Tao Te Ching

-> Meaning

Parable of the Small Fish


    Governing a great state is like cooking small fish.
    Let the kingdom be governed according to the Tao...
    (Tao-te ching, chap. 60, Legge's version)


Commenting upon the first line, D.C. Lau states that this is "a famous but obscure line" and explains it in a footnote: "a small fish can be spoiled simply by being handled". Still it's difficult to understand what is the connection between handle a small fish and governing a kingdom. Perhaps D.C. Lau intended to say that the ruler shouldn't mingle with the affairs of the kingdom in order to be a good ruler. But isn't it weird to preach a non intervention of the ruler in the affairs of his kingdom?

If we consider the phrase "Let the kingdom be governed according to the Tao", we may understand the significance of the first obscure line. In short, it's meaning is: When the Kingdom is governed according to the Tao, the act of governing is a very simple matter, like cooking a small fish!

Indeed this is the explanation of the first line. The ruler practices the nondoing (wu-wei) and everything enter the right path/way without effort. Jhian Yang

For the comments of D.C. Lau see

Paper by Jhian

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