15 February 2013

老子 Lao Zi: 道德經 49章 Dao De Jing Chapter 49 (Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching 49)

Last month, January, I posted here on this blog Chapter 17 of Lao Zi's Dao De Jing.  I said I have now attempted my own translation of it because I was invited to speak at a Conference on Trust Building and Governance in Hong Kong and Macau organized by the Hong Kong Institute of Education some time last October and I decided to use some parts of the Dao De Jing.  The key word I used was 信 which I have translated as "trust".  In my last month's post, what Lao Zi had to say, as I see it, is "It is the ruler's lack of trust in the people that creates their mistrust."

Today, I am posting Lao Zi's Chapter 49 which I also referred to at the Conference.    The key word is again 信 "trust" and the relevant lines are 6, 7 and 8 which I have rendered as "He trusts in those who are trustworthy,/ He trusts also in those who are not, thus/ Trust obtains."  Please refer to my notes to see why I have rendered 吾 "I" as "He".  I have also discussed in my notes the word 德 "virtue" which I have taken to be 得 "attain/achieve/obtain" and which I have rendered as "obtains" meaning "prevails/in vogue/holds good, etc."  Here is the genius of Lao Zi.  He was saying "Only by trusting also in those who are not trustworthy, at least trusting in the possibility they can become trustworthy, that trust can be built."  Some say he is wise, some say, mad.  But just give this some thought: "Let he who has never
betrayed, nor will ever betray his trust, throw the first piece of stone!"    

Lao Zi (circa 500 BCE):  Dao De Jing Chapter 49
(Lao Tzu:  Tao Te Ching 49)

1        The sage ruler has no cravings of his own,
2        He takes as his own the cravings of the people.

3        He is good to those who are good,
4        He is also good to those who are not, thus     
5        Goodness obtains.
6        He trusts in those who are trustworthy,
7        He trusts also in those who are not, thus    
8        Trust obtains.

9        In ruling the world, the sage restrains himself;  
10     For its sake, he muddles his own cravings.
11     The people’s eyes and ears are all focused on his rule,
12     The sage regards them all as innocent babies.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)      譯者: 黃宏發
21st November 2012
Translated from the original - 老子:  道德經  49

1        聖人無常心,
2        以百姓心為心。

3        善者吾善之,
4        不善者吾亦善之,
5        德善。
6    信者吾信之,
7        不信者吾亦信之,
8        德信。

9       聖人在天下歙歙焉,
10     為天下渾其心。
11     百姓皆注其耳目,
12     聖人皆孩之。


*    Line 1:  I have considered “heart”, “mind” and “aspirations” to translate but have decided for “cravings”.  I am inclined not to take 常心 as a special term as 無常心 is probably a corruption of the Ma Wang Dui (MWD)馬王堆version of 恆無心 and, hence, 常無心  the 2 words and being coterminous meaning “always” .  Some other versions have it simply as 無心 “no craving” to mean 無私心 “no selfish craving”,  hence, my translation “no cravings of his own”.

*    Lines 3, 4, 6 and 7:  All 4 lines have been translated in accordance with the MWD version which does not contain the word “I”, hence, rendered here in the third person “he”.

*    Lines 3 through 8:  in the context of both 德善 (line 5) and 德信 ( line 8), literally “virtue”, should be taken to stand for its homophone “acquire/obtain/attain”.  With the first person “I” in lines 3, 4, 6 and 7 deleted (as discussed in the preceding note), I am inclined to interpret lines 5 and 8 as: not just the ruler, but the state/world as a whole, or in other words, both the ruler and the people attaining the virtues of “goodness” and “trust”, hence, my rendition “thus Goodness obtains” and “thus Trust obtains”.  “To obtain” here means “to prevail, to be in force or in vogue; to hold good, have place, subsist, or exist.”  (Shorter Oxford Dictionary)  If one feels odd about the word “obtains”, one can always use such expressions as “prevails”, “emerges”, “holds good”, “comes into currency”, etc. or simply “there is goodness/trust”.  I have added the word “thus” (not in the original) to end lines 4 and 7 to make my interpretation of this chapter crystal clear: it is only by being good also to the bad and by trusting also in the untrustworthy that goodness and trust can emerge.
*    Lines 9 and 10:  I have taken in 歙歙焉 to mean 收縮 (shrink), hence, 收斂 (restrain) and my rendition of “restrains himself”.  Although, in line 10, the word in 渾其心 is missing in the MWD manuscripts, I have nonetheless retained it and have, unlike most other translators, taken it to refer to the heart/cravings of the ruler, and not of the people, echoing the “no cravings of his own” sentiments in line 1.

*    Line 11:  I have added “on his rule” (not in the original) as the people’s watchful eyes and ears must be on whether the ruler’s rule is good, not just 劉殿爵 D.C. Lau’s “all have something to attach their eyes and ears” or  辜正坤 Gu Zhengkun’s “are all preoccupied with their eyes and ears”.

*    Line 12:  I had considered but rejected “The sage treats them all as children” which is literal but, at best, ambiguous and, at worst, misleading.  I have now decided to use “regards” instead of “treats” and “babies” instead of “children” with the adjective “innocent” (not in the original) added to make plain the people’s cravings, like the baby’s cravings, are (or, at least, can be) basic, instinctual and innocent.


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