It is a quote by Lao-Tze:

A tree as big around as you can reach starts with a small seed; a thousand-mile journey starts with one step"

I understand what the quote is trying to get at, but I don't understand what "as big around as you can reach" means literally.

  • 2
    It means literally the thing it literally means. Every word of the seven is used in its literal sense. Please specify which word we need to explain, as well as what you think it means and why you think what you think is wrong. Thank you.
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 4, 2019 at 13:13
  • @RegDwigнt I mean, does it mean that the tree has a large radius ? So big that you couldn't even wish to circumnavigate it ? Or does it mean something else ?
    – doubleOrt
    Aug 4, 2019 at 13:14
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    'Reach [around the tree] by spreading your arms around it', not 'circumnavigable by someone who can walk normally'. Aug 4, 2019 at 13:31
  • 1
    There is No indication of the research you did to try to find a similar phrase, or what if anything is causing you a problem. The question reads like, I don't know what it means, please go and find out for me!
    – Brad
    Aug 4, 2019 at 13:39
  • @Brad I did. If a piece of text at the beginning of the question saying "I looked online for the meaning of the expression 'as big around as you can reach' but found nothing similar" would be of any comfort, I will add it in. English is not my first language and so some expressions sound unnatural to me, and I may at times incorrectly estimate the difficulty of them. If this is more fit for the other community (the one more related to learning English), then I apologize thoroughly.
    – doubleOrt
    Aug 4, 2019 at 13:46

1 Answer 1


The lesson contrasts things large and small. The long journey of many steps starts with just one. The tiny seed in time becomes a large tree. The phrase to describe the large tree just means one whose circumference is equal to that of your arms and clasped hands.

If you tried to hug three different trees for example If the first was small perhaps you could hold it within both hands together, thumbs touching and fingers touching. The second medium size you could reach around it to clasp your hands easily but only by putting the side of your face against the bark. The third one larger still you could just barley reach around to touch your fingertips together. I hope this helps.

Such measures are inexact and precision does not add to the lesson. "As big around as you can reach" just means plenty big.

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