Dao de Jing: The Book of the Way

By Laozi; Moss Roberts | Go to book overview
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STANZA 79
1. When great wrongs resolved
2. Leave further wrongs behind—
3. What good will come of that?
4. When wise men hold the left half-tally pledge,
5. They do not press their debtors for their debts.
6. Men of virtue hold the tally pledge;
7. Men lacking virtue work pursuing claims.
8. Heaven's way does not show kinship favor
9. But rather joins with good and decent men.

COMMENT This stanza on grievance has seemed to a number of modern scholars the proper place for the famous fragment traditionally located in stanza 63: “Repay a wrong with friendly favor. Chen Guying, for example, puts the fragment in line 3. The absence of the line in stanza 63 of the Guodian text strengthens the argument for moving it somewhere else, if not to this stanza.

Laozi's opposition to revenge is part and parcel of his opposition to striving and competing. One early Han text speaks of revenge as abundant in the Spring and Autumn period. 1 Mencius (7 B.2) says that there were no just wars in the Spring and Autumn period. Mozi, too, describes the endless warring between clan and clan, kingdom and kingdom in his chapter on universal love (“Jianai”). With regard to conflict, Laozi wants to prevent a wrong before it becomes a “great wrong, for even when resolved, great wrongs never fail to leave a legacy of further wrongs.

Following the theme of stanza 77, this stanza likens the wise ruler to a creditor who would rather accept a loss than press for the

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