Daodejing Chapter 24: like leftover food and excess fat

Richard Brown
2 min readMay 9


People who stand on tiptoe are not steady.
People who take the longest strides cannot keep up the pace.
People who show off do not stand out.
People who promote themselves are not respected.
People who boast achieve nothing.
People who brag do not last.
According to the way,
They are like leftover food and excess fat.
All creatures detest them.
Therefore, followers of the way avoid them.


Chapter 24 of the Daodejing expresses very similar sentiments to those in Chapter 22, though with an even more acerbic sting in the tail in which serial self-promoters are likened to “leftover food and excess fat.” No wonder it concludes by saying: “All creatures detest them. Therefore, followers of the way avoid them.”

Beneath the caustic criticism, Laozi is warning of the unintended consequences of egotistic behavior. Instead of wowing others with your self-proclaimed brilliance, you risk alienating them with your insufferable arrogance. Just like the hare that ended up losing to the tortoise, you end up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Better to remain humble and calm and let your actions do the talking.

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.