Dec. 21, 2012 Countdown - Day 39: Laozi's Dao De Jing 11-15 (老子道德經 11-15)

Author: Laozi (老子); translated by James Legge


三十輻共一轂,當其無,有車之用。埏埴以為器,當其無,有器之用。鑿 戶牖以為室,當其無,有室之用。故有之以為利,無之以為用。

Chapter 11

The thirty spokes unite in the one nave; but it is on the empty space (for the axle), that the use of the wheel depends. Clay is fashioned into vessels; but it is on their empty hollowness, that their use depends. The door and windows are cut out (from the walls) to form an apartment; but it is on the empty space (within), that its use depends. Therefore, what has a (positive) existence serves for profitable adaptation, and what has not that for (actual) usefulness.


五色令人目盲﹔五音令人耳聾﹔五味令人口爽﹔馳騁畋獵,令人心發狂﹔ 難得之貨,令人行妨。是以聖人為腹不為目,故去彼取此。

Chapter 12

1. Colour's five hues from th' eyes their sight will take; Music's five notes the ears as deaf can make; The flavours five deprive the mouth of taste; The chariot course, and the wild hunting waste Make mad the mind; and objects rare and strange, Sought for, men's conduct will to evil change.

2. Therefore the sage seeks to satisfy (the craving of) the belly, and not the (insatiable longing of the) eyes. He puts from him the latter, and prefers to seek the former.


寵辱若驚,貴大患若身。何謂寵辱若驚?寵為下,得之若驚,失之若驚, 是謂寵辱若驚。何謂貴大患若身?吾所以有大患者,為吾有身,及吾無身 ,吾有何患?故貴以身為天下,若可寄天下﹔愛以身為天下,若可托天下 。

Chapter 13

1. Favour and disgrace would seem equally to be feared; honour and great calamity, to be regarded as personal conditions (of the same kind).

2. What is meant by speaking thus of favour and disgrace? Disgrace is being in a low position (after the enjoyment of favour). The getting that (favour) leads to the apprehension (of losing it), and the losing it leads to the fear of (still greater calamity):—this is what is meant by saying that favour and disgrace would seem equally to be feared.
And what is meant by saying that honour and great calamity are to be (similarly) regarded as personal conditions? What makes me liable to great calamity is my having the body (which I call myself); if I had not the body, what great calamity could come to me?

3. Therefore he who would administer the kingdom, honouring it as he honours his own person, may be employed to govern it, and he who would administer it with the love which he bears to his own person may be entrusted with it.


視之不見,名曰「夷」﹔聽之不聞,名曰「希」﹔搏之不得,名曰「微」 。此三者不可致詰,故混而為一。其上不皦,其下不昧。繩繩不可名,復 歸於無物。是謂無狀之狀,無物之象,是謂惚恍。迎之不見其首,隨之不 見其後。執古之道,以御今之有。能知古始,是謂道紀。

Chapter 14

1. We look at it, and we do not see it, and we name it 'the Equable.' We listen to it, and we do not hear it, and we name it 'the Inaudible.' We try to grasp it, and do not get hold of it, and we name it 'the Subtle.' With these three qualities, it cannot be made the subject of description; and hence we blend them together and obtain The One.

2. Its upper part is not bright, and its lower part is not obscure. Ceaseless in its action, it yet cannot be named, and then it again returns and becomes nothing. This is called the Form of the Formless, and the Semblance of the Invisible; this is called the Fleeting and Indeterminable.

3. We meet it and do not see its Front; we follow it, and do not see its Back. When we can lay hold of the Tao of old to direct the things of the present day, and are able to know it as it was of old in the beginning, this is called (unwinding) the clue of Tao.


古之善為士者,微妙玄通,深不可識。夫唯不可識,故強為之容:豫兮若 冬涉川﹔猶兮若畏四鄰﹔儼兮其若客﹔渙兮若冰之釋﹔敦兮其若朴﹔曠兮 其若谷﹔混兮其若濁。孰能晦以理之徐明?孰能濁以靜之徐清?孰能安以 動之徐生?保此道者不欲盈。夫唯不盈,故能蔽而新成。

Chapter 15

1. The skilful masters (of the Tao) in old times, with a subtle and exquisite penetration, comprehended its mysteries, and were deep (also) so as to elude men's knowledge. As they were thus beyond men's knowledge, I will make an effort to describe of what sort they appeared to be.

2. Shrinking looked they like those who wade through a stream in winter; irresolute like those who are afraid of all around them; grave like a guest (in awe of his host); evanescent like ice that is melting away; unpretentious like wood that has not been fashioned into anything; vacant like a valley, and dull like muddy water.

3. Who can (make) the muddy water (clear)? Let it be still, and it will gradually become clear. Who can secure the condition of rest? Let movement go on, and the condition of rest will gradually arise.

4. They who preserve this method of the Tao do not wish to be full (of themselves). It is through their not being full of themselves that they can afford to seem worn and not appear new and complete.