Lao Tzu

by solitary walker

Nowhere is the paradoxical nature of Taoist thought better exemplified than in Lao Tzu‘s Tao Te Ching. There have been many Chinese to English translations of this classic work — over one hundred, I believe. I own a very small number of these, including the Richard Wilhelm edition, but my favourite is the crystalline, minimalist translation by Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo. The poet Gary Snyder wrote of the latter: “Of the many translations I have read in English this is unquestionably the best.”

“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.”

“Crippled becomes whole, / Crooked becomes straight, / Hollow becomes full, / Worn becomes new, / Little becomes more, / Much becomes delusion. / Therefore Sages cling to the One / And take care of this world; / Do not display themselves / And therefore shine; / Do not assert themselves / And therefore stand out; / Do not praise themselves / And therefore succeed; / Are not complacent / And therefore endure; / Do not contend / And therefore no one under heaven / Can contend with them. / The old saying / Crippled becomes whole / Is not empty words. / It becomes whole and returns.”

Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching