Daodejing Chapter 51 breakdown: cherish the power

Richard Brown
2 min readJan 27, 2024

Chapter 51 of the Daodejing describes how the Dao (道/dào) and the power (德/dé) complement each other to enable the birth and growth of the myriad things. The myriad things in turn revere and cherish them for allowing them to flourish without seeking to possess or control them or expecting anything in return.

Section 1
The Dao gives birth.
The power nourishes.
Matter produces form.
Energy consummates.

The Dao is the source of all things and the ultimate principle underlying the universe. The power is the nurturing force that sustains the myriad things. The two of them are like two sides of the same coin; one cannot operate without the other.

Section 2
The myriad things
Revere the Dao,
Cherish the power.
The Dao gives birth,
The power nourishes,
Not because it is decreed,
But because it is natural to do so.
The Dao gives birth,
The power nourishes,
Raises and matures,
Tends and shields.

All things revere the Dao and cherish the power because they spontaneously permit each thing to follow its own natural course without any intent or, indeed, any expectation of gratitude in return.

Section 3
Giving birth without possessing,
Acting without attachment,
Leading without controlling,
This is called primal power.

The Dao and the power are the embodiment of wuwei, or effortless action, allowing everything to unfold of its own accord rather without seeking possession or control of anything. This, indeed, is primal power.

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Daodejing Chapter 51: this is called primal power



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.