Man at his birth is supple and weak; at his death, firm and strong. (So it is with) all things. Trees and plants, in their early growth, are soft and brittle; at their death, dry and withered.
Thus it is that firmness and strength are the concomitants of death; softness and weakness, the concomitants of life.
Hence he who (relies on) the strength of his forces does not conquer; and a tree which is strong will fill the out-stretched arms, (and thereby invites the feller.)
Therefore the place of what is firm and strong is below, and that of what is soft and weak is above.
J H McDonald
The living are soft and yielding;
the dead are rigid and stiff.
Living plants are flexible and tender;
the dead are brittle and dry.
Those who are stiff and rigid
are the disciples of death.
Those who are soft and yielding
are the disciples of life.
The rigid and stiff will be broken.
The soft and yielding will overcome.
When man is born, he is tender and weak;
At death, he is hard and stiff.
When the things and plants are alive, they are soft
When they are dead, they are brittle and dry.
Therefore hardness and stiffness are the companions of death,
And softness and gentleness are the companions of life.
Therefore when an army is headstrong, it will lose in a battle.
When a tree is hard, it will be cut down.
The big and strong belong underneath.
The gentle and weak belong at the top.