Chapter 78 Things to be believed

天下莫柔弱於水,而攻堅強者莫之能勝,其無以易之。弱之勝強,柔之勝剛,天下莫不知,莫能行。是以聖人云:受國之垢,是謂社稷主;受國不祥,是謂天下王。正言若反。

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.’

4. Words that are strictly true seem to be paradoxical.

Derek Lin

Nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water
Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong
This is because nothing can replace it

That the weak overcomes the strong
And the soft overcomes the hard
Everybody in the world knows
But cannot put into practice

Therefore sages say:
The one who accepts the humiliation of the state
Is called its master
The one who accepts the misfortune of the state
Becomes king of the world
The truth seems like the opposite

Peter Merel

Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water,
Yet nothing can better overcome the hard and strong,
For they can neither control nor do away with it.
The soft overcomes the hard,
The yielding overcomes the strong;
Every person knows this,
But no one can practice it.
Who attends to the people would control the land and grain;
Who attends to the state would control the whole world;
Truth is easily hidden by rhetoric.