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Dao De Jing [Tao Te Ching]

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Chapter 69

The Use of the Mysterious (Dao)

The Function of the Mysterious / The Function of the Mysterious

  Original Legge's Translation Susuki's Translation Goddard's Translation

A master of the art of war has said, 'I do not dare to be the host (to commence the war); I prefer to be the guest (to act on the
defensive). I do not dare to advance an inch; I prefer to retire a foot.'

A military expert used to say: 'I dare not act as host [who takes the initiative] but act as guest [with reserve]. I dare not advance an inch, but I withdraw a foot." A military expert has said: I do not dare put myself forward as a host, but always act as a guest. I hesitate to advance an inch, but am willing to withdraw a foot.

This is called marshalling the ranks where there are no ranks; baring the arms (to fight) where there are no arms to bare; grasping the weapon where there is no weapon to grasp;

This is called marching without marching, threatening without arms, charging without hostility, seizing without weapons.

This is advancing by not advancing, it is winning without arms, it is charging without hostility, it is seizing without weapons.


advancing against the enemy where there is no enemy. There is no calamity greater than lightly engaging in war. To do that is near losing (the gentleness) which is so precious.

No greater misfortune than making light of the enemy! When we make light of the enemy, it is almost as though we had lost our treasure--[compassion].

There is no mistake greater than making light of an enemy. By making light of an enemy we lose our treasure.

4 Thus it is that when opposing weapons are (actually) crossed, he who deplores (the situation) conquers. Thus, if matched armies encounter one another, the one who does so in sorrow is sure to conquer. Therefore when well-matched armies come to conflict, the one who is conscious of his weakness conquers.
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