Chapter 43 On general use.
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(Version and commentary of He Shanggong in English)


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43. 1  
What is most tender in the world overcomes what is hardest within the world.

The tenderest thing within the world is water. The hardest things are metal and stone. Water is able to penetrate things strong and hard. There is nothing through which it might not pass.

What is without existence penetrates where there is no space.

What is without existence is called Tao. Tao is without form and substance. Thus it is able to leave and to enter where there is no space. It penetrates the spirits and assists every living creature.

Thereby I know non-action to have advantages.

I see that Tao does not aft and that everything becomes spontaneously perfect. Thereby one knows that non-action is advantageous to man.

The doctrine of non-speaking,

If you take Tao for your model and do not speak, you will govern by your personality.

the advantage of non-action,

By taking Tao for one’s model and doing nothing, if one [thus] practices asceticism, then this is of advantage to the spirit. If one [thus] governs a country, this is of advantage to the people who are not ill-used,

in the empire few obtain this.

Of the princes within the empire, few are able to obtain Tao and to govern by non-action, to practise asceticism and to rule their countries [thus].

- Chinese :

《道德經》: 天下之至柔,馳騁天下之至堅。無有入無間,吾是以知無為之有益。不言之教,無為之益,天下希及之

《老子河上公章句·徧用》: 天下之至柔,馳騁天下之至堅。無有入無間。吾是以知無為之有益。不言之教,無為之益,天下希及之

《馬王堆·老子甲德經》: 天下之至柔,□騁於天下之致堅。無有入於無閒,五是以知無為□□益也。不□□教,無為之益,□下希能及之矣

《馬王堆·老子乙德經》: 天下之至□,馳騁乎天下□□□□□□□□□無閒,吾是以□□□□□□也不□□□□□□□□□□□□□矣。
(⁎)
- He Shanggong (Chinese) :

天下之至柔,馳騁天下之至堅。至柔者,水也。至堅者,金石也。 水能貫堅入剛,無所不通。無有入無間。無有謂道也。 道無形質,故能出入無間,通神明濟群生也。吾是以知無為之有益。吾見道無為而萬物自化成,是以知無為之有益於人也。不言之教,法道不言,師之以身。無為之益,法道無為,治身則有益於精神,治國則有益於萬民,不勞煩也。天下希及之。天下,人主也。 希能有及道無為之治身治國也。
(Ⅱ)
- Wing-Tsit Chan (1963) :

The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world. Non-being penetrates that in which there is no space. Through this I know the advantage of taking no action.
Few in the world can understand the teaching without words and the advantage of taking no action.
(Ⅲ)
- Ellen Marie Chen (1989) :

The softest (chih jou) in the world,
Gallops (ch'ih ch'eng) in the hardest (chih chien) in the world.
That which is not penetrates that which has no crevice (wu yu ju wu chien).
I thereby know the benefit of no-action (wu-wei).
The teaching without words,
The benefit of no-action,
Hardly anything in the world can compare with them.
(Ⅳ)
- Ch'u Ta-Kao (1904) :

The non-existent can enter into the impenetrable.
By this I know that non-action is useful.
Teaching without words, utility without action-
Few in the world have come to this.
(Ⅴ)
- World by world translation :

Traditional // simplified // pinyin // definition // dictionary
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
之至 // 之至 // zhī zhì // ① extremely // CC-CEDICT
柔 // 柔 // róu // ① souple ② flexible ③ doux // Chinese-French
柔 // 柔 // róu // ① soft ② flexible ③ supple ④ yielding ⑤ rho (Greek letter Ρρ) // CC-CEDICT
馳騁 // 驰骋 // chí chěng // ① galoper ② se précipiter // Chinese-French
馳騁 // 驰骋 // chí chěng // ① to gallop ② to rush headlong // 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
之至 // 之至 // zhī zhì // ① extremely // CC-CEDICT
堅 // 坚 // jiān // ① ferme ② dur ③ fermement ④ résolument // Chinese-French
堅 // 坚 // jiān // ① strong ② solid ③ firm ④ unyielding ⑤ resolute // 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
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
入 // 入 // rù // ① entrer ② adhérer ③ entrée ④ revenu // Chinese-French
入 // 入 // rù // ① to enter ② to go into ③ to join ④ to become a member of ⑤ to confirm or agree with ⑥ abbr. for 入聲|入声[ru4 sheng1] // CC-CEDICT
無間 // 无间 // wú jiàn // ① très proche ② en permanence ③ ininterrompue ④ difficile à séparer ⑤ distinguer // Chinese-French
無間 // 无间 // wú jiàn // ① very close ② no gap between them ③ continuously ④ unbroken ⑤ hard to separate ⑥ indistinguishable // CC-CEDICT
吾 // 吾 // wú // ① je ② mon // Chinese-French
吾 // 吾 // wú // ① surname Wu // CC-CEDICT
吾 // 吾 // wú // ① I ② my (old) // CC-CEDICT
是以 // 是以 // shì yǐ // ① par conséquent ② donc // Chinese-French
是以 // 是以 // shì yǐ // ① therefore ② thus ③ so // 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
無為 // 无为 // wú wéi // ① Wuwei county in Chaohu 巢湖[Chao2 hu2], Anhui // CC-CEDICT
無為 // 无为 // wú wéi // ① the Daoist doctrine of inaction ② let things take their own course ③ laissez-faire // 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
有益 // 有益 // yǒu yì // ① utile ② bénéfique // Chinese-French
有益 // 有益 // yǒu yì // ① useful ② profitable // 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
言 // 言 // yán // ① dire ② mot ③ parole ④ opinion ⑤ propos // Chinese-French
言 // 言 // yán // ① words ② speech ③ to say ④ to talk // 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
教 // 教 // jiào // ① enseigner ② apprendre qch à qqn ③ religion ④ faire faire ⑤ ordonner // Chinese-French
教 // 教 // jiào // ① surname Jiao // CC-CEDICT
教 // 教 // jiào // ① religion ② teaching ③ to make ④ to cause ⑤ to tell // CC-CEDICT
教 // 教 // jiāo // ① enseigner ② apprendre qch à qqn // Chinese-French
教 // 教 // jiāo // ① to teach // CC-CEDICT
無為 // 无为 // wú wéi // ① Wuwei county in Chaohu 巢湖[Chao2 hu2], Anhui // CC-CEDICT
無為 // 无为 // wú wéi // ① the Daoist doctrine of inaction ② let things take their own course ③ laissez-faire // 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
益 // 益 // yì // ① profitable ② avantageux ③ profit ④ avantage // Chinese-French
益 // 益 // yì // ① surname Yi // CC-CEDICT
益 // 益 // yì // ① benefit ② profit ③ advantage ④ beneficial ⑤ to increase ⑥ to add ⑦ all the more // 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
希 // 希 // xī // ① espérer ② désirer ③ rare // Chinese-French
希 // 希 // xī // ① to hope ② to admire ③ variant of 稀[xi1] // CC-CEDICT
及 // 及 // jí // ① atteindre ② parvenir à ③ et ④ ainsi que // Chinese-French
及 // 及 // jí // ① and ② to reach ③ up to ④ in time for // 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
(Ⅵ)
- Yi Wu (1989) :

The feeblest is the strongest
That can run everywhere in the world,
It can go through being and non-being alike
Without any effort.
I therefore come to know the good
Of doing nothing willfully.
The efficiency of wordless teaching and doing nothing
Is rarely matched.
(Ⅶ)
- Lynn (2004) :

The softest things under Heaven gallop through the hardest things.
That which has no physical existence can squeeze through where there is no space, so from this I know how advantageous it is to act without conscious purpose.
The teaching that is not expressed in words, the advantage that is had by acting without conscious purpose, rare is it that anyone under Heaven ever reaches them.
(Ⅷ)


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