Early Dao and Sage Dao


 獨 立 士
John Emerson



September 1, 2017


John Emerson, “A Stratification of Lao Tzu”, The Journal of Chinese Religions, #23, Fall 1995, pp. 1- 28.

John Emerson, “Yang Zhu’s Discovery of the Body”, Philosophy East and West, Volume 46, #4, October 1996, pp. 533-566.

Franklin Perkins, “Divergences within the Laozi: A Study of Chapters 67-82”, T’oung Pao, Vol. 100, 2014, pp. 1-32.

Thompson, “On the Formal Treatment of Textual Testimony”, in The Guodian Laozi, eds. Allan and Williams, The Society for the Study of Early China, 2000, pp. 89.



I begin by selecting the 35 chapters of “Sage Dao”: chapters 67-81 (the final group of the traditional DDJ, none of which are included in the Guodian text) plus all chapters in which the Sage 聖 人 appears. Next I used two groups of key words (and phrases) to compare Sage Dao to the 46 remaining chapters. The first key-word group consists of 7 terms extracted from the 33 Sage Dao chapters, and the second consists of 13 terms which I chose to represent the mystical “Early DDJ” I was hoping to define. The contrast I initially found was encouraging: the 13 “mystical” key words were 7 times more frequent per chapter in the 46 chapters than they were in the 35 Sage Dao chapters, and the 7 Sage Dao key words were 4 times more frequent in the 35 Sage Dao chapters than they were in the 46 chapters.

I next used additional, related, but less mechanical criteria criteria to move 8 chapters from the 46-chapter group to the 35-chapter Sage Dao group, producing contrasting groups of 38 and 43 chapters. Finally, I divided chapters 05 and 28 in the Sage Dao group, leaving their Sage passages in the Sage Dao group while moving the remainders of these chapters to the 38-chapter group, which could now be called the Early Dao group.

In the final Sage Dao group (41 chapters and 2 fragments) Sage Dao key words are seen 6 times more frequently than in the Early Dao group (38 chapters and 2 fragments), whereas in the Early Dao group the Early Dao key words are seen 18 times more frequently than they are in the Sage Dao group: altogether, key words are seen in the right group 102 times, and in the wrong group only 10 times. I regard this as confirmation of my basic thesis, which was that the Sage represents a late layer in the DDJ, and that the early DDJ did not include the Sage at all.


Interpretation of the text remains both the starting point and the conclusion of the critical task.

P. M. Thompson

More than 50 years ago D. C. Lau argued that the DDJ is an anthology of passages by various authors, united only by “a common tendency of thought” and jumbled together into chapters which themselves often have no internal unity. While I agree with Lau’s general theory of the of the origins DDJ, I believe that its dispersed unity is less incoherent than he claimed, and that if you realize that it is really two books in one and that its themes you are on the way to being able to make sense of it. About twenty years ago I published an article on this topic in the Journal of Chinese Religions  (John Emerson, “A Stratification of Lao Tzu”), but my reading was cumbersome and, since I had not yet seen the Guodian text  (GD), what I wrote then was not very satisfactory.

This is an entirely new piece. I start with the commonplace assumption that the DDJ falls into two parts: an earlier part which is primarily religious or mystical, with a special concern for the vital forces, and a later part which is primarily concerned with statecraft and strategic thinking, and my basic argument is that the 聖 人 Sage defines the strategic DDJ. Between them the Sage and Dao 道 almost define the DDJ, and one term or the other is seen in 50 or more of the book’s 81 chapters. Yet they are seen together in only 6 chapters (47, 60, 73, 77, 79, and 81), where 11 or 12 co-appearances would randomly be expected, and in many chapters non-Sages appearing in places where the Sage would seem to belong: 上 善 (08), 太 上 (17) 古 之 善 為 士 (15)  孔 德 (21),  大 丈 夫 (38), 得 一 者 (39),    善 攝 生 者 (50), 含 德 之 厚 者 (55) – and beyond that there’s  絕 聖 opening line of chapter 19: “get rid of the Sage”.

Every time but once when Dao and Sage appear together Dao is part of the phrase “Dao of Heaven” 天 道  (天 之 道).  In “Divergences within the Laozi”, Franklin Perkins has persuasively argued that the Dao of Heaven is a mark of a distinct final stage of the DDJ’s development in which Dao has been appropriated by a more purposeful, more theistic, more moralistic, possibly Mohist-influenced tendency.   Perkins also argues that this tendency dominates chapters 67-81, the long closing section of the DDJ not included in the GD text. Four of the six co-appearances of Dao and the Sage are in chapters 67-81, always in the phrase “Dao of Heaven”, and in fact in these chapters Dao is seen only once in the absence of the Sage (in chapter 67) – a pattern almost the opposite to that of the rest of the book. (Dao and the Sage are also seen together in chapters 47 and 60, and the phrase “Dao of Heaven” is also seen in chapters 09 and 47).

Thus my investigation will key on two things, chapters 67-81 and the Sage. My initial hypothesis is that the later DDJ (which I will call Sage Dao) chapters are all those which include the Sage 聖 人, together with chapters 67-81 whether they include the Sage or not. This first cut of Sage Dao totals 35 chapters, about 43% of the DDJ: the 28 Sage chapters found in any of the well-known texts of the DDJ, plus the remaining 7 Sage-free chapters in chapters 67-81. My method throughout  this article will be as simple as could be imagined. I first define these 35 chapters en bloc as Sage Dao, in my second step I move 8 more whole chapters into Sage Dao even though they hadn’t met my initial criteria, and only in the final step do I divide two chapters (chapter 05 and 28). This method seems too good to be true, but as we will see, it checks out well.


The first cut very successfully finds Sage Dao chapters; there are only two half-chapters that must be moved out of the first version of Sage Dao. But this first cut of  misses seven chapters which belong in Sage Dao, and for this reason, the 46 chapters here distinguished from Sage Dao should not be thought of as Early Dao. These chapters have hardly been looked at and at first I will just call them the unexamined chapters.

Sage Dao, first cut: 35 chapters
Sage chapters:
02 03 05 07 12 19 22 26 27 28
29 34 47 49 57 58 60 63 64 66
70 71 72 73 77 78 79 81.Remainder of chapters 67-81:
67 68 69 74 75 76 80.
46 unexamined chapters, first cut
01 04 06 08 09 10 11 13 14 15
16 17 18 20 21 23 24 25 30 31
32 33 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
43 44 45 46 48 50 51 52 53 54
55 56 59 61 62 65



My next step is to select key words from the first Sage Dao cut to find whether there really is a significant contrast between this version of Sage Dao and the 48 unexamined chapters. These key words (民, 難, 天 道, 爭,  敢, 治, 使, and 貨, all of them relevant to statecraft) should not be regarded as definitive; they are just used here for an initial check.

Sage Dao, first cut
(35 chapters)
46 unexamined chapters

(first cut)

02 03 12 63 64 73 75
03 64 67 69 73 74 30
03 22 66 68 73 81 08
天 道
(天 之 道)
47 73 77 79 81 09
使 03 74 80 53 55
03 60 64 74 75 08 10 59 65
03 19 57 58 64 66 72
74 75 80
10 32 53 65
03 12 64 44 53
45x in 20 of 35 chapters:
1.3 times per chapter.
15x in 10 of of 46 chapters: .32 times per chapter.

The Sage Dao key words are seen in 20 of the 33 chapters of Sage Dao (60%), 4 times more frequently per chapter there, on the average, than in the unexamined chapters. This is a pretty good contrast, and it will improve significantly once the unexamined chapters are looked at more closely.


My next step is to select 14 Early Dao key words (母, 牝, 雌, 赤 子, 嬰, 谷, 無 名, 天 地, 陰 陽, 精, 氣, 沖, 不 殆, 象) and check the two groups in terms of these to see whether they are found more often in the unexamined chapters than in the Sage Dao chapters. I chose these words on the basis of my own understanding of what the Early Dao should be: The Valley,  the female, the mother, the child, namelessness, Heaven and Earth, jing, qi, yin-yang, and a couple of other terms commonly thought of as belonging to the religious-mystical part of the DDJ. In effect, I am here testing my fundamental hypotheses about Early Dao against my cut of the text.

 Sage Dao, first cut,
35 chapters
46 unexamined chapters
01 20 25 52 59
牝, 雌 28 (雌) 06 10 20 55 61
嬰, 赤 子 28 10 20 55
28 66 06 15 32 39 41
無 名 01 32 37 41
天 地 05 01 06 07 23 25 32 39
陰 陽, 精, 氣 10 21 42 55
04 42 45
不 殆 16 25 32 44 52
04 14 21 35 41
5x in 3 of 35 chapters:
.14x per chapter.
46x,  in 24 of 46 chapters:
1x per chapter.

The contrast here is even more gratifying than it was in the case of the Sage Dao key words. As the table shows, the Early Dao keywords are seen 7 times more often in the unexamined group than they are in the Sage Dao group, and whatever the status of the unexamined chapters, only 3 of the 35 Sage Dao chapters include any Early Dao key words at all. We now have a pretty good two-way contrast, with the majority of the Sage Dao key words and very few of the Early Dao key words in the Sage Dao group, and the great majority of the Early Dao key words and only a moderate number of Sage Dao key words in the previously-unexamined chapters. In the second cut, this contrast will be made even sharper,  but these results are already impressive.

This first cut, the mechanical application of two simple rules, defines 40% of the DDJ as Sage Dao, a group which includes a high proportion of the DDJ chapters dedicated to statecraft and strategy, but only two of the religious / mystical chapters, thus contrasting sharply with the other 60% of the DDJ.  My first cut of Sage Dao includes almost 80% of the passages in the final cut and it gets very few false positives  — only two half-chapters which belong in early Dao instead of Sage Dao. This first cut provides a solid foundation for my closer look at the hitherto-unexamined chapters, which will, however, necessarily be a bit more ad hoc and less methodical.


The first cut of the DDJ, based on explicitly-stated general principles, was remarkably easy and remarkably successful. The Sage Dao thus produced will remain mostly intact. But the unexamined group of 48 chapters is still a miscellaneous leftover residual class, and it will become a well-defined Early Dao group only after 9 of its chapters are moved into Sage Dao despite their not satisfying my initial criteria (i.e., even though they do not include the Sage and are not part of chapters 67-81).

This final cut is less rule-bound than the first cut, though most of the moves are easily justifiable in terms of what has been done already,  and it gives us a relatively clean and intelligible Early Dao / Sage Dao separation. I begin by moving 08, 09, 17, 18,  36, 53, 61, 62, and 65 from the unexamined group into the Sage Dao group, giving us 43 Sage Dao chapters and 38 non-Sage-Dao chapters. I then divide chapters 05 and 28, leaving the passages including the Sage in Sage Dao, but moving the remainder of these chapters into the other group. The final count is 41 Sage Dao chapters + 2 fragments, and 38 Early Dao chapters + 2 fragments.

Since these is the last moves I will make, the previously-unexamined chapters can now be called “Early Dao”. Early Dao is still more miscellaneous than Sage Dao, because it is a selection from the accumulated wisdom of a tradition over a long period, rather than the product of a particular individual or group working at a particular time as Sage Dao is. I explain my reassignments below:


Chapter 05: The connection between the opening “straw dogs” passage of chapter 05 and the remainder of chapter 05 has always been doubtful, and the GD text does not include the straw dogs passage at all. This passage appropriates one of the central themes of  慎 到  Shen Dao and is central to the definition of the Sage in the DDJ.

Chapters 08 and 61: Chapter 08 includes the Sage Dao key word, 爭 “contend”.  The lower position and the downward flow of water might seem to be religious or mystical principles, but, like non-contention, “holding back” and “softness”,  this theme is usually seen in Sage Dao chapters discussing strategy, notably in chapter 66. (But the presence of the Early Dao terms 牝 and 谷 in chapters 61 and 66 makes these chapters anomalous, as I will discuss in the appendix).

Chapter 09:  The phrase 天 道 puts this chapter in Sage Dao despite the absence of the Sage. In its other 5 appearances the phrase “Dao of Heaven”  (天 道  / 天 之 道) is together in a chapter with the Sage, and 4 of this phrase’s 6 appearances are in the central Sage Dao group, the non-GD chapters 67-81.  (The other exception is in chapter 47, but this chapter does mention the Sage).

Chapters 17 and 18: These chapters are generally regarded as being closely linked to the Sage Dao chapter 19, and the three chapters are joined into a single chapter in the Beida DDJ. However, the fact that chapter 19 in its familiar form denounces the Sage, while the GD version of chapter 19 does not mention the Sage at all, together with the resonances between chapter 18 and 38, make these chapters anomalous and perhaps transitional. See the appendix.

Chapter 28: the connection between the closing tag speaking of the Sage and the rest of the chapter has always been unclear, though there is no textual warrant for cutting this chapter as there was for chapter 05. The remainder of the chapter is very closely related to Early Dao chapter 10, with which it shares three rhyme words.

Chapter 34: Many but not all texts of this chapter include the Sage, and while I included this chapter in my first cut Sage Dao, because of its affinities to chapters 32 and 37 (Dao nurturing the myriad creatures 萬 物,  the renunciation of greatness, and the water metaphor: “Dao overflows in every direction”), I have selected the Sage-free text of this chapter and have put it in Early Dao.

Chapters 36, 62, and 65: Chapter 65 includes the Sage Dao key words 民  and 治. Chapter 62 doesn’t include any of the key words I have been using, but it does include the word  寶  “treasure”, elsewhere seen only in Sage Dao chapters 67 and 69. Chapter 62’s 人 之 不 善,何 棄 之 有? is clearly related to the discussion of the 不 善 人 in chapter 27. All three chapters (along with chapters 05, 27, 57, and 58, at least) express moral skepticism and advocate devious and perhaps unethical methods in the language of  慎 到 Shen Dao and the militarist writers.

Chapter 53: includes the Sage Dao keywords 民, 使, and 貨, and its Primitivist theme is shared with chapters 03, 12, 75, and 80 in Sage Dao.


The entire DDJ has now been classified either as Early Dao or as Sage Dao, and we will find that the key words contrast significantly more sharply in the Final cut than they did in the first cut:

Early Dao, final cut:
38 chapters + 2 fragments
Sage Dao, final cut:
41 chapters and two fragments
01 04 05x 06 10 11 13 14 15 16 20 21 23 24 25 28x 30 31 32 33 34 35 37 // 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 48 50 51 52 54 55 56 59 02 03 05x 07 08 09 12 17 18 19 22 26 27 28x 29 36 // 47 49 53 57 58 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81


Sage Dao, final cut

40 chapters + 2 fragments

 Early Dao, final cut

39 chapters + 2 fragments

02 03 12 63 64 73 75
03 08 22 66 68 73 81
03 64 67 69 73 74 30
使 03 53 74 80 55
03 12 53 64 44
天 道

(天 之 道)

09 47 73 77 79 81
03 19 53 57 58 64 65 66 72 74 75 80 10 32
03 08 60 64 65 74 75 10 59
53x in 23 of 40 chapters + 2 fragments:
1.2x per chapter or fragment. 7x more frequent per chapter than in the Early Dao chapters.
7x in 7 of 39 chapters + 2 fragments: .17x per chapter or fragment.(Chapters 10 and 59 will be further discussed  below).


 40 Sage Dao chapters and 2 fragments 39 Early Dao chapters and 2 fragments
01 20 25 52 59
不 殆 16 25 32 44 52
66 06 15 28 32 39 41
04 14 21 35 41
無 名 01 32 37 41
天 地 05 01 05 06 07 23 25 32 39
陰 陽, 精, 氣 10 21 42 55
04 42 45
牝, 雌  61 (牝). 06 10 20 28 55
嬰, 赤 子 10 20 28 55
3x in 3 of 41 chapters + 2 fragments:

.07x per chapter. (Chapters 05, 61 and 66 will be further discussed below.

49x in 22 of 39 chapters + 2 fragments: 1.2x per chapter.


17 times more frequent than in the Sage Dao.

My results have been very gratifying and I think that I have succeeded in defining real historical / philosophical groups within the text of the DDJ. At the same time, almost half of the chapters of the DDJ been unexamined since the first cut defining Sage Dao, and at least 9 chapters include anomalous key words contrary to what their group assignment would lead you to expect. In particular, I think that there are subgroups in Early Dao besides the mystical group from which I chose my key words. I will deal with these questions next.


Sage Dao is fairly consistent and I believe that it was written within a rather small window of time by one or a few authors who were in contact with one another. By contrast, Early Dao is relatively nameless and indescribable, and it is probably an anthology of earlier writings and sayings from a variety authors and more than one time period. The multiple variants of many of the Early Dao passages suggest that they circulated widely, sometimes orally,  before being brought into the final DDJ, and it is reasonable to suppose that the Early Dao chapters were selected relatively late from a large body of independent texts circulating within a loosely organized movement. The late editor’s selections were presumably somewhat tendentious, following the editor’s own principles, and important aspects of the Ur-Early Dao probably been left out. (At the same time, their attachment to a book of political cunning might be one of the reason’s why the mystical writings survived at all).

The GD texts which include all or part of 31 of the DDJ’s 81 chapters represent a fairly early stage in the gathering of the text, but that since these texts were put together under the auspices of the developing Sage Dao, they do not simply represent Early Dao. There are 9 Sage Dao chapters in the GD text, and 7 of them are substantially complete (chapters 02, 09, 17, 18, 19, 57, and 66; in GD, chapter 05 does not include the Sage); only chapters 63 and 64 are not more or less in their final form, and all of the material of chapter 64 is there, though partly in two different versions, and not gathered into a single chapter. By contrast, even though the GD text includes a higher proportion of Early Dao passages than of Sage Dao chapters, at least 7 of the 22 Early Dao chapters (chapters 05, 16, 20, 30, 46, 48, and 52) are missing important passages, and another is garbled. I think that this means is that most of the materials of Early Dao were already extant when the GD texts were produced, but that only some of them had been gathered.

According to this theory, the two texts at the very end end of GD-C (太 一 生 水 and 天 道 貴 弱) were candidate chapters which were ultimately rejected; chapters 63 and 64 were works in progress; the intact Sage Dao chapters in GD were the finished work of the editors or their contemporaries; the Sage Dao chapters not included were still unwritten; and the Early Dao chapters and passages not included remained to be gathered. And it is my belief that only a small part of the rich tradition of Early Dao has been preserved.

Early Dao as I have defined it includes most of the DDJ’s mystical poetry / philosophy (chapters 04, 05, 06, 07, 10, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 25, and 28), a paradoxical metaphysics, ethics,  and a theory of knowledge  (01, 11, 23, 38. 39, 40, 42, 43), meditations on physical vitality and the sources of life (chapters 50, 51, 52, 55, 56, and 59),  rules for study (41, 43, 45, and 48), polemics against war and ambition  (chapters 13, 30, and 31), a kind of political magic (chapters 32, 34, 35, and 37), practical advice (chapters 24, 33, 44, and 46) and one chapter whose relevance is uncertain (54).  It is not entirely apolitical but its politics is different in kind from the strategic politics of the Sage Dao.

Later Dao develops ideas from Early Dao and frequently quotes from Early Dao, so the most characteristic “Early” themes are simply those which were seldom or never picked up by the Sage Dao authors –  hundun / confusion, namelessness,  inexhaustible emptiness, the female, and the child. In the same way,  the characteristic Sage Dao themes are new and original and not found in the Early Dao. But there remain many shared themes, though they are usually developed in a different direction in the later Sage Dao.  I somewhat fear that my two-part interpretation of the DDJ will wrongly lead people to ignore the continuities between the two parts of the book.


Early Dao chapters 05x, 11, 13, 23, 24, 26, 30, 31, 33, 34, 38, 40, 43, 46, 48, 50, 51, 54, and 56 do not include any of the Early Dao key words that I used. These key words were never meant to be definitive and are not required for assignment to Early Dao; they were merely used as spot checks to establish the contrast between my initial two groups. They captured only the most mystical half of Early Dao, and additional key words would have been necessary to find the rest of the chapters. Below I discuss the non-conforming chapters, and in the Appendix I will further discuss the most problematic chapters.

Chapters 38-46

Probably with the intention of making the Early Dao / Sage Dao divide less apparent, the organization of chapters 1-31 of the DDJ is deliberately confused. Sage Dao chapters are salted in between Early Dao chapters, and there are no intelligible groups of any length. However, chapters 32-81 are less chaotic.  Part II begins with 9 consecutive Sage-free chapters and ends with 15 consecutive Sage Dao chapters, while chapters 32, 33, 34, 35, and 37 and chapters 50, 51, 52, 54, 55, 56, and 59 comprise two other rough locational subgroups of Early Dao.

By the same principle by that put the longest consecutive group of non-GD chapters into Sage Dao, the 9 opening chapters of Part II, the longest consecutive group of Sage-free chapters,  might have been defined as Early Dao right off at the beginning. As a fairly coherent group, these chapters probably represent a late stage in the editing. These chapters have distinct groups of themes, different from those picked out by my first group of key words, and some of these themes are later developed in Sage Dao.

Chapter 05

If the passage beginning chapter 05 which includes the Sage is cut, the remainder fits in a series with the opening lines of chapters 04, 06, and perhaps 07. (Chapter 07 will be discussed the appendix). Shared themes include Heaven and Earth 天 地, emptiness and permanence:

道 沖 而 用 之 或 不 盈
天 地 之 間 其 猶 橐 籥 乎
谷 神 不 死
天 地 所 以 能 長 且 久 者 以 其 不 自 生.

Chapters 11, 40, and 43

The 有 / 無 contrast here probably should be added to the list of Early Dao keys, though it is also seen in the Sage Dao chapter 02 (which is quite miscellaneous, resembling chapter 57 in that respect).

Chapters13, 30, and 31

These rather garbled and clumsy chapters form a group of their own. I believe that they are ancient and foundational,  going all the way back to Yang Zhu’s original break with court life and the world of ambition, and conceivably are the words of Yang Zhu himself, and (John Emerson, “Yang Zhu’s Discovery of the Body”).

Chapter 24

This chapter echoes 果 而 勿 矜 / 果 而 勿 伐 in chapter 30 and repeats the 物  或  惡  之 / 故 有 道 者 不 處 tag from chapter 31. Like chapters 33, 44, and 46 immediately below, this is a chapter recommending prudence,. (In turn chapter 22, a Sage Dao chapter, echoes this chapter, as well as chapters 10, 42 and 45 and the 不 爭chapters, and has almost no specific content of its own).

Chapters 33, 44, 46

These very practical moralizing chapters center on the 知 足 / 久 / 長 / 知 止 / 不殆 cluster. They are not terribly profound but fit well enough into Early Dao, and while they might be seen as precursors of Sage Dao’s moralizing chapters, they might just as well be seen as spinoffs of the Yang Zhu chapters 13, 30, and 31.

Chapter 48

This chapter shares the themes 損 / 益, 學 / 教, and 無 為 with chapters 42 and 43, though these themes are all also found in Sage Dao. By and large I think that it should be thought of as part of the 38-46 group, separated from its family by the chapter 47 interloper.

Chapters 50, 51, and 56

These chapters, along with chapters 52 and 55, are the DDJ chapters which speak most obviously of Yangist “nurturing life” (e.g.  執 生 /  攝 生 in Chapter 50).  Like chapters 13, 30, and 31 and 32, 34, 35, and 37, I think that these chapters can be understood as a distinct subgroup of the DDJ, a centrally important subgroup which has its own history and did not necessarily derive from the same origins as the rest of Early Dao.

Chapter 54

This chapter is Confucian, if anything, and no one knows why it is part of the DDJ. I suspect that early in the book-editing process some passages were added to please a political sponsor, and because of his status and the early date of the additions, the passages became canonical. (A number of other examples might be named, most of them rather pointless tags at the ends of chapters). Historically his chapter probably belongs to the 50, 52, 52, 54, 55, 56 cluster.

By and large, I think that the chapters above, despite the absence of any of my first group of Early Dao key words, fit very well into an extended and plural Early Dao within which chapters 38-46, chapters 32, 33, 34, 35, and 37, and chapters 50, 51, 52, 55, and 56 form three more or less distinct groups which stand beside the mystical group which the original key words defined. Few of these groups would fit well into Sage Dao and there’s nothing in them that absolutely forbids their being put into the company to the mystical group.


I began with the intention of distinguishing the early mystical DDJ from the later strategic DDJ. But at first I worked purely textually, just tallying words and sorting chapters without attending to their meanings. The ideas of the DDJ interpenetrate from beginning to end, so that any given idea might function as mysticism, metaphysics, practical knowledge, political strategy, or all four in turn, and this is a book that has been studied for more than 2000 years already.  By working mechanically on the text I believe that I might be able to partially untangle the sequence of the writing process, and thereby illuminate the meaning.

The keys I used were, first, the Sage, and the second, chapters 67-81, the final 15 chapters of the DDJ not seen in the Guodian text.  I first defined 35 chapters of Sage Dao  (chapters 67-81, plus all chapters speaking of the Sageby the mechanical application of these two criteria  –).  I then used two groups of key words to compare Sage Dao to the remaining 46 chapters: the first consisting of 7 key words extracted from the 35 Sage Dao chapters I had just selected, and the second consisting of 13 terms I had chosen to represent the “Early DDJ” which I hoped to find.

The initial contrast I found was encouraging:  the key words from from the 35 Sage Dao chapters were 4 times more frequent per chapter in that group than they were in the 46-chapter group, while the Early DDJ key words I had chosen were 6 times more frequent per chapter in the 46 chapters than they were in the 35 Sage Dao chapters.

My next step was to use additional, related, but less strict criteria to move 8 chapters from the still-miscellaneous 48-chapter group into the 35 chapter Sage Dao group, thus producing a 41 chapter “Sage Dao” group and a contrasting 40 chapter group. Finally, I divided chapters 05 and 28 of the Sage Dao group, leaving the Sage passages in Sage Dao group while moving the remainders of these chapters to the Early Dao Group. This produced a final Sage Dao group consisting of 41 chapters and 2 fragments and a final Early Dao group consisting of 38 chapters and 2 fragments.

This new textual cut checked out even better than the first cut. Sage Dao key words are seen 6 times more frequently per chapter in second-cut Sage Dao than they are in Early Dao, and Early Dao chapters are seen 18 times more frequently per chapter in second-cut Early Dao than in Sage Dao. At this point it becomes possible to interpret the chapters and perceive the specific differences between Sage Dao and Early Dao, which are not always what you would have expected.

My original proposal was a rather bold one: that take a text as complex and difficult as the DDJ can be significantly illuminated simply by using criteria as mechanical as these to sort the chapters into two groups. But I believe that this method has worked well.


I have been working on this project for many years, and every time I thought I had the problem solved five or ten chapters showed up that didn’t fit my theory. This is also true here, and 14 problem chapters are listed below. These problems are not necessarily insoluble, and given the ambition of my project, an 83% success rate wouldn’t be all that bad. I could define a middle group, but if I did that pretty soon I’d be distinguishing early middle from late middle, and so on indefinitely until I had broken up the DDJ up into 185 or so historical chunks, as Lau did. But I think that is case in which binary thinking is useful for highlighting a distinction,  even though the reality is rather more complex than the theory.

Chapter 07

I was sorely tempted to divide this chapter as I did chapters 05 and 28 but decided not to, partly because I wanted to keep my cuts to a bare minimum but mostly because the passage I wanted to remove could not stand independently. 是 以 聖 人 後 其 身 而 身 先, 外 其 身 而 身 存  closely mirrors passages in chapters 66 and 67, and without these lines chapter 07 can be forms a series with Early Dao chapters 04, 05, and 06. Without the Sage, the chapter is speaking of Heaven Earth, 天 地 throughout – the encompassing ground, is immortal because it includes and nurtures all creatures but has no self or interest or even life of its own. (But on the other hand, the Sage of the traditional chapter 07 is also the neutral, selfless Sage of chapters 05, 49, and 60, and these four chapters may form the link between the two major parts of the DDJ.

Chapters 08, 61, 66

Water and the lower position seem mystical, but chapter 66 includes the Sage and chapters 61 and 66 are clearly strategic and politically oriented. Furthermore, chapters 61 and 66 include the Early Dao key words 谷 “valley” and 牝  “female”.   These may also be links between the two parts of the DDJ.

Chapter 10

The lines 愛 民 治 國,能 無 知 乎?  (sometimes 能 無 為) are similar to  治 人 事 天  in chapter 59 and bring two Sage Dao key words “rule” 治  and “people” 民  and into what is otherwise an exemplary Early Dao chapter. Perhaps I should have removed these lines – the rather loose rhyme scheme doesn’t really need them. Because of its strong affinities with chapter 28, Chapter 10 is classified as Early Dao anyway, but this cut would improve my statistics.

Chapters 17, 18, 19, and 38

In all versions of the DDJ except GD, the Sage is rejected at the beginning of Chapter 19:   絕 聖 棄 智. In GD you see 絕 智 棄 辯, however, and chapters 17 and 18 were put into Sage Dao mostly because chapter 19 was already there, so all three chapters now will have to be looked at, and chapter 18 especially seems close to chapter 38 of Early Dao:

18: 大 道 廢,有 仁 義;智 慧 出,有 大 偽;六 親 不 和,有 孝 慈;國 家 昏 亂,有 忠 臣

38: 失 道 而 後 德,失 德 而 後 仁,失 仁 而 後 義,失 義 而 後 禮 。夫 禮者,忠 信 之 薄,而 亂 之 首。前 識 者,道 之 華,而 愚 之 始。

Perhaps chapters 17-19 were written at about the same time as chapter 38, while the Lao circle was still differentiating itself from Confucianism but had not yet adopted the Sage.

Chapter 26

Chapter 26 is a non-problem problem, since it could easily fit into either Sage Dao or Early Dao. The Sage and the gentleman 君 子 are both found in many texts.  I have used the Sage version mostly because of the terms 輕 / 重, which are characteristic of the late rational-instrumentalist tendencies in Chinese philosophy and are seen elsewhere in chapters 63, 66, 69, 75, and 80 of Sage Dao, and only in chapter 59 of Early Dao.

Chapters 33, 34, and 37

These chapters have many Early Dao key words (無 名, 無 欲,  不 殆,  侯 王) but they also clearly point to the political development of Daoism and some of their themes (樸, 自 化, 無 為) were picked up and developed by Sage Dao chapters – e.g.,  chapter 57.

Chapter 59

The first line of chapter 59 治 人 事 天 莫 若 嗇 is parallel meaning and (partially) in form to the first line of the following chapter, chapter 60:  治 大 國 若 烹 小 鮮. The rest of chapter is just a chain of verbiage similar to the concluding passages of chapters 16, 52, 55 (and to a lesser degree, chapter 25). These concluding chains are among the few passages in the DDJ I’ve had trouble finding much value in, and I think that they should be dispensed with to the extent possible.

The Rearranged Daodejing

Sage Dao
41 chapters + 2 fragments

Below is the text of Laozi divided in accordance with my theory. Elsewhere I will suggest many edits to WB, but in order to avoid raising distracting questions I here use a standard edition, as posted at the indispensable website www.ctext.org. Let the reader decide.

天 下 皆 知 美 之 為 美,斯 惡 已。皆 知 善 之 為 善,斯 不 善 已。故 有 無 相 生,難 易 相 成,長 短 相 較,高 下 相 傾,音 聲 相 和,前 後 相 隨。是 以 聖 人 處 無 為 之 事,行 不 言 之 教;萬 物 作 焉 而 不 辭,生 而 不 有。為 而 不 恃,功 成 而 弗 居。夫 唯 弗 居,是 以 不 去。

不 尚 賢,使 民 不 爭;不 貴 難 得 之 貨,使 民 不 為 盜;不 見 可 欲,使 心 不 亂。是 以 聖 人 之 治,虛 其 心,實 其 腹,弱 其 志,強 其 骨。常 使 民 無 知 無 欲。使 夫 知 者 不 敢 為 也。為 無 為,則 無 不 治。

天 地 不 仁,以 萬 物 為 芻 狗;聖 人 不 仁,以 百 姓 為 芻 狗

The rest of the chapter, 天 地 之 間,其 猶 橐 籥 乎?虛 而 不 屈,動 而 愈 出。多 言 數 窮,不 如 守 中, has been moved into Early Dao as an independent fragment

天 長 地 久。天 地 所 以 能 長 且 久 者,以 其 不 自 生,故 能 長 生。是 以 聖 人 後 其 身 而 身 先;外 其 身 而 身 存。非 以 其 無 私 耶?故 能 成 其 私。

I have speculated about removing 是 以 聖 人 後 其 身 而 身 先;外 其 身 而 身 存 from this chapter and moving the chapter to Early Dao to form a series with chapters 4, 5, and 6.

上 善 若 水。水 善 利 萬 物 而 不 爭,處 衆 人 之 所 惡,故 幾 於 道。居 善 地,心 善 淵,與 善 仁,言 善 信,正 善 治,事 善 能,動 善 時。夫 唯 不 爭,故 無 尤。

持 而 盈 之,不 如 其 已;揣 而 銳 之,不 可 長 保。金 玉 滿 堂,莫 之 能 守;富 貴 而 驕,自 遺 其 咎。功 遂 身 退 天 之 道。

五 色 令 人 目 盲;五 音 令 人 耳 聾;五 味 令 人 口 爽;馳 騁 田 獵,令 人 心 發 狂;難 得 之 貨,令 人 行 妨。是 以 聖 人 為 腹 不 為 目,故 去 彼 取 此。

太 上,下 知 有 之;其 次,親 而 譽 之;其 次,畏 之;其 次,侮 之。信 不 足,焉 有 不 信 焉。 悠 兮,其 貴 言。功 成 事 遂,百 姓 皆 謂 我 自 然。

大 道 廢,有 仁 義;智 慧 出,有 大 偽;六 親 不 和,有 孝 慈;國 家 昏 亂,有 忠 臣。

絕 聖 棄 智,民 利 百 倍;絕 仁 棄 義,民 復 孝 慈;絕 巧 棄 利,盜 賊 無 有。此 三 者 以 為 文 不 足。故 令 有 所 屬:見 素 抱 樸,少 私 寡 欲。

曲 則 全,枉 則 直,窪 則 盈,弊 則 新,少 則 得,多 則 惑。是 以 聖 人 抱 一 為 天 下 式。不 自 見,故 明;不 自 是,故 彰;不 自 伐,故 有 功;不 自 矜,故 長。夫 唯 不 爭,故 天 下 莫 能 與 之 爭。古 之 所 謂 曲 則 全 者,豈 虛 言 哉!誠 全 而 歸 之。

重 為 輕 根,靜 為 躁 君。是 以 聖 人 終 日 行 不 離 輜 重。雖 有 榮 觀,燕 處 超 然。奈 何 萬 乘 之 主,而 以 身 輕 天 下?輕 則 失 本,躁 則 失 君。

Because of 重 / 輕  theme I decided that this chapter belongs in Sage Dao so I chose the 聖 人 version.

善 行 無 轍 迹,善 言 無 瑕 讁;善 數 不 用 籌 策;善 閉 無 關 楗 而 不 可 開,善 結 無 繩 約 而 不 可 解。是 以 聖 人 常 善 救 人,故 無 棄 人;常 善 救 物,故 無 棄 物。是 謂 襲 明。故 善 人 者,不 善 人 之 師;不 善 人 者,善 人 之 資。不 貴 其 師,不 愛 其 資,雖 智 大 迷,是 謂 要 妙。

樸 散 則 為 器,聖 人 用 之,則 為 官 長,故 大 制 不 割。

The body of the chapter, 知 其 雄,守 其 雌,為 天 下 谿。為 天 下 谿,常 德 不 離,復 歸 於 嬰 兒。知 其 白,守 其 黑,為 天 下 式。為 天 下 式,常 德 不 忒,復 歸 於 無 極。知 其 榮,守 其 辱,為 天 下 谷。為 天 下 谷,常 德 乃 足,復 歸 於 樸 has been moved to Early Dao as an independent fragment.

將 欲 取 天 下 而 為 之,吾 見 其 不 得 已。天 下 神 器,不 可 為 也,為 者 敗 之,執 者 失 之。故 物 或 行 或 隨;或 歔 或 吹;或 強 或 羸;或 挫 或 隳。是 以 聖 人 去 甚,去 奢,去 泰。

將 欲 歙 之,必 固 張 之;將 欲 弱 之,必 固 強 之;將 欲 廢 之,必 固 興 之;將 欲 奪 之,必 固 與 之。是 謂 微 明。柔 弱 勝 剛 強。魚 不 可 脫 於 淵,國 之 利 器 不 可 以 示 人。

不 出 戶 知 天 下;不 闚 牖 見 天 道。其 出 彌 遠,其 知 彌 少。是 以 聖 人 不 行 而 知,不 見 而 名,不 為 而 成。

*49      聖 人 無 常 心,以 百 姓 心 為 心。善 者,吾 善 之;不 善 者,吾 亦 善 之;德 善。信 者,吾 信 之;不 信 者,吾 亦 信 之;德 信。聖 人 在 天 下,歙 歙 為 天 下 渾 其 心,百 姓 皆 注 其 耳 目,聖 人 皆 孩 之。

使 我 介 然 有 知,行 於 大 道,唯 施 是 畏。大 道 甚 夷,而 民 好 徑。朝 甚 除,田 甚 蕪,倉 甚 虛;服 文 綵,帶 利 劍,厭 飲 食,財 貨 有 餘;是 謂 盜 夸。非 道 也 哉!

以 正 治 國,以 奇 用 兵,以 無 事 取 天 下。吾 何 以 知 其 然 哉?以 此:天 下 多 忌 諱,而 民 彌 貧;民 多 利 器,國 家 滋 昏;人 多 伎 巧,奇 物 滋 起;法 令 滋 彰,盜 賊 多 有。故 聖 人 云:我 無 為,而 民 自 化;我 好 靜,而 民 自 正;我 無 事,而 民 自 富;我 無 欲,而 民 自 樸。

其 政 悶 悶,其 民 淳 淳;其 政 察 察,其 民 缺 缺。禍 兮 福 之 所 倚,福 兮 禍 之 所 伏。孰 知 其 極?其 無 正。正 復 為 奇,善 復 為 妖。人 之 迷,其 日 固 久。是 以 聖 人 方 而 不 割,廉 而 不 劌,直 而 不 肆,光 而 不 燿。

治 大 國 若 烹 小 鮮。以 道 蒞 天 下,其 鬼 不 神;非 其 鬼 不 神,其 神 不 傷 人;非 其 神 不 傷 人,聖 人 亦 不 傷 人。夫 兩 不 相 傷,故 德 交 歸 焉。

大 國 者 下 流,天 下 之 交,天 下 之 牝。牝 常 以 靜 勝 牡,以 靜 為 下。故 大 國 以 下 小 國,則 取 小 國;小 國 以 下 大 國,則 取 大 國。故 或 下 以 取,或 下 而 取。大 國 不 過 欲 兼 畜 人,小 國 不 過 欲 入 事 人。夫 兩 者 各 得 其 所 欲,大 者 宜 為 下。

道 者 萬物 之 奧。善 人 之 寶,不 善 人 之 所 保。美 言 可 以 市,尊 行 可 以 加 人。人 之 不 善,何 棄 之 有?故 立 天 子,置 三 公,雖 有 拱 璧 以 先 駟 馬,不 如 坐 進 此 道。古 之 所 以 貴 此 道 者 何?不 曰:以 求 得,有 罪 以 免 耶?故 為 天 下 貴。

為 無 為,事 無 事,味 無 味。大 小 多 少,報 怨 以 德。圖 難 於 其 易,為 大 於 其 細;天 下 難 事,必 作 於 易,天 下 大 事,必 作 於 細。是 以 聖 人 終 不 為 大,故 能 成 其 大。夫 輕 諾 必 寡 信,多 易 必 多 難。是 以 聖 人 猶 難 之,故 終 無 難 矣。

其 安 易 持,其 未 兆 易 謀。其 脆 易 泮,其 微 易 散。為 之 於 未 有,治 之 於 未 亂。合 抱 之 木,生 於 毫 末;九 層 之  臺,起 於 累 土;千 里 之 行,始 於 足 下。為 者 敗 之,執 者 失 之。是 以 聖 人 無 為 故 無 敗;無 執 故 無 失。民 之 從 事,常 於 幾 成 而 敗 之。慎 終 如 始,則 無 敗 事,是 以 聖 人 欲 不 欲,不 貴 難 得 之 貨;學 不 學,復 衆 人 之 所 過,以 輔 萬 物 之 自 然,而 不 敢 為。

古 之 善 為 道 者,非 以 明 民,將 以 愚 之。民 之 難 治,以 其 智 多。故 以 智 治 國,國 之 賊;不 以 智 治 國,國 之 福。知 此 兩 者 亦 稽  式。常 知 稽 式,是 謂 玄 德。玄 德 深 矣,遠 矣,與 物 反 矣,然 後 乃 至 大 順。

江 海 所 以 能 為 百 谷 王 者,以 其 善 下 之,故 能 為 百 谷 王。是 以 聖 人 欲 上 民,必 以 言 下 之;欲 先 民,必 以 身 後 之。是 以 聖 人 處 上 而 民 不 重,處 前 而 民 不 害。是 以 天 下 樂 推 而 不 厭。以 其 不 爭,故 天 下 莫 能 與 之 爭。

天 下 皆 謂 我 道 大,似 不 肖。夫 唯 大,故 似 不 肖。若 肖 久 矣。其 細 也 夫!我 有 三 寶,持 而 保 之。一 曰 慈,二 曰 儉,三 曰 不 敢 為 天 下 先。慈 故 能 勇;儉 故 能 廣;不 敢 為 天 下 先,故 能 成 器 長。今 舍 慈 且 勇;舍 儉 且 廣;舍 後 且 先;死 矣!夫 慈 以 戰 則 勝,以 守 則 固。天 將 救 之,以 慈 衛 之。

善 為 士 者,不 武;善 戰 者,不 怒;善 勝 敵 者,不 與;善 用 人 者,為 之 下。是 謂 不 爭 之 德,是 謂 用 人 之 力,是 謂 配 天 古 之 極。

用 兵 有 言:吾 不 敢 為 主,而 為 客;不 敢 進 寸,而 退 尺。是 謂 行 無 行;攘 無 臂;扔 無 敵;執 無 兵。禍 莫 大 於 輕 敵,輕 敵 幾 喪 吾 寶。故 抗 兵 相 加,哀 者 勝 矣。

吾 言 甚 易 知,甚 易 行。天 下 莫 能 知,莫 能 行。言 有 宗,事 有 君。夫 唯 無 知,是 以 不 我 知。知 我 者 希,則 我 者 貴。是 以 聖 人 被 褐 懷 玉。

知  不 知 上;不 知 知 病。夫 唯 病 病,是 以 不 病。聖 人 不 病,以 其 病 病,是 以 不 病。

民 不 畏 威,則 大 威 至。無 狎 其 所 居,無 厭 其 所 生。夫 唯 不 厭,是 以 不 厭。是 以 聖 人 自 知 不 自 見;自 愛 不 自 貴。故 去 彼 取 此。

勇 於 敢 則 殺,勇 於 不 敢 則 活。此 兩 者,或 利 或 害。天 之 所 惡,孰 知 其 故?是 以 聖 人 猶 難 之。天 之 道,不 爭 而 善 勝,不 言 而 善 應,不 召 而 自 來,繟 然 而 善 謀。天 網 恢 恢,踈 而 不 失。

民 不 畏 死,奈 何 以 死 懼 之?若 使 民 常 畏 死,而 為 奇 者,吾 得 執 而 殺 之,孰 敢?常 有 司 殺 者 殺。夫 司 殺 者,是 大 匠 斲;夫 代 大 匠 斲 者,希 有 不 傷 其 手 矣。

民 之 飢,以 其 上 食 稅 之 多,是 以 飢。民 之 難 治,以 其 上 之 有 為,是 以 難 治。民 之 輕 死,以 其 求 生 之 厚,是 以 輕 死。夫 唯 無 以 生 為 者,是 賢 於 貴 生。

人 之 生 也 柔 弱,其 死 也 堅 強。萬 物 草 木 之 生 也 柔 脆,其 死 也 枯 槁。故 堅 強 者 死 之 徒 ,柔 弱 者 生 之 徒。是 以 兵 強 則 不 勝,木 強 則 共。強 大 處 下,柔 弱 處 上。

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。天 之 道,損 有 餘 而 補 不 足。人 之 道,則 不 然,損 不 足 以 奉 有 餘。孰 能 有 餘 以 奉 天 下,唯 有 道 者。是 以 聖 人 為 而 不 恃,功 成 而 不 處,其 不 欲 見 賢。

天 下 莫 柔 弱 於 水,而 攻 堅 強 者 莫 之 能 勝,其 無 以 易 之。弱 之 勝 強,柔 之 勝 剛,天 下 莫 不 知,莫 能 行。是 以 聖 人 云:受 國 之 垢,是 謂 社 稷 主;受 國 不 祥,是 謂 天 下 王。正 言 若 反。

和 大 怨,必 有 餘 怨;安 可 以 為 善?是 以 聖 人 執 左 契,而 不 責 於 人。有 德 司 契,無 德 司 徹。天 道 無 親,常 與 善 人。

小 國 寡 民。使 有 什 伯 之 器 而 不 用;使 民 重 死 而 不 遠 徙。雖 有 舟 輿,無 所 乘 之,雖  有 甲 兵,無 所 陳 之。使 民 復 結 繩 而 用 之,甘 其 食,美 其 服,安 其 居,樂 其 俗。鄰 國 相 望,雞 犬 之 聲 相 聞,民 至 老 死,不 相 往 來。

信 言 不 美,美 言 不 信。善 者 不 辯,辯 者 不 善。知 者 不 博,博 者 不 知。聖 人 不 積,既 以 為 人 己 愈 有,既 以 與 人 己 愈 多。天 之 道,利 而 不 害;聖 人 之 道,為 而 不 爭。


Early Dao
38 chapters + 2 fragments

道 可 道,非 常 道。名 可 名,非 常 名。無 名 天 地 之 始;有 名 萬 物 之 母。故 常 無 欲,以 觀 其 妙;常 有 欲,以 觀 其 徼。此 兩 者,同 出 而 異 名,同 謂 之 玄。玄 之 又 玄,衆 妙 之 門。

道 沖 而 用 之 或 不 盈。淵 兮 似 萬 物 之 宗。挫 其 ,解 其 紛,和 其 光,同 其 塵。湛 兮 似 或 存。吾 不 知 誰 之 子,象 帝 之 先。

天 地 之 間,其 猶 橐 籥 乎?虛 而 不 屈,動 而 愈 出。多 言 數 窮,不 如 守 中。

The opening section of this chapter remains in Later Dao as an independent fragment.

谷 神 不 死,是 謂 玄 牝。 玄 牝 之 門,是 謂 天 地 根。綿 綿 若 存,用 之 不 勤。

載 營 魄 抱 一,能 無 離 乎?專 氣 致 柔,能 嬰 兒 乎? 滌 除 玄 覽,能 無 疵 乎? 愛 民 治 國, 能 無 知 乎?天 門 開 闔,能 為 雌 乎?明 白 四 達,能 無 知 乎?生 之、畜 之,生 而 不 有,為 而 不 恃,長 而 不 宰,是 謂 玄 德。

三 十 輻,共 一 轂,當 其 無,有 車 之 用。埏 埴 以 為 器,當 其 無,有 器 之 用。鑿 牖  以 為 室,當 其 無,有 室 之 用 。故 有 之 以 為 利,無 之 以 為 用。

寵 辱 若 驚,貴 大 患 若 身。何 謂 寵 辱 若 驚? 寵 為 下,得 之 若 驚,失 之 若 驚,是 謂 寵 辱 若 驚。何謂 貴 大 患 若 身?吾 所 以 有 大 患 者,為 吾 有 身,及 吾 無 身,吾 有 何 患?故 貴 以 身 為 天 下,若 可 寄 天 下;愛 以 身 為 天 下,若 可 託 天 下。

視 之 不 見,名 曰 夷;聽 之 不 聞,名 曰 希;搏 之 不 得,名 曰 微。此 三 者 不 可 致 詰,故 混 而 為一。其 上 不 皦,其 下 不 昧。繩 繩 不 可 名,復 歸 於 無 物。無 狀 之 狀, 無 物 之 象,是 謂 惚 恍。迎 之 不 見 其 首,隨 之 不 見 其 後。執 古 之 道,以 御 今 之 有。能 知 古 始,是 謂 道 紀。

古 之 善 為 士 者,微 妙 玄 通,深 不 可 識。夫 唯 不 可 識,故 強 為 之 容。豫 兮 若 冬 涉 川;猶 兮 若 畏 四 鄰;儼 兮 其 若 容;渙 兮 若 冰 之 將 釋;敦 兮 其 若 樸;曠 兮 其 若 谷;混 兮 其 若 濁;孰能 濁 以 靜 之 徐 清?孰 能 安 以 久 動 之 徐 生?保 此 道 者,不 欲 盈。夫 唯 不 盈,能 蔽 不 新 成。

致 虛 極,守 靜 篤。萬 物 並 作,吾 以 觀 復。夫 物 芸 芸,各 復 歸 其 根。歸 根 曰 靜,是 謂 復 命。復命 曰 常,知 常 曰 明。不 知 常,妄 作 凶。知 常 容,容 乃 公,公 乃 王,王 乃 天,天 乃 道,道 乃 久,沒 身 不 殆。

絕 學 無 憂,唯 之 與 阿,相 去 幾 何?善 之 與 惡,相 去 若 何?人 之 所 畏,不 可 不 畏。荒 兮 其 未 央 哉!衆 人 熙  熙,如 享 太 牢,如 春 登 臺。我 獨 怕 兮 其 未 兆;如 嬰 兒 之 未 孩;儽 儽 兮 若 無 所 歸。衆 人 皆 有 餘,而 我 獨 若 遺。我 愚 人 之 心 也 哉!沌 沌 兮,俗 人 昭 昭,我 獨 若 昏。俗 人 察  察,我 獨 悶 悶。澹 兮 其 若 海,飂 兮 若 無 止,衆 人 皆 有 以,而 我 獨  頑 似 鄙。我 獨 異 於 人,而 貴 食 母。

孔 德 之 容,唯 道 是 從。道 之 為 物,唯 恍 唯 惚。忽 兮 恍 兮,其 中 有 象;恍 兮 忽 兮,其 中 有 物。窈兮 冥 兮,其 中 有 精;其 精 甚 真,其 中 有 信。自 古 及 今,其 名 不 去,以 衆 甫。吾 何 以 知 衆 甫 之 狀 哉?以 此。

*23      希 言 自 然,故 飄 風 不 終 朝,驟 雨 不 終 日。孰 為 此 者?天地。天地 尚 不 能 久,而 況 於 人 乎?故 從 事 於 道 者,道 者,同 於 道 ; 德 者,同 於 德;失 者,同 於 失。同 於 道 者, 道 亦 樂 得 之;同 於 德 者,德 亦 樂 得 之;同 於 失 者,失 亦 樂 得 之。信 不 足,焉 有 不 信 焉。

企 者 不 立;跨 者 不 行;自 見 者 不 明;自 是 者 不 彰;自 伐 者 無 功;自 矜 者 不 長。其 在 道 也,曰:餘 食 贅 行。物 或 惡 之,故 有 道 者 不 處

有 物 混 成,先 天 地 生。寂 兮 寥 兮 ,獨 立 不 改,周 行 而 不 殆,可 以 為 天 下 母。吾 不 知 其 名,字之 曰 道,強 為 之 名 曰 大。大 曰 逝,逝 曰 遠,遠 曰 反。故 道 大,天 大,地 大,王 亦 大。域中有 四 大,而 王 居 其 一 焉。人 法 地,地 法 天,天 法 道,道 法 自 然。

知 其 雄,守 其 雌,為 天 下 谿。為 天 下 谿,常 德 不 離,復 歸 於 嬰 兒。知 其 白,守 其 黑,為 天 下 式。為 天 下 式 ,常 德 不 忒 , 復 歸 無 極 。知 其 榮,守  其 辱 ,為 天 下 谷  。為 天 下 谷,常 德 乃 足,復 歸 於 樸。

The closing passage of this chapter remains in Later Dao as an independent fragment.

以 道 佐 人 主 者,不 以 兵 強 天 下。其 事 好 還。師 之 所 處,荊 棘 生 焉。大 軍 之 後,必 有 凶 年。善 有 果 而 已,不 敢 以 取 強。果 而 勿 矜,果 而 勿 伐,果 而 勿 驕。果 而 不 得 已,果 而 勿 強。物 壯 則 老,是 謂 不 道,不 道 早 已。

夫 佳 兵 者,不 祥 之 器,物 或 惡 之,故 有 道 者 不 處。君 子 居 則 貴 左,用 兵 則 貴 右。兵 者不 祥 之 器, 非 君 子之 器,不 得 已 而 用 之,恬 淡 為 上。勝 而 不 美,而 美 之 者,是 樂 殺 人。夫 樂 殺 人 者,則 不 可 以 得 志 於 天 下 矣。 吉 事  尚 左,凶 事 尚 右。 偏 將 軍 居 左, 上 將 軍 居 右,言 以 喪 禮 處 之。殺 人 之 衆,以  哀 悲 泣 之,戰 勝 以 喪 禮 處 之。
道 常 無 名。樸 雖 小,天 下 莫 能 臣 也。侯 王 若 能 守 之,萬 物 將 自 賓。天 地 相 合,以 降 甘 露,民 莫 之 令 而 自 均。始 制 有 名,名 亦 既 有,夫 亦 將 知 止,知 止 所 以 不 殆。譬 道 之 在 天 下,猶 川 谷 之 與 江 海。

知 人 者 智,自 知 者 明。勝 人 者 有 力,自 勝 者 強。知 足 者 富。強 行 者 有 志。不 失 其所 者 久。死 而 不 亡 者 壽。

大 道 汎 兮,其 可 左 右。萬 物 恃 之 而 生 而 不 辭 ,功 成 不 名 有。衣 養 萬 物 而 不 為 主,常 無 欲,可名 於 小 ;萬 物 歸 焉,而 不 為 主,可 名 為 大。以 其 終 不 自 為 大,故 能 成 其 大。

In my first cut I treated this chapter as though it included the Sage, as it does in many versions though not in the Wang Pi version. In the second cut I put this chapter into the Early Dao group.

執 大 象,天 下 往 。往 而 不 害,安 平 大。樂 與 餌,過 客 止。道 之 出 口,淡 乎 其 無 味,視 之 不 足 見,聽 之 不 足 聞,用 之 不 足 既。

道 常 無 為 而 無 不 為。侯 王 若 能 守 之,萬 物 將 自 化。化 而 欲 作,吾 將 鎮 之 以 無 名 之 樸。無 名 之 樸,夫 亦 將 無 欲。不 欲 以 靜,天 下 將 自 定。

上 德 不 德,是 以 有 德;下 德 不 失 德,是 以 無 德。上 德 無 為 而 無 以 為;下 德 為 之 而 有 以 為。上 仁 為 之 而 無 以 為;上 義 為 之 而 有 以 為。上 禮 為 之 而 莫 之 應,則 攘 臂 而 扔 之。故 失 道 而 後 德,失 德 而 後 仁,失 仁 而 後 義,失 義 而 後 禮 。夫 禮 者,忠 信 之 薄,而 亂 之 首。前 識 者,道 之 華, 而 愚 之 始。是 以 大 丈 夫 處 其 厚,不 居 其 薄;處 其 實,不 居 其 華 。 故 去 彼 取 此。

昔 之 得 一 者:天 得 一 以 清;地 得 一 以 寧;神 得 一 以 靈;谷 得 一 以 盈;萬 物 得 一 以 生 ;侯 王 得 一 以 為 天 下 貞。其 致 之 ,天 無 以 清 ,將 恐 裂;地 無 以 寧,將 恐 發;神 無 以 靈,將 恐 歇;谷 無 以 盈,將 恐 竭;萬 物 無 以 生,將 恐 滅;侯 王 無 以 貴 高 將 恐 蹶。故 貴 以 賤 為 本,高 以 下 為 基。是 以 侯 王 自 稱 孤、寡、不 穀。此 非 以 賤 為 本 耶?非 乎?故 致 數 譽 無 譽。不 欲 琭 琭 如 玉,珞 珞 如 石。

反 者 道 之 動;弱 者 道 之 用。天 下 萬 物 生 於 有,有 生 於 無。

上 士 聞 道,勤 而 行 之;中 士 聞 道,若 存 若 亡;下 士 聞 道,大 笑 之。不 笑 不 足 以 道。故 建 言 有 之:明 道 若 昧;進 道 若 退;夷 道 若 纇;上 德 若 谷;太 白 若 辱;廣 德 若 不 足;建 德 若 偷;質 真 若 渝;大 方 無 隅;大 器 晚 成;大 音 希 聲;大 象 無 形;道 隱 無 名。夫 唯 道,善 貸 且 成。

道 生 一,一 生 二,二 生 三,三 生 萬 物。萬 物 負 陰 而 抱 陽,沖 氣 以 為 和。人 之 所 惡,唯 孤、寡、不 穀,而 王 公 以 為 稱。故 物 或 損 之 而 益,或 益 之 而 損。人 之 所 教,我 亦 教 之。強 梁 者 不 得 其 死,吾 將 以 為 教 父。

天 下 之 至 柔,馳 騁 天 下 之 至 堅。無 有 入 無 間,吾 是 以 知 無 為 之 有 益。不 言 之 教, 無 為 之 益,天下希 及 之。

名 與 身 孰 親?身 與 貨 孰 多?得 與 亡 孰 病?是 故 甚 愛 必 大 費;多 藏 必 厚 亡。知 足 不 辱,知 止 不 殆,可 以 長 久。

大 成 若 缺,其 用 不 弊。大 盈 若 沖,其 用 不 窮。大 直 若 屈,大 巧 若 拙,大 辯 若 訥。躁 勝 寒 靜 勝 熱。清 靜 為 天 下 正。

天 下 有 道,卻 走 馬 以 糞。天 下 無 道,戎 馬 生 於 郊。禍 莫 大 於 不 知 足;咎 莫 大 於 欲 得。 故 知 足 之 足,常 足 矣。

為 學 日 益,為 道 日 損。損 之 又 損,以 至 於 無 為。無 為 而 無 不 為。取 天 下 常 以 無 事,及 其 有 事,不 足 以 取 天 下。

出 生 入 死。生 之 徒,十 有 三;死 之 徒,十 有 三;人 之 生,動 之 死 地,十 有 三。夫 何 故?以 其 生 ,生之 厚。 蓋 聞 善 攝 生 者,陸 行 不 遇 兕 虎,入 軍 不 被 甲 兵;兕 無 所 投 其 角,虎 無 所 措 其 爪,兵 無 所 容 其 刃。夫 何 故? 以其 無 死 地。

道 生 之,德 畜 之 ,物 形之 , 勢 成 之。是 以 萬 物 莫 不 尊 道 而 貴 德。道 之 尊,德 之 貴,夫 莫 之 命 常 自 然。故 道 生 之,德 畜 之;長 之 育 之;亭 之 毒 之;養 之 覆 之。生 而 不 有,為 而 不 恃,長 而 不 宰, 是 謂 玄 德。

天 下 有 始,  以 為 天 下 母。既 得 其 母  ,以 知 其 子,既 知 其 子,復 守 其 母,沒 身 不 殆。塞 其 兌, 閉 其 門,終 身 不 勤。開 其 兌,濟 其 事,終 身 不 救。見 小 曰 明,守 柔 曰 強。用 其 光,復 歸 其 明,無  遺 身 殃;是 為 習 常。

善 建 不 拔,善 抱 者 不 脫,子 孫 以 祭 祀 不 輟。修 之 於 身,其 德 乃 真;修 之 於 家,其 德 乃 餘;修 之 於 鄉,其 德 乃 長;修 之 於 國,其 德 乃 豐;修 之 於 天 下,其 德 乃 普。故 以 身 觀 身,以 家 觀 家,以 鄉 觀 鄉,以 國 觀 國,以 天 下 觀 天 下。吾 何 以 知 天 下 然 哉? 以 此。

含 德 之 厚,比 於 赤 子。蜂 蠆 虺 蛇 不 螫,猛 獸 不 據,攫 鳥 不 搏。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。知 和 曰 常,知 常 曰 明,益 生 曰 祥。心 使 氣 曰 強。物 壯 則 老,謂 之 不 道,不 道 早 已。

知 者 不 言,言 者 不 知。塞 其 兌,閉 其 門,挫 其 銳,解 其 分,和 其 光,同 其 塵,是 謂 玄 同。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。故 為 天 下 貴。

治 人 事 天 莫 若 嗇。夫 唯 嗇,是 謂 早 服;早 服 謂 之 重 積 德;重 積 德 則 無 不 克;無 不 克 則 莫 知 其 極;莫 知 其 極,可 以 有 國;有 國 之 母,可 以 長 久;是 謂 深 根 固 柢,長 生 久 視 之 道。

I have speculated that 治 人 事 天 莫 若 嗇 belongs at the beginning of chapter 60.

Published in: on September 6, 2017 at 7:38 pm  Comments (3)  

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  1. Hi John. I’ve finally read through this. You’ve done some good work here, though I find myself unconvinced. I suppose I just don’t think we have enough information (yet?) to get far enough, although I may have unconscious resistance for other reasons. A couple things I will mention: I don’t share the assumption that the original collection was religious/mystical (and also question the early date of the Neiye). I question “the Early Dao chapters were selected relatively late from a LARGE BODY OF INDEPENDENT TEXTS circulating within a loosely organized movement” for reasons outlined in my essay on the Laozi. Lastly, in my opinion, sheng in chapter 19 does not refer to the sage but rather sageliness or some other similar quality and perhaps should not bother you too much.

    • Just saw this, Scott. I thought I was getting notifications but I guess I’m not.

      Sheng in Ch. 19 is only a nuisance. It doesn’t change anything. The fact that it’s not in GD even though the chapter is there is just another layer of confusion. By its affinities this is one of the chapters where the Sage SHOULD be mentioned.

      The historical question and dating are secondary to the question of whether the DDJ can be divided that way. Perhaps I should have ignored sequences. But the generally larger number of variants of the chapters I call early argues for an earlier date and longer circulation, as well as the final status of 67-81 and its relative non-mysticism.

      • P.S To me the “not enough information” objection is too cautious. But how is it cautious to accept the traditional text uncritically, when we have variant texts and when the traditional story of Laozi cannot be true? Obviously that’s safest choice academically and in the Chinese philosophy biz, but to me it amounts to just not asking questions. There is a divide there, I think you accept that, but why and how? And where was the line drawn?

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