孔德之容
惟道是從。
道之為物?
惟恍惟惚。
惚兮恍兮,
其中有象;
恍兮惚兮,
其中有物。
窈兮冥兮;
其中有精。
其精甚真
其中有信。
自古及今。
其名不去;
以閱眾甫。
吾何以知眾甫之狀哉?以此。

    The grandest forms of active force
    From Dao come, their only source.
    Who can of Dao the nature tell?
    Our sight it flies, our touch as well.
    Eluding sight, eluding touch,
    The forms of things all in it crouch;
    Eluding touch, eluding sight,
    There are their semblances, all right.
    Profound it is, dark and obscure;
    Things' essences all there endure.
    Those essences the truth enfold
    Of what, when seen, shall then be told.
    Now it is so; 'twas so of old.
    Its name—what passes not away;
    So, in their beautiful array,
    Things form and never know decay.
How know I that it is so with all the beauties of existing things? By this (nature of the Dao).

Legge's Comments

虛心, 'The Empty Heart.' But I fail to see the applicability of the title. The subject of the chapter is the Dao in its operation. This is the significance of the in the first clause or line, and to render it by 'virtue,' as Julien and Chalmers do, only serves to hide the meaning. Julien, however, says that 'the virtue is that of the Dao;' and he is right in taking , the last character of the second line, as having the sense of 'from,' 'the source from,' and not, as Chalmers does, in the sense of 'following.'

Laozi's mind is occupied with a very difficult subject—to describe the production of material forms by the Dao; how or from what, he does not say. What I have rendered 'semblances,' Julien 'les images,' and Chalmers 'forms,' seems, as the latter says, in some way to correspond to the 'Eternal Ideas' of Plato in the Divine Mind1. But Laozi had no idea of 'personality' in the Dao.


  1. 'Eternal Ideas' refers to Plato's theory of forms which he discussed in many dialogues. Divine Mind refers to Plato's use of the Greek word nous in some of his dialogues. [transcriber note]