A large country is like low land where rivers flow,
a place where everything comes together, the female of all.
The female overcomes the male with tranquillity.
Tranquillity is underneath.
A large country wins over a small country
by placing itself below the small country.
A small country wins over a large country
by placing itself below the large country.

Thus some win by placing themselves below,
and others win by being below.
A large country wants to protect people,
and a small country wants to join and serve.
Thus both get what they want.
It is best for the large country to place itself below.

The Way is sacred to all things.
It is treasure for the good and sanctuary for the bad.
Fine words can buy honor.
Good deeds can gain respect.
Though there be bad people, why reject them?

Therefore at the crowning of the emperor
or at the installation of the three ministers,
instead of sending gifts of jade and a team of four horses,
remain still and send the Way.

Why did the ancients prize this Way?
Did they not say, "Seek, and you will find;
let go, and you will be forgiven."
Therefore the Way is valued by the world.

Act without interfering.
Work without doing.
Taste the tasteless.
Large or small, many or few, repay injury with goodness.

Handle the difficult while it is still easy.
Handle the big while it is still small.
Difficult tasks begin with what is easy.
Great accomplishments begin with what is small.

Therefore the wise never strive for the great
and thus achieve greatness.
Rash promises inspire little trust.
Taking things too lightly results in much difficulty.
Thus the wise always confront difficulties
and therefore have no difficulty.

What stays still is easy to hold.
Without omens it is easy to plan.
The brittle is easy to shatter.
The minute is easy to scatter.
Handle things before they appear.
Organize things before there is confusion.
A tree as big as a person's embrace grows from a tiny shoot.
A tower nine stories high begins with a mound of earth.
A journey of a thousand miles begins under one's feet.

To act is to fail.
To grab is to lose.
Therefore the wise do not act and do not fail.
They do not grab and do not lose.
In handling things people usually fail
when they are about to succeed.
Be as careful at the end as at the beginning,
and there will be no failure.

Therefore the wise desire to have no desires.
They do not value rare treasures.
They learn what is unknown,
returning to what many have missed
so that all things may be natural without interference.

The ancients who ruled skillfully
did not try to enlighten people but kept them in the dark.
People are hard to lead when they are too clever.
Those who lead with cleverness rob the country.
Those who lead without cleverness bless the country.
Understanding these two is to know the eternal standard.
Knowing the eternal standard is mystical power.
Mystical power is deep and far-reaching,
leading all things to return to perfect harmony.

Great rivers and seas are lords of all mountain streams,
because they are good at staying below them.
Therefore they are lords of the streams.
Thus the wise in watching over the people
speak humbly from below the people,
and in leading the people get behind them.
In this way the wise watch over the people
but do not oppress them;
they lead the people but do not block them.
Thus everyone happily goes along without getting tired.
Because they do not compete,
the world cannot compete with them.

Everyone says the Way is great and beyond comparison.
Because it is great, it cannot be compared.
If it were compared, it already would have seemed small.

I have three treasures to be maintained and cherished:
the first is love;
the second is frugality;
the third is not pushing oneself ahead of others.

From love comes courage;
from frugality comes generosity;
from not pushing oneself ahead of others comes leadership.

Now courage without love, generosity without frugality,
and leadership by pushing oneself ahead of others are fatal.
For love wins all battles and is the strongest defense.
Heaven gives love to save and protect.

The best soldier is not violent.
The best fighter is not angry.
The best winner is not contentious.
The best employer is humble.
This is known as the power of not striving,
as ability in human relations,
and as being in accord with heaven.

The strategists say,
"Do not be the aggressor but the defender.
Do not advance an inch, but retreat a foot instead."
This is movement without moving,
stretching the arm without showing it,
confronting enemies with the idea there is no enemy,
holding in the hand no weapons.
No disaster is greater than underestimating the enemy.
Underestimating the enemy will destroy my treasures.
Thus when the battle is joined,
it is the kind who will win.

My ideas are easy to understand and easy to practice.
Yet no one understands them or practices them.
My ideas have a source; my actions have a master.
Because people do not understand this, they do not know me.
Since few know me, I am very precious.
Therefore the wise wear coarse clothes
and keep the jewel inside.