Daodejing Chapter 54: the ripple effect

Richard Brown
2 min readAug 12, 2023

A firmly rooted plant
Cannot be uprooted.
A tight embrace
Cannot be broken.
Descendants maintain
Ancestral sacrifices
Without interruption.
Cultivated in your self,
Power is real.
Cultivated in your family,
Power grows.
Cultivated in your village,
Power endures.
Cultivated in your state,
Power abounds.
Cultivated in all-under-heaven,
Power is pervasive.
Observe people through your self,
Observe families though your family,
Observe villages through your village,
Observe states through your state,
Observe all-under-heaven through all-under-heaven.
How do I know that all-under-heaven is like this?
This is how.

「善建者不拔,善抱者不脫,子孫以祭祀不輟。修之於身,其德乃真;修之於家,其德乃餘;修之於鄉,其德乃長;修之於邦,其德乃豐;修之於天下,其德乃普。故以身觀身,以家觀家,以國觀國,以天下觀天下,吾何以知天下之然哉,以此!」

Once you have the right values firmly in place, you have the potential to positively influence other people by giving them an example to follow.

Once others start to emulate your virtue, your influence will ripple outwards: spreading from person to person, family to family, community to community, and country to country until it proliferates throughout the whole world.

Notes
1.) See the Analects of Confucius 14.42 for a similar concept:
Zilu asked how to become a leader. Confucius said: “Cultivate yourself to be respectful.” Zilu asked: “Is that all there is to it?” Confucius said: “Cultivate yourself to bring peace to the people. Cultivate yourself to bring peace to the people: even Yao and Shun wouldn’t have been able to match it.”

2.) 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.