Tao Te Ching 80


A small country

Has few people


Give them

A thousand different implements

And they’ll have no need to use them


They take death seriously

And do not treat it

As a distant thing


Even if they had

Boats and carriages

They would have no place

To ride them


Even if they had

Armour and weapons

They would have no fights

In which to use them


May the people

Rediscover the use

Of knotted cords

Take delight in their food

Beautify their clothing

Be at peace wherever they are

And take joy in their ancient ways


Neighbouring communities

Live in sight of one another

Their roosters and dogs

Bark and crow at one another

Yet people grow old and die

Without needing to come or go




Under Heaven

Nothing is more

Gentle and yielding than water

Yet when it comes to attacking the firm and strong

Nothing overcomes them so surpassingly

For this reason

Among all things

Nothing can take its place

The flexible overcomes the inflexible

The soft overcomes the hard

Under Heaven

There is no one that does not know this

Yet none are able to act upon it

Therefore the sage says:

To bear a country’s humiliations

Is to be enshrined as Lord of the Land

And suffering a country’s misfortunes

Makes you king of All Below Heaven”


Word of truth appear in paradox




The Way of Heaven

Is to be as bendy as a bow:

It brings down the high

And lifts up the low

It diminishes the excessive

And increases the insufficient


Heaven’s Way

Takes from what has too much

And adds to what has too little


The Way of Men

Is not like this:

Always taking from the needy

To make offerings to those

Who already have too much


Who accumulates wealth

Just to share it with the world?

Only those with the Way


Therefore, the sage

Acts and expects nothing

Succeeds and accomplishes

Without resting on his laurels

Has no desire

To be seen as greater than others



If people are not afraid of death

How can you threaten them with death?


If people always

Lived in fear of death

And those that acted

Perverse and unnatural

Could be seized and executed

Who would presume to be reckless?


There is always a master executioner

To kill such people

Truly, if someone were to try and kill

In place of the master executioner

It would be like trying to take the place

Of a master wood-worker


In trying to take the place of a master carpenter

There are few that would not

Cut off their own hands!



When do people do not fear

The dreadful consequences of their actions

A dreadfully greater force

Is sure to approach them

Do not make their homes

Into prisons

Do not burden them

With oppressive lives

Truly, when you do not burden others

They will not become a burden to you

Therefore, the sage

Is self-aware

Without being self-obsessed

Loves his self

Without giving preference to his self

Rejecting one

He accepts the other




My words are very easy to understand

Very easy to practice

Yet Under Heaven

No one can understand them

No one can practice them

My words speak from the source

My actions express self-mastery

But because this is misunderstood

I remain unknown

Those that comprehend me are rare

Disciples of the mystic treasure

Therefore, the sage

Wears the clothing of commoners

To conceal

The jewel of his heart




Military strategists

Have a saying:

“I do not play host

But act as guest

I dare not advance an inch

But retreat a foot”


This is known as

Advancing without advancing

Seizing without arms

Confronting without opposing

Controlling without weapons


There is no greater calamity

Than underestimating one’s enemies

Underestimate your opponent

And you come close to losing your honour

Therefore, when two armies

Oppose one another

The sides that wins, grieves

And the side that grieves, wins




Everyone Under Heaven

Says my Tao is great

And unlike anything else

It is great

Because it is unlike anything else

And beyond description and distinction

If it were like other things

And could be described

How quickly it would vanish

And become small!

I have three treasures

That I cherish and preserve:

One is the love of a mother

That knows no bounds

The second is moderation

The third is not presuming

To be foremost under Heaven

Love empowers one to be fearless

Moderation enables one to be generous

Not presuming to be first in the world

Enables one to be a perfect and lasting vessel

Nowadays, people forsake love

Yet expect to be fearless

Discard moderation

And thus cannot give

Refuse to be humble

And yet demand to lead

Such things are certainly doomed

But if you love deeply

You can fight and overcome anything

Defend through this love

And you will be strength itself

Heaven rescues and saves the people

By using unconditional love to protect them