Translations at a glance

J Legge    J H McDonald   Lin Yutang

Tao Te Ching Chapter 31

J Legge

Now arms, however beautiful, are instruments of evil omen, hateful, it may be said, to all creatures. Therefore they who have the Tao do not like to employ them.

The superior man ordinarily considers the left hand the most honourable place, but in time of war the right hand. Those sharp weapons are instruments of evil omen, and not the instruments of the superior man;–he uses them only on the compulsion of necessity. Calm and repose are what he prizes; victory (by force of arms) is to him undesirable. To consider this desirable would be to delight in the slaughter of men; and he who delights in the slaughter of men cannot get his will in the kingdom.

On occasions of festivity to be on the left hand is the prized position; on occasions of mourning, the right hand. The second in command of the army has his place on the left; the general commanding in chief has his on the right;–his place, that is, is assigned to him as in the rites of mourning. He who has killed multitudes of men should weep for them with the bitterest grief; and the victor in battle has his place (rightly) according to those rites.

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 Tao Te Ching Chapter 31

J H McDonald

Weapons are the bearers of bad news;
all people should detest them.

The wise man values the left side,
and in time of war he values the right.
Weapons are meant for destruction,
and thus are avoided by the wise.
Only as a last resort
will a wise person use a deadly weapon.
If peace is her true objective
how can she rejoice in the victory of war?
Those who rejoice in victory
delight in the slaughter of humanity.
Those who resort to violence
will never bring peace to the world.
The left side is a place of honor on happy occasions.
The right side is reserved for mourning at a funeral.
When the lieutenants take the left side to prepare for war,
the general should be on the right side,
because he knows the outcome will be death.
The death of many should be greeted with great sorrow,
and the victory celebration should honor those who have died.

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 Tao Te Ching Chapter 31

Lin Yutang

Of all things, soldiers are instruments of evil,
Hated by men.
Therefore the religious man (possessed of Tao) avoids them.
The gentleman favors the left in civilian life,
But on military occasions favors the right.

Soldiers are weapons of evil.
They are not the weapons of the gentleman.
When the use of soldiers cannot be helped,
The best policy is calm restraint.

Even in victory, there is no beauty,
And who calls it beautiful
Is one who delights in slaughter.
He who delights in slaughter
Will not succeed in his ambition to rule the world.

[The things of good omen favor the left.
The things of ill omen favor the right.
The lieutenant-general stands on the left,
The general stands on the right.
That is to say, it is celebrated as a Funeral Rite.]

The slaying of multitudes should be mourned with sorrow.
A victory should be celebrated with the Funeral Rite.

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