Daodejing Chapter 47: the further you go, the less you know

Richard Brown
2 min readJul 22, 2023

You do not have to
Step outside your door,
To know all-under-heaven.
You do not have to
Look out your window,
To see the Dao of heaven.
The further you go,
The less you know.
The Daoist knows
Without traveling around,
Understands without seeing,
Accomplishes without action.

「不出戶,知天下;不窺牖,見天道;其出彌遠,其知彌少;是以聖人不行而知,不見而名,不為而成。」

You can learn far more about what is happening here and now by anchoring yourself in the present than jet-setting around the globe on “fact-finding” trips. By stilling your mind, you can achieve far greater clarity of purpose than by chasing after the latest disruptive paradigm.

Note
This is one of the most famous articulations of the principle of wuwei, or effortless action, in the Daodejing. Although wuwei is often seen as a Daoist concept, its origins certainly predate the text. Confucius expresses the same idea in Analects 2.1 and 15.5.

“Governing by the power of virtue can be compared to the Pole Star, which remains fixed in place while all the other stars orbit respectfully around it.”

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: like the Pole Star

“If there was a ruler who achieved order through effortless action it was Shun, wasn’t it? How did he do it? He composed himself with reverence and sat facing south. That was all.”

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the principle of effortless action

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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.