What are the Three Treasures of Lao Tzu?

lao tzu three treasures

In Verse 67 of Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu succinctly put together the three things that he truly treasured in life.

Discrepancies in translation, however, have made people confused as to what these three treasures really are.

One way to avoid confusion is to check the translations against the original text.  Among the several translations that are pretty close to the original text is this one done by Lionel Giles.

“I have three precious things, which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others.“

In the verse, Lao Tzu further explained why these three things were so precious to him:

“Be gentle, and you can be bold; be frugal, and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others, and you can become a leader among men.”

Lao Tzu, nevertheless, lamented that these three treasures were not understood, cherished and practiced by men of his time. If you read the passage closely, you may be dismayed by the fact that even today – more than two thousands years later — men are still yet to assimilate the teachings.

“But in the present day men cast off gentleness, and are all for being bold; they spurn frugality, and retain only extravagance; they discard humility, and aim only at being first. Therefore they shall surely perish.”

He rounded off the verse by reiterating the importance of being gentle.

“Gentleness brings victory to him who attacks, and safety to him who defends. Those whom Heaven would save, it fences round with gentleness.”

How wonderful if we could all embrace these three precious things in life!

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  1. This is one of the verses that I cherish immensely. It is very strange that all men know this but few if none put it into action. Thanks for your succint elaboration. Your pieces of writing have greatly helped me to broaden my horizons of understanding Tao Te Ching, my most precious book.

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