Daodejing Chapter 70 breakdown: easy to understand and practice

Richard Brown
2 min readOct 16, 2023

In Chapter 70 of the Daodejing, Laozi ponders why so few people embrace his teachings even though they are easy to understand and practice and are rooted in the ancient wisdom of the Dao.

Perhaps he is not as unhappy about this situation as he appears in the first half of the chapter. Rather than actively seeking to attract a huge number of followers with only a superficial interest in his teachings, he prefers to focus only on those who are genuinely committed to embracing the “jade” that he keeps hidden under his unassuming “brown sackcloth.”

Section 1
My words are very easy
To understand and to practice.
Yet no one in the world
Can understand and practice them.

In the first section of the chapter, Laozi laments that even though his teachings are simple and intuitive nobody is able to fully comprehend and embrace them.

Section 2
My words have an ancestor.
My deeds have a lord.

This cannot be because he has conjured his ideas out of nothing, Laozi suggests. They are rooted in ancient traditions and wisdom and draw upon the timeless principles of the Dao. Similarly, his actions are in no way arbitrary or irrational. They are guided by a higher source in alignment with the natural order and the Dao itself.

Section 3
Because so few people understand me,
The ones who model
Themselves on me are rare.
The sage wears brown sackcloth,
But has jade in his breast.

Since only a handful of people even try to understand the teachings of Laozi, it comes as no surprise that even fewer attempt to pursue the way. Perhaps, despite his earlier complaints about his lack of followers, he is happy to keep things that way because he is only interested in attracting people who are genuinely committed to embracing the Dao and are perceptive enough to detect the precious pearls of wisdom that lie hidden underneath his unassuming appearance.

Or perhaps he prefers to play the role of the enigmatic outsider who refuses to get his hands dirty in the real world.

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Daodejing Chapter 70: brown sackcloth and jade

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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.