天之道其猶張弓與?高者抑之,下者舉之。有餘者損之,不足者補之。

1. May not the Way (or Dao) of Heaven be compared to the (method of) bending a bow? The (part of the bow) which was high is brought low, and what was low is raised up. (So Heaven) diminishes where there is superabundance, and supplements where there is deficiency.

天之道損有餘,而補不足。人之道則不然。損不足以奉有餘。

2. It is the Way of Heaven to diminish superabundance, and to supplement deficiency. It is not so with the way of man. He takes away from those who have not enough to add to his own superabundance.

孰能有餘以奉天下?唯有道者!

3. Who can take his own superabundance and therewith serve all under heaven? Only he who is in possession of the Dao!

是以聖人為而不恃;功成而不處:其不欲見賢。

4. Therefore the (ruling) sage acts without claiming the results as his; he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it:—he does not wish to display his superiority.

Legge's Comments

天道, 'The Way of Heaven;' but the chapter contrasts that way, unselfish and magnanimous, with the way of man, selfish and contracted, and illustrates the point by the method of stringing a bow. This must be seen as it is done in China fully to understand the illustration. I have known great athletes in this country tasked to the utmost of their strength to adjust and bend a large Chinese bow from Beijing.

The 'sage' of par. 4 is the 'King' of ch. 25. Compare what is said of him with ch. 2, par. 4, et al.