Lao Tzu Tao Teh King

Book II -- The application of Tao

Translated by Jeh-Tween Gong

High Teh (virtue), not Teh (not showing), is Teh.
Lower Teh, not lost Teh (showing Teh), is not Teh.
High Teh Wu-Wei, thus not much to do.
Low Teh, doing many, thus many things need to be done.
Higher Jen (highest love), doing things (being loving), and not much to do.
Higher iL (Justice), doing things (for justice), and much needs to be done.
Higher Li (ways of conduct), doing things,
and don't know which conduct should be used,
shake hands, touch elbow?
After Tao is lost, there is Teh.
After Teh is lost, there is Jen.
After Jen is lost, there is iL.
After iL is lost, there is Li.
We need Li, because now lacking loyalty and honesty.
Li is the beginning of chaos.
Who with futuristic vision, seeing only the surface of Tao,
a beginning of ignorance.
Therefore the truly great man dwells on what is solid,
not on what is shallow,
on the fruit, not the flower.
Choose this, not that.

Those who were the only one (whole, individual).
Only one Tien (sky), thus it could be clear.
Only one Di (earth), thus peaceful.
Only one spirit, thus having magic.
Valley is one (whole), it could hold water.
Every creature is one (individual), it has life.
Only one king, the world respects him.
Tien not clear, could crack.
Di not peaceful, could quake.
Spirit without magic, could exhaust.
Valley could not hold water, could dry up.
Every creature has no life, could extinct.
King is not high and mighty, could fall.
The low is the foundation of the high.
The humble is the root of the noble.
King considers himself, the Only, the only One, the worthless.
Do the king is truly lowly in essence? No!
To much (success, fame,...) is not ....
Do not tinkle like jade,
clatter like stone.

The opposite (relativity) is the result of the motion of the Tao.
Yielding is the way of the Tao.
Everything is born of being.
Being is born of Nothingness.

The wise student hears of the Tao, practices it diligently.
The average student hears of the Tao, gives it thought now and then.
The foolish student hears of the Tao, laughs aloud.
If there were no laughters, the Tao would not be the true Tao.
Hence it is said:
the bright path seems dim;
forwarding seems retreating;
easy way seems hard;
highest Virtue seems empty;
true white seems polluted.
a wealth of Virtue seems inadequate;
the strength of Virtue seems frail;
real Virtue seems unreal.
The infinite square has no corners.
Great talents ripen late.
The highest notes are hard to hear.
The greatest form has no shape.
The Tao is hidden and without name.
The Tao alone nourishes and brings everything to fulfillment.


The Tao begot one.
One begot two.
Two begot three.
Three begot everything.
Everything carries Yin (on the back) and embraces Yang (in the front).
They achieve harmony by combining these forces.
Men hate to be "the Only," "the only One," or "worthless,"
but this is how kings and lords describe themselves.
For one gains by losing,
loses by gaining.
What others teach, I also teach, that is:
"A violent man will die a violent death!"
This will be the essence of my teaching.

The softest thing in the universe,
overcomes the hardest thing.
That without substance can enter where there is no room.
Hence I know the value of Wu-Wei.
The benefits, of teaching without words, of Wu-Wei,
are understood by very few.

Fame or self: Which matters more?
Self or wealth: Which is more precious?
Gain or loss: Which is more painful?
He who is attached to things will suffer much.
He who saves could suffer heavy loss.
A contented man is never disappointed.
He who knows when to stop does not find himself in trouble,
he will stay forever safe.

Great accomplishment seems imperfect,
yet it does not outlive its usefulness.
Great fullness seems empty,
yet it cannot be exhausted.
Great straightness seems bent.
Great intelligence seems ignorant.
Great eloquence seems awkward.
Movement overcomes cold.
Stillness overcomes heat.
Peaceful set things in order in the universe.

When the world follows Tao,
the horses haul manure.
When the world abandoned Tao.
War horses run wild.
There is no greater sin than unable to be satisfied.
No greater misfortune than wanting and wanting.
Thus, he who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.

Without traveling, we could know the world.
Without looking through the window, we could see the Tao of heaven.
The farther you go, the less you know.
Thus the sage knows without traveling.
He knows things without actually seeing them.
He success without effort.

In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.
More and more dropped, until Wu-Wei is achieved.
With Wu-Wei, nothing is left undone.
The world always takes its own course.
If not, it cannot rule the world.

The sage has no pre-perceived notion,
sees people's virtue as virtue,
values the good virtue,
also values the bad virtue,
because, virtues are Virtue.
He has faith in people who are faithful.
He has faith in people who are not faithful.
Because Virtue is faithfulness.
The sage has an open mind to the world.
The minds of people,
the sage sees them as good as innocent children.

In the journey of life and death,
three in ten will live a long life,
three in ten will die before their time.
There are also three in ten will survive from the extreme dangerous situations.
Why is this so?
Because they know the ways of surviving.
Who knows how to preserve his own life,
will not meet rhinoceros or tigers in traveling,
will not be wounded in battle.
Because, rhinoceroses can find no place to thrust their horn,
tigers no place to use their claws,
weapons no place to pierce.
Because, he will not place himself into those situations.

Teh (virtue) arose from Tao, nourishes everything.
It gives rise to form, body, and individual fulfillment.
Thus, everything respects Tao and values Teh.
The high honor of Tao, the high value of Teh,
are inner values from themselves, not from our valuing them.
Therefore, Teh arose from Tao is able to care for, repress, or destroy.
It gives lives, but not possesses them.
It nourishes them, but not rules over.
This is the Primal Virtue.


There is a beginning for the universe,
the mother of everything.
Knowing the mother, knows the sons.
Knowing the sons, knows the mother.
Knowing these, becomes immortal.
Plug your openings (9 for man's body),
shut the gate,
and life is ever full.
Open you openings (for some schools, specially care about the gate for semen).
Always be busy (such as: having sex),
life is beyond hope.
Value the small (such as semen or any insignificant things) is insight.
Yielding (as woman) is strength.
Using the light , return to insight (such as transform semen into spirit),
body will not be harmed.
Practice this constantly.
Note: see Oriental Bedroom Arts.

If I have even just a little sense,
I will walk on the main road;
my only fear will be of straying from it.
The main road is flat,
yet people love the short cut.
The court, in splendor,
the fields full of weeds,
the warehouses empty.
Some wear gorgeous clothes,
carry sharp swords,
indulge themselves with food and drink,
have more possessions than they can use.
They are robber barons.
Not the way of Tao.

Firmly established cannot be uprooted.
Firmly grasped will not slip away.
These are handed down from generation to generation.
Virtue cultivated by yourself, is real for yourself.
Practiced in the family, it will abound.
Cultivated in the village, the Virtue will grow.
Cultivated in the nation, it will be abundant.
Cultivate in the universe, the Virtue will be everywhere.
Therefore, study selves with self,
study families with family,
study villages with village,
study nations with nation,
look at the universe with the world.
How do I know about the universe.
With the above.

Use new born to see the value of great Virtue (Teh).
Wasps and serpents will not sting him;
wild beasts will not pounce upon him;
he will not be attacked by birds of prey.
His bones are soft, his muscles weak,
but his grip is firm.
He has not experienced the union of man and woman, is a whole,
an unbroken whole, the purest jing (pure substance).
He screams all day without becoming hoarse.
This is perfect harmony (without lost any semen).
Knowing how to reach harmony, can preserve.
Knowing how to preserve, is enlightenment.
Preserving produces good omen.
Desire (ejaculation) makes you potent.
Potency ensures aging (decay).
This is not Tao.
Not-Tao causes early death.

Those who know do not chat.
Those who chat do not know.
Plug the openings, close the gate.
Temper the sharpness, eliminate the division.
Soften the brightness, be the same as the dust (as lowly as possible).
This is the Primal Union.
Thus, friends, enemies, good, harm, honor and disgrace are all with you.
The world will honor you.

Rule a nation with justice.
Wage war with deception.
Become ruler of the world with peace.
How do I know that this is so?
Because of these.
The more laws and restrictions,
the poorer people become.
The sharper men's weapons,
the more trouble in the land.
The more ingenious and clever men,
the more strange things happen.
The more rules and regulations,
the more thieve and robbers.
Therefore, the sage says: I Wu-Wei,
people will rule themselves.
I enjoy peace and people become honest.
I do nothing special (such as tax and war) and people become rich.
I have no unjust desires (concubines, conquering, etc.),
people return to the good and simple life.

When the country is ruled with simple rules,
the people are simple.
When the country is ruled with complicated laws,
the people are cunning.
Misery often gives rise to future happiness.
Beneath happiness often lurks misery.
Who knows what the future holds?
Positive could be reversed.
Nothing stays positive forever.
Honesty becomes dishonest.
Goodness could become wicked.
People will be confused for a long time.
Therefore, the sage is righteous but not prejudging,
thrifty but not stingy,
straightforward but not unrestrained,
Brilliant but not blinding.

In caring for others and serving heaven,
no one like farmers.
Farming depends on reliability.
Reliability depends on Virtue gathered in the past (such as seeds).
With a good store of Virtue, nothing is impossible.
Nothing is impossible,
there are no limits.
Without limitation, he can be a ruler of a country (or a harem).
Having a country, he can endure.
This is called having deep roots and a firm foundation.
This is the Tao of long life and eternal vision.

Ruling a big country is like cooking a small dish.
Ruling the world with Tao,
evil will have no spiritual power.
Not that evil is not a spirit,
but that spirit will not harm others.
Not only does evil spirit not harm others,
but the sage will also not harm others.
They both not harm others (or each other).
Their virtues return to Tao.

A great country is like low land,
the converging place of the world.
Every female, overcomes the male with peacefulness (not fighting),
lying underneath.
Therefore, a great country lay low to serve a smaller country,
conquers the smaller country.
A small country submits to a big country,
gets help from the big country.
Therefore, those who conquer must yield,
those who don't want to be conquered, must yield.
A great nation needs more people,
a small country must serve (exchange for help),
each gets what it wants.
Want to be great, better yield.

Tao, treasures of everything.
The treasure of good man.
As a sanctuary for the bad man.
The sweet words can buy honor.
Good (or false) deeds can gain respect.
Those bad people,
how can we distinguish them?
Crown the emperor,
Install three ministers.
Compare with jade and a team of horses,
it is better sitting in these offices.
The ancient value these offices, saying,
they demand, they get.
They do crimes, yet not guilty.
So, the world value those offices.

Doing, then Wu-Wei.
Working, then nothing left undone.
Tasting, then no flavor could be bizarre.
Reward denouncement with kindness.
Doing big project with small steps.
Achieving greatness in little things.
The difficult things in the world must be done with easy steps.
The great acts of the world are made up of small deeds.
The sage doe not attempt anything very big, yet achieve greatness.
Who swears often, must be untrustworthy.
View every task as a easy job, will encounter many difficulties.
Thus, the sages view every task as a difficult job,
yet nothing is difficult for them.

The present is easy to be grasped or maintained.
The future can easily be planned.
The brittle is easily shattered.
The minute is easily scattered.
Deal with it before it happens.
Set things in order before the chaos.
A tree as great as a man's embrace springs from a small shoot.
A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth.
A journey of a thousand miles starts under one's feet.
Doing without following the above (Tao),
he fails.
Trying hold on something without following the above (Tao),
he losses.
The sage follows Wu-Wei (not doing anything against the above),
will not fail,
not holding (any wrong notion),
will not loss.
People usually give up (being paranoid) when they are on the verge of success.
Must give as much care to the end as to the beginning;
there will be no failure.
Therefore the sage values of being not a paranoid,
does not value precious things.
He learns from Nature (not from knowledge),
not repeats mistakes of others,
follows (and utilizes) the laws of nature.
He is afraid of doing (anything not-Tao).

In the ancient, those who knew the art of governing,
not to educate people, keep them ignorant.
It is hard to rule,
if people are clever.
Thus, rules with education, bad to the country.
Rules by keeping people ignorant, a blessing to the country.
Knowing these two, the same as knowing Tao.
Knowing Tao is a great virtue.
When the great virtue grows deep and reaches far,
it seems to be opposite of everything,
but it truly harmonizes with everything.

Why is the sea, king of all streams?
Because it lies below them.
Therefore, the king of all streams.
Thus, want to be above others, must lay low.
Want to lead others, must follow behind.
In this way,when the sage rules,
people will not feel oppressed.
When he leads,
they will not be harmed.
The whole world support him, not tire of him.
He does not compete;
the others cannot compete with him.

Everyone, says that my Tao is great,
seemingly different (from yours).
Because it is great, it seems different.
If it were not different,
it would have vanished long ago.
I have three treasures which I hold and keep.
The first is mercy;
the second is economy (thrifty);
the third is daring not to be ahead of others (which draws jealousy).
From mercy comes courage;
from economy comes generosity;
staying behind ensures maturity and fulfillment.
Nowadays men shun mercy and be brave;
abandon economy and be wasteful;
do not believe in humility, but always try to be the first.
This ensures death.
Mercy brings victory in battle and strength in defense.
If God wants to save him, makes him have mercy.

A good soldier is not violent.
A good fighter will not get angry.
A good winner will not always compete.
A good employer is humble.
These are, the virtues of compete (or not compete),
the way to lead people.
Since ancient times,
this has been known as an ultimate virtue.

There is a saying in arts of war.
I dare not make the first move, rather play the defense.
I dare not advance an inch, rather withdraw a foot.
This is called attack with without attacking.
Throw you jab without showing your arm movement,
you are invincible.
The greatest catastrophe on war is always caused by underestimating the enemy.
Underestimating the enemy, you could lose everything.
Because, who fight for the survival, double the strength.
Fight for survival, ensures victory.

My words are easy to be understood and easy to be carried out.
Yet no man understands them or practices them.
My words have ancient beginnings.
My ways are disciplined.
Because men are ignorant,
they could not understand my ways.
Those who know me are few;
who despise me are honored.
Therefore the sage wears rough clothing (looks dumb),
yet holds the jade (truth) in his heart.

Knowing being ignorance is knowledge.
Not knowing being ignorant is sicking ignorance.
Only if one is sick of sickness,
then he could avoid to be sick.
The sage is not sick because he is sick of sickness.
Therefore, he is not sick.

When men are not afraid of authority,
the supreme authority cannot enter their houses,
cannot scare their children.
Only if you try not scare them,
they will not sick of you.
Therefore, the sage (ruler) knows his authority, but makes no show;
has self-respect but is not arrogant.
He let go of that, chooses this.

A brave man who acts on his braveness will kill and be killed.
A brave man who not acts on his braveness will preserve life.
Of these two, one is good, the other is harmful.
God (Tien) despise something. Who knows what it is?
Even the sage is unsure of what it is.
The Tao of heaven, not compete, yet often victory,
not asking, yet often answered,
not calling, yet comes by itself,
seems unplanned, yet follows a plan.
Heaven's net (laws) casts wide.
Though its meshes are coarse, nothings slips through.
Note: Any human's plan cannot get out of heaven's net.

If men are not afraid to die,
it is of no avail to threaten them with death.
Making men fears death,
kill those who breaks laws,
who will dare to break the law?
The official executioner, does the execution.
To do his job for him,
is the same as an apprentice to perform a job of the master carpenter,
he will often hurt his own hands.
Note: Be Wu-Wei, do not do the job for Tao.

Why are the people starving?
Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes.
Therefore, the difficulty of governing starving people is,
caused by the rules' own doing.
Therefore, they are rebellious.
Why are the people not afraid of death?
Because the rulers demand too much for their comfort.
And people take death lightly.
Only those rulers who live on little, are good for people.

The flesh of living is soft,
hard and stiff after death.
Green plants are tender and filled with sap,
withered and dry after death.
Therefore, the stiff and unbending (meaning strong) is the sign of death.
The gentle and yielding, the sign of life.
Thus an army without flexibility, never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending, easily broken.
The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.

The Tao of heaven is like the art of archery,
tall man, aim low;
short man, aim high.
If the string is too long, shorten it;
not enough, lengthen it.
The Tao of heaven is just like that,
short the long, long the short.
Man's way is different.
He takes from those who do not have enough,
to give to those who already have too much.
Who can have anything left for taking?
Only the man of Tao, as sage,
works without taking,
achieves without keeping,
does not show his greatness.

Nothing is more soft and yielding than water,
for cutting things hard and strong, nothing is better,
because it persists.
The weak can overcome the strong;
the supple can overcome the stiff.
Everyone knows this,
yet no one puts it into practice.
Therefore, the sage says:
who shoulders the humiliation of the people, fits to rule them,
who shoulder the country's disaster, deserves to be the king.
The truth often sounds paradoxical.

After the settlement of a big case,
someone could breach the agreement.
What can one do about it?
The sage keeps his half of the bargain, and not blame the others.
A man of Virtue performs his part,
A man without Virtue requires others to fulfill their obligations.
The Tao of heaven is impartial.
It awards virtuous men all the time.

A small country has fewer people.
Though there are machines that can work ten or hundred times faster than man,
they are not needed.
The people want to be buried home, not travel far.
Though they have boats and carriages, no one uses them.
Though they have armor and weapons, no one displays them.
Men return to the knotting of rope in place of writing.
Their food is good, their clothes fine, their homes secure;
they are happy in their traditions.
Though they live within sight of their neighbors,
and crowing cocks and barking dogs are heard across the way,
they will not engage (visit) each other in their entire life.
Note: This is an idea society for Taoists.

Truthful words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are often not truthful.
Good man do not argue.
Those who argue are not good.
Those who know, do not know everything.
Those who know everything, do not know.
The sage never tries to store things up.
The more he does for others, the more he has.
The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance.
Tao of heaven benefits, not harms.
Tao of the sage is working without claiming.