含德之厚比於赤子。蜂蠆虺蛇不螫;猛獸不據;攫鳥不搏。

1. He who has in himself abundantly the attributes (of the Dao) is like an infant. Poisonous insects will not sting him; fierce beasts will not seize him; birds of prey will not strike him.

骨弱筋柔,而握固。未知牝牡之合,而全作;精之至也。終日號而不嗄;和之至也。

2. (The infant's) bones are weak and its sinews soft, but yet its grasp is firm. It knows not yet the union of male and female, and yet its virile member may be excited;—showing the perfection of its physical essence. All day long it will cry without its throat becoming hoarse;—showing the harmony (in its constitution).

知和,
曰常,
知常曰明。
益生曰祥;
心使氣,
曰強。

3. To him by whom this harmony is known,
    (The secret of) the unchanging (Dao) is shown,
    And in the knowledge wisdom finds its throne.
    All life-increasing arts to evil turn;
    Where the mind makes the vital breath to burn,
    (False) is the strength, (and o'er it we should mourn.)

物壯,則老,謂之不道。不道早已。

4. When things have become strong, they (then) become old, which may be said to be contrary to the Dao. Whatever is contrary to the Dao soon ends.

Legge's Comments

玄符, 'The Mysterious Charm;' meaning, apparently, the entire passivity of the Dao.

With pars. 1 and 2, compare what is said about the infant in chapters 10 and 20, and about the immunity from dangers such as here described of the disciple of the Dao in ch. 50. My 'evil' in the second triplet of par. 3 has been translated by 'felicity;' but a reference to the Kangxi dictionary will show that the meaning which I give to is well authorised. It is the only meaning allowable here. The third and fourth in this par. appear in Heshang Gong's text as , and he comments on the clauses accordingly; but 曰 is now the received reading. Some light is thrown on this paragraph and the next by an apocryphal conversation attributed to Laozi in Liu Xiang's Shuo Yuan, X, 4 a.

From Qigong Meditation: Small Circulation1

2. When the bones are weak and the tendons soft, then Wo Gu.2


  1. See Introduction, Addenda

  2. Before this translation, Dr. Yang explains that Wo Gu (握固) which "means to hold and to firm" is "placing the hands in front of the lower abdomen". He further comments that "When your body is weak, the fìrst thing you should do is to store abundant Qi at the Real Lower Dan Tian. Wo Gu helps keep your mind there. Then Qi is not led outward, and can be preserved and stored".