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Chuang Tzu
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  1. Cutting open Satchels
  2. Letting Be, and Exercising Forbearance
  3. Heaven and Earth

10 - Cutting open Satchels

1: On the regulations of wise men

In taking precautions against thieves who cut open satchels, search bags, and break open boxes, people are sure to cord and fasten them well, and to employ strong bonds and clasps; and in this they are ordinarily said to show their wisdom. When a great thief comes, however, he shoulders the box, lifts up the satchel, carries off the bag, and runs away with them, afraid only that the cords, bonds, and clasps may not be secure; and in this case what was called the wisdom (of the owners) proves to be nothing but a collecting of the things for the great thief. Let me try and set this matter forth. Do not those who are vulgarly called wise prove to be collectors for the great thieves? And do not those who are called sages prove to be but guardians in the interest of the great thieves?

How do I know that the case is so? Formerly, in the state of Khi, the neighbouring towns could see one another; their cocks and dogs never ceased to answer the crowing and barking of other cocks and dogs (between them). The nets were set (in the water and on the land); and the ploughs and hoes were employed over more than a space of two thousand li square. All within its four boundaries, the establishment of the ancestral temples and of the altars of the land and grain, and the ordering of the hamlets and houses, and of every corner in the districts, large, medium, and small, were in all particulars according to the rules of the sages. So it was; but yet one morning, Thien Master Keng killed the ruler of Khi, and stole his state. And was it only the state that he stole? Along with it he stole also the regulations of the sages and wise men (observed in it). And so, though he got the name of being a thief and a robber, yet he himself continued to live as securely as Yao and Shun had done. Small states did not dare to find fault with him; great states did not dare to take him off; for twelve generations (his descendants) have possessed the state of Khi. Thus do we not have a case in which not only did (the party) steal the state of Khi, but at the same time the regulations of its sages and wise men, which thereby served to guard the person of him, thief and robber as he was?

2: Great robbers restrained

Let me try to set forth this subject (still further). Have not there been among those vulgarly styled the wisest, such as have collected (their wealth) for the great chief? and among those styled the most sage such as have guarded it for him? How do I know that it has been so? Formerly, Lung-fäng was beheaded; Pi-kan had his heart torn out; Khang Hung was ripped open; and Tzu-hsü was reduced to pulp (in the Kiang). Worthy as those four men were, they did not escape such dreadful deaths. The followers of the robber Kih asked him, saying,

'Has the robber also any method or principle (in his proceedings)?'

He replied,

'What profession is there which has not its principles? That the robber in his recklessness comes to the conclusion that there are valuable deposits in an apartment shows his sageness; that he is the first to enter it shows his bravery; that he is the last to quit it shows his righteousness; that he knows whether (the robbery) may be attempted or not shows his wisdom; and that he makes an equal division of the plunder shows his benevolence. Without all these five qualities no one in the world has ever attained to become a great robber.'

Looking at the subject in this way, we see that good men do not arise without having the principles of the sages, and that Kih could not have pursued his course without the same principles. But the good men in the world are few, and those who are not good are many; – it follows that the sages benefit the world in a few instances and injure it in many. Hence it is that we have the sayings,

'When the lips are gone the teeth are cold;'

'The poor wine of Lu gave occasion to the siege of Han-tan;'

'When sages are born great robbers arise.'

When the stream is dried, the valley is empty; when the mound is levelled, the deep pool (beside it) is filled up. When the sages have died, the great robbers will not arise; the world would be at peace, and there would be no more troubles. While the sagely men have not died, great robbers will not cease to appear. The more right that is attached to (the views of) the sagely men for the government of the world, the more advantage will accrue to (such men as) the robber Kih. If we make for men pecks and bushels to measure (their wares), even by means of those pecks and bushels should we be teaching them to steal; if we make for them weights and steelyards to weigh (their wares), even by means of those weights and steelyards shall we be teaching them to steal. If we make for them tallies and seals to secure their good faith, even by means of those tallies and seals shall we be teaching them to steal. If we make for them benevolence and righteousness to make their doings correct, even by means of benevolence and righteousness shall we be teaching them to steal. How do I know that it is so? Here is one who steals a hook (for his girdle); – he is put to death for it: here is another who steals a state; – he becomes its prince. But it is at the gates of the princes that we find benevolence and righteousness (most strongly) professed; – is not this stealing benevolence and righteousness, sageness and wisdom? Thus they hasten to become great robbers, carry off princedoms, and steal benevolence and righteousness, with all the gains springing from the use of pecks and bushels, weights and steelyards, tallies and seals: even the rewards of carriages and coronets have no power to influence (to a different course), and the terrors of the axe have no power to restrain in such cases. The giving of so great gain to robbers (like) Kih, and making it impossible to restrain them; – this is the error committed by the sages.

Fit benevolence does not help liars, thieves and robbers on and up.

3: Possessing skills, vision, and knowledge

In accordance with this it is said,

'Fish should not be taken from (the protection of) the deep waters; the agencies for the profit of a state should not be shown to men.'

But those sages (and their teachings) are the agencies for the profit of the world, and should not be exhibited to it. Therefore if an end were put to sageness and wisdom put away, the great robbers would cease to arise. If jade were put away and pearls broken to bits, the small thieves would not appear. If tallies were burned and seals broken in pieces, the people would become simple and unsophisticated. If pecks were destroyed and steelyards snapped in two, the people would have no wrangling. If the rules of the sages were entirely set aside in the world, a beginning might be made of reasoning with the people. If the six musical accords were reduced to a state of utter confusion, organs and lutes all burned, and the ears of the (musicians like the) blind Khwang stopped up, all men would begin to possess and employ their (natural) power of hearing. If elegant ornaments were abolished, the five embellishing colours disused, and the eyes of (men like) Li Ku glued up, all men would begin to possess and employ their (natural) power of vision. If the hook and line were destroyed, the compass and square thrown away, and the fingers of men (like) the artful Khui smashed, all men would begin to possess and employ their (natural) skill; – as it is said,

'The greatest art is like stupidity.'

If conduct such as that of Zäng (Shän) and Shih (Khiu) were discarded, the mouths of Yang (Ku) and Mo (Ti) gagged, and benevolence and righteousness seized and thrown aside, the virtue of all men would begin to display its mysterious excellence. When men possessed and employed their (natural) power of vision, there would be no distortion in the world. When they possessed and employed their (natural) power of hearing, there would be no distractions in the world. When they possessed and employed their (natural) faculty of knowledge, there would be no delusions in the world. When they possessed and employed their (natural) virtue, there would be no depravity in the world. Men like Zäng (Shän), Shih (Khiu), Yang (Ku), Mo (Ti), Shih Khwang (the musician), the artist Khui, and Li Ku, all display their qualities outwardly, and set the world in a blaze (of admiration) and confound it; – a method which is of no use!

4: The great confusion

Are you, Sir, unacquainted with the age of perfect virtue? Anciently there were Yung-khäng, Tâ-thing, Po-hwang, Kang-yang, Li-lu, Li-khu, Hsien-yü an, Ho-hsü, Zun-lu, Ku-yung, Fu-hsi, and Shän-näng. In their times the people made knots on cords in carrying on their affairs. They thought their (simple) food pleasant, and their (plain) clothing beautiful. They were happy in their (simple) manners, and felt at rest in their (poor) dwellings. (The people of) neighbouring states might be able to descry one another; the voices of their cocks and dogs might be heard (all the way) from one to the other; they might not die till they were old; and yet all their life they would have no communication together. In those times perfect good order prevailed.

Now-a-days, however, such is the state of things that you shall see the people stretching out their necks, and standing on tiptoe, while they say, 'In such and such a place there is a wise and able man.'

Then they carry with them whatever dry provisions they may have left, and hurry towards it, abandoning their parents in their homes, and neglecting the service of their rulers abroad. Their footsteps may be traced in lines from one state to another, and the ruts of their chariot-wheels also for more than a thousand li. This is owing to the error of their superiors in their (inordinate) fondness for knowledge. When those superiors do really love knowledge, but do not follow the (proper) course, the whole world is thrown into great confusion.

How do I know that the case is so? The knowledge shown in the (making of) bows, cross-bows, hand-nets, stringed arrows, and contrivances with springs is great, but the birds are troubled by them above; the knowledge shown in the hooks, baits, various kinds of nets, and bamboo traps is great, but the fishes are disturbed by them in the waters; the knowledge shown in the arrangements for setting nets, and the nets and snares themselves, is great, but the animals are disturbed by them in the marshy grounds. (So), the versatility shown in artful deceptions becoming more and more pernicious, in ingenious discussions as to what is hard and what is white, and in attempts to disperse the dust and reconcile different views, is great, but the common people are perplexed by all the sophistry. Hence there is great disorder continually in the world, and the guilt of it is due to that fondness for knowledge. Thus it is that all men know to seek for the knowledge that they have not attained to; and do not know to seek for that which they already have (in themselves); and that they know to condemn what they do not approve (in others), and do not know to condemn what they have allowed in themselves; – it is this which occasions the great confusion and disorder. It is just as if, above, the brightness of the sun and moon were darkened; as if, beneath, the productive vigour of the hills and streams were dried up; and as if, between, the operation of the four seasons were brought to an end: in which case there would not be a single weak and wriggling insect, nor any plant that grows up, which would not lose its proper nature. Great indeed is the disorder produced in the world by the love of knowledge. From the time of the three dynasties downwards it has been so. The plain and honest-minded people are neglected, and the plausible representations of restless spirits received with pleasure; the quiet and unexciting method of non-action is put away, and pleasure taken in ideas garrulously expressed. It is this garrulity of speech which puts the world in disorder.


11 - Letting Be, and Exercising Forbearance

1: On men's joy and dissatisfaction

I have heard of letting the world be, and exercising forbearance; I have not heard of governing the world. Letting be is from the fear that men, (when interfered with), will carry their nature beyond its normal condition; exercising forbearance is from the fear that men, (when not so dealt with), will alter the characteristics of their nature. When all men do not carry their nature beyond its normal condition, nor alter its characteristics, the good government of the world is secured.

Formerly, Yao's government of the world made men look joyful; but when they have this joy in their nature, there is a want of its (proper) placidity. The government of the world by Kieh, (on the contrary), made men look distressed; but when their nature shows the symptoms of distress, there is a want of its (proper) contentment. The want of placidity and the want of contentment are contrary to the character (of the nature); and where this obtains, it is impossible that any man or state should anywhere abide long. Are men exceedingly joyful? – the Yang or element of expansion in them is too much developed. Are they exceedingly irritated? – the Yin or opposite element is too much developed. When those elements thus predominate in men, (it is as if) the four seasons were not to come (at their proper times), and the harmony of cold and heat were not to be maintained; – would there not result injury to the bodies of men? Men's joy and dissatisfaction are made to arise where they ought not to do so; their movements are all uncertain; they lose the mastery of their thoughts; they stop short midway, and do not finish what they have begun. In this state of things the world begins to have lofty aims, and jealous dislikes, ambitious courses, and fierce animosities, and then we have actions like those of the robber Kih, or of Zäng (Shän) and Shih (Zhiu). If now the whole world were taken to reward the good it would not suffice, nor would it be possible with it to punish the bad. Thus the world, great as it is, not sufficing for rewards and punishments, from the time of the three dynasties downwards, there has been nothing but bustle and excitement. Always occupied with rewards and punishments, what leisure have men had to rest in the instincts of the nature with which they are endowed?

2: The superior one is motionless

Moreover, delight in the power of vision leads to excess in the pursuit of (ornamental) colours; delight in the power of hearing, to excess in seeking (the pleasures of) sound; delight in benevolence tends to disorder that virtue (as proper to the nature); delight in righteousness sets the man in opposition to what is right in reason; delight in (the practice of) ceremonies is helpful to artful forms; delight in music leads to voluptuous airs; delight in sageness is helpful to ingenious contrivances; delight in knowledge contributes to fault-finding. If all men were to rest in the instincts of their nature, to keep or to extinguish these eight delights might be a matter of indifference; but if they will not rest in those instincts, then those eight delights begin to be imperfectly and unevenly developed or violently suppressed, and the world is thrown into disorder. But when men begin to honour them, and to long for them, how great is the deception practised on the world! And not only, when (a performance of them) is once over, do they not have done with them, but they prepare themselves (as) with fasting to describe them, they seem to kneel reverentially when they bring them forward, and they go through them with the excitements of music and singing; and then what can be done (to remedy the evil of them)? Therefore the superior man, who feels himself constrained to engage in the administration of the world will find it his best way to do nothing. In (that policy of) doing nothing, he can rest in the instincts of the nature with which he is endowed. Hence he who will administer (the government of) the world honouring it as he honours his own person, may have that government committed to him, and he who will administer it loving it as he loves his own person, may have it entrusted to him. Therefore, if the superior man will keep (the faculties lodged in) his five viscera unemployed, and not display his powers of seeing and hearing, while he is motionless as a representative of the dead, his dragon-like presence will be seen; while he is profoundly silent, the thunder (of his words) will resound, while his movements are (unseen) like those of a spirit, all heavenly influences will follow them; while he is (thus) unconcerned and does nothing, his genial influence will attract and gather all things round him: what leisure has he to do anything more for the government of the world?

3: Meddle with men's minds and suffer later

Zhui Khü asked Lao Tan, saying,

'If you do not govern the world, how can you make men's minds good?'

The reply was,

'Take care how you meddle with and disturb men's minds. The mind, if pushed about, gets depressed; if helped forward, it gets exalted. Now exalted, now depressed, here it appears as a prisoner, and there as a wrathful fury. (At one time) it becomes pliable and soft, yielding to what is hard and strong; (at another), it is sharp as the sharpest corner, fit to carve or chisel (stone or jade). Now it is hot as a scorching fire, and anon it is cold as ice. It is so swift that while one is bending down and lifting up his head, it shall twice have put forth a soothing hand beyond the four seas. Resting, it is still as a deep abyss; moving, it is like one of the bodies in the sky; in its resolute haughtiness, it refuses to be bound; -such is the mind of man!'

Anciently, Hwang-Ti was the first to meddle with and disturb the mind of man with his benevolence and righteousness. After him, Yao and Shun wore their thighs bare and the hair off the calves of their legs, in their labours to nourish the bodies of the people. They toiled painfully with all the powers in their five viscera at the practice of their benevolence and righteousness; they tasked their blood and breath to make out a code of laws; – and after all they were unsuccessful. On this Yao sent away Hwan Tâu to Khung hill, and (the Chiefs of) the Three Miâo to San-wei, and banished the Minister of Works to the Dark Capital; so unequal had they been to cope with the world. Then we are carried on to the kings of the Three (dynasties), when the world was in a state of great distraction. Of the lowest type of character there were Kieh and Kih; of a higher type there were Zäng (Shän) and Shih (Zhiu). At the same time there arose the classes of the Literati and the Mohists. Hereupon, complacency in, and hatred of, one another produced mutual suspicions; the stupid and the wise imposed on one another; the good and the bad condemned one another; the boastful and the sincere interchanged their recriminations; – and the world fell into decay. Views as to what was greatly virtuous did not agree, and the nature with its endowments became as if shrivelled by fire or carried away by a flood. All were eager for knowledge, and the people were exhausted with their searchings (after what was good). On this the axe and the saw were brought into play; guilt was determined as by the plumb-line and death inflicted; the hammer and gouge did their work. The world fell into great disorder, and presented the appearance of a jagged mountain ridge. The crime to which all was due was the meddling with and disturbing men's minds. The effect was that men of ability and worth lay concealed at the foot of the crags of mount Tai, and princes of ten thousand chariots were anxious and terrified in their ancestral temples. In the present age those Who have been put to death in various ways lie thick as if pillowed on each other; those who are wearing the cangue press on each other (on the roads); those who are suffering the bastinado can see each other (all over the land). And now the Literati and the Mohists begin to stand, on tiptoe and with bare arms, among the fettered and manacled crowd! Ah! extreme is their shamelessness, and their failure to see the disgrace! Strange that we should be slow to recognise their sageness and wisdom in the bars of the cangue, and their benevolence and righteousness in the rivets of the fetters and handcuffs! How do we know that Zäng and Shih are not the whizzing arrows of Kieh and Kih? Therefore it is said,

'Abolish sageness and cast away knowledge, and the world will be brought to a state of great order.'

4: Telling of one's understanding of the Way

Hwang-Ti had been on the throne for nineteen years, and his ordinances were in operation all through the kingdom, when he heard that Kwang Master Keng was living on the summit of Khung-thung, and went to see him.

'I have heard,' he said, 'that you, Sir, are well acquainted with the perfect Tao. I venture to ask you what is the essential thing in it. I wish to take the subtlest influences of heaven and earth, and assist with them the (growth of the) five cereals for the (better) nourishment of the people. I also wish to direct the (operation of the) Yin and Yang, so as to secure the comfort of all living beings. How shall I proceed to accomplish those objects?'

Kwang Master Keng replied,

'What you wish to ask about is the original substance of all things; what you wish to have the direction of is that substance as it was shattered and divided. According to your government of the world, the vapours of the clouds, before they were collected, would descend in rain; the herbs and trees would shed their leaves before they became yellow; and the light of the sun and moon would hasten to extinction. Your mind is that of a flatterer with his plausible words; – it is not fit that I should tell you the perfect Tao.'

Hwang-Ti withdrew, gave up (his government of) the kingdom, built himself a solitary apartment, spread in it a mat of the white mâo grass, dwelt in it unoccupied for three months, and then went again to seek an interview with (the recluse). Kwang Master Keng was then lying down with his head to the south. Hwang-Ti, with an air of deferential submission, went forward on his knees, twice bowed low with his face to the ground, and asked him, saying,

'I have heard that you, Sir, are well acquainted with the perfect Tao; – I venture to ask how I should rule my body, in order that it may continue for a long time.'

Kwang Master Keng hastily rose, and said,

'A good question! Come and I will tell you the perfect Tao. Its essence is (surrounded with) the deepest obscurity; its highest reach is in darkness and silence. There is nothing to be seen; nothing to be heard. When it holds the spirit in its arms in stillness, then the bodily form of itself will become correct. You must be still; you must be pure; not subjecting your body to toil, not agitating your vital force; – then you may live for long. When your eyes see nothing, your ears hear nothing, and your mind knows nothing, your spirit will keep your body, and the body will live long. Watch over what is within you, shut up the avenues that connect you with what is external; – much knowledge is pernicious. I (will) proceed with you to the summit of the Grand Brilliance, where we come to the source of the bright and expanding (element); I will enter with you the gate of the Deepest Obscurity, where we come to the source of the dark and repressing (element). There heaven and earth have their controllers; there the Yin and Yang have their Repositories. Watch over and keep your body, and all things will of themselves give it vigour. I maintain the (original) unity (of these elements), and dwell in the harmony of them. In this way 1 have cultivated myself for one thousand and two hundred years, and my bodily form has undergone no decay.'

Hwang-Ti twice bowed low with his head to the ground, and said,

'In Kwang Master Keng we have an example of what is called Heaven.'

The other said,

'Come, and I will tell you: (The perfect Tao) is something inexhaustible, and yet men all think it has an end; it is something unfathomable, and yet men all think its extreme limit can be reached. He who attains to my Tao, if he be in a high position, will be one of the August ones, and in a low position, will be a king. He who fails in attaining it, in his highest attainment will see the light, but will descend and be of the Earth. At present all things are produced from the Earth and return to the Earth. Therefore I will leave you, and enter the gate of the Unending, to enjoy myself in the fields of the Illimitable. I will blend my light with that of the sun and moon, and will endure while heaven and earth endure. If men agree with my views, I will be unconscious of it; if they keep far apart from them, I will be unconscious of it; they may all die, and I will abide alone!'

5: The error of governing others

Yün Kiang, rambling to the east, having been borne along on a gentle breeze, suddenly encountered Hung Mung, who was rambling about, slapping his buttocks and hopping like a bird. Amazed at the sight, Yün Kiang stood reverentially, and said to the other, 'Venerable Sir, who are you? and why are you doing this?'

Hung Mung went on slapping his buttocks and hopping like a bird, but replied,

'I am enjoying myself.'

Yün Kiang said,

'I wish to ask you a question.'

Hung Mung lifted up his head, looked at the stranger, and said,

'Pooh!' Yün Kiang, however, continued, 'The breath of heaven is out of harmony; the breath of earth is bound up; the six elemental influences do not act in concord; the four seasons do not observe their proper times. Now I wish to blend together the essential qualities of those six influences in order to nourish all living things; - how shall I go about it?'

Hung Mung slapped his buttocks, hopped about, and shook his head, saying,

'I do not know; I do not know!'

Yün Kiang could not pursue his question; but three years afterwards, when (again) rambling in the east, as he was passing by the wild of Sung, he happened to meet Hung Mung. Delighted with the rencontre, he hastened to him, and said,

'Have you forgotten me, O Heaven? Have you forgotten me, O Heaven?'

At the same time, he bowed twice with his head to the ground, wishing to receive his instructions. Hung Mung said,

'Wandering listlessly about, I know not what I seek; carried on by a wild impulse, I know not where I am going. I wander about in the strange manner (which you have seen), and see that nothing proceeds without method and order; – what more should I know?'

Yün Kiang replied,

'I also seem carried on by an aimless influence, and yet the people follow me wherever I go. I cannot help their doing so. But now as they thus imitate me, I wish to hear a word from you (in the case).'

The other said,

'What disturbs the regular method of Heaven, comes into collision with the nature of things, prevents the accomplishment of the mysterious (operation of) Heaven, scatters the herds of animals, makes the birds all sing at night, is calamitous to vegetation, and disastrous to all insects; - all this is owing, I conceive, to the error of governing men.'

'What then,' said Yün Kiang, 'shall I do?'

'Ah,' said the other, 'you will only injure them! I will leave you in my dancing way, and return to my place.'

Yün Kiang rejoined,

'It has been a difficult thing to get this meeting with you, O Heaven! I should like to hear from you a word (more).'

Hung Mung said,

'Ah! your mind (needs to be) nourished. Do you only take the position of doing nothing, and things will of themselves become transformed. Neglect your body; cast out from you your power of hearing and sight; forget what you have in common with things; cultivate a grand similarity with the chaos of the plastic ether; unloose your mind; set your spirit free; be still as if you had no soul. Of all the multitude of things every one returns to its root. Every one returns to its root, and does not know (that it is doing so). They all are as in the state of chaos, and during all their existence they do not leave it. If they knew (that they were returning to their root), they would be (consciously) leaving it. They do not ask its name; they do not seek to spy out their nature; and thus it is that things come to life of themselves.'

Yün Kiang said,

'Heaven, you have conferred on me (the knowledge of) your operation, and revealed to me the mystery of it. All my life I had been seeking for it, and now I have obtained it.'

He then bowed twice, with his head to the ground, arose, took his leave, and walked away.

6: Those without companions may be the noblest of all

The ordinary men of the world all rejoice in men's agreeing with themselves, and dislike men's being different from themselves. This rejoicing and this dislike arise from their being bent on making themselves distinguished above all others. But have they who have this object at heart so risen out above all others? They depend on them to rest quietly (in the position which they desire), and their knowledge is not equal to the multitude of the arts of all those others! When they wish again to administer a state for its ruler, they proceed to employ all the methods which the kings of the three dynasties considered profitable without seeing the evils of such a course. This is to make the state depend on the peradventure of their luck. But how seldom it is that that peradventure does not issue in the ruin of the state! Not once in ten thousand instances will such men preserve a state. Not once will they succeed, and in more than ten thousand cases will they ruin it. Alas that the possessors of territory, – (the rulers of states), – should not know the danger (of employing such men)! Now the possessors of territory possess the greatest of (all) things. Possessing the greatest of all things, – (possessing, that is, men), – they should not try to deal with them as (simply) things. And it is he who is not a thing (himself) that is therefore able to deal with (all) things as they severally require. When (a ruler) clearly understands that he who should so deal with all things is not a thing himself, will he only rule the kingdom? He will go out and in throughout the universe (at his pleasure); he will roam over the nine regions, alone in going, alone in coming. Him we call the sole possessor (of this ability); and the sole possessor (of this ability) is what is called the noblest of all.

The teaching of (this) great man goes forth as the shadow from the substance, as the echo responds to the sound. When questioned, he responds, exhausting (from his own stores) all that is in the (enquirer's) mind, as if front to front with all under heaven. His resting-place gives forth no sound; his sphere of activity has no restriction of place. He conducts every one to his proper goal, proceeding to it and bringing him back to it as by his own movement. His movements have no trace; his going forth and his re-enterings have no deviation; his course is like that of the sun without beginning (or ending). If you would praise or discourse about his personality, he is united with the great community of existences. He belongs to that great community, and has no individual self. Having no individual self, how should he have anything that can be called his? If you look at those who have what they call their own, they are the superior men of former times; if you look at him who has nothing of the kind, he is the friend of heaven and earth.

7: Heaven is Spirit-like

Mean, and yet demanding to be allowed their free course; – such are Things. Low, and yet requiring to be relied on; – such are the People. Hidden (as to their issues), and yet requiring to be done; – such are Affairs. Coarse, and yet necessary to be set forth; – such are Laws. Remote, and yet necessary to have dwelling (in one's self); – such is Righteousness. Near, and yet necessary to be widely extended; – such is Benevolence. Restrictive, and yet necessary to be multiplied; – such are Ceremonies. Lodged in the centre, and yet requiring to be exalted; – such is Virtue. Always One, and yet requiring to be modified; – such is the Tao. Spirit-like, and yet requiring to be exercised; – such is Heaven.

Therefore the sages contemplated Heaven, but did not assist It. They tried to perfect their virtue, but did not allow it to embarrass them. They proceeded according to the Tao, but did not lay any plans. They associated benevolence (with all their doings), but did not rely on it. They pursued righteousness extensively, but did not try to accumulate it. They responded to ceremonies, but did not conceal (their opinion as to the troublesomeness of them). They engaged in affairs as they occurred, and did not decline them. They strove to render their laws uniform, but (feared that confusion) might arise from them. They relied upon the people, and did not set light by them. They depended on things as their instruments, and did not discard them.

They did not think things equal to what they employed them for, but yet they did not see that they could do without employing them. Those who do not understand Heaven are not pure in their virtue. Those who do not comprehend the Tao have no course which they can pursue successfully. Alas for them who do not clearly understand the Tao!

What is it that we call the Tao? There is the Tao, or Way of Heaven; and there is the Tao, or Way of Man. Doing nothing and yet attracting all honour is the Way of Heaven; Doing and being embarrassed thereby is the Way of Man. It is the Way of Heaven that plays the part of the Lord; it is the Way of Man that plays the part of the Servant. The Way of Heaven and the Way of Man are far apart. They should be clearly distinguished from each other.

Useful things and things that may become useful if well modified or conditions change, should perhaps be kept to gain some Tao.


12 - Heaven and Earth

1: On ruling the world

Despite the greatness of heaven and earth, their transforming power proceeds from one lathe; despite the number of the myriad things, the government of them is one and the same; despite the multitude of mankind, the lord of them is their (one) ruler. The ruler's (course) should proceed from the qualities (of the Tao) and be perfected by Heaven, when it is so, it is called 'Mysterious and Sublime.'

The ancients ruled the world by doing nothing; - simply by this attribute of Heaven.

If we look at their words in the light of the Tao, (we see that) the appellation for the ruler of the world was correctly assigned; if we look in the same light at the distinctions which they instituted, (we see that) the separation of ruler and ministers was right; if we look at the abilities which they called forth in the same light, (we see that the duties of) all the offices were well performed; and if we look generally in the same way at all things, (we see that) their response (to this rule) was complete. Therefore that which pervades (the action of) Heaven and Earth is (this one) attribute; that which operates in all things is (this one) course; that by which their superiors govern the people is the business (of the various departments); and that by which aptitude is given to ability is skill. The skill was manifested in all the (departments of) business; those departments were all administered in righteousness; the righteousness was (the outflow of) the natural virtue; the virtue was manifested according to the Tao; and the Tao was according to (the pattern of) Heaven.

Hence it is said,

'The ancients who had the nourishment of the world wished for nothing and the world had enough; they did nothing and all things were transformed; their stillness was abysmal, and the people were all composed.'

The Record says, 'When the one (Tao) pervades it, all business is completed. When the mind gets to be free from all aim, even the Spirits submit.'

There should be no need to dispense with righteously developed skills.

2: "All things belong to the one treasury"

The Master said,

'It is the Tao that overspreads and sustains all things. How great It is in Its overflowing influence! The Superior man ought by all means to remove from his mind (all that is contrary to It). Acting without action is what is called Heaven(-like). Speech coming forth of itself is what is called (a mark of) the (true) Virtue. Loving men and benefiting things is what is called Benevolence. Seeing wherein things that are different yet agree is what is called being Great. Conduct free from the ambition of being distinguished above others is what is called being Generous. The possession in himself of a myriad points of difference is what is called being Rich. Therefore to hold fast the natural attributes is what is called the Guiding Line (of government); the perfecting of those attributes is what is called its Establishment; accordance with the Tao is what is called being Complete; and not allowing anything external to affect the will is what is called being Perfect. When the Superior man understands these ten things, he keeps all matters as it were sheathed in himself, showing the greatness of his mind; and through the outflow of his doings, all things move (and come to him). Being such, he lets the gold he hid in the hill, and the pearls in the deep; he considers not property or money to be any gain; he keeps aloof from riches and honours; he rejoices not in long life, and grieves not for early death; he does not account prosperity a glory, nor is ashamed of indigence; he would not grasp at the gain of the whole world to be held as his own private portion; he would not desire to rule over the whole world as his own private distinction. His distinction is in understanding that all things belong to the one treasury, and that death and life should be viewed in the same way.'

3: Kingly attributes are to be displayed in some way

The Master said,

'How still and deep is the place where the Tao resides! How limpid is its purity! Metal and stone without It would give forth no sound. They have indeed the (power of) sound (in them), but if they be not struck, they do not emit it. Who can determine (the qualities that are in) all things?

'The man of kingly qualities holds on his way unoccupied, and is ashamed to busy himself with (the conduct of) affairs. He establishes himself in (what is) the root and source (of his capacity), and his wisdom grows to be spirit-like. In this way his attributes become more and more great, and when his mind goes forth, whatever things come in his way, it lays hold of them (and deals with them). Thus, if there were not the Tao, the bodily form would not have life, and its life, without the attributes (of the Tao), would not be manifested. Is not he who preserves the body and gives the fullest development to the life, who establishes the attributes of the Tao and clearly displays It, possessed of kingly qualities? How majestic is he in his sudden issuings forth, and in his unexpected movements, when all things follow him! – This we call the man whose qualities fit him to rule.

'He sees where there is the deepest obscurity; he hears where there is no sound. In the midst of the deepest obscurity, he alone sees and can distinguish (various objects); in the midst of a soundless (abyss), he alone can hear a harmony (of notes). Therefore where one deep is succeeded by a greater, he can people all with things; where one mysterious range is followed by another that is more so, he can lay hold of the subtlest character of each. In this way in his intercourse with all things, while he is farthest from having anything, he can yet give to them what they seek; while he is always hurrying forth, he yet returns to his resting-place; now large, now small; now long, now short; now distant, now near.'

4: Searching for the dark-coloured pearl

Hwang-Ti, enjoying himself on the north of the Red-water, ascended to the height of the Kun-lun (mountain), and having looked towards the south, was returning home, when he lost his dark-coloured pearl. He employed Wisdom to search for it, but he could not find it. He employed (the clear-sighted) Li Ku to search for it, but he could not find it. He employed (the vehement debater) Khieh Khâu to search for it, but he could not find it. He then employed Purposeless, who found it; on which Hwang-Ti said,

'How strange that it was Purposeless who was able to find it!'

5: A correlate of Heaven?

The teacher of Yao was Hsü Yu; of Hsü Yu, Nieh Khüeh; of Nieh Khüeh, Wang Î; of Wang Î, Phei-i. Yao asked Hsü Yu, saying,

'Is Nieh Khüeh fit to be the correlate of Heaven? (If you think he is), I will avail myself of the services of Wang Î to constrain him (to take my place).'

Hsü Yu replied,

'Such a measure would be hazardous, and full of peril to the kingdom! The character of Nieh Khüeh is this; – he is acute, perspicacious, shrewd and knowing, ready in reply, sharp in retort, and hasty; his natural (endowments) surpass those of other men, but by his human qualities he seeks to obtain the Heavenly gift; he exercises his discrimination in suppressing his errors, but he does not know what is the source from which his errors arise. Make him the correlate of Heaven! He would employ the human qualities, so that no regard would be paid to the Heavenly gift. Moreover, he would assign different functions to the different parts of the one person.

Moreover, honour would be given to knowledge, and he would have his plans take effect with the speed of fire. Moreover, he would be the slave of everything he initiated. Moreover, he would be embarrassed by things. Moreover, he would be looking all round for the response of things (to his measures). Moreover, he would be responding to the opinion of the multitude as to what was right. Moreover, he would be changing as things changed, and would not begin to have any principle of constancy. How can such a man be fit to be the correlate of Heaven? Nevertheless, as there are the smaller branches of a family and the common ancestor of all its branches, he might be the father of a branch, but not the father of the fathers of all the branches. Such government (as he would conduct) would lead to disorder. It would be calamity in one in the position of a minister, and ruin if he were in the position of the sovereign.'

Those who qualify for Heavenly gifts may get such gifts.

6: One is to go for what helps in nourishing virtue

Yao was looking about him at Hwâ, the border-warden of which said,

'Ha! the sage! Let me ask blessings on the sage! May he live long!'

Yao said, 'Hush!' but the other went on,

'May the sage become rich!'

Yao (again) said, 'Hush!' but (the warden) continued,

'May the sage have many sons!'

When Yao repeated his 'Hush,' the warden said,

'Long life, riches, and many sons are what men wish for; – how is it that you alone do not wish for them?'

Yao replied,

'Many sons bring many fears; riches bring many troubles; and long life gives rise to many obloquies. These three things do not help to nourish virtue; and therefore I wish to decline them.'

The warden rejoined,

'At first I considered you to be a sage; now I see in you only a Superior man. Heaven, in producing the myriads of the people, is sure to have appointed for them their several offices. If you had many sons, and gave them (all their) offices, what would you have to fear? If you had riches, and made other men share them with you, what trouble would you have? The sage finds his dwelling like the quail (without any choice of its own), and is fed like the fledgling; he is like the bird which passes on (through the air), and leaves no trace (of its flight). When good order prevails in the world, he shares in the general prosperity. When there is no such order, he cultivates his virtue, and seeks to be unoccupied. After a thousand years, tired of the world, he leaves it, and ascends among the immortals. He mounts on the white clouds, and arrives at the place of God. The three forms of evil do not reach him, his person is always free from misfortune; – what obloquy has he to incur?'

With this the border-warden left him. Yao followed him, saying,

'I beg to ask – ' but the other said,


Implementing what helps your odds against mishaps in the long run along with sound precautions could benefit many a whole lot.

7: A resigning official's view

When Yao was ruling the world, Po-khäng Tzu-kâo was appointed by him prince of one of the states. From Yao (afterwards) the throne passed to Shun, and from Shun (again) to Yu; and (then) Po-khäng Tzu-kâo resigned his principality and began to cultivate the ground. Yü went to see him, and found him ploughing in the open country. Hurrying to him, and bowing low in acknowledgment of his superiority, Yü then stood up, and asked him, saying,' Formerly, when Yao was ruling the world, you, Sir, were appointed prince of a state. He gave his sovereignty to Shun, and Shun gave his to me, when you, Sir, resigned your dignity, and are (now) ploughing (here); – I venture to ask the reason of your conduct.'

Tzu-kâo said,

'When Yao ruled the world, the people stimulated one another (to what was right) without his offering them rewards, and stood in awe (of doing wrong) without his threatening them with punishments. Now you employ both rewards and punishments, and the people nonwithstanding are not good. Their virtue will from this time decay; punishments will from this time prevail; the disorder of future ages will from this time begin. Why do you, my master, not go away, and not interrupt my work?'

With this he resumed his ploughing with his head bent down, and did not (again) look round.

8: A story of creation

In the Grand Beginning (of all things) there was nothing in all the vacancy of space; there was nothing that could be named. It was in this state that there arose the first existence; – the first existence, but still without bodily shape. From this things could then be produced, (receiving) what we call their proper character. That which had no bodily shape was divided; and then without intermission there was what we call the process of conferring. (The two processes) continuing in operation, things were produced. As things were completed, there were produced the distinguishing lines of each, which we call the bodily shape. That shape was the body preserving in it the spirit 5, and each had its peculiar manifestation, which we call its Nature. When the Nature has been cultivated, it returns to its proper character; and when that has been fully reached, there is the same condition as at the Beginning. That sameness is pure vacancy, and the vacancy is great. It is like the closing of the beak and silencing the singing (of a bird). That closing and silencing is like the union of heaven and earth (at the beginning). The union, effected, as it is, might seem to indicate stupidity or darkness, but it is what we call the 'mysterious quality' (existing at the beginning); it is the same as the Grand Submission (to the Natural Course).

9: On what you cannot hear and speak of . . .

The Master' asked Lao Tan, saying,

'Some men regulate the Tao (as by a law), which they have only to follow; – (a thing, they say,) is admissible or it is inadmissible; it is so, or it is not so. (They are like) the sophists who say that they can distinguish what is hard and what is white as clearly as if the objects were houses suspended in the sky. Can such men be said to be sages?'

The reply was,

'They are like the busy underlings of a court, who toil their bodies and distress their minds with their various artifices; – dogs, (employed) to their sorrow to catch the yak, or monkeys that are brought from their forests (for their tricksiness). Khiu, I tell you this; - it is what you cannot hear, and what you cannot speak of: Of those who have their heads and feet, and yet have neither minds nor ears, there are multitudes; while of those who have their bodies, and at the same time preserve that which has no bodily form or shape, there are really none. It is not in their movements or stoppages, their dying or living, their falling and rising again, that this is to be found. The regulation of the course lies in (their dealing with) the human element in them. When they have forgotten external things, and have also forgotten the heavenly element in them, they may be named men who have forgotten themselves. The man who has forgotten himself is he of whom it is said that he has become identified with Heaven.'

Sages regulate their fares so as to stay in touch with Heaven and express fitly also.

10: Instructions on goverment

At an interview with Ki Khê h, Kiang-lü Mien said to him,

'Our ruler of Lu asked to receive my instructions. I declined, on the ground that I had not received any message for him. Afterwards, however, I told him (my thoughts). I do not know whether (what I said) was right or not, and I beg to repeat it to you. I said to him, "You must strive to be courteous and to exercise self-restraint; you must distinguish the public-spirited and loyal, and repress the cringing and selfish; – who among the people will in that case dare not to be in harmony with you?"' Ki Khê h laughed quietly and said,

'Your words, my master, as a description of the right course for a Ti or King, were like the threatening movement of its arms by a mantis which would thereby stop the advance of a carriage; – inadequate to accomplish your object. And moreover, if he guided himself by your directions, it would be as if he were to increase the dangerous height of his towers and add to the number of his valuables collected in them; – the multitudes (of the people) would leave their (old) ways, and bend their steps in the same direction.'

Kiang-lü Mien was awe-struck, and said in his fright,

'I am startled by your words, Master, nevertheless, I should like to hear you describe the influence (which a ruler should exert).'

The other said,

'If a great sage ruled the kingdom, he would stimulate the minds of the people, and cause them to carry out his instructions fully, and change their manners; he would take their minds which had become evil and violent and extinguish them, carrying them all forward to act in accordance with the (good) will belonging to them as individuals, as if they did it of themselves from their nature, while they knew not what it was that made them do so. Would such an one be willing to look up to Yao and Shun in their instruction of the people as his elder brothers? He would treat them as his juniors, belonging himself to the period of the original plastic ether. His wish would be that all should agree with the virtue (of that early period), and quietly rest in it.'

11: Sides to the use of implements and tools

Tzu-kung had been rambling in the south in Ku, and was returning to Zin. As he passed (a place) on the north of the Han, he saw an old man who was going to work on his vegetable garden. He had dug his channels, gone to the well, and was bringing from it in his arms a jar of water to pour into them. Toiling away, he expended a great deal of strength, but the result which he accomplished was very small. Tzu-kung said to him,

'There is a contrivance here, by means of which a hundred plots of ground may be irrigated in one day. With the expenditure of a very little strength, the result accomplished is great. Would you, Master, not like (to try it)?'

The gardener looked up at him, and said,

'How does it work?'

Tzu-kung said,

'It is a lever made of wood, heavy behind, and light in front. It raises the water as quickly as you could do with your hand, or as it bubbles over from a boiler. Its name is a shadoof.'

The gardener put on an angry look, laughed, and said,

'I have heard from my teacher that, where there are ingenious contrivances, there are sure to be subtle doings; and that, where there are subtle doings, there is sure to be a scheming mind. But, when there is a scheming mind in the breast, its pure simplicity is impaired. When this pure simplicity is impaired, the spirit becomes unsettled, and the unsettled spirit is not the proper residence of the Tao. It is not that I do not know (the contrivance which you mention), but I should be ashamed to use it.'

(At these words) Tzu-kung looked blank and ashamed; he hung down his head, and made no reply. After an interval, the gardener said to him,

'Who are you, Sir? A disciple of Khung Khiu,' was the reply. The other continued,

'Are you not the scholar whose great learning makes you comparable to a sage, who make it your boast that you surpass all others, who sing melancholy ditties all by yourself, thus purchasing a famous reputation throughout the kingdom? If you would (only) forget the energy of your spirit, and neglect the care of your body, you might approximate (to the Tao). But while you cannot regulate yourself, what leisure have you to be regulating the world? Go on your way, Sir, and do not interrupt my work.'

Sze-kung shrunk back abashed, and turned pale. He was perturbed, and lost his self-possession, nor did he recover it till he had walked a distance of thirty li. His disciples then said,

'Who was that man? Why, Master, when you saw him, did you change your bearing, and become pale, so that you have been all day without returning to yourself?'

He replied to them,

'Formerly I thought that there was but one man in the world, and did not know that there was this man. I have heard the Master say that to seek for the means of conducting his undertakings so that his success in carrying them out may be complete, and how by the employment of a little strength great results may be obtained, is the way of the sage. Now (I perceive that) it is not so at all. They who hold fast and cleave to the Tao are complete in the qualities belonging to it. complete in those qualities, they are complete in their bodies. Complete in their bodies, they are complete in their spirits. To be complete in spirit is the way of the sage. (Such men) live in the world in closest union with the people, going along with them, but they do not know where they are going. Vast and complete is their simplicity! Success, gain, and ingenious contrivances, and artful cleverness, indicate (in their opinion) a forgetfulness of the (proper) mind of man. These men will not go where their mind does not carry them, and will do nothing of which their mind does not approve. Though all the world should praise them, they would (only) get what they think should be loftily disregarded; and though all the world should blame them, they would but lose (what they think) fortuitous and not to be received; -the world's blame and praise can do them neither benefit nor injury. Such men may be described as possessing all the attributes (of the Tao), while I can only be called one of those who are like the waves carried about by the wind.'

When he returned to Lu, (Tzu-kung) reported the interview and conversation to Confucius, who said,

'The man makes a pretence of cultivating the arts of the Embryonic Age'. He knows the first thing, but not the sequel to it. He regulates what is internal in himself, but not what is external to himself. If he had intelligence enough to be entirely unsophisticated, and by doing nothing to seek to return to the normal simplicity, embodying (the instincts of) his nature, and keeping his spirit (as it were) in his arms, so enjoying himself in the common ways, you might then indeed be afraid of him! But what should you and I find in the arts of the embryonic time, worth our knowing?'

The tools mankind resort to, take over the dominant outlets by and by, and people try to adapt to them. Compare "We form our buildings; afterwards they form us," by Sir Winston Churchill.

12: Kun Mâng's teachings

Kun Mâng, on his way to the ocean, met with Yü an Fung on the shore of the eastern sea, and was asked by him where he was going.

'I am going,' he replied, 'to the ocean;' and the other again asked,

'What for?'

Kun Mâng said,

'Such is the nature of the ocean that the waters which flow into it can never fill it, nor those which flow from it exhaust it. I will enjoy myself, rambling by it.'

Yü an Fung replied,

'Have you no thoughts about mankind'? I should like to hear from you about sagely government.'

Kun Mâng said,

'Under the government of sages, all offices are distributed according to the fitness of their nature; all appointments are made according to the ability of the men; whatever is done is after a complete survey of all circumstances; actions and words proceed from the inner impulse, and the whole world is transformed. Wherever their hands are pointed and their looks directed, from all quarters the people are all sure to come (to do what they desire): this is what is called government by sages.'

'I should like to hear about (the government of) the kindly, virtuous men,' (continued Yü an Fung).

The reply was,

'Under the government of the virtuous, when quietly occupying (their place), they have no thought, and, when they act, they have no anxiety; they do not keep stored (in their minds) what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad. They share their benefits among all within the four seas, and this produces what is called (the state of) satisfaction; they dispense their gifts to all, and this produces what is called (the state of) rest. (The people) grieve (on their death) like babies who have lost their mothers, and are perplexed like travellers who have lost their way. They have a superabundance of wealth and all necessaries, and they know not whence it comes; they have a sufficiency of food and drink, and they know not from whom they get it: such are the appearances (under the government) of the kindly and virtuous.'

'I should like to hear about (the government of) the spirit-like men,' (continued Yü an Fung once more).

The reply was,

'Men of the highest spirit-like qualities mount up on the light, and (the limitations of) the body vanish. This we call being bright and ethereal. They carry out to the utmost the powers with which they are endowed, and have not a single attribute unexhausted. Their joy is that of heaven and earth, and all embarrassments of affairs melt away and disappear; all things return to their proper nature: and this is what is called (the state of) chaotic obscurity.'

Some who are virtuous, like to share what they know. A proofrock: It has to be rewarding also.

13: On upright love and much else

Män Wu-kwei and Khih-kang Man-khi had been looking at the army of king Wu, when the latter said,

'It is because he was not born in the time of the Lord of Yü, that therefore he is involved in this trouble (of war).'

Män Wu-kwei replied,

'Was it when the kingdom was in good order, that the Lord of Yü governed it? or was it after it had become disordered that he governed it?'

The other said,

'That the kingdom be in a condition of good order, is what (all) desire, and (in that case) what necessity would there be to say anything about the Lord of Yü? He had medicine for sores; false hair for the bald; and healing for those who were ill: he was like the filial son carrying in the medicine to cure his kind father, with every sign of distress in his countenance. A sage would be ashamed (of such a thing).

'In the age of perfect virtue they attached no value to wisdom, nor employed men of ability. Superiors were (but) as the higher branches of a tree; and the people were like the deer of the wild. They were upright and correct, without knowing that to be so was Righteousness; they loved one another, without knowing that to do so was Benevolence; they were honest and leal-hearted, without knowing that it was Loyalty; they fulfilled their engagements, without knowing that to do so was Good Faith; in their simple movements they employed the services of one another, without thinking that they were conferring or receiving any gift. Therefore their actions left no trace, and there was no record of their affairs.'

14: But a follower, a flatterer . . .

The filial son who does not flatter his father, and the loyal minister who does not fawn on his ruler, are the highest examples of a minister and a son. When a son assents to all that his father says, and approves of all that his father does, common opinion pronounces him an unworthy son; when a minister assents to all that his ruler says, and approves of all that his ruler does, common opinion pronounces him an unworthy minister. Nor does any one reflect that this view is necessarily correct. But when common opinion (itself) affirms anything and men therefore assent to it, or counts anything good and men also approve of it, then it is not said that they are mere consenters and flatterers; – is common opinion then more authoritative than a father, or more to be honoured than a ruler? Tell a man that he is merely following (the opinions) of another, or that he is a flatterer of others, and at once he flushes with anger. And yet all his life he is merely following others, and flattering them. His illustrations are made to agree with theirs; his phrases are glossed: to win the approbation of the multitudes. From first to last, from beginning to end, he finds no fault with their views. He will let his robes hang down, display the colours on them, and arrange his movements and bearing, so as to win the favour of his age, and yet not call himself a flatterer. He is but a follower of those others, approving and disapproving as they do, and yet he will not say that he is one of them. This is the height of stupidity.

He who knows his stupidity is not very stupid; he who knows that he is under a delusion is not greatly deluded. He who is greatly deluded will never shake the delusion off; he who is very stupid will all his life not become intelligent. If three men be walking together, and (only) one of them be under a delusion (as to their way), they may yet reach their goal, the deluded being the fewer; but if two of them be under the delusion, they will not do so, the deluded being the majority. At the present time, when the whole world is under a delusion, though I pray men to go in the right direction, I cannot make them do so; – is it not a sad case?

Grand music does not penetrate the ears of villagers; but if they hear 'The Breaking of the Willow,' or 'The Bright Flowers,' they will roar with laughter. So it is that lofty words do not remain in the minds of the multitude, and that perfect words are not heard, because the vulgar words predominate. By two earthenware instruments the (music of) a bell will be confused, and the pleasure that it would afford cannot be obtained. At the present time the whole world is under a delusion, and though I wish to go in a certain direction, how can I succeed in doing so? Knowing that I cannot do so, if I were to try to force my way, that would be another delusion. Therefore my best course is to let my purpose go, and no more pursue it. If I do not pursue it, whom shall I have to share in my sorrow?

If an ugly man have a son born to him at midnight, he hastens with a light to look at it. Very eagerly he does so, only afraid that it may be like himself.

In Dr Burton Watson's translation: "He who knows he is a fool is not the biggest fool; he who knows he is confused is not in the worst confusion."

15: Some things are all injurious to health - which are they?

From a tree a hundred years old a portion shall be cut and fashioned into a sacrificial vase, with the bull figured on it, which is ornamented further with green and yellow, while the rest (of that portion) is cut away and thrown into a ditch. If now we compare the sacrificial vase with what was thrown into the ditch, there will be a difference between them as respects their beauty and ugliness; but they both agree in having lost the (proper) nature of the wood. So in respect of their practice of righteousness there is a difference between (the robber) Kih on the one hand, and Zäng (Shän) or Shih (Zhiu) on the other; but they all agree in having lost (the proper qualities of) their nature.

Now there are five things which produce (in men) the loss of their (proper) nature. The first is (their fondness for) the five colours which disorder the eye, and take from it its (proper) clearness of vision; the second is (their fondness for) the five notes (of music), which disorder the ear and take from it its (proper) power of hearing; the third is (their fondness for) the five odours which penetrate the nostrils, and produce a feeling of distress all over the forehead; the fourth is (their fondness for) the five flavours, which deaden the mouth, and pervert its sense of taste; the fifth is their preferences and dislikes, which unsettle the mind, and cause the nature to go flying about. These five things are all injurious to the life; and now Yang and Mo begin to stretch forward from their different standpoints, each thinking that he has hit on (the proper course for men).

But the courses they have hit on are not what I call the proper course. What they have hit on (only) leads to distress; – can they have hit on what is the right thing? If they have, we may say that the dove in a cage has found the right thing for it. Moreover, those preferences and dislikes, that (fondness for) music and colours, serve but to pile up fuel (in their breasts); while their caps of leather, the bonnet with kingfishers' plumes, the memorandum tablets which they carry, and their long girdles, serve but as restraints on their persons. Thus inwardly stuffed full as a hole for fuel, and outwardly fast bound with cords, when they look quietly round from out of their bondage, and think they have got all they could desire, they are no better than criminals whose arms are tied together, and their fingers subjected to the screw, or than tigers and leopards in sacks or cages, and yet thinking that they have got (all they could wish).


Chuang Tzu based on James Legge's translation, Chuang-tzu, the Zhuangzi by Master Chuang ie Master Zhuang, Literature  

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