Dao de Jing: The Book of the Way

By Laozi; Moss Roberts | Go to book overview
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1. The Way continues on unnamed. 1
2. Though in its unhewn rawness low and humble,
3. None in the realm can force it to serve. 2
4. When lords and kings to this Way keep,
5. Ten thousand things as honored guests attend.
6. When heaven and earth conjoined and shed skymead,
7. Uncommanded the people shared it fairly.
8. But the advent of rule brought names;
9. And names meant mastering restraint.
10. To master restraint ensures survival. 3
11. The Way's a presence in the realm of men,
12. As valley streams join rivers, then the ocean. 4

COMMENT In this stanza, which is found in the Guodian text, a lost era of economic equity is contrasted with present regimes of social status, administrative control, and the subordination (chen) of nature. “Names” means names of implements (qi), natural phenomena (wu), and also the social divisions (guijian) that mark the world of opposition and conflict. However, the Way remains attainable; indeed, it is near. From this fact rulers can draw the lesson of self-diminution. The ideal ruler does not have vassals (chen) whom he compels to serve, but willing guests (bin) whom he hosts at his table. “Sky-mead, the translation of ganlu (literally, sweet dew), suggests an Eden-like utopia and the harmony of the banquet. The word seems to translate the first two syllables of the Greek word ambrosia, meaning a divine food that confers immunity to death.


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