Daodejing Chapter 16: knowing constancy

Richard Brown
2 min readMar 27, 2023

Achieve perfect emptiness.
Maintain pure stillness.
The myriad things emerge.
I observe their return.
Each thing grows and flourishes.
Each one returns to its root.
Returning to the root is stillness,
It is true life-destiny.
Returning to life-destiny is constancy.
Knowing constancy is enlightenment.
Not knowing constancy
Leads to recklessness and calamity.
Knowing constancy leads to acceptance,
Acceptance to impartiality.
Impartiality to wholeness,
Wholeness to heaven,
Heaven to the Dao,
The Dao to resilience,
To living out your days,
Free from peril.


At a time when we are only beginning to understand, much less grapple with, the potentially negative impacts of 24/7 internet connectivity, it is worth noting that Laozi had similar concerns about people getting so caught up on the relentless daily treadmill that they were too full and exhausted to lead satisfying lives.

His answer to this problem was to urge you to emulate the way by aiming for a state of perfect “emptiness” and “stillness” in order to understand how the process of creation and reversion operates. Observing “constancy”, the pattern by which all animals, plants, and humans emerge, grow, flourish, and ultimately return to their original state, enables you to develop a more detached perspective on your life and place in the world.

The more attuned you are to constancy, the more receptive, tolerant, impartial, and inclusive you become and the less energy and emotion you waste getting caught up in mindless drudgery and meaningless disputes. By embracing the Dao, your resilience increases, and you can extend the length of your life by minimizing the risk of encountering any calamities.

I took this image at Longhu (Dragon Tiger) Mountain, a famous Daoist site about ten miles south of Yingtan in Jiangxi Province. A great place to visit!



Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.