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Lao Tzu for Everyone


Students, Scholars,

& Seekers


Chinese-English Interlinear

Peter Gilboy, Ph. D.



the Way

A Note

regarding the characters

used in this translation.

Lesson 30

On Using Force

(Part 1)



​​   guǒ

 ( 田field + 木 tree)

fruit, result, consequence

       There is no mention of the sage in this lesson.  It is simply a reminder to leaders that even the most practical of measures must conform to the Way.  Note also Lao Tzu's continuing themes regarding what to "not do," and "stopping in time."

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Line 1


Line 1

When assisting the ruler

in accord with the Way,

do not use

force of arms

against the empire.



 以yǐ  道tào  佐zuǒ   人rén 主zhǔ

  use     way    assistant   person    ruler

不bù 以yǐ  兵bīng 強qiáng 於yú  天tiān 下xià

 not       use     troops     strong      (prep.)    heaven     earth

As to the Way,

a ruler’s assistant does not

use troops and strength

against the world.


​​​​.​ ​​​​. . . . .


Line 2

Line 2

To do so

will surely backfire.


​​​   亓qí   事shì   好hǎo   還huán

 (pron.)      matter     good      revert      

Such a matter

is good to revert.


    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​. ​​​​. . . . .


Line 3

Line 3

Where armies

are stationed

thorns and brambles grow.


師shī   之zhī    所suǒ    居jū  

 troops      (pron.)       where         dwell

楚chǔ     棘jí   生shēng 之zhī

thorn/misery     bramble      life        (pron.)

Where the troops dwell,

thorns and bramble live them.

​​​​​​​​​​​​.​ ​​​​. . . . .


Line 4

Line 4

A good general

fulfills the objective

and then stops!

A general never

uses the occasion

to seize power.


善shàn  者zhě  果guǒ 而ér 已yǐ  矣yǐ  

 good     one who   fruit      and    stop  (exclaim)

毋wú  以yǐ  取qǔ  強qiǎng 焉yān*

not    by means take   strong     (part.)

 The good one has results and stops!

Not by means of this takes strength.


*焉yān  is a final particle indicating emphasis and certainty, as well as finality.

  ​​​​​​​​​​​​.​ ​​​​. . . . .


Line 5

Line 5

He fulfills the objective

without any

arrogance or pride.


果guǒ   而ér   毋wú   驕jiāo

​​fruit       and       do not     haughty

果guǒ  而ér   勿wù    矜jīn

fruit    and     must not     boast

​​​ Results, and not being haughty.

​Results, and must not be boastful.


.​ ​​​​. . . . .


Line 6

Line 6

He fulfills the objective

without subduing the people,

and even then, when there is

no other choice.


​​  果guǒ   而ér   勿wù    伐fá

 fruit      and    do not     subjugate

果guó  而ér  毋wú  得dé   已yǐ     居jū 

fruit   and   must not   get     stop   dwell/occupy

​  Results, and yet does not subjugate.

​Results and must not get to stop*, dwelling.




*Note: 毋wú 得dé 已yǐ, literally "must not get to stop" is an idiomatic expression meaning "unavoidable," here translated as "no other choice." This line could also be read “does not dwell on the success” and “has no choice but to occupy. Note also that the final character 居jū, “reside,” “dwell,”  is not present in the standard texts.

. . . . .





Line 7
Line 8

Line 7

This is known as

achieving results

without coercion.*


​​​  是shì 胃wèi 果guǒ  而ér  不bù   強qiáng

this      say      fruit       and      not      strong

​​​ This is called having results

and yet without strength.  




*In line 6 of the next lesson, Lao Tzu tells us, “If a moral person cannot help but use weapons, quick force is superior, though never desired.”

 . . . . .


Line 9

Line 8

Going too far

only leads to decay.

This is not

in accord with the Way.



​​​​   物wù    壯zhuàng     而ér   老lǎo

 thing  big/vigorous/prime   and       old

是shì 胃wèi 之zhī 不bù 道tào

his     call     (poss.)   not      way

​ Things are big/vigorous, and then old;

this is called not the Way.



. . . . .



Line 9

What is not in

accord with the Way

soon comes to an end.



​​ 不bù  道tào   蚤zǎo*       已yǐ

 not      way     morning/early      stop

Not the Way, soon stops.





*蚤zǎo , is a variant of 早zǎo , morning, early, and, by extension, “soon.” 早zǎo is found in the standard editions.

. . . . .


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