Daodejing Chapter 47 breakdown: the Daoist knows without travelling around

Richard Brown
2 min readJan 23, 2024

Chapter 47 of the Daodejing features one of the most famous articulations of the principle of wuwei, or effortless action. It is only by understanding yourself and aligning yourself with the flow of nature that you can develop intuitive knowledge of what is happening in the world. Visits and “fact-finding” trips to distant places will only serve to obscure your understanding because they only give you the briefest glance at the superficial trappings that conceal reality.

Section 1
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 chapter begins by challenging the conventional belief that knowledge and understanding are gained primarily through external exploration and sensory experience. The most effective way to learn is to look deeply inside yourself and strip away all your preconceptions and prejudices so that you can see the world as it is rather than how you would like it to be. The more you allow yourself to get caught up in the latest intellectual fads and fashions, the more estranged you become from reality.

Section 2
The Daoist knows
Without traveling around,
Understands without seeing,
Accomplishes without action.

True knowledge does not require physical exploration or travel. You can gain an intuitive understanding of reality within yourself and your immediate surroundings, rather than in distant places or external experiences. By stilling your mind and aligning yourself with the natural flow of life, you can achieve far more than by chasing after the latest intellectual paradigm.

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



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.