知人者智;自知者明。勝人者有力;自勝者強。知足者富;強行者有志。

1. He who knows other men is discerning; he who knows himself is intelligent. He who overcomes others is strong; he who overcomes himself is mighty. He who is satisfied with his lot is rich; he who goes on acting with energy has a (firm) will.

不失其所者久;死而不亡者壽。

2. He who does not fail in the requirements of his position, continues long; he who dies and yet does not perish, has longevity.

Legge's Comments

辨德, 'Discriminating between (different) Attributes.' The teaching of this chapter is that the possession of the Dao confers the various attributes which are here most distinguished. It has been objected to it that elsewhere the Dao is represented associated with dulness and not intelligence, and with weakness and not with strength. But these seem to be qualities viewed from without, and acting on what is beyond itself. Inwardly, its qualities are the very opposite, and its action has the effect of enlightening what is dark, and overcoming what is strong.

More interesting are the predicates in par. 2. Jiao Hong gives the comment on it of the Indian monk, Kumārajīva, 'one of the four suns of Buddhism,' and who went to China in A.D. 401: 'To be alive and yet not alive may well be called long; to die and yet not be dead may well be called longevity.' He also gives the views of Lû Năng-shih (A.D. 1042–1102) that the freedom from change of Liezi, from death of Zhuangzi, and from extinction of the Buddhists, have all the same meaning as the concluding saying of Laozi here; that the human body is like the covering of the caterpillar or the skin of the snake; that we occupy it but for a passing sojourn. No doubt, Laozi believed in another life for the individual after the present. Many passages in Zhuangzi indicate the same faith.