1. The Dào, considered as unchanging, has no name.
2. Though in its primordial simplicity it may be small, the whole world dares not deal with (one embodying) it as a minister. If a feudal prince or the king could guard and hold it, all would spontaneously submit themselves to him.
3. Heaven and Earth (under its guidance) unite together and send down the sweet dew, which, without the directions of men, reaches equally everywhere as of its own accord.
4. As soon as it proceeds to action, it has a name. When it once has that name, (men) can know to rest in it. When they know to rest in it, they can be free from all risk of failure and error.
5. The relation of the Dào to all the world is like that of the great rivers and seas to the streams from the valleys.
聖德. Chalmers translates this by 'sagely virtue.' But I cannot adopt that rendering, and find it difficult to supply a better. The 'virtue' is evidently the Attribute of the Dào come out from the condition of the Absolute, and capable of being named. In the former state it has no name; in the latter, it has. Par. 1 and the commencement of par. 4 must both be explained from ch. 1.
The 'primordial simplicity' in par. 2 is the Dào in its simplest conception, alone, and by itself, and the 始制 in par. 4 is that Dào come forth into operation and become Dé, the Dé which affords a law for men. From this to the end of the paragraph is very obscure. I have translated from the text of Wáng Bì. The text of Héshàng Gōng is different, and he comments upon it as it stands, but to me it is inexplicable.
From The Libertarian Reader1
3. [second part] Without law or compulsion, men would dwell in harmony.
See Introduction, Addenda. ↩︎