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Freedom Founts

Source Materials About Freedom


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.

Legge's Comments

任信, 'Things to be Believed.' It is difficult to give a short and appropriate translation of this title. The chapter shows how the most unlikely results follow from action according to the Dào.

Par. 1. Water was Lǎozǐ's favourite emblem of the Dào. Compare chapters 8, 66, et al.

Par 2. Compare ch. 36, par. 2.

Par. 3. Of course we do not know who the sage was from whom Lǎozǐ got the lines of this paragraph. They may suggest to some readers the lines of Burns, as they have done to me:—

'The honest man, though e'er so poor,
    Is king o' men for a' that.'

But the Daoist of Lǎozǐ is a higher ideal than Burns's honest man.

Par. 4 is separated from this chapter, and made to begin the next by Wú Chéng.