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Chuang Tzu Chapters
in Lin Yutang's Translation

  1. Wanderings
  2. Ruling out All Things
  3. Preserving Life


Chuang-tzu chapters This is a partial Chuang Tzu in the translation of Dr. Lin Yutang, somewhat modernised. I have also taken the liberty to leave out sentences I don't like in Dr Lin's translation, and have added comments. Why have I done all this? Some interesting ideas may germinate and lead minds into paths where there are few joys and much confusion because of unfruitful or calamity-causing directions given at the start. To forget to smile - I won't be part of that! Instead I want to present ideas of good quality and fit for harmony along a way fit for good fortune, if that can be had.

Lin considers Chuangtse (c. 369 BC - 286 BC) the greatest prose writer of the Chou [Zhou] Dynasty (1050-256 BC). This position rests both upon the brilliance of his style and the depth of his thought, he asserts - also telling that people may read Chuang Tzu as literature, and that his mysticism will charm some:

"He was a humorist with a wild and rather luxuriant fantasy, [a flair] for [superb] 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." [Wic 73, 75]

Lin Yutang goes on to tell that some of the best pieces of Chuangtse are outside the first seven chapters, and believes various anecdotes have been freely added by later generations into the very loose structure of the chapters.

Yutang chose eleven chapters for his work, including all but one of the first best seven chapters. With one minor exception, these chapters are translated complete. He informs that

The philosophically most important are the chapters on "Levelling 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."

Lin Yutang based his translation on that of Herbert A. Giles, telling, "I owe a great debt to my predecessor."

The translation is found in Lin Yutang's The Wisdom of China and India. (New York: Random House, 1942, p. 625-91) and his The Wisdom of China first published by Michael Joseph Ltd in 1944 (p. 73-143). The whole former book is online.

More on Chuang-tzu

There is just meagre information about Chuang-tzu (also: Chuang Tzu, Chuang Tze, Zhuangzi). He is thought to have been a native of the state of Meng. His personal name was Chou. As a minor official at Ch'i-yüan in his home state, he lived during the reign of Prince Wei of Ch'u (d. 327 BC). If so, he lived at the same time as the philosopher Mencius too.

Chuang-tzu is best known through the book we have selected chapters from. It has been generally agreed that the first seven chapters of it, called the "inner books," are for the most part genuine.

The book's basic attitude may be 'enlightened fatalism', which may not suit anyone - yet sometimes he seems to transcend (go beyond) that.

The Ignorant Simpleton or Man of Sung

Chuang-tzu's brand of Taoism differs in some ways from what is expounded in the Tao Te Ching of Lao-tzu, tells Burton Watson. He also shows that Chuang-tzu's branch of the Taoist school is marked by the settings of the state of Sung - and interestingly, the "man of Sung" appears in the literature of late Chou (conquerors) as the ignorant simpleton.

However, men of Sung might have been severely tied up in networks of status, with very little personal freedom: In the later Sung state of China (960-1279 AD), family relations determined social status locally and in the capital. Social position and status shaped personal relationships, and the other way round, states Beverly J. Bossler. [Co 8, 2; Bjb]

Others have praised the art of the man of Sung: Some of Chuang-tzu's whirling words might hint at some true Way that had been found and handed over. The Huai-nan Tzu, an eclectic work from the court of Liu An (d. 122 BC), the king of Hai-nan, includes many excerpts from the Chuang-tzu with the highest praise for the teachings of the Taoist school of thinking. [Co 6, 9]

Astounding Insights

The dominant schools of thought, the Legalists, the Taoists, and the Confucians, were established from the sixth to the fourth centuries BC. The latest-comers, the Legalists, believed in maximal power to the state, and advised rulers how to increase that power. The Confucians differed little from the Legalists in actual practice. And the most interesting of the Chinese political philosophers were the Taoists. They believed in virtually no interference by the state in economy or society.

Lao Tzu worked out the view that the individual and his happiness was the key unit of society. Government, in sum, must be properly limited. Lao Tzu, after referring to the common experience of mankind, came to his penetrating conclusion: "The more artificial taboos and restrictions there are in the world, the more the people are impoverished . . . The more that laws and regulations are given prominence, the more thieves and robbers there will be."

The worst of government interventions, according to Lao Tzu, was heavy taxation and war. The wisest course is to keep the government simple and inactive. Lao Tzu counseled the now familiar Taoist path of withdrawal or retreat.

In comparison, the highly learned Chuang Tzu, an influential stylist who wrote in allegorical parables, was an anarchist or a kind. When Chuang Tzu's fame had spread far and wide throughout China, King Wei of the Ch'u kingdom sent an emissary to Chuang Tzu bearing great gifts and urging him to become the king's chief minister of state. Chuang Tzu's rejected the king's offer with one of the great declarations in history on the virtues of the private life:

A thousand ounces of gold is indeed a great reward, and the office of chief minister is truly an elevated position. But have you, sir, not seen the sacrificial ox awaiting the sacrifices at the royal shrine of state? It is well cared for and fed for a few years, caparisoned with rich brocades, so that it will be ready to be led into the Great Temple. At that moment, even though it would gladly change places with any solitary pig, can it do so? So, quick and be off with you! Don't sully me. I would rather roam and idle about in a muddy ditch, at my awn amusement, than to be put under the restraints that the ruler would impose. I will never take any official service, and thereby I will [be free] to satisfy my own purposes.

If rulers were to establish rites and laws to govern the people, "it would indeed be no different from stretching the short legs of the duck and trimming off the long legs of the heron" or "haltering a horse." Such rules would not only be of no benefit, but would work great harm. In short, Chuang Tzu concluded, the world "does simply not need governing; in fact it should not be governed."

Chuang Tzu also saw the state as a brigand writ large: "A petty thief is put in jail. A great brigand becomes a ruler of a State." He devotes a whole chapter, on Robber Chih, on this theme, The main difference between state rulers and out-and-out robber chieftains is the size of their depredations. This theme of ruler-as-robber was repeated by Christian thinkers in the Middle Ages independently, and echoes in proverbs of many countries.

Salient Points

To meet a great man, try to enhance your own assets and make inner developments possible, even plausible.

Like-minded persons try to gain harmony or union, as the case may be. If relationships don't work, they might strive for solitude.

We can enjoy worthwhile persons, and those of them around us, that have to share in our committments, basically.

Below you find ancient, good teachings as to what men are great men, how they are, and what they reasoned.

The joys of life are far from rigid regulations from "over one's head". There is often more than one tune to play. There is reason to learn to play professionally and well.

Enjoy the reading. It contains ideas one may come to ponder for a long time.

The first four of the following chapters contain section headings, and also pinpointing and comments (clearly marked off by ◑) that is added by me. In James Legge's translation I have carried this through for the whole work.

  - Tormod Kinnes


Free and Easy Wandering

The fish of the north was changed into a bird so that it could start for the south

In the northern ocean [1] there's a fish, called the k'un [2]. I don't know how many thousand li [3] its size is. This k'un changes into a bird, called the roc [4]. I don't know how many thousand li broad its back is. When it is moved, it flies. Then its wings obscure the sky like clouds.

When on a voyage, this bird prepares to start for the Southern Ocean [5], the Celestial Lake. And in the Records of Marvels we read that when the roc flies southwards, the water is smitten for a space of three thousand li around, while the bird itself mounts on a great wind [6] to a height of ninety thousand li, for a flight that lasts for six months.

There mounting aloft, the bird saw the moving white mists of spring, the dust-clouds, and the living things blowing each other about. It wondered whether the blue of the sky was its real colour, or only the result of distance without end, and saw that the things on earth appeared the same [7] to it.

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

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

A cicada and a young dove laughed, saying, "Now, when I fly with all my might, it is as much as I can do to get from tree to tree. And sometimes I don't reach, but fall to the ground midway. What then can be the use of going up ninety thousand li to start for the south?"

◑ Living to one's liking revolves very much around a suitable all-round design in one's convenient surroundings.

    [1] Ocean: Also: darkness (BW and MP). It can be both.
    [2] K'un: Fish roe (BW). Vast (MP).
    [3] A li is roughly 500 metres.
    [4] The Chinese p'eng is "lifted over" to appear as the roc. [Cf. MP]
    [5] Or darkness.
    [6] It's a whirlwind [BW, MP]
    [7] The talk is about swirling dust below the blue of Heaven. Dust can also signify human enterprises in the hustle and bustle. [Cf. AW]

To win food for five hundred years is seldom an easy task for humans

Small knowledge has not the compass of great knowledge any more than a short year has the length of a long year. P'eng Tsu [1] is known for reaching a great age and is still, alas! an object of envy to all!

◑ If little creatures live well through smart knowledge - alas for the big ones! Humans are not biggest ones on the planet -

[1] He is reputed to have lived for 800 years.

Great age is often envied for no good reason at all

The Emperor T'ang [1] spoke to Chi on the greatness of envy, as follows:

"At the north of Ch'iungta, there's a Dark Sea, the Celestial Lake. In it there's a fish several thousand li broad, and I don't know how many in length. It's called the k'un. There's also a bird, called the p'eng, with a back like Mount T'ai, and wings like clouds across the sky. It soars up on a whirlwind to a height of ninety thousand li, far above the region of the clouds, with only the clear sky above 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 to do? I rise but a few yards in the air and settle down again, after flying around among the reeds. That is as much as any one would want to fly. Now, wherever can this 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 influence spreads over a village, or whose character pleases a certain prince. His opinion of himself will be much the same as that lake sparrow's.

The philosopher Yung of Sung, if the whole world flattered him, he would not be affected by it, nor if the whole world blamed him would he be dissuaded from what he was doing. For Yung can distinguish between essence and superficialities, and understand what is true honour and shame. Such men are rare in their generation.

◑ It takes a fool to know a fool (British proverb).

◑ Not all that look well are well inside.

◑ A flatterer is easily made into an agent of blame too, as time goes by.

◑ Greatness is often envied. Flatterers often suck up to envied ones.

◑ If you deviate in a nice and neat way, expect envy. If you deviate otherwise, prepare for scorn.

◑ The value of conformity is that it preserves regulations, and some regulations may be secretly valuable, even if they don't look like much in the present.

◑ There is room for good and bad conformity. Good conformity is a bit lenient, but more goes into it too.

◑ The difference of value between the kernel and the husk is often revealed as time goes by. And very good study revolves around kernels (keynotes are for that).

[1] 1783 BC.

Ignore other achievements if you would ride on the wind

Liehtse [1] could ride on the wind. Sailing happily in the cool breeze, he would 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 still have to depend on something. [2]

◑ Those who ignore any sort of achievement are indeed rare. And those who ignore to stand up as that sort of men, can be rarer still.

◑ The true sage presumably ignores the ostensible sage reputation.

[1] The Lieh-tzu (Lieh Tse, Liezi) is an ancient classic ascribed to this philosopher. The book shares many stories with that of Chuang-tzu. Very little is known of Lieh-tzu.

[2] The wind, according to Lin Yutang.

Your name is your representative too - sort of

The Emperor Yao [1] wished to abdicate in favor of Hsü Yu, saying,

"If, when the sun and moon are shining, the torch is still lighted, would it be not difficult for the latter to shine? If, when the rain has fallen, one should still continue to water the fields, would this not be a waste of labour? Now if you would assume the reins of government, the empire would be well governed, and yet I am filling this 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 Hsü Yu. "The tit, building its nest in the mighty forest, occupies but a single twig. The beaver slakes its thirst from the river, but drinks enough only to fill its belly. I have no use for the empire."

◑ It often happens that a beggar is turned into some kind of representative instead of going on strictly as himself or herself.

[1] 2357 BC according to Chinese reckoning.

Milky Way lessons

Chien Wu said to Lien Shu, "I heard Chieh Yü talk on high and fine subjects endlessly. I was greatly startled at what he said, for his words seemed interminable as the Milky Way, 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 a divine one, whose skin is white like ice or snow, whose grace and elegance are like those of a virgin, who eats no grain, but lives on air and dew, and who, riding on clouds with flying dragons for his team, roams beyond the limit is of the mortal regions. When his spirit gravitates, he can ward off corruption from all things, and bring good crops. That is why I call it nonsense, and don't 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.

"There's blindness and deafness of the mind too.

"A paltry generation cries for reform.

"Out of his very dust and siftings you might fashion two Yao and Shun [1]. And ou would have such a being occupy himself with objectives!"

◑ Milky Way teachings - few are as hard-won as them.

[1] Sage emperors.

Advancing on and on may not be quite as good as rising upwards fairly well

A man of the Sung State carried some ceremonial caps to the Yüeh tribes for sale. But the men of Yüeh used to cut off their hair and paint their bodies, so that they 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 his return to his capital at Fenyang that the empire existed for him no more.

◑ Timing is everything (British proverb).

One should learn how to make use of good family assets of "all sorts"

Hueitse [1] said to Chuang-tzu, "The Prince of Wei gave me a seed of a large-sized kind 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; and had 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. "There was a man of Sung who had a recipe for salve for chapped hands, his family having been silk-washers for generations. A stranger who had heard of it came and offered him a hundred ounces of silver for this recipe; whereon he called together his clansmen and said, 'We have never made much money by silk-washing. Now, we can sell the 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 Yüeh State was in trouble, and the Prince of Wu sent a general to fight a naval battle with Yüeh at the beginning of winter. The latter was totally defeated, and the stranger was rewarded with a piece of the King's territory. Thus, while the efficacy of the salve to cure chapped hands was in both cases the same, its applications were 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 float about over river and lake? And you complain of its being too flat for holding things! I fear your mind is stuffy inside."^pIf you know how to use large things you may eventually live to reap larger rewards than usual.

◑ To be a little creative is hardly wrong.

The value of appearing useless is that it is useful to oneself

Hueitse said to Chuang-tzu, "I have a large tree, called the ailanthus. Its trunk is so irregular and knotty that it cannot be measured out for planks; while its branches are so twisted that they cannot be cut out into discs or squares. It stands by 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 for its prey? Right and left and high and low, it springs about, until it gets caught in a trap or dies in a snare. On the other hand, there's the yak with its great huge body. It's big enough in all conscience, but it cannot catch mice. Now if you have a big tree and are at a loss what to do with it, why not plant it in the Village 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 the axe and from all other injury. For being of no use to others, what could worry its mind?"

◑ Being of no use to others could be halfway to making deft use of them. These things often mark the good sages as they enlarge their wisdom.

Chapter summary

There are depths in ancient Chinese thinking. Obscure as many key words may appear at first glance in our culture so many centuries after these things were hinted at, there is a cosmological system attached to ancient Taoism (Daoism). The oldest book of the whole Chinese civilisation, the I Ching (Yi Jing, Book of Changes), revolves around such systematic outlooks. [Cf. Ca]

Interestingly, old architectural layouts and plans, martial arts and healing arts like acupuncture with proven efficacy tie in with handed-over wisdom found in I Ching.


Ruling out All Things

Heard music is part of a training

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

Yench'eng Tseyu, who was standing by him, exclaimed, "What are you thinking about that 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've lost my Self . . .. Do you understand? . . . Perhaps you only know the music of man, and not that of Earth. Or even if you've heard the music of Earth, perhaps you haven't heard the music of Heaven."

"Pray explain," said Tseyu.

◑ The art of contemplation is often accompanied by a kind of sighing or gladdening gasping - but few understand that point unless they get initiated.

◑ What is called the music of Heaven, ties in well with the "song of nadis" in yoga literature. These sounds tie in with a certain "energy circulation" you may never hear of unless you go for yogi training. You may eventually learn to discern the sounds of what is called chakras (energy vortexes, "wheels" etc. in yoga literature. There are methods designed for features like these and others too.

◑ To gaze upwards in regulated ways is included in the hongsau technique of contemplation as well. It's part of that training.

◑ The mind expended to keep the body through a life-time, often means that much lost selfhood from deep inside.

Shrill tones, flutelike sounds and a certain roar are told of in yoga literature too

"The breath of the universe," continued Tsech'i, "is called wind. At times, it is inactive. But when active, all crevices resound to its blast. Have you never listened to 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 cool blow, now shrill with the whirlwind, till the tempest is past and silence reigns supreme. Have you never witnessed how the trees and objects shake and quake, and twist and twirl?"

"Well, then," enquired Tseyu, "since the music of Earth consists of hollows and apertures, and the music of man of pipes and flutes, of what consists the music of Heaven?"

"The effect of the wind on these various apertures," replied Tsech'i, "is not uniform, but the sounds are produced according to their individual capacities. Who is it that agitates their breasts? [1]

◑ The heavenly wind can agitate. The "thing" called "wind" or breath in ancient yoga training - another word is prana. It ties in with pneuma. If a man or woman learns to activate the deep "currents" of that wind, eventually a distant roar or mur is heard on top of some knocking sound. It's the Om sound we compare with here.

◑ The music that reaches our hearts derive from deep inside - as subtle relates to subtle.

◑ The deep wind or resonance you are, often seeks kindred to ensure a good enough (full-flown) living further.

[1] These passages may deserve to be compared with more than one passage that describes inner sounds you hear in yogi training, and perhaps with the "Ten Ox-herding Pictures" too.

The failing mind strives only for leisure at all costs

"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-going and leisurely, some are deep and cunning, and some are secretive. Now we are frightened over petty fears, now disheartened and dismayed over some great terror. Now the mind flies forth like an arrow from a cross-bow, to be the arbiter of right and wrong. 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 in its own occupations, it keeps on running its course, never to return. Finally, worn out and imprisoned, it is choked up like an old drain, and the failing mind shall not see light again.

"Joy and anger, sorrow and happiness, worries and regrets, indecision and fears, come on us by turns, with ever-changing moods, like music from the hollows, or like mushrooms from damp. Day and night they alternate within us, but we cannot tell whence they spring. Alas! Alas! Could we for a moment lay our finger on their very Cause?

"But for these emotions I should not be.

◑ To be secretive about one's deep joy is always all right, anyhow.

◑ Soulful tunes can stagger others.

To get harassassed by pitiful shapes is not exactly tall for the inward soul

Yet but for me, there would be no one to feel them. So far we can go; but we don't know by whose order they come into play. It would seem there was a soul; [1] but the clue to its existence is wanting. That it functions is credible enough, though we cannot see its form. Perhaps it has inner reality without outward form.

"Take the human body with all its hundred bones, nine external cavities and six internal organs, all complete. Which part of it should I love best? Do you not cherish all equally, or have you a preference? Do these organs serve as servants of someone else? Since servants cannot govern themselves, do they serve as master and servants by 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 matters but little to the soul itself. For once coming into this material shape, it runs its course till it is exhausted. To be harassed by the wear and tear of life, and to be driven along without possibility of arresting one's course,—is not this pitiful indeed? To labour without ceasing all life, and then, without living to enjoy the fruit, worn out with labour, to depart, one knows not where, —is not this a just cause for grief?"

◑ To be driven is not too good, even if lots of results are called excellent.

[1] Literally, "true Lord".

What is understood as right and wrong by warring men, may not be up to snuff in times of peace

"Men say there is no death—to what avail? The body decomposes, and the mind goes with it. Is this not a great cause for sorrow? Can the world be so dull as not to see 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? What need to make comparisons of right and wrong with others? And if one is to follow one's own judgements according to his prejudices, even the fools have them! But to form judgements of right and wrong without first having a mind at all is like saying, "I left for Yüeh today, and got there yesterday." Or, it is like assuming something which doesn't exist to exist. The (illusions of) assuming something which doesn't exist to exist could not be fathomed even by the divine Yü; how much less could we?

For speech is not mere blowing of breath. It's intended to say some thing, only what it is intended to say cannot yet be determined. Is there speech indeed, or is 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? [1] Where can you go and find Tao not to exist? Where can you go and find that words cannot be proved? Tao is obscured by our inadequate understanding, and words are obscured by flowery expressions. Hence the affirmations and denials of the Confucian and Motsean [2] schools, each denying what the other affirms and affirming what the other denies. Each denying what the other affirms and affirming what the other denies brings us only into confusion.

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

Nevertheless, life arises from death, and vice versa. Possibility arises from impossibility, and vice versa. Affirmation is based on denial, and vice versa. Which being the case, 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 also has its 'right' and 'wrong', and that also has its 'right' and 'wrong.' Does then the distinction between this and that really exist or not? When this (subjective) and that (objective) are both without their correlates, that's the very 'Axis of Tao.' And when that Axis passes through the centre at which all Infinities converge, affirmations and denials alike blend into the infinite One. Hence it is said that there is nothing like using the Light.

◑ Forming judgements can be exploits of right and wrong, and some judgements can be dwarfing.

◑ Baser and even obscured sets of right and wrong can be brought to play after totalist standards have been made light of.

[1] 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." - LY.
    [2] The followers of Motse were powerful rivals of the Confucianists in Chuang-tzu's days. See the selections from Motse. - LY

Great and basic deviations don't tend to be in in a conform group living

To take a finger in illustration of a finger not being a finger is not so good as to 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 to take something which is not a horse to illustrate that a horse is not a horse [1]. 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; things receive names and are said to be what they are. Why are they so? They are said to be so! Why are they not so? They are said to be not so! Things are so by themselves and have possibilities by themselves. There is nothing which is not so and there is nothing which may not become so.

◑ Bertrand Russell: "One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important." - Lots of things are themselves first of all, no matter what humans call them and make out of them.

◑ "A rose is a rose is a rose." - Gertrude Stein [See Dq]

[1] The meaning of these two sentences is made clear by a line below. "But if we put the different categories in one, then the differences of category cease to exist." - LY.

Some transformed Tao can get up to astounding worth

Therefore take, for instance, a twig and a pillar, or the ugly person and the great beauty, and all the strange and monstrous transformations. These are all levelled together 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 again levelled together into One.

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

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

◑ What was seen to be of much worth in ancient China was to "level" things or appearances into One through stopping it - and savoury contemplation can do just that.

◑ The principles that some men detect and call natural ones, in part rest on very subjective evaluations, in part on "From the platform of (essential, inner) wholeness one comprehends".

◑ Much implied: "Take integrity away and folks turn (even more) stupid."

The best approach of true knowledge has inherent limitations

The knowledge of the men of old had a limit. When was the limit? It extended back to a period when matter didn't exist. That was the extreme point to which their knowledge reached. The second period was that of matter, but of matter unconditioned (undefined). The third epoch saw matter conditioned (defined), but judgements of true and false were still unknown. When these appeared, Tao began to decline. And with the decline of Tao, individual bias (subjectivity) arose.

Besides, did Tao really rise and decline? [13] In the world of (apparent) rise and decline, the famous musician Chao Wen did play the string instrument; but in respect to the world without rise and decline, Chao Wen didn't 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 in his own line. And because they loved their arts, they wanted to make them known to 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 and failed. If this may be called success, then I, too, have succeeded. But if neither of 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 the common and ordinary. Through this comes understanding.

◑ Trying to teach what cannot be known, gives no great success.

◑ The Way of welcomes is lessened by much, savoury and common- looking judgement, or many arguments.

◑ The way of taking refuge in common-looking things, is said to work best.

◑ The best way to define matter is to understand it as not-matter! (just as in modern physics too).

◑ Trying to teach what cannot be known, ties in with the Taoist understanding that even solid matter once didn't exist (couldn't be known).

◑ On top of this we think: Judgements that are kept in the dark, is one approach of Tao.

Even if the "game" is to say all is One, hope to cope well

Suppose here is a statement. We don't know whether it belongs to one category or another. But if we put the different categories in one, then the differences of category cease to exist. However, I must explain. If there was a beginning, then there was a time before that beginning, and a time before the time which was before the 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 when even nothing didn't exist. All of a sudden, nothing came into existence. Could one then really say whether it belongs to the category of existence or of non-existence? Even the very words I've just now uttered,—I cannot say whether they say something or not.

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

◑ Asserting "the universe and I" can mark the beginning of a statement where some possible, intended meaning is found.

◑ By sweeping categories we humans may fool others a whole lot. Rise above that.

◑ You don't know if your words carry meaning if you merely babble on and on. There is nothing wrong with that approach in the proper settings and circumstances either, says the apostle Paul. He refers to speaking in tongues.

◑ Classify little unless you are sure - it can be the beginning of a very rewarding approach.

Beyond the limits of what cannot be told at the time, let the adamant sages soar

If then all things are One, what room is there for speech? On the other hand, since I can say the word 'one' how can speech not exist? If it does exist, we have One and speech—two; and two and one—three [14] from which point onwards even the best mathematicians will fail to reach (the ultimate); how much more then should ordinary 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. Since you 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 doesn't talk about it. Within the limits of the external world, the Sage talks but doesn't make comments. With regard to the wisdom of the ancients, as embodied in the canon of Spring and Autumn, the Sage comments, but doesn't expound. And thus, among distinctions made, there are distinctions that cannot be made; among things expounded, there are things that cannot be expounded.

◑ One cannot maintain that all things exist in oneness without commenting it.

◑ Let the one who has reached up to the wisdom of the ancients, comment on their lore within limits.

◑ There are certain things that one should refrain from expounding out of regard for what exists as good enough (per se).

◑ One had better attune one's thinking to what realms and limits there could be ample space to mobilise discrimination on - for oneself.

◑ The one who stands up and croaks that Tao cannot be defined, attunes himself or herself to a certain tenet which obviously limits progress in the verbal-aided understanding of Tao. There are many outlooks.

◑ It's often a sign of maturity not to make comments even if you can discern well, but "circumstances" don't welcome them from you.

A not-push sage enters some spiritual level inside

There are things that cannot be expounded.

How can that be? it is asked. The true Sage keeps his knowledge within him, while men in general set forth theirs in argument, in order to convince each other. And therefore 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 doesn't employ words. Perfect kindness doesn't concern itself with (individual acts of) kindness [15]. Perfect integrity is not critical of others [16] Perfect courage doesn't push itself forward.

For the Tao which is manifest is not Tao. Speech which argues falls short of its aim. Kindness which has fixed objects loses its scope. Integrity which is obvious is 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 doesn't know, is the highest knowledge.

Who knows the argument which can be argued without words, and the Tao which doesn't declare itself as Tao? He who knows this may be said to enter the realm of the spirit [17]. To be poured into without becoming full, and pour out without becoming empty, without knowing how this is brought about,—this is the art of "Concealing the Light."

◑ Knowledge that stops its onward march in the face of the unknown, ensures much knowledge kept inside things.

◑ One who argues for (or against) perfect integrity, may not see integrity is the given name, not the "really don't care thing" in itself.

◑ If maturing, obvious integrity of unconcern moves towards bright sharpness or wit, it cannot be non-concerned!

◑ You should think that knowledge that stops at non-concern never wins, like guts that pushes forwards.

◑ Bold words that seem to manifest Tao, aren't Tao where manifest Tao is not Tao. - All these decrees are well implied in the Tao premises given, if Dr. Lin (Yutang) has understood him right. Now, what do you think?

One may get impressed by poor, old explanations

Of old, the Emperor Yao said to Shun, "I would smite the Tsungs, and the Kueis, and the Hsü-aos. Since I've 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 you not shake off this idea? Once on a time, ten suns came out together, and all things were illuminated thereby. How much greater should be the power of virtue which excels the suns?"

◑ The sage may shake off sluggard ideas by more than one mean at hand.

◑ Getting nearly obsessed by the privileges of given power, hardly reflects real, substantial virtue.

No habitat, no knowledge as well

Yeh Ch'üeh asked Wang Yi, saying, "Do you know for certain that all things are the same?"

"How can I know?" answered Wang Yi. "Do you know what you don't know?"

"How can I know!" replied Yeh Ch'üeh. "But then does nobody know?"

"How can I know?" said Wang Yi. "Nevertheless, I will try to tell you. How can it be known that what I call knowing is not really not knowing and that what I call not knowing is not really knowing? Now I would ask you this, If a man sleeps in a damp place, he gets lumbago and dies. But how about an eel? And living up in a tree 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 beings feed 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-headed female ape, the buck with the doe, eels consort with fishes, while men admire Mao Ch'iang and Li Chi, at the sight of whom fishes plunge deep down in the water, birds soar high in the air, and deer hurry away. Yet who shall say which is the correct standard of beauty? In my opinion, the doctrines of humanity and justice and the paths of right and wrong are so confused that it is impossible to know their contentions."

"If you then," asked Yeh Ch'üeh, "don't know what is good and bad, is the Perfect Man equally without this knowledge?"

◑ There is a difference between guessing wildly and these teachings -

◑ Every mammal is expected to do his duty and get his right habitat. Inside it, one hardly needs to know many new things, only to get food that suits one and mate well. Man is often on top of that sort of arrangement, if apart from too cramped city living.

◑ If all things are the same in the "upper" or divine light, what is the use of normal justice "down here"?

◑ In yoga teachings the Perfect Man happens to be just anyhow - and that's a very helpful (good) outlook.

The inner or spiritual side of man hardly feels cold

"The Perfect Man," answered Wang Yi, "is a spiritual being. Were the ocean itself scorched up, he would not feel hot. Were the great rivers frozen hard, he would not feel cold. Were the mountains to be cleft by thunder, and the great deep to be thrown up by storm, he would not tremble with fear. Thus, he would mount on the clouds of heaven, and driving the sun and the moon before him, pass beyond the limits 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?"

◑ A spiritual person senses like others most of the waking hours.

◑ To glide down into interplays and distinctions can be to one's loss as a giant (inner side being), in so far as good and decent contemplation helps one above such phenomena or "things".

If rising to hold the universe in your grasp as one more True Sage, it is due to the rule of not relinquishing life here in the first place

Chü Ch'iao addressed Ch'ang Wutse as follows: "I heard Kungfu [alias Confucius] say, 'The true Sage pays no heed to worldly affairs. He neither seeks gain nor avoids injury. He asks nothing at the hands of man and doesn't adhere to rigid rules of conduct. Sometimes he says something without speaking and sometimes he speaks without saying anything. And so he roams beyond the limits of this mundane world.

'These,' commented Kungfu, 'are futile fantasies.' But to me they are the embodiment of the most wonderful Tao. What is your opinion?"

"These are things that perplexed even the Yellow Emperor," replied Ch'ang Wutse. "How should Kungfu 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 expected to have broiled pigeon. I will say a few words to you at random, and do you listen at random.

"How does the Sage seat himself by the sun and moon, and hold the universe in his grasp? He blends everything into one harmonious whole, rejecting the confusion of this and that. Rank and precedence, which the vulgar sedulously cultivate, the Sage stolidly ignores, amalgamating the disparities of ten thousand years into one pure mould. 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 but that he who dreads death is not as a child who has lost his way and doesn't know his way home?

"The Lady Li Chi was the daughter of the frontier officer of Ai. When the Duke of Chin first got her, she wept till 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 the dead may repent of having previously clung to life?

◑ A true sage can seek gain by ruling out the confusion of others.

◑ To roam beyond quite rigid rules is often felt as most delighting.

◑ One should let those who eventually grasp the universe have cultivated sane love of living in the first place.

◑ The true sage owns a most joyful Way of ways; he often seeks gain in one wholeness inside, and loves to keep things simple too, along that way.

To allow for developing art and nature-linked thinking is much brighter than turning dogmatic

"Those who dream of the banquet, wake to lamentation and sorrow. Those who dream of lamentation and sorrow wake to join the hunt. While they dream, they don't know that 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 great awakening, and then we find out that this life is really a great dream. Fools think they are awake now, and flatter themselves they know—this one is a prince, and that one is a shepherd. What narrowness of mind! Kungfu and you are both dreams; and I who say you are dreams—I am but a dream myself. This is a paradox. Tomorrow a Sage may arise to explain it; but that tomorrow will not be till ten thousand generations 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, are you necessarily right and I wrong? Or if I get the better of you and not you of me, am I necessarily right and you wrong? Or are we both partly right and partly wrong? 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, he will side with you. How can such a one arbitrate between us? If I ask someone who takes my view, he will side with me. How can such a one arbitrate between us? If I ask someone who differs from both of us, he will be equally unable to decide between us, since he differs from both of us. And if I ask someone who agrees with both of us, he will be equally unable to decide between us, since he agrees with both of us. Since then you and I and other men cannot decide, how can we depend on another? 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's this. The right may not be really right. What appears so may not be really so. Even if what is right is really right, wherein it differs from wrong cannot be made plain by argument. Even if what appears so is really so, wherein it differs from what is not 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."

◑ To awaken fully through eating out the allotted span of life goes against narrow biases of mind.

◑ One should be aware that the much awakened sage conforms to certain criteria almost without fail. One is to go against too narrow and bad outlooks. Another is the desire to harmonise this and that by central unity or some unificative strivings.

You can suggest why if you want others to depend on you ahead

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, "on something which causes me to do as I do; and perhaps that something depends in turn on something else which causes it 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, or why I don't do another?"

Once on a time, I, Zhuang Chou [1], dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering here and there, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I don't know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things [2].

◑ Good proverbs have fit suggestive prowess to them.

◑ The one that depends on suggesting he is man or butterfly dreaming, depends on "the ears" of his listeners for that part. There is little more to it.

[1] The butterfly incident is often admired and quoted, even if it is not all that significant.
    [2] What is interesting is not so much what something is called as what is in it.

Chuang Tzu, Zhuangzi, Lin Yutang translation, END MATTER

Chuang Tzu, Zhuangzi, LITERATURE  

Aap: Rothbard, Murray N. An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought. Vol 1. Cheltenham Glos: Edward Elgar, 1995: Chapter 1, Section 10, called "Taoism in Ancient China".

Bct: Palmer, Martin with Breuilly, Elizabeth, trs.: The Book of Chuang-tzu. London: Penguin Arkana Books, 1996.

Co: Watson, Burton tr: The Complete Works of Chuang-tzu. New York: Columbia University, 1968.

Kss: Bossler, Beverly J. Kinship, Status, and the State in Sung China (960-1279). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 1998.

Wci: Yutang, Lin, ed. The Wisdom of China and India. New York: Random House, 1942:625-91.

Wic: Yutang, Lin: The Wisdom of China. New English Library. London, 1963.

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