XXXIII – “He who lives out his days…”

He who knows others is clever;

He who knows himself has discernment.

He who overcomes others has force;

He who overcomes himself is strong.

He who knows contentment is rich;

He who perseveres is a man of purpose;

He who does not lose his station will endure;

He who lives out his days has had a long life.


A quick wit can judge another and a prize fighter can knock another out.

And you can retire, rich and content, holding yourself above the others – but then you are no longer living. Your life will have no longevity – nor will it have breadth, nor depth.

Instead, think about the strength to carry weights with good posture. Persevere in the long task. Train endurance, and do not hold yourself above the others.

You know yourself by way of observation; you overcome yourself by way of pliability. Such is your practise: there is no knock-out punch.


XXXII – “The way is forever nameless”

The way is forever nameless.

Though the uncarved block is small

No one in the world dare claim its allegiance.

Should lords and princes be able to hold fast to it

The myriad creatures will submit of their own accord,

Heaven and earth will unite and sweet dew will fall,

And the people will be equitable, though no one so decrees.

Only when it is cut are there names

One ought to know that it is time to stop.

Knowing when to stop one can be free from danger.

The way is to the world as the River and the Sea are to rivulets and streams.


Regularly, a clear idea, which I cannot fault, occurs to me: that really my task is to say nothing on these matters. Perhaps then the tumult in my mind will come to a rest, I think. Because I cannot calm this tumult with words, seemingly, I cannot find words which smooth the way. No: my words conjure new dangers. But if I wait and observe, I wonder, these matters might pass by into peace, de-escalating from the outside in like a southern hurricane going north over the plains of America.

Lao Tzu said

When Confucius went to Chou to ask to be instructed in the rites by him, Lao Tzu said, “What you are talking about concerns merely the words left by people who have rotted along with their bones. Furthermore, when a gentleman is in sympathy with the times he goes out in a carriage, but drifts with the wind when the times are against him. I have heard it said that a good merchant hides his store in a safe place and appears to be devoid of possessions, while a gentleman, though endowed with great virtue, wears a foolish countenance. Rid yourself of your arrogance and your lustfulness, your ingratiating manners and your excessive ambition. These are all detrimental to your person. This is all I have to say to you.”

From the Shih chi (first century BC)

Or (again): don’t wander around like a pompous sod.

It is a hard teaching.


XXX – “A creature in his prime”

One who assists the ruler of men by means of the way does not intimidate the empire by a show of arms.

This is something that is liable to rebound.

Where troops have encamped

There will brambles grow;

In the wake of a mighty army

Bad harvests will follow without fail.

One who is good aims only at bringing his campaign to an end and dare not thereby intimidate. Bring it to a conclusion but do not boast; bring it to a conclusion but do not brag; bring it to a conclusion but do not be arrogant; bring it to a conclusion but only when there is no choice; bring it to a conclusion but do not intimidate.

A creature in its prime doing harm to the old

Is known as going against the way.

That which goes against the way will come to an early end.


Who attacks the elderly?

Who attacks the older generation? 1789-1968, including 1933. We who invent a new way, we who shake off the supposed yoke of our ancestry.

The beginning of respect is respect for parents and parenting is the way.


XXIX – “Whoever lays hold of it will lose it”

Whoever takes the empire and wishes to do anything to it I see will have no respite. The empire is a sacred vessel and nothing should be done to it. Whoever does anything to it will ruin it; whoever lays hold of it will lose it.

Hence some things lead and some follow;

Some breathe gently and some hard;

Some are strong and some are weak;

Some destroy and some are destroyed.

Therefore the sage avoids excess, extravagence, and arrogance.


The message becomes more and more clear to me: the sage neither struggles nor conspires to achieve and sustain the power of the state.





XVIII – “The greatest cutting does not sever”

Know the male

But keep to the role of the female

And be a ravine to the empire.

If you are a ravine to the empire,

Then the constant virtue will not desert you

And you will again return to being a babe.

Know the white

But keep to the role of the black

And be a model to the empire.

If you are a model to the empire,

Then the constant virtue will not be wanting

And you will return to the infinite.

Know honour

But keep to the role of the disgraced

And be a valley to the empire,

Then the constant virtue will be sufficient

And you will return to being the uncarved block.

When the uncarved block shatters it becomes vessels. The sage makes use of these and becomes the lord over the officials.

Hence the greatest cutting

Does not sever.

There is gentleness in the role of the female, and depth in the ravine; on the other hand there is the black, the strong, the uncarved block. Make use of officials’ knowledge, not their conspiratorial obsequiousness (disgrace is lack of favour; do not court favour). When you rule, cut, show you can cut, but do not sever.

XXVII – “To value the teacher”

One who excels in travelling leaves no wheel tracks;

One who excels in speech makes no slips;

One who excels in reckoning uses no counting rods;

One who excels in shutting uses no bolts yet what he has shut cannot be opened;

One who excels in tying uses no chords yet what he has tied cannot be undone.

Therefore the sage always excels in saving people, and so abandons no one; always excels in saving things, and abandons nothing.

This is called following one’s discernment.

Hence the good man is the teacher the bad learns from;

And the bad man is the material the good works on.

Not to value the teacher

Nor to love the material

Though it seems clever, betrays great bewilderment.

This is called the essential and the secret.


The one who excels in teaching leaves no trace of himself, because the one taught comes into deepest possession of his own learning; the one taught has become his learning, not merely an imitator or devotee. A student does not learn to write, he becomes a writer.

And so when I practise the form, I am making it for myself, I am embodying tai chiTai chi is not being given to me, nor am I simply imitating my teacher, as if the task were to be like him or perform like him.

I greatly value my teacher who has helped me become this. And he loved me, the one who was becoming good.