Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – Chapter 80


小國寡民。使有什伯之器而不用;使民重死而不遠徙。
雖有舟輿,無所乘之,雖有甲兵,無所陳之。
使民復結繩而用之,甘其食,美其服,安其居,樂其俗。
鄰國相望,雞犬之聲相聞,民至老死,不相往來。

Small country, few people
Let them have many weapons but not use them
Let the people regard death seriously
And not migrate far away

Although they have boats and chariots
They have no need to take them
Although they have armors and weapons
They have no need to display them

Let the people return to tying knots and using them
Savor their food, admire their clothes
Content in their homes, happy in their customs

Neighboring countries see one another
Hear the sounds of roosters and dogs from one another
The people, until they grow old and die
Do not go back and forth with one another
(Translation by Derick Lin)

This image is from http://miriadna.com/preview/countryside-splendor-(France).

When we interpret this article, we need to understand the background of Lao Tzu’s era. It is the spring and autumn period, rites and music collapsed, the social atmosphere became bad, and Lao Tzu wanted to correct it. Therefore, he puts forward the idea of returning to simplicity, hoping that the whole society could go back to the past together and stop the vicious cycle. In the ideal society depicted by Lao Tzu, it reflects the self-sufficient lifestyle of ancient Chinese culture. There is no exploitation and oppression, no war and plunder, no ferocity and fear.

Lao Tzu is a great philosopher and thinker in ancient China, and also the founder of the Taoist school. His immortal work “Tao Te Ching” initiated the ancient Chinese philosophical thoughts. Here he draws a blueprint of his ideal country. This “country” is very small; neighboring countries look at each other, the sound of chickens and dogs hear each other; there is no deception and cunning evil, the people are honest. The life is stable and tranquil; people use the knot ropeway to remember things, they will not attack and fight, there is no need to risk their lives to migrate to distant places to earn a living. Without war, people are free and live in harmony, living a natural and simple life. This pure and simple society makes everyone fascinated.

Lao Tzu uses a series of parallel sentences to describe the ideal society in his mind: a community with delicious food, gorgeous clothes, stable residences, and pleasant custom. In ordinary people’s eyes, these are straightforward life needs, and Lao Tzu once said that true prosperity means knowing satisfaction so that this simple life demand can enhance and sublimate the value of human life.

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