Reading Laozi 读老子 – Bai Juyi

On Reading Laozi

He who speaks does not know,
I heard these words from Laozi.
Why then, if the old man knew,
Did it take five thousand words?



Dú lǎozi

Yán zhě bùrú zhì zhě mò
cǐ yǔ wú wén yú lǎo jūn
ruò dào lǎo jūn shì zhì zhě
yuánhé zì zhe wǔqiān wén


Tongue in cheek, Bai Juyi identifies Laozi by name in the title, literally, Old Master, and as the old man ( 老君 , Laojun) in line three.

Laozi, literally “Old Master”, also Lao Tzu and Lao-Tze, was an ancient Chinese philosopher (6th or 4th century BC, as scholars disagree), founder of Taoism, the Way (道, Dào) and author of the Tao Te Ching, a text of some 5,000 Chinese characters in 81 chapters.

Because the fifty-sixth chapter of the Tao Te Ching says that “the knower does not speak, the speaker does not know”, so Bai Juyi presents the paradox question, if the old man knows why so many words? *

* Tao Te Ching, Chapter 56
Those who know talk not,
Those who talk know not.
Blockading its exchanges,
Confining its ideals,
Moderating its ingenuity,
Unraveling its complexity,
Softening its intensity,
Is but merging into its ubiquity,
That is the intricacy of ubiquity…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s