[DDJ Meaning] Chapter 80

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David Hinton 2002


Let nations grow smaller and smaller and people fewer and fewer,
let weapons become rare
and superfluous,
let people feel death's gravity again
and never wander far from home.
Then boat and carriage will sit unused
and shield and sword lie unnoticed.
Let people knot ropes for notation again and never need anything more,
let them find pleasure in their food and beauty in their clothes, peace in their homes and joy in their ancestral ways.
Then people in neighboring nations will look across to each other,
their chickens and dogs calling back and forth,
and yet they'll grow old and die without bothering to exchange visits.

Dwight Goddard 1919

In a small country with few people let there be officers over tens and hundreds but not to exercise power. 
Let the people be not afraid of death, nor desire to move to a distance. 
Then though there be ships and carriages, they will have no occasion to use them. 
Though there be armor and weapons there will be no occasion for donning them. 
The people can return to p. 52 knotted cords for their records, they can delight in their food, be proud of their clothes, be content with their dwellings, rejoice in their customs.
Other states may be close neighbors, their cocks and dogs may be mutually heard, people will come to old age and die but will have no desire to go or come.

Bradford Hatcher 2005

Shrink the domain, spread out the people
Let there be tens & hundreds of people with specialties
But unemployed
Let the people feel the weight of death
And not wander far
Though there be boats & wagons
No place to ride them
Though there be armor & weapons
No reason to show them
Let the people return to knotting cords
And counting on these
(To) sweetening their own food
Embroidering their own clothing
Secure in their own homes
Rejoicing in their own customs
Neighboring realms overlook one another
The sounds of each other’s roosters and dogs are heard
(Yet) the people grow old & die
Without goings & comings between them


Wing-Tsit Chan 1963


Let there be a small country with few people. Let there be ten times and a hundred times as many utensils. But let them not be used. Let the people value their lives highly and not migrate far. 
Even if there are ships and carriages, none will ride in them. Even if there are arrows and weapons, none will display them. 
Let the people again knot cords and use them (in place of writing). Let them relish their food, beautify their clothing, be content with their homes, and delight in their customs. 
Though neighbouring communities overlook one another and the crowing of cocks and the barking of dogs can be heard, Yet the people there may grow old and die without ever visiting one another. 


Gu Zhengku 1993


The state should be small;
The population should be sparse.
Tools, though of many kinds,
Should not be used.
Teach the people to fear death
And not to migrate to remote places;
Although they have ships and carts,
They will have no need to use them;
Although they are well armed with weapons,
They will have no place to make them effective.
Encourage the people to return to the condition
Under which the knotted rope was used to record things.
The world best ruled is a place where
The people will have delicious food,
beautiful clothes,
comfortable living quarters,
cheerful customs.
Though within easy reach of neighbouring states,
The dog's barking and the cock's crowing in one state are heard in another;
The people of one state will never have dealings with those of another,
Even if they get old and die.


Ch'u Ta-Kao 1904


Supposing here is a small state with few people.
Though there are various vessels I will not have them put in use.
I will make the people regard death as a grave matter and not go far away.
Though they have boats and carraiges they will not travel in them.
Though they have armour and weapons they will not show them.
I will let them restore the use of knotted cords (instead of writing).
They will be satisfied with their food.
Delighted in their dress;
Comfortable in their dwellings;
Happy with their customs.
Though the neighbouring states are within sight
And their cocks' crowing and dogs' barking within hearing;
The people (of the small state) will not go there their whole lives.

Flowing Hands 1987


A small village has fewer people.
Within the village there are machines that can work ten
to a thousand times harder than man.
But they are not needed.
In a small village, the people work together.
They use their labour to sow and grow food.
Their time is spent naturally on this occupation.
They live in harmony with nature, and the Ten Thousand Things.
So being in harmony, they return to the state of the uncarved block of wood;
simple, honest and straightforward.
The people take death seriously and so they strengthen
their bodies, and do not travel great distances.
They remain at one.
Being at one they have no need for boats and carriages.
Being simple and possessing very little,
they have no need for weapons, so they don't display them.
They return to craft in place of writing.
Their food is plain but good, their clothes simple but strong and warm,
their houses safe and secure.
They are happy in their ways, for they live
without interference, and too many laws.
So they do not intrude upon their neighbours.
They live in peace and grow old and die in harmony with nature,
and the Ten Thousand Things.

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How to regard death seems to be the pivotal point. Regarding death as an essential but unknown part of life places emphasis on the meaning and purpose of life. It is essentially saying ... life's too short. So the proposition that is set up in the example of the small country allows for the things that contribute to a happy satisfying life to be easily recognized.


But we no longer live in small communities. It is much more difficult to find our way to a happy and satisfying life. Perhaps we have lost a proper regard for death.

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