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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

“He who controls others..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote.

This is not a quote from the Tao Te Ching:



“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”





       Controlling others is an expression that has no place in the world of Lao Tzu. He talks about ruling, definitely, but that's something reserved for emperors and such.

       Their rule would improve if they used caution and tried to follow the Way. But mastering themselves is odd, like a ruler turned slave, albeit by his own command. It would have made little sense in Ancient China.

       Also the idea that there is some measure to the power of the monarch is strange to Lao Tzu and his contemporaries. The emperor has his power, no matter what, and it is quite close to absolute.

       Lao Tzu would know, since legend has it that he worked at the imperial archives before leaving the country in disgust.

       So, this fake Lao Tzu quote is definitely more likely to have its origin in later times, if not simply another odd translation of the Tao Te Ching.

       The latter happens to be true, sadly.

       It's from the 1996 book Tao Teh King by Lao Tzu : Interpreted As Nature and Intelligence, by Archie J. Baum. The quote is his interpretation of part of chapter 33. Here is the same line in my version:


Those who defeat others are strong,

Those who defeat themselves are mighty.


       Other translators have used words like conquer or overcome. Baum's version might seem close – in this part of the chapter – but his unfortunate choice of words point far away from the Lao Tzu world view.

       Here is Baum's version of the whole chapter 33:


He who knows much about others may be learned, but he who understands himself is more intelligent.

He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.

He who receives his happiness from others may be rich, but he whose contentment is self-willed has inexhaustible wealth.

He who occupies a place provided for him by others may live a long life, but he who dwells in his own self-constituted place, even though he decays, is eternal.


       Click the link above, if you want to see my version of the chapter.

       This Tao Te Ching chapter is the most famous for its last line about a long life. Already in some old manuscripts, it gave the impression of eternal life being possible to reach somehow.

       This led to a Taoist movement trying to find the way to immortality. But they got it wrong. Lao Tzu speaks of reputation, and not actual personal survival. You can live on in others' memories, but that's it.

       I translate it to:


Those who die without being forgotten get longevity.


       To Baum's credit, he sort of hints at the same, although with a bundle of words that are hard to extract from the original.

Stefan Stenudd
April 2, 2017



Fake Lao Tzu Quotes

Here are some fake Lao Tzu quotes I have found, in alphabetical order. Click the quote to get to the webpage where I comment it. I plan to add more false quotes in the future, so do come back.

       I have chosen quotes that exist in meme form (images with text), because they tend to spread the most all over the web, especially in social media.

       Click the quote to get to the webpage about it.


“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”


“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”


“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”


“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the moment.”


“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”


“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”


“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”


“Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.”


“Man's enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself.”


“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”


“Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.”


“The soul has no secret that the behavior does not reveal.”


“There are many paths to enlightenment. Be sure to take the one with a heart.”


“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”


“When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”







My Taoism Books:


Tao Te Ching - The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Te Ching

The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. The great Taoist philosophy classic by Lao Tzu translated, and each of the 81 chapters extensively commented. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.


Tao Quotes - the Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Quotes

The Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. 389 quotes from the foremost Taoist classic, divided into 51 prominent topics. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.



My Other Websites:


I Ching Online

The 64 hexagrams of the Chinese classic I Ching and what they mean in divination. Try it online for free.


Qi Energy Exercises

The ancient Chinese life energy qi (chi) explained, with simple instructions on how to exercise it.


Life Energy

The many ancient and modern life force beliefs all over the world explained.


Creation Myths

Creation stories from around the world, and the ancient cosmology they reveal.


Taoismen på svenska


Other Books by Stefan Stenudd:


Cosmos of the Ancients. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Cosmos of the Ancients

The Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


QI - increase your life energy. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Qi - Increase Your Life Energy

The life energy qi (also chi or ki) explained, with exercises on how to awaken, increase and use it. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Aikido Principles. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Aikido Principles

Basic Concepts of the Peaceful Martial Art
Aikido principles, philosophy, and basic ideas. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Life Energy Encyclopedia. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Life Energy Encyclopedia

Qi, prana, spirit, ruach, pneuma, and many other life forces around the world explained and compared. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.


Stefan Stenudd, Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction. Stefan Stenudd


About me

I'm a Swedish author and aikido instructor. In addition to fiction, I've written books about Taoism and other East Asian traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient thought and mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.

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