Bowed down then preserved;
Bent then straight;
Hollow then full;
Worn then new;
A little then benefitted;
A lot then perplexed.
Therefore the sage embraces the One and is a model for the empire.
He does not show himself, and so is conspicuous;
He does not consider himself right, and so is illustrious;
He does not brag, and so has merit;
He does not boast, and so endures.
It is because he does not contend that no one in the empire is in a position to contend with him.
The way the ancients had it, ‘Bowed down then preserved’, is no empty saying. Truly it enables one to be preserved to the end.
Expressed differently: bow; show flexibility; have no weight; wear well; own little. These are marks of great humility; so try to do them; they will prevent you coming into unnecessary conflict; and when in conflict, they will make it hard for your enemy to lay hands on you. Expressed differently: Respect your enemy; dodge him, negotiate; do not be filled with demands, anger or the desire to punch; use the advantage of experience; have little at stake. Then you will have longevity.