THE FEMININE TAO 
CHAPTER FIFTEEN
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Tao Te Ching (Daodejing) (Intro) : 32 Nature Mystic Chapters :
gender-inclusive translations, calligraphy, commentary, seal scripts :

01, 04, 06, 07, 08    09, 10, 11, 15, 21, 22, 23    26, 28, 29, 32, 35,
40, 43, 45, 47    48, 49, 51, 52, 56, 63, 67    70, 73, 77, 79.
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Hymning the Tao Te Ching
(Literal 81 Chapter Chinese-English Study Version)
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Hyperlinked Bibliography: Women Authors on the Tao Te Ching
The Woman Crookback (Chuang-Tzu)
Picturing Tao (photo above: Mystery of Dialogue)
Women's Prehistoric Jomon Pottery

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Tao Te Ching: Chapter 15
translated by Frank J. MacHovec (1962)

The ancient followers of Tao: so wise, so subtle, so profound,
so deeply understanding that they were themselves misunderstood.

TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT 15
(1) of old (2) the same (3) good at (4) serving as (5) the Way (6) the ones
(7) delicate (8) mysterious (9) dark (10) empty
(11) so deep (12) not (13) able (14) to be understood.

They must therefore be described:

Cautious, like crossing a stream in mid-winter;
observant, like moving in fear through hostile land;
modest, retiring like ice beginning to melt;
dignified, like an honored guest;
genuine, like natural, untouched wood;
receptive, like an inviting, open valley;
friendly, like muddied water, freely mixing.

Who can make sense of a world like cloudy water?
Left alone and still, it becomes clear.
Should this stillness be maintained?
Moving hastily will surely cloud it again.
How then can one move and not become clouded?
Accept Tao and achieve without being selfish;
being unselfish one endures the world’s wear,
and needs no change of pace.

---


Tao Te Ching: Chapter 15
translated by Thomas Cleary (1998)

Skilled warriors of old were subtle,
mysteriously powerful,
so deep they were unknowable.
Just because they are unknowable,
I will try to describe them.

TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT
(1) surely (2) only because (3) not
(4) able (5) to be understood
(6) therefore (7) necessary (8) to do/describe
(9) the same's (11) appearance

Their wariness was as that of one crossing
a river in winter,      
their caution was as that of one in fear
of all around;      
their gravity was as that of a guest,
their relaxation was as that of ice at
the melting point.      
Simple as uncarved wood,
open as valleys,
they were as inscrutable as murky water.
Who can, in turbidity,
use the gradual clarification of stillness?
Who can, long at rest,
use the gradual enlivening of movement?
Those who preserve this Way do not want fullness.
Just because of not wanting fullness,
it is possible to use to the full
and not make anew.      

---
[*] HO-SHANG-KUNG [ancient commentator] says:
"Emptiness is wide and vast. A valley is empty,
without Te and merit and fame, without a place.
One does not grasp its existence. Muddiness keeps
its original purity. Turbid water is not so bright.
One ought to unite with the crowd and not keep apart."


Chinese Character for Countenance, Rong
COUNTENANCE / APPEARANCE
"How they looked" (容 = Rong)
Pictograph = Cover a Valley

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 15
translated by Timothy Freke (1999)

The Ancient Masters understood Mystery.
The depths of their wisdom was unfathomable,
so all we have are descriptions of
      how they looked...

Careful, as if crossing a frozen river.
Alert, as if aware of danger.
Respectful, like a guest.
Yielding, like melting ice.
Simple, like uncarved wood.
Empty, like a valley.

Trying to understand
is like straining to see through muddy water.
Be still, and allow the mud to settle.
Remain still, until it is time to act.

Those who follow Tao don't seek
      to arrive anywhere, [*]
so their journey is never over.

---

Chinese Character for Open, Kuang
OPEN / SPACIOUS / VACANT
(曠 = Kuang)
"Simple like uncarved wood,
vacant like a valley"
Pictograph = Open under the Sun

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 15
translated by Kari Hohne (2009)

The ancient masters of Tao:
So wise, so subtle and profound.
So deep in their understanding,
that they themselves were misunderstood;

They were:
Tentative, like crossing a stream in winter;
Hesitant like one aware of danger;
Courteous, like a visiting guest;
Subtle, like the melting of ice;
Simple, like the uncarved block;
Vacant, like a valley;
Obscure, like muddy water.

Who can be muddled and settling slowly become clear?
Who can remain still and stirring slowly come to life?
Move too hastily and it becomes cloudy again.

One who holds fast to the way
does not wish to be full.

Because one is never full
they are worn, [*]
and yet can be newly made.

---
[*] KARI HOHNE says:
"Like a seedling forced to press against the dirt and rocks
to peel away its protective covering, all obstacles
simply remove what hides our authenticity."

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 15
translated by Stephen Mitchell (1988)

The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.
Their wisdom was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it;
all we can describe is their appearance.

They were careful
as someone crossing an iced-over stream.

TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT 15f
(1) hesitant (2) yes (3) seeming like
(4) in winter (5) to ford (6) a stream

Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Shapable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises of itself?

The Master doesn't seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things. [*]

---
[*] ELLEN M. CHEN comments:
"The murky gradually settles down and self-clarifies, the clarified stirs again and life appears. In this way, yin and yang, rest and motion, and the murky and the clarified alternate with each other. Murkiness being the dissolution of form, is the individual's point of death. There is a hint here that the Taoist, imitating Tao or Change, is able to undergo death and survive. One who can encompass both life and death, both heaven and earth, lives the deathless life of the round."

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 15
translated by J. H. McDonald (1996)

The Sages of old were profound
and knew the ways of subtlety and discernment.
Their wisdom is beyond our comprehension.
Because their knowledge was so far superior
I can only give a poor description.

They were careful
as someone crossing a frozen stream in winter.
Alert as if surrounded on all sides by the enemy.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Whole as an uncarved block of wood. [**]
Receptive as a valley.
Turbid as muddied water.

Who can be still
until their mud settles
and the water is cleared by itself?
Can you remain tranquil until right action
      occurs by itself?

The Master doesn't seek fulfillment. [*]
For only those who are not full are able to be used
which brings the feeling of completeness.

---
[*] HO-SHANG-KUNG [an ancient commentator] says:
"Who keeps this Tao of gradual living
wants no luxurious fulness."
---
[**] (everyday) ZEN KOAN SAYING:
Putting on his shoes,
      the wooden man
      went away at midnight.
Wearing her bonnet,
      the stone woman
      returned at dawn.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 15
Agnieszka Solska (2008)

The ancient followers of Tao were shrewd and discerning.
Their knowledge was arcane, beyond comprehension.
There are no words to describe them well.
Cautious, as if fording a frozen river.
Watchful, as if dreading foes on all sides.
Courteous, as a guest.
Yielding, like ice on the thaw.
Simple, like uncut wood.
Wide open, like a valley.
Obscure, like muddy water.
Who can keep murky water still and cause it to clear?
Who can make what's inert active and bring it to life?
Those who embrace the Tao do not wish to become full.
Thus they can wear out without needing to be renewed.

---

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 15
translated by P. J. Maclagan (1898-99)

1.
In ancient times the skillful masters (of Tao)
were obscurely intelligent of subtle mysteries.
Deep, they were beyond possibility of being known.
Just because they cannot be known
I make an effort to describe them:

2.
Shrinking, they were streams in winter:
Hesitating, they were as if fearing their neighbors:
Grave, they were as guests:
Evanescent, they were like ice going to melt:
Simple, they were like unwrought wood:

TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT 11def
(1) comparable (2) yes (3) seeming (4) afraid (5) on all sides (6) of the neighbors
(7) reserved (8) yes (9) they (10) seemed like (11) guests
(12) yielding (13) yes (13) they (14) seemed like (15) ice (16) about to melt
(18) solid (19) yes (20) they (21) seemed like (22) uncarved wood

Capacious, they were like a valley:
Confused, they were like muddy water.

3.
Who can as muddy, attain to the gradual clarifying proper to stillness?
Who can as at rest, attain to the gradual production proper to motion?

4.
Those who preserve this Tao do not wish to be full.
Just because they are not full, therefore they can be worn out
and not new and complete.

---
From the commentary by P. J. MACLAGAN:
"The first three lines are expressive of retiring timidity, see 63.
The fourth line refers to detachment from desire, and advance
towards `the vacant heart.' The reference in 'unwrought wood'
is either to absence of pre-determination, or to outward
plainness and inward beauty."

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 15
translated by Red Pine (1996)

The ancient masters of the Way
aimed at the indiscernible
and penetrated the dark
you would never know them [*]
and because you wouldn't know them
I describe them with reluctance
they were careful as if crossing a river in winter
cautious as if worried about the neighbors
reserved like a guest [**]
ephemeral like melting ice
simple like a block of wood
open like a valley
and murky like a puddle [***]
but a puddle becomes clear when it's still
and what's still becomes alive when it's aroused
those who treasure this Way
don't try to be full
not trying to be full
they can hide and stay concealed

---
[*] TS'AO TAO-CH'UNG [Taoist nun] comments:
"Although the ancient masters lived in the world,
no one thought they were special."
---
[*] ZEN MASTER DOGEN (13th c.)
GENJO KOAN - says:
"There remains no trace of enlightenment,
and one lets this traceless enlightenment
come forth for ever and ever."
---
[**] ELLEN M. CHEN comments:
"The guest depends on the master's goodwill and hospitality. Since the world is a spirit vessel (ch.29) with a sacred life not to be tampered with by humans, the Taoist's attitude is one of reverence and circumspection."
---
[***] WANG-PI [an ancient commentator] says:
"All of these similes are meant to describe without actually denoting. By means of intuitive understanding the dark becomes bright. By means of tranquility, the murky becomes clear. By means of movement the still becomes alive. This is the natural Way."

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 15
translated by Ursula K. Le Guin (1998)

Once upon a time
people who knew the Way
were subtle, spiritual, mysterious, penetrating,
unfathomable.

Since they're inexplicable
I can only say what they seemed like:
Cautious, oh yes, as if wading through a
      winter river.
Alert, as if afraid of the neighbors.
Polite and quiet, like houseguests.
Elusive, like melting ice.
Blank, like uncut wood.
Empty, like valleys.
Mysterious, oh yes, they were like
      troubled water.

TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT 15kl
(1) spacious (2) yes (3) they (4) seemed like
(5) a river valley; (6) befuddled (7) yes (8) they
(9) seemed like (10) muddy water

Who can by stillness, little by little
make what is troubled grow clear?
Who can by movement, little by little
make what is still grow quick?

To follow the Way
is not to need fulfillment.
Unfulfilled, one may live on
needing no renewal.

---

Daodejing / Tao Te Ching / Chapter Fifteen in Seal Script
(Zhuanshu 篆文, based on Wang Pi and Fu Yi versions)
Chapter 15 Seal Script & Interlinear English
TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT
(1) of old (2) the same (3) good at (4) serving as (5) the Way (6) the ones
(7) delicate (8) mysterious (9) dark (10) empty
(11) so deep (12) not (13) able (14) to be understood.

TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT
(1) surely (2) only because (3) not (4) able (5) to be understood
(6) therefore (7) necessary (8) to do/describe (9) the same's (11) appearance


(1) Tao (2) the same (3) acts as (4) something
(5) uniquely (6) sudden insight (7) uniquely (8) absent-minded

(9) absent-minded (10) indeed (11) sudden insight (12) indeed
(13) at the (14) center (15) there are (16) images

(17) sudden insight (18) indeed (19) absent-minded (20) indeed
(21) at the (22) center (23) there are (24) forms

(25) deeply profound (26) indeed (27) obscure (28) indeed
(29) at the (30) center (31) there is (32) exquisite essence

TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT
(1) hesitant (2) yes (3) seeming like (4) in winter (5) to ford (6) a stream
TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT
(1) comparable (2) yes (3) seeming (4) afraid (5) on all sides (6) of the neighbors
(7) reserved (8) yes (9) they (10) seemed like (11) guests
(12) yielding (13) yes (13) seeming like (14) ice (15) the same (16) about to (17) melt
(18) solid (19) yes (20) they (21) seemed like (22) uncarved wood

TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT
(1) spacious (2) yes (3) they (4) seemed like (5) a river valley;
(6) befuddled (7) yes (8) they (9) seemed like (10) muddy water

TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT
(1) who (2) can be (3) muddy water (4) thus (5) still (6) the same (7) gradually (8) becoming clear?
(9) who (10) can (11) at rest (12) thus (13) remaining (14) the same (15) gradually (16) arise?

TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT
(1) holding fast (2) to this (3) way (4) the ones
(5) not (6) desiring (7) to fill to the brim
(8) surely (9) only because of (10) not (11) filling to the brim
(12) thus (13) are they able (14) to retire (15) without (16) bringing to an end (17) renewal
Tao Te Ching: Chapter 15
translated by Ralph Alan Dale (2006)

In ancient times
the people knew the Great Integrity
with subtlety and profundity.

Because they are so unfathomable to us,
we can describe the ancients
only with great efforts.

They were —
cautious as those crossing an icy stream,
wary as those surrounded by dangers,
dignified as guests,
yielding as melting ice,
innocent as virgin wood,
open and broad as valleys,
merging freely as muddy water.

But today who can remain patient
while the mud so gradually clears?
Who can remain still
while the moment for action
so slowly emerges?

Who?
We observers of the Great Integrity,
who in our times,
like those ancients,
when never seeking fulfillment
are never unfulfilled.

---

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 15
translated by Joseph Hsu (2008)

Those good at practicing dao in antiquity
were subtle and wonderful, mysterious and penetrating.
They are too deep for us to know.
And precisely because they cannot be known,
so I am forced to figure them out.

Cautious, oh, [*]
as if crossing a river in winter!
Hesitant, oh,
as if afraid of the surrounding neighbors!
Dignified, oh,
they were like guests!
Yielding, oh,
they were like ice about to melt!
Simple, oh,
they were like a piece of natural wood!
they were like valleys!
Vast, oh
confused, oh,
they were like turbid water!

When left still, the turbid
slowly turns clear.
When roused, the quiet
gently comes to life
To keep this dao
is not to desire to be filled.
And precisely because they do not desire to be filled,
they can, therefore, remain hidden
and stay unfinished.

---
[*] JOSEPH HSU comments:
"As in Fu Yi's copy, this translation ends all adjectives
of the paragraph in 兮 (xi [translated, oh])."

Chinese Character for Tranquil, Jing
TRANQUIL / SERENE
EXAMINE (靜 = Jing)
Pictograph = Think Vividly + Pull at Truth
"Who can be muddy, yet through tranquility gradually clear?"

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 15 (Guodian)
translated by Robert G. Henricks (2000)

Those who were good at being noble in antiquity
Were without doubt subtle and profound, mysterious and penetratingly wise.
So deep that they cannot be known.
...
For this reason we praise them in the following way:

Hesitant were they! Like someone crossing a river in winter.
Cautious were they! Like someone wary of his four neighbors.
Deferential were they! Like guests.
Accommodating were they! Like melting ice.
Natural and genuine were they! Like wood that hasn't been carved.
Undifferentiated were they! Like muddy water.
...
___ ___ ___
 [the following lines seem to be regarded as a separate passage]

Who can be muddy, yet through tranquility gradually clear?
Who can be still, yet through motion gradually stir?
The one who embraces this Way does not desire to be overly full.

---

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 15
translated by Tolbert McCarroll (1982)

The ancient followers of the Tao
were subtle, mysterious, and penetrating.
They were too deep to be fathomed.
All we can do is describe their appearance.

Hesitant, as if crossing a winter stream.
Watchful, as if aware of neighbors on all sides.
Respectful, like a visiting guest.
Yielding, like ice beginning to melt.
Simple, like an uncarved block.
Open, like a valley.
Obscure, like muddy water.

Who else can be still and let the muddy water
slowly become clear?
Who else can remain at rest and slowly come to life?

Those who hold fast to the Tao
do not try to fill themselves to the brim.
Because they do not try to be full
they can be worn out and yet ever new.

---
TAO TE CHING SEAL SCRIPT
(1) holding fast (2) to this (3) way (4) the ones
(5) not (6) desiring (7) to fill to the brim
(8) surely (9) only because of (10) not (11) filling to the brim
(12) thus (13) are they able (14) to retire (15) without (16) bringing to an end (17) renewal

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