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Tao Te Ching. James Legge's Version
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71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81

71.   The disease of knowing

TAO-TE CHING, DAO DE JING SYMBOL 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.

72.   Loving one's 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 arise.

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.

73.   Allowing men to take their course

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 former case).

It is the way of Heaven not to strive, and yet it skilfully 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 nothing escape.

74.   Restraining delusion

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!

75.   How greediness injures

The people suffer from famine because of the multitude of taxes consumed by their superiors. It is through this that they suffer famine.

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 labours 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 it.

76.   A warning 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.

77.   The way of heaven

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.

78.   Things to be believed

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.

79.   Adherence to bond or covenant

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 other)?

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) fulfilment 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 favourable to himself.

In the Way of Heaven, there is no partiality of love; it is always on the side of the good man.

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 neighbouring 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.

81.   The manifestation of 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.

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Postscript

Some words have been altered:

  • 'Nostalgic' terms like e'er, ne'er and th', are spelt out in full.
  • The numbering of (some) paragraphs have been removed, because the numbering makes little sense today. Perhaps no other European translators use it.

Most — after colons and semicolons have been removed. Insertions in round brackets (..) are Legge's.

Dr. James Legge, Scottish scholar (1815-97)

A contributor to the pioneering "Sacred Books of the East" edition of Asian scriptures. He might have been a professor at a Scottish University if he had conformed to the Church of Scotland. Instead he taught at Oxford, where the life makes for self-consciousness or dryness, or both- yet this simple, fresh old man seemed "lovely as a Lapland night." Year after year he worked in his study in Oxford over his translations of the Chinese classics. The walls were lined with Chinese books. He was in his study every morning at three o'clock winter and summer. He retired to bed always at ten. When he got up in the morning the first thing he did was to make himself a cup of tea. Then he worked away at his translations while all the household slept. His house was full of Chinese curios.

Now and again he resented a little how few who attended his lectures. Why could he not draw crowded class-rooms with the learning of Confucius and Mencius? But his pupils were very few, his class seldom contained more than four or five students. Legge, who had worked in Hong Kong for twenty-five years, took comfort by recalling the immense Chinese Universities where young men came for the wisdom of the Chinese sages.

Legge was aided by the pioneering Chinese Wang T'ao (1828-97?) in the monumental translation of the Five Classics of Confucianism. Wang also spent two years with Legge in Europe.

In politics Legge was a Liberal. Mencius, he said, had taught him that every country had the right to govern itself. He said what he thought; fortunately his thoughts were kind and sweet.

Legge never answered criticisms except in the briefest manner. He had much good-natured Scotch humour – He said, "I will translate faithfully the works of the best and oldest Chinese authors for the benefit of missionaries and students of all professions."

Mainly based on two articles in the Pall Mall Gazette, reprinted in the North-China Herald, January 14 and 28, 1898 - More here:
[www.talesofoldchina.com/tales/memoirs.htm>]

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