[Ads-l] A Chinese Proverb of dubious provenance

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Mon Nov 3 21:48:41 UTC 2014


According to https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Laozi <https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Laozi>, this quote is from Dàodéjīng (Tao Te Ching), generally attributed to Lǎozǐ (Lao-Tsu).

Quoted there from Chapter 17:

A leader is best when people barely know that he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, "We did this ourselves."

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA

Learn Ainu! https://sites.google.com/site/aynuitak1/home

> On Nov 1, 2014, at 1:26 PM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at ix.netcom.com> wrote:
> 
> Just a guess, but it sounds like a paraphrasing of wuwei (无为 wúwéi) or wei wu wei (为无为?). The term is on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_wei <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_wei>) but not the Oxford Dictionary site or Wiktionary. 
> 
> Wúwéi is well attested in English. The earliest mention I see is 1853 or 1854 (http://bit.ly/1wTiS3o <http://bit.ly/1wTiS3o>):
> 
> -----
> Article IV. Notice of the Wu-Wei-Kiau.
> Transactions of the China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Parts 4-6:
> 
> p. 63: The phrase “Wu-wei,”—to do nothing,—occurs in the writings of the early Tauists, long before Buddhism appeared in China.
> 
> p. 64: I give another quotation—it is from the second of the great Tauist authors, Chwang-tsi: “The way of heaven,” he says, “is not to act, (wu-wei,) and therein and thereby to be the most honoured of all things. The way of men is to act (yeu-wei,) and to be involved in trouble."
> ——
> 
> I didn’t search for earlier mentions of the Wu-Wei-Kiau/Kiao (无为教) sect.
> 
> Chwang-tsi appears to be Zhuang Zhou (Zhuāngzǐ) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhuang_Zhou <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhuang_Zhou>). I imagine that yeu-wei is 有為 (yǒuwéi).
> 
> Benjamin Barrett
> Formerly of Seattle, WA
> 
> Learn Ainu! https://sites.google.com/site/aynuitak1/home <https://sites.google.com/site/aynuitak1/home>
>> On Nov 1, 2014, at 8:53 AM, George Thompson <george.thompson at nyu.edu <mailto:george.thompson at nyu.edu>> wrote:
>> 
>> The punch line of an obituary in yesterday's (Friday, October 30) NYTimes
>> -- "Warren Anderson, 92, Dies; Faced India Plant Disaster"
>> 
>> In 1984, an article in The Times said that in dealing with Bhopal, Union
>> Carbide, which is now part of Dow Chemical, had to find a balance between
>> =E2=80=9Cthe instincts of human compassion, the demands of public relations=
>> and the
>> dictates of corporate survival.=E2=80=9D  The article noted that a paperwei=
>> ght on
>> Mr. Anderson=E2=80=99s desk quoted his favorite Chinese proverb, suggesting=
>> his
>> preferred light-handed approach: =E2=80=9CLeader is best when people barely=
>> know he
>> exists.=E2=80=9D
>> 
>> GAT
> 


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