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Marble Surface

Lao Tzu for Everyone


Students, Scholars,

& Seekers


Chinese-English Interlinear

Peter Gilboy, Ph. D.

Line 1

A Note

regarding the characters

chosen for this translation.

Lesson 13

My very

own 'me'



(心 heart + 串 string together)

suffer, worry


​​     We are conscious beings, which means that are also conscious of ourselves. It is a blessing that we can observe and reflect upon ourselves in the same way that we can observe and reflect upon the world around us.

    But because we can reflect on ourselves, we may easily fall into the trap of believing that the "me” which I am reflecting upon is my actual self when it may be no more than a second-hand reflection in my head, as authentic as my reflection in the bathroom mirror.


    We can know that this "me" which we reflect upon is hoax-me because it changes with the wind.  At times we happily approve of it, and at other times we don't like it. When others honor us, our “me” is uplifted. When we are humiliated or shamed, this same “me” is deflated. 

   Our "me" is always on this seesaw, riding the highs and lows we call our life. The reason it is so changeable is because it depends on the whims of our own judgments about ourselves as well as the judgments of others.  But all along, this "me" is really just a phantom residing in our heads. 

      This seesaw "me" is not our "first-hand-self." It is not our 自zì 然rán, or self-so-ness, of which Lao Tzu speaks.  Lao Tzu might ask us what would remain if we were to lose this sense of "me." Would we disappear? Or would we still be there? 


Important note regarding the character 身shēn :

     The key character for this lesson, 身shēn, literally, "body." It is used four times here. 身shēn is also used to refer to  “I,” “me,” and “myself.” 

    Most translations of this lesson retain the literal meaning of  身shēn as "body."   In this translation I follow Wang Bi's commentary (see final line) that 身shēn refers to more than just the physical body; it comprises the full make up of a person, their "persona," we could say.


      For that reason I translate 身shēn, as "me" or as "my 'me'" In doing so It should also be considered as the "straw dog" in Lesson 5. 

      In short, 身shēn is the person we identify to ourselves as "me."  It is the "me" who is puffed up when praised and diminished when disgrace or embarrassed. But again, this "me "has no existence outside of our heads.

     ​​. . . . . .


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Man W-Zh0-unsplash.jpg


Line 1

I regard praise and disgrace

with the same alarm.


寵chǒng 辱rǔ    若ruò   驚jīng

favor    disgrace    as if/be like  fear/alarm      

Favor and disgrace

{both) as alarm.


​​     It is common to welcome praise and avoid disgrace. Yet Lao Tzu treats them the same, with alarm.


​​.​ ​​​​. . . . . .



Line 2


​​​​Line 2

I regard both honor and

great suffering

as the same as my 身shēn "me."

貴guì   大dà  患huàn  若ruò  身shēn

honor    great     suffering    same    body/self   

 Honor and great suffering

are the as the body/self .

​​​​     Our sense of "me" is vulnerable. It can be assaulted at any time. That's why  we want our "me" to be honored rather than dishonored, liked rather than disliked, accepted rather than rejected, befriended rather than lonely.

     This is the binary trap in which we find ourselves.  Lao Tzu is leading us to consider that the image of ourselves which resides in our heads is no more authentic than our image in the store window.

​ ​​​​. . . . . .


Line 3

​​Line 3

Why do I say

"I regard both praise and disgrace

with the same alarm?"


何hé  胃wèi  寵chǒng 辱rǔ    若ruò  驚jīng



(interrog.)   speak   favor     disgrace  same  fear/alarm 


Why say honor and disgrace

same as (reason for) fearfulness?


. . . . . . 

Line 4

Line 4

Because praise is lowly.

So being praised is a reason for alarm
as much as losing it.

 寵chǒng 之zhī  為wéi  下xià 也yě

 favor     (as for)   is/as/because   under   (part.)


得dé  之zhī  若ruò  驚jīng   失shī 之zhī  若ruò   驚jīng

 obtain   pron.   same as   fear/alarm  lose    pron.    same as    fear/alarm

As for favor, it is lowly.

Getting it is same as alarming,

losing it is same as alarming.


     Praise comes and goes. It is an aspect of the see-saw existence of our "me."  Even when we are uplifted with praise, we then fear losing it.* 


*Perhaps Thoreau's familiar words apply here:  "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."  Henry David Thoreau, Walden, (1854)

​​. . . . . .



Line 5

Line 5

That's why I say,
"I regard praise and disgrace

with the same alarm."


是shì   胃wèi  寵chǒng  辱rǔ  若ruò  驚jīng


 this     say         favor      disgrace  same as  fear/alarm

This I say favor and disgrace

are both alarming.


​​. . . . . .



Line 6

Line 6

Why do I say,

"I regard praise

and great suffering

are the same as my 身shēn "me?"

何hé 胃wèi

(interrog.) speak 

貴guì  大dà  患huàn  若ruò  身shēn

expensive  great    suffer   same as  body/self

Why say honor and great suffering

the same as the body/self?.

​​​​​​. . . . . .


Line 7

Line 7

Because the reason

I have great suffering

in the first place

is because I have a 身shēn "me."

​​  吾wú  所suǒ  以yǐ   有yǒu  大dà 患huàn  者zhě

I    (that by which)      have       great        suffer      one who 


為wéi 吾wú 有yǒu 身shēn  也yě

because     I      have   body/self     (part.)

I am the one who has great suffering

because I have a body/self.

     Which do we spend more time worrying about, our body or our "me?" 


      Again, the character 身shēn literally means “body,” and is also used to refer to  “I,” “me,” and “myself.”  身shēn should viewed in contrast to 心 xīn (the image of a heart) which refers to our heart/mind, a nonphysical aspect of our person.

​​​​​​​. . . . . .


Line 8
Line 9

Line 8

But if I didn't have a 身shēn "me,"

then how could I suffer?


​​​​    及jí  吾wú 无wéi  身shēn 有yǒu  何hé 患huàn 

reach     I    not have  body/self  have    (interrog.) suffer

Attaining to not having a body/self,

how can I have suffering? 


      The image we hold of ourselves can be assailed at any moment. So we need to defend it,  propping it up against any assault. In quiet moments, we may even find ourselves propping it up to ourselves. We are a strange lot.

     When we do not like our “me,” we may strive to improve it by doing all the right things, like reading books about how to have positive thoughts, win friends, and how to meditate the right way.  We may attend seminars to learn that we should accept our “me” just as it is.

     But whether we have a positive notion of “me” or a negative one, it does not matter.  It is still just a phantom in our heads.


​​​​​​​. . . . . .


Line 9

Therefore, one who honors

their 身shēn "me" as they 

honor all the world, 

may be entrusted with the world.


​​​  故gù  貴guì  為wéi  身shēn   於yú   為wéi  天tiān 下xià 

     therefore  expensive as/for/do    body/self  (prep.)  as/for/do  sake of  heaven   under


若ruò  可kě 以yǐ  託tuō 天tiān  下xià  矣yǐ  

same    (able to )  entrust  heaven    earth   (emphasis)

Therefore, valuing by means of the body for the sake of the world,

the same can be entrusted to all under heaven

     To honor our "me" as we honor the world, is to no longer see our "me" as  on center stage. Free from the binary ups  and downs of our "me," we discover our  自zì 然rán or self-so-ness.


     Then we can be entrusted with the world.


​​Note the emphasizing particle 矣yǐ  in this and the next line.

​​​​​​​. . . . . .


Line 10

Line 10

And one who cherishes 

his or her 身shēn "me"

as they cherish the world

can be a steward of the world.


​  愛āi   以yǐ   身shēn    為wèi       天tiān  下xià  

       love      use   body/self  as/for sake of  heaven    under       


如rú  可kě   以yí   寄jì  天tiān  下xià  矣

as if/like  (possible to)   rely on  heaven    earth  (emphasis)  


      Regarding this line, Wang Bi (226 A.D. – 249 A.D.) affirms his understanding that 身shēn, as Lao Tzu uses it in this lesson, is much more than our physical body. 

       Because nothing can diminish the person’s sense of self

[or exhalt it], the text says that the person ‘is cherished.’

When someone has attained to this condition,

he or she can indeed be entrusted with the world.

無為可以損其身 故曰愛也 



​​​​​​​. . . . . .

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