Daodejing Translation: Chapter 66 — Chapter 70

Richard Brown
3 min readMar 23, 2024

Here is my new English translation of Chapter 66 to Chapter 70 of the Daodejing together with links to commentaries and breakdowns of each chapter.

Daodejing Chapter 66
《老子道德經》第六十六章

Rivers and oceans are
The kings of the hundred valleys,
Because they lie beneath them.
This is why they are
The kings of the hundred valleys.
Whoever wants to stand
Above the people,
Must speak to them
From below.
Whoever wants to lead
The people from the front,
Must follow them from behind.
The sage is above,
But the people
Do not feel any burden,
Is in front,
But the people
Do not feel any threat.
The whole world gladly
And untiringly supports him.
Because the sage
Does not contend with others,
Nobody in the world
Contends with him.

「江海所以能為百谷王者,以其善下之,故能為百谷王。是以欲上民必以言下之,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。」

Daodejing Chapter 66: kings of the hundred valleys
Daodejing Chapter 66 breakdown: rivers and oceans

Daodejing Chapter 67: compassion and courageousness
《老子道德經》第六十七章

All-under-heaven says
That my Dao is great
Because it resembles nothing.
It is because it is great,
That it resembles nothing.
If it resembled something,
It would long ago
Have become small.
I have three treasures
That I hold and cherish.
The first is compassion.
The second is frugality.
The third is refusing to
Put yourself above everyone.
Compassion allows you to be courageous.
Frugality allows you to be generous.
Refusing to put yourself above everyone,
Allows you to become
The leader of all-under-heaven.
Courageousness without compassion,
Generosity without frugality,
And leadership without
Refusing to put yourself above everyone,
Are fatal mistakes.
With compassion comes
Victory in offence,
And impregnability in defence.
Heaven saves,
Compassion protects.

「天下皆謂我道大似不肖。夫唯大故不肖,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。」

Daodejing Chapter 67: compassion and courageousness
Daodejing Chapter 67 breakdown: the three treasures

Daodejing Chapter 68: the power of non-contention
《老子道德經》第六十八章

A great soldier is not warlike.
A great warrior is never roused in anger.
A great conqueror does not engage the enemy.
A great leader lies beneath the people.
This is called the power of non-contention.
This is called harnessing the people’s strength.
This is called the union with heaven,
The supreme principle of the ancients.

「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,古之極也。」

Daodejing Chapter 68: the power of non-contention
Daodejing Chapter 68 breakdown: a great warrior is never roused in anger

Daodejing Chapter 69: advancing without advancing
《老子道德經》第六十九章

Military commanders
Have an old saying:
I would rather be a guest
Than a host.
I would rather retreat a foot
Than advance an inch.
This is called
Advancing without advancing,
Raising your hand
Without baring your arm,
Holding your weapon
Without using it,
Attacking your enemy
Without engaging it.
There is no greater disaster
Than underestimating the enemy.
In doing so you risk
Losing your treasures.
When two armies engage in battle,
The side filled with regret wins.

「用兵有言曰:吾不敢為主,而為客;吾不敢進寸而退尺,是謂行無行,攘無臂,執無兵,扔無敵。禍莫大於輕敵,輕敵幾喪吾寶;故抗兵相加,哀者勝矣!」

Daodejing Chapter 69: advancing without advancing
Daodejing Chapter 69 breakdown: defence is the best offence

Daodejing Chapter 70: brown sackcloth and jade
《老子道德經》第七十章

My words are very easy
To understand and to practice.
Yet no one in the world
Can understand and practice them.
My words have an ancestor.
My deeds have a lord.
Because so few people understand me,
The ones who model
Themselves on me are rare.
The sage wears brown sackcloth,
But has jade in his breast.

「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」。

Daodejing Chapter 70: brown sackcloth and jade
Daodejing Chapter 70 breakdown: easy to understand and practice

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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.