Te literally means virtue, but also denotes a kind of conviction or force. It is most often translated as "moral force", and it's directly opposed in meaning to Li, which denotes physical force. Confucius believed that te was the quality that distinguished a good ruler from a bad ruler.


When a man has learned to let his mind alone so that it functions in the integrated and spontaneous way that is natural to it, he begins to show the special kind of "virtue" called te.

- Alan Watts

Superior te is not te,
and thus has te.
Inferior te does not let go of te,
and thus is not te.
Superior te is non-active and aimless.
Inferior te is active and has an aim.

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