Zhuangzi or Chuang Tzu

The Chuang Tzu is considered one of the older books of Taoism.  The book was written before 300 BC by Zhuang Zhou. The first seven chapters or the “inner chapters” are consider to be part of the original work. The remaining 26 chapters or “outer chapters” are probably written by other authors. All the chapters are dated to be written before 200 BC.

Chuang Tzu
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Chuang Tzu or Zhuangzi

Lin Yutang, Translator

Lin Yutang’s Introduction to Chuang Tzu

Jesus was followed by St. Paul, Socrates by Plato, Confucius by Mencius, and Laotse by Chuang Tzu. In all four cases, the first was the real teacher and either wrote no books or wrote very little, and the second began to develop the doctrines and wrote long and profound discourses. Chuang Tzu, who died about 275 B.C., was separated from Laotse’s death by not quite two hundred years, and was strictly a contemporary of Mencius. Yet the most curious thing is that although both these writers mentioned the other philosophers of the time, neither was mentioned by the other in his works.

On the whole, Chuang Tzu must be considered the greatest prose writer of the Chou Dynasty, as Ch’u: Yu:an must be considered the greatest poet. His claim to this position rests both upon the brilliance of his style and the depth of his thought. That explains the fact that although he was probably the greatest slanderer of Confucius, and with Motse, the greatest antagonist of Confucian ideas, no Confucian scholar has not openly or secretly admired him. People who would not openly agree with his ideas would nevertheless read him as literature.

Nor can it be said truly that a pure-blooded Chinese could ever quite disagree with Chuang Tzu’s ideas. Taoism is not a school of thought in China, it is a deep, fundamental trait of Chinese thinking, and of the Chinese attitude toward life and toward society. It has depth, while Confucianism has only a practical sense of proportions; it enriches Chinese poetry and imagination in an immeasurable manner, and it gives a philosophic sanction to whatever is in the idle, freedom-loving, poetic, vagabond Chinese soul. It provides the only safe, romantic release from the severe Confucian classic restraint, and humanizes the very humanists themselves; therefore when a Chinese succeeds, he is always a Confucianist, and when he fails, he is always a Taoist. As more people fail than succeed in this world, and as all who succeed know that they succeed but in a lame and halting manner when they examine themselves in the dark hours of the
night, I believe Taoist ideas are more often at work than Confucianism. Even a Confucianist succeeds only when he knows he never really succeeds, that is, by following Taoist wisdom. Tseng Kuofan, the great Confucian general who suppressed the Taiping Rebellion, had failed in his early campaign and began to succeed only one morning when he realized
with true Taoist humility that he was “no good,” and gave power to his assistant generals.

Chuang Tzu is therefore important as the first one who fully developed the Taoistic thesis of the rhythm of life, contained in the epigrams of Laotse. Unlike other Chinese philosophers principally occupied with practical questions of government and personal morality, he gives the only metaphysics existing in Chinese literature before the coming of Buddhism. I am sure his mysticism will charm some readers and repel others. Certain traits in it, like weeding out the idea of the ego and quiet contemplation and “seeing the Solitary” explain how these native Chinese ideas were back of the development of the Ch’an (Japanese Zen) Buddhism. Any branch of human knowledge, even the study of the rocks of the earth and the cosmic rays of heaven,
strikes mysticism when is reaches any depth at all, and it seems Chinese Taoism skipped the scientific study of nature to reach the same intuitive conclusion by insight alone. Therefore it is not surprising that Albert Einstein and Chuang Tzu agree, as agree they must, on the relativity of all standards. The only difference is that Einstein takes on the more difficult and, to a Chinese, more stupid work of mathematical proof, while Chuang Tzu furnishes the philosophic import of this theory of relativity, which must be sooner or later developed by Western philosophers
in the next decades.

A word must be added about Chuang Tzu’s attitude toward Confucius. It will be evident to any reader that he was one of the greatest romanticizers of history, and that any of the anecdotes he tells about Confucius, or Laotse or the Yellow Emperor must be accepted on a par with those anecdotes he tells about the conversation of General Clouds and Great Nebulous, or between the Spirit of the River and the Spirit of the Ocean. It must be also plainly understood that he was a humorist with a wild and rather luxuriant fantasy, with an American love for exaggeration and for the big. One should therefore read him as one would a humorist writer knowing that he is frivolous when he is profound and profound when he is frivolous.

The extant text of Chuang Tzu consists of thirty-three chapters, all of them a mixture of philosophic disquisition and anecdotes or parables. The chapters containing the most virulent attacks on Confucianism (not included here) have been considered forgery, and a few Chinese “textual critics” have even considered all of them forgery except the first seven chapters. This is easy to understand because it is the modern Chinese fashion to talk of forgery. One can rest assured that these “textual critics” are unscientific because very little of it is philological criticism, but consists of opinions as to style and whether Chuang Tzu had or had not enough culture to attack Confucius only in a mild and polished manner. (See samples of this type of “criticism”
in my long introduction to The Book of History.) Only one or two anachronisms are pointed out, which could be due to later interpolations and the rest is a subjective assertion of opinion. Even the evaluations of style are faulty, and at least a distinction should be made between interpolations and wholesale forgery. Some of the best pieces of Chuang Tzu are decidedly outside the first seven chapters, and it has not even occurred to the critics to provide an answer as to who else could have written them. There is no reason to be sure that even the most eloquent exposition of the thieves’ philosophy, regarded by most as forgery, was not the work of Chuang Tzu, who had so little to do with the “gentlemen.” On the other hand, I believe various anecdotes have been freely added by later generations into the extremely loose structure of the chapters.

I have chosen here eleven chapters, including all but one of the first best seven chapters. With one minor exception, these chapters are translated complete. The philosophically most important are the chapters on “Leveling All Things” and “Autumn Floods.” The chapters, “Joined Toes,” “Horses’ Hooves,” “Opening Trunks” and “Tolerance” belong in one group with the main theme of protest against civilization. The most eloquent protest is contained in “Opening Trunks,” while the most characteristically Taoistic is the chapter on “Tolerance.” The most mystic and deeply religious piece is “The Great Supreme.” The most beautifully written is “Autumn Floods.” The queerest is the chapter on “Deformities” (a typically “romanticist” theme). The most delightful is probably “Horses’ Hooves,” and the most fantastic is the first chapter, “A Happy Excursion.” Some of Chuang Tzu’s parables in the other chapters will be found under “Parables of Ancient Philosophers” elsewhere in this volume.

I have based my translation on that of Herbert A. Giles. It soon became apparent in my work that Giles was free in his translation where exactness was easy and possible, and that he had a glib, colloquial style which might be considered a blemish. The result is that hardly a line has been left untouched, and I have had to make my own translation, taking advantage of whatever is good in his English rendering. But still I owe a great debt to my predecessor, and he has notably succeeded in this difficult task in many passages. Where his rendering is good, I have not chosen to be different. In this sense, the translation may be regarded as my own. It should be noted that throughout the text, Giles translates “Heaven” as “God” where it means God. On the other hand, the term “Creator” is an exact rendering of chao-wu, or “he who creates things.” I will not go into details of translation of other philosophic terms here.

[Back to Start]

A Happy Excursion

In the northern ocean there is a fish, called the k’un, I do not know how many thousandli in size. This k’un changes into a bird, called the p’eng. Its back is I do notknow how many thousand li in breadth. When it is moved, it flies, its wings obscuringthe sky like clouds.

When on a voyage, this bird prepares to start for the Southern Ocean, the CelestialLake. And in the Records of Marvels we read that when the p’eng flies southwards,the water is smitten for a space of three thousand li around, while the bird itselfmounts upon a great wind to a height of ninety thousand li, for a flight of sixmonths’ duration.

There mounting aloft, the bird saw the moving white mists of spring, the dust-clouds,and the living things blowing their breaths among them. It wondered whether theblue of the sky was its real color, or only the result of distance without end,and saw that the things on earth appeared the same to it.

If there is not sufficient depth, water will not float large ships. Upset a cupfulinto a hole in the yard, and a mustard-seed will be your boat. Try to float thecup, and it will be grounded, due to the disproportion between water and vessel.

So with air. If there is not sufficient a depth, it cannot support large wings.And for this bird, a depth of ninety thousand li is necessary to bear it up. Then,gliding upon the wind, with nothing save the clear sky above, and no obstacles inthe way, it starts upon its journey to the south.

A cicada and a young dove laughed, saying, “Now, when I fly with all my might, ’tisas much as I can do to get from tree to tree. And sometimes I do not reach, butfall to the ground midway. What then can be the use of going up ninety thousandli to start for the south?”

He who goes to the countryside taking three meals with him comes back with his stomachas full as when he started. But he who travels a hundred li must take ground riceenough for an overnight stay. And he who travels a thousand li must supply himselfwith provisions for three months. Those two little creatures, what should they know?

Small knowledge has not the compass of great knowledge any more than a short yearhas the length of a long year. How can we tell that this is so? The fungus plantof a morning knows not the alternation of day and night. The cicada knows not thealternation of spring and autumn. Theirs are short years. But in the south of Ch’uthere is a mingling (tree) whose spring and autumn are each of five hundred years’duration. And in former days there was a large tree which had a spring and autumneach of eight thousand years. Yet, P’eng Tsu {1} is known for reaching a great ageand is still, alas! an object of envy to all!

It was on this very subject that the Emperor T’ang {2} spoke to Chi, as follows:“At the north of Ch’iungta, there is a Dark Sea, the Celestial Lake. In it thereis a fish several thousand li in breadth, and I know not how many in length. Itis called the k’un. There is also a bird, called the p’eng, with a back like MountT’ai, and wings like clouds across the sky. It soars up upon a whirlwind to a heightof ninety thousand li, far above the region of the clouds, with only the clear skyabove it. And then it directs its flight towards the Southern Ocean.

“And a lake sparrow laughed, and said: Pray, what may that creature be going todo? I rise but a few yards in the air and settle down again, after flying aroundamong the reeds. That is as much as any one would want to fly. Now, wherever canthis creature be going to?” Such, indeed, is the difference between small and great.

Take, for instance, a man who creditably fills some small office, or whose influencespreads over a village, or whose character pleases a certain prince. His opinionof himself will be much the same as that lake sparrow’s. The philosopher Yung ofSung would laugh at such a one. If the whole world flattered him, he would not beaffected thereby, nor if the whole world blamed him would he be dissuaded from whathe was doing. For Yung can distinguish between essence and superficialities, andunderstand what is true honor and shame. Such men are rare in their generation.But even he has not established himself.

Now Liehtse {3} could ride upon the wind. Sailing happily in the cool breeze, hewould go on for fifteen days before his return. Among mortals who attain happiness,such a man is rare. Yet although Liehtse could dispense with walking, he would stillhave to depend upon something. {4}

As for one who is charioted upon the eternal fitness of Heaven and Earth, drivingbefore him the changing elements as his team to roam through the realms of the Infinite,upon what, then, would such a one have need to depend? Thus it is said, “The perfectman ignores self; the divine man ignores achievement; the true Sage ignores reputation.”

The Emperor Yao {5} wished to abdicate in favor of Hsu: Yu, saying, “If, when thesun and moon are shining, the torch is still lighted, would it be not difficultfor the latter to shine? If, when the rain has fallen, one should still continueto water the fields, would this not be a waste of labor? Now if you would assumethe reins of government, the empire would be well governed, and yet I am fillingthis office. I am conscious of my own deficiencies, and I beg to offer you the Empire.”

“You are ruling the Empire, and the Empire is already well ruled,” replied Hsu:Yu. “Why should I take your place? Should I do this for the sake of a name? A nameis but the shadow of reality, and should I trouble myself about the shadow? Thetit, building its nest in the mighty forest, occupies but a single twig. The beaverslakes its thirst from the river, but drinks enough only to fill its belly. I wouldrather go back: I have no use for the empire! If the cook is unable to prepare thefuneral sacrifices, the representative of the worshipped spirit and the officerof prayer may not step over the wines and meats and do it for him.”

Chien Wu said to Lien Shu, “I heard Chieh Yu: talk on high and fine subjects endlessly.I was greatly startled at what he said, for his words seemed interminable as theMilky Way, but they are quite detached from our common human experience.”

“What was it?” asked Lien Shu.

“He declared,” replied Chien Wu, “that on the Miao-ku-yi mountain there lives adivine one, whose skin is white like ice or snow, whose grace and elegance are likethose of a virgin, who eats no grain, but lives on air and dew, and who, ridingon clouds with flying dragons for his team, roams beyond the limit’s of the mortalregions. When his spirit gravitates, he can ward off corruption from all things,and bring good crops. That is why I call it nonsense, and do not believe it.”

“Well,” answered Lien Shu, “you don’t ask a blind man’s opinion of beautiful designs,nor do you invite a deaf man to a concert. And blindness and deafness are not physicalonly. There is blindness and deafness of the mind. His words are like the unspoiledvirgin. The good influence of such a man with such a character fills all creation.Yet because a paltry generation cries for reform, you would have him busy himselfabout the details of an empire!

“Objective existences cannot harm. In a flood which reached the sky, he would notbe drowned. In a drought, though metals ran liquid and mountains were scorched up,he would not be hot. Out of his very dust and siftings you might fashion two suchmen as Yao and Shun {6}. And you would have him occupy himself with objectives!”

A man of the Sung State carried some ceremonial caps to the Yu:eh tribes for sale.But the men of Yu:eh used to cut off their hair and paint their bodies, so thatthey had no use for such things.

The Emperor Yao ruled all under heaven and governed the affairs of the entire country.After he paid a visit to the four sages of the Miao-ku-yi Mountain, he felt on hisreturn to his capital at Fenyang that the empire existed for him no more.

Hueitse {7} said to Chuang Tzu, “The Prince of Wei gave me a seed of a large-sizedkind of gourd. I planted it, and it bore a fruit as big as a five bushel measure.Now had I used this for holding liquids, it would have been too heavy to lift; andhad I cut it in half for ladles, the ladles would have been too flat for such purpose.Certainly it was a huge thing, but I had no use for it and so broke it up.”

“It was rather you did not know how to use large things,” replied Chuang Tzu. “Therewas a man of Sung who had a recipe for salve for chapped hands, his family havingbeen silk-washers for generations. A stranger who had heard of it came and offeredhim a hundred ounces of silver for this recipe; whereupon he called together hisclansmen and said, ‘We have never made much money by silk-washing. Now, we can sellthe recipe for a hundred ounces in a single day. Let the stranger have it.’

“The stranger got the recipe, and went and had an interview with the Prince of Wu.The Yu:eh State was in trouble, and the Prince of Wu sent a general to fight a navalbattle with Yu:eh at the beginning of winter. The latter was totally defeated, andthe stranger was rewarded with a piece of the King’s territory. Thus, while theefficacy of the salve to cure chapped hands was in both cases the same, its applicationswere different. Here, it secured a title; there, the people remained silk-washers.

“Now as to your five-bushel gourd, why did you not make a float of it, and floatabout over river and lake? And you complain of its being too flat for holding things!I fear your mind is stuffy inside.”

Hueitse said to Chuang Tzu, “I have a large tree, called the ailanthus. Its trunkis so irregular and knotty that it cannot be measured out for planks; while itsbranches are so twisted that they cannot be cut out into discs or squares. It standsby the roadside, but no carpenter will look at it. Your words are like that tree— big and useless, of no concern to the world.”

“Have you never seen a wild cat,” rejoined Chuang Tzu, “crouching down in wait forits prey? Right and left and high and low, it springs about, until it gets caughtin a trap or dies in a snare. On the other hand, there is the yak with its greathuge body. It is big enough in all conscience, but it cannot catch mice. Now ifyou have a big tree and are at a loss what to do with it, why not plant it in theVillage of Nowhere, in the great wilds, where you might loiter idly by its side,and lie down in blissful repose beneath its shade? There it would be safe from theaxe and from all other injury. For being of no use to others, what could worry itsmind?”[Back to Start]

Soul Work

Healing Your Soul

On Leveling All Things

Tsech’i of Nankuo sat leaning on a low table. Gazing up to heaven, he sighed andlooked as though he had lost his mind.

Yench’eng Tseyu, who was standing by him, exclaimed, “What are you thinking aboutthat your body should become thus like dead wood, your mind like burnt-out cinders?Surely the man now leaning on the table is not he who was here just now.”

“My friend,” replied Tsech’i, “your question is apposite. Today I have lost my Self….Do you understand? … Perhaps you only know the music of man, and not that of Earth.Or even if you have heard the music of Earth, perhaps you have not heard the musicof Heaven.”

“Pray explain,” said Tseyu.

“The breath of the universe,” continued Tsech’i, “is called wind. At times, it isinactive. But when active, all crevices resound to its blast. Have you never listenedto its deafening roar?

“Caves and dells of hill and forest, hollows in huge trees of many a span in girth– some are like nostrils, and some like mouths, and others like ears, beam-sockets,goblets, mortars, or like pools and puddles. And the wind goes rushing through them,like swirling torrents or singing arrows, bellowing, sousing, trilling, wailing,roaring, purling, whistling in front and echoing behind, now soft with the coolblow, now shrill with the whirlwind, until the tempest is past and silence reignssupreme. Have you never witnessed how the trees and objects shake and quake, andtwist and twirl?”

“Well, then,” enquired Tseyu, “since the music of Earth consists of hollows andapertures, and the music of man of pipes and flutes, of what consists the musicof Heaven?”

“The effect of the wind upon these various apertures,” replied Tsech’i, “is notuniform, but the sounds are produced according to their individual capacities. Whois it that agitates their breasts?

“Great wisdom is generous; petty wisdom is contentious. Great speech is impassioned,small speech cantankerous.

“For whether the soul is locked in sleep or whether in waking hours the body moves,we are striving and struggling with the immediate circumstances. Some are easy-goingand leisurely, some are deep and cunning, and some are secretive. Now we are frightenedover petty fears, now disheartened and dismayed over some great terror. Now themind flies forth like an arrow from a cross-bow, to be the arbiter of right andwrong. Now it stays behind as if sworn to an oath, to hold on to what it has secured.Then, as under autumn and winter’s blight, comes gradual decay, and submerged inits own occupations, it keeps on running its course, never to return. Finally, wornout and imprisoned, it is choked up like an old drain, and the failing mind shallnot see light again {8}.

“Joy and anger, sorrow and happiness, worries and regrets, indecision and fears,come upon us by turns, with everchanging moods, like music from the hollows, orlike mushrooms from damp. Day and night they alternate within us, but we cannottell whence they spring. Alas! Alas! Could we for a moment lay our finger upon theirvery Cause?

“But for these emotions I should not be. Yet but for me, there would be no one tofeel them. So far we can go; but we do not know by whose order they come into play.It would seem there was a soul; {9} but the clue to its existence is wanting. Thatit functions is credible enough, though we cannot see its form. Perhaps it has innerreality without outward form.

“Take the human body with all its hundred bones, nine external cavities and sixinternal organs, all complete. Which part of it should I love best? Do you not cherishall equally, or have you a preference? Do these organs serve as servants of someoneelse? Since servants cannot govern themselves, do they serve as master and servantsby turn? Surely there is some soul which controls them all.

“But whether or not we ascertain what is the true nature of this soul, it mattersbut little to the soul itself. For once coming into this material shape, it runsits course until it is exhausted. To be harassed by the wear and tear of life, andto be driven along without possibility of arresting one’s course, — is not thispitiful indeed? To labor without ceasing all life, and then, without living to enjoythe fruit, worn out with labor, to depart, one knows not whither, — is not thisa just cause for grief?”

“Men say there is no death — to what avail? The body decomposes, and the mind goeswith it. Is this not a great cause for sorrow? Can the world be so dull as not tosee this? Or is it I alone who am dull, and others not so?”

Now if we are to be guided by our prejudices, who shall be without a guide? Whatneed to make comparisons of right and wrong with others? And if one is to followone’s own judgments according to his prejudices, even the fools have them! But toform judgments of right and wrong without first having a mind at all is like saying,”I left for Yu:eh today, and got there yesterday.” Or, it is like assuming somethingwhich does not exist to exist. The (illusions of) assuming something which doesnot exist to exist could not be fathomed even by the divine Yu:; how much less couldwe?

For speech is not mere blowing of breath. It is intended to say some thing, onlywhat it is intended to say cannot yet be determined. Is there speech indeed, oris there not? Can we, or can we not, distinguish it from the chirping of young birds?

How can Tao be obscured so that there should be a distinction of true and false?How can speech be so obscured that there should be a distinction of right and wrong?{10} Where can you go and find Tao not to exist? Where can you go and find thatwords cannot be proved? Tao is obscured by our inadequate understanding, and wordsare obscured by flowery expressions. Hence the affirmations and denials of the Confucianand Motsean {11} schools, each denying what the other affirms and affirming whatthe other denies. Each denying what the other affirms and affirming what the otherdenies brings us only into confusion.

There is nothing which is not this; there is nothing which is not that. What cannotbe seen by what (the other person) can be known by myself. Hence I say, this emanatesfrom that; that also derives from this. This is the theory of the interdependenceof this and that (relativity of standards).

Nevertheless, life arises from death, and vice versa. Possibility arises from impossibility,and vice versa. Affirmation is based upon denial, and vice versa. Which being thecase, the true sage rejects all distinctions and takes his refuge in Heaven (Nature).For one may base it on this, yet this is also that and that is also this. This alsohas its ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and that also has its ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ Does thenthe distinction between this and that really exist or not? When this (subjective)and that (objective) are both without their correlates, that is the very ‘Axis ofTao.’ And when that Axis passes through the center at which all Infinities converge,affirmations and denials alike blend into the infinite One. Hence it is said thatthere is nothing like using the Light.

To take a finger in illustration of a finger not being a finger is not so good asto take something which is not a finger to illustrate that a finger is not a finger.To take a horse in illustration of a horse not being a horse is not so good as totake something which is not a horse to illustrate that a horse is not a horse {12}.So with the universe which is but a finger, but a horse. The possible is possible:the impossible is impossible. Tao operates, and the given results follow; thingsreceive names and are said to be what they are. Why are they so? They are said tobe so! Why are they not so? They are said to be not so! Things are so by themselvesand have possibilities by themselves. There is nothing which is not so and thereis nothing which may not become so.

Therefore take, for instance, a twig and a pillar, or the ugly person and the greatbeauty, and all the strange and monstrous transformations. These are all levelledtogether by Tao. Division is the same as creation; creation is the same as destruction.There is no such thing as creation or destruction, for these conditions are againlevelled together into One.

Only the truly intelligent understand this principle of the Leveling of all thingsinto One. They discard the distinctions and take refuge in the common and ordinarythings. The common and ordinary things serve certain functions and therefore retainthe wholeness of nature. From this wholeness, one comprehends, and from comprehension,one to the Tao. There it stops. To stop without knowing how it stops — this isTao.

But to wear out one’s intellect in an obstinate adherence to the individuality ofthings, not recognizing the fact that all things are One, — that is called “Threein the Morning.” What is “Three in the Morning?” A keeper of monkeys said with regardto their rations of nuts that each monkey was to have three in the morning and fourat night. At this the monkeys were very angry. Then the keeper said they might havefour in the morning and three at night, with which arrangement they were all wellpleased. The actual number of nuts remained the same, but there was a differenceowing to (subjective evaluations of) likes and dislikes. It also derives from this(principle of subjectivity). Wherefore the true Sage brings all the contraries togetherand rests in the natural Balance of Heaven. This is called (the principle of following)two courses (at once).

The knowledge of the men of old had a limit. When was the limit? It extended backto a period when matter did not exist. That was the extreme point to which theirknowledge reached. The second period was that of matter, but of matter unconditioned(undefined). The third epoch saw matter conditioned (defined), but judgments oftrue and false were still unknown. When these appeared, Tao began to decline. Andwith the decline of Tao, individual bias (subjectivity) arose.

Besides, did Tao really rise and decline? {13} In the world of (apparent) rise anddecline, the famous musician Chao Wen did play the string instrument; but in respectto the world without rise and decline, Chao Wen did not play the string instrument.When Chao Wen stopped playing the string instrument, Shih K’uang (the music master)laid down his drum-stick (for keeping time), and Hueitse (the sophist) stopped arguing,they all understood the approach of Tao. These people are the best in their arts,and therefore known to posterity. They each loved his art, and wanted to excel inhis own line. And because they loved their arts, they wanted to make them knownto others. But they were trying to teach what (in its nature) could not be known.Consequently Hueitse ended in the obscure discussions of the “hard” and “white”;and Chao Wen’s son tried to learn to play the stringed instrument all his life andfailed. If this may be called success, then I, too, have succeeded. But if neitherof them could be said to have succeeded, then neither I nor others have succeeded.Therefore the true Sage discards the light that dazzles and takes refuge in thecommon and ordinary. Through this comes understanding.

Suppose here is a statement. We do not know whether it belongs to one category oranother. But if we put the different categories in one, then the differences ofcategory cease to exist. However, I must explain. If there was a beginning, thenthere was a time before that beginning, and a time before the time which was beforethe time of that beginning. If there is existence, there must have been non-existence.And if there was a time when nothing existed, then there must have been a time wheneven nothing did not exist. All of a sudden, nothing came into existence. Couldone then really say whether it belongs to the category of existence or of non-existence?Even the very words I have just now uttered, — I cannot say whether they say somethingor not.

There is nothing under the canopy of heaven greater than the tip of a bird’s downin autumn, while the T’ai Mountain is small. Neither is there any longer life thanthat of a child cut off in infancy, while P’eng Tsu himself died young. The universeand I came into being together; I and everything therein are One.

If then all things are One, what room is there for speech? On the other hand, sinceI can say the word ‘one’ how can speech not exist? If it does exist, we have Oneand speech — two; and two and one — three {14} from which point onwards even thebest mathematicians will fail to reach (the ultimate); how much more then shouldordinary people fail?

Hence, if from nothing you can proceed to something, and subsequently reach there,it follows that it would be still easier if you were to start from something. Sinceyou cannot proceed, stop here. Now Tao by its very nature can never be defined.Speech by its very nature cannot express the absolute. Hence arise the distinctions.Such distinctions are: “right” and “left,” “relationship” and “duty,” “division”and “discrimination, “emulation and contention. These are called the Eight Predicables.

Beyond the limits of the external world, the Sage knows that it exists, but doesnot talk about it. Within the limits of the external world, the Sage talks but doesnot make comments. With regard to the wisdom of the ancients, as embodied in thecanon of Spring and Autumn, the Sage comments, but does not expound. And thus, amongdistinctions made, there are distinctions that cannot be made; among things expounded,there are things that cannot be expounded.

How can that be? it is asked. The true Sage keeps his knowledge within him, whilemen in general set forth theirs in argument, in order to convince each other. Andtherefore it is said that one who argues does so because he cannot see certain points.

Now perfect Tao cannot be given a name. A perfect argument does not employ words.Perfect kindness does not concern itself with (individual acts of) kindness {15}.Perfect integrity is not critical of others {16} Perfect courage does not push itselfforward.

For the Tao which is manifest is not Tao. Speech which argues falls short of itsaim. Kindness which has fixed objects loses its scope. Integrity which is obviousis not believed in. Courage which pushes itself forward never accomplishes anything.These five are, as it were, round (mellow) with a strong bias towards squareness(sharpness). Therefore that knowledge which stops at what it does not know, is thehighest knowledge.

Who knows the argument which can be argued without words, and the Tao which doesnot declare itself as Tao? He who knows this may be said to enter the realm of thespirit {17}. To be poured into without becoming full, and pour out without becomingempty, without knowing how this is brought about, — this is the art of “Concealingthe Light.”

Of old, the Emperor Yao said to Shun, “I would smite the Tsungs, and the Kueis,and the Hsu:-aos. Since I have been on the throne, this has ever been on my mind.What do you think?”

“These three States,” replied Shun, “lie in wild undeveloped regions. Why can younot shake off this idea? Once upon a time, ten suns came out together, and all thingswere illuminated thereby. How much greater should be the power of virtue which excelsthe suns?”

Yeh Ch’u:eh asked Wang Yi, saying, “Do you know for certain that all things arethe same?”

“How can I know?” answered Wang Yi. “Do you know what you do not know?”

“How can I know!” replied Yeh Ch’u:eh. “But then does nobody know?”

“How can I know?” said Wang Yi. “Nevertheless, I will try to tell you. How can itbe known that what I call knowing is not really not knowing and that what I callnot knowing is not really knowing? Now I would ask you this, If a man sleeps ina damp place, he gets lumbago and dies. But how about an eel? And living up in atree is precarious and trying to the nerves. But how about monkeys? Of the man,the eel, and the monkey, whose habitat is the right one, absolutely? Human beingsfeed on flesh, deer on grass, centipedes on little snakes, owls and crows on mice.Of these four, whose is the right taste, absolutely? Monkey mates with the dog-headedfemale ape, the buck with the doe, eels consort with fishes, while men admire MaoCh’iang and Li Chi, at the sight of whom fishes plunge deep down in the water, birdssoar high in the air, and deer hurry away. Yet who shall say which is the correctstandard of beauty? In my opinion, the doctrines of humanity and justice and thepaths of right and wrong are so confused that it is impossible to know their contentions.”

“If you then,” asked Yeh Ch’u:eh, “do not know what is good and bad, is the PerfectMan equally without this knowledge?”

“The Perfect Man,” answered Wang Yi, “is a spiritual being. Were the ocean itselfscorched up, he would not feel hot. Were the great rivers frozen hard, he wouldnot feel cold. Were the mountains to be cleft by thunder, and the great deep tobe thrown up by storm, he would not tremble with fear. Thus, he would mount uponthe clouds of heaven, and driving the sun and the moon before him, pass beyond thelimits of this mundane existence. Death and life have no more victory over him.How much less should he concern himself with the distinctions of profit and loss?”

Chu: Ch’iao addressed Ch’ang Wutse as follows: “I heard Confucius say, ‘The trueSage pays no heed to worldly affairs. He neither seeks gain nor avoids injury. Heasks nothing at the hands of man and does not adhere to rigid rules of conduct.Sometimes he says something without speaking and sometimes he speaks without sayinganything. And so he roams beyond the limits of this mundane world.

‘These,’ commented Confucius, ‘are futile fantasies.’ But to me they are the embodimentof the most wonderful Tao. What is your opinion?”

“These are things that perplexed even the Yellow Emperor,” replied Ch’ang Wutse.”How should Confucius know? You are going too far ahead. When you see a hen’s egg,you already expect to hear a cock crow. When you see a sling, you are already expectedto have broiled pigeon. I will say a few words to you at random, and do you listenat random.

“How does the Sage seat himself by the sun and moon, and hold the universe in hisgrasp? He blends everything into one harmonious whole, rejecting the confusion ofthis and that. Rank and precedence, which the vulgar sedulously cultivate, the Sagestolidly ignores, amalgamating the disparities of ten thousand years into one puremold. The universe itself, too, conserves and blends all in the same manner.

“How do I know that love of life is not a delusion after all? How do I know butthat he who dreads death is not as a child who has lost his way and does not knowhis way home?

“The Lady Li Chi was the daughter of the frontier officer of Ai. When the Duke ofChin first got her, she wept until the bosom of her dress was drenched with tears.But when she came to the royal residence, shared with the Duke his luxurious couch,and ate rich food, she repented of having wept. How then do I know but that thedead may repent of having previously clung to life?

“Those who dream of the banquet, wake to lamentation and sorrow. Those who dreamof lamentation and sorrow wake to join the hunt. While they dream, they do not knowthat they are dreaming. Some will even interpret the very dream they are dreaming;and only when they awake do they know it was a dream. By and by comes the greatawakening, and then we find out that this life is really a great dream. Fools thinkthey are awake now, and flatter themselves they know — this one is a prince, andthat one is a shepherd. What narrowness of mind! Confucius and you are both dreams;and I who say you are dreams — I am but a dream myself. This is a paradox. Tomorrowa Sage may arise to explain it; but that tomorrow will not be until ten thousandgenerations have gone by. Yet you may meet him around the corner.

“Granting that you and I argue. If you get the better of me, and not I of you, areyou necessarily right and I wrong? Or if I get the better of you and not you ofme, am I necessarily right and you wrong? Or are we both partly right and partlywrong? Or are we both wholly right and wholly wrong? You and I cannot know this,and consequently we all live in darkness.

“Whom shall I ask as arbiter between us? If I ask someone who takes your view, hewill side with you. How can such a one arbitrate between us? If I ask someone whotakes my view, he will side with me. How can such a one arbitrate between us? IfI ask someone who differs from both of us, he will be equally unable to decide betweenus, since he differs from both of us. And if I ask someone who agrees with bothof us, he will be equally unable to decide between us, since he agrees with bothof us. Since then you and I and other men cannot decide, how can we depend uponanother? The words of arguments are all relative; if we wish to reach the absolute,we must harmonize them by means of the unity of God, and follow their natural evolution,so that we may complete our allotted span of life.

“But what is it to harmonize them by means of the unity of God? It is this. Theright may not be really right. What appears so may not be really so. Even if whatis right is really right, wherein it differs from wrong cannot be made plain byargument. Even if what appears so is really so, wherein it differs from what isnot so also cannot be made plain by argument.

“Take no heed of time nor of right and wrong. Passing into the realm of the Infinite,take your final rest therein.”

The Penumbra said to the Umbra, “At one moment you move: at another you are at rest.At one moment you sit down: at another you get up. Why this instability of purpose?”

“Perhaps I depend,” replied the Umbra, “upon something which causes me to do asI do; and perhaps that something depends in turn upon something else which causesit to do as it does. Or perhaps my dependence is like (the unconscious movements)of a snake’s scales or of a cicada’s wings. How can I tell why I do one thing, orwhy I do not do another?”

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou {18}, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hitherand thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of myhappiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was,veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I wasa butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a manand a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called thetransformation of material things {19}.

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Go Beyond Destination
Embrace Your Destiny!

The Preservation of Life

Human life is limited, but knowledge is limitless. To drive the limited in pursuitof the limitless is fatal; and to presume that one really knows is fatal indeed!

In doing good, avoid fame. In doing bad, avoid disgrace. Pursue a middle courseas your principle. Thus you will guard your body from harm, preserve your life,fulfil your duties by your parents, and live your allotted span of life.

Prince Huei’s cook was cutting up a bullock. Every blow of his hand, every heaveof his shoulders, every tread of his foot, every thrust of his knee, every whshhof rent flesh, every chhk of the chopper, was in perfect rhythm, –like the danceof the Mulberry Grove, like the harmonious chords of Ching Shou.

“Well done!” cried the Prince. “Yours is skill indeed!”

“Sire,” replied the cook laying down his chopper, “I have always devoted myselfto Tao, which is higher than mere skill. When I first began to cut up bullocks,I saw before me whole bullocks. After three years’ practice, I saw no more wholeanimals. And now I work with my mind and not with my eye. My mind works along withoutthe control of the senses. Falling back upon eternal principles, I glide throughsuch great joints or cavities as there may be, according to the natural constitutionof the animal. I do not even touch the convolutions of muscle and tendon, stillless attempt to cut through large bones.

“A good cook changes his chopper once a year, — because he cuts. An ordinary cook,one a month, — because he hacks. But I have had this chopper nineteen years, andalthough I have cut up many thousand bullocks, its edge is as if fresh from thewhetstone. For at the joints there are always interstices, and the edge of a chopperbeing without thickness, it remains only to insert that which is without thicknessinto such an interstice. Indeed there is plenty of room for the blade to move about.It is thus that I have kept my chopper for nineteen years as though fresh from thewhetstone.

“Nevertheless, when I come upon a knotty part which is difficult to tackle, I amall caution. Fixing my eye on it, I stay my hand, and gently apply my blade, untilwith a hwah the part yields like earth crumbling to the ground. Then I take outmy chopper and stand up, and look around, and pause with an air of triumph. Thenwiping my chopper, I put it carefully away.”

“Bravo!” cried the Prince. “From the words of this cook I have learned how to takecare of my life.”

When Hsien, of the Kungwen family, beheld a certain official, he was horrified,and said, “Who is that man? How came he to lose a leg? Is this the work of God,or of man?”

“Why, of course, it is the work of God, and not of man,” was the reply. “God madethis man one-legged. The appearance of men is always balanced. From this it is clearthat God and not man made him what he is.”

A pheasant of the marshes may have to go ten steps to get a peck, a hundred to geta drink. Yet pheasants do not want to be fed in a cage. For although they mighthave less worries, they would not like it. When Laotse died, Ch’in Yi went to thefuneral. He uttered three yells and departed. A disciple asked him saying, “Wereyou not our Master’s friend?”

“I was,” replied Ch’in Yi.

“And if so, do you consider that a sufficient expression of grief at his death?”added the disciple.

“I do,” said Ch’in Yi. “I had thought he was a (mortal) man, but now I know thathe was not. When I went in to mourn, I found old persons weeping as if for theirchildren, young ones wailing as if for their mothers. When these people meet, theymust have said words on the occasion and shed tears without any intention. (To crythus at one’s death) is to evade the natural principles (of life and death) andincrease human attachments, forgetting the source from which we receive this life.The ancients called this ‘evading the retribution of Heaven.’ The Master came, becauseit was his time to be born; He went, because it was his time to go away. Those whoaccept the natural course and sequence of things and live in obedience to it arebeyond joy and sorrow. The ancients spoke of this as the emancipation from bondage.The fingers may not be able to supply all the fuel, but the fire is transmitted,and we know not when it will come to an end.”

[Back to Start]

This Human World

Yen huei {20} went to take leave of Confucius. “Whither are you bound?” asked theMaster.

“I am going to the State of Wei,” was the reply.

“And what do you propose to do there?” continued Confucius.

“I hear,” answered Yen Huei, “that the Prince of Wei is of mature age, but of anunmanageable disposition. He behaves as if the people were of no account, and willnot see his own faults. He disregards human lives and the people perish; and theircorpses lie about like so much under growth in a marsh. The people do not know whereto turn for help. And I have heard you say that if a state be well governed, itmay be passed over; but that if it be badly governed, then we should visit it. Atthe door of physicians there are many sick people. I would test my knowledge inthis sense, that perchance I may do some good at that state.”

“Alas!” cried Confucius, “you will be only going to your doom. For Tao must notbustle about. If it does it will have divergent aims. From divergent aims come restlessness;from restlessness comes worry, and from worry one reaches the stage of being beyondhope. The Sages of old first strengthened their own character before they triedto strengthen that of others. Before you have strengthened your own character, whatleisure have you to attend to the doings of wicked men? Besides, do you know intowhat virtue evaporates by motion and where knowledge ends? Virtue evaporates bymotion into desire for fame and knowledge ends in contentions. In the struggle forfame men crush each other, while their wisdom but provokes rivalry. Both are instrumentsof evil, and are not proper principles of living.

“Besides, if before one’s own solid character and integrity become an influenceamong men and before one’s own disregard for fame reaches the hearts of men, oneshould go and force the preaching of charity and duty and the rules of conduct onwicked men, he would only make these men hate him for his very goodness. Such aperson may be called a messenger of evil. A messenger of evil will be the victimof evil from others. That, alas! will be your end.

“On the other hand, if the Prince loves the good and hates evil, what object willyou have in inviting him to change his ways? Before you have opened your mouth,the Prince himself will have seized the opportunity to wrest the victory from you.Your eyes will be dazzled, your expression fade, your words will hedge about, yourface will show confusion, and your heart will yield within you. It will be as thoughyou took fire to quell fire, water to quell water, which is known as aggravation.And if you begin with concessions, there will be no end to them. If you neglectthis sound advice and talk too much, you will die at the hands of that violent man.

“Of old, Chieh murdered Kuanlung P’ang, and Chou slew Prince Pikan. Their victimswere both men who cultivated themselves and cared for the good of the people, andthus offended their superiors. Therefore, their superiors got rid of them, becauseof their goodness. This was the result of their love for fame.

“Of old, Yao attacked the Ts’ung-chih and Hsu:-ao countries, and Ya attacked theYu-hus. The countries were laid waste, their inhabitants slaughtered, their rulerskilled. Yet they fought without ceasing, and strove for material objects to thelast. These are instances of striving for fame or for material objects. Have younot heard that even Sages cannot overcome this love of fame and this desire formaterial objects (in rulers)? Are you then likely to succeed? But of course youhave a plan. Tell it to me.”

“Gravity of demeanor and humility; persistence and singleness of purpose, — willthis do?” replied Yen Huei. “Alas, no,” said Confucius, “how can it? The Princeis a haughty person, filled with pride, and his moods are fickle. No one opposeshim, and so he has come to take actual pleasure in trampling upon the feelings ofothers. And if he has thus failed in the practice of routine virtues, do you expectthat he will take readily to higher ones? He will persist in his ways, and thoughoutwardly he may agree with you, inwardly he will not repent. How then will youmake him mend his ways?”

“Why, then,” (replied Yen Huei) “I can be inwardly straight, and outwardly yielding,and I shall substantiate what I say by appeals to antiquity. He who is inwardlystraight is a servant of God. And he who is a servant of God knows that the Sonof Heaven and himself are equally the children of God {21}. Shall then such a onetrouble whether his words are approved or disapproved by man? Such a person is commonlyregarded as an (innocent) child. This is to be a servant of God. He who is outwardlyyielding is a servant of man. He bows, he kneels, he folds his hands — such isthe ceremonial of a minister. What all men do, shall I not do also? What all mendo, none will blame me for doing. This is to be a servant of man. He who substantiateshis words by appeals to antiquity is a servant of the Sages of old. Although I utterthe words of warning and take him to task, it is the Sages of old who speak, andnot I. Thus I shall not receive the blame for my uprightness. This is to be theservant of the Sages of old. Will this do?”

“No! How can it?” replied Confucius. “Your plans are too many. You are firm, butlacking in prudence. However, you are only narrow minded, but you will not get intotrouble; but that is all. You will still be far from influencing him because yourown opinions are still too rigid.”

“Then,” said Yen Huei, “I can go no further. I venture to ask for a method.”

Confucius said, “Keep fast, and I shall tell you. Will it be easy for you when youstill have a narrow mind? He who treats things as easy will not be approved by thebright heaven.”

“My family is poor,” replied Yen Huei, “and for many months we have tasted neitherwine nor flesh. Is that not fasting?”

“That is a fast according to the religious observances,” answered Confucius, “butnot the fasting of the heart.”

“And may I ask,” said Yen Huei, “in what consists the fasting of the heart?”

“Concentrate your will. Hear not with your ears, but with your mind; not with yourmind, but with your spirit. Let your hearing stop with the ears, and let your mindstop with its images. Let your spirit, however, be like a blank, passively responsiveto externals. In such open receptivity only can Tao abide. And that open receptivityis the fasting of the heart.”

“Then,” said Yen Huei, “the reason I could not use this method was because of consciousnessof a self. If I could apply this method, the assumption of a self would have gone.Is this what you mean by the receptive state?”

“Exactly so,” replied the Master. “Let me tell you. Enter this man’s service, butwithout idea of working for fame. Talk when he is in a mood to listen, and stopwhen he is not. Do without any sort of labels or self- advertisements. Keep to theOne and let things take their natural course. Then you may have some chance of success.It is easy to stop walking: the trouble is to walk without touching the ground.As an agent of man, it is easy to use artificial devices; but not as an agent ofGod. You have heard of winged creatures flying. You have never heard of flying withoutwings. You have heard of men being wise with knowledge. You have never heard ofmen wise without knowledge “Look at that emptiness. There is brightness in an emptyroom. Good luck dwells in repose. If there is not (inner) repose, your mind willbe galloping about though you are sitting still. Let your ears and eyes communicatewithin but shut out all knowledge from the mind. Then the spirits will come to dwelltherein, not to mention man. This is the method for the transformation (influencing)of all Creation. It was the key to the influence of Yu and Shun, and the secretof the success of Fu Hsi and Chi Chu. How much more should the common man followthe same rule?”

[Two sections are omitted here. ~ Editor]

A certain carpenter Shih was travelling to the Ch’i State. On reaching Shady Circle,he saw a sacred li tree in the temple to the God of Earth. It was so large thatits shade could cover a herd of several thousand cattle. It was a hundred spansin girth, towering up eighty feet over the hilltop, before it branched out. A dozenboats could be cut out of it. Crowds stood gazing at it, but the carpenter tookno notice, and went on his way without even casting a look behind. His apprenticehowever took a good look at it, and when he caught up with his master, said, “Eversince I have handled an adze in your service, I have never seen such a splendidpiece of timber. How was it that you, Master, did not care to stop and look at it?”

“Forget about it. It’s not worth talking about,” replied his master. “It’s goodfor nothing. Made into a boat, it would sink; into a coffin, it would rot; intofurniture, it would break easily; into a door, it would sweat; into a pillar, itwould be worm-eaten. It is wood of no quality, and of no use. That is why it hasattained its present age.”

When the carpenter reached home, he dreamt that the spirit of the tree appearedto him in his sleep and spoke to him as follows: “What is it you intend to compareme with? Is it with fine-grained wood? Look at the cherry-apple, the pear, the orange,the pumelo, and other fruit bearers? As soon as their fruit ripens they are strippedand treated with indignity. The great boughs are snapped off, the small ones scatteredabroad. Thus do these trees by their own value injure their own lives. They cannotfulfil their allotted span of years, but perish prematurely because they destroythemselves for the (admiration of) the world. Thus it is with all things. Moreover,I tried for a long period to be useless. Many times I was in danger of being cutdown, but at length I have succeeded, and so have become exceedingly useful to myself.Had I indeed been of use, I should not be able to grow to this height. Moreover,you and I are both created things. Have done then with this criticism of each other.Is a good-for-nothing fellow in imminent danger of death a fit person to talk ofa good-for-nothing tree?” When the carpenter Shih awaked and told his dream, hisapprentice said, “If the tree aimed at uselessness, how was it that it became asacred tree?”

“Hush!” replied his master. “Keep quiet. It merely took refuge in the temple toescape from the abuse of those who do not appreciate it. Had it not become sacred,how many would have wanted to cut it down! Moreover, the means it adopts for safetyis different from that of others, and to criticize it by ordinary standards wouldbe far wide of the mark.”

Tsech’i of Nan-po was travelling on the hill of Shang when he saw a large tree whichastonished him very much. A thousand chariot teams of four horses could find shelterunder its shade. “What tree is this?” cried Tsech’i. “Surely it must be unusuallyfine timber.” Then looking up, he saw that its branches were too crooked for rafters;and looking down he saw that the trunk’s twisting loose grain made it valuelessfor coffins. He tasted a leaf, but it took the skin off his lips; and its odor wasso strong that it would make a man intoxicated for three days together. “Ah!” saidTsech’i, “this tree is really good for nothing, and that is how it has attainedthis size. A spiritual man might well follow its example of uselessness.”

In the State of Sung there is a land belonging to the Chings, where thrive the catalpa,the cedar, and the mulberry. Such as are of one span or so in girth are cut downfor monkey cages. Those of two or three spans are cut down for the beams of finehouses. Those of seven or eight spans are cut down for the solid (unjointed) sidesof rich men’s coffins. Thus they do not fulfil their allotted span of years, butperish young beneath the axe. Such is the misfortune which overtakes worth. Forthe sacrifices to the River God, neither bulls with white foreheads, nor pigs withhigh snouts, nor men suffering from piles, can be used. This is known to all thesoothsayers, for these are regarded as inauspicious. The wise, however, would regardthem as extremely auspicious (to themselves).

There was a hunchback named Su. His jaws touched his navel. His shoulders were higherthan his head. His neck bone stuck out toward the sky. His viscera were turned upsidedown. His buttocks were where his ribs should have been. By tailoring, or washing,he was easily able to earn his living. By sifting rice he could make enough to supporta family of ten. When orders came down for a conscription, the hunchback walkedabout unconcerned among the crowd. And similarly, in government conscription forpublic works, his deformity saved him from being called. On the other hand, whenit came to government donations of grain for the disabled, the hunchback receivedas much as three chung and of firewood, ten faggots. And if physical deformity wasthus enough to preserve his body until the end of his days, how much more shouldmoral and mental deformity avail!

When Confucius was in the Ch’u State, the eccentric Chieh Yu passed his door, saying,”O phoenix! O phoenix! How has thy virtue fallen! Wait not for the coming years,nor hanker back to the past. When the right principles prevail on earth, prophetswill fulfil their mission. When the right principles prevail not, they will butpreserve themselves. At the present day, they are but trying to keep out of jail!The good fortunes of this world are light as feathers, yet none estimates them attheir true value. The misfortunes of this life are weighty as the earth, yet noneknows how to keep out of their reach. No more, no more, show off your virtue. Beware,beware, move cautiously on! O brambles, O brambles, wound not my steps! I pick myway about, hurt not my feet!” {22}

The mountain trees invite their own cutting down; lamp oil invites its own burningup. Cinnamon bark can be eaten; therefore the tree is cut down. Lacquer can be used,therefore the tree is scraped. All men know the utility of useful things; but theydo not know the utility of futility.

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Deformities, or Evidence of a Full Character

In the state of Lu there was a man, named Wang T’ai, who had had one of his legscut off. His disciples were as numerous as those of Confucius. Ch’ang Chi askedConfucius, saying, “This Wang T’ai has been mutilated, yet he has as many followersin the Lu State as you. He neither stands up to preach nor sits down to give discourse;yet those who go to him empty, depart full. Is he the kind of person who can teachwithout words and influence people’s minds without material means? What manner ofman is this?”

“He is a sage,” replied Confucius, “I wanted to go to him, but am merely behindthe others. Even I will go and make him my teacher, — why not those who are lesserthan I? And I will lead, not only the State of Lu, but the whole world to followhim.”

“The man has been mutilated,” said Ch’ang Chi, “and yet people call him ‘Master.’He must be very different from the ordinary men. If so, how does he train his mind?”

“Life and Death are indeed changes of great moment,” answered Confucius, “but theycannot affect his mind. Heaven and earth may collapse, but his mind will remain.Being indeed without flaw, it will not share the fate of all things. It can controlthe transformation of things, while preserving its source intact.”

“How so?” asked Ch’ang Chi. “From the point of view of differentiation of things,”replied Confucius, “we distinguish between the liver and the gall, between the Ch’uState and the Yueh State. From the point of view of their sameness, all things areOne. He who regards things in this light does not even trouble about what reacheshim through the senses of hearing and sight, but lets his mind wander in the moralharmony of things. He beholds the unity in things, and does not notice the lossof particular objects. And thus the loss of his leg is to him as would be the lossof so much dirt.”

“But he cultivates only himself,” said Ch’ang Chi. “He uses his knowledge to perfecthis mind, and develops his mind into the Absolute Mind. But how is it that peopleflock around him?”

“A man,” replied Confucius, “does not seek to see himself in running water, butin still water. For only what is itself still can instill stillness into others.The grace of earth has reached only the pines and cedars; winter and summer alike,they are green. The grace of God has reached to Yao and to Shun, who alone attainedrectitude. Happily he was able to rectify himself and thus become the means throughwhich all were rectified. For the possession of one’s original (nature) is evidencedin true courage.

A man will, single-handed, brave a whole army. And if such a result can be achievedby one in search of fame through self control, how much greater courage can be shownby one who extends his sway over heaven and earth and gives shelter to all things,who, lodging temporarily within the confines of a body with contempt for the superficialitiesof sight and sound, brings his knowledge to level all knowledge and whose mind neverdies! Besides, he (Wang T’ai) is only awaiting his appointed hour to go up to Heaven.Men indeed flock to him of their own accord. How can he take seriously the affairsof this world?”

Shent’u Chia had only one leg. He studied under Pohun Wujen (Muddle-Head No-Such-Person”)together with Tsech’an {24} of the Cheng State. The latter said to him, “When Ileave first, do you remain behind. When you leave first, I will remain behind.”Next day, when they were again together sitting on the same mat in the lecture-room,Tsech’an said, “When I leave first, do you remain behind. Or if you leave first,I will remain behind. I am now about to go. Will you remain or not? I notice youshow no respect to a high personage. Perhaps you think yourself my equal?”

“In the house of the Master,” replied Shent’u Chia, “there is already a high personage(the Master). Perhaps you think that you are the high personage and therefore shouldtake precedence over the rest. Now I have heard that if a mirror is perfectly bright,dust will not collect on it, and that if it does, the mirror is no longer bright.He who associates for long with the wise should be without fault. Now you have beenseeking the greater things at the feet of our Master, yet you can utter words likethese. Don’t you think you are making a mistake?”

“You are already mutilated like this.” retorted Tsech’an, “yet you are still seekingto compete in virtue with Yao. To look at you, I should say you had enough to doto reflect on your past misdeeds!”

“Those who cover up their sins,” said Shent’u Chia, “so as not to lose their legs,are many in number. Those who forget to cover up their misdemeanors and so losetheir legs (through punishment) are few. But only the virtuous man can recognizethe inevitable and remain unmoved. People who walked in front of the bull’s-eyewhen Hou Yi (the famous archer) was shooting, would be hit. Some who were not hitwere just lucky. There are many people with sound legs who laugh at me for not havingthem. This used to make me angry. But since I came to study under our Master, Ihave stopped worrying about it. Perhaps our Master has so far succeeded in washing(purifying) me with his goodness. At any rate, I have been with him nineteen yearswithout being aware of my deformity. Now you and I are roaming in the realm of thespiritual, and you are judging me in the realm of the physical. {25} Are you notcommitting a mistake?” At this Tsech’an began to fidget and his countenance changed,and he bade Shent’u Chia to speak no more.

There was a man of the Lu State who had been mutilated, by the name of Shushan No-toes.He came walking on his heels to see Confucius; but Confucius said, “You were careless,and so brought this misfortune upon yourself. What is the use of coming to me now?””It was because I was inexperienced and careless with my body that I hurt my feet,”replied No-toes. “Now I have come with something more precious than feet, and itis that which I am seeking to preserve. There is no man, but Heaven shelters him;and there is no man, but the Earth supports him. I thought that you, Master, wouldbe like Heaven and Earth. I little expected to hear these words from you.”

“Pardon my stupidity,” said Confucius. “Why not come in? I shall discuss with youwhat I have learned.” But No-toes left. When No-toes had left, Confucius said tohis disciples, “Take a good lesson. No-toes is one-legged, yet he is seeking tolearn in order to make atonement for his previous misdeeds. How much more shouldthose who have no misdeeds for which to atone?”

No-toes went off to see Lao Tan (Laotse) and said, “Is Confucius a Perfect One oris he not quite? How is it that he is so anxious to learn from you? He is seekingto earn a reputation by his abstruse and strange learning, which is regarded bythe Perfect One as mere fetters.”

“Why do you not make him regard life and death, and possibility and impossibilityas alternations of one and the same principle,” answered Lao Tan, “and so releasehim from these fetters?”

“It is God who has thus punished him,” replied No-toes. “How could he be released?”

Duke Ai of the Lu State said to Confucius, “In the Wei State there is an ugly person,named Ait’ai (Ugly) T’o. The men who have lived with him cannot stop thinking abouthim. Women who have seen him, would say to their parents, ‘Rather than be anotherman’s wife, I would be this man’s concubine.’ There are scores of such women. Henever tries to lead others, but only follows them. He wields no power of a rulerby which he may protect men’s lives. He has no hoarded wealth by which to gratifytheir bellies, and is besides frightfully loathsome. He follows but does not lead,and his name is not known outside his own State. Yet men and women alike all seekhis company. So there must be some thing in him that is different from other people.I sent for him, and saw that he was indeed frightfully ugly. Yet we had not beenmany months together before I began to see there was something in this man. A yearhad not passed before I began to trust him. As my State wanted a Prime Minister,I offered him the post. He looked sullenly before he replied and appeared as ifhe would much rather have declined. Perhaps he did not think me good enough forhim! At any rate, I gave the post to him; but in a very short time he left me andwent away. I grieved for him as for a lost friend, as though there were none leftwith whom I could enjoy having my kingdom. What manner of man is this?”

“When I was on a mission to the Ch’u State,” replied Confucius, “I saw a litterof young pigs sucking their dead mother. After a while they looked at her, and thenall left the body and went off. For their mother did not look at them any more,nor did she seem any more to have been of their kind. What they loved was theirmother; not the body which contained her, but that which made the body what it was.When a man is killed in battle, his coffin is not covered with a square canopy.A man whose leg has been cut off does not value a present of shoes. In each case,the original purpose of such things is gone. The concubines of the Son of Heavendo not cut their nails or pierce their ears. Those (servants) who are married haveto live outside (the palace) and cannot be employed again. Such is the importanceattached to preserving the body whole. How much more valued is one who has preservedhis virtue whole? “Now Ugly T’o has said nothing and is already trusted. He hasachieved nothing and is sought after, and is offered the government of a countrywith the only fear that he might decline. Indeed he must be the one whose talentsare perfect and whose virtue is without outward form!”

What do you mean by his talents being perfect?” asked the Duke. Life and Death,’ replied Confucius, “possession and loss, success and failure, poverty and wealth,virtue and vice, good and evil report hunger and thirst, heat and cold — theseare changes of things in the natural course of events. Day and night they followupon one another, and no man can say where they spring from. Therefore they mustnot be allowed to disturb the natural harmony, nor enter into the soul’s domain.One should live so that one is at ease and in harmony with the world, without lossof happiness, and by day and by night, share the (peace of) spring with the createdthings. Thus continuously one creates the seasons in one’s own breast. Such a personmay be said to have perfect talents.”

“And what is virtue without outward form?”

“When standing still,” said Confucius, “the water is in the most perfect state ofrepose. Let that be your model. It remains quietly within, and is not agitated without.It is from the cultivation of such harmony that virtue results. And if virtue takesno outward form, man will not be able to keep aloof from it.”

Some days afterwards Duke Ai told Mintse saying, “When first I took over the reinsof government, I thought that in guiding the people and caring for their lives,I had done all my duty as a ruler. But now that I have heard the words of a perfectman, I fear that I have not achieved it, but am foolishly squandering my bodilyenergy and bringing ruin to my country. Confucius and I are not prince and minister,but friends in spirit.’

Hunchback-Deformed-No-Lips spoke with Duke Ling of Wei and the Duke took a fancyto him. As for the well- formed men, he thought their necks were too scraggy. Big-Jar-Goiterspoke with Duke Huan of Ch’i, and the Duke took a fancy to him. As for the well-formedmen, he thought their necks were too scraggy. Thus it is that when virtue excels,the outward form is forgotten. But mankind forgets not that which is to be forgotten,forgetting that which is not to be forgotten. This is forgetfulness indeed!

And thus the Sage sets his spirit free, while knowledge is regarded as extraneousgrowths – agreements are for cementing relationships, goods are only for socialdealings, and the handicrafts are only for serving commerce. For the Sage does notcontrive, and therefore has no use for knowledge; he does not cut up the world,and therefore requires no cementing of relationships; he has no loss, and thereforehas no need to acquire; he sells nothing, and therefore has no use for commerce.These four qualifications are bestowed upon him by God, that is to say, he is fedby God. And he who is thus fed by God has little need to be fed by man.

He wears the human form without human passions. Because he wears the human formhe associates with men. Because he has not human passions the questions of rightand wrong do not touch him. Infinitesimal indeed is that which belongs to the human;infinitely great is that which is completed in God.

Hueitse said to Chuang Tzu, “Do men indeed originally have no passions?”

“Certainly,” replied Chuang Tzu.

“But if a man has no passions,” argued Hueitse, “what is it that makes him a man?”

“Tao,” replied Chuang Tzu, “gives him his expressions, and God gives him his form.How should he not be a man?”

“If then he is a man,” said Hueitse, “how can he be without passions?”

“Right and wrong (approval and disapproval),” answered Chuang Tzu, “are what I meanby passions. By a man without passions I mean one who does not permit likes anddislikes to disturb his internal economy, but rather falls in line with nature anddoes not try to improve upon (the materials of) living.”

“But how is a man to live this bodily life,” asked Hueitse.

“He does not try to improve upon (the materials of) his living?”

“Tao gives him his expression,” said Chuang Tzu, “and God gives him his form. Heshould not permit likes and dislikes to disturb his internal economy. But now youare devoting your intelligence to externals, and wearing out your vital spirit.Lean against a tree and sing; or sit against a table and sleep! God has made youa shapely sight, yet your only thought is the hard and white.” {26}

[Back to Start]

The Great Supreme

He who knows what is of God and who knows what is of Man has reached indeed theheight (of wisdom). One who knows what is of God patterns his living after God.One who knows what is of Man may still use his knowledge of the known to develophis knowledge of the unknown, living till the end of his days and not perishingyoung. This is the fullness of knowledge. Herein, however, there is a flaw. Correctknowledge is dependent on objects, but the objects of knowledge are relative anduncertain (changing). How can one know that the natural is not really of man, andwhat is of man is not really natural? We must, moreover, have true men before wecan have true knowledge.

But what is a true man? The true men of old did not override the weak, did not attaintheir ends by brute strength, and did not gather around them counsellors. Thus,failing they had no cause for regret; succeeding, no cause for self-satisfaction.And thus they could scale heights without trembling, enter water without becomingwet, and go through fire without feeling hot. That is the kind of knowledge whichreaches to the depths of Tao.

The true men of old slept without dreams and waked up without worries. They atewith indifference to flavour, and drew deep breaths. For true men draw breath fromtheir heels, the vulgar only from their throats. Out of the crooked, words are retchedup like vomit. When man’s attachments are deep, their divine endowments are shallow.

The true men of old did not know what it was to love life or to hate death. Theydid not rejoice in birth, nor strive to put off dissolution. Unconcerned they cameand unconcerned they went. That was all. They did not forget whence it was theyhad sprung, neither did they seek to inquire their return thither. Cheerfully theyaccepted life, waiting patiently for their restoration (the end). This is what iscalled not to lead the heart astray from Tao, and not to supplement the naturalby human means. Such a one may be called a true man. Such men are free in mind andcalm in demeanor, with high fore heads. Sometimes disconsolate like autumn, andsometimes warm like spring, their joys and sorrows are in direct touch with thefour seasons in harmony with all creation, and none know the limit thereof. Andso it is that when the Sage wages war, he can destroy a kingdom and yet not losethe affection of the people; he spreads blessing upon all things, but it is notdue to his (conscious) love of fellow men. Therefore he who delights in understandingthe material world is not a Sage. He who has personal attachments is not humane.He who calculates the time of his actions is not wise. He who does not know theinteraction of benefit and harm is not a superior man. He who pursues fame at therisk of losing his self is not a scholar. He who loses his life and is not trueto himself can never be a master of man. Thus Hu Puhsieh, Wu Kuang, Po Yi, Shu Chi,Chi Tse, Hsu Yu, Chi T’o, and Shent’u Ti, were the servants of rulers, and did thebehests of others, not their own. {27}

The true men of old appeared of towering stature and yet could not topple down.They behaved as though wanting in themselves, but without looking up to others.Naturally independent of mind, they were not severe. Living in unconstrained freedom,yet they did not try to show off. They appeared to smile as if pleased, and to moveonly in natural response to surroundings. Their serenity flowed from the store ofgoodness within. In social relationships, they kept to their inner character. Broad-minded,they appeared great; towering, they seemed beyond control. Continuously abiding,they seemed like doors kept shut; absent-minded, they seemed to forget speech. Theysaw in penal laws an outward form; in social ceremonies, certain means; in knowledge,tools of expediency; in morality, a guide. It was for this reason that for thempenal laws meant a merciful administration; social ceremonies, a means to get alongwith the world; knowledge a help for doing what they could not avoid; and morality,a guide that they might walk along with others to reach a hill. <<28>>And all men really thought that they were at pains to make their lives correct.

For what they cared for was ONE, and what they did not care for was ONE also. Thatwhich they regarded as ONE was ONE, and that which they did not regard as ONE wasONE likewise. In that which was ONE, they were of God; in that which was not ONE,they were of man. And so between the human and the divine no conflict ensued. Thiswas to be a true man.

Life and Death are a part of Destiny. Their sequence, like day and night, is ofGod, beyond the interference of man. These all lie in the inevitable nature of things.He simply looks upon God as his father; if he loves him with what is born of thebody, shall he not love him also with that which is greater than the body? A manlooks upon a ruler of men as one superior to himself; if he is willing to sacrificehis body (for his ruler), shall he not then offer his pure (spirit) also?

When the pond dries up and the fishes are left upon the dry ground, rather thanleave them to moisten each other with their damp and spittle it would be far betterto let them forget themselves in their native rivers – and lakes. And it would bebetter than praising Yao and blaming Chieh to forget both (the good and bad) andlose oneself in Tao.

The Great (universe) gives me this form, this toil in manhood, this repose in oldage, this rest in death. And surely that which is such a kind arbiter of my lifeis the best arbiter of my death.

A boat may be hidden in a creek, or concealed in a bog, which is generally consideredsafe. But at midnight a strong man may come and carry it away on his back. Thosedull of understanding do not perceive that however you conceal small things in largerones, there will always be a chance of losing them. But if you entrust that whichbelongs to the universe to the whole universe, from it there will be no escape.For this is the great law of things.

To have been cast in this human form is to us already a source of joy. How muchgreater joy beyond our conception to know that that which is now in human form mayundergo countless transitions, with only the infinite to look forward to? Thereforeit is that the Sage rejoices in that which can never be lost, but endures always.For if we emulate those who can accept graciously long age or short life and thevicissitudes of events, how much more that which informs all creation on which allchanging phenomena depend?

For Tao has its inner reality and its evidences. It is devoid of action and of form.It may be transmitted, but cannot be received; It may be obtained, but cannot beseen. It is based in itself, rooted in itself. Before heaven and earth were, Taoexisted by itself from all time. It gave the spirits and rulers their spiritualpowers, and gave Heaven and Earth their birth. To Tao, the zenith is not high, northe nadir low; no point in time is long ago, nor by the lapse of ages has it grownold.

Hsi Wei obtained Tao, and so set the universe in order. Fu Hsi {29} obtained it,and was able to steal the secrets of eternal principles. The Great Bear obtainedit, and has never erred from its course. The sun and moon obtained it, and havenever ceased to revolve. K’an P’i {30} obtained it, and made his abode in the K’unlunmountains. P’ing I {31} obtained it, and rules over the streams. Chien Wu {32} obtainedit, and dwells on Mount T’ai. The Yellow Emperor {33} obtained it, and soared uponthe clouds to heaven. Chuan Hsu {34} obtained it, and dwells in the Dark Palace.Yu Ch’iang {35} obtained it, and established himself at the North Pole. The Western(Fairy) Queen Mother obtained it, and settled at Shao Kuang, since when and untilwhen, no one knows. P’eng Tsu obtained it, and lived from the time of Shun untilthe time of the Five Princes. Fu Yueh obtained it, and as the Minister of Wu Ting{36} extended his rule to the whole empire. And now, charioted upon the Tungwei(one constellation) and drawn by the Chiwei (another constellation), he has takenhis station among the stars of heaven.

Nanpo Tsek’uei said to Nu: Yu (or Female Yu), “You are of a high age, and yet youhave a child’s complexion. How is this?” Nu: Yu replied, “I have learned Tao.”

“Could I get Tao by studying it?” asked the other. “No! How can you?” said Nu: Yu.”You are not the type of person. There was Puliang I. He had all the mental talentsof a sage, but not Tao of the sage. Now I had Tao, though not those talents. Butdo you think I was able to teach him to become indeed a sage? Had it been so, thento teach Tao to one who has a sage’s talents would be an easy matter. It was notso, for I had to wait patiently to reveal it to him. In three days, he could transcendthis mundane world. Again I waited for seven days more, then he could transcendall material existence. After he could transcend all material existence, I waitedfor another nine days, after which he could transcend all life. After he could transcendall life, then he had the clear vision of the morning, and after that, was ableto see the Solitary (One). After seeing the Solitary, he could abolish the distinctionsof past and present. After abolishing the past and present, he was able to enterthere where life and death are no more, where killing does not take away life, nordoes giving birth add to it. He was ever in accord with the exigencies of his environment,accepting all and welcoming all, regarding everything as destroyed, and everythingas in completion. This is to be ‘secure amidst confusion,’ reaching security throughchaos.”

“Where did you learn this from?” asked Nanpo Tsek’uei. “I learned it from the Sonof Ink,” replied Nu Yu, “and the Son of Ink learned it from the Grandson of Learning,the Grandson of Learning from Understanding, and Understanding from Insight, Insightlearned it from Practice, Practice from Folk Song, and Folk Song from Silence, Silencefrom the Void, and the Void learned it from the Seeming Beginning.”

Four men: Tsesze, Tseyu, Tseli, and Tselai, were conversing together, saying, “Whoevercan make Not-being the head, Life the backbone, and Death the tail, and whoeverrealizes that death and life and being and non-being are of one body, that man shallbe admitted to friendship with us.” The four looked at each other and smiled, andcompletely understanding one another, became friends accordingly. By-and-by, Tseyufell ill, and Tsesze went to see him. “Verily the Creator is great!” said the sickman. “See how He has doubled me up.” His back was so hunched that his viscera wereat the top of his body. His cheeks were level with his navel, and his shoulderswere higher than his neck. His neck bone pointed up towards the sky. The whole economyof his organism was deranged, but his mind was calm as ever. He dragged himselfto a well, and said, “Alas, that God should have doubled me up like this!”

“Do you dislike it?” asked Tsesze. ” No, why should l?” replied Tseyu. “If my leftarm should become a cock, I should be able to herald the dawn with it. If my rightarm should become a sling, I should be able to shoot down a bird to broil with it.If my buttocks should become wheels, and my spirit become a horse, I should be ableto ride in it — what need would I have of a chariot? I obtained life because itwas my time, and I am now parting with it in accordance with Tao. Content with thecoming of things in their time and living in accord with Tao, joy and sorrow touchme not. This is, according to the ancients, to be freed from bondage. Those whocannot be freed from bondage are so because they are bound by the trammels of materialexistence. But man has ever given way before God; why, then, should I dislike it?”

By-and-by, Tselai fell ill, and lay gasping for breath, while his family stood weepingaround. Tseli went to see him, and cried to the wife and children: “Go away! Youare impeding his dissolution.” Then, leaning against the door, he said, “Verily,God is great! I wonder what He will make of you now, and whither He will send you.Do you think he will make you into a rat’s liver or into an insect leg?”

“A son,” answered Tselai, “must go whithersoever his parents bid him, East, West,North, or South. Yin and Yang are no other than a man’s parents. If Yin and Yangbid me die quickly, and I demur, then the fault is mine, not theirs. The Great (universe)gives me this form, this toil in manhood, this repose in old age, this rest in death.Surely that which is such a kind arbiter of my life is the best arbiter of my death.

“Suppose that the boiling metal in a smelting-pot were to bubble up and say, ‘Makeof me a Moyeh!’ {37} think the master caster would reject that metal as uncanny.And if simply because I am cast into a human form, I were to say, ‘Only a man! onlya man!’ I think the Creator too would reject me as uncanny. If I regard the universeas the smelting pot, and the Creator as the Master Caster, how should I worry whereverI am sent?” Then he sank into a peaceful sleep and waked up very much alive.

Tsesang Hu, Mengtse Fan, and Tsech’in Chang, were conversing together, saying, “Whocan live together as if they did not live together? Who can help each other as ifthey did not help each other? Who can mount to heaven, and roaming through the clouds,leap about to the Ultimate Infinite, oblivious of existence, for ever and ever withoutend?” The three looked at each other and smiled with a perfect understanding andbecame friends accordingly. Shortly afterwards, Tsesang Hu died, whereupon Confuciussent Tsekung to attend the mourning. But Tsekung found that one of his friends wasarranging the cocoon sheets and the other was playing stringed instruments and (bothwere) singing together as follows:

“Oh! come back to us, Sang Hu,Oh! come back to us, Sang Hu,Thou hast already returned to thy true state,While we still remain here as men! Oh!”

Tsekung hurried in and said, “How can you sing in the presence of a corpse? Is thisgood manners?”

The two men looked at each other and laughed, saying, “What should this man knowabout the meaning of good manners indeed?”

Tsekung went back and told Confucius, asking him, “What manner of men are these?Their object is to cultivate nothingness and that which lies beyond their corporealframes. They can sit near a corpse and sing, unmoved. There is no name for suchpersons. What manner of men are they?”

“These men,” replied Confucius, “play about beyond the material things; I playabout within them. Consequently, our paths do not meet, and I was stupid to havesent you to mourn. They consider themselves as companions of the Creator, and playabout within the One Spirit of the universe. They look upon life as a huge goiteror excrescence, and upon death as the breaking of a tumor. How could such peoplebe concerned about the coming of life and death or their sequence? They borrow theirforms from the different elements, and take temporary abode in the common forms,unconscious of their internal organs and oblivious of their senses of hearing andvision. They go through life backwards and forwards as in a circle without beginningor end, strolling forgetfully beyond the dust and dirt of mortality, and playingabout with the affairs of inaction. How should such men bustle about the conventionalitiesof this world, for the people to look at?”

“But if such is the case,” said Tsekung, “which world (the corporeal or the spiritual)would you follow?”

“I am one condemned by God,” replied Confucius. “Nevertheless, I will share withyou (what I know).”

“May I ask what is your method?” asked Tsekung “Fishes live their full life in water.Men live their full life in Tao,” replied Confucius. “Those that live their fulllife in water thrive in ponds. Those that live their full life in Tao achieve realizationof their nature in inaction. Hence the saying ‘Fish lose themselves (are happy)in water; man loses himself (is happy) in Tao.’ ” “May I ask,” said Tsekung, “about(those) strange people?”

“(Those) strange people,” replied Confucius, “are strange in the eyes of man, butnormal in the eyes of God. Hence the saying that the meanest thing in heaven wouldbe the best on earth; and the best on earth, the meanest in heaven.

Yen Huei said to Chungni <<38>> (Confucius), “When Mengsun Ts’ai’s motherdied, he wept, but without snivelling; his heart was not grieved; he wore mourningbut without sorrow. Yet although wanting in these three points, he is consideredthe best mourner in the State of Lu. Can there be really people with a hollow reputation?I am astonished.”

“Mr. Mengsun,” said Chungni, “has really mastered (the Tao). He has gone beyondthe wise ones. There are still certain things he cannot quite give up, but he hasalready given up some things. Mr. Mengsun knows not whence we come in life nor whitherwe go in death. He knows not which to put first and which to put last. He is readyto be transformed into other things without caring into what he may be transformed– that is all. How could that which is changing say that it will not change, andhow could that which regards itself as permanent realize that it is changing already?Even you and I are perhaps dreamers who have not yet awakened. Moreover, he knowshis form is subject to change, but his mind remains the same. He believes not inreal death, but regards it as moving into a new house. He weeps only when he seesothers weep, as it comes to him naturally.

“Besides, we all talk of ‘me.’ How do you know what is this ‘me’ that we speak of?You dream you are a bird, and soar to heaven, or dream you are a fish, and diveinto the ocean’s depths. And you cannot tell whether the man now speaking is awakeor in a dream. “A man feels a pleasurable sensation before he smiles, and smilesbefore he thinks how he ought to smile. Resign yourself to the sequence of things,forgetting the changes of life, and you shall enter into the pure, the divine, theOne.”

Yi-erh-tse went to see Hsu Yu. The latter asked him, saying, “What have you learnedfrom Yao?”

“He bade me,” replied the former, “practice charity and do my duty, and distinguishclearly between right and wrong.”

“Then what do you want here?” said Hsu Yu. “If Yao has already branded you withcharity of heart and duty, and cut off your nose with right and wrong, what areyou doing here in this free-and-easy, unfettered, take-what- comes neighborhood?”

“Nevertheless,” replied Yi-erh-tse. “I should like to loiter on its confines.”

“If a man has lost his eyes,” retorted Hsu Yu, “it is impossible for him to joinin the appreciation of beauty of face and complexion or to tell a blue sacrificialrobe from a yellow one.”

“Wu Chuang’s (No-Decorum’s) disregard of her beauty,” answered Yi-erh-tse, “ChuLiang’s disregard of his strength, the Yellow Emperor’s abandonment of his wisdom,–all these came from a process of purging and purification. And how do you knowbut that the Creator would rid me of my brandings, and give me a new nose, and makeme fit to become a disciple of yourself?”

“Ah!” replied Hsu Yu, “that cannot be known. But I will give you an outline. Ah!my Master, my Master! He trims down all created things, and does not account itjustice. He causes all created things to thrive and does not account it kindness.Dating back further than the remotest antiquity, He does not account himself old.Covering heaven, supporting earth, and fashioning the various forms of things, Hedoes not account himself skilled. It is Him you should seek.”

Yen Huei spoke to Chungni (Confucius), “I am getting on.”

“How so?” asked the latter.

“I have got rid of charity and duty,” replied the former.

“Very good,” replied Chungni, “but not quite perfect.”

Another day, Yen Huei met Chungni and said, “I am getting on.

“How so?”

“I have got rid of ceremonies and music,” answered Yen Huei.

“Very good,” said Chungni, “but not quite perfect.”

Another day, Yen Huei again met Chungni and said, “I am getting on.

“How so?”

“I can forget myself while sitting,” replied Yen Huei.

“What do you mean by that?” said Chungni, changing his countenance.

“I have freed myself from my body,” answered Yen Huei. I have discarded my reasoningpowers. And by thus getting rid of my body and mind, I have become One with theInfinite. This is what I mean by forgetting myself while sitting.”

“If you have become One,” said Chungni, “there can be no room for bias. If you havelost yourself, there can be no more hindrance. Perhaps you are really a wise one.I trust to be allowed to follow in your steps.

Tseyu and Tsesang were friends. Once when it had rained for ten days, Tseyu said,”Tsesang is probably ill.” So he packed up some food and went to see him. Arrivingat the door, he heard something between singing and weeping, accompanied with thesound of a stringed instrument, as follows: “O Father! O mother! Is this due toGod? Is this due to man?” It was as if his voice was broken and his words falteredWhereupon Tseyu went in and asked, “Why are you singing in such manner?”

“I was trying to think who could have brought me to this extreme,” replied Tsesang,”but I could not guess it. My father and mother would hardly wish me to be poor.Heaven covers all equally Earth supports all equally. How can they make me in particularso poor? I was seeking to find out who was responsible for this, but without success.Surely then I am brought to this extreme by Destiny.”

[Back to Start]

Joined Toes

Joined toes and extra fingers seem to come from nature, yet, functionally speaking they are superfluous. Goiters and tumors seem to come from the body, yet in theirnature, they are superfluous. And (similarly), to have many extraneous doctrines of charity and duty and regard them in practice as parts of a man’s natural sentimentsis not the true way of Tao. For just as joined toes are but useless lumps of flesh,and extra fingers but useless growths, so are the many artificial developments of the natural sentiments of men and the extravagances of charitable and dutiful conduct but so many superfluous uses of intelligence. People with superfluous keenness ofvision put into confusion the five colors, lose themselves in the forms and designs,and in the distinctions of greens and yellows for sacrificial robcs. Is this notso? Of such was Li Chu (the clear-sighted). People with superfluous keenness ofhearing put into confusion the five notes, exaggerate the tonic differences of thesix pitch-pipes, and the various timbres of metal, stone, silk, and bamboo of theHuang-chung, and the Ta-lu. {39} Is this not so? Of such was Shih K’uang (the musicmaster). People who abnormally develop charity exalt virtue and suppress naturein order to gain a reputation, make the world noisy with their discussions and causeit to follow impractical doctrines. Is this not so? Of such were Tseng and Shih.{40} People who commit excess in arguments, like piling up bricks and making knots,analyzing and inquiring into the distinctions of hard and white, identities and differences, wear themselves out over mere vain, useless terms. Is this not so?Of such were Yang and Mo {41}. All these are superfluous and devious growths ofknowledge and are not the correct guide for the world. He who would be the ultimateguide never loses sight of the inner nature of life. Therefore with him, the unitedis not like joined toes, the separated is not like extra fingers, what is long isnot considered as excess, and what is short is not regarded as wanting. For duck’s legs, though short, cannot be lengthened without dismay to the duck, and a crane’slegs, though long, cannot be shortened without misery to the crane. That which is long in nature must not be cut off, and that which is short in nature must not be lengthened. Thus will all sorrow be avoided. I suppose charity and duty are surelynot included in human nature. You see how many worries and dismays the charitable man has! Besides, divide your joined toes and you will howl: bite off your extrafinger and you will scream. In the one case, there is too much, and in the othertoo little; but the worries and dismays are the same. Now the charitable men of the present age go about with a look of concern sorrowing over the ills of the age, while the non-charitable let loose the desire of their nature in their greed afterposition and wealth. Therefore I Suppose charity and duty are not included in human nature. Yet from the time of the Three Dynasties downwards what a commotion hasbeen raised about them! Moreover, those who rely upon the arc, the line, compasses,and the square to make correct forms injure the natural constitution of things Those who use cords to bind and glue to piece together interfere with the natural character of things. Those who seek to satisfy the mind of man by hampering it with ceremoniesand music and affecting charity and devotion have lost their original nature. There is an original nature in things. Things in their original nature are curved without the help of arcs, straight without lines, round without compasses, and rectangular without squares; they are joined together without glue. and hold together without cords. In this manner all things live and grow from an inner urge and none can tell how they come to do so. They all have a place in the scheme of things and none cantell how they come to have their proper place. From time immemorial this has always been so, and it may not be tampered with. Why then should the doctrines of charityand duty continue to remain like so much glue or cords, in the domain of Tao and virtue, to give rise to confusion and doubt among mankind? Now the lesser doubtschange man’s purpose, and the greater doubts change man’s nature. How do we knowthis? Ever since the time when Shun made a bid for charity and duty and threw theworld into confusion, men have run about and exhausted themselves in the pursuitthereof. Is it not then charity and duty which have changed the nature of man? ThereforeI have tried to show {42} that from the time of the Three Dynasties onwards, thereis not one who has not changed his nature through certain external things. If acommon man, he will die for gain. If a scholar, he will die for fame. If a ruler of a township, he will die for his ancestral honors. If a Sage, he will die forthe world. The pursuits and ambitions of these men differ, but the injury to their nature resulting in the sacrifice of their lives is the same. Tsang and Ku were shepherds, and both lost their sheep. On inquiry it appeared that Tsang had beenengaged in reading with a shepherd’s stick under his arm, while Ku had gone to takepart in some trials of strength. Their pursuits were different, but the result ineach case was the loss of the sheep. Po Yi died for fame at the foot of Mount Shouyang.{43} Robber Cheh died for gain on the Mount Tungling. They died for different reasons, but the injury to their lives and nature was in each case the same. Why then mustwe applaud the former and blame the latter? All men die for something, and yet ifa man dies for charity and duty the world calls him a gentleman; but if he diesfor gain, the world calls him a low fellow. The dying being the same, one is neverthelesscalled a gentleman and the other called a low character. But in point of injuryto their lives and nature, Robber Cheh was just another Po Yi. Of what use then is the distinction of ‘gentleman’ and ‘low fellow’ between them? Besides, were aman to apply himself to charity and duty until he were the equal of Tseng or Shih,I would not call it good. Or to savors, until he were the equal of Shu Erh (famouscook), I would not call it good. Or to sound, until he were the equal of Shih K’uang,I would not call it good. Or to colors, until he were the equal of Li Chu, I wouldnot call it good. What I call good is not what is meant by charity and duty, but taking good care of virtue. And what I call good is not the so-called charity andduty, but following the nature of life. What I call good at hearing is not hearing others but hearing oneself. What I call good at vision is not seeing others but seeing oneself. For a man who sees not himself but others, or takes possession notof himself but of others, possessing only what others possess and possessing nothis own self, does what pleases others instead of pleasing his own nature. Now one who pleases others, instead of pleasing one’s own nature, whether he be Robber Chehor Po Yi, is just another one gone astray. Conscious of my own deficiencies in regardto Tao, I do not venture to practise the principles of charity and duty on the onehand, nor to lead the life of extravagance on the other.

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Horses’ Hooves

Horses have hooves to carry them over frost and snow, and hair to protect them fromwind and cold. They eat grass and drink water, and fling up their tails and gallop.Such is the real nature of horses. Ceremonial halls and big dwellings are of nouse to them. One day Polo (famous horse-trainer), {44} appeared, saying, “I am goodat managing horses.” So he burned their hair and clipped them, and pared their hoovesand branded them. He put halters around their necks and shackles around their legsand numbered them according to their stables. The result was that two or three inevery ten died. Then he kept them hungry and thirsty, trotting them and gallopingthem, and taught them to run in formations, with the misery of the tasselled bridle in front and the fear of the knotted whip behind, until more than half of them died.The potter says, “I am good at managing clay. If I want it round, I use compasses;if rectangular, a square.” The carpenter says, “I am good at managing wood. If Iwant it curved, I use an arc; if straight, a line.” But on what grounds can we thinkthat the nature of clay and wood desires this application of compasses and square,and arc and line? Nevertheless, every age extols Polo for his skill in training horses, and potters and carpenters for their skill with clay and wood. Those whomanage (govern) the affairs of the empire make the same mistake. I think one whoknows how to govern the empire should not do so. For the people have certain natural instincts — to weave and clothe themselves, to till the fields and feed themselves.This is their common character, in which all share. Such instincts may be called”Heaven born.” So in the days of perfect nature, men were quiet in their movements and serene in their looks. At that time, there were no paths over mountains, noboats or bridges over waters. All things were produced each in its natural district.Birds and beasts multiplied; trees and shrubs thrived. Thus it was that birds and beasts could be led by the hand, and one could climb up and peep into the magpie’s nest. For in the days of perfect nature, man lived together with birds and beasts,and there was no distinction of their kind. Who could know of the distinctions between gentlemen and common people? Being all equally without knowledge, their virtue couldnot go astray. Being all equally without desires, they were in a state of natural integrity. In this state of natural integrity, the people did not lose their (original)nature. And then when Sages appeared, crawling for charity and limping with duty,doubt and confusion entered men’s minds. They said they must make merry by meansof music and enforce distinctions by means of ceremony, and the empire became divided against itself. Were the uncarved wood not cut up, who could make sacrificial vessels?Were white jade left uncut, who could make the regalia of courts? Were Tao and virtuenot destroyed, what use would there be for charity and duty? Were men’s natural instincts not lost, what need would there be for music and ceremonies? Were the five colors not confused, who would need decorations? Were the five notes not confused, who would adopt the six pitch-pipes? Destruction of the natural integrity of thingsfor the production of articles of various kinds — this is the fault of the artisan. Destruction of Tao and virtue in order to introduce charity and duty — this is the error of the Sages. Horses live on dry land, eat grass and drink water. When pleased, they rub their necks together. When angry, they turn round and kick uptheir heels at each other. Thus far only do their natural instincts carry them. But bridled and bitted, with a moon-shaped metal plate on their foreheads, they learn to cast vicious looks, to turn their heads to bite, to nudge at the yoke,to cheat the bit out of their mouths or steal the bridle off their heads. Thus their minds and gestures become like those of thieves. This is the fault of Polo. In the days of Ho Hsu: {45} the people did nothing in particular at their homes and wentnowhere in particular in their walks. Having food, they rejoiced; tapping theirbellies, they wandered about. Thus far the natural capacities of the people carriedthem.

The Sages came then to make them bow and bend with ceremonies and music, in orderto regulate the external forms of intercourse, and dangled charity and duty beforethem, in order to keep their minds in submission. Then the people began to laborand develop a taste for knowledge, and to struggle with one another in their desirefor gain, to which there is no end. This is the error of the Sages.

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Opening Trunks, or A Protest against Civilization

The precautions taken against thieves who open trunks, search bags, or ransack tills,consist in securing with cords and fastening with bolts and locks. This is whatthe world calls wit. But a strong thief comes and carries off the till on his shoulders,with box and bag, and runs away with them. His only fear is that the cords and locksshould not be strong enough! Therefore, does not what the world used to call wit simply amount to saving up for the strong thief? And I venture to state that nothing of that which the world calls wit is otherwise than saving up for strong thieves; and nothing of that which the world calls sage wisdom is other than hoarding upfor strong thieves. How can this be shown? In the State of Ch’i, the neighboring towns overlooked one another and one could hear the barking of dogs and crowing of cocks in the neighboring town. Fishermen cast their nets and ploughmen ploughedthe land in a territory of over two thousand li. Within its four boundaries, was there a temple or shrine dedicated, a god worshipped, or a hamlet, county or a districtgoverned, but in accordance with the rules laid down by the Sages?

Yet one morning {46} T’ien Ch’engtse slew the ruler of Ch’i, and stole his kingdom.And not his kingdom only, but the wisdom-tricks which he had got from the Sagesas well, so that although T’ien Ch’engtse acquired the reputation of a thief, helived as securely and comfortably as ever did either Yao or Shun. The small Statesdid not venture to blame, nor the great States to punish him, and for twelve generationshis descendants ruled over Ch’i. {47}

Was this not a stealing the State of Ch’i and its wisdom-tricks of the Sages inorder to preserve their thieves’ lives? I venture to ask, was there ever anythingof what the world esteems as great wit otherwise than saving up for strong thieves,and was there ever anything of what the world calls sage wisdom other than hoardingup for strong thieves?

How can this be shown? Of old, Lungfeng was beheaded, Pikan was disemboweled, Changhungwas sliced to death, Tsehsu: was thrown to the waves. All these four were learnedones, but they could not preserve themselves from death by punishment.

An apprentice to Robber Cheh asked him saying, “Is there then Tao (moral principles)among thieves?”

“Tell me if there is anything in which there is not Tao,” Cheh replied.

“There is the sage character of thieves by which booty is located, the courage togo in first, and the chivalry of coming out last. There is the wisdom of calculatingsuccess, and kindness in the equal division of the spoil. There has never yet beena great robber who was not possessed of these five qualities.” It is seen thereforethat without the teachings of the Sages, good men could not keep their position,and without the teachings of the Sages, Robber Cheh could not accomplish his ends.Since good men are scarce and bad men are the majority, the good the Sages do tothe world is little and the evil great. Therefore it has been said “If the lipsare turned up, the teeth will be cold. It was the thinness of the wines of Lu whichcaused the siege of Hantan. {48}

When the Sages arose, gangsters appeared. Overthrow the Sages and set the gangstersfree, and then will the empire be in order. When the stream ceases, the gully driesup, and when the hill is levelled the chasm is filled. When the Sages are dead,gangsters will not show up, but the empire will rest in peace. On the other hand,if the Sages do not pop off neither will the gangsters drop off. Nor if you doublethe number of Sages wherewith to govern the empire will you do more than doublethe profits of Robber Cheh.

If pecks and bushels are used for measurement, the pecks and bushels themselveswill also be stolen, along with the rice. If scales and steel yards are used forweighing, the scales and steel yards themselves will also be stolen along with thegoods. If tallies and signets are used for good faith, the tallies and signets willalso be stolen. If charity and duty are used for moral principles, charity and dutywill also be stolen. How is this so? Steal a hook and you hang as a crook; steala kingdom and you are made a duke. (The teachings of) charity and duty remain inthe duke’s domain. Is it not true, then, that they are thieves of charity and dutyand of the wisdom of the Sages?

So it is that those who follow the way of brigandage are promoted into princes anddukes. Those who are bent on stealing charity and duty together with the measures,scales, tallies, and signets can be dissuaded by no rewards of official regaliaand uniform, nor deterred by fear of sharp instruments of punishment. This doublingthe profits of robbers like Cheh, making it impossible to get rid of them, is thefault of the Sages.

Therefore it has been said, “Fishes must be left in the water; the sharp weaponsof a state must be left where none can see them.” {49} These Sages are the sharpweapons of the world; they must not be shown to the world.

Banish wisdom, discard knowledge, {50} and gangsters will stop! Fling away jadeand destroy pearls, and petty thieves will cease. Burn tallies and break signets,and the people will revert to their uncouth integrity. Split measures and smashscales, and the people will not fight over quantities. Trample down all the institutionsof Sages, and the people will begin to be fit for discussing (Tao). Confuse thesix pitch-pipes, confine lutes and stringed instruments to the flames, stuff upthe ears of Blind Shih K’uang, and each man will keep his own sense of hearing.Put an end to decorations, confuse the five colors, glue up the eyes of Li Chu,and each man will keep his own sense of sight. Destroy arcs and lines, fling awaysquares and compasses, snap off the fingers of Ch’ui the Artisan, and each man willuse his own natural skill. Wherefore the saying, “Great skill appears like clumsiness.”{5l} Cut down the activities of Tseng and Shih {52} pinch the mouths of Yang Chuand Motse, discard charity and duty, and the virtue of the people will arrive atMystic Unity. {53}

If each man keeps his own sense of sight, the world will escape being burned up.If each man keeps his own sense of hearing, the world will escape entanglements.If each man keeps his intelligence, the world will escape confusion. If each mankeeps his own virtue, the world will avoid deviation from the true path. Tseng,Shih, Yang, Mo, Shih K’uang, Ch’ui, and Li Chu were all persons who developed theirexternal character and involved the world in the present confusion so that the lawsand statutes are of no avail. Have you never heard of the Age of Perfect Nature?

In the days of Yungch’eng, Tat’ing, Pohuang, Chungyang, Lilu, Lihsu:, Hsienyu:an,Hohsu:, Tsunlu, Chuyung, Fuhsi, and Shennung, {54} the people tied knots for reckoning.They enjoyed their food, beautified their clothing, were satisfied with their homes,and delighted in their customs. Neighboring settlements overlooked one another,so that they could hear the barking of dogs and crowing of cocks of their neighbors,and the people till the end of their days had never been outside their own country.{55} In those days there was indeed perfect peace.

But nowadays any one can make the people strain their necks and stand on tiptoesby saying, “In such and such a place there is a Sage.” Immediately they put togethera few provisions and hurry off, neglecting their parents at home and their masters’business abroad, going on foot through the territories of the Princes, and ridingto hundreds of miles away. Such is the evil effect of the rulers’ desire for knowledgeWhen the rulers desire knowledge and neglect Tao, the empire is overwhelmed withconfusion.

How can this be shown? When the knowledge of bows and cross-bows and hand-nets andtailed arrows increases, then they carry confusion among the birds of the air. Whenthe knowledge of hooks and bait and nets and traps increases, then they carry confusionamong the fishes of the deep. When the knowledge of fences and nets and snares increases,then they carry confusion among the beasts of the field. When cunning and deceitand flippancy and the sophistries of the “hard” and white’ and identities and differencesincrease in number and variety, then they overwhelm the world with logic.

Therefore it is that there is often chaos in the world, and the love of knowledgeis ever at the bottom of it. For all men strive to grasp what they do not know,while none strive to grasp what they already know; and all strive to discredit whatthey do not excel in, while none strive to discredit what they do excel in. Thatis why there is chaos. Thus, above, the splendor of the heavenly bodies is dimmed;below, the power of land and water is burned up, while in between the influenceof the four seasons is upset. There is not one tiny worm that moves on earth orinsect that flies in the air but has lost its original nature. Such indeed is theworld chaos caused by the desire for knowledge! Ever since the time of the ThreeDynasties downwards, it has been like this. The simple and the guileless have beenset aside; the specious and the cunning have been exalted. Tranquil inaction hasgiven place to love of disputation; and disputation alone is enough to bring chaosupon the world.

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On Tolerance

There has been such a thing as letting mankind alone and tolerance; there has neverbeen such a thing as governing mankind. Letting alone Springs from the fear lestmen’s natural dispositions be perverted and tolerance springs from the fear lesttheir character be corrupted. But if their natural dispositions be not perverted,nor their character corrupted, what need is there left for government?

Of old, when Yao governed the empire, he made the people live happily; consequentlythe people struggled to be happy and became restless. When Chieh governed the empirehe made the people live miserably; consequently the people regarded life as a burdenand were discontented. Restlessness and discontent are subversive of virtue; andwithout virtue there has never been such a thing as stability.

When man rejoices greatly, he gravitates towards yang (the positive pole). Whenhe is in great anger, he gravitates towards yin (the negative pole). If the equilibriumof positive and negative is disturbed, the four seasons are upset, and the balanceof heat and cold is destroyed, man himself suffers physically thereby. It causesmen to rejoice and sorrow inordinately, to live disorderly lives, to be vexed intheir thoughts, and to lose their balance and form of conduct. When that happens,then the whole world seethes with revolt and discontent, and we have such men asRobber Cheh, Tseng, and Shih. Offer the entire world as rewards for the good orthreaten the wicked with the dire punishments of the entire world, and it is stillinsufficient (to reform them). Consequently, with the entire world, one cannot furnishsufficient inducements or deterrents to action. From the Three Dynasties downwards,the world has lived in a helter-skelter of promotions and punishments. What chancehave the people left for living the even tenor of their lives?

Besides, love (over-refinement) of vision leads to debauchery in color; love ofhearing leads to debauchery in sound; love of charity leads to confusion in virtue;love of duty leads to perversion of principles; love of ceremonies (li) leads toa common fashion for technical skill; love of music leads to common lewdness ofthought; love of wisdom leads to a fashion for the arts; and love of knowledge leadsto a fashion for criticism If the people are allowed to live out the even tenorof their lives, the above eight may or may not be; it matters not. But if the peopleare not allowed to live out the even tenor of their lives, then these eight causediscontent and contention and strife, and throw the world into chaos.

Yet the world worships and cherishes them. Indeed deep-seated is the mental chaosof the world. Is it merely a passing mistake that can be simply removed? Yet theyobserve fasts before their discussion, bend down on their knees to practise them,and sing and beat the drum and dance to celebrate them. What can I do about it?

Therefore, when a gentleman is unavoidably compelled to take charge of the governmentof the empire, there is nothing better than inaction (letting alone). By means ofinaction only can he allow the people to live out the even tenor of their lives.Therefore he who values the world as his own self may then be entrusted with thegovernment of the world and he who loves the world as his own self may then be entrustedwith the care of the world. {56} Therefore if the gentleman can refrain from disturbingthe internal economy of man, and from glorifying the powers of sight and hearing,he can sit still like a corpse or spring into action like a dragon, be silent asthe deep or talk with the voice of thunder, the movements of his spirit callingforth the natural mechanism of Heaven. He can remain calm and leisurely doing nothing,while all things are brought to maturity and thrive. What need then would have Ito set about governing the world?

Ts’ui Chu: asked Lao Tan {57} , saying, “If the empire is not to be governed, howare men’s hearts to be kept good?”

“Be careful,” replied Lao Tan, “not to interfere with the natural goodness of theheart of man. Man’s heart may be forced down or stirred up. In each case the issueis fatal. By gentleness, the hardest heart may be softened. But try to cut and polishit, and it will glow like fire or freeze like ice. In the twinkling of an eye itwill pass beyond the limits of the Four Seas. In repose, it is profoundly still;in motion, it flies up to the sky. Like an unruly horse, it cannot be held in check.Such is the human heart.”

Of old, the Yellow Emperor first interfered with the natural goodness of the heartof man, by means of charity and duty. In consequence, Yao and Shun wore the hairoff their legs and the flesh off their arms in endeavoring to feed their people’sbodies. They tortured the people’s internal economy in order to conform to charityand duty. They exhausted the people’s energies to live in accordance with the lawsand statutes. Even then they did not succeed. Thereupon, Yao (had to) confine Huantouon Mount Ts’ung, exile the chiefs of the Three Miaos and their people into the ThreeWeis, and banish the Minister of Works to Yutu, which shows he had not succeeded.When it came to the times of the Three Kings, {58} the empire was in a state offoment. Among the bad men were Chieh and Cheh; among the good were Tseng and Shih.By and by, the Confucianists and the Motseanists arose; and then came confusionbetween joy and anger, fraud between the simple and the cunning, recrimination betweenthe virtuous and the evil-minded, slander between the honest and the liars, andthe world order collapsed. Then the great virtue lost its unity, men’s lives werefrustrated. When there was a general rush for knowledge, the people’s desires everwent beyond their possessions. The next thing was then to invent axes and saws,to kill by laws and statutes, to disfigure by chisels and awls. The empire seethedwith discontent, the blame for which rests upon those who would interfere with thenatural goodness of the heart of man.

In consequence, virtuous men sought refuge in mountain caves, while rulers of greatstates sat trembling in their ancestral halls. Then, when dead men lay about pillowedon each other’s corpses, when cangued prisoners jostled each other in crowds andcondemned criminals were seen everywhere, then the Confucianists and the Motseanistsbustled about and rolled up their sleeves in the midst of gyves and fetters! Alas,they know not shame, nor what it is to blush!

Until I can say that the wisdom of Sages is not a fastener of cangues, and thatcharity of heart and duty to one’s neighbor are not bolts for gyves, how shouldI know that Tseng and Shih were not the singing arrows {59} (forerunners) of (thegangsters) Chieh and Cheh? Therefore it is said, “Abandon wisdom and discard knowledge,and the empire will be at peace.”

The Yellow Emperor sat on the throne for nineteen years, and his laws obtained allover the empire. Hearing that Kuangch’engtse was living on Mount K’ungt’ung, hewent there to see him, and said, “I am told that you are in possession of perfectTao. May I ask what is the essence of this perfect Tao? I desire to obtain the essenceof the universe to secure good harvests and feed my people. I should like also tocontrol the yin and yang principles to fulfil the life of all living things.”

“What you are asking about,” replied Kuangch’engtse, “is merely the dregs of things.What you wish to control are the disintegrated factors thereof. Ever since the empirewas governed by you, the clouds have rained before thickening, the foliage of treeshas fallen before turning yellow, and the brightness of the sun and moon has increasinglypaled. You have the shallowness of mind of a glib talker. How then are you fit tospeak of perfect Tao?”

The Yellow Emperor withdrew. He resigned the Throne. He built himself a solitaryhut, and sat upon white straw. For three months he remained in seclusion, and thenwent again to see Kuangch’engtse.

The latter was lying with his head towards the south. The Yellow Emperor approachedfrom below upon his knees. Kowtowing twice upon the ground, he said, “I am toldthat you are in possession of perfect Tao. May I ask how to order one’s life sothat one may have long life?”

Kuangch’engtse jumped up with a start. “A good question indeed!” cried he. “Come,and I will speak to you of perfect Tao. The essence of perfect Tao is profoundlymysterious; its extent is lost in obscurity. “See nothing; hear nothing; guard yourspirit in quietude and your body will go right of its own accord.

“Be quiet, be pure; toil not your body, perturb not your vital essence, and youwill live for ever.

“For if the eye sees nothing, and the ear hears nothing, and the mind thinks nothing,your spirit will stay in your body, and the body will thereby live for ever.

“Cherish that which is within you, and shut off that which is without for much knowledgeis a curse.

“Then I will take you to that abode of Great Light to reach the Plateau of AbsoluteYang. I will lead you through the Door of the Dark Unknown to the Plateau of theAbsolute Yin.

“The Heaven and Earth have their separate functions. The yin and yang have theirhidden root. Guard carefully your body, and material things will prosper by themselves.

“I guard the original One, and rest in harmony with externals. Therefore I havebeen able to live for twelve hundred years and my body has not grown old.”

The Yellow Emperor kowtowed twice and said, “Kuangch’engtse is surely God.

“Come,” said Kuangch’engtse, “I will tell you. That thing is eternal; yet all menthink it mortal. That thing is infinite; yet all men think it finite. Those whopossess my Tao are princes in this life and rulers in the hereafter. Those who donot possess my Tao behold the light of day in this life and become clods of earthin the hereafter.

“Nowadays, all living things spring from the dust and to the dust return. But Iwill lead you through the portals of Eternity to wander in the great wilds of Infinity.My light is the light of sun and moon. My life is the life of Heaven and Earth.Before me all is nebulous; behind me all is dark, unknown. Men may all die, butI endure for ever.”

When General Clouds was going eastwards, he passed through the branches of Fuyao(a magic tree) and happened to meet Great Nebulous. The latter was slapping histhighs and hopping about. When General Clouds saw him, he stopped like one lostand stood still, saying, “Who are you, old man, and what are you doing here?”

“Strolling!” replied Great Nebulous, still slapping his thighs and hopping about.

“I want to ask about something,” said General Clouds.

“Ough!” uttered Great Nebulous.

“The spirits of Heaven are out of harmony,” said General Clouds; “the spirits ofthe Earth are smothered; the six influences {61} of the weather do not work together,and the four seasons are no longer regular. I desire to blend the essence of thesix influences and nourish all living beings. What am I to do?”

“I do not know! I do not know!” cried Great Nebulous, shaking his head, while stillslapping his thighs and hopping about.

So General Clouds did not press his question. Three years later, when passing eastwardsthrough the plains of the Sungs, he again fell in with Great Nebulous. The formerwas overjoyed, and hurrying up, said, “Has your Holiness {62} forgotten me? Hasyour Holiness forgotten me?” He then kowtowed twice and desired to be allowed tointerrogate Great Nebulous; but the latter said, “I wander on without knowing whatI want. I rush about without knowing whither I am going. I simply stroll about,watching unexpected events. What should I know?”

“I too regard myself as rushing about,” answered General Clouds; “but the peoplefollow my movements. I cannot escape the people and what I do they follow. I wouldgladly receive some advice.”

“That the scheme of empire is in confusion,” said Great Nebulous, “that the conditionsof life are violated, that the will of the Dark Heaven is not accomplished, thatthe beasts of the field are scattered, that the birds of the air cry at night, thatblight strikes the trees and herbs, that destruction spreads among the creepingthings, — this, alas! is the fault of those who would rule others.”

“True,” replied General Clouds, “but what am I to do?”

“Ah!” cried Great Nebulous, “keep quiet and go home in peace!”

“It is not often,” urged General Clouds, “that I meet with your Holiness. I wouldgladly receive some advice.”

“Ah,” said Great Nebulous, “nourish your heart. Rest in inaction, and the worldwill be reformed of itself. Forget your body and spit forth intelligence. Ignoreall differences and become one with the Infinite. Release your mind, and free yourspirit. Be vacuous, be devoid of soul. Thus will things grow and prosper and returnto their Root. Returning to their Root without their knowing it, the result willbe a formless whole which will never be cut up. To know it is to cut it up. Asknot about its name, inquire not into its nature, and all things will flourish ofthemselves.”

“Your Holiness,” said General Clouds, “has informed me with power and taught mesilence. What I had long sought, I have now found.” Thereupon he kowtowed twiceand took leave.

The people of this world all rejoice in others being like themselves, and objectto others being different from themselves. Those who make friends with their likesand do not make friends with their unlikes, are influenced by a desire to be abovethe others. But how can those who desire to be above the others ever be above theothers? Rather than base one’s Judgment on the opinions of the many, let each lookafter his own affairs. But those who desire to govern kingdoms clutch at the advantagesof (the systems of) the Three Kings {63} without seeing the troubles involved. Infact, they are trusting the fortunes of a country to luck, but what country willbe lucky enough to escape destruction? Their chances of preserving it do not amountto one in ten thousand, while their chances of destroying it are ten thousand tonothing and even more. Such, alas! is the ignorance of rulers.

For to have a territory is to have something great. He who has some thing greatmust not regard the material things as material things. Only by not regarding materialthings as material things can one be the lord of things. The principle of lookingat material things as not real things is not confined to mere government of theempire. Such a one may wander at will between the six limits of space or travelover the Nine Continents unhampered and free. This is to be the Unique One. TheUnique One is the highest among men.

The doctrine of the great man is (fluid) as shadow to form, as echo to sound. Askand it responds, fulfilling its abilities as the help-mate of humanity. Noiselessin repose, objectless in motion, he brings you out of the confusion of your comingand going to wander in the Infinite. Formless in his movements, he is eternal withthe sun. In respect of his bodily existence, he conforms to the universal standards.Through conformance to the universal standards, he forgets his own individuality.But if he forgets his individuality, how can he regard his possessions as possessions?Those who see possessions in possessions were the wise men of old. Those who regardnot possessions as possessions are the friends of Heaven and Earth.

That which is low, but must be let alone, is matter. That which is humble, but stillmust be followed, is the people. That which is always there but still has to beattended to, is affairs. That which is inadequate, but still has to be set forth,is the law. That which is remote from Tao, but still claims our attention, is duty.That which is biassed, but must be broadened, is charity. Trivial, but requiringto be strengthened from within, that is ceremony. Contained within, but requiringto be uplifted, that is virtue. One, but not to be without modification, that isTao. Spiritual, yet not to be devoid of action, that is God. Therefore the Sagelooks up to God, but does not offer to aid. He perfects his virtue, but does notinvolve himself. He guides himself by Tao, but makes no plans. He identifies himselfwith charity, but does not rely on it. He performs his duties towards his neighbors,but does not set store by them. He responds to ceremony, without avoiding it. Heundertakes affairs without declining them, and metes out law without confusion.He relies on the people and does not make light of them. He accommodates himselfto matter and does not ignore it. Things are not worth attending to, yet they haveto be attended to. He who does not understand God will not be pure in character.He who has not clear apprehension of Tao will not know where to begin. And he whois not enlightened by Tao, –alas indeed for him! What then is Tao? There is theTao of God, and there is the Tao of man. Honour through inaction comes from theTao of God: entanglement through action comes from the Tao of man. The Tao of Godis fundamental: the Tao of man is accidental. The distance which separates themis great. Let us all take heed thereto!

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Autumn Floods

In the time of autumn floods, a hundred streams poured into the river. It swelledin its turbid course, so that it was impossible to tell a cow from a horse on theopposite banks or on the islets. Then the Spirit of the River laughed for joy thatall the beauty of the earth was gathered to himself. Down the stream he journeyedeast, until he reached the North Sea. There, looking eastwards and seeing no limitto its wide expanse, his countenance began to change. And as he gazed over the ocean,he sighed and said to North-Sea Jo, “A vulgar proverb says that he who has hearda great many truths thinks no one equal to himself. And such a one am I. Formerlywhen I heard people detracting from the learning of Confucius or underrating theheroism of Po Yi, I did not believe it. But now that I have looked upon your inexhaustibility– alas for me ! had I not reached your abode, I should have been for ever a laughingstock to those of great enlightenment!”

To this North-Sea Jo (the Spirit of the Ocean) replied, “You cannot speak of oceanto a well-frog, which is limited by his abode. You cannot speak of ice to a summerinsect, which is limited by his short life. You cannot speak of Tao to a pedagogue,who is limited in his knowledge. But now that you have emerged from your narrowsphere and have seen the great ocean, you know your own insignificance, and I canspeak to you of great principles.

“There is no body of water beneath the canopy of heaven which is greater than theocean. All streams pour into it without cease, yet it does not overflow. It is beingcontinually drained off at the Tail-Gate {65} yet it is never empty. Spring andautumn bring no change; floods and droughts are equally unknown. And thus it isimmeasurably superior to mere rivers and streams. Yet I have never ventured to boaston this account. For I count myself, among the things that take shape from the universeand receive life from the yin and yang, but as a pebble or a small tree on a vastmountain. Only too conscious of my own insignificance, how can I presume to boastof my greatness?

“Are not the Four Seas to the universe but like ant-holes in a marsh? Is not theMiddle Kingdom to the surrounding ocean like a tare-seed in a granary? Of all themyriad created things, man is but one. And of all those who inhabit the Nine Continents,live on the fruit of the earth, and move about in cart and boat, an individual manis but one. Is not he, as compared with all creation, but as the tip of a hair upona horse’s body?

“The succession of the Five Rulers {66}, the contentions of the Three Kings, theconcerns of the kind-hearted, the labors of the administrators, are but this andnothing more. Po Yi refused the throne for fame. Chungni (Confucius) discoursedto get a reputation for learning. This over-estimation of self on their part –was it not very much like your own previous self-estimation in reference to water?”

“Very well,” replied the Spirit of the River, “am I then to regard the universeas great and the tip of a hair as small?”

“Not at all,” said the Spirit of the Ocean. “Dimensions are limitless; time is endless.Conditions are not constant; terms are not final. Thus, the wise man looks intospace, and does not regard the small as too little, nor the great as too much; forhe knows that there is no limit to dimensions. He looks back into the past, anddoes not grieve over what is far off, nor rejoice over what is near; for he knowsthat time is without end. He investigates fullness and decay, and therefore doesnot rejoice if he succeeds, nor lament if he fails; for he knows that conditionsare not constant. He who clearly apprehends the scheme of existence does not rejoiceover life, nor repine at death; for he knows that terms are not final.

“What man knows is not to be compared with what he does not know. The span of hisexistence is not to be compared with the span of his non-existence. To strive toexhaust the infinite by means of the infinitesimal necessarily lands him in confusionand unhappiness. How then should one be able to say that the tip of a hair is thene plus ultra of smallness, or that the universe is the ne plus ultra of greatness?”

“Dialecticians of the day,” replied the Spirit of the River, “all say that the infinitesimalhas no form, and that the infinite is beyond all measurement. Is that true?”

“If we look at the great from the standpoint of the small,” said the Spirit of theOcean, “we cannot reach its limit; and if we look at the small from the standpointof the great, it eludes our sight. The infinitesimal is a subdivision of the small;the colossal is an extension of the great. In this sense the two fall into differentcategories. This lies in the nature of circumstances. Now smallness and greatnesspresuppose form. That which is without form cannot be divided by numbers, and thatwhich is above measurement cannot be measured. The greatness of anything may bea topic of discussion, and the smallness of anything may be mentally imagined. Butthat which can be neither a topic of discussion nor imagined mentally cannot besaid to have greatness or smallness.

“Therefore, the truly great man does not injure others and does not credit himselfwith charity and mercy. He seeks not gain, but does not despise the servants whodo. He struggles not for wealth, but does not lay great value on his modesty. Heasks for help from no man, but is not proud of his self-reliance, neither does hedespise the greedy. He acts differently from the vulgar crowd, but does not placehigh value on being different or eccentric; nor because he acts with the majoritydoes he despise those that flatter a few. The ranks and emoluments of the worldare to him no cause for joy; its punishments and shame no cause for disgrace. Heknows that right and wrong cannot be distinguished, that great and small cannotbe defined.

“I have heard say, ‘The man of Tao has no (concern) reputation; the truly virtuoushas no (concern for) possessions; the truly great man ignores self.’ This is theheight of self-discipline.”

“But how then,” asked the Spirit of the River, “arise the distinctions of high andlow, of great and small in the material and immaterial aspects of things?”

“From the point of view of Tao,” replied the Spirit of the Ocean, “there are nosuch distinctions of high and low. From the point of view of individuals, each holdshimself high and holds others low. From the vulgar point of view, high and low (honorsand dishonor) are some thing conferred by others. “In regard to distinctions, ifwe say that a thing is great or small by its own standard of great or small, thenthere is nothing in all creation which is not great, nothing which is not small.To know that the universe is but as a tare-seed, and the tip of a hair is (as bigas) a mountain, — this is the expression of relativity {67}

“In regard to function, if we say that something exists or does not exist, by itsown standard of existence or non- existence, then there is nothing which does notexist, nothing which does not perish from existence. If we know that east and westare convertible and yet necessary terms in relation to each other, then such (relative)functions may be determined.

“In regard to man’s desires or interests, if we say that anything is good or badbecause it is either good or bad according to our individual (subjective) standards,then there is nothing which is not good, nothing — which is not bad. If we knowthat Yao and Chieh each regarded himself as good and the other as bad, then the(direction of) their interests becomes apparent.

“Of old Yao and Shun abdicated (in favor of worthy successors) and the rule wasmaintained, while Kuei (Prince of Yen) abdicated (in favor of Tsechih) and the latterfailed. T’ang and Wu got the empire by fighting, while by fighting, Po Kung lostit. From this it may be seen that the value of abdicating or fighting, of actinglike Yao or like Chieh, varies according to time, and may not be regarded as a constantprinciple. “A battering-ram can knock down a wall, but it cannot repair a breach.Different things are differently applied. Ch’ichi and Hualiu (famous horses) couldtravel 1,000 li in one day, but for catching rats they were not equal to a wildcat. Different animals possess different aptitudes. An owl can catch fleas at night,and see the tip of a hair, but if it comes out in the daytime it can open wide itseyes and yet fail to see a mountain. Different creatures are differently constituted.

“Thus, those who say that they would have right without its correlate, wrong; orgood government without its correlate, misrule, do not apprehend the great principlesof the universe, nor the nature of all creation. One might as well talk of the existenceof Heaven without that of Earth, or of the negative principle without the positive,which is clearly impossible. Yet people keep on discussing it without stop; suchpeople must be either fools or knaves.

“Rulers abdicated under different conditions, and the Three Dynasties succeededeach other under different conditions. Those who came at the wrong time and wentagainst the tide are called usurpers. Those who came at the right time and fittedin with their age are called defenders of Right. Hold your peace, Uncle River. Howcan you know the distinctions of high and low and of the houses of the great andsmall?’

“In this case,” replied the Spirit of the River, “what am I to do about decliningand accepting, following and abandoning (courses of action)?”

“From the point of view of Tao,” said the Spirit of the Ocean.

“How can we call this high and that low? For there is (the process of) reverse evolution(uniting opposites). To follow one absolute course would involve great departurefrom Tao. What is much? What is little? Be thankful for the gift. To follow a one-sidedopinion is to diverge from Tao. Be exalted, as the ruler of a State whose administrationis impartial. Be at ease, as the Deity of the Earth, whose dispensation is impartial.Be expansive, like the points of the compass, boundless without a limit. Embraceall creation, and none shall be more sheltered or helped than another. This is tobe without bias. And all things being equal, how can one say which is long and whichis short? Tao is without beginning, without end. The material things are born anddie, and no credit is taken for their development. Emptiness and fullness alternate,and their relations are not fixed. Past years cannot be recalled; time cannot bearrested. The succession of growth and decay, of increase and diminution, goes ina cycle, each end becoming a new beginning. In this sense only may we discuss theways of truth and the principles of the universe. The life of things passes by likea rushing, galloping horse, changing at every turn, at every hour. What should onedo, or what should one not do? Let the (cycle of) changes go on by themselves!”

“If this is the case,” said the Spirit of the River, “what is the value of Tao?”

“Those who understand Tao,” answered the Spirit of the Ocean {68} “must necessarilyapprehend the eternal principles and those who apprehend the eternal principlesmust understand their application. Those who understand their application do notsuffer material things to injure them. “The man of perfect virtue cannot be burntby fire, nor drowned by water, nor hurt by the cold of winter or the heat of summer,nor torn by bird or beast. Not that he makes light of these; but that he discriminatesbetween safety and danger, is happy under prosperous and adverse circumstances alike,and cautious in his choice of action, so that none can harm him.

“Therefore it has been said that Heaven (the natural) abides within man (the artificial)without. Virtue abides in the natural. Knowledge of the action of the natural andof the artificial has its basis in the natural its destination in virtue. Thus,whether moving forward or backwards whether yielding or asserting, there is alwaysa reversion to the essential and to the ultimate.”

“What do you mean,” enquired the Spirit of the River, “by the natural and the artificial?”

“Horses and oxen,” answered the Spirit of the Ocean, “have four feet. That is thenatural. Put a halter on a horse’s head, a string through a bullock’s nose. Thatis the artificial.

“Therefore it has been said, do not let the artificial obliterate the natural; donot let will obliterate destiny; do not let virtue be sacrificed to fame. Diligentlyobserve these precepts without fail, and thus you will revert to the True.”

The walrus {69} envies the centipede; the centipede envies the snake; the snakeenvies the wind; the wind envies the eye; and the eye envies the mind. The walrussaid to the centipede, “I hop about on one leg but not very successfully. How doyou manage all those legs you have?”

“I don’t manage them,” replied the centipede. “Have you never seen saliva? Whenit is ejected, the big drops are the size of pearls, the small ones like mist. Atrandom they fall, in countless numbers. So, too, does my natural mechanism move,without my knowing how I do it.”

The centipede said to the snake, “With all my legs I do not move as fast as youwith none. How is that?”

“One’s natural mechanism,” replied the snake, “is not a thing to be changed. Whatneed have I for legs?”

The snake said to the wind, “I wriggle about by moving my spine, as if I had legs.Now you seem to be without form, and yet you come blustering down from the NorthSea to bluster away to the South Sea How do you do it?”

“‘Tis true,” replied the wind, “that I bluster as you say. But anyone who stickshis finger or his foot into me, excels me. On the other hand, I can tear away hugetrees and destroy large buildings. This power is given only to me. Out of many minordefeats I win the big victory {70}. And to win a big victory is given only to theSages.”

When Confucius visited K’uang, the men of Sung surrounded him by several cordons.Yet he went on singing to his guitar without stop. “How is it, Master,” enquiredTselu, “that you are so cheerful?”

“Come here,” replied Confucius, “and I will tell you. For a long time I have notbeen willing to admit failure, but in vain. Fate is against me. For a long timeI have been seeking success, but in vain. The hour has not come. In the days ofYao and Shun, no man throughout the empire was a failure, though this was not dueto their cleverness. In the days of Chieh and Chou, no man throughout the empirewas a success, though this was not due to their stupidity. The circumstances happenedthat way.

“To travel by water without fear of sea-serpents and dragons, — this is the courageof the fisherman. To travel by land without fear of the wild buffaloes and tigers,– this is the courage of hunters. When bright blades cross, to look on death ason life, — this is the courage of the warrior. To know that failure is fate andthat success is opportunity, and to remain fearless in times of great danger, –this is the courage of the Sage. Stop bustling, Yu! My destiny is controlled (bysomeone).

Shortly afterwards, the captain of the troops came in and apologized, saying, “Wethought you were Yang Hu; that was why we surrounded you. We find we have made amistake.” Whereupon he apologized and retired.

Kungsun Lung {71} said to Mou of Wei, “When young I studied the teachings of theelders. When I grew up, I understood the morals of charity and duty. I learned tolevel together similarities and differences, to confound arguments on “hardness”and “whiteness”, to affirm what others deny, and justify what others dispute. Ivanquished the wisdom of all the philosophers, and overcame the arguments of allpeople. I thought that I had indeed understood everything. But now that I have heardChuang Tzu, I am lost in astonishment. I know not whether it is in arguing or inknowledge that I am not equal to him. I can no longer open my mouth. May I ask youto impart to me the secret?”

Prince Mou leaned over the table and sighed. Then he looked up to heaven and laughed,saying, “Have you never heard of the frog in the shallow well? The frog said tothe turtle of the Eastern Sea, ‘What a great time I am having! I hop to the railaround the well, and retire to rest in the hollow of some broken bricks. Swimming,I float on my armpits, resting my jaws just above the water. Plunging into the mud,I bury my feet up to the foot-arch, and not one of the cockles, crabs or tadpolesI see around me are my match. Besides, to occupy such a pool all alone and possessa shallow well is to be as happy as anyone can be. Why do you not come and pay mea visit?’

“Now before the turtle of the Eastern Sea had got its left leg down its right kneehad already stuck fast, and it shrank back and begged to be excused. It then toldthe frog about the sea, saying, ‘A thousand li would not measure its breadth, nora thousand fathoms its depth. In the days of the Great Yu:, there were nine yearsof flood out of ten; but this did not add to its bulk. In the days of T’ang, therewere seven years of drought out of eight; but this did not make its shores recede.Not to be affected by the passing of time, and not to be affected by increase ordecrease of water, — such is the great happiness of the Eastern Sea.’ At this thefrog of the shallow well was considerably astonished and felt very small, like onelost.

“For one whose knowledge does not yet appreciate the niceties of true and falseto attempt to understand Chuang Tzu, is like a mosquito trying to carry a mountain,or an insect trying to swim a river. Of course he will fail. Moreover, one whoseknowledge does not reach to the subtlest teachings, yet is satisfied with temporarysuccess, — is not he like the frog in the well?

“Chuang Tzu is now climbing up from the realms below to reach high heaven. For himno north or south; lightly the four points are gone, engulfed in the unfathomable.For him no east or west – starting from the Mystic Unknown, he returns to the GreatUnity. And yet you think you are going to find his truth by dogged inquiries andarguments! This is like looking at the sky through a tube, or pointing at the earthwith an awl. Is not this being petty?

“Have you never heard how a youth of Shouling went to study the walking gait atHantan? {72} Before he could learn the Hantan gait, he had forgotten his own wayof walking, and crawled back home on all fours. If you do not go away now, you willforget what you have and lose your own professional knowledge.” Kungsun Lung’s jawhung open, his tongue clave to his palate, and he slunk away.

Chuang Tzu was fishing on the P’u River when the Prince of Ch’u sent two high officialsto see him and said, “Our Prince desires to burden you with the administration ofthe Ch’u State.” Chuang Tzu went on fishing without turning his head and said, “Ihave heard that in Ch’u there is a sacred tortoise which died when it was threethousand (years) old. The prince keeps this tortoise carefully enclosed in a chestin his ancestral temple. Now would this tortoise rather be dead and have its remainsvenerated, or would it rather be alive and wagging its tail in the mud?”

“It would rather be alive,” replied the two officials, and wagging its tail in themud.”

“Begone!” cried Chuang Tzu. “I too will wag my tail in the mud.

Hueitse was Prime Minister in the Liang State, and Chuang Tzu was on his way to seehim. Someone remarked, “Chuang Tzu has come. He wants to be minister in your place.”Thereupon Hueitse was afraid, and searched all over the country for three days andthree nights to find him.

Then Chuang Tzu went to see him, and said, “In the south there is a bird. It is akind of phoenix. Do you know it? When it starts from the South Sea to fly to theNorth Sea, it would not alight except on the wu-t’ung tree. It eats nothing butthe fruit of the bamboo, drinks nothing but the purest spring water. An owl whichhad got the rotten carcass of a rat, looked up as the phoenix flew by, and screeched.Are you not screeching at me over your kingdom of Liang?”

Chuang Tzu and Hueitse had strolled on to the bridge over the Hao, when the formerobserved, “See how the small fish are darting about! That is the happiness of thefish.”

“You not being a fish yourself,” said Hueitse, “how can you know the happiness ofthe fish?”

“And you not being I,” retorted Chuang Tzu, “how can you know that I do not know?”

“If I, not being you, cannot know what you know,” urged Hueitse, “it follows thatyou, not being a fish, cannot know the happiness of the fish.”

“Let us go back to your original question,” said Chuang Tzu. “You asked me how Iknew the happiness of the fish. Your very question shows that you knew that I knew.I knew it (from my own feelings) on this bridge.”

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Translator’s Notes

{1} He is reputed to have lived 800 years.

{2} 1783 B.C.

{3} Philosopher about whose life nothing is known. The book Liehtse is considereda later compilation. See the section “Parables of Ancient Philosophers.”

{4} The wind.

{5} 2357 B.C.

{6} Sage emperors/

{7} A sophist and friend of Chuang Tzu who often carried on debates with him.

{8} Agitations of the soul (music of Heaven) compared to the agitations of the forest(music of Earth).

{9} Lit. “true lord.”

{10} Shih and fei mean general moral judgments and mental distinctions; “right”and “wrong,” “true” and “false,” “is” and “is not,” “affirmative” and “negative,”also “to justify” and “condemn,” “to affirm” and “deny.”

{11} The followers of Motse were powerful rivals of the Confucianists in Chuang Tzu’sdays. See the selections from Motse.

{12} The meaning of these two sentences is made clear by a line below. “But if weput the different categories in one. then the differences of category cease to exist.”

{13} Ch’eng and k’uei, lit. “whole” and “deficient.”

“Wholeness” refers to unspoiled unity of Tao. In the following sentences, ch’engis used in the sense of “success ” It is explained by commentators that the “wholeness”of music exists only in silence, and that as soon as one note is struck, other notesare necessarily held in abeyance. The same thing is true of arguments: when we argue,we necessarily cut up truth by emphasizing certain aspects of it.

{14} See Laotse, Ch. 42.

{15} See Laotse, Ch. 5.

{16} See Laotse, Ch. 58.

{17} Lit. in the “Palace of Heaven.”

{18} Personal name of Chuang Tzu. “tse” being the equivalent of “Master.”

{19} An important idea that recurs frequently in Chuang Tzu, all things are in constantflow and change, but are different aspects of the One.

{20} Best disciple of Confucius.

{21} Lit. “regarded as sons (ie. fathered) by Heaven.”

{22} The first part of this song is found in the Analects.

{23} This chapter deals entirely with deformitiesa literary device for emphasizingthe contrast of the inner and the outer man.

{24} A well-known historical person, a model minister referred to in the Analects.

{25} Lit. “The outside of frame and bones.”

{26} Hueitse often discusses the nature of attributes, like the “hardness” and “whiteness”of objects.

{27} All of these historical and semi-historical persons were good men who losttheir lives, by drowning or starving themselves, or pretending insanity, in protestagainst a wicked world, or just to avoid being called into office.

{28} General attitude of fluidity towards life.

{29} Mythical emperor (2852 B.C.) said to have discovered the principles of mutationsof Yin and Yang.

{30} With a man’s head but a beast’s body.

{31} A river spirit.

{32} A mountain god.

{33} A semi-mythical ruler, who ruled in 2698-2597 B.C.

{34} A semi-mythical ruler, who ruled in 25I4-2417 B.C., shortly before EmperorYao.

{35} A water god with a human face and a bird’s body.

{36} A monarch of the Shang Dynasty, 1324-l266 B.C.100

{37} A famous sword.

{38} Personal name of Confucius.

{39} Huang-chung and ta-lu: were the standard pitchpipes.

{40} Tseng Ts’an and Shih Yu:, disciples of Confucius.

{41} I Yang chu and Motse (Mo Ti).

{42} Beginning with this phrase there is a marked change in style and vocabularyin this part.

{43} Because he refused to serve the new dynasty.

{44} Sun Yang, 658-619 B.C.

{45} A mythical ruler.

{46} 481 B.C.

{47} There is an anachronism here for Chuang Tzu lived to see only the ninth generationof T’iens, At least the number “twelve” must have been slipped in by a later scribe.This evidence is not sufficient to vitiate the whole chapter, as some “textual critics”claim.

{48} Reference to a story. The states Lu and Chao both presented wine to the Kingof Ch’u. By the trickery of a servant, the flasks were exchanged, and Chao was blamedfor presenting bad wine, and its city Hantan was beseiged.

{49} See Laotse, Ch. 36.

{50} See Laotse, Ch. 19.

{51} See Laotse, Ch. 45.

{52} See Note 40.

{53} See Laotse, Ch. 1.

{54} All legendary ancient rulers.

{55} Cf. Laotse, Ch. 80.

{56} See Laotse, Ch. 13.

{57} Laotse, Tan being one of the personal names of Laotse (Li Tan, or Li Erh).”Lao” means “old,” while “Li” is the family name.

{58} The founders of the three dynasties, Hsia, Shang and Chou (2205-222 B.C.)

{59} Signal for attack.

{60} Lit. “Heaven.”

{61} Yin, yang, wind, rain, light and darkness.

{62} Great Nebulous is here addressed as “Heaven.” See Note 60.

{63} See Note 58.

{64} This chapter further develops the ideas in Chapter “On Leveling All Things”and contains the important philosophical concept of relativity.

{65} Wei-Lu:, a mythical hole in the bottom or end of the ocean.

{66} Mythical rulers before the Three Kings.

{67} Lit. “Leveling of ranks or distinctions.”

{68} From here on to the end of this paragraph, most of the passages are rhymed.

{69} K’uei, a mythical, one-legged animal.

{70} Now a slogan used in China in the war against Japan.

{71} A Neo-Motseanist (of the Sophist school) who lived after Chuang Tzu. This sectionmust have been added by the latter’s disciples, as is easy to see from the threestories about Chuang Tzu which follow.

{72} Capital of Chao.

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