'Thien Tâo,' the first two characters of the first paragraph, and prefixed to the Book as the name of it, are best translated by 'The Way of Heaven,' meaning the noiseless spontaneity, which characterises all the operations of nature, proceeding silently, yet 'perfecting all things.' As the rulers of the world attain to this same way in their government, and the sages among men attain to it in their teachings, both government and doctrine arrive at a corresponding perfection. 'The joy of Heaven' and 'the joy of Men' are both realised. There ought to be no purpose or will in the universe. 'Vacancy, stillness, placidity, tastelessness, quietude, silence, and non-action; this is the perfection of the Tâo and its characteristics.'
Our author dwells especially on doing-nothing or non-action as the subject-matter of the Book. But as the world is full of doing, he endeavours to make a distinction between the Ruling Powers and those subordinate to and employed by them, to whom doing or action and purpose, though still without the thought of self, are necessary; and by this distinction he seems to me to give up the peculiarity of his system, so that some of the critics, especially Aû-yang Hsiû, are obliged to confess that these portions of the Book are unlike the writing of Kwang-dze. Still the antagonism of Tâoism to Confucianism is very apparent
throughout. Of the illustrative paragraphs, the seventh, relating the churlish behaviour of Lâo-dze to Confucius, and the way in which he subsequently argues with him and snubs him, is very amusing. The eighth paragraph, relating the interview between Lâo and Shih-khäng Khî, is very strange. The allusions in it to certain incidents and peculiarities in Lâo's domestic life make us wish that we had fuller accounts of his history; and the way in which he rates his disciple shows him as a master of the language of abuse.
The concluding paragraph about duke Hwan of Khî is interesting, but I can only dimly perceive its bearing on the argument of the Book.