Dao de Jing: The Book of the Way

By Laozi; Moss Roberts | Go to book overview

STANZA 12
1. The five colors bring blindness,
2. The five tones deafness,
3. The five flavors loss of savor,
4. Racing and hunting loss of reason,
5. And rare goods shameless action.
6. When wise men govern this is why
7. They favor the belly, not the eye,
8. The one accept, the other deny.

COMMENT Judging by the pursuits named in lines 1–5, this stanza is addressed to an elite, probably a ruling elite, warning them (as in stanza 3) that indulgence can ruin popular morals. Laozi is calling for discipline of the ruler's character through self-denial with regard to the prerogatives of ritual luxury.

The eye stands for appetite that cannot be satisfied. The belly, in contrast, can consume only a natural portion and thus represents limited ambition and acquisition. Laozi distinguishes between the physical eye and the spiritual eye—the eye of wisdom, the mirror within. The physical eye, the eye that looks outward, is an organ of knowing (zhi) through perception of forms (wu). Zhi as a graph consists of a man with head inclined plus a mouth symbolizing speech; in Chinese, knowledge implies verbalization: to know means to name. For Laozi, naming is the basis for dominating; that is, seeing leads to knowing, naming, and then to acting (wei)—a sequence that enlarges the capacity to appropriate the ten thousand things. Laozi opposes the development of the capacity to dominate for two reasons: to protect the ten thousand from human depredation and to protect the ruler from destruction in his attempt to dominate the objective world.

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Dao de Jing: The Book of the Way
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Dedication and Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Dao De Jing 25
  • Stanza 1 27
  • Stanza 2 30
  • Stanza 3 33
  • Stanza 4 36
  • Stanza 5 38
  • Stanza 6 41
  • Stanza 7 43
  • Stanza 8 45
  • Stanza 9 47
  • Stanza 10 48
  • Stanza 11 51
  • Stanza 12 53
  • Stanza 13 55
  • Stanza 14 59
  • Stanza 15 62
  • Stanza 16 64
  • Stanza 17 66
  • Stanza 18 68
  • Stanza 19 70
  • Stanza 20 72
  • Stanza 21 74
  • Stanza 22 76
  • Stanza 23 78
  • Stanza 24 80
  • Stanza 25 82
  • Stanza 26 84
  • Stanza 27 86
  • Stanza 28 88
  • Stanza 29 90
  • Stanza 30 91
  • Stanza 31 93
  • Stanza 32 95
  • Stanza 33 97
  • Stanza 34 98
  • Stanza 35 100
  • Stanza 36 101
  • Stanza 37 103
  • Stanza 38 106
  • Stanza 39 109
  • Stanza 40 112
  • Stanza 41 114
  • Stanza 42 116
  • Stanza 43 118
  • Stanza 44 121
  • Stanza 45 123
  • Stanza 46 125
  • Stanza 47 126
  • Stanza 48 128
  • Stanza 49 130
  • Stanza 50 132
  • Stanza 51 134
  • Stanza 52 136
  • Stanza 53 138
  • Stanza 54 139
  • Stanza 55 141
  • Stanza 56 143
  • Stanza 57 145
  • Stanza 58 147
  • Stanza 59 149
  • Stanza 60 151
  • Stanza 61 153
  • Stanza 62 155
  • Stanza 63 156
  • Stanza 64 158
  • Stanza 65 161
  • Stanza 66 163
  • Stanza 67 165
  • Stanza 68 168
  • Stanza 69 169
  • Stanza 70 171
  • Stanza 71 172
  • Stanza 72 174
  • Stanza 73 176
  • Stanza 74 177
  • Stanza 75 179
  • Stanza 76 180
  • Stanza 77 181
  • Stanza 78 183
  • Stanza 79 184
  • Stanza 80 186
  • Stanza 81 188
  • Notes 189
  • Selected Bibliography 223
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