Classic of the Harmony of the Seen and the Unseen



Translated into English by James Legge, 1891





If one observes the Way of Heaven, and maintains Its doings (as his own), all that he has to do is accomplished.

To Heaven there belong the five (mutual) foes, and he who sees them (and understands their operation) apprehends how they produce prosperity. The same five foes are in the mind of man, and when he can set them in action after the manner of Heaven, all space and time are at his disposal, and all things receive their transformations from his person.

The nature of Heaven belongs (also) to Man; the mind of Man is a spring (of power). When the Way of Heaven is established, the (Course of) Man is thereby determined.

When Heaven puts forth its power of putting to death, the stars and constellations lie hidden in darkness. When Earth puts forth its power of putting to death, dragons and serpents appear on the dry ground. When Man puts forth his power of putting to death, Heaven and Earth resume their (proper course). When Heaven and Man exert their powers in concert, all transformations have their commencements determined.

The nature (of man) is here clever and there stupid; and the one of these qualities may lie hidden in the other. The abuse of the nine apertures is (chiefly) in the three most important, which may be now in movement and now at rest.

When fire arises in wood, the evil, having once begun, is sure to go on to the destruction of the wood. When calamity arises in a state, if thereafter movement ensue, it is sure to go to ruin.

When one conducts the work of culture and refining wisely we call him a Sage.

For Heaven now to give life and now to take it away is the method of the Tao. Heaven and Earth are the despoilers of all things; all things are the despoilers of Man; and Man is the despoiler of all things. When the three despoilers act as they ought to do, as the three Powers, they are at rest. Hence it is said, 'During the time of nourishment, all the members are properly regulated; when the springs of motion come into play, all transformations quietly take place.'

Men know the mysteriousness of the Spirit's (action), but they do not know how what is not Spiritual comes to be so. The sun and moon have their definite times, and their exact measures as large and small. The service of the sages hereupon arises, and the spiritual intelligence becomes apparent.

The spring by which the despoilers are moved is invisible and unknown to all under the sky. When the superior man has got it, he strengthens his body by it; when the small man has got it, he makes light of his life.

The blind hear well, and the deaf see well. To derive all that is advantageous from one source is ten times better than the employment of a host; to do this thrice in a day and night is a myriad times better.

The mind is quickened (to activity) by (external) things, and dies through (excessive pursuit of) them. The spring (of the mind's activity) is in the eyes.

Heaven has no (special feeling of) kindness, but so it is that the greatest kindness comes from It.

The crash of thunder and the blustering wind both come without design.

Perfect enjoyment is the overflowing satisfaction of the nature. Perfect stillness is the entire disinterestedness of it. When Heaven seems to be most wrapt up in Itself, Its operation is universal in its character.

It is by its breath that we control whatever creature we grasp. Life is the root of death, and death is the root of life. Kindness springs from injury, and injury springs from kindness. He who sinks himself in water or enters amidst fire brings destruction on himself.

The stupid man by studying the phenomena and laws of heaven and earth becomes sage; I by studying their times and productions become intelligent. He in his stupidity is perplexed about sageness; I in my freedom from stupidity am the same. He considers his sageness as being an extraordinary attainment; I do not consider mine so.

The method of spontaneity proceeds in stillness, and so it was that heaven, earth, and all things were produced. The method of heaven and earth proceeds gently and gradually, and thus it is that the Yin and Yang overcome (each other by turns). The one takes the place of the other, and so change and transformation proceed accordingly.

Therefore the sages, knowing that the method of spontaneity cannot be resisted, take action accordingly and regulate it (for the purpose of culture). The way of perfect stillness cannot be subjected to numerical calculations; but it would seem that there is a wonderful machinery, by which all the heavenly bodies are produced, the eight diagrams, and the sexagenary cycle; spirit-like springs of power, and hidden ghostlinesses; the arts of the Yin and Yang in the victories of the one over the other:--all these come brightly forward into visibility.