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Freedom Founts

Source Materials About Freedom


1. Colour's five hues from th' eyes their sight will take;
    Music's five notes the ears as deaf can make;
    The flavours five deprive the mouth of taste;
    The chariot course, and the wild hunting waste
    Make mad the mind; and objects rare and strange,
    Sought for, men's conduct will to evil change.


2. Therefore the sage seeks to satisfy (the craving of) the belly, and not the (insatiable longing of the) eyes. He puts from him the latter, and prefers to seek the former.

Legge's Comments

檢欲, 'The Repression of the Desires.' Government in accordance with the Dào seeks to withdraw men from the attractions of what is external and pleasant to the senses and imagination, and to maintain the primitive simplicity of men's ways and manners. Compare chap. 2. The five colours are Black, Red, Green or Blue, White, and Yellow; the five notes are those of the imperfect Chinese musical scale, our G, A, B, D, E; the five tastes are Salt, Bitter, Sour, Acrid, and Sweet.

I am not sure that Wáng Bì has caught exactly the author's idea in the contrast between satisfying the belly and satisfying the eyes; but what he says is ingenious: 'In satisfying the belly one nourishes himself; in gratifying the eyes he makes a slave of himself.'