Chapter 14 of the Daodejing



視 之 而  弗 見
名 之 曰 微
聽 之 而  弗 聞
名 之  曰 希
搏 之 而  弗 得
名 之  曰 夷

此 三 者 不 可 致 計
故 混 而 為 一

一 者
其 上 不 皦
其 下 不 昧
繩 繩 不 可 名
復 歸 於 無 物
是 謂 無 狀 之 狀
無 物 之 象
是 謂 忽 望

隨 而 不 見 其 後
迎 而 不 見 其 首  (14)

故 不 可 得 而 親
不 可 得 而 踈
不 可 得 而 利
不 可 得 而 害
不 可 得 而 貴
不 可 得 而 賤    (56)

*道 之 出 口 也 曰
淡 乎 其 無 味
視 之 不 足 見
聽 之 不 足 聞
用 之 不 可 既     (35)

故 為 天 下 貴     (56)





You look for it without seeing it —
it’s called minute.
You listen for it without hearing it —
it’s called faint;
You grab it but can’t hold it —
it’s called smooth.
These three do not register
and fuse into one.

The One:
Its topside is not bright,
its underside not dim;
Boundless, it cannot be named
and returns to thinglessness. 

It is called the formless form,
the thing-less image, flurried and vast.

Follow it and you don’t see its back.
Meet it and you don’t see its face.

So you can’t get close to it,
And you can’t drive it away,
You can’t help it,
And you can’t harm it;
You can’t ennoble it,
And you can’t degrade it.

 Dao is bland and flavorless.
If you look for it it’s invisible,
If you listen for it it’s inaudible,
But use will not exhaust it.

And so it is the most honored
in the world.


I have moved two passages from chapter 35 and 56 to the end of  chapter 14. Those two chapters (like chapters 22 and 42) have no apparent unity or train of thought, and I have divided them and redistributed the parts. I have also cut the ending of chapter 14 (執 今 之 道,以 御 今 之 有。以 知 古 始  / 以,是 胃 道 紀) and have moved it to Original Dao VII, for reasons which will be explained there.

This chapter has multiple affinities with chapters 15, 16, 20, 21, and 25, and, these chapters convey conscious experience (probably in the context of meditation) more than anything else in the DDJ. “Hundun” 混 敦 and similar binomes like 惚 恍 evoking confusion, transience, vastness, dimness, hurry and flurry, etc. are especially concentrated in these chapters. The “Nei Ye” chapter of Guanzi studied by Roth, a practical meditation handbook much more detailed and specific than the DDJ, also share vocabulary, literary form and style and content especially with chapter 14. A full study is beyond my scope, but these sentences will give you the idea: Nei Ye II, 忽 忽 乎 如 將 不 得 /  杲 乎 如 登  於 天 (Roth,  p. 49); Nei Ye IV,  眇 眇 如 窮 無 極 (Roth, p. 53); Nei Ye VI, 口 之 所 不 能 言 (Roth,  p. 57).

 繩 繩: also 尋 尋. Both terms mean “boundless”, but 繩 繩 also means “teeming, prolific, fertile” and also, confusingly, “cautious and careful”.

致 計: also 致 詰 (not cognate). 致 計 means “calculate, sum up, appraise, register”, as in accounting.  致 詰 means “interrogate, call to account, prosecute”.

名: also 命.  命  mjaengH is often used as the verbal form of 名  mjieng.

混 (昏, 渾, etc.): 14, 15, 18, 20, 25, 49, 57.

一: 10, 11, 14, 22, 25, 39, 42, 67.

皦: also 杲  / 謬: 14, 41; also compare chapter 01, 徼.

昧: also 忽 / 沒.

復 歸: see *28.

狀: 14, 21;  replaces  物 in some texts of chapter 16 and 25.

象: see *04.

忽 望: also  忽 恍 / 沒 芒.  忽: 14, 20, and 21.

疏:  also 踈.

賤: also 淺.

淡: 31, 35.

味: 12, 14, 63.

Published in: on April 11, 2017 at 8:16 pm  Leave a Comment