Chapter 61 The attribute of humility

大國者下流,天下之交,天下之牝。牝常以靜勝牡,以靜為下。故大國以下小國,則取小國;小國以下大國,則取大國。故或下以取,或下而取。大國不過欲兼畜人,小國不過欲入事人。夫兩者各得其所欲,大者宜為下。

1. What makes a great state is its being (like) a low-lying, down- flowing (stream); — it becomes the center to which tend (all the small states) under heaven.

2. (To illustrate from) the case of all females: — the female always overcomes the male by her stillness. Stillness may be considered (a sort of) abasement.

3. Thus it is that a great state, by condescending to small states, gains them for itself; and that small states, by abasing themselves to a great state, win it over to them. In the one case the abasement leads to gaining adherents, in the other case to procuring favor.

4. The great state only wishes to unite men together and nourish them; a small state only wishes to be received by, and to serve, the other. Each gets what it desires, but the great state must learn to abase itself.

Derek Lin

The large country is like the lowest river
The converging point of the world
The receptive female of the world
The female always overcomes the male with serenity
Using serenity as the lower position

Thus if the large country is lower than the small country
Then it can take the small country
If the small country is lower than the large country
Then it can be taken by the large country
Thus one uses the lower position to take
The other uses the lower position to be taken
The large country only wishes to gather and protect people
The small country only wishes to join and serve people
So that both obtain what they wish
The larger one should assume the lower position

Peter Merel

A nation is like a hierarchy, a marketplace, and a maiden.
A maiden wins her husband by submitting to his advances;
Submission is a means of union.
So when a large country submits to a small country
It will adopt the small country;
When a small country submits to a large country
It will be adopted by the large country;
The one submits and adopts;
The other submits and is adopted.
It is in the interest of a large country to unite and gain service,
And in the interest of a small country to unite and gain patronage;
If both would serve their interests,
Both must submit.