chapter
5 Pages

Wuwei (Wu-wei): Taking No Action by Chad HANSEN

Laozi’s famous slogan has puzzled interpreters for centuries and has given rise to numerous interpretations. Arguably, Laozi knew it was paradoxical, since the complete slogan is wuwei and yet wu not-wei. The first character is not the main problem. Wu is simply “does not exist.” In this phrase, however, interpreters treat it as a negative prescription: “avoid wei.” Chinese texts include many similar uses, and we commonly read other declarative sentences in the Laozi as prescriptions. So let us take it as saying that one should lack wei-whatever that is. The harder problem is to understand wei.