Therefore the myriad creatures all revere the
honour virtue. Yet the way is revered and virtue
not because this is decreed by any authority but because it is natural
them to be treated so.
Thus the way gives them life and rears them;
Brings them up and nurses them;
Brings them to fruition and maturity;
Feeds and shelters them.
It gives them life yet claims no possession;
It benefits them yet exacts no gratitude;
It is the steward yet exercises no authority.
Such is called the mysterious virtue [or
(Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching, 112)
is softest in the world
what is hardest in the world.
penetrates where there is no space.
I know that in doing nothing there is
wordless teaching and the advantage of doing
nothing [wuwei] —
are few in the world who understand them.
|Sociopolitical Solution #1
Zhuangzi’s “Individualist” Perspective
Yao wanted to cede the empire to Hsü
Yu. “When the sun and moon
have already come out,” he said, “it’s a waste of light to go on
the torches, isn’t it? When the seasonal rains are falling, it’s
waste of water to go on irrigating the fields. If you took the
the world would be well ordered. I go on occupying it, but all I
see are my failings. I beg to turn over the world to you.” Hsü
Yu said, “You govern the world and the world is already well
governed. Now if I take your place, will I be doing it for a name? But name
only the guest of reality — will I be doing it so I can play the part of
guest? When the tailorbird builds her nest in the deep wood, she
no more than one branch. When the mole drinks at the river, he
no more than a bellyful. Go home and forget the matter, my
lord. I have no use for the rulership of the world!
Though the cook may
run his kitchen properly, the priest and the impersonator of the dead
the sacrifice do not leap over the wine casks and sacrificial stands
go take his place.” (Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings, 26-7)
(Sources of Chinese Tradition, 89)
learning means increasing day by day;
Devotion to the Way means decreasing day by day.
Decreasing, and decreasing still more,
one arrives at doing nothing.
And in doing nothing, nothing remains undone.
If one would take control of all-under-Heaven
one should always refrain
One who is engaged in activity
is unworthy to control all-under-Heaven.
(Sources of Chinese Tradition, 89-90)
Sociopolitical Solution #3
|The Way is constant: by doing nothing,
nothing is left undone (wu wei er wu bu
If lords and kings can hold to it, all
of themselves, be transformed.
If, as they are transformed, desires arise,
I suppress them by means of
the nameless uncarved wood.
From the nameless uncarved wood
Through not desiring one becomes tranquil,
And the empire, of itself, becomes settled.
(Sources of Chinese Tradition, 87)
The “Primitivist” Perspective
exalt the worthy,
the people will not compete.
not value goods that are hard to come by,
the people will not steal.
not display objects of desire,
the people’s minds will not be disturbed.
the ordering of the sage empties their
always causes the people to be
knowledge, without desire,
causes the wise ones [i.e. “those who know”]
not to dare to act.
does nothing (wuwei),
and there is
nothing that is not brought to order.
(Sources of Chinese Tradition, 80-81)
The Ideal Primitivist State
|Do away with sageliness, discard knowledge,
And the people will benefit a hundredfold.
Do away with humaneness, discard rightness,
And the people will once more be filial and
Dispense with cleverness, discard profit,
And there will be no more bandits and
These three, to be regarded as ornaments,
Therefore let the people have something to
Embrace uncarved wood,
(Sources of Chinese Tradition, 84-5)
state be small and the people be
may be ten or even a hundred times as many
they should not be used.
the people, regarding death as a weighty
not travel far.
they have boats and carriages, none shall
ride in them.
they have armor and weapons, none shall
the people return once more to the use of
them savor their food and find beauty in
peace in their dwellings, and joy in their
neighboring states are within sight of one
the sound of cocks and dogs is audible from
one to the other,
will reach old age and death and yet not
visit one another.
(Sources of Chinese Tradition, 94)