Rule a big country as you would fry small fish.
Who rules the world in accord with Tao
Shall find that the spirits lose their power.
It is not that the spirits lose their power,
But that they cease to do people harm.
It is not (only) that they cease to do people harm,
The Sage (himself) also does not harm the people.
When both do not do each other harm,
The original character is restored.
(Translation by Lin Yutang )
Ruling the country is like cooking a small fish.
Approach the universe with Tao,
And evil is not powerful.
Its power will not be used to harm others.
Not only will it not harm others,
But the sage himself will also be protected.
They do not hurt each other,
And the Virtue in each one refreshes both.
(Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)
The image is from Food channels recipes.
Governing a country is like cooking a small fish. If you keep turning the little fish, again and again, it will fall apart. Similarly, if a ruler continually disturbs and interfere in the affairs of the people with excessive rules and regulations, the country becomes chaotic, and everyone suffers.
In the presence of Tao, peace, and harmony prevail in the society. If demons lose power and the rulers (sages) refrain from meddling people’s lives, then they all can coexist peacefully. In a world with profoundly rooted virtue, they do not harm each other, they forgive each other, and synchronize with each other.
This is the doctrine of Tao, which is what Zhuangzi said Heaven and Earth coexist with him and he and all things are united as one. (莊子「齊物論」「天地與我並生，萬物與我為一」)