Daodejing Translation: Chapter 71 — Chapter 75

Richard Brown
3 min readMar 24, 2024

Here is my new English translation of Chapter 71 to Chapter 75 of the Daodejing together with links to commentaries and breakdowns of each chapter.

Daodejing Chapter 71
《老子道德經》第七十一章

To know what you
Do not know is the best.
To not know but to pretend
To know is a sickness.
Only those who see
This sickness for what is,
Can avoid the sickness.
The sage is not sick.
Because he sees
This sickness for what it is,
He cannot be sick.

「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。」

Daodejing Chapter 71: sickness and knowledge
Daodejing Chapter 71 breakdown: the sage is not sick

Daodejing Chapter 72
《老子道德經》第七十二章

When the people
No longer fear terror,
An even greater terror
Will descend upon them.
Do not limit their living space.
Do not oppress their livelihood.
Only when you do not oppress them,
Will the people not feel tired of living.
The sage knows self
But does not display self,
Cherishes self
But does not exalt self.
Rejects one and chooses the other.

「民不畏威,則大威至。無狹其所居,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。」

Daodejing Chapter 72: staying in the background
Daodejing Chapter 72 breakdown: an even greater terror

Daodejing Chapter 73
《老子道德經》第七十三章

Daring to be bold means death.
Daring not to be bold preserves life.
Of the two, one benefits and one harms.
Who knows what heaven hates?
Even the sage finds it difficult to understand.
The Dao of heaven
Does not contend and yet prevails.
Does not speak and yet responds.
Is not summoned and yet appears.
Is laid-back and yet makes plans.
Heaven’s net is vast,
It is widely meshed,
And yet nothing slips through it.

「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,疏而不失。」

Daodejing Chapter 73: bravado and courage
Daodejing Chapter 73 breakdown: heaven’s net is vast

Daodejing Chapter 74
《老子道德經》第七十四章

When the people do not fear death,
Why frighten them with death?
Who would dare to arrest those
Who step out of line,
And put them to death,
Just to make sure that the people,
Live in constant fear of death?
There is already an official executioner,
Charged with killing.
To take the place of the executioner,
ls like chopping wood
In place of a master woodcutter.
Of those who chop wood
In place of a master woodcutter,
Very few avoid injuring their hands.

「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。夫代司殺者殺,是謂代大匠斲。夫代大匠斲者,希有不傷其手矣!」

Daodejing Chapter 74: laying down the law
Daodejing Chapter 74 breakdown: when the people do not fear death

Daodejing Chapter 75
《老子道德經》第七十五章

The people starve,
Because their rulers squander
Their taxes on food.
That is why people starve.
The people are difficult to govern,
Because their rulers interfere too much.
That is why they are difficult to govern.
The people make light of death,
Because their rulers lead lives of excess.
That is why they make light of death.
Those who take life as it comes
Are wiser than those who try to force it.

「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。」

Daodejing Chapter 75: tightening their belts
Daodejing Chapter 75 breakdown: the people starve

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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.