Dao de Jing: The Book of the Way

By Laozi; Moss Roberts | Go to book overview

STANZA 61
1. A mighty kingdom stays downstream,
2. Female of this world below,
3. Where all courses intersect.
4. Dam holding still has ever conquered sire.
5. But to hold herself still
6. She must remain below.
7. By lying below a small kingdom
8. A great one takes it over.
9. By lying below a great kingdom
10. A small state is taken over.
11. By moving lower the greater takes over.
12. Lying low the smaller is taken over.
13. A great kingdom seeks no more
14. Than to absorb and protect.
15. A small state no more than to enter its service.
16. Thus for both to fulfill their desire
17. Lower must the greater lie.

COMMENT The water imagery in this stanza evokes the closing lines of stanza 32, “The Way's a presence in the realm of men, / As valley streams join rivers, then the ocean, and also relates to the neighboring antiwar stanzas, 30 and 31. Stanza 60 addresses internal policy; this one, external affairs. The two stanzas seem to form a set. Neither is found in the Guodian text.

In this stanza Laozi urges great rulers to find a benign balance in relation to unequals, both stronger and weaker, rather than pursue a course of conquest. Gu Li argues that such a position reflects the late Spring and Autumn political context rather than a middle or late Warring States context. The stanza fits into a world of hege

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