[Reading notes]Huainanzi – Dao/Tao/Way of _____

Keep in mind these are just my reading notes, I do not wish to read the book over and over again to rediscover the key points so I’m just jotting down stuff I find important. They may or may not contradict with each other, but these are just my own understanding of the passage, not necessarily opinion. But hey, my own opinion can contradict too as time go by.

It is hard to find relevance in today’s world, but I wish to take notes and review them regularly and hopefully relate with future events


This passage talks about the nature of human and the benefit tao (I’m sure Tao te Jing is more popular, might be a familiar term, it means the way, the way universe works, the way we interact with nature, the way ____) brings.

It’s saying we are born still, in peace and calm; As we start experience this world our soul start becoming polluted:
When we receive material goods, our soul responds, and wisdom/intelligence start to develop.

(In tao te jing, Lao Tsu advocates suppression of intelligence, he believes intelligence is the source of evil, it tells us to do things the wrong way.)

This passage suggests when intelligence is associated with material goods, we develop opinions, a liking or distaste towards the things we touch, events we experience, over time, we lose ourselves in this material world.

But someone who follows the way of tao does not try to change the nature, and looks to be in harmony with the outside world but their inner self remains with them. Pure and in peace. When they require something, they will obtain it even if they have nothing, they will be invited to dwell even if they are always traveling. The point is, no matter how much they don’t have, such a person is always has what they need.

Because they do not fight with others, people will not be hurt by them, thus no one will compete either because they have no chance.

Now it all sounds very magical but I think it’s just an introduction on what we can expect if we follow the way. The passages that follow provide some examples of people who follow the way of tao as described in other passages and originally from Tao te jing.


No matter how good a fisherman’s fishing rod is. Even if he plants himself beside water all day, he cannot compete with how much he could get using a net. No matter how skillful a bowman is, they cannot catch as many birds with bows and arrows compared to using a net. Why? Because of the size of the tools. Now on this planet earth, what available resource is bigger than the heaven and earth? So if you follow the way of nature, you can catch as much fish and birds as you wish.

So now it is starting to make some sense, now historical examples


People who ignore the way but trusts their intelligent tricks are using the wrong tool for the wrong job.
Emperor Yu knew about the betrayals in his domain, what he did was not to strike. Instead he teared his defenses down, dismissed his army and spread his wealth with the kingdoms nearby. Now there is nothing to gain from him, and because of his generosity everyone respects him and gathered to honor him.


The person with the best vision could barely see further than a hundred feet away, cannot see the fish in the deep blue see. The greatest hearing could not hear more than 10 km away. So no one person can manage the whole three hector of land (including residents). But by trusting the heaven and earth and follow its rule then nothing is impossible. Therefore when Emperor Yu treated flood, he dug new tunnels for water to go and let nature take its course. When Shen nong planted seeds, he used the nature as basis of his teaching.

I think this is important when running a business, and it’s right. We need more than just ourselves to be able to handle the difficulties this world throws at us. Although it is still hard to find a direct example, the underlying message does make sense


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