Governing a large state is like cooking a small fish.
When the way prevails over the world,
Demons lose their spiritual powers.
What powers the demons still possess,
No longer harm the people.
Not only do the demons no longer harm the people,
But the ruler also does not harm the people.
Since these two do not harm each other,
Their inner powers converge and return to the source.
No matter whether you are running a small team or a huge company, a delicate touch is required. The more you attempt to control your staff, the more you will disrupt harmony and morale. Just as a small fish can fall apart if it is interfered with too much while being cooked, so too can an organization collapse if its leader meddles too much in its operations.
1.) By likening governing a large state to cooking a small fish, Laozi is illustrating the importance of adopting the principle of non-action (無為/wúwéi) as a ruler. The more he interferes in people’s lives, the more trouble he is storing up for the future.
2.) The term demons (鬼/guǐ) refers to malign forces such as floods, famines, wars, and taxes, that stir up discontent and ultimately violence among the population. By not interfering in the lives of the people and governing in accordance with the principles of the way, a state ruler can neutralize the negative impact of these forces and prevent “harm” to the populace.
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!