Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching Chapter 17

Translations at a glance

J Legge    J H McDonald   Lin Yutang

Tao Te Ching Chapter 17

J Legge

In the highest antiquity, (the people) did not know that there were (their 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 Tao) was deficient (in the rulers) a want of faith in them ensued (in the people).

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!’

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 Tao Te Ching Chapter 17

J H McDonald

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!”

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 Tao Te Ching Chapter 17

Lin Yutang

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.”

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