Daodejing Translation: Chapter 76 — Chapter 81

Richard Brown
3 min readMar 24, 2024

Here is my new English translation of Chapter 76 to Chapter 81 of the Daodejing together with links to commentaries and breakdowns of each chapter.

Daodejing Chapter 76
《老子道德經》第七十六章

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 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 hard and strong fall.
The soft and weak rise.

Daodejing Chapter 76: soft and weak
Daodejing Chapter 76 breakdown: the hard and strong fall

Daodejing Chapter 77
《老子道德經》第七十七章

The Dao of heaven
Is like shooting with a bow.
If you aim it too high,
You lower it.
If you aim it too low,
You raise it.
If you use too much force,
You reduce it.
If you do not use enough force,
You increase it.
The Dao of heaven
Takes from those
Who have too much,
And gives to those
Who do not have enough.
The Dao of man
Does the opposite.
It takes from those
Who do not have enough,
And gives to those
Who have too much.
Who can give to the world
Everything they have in excess?
Only someone who
Has attained the Dao.
The sage gets things done
Without seeking profit.
He accomplishes his task
Without claiming credit.
He has no desire
To display his worth.

「天之道,其猶張弓與!高者抑之,下者舉之,有餘者損之,不足者補之。天之道,損有餘而補不足。人之道則不然,損不足以奉有餘。孰能有餘以奉天下?唯有道者。是以聖人為而不恃,功成而不處,其不欲見賢。」

Daodejing Chapter 77: like shooting with a bow
Daodejing Chapter 77 breakdown: the Dao of heaven

Daodejing Chapter 78
《老子道德經》第七十八章

Nothing in all-under-heaven
Is softer and weaker than water.
Yet it overcomes
The hard and strong.
Nothing can replace it.
The weak overcomes the strong.
The soft overcomes the hard.
All-under-heaven
Knows this truth,
Yet no one applies it.
This is why the sage says:
Whoever is willing to
Accept the filth of the state,
Will be lord of the altar
Of earth and grain.
Whoever is willing to
Accept the misfortune of the state,
Will be king of all-under-heaven.
Truths like these
Sound paradoxical.

「天下莫柔弱於水,而攻堅強者莫之能勝,其無以易之。弱之勝強,柔之勝剛,天下莫不知、莫能行。是以聖人云:受國之垢,是謂社稷主;受國不祥,是為天下王。正言若反。」

Daodejing Chapter 78: the filth of the state
Daodejing Chapter 78 breakdown: like water

Daodejing Chapter 79
《老子道德經》第七十九章

When a bitter dispute is settled,
Some bitterness is sure to linger.
How can this be resolved?
The sage holds the left tally,
But never makes a claim on the debtor.
Those who have inner power hold the tally.
Those who lack inner power call in their debts.
The Dao of heaven has no favourites.
But it stays consistently on the side of the good.

「和大怨,必有餘怨,安可以為善;是以聖人執左契而不責於人。有德司契,無德司徹,天道無親,常與善人。」

Daodejing Chapter 79: a bitter dispute
Daodejing Chapter 79 breakdown: holding the left tally

Daodejing Chapter 80
《老子道德經》第八○章

Let a state be small
And its population sparse.
Let it have powerful tools
That never need to be used.
Let its people be so mindful of death
That they never journey far.
Let it have boats and carriages
That never need to be ridden in.
Let it have weapons and armour
That never need to be deployed.
Let its people return to:
Using knotted cords for writing,
Tasting sweetness in their food,
Finding beauty in their clothes,
Experiencing contentment in their homes,
Taking joy in their customs.
Neighbouring states can be seen,
Crowing cocks and barking dogs can be heard,
But the people grow old and die,
Without ever meeting each other.

「小國寡民,使有什伯之器而不用,使民重死而不遠徙,雖有舟輿,無所乘之;雖有甲兵,無所陳之;使人復結繩而用之,甘其食、美其服、安其居、樂其俗,鄰國相望,雞犬之聲相聞,民至老死不相往來。」

Daodejing Chapter 80: a primordial age of innocence
Daodejing Chapter 80 breakdown: living in splendid isolation

Daodejing Chapter 81
《老子道德經》第八十一章

Trustworthy words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not trustworthy.
The good are not silver-tongued.
The silver-tongued are not good.
The wise are not learned.
The learned are not wise.
The sage does not hoard.
The more he serves,
The more he has.
The more he gives,
The more he receives.
The Dao of heaven is to
Benefit but never harm.
The Dao of the sage is to
Accomplish but never contend.

「信言不美,美言不信;善者不辯,辯者不善;知者不博,博者不知;聖人不積,既以為人己愈有,既以與人己愈多。天之道,利而不害;聖人之道,為而不爭。」

Daodejing Chapter 81: the last word
Daodejing Chapter 81 breakdown: a fitting conclusion

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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.