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ARC Home > Faiths and Ecology > Daoism > Daoist stories and quotes :

Daoist stories and quotes

The temple of Louguandai, where the Tao Te Ching (Daodejing) is said to have been written

On Materialism

The Great Way is easy,
but people are forever being taken down sidetracks
They look after the palaces,
but ignore the fields!
The granaries are empty
but they wear wonderful clothes!


From the Tao Te Ching trans. Martin Palmer, Jay Ramsay and Kwok Man-ho. Chapter 53.

"The true man of old did not fight against poverty nor did he look for fulfilment through riches – for he had no grand plans. Therefore he never regretted any failure , nor exulted in success."

from The Book of Chuang Tzu, Trans Martin Palmer, Penguin Classics, P48.


The five colours blind the eye
The five notes deafen the ear
The five tastes deaden the mouth.
Riding the chase on horseback over the fields
drives you crazy when you overdo it;
And wanting what’s precious
you do what distorts your being.
The sage knows this in his gut,
And is guided by his instinct
and not by what his eyes want.

From the Tao Te Ching Chapter 12.

On the judicious use of natural resources

"Nan Po Tzu Chi, wandering amongst the mountains of Shang, came upon a great and unusual tree, under which could shelter a thousand chariots, and they would all be covered. Tzu Chi said: “What kind of tree is this? It is surely a most wondrous piece of timber!” However, when he looked up, he could see that the smaller branches were so twisted and gnarled that they could not be made into rafters and beams; and looking down at the trunk he saw it was warped and distorted and would not make good coffins. He licked one of its leaves and his mouth felt scraped and sore. “This tree is certainly good for nothing,” said Tzu Chi. “This is why it has grown so large. Ah ha! This is the sort of uselessness that sages live by.”

From The Book of Chuang Tsu p34.

A wealthy man held a great feast. After the duck, fish and pig had been served he stood up and said, ‘How kind Heaven is to humanity for it provides us with the fish, birds and beasts to enjoy and use’. But a little boy who was a guest surprised them all by saying “No you are wrong. Of course we take things and eat them but this is not why they were created in the first place. After all, mosquitoes, gnats and tigers bite our skin – does this mean that Heaven originally created us to be food for the mosquitoes, gnats and tigers?”

From a story by the 4th century Chinese writer Lieh Tzu.

On the nature of things

Heaven and Earth are not like humans.
The Tao does not act like a human.
They don’t expect to be thanked for making life,
So they view it without expectation.
Heaven and earth are like a pair of bellows:
They are empty, and yet they can never be exhausted.
Work them and they produce more and more
- there’s too much talking,
it’s really better to stay quiet.
There are too many laws,
when all you have to do is to hold on to the centre

From the Tao Te Ching, op cit. Chapter 5.

On Water

Why is the sea the king of a hundred tributaries?
Because everything comes down to it -
So it is kingly
By this name.


From the Tao Te Ching op cit. Chapter 66.

Everything streams from the Dao (the way),
Everything is nurtured by De (virtue).
Everything is made out of substance.
Everything is created by the Dao of Nature
– and from everything on earth that surrounds it
So every living thing should bow to the Dao and the De
Because they are what it is.
Everything that breathes comes from the Dao
And the Virtue feeds and takes care of it.
They grace things without possessing them,
They benefit everything but ask for nothing back
They give themselves into everything without seeking control
This is the essence of the original intention

From Dao De Jing Chapter 51





Further Daoist Quotes


Heaven, in charge of birth, is called “Father”.
Earth, in charge of nourishment, is called “Mother”.
Humanity, managing everything that the Father gives birth to, is called “the Son”.
Father gives orders to humanity through the shifting of seasons and winds,
Mother follows the Father to provide nourishment,
“Son” bears the authority of his Father since birth, and takes nourishment from his Mother…

Heaven gives birth to humanity, and earth nourishes his form;
But humanity is stupid and foolish — he disrespects his Father and Mother.
His Father and Mother are both unhappy;
Millions of living things, including people, are dying.
Humanity did not apply the rule of Dao and Reason — that is the root of all the blame.

Heaven and Earth are Father and Mother to humanity.
The Son, instead of loving his Father and Mother, steals from them, hurts them, and sickens them — all of these are not small crimes.

From Tai Ping Jing, the Classic of Great Peace

Heaven and Earth are the plunderers of all things: all things are the plunderers
of humans; and humans are the plunderers of all things.
When the three plunderers mutually act on each other, they are at rest. Hence it is said,
'One who lives eating and drinking according to time and season will be in good health.
Taking action at key time brings peace to all things.

From The Yellow Emperor's Book of Hidden Harmonies

Do not kill or hurt any life.
Do not cage birds and animals.
Do not casually climb trees to destroy nests.
Do not whip domestic animals.
Do not casually cut trees.
Do not remove and steal the flowers.
Do not burn wild fields and forests.
Do not reclaim land casually,
and do not thereby damage the mountains and rivers.
Do not dry the water courses.

From The One Hundred and Eighty Commandments of Laozi


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