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Source Materials About Freedom


1. If I were suddenly to become known, and (put into a position to) conduct (a government) according to the Great Dao, what I should be most afraid of would be a boastful display.


2. The great Dao (or way) is very level and easy; but people love the by-ways.


3. Their court(-yards and buildings) shall be well kept, but their fields shall be ill-cultivated, and their granaries very empty. They shall wear elegant and ornamented robes, carry a sharp sword at their girdle, pamper themselves in eating and drinking, and have a superabundance of property and wealth;—such (princes) may be called robbers and boasters. This is contrary to the Dao surely!

Legge's Comments

益証, 'Increase of Evidence.' The chapter contrasts government by the Dao with that conducted in a spirit of ostentation and by oppression.

In the 'I' of paragraph 1 does Laozi speak of himself? I think he does. Wu Cheng understands it of 'any man,' i.e. any one in the exercise of government;—which is possible. What is peculiar to my version is the pregnant meaning given to , common enough in the mouth of Confucius. I have adopted it here because of a passage in Liu Xiang's Shuo Yuan (XX, 13 b), where Laozi is made to say 'Excessive is the difficulty of practising the Dao at the present time,' adding that the princes of his age would not receive it from him. On the 'Great Dao,' see chapters 25, 34, et al. From the twentieth book of Han Fei (12 b and 13 a) I conclude that he had the whole of this chapter in his copy of our Jing, but he broke it up, after his fashion, into fragmentary utterances, confused and confounding. He gives also some remarkable various readings, one of which (, instead of Heshang Gong and Wang Bi's , character 48) is now generally adopted. The passage is quoted in the Kangxi dictionary under 竽, with this reading.