Daodejing Translation: Chapter 61 — Chapter 65

Richard Brown
3 min readMar 22, 2024

Here is my new English translation of Chapter 61 to Chapter 65 of the Daodejing together with links to commentaries and breakdowns of each chapter.

Daodejing Chapter 61
《老子道德經》第六十一章

A large state lies downstream.
It is where everything converges.
It is the female of all-under-heaven.
The female invariably prevails
Over the male through stillness.
In her stillness, she lies beneath.
By lying beneath a small state,
A large state wins over the small state.
By lying beneath a large state,
A small state wins over the large state.
Whether it lies beneath to win,
Or it lies beneath and wins,
A large state wants to bring
A small state into its orbit,
A small state wants to enjoy
The embrace of a large state.
Since both sides get what they want,
The large state should lie beneath.

「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。」

Daodejing Chapter 61: lying beneath
Daodejing Chapter 61 breakdown: the female of all-under-heaven

Daodejing Chapter 62
《老子道德經》第六十二章

The Dao is the sanctuary
For the myriad things.
It provides treasure
For the good,
Refuge for the not good.
Fine words can win respect.
Fine deeds can win admiration.
Even if someone is not good,
Why abandon them?
When the son-of-heaven
Was enthroned,
And the three dukes
Were installed,
Instead of presenting them
With jade and
A team of four horses,
Would it not
Have been better
To sit in stillness,
And give them the Dao?
Why did the ancients
Prize the Dao so highly?
Has it not been said:
By seeking and attaining it,
You will be spared
The consequences
Of your mistakes.
This is why the Dao
Is prized by all-under-heaven.

「道者,萬物之奧。善人之寶,不善人之所保。美言可以市尊,美行可以加人。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,何也。不曰:求以得,有罪以免耶,故為天下貴。」

Daodejing Chapter 62: the sanctuary for the myriad things
Daodejing Chapter 62 breakdown: prized by all-under-heaven

Daodejing Chapter 63
《老子道德經》第六十三章

Act with effortless action.
Manage without interfering.
Taste without tasting.
Treat the great as small
And the many as few.
Repay injury with inner power.
Tackle the difficult when it is easy.
Tackle the great when it is small.
All difficult tasks in the world,
Begin with the easy.
All great tasks in the world,
Begin with the small.
The sage never strives to be great.
So, he accomplishes greatness.
A promise made lightly
Should not be trusted.
Things considered easy
Often turn out to be difficult.
The sage treats everything as difficult.
So, he never encounters any difficulties.

「為無為,事無事,味無味。大小多少,報怨以德。圖難於其易,圖大於其細。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!」

Daodejing Chapter 63: act with effortless action
Daodejing Chapter 63 breakdown: tackle the difficult when it is easy

Daodejing Chapter 64
《老子道德經》第六十四章

It is easy to manage a stable situation.
It is easy to nip a problem in the bud.
It is easy to shatter something that is brittle.
It is easy to scatter something that is tiny.
Act before something happens.
Establish order before chaos emerges.
A tree an arm’s span in girth,
Grows from a tiny shoot.
A terrace nine storeys high,
Rises from a mound of earth.
A journey of a thousand miles,
Starts with a single step.
Those who act fail.
Those who grip lose.
The sage never acts
And so does not fail.
He never grips
And so never fails.
People often fail
On the brink of success.
Be as careful at the end
As at the beginning,
And there will be no failure.
The sage desires without desiring.
He does not value rare goods.
He studies without studying.
He balances the excesses
Of the masses.
By refraining from action,
He enables the myriad things
To flourish naturally.

「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,復眾人之所過,以輔萬物之自然而不敢為。」

Daodejing Chapter 64: a journey of a thousand miles
Daodejing Chapter 64 breakdown: act before something happens

Daodejing Chapter 65
《老子道德經》第六十五章

Daoist sages of ancient times,
Did not enlighten the people
About the Dao,
But kept them on
The path of simplicity.
Now the people
Are difficult to rule,
Because they have
Too much cleverness.
To rule with cleverness
Is to rob the state.
To rule without cleverness
Is to bless the state.
To understand this pattern
Is to have primal power.
Primal power is
Deep and distant!
It leads all things back
To the natural order.

「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。」

Daodejing Chapter 65: too much cleverness
Daodejing Chapter 65 breakdown: Daoist sages of ancient times

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Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.