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Freedom Founts
Source Materials About Freedom


1. Dao has of all things the most honoured place.
    No treasures give good men so rich a grace;
    Bad men it guards, and doth their ill efface.


2. (Its) admirable words can purchase honour; (its) admirable deeds can raise their performer above others. Even men who are not good are not abandoned by it.


3. Therefore when the sovereign occupies his place as the Son of Heaven, and he has appointed his three ducal ministers, though (a prince) were to send in a round symbol-of-rank large enough to fill both the hands, and that as the precursor of the team of horses (in the court-yard), such an offering would not be equal to (a lesson of) this Dao, which one might present on his knees.


4. Why was it that the ancients prized this Dao so much? Was it not because it could be got by seeking for it, and the guilty could escape (from the stain of their guilt) by it? This is the reason why all under heaven consider it the most valuable thing.

Legge's Comments

為道, 'Practising the Dao.' 貴道, 'The value set on the Dao,' would have been a more appropriate title. The chapter sets forth that value in various manifestations of it.

Par. 1. For the meaning of , see Confucian Analects, III, ch. 13.

Par. 2. I am obliged to adopt the reading of the first sentence of this paragraph given by Huainanzi, 美言可以市尊行可以加人;—see especially his quotation of it in XVIII, 10 a, as from a superior man, I have not found his reading anywhere else.

Par. 3 is not easily translated, or explained. See the rules on presenting offerings at the court of a ruler or the king, in vol. xxvii of the 'Sacred Books of the East,' p. 84, note 3, and also a narrative in the Zuo zhuan under the thirty-third year of duke Xi.