The Traditional Chinese Reading Style:

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Things to be believed - Version One

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.

Things to be believed - Version Two

Nothing in the world is more weak and soft than water, yet nothing surpasses it in conquering the hard and strong – there is nothing that can compare. All know that the weak conquers the strong and the soft conquers the hard. But none are able to act on this.

Thus the sage says that he who receives the derision of the state is the lord of
the state altars; he who receives the misfortune of the state is the king
of the world.

Straight words seem to reverse themselves.


  1. James Legge (1891). Tao Te Ching. Lao Tsu, Chinese Text Project
  2. Gia-Fu Feng (1972). Tao Te Ching. Lao Tsu
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