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Dao De Jing [Tao Te Ching]

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Chapter 61

The Attribute of Humility

The Virtue of Humility / The Virtue of Humility

  Original Legge's Translation Susuki's Translation Goddard's Translation
1 What makes a great state is its being (like) a low-lying, down- flowing (stream);--it becomes the centre to which tend (all the small states) under heaven. A great state, one that lowly flows, becomes the empire's union, and the empire's wife. A great state that is useful is like a bond of unity within the Empire; it is the Empire's wife.

(To illustrate from) the case of all females:--the female always overcomes the male by her stillness. Stillness may be considered (a
sort of) abasement.

The wife always through quietude conquers her husband, and by quietude renders herself lowly.

The female controls the male by her quietude and submission.


Thus it is that a great state, by condescending to small states, gains them for itself; and that small states, by abasing themselves to
a great state, win it over to them.

Thus a great state through lowliness toward small states will conquer the small states, and small states through lowliness toward great states will conquer great states.

Thus a great state by its service to smaller states wins their allegiance. A small state by submission to a great state wins an influence over them.


In the one case the abasement leads to gaining adherents, in the other case to procuring favour.

Therefore some render themselves lowly for the purpose of conquering; others are lowly and therefore conquer.

Thus some stoop to conquer, and others stoop and conquer.

5 The great state only wishes to unite men together and nourish them; a small state only wishes to be received by, and to serve, the other. Each gets what it desires, but the great state must learn to abase itself. A great state desires no more than to unite and feed the people; a small state desires no more than to devote itself to the service of the people; but that both may obtain their wishes, the greater one must stoop. Great states can have no higher purpose than to federate states and feed the people. Small states can have no higher purpose than to enter a federation and serve the people. Both alike, each in his own way, gain their end, but to do so, the greater must practice humility.
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