The Hengxian is one of the recently excavated texts rendering Daoist thought of 'Huang-Lao.' It was unearthed in 1994 and comprises 13 bamboo slips of approximately 500 characters. It is currently housed in the Shanghai Museum and was published as part of their bamboo-slip series edited by Ma Chengyuan entitled Shanghai Bowuguan Cang Zhanguo Chu Zhu Shu 《上海博物館藏戰國楚竹書》. See volume 3, (2003): 287-299.
Translated by Erica F. Brindley & Paul R. Goldin & Esther S. Klein (‘A Philosophical Translation of the Heng Xian’, Dao (2013) 12:145–151)
恒先無有 , 樸 , 靜 , 虛 。 樸 , 大樸 ; 靜 , 大 靜 ; 虛 , 大虛 。 自厭 , 不自忍 。
In the primordial state of Constancy, there is no material existence. There is simplicity, stillness, and emptiness. Simplicity is Great Simplicity; stillness is Great Stillness; emptiness is Great Emptiness. It fulfills itself without repressing itself.
域作 。 有域 , 焉有氣 ; 有氣 , 焉有有 ; 有有 , 焉有始 ; 有始 , 焉有往者。
Space arises. Once there is space, there is qi; once there is qi, there is material existence; once there is material existence, there is a beginning; once there is a beginning, there is the passage of time.
未有天地 , 未有作行出生 。 虛靜為一若 。 寂寂夢夢 ! 靜同 , 而未有明 、 未有滋生。
There is not yet Heaven and Earth; there is not yet arising, progression, emergence, or engendering. Empty, still, and as though one. Muddled and murky! All is still and homogeneous. There is not yet light, not yet teeming life.
氣是自生 , 恒莫生氣 。 氣是自生自作 。
Qi is self-generating; Constancy categorically does not engender qi. Qi is self-generating and self-arising.
恒氣之生 , 不獨 , 有與也 。 域恒焉 , 生域者同焉 。
The engendering of Constant Qi does not happen in isolation; there is something that takes part [in the process]. Space and Constancy are present. The same can be said of the process during which space is engendered.
昏昏不寧 , 求其所生 。 異生異 , 歸生歸 , 違生非 , 非生違 , 依生依 。
Dusky and disquiet, seeking that which engenders them: difference engenders difference, returning engenders returning, divergence engenders opposition, opposition engenders divergence, and dependence engenders dependence.
濁氣生地 , 清氣生天 。 氣信神哉 ! 芸芸相生 , 伸盈天地。
Turbid qi engenders Earth; clear qi engenders Heaven. Qi is truly numinous! [Things] proliferate and engender each other, stretching to fill Heaven and Earth.
同出而異生 , 因生其所欲 。
[Things] emerge from the same source but engender different things. Accordingly, they engender that which they desire.
察察天地 , 紛紛而…
Splendid are Heaven and Earth! They are motley and …
… make the diverse things.
先者有善 , 有治無亂 ; 有人焉有不善 , 亂出於人 。
Primordially, there is good, order, and no disorder. Once there are humans, there is not-good. Disorder emerges from human beings.
先有中 , 焉有外 。 先有小 , 焉有大 。 先有柔 , 焉有剛 。 先有圓 , 焉有方 。 先有晦 , 焉有明 。 先有短 , 焉有長。
First there is the center, and only then the periphery. First there is the small, and only then the big. First there is the soft, and only then the hard. First there is the round, and only then the square. First there is the dark, and only then the light. First there is the short, and only then the long.
天道既載 , 唯一以猶一 , 唯復以猶復 。
Once the Way of Heaven is laid out, only through oneness do things appear as one; only through reproduction do things appear as reproduced.
恒氣之生 , 因 …
In its engendering [of things], Constant Qi relies on…
復其所欲 。 明明天行 , 唯復以不廢 。 知既而荒思不殄 。
…reproducing that which they desire. Brilliantly Heaven proceeds, only by reproduction does one avoid extinction. When knowing is complete, one’s far-ranging thoughts will not be destroyed.
有出於域 , 生出於有 , 音出於生 , 言出於音 , 名出於言 , 事出於名。
Material existence emerges from space; life emerges from material existence; sounds emerge from life; speech emerges from sounds; names emerge from speech, endeavors emerge from names.
域非域 , 無謂域 。 有非有 , 無謂有 。 性非性 , 無謂性 。 意非意 , 無謂意 。 言非言 , 無謂言 。 名非名 , 無謂名 。 事非事 , 無謂事 。
If space were not space, then there would be no referring to space. If material existence were not material existence, then there would be no referring to material existence. If life were not life, then there would be no referring to life. If sound were not sound, then there would be no referring to sound. If speech were not speech, then there would be no referring to speech. If names were not names, then there would be no referring to names. If endeavors are not endeavors, then there would be no referring to endeavors.
祥宜 、 利巧 、 彩物出於作 。 作焉有事 ; 不作無事 。
Auspicious appropriateness, beneficial craft, and diverse things emerge from [the act of] arising. When there is arising, there is an endeavor; when there is no arising, there is no endeavor.
舉天之事 , 自作為事 。 庸以不可賡也 。
Regarding the endeavors of Heaven: they will arise of themselves to become endeavors. How then could they not be continued?
凡言名 : 先者有疑 , 荒言之 。 後者校比焉。
In general, when speaking names: those who come first are uncertain and speak wildly. Those who come later collate and compare what they have said.
舉天下之名 , 虛樹 。 習以不可改也 。
Regarding the names of the world: they are emptily established. Through practice, they become inalterable.
舉天下之作 , 強者果 。 天下之大作 , 其熾尨 [?]不自若 [ =然 ]。 作 , 庸有果與不果 。 兩者不廢 。
Regarding the arisings in the world: it is the forceful who get results. The great arisings of the world: their [dazzling glory?] are not in accord with ziran. As for arisings, how could there be achievement and non-achievement? Neither of the two can be dispensed with.
舉天下之為也 , 無舍也 , 無與也 , 而能自為也 。
Regarding the actions of the world: by neither avoiding nor partaking in them, they can happen of themselves.
舉 天下之生 , 同也 。 其事無不復。
The same is true regarding life in the world. It endeavors to have nothing that does not reproduce.
天下之作也 , 無迕恆 , 無非其所。
[As for] the arisings of the world: if they do not go against Constancy, there will be nothing that opposes its place.
舉天下之作也 , 無不得其恒 而果述 。 庸或得之 , 庸或失之 。
Regarding the arisings of the world: there are none that do not obtain Constancy and have their results passed down. How is it that there are some who obtain it and some who lose it?
舉天下之名 , 無有廢者。
Regarding the names of the world: there is none that can be dispensed with.
舉天下之明王 、 明君 、 明士 , 庸有求而不慮。
Regarding the enlightened kings, enlightened rulers, and enlightened scholars of the world: how can one seek but not consider [this]?