|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.