Daodejing Chapter 53: the court is arrayed in splendour

Richard Brown
2 min readAug 9, 2023

If I were sufficiently wise,
I would walk along the great Dao,
And my only fear would be straying from it.
The great Dao is smooth and straight,
But people prefer the byways.
The great Dao is smooth and straight,
But most people prefer the byways.
The court is arrayed in splendour,
But the fields are choked with weeds,
The granaries are bare,
But some wear fancy clothes,
Carry sharp swords,
Stuff their bellies with food and drink,
And enjoy excessive wealth.
This is banditry.
This is not the Dao!

「使我介然有知,行於大道,唯施是畏。大道甚夷,而民好徑。朝甚除,田甚蕪,倉甚虛,服文采,帶利劍,厭飲食,貨財有餘,是謂盜夸,非道也哉!」

The greater your focus on material desires, the greater your risk of losing sight of what is truly important in life. The greater the gap between the haves and have-nots, the greater the risk of society falling apart. The greater the divide, the greater the injustice.

Notes
1.) This is Laozi’s most eloquent, not to say passionate, protest against the excesses of the elite of his time for their excessive consumption at the expense of the common people.

2.) To emphasize his disgust at the ruling class, Laozi makes a satirical pun with the homonym “dao”, calling out the “bandits” (盜/dào) who rob their subjects in the name of the “Dao” (道/dào).

3.) I took this image at Longhu (Dragon Tiger) Mountain, a famous Daoist site about ten miles south of Yingtan in Jiangxi Province. A great place to visit!

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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.