Site Map
Chuang Tzu
Updated Legge Version
Section › 5 Set Search Previous Next

Reservations Contents  

  1. Knowledge Rambling in the North
  2. Käng-sang Ku
  3. Hsü Wu-kwei

22 - Knowledge Rambling in the North

1: Answers to the question "What should we do to find our rest in Tao?"

Knowledge had rambled northwards to the region of the Dark Water, where he ascended the height of Imperceptible Slope, when it happened that he met with Dumb Inaction. Knowledge addressed him, saying,

'I wish to ask you some questions: By what process of thought and anxious consideration do we get to know the Tao? Where should we dwell and what should we do to find our rest in the Tao? From what point should we start and what path should we pursue to make the Tao our own?'

He asked these three questions, but Dumb Inaction gave him no reply. Not only did he not answer, but he did not know how to answer.

Knowledge, disappointed by the fruitlessness of his questions, returned to the south of the Bright Water, and ascended the height of the End of Doubt where he saw Heedless Blurter, to whom he put the same questions, and who replied,

'Ah! I know, and will tell you.'

But while he was about to speak, he forgot what he wanted to say.

Knowledge, (again) receiving no answer to his questions, returned to the palace of the Ti, where he saw Hwang-Ti, and put the questions to him.

Hwang-Ti said,

'To exercise no thought and no anxious consideration is the first step towards knowing the Tao; to dwell nowhere and do nothing is the first step towards resting in the Tao; to start from nowhere and pursue no path is the first step towards making the Tao your own.'

Knowledge then asked Hwang-Ti, saying,

'I and you know this; those two did not know it; which of us is right?'

The reply was,

'Dumb Inaction is truly right; Heedless Blurter has an appearance of being so; I and you are not near being so. (As it is said), "Those who know (the Tao) do not speak of it; those who speak of it do not know it; " and "Hence the sage conveys his instructions without the use of speech." The Tao cannot be made ours by constraint; its characteristics will not come to us (at our call). Benevolence may be practised; Righteousness may be partially attended to; by Ceremonies men impose on one another. Hence it is said, "When the Tao was lost, its Characteristics appeared. When its Characteristics were lost, Benevolence appeared. When Benevolence was lost, Righteousness appeared. When Righteousness was lost, Ceremonies appeared. Ceremonies are but (the unsubstantial) flowers of the Tao, and the beginning of disorder [l]."

Hence (also it is further said), "He who practises the Tao, daily diminishes his doing. He diminishes it and again diminishes it, till he arrives at doing nothing. Having arrived at this non-inaction, there is nothing that he does not do."

Here now there is something, a regularly fashioned utensil; – if you wanted to make it return to the original condition of its materials, would it not be difficult to make it do so? Could any but the Great Man accomplish this easily?

'Life is the follower of death, and death is the predecessor of life; but who knows the Arranger (of this connexion between them)? The life is due to the collecting of the breath. When that is collected, there is life; when it is dispersed, there is death. Since death and life thus attend on each other, why should I account (either of) them an evil?

'Therefore all things go through one and the same experience. (Life) is accounted beautiful because it is spirit-like and wonderful, and death is accounted ugly because of its foetor and putridity. But the foetid and putrid is transformed again into the spirit-like and wonderful, and the spirit-like and wonderful is transformed again into the foetid and putrid. Hence it is said, "All under the sky there is one breath of life, and therefore the sages prized that unity,"'

Knowledge said to Hwang-Ti,

'I asked Dumb Inaction, and he did not answer me. Not only did he not answer me, but he did not know how to answer me. I asked Heedless Blurter, and while he wanted to tell me, he yet did not do so. Not only did he not tell me, but while he wanted to tell me, he forgot all about my questions. Now I have asked you, and you knew (all about them); – why (do you say that) you are not near doing so?'

Hwang-Ti replied,

'Dumb Inaction was truly right, because he did not know the thing. Heedless Blurter was nearly right, because he forgot it. I and you are not nearly right, because we know it.'

Heedless Blurter heard of (all this), and considered that Hwang-Ti knew how to express himself (on the subject).

2: Teachings

(The operations of) Heaven and Earth proceed in the most admirable way, but they say nothing about them; the four seasons observe the clearest laws, but they do not discuss them; all things have their complete and distinctive constitutions, but they say nothing about them.

The sages trace out the admirable operations of Heaven and Earth, and reach to and understand the distinctive constitutions of all things; and thus it is that the Perfect Man (is said to) do nothing and the Greatest Sage to originate nothing, such language showing that they look to Heaven and Earth as their model. Even they, with their spirit-like and most exquisite intelligence, as well as all the tribes that undergo their transformations, the dead and the living, the square and the round, do not understand their root and origin, but nevertheless they all from the oldest time by it preserve their being.

Vast as is the space included within the six cardinal points, it all (and all that it contains) lies within (this twofold root of Heaven and Earth); small as is an autumn hair, it is indebted to this for the completion of its form. All things beneath the sky, now rising, now descending, ever continue the same through this. The Yin and Yang, and the four seasons revolve and move by it, each in its proper order. Now it seems to be lost in obscurity, but it continues; now it seems to glide away, and have no form, but it is still spirit-like. All things are nourished by it, without their knowing it. This is what is called the Root and Origin; by it we may obtain a view of what we mean by Heaven.

Several place names in this section are metaphorical Taoistic, writes James Legge.

3: Phei-i on Tao

Nieh Khüeh asked about the Tao from Phei-i who replied,

'If you keep your body as it should be, and look only at the one thing, the Harmony of Heaven will come to you. Call in your knowledge, and make your measures uniform, and the spiritual (belonging to you) will come and lodge with you; the Attributes (of the Tao) will be your beauty, and the Tao (itself) will be your dwelling-place. You will have the simple look of a new-born calf, and will not seek to know the cause (of your being what you are).'

Phei-i had not finished these words when the other dozed off into a sleep.

Phei-i was greatly pleased, and walked away, singing as he went,

Like stump of rotten tree his frame,
Like lime when slaked his mind became.
Real is his wisdom, solid, true,
Nor cares what's hidden to pursue.
O dim and dark his aimless mind!
No one from him can counsel find.
What sort of man is he?'

4: What life is

Shun asked (his attendant) Keng,

'Can I get the Tao and hold it as mine?'

The reply was,

'Your body is not your own to hold; how then can you get and hold the Tao?'

Shun resumed,

'If my body be not mine to possess and hold, who holds it?'

Keng said,

'It is the bodily form entrusted to you by Heaven and Earth. Life is not yours to hold. It is the blended harmony (of the Yin and Yang), entrusted to you by Heaven and Earth. Your nature, constituted as it is, is not yours to hold. It is entrusted to you by Heaven and Earth to act in accordance with it. Your grandsons and sons are not yours to hold. They are the exuviae entrusted to you by Heaven and Earth. Therefore when we walk, we should not know where we are going; when we stop and rest, we should not know what to occupy ourselves with when we eat, we should not know the taste of our food; – all is done by the strong Yang influence of Heaven and Earth. How then can you get (the Tao), and hold it as your own?'

5: Lao Tzu tells Confucius of Tao Attainment

Confucius asked Lao Tan, saying,

'Being at leisure today, I venture to ask you about the Perfect Tao.'

Lao Tan replied,

'You must, as by fasting and vigil, clear and purge your mind, wash your spirit white as snow, and sternly repress your knowledge. The subject of the Tao is deep, and difficult to describe; – I will give you an outline of its simplest attributes.

'The Luminous was produced from the Obscure; the Multiform from the Unembodied; the Spiritual from the Tao; and the bodily from the seminal essence. After this all things produced one another from their bodily organisations. Thus it is that those which have nine apertures are born from the womb, and those with eight from eggs.

But their coming leaves no trace, and their going no monument; they enter by no door; they dwell in no apartment: they are in a vast arena reaching in all directions. They who search for and find (the Tao) in this are strong in their limbs, sincere and far-reaching in their thinking, acute in their hearing, and clear in their seeing. They exercise their minds without being toiled; they respond to everything aright without regard to place or circumstance. Without this heaven would not be high, nor earth broad; the sun and moon would not move, and nothing would flourish: such is the operation of the Tao.

'Moreover, the most extensive knowledge does not necessarily know it; reasoning will not make men wise in it; – the sages have decided against both these methods. However you try to add to it, it admits of no increase; however you try to take from it, it admits of no diminution; – this is what the sages maintain about it. How deep it is, like the sea! How grand it is, beginning again when it has come to an end! If it carried along and sustained all things, without being overburdened or weary, that would be like the way of the superior man, merely an external operation; when all things go to it, and find their dependence in it; – this is the true character of the Tao.

'Here is a man (born) in one of the middle states. He feels himself independent both of the Yin and Yang, and dwells between heaven and earth; only for the present a mere man, but he will return to his original source. Looking at him in his origin, when his life begins, we have (but) a gelatinous substance in which the breath is collecting. Whether his life be long or his death early, how short is the space between them! It is but the name for a moment of time, insufficient to play the part of a good Yao or a bad Kieh in.

'The fruits of trees and creeping plants have their distinctive characters, and though the relationships of men, according to which they are classified, are troublesome, the sage, when he meets with them, does not set himself in opposition to them, and when he has passed through them, he does not seek to retain them; he responds to them in their regular harmony according to his virtue; and even when he accidentally comes across any of them, he does so according to the Tao. It was thus that the Tis flourished, thus that the kings arose.

'Men's life between heaven and earth is like a white colt's passing a crevice, and suddenly disappearing. As with a plunge and an effort they all come forth; easily and quietly they all enter again. By a transformation they live, and by another transformation they die. Living things are made sad (by death), and mankind grieve for it; but it is (only) the removal of the bow from its sheath, and the emptying the natural satchel of its contents. There may be some confusion amidst the yielding to the change; but the intellectual and animal souls are taking their leave, and the body will follow them: This is the Great Returning home.

'That the bodily frame came from incorporeity, and will return to the same, is what all men in common know, and what those who are on their way to (know) it need not strive for. This is what the multitudes of men discuss together. Those whose (knowledge) is complete do not discuss it; – such discussion shows that their (knowledge) is not complete. Even the most clear-sighted do not meet (with the Tao); – it is better to be silent than to reason about it. The Tao cannot be heard with the ears; – it is better to shut the ears than to try and hear it. This is what is called the Great Attainment.'

Short is the space between birth and death; making fit and good use of your time matters the most.

6: Chuang Tzu tells where Tao can be found

Master Tung-kwo asked Master Chuang, saying,

'Where is what you call the Tao to be found?'

Master Chuang replied,


The other said,

'Specify an instance of it. That will be more satisfactory.'

'It is here in this ant.'

'Give a lower instance.'

'It is in this panic grass.'

'Give me a still lower instance.'

'It is in this earthenware tile.'

'Surely that is the lowest instance?'

'It is in that excrement.'

To this Master Tung-kwo answered nothing.

Master Chuang said,

'Your questions, my master, do not touch the fundamental point (of the Tao). They remind me of the questions addressed by the superintendents of the market to the inspector about examining the value of a pig by treading on it, and testing its weight as the foot descends lower and lower on the body. You should not specify any particular thing. There is not a single thing without (the Tao). So it is with the Perfect Tao. And if we call it the Great (Tao), it is just the same. There are the three terms, – "Complete," "All-embracing," "the Whole." These names are different, but the reality (sought in them) is the same referring to the One thing.

'Suppose we were to try to roam about in the palace of No-where; – when met there, we might discuss (about the subject) without ever coming to an end. Or suppose we were to be together in (the region of) Non-action; – should we say that (the Tao was) Simplicity and Stillness? or Indifference and Purity? or Harmony and Ease? My will would be aimless. If it went nowhere, I should not know where it had got to; if it went and came again, I should not know where it had stopped; if it went on going and coming, I should not know when the process would end. In vague uncertainty should I be in the vastest waste. Though I entered it with the greatest knowledge, I should not know how inexhaustible it was. That which makes things what they are has not the limit which belongs to things, and when we speak of things being limited, we mean that they are so in themselves. (The Tao) is the limit of the unlimited, and the boundlessness of the unbounded.

'We speak of fulness and emptiness; of withering and decay. It produces fulness and emptiness, but is neither fulness nor emptiness; it produces withering and decay, but is neither withering nor decay. It produces the root and branches, but is neither root nor branch; it produces accumulation and dispersion, but is itself neither accumulated nor dispersed.'

7: A profound "I do not know"

A-ho Kan and Shän Näng studied together under Läo-lung Ki. Shän Näng was leaning forward on his stool, having shut the door and gone to sleep in the day time. At midday A-ho Kan pushed open the door and entered, saying,

'Lao-lung is dead.'

Shän Näng leant forward on his stool, laid hold of his staff and rose. Then he laid the staff aside with a clash, laughed and said,

'That Heaven knew how cramped and mean, how arrogant and assuming I was, and therefore he has cast me off, and is dead. Now that there is no Master to correct my heedless words, it is simply for me to die!' Yen Kang, (who had come in) to condole, heard these words, and said,

'It is to him who embodies the Tao that the superior men everywhere cling. Now you who do not understand so much as the tip of an autumn hair of it, not even the ten-thousandth part of the Tao, still know how to keep hidden your heedless words about it and die; – how much more might he who embodied the Tao do so! We look for it, and there is no form; we hearken for it, and there is no sound. When men try to discuss it, we call them dark indeed. When they discuss the Tao, they misrepresent it.'

Hereupon Grand Purity asked Infinitude, saying,

'Do you know the Tao?'

'I do not know it,' was the reply. He then asked Do-nothing, who replied,

'I know it.'

'Is your knowledge of it determined by various points?'

'It is.'

'What are they?'

Do-nothing said,

'I know that the Tao may be considered noble, and may be considered mean, that it may be bound and compressed, and that it may be dispersed and diffused. These are the marks by which I know it.'

Grand Purity took the words of those two, and asked No-beginning, saying,

'Such were their replies; which was right? and which was wrong? Infinitude's saying that he did not know it? or Do-nothing's saying that he knew it?'

No-beginning said,

'The "I do not know it" was profound, and the "I know it" was shallow. The former had reference to its internal nature; the latter to its external conditions.'

Grand Purity looked up and sighed, saying,

'Is "not to know it" then to know it? And is "to know it" not to know it? But who knows that he who does not know it (really) knows it?'

No-beginning replied,

'The Tao cannot be heard; what can be heard is not It. The Tao cannot be seen; what can be seen is not It. The Tao cannot be expressed in words; what can be expressed in words is not It. Do we know the Formless which gives form to form? In the same way the Tao does not admit of being named.'

No-beginning (further) said,

'If one ask about the Tao and another answer him, neither of them knows it. Even the former who asks has never learned anything about the Tao. He asks what does not admit of being asked, and the latter answers where answer is impossible. When one asks what does not admit of being asked, his questioning is in (dire) extremity. When one answers where answer is impossible, he has no internal knowledge of the subject. When people without such internal knowledge wait to be questioned by others in dire extremity, they show that externally they see nothing of space and time, and internally know nothing of the Grand Beginning. Therefore they cannot cross over the Kun-lun, nor roam in the Grand Void.'

8: Existence and non-existence

Starlight [the points of light all over the sky] asked Non-entity, saying,

'Master, do you exist? Or Don't you exist?'

He got no answer to his question, however, and looked stedfastly to the appearance of the other, which was that of a deep void. All day long he looked to it, but could see nothing; he listened for it, but could hear nothing; he clutched at it, but got hold of nothing. Starlight then said,

'Perfect! Who can attain to this? I can (conceive the ideas of) existence and non-existence, but I cannot (conceive the ideas of) non-existing non-existence, and still there be a non-existing existence. How is it possible to reach to this?'

9: A sword-smith who kept to his work

The forger of swords for the Minister of War had reached the age of eighty, and had not lost a hair's-breadth of his ability. The Minister said to him,

'You are indeed skilful, Sir. Have you any method that makes you so?'

The man said,

'Your servant has (always) kept to his work. When I was twenty, I was fond of forging swords. I looked at nothing else. I paid no attention to anything but swords. By my constant practice of it, I came to be able to do the work without any thought of what I was doing. By length of time one acquires ability at any art; and how much more one who is ever at work on it! What is there which does not depend on this, and succeed by it?'

10: It was the same before heaven and earth as now, but -

Zän Khiu asked Kung-ni, saying,

'Can it be known how it was before heaven and earth?'

The reply was,

'It can. It was the same of old as now.'

Zän Khiu asked no more and withdrew. Next day, however, he had another interview, and said,

'Yesterday I asked whether it could be known how it was before heaven and earth, and you, Master, said, "It can. As it is now, so it was of old." Yesterday, I seemed to understand you clearly, but today it is dark to me. I venture to ask you for an explanation of this.'

Kung-ni said,

'Yesterday you seemed to understand me clearly, because your own spiritual nature had anticipated my reply. Today it seems dark to you, for you are in an unspiritual mood, and are trying to discover the meaning. (In this matter) there is no old time and no present; no beginning and no ending. Could it be that there were grandchildren and children before there were (other) grandchildren and children?'

Zän Khiu had not made any reply, when Kung-ni went on,

'Let us have done. There can be no answering (on your part). We cannot with life give life to death; we cannot with death give death to life. Do death and life wait (for each other)? There is that which contains them both in its one comprehension. Was that which was produced before Heaven and Earth a thing? That which made things and gave to each its character was not itself a thing. Things came forth and could not be before things, as if there had (previously) been things; – as if there had been things (producing one another) without end. The love of the sages for others, and never coming to an end, is an idea taken from this.'

11: On showing affection

Yen Yüan asked Kung-ni, saying,

'Master, I have heard you say, "There should be no demonstration of welcoming; there should be no movement to meet; " – I venture to ask in what way this affection of the mind may be shown.'

The reply was,

'The ancients, amid (all) external changes, did not change internally; now-a-days men change internally, but take no note of external changes. When one only notes the changes of things, himself continuing one and the same, he does not change. How should there be (a difference between) his changing and not changing? How should he put himself in contact with (and come under the influence of) those external changes? He is sure, however, to keep his points of contact with them from being many. The park of Shih-wei, the garden of Hwang-Ti, the palace of the Lord of Yü, and the houses of Tang and Wu; – (these all were places in which this was done). But the superior men (so called, of later days), such as the masters of the Literati and of Mohism, were bold to attack each other with their controversies; and how much more so are the men of the present day! Sages in dealing with others do not wound them; and they who do not wound others cannot be wounded by them. Only he whom others do not injure is able to welcome and meet men.

'Forests and marshes make me joyful and glad; but before the joy is ended, sadness comes and succeeds to it. When sadness and joy come, I cannot prevent their approach; when they go, I cannot retain them. How sad it is that men should only be as lodging-houses for things, (and the emotions which they excite)! They know what they meet, but they do not know what they do not meet; they use what power they have, but they cannot be strong where they are powerless. Such ignorance and powerlessness is what men cannot avoid. That they should try to avoid what they cannot avoid, is not this also sad? Perfect speech is to put speech away; perfect action is to put action away; to digest all knowledge that is known is a thing to be despised.'

Peple can be far more than just lodging-houses for emotions.


23 - Käng-sang Ku

1: Strange ways in a local arena

Among the disciples of Lao Tan there was a Käng-sang Ku, who had got a greater knowledge than the others of his doctrines, and took up his residence with it in the north at the hill of Wei-lêi. His servants who were pretentious and knowing he sent away, and his concubines who were officious and kindly he kept at a distance; living (only) with those who were boorish and rude, and employing (only) the bustling and ill-mannered. After three years there was great prosperity in Wei-lêi, and the people said to one another,

'When Mr. Käng-sang first came here, he alarmed us, and we thought him strange; our estimate of him after a short acquaintance was that he could not do us much good; but now that we have known him for years, we find him a more than ordinary benefit. Must he not be near being a sage? Why should you not unite in blessing him as the representative of our departed (whom we worship), and raise an altar to him as we do to the spirit of the grain?'

Käng-sang heard of it, kept his face indeed to the south but was dissatisfied.

His disciples thought it strange in him, but he said to them,

'Why, my disciples, should you think this strange in me? When the airs of spring come forth, all vegetation grows; and, when the autumn arrives, all the previous fruits of the earth are matured. Do spring and autumn have these effects without any adequate cause? The processes of the Great Tao have been in operation. I have heard that the Perfect man dwells idly in his apartment within its surrounding walls, and the people get wild and crazy, not knowing how they should repair to him. Now these small people of Wei-lêi in their opinionative way want to present their offerings to me, and place me among such men of ability and virtue. But am I a man to be set up as such a model? It is on this account that I am dissatisfied when I think of the words of Lao Tan.'

2: Discerning Käng-sang

His disciples said,

'Not so. In ditches eight cubits wide, or even twice as much, big fishes cannot turn their bodies about, but minnows and eels find them sufficient for them; on hillocks six or seven cubits high, large beasts cannot conceal themselves, but foxes of evil omen find it a good place for them. And moreover, honour should be paid to the wise, offices given to the able, and preference shown to the good and the beneficial. From of old Yao and Shun acted thus; – how much more may the people of Wei-lêi do so! O Master, let them have their way!'

Käng-sang replied,

'Come nearer, my little children. If a beast that could hold a carriage in its mouth leave its hill by itself, it will not escape the danger that awaits it from the net; or if a fish that could swallow a boat be left dry by the flowing away of the water, then (even) the ants are able to trouble it. Thus it is that birds and beasts seek to be as high as possible, and fishes and turtles seek to lie as deep as possible. In the same way men who wish to preserve their bodies and lives keep their persons concealed, and they do so in the deepest retirement possible. And moreover, what was there in those sovereigns to entitle them to your laudatory mention? Their sophistical reasonings (resembled) the reckless breaking down of walls and enclosures and planting the wild rub us and wormwood in their place; or making the hair thin before they combed it; or counting the grains of rice before they cooked them. They would do such things with careful discrimination; but what was there in them to benefit the world? If you raise the men of talent to office, you will create disorder; making the people strive with one another for promotion; if you employ men for their wisdom, the people will rob one another (of their reputation). These various things are insufficient to make the people good and honest. They are very eager for gain; – a son will kill his father, and a minister his ruler (for it). In broad daylight men will rob, and at midday break through walls. I tell you that the root of the greatest disorder was planted in the times of Yao and Shun. The branches of it will remain for a thousand ages; and after a thousand ages men will be found eating one another.'

3: Maintain your body

(On this) Nan-yung Ku abruptly sat right up and said,

'What method can an old man like me adopt to become (the Perfect man) that you have described?'

Master Käng-sang said,

'Maintain your body complete; hold your life in close embrace; and do not let your thoughts keep working anxiously: do this for three years, and you may become the man of whom I have spoken.'

The other rejoined,

'Eyes are all of the same form, I do not know any difference between them: yet the blind have no power of vision. Ears are all of the same form; I do not know any difference between them: yet the deaf have no power of hearing. Minds are all of the same nature, I do not know any difference between them; – yet the mad cannot make the minds of other men their own. (My) personality is indeed like (yours), but things seem to separate between us. I wish to find in myself what there is in you, but I am not able to do so'. You have now said to me, "Maintain your body complete; hold your life in close embrace; and do not let your thoughts keep working anxiously." With all my efforts to learn your Way, (your words) reach only my ears.'

Käng-sang replied,

'I can say nothing more to you,' and then he added,

'Small flies cannot transform the bean caterpillar; Yüeh fowls cannot hatch the eggs of geese, but Lu fowls can. It is not that the nature of these fowls is different; the ability in the one case and inability in the other arise from their different capacities as large and small. My ability is small and not sufficient to transform you. Why should you not go south and see Master Lao?'

4: Lao Tzu's judgement of Nan-yung Ku

Nan-yung Ku hereupon took with him some rations, and after seven days and seven nights arrived at the abode of Master Lao, who said to him,

'Are you come from Khû's?'

'I am,' was the reply.

'And why, Sir, have you come with such a multitude of attendants?'

Nan-yung was frightened, and turned his head round to look behind him. Master Lao said,

'Don't you understand my meaning?'

The other held his head down and was ashamed, and then he lifted it up, and sighed, saying,

'I forgot at the moment what I should reply to your question, and in consequence I have lost what I wished to ask you.'

'What do you mean?'

If I have not wisdom, men say that I am stupid, while if I have it, it occasions distress to myself. If I have not benevolence, then (I am charged) with doing hurt to others, while if I have it, I distress myself. If I have not righteousness, I (am charged with) injuring others, while if I have it, I distress myself. How can I escape from these dilemmas? These are the three perplexities that trouble me; and I wish at the suggestion of Ku to ask you about them.'

Master Lao replied,

'A little time ago, when I saw you and looked right into your eyes, I understood you, and now your words confirm the judgement which I formed. You look frightened and amazed. You have lost your parents, and are trying with a pole to find them at the (bottom of) the sea. You have gone astray; you are at your wit's end. You wish to recover your proper nature, and you know not what step to take first to find it. You are to be pitied!'

5: To guard your life, embrace real Oneness

Nan-yung Ku asked to be allowed to enter (the establishment), and have an apartment assigned to him. (There) he sought to realise the qualities which he loved, and put away those which he hated. For ten days he afflicted himself, and then waited again on Master Lao, who said to him,

'You must purify yourself thoroughly! But from your symptoms of distress, and signs of impurity about you, I see there still seem to cling to you things that you dislike. When the fettering influences from without become numerous, and you try to seize them (you will find it a difficult task); the better plan is to bar your inner man against their entrance. And when the similar influences within get intertwined, it is a difficult task to grasp (and hold them in check); the better plan is to bar the outer door against their exit. Even a master of the Tao and its characteristics will not be able to control these two influences together, and how much less can one who is only a student of the Tao do so!'

Nan-yung Ku said,

'A certain villager got an illness, and when his neighbours asked about it, he was able to describe the malady, though it was one from which he had not suffered before. When I ask you about the Grand Tao, it seems to me like drinking medicine which (only serves to) increase my illness. I should like to hear from you about the regular method of guarding the life; – that will be enough for me.'

Master Lao replied,

'(You ask me about) the regular method of guarding the life; – can you hold the One thing fast in your embrace? Can you keep from losing it? Can you know the lucky and the unlucky without having recourse to the tortoise-shell or the divining stalks? Can you rest (where you ought to rest)? Can you stop (when you have got enough)? Can you give over thinking of other men, and seek what you want in yourself (alone)? Can you flee (from the allurements of desire)? Can you maintain an entire simplicity? Can you become a little child? The child will cry all the day, without its throat becoming hoarse; – so perfect is the harmony (of its physical constitution). It will keep its fingers closed all the day without relaxing their grasp; – such is the concentration of its powers. It will keep its eyes fixed all day, without their moving; – so is it unaffected by what is external to it. It walks it knows not where; it rests where it is placed, it knows not why; it is calmly indifferent to things, and follows their current. This is the regular method of guarding the life.'

6: To advance with simplicity may be fit still

Nan-yung Ku said,

'And are these all the characteristics of the Perfect man?'

Master Lao replied,

'No. These are what we call the breaking up of the ice, and the dissolving of the cold. The Perfect man, along with other men, gets his food from the earth, and derives his joy from his Heaven (-conferred nature). But he does not like them allow himself to be troubled by the consideration of advantage or injury coming from men and things; he does not like them do strange things, or form plans, or enter on undertakings; he flees from the allurements of desire, and pursues his way with an entire simplicity. Such is the way by which he guards his life.'

'And is this what constitutes his perfection?'

'Not quite. I asked you whether you could become a little child. The little child moves unconscious of what it is doing, and walks unconscious of where it is going. Its body is like the branch of a rotten tree, and its mind is like slaked lime. Being such, misery does not come to it, nor happiness. It has neither misery nor happiness; – how can it suffer from the calamities incident to men?'

To be young at heart is tall, and youthful goings can be good for something too.

7: The Sons of Heaven

He whose mind is thus grandly fixed emits a Heavenly light. In him who emits this heavenly light men see the (True) man. When a man has cultivated himself (up to this point), thenceforth he remains constant in himself. When he is thus constant in himself, (what is merely) the human element will leave him', but Heaven will help him. Those whom their human element has left we call the people of Heaven. Those whom Heaven helps we call the Sons of Heaven. Those who would by learning attain to this seek for what they cannot learn. Those who would by effort attain to this, attempt what effort can never effect. Those who aim by reasoning to reach it reason where reasoning has no place. To know to stop where they cannot arrive by means of knowledge is the highest attainment. Those who cannot do this will be destroyed on the lathe of Heaven.

The Sons of Heaven Heaven helps, is the teaching.

8: "He who does not act for the sake of a name emits a light"

Where things are all adjusted to maintain the body; where a provision against unforeseen dangers is kept up to maintain the life of the mind; where an inward reverence is cherished to be exhibited (in all intercourse) with others; – where this is done, and yet all evils arrive, they are from Heaven, and not from the men themselves. They will not be sufficient to confound the established (virtue of the character), or be admitted into the Tower of Intelligence. That Tower has its Guardian, who acts unconsciously, and whose care will not be effective if there be any conscious purpose in it. If one who has not this entire sincerity in himself make any outward demonstration, every such demonstration will be incorrect. The thing will enter into him, and not let go its hold. Then with every fresh demonstration there will be still greater failure. If he do what is not good in the light of open day, men will have the opportunity of punishing him; if he do it in darkness and secrecy, spirits will inflict the punishment. Let a man understand this – his relation both to men and spirits, and then he will do what is good in the solitude of himself.

He whose rule of life is in himself does not act for the sake of a name. He whose rule is outside himself has his will set on extensive acquisition. He who does not act for the sake of a name emits a light even in his ordinary conduct; he whose will is set on extensive acquisition is but a trafficker. Men see how he stands on tiptoe, while he thinks that he is overtopping others. Things enter (and take possession of) him who (tries to) make himself exhaustively (acquainted with them), while when one is indifferent to them, they do not find any lodgment in his person. And how can other men find such lodgment? But when one denies lodgment to men, there are none who feel attachment to him. In this condition he is cut off from other men. There is no weapon more deadly than the will; – even Mu-yê was inferior to it. There is no robber greater than the Yin and Yang, from whom nothing can escape of all between heaven and earth. But it is not the Yin and Yang that play the robber; – it is the mind that causes them to do so.

If someone does what is not good in darkness and secrecy, he will be punished for it from the world of ghosts.

9: A real existence has nothing to do with place and nothing to do with beginning or end

The Tao is to be found in the subdivisions (of its subject); (it is to be found) in that when complete, and when broken up. What I dislike in considering it as subdivided, is that the division leads to the multiplication of it; – and what I dislike in that multiplication is that it leads to the (thought of) effort to secure it. Therefore when (a man) comes forth (and is born), if he did not return (to his previous non-existence), we should have (only) seen his ghost; when he comes forth and gets this (return), he dies (as we say). He is extinguished, and yet has a real existence: this is another way of saying that in life we have) only man's ghost. By taking the material as an emblem of the immaterial do we arrive at a settlement of the case of man. He comes forth, but from no root; he reenters, but by no aperture. He has a real existence. but it has nothing to do with place; he has continuance, but it has nothing to do with beginning or end. He has a real existence, but it has nothing to do with place, such is his relation to space; he has continuance, but it has nothing to do with beginning or end, such is his relation to time; he has life; he has death; he comes forth; he enters; but we do not see his form; – all this is what is called the door of Heaven. The door of Heaven is Non-Existence. All things come from non-existence. The (first) existences could not bring themselves into existence; they must have come from non-existence. And non-existence is just the same as non-existing. Herein is the secret of the sages.

10: The reach of their knowledge

Among the ancients there were those whose knowledge reached the extreme point. And what was that point? There were some who thought that in the beginning there was nothing. This was the extreme point, the completest reach of their knowledge, to which nothing could be added. Again, there were those who supposed that (in the beginning) there were existences, proceeding to consider life to be a (gradual) perishing, and death a returning (to the original state). And there they stopped, making, (however), a distinction between life and death. Once again there were those who said,

'In the beginning there was nothing; by and by there was life; and then in a little time life was succeeded by death. We hold that non-existence was the head, life the body, and death the os coccygis. But of those who acknowledge that existence and nonexistence, death and life, are all under the One Keeper, we are the friends.'

Though those who maintained these three views were different, they were so as the different branches of the same ruling Family (of Ku), – the Kâos and the Kings, bearing the surname of the lord whom they honoured as the author of their branch, and the Kiâs named from their appanage; – (all one, yet seeming) not to be one.

The possession of life is like the soot that collects under a boiler. When that is differently distributed, the life is spoken of as different. But to say that life is different in different lives, and better in one than in another, is an improper mode of speech. And yet there may be something here which we do not know. (As for instance), at the lâsacrifice the paunch and the divided hoofs may be set forth on separate dishes, but they should not be considered as parts of different victims; (and again), when one is inspecting a house, he goes over it all, even the adytum for the shrines of the temple, and visits also the most private apartments; doing this, and setting a different estimate on the different parts.

Let me try and speak of this method of apportioning one's approval: life is the fundamental consideration in it; knowledge is the instructor. From this they multiply their approvals and disapprovals, determining what is merely nominal and what is real. They go on to conclude that to themselves must the appeal be made in everything, and to try to make others adopt them as their model; prepared even to die to make good their views on every point. In this way they consider being employed in office as a mark of wisdom, and not being so employed as a mark of stupidity, success as entitling to fame, and the want of it as disgraceful. The men of the present day who follow this differentiating method are like the cicada and the little dove; – there is no difference between them.

11: The greatest faith shuns pledges

When one treads on the foot of another in the market-place, he apologises on the ground of the bustle. If an elder tread on his younger brother, he proceeds to comfort him; if a parent tread on a child, he says and does nothing. Hence it is said,

'The greatest politeness is to show no special respect to others; the greatest righteousness is to take no account of things; the greatest wisdom is to lay no plans; the greatest benevolence is to make no demonstration of affection; the greatest good faith is to give no pledge of sincerity.'

Repress the impulses of the will; unravel the errors of the mind; put away the entanglements to virtue; and clear away all that obstructs the free course of the Tao. Honours and riches, distinctions and austerity, fame and profit; these six things produce the impulses of the will. Personal appearance and deportment, the desire of beauty and subtle reasonings, excitement of the breath and cherished thoughts; these six things produce errors of the mind. Hatred and longings, joy and anger, grief and delight; these six things are the entanglements to virtue. Refusals and approachments, receiving and giving, knowledge and ability; these six things obstruct the course of the Tao. When these four conditions, with the six causes of each, do not agitate the breast, the mind is correct. Being correct, it is still; being still, it is pellucid; being pellucid, it is free from pre-occupation; being free from pre-occupation, it is in the state of inaction, in which it accomplishes everything.

The Tao is the object of reverence to all the virtues. Life is what gives opportunity for the display of the virtues. The nature is the substantive character of the life. The movement of the nature is called action. When action becomes hypocritical, we say that it has lost (its proper attribute).

The wise communicate with what is external to them and are always laying plans. This is what with all their wisdom they are not aware of; – they look at things askance. When the action (of the nature) is from external constraint, we have what is called virtue; when it is all one's own, we have what is called government. These two names seem to be opposite to each other, but in reality they are in mutual accord.

A still mind may be developed further.

12: Skilful Heavenwards and good manwards

Î was skilful in hitting the minutest mark, but stupid in wishing men to go on praising him without end. The sage is skilful Heavenwards, but stupid manwards. It is only the complete man who can be both skilful Heavenwards and good manwards.

Only an insect can play the insect, only an insect show the insect nature. Even the complete man hates the attempt to exemplify the nature of Heaven. He hates the manner in which men do so, and how much more would he hate the doing so by himself before men!

When a bird came in the way of Î, he was sure to obtain it; – such was his mastery with his bow. If all the world were to be made a cage, birds would have nowhere to escape to. Thus it was that Tang caged Î Yin by making him his cook, and that duke Mu of Khin caged Pâi-li Hsi by giving the skins of five rams for him. But if you try to cage men by anything but what they like, you will never succeed.

A man, one of whose feet has been cut off, discards ornamental (clothes); – his outward appearance will not admit of admiration. A criminal under sentence of death will ascend to any height without fear; – he has ceased to think of life or death.

When one persists in not reciprocating the gifts (of friendship), he forgets all others. Having forgotten all others, he may be considered as a Heaven-like man. Therefore when respect is shown to a man, and it awakens in him no joy, and when contempt awakens no anger, it is only one who shares in the Heaven-like harmony that can be thus. When he would display anger and yet is not angry, the anger comes out in that repression of it. When he would put forth action, and yet does not do so, the action is in that not-acting. Desiring to be quiescent, he must pacify all his emotions; desiring to be spirit-like, he must act in conformity with his mind. When action is required of him, he wishes that it may be right; and it then is under an inevitable constraint. Those who act according to that inevitable constraint pursue the way of the sage.

In acting, wish it is for good, at least.


24 - Hsü Wu-kwei

1: Judging a marquis, dogs, and horses by how they appear

Hsü Wu-kwei having obtained through Nü Shang an introduction to the marquis Wu of Wei, the marquis, speaking to him with kindly sympathy, said,

'You are ill, Sir; you have suffered from your hard and laborious toils in the forests, and still you have been willing to come and see poor me.'

Hsü Wu-kwei replied,

'It is I who have to comfort your lordship; what occasion have you to comfort me? If your lordship go on to fill up the measure of your sensual desires, and to prolong your likes and dislikes, then the condition of your mental nature will be diseased, and if you discourage and repress those desires, and deny your likings and dislikings, that will be an affliction to your ears and eyes (deprived of their accustomed pleasures); – it is for me to comfort your lordship, what occasion have you to comfort me?'

The marquis looked contemptuous, and made no reply.

After a little time, Hsü Wu-kwei said,

'Let me tell your lordship something: I look at dogs and judge of them by their appearance. One of the lowest quality seizes his food, satiates himself, and stops; – he has the attributes of a fox. One of a medium quality seems to be looking at the sun. One of the highest quality seems to have forgotten the one thing, – himself. But I judge still better of horses than I do of dogs. When I do so, I find that one goes straightforward, as if following a line; that another turns off, so as to describe a hook; that a third describes a square as if following the measure so called; and that a fourth describes a circle as exactly as a compass would make it. These are all horses of a state; but they are not equal to a horse of the kingdom. His qualities are complete. Now he looks anxious; now to be losing the way; now to be forgetting himself. Such a horse prances along, or rushes on, spurning the dust and not knowing where he is.'

The marquis was greatly pleased and laughed.

When Hsü Wu-kwei came out, Nü Shang said to him,

'How was it, Sir, that you by your counsels produced such an effect on our ruler? In my counsellings of him, now indirectly, taking my subjects from the Books of Poetry, History, Rites, and Music; now directly, from the Metal Tablets, and the six Bow-cases, all calculated for the service (of the state), and to be of great benefit; – in these counsellings, repeated times without number, I have never seen the ruler show his teeth in a smile: by what counsels have you made him so pleased today?'

Hsü Wu-kwei replied,

'I only told him how I judged of dogs and horses by looking at their appearance.'

'So?' said Nü Shang, and the other rejoined,

'Have you not heard of the wanderer from Yüeh? when he had been gone from the state several days, he was glad when he saw any one whom he had seen in it; when he had been gone a month, he was glad when he saw any one whom he had known in it; and when he had been gone a round year, he was glad when he saw any one who looked like a native of it. The longer he was gone, the more longingly did he think of the people; – was it not so? The men who withdraw to empty valleys, where the hellebore bushes stop up the little paths made by the weasels, as they push their way or stand amid the waste, are glad when they seem to hear the sounds of human footsteps; and how much more would they be so, if it were their brothers and relatives talking and laughing by their side! How long it is since the words of a True man were heard as he talked and laughed by our ruler's side!'

2: For comfort

At (another) interview of Hsü Wu-kwei with the marquis Wu, the latter said,

'You, Sir, have been dwelling in the forests for a long time, living on acorns and chestnuts, and satiating yourself with onions and chives, without thinking of poor me. Now (that you are here), is it because you are old? or because you wish to try again the taste of wine and meat? or because (you wish that) I may enjoy the happiness derived from the spirits of the altars of the Land and Grain?'

Hsü Wu-kwei replied,

'I was born in a poor and mean condition, and have never presumed to drink of your lordship's wine, or eat of your meat. My object in coming was to comfort your lordship under your troubles.'

'What? comfort me under my troubles?'

'Yes, to comfort both your lordship's spirit and body.'

The marquis said,

'What do you mean?'

His visitor replied,

'Heaven and Earth have one and the same purpose in the production (of all men). However high one man be exalted, he should not think that he is favourably dealt with; and however low may be the position of another, he should not think that he is unfavourably dealt with. You are indeed the one and only lord of the 10,000 chariots (of your state), but you use your dignity to embitter (the lives of) all the people, and to pamper your cars, eyes, nose, and mouth. But your spirit does not acquiesce in this. The spirit (of man) loves to be in harmony with others and hates selfish indulgence. This selfish indulgence is a disease, and therefore I would comfort you under it. How is it that your lordship more than others brings this disease on yourself?'

The marquis said,

'I have wished to see you, Sir, for a long time. I want to love my people, and by the exercise of righteousness to make an end of war; – will that be enough?'

Hsü Wu-kwei replied,

'By no means. To love the people is the first step to injure them'. By the exercise of righteousness to make an end of war is the root from which war is produced'. If your lordship try to accomplish your object in this way, you are not likely to succeed. All attempts to accomplish what we think good (with an ulterior end) is a bad contrivance. Although your lordship practise benevolence and righteousness (as you propose), it will be no better than hypocrisy. You may indeed assume the (outward) form, but successful accomplishment will lead to (inward) contention, and the change thence arising will produce outward fighting. Your lordship also must not mass files of soldiers in the passages of your galleries and towers, nor have footmen and horsemen in the apartments about your altars. Do not let thoughts contrary to your success lie hidden in your mind; do not think of conquering men by artifice, or by (skilful) plans, or by fighting. If I kill the officers and people of another state, and annex its territory, to satisfy my selfish desires, while in my spirit I do not know whether the fighting be good, where is the victory that I gain? Your lordship's best plan is to abandon (your purpose). If you will cultivate in your breast the sincere purpose (to love the people), and so respond to the feeling of Heaven and Earth, and not (further) vex yourself, then your people will already have- escaped death; – what occasion will your lordship have to make an end of war?'

3: A remarkable boy

Hwang-Ti was going to see Tâ-kwei at the hill of Kü-zhze. Fang Ming was acting as charioteer, and Khang Yü was occupying the third place in the carriage. Kang Zo and Hsi Phäng went before the horses; and Kun Hwun and Ku Khi followed the carriage. When they arrived at the wild of Hsiang-khäng, the seven sages were all perplexed, and could find no place at which to ask the way. just then they met with a boy tending some horses, and asked the way of him.

'Do you know,' they said, 'the hill of Kü-zhze?'

He replied that he did. He also said that he knew where Tâ-kwei was living.

'A strange boy is this!' said Hwang-Ti. 'He not only knows the hill of Kü-zhze, but he also knows where Tâ-kwei is living. Let me ask him about the government of mankind.'

The boy said,

'The administration of the kingdom is like this (which I am doing); – what difficulty should there be in it? When I was young, I enjoyed myself roaming over all within the six confines of the world of space, and then I began to suffer from indistinct sight. A wise elder taught me, saying, "Ride in the chariot of the sun, and roam in the wild of Hsiang-Keng." Now the trouble in my eyes is a little better, and I am again enjoying myself roaming outside the six confines of the world of space. As to the government of the kingdom, it is like this (which I am doing); what difficulty should there be in it?'

Hwang-Ti said,

'The administration of the world is indeed not your business, my son. Nevertheless, I beg to ask you about it.'

The little lad declined to answer, but on Hwang-Ti putting the question again, he said,

'In what does the governor of the kingdom differ from him who has the tending of horses, and who has only to put away whatever in him would injure the horses?'

Hwang-Ti bowed to him twice with his head to the ground, called him his 'Heavenly Master,' and withdrew.

4: Take care of your fields of life and thrive for it

If officers of wisdom do not see the changes which their anxious thinking has suggested, they have no joy; if debaters are not able to set forth their views in orderly style, they have no joy; if critical examiners find no subjects on which to exercise their powers of vituperation, they have no joy: they are all hampered by external restrictions.

Those who try to attract the attention of their age (wish to) rise at court; those who try to win the regard of the people count holding office a glory; those who possess muscular strength boast of doing what is difficult; those who are bold and daring exert themselves in times of calamity; those who are able swordmen and spearmen delight in fighting; those whose powers are decayed seek to rest in the name (they have gained); those who are skilled in the laws seek to enlarge the scope of government; those who are proficient in ceremonies and music pay careful attention to their deportment; and those who profess benevolence and righteousness value opportunities (for displaying them).

The husbandmen who do not keep their fields well weeded are not equal to their business, nor are traders who do not thrive in the markets. When the common people have their appropriate employment morning and evening, they stimulate one another to diligence; the mechanics who are masters of their implements feel strong for their work. If their wealth does not increase, the greedy are distressed; if their power and influence is not growing, the ambitious are sad.

Such creatures of circumstance and things delight in changes, and if they meet with a time when they can show what they can do, they cannot keep themselves from taking advantage of it. They all pursue their own way like (the seasons of) the year, and do not change as things do. They give the reins to their bodies and natures, and allow themselves to sink beneath (the pressure of) things, and all their lifetime do not come back (to their proper selves): is it not sad?

5: Chuang Tzu on differences of view

Master Chuang said,

'An archer, without taking aim beforehand, yet may hit the mark. If we say that he is a good archer, and that all the world may be is Îs, is this allowable?'

Master Hui replied,

'It is.'

Master Chuang continued,

'All men do not agree in counting the same thing to be right, but every one maintains his own view to be right; (if we say) that all men may be Yaos, is this allowable?'

Master Hui (again) replied,

'It is.'

And Master Chuang went on,

'Very well; there are the literati, the followers of Mo (Ti), of Yang (Ku), and of Ping; – making four (different schools). Including yourself, Master, there are five. Which of your views is really right? Or will you take the position of La Kü? One of his disciples said to him, "Master, I have got hold of your method. I can in winter heat the furnace under my tripod, and in summer can produce ice." Lu Kü said, "That is only with the Yang element to call out the same, and with the Yin to call out the yin; – that is not my method. I will show you what my method is." On this he tuned two citherns, placing one of them in the hall, and the other in one of the inner apartments. Striking the note Kung in the one, the same note vibrated in the other, and so it was with the note Kio; the two instruments being tuned in the same way. But if he had differently tuned them on other strings different from the normal arrangement of the five notes, the five-and-twenty strings would all have vibrated, without any difference of their notes, the note to which he had tuned them ruling and guiding all the others. Is your maintaining your view to be right just like this?'

Master Hui replied,

'Here now are the literati, and the followers of Mo, Yang, and Ping. Suppose that they have come to dispute with me. They put forth their conflicting statements; they try vociferously to put me down; but none of them have ever proved me wrong – what do you say to this?'

Master Chuang said,

'There was a man of Khi who cast away his son in Sung to be a gatekeeper there, and thinking nothing of the mutilation lie would incur; the same man, to secure one of his sacrificial vessels or bells, would have it strapped and secured, while to find his son who was lost, he would not go out of the territory of his own state: so forgetful was he of the relative importance of things. If a man of Ku, going to another state as a lame gate-keeper, at midnight, at a time when no one was nigh, were to fight with his boatman, he would not be able to reach the shore, and he would have done what he could to provoke the boatman's animosity.'

Appropriate analogies may be very helpful. And then there are all the other analogies . . .

6: A bit of mud on a statue's nose is taken care of

As Master Chuang was accompanying a funeral, when passing by the grave of Master Hui, he looked round, and said to his attendants,

'On the top of the nose of that man of Ying there is a (little) bit of mud like a fly's wing.'

He sent for the artisan Shih to cut it away. Shih whirled his axe so as to produce a wind, which at once carried off the mud entirely, leaving the nose uninjured, and the (statue of) the man of Ying' standing undisturbed. The ruler Yüan of Sung heard of the feat, called the artisan Shih, and said to him,

'Try and do the same thing on me.'

The artisan said,

'Your servant has been able to trim things in that way, but the material on which I have worked has been dead for a long time.'

Master Chuang said,

'Since the death of the Master, I have had no material to work on. I have had no one to talk with.'

7: Why winsome Hsi Phäng would do as the new ruler

Kwan Kung being ill, duke Hwan went to ask for him, and said,

'Your illness, father Kung, is very severe; should you not speak out your mind to me? Should this prove the great illness, to whom will it be best for me to entrust my State?'

Kwan Kung said,

'To whom does your grace wish to entrust it?'

'To Pâo Shu-yâ,' was the reply.

'He won't do. He is an admirable officer, pure and incorruptible, but with others who are not like himself he won't associate. And when he once hears of another man's faults, he never forgets them. If you employ him to administer the state, above, he will take the leading of your Grace, and, below, he will come into collision with the people; – in no long time you will be holding him as an offender.'

The duke said,

'Who, then, is the man?'

The reply was,

'If I must speak, there is Hsi Phäng; – he will do. He is a man who forgets his own high position, and against whom those below him won't revolt. He is ashamed that he is not equal to Hwang-Ti, and pities those who are not equal to himself. Him who imparts of his virtue to others we call a sage; him who imparts of his wealth to others we call a man of worth. He who by his worth would preside over others, never succeeds in winning them; he who with his worth condescends to others, never but succeeds in winning them. Hsi Phäng has not been (much) heard of in the state; he has not been (much) distinguished in his own clan. But as I must speak, he is the man for you.'

8: Poor judgement brought a monkey to its death

The king of Wu, floating about on the Kiang, (landed and) ascended the Hill of monkeys, which all, when they saw him, scampered off in terror, and hid themselves among the thick hazels. There was one, however, which, in an unconcerned way, swung about on the branches, displaying its cleverness to the king, who thereon discharged an arrow at it. With a nimble motion it caught the swift arrow, and the king ordered his attendants to hurry forward and shoot it; and thus the monkey was seized and killed. The king then, looking round, said to his friend Yen Pu-i,

'This monkey made a display of its artfulness, and trusted in its agility, to show me its arrogance; – this it was which brought it to this fate. Take warning from it. Ah! do not by your looks give yourself haughty airs!' Yen Pu-i, when he returned home, put himself under the teaching of Tung Wu, to root up his pride. He put away what he delighted in and abjured distinction. In three years the people of the kingdom spoke of him with admiration.

9: Looking up on his stool

Nan-po Tzu Ki was seated, leaning forward on his stool, and sighing gently as he looked up to heaven. (just then) Yen Tzu Keng came in, and said, when he saw him,

'Master, you surpass all others. Is it right to make your body thus like a mass of withered bones, and your mind like so much slaked lime?'

The other said,

'I formerly lived in a grotto on a hill. At that time Thien Ho once came to see me, and all the multitudes of Khi congratulated him three times (on his having found the proper man). I must first have shown myself, and so it was that he knew me; I must first have been selling (what I had), and so it was that he came to buy. If I had not shown what I possessed, how should he have known it; if I had not been selling (myself), how should he have come to buy me? I pity the men who lose themselves; I also pity the men who pity others (for not being known); and I also pity the men who pity the men who pity those that pity others. But since then the time is long cone by; (and so I am in the state in which you have found me).

10: There are many ways to be considered good

Kung-ni, having gone to Ku, the king ordered wine to be presented to him. Sun Shu-âo stood, holding the goblet in his hand. Î-liâo of Shih-nan, having received (a cup), poured its contents out as a sacrificial libation, and said,

'The men of old, on such an occasion as this, made some speech.'

Kung-ni said,

'I have heard of speech without words; but I have never spoken it; I will do so now. Î-liâo of Shih-nan kept (quietly) handling his little spheres, and the difficulties between the two Houses were resolved; Sun Shu-âo slept undisturbed on his couch with his (dancer's) feather in his hand, and the men of Ying enrolled themselves for the war. I wish I had a beak three cubits long.'

In the case of those two (ministers) we have what is called 'The Way that cannot be trodden; ' in (the case of Kung-ni) we have what is called 'the Argument without words.'

Therefore when all attributes are comprehended in the unity of the Tao, and speech stops at the point to which knowledge does not reach, the conduct is complete. But where there is (not) the unity of the Tao, the attributes cannot (always) be the same, and that which is beyond the reach of knowledge cannot be exhibited by any reasoning. There may be as many names as those employed by the Literati and the Mohists, but (the result is) evil. Thus when the sea does not reject the streams that flow into it in their eastward course, we have the perfection of greatness. The sage embraces in his regard both Heaven and Earth; his beneficent influence extends to all under the sky; and we do not know from whom it comes. Therefore though when living one may have no rank, and when dead no honorary epithet; though the reality (of what he is) may not be acknowledged and his name not established; we have in him what is called 'The Great Man.'

A dog is not reckoned good because it barks well; and a man is not reckoned wise because he speaks skilfully; – how much less can he be deemed Great! If one thinks he is Great, he is not fit to be accounted Great; – how much less is he so from the practice of the attributes (of the Tao)! Now none are so grandly complete as Heaven and Earth; but do they seek for anything to make them so grandly complete? He who knows this grand completion does not seek for it; he loses nothing and abandons nothing; he does not change himself from regard to (external) things; he turns in on himself, and finds there an inexhaustible store; he follows antiquity and does not feel about (for its lessons); – such is the perfect sincerity of the Great Man.

A person may not be very wise just because he speaks skilfully.

11: The "lucky son" had his foot cut off

Tzu Ki had eight sons. Having arranged them before him, he called Kiu-fang Yän, and said to him,

'Look at the physiognomy of my sons for me; – which will be the fortunate one?'

Yän said,

'Kun is the fortunate one.'

Tzu Ki looked startled, and joyfully said,

'In what way?'

Yän replied,

'Kun will share the meals of the ruler of a state to the end of his life.'

The father looked uneasy, burst into tears, and said,

'What has my son done that he should come to such a fate?'

Yin replied,

'When one shares the meals of the ruler of a state, blessings reach to all within the three branches of his kindred, and how much more to his father and mother! But you, Master, weep when you hear this; – you oppose (the idea of) such happiness. It is the good fortune of your son, and you count it his misfortune.'

Tzu Ki said,

'O Yän, what sufficient ground have you for knowing that this will be Kun's good fortune? (The fortune) that is summed up in wine and flesh affects only the nose and the mouth, but you are not able to know how it will come about. I have never been a shepherd, and yet a ewe lambed in the south-west corner of my house. I have never been fond of hunting, and yet a quail hatched her young in the south-east corner. If these were not prodigies, what can be accounted such? Where I wish to occupy my mind with my son is in (the wide sphere of) heaven and earth; I wish to seek his enjoyment and mine in (the idea of) Heaven, and our support from the Earth. I do not mix myself up with him in the affairs (of the world); nor in forming plans (for his advantage); nor in the practice of what is strange. I pursue with him the perfect virtue of Heaven and Earth, and do not allow ourselves to be troubled by outward things. I seek to be with him in a state of undisturbed indifference, and not to practise what affairs might indicate as likely to be advantageous. And now there is to come to us this vulgar recompense. Whenever there is a strange realisation, there must have been strange conduct. Danger threatens; – not through any sin of me or of my son, but as brought about, I apprehend, by Heaven. It is this which makes me weep!'

Not long after this, Tzu Ki sent off Kun to go to Yen, when he was made prisoner by some robbers on the way. It would have been difficult to sell him if he were whole and entire, and they thought their easiest plan was to cut off (one of his) feet first. They did so, and sold him in Khi, where he became Inspector of roads for a Mr. Khü. Nevertheless he had flesh to eat till he died.

12: Fleeing from benevolent Yao

Nieh Khüeh met Hsü Yu (on the way), and said to him,

'Where, Sir, are you going to?'

'I am fleeing from Yao,' was the reply.

'What do you mean?'

'Yao has become so bent on his benevolence that I am afraid the world will laugh at him, and that in future ages men will be found eating one another. Now the people are collected together without difficulty. Love them, and they respond with affection; benefit them, and they come to you; praise them, and they are stimulated (to please you); make them to experience what they dislike, and they disperse. When the loving and benefiting proceed from benevolence and righteousness, those who forget the benevolence and righteousness, and those who make a profit of them, are the many. In this way the practice of benevolence and righteousness comes to be without sincerity and is like a borrowing of the instruments with which men catch birds. In all this the one man's seeking to benefit the world by his decisions and enactments (of such a nature) is as if he were to cut through (the nature of all) by one operation; – Yao knows how wise and superior men can benefit the world, but he does not also know how they injure it. It is only those who stand outside such men that know this.'

There are the pliable and weak; the easy and hasty; the grasping and crooked. Those who are called the pliable and weak learn the words of some one master, to which they freely yield their assent, being secretly pleased with themselves, and thinking that their knowledge is sufficient, while they do not know that they have not yet begun (to understand) a single thing. It is this which makes them so pliable and weak. The easy and hasty are like lice on a pig. The lice select a place where the bristles are more wide apart, and look on it as a great palace or a large park. The slits between the toes, the overlappings of its skin, about its nipples and its thighs, – all these seem to them safe apartments and advantageous places; – they do not know that the butcher one morning, swinging about his arms, will spread the grass, and kindle the fire, so that they and the pig will be roasted together. So do they appear and disappear with the place where they harboured: this is why they are called the easy and hasty.

Of the grasping and crooked we have an example in Shun. Mutton has no craving for ants, but ants have a craving for mutton, for it is rank. There was a rankness about the conduct of Shun, and the people were pleased with him. Hence when he three times changed his residence, every one of them became a capital city. When he came to the wild of Täng, he had 100,000 families about him. Yao having heard of the virtue and ability of Shun, appointed him to a new and uncultivated territory, saying,

'I look forward to the benefit of his coming here.'

When Shun was appointed to this new territory, his years were advanced, and his intelligence was decayed; – and yet he could not find a place of rest or a home. This is an example of being grasping and wayward.

Therefore (in opposition to such) the spirit-like man dislikes the flocking of the multitudes to him. When the multitudes come, they do not agree; and when they do not agree, no benefit results from their coming. Hence there are none whom he brings very near to himself, and none whom he keeps at a great distance. He keeps his virtue in close embrace, and warmly nourishes (the spirit of) harmony, so as to be in accordance with all men. This is called the True man . Even the knowledge of the ant he puts away; his plans are simply those of the fishes; even the notions of the sheep he discards. His seeing is simply that of the eye; his hearing that of the ear; his mind is governed by its general exercises. Being such, his course is straight and level as if marked out by a line, and its every change is in accordance (with the circumstances of the case).

13: Success as death

The True men of old waited for the issues of events as the arrangements of Heaven, and did not by their human efforts try to take the place of Heaven. The True men of old (now) looked on success as life and on failure as death; and (now) on success as death and on failure as life. The operation of medicines will illustrate this: there are monk's-bane, the kieh-käng, the tribulus fruit, and china-root; each of these has the time and case for which it is supremely suitable; and all such plants and their suitabilities cannot be mentioned particularly. Kâu-kien took his station on (the hill of) Kwâi-khi with 3,000 men with their buff-coats and shields: (his minister) Kung knew how the ruined (Yüeh) might still be preserved, but the same man did not know the sad fate in store for himself. Hence it is said,

'The eye of the owl has its proper fitness; the leg of the crane has its proper limit, and to cut off any of it would distress (the bird).'

Hence (also) it is (further) said,

'When the wind passes over it, the volume of the river is diminished, and so it is when the sun passes over it. But let the wind and sun keep a watch together on the river, and it won't begin to feel that they are doing it any injury: it relies on its springs and flows on.'

Thus, water does its part to the ground with undeviating exactness; and so does the shadow to the substance; and one thing to another. Therefore there is danger from the power of vision in the eyes, of hearing in the ears, and of the inordinate thinking of the mind; yea, there is danger from the exercise of every power of which man's constitution is the depository. When the danger has come to a head, it cannot be averted, and the calamity is perpetuated, and goes on increasing. The return from this (to a state of security) is the result of (great) effort, and success can be attained only after a long time; and yet men consider (their power of self-determination) as their precious possession: is it not sad? It is in this way that we have the ruin of states and the slaughtering of the people without end; while no one knows how to ask how it comes about.

14: Heaven has many other names

Therefore, the feet of man on the earth tread but on a small space, but going on to where he has not trod before, he traverses a great distance easily; so his knowledge is but small, but going on to what he does not already know, he comes to know what is meant by Heaven. He knows it as The Great Unity; The Great Mystery; The Great Illuminator; The Great Framer; The Great Boundlessness; The Great Truth; The Great Determiner. This makes his knowledge complete. As The Great Unity, he comprehends it; as The Great Mystery, he unfolds it; as the Great Illuminator, he contemplates it; as the Great Framer, it is to him the Cause of all; as the Great Boundlessness, all is to him its embodiment; as The Great Truth, he examines it; as The Great Determiner, he holds it fast.

Thus Heaven is to him all; accordance with it is the brightest intelligence. Obscurity has in this its pivot; in this is the beginning. Such being the case, the explanation of it is as if it were no explanation; the knowledge of it is as if it were no knowledge. (At first) he does not know it, but afterwards he comes to know it. In his inquiries, he must not set to himself any limits, and yet he cannot be without a limit. Now ascending, now descending, then slipping from the grasp, (the Tao) is yet a reality, unchanged now as in antiquity, and always without defect: may it not be called what is capable of the greatest display and expansion? Why should we not inquire into it? Why should we be perplexed about it? With what does not perplex let us explain what perplexes, till we cease to be perplexed. So may we arrive at a great freedom from all perplexity!


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

Chuang Tzu based on James Legge's translation, Chuang-tzu, the Zhuangzi by Master Chuang ie Master Zhuang, To top Section Set Next

Chuang Tzu based on James Legge's translation, Chuang-tzu, the Zhuangzi by Master Chuang ie Master Zhuang. USER'S GUIDE: [Link]  ᴥ  Gain-Ways: [Link]
© 2001–2017, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil. [Email]  ᴥ  Disclaimer: [Link]