Daodejing Chapter 22: to yield is to remain whole

Richard Brown
2 min readMay 1


To yield is to be whole.
To bend is to be straight.
To be empty is to be full.
To be exhausted is to be renewed.
To have little is to gain.
To have too much is to be troubled.
That is why the sage embraces the one and sets an example to the world.
He does not show off and therefore shines.
He does not promote himself and is therefore revered.
He does not boast and is therefore honored.
He does not seek glory and therefore endures.
Because he does not contend,
Nobody in the world contends with him.
The ancient saying “to yield is to be whole” is indeed true.
When you are whole, all things will come to you.


How to achieve a state of effortless action (無為/wúwéi)? This is the question that Chapter 22 of the Daodejing explores. The key is learning to let go, stay humble, and to allow things to happen to you rather than struggling to make them happen for you.

A palm tree that bends with the wind is much more capable of weathering a storm than a mighty oak tree that stands tall to resist it. In the same way, if you calmly focus on achieving your goals without vainly trying to draw attention to yourself or compete with others you will ultimately prevail.

Effortless action thus means having the self-confidence and self-confidence to stay out of the daily hustle and bustle of life so that you can focus on achieving what is truly important. By not wasting energy on unnecessary battles, you will build up the strength and resilience you need to triumph in the ones that truly matter.

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.