from’s Language Pages Dao-9 project:


道一 (dŕo 1)


Wisdom Quest

The text below is based on several manuscripts and was designed to help English speakers approach the Chinese. Please see the introductory page for more information. The text, as can be seen, is given with a word by word translation and a more readable translation in which all added content, grammatical or otherwise, has been italicized. For commentary on this passage and how to approach the Chinese in it, please visit the Approaching the Dao-1 page. For an overview of words that come up often in the first nine books of the Dao, see the Dao-talk page.



way can speak : not lasting way

The Way that can be spoken is not the lasting way.



name can name : not lasting name

The name that can be named is not the lasting name.



without name 10,000 things ’s beginning :

Nameless is the 10,000 thing’s beginning.



with name 10,000 things ’s mother

Named is the 10,000 things’ mother.



therefore ever without desire : so to see its essence

Therefore be ever without desire in order to see its essence.



ever with desire : so to see it which shines

Be ever desiring and so see its surface.



two of-them together spring-forth

differently named together called profound

The two of them together sprang forth.

Differently named, together they are called profound.

玄之又玄 衆妙之門

玄之又玄 衆妙之門

profound of additionally profound :

many essences’ door

Profoundness and beyond profound

is the many essences’ door.


Relatively traditional interpretation

The way that can be spoken is not the lasting way

The name that can be named is not the lasting name

Nameless is the 10,000 things’ beginning

Named is the 10,000 things’ mother

Therefore, be ever without desire, so as to see its essence

Ever be desiring, so as to see its surface

The two sprang forth together

Differently named both are called profound

Profound beyond profound is the gateway to many essences

More unusual

Speakable ways are not lasting ways.

Nameable names are not lasting names.

Lack names the 10,000 things’ beginning.

Have names the 10,000 things’ mother.

Therefore, always lack desire to see their essence.

Always have desire to see their surface.

The pair sprang forth together.

Differently named, together called profound.

Profound and also profound, the gateways to the many essences.



Copyright Geoffrey Barto, 2003.


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