When the wise man hears the Way,
he tries to practice it.
When the mediocre man hears the Way,
it is hit and miss.
When the fool hears the Way,
he laughs at it.
Well, if he did not laugh,
it would be something less than the Way.

Therefore, it is said:
The bright Way seems obscure.
The Way forwards seems backwards.
The smooth Way seems rough.
High virtue seems like a deep chasm.

Great purity seems impure.
Broad virtue seems indiscriminate.
Solid virtue seems doubtful.
The truly original seems derivative.

The great System has no portals.
The great Project is finished last.
The great Sound is without voice.
The great Form is without form.

The Way may be inarticulate and nameless,
but only the Way is as useful for the beginning as it is for the end.


chapter notes:

Except for two lines in the penultimate verse, this chapter is a straightforward translation. The first verse is hard to improve upon, and many of the proverbs are as self-evident today as they ever were.