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7 The Qualities of De

De functions in various domains due to its diversity of qualities. Similarly, it is cultivated and manifested in different ways, which all accord with the criteria of the Dao. The figurative depiction of the profundity of De as an innocent infant is a rich contribution to one's understanding of the effects of De. In this regard, chapters 54 and 55 (DDJ) deserve attention.

7.1 (Chapter 54)
He who is good at building cannot be shaken.[1]
He who is good at holding can lose nothing.[2]
Thus his ancestral sacrifice can pass down
From generation to generation.[3]
When cultivated and exercised in the person, De will become pure and genuine.
When cultivated and exercised in the family, De will become full and overflowing.
When cultivated and exercised in the community, De will become constant and everlasting. When cultivated and exercised nationwide, De will become powerful and abundant.
When cultivated and exercised worldwide, De will become universal and widespread.

Therefore, (by taking it as a standard should we)
Use this person to examine other persons,
Use this family to examine other families,
Use this community to examine other communities,
Use this country to examine other countries,
And use this world to examine other worlds.[4]
How do I know the situation of all things under Heaven?
Precisely by the method above-mentioned.

[1] This is possible (according to Lao Zi), for he builds in terms of the Dao.
[2] The same case as with [1].
[3] This indicates the advantage of adhering to De as a code of conduct outwardly and as the demonstration of the Dao in essence. If people are conscious of its significance when it comes to building and holding things, they will encounter no failure, loss or frustration. Instead, they will enjoy continuity of a positive and constructive kind.
[4] "This world" means the world where De as the manifestation of the Dao is cultivated and exercised, while "the other world" is the world where De is not cultivated or exercised yet. Similarly with "this person" and "other persons," "this family" and "other families," "this community" and "other communities," and "this country" and "other countries" in this context.

This chapter can be understood as a moral teaching Lao Zi offers chiefly to the lords, aristocrats and ruling class in general. They will benefit a great deal providing they act upon the Dao themselves and apply it to their conduct of affairs.
De is conceptualized as the manifestation and function of the Dao. When fostered and carried out in accordance with the Dao, De features a wide variety of advantages in myriad realms. Judged respectively from the ethical and social perspectives, for instance, De plays a significant part in the virtuous cultivation of the personality, proper regulation of the family, effective organization of the community, stable government of the country and peaceful environment of the world.
It is worth pointing out that some Chinese scholars (e.g. Ren Jiyu) assert that Lao Zi is preoccupied with the interests of the nobility instead of those of the populace. Accordingly, the benefits and advantages provided by De are confined to a handful of rulers and aristocrats, since ordinary people in his day could not enjoy the sacrifices of their posterity. This is true to some degree. Yet, a scrutiny of the text in question impresses us that Lao Zi's aim is to radiate the Dao and De from person to person, from family to family, from community to community, and from country to country, and finally all over the world. Only by so doing can the world be free from disorder, and its people from suffering.




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