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The Tao Teh King: A Short Study in Comparative Religion, by C. Spurgeon Medhurst, [1905], at

p. 125


At birth man is supple and weak, at death rigid and strong. So with inanimate nature—say the vegetable creation—in its early growth it is pliable and brittle, at death it is decayed and withered. It follows that rigidity and strength are the way to death; pliability and gentleness the way to life.

Hence a soldier who is arrogant cannot conquer; the tree which is strong is doomed. 1

The firm and the great occupy the lower place, the pliable and the meek 2 the higher.

"Man has a thousand purposes. Death comes one morning and ten thousand wait." "Man has a thousand, a myriad plans for himself; God has only one plan for him." In these Chinese proverbs we find the aroma of the present chapter. Translated into the more prosaic language of the West we express the root idea of Lao-tzu's aphorisms thus: Whatever makes for the increase of self leads to death; Life is found only when self yields to the Self. "Wherefore the Scripture saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. Be subject therefore unto God." (James iv, 6-7.)


125:1 Having become fit to be used as timber it is in danger from the woodman's axe. The word rendered "doomed" is literally "altogether." Dr. Carus compares it to the German "alle," "it is gone," "finished," or "doomed." No literal rendering of the Chinese is possible. Cf. Taoist Texts by Balfour, p. 83.

125:2 The phrases "supple and weak," "pliability and gentleness," "pliable and meek" are represented in Chinese by the same hieroglyphs—an illustration of the difficulties and dangers which threaten the European who attempts to render Lao-tzu into intelligible and easy English.

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