Dao de Jing: The Book of the Way

By Laozi; Moss Roberts | Go to book overview
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STANZA 37
1. The Dao in constant circum-motion,
2. Pursuing no end leaves nothing not done—
3. Let lords and kings to this conform
4. And all shall turn to them in trust.
5. Should then desires assert themselves,
6. We shall humble them with stark no-naming—
7. Yes, humble them with the starkness of no-naming,
8. And thus there shall be no desire;
9. And out of the repose of no-desire,
10. The world on its own will come to order.

COMMENT This stanza ends part 1, the Dao section, of the poem. For the Mawangdui editor, and possibly for Han Feizi and Wang Bi as well, this was the final stanza of the entire poem, and thus a kind of summing up. The closing vision of universal order suggests the stanza's importance. The Mawangdui text differs from the Guodian text. Because of this stanza's importance, translations of the Mawangdui and Guodian versions appear for comparison in note 4.

This stanza explicitly addresses those who hold power and urges them to take a course of inaction and restraint or, in the Mawangdui version, a course of rejecting fame. Even if this course leads to success and they win the trust of many, desire—for rulers and ruled both—must be guarded against and kept at the level of stark simplicity. This is the yumin policy advocated in stanza 65: keep the folk unaware.

To political rulers who conform to the Dao by preserving simplicity (no names, no culture, no law) the ten thousand things will offer their tribute or allegiance freely (zi, of themselves), without

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