Less humorous is the worldview offered up in the Tao Te Ching, i.e. that the world is made up of rulers, sages, and the everyday human being should be kept empty-minded and well fed. Although a classic, the Tao Te Ching is one of those documents that fell out of favor during the Cultural Revolution with the Communists. However, the Chinese still hold on to that same idea i.e. most Chinese lack the right to free speech or to vote .
The Tao Te Ching or Book of Changes, is most noted as an anthology of wisdom that developed since before their earliest empire[2;3].
The use of divination in society reveals a society uncertain about its future and shows how much leaders relied on advice from history texts, experience and from sages. Why the uncertainty? The region in which the Zhou Empire arose is still subject to flooding, earthquakes and troubled crops and continual warfare from the borders China shares with many countries.
By the time of the Lao Tzu version of the Tao Te Ching, a codified set of wisdom presented the wise way a ruler should rule instead of the need for individual oracles for every decision. In reading the Tao Te Ching and considering it standalone, one can tell many things about the culture.
Before the first Chinese Empire, the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu was well established. Sages knew that knowledge is not a construct of society—the desire to escape endless talk [1,22], artifice of language[1, 20], and to observe nature is present throughout many of the chapters. Life centered around a city, homes had doors with locks against thieves [1,27] and persons worried about their reputation[1,17;1,22]. The ruler of the empire [1,15] had many chariots and warriors (10,000) and traveled with baggage in wagons[1,26] to see events like the Great Sacrifice or the Spring Festival [1,20]. Sages could be free of all society, but still subject to a ruler’s will. They believed that to do little to make society run in an ordered, seamless fashion, a ruler must plan for potential events. War, and the breakdown of society was the worst event and a ruler should oppose conquest [1,30].
The translation notes explain how the original language adds cultural knowledge, i.e. the idea of a child giving a sign of future jobs [1, 20]
As poetry, the Tao Te Ching works because of repetition of words to connect thought [1,1; 1,4] and phrases to establish rhythm [1, 22]. Many chapters rely on extended metaphor to present the timelessness of nature, the place of humans [1,8;1,23] or to evoke imagery [1,8]. Some of the chapters are presented in prose poem form[1,23]. Others evoke the physical and emotional reactions of the sage i.e. “concentrate breath soft like a child”[1,10] or knowledge of stance[1,24].
When author and poet Tony Hoagland discusses the lack of metaphor among well-known literary figures, it seems especially remarkable to find beautiful extended metaphors in the Tao Te Ching.
For some, the theme of the Tao Te Ching is the timelessness and eternity of the world outside of humans and their society, for others, that humans will always be much smaller than anything they create or that human emotion is always of little importance. Many chapters of the Tao Te Ching present opposing forces including yin and yang and temperature [1,2]. An essential function of plot, pacing and good story revolves around conflict, many arising out of those same oppositions. The most successful plots often concern conflict arising between human vs. self, human vs. society, human vs. government, and human vs. environment.
Overall, because of the 64 combinations of natural forces (i.e. water, heaven, earth) used in divinations, an author could use them to plan their story or poem, quote from them or use the Tao Te Ching to gain insight into likely outcomes. Or an author could follow a character through a path to warfare or love. Or the Tao Te Ching could offer a better understanding of the changing and unchanging nature of Chinese culture or nature. This is why the Tao Te Ching is a usable classic piece of literature, today.
 Lao Tzu, ed. Tom Griffith, Tao Te Ching, Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1997*
 Lao Tzu, ed. Arthur Waley, The Way and Its Power, Grove Press, 1958
 Michael Nylan, “The Five Confucian Classics”, Yale University Press, 2001
 Oliver Perrottet, “The Visual I Ching”, Charles Tuttle Co., Inc, 1997
 Constitution of the Chinese Government, 2012
 Tony Hoagland, “Real Sophistikashun”, Graywolf Press, 2006