Laozi's Dao De Jing 57-60 (老子道德經 57-60)

Author: Laozi (老子); translated by James Legge

Governing a great state is like cooking small fish.


以正治國,以奇用兵,以無事取天下。吾何以知其然哉?以此:天下多忌 諱,而民彌貧﹔人多利器,國家滋昏﹔人多伎巧,奇物滋起﹔法令滋彰, 盜賊多有。故聖人云:「我無為,而民自化﹔我好靜,而民自正﹔我無事 ,而民自富﹔我無欲,而民自朴」。

Chapter 57

1. A state may be ruled by (measures of) correction; weapons of war may be used with crafty dexterity; (but) the kingdom is made one's own (only) by freedom from action and purpose.

2. How do I know that it is so? By these facts:—In the kingdom the multiplication of prohibitive enactments increases the poverty of the people; the more implements to add to their profit that the people have, the greater disorder is there in the state and clan; the more acts of crafty dexterity that men possess, the more do strange contrivances appear; the more display there is of legislation, the more thieves and robbers there are.

3. Therefore a sage has said, 'I will do nothing (of purpose), and the people will be transformed of themselves; I will be fond of keeping still, and the people will of themselves become correct. I will take no trouble about it, and the people will of themselves become rich; I will manifest no ambition, and the people will of themselves attain to the primitive simplicity.'


其政悶悶,其民淳淳﹔其政察察,其民缺缺。禍兮,福之所倚,福兮,禍 之所伏。孰知其極?其無正也。正復為奇,善復為妖。人之迷,其日固久 。是以聖人方而不割,廉而不劌,直而不肆,光而不耀。

Chapter 58

1. The government that seems the most unwise,
Oft goodness to the people best supplies;
That which is meddling, touching everything,
Will work but ill, and disappointment bring.
Misery!—happiness is to be found by its side! Happiness!—misery lurks beneath it! Who knows what either will come to in the end?

2. Shall we then dispense with correction? The (method of) correction shall by a turn become distortion, and the good in it shall by a turn become evil. The delusion of the people (on this point) has indeed subsisted for a long time.

3. Therefore the sage is (like) a square which cuts no one (with its angles); (like) a corner which injures no one (with its sharpness). He is straightforward, but allows himself no license; he is bright, but does not dazzle.


治人事天,莫若嗇。夫為嗇,是謂早服﹔早服謂之重積德﹔重積德則無不 克﹔無不克則莫知其極﹔莫知其極,可以有國﹔有國之母,可以長久﹔是 謂深根固柢,長生久視之道。

Chapter 59

1. For regulating the human (in our constitution) and rendering the (proper) service to the heavenly, there is nothing like moderation.

2. It is only by this moderation that there is effected an early return (to man's normal state). That early return is what I call the repeated accumulation of the attributes (of the Tao). With that repeated accumulation of those attributes, there comes the subjugation (of every obstacle to such return). Of this subjugation we know not what shall be the limit; and when one knows not what the limit shall be, he may be the ruler of a state.

3. He who possesses the mother of the state may continue long. His case is like that (of the plant) of which we say that its roots are deep and its flower stalks firm:—this is the way to secure that its enduring life shall long be seen.


治大國,若烹小鮮。以道蒞天下,其鬼不神﹔非其鬼不神,其神不傷人﹔ 非其神不傷人,聖人亦不傷人。夫兩不相傷,故德交歸焉。
Chapter 60

1. Governing a great state is like cooking small fish.

2. Let the kingdom be governed according to the Tao, and the manes of the departed will not manifest their spiritual energy. It is not that those manes have not that spiritual energy, but it will not be employed to hurt men. It is not that it could not hurt men, but neither does the ruling sage hurt them.

3. When these two do not injuriously affect each other, their good influences converge in the virtue (of the Tao).