Laozi Quotes 1–30 of 59 Quotes

老子 Lǎozi (c. 6th – 5th century BC) was a Chinese monist philosopher; also called Lao Zi, Lao Tzu, Lao Tse, or Lao Tze. The Tao Te Ching (道德經, Pinyin: Dào Dé Jīng, or Dao De Jing) represents the sole document generally attributed to Laozi.

Below are 30 of 59 sourced Laozi quotes. Sources and related information appear under each quote. Use the 'Cite this quote' link to get citation references.

“Those about whom you inquire have moulded with their bones into dust. Nothing but their words remain. When the hour of the great man has struck he rises to leadership; but before his time has come he is hampered in all that he attempts. I have heard that the successful merchant carefully conceals his wealth, and acts as though he had nothing—that the great man, though abounding in achievements, is simple in his manners and appearance. Get rid of your pride and your many ambitions, your affectation and your extravagant aims. Your character gains nothing for all these. This is my advice to you.”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Attributed to Laozi. Laozi speaking to Confucius. Quoted in James Legge, Texts of Taoism, 34; Quoted from Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage.

“The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be defined is not the unchanging name. Non-existence is called the antecedent of heaven and earth; Existence is the mother of all things. From eternal non-existence, therefore, we serenely observe the mysterious beginning of the Universe; From eternal existence we clearly see the apparent distinctions. These two are the same in source and become different when manifested. This sameness is called profundity. Infinite profundity is the gate whence comes the beginning of all parts of the Universe.”

— Laozi

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More on this quote: Ch. 1, as translated by Ch'u Ta-Kao (1904)
• Also as Tao called Tao is not Tao.

“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things. Ever desireless, one can see the mystery. Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations. These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness. Darkness within darkness. The gate to all mystery.”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Ch. 1, Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English (1972)

“The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. The unnameable is the eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things. Free from desire, you realize the mystery. Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations. Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source. This source is called darkness. Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding.”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Ch. 1, as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)

“The tao that can be described is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be spoken is not the eternal Name. The nameless is the boundary of Heaven and Earth. The named is the mother of creation. Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery. By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real. Yet mystery and reality emerge from the same source. This source is called darkness. Darkness born from darkness. The beginning of all understanding.”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Ch. 1, as translated by J.H.McDonald (1996) [Public domain translation]

“The way you can go isn't the real way. The name you can say isn't the real name. Heaven and earth begin in the unnamed: name's the mother of the ten thousand things. So the unwanting soul sees what's hidden, and the ever-wanting soul sees only what it wants. Two things, one origin, but different in name, whose identity is mystery. Mystery of all mysteries! The door to the hidden.”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Ch. 1, as interpreted by Ursula K. LeGuin (1998)

“A way can be a guide but not a fixed path names can be given but not permanent labels Nonbeing is called the beginning of heaven and earth being is called the mother of all things Always passionless thereby observe the subtle ever intent thereby observe the apparent These two come from the same source but differ in name both are considered mysteries The mystery of mysteries is the gateway of marvels”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Ch. 1, as translated by Thomas Cleary (2004)

“The Tao is teachable, yet understanding my words is not the same as following the Tao. The guidance is describable, yet knowing the description is not the same as following the guidance. Non-Being guides to the origin of Heaven and Earth. Being guides to the mother of all particular things. Thus, through the guidance of Non-Being, you can observe the beginning; through the guidance of Being, you can observe the returning. Non-Being and Being come out concurrently, but point to different directions; both together can be called the mysterious transforming power. They constantly transform into each other, and form the gateways for all wonderful things.”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Chapter 1, translated by Yuhui Liang

“A violent wind does not outlast the morning; a squall of rain does not outlast the day. Such is the course of Nature. And if Nature herself cannot sustain her efforts long, how much less can man!”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Chapter 3 as translated by Lionel Giles

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“The Tao works like the greatest fountain, it functions perfectly and never overflows. All things spray out from it and return into it, it seems to be the origin of them. It blunts the sharpness of the powerful, untangle the knot of the powerless; softens the glare of the noble, and stays with the humble. Oh, it is hidden so deep that it seems not existing. I do not know its source, but I know it is the source of the Heavenly God.”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Chapter 4, translated by Yuhui Liang

“The Tao is like a bellows: it is empty yet infinitely capable. The more you use it, the more it produces; the more you talk of it, the less you understand.”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Ch. 5, as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)

“The love of Heaven and Earth is impartial, and they demand nothing from the myriad things. The love of the sages is impartial, and they demand nothing from the people. The cooperation between Heaven and Earth is much like how a bellows works! Within the emptiness there is limitless potential; in moving, it keeps producing without end. Complaining too much only leads to misfortune. It is better to stay in the center of serenity.”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Chapter 5, translated by Yuhui Liang

“The Tao is called the Great Mother: empty yet inexhaustible, it gives birth to infinite worlds.”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Ch. 6, as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)

“The universe is deathless; Is deathless because, having no finite self, it stays infinite. A sound man by not advancing himself stays the further ahead of himself, By not confining himself to himself sustains himself outside himself: By never being an end in himself he endlessly becomes himself.”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Ch. 7

“Thirty spokes unite at the single hub; It is the empty space which makes the wheel useful. Mold clay to form a bowl; It is the empty space which makes the bowl useful. Cut out windows and doors; It is the empty space which makes the room useful.”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Ch. 11

“A leader is best when people barely know that he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, "We did this ourselves."”

— Laozi

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More on this quote: Ch. 17
A longer paraphrase of this quotation, with modern embellishments, is often attributed to Laozi: see "Misattributed" below.

“Since before time and space were, the Tao is. It is beyond is and is not. How do I know this is true? I look inside myself and see.”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Ch. 21, as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)

“Therefore the Sage embraces the One, And becomes the model of the world. He does not reveal himself,        And is therefore luminous. He does not justify himself,        And is therefore far-famed. He does not boast himself,        And therefore people give him credit. He does not pride himself,        And is therefore the ruler among men. It is because he does not contend That no one in the world can contend against him.”

— Laozi

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Quote source: Ch. 22, as translated by Lin Yutang (1948)

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“'''A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving. A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants. A good scientist has freed himself of concepts and keeps his mind open to what is. Thus the Master is available to all people and doesn't reject anyone. He is ready to use all situations and doesn't waste anything. This is called embodying the light.”

— Laozi

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#21

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#21

Use MLA (Modern Language Association) style for the humanities, especially language and literature.

Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#21

More on this quote: Ch. 27, as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)
• Variants:
• A good traveller has no fixed plan and is not intent on arriving.
 • As quoted in In Search of King Solomon's Mines‎ (2003) by Tahir Shah, p. 217
• A true traveller has no fixed plan, and is not intent on arriving.

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”

— Laozi

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#22

Use APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the sciences.

Laozi (2021, August 5) Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#22

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#22

Use MLA (Modern Language Association) style for the humanities, especially language and literature.

Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#22

More on this quote: Ch. 33, as interpreted by Stephen Mitchell (1992)
• Variant translation by Lin Yutang: "He who knows others is learned; he who knows himself is wise".

“Scholars of the highest class, when they hear about the Tao, take it and practice it earnestly. Scholars of the middle class, when they hear of it, take it half earnestly. Scholars of the lowest class, when they hear of it, laugh at it. Without the laughter, there would be no Tao.”

— Laozi

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#23

Use APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the sciences.

Laozi (2021, August 5) Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#23

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#23

Use MLA (Modern Language Association) style for the humanities, especially language and literature.

Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#23

Quote source: Ch. 41

“He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.”

— Laozi

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#24

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#24

Quote source: Ch. 46

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning.”

— Laozi

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#25

Use APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the sciences.

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#25

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#25

Quote source: Ch. 48, as translated by Raymond B. Blakney (1955)

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”

— Laozi

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#26

Use APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the sciences.

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#26

Use MLA (Modern Language Association) style for the humanities, especially language and literature.

Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#26

Quote source: Ch. 48

“Block the passages, shut the doors, And till the end your strength shall not fail. Open up the passages, increase your doings, And till your last day no help shall come to you.”

— Laozi

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#27

Use APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the sciences.

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#27

Use MLA (Modern Language Association) style for the humanities, especially language and literature.

Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#27

Quote source: Ch. 52 as translated by Arthur Waley (1934)

“He who knows does not speak; he who speaks does not know.”

— Laozi

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#28

Use APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the sciences.

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#28

Use MLA (Modern Language Association) style for the humanities, especially language and literature.

Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#28

Quote source: Ch. 56

“The more prohibitions that are imposed on people, The poorer the people become. The more laws and regulations that exist, The more thieves and brigands appear. The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.”

— Laozi

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#29

Use APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the sciences.

Laozi (2021, August 5) Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#29

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Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 5 August 2021, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#29

Use MLA (Modern Language Association) style for the humanities, especially language and literature.

Laozi. “Laozi Quotes: 1–30 of 59 Quotes.” Last modified August 5, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/Laozi-quotes.html#29

Quote source: Ch. 57

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