Famous Chinese Quotes and Sayings, Meaning and Origin

Origin: The quotation is from Chapter 64 of the Tao Te Ching ascribed to Laozi.

Meaning: even the longest and most difficult ventures have a starting point.
Featured image: Zhang Lu, Laozi Riding an Ox 畫老子騎牛. Light ink and color on paper. National Palace Museum

千里之行始於足下。
Qiān lǐ zhī xíng shǐ yú zú xià.
literally: ‘A journey of a thousand Chinese miles (li) starts beneath one’s feet’

The Tao Te Ching, 道德 經, is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to 6th-century BC sage Laozi.

The Tao Te Ching, together with the Zhuangzi, is a fundamental text for philosophical and religious Taoism.

The book also strongly influenced other schools of Chinese philosophy and religion, including legalism, Confucianism and Buddhism.

Many Chinese artists, including poets, painters, calligraphers, and gardeners, have used the Tao Te Ching as a source of inspiration.

Its influence has spread widely outside of East Asia and is among the most translated works in world literature.

Chapter Sixty-four of Tao Te Ching

It is easy to preserve when things are stable.
It is easy to plan ahead when things have no yet occurred.
If one waits until the affair has begun,
Then the situation is as brittle as ice that easily cracks and is fragile that easily shatters.
Take actions before things occur.
Manage before things get out of order.
A huge tree grows from a tiny sprout;
A nine-story high terrace is built from heaps of earth.
A journey of thousand miles begins from the first step.
He who acts with desire shall fail.
He who tries to possess shall lose.
Therefore, the saint acts without effort and so he does not fail.
He is not eager to possess and so he does not lose.
Most people fail when they are near completion.
If one can be cautious from beginning to end, then he will not fail.
Thus a saint pursues what people do not pursue.
He does not value the hard-to-get objects.
He learns what people do not learn and avoids the faults in order to restore his true nature.
He follows the course of nature to benefit all things and dares not go astray from the right Way, Tao.

其安易持,其未兆易谋;其脆易泮,其微易散。为之于未有,治之于未乱。合抱之木,生于毫末;九层之台,起于垒土;千里之行,始于足下。为者败之,执者失之。是以圣人无为故无败,无执故无失。民之从事,常于几成而败之。慎终如始,则无败事。是以圣人欲不欲,不贵难得之货,学不学,复众人之所过,以辅万物之自然而不敢为。选自《老子·道德经·第六十四章》

Zhang Lu, Laozi Riding an Ox 畫老子騎牛. Light ink and color on paper. National Palace Museum
Zhang Lu, Laozi Riding an Ox 畫老子騎牛. Light ink and color on paper. National Palace Museum

Image source: wikipedia

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