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Source Materials About Freedom


1. Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere. Those who are skilled (in the Dao) do not dispute (about it); the disputatious are not skilled in it. Those who know (the Dao) are not extensively learned; the extensively learned do not know it.


2. The sage does not accumulate (for himself). The more that he expends for others, the more does he possess of his own; the more that he gives to others, the more does he have himself.


3. With all the sharpness of the Way of Heaven, it injures not; with all the doing in the way of the sage he does not strive.

Legge's Comments

顯質, 'The Manifestation of Simplicity.' The chapter shows how quietly and effectively the Dao proceeds, and by contraries in a way that only the master of it can understand. The author, says Wu Cheng, 'sums up in this the subject-matter of the two Parts of his Treatise, showing that in all its five thousand characters, there is nothing beyond what is here said.'

Par. 2 suggests to Dr. Chalmers the well-known lines of Bunyan as an analogue of it:—

'A man there was, though some did count him mad,
 The more he gave away, the more he had.'

Wu Cheng brings together two sentences from Zhuangzi (XXXIII, 21 b, 22 a), written evidently with the characters of this text in mind, which, as from a Daoist mint, are a still better analogue, and I venture to put them into rhyme:—

'Amassing but to him a sense of need betrays;
 He hoards not, and thereby his affluence displays.'

I have paused long over the first pair of contraries in par. 3 ( and . Those two characters primarily mean 'sharpness' and 'wounding by cutting;' they are also often used in the sense of 'being beneficial,' and 'being injurious;'—'contraries,' both of them. Which 'contrary' had Laozi in mind? I must think the former, though differing in this from all previous translators. The Jesuit version is 'Celestis Tâo natura ditat omnes, nemini nocet;'1 Julien's, 'Il est utile aux êtres, et ne leur nuit point;'2 Chalmers's, 'Benefits and does not injure;' and V. von Strauss's, 'Des Himmels Weise ist wolthun und nicht beschädigen.'3

  1. "The nature of the heavenly Dao enriches all, harms no one" [transcriber translation] ↩︎

  2. "It is helpful to creatures, and does not harm them" [transcriber translation] ↩︎

  3. "Heaven's way is 'wolthun' and does not damage" ('wolthun' probably is 'wohltun', meaning "to do good" or "to be beneficial". In chapter 63 par. 1, Strauss uses 'Wolthun' to translate 德, i.e., the 'De' in Dao De Jing—translated as "kindness" by Legge). [transcriber translation and note] ↩︎