Chapter 1 How to embody Tao
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(Version and commentary of He Shanggong in English)


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The Tao that can be discussed

This means: The Tao of classical conception and of the doctrine of government,

is not the eternal Tao.

It is not the Tao of longevity existing of itself. The eternal Tao must by doing nothing nourish the spirit, and without acting pacify the people. [What] renounces splendour, hides its light, destroys its traces and conceals its origin, that cannot be called Tao.

The name that can be named

This means the name of wealth and honour, of eminence, glory and high descent,

is not the eternal name.

It is not the name of that which of itself exists eternally. The eternal name likes [to be] like a child that does not yet talk, like a chicken that has not yet broken through [the eggshell]. The luminous pearl is within the oyster, the beautiful gem is within the rock. Though resplendent within, one ought to look outwardly stupid and dull.

The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.

The nameless designates the Tao. Tao is without form. Therefore it cannot be named. The beginning is the basis of Tao. It spits forth the breath, expands the changes, proceeds from the void. It is the basis and the beginning of heaven and earth.

The named is the mother of all things.

The named is called heaven and earth. Heaven and earth have form and place, Yin and Yang, softness and hardness. This is the reason of their having a name. The mother of all things are heaven and earth. They swallow the breath, generate all things and let them grow and ripen, like a mother nourishing her children.

Always without desires, thereby one beholds its secret.

The secret is of importance. If a man is able to remain always without desires, thereby he can behold that which is the most important of the Great Tao. The most important is unity, It raises and spreads the praise of the named Tao and clearly sets forth right and wrong.

Always having desires, thereby one sees its return.

徼 = to return. A man who has always desires may thereby see the vulgarity of the world to which he returns.

These two are of the same origin but different in name.

These two means the having desires and the being without desires. They are of the same origin as they both proceed from the conceptions of man. They are different in name as according to their being [differently] designated each of them is different. What is called being without desires remains eternally, what is called having desires causes the loss of the body.

Together they are called the dark one.

玄 xuán, the dark one, is heaven. This means that the man who has desires and the man who has none together receive the breath from heaven.

The one still darker than the dark one

. In heaven there is another heaven. This means that the bequeathed breath has fulness and weakness. If one reaches the middle harmony and the fertilizing fluid, then it produces dignity and saintliness. If one reaches perverted confusion and dirty shame, then it produces avariciousness and licentiousness.

The gate of every mystery.

If one is able to know that within heaven there is another heaven, if the bequeathed

- Chinese :

《道德經》: 道可道,非常道。名可名,非常名。無名天地之始;有名萬物之母。故常無欲,以觀其妙;常有欲,以觀其徼。此兩者,同出而異名,同謂之玄。玄之又玄,衆妙之門。

《老子河上公章句·體道》: 道可道,非常道。名可名,非常名。無名,天地之始。有名,萬物之母。故常無欲,以觀其妙;常有欲,以觀其徼。此兩者,同出而異名,同謂之玄,玄之又玄,眾妙之門。

《馬王堆·老子甲道經》: 道可道也,非恆道也。名可名也,非恆名也。無名萬物之始也;有名萬物之母也。□恆無欲也,以觀其眇;恆有欲也,以觀其所噭。兩者同出,異名同胃,玄之有玄,眾眇之□。

《馬王堆·老子乙道經》: 道可道也,□□□□□□□□恆名也。無名萬物之始也;有名萬物之母也。故恆無欲也,□□□□;恆又欲也,以觀其所噭。兩者同出,異名同胃,玄之又玄,眾眇之門。
(⁎)
- He Shanggong (Chinese) :

常道。非自然生長之道也。常道當以無為養神,無事安民,含光藏暉,滅跡匿端,不可稱道。名可名,謂富貴尊榮,高世之名也。非常名。非自然常在之名也。 常名當如嬰兒之未言,雞子之未分,明珠在蚌中,美玉處石間,內雖昭昭,外如愚頑。無名,天地之始。無名者謂道,道無形,故不可名也。 始者道本也,吐氣布化,出於虛無,為天地本始也。有名,萬物之母。有名謂天地。 天地有形位、有陰陽、有柔剛,是其有名也。 萬物母者,天地含氣生萬物,長大成熟,如母之養子也。故常無欲,以觀其妙;妙,要也。 人常能無欲,則可以觀道之要,要謂一也。 一出布名道,讚敘明是非。常有欲,以觀其徼。徼,歸也。 常有欲之人,可以觀世俗之所歸趣也。此兩者,同出而異名,兩者,謂有欲無欲也。 同出者,同出人心也。而異名者,所名各異也。 名無欲者長存,名有欲者亡身也。同謂之玄,玄,天也。 言有欲之人與無欲之人,同受氣於天也。玄之又玄,天中復有天也。 稟氣有厚薄,得中和滋液,則生賢聖,得錯亂污辱,則生貪淫也。眾妙之門。能之天中復有天,稟氣有厚薄,除情去欲守中和,是謂知道要之門戶也。
(Ⅱ)
- Wing-Tsit Chan (1963) :

The Tao that can be told of is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth; The Named is the mother of all things.
Therefore let there always be non-being, so we may see their subtlety, And let there always be being, so we may see their outcome.
The two are the same, But after they are produced, they have different names.
They both may be called deep and profound. Deeper and more profound, The door to all subtleties!
(Ⅲ)
- Ellen Marie Chen (1989) :

Tao that can be spoken of,
Is not the Everlasting (ch'ang) Tao.
Name that can be named,
Is not the Everlasting (ch'ang) name.
Nameless (wu-ming), the origin (shih) of heaven and earth;
Named (yu-ming), the mother (mu) of ten thousand things.
Alternate,
Non-being (wu), to name (ming) the origin (shih) of heaven and earth;
Being (yu), to name (ming) the mother of ten thousand things.
Therefore, always (ch'ang) without desire (wu-yü),
In order to observe (kuan) the hidden mystery (miao);
Always (ch'ang) with desire (yu-yü),
In order to observe the manifestations (chiao).
Alternate,
Therefore, by the Everlasting (ch'ang) Non-Being (wu),
We desire (yü) to observe (kuan) its hidden mystery (miao);
By the Everlasting (ch'ang) Being (yu),
We desire (yü) to observe the manifestations (chiao).
These two issue from the same origin,
Though named differently.
Both are called the dark (hsüan).
Dark and even darker,
The door to all hidden mysteries (miao).
(Ⅳ)
- Ch'u Ta-Kao (1904) :

The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be defined is not the unchanging name.
Non-existence is called the antecedent of heaven and earth; Existence is the mother of all things.
From eternal non-existence, therefore, we serenely observe the mysterious beginning of the Universe;
From eternal existence we clearly see the apparent distinctions.
These two are the same in source and become different when manifested.
This sameness is called profundity. Infinite profundity is the gate whence comes the beginning of all parts of the Universe.
(Ⅴ)
- World by world translation :

Traditional // simplified // pinyin // definition // dictionary
道 // 道 // dào // ① doctrine, raison ② voie ③ dire ④ circuit, intendance // Chinese-French
道 // 道 // dào // ① road ② path ③ CL:條|条[tiao2],股[gu3] ④ principle ⑤ truth ⑥ morality ⑦ reason ⑧ skill ⑨ method ⑩ Dao (of Daoism) ⑪ to say ⑫ to speak ⑬ to talk ⑭ classifier for long thin things (rivers, cracks etc), barriers (walls, doors etc), questions (in an exam etc), commands, courses in a meal, steps in a process ⑮ (old) administrative division (similar to province in Tang times) // CC-CEDICT
可 // 可 // kě // ① pouvoir ② permettre ③ approuver ④ mais ⑤ cependant // Chinese-French
可 // 可 // kě // ① can ② may ③ able to ④ to approve ⑤ to permit ⑥ to suit ⑦ (particle used for emphasis) certainly ⑧ very // CC-CEDICT
可 // 可 // kè // ① see 可汗[ke4 han2] // CC-CEDICT
道 // 道 // dào // ① doctrine, raison ② voie ③ dire ④ circuit, intendance // Chinese-French
道 // 道 // dào // ① road ② path ③ CL:條|条[tiao2],股[gu3] ④ principle ⑤ truth ⑥ morality ⑦ reason ⑧ skill ⑨ method ⑩ Dao (of Daoism) ⑪ to say ⑫ to speak ⑬ to talk ⑭ classifier for long thin things (rivers, cracks etc), barriers (walls, doors etc), questions (in an exam etc), commands, courses in a meal, steps in a process ⑮ (old) administrative division (similar to province in Tang times) // CC-CEDICT
非常 // 非常 // fēi cháng // ① extraordinaire ② exceptionnel ③ très ④ extrêmement // Chinese-French
非常 // 非常 // fēi cháng // ① very ② very much ③ unusual ④ extraordinary // CC-CEDICT
道 // 道 // dào // ① doctrine, raison ② voie ③ dire ④ circuit, intendance // Chinese-French
道 // 道 // dào // ① road ② path ③ CL:條|条[tiao2],股[gu3] ④ principle ⑤ truth ⑥ morality ⑦ reason ⑧ skill ⑨ method ⑩ Dao (of Daoism) ⑪ to say ⑫ to speak ⑬ to talk ⑭ classifier for long thin things (rivers, cracks etc), barriers (walls, doors etc), questions (in an exam etc), commands, courses in a meal, steps in a process ⑮ (old) administrative division (similar to province in Tang times) // CC-CEDICT
名 // 名 // míng // ① nom ② nomination ③ place ④ réputé ⑤ célèbre // Chinese-French
名 // 名 // míng // ① name ② noun (part of speech) ③ place (e.g. among winners) ④ famous ⑤ classifier for people // CC-CEDICT
可 // 可 // kě // ① pouvoir ② permettre ③ approuver ④ mais ⑤ cependant // Chinese-French
可 // 可 // kě // ① can ② may ③ able to ④ to approve ⑤ to permit ⑥ to suit ⑦ (particle used for emphasis) certainly ⑧ very // CC-CEDICT
可 // 可 // kè // ① see 可汗[ke4 han2] // CC-CEDICT
名 // 名 // míng // ① nom ② nomination ③ place ④ réputé ⑤ célèbre // Chinese-French
名 // 名 // míng // ① name ② noun (part of speech) ③ place (e.g. among winners) ④ famous ⑤ classifier for people // CC-CEDICT
非常 // 非常 // fēi cháng // ① extraordinaire ② exceptionnel ③ très ④ extrêmement // Chinese-French
非常 // 非常 // fēi cháng // ① very ② very much ③ unusual ④ extraordinary // CC-CEDICT
名 // 名 // míng // ① nom ② nomination ③ place ④ réputé ⑤ célèbre // Chinese-French
名 // 名 // míng // ① name ② noun (part of speech) ③ place (e.g. among winners) ④ famous ⑤ classifier for people // CC-CEDICT
無名 // 无名 // wú míng // ① inconnu ② anonyme ③ accidentel // Chinese-French
無名 // 无名 // wú míng // ① nameless ② obscure // CC-CEDICT
天地 // 天地 // tiān dì // ① ciel et terre ② univers ③ monde ④ champ d'action ⑤ champ d'activité // Chinese-French
天地 // 天地 // tiān dì // ① heaven and earth ② world ③ scope ④ field of activity // CC-CEDICT
之 // 之 // zhī // ① (remplaçant une personne ou une chose comme complément) ② (particule possessive dans différentes expressions) // Chinese-French
之 // 之 // zhī // ① (possessive particle, literary equivalent of 的[de5]) ② him ③ her ④ it // CC-CEDICT
始 // 始 // shǐ // ① début ② origine // Chinese-French
始 // 始 // shǐ // ① to begin ② to start ③ then ④ only then // CC-CEDICT
有名 // 有名 // yǒu míng // ① connu ② réputé ③ célèbre // Chinese-French
有名 // 有名 // yǒu míng // ① famous ② well-known // CC-CEDICT
萬物 // 万物 // wàn wù // ① tous les êtres vivants // Chinese-French
萬物 // 万物 // wàn wù // ① all living things // CC-CEDICT
之 // 之 // zhī // ① (remplaçant une personne ou une chose comme complément) ② (particule possessive dans différentes expressions) // Chinese-French
之 // 之 // zhī // ① (possessive particle, literary equivalent of 的[de5]) ② him ③ her ④ it // CC-CEDICT
母 // 母 // mǔ // ① mère ② femelle // Chinese-French
母 // 母 // mǔ // ① mother ② elderly female relative ③ origin ④ source ⑤ (of animals) female // CC-CEDICT
故 // 故 // gù // ① incident ② cause ③ à dessein ④ exprès ⑤ raison ⑥ ancien ⑦ mourir // Chinese-French
故 // 故 // gù // ① happening ② instance ③ reason ④ cause ⑤ intentional ⑥ former ⑦ old ⑧ friend ⑨ therefore ⑩ hence ⑪ (of people) to die, dead // CC-CEDICT
常 // 常 // cháng // ① souvent ② fréquemment ③ ordinaire ④ commun ⑤ constant ⑥ invariable // Chinese-French
常 // 常 // cháng // ① surname Chang // CC-CEDICT
常 // 常 // cháng // ① always ② ever ③ often ④ frequently ⑤ common ⑥ general ⑦ constant // CC-CEDICT
無 // 无 // wú // ① non ② 71e radical // Chinese-French
無 // 无 // wú // ① not to have ② no ③ none ④ not ⑤ to lack ⑥ un- ⑦ -less // CC-CEDICT
欲 // 欲 // yù // ① envie ② désir ③ désirer ④ vouloir // Chinese-French
欲 // 欲 // yù // ① to wish for ② to desire ③ variant of 慾|欲[yu4] // CC-CEDICT
慾 // 欲 // yù // ① desire ② appetite ③ passion ④ lust ⑤ greed // CC-CEDICT
以 // 以 // yǐ // ① prendre ② utiliser ③ selon ④ à cause de ⑤ pour // Chinese-French
以 // 以 // yǐ // ① abbr. for Israel 以色列[Yi3 se4 lie4] // CC-CEDICT
以 // 以 // yǐ // ① to use ② by means of ③ according to ④ in order to ⑤ because of ⑥ at (a certain date or place) // CC-CEDICT
㕥 // 以 // yǐ // ① old variant of 以[yi3] // CC-CEDICT
㠯 // 以 // yǐ // ① old variant of 以[yi3] // CC-CEDICT
觀 // 观 // guān // ① regarder avec attention, observer // Chinese-French
觀 // 观 // guān // ① to look at ② to watch ③ to observe ④ to behold ⑤ to advise ⑥ concept ⑦ point of view ⑧ outlook // CC-CEDICT
觀 // 观 // guàn // ① temple taoïste // Chinese-French
觀 // 观 // guàn // ① surname Guan // CC-CEDICT
觀 // 观 // guàn // ① Taoist monastery ② palace gate watchtower ③ platform // CC-CEDICT
其 // 其 // qí // ① son ② sa ③ ses ④ leur ⑤ leurs ⑥ il(s) ⑦ elle(s) ⑧ ceci ⑨ cela // Chinese-French
其 // 其 // qí // ① his ② her ③ its ④ their ⑤ that ⑥ such ⑦ it (refers to sth preceding it) // CC-CEDICT
妙 // 妙 // miào // ① merveilleux ② ingénieux // Chinese-French
妙 // 妙 // miào // ① clever ② wonderful // CC-CEDICT
玅 // 妙 // miào // ① variant of 妙[miao4] // CC-CEDICT
常 // 常 // cháng // ① souvent ② fréquemment ③ ordinaire ④ commun ⑤ constant ⑥ invariable // Chinese-French
常 // 常 // cháng // ① surname Chang // CC-CEDICT
常 // 常 // cháng // ① always ② ever ③ often ④ frequently ⑤ common ⑥ general ⑦ constant // CC-CEDICT
有 // 有 // yǒu // ① avoir ② posséder ③ il y a ④ exister // Chinese-French
有 // 有 // yǒu // ① to have ② there is ③ there are ④ to exist ⑤ to be // CC-CEDICT
欲 // 欲 // yù // ① envie ② désir ③ désirer ④ vouloir // Chinese-French
欲 // 欲 // yù // ① to wish for ② to desire ③ variant of 慾|欲[yu4] // CC-CEDICT
慾 // 欲 // yù // ① desire ② appetite ③ passion ④ lust ⑤ greed // CC-CEDICT
以 // 以 // yǐ // ① prendre ② utiliser ③ selon ④ à cause de ⑤ pour // Chinese-French
以 // 以 // yǐ // ① abbr. for Israel 以色列[Yi3 se4 lie4] // CC-CEDICT
以 // 以 // yǐ // ① to use ② by means of ③ according to ④ in order to ⑤ because of ⑥ at (a certain date or place) // CC-CEDICT
㕥 // 以 // yǐ // ① old variant of 以[yi3] // CC-CEDICT
㠯 // 以 // yǐ // ① old variant of 以[yi3] // CC-CEDICT
觀 // 观 // guān // ① regarder avec attention, observer // Chinese-French
觀 // 观 // guān // ① to look at ② to watch ③ to observe ④ to behold ⑤ to advise ⑥ concept ⑦ point of view ⑧ outlook // CC-CEDICT
觀 // 观 // guàn // ① temple taoïste // Chinese-French
觀 // 观 // guàn // ① surname Guan // CC-CEDICT
觀 // 观 // guàn // ① Taoist monastery ② palace gate watchtower ③ platform // CC-CEDICT
其 // 其 // qí // ① son ② sa ③ ses ④ leur ⑤ leurs ⑥ il(s) ⑦ elle(s) ⑧ ceci ⑨ cela // Chinese-French
其 // 其 // qí // ① his ② her ③ its ④ their ⑤ that ⑥ such ⑦ it (refers to sth preceding it) // CC-CEDICT
徼 // 徼 // jiǎo // ① Frontière // Chinese-French
徼 // 徼 // jiǎo // ① by mere luck // CC-CEDICT
徼 // 徼 // jiào // ① parcourir // Chinese-French
徼 // 徼 // jiào // ① boundary ② to go around // CC-CEDICT
此 // 此 // cǐ // ① ce ② ici // Chinese-French
此 // 此 // cǐ // ① this ② these // CC-CEDICT
兩者 // 两者 // liǎng zhě // ① deux côtés // Chinese-French
兩者 // 两者 // liǎng zhě // ① both sides // CC-CEDICT
同 // 同 // tóng // ① avec ② pareil ③ identique ④ et ⑤ ainsi que ⑥ ensemble ⑦ conjointement // Chinese-French
同 // 同 // tóng // ① like ② same ③ similar ④ together ⑤ alike ⑥ with // CC-CEDICT
仝 // 同 // tóng // ① (used in given names) ② variant of 同[tong2] // CC-CEDICT
衕 // 同 // tòng // ① (hutong) // Chinese-French
衕 // 同 // tòng // ① see 衚衕|胡同[hu2 tong4] // CC-CEDICT
出 // 出 // chū // ① sortir ② dépasser ③ délivrer ④ produire ⑤ fabriquer ⑥ paraître ⑦ surgir // Chinese-French
出 // 出 // chū // ① to go out ② to come out ③ to occur ④ to produce ⑤ to go beyond ⑥ to rise ⑦ to put forth ⑧ to happen ⑨ classifier for dramas, plays, operas etc // CC-CEDICT
齣 // 出 // chū // ① variant of 出[chu1] (classifier for plays or chapters of classical novels) // CC-CEDICT
而 // 而 // ér // ① et ② mais ③ tandis que ④ alors que // Chinese-French
而 // 而 // ér // ① and ② as well as ③ and so ④ but (not) ⑤ yet (not) ⑥ (indicates causal relation) ⑦ (indicates change of state) ⑧ (indicates contrast) // CC-CEDICT
異名 // 异名 // yì míng // ① Synonyme (botanique) // Chinese-French
同 // 同 // tóng // ① avec ② pareil ③ identique ④ et ⑤ ainsi que ⑥ ensemble ⑦ conjointement // Chinese-French
同 // 同 // tóng // ① like ② same ③ similar ④ together ⑤ alike ⑥ with // CC-CEDICT
仝 // 同 // tóng // ① (used in given names) ② variant of 同[tong2] // CC-CEDICT
衕 // 同 // tòng // ① (hutong) // Chinese-French
衕 // 同 // tòng // ① see 衚衕|胡同[hu2 tong4] // CC-CEDICT
謂 // 谓 // wèi // ① dire ② adresser la parole ③ être appelé ④ penser // Chinese-French
謂 // 谓 // wèi // ① surname Wei // CC-CEDICT
謂 // 谓 // wèi // ① to speak ② to say ③ to name ④ to designate ⑤ meaning ⑥ sense // CC-CEDICT
之 // 之 // zhī // ① (remplaçant une personne ou une chose comme complément) ② (particule possessive dans différentes expressions) // Chinese-French
之 // 之 // zhī // ① (possessive particle, literary equivalent of 的[de5]) ② him ③ her ④ it // CC-CEDICT
玄 // 玄 // xuán // ① mystérieux ② obscur ③ incroyable // Chinese-French
玄 // 玄 // xuán // ① black ② mysterious // CC-CEDICT
玄之又玄 // 玄之又玄 // xuán zhī yòu xuán // ① mystery within a mystery ② the mysteries of the Dao according to Laozi 老子 // CC-CEDICT
衆 // 众 // zhòng // ① nombreux ② foule // Chinese-French
衆 // 众 // zhòng // ① variant of 眾|众[zhong4] // CC-CEDICT
妙 // 妙 // miào // ① merveilleux ② ingénieux // Chinese-French
妙 // 妙 // miào // ① clever ② wonderful // CC-CEDICT
玅 // 妙 // miào // ① variant of 妙[miao4] // CC-CEDICT
之 // 之 // zhī // ① (remplaçant une personne ou une chose comme complément) ② (particule possessive dans différentes expressions) // Chinese-French
之 // 之 // zhī // ① (possessive particle, literary equivalent of 的[de5]) ② him ③ her ④ it // CC-CEDICT
門 // 门 // mén // ① porte ② entrée ③ voie ④ moyen ⑤ famille ⑥ école ⑦ classe ⑧ catégorie // Chinese-French
門 // 门 // mén // ① surname Men // CC-CEDICT
門 // 门 // mén // ① gate ② door ③ CL:扇[shan4] ④ gateway ⑤ doorway ⑥ CL:個|个[ge4] ⑦ opening ⑧ valve ⑨ switch ⑩ way to do something ⑪ knack ⑫ family ⑬ house ⑭ (religious) sect ⑮ school (of thought) ⑯ class ⑰ category ⑱ phylum or division (taxonomy) ⑲ classifier for large guns ⑳ classifier for lessons, subjects, branches of technology Ⓐ (suffix) -gate (i.e. scandal Ⓑ derived from Watergate) // CC-CEDICT
(Ⅵ)
- Yi Wu (1989) :

There are ways to follow,
But what is followed is not the true Way.
There are names to give,
But what is given is not the true Name.
Let us call non-being the beginning of the universe
And let us call being the development of all things.
When we follow non-being
We approach the wonder of the Way.
When we follow being
We approach the farther-end manifestation of the Way.
Each has the same origin,
And here exists a metaphysical door to true wisdom.
(Ⅶ)
- Lynn (2004) :

The Dao that can be described in language is not the constant Dao;
the name that can be given it is not its constant name.
Nameless, it is the origin of the myriad things;
named, it is the mother of the myriad things.
Therefore, always be without desire so as to see their subtlety.
And always have desire so as to see their ends.
These two emerge together but have different names.
Together, we refer to them as mystery: the mystery upon mystery and gateway of all subtleties.
(Ⅷ)


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