Dao de Jing: The Book of the Way

By Laozi; Moss Roberts | Go to book overview
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STANZA 18
1. And when the olden way of rule declined,
2. The words for love and serve came in.
3. Next came knowledge and keen thought,
4. Advent of lying, sham, and fraud.
5. When kinsmen lost their kind concord,
6. They honored child- and parent-love.
7. In dark disorder ruling houses
8. Turned to loyal devoted vassals. 1

COMMENT The presence of the word gu, “and thus, at the beginning of stanza 18 in the Guodian and Mawangdui texts, both of which are unnumbered, confirms the sequentiality of stanzas 17 and 18. It also suggests that stanzas 17 and 18 form a single stanza. In the Guodian text this single stanza is placed at the beginning of the third bundle and is thus separated from stanza 19, which was published as the first Guodian stanza.

Stanza 18 further tracks historical decline in stages, each defined by a Confucian virtue. The highest Confucian virtues, ren and yi (“love” and “serve”; conventionally, benevolence and righteousness, or kin-kindness and due service) mark the first decline; zhi, knowledge, marks the next; xiao, filial piety, the next; and zhong, loyalty, the last. Lines 5– 6 say literally: “When the six primary kinship roles lost their harmony, filialand parental devotion appeared. The six roles are parent, child, elder brother, younger brother, husband, and wife.

Zhang Songru writes: “This stanza develops line 5 of the preceding stanza ('[Those] unworthy of trust were met with distrust'). Kindness, duty, lying, fraud, family dissension, filial devotion, political disorder, vassal loyalty—all develop from the rulers' original

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