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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"Hold your male side..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: Hold your male side with your female 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.


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       Lao Tzu was quite familiar with the concept of yin and yang, regarding it as a fundamental attribute of the world. He stated in chapter 42 of Tao Te Ching (my version):


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


       The vital breath is ch'i (spelled qi in Pinyin), the Chinese concept of a life energy.

       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:


Conquering the world and changing it,
I do not think it can succeed.
The world is a sacred vessel that cannot be changed.
He who changes it will destroy it.
He who seizes it will lose it.


       The world is best served by being left alone. Its rightful ruler is none but Tao, the Way.

       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:


Knowing the manly, but clinging to the womanly,
You become the valley of the world.
Being the valley of the world,
Eternal virtue will never desert you,
And you become like a little child anew.


       Robert G. Henricks in 1989 wrote (page 242):


When you know the male yet hold on to the female,
You'll be the ravine of the country.
When you're the ravine of the country,
Your constant virtue will not leave.
And when your constant virtue doesn't leave,
You'll return to the state of the infant.


So, Lao Tzu did not balance the male and female - he preferred the female, and of high and low he preferred the low, which is the valley or ravine. Nor did he mention bright and dull, but insisted on te, virtue. Instead of holding the world, he said that by the virtue of humbling yourself you will become as innocent as a child.

       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.

Stefan Stenudd
September 15, 2020.



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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.



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