Laozi is said to have written the Daodejing after retiring from his position as the chief court librarian for the Eastern Zhou Dynasty out of despair at the decadence and corruption he saw around him.
In this passage, you can sense his frustration and sense of powerlessness at having his teachings ignored, even if he does try to find some consolation in the thought that he is “treasured.” It’s no wonder, therefore, that after finishing his tome he is believed to have cut himself off from the world and lived as a hermit.
My words are very easy to understand and to practice.
But no one in the world can understand and practice them.
My words have their own source.
My deeds have their own master.
It is only because people do not understand this,
That they fail to understand me.
That so few people understand me is why I am treasured.
For this reason, the wise wear coarse clothes but conceal jade underneath them.