Daodejing Chapter 62 breakdown: prized by all-under-heaven

Richard Brown
3 min readSep 17, 2023

Daodejing Chapter 62 asserts that the Dao is open to everyone, regardless of whether they are deemed to be “good” or “not good.” It neither judges anyone who wishes to embrace it, nor does it offer preferential access for the morally virtuous. You are free to draw whatever support you need from it, whether it be wisdom and direction or redemption and transformation.

Section 1
The Dao is the sanctuary
For the myriad things.
It provides treasure
For the good,
Refuge for the not good.

As the “sanctuary for the myriad things”, the Dao allows any individual to cultivate their inner power and return to a state of simplicity and balance. It does not matter whether you are looking for guidance or shelter. The Dao is always there for you whenever you need it.

Section 2
Fine words can win respect,
Fine deeds can win admiration.
Even if someone is not good,
Why abandon them?

Although Laozi concedes that “fine words” and “fine deeds” can win “respect” and “admiration” from others, he sees them as a double-edged sword. Even if an effusive compliment or vigorous handshake seems genuine, they could simply be a form of flattery to persuade you to do someone a favour.

In a world where appearances can be deceptive, Laozi asks whether it is fair to give up on somebody simply because they do not conform to the accepted social conventions of what is good. Because it draws no subjective or arbitrary distinctions between people, the Dao provides opportunity for all.

Section 3
When the son-of-heaven
Was enthroned,
And the three dukes
Were installed,
Instead of presenting them
With jade and
A team of four horses,
Would it not
Have been better
To sit in stillness,
And give them the Dao?

Laozi questions the value of conventional displays of wealth and status in the next section of the chapter, suggesting that the Dao would be a much more valuable gift for a ruler and his top three advisors than precious jade and horses. Just because someone has all the trappings of power does not mean that they have the wisdom and compassion required to be a good ruler. Indeed, in many instances, the reverse is the case.

In this passage, Laozi is probably referring to King Wu, the first sovereign of the Zhou Dynasty, and his three highest-ranking officials, Taishi, Taifu, and Taibao, However, his criticism of excessive consumption and ostentation could just as easily apply to the ruling class of his own time (or indeed any other for that matter).

Section 4
Why did the ancients
Prize the Dao so highly?
Has it not been said:
By seeking and attaining it,
You will be spared
The consequences
Of your mistakes.
This is why the Dao
Is prized by all-under-heaven.

In the final section, Laozi hearkens back to a (no doubt mythical) golden age in the depths of antiquity when everyone lived in peace and harmony under the guidance of a wise sage ruler in accordance with the Dao. Only by embracing the teachings of the Dao will universal stability and prosperity be restored to the world.

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Daodejing Chapter 62: the sanctuary for the myriad things

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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.