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The Tao Teh King: A Short Study in Comparative Religion, by C. Spurgeon Medhurst, [1905], at

p. 55


The magnificence of the army cannot make it an auspicious weapon. It is possible that even inanimate Nature detests it. Hence, one who possesses Tao has nothing to do with it.

The Master Thinker (the Sage) when at home honors the left. When leading troops he honors the right. Soldiers are instruments of ill omen. They are not agents for a Master Thinker. Only when it is inevitable will he employ them. What he most prizes is quiet and peace. He will not praise a victory. To do so would show delight in the slaughter of men. As for those who delight in the slaughter of men, the world is too small for the gratification of their desires.

When affairs are felicitous the left is honored, but when they are inauspicious the right is honored. The Second Officer is placed on the left, but the Commander-in-Chief is placed on the right. That is to say, his position is as if he were attending a funeral. The slayer of multitudes should bitterly weep and lament. Having fought and won it is as if he were presiding at a funeral.

NOTE.—This chapter was doubtless originally a commentary on the preceding section, but subsequently incorporated in the text through the carelessness of a copyist. The language is unlike Lao Tzu's style, and contains one or more anachronisms.

The references to the right and the left will be understood when it is remembered that in China the left is the seat of honor, the right the lower and inferior seat.

Legge remarks that "the concluding sentence will suggest to some readers the words of the Duke of Wellington after Waterloo that to gain a battle was the saddest thing next to losing it."

Next: Chapter XXXII