1. Man at his birth is supple and weak; at his death, firm and strong. (So it is with) all things. Trees and plants, in their early growth, are soft and brittle; at their death, dry and withered.
2. Thus it is that firmness and strength are the concomitants of death; softness and weakness, the concomitants of life.
3. Hence he who (relies on) the strength of his forces does not conquer; and a tree which is strong will fill the out-stretched arms, (and thereby invites the feller.)
4. Therefore the place of what is firm and strong is below, and that of what is soft and weak is above.
戒強, 'A Warning against (trusting in) Strength.' To trust in one's force is contrary to the Dào, whose strength is more in weakness and humility.
In par. 1 the two characters which I have rendered by '(so it is with) all things' are found in the texts of both Héshàng Gōng and Wáng Bì, but Wú Chéng and Jiāo Hóng both reject them. I should also have neglected them, but they are also found in Liú Xiàng's Shuō Yuàn (X, 4 a), with all the rest of pars. 1 and 2, as from Lǎozǐ. They are an anakoluthon, such as is elsewhere found in our Jīng; e.g. 天 下 之 牝 in ch. 21, par. 21.
The 'above' and 'below' in par. 4 seem to be merely a play on the words, as capable of meaning 'more and less honourable.'
This must be a typographical error in Legge's original. The characters 天下之牝 appear in chapter 61, par. 2. The link above is to the latter. [Freedom Circle note] ↩︎