1. James Legge:
This is called the Form of the Formless, and the Semblance of the Invisible; this is called the Fleeting and Indeterminable.2. Archie Bahm:
We meet it and do not see its Front; we follow it, and do not see its Back.
When we can lay hold of the Dao of old to direct the things of the present day, and are able to know it as it was of old in the beginning, this is called (unwinding) the clue of Dao.
Nature is the formless source of all forms, and yet it remains unaffected by its forms.3. Frank MacHovec:
Thus it appears to us as if mysterious.
No matter how closely we scrutinize its coming toward us, we cannot discover a beginning.
No matter how long we pursue it, we never find its end.
One must comprehend the way in which the original Nature itself operates, if he wishes to control present conditions.
That is, he should study the ultimate source itself.
This is the way to understand how Nature behaves.
It is the form of the formless; it is existence in non-existence; it is the greatest mystery. Meet it and it has no face; follow it and it has no back.4. D.C. Lau:
Hold close to the ancient Dao and be master of your present existence. Knowing the present you mirror the past. This is the clue to Dao.
This is called the shape that has no shape,5. Gia-Fu Feng:
The image that is without substance.
This is called indistinct and shadowy.
Go up to it and you will not see its head;
Follow behind it and you will not see its rear.
Hold fast to the way of antiquity
In order to keep in control the realm of today.
The ability to know the beginning of antiquity
Is called the thread running through the way.
The form of the formless,6. Stan Rosenthal:
The image of the imageless,
It is called indefinable and beyond imagination.
Stand before it and there is no beginning.
Follow it and there is no end.
Stay with the ancient Dao,
Move with the present.
Knowing the ancient beginning is the essence of Dao.
“Experiencing the Mystery”7. Jacob Trapp:
Without form or image, without existence,
the form of the formless, is beyond defining,
cannot be described, and is beyond our understanding.
It cannot be called by any name.
Standing before it, it has no beginning;
even when followed, it has no end.
In the now, it exists; to the present apply it,
follow it well, and reach its beginning.
“The Elusive, the One”8. Stephen Mitchell:
The Form of the formless,
The Image of the imageless,
It is encountered, but not seen;
It is pursued, but not overtaken.
He who sees the timeless Dao
At work in things of time,
Sees the Unknown Original
In the continuity of things known.
Form that includes all forms,9. Victor Mair:
image without an image,
subtle, beyond all conception.
Approach it and there is no beginning;
follow it and there is no end.
You can't know it, but you can be it,
at ease in your own life.
Just realize where you come from:
this is the essence of wisdom.
This is called “the form of the formless, the image of nonentity.”10. Michael LaFargue:
This is called “the amorphous.”
Following behind it, you cannot see its back;
Approaching it from the front, you cannot see its head.
Hold to the Way of today to manage the actualities of today, thereby understanding the primeval beginning
This is called “the thread of the Way.”
This is the shape of something shapeless11. Peter Merel:
The form of a nothing
This is elusive and evasive.
Encountering It, you won’t see the front
following It, you won’t see Its back.
Keep to the Dao of the ancients
and so manage things happening today.
The ability to know the ancient sources,
this is the main thread of Dao.
"Mystery"12. Ursula LeGuin:
Its form formless,
Its image nothing,
Its name silence;
Follow it, it has no back,
Meet it, it has no face.
Attend the present to deal with the past;
Thus you grasp the continuity of the Way,
Which is its essence.
“Celebrating Mystery”13. Wang Keping:
Call it the form of the unformed,
the image of no image.
Call it unthinkable thought.
Face it: no face.
Follow it: no end.
Holding fast to the old Way
we can live in thepresent.
Mindful of the ancient beginnings,
we hold the trhead of the Dao.
This is called shape without shape,14. Ames and Hall:
Or image without image.
It is also called the Vague and Elusive.
When meeting it, you cannot see its head,
When following it, you cannot see its back.
Hold on to the Dao of old
In order to harness present things.
From this you may know the primeval beginning.
This is called the law of the Dao.
This is what is called the form of the formless15. Yasuhiko Genku Kimura:
And the image of indeterminacy.
This is what is called the vague and the indefinite.
Following behind you will not see its rear;
Encountering it you will not see its head.
Hold tightly onto way-making in the present
To manage what is happening right now
And to understand where it began in the distant past.
This is what is called the drawstring of way-making.
Therefore,16. Addiss and Lombardo:
It is called form of the formless, image of the imageless.
And it is known as the amorphous.
Confronting it, no head is seen from the front.
Following it, no rear is seen from behind.
Whereby one lives in the present in accordance with the Dao Eternal,
Thereby one comes to know the beginning of time.
This is called the Universal Law of the Dao.
Meeting it there is no front,* * * * *
Following it there is no back.
Live in the ancient Dao,
Master the existing present,
Understand the source of all things.
This is called the record of Dao.
Invisible, inaudible, intangible this.
Also: visible, audible, tangible this.
Everything that we see is invisible, do you see?
Hear me: All that we hear is inaudible.
Do you grasp that what we hold is intangible?
Stay with this, ancient, move with this, present.
* * * * *
See Saturdao Index