Daodejing Chapter 22: curved therefore whole

Richard Brown
2 min readMay 1, 2023

Curved therefore whole.
Bent therefore straight.
Hollow therefore full.
Used therefore new.
Little therefore much.
Too much therefore troubled.
The sage embraces the one,
Is a model for all-under-heaven.
He does not show off,
And therefore shines.
He does not promote himself,
And is therefore revered.
He does not boast,
And therefore accomplishes.
He does not seek glory,
And therefore endures.
Because he does not contend,
All-under-heaven does not contend with him.
The old saying
Curved therefore whole
Is no empty talk!
The curved returns
To the truly whole.

「曲則全,枉則直,窪則盈,敝則新,少則得,多則惑。是以聖人抱一為天下式,不自見故明,不自是故彰,不自伐故有功,不自矜故長。古之所謂曲則全者,豈虛言哉?誠全而歸之。」

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.

Note
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.