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These translations all connote some form of energy (although this is not the only source for “effort”). This is the conventional Western translation of the Eastern concept, and although it becomes a bit wearing on repeated exposure, I admit I cannot come up with a better option.

What makes it particularly irksome to me is that I was a physics major in college. Trying to answer lay physics questions is a lot harder when people consistently conflate the Eastern philosophical concept with the scientific one…

True Virtue follows only the Way.
What is the Way? It is the Featureless, the Empty.

Amidst the Empty, the Featureless,
ten thousand features sleep.
Amidst the Featureless, the Empty,
ten thousand entities await.
Amidst shadows and obscurity,
lurks the seed of true potential.

From the modern back to the ancient days,
that which we name Design has been since the beginning.
How do I know this?
by its very nature, it is so.


This chapter is the first place where “de” (translated as “virtue”) appears.

chapter notes:

Here, I have translated “qi” to “potential”, and essentially deleted two phrases about how genuine and trustworthy it is. In translation, the added emphasis only served to weaken the entire chapter; I have settled for simply describing it as “true potential”.

Again, there is no original correspondence for “Design”, which I have introduced given relevance and opportunity.

November 2009

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