July 14th, 2010



A great country is like low land.
It is the meeting ground of the universe,
The mother of the universe.

The female overcomes the male with stillness,
Lying low in stillness.

Therefore if a great country gives way to a smaller country,
It will conquer the smaller country.
And if a small country submits to a great country,
It can conquer the great country.
Therefore those who would conquer must yield,
And those who conquer do so because they yield.

A great nation needs more people;
A small country needs to serve.
Each gets what it wants.
It is fitting for a great nation to yield.
Power flows down
to every level of existence
like a river to the ocean.

Victory comes
from lying perfectly still
and waiting for power
to come your way.

If you yield to someone
less powerful than yourself,
you will be in a position
to influence them.

If you submit to someone
more powerful than yourself,
you create an opportunity
to get your own way.

So if you want to get ahead,
lay low and bide your time.
That way, everybody's happy.

The first version is from the Fortune files. The second version is the Beatrice Tao.

Chapter 61

A greater nation must be humble and like a reservoir
Where all the waters join together.
It is the passivity of the universe.
Passivity always prevails over activity through quiescence.
Quiescence is humble before activity.
When a greater nation is humble before a lesser nation,
It prevails over the lesser nation.
When a lesser nation is humble before a greater nation,
It prevails over the greater nation.
Thus by being humble one prevails over others.
Or, by being ordinary in a lower position,
One prevails over others.
A greater nation simply likes to bring people together
And to nurture them.
A lesser nation simply likes to participate
And work together with others.
In this way, both have what they like,
But the greater nation must be humble.

           Translation by Chang Chung-yuan, 1975.