Daodejing Chapter 26: the heavy is the root of the light

Richard Brown
2 min readMay 18


The heavy is the root of the light.
The tranquil is the master of the agitated.
That’s why the sage travels all day without losing sight of his baggage train.
No matter how magnificent the view is,
He stays calm and dispassionate.
Why would the lord of a great realm,
Take his own life lightly when governing the world?
To take things lightly is to lose the root.
To be agitated is to lose control.


A leader needs to be firmly grounded if he is to be effective and develop the ability to weather the inevitable storms that will come his way. If he doesn’t keep his eyes on what is important, such as the baggage train when he is traveling, he can’t expect other members of his retinue to be concerned about it either.

By the same token, a leader needs to remain calm and dispassionate so that he can keep his eyes on the ball and not allow himself to be easily distracted by the prospect of ever greater riches and conquests. The further he strays from the root that grounds him, the greater the risk of losing control not just of himself but all of his domain.

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.