Daodejing Chapter 61: Lying beneath

Richard Brown
2 min readSep 11


A large state lies downstream.
It is where everything converges.
It is the female of the world.
The female invariably prevails over the male through stillness.
In her stillness, she lies beneath.
By lying beneath a small state,
A large state wins over the small state.
By lying beneath a large state,
A small state wins over the large state.
Whether it lies beneath to win,
Or it lies beneath and wins,
A large state wants to bring a small state into its orbit,
A small state wants to enjoy the embrace of a large state.
Since both sides get what they want,
The large state should lie beneath.


Even if you have a much stronger hand in a negotiation, it pays to treat the other party with consideration and respect rather than arrogance and disdain. Quite apart from making it easier for you to achieve your short-term objectives, it will lay the foundation for a deeper and more productive long-term relationship.

Besides, you never know when the tables will be turned.

1.) A large state lies downstream because the convergence of all the rivers and streams leads to the creation of a rich and fertile flood plain with the capacity to produce a surplus that the state can draw on to grow. Laozi describes a large state as the “female of the world” because it has great creative potential.

2.) Even for a large and powerful state, conquest of other states is a risky and expensive way of boosting security and expanding influence. Alliances provide a highly attractive alternative, as long as they are approached in a humble and respectful manner that is mutually beneficial. When conducted in the right spirit, both sides come out as winners.

3.) I took this image at Longhu (Dragon Tiger) Mountain, a famous Daoist site about ten miles south of Yingtan in Jiangxi Province. A great place to visit!



Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.