Translations at a glance

J Legge    J H McDonald   Lin Yutang

Tao Te Ching Chapter 53

J Legge

If I were suddenly to become known, and (put into a position to) conduct (a government) according to the Great Tao, what I should be most afraid of would be a boastful display.

The great Tao (or way) is very level and easy; but people love the by-ways.

Their court(-yards and buildings) shall be well kept, but their fields shall be ill-cultivated, and their granaries very empty. They shall wear elegant and ornamented robes, carry a sharp sword at their girdle, pamper themselves in eating and drinking, and have a superabundance of property and wealth;–such (princes) may be called robbers and boasters. This is contrary to the Tao surely!

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Tao Te Ching Chapter 53

J H McDonald

If I understood only one thing,
I would want to use it to follow the Tao.
My only fear would be one of pride.
The Tao goes in the level places,
but people prefer to take the short cuts.
If too much time is spent cleaning the house
the land will become neglected and full of weeds,
and the granaries will soon become empty
because there is no one out working the fields.
To wear fancy clothes and ornaments,
to have your fill of food and drink
and to waste all of your money buying possessions
is called the crime of excess.
Oh, how these things go against the way of the Tao!

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Tao Te Ching Chapter 53

Lin Yutang

If I were possessed of Austere Knowledge,
Walking on the Main Path (Tao),
I would avoid the by-paths.
the Main path is easy to walk on,
Yet people love the small by-paths.

The (official) courts are spic and span,
(While) the fields go untilled,
And the (people’s) granaries are very low.
(Yet) clad in embroidered gowns,
And carrying find swords,
Surfeited with good food and drinks,
(They are) splitting with wealth and possessions.
– This is to lead the world toward brigandage.
Is this not corruption of Tao?

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