Daodejing Chapter 76 breakdown: the hard and strong fall

Richard Brown
2 min readNov 7, 2023

Chapter 76 of the Daodejing advises that preserving your youthful energy and vitality as you age is key to a long and enriching life. The more resistant and narrow-minded you become, the greater the risk of a miserable end.

Section 1
People are born soft and weak.
They die hard and strong.
All creatures, plants, and trees
Are born soft and tender,
And die dry and brittle.

The chapter starts by highlighting the natural cycle of growth, maturation, and eventual decline in all living beings. Initially, all beings, including humans, are soft and weak and brimming with vitality. However, as time passes, they inevitably grow hard and brittle, succumbing to rigidity and fragility.

Section 2
The hard and strong
Are companions of death.
The soft and weak
Are companions of life.
An army that does not yield
Is bound to suffer defeat.
A tree that does not bend
Is bound to break.

The text emphasizes that rigidity aligns with death, while maintaining softness is synonymous with life. To preserve vitality, you must stay open to change and adapt to evolving circumstances. Inflexibility leads to stagnation and decline.

Just as an army that refuses to adapt to change is doomed to defeat, a tree that is unable to sway with the wind is likely to be blown over in a storm.

Section 3
The hard and strong fall.
The soft and weak rise.

Just in case you have not understood the message yet, the text repeats it once more in the final section. Resilience and adaptability lead to a long and fulfilling life, whereas stubbornness and rigidity result in a short and miserable existence.

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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.