The ancients ruled the world by doing nothing

The Zhuangzi on the Dao

Zhuang Zhou
  • Zhuang Zhou

"Notwithstanding the greatness of heaven and earth, their transforming power proceeds from one lathe; notwithstanding the number of the myriad things, the government of them is one and the same; notwithstanding the multitude of mankind, the lord of them is their (one) ruler. The ruler’s (course) should proceed from the qualities (of the Dao) and be perfected by Heaven, when it is so, it is called 'Mysterious and Sublime.' The ancients ruled the world by doing nothing - simply by this attribute of Heaven. If we look at their words in the light of the Dao, (we see that) the appellation for the ruler of the world was correctly assigned; if we look in the same light at the distinctions which they instituted, (we see that) the separation of ruler and ministers was right; if we look at the abilities which they called forth in the same light, (we see that the duties of) all the offices were well performed; and if we look generally in the same way at all things, (we see that) their response (to this rule) was complete."

Zhuang Zhou was a Chinese philosopher from the 4th century BC credited with writing one of the foundational texts of Taoism, the Zhuangzi, which bears his name. A renowned stylist, he often used parables to teach his lessons about the Tao (or “Dao”), which Taoists see as the unifying principle of the universe. A critic of Confucianism, Zhou lived as a minor official from a small Chinese town, and when tempted by Chinese court officials to come to the capital and serve in an official capacity for the emperor, he laughed at their offer and replied, “I had rather amuse and enjoy myself in the midst of a filthy ditch than be subject to the rules and restrictions in the court of a sovereign.”

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