Translations at a glance

J Legge    J H McDonald   Lin Yutang

Tao Te Ching Chapter 61

J Legge

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. (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.

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

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.

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 Tao Te Ching Chapter 61

J H McDonald

A large country should take the low place like a great watershed,
which from its low position assumes the female role.
The female overcomes the male by the power of her position.
Her tranquility gives rise to her humility.
If a large country takes the low position,
it will be able to influence smaller countries.
If smaller countries take the lower position,
then they can allow themselves to be influenced.
So both seek to take the lower position
in order to influence the other, or be influenced.

Large countries should desire to protect and help the people,
and small countries should desire to serve others.
Both large and small countries benefit greatly from humility.

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 Tao Te Ching Chapter 61

Lin Yutang

A big country (should be like) the delta low-regions,
Being the concourse of the world,
(And) the Female of the world.
The Female overcomes the Male by quietude,
And achieves the lowly position by quietude.

Therefore if a big country places itself below a small country
It absorbs the small country.
(And) if a small country places itself below a big country,
It absorbs the big country.
Therefore some place themselves low to absorb (others),
Some are (naturally) low and absorb (others).
What a big country wants is but to shelter others,
And what a small country wants is but to be able to
come in and be sheltered.
Thus (considering) that both may have what they want,
A big country ought to place itself low.

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