Chapter 31 How to suppress war.
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(Version and commentary of He Shanggong in English)


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31. 1  
Now beautiful weapons are tools of evil.

佳, (beautiful) =

Each of the creatures hates them.

If weapons are set in motion, somebody is hurt. Therefore there is no creature that would not hate them.

Therefore he who has Tao does not remain with them.

A man possessing Tao does not stay in such a country.

The superior man stays at home and honours the left side.

He honours what is tender and weak.

Who makes use of weapons honours the right side.

He honours what is hard and strong. This means that the way of the warrior and the way of the superior man are opposed to each other. What they honour is different.

Weapons are the tools of evil.

Weapons and cuirasses are no good tools.

They are not tools of the superior man.

They are not tools that are esteemed and thought to be important by a superior man.

If he cannot act otherwise, then he uses them.

This means: If he suffers from weakness and confusion, if the misery is going to spread to the people, then he uses them.

To be peaceful and quiet makes a prince.

He craves not for the land of the nobles nor for the people’s riches.

If he is victorious, he does not think it beautiful.

Though he wins a victory, he does not think it a blessing.

But who thinks this beautiful enjoys the killing of men.

To think it beautiful to win a victory means to enjoy the killing of men.

Now who enjoys the killing of men may not realize his intentions on the empire.

Who, being a prince, enjoys the killing of men is unable to practise his intentions on the empire. Who, being a prince, is bent on forcing the destiny of men, wrongly deals out punishments.

Therefore for happy occasions one chooses the left.

The left side is the throne of life.

For unhappy occasions one chooses the right.

The Yin-Tao is deadly.

The general sits to the left.

The general is a subordinate but remains in the Yang, as killing is not his main business.

The marshal sits to the right.

The marshal is more prominent but he sits to the right, as killing is his main business.

This means: according to the rites of mourning he sits there.

The marshal sits to the right. For the rites of mourning the right side is chosen, as the dead honour the Yin.

The killed multitudes are wept for according to the rites of mourning.

If one hurts the self, Tao diminishes. If one is not able to change men by Tao, one hurts the harmless people.

The victor in battle ought to sit there according to the rites of mourning.

In ancient times, the general who had won a battle sat according to the rites of mourning on the seat of honour, wearing white robes and weeping. This meant that a superior man honours Te and despises the weapons. If he is unable to eradicate misery, his heart is sorry as if he were in mourning. He knows that posterity will use the weapons without accomplishing anything. Therefore he suffers.

- Chinese :

《道德經》: 道常無名。天下莫能臣也。侯王若能守之,萬物將自賓。天地相合,以降甘露,民莫之令而自均。始制有名,名亦既有,夫亦將知止,知止所以不殆。譬道之在天下,猶川谷之與江海。

《老子河上公章句·聖德》: 道常無名,樸雖小,天下莫能臣也。侯王若能守之,萬物將自賓。天地相合,以降甘露,民莫之令而自均。始制有名,名亦既有,夫亦將知之。知之,所以不殆。譬道之在天下,猶川谷之與江海。

《郭店·老子甲》: 道恒亡名,樸,雖細,天地弗敢臣,侯王如能守之,萬物將自賓。天地相合也,以輸甘露。民莫之令而自均焉。始制有名。名亦既有,夫亦將知之,知之所以不殆。譬道之在天下也,猶小谷之與江海。

《馬王堆·老子甲道經》: 道恆無名。楃唯□□□□□□□□王若能守之,萬物將自賓。天地相谷,以俞甘洛,民莫之□□□均焉。始制有□,□□□有,夫□□□□□□所以不□。俾道之在天□□□□浴之與江海也。

《馬王堆·老子乙道經》: 道恆無名。樸唯小而天下弗敢臣。侯王若能守之,萬物將自賓。天地相合,以俞甘洛,□□□令而自均焉。始制有名,名亦既有,夫亦將知止,知止所以不殆。卑□□在天下也,猷小浴之與江海也。
(⁎)
- He Shanggong (Chinese) :

夫佳兵者,不祥之器,佳,飾也。祥,善也。 兵者,驚精神,濁和氣,不善人之器也,不當修飾之。物或惡之,兵動則有所害,故萬物無有不惡之者。故有道者不處。有道之人不處其國。君子居則貴左,貴柔弱也。用兵則貴右。貴剛強也,此言兵道與君子之道反,所貴者異也。兵者,不祥之器,兵,革者。不善之器也。非君子之器,非君子所貴重之器也。不得已而用之。謂遭衰逆亂禍,欲加萬民,乃用之以自守。恬淡為上。不貪土地,利人財寶。勝而不美,雖得勝而不以為利己也。而美之者,是樂殺人。美得勝者,是為喜樂殺人者也。夫樂殺人者,則不可以得志於天下矣。為人君而樂殺人者,此不可使得志於天下矣, 為人主必專制人命,妄行刑誅。吉事尚左,左,生位也。凶事尚右,陰道殺人。偏將軍居左,偏將軍卑而居陽者,以其不專殺也。上將軍居右。上將軍尊而居陰者,以其專主殺也。言以喪禮處之。上將軍居右,喪禮尚右,死人貴陰也。殺人之眾,以哀悲泣之;傷己德薄,不能以道化人,而害無辜之民。戰勝,以喪禮處之。古者戰勝,將軍居喪主禮之位,素服而哭之,明君子貴德而賤兵,不得以而誅不祥,心不樂之,比於喪也,知後世用兵不已故悲痛之。
(Ⅱ)
- Wing-Tsit Chan (1963) :

Fine weapons are instruments of evil. They are hated by men. Therefore those who possess Tao turn away from them.
The good ruler when at home honours the left. When at war he honours the right.
Weapons are instruments of evil, not the instruments of a good ruler. When he uses them unavoidably, he regards calm restraint as the best principle.
Even when he is victorious, he does not regard it as praiseworthy, For to praise victory is to delight in the slaughter of men. He who delights in the slaughter of men will not succeed in the empire.
In auspicious affairs, the left is honoured. In inauspicious affairs, the right is honoured. The lieutenant general stands on the left. The senior general stands on the right. This is to say that the arrangement follows that of funeral ceremonies.
For the slaughter of the multitude, let us weep with sorrow and grief. For a victory, let us observe the occasion with funeral ceremonies.
(Ⅲ)
- Ellen Marie Chen (1989) :

Military weapons are implements (ch'i) of ill omen,
Avoided (o) even by natural creatures (wu).
Hence the Taoist does not indulge (ch'u) in them.
The princely person (chün-tzu) in dwelling honors the left,
In military campaigns honors the right.
Hence military weapons are not implements of a princely person.
Military weapons, being implements of ill omen,
Are to be employed only in dire necessity.
Better to regard them with lack of interest.
Do not admire (mei) them.
If one admires (mei) them,
One would be rejoicing in the killing of people.
But whoever rejoices in the killing of people,
Will not be successful (chih) in the world.
Therefore in joyful affairs the left is honored,
In mournful affairs the right is honored.
The Second-in-Command takes the place of the left,
The Commander-in-Chief takes the place of the right,
Meaning that this is his place in the funeral rite.
When many people have been killed,
Wail them with sorrow and lamentations.
When victorious in battle,
Mark the occasion with the rite (li) of funeral.
(Ⅳ)
- Ch'u Ta-Kao (1904) :

So far as arms are concerned, they are implements of ill-omen. They are not implements for the man of Tao.
The man of Tao when dwelling at home makes the left as the place of honour; and when using arms makes the right as the place of honour.
He uses them only when he cannot avoid it.
In his conquests he takes no delight. If he take delight in them, it would mean that he enjoys in the slaughter of men. He who takes delight in the slaughter of men cannot have his will done in the world.
(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
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
天下 // 天下 // tiān xià // ① empire céleste // Chinese-French
天下 // 天下 // tiān xià // ① land under heaven ② the whole world ③ the whole of China ④ realm ⑤ rule // CC-CEDICT
莫 // 莫 // mò // ① ne...pas ② sans // Chinese-French
莫 // 莫 // mò // ① surname Mo // CC-CEDICT
莫 // 莫 // mò // ① do not ② there is none who // CC-CEDICT
能 // 能 // néng // ① capacité ② énergie ③ pouvoir ④ être capable de // Chinese-French
能 // 能 // néng // ① surname Neng // CC-CEDICT
能 // 能 // néng // ① can ② to be able to ③ might possibly ④ ability ⑤ (physics) energy // CC-CEDICT
臣 // 臣 // chén // ① sujets ② ministre // Chinese-French
臣 // 臣 // chén // ① surname Chen // CC-CEDICT
臣 // 臣 // chén // ① state official or subject in dynastic China ② I, your servant (used in addressing the sovereign) ③ Kangxi radical 131 // CC-CEDICT
也 // 也 // yě // ① également ② aussi ③ à la fois ④ même ⑤ voire // Chinese-French
也 // 也 // yě // ① surname Ye // CC-CEDICT
也 // 也 // yě // ① also ② too ③ (in Classical Chinese) final particle implying affirmation // CC-CEDICT
侯 // 侯 // hóu // ① marquis ② noble ou haut fonctionnaire // Chinese-French
侯 // 侯 // hóu // ① surname Hou // CC-CEDICT
侯 // 侯 // hóu // ① marquis, second of the five orders of ancient Chinese nobility 五等爵位[wu3 deng3 jue2 wei4] ② nobleman or high official // CC-CEDICT
王 // 王 // wáng // ① roi ② prince ③ (nom de famille) // Chinese-French
王 // 王 // wáng // ① surname Wang // CC-CEDICT
王 // 王 // wáng // ① king or monarch ② best or strongest of its type ③ grand ④ great // CC-CEDICT
王 // 王 // wàng // ① régner sur // Chinese-French
王 // 王 // wàng // ① to rule ② to reign over // CC-CEDICT
若 // 若 // ruò // ① si ② comme // Chinese-French
若 // 若 // ruò // ① to seem ② like ③ as ④ if // CC-CEDICT
能 // 能 // néng // ① capacité ② énergie ③ pouvoir ④ être capable de // Chinese-French
能 // 能 // néng // ① surname Neng // CC-CEDICT
能 // 能 // néng // ① can ② to be able to ③ might possibly ④ ability ⑤ (physics) energy // CC-CEDICT
守 // 守 // shǒu // ① garder ② défendre ③ monter la garde ④ respecter (une règle) ⑤ être proche de // Chinese-French
守 // 守 // shǒu // ① to guard ② to defend ③ to keep watch ④ to abide by the law ⑤ to observe (rules or ritual) ⑥ nearby ⑦ adjoining // 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
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
將 // 将 // jiāng // ① avec ② par ③ au moyen de ④ (suivi du COD, qui est suivi à son tour d'un verbe transitif, pour former l'inversion) // Chinese-French
將 // 将 // jiāng // ① will ② shall ③ to use ④ to take ⑤ to checkmate ⑥ just a short while ago ⑦ (introduces object of main verb, used in the same way as 把[ba3]) // CC-CEDICT
將 // 将 // jiàng // ① général // Chinese-French
將 // 将 // jiàng // ① general ② commander-in-chief (military) ③ king (chess piece) ④ to command ⑤ to lead // CC-CEDICT
將 // 将 // qiāng // ① to desire ② to invite ③ to request // CC-CEDICT
自 // 自 // zì // ① depuis ② à partir de ③ soi-même ④ naturellement // Chinese-French
自 // 自 // zì // ① self ② oneself ③ from ④ since ⑤ naturally ⑥ surely // CC-CEDICT
賓 // 宾 // bīn // ① hôte ② invité ③ objet (en grammaire) // Chinese-French
賓 // 宾 // bīn // ① visitor ② guest ③ object (in grammar) // 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
相合 // 相合 // xiāng hé // ① to conform to ② to fit with ③ to be compatible with // CC-CEDICT
以降 // 以降 // yǐ jiàng // ① since (some point in the past) // CC-CEDICT
甘露 // 甘露 // gān lù // ① Ganlou (53-50 av. J.-C.) // Chinese-French
民 // 民 // mín // ① peuple ② gens du commun // Chinese-French
民 // 民 // mín // ① surname Min // CC-CEDICT
民 // 民 // mín // ① the people ② nationality ③ citizen // CC-CEDICT
莫 // 莫 // mò // ① ne...pas ② sans // Chinese-French
莫 // 莫 // mò // ① surname Mo // CC-CEDICT
莫 // 莫 // mò // ① do not ② there is none who // 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
令 // 令 // lìng // ① causer ② commande ③ ordonner ④ rame de papier ⑤ provoquer ⑥ décret ⑦ loi ⑧ honorable // Chinese-French
令 // 令 // lìng // ① to order ② to command ③ an order ④ warrant ⑤ writ ⑥ to cause ⑦ to make sth happen ⑧ virtuous ⑨ honorific title ⑩ season ⑪ government position (old) // CC-CEDICT
令 // 令 // líng // ① see 令狐[Ling2 hu2] // CC-CEDICT
令 // 令 // líng // ① see 脊令[ji2 ling2] // CC-CEDICT
令 // 令 // lǐng // ① classificateur pour une rame de papier // Chinese-French
令 // 令 // lǐng // ① classifier for a ream of paper // 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
自 // 自 // zì // ① depuis ② à partir de ③ soi-même ④ naturellement // Chinese-French
自 // 自 // zì // ① self ② oneself ③ from ④ since ⑤ naturally ⑥ surely // CC-CEDICT
均 // 均 // jūn // ① tout ② égal // Chinese-French
均 // 均 // jūn // ① equal ② even ③ all ④ uniform // 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
制 // 制 // zhì // ① system ② to control ③ to regulate ④ variant of 製|制[zhi4] // CC-CEDICT
製 // 制 // zhì // ① fabriquer ② manufacturer ③ élaborer ④ contrôler ⑤ restreindre ⑥ système ⑦ régime // Chinese-French
製 // 制 // zhì // ① to manufacture ② to make // 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
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
亦 // 亦 // yì // ① aussi ② également // Chinese-French
亦 // 亦 // yì // ① also // CC-CEDICT
既有 // 既有 // jì yǒu // ① existant // Chinese-French
既有 // 既有 // jì yǒu // ① existing // CC-CEDICT
夫 // 夫 // fū // ① mari // Chinese-French
夫 // 夫 // fū // ① husband ② man ③ manual worker ④ conscripted laborer (old) // CC-CEDICT
夫 // 夫 // fú // ① (classical) this, that ② he, she, they ③ (exclamatory final particle) ④ (initial particle, introduces an opinion) // CC-CEDICT
亦 // 亦 // yì // ① aussi ② également // Chinese-French
亦 // 亦 // yì // ① also // CC-CEDICT
將 // 将 // jiāng // ① avec ② par ③ au moyen de ④ (suivi du COD, qui est suivi à son tour d'un verbe transitif, pour former l'inversion) // Chinese-French
將 // 将 // jiāng // ① will ② shall ③ to use ④ to take ⑤ to checkmate ⑥ just a short while ago ⑦ (introduces object of main verb, used in the same way as 把[ba3]) // CC-CEDICT
將 // 将 // jiàng // ① général // Chinese-French
將 // 将 // jiàng // ① general ② commander-in-chief (military) ③ king (chess piece) ④ to command ⑤ to lead // CC-CEDICT
將 // 将 // qiāng // ① to desire ② to invite ③ to request // CC-CEDICT
知 // 知 // zhī // ① savoir ② connaître ③ connaissances // Chinese-French
知 // 知 // zhī // ① to know ② to be aware // CC-CEDICT
止 // 止 // zhǐ // ① seul ② arrêter ③ cesser ④ jusqu'à // Chinese-French
止 // 止 // zhǐ // ① to stop ② to prohibit ③ until ④ only // CC-CEDICT
知 // 知 // zhī // ① savoir ② connaître ③ connaissances // Chinese-French
知 // 知 // zhī // ① to know ② to be aware // CC-CEDICT
止 // 止 // zhǐ // ① seul ② arrêter ③ cesser ④ jusqu'à // Chinese-French
止 // 止 // zhǐ // ① to stop ② to prohibit ③ until ④ only // CC-CEDICT
所以 // 所以 // suǒ yǐ // ① par conséquent ② ainsi ③ (c'est) la raison pour laquelle // Chinese-French
所以 // 所以 // suǒ yǐ // ① therefore ② as a result ③ so ④ the reason why // CC-CEDICT
不 // 不 // bù // ① ne... pas ② non ③ (pour former une question placé à la fin d'une phrase, pour indiquer l'indifférence avec shen me ④ pour indiquer une alternative avec jiu) // Chinese-French
不 // 不 // bù // ① (negative prefix) ② not ③ no // CC-CEDICT
殆 // 殆 // dài // ① danger ② presque ③ à peu près // Chinese-French
殆 // 殆 // dài // ① dangerous ② perilous ③ to endanger ④ almost ⑤ probably ⑥ only // CC-CEDICT
譬 // 譬 // pì // ① comparer ② p.e. // Chinese-French
譬 // 譬 // pì // ① to give an example // 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
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
在 // 在 // zài // ① en train de ② à ③ dans ④ en ⑤ exister ⑥ vivre // Chinese-French
在 // 在 // zài // ① (located) at ② (to be) in ③ to exist ④ in the middle of doing sth ⑤ (indicating an action in progress) // CC-CEDICT
天下 // 天下 // tiān xià // ① empire céleste // Chinese-French
天下 // 天下 // tiān xià // ① land under heaven ② the whole world ③ the whole of China ④ realm ⑤ rule // CC-CEDICT
猶 // 犹 // yóu // ① comme ② encore // Chinese-French
猶 // 犹 // yóu // ① as if ② (just) like ③ just as ④ still ⑤ yet // CC-CEDICT
川穀 // 川谷 // chuān gǔ // ① sams as 薏苡[yi4 yi3] // 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
與 // 与 // yú // ① (particule exprimant le doute) // Chinese-French
與 // 与 // yú // ① variant of 歟|欤[yu2] // CC-CEDICT
與 // 与 // yǔ // ① et ② s'allier ③ offrir ④ donner // Chinese-French
與 // 与 // yǔ // ① and ② to give ③ together with // CC-CEDICT
與 // 与 // yù // ① prendre part à // Chinese-French
與 // 与 // yù // ① to take part in // CC-CEDICT
江海 // 江海 // jiāng hǎi // ① Jianghai district of Jiangmen city 江門市|江门市, Guangdong // CC-CEDICT
(Ⅵ)
- Yi Wu (1989) :

The weapon is a disliked inauspicious object.
One who serves the Way will not take up a weapon.
A gentleman values the left in the dwelling place
And a general the right in the battlefield.
One serving the Way uses the inauspicious weapon
Only when there is the extreme necessity.
It is best to be indifferent to military achievements.
Having achieved a victory, one should not beautify it.
Those who beautify wars like killing.
Those who like killing cannot be accepted by the world.
The left is valued on auspicious occasions.
And the right on inauspicious occasions.
On the battle field, the assistant general is on the left.
And the general on the right.
Such positioning treats the war as a burial ceremony.
The wise person mourns when too many have died,
Holds a burial ceremony rather than victory celebration.
(Ⅶ)
- Lynn (2004) :

Weapons are instruments of ill omen.
The people always hate them, so one who has the Dao has nothing to do with them.
When the noble man is at home, he honors the left and, when employing troops, honors the right.
Weapons are instruments of ill omen;
they are not the instruments of the noble man, who uses them only when there is no choice.
It is best to be utterly dispassionate [tiandan] about them, and, even if they bring victory, one should not praise them.
Nevertheless, to praise them means that one delights in slaughtering people, and one who delights in slaughtering people, of course, can never achieve the goal of ruling all under Heaven.
For auspicious matters, one honors the left, and, for inauspicious matters, one honors the right.
A deputy general takes his place on the left, but a general-in-chief takes his place on the right, where mourning rites are observed.
When masses of people are slaughtered, one should weep for them with utmost sadness, so, when victorious in war, one should observe it with mourning rites.
(Ⅷ)


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