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Reservations Contents  

  1. Kings Who Have Wished to Resign theThrone
  2. Robber Kih
  3. Delight in the Sword-Fight

28 - Kings Who Have Wished to Resign the Throne

1: Declining the throne

Yao proposed to resign the throne to Hsü Yu, who would not accept it. He then offered it to Tzu-kâu Kih-fu, but he said,

'It is not unreasonable to propose that I should occupy the throne, but I happen to be suffering under a painful sorrow and illness. While I am engaged in dealing with it, I have not leisure to govern the kingdom.'

Now the throne is the most important of all positions, and yet this man would not occupy it to the injury of his life; how much less would he have allowed any other thing to do so! But only he who does not care to rule the kingdom is fit to be entrusted with it.

Shun proposed to resign the throne to Tzu-kâu Kih-po, who declined in the very same terms as Kih-fu had done. Now the kingdom is the greatest of all concerns, and yet this man would not give his life in exchange for the throne. This shows how they who possess the Tao differ from common men.

Shun proposed to resign the throne to Shan Küan, who said,

'I am a unit in the midst of space and time. In winter I wear skins and furs; in summer, grass-cloth and linen; in spring I plough and sow, my strength being equal to the toil; in autumn I gather in my harvest, and am prepared to cease from labour and eat. At sunrise I get up and work; at sunset I rest. So do I enjoy myself between heaven and earth, and my mind is content: why should I have anything to do with the throne? Alas! that you, Sir, don't know me better!' Thereupon he declined the proffer, and went away, deep among the hills, no man knew where.

Shun proposed to resign the throne to his friend, a farmer of Shih-hu. The farmer, however, said (to himself),

'How full of vigour does our lord show himself, and how exuberant is his strength! If Shun with all his powers be not equal (to the task of government, how should I be so?).'

On this he took his wife on his back, led his son by the hand, and went away to the sea-coast, from which to the end of his life he did not come back.

When Tai-wang Than-fu was dwelling in Pin, the wild tribes of the North attacked him. He tried to serve them with skins and silks, but they were not satisfied. He tried to serve them with dogs and horses, but they were not satisfied, and then with pearls and jade, but they were not satisfied. What they sought was his territory. Tai-wang Than-fu said (to his people),

'To dwell with the elder brother and cause the younger brother to be killed, or with the father and cause the son to be killed, – this is what I cannot bear to do. Make an effort, my children, to remain here. What difference is there between being my subjects, or the subjects of those wild people? And I have heard that a man does not use that which he employs for nourishing his people to injure them.'

Thereupon he took his staff and switch and left, but the people followed him in an unbroken train, and he established a (new) state at the foot of mount Khi. Thus Tai-wang Than-fu might be pronounced one who could give its (due) honour to life. Those who are able to do so, though they may be rich and noble, will not, for that which nourishes them, injure their persons; and though they may be poor and mean, will not, for the sake of gain, involve their bodies (in danger). The men of the present age who occupy high offices and are of honourable rank all lose these (advantages) again, and in the prospect of gain lightly expose their persons to ruin: is it not a case of delusion?

The people of Yüeh three times in succession killed their ruler, and the prince Sâu, distressed by it, made his escape to the caves of Tan, so that Yüeh was left without a ruler. The people sought for the prince, but could not find him, till (at last) they followed him to the cave of Tan. The prince was not willing to come out to them, but they smoked him out with moxa, and made him mount the royal chariot. As he took hold of the strap, and mounted the carriage, he looked up to heaven, and called out,

'O Ruler, O Ruler, could you not have spared me this?'

Prince Sâu did not dislike being ruler; – he disliked the evil inseparable from being so. It may be said of him that he would not for the sake of a kingdom endanger his life; and this indeed was the reason why the people of Yüeh wanted to get him for their ruler.

Who is not interested in ruling the country could be best fit for it.

2: The marquis about values fit for ruling a kingdom

Han and Wei were contending about some territory which one of them had wrested from the other. Master Tzu-hwâ went to see the marquis Kâo-hsi (of Han), and, finding him looking sorrowful, said,

'Suppose now that all the states were to sign an agreement before you to the effect that "Whoever should with his left hand carry off (the territory in dispute) should lose his right hand, and whoever should do so with his right hand should lose his left hand, but that, nevertheless, he who should carry it off was sure to obtain the whole kingdom;" would your lordship feel yourself able to carry it off?'

The marquis said,

'I would not carry it off,' and Tzu-hwâ rejoined,

'Very good. Looking at the thing from this point of view, your two arms are of more value to you than the whole kingdom. But your body is of more value than your two arms, and Han is of much less value than the whole kingdom. The territory for which you are now contending is further much less important than Han: your lordship, since you feel so much concern for your body, should not be endangering your life by indulging your sorrow.

The marquis Kâo-hsi said,

'Good! Many have given me their counsel about this matter; but I never heard what you have said.'

Master Tzu-hwâ may be said to have known well what was of great importance and what was of little.

3: Some dislike riches after they have attained to better things

The ruler of Lu, having heard that Yen Ho had attained to the Tao, sent a messenger, with a gift of silks, to prepare the way for further communication with him. Yen Ho was waiting at the door of a mean house, in a dress of coarse hempen cloth, and himself feeding a cow. When the messenger arrived, Yen Ho himself confronted him.

'Is this,' said the messenger, 'the house of Yen Ho?'

'It is,' was the reply; and the other was presenting the silks to him, when he said,

'I am afraid you heard (your instructions) wrongly, and that he who sent you will blame you. You had better make sure.'

The messenger on this returned, and made sure that he was right; but when he came back, and sought for Yen Ho, he was not to be found.

Yes; men like Yen Ho do of a truth dislike riches and honours. Hence it is said,

'The true object of the Tao is the regulation of the person. Quite subordinate to this is its use in the management of the state and the clan; while the government of the kingdom is but the dust and refuse of it.'

From this we may see that the services of the Tis and Kings are but a surplusage of the work of the sages, and do not contribute to complete the person or nourish the life. Yet the superior men of the present age will, most of them, throw away their lives for the sake of their persons, in pursuing their (material) objects; – is it not cause for grief? Whenever a sage is initiating any movement, he is sure to examine the motive which influences him, and what he is about to do. Here, however, is a man, who uses a pearl like that of the marquis of Sui to shoot a bird at a distance of 10,000 feet. All men will laugh at him; and why? Because the thing which he uses is of great value, and what he wishes to get is of little. And is not life of more value than the pearl of the marquis of Sui?

Time well spent is hardly spent for little of value.

"A castle of bones is more than a castle of stones (Proverb)."

4: An incident after Lieh Tzu had become poor

Tzu Tzu Lieh was reduced to extreme poverty, and his person had a hungry look. A visitor mentioned the case to Tzu-yang, (the premier) of Käng, saying,

'Lieh Yü-khâu, I believe, is a scholar who has attained to the Tao. Is it because our ruler does not love (such) scholars, that he should be living in his state in such poverty?'

Tzu-yang at once ordered an officer to send to him a supply of grain. When Master Lieh saw the messenger, he bowed to him twice, and declined the gift, on which the messenger went away. On Master Lieh's going into the house, his wife looked to him and beat her breast, saying,

'I have heard that the wife and children of a possessor of the Tao all enjoy plenty and ease, but now we look starved. The ruler has seen his error, and sent you a present of food, but you would not receive it; – is it appointed (for us to suffer thus)?'

Tzu Tzu Lieh laughed and said to her,

'The ruler does not himself know me. Because of what someone said to him, he sent me the grain; but if another speak (differently) of me to him, he may look on me as a criminal. This was why I did not receive the grain.'

In the end it did come about, that the people, on an occasion of trouble and disorder, put Tzu-yang to death.

5: The sheep-butcher's honesty

When king Kâo of Ku lost his kingdom, the sheep-butcher Yüeh followed him in his flight. When the king (recovered) his kingdom and returned to it, and was going to reward those who had followed him, on coming to the sheep-butcher Yüeh, that personage said,

'When our Great King lost his kingdom, I lost my sheep-killing. When his majesty got back his kingdom, I also got back my sheep-killing. My income and rank have been recovered; why speak further of rewarding me?'

The king, (on hearing of this reply), said,

'Force him (to take the reward);' but Yüeh said,

'It was not through any crime of mine that the king lost his kingdom, and therefore I did not dare to submit to the death (which would have been mine if I had remained in the capital). And it was not through any service of mine that he recovered his kingdom, and therefore I do not dare to count myself worthy of any reward from him.'

The king (now) asked that the butcher should be introduced to him, but Yüeh said,

'According to the law of Ku, great reward ought to be given to great service, and the recipient then be introduced to the king; but now my wisdom was not sufficient to preserve the kingdom, nor my courage sufficient to die at the hands of the invaders. When the army of Wu entered, I was afraid of the danger, and got out of the way of the thieves; – it was not with a distinct purpose (of loyalty) that I followed the king. And now he wishes, in disregard of the law, and violations of the conditions of our social compact, to see me in court; – this is not what I would like to be talked of through the kingdom.'

The king said to Tzu Ki, the Minister of War,

'The position of the sheep-butcher Yüeh is low and mean, but his setting forth of what is right is very high; do you ask him for me to accept the place of one of my three most distinguished nobles.'

(This being communicated to Yüeh), he said,

'I know that the place of such a distinguished noble is nobler than a sheep-butcher's stall, and that the salary of 10,000 kung is more than its profits. But how should I, through my greed of rank and emolument, bring on our ruler the name of an unlawful dispensation of his gifts? I dare not respond to your wishes, but desire to return to my stall as the sheep-butcher.'

Accordingly he did not accept (the proffered reward).

6: Playing on a stringed instrument and cultivating ones mind

Yüan Hsien was living in Lu. His house, whose walls were only a few paces round, looked as if it were thatched with a crop of growing grass; its door of brushwood was incomplete, with branches of a mulberry tree for its side-posts; the window of each of its two apartments was formed by an earthenware jar (in the wall), which was stuffed with some coarse serge. It leaked above, and was damp on the ground beneath; but there he sat composedly, playing on his guitar. Tzu-kung, in an inner robe of purple and an outer one of pure white, riding in a carriage drawn by two large horses, the hood of which was too high to get into the lane (leading to the house), went to see him. Yüan Hsien, in a cap made of bark, and slippers without heels, and with a stalk of hellebore for a staff, met him at the door.

'Alas! Master,' said Tzu-kung, 'that you should be in such distress!'

Yüan Hsien answered him,

'I have heard that to have no money is to be poor, and that not to be able to carry one's learning into practice is to be distressed. I am poor but not in distress.'

Tzu-kung shrank back, and looked ashamed, on which the other laughed and said,

'To act with a view to the world's (praise); to pretend to be public-spirited and yet be a partisan; to learn in order to please men; to teach for the sake of one's own gain; to conceal one's wickedness under the garb of benevolence and righteousness; and to be fond of the show of chariots and horses: these are things which Hsien cannot bear to do.'

Master Zäng was residing in Wei. He wore a robe quilted with hemp, and had no outer garment; his countenance looked rough and emaciated; his hands and feet were horny and callous; he would be three days without lighting a fire; in ten years he did not have a new suit; if he put his cap on straight, the strings would break; if he drew tight the overlap of his robe, his elbow would be seen; in putting on his shoes, the heels would burst them. Yet dragging his shoes along, he sane, the 'Sacrificial Odes of Shang' with a voice that filled heaven and earth as if it came from a bell or a sounding stone. The Son of Heaven could not get him to be a minister; no feudal prince could get him for his friend. So it is that he who is nourishing his mind's aim forgets his body, and he who is nourishing his body discards all thoughts of gain, and he who is carrying out the Tao forgets his own mind.

Confucius said to Yen Hui,

'Come here, Hui. Your family is poor, and your position is low; why should you not take office?'

Hui replied,

'I have no wish to be in office. Outside the suburban district I possess fields to the extent of fifty acres, which are sufficient to supply me with congee; and inside it I have ten acres, which are sufficient to supply me with silk and flax. I find my pleasure in playing on my lute, and your doctrines, Master, which I study, are sufficient for my enjoyment; I do not wish to take office.'

Confucius looked sad, changed countenance, and said, "How good is the mind of Hui! I have heard that he who is contented won't entangle himself with the pursuit of gain, that he who is conscious of having gained (the truth) in himself is not afraid of losing other things, and that he who cultivates the path of inward rectification is not ashamed though he may have no official position. I have long been preaching this; but today I see it realised in Hui: this is what I have gained.'

Trying to win praise is rarely among the better things to do.

Golden cages require much tact to get out of intact.

7: Double injury is to be avoided

Prince Mâu of Kung-shan spoke to Master Kan, saying,

'My body has its place by the streams and near the sea, but my mind dwells at the court of Wei; – what have you to say to me in the circumstances?'

Master Kan replied,

'Set the proper value on your life. When one sets the proper value on his life, gain seems to him unimportant.'

The prince rejoined,

'I know that, but I am not able to overcome (my Wishes).'

The reply was,

'If you cannot master yourself (in the matter), follow (your inclinations so that) your spirit may not be dissatisfied. When you cannot master yourself, and try to force yourself where your spirit does not follow, this is what is called doing yourself a double injury; and those who so injure themselves are not among the long-lived.'

Mâu of Wei was the son of a lord of ten thousand chariots. For him to live in retirement among crags and caves was more difficult than for a scholar who had not worn the dress of office. Although he had not attained to the Tao, he maybe said to have had some idea of it.

8: Confucius playing and singing without ceasing

When Confucius was reduced to extreme distress between Khän and Zhâi, for seven days he had no cooked meat to eat, but only some soup of coarse vegetables without any rice in it. His countenance wore the appearance of great exhaustion, and yet he kept playing on his lute and singing inside the house. Yen Hui (was outside), selecting the vegetables, while Tzu-la and Tzu-kung were talking together, and said to him,

'The Master has twice been driven from Lu; he had to flee from Wei; the tree (beneath which he rested) was cut down in Sung; he was reduced to extreme distress in Shang and Kâu; he is held in a state of siege here between Khän and Zhâi; any one who kills him will be held guiltless; there is no prohibition against making him a prisoner. And yet he keeps playing and singing, thrumming his lute without ceasing. Can a superior man be without the feeling of shame to such an extent as this?'

Yen Hui gave them no reply, but went in and told (their words) to Confucius, who pushed aside his lute, and said,

'Yu and Zhze are small men. Call them here, and I will explain the thing to them.'

When they came in, Tzu-lu said,

'Your present condition may be called one of extreme distress.'

Confucius replied,

'What words are these! When the Superior man has free course with his principles, that is what we call his success; when such course is denied, that is what we call his failure. Now I hold in my embrace the principles of benevolence and righteousness, and with them meet the evils of a disordered age; – where is the proof of my being in extreme distress? Therefore looking inwards and examining myself, I have no difficulties about my principles; though I encounter such difficulties (as the present), I do not lose my virtue. It is when winter's cold is come, and the hoar-frost and snow are falling, that we know the vegetative power of the pine and cypress. This strait between Khän and Zhâi is fortunate for me.'

He then took back his lute so that it emitted a twanging sound, and began to play and sing. (At the same time) Tzu-lu, hurriedly, seized a shield, and began to dance, while Tzu-kung said,

'I did not know (before) the height of heaven nor the depth of the earth.'

The ancients who had got the Tao were happy when reduced to extremity, and happy when having free course. Their happiness was independent of both these conditions. The Tao and its characteristics! – let them have these and distress and success come to them as cold and heat, as wind and rain in the natural order of things. Thus it was that Hsü Yu found pleasure on the north of the river Ying, and that the earl of Kung enjoyed himself on the top of mount (Kung).

9: Suicide rather than accepting a stained throne

Shun proposed to resign the throne to his friend, the Northerner Wu-kâi, who said,

'A strange man you are, O sovereign! You (first) lived among the channeled fields, and then your place was in the palace of Yao. And not only so: you now further wish to extend to me the stain of your disgraceful doings. I am ashamed to see you. And on this he threw himself into the abyss of Khing-läng.

When Tang was about to attack Kieh, he took counsel with Pien Sui, who said,

'It is no business of mine.'

Tang then said,

'To whom should I apply?'

And the other said,

'I don't know.'

Tang then took counsel with Wu Kwang, who gave the same answer as Pien Sui; and when asked to whom he should apply, said in the same way,

'I don't know.'

'Suppose,' Tang then said,

'I apply to Î Yin, what do you say about him?'

The reply was,

'He has a wonderful power in doing what is disgraceful, and I know nothing more about him!'

Tang thereupon took counsel with Î Yin, attacked Kieh, and overcame him, after which he proposed to resign the throne to Pien Sui, who declined it, saying,

'When you were about to attack Kieh and sought counsel from me, you must have supposed me to be prepared to be a robber. Now that you have conquered Kieh, and propose to resign the throne to me, you must consider me to be greedy. I have been born in an age of disorder, and a man without principle twice comes, and tries to extend to me the stain of his disgraceful proceedings! – I cannot bear to hear the repetition of his proposals.'

With this he threw himself into the Kâu water and died.

Tang further made proffer of the throne to Wu Kwang, saying,

'The wise man has planned it; the martial man has carried it through; and the benevolent man should occupy it: this was the method of antiquity. Why should you, Sir, not take the position?'

Wu Kwang refused the proffer, saying,

'To depose the sovereign is contrary to right; to kill the people is contrary to benevolence. When another has encountered the risks, if I should accept the gain of his adventure, I should violate my disinterestedness. I have heard it said, "If it be not right for him to do so, one should not accept the emolument; in an age of unprincipled (government), one should not put foot on the soil (of the) country:" – how much less should I accept this position of honour! I cannot bear to see you any longer.'

And with this he took a stone on his back, and drowned himself in the Lü water.

10: Two princes

Formerly, at the rise of the Kâu dynasty, there were two brothers who lived in Ku-ku, and were named Po-i and Shu-khi. They spoke together and said,

'We have heard that in the west there is one who seems to rule according to the Right Way; let us go and see.'

(Accordingly) they came to the south of (mount) Khi; and when king Wu heard of them, he sent (his brother) Shu Tan to see them, and make a covenant with them, engaging that their wealth should be second (only to that of the king), and that their offices should be of the first rank, and instructing him to bury the covenant with the blood of the victim after they had smeared the corners of their mouths with it. The brothers looked at each other and laughed, saying,

'Ah! How strange! This is not what we call the Right Way. Formerly, when Shän Näng had the kingdom, he offered his sacrifices at the proper seasons and with the utmost reverence, but without praying for any blessing. Towards men he was leal-hearted and sincere, doing his utmost in governing them, but without seeking anything for himself. When it was his pleasure to use administrative measures, he did so; and a sterner rule when he thought that would be better. He did not by the ruin of others establish his own power; he did not exalt himself by bringing others low; he did not, when the time was opportune, seek his own profit. But now Kâu, seeing the disorder of Yin, has suddenly taken the government into its hands; with the high it has taken counsel, and with those below employed bribes; it relies on its troops to maintain the terror of its might; it makes covenants over victims to prove its good faith; it vaunts its proceedings to please the masses; it kills and attacks for the sake of gain: this is simply overthrowing disorder and changing it for tyranny. We have heard that the officers of old, in an age of good government, did not shrink from their duties, and in an age of disorder did not recklessly seek to remain in office. Now the kingdom is in a state of darkness; the virtue of Kâu is decayed. Than to join with it and lay our persons in the dust, it is better for us to abandon it, and maintain the purity of our conduct.'

The two princes then went north to the hill of Shâu-yang, where they died of starvation. If men such as they, in the matter of riches and honours, can manage to avoid them, (let them do so); but they must not depend on their lofty virtue to pursue any perverse course, only gratifying their own tendencies, and not doing service in their time: this was the style of these two princes.


29 - Robber Kih

1: Robber Kih could have been a tyrant king

Confucius was on terms of friendship with Liu-hsia Ki, who had a brother named Tao Kih. This Tao Kih had 9,000 followers, who marched at their will through the kingdom, assailing and oppressing the different princes. They dug through walls and broke into houses; they drove away people's cattle and horses; they carried off people's wives and daughters. In their greed to get, they forgot the claims of kinship, and paid no regard to their parents and brethren. They did not sacrifice to their ancestors. Wherever they passed through the country, in the larger states the people guarded their city walls, and in the smaller the people took to their strongholds. All were distressed by them.

Confucius spoke to Liu-hsiâ Ki, saying,

'Fathers should be able to lay down the law to their sons, and elder to instruct their younger brothers. If they are unable to do so, they do not fulfil the duties of the relationships which they sustain. You, Sir, are one of the most talented officers of the age, and your younger brother is this Robber Kih. He is a pest in the kingdom, and you are not able to instruct him better; I cannot but be ashamed of you, and I beg to go for you and give him counsel.'

Liu-hsiâKi replied,

'You say, Sir, that fathers must be able to lay down the law to their sons, and elder to instruct their younger brothers, but if sons won't listen to the orders of their fathers, nor the younger receive the lessons of their elder brothers, though one may have your powers of persuasion, what is to be done? And, moreover, Kih is a man whose mind is like a gushing fountain, and his will like a whirlwind; he is strong enough to resist all enemies, and clever enough to gloss over his wrong-doings. If you agree with him, he is glad; if you oppose him, he is enraged; and he readily meets men with the language of abuse. You must not go to him.'

Confucius, however, did not attend to this advice. With Yen Hui as his charioteer, and Tzu-kung seated on the right, he went to see Tao Kih, whom he found with his followers halted on the south of Tai-shan, and mincing men's livers, which he gave them to eat. Confucius alighted from his carriage, and went forward, till he saw the usher, to whom he said,

'I, Khung Khiu of Li, have heard of the general's lofty righteousness,' bowing twice respectfully to the man as he said so. The usher went in and announced the visitor. But when Tao Kih heard of the arrival, he flew into a great rage; his eyes became like blazing stars, and his hair rose up and touched his cap.

'Is not this fellow,' said he, 'Khung Khiu, that artful hypocrite of Lu? Tell him from me, "You invent speeches and babble away, appealing without ground to (the examples of) Wän and Wu. The ornaments on your cap are as many as the branches of a tree, and your girdle is (a piece of skin) from the ribs of a dead ox. The more you talk, the more nonsense you utter. You get your food without (the labour of) ploughing, and your clothes without (that of) weaving. You wag your lips and make your tongue a drum-stick. You arbitrarily decide what is right and what is wrong, thereby leading astray the princes throughout the kingdom, and making its learned scholars not occupy their thoughts with their proper business. You recklessly set up your filial piety and fraternal duty, and curry favour with the feudal princes, the wealthy and the noble. Your offence is great; your crime is very heavy. Take yourself off home at once. If you do not do so, I will take your liver, and add it to the provision for today's food."'

But Confucius sent in another message, saying,

'I enjoy the good will of (your brother) Ki, and I wish and hope to tread the ground beneath your tent.'

When the usher had communicated this message, Tao Kih said,

'Make him come forward.'

On this Confucius hastened forwards. Declining to take a mat, he drew hastily back, and bowed twice to Tao Kih, who in a great rage stretched his legs apart, laid his hand on his sword, and with glaring eyes and a voice like the growl of a nursing tigress, said,

'Come forwards, Khiu. If what you say be in accordance with my mind, you shall live; but, if it be contrary to it, you shall die.'

Confucius replied,

'I have heard that everywhere under the sky there are three (most excellent) qualities. To be naturally tall and large, to be elegant and handsome without a peer, so that young and old, noble and mean, are pleased to look on him; – this is the highest of those qualities. To comprehend both heaven and earth in his wisdom, and to be able to speak eloquently on all subjects; – this is the middle one of them. To be brave and courageous, resolute and daring, gathering the multitudes round him, and leading on his troops; – this is the lowest of them. Whoever possesses one of these qualities is fit to stand with his face to the south, and style himself a Prince. But you, General, unite in yourself all the three. Your person is eight cubits and two inches in height; there is a brightness about your face and a light in your eyes; your lips look as if stained with vermilion; your teeth are like rows of precious shells; your voice is attuned to the musical tubes, and yet you are named "The Robber Kih." I am ashamed of you, General, and cannot approve of you. If you are inclined to listen to me, I should like to go as your commissioner to Wu and Yüeh in the south; to Khi and Lu in the north; to Sung and Wei in the east; and to Zin and Ku in the west. I will get them to build for you a great city several hundred li in size, to establish under it towns containing several hundred thousands of inhabitants, and honour you there as a feudal lord. The kingdom will see you begin your career afresh; you will cease from your wars and disband your soldiers; you will collect and nourish your brethren, and along with them offer the sacrifices to your ancestors: this will be a course befitting a sage and an officer of ability, and will fulfil the wishes of the whole kingdom.'

'Come forward, Khiu,' said Tao Kih, greatly enraged.

'Those who can be persuaded by considerations of gain, and to whom remonstrances may be addressed with success, are all ignorant, low, and ordinary people. That I am tall and large, elegant and handsome, so that all who see me are pleased with me; – this is an effect of the body left me by my parents. Though you were not to praise me for it, do I not know it myself? And I have heard that he who likes to praise men to their face will also like to speak ill of them behind their back. And when you tell me of a great wall and a multitudinous people, this is to try to persuade me by considerations of gain, and to cocker me as one of the ordinary people. But how could such advantages last for long? Of all great cities there is none so great as the whole kingdom, which was possessed by Yao and Shun, while their descendants (now) have not so much territory as would admit an awl. Tang and Wa were both set up as the Sons of Heaven, but in after ages (their posterity) were cut off and extinguished; – was not this because the gain of their position was so great a prize?

'And moreover I have heard that anciently birds and beasts were numerous, and men were few, so that they lived in nests in order to avoid the animals. In the daytime they gathered acorns and chestnuts, and in the night they roosted on the trees; and on account of this they are called the people of the Nest-builder. Anciently the people did not know the use of clothes. In summer they collected great stores of faggots, and in winter kept themselves warm by means of them; and on account of this they are called the people who knew how to take care of their lives. In the age of Shän Näng, the people lay down in simple innocence, and rose up in quiet security. They knew their mothers, but did not know their fathers. They dwelt along with the elks and deer. They ploughed and ate; they wove and made clothes; they had no idea of injuring one another: this was the grand time of Perfect virtue. Hwang-Ti, however, was not able to perpetuate this virtuous state. He fought with Khih-yu in the wild of Ko-lu till the blood flowed over a hundred li. When Yao and Shun arose, they instituted their crowd of ministers. Tang banished his lord. King Wu killed Kâu. Since that time the strong have oppressed the weak, and the many tyrannised over the few. From Tang and Wu downwards, (the rulers) have all been promoters of disorder and confusion. You yourself now cultivate and inculcate the ways of Wän and Wu; you handle whatever subjects are anywhere discussed for the instruction of future ages. With your peculiar robe and narrow girdle, with your deceitful speech and hypocritical conduct, you delude the lords of the different states, and are seeking for riches and honours. There is no greater robber than you are; – why does not all the world call you the Robber Khiu, instead of styling me the Robber Kih?

'You prevailed by your sweet speeches on Tzu-lu, and made him your follower; you made him put away his high cap, lay aside his long sword, and receive your instructions, so that all the world said, "Khung Khiu is able to arrest violence and repress the wrong-doer; " but in the end, when Tzu-lu wished to slay the ruler of Wei, and the affair proved unsuccessful, his body was exhibited in pickle over the eastern gate of the capital; – so did your teaching of him come to nothing.

'Do you call yourself a scholar of talent, a sage? Why, you were twice driven out of Lu; you had to run away from Wei; you were reduced to extremity in Khi; you were held in a state of siege between Khän and Zhâi; there is no resting-place for your person in the kingdom; your instructions brought Tzu-lu to pickle. Such have been the misfortunes (attending your course). You have done no good either for yourself or for others; – how can your doctrines be worth being thought much of?

'There is no one whom the world exalts so much as it does Hwang-Ti, and still he was not able to perfect his virtue, but fought in the wilderness of Ko-lu, till the blood flowed over a hundred li. Yao was not kind to his son. Shun was not filial. Yü was paralysed on one side. Tang banished his sovereign. King Wu smote Kâu. King Wän was imprisoned in Yu-li. These are the six men of whom the world thinks the most highly, yet when we accurately consider their history, we see that for the sake of gain they all disallowed their true (nature), and did violence to its proper qualities and tendencies: their conduct cannot be thought of but with deep shame.

'Among those whom the world calls men of ability and virtue were (the brothers) Po-Î and Shu-khi. They declined the rule of Ku-ku, and died of starvation on the hill of Shâu-yang, leaving their bones and flesh unburied. Pâo Ziâo vaunted his conduct, and condemned the world, but he died with his arms round a tree. When Shän-thu Ti 's remonstrances were not listened to, he fastened a stone on his back, and threw himself into the Ho, where he was eaten by the fishes and turtles. Master Kieh-thui was the most devoted (of followers), and cut a piece from his thigh as food for duke Wän. But when the duke afterwards overlooked him (in his distribution of favours), he was angry, and went away, and was burned to death with a tree in his arms. Wei Shäng had made an appointment with a girl to meet him under a bridge; but when she did not come, and the water rose around him, he would not go away, and died with his arms round one of the pillars. (The deaths of) these four men were not different from those of the dog that is torn in pieces, the pig that is borne away by a current, or the beggar (drowned in a ditch) with his alms-gourd in his hand. They were all caught as in a net by their (desire for) fame, not caring to nourish their life to its end, as they were bound to do.

'Among those whom the world calls faithful ministers there have been none like the prince Pi-kan and Wu Tzu-hsü. But Tzu-hsü 's (dead) body was cast into the Kiang, and the heart of Pi-kan was cut out. These two were what the world calls loyal ministers, but the end has been that everybody laughs at them. Looking at all the above cases, down to those of Tzu-hsü and Pi-kan, there is not one worthy to be honoured; and as to the admonitions which you, Khiu, wish to impress on me, if you tell me about the state of the dead, I am unable to know anything about it; if you tell me about the things of men (alive), they are only such as I have stated, what I have heard and know all about. I will now tell you, Sir, my views about the condition of man. The eyes wish to look on beauty; the cars to hear music; the mouth to enjoy flavours; the will to be gratified. The greatest longevity man can reach is a hundred years; a medium longevity is eighty years; the lowest longevity is sixty. Take away sickness, pining, bereavement, mourning, anxieties, and calamities, the times when, in any of these, one can open his mouth and laugh, are only four or five days in a month. Heaven and earth have no limit of duration, but the death of man has its (appointed) time. Take the longest amount of a limited time, and compare it with what is unlimited, its brief existence is not different from the passing of a crevice by one of king Mu 's horses. Those who cannot gratify their will and natural aims, and nourish their appointed longevity, are all unacquainted with the (right) Way (of life). I cast from me, Khiu, all that you say. Be quick and go. Hurry back and say not a word more. Your Way is only a wild recklessness, deceitful, artful, vain, and hypocritical. It is not available to complete the true (nature of man); it is not worth talking about!'

Confucius bowed twice, and hurried away. He went out at the door, and mounted his carriage. Three times he missed the reins as he tried to take hold of them. His eyes were dazed, and he could not see; and his colour was that of slaked lime. He laid hold of the cross-bar, holding his head down, and unable to draw his breath. When he got back, outside the east gate of (the capital of) Lu, he encountered Liu-hsiâKi, who said to him,

'Here you are, right in the gate. For some days I have not seen you. Your carriage and horses are travel-stained; – have you not been to see Tao Kih?'

Confucius looked up to heaven, sighed, and said,


The other went on,

'And did he not set himself in opposition to all your views, as I said he would do?'

'He did. My case has been that of the man who cauterised himself without being ill. I rushed away, stroked the tiger's head, played with his whiskers, and narrowly escaped his mouth.'

Robber Kih would rather remain a self-made tyrant than get caught in what ordinary rulers are caught by.

'A great robber becomes a feudal lord." - Man Kau-teh (next section).

2: The right thing and a righteous course

Tzu-kang asked Mân Kâu-the, saying,

'Why don't you pursue a (righteous) course? Without such a course you won't be believed in; unless you are believed in, you won't be employed in office; and if not employed in office, you won't acquire gain. Thus, if you look at the matter from the point of reputation, or estimate it from the point of gain, a righteous course is truly the right thing. If you discard the thought of reputation and gain, yet when you think over the thing in your own mind, you will see that the scholar should not be a single day without pursuing a (righteous) course.'

Man Kau-teh said,

'He who has no shame becomes rich, and he in whom many believe becomes illustrious. Thus the greatest fame and gain would seem to spring from being without shame and being believed in. Therefore if you look at the matter from the point of reputation, or estimate it from the point of gain, to be believed in is the right thing. If you discard the thought of fame and gain, and think over the thing in your own mind, you will see that the scholar in the course which he pursues is (simply) holding fast his Heavenly (nature, and gaining nothing).'

Tzu-kang said,

'Formerly Kieh and Kâu each enjoyed the honour of being the sovereign, and all the wealth of the kingdom was his; but if you now say to a (mere) money-grabber, "Your conduct is like that of Kieh or Kâu," he will look ashamed, and resent the imputation: (these two sovereigns) are despised by the smallest men. Kung-ni and Mo Ti (on the other hand) were poor, and common men; but if you say to a Prime Minister that his conduct is like that of Kung-ni or Mo Ti, then he will be put out and change countenance, and protest that he is not worthy (to be so spoken of): (these two philosophers) are held to be truly noble by (all) scholars. Thus it is that the position of sovereign does not necessarily connect with being thought noble, nor the condition of being poor and of common rank with being thought mean. The difference of being thought noble or mean arises from the conduct being good or bad.'

Mân Kâu-teh replied,

'Small robbers are put in prison; a great robber becomes a feudal lord; and in the gate of the feudal lord your righteous scholars will be found. For instance, Hsiâo-po, the duke Hwan, killed his elder brother, and took his sister-in-law to himself, and yet Kwan Kung became his minister; and Thien Khang, styled Master Keng, killed his ruler, and usurped the state, and yet Confucius received a present of silks from him. In their discussions they would condemn the men, but in their conduct they abased themselves before them. In this way their words and actions must have been at war together in their breasts; – was it not a contradiction and perversity? As it is said in a book, "Who is bad? and who is good? The successful is regarded as the Head, and the unsuccessful as the Tail."

Tzu-kang said,

'If you do not follow the usual course of what is held to be right, but observe no distinction between the near and remote degrees of kin, no difference between the noble and the mean, no order between the old and the young, then how shall a separation be made of the fivefold arrangement (of the virtues), and the six parties (in the social organisation)?'

Mân Kâu-teh replied,

'Yao killed his eldest son, and Shun banished his half-brother: did they observe the rules about the different degrees of kin? Tang deposed Kieh; king Wa overthrew Kâu: did they observe the righteousness that should obtain between the noble and the mean? King Ki took the place of his elder brother, and the duke of Kâu killed his: did they observe the order that should obtain between the elder and the younger? The Literati make hypocritical speeches; the followers of Mo hold that all should be loved equally: do we find in them the separation of the fivefold arrangement (of the virtues), and the six parties (in the social organisation)? And further, you, Sir, are all for reputation, and I am all for gain; but where the actual search for reputation and gain may not be in accordance with principle and won't bear to be examined in the light of the right way, let me and you refer the matter tomorrow to the decision of Wu-yo.'

(This Wu-yo) said,

'The small man pursues after wealth; the superior man pursues after reputation. The way in which they change their feelings and alter their nature is different; but if they were to cast away what they do, and replace it with doing nothing, they would be the same. Hence it is said, "Do not be a small man; – return and pursue after the Heavenly in you. Do not be a superior man; – follow the rule of the Heavenly in you. Be it crooked, be it straight, view the thing in the light of Heaven as revealed in you. Look all round on every side of it, and as the time indicates, cease your endeavours. Be it right, be it wrong, hold fast the ring in yourself in which all conditions converge. Alone by yourself, carry out your idea; ponder over the right way. Do not turn your course; do not try to complete your righteousness. You will fail in what you do. Do not haste to be rich; do not follow after your perfection. If you do, you will lose the heavenly in you."

'Pi-kan had his heart cut out; Tzu-hsü had his eyes gouged out: such were the evil consequences of their loyalty. The upright person bore witness against his father; Wei Shäng was drowned: such were the misfortunes of good faith. Master Pao stood till he was dried up; Master Shän would not defend himself: such were the injuries brought on by disinterestedness. Confucius did not see his mother; Master Khwang did not see his father: such were the failures of the righteous. These are instances handed down from former ages, and talked about in these later times. They show us how superior men, in their determination to be correct in their words and resolute in their conduct, paid the penalty of these misfortunes, and were involved in these distresses.'

The position of a sovereign does not necessarily connect with being thought noble.

3: Mr Know-the-Mean answers Mr Dissatisfied

Mr. Dissatisfied, asked Mr. Know-the-Mean, saying,

'There is no man after all who does not strive for reputation and pursue after gain. When men are rich, then others go to them. Going to them, they put themselves beneath them. In that position they do honour to them as nobler than themselves. But to see others taking that position and doing honour to us is the way to prolong life, and to secure the rest of the body and the satisfaction of the mind. You alone, Sir, however, have no idea of this. Is it that your knowledge is deficient? Is it that you have the knowledge, but want the strength to carry it into practice? Or is it that your mind is made up to do what you consider right, and never allow yourself to forget it?'

Know-the-Mean replied,

'Here now is this man judging of us, his contemporaries, and living in the same neighbourhood as himself, that we consider ourselves scholars who have abjured all vulgar ways and risen above the world. He is entirely without the thought of submitting to the rule of what is right. He therefore studies ancient times and the present, and the differing questions about the right and wrong, and agrees with the vulgar ideas and influences of the age, abandoning what is most important and discarding what is most honourable, in order to be free to act as he does. But is he not wide of the mark when he thinks that this is the way to promote long life, and to secure the rest of the body and the satisfaction of the mind? He has his painful afflictions and his quiet repose, but he does not inquire how his body is so variously affected; he has his apprehensive terrors, and his happy joys, but he does not inquire how his mind has such different experiences. He knows how to pursue his course, but he does not know why he does so. Even if he had the dignity of the Son of Heaven, and all the wealth of the kingdom were his, he would not be beyond the reach of misfortunes and evils.'

Dissatisfied rejoined,

'But riches are in every way advantageous to man. With them his attainment of the beautiful and mastery of every art become what the perfect man cannot obtain nor the sagely man reach to; his appropriation of the bravery and strength of others enables him to exercise a powerful sway; his availing himself of the wisdom and plans of others makes him be accounted intelligent and discriminating; his taking advantage of the virtues of others makes him be esteemed able and good. Though he may not be the holder of a state, he is looked to with awe as a ruler and father. Moreover, music, beauty, with the pleasures of the taste and of power, are appreciated by men's minds and rejoiced in without any previous learning of them; the body reposes in them without waiting for the example of others. Desire and dislike, avoidance and pursuit, do not require any master; – this is the nature of man. Though the world may condemn one's indulgence of them, who can refrain from it?'

Know-the-Mean replied,

'The action of the wise is directed for the good of the people, but they do not go against the (proper) rule and degree. Therefore when they have enough, they do not strive (for more); they have no further object, and so they do not seek for one. When they have not enough, they will seek for it; they will strive for it in every quarter, and yet not think of themselves as greedy. If they have (already) a superfluity, they will decline (any more); they will decline the throne, and yet not think of themselves as disinterested: the conditions of disinterestedness and greediness are (with them) not from the constraint of anything external. Through their exercise of introspection, their power may be that of the sovereign, but they won't in their nobility be arrogant to others; their wealth may be that of the whole kingdom, but they won't in their possession of it make a mock of others. They estimate the evils to which they are exposed, and are anxious about the reverses which they may experience. They think how their possessions may be injurious to their nature, and therefore they will decline and not accept them; – but not because they seek for reputation and praise.

'Yao and Shun were the sovereigns, and harmony prevailed. It did so, not because of their benevolence towards the people; – they would not, for what was (deemed) admirable, injure their lives. Shan Küan and Hsü Yu might have been the sovereigns, but they would not receive the throne; – not that they declined it without purpose, but they would not by its occupancy injure themselves. These all followed after what was advantageous to them, and declined what was injurious, and all the world celebrates their superiority. Thus, though they enjoy the distinction, they did what they did, not for the sake of the reputation and praise.'

Dissatisfied (continued his argument), saying,

'In thus thinking it necessary for their reputation, they bitterly distressed their bodies, denied themselves what was pleasant, and restricted themselves to a bare sustenance in order to sustain their life; but so they had life-long distress, and long-continued pressure till their death arrived.'

Know-the-Mean replied,

'Tranquil ease is happiness; a superfluity is injurious: so it is with all things, and especially it is so, where the superfluity is of wealth. The ears of the rich are provided with the music of bells, drums, flageolets and flutes; and their mouths are stuffed with the flesh of fed beasts and with wine of the richest flavour; so are their desires satisfied, till they forget their proper business: theirs may be pronounced a condition of disorder. Sunk deeply in their self-sufficiency, they resemble individuals ascending a height with a heavy burden on their backs: their condition may be pronounced one of bitter suffering. They covet riches, thinking to derive comfort from them; they covet power, and would fain monopolise it; when quiet and retired, they are drowned in luxurious indulgence; their persons seem to shine, and they are full of boasting: they may be said to be in a state of disease. In their desire to be rich and striving for gain, they fill their stores, and, deaf to all admonition, refuse to desist from their course. They are even more elated, and hold on their way: their conduct may be pronounced disgraceful. When their wealth is amassed till they cannot use it, they clasp it to their breasts and won't part with it; when their hearts are distressed with their very fulness, they still seek for more and won't desist: their condition may be said to be sad. In-doors they are apprehensive of pilfering and begging thieves, and out-of-doors they are afraid of being injured by plundering robbers; in-doors they have many chambers and partitions, and out-of-doors they do not dare to go alone: they may be said to be in a state of (constant) alarm.

'These six conditions are the most deplorable in the world, but they forget them all, and have lost their faculty of judgement. When the evil comes, though they begged it with all the powers of their nature, and by the sacrifice of all their wealth, they could not bring back one day of untroubled peace. When they look for their reputation, it is not to be seen; when they seek for their wealth, it is not to be got. To task their thoughts, and destroy their bodies, striving for (such an end as) this; – is it not a case of great delusion?'

Riches could be advantageous to all who can handle them well.

If the wise seek for reputation and praise, it may be for the sake of helping others.

Go for tranquil ease and a condition of self-sufficiency and comforts.

Riches might be the source of much anxious alarm.


30 - Delight in the Sword-Fight

1: Chuang Tzu, an expert swordsman, is asked to wean a king from his belligerent delight

Formerly, king Wän of Kâo delighted in the sword-fight. More than three thousand men, masters of the weapon, appeared as his guests, lining the way on either side of his gate, and fighting together before him day and night. Over a hundred of them would die or be (severely) wounded in the course of a year, but he was never weary of looking on (at their engagements), so fond was he of them. The thing continued for three years, when the kingdom began to decay, and other states to plan measures against it.

The crown-prince Khwei was distressed, and laid the case before his attendants, saying,

'If any one can persuade the king, and put an end to these swordsmen, I will give him a thousand ounces of silver.'

His attendants said,

'(Only) Master Chuang is able to do this.'

Thereupon the prince sent men with a thousand ounces of silver to offer to Master Chuang, who, however, would not accept them, but went with the messengers. When he saw the prince, he said,

'Prince, what have you to say to Kâu, and why would you give me the silver?'

The prince replied,

'I have heard that you, master, are sagacious and sage. I sent you respectfully the thousand ounces of silver, as a prelude to the silks and other gifts'. But as you decline to receive them, how dare I now tell you (what I wished from you)?'

Master Chuang rejoined,

'I have heard, prince, that what you wanted me for was to wean the king from what is his delight. Suppose that in trying to persuade his Majesty I should offend him and not fulfil your expectation, I shall be punished with death; – and could I then enjoy this silver? Or suppose that I shall succeed in persuading his Majesty, and accomplish what you desire, what is there in the kingdom of Kâo that I might ask for which I would not get?'

The crown-prince said,

'Yes; but my (father), the king, will see none but swordsmen.'

Master Chuang replied,

'I know; but I am expert in the use of the sword.'

'That is well,' observed the prince; 'but the swordsmen whom his Majesty sees all have their hair in a tangle, with whiskers projecting out. They wear slouching caps with coarse and unornamented tassels, and their coats are cut short behind. They have staring eyes, and talk about the hazards of their game. The king is delighted with all this; but now you are sure to present yourself to him in your scholar's dress, and this will stand greatly in the way of your success.'

Master Chuang said,

'I will then, with your leave, get me a swordsman's dress.'

This was ready in three days, and when he appeared in it before the prince, the latter went with him to introduce him to the king, who then drew his sword from its scabbard and waited for him. When Master Chuang entered the door of the hall, he did not hurry forward, nor, when he saw the king, did he bow. The king asked him,

'What do you want to teach me, Sir, that you have got the prince to mention you beforehand?'

The reply was,

'I have heard that your Majesty is fond of the sword-fight, and therefore I have sought an interview with you on the ground of (my skill in the use of) the sword.'

'What can you do with your sword against an opponent?'

'Let me meet with an opponent every ten paces, my sword would deal with him, so that I should not be stopped in a march of a thousand li [i.e., 500 kilometres].'

The king was delighted with him, and said,

'You have not your match in the kingdom.'

Master Chuang replied,

'A good swordsman first makes a feint (against his opponent), then seems to give him an advantage, and finally gives his thrust, reaching him before he can return the blow. I should like to have an opportunity to show you my skill.'

The king said,

'Stop (for a little), Master. Go to your lodging, and wait for my orders. I will make arrangements for the play, and then call you.'

The king accordingly made trial of his swordsmen for seven days, till more than sixty of them were killed, or (severely) wounded. He then selected five or six men, and made them bring their swords and take their places beneath the hall, after which he called Master Chuang, and said to him,

'Today I am going to make (you and) these men show what you can do with your swords.'

'I have long been looking for the opportunity,' replied Master Chuang. The king then asked him what would be the length of the sword which he would use; and he said,

'Any length will suit me, but I have three swords, any one of which I will use, as may please your Majesty. Let me first tell you of them, and then go to the arena.'

'I should like to hear about the three swords,' said the king; and Master Chuang went on,

'There is the sword of the Son of Heaven; the sword of a feudal prince; and the sword of a common man.'

'What about the sword of the Son of Heaven?'

'This sword has Yen-khi and Shih-khang for its point; Khi and (Mount) Tâi for its edge; Zin and Wei for its back; Kâu and Sung for its hilt; Han and Wei for its sheath. It is embraced by the wild tribes all around; it is wrapped up in the four seasons; it is bound round by the Sea of Po; and its girdle is the enduring hills. It is regulated by the five elements; its wielding is by means of Punishments and Kindness; its unsheathing is like that of the Yin and Yang; it is held fast in the spring and summer; it is put in action in the autumn and winter. When it is thrust forward, there is nothing in front of it; when lifted up, there is nothing above it; when laid down, there is nothing below it; when wheeled round, there is nothing left on any side of it; above, it cleaves the floating clouds; and below, it penetrates to every division of the earth. Let this sword be once used, and the princes are all reformed, and the whole kingdom submits. This is the sword of the Son of Heaven.'

King Wän looked lost in amazement, and said again,

'And what about the sword of a feudal lord?'

(Master Chuang) replied,

'This sword has wise and brave officers for its point; pure and disinterested officers for its edge; able and honourable officers for its back; loyal and sage officers for its hilt; valiant and eminent officers for its sheath. When this sword is thrust directly forward, as in the former case, there is nothing in front of it; when directed upwards, there is nothing above it; when laid down, there is nothing below it; when wheeled round, there is nothing on any side of it. Above, its law is taken from the round heaven, and is in accordance with the three luminaries; below, its law is taken from the square earth, and is in accordance with the four seasons; between, it is in harmony with the minds of the people, and in all the parts of the state there is peace. Let this sword be once used, and you seem to hear the crash of the thunder-peal. Within the four borders there are none who do not respectfully submit, and obey the orders of the ruler. This is the sword of the feudal lord.'

'And what about the sword of the common man?' asked the king (once more).

(Master Chuang) replied,

'The sword of the common man (is wielded by) those who have their hair in a tangle, with whiskers projecting out; who wear slouching caps with coarse and unornamented tassels, and have their coats cut short behind; who have staring eyes, and talk (only) about the hazards (of their game). They hit at one another before you. Above, the sword slashes through the neck; and below, it scoops out the liver and lungs. This is the sword of the common man. (The users of it) are not different from fighting cocks; any morning their lives are brought to an end; they are of no use in the affairs of the state. Your Majesty occupies the seat of the Son of Heaven, and that you should be so fond of the swordsmanship of such common men, is unworthy of your Majesty, I venture to think.'

On this the king drew Master Chuang with him, and went up to the top of the hall, where the cook set forth a meal, which the king walked round three times (unable to sit down to it). Master Chuang said to him,

'Sit down quietly, Great King, and calm yourself. I have said all I wished to say about swords.'

King Wän thereafter did not quit the palace for three months, and the swordsmen all killed themselves in their own rooms.


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

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