Water Quotes from Chinese Teachings
Recent LinkedIn posts have highlighted the tensions building up between India and China over Chinese control of the water supply flowing out of Tibet. Will Sarni posted the South China Morning Post headline “India and China gear up for a new battle, this time over water”, and Stuart Shapiro provided a link to a Byline Times article “War Over Water: The New Flashpoint in the India-China Stand-Off”.
In my 2016 post Water and the Art of War: Is China Gaining a Stranglehold on the World Water Supply?, I reported that since the 1962 war between India and China—arguably a war over water—10,000 square kilometers of Tibetan ice are under Indian control and three times more are under Chinese control.
In my years working in Asia and living in Hong Kong in the mid-1990s, I became a fan of Sun Tzu, the legendary Chinese general who wrote The Art of War 2,500 years ago. Sun’s basic premises—including the importance of controlling key resources, of quietly winning by preparation and superior positioning before the conflict even begins, and of using water to define the field of battle—continue to guide Chinese military and diplomatic strategy today.
So starting with quotes from Sun Tzu himself and in keeping with one of his key tenets - know your opposition like you know yourself, here are water quotes from Chinese teachings over the millennia…
1. "So a military force has no constant formation, water has no constant shape: the ability to gain victory by changing and adapting according to the opponent is called genius." - Sun Tzu, The Art of War
2. "When the speed of rushing water reaches the point where it can move boulders, this is the force of momentum." - Sun Tzu, The Art of War
3. “Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water. Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it. The soft overcomes the hard; the gentle overcomes the rigid.” - Lao Tzu
4. "The sage's transformation of the World arises from solving the problem of water." - Lao Tzu
5. “Of all the elements in the cosmological construct of the world, Fire, Water, Earth, Mineral and Nature, the Sage takes Water as his preceptor.” - Lao-Tzu
6. “The highest good is like water. Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive. It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.” - Tao Te Ching
7. “As the water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it, so a wise man adapts himself to circumstances.” – Confucius
8. “Time flows away like the water in the river.” - Confucius
9. “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” - Zen saying
10. “When you drink the water, remember the spring." - Chinese proverb
11. “Water doesn't flow if it is level." - Chinese proverb
12. "Water always has a source and trees always have roots."- Chinese proverb
13. “Enough shovels of earth - a mountain. Enough pails of water - a river.” - Chinese proverb
14. “When the Yellow River is at peace, China is at peace.” – Chinese adage
15. “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless—like water.” - Bruce Lee
16. “So closely correlated was river management and governing power that the very Chinese character for ‘politics’ is derived from root words meaning flood control.” - Steve Solomon, Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization
And maybe most ominously…
17. “… to fight for every drop of water or die, that is the challenge facing China.” - Wang Sucheng, China’s former minister of water resources
If you have any quotes to add, please post them in the comments section.
Thanks and please check out the other posts from my series “Water Quotes from…”
Water Quotes from Song Lyrics
Water Quotes from Around the World
Water Quotes from Leonardo da Vinci