Tao Te Ching
THE TAOISM OF LAO TZU
Fake Lao Tzu Quote
"Hold your male side..."
This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:
"Hold your male side with your female side
Hold your bright side with your dull side
Hold your high side with your low side
Then you will be able to hold the whole world"
This quote, listing three pairs of opposites and saying that balancing them gives you command of the world, points to the Chinese division of yin and yang. They are the fundamental opposites in ancient Chinese thinking, where the latter represents light and heaven, and the former represents darkness and earth.
The famous symbol of their unity shows both sort of embracing within a circle, but there is a dot of yin in yang and vice versa. This means that they complement one another to make a whole, and there is always some yin in yang and some yang in yin. It is in their combination and balance that they reach perfection.
Chapter 42 is the only one where yin and yang are mentioned, but the idea of balance between opposites is a recurring theme in Lao Tzu's text. The quote here, though, is questionable as an interpretation of his thoughts.
Balancing your male and female sides is both understandable and commendable, but what are your bright and dull sides, or your high and low sides? Most of all, holding the whole world is something Lao Tzu warned against. Chapter 29 of Tao Te Ching begins:
Still, the quote examined here is actually from a version of Tao Te Ching: Jonathan Star's Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition from 2001. The book contains his own English version of the text, as well as a Chinese language version of it where every word is explained. The latter is a convenient resource for anyone studying Lao Tzu's text. I used it quite a lot when working on my English version of Tao Te Ching.
The quote is the beginning of Star's version of chapter 28. But it deviates considerably from other translations. In my version the same lines read:
I can't guess how Star got to his interpretation. There is not much support for it in the Chinese language part of his book.
Another example of Jonathan Star's free interpretation of Tao Te Ching can be found in the chapter If a person seems wicked.
September 15, 2020.
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