|1.||The Way moves on by contra-motion;|
|2.||Yielding is the application.|
|3.||Becoming begets all beings below,|
|4.||Becoming begotten of negation. 1|
COMMENT In stanza 2, you and wu, a key pair of antonyms for Laozi, are translated as “what is” and “what is not. ” Here, because they suggest two mutually dependent processes—a building up and a breaking down—they are translated as “becoming” and “negation. ” 2
The oft-cited lines 3 and 4 are usually rendered: the ten thousand things issue from what is (you); what is itself issues from what is not (wu). Perhaps “nonentity” as a translation for wu better captures the social point: that humans share a common ancestry with all things, an ancestry that derives from nothing and is thus no source of pride or status, no justification of superiority and domination. The Huang-Lao legalists shifted this idea of a transcendent factor to which all are subject from the cosmic to the social, as in the phrase from the Guanzi: “Ruler and vassal, high and low, noble and mean all comply with law. ” 3 In the Guanzi, law itself is the social application of the Way.
For Laozi the emphasis is on the social microcosm within the natural macrocosm. No complex state machinery is envisioned. He never uses the common phrase “ruler and vassal” (junchen). Classed as one of the ten thousand, humans descend from negation and then return to negation. In this primitivist model, the Way is best applied by receding, by remaining no more than a part of the ten thousand, thus yielding (ruo, weakness, passivity) and moving backward, that is, toward negation. Compare this with the emphasis on