Tao Te Ching #80: “the people go back to simple techniques”

A small state has few people.
It has the people keep arms
but not use them.
It has them regard death gravely
and not go on distant campaigns.
Even if they have vehicles,
they have nowhere to drive them.
Even if they have weapons,
they have nowhere to use them.
It has the people go back to simple techniques,
relish their food,
like their clothes,
be comfortable in their ways,
and enjoy their work.
Neighboring states may be so close
they can hear each other’s dogs and roosters,
but they make it so that the people
have never gone back and forth.

– Thomas Cleary


Imagine a small state with a small population
let there be labor-saving tools
that aren’t used
let people consider death
and not move far
let there be boats and carts
but no reason to ride them
let there be armor and weapons
but no reason to employ them
let people return to the use of knots
and be satisfied with their food
and pleased with their clothing
and content with their homes
and happy with their customs
let there be another state so near
people hear its dogs and chickens
but live out their lives
without making a visit

– Red Pine


Keep the kingdom small, its people few;
Make sure they have no use for tools
That do the work of tens or hundreds.
Nor let the people travel far
And leave their homes and risk their lives.
Boat or cart, if kept at all, best not to ride;
Shield and blade best not to show.
Guide them back to early times,
When knotted cords served for signs,
And they took relish in their food
And delight in their dress,
Secure in their dwellings,
Content in their customs,
Although a neighbor kingdom stood in view
And the barnyard cries of cocks and dogs
Echoed from village to village,
Their folk would never traffic to and fro—
Never, to the last of their days.

– Moss Roberts