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The Hidden Codes of the Daodejing
The Hidden Codes of the Daodejing: Archaeological, Numerological, and Thematic Context Interpretations
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This volume is the fifth in a five-part series on the Dodjīng. The third volume, The Dodjīng, Daoism, and the Restoration of Humanity in the Asian Healing Arts, contains a large section on the Ancient Chinese cultural background of the text as well as a Complete translation of each of the eight-one chapters, including the Chinese characters from the Received Text of Wngbs Hn Dynasty version, and a commentary on each chapter based on the cultural background. The Received Text of Wngb is the version from which all other prominent versions in China and around the World since at least the Mng Dynasty (1368-1644 CE) have been derived.

The fourth volume in this series, Many Paths, One Center: The Dodjīng and the Worldview of Ancient China, provides a detailed presentation of the Thematic Context, which organizes the many important themes used in the Dodjīng so that its underlying Principles can be better understood and coordinated with practical application to daily Life. Here in the present volume, we shall also include the theme of the evolution of the Ruler to the Heart of every person including the role of the Sage who connects the two. This important role of the Ruler can be understood on four different levels in the text: (1) the archaeological versions where different references to the Ruler were used, (2) the Thematic Context where the Ruler is associated with Political or Governmental Force, (3) a numerological interpretation of the eighty-one chapters where the different roles of the Ruler are symbolized, and (4) the Three Levels of Healing established by To Hngjǐng 陶弘景 in the fourth century CE where the role of the Ruler/Heart/Mind reaches the most comprehensive level of application.

The archaeological versions, Guōdin 郭店 of 300 BCE and Mǎwngduī 馬王堆 of 168 BCE, and discovered in 1993 and 1973, are the earliest Known versions of the text that we have today. The Guōdin version was written during the Warring States Period on bamboo strips while the Mǎwngduī version was written during the Former Hn Dynasty on silk banners so that slight character variations are found that are not present in the Received Text of Wngb. While most of these variations are minimal, most of which indicate that these earlier texts were written for the Ruler, the Received Text included in its audience the educated literati and, by implication, the common ordinary person. These differences are accounted for as much by the political and educational changes made in the Hn Dynasty as they were by the writing Materials available at the time. From the Warring States Period through the Former Hn, texts were written on silken cloth or rolled bamboo slips, a technique that limited their availability. However, by the Later Hn, when the Received Text of Wngb was written, paper was invented so that the same texts were now available to a wider audience, especially the larger and emerging class of bureaucrats. Furthermore, by the Tng Dynasty (618-905 CE), when Lǎozi was deified by the first Tng Emperor, woodblock printing was invented, which made these texts, and others, much more available as more and more people began to read. At the same time, the earlier Zhōu Dynasty concept of the Mandate of Heaven (tiānmng 天命) evolved with the cooperation of Chinese Medicine to the extent where the Outer Ruler of the Kingdom also became a pertinent symbol for the Shn/Spirit of the Heart, which functioned in every person as the Ruler of the Body/Mind/Spirit within. The ideas in the Dodjīng, then, came to be understood as advice given, not only to the Outer Ruler of the Kingdom, but also to the Inner Ruler of the Heart for Humanity as a Whole.

The Thematic Context is an organization of over two hundred fifty-three different terms used in the Dodjīng into an overall Pattern from which the main Principles of the text can be understood on a more linear and comprehensive level. I discovered this system when I first translated the text from the original Chinese, which enabled me to see how different words were repeated throughout the text as well as throughout other related texts of Ancient China such as the Yjīng, the Chinese Medical texts, the Confucian texts, and other Daoist texts that used the same words to consistently convey ideas that were not perceptible by reading other western translations. I, then, organized these terms into five basic categories, which in themselves summarize the fundamental meaning of the text and the highly significant worldview that emerges from it. These are:

1. A Definition of Do as both Source and Path

2. The Manifestation of Do into the World

3. Human Nature, Virtue/Empowerment, and the Psycho-Spiritual Dimension of Humanity

4. The Fragmentation and Loss of Do

5. The Embracing of Do for the Restoration of Humanity

Please notice that, for the sake of clarity and to facilitate the learning process, all of these terms appear in Small Caps wherever they are used in the text.

Included in these terms are the Ruler, the Sage, the role of Numbers as an aspect of the Pattern/Template system of archetypes, and the Mandate of Heaven, which connects the evolution of the Ruler to the Heart of every person and makes the text not only more available, but also a requirement for everyone who wants to attain the goal of One Peaceful World. In addition, the Mandate of Heaven is also related to the Three levels of Healing, an idea introduced by the Moshān Daoist and Chinese Medical practitioner, To Hngjǐng 陶弘景 (452-536 CE). These levels include the Symptomatic Level as the Lowest, the Preventive Level at the Middle, and the Fulfilling of Inner Potential at the Highest, which is directly related to the Mandate of Heaven as we shall see later in the section on the Thematic Context.


A plethora of books exists on the Daodejing. Why do we need another one? Or, perhaps more to the point, why do we need a new five-volume work on the Daodejing? What more can be said that has not already been said?

These are reasonable questions to ask when confronted with Dennis Willmont's new five-volume opus on the Daodejing. How can there possibly be something new to say?

The fact of the matter is that there is something new to say. Willmont has studied the Daodejing for 50 years, learning Chinese and doing his own translations of the ancient text. In the process, he realized that extant English translations of the Daodejing have been made through the filter of the modern Western worldview. There is never a one-to-one correspondence between words in different languages. A translator always is called upon to make judgments when deciding how to translate various words, which is why computer translations of foreign text can be quite amusing or even meaningless. Decisions about how to translate the Daodejing have been made according to our own suppositions about what the text is saying rather than from the perspective of the people who were alive when the text was written.

How can a translator know the worldview of a text written down some 2000 years earlier and use it to inform the translation? Being a scholar as well as a translator, and being both literate in the language of ancient China and well-read in its texts, Willmont solved this problem by analyzing the text itself to uncover the worldview of the writer or writers of the text and of the people who lived according to its teachings. As an acupuncturist, Willmont also reveals to us aspects of our medicine that we could never learn elsewhere. By understanding the worldview out of which our medicine developed and was practiced, we expand our depth and breadth as practitioners of Oriental Medicine and recapture an element of our medicine that was lost long before we ever studied it.

In Volume 4, Many Paths, One Center: The Daodejing and the Worldview of Ancient China, Willmont analyzes the themes that appear in the Daodejing and reveals for us the worldview out of which the text emerged. This worldview is quite different from our own, which means that his translation of the Daodejing, based on the worldview of ancient China rather than our own dualistic and reductionistic worldview, is different from earlier English translations.

Willmont takes us step by step through the themes that appear in the Daodejing, deciphering the characters that make up the concepts used in the text and explaining their meanings. Given that there are hundreds of concepts in the text, this is no mean feat. To make it easier for us to understand the worldview revealed in the Daodejing, Willmont gathers the concepts together in categories and shows us the logical consistency within the text. He identifies five broad categories within the Thematic Context of the Daodejing:

1. Dao as Both Source and Path

2. The Manifestation of Dao into the World

3. Human Nature and the Psycho-Spiritual Dimension of Humanity

4. The Fragmentation of Dao and the Origin of Suffering

5. Embracing Dao for the Restoration of Humanity

Taken together, these five categories tell a story. We learn the meaning of Dao as the Source from which all things come as well as its function as a Path by which we can find our way through this life. We see how Dao manifests in the world and how it becomes the Pattern/Template for what we know as the world. We discover the psycho-spiritual nature of humanity, what makes us tick spiritually and how virtue manifests through us. We also learn how evil, misfortune, and suffering manifest in the world as Dao becomes fragmented. But, most importantly, we learn how to embrace Dao and restore ourselves and our world to wholeness.

The Daodejing is not a book of platitudes. It is an explanation for how we got into the mess in which we find ourselves - such as melting polar icecaps, millions of gallons of oil spilled in our oceans, plastic molecules in the food chain, discarded medications showing up in our water supply, mad cow disease, a medical system based on profit rather than health, agriculture that rewards quantity over quality - and it is a prescription for repairing ourselves and our world. It is a story of hope, and it comes with an instruction manual!

Willmont reveals all this for us and pulls it together so that the Daodejing informs our modern worldview and becomes a formula for how we can approach the troubles of our own time, as it became a formula for right-living for people facing the troubles of a world half way around the globe from us and in a totally different historical time. The message of the Daodejing is timeless. It addresses our needs today as well as it addressed the needs of the ancient Chinese. We have Willmont to thank for making its message accessible to us. Now it is our responsibility to apply its lessons in our daily lives - in our health care practices, for our personal growth, and for the restoration of our world.Mary J. Rogel, PhD, LAc, Editor of Oriental Medicine Journal

Table of Contents
Part I: Hidden Codes 16
Introduction 16
The Author of the Text 17
The Received Text of Wngb 17
The Archaeological Versions 19
Original Form 19
Style 20
Mǎwngduī 20
Guōdin 20
Dating of the Text 21
Variations in the Mǎwngduī and Guōdin Versions 23
A Thematic Context 27
Defining Do 30
Do as Source 30
Do as PATH 31
Manifestation of Do into the World 31
A Comprehensive Cosmology 35
The Shamanistic Tradition 35
Cosmological Development 37
The Manifestation Sequence 38
Defining VIRTUE (D 德) 44
The Psycho-Emotional Foundation of Virtue 44
True Nature 45
The Higher Virtues 46
The Lower Virtues 46
The Five Psycho-Emotional Reactions 46
The Five Spirits 47
Fragmentation from Do 52
Overview 52
Chapter 38 and the Code of the Five Constant Virtues 53
The Highest Level of Healing 54
Psycho-Spiritual Integration 54
The Three Levels of Healing 55
Prenatal and Postnatal Aspects of HUMAN NATURE 56
Continued Development from Life to Death 59
Embracing Do 61
The Yin Principles of Return 61
Seven Types of Knowledge 63
Destiny 64
Restoration and Healing 67
Yin-Yang Balance 67
Meditation 68
Transformation, Enlightenment, and Longevity 69
Thematic Context Outline 71
A Numerological Interpretation 75
Numerology in the Dodjīng 75
Numerological Significance of the Nine Numbers 80
Divination and Chapter Interpretation 80
Numbers 80
Abstract Patterns Related to the Number Nine 80
Patterns in the Dodjīng Related to the Number Nine 83
The Evolution of the Ruler to the Heart of Every Person 85
Influence of the King 85
Source of Authority 85
Ruler of the Heart 86
Lǎozi as a Profound Symbol of Chinese Culture 87
An Historical Perspective of Lǎozi 87
The Yellow EMPEROR (Hungd 黃帝) 87
Fxī 伏羲 87
Record Keepers and Astrologers 87
IMMORTALITY Practices 88
The Buddha 89
The Hngǔ Pass 89
The Meaning of Lǎozi Riding the Ox through the Hngǔ Pass 89
The Conversion of the Barbarians 89
The Ox in the Cycles of the Five Phases 90
The Ox in the Chinese Zodiac 91
The Weaving Maiden and Cowherd Boy 92
The Birthing of the IMMORTAL Fetus in Inner Alchemy 92
The Meaning of These Legends in Terms of Lǎozi as the Old Child 92
Part II: The Text and Commentaries 96
Book One: The Book of Do 96
Chapter 1 (1:1)―The Do that Has No Name 96
Chapter 2 (1:2)―The Hidden Perfection of Yin and Yang 98
Chapter 3 (1:3)―Acting with Non-Action 100
Chapter 4 (1:4)―The Pattern/Template of the Lord 102
Chapter 5 (1:5)―Straw Dogs 104
Chapter 6 (1:6)―The Spirit of the Valley 106
Chapter 7 (1:7)―Leaving Yourself Behind 108
Chapter 8 (1:8)―The Highest Good is like Water 110
Chapter 9 (1:9)―Filling a Hall with Gold and Jade 112
Chapter 10 (2:1)―Mysterious Virtue 114
Chapter 11 (2:2)―The Thirty Spokes of a Single Wheel 116
Chapter 12 (2:3)―The Belly of the Sage 118
Chapter 13 (2:4)―Valuing Great Suffering 120
Chapter 14 (2:5)―Knowing the Ancient Beginning 122
Chapter 15 (2:6)―The Simplicity of a Woodcutter 124
Chapter 16 (2:7)―Returning to Destiny 128
Chapter 17 (2:8)―Accountability 130
Chapter 18 (2:9)―Confusion and Disorder in the Kingdom 134
Chapter 19 (3:1)―Limiting Desire 136
Chapter 20 (3:2)―The Infant Child who has not yet Laughed 138
Chapter 21 (3:3)―The Accountability of the Vague and Elusive 142
Chapter 22 (3:4)―Becoming the Model for Everyone 144
Chapter 23 (3:5)―The Whirlwind and the Thunderstorm 146
Chapter 24 (3:6)―Excess Nourishment and Useless Activities 148
Chapter 25 (3:7)―The Mother of the World 150
Chapter 26 (3:8)―Showing Your Lightness to the World 152
Chapter 27 (3:9)―Depending on the Good 154
Chapter 28 (4:1)―The Greatest Tailor Never Cuts 158
Chapter 29 (4:2)―The Spirit Vessel of the World 160
Chapter 30 (4:3)―Using Strength through Weapons 162
Chapter 31 (4:4)―Abiding with the Funeral Rites 164
Chapter 32 (4:5)―The Do that has No Name 168
Chapter 33 (4:6)―He Who Dies But Doesnt Perish 170
Chapter 34 (4:7)―Without Acting as their Ruler 172
Chapter 35 (4:8)―The Pattern/Template of the World 174
Chapter 36 (4:9)―The Fish Cannot Escape from the Depths 176
Chapter 37 (5:1)―Quietude 178
Book Two: The Book of D 180
Chapter 38 (5:2)―High and Low Virtue 180
Chapter 39 (5:3)―Attaining Oneness 182
Chapter 40 (5:4)―The Movement of Do is in its Returning 184
Chapter 41 (5:5)―When the Scholar/Warrior Hears of the Do 186
Chapter 42 (5:6)―The Manifestation Sequence 190
Chapter 43 (5:7)―The Benefits of Non-Action 192
Chapter 44 (5:8)―Knowing when You have had Enough 194
Chapter 45 (5:9)―Stillness Rectifies the World 196
Chapter 46 (6:1)―War Horses Breeding on the Frontier 198
Chapter 47 (6:2)―Knowing the World without Leaving the Door 200
Chapter 48 (6:3)―Through Non-Action, Nothing is Left Undone 202
Chapter 49 (6:4)―Being Good to Those Who are Not Good 204
Chapter 50 (6:5)―The Tiger Finds No Place to Claw 206
Chapter 51 (6:6)―Nursing the Ten Thousand Things 210
Chapter 52 (6:7)―The Mother of the World 212
Chapter 53 (6:8)―Braggers and Thieves 214
Chapter 54 (6:9)―Cultivating Virtue 216
Chapter 55 (7:1)―Poisonous Insects and Snakes 218
Chapter 56 (7:2)―The Mysterious Union 222
Chapter 57 (7:3)―Self-Rectification 224
Chapter 58 (7:4)―Making Things Square Without Cutting 228
Chapter 59 (7:5)―Preventive Medicine 232
Chapter 60 (7:6)―Cooking a Small Fish 234
Chapter 61 (7:7)―Seeking the Lowest Level 236
Chapter 62 (7:8)―Making Obeisance with the Jade Disc 240
Chapter 63 (7:9)―Taking Care of Things While They are Still Small 242
Chapter 64 (8:1)―The Journey of a Thousand Miles 246
Chapter 65 (8:2)―Returning to the Great Beginning 250
Chapter 66 (8:3)―Putting Yourself Last 254
Chapter 67 (8:4)―The Three Treasures 256
Chapter 68 (8:5)―Using the Force of Others 260
Chapter 69 (8:6)―Baring Arms without Rolling up the Sleeves 262
Chapter 70 (8:7)―Keeping Jade in the Bosom 264
Chapter 71 (8:8)―Being Sick of Being Sick 266
Chapter 72 (8:9)―Then a Greater Majesty Will Arrive 268
Chapter 73 (9:1)―The Spreading of Heavens Net 270
Chapter 74 (9:2)―The Official Executioner 272
Chapter 75 (9:3)―Acting with No Regard for Life 274
Chapter 76 (9:4)―Disciples of the Living and the Dead 276
Chapter 77 (9:5)―Handling a Stretched BOW 278
Chapter 78 (9:6)―Ruler over the Gods 280
Chapter 79 (9:7)―Holding the Left Tally 282
Chapter 80 (9:8)―O for a Small Kingdom 284 Translation 284
Chapter 81 (9:9)―Being without Contention or Suffering 286
Appendix 288
Basic Pronunciation 288
Bibliography 290
Index 291
Endnotes 293

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