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Tao Quotes on
Rulers and Government

Quotes from the Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Tao Te Ching


Here are quotes from the Tao Te Ching, the Taoist classic, about rulers and government. To see the whole quoted chapter, click the chapter link within brackets.



Virtuous Ruling

Can you care for the people and rule the country and not be cunning?


He who treasures his body as much as the world can care for the world.


He who loves his body as much as the world can be entrusted with the world.


In the world there are four greats, and the king is one of them.


Good leaders reach solutions, and then stop. They do not dare to rely on force.


If princes and kings could follow it (Tao), all things would by themselves abide, Heaven and Earth would unite and sweet dew would fall. People would by themselves find harmony, without being commanded.


If princes and kings were not exalted they might be overthrown.


What people loathe the most is to be orphaned, desolate, unworthy. But this is what princes and kings call themselves.


Cultivate virtue in the town, and it will be lasting.


Cultivate virtue in the country, and it will be abundant.


Cultivate virtue in the world, and it will be universal.


The one who rules like the mother lasts long.


Ruling a great country is like cooking a small fish.


When the world is ruled according to the Way, the ghosts lose their power. The ghosts do not really lose their power, but it is not used to harm people.


When the emperor is crowned or the three dukes are appointed, rather than sending a gift of jade carried by four horses, remain still and offer the Way.


When the sage stands above people, they are not oppressed. When he leads people, they are not obstructed. The world will exalt him and not grow tired of him.


By not claiming to be first in the world one can rule.


Excellent leaders of people lower themselves.


To bear the country’s disgrace is to rule the shrines of soil and grain. To bear the country’s misfortunes is to be the king of the world.


Rules for Rulers

The supreme rulers are hardly known by their subjects. The lesser are loved and praised. The even lesser are feared. The least are despised.


In lightness the root is lost. In haste the ruler is lost.


As soon as rules were made, names were given. There are already many names. One must know when it is enough.


The more restrictions and prohibitions there are, the poorer the people will be.


The more sharp weapons people have in a country, the bigger the disorder will be.


The more laws and commands there are, the more thieves and robbers there will be.


When the government is quite unobtrusive, people are indeed pure. When the government is quite prying, people are indeed conniving.


If a great country yields to a small country, it will conquer the small country. If a small country yields to a great country, it will be conquered by the great country.


A great country needs more people to serve it. A small country needs more people to serve. So, if both shall get what they need, the great country ought to yield.


To rule by knowledge ravages the country.


To be brave without compassion, generous without moderation, and rule without refraining from being first in the world, are certain deaths.


When people do not dread authorities, then a greater dread descends.


Do not make them (people) weary at their work. If you do not make them weary, they will not be weary of you.


People are hard to govern. The rulers interfere with too much. That is why people are hard to govern.



Tao Quote Categories

Here are the 388 quotes extracted from the Tao Te ching, sorted by topics. Each quote has a reference to its chapter in the book.





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