The subject of oneness or unity treated in Chapter 39 is here continued, and
unity is represented as the product of the Tao, or Reason.
The trinity idea plays an important part in human thought almost everywhere, in philosophical systems and in many religions including Christianity. The Chinese idea of trinity is based on the notion that there are two opposed principles, Yang and Yin, which have originated, as Lao-tze explains, from a primordial oneness, called by Cheu-tze and other later philosophers Chi, the ultimate, or the absolute. Oneness produces by differentiation a twohood, viz., the twohood of Yang, or heaven, and Yin, or earth. Between heaven and earth is the air, Chi, the breath of life; and from this trinity of Yang, Yin and Chi all things are derived.
Incidentally we must warn the reader that chi, the ultimate, 1 is quite different from chi, breath. 2
The words ku kwa, here translated "orphaned, lonely," mean, the former "a fatherless son," and the latter "lonely"; and in this sense the emperor has been called the "lonely one" as one who stands aloof, who is solitary, peerless and without equal. But the original meaning is still prominent in the term and so we may look upon Lao-tze's use of the word as a pun which he uses as a peg upon which to hang a lesson. The word kwa, "lonely," has the meaning of "little" and "insignificant" which in agreement with a Chinese view of politeness is also used in the sense of "your humble servant," or as the Germans say, meine Wenigkeit, which may justly be considered an adequate equivalent for the Chinese kwa.
The term pu ku is used in the same sense as kwa, meaning literally "not worthy," as a modest expression in which the speaker refers to himself. It serves so commonly as an equivalent for the
pronoun of the first person that even the emperor does not scorn it. However the former words ku kwa denote the emperor as a peerless person, the only one of his kind, the man who has no equal.
* * *
Lao-tze is certainly an original thinker and yet he disclaims originality; he constantly quotes his predecessors, but he reads his own thoughts into their sayings. He says here, "What others have taught I teach also," but in Chapter 15 he says that they are too profound to be understood, and so he endeavors to make them intelligible.
* * *
The chapter concludes with a statement which tradition explains as meaning that he will "expound the doctrine's foundation," but the literal reading of the last six words runs thus:
"I shall do the doctrine's father."
The word fu, "father," pictures a hand with a rod and means "rule, authority, father, fatherly or loving." It is the most common word for "father" and
ought to be so translated unless weighty reasons speak against it.
The word wei, commonly translated "to do," may mean "to live up to, to actualize, to exemplify, to do the will of, to obey." Obviously it means the actual doing, not the purely theoretical expounding, and so we explain the passage to mean, "While the mass of mankind are violent and self-willed, which leads to trouble and an unnatural death, I mean to exemplify in my life the will of the doctrine's father," or in a more literal rendering "But I will obey the doctrine's father (i. e., the Tao)."
167:1 Chi is used by Lao-tze in its ordinary sense in Chapter 16, and 68, last word. For the philosophical terms tai chi and wu chi see p. 138 and compare Giles's Dictionary, No. 859.
167:2 Chi, breath, occurs three times in our p. 168 text: (1) translated "airs" in Sze ma Tsien's biography of Lao-tze; (2) translated "vitality" in Chapter 10; and (3) "breath," in Chapter 42. See Giles's Dictionary No. 1064. The word is also transcribed ki.