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Lao Tzu for Everyone

Students, Scholars

& Seekers

Peter Gilboy, Ph.D.

Line 1  天地不仁以萬物為芻狗

Line 2  聖人不仁以百為芻狗

Line 3   天地之間亓猷橐籥輿

Line 虛而不屈動而愈出

Line 5  多聞數窮



What is our
"Straw Dog?"



     In this lesson we encounter an odd term. Lao Tzu says that the world and the sage treat others like "straw dogs."

     In ancient China dogs were sometimes offered in ceremonial sacrifices. Later, the Chinese substituted dog-forms made of grass and straw. These “straw dogs” were then sacrificed and later discarded.


     Keep in mind that these straw dogs were not considered worthless. They were greatly venerated—at least for a time. Then, after the ceremony, they were dispensed with because their forms were no longer necessary.

     Similarly, things and we people have temporary forms, called their “bodies,” which are to be revered for a time because they come into existence through and as the Way. But as with straw dogs, the physical aspect of our own existences eventually comes to an end. The Way endures, but not the organic physicality of things and people.


     So, according to this line and the next, the world and the sage do not concern themselves with the outer husk of the person. In the final line Lao Tzu tells us what is to be highly regarded.



Click on each line number


for Chinese-English interlinear & commentary


The world is not humane.

It treats everything

like straw dogs.





The sage is not humane.

He or she treats the people

like straw dogs.




Is not the space between
heaven and earth

like a bellows?



The space is empty

and yet inexhaustible.

But draw from it and

ever more comes out.




Hearing much leads

to many dead ends.

It is not as good as

heeding what

is already within.


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