A Glossary of Heaven and Earth

Vocabulary notes for The Philosophy of Heaven and Earth.

Every passage of Wenzi starts with a saying of Laozi, the author of the Daodejing, and though none of the introductory sayings I've looked at come directly from the Daodejing, Wenzi often quotes or paraphrases it.

Dao and De are and of the Daodejing. I've left as Dao in all cases, but is also character and morality.

Heaven, the sky and the universe are , and earth is .

Yin and yang are and when they appear alone, and energy is always . Negative energy and positive energy are and .

Interpretations of , and vary depending on context, but keep the general sense of high and low.

Life and everything are , literally the ten thousand things. Something and anything are when it appears alone.

Society and civilization are . It's literally something like beneath the heavens, but it means the kingdom, the world, the human realm.

The wise are , the good person is , and the sovereign is when it appears alone. The good leader is , the powerful are , and the people are . The great leader is and the tyrant and the troublemaker are .

Muffle is , and responsible and compensate are . As a verb, is literally to conceal inside, but it's also something like take in, absorb, assimilate, internalize. It's what the wise do that drums don't do, and it's what Dao De does when yin and yang don't mix and the five grains don't grow.

Protecting and supporting life are and . While is normally translated as covering, both terms are paired with phrases that make heaven and earth seem parental, so I've taken the liberty.

The earth's embodiment of the heavens is , a verb to describe the earth receiving, submitting to or accepting the moral law granted by the the heavens.

Cultivating and promoting morality in self and others is . Chapter 54 of the Daodejing has more to say on the subject.

Shine and enlightenment are , mature and complete are both , and the rhythm of life is .

The gift of morality that shines down from the heavens and makes us moral is . It's also what we can do repeatedly when we limit () yang energy. Progress and change are . It's the enlightened moral transformation that takes place when we collect potential () yin energy.

The lord of life and the mother of civilization are and . The motherly Dao of humane governance also makes an appearance in chapters 25 and 52 of the Daodejing.

Giving and taking and helping and harming are both and . The passage quotes chapter 38 of the Daodejing and riffs on chapter 77 to explore them as an answer to the question of what makes us moral and immoral.

The waters are , literally a swamp, but I've generalized it when it's compared to , the heavens, as something that the wise imitate ().

Rice patties and canals are both 洿, and though the term refers more literally to wetlands, it's used in the context of the life and death of human societies, so I thought I'd use specific examples of wetlands tamed for human use, but also dependent on nature's rhythms.

Water also appears in the passage as the fresh water () that earth power () generates, as the rains () that don't come to replenish the wetlands, and the gentle rain () that accompanies thunder and helps life flourish. It also appears as the destructive river () that harvests extra yang energy and sends it to the sea, and as the downward flow of water () that either sustains society or sinks and drowns it.

Wind and fire are and , the destructive forces generated by thunder () and words () that great leaders manage to avoid.

The paragraph on thunder and wind also plays on and . As verbs, they're literally leave and approach, but I think they describe the effect on something of the potential difference between yin and yang, so perhaps repel and attract work as well.

Behaving is , and Kroll says this is accurate by the Tang. Many passages and phrases from the Tang-era Wenzi have echoes in Huainanzi (early Han), but I can't find the paragraph in Huainanzi, and it works so well in English as behave that I've used it here. I also like to think of people behaving as people repelled by this, attracted to that, but oscillating in balanced and predictable patterns of personal and social habits not unlike what we see play out in the heavens.

Letting go of anger and being good is .

Not liking conflict and welcoming relief is . The same phrase also appears in Yan Tie Lue, but uses instead of and clarifies grammar with particles.

Civilized is . Chapter 80 of the Daodejing uses the term for what could be the proper response to tyranny.

Making promises and exaggerating is . The phrase is literally that desires shouldn't be fulfilled and pleasure shouldn't be extreme, but I thought I'd render it in the context of a great leader speaking.

Cooperating is , literally sorting by kind.

The passage's punchline pairs yin and yang to a character () that I can't find in Kroll and isn't well represented in ctext. Based on nothing more than context, I've interpreted these terms as the positive () and negative influence () of leaders.


dào dǎo
辵 162 + 9
path, road, street; method, way
彳 60 + 12
ethics, morality, virtue
大 37 + 1
sky, heaven; god, celestial
dì de
土 32 + 3
earth; soil, ground; region
yīn yìn
阜 170 + 8
the passive, female principle in Chinese philosophy (yin); dark; secret
阜 170 + 9
the active, male principle in Chinese philosophy (yang); light; sun
qì xì
气 84 + 6
air, gas, steam, vapor; spirit
shàng shǎng
一 1 + 2
top; superior, highest; go up, send up
gāo gào
高 189 + 0
high, tall; lofty, elevated; Kangxi radical 189
一 1 + 2
under, underneath, below; down; inferior; bring down
禸 114 + 8
ten thousand; innumerable
牛 93 + 4
thing, substance, creature
耳 128 + 7
holy, sacred; sage
人 9 + 0
man; people; mankind; someone else
口 30 + 4
sovereign, monarch, ruler, chief, prince
zi zǐ
子 39 + 0
offspring, child; fruit, seed of; first earthly branch
八 12 + 2
fair, equitable; public; duke
wáng wàng
玉 96 + -1
king, ruler; royal; surname
氏 83 + 1
people, subjects, citizens
dà dài
大 37 + 0
big, great, vast, large, high
小 42 + 0
small, tiny, insignificant
cáng zàng
艸 140 + 14
hide, conceal; hoard, store up
入 11 + 2
inside, interior; domestic
襾 146 + 12
cover; tip over; return; reply
zài zǎi
車 159 + 6
load; carry; transport, convey
chéng zhěng
手 64 + 4
inherit, receive; succeed
xiū yǒu
肉 130 + 7
dried meat (used as teachers payment in ancient times)
míng mèng
日 72 + 4
bright, light, brilliant; clear
戈 62 + 2
completed, finished, fixed
jié jiē
竹 118 + 7
knot, node, joint; section; hexagram ䷻
shī yì
方 70 + 5
grant, bestow; give; act; name
chù xù
田 102 + 5
livestock, domestic animals
huà huā
匕 21 + 2
change, convert, reform; -ize
禾 115 + 11
accumulate, store up, amass
zhǔ zhù
丶 3 + 4
master, chief owner; host; lord
mǔ mú
毋 80 + 1
mother; female elders; female
yǔ yú
臼 134 + 8
and; with; to; for; give, grant
qǔ qū
又 29 + 6
take, receive, obtain; select
zé shì
水 85 + 13
marsh, swamp; grace, brilliance; damp, moist; fertile
水 85 + 5
law, rule, regulation, statute; France, French
wū hù
水 85 + 6
stagnant water; impure, filthy
水 85 + 0
water, liquid, lotion, juice
水 85 + 5
spring, fountain; wealth, money
力 19 + 11
power, force; tendency
yǔ yù
雨 173 + 0
rain; rainy; Kangxi radical 173
水 85 + 5
river; stream; the Yellow River
水 85 + 8
deep; depth; far; very, extreme
水 85 + 6
flow, circulate, drift; class
fēng fèng
風 182 + 0
wind; air; manners, atmosphere; Kangxi radical 182
huǒ huō
火 86 + 0
fire, flame; burn; anger, rage
léi lèi
雨 173 + 5
yán yàn
言 149 + 0
words, speech; speak, say; Kangxi radical 149
qù qū
厶 28 + 3
go away, leave, depart
尢 43 + 9
just, simply; to come, go to; to approach, near
è wù
心 61 + 8
evil, wicked, bad, foul
口 30 + 9
good, virtuous, charitable, kind
wú mó
火 86 + 8
negative, no, not; lack, have no
shén shèn
甘 99 + 4
great extent; considerably
shǎo shào
小 42 + 1
few, less, inadequate
心 61 + 9
more and more, even more
尢 43 + 1
especially, particularly
bù fǒu
一 1 + 3
no, not; un-; negative prefix
yuǎn yuàn
辵 162 + 10
distant, remote, far; profound
xǐ sī
彳 60 + 8
move one's abode, shift, migrate
欠 76 + 7
desire, want, long for; intend
kě gē
口 30 + 2
may, can, -able; possibly
皿 108 + 4
fill; full, overflowing; surplus
lè yuè
木 75 + 11
happy, glad; enjoyable; music
jí jǐ
木 75 + 9
extreme, utmost, furthest, final
yǐ sì
人 9 + 3
by means of; thereby, therefore; consider as; in order to
頁 181 + 10
class, group, kind, category
xiāng xiàng
目 109 + 4
mutual, reciprocal, each other
水 85 + 2
seek; demand, request; beseech
人 9 + 9