[DDJ Meaning] Chapter 58

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David Hinton 2002


When government is pensive and withdrawn people are pure and simple.
When government is confident and effective people are cunning and secretive.
Prosperity springs from calamity and calamity lurks in prosperity.
Who knows where it will all end
without leaders of principle?
And principle always reverts to sinister trickery,
virtue to depraved sorcery.
People have been confused for such a long long time.
That's why a sage is sharp but never cuts,
austere but never grates,
forthright but never provokes,
bright but never dazzles.


Chad Hansen 2009

Its regime is torpid 
its people are guileless. 
Its government is critically discriminating 
its people are deficient. 
Calamity! The ground of fortuity. 
Fortuity! The obverse of calamity. 
Who knows its pivot? 
It lacks a 'correct' 
The 'correct' returns to be deemed unorthodox. 
Worthiness returns to be deemed an apparition. 
Human superstition 
a truly old story. 
Using this: Sages 
square things without carving 
Are fair without punishing. 
Are straight without being arbitrary. 
Are bright without dazzling us. 



Moss Roberts 2001

Under rule restrained but caring
Simple and wholesome stay the ruled;
But under rule that probes and prods
They connive and they contrive.
Good fortune stands beside ill fate;
Beneath good fortune ill fate hides.
Who can find the turning point?
For it there is no standard rule:
Rule reverses to exception,
Boon reverses to affliction,
For which men have lost direction
For a time of long duration.
This is why the wise who rule
Keep to the square but form no edge,
Gather gains but will not thrust,
Stay straight and true but cross no line;
And shed light but not to blind.


Lok Sang Ho 2002

When the government appears dull and boring,
The people enjoy a good and rich life.
When the government appears clever and innovative,
The people suffer a shortage.
What appears to be misfortune may pave the way for fortune.
What appears to be fortune may pave the way for misfortune.
Who knows the absolute?
The right that we know is often not right.
What is right may prove to be wrong.
What is good may prove to be bad.
Mankind has been lost in the maze since the old days.
The Sage has an open mind and is unpretentious.
He is incorruptible and will not succumb to bribery.
He is straight but is not arrogant.
He shines but not dazzles. 


Gu Zhengku 1993

When the governor is magnanimous,
The people will become simple;
When the governor is harsh,
The people will become cunning.
Disaster hides itself behind good fortune;
Good fortune leans against disaster.
Who knows the secret?
There is no definite answer.
The normal changes into the abnormal;
The good changes into the evil.
People have been long perplexed.
Thus the sage is square and upright
But does not wound the people;
He is edged but does not cut the people;
He is candid but does not behave wantonly;
He gives light but does not dazzle.



Lin Yutang 1948

When the government is lazy and dull, 
   Its people are unspoiled; 
When the government is efficient and smart, 
   Its people are discontented.

Disaster is the avenue of fortune, 
(And) fortune is the concealment for disaster. 
   Who would be able to know its ultimate results? 
(As it is), there would never be the normal. 
   But the normal would (immediately) revert to the deceitful. 
   And the good revert to the sinister. 
Thus long has mankind gone astray!

Therefore the Sage is square (has firm principles), 
   but not cutting (sharp-cornered), 
Has integrity but does not hurt (others), 
Is straight, but not high-handed, 
Bright, but not dazzling.



Flowing Hands 1987

When the country is left to rule itself, people are simple and honest.
When the country is ruled by a dictator, who demands far too much from the people, people
become cunning and rebel.
When people become cunning,
clever men employ their schemes to control and manipulate others.
Such men grow rich and deceive others.
They prey on the poor and simple.
The more such men exist, the further the Dao is lost,
until man’s natural way cannot be remembered.
And so the people are trapped and have lost their way.
Therefore the Sage says;
'go back to Nature, give up ingenuity, give up profit and material possessions, live
off the land and enjoy a good and simple life.'
Be forever contented and enjoy a full, unrestricted, peaceful life.

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  • Verse Fifty Eight


Their politics is 

Boring Boring

The people are 

Mellow Mellow.


Their politics is 

A big hairy eyeball

Into everything

And the people

Are poorer 

Missing out in more ways

Than one.


It’s a disaster to rely on good things happening, good intentions and luck.


It’s real life impending disasters you have to deal with.


Can you see the difference?


It’s not about what should happen,

It’s about the unexpected.


Good things happening is 

The realm of pixies and demons

Fairy tales, which have a lasting appeal.


The  person you should emulate

will set things square, 

Not from an angle.


They will tell you the truth


No chaser.


Frugal but not cheap.


Straight deals with no bureaucratic procedures,

Contracts, guarantees or any of that civilized stuff.


Bright without dazzling.


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