Daodejing Chapter 62: the sanctuary for the myriad things

Richard Brown
2 min readSep 15, 2023

The Dao is the sanctuary
For the myriad things.
It provides treasure
For the good,
Refuge for the not good.
Fine words can win respect.
Fine deeds can win admiration.
Even if someone is not good,
Why abandon them?
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?
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.

「道者,萬物之奧。善人之寶,不善人之所保。美言可以市尊,美行可以加人。人之不善,何棄之有。故立天子,置三公,雖有拱璧,以先駟馬,不如坐進此道。古之所以貴此道者,何也。不曰:求以得,有罪以免耶,故為天下貴。」

Appearances can be deceptive. Just because someone is well-dressed and gives good PowerPoint does not necessarily mean that they are an expert in their field. Indeed, the polish they put on their presentations may very well be designed to hide their lack of knowledge rather than to illuminate it.

By declaring the Dao as a “sanctuary” for everyone including both the “good” and “not good,” Laozi is not just challenging the conventional perception that virtue is always rewarded and wrongdoing is punished. He is also cautioning against evaluating people based solely on appearances.

Sure, fine words and deeds can indeed win respect and admiration, but it is important to remember that eloquence and gestures can all too easily create an illusion of virtue or competence, while masking baser intentions. Better to spend more time observing and interacting with someone to find out what makes them tick rather than rushing into judgment about them.

Notes
1.) 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).

2.) I took this image at Longhu (Dragon Tiger) Mountain, a famous Daoist site about ten miles south of Yingtan in Jiangxi Province.

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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.