200 Lao Tzu Quotes

On the hunt for the ultimate list of Lao Tzu quotes? Then this collection is perfect for you!

Our collection brings you 200 of his best quotes and teachings from Tao Te Ching—one of the most influential classic texts of Ancient Chinese philosophy. In this list, we’ll cover topics on humility, wisdom, kindness—and just simply, the way of life!

Read more about Lao Tzu’s teachings below.

Best Lao Tzu Quotes

1. “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”

2. “Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”

3. “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

4. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

5. “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

6. “Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.”

7. “The best fighter is never angry.”

8. “Silence is a source of great strength.”

9. “Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”

10. “The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth.”

11. “To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”

12. “Those who know, do not speak. Those who speak, do not know.”

13. “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

14. “Care about what other people think, and you will always be their prisoner.”

15. “A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.”

16. “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”

17. “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”

18. “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

19. “Because when one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because when one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because when one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”

20. “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

Lao Tzu Quotes on Living a Simple and Humble Life

21. “Manifest plainness. Embrace simplicity. Reduce selfishness. Have few desires.”

22. “Act without expectation.”

23. “Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.”

24. “The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.”

25. “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

26. “To understand the limitations of things, desire them.”

27. “Accomplish but do not boast—accomplish without show, accomplish without arrogance, accomplish without grabbing, accomplish without forcing.”

28. “In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.”

29. “All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power. If you want to govern the people, you must place yourself below them. if you want to lead the people, you must learn how to follow them.”

30. “What the caterpillar calls ‘the end’, the rest of the world calls a ‘butterfly.’”

31. “I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion—these three are your greatest treasures.”

32. “She does not show herself, and therefore is apparent. She does not affirm herself, and therefore is acknowledged. She does not boast and therefore has merit. She does not strive and therefore is successful. It is exactly because she does not contend, that nobody can contend with her.”

33. “When there is no desire, all things are at peace.”

34. “Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.”

35. “Do your work, then step back. It is the only path to serenity.”

36. “Perfection is the willingness to be imperfect.”

37. “One who is too insistent on his own views finds few to agree with him.”

38. “When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.”

39. “He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.”

40. “To bear and not to own; to act and not lay claim; to do the work and let it go—for just letting it go is what makes it stay.”

41. “The world belongs to those who let go.”

42. “Not seeking, not expecting, she is present, and can welcome all things.”

43. “Some lose, yet gain; others gain, and yet lose.”

44. “The difficult problems in life always start off being simple. Great affairs always start off being small.”

45. “He is free from self-display, and therefore, he shines.”

46. “If you are untrustworthy, people will not trust you.”

47. “Be like water.”

48. “The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.”

49. “Just remain in the center, watching. And then forget that you are there.”

50. “If you search everywhere, yet cannot find what you are seeking, it is because what you seek is already in your possession.”

51. “The road you can talk about is not the road you can walk on.”

52. “True words are not fancy. Fancy words are not true. The good do not debate. Debaters are not good.”

53. “Free from desire, you realize the mystery caught in the desire—you see only the manifestations.”

54. “Boasting of wealth and virtue brings your demise.”

55. “When the work is done, and one’s name is becoming distinguished, to withdraw into obscurity is the way of Heaven.”

56. “Every step is on the path.”

57. “There is no disaster greater than not being content. There is no misfortune greater than being covetous.”

58. “A skillful soldier is not violent. An able fighter does not rage. A mighty conqueror does not give battle. A great commander is a humble man.”

59. “To speak little is natural. Therefore, a gale does not blow a whole morning nor does a downpour last a whole day.”

60. “From wonder into wonder, existence opens.”

61. “If you do not value rare treasures, you will stop others from stealing.”

62. “With few there is attainment, with much there is confusion.”

63. “Always without desire we must be found.”

64. “Nothingness and beingness are merely conceptions.”

65. “Simplicity has no name—is free of desires. Being free of desires, it is tranquil and the world will be at peace of its own accord.”

66. “Know glory, but cleave to humiliation.”

67. “Racing and hunting madden our minds.”

68. “Wasting energy to obtain rare objects only impedes one’s growth.”

69. “The sage has in the world an appearance of indecision, and keeps his mind in a state of indifference to all.”

70. “To live till you die is to live long enough.”

71. “The effects of simplicity are profound indeed—deep and far reaching.”

72. “Wanting to reform the world without discovering one’s true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes.”

73. “No fault greater than the wish to be getting.”

74. “All of creation is born from substance. Substance is born from nothingness.”

75. “Whoever knows contentment will be at peace forever.”

76. “Being overbold and confident is deadly. The wise use of caution will keep you alive.”

77. “Only those who do not cling to life can save it.”

Lao Tzu Quotes on Wisdom and Understanding Life

78. “If you understand others, you are smart. If you understand yourself, you are illuminated. If you overcome others, you are powerful. If you overcome yourself, you have strength. If you know how to be satisfied, you are rich. If you can act with vigor, you have a will. If you don’t lose your objectives, you can be long-lasting. If you die without loss, you are eternal.”

79. “Stop thinking, and end your problems.”

80. “Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say ‘We have done this ourselves.’”

81. “I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men.”

82. “Would you like to save the world from the degradation and destruction it seems destined for? Then step away from shallow mass movements and quietly go to work on your own self-awareness. If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

83. “If you try to change it, you will ruin it. Try to hold it, and you will lose it.”

84. “To know that you do not know is the best. To think you know when you do not is a disease. Recognizing this disease as a disease is to be free of it.”

85. “Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.”

86. “Water is the softest thing, yet it can penetrate mountains and earth. This shows clearly the principle of softness overcoming hardness.”

87. “The wise man is one who knows what he does not know.”

88. “By letting go, it all gets done.”

89. “To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.”

90. “Men are born soft and supple; dead they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.”

91. “If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”

92. “Stop leaving and you will arrive. Stop searching and you will see. Stop running away and you will be found.”

93. “The further one goes, the less one knows.”

94. “Loss is not as bad as wanting more.”

95. “The Way to do, is to be.”

96. “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”

97. “Your own positive future begins in this moment. All you have is right now. Every goal is possible from here.”

98. “There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent.”

99. “He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier, still.”

100. “As soon as you have made a thought, laugh at it.”

101. “The reason why the universe is eternal is that it does not live for itself; it gives life to others as it transforms.”

102. “Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.”

103. “There is a time to live and a time to die, but never to reject the moment.”

104. “Success is as dangerous as failure. Hope is as hollow as fear.”

105. “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

106. “The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that. What is grievance? The baggage of old thought and emotion.”

107. “Do you imagine the universe is agitated? Go into the desert at night and look at the stars. This practice should answer the question.”

108. “To hold, you must first open your hand. Let go.”

109. “Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.”

110. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready, the teacher will disappear.”

111. “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”

112. “Become totally empty—quiet the restlessness of the mind. Only then will you witness everything unfolding from emptiness.”

113. “Be still—stillness reveals the secrets of eternity.”

114. “There is no illusion greater than fear.”

115. “If you show yourself, you will not be seen. If you affirm yourself, you will not shine. If you boast, you will have no merit. If you promote yourself, you will have no success.”

116. “If you wish to be out front, then act as if you were behind.”

117. “A great nation is like a great man: when he makes a mistake, he realizes it. Having realized it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers. He thinks of his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts.”

118. “He who acts, spoils; he who grasps, lets slip.”

119. “What is firmly rooted cannot be pulled out.”

120. “Fame or integrity: which is more important? Money or happiness: which is more valuable? Success or failure: which is more destructive? If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never truly be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself.”

121. “The wise man is square, but not sharp; honest, but not not malign; straight, but not severe; bright, but not dazzling.”

122.“Clay is fashioned into vessels, but it is on their empty hollowness that their use depends.”

123. “The hard and mighty lie beneath the ground while the tender and weak dance on the breeze above.”

124. “Do not conquer the world with force, for force only causes resistance—thorns spring up when an army passes, years of misery follow a great victory. Do only what needs to be done without using violence.”

125. “The master observes the world but trusts his inner vision. He allows things to come and go. He prefers what is within to what is without.”

126. “The reason why heaven and earth are able to endure and continue this long is because they do not live of, or for, themselves.”

127. “Everything under heaven is a sacred vessel and cannot be controlled. Trying to control leads to ruin.”

128. “Allow your life to unfold naturally. Know that it too is a vessel of perfection. Just as you breathe in and breathe out, there is a time for being ahead and a time for being behind; a time for being in motion and a time for being at rest; a time for being vigorous and a time for being exhausted; a time for being safe and a time for being in danger.”

129. “To be worn out is to be renewed.”

130. “Ordinary men hate solitude. But the master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole universe.”

131. “A violent wind does not last for a whole morning; a sudden rain does not last for the whole day.”

132. “The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.”

133. “An over sharpened sword cannot last long.”

134. “Chanting is no more holy than listening to the murmur of a stream; counting prayer beads no more sacred than simply breathing; religious robes no more spiritual than work clothes.”

135. “Where the mystery is the deepest, is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful.”

136. “Trying to control the future is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place. When you handle the master carpenter’s tools, chances are that you’ll cut your hand.”

137. “Our enemies are not demons, but human beings like ourselves.”

138. “Darkness within darkness—the gateway to all understanding.”

139. “Perseverance is a sign of will power. He who stays where he is endures. To die but not to perish is to be eternally present.”

140. “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.”

141. “If the people must be ever fearful of death, then there will always be an executioner.”

142. “When men lost their understanding of the Tao, intelligence came along, bringing hypocrisy with it.”

143. “When you are at one with loss, the loss is experienced willingly.”

144. “It is because he is thus free from striving that therefore, no one in the world is able to strive with him.”

145. “Kind prince, there is nothing in the realm of ideas that is absolute. Therefore, all efforts to form ideologies are ultimately futile.”

146. “Pursue that which is not meddlesome.”

147. “The unnamable is eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things.”

148. “The sage shuns excess, shuns grandiosity, shuns arrogance.”

149. “They cannot be moved by praise or blame; they cannot be changed by profit or loss; they cannot be honored or humiliated. And so, the wise are truly honored.”

150. “Those who possess moderation will endure; they have deep roots and strong stems. This is the secret to a long life, and lasting insight into the Tao.”

151. “Heaven’s Tao is impartial, yet those who follow its compassionate way will always be nourished.”

152. “The way that is bright seems dull. The way forward seems to lead back. The smooth way seems rough. The highest virtue seems a valley. The purest whiteness seems stained. Excessive virtue seems defective. Solid virtue seems inactive.”

153. “Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. Do not overdo it.”

154. “It is better not to speak of things you do not understand.”

155. “Amidst the worldly comings and goings, observe how endings become beginnings.”

156. “Opinion is the barren flower of the Way—the beginning of ignorance.”

157. “The Tao, considered as unchanging, has no name.”

158. “Tao is great. Heaven is great. Earth is great. Humanity is great. Within the universe, these are the four great things.”

Lao Tzu Quotes on Kindness and Love

159. “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.”

160. “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”

161. “Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.”

162. “If a person seems wicked, do not cast him away. Awaken him with your words, elevate him with your deeds, repay his injury with your kindness. Do not cast him away; cast away his wickedness.”

163. “Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it.”

164. “Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.”

165. “So the unwanting soul sees what’s hidden, and the ever-wanting soul sees only what it wants.”

166. “Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.”

167. “If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.”

168. “Hope and fear are both phantoms that arise from thinking of the self. When we don’t see the self as self, what do we have to fear?”

169. “Love is a decision—not an emotion!”

170. “Great acts are made up of small deeds.”

171. “If you want to know me, look inside your heart.”

172. “Colors blind the eye. Sounds deafen the ear. Flavors numb the taste. Thoughts weaken the mind. Desires wither the heart.”

173. “Love is—of all the passions—the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart, and the senses.”

174. “Respond to anger with virtue. Deal with difficulties while they are still easy. Handle the great while it is still small.”

175. “If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nations. If there is to be peace in the nations, there must be peace in the cities. If there is to be peace in the cities, there must be peace between neighbors. If there is to be peace between neighbors, there must be peace in the home. If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart.”

176. “To realize that you do not understand is a virtue; not to realize that you do not understand is a defect.”

177. “When the people of the world all know beauty as beauty, there arises the recognition of ugliness. When they all know the good as good, there arises the recognition of evil.”

178. “Take care with the end as you do with the beginning.”

179. “When pure sincerity forms within, it is outwardly realized in other people’s hearts.”

180. “Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.”

181. “He who defends with love will be secure; Heaven will save him and protect him with love.”

182. “When goodness is lost there is morality.”

183. “The heart that gives, gathers.”

184. “Knowing how to yield is strength.”

185. “Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere.”

186. “If lightning is the anger of the gods, then the gods are concerned mostly about trees.”

187. “The moral man does something, and when no one responds, he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.”

188. “The way of heaven is to help and not harm.”

189. “A bad man is a good man’s job.”

190. “Figure out the rhythm of life and live in harmony with it.”

191. “Is it not through her selflessness that she is able to perfect herself?”

192. “Composure is the ruler of instability.”

193. “Allow the heart to empty itself of all turmoil! Retrieve the utter tranquility of the mind from which you issued. Although all forms are dynamic and we all grow and transform, each of us is compelled to return to our root. Our root is quietude.”

194. “When turmoil rules, go in.”

195. “If we could renounce our benevolence and discard our righteousness, the people would again become filial and kindly.”

196. “The highest excellence is like that of water.”

197. “Everything that lives has a physical body, but the value of a life is measured by the soul.”

198. “People who are good, I treat well. People who are not good, I also treat well.”

199. “Stillness is the master of passion.”

200. “Forget about knowledge and wisdom, and people will be a hundred times better off. Throw away charity and righteousness, and people will return to brotherly love. Throw away profit and greed, and there won’t be any thieves.”

Which of These Lao Tzu Quotes Inspired You To Live Virtuously?

Lao Tzu is a revered and respected Chinese scholar who founded the Taoist philosophy. His work, Tao Te Ching, is a timeless piece of written wisdom that teaches us about the cultivation of life and The Way of life. It is about going through our day-to-day, living an inspired and peaceful life by following his theory of “wu-wei”—going with the flow of life.

Which of these quotes by Lao Tzu had the most impact on you? Are there any more quotes from the Tao Te Ching that you’d like to cover? Let’s have a conversation and comment down below.

Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

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