Chapter 5 How to use emptiness.
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(Version and commentary of He Shanggong in English)


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5. 1  
Heaven and earth are not humane.

Heaven develops the beings. Earth changes them. Not through humanity and benignity do they correspond to their nature.

They regard all things as strawdogs.

Heaven and earth beget all beings. Man is the most precious one [among them]. [But] Heaven and earth regard him like a strawdog (or: like plants and animals). Do not be sure of getting a recompense from them.

The saint is not humane.

The saint loves and nourishes all people, but not with humanity and benignity. He takes heaven and earth for his models, as they let everything go according to its own nature.

He regards all the people as strawdogs.

The saint looks at all the people as at strawdogs and wants no consideration from them.

The space between heaven and earth,

The space between heaven and earth is void. A harmonious atmosphere floats within. Therefore things originate spontaneously. If man is able to do away with feelings and desires, externals and superfluities, he tastes purity. Within the five viscera then the spirits dwell.

should it not be a bellows?

A bellows is empty within and nevertheless able to possess a resounding breath.

Though empty it does not contract. Though moved it comes out more and more

This means: Empty non-existence has no time when it contracts extremely. If moved, it emits the resounding breath from its fulness.

Who talks much is soon emptied.

Much fidgeting does harm to the mind. Much talking does harm to the body. If the mouth is open and the tongue protrudes, a misfortune is sure to happen.

This is not equal to keeping to the centre.

This is not equal to keeping the strength inside. Cultivate and nourish the spirits [of the five viscera], save your breath and talk little.

- Chinese :

《道德經》: 天地不仁,以萬物為芻狗;聖人不仁,以百姓為芻狗。天地之間,其猶橐籥乎?虛而不屈,動而愈出。多言數窮,不如守中

《老子河上公章句·虛用》: 天地不仁,以萬物為芻狗。聖人不仁,以百姓為芻狗。天地之間,其猶橐籥乎。虛而不屈,動而愈出。多言數窮,不如守中。

《馬王堆·老子甲道經》: 天地不仁,以萬物為芻狗。聲人不仁,以百省□□狗。天地□間,□猶橐籥輿?虛而不淈,動而俞出。多聞數窮,不若守於中。

《馬王堆·老子乙道經》: 天地不仁,以萬物為芻狗;聖人不仁,□百姓為芻狗。天地之閒,其猷橐籥輿?虛而不淈,動而俞出。多聞數窮,不若守於中。
(⁎)
- He Shanggong (Chinese) :

天地不仁,天施地化,不以仁恩,任自然也。以萬物為芻狗。天地生萬物,人最為貴,天地視之如芻草狗畜,不貴望其報也。聖人不仁,聖人愛養萬民,不以仁恩,法天地行自然。以百姓為芻狗。聖人視百姓如芻草狗畜,不貴望其禮意。天地之間,天地之間空虛,和氣流行,故萬物自生。 人能除情欲,節滋味,清五臟,則神明居之也。其猶橐籥乎。橐籥中空虛,人能有聲氣。虛而不屈,動而愈出。言空虛無有屈竭時,動搖之,益出聲氣也。多言數窮,多事害神,多言害身,口開舌舉,必有禍患。不如守中。不如守德於中,育養精神,愛氣希言。
(Ⅱ)
- Wing-Tsit Chan (1963) :

Heaven and Earth are not humane. They regard all things a straw dogs.
The sage is not humane. He regards all people as straw dogs.
How Heaven and Earth are like a bellows. While vacuous, it is never exhausted. When active, it produces even more.
Much talk will of course come to a dead end. It is better to keep to the centre.
(Ⅲ)
- Ellen Marie Chen (1989) :

Heaven and earth are not humane (jen),
They treat the ten thousand beings as straw dogs (ch'u kou).
The sage is not humane (jen),
He treats the hundred families as straw dogs (ch'u kou).
Between heaven and earth,
How like a bellows (t'o yo) it is!
Empty and yet inexhaustible,
Moving and yet it pours out ever more.
By many words one's reckoning (shu) is exhausted.
It is better to abide by the center (shou chung).
(Ⅳ)
- Ch'u Ta-Kao (1904) :

Heaven and earth do not own their benevolence, To them all things are straw dogs
The Sage does not own his benevolence; To him the people are straw dogs.
The space between heaven and earth is like a (blacksmith's) bellows. Hollow as it seems, nothing is lacking. If it is moved, more will it bring forth.
He who talks more is sooner exhausted: It is better to keep what is within himself.
(Ⅴ)
- World by world translation :

Traditional // simplified // pinyin // definition // dictionary
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
不仁 // 不仁 // bù rén // ① inhumain ② peu bienveillant ③ malveillant ④ dur ⑤ cruel ⑥ sans coeur ⑦ engourdi // Chinese-French
不仁 // 不仁 // bù rén // ① not benevolent ② heartless ③ numb // 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
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
為 // 为 // wèi // ① because of ② for ③ to // CC-CEDICT
為 // 为 // wéi // ① as (in the capacity of) ② to take sth as ③ to act as ④ to serve as ⑤ to behave as ⑥ to become ⑦ to be ⑧ to do ⑨ by (in the passive voice) // CC-CEDICT
芻 // 刍 // chú // ① foin ② paille ③ couper de l'herbe // Chinese-French
芻 // 刍 // chú // ① to mow or cut grass ② hay ③ straw ④ fodder // CC-CEDICT
狗 // 狗 // gǒu // ① chien ② maudit // Chinese-French
狗 // 狗 // gǒu // ① dog ② CL:隻|只[zhi1],條|条[tiao2] // CC-CEDICT
聖人 // 圣人 // shèng rén // ① saint // Chinese-French
聖人 // 圣人 // shèng rén // ① saint ② sage ③ refers to Confucius 孔子[Kong3 zi3] ④ the current reigning Emperor // CC-CEDICT
不仁 // 不仁 // bù rén // ① inhumain ② peu bienveillant ③ malveillant ④ dur ⑤ cruel ⑥ sans coeur ⑦ engourdi // Chinese-French
不仁 // 不仁 // bù rén // ① not benevolent ② heartless ③ numb // 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
百姓 // 百姓 // bǎi xìng // ① peuple ② les gens du peuple // Chinese-French
百姓 // 百姓 // bǎi xìng // ① common people // CC-CEDICT
為 // 为 // wèi // ① because of ② for ③ to // CC-CEDICT
為 // 为 // wéi // ① as (in the capacity of) ② to take sth as ③ to act as ④ to serve as ⑤ to behave as ⑥ to become ⑦ to be ⑧ to do ⑨ by (in the passive voice) // CC-CEDICT
芻 // 刍 // chú // ① foin ② paille ③ couper de l'herbe // Chinese-French
芻 // 刍 // chú // ① to mow or cut grass ② hay ③ straw ④ fodder // CC-CEDICT
狗 // 狗 // gǒu // ① chien ② maudit // Chinese-French
狗 // 狗 // gǒu // ① dog ② CL:隻|只[zhi1],條|条[tiao2] // 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
之間 // 之间 // zhī jiān // ① entre ② parmi // Chinese-French
之間 // 之间 // zhī jiān // ① between ② among ③ inter- // 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
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
橐 // 橐 // tuó // ① sac // Chinese-French
橐 // 橐 // tuó // ① sack ② tube open at both ends ③ (onom.) footsteps // CC-CEDICT
籥 // 籥 // yuè // ① flûte ② clé // Chinese-French
籥 // 籥 // yuè // ① flute ② key // CC-CEDICT
乎 // 乎 // hū // ① à ② dans ③ de ④ vers ⑤ (part. interrog.) // Chinese-French
乎 // 乎 // hū // ① (classical particle similar to 於|于[yu2]) in ② at ③ from ④ because ⑤ than ⑥ (classical final particle similar to 嗎|吗[ma5], 吧[ba5], 呢[ne5], expressing question, doubt or astonishment) // CC-CEDICT
虛 // 虚 // xū // ① vide ② inoccupé ③ vacant ④ faux ⑤ faible ⑥ fragile ⑦ en vain // Chinese-French
虛 // 虚 // xū // ① emptiness ② void ③ abstract theory or guiding principles ④ empty or unoccupied ⑤ diffident or timid ⑥ false ⑦ humble or modest ⑧ (of health) weak ⑨ virtual ⑩ in vain // 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
不屈 // 不屈 // bù qū // ① inflexibilité // Chinese-French
不屈 // 不屈 // bù qū // ① unyielding ② unbending // CC-CEDICT
動 // 动 // dòng // ① bouger ② se mouvoir ③ toucher à ④ déplacer ⑤ agir ⑥ se mettre en action // Chinese-French
動 // 动 // dòng // ① (of sth) to move ② to set in movement ③ to displace ④ to touch ⑤ to make use of ⑥ to stir (emotions) ⑦ to alter ⑧ abbr. for 動詞|动词[dong4 ci2], verb // 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
愈 // 愈 // yù // ① the more...(the more...) ② to recover ③ to heal ④ better // CC-CEDICT
癒 // 愈 // yù // ① guérir ② recouvrer la santé ③ plus...plus... // Chinese-French
癒 // 愈 // yù // ① variant of 愈[yu4] ② to heal // 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
多言 // 多言 // duō yán // ① bavard // Chinese-French
多言 // 多言 // duō yán // ① wordy ② talkative // CC-CEDICT
數 // 数 // shù // ① nombre ② qqs, plusieurs // Chinese-French
數 // 数 // shù // ① number ② figure ③ several ④ CL:個|个[ge4] // CC-CEDICT
數 // 数 // shǔ // ① compter // Chinese-French
數 // 数 // shǔ // ① to count ② to count as ③ to regard as ④ to enumerate (sb's shortcomings) // CC-CEDICT
數 // 数 // shuò // ① nombre // Chinese-French
數 // 数 // shuò // ① frequently ② repeatedly // CC-CEDICT
窮 // 穷 // qióng // ① pauvre ② fin ③ limite ④ extrêmement // Chinese-French
窮 // 穷 // qióng // ① poor ② destitute ③ to use up ④ to exhaust ⑤ thoroughly ⑥ extremely ⑦ (coll.) persistently and pointlessly // CC-CEDICT
不如 // 不如 // bù rú // ① ne pas égaler ② ne pas être aussi bon que ③ être inférieur à // Chinese-French
不如 // 不如 // bù rú // ① not equal to ② not as good as ③ inferior to ④ it would be better to // 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
中 // 中 // zhōng // ① milieu ② central ③ intérieur ④ parmi ⑤ moitié // Chinese-French
中 // 中 // zhōng // ① China ② Chinese ③ surname Zhong // CC-CEDICT
中 // 中 // zhōng // ① within ② among ③ in ④ middle ⑤ center ⑥ while (doing sth) ⑦ during ⑧ (dialect) OK ⑨ all right // CC-CEDICT
中 // 中 // zhòng // ① to hit (the mark) ② to be hit by ③ to suffer ④ to win (a prize, a lottery) // CC-CEDICT
(Ⅵ)
- Yi Wu (1989) :

The universe benefits none
And takes every being for a straw dog.
The wise king benefits none
And takes all people for nothing dearer.
Should we say that
It is just like bellows between Heaven and Earth?
It is empty but well propped up,
And any stir in it will cause spilling.
After all moralization and calculation,
It is a better strategy to keep that bellows empty.
(Ⅶ)
- Lynn (2004) :

Heaven and Earth are not benevolent and treat the myriad things as straw dogs
The sage is not benevolent and treats the common folk as straw dogs.
The space between Heaven and Earth, is it not just like a bellows or a mouth organ!
Empty, it can never be used up.
Active, it produces all the more.
Many words lead to quick exhaustion; better to maintain emptiness within.
(Ⅷ)


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