Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Huainanzi

By Liú Ān

Huainanzi 淮南子 (139 BCE)
Written as a guide for enlightened rulers, the Huainanzi became a cornerstones of Daoist philosophy. It blends in Confucian and Legalist philosophy and covers a mammoth range of topics, from the most common to the most profound. With 800+ quotations from Chinese classics and discussing topics including science, philosophy, astronomy, history, politics, geography, mythology, and nature; it posits that a good society arises from a good ruler and a good ruler arises from a training in extensive knowledge, skillful application, added to genuine wisdom. Sparking lively debates about the nature of reality, the proper role for humans in the world, and the purpose and function of government; the Huainanzi created a profound intellectual heritage that has gone down through the ages and still retains valuable insight for today’s world.

Themes

Themes: Leadership

Quotes from Huainanzi

“Good luck changes into bad and bad luck changes into good. The workings of events are beyond comprehension.”

Chapters:

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“If you seek what you don’t have, what you do have will be lost. If you cultivate what you already have, then what you want comes about.”

Chapters: 75. Greed

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“In a degenerate society, those who possess the wealth of the land and are in positions of authority over others exhaust the energy of the common people to serve their own sensual desires.”

Chapters: 53. Shameless Thieves

Themes: Wealth

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“In all the vicissitudes of their lives, sages are of one will, never forgetting to benefit people.”

Chapters: 67. Three Treasures

Themes: Compassion

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“In ancient times, when sage kings ruled, their government and education were egalitarian, and their charity extended to all. Those above and those below were of like mind.”

Chapters: 68. Joining Heaven & Earth

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“Place a monkey in a cage, and it is the same as a pig, not beause it isn’t clever and quick, but because it has no place to freely exercise its capabilities.”

Chapters: 72. Helpful Fear

Themes: Nationalism

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“Real people are those united with the Tao. Wandering in the vastness beyond mundane clutter, they work freely without making an issue of it, know without learning, see without looking, achieve without striving and understand without trying.”

Chapters: 51. Mysterious Goodness

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“Rich are the rewards of the generous; profound are the calamities of the resentful… So, by looking into the source of people’s actions, sages can tell their consequences.”

Chapters: 77. Stringing a Bow

Themes: Karma

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“Right and wrong are situational. In the appropriate situation, nothing is wrong. Without the appropriate situation, nothing is right.”

Chapters: 64. Ordinary Mind

Themes: Moral Freedom

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“Rulership was set up because the strong oppressed the weak, the many did violence to the few, the cunning fooled the simple, the bold attacked the timid, people kept knowledge to themselves and did not teach, people accumulated wealth and did not share it. So the institution of rulership was set up to equalize and unify them.”

Chapters: 78. Water

Themes: Government

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“sages alone do not leave their sacred ground… They do not plan ahead yet do not abandon opportunity… They do not seek to gain yet do not reject misfortune.”

Chapters: 44. Fame and Fortune

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“Sages are not controlled by names, not governed by plans, not burdened by affairs, and not ruled by intellect. They are concealed in formlessness; their acts are traceless, and their roamings are trackless.”

Chapters: 27. No Trace

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“Sages do good as if they fear there is not enough of it and prepare against calamity as if they fear they cannot avoid it.”

Chapters: 49. No Set Mind

Themes: Inspiration

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“Sages do not let their desires disturb harmony… when they are happy, they do not rejoice too much, and when they are sad, they do not grieve too much.”

Chapters: 77. Stringing a Bow

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“Sages do not need authority to be noble, do not need wealth to be rich, and do not need power to be strong. Peaceful and empty, they are not subject to outside influences; they fly freely with evolution.”

Chapters: 81. Journey Without Goal

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“Sages wear what no one looks at, do what no one watches, and say what no one disputes… they are different but appear ordinary.”

Chapters: 66. Go Low

Themes: Ordinary Mind

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“The beginnings of fortune and calamity are subtle, so people are heedless of them. Only sages see the beginning and know the end.”

Chapters: 52. Cultivating the Changeless

Themes: Continuity

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“The Way of Rulership is not the means by which one acts; it is the means by which one does not act.”

Chapters:

Themes: Wu Wei

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“The wise leave the road and find the Way; fools cling to the Way and lose the road.”

Chapters: 38. Fruit Over Flowers

Themes: Golden Chains

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“There are 3 dangers in the world: To have many privileges but few virtues… To be high in rank but low on ability… To receive a large salary without personally accomplishing much… So ‘people may gain by loss and may lose by gain.”

Chapters: 46. Enough

Themes: Virtue Integrity

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“They are free and do nothing, yet there is nothing they do not do… All thing have their outcomes, but only sages know how to keep to the root… they respond like echoes without wearing out.”

Chapters: 6. The Source

Themes: Skillful Means

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“those who are capable of leading the world are those who have no ambition to use the world; those who are capable of sustaining fame are those who do nothing excessive to seek it.”

Chapters: 67. Three Treasures

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“Those who are wise cultivate the inner root and do not make a display of the outer twigs.”

Chapters: 48. Unlearning

Themes: Humility

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“Those who trust themselves cannot be swayed by slander or flattery. Those whose knowledge is sufficient cannot be enticed by power or profit.”

Chapters:

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“To survive peril and quell disorder cannot be done without wisdom. Were it a matter of following precedents, even fools have more than enough. Therefore, enlightened leaders do not enforce useless laws or listen to ineffectual words.”

Chapters: 38. Fruit Over Flowers

Themes: Leadership

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“Too many deals impoverish the merchant, too much artistry exhausts the craftsman. When the span of a tree is great, its height is compromised. When the flow of a river is wide, its depth is compromised. If you have knowledge but not skillful means, you will never accomplish anything.”

Chapters:

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“When rites and duties become decorations they breed artificial and hypocritical people.”

Chapters: 19. All Methods Become Obstacles

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“When the directives of the leadership are ignored because of factionalism, laws are broken out of treachery, intellectuals busy themselves fabricating clever deceits, mettlesome men occupy themselves fighting, administrators monopolize authority, petty bureaucrats hold power, and cliques curry favor to manipulate the leadership. Then, even though the nation may seem to exist, the ancients would say it has perished.”

Chapters: 18. The Sick Society

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