Translating Ancient Chinese Wisdom into Medicine for Today

Cultivating Yin

…to contemplate and cultivate Yin…

Laozi (and Wang Bi and Heshanggong) on Wei Wuwei






1. Not placing worthies above everybody else keeps the common people from arguing. Not valuing goods that are difficult to obtain keeps the common people from becoming thieves. Not putting desirable things on display keeps their hearts from being disordered.

2. For this reason the sages govern by emptying the common people’s hearts and filling their bellies, by weakening their wills and strengthening their bones.

3. They constantly make the common people be without knowledge and without wants and make those who know not dare to act on account of that.

4. By enacting non-action, there is nothing that is not put in good order.

Paraphrasing Wang Bi:

  • The heart treasures wisdom and the belly treasures food. This line refers to making that which has wisdom empty and making that which is without knowledge full.

  • The bones get things done without knowledge, while the will causes disorder by creating tasks. When the heart is empty, the will is weak.

  • Keeping the people without knowledge and without wants safeguards their true nature.

Paraphrasing Heshanggong:

  • What the world refers to as “worthy” are people who are skilled at differentiating words and elucidating written texts, who are far from the Dào and have replaced quality with reliance on texts.

  • When the lords are not driven by gems and treasures, gold will be left in the mountains and jade abandoned in deep ponds. When the leaders above transform with purity and stillness (清靜), there are no poor people below.

  • Emptying the heart means abandoning wants and cravings and leaving disorder and strife behind. Filling the belly means treasuring the Dào, embracing the One, and safeguarding the five spirits. Weakening the will means yielding with humility instead of enforcing one’s authority.

  • When the people return to simplicity and purity and those in the know are profound in their thinking, they do not speak lightly.

Sabine WilmsComment