosity",

For that reason it has virtuosity.

Lower virtuosity act only on "virtuosity",

For that reason it lacks virtuosity.

Higher virtuosity lacks acting on its construct,

And lacks the construct on which it acts.

Lower virtuosity acts on that construct,

And has that construct on which to act.

Higher humanity acts humanity out,

And yet lacks acting on that construct.

Higher morality acts morality out,

And has acting on that construct.

Higher conventionality acts that out,

And answers to nothing.

It raises its arm and throws.

Hence after we lose our ways, then we rely on virtuosity!

Losing virtuosity, we then rely on humanity!

Losing humanity, we then rely on morality!

Losing morality, we then rely on conventions!

In general, conventionality

Is the thinning of fealty and trust,

And the forerunner of disorder.

Those who first understood that,

Tried to embellish ways,

And initiated stupidity.

For this reason, men of greater maturity

Address the thick,

And do not do well on the thin.

Address the substance,

And do not dwell on the elaboration.

So they discard that and take up this.





Things which long ago achieved unity:

The sky achieved unity in being clear.

The earth achieved unity in serenity.

Esprit achieves unity in an ethereal aura.

Valleys achieve unity in being filled.

10,000 natural kinds achieve unity in living.

Aristocrats and kings achieve unity in acting as the social world's standard of "proper".

They've taken it to the extreme.

When the sky lacks the means to be clear,

We should fear splitting.

When the earth lacks the means to be stable,

We should fear spreading out.

When esprit lacks the means to be an aura,

We should fear death.

When valleys lack the means to be full,

We should fear depletion.

When 10,000 natural kinds lack the means to be alive,

We should fear extinction.

When aristocrats and kings lack the means to be valued and exalted,

We should fear their toppling.

Hence the valuable treats the low as its foundation.

Using this: aristocrats and kings call themselves worthless lonely orphans.

Is this not treating the discounted as the base?

It's not?!

Hence the extreme of numbering chariots is no chariots.

Do not desire the coloured veneer of jade,

Or the solid dullness of a rock.





The movement of ways is reversal.

Where there is weakness lies the use of ways.

The social world's 10,000 natural kinds arise from presence.

"Presence" arises from "absence".





The "higher" scholar hears a way;

He gets all serious and practices it.

The "medium" scholar hears a way;

It's like it exists; now like it is gone!

The "lower" scholar hears a way;

He laughs hilariously.

If he did not laugh, it would do to treat it as a way.

Hence, as a conventional saying puts it:

A discerning way is like a murky one.

A way to advance is like a way to retreat.

A way to level is like one to rough up."

Elevated virtuosity is like a valley.

The greatest purity is like filth.

Expansive virtuosity seems insufficient.

Creating virtuosity is like stealing.

Solid authenticity is like sliminess.

The greatest square has no corners.

The greatest artefact is never formed.

The greatest note rarely sounds
The greatest sign lacks a shape.

Ways hide in the absence if shapes.

In general, simply because ways are

Good at contributing and succeeding.





Ways generate "one".

"One" generates "two".

"Two" generates "three".

"Three" generates 10,000 natural kinds.

10,000 natural kinds endure yin and embrace yang.

Infuse life-force and treat the result as harmonious.

What humans revile

Is simply being deemed "worthless", "lonely" or "orphaned".

Yet kings and dukes take these terms as their honourifics.

Hence partly diminishing natural kinds, they increase.

Partly increasing them, they diminish.

What humans teach,

I also teach.

Those who use coercion and stealth do not get their death.

I would treat this saying as "The father of teaching".




The most yielding in the social world

Lopes past the most firm.

That which lacks presence enters into that which lacks space.

With these examples, I know the advantage of not acting on constructs.

The teaching that is not put in language,

The advantages of not acting on constructs,

The social world rarely reaches this level.





Take your name and your being - which is closer to you?

Your being and commodities - which counts as as more?

Obtaining and losing - which is the defect?

For this reason, super care exacts great cost.

Excess storage certainly increases loss.

Knowing what is enough is not disgraceful.

Knowing where to stop avoids danger.

You can extend your life.





Great formation is like deficiency.

Its use is not defective.

Great filling is like infusing.

Its use is not exhaustive.

Great straightforwardness is is like being bent.

Great skill is like clumsiness.

Great dialectic is like shouting.

Exercise conquers a chill.

Rest conquers a fever.

"Clear" and "quiet" are treated as correct for the social world.





When the social world has a way

We retire fast horses to fertilise fields.

When the social world lacks a way

War horses breed in the suburbs.

No transgression exceeds approving of desires.

No tragedy exceeds not knowing what is enough.

No evil exceeds desiring to obtain things.

Hence, knowing when enough is enough

Is fixing on "enough".





Know the social world without stepping outside your door.

See natural ways without looking out of the window.

The farther one goes,

The less one knows.

Using this: sages do not practice and yet know.

They name things without looking.

They take form without acting on constructs.






In acting on "study", one daily increases.

In acting on "ways", one daily decreases.

Decrease and further decrease it

Until you arrive at not acting on constructs.

No acting on constructs yet no act is not under a construct.

Fix on not using social dealings in taking up the social world.

If you accept its dealings.

It does not count as taking up the social world.





Sages lack a fixed mind.

They treat people's mind as mind.

Mastery of something, I treat as mastery of it.

Lacking mastery of something, I also treat as mastery of it.

Virtuosity in mastery!

Reliable things: I treat as reliable.

Unreliable things: I also teat as reliable.

Virtuosity in reliability!

A sage in the social world is absorbent.

trying to enact the social world would addle his mind.

The people all focus on their eyes and ears.

Sages all treat them like children.





We emerge into life and enter into death.

Of life's associates, ten have three.

Of death's associates, then have three.

Movements of human life towards the grounds of death

Are also ten have three.

Now, why is this?

Because they regard opulent life as "life"

In general, when we hear about mastery at preserving life:

They walk the earth without encountering rhinoceros or tiger.

They enter the army and do not bear armour or weapons.

The rhinoceros has no place to thrust its horn.

The tiger has no place to wield its claws.

Weapons have no place to insert their points.

Now, why is this?

Because they lack any grounds of death.




Ways generate them;

Virtuosities cultivate them:

Natural kinds shape them;

And circumstances inform and complete them;

For this reason, among 10,000 natural kinds,

None fail to respect ways and value virtuosity.

This respecting of ways

And valuing of virtuosity

Is, in general, not coerced, always autonomous.

Hence ways generate them;

Virtuosities cultivate them,

Bring them to maturity, educate them,

Shade them, poison them,

Nourish them and return them.

Generating, it does not treat them as possessions.

Acting on constructs, it does not depend on them.

Living to maturity, it does not act as an "authority".

This is called "unfathomable virtuosity".





The social world has a source.

Treat it as the mother of the social world.

Since we have its mother present

We can use it to know its offspring.

Since we know its offspring

We revert to sustaining its mother.

And we're not in danger till we lack being.

Clamp its exchanges,

Close its gates,

Never striving to the end of our being.

Free its exchanges,

Complicate its dealings,

Still not rescued at the end of our being.

Seeing something small, call this "discerning".

Protecting something weak, call this "enforcing".

Use its light and

Restore its discernment.

Don't leave things to trouble your being;

Treat this as rehearsing what is fixed.





Let me some trivial know-how

To execute in The Great Way -

Only adding to it - this I fear!

The Great Way is supremely easy

And its subjects like short-cuts.

The palace is supremely stripped.

Fields are supremely overgrown,

Granaries supremely bare.

Clothes embroidered colourfully.

Belts have sharp swords.

Bored of drink and food.

Wealth and commodities in excess.

This is called "stealing" and "exaggeration!"

This is not a way!





Mastery of building does not tear down.

Mastery of embracing does not let go.

Children and grandchildren never stop sacrificing.

Groom it in one's being

And its virtuosity is in authenticity.

Groom it in one's family

And its virtuosity is in plentitude.

Groom it in one's village

And its virtuosity is in becoming elderly.

Groom it in one's state

And its virtuosity is in wealth.

Groom it in one's social world

And its virtuosity is in universality.

Hence use "self" to view the self.

"Family" to view the family.

"Village" to view the village.

"State" to view the state.

"Social world" to view the social world.

How do I know the social world's condition?

With this.




The thickness of inner virtuosity:

Consider it in a robust infant.

Bees, scorpions, serpents and snakes do not sting him;

Ferocious animals do not seize him;

Birds of prey do not strike him;

Bones weak and muscles soft; he still has a firm grasp.

Not yet knowing how male and female join; he is still

Completely hard.

The instinct has arrived!

The whole day he babbles and he does not get hoarse.

Harmonising has arrived!

Knowing to harmonise, call it "fixed".

Knowing what is fixed, call it "discerning".

Benefiting life, call it "auspicious".

The way the mind governs life-force, call it "coercive".

If natural kinds are robust, then they get old.

Call this "not guided".

"What is not guided" ends quickly!





Those who know how to not hold forth.

Those who hold forth do not know how.

Treat its openings as blocked,

Treat its gateways as closed.

Treat what is sharp as dull,

Treat classifications as loose.

Treat what is bright as blurred.

Treat grains of dust as together.

This is called the unfathomable togetherness.

Hence we cannot by getting something achieve intimacy with it.

Cannot by getting something be distant from it.

Cannot, by getting, benefit.

Cannot, by getting, harm.

Cannot, by getting, value.

Cannot, by getting, debase.

Hence we deem it a value of the social world.





Order a state by doing right.

Use shock to deploy military force.

Use no dealing to take up the social world.

How do I know these are so?

With this.

When the social world adds superstitious prohibitions,

It increases poverty of its subjects.

The more subjects have beneficial artefacts,

The more the state and society are befuddled.

The more humans become skilled and clever,

The more strange things emerge.

The more standards and commands are promulgated,

The more thieves and robbers are present.

Hence sages say:

I eschew acting on constructs and subjects transform themselves.

I incline towards calmness and subjects correct themselves.

I avoid dealings and subjects enrich themselves.





Its regime is torpid;

Its subjects are guidelines.

Its government is critically discriminating;

Its subjects are deficient.

Tragedy - Mmm! The ground of fortuity.

Fortuity - Mmm! That which conceals tragedy.

Who knows its zenith?

It lacks any conception of "correct".

Correctness reversed we deem "strange".

Mastery reversed we deem an apparition.

Human puzzles:

Their days stubbornly endure.

Using this: sages

Square without shaping,

Investigate without punishing,

Straighten without being arbitrary,

Illuminate without dazzling.





In ordering humans and dealing with nature, nothing beats conserving.

In general, simply conserving

Is what we can call early readiness.

Early readiness: let us call it "emphasising storing virtuosity".

Emphasising storing virtuosity implies that everything is subdued, no one knows its zenith.

It can have states.

The mother of having states

Can long endure.

This is called the deep root and inherent base,

A way to long-life and enduring insight.





Putting a large nation in order

Is like grilling a small fish.

If you manage the social world with ways

Its spirit will not become self-aware.

Even if its spirit does become self-aware,

Its awareness will not harm humanity.

Even if its awareness allows harming humanity,

Its sages will still keep humanity from harm.

In general, when the outcome is neither harms the other,

Their virtuosities interact and return to balance.





Greats states flow into the lower position.

The intercourse of the lower world,

The female of the social world!

The female fixes on being still to win over the male,

Uses being still and reclining.

Hence, if great states recline for small states,

Then they absorb small states.

If small states recline for great states,

Then they take great states.

Thus some from lower use "taking"

Some are lower and still take.

Great states only desire to domesticate humans in a universal way.

Small states desire to serve humanity.

So both get what they want.

It is fitting for great to act out being lower.





Ways are the hidden subtleties of 10,000 natural kinds.

A treasure to skillful humans.

That which unskillful humans sustain.

Aesthetic language can be marketed.

Respectful performance can enrich others.

Humans who are not good at things,

What reason is there for abandoning them?

Hence, setting up some offspring of nature

And establishing three ministers.

Then even presenting them with jade pulled by a team of horses -

Is not as good as sitting and promoting this way.

Why did the ancients so value this way?

Did they not say "seeking you get it;

If guilty use it to escape".

That's why we deem it a value of the social world.




Act on the construct "don't act on constructs".

Treat having no dealings as dealing.

Treat the absence of flavour as "flavour".

Treat the small as "great"; the few as "many";

Use your virtuosity in dealing with rancour.

Plan for the difficult while things are still easy.

Act on the great while it is still small.

Difficult dealings in the social world

Must start with something easy.

The great matters of the social world

Must start with something small.

Using this: sages, in the end, do not act great

So they can embody their greatness.

In general, frivolous assent must diminish trust.

If much is easy then much must be hard.

Using this: sages emphasise that it is hard.

So in the end it lacks hardness.



It is easy to grasp what is tranquil,

Easy to plan before there are any warnings,

Easy to break what is brittle,

Easy to disperse what is miniscule.

Act on it before it is present;

Put it in order before it is disordered.

Tress that fill our embrace

Emerge from small sprouts;

Nine-storey towers

Start from piles of earth.

A thousand-league walk

Starts with a footfall.

Those who act on constructs wreck things;

Those who cling lose things.

Using this: sages do not act on constructs, hence they do not wreck things,

They do not cling and so do not lose things.

Ordinary subjects following through in their dealing

Regularly get them nearly finished then wreck them.

If you are as careful at the end as in the beginning

Then you will not wreck deals.

So sages desire not to desire

And do not value goods difficult to obtain.

They study not-studying.

And revert to what the human crowd has overlooked.

If reinforcing the autonomy of 10,000 natural kinds

They do not presume to act on constructs.



Those in ancient times who were good at enacting ways

Did not use them to make subjects discerning,

But bordered on making them obtuse.

That subjects are hard to put in order,

Comes from their abundant cleverness.

Hence to use cleverness to order a state

Produces the thieves of the state.

Not to use cleverness to order a state

Is to enrich the state.

Those who know to do both enshrine models,

Fixing on knowing how to enshrine models,

Is called "unfathomable virtuosity".

Unfathomable virtuosity becomes deep! Becomes distant!

The reverse of ordinary kinds.

After it is so, comes supreme flow.



The way rivers and oceans cab act as kings of a hundred ravines:

Is being good at lying under them.

Hence they can act as kings of a hundred ravines.

Using this: if sages desire to elevate their subjects,

They must use language that places them lower.

If you desire to place subjects first,

You must take your being as coming after them.

Using this: sages

Residing above, their subjects deem them no burden.

Residing in front, their subjects are not harmed.

Using this: the social world leisurely advances them without resentment.

Since they do not contend,

None in the social world, can contend with them.





The entire social world calls my way "great" - as if unfamiliar.

In general, simply in being great

It is, consequently, unfamiliar.

Had it been long-familiar

It would be trivial!

I have three treasures.

I cling to and preserve them.

Call the first "charity".

Call the second "frugality".

Call the third "not presuming to act as prior to the social world".

Charitable: so one can be brave.

Frugal: so one can be magnanimous.

Not presuming to act as prior to the social world:

So one can become "elder".

Were I now to abandon charity and bravery,

To abandon frugality and liberality,

To abandon following and put myself in front -

Then already dead!

In general, charity:

Used in battle, implies victory.

Used in sustaining, implies stability.

Nature will save it.

Use charity to defend it.





Those good at playing the "scholar-knight" are not martial.

Those who are good at fighting do not rise to anger.

Those who are at triumphing over enemies, don't engage them.

Those who are good at using humans treat it as beneath them.

This is called virtuosity at not contending.

This is called the power of using people.

This is called being on par with nature

- the apex of antiquity.



There is discourse about using armies.

Not presuming to act as lord, I act as guest.

Not presuming to advance an inch, I retreat

a foot.

This is called "practising absence of practise".

"Bearing absent arms";

"Throwing against absent enemies".

"Controlling absent armies."

No tragedy is greater than taking an

enemy lightly.

Taking an enemy lightly risks losing

my treasure.

Ingerently, opposing armies strenghthen

each other.

Then grief is the winner.


My discourse is supremely easy to know.

Supremely easy to practise.

In the social world

None can either know or practise it.

Discourse originates from somewhere

And dealings have standards.

Generally, simply not knowing how

Counts as not knowing me.

If those who know me are scarce,

Then what I am is valuable.

Using this: sages

Wrap precious jade in burlap.



Knowing not to know is recommended.

Not knowing to know is a defect.

In general, simply deem defects to be defects.

Then one can be non-defective.

Sages are not defective

When they deem defects "defects".

For this reason they do not act on "defect".




If subjects do not fear authority

Then great authority has arrived.

Do not meddle with their dwellings.

Do not despise what they generate.

I general, if you do not despise,

Then there will not be despising.

Using this: sages

Know from "here" but do not gaze inward,

Love from "here" but value subjectively.

So they discard "that" and take up "this".





Courage within presumption implies killing.

Courage within non-presumption implies living.

These pairings:

Sometimes benefit, sometimes harm.

That which nature abhors,

Who knows its cause?

Using this: sages make things even harder.

The natural way, not contending, is good at winning.

Not discussing, is good at responding.

Not calling, it comes from within.

Insensate, it is good at planning.

The natural net is all-encompassing.

Loose, it still does not lose anything.






When subjects do not fear dying

How can one use "death" to intimidate them?

If I make subjects fixate on their fear of dying,

The, grabbing those who deviate,

I kill them;

Who would presume to carry out the sentence?

Should we settle on having a hit man do the killing?

In general, killing in place of a professional killer

Is called "substituting a lumberjack for a master artisan".

In general, of the lumberjacks who replace master artisans and carve

Few manage not to injure their hands.




Starvation among the subjects

Is because those above them feast on taxes-in-kind.

From this: they starve.

Subjects' being hard to put in order

Is because those above them act on constructs.

From this: they are hard to put in order.

Subjects take death lightly

Because those above them seek life's "thickness".

From this they take death lightly.

In general: only those who do not act on "life"

Are outstanding at valuing life.




Living humans are soft and limber.

Dead they are hard and rigid.

Living, the 10,000 grasses and wood species are soft and crisp.

Dead, they are withered and tough.

So "hard" and "rigid" accompany death.

"Soft" and "limber" accompany life.

So if armies are coercive, they do not triumph.

When wood is string, the axe comes out.

Strength and dominance reside below.

The soft and limber belong higher.





Natural ways

Are they not like tensing a bow?

Pull the upper part down

And raise the lower part up.

Reduce a surplus.

Supplement what is insufficient.

Natural ways

Reduce abundance and relieve scarcity.

Human ways are not like that.

They take from those in need and give it to the well-off.

Who can take a surplus and offer it to the social world?

Only one with a way.

Using this: sages

Act out constructs but they do not rely on them.

Their success taking form, they do not notice it.

this explains their lack of desire to appear special.





Under the sky, nothing is softer or more yielding than water.

And yet when it attacks firm, rigid things,

None of them can win against it.

Because they lack any means to move it.

That yielding wins against force;

That the soft wins over the hard,

No one in the social world fails to understand.

No one can practise it.

So the sages say,

Accept the state's imperfections.

Correct discourse is like reversing opposites.





In reconciling massive resentments,

Inevitably some rancour will be left over.

Where can that be treated as mastery?

For this reason, sages

Grasp the left of the agreement,

Yet do not demand satisfaction from the other.

They have virtuosity in supervising agreements,

And lack virtuosity in enforcing the exhausting details.

Natural ways have no favourites.

They coordinate reliably with people who do well.





Make states small with few subjects.

Set it up so, having implements by the tens and hundreds

They still will not use them.

Set it up so subjects, treating death as weighty,

Do not venture far.

Though they have boats and carts,

They lack reasons to ride in them.

Though they have armour and weapons,

They lack reasons to marshal them.

Set it up so subjects revert to using knotted strings.

They deem their food sweet;

Their neighbours peaceful;

And their customs as entertainment.

Neighbouring communities can see each other,

Hear each other's chickens crow and dgos bark,

And their members reach old age and death

Without ever travelling between them.





Reliable discourse is not aesthetic.

Aesthetic discourse is not reliable.

Those who are good at things, do not analyse.

Those who analyse are not good at things.

Those who know how are not comprehensive scholars.

Those who are comprehensive do not know how.

Sages don't accumulate.

Although they use things in acting for others,

They have more themselves.

Although they share with others,

They have more left over.

The ways of nature, in benefiting, do not harm.

Ways of sages: acting on constructs, do not contend.

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