Daodejing Chapter 49 breakdown: humble and cautious

Richard Brown
2 min readJan 25, 2024

Chapter 49 of the Daodejing describes the humble and leadership approach of the Daoist sage. By showing trust and confidence in people and refraining from imposing his own agenda on them, he creates an open environment in which everyone will thrive. The more receptive he is towards other people’s opinions and ideas, the more willing they are to tell him what is really happening in the world.

Section 1
The Daoist has no heart-and-mind.
He takes the heart-and-mind
Of the common people as his own.
I treat the good as good.
I also treat the not good as good.
This is the power of goodness.
I trust the trustworthy.
I also trust the untrustworthy.
This is the power of trust.

The Daoist sage does not adhere to a fixed personal perspective and is free from preconceptions and prejudices. By treating people with good will and trust no matter how they act towards him, he builds a strong sense of mutual confidence and understanding with everyone.

Section 2
In all-under-heaven,
The Daoist is humble and cautious,
Blurs his heart-and-mind,
For the benefit
Of all-under-heaven
The common people fix
Their ears and eyes on him.
The Daoist treats them all as children.

The sage is careful in his dealings with the world and its manifold complexities. Rather than seeking to impose his will or beliefs on everyone, he listens closely to their opinions and works with them to achieve solutions that benefit the collective good. His treatment of the people as children does not mean that he looks down on them but shows his care and compassion for all. He views everyone as full of abundant inner power like an infant (see Chapter 55). It is his role to enable them to unleash their boundless potential.

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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.