7 The Qualities of De
De functions in various domains due to its diversity of qualities.
Similarly, it is cultivated and manifested in different ways, which all
accord with the criteria of the Dao. The figurative depiction of the
profundity of De as an innocent infant is a rich contribution to one's
understanding of the effects of De. In this regard, chapters 54 and 55
(DDJ) deserve attention.
He who is good at building cannot be shaken.
He who is good at holding can lose nothing.
Thus his ancestral sacrifice can pass down
From generation to generation.
When cultivated and exercised in the person, De will become pure and
When cultivated and exercised in the family, De will become full and
When cultivated and exercised in the community, De will become constant
and everlasting. When cultivated and exercised nationwide, De will
become powerful and abundant.
When cultivated and exercised worldwide, De will become universal and
(by taking it as a standard should we)
Use this person to examine other persons,
Use this family to examine other families,
Use this community to examine other communities,
Use this country to examine other countries,
And use this world to examine other worlds.
How do I know the situation of all things under Heaven?
Precisely by the method above-mentioned.
 This is possible (according to Lao Zi), for he builds in terms of
 The same case as with .
 This indicates the advantage of adhering to De as a code of conduct
outwardly and as the demonstration of the Dao in essence. If people are
conscious of its significance when it comes to building and holding
things, they will encounter no failure, loss or frustration. Instead,
they will enjoy continuity of a positive and constructive kind.
 "This world" means the world where De as the manifestation of the
Dao is cultivated and exercised, while "the other world" is the world
where De is not cultivated or exercised yet. Similarly with "this
person" and "other persons," "this family" and "other families," "this
community" and "other communities," and "this country" and "other
countries" in this context.
This chapter can be understood as a moral teaching Lao Zi offers
chiefly to the lords, aristocrats and ruling class in general. They
will benefit a great deal providing they act upon the Dao themselves
and apply it to their conduct of affairs.
De is conceptualized as the manifestation and function of the Dao. When
fostered and carried out in accordance with the Dao, De features a wide
variety of advantages in myriad realms. Judged respectively from the
ethical and social perspectives, for instance, De plays a significant
part in the virtuous cultivation of the personality, proper regulation
of the family, effective organization of the community, stable
government of the country and peaceful environment of the world.
It is worth pointing out that some Chinese scholars (e.g. Ren Jiyu)
assert that Lao Zi is preoccupied with the interests of the nobility
instead of those of the populace. Accordingly, the benefits and
advantages provided by De are confined to a handful of rulers and
aristocrats, since ordinary people in his day could not enjoy the
sacrifices of their posterity. This is true to some degree. Yet, a
scrutiny of the text in question impresses us that Lao Zi's aim is to
radiate the Dao and De from person to person, from family to family,
from community to community, and from country to country, and finally
all over the world. Only by so doing can the world be free from
disorder, and its people from suffering.