Translated by Frederic Henry Balfour


To observe the TAO of Heaven, and grasp its method of operation, is the limit of all achievement.

Thus Heaven has Five Despoilers: and he who perceives them will flourish.

The Five Despoilers pertain to the Heart; but their operation is diffused all over the world. The Universe is in one's Hand; all transmutations take their rise from the body.

The Moral Nature of Heaven is Man: the Mind of Man embodies his motive power; and the Principle of Heaven being established, the destiny of Man is fixed.

When Heaven sends forth its engines of destruction, the stars are moved out of their places and the constellations metamorphosed. When Earth sends forth its engines of destruction, dragons and snakes appear on the dry land. When Man puts forth his faculties of destruction, Heaven falls and Earth is overthrown. When Heaven and Man do so in concert, all the disorganised phenomena are re-established on a new basis.

Sagacity and stupidity are both integral parts of Man's nature; and both may be concealed from view.

The Abuse of the Nine Openings of the Body having specially to do with the Three which are most important, action and rest are both possible.

Fire is produced from Wood; but in the case of any disaster arising [from fire] the wood will be overcome. Treacherous [Ministers] arise in States; as soon as they act, the result is disaster. Those who understand how to refine and discipline themselves are called Sages.


The productive and destructive attributes of Heaven constitute a governing principle of TAO. Heaven and Earth are the plunderers of All Things; All Things are the plunderers of Man, and Man, also, is the plunderer of All Things. When the Three Plunderers are in mutual accord, the Three Powers will be settled in tranquility.

Wherefore it may be said that when Sacrifices are partaken of [by Spirits] their bones will be at rest; and when the mainsprings [of the Universe] are set in motion, its various transmutations will go on undisturbed.

Days and months have their fixed numbers; greatness and smallness their due capacity°™or measure. This proceeds from the merit of the Sages, and is produced by the intelligence of Spirits.

The motive-power of the Three Plunderers is invisible and undiscoverable by men generally. When the Model Man obtains it, he is enabled to fortify his body; but when the Mean Man obtains it, he sets light store by his life.


The blind are quick of hearing; the deaf are quick of sight. If all advantages be concentrated into a single source, you will have ten times as many soldiers under your command as you would otherwise; and after the revolution of three days and nights you will have ten thousand times as many.

The Mind is produced from matter and dies with matter; the working faculty resides in the Eye.

Though Heaven has no benignity, the most benign results are produced by its operations; there is nothing to which even the crashing thunderclap and the cruel wind do not impart vitality.

Perfect joy consists in one's nature having abundance, or being fully satisfied; perfect tranquillity, in being contented with little.

Heaven appears most partial; but in reality its dealings are most just.

The Laws affecting the Animal Creation reside in the Breath, or Vital Fluid.

Life is the root of Death; Death is the root of Life. Beneficence is produced from Injury and Injury from Beneficence.

If the stupid study the science of Heaven and Earth, they may become wise; I, by studying the science of Seasons and Things, become enlightened. Those who fear stupidity, become stupid; I, because I do not fear stupidity, am wise. Others use means with a view to becoming wise; I do not so. Wherefore it may be said that those who drown themselves in water in order to extinguish a fire, seek their own destruction.

The Principle of Spontaneity is quiescent; and from it Heaven, Earth, and All Things are produced.

The Principle of Heaven and Earth is gradual in its working; so that the Yin and Yang flourish abundantly. When the Yin and Yang alternate with each other, the transmutations of the Universe flow smoothly on; for which reason the Sage knows that the Law of Spontaneity may not be opposed, and so he controls it [by gentle means].

Seeing that the Principle of Quiescence cannot be brought under the control of calendrical computations, it needs be that there is a mysterious Receptacle [in Nature]; and from this have sprung the Myriad Simulacra, the Eight Diagrams, the Sexagenary Cycle, the potent faculties of Spirits, and the invisibility of Demons. The mystery of the antagonism between the Yin and the Yang is clearly manifest, and enters into all forms of visible existence.

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