Dao de Jing: The Book of the Way

By Laozi; Moss Roberts | Go to book overview
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1. Words to trust are not refined.
2. Words refined are not to trust.
3. Good men are not gifted speakers.
4. Gifted speakers are not good.
5. Experts are not widely learned;
6. The widely learned not expert.
7. Wise rulers for themselves keep naught,
8. Yet gain by having done for all,
9. Have more for having freely shared;
10. Do good not harm is heaven's Way;
11. The wise act for and not against.

COMMENT This final stanza appears to be a synthesis of Confucian and Daoist political wisdom. The opposition of self (ji) and other (ren) in lines 7–9, so characteristic of the Analects and Mencius, occurs in the Laozi only here. Moreover, the criticism of eloquence recalls the complaints in the Analects about cunning or artful speech (qiaoyan) and sophists (yingren), whose false learning and rhetoric are a threat to political order. In Analects 13.27, men of humanity are described as nuo, reticent. Finally, in this stanza wide learning (bo) is affirmed; in the Analects wide learning is advised if disciplined through ritual.

However, there is a textual variation for line 3. In the received text the word for eloquence in argument (bian, translated here as “gifted speakers”) has replaced the word “many” found in the Mawangdui texts. Does this mean that Laozi's original complaint was against the paucity of good men in office, but that an authoritarian Han ruler had it changed to a complaint against criticism? 1

The original final stanza was stanza 37.


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