Sacred Texts  Taoism  Index  Previous  Next 


Lao-tze continues to criticize Confucianism as represented by the learned ones, the literati. According to Confucius conventional propriety is a great virtue, and it is very important that people reply according to the properly established modes of speaking. There are two forms of affirmation in Chinese: One is pronounced wei, and being straightforward and manly it is proper for men and boys to use; the other, pronounced o, is modest, and it behooves women and girls to employ no other form of expressing assent. Lao-tze would not insist on the significance of such externalities, and so he says, "What is the difference between 'yea' and 'yes'? There is none. But there is a difference between bad and good."

p. 155

In times of disorder lives are constantly endangered and the people become indifferent to death. This is not the natural state of things and ought to be avoided. Lao-tze's warning is illustrated in modern history by the French Revolution when the prisoners of the terrorist government actually joked about the guillotine and went to the place of execution with absolute unconcern. Similar conditions prevailed in China in the days of Lao-tze.

In this chapter, as well as further down (Chapters 72 and 74), the old philosopher makes reference to the prevalence of great disturbances which make the people restless. A Chinese Jeremiah, forlorn among people who only thought of enjoying themselves, he burst out into bitter lamentation, and we cannot read these lines without feeling compassion for the sage who differed so much from the rest of the world.

The fourth and eighth sections of this chapter recall Christ's saying (Matt. viii. 20): "The foxes have holes, and the

p. 156

birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."

Next: Chapter 21