Taoistic
TAOISM EXPLAINED


     
     


Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"Countless words count less..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: Countless words count less than the silent balance between yin and yang.

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"Countless words count less than the silent balance between yin and yang."






The wordplay with 'countless' and 'count less' would probably have been appreciated by Lao Tzu, who used little tricks of that kind through Tao Te Ching. It even starts by one, playing on the fact that Tao can be both a noun and a verb: "The Tao that can be 'Taoed' is not the eternal Tao," which I translated:


The Way that can be walked is not the eternal Way.


       I am sure the Chinese readers of it through the millennia were amused. He did it again the following line with 'name' and 'named.'


Fake Lao Tzu Quotes - Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Now it's a book, too!

90 of the most spread false Lao Tzu quotes, why they are false and where they are really from. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.


       Also, Lao Tzu was indeed familiar with the concept of the opposing duo yin and yang. He mentioned them only once by these terms, in chapter 42, but indeed recognized their importance:


All things carry yin and embrace yang.
They reach harmony by blending with the vital breath.


       What I translated as "the vital breath" is the ancient idea of life energy, called ch'i (qi in Pinyin).

       Lao Tzu would also agree that that any number of words is less important than silently resting in the balance between yin and yang, or anything else for that matter. He was not a fan of words, although he wrote just above 5,000 in Tao Te Ching. In chapter 5 he stated:


A multitude of words is tiresome,
Unlike remaining centered.


       James Legge in 1891 wrote for the same lines, using rhyme in accordance with those lines in the Chinese text:


Much speech to swift exhaustion lead we see;
Your inner being guard, and keep it free.


       The Chinese word I translated as 'centered' can also be translated as 'middle' and is used in the name of China. Here it means that Lao Tzu warned against being confused by a multitude of fine words and rhetoric. You should hold fast to your own mind and trust its judgment. It really has nothing to do with yin and yang.

       Still, these are the very lines from which this quote comes, as they are worded in The Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary from 2002, by the musician and acupuncturist Ralph Alan Dale (1920-2006). It is his interpretation of the last lines of chapter 5 (page 10 in the 2016 edition of his book).

       Dale allowed himself a lot of freedom with the text. The original does not mention yin and yang at all in the chapter, and the last line deals with what we would call personal integrity. But to him the whole chapter was about yin and yang. He started it:


Yin and yang aren't sentimental.
They exist without moralizing.
They act regardless of our wishes
within the ebb and flow
of every pregnant moment.


       My version of the same lines reads:


Heaven and Earth are not kind.
They regard all things as offerings.
The sage is not kind.
He regards people as offerings.


       Dale ignored that the second set of lines deals with the sage, but his replacement of Heaven and Earth is less offensive. They were traditionally seen as sort of ultimate examples of the polarity, where Heaven was yang and Earth was yin.

       But that polarity was so much more in Chinese tradition - in short yin and yang were characteristics and not entities of their own. And Lao Tzu did not use the words in chapter 5, but two other opposites of dignity in Chinese thought - well, in traditions all over the world. Heaven and Earth have always in themselves been regarded as fundamental components of the world. Lao Tzu mentioned the pair several times in Tao Te Ching.

       He did so once more in chapter 5:


Is not the space between Heaven and Earth like a bellows?
It is empty, but lacks nothing.
The more it moves, the more comes out of it.


       Dale insisted on yin and yang there, too:


The space between yin and yang
is like a bellows -
empty, yet infinitely full.
The more it yields,
The more it fills.


       Thereby he missed the clever use of the bellows metaphor. It is easy to picture the dynamic space between Heaven and Earth, and how the movements in it create a multitude. But between yin and yang - what kind of space is that, and how can it fill by yielding?

       It is as if Dale wanted to replace Tao with yin and yang as the fundamental principle of the world. Lao Tzu would not have that.

       Dale used the word Tao in his version, for example in the beginning of chapter 1, mentioned above. But in the same chapter he introduced the concept "the Great Integrity" and used it in many other chapters where Lao Tzu wrote Tao.

       It is a confusing choice, making the Way even more cryptic than it already is. Or as Lao Tzu stated in the line of chapter 5 discussed here: "A multitude of words is tiresome."

       Ralph Alan Dale's version of Tao Te Ching is also discussed in the chapter If you are depressed.

Stefan Stenudd
September 13, 2020.



More Fake Lao Tzu Quotes

There are many more fake Lao Tzu quotes examined on this website. Click the header to see a list of them.






Comments

Click the header if you would like to comment this or any other fake Lao Tzu quote, or read the comments from others. You need to be logged in to your Facebook account to post a comment.



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.


Fake Lao Tzu Quotes - Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Fake Lao Tzu Quotes

Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations Examined. 90 of the most spread false Lao Tzu quotes, why they are false and where they are really from. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.



About Cookies


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 and compared.


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 fundamental 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.

Contact