Translation: Tao Te King – Chapter 57. Right government

Chapter 57. Right government

A picture of a vase with a Taijitu (Yin-Yang) on it.
Careful with that power Mr. politician. CC-BY-SA 3.0 by The Walters Art Museum holding the vase. Uploaded by File Upload Bot (Kaldari).

May the just lead the kingdom. May the cunning lead the army.

But may he who efficiently acts by non-action be king.¹

How do I know this to be so?

I know via this:

When peoples actions are guided by restricting laws the country grows even poorer.

When people are allowed freely to wield weapons, the government is in danger.

The quicker and more skillful the people become, the more are artificial objects put to use.

And when cunning moves have gained general appreciation thieves prosper.

This is why the wise one says: “I do not rule anything and the people will form themselves. I want to stay in peace and the people will find their rest. I do not want to shine in the spotlight  and the people will be successful. I want to put away all ambition, and the people will return to their natural simplicity.”


  1. Mr. Ervast: “A steady-minded will be in the same relation to his people as the innermost self is to his visible personality: simultaneously a conscience, wise intellect, excitable ideal, but not a forcer or an enforcer. The following verses and chapters furthermore complement and shed light on this thought.”

Own translation from 1925 Finnish translation by Pekka Ervast (ISBN 951-8995-01-X) with kind permission of Ruusu-Ristin Kirjallisuusseura ry.

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