天下皆知美之為美,斯惡已;皆知善之為善,斯不善已。

1. All in the world know the beauty of the beautiful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what ugliness is; they all know the skill of the skilful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what the want of skill is.

故有無相生,難易相成,長短相形,高下相傾,音聲相和,前後相隨。

2. So it is that existence and non-existence give birth the one to (the idea of) the other; that difficulty and ease produce the one (the idea of) the other; that length and shortness fashion out the one the figure of the other; that (the ideas of) height and lowness arise from the contrast of the one with the other; that the musical notes and tones become harmonious through the relation of one with another; and that being before and behind give the idea of one following another.

是以聖人處無為之事,行不言之教。

3. Therefore the sage manages affairs without doing anything, and conveys his instructions without the use of speech.

萬物作焉而不辭;生而不有,為而不恃;功成而弗居。
    夫唯弗居;
    是以不去。

4. All things spring up, and there is not one which declines to show itself; they grow, and there is no claim made for their ownership; they go through their processes, and there is no expectation (of a reward for the results). The work is accomplished, and there is no resting in it (as an achievement).

    The work is done, but how no one can see;
    'Tis this that makes the power not cease to be.

Legge's Comments

養身, 'The Nourishment of the Person.' But many of Heshang Gong's titles are more appropriate than this.

The chapter starts with instances of the antinomies, which suggest to the mind each of them the existence of its corresponding opposite; and the author finds in them an analogy to the 'contraries' which characterize the operation of the Dao, as stated in chapter 40. He then proceeds to describe the action of the sage in par. 3 as in accordance with this law of contraries; and in par. 4, that of heaven and earth, or what we may call nature, in the processes of the vegetable world.

Par. 2 should be rhymed, but I could not succeed to my satisfaction in the endeavour to rhyme it. Every one who can read Chinese will see that the first four members rhyme. The last two rhyme also, the concluding being pronounced so;—see the Kangxi dictionary in voc.