I know how birds can fly, fishes swim, and animals run. The runner may be snared, the swimmer hooked, and the flyer shot by the arrow. But there is the dragon: I cannot tell how he mounts on the wind through the clouds, and rises to heaven. Today I have seen Lao-tzu, and can only compare him to the dragon.
— Confucius (attributed)
Laozi (older transliterations include Lao Tse, Lao-Tsu) was a Chinese philosopher, the author of Daodejing
(Tao Te Ching
), which, tradition says, he wrote while going into exile, at the request of one of the guards of the kingdom, and which is the central document of Daoism (Taoism
As the quote shows, Daoism was big on The Only Way They Will Learn
. Heavily favoring peace and quietness, the ideal ruler (or Reasonable Authority Figure
) will lead people into peace and prosperity so gently that they are unaware of his existence; a king the people proclaim is good is only second best. Politically-minded readers will recognise this as one of the earliest forms of what later became known as free-market 'Classical Liberalism'
, with many Chinese states after Laozi ruling with a very 'light' touch (few taxes, little bureaucracy, etcetc). Many men have cited him as their reason why they prefer Home Sweet Home
to the dangers of the Deadly Decadent Court
Traditionally, he is said to have lived from 600 BC to 470 BC, contemperously with Confucius
(hence the page quote); historians generally think he either is a mythic figure, with the Daodejing
actually being a compilation, or actually lived in 4th century BC.
Tropes featured in Daodejing
- Ambition Is Evil: Sanctioning it is the greatest guilt.
- Evil Weapon: All weapons.
Now arms, however beautiful, are instruments of evil omen, hateful, it may be said, to all creatures.
- Home Sweet Home: A calm and frugal life are worthy of respect.
- Making a Splash: Water's ability to wear down things get extensive play.
- The Quiet One
Abstaining from speech marks him who is obeying the spontaneity of his nature.
- Tears of Remorse: Appropriate for a successful general.
- Walking the Earth: As long as you're not going anywhere in particular
- War Is Hell
he who delights in the slaughter of men cannot get his will in the kingdom.