Daodejing Chapter 66: kings of the hundred valleys

Richard Brown
1 min readSep 30, 2023

Rivers and oceans are
The kings of the hundred valleys,
Because they lie beneath them.
This is why they are
The kings of the hundred valleys.
Whoever wants to stand
Above the people,
Must speak to them
From below.
Whoever wants to lead
The people from the front,
Must follow them from behind.
The sage is above,
But the people
Do not feel any burden,
Is in front
But the people
Do not feel any threat.
The whole world gladly
And untiringly supports him.
Because the sage
Does not contend with others,
Nobody in the world
Contends with him.

「江海所以能為百谷王者,以其善下之,故能為百谷王。是以欲上民必以言下之,欲先民必以身後之。是以聖人處上而民不重,處前而民不害。是以天下樂推而不厭,以其不爭,故天下莫能與之爭。」

Effective leaders know how to get out of the way and let their people get on with things. By remaining humble and acting only for the common good rather than their own personal glory, they automatically attract people towards them like an ocean or river draws in the waters of a mountain stream.

Notes
Chapter 61 features a similar description of the paradoxical benefits that come from “lying beneath” and the association of humility with water:

Daodejing Chapter 61: lying beneath

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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.