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Fake Lao Tzu Quote

"Silence is a source..."

Fake Lao Tzu quote: Silence is a source of great strength.

This is NOT a quote from Tao Te Ching:


"Silence is a source of great strength."






Lao Tzu would surely recommend silence, though not as a source to strength, but to avoid meaningless chatter. The last lines of chapter 5 in Tao Te Ching read (my version):


A multitude of words is tiresome,
Unlike remaining centered.


       D. C. Lau in 1963 even used the word silence (page 61):


Much speech leads inevitably to silence.
Better to hold fast to the void.


       Robert G. Henricks in 1989 pointed out that both Mawangdui manuscripts from around 200 BC used a term for 'learning' instead of 'words' or 'speech' (page 196):


Much learning means frequent exhaustion.
That's not so good as holding on to the mean.


       The Chinese character used for the last word is the same as in the name of China, suggesting right in the middle, mean, or center. There is strength in staying right there, but that was not what Lao Tzu pointed out. Rather, one should not get influenced by endless debate and intellectual discussions, which can confuse the mind. In other words, one should trust one's own judgment.


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       More about the book here.


       The oldest books I have found with the exact quote examined here are from 2006: Asya's Laws by Asya Raines (page 5), just calling it something she had heard, and The Art of Mingling by Jeanne Martinet (page 182), accrediting it to Lao Tzu.

       Since both occurrences are so recent, it is likely that they got the quote from the Internet. But the oldest example of the quote I have fund with an ascertained date is from the same year as the books - to be precise, April 29, 2006, ascribing it to Lao Tzu. It is a blog in Portuguese about anesthesia, so I doubt it got that much attention.

       Changing the order of the wording slightly, though, gives a different result:


Silence is a great source of strength.


       That is a quote from The Tao of Leadership: Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching Adapted for a New Age from 1985, by John Heider (1936-2010). As the title suggests, it is a tendentious version of Lao Tzu's classic, where Heider allowed himself considerable deviations from the original.

       The quote is from his version of the last lines of chapter 5, mentioned above. The whole comparable part of the chapter is in his writing (page 9):


The leader does not gossip about others or waste breath arguing the merits of competing theories.
Silence is a great source of strength.


       Quite different from the other versions of those lines quoted above. Heider's wording relates minutely to Lao Tzu's words.

       Well, at least Heider was frank about making his own adaption. He wrote in the introduction (page xii), "it is my own version of the meaning of Lao Tzu's own words." So, it is not really Lao Tzu's own words. Really not.

       Heider wrote another book on the Tao theme: The Tao of Daily Living from 2000. Another quote from Heider's version of Tao Te Ching is discussed in the chapter When I let go of what I am.

Stefan Stenudd
September 20, 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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