Tao Te Ching
Something formless, complete in itself
There before Heaven and Earth
Tranquil, vast, standing alone, unchanging
It provides for all things yet cannot be exhausted
It is the mother of the universe
I do not know its name
so I call it “Tao”
Forced to name it further
I call it
“The greatness of all things”
“The end of all endings”
I call it
“That which is beyond the beyond”
“That to which all things return”
From Tao comes all greatness-----
It makes heaven great
It makes earth great
It makes man great
Mankind depends on the laws of Earth
Earth depends on the laws of Heaven
Heaven depends on the laws of Tao
But Tao depends on itself alone
Supremely free, self-so, it rests in its own nature
Translation and commentary by Jonathan Star
There was some process that formed spontaneously
Emerging before the heavens and the earth.
Silent and empty,
Standing alone as all that is, it does not suffer alteration.
All pervading, it does not pause.
It can be thought of as the mother of the heavens and the earth.
I do not yet know its name (ming).
If I were to style it,
I would call it way-making (dao).
And if forced to give it a name,
I would call it grand.
Being grand, it is called passing,
Passing, it is called distancing.
Distancing, it is called returning.
Way-making is grand,
The heavens (tian) are grand,
The earth is grand,
And the king is also grand.
Within our territories
There are four “grandees”
And the king occupies one of them.
Human beings emulate the earth,
The earth emulates the heavens,
The heavens emulate way-making,
And way-making emulate what is spontaneously so (ziran).
Translated and with commentary by Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall
THE FOUR ETERNAL MODELS
Before the Heaven and Earth existed
There was something nebulous:
Standing alone, changing not,
Eternally revolving without fail,
Worthy to be the Mother of All Things.
I do not know its name
And address it as Tao.
It forced to give it a name, I shall call it “Great.”
Being great implies reaching out in space,
Reaching out in space implies far-reaching,
Far-reaching implies reversion to the original point.
Therefore: Tao is Great,
The Heaven is great,
The Earth is great,
The King is also great.
These are the Great Four in the universe,
And the King is one of them.
Man models himself after the Earth;
The Earth models itself after Heaven;
The Heaven models itself after Tao;
Tao models itself after Nature.
The Wisdom of Laotse edited and with an introduction by Lin Yutang
There was a thing, a “gathering” chaos,
Which existed prior to heaven and earth.
Existing by itself, unchanging,
Pervading everywhere, inexhaustible,
It might be called the mother of the world.
Its name is unknown;
I simply call it Tao.
If I were to exert myself to define it,
I might call it great.
Great means extending to the limitless.
Extending to the limitless means reaching the extreme distance.
Reaching the extreme distance means returning to “nearness.”
Thus, Tao is great,
Heaven is great, earth is great, and man is great, too.
Tao: A New Way of Thinking
A translation of the Tao Te Ching with an Introduction and Commentaries by Chang Chuang-Yuan
Something mysteriously formed,
Born before heaven and earth,
In the silence and the void,
Standing alone and unchanging,
Ever present and in motion.
Perhaps it is the mother of ten thousand things,
I do not know its name,
Call it Tao.
For lack of a better word, I call it great.
Being great, it flows.
It flows far away.
Having gone far, it returns.
Therefore, “Tao is great;
Heaven is great;
Earth is great;
The king is also great.”
These are the four great powers
of the universe,
And the king is one of them.
Man follows the earth.
Earth follows heaven.
Heaven follows the Tao.
Tao follows what is natural.
Translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English