Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching Chapter 69

Translations at a glance

J Legge    J H McDonald   Lin Yutang

Tao Te Ching Chapter 69

J Legge

A master of the art of war has said, ‘I do not dare to be the host (to commence the war); I prefer to be the guest (to act on the defensive). I do not dare to advance an inch; I prefer to retire a foot.’ This is called marshalling the ranks where there are no ranks; baring the arms (to fight) where there are no arms to bare; grasping the weapon where there is no weapon to grasp; advancing against the enemy where there is no enemy.

There is no calamity greater than lightly engaging in war. To do that is near losing (the gentleness) which is so precious. Thus it is that when opposing weapons are (actually) crossed, he who deplores (the situation) conquers.

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 Tao Te Ching Chapter 69

J H McDonald

There is an old saying:
“It is better to become the passive
in order to see what will happen.
It is better to retreat a foot
than to advance only an inch.”

This is called
being flexible while advancing,
pushing back without using force,
and destroying the enemy without engaging him.
There is no greater disaster
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means losing your greatest assets.
When equal forces meet in battle,
victory will go to the one
that enters with the greatest sorrow.

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 Tao Te Ching Chapter 69

Lin Yutang

There is the maxim of military strategists;
I dare not be the first to invade, but rather be the invaded.
Dare not press forward an inch, but rather retreat a foot.
That is, to march without formations,
To roll up the sleeves,
To charge not in frontal attacks,
To arm without weapons.
There is no greater catastrophe than to underestimate the enemy.
To underestimate the enemy might entail the loss of my treasures.
Therefore when two equally matched armies meet,
It is the man of sorrow who wins.

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