道沖而;用之或不盈。淵兮,似萬物之宗!

1. The Dao is (like) the emptiness of a vessel; and in our employment of it we must be on our guard against all fulness. How deep and unfathomable it is, as if it were the Honoured Ancestor of all things!

挫其銳,解其紛;和其光,同其塵。湛兮,似或存。

2. We should blunt our sharp points, and unravel the complications of things; we should attemper our brightness, and bring ourselves into agreement with the obscurity of others. How pure and still the Dao is, as if it would ever so continue!

吾不知誰之子。象帝之先。

3. I do not know whose son it is. It might appear to have been before God.

Legge's Comments

無源, 'The Fountainless.' There is nothing before the Dao; it might seem to have been before God. And yet there is no demonstration by it of its presence and operation. It is like the emptyness of a vessel. The second character = = ;—see Kangxi on the latter. The practical lesson is, that in following the Dao we must try to be like it.