Talk:De (Chinese)

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I have made two corrections to this well-written Wikipedia entry. RE: "Han Dynasty scribes created the simpler variant de 徳, without the stroke above "heart"." - This is completely untrue. Most inscriptions and excavated texts prior to the Han do not have the horizontal line. If anything, the Han scribes added it!

RE: "Although the compound word daode (道德) originally referred to the Daodejing, Confucian moralists semantically changed it to "morality, ethical principles, ethics, moral philosophy", which is the usual modern meaning." - Also untrue. The compound daode occurred long before the Daodejing was given that name.

I did not find the comparison between Legge's and Muller's translation of De in the Analects is not very helpful, but have left it alone. Bao Pu 19:56, 24 February 2007 (UTC)


re: "The former primary character de 惪/悳 combines the "heart; mind" radical 心 and a zhi 直 "straight; upright; erect" phonetic. (Two millennia ago, the Old Chinese pronunciations of zhi and de were *drjək 直 and *tək 德, as reconstructed by Li Fanggui.) The latter amplified character de 德 adds the "step; walk; locomotion" radical 彳, which abbreviates the "go; walk; travel; conduct; behavior" radical 行 (originally picturing a crossroad)."

-- This section needs revision. I am removing "primary" and "amplified" for now. The character originally had no heart radical, but it did have "walk" radical.


I'm glad this section has been rewritten. A couple minor things might be adjusted. For example, "Oracle characters wrote de 德 with 彳"footstep; go" and 直 "straight"" implies the oracle bone character represents De "virtue, power," but this theory (supported by David Nivison, Sun Yirang, and Rao Zongyi) is pretty flimsy. There are numerous scholars who don't believe this to be the case. Regarding "...the bronze script elaborated the line into shi 十 "ten"', and the seal script separated the eye and heart with a horizontal line" : this seems to suggest that all bronze script had the vertical line crossed and that all seal script had the horizontal line above the heart. This isn't the case. I'll leave it up to someone else whether to change it or not. And other than the first line about the Japanese forms, I'm not sure it's even relevant, since this topic is "De (Chinese)."

(Perhaps in the future I will contribute information regarding De as found in Western Zhou bronze inscriptions, the Shangshu (Shujing), Shijing, etc. that have been left out.) Bao Pu (talk) 13:19, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

One more thing. The picture on the right of the oracle-bone graph, although similar, is actually that found on the Shu De gui bronze vessel of the early Western Zhou Dynasty (#3942). Here, it is someone's name, (and not "virtue, power"). Bao Pu (talk) 12:32, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

De in the Tao Te Ching[edit]

This section quotes many commentators about the Tao Te Ching, but I think it should focus more on the original definitions, which seem fairly unambiguous, if confusing. From the C. Ganson translation (which seems most poetic and straightforward to me and uses "Teh" for De)[1]:

  • 10. Can you control your mind so that it never strays from the way of Tao? Can you control your breathing so that it is soft and gentle like a new-born babe? Can you purify yourself so that you are perfect? Can you love all the people, rule them, and remain unknown? And do so without interference? Can you play the same role always? Give birth, provide nourishment; do this without being possessive. Give help without obligation. Lead without dominating. This is the Mythic Virtue (Teh [De]).
  • 28. He who knows the mystic male (Yang) yet retains the mystic female (Yin) is as a great canyon welcoming the whole world. He has Teh and is innocent as a child. Whoever is aware of the white (Yang) yet retains the black (Yin) is as a standard for all the world. He has Teh and has returned to the Absolute. Whoever is aware of fame and glory yet retains humility and obscurity is as a valley that can hold the earth. He has Teh and has returned to Unity.
  • 38. Whoever has Teh never boasts of it, and so truly possesses it. Whoever has Teh and boasts of it, no longer possesses it. Possessing Teh is to be serene; with little effort much is done and motives diminish. Losing Teh is to be hasty; with great effort much is wasted and motives increase. Possessing Teh is to act out of love without ulterior motive; losing Teh is to act self-righteous with an ulterior motive...
  • 49. The good are treated with goodness; the bad are also treated with goodness; this is the goodness of Teh. The faithful are treated with faith; the faithless are treated with faith; this is the faith of Teh.
  • 51. Teh sustains all things in existence. It fosters growth, develops them, harbors them, provides shelter. It nourishes them, gives protection.
  • 55. Whoever has Teh is like a child: Poisonous insects will not bite. Wild animals will not attack. Predatory birds will not strike. Bones soft, muscles weak, but gripping strongly. Unconcerned about sex yet most vigorous. Crying out all day long but not hoarse. This involves perfect harmony. Knowing harmony is to approach the eternal. Knowing the eternal is to be enlightened.
  • 59. With Teh anything is possible. Because anything is possible, no one knows your supremacy. Because no one knows your supremacy, a nation can be ruled well.
  • 60. Rule with Tao and evil departs. Evil will still have power, but it will not harm the people. Then not only does evil cease to do harm, the ruler also ceases to do harm, and therefore both possess Teh.
  • 66. People are difficult to govern when there is too much knowledge. Whoever rules a country by furthering knowledge is that nation's curse. Whoever rules a country by furthering simplicity is that nation's blessing. To know these two principles is to know the ancient standard. To know the ancient standard is to possess Teh of a certainty. Teh is deep and vast as infinity. It returns us to primal peace.

Of course, interpretation and commentary is needed, but the original is more interesting. 10 almost sounds like a yoga discipline, 49 like core Christianity, 60 seems to suggest that Teh is a skill to cleverly avoid misfortune rather than overwhelm it - and 66 confuses me, especially when an ancient Taoist monk's ground-breaking research is nearly the latest word in malaria treatment. I wonder if the difference between Western "virtue" and Teh is that virtue involves taking evil's punches on the chin and Teh is dodging to one side or stopping wisely short of them? Actually the idea reminds me of the hacker ethic... but perhaps that's absurd. (talk) 04:20, 10 February 2008 (UTC)

I've never heard of Ganson's translation. Has it been published? Keahapana (talk) 20:28, 8 March 2008 (UTC)


Since the "Glossary of Conducts of De" section was unverified and scarcely relevant to de, I removed it. Only two parts (gongde 功德 and bade 八德) mentioned de while the other four (三綱, 五常, 五倫) did not. Moving bade into the Zhuangzi section worked well, but I couldn't find anything useful about gongde (other than Buddhist usages like八功德水 "8 attributes of the Lotus Pond"). If I've accidentally deleted anything germane, please restore it. Keahapana (talk) 21:30, 8 March 2008 (UTC)

De in Zhuangzi[edit]

There is a repetition here that should be eliminated, no? Or at least joined together.

"De derogatorily means "virtue; morality" in some contexts mocking the Confucians, Mohists, and School of Names. For instance, this derision of their sophistry: "There is left, there is right, there are theories, there are debates, there are divisions, there are discriminations, there are emulations, and there are contentions. These are called the Eight Virtues." (2, tr. Watson 1968:44)."

and then a couple paragraphs later:

"The word bade 八德 "eight virtues/powers" first appears in the "Discussion on Making All Things Equal" chapter. Although many Zhuangzi commentators and translators try to give de "some special meaning other than its ordinary one of "virtue" in this context", notes Watson, "I believe Chuang Tzu is deliberately parodying the ethical categories of the Confucians and Mo-ists."

The Way has never known boundaries; speech has no constancy. But because of [the recognition of a] "this," there came to be boundaries. Let me tell you what the boundaries are. There is left, there is right, there are theories, there are debates, there are divisions, there are discriminations, there are emulations, and there are contentions. These are called the Eight Virtues. (2, tr. Watson 1968:43-44)

Later Confucianists misread this Daoist context and moralistically interpreted bade as xiao 孝 "filial piety", di 悌 "sibling piety", zhong 忠 "loyalty; fidelity", xin 信 "trust; believe", li 禮 "ritual; rites; courtesy", yi 義 "righteousness; right conduct", lian 廉 "upright; honorable; integrity", and zhi 恥 "humility; shame".

Bao Pu (talk) 17:47, 12 October 2008 (UTC)

page name[edit]

This has probably come up before, but this page really ought to be named Te (Chinese). Personally I prefer the pinyin De, but it seems there was an agreement to use the older T spellings, and so we have Tao and Tao Te Ching would anyone object to my renaming the page, if only for consistency? --Ludwigs2 18:37, 19 April 2009 (UTC)

Yes, I'd object for the sake of consistency. Nearly all articles about Chinese topics have pinyin titles, but the few Wade-Giles exceptions (like "Tao") aren't a reason to change De to Te. Editors have argued for years over renaming the exceptions. There are two conflicting rules: the Wikipedia:Manual of Style (China-related articles) convention is "We usually use Hanyu Pinyin" (see this discussion on meta), but the Wikipedia:Naming conventions (common names) says to "Use the most common name of a person or thing that does not conflict with the names of other people or things." Keahapana (talk) 23:08, 19 April 2009 (UTC)
well, then we ought to change the names of Tao, Taoism, Tao Te Ching and etc. to their pinyin varietals. I personally don't mind either way, but it's horribly inconsistent to mix and match on an apparently whimsical basis. almost all of these pages disambiguate the spelling in the first line anyway, and redirects can handle the rest. maybe I'll bring it up over at the project. --Ludwigs2 03:08, 20 April 2009 (UTC)
Having been involved in both discussions, I deny these are inconsistent. We usually use pinyin, except when something else (usually but not always WG) is clearly most common in English. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 17:27, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

Abbreviation for Germany[edit]

The article mentions that De is short for Germany (from 德國 or 德国), but then also says this is from the era of the second world war. Is this abbreviation still used today or is it archaic?

Also, on a minor note, should "Republic of Germany" be changed, since elsewhere on Wikipedia Germany from 1933-1945 is referred to almost always as "Nazi Germany" or the "Third Reich"? D Boland (talk) 11:00, 9 May 2010 (UTC)

What De[edit]

This article can not warrant any references in the Taoist portal as it is [that it can in the remotest be connected with Germany or the Nazi], for the principle aspects of which, that De is the outward manifestations of Tao, isn't anywhere defined. My sandbox version a few years earlier specifically delineates what aspects of De and the differentiations therein, was deleted because no one today with Chinese or Religious scholarship is familiar with it, much less any recognition of virtues like Ba De 八德, and how and why they do matter in Taoism, is no longer understood.

The easiest any scholars can approach De is Plato's and Athenians' concept of arete. Scholarship in this has now become so esoteric that it falls outside of the Occidental-template of scholarship hence the vicious cycle of shallower-understanding (leading to denegration) is inevitable.

When the article on Tao is healthily taking shape, why and how Tao can be practised in any meaningful manner, remains encrypted. ACHKC (talk) 16:37, 20 October 2010 (UTC)

Religious texts as primary sources[edit]

The "religious texts as primary sources" has been on the page for over three years. None of the current topics on the talk page make it clear where the alleged problem is, and when I read the article, I did not encounter any problems. I suggest we either 1) remove the warning, 2) add a talk section listing the problem areas, or 3) remove the warning and use inline "warnings" asking for additional citation. hunterhogan 10:30, 28 February 2014 (UTC)

Cleanup warning without reason[edit]

The article has had a cleanup warning for over three years, but no reasons are listed. I agree that the article needs improvement, but this warning, as is, is useless. I suggest that someone list the most serious issues. In the warning box, the text "No cleanup reason has been specified." suggests to me that we could list cleanup reasons in the warning box; if so, then I think we should list the reasons. Either in tandem with the warning or instead of the warning, I suggest that the talk page include more specific objections to the writing standards.

Overuse of long quotations[edit]

As of this writing, long portions of the article are blockquotations and series of blockquotations. In my training, I was advised that one of the best uses of blockquotation is when the original author stated the idea with such clarity and precision that rewriting it would produce inferior writing. Blockquotes are inherently disruptive to the flow of writing, so a writer should only use them for a good reason. I believe that eliminating most of the blockquotes, and rewriting the ideas using a consistent voice, would dramatically improve the quality of this article.

The ideas in the blockquotes, however, all seem to be excellent, so I strongly encourage authors to preserve the sources as citations. hunterhogan 10:45, 28 February 2014 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:De (Chinese)/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

I would rate this article at 7 out of 10. Bao Pu 15:58, 15 July 2007 (UTC)

Last edited at 15:58, 15 July 2007 (UTC). Substituted at 13:02, 29 April 2016 (UTC)