Mon, Jun 04, 2018 - Page 9 News List


In fact, the more complete phrase 金玉滿堂,莫之能守 can also be used nowadays. This is a direct quote from Chapter 9 of the ancient Taoist classic dao de jing by Laozi, in which it says: 金玉滿堂,莫之能守;富貴而驕,自遺其咎。功遂身退天之道 (When gold and jade fill the hall, their possessor cannot keep them safe; when wealth and honors lead to arrogance, this brings its evil on itself; when the work is done, and one’s name is becoming distinguished, to withdraw into obscurity is the Way of Heaven.)

This passage exemplifies certain themes explored in the dao de jing, such as relativity; the ephemeral nature of material things and social status; the incompatibility of the Way of Heaven (natural law) with extremes; and the folly of complacency.

In English, the fact that one’s amassed wealth does you little good beyond the grave is neatly expressed by the phrase “you cannot take it with you (when you go).” The caution against complacency is beautifully encapsulated in the quote, “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

In the poem Ozymandias, initially published in the Examiner in London in 1818, the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) imagines a time-shattered statue of a formerly powerful king, dissembled and crumbling in a desert where once his kingdom thrived. Shelley wrote:

“And on the pedestal these words appear:

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)

Why not buy that expensive watch? It’s only money: You can’t take it with you when you go.


Civilizations rise and fall. “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair,” as they say.


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