Dao De Jing

(ca. 300–200 BCE)

Document Text

1

Tao called Tao is not Tao.

Names can name no lasting name.

Nameless: the origin of heaven and earth.

Naming: the mother of ten thousand things.

Empty of desire, perceive mystery.

Filled with desire, perceive manifestations.

These have the same source, but different names.

Call them both deep—

Deep and again deep:

the gateway to all mystery.

2

Recognize beauty and ugliness is born.

Recognize good and evil is born.

Is and Isn’t produce each other.

Hard depends on easy,

Long is tested by short,

High is determined by low,

Sound is harmonized by voice,

After is followed by before.

Therefore the Sage is devoted to non-action,

Moves without teaching,

Creates ten thousand things without instruction,

Lives but does not own,

Acts but does not presume,

Accomplishes without taking credit.

When no credit is taken,

Accomplishment endures.

3

Don’t glorify heroes,

And people will not contend.

Don’t treasure rare objects,

And no one will steal.

Don’t display what people desire,

And their hearts will not be...

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Laozi passing through the Western Gates on his way out of China (Yale University Art Gallery)

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