Chapter 17

Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing)
Classic of the Way and Virtue

By Lao Tzu (Laozi)

Compiled by Michael P. Garofalo, Green Way Research, Valley Spirit Center, Gushen Grove Notebooks, Red Bluff, California

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Chapter 17

Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) by Lao Tzu




Simplicity of Habits, Faith in Rulers, Existence or Presence (yu), Completes or Finishes (kung), Independence of People, Earned Respect, Despised Rulers, Deeds or Work (shih), Trust, Antiquity, Three Ages, Self (tsu), History, Self-Rule, Self-Reliance, Relaxed or Quiet (yu), Respected or Feared (wei), Tao, Self-Reliance, Peace, Prosperity, Wu Wei, Rulers or Leaders (shang), Control, Despised or Reviled (wu), Faith or Trust or Belief (hsin), Accomplishments of the People, Words (yen), Work or Task (ch'êng), Love or Attachment (ch'in), Families or People (hsing), Know or Aware (chih), Great or Best or Highest (t'ai),  淳風   




"In the highest antiquity, the people did not know that there were rulers.
In the next age they loved them and praised them.
In the next they feared them. 
In the next they despised them.
Thus it was that when faith in the Dao was deficient in the rulers a want of faith in them ensued.
How irresolute did those earliest rulers appear, showing by their reticence the importance which they set upon their words!
Their work was done and their undertakings were successful, while the people all said, 'We are as we are, of ourselves!' " 
-  Translated by James Legge, 1891, Chapter 17  



"From great antiquity forth they have known and possessed it.
Those of the next level loved and praised it.
The next were in awe of it.
And the next despised it.
If you lack sincerity no one will believe you. 
How careful she is with her precious words!
When her work is complete and her job is finished,
Everybody says: "We did it!""
-  Translated by Charles Muller, 1891, Chapter 17



Revealing the Tao Te Ching: In-Depth Commentaries on an Ancient Classic  By Hu Xuzehi
Tao Te Ching  Annotated translation by Victor Mair  
Reading Lao Tzu: A Companion to the Tao Te Ching with a New Translation  By Ha Poong Kim
The Philosophy of the Daodejing  By Hans-Georg Moeller  

Ripening Peaches: Taoist Studies and Practices   By Mike Garofalo

Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation  By Roger T. Ames and David T. Hall
Tao Te Ching on The Art of Harmony   By Chad Hansen. 
The Way and Its Power: Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching and Its Place in Chinese Thought   By Arthur Waley






"When great men rule, subjects know little of their existence.
Rulers who are less great win the affection and praise of their subjects.
A common ruler is feared by his subjects, and an unworthy ruler is despised.
When a ruler lacks faith, you may seek in vain for it among his subjects.
How carefully a wise ruler chooses his words.
He performs deeds, and accumulates merit!
Under such a ruler the people think they are ruling themselves."
-  Translated by Dwight Goddard, 1919, Chapter 17 



Cloud Hands Blog



"In ancient times
The people knew that they had rulers.
Then they loved and praised them,
Then they feared them,
Then they despised them.
The rulers did not trust the people,
The people did not trust the rulers.
The rulers were grave, their words were precious.
The people having finished their work,
and brought it to a successful issue, said:
"We affirm the Self.""
-  Translated by Isabella Mears, 1916, Chapter 17




Tao Te Ching  Translated by Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo  

Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching  Translated by John C. Wu

Lao-Tzu and the Tao-Te-Ching  Translated by Livia Kohn

Dao De Jing: The Book of the Way Translated by Moss Roberts






"The greatest rulers are the ones whose existence the people do not notice at all,
The rulers who are inferior to them are the ones whom the people honor and praise,
And inferior to those are the ones of whom they are afraid,
And inferior to those are the ones whom they despise.
When there is a lack of faith in the ruler,
No one believes in his rule.
Now, learn how much importance must be attributed to words."
-  Translated by Chou Wing Chohan, Chapter 17 




-  Chinese characters, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 17



t'ai shang hsia chih yu chih.
ch'i tz'u ch'in erh yü chih.
chi tz'u wei chih.
ck'i tz'u wu chih.
hsin pu tsu yen yu pu hsin yen.
yu hsi ch'i kuei yen. 
kung ch'êng shih sui pai hsing chieh wei wo tzu jan.
-  Wade-Giles Romanization, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 17



Audio Version in Chinese of Chapter 17 of the Tao Te Ching



tai shang bu zhi you zhi.
qi ci qin er yu zhi.
qi ci wei zhi.
qi ci wu zhi.
xin bu zu yan you bu xin yan.
you xi qi gui yan.
gong cheng shi sui bai xing jie wei wo zi ran.
-  Pinyin Romanization, Daodejing, Chapter 17






Tao Te Ching in Chinese characters and English (includes a word by word key) from YellowBridge

Tao Te Ching in Chinese characters, Pinyin Romanization (romanization), English and German by Dr. Hilmar Alquiros. 

Laozi Daodejing: Chapters with Chinese characters, seal script, detailed word by word concordance, Pinyin (tone#), German, French and English. 

Chinese and English Dictionary, MDGB

Chinese Character Dictionary

Dao De Jing Wade-Giles Concordance by Nina, Dao is Open

Dao De Jing English and Wade-Giles Concordance by Mike Garofalo

Tao Te Ching in Pinyin Romanization with Chinese characters, WuWei Foundation

Tao Te Ching in Pinyin Romanization

Tao Te Ching in Chinese characters and English

Tao Te Ching: English translation, Word by Word Chinese and English, and Commentary, Center Tao by Carl Abbott

Tao Te Ching in Chinese characters, English, Word by word analysis, Zhongwen

Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition  Chinese characters, Wade-Giles Romanization, and a list of meanings for each character by Jonathan Star 

Tao Te Ching in Chinese characters: Big 5 Traditional and GB Simplified

Convert from Pinyin to Wade Giles to Yale Romanizations of Words and Terms: A Translation Tool from Qi Journal

Chinese Characters, Wade-Giles and Pinyin Romanizations, and 16 English Translations for Each Chapter of the Daodejing by Mike Garofalo. 

Tao Te Ching in Chinese characters, Pinyin and Wade Giles Romanization spellings, English; a word for word translation of the Guodian Laozi Dao De Jing Version. 

Lao Zi's Dao De Jing: A Matrix Translation with Chinese Text by Bradford Hatcher. 



"In the first age of mankind the people recognized their superiors.
In the second age they served and flattered them.
In the third age they feared them,
In the fourth age they despised them.
Where faith is lacking it does not inspire confidence.
How careful were they in their expressions!
When they had done a good thing they would say, "How very natural we are!" "
-  Translated by Walter Gorn Old, 1904, Chapter 17 




Simple Taoism: A Guide to Living in Balance   By Alexander Simkins
The Tao of Daily Life: The Mysteries of the Orient Revealed   By Derek Lin
Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony    By Ming-Dao Deng. 
Ripening Peaches: Taoist Studies and Practices
The Tao of Pooh   By Benjamin Hoff. 
Scholar Warrior: An Introduction to the Tao in Everyday Life   By Ming-Dao Deng
Vitality, Energy, Spirit: A Taoist Sourcebook   Translated by Thomas Cleary






"Of great rulers the subjects do not notice the existence.
To lesser ones people are attached; they praise them.
Still lesser ones people fear, and the meanest ones people despise.
For it is said: 'If your faith be insufficient, verily, you will receive no faith.' 
How reluctantly the great rulers considered their words!
Merit they accomplished; deeds they performed; and the hundred families thought: 'We are independent.' "  
-  Translated by D. T. Suzuki and Paul Carus, 1913, Chapter 17    



"The great rulers - the people do not notice their existence;
The lesser ones - they attach to and praise them;
The still lesser ones - they fear them;
The still lesser ones - they despise them;
For where faith is lacking,
It cannot be met by faith.
Now how much importance must be attached to words!"
-  Translated by Ch'u Ta-Kao, 1904, Chapter 17




The Complete Works of Lao Tzu: Tao Teh Ching & Hua Hu Ching   Translation and elucidation by Hua Ching Ni
The Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu   Translated by Brian Walker
Tao Te Ching  Translated by Arthur Waley
Tao - The Way   Translated by Lionel and and Herbert Giles
Taoism: An Essential Guide   By Eva Wong






"The wise leader does not intervene unnecessarily. The leader's presence is felt, but often the group runs itself.
Lesser leaders do a lot, say a lot, have followers, and form cults.
Even worse ones use fear to energize groups to overcome resistance.
Only the most dreadful leaders have bad reputations.
Remember that you are facilitating another person's process. It is not your process. Do not intrude. Do not control. Do not force your own needs and insights into the foreground.
If you do not trust a person's process, that person will not trust you.
Imagine that you are a midwife; you are assisting at someone else's birth. Do good without show or fuss. Facilitate what is happening rather than what you think ought to be happening. If you must take the lead, lead so that the mother is helped, yet still free and in charge.
When the baby is born, the mother will rightly say: "We did it ourselves!""
-  Translated by John Heider, 1985, Chapter 17 



"The best leaders are those the people hardly know exist.
The next best is a leader who is loved and praised.
Next comes the one who is feared.
The worst one is the leader that is despised.
If you don't trust the people, they will become untrustworthy.
The best leaders value their words, and use them sparingly.
When she has accomplished her task,
the people say, "Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!""
-  Translated by John H. McDonald, 1996, Chapter 17



Lieh-Tzu: A Taoist Guide to Practical Living  Translated by Eva Wong
The Daodejing of Laozi   Translated by Philip Ivahoe 
Daoism: A Beginner's Guide   By James Miller
Early Daoist Scriptures  Translated by Stephen Bokencamp
Lifestyle Advice from Wise Persons
Simple Taoism: A Guide to Living in Balance  By Alexander and Annellen Simpkins
Practical Taoism  Translated by Thomas Cleary
Daoism and Chinese Culture  By Livia Kohn






"Of the best rulers
The people (only) know that they exist;
The next best the love and praise;
The next they fear;
And the next they revile.

When they do not command the people's faith,
Some will lose faith in them,
And then they resort to oaths!
But (of the best) when their task is accomplished,
their work done,
The people all remark, "We have done it ourselves.""
-  Translated by Lin Yutang, 1955, Chapter 17



"As for him who is highest,
The people just know he is there.
His deputy's cherished and praised;
Of the third, they are frightened;
The fourth, they depise and revile.
If you trust people less than enough,
Some of them never trust you.
He is aloof, as if his talk
Were priced beyond the purchasing;
But once his project is contrived,
The folk will want to say of it:
"Of course! We did it by ourselves!""
-  Translated by Raymond Blakney, 1955, Chapter 17 




Walking the Way: 81 Zen Encounters with the Tao Te Ching by Robert Meikyo Rosenbaum

The Tao of Zen by Ray Grigg

Tao Te Ching: Zen Teachings on the Taoist Classic by Takuan Soho 

Buddhism and Taoism Face to Face: Scripture, Ritual, and Iconographic Exchange in Medieval China by Christine Mollier  






"The best leaders the people barely know.
The next best they love and praise.
The next they fear.
And the next they hate.
Those who lack trust will not be trusted.
Then they resort to promises.
But when they accomplish their task and complete their work,
the people say, "We did it ourselves.""
-  Translated by Sanderson Beck, 1996, Chapter 17



"In highest (antiquity) one did not even know there were (rulers).
Next one loved them and praised them.
Next one feared them.
Next one despised them.
If good faith (of the prince towards the people) is inadequate, good faith (of the people towards the ruler) will be wanting.
Thoughtful were (the sage rulers), valuing their words!
When the work was done and things ran smoothly, the people all said: "We have done it ourselves!""
-  Translated by Jan J. L. Duyvendak, 1954, Chapter 17 




Further Teachings of Lao-Tzu: Understanding the Mysteries (Wen Tzu)   By Thomas Cleary

The Lunar Tao: Meditations in Harmony with the Seasons   By Deng Ming-Dao

Awakening to the Tao   By Lui I-Ming (1780) and translated by Thomas Cleary

Ripening Peaches: Taoist Studies and Practices   By Mike Garofalo

Zhuangzi: The Essential Writings with Selections from Traditional Commentaries   Translation and commentary by Brook Ziporyn

The Inner Chapters of Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi)   Translated by A. C. Graham






"In the highest antiquity people scarce knew
That rulers existed among them;

In the next age attachment and praise for them grew,

In the next people feared they might wrong them;

 And then in the next age the people despised

The rulers whom fate set above them,

For when faith by the rulers no longer is prized,

The people no longer can love them.

Those earliest rulers! what caution they had

In weighing the words they were using;

How successful their deeds! while the people all said

We are what we are by our choosing.
-  Translated by Isaac Winter Heysinger, 1903, Chapter 17



"With the highest rulers -
Those below simply know they exist.
With those one step down -
They love and praise them.
With those one further step down -
They fear them.
And with those at the bottom -
They ridicule and insult them.

Who does not trust enough
will not be trusted.
Hesitant and undecided!
Like this is his respect for speaking.
He completes his tasks and finishes his affairs
Yet the common people say,
"These things all happened by nature."
-  Translated by Bram den Hond, Chapter 17




Tao Te Ching: An Illustrated Journey   Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Tao Te Ching   Translated by David Hinton

The Book of Tao: Tao Te Ching - The Tao and Its Characteristics   Translated by James Legge

Ripening Peaches: Taoist Studies and Practices

Taoism: Growth of a Religion   By Isabelle Robinet

Zhuangzi (Chuang Tsu), Daoist Scripture: Bibliography, Links, Resources, Quotations, Notes

Zhuangzi: Basic Writings   Translated by Burton Watson

Zhuangzi Speaks: The Music of Nature   An illustrated comic by Chih-chung Ts'ai

Lifestyle Advice from Wise Persons







"Those of preeminent wisdom and purity knew this Tao intuitively from their birth,
and so possessed it.
Those of the second rank—the men of virtue—approached it nearly, and eulogised it.
Those of the third rank—who were still above the commonalty—stood in awe of it.
Those of the lowest rank held it in light esteem.
Their belief in it was superficial, or imperfect; while there were even some who did not believe in it at all.
The first spoke only with forethought and calculation, as though honouring their words.
When their public labours were achieved, and affairs progressed unimpeded, the people all said,
"This is our natural and spontaneous condition.""
-  Translated by Frederic Henry Balfour, 1884, Chapter 17



"A leader is best
When people barely know that he exists,
Not so good when people obey and acclaim him,
Worst when they despise him.
'Fail to honor people,
They fail to honor you;'
But of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will all say, 'We did this ourselves.'"
-  Translated by Witter Bynner, 1944, Chapter 17 







Next Chapter of the Tao Te Ching #18

Previous Chapter of the Tao Te Ching #16

Chapter and Thematic Index to the Tao Te Ching 






Tao Te Ching
Commentary, Interpretations, Research Tools, Resources
Chapter 17


Daodejing by Laozi: Chapters with Chinese characters, seal script, detailed word by word concordance, Pinyin (tone#), German, French and English.  This is an outstanding resource for serious students of the Tao Te Ching

Yellow Bridge Dao De Jing Comparison Table   Provides side by side comparisons of translations of the Tao Te Ching by James Legge, D. T. Suzuki, and Dwight Goddard.  Chinese characters for each paragraph in the Chapter are on the left; place your cursor over the Chinese characters to see the Pinyin romanization (Romanization) of the Chinese character and a list of meanings. 

Center Tao.  Includes a brief commentary on each Chapter.  A keyword glossary for each chapter is provided. 

Tao Te Ching Commentaries - Google Search 

Tao Te Ching in Chinese characters, Pinyin Romanization (romanization), English and German by Dr. Hilmar Alquiros. 

Translators' Index, Tao Te Ching Translators Sorted Alphabetically by Translator, Links to Books and Online Versions

Taoism and the Tao Te Ching: Bibliography, Resources, Links

Concordance to the Daodejing

Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition  By Jonathan Star.  Translation, commentary and research tools.  New York, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Penguin, 2001.  Concordance, tables, appendices, 349 pages.  A new rendition of the Tao Te Ching is provided, then a verbatim translation with extensive notes.  Detailed tables for each verse provide line number, all the Chinese characters, Wade-Giles romanization (Romanization), and a list of meanings for each character.  An excellent print reference tool! 

Chapter 17 in the Rambling Taoist Commentaries by Trey Smith.  The Rambling Taoists are Trey Smith and Scott Bradley. 

The Philosophy of the Daodejing  By Hans-Georg Moeller.  Columbia University Press, 2006, 176 pages.  

Valley Spirit, Gu Shen, Concept, Chapter 6 

Das Tao Te King von Lao Tse  The largest collection of very nicely formatted complete versions of the Tao Te Ching.  The collection includes 209 complete versions in 27 languages, plus 28 Chinese versions.  There are 112 English language versions of the Tao Te Ching available at this website.  A variety of search methods and comparison methods are provided, as well a a detailed index.  Offline as of 25 May 2013. 

Tao Te Ching English Translations from Terebess Asia Online.  Over 30 translations. 

Lao-tzu's Taoteching
 Translated by Red Pine (Bill Porter).  Includes many brief selected commentaries for each Chapter draw from commentaries in the past 2,000 years.  Provides a verbatim translation and shows the text in Chinese characters.  San Francisco, Mercury House, 1996, Second Edition, 184 pages.  An invaluable resource for commentaries.   

Reading Lao Tzu: A Companion to the Tao Te Ching with a New Translation  By Ha Poong Kim.  Xlibris, 2003, 198 pages. 

Chapter 17, Line by Line Comparisons of 27 Translations of the Tao Te Ching Compiled by the St. Xenophon Wayist Seminary 

Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation  By Roger T. Ames and David T. Hall.  Ballantine, 2003, 256 pages. 

Thematic Index to the 81 Chapters of the Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu: Te-Tao Ching - A New Translation Based on the Recently Discovered Ma-wang-tui Texts (Classics of Ancient China) Translated with and introduction and detailed exposition and commentary by Professor Robert G. Henricks.  New York, Ballantine Books, 1992.  Includes Chinese characters for each chapter.  Bibliography, detailed notes, 282 pages. 

Lieh-Tzu: A Taoist Guide to Practical Living.  Translated by Eva Wong.  Lieh-Tzu was writing around 450 BCE.  Boston, Shambhala, 2001.  Introduction, 246 pages. 

Revealing the Tao Te Ching: In-depth Commentaries on an Ancient Classic.  By Hu Huezhi.  Edited by Jesse Lee Parker.  Seven Star Communications, 2006.  240 pages. 

Cloud Hands Blog   Mike Garofalo writes about Taoism, Gardening, Taijiquan, Walking, Mysticism, Qigong, and the Eight Ways.

Tao Te Ching: A New Translation and Commentary.  By Ellen Chen.  Paragon House, 1998.  Detailed glossary, index, bibliography, notes, 274 pages. 

The Tao and Method: A Reasoned Approach to the Tao Te Ching.  By Michael Lafargue.  New York, SUNY Press, 1994.  640 pages.  Detailed index, bibliography, notes, and tables.  An essential research tool. 

The Whole Heart of Tao: The Complete Teachings From the Oral Tradition of Lao Tzu.
By John Bright-Fey.  Crane Hill Publishers, 2006.  376 pages.













Laozi, Dao De Jing


Gushen Grove Notebooks for the Tao Te Ching

Research by
Michael P. Garofalo

Green Way Research, Valley Spirit Center, Gushen Grove Notebooks, Red Bluff, California

This webpage was last modified or updated on December 8, 2013. 
This webpage was first distributed online on February 7, 2011.


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Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Index to Cloud Hands and Valley Spirit Websites


Gushen Grove Notebooks for the Tao Te Ching 



Index to English Language Translators of the Tao Te Ching

Thematic Index 1-81  

Chapter Index 1-81    

Concordance to the Daodejing

The Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) by Lao Tzu (Laozi) circa 500 BCE




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Tao Te Ching
 Chapter Number Index

Standard Traditional Chapter Arrangement of the Daodejing
Chapter Order in Wang Bi's Daodejing Commentary 246 CE
Chart by Mike Garofalo

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50
51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60
61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70
71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80