Daodejing Chapter 46 breakdown: the finest steeds

Richard Brown
2 min readJan 22, 2024

Chapter 46 of the Daodejing points to excessive greed and ambition as the cause of conflicts and war. A happy and fulfilling life is achieved through simplicity, moderation, and an understanding of what is truly sufficient rather than an unceasing quest for ever greater levels wealth and fame.

Section 1
When the Dao prevails
Over all-under-heaven.
The finest steeds
Fertilise the fields.
When the Dao
Does not prevail
Over all-under-heaven,
Warhorses are bred
Just outside the city walls.

When the Dao prevails, there is peace and harmony in the world. Horses and other resources typically used for war can be adopted for more productive purposes, including cultivating the fields. When the Dao disappears, the world falls into turmoil and all available resources are directed towards winning the conflict, leaving the fields untended and the people suffering from hunger.

Section 2
No calamity is greater
Than discontent.
No mistake is greater
Than greed.
Knowing when
Enough is enough
Is true contentment.

Since unbridled greed and ambition are the cause of conflicts and wars, the best way to prevent them is for everyone to rein in their excessive desires and learn to be happy with what they have. True happiness and peace come from within, from a state of contentment and acceptance, rather than from external goods and achievements.

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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.