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Daoism 無為 versus Nike 做就對了 in Old Chinese Script

Daoism versus Nike

The photo below showed up in my Facebook feed, so I figured I would try to translate it. It looks like a photo of a section of an ancient Chinese document. (I added the text/explanations to the original photo. There will be a couple more variations of the photo below) click any photo to enlarge

old Chinese script








(ㄨˊ ㄨㄟˊ) (ㄕˋ) (ㄉㄠˋ ㄐㄧㄚ) (ㄉㄜ˙) (ㄓㄨˇ ㄧㄠˋ) (ㄙ ㄒㄧㄤˇ)

(wú wéi)(shì)(dào jīa)(de.)(zhǔ yào)(sī xiǎng)

(not act)(way + home, family = Daoist School)(adjective marker)(main, principal)(thought, ideology)

“Let things take their course” is the principal ideology of Daoism.


I knew it was old script, but I was able to draw it well enough on my iPad KTdict Chinese-English dictionary app to pull up the current way the characters are drawn. I checked with my tutor and had it verified that they are indeed:

為     ㄨㄟˊ     (wéi)      do, act, as, become

[as opposed to the more familiar fourth tone 為  ㄨㄟˋ(wèi), which means “for, because of.”]


無     ㄨˊ         (wú)       not to have, no, not, none, un-, -less

You may notice that I am using bopomofo for the first time in my translations in the blog. If you would like to know more about it and would like to print out a nice reference chart I made for it, go to A Simple BoPoMoFo Chart Helps Me Learn Chinese. The marks after the bopomofo symbols are the tone marks, so these two characters are both pronounced with the second, or rising, tone. (It has been my habit to indicate the first tone when typing in pinyin, but my bopomofo keyboard does not give the option for a mark for first tone, so first tone will be the default unless another tone is added)

original old Chinese script with bopomofo






The dictionary app is helpful enough to let me write both characters in a row, to see if they show up as what in English I would think of as one word. In this case, they only showed up in opposite order to how I entered them, and since I know that the order of characters can affect their meaning, I was stumped. So, again, I asked my tutor and she reminded me that in the days of old script they read from right to left. Thus, it did say what the dictionary was suggesting, which was:

無為    ㄨˊ ㄨㄟˊ     (wú wéi)    not act

old Chinese script from right to left






This is the Daoist doctrine of inaction or “let things take their own course.” In more current vocabulary,  you might say “go with the flow.” This is fine in some cases, but it humorously reminded me of the Nike slogan Just Do It.


But before we went on to that, my tutor had one more sentence about Daoism to tell me:




(ㄓㄨㄥ ㄍㄨㄛˊ) (ㄜㄣˊ) (ㄔㄤˊ) (ㄕㄨㄛ): (ㄔㄨㄢˊ) (ㄉㄠˋ) (ㄑㄧㄠˊ ㄊㄡˊ) (ㄗˋ ㄖㄢˊ) (ㄓˊ)

(zhōng gúo)(rén)(cháng)(shūo): (chuán)(dào)(qiáo tóu)(zì rán)(zhí)

(Chinese country)(people/person)(often)(to say): (boat)(to arrive)(bridgehead, pier)(naturally)(straight)


……(ㄔㄜ ㄉㄠˋ) (ㄕㄢ ㄊㄡˊ) (ㄅㄧˋ) (ㄧㄡˇ) (ㄌㄨˋ)

……(chē dào)(shān tóu)(bì)(yǒu)(lù)

……(traffic)(mountain)(certainly)(to have)(road)


…………(ㄐㄧㄡˋ) (ㄕˋ) (ㄨˊ ㄨㄟˊ) (ㄙ ㄒㄧㄤˇ) (ㄉㄜ˙) (ㄔㄨㄢˊ ㄉㄚˊ)

…………(jiù)(shì)(wú wéi)(sī xiǎng)(de.)(chuán dá)

…………(exactly)(is/to be)(Daoism)(ideology)(adjective marker)(to convey)

Chinese people often say, “The boat will get straight when it arrives at alongside the pier, traffic to the mountain certainly has a road.” exactly conveys the Daoist ideology.


I tried my hand at translating Just Do It into Chinese and came up with:

就做     ㄐㄧㄡˋ    ㄗㄨㄛˋ      (jiù zuò)

with 就   ㄐㄧㄡˋ    (jiù)    meaning “then, just”
and 做    ㄗㄨㄛˋ    (zuò)  translated as “to work, to make, to do, or to act”

My tutor says that while I would be understood, the more correct way to say it is:


ㄗㄨㄛˋ   ㄐㄧㄡˋ    ㄉㄨㄟˋ   ㄌㄜ˙

(zuò) (jiù) (duì) (le.)

(to make, to do) (then, just) (correctly) (emphasis)

Just do it!


Which is handily all with fourth tones, excepting the brief neutral at the end, so sounds very emphatic. Apparently, the thought that what is being done is being done correctly needs to be more clearly part of the sentence in Chinese. A more literal translation is “do it then, correctly!”

The grammatical structure can be applied to any verb. For instance,

跑就對了!    跑  ㄆㄠˇ

Just run!


吃就對了!    吃   ㄔ

Just eat!


寫就對了!    寫    ㄒㄧㄝˇ

Just write!


去就對了!   去    ㄑㄩˋ

Just go!


Sometimes we just need to make a decision to act! Obviously, neither the Daoist nor the Nike philosophy work equally well in all situations. I guess it is up to you to decide when to 無為 and when to 做就對了.