Translations at a glance

J Legge    J H McDonald   Lin Yutang

Tao Te Ching Chapter 78

J Legge

There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water, and yet for attacking things that are firm and strong there is nothing that can take precedence of it;–for there is nothing (so effectual) for which it can be changed.

Every one in the world knows that the soft overcomes the hard, and the weak the strong, but no one is able to carry it out in practice.

Therefore a sage has said,
‘He who accepts his state’s reproach,
Is hailed therefore its altars’ lord;
To him who bears men’s direful woes
They all the name of King accord.’

Words that are strictly true seem to be paradoxical.

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 Tao Te Ching Chapter 78

J H McDonald

Water is the softest and most yielding substance.
Yet nothing is better than water,
for overcoming the hard and rigid,
because nothing can compete with it.

Everyone knows that the soft and yielding
overcomes the rigid and hard,
but few can put this knowledge into practice.

Therefore the Master says:
“Only he who is the lowest servant of the kingdom,
is worthy to become its ruler.
He who is willing tackle the most unpleasant tasks,
is the best ruler in the world.”

True sayings seem contradictory.

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 Tao Te Ching Chapter 78

Lin Yutang

There is nothing weaker than water
But none is superior to it in overcoming the hard,
For which there is no substitute.
That weakness overcomes strength
And gentleness overcomes rigidity,
No one does not know;
No one can put into practice.

Therefore the Sage says:
“Who receives unto himself the calumny of the world
Is the preserver of the state.
Who bears himself the sins of the world
Is king of the world.”
Straight words seem crooked.

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