WHERE the ruler is mum, mum,
The people are simple and happy.
Where the ruler is sharp, sharp,
The people are wily and discontented.
Good fortune is what bad fortune hides in.
Who knows the ultimate end of this process?
Is there no norm of right?
Yet what is normal soon becomes abnormal,
And what is auspicious soon turns ominous.
Long indeed have the people been in a quandary.
carves without disfiguring,
straightens without straining,
enlightens without dazzling.
Translated by John C. H. Wu
Creates the gesture