Dao de Jing: The Book of the Way

By Laozi; Moss Roberts | Go to book overview
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1. Rule kingdoms by right;
2. Wage war by deceit;
3. To win the world forsake ambition;
4. How do I know that this is so?
5. The more thou-shalt-nots for the world,
6. The more the people are deprived. 1
7. The more devices that bring gain,
8. The more the clan and kingdom's bane.
9. The more that clever crafts expand,
10. The more strange artifacts abound.
11. The more the laws and writs declared,
12. The more that crime and violence spread.
13. Hence the wise in rule have said,
14. “May we under-govern and
15. The ruled uplift themselves.
16. May we remain inactive and
17. The ruled right themselves.
18. May we forsake ambition and
19. The ruled enrich themselves.
20. May we have no more desire
21. And the ruled keep their simple ways. 2

COMMENT This attack on ritual, invention, and law ends with an emphasis on the ruler's self (wo) as the standard for governing. Not law nor directive Confucian rule but self-restraining, self-effacing sagely rule will liberate the people, who then “of themselves” (zi) will prosper and enjoy good order. This becomes possible when the rulers “forsake ambition” (wushi, a phrase close in meaning to wuwei). Waley translates it “letting-alone.


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