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WISDOM OF THE VAOlST MASTERS

THE WORKS OF
LAO ZI (LAO TZU)
LIE ZI (LIEH TZU)
ZHUANG ZI (CHUANG TZU)
RENDERED INTO ENGLISH BY DEREK BRYCE
FROM THE FRENCH OF LEON WIEGER'S
LES PERES VU SYSTEME TAOITE
(CATHASIA, LES BELLES LETTRES, PARIS)
Copyr i ght Derek Bryce 1984
Al l ri ght s reser ved.
Fi rst publ i shed i n Gr eat Br i t ai n i n 1984 by
Ll anerch Enterpri ses, Ll anerch, Fel i nfach, Lampe ter, Oy fed, Wal es.
-ISBN 0-94 7992-01-4 (boards)
I SBN 0-947992-02-2 ( l i mp)
Pri nted by Cambr i an News, Aberystwyt h.
i i i
CONTENTS
PREFACE v
TRANSLATOR'S INTRODUCTION ix
LAO ZI, DAO DE JING 1
LIE ZI, CHONG HU CHEN JING:
1 Genesis And Transformation 41
2 Natural Simplicity 50
3 Psychical States
63
4 Extinction And Union 70
5 The Cosmic Continuum 78
6 Fate 90
7 Yang Zhu
97
8 Anecdotes
106
ZHUANG Zl, NAN HUA CHEN JING:
1 Towards The Ideal 117
2 Universal Harmony 121
3 Maintenance Of The Living Principle 127
4 The World Of Men
129
5 Perfect Action 135
6 The Principle, First Master 139
7 The Government Of Princes 147
8 Webbed Feet 150
9 Trained Horses 153
10 Thieves, Great And Small 155
11 True And False Politics
159
12 Heaven And Earth 166
13 Heavenly Influence
174
14 Natural Evolution 179
15 Wisdom And Incrustation 185
16 Nature And Convention 187
17 The Autumn Flood 189
18 Perfect Joy 197
19 The Meaning Of Life 201
20 Voluntary Obscurity 208
21 Transcendent Action 214
22 Knowledge Of The Principle 221
23 Return To Nature 229
24 Sim
p
licity 236
25 Truth
245
26 Fate 252
27 S
p
eech And Words 257
28 Inde
p
endence 260
29 Politicians 267
30 Swordsmen
274
31 The Old Fisherman 276
32 Wisdom 280
33 Diverse Schools 285
INDICES: SUBJECT, ANECDOTES, NAMES
292
iv
PREFACE.
This volume contains what has come down to us from three Chinese
Sages, Lao Zi, Lie Zi, and Zhuang Zi, who lived between the sixth
and fourth centuries before the Christian era.
Lao Zi, the Old Master, was a contemporary of Confucius. He
probably lived between the dates 570 - 490 B.C. (the dates of
Confucius being 552 - 479 B.C.). Nothing is historically certain
about this man. The Daoist tradition says that he was the Zhou
Court Librarian, and that he saw Confucius once, about 501 B.C.
Weary of the lawlessness of the empire, he left it, and never came
back. At the time of his crossing the Western Pass, he composed
the celebrated work translated in this volume, for his friend
Yin Xi, the Guardian of the Pass. The historian Sima Qian dedicated
a short work to him around 100 B. C., saying that, according to
some, the family name of the Old Master was Li, his ordinary first
name Er, his noble first name Baiyang, and his posthumous name
Dan (whence comes the posthumous name Lao Dan). But, adds the
famous historian, who was, like his father, more than half Daoist,
'some say otherwise, and, of the Old Master, we can only be sure
that, having loved obscurity above all, he deliberately covered up
the traces of his life' (Shi Ji, chapter 63). I do not expound
the legend of Lao Zi here, this volume being historical.
Lie Zi, Master Lie, from the name Lie Yukou, Jived some forty
years in obscurity and poverty in the Principality of Zheng. He was
driven away by famine in 398 B. C. At that time his disciples could
have written down the substance of his teaching. This is according
to the Daoist tradition. It has often been strongly attacked, but the
critics of the bibliographic index, Sikucuan Shu, judged that the
writing should be upheld.
Zhuang Zi, Master Zhuang, from his name Zhuang Zhou, is scarcely
better known to us. He must have been in the decline of his life
towards 330 B.C. Sima Qian describes him as 'very learned' (Shi Ji,
appendix). He voluntarily spent his life in obscurity and poverty,
fighting with verve against the theories and abuses of his times.
It is therefore between the dates 500 and 330 B.C. that the for
mation of the ideas contained in this volume should be placed.
I say the ideas, not the writings; and this is why: The tradition
affirms formally that Lao Zi wrote. A careful examination of his
work seems to confirm the tradition. It is clearly a tirade, all in
one breath, the author returning to the beginning when he wanders;
a series of points and maxims, rather than a coherent edition; a
statement by a man who is precise, clear, and profound; who takes
up points a
g
ain, and retouches them with insistence. Originally
the work was divided neither into books nor chapters. The division
v
Preface.
was made later, and fairly clumsily. - An examination of the two
treatises bearing the names of Lie Zi and Zhuang Zi gives evidence
that these men did not write. They are made up of a collection of
notes brought together by listeners, often with variance and errors,
then collated, jumbled and reclassified by copyists, and interpolated
by non-Oaoist hands so well that, in the present text, there are
some pieces diametrically opposed to the certain doctrine of
the authors. The chapters are the work of later collators who
brought together parts which were more or less similar. Several
were put in complete disorder by the accident which muddled so
many old Chinese writings, the breaking of the tie of a bundle of
laths, and the mixing up of the latter. - Note that these treatises
were not included in the destruction of books in 213 B.C.
The doctrine of these three authors is one. Lie Zi and Zhuang Zi
develop Lao Zi and claim to take his ideas back to Huang Di (the
Yellow Emperor), the founder of the Chinese Empire. These ideas
are quite close to those of India of the contemporary period, the
age of the Upanishads; a realist, non-idealist pantheism. In the
beginning was Dao, the Principle, described as imperceptible like
tenuous matter, motionless at first. One day this Principle produced
De, its Virtue, which acted in two alternative modes, yin and yang,
producing, as if by condensation, heaven and earth and the air
between them, unconscious agents of of the production of all
sentient beings. These sentient beings come an go along the thread
of a circular evolution, birth, growth, decline, death, rebirth, and
so on. Although the Sovereign Above of the Annals and the Odes is
not expressly denied, He is by-passed and ignored in a way which is
tantamount to a denial. Man has no other origin than the multitude
of beings. He is more successful than the others, that is all.
And he is man for this time only. After his death, he re-enters into
some new existence, not necessarily human, even not necessarily
animal or plant. This is transformism in the widest sense of the
word. - The Sage makes his life last, through temperance, mental
peace, abstention from all that causes fatigue or wear. That
is why he keeps himself in obscurity and retreat. If he is drawn
from it by force of circumstances, he governs and administers
after the same principles, without tiring or wearing himself out,
doing the least possible; preferably nothing at all, in order not to
hinder the rotation of the cosmic wheel, universal evolution.
The Sage lives in apathy through abstraction, looking at everything
from so high, so far, that aJJ appears fused into one, so there are
no longer any details, individuals, and in consequence there is
neither interest nor passion. Above all the Sage has no system, rule,
art, .morality. There is neither good nor evil, nor sanctions. The
Sage foJJows his natural instincts, Jets the world go day by day,
and evolves with the great whole.
Preface.
The following points remain to be noted, for a jut understanding
of the contents of this volume.
Many of the characters used by the ancient Daoists should be taken
in their original etymological meaning which has since fallen
into disuse or become rare. Thus Dao De Jing does not mean
'Treatise on the Way and Virtue' (meanings derived from modern
usage of Dao and De), but 'Treatise on the Principle and its Action'
(from the ancient meanings).
None of the facts alleged by Lie Zi and above all by Zhuang Zi
are of historical value. The men they name are no more real than
the personified abstractions they put on stage. They are oratory
procedures, and nothing more. Above all one should guard oneself
from taking the assertions of Confucius, which have been invented
at will, as real. Some badly informed authors have already fallen
into this error, and in good faith imputed to the Sage what his
critic Zhuang Zi lent him in order to ridicule him.
Confucius, the butt of Zhuang Zi, is shown in three postures. -
First, as the author of conventionalism and destroyer of naturalism;
and in consequence the sworn opponent of Daoism. This is the true
note. These texts are all authentic. - Second, as converted and
preaching more or less pure Daoism to his own disciples. This is
fiction, ingeniously constructed to make even the discourses of the
Master himself show the insufficiency of Confucianism and the
advantages of Daoism. These are authentic texts, but one should
guard oneself from imputing them to Confucius. - Third, a few
purely Confucian texts are interpolations. I note them all.
Likewise the paragons of the Confucian system, the Yellow Emper
or, Yao, Shun, the Great Yu, and others, are shown in three pos
tures. - First, abhorred as authors or falsifiers of artificial civil
ization. This is the true note; these are authentic texts. - Second,
praised for a particular point, common to Confucians and Daoists.
These texts also are authentic. - Third, praised in general, without
restriction. These are Confucian interpolations. They are not
numerous, and I point them out. - I think further that, where the
text gives the impression of more than one Yao, or Shun, these
are errors made by copyists who have written down one character
for another.
It is not known at what date the work of Lao Zi was named Dao De
Jing. This name already figured in Huai Nan Zi, in the second
century B.C. - In 742 A.D. Emperor Huan Zhong, of the Tang
dynasty, gave the treatise of Li Zi the title of Chong Hu Chen
Jing, 'Treatise of the Transcendent Master of the Void;' and
v i i
Preface.
the treatise of Zhuang Zi the title Nan Hua Chen Jing, 'Treatise
of the Transcendent Master from Nan Hua' (named after the place
where Zhuang Zi could have lived), the two authors having received
the title of Zhen Ren, transcendent men. The Dao De Jing is often
also entitled Dao De Zhen Jing since that time.
There are notes clarifying difficult passages, either in the text,
or as footnotes. For personal names look in the index of names*
at the end of the volume. - The letters TH refer to my 'Textes
Historiques.'
I have tried to make my translation as easy to read as possible,
without harming the fidelity of interpretation. For my aim is to
put these old thoughts, which have so many times been thought
again by others, and taken by them as new, within the reach
of all thinkers.
Xian Xian (He Jian Fu) 2nd 4 April 1913.
Dr. Leon Wieger S.J.
*Thi s i ndex gi ves Pinyi n, Wade-Gi les, and Wieger's E FE 0 names. Onl y the more
i mportant names are incl uded. In most cases transcription of Wieger s names and
thei r Wade-Gi les equi valent gi ves an identical result in Pinyin. However there
are occasi onal di f ferences, due ei ther to a difference of opi ni on on the pronun
ci ation of Chi nese names, or the use of alternative names. Where such vari at i ons
occur, the Pi nyi n spell i ng has gener al l y, but not al ways, been der i ved from the
Wade-Gi l es al ternat i ve. For example Mo Zi has been used throughout, deri ved from
the Wade-Gi l es Mo-t zu, instead of Wieger's Mei -ti. L i kewise, r at her than transcri be
Wieger's Hoang-ti i nto Pi nyi n, we have used the name ' Yel l ow Emperor' whi ch i s
al ready fami l i ar to readers of Wade-Gi les texts. Readers shoul d note that the
titl e of emperor i s used l oosel y to i ncl ude rul ers from before the ti me of the
Chinese Empi re.
Al though Dr. Wleger's other publ i shed works ( Textes Hi stori ques, etc. ) are no l onger
easi l y avai l abl e, his footnotes referring to them have been retai ned for the sake of
completeness.
TRANSLATOR s INTRODUCTION.
leon Wieger spent a major part of his adult life in China. His
classic translations of the Daoist writings are amongst the most
understandable that have ever been produced. The quality of his
work gives evidence of his exceptional penetration of the Chinese
way of thought. The clarity and precision of his work must also be
attributed to his careful study of the traditional Chinese commen
taries, his recognition that key words such as Dao (the Principle)
should be translated according to their ancient meanings, and his
choice of unambiguous descriptive terms such as the Sage, trans
cendent man, etc. Dr Wieger' s explanatory additions to the work
include footnotes, separate commentary summaries, and additions
to the text which are clearly demarcated in parentheses or in
italics.
The French Publishers have reprinted the first edition of Dr.
Wieger's book several times without making any corrections or
modifications to his conclusions, 'out of respect for his thought.'
The present English language translation is of the complete first
edition, unmodified, except that Chinese names have been put in
the modern Pinyin spelling. However, as it is now a long time since
the first edition was published, a few comments are offered in this
introduction.
When Daoism and Confucianism are considered separately, they give
the impression of being clear Jy opposed. This is the point of view
taken by Dr. Wieger, expecially in his comments concerning the
apparent Daoist negation of the Sovereign On High of the Annals
and the Odes. His footnote to this effect ( Zhuang Zi, chapter 2 B)
is certainly correct, but the negation is of the concept of the
Sovereign as a distinct material being.' When Daoism and Confucian
ism are look on as having existed side by side during more than two
thousand years of Chinese history, they are seen as complementary,
forming the esoterism and exoterism of the Chinese Tradition.
From this point of view it is more correct to see the Daoists as
by-passing, rather than denying, the concept of the Sovereign. In
Western terms, Dao, the Principle, equates with the metaphysical
concept of the absolute, beyond being, or the monotheistic concept
of the Most High (as in the Old Testament's 'Melchisedec ## priest
of the Most High God,' and the ' Most High' of the Koran). The
Soveriegn equates with the metaphysical concept of 'being', (in
monotheistic terms, God).
In his preface Dr. Wieger points out that words and actions which
are attributed to people from Chinese history should not be given
a historical value. These writers used history as Shakespeare
used it, to provide basic characters and events which could be
used for purposes of literary illustration. Likewise references
i x
Translator's introuction.
to geographical locations, and the human body, sometimes relate to
the corporeal state, and sometimes to the psychical state. It
is probably in the latter sense that the heart 'X-ray' (Lie Zi,
chapter 4 H) and the reference to True Men breathing down to their
toes (Zhuang Zi, chapter 6 B) should be taken.
Since the time when Dr Wieger wrote his preface, experts are of
the opinion that of the book of Zhuang Zi, the first seven chapters
(known as the inner chapters) are the most authentic. Chapters 8 to
22 are known as the outer chapters, and the first three of these are
regarded by some as including the work of an inferior (and volatile)
author. These three chapters should not be taken out of the general
context of the book as a whole, in which the Sage 'never acts
unless constrained to do so,' and 'seeks obscurity and refrains
from action' ... 'when times are politically bad.' Chapters 23 to 33
are known as the miscellaneous chapters. Interpolations apart, the
writings in the outer and miscellaneous chapters are no doubt
largely the work of members of Zhuang Zi's school, many possibly
going back to the Master himself.
Readers should note that the word 'being', when it refers to Dao,
the Principle, considered in itself and outside manifestation,
is in a sense inappropriate, since the absolute is beyond being.
However, as Lao Zi says, 'words cannot describe it,' and recourse is
therefore necessary to inappropriate terms leaving the reader to
make the necessary mental transposition. - The word 'psychical'
has been used instead of psychic, the dictionary definition of
the former making it the more appropriate choice for this work. -
The word 'evolution' is used in two senses. Firstly, and generally,
to describe the unfolding of events in time and space, in this
world (or universe). Secondly, but less frequently, it has been used
to describe the progress of the being across successive lives or
incarnations. - The word 'unnamable' has been used in its older
sense, to describe that which is too superior to be given a name,
although modern usage of this term is frequently derogatoryN -
To avoid confusion, the plural of genie has been written as genies,
as the correct plural form, genii, is also one of the plural forms
of genius.
This is a book to read, and read again, not necessarily all at
once, from cover to cover. There is something to be said for
beginning with Lie Zi or Zhuang Zi, and ending with Lao Zi,
since the condensed nature of the latter makes it the most difficult
to understand.
Derek Bryce
September 1984
LAO Zl
DAO DE liNG
OR
A TREATISE ON THE PRINCIPLE AND ITS ACTION
Book 1 .
Chapter 1 . Text.
A. The pr i nci pl e that can be enunc i ated i s not the one t hat al ways
was. The bei ng t hat can be named i s n ot t he one that was at al l
t i mes. Before t i me, t here was an i ne ffab l e , unnamabl e bei ng.
B. When i t was s t i l l unnamabl e, i t conce i ve d heaven and earth.
When i t had thus become namabl e , i t gav e bi r t h to the mult i t ude of
bei ngs.
C. These two act s are but one, under t wo differ ent denomi nat i ons.
The uni que act of gener at i on; t hat i s the mys t er y of the begi nni ng;
the myst ery of myst er i es; the door t hr ough wh i ch have i ssued, on
to the scene of the uni verse, al l t he mar vel s whi ch i t con t ai ns .
D. The knowl edge t hat man has o f t he u ni ver sal pr i nci pl e depends
on hi s s t ate of mi nd. The mi nd habi tua l l y f ree from pass i on knows
i ts myster i ous essence. The habi t ual l y pass i oned mi nd knows onl y i ts
ef fects.
Summary of commentaries.
Before time, and throughout t i me, there has been a self-existing
being, eteral, infini te, complete, omnipresent. This being cannot
be named or spoken about, becaue human terms only apply to
perceptible beings. Now the primordial being was primi tively,
and is still essentially, non-sentient, non-percepti ble. Outside
this being, before the begining, there was nothing. It is referred
to as 'wu, ' wi thout form, 'huan, ' mystery, or 'Dao, ' the Principle.
Te period when there was not as yet any sentient bing, when
the essence alone of the Principle existed, is called 'xian tian, '
before heaven. Tis essence possessed t wo immanent properties,
the 'yin, ' concentrati on, and the 'yang, ' expnsion, whi ch were
exteriorized one day uder the percepti ble forms of heaven (yng)
and earth (yin). Tat day marked the beginning of ti me. From
that day the Principle can be named by the double term of heaven
and earth. Te heaven-earth binomial emi ts all existent sentient
beings. The heaven-earth binomial is called 'you, ' sentient being,
which through 'de, ' the virtue of the Principle, generat es all
of i ts products that fill up the world. The period since heaven
and earth were exteriorized is called 'hou tian, ' after heaven.
The state yin of concentrat ion and rest, of i mpercepti bility,
1
Lao Zi.
which was that of the Principle before time, is its inherent state.
The state yang of expansion and action, of mani festation in sentient
beings, is its state in time, in some ways inappropri ate. To these
two states of the Principle there corresponds, in the faculty
of human awareness, rest and activity, or, put another way,
empty and full. When the human mind produces ideas, is full
of images, is moved by passion, then it is onl y able to know the
effects of the Principle, di st inct perceptibl e bei ngs. When the
human mind, absolutely arrested, is completely empty and calm,
i t i s a pure and cl ear mi rror, capable of refl ecting the ineffable
and unnamable essence of the Principle itself. - Compare wi th
chapter 32.
Chapter 2. Text.
A. Everyone has the i dea of beauty, and from t hat (by oppos i t i on)
t hat of not beaut i ful ( ugl y) . All men have t he i dea of good, and
from t hat ( by contrast )
t hat of not good (bad) . Thus, bei ng and
nothi ngness, di ffi cul t and easy, long and shor t , h i gh and l ow,
sound and tone, before and after, are cor rel at i ve i deas, one of
whi ch, i n bei ng known, reveal s the ot her .
B. That bei ng so, the Sage serves wi t hout ac ting and teaches
wi thout speak i ng.
C. He lets al l bei ngs become, wit hout t hwar t i ng t hem, he l et s
them l i ve, wi thout monopo l i z i ng them, and l ets t hem act , wi thout
expl oi t i ng t hem.
D. He does not at t r i but e to himself t he e f f ect s pr oduced, and
i n consequence these effects l ast .
Summary of commentaries.
Correlatives, opposites, contraries, such as yes and no, have
all entered into this world through the common door and they
have all come out of the one Principle (chapter 1 C). They are
not subjective illusions of the human mind, but object i ve states,
corresponding with the t wo alternative sta tes of the Principle,
yin and yng, concentra tion and expansion. The profound reali ty,
the Principle, remains always the same, essentially; but the alterna
tion of its rest and movement creates the play of causes and
effects, an incessant coming and going. The Sage lets this play
have its free course. He keeps himself from interfering ei ther
by physical action or moral pressure. He guars hi mself from
poking his finger into the meshwork of causes, into the perpetual
movement of natural evolut ion, out of fear of upset t ing this
complica ted and delicate mechanism. All that he does, when
he does something, is to let his example be seen. He leaves to
each a place in the su, freedom, and personal accomplishments.
2
Lao Zi.
He does not at tri bute to hi msel f the general effect produced
(of good government) which belongs to the ensemble of caues.
In consequence this effect (of good order), not having been made
a target for the jealouy or a mbition of others, has a chance
of lasting.
Chapter J. Text.
A. Not maki ng any speci al case of cleverness, of abi l i t y, wi l l
have t he resul t t hat people wi l l no longer pus h themsel ves. Not
to pri ze rare obj ect s wi l l have t he resul t t hat no one wi ll cont i nue
t o st eal . To show not hi ng as al l ur i ng will have the ef fect of
put t i ng peopl e' s hearts at rest .
B. Therefore t he pol i t i cs of Sages cons i s t s i n empt y i ng the mi nds
of men and fi l l i ng thei r stomachs, i n weakeni ng t he i r i ni t i at i ve
and strengt heni ng t hei r bones. The i r cons t ant car e i s to hol d
the peopl e i n i gnorance and apat hy.
C. They make t hi ngs s uch t hat c l e v e r peopl e dare not ac t , for
there is not hi ng t hat cannot be s or t ed out t hr ough t he pr ac t i ce
of non-act i on.
Summary of commentaries.
Al l emotion, every trouble, each perversion of the mind, comes
from i ts being put in commui cation by the senses wi th attractive,
al luring exterior objects. Te sight of the ostentation of the
newly ri ch creates a mbi tion. Te sight of hoards of precious
objects creates thi eves. Suppress al l objects capabl e of tempting,
or at least the knowledge of them, and the world wi l l enjoy perfect
peace. Make men into doci le and productive work horses; watch
that when well-rested they do not think; hinder any initiative,
suppress any enterprise. Knowing nothing, men will not be enviou,
will not need surveillance, and they wi l l benefit the state.
Chapter 4. Text.
A. The Principle produces in abundance, b u t wi t hou t fi l l i ng i tself
up.
B. Empt y abyss , it seems to be (i s) the ancest or
(
or i gi n) of al l
beings.
C. It is peaceful, simple, modest, ami abl e.
D. Spilling i tself out i n waves, i t s eems to r emai n ( i t r emai ns)
always the same.
E. I do not know of whom i t i s t he son ( wher e i t comes from) .
I t seems t o have been (it was) before t he Sover ei gn.
Lao Zi.
Summary of commentaries.
This important chapter is devoted to the descripti on of the Prin
ciple. Because of the abstract ion of the subject , and perhaps also
through prudence, his conclusions shocking the ancient Chinese
tradi tions, the author uses three times the verb 'to seem' instead of
the categoric verb 'to be'. - He does not decl are hi mself on the
question of the origin of the Pri nciple, but places it before that of
the Sovereign of the Annals and the Odes. This Sovereign could not
therefore be, for Lao Zi , a God crea tor, or governor, of the u
iverse. The Sovereign is therefore, practi cal ly, nega ted (or bypassed
- see transl ator's introducti on). - The Princi ple, in i tsel f, is l i ke
an i mmense abyss, l ike an infini t e spring. Al l sent ient beings
are produced by i ts exterioriza ti on, through i ts vi rtue operat ing in
the heaven-earth binomia l . But senti ent beings, terminat i ons of the
Principle, do not add to the princi pl e, do not make i t greater, do
not fi l l it up, as is said in the text. Since t hey do not go outside i t ,
they do not diminish i t , nor empty i t, and t he Principle remains
al ways the same. - Four qual ities are at t ributed to i t , which l ater
on will often be put forward for imi ta t ion by the Sage (for exa mple,
chapter 56). These qual i ti es are inadequately defined by the posi t i ve
terms peaceful , simple, modest, ami abl e. The terms of the Chinese
text are in fact more complex: 'Bei ng soft, wi t hout sharp corners or
cutting edges; not being embroi l ed or compl ica t ed; not dazzl ing, bt
shining wi th a tempered, somewha t dull, l ight; wi l l ingly sharing the
dust, the humbleness, of the common peopl e. '
Chapter 5. Text.
A. Heaven and earth are not good to t he bei ngs t hat t hey produce,
but treat them l i ke straw dogs.
B. Li ke heaven and earth, t he Sage i s not good for t he peopl e he
governs, but treats them l i ke st raw dogs.
C. The betwi xt of heaven and ear t h, seat of t he Pri nc i pl e, the
pl ace from where i ts vi rt ue act s, i s l i ke a bel l ows, l i ke the bag of
a bel l ows of whi ch heaven and ear t h woul d be the t wo boards,
whi ch empt i es i tsel f wi thout exhaus t i ng i tsel f, whi ch moves i tsel f
external l y wi thout cease.
D. Thi s is al l that we can underst and of the Pr i nc i pl e and of
i ts act i on as producer. To s eek to det ai l i t furt her usi ng words
and numbers woul d be a waste o f t i me. Let us hol d oursel ves
to thi s grand i dea.
Summary of commentaries.
There are two kinds of goodness: First there is goodness of a
superior orer, which loves the whole, and only loves the integral
4
Lao Zi.
prts of this whole as integrl prts, and not for themselves,
nor for thei r own good. Second there is goodness of an inferior
orer, which lovs indi viduals, in themselves, and for their own
good. Heaven and earth, which produce all beings through the
vi rtue of the Principle, produce them uconsciouly and are not
good to them, says the text. They are good to them from a superior
goodness, not an inferior goodness, say the commentators. This
comes bck to saying that they treat them with a cold opportuism,
envisaging only the ui versal good, not their prticular good;
making them prosper if they are ueful, suppressing them when
they are uel ess. This cold opportui sm is expressed by the term
'strw dog. ' In antiquity, at the head of fueral processions they
carried figures of stra w dogs designed to take up all the upleasant
influences on the journey. Before the fueral they were prepared
wi th care and looked after becaue they would soon become ueful.
After the fueral they were destroyed because they had become
unpleasant, stuffed as they were with captive noxiou influences,
as Zhuang Zi tells u in chapter 14 D. - In government the Sage
should act like heaven and earth. He should love the state and not
its individuals. He should favour useful subjects, and suppress
ueless, hindering, or harmful subjects, opportuely, without any
other considerati on. The history of China is full of applications
of this principle. Such a minister, cherished for a long ti me,
was suddenly executed becaue, the pli t i cal orientation having
changed, he would from then on have been in the way. Whatever
had been his earli er merits, his time had come in the uiversal
I
revoluti on. He was suppressed like a stra w dog. It is ueless to
show that these ideas are diametrically opposed to the Christian
ideas of Providence, of the love of Go for each of his creatures,
of grace, benediction, etc. That is goodness of an inferior orer,
say the Daoist Sages with a disdainful smile. - There follows
the famou comprison of the uiversal bellows, to which the
Daoist authors often return. It will be developed further in the
next chapter. - Te concluion is that all that one knows of the
Principle and its action, is that it produces the uivrse made
up of beings; but the uiverse alone matters to it, not any partic
ular being. This last point can only be made with the reservtion
that it depends on whether one can employ the verb 'to matter'
with reference to a producer that breathes out its work without
kowing it. Brahma of the Hindu has at least some kindness
in the soap-bubbles he blows; the Principle of the Daoists has
none.
Chapter 6. Text.
A. The expansive transcendent power which resides in the median
space, the virtue of the Principle, does not die. I t is always
5
Lao Zi.
the same, and acts the same, wi t hout di mi nut i on or cessat i on.
B. Thi s vi rtue i s the mysteri ous mother of al l bei ngs.
C. The doorway of t hi s mysteri ous mother i s the root of heaven
and earth, the Pri nci pl e.
D. Sprout i ng fort h, she does not expend hersel f; act i ng, she does
not ti re hersel f.
Summary of commentaries.
It must not be forgot ten that the work of Lao Zi was not original ly
divided into chapters, and that the divisions made later have
often been arbi trary, sometimes clumsy. Tis chapter continues
and completes paragraph C and D of chapter 5. It deals wi th
the genesis of beings, through the virtue of the Principl e, which
resides in the median spce, in the bg of the uiversal bel l ows,
whence everything comes. Paragraphs A and B refer to the virtue
of the Principle; pragraphs C and D to the Principle i tself.
Te term 'doorway', wi th the impression of t wo swinging doors,
signifies the al ternate movement, the play of the yin and the
yng, first modificati on of the Princi ple. Tis pl ay was the 'root',
that is to say it produced heaven and earth.. . In other words,
it was through the Princi pl e tha t heaven and earth were exterior
ized, the t wo boards of the bel l ows. 'De', the uiversal producti ve
vzrtue, emanates from the Principle. It operates through, and
bet ween, heaven and earth, in the median space, producing al l
sentient beings without exhaustion and without fat igue.
Chapter 7. Text.
A. I f heaven and earth l ast forever , i t i s because they do not
l i ve for themsel ves.
B. Fol l owi ng thi s exampl e, the Sage, i n wi thdrawi ng, advances;
i n negl ect i ng hi msel f , he conserves h i msel f . As he does not seek
hi s own advant age, everyt hi ng turns t o hi s advantage.
Summary of commentaries.
If heaven and earth last forever, are not destroyed by the jealous,
the enviou, or by enemies, it is becaue they l i ve for al l beings,
doing good to all. If they were to seek their own interest, says
Wang Bi, they would be in confl i ct wi th all beings, a prti cular
interest being always the enemy of the general interest. But
as they are perfectl y disinterested, al l beings flock towars them.
- Like wise, if the Sage were to seek his own interest, he would
only have troubles, and would succeed in nothing. If he were
disinterested like heaven and earth, he would only have friends,
and would succeed in everything. - In orer to come to last,
6
Lao Zi.
i t i s necessary to forget oneself, says Zhang Hongyng. Heaven
and earth do not think of themselves, and they are also the most
durble. If the Sage is wi thout sel f-love, his bdy wi l l last and
his enterprises succeed. If not, it will be qui te otherwise. - Wu
Deng recalls qui te rightly, that by heaven and earth it is necessary
to uderstand the Principle, act ing through heaven and earth. In
this chapter, therefore, the disinterestedness of the Principle is
proposed as an example to the Sage.
Chapter 8. Text.
A. Transcendent goodness i s l i k e wat er .
B. Water l i kes t o do good t o al l bei ngs; i t does not st ruggl e f or any
defi ni te form or pos i t i on, but put s i ts el f in t he l owes t pl aces tha t
no one wants. By t hi s, i t i s t he r e fl ect i on o f t he Pr i nci pl e.
C. From i ts exampl e, t hos e who i mi t at e t he Pr i nci pl e, l ower
themsel ves , si nk themse l ves. The y are bene vol e n t , si ncer e, r egul
ated, effi caci ous , and t hey confor m t he msel ves t o the t i mes.
They do not st r uggl e f or t he i r own i n t er est , but y i e l d. Therefore
they do not suffer any cont radi c t i on .
Summary of commentaries.
Tis chapter continues the preceding one. After the al truism
of heaven and earth, the al truism of water is proposed by way
of exampl e. Ge Zhanggeng summarizes as fol l ows: ' Fl eeing from
the heights, water seeks the depths. It i s not idl e by day or by
night. Above, it forms the rain and the de w, bel ow, the streams
and ri vers. Everywhere i t waters, puri fies. It does good to, and
is ueful to, al l . It al ways obeys and never resists. If one places
a brrage in i ts way, it stops; i f one opens a l ock gate, it flows.
It adapts i tself equal l y to any contai ner, roud, square, or other
wise. - The inclination of men is quite the opposi te. They natural ly
love to profi t themsel ves. They should i mi tate water. Whomsoever
should lower hi mself to serve others, wi l l be loved by all, and
wil l not sufer any contradi ction. '
Chapter 9. Text.
A. To hol d a vase fil l ed to the brim, without spilling anything,
is i mposs i bl e; bet ter not to fi l l i t so. To keep an over-sharpened
blade without i ts edge becomi ng blunt , is impossible; be t t er not
to sharpen i t to thi s extreme. To keep a roomful of precious
stones, wi thout any of i t bei ng misappropria t ed, is impossible;
better not to amass this treasure . No extreme can be maint ained
for a long t i me. Every hei ght is followed by a decline. Likewise
for man.
7
Lao Zi.
B. Whomsoever, havi ng become rich and powerful, takes pri de
in hi mself, prepares thereby hi s own rui n.
c. To retire at the height of one ' s meri t and fame, that i s the
way of heaven.
Summary of commentaries.
A compl etel y ful l vase spi l ls at the sl ightest movement, or l oses
i ts contents through evporation. An over-sharpened blade loses
i ts edge through the effects of the atmosphere. A treasure wi l l
inevi tably be stolen or confiscated. When the su reaches the
zeni th, i t decl ines; when the moon is ful l , it begins to wane.
The point which has reached the highest on a turning wheel ,
redescends as quickly. Whomsoever has understood thi s uiversal ,
ineluctable l aw of diminuti on necessari l y fol l owing augmentation,
gives in his noti ce, retires, as soon as he real izes that his fortue
is at i ts height. He does this, not from fear of humi l iati on, but
from a wise concer for his conservation, and above all in order
to uite himself perfectl y wi th the intentions of destiny. . . When
he is aware that the time has come, says one of the commentators,
the Sage cuts his links, escapes from his cage, and l eaves the
world of vulgari ti es. As is wri t ten in the Mutati ons, he no l onger
serves his prince, because his heart is set on higher things. Likewise
did so many Daoists, who retired to pri vate life at the height
of their fortue, and ended up i n volutary obscuri ty.
Chapter 10. Text.
A. Keep your body and spermatic soul closely united, and ensure
that they do not become separated.
B. Appl y yoursel f such that the air you breat he i n, converted
i nto the aeri al soul , animat es this composite, and keeps i t i ntact
as i n a new-born baby.
C. Wi thol d yoursel f from considerations whi ch are too profound,
i n order not to wear yoursel f out.
D. As for love of the peopl e and anxi ety for the state, l i mi t
yoursel f t o non-act i on.
E. Let t he gates of heaven open and cl ose, wi thout wi shi ng t o
do somethi ng, wi thout interfering.
F. Know al l , be i nformed on everythi ng, and for al l that remai n
i ndi fferent, as i f you knew nothi ng.
G. Produce, breed, wi thout taki ng credi t for what has been prod
uced, wi thout exact i ng a return for your act i ons, wi thout i mposi ng
yoursel f on those you govern. There you have the formul a for
transcendent acti on.
8
Lao Zi.
Summary of commentaries.
Man has t wo souls, a double principle of l i fe. First 'pai ', the
soul coming from the paternal sperm, the principle of becoming
and development of the foetus in the maternal womb. The more
closely that this soul cl ings to the body, the heal thier and stronger
is the new being. After birth, the absorpti on and condensati on
of air produces a second soul, the aerial soul , principle of subseq
uent development, and abve all, of survi val. In opposi ti on to
the rigidi ty of a corpse, fl exi bi l i ty here signifies life. The ne wly
brn chi ld is, for the Daoists, the ideal perfect ion of nature,
sti l l abol utely intact, and wi thout any mixture. Later on this
infant wi ll be i nterpreted as an interior transcendent being, the
principle of survi val . Il lness, excess, weakens the uion of the
spermati c soul wi th the body, thus bringing on the i l lness. Study,
worry, wears out the aerial soul, thereby hastening death. Mainten
ance of the corporeal component of the aerial soul, through clean
l iness, rest, and therapeutic respirati on, makes the programme
of the l ife of the Daoist. - For G, compare wi th chapter 2, C, D.
Chapter 11. Text.
A. A wheel is made o f t hi r t y per cept i bl e spokes , but i t t urns
due t o t he i mpercept i bl e cent r al ax i s o f t he hub.
B. Vessel s are made o f per cept i bl e cl ay, but i t i s the i r i mpercep
t i bl e hol l ow that i s usef ul .
C. The i mpercept i bl e hol es whi ch make the doors and wi ndows
of a house, are i ts essent i al s .
D. I t i s t he i mpercept i bl e t hat pr oduces ef f ect s and resul ts.
Summary of commentaries.
This chapter is connected wi th paragraphs A and B of the preceding
chapter. Man does not l ive by his percepti bl e body, but by the
two i mpercepti ble soul s, the spermat ic and the aerial . Therefore
the Daoist takes care above al l of these t wo invisible enti t ies.
The common people ei ther disbel ieve in them or pay l i ttl e at tention
to them, becaue they are invisi ble. They are preoccupied wi th
percepti ble, material things. Now in many percepti bl e beings,
says the text, the useful , the effective, is what they have of
the i mpercepti bl e, their hol low, a void, a hole. Te commentators
general ize in saying: Everything effective comes from a void;
a being is only effective through i ts empt iness. It seems that
the ancient wheels had thirty spokes because the month has
thirty days.
9
Lao Zi.
Chapter 12. Text.
A. Colours blind the eyes of man. Sounds make hi m dea f. Fl avours
exhaust his taste. Hunting and racing, by unchai ning savage passi ons
in him, madden his heart. The love of rare and di ffi cul t-t o-obtai n
objects pushes him to efforts that harm hi m.
B. Therefore the Sage looks to his stomach, and not hi s senses.
C. He renounces this, in order to embrace t hat. (He renounces what
causes wear, in order to embrace wha t conserves).
Summary of commentaries.
Tis chapter is conected with the preceding one. Te stomach
is the void, therefore the essential and effect i ve prt of man.
It looks after the human composi te and al l i ts prts, through
digestion and assimi lation. It is therefore the object of judi ciou
care for the Daoist Sage. We can uderstand from this why bel l i es
are so esteemed in China, and why the Daoist Sages are oen
represented with pot -bel l ies. On the contrary, the Sage careful l y
abtains from appl icat ion of the senses, exercise of the mind,
curiosi ty; in fact any acti vi ty or pssion that wears out the t wo
souls and the composi te.
Chapter 13. Text.
A. Favour, because it can be lost , is a source of worry. Greatnss,
because it can be ruined, is a source of fear. Wha t do these two
sentences mean?
B. The first means t hat the care required to keep i n favour, and
the fear of losing it, fill the mi nd with worry.
C. The second points out that ruin generally comes from cari ng
too much for one ' s own greatness. He who has no personal ambition
does not have to fear ruin.
D. He who is only concerned about the grea tness of the empi re
(and not that of himself), he who ani y desires the good of the
empi re (and not his own good), to hi m the empi re shoul d be con
fi ded (and i t woul d be in good hands).
Summary of commentaries.
A continuation of the preceding chapter citing other caues of
wear, and other precautions to be taken to avoid them. For those
who are in favour, who occupy important positions, the worry
of holding on to these wears out bdy and soul, becaue they
are strongly attached to their favur and position. Many of the
Daoist Sages were honoured by the favur of great persons and
occupied high positions without personal inconvenience, so detached
10
Lao Zi.
were they from any affection for their situation. Tey desired
not so much to hold on to their positions as to see their resig
nations accepted. Men of this kind can be emperors, princes,
or ministers, without detriment to themselves, and without detri
ment to the empire, which they govern with the highest and
most complete disinterest. Te text of this chapter is faulty
in many modern editions.
Chapter 14. Text.
A. Looki ng, one does not see i t , for i t i s i nv i si bl e. L i st eni ng,
one does not hear i t , for i t i s s i l ent . Touchi ng, one does not
feel i t, for i t i s i mpal pabl e. These t hree at t r i butes must not
be separat ed, for t hey desi gnat e one and t he same bei ng.
B. Thi s bei ng, the Pr i nc i pl e, i s not l i ght above and dar k bel ow,
as are opaque mat er i al bodi es. L i ke a sl ender t hread, i t unwi nds
i t sel f ( as cont i nuous ex i st ence and act i on). I t has no name of
i ts own. I t goes back as far as the t i me when there were no
other bei ngs but i tsel f . I t has no parts; from i n front one sees
no head, from behi nd no rear.
C. I t i s t hi s pr i mor di al Pr i nci pl e t hat has r ul ed, and rul es, al l
bei ngs ri ght up t o t he present . Ever yt hi ng t hat has been, or i s,
s i nce t he anc i ent or i gi n, i s from t he unwi ndi ng of the Pr i nci pl e.
Summary of commentaries.
The first thi rteen chapters form a series. Here the author goes
bck to the beginning. A new description of the Principle, so
tenuous as to be i mperceptible; formless; indefini te, infini te
being; that which was before everything; that which caused every
thing. A picturesque description of 'de', its continuou and vrying
productive action, uing the metaphore 'ji', the uwinding of
a spool . The meaning is cl ear: The diverse products of the Principle
are the manifestations of its virtue; the infini te chain of these
manifestations of the Principle can be cal led the uwinding of
the Principle. - This i mportant chapter does not present any
difficulty.
Chapter 15. Text.
A. The anci ent Sages were subtl e, abstract , profound, i n a way
that cannot be expressed i n words. Therefore I am goi ng to use
i llustrat i ve compari sons i n order to make mysel f as cl ear l y under
stood as possi ble.
B. They were ci rcumspect l i ke one who crosses an i ce-covered
r i ver; prudent li ke one who knows that hi s nei ghbours have thei r
eyes on h i m; reser ved l i ke a gues t i n front of hi s host. They
11
Lao Zi.
were indifferent like melting ice (which is nei ther one thing
nor the other). They were unsophisticat ed like a tree trunk (the
rough bark of which conceal s the excel l ent heartwood). They
were empty like a valley (with reference to the mount ains that
form it). They were accommodating like muddy Water, (they,
the clear water, not repel ling the mud, not refusing to live i n
contact with the common people, not forming a separat e group).
c. (To seek purity and peace by separating from the worl d is
to overdo things. They can be found in the worl d). Pur i ty is to
be found in the troubl e (of this world) through ( i nt eri or) cal m,
on condition that one does not let the i mpurity of the world
affect oneself. Peace is to be found in t he movement (of thi s
world) by one who knows how to t ake part i n t hi s movement ,
and who is not exasperated through desiring t hat il should be
stopped.
D. He who keeps to this rul e of not being consumed by st eri le
desires ari sing from his own fancy, will live wil lingl y in obscuri ty,
and wi ll not aspire to renew the world.
Summary of commentaries.
Zhang Hongyng explains as fol l ows the last paragraph (D), which
is somewhat obcure becaue of i ts extreme conciseness: He
will remain fai thful to the anci ent teachings, and will not allow
himself to be seduced by ne w doctrines. Tis explanation seems
only jut tenabl e.
Chapter 16. Text.
A. He who has reached the maximum of emptiness (of indifference)
wiJJ be firmly fi xed i n peace.
B. Innumerable bei ngs come out (from nonbeing), and I see them
return there. They spring forth, then they al l return to their
root.
C. To return to one ' s root, i s to enter into the state of rest.
From this rest they emerge for a new desti ny, and so i t goes
on, continuall y, without end.
D. To recognize this law of immutable continui t y ( of the two
states of l ife and death), is wisdom. To ignore it , is fool ish.
Those ignorant of this Jaw cause misfortune ( through their untimel y
interference in things).
E. He who knows that this l aw weighs heavil y on beings, is just
(treats al l beings according to their nature, wi th equity) , l ike
a King, like Heaven, l ike the Principl e. In consequence he lasts
until the end of his days, not having made hi mself any enemi es.
12
Lao Zi.
Summary of commentaries.
Immutabi l i ty is an attribute of the Principle i tself. Beings parti ci
pate i n i t, in proportion to their acquired resemblance to the
Principle. The absol utel y indi fferent Daoist Sage, being the one
who is most l ike the Principle, is in consequence the most immut
abl e. - Except for the Principle, al l beings are submitted to the
continual al ternation of the t wo states of life and dea th. Te
commentators cal l this al ternation the coming and going of the
shuttl e on the cosmi c loom. Zhang Hongyang compares it with
breathing, acti ve inspi ration corresponding to life, passi ve exhal
ation corresponding to death, the end of one being the beginning
of the other. The same author uses, as a term of comparison,
the luar cycl e, the ful l moon representing life, the ne w moon
representing death, wi th t wo i ntermediate periods of waxing
and waning. All this is classi cal , and can b foud in all the
Daoist Wri ti ngs `
Chapter 17. Text.
A. I n the earl y days ( when, i n human af f ai rs, e ver yt hi ng st i l l
conformed t o the act i on of t he Pr i nci pl e), subj ec t s scar cel y knew
t hey had a pr i nce ( so d i screet was t he act i on of t he l at ter) .
B. After t hi s the peopl e l oved and f l at t er ed t hei r pr i nce ( because
of hi s good deeds), but l ater on, they feared hi m ( because of
hi s l aws), and scorned h i m ( because of hi s unj ust ac ts). They
became di sl oyal , through havi ng been t reat ed di s l oyal l y. They
l ost confi dence i n h i m through rece i v i ng onl y good words whi ch
were never put i nto e ffect .
C. How del i cate was t he touch of t he anci ent r ul ers. When ever y
t hi ng prospered under t hei r admi ni st r at i on, t he peopl e bel i eved
they had done ever yt hi ng themsel v es, of thei r own free wi l l .
Summary of commentaries.
Te meaning is obviou and the commentators are all in agreement.
Tis utopia of imperceptible govemment, wi thout rewars and
wi thout punishments, hauted the minds of Chinese intell ectuals
u to fairly recent times.
Chapter 1 8. Text.
A. When act i on conformi ng to the Pr i nci pl e dwi ndl es, (when men
cease to act wi th spontaneous goodness and fai rness) , art i f i ci al
pri nci pl es of goodness and fai rness, prudence and wi sdom ( are
i nvented) . These art i f i ci al pri nci pl es soon degenerate i nto pol i ti cs.
B. When parents no l onger l i ve i n natural harmony, they try to
1 3
Lao Zi.
make up for thi s def i ci t by i nvent i ng art i fi ci al princi ples of fili al
pi et y and paternal affect i on.
C. When states had fallen i nto di sarray, t hey invented the l oyal
mi ni ster stereotype.
Summary of commentaries.
Conventional moral i ty, with i ts principl es and precepts, uel ess
in the age of spontaneous goodness, was invented when the world
fel l into decadence, as a remedy for that decadence. The invention
was somewhat ufortunate. Te only true remedy would have
been to return to the original Principl e. - Tis marks Lao Zi 's
declaration of war on Confuciu. Al l the Daoist wri ters, Zhuang
Zi in prti cular, have declaimed against arti fi cial goodness and
fairness, the passwords of Confucianism.
Chapter 19. Text.
A. Reject (art i ficial , conventional, poli tical) wisdom and prudence,
( i n order to return to primal natural upright ness) , and the people
wi ll be a hundred times happier.
B. Reject (artifi cial , conventional) goodness and fairness, ( filial
and fraternal piet y) , and the people will come back ( for t heir
well-being, to natural goodness and fairness) , to spontaneous
filial and paternal piet y.
C. Rej ect art and gain, and evildoers will disappear. ( With the
pri mordial si mplici t y, they will return t o primordial honest y).
D. Renounce these three artificial cat egori es, for t he art i f i ci al
is good-fornothi ng.
E. Be at t ached to simplicit y and nat ural ness. Have few personal
i nterests, and few desires.
Summary of commentari es.
Tis chapter fol l ows the preceding one. It is perfectly clear.
The commentators are in agreement. This material is developed
at length by Zhuang Zi P
Chapter 20. Text.
A. Gi ve up l earning, and you will be free fro m all your worri es.
What is the difference between yes and no ( about whi ch the
rhetoricians have so much t o say)? What i s the di f ference between
good and evi l ( on which the cri tics never agree) ? ( These are
fut ilities t hat prevent the mind from being free. Now freedom
of mind is necessary to enter int o rel ation wi t h the Princi pl e) .
B. Without doubt, among the t hi ngs whi ch common peopl e fear,
1 4
Lao Zi.
there are t hi ngs that shoul d be feared; but not as they do, wi th a
mi nd so troubl ed t hat they l ose t hei r ment al equi l i br i um.
C. Nei ther shoul d one permi t onesel f to l ose equi l i br i um through
pl easure, as happens to those who have a good meal or vi ew the
surroundi ng count rysi de i n spri ng from the top of a tower ( wi th the
accompani ment of wi ne, et c. ) .
D. I
(
the Sage) seem t o be colourl ess and unde fi ned; neut ral as a
new-born chi ld t hat has not yet experi enced any emot i on; wi thout
desi gn or ai m.
E. The common peopl e abound ( i n var i ed knowl edge) , but I am
poor
(
havi ng r i d myse l f of al l usel essness) and seem i gnorant ,
s o much have I puri fi ed mysel f. They seem f ul l o f l i ght , I seem
dul l . They seek and scrut i n i z e, I r emai n concent rat ed i n myself.
Indet ermi nat e, l i ke the i mmens i ty of the oceans, I fl oat wi thout
stoppi ng. They are full of t alent , whereas I see m l i mi ted and
uncul tured.
F. I di ffer thus from the common peopl e, because I venerate
and i mi t at e the uni versal nouri shi ng mot her , the Pr i nc i pl e.
Summary of commentaries.
Te text of this chapter di fers in different edi ti ons; it mut have
been muti l ated or retouched. The commentaries also di ffer great ly
from each other. Te lack of cl arity comes, I think, from the fact
that Lao Zi , speaking of hi msel f, and proposing hi msel f as a model
for the disciples of the Principl e, would not have wished to speak
more cl early. Zhang Hongyang seems to me to have bst i nterpreted
his thought.
Chapter 21 . Text.
A. Al l of the bei ngs whi ch pl ay a rol e, i n the great man i festat i on of
the cosmi c t heat re, have come from the Pr i nci pl e, through i ts
vi rtue (i ts unwi ndi ng) .
B. The Pr i nci pl e i s i ndi st i nct and i ndet ermi nat e, myst eri ous and
obscure. I n i ts i ndi st i nct i on and i ndeter mi nat i on t here are t ypes, a
mul t i tude of bei ngs. In i ts myst ery and obscur i t y there i s an
essence whi ch i s real i t y .
C. From anci ent ti mes unt i l t he present , i ts name ( i ts bei ng) has
stayed the same, al l bei ngs have come from i t .
D. How do I know t hat i t was the or i gi n of al l be i ngs? (By
obj ect i ve observat i on of the uni verse, whi ch reveal s that cont i n
genci es mus t have come from t he absol ut e).
Summary of commentaries.
This el evted chapter is not obscure, and the commentators
1 5
Lao Zi.
agree with each other. Al l of these ideas have al ready been stated.
Lao Zi has gone bck to the defini tion of the Principle and i ts
Virtue, and here he has restated his ideas wi th greater clari ty
and precision.
Chapter 22. Text.
A. In the old days they said, the i ncomplet e shall be made whol e,
the bent shall be strai ghtened, the empty shall be f i l l ed, the
worn shall be renewed. Simplicity makes for success, multiplicity
l eads one astray.
B. Therefore the Sage who holds himself to unity, is the model
for the empi re, (for the world, the ideal man). He shi nes, because
he does not show off. He i mposes himself because he does not
cl aim to be ri ght. One fi nds meri t i n him, because he does not
brag. He increases constantly, because he does not push himsel f.
As he does not oppose hi mself t o anyone, no one is opposed t o
him.
C. The axioms from the old days ci ted above, are they not ful l
of sense? Yes, towards hi m who is perf ect , (who does nothing t o
at tract t o himself), all run spontaneously.
Summary of commentaries.
Te meaning is cl ear. To hold onesel f to ui ty is, says Zhang
Hongyang, to forget al l things, in orer to concentrate onesel f
on the contemplation of original ui ty.
Chapter 23. Text.
A. To tal k lit t l e, to act only without ef fort, that is the formul a.
B. A gusty wind does not blow al l morning, t orrential rain does
not last all day. And yet these effec ts are produced by heaven
and earth, ( the most powerful agents of all . But these are exagger
ated, forced, effects, that is why they cannot be sustained).
If heaven and earth cannot sus t ain a forced ac tion, how much
Jess is man abl e to do so?
C. He who conforms himsel f to the Principle, conforms his princip
les to this Principl e, his action to the action of this Principl e,
his non-ac tion to the non-action of t his Principl e. Thus his princip
l es, his actions, his non-action, (speculations, interventions, absten
tions), al ways give him the cont entment of success, ( for, whether
he succeeds or not, the Principl e evol ves, and therefore he is
content).
D. ( This doctrine of the abnegation of one' s opinions and one ' s
ac tions appeal s to the taste of but few peopl e) . Many onl y bel ieve
in i t a litt l e, the others not at aU.
16
Lao Zi.
Summary of commentaries.
Te meaning is cl ear and the commentators are in agreement.
The text of this chapter is highl y incorrect in modern edi ti ons,
having been touched up uintel l igentl y.
Chapter 24. Text.
A. By di nt of hol di ng onesel f on t i pt oe, one l oses one ' s bal ance.
By t r yi ng t o take too great a s t r i de, one does not go forward.
By maki ng a show of onesel f, one l oses one ' s reput at i on. Through
i mpos i ng onesel f, one l oses one ' s i nfl uence. Through boast i ng
about onesel f , one becomes di scredi t ed. Thr ough pushi ng onesel f,
one ceases t o be augment ed.
B. In the l i ght of t he Pri nci pl e al l these ways of act i ng are odi ous,
di st ast eful . They are superfl uous excesses. They are l i ke a pai n
i n t he s t omach, a t umour i n the body. He who has pr i nci pl es
( i n confor mi t y wi th the Pri nci pl e) , does not act l i ke thi s.
Summary of commentaries.
Tis chapter continues the theme of the t wo preceding ones.
The meaning is cl ear. The commentators are i n agreement. Excess
destroys natural si mpl i ci ty.
Chapter 25. Text.
A. There i s a bei ng, of unknown or i gi n, whi ch ex i st ed before
heaven and e ar t h; i mpercept i bl e and undef i ned, uni que and i mmut
abl e, omni present , the mot her of e ver yt hi ng t here i s.
B. I do not know i t by i ts own name. I des i gnat e i t by t he word
Pri nci pl e. I f i t were necessary t o name i t , one woul d cal l i t
the Great , great goi ng fort h, great di s tance, gr eat ret urn. ( The
pri nci pl e of the great cycl i c e vol ut i on of t he cosmos, of the
becomi ng and endi ng of al l bei ngs) .
C. The name Great bef i t s ( proport i onal l y) four ( superi mposed)
bei ngs: The emperor, the eart h, heaven ( the cl assi cal Chi nese
t r i ad) , and the Pri nci pl e. The e mperor owes hi s greatness to
the earth ( hi s theatre) , eart h owes i ts great ness t o heaven (of
whi ch i t i s the frui t) , heaven owes i ts great ness to the Pri nci pl e
( of whi ch i t i s the pri nci pal agent) . ( Greatness borrowed, as one
can see, whereas ) the Pri nci pl e owes i ts essent i al great ness t o
i ts under i ved, uncreated, exi st ence.
Summary of commentaries.
A famous chapter; compre it with chapter 1 . The serious commen-
1 7
Lao Zi.
tators are in agreement, the verbose ones scoff. The Principle
is cal led the mother of all that is, considered as the source
of
being of all that is. Being forml ess, and wi thout any accident
on to which one can hang a qualification, it cannot be named.
Te only terms properly appl i cabl e to it are Indefini te Being,
or Universal Principle.
Chapter 26. Text.
A. The heavy is the base (root) of the light. Stil l ness is the pri nce
of movement . ( These things shoul d always be uni ted in a j ust
temperament).
B. Therefore a wise prince, when he travels (in his light carri age),
never separates himsel f from the heavy wagons which carry hi s
baggage. However beautiful the landscape through which he passes,
he takes care to l odge only in peaceful places.
C. Al as, how could an emperor behave so fool ishly, l osi ng al l
authority by dint of frivolity, and all rest through his waywardness?
Summary of commentaries.
Historic allusion to Emperor You Wang, or to another, one is
not exactl y sure. The commentators are of the opinion that this
chapter is only an exhortation to orderl y behaviour. Te woring
vries in the last pragraph, in many edi tions.
Chapter 27. Text.
A. A good wal ker leaves no t race, a good speaker offends no
one, a good reckoner needs no t al ly, an expert l ocksmi th can
make one that no one can open, an expert on knots can make
them so that no one can untie them. ( Al l speci al i s ts have thei r
speci al i t y, which makes t heir fame, from whi ch they take thei r
profi t).
B. Li kewi se the Sage ( Confucian pol i t i ci an) , the professi onal
savi our of men and thi ngs, has hi s own procedures. He consi ders
hi msel f . the born master of other men, regardi ng t hem as materi al
born for hi s craft.
C. Now that i s to bl i nd onesel f , ( to shade out the l i ght , the Daoi st
pri nci ples). Not wi shi ng to rul e, nor to appropri at e, others; al though
wi se, seemi ng l i ke a madman (persi s t i ng to l i ve i n retreat); thi s
i s the essent i al truth.
Smmay of commentaries.
Tanslated after Zhang Hongyng who pinted out, rightly, that
al most al l of the commentators are wrng abut the interpretation
18
Lao Zi.
of this chapter. - The clear opposi tion of the Confucian and
the Daoist. Te first dreams only of a post which gives hi m author
i ty over men, the second protects himsel f as much as he can
from such posi tions9
Chapter 28. Text.
A. Bei ng aware of one ' s vi r i l e st rengt h ( knowi ng that one i s
a cock) , and yet hol di ng onesel f wi l l i ngl y i n the i nferi or st at e
of the femal e ( of the hen) ; keepi ng onesel f wi l l i ngl y i n the l owest
pl ace i n the empi r e. . . To demean onesel f thus shows that one
has r et ai ned the pr i mor di al vi r t ue, ( absol ut e di si nterestedness,
part i ci pat i on i n the Pr i nci pl e) .
B. Knowi ng onesel f t o be enl i ght ened, and wi l l i ngl y passi ng onesel f
off as i gnorant ; wi l l i ngl y l et t i ng onesel f be wal ked over . . . To
beha ve t hus i s t o show t hat the pr i mor di al vi r t ue has not wavered
i n onesel f, that one i s s t i l l uni t ed wi t h the fi rst Pr i nci pl e.
C. Knowi ng onesel f wort hy of fa me, yet st ay i ng i n vol untary
obscur i t y; wi l l i ngl y mak i ng onesel f the val l ey ( t he l owest poi nt )
of the empi re . . . To behave thus i s t o show t hat one has the or i gi nal
sel f-sacr i fi ce s t i l l i nt act , t hat one i s s t i l l i n t he s t at e of natural
si mpl i ci t y .
D. ( The S age wi l l r efuse therefore t he burden of bei ng a governor.
I f he i s cons t r ai ned t o accept such a post, t hen he wi l l remi nd
hi msel f t hat) the mul t i pl i c i t y of bei ngs have come from the pr i mor
di al uni t y by a s cat t er i ng. ( That he wi l l ne ver busy hi msel f wi th
these di verse bei ngs) , but govern as chi ef of t he of f i ci al s ( as
pri me mover) , uni quel y appl y i ng hi msel f t o general government,
wi t hout occupyi ng hi msel f wi th det ai l s .
Summary of commentaries.
This chapter is associated wi th pragraph C of the preceding
chapter. It cl earl y describes a Daoist style Olympian government.
The next chapter continues this theme.
Chapter 29. Text.
A. He who hol ds the empi re woul d, i n my v i ew, be wi shi ng for
fai l ure shoul d he want to mani pul at e i t (to act pos i t i vel y, to
govern act i vel y) . The empi r e i s a mechani sm of extreme del i cacy.
I t shoul d be l et go al l al one. I t shoul d not be touched. He who
touches i t , deranges i t . He who wi shes to appropr i at e i t , l oses
i t .
B. When he governs, t he Sage l ets al l peopl e ( and thei r sum,
the empi re) go free accordi ng to the i r several nat ures, the agi l e
and the sl ow, the ardent and t he apat het i c, the strong and the
1 9
Lao Zi.
weak, the l ong-l i ved and the short-l i ved.
C. He l i mi ts hi s ac t i on to the suppressi on of excesses whi ch
woul d harm the whol e, such as power , weal th, and ambi ti on.
Summary of commentaries.
Zhang Hongyang cal l s this suppression of excesses the only inter
vention permitted to the Daoist; act ion in non-action.
Chapter 30. Text.
(Of all the excesses, the most prej udi ci al , the most damnabl e,
i s that of weapons, war) .
A. Those who act as advi sors to a pri nce shoul d keep themsel ves
from wanti ng to make war agai nst a count ry. ( For such act i on,
cal l i ng for revenge, i s al ways pai d for dearl y) . Wherever the
troops stay the l and produces onl y thorns, havi ng been abandoned
by the farm workers. Wherever a great army has passed, years
of unhappi ness ( from f ami ne and br i gandage) fol l ow.
B. Therefore the good general i s content to do onl y what he
has to do, (the l east possi bl e; moral , rather than materi al repress
i on) . He stops as soon as poss i bl e, guardi ng hi msel f from expl oi t i ng
hi s force to the l i mi t . He does as much as is requi red ( to re
establ i sh peace), not for hi s personal advantage and fame, but
from necessi t y and wi th rel uct ance, wi thout any i ntenti on of
i ncreasi ng hi s power.
C. Any hei ght of power i s al ways fol l owed by decadence. Maki ng
onesel f powerful i s therefore contrary to the Pri nci pl e ( the source
of durati on) . He who i s l acki ng on t hi s poi nt , wi l l not be l ong
in comi ng to an end.
Literal commentaries. No controversy.
Chapter 31 . Text.
A. The best weapons are i l l -omened i nstruments that al l bei ngs
hol d in fear. Therefore those who conform themsel ves to the
Pri nci pl e do not use them.
B. In t i mes of peace, the pri nce puts the ci vi i mi ni ster he honours
on hi s l eft ( the pl ace of honour) ; but even in ti mes of war, he
puts the mi l i tary commander on hi s ri ght ( whi ch is not the pl ace
of honour, even though he is exerc i si ng hi s funct i on) .
Weapons are di sastrous i nstruments. A wi se pri nce uses them
onl y wi th rel uctance and from necessi t y. He prefers al ways a
modest peace t o a gl ori ous vi ctory.
No one shoul d thi nk that vi ctory i s a good thi ng. He who thi nks
that, shows that he has the heart of an assassi n. Such a man
would not be fi t to rei gn over the empi re.
20
Lao Zi.
C. Accordi ng to the ri tes, those of good omen are pl aced on
the l eft , those of i l l -omen on the ri ght . ( Now when the emperor
recei ves two mi l i t ary of f i cers together) , the one of subordi nate
rank ( who onl y acts on superi or orders, and i s therefore l ess
i l l -omened) i s pl aced on the l ef t . The commandi ng offi cer i s
pl aced on the r i ght , t hat i s, i n the f i rst pl ace accordi ng to the
funeral r i t es, ( the pl ace of chi ef mourner) . For i t behoves one
who has k i l l ed many men to weep t ears of l ament at i on for them.
The onl y pl ace real l y f i t t i ng for a conqueri ng general i s that
of chi ef mourner ( l eadi ng the mourni ng for those whose death
he has caused) .
Li teral commentaries. No controversy.
Chapter 32. Text.
A. The Pri nci pl e has no name of i ts own. I t i s nat ur e. Thi s nature
so unmani fest i s st ronger t han anyt hi ng. I f pr i nces and e mperors
were to conform t hemsel ves t o i t , al l bei ngs woul d col l aborate
wi th t hem spontaneousl y; heaven and earth woul d act i n perfect
harmony , spr i nkl i ng a swe e t dew ( t he best poss i bl e omen) ; the
peopl e woul d be gover nabl e wi t hout t he need for constr ai nt .
B. When, i n t he begi nni ng, i n t hi s vi si bl e worl d, the Pri nci pl e
i mparted i tsel f i n t he product i on o f ( sent i ent) bei ngs wi th names,
i t di d not produce t hem i n a way t hat ex haust ed i tsel f ( but onl y
as tenuous prol ongat i ons, i ts mass r emai ni ng i ntact ) . The Pri nci pl e
i s, wi th reference t o the di vers i t y o f bei ngs i n the worl d, l i ke
the mass of great r i vers and oceans wi t h r eference to tri ckl es
and r i vul et s of wat er .
Summay of commentaries.
Each being exists through a prolongation of the Principle in i tsel f.
These prolongations are not detached from the Principle, which
is not, therefore, di minished in i mprting itself. Te prolongation
of the Principle in each being is the nature of that being. Te
Principle is uiversal nature, bing the sum of all indivdual
natures, i ts prolongations.
Chapter 33. Text.
A. Knowi ng others i s wi sdom, but knowi ng onesel f i s superi or
wi sdom, ( one ' s own nature bei ng most hi dden and profound) .
- I mposi ng one ' s wi l l on others i s strength; but i mposi ng i t on
onesel f i s super i or strength ( one ' s own passi ons bei ng the most
di f f i cul t to subdue) . - Bei ng sat i sfi ed ( content wi th what desti ny
has gi ven) , i s true weal th; bei ng master of onesel f ( bendi ng onesel f
to the di sposi t i ons of dest i ny) i s true character.
2 1
Lao Zi.
B. St ayi ng i n one ' s (natural) pl ace ( that which destiny has given),
makes for a long li fe. After death, not ceasing t o be, is true
longevi ty, (whi ch is the l ot of those who have lived in conformity
wi th nature and desti ny).
Summary of commentaries.
Life and death are t wo forms of the being. In B it is a question
of consciou survivl after death.
Chapter 34. Text.
A. The great Pri nciple extends itsel f in all directions. I t lends
itsel f willingly to the genesis of all beings (its participants).
When a work is accompl i shed, i t does not at t ribute it to itself.
It nourishes all bei ngs with kindness, wit hout imposing itself
on them as a master (for having nourished them; l eaving them
free; not exact i ng any degrading return from them). Because
of its constant disi nterestedness, one might t hink it would become
diminished. This i s not so. Al l beings t o whom it i s so liberal,
run towards i t . It therefore fi nds itsel f magnified ( through t his
uni versa! trust).
B. The Sage imi t ates this conduct . He, also, makes himsel f small
(through hi s di si nterestedness and hi s delicat e reserve), and acquires
thereby true greatness.
Nothing more in the commentaries.
Chapter 35. Text.
A. Because he resembles the great protot ype ( t he Pri nci pl e,
through his disinterested devotion), al l come to the Sage. He
wel comes them all, does t hem good, and gives t hem rest , peace,
and happiness.
B. Musi c and good cheer may hol d up a passer-by for but a ni ght,
(si nce sensual pleasures are fl eeting and l eave not hi ng behi nd) .
Whereas the exposition of the great pri nci pl e of di si nterested
devot i on, si mpl e and gentl e, which charms nei ther the eyes nor
the ears, pl eases, engraves i t self, and is of an i nexhaust i bl e fecund
i ty i n matters of practical application.
Nothing more in the commentaries.
Chapter 36. Text.
A. The begi nni ng of contract i on necessar i l y fol l ows the maxi mum
of expansi on. Weakness fol l ows strength, decadence fol l ows prosper
i t y, depravat i on fol l ows opul ence. Thi s i s a subt l e i nsi ght ( tha
t
many do not wi sh to see). All precedi ng strength and superi ori t y
22
Lao Zi.
i s expi ated by subsequent debi l i t y and i nfer i or i t y. More cal l s for
l ess, excess cal l s for def i c i t .
B. A fi sh shoul d not l eave t he depths ( where i t l i ves i gnored but
i n secur i t y, i n order t o show i tsel f at the surface
where i t coul d be
harpooned) . A st at e shoul d not show i t s resources ( i f i t does not
wi sh the others to turn agai ns t i t i n order t o crush i t ) .
Summary of commentaries.
Stay smal l , humbl e, hidden; do not a t t ract at tent ion; this is the
secret of li ving wel l and for a l ong t i me.
Chapter 37. Tex t.
A. The Pr i nci pl e i s al ways non- ac t i ng ( not ac t i ng ac t i ve l y
)
, and yet
i t does ever yt hi ng ( wi t hout see mi ng t o p a r t i c i p a t e) .
B. I f t he pr i nce and the l ords coul d gover n l i ke t hat ( wi t hout poki ng
t hei r f i ngers i n i t ) , al l be i ngs woul d become spont aneousl y perfec t
( by ret ur ni ng t o nat ure) .
C. I t woul d onl y r emai n t o cal l t he m back t o unna med nat ure
( to the pr i mor di al s i mpl i ci t y of the Pr i n c i p l e ) each t i me they
showed any t endency t o come ou t o f t hi s s t at e ( by act i ng) . I n
thi s state of unnamed nat ur e t her e are no des i res . When there
are no desi res al l i s peac e fu l , and t he s t at e i s gover ned by i tsel f.
Te commentators add nothing. Compre wi th chapter 3.
23
Lao Zi.
Book 2.
Chapter 38. Text.
A. That whi ch i s super i or to the Vi r t ue of the Pri nci pl e ( the Pri n
ci pl e i tsel f, consi dered i n i t s essence) , does not act , but hol ds
Vi rtue i n a st at e of i mmanence wi t hi n i t sel f. Al l those whi ch are
i nferi or to the Vi r tue of the Pr i nci pl e ( art i f i ci al rul es of conduct) ,
are onl y a pal l i at i ve for t he l oss of that Vi rt ue; a pal l i at i ve wi th
whi ch i t has not hi ng i n common.
B. That whi ch i s super i or t o t he Vi rt ue ( the Pri nci pl e) , does not act
i n det ai l . ( The art i fi ci al rul es) whi ch are i nferi or t o the Vi rtue ( of
the Pri nci pl e) onl y exi s t for ac t i on i n det ai l .
C. When nature , wi t h i ts nat ural good i ns t i nct s, has been forgotten,
arti f i ci al pri nci pl es come as pal l i at i ves for t hi s defi ci t . These are,
i n descendi ng order, goodness , fa i rness, r i tes and l aws. ( Art i fi ci al
Confuci an goodness i s super i or to ar t i f i ci al fai rness whi ch, i n
st ruggl i ng to cope wi t h the di verse i ncl i nat i ons of men, has pro
duced r i tes and l aws) .
Ri tes are but a poor e xpedi ent t o cover up the l oss of ori gi nal
upri ghtness and frankness. The y are more a source of troubl e ( i n
et i quet t e and rubr i c) than t hey are of order.
The l ast t erm of t hi s descendi ng e vol ut i on, pol i t i cal wi sdom ( maki ng
l aws) , was t he begi nni ng o f al l abuses.
D. He who i s t rul y a man, hoi ds hi msel f t o upr i ghtness and natural
good sense. He i s cont empt uous of ar t i fi ci al pr i nci pl es. Usi ng
di scernment , he rej ect s thi s ( the fal se) , i n order to embrace that
( the true) .
Summary of commentaries.
Tis chapter is directed against Confucianism. Total good natural
sense, is ui ty. Arti fi ci al moral precepts are mul tiplici ty. Te next
chapter is going to show that mul tipl i ci ty ruins, and that uity
saves.
Chapter 39. Text.
A. The fol lowi ng par t i ci pate i n pr i mi t i ve si mpli ci t y: Heaven,
whi ch owes i ts lumi nosi t y to i ts si mpl i ci t y. Earth, whi ch owes
i ts stabi l i t y to i t . The uni versal generat i ve act i on, whi ch owes
i ts acti vi t y to i t . The medi an space, . wi ch owes i ts fecundi ty
to i t. The li fe common to al l bei ngs. The power of the emperor
and the pri nces. ( li fe and power bei ng emanat i ons of the Pri nci ple).
B. What makes them such as they are, i s the (pri mi ti ve) si mpli ci t y
( i n whi ch t hey part i ci pate). I f heaven came to l ose i t , i t would
fall. I f the earth came to l ose i t , i t would l ose i t s stabi li t y.
24
Lao Zi.
i f the generat i ve act i on l ost i t , i t woul d cease to act . If the
medi an space l ost i t , al l bei ngs woul d di sappear. I f the emperor
and the pr i nces shoul d l ose i t , they woul d have no more di gni t y.
C. Al l el evat i on, al l nobi l i t y , i s based on abasement and s i mpl i ci t y
( charact eri s t i cs proper to t he Pr i nci pl e) . There fore i t i s ri ght
that the emperor and the pri nces, the most exal ted of men, shoul d
be desi gnat ed by the terms , sol e, uni que , i ncapabl e, wi thout them
bei ng thereby degraded.
D. ( Appl yi ng t he same pr i nci pl e of s i mpl i c i t y i n thei r government) ,
they shoul d reduce the mul t i t ude of the i r subj ects to uni t y, consi d
eri ng them wi th a serene i mpar t i al i t y as an undi v i ded mass, not
regardi ng some as preci ous l i ke j ade and others base l i ke stones.
Summary of commentaries.
In a total view, as from a grea t distance, indi viduals and detai ls
are not visi bl e. This chapter compl et es the theme of the preceding
one.
Chapter 40. Text.
A. Goi ng back ( towards the Pr i nc i pl e) i s the t ype of movement
character i s t i c of those who conf or m t hems el ves to the Pr i nc i pl e.
At tenuat i on i s the resul t of t hei r bei ng con formed to the Pri nci pl e.
B. Cons i der i ng t hat al l t hat ex i st s i s born o f si mpl e bei ng, and that
bei ng i s born of forml ess non-bei ng, the y t end, i n di mi ni s hi ng them
sel ves wi thout cease, to go back to pr i mor di al s i mpl i c i t y .
The commentators add nothing i n a cl ear sense.
Chapter 41 . Text.
A. When a wel l -read person of hi gh cal i bre hears about the ret urn
to the Pri nci pl e, he appl i es h i msel f to i t wi t h . zeal . A person
of medi um cal i bre appl i es hi mse l f to i t i ndec i s i vel y . An i nferi or
person r i di cul es i t. That such a person shoul d r i di cul e i t , i s a mark
of the truth of t hi s doct r i ne. The fact that t hey do not understand
i t, shows i ts transcendence.
B. They say i n t he proverb: Those who have understood t he Pri n
ci pl e are as i f bl i nd; those who tend towards i t are as i f di sori ent
ated; those who have reached i t seem l i ke common peopl e. Thi s i s
because great v i rtue hol l ows i tsel f l i ke a val l ey, t he great l i ght
vol untar i l y di ms i tsel f , vast vi r tue seems de fec t i ve , sol i d vi rtue
seems i ncapabl e. There fore the Sage hi des hi s qual i t i es beneath a
somewhat repul si ve exteri or.
C. He who goes by these appearances wi l l be qui te mi sl ed. Li ke
a square s o bi g that i ts corners are i nv i si bl e, l i ke an enormous
vase that i s ne ver f i ni shed, li ke a great meani ng hi dden i n a
25
Lao Zi.
feebl e sound, l i ke a great shape that cannot be grasped; the
Sage resembles the Pr i nci ple. - Now t he Principle is lat ent and
has no name, but through i ts gentle communication, everything
i s produced. It i s the same, i n propor t i on, for t he Sage.
Nothing more in the commentaries.
Chapter 42. Text.
A. When the Pri nci ple has emi tted i ts vi r tue, the lat t er begins
to evolve accordi ng to two alternat i ng modalities. This evolut i on
produces (or condenses) the median ai r (tenuous mat t er) From
tenuous matter, under the i nfluence of the two modali t i es yi n
and yang, all senti ent beings ar e produced. Coming out from
the yin (from strength) they pass to t he yang (to the act) , through
the influence of the two modali ti es on mat ter.
B. What men dislike i s bei ng alone, uni que, incapabl e, ( i n obscur i t y
and abasement), and yet emperors and princes are desi gnated
by these terms, (whi ch i mpl y humi li t y wi t hout debasement) . Bei ngs
diminish themselves by wanti ng to augment t hemselves, and they
are augmented through di mi ni sh i ng themselves.
Nothing more in the commentaries. In A there is no question
of the Trini ty. Compare A and B wi th chapter 39 C.
Chapter 43. Text.
A. Always and everywhere it is the soft t hat wears t he hard
(as water wears stone) . Non-be i ng penetrates even where there
are no cracks (as i n t he most homogeneous bodi es such as met al
and stone). From that I conclude t he supreme effect i veness of
non- act i on.
B. Si lence and inac t i on - few men come to understand thei r
effect i veness.
Nothing further in the commentaries.
Chapter 44. Text.
A. I s not the body more import ant t han reput at i on? I s l i fe not
of more consi derat i on t han weal t h? Is i t wi se to ri sk a great
l oss for a small advantage?
B. He who i s a great lover, wears out ( hi s heart) . He who amasses
great weal th, heads towards rui n (by theft or conf i scat i on) . Whereas
he who i s modest cour ts no di sgrace; he who i s moderate does
not peri sh, but enduresB
Nothing further in the commentaries.
26
Lao Zi.
Chapter 45. Text.
A. Accompl i shed, beneat h an i mperf ect ex t er i or . Gi v i ng, ( of
hi msel f) wi thou t becomi ng wor n out . F i l l ed up, wi thout appear i ng
to be so, and pour i ng out wi t hout bei ng empt i ed. Ver y stra i ght ,
beneat h a bent ai r; most abl e, behi nd an awkward appearance;
hi ghl y perspi caci ous, wi th an embarrassed ext er i or . Th i s i s the
Sage.
B. Movement beats the col d ( warms one up) , rest overcomes
heat ( refreshes) . The wi thdrawn l i fe of the Sage rec t i f i es al l
the empi re ( st r i kes at the roots of i ts depravat i on) .
Te commentaries say this refers to an i ntense infl uence, beneath
an exterior of inaction.
Chapter 46. Text.
A. When the Pri nci pl e re i gns ( i n per fec t peace) , war horses work
i n the f i el ds. When the Pri nci pl e i s f or got t en, ( war horses are
the order of the day) and they are r ai sed e ven i n t he suburbs
of the towns.
B. To gi ve i n to one ' s covet ousness ( and t hi s i nc l udes t he mani a
f or wagi ng war ) , i s t he wor st of cr i mes. Not t o know how t o
control onesel f , i s t he wor s t of nas t y t hi ngs . The wor s t of f aul ts
i s to want more, al ways. Those who know how to say ' enough
i s enough ' , are al ways cont ent .
Nothi ng more in the commentaries.
Chapter 47. Text.
A. Wi thout goi ng out by the door, one can know the whol e worl d;
wi t hout l ooki ng through the wi ndow, one can become aware of
the ways of heaven ( pri nci pl es whi ch r ul e al l t hi ngs) . - The further
one goes, t he l ess one l earns.
B. The Sage gets there wi t hout havi ng t aken a step t o reach
i t . He
knows before havi ng seen, through super i or pr i nci pl es.
He
achi eves, wi t hout hav i ng act ed, through hi s transcendent
act i on.
Te commentaries state that total superi or kowl edge i s that
of the Sage. Knowl edge of detai ls is not worthy of hi m.
Chapter 48 . Text.
A. By studyi ng, every day one i ncreases ( usel ess and i nj ur i ous
part i cul ar not i ons, i n one' s memory) ; by concent rat i ng on the
Pri nci pl e, they are di mi ni shed every day. Pushed to the l i mi t ,
t hi s di mi nut i on ends i n non-act i on, ( t he consequence of t he absence
of part i cul ar i deas) .
27
Lao Zi.
B. Now there i s not hi ng that non-ac t i on ( l et t i ng t hi ngs go) cannot
sort out. I t i s through non-act i on that one wi ns the empi re. To
act, i n order to wi n i t , resul ts i n f ai l ur e.
Nothing further i n the commentaries.
Chapter 49. Text.
A. The Sage has no def i ni t e wi l l of hi s own, he accommodates
hi msel f to the wi l l of the peopl e. He treats the good and the
bad equal l y wel l , whi ch i s the t rue prac t i ce of goodness. He
trusts the si ncere and the i nsi ncere al i ke, whi ch is t he true pract i ce
of trust.
B. I n t hi s mi xed-up worl d, the Sage i s wi t hout any emot i on, and
has the same feel i ngs for al l . Al l men fi x t hei r eyes and ears
on hi m. He treats them l i ke chi l dr en, ( Daoi st k i ndl i ness, sl i ghtl y
di sdai nful ) .
Nothing more in the commentaries.
Chapter 50. Text.
A. Men go forth i nto l i fe, and r et ur n i n deat h.
B. Out of t en men, t hr ee prol ong t hei r l i fe ( through cl eanl i ness) ,
three hasten thei r deat h ( t hrough t he i r ex cesses) , t hree compromi se
t hei r l i fe by the at t achment they have t o i t , (and onl y one stays
al i ve unti l hi s term, because he i s not at t ached to i t ) .
C. He who i s not at t ached to hi s l i fe , does not turn asi de to
avoi d an encounter wi th a r hi noceros or a t i ger; he t hrows hi msel f
i nt o the fray wi thout armour or weapons; and he comes to no
harm because he i s proof agai nst t he rhi noceros horn, the ti ger' s
cl aws, and weapons of combat . Why i s t hi s? 0 . Because, exteri ori zed
through hi s i ndi fference, death cannot take a hol d on hi m.
Summary of commentaries.
When the soul is transported outside the bdy through ecstasy,
the body cannot be mortal l y wouded. Te idea seems to be
that, for a mortal being, a fatal bl ow mut reach the juction
of bdy and soul. Tis juction temporarily ceases during ecstasy.
Chapter 51 . Text.
A. The Pri nci pl e gi ves l i fe to bei ngs, then i t s Vi rtue nouri shes
them, unt i l the compl et i on of thei r nature, unt i l the perfect i on
of thei r facul t i es. Therefore al l bei ngs venerate the Pr i nci pl e
and i ts Vi rtue.
B. No one has the emi nence of the Pr i nci pl e and i ts Vi rtue confer
red on them; they have i t al ways, natural l y.
28
lao Zi.
C. The Pr i nci pl e gi ves l i fe; i t s Vi rt ue gi ves growth, protects,
perfects, mat ures, mai ntai ns, and covers ( al l bei ngs) . When they
are born, i t does not monopol i ze them; i t l ets them act freel y,
wi thout expl oi t i ng t hem; i t l et s t hem gr ow, wi thout tyrann i z i ng
t hem. Thi s i s the act i on of transcendent Vi rt ue.
The commentators add nothing.
Chapter 52. Text.
A. That whi ch was, before the begi nni ng of the worl d, became
the mother of the worl d. He who has reached knowl edge of the
mother ( mat t er, the body) , knows through t hat her son ( the vi tal
spi r i t whi ch i s encl osed i n i t ) . He who knows the son ( hi s v i tal
spi r i t) and conserves the mot her ( hi s body) , wi l l reach the end
of hi s days wi thout acci dent .
B. I f he keeps hi s mout h and nost r i l s cl osed ( t o pr event evaporat i on
of the vi t al spi r i t ) , he wi l l reach the end of hi s days wi thout
havi ng suffered decadence. Whereas, i f he t al ks a l ot and causes
hi msel f much worry, he wi l l use up and shor t en hi s l i fe.
C. Rest r i ct i ng one' s cons i der at i ons t o s mal l t hi ngs, and one' s
cares to affai rs of l i t t l e i mpor t ance, makes t he mi nd cl ear and
the body strong. Concent r at i ng one' s i nt e l l ec tual rays i n one' s
i ntel l i gence, and not l et t i ng ment al appl i cat i on har m one ' s body,
i s t o prot ect ( the mi nd) and to make for l ong
(
l i fe) .
Summary of commentaries.
Tis is an obscure text, but the commenta tors are in agreement.
Ti s i s the bsi s of Daoi st breathing therapy.
Chapter 53. Text.
A. He who has a l i t tl e wi sdom, shoul d conform hi msel f t o the
great Pr i nci pl e. He shoul d take great car e to avoi d any i rksome
boast i ng. But t o thi s wi de road many pre fer the narrow si de
tracks. ( Few men wal k al ong the way of obscure di si nt erestedness.
They prefer the narrow tracks of thei r vani t y , thei r own advantage.
Thi s i s how the pri nces of these t i mes act) .
B. When the pal aces are too wel l kept up, the f i el ds go uncul t i vated
and the granari es empty, ( because the farm workers are requi s
i t i oned for forced l abour) .
C. Dressi ng magni f i cent l y, wear i ng a sharp sword, st uf f i ng onesel f
wi th food and dri nk, amassi ng weal t h to t he ex tent of not knowi ng
what to do wi th i t (as do the pr i nces of these t i mes) , i s bei ng
l i ke a bri gand ( who ostent at i ousl y pl ays wi th hi s l oot) . Such conduct
i s opposed to t he Pr i nci pl e.
The commentators add nothing.
29
Lao Zi.
Chapter 54. Text.
A. He who bui l ds on di s i nterestedness wi l l not f i nd hi s work des
troyed. He who keeps hi msel f di s i nterested wi l l not l ose what
he has. Hi s sons and hi s grandsons wi l l make of f er i ngs to hi m
wi thout i nt errupti on ( that i s t o say, t hey wi l l succeed hi m and
enj oy the frui t of hi s works) .
B. Fi rst of al l one shoul d conform onesel f t o the Pr i nci pl e; after
wards, thi s conformi t y wi l l spread spont aneousl y , by i tsel f , to
one ' s fami l y, di st ri ct , pri nci pal i t y, and to t he empi r e; ( l i ke radi ant
heat comi ng from a central heart h) .
C. Through one ' s own na ture, one underst ands t hose of other
i ndi vi dual s, and of al l i ndi v i dual col l ec t i v i t i es such as fami l i es,
di st ri cts, pri nci pal i t i es, and the empi r e.
D. How can one know t he nat ure of an ent i re empi r e? By thi s
( through one ' s own nat ure) 9
The commentators add not hing.
Chapter 55. Text.
A. He who hol ds i n hi msel f perf ect Vi rt ue ( wi thout l ust or anger)
i s l i ke the new-born chi l d whom the scorp i on does not bi t e, t he
t i ger does not devour, the vul ture does not se i z e, whom al l respect .
B. A chi l d' s bones ar e weak, i ts t endons are feebl e, but i t grasps
obj ects strongl y ( j ust as i ts soul and body are hel d t oget her by
force) . He has not yet any not i on of t he act of generat i on, and,
i n consequence, keeps hi s semi nal v i r t ue i nt act . He cri es sof t l y
al l day l ong wi thout becomi ng hoar s e, so per f ect i s hi s peace.
C. Peace makes for durabi l i t y; he who understands thi s i s enl i ght
ened. Whereas any v i ol ent e x c i t ement , above al l l ust and anger,
wears one out. From thi s i t fol l ows that v i r i l i t y ( whi ch man abuses)
i s succeeded by decrepi t ude. I n tense l i fe i s cont rary to the Pri n
ci pl e, and i n consequence premat urel y mortal .
Summary of commentaries.
Tis chapter condemns lut and anger, as bing the greatest
causes of decrepi tude and premature death.
Chapter 56. Text.
A. He who speaks ( much, shows thereby that he) does not know
( the Pri nci pl e) .
B. He who knows ( the Pri nci pl e) , does not speak. He keeps hi s
mouth cl osed, control s hi s breathi ng, bl unts hi s act i v i ty , rescues
hi msel f from any compl i cat i on, tempers hi s l i ght , and mi ngl es
wi th the peopl e. Thi s i s mysteri ous uni on ( wi th the Pri nci pl e) .
30
Lao Zi.
C. No one can at t ach hi msel f (by doi ng favours) to such a man, nor
repul se hi m ( by treat i ng hi m badl y) . He i s i ndi fferent to gai n or
l oss, to exal t at i on or humi l i at i on. Bei ng thus, he i s the most nobl e
i n the worl d.
Summary of commentari es.
'Superior to al l that seems, he converses wi th the author of beings. '
- Zhang Hongyang.
Chapter 57. Text.
A. One can govern wi t h rec t i t ude, one can wage war wi th compet
ence, but i t takes non-ac t i on t o wi n and hol d the empi re.
B. How do I know t hat t hi s i s s o? Fr om what I am goi ng to say:
The mor e r ul es t here ar e, t he l ess peopl e enr i ch themsel ves.
The more t axes there ar e, t he l ess or der t here i s. The more i ngen
i ous i nvent i ons there are, the fewer ser i ous and useful obj ect s there
are. The more det ai l ed the penal code , the mor e t hi e ves abound.
Mul t i pl i cat i on r ui ns e ver yt hi ng.
C. Therefore t he pr ogr amme o f t he Sage i s qui t e t he cont rar y. Not
act i ng, and the peopl e a mend t hemse l ves . St ayi ng peace ful , and the
peopl e rect i fy t hemse l ves . Doi ng not hi ng, and the peopl e enri ch
themse l ves. Wi shi ng for not hi ng, and the peopl e come back to
nat ural spontanei t y.
The commentators add nothing.
Chapter 58. Text.
A. When the government is si mpl e, the peopl e abound in vi rtue.
When the government i s pol i t i cal , the peopl e l ack vi rt ue .
B. Good and bad succeed one anot her , al t ernat el y. Who wi l l di scern
the hei ght s? ( of thi s ci rcul ar movement , of good and e v i l . I t
i s very del i cat e, an excess or a defaul t changi ng the moral ent i t y) .
In many the r i gh t measure i s J acki ng. I n some an exaggerated
ri ght eousness degenerates i nto a mani a. In others an exaggerated
goodness becomes extravagance. ( Poi nts of vi ew changi ng i n conse
quence. For a l ong t i me now, men have thus been craz y .
C. ( The Sage takes t hem as t hey are) . Taki ng t hem to task, he i s
not sharp or cut t i ng. Strai ght , he i s not rude. Enl i ghtened, he does
not humi l i at e.
The commentators add nothing.
Chapter 59. Text.
A. The essent i al for co-oper at i on wi t h heaven i n the go vernment of
men, i s to moderate one ' s act i on.
31
Lao Zi.
B. Thi s moderat i on shoul d be the pri me care. I t procures perfect
effi cacy, whi ch succeeds i n e veryt hi ng, e ven the governi ng of the
empi re.
C. He who possesses thi s mother of the empi re ( wi se moderat i on) ,
wi l l l ast a l ong t i me. I t i s cal l ed the pi vot i ng root, the sol i d trunk.
I t i s the pri nci pl e of perpet ui t y.
The commentators add nothing.
Chapter 60. Text.
A. To govern a great st at e, one shoul d act l i ke someone cooki ng
very smal l fi sh ( very del i catel y, ot herwi se t hey break up) .
B. When a state i s go verned accordi ng to the Pri nci pl e, phantoms do
not appear there to harm the peopl e, because the Sage who governs
does not harm the peopl e.
C. The meri t of t hi s doubl e t ranqui l l i t y ( on the part of t he l i vi ng
and the dead) comes back , there fore, t o the Sage .
Summary of commentaries.
Phantoms are not the souls of the dead. They are, in the moral
harmony, like a whirl wind on a cal m day. Tis disorer is produced
by the movement of the pssi ons - hatreds and others. It is not
prouced when the peopl e 's minds are cal m.
Chapter 61 . Text.
A. I f a great state l owers i tsel f, l i ke those hol es i n whi ch water
accumul ates, everyone wi l l come to i t . I t wi l l be l i ke the uni versal
femal e ( of chapters 8 and 28) .
B. In her apparent pass i v i t y and i nf eri or i t y , the femal e i s superi or
to the mal e ( for i t i s she who gi ves bi rt h) . On condi t i on of knowi ng
how to l ower i tsel f, a great st at e wi l l wi n over l esser st ates,
whi ch, in thei r turn, wi l l l ower themsel ves, seeki ng i ts protect i on.
C. For thi s to be real i zed, onl y one thi ng i s needed, but i t i s
essenti al . It i s t hat the great st at e dei gns to l ower i tsel f before
the lesser ones. ( I f i t is proud and hard, there i s no hope).
Nothing further in the commentaries.
Chater 62. Text.
A. The Pr i nci pl e i s the pal l adi um of al l bei ngs. I t i s the treasure
of the good ( that by whi ch they are good), and the sal vat i on
of the wi cked ( that whi ch prevents them from peri shi ng) .
B. It i s to i t that one shoul d be grateful for affect i onate words, and
the noble conduct of good peopl e. It i s wi th regard to i t , that the
wi cked should not be rej ected.
32
Lao Zi.
C. I t i s for that reason ( for the conser vat i on and de vel opment of
the part of the Pr i nci pl e whi ch i s i n al l bei ngs) that the emperor
and the great mi ni sters were i nst i t uted. Not so tha t the y shoul d
become compl acent wi th t he i r sceptre and the i r anc i ent four-horsed
char i ot ; but i n order that they shoul d medi t at e on the Pr i nci pl e
( advanci ng themsel ves i n the i r knowl edge, and i n t he de vel opment
of others) .
D. Why di d the anci ents make so much of the Pr i nc i pl e? Is i t not
because i t i s the source of al l good and the remedy for al l ev i l ? I t
i s the most nobl e t hi ng i n the worl d.
The commenta tors add nothing.
Chapter 63. Text.
A. To act wi thout act i ng; to be busy wi t hout bei ng busy; to taste
wi thout tas t i ng; t o l ook equal l y on the grea t , the s mal l , the many
and the few; to be i ndi f ferent t o t hanks and reproaches; thi s i s how
the Sage acts.
B. He onl y sets about di ffi cul t compl i cat i ons t hr ough t hei r easi est
det ai l s , and onl y appl i es hi msel f t o great probl ems i n the i r weak
begi nni ngs.
C. The Sage never undert akes anyt hi ng great , and t hat i s why he
makes great t hi ngs. He who pr omi ses much, cannot keep hi s word;
he who embarrasses h i msel f wi t h t oo many t hi ngs, even eas y thi ngs,
ne ver succeeds i n anyt hi ng.
D. The Sage keeps cl ear of di f f i cul t y , t here fore he ne ver has any
di ffi cul t i es.
The commentators add nothing.
Chapter 64. Text.
A. Peaceful s i t uat i ons are easi l y cont rol l ed; probl ems are easi l y
forestal l ed before t hey ar i se; weak t hi ngs are easi l y br oken; smal l
thi ngs are easi l y di spersed. One shoul d take one ' s measures before
somet hi ng happens, and prot ect order be fore di sorder bursts out.
B. A tree whi ch one ' s arms can barel y embrace comes from a shoot
as fi ne as a hai r; a ni ne-storey tower begi ns wi t h a pi l e of earth; a
l ong j ourney begi ns wi th a si ngl e st ep.
C. Those who make too much of t hi ngs, spoi l thei r affai rs. Those
who gri p too strongl y, end up by l et t i ng go. The Sage who does not
act , does not spo i l any af fai r . Si nce he hol ds on to not hi ng, not hi ng
escapes hi m.
D. When the common peopl e have a ffai rs, they often f ai l at the
moment when . they shoul d have succeeded, ( ner vousness at the
begi nni ng of success maki ng them l ose propr i et y and make cl umsy
mi st akes) . For success, the ci rcumspect i on of the begi nni ng shoul d
l as t unt i l t he f i nal achi e vement.
33
Lao Zi.
E. The Sage desi res not hi ng. He does not pr i z e any obj ect because
i t i s rare. He does not at t ach h i msel f t o any syst em, but i nstructs
hi msel f by the faul ts of others. In order t o co-operate wi th uni vers
al evol ut i on, he does not act , but l ets thi ngs go.
The commentators add nothing.
Chapter 65. Text.
A. In ant i qui t y, those who con formed t hemse l ves t o the Pri nci pl e
di d not seek t o make the peopl e cl ever , but ai med at keepi ng them
si mpl e.
B. When peopl e are di f f i cul t t o gover n, i t i s because they know too
much. Those who cl ai m t o procure the good of a count r y by di ssem
i nat i ng i nstruct i on, are wrong, and rui n the count r y. Keepi ng the
peopl e i n i gnorance, makes for t he sal va t i on of a count ry .
C. Thi s is the formul a of myst er i ous act i on, o f great pr ofundi t y, of
great beari ng. I t i s not t o t he t ast e of ( the cur i ous) but , thanks t o
i t , everyt hi ng turns out wel l , peace ful l y .
Compre wi th chapter 3 B. Nothing further i n the commentaries.
Chapter 66. Text.
A. Why are the oceans and r i vers k i ngs of al l the val l eys? ( rece i v i ng
al l the watercourses i n t r i but e) . Because t hey are benevol ent l y
t he i nferi ors of al l t he val l eys ( wi t h r egar d t o l evel s ) . That i s why
al l t he wat er f l ows towards t hem.
B. Fol l owi ng t hi s exampl e, t he Sage who wi shes t o become superi or
to t he common peopl e shoul d speak i n words beneat h hi msel f (speak
very humbl y of hi msel f) . I f he wi shes to become the fi rst , he
shoul d put hi msel f i n the l ast pl ace, ( and cont i nue t o do so, after
he has been exal ted) . He coul d t hen be el evated t o t he hi ghest
peak wi thout the peopl e feel i ng oppressed by hi m; he coul d be the
fi rst, wi thout the peopl e compl ai ni ng about hi m. The whol e empi re
woul d serve hi m wi th j oy, wi t hout becomi ng weary o f h i m. For, not
bei ng opposed to anyone, no one woul d be opposed to hi m.
Compre wi th chapter 8. The commentat ors add nothing.
Chapter 67. Text.
A. Everyone says the Sage i s nobl e, despi t e hi s common ai r; an
ai r whi ch he gi ves hi msel f because he i s noble ( to hi de hi s nobi l i t y
and not to attract envy to hi msel f) . Everyone knows, on the con
trary, how much t hose who pose as nobl es are men of l i t t l e worth.
B. The Sage pri zes three t hi ngs and hol ds on t o them: chari ty,
si mpl i ci t y, and humi l i t y. Bei ng char i tabl e, he wi l l be brave ( wi t hi n
j ust l i mi ts, wi thout cruel t y) . Be i ng si mpl e, he wi l l be l i beral
(wi thi n j ust l i mi ts, wi thout waste). Bei ng humbl e, he wi l l govern
34
Lao Zi .
men wi thout t yranny .
C. The men of today have forgot t en chari t y, s i mpl i ci t y , and humi l
i t y. They pr i ze war , ostentat i on, and ambi t i on. Thi s i s l i ke wi shi ng
not to succeed. I t i s l i ke wi s hi ng to pe r i s h.
D. For i t i s t he char i t abl e aggressor who wi ns t he bat t l e ( not
the savage aggressor) ; i t i s the chari t abl e de fender who i s i mpreg
nabl e ( and not the pi t i l ess warr i or) . Those whom heaven wi shes wel l ,
ar e thereby made char i t abl e.
Simpl icity and humi l i ty are treat ed else where, in chapters 75, 7 7,
and 78.
Chapter 68. Text.
A. He who commands shoul d not t hi nk t hat t act i cs , val our, and
effort gi ve v i ctory.
B. I t i s by put t i ng onesel f at t he ser v i ce of men tha t one subdues
them. That i s the correct procedur e. I t i s s omet i mes formul at ed
as fol l ows: art of not st ruggl i ng ( of accommoda t i ng onesel f , of
wi nni ng by mak i ng onesel f e ver yt hi ng t o e ver yone ) ; of ab i l i t y to
manage men; of act i on con for mi ng t o that of hea ven. Al l these
formul ae des i gnat e the same thi ng. The y show the grea tness of
t he anci ents .
The commentators add nothi ng.
Chapter 69. Text.
A. Rather be on the defens i ve t han the of f ens i ve, rather retreat a
step than advance an i nch, are current pr i nci pl es of mi l i tary art.
I t i s worth more to yi el d t han t o t r i u mph. Pr event i on ( of war)
through di pl omacy i s wort h e ven more.
B. That i s the meani ng of cer t ai n abst ruse formul ae of mi l i t ary art ,
such as: advanci ng wi thout marchi ng; de fendi ng onese l f wi thout
movi ng an arm; st atus quo wi t hout f i ght i ng; hol di ng on wi thout
weapons; and ot hers.
C. There i s no worse curse t han a war waged wi t h l i t t l e or no
reason, ( whi ch i s sought - after del i berat el y, and pushed beyond
necessary l i mi ts) . He who does t hat , exposes hi s own goods to l oss,
and causes great mour ni ng.
Continuati on of the preceding chapter. The commentators add
nothing.
Chapter 70. Text.
A. What I ( Lao Zi ) teach i s easy to understand and to pract i se,
and yet t he worl d nei ther understands nor pract i ses i t .
B. My precepts and procedures deri ve from a super i or pr i nci pl e and
procedure , the Pri nci pl e and i ts Vi rt ue.
35
Lao Zi.
c. The worl d does not recogni ze the Pri nci pl e whi ch di rects me,
that i s why i t does not know me. Very few understand me. That
makes my gl ory . I t befal l s me to be l i ke t he Sage who i s unrecog
ni zed from amongst the common peopl e because of hi s humbl e
appearance, e ven though hi s i nteri or i s fi l l ed wi th j ewel s.
The commentators add nothing.
Chapter 7 1 . Text.
A. Knowi ng al l and bel i evi ng t hat one knows not hi ng, i s true
knowl edge ( of a super i or ki nd) . Knowi ng not hi ng and bel i ev i ng that
one knows e veryt hi ng, i s the common ev i l of humans.
B. See i ng t hi s ev i l as an e v i l , keeps one away from i t. The Sage i s
exempt from sel f-concei t , because he dreads i t. Thi s fear keeps hi m
from i t .
Summary of commentaries.
Not-kowing comes uder not -act ing, for to kow is an act, say the
Daoists, who, reject ing theories, genera l i za tions, and classi fi cati ons,
admi t only to object i ve apprehension of parti cular cases.
Chapter 72. Text.
A. Those ( who expose themsel ves to danger through curi osi t y, l ove
of gai n, or ambi t i on) shoul d be a fr ai d when t hey are not afrai d. For
they are l ost.
B. Do not consi der your pl ace of bi rt h too rest r i ct i ng, do not
become di ssat i sf i ed wi t h t he condi t i on i n whi ch you were born.
( Stay what you are and where you are. The e ffort t o seek for bet ter
coul d perhaps cause you to l ose your way) . One does not become
di ssat i sfi ed, i f one does not wi sh t o become so. ( Di ssat i s fact i on
is al ways vol untary , comi ng from compari ng one ' s si t uat i on wi th
another, and havi ng preference for the ot her) .
C. The Sage knows hi s worth but does not show i t , ( he does not
feel the need to show i t off) . He respect s hi msel f but does not try
to be esteemed. He di scerns, adop t i ng thi s, and rej ec t i ng that ( after
the l i ght of hi s wi sdom) .
The commentators add nothing.
Chapter 73. Text.
A. Acti ve ( warl i ke) courage procures death. Passi ve courage (pa
t i ence, endurance) conserves l i fe. There fore there are t wo courages,
one harmful , the other benefi ci al .
B. ( Pat i ence and forbearance ar e al ways wor t h mor e than i nci s i ve
act i on, even in government , i n pol i t i cs) . For does heaven wi sh harm,
36
Lao Zi.
or not , to t hi s or that man, or nat i on ? And why ? Who knows ? -
Therefore the Sage al ways act s as though embarrassed, ( hes i t at i ng,
maki ng up hi s mi nd wi th di ffi cul t y be fore any ac t i ve i nter vent i on) .
C. For the way of heaven ( i ts const ant conduct ) , i s not to i nter vene
pos i t i vel y. I t wi ns wi thout fi ght i ng. I t makes bei ngs obey wi thout
gi vi ng orders. I t makes them come wi t hout cal l i ng them. It bri ngs
everyt hi ng to i ts concl usi on whi l st ha v i ng the appearance of l et t i ng
everyt hi ng drag.
D. The heavenl y net cat ches al l . I ts mesh i s wi de , but no one
escapes i t .
Summary of commentaries.
In D supose that, through benevol ence, the Sage had let a culprit
escape the net of human la w, the hea venl y ne t would get hi m.
Te Sage entruts hi msel f therefore to heaven, and acts rather
less than more, out of fear of acti ng agai nst the intentions of
heaven, or of trespssing on i ts rights.
Chapter 74. Text.
A. I f the peopl e do not fear deat h, wha t i s the good of t ryi ng to
control them by the threa t of dea t h? I f the y fear deat h, then onl y
capt ure and execute t hose who cause di sor der , turni ng t he others
away from doi ng l i kewi s e.
B. ( The l egal i s ts who ar e l av i sh wi th t he deat h penal t y and bel i eve
i t wi l l sort e ver ythi ng out , ar e t here fore wrong) . The servant
of death ( heaven) , k i l l s, Oet hi m do i t . Let us not do hi s work.
He al one i s capabl e of i t) .
C. The man who wants to ki l l may end up l i ke those who pl ay wi th
the carpenter ' s tool s, and of ten l ose a f i nger i n the i r pl ay.
Summary of commentaries.
To get something out of men, it is better to treat them benevol ent
l y. - Tis chapter i s di rected against the l egalist school of Fa Jia,
who thought only of puishments. It is a fact of experience, say
the commentators, that people fear death l ess than forced labur,
for example; and that, as soon as they get carried a way, they lose
al l fear.
Chapter 75. Text.
A. I f the peopl e are hungr y, i t i s because the pri nce eats up
excessi ve sums of money ( whi ch he ex torts from t hem) .
B. I f t he peopl e are res t i ve, i t i s because t he pr i nce does too much,
( i ndi sposes them by hi s i nnovat i ons) .
37
Lao Zi.
C. I f the peopl e expose themsel ves l i ght l y to death ( i n hazardous
enterpri ses), i t i s because he l oves l i fe too much, ( l ove of wel l
bei ng, of pl easure, of fame) .
D. He who does nothi ng i n order to l i ve, i s wi ser than he who harms
hi msel f in order to l i ve.
Summary of commentaries.
Te prince and the peopl e should cul t i vt e si mpl i ci ty and al l wi l l
go wel l . This chapter conti nues chapter 6 7. Te meaning of D is:
He who does not care for weal th or fa me is wi ser than he who
wears hi msel f out and endangers hi msel f for these t hings.
Chapter 76. Text.
A. When a man i s born he i s suppl e and weak ( but ful l of l i fe) ; he
becomes strong and powerful , and then he di es .
B. I t i s the same f or pl ant s , de l i cate ( herbaceous) at f i r s t , then
becomi ng woody at the t i me of the i r deat h.
C. He who i s strong and power f ul i s mar ked for deat h; he who i s
weak and fl ex i bl e i s mar ked f or l i fe.
D. The great army wi l l be de feat ed. The great tree wi l l be cut
down.
E. Everythi ng that i s strong and grea t i s i n a poorer s i t uat i on. The
advantage i s al ways wi t h the suppl e and the weak .
The oak and the reed of La Fontai ne.
Chapter 77. Text.
A. Heaven acts (wi th regard t o men) l i ke the archer who, bendi n
g
hi s bow, makes the con vex i t i es s t r ai ght and the concav i t i es bul ge,
di mi ni shi ng the greater and augment i ng the l esser. ( Loweri n
g
the
hi gher, and rai si ng the l ower) . I t takes away from those who have
pl enty, and adds to those who have l i t t l e .
B. Whereas men ( bad pri nces who bl eed the peopl e) do qui te the
opposi te, taki ng away from those who l ack ( the peopl e) , in order
to add to those who have i n abundance ( thei r favouri tes) . . . Any
superfl ui t y ought to come back to the empi re ( t o the peopl e), but
onl y he who possesses the Pri nci pl e is capabl e of that.
C. The Sage conforms hi msel f to the Pri nci pl e. He i nfl uences
wi thout attri but i ng the resul t to hi msel f. He accompl i shes wi thout
appropri at i ng hi s work to hi msel f . He does not cl ai m the t i tl e of
Sage, ( but keeps hi msel f i n vol untary obscur i t y).
Note - The Chinese bow reverses i ts shape when dra wn.
38
Lao Zi.
Chapter 78. Text.
A. In thi s worl d there i s not hi ng more suppl e and weak than water;
and yet no one, howe ver strong and powerful he may be, can
resi st i ts act i on ( corrosi on, wear, wave act i on) ; and no bei ng can
do wi t hout i t ( for dr i nki ng, growth, et c. ) .
B. Is i t cl ear enough t hat weakness i s worth more than strength,
t hat suppl eness can overcome r i gi di t y? - Everyone agrees wi th thi s;
but no one acts accordi ng to i t .
C. The Sages hav e s ai d: ' He who rej ect s ne i ther moral fi l th nor
pol i t i cal ev i l i s capabl e of becomi ng the chi ef of a terri tory or
the soverei gn of the empi re . ' ( He who i s suppl e enough to accom
modate h i msel f t o al l t hat ; and not a r i gi d and systemat i c person) .
D. These words are qui te t rue, e ven though t hey of fend many.
Te last t wo chapters l ink wi th chapter 6 7.
Chapter 79. Text.
A. When the pri nc i pl e of a di sput e has been s et t l ed ( some accessory
gri e vances) al ways remai n, and t hi ngs do not ret urn to the state
they were i n be fore , ( brui ses remai n) .
B. ( There fore t he Sage ne ver quest i ons i t , despi te hi s ri ght ) .
Keepi ng hi s hal f of the agree ment , he does not ex act the execut i on
( of what i s wri t t en) .
C. He who knows how t o conduct hi msel f a ft er the Vi rtue of
t he Pri nci pl e, l et s hi s wr i t t en agreement s sl eep. He who does not
know how t o conduct hi msel f thus, ex act s hi s due .
D. Hea ven i s i mpar t i al . ( I f i t were capabl e o f some part i al i t y) ,
i t woul d g i ve advantage to good peopl e, ( those who act as i n C.
I t woul d overwhel m t hem, because t hey ask for not hi ng) .
The commentators add nothing
Chapter 80. Text.
A. I f I were ki ng of a l i t t l e st at e, of a l i t t l e peopl e, I woul d take
care to use ( put i n charge) the few dozen capabl e men that thi s
state woul d cont ai n.
B. I woul d pre vent my subj ects f r om t ravel l i ng, by maki ng them
fear possi bl e acci dent al deat h so much that they woul d not dare
cl i mb i nt o a boat or carri age.
C. I woul d prohi bi t al l use of weapons.
D. As for wr i t i ng and cal cul at i ng, I woul d obl i ge them to go back
to knotted cords.
E. Then they woul d fi nd thei r food tasty, thei r cl ot hes fi ne, t he i r
houses peace ful , and thei r manners and customs agreeabl e.
F. ( I woul d pre vent cur i osi t y and communi cat i on t o t he poi nt where)
my subj ects woul d hear the noi se of the cocks and dogs of the
39
Lao Zi.
nei ghbouri ng st at e, but di e from ol d age wi thout havi ng crossed
the border and had rel at i onshi ps wi th the peopl e there.
The Daoist ideal of the moue in i ts cheese.
Chapter 81 . Text.
A. ( I have f i ni shed. Perhaps you may fi nd my di scourse lacks
somet hi ng, i s not very subt l e, and i s scarcel y wi se) . Thi s i s because
nat i ve frankness does not dress i tsel f up, nat ural di rectness avoi ds
qui bbl i ng, common sense can di spense wi th art i f i ci al erudi t i on.
B. The Sage does not hoard, but gi ves. The more he does for men,
the more he can do; the more he gi ves t hem, the more he has.
Heaven does good to al l , doi ng no ev i l to anyone. The Sage i mi tates
i t , act i ng for the good of al l , and oppos i ng h i msel f to no one.
Te commentators add nothing.
LIE Zl
CHONG HU CHEN JING
OR
THE TREATISE OF THE TRANSCENDENT MASTER
OF THE VOID
Chapter 1. Genesis And Transformati on.
A. L i e Z i l i ve d for t y years i n a cot t age i n the Pr i nci pal i t y of
Zheng wi thout anyone t aki ng any not i ce o f h i m; wi t hout t he pr i nce,
hi s mi ni sters and o ff i cers , see i ng hi m as any t hi ng ot her t han a
common man. When fami ne descended on the l and he arranged to
emi grate to the l and of We i . Hi s di sci pl es s ai d to hi m: ' Master,
you are goi ng t o l eave wi t hout our knowi ng i f and when you wi l l
r et ur n. Ki ndl y t each us, be fore your depar t ur e, what you l earnt
from Master Li n ' ( Hu Zi ) . - Li e Zi s mi l ed and s ai d: ' What I l earnt
from my mast er ?. . . When he was teachi ng Bo Hun Wu Ren*, I
grasped somet hi ng, whi ch I a m goi ng to t r y t o t el l you. He sai d
that there i s a producer t hat has not been produced, a transformer
that i s not t rans for med. Thi s non- produced producer has produced
the t ot al i t y of bei ngs , t hi s non- t r ansf or med one, trans forms al l
be i ngs. S i nce the begi nni ng of produc t i on, the producer has not
been abl e to stop produci ng; s i nce the begi nn i ng of trans for mat i on,
t he transfor mer has not been abl e t o st op t r ans for mi ng. The chai n
of product i ons and t rans for mat i ons i s t here fore uni nterrupted,
the producer and the transformer produc i ng and trans formi ng
wi thout cease. The y i n- yang i s t he producer, ( the Pri nci pl e under
i ts al t ernat i ng doubl e moda l i t y) ; the cycl e of t he four seasons i s
t he transformer , ( re vol ut i on o f the hea ven- eart h bi nomi al ) . The
producer i s i mmobi l e, the t ransformer comes and goes. The mobi l e
and the i mmob i l e wi l l endure al ways. '
B. In the wr i t i ngs of the Yel l ow Emperor i t i s sai d**: ' The expan
s i ve transcendent force whi ch resi des i n the medi an space ( the vi rt
ue of the Pr i nci pl e) does not di e. Thi s i s the myst eri ous mother
of al l bei ngs, whose door i s the root of heaven and earth ( the
Pri nci pl e) , who moves and acts wi t hout expendi ture or fat i gue '
Thi s comes back t o sayi ng t hat the producer i s not produced,
the transformer i s not transformed. The producer- trans former
produces and transforms, becomes sent i ent , takes on form, at t ai ns
i ntel l i gence , acqui res energy , acts and sl eeps, but remai ns al ways
i tsel f, ( the uni t y of the cosmos, wi t hout real di st i nct i on) . I t i s
*A co-di sci pl e; ri tual humi l i ty; one shoul d not present onesel f as t he di sci pl e of
an i l l ustri ous man, out of f ear of shami ng hi m.
**Textual l y Lao Zi chapter 6.
41
Lie Zi, ch. 1 B, C, D.
an error t o say t hat di s t i nct bei ngs are produced and transformed,
becomi ng sent i ent , t ak i ng on forms, at t ai ni ng i nt el l i gence, acqui ri ng
energy, act i ng and sl eepi ng.
C. Li e Zi sai d: ' Anal ysi ng the product i on of the cosmos by the
Pri nci pl e under i ts doubl e modal i t y of yi n and yang, the emergence
of the sent i ent from the non-sent i ent , the peaceful germ of
the generat i v e act i on of heaven and eart h, the anci ent Sages
di st i ngui shed the fol l owi ng s t ages: great mut at i on, great ori gi n,
great begi nni ng, great fl ux *. The great mut at i on i s the stage
before the appearance of t enuous mat t er. ( I t i s the gyrati on
of the t wo modal i t i es i n t he i ndef i ni t e bei ng, i n forml essness,
i n the Pr i nci pl e come out f rom i t s absol ut e i mmobi l i ty) . The
great or i gi n i s the st age of t enuous mat t er . The great begi nni ng
i s the st age of pal pabl e mat t er . The great fl ux i s the stage of
pl as t i c mat ter, of corporeal subst ances, of act ual materi al bei ngs.
- The pri mi t i ve s t at e when mat t er was s t i l l i mpercept i bl e i s
known al so as ' 'Hun l un " whi ch r efers to the t i me when al l the
bei ngs whi ch were t o come l at er were cont ai ned i ndi scernabl y,
unrecogni sabl y, as i n a huge swel l . I ts ordi nary name i s " Yi",
mut at i on, because ai l wi l l come from i t by way of transformati on.
- St art i ng from the non-sen t i ent and undi f ferent i ated st at e, begi n
ni ng by one, the progress i on passes t hrough seven, goi ng as far
as ni ne**; regress i on wi l l br i ng e ver yt hi ng back to uni t y. - Uni t y
was t he poi nt of depart ure of t he genesi s of sent i ent bei ngs.
Thi s genes i s began as fol l ows: The purest and l i ghtest matter
ri si ng up became hea ven; the l ess pure and heavy mat t er descend
ed and became eart h; and men came from the best consti tuted
matter remai ni ng i n the medi an space. The essence of al l bei ngs
was at fi rst part of heaven and ear t h, from whi ch they al l come
out successi vel y by way of transfor mat i on. '
D. Li e Zi sai d: ' Taken i n i sol at i on, heaven and earth have not
every capaci t y, a Sage has not e very t al ent , a bei ng has not
every propri et y. Hea ven gi ves l i fe and covers, earth furni shes
matter and supports, the Sage teaches and amends, bei ngs have
each thei r own l i mi t ed qual i t i es. Heaven and earth have each
thei r respect i ve defi c i ts whi ch t hey compensate reci procal l y,
the Sage has hi s defaul ts whi ch obl i ge hi m to have recourse to
others, al l bei ngs have to hel p each other. Heaven cannot suppl ant
the earth, the earth cannot repl ace the Sage, the Sage cannot
change the nature of bei ngs , speci fi e bei ngs cannot l eave thei r
*Correct l y, great unwi ndi ng, the regul ar course of things, such as they are, in
the worl d such as I t is.
Seven may re fer to the seven heavenl y bodi es, the seven rectors of Chinese
phi l osophy. Ni ne I s the l ast of the si mpl e numbers.
42
Lie Zi, ch. 1 D, E.
st at e. The act i on of heaven and eart h consi sts i n the al t ernat i on
of the yi n and the yang, the i nf l uence of the Sage consi st s i n
t he i ncul ca t i on of goodness and fai rness, t he nat ure of bei ngs
i s act i ve or passi ve; al l t hi s i s nat ural and i mmut abl e. - Because
there are product s, t here i s a producer of these products. There
i s an aut hor, of corporeal forms, of sounds, of col ours, of tastes.
The products are mort al , t hei r producer i s not . The author of
corporeal for ms i s not corporeal , the one of sounds i s not percep
t i bl e t o the ear, t he one of col ours i s not vi s i bl e to t he eye, the
one of tastes i s not perc e i ved b y t ast e. Apar t from i t s i nf i ni t y
and i mmort al i t y , the producer , the aut hor ( t he Pri nci pl e) , i s
i ndeter mi nat e, capabl e of becomi ng, i n be i ngs , y i n or yang, act i ve
or pass i ve, expanded or cont r act ed, round or square, agent of
l i fe or of death, hot or col d, l i ght or heavy, nobl e or v i l e, vi si bl e
or i n vi s i bl e, bl ack or yel l ow, bi t t er or s weet , perfumed or s t i nki ng.
Depr i ved of al l i nt el l ect ual knowl edge and of al l i ntent i onal
power, i t knows al l and can do al l ' ( for i t i s i mmanent i n al l
that whi ch knows and i s abl e, whi ch i s, says t he comment ary,
supreme knowl edge and power) .
E. When Li e Zi , who was t ra vel l i ng i n t he Pr i nc i pal i t y of Wei ,
stopped t o eat hi s food by t he ways i de, one of hi s compani ons
pi cked up an ol d skul l and showed i t t o h i m. Li e Zi l ooked at
i t and s ai d t o hi s di s ci pl e Bai Feng: ' He and I know that the di ffer
ence between l i fe and death i s onl y i magi nary , he through exper
i ence, and I through reasoni ng. He and I know t hat to cl i ng to
l i fe and t o fear death i s unreasonabl e, l i fe and death bei ng onl y
t wo success i v e phases. Ev er yt hi ng passes accor di ng to t i me or
ci rcumst ance, through success i v e s t ates , wi t hout changi ng essent i al
l y. Thus frogs become quai l s and quai l s become frogs, accordi ng
to whether t he condi t i ons are wet or dry . One and the same
germ wi l l become a mat of duckweed on a pond, or a carpet
of moss on a hi l l . Manured, t he moss becomes t he Wu zu pl ant,
of whi ch t he root changes i nto worms and t he l eaves i nt o but t er
fl i es. These but t erfl i es produce a ki nd of l ar va whi ch l i ves around
fi repl aces, whi ch i s cal l ed Qu tuo. After a thousand days thi s
Qu tuo becomes the Qi an yu gu bi rd, whose sal i va gi ves bi rth
to the Si mi . Thi s l at t er changes i tsel f i nt o Shi x i , i nto Mou
r ui , i nt o Fu kuan, ( al l successi ve forms of the same bei ng, says
the comment ary) . The sheep' s l i ver i s transformed i nt o Di gao.
Horse bl ood i s transformed i nto wi l l -o ' - the -wi sp. Human bl ood
i s transformed i nto spri tes. The kestrel becomes a fal con, then
a buzzard, then the cycl e begi ns agai n. The swal l ow becomes
a shel l fi sh, then i t becomes a swal l ow agai n. The vol e becomes
a quai l , then i t becomes a vol e agai n. Gourds, on peri shi ng, produce
f i sh. Ol d pear trees become hares. Ol d bi l l y -goats become monkeys.
In t i mes of drought , grasshoppers emerge from fi sh spawn. The
43
Lie Zi, ch. 1 E, F.
quadruped Lei of the Tan Yian Mount ai ns is sel f-fer t i l i sed. The
Vi bi rd i s fert i l i sed by l ooki ng in the wat er. Da yao i nsects are
all femal e, and reproduce wi thout mal e i ntervent i on; Zhi fang
wasps are all male and reproduce t hemsel ves wi t hout femal e
i ntervent i on. Hou j i i s born of a l arge foot pri nt , Vi yi n from a
hol l ow mul berry. The Kui zhao i nsec t i s born of wat er, and the
Xi j i of wi ne. Yang xi and Bu sun pl ants are two al ternati ng
forms. From ol d bamboo comes the Qi ng ni ng i nsect , whi ch becomes
a l eopard, then a horse, then a man. Man returns to the craft
of weavi ng ( that i s to say, t hat for man, wi th the comi ng and
goi ng of the shuttl e, the seri es of transformat i ons recommences) .
Al l bei ngs come from the great cosmi c craft , and ret urn to i t
agai n*. '
F. In the wri t i ngs of t he Yel l ow Emperor i t i s sai d: ' When a sub
stance i s proj ect ed, i t does not produce a new substance, but a
shadow; when a sound resonat es, i t does not produce a new sound,
but an echo; when forml essness i s dyi ng, i t does not produce
a new forml essness, but the sent i ent be i ng. ' Each substance wi l l
have an end. Hea ven and ear t h are substances, and they wi l l
end j ust as I wi l l ; i f one can cal l what i s onl y a change of state,
an end. For the Pr i nci pl e, from whi ch e ver yt hi ng or i gi nates,
wi l l not have an end, si nce i t has no begi nni ng, and i s not subj ect
to the l aws of durat i on. Be i ngs pass successi vel y through the
states of bei ng l i vi ng and non-l i vi ng, of be i ng mat er i al and non
materi al . The state of non-l i vi ng i s not produced by non-l i fe,
but fol l ows on from t he st at e of l i fe ( l i ke i ts shadow, as ment i oned
above) . The state of non- mater i al i t y i s not produced by i mmat eri al
i ty, but fol l ows f rom t he st at e of mat er i al i t y ( as i ts echo, referred
to above). Thi s success i ve al ternat i on i s surel y i ne v i t abl e. Each
l i vi ng thi ng wi l l i nevi t abl y cease to l i ve, and i t wi l l cease l ater
on, i nevi t abl y, to be non-l i vi ng, and wi l l return of necessi t y to
l i fe. Therefore to wi sh to make one ' s l i fe l ast, and t o escape
death, is to wi sh the i mpossi bl e. - In the human composi t e, the
vi tal spi r i t i s the contr i but i on of heaven, the body i s the contri bu
ti on of earth. Man begi ns by the aggregat i on of hi s vi t al spi ri t
wi th the gross terrest r i al el ement s, and ends by the uni on of
the same spi r i t wi th the pure cel es t i al el ements. When the vi tal
spi ri t l eaves the body, each of the two component s returns to
i ts ori gi n. That i s why we have a s i mi l ar soundi ng word ( gui )
for ' dead' and for ' returned. ' The dead are, i n fact , returned
to thei r own abode ( the cosmos). The Yel l ow Emperor has sai d:
' The vi tal spi ri t returns through i ts door (i n the Pri nci pl e, - see
Lao Zi , chapter 6 C, and el sewhere), the body returns to i ts
*This passage perhaps summari zes exoti c legends. The commentary st resses that
despite the apparent disorder, al l forms of transformati on are covered, with or
wi thout Intermediary death.
44
Lie Zi, ch. 1 F, G, H, I.
ori gi n (matter) , and the personal i t y i s done away.
G. The l i fe of a man from bi rth to death, is made up of four
great peri ods of chi l dhood, robust yout h, ol d age, and the t i me
of death. Duri ng chi l dhood, wi th i ts concentrat i on of energy,
the harmony of the compl ex i s perfect , and i ts funct i oni ng i s
so preci se t hat not hi ng can harm i t. Dur i ng robust youth, wi th
i ts hi gh spi r i ts , the bl ood al most boi l s over, the i magi nat i on i s
strong and l usty, and the harmony of the compl ex i s no l onger
perfect , exteri or i nfl uences maki ng i ts funct i oni ng defect i ve.
Duri ng the years of ol d age, there i s a cal mi ng of i magi nat i on
and l ust , the body i s appeased, ext er i or bei ngs cease to exert
a strong hol d; and, al though there i s no return to the perfect i on
of i nfancy, there i s, however, progress over the peri od of youth.
Fi nal l y, at the end, through death, man comes to rest, returned
to hi s hei ght , ( t o hi s i ntegral perfect i on, uni on wi th the cosmos) .
H. Confuci us was on hi s way t o Mount Tai Shan. On the pl ai n
of Cheng he met a cer t ai n Rang Qi , dressed i n a deerski n wi th
a pi ece of st ri ng for a bel t , pl ayi ng the l ute and s i ngi ng . ' Master,
he asked hi m, ' what i s i t that makes you so ful l of j oy ? ' - ' I
have, s ai d Rang Qi , many subj ect s of j oy. Of a l l bei ngs, man
i s the most nobl e; and I have for my l ot the body of a man;
that i s my fi rst subj ect of j oy. The mascul i ne sex i s more nobl e
than the femi ni ne, and I have for my l ot a mascul i ne body; that
i s my second subj ect of j oy. Some di e i n thei r mother ' s womb,
before seei ng the l i ght of day, others di e i n thei r swaddl i ng-cl othes
before the awakeni ng of thei r reason; no such t hi ng has happened
t o me, I have l i ved for ni net y years; and thi s i s my thi rd subj ect
of j oy. . . And why shoul d I be sad? Because of my povert y? -
That i s the common l ot of Sages. Because of death whi ch approach
es? - That i s the term of every l i fe. - Confuci us sai d to hi s
di sci pl es: ' Thi s man knows how to consol e hi msel f.
I. A cert ai n Li n Lei , over a hundred years ol d and s t i l l weari ng
a ski n at the t i me of the wheat harvest ( because he had no other
cl othes for thi s hot season) , was si ngi ng whi l st gl eani ng for ears
of grai n. Confuci us, who was travel l i ng to Wei , came across
hi m i n the country, and sai d to hi s di sci pl es: ' Try to enter i nto
conversat i on wi th t hi s ol d man; he coul d teach us somethi ng. '
- Zi Gong went up to Li n Lei , greeted hi m, and sai d to hi m
wi th compassi on: ' Master, have you no regrets t hat you si ng
thus, whi l st doi ng thi s beggar ' s task? ' - Li n Lei conti nued gl eani ng
and hummi ng, wi thout payi ng any at tent i on to Zi Gong. The l at ter
persi sted so that he ended up by l ooki ng at hi m, and sayi ng:
' What regrets shoul d I have? ' - ' You shoul d have regrets, ' sai d
Zi Gong, ' for not havi ng worked harder and been more i ngeni ous
45
Lie Zi, ch. 1 I, J, K.
duri ng your youth and mat ur i t y and so made your fortune; for
havi ng remai ned cel i bat e and reachi ng ol d age wi t h nei ther wi fe
nor chi l dren; for hav i ng to di e soon wi t h nei t her hel p nor offeri ngs.
Havi ng l anded yoursel f i n such a st at e, how can you s i ng whi l st
doi ng thi s beggar ' s task ? ' - ' Because, ' sai d Li n Lei l aughi ng, ' I have
taken al l my happi ness from t hi ngs whi ch are open t o al l , and whi ch
al l detest (povert y, obscuri t y, et c. ) . I agree that I have nei ther
appl i ed mysel f nor been i ngen i ous, and t hi s has saved me from
becomi ng worn out , and i t has enabl ed me t o reach my age. I agree,
I have remai ned cel i bat e, and i n consequence the prospect of death
does not sadden me, nor for the wi dow and orphans I shal l not
l eave. ' - ' But , ' sai d Zi Gong, ' every man l oves l i fe and fears death.
How can you l ook on l i fe so cheapl y , and be fond of deat h?' -
' Because, ' sai d Li n Lei , ' deat h i s to l i fe what ret urni ng i s t o goi ng
away. When I di e here, wi l l I not be reborn el sewhere? And i f I
am reborn, wi l l i t not be i n di fferent c i rcums t ances? Now as
I have onl y t o gai n from the change , what ever i t may be, woul d
i t not be stupi d for me t o fear deat h, through whi ch I shal l be
better off? ' - Zi Gong di d not cl ear l y understand these words.
He reported them to Confuc i us. ' I had reason to t hi nk, ' sai d the
l atter, ' that we coul d have l ear nt somet hi ng from t hi s man. He
knows somet hi ng, but not al l . ' ( Si nce he has st opped at the succes
si on of exi stences, wi thout goi ng on t o uni on wi t h the Pri nci pl e,
whi ch i s the ul t i mat e) .
J. Zi Gong had become bored wi t h st udy i ng. He s ai d t o Confuc i us:
' May I take a rest ? ' - ' There i s no pl ace for rest amongst the
l i vi ng, ' sai d Confuc i us. - ' Then, ' s ai d Zi Gong, ' gi v e me some
rest wi thout pl ace. ' - ' You wi l l f i nd, ' sa i d Confuc i us, ' rest wi thout
l ocal i zat i on i n deat h. ' - ' Then, ' s ai d Zi Gong, ' l ong l i ve death,
the repose of the Sage, whi ch the fool i sh fear qu i te wrongl y. '
- ' Now you are i ni t i at ed, ' sa i d Con fuc i us. ' Yes , common peopl e
speak of the j oys of l i v i ng, of the honours of ol d age, of the
pangs of death. The real i ty i s that l i fe i s bi t ter, ol d age i s a
decadence, and death i s repose. '
K. Yen Zi sai d: ' The anc i ent s best of a l l have understood exactl y
what death i s, the desi red repose o f the good, the dreaded fatal i t y
of the wi cked. Death i s a returni ng. That i s why t he dead are
cal l ed "the returned ones. " Logi cal l y one shoul d cal l the l i v i ng
"those who have come agai n. " - Wal ki ng wi thout knowi ng where
one i s goi ng i s an act of those who have gone astray, at whom
one l aughs. Al as, nowadays the maj ori t y of men have gone astray,
i gnorant of where they go at death, and no one l aughs at them.
Shoul d a man negl ect hi s busi ness i n order to wander ai ml essl y,
people woul d say he was crazy. I say the same of those who,
forgetti ng the beyond, i mmerse themsel ves i n weal th and honours,
46
Lie Zi, ch. 1 K, L, M, N.
even though they are j udged sane by the worl d. No, they have
gone astray, onl y the Sag knows where he i s goi ng.
'
L. Someone asked Lao Z i : ' Why do you hol d the voi d in such
great esteem?' - ' The voi d, ' sa i d Lao Zi , ' cannot be hel d i n esteem
for i tsel f. I t shoul d be esteemed for the peace one fi nds there.
Peace i n the voi d, i s a state t hat cannot be defi ned. One can
come t o establ i sh onesel f i n i t, but one can nei t her t ake i t nor
gi ve i t. I n t he ol d days they t ended towards i t. Nowadays they
prefer t he exer ci se of goodness and fa i rness, whi ch does not
gi ve the same resul t . '
M. I n t he ol d days Yu Xi ong s ai d: ' The t ransport of defunct bei ngs,
under the act i on of heaven and ear t h, i s i mpercept i bl e. A bei ng
that per i shes here i s born agai n el sewher e; one t hat i s added
here, i s subt ract ed from el sewhere. Prosper i t y and decadence,
becomi ng and endi ng, these comi ngs and goi ngs are enchai ned
wi t hout the thread of t hi s enchai nment bei ng graspabl e. So i mper
cept i bl e are the comi ngs of those who arr i v e and the departures
of those who l eave, that t he uni verse al ways present s the same
aspect . Just as the changes i n a human body , f ace, sk i n, and
hai r, from bi r t h t o deat h, are quot i di an, but cannot be not i ced
from one day t o the nex t . '
N. I n the l and of Qi a ma n was t or ment ed by the fear that
the sky was goi ng to f al l on hi s head and t he earth was goi ng
t o open up under hi s feet . The f ear of t hi s great cat acl ysm obses
sed hi m to the poi nt where he coul d not sl eep and had l ost hi s
appet i te. - A fri end was moved by hi s st at e and t ook on the
task of cheeri ng hi m up. ' The sky , ' he s ai d, ' i s not sol i d. Up
there, there are onl y v apours whi ch come and go, expandi ng
and contract i ng, and t hereby for mi ng the cosmi c respi rat i on.
That cannot f al l . ' - ' So be i t , ' sai d the worri er; ' but what about
the sun, the moon, and the stars? ' - ' These heavenl y bodi es, '
sai d t he fr i end, ' are al so onl y made of l umi nous gas. I f they
shoul d fal l , they woul d not have even enough mass t o cause a
wound. ' - ' And i f t he earth shoul d open up? ' asked the worri er.
- ' The eart h i s too bi g, ' sai d the fri end, ' for the footsteps of
men t o wear i t out ; and i t i s too wel l suspended i n space for
t hei r i mpact s t o shake i t . ' - Reassured, the worr i er burst out
l aughi ng; and the fri end, happy t o have succeeded i n reassuri ng
hi m, l aughed al so. - However Chang Lu Zi , hav i ng heard thi s
st ory, cr i t i ci sed t he fool and hi s fri end, i n these words: ' I t may
be true t hat the sky and heavenl y bodi es are made of l i ght vapours,
and the earth of sol i d support i ng mat ter. But these vapours and
thi s matte! are compos i t i ons. Who can guarantee that these com
posi t i ons wi l l never be di si ntegrated? Gi ven t hi s uncert ai nt y, i t
47
Lie Zi, ch. 1 N, O, P.
is reasonabl e to specul ate on the eventual i t y of the r ui n of heaven
and earth. But i t is unreasonabl e to l i ve in the cont i nual expect
at i on of thi s rui n. Let us l eave the task of moani ng over the
great col l apse to those who wi l l be i ts contempora

i es . ' -
.
Havi ng
heard thi s sol ut i on, Li e Zi sai d: ' I t woul d be pushmg thmgs too
far to affi rm that heaven and earth shal l be rui ned; i t woul d
al so be goi ng tao far to affi rm that they shal l not be rui ned. I t i s
i mpossi bl e to know wi th certai nt y one way or the other. I concl ude
thi s from an anal ogy. The l i vi ng know not hi ng of t hei r future state
i n death, the dead know not hi ng of t hei r future l i fe to come.
Those who come ( the l i v i ng) do not know how thei r departure
( death) wi l l be, those who have l ef t ( the dead) do not know how
they wi l l come back (to l i fe) . If men are i ncapabl e of account i ng
for the phases of thei r own evol ut i on, how can t hey account for
the cri ses of heaven and earth ?'
0. Shun asked Zheng: ' Can one possess t he Pr i nci pl e ? ' - ' You
do not even possess your own bod y , ' s ai d Zheng, ' so how coul d
you possess the Pri nc i pl e ? ' - ' I f I do not possess my bod y , ' sai d
Shun surpri sed, ' then to whom does i t bel ong?' - ' To heaven and
earth, of whi ch i t i s a part i cl e , ' repl i ed Zheng. ' Your l i fe i s an
atom of the cosmi c harmony . Your na t ure anc i t s des t i ny are
an atom of the uni versal concord. Your chi l dren and grandchi l dren
are not yours, bu t bel ong to the great whol e, of whi ch they are the
offspri ng. You wal k wi thout knowi ng what pushes you , stop wi thout
knowi ng what fi xes you, and eat wi t hout knowi ng how you assi m
i l ate. Al l t hat you are i s but an ef fec t of t he i rres i s t i bl e cosmi c
emanat i on. So what do you possess ? '
P. I n the l and of Qi a cert ai n Guo was v er y r i ch. I n the l and
of Song a certai n Xi ang was very poor. The poor man went to
ask the ri ch man how he had gai ned hi s weal t h. ' By steal i ng, '
sai d the l atter. ' At the end o f t he f i r st year I had the necessary,
after two years I had pl ent y, and at the end of the thi rd year
I had become opul ent and a person of great di s t i nc t i on. ' - Mi sunder
standi ng the word ' st eal i ng, ' Xi ang quest i oned hi m no further.
Ful l of j oy, he took a hol i day and soon set hi msel f to work, cl i mb
i ng wal l s or break i ng through t hem, l ay i ng hi s hands on anythi ng
that sui ted hi m. He ws soon arrested and had to repay everythi ng.
He lost even the l i t t l e he had before , but was happy to have
got off so l i ghtl y. In the bel i ef that he had been mi sl ed he went
nd made bi tter
.
reproaches to Guo. - ' How di d you
'
go about
i t ?' asked Guo, qui te astoni shed. When Xi ang had told hi m hi s meth
ods, Guo sai d: ' Ah, i t was not by that ki nd of theft that I became
ri ch. I stol e my weal th from heaven and earth from the rai n,
the mountai ns, and the pl ai ns, accordi ng to t i me ad ci rcumstances.
I appropri ated the frui ts of nature, wi l d ani mal s of the pl ai ns,
48
Lie Zi, ch. 1 P.
and f i sh and t ur t l es from the wat er. Everyt hi ng I possess I have
stol en from nat ur e, but be fore i t bel onged to anyone; whereas
you have st ol en what heaven had al ready gi ven to other men. ' -
Xi ang went away di scont ent ed, t hi nki ng Guo had mi sl ed h i m agai n.
He met the Mas t er of the Eastern Suburb and expl ai ned hi s case t o
hi m. ' But of c ourse , ' s ai d the l at t er , ' every appropr i at i on i s a
the f t . Even a l i v i ng bei ng i s a t hef t of a por t i on of the harmony of
the yi n and t he yang; and ever y appropr i at i on of a mater i al bei ng i s
a t hef t f r om nat ur e. But one must di s t i ngu i sh the ft f r om theft.
St eal i ng f r om nat ure i s a common t heft commi tted by everyone,
and i t i s not subj ect t o puni s hment . Steal i ng from others i s the
the ft whi ch i s subj ect to puni shment . Al l men l i ve by steal i ng from
heaven and ear t h, wi t hout howe ver be i ng t hi e ves . '
Lie Zi, ch. 2 A.
Chapter 2. Natural Si mpli ci ty.
A. The Yel l ow Emperor rei gned for fi fteen years, del i ght i ng
in hi s popul ari t y, preoccupi ed wi t h hi s heal t h, i ndul gi ng hi s senses,
to the poi nt where he became emaci at ed and haggard. When
he had rei gned for t hi rt y years, mak i ng cont i nual i nt el l ectual
and physi cal efforts t o organi se t he empi re and amel i orate the
l ot of the peopl e, he found hi msel f to be even t hi nner and more
worn out . Then he sai d to hi msel f , s i ghi ng: ' I must have gone
too far. I f I am unabl e to do good t o mysel f, how can I do good
to al l ?' - Havi ng sai d t hat , the Yel l ow Emperor abandoned the
cares of government , l eft the pal ace, got r i d of hi s ent ourage,
depri ved hi msel f of al l musi c, and reduced hi msel f t o an ordi nary
frugal state. He shut hi msel f i n a remot e apart ment where, for
three months, he appl i ed hi msel f sol el y t o regul at i ng hi s thoughts
and control l i ng hi s body. Dur i ng t hi s secl usi on, one day whi l st
taki ng hi s si esta, he dreamt t hat he was wal ki ng i n the l and
of Hua Xu. Thi s l and i s t o the west of Yen Zhou and t o the north
of Tai Zhou, at I don ' t know how great a di s t ance from thi s
l and of Qi . One can go there nei t her by boat nor i n a carri age;
onl y the fl i ght of the soul can reach i t . I n t hat l and there i s
no chi ef, and every t hi ng happens spont aneous l y. The peopl e have
nei ther desi res nor l ust, but onl y t hei r nat ur al i ns t i nct s. No one
l oves l i fe or fears death; t hey al l l i ve to thei r al l ot ted term.
There are no fri endshi ps or hat reds, no gai ns or l osses, no i nterests
and no fears. Water does not drown t hem, f i re does not burn
them. No weapon can wound t hem, no hand can harm them.
They cl i mb i nt o the ai r as t hough t hey were cl i mbi ng steps,
and they stretch themsel ves out i n space as t hough on a bed.
Cl ouds and mi sts do not hi nder the i r si ght , the noi se of thunder
does not af fect t hei r heari ng. Nei t her beaut y nor ugl i ness moves
thei r hearts, and no hei ght or dept h upsets t hei r course. The
fl i ght of thei r soul s takes t hem e ver ywhere. - On hi s awakeni ng,
a peaceful l i ght shone wi t hi n hi m. He cal l ed hi s pr i nci pal mi ni sters,
Ti an Lao, Li Mu, Tai Shan Ji , and sa i d t o them: ' Dur i ng three
months of retreat I have cont rol l ed my mi nd and subdued my
body, thi nki ng how I shoul d govern wi t hout wear i ng mysel f out.
I di d not fi nd the sol ut i on duri ng the waki ng state; i t came to
me whi l st I was asl eep. I know now t hat the supreme Pri nci pl e
is not reached by pos i t i ve effort s, ( but through abstract i on and
i nact i on). The l i ght shi nes wi thi n me, but I cannot expl ai n i t
any further to you. ' - After t hi s dream the Yel l ow Emperor rei gned
a further twenty - ei ght years, ( appl y i ng the method of J et t i ng
al l thi ngs go). The empi re became very prosperous, al most as
much as the l and of Hua Xu. Then the emperor ascended towards
the hei ghts. Two centuri es l ater, the peopl e (who mi ssed hi m)
were sti l l cal l i ng hi m back.
so
Lie Zi, ch. 2 B, C.
B. Mount Gu Ye i s t o be found on the I sl and of He Zhou. It i s
i nhabi ted b y transcendent men, who take no food, but breathe
ai r
.
and dr i nk
.
the
.
dew. Thei r mi nds are cl ear l i ke spr i ng water,
thet r compl ex i on I S fresh l i ke a young gi r l ' s. Some of them are
gi fted wi t h extraordi nar y facul t i es, others are j ust very wi se,
wi thout l ove and wi t hout fear. They l i ve peace ful l y , s i mpl y, modest
l y, fi ndi ng thei r needs readi l y provi ded for. There, t he yi n and the
yang are al ways i n harmony , the sun and moon shi ne cont i nuousl y,
t he f our seasons are regul ar, wi nd and ra i n come as requi red, the
reproduct i on of ani mal s and the ri peni ng of crops come j ust ri ght .
There are no murderous pl agues, no har mful beast s, no phantoms
causi ng i l l ness or deat h, no appar i t i ons or ex t raordi nary noi ses,
( phenomena whi ch al ways denot e t hat there i s a fau l t i n the cosmi c
equi l i br i um) .
C. Li e Z i l earnt from hi s mast er Lao Shang and hi s fr i end Bo
Gao Zi , the art of r i di ng on the wi nd ( of t aki ng ecst at i c tri ps) .
Yi n Sheng heard of t hi s and went t o l i ve wi t h hi m, i ntendi ng to
l earn t hi s art from h i m and t o wi tness these ecstasi es whi ch
depri ved h i m of feel i ng for a consi derabl e t i me. He asked for
the reci pe on several occasi ons, but each t i me he was put off.
Di scontent ed, he asked t o t ake hi s l eave, but Li e Zi di d not
answer h i m. Yi n Sheng went away, but , as he was s t i l l troubl ed
by the same desi re he r et urned to Li e Zi se veral months l ater.
The l at ter sai d to hi m: ' Why di d you l eave; and why have you
come back ? ' - Yi n Sheng s ai d: ' You had r ej ect ed al l my requests;
I took a di sl i ke to you and l ef t ; now I have l ost my resent ment
and have come back. ' Li e Zi sai d: ' I t hought you were a better
man than that; how can you be so v i l e? I wi l l tel l you now, how
I was for med by my mast er. I ent er ed hi s house wi th a fr i end.
I spent three whol e years i n hi s house , occupi ed i n cont rol l i ng
my heart and mout h, wi t hout hi s honour i ng me by a si ngl e gl ance.
After f i ve years, as I had progressed, he s mi l ed at me for the
fi rst t i me. At the end of seven years, my progress accent uat i ng,
he l et me si t on hi s mat . After ni ne years of ef fort I had l ost
al l not i on of yes and no, of advant age and di sadvant age, of the
super i or i t y of my master and the fr i endshi p of my co-di sci pl e.
Then the spec i fi c uses of my se veral senses were repl aced by
a general sense; my mi nd was condensed, whereas my body was
rari fi ed; my fl esh and bones were l i quefi ed (were et heri sed) ;
I l ost the feel i ng that I wei ghed on my seat , that I pressed down
on my feet ( l e vi t at i on) ; at l ast I l eft, gone wi th the wi nd, to
the east, the west , i n al l di rect i ons l i ke a dead l eaf bl own away,
wi thout my bei ng abl e to ascer t ai n i f t he wi nd were carryi ng
me, or i f i t were I who was bestr i di ng t he wi nd. You can see
from that , how long an exerci se I had to go through i n order
to di vest mysel f , to return to nature, and to reach ecstasy. And
5 1
Lie Zi, ch. 2 C, D, E.
you have scarcel y l i ved wi th a master . You are s t i l l so i mperfect
that you become i mpat i ent and angr y. The ai r must s t i l l move
out of your way , the earth must st i l l support your fat and heavy
body, and you wi sh to cl i mb wi t h the wi nd through space?' -
Yi n Sheng reti red i n confusi on, wi thout dari ng to repl y.
D. Li e Zi sai d t o Guan Yi n Zi : ' Tel l me, pl ease, how t he superi or
man reaches the st at e where he can pass where there i s no open
i ng, go through fi re wi t hout be i ng burnt , be free from vert i go
at great hei ght s?' - ' By conservi ng, ' s ai d Guan Yi n Z i , ' hi s perfectl y
pure nature; not by any l earned or i ngeni ous procedure. I wi l l
expl ai n i t to you. Everyt hi ng that has a form, shape, col our,
and sound; al l such t hi ngs are bei ngs. Why do these bei ngs oppose
each other? Why shoul d they not be subj ect to an order other
than pri ori t y i n t i me? Why shoul d thei r evol ut i on cease wi t h
t he depos i t i on of the i r present for m? To under st and t hi s profoundl y,
i s true sci ence. He who has underst ood i t wi th a fi rm basi s,
wi l l uni fy hi s strength, fort i f y hi s body , recover hi s energy , and
he wi l l be i n communi on wi th uni versal evol ut i on. Hi s nature
wi l l remai n i n perfect i ntegr i t y , h i s spi r i t i n ful l l i ber t y. He
wi l l be free from ex t eri or i nfl uences. Shoul d thi s man, i n a state
of drunkenness, fal l from a carr i age, he wi l l not be mort al l y
wounded. Al t hough hi s bones and j oi nt s are l i ke t hose of other
men, the same trauma wi l l not have t he same e ff ect on hi m;
because hi s spi ri t , bei ng whol e , pr ot ect s hi s body. Not hi ng can
take hol d on the body when t he sp i r i t i s not moved. The Sage
cannot be harmed by any bei ng. He i s envel oped i n the i nt egri ty
of hi s nature, and prot ect ed by hi s freedom of spi r i t . '
E. Li e Zi was pract i si ng archery i n t he presence of Bo Hun Wu
Ren, wi th a cup of water at t ached t o hi s l eft el bow. He drew
the bow to i ts max i mum wi th hi s r i ght hand, l et f l y, repl aced
another arrow, l et fl y agai n, and so on, wi t hout upset t i ng the
water i n the cup. - Bo Hun Wu Ren s ai d t o hi m: ' Your archery
i s that of an archer whol l y occupi ed wi t h hi s a i m ( art i f i ci al arch
ery), not that of an archer i ndi fferen t t o hi s a i m ( nat ural archery) .
Come up some hi gh mount ai n wi t h me, t o t he edge of a preci pi ce,
and l et ' s see i f you can s t i l l keep thi s presence of mi nd. ' - The
two men di d so. Bo Hun Wu Ren crouched at the edge of the
preci pi ce, hi s back to the chasm, hi s heel s s t i cki ng out i nt o space.
( Note that the archer must move h i msel f backwards to tense
the bow). Then he greeted Li e Zi accordi ng to the r i tes, before
start i ng to shoot. But Li e Zi , sei zed wi th vert i go, was al ready
l yi ng on the ground, the sweat runni ng down to hi s heel s. - Bo
Hun Wu Ren sai d to hi m: ' The superi or man pl unges hi s gaze
i nto the depths of the earth, the hei ght s of the sky , the far
di stant hori zon, wi thout hi s mi nd bei ng moved. I t seems to me
52
Lie Zi, ch. 2 E, F.
that your eyes are haggard, and t hat , i f you were to shoot, you
woul d mi ss your ai m. '
F. The peopl e of Ji n had become qu i te at tached to a member
of the Fan cl an, named Zi Hua, who sought popul ari t y. The Pri nce
of Ji n made hi m hi s favouri te, and l i st ened t o hi m more wi l l i ngl y
than hi s mi ni st ers, di st r i but i ng honours and repr i mands at hi s
i nsti gat i on. Thus t hose who sol i c i ted f avours queued up at the
door of Zi Hua, who amused hi msel f by maki ng them at tack
each other verbal l y , or e ven physi cal l y , i n front of hi m, wi thout
i n any way bei ng moved by t he acci dent s that happened duri ng
these j ousts. The publ i c mor al i t y of the Pr i nc i pal i t y of Ji n su ffered
from these excesses. - One day He Sheng and Zi Bo , who were
returni ng from a vi s i t t o the Fan fami l y , spent a ni ght at a day ' s
j ourney from the t own, i n a host el kept by a cert a i n Shang Qi u
Kai ( a Daoi st ) . They spoke amongst t hemsel ves of what t hey
had j ust seen. ' Thi s Zi Hua , ' they sai d, ' i s al l - powerful ; he protects
or destroys whom he wi shes; he enr i ches or r ui ns at hi s pl easure . '
Shang Qi u Kai , who coul d not sl eep through col d and hunger ,
heard t hi s conversat i on t hrough the ar chway. The nex t day, t aki ng
some provi s i ons, he went t o the t own and present ed hi msel f
at Zi Hua' s door . Now those who besi eged h i s door wer e al l peopl e
of note, r i chl y dressed and comi ng by car r i age, pret ent i ous and
arrogant . When they saw thi s decrep i t ol d man wi th a weather
beaten face, badl y dressed and wi th unt i dy hai r , t hey al l l ooked
down on hi m. They began by t reat i ng hi m wi th cont empt , and
ended up by maki ng fun of h i m i n e ver y way. Whate ver they
di d, Shang Qi u Kai re mai ned i mpassi ve , l endi ng hi msel f to the i r
f un by s mi l i ng. - Dur i ng these goi ngs- on, Zi Hua, who had l ed
the ent i re band t o a hi gh t errace, s ai d: ' One hundred ounces
of gol d are promi sed to the one who wi l l j ump down. ' - Those
who had j us t been l aughi ng, became afrai d. Shang Qi u Kai j umped
at once , descended gent l y l i ke a gl i di ng bi r d and l anded wi thout
breaki ng any bones. ' That ' s not hi ng but a pi ece of l uck , ' sai d
the band. - Next , Zi Hua l ed t hem al l t o a r i ver bank, at a bend
wi th a great turbul ence. ' At thi s spot , ' he sai d, ' r i ght at the
bottom, there i s a rare pearl ; he who shal l ret r i eve i t may keep
i t . ' - Shang Qi u Kai di ved i n at once and brought up the rare
pearl from the bot t om of the whi rl pool . Then the band began
to ask themsel ves i f they were not perhaps i nvol ved wi th an
extraordi nary bei ng. - Zi Hua had hi m dressed, and they sat
together at a t abl e. Suddenl y a fi re broke out i n a storehouse
bel ongi ng t o the Fan fami l y . ' I shal l g i ve, ' sai d Zi Hua, ' to the
one who wi l l go i nto thi s i nferno, al l that he can bri ng out . '
- Wi thout changi ng hi s expressi on, Shang Qi u Kai went strai ght
i nto the fi re, and came out wi thout ei ther bei ng burnt or reddened.
- Convi nced at l ast that t hi s man possessed transcendent gi fts,
53
Lie Zi, ch. 2 F, G.
the band made thei r excuses to hi m. ' We di d not know, ' they
sai d; ' that i s why we showed you no respect . You i gnored i t,
as a deaf or bl i nd person woul d have done, conf i r mi ng your trans
cendence by your st oi ci s m. Wi l l you k i ndl y gi ve us your formul a?'
- ' I have no formul a, ' s ai d Shang Qi u Kai . ' I go as my natural
i nsti nct pushes me, wi thout knowi ng why nor how. I came here
to l ook because two of my guests had spoken of you, and the
di stance was not very great . I compl et el y bel i eved al l t hat you
sai d to me, and acted wi thout second thought s for my personal
safet y. I acted therefore under the i mpul se of my compl et e and
undi vi ded natural i nst i nct . Nothi ng can oppose one who acts
thus, ( such act i on bei ng i n the same di rect i on as the cosmi c
movement ) . I f you had not s ai d anyt hi ng, I woul d never have
suspected that you had made fun of me. Now t hat I am aware
of i t , I am sl i ght l y affect ed. In t hi s st at e, I woul d not dare,
as I di d before, to confront wat er and f i r e, for I woul d not do
i t wi t h i mpuni t y . ' - Af t er t hi s l esson, the cl i ents of t he Fan
fami l y no l onger i nsul t ed anyone. They got down from t hei r car
ri ages onto the road i n order to greet even beggars and vet eri nar
i es. - Zai Wo reported thi s story t o Confuc i us . ' There i s no doubt
about i t , s ai d the l at t er . ' Di dn ' t you know t hat an absol utel y
si mpl e man moves al l bei ngs through hi s s i mpl i c i t y , t ouches heaven
and earth, propi t i at es the subt l e be i ngs so wel l , that absol utel y
nothi ng can oppose hi m i n the si x regi ons of space, and fi re and
water do not harm hi m? I f Shang Qi u Kai has been protected
by hi s somewhat enl i ght ened s i mpl i c i t y , how much more wi l l
I be protected by my wi se rect i t ude. Remember t hi s. ' ( Comment
of a head of a school ) .
G. The super i ntendent of past ures for Emperor Xuan, of the
Zhou dynas t y, had i n hi s ser vi ce an empl oyee Li ang Yang, who
was gi fted wi th ex traordi nar y power over wi l d ani mal s. When
he went i nt o thei r encl osure to feed t hem, t he most di ffi cul t
to manage, t i gers, wol ves, and sea eagl es, submi t t ed themsel ves.
He could confront t hem wi t h i mpuni t y duri ng the most cri t i cal
ti mes of rut or l act at i on, or when enemy speci es were present.
The emperor came to know of t hi s , and bel i evi ng he was usi ng
some charm, ordered Mao Qi u Yuan to make enqui r i es. Li ang
Yang sai d: ' I am a l esser empl oyee. I f I possessed a charm, I
woul d not dare t o hi de i t from the emperor. In a few words,
here i s all my secret : Al l bei ngs that have bl ood in thei r veins
experi ence at t ract i ons and repul s i ons. These passi ons do not
ari se spontaneousl y, but from the presence of t hei r obj ect. I t
i s t o t hi s pri nci pl e t hat I have st uck dur i ng my deal i ngs wi th
feroci ous beasts. I never gi ve my t i gers l i v i ng prey, in order
not to arouse thei r passi on to ki l l ; nor ent i re prey, in order not
to exci te thei r appet i te for teari ng up fl esh. I j udge how they
54
Lie Zi, ch. 2 G, H, I.
are di sposed accordi ng as they are hungry or sat i sf i ed. The ti ger
has thi s i n common wi th man, that he i s fond of those who feed
and caress hi m, and onl y k i l l s those who provoke hi m. I therefore
watch that I never i r r i t at e my t i gers , and endeavour on the con
trary t o pl ease them. Thi s i s di f f i cul t for men of unstabl e di spos i t
i on. My di spos i t i on i s al ways t he s ame. Pl eased wi th me, my
ani mal s regard me as one of t hemsel ves. They forget , i n my
menager i e, thei r deep forests, thei r vas t swamps, the i r mountai ns
and val l eys. Thi s i s a s i mpl e effect of r at i onal t reat ment . '
H. Yen Hui s ai d to Confuc i us: ' One day when I was cross i ng the
Shang rapi d, I was admi r i ng the e x traordi nary dex t er i t y of the
ferryman, and asked h i m: "Can one l earn t hi s ar t ?" - "Yes, " he
sai d. "Anyone who can swi m can l earn i t . A good swi mmer wi l l
l earn i t qui ckl y; a good di ver woul d not even need to l earn. " -
I di d not dare t el l the fer r yman t ha t I di d not underst and what
he sai d. Can you expl ai n i t t o me, pl ease ? ' - ' Ah , ' s ai d Confuc i us,
' I have expl ai ned t hat to you of t en, i n ot her words, and st i l l you
do not understand. Li s t en and r eme mber t hi s t i me. . . Any one who
knows how to swi m can l ear n i t because he has no fear of wat er.
A good di ver knows i t wi thou t hav i ng to l earn, because wat er has
become hi s el ement and arouses no e mot i on . Not hi ng di s turbs the
exerc i se of the facul t i es of one whose i n t er i or i s un troubl ed . . .
When the wager i s a pi ece o f pot t er y, the pl ay ers are composed.
When i t i s money , they become nervous. When i t i s gol d, t hey l ose
thei r heads. Thei r acqu i red abi l i t i es stay t he same, thei r abi l i ty
to depl oy t hemsel ves depends on the i r freedom from di st ract i on
by an ex ter i or obj ect . Any at t ent i on pai d t o an ex t eri or t hi ng
troubl es or changes the i nt er i or .
1. One day when Con fuci us was admi r i ng the Lu Li ang Cascade,
a fal l of two hundred and forty fee t whi ch produces a boi l i ng
torrent over a great di stance , so rapi d t hat nei ther t urt l e nor
fi sh can s wi m agai nst i t , he percei ved a man s wi mmi ng amongst
the swi rl i ng wat ers. Thi nki ng he was i n despai r and seeki ng death,
he tol d hi s di s ci pl es to fol l ow al ong the bank i n order to pul l
hi m out shoul d he pass wi t hi n reach. Now, several hundred paces
further down, thi s man came ou t of the water hi msel f , undi d
hi s hai r i n order to dry i t , and proceeded al ong t he bank at the
foot of the cl i ff , hummi ng. Confuci us reached hi m and sai d:
' When I saw you swi mmi ng i n the torrent, I thought you wi shed
to end your l i fe. Then, seei ng the ease wi th whi ch you came
out of the water, I took you for a transcendent bei ng. But no,
you are a man, of fl esh and bl ood. Tel l me, I beg you, the means
of sport i ng onesel f thus i n the water. ' - ' I don ' t know the means, '
sai d the man. ' When I began, I appl i ed mysel f to the task; l at er
i t became easy for me, and at l ast I coul d do i t natural l y, uncon-
55
(
Lie Zi , ch. 2 I
,
J
,
K.
sci ousl y. I al l ow mysel f to be drawn i n by the cent re of the whi rl
pool , then to be thrown up by the peri pheral swi r l . I fol l ow the
movement of the water, wi thout mak i ng any movement mysel f.
That i s al l I can say about i t . '
J. Confuci us was travel l i ng i n the Ki ngdom of Ch u . I n a cl eari ng
he saw a hunchback who was bri ngi ng down f l y i ng grasshoppers
as easi l y as i f he had taken them by hand. ' You are very s ki l l ed, '
he sai d to hi m; ' tel l me your secret . ' - ' Her e i t i s, ' sai d the
hunchback. ' I pract i sed for f i ve or s i x mont hs by hol di ng bal l s
bal anced on my cane. When I coul d hol d two, I onl y mi ssed a
few grasshoppers. When I coul d hol d t hree, I onl y mi ssed one
i n ten. When I was abl e to hol d f i ve, I t ook grasshoppers in fl i ght
wi t h my cane, as surel y as wi t h my hand. Nei ther my body, nor
my arm have nervous tremors any more. My concent rat i on i s
never di stracted by any t hi ng. I n t hi s i mmense uni verse f i l l ed
wi th so many bei ngs, I see onl y the grasshopper at whi ch I ai m,
so I never mi ss i t . ' - Confuc i us l ooked at hi s di s ci pl es and sai d
to them: ' Concentrat i on of hi s wi l l on a si ngl e obj ect has produced
perfect co-operat i on between hi s mi nd and bod y . ' - Taki ng hi s
turn to speak, the hunchback s ai d to Confuci us: ' But you are
a schol ar, why have you been ques t i oni ng me? Why do you wi sh
to know about somet hi ng t hat i s none of your busi ness? Coul d
i t be that you have some ev i l i nt ent i on i n t hi s ?' - - A young
man who l i ved at the seas i de was very fond of sea-gul l s. Every
morni ng he went to the beach to greet t hem, and the gul l s came
down i n hundreds to pl ay wi th hi m. One day the young man' s
father sai d to hi m: ' Seei ng t hat t he gul l s ar e so f ami l i ar wi th
you, catch some and br i ng t hem to me so that I too may pl ay
wi th them. ' The next day the young man went to the beach
as usual, but wi t h the secr et i nt ent i on of obey i ng hi s father.
Hi s ext eri or bet rayed hi s i nter i or . The gul l s mi strusted hi m.
They pl ayed i n the ai r above hi s head, but not one of them came
down. - The best use that one can make of speech i s to keep
si l ent. The best act i on i s not t o act . To wi sh to embrace everythi ng
that i s knowabl e, ends wi t h but a superf i ci al knowl edge.
K. Taki ng a trai n of a hundred thousand peopl e wi th hi m, Zhao
Xi ang Zi went hunt i ng in the Zhung Shan Mount ai ns. I n order
to bri ng the wi l d beasts out of thei r l ai rs, he set f i re to the
brushwood. The gl ow of the f i re was vi si bl e from a great di stance.
In the mi ddl e of thi s i nferno they saw a man emerge from a
rock , fl y about i n the fl ames and pl ay i n the smoke. Al l the
spectators concl uded he was a t r anscendent bei ng. When the
fire had burnt out he came to them as if nothi ng had happened.
Zhao Xi ang Zi detai ned hi m and exami ned hi m at hi s l ei sure.
He was made j ust l i ke other men. Zhao Xi ang Zi asked hi m hi s
56
Lie Zi, ch. 2 K, L.
secret for penet r at i ng rocks and s t ayi ng i n f i r e. The man repl i ed:
' What i s rock? What i s f i re? ' - Zhao Xi ang Zi sai d: ' What you
came out of , i s rock; what you passed through, i s f i r e. ' - ' Ah, '
sai d t he man, ' I knew not hi ng of t hat . ' - Marqui s Wen of Wei
heard thi s st ory, and asked Zi Xi a what he t hought about t hi s
man. - ' I have heard my mast er ( Confuci us) say, ' sa i d Zi Xi a,
' that he who has r eached perfect uni on wi t h t he cos mos can
no l onger be wounded by any bei ng; he can penet r at e met al and
stone as he wi shes; and he can wal k freel y on wat er and through
fi re. ' - ' Do you, ' asked the marqu i s , ' possess t hi s gi f t ?' - ' No, '
s ai d Z i Xi a , ' because I have not yet succeeded i n r i ddi ng mysel f
of my wi l l and i nt el l i gence; I am st i l l onl y a di s ci pl e. ' - ' And
your mast er, Conf uci us, has he t hi s gi f t ?' asked the marqui s.
- ' Yes, ' sai d Zi Xi a, ' but he does not make a show of i t . ' -
Marqui s Wen was enl i ght ened.
L. One of the most t ranscendent seers, J i Xi an, from the Pr i nci pal
i t y of Qi , est abl i shed hi msel f i n Zheng. He predi ct ed i l l ness and
death to the exact day, i n fal l i bl y . Therefore t he peopl e of Zheng,
who coul d not bear t o know these t hi ngs so l ong i n advance,
ran away whenever t hey saw h i m comi ng. - Li e Zi went t o see
hi m and mar vel l ed at what he saw and heard. When he returned
to hi s master, Hu Zi , he sai d: ' Unt i l now I hel d your doc tri ne
to be the most perfect , but now I have found a bet t er one. '
- Hu Z i sai d: ' Thi s i s because you do not k now al l my doct ri ne.
I have onl y gi ven yu the ex ot er i c t eachi ng, and not the esoter i c.
Your knowl edge i s l i ke t hos e eggs l ai d by hens wi th no cock;
i t l acks t he essent i al ( the ger m) . Mor eover , when one argues,
one must have a fi rm f ai th on one ' s opi ni on. I f one shoul d waver,
there i s a r i sk of bei ng di v i ned by the adversary. Thi s coul d
be what has happened t o y ou. You coul d have been decei ved,
and then taken the nat ural fl ai r of Ji Xi an as t ranscendent di vi n
at i on. Br i ng thi s man t o me so t hat I may s ee what i t i s al l
about . ' - The next day Li e Zi brought t he seer t o Hu Zi , under
pretex t of a medi cal consul t at i on. When he came out, the seer
sai d to Li e Zi : ' Al as, your master i s a dead man. He wi l l be
f i ni shed wi thi n a few days. On exami ni ng h i m I had a strange
vi si on, as of humi d ashes, an omen of death. ' - When he had
sent the seer away, Li e Zi went i n sheddi ng tears and reported
the prognosi s to Hu Zi . l he l at ter sai d: ' I mani fested mysel f
to hi m as an i nert and st eri l e eart h, wi t h al l my energy arrested,
( an aspect that common peopl e show onl y on the approach of
death, but whi ch t he contempl at i ve can produce at wi l l ). He
has been taken i n by i t . Bri ng hi m agai n, and you wi l l s ee the
next s t age of the experi ment. ' - The next day, Li e Zi brought
the seer back. When he came out , the seer sa i d to Li e Zi : ' Your
master has done wel l by addressi ng hi msel f to me; there i s al ready
57
Lie Zi, ch. 2 L, M.
an i mprovement; the ashes are becomi ng re-ani mated; I have
seen si gns of vi tal energy . ' - Li e Zi reported these words to
Hu Zi , who sai d: ' Thi s i s because I man i fest ed mysel f to hi m
as an eart h fecundat ed by heaven, wi th energy r i s i ng from the
depths under an i nfl uence from above. He has seen cl earl y, but
he has i nterpreted i t wrongl y, ( t aki ng what has resul t ed from my
concent rat i on, as nat ural ) . Bri ng hi m aga i n, so tha t we may con
t i nue the exper i ment . ' - The next day Li e Zi brought t he seer. After
hi s exami nat i on, he s ai d: ' Today I have found a vague and i ndeterm
i nat e aspect i n your master. I cannot make any prognosi s from
thi s, bu t when hi s cond i t i on becomes more cl ear l y def i ned, I
wi l l be abl e to t el l you what i t i s . ' - Li e Zi report ed these words
to Hu Zi , who sai d: ' Thi s i s because I mani fest ed mysel f to hi m .
under t he form of a great chaos, as yet undi fferent i ated, al l
my forces bei ng i n a st at e of neut ral equ i l i br i um. He coul d i n
fac t draw not hi ng cl ear from th i s for m. A swel l i n t he water
can be caused j ust as wel l by a sea monst er, a r eef , t he strength
of the current , a spr i ng, a cascade, the mee t i ng of two currents
of wat er, a dam, a defl ec t i on, or by t he br eachi ng of a dyke;
an i dent i cal effect produced by n i ne di ffer ent causes.
C
i t i s there
fore i mpossi bl e to concl ude the na t ure of i ts cause di rect l y from
the swel l ; further exami nat i on i s necessary t o det er mi ne the
l at ter) . Bri ng hi m once more, and you wi l l see the sequel . ' -
The next day the seer st opped for onl y an i nst ant i n front of
Hu Zi , understood nothi ng, l ost hi s composure, and fl ed. - ' Run
after hi m, ' s ai d Hu Zi . - Li e Zi obeyed, but coul d not catch up
wi th hi m. -
'
He wi l l not come back , ' s ai d Hu Zi , ' I mani fested
mysel f to hi m as comi ng from the pr i mordi al pr i nci pl e before
t i me, a movement i n the voi d wi t hout apparent for m, a boi l i ng
of i nert force. I t was too much for hi m, t ha t ' s why he has taken
to fl i ght . ' - Real i s i ng tha t i n fac t he s t i l l underst ood nothi ng
of hi s master ' s esot er i c doc t r i ne , Li e Zi r emai ned at home for
three whol e years. He di d t he cook i ng for hi s wi fe , and served
the pi gs as though t hey were men ( i n order t o dest roy any human
prej udi ces wi t hi n hi msel f) . He cut h i msel f of f from out si de i nterests
and he brought hi s own ar t i f i c i al cul ture back to a pr i mi t i ve
natural si mpl i ci t y . He became l i ke a l ump of eart h, a stranger
to al l events and happeni ngs, and t hus he r emai ned, concentrated
on uni t y, unt i l the end of hi s days.
M. When Master Li e Zi was goi ng to Qi , he suddenl y turned and
retraced hi s steps. Bo Hun Wu Ren, whom he had met , asked
hi m: ' Why are you retraci ng your steps ?' - ' Because I was afrai d, '
sai d Li e Zi . - ' Afrai d of what ?' sai d Bo Hun Wu Ren. - ' I had
been i n ten restaurants, and fi ve t i mes I was the fi rst to be
served. It must be that my i nt er i or perfect i on was vi si bl e to
those peopl e, for them to have served me before r i cher and older
58
Lie Zi, ch. 2 M, N.
cl i ents. I was therefore afrai d t hat , shoul d I go as far as Qi ,
the pri nce, havi ng come al so to know of my mer i t , woul d di scharge
on to me the government that wei ghs so heav i l y on h i m. ' - ' Wi sel y
thought , ' sai d Bo Hun Wu Ren. ' You have escaped a pr i ncel y
pat r on; but I f ear you may yet f i nd mast ers at home . ' - Some t i me
l ater Bo Hun Wu Ren went to vi s i t Li e Zi . He saw a quant i t y of
shoes ( an i ndi cat i on of t he presence of so many v i s i tors) . S toppi ng
hi msel f at the court yard, he ref l ect ed at l ength , hi s chi n rest i ng
on the end of hi s s t i ck; then he l eft wi t hout s ayi ng a word. How
ever t he porter had t ol d Li e Zi . The l a t t er qui ckl y grabbed hi s
sandal s and r an af ter hi s fr i end, wi thout e ven t ak i ng t he t i me
to put t hem on. When he caught up wi t h h i m a t t he out er gate,
he sai d: ' Why are you l eav i ng l i k e t hi s , wi t hout gi v i ng me any
useful advi ce ? ' - ' Wha t ' s the good of i t now? ' sai d Bo Hun Wu
Ren. ' Di d I not war n you ? Now you h a ve mas t ers a t home. No
doubt you have not at t r act ed t hem yours el f , but you have not
kept t hem away ei ther. Wha t i n f l uence wi l l you ha v e on these
peopl e now? One can onl y i nfl uence b y keepi ng at a di s t ance.
One can no l onger speak f rankl y t o t hose one i s i n vol v ed wi th.
One cannot reprove t hose t o whom one i s t i ed. Common peopl e ' s
subj ects of convers at i on are poi son t o t he per fect man. What
i s t he good of con versi ng wi th bei ngs who nei t her l i s ten nor
understand? '
N. Yang Z h u was goi ng t o Pe i and L a o Z i was goi ng t o Qi n.
The t wo met each ot her a t Li ang. On s eei ng Yang Zhu, Lao Zi
rai sed hi s eyes to heaven, a n d s a i d wi t h a s i gh: ' I h a d hoped
to be abl e t o i nst ruct you, but I see t here i s no way . ' - Yang
Zhu di d not repl y. When t he t wo t r avel l ers reached t he host el
where they spent the ni ght, Yang Zhu h i msel f brought al l the
thi ngs requi red for t he t oi l et . Then, when Lao Zi was set t l ed
i n hi s room, Yang Zhu l ef t hi s shoes by the door and went i n
on hi s knees, and s ai d: ' I di d not under st and what you sai d about
me when you r ai sed your eyes t o heaven and s i ghed. I di d not
ask you for an expl anat i on then, as I d i d not wi sh t o del ay your
j ourney. But now that you are free, pl ease expl ai n the meani ng
of your words to me. ' - ' You have , ' s ai d Lao Zi , ' a haught y l ook
whi ch rebuffs; whereas t he Sage appears confused e ven though
he i s i rreproachabl e. He consi ders h i msel f i nadequat e, what ever
hi s st at e of perfect i on. ' - ' I wi l l profi t from your l esson, ' sai d
Yang Zhu, rooted t o the spot wi t h shock. - Even t hat same ni ght
Yang Zhu humbl ed h i msel f so much t hat t he st af f of the i nn,
who had served hi m wi t h so much respect on hi s arr i val , pai d
no attenti on to hi m on t he morni ng of hi s depart ure. ( The respect
of servant s, i n Chi na, i s propor t i onal t o the haught i ness of t he
travel l er).
59
Lie Zi, ch. 2 0, P, Q.
0. When Yang Zhu was passi ng through the Pri nci pal i t y of Song
he was recei ved hospi t abl y in a hostel . The host had two wi ves,
one beaut i ful , the other ugl y . The ugl y one was l i ked, the beauty
was detested. . . ' Why so ? ' asked Yang Zhu of a l i t t l e servant
' Because, ' sai d the chi l d, ' the beaut i ful one shows off her
beaut y, whi ch makes her unpl easant to us; whereas the ugl y one
knows that she is ugl y , whi ch makes us forget her ugl i ness. '
- ' Remember that , ' s ai d Yang Zhu t o hi s di s ci pl es. ' Bei ng wi se,
do not pose as havi ng wi sdom; that i s t he secret of bei ng l i ked
everywhere. '
P. I n t hi s worl d there a r e onl y t wo ways: t hat of subordi nat i on,
or deference; and that of i nsubordi nat i on, or arrogance. These
tenets have been defi ned by the anci ent s as fol l ows: The arrogant
ones have sympat hy onl y for those l esser than t hemsel ves, the
deferent i al ones l i ke t hei r superi ors al so. Arrogance i s dangerous,
for i t makes enemi es for onesel f; deference i s sure, for i t onl y
makes fri ends. Everyt hi ng succeeds for the deferent i al person,
i n both pri vat e and publ i c l i fe; whereas the arrogant person has
onl y f ai l ures. Thus Yu Zi s ai d that power must be al ways t empered
by condescensi on; that i t i s condescens i on t hat makes power
l ast; that thi s rul e per mi ts one t o prognos t i cat e rel i abl y about
the prosper i t y or rui n of i ndi v i dual s or s t ates. For ce i s not sol i d,
whereas not hi ng equal s the sol i d i t y of softness. - Lao Dan al so
has sai d: ' The power of a s t ate br i ngs rui n t o i t , j us t as the great
ness of a tree cal l s for the fel l i ng ax e. Weakness gi ves l i fe,
strength makes death . '
Q. The Sage al l i es h i msel f wi th those wh o h a v e t he same i nteri or
sent i ments as hi msel f , the common man l i nks hi msel f wi t h those
who pl ease hi m by thei r e.xt er i or . Now t he heart of a beast can
be hi dden in a human body; a beastl y body can cont ai n the heart
of a man. I n ei ther of these cases, j udgi ng by the ext eri or woul d
l ead to error. Fu Xi , Nu Gua, Shen Nang, the Great Yu, had
one a human head on the body of a snake, one a head l i ke a
cow' s, one the muz zl e of a t i ger; but under these ani mal forms,
they were great Sages. Whereas Ji e the l ast of the Xi as, Zhou
the l ast of the Yi ns, Duke Huan of Lu, and Duke Mu of Chu,
were beasts i n human form*. When the Yel l ow Emperor went
i nto battl e at Yen Di on the pl ai n of Fan Quan, feroci ous beasts
formed hi s front l i ne, and bi rds of prey formed hi s i nfantry.
These ani mal s were attached t o h i m through hi s ascendancy.
- When Yao put Kui i n charge of mus i c, the ani mal s ran and
danced, charmed by the musi cal strai ns. - Can one say, therefore,
that there i s an essent i al di fference between man and the ani mal
s?
No doubt thei r forms and tongues are di fferent from those of
* TH pages 2J,24,2 5,47-59,8', 1 JB, 1 49.
60
Lie Zi, ch. 2 Q.
men, but coul dn' t t hey f i nd a way of underst andi ng each other
despi te that? The Sages ment i oned above, who understood every
t hi ng and extended thei r sol i ci tude t o al l , were abl e to wi n over
even the ani mal s. There are so many poi nts i n common between
the i nst i ncts of ani mal s and the ways of men. They al so J i ve
i n pai rs , and l ove thei r offspri ng. They al so seek t o house them
sel ves i n s afe pl aces. They al s o pre fer t emperat e, t o col d, regi ons.
They al so come together i n groups, wal ki ng i n step, the l i ttl e
ones i n the mi ddl e and the bi g ones outsi de. They al so poi nt
out t o each other the good pl aces for dr i nk i ng or feedi ng. - In
the ear l i est t i mes ani mal s and men l i ved and t ravel l ed together.
When men made emperors and ki ngs for t hemsel ves, mi strust
arose and caused separat i on. Lat er on fear brought ani mal s and
men further and furt her apart . Howe ver , e ven now, the di stance
i s not i mpassabl e. In the east , i n the l and of the Ji e, the l anguage
at l east of domes t i c ani mal s i s s t i l l underst ood. The anci ent
Sages understood the l anguage and penet r at ed t he feel i ngs of
al l bei ngs, communi cat i ng wi t h al l as wi th humans, j us t as wel l
wi t h the Kui , Shen, Li , and Mei
(
t ranscendent bei ngs) , as wi th
the bi rds, quadrupeds, and i nsect s. St ar t i ng from the pr i nci pl e
that the sent i ment s of bei ngs whi ch have the same bl ood and
breathe the same ai r cannot be great l y di fferent , they treated
the ani mal s more or l ess l i ke men, wi th success. - A monkey
keeper of the Pr i nci pal i t y of Song came to understand monkeys
and to communi cat e wi th them. He treated t hem better than
the members of hi s f ami l y, refusi ng t hem not hi ng. However,
he fel l i nto di re s t r ai t s . Obl i ged t o r at i on hi s monkeys, he thought
up the fol l owi ng means of persuasi on. ' Fr om now on, ' he sai d
to t hem, ' you wi l l each have three t aro roots i n the mor ni ng,
and four i n t he eveni ng. Wi l l t hat be al l r i ght ? ' - Al l the monkeys
were furi ous. - Then he sai d, ' how about four taros i n the morni ng
and t hree i n the eveni ng; wi l l t hat sui t you ? ' - Sat i sf i ed that
he had t aken not i ce of t hei r di spl easure, the monkeys al l settl ed
down qui t e cont ent . - That i s how one wi ns over the ani mal s.
The Sage l i kewi se wi ns over fool i sh humans. The means empl oyed
matter l i t t l e, be t hey real or apparent , prov i ded that they sat i sfy,
and do not cause i r r i t at i on*. Another exampl e of the di rect
anal ogy bet ween ani mals and man. - Ji Xi ng Zi was trai ni ng
a f i ght i ng - cock for Emperor Xuan of the Zhou dynas t y. After
ten days, when asked for news , he sai d: ' I t i s not ready t o f i ght;
i t i s sti l l vai n and headstrong. ' - Ten days l at er, asked agai n,
he repl i ed: ' Not yet ; i t sti l l responds to the crowi ng of other
cocks. ' - Ten days l at er, he sai d: ' Not yet; i t i s sti l l nervous
and passi onate. ' - After another t en days, he sai d: ' Now i t i s
ready; i t no l onger pays at t ent i on t o the sounds made by other
*Compare wi th Zhuang Zi , ch. 2 C, wher e t he same theme i s repeat ed, sl i ghtl y
modi fi ed.
61
Lie Zi, ch. 2 Q, R.
members of i t s speci es; i t i s moved by thei r si ght no more than
i f i t were made of wood. No other cock wi l l be able to hold
out agai nst i t . '
R. Hui Ang, father of Hu i Shu, and a sophi st l i ke hi s son, went
to vi si t Ki ng Kang of Song. The l at ter st amped on the fl oor
and coughed wi th i mpat i ence at the si ght of hi m, and sai d in
a l oud voi ce: ' Mysel f, I val ue force, bravery; goodness and fai rness
are subj ects that mean not hi ng to me; now you have been warned;
tel l me what you have to say. ' - ' Ri ght now, ' sai d Hui Ang, ' one
of my favouri te themes is to expl ai n why the bl ows of the strong
and brave somet i mes remai n wi thout ef fect . Woul d you l i ke to
hear a di scourse on that ? ' - ' Most wi l l i ngl y, ' sai d the ki ng. -
' They remai n wi thout effect , ' repl i ed the sophi st , ' when they
do not execute them. And why do t hey not execut e t hem? Because
they dare not or they do not wi sh t o. That , agai n, i s one of my
favouri t e themes Let us t ake the case where they do not wi sh
to. Why not? Because i t wi l l not produce any advantage. Thi s
i s agai n one of my favouri te subj ects Let us suppose now that
there was a way of ob t ai ni ng al l advant ages, of wi nni ng the hearts
of al l the men and women i n the empi r e, of prot ect i ng onesel f
from al l probl ems. Woul d you not l i ke t o know of such a way?'
' But yes , ' sai d t he ki ng. - ' Ah wel l , ' sai d the sophi st, ' i t i s
the doctri ne of Confuci us and Mo Zi , whi ch you di d not wi sh
to hear about, j ust now. Confuc i us and Mo Zi , these two pri nces
wi thout l ands, these nobl es wi thout t i t l es, are the pr i de and joy
of al l men and women i n the empi re. I f you, a pr i nce wi t h l and
and ti tl es, were to embrace the doct r i ne of these two men, every
one woul d gi ve themsel ves to you, and you woul d become more
famous than they are, because, unl i ke them, you have power*. '
The Ki ng of Song coul d not fi nd a word i n repl y. - Hui Ang
went out i n tri umph. He was al ready far away when the Ki ng
of Song sai d to hi s courti ers: ' But say somet hi ng. That man has
reduced me to si l ence. '
*Hui Ang was not a disci pl e of Confuci us. However the tri umph of the sophists
consisted in putti ng their adversary off his own thesis. The King of Song began
by decl ari ng that he detested Confuci ani sm. Hui Ang proves to him, wi thout bel iev
Ing i t hi msel f, that i t i s t he best of doct rines.
62
Lie Zi, ch. 3 A.
Chapter J. Psychical States*.
A. At the t i me of Emperor Mu** of the Zhou dynasty , a magt c t an
from the far west came to cour t . Thi s man was abl e t o pass
unharmed through wat er or f i r e, pass through met al or stone
wi thout encount er i ng any resi st ance, make t orrent s run backwards,
change the pos i t i on of t own rampart s, l evi t at e hi msel f , take
on any form at wi l l whi l st keepi ng hi s human i nt el l i gence, and
so on. Emperor Mu venerat ed h i m as a sp i r i t , and served h i m
a s a di sc i pl e woul d serve h i s mast er, gi v i ng hi m the best h e had
of l odgi ngs, food, and women. Ye t t he magi c i an found the i mper i al
pal ace uni nhabi t abl e, t he i mper i al cui s i ne i nedi bl e, the women
of the harem unwort hy of h i s affect i on. Then the emperor had
a speci al pal ace bui l t for h i m. The mat er i al s and workmanshi p
were al l ex qui s i t e. The e xpense used up the i mper i al treasure.
The f i ni shed edi f i ce reached a hei ght of ei ght thousand feet.
When the e mperor dedi cated i t, he cal l ed i t the Tower Reachi ng
To Heaven. He fi l l ed i t wi t h sel ect ed young peopl e cal l ed i n
from the Pri nci pal i t i es of Zheng and Wei . He i nst al l ed bat hs
and a harem. He pro v i ded i t wi t h pr eci ous obj ect s, f i ne si l ks,
cosmet i cs , perfumes, and cur i osi t i es. He had t he most famous
symphoni es performed t here. Every mont h he prov i ded new out f i ts
of superb cl ot hi ng, ever y day a prof usi on of exqui s i te thi ngs
None of t hi s had any ef f ect . The mag i c i an f ound not hi ng t o
hi s l i k i ng and l i ved wi t hout pl easure i n hi s new l odgi ng, from
whi ch he was frequent l y absent . - The emperor was astoni shed
by hi s conduct , unt i l one day, dur i ng a fest i v al , the magi ci an
s ai d t o hi m: ' Come wi th me. ' - The e mperor se i zed t he magi ci an' s
wand whi ch qui ckl y l i ft ed hi m u p i nt o space as f ar as t he pal ace
of transcendent men i n the cent re of heaven. Th i s pal ace was
made of gol d and s i l ver , ornament ed wi t h pearl s and j ade. I t
was si tuated above the regi on of t he rai n cl ouds, and seemed
to fl oat i n space l i k e a cl oud. I n thi s supra- t errest r i al worl d,
si ghts, mus i c, perf umes, tastes; not hi ng was as i n the wori of
men. The e mperor understood t hat he was i n the c i ty of the
heavenl y Sover ei gn. Fr om up there, hi s ear t hl y pal ace l ooked
to h i m l i ke a l i t t l e pi l e of t wi gs and t urf . He woul d have stayed
there for y ears wi t hout even rememberi ng hi s empi re; but t he
mag i ci an i n v i ted h i m to fol l ow hi m further Thi s t i me he took
hi m up beyond the sun and moon, out of s i ght of l and and oceans,
i nto a bl i ndi ng l i ght , a deafeni ng harmony. Sei zed wi th terror
and vert i go, the e mperor asked to go down. The descent was
effected wi t h the rapi di t y of a met eori t e f al l i ng through space.
- When he came to, the emperor found hi mse l f si t t i ng on hi s
seat , surrounded by hi s court i ers, hi s cup hal f ful l , hi s stew hal f
*Real i ty, memory, i magi nati on, dream, ecstasy, l ol l y, etc.
**TH p. 1 21 .
63
Lie Zi, ch. 3 A, B.
eaten. ' What happened to me ? ' he asked hi s entourage. - ' I t seemed
as i f you had wi thdrawn yoursel f for an i nstant , ' they sai d. -
The emperor thought he had been absent for at l east three months.
' How do you expl ai n that?' he asked the magi ci an. - ' Oh, nothi ng
coul d be more si mpl e, ' sai d the l atter. ' I took up your spi ri t,
your body has not moved. Or, rat her, I di d not e ven di spl ace
your spi ri t , si nce al l di st i nct i ons of t i me and pl ace are i l l usi ve.
The mental represent at i on of al l possi bi l i t i es i s made wi thout
movement and abstracted from t i me. ' - I t i s from the t i me of
thi s epi sode that the di st aste of Emperor Mu for t he government
of hi s empi re and the pl easures of hi s court began, and al so hi s
taste for wander i ng. I t was then that, wi th hi s ei ght f amous
horses each of a di fferent hue, he undertook hi s famous expedi ti on
beyond the western front i ers. He was accompani ed by lao Fu
who drove hi s char i ot , Qi He who served as groom, and Shen
Bai who drove the wagon assi st ed by Ben Rang. After havi ng
covered a thousand stages, he reached the Ju Sou t ri be, who
gave hi m swan ' s bl ood to dri nk and washed hi s feet wi th koumi ss
( two forti ti ers) . The fol l owi ng ni ght was spent on the banks of
the Red Torrent . The next day the emperor c l i mbed Mount Kun
Lun, vi si ted the Yel l ow Emperor' s anci ent pal ace, and bui l t a
cai rn i n memory of hi s v i s i t . Nex t he v i s i t ed Xi Wang Mu*, and
was entert ai ned by hi m ( or her) near t he Green Lake. They exch
anged toasts, and the emperor d i d not hi de t he fac t that i t was
pai nful for hi m to have to go bac k . Af t er havi ng contempl ated
the pl ace where the sun rests at the end of i t s di urnal course
of ten thousand stages, he made hi s way back t o the empi re.
To sum up, he returned di s i l l usi oned, havi ng found not hi ng that
resembl ed hi s vi s i on. ' Al as, ' he s ai d, s i ghi ng, ' posteri t y wi l l say
that I sacri fi ced dut y to pl easure. ' - And, i n fact , havi ng onl y
l ooked for present happi ness, he was not a good emperor and
di d not at t ai n spi r i tual perfect i on, but onl y l i ved a l ong t i me,
dyi ng i n hi s hundredth year.
B. Lao Cheng Zi entered the school of Yi n Wen ( Guan Yi n Zi )
i n order to l earn the secret of uni versa! phant asmagori a. For
three whol e years the l at ter t aught hi m not hi ng. Thi nki ng from
thi s col dness that hi s master j udged hi m of l i t t l e abi l i ty, Lao
Cheng Zi excused hi msel f and offered to wi thdraw. Master Yi n
Wen bowed to h i m ( a mark of ex traordi nary est eem) , l ed hi m
to hi s room, and there, wi thout wi tnesses ( for the di vulgence
of esoteri c knowl edge) , he sai d: ' A l ong t i me ago, when Lao
Dan l eft for the west**, he summar i sed hi s doct r i ne for me i n
these words: "The vi tal spi r i t and the mat eri al body are phantasms-
*Ki ng or f ai r y? Probabl y e ki ng, whom l egend hes mede i nto e women.
**I I euthenti c, thi s i s the ol dest reference to thi s deperture.
64
Lie Zi, ch. 3 8, c.
gor i a. The words ' l i fe ' and ' deat h' des i gna te the i ni t i al genes i s
of a bei ng through the act i on of the generat i ve vi rt ue, and i ts
fi nal transfor mat i on under the i nfl uence of natural agents. The
phantasmagor i a i s the success i on of beg i nni ngs and transformat i ons
under the i nfl uence of the uni versal mot or, unt i l the i r number
i s compl et e. The Pr i nci pl e, f i rst of the bei ngs, i s too myst er i ous,
too profound, t o be sounded. We can onl y st udy corporeal becomi ngs
and endi ngs, whi ch are vi s i bl e and mani fest . Underst and i ng t hat ,
pract i cal l y, cos mi c e vol ut i on consi st s of the success i on of the
two states of l i fe and deat h; t hi s i s the key to the comprehens i on
of the phant asmagori a. We are subj e c t t o t hi s vi ci ssi tude , you
and I , and we can obser ve i ts e f fect s on oursel ves. " ' Thi s i nstruc t i on
recei ved, Lao Cheng Zi ret urned home, medi t at ed on i t for three
months, and found t he secr et of t he mys t er y. He penet rat ed
i t so wel l t hat he became mast er o f l i fe and deat h. He was abl e
to modi fy the seasons, produci ng t hunderst orms i n wi nt er, and
i ce i n summer. He was abl e t o change bi rds i nt o quadrupeds and
vi ce-versa. He t aught no one t he for mul a, and no one has s i nce
recovered i t . Moreover , says Li e Z i , those who seek t he abi l i t y
to transform t hi ngs shoul d keep i t secr et , and not make use of
i t . The anc i ent r ul ers d i d not owe the i r f ame t o ex t raordi nary
acts of sci ence or courage . We know t he y pre fer r ed t o act for
the good of humani t y , wi t hout ost en t at i on.
C. Ment al appl i cat i on has e i ght e ff ec t s: ac t i on, del i ber at i on,
success, f ai l ur e, happi ness, sadness, l i fe , and deat h; al l o f whi ch
bel ong t o the body. Ment al abst ract i on has si x causes: wi l l , aver
si on, i ntense thought , sl eep, del i ght , and t error; al l of whi ch
bel ong t o the mi nd*. Those who do not know the nat ural ori gi n of
emot i on, preoccupy themse l ves wi th i ts cause , when the y exper i ence
i t. Those who know that emot i on has a nat ural or i gi n no l onger
preoccupy t hemsel ves wi t h i t , because the y know i ts cause. Ever y
thi ng i n the body of a bei ng, f ul l ness and empt i ness, ga i n and
l oss, i s i n harmony, i n equi l i br i um, wi t h the state of heaven and
earth and the t ot al i t y of be i ngs whi ch popul ate the cosmos. A
predomi nance of yi n makes one dream of fordi ng a r i ver, wi th
a cool sensat i on. A predomi nance of yang makes one dream of
passi ng through f i r e, wi t h a burni ng sensat i on. A s i mul taneous
excess of yi n and yang makes one dream of r i sks and dangers,
wi th fear and hope. I n a state of s at i et y one dreams of gi vi ng;
i n a state of fast one dreams of taki ng. Super f i ci al mi nds dream
they are ri si ng i n the ai r , seri ous mi nds dream they are deep
down i n the water. Weari ng a bel t i n bed makes one dream of
snakes; seei ng a pl umed bi rd makes one dream of fl yi ng. Be fore
a bereavement one dreams of f i re; before an i l l ness one dreams
of eat i ng. Af ter dri nki ng a great deal one has sad dreams; after
*Cf. Ri tuel des Tcheou, book 24.
65
Lie Zi, ch. 3 C, D.
danci ng too much one cr i es whi l st dreami ng. - Li e Zi say s: ' A
dream i s a meet i ng made by the mi nd; rea l i t y ( obj ect i ve percepti on)
i s a contact wi t h t he body. Wak i ng thought s and sl eep i ng dreams
are equal l y i mpress i ons. Thus those of t r ul y sound mi nd thi nk
and dream l i t t l e, and at t ach l i t t l e i mportance to thei r thoughts
and dreams. They know t hat t hought s and dr eams are not the
real i t y they seem to be, but are r efl ect i ons of t he cosmi c phantas
magor i a. The anc i ent Sages d i d not t hi nk great l y when awake,
di d not dream when sl eep i ng, and t hey spoke ne i t her of t hei r
thought s nor t he i r dr eams because t hey bel i eved as l i t tl e i n the
one as the ot her . ' - In the sout h - east er n corner of the square
eart h i s a l and whose fron t i er s I do not know. It i s cal l ed Gu
Mang. The al t erna t i ons of y i n and yang do not make themsel ves
fel t , and t here are no seasons; t he sun and moon do not shi ne
t here, and t here i s nei t her day nor ni ght . I t s i nhabi t ant s do not
eat , and do not wear c l ot hes. They sl eep al most cont i nuousl y,
awak i ng once ever y f i f t y day s . They t ake as r eal what t hey have
exper i enced dur i ng t he i r sl eep , and as i l l us i on what t hey exper i ence
whi l st awake. - In the cent re of the ear t h and of the four seas
i s the mi ddl e k i ngdom ( Chi na) , set by the Yel l ow Ri ver , ex tendi ng
from t he l and of Yue as f ar as Mount Ta i Shan, wi t h an east
west breadth of more than t en t housand st ages. The al t er nat i ons
of yi n and yang t here produce hot and col d seasons; l i ght and
darkness al t ernat e produci ng day and ni ght . Amongs t i ts i nhabi tants
there are wi se men and f ool s. I t s nat ur al and i ndust r i al products
are numerous and var i ed. I t has i t s pr i nces, of f i c i al s , r i tes, and
l aws. Peopl e t al k and act there a gr eat deal . They wake and
sl eep al t ernat el y , t ak i ng as rea l what they exper i ence duri ng
the waki ng s t at e, and as v ai n what t hey ex per i ence dur i ng sl eep.
- In the nor t h - wes t cor ner of t he square ear t h i s the l and of
Fu Lao where t he gr ound, burnt wi t hout cease by t he sun' s rays,
does not produce any cer eal s . The peopl e l i v e on f ru i t and roots
whi ch they eat raw. Bru t a l , t hey pr i z e f orce mor e t han j ust i ce.
They are al most al ways mov i ng and s el dom r es t . They are awake
most of the t i me, and sl eep l i t t l e. They hol d as r eal what they
exper i ence duri ng the wak i ng s t at e.
D. A cert ai n Yi n, an of f i ci al of t he Zhou dynast y, l i ved i n l uxury.
Hi s ser vants got no rest from dawn t i l l ni ght . An ol d val et , broken
and feebl e, was no l ess abused t han the others. Now, aft er havi ng
suffered hardshi p al l day , each ni ght t hi s man dreamt he was
a pri nce, seated on a t hrone, gover ni ng a count ry , and enj oyi ng
al l the pl easures of i t . On awaki ng he found hi msel f once more
a val et, and suffered as such the whol e day through. When hi s
fri ends compl ai ned of thei r l ot, the ol d val et s ai d to them: ' I
am not sa gi ven to compl ai ni ng. The l i fe of men i s equal l y di vi ded
i nto day and ni ght . Duri ng the day I am a val et and suffer; but
66
Lie Zi, ch. 3 D, E, F.
duri ng the ni ght I a m a pr i nce and enj oy mysel f very much. I t
i s good hal f of the t i me; why shoul d I compl ai n?' - However
the master of thi s val et , after a day of pl easure , dreamt each
ni ght t hat he was a val et, bowed down wi th wor r y, snar l ed at
and rebuked. He t ol d a fri end of t hi s. The l at ter sai d t o hi m:
' I t must be because duri ng the day you have exceeded the l ot
of pl easure ass i gned t o you b y dest i ny . Des t i ny compensat es
for t hi s by your suf fer i ng at ni ght . ' - The of f i ci al bel i eved hi s
fri end, moderated hi s l uxur y, trea t ed hi s servant s bet t er, and
found hi msel f the bett er for i t. ( St r ai ght away the ol d val et
l ost hi s nocturnal pl easure whi ch des t i ny had al l owed hi m i n
compens at i on f or t he excess of hi s dai l y f at i gues) .
E. A but cher from Zheng, who was col l ect i ng fi rewood, came
across a st ray roebuck whi ch he k i l l ed and hi d under some branches
i n a hol l ow, i nt endi ng to r emove i t i n s ecr et , l at er . On ret urni ng
he coul d not fi nd the pl ace and, b e l i e v i ng he had dreamt i t ,
he t ol d t he s t or y to ot hers. One o f t he audi ence, fol l owi ng hi s
di rect i ons, found t he roebuck and brought i t home. ' Th i s but cher ' s
dream was real , ' s ai d the peopl e o f hi s hous e. ' Real f or you , '
sai d hi s peopl e, ' si nce i t i s y o u wh o got i t . ' - However , t h e next
ni ght the butcher had a r ev el at i on i n a dr eam t hat s uch a person
had found hi s roebuck and hi dden i t i n h i s house. He went there
earl y i n the morni ng, di s cover ed the r oebuck , and accused the
person i n front of the v i l l age chi ef . The l at t er s ai d t o the butcher:
' If you k i l l ed t hi s roebuck whi l s t awake, why d i d you t el l the
story that you di d i t i n a dream? I f you k i l l ed a roebuck i n a
dream, i t coul d not be t hi s r eal r oebuck. Therefore, si nce i t
cannot be ascer t ai ned t hat you ki l l ed t he beas t , I cannot gi ve
j udgement i n your f avour. Moreo ver , si nce your adversary found
i t from di rect i ons gi ven i n your dream, and you found i t agai n
after another dream, you shoul d d i v i de i t bet ween t he t wo of
you. ' - The vi l l age chi ef ' s j udgement was brought t o t he at t ent i on
of the Pri nce of Zheng, who asked hi s mi ni s ter what he thought
about i t. The mi ni st er sai d: ' In order t o deci de what i s a dream,
and what i s not , and to deci de l egal ri ght s i n a matter of dreams,
onl y the Yel l ow Emperor and Confuci us are qual i f i ed. Si nce we
have nei ther of t hem t o settl e t hi s l i t i gat i on, I t hi nk we shoul d
st i ck t o the arbi trary j udgement of the vi l l age chi ef. '
F. At Yang Li i n the Pr i nci pal i t y of Song a mi ddl e-aged man
cal l ed Hua Zi caught an i l l ness whi ch compl et el y took away hi s
memor y. I n t he eveni ng he no l onger knew of an acqui s i t i on he
had made i n t he morni ng, and he coul d not remember what money
he had spent the day before. Out si de, he forgot to wal k, i n the
house he di d not thi nk of si t t i ng down. Al l past memor i es were
wi ped out as he went al ong. - A schol ar from the Pr i nci pal i t y
67
Lie Zi, ch. J F, G.
of Lu offered to treat thi s case of amnesi a. Hua Zi
'
s fami l y
promi sed hal f of hi s fortune i f he shoul d succeed. The schol ar
sai d: ' Incantat i ons, prayers, drugs, and acupuncture, wi l l have
no effect . He can onl y be cured i f I manage to reshape hi s mi nd. '
- The schol ar soon observed that the pati ent st i l l asked for
cl othes when he was naked, food when hungry, and l i ght when
i n the dark. He sai d to the fami l y: ' There is hope of a cure,
but my method i s secret and I wi l l not di vul ge i t to anyone'
Havi ng sai d thi s, he shut hi msel f up wi th the pati ent, who,
on the seventh day, found hi msel f cured after several years of
amnesi a. - But what a surpri se; as soon as hi s memory returned,
Hua Zi went i nto a rage, made bl oody reproaches to hi s fami l y
,
and put the schol ar to f l i ght wi th a l ance. They wrested i t from
hi m, and asked the reason for hi s fury. ' Ah, ' he sai d, ' I was so
happy when I di d not even know i f heaven and earth exi sted.
Now, once more, I must regi st er i n my memory the successes
and fai l ures, pl easures and su fferi ngs, t he good and bad thi ngs
of the past , and I must preoccupy mysel f wi th the future. Who
can gi ve back to me, even for a moment , the happi ness of uncon
sci ousness ? ' - Zi Gong , who had heard t hi s st ory and was astoni shed
by i t , asked Confuci us for an expl anat i on. ' You are i ncapabl e
of underst andi ng i t ' ( your mi nd i s too pract i cal for that) , sai d
Confuci us. ' Yen Hui ( an abstract contempl ati ve) wi l l understand
it better. '
G. A cert ai n Pang of the Pri nci pal i t y of Qi n had a son. When
qui t e smal l t hi s chi l d seemed i nt el l i gent , but when he grew up
hi s mental i t y seemed very st range. Si ngi ng made hi m cry, and
he thought that whi te was bl ack, perfumes were sti nki ng, sugar
was bi t ter, and good was bad. I n a nutshel l , in thoughts and thi ngs,
i n each and ever yt hi ng, he was the opposi te of other peopl e.
- A certai n Yang sai d to hi s father: ' Thi s i s qui te an extraordi nary
case, you shoul d go t o Lu, where the schol ars are very wi se,
and ask advi ce. ' The father of the topsyturvy chi l d set off
i n the di rect i on of Lu. When he was passi ng through Chen he
met Lao Dan and t ol d hi m about hi s son. Lao Dan repl i ed: ' I s
that why you thi nk he i s craz y ? Al l men of these t i mes are thus.
They all take evi l for good, and make rules of conduct t o serve
thei r personal gai n. There i s no one who does not suffer from
i t . One fool per fami l y, a fami l y of fool s per vi l l age, a vi l l age
of fool s per pri nci pal i t y, a pri nci pal i ty of fool s in the empi re;
that woul d be tol erabl e, stri ctl y speaki ng. But now the whol e
empi re i s crazy wi th the same fol l y as your son' s; i f not, i t i s
you who are crazy for t hi nki ng di fferentl y from the others. Who
wi l l ever defi ne the rul es of feel i ngs, sounds, col ours, smel l s,
tastes, of good and evi l ? I am not certai n i f I mysel f am wi se,
but I am certai n that the schol ars of Lu (who cl ai m to defi ne
68
Lie Zi, ch. 3 G, H.
these thi ngs) are the worst sowers of fol l y. And you are goi ng
to ask t hem to cure your son for you? Bel i eve me, save yoursel f
t he expense o f a usel ess j ourney and return home by t he shortest
route. '
H. A chi l d born i n the Pri nc i pal i t y of Yen ( i n the far north)
had been t aken t o t he Ki ngdom of Chu ( i n the far south of the
empi re) where he was brought up and spent al l hi s l i fe. As an
ol d man he ret urned t o the l and of hi s bi r th. Hal f-way there,
as he approached t he pr i nci pal t own of Ji n, hi s t r avel l i ng compan
i ons tri ed to make fun of hi m by say i ng: ' Here i s the pri nci pal
town of Yen, your count r y ' Our man, bel i e vi ng t hem, became
pal e and sad. - Then, showi ng h i m a mound of the Earth Spi r i t ,
they s ai d: ' Thi s i s t he mound of your na t i ve vi l l age ' The man
si ghed sadl y . - Then t hey showed h i m a house and sai d: ' Here
i s t he home of your ancest ors ' The man burst i nto t ears. -
Fi nal l y, showi ng h i m some t ombs, t hey s ai d: ' And here are t hei r
tombs ' . . . Wi th t hese words our man burst i nt o l amentat i on. -
Then hi s compani ons uncover ed t he i r hoa x . ' We have fool ed you, '
they s ai d. ' Thi s i s Ji n, i t i sn ' t Yen. ' - Our man was very confused,
but from then on he cont r ol l ed hi s feel i ngs so wel l tha t, when
he reached Yen and trul y saw i ts pr i nci pal town, hi s vi l l age mound,
the home of hi s ancest ors and the i r tombs, he showed l i t t l e or
no emot i on*.
*For the Daoi sts, sent i ment i s an er r or, emot i on a f aul t .
Lie Zi, ch. 4 A, 8.
Chapter 4. Exti ncti on And Union.
A. Confuci us was medi t at i ng i n retreat. Zi Gong went in to serve
hi m and found hi m sad. Not dari ng t o ask hi m what was the
mat ter, he went out and tol d Yen Hui ( t he fa vouri te di sci pl e) .
The l atter took hi s l ute and began t o si ng. Confuci us heard hi m,
cal l ed hi m i n, and asked h i m why he was so happy. - ' And why
are you so sad? ' asked Yen Hui . ' Tel l me f i rs t why you are happy, '
sai d Confuci us. - Yen Hui sai d: ' A l ong t i me ago you taught
me that to pl ease heaven and submi t onesel f t o dest i ny dri ves
away al l sadness. I am doi ng j ust t hat , and t hat i s why I am happy. '
- Confuci us l ooked sombre, t ook a moment t o gather hi s t houg
hts
together, and sai d: ' I t i s true I s ai d t hat , but you have not ful l y
understood i t . Moreover I mysel f have had t o modi f y the i nt erpret
at i on of i t si nce then 0 0 You have t aken i t i n the rest ri ct ed sense
of work and personal i mprovement , of pat i ence in poverty and
all the vi ci ssi tudes of l i fe, and of ment al repose i n al l ci rcumstan
ces. Havi ng succeeded i n t hat , you feel happy I mysel f have
understood i t i n a wi der sense. I had hoped through my books
to co-operate wi th heaven and des t i ny, i n order to amend the
Pri nci pal i t y of Lu and all the empi r e, now, and for ages t o come.
However the pri nces have not support ed me and my doctri nes
have not been accepted. Havi ng now made no progress wi th a
si ngl e pri nci pal i t y, what hope have I of succeedi ng i n the future,
and for the whol e empi r e? At fi rst t he l ack of success of my
books di stressed me, and I t hought they were contrary to the
vi ews of heaven and the decrees of dest i ny. But si nce then I
have seen more cl earl y and real i se t hat I had mi sunderstood
the anci ent tex ts, through havi ng t aken t hem l i teral l y. The wi l l
of heaven and decrees of des t i ny are f i gures of speech, and there
fore i t i s not worth worr yi ng whether one i s l i ked, wanted, depl or
ed, or successful . From now on i t mat t ers l i t t l e t o me i f my
books are a success or a fai l ure. ' - Yen Hui bowed to Confuci us,
and sai d: ' Mas ter, I t hi nk I l i ke you ' Then he went out and
told all thi s to Zi Gong. The l at t er al most l ost hi s head. He l eft
Confuci us, went home, medi t at.ed for seven days and ni ghts wi thout
f
ood or sl eep, and became as thi n as a skel eton. However Yen
Hui went to speak wi th hi m and restored hi s fai th i n the anci ent
texts, but wi thout succeedi ng i n t aki ng hi m as far as Daoi st
i ndi fference. Zi Gong went back to Confuci us and t i l l the end
of his
days he reci ted endl essl y the Annal s and the Odes wi thout
bel i evi ng them.
B. An offi ci al from Chen who was on a mi ssi on t o the Pr i nci pal i ty
?
f Lu, met a certai n Shu Sun who sai d: ' We have a Sage here
In Lu. ' -
' You don' t mean Kong Qi u?' ( Confuci us) , s ai d the offi ci al .
- ' Ye
s, ' sai d Shu Sun. - ' How do you know he i s trul y a Sage?'
70
Lie Zi, ch. 4 B, C.
asked the offi ci al . - ' Because, ' sai d Shu Sun, ' I have heard hi s
di sci pl e Yen Hui say that Kong Qi u t hi nks wi th hi s body. ' - ' Then, '
s ai d t he offi ci al , ' we al s o have a Sage, Geng Sang Zi , a di sci pl e
of Lao Dan, who sees wi t h hi s ears and hears wi th hi s eyes . '
- Thi s remark of the of f i ci al f r om Chen reached t he ears of
the Pri nce of Lu, who, most i ntri gued, sent a hi gh -ranki ng mi ni ster
beari ng ri ch presents t o i nvi te Geng Sang Zi to hi s court. Geng
Sang Zi accept ed the i nvi t at i on, and was recei ved by the pri nce
wi th great respect . St rai ght away Geng Sang Zi sai d to hi m:
' You have been mi si nformed about my seei ng wi t h my ears and
heari ng wi th my eyes; one organ cannot be used as another. '
- ' That does n o t mat t er , ' s a i d the pri nce, ' I wi sh t o know your
doct r i ne. ' ' I t i s thi s , ' s ai d Geng Sang Zi ; ' my body i s i nt i matel y
uni t ed wi th my mi nd; my mi nd and body are i nt i mat el y uni ted
wi th the force and matter of the cosmos, whi ch are i nt i mat el y
uni t ed wi th the pri mordi al forml essness, the i nde fi ni t e i nf i ni t e
bei ng, the Pr i nci pl e. I n c onsequence of t hi s i nt i mat e uni on, every
consonance and di ssonance whi ch occurs i n the uni versa! harmony,
be i t cl ose or at a great di st ance, i s percei ved by me, but i n
such a way t hat I cannot say through whi ch organ I percei ve
i t . I know wi thout knowi ng how I come t o know*. ' - Thi s expl an
at i on pl eased the Pri nce of Lu who passed i t on t o Confuci us
the next day. The l at t er s mi l ed and s ai d not hi ng**
C. The pri me mi ni ster of Sofg met Confuci us and asked hi m
i f he were a Sage. - ' I f I were, ' repl i ed Confuci us , ' I shoul d not
say yes. Therefore I can onl y say t hat I have st udi ed and l earnt
a great deal . ' - ' And were the fi rst three e mperors Sages?' asked
the mi ni ster. - ' They governed wel l and were prudent and brave,
but I don' t know i f they were Sages , ' repl i ed Confuci us. - ' And
the f i ve emperors after them ? ' asked the mi ni st er. . . ' They al so
governed wel l , ' sai d Confuci us, ' t hey were good and j ust, but
I don ' t know i f they were Sages. ' - ' And the three emperors
who fol l owed them? ' asked the mi ni st er # ' They al so governed
wel l accordi ng to the t i mes and ci rcumstances, but I don ' t know
i f they were Sages. ' - ' But then , ' s ai d the astoni shed mi ni ster,
' who do you consi der to be wi se?' - Confuci us l ooked very seri ous,
thought for a moment , and then sai d: ' Amongst the men of the
west***, i t i s sai d there are those who can mai nt ai n peace wi thout
governi ng, i nspi re confi dence wi thout speaki ng, make everyt hi ng
*Perfect Daoi st knowl edge; the consonance of t wo i nst ruments tuned to the same
note; the cosmos and the i ndi vi dual , percei ved through i nti mate, total , sense.
**Smile of approval . Havi ng hmsel f become a Daoist, he had nothi ng to say,
says the commentary.
***Fi cti on, says the commentary. Confuci us taught the mi ni ster a l esson by i nventi ng
i magi nary Sages who were qui te the opposi te of hi msel f. There i s no hi stori c
or geographi c si gni fi cance in thi s t ext .
7 1
Lie Zi, ch. 4 C, D, E.
work wi thout i nterferi ng, so i mpercept i bl y, so i mpersonal l y, that
the peopl e do not even know t hei r names. I t hi nk these l at ter
are Sages, i f what i s sai d of them i s true . ' - The mi ni ster of
Song asked no further. After havi ng gi ven i t some thought , he
sai d: ' Kong Qi u has taught me a l esson. '
D. Zi Xi a asked Confuci us i f he thought Yen Hui was as good
as hi msel f. . . ' In goodness, ' s ai d Confuci us , ' he surpasses me. '
- ' And Zi Gong ? ' asked Zi Xi a ' In di scernment , ' sai d Conf uci us,
' Zi Gong surpasses me. ' - ' And Zi Lu ? ' asked Zi Xi a ' In bravery, '
sai d Confuci us, ' Zi Lu surpasses me. ' - ' And Zi Zhang ? ' asked
Zi Xi a ' In tenac i ty , ' sai d Confuci us , ' Zi Zhang surpasses me. '
- Qui te astoni shed, Zi Xi a stood up and s ai d: ' But why, then,
do these four men st ay i n your school ? ' - ' Because , ' sai d Confuci us,
' Yen Hui , so good, does not know how t o st and up to t hi ngs;
Zi Gong, so cl ear-si ght ed, does not know when t o y i el d; Zi Lu,
so brave, l acks prudence; Zi Zhang, so wor t hy, has no t act . If
each one of them surpasses me in some qual i t y , t hey are al l
i nfer i or to me through some faul t . That i s why t hey st ay i n my
school , and why I accept t hem as di sc i pl es. '
E. Havi ng become a master i n hi s t urn, Li e Z i , the di sci pl e of
Master Li n of Hu Qi u, t he fri end of Bo Hun Wu Ren, l i ved i n
the southern suburb ( where the famous Daoi s t whom we know
onl y as Nan Guo Zi , or Master of t he Sou thern Suburb, al so l i ved) .
Every day Li e Zi di scoursed wi t h whomever present ed themsel ves,
wi thout e ven botheri ng to fi nd out wi t h whom he was deal i ng.
But he never vi s i t ed Nan Guo Zi , who had been hi s nei ghbour
for twent y- f i ve years, and oft en passed h i m i n the street wi thout
payi ng any at t ent i on to hi m. Hi s di s ci pl es concl uded from thi s
that the two masters were enemi es. A newl y arr i ved di sci pl e
from Chu nai vel y asked L i e Zi why. ' There i s no enmi ty between
Nan Guo Zi and me, ' s ai d Li e Zi , ' he h i des hi s perfect i on i n the
voi d under a corporeal appearance. He no l onger l i stens wi th
hi s ears, l ooks wi th hi s eyes, speaks wi th hi s mouth, or thi nks
wi th hi s mi nd. He i s no l onger capabl e of any i nterest; i t i s there
fore usel ess t o try to have any rel ati onshi p wi th hi m. I f you
wi sh, we can go and see. ' - Fol l owed by about fort y di sci pl es,
Li e Zi went to the home of Nan Guo Zi . The l at ter was, i n fact,
so l ost i n abstracti on that i t was i mpossi bl e t o make any conversa
ti on wi th hi m. He l ooked vaguel y at Li e Zi wi thout sayi ng a si ngle
word to hi m; then, l ooki ng towards the last of the di sci pl es,
he sai d: ' I congratul ate you for seek i ng the truth wi th courage '
And that was al l . - The di sci pl es went back qui te astoni shed.
li e Zi sai d to them: ' Why are you astoni shed? He who has found
what he was seeki ng, no l onger speaks of i t . Nan Guo Zi ' s si l ence
is more meani ngful than any word. Hi s apathet i c l ook hi des hi s
72
Lie Zi, ch. 4 E, F, G, H.
perfect i on. Thi s man no l onger t hi nks or speaks because he knows.
Why does t hi s astoni sh you? '
F. When Li e Zi became a di sci pl e he spent hi s fi rst three years
t ryi ng to ri d hi msel f of maki ng j udgements and qual i fyi ng i n
words. At t he end of t hat t i me hi s master Lao Shang honoured
hi m for the fi rst t i me by l ook i ng at hi m. After fi ve years he
nei ther j udged nor qual i f i ed even mental l y; then Lao Shang smi l ed
at hi m for the fi rst t i me. After seven years, when he had forgotten
the di st i nct i on of yes and no, of advant age and di sadvantage,
hi s master made h i m si t on hi s mat f or t he fi rst t i me. At the
end of ni ne years, when he had l ost al l not i on of ri ght and wrong,
of good and ev i l , and of hi msel f and others; when he had become
absol ut el y i ndi fferent t o al l , then he found perfect communi on
between the ext er i or worl d and hi s own i nt eri or. He ceased to
make use of hi s senses ( but knew al l through superi or, uni versal ,
and abstract , sci ence) . Hi s spi r i t sol i di fi ed as hi s body di ssol ved;
hi s fl esh and bones l i quef i ed ( et heri sed) ; he l ost al l sensat i on
of the seat on whi ch he was s i t t i ng, of the ground on whi ch hi s
feet were pressi ng; he l ost al l knowl edge of fi xed i deas, of spoken
words; he reached that state where the mi nd i s no l onger moved
by anyt hi ng.
G. When he was a young di sci pl e, Li e Zi l i ked goi ng f or wal ks.
Hi s master Hu Zi asked h i m what he l i ked about wal ki ng Li e
Zi sai d: ' I n general i t i s a rel axat i on; many do i t for the pl easure
of l ooki ng around; I mysel f f i nd pl easure i n i t by medi t at i ng;
there are wal kers and wal ker s; I mysel f di f fer from the common. '
- ' Not so much as you t hi nk, ' s ai d Hu Zi ; ' for you, l i ke the others,
enj oy yoursel f. They enj oy themsel ves vi sual l y, you enj oy yoursel f
ment al l y. There i s a great di fference bet ween ext eri or medi t at i on
and i nt eri or contempl at i on. The medi tator takes hi s pl easure
from bei ngs, the contempl at i ve takes i t from wi t hi n hi msel f .
The perf ect wal ker t akes from wi thi n hi msel f; t he i mperfect
wal ker takes from bei ngs. ' - After t hi s i nst ruct i on Li e Zi thought
i t best to compl et el y gi ve up goi ng for wal ks. ' That i s not what
I meant , ' sai d Hu Zi ; ' go for your wal ks, but go perfect l y. The
perfect wal ker goes wi thout knowi ng where he i s goi ng, and l ooks
wi thout t aki ng account of what he has seen. To go everywhere
and l ook at everyt hi ng wi th thi s mental at t i tude ( of total abstrac
t i on, a compl ete vi ew wi th nothi ng i n detai l ); that i s perfect
wal ki ng and contempl at i on. I di d not advi se you to stop goi ng
for wal ks, but to wal k i n perfect i on. '
H. Long Shu sai d t o Doctor Wen Zhi : ' You are good a t di agnosi s.
I am i l l . Can you cure me? ' - ' I can, i f i t shoul d pl ease desti ny, '
sai d Wen Zhi . ' Tel l me what you are sufferi ng from. ' - ' I am
7 3
Lie Zi, ch. 4 H, I.
sufferi ng, ' sai d Long Shu, ' from a strange i l l ness. Prai se l eaves me
col d, bl ame does not affec t me; a gai n does not make me happy,
a l oss does not sadden me; I am equal l y i ndi fferent t o l i fe and
death, weal t h and povert y. I at t ach no more i mportance to men
than to pi gs, and to mysel f than to others. I feel as much a stran
ger i n my own home as i n a host el r y, and i n my pl ace of bi rth
as i n a forei gn l and. No di s t i nct i on at tract s me, no puni shment
fri ghtens me; fortune and mi s fort une, advant age or di sadvant age,
happi ness or sadness, are al l the same to me. Thi s bei ng so, I
cannot bri ng mysel f to serve my pr i nce, assoc i at e wi t h my parents
and fri ends, l i ve wi th my wi fe and chi l dren, or at t end to my
servants. What i s t hi s i l l ness? What remedy can cure i t ? ' - Wen
Zhi tol d Long Shu to s t r i p to the wai s t . Then, hav i ng pl aced
hi m such that the sun shone di r ect l y on hi s naked bac k , he pl aced
hi msel f i n front of hi s chest i n order to exami ne hi s vi scera by
transparency . ' Ah, ' he s ai d suddenl y, ' I can see your heart l i ke
a l i ttl e empty obj ect , as l ong and wi de as a t humb. S i x or i f i ces
are al ready opened, the sevent h i s about to open. You are sufferi ng
from the wi sdom of the wi se. What can my poor remedi es do for
such an i l l ness*? '
I . Havi ng no cause and l i vi ng forever , i s a way ( t hat of t he Pri n
c i pl e al one) ** Born of a J i vi ng bei ng, and hav i ng great l ongev i t y,
i s a permanence ( t hat of the geni es) . Af t er l i v i ng, ceas i ng to
be would be a great mi s fort une. - Hav i ng had a cause, to be
dead al ways, woul d be anot her way. Be i ng dead of a dead bei ng,
qui ckl y ceasi ng to be, woul d be the ot her permanence ( of not hi ng
ness). After death, to l i ve aga i n, i s good f ort une. - Not t o act,
and to l i ve, i s a way. To l i ve t hereby a l ong t i me, i s a permanence.
- To act and to di e, i s the ot her way. To cease thereby to be,
i s the other permanence. J i L i ang was dead, so Yang Zhu
went to hi s house and sang ( because Ji Li ang had l i ved happi l y
unt i l the end of hi s days) . When Sui Wu was dead, Yang Zhu
caressed hi s body whi l st sheddi ng t ears ( as i f to consol e hi m be
cause he had di ed premat ur el y a fter a hard l i fe) . He ac ted badl y
i n both cases, si nce ever y t hi ng changes aft er deat h. The common
peopl e si ng and cry over l i ves and deaths, wi t hout knowi ng why;
wrongl y or at crossed purposes. I n order to J i ve for a long
ti me, one must do not hi ng, push not hi ng to the extreme. I t i s
a fact of experi ence that, j ust before death the eyesi ght becomes
used up by becomi ng more pi erc i ng for a t i me. Heari ng the fl i ght
of l i ttl e fl i es i s a si gn of approachi ng deafness ( for the same
*Long Shu is an al most perfect, indi f ferent, Daol st. He onl y needs to ri d hi msel f of
the i l lusion that hi s wi sdom I s an i l l ness, and the wi sh to be cured of i t.
**Parts of thi s paragr aph are i nept, Inserted sol el y for the sake of paral l el ism. The
general meaning I s that there are t wo states of l i fe and death; that inaction
prol ongs l ife, and acti on I s sui ci de.
74
Lie Zi, ch. 4 I, J, K.
reason). The same appl i es t o taste, and the sense of smel l . Exces
si ve agi t at i on precedes, and bri ngs on, paral ysi s. Excessi ve i nsi ght
precedes, and ushers i n, madness. Every excess bri ngs rui n.
J
. In t he Pri nc i pal i t y of Zheng, at Bu Ze there were many thi nkers
( the
oret i ci ans) , at Dong L i there were many tal ented men ( pract i
t i oners
)
. A cer t ai n Bai Feng Zi from Bu Ze ( a theoret i ci an) was
p
assi ng through Dong L i wi t h hi s di s ci pl es , when he met Deng Xi
( a prac t i t i oner
)
wi t h hi s di sc i pl es. The l at te r sa i d t o hi s di sci pl es:
' Shoul d we make fun of these ot hers? ' . . . ' Let ' s, ' sai d the di sci pl es. -
Address i ng hi msel f t o Bai Feng Zi , Deng Xi s ai d: ' Speak i ng of
ani mal reari ng, pi gs and dogs ar e reared i n order to make use
of t hem. For what use do you r ear your di sc i pl es ?' One of the
di sc i pl es who accompani ed Bai Feng Zi repl i ed di rect l y as fol l ows:
' In the l ands of Qi and Lu men of t al ent from your school abound.
There are ar t i sans who work wi t h cl ay , wood, met al , and l eat her;
mus1 c 1 ans, wr i ters, and mat hemat i ci ans; t act i cal exper ts, and
masters of ceremony; al l these and more. The y are onl y l acki ng
i n t hi nkers for t he di r ec t i on of t hese t al ent ed peopl e. I t i s to
t hat end that we are dest i ned. Wi t hout t heoret i ci ans t he pract i t i on
er s serve no purpose. ' - Deng Xi f ound not hi ng wi t h whi ch t o
repl y . Wi th hi s eyes he s i gnal l ed t o hi s di sc i pl es t o say not hi ng,
and he r et i red cr es t f al l en.
K. Gong Vi was f amous for hi s s t r engt h. Tang Xi , a gr eat l ord,
prai sed h i m i n front o f Emperor Xuan of the Zhou dynast y. The
emper or sent Gong Vi an i nv i t at i on t o cour t , whi ch he had to
obey . Now he had a f ai r l y puny l ook whi ch ast oni shed the emperor,
who sai d t o hi m: ' They have prai sed you for your strength; what
can you do? ' - Gong Vi sai d: ' I can break t he l eg of a grasshopper
and tear off the wi ng of a cycada. ' - The emperor was not amused.
' I cal l a man st r ong, ' he s ai d, ' i f he can tear up a bu ffal o hi de
or hol d back ni ne bul l s by t hei r t ai l s. If you can onl y do what
you have j ust s ai d, why do they ex tol your st rengt h? ' - ' That ' s
a good quest i on, ' s ai d Gong Vi , s i ghi ng and dr awi ng hi msel f back
modest l y; ' I wi l l answer i t qui te frank l y. I was a di sc i pl e of Shang
Qi u Zi ( a Daoi st ) , whose st rength was unequal l ed, but who never
showed i t o ff so that even hi s fami l y di d not know of i t. I l ooked
after hi m when he was dyi ng, and he l eft me t hi s i nst ruct i on:
"Those who seek fame onl y fi nd i t through ext raordi nary act i ons.
By doi ng onl y ordi nary t hi ngs, one does not even become famous
i n one ' s fami l y . Thi s i s moreover the way that I j udge best, and
I advi se you to i mi t at e i t" . . . Now i f a great l ord has extol l ed
my strength before your maj esty i t i s because I have not kept
to the supreme recommendati on of my dyi ng master, and have
l et someone c at ch a gl i mpse of somet hi ng. The fac t that I have
reveal ed mysel f , shows that I have no strength. For he who knows
7 5
Lie Zi, ch. 4 K, L.
how to hi de hi s strength i s stronger than he who exerci ses i t . '
L. Pri nce Mou of Zhong Shan was the strong man of Wei . He
l i ked conversi ng wi t h abl e peopl e, concerned hi msel f l i ttl e wi th
the admi ni st rat i on, and had an open affect i on for Gong Sun Long,
the sophi st from Zhao. Thi s weakness made Zi Yu, the musi c
master, l augh. Mou asked hi m why he l aughed at hi s affect i on
for Gong Sun Long Zi Yu sai d: ' That man recogni ses no master,
i s no one ' s fri end, rej ects al l pri nci pl es , at tacks al l exi st i ng school s,
onl y l i kes pecul i ar i deas, and concerns hi msel f onl y wi th strange
di scourses. Everyt hi ng he proposes is i ntended onl y to muddle
peopl e and l ead them ast ray. Thi s is more or l ess what Han Tan
(an unknown sophi st) and hi s consorts di d i n the ol d days. ' - Upset ,
Pri nce Mou asked hi m i f he had not ex aggerated, not tol d the
truth. - Zi Yu repl i ed: ' Judge for yoursel f. Thi s is what Gong
Sun Long sai d to Kong Chuan. "A good archer, " he sai d, "must
be abl e to shoot arrow aft er arrow so qui ckl y and accuratel y
that the poi nt of each arrow enters the end of the precedi ng
one, the arrows formi ng a sol i d l i ne from the bowst ri ng to the
target" Seei ng t hat Kong Chuan was ast oni shed, Gong Sun Long
conti nued by s ayi ng that Hong Chao, the pupi l of Peng Meng,
had done even bet t er. Wi shi ng t o f ri ght en hi s wi fe who had been
angry wi t h hi m, he drew hi s best bow and l et fl y hi s best arrow
so accurat el y t hat i t r azed her pupi l s wi thout maki ng her bl i nk,
and i t fel l t o eart h wi t hout r ai s i ng any dust . Are t hese the propos
i t i ons of a reasonabl e man? ' - Pr i nce Mou repl i ed that somet i mes
the propos i t i ons of Sages are not understood by fool s, and that
what had been quot ed coul d be expl ai ned reasonabl y. - ' You have
been a pupi l of Gong Sun Long , ' s ai d Zi Yu; ' that i s why you
t hi nk you shoul d show hi m i n a good l i ght . I have no reason to
do so, and shal l cont i nue t o bl acken hi s character. Here are some
exampl es of the paradoxes he came out wi th in the presence
of the Ki ng of Wei : "One can t hi nk wi thout purpose; one can
touch wi thout reachi ng; t hat whi ch i s, cannot end; a shadow cannot
be moved; a hai r can support t hi r t y thousand books; a horse i s
not a horse; an orphan cal f can have a mother; " and other twaddl e. '
- Pri nce Mou s ai d: ' Perhaps i t i s you who do not understand
t hese profound words*. Thi nki ng wi thout purpose can refer to
concent rat i on of the spi r i t, uni ted wi th the Pri nci pl e; touchi ng
wi thout reachi ng refers to uni versal , pre-ex i st i ng, contact; that
whi ch i s, cannot end, a shadow cannot move, serves t o i ntroduce
a di scussi on of the i deas of change and movement; that a hai r
can support thi rty thousand books, serves to i ntroduce the questi on
of content and wei ght ; that a whi t e horse i s not a horse, cal l s
for di scussi on of i dent i ty or di f ference of substance and acci dents;
an orphaned cal f can have a mother, if it is not an orphan, etc. '
*Cf . Zhuang Zl ch. :n G.
76
Lie Zi, ch. 4 L, M, N.
- ' You have l earnt, 1 sai d Zi Yu, ' to pl ay the si ngl e note of Gong
Sun Long. You need others t o teach you to use the other hol es
of your i ntel l ect ual f l ute. ' Thi s i mpert i nence rendered the pri nce
speechl ess at f i rst . When he had pul l ed hi msel f together, he sent
Zi Yu
away wi th i nstruct i ons not to appear before hi m agai n
unl ess i nvi ted.
'
M. After rei gni ng for fi fty years, Yao want ed to know i f hi s
government had gi ven good resul t s and i f t he peopl e were happy
wi t h i t . He there fore ques t i oned hi s usual counsel l ors, both from
the capi t al and beyond, but none of them gave h i m a cl ear repl y.
Yao t hen di sgui sed h i msel f and went around t he streets, where
he heard a boy s i ngi ng the f ol l owi ng re fra i n: ' Amongst al l the
peopl e there are no l onger any bad ones, e ver yt hi ng i s bet t er.
Wi thout havi ng t o be t ol d, wi t hout havi ng been obl i ged t o, they
al l conform t o the l aws o f the emperor . ' - Ful l of j oy, Yao asked
the boy from whom he had l ear nt t hi s r efrai n. - ' The master, '
he sai d. Yao asked the mast er, who had composed t hi s ref rai n 0
' I t comes from t he anci ents , ' sai d the mast er. -
(
Pl eased t hat
hi s rei gn had kept t he anc i ent s t a tus quo, t hat hi s go vernment
had been so l i t tl e ac t i ve that the peopl e had not e ven been aware
of i t) , Yao dec i ded t o abdi cat e and to cede hi s throne to Shun
( out of fear of spoi l i ng hi s gl or y before hi s deat h) .
N. Guan Yi n Xi ( Guan Yi n Zi ) s ai d: ' Al l bei ngs are cl earl y reveal ed
t o hi m who dwel l s i n not hi ngness
(
of i nter i or form, i n an i ndetermi n
at e st at e) . He i s sens i t i ve t o thei r i mpressi on l i ke a cal m l ake;
he refl ects t hem as i n a mi rror; he repeats t hem l i ke an echo.
Uni ted wi th t he Pri nc i pl e, he i s i n harmony wi th al l bei ngs; he
knows al l through general , superi or reasoni ng, and i n consequence
he no l onger uses hi s senses t o know i nd i v i dual t hi ngs and det ai l s.
The t rue reason for t hi ngs i s i nvi s i bl e, ungraspabl e , i nde fi nabl e,
and i ndet ermi nabl e. The spi r i t al one, returned to the st ate of
perfect nat ural s i mpl i ci t y , can see par t i al l y i nto i t when i n deep
cont empl at i on. After t hi s re vel at i on, one no l onger wi shes for,
or t o do, anythi ng, whi ch i s true sci ence and true tal ent . He
who has seen the not hi ngness of al l desi re and al l ac t i ons; what
can he wi sh for; what can he wi sh t o do? Even i f he were to
l i mi t hi msel f t o pi cki ng up a J ump of earth, or deal i ng wi th a
handful of dust, he woul d s t i l l have been unfai thful to the pri nci
pl es, for he woul d have act ed. '
7 7
Lie Zi, ch. 5 A, 8.
Chapter 5. The Cosmic Continuum.
A. Emperor Tang of the Yi n dynast y asked Xi a Ji i f, r i ght at
the very begi nni ng, bei ngs exi st ed. - Xi a Ji s ai d: ' I f they had
not exi sted, how coul d there be any now? If we were to doubt
thei r exi stence i n the anci ent past , fut ure men coul d doubt i f
there were any now ( our present becomi ng one day, thei r past) ,
whi ch woul d be absurd. ' - ' Then, ' sai d Tang, ' i s there di vi si on,
or cont i nui t y, i n t i me? What i s i t t hat det ermi nes be fore and
after? ' - Xi a Ji sai d: ' One speaks, si nce the or i gi n, of the begi n
ni ngs and endi ngs of bei ngs. I n t rut h, are there real l y begi nni ngs
and endi ngs, or successi ve cont i nuous t rans i t i ons; who knows?
Bei ng ext er i or to ot her bei ngs, and ant er i or to my own future
states, how can I know ( i f endi ngs , deat hs, are cess at i ons or trans
format i ons) ?' - ' I n any case , ' sai d Tang, ' t i me i s i nf i ni te accordi ng
to you. What do you t hi nk of space ? Is i t equal l y i nfi n i te? ' -
' I know nothi ng about i t , ' sai d Xi a J i . - But Tang i ns i s t ed, and
Xi a Ji sai d: ' The voi d i s i nf i ni t e, for one c annot add a voi d to
a voi d; but as one can add bei ngs to ex i s t i ng bei ngs, I don ' t know
whether the cosmos i s f i ni t e or i nf i ni t e. ' - Tang cont i nued by
aski ng i f there were anyt hi ng beyond the four seas ( beyond known
terres t ri al space) . - Xi a Ji repl i ed: ' I ha ve been t o t he east as
far as Yi ng, and asked what l i es beyond. The y repl i ed that i t
i s the same beyond. . . I concl uded fro m t hi s exper i ence t hat the
terms four seas, four regi ons, four pol es, are perhaps not absol ute.
For, i n the end, by cont i nual l y addi ng, one reaches an i nf i ni te
val ue. If our ( hea ven- eart h) cosmos were f i ni t e, woul d i t not be
cont i nued wi thout end by ot her adj acent ( heaven-eart h) cosmoses?
Who knows i f our worl d ( heaven- eart h) i s more than a uni t i n
i nfi ni t y? - In the ol d days Nu Gua cl osed up the crack whi ch
exi sted on the hor i z on be tween the c i rcu mference of the heavenl y
canopy and the terrest r i al pl at eau ( thus del i mi t i ng thi s worl d) wi th
st ones of fi ve col ours. He i mmob i l i z ed the t urt l e ( whi ch supports
the earth) by cut t i ng off i ts four fee t , t hereby fi xi ng the posi t i on of
the four pol es ( t he car di nal poi nt s) . Thus ever yt hi ng i n thi s worl d
was put i n stabl e equ i l i br i um. But l at er on, i n hi s struggl e agai nst
Emperor Zhuan Xu, Gong Gong broke the (
nort h- western) heavenl y
pi l l ar on Mount Bu Zhou, and ruptured the at tachment of the
earth ( wi t h the south-east f i r mament ) . It fol l owed that the sky
i ncl i ned towards the north-west , and the earth sl oped towards
the sout h-east. Si nce then , the sun, moon, and constel l at i ons
al l gl i de towards the west ( where they set ) ; al l the r i vers of
Chi na fl ow towards the east . '
B. Tang asked agai n i f bei ngs were natural l y bi g o r smal l , l ong
or short , si mi l ar or di f ferent . . . But cont i nui ng to devel op hi s
78
Lie Zi, ch. . B, C.
theme, Xi a Ji sai d: ' A l ong way off i n the east ( sou th-east) of
the Chi na Sea ( at the pl ace where the sky has sep arated from
the earth) , i s an i mmense b ot t oml ess abyss, cal l ed the uni versa!
confl uence, where al l the waters of the earth, and those of the
Mi l ky Way ( the c ol l ect i ng r i ver of the cel est i al streams) , fl ow
wi thout i ts content e ver i ncreasi ng or di mi ni shi ng. Between thi s
gul f and Chi na there are ( there were) f i ve great i sl ands, Dai
Yu, YUan Ji ao, Fang Hu, Yi ng Zhou, and Peng Lai *. - At thei r
base each of these i sl ands measures t hi r t y thousand stages i n
ci r cumference. Thei r f l a t tops each ha v e a ci rcumference of
ni ne thousand stages. They are s i t uat ed se venty thousand stages
from each other. The bui l di ngs that cover these i sl ands are al l
of gol d and j ade; the ani mal s are fami l i ar ki nds; the vegetati on
i s marvel l ous; the fl owers are scented; the f r ui ts, when eaten,
ward off ol d age and deat h. The i nhabi t ants of these i sl ands
are al l geni es, sages. Ever y day they vi s i t one another by fl yi ng
through the ai r . - Ori gi nal l y the i sl ands wer e not f i xed, but fl oated
on the sea, goi ng up and down wi th t he t i de, wobbl i ng under
the feet . The geni es and sages grew t i red of thi s i nstabi l i ty,
and t hey compl ai ned t o t he Soverei gn. Fear i ng t hat they woul d
run aground one day on the western l ands, t he Soverei gn ordered
the Geni e of the Nort h Sea to r emedy th i s danger. The l atter
charged some gi gant i c turtl es to support t he fi ve i sl ands on thei r
backs, three of t hem suppor t i ng each i sl and. They ar e subj ect
to repl acement every si x ty thousand y ears. Then the i sl ands
no l onger wobbl ed. But one day, one of the gi ants from the l and
of Long Bai ( i n the north) came through the ai r to thi s regi on,
and t hrew i n hi s l i ne. He caught si x of the fi fteen turtl es, put
them on hi s back, and ret urned home t o prepare thei r carapaces
for di vi nat i on. St rai ght away the two i sl ands of Dai Yu and YUan
Ji ao (whi ch had been hel d up by these s i x turtl es) sank i nto the
ocean, ( thereby reduci ng the l egendary I sl ands of the Geni es
to three). The Soverei gn was most annoyed by thi s event. He
reduced the ex tent of the l and of Long Bai , and the gi gant i c
stature of i t s i nhabi tants. However at t he t i me of Fu Xi and
of Shen Nang, the l atter st i l l had a hei ght of several dozen hei ght
standards. At four hundred thousand st ages to t he east of Chi na,
i n the l and of Ji ao Yao, the men are one foot fi ve i nches t al l .
- At the north-east corner of t he eart h, t he Zheng Ren are
onl y ni ne i nches t al l . - These are standard measurements. '
C. ' Let us speak now of durati on. The Mi ng Li ng tree whi ch
grows to the south of Chi na has a l eafy peri od (
spr i ng and summer)
of fi ve centuri es, and a bare per i od
(
autumn and wi nter) al so
of fi ve centuri es ( the cycl e therefore l asti ng a thousand years).
*Probaly the olde1t te)t on the l al ea of the Geni es.
79
Lie Zi, ch. 5 C, D.
The great Chun tree of ant i qui t y had a cycl e of s i x teen thousand
years. A toadstool grows on manure heaps whi ch opens i n the
morni ng and is dead by eveni ng. In summer, mayf l i es are born
duri ng the rai n, and di e when the sun comes out . In the far north,
i n the bl ack waters of the Hea venl y Lake, there i s a fi sh as wi de
as several thousand st ages, and l ong i n propor t i on, whi ch i s cal l ed
the Kun; and a bi rd cal l ed Peng whose ex tended wi ngs obscure
the sky l i ke cl ouds, i ts other di mensi ons bei ng propor t i onal . These
bei ngs are known to us through the Great Yu, who saw them;
through Bo Yi who named t hem; and through Yi J i an who cl ass
i fi ed them . . . The Ji ao Mi ng, born by the wat ers i de , are so smal l
that they can perch on the antenna of a mosqui t o, wi t hout the
l atter bei ng aware of i t; they are i n vi si bl e e ven to the eyes
of Li Zhu and Shi Kuang. But after the Yel l ow Emperor had
fasted three months on Mount Kong Tong i n company wi t h Rong
Cheng Zi , when hi s mi nd was as i f ex t i ngui shed and hi s body
as i f dead, he saw them wi t h hi s transcendent s i ght as cl earl y
as Mount Song, and heard t hem wi t h hi s transcendent heari ng
as cl earl y as a thundercl ap. - I n the l ands of Wu and Chu ( i n
the south) the great Yu Bi tree grows. I n wi nter i t produces
red frui ts wi th an aci d t ast e. Transpl ant ed t o the nort h of Huai ,
i t changes i nt o a spi ny a n d s t er i l e bush (Ci tru spinosa). The
thrush does not go beyond the Ri ver J i , the badger cannot l i ve
south of the Wen. The nat ure of pl aces seems to be the same,
some accommodate t hemsel ves t o a pl ace, whereas ot hers do
not , wi t hout one bei ng abl e to di scover why . If we cannot account
for these concre te t hi ngs, how do you e xpect me to tel l you
about abstract t hi ngs, such as great and s mal l , l ong and short,
si mi l ar i t i es and di fferences?' ( A return t o the quest i on posed
i n B
)
.
D. The massi f of Mounts Tai Xi ng and Wang Wu covered seven
hundred square stages, and had a hei ght of e i gh t y thousand feet*.
A ni nety year ol d from Be i Shan wi shed to est abl i sh a communi ca
ti ons l i nk there , between the sout h and the north. He brought
together the peopl e of hi s househol d and sai d to them: ' Let us
set oursel ves t hi s task; l et us f l at t en thi s hei ght and put the
north i n communi cat i on wi th the Han Val l e y ' . . . ' To work, ' they
cri ed i n chorus . . . But the old wi fe of the nonagenari an obj ected,
sayi ng: ' Where are you goi ng to put the earth and stones of these
mountai ns?' . . . ' We wi l l throw them i nt o the sea, ' they sai d in
chorus ... So the work began. Under the di rect i on of the old man,
those of his sons and grandsons capabl e of carryi ng somethi ng,
at tacked the rocks, dug up the earth, and carri ed the debri s
basket by basket as far as the sea. Thei r enthus i asm spread to
*To the Chi nese, thi s represents the di stance to be wal ked to reach the summit.
80
Lie Zi, ch. 5 D, E, F.
the whol e nei ghbourhood. Even the son of an off i ci al ' s wi dow,
a boy j ust growi ng hi s second teeth, ran wi th the workers when
i t was nei t her too hot nor too col d. - However a man from He Qi u,
who bel i eved hi msel f wi se, t r i ed t o st op t he nonagenar i an by
sayi ng t o hi m: ' What you ar e doi ng i s unreasonabl e. Wi th t he
strength you have l ef t , you wi l l never get t o the bot t om of these
mount ai ns' The nonagenar i an sai d: ' You are the more unreasonabl e
one, whereas the wi dow' s son i s l ess so. I sha l l soon di e, that i s
true; but my sons wi l l cont i nue, t hen my grandsons, and thei r sons,
and so on. They wi l l mul t i pl y wi t hout end, whereas not hi ng wi l l ever
be added t o the fi n i te mass o f t hi s mount ai n. Therefore they wi l l
fi ni sh by fl at teni ng i t . ' The const ancy of t hi s nonagenar i an
terri f i ed the Gen i e o f t he Serpent s, who suppl i cat ed the Soverei gn
to prevent hi s prot eges from bei ng di spossessed by t hi s obs t i nate
ol d man. The l at ter ordered Kua Er ' s t wo g i ant sons t o separate
the t wo mount ai ns Tai Xi ng and Wang Wu. That i s how the trough
between the nort hern pl ai ns and t he Han basi n was produced.
( Moral , count on the ef fect of t i me) .
E. A l ong t i me ago, t he f at her of the t wo gi ant s ment i oned above
wi shed t o race t he sun. He ran as far as the Yu Val l ey , where,
bei ng t hi r st y, he drank t he r i ver, and t hen swal l owed the Wei .
But t hat was not enough, so he ran t owards t he Gr eat Lake,
whi ch he f ai l ed t o r each, as he di ed of t hi rs t on t he way. Hi s
corpse and cl ub became t he Deng Fores t whi ch ex tends f or several
thousand st ages.
F. The Great Yu sai d: ' I n the si x regi ons, bet ween the four seas,
l i t by the sun and moon, rul ed by the course of t he st ars, ordered
by the successi on of the seasons, domi nat ed by t he duodenary
cycl e of Jupi ter, bei ngs l i ve i n an order that the Sage can pene
trate. ' - Xi a Ji sai d: ' Ot her bei ngs l i ve i n ot her condi t i ons for
whi ch the Sage has not the key. For exampl e, when the Great Yu
canal i zed the waterways t o drai n the l and, he wandered around
the North Sea t o a far-off nort hern l and wi t hout wi nd, rai n,
ani mal s, or pl ant s of any ki nd, on a hi gh pl at eau surrounded by
steep cl i ffs, and wi t h a coni cal mount ai n i n i ts cent re. From
a bot t oml ess hol e at t he summi t of t hi s cone, gushed water wi t h
an odour of spi ce and a t ast e o f wi ne, whi ch fl owed i n four st reams
to the base of the mount ai n, and watered al l the l and. The regi on
i s very heal t hy, and i ts i nhabi t ants are gentl e and si mpl e. They
l i ve i n common, wi thout di st i nct i on of age nor sex, wi t hout chi efs,
and wi t hout fami l i es. They do not cul t i vate t he l and, nor do
t hey wear cl ot hes. Ver y numerous, t hey know nei ther t he j oys
of youth nor the sadness of ol d age. They are fond of musi c
and si ng together al l day l ong. They sat i sfy thei r hunger by dri nki ng
the water of the marvel l ous spri ng, and recover thei r strength
8 1
Lie Zi, ch. 5 F, G.
by bathi ng i n the same waters. They al l l i ve i n t hi s way for
exact l y one hundred years, and di e wi thout ever havi ng been
i l l . ' I n the ol d days, i n hi s wander i ngs towards the nort h, Emperor
Mu of the Zhou dynasty vi s i ted t hi s l and, and st ayed there for
three years. When he returned, the memory of i t made hi m fi nd
hi s empi re, hi s pal ace, hi s women, and so on, i ns i pi d. After a
few months he gave up everythi ng i n order t o go back there.
Guan Zhong, who was the pr i me mi ni st er for Duke Huan of Qi ,
al most deci ded to conquer t hi s l and. But Xi Peng advi sed the
duke agai nst i t sayi ng i t woul d be fol l y to r i s k the l i ves of hi s
sol di ers and the l oss of hi s feudal dependent s, who mi ght be temp
ted to desert, all because of the whi m of an ol d man, whi l st
Qi was so vast, popul ous, c i v i l i zed, beaut i fu l , and ri ch. Duke
Huan gave up the enterpri se, and t ol d Guan Zhong what Xi Peng
had sai d. Guan Zhong s ai d: ' I do not est eem Xi Peng very hi ghl y.
He i s so taken up by Qi t hat he s ees not hi ng beyond i t. ' - The
men of the south cut thei r hai r ( very) shor t and go naked, those
of the north wrap thei r body i n furs, the Chi nese have t hei r own
hai r-st yl e and wear cl othes. I n each l and, accordi ng to part i cul ar
ci rcumstances and na tural cond i t i ons, the i nhabi t ant s bel i eve
t hey have the best of cul t ure, commer ce, fi shi ng, cl ot hi ng, means
of communi cat i on, et c. - Wi t hout doubt t here are unreasonabl e
or barbari c pract i ces amongst cert ai n peopl es , but these are
arti fi ci al ; one shoul d seek t o reform t hem, but wi thout offendi ng
them. - Thus t o the east of Vue, the Che Mu devour t hei r f i rst
born, for the good, t hey say, of t he chi l dren who wi l l fol l ow.
When thei r grandfather i s dead, t hey chase away the grandmother,
because, bei ng the wi fe of a dead person, t hey s ay she wi l l attract
evi l i nfl uences. - To the sout h of Chu, the Yen Ren scrape the
fl esh from thei r dead, and throw i t away, and then they pi ously
bury t hem. I f any of t hem were not to do thi s, he would not
be reputed a pi ous son. - To the west of Qi n, i n the l and of Wen
Kang, the Vi Chu burn thei r dead parent s, i n order that they
may ascend to heaven wi th the smoke. If any one of them were
not to act i n thi s way, he woul d be hel d as i mpi ous.
G. Let us be reserved i n our j udgements, for even the Sage i s
i gnorant of many thi ngs, even thi ngs whi ch can be seen every
day... Confuci us, who was travel l i ng i n the east, saw two boys
who were argui ng, and asked them the reason for i t . The fi rst
sai d: ' I cl ai m that when the sun ri ses it is c l oser, and that at
mi dday it i s further. ' The second sai d: ' I cl ai m that at i ts ri si ng
the sun i s further away , and that at mi dday i t i s cl oser. The
fi rst boy conti nued: ' At i ts ri si ng the sun appears bi g; at mi dday
it seems smal l ; therefore it i s cl oser in the morni ng and further
at mi dday, for di stance makes obj ects seem smal l er. The second
sai d: ' At i ts ri si ng the sun is coal ; at mi dday it is ragi ng ha
t
;
82
Lie Zi, ch. . G, H, 1.
therefore i t i s further away i n the morni ng than at mi dday, for
di stance from a f i re di mi ni shes the heat . ' Confuci us found not hi ng
t o say t o deci de t hi s ques t i on, t o whi ch he had never gi ven any
thought . The two boys l aughed at hi m and sai d: ' Why do they say
you are wi se?'
H. The cont i nuum (cont i nui t y) i s t he great est l aw i n the worl d.
I t i s di fferent t o cohesi on or cont ac t . Take a hai r and hang a
wei ght on i t ; i t breaks. I t i s t he hai r whi ch i s broken, not the
cont i nui t y . The cont i nuous cannot be br oken. Some do not bel i eve
thi s. I am goi ng to s how t hem, by t he fol l owi ng exampl es, that the
cont i nuous i s i ndependent of cont act . - Zhan He was f i shi ng wi t h a
l i ne made from a s i ngl e f i l ament of nat ur al s i l k*, usi ng a bent
needl e as a hook, hal f a gra i n of whea t as ba i t , and a fi shi ng-rod.
Wi t h t hi s rudi ment ar y appar at us he pul l ed enor mous f i sh from a
deep pool , wi t hout hi s l i ne break i ng, h i s hook becomi ng st rai ghtened
out , or hi s rod bendi ng. The Ki n g o f Chu l earnt of thi s, and asked
hi m t o e xpl ai n how he d i d i t . Zhan He s ai d t o hi m: ' I n t he ol d days
the famous archer Pu Ju Zi reached t he gr ey cranes i n the cl ouds
wi t h hi s arrows, us i ng a ver y weak bow and a s i mpl e t hread. He
coul d do t hi s because hi s ment al appl i cat i on est abl i shed cont i nu i t y
bet ween hi s hand a n d t h e obj ec t . I prac t i sed for f i ve years to get
the same resul t , usi ng rod and l i ne . When I t hrow my hook i n, my
mi nd, whi ch i s c ompl et el y empt y of ot her t hought s, goes st rai ght
t o t he f i sh, t hrough my hand and t he t ackl e, est abl i s hi ng cont i nui t y;
and t he f i s h i s t aken wi t hout de f i ance or res i s t ance. And i f you
were t o appl y t he same procedure t o t he government of your
ki ngdom, t he resul t woul d be t he same ' . . . ' Thank you , ' sai d the
Ki ng of Chu. . . Therefore the wi l l makes the continuity bet ween the
mind and i ts object.
1. Te heart makes the continui ty bet ween a man and his fami ly.
Gong Hu o f Lu , and Qi Yi ng of Zhao were bot h i l l , so t hey asked
Pi an Qi ao, t he f amous doc t or, t o cure them. He di d so, and then
he sai d: ' That was onl y a passi ng cr i si s , a cons t i t ut i onal predi spos i
t i on remai ns, and there i s s ur e t o be a recurrence; ot her t hi ngs
than medi ci ne are needed t o avoi d t hat . ' - ' What do we need?'
asked t he t wo men . . . ' You, ' s ai d Pi an Qi ao t o Gong Hu, ' have
a st rong hear t and a weak body, and i n consequence you wear
yoursel f out i n i mprac t i cabl e proj ec t s. You, Qi Yi ng, have a
weak heart and a strong body, and i n consequence you wear your
sel f by i l l -consi dered efforts. I f I were t o swap over your two
hearts, you woul d fi nd yoursel ves i n good shape. ' - ' Do i t , ' sai d
the t wo men. Pi an Qi ao gave them wi ne cont ai ni ng a drug
whi ch made them unconsc i ous for three days, opened up thei r
*Such a s the si l kworm produces. Several f i l aments must b e spun together t o make a
si l k thread.
8 3
Lie Zi, ch. 5 I, J.
chests, took out and changed over the t wo heart s, and cl osed
up the i nci si ons wi t h hi s famous sal ve. On awaki ng the two men
found themsel ves perfect l y heal t hy. - But i t happened t hat when
they l eft , Gong Hu went st rai ght t o the home of Qi Yi ng, and
i nstal l ed hi msel f wi t h hi s wi fe and chi l dren, who di d not know
hi m. Qi Yi ng l i kewi se went st rai ght to the home of Gong Hu,
and i nstal l ed hi msel f wi t h hi s wi fe and chi l dren, who al so di d
not recogni ze hi m. The two fami l i es al most came t o l i t i gat i on,
but when Pi an Qi ao expl ai ned the myst ery t o t hem, they cont i nued
to l i ve peaceful l y.
J. Music makes continui ty bet ween man and the whole of nature.
When Pao Ba touched hi s e i ther, bi rds danced and f i sh j umped.
Shi Wen (who l at er became the chi ef musi ci an of Zheng) , wi shed
to acqui re the same t al ent , and l eft hi s fami l y in order to become
at tached to Shi Xi ang. Fi rst he spent t hree whol e years exerci si ng
hi s fi ngeri ng and t ouch, wi t hout pl ayi ng a si ngl e not e. Judgi ng
hi m to have l i t t l e abi l i t y , Shi Xi ang ended by t el l i ng hi m he coul d
go back home 4 Put t i ng down hi s e i t her, Shi Wen sai d wi th a
si gh: ' No, I am not wi t hout abi l i t y; bu t I have an ai m, an i deal
hi gher than ordi nary cl assi cal pl ay i ng; I am s t i l l unabl e t o communi
cate to others, the i nfl uence comi ng from my heart; that i s why
I dare not make my ei ther resonat e; i t woul dn ' t yet make the
sounds I want . I f I must l eave, I shal l do so; but i t wi l l onl y be
for a t i me; we wi l l see each ot her soon. ' - In fac t , not l ong after,
Shi Wen came back t o Shi Xi ang. ' How goes your pl ayi ng?' asked
the l at t er. ' I have found my i dea l , ' sai d Sh i Wen; ' you are goi ng
to see ' I t was then spri ngt i me. Shi Wen pl ayed the chord Shang,
whi ch responds t o the pi pe Nan and the season of aut umn; strai ght
away a cool wi nd bl ew and the frui t s r i pened. When, i n autumn,
he pl ayed the chord Ji ao, whi ch responds to the bel l Ji a and
to the season of spri ng, a warm wi nd bl ew, and the pl ant s fl owered.
When, i n summer, he pl ayed the chord You, whi ch responds to
the bel l Huang and the season of wi nt er , snow began to fall and
the watercourses froze. When, i n wi nt er, he pl ayed the chord
Zheng, whi ch responds to t he pi pe Rui Pi n and the season of
summer, fl ashes of l i ght shone and the i ce mel ted. Fi nal l y, when
he pl ayed the four chords s i mul taneousl y , a gent l e breeze bl ew,
graceful cl ouds fl oated i n the ai r , a sweet dew fel l , and wi ney
spri ngs gushed from the eart h. . . Beat i ng hi s chest and bowi ng
( showi ng si gns of regret ) , Shi Xi ang sai d: ' How wel l you pl ay.
It equal s or surpasses i n strength that o f Shi Kuang and of Zi Yen.
In your presence these masters shoul d put down thei r ci thers,
and pi ck up the fl ageol et , i n order to accompany you. '
Lie Zi, ch . . K, L, M.
K. Another example of mysterious correspondence through muic.
When Xue Tan was l earni ng to s i ng under Qi n Qi ng, he became
di scouraged and t ol d hi s master he was goi ng away. Qi n Qi ng
di d not tel l h i m to st ay, but, at the customary l i ght meal for
the moment of departure, he sang so movi ng a l ament to hi m,
t hat Xue Tan changed hi s mi nd, asked to be forgi ven f or hi s
f i ckl eness, and asked i f he mi ght s t ay. - Then Qi n Qi ng tol d
hi s fri end the fol l owi ng story: ' In the ol d days , Er Han, who was
goi ng t o Qi , had no more provi s i ons and sang for food at an i nn
at Yang Men. Afterwards the beams of the rafters of the i nn
cont i nued the song for three whol e days, so wel l tha t peopl e
ran there, refusi ng to bel i eve the l andl ord t hat Er Han had l eft
When t hi s Er Han s ang a l ament at a st op on t he ci rcu i t , young
and ol d were so affected that they took no food for three days.
When, at a stop on the ci r cui t , Er Han sang a gay refrai n, young
and ol d forgot thei r sadness, danced for j oy, and gave generousl y.
Even i n our days t he peopl e of Yang Men express thei r feel i ngs
in a part i cul arl y graci ous way. I t was Er Han who taught them
that . '
L. Another example of mysti c cont inui t y. When So Ya touched
hi s e i ther, Zhong Zi Qi percei ved what he i nt ended to pl ay. There
fore, as soon as So Ya t r i ed to express through hi s chords the
i dea of a hi gh mount ai n, Zhong Zi Qi woul d say: ' Wel l , wel l ,
i t ' s comi ng up l i ke Mount Tai ' . . . Anot her t i me, when So Ya was
tryi ng t o express f l owi ng waters, Zhong Zi Qi s ai d: ' I t ' s fl owi ng
l i ke the Ji ang or the Ri ver ' . . . What ever i dea So Ya formed wi t hi n
hi msel f , Zhong Zi Qi percei ved i t from the sound of hi s ei ther.
One day when the t wo fri ends were pass i ng by the north of Mount
Tai , they were surpri sed by a shower and took refuge under a
rock. To charm away the boredom of wai t i ng, So Ya pl ayed hi s
ei ther, f i rst t ryi ng t o render the ef f ect of r ai n, t hen t he fal l
of a rock. Zhong Zi Qi qui ckl y foresaw these success i ve i nt ent i ons
Then So Ya put down hi s ei ther, and s ai d wi t h a si gh: ' Your
heari ng i s marvel l ous. Everyt hi ng I t hi nk i n my heart i s transl ated
i nto an i mage i n your mi nd. Where shal l I go when I want to
keep a secret ?'
M. Another exampl e of continui ty through intention. Mu, the
Zhou Emperor, had been hunt i ng i n the west . He cl i mbed the
Kun Lun Mount ai ns, went as far as Mount Yen, and then returned
towards Chi na. On hi s way back an i nventor cal l ed Yen Shi was
presented to hi m. ' What can you do? ' asked the emperor . . . ' Wi l l
your maj esty be pl eased t o al l ow me to show hi m? ' s ai d the i nven
tor ' I wi l l gi ve you a day , ' sai d the emperor. - When the day
arr i ved, Yen Shi presented hi msel f before the emperor wi th an
escort . ' Who are they? ' asked the emperor. ' They are my creatures, '
85
Lie Zi, ch . M, N.
sai d Yen Shi , ' they wi l l act the comedy
'
. . The emperor l ooked
at them stupefi ed. Yen Shi ' s aut omat ons wal ked, rai si ng and
l oweri ng thei r heads, movi ng l i ke real men. When one touched
them on the chi n, they sang, and qui te wel l . When one took them
by the hand, they danced i n rhyt hm. They di d everyt hi ng one
coul d i magi ne. - The emperor deci ded to show t hem to hi s harem
as an amusement . But, whi l st pl ayi ng the comedy, the automatons
made eyes at the women. The emperor was furi ous, and was
goi ng to put Yen Shi to death, t hi nki ng t hat he had i ntroduced
real men. Then the l at t er opened up hi s aut omat ons and showed
the emperor t hat they were made of l eat her, wood, pai nt and
varni sh. Moreover all the vi scera had been model l ed and Yen
Shi showed the emperor t hat ( i n confor mi t y wi th Chi nese physi ol
ogy), when one removed the heart from an aut omat on, hi s mouth
became dumb; when one removed the l i ver, hi s eyes coul d no
l onger see; and when one removed the k i dneys, hi s feet coul d
no l onger move*. - ' I t i s mar vel l ous
;
s ai d the emperor, cal med;
' you are al most as abl e as the Pr i nci pl e, the aut hor of al l thi ngs. '
And he ordered t hat the aut omat ons shoul d be put i n the wagons
and returned to hi s capi t al . - Not hi ng l i ke t hat has ever been
seen si nce. The di sci pl es of Ban Shu, i nvent or of the famous
tower of approach used i n si eges, and of Mo Zi , phi l osopher-i nven
tor of the automat i c fal con, i n vai n pressed these two masters
to do what Yen Shi had done. They di d not even dare try (as
they l acked the strength of wi l l needed to produce t he cont i nui t y).
N. Another example of continui ty through intenti on. When Gan
Yi ng, the famous archer, drew hi s bow, bi rds and beasts del i vered
themsel ves to hi m, wi thout wai t i ng for the arrow. Hi s di sci ple
Fei Wei surpassed hi m. Fei Wei t ook Ji Chang as hi s di sci pl e.
He began by sayi ng t o h i m: ' Fi rst l earn not to bl i nk, then I wi l l
teach you archery. ' - Ji Chang taught hi msel f i n the fol l owi ng
way. When hi s wi fe was weavi ng, he l ay on hi s back under the
l oom, f i xi ng hi s eyes on the cr i ss-cross threads and the shuttl e
whi ch passed to and fro. Aft er t wo years of t hi s exerci se, hi s
eyes became so fi xed that a poi nt coul d touch them wi thout
maki ng hi m bl i nk. Then Ji Chang went t o f i nd Fei Wei , and tol d
hi m that he was ready. ' Not yet , ' s ai d Fei Wei . ' You st i l l need
to learn to f i x on a poi nt . When you can see i t enl arged ( through
the strength of your i nt ent i on) to the poi nt where i t coul d not
be mi ssed, then come back and I wi l l teach you archery. ' -
J
i
Chang hung at hi s wi ndow a l ong yak-hai r, on whi ch cl ung a
fl ea. He then exerci sed hi msel f by f i x i ng hi s si ght on the flea
when the sun passed behi nd i t , and shone strai ght i n hi s eyes.
*Yen Shi moved hi s automatons by hi s wi l l , b) mental cont i nui ty. He therefore
made the eyes. He showed the vi scera t o dupe the emperor and save his l i fe,
86
Lie Zi, ch . . N, 0.
Day after day the fl ea appeared bi gger. Af ter three years ' pract i ce
i t l ooked enormous, and he coul d di s t i ngui sh i ts heart. When
he became abl e to pi erce the fl ea' s heart wi t hout hi s arrow break
i ng the hai r , he went to f i nd Fei Wei . ' Now, ' sai d the l at t er,
' you have l earnt archery; t here i s not hi ng el se I can teach you. '
- However Ji Chang t ol d hi msel f t hat he had no other ri val
i n the worl d but hi s master, and he resol ved t o do away wi th
hi m ( i n one of those contests of ski l l t hat archers hel d i n those
t i mes) . The two men met on a pl ai n, t ook up t hei r pos i t i ons,
and shot agai nst each other si mul t aneousl y, the number of arrows
havi ng been fi xed. At each shot t he arrows struck each other
at the hal f-way poi nt , and fel l dead wi t hout r ai si ng any dust.
But Ji Chang had put an extra arrow i n hi s qui ver, whi ch he
shot l ast , i ntendi ng t o pi erce hi s unar med mast er. Fei Wei parr i ed
the ar r ow wi th a spi ny br anch ( whi ch he had j ust t i me to pi ck
up, as he had not suspect ed t reachery) . Then, hav i ng put down
thei r bows, the two men sal ut ed each other on t he ground, weepi ng
wi t h emot i on and promi si ng t o be l i k e fat her and son t o each
ot her. They al so vowed t o each ot her , wi t h a bl ood bond, not
to t el l anyone the secret of the i r art ( of ment al cont i nui t y) .
0. Another exampl e of the efficacy of the wi l l . Zao Fu l earnt
the art of the char i oteer f rom Tai Dou. When he went as a di sc i pl e
t o hi s master ' s house, he began by ser v i ng hi m wi t h great humi l i t y .
For three years Tai Dou di d not speak a word to hi m. Zao Fu
i ncreased hi s submi ssi veness. At l as t Tai Dou s ai d t o hi m: ' Accord
i ng t o the ol d sayi ng, t he apprent i ce archer must be as fl exi bl e
as a wi l l ow cane, and the apprent i ce founder as s uppl e as a fur.
You now have more or J ess what i s requi red. Watch what I am
goi ng t o show you. When you can do the same, you wi l l be capabl e
of taki ng the r ei ns of a s i x -horse char i ot . ' - ' Good, ' sai d Zao
Fu. - Then Tai Dou set up a hor i z ont al pol e scarcel y wi de enough
t o pl ace a foot on, and st art ed wal ki ng step by step, st eadi l y,
from one end to t he ot her, comi ng and goi ng wi thout put t i ng
a foot wrong. - Three days l at er, Zao Fu di d i t equal l y wel l .
Surpri sed, Tai Dou sai d t o hi m: ' How abl e you are. How qui ckl y
you have succeeded. You now possess the secret of dri vi ng a
char i ot . The concent rat i on of your i nteri or facul t i es on the move
ment of your feet al l ows you t o wal k on the pol e so st eadi l y.
Concent rat e your facul t i es wi th t he same i nt ens i t y on t he rei ns
of your t eam, so t hat , through your hand, your mi nd ac ts on
the horses ' bi t s, and your wi l l on t hei rs. Then you wi l l be abl e
to descri be perfect ci rcl es and trace perfect ri ght angl es, and
make your team wal k wi thout becomi ng t i red out . Once more,
your mi nd must be one wi th the rei ns and the bi ts; that i s the
whol e secret . Once you have that, you wi l l need to use nei ther
your eyes nor the whi p. The t eam wi l l be ent i r el y i n your power
87
Lie Zi, ch. 5 0, P.
and the twent y -four shoes of your si x horses wi l l set tl e i n cadence;
thei r evol ut i ons wi l l be mathemat i cal l y preci se; you wi l l go safel y
where the road i s j ust wi de enough for your wheel s, where the
path i s j ust wi de enough for your horses ' fee t. There i s nothi ng
el se I can teach you; you know now as much as I do*. '
P. Hei Luan of Wei h a d treacherousl y assass i nated Qi u Bi ngzhang.
Hi s son, Lai Dan, sought re venge for hi s father ' s death. Now
Lai Dan, al though bra ve, was not st rong; whereas Hei Luan was
a col ossus who had no more fear of Lai Dan t han of a chi cken.
- Shen Tuo, a fr i end of Lai Dan, s ai d to hi m: ' You want Hei
Luan, but he i s stronger than you; what c an be done about that?
'
- ' Gi ve me some advi ce , ' sai d Lai Dan, burs t i ng i nto tears. -
' I have heard tel l , ' s ai d Shen Tuo, ' t hat i n t he Pri nc i pal i t y of
Wei the Kong Zhou fami l y keep three mar vel l ous swords, whi ch
bel onged to the l ast Yi n e mper or , and wi t h whi ch a chi l d coul d
stop an army. Borrow t hem. ' - Lai Dan went to Wei , to Kong
Zhou ' s home, and offered h i msel f , hi s wi fe and chi l dren, as sl aves,
i n exchange for what he want ed. - ' I wi l l l end you one sword, '
sai d Kong Zhou; ' the f i r st sends out l i ght ni ng, the second i s i nvi s
i bl e, and the thi rd cut s t hrough anyt hi ng. These swords have
now been kept unused i n my fami l y for t hi r teen generat i ons.
Whi ch one do you want ? ' - ' The t hi rd, ' s ai d Lai Dan. - Then Kong
Zhou accepted Lai Dan as a cl i ent of h i s cl an. Seven days l ater,
after a speci al f east , he gave h i m the sword, and Lai Dan pros
trated hi msel f to rece i ve i t . Armed wi t h t hi s weapon, Lai Dan
went in search of Hei Luan. He found hi m i n a drunken stupor
and cut through h i m three t i mes bet ween the shoul ders and the
wai st , wi thout arousi ng h i m. Out s i de he met Hei Luan ' s son,
and cut through h i m three t i mes, i n the same way. Al l hi s bl ows
cut through the bodi es wi t hout encount eri ng any resi stance, but
the cut j oi ned i tsel f toge t her af ter the bl ade had passed. When
he saw that hi s marvel l ous sword d i d not ki l l , Lai Dan fl ed, heart
broken. - However Hei Luan awoke compl ai ni ng t o hi s wi fe for
not havi ng co vered h i m bet ter whi l st he sl ept . ' I have taken col d, '
he sai d; ' my neck and k i dneys are numb. ' - Dur i ng t hi s t i me hi s
son had come i nsi de. The son sai d: ' Lai Dan coul d have been
here. Outsi de he gave me three bl ows whi ch have had exactl y
the same effect on me**. '
*Commentary: Any hesi t at i on, absent-mi ndedness, ver t i go, comes because the mind is
not master of the member or i nstrument used. A defect i n the conti nuum bl ocks
the i ntenti on.
**Thi s sword' s marvel l ous proper t y was that when i t cut, i t spl i t nei ther the cohe
si on nor the conti nui ty.
88
Lie Zi, ch. 5 Q.
Q. Dur i ng the wanderi ngs of Emperor Mu of the Zhou dynas t y,
t he Rang t r i be of t he wes t gave hi m an ex t raordi nar y sword
of asbestos t i ssue. The ei ght een i nch sword cut t hrough j ade
l i ke mud. When t he t i ssue was di r t y , i t coul d be put i n the f i r e,
and woul d come out whi t e as snow. Some have doub t ed these
facts, but they ar e cor r ect .
Lie Zi , ch. 6 A, B.
Chapter 6. Fate.
A. Energy s ai d to Fat e: ' You are not as good as I am. ' - ' Why
not? ' asked Fat e. - ' Because, ' s ai d Ener gy, ' I am the one who
procures l onge v i t y , success, nobi l i t y , and weal t h, for men. ' -
' Ah , ' s ai d Fat e, ' i f t hat were t he case, i s that a good reason
for you to gl ori fy yoursel f so? Peng Zu l i ved for ei ght centuri es,
much l onger than Yao and Shun, wi t hout havi ng more mer i t than
they had. Yen Yuan, so wi s e, di ed at t hi r t y - two, whereas many
fool s reach an ad vanced age . Zhong Ni , who was as worthy as
any pri nce of hi s t i mes, exper i enced great mi sfortune at Chen
and Cai . Emperor Zhou of t he Yi n* dynast y occupi ed a throne
al t hough he was not as wor t hy as t he t hree unfort unat e paragons
Wei Zi , Ji Zi , and Bi Gan. Ji Zha of Wu, who meri t ed the greatest
honours, got no recogni t i on; whereas Ti an Heng, absol ut el y unwor
t hy, got the Ki ngdom of Qi . Bo Yi and Shu Qi , so nobl e, di ed
of st arvat i on at Shou Yang, whereas Ji Shi became ri ch at Zhan
Qi n. I f you real l y made these shar e- out s, why di d you make them
as i f you were bl i ndf ol ded ? ' - ' I f I d i d not do i t , then i t was
you, Fate, who di d i t , and the bl ame f al l s back on y ou. ' - ' Pardon, '
sai d Fat e, ' I di d not hi ng. I push ( I mak e t he wheel turn) , then
I l et go. One i s f at ed to l i ve a l ong t i me, and anot her not; one
succeeds, and anot her does not ; one becomes i l l ust r i ous, and
another does not ; one becomes r i ch, and another poor. I do nothi ng;
I even know not hi ng of i t ; i t comes fr o m i tsel f . '
B. Bei Gong Zi s ai d t o Xi Men Zi : ' I was born at t he same t i me
and come from t he same l i neage as you; there i s scarcel y any
di fference bet ween our fea t ur es, l anguage , and beari ng; however,
you succeed, you are l i ked, r el i s hed, honoured, and pr ai sed, whereas
qui te the oppos i t e happens to me. We have t r i ed our fortune
usi ng the same means; you have succeeded i n ever yt hi ng, I in
nothi ng. I am badl y cl ot hed, nouri shed, l odged, and wal k on foot;
whereas you J i ve i n l uxur y and abundance, and onl y go out i n
a quadri ga. And i n your pr i vat e, as wel l as your publ i c, l i fe,
you excel so much that I no l onger dare compare mysel f wi th
you. ' - ' I thi nk , ' s ai d Xi Men Zi , ' that the di fference i n our condi
t i on comes from the di fference i n our conduct. You must conduct
yoursel f l ess wel l than I do. ' - Most humi l i at ed, Bei Gong Zi
di d not know what to say, and went away qui t e nonpl ussed. In
the street he met the Master of t he Eastern Suburb, who sai d
to hi m: ' Where are you goi ng, l ook i ng l i ke that ? ' - Bei Gong
Zi tol d hi m of hi s perpl ex i t y . ' Let us go back together, ' sai d
the Master. ' I wi l l sort out t hi s affront . ' - When they arr i ved
at Xi Men Zi ' s home, the Master asked h i m: ' What di d you say
to Bei Gong Zi to affront hi m s o?' - ' I tol d h i m, ' sai d Xi Men
Zi , ' t hat I consi dered the di f ference i n our pos i t i on to have come
* T H pages 85, 90, 91 ,99.
90
Lie Zi, ch. 6 B, c.
from t he di fference i n our conduc t . ' - ' Not hi ng of the ki nd ' sai d
t he Mast er . ' Thi s i s how i t shoul d be expl ai ned. Bei Gong
'
Zi i s
wel l gi ft ed, but has a bad dest i ny. You, Xi Men Zi , are badl y
gi fted, but have a good dest i ny . Your success i s not due t o your
qual i t i es; hi s fai l ures are not due t o hi s i nabi l i t y . You have not
made yoursel f what you are, i t i s fa te t hat has done tha t . I f
therefore you, the for t unat e one, have humi l i ated h i m; i f he, the
gi fted one, has fel t shame, i t i s because both of you are i gnorant
of what you are . ' - ' Say no more, Mast er, ' s ai d Xi Men Zi , ' I wi l l
not act l i ke t hat agai n. ' - When Bei Gong Zi got home, he found hi s
coarse r obe war mer t han a fox or b adger fur; hi s coarse food
seemed del i ci ous; hi s hovel seemed l i ke a pal ace, and hi s screen a
carr i age. The l i ght shone i ns i de hi m, and, unt i l hi s deat h, he
pai d no further at t ent i on t o soc i al di s t i nct i ons. - The Master
of the Eastern Suburb l earnt of hi s changed at t i t ude, and sai d:
' Aft er a very l ong sl eep ( i n i gnorance) , a word has been enough t o
wake t hi s man, and change h i m i n a l as t i ng way . '
C. Guan Zhong and Baa Shu Ya , bot h f rom Qi *, were cl ose fri ends.
Guan Zhong fol l owed Pr i nce Ji u, and Baa Shu Ya fol l owed Pri nce
Xi ao Bo. A revol ut i on broke out because Duke Xi of Qi had gi ven
preference t o Wu Zhi , the son of a f avour i t e concubi ne , nami ng hi m
a s hi s successor when he di ed. Guan Zhong a n d Shao Hu sought
refuge i n Lu, wi th Pr i nce Ji u; whereas Baa Shu Ya fl ed to Ju, wi th
Pri nce Xi ao Bo. These t wo pri nces then contended for the throne,
and decl ared war pn each ot her. Guan Zhong fough t on the s i de of
Ji u when t he l at t er marched on Ju, and l et fl y an arrow at Xi ao Bo
whi ch woul d have ki l l ed hi m, had i t not hi t the buckl e of hi s
bel t . Xi ao Bo won, and demanded t hat the rul ers of Lu put hi s ri val
Ji u to death, whi ch t hey di d. Shao Hu peri shed, and Guan Zhong
was i mpri soned. - Then Baa Shu Ya sai d to hi s protege Xi ao Bo,
who had become Duke Huan: ' Guan Zhong i s a most abl e pol i t i c i an. '
- ' I know that ful l wel l , ' sai d the duke; ' but I hat e h i m for havi ng
nearl y ki l l ed me. ' - Baa Shu Ya s ai d: ' A wi se pr i nce shoul d know
how t o suppress hi s personal resent ments. I nferi ors have to do t hat
cont i nual l y wi th regard t o thei r superi ors; a superi or shoul d some
t i mes do i t f or one of hi s i nferi ors. I f you i ntend to become
supreme rul er, Guan Zhong i s the onl y man who can make your pl an
succeed. You shoul d gi ve hi m amnes t y. ' - The duke therefore
cl ai med Guan Zhong back, i mpl yi ng i t was i n order to put h i m t o
death. He was sent f r om Lu i n bonds. Baa Shu Ya went out t o meet
hi m i n t he suburbs, where he r emoved hi s bonds. Duke Huan
dressed hi m i n a manner befi t t i ng the di gni t y of a pr i me mi ni s ter.
Baa Shu Ya became hi s i nferi or. The duke treat ed Guan Zhong as a
son, and he cal l ed hi m father. Guan Zhong made the duke supreme
rul er. - Often he sai d wi th a s i gh: ' When I di d busi ness wi th Baa
Shu Ya i n my youth, and I gave mysel f the better share, Baa Shu
*TH page 1 JB.
91
Lie Zi, ch. 6 C, D.
Ya excused me because of my pover t y. When, l at er , he succeeded
in pol i t i cs and I was at the bot t om, he t ol d hi msel f t hat my t i me
had not yet come, and he ne ver doubt ed me. When I took fl i ght
after the rout of Pri nce Ji u, Bao Shu Ya di d not j udge me a
coward, but excused me because I shoul d save mysel f as I s t i l l had
my old mother. When I was i mpri soned, Bao Shu Ya s t i l l kept hi s
regard for me, knowi ng that t he onl y di shonour for me was to be
i dl e wi thout worki ng for the good of t he s t at e. Ah, i f I owe my l i fe
to my parents, I owe more to Bao Shu Ya who has understood my
soul . ' - Si nce then, it has been cust omary to admi re the di s i nterest
ed fri endshi p of Baa Shu Ya for Guan Zhong, t o pr ai se Duke Huan
for hi s magnani mi t y and di scernment of men. I n real i ty , i n thi s
affai r, one shoul d speak nei t her of fri endsh i p nor di scernment . The
truth i s that there has been nei t her i nt er vent i on on t he part of the
act ors, nor change of fort une. I t was al l a pl ay of bl i nd fate. If
Shao Hu peri shed, i t was because he had to. I f Baa Shu Ya patron
i sed Guan Zhong, i t was because he had t o do so. I f Duke Huan
pardoned Guan Zhong, i t was because he had to do so. These are
necess i t i es of fat e, and not hi ng more. - I t was t he s ame at the end
of the career of Guan Zhong. When he had t aken to hi s bed,
the duke vi si ted h i m and sa i d: ' Fa t her Zhong, you are very i l l ; I
mus t al l ude t o what one does not name ( deat h); i f your i l l ness gets
worse ( to the poi nt of carry i ng you of f) , whom shoul d I take as
mi ni ster i n your pl ace? ' - ' Whomever you wi sh , ' sai d the dyi ng one.
- ' Woul d Baa Shu Ya be sui t abl e ? ' asked t he duke. - ' No, ' sai d
Guan Zhong; ' hi s i deal s are t oo hi gh; he scorns those who do not
come up to t hem, and never forge t s a fau l t . If you were to t ake
hi m as mi ni s ter, you and t he peopl e woul d suffer. You woul d not be
abl e to bear hi m for l ong. ' - ' Then whom shoul d I t ake ? ' sai d the
duke. - ' I f I must speak, ' s ai d Guan Zhong, ' take Xi Peng, he
wi l l be al l ri ght . He is equal l y a t ease wi t h superi ors and i nferi ors.
The chi meri cal envy of equal l i ng t he v i r t ue of the Yel l ow Emperor
absorbs hi m. Transcendent vi s i on bel ongs to Sages of the fi rst
order, pract i cal vi s i on bel ongs to Sages of the second order. To
i mpose one ' s wi sdom on men gi ves t hem an a versi on to i t , to
make them forget one ' s wi sdom gi ves t hem a l i ki ng for i t . Xi Peng
is not a Sage of the fi rst order; he has, as a Sage of the second
order, the art of effac i ng hi msel f . Furthermore, he and hi s fami l y
are unknown. That i s why I j udge h i m sui t abl e for t he post of pri me
mi ni ster. ' - What can one say of that ? Guan Zhong di d not recom
mend Baa Shu Va, because the l at ter shoul d not be recommended;
he supported Xi Peng, because he shoul d support hi m. Fortune fi rst
and mi sfortune l at er, mi sfort une fi rst and fortune l ater; in al l the
vi ci ssi tudes of dest i ny, not hi ng comes from man ( wi shed, or done,
by hi m); all i s from bl i nd fate.
D. Deng Xi coul d di scuss the pros and cons of a quest i on, i n a fl ood
92
Lie Zi, ch. 6 0, E.
of i nexhaust i bl e words. Zi Chan* had made a new code for the
Pri c i pal i t of Zheng, whi ch many cr i t i ci sed, and whi ch Deng Xi
dended. Z1 Chan deal t severel y wi t h hi s det ract ors, and had Deng
Xi put to deat h. I n doi ng that , he di d not ac t, but served fat e.
Deng Xi had t o di e; he had t o t urn agai nst Zi Chan i n der i s i on and
t hereby provoke hi s own end. To be born and t o di e at one ' s t i me
these t wo t hi ngs are bl essi ngs. Not t o be bor n, not t o di e, at one '
t i me, these are t wo mi s for t unes. The di verse l ots whi ch fal l
on one or another do so, not from t hei r own ac t i ons, but from fate.
They are unpredi c t abl e. That i s why , i n speak i ng of t hem, one uses
the express i ons, myst ery wi th out r ul e, way whi ch heaven al one
knows, i nscrut abl e obscur i t y, l aw of heaven act i ng of i tsel f, and
other anal ogi es . I t al l comes down t o s ay i ng t hat hea ven and earth,
t hat the knowl edge of the Sages, that shades and demons, can do
not hi ng agai ns t fat e. Accordi ng t o i t s capr i ce, fat e anni hi l ates or
enl i ght ens, crushes or caresses, del ays or pre vent s.
E. Ji Li ang, a fri end of Yang Zhu, had fal l en i l l , and aft er seven
days was near the end. Sheddi ng t ear s , hi s son ran t o al l the
surroundi ng doctors. The i nv a l i d s ai d t o Yang Zhu: ' Tr y t o get some
sense i nt o my i mbec i l e of a son ' . . . Yang Zhu t here fore rec i ted to
the son the verse: ' Wh a t heaven does not know ( t he future) , how
can man guess i t ? I t i s not t rue t hat heav en bl esses , or curses,
anyone. We know, you and I , t hat f at e i s b l i nd and i nescapabl e.
What c an doct ors and magi ci ans do about t ha t ? ' - But t he son di d
not desi st , and brough t t hr ee doct or s , a Ji ao, a Yu, and a Lu. Al l
three exami ned the pat i ent , one af t er t he ot her . - The Ji ao s ai d: ' In
your c ase heat and col d ar e i n di s equ i l i br i um, empt y and ful l are
out of proport i on; you have eat en, pl ayed, t hought , and t i red your
sel f t oo much; your i l l ness i s nat ur al , and not the e ffect of some
evi l i nfl ux; al t hough ser i ous, i t can be cur ed ' . . . ' Thi s one, ' sai d Ji
Li ang, ' reci tes t he cl apt rap of t he books; send h i m away wi thout
more ado. ' - The Yu s ai d t o t he pat i ent : ' In your case, you came
from your mother ' s womb wi t h a def ect i ve v i t al i t y , and afterwards
took i n more mi l k than you coul d d i ges t . The or i gi n of your i l l ness
goes b ack to t hat t i me. As i t is i nvet er at e, i t can hardl y be
compl et el y cured' . . . ' Thi s one speaks wel l , ' s ai d Ji Li ang; ' we shoul d
i nv i te hi m t o di nner . ' - The Lu s ai d t o the pat i ent: ' Nei ther
heaven, nor man, nor a spect r e, are the cause of your i l l ness.
Born wi th a compos i t e body, you are subj ect to the l aw of di ssol u
t i on, and must underst and t hat the t i me approaches; no medi ci ne
wi l l do anyt hi ng for you ' . . . ' Thi s one has spi r i t , ' sai d Ji Li ang;
' we shoul d pay hi m generousl y . ' - Ji Li ang took no medi ci ne,
and was compl et el y cured ( fate) . - Car i ng f or l i fe does not l engt h
en i t, l ack of care does not shorten i t . A hi gh regard for t he
body does not i mpro ve i t , cont empt for i t does not cause i t to
deter i orate. I n thi s mat t er the consequences do not correspond
*TH page 1 7 5 seq.
93
Lie Zi, ch. 6 E, F, G.
to the ac t i ons. Often t hey seem even di amet ri cal l y opposi te,
wi thout bei ng so i n real i t y, for fat e has no oppos i t e. One l i ves or
one di es, because one shoul d l i ve or di e. Care, or negl i gence, of
l i fe, of the body, do not hi ng, nei t her one way nor the other.
- That i s why You Xi ong sai d t o Ki ng Wen: ' Man can nei ther add
to, nor t ake away, from hi s st at ure; al l hi s cal cul at i ons can do
nothi ng about t hat ' I n t he same vei n, Lao Dan sai d to Guan Yi n
Zi : ' When heaven does not wi sh somet hi ng, who can say why?' I n
ot her words, i t i s bet t er to keep onesel f i n peace, t han t o try to
know the i ntent i ons of heaven, to predi ct what i s good-omened
and i l l -omened. ( Vai n cal cul at i ons, al l bei ng rul ed by unpredi c tabl e,
i nescapabl e, bl i nd fat e) .
F. Yang Bu, the younger brot her of Yang Zhu, s ai d t o hi s ol der
brother: ' There are men of qu i t e s i mi l ar age, appearance, wi th al l
the natural gi fts, who di ffer compl et el y i n l engt h of l i fe , l uck, and
success. I cannot expl ai n thi s myst er y t o mysel f . ' - Yang Zhu
repl i ed: ' You have aga i n forgot t en the old say i ng whi ch I have
repeated to you so often: "The myst er y that one cannot expl ai n i s
fate. I t i s made of i mpenet r abl e obscur i t i es , of i nexpl i cabl e com
pl i cat i ons, of act i ons and omi ss i ons whi ch add t o each other day by
day. Those who bel i ev e i n fat e, no l onger bel i eve t hat , through
thei r own efforts, t hey can prol ong t he i r l i fe , succeed i n thei r
enterpri ses, or avoi d mi sfortune. The y no l onger count on anythi ng,
knowi ng t hemsel ves to be pl ayt hi ngs of a bl i nd des t i ny. Strai ght,
and of i ntegr i t y, t hey do not l ean i n any di rec t i on; they no l onger
di stress t hemsel ves nor r ej oi ce about anyt hi ng; t hey no l onger act ,
but l et al l t hi ngs go" ' 0 The fol l owi ng words of the Yel l ow Emperor
sum up wel l the conduc t of t he enl i gh tened: ' The superi or man
shoul d remai n i nert as a corpse, and onl y move h i msel f passi vel y,
because he i s moved. He shoul d not reason about hi s i nert i a or
about hi s movement s. He shoul d never be preoccupi ed wi th the
advi ce of men, and never modi f y hi s feel i ngs after thei rs. He shoul d
take hi s own road, fol l owi ng hi s personal way . For no one c an upset
hi m, '
(
fat e al one di sposi ng of hi m) .
G. Four men l i ved toget her throughout thei r l i fe, wi t hout bei ng
occupi ed wi t h each ot her ' s feel i ngs. Four others l i kewi se spent thei r
l i ves, wi thout communi cat i ng any pl an to each other. Four others
wi thout showi ng anythi ng t o each ot her. Four others wi thout ever
di scussi ng anythi ng. Four others wi thout even l ooki ng at each other.
. . . Al l these l i ve as men rul ed by fate shoul d do*. - What seems
favourabl e, turns out t o be f at al . What seems f at al , turns out
afterwards to be favourabl e. Why shoul d men spend thei r l i ves i n
senseless efforts to understand l i f e' s confusi ons, t o penetrate
*Absurd I ntroducti on; an exerci se of par al l el phrases.
94
Lie Zi, ch. 6 G, H.
obscure myst er i es? Woul dn ' t i t be bet t er , not to fear mi s fortune, to
move or s t ay cal m accordi ng t o need, wi t h a deep conv i ct i on that
the mi nd understands not hi ng and the wi l l can do not hi ng? He who
has t rul y understood t hi s , shoul d appl y i t t o others, as to hi msel f.
I f he were t o govern men accord i ng t o any other pri nc i pl es, i t
woul d be l i ke bei ng vol unt ar i l y bl i nd and deaf , l i ke throwi ng them
and hi msel f i nto a p i t . - Let us recapi t ul at e: Li fe and deat h,
fortune and mi s fort une, depend on fat e, on t he horoscope. Who
soever shoul d compl a i n o f dyi ng young, of be i ng poor or af f l i ct ed,
shows t hat he i s i gnorant of the l aw. He who l ooks i nt o the face
of deat h wi t hout fear, and bears mi s fort une wi thout compl ai ni ng,
shows t hat he knows t he l aw. The conj ect ures of so-cal l ed Sages,
on more and l ess, ful l and empt y, good and bad l uck, ne ver resul t
i n cert ai nt y; a ft er al l the i r cal cul at i ons, t he resul t may be pos i t i ve
or negat i ve, wi t hout the i r knowi ng why. Whether one cal cul ates
or not, the same t hi ng happens. Sal v at i on and ru i n do not depend
on previ ous knowl edge. One i s saved because he shou l d be sa ved,
one peri shes because he shoul d peri sh.
H. Duke Ji ng of Qi had made an excursi on to t he north of Mount
Ni u Shan and was ret urni ng t o hi s capi t al . When he saw i t from afar
he was t ouched t o the po i n t of sheddi ng tears, and cr i ed out: ' 0 my
beaut i ful town, so wel l popul at ed, why does the t i me approach when
I must l eave you? . . . Ah, i f onl y men d i d not have to d i e ! ' - Two of
the duke ' s escor t , Shi Kong and Li ang Qi u Ju, wept al so, i n order to
humour hi m, and sai d: ' I f the t hought of death to us horsemen of
qui t e modest est at e i s pai n ful , how much more must i t be f or you,
Lord! ' Yen Zi , an educat ed person who al so accompani ed the
duke, burst out l augh i ng. - The duke saw hi m. Wi pi ng hi s tears, he
l ooked st rai ght at Yen Zi , and asked hi m: ' Whi l st I weep, and these
two men wi t h me, what i s i t t hat makes you l augh ? ' - ' I t hi nk, ' sai d
Yen Zi , ' that i f i n accordance wi t h your wi sh, men di d not di e, the
wi se Dukes Tai and Huan and the brave Dukes Zhuang and Li ng,
your ancestors, woul d st i l l be al i ve. I f t hey wer e s t i l l al i ve, the
ol dest woul d s i t on the throne, and you, hi s far-off descendant,
woul d no doubt be busy l ook i ng aft er some farm worked on a
share basi s. Do you not owe the throne to the fact t hat , bei ng
dead, your ancestors are no l onger here ? Through thei r successi ve
di sappearance, the throne has devol ved on you. Is there not i n
your regrets t hat men shoul d di e, some i ngrat i tde towards those
who have done you the servi ce of dyi ng? And these two horsemen,
who wept wi th you t o humour you, are they not fool i sh fl at terers?
These are the thoughts that made me l augh. ' - Ashamed of hi s
unreasonabl y sent i ment al at t ack, the duke drank a ful l measure
( of wi ne) as a penal t y, then i nf l i ct ed the two horsemen wi t h
t he t ask of empt yi ng t wo measures each.
95
Lie Zi, ch. 6 I.
1. A certai n Dong Men Wu of Wei l ost hi s son, and di d not cry .
Someone who l i ved wi t h hi m, sai d t o h i m: ' You cl earl y l oved
your son, so how i s i t , now that he i s dead, you do not cry ? '
Dong Men Wu sai d: ' A l ong t i me ago, duri ng many years before hi s
bi rth, I l i ved wi t hout thi s son, and was not sad. Now that he
is dead, I take mysel f back to t hat t i me, t hi nk as though I had
never had hi m, and no l onger sadden mysel f . Mor eover , what ' s the
good of i t ? ' Farmers worry abou t t he i r har vest s, merchants
about thei r t radi ng, ar t i sans about t hei r cr af t , of f i ci al s about thei r
posi t i ons. Now al l t hat depends on ci r cumst ances out s i de thei r wi l l .
The farmer needs r ai n, t he merchant l uck, t he craf t sman wor k, the
offi ci al an opportuni t y t o di s t i ngui sh h i msel f . These c i rcumst ances
and opportuni t i es depend uni quel y on f at e.
Lie Zi, ch. 7 A, B.
Chapter 7. Yang Zhu*.
A. Yang Zhu was travel l i ng i n the l and of Lu, where he st ayed
wi t h the Meng fami l y . Master Meng asked hi m: ' I sn' t i t enough t o
be a man ( t he most nobl e of creat ures) ? I s i t necessary t o troubl e
onesel f ( as you do) i n order t o become famous ?' - ' Fame, ' s ai d
Yang Zhu, ' br i ngs fortune. ' - ' And then? ' - ' Then comes nob i l i t y . '
- ' And then?' - ' Then comes death. ' - ' Then one troubl es onesel f i n
order t o di e, ' sai d Mast er Meng. - ' Not at al l , ' s ai d Yang Zhu; ' i t
i s t o trans mi t one' s repu t at i on t o one ' s descendant s aft er deat h. ' -
' I s i t qu i t e cert ai n t hat the y wi l l i nhe r i t i t ? ' s ai d Mast er Meng.
' Coul d i t not happen that those who have st r uggl ed and su f fered to
become famous may trans mi t not hi ng t o t he i r descendant s; whereas
those who have medi ocr e or bad l i ves , succeed i n r ai s i ng the i r
fami l i es? Thus Guan Zhong, mi n i s t er of t he Duke of Qi , who
served hi s mast er wi th t he gr eat est humi l i t y , e ven t o the poi nt of
i mi t at i ng hi s v i ces, l ef t not hi ng t o hi s fami l y . Whereas Ti an Heng,
another mi ni st er o f Qi , who i n each and e ver yt hi ng opposed t he
duke, hi s master, managed t o l eave hi s descendants t he duchy whi ch
he had usurped. I n these t wo paral l el cases, the mer i t or i ous repu ta
t i on of Guan Zhong brought onl y pover t y t o hi s descendant s, where
as Ti an Heng ' s bad reput at i on br ought fortune to hi s fa mi l y. -
Fame i s so of t en at t ached t o a fal se premi se or appearance. They
gl or i f y Yao and Shun for havi ng abdi cat ed i n favour of Xu You and
Shan Guan. I n real i t y t he i r abdi cat i on was but a vai n show. They
enj oyed the advantages of i mper i al di gni t y unt i l t he i r death. The i r
gl or y i s a f al s e gl or y. - Whereas Bo Yi and Shu Qi , who t rul y
renounced thei r pat ernal f i efs and di ed of st ar vat i on on Mount Shou
Yang, for the cause of l oyal t y, are mourned by some, mocked by
others, but gl or i f i ed by no one. I n these mat t ers, who can di s t i ng
ui sh the true from the fal se ? '
B. Yang Zh u sai d: ' Ou t of a thousand men n o t one l i ves to b e a
hundred. But J et us assume that , out of a thousand there was a
centenari an. A great part of hi s l i fe woul d have been spent i n the
weakness of ear l y chi l dhood and the decrepi t ude of ol d age. A great
part woul d have been consumed by s l eep at ni ght , and di stract i ons
by day. A great part woul d have been made barren through sorrow
or fear. There woul d r emai n onl y a rel at i vel y smal l frac t i on of
ac t i on and enj oyment . - But what made hi m ac t ? What di d he
enj oy?. . . Woul d i t be the beaut y of form and sound? But one
soon takes these for granted, and the pl easure does not l ast
Woul d i t be t he l aw, wi t h i ts rewards and puni shments, i ts s t i gmas
and di st i nct i ons? But these mot i ves are too weak. Is bl ame to
*I t i s to Li e Zi and Zhuang Zi that we owe what we know of thi s egoi sti cal ,
epi curean, phi losopher, whom Menci us cri ti ci zed great l y; assumi ng that what they say
of hi m i s true.
97
Lie Zi, ch. 7 B, C, D, E.
be feared so much? Is a post humous t i t l e so envi abl e? I s there
real l y a case, to gi ve up the pl easure of the eyes and ears, to appl y
the moral brake to one ' s ex t er i or and i nt er i or l i fe, for so l i t t l e? Is
i t l ess hard to spend one ' s l i fe t hus, i n pr i v a t i on and cons t rai nt ,
than to spend i t i n pr i son and i n shackl es ? No, wi t hout doubt . Thus
the anci ent s, who knew t hat l i fe and death are t wo al t ernat i ng,
passi ng, phases, l et t he i r i ns t i nct s mani f est t hemsel ves l i beral l y,
wi thout const rai ni ng t hei r nat ur al appe t i t es and wi t hout depr i vi ng
thei r body of i t s pl easures. Pra i se or bl ame mat t er ed l i t t l e to them,
ei ther dur i ng l i fe or after deat h. They l et t hei r own nature have i ts
sat i sf act i on, and l et t he ot hers have t he i rs . '
C. Yang Zhu sai d: ' Bei ngs di ffer i n l i fe, but not i n deat h. Duri ng
l i fe, some are wi s e, ot hers fool s , some are nobl e, o thers base; at
death they are al l equa l l y a mass of put r i f y i ng f l esh. Thi s di ffer
ence i n l i fe and equal i t y i n deat h i s t he work of f at e. One shoul d
no t consi der wi se and fool i s h, nobl e and base , as real ent i t i es;
they are onl y qual i t i es shared out by chance amongst t he mass
of men. Wha t ever the dura t i on and k i nd of l i fe , i t i s t er mi nated
by deat h. The good, wi s e, bad, and f ool i s h, al l d i e equal l y. On
the deat h of the Emperors Yao and Shun and t he t yr ant s Ji e and
Zhou, there remai ned onl y put r i d corpses, whi ch wer e i mpossi bl e to
di st i ngui sh. Theref ore, f i ve the pr esent l i fe wi t hout bei ng preoccup
i ed wi t h what f ol l ows a f t er dea t h . '
D. Yang Zhu s ai d: ' I t was f rom a n e xcess of l oy al t y t hat Bo Yi
l et hi msel f di e of s t ar v a t i on; Zhan Qi n made hi s l i ne ext i nct
through an excess of cont i nence. That i s where i gnorance of true
pr i nci pl es l eads the best of peop l e . ' - Yang Zhu s ai d: ' Yen Xi an of
L u was poor, Zi Gong o f Wei was r i ch. Yen Xi a n' s povert y shorten
ed hi s l i fe , Zi Gong ' s weal t h wore h i m out wi t h worr y. But, i f
povert y and weal t h ar e equa l l y har mf ul , t hen what can one do?
Thi s; l i ve happ i l y and e v en pover t y can do no harm ( because
one is not af f ect ed by i t ) . Wea l t h wi l l al s o do no harm ( because one
wi l l not wear onese l f out wi t h worr y ) . ' - Yang Zhu quoted: ' "To
hel p onesel f duri ng l i fe , and t o cease at deat h; " I l i ke t hi s old
proverb. By "hel p" I mean pr ocur i ng the comfort s of l i fe, food,
warmth, and so on. By "cease at deat h" I do not mean that the
customary l ament at i ons shoul d be done away wi t h, but onl y waste,
such as the pearl or j ade pu t i n the corpse ' s mout h, the ri ch
cl othi ng, the sacr i f i ci al v i ct i ms , and the obj ect s of fered for the
dead. '
E. Yen Pi ngzhong, a di sci pl e of Mo Zi , as ked Guan Zhong, a pol i ti c
i an wi th Daoi st l eani ngs, how the l i vi ng shoul d be treated. The
l at ter repl i ed: ' One shoul d favour thei r natural l eani ngs, wi thout
hi ndrance. - ' Pl ease expl ai n further, sai d Yen Pi ngzhong. - Guan
Lie Zi, ch. 7 E, F.
Zhong cont i nued: ' They shoul d be g i ven compl et e f reedom t o l i st en,
l ook, smel l , t ast e, and ever y oppor t un i t y for bodi l y comfort and
repose of t he mi nd. Any rest r i c t i on put on any of these facul t i es i s
agai nst nat ur e, and i s a t yranny . To be f r ee f r om al l constra i nt , t o
be abl e t o sat i sf y one ' s i nst i nct s , day b y day unt i l deat h, i s what 1
cal l l i v i ng. To be constr ai ned, t o be t aken to t ask , t o be al ways
suffer i ng, t hat , i n my opi ni on, i s not l i v i ng. And now tha t I have
t ol d you how to t reat t he l i v i ng, can you pl ease t el l me how the
dead shoul d be treat ed?' - ' I t mat t ers l i t t l e how one treats the
dead, ' s ai d Yen Pi ngzhong, ( the body bei ng l i ke cast off cl ot h i ng) .
' Whet her one shoul d burn, submer ge , bur y, ex pose t hem, ti e them i n
st r aw and t hr ow t hem i n t he ri ver , or dress t hem r i chl y and put
t hem i n a sarcophagus or bi er , al l comes down t o t he same t hi ng . ' -
Looki ng at hi s fri ends who had been l i s t en i ng t o t he conversat i on,
Guan Zhong s ai d: ' He and I unders t and t he nat ur e of l i fe and
death. '
F. When Zi Chan was pr i me mi ni s t er o f t he Pr i nci pa l i t y of Zheng
he spent t hree years maki ng i nnova t i ons whi ch were bene f i ci al t o
the good peopl e, but whi ch di s cont ent ed a number of t he ar i st oc
racy. Now Zi Chan had t wo br ot her s, an ol der cal l ed Chao, and a
younger cal l ed Mu. Chao was a dr unkar d. Mu was a debauchee. One
coul d smel l wi ne and dregs a hundr ed paces from Chao ' s door,
because he had l ost al l sense of decency and prudence from hi s
habi tual drunkenness. For hi s har em Mu t ook up an ent i re quart er,
whi ch he fi l l ed any way he coul d, and whi ch he sel dom l ef t .
Mort i f i ed by hi s t wo brot hers ' bad conduc t , whi ch prov i ded a
theme for the j eers of hi s enemi es, Z i Chan secret l y consul ted
Deng Xi . ' I fear , ' he s ai d, ' that t he onl y t hi ng peopl e wi l l say
of me i s that I have not t he requ i s i t e ab i l i t y t o rul e the st at e,
because I am unabl e t o ref orm my brot her s. I beg you to gi ve
me some advi ce . ' - ' You shoul d have i nter vened earl i er , ' sai d
Deng Xi . ' Try to make t hem underst and the val ue of l i fe, the
i mport ance of decorum and modes t y . ' - Zi Chan l ec t ured hi s
brot hers on the three fol l owi ng po i nt s: Tha t man di ffers from
the ani mal s through reason, r i tes, and moral i t y ; that s at i at i ng
bes t i al passi ons wears out l i fe and rui ns repu t at i on; that i f t hey
shoul d rehabi l i tate themsel ves, t hey coul d recei ve pos i t i ons.
- Far from bei ng moved by these argument s, Chao and Mu repl i ed:
' We have known al l t hat for a l ong t i me, and we dec i ded to t ake
no account of i t many years ago. Deat h ends ever yt hi ng, i r re voc
abl y; what mat ters, i n our opi ni on, i s enj oy i ng l i fe. We are not
at al l i nt erested i n mak i ng l i fe l i ke a l i v i ng deat h through r i t ual ,
moral , and ot her const rai nt s. To sat i at e one ' s i nst i nct s , and exhaust
every pl easure, that i s real l i vi ng. Our onl y regret i s t hat the
capaci t y of our bel l i es i s l ess than our appet i t e, and the st rength
of our bodi es does not match the ext ent of our l us t . What do
99
Lie Zi , ch. 7 F, G, H.
we care i f
men speak bad! y of us, and i f we wear out our l i ves. Do
not t hi nk that we are men who can be i nt i mi dat ed or won over. We
have qui t e ot her t ast es to you. You rul e the ext er i or 1 i fe, maki ng
men suf fer because t he i r i nner i ncl i na t i ons are thereby comprom
i sed. We bel i eve t hat l et t i ng one ' s i ns t i nct s have free r ei n, makes
men happy . Perhaps you may succeed i n i mpos i ng your system on
a
pr i nci pal i t y . Our own syst em i s spont aneousl y admi t t ed by pri nces
and subj ect s of the whol e empi r e. Thank you for your opi ni on. We
are pl eased we have had t he oppor t uni t y to expl ai n ours to you. ' -
Qui te bewi l der ed, Zi Chan coul d f i nd no words t o repl y. He consul t
ed Deng Xi aga i n, who sai d t o hi m: ' You were wrong i n not real i s
i ng t hat your brot hers see more cl ear l y t han you. How can there be
men who admi re you? Wha t good can y ou do for t he Pri nci pal i ty of
Zheng? '
G. Ouan Mushu o f Wei , a r i ch cont e mporary o f Zi Gong, used the
great for t une amassed by hi s ances t ors to gi ve pl easure to hi msel f
and ot hers. I n bui l d i ngs , gar dens, f ood, cl ot hes, mus i c, and harem,
he ecl i psed the pr i nces of Qi and Chu . For hi msel f and hi s guests
he s at i s f i ed al l desi res of the hear t , ears, eyes, and stomach,
bri ngi ng for t hi s pur pose t he rarest obj ec ts from the farthest l ands.
He t ravel l ed i n the same l uxur y , and wi t h t he same commodi t i es.
Guest s ran to h i m by the hundr ed, t he f i re never went out i n hi s
ki tchens, mus i c never ceased to resound i n hi s hal l s. He spread hi s
surpl us weal t h amongst hi s rel at i ves, fel l ow c i t i z ens, and hi s
count rymen. He s us t ai ned t hi s pace for s i x t y years. Then, feel i ng
hi s st rength l ea vi ng hi m, and deat h approachi ng, i n one year he
di st ri but ed all hi s possessi ons as present s, wi t hout g i v i ng anythi ng
t o hi s chi l dren. He s t ri pped h i msel f so wel l , t hat , duri ng hi s
l ast i l l ness he l acked the appropr i at e medi c i nes , and, after hi s
death, there was no money for hi s funer al . Those who had benefi ted
from hi s generosi t y, cl ubbed t oget her, bur i ed hi m, and made up a
nest-egg for hi s descendant s Wha t shoul d one t hi nk of the conduct
of thi s man? Qi n Gu Li j udged t hat he had conduct ed hi msel f as
a fool , and di shonoured hi s ancest ors. Duan Gan Sheng j udged that
he had conduct ed hi msel f l i ke a superi or man, and was much
wi ser than hi s economi cal ancest ors. He act ed cont rary to common
sense, but i n confor mi t y wi t h super i or sense. Thi s prodi gy was wi ser
than al l the pri nces of Wei who have been cr i t i c i sed. ( Thus j udged
the epi curean Yang Zhu) .
H. Meng Sun Yang asked Yang Zhu i f a man who wat ched over hi s
l i fe and l ooked aft er hi s body coul d avoi d death. - ' He woul d
certai nl y l i ve l onger , ' sai d Yang Zhu. ' But i s i t worth gi vi ng
onesel f so much t roubl e, maki ng so much ef f or t , i n order to
l i ve l onger? The worl d has al ways been, and al ways wi l l be, ful l of
passi on, danger, evi l , and vi ci ssi tudes. One hears and sees al ways
1 00
Lie Zi, ch. 7 H, I, J.
the same t hi ngs; even changes l ead t o nothi ng new. After exi s t i ng a
hundred years, those who do not di e of sadness, di e of boredom. ' -
' Then, ' s ai d Meng Sun Yang, ' accor di ng t o you, sui ci de woul d be the
i deal ?' - ' Not at al l , ' s ai d Yang Zhu. ' One shoul d bear wi th l i fe as
l ong as it l asts, whi l st t r yi ng to ob t ai n al l poss i bl e s at i sfact i on from
i t. One shoul d accept death when i t comes, by consol i ng onesel f
wi th the thought that ever yt hi ng i s goi ng to end. One cannot
prol ong one ' s l i fe, but one shoul d not hasten one ' s deat h. '
I . Yang Zhu s ai d: ' Bo Cheng Zi Gao woul d not sacr i fi ce a ha i r of
hi s body for the l ove of anyt hi ng. He l ef t the capi tal and became a
l abourer i n a remot e corner. The Gr eat Yu, on the other hand,
expended hi msel f and qu i te wore h i mse l f ou t for others. The
anci ents di dn ' t gi v e a hai r t o the state, and woul d not accept that
anyone shoul d devot e h i msel f to them i n t he name of the state. I t
was i n those t i mes that i nd i v i dual s d i d not hi ng for the st at e, and
the state di d not hi ng for the i ndi v i dual s; and i n those t i mes the
state went wel l . ' - ' And you , ' Qi n Gu Li asked Yang Zhu, ' woul d
you sacr i f i ce a hai r of your body f or t he good of the s t at e ? ' -
' A hai r , ' s ai d Yang Zhu, ' woul d scarcel y benef i t i t . ' - ' But i f i t di d
benef i t i t , woul d you sacr i f i ce i t ? ' i ns i s t ed Qi n Gu Li . Yang Zhu di d
not repl y*. - Qi n Gu Li went out and t ol d Meng Sun Yang of the
conversat i on he had j ust had wi t h Yang Zhu. ' Perhaps you have not
understood the meani ng of hi s t hought , ' sai d Meng Sun Yang. ' I f
you were offered a l arge sum of money for a b i t of your s ki n,
woul d you gi ve i t ?' . . . ' Yes, ' s ai d Qi n Gu Li . - ' And i f you were
offered a pr i nci pal i t y for one of your l i mbs, woul d you gi ve i t ? ' . .
. . . Qi n Gu Li hes i t at ed t o repl y, so Meng Sun Yang sai d: ' A hai r i s
l ess than a b i t of ski n, a b i t of sk i n i s l ess than a l i mb. But , added
up, many hai rs make up as much as a b i t of s ki n, many bi ts of
ski n make as much as a l i mb. A hai r i s part of t he body, and there
fore somet hi ng prec i ous. ' - Qi n Gu Li sai d: ' Mast er, I am not st rong
enough i n di al ect i c to repl y t o your argument ; but I feel t hat , i f I
coul d pass on our proposi t i ons, Lao Dan and Guan Yi n Zi woul d
approve yours ( and Yang Zhu ' s) , the Great Yu and Mo Zi woul d
approve mi ne. ' Meng Sun Yang changed the subj ec t .
J. Yang Zhu s ai d: ' They speak onl y good of Shun, Yu, Zhou Gong,
and of Confuci us; they speak onl y ev i l of Ji e ( the l ast Xi a emperor)
and of Zhou ( the l ast Yi n emperor) **. - Now Shun was a l abourer
at He Yang, a potter at Li e Zha i , usi ng hi s strength ( a Daoi st si n) ,
negl ect i ng hi s st omach, worr yi ng hi s parent s, and upset t i ng hi s
brothers and si sters. He marr i ed when he was onl y th i r t y, and
wi thout permi ss i on. When Yao ceded the empi re to hi m, he was ol d
*From thi s comes Yang Zhu' s reputati on for egoi sm, whi ch i s onl y a par t i cul ar
aspect of hi s general epi cureani sm.
** TH pages 40, 4 7, 1 1 4, 1 80, 59, 85.
1 0 1
Lie Zi, ch. 7 J, K.
and soft -wi t t ed. Then, si nce hi s son Shang Jun was i ncompet ent , he
had to cede the empi re to Yu, and end hi s l i fe i n a morose ol d age;
al l thi ngs t hat are avoi ded by men who l i ve accor di ng to nature.
Kun, who fai l ed t o succeed i n drai ni ng the wat ers, was put t o death
at Yu Shan. Hi s son Yu served under the one who had thus treated
hi s father, to the ext ent t hat he di d not even go home to see and
name hi s new-born son. He worked and st r uggl ed to the poi nt
where he was worn out and hi s hands and f eet were covered i n
cal l os i t i es. At l ast, when Shun ceded t he emp i r e t o hi m, he shone
wi t h medi ocr i t y , and ended up i n a morose ol d age, somet hi ng
whi ch men who l i ve accordi ng to nat ure av oi d. - Aft er t he death of
Emperor Wu, duri ng t he yout h of Emperor Cheng, Zhou ( Duke of
Zhou, brother of t he de func t , uncl e of t he successor) , charged wi th
the regency , di d not get on wi t h t he Duke of Shao, and was
strongl y cr i t i ci sed. He had to van i sh for t hree year s , put t o death
two of hi s brot hers, and had d i f f i cul t y i n pr ot ec t i ng hi s own
l i fe. He fi ni shed i n a morose ol d age, whi ch men who l i ve accordi ng
to nat ure avoi d. - Confuci us devot ed h i ms el f t o expl ai ni ng the
teachi ngs of t he ol d emperors, and maki ng them accept abl e to the
pri nces of hi s t i mes. I n r et ur n for hi s e f f or t s, t hey cut down the
tree under whi ch he was she l t er i ng i n Song, t hey moved hi m out
of Wei , they surrounded h i m at Shang i n t he Pr i nci pal i t y of Zhou,
and they bl ockaded h i m be t ween Chen and Ca i . He was provoked by
Ji Shi , out r aged by Yang Hu, and ended by reachi ng a morose ol d
age, whi ch those who l i ve accord i ng t o na t ur e escape from. - These
four Sages had not a s i ngl e day of true cont ent men t , dur i ng thei r
l i fe. After thei r deat h, the i r repu t a t i on i ncr eased t hrough the ages.
Is t hi s vai n post humous renown a compensat i on for the true pl eas
ure they depr i ved t hemsel ves of dur i ng the i r l i fe ? Nowadays they
prai se them, make of fer i ngs to the m, wi thout the i r knowi ng any
thi ng about i t , no more t han a bl ock of wood or a pi l e of earth. -
Whereas Ji e, r i ch, st r ong, l ear ned, f ear ed, enj oyed al l hi s pl easures,
sat i sfi ed al l hi s appe t i t es, was gl or i ous unt i l h i s deat h, and had al l
that men who l i ve accordi ng t o na t ure des i re. - Zhou al so mocked
at r i tes, and enj oyed h i ms el f unt i l hi s deat h, i n a way that men who
l i ve accordi ng to nat ur e pr efer . - These two men had, duri ng
thei r l i fe, what t hey want ed. Now, wi thout doubt , they cal l them
fool s, wi cked, tyrants; bu t what can that do to them? They know
nothi ng about i t , no more t han a bl ock of wood or a pi l e of earth. -
The four Sages suffered every i l l , di ed sadl y, and have onl y thei r
vai n renown as compensat i on. The t wo t yrants enj oyed al l good
thi ngs unti l thei r deat h, and do not suffep now from thei r bad
reput at i on. ' ( Yang Zhu ' s epi cureani sm) .
K. Yang Zhu was recei ved by t he Ki ng of Li ang. He tol d t he ki ng
that , wi th hi s reci pe, i t woul d be as easy to govern the empi re as
to turn one ' s hand over. The Ki ng of Li ang sai d to hi m: ' Master,
1 02
Lie Zi, ch. 7 K, L, M.
you have a wi fe and a concubi ne, two persons that you cannot keep
i n peace; you have three measures of garden, whi ch you don ' t know
how t

cul t i vat e; and you dare tel l me that, wi th your reci pe,
govermng the emp i re woul d be as easy as t urni ng over a hand. Are
you maki ng a fool of me?' - Yang Zhu sai d: ' Have you ever seen a
shepherd dr i ve a fl ock of a hundred sheep, wal ki ng peaceful l y
behi nd wi th hi s whi p, and l etti ng the sheep go as they pl ease?
( That i s my system, t o l eave each to hi s i nst i nct ) . Whereas ( wi t h
thei r syst em of ar t i f i ci al coerci on) Yao pul l ed and Shun pushed,
wi t hout succeedi ng i n movi ng a si ngl e sheep. And as for my domes
ti c a ffai rs ( women, and the garden) t o whi ch y ou have j ust re ferred,
I wi l l say onl y t hi s. Fi sh bi g enough t o swal l ow a boat are not found
i n di t ches; strong-fl y i ng swans do not frequent ponds. The base bel l
and the maj or ppe are not sui t abl e for maki ng t oy musi c. Those
who are f i t ted t o govern bi g t hi ngs, do not l i ke occupyi ng them
sel ves wi th t ri fl es. I thi nk you have underst ood me. '
L. Yang Zhu s ai d: ' Th i ngs of t he great est ant i qu i t y have di sappear
ed so compl et el y t hat no one can count t hem any more. The
affai rs of the three August Ones are al most forgot t en. Those of the
fi ve Soverei gns are confused l i ke a dream. Of those of the three
Emperors, we know onl y the hundred - thousandth part. Of cont em
porary af f ai rs we know a t en- thousandt h part . Of what one sees
onesel f , one r et ai ns a thousandt h par t . Grea t ant i qui t y i s so far
away from us. Fu Xi r ei gned more than t hree hundred thousand
years ago, and si nce then, i n the worl d, there have been wi se men
and fool s, beaut i ful and ugl y t hi ngs, successes and f ai l ures, good
and ev i l . Al l these f ol l ow one anot her wi t hout cease, i n a cont i n
uous chai n, somet i mes sl owl y , somet i mes qui ckl y. I s i t worth
the troubl e of weari ng out one ' s mi nd and body, t o obt ai n a post
humous reput at i on as a good pri nce, whi ch wi l l l ast several centur
i es, and of whi ch one wi l l have no knowl edge? I t costs the pl easure
of a l i fet i me, and does not refresh the bones aft er deat h. '
M. Yang Zhu sai d: ' Man partakes of heaven and eart h. There i s
somet hi ng of al l f i ve el ements i n hi m. He i s t he most transcendent
of al l bei ngs gi fted wi th l i fe. He has nei ther cl aws nor teeth
t o defend hi msel f , nor i mpenetrabl e ski n, nor agi l e feet for fl eei ng,
nor hai r nor feathers whi ch prot ect hi m from i ncl ement weather.
He draws hi s subsi stence from other bei ngs, al l of whi ch he domi n
ates, not by force, but through hi s i nt el l i gence. I t i s i nt el l i gence
that makes the nobi l i t y of man, and hi s superi or i t y over the
bei ngs t hat are hi s i nfer i ors, al though many are st ronger than he.
To speak correct l y, hi s body i s not hi s ( not hi s absol ut e domai n) ;
the fact t hat he cannot keep i ts i nt egr i t y proves thi s. Bei ngs are
not hi s e i ther (i n the same sense); the fact that he cannot protect
hi msel f from those whi ch are harmful , proves thi s. Man depends on
1 03
Lie Zi, ch. 7 M, N, O.
hi s body for l i fe, and on bei ngs for the mai nt enance of l i fe.
I t
i s i mpossi bl e, for man, to gi ve hi msel f l i fe; and for bei ngs,
to gi v
e
themsel ves be i ng. He who ensl aves men and bei ngs for
power or personal enj oyment , is not a Sage. He who fraterni se&
wi th men and be i ngs, seek i ng and l et t i ng each one seek hi s own
natural good, i s the most super i or man of al l . '
N. Yang Zhu s ai d: ' Four desi res di st urb men, t o t he poi nt of gi vi ng
them no rest; they are, desi re for l ong l i fe, reput at i on, rank, and
weal th. Those who have obt ai ned these t hi ngs, feari ng they may be
taken from them, are af r ai d of the l i v i ng and the dead, of pri nces,
and of puni shments. They are al ways fearful , ask i ng themsel ves i f
they wi l l l i ve or i f t hey wi l l di e, because t hey have understood
nothi ng of fat e, and bel i eve t hat ex t er i or t hi ngs have power over
them. I t is qui t e the oppos i t e for men who ent rust themsel ves to
dest i ny, do not preoccupy t hemsel ves wi t h l engt h of l i fe, and who
di sdai n reput at i on, rank and weal t h. Al ways sat i s f i ed, the l atter
enj oy an i ncomparabl e peace, because t hey have understood t hat , as
everythi ng is rul ed by f at e, not hi ng has power over them. - The
Daoi st i deal is the pract i ce of agr i cul t ur e i n obscur i t y, produci ng
onl y what one needs i n order t o l i ve, and no more. The anci ents
have stressed that l ove causes hal f the t r oubl es of men, and desi re
for wel l - bei ng causes the res t . The Zhou proverb t hat farmers are,
i n thei r condi t i on, the most happy of men, i s al so very true. They
work from dawn t i l l ni ght , proud of t hei r endurance. They fi nd that
nothi ng i s as tasty as the i r whol esome vege t abl es. Thei r hardened
bodi es do not t i re. If one made t hem spend a s i ngl e day i n the
l uxury and good cheer of t ownsf ol k , t hey woul d feel i l l ; whereas a
nobl e or a pri nce woul d per i sh i f he had t o l i ve a s i ngl y day as a
farmer. The barbari ans f i nd t hat not hi ng i n t he empi re i s as good
as what they have and l i ke. Nat ure i s s at i s f i ed when the necess i t i es
are provi ded for; any needs beyond t hat are superfl ui t i es of art i f i
ci al ci v i l i zat i on. - Once, i n t he Pr i nci pal i t y of Song, a countryman
who was absol ut el y i gnorant of the t hi ngs of the town, spent the
wi nter in rags scarcel y abl e to prot ect hi m from freez i ng. When
spri ng came al ong, he took them off and war med hi msel f naked in
the sun. He found the warmt h so good, t hat he s ai d to hi s wi fe:
"Perhaps they have never proposed t hi s t o our pr i nce; i f we do so,
perhaps we wi l l be rewarded". . . A r i ch man of the l and then
sai d to hi m: "Once a peasant offered some cress to a pr i nce, who,
after eat i ng i t , was very poor l y. The poor peasant was mocked by
some, grumbl ed at by others. Take care t hat a s i mi l ar mi sadvent ure
does not happen to you, i f you t each the pr i nce to warm hi msel f
naked i n the sun. " '
0. Yang Zhu sai d: ' Luxur i ous housi ng, beaut i ful cl ot hes, good food
and beaut i ful women; when one has al l t hat , what more can one
1 04
Lie Zi, ch. 7 0.
want ? He who desi res more , i s i ns at i abl e. Now i nsat i abl e peopl e
wear out t he i r l i ves, l i ke wood or paper eaten by worms. Egoi s t i cal
and di scont ent ed, the y are not l oyal t owar ds t he i r pri nces, nor good
to others. I f they see m ot herwi se, i t i s onl y t o appear l oyal or good
for thei r own v ani t y and reput at i on. - The anc i ent t eachi ng says
peace and co-oper at i on bet ween super i ors and i nfer i ors. - Yu Zi
sai d: "Suppress t he l o ve of reput at i on, and t her e wi l l be no more
di sappoi nt ment s. " Lao Zi s ai d: "Reput at i on i s not worth as much as
the t r ut h, yet t hey run af ter i t more than t he t r ut h. " Reput at i on
shoul d nei t her be sought nor avoi ded. For the efforts made to
acqui re i t wear one out , but i ts peacef ul possess i on comforts.
Di shonour wears one al so, through t he sadness that i t br i ngs about .
What one shoul d av oi d, i s t he acqu i s i t i on of a fal se reput at i on,
or t he l oss of t r ue gl or y. The i deal i s i ndi fference; but f ew at t ai n
i t , I
Lie Zi, ch. 8 A, B.
Chapter 8. Anecdotes.
A. When Li e Zi was a di sci pl e of Mast er Li n of Hu Qi u, the l at ter
sai d one da y: ' When you can grasp what i s behi nd you, I wi l l teach
you to grasp yoursel f . ' - ' And what is behi nd me? ' asked Li e Zi .
- ' Your shadow, ' sai d Mast er Li n of Hu Qi u; ' exami ne i t . ' - Li e Zi
exami ned hi s shadow. He not ed that when hi s body bent , the shadow
became curved; t hat when hi s body st r ai ght ened, the shadow
became strai ght . He t ol d hi msel f t hat , of i ts el f , t he shadow was
nei ther curved nor st rai ght , but t hat i t depended ent i rel y on
the shape of the body. And he drew, from t hi s , t he consequence
that man shoul d adapt hi msel f in ever yt hi ng, and t hat nothi ng
depended on hi m. That i s t he meani ng of t he formul a: ' Aft er havi ng
grasped what i s behi nd, keep onesel f s t i l l i n front . ' - Guan Yi n Zi
sai d t o Li e Zi : ' As a sound i s beau t i ful or ugl y, so i ts echo i s
beaut i ful or ugl y; when somet hi ng grows, i ts shadow grows; when
somet hi ng di mi ni shes, so does i t s shadow. ' Reput at i on is the echo
of man, conduct is the shadow of man. The proverb says: ' Watch
over your words and your conduct , for your words wi l l be repeated
and your conduct i mi t at ed. ' The Sage j udges the i ns i de from the
outsi de; i t i s hi s way of prognost i cat i ng. He at t r i but es to man what
he has not i ced i n hi s manners. - Each one l i kes what he l i kes, and
hates what he hat es. The Emperors Tang and Wu r ei gned, because,
havi ng l oved t he peopl e of t he empi r e, t hey were repai d i n ki nd.
The t yrants Ji e and Zhou peri shed, because, havi ng hat ed the people
of the empi re, t hei r hat red was ret urned t o t hem. Thi s i s a great
law, the summary of hi s t or y. S i nce Shen Nang, Shun, and the three
dynast i es, all fortune and mi s fort une has ar i sen from t hi s law.
Yen Hui sai d: ' What ' s the good of so many t heor i es? I t hi nk i t i s
enough t o profi t from opport uni t i es ' Li e Z i s ai d: ' I di sagree wi th
you. I f one had more t han the opport un i t y , i f one had the thi ng i n
quest i on, one coul d l ose i t t hrough l awl ess conduct , as happened to
Ji e and Zhou. Those who are addi ct ed to gl ut t ony are worth no
more than dogs or chi ckens. Those who know onl y fi ght i ng, are
ani mal s. No one respect s these men, who are not men. Thei r
di shonour bri ngs about t hei r downf al l . '
B. Li e Zi wi shed t o l earn archer y, and asked Guan Yi n Zi t o teach
hi m. The l atter want ed to know i f he knew the purpose of archery.
- ' No, ' sai d Li e Zi . - ' Then go and fi nd out , ' s ai d Guan Yi n Zi , ' and
then come back . ' - Three years l at er, Li e Zi came back. - ' Do you
know the purpose? ' asked Guan Yi n Zi . - ' Yes, ' sai d Li e Zi . -
' Good, ' sai d Guan Yi n Zi ; ' keep i t cl ear l y i n your memory; watch
that you do not forget i t . The rul e for any progress, i s t hat before
undertaki ng anyt hi ng, one shoul d know why. The Sage does not
cal cul ate whether he wi l l succeed or run aground, the chances
for and agai nst. He fi xes hi s ai m, and then moves towards i t . '
1 06
Lie Zi, ch. 8 C, D, E.
C. One speaks i n v ai n of the Pr i nc i pl e to arrogant and vi ol ent
peopl e. They l ack what i s necessary to understand i t; thei r vi ces
prevent t hem from bei ng abl e to be taught and hel ped. To l earn,
one must bel i eve that one does not know ever ythi ng. That i s the
i ndi spensabl e condi t i on. Age i s not an obst ac l e, i nt el l i gence i s not
al ways a means, submi ssi on of the mi nd i s the essen t i al . - An arti st
from Song took three years to scul pt a nat ural mul berry l eaf i n
j ade, for hi s pri nce. Li e Zi heard of t hi s and sai d: ' I f na ture took
so l ong, there woul d be very few l ea ves on the trees . ' I t i s the
same for the propagat i on of doct r i nes, t he Sage goes back to the
power i nherent i n the t r ut h, not t o ar t i f i c i al ar t .
D. Li e Zi was ex t r emel y poor. The suf f er i ng of hunger coul d be
r ead on hi s emac i a t ed face. A st r anger who had come to vi si t
mi ni s ter Zi Yang, s ai d t o t he l at t er : ' Li e Zi i s a Sage; i f you l eave
hi m i n t hi s mi ser y, t hey wi l l say t hat you do not t hi nk much of
Sages . '
*
Zi Yang ordered an of f i c i al t o t ak e some gra i n t o L i e Zi .
The l at t er came out of h i s house , s aw t he of f i c i a l , gree ted hi m,
thanked hi m, and refused i t . The of f i ci al went back wi th hi s grai n.
When Li e Zi went back i nt o hi s house, hi s wi fe l ooked at hi m
sadl y , beat her br east s wi t h chagr i n, and s ai d: ' I though t t hat the
wi fe and chi l dr en of a Sage had some r i ght to l i ve happ i l y. Now we
are worn out wi th mi ser y B The pr i nce, who for a l ong t i me has been
i ndi f ferent , has f i nal l y r emembered us, and now you have r ef used
hi s gi f t s. Must we di e of st ar va t i on ? ' - ' No , ' sa i d Li e Zi l aughi ng,
' t he pr i nce has not r emembered me, he offered t hi s gi f t at the
prompt i ng of anot her ; j us t as he woul d have sen t hi s hi red ruf f i ans,
i f someone had spoken badl y of me. I cannot accept a g i f t made
wi th such a mot i ve . ' ( And L i e Zi was r i ght , because he wi shed to
owe not hi ng t o Zi Yang, who was massacred shor t l y af t erwards by
the peopl e of Zheng) .
E. A cert ai n Shi of Lu had two sons, one wi se, the other brave. The
wi se one went and offered h i msel f to the Marqui s of Qi , who
accept ed hi m and nomi nat ed h i m t ut or to hi s chi l dren. The brave
one went and offered h i msel f t o t he Ki ng of Chu, who was pl eased
wi th h i m and made h i m a weal t hy and nobl e general . - Now a
nei ghbour of Shi , cal l ed Meng, al so had two sons, one wi se and the
other br ave. As he was very poor, t he l uck of t he Sh i fami l y f i l l ed
hi m wi t h envy, and he asked t hem how t hey had gone about i t .
They t ol d hi m qui t e si mpl y . - The wi se Meng went st rai ght away
and offered hi msel f to the Ki ng of Qi n. The l at ter sai d: ' I n these
warl i ke t i mes I need onl y sol di ers; t hi s l i terat e who teaches
goodness and f ai rness wi l l harm my ki ngdom' . . . And he ordered
hi m to be castrated and sent back home. - The brave Meng offered
hi msel f t o the Marqui s of Wei . The l at t er sai d: ' My state i s smal l
and weak and I must be careful not to annoy my great and for mi d-
1 07
Lie Zi, ch. 8 E, F.
abl e nei ghbours. I must stay peaceful . Any s i gn of warl i ke i ntent i ons
coul d cost me my marqui sat e. I cannot empl oy t hi s abl e man,
wi thout tak i ng a grave r i s k. On the other hand, i f I send hi m
away wi thout mak i ng hi m a cri ppl e, he wi l l go and of fer hi msel f
t o another pr i nce, and rui n me ' He there fore ordered that he
shoul d be sent back home wi t h one of hi s feet cut of f . - When old
Meng saw hi s two sons ret urn mut i l ated, he beat hi s chest wi th
sadness and went t o reproach fat her Shi . The l at t er sai d to hi m: ' At
fortunate t i mes, one succeeds; a t un fort unate t i mes, onl y bad thi ngs
happen. Your sons and mi ne t ook ex act l y the same steps. The
resul ts have been absol ut e: y di fferent . That has to do uni quel y
wi th des t i ny ( a t a bad moment ) and not at a l l wi t h the methods
used. For t une and mi sfort une ar e not r ul ed b y mat hemat i cal l aws.
What succeeded yest erday , may go wr ong t oda y . What went wrong
today , wi l l perhaps go wel l t omorrow. Success comes from act i ng at
the ri ght moment , but t here are no r ul es t hat al l ow one to deter
mi ne t hat moment . The wi ses t are some t i mes wrong about i t . Even
Kong Qi u and LU Shang have known fa i l ures. ' - When the Meng
fami l y had heard these expl ana t i ons t hey were sat i sf i ed, and
sai d: ' Thank you, don ' t say any mor e, we have understood. '
F. Duke Wen of J i n dec i ded t o at t ack We i , whi ch made hi s son,
Pri nce Chu, l augh. ' Why are you l augh i ng?' asked the duke. ' I am
l aughi ng, ' s ai d the pr i nce 1 ' because of a mi sadvent ure that happened
to one of my nei ghbours. Thi s man went to t own, i n order to
accuse hi s wi fe of i nf i de l i t y . On the way he met a woman whom he
fanci ed, and who responded t o hi s adv ances. An i nstant l ater, he
saw the paral l el wi t h h i s own wi fe, and rea l i z ed t hat there were
i ndependent wi tnesses. He was pai d i n h i s own coi n. I sn ' t t hi s story
l aughabl e? ' . . . The duke underst ood t hat hi s son was warni ng hi m
that he woul d be at t acked whi l s t he was at t acki ng Wei . He gave up
hi s expedi t i on, and suddenl y br ought back hi s army . He had st i l l not
reached hi s capi t al when he l earnt t hat an enemy had in fact
al ready crossed hi s northern front i er . - Thi e ves abounded i n the
Pri nci pal i t y of Ji n. Now a cer t ai n Xi Yang, gi fted wi t h a parti cul ar
ki nd of second si ght , coul d recogn i ze the t hi e ves from thei r faces.
The marqui s empl oyed hi m to uncover the t hi e ves, and Xi Yang
captured them by the hundred. Most s at i s f i ed, the marqui s sai d to
Zhao Wen Zi : ' A si ngl e man has al most cl eaned out my pri nci pal i ty
of the thi eves that i nfested i t ' . . . ' Bel i e ve me, ' s ai d Zhao Wen Zi ,
' thi s man wi l l be murdered, before he f i ni shes hi s cl ean-up' . . .
And, i n fact, exasperated, the t hi eves who were l ef t sai d to them
set ves: ' We are al l
goi ng to peri sh i f we do not r i d oursel v
es of
thi s Xi Yang ' . . . Bei ng al l i n agreement , they massacred Xi Yang.
When the
marqui s l earnt of t hi s, he was di stressed. He cal led
Zao Wen Zi and
sai d to hi m: ' What you predi cted, has happ
ened;
X1 Yang has been assassi nated; what can I do now, to be ri d of
1 08
Lie Zi, ch. 8 F, G, H, 1.
the rest of the thi eves? ' Zhao Wen Zi sai d: ' Do you remember the
Zhou proverb, "wi shi ng t o see the f i sh at the bot t om of the water
i s i l l -omened, wi shi ng to know hi dden t hi ngs bri ngs unhappi ness. "
One shoul d never l ook too cl ose. For you t o get ri d of t hi eves, i t
i s enough t o put good of fi c i al s i n charge , who wi l l admi ni ster
wel l , and i ncul cat e a good sense of moral i t y i nto the peopl e' . . .
The marqui s di d thi s, and soon, the remai ni ng t hi eves found them
sel ves obj ects of publ i c di sapproval . They al l l ef t and hi d them
sel ves i n the l and of Qi n.
G. Confuci us was ret urni ng from Wei t o Lu. He stopped to contem
pl ate the wat erfal l of He Li ang*, whi ch drops f rom a hei ght
t wo hundred and forty feet , produc i ng a t orrent whi ch boi l s over a
l ength of ni net y stages, so st rong t hat nei t her f i sh nor rept i l e can
dwel l there. Now, before hi s eyes, a man crossed these t umul tuous
waters. Confuci us had hi s di s ci pl es greet h i m, then he hi msel f sai d:
' You are most abl e; have you a for mul a t hat al l ows you to trust
yoursel f thus t o these wat ers ?' - ' Be fore goi ng i nt o the wat er, ' sai d
the man, ' I ensure that my heart i s absol ut el y true and l oyal , then
I l et mysel f go. My rect i tude uni t es my body wi t h t he surge. Si nce
I become one wi t h i t , i t cannot har m me. ' - ' Remember t hi s, ' sai d
Confuci us . ' Rect i t ude wi n s e v e n t h e wa ters, h o w much more can
i t wi n men. '
H. Ji an, pri nce apparent and son of Ki ng Pi ng of Chu, was sl ander
ed by Fei Wuj i . He fl ed t o Zheng, where he was assassi nat ed. Hi s
son, Bai Gong, pondered how t o get hi s re venge. He asked Confu
ci us: ' I s there a chance that a pl ot woul d not be di scovered?' -
Confuci us percei ved hi s i nt ent i on and di d not repl y . - Bai Gong
went on: ' Can a st one thrown to the bot t om of the water be
di scovered? ' - ' Yes , ' sai d Confuci us; ' by a di ver from the l and of
Wu. ' - ' And water mi xed wi t h wat er , can t hat be di scovered?' -
' Yes, ' sai d Confuci us. ' Vi Ya coul d t el l t hat there was water from
the Ri ver Zi and t he Ri ver Sheng, mi xed toget her. ' - ' Then, ' sai d
Bai Gong, ' i n your opi ni on, do you t hi nk that a conspi racy woul d be
di scovered?' - ' I t woul d not , ' sai d Confuci us, ' i f no one had spoken
of i t . For success i n fi shi ng or hunt i ng, si l ence i s necessary .
The most effect i ve speech i s the one whi ch i s not heard; the
most i ntensi ve act i on i s that whi ch i s not seen. I mprudence and
agi t at i on produce not hi ng good. You bet ray your proj ects through
your words and at t i t ude. ' - Bai Gong took no not i ce of thi s warni ng.
He provoked an out break i n whi ch he peri shed.
I . Zhao Xi ang Zi ordered Mu Zi , who was mast er of hi s hounds, to
at tack the Di ( a nomadi c t ri be) . Mu Zi won a vi c tory , and took two
of thei r encampments i n a day. Mu Zi sent news of i t to Zhao
*Compare wi t h chapter 2 1 .
1 09
Lie Zi, ch. 8 I, J.
Xi ang Zi . The l at ter heard i t whi l st eat i ng, and became sad. -
' What is wrong?' asked hi s assi st ant s. ' Two camps taken i n a si ngl e
day i s good news. What i s i t t hat saddens you?' - ' I am t hi nki ng, '
sai d Zhao Xi ang Zi , ' that r i vers onl y fl ood for three days, that
storms onl y l ast a fract i on of a day. My house i s at the hei ght of
i t s fortune. Perhaps i t i s about to be rui ned*. ' - Confuc i us heard of
these words and sai d: ' The Pri nce of Zhao wi l l prosper. ' - In
fact , i t i s sadness (wi th the prudence t hat resul t s from i t ) whi ch
makes for prosper i t y, whereas happi ness ( wi t h i t s l ack of prudence)
bri ngs rui n. To wi n a vi ct ory i s easy enough, but t o keep i ts frui ts
is di ffi cul t , and onl y a wi se rul er succeeds in do i ng t hat . Qi ,
Chu, Wu, and Vue, have won many vi ct or i es, wi t hout keepi ng any of
the advantages acqu i red. Onl y a pr i nce i mbued wi t h wi se doctri nes
wi l l keep what he has conquered. It i s wi sdom t hat makes greater,
not force ... Confuc i us was so st rong t hat he al one coul d l i f t the
enormous bar whi ch cl osed the door of the capi t al of Lu, but he
never made a show of hi s st rengt h. Mo Zi was a most abl e con
structor of defens i ve and offens i v e war machi nes , but he never
sought fame for t hi s t al ent . Onl y by ef f ac i ng onesel f , can one keep
one ' s acqui s i t i ons.
J. A man of Song prac t i sed humani t y and j us t i ce. Hi s f ami l y had
been l i ke that for three gener at i ons. - One day, wi t hout one bei ng
abl e to fi nd out the cause, hi s bl ack cow gave bi r t h t o an enti rel y
whi t e cal f . Our man sent t o Confuc i us t o ask what thi s phenomenon
portended. ' I t is a good omen, ' sa i d Conf uci us; ' thi s cal f shoul d be
sacr i fi ced to t he Sovere i gn on Hi gh. ' A year l at er , wi t hout any
known cause, t he fat her of t he fami l y became bl i nd. - Soon after,
hi s bl ack cow gave bi r t h to a second whi t e cal f . The fat her sent hi s
son agai n to ask Confuc i us what t hi s port ended. The son sai d:
' After the l ast consul t at i on, you l ost your s i ght ; what ' s t he good
of aski ng agai n?' . . . ' Go, ' sai d t he f at her . ' The words of the
Sages somet i mes appear wrong, but t hey prove r i ght , gi ven t i me.
Let us bel i eve t hat the t i me has no t yet come. Go therefore. -
The son went and asked Confuc i us , who s ai d agai n: ' I t i s a good
omen. Offer i t to the Soverei gn on Hi gh' . . . The son reported the
repl y to hi s father, who ordered h i m to car r y i t out . - A year l ater,
the son al so became bl i nd. - Now, suddenl y, the Chus i nvaded Song
and l ai d si ege to i ts capi t al . The f ami ne became so bad that
fami l i es exchanged t hei r chi l dren for food, and ground the bones of
the dead to make a sort of food. Al l abl e- bodi ed men had to
defend the ramparts. More than hal f of t hem peri shed. In thi s
di saster, si nce the two bl i nd ones were unabl e to be of any servi ce,
they were exempted from dut y. When the si ege was rai sed, they
suddenl y recovered t hei r s i ght . Des t i ny had made t hem bl i nd for
thei r own safet y.
*Compare wi th L ao Zl , chapter 9.
1 1 0
Lie Zi, ch. 8 K, L, M, N.
K. I n Song an adventurer asked Pri nce Yuan i f he coul d show hi m
what he coul d do. Havi ng obt ai ned per mi ssi on, he wal ked on st i l ts
hi gher than hi s body, and j uggl ed wi th seven swords, fi ve of whi ch
fl ew through the ai r, whi l st hi s hands rece i ved or t hrew the other
two. Ful l of admi rat i on, Pr i nce Yuan ordered that he shoul d be pai d
generousl y. - Anot her advent ur er l earnt of t hi s, and presented
hi msel f al so t o t he pr i nce, who was offended, and sai d: ' Thi s fel l ow
has onl y come because I t reat ed the l as t one wel l ' And he had
hi m put i n pri son and i l l -t reat ed for a mont h*.
L. Duke Mu of Qi n** s ai d t o Bo Luo, hi s purveyor of horses: ' You
are get t i ng ol d. Have y ou a son or other rel at i ve who can take over
from you ?' - Bo Luo sai d: ' A good horse can be recogni sed by
exami ni ng i ts bones and teeth, and my sons woul d be capabl e of
t hat. But t o recogni se a horse f i t f or a pr i nce, i s more di f f i cul t ,
and my sons woul d not be capabl e of i t . But , amongst my grooms,
there i s a cer t ai n Gao from J i u Fang, who knows as much about i t
as I do. Try hi m. ' - Duke Mu had the groom cal l ed t o hi m, and gave
hi m the t ask of fi ndi ng h i m a pri ncel y horse. Gao came back t hree
months l ater and announced t hat he had found a horse at Sha Qi u.
' What ki nd of horse i s i t ?' asked t he duke. - ' I t ' s a r ed mare, ' sai d
Gao. - The duke ordered the beast t o be brought t o h i m, and found
that i t was a bay st al l i on. - Duke Mu was not amused. He cal l ed
Bo Luo and s ai d t o hi m: ' Somet hi ng i s wrong. The one I sent on
your recommendat i on, cannot even t el l the sex or col our of a
horse; what can he know of t hei r qual i t i es? ' - Bo Luo sai d: ' Anyone
can t el l the sex and col our. Gao al ways goes st r ai ght to the bot t om
of t hi ngs, wi thout payi ng at tent i on t o det ai l s. He onl y consi ders
the i nt eri or, whi ch i s what mat t ers, and he negl ect s al l the rest. I f
he has chosen a horse, i t i s cert ai nl y an ani mal of great val ue. ' -
The horse had been brought al ong, and i t t urned out that i t was, i n
fact , a horse f i t for a pri nce.
M. Ki ng Zhuang of Chu asked Zhan He: ' What shoul d I do t o
govern wel l ?' - ' I onl y know about governi ng mysel f , not the
state, ' sai d Zhan He. - ' Then, ' asked the ki ng, ' tel l me what I
shoul d do t o preserve the templ e of my ancestors, the mounds of
t he Patron of the Earth and t he Patron of t he Harvests. ? ' - Zhan
He sai d: ' The domai n of a wel l -ordered man i s al ways i n good
order; that of a di sordered man i s al ways i n di sorder. The root i s
i nsi de. You can draw your own concl usi ons. ' The Ki ng of Chu sai d:
' You have spoken wi sel y. '
N. Hu Qi u Zhang Ren s ai d t o Sun Shu Ao: ' Three t hi ngs at tract
envy, hate, and unhappi ness; they are a hi gh rank, great power, and
*Co
mpare wi t h E above. Same t al ent , not t he same ti me.
**TH
page 1 48.
1 1 1
Lie Zi, ch. 8 N, 0, P.
a hi gh i ncome. ' - ' Not necessar i l y, ' sai d Sun Shu Ao. ' The more I
have ri sen i n rank , the more humbl y have I conducted mysel f. The
more my power has i ncreased, the more di screet I have been. The
more my weal th has i ncreased, the more I have di st r i buted i t. Thus
I have i ncurred nei ther envy, hat e, nor unhappi ness. ' - When
Sun Shu Ao was cl ose to deat h, he sai d to hi s son: ' The ki ng has
tri ed several t i mes to make me accept a f i ef . I have al ways
refused. When I am gone, he wi l l probabl y offer you an endowment .
I prohi bi t you from accept i ng any good l and. If you must accept
somet hi ng, there i s a hi l l wi t h the i l l - omened name of Qi n Qi u,
between Chu and Vue, where the peopl e of those l ands go to
evoke the dead; ask for t hat l and, and no one wi l l envy you. '
- As soon as Sun Shu Ao was dead, the k i ng offered a good fi ef
to hi s son, who begged h i m r at her t o gi v e hi m Qi n Qi u. Hi s des
cendants have i t s t i l l today .
0. Ni u Que wa s a f amous l i t er at e of Shang Di . Whi l st he was
goi ng down to Han Dan, i n open count r y, he was assai l ed by
robbers who took ever yt hi ng, e ven h i s cl othes, wi t hout hi s try i ng
to stop t hem. He t hen went of f wi t hout showi ng any si gn of
sadness. Astoni shed, a robber ran af t er h i m, and asked hi m why he
was not di s tressed. ' Because q ' s ai d Ni u Que, ' the Sage prefers l i fe
to possessi ons. ' ' Ah, ' s ai d t he r obber , ' you are a Sage . ' When he
told the others, they s a i d: ' I f he i s a Sage, he must be goi ng to see
the Pri nce of Zhao. He i s goi ng to accuse us, and we wi l l be lost.
Let ' s ki l l hi m f i rst , wh i l s t t here i s s t i l l t i me' . . . They ran after
Ni u Que and k i l l ed h i m. - Now a man of Yen who heard thi s
stor y, assembl ed hi s fami l y and s ai d: ' I f you ever meet robbers,
don ' t do wha t Ni u Que o f Shang Di d i d ' . . . Somet i me l ater, the
younger brother of t hi s man was goi ng to Qi n when he met some
robbers near the pass. Remember i ng t he advi ce of hi s ol der brother,
he put up al l poss i bl e resi s t ance. When t he t hi eves l ef t , he ran
af ter t hem, demand i ng back what t hey had t aken, and hurl i ng
i nsul ts. Thi s was too much. ' We l ef t you your l i fe , agai nst the usual
custom, ' they s ai d to hi m. ' But s i nce, by f ol l owi ng us, you expose
us to the r i sk of bei ng capt ured, we shal l have t o ki l l you. ' Four
or fi ve peopl e who accompan i ed hi m, were k i l l ed wi th hi m. ( Moral:
Do not boast, efface yoursel f) .
P. A cert ai n Yu, a r i ch man of Li ang, di d not know what to do
wi t h hi s weal t h. He bui l t a t errace near the mai n road, put an
orchestra there, and spent hi s t i me dr i nk i ng and pl ayi ng chess wi th
al l sorts of guests, most l y adventurers or fi ght ers. One day when
one of hi s guests had made a good move, Yu s ai d l aughi ngl y,
and wi thout any mal i ce: ' Oh, see how a buzz ard has taken a worn
out fi el d mouse ' ( i t ' s onl y l uck) . - The pl ayers took it badl y. ' Thi s
Yu, ' they sai d to each other, ' has been ri ch too l ong. I t has made
1 1 2
Lie Zi, ch. 8 P, Q, R, S, T.
hi m arrogant . Let ' s put t hi ngs ri ght . We have been i nsul ted; l et us
keep our honour. ' They f i xed a da y , came uni ted i n arms, and
destroyed the Yu f ami l y by the sword and f i re. ( Moral : Luxury
and arrogance cause l oss) .
Q. I n the east, a cert ai n Yuan Xi ng Mu who was travel l i ng, col l ap
sed on the road. Robber Qi u of Hu Fu, who was passi ng, put some
food i n hi s mout h. Af t er the t hi r d mout hfu l , Yuan Xi ng Mu came
round.

' Who are you?' he asked. - ' I am Qi u from Hu Fu, ' sa i d the
other. - ' Oh, ' sai d Yuan Xi ng Mu, ' aren ' t you a robber ? And you
have made me eat your food? I am an honest man; I wi l l not keep
i t ! '

And, res t i ng on bot h hands, our man t r i ed to make hi msel f
vomi t wi th such v i ol ent e f fort s t hat he ex pi red t her e and t hen. -
He act ed stupi dl y. I f Qi u of Hu Fu was a robber, hi s food had
nothi ng to do wi t h robb i ng. I n appl y i ng t o t he food what shoul d be
appl i ed to the robber , t hi s Yuan Xi ng Mu showed that he was
l acki ng i n l ogi c.
R. Zhu Li Shu s er ved Duke Ao of Ju. F i ndi ng t hat he was treated
too col dl y , he l ef t , and went t o l i ve as a he r mi t at the seasi de,
eati ng mackerel i n s ummer , and acorns and chest nut s i n wi nter.
When Duke Ao di ed, Zhu Li Shu sai d f arewel l t o hi s fri ends,
and decl ared that he woul d commi t su i c i de. - Hi s fri ends sai d to
hi m: ' You l eft t he duke because he t r eat ed you col dl y, and now you
want t o ki J J yoursel f because he i s dead; you are l ack i ng i n l ogi c. ' -
' Not at al l , ' s ai d Zhu Li Shu. ' I l ef t t he duke because he showed me
too l i t t l e f avour. I am goi ng to k i l l myse l f because, now, he can
never show me favour. I want t o t each t he mas t ers of the future to
treat t he i r of f i c i al s f i t t i ngl y , and l eave of f i c i al s the exampl e
of a more t han usual de vot i on . ' - Thi s Zhu Li Shu sacr i fi ced hi s l i fe
for a h i gh i deal .
5. Yang Zhu s ai d: ' When good goes away, evi l comes. I nner sen
t i ments reverberat e out s i de. There fore Sages wat ch over everyt hi ng
that emanat es from wi thi n t he m. '
T. Yang Zhu ' s nei ghbour h a d l ost one of hi s sheep. He col l ected
al l hi s peopl e, and even cal l ed Yang Zhu ' s domest i cs, t o hel p fi nd
i t. - Yang Zhu s ai d: ' Are so many peopl e needed for j ust one of
your sheep?' - ' I t ' s because there are so many pat hs i n the mount
ai ns, ' sai d the ot her. - When the search-part y ret urned, Yang Zhu
asked i f they had found i t . ' No, ' t hey sai d. - ' Why not ?' - ' Because
the paths subdi v i de t o i nf i ni t y, and i t i s i mpossi bl e to scour them
al l . ' - Yang Zhu became sad. He st opped l aughi ng and t al ki ng. -
After several days, hi s di sci pl es, who were ast oni shed by hi s
mel anchol y , sai d to hi m: ' Los i ng one sheep i s not a l oss; and,
moreover, i t was not yours; why are you so upset ?' - Yang Zhu
1 1 3
Lie Zi, ch. 8 T, U, V, W.
di d not repl y. Hi s di s ci pl es coul d not understand hi m. - Meng Sun
Yang went and t ol d Xi n Du Zi . A few days l at er Xi n Du Zi came to
Yang Zhu wi th Meng Sun Yang and spoke these words to hi m: ' In
the l and of Lu, three brothers st udi ed goodness and fai rness under
the same master. When they returned home, the i r father asked
them: "What i s goodness and fai rness?" "It i s , " s ai d the ol der one,
"sacri fi ci ng one ' s reput at i on for one ' s own good. " "I t i s, " sai d the
younger one, "sacr i fi ci ng onesel f i n order to acqui re a reput at i on."
"It i s, " s ai d the youngest one, " t aki ng care of onesel f and one' s
reput at i on" Thus these three pup i l s , of one and the same teacher,
supported three di fferent theses. Whose faul t was i t , the master' s
or thei rs ?' - Yang Zhu repl i ed: ' Amongst the wat er men of the
ri vers, many are bargemen or ferr ymen. These men have apprenti c
es, t o whom they teach boat handl i ng. Al most hal f of these appren
ti ces drown. Whose faul t i s tha t ? The mast er ' s or thei rs? Di d the
master teach them to drown t hemsel ves ?' - Xi n Du Zi went
out wi thout s ayi ng anyt hi ng. Out s i de, an unhappy Meng Sun Yang
sai d: ' Why di d you chat t er l i ke t hat ? We don ' t know any more than
we di d before. ' - ' You understand not hi ng, ' sai d Xi n Du Zi . ' Can' t
you see that I made the mast er t el l us hi s secret ? The l ost sheep on
the numberl ess mount ai n pat hs, had made h i m t hi nk of al l the
di sci pl es l ed astray by the i nfi n i t e d i vers i t y of school s. He is sad
because of al l t hose who have gone ast ray . ' To s um up, sci ence is
one and true, but , among the mul t i pl e deduct i ons that can be
drawn from i t , some are erroneous. The mast er who is in error,
l eads astray hi s pupi l s; di sci pl es who are i n error, go astray despi te
thei r master.
U. Yang Bu, brother of Yang Zhu, went out wear i ng whi te, was
soaked by the rai n, changed, and came back dressed i n bl ack. The
dog, whi ch had seen h i m go out dressed i n whi t e, barked at hi m
when he came back i n bl ack. Angr y , Yang Bu was goi ng t o beat i t.
' Don' t beat i t , ' sai d Yang Zhu. ' You have changed from whi te to
bl ack. How coul d he recogni se you? ' ( A moral change i n a person,
for exampl e from good to bad, breaks hi s habi t ual rel at i onshi ps wi th
other bei ngs; he i s no l onger the same) .
V. Yang Zhu sai d: ' Al though he may not i nt end i t , he who does
good to another, attracts a good reput at i on; t hi s reput at i on attracts
fortune; and thi s fortune draws enemi es to hi m. Therefore Sages
ask themsel ves several ti mes, before doi ng good t o another. '
W. Once, someone cl ai med t o have the reci pe for av oi di ng death.
The Pri nce of Yen sent a deput y to ask hi m for i t . When the deput y
arr i ved, the man wi t h the reci pe had di ed. The pr i nce bl amed the
deputy for
.
havi ng g
?
ne there too l at e, and was goi ng to puni sh hi m.
One of ha s favoura tes sai d t o hi m: ' I f t hi s man t rul y had the
1 1 4
Lie Zi, ch. 8 W, X, Y.
reci pe for not dyi ng, he woul d certai nl y not have depr i ved hi msel f
of i t s bene f i t . Now he i s dead. There fore he di d not have the
formul a. I t coul d not , therefore, have procured i mmortal i t y for
you' ... The pri nce gave up the i dea of pun i shi ng the deputy.
A cert ai n Qi who al so had a great desi re to avoi d deat h, was
al so gri e ved by the deat h of thi s man. A cer t ai n Fu mocked hi m,
sayi ng t hat , si nce t he man was dead, i t was unreasonabl e t o regre t
the l oss o f hi s i nef fect i ve secre t . A cer t ai n Hu sai d tha t Fu had
spoken badl y; ' for , ' he sa i d, ' i t can happen that he who has a
secret does not know how t o make use o f i t ; j ust as some others
happen to produce a res ul t (by chance or exper i ment ) , wi thout
havi ng the formul a. ' - A man o f Wei was good at i ncant at i ons.
When he was near to deat h, he t aught hi s son hi s for mul ae. The
l at ter rec i t ed the for mul ae per fec t l y , bu t wi t h no e f fec t . He
taught them to anot her , who coul d rec i t e t hem wi t h the same
effect the father had . . . ' S i nce a l i vi ng soul was abl e to act e ffec t
i vel y wi t h the for mul ae of a dead sou l , I ask myse l f ( says Li e
Zi ) i f the dead woul d al so be abl e t o act e f fec t i ve l y wi t h t he
formul ae of t he l i vi ng? ' ( Li fe and dea t h, t wo f or ms of t he same
be i ng) .
X. For New Year ' s Day , t he peopl e o f Han Dan o ffered pi geons to
Ji an Zi , who recei ved t hem wi th pl easure and pai d wel l for t hem.
One of hi s guest s asked hi m why. ' So t hat I can show how good I
am by se t t i ng the m free on New Year ' s Day , ' he s ai d. - The guest
sai d: ' The peopl e catch t hem, so t hat you can se t t hem free. Now
i n catchi ng them, many are k i l l ed. I f you val ue the i r l i ves, you
woul d do bet t er t o forb i d peopl e t o catch t hem. You woul d t hereby
show, much bet t er , how good you are . ' - ' You are r i ght , ' sai d
Ji an Zi .
Y. Ti an of Qi made of f er i ngs t o hi s ancest ors, and gave a great
banque t to a t housand guest s, each of whom brought the customar y
present . One of t he guest s brought f i sh and wi l d geese. On seei ng
them Ti an s i ghed pi ousl y and sai d: ' Look how wel l hea ven t reats
men; i t not on! y makes d i verse cereal s grow; i t al so causes t he
bi rth of f i sh and bi rds, for t he use of men ' . . . Al l the guest s agreed
i n a ser v i l e chorus. Al one the son of t he Baa fami l y , a boy of
t we l ve, came forward and s ai d: ' What you have j ust s ai d i s not
qui te r i ght . Even heaven and earth are bei ngs l i ke al l bei ngs. There
are no super i or bei ngs, there are no i nfer i or ones. I t i s a fact that
the stronger and more i ngeni ous eat t he weaker and l ess cl ever
ones, but one shoul d not concl ude t hat the l at t er were made
for the use of the former. Man eat s the bei ngs he can eat , but
heaven di d not cause the bi rth of these bei ngs i n order t hat man
shoul d eat t hem. Otherwi se one woul d have to say t hat hea ven
has caused men to be born i n order that mosqui toes coul d bi te
1 1 5
Lie Zi, ch. 8 Y, z.
them, and t i gers and wol ves de vour them. '
z. In the Pri nci pal i t y of Qi a poor man was al ways beggi ng in the
market -pl ace of the town. Ti red by hi s entreat i es, the people
stopped gi vi ng hi m anyt hi ng. Then the poor man went i nto the
servi ce of a veteri nary of the pri ncel y fami l y Ti an, and earned
enough to prevent hi msel f dyi ng of st arvat i on. They sai d to hi m
that to serve a veteri nary was a di sgrace. He repl i ed: ' To be
reduced to beggi ng passes as the worst di sgrace. Now, I was
a beggar. How can ser vi ng a ve t eri nary be a di sgrace for me? It
is a step up the l adder . ' - A man of Song found hal f of a di vi ded
contract on the road, whi ch someone had l ost . He fol ded i t pai ns
taki ngl y, careful l y not i ng t he way i t had been cut , and conf i ded to
hi s nei ghbour that he was abou t t o come i nt o a fortune. He was
wrong i n t hi nki ng that the way i n whi ch he had obt ai ned the fi rst
hal f must also gi ve h i m the second hal f . - A man had a dead
tree i n hi s garden. Hi s ne i ghbour sa i d to hi m: ' A dead tree i s an
i l l -omened obj ect . ' The man cut the tree down. The nei ghbour then
asked hi m to l et hi m have the wood. The man then suspected that
the nei ghbour had made hi m c u t down t he tree wi t h t hat in mi nd,
and took offence. He was wrong. The request that fol l owed does
not prove that there was a pre v i ous i nt ent i on. - A man had lost
hi s axe, and suspect ed that hi s ne i ghbour ' s son had st ol en i t . The
more he thought about i t , the more he bel i eved i t . There fore, to
hi m, the manner, expressi on, words, i n fac t ever yt hi ng about thi s
boy, seemed to make hi m a t hi ef . When he cl eared out hi s manure
pi t , he found hi s axe. The ne x t day, when he saw hi s nei ghbour ' s
son, he saw hi m as the most honest boy t hat ever was. (Auto
suggest i on) . - When Bai Gong pl ot t ed h i s revenge ( i n H above), he
sl i pped and fel l , and the spi ke f i xed t o the handl e of hi s horeswhi p
pi erced hi s chi n, wi thou t hi s fee l i ng anyt hi ng. The peopl e of Zheng
who knew about t hi s, s ai d: ' I f he coul d not feel t hat , what woul d he
feel ?' He must have been so absorbed i n pl ot t i ng hi s revenge, that
he di d not not i ce hi s fal l , or the wound. ( Transport) . - A man of
Qi was suddenl y t aken by so great a desi re for gol d, that he got
up i n the morni ng, dressed, went st ra i ght to the money-changer' s
stal l i n the market , grabbPd a gol d pi ece and wal ked away. The
guards caught hi m and sa i d to hi m: ' What made you steal in a
pl ace so ful l of peopl e?' - ' I onl y saw t he gol d, ' he sai d; ' I di d not
see the peopl e. ' ( Transport ) .
1 1 6
ZHUANG ZI
NAN HUA CHEN JING
OR
THE TREATISE OF THE TRANSCENDENT MASTER
FROM NAN HUA
Chapter 1. Towards The Ideal.
A, B. I f we can bel i ev e anci ent l egends, i n the nor thern ocean l i ves
an i mmense fi sh whi ch can t ake on the form of a bi r d. When t hi s
bi rd t akes off, i ts wi ngs ex t end i n t he s ky l i ke cl ouds. Ski mmi ng the
waves, i t fl i es sout h for a di st ance of t hree t housand l i , then i t
r i ses on the wi nd t o a hei ght of ni net y t housand l i ; a l l i n the space
of si x mont hs*. - What we see up t her e, i n t he bl ue; are wi l d horses
runni ng t here? Is i t powdery mat t er fl y i ng about ? Are they the
breaths** whi ch gi ve bi r th t o bei ngs ? . . . And i s t he bl ue Heaven
i tsel f , or i s i t onl y t he col our of far di s t ant i nf i ni t y , i n whi ch
Heaven, the personal bei ng of t he Annal s and t he Odes, i s hi dden ?
And from up t here, can t hey see t hi s eart h? And under what
aspect ? Myst eri es! - What ever i t i s , r i s i ng up f rom t he vast ocean,
and carr i ed by a grea t mass of ai r , t he onl y suppor t capabl e of
bear i ng i ts i mmensi t y, the grea t bi rd g l i des at a prodi gi ous al t i tude.
- A newl y hatched ci cada and a very young p i geon saw the great
bi rd, l aughed at i t , and sai d: ' What ' s the good of cl i mbi ng so hi gh?
Why expose onesel f l i ke that ? We ar e happy j us t f l yi ng f r om branch
t o branch, wi t hout l eavi ng the suburbs; when we fal l on the ground,
we don ' t hurt oursel ves; each day, wi t hout ge t t i ng t i red, we fi nd
al l we need. Why go so far ? Why c l i mb so hi gh? Don ' t anxi e t i es
i ncrease i n propor t i on t o di s tance and hei gh t ? ' Comment s of t wo
smal l bei ngs, on a subj ect beyond t hei r comprehens i on. A smal l
mi nd does not understand what a great mi nd embraces. A short
experi ence does not ex t end t o di s t ant f acts. The mushroom,
whi ch onl y l i ves for a morni ng, does not know what a l unar cycl e
i s. The i nsect , whi ch onl y l i ves one summer, knows nothi ng of
t he success i on of the seasons. Don ' t ask ephemeral bei ngs for
i nfor mat i on about the great t ort oi se t hat l i ves for fi ve centuri es,
or about the great tree whose l i fe cycl e i s ei ght thousand years.
Even ol d Peng Zu*** coul d tel l you nothi ng about that whi ch
exceeds the ei ght cent uri es at t r i buted to hi m by tradi t i on. Each
bei ng has a formul a for i ts own devel opment .
*Al l egory anal ogous to the annual ascent and descent of the dragon. Cl ouds from
the north condensed to rai n i n the south. Vapours rendered by the south to the
north. Annual cycl e of two si x-monthl y per iods.
**Breaths of the great breath of nature.
***Legends. Peng Zu woul d have been 767 years ol d In 1 1 23 B. C.
1 1 7
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 C, D.
C. There are men al most as l i mi ted as the two smal l bei ngs
ment i oned above. Underst andi ng onl y the rout i ne of ordi nary l i fe,
they are fi t onl y to be mandari ns of a di s tr i ct , or at most, l ord of
a fi ef. - Master Rang of Song was superi or t o t hi s t ype, and more
l i ke the great bi r d. He J i ved, equal l y i ndi fferent to prai se and
bl ame. St i cki ng to hi s own j udgement , he di d not al l ow hi msel f to
be i nfl uenced by the op i ni ons of ot hers. He never di st i ngui shed
be tween gl ory and di sf avour. He was free from the bonds of human
prej udi ce. - Master Li e of Zheng was super i or to Master Rang, and
s t i l l more l i ke the great bi r d. Hi s soul f l ew away, on the wi ng of
contempl at i on, somet i mes for fi ft een days, l eavi ng hi s body i nert
and unconsc i ous. He was al most free from terrest r i al l i nks. Not
qui te, however, for he had to wai t for the ecst at i c rapture, a
remai ni ng dependence. - Let us suppose now a man compl etel y
absorbed i n the i mmense cosmi c gyr at i on, and movi ng wi th i t i n the
i nfi ni te. He wi l l no l onger depend on anyt hi ng. He wi l l be per fec tl y
free, i n the sense tha t hi s person and hi s act i on wi l l be uni ted wi th
the person and ac t i on of t he great Whol e. Thus one can say j ustl y:
' The superi or man has no l onger a sel f of hi s own; transcendent
man has no act i on of hi s own; t he Sage has not even a name of
hi s own; for he i s one wi t h the gr eat Whol e. '
D. In the ol d days, Yao though t of cedi ng t he empi r e to hi s mi n
i ster Xu You. He sai d to h i m: ' When the sun, or t he moon, shi nes,
one put s out the t orch. When i t r ai ns , one pu ts as i de the water i ng
can. The emp i r e prospers t hrough your effort s. Why shoul d I
stay on the t hrone? Take i t , pl ease ' ' Thank you, ' sai d Xu You,
' pl ease keep i t . The empi r e has prospered t hrough your rei gn.
What does personal renown mat t er to me? A branch i n the forest
suffi ces as l odgi ng for a bi rd. A l i t t l e wat er drunk at the ri versi de
quenches the t hi rs t of the ra t . I have no more needs than these
smal l creatures. Let us st ay in our respec t i ve pl aces, you and
I. ' - These two men at t ai ned al most the l evel of Master Rang
of Song. The Daoi s t i deal i s more el e vat ed than that . - One day
Ji an Wu sai d to Li an Shu: ' I have heard Ji e Yu say ex aggerated,
ex tra vagant thi ngs '. . . ' What d i d he say ? ' asked Li an Shu ' He
sai d that , i n the f ar di s t ant I sl e of Gu She, l i ve transcendent
men, whi t e as snow, f resh as ch i l dr en, who do not eat any ki nd
of food, but breat he the wi nd and dr i nk the dew. They wal k in
space, cl ouds serve t hem as char i ot s, and dragons as mounts.
Through the i nf l ux of the i r transcendence, t hey protect men
from i l l nesses and ensure t he ri peni ng of t he crops. These are
cl earl y fol l i es. Therefore I di d not bel i eve them' L i an Shu repl i ed:
' The bl i nd do not see, because they have no eyes. The deaf do
not hear, because they have no ears. You di d not understand
Ji e Yu because you have no spi r i t . The super i or men of whom
he spoke, exi s t . They possess vi r tues even great er than those
1 1 8
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 D, E.
you have j ust enumerated. But as for such thi ngs as i l l nesses and
crops, they i nterest themsel ves so l i t t l e that, shoul d the empi re be
fal l i ng i n r ui ns and e veryone aski ng them for hel p, they woul d not
troubl e themsel ves, so i ndi fferent are they to everythi ng. . . The
super i or man i s touched by not hi ng. A uni versa! del uge woul d not
submerge hi m; a uni versa! confl agrat i on woul d not consume hi m, so
el evated i s he above e very thi ng*. From what he casts off, one
coul d make Yaos and Shuns**. Woul d thi s man occupy hi msel f
therefore, wi t h s mal l thi ngs such as har vests or the government of
a state? ' - Each one represents t he i deal to hi msel f i n hi s own way.
In Song the i deal is to be wel l -dressed and to have careful l y
styl ed hai r; i n Vue the i deal i s to be cl ose -cropped and covered i n
tattoos. Emperor Yao went to a great deal of t r oubl e and bel i eved
he had rei gned i deal l y. After he had v i s i t ed the Four Masters i n
t he far di st ant I sl e of Gu She, he r eal i sed t hat he had spoi l t
everyt hi ng. The i deal i s the i ndi fference of t h e super i or man, who
l ets the cos mi c wheel t urn.
E. Common pr i nces do not know how to use men of t hi s expansi ve
ness, who do not excel when charged wi t h s mal l t asks, thei r geni us
i n those c i rcumstances bei ng r est r i ct ed. - Master Hui ***, the
sophi s t , havi ng grown some enormous gourds i n hi s gar den, cut them
i n two so t hat he coul d use them as bas i ns Fi ndi ng these basi ns too
l arge, he cut them i n hal f . These quar t er - gourds woul d not stand up
al one, and coul d no l onger hol d anyt h i ng. He broke them up . . . ' You
are nothi ng but a fool , ' s ai d Zhuang Zi to h i m. ' Why coul dn ' t you
make somethi ng of these rare gourds ? You coul d have made them
i nto buoys for crossi ng l akes and r i vers. By reduci ng them you have
made them usel ess . ' - I t i s the same for men as for t hi ngs; i t al l
depends on the use that i s made of t hem. - A fami l y of s i l kworm
rearers from Song possessed the reci pe for a cream whi ch prevent
ed the hands of those who separat ed the cocoons from chappi ng or
cracki ng. They sol d t hei r reci pe to a for ei gner for a hundred pi eces
of gol d, and consi dered they had made a good . prof i t . Now the
forei gner came to be admi ral of the fl eet for the Ki ng of Wu, and
he commanded a naval expedi t i on agai nst Vue. I t was wi nter.
Havi ng used hi s cream to protect the hands of hi s sai l ors from
chi l bl ai ns, he won a great vi ctory whi ch procured for hi m a vast
fi ef. So two uses of the same cream produced a smal l sum and an
i mmense fortune. - He who knows how to use the superi or man wi l l
gai n much. He who does not know, wi l l gai n not hi ng.
*Al l egori cal phrases, whi ch wi l l be taken i n thei r t r ue sense l ater.
**Bl ow to the Confuci an paragons, who are regarded as i nferi or bei ngs by the
Daoi sts.
***Hui Zi , mi ni ster of Li ang, sophi st, perpetual contradi ctor of Zhuang Zi , and one
of hi s favouri te butts.
1 1 9
Zhuang Zi, ch. l F.
F. ' Your theor i es , ' sai d Master Hui to Master Zhuang, ' have breadth,
but no pract i cal val ue; further more , no one wants them. They
are l i ke a great Ai lanthus tree, whose fi brous wood cannot be made
i nt o pl anks, whose knot t y branches are good- for-nothi ng. ' - ' Al l the
better for me, ' sai d Master Zhuang. ' For e ver yt hi ng whi ch has a
pract i cal val ue peri shes wi th use. The mart en has a good thousand
pl oys, but fi nal l y per i shes, i t s fur bei ng sought -aft er. The yak, so
strong, ends by be i ng k i l l ed, i t s t ai l ser vi ng t o make standards.
Whereas the Ai lanthus, wi th whi ch you compare me to my credi t ,
grows on a barren ear t h, spreadi ng as much as i t want s , shadi ng the
travel l er and the sl eeper , wi t hout fear of the axe or the del i nquent,
prec i sel y because , as you say, i t i s usel ess. Shoul dn ' t one rej oi ce at
bei ng good- for-noth i ng ? '
Zhuag Zi, ch. 2 A, B.
Capter 2. Uni versal Harmony.
A. Master Qi * was s i t t i ng on a st ool , hi s eyes turned towards the
sky, breathi ng feebl y. Hi s soul must have been absent * *. - Ast on
i shed, the di sci pl e You***, who served h i m, sa i d t o hi msel f: ' What
i s t hi s ? I s i t p ossi bl e t hat a bei ng can r emai n amongst the l i vi ng,
and yet become i nsens i bl e as a dr i ed out t ree, i ner t as ashes? Thi s
i s no l onger my mas t er . ' - ' Yes , ' sa i d Qi , comi ng back from hi s
ecstasy, ' i t i s st i l l hi m. I l ost mysel f **** onl y for a t i me. Bu t how
can you unders t and t hat , when you know onl y the human harmoni es,
not the
terrest r i al , and st i l l l ess t he cel es t i a l . ' - ' Pl ease hel p me
understand by some compar i s on , ' as ked You. - ' So be i t , ' sai d
Master Qi . ' The great unde t er mi ned breat h of nat ure i s the wi nd. I n
i tsel f t he wi nd has no sound. But when i t s t i rs them, a l l t hi ngs
become a reed i nst r ument for i t . The mount a i ns, woods, rocks,
trees, al l thei r rough and t wi s t ed part s, resound l i k e so many
mout hs, soft l y when t he wi n d i s gent l e, l oudl y when the wi nd i s
st rong. There are r oar i ngs , wh i s t l i ngs , r umbl i ngs, commands,
appeal s, cl aps, cr i es , and l a ment s . The c al l answers t he cal l .
I t i s an ensembl e, a har mony. Then, when the wi nd drops, al l
t hese sounds cease. Have you not observed t hat on a st ormy
day ? ' ' I underst and, ' sai d You. ' The human har moni es are those
of musi cal i nst rument s made by man. The t erres t r i al har moni es
are those of t he voi ce of nat ur e. But wha t i s cel es t i a l harmon y ? '
B. ' I t i s, ' sai d Mas t er Qi , ' the har mony of al l be i ngs i n thei r
common nat ure and becomi ng. I n i t t here i s no cont r as t , because
there i s no di s t i nct i on. Grea t sc i ence e mbraces. Gr eat words
embrace. Sci ence and words of an i n fer i or order di s t i ngu i sh. - Al l
i s one. Dur i ng sl eep t he non-d i s t r act ed soul i s absorbed i n uni t y;
duri ng wakeful ness, di s t racted, i t di s t i ngui shes di verse bei ngs. ' -
And what are t he causes of these di s t i nct i ons? 4 They are caused
by act i v i t y , rel at i onshi ps, and t he con fl i c ts of l i fe. Theor i es and
errors come from these t hi ngs . The not i ons of good and bad were
deri ved from shoot i ng compet i t i ons; the not i ons of r i ght and wrong
from cont racts .
(
Hi t t i ng or mi ss i ng the targe t; confor mi ty or non
confor mi t y wi t h t he source, says t he comment ary) . Peopl e add f ai t h
to t hese i magi nary not i ons; t hey have even gone so far as t o
at t ri but e t hem t o heaven. S i nce t hen i t has been i mpossi bl e to br i ng
humans back t o thei r true nat ure. And yet we must af f i r m t hat
content ment and resent ment , pl easure and pai n, proj ec ts and
regret s, passi on and reason, i ndol ence and steadfastness, act i on and
l azi ness; al l these contrasts are so many sounds comi ng from
the same i nst rument , so many mushrooms born of the same humi d-
*Qi , Master of the Southern Suburb, where he l i ved.
**Commentary: Hi s soul seems to have l eft hi s body. Cf . ch. 24 H.
***Master Yen You, Yen Cheng, or Yen Nou.
****Absorbed i n uni versal bei ng, i n uni ty, he l oses the noti on of di sti nct bei ngs .
.
1 2 1
Zhuang Zi, ch. 2 B, C.
i t y, fl eet i ng modal i t i es of the uni versal bei ng. Al l t hi s has come
about duri ng the course of t i me. Where di d i t come from? It was
born of i tsel f between a morni ng and eveni ng, not as a real thi ng,
but j ust seemi ng to be so. There are no such t hi ngs as di st i nct
bei ngs. There i s onl y an ' I ' by cont rast wi t h a ' he ' . He and I are
bei ngs onl y of reason; there does not exi s t , in r eal i t y , t hi s some
thi ng cl oser whi ch one cal l s mi ne, and t hi s somet hi ng further away
whi ch one cal l s yours. - But who i s the agent of t hi s state of
thi ngs, the mot or o f the great Whol e ? . . . Ever yt hi ng happens as if
there were a t rue gover nor , bu t whose nat ure cannot be understood.
Thi s hypot hesi s e x pl a i ni ng phenomena i s accept abl e on condi ti on
that one does not make t hi s gover nor a di s t i nct mat er i al bei ng*. It
i s a tendency wi t hout pal pabl e for m, the norm i nherent in the
uni verse, i ts i mmanent e vol ut i ve f or mul a. Norms of al l k i nds, l i ke
those whi ch make a body o f se ver al organs**, a f ami l y of several
persons, a st at e of numer ous subj ect s , are so many par t i ci pants of
the uni versal gover nor . These par t i c i pant s nei t her augment nor
di mi ni sh i t , for t hey are commun i c a t ed t hrough i t , not separated
from i t . Bei ngs ar i se as pr ol onga t i ons of the uni versal norm. When
a bei ng ceases to ex i s t , t he nor m r ema i ns. The nor m of a bei ng was
before, and r emai ns a f t er wards, unal t er abl e and i ndes truct i bl e;
the rest was onl y an appear ance. - I t i s from i gnorance of thi s
pr i nci pl e that have come al l the p a i ns and sorrows of men, the
struggl e for ex i s t ence, f ear of deat h, and apprehensi on of the
myster i es beyond. Thi s bl i ndness i s al mos t gener al , but not , how
ever, uni versal . Ther e are s t i l l men, few i n nu mber, who have not
been seduced by convent i ona l t r ad i t i onal i s m, who recogni se no
mast er but t hei r reason, and who, t hrough t hei r medi t at i ons
on the uni verse have deduced t he doct r i ne expounded above. These
men know t hat t here is not h i ng r eal except t he uni versal norm.
The common peopl e, unr ef l ec t i ng , be l i ev e i n the real exi s tence
of ever yt hi ng. Th i s moder n er r or has drowned the anci ent truth. I t
i s so anchored, so i n ve t era te , t hat the gr eat est sages i n t he eyes of
t he worl d, t he Gr eat Yu i ncl uded*** , have been duped by i t. To
suppor t the t rut h, I f i nd mysel f al most al one.
C. Bu, i f al l i s one, i f e ver yt hi ng can be r educed to a uni versal
norm, t hi s norm wi l l i ncl ude s i mul t aneousl y truth and error, all
the opposi tes; and i f the fac t s of whi ch men speak are unreal,
human speech i s t her efore onl y a vai n sound, no better than a
cl acki ng of hens. - I repl y, no, there i s no error i n the norm, onl y
in l i mi ted mi nds; yes, the di s t i nct i ons of the di sci pl es of Confuci us
and Mo Zi are not hi ng but vai n cl ack i ngs. - There i s, i n real i ty,
*Negati on of the Soverei gn on Hi gh of the Annals and the Odes ( as a distinct
materi al bei ng). Compare wi th L ao Zi , chapter 4 E.
**The human soul i s i ncl uded here.
***Bl ow to a Confuci an paragon.
1 22
Zhuang Zi, ch. 2 C, D.
ne i ther truth nor error, yes nor no, nor other di s t i nct i ons what
soever, al l bei ng one , e ven the opposi t es. There are onl y di verse
aspects, whi ch depend on the poi nt of vi ew. From my poi nt of
vi ew, I see thus; from another poi nt of v i ew, I woul d see otherwi se.
I and other are two di fferent pos i t i ons, whi ch make one j udge and
speak di f ferent l y. Thus one can speak of l i fe and deat h, possi bl e
and i mposs i bl e, l i ci t and i l l i ci t . They debat e, some say i ng yes,
others no, errors of subj ect i ve unders t andi ng due to di fferent poi nts
of vi ew. The Sage, on the cont rar y , beg i ns by cl ari fy i ng the obj ect
wi th the l i ght of reason. He ascer t ai ns , f i r s t of al l , tha t t hi s i s
thi s and that i s that, t hat al l i s one. Nex t he ascer t ai ns t hat there
i s yes and no, oppos i t i on, cont r ast . He conc l udes wi t h the real i t y of
uni t y and the non-real i t y of di vers i t y . Hi s own poi nt of vi ew i s a
poi nt from where t hi s and t hat , yes and no, s t i I I seem non-di s t i n
gui shed. Thi s poi nt i s t he p i vot of t he nor m. I t i s t he mot i onl ess
centre of a ci rcumference on whose cont our run al l cont i ngenc i es,
di st i nct i ons, and i nd i v i dual i t i es ; whence one sees onl y an i nf i ni t y
whi ch i s nei ther t hi s nor t ha t , yes nor no. To s ee ever yt hi ng i n
the as yet undi fferent i at ed pr i mor di al un i t y , or f r om a di s tance
whi ch makes al l fuse i nto one , i s t rue i nt el l i gence. - The sophi sts
are mi st aken i n t r yi ng t o get t here by pos i t i ve and negat i ve
argument s, or by anal ys i s and s ynt hes i s . They wi l l arr i ve onl y at
ways of subj ect i ve vi ewi ng, whi ch, added up and for mi ng op i ni ons,
pass as pr i nci pl es. Just as a foot pat h i s f or med by the footsteps of
passers-by , l i kewi se t hi ngs end up by bei ng qual i f i ed accordi ng
to how much has been sai d o f t hem. I t i s t hus, one says, because
i t i s thus; t hi s i s a pr i nci pl e. I s i t t r ul y l i ke tha t , i n real i t y ? Not
at al l . Envi saged i n the nor m, a s t r aw and a raft er, beaut y and
ugl i ness, al l such opposi tes are one . Prospe r i t y and ru i n, successi ve
states, are onl y phases; al l i s one . But onl y great mi nds are com
petent to understand thi s. We do not occupy ourse l ves i n di st i ngui sh
i ng, but see al l i n the uni t y of the norm. We do not di scuss i n order
to carry peopl e away, but we use , amongst others, the method of
the monkey rearer. Thi s man s ai d t o the monkeys: ' I wi l l g i ve you
three taro roots i n the morni ng and four i n the even i ng. ' The
monkeys were upset ( because they had t o wai t t i l l eveni ng for the
greater share of thei r pi ttance) . Then he s ai d: ' I wi l l gi ve you four
taros i n the morni ng and three i n the eveni ng. ' The monkeys
were al l happy. Wi th the advantage of havi ng made t hem happy,
thi s man gave t hem onl y t he se ven taros a day he had i ntended for
them*. Thus does the Sage. He says yes or no, for the sake of
peace, and remai ns at the centre of the uni versa! wheel , i ndi fferent
to the di rect i on i n whi ch i t turns.
D. Some anci ents thought that i n the begi nni ng not hi ng pre- exi sted.
Thi s i s an extreme pos i t i on. - Others thought t hat somet hi ng pre-
*Cf . Li e Zi, ch. 2 Q,
1 23
Zhuang Zi, ch. 2 D, E.
exi sted. That i s an ex treme oppos i te pos i t i on. - Others, f i nal l y,
thought there was somet hi ng i ndi s t i nct , non- di fferent i at ed. Thi s i s
the mi ddl e pos i t i on, the true one. - Thi s non- di fferent i ated pri mor
di al bei ng i s the norm. When one i magi nes di s t i nc t i ons, one rui ns i ts
concept . After di s t i nct i ons come art s and t ast es, i mpressi ons and
subj ect i ve pre ferences whi ch can nei t her be def i ned nor taugh t. The
three musi ci ans Zhao Wen, Kuang Zi , and Hui Z i l oved the i r musi c
si nce they found i t di fferent from and cl ear l y super i or to other ' s.
Ah wel l ! They coul d never de f i ne what made t he di fference and
super i or i t y; t he y coul d never t each the i r sons to pl ay l i ke them. For
the subj ec t i ve cannot be def i ned nor t aught . The Sage di sdai ns
these vani t i es, keep i ng i n the hal f -obscur i t y of t he synthe t i c vi si on,
content wi th good prac t i cal sense.
E. One may obj ect t o my af f i r mi ng t hat t here are no di s t i nct i ons,
sayi ng: ' We wi l l admi t t hat t he di s t i nc t i ons bet ween fai r l y si mi l ar
terms are onl y apparen t . But as for absol ut el y opposed terms, how
can one reduce the m to s i mpl e uni t y ? For ex ampl e, how can
the fol l owi ng be reconci l ed: Or i g i n of bei ng, bei ng wi t hout ori gi n,
or i gi n of the bei ng wi t hout or i gi n. And these: Be i ng and nothi ng
ness, bei ng be fore no t hi ngness, not hi ngness be fore bei ng. These
terms excl ude one anot her , don ' t t hey ? ' - I r epl y: ' They onl y excl ude
one another i f one l ooks at t he m as e x i s t i ng . Before becomi ng, i n
the uni t y of the pri mor di a l pr i nci pl e, t here i s no oppos i t i on. Looked
at from t hi s angl e, a hai r i s not s ma l l , a mount ai n i s not l arge; an
unborn baby i s not young, a cent enar i an i s not ol d. Heaven, earth,
and I are of the same age. Al l bei ngs , and I , ar e one i n t he ori gi n.
Si nce al l i s one obj ect i ve l y , and i n r eal i t y , why di s t i ngui sh enti ti es
by words, whi ch onl y ex press subj ec t i ve and i magi nary concepts. If
you st art t o name and coun t , you wi l l never s t op, the seri es of
subj ect i ve vi ews be i ng i nf i ni t e . - Before t i me , e v er yt hi ng was one,
i n the Pri nci pl e, cl osed l i ke a sol i d envel ope. Then, as l anguage,
there was onl y a general ver b. Al l t hat whi ch has been added si nce
is subj ect i ve and i magi nar y, such as t he di fference between ri ght
and l eft , di st i nct i ons, oppos i t i ons, t asks. So many reasoned thi ngs
whi ch are desi gnated by words, to whi ch not hi ng corresponds i n
real i t y. Thus the Sage s t udi es every thi ng i n the mat er i al worl d, and
in the worl d of i deas, bu t wi thout pr onounci ng hi msel f on anythi ng,
i n order not to add a further subj ect i ve vi ew to those whi ch have
already been put forward. He keeps qui et and wi thdrawn, when the
common peopl e hol d fort h, "not for t rut h, but for show, " as the
sayi ng goes. - What can one say of uni versal bei ng, except that i t
i s ? Does i t affi rm somet hi ng to s ay that humani ty i s human,
modesty i s modest, bravery i s brave? Aren ' t these empt y phrases
that mean nothi ng? If one coul d di st i ngui sh i n the Pri nci pl e, and
appl y att ri butes to i t , i t woul d not be the uni versal pr i nc i pl e. To
know to stop onesel f where i nt el l i gence and l anguage are in defaul t,
1 24
Zhua Zi, ch. 2 E, F, G, H.
i s wi sdom. What i s the good of l ooki ng for i mpossi bl e terms to
express an i nef f abl e bei ng? He who understands that al l i s one, has
conquered the i nexhaust i bl e, but al so i nscrut abl e, heavenl y treasure.
He has the comprehensi ve i l l umi nat i on, whi ch l i gh ts the whol e
wi thout mak i ng detai l s appear. I t i s t hi s l i ght , superi or to that of
ten suns, that many years ago Shun ex t ol l ed to ol d Yao*. '
F. ' Everyt hi ng i n the worl d i s personal and subj ec t i v e , ' sai d Wang
Ni to Ni e Que. ' A man l y i ng i n t he mud wi l l get l umbago, whereas
an eel coul d fi nd nowhere bet t er . A man per ched up a tree woul d
feel i l l at ease, whereas a monkey wou l d f i nd t hi s posi t i on perfec t.
Some eat thi s, others t hat . Al l men chase a f t er t he fa mous beaut i es
Mao Qi ang and L i Ji ; whereas, on s i gh t i n g the m, fi sh d i ve ter r i f i ed,
bi rds take refuge hi gh i n t he ai r , and ant el opes fl ee at a gal l op.
You do not know what e f fec t a cer t ai n t hi ng has on me, and
I do not know what i mpress i on i t produces on you. Thi s ques t i on of
feel i ngs and tastes, bei ng whol l y subj ec t i v e , i s pr i nci pal l y i nsol ubl e.
The onl y t hi ng i s to l eave i t . Men wi l l never underst and t ti s. '
' Common men, yes, ' s ai d Ni e Que; ' but the super i or man ? ' ' The
superi or man, ' sai d Wang Ni , ' i s beyond these t r i fl es. I n hi s hi gh
transcendence he i s beyond al l i mpress i on and emot i on. . . In a
boi l i ng l ake, he does not fee l t he heat ; i n a f rozen ri ver, he does
not feel the col d**. I f l i gh t ni ng were to rend the mount ai ns, or
a tempest con vul se the ocean, he woul d not be upse t . He cl i mbs
the cl ouds, bes t r i des t he sun and the moon, and runs across the
uni v erse. What i nt erest can he, for whom l i fe and deat h are al l
one***, show for s mal l det ai l s ?'
G. Master Qu Qi ao s ai d to Mast er Qi u of Zhang Wu: ' One af f i rms
that the Sage does not encumber h i msel f wi th the t hi ngs of t hi s
worl d; t hat he does not seek for hi s own advant age, and does not
draw back i n front of danger; t hat he hol ds on to not hi ng; that he
does not t r y t o make h i ms el f agreeabl e; t hat he keeps hi msel f away
from dust and mud ' ' I wi l l def i ne i t bet t er , i n fewer words, ' sai d
Master Qi u. ' The Sage abstrac ts from t i me, and sees al l i n one. He
hol ds hi s t ongue, keepi ng hi s personal i mpressi ons to hi msel f,
abstai ni ng fr om di ssert at i ons on obscure and i nsol ubl e ques t i ons.
Thi s wi thdr awal , thi s concent r at i on, gi ves hi m, i n the mi ds t of the
passi oned affai rs of common man, an apathet i c, al most stupi d, l ook.
In real i t y, i nter i or l y, he concent rat es on the h i ghest occupat i on, t he
synthesi s of al l the ages, the v i s i on of al l thi ngs i n uni t y . '
H. As for the di s t i nct i on whi ch torments common men, that of
*I magi nary anecdote. Bl ow t o t wo Confuci an paragons.
**Metaphors which wi l l be taken i n their true sense l ater.
***Two al ternati ve phases of exi stence.
12
Zhuang Zi, ch. 2 H, I, J.
l i fe and death 0 0 Is not J ove of l i fe an i l l usi on? Is not fear of death
an error? Thi s departure, i s i t real l y a mi sfortune? Does i t not
lead, l i ke the bri de who l eaves the paternal home, to another
happi ness?. . . Once, when the beaut i ful Li Ji was k i dnapped, she
cri ed so much that her dress was drenched. When she had become
the favour i t e of the Ki ng of Ji n she agreed t hat she had been
wrong to cry. Is i t not the same for most of t he dead? Parted
regret ful l y ( from l i fe) a l ong t i me ago, don ' t t hey now t hi nk they
were wrong for havi ng l oved l i fe ? . . . Coul d not l i fe be but a dream?
Some, awakeni ng from a dream, are upset; others, del i vered from
a bad dream, are happy. The ones and t he others, whi l st they were
dreami ng, bel i eved i n the real i t y of thei r dream. Af t er waki ng, they
sai d to themsel ves t hat i t was onl y a vai n dream. I t i s the same for
the great awakeni ng, deat h, af t er whi ch one s ays of l i fe that it
was onl y a l ong dream. But , amongst t he l i vi ng, few understand
thi s. Al most al l bel i eve t hemsel ves to be wi de awake. Some bel i eve
themsel ves to be t rul y k i ngs, ot hers, val et s. We al l dream, you and
I. I who t el l you t hat you dream, I dr eam my dream al so. - The
i dent i ty of l i fe and deat h seems unbel i evabl e to most peopl e. Wi l l
they ever be persuaded of i t ? I t i s unl i kel y. For , i n thi s case there
i s no cl ear demonst rat i on, no deci s i ve aut hor i t y, and a host of
subj ect i ve sent i ments. The heavenl y r ul e al one can sol ve thi s
quest i on. And what i s t hi s heavenl y r ul e ? I t i s t o pl ace onesel f, i n
order to j udge, i n the i nf i ni t e. . . I t i s i mpossi bl e otherwi se to
resol ve the confl i ct of cont radi ct i ons, to dec i de whi ch i s true and
whi ch is fal se. So we pl ace oursel ves outs i de t i me, beyond reason.
We envi sage the quest i on from the i nf i ni t e, a di st ance at whi ch all
mel ts i nto an i ndet er mi nat e whol e.
I. Al l bei ngs bel ong to t he Whol e, t hei r act i ons are not free, but
necessi tated by i ts l aws . . . One day Twi l i gh t asked Shadow: ' Why do
you move in such a way ? ' . . . ' I do not move mysel f, ' sai d Shadow. ' I
am proj ected by anyt h i ng whatsoe ver, whi ch produces me and
ori entates me, fol l owi ng the l aws of opaci t y and movement ' . . .
I t i s the same for al l acts.
J. There are no real i ndi vi dual s as such, but onl y prol ongat i ons of
the norm . . ' Once, ' rel ates Zhuang Zi , ' one ni ght , I was a but terfl y,
fl i t ti ng about contented wi th i ts l ot . Then I woke up as Zhuang Zi .
Who am I i n real i t y ? A butterfl y who dreams he i s Zhuang Zi , or
Zhuang Zi who dreamt he was a but t erfl y? In my case, are there
two i ndi vi dual s ? Has there been a real transformat i on of one
i ndi vi dual i nto another ?' - (Nei ther one nor the other, says the
commentary. There have been two unreal modi f i cat i ons of the
uni que bei ng, the uni versa! norm, i n whi ch al l bei ngs i n al l thei r
states are one) .
1 26
Zhuag Zi, ch. 3 A, B, C.
Chapter J. Mai ntenance Of The Li ving Principle.
A. The energy of l i fe is l i mi ted. The mi nd i s i nsat i abl e. To put a
l i mi ted i nstrument at the di scret i on of an i nsati abl e master i s
al ways ri sky, and of ten fatal . The master wi l l wear out the i nstru
ment. Prol onged, exaggerated i ntel l ect ual ef fort uses up J i fe. -
To ki l l onesel f doi ng good for the l ove of gl ory or t o peri sh for a
cr i me at the hand of the execut i oner , comes back to the same
thi ng; death caused through excess, i n each case. To l ast, one must
moderate onesel f , wi thout goi ng to the ex t reme i n anyt hi ng, al ways
st i cki ng to the mi ddl e way . I n t hi s way the body i s kept i ntact,
l i fe mai nt ai ned, parents l ooked after unt i l the i r death, and the
al l ot ted t i me l i ved out .
B. The butcher o f Pri nce Hu i of L i ang was cut t i ng up beef. Effor t
l essl y, met hodi cal l y, and abl y , hi s k n i fe det ached t he ski n, cut the
fl esh, and separ ated the j o i nt s . - ' You are t r ul y s ki l l ed, ' s ai d the
pri nce, as he watched h i m wor k. - ' My ent i re ar t , ' repl i ed the
butcher, ' consi sts i n concent r at i ng on the pr i nci pl e of cut t i ng up.
When I st art ed, I thought of t he beast . Af t er t hr ee years' pract i ce,
I began to forget t he obj ect . Now, when I cut , I have onl y the
pri nci pl e i n mi nd. My senses no l onger act ; my wi l l al one i s act i ve.
Fol l owi ng t he nat ural l i nes of the ani mal , my kni fe pene trates and
separates, cut t i ng the soft fl esh and fol l owi ng the bones, doi ng i ts
t ask na t ural l y, wi thout e ffor t . I t does not wear because i t does not
cut the hard parts. A begi nner wears out one kni fe a month. A
medi ocre butcher wears out a kni fe i n a year . Thi s same kni fe has
served me for ni net een years. I t has cut up several thousand
cattl e wi thout showi ng any s i gns of wear, because I make i t go onl y
where i t can pass . ' - ' Thank you, ' sa i d Pri nce Hui to the butcher,
' you have taught me how one can prol ong l i fe, by mak i ng i t serve
onl y thi ngs whi ch do not wear i t out . '
C. Affl i ct i on i s another cause of wear o n the l i vi ng pri nci pl e.
Omi t t i ng mi nor t roubl es, Zhuang Zi poi nt s out t hree seri ous causes,
common i n hi s t i me of feudal st ruggl es: l egal mut i l at i ons, exi l e,
and deat h. - To be r es i gned t o mut i l at i on, l i ke t he Pri nce of Li ang ' s
secretary who had a foot cut off, and di d not reproach hi s master
for hi s mut i l at i on, but consol ed hi ms el f by t hi nki ng i t was the wi l l
of heaven. - To res i gn onesel f to exi l e, l i ke t he swamp pheasant
whi ch l i ves content wi th i ts needy and troubl esome exi stence
wi t hout desi r i ng the comfort of an av i ar y. - Accept i ng death,
because i t i s onl y a change, often for the better. When Lao Dan
was dead, Qi n Shi went i n to mourn hi m, but onl y ut tered i n
front of the coffi n the three l ament at i ons requi red of everyone
by the ri t e. When he came out , the di sci pl es sai d to hi m: ' Were
you not a fri end of Lao Dan? ' . . . ' I was, ' sai d Qi n Shi ' Then, '
1 27
Zhuag Zi, ch. 3 c.
sai d the di sci pl es, ' why di d you not cry more? ' . . . ' Because, ' sai d Qi n
Shi , ' thi s body i s no l onger my fri end. Al l these mourners who fi l l
up the house, howl i ng l ouder and l ouder, are act i ng from pure sent i
mental i t y, i n an unreasonabl e, al most damnabl e way. The J aw,
forgotten by the common peopl e, but whi ch the Sage remembers, i s
that each one comes i nt o t hi s worl d and l eaves i t at the appoi nted
t i me. So the Sage does not rej oi ce at bi rt hs and is not affected by
deaths. The anci ent s have compared man wi t h a faggot whi ch the
Lord t i es up ( bi r th) and unt i es ( deat h)*. When the fl ame has con
sumed a faggot , i t passes to anot her, and i s not ex ti ngui shed** '
*Compare wi t h the Hi ndu Pr aj apat i , master of l i fe and deat h.
**The comment ary says that f i r e i s to the faggot as t he soul i s to the body; i t
passes to a new body, as t he f i r e passes to anot her f aggot .
Zhuag Zi, ch. 4 A.
Chapter 4. The World Of Men.
A. Yen Hui , the favour i t e di sci pl e, asked hi s master Confuc i us for
permi ssi on to l eave ' To go where? ' asked Confuc i us ' To Wei , '
sai d the di s ci pl e. ' The pr i nce of t hat count r y i s y oung and wayward.
He governs badl y , i gnores the comment s of ot hers, and pu ts peopl e
to death for smal l thi ngs. Hi s pr i nci pal i t y i s l i tt ered wi th corpses.
The peopl e are pl unged i n despai r . . . Now I have heard you say many
t i mes that one shoul d l eave a wel l - ordered country to go and hel p
one whi ch i s badl y governed. The doct or goes t o t he s i ck. I wi sh to
devote what I have l ear nt from you, t o t he sal v at i on of the peopl e
of Wei . ' - ' Don ' t go, ' sai d Conf uci us. ' I t wi l l be your rui n. The
great pr i nci pl e i s tha t one s houl d not encumber onesel f wi th
mul t i pl e probl e ms . The s uper i or men of ant i qu i t y never encumbered
themsel ves wi th others t o t he poi nt of t r oubl i ng t hemsel ves.
They di d not wast e t i me t r y i ng t o amend a brut al t yr ant . . . Nothi ng
i s more dangerous t han t o speak wi th i ns i st ence on j us t i ce and
char i t y to a vi ol ent man, who t akes p l easure i n e v i l . Hi s counsel l ors
agree wi th hi m on t hese mat t ers and t hey wi l l un i t e t hemsel ves
i n order t o i nt i mi dat e y ou. I f you hes i t at e or weaken, t hey wi l l
tri umph and the evi l wi l l be wor s e. I f y ou at t ack t hem wi t h force,
the t yrant wi l l put you t o deat h. I n thi s way, i n the ol d days,
mi ni ster Guan Long Feng was put to death by the t yrant Ji e,
and Pri nce Bi Gan by t he t yr ant Zhou. Bot h of t hem di ed for
havi ng taken si des wi t h an oppressed peopl e aga i nst oppressi ve
pri nces. I n the past , t he gr eat E mperors Yao and Yu fai l ed to
verbal l y persuade vassal s who were a v i d for gl ory and weal t h;
they had to reduce t hem b y force. . . Now the present Pr i nce of
Wei i s a man of t he s ame ki nd. How wi l l you s peak to hi m, i n
order to touch hi m?' - ' I wi l l s peak t o h i m, ' sai d Yen Hui , ' wi th
mopest y and frankness. ' - ' You wi l l wast e your t i me, ' sai d Confu
ci us. ' Thi s man i s ful l of hi ms el f . He i s , moreo ver, a consummate
knave. Evi l i s not repugnan t to hi m and vi r tue has no effect
on hi m. He wi l l ei t her openl y cont r adi ct you, or he wi l l pretend
to l i sten, but t ake no not i ce of what you say. ' - ' Then , ' sai d
Yen Hui , ' conser vi ng my i nner rect i t ude, I wi l l accommodate
mysel f t o hi m ex ter i or l y . I wi l l expound t he heavenl y reason
to hi m, whi ch perhaps wi l l t ouch h i m, si nce he i s, l i ke me, a son of
heaven. Wi thout seeki ng to pl ease hi m, I wi l l s peak to hi m wi th the
si mpl i ci t y of a chi l d, as a di sci pl e of heaven; so respect ful l y that
no one wi l l be abl e to accuse me of havi ng J acked the s l i gh test
respect . I wi l l gent l y expound to hi m the doct ri ne of the anci ents.
Shoul d thi s doct ri ne condemn hi s conduct , he wi l l not be abl e to be
angry wi th me, si nce i t i s not mi ne. Don ' t you t hi nk, master, that
i n thi s way, I can correct the Pri nce of Wei ? ' - ' You wi l l not
correct hi m, ' sai d Confuci us. ' That i s the di dac t i c procedure, known
to al l the masters, whi ch does not convert anyone. In speaki ng
1 29
Zhuag Zi, ch. 4 A, B.
thus , perhaps you wi l l not i ncur repri sal s, but t hat is al l . ' - ' Then,
'
asked Yen Hu i , ' how does one conver t someone? ' - ' By prepari ng
onesel f, ' sai d Confuci us, ' through abst i nence. ' - ' Oh, ' s ai d Yen Hui ,
' I can do t hat . My fami l y i s poor. We spend months wi thout dri nki ng
wi ne and wi t hout eat i ng meat . ' - ' That , ' sai d Confuc i us, ' i s absti n
ence i n preparat i on for sacr i f i ces. I t i s not tha t , but the absti nence
of the hear t . ' - ' Ah, ' s ai d Yen Hui . ' I don ' t know about that,
that i s why I am onl y a Yen Hui . I f I knew that I woul d no l onger
be Yen Hui ; I woul d have become a super i or man. But , in practi ce,
can one empt y onesel f to thi s poi nt ?' - ' I t can be done , ' sai d
Confuci us, ' and I am goi ng t o teach you how. For that, one must
al l ow onl y t hi ngs whi ch no l onger have a name, abstract i deas,
and not concrete t hi ngs, to ent er f r om out si de i nt o the domai n of
the heart . The heart shoul d onl y v i br at e wi th t hei r cont act , ( wi th
obj ect i ve not i ons) ; never spont aneousl y , ( wi t h subj ec t i v e not i ons).
One must keep onesel f cl osed, s i mpl e, nat ur al l y pur e, wi thout any
ar t i f i ci al mi x tur e. One can then keep onesel f free from emoti on,
whereas i t i s di f f i cul t to be cal m a f t er al l owi ng onesel f to be
moved; j ust as i t i s easi er not to wal k than to co ver up one ' s
foot pri nts after havi ng wal ked. Al l ar t i f i c i al i t y i s fal se and i nef
fect i ve. Onl y the nat ur al i s t rue and ef f ect i v e . To expect an
effect from human means, i s l i ke wi sh i ng to fl y wi t hout wi ngs or
to understand wi thout i nt el l i gence Just as- t he l i gh t comi ng from
outsi de through a hol e i n the wal l , spreads i ts el f i n the space of
thi s apar t ment di mmi ng peacefu l l y , wi t hout formi ng i mages; so
abstract knowl edge must spread i tsel f in peace, wi t hout troubl e. If
knowl edge, r emai ni ng concr et e, creat es i mages or is refl ected, a
man had best s i t s t i l l , or hi s hear t wi l l wander fool i s hl y. The empty
heart at tracts supernat ur al be i ngs who make i t t he i r home. They
exer ci se a very powerful act i on on t he J i v i ng. Onl y such a one is
the i nstrument of moral transfor mat i ons, bei ng a pur e parcel of
the Pri nci pl e, t he uni v ersal t ransfor mer . That is how one must
expl ai n the i nfl uence on men of Yao and Shun, Fu Xi , Ji Ji u,
and many others. '
(
The comment ar y says t hat i n thi s paragraph
Yen Hui professes Confuc i ani s m; Con fuc i us teaches him Daoi sm
)
.
B. Another discourse of Confucius on Daoist apthy. . . Sent as
ambassador by hi s mast er t he Ki ng of Chu to the Pri nce of Qi ,
Zi Gao asked Confuci us for advi ce. ' My ki ng, ' he sai d, ' has gi ven
me a very i mportant mi ssi on. It wi l l be di f f i cul t , and I don ' t know
i f I shal l succeed. I fear for my heal th and l i fe. I t real l y worri es
me I have al ways l i ved soberl y, wi t h a heal t hy body and a tranqui l
heart. Now, si nce the day of my nomi nat i on as ambassador, I
have had so much f i re i n my entrai l s that i n the eveni ng I have
to dri nk i ced water to cal m t hi s i nner burni ng. I f I am l i ke that
before start i ng my mi ssi on, what wi l l i t be l i ke l at er? To succeed, I
must endure endl ess worri es. And i f I don' t succeed, how wi l l
Zhuag Zi, ch. I 8, c.
I save my l i fe ? Mast er, can you g i ve me some advi ce? ' - ' Yes, ' sa i d
Con fuci us. ' Pi et y towards one ' s parent s and f i del i t y towards on
.
e ' s
pri nce are t wo nat ur al fundament al obl i gat i ons whi ch may never
be di spensed wi th. To obey one ' s parent s and serve one ' s pri nce
are the obl i gat i ons of t he chi l d, and al so, of the mi ni st er, i n
al l t hi ngs, what ever happens. One must t here fore, on t hi s ques t i on,
bani sh al l consi derat i on of pl easure or pai n, t o see the obl i gat i on
in i tsel f , not as a facul t at i v e t hi ng, but as a f at al t hi ng, to whi ch
one shoul d be devot ed i f necessary as far as the sacr i f i ce of
one ' s l i fe, and t he accept ance o f deat h. Put i n t hi s way, you
must accept your mi s s i on and devot e yourse l f to i ts accompl i sh
ment I t i s t r ue t hat t he r ol e of an ambassador, of a di pl omat i c
go-between, i s a di ffi cul t and per i l ous one. Addi ng i ndi screet ,
agreeabl e words to an agr eeabl e mes s age; addi ng di sagreeabl e,
woundi ng words t o a di sagr eeabl e message ; pos i ng, braggi ng,
exaggerat i ng, or exceedi ng one ' s mandat e; t hese are general l y
t he causes o f mi s for t une for a mbassadors. Any excess i s deadl y.
Al so, i t i s s ai d, i n t he Rul es o f Speak i ng: " Transmi t the meani ng
of your message, but not t he t er ms , i f t hes e are har d. Wi t h stronger
reason, do not grat ui t ousl y add woundi ng t er ms. " I f you act i n
thi s way, your l i fe woul d pr obabl y be s aved. General l y i t i s passi on
whi ch rui ns t hi ngs. Wrest l ers begi n by wres t l i ng accordi ng to
the rul es; then, when they are car r i ed away , t hey g i ve each other
di rty bl ows. Dri nkers begi n by dr i nki ng moder at el y; t hen, warmed
up, they get drunk. The common peopl e start by be i ng pol i t e;
then, wi t h fami l i ar i t y, comes i nci v i i i t y. Many t hi ngs, at fi rst
j ust ri ght, are exagger at ed l at er . Al l t hese t hi ngs happen because
passi on i s mi xed i n wi th t hem. The same can happen to bearers
of messages. I f t hey become heat ed about t hei r subj ect , and
add words of thei r own, t hey wi l l be f i ni shed. It i s the same
wi t h t he orator who i s mo ved; l i ke t he wi nd act i ng on water,
whi ppi ng up t he waves, so t he di scourse easi l y becomes i nfl amed.
Nothi ng i s more dangerous t han words i n fl amed by passi on. From
them, one can end up l i ke a f ur i ous beast at bay. They provoke
the rupt ure of negot i at i ons, hat red and vengeance. Thus the Rul es
of Speak i ng say: "Do not exceed your mandat e. Do no t i nsi st
too st rongl y from a desi re t o succeed. Do not t ry t o obt ai n more
than what you must ask for. " Wi t hout fol l owi ng that, you wi l l
do no good, and put yourl f i n danger. But , wi t h al l passi on
put asi de, do your task wi th a free heart . What ever may happen,
spur yoursel f on wi t hout cease, by aski ng yoursel f: "How can
I act i n response t o the goodness of my pri nce ?" Fi nal l y, be ready
to make the most di f f i cul t sacr i fi ce, t hat of l i fe i tsel f, i f necess
ary. That i s my advi ce. '
C. Another lesson on Daoist moderation. The phi l osopher Yen He,
of Lu, had been appoi nted as tutor t o the el dest son of Duke Li ng
1 3 1
Zhuang Zi, ch. 4 C, D.
of Wei , and asked advi ce of Ju Boyu. ' My pupi l , ' he sai d, ' i s as
bad as poss i bl e. If I l et hi m do as he wi shes, he wi l l rui n hi s
count ry. I f I t ry t o curb hi m, i t may cost me my l i fe. He sees
the wrongs of others, bqt not hi s own. What can one do wi th
such a di sci pl e?' - Ju Boyu s ai d: ' Fi rs t of al l be ci rcumspect ,
be correct , do not hi ng cr i t i cal . Af t erwards you wi l l t ry t o wi n
hi m over. Accommodat e yoursel f t o hi m, wi t hout condescendi ng
to act badl y wi th hi m, of course, but wi t hout bei ng too haughty
wi th hi m. I f he has a young charac t er , be young yoursel f . I f he
di s l i kes const rai nt , do not annoy hi m. I f he does not l i ke domi na
ti on, do not try to i mpose anyt hi ng on h i m. Above al l , do not
rub hi m the wrong way, do not t urn h i m agai ns t you Do

not
try to st ruggl e agai nst hi m force ful l y . That woul d be to i mi tate
the stup i d mant i s tha t t r i ed t o st op a car r i age, and was crushed
Onl y have deal i ngs wi th hi m when he i s we l l - di sposed. You know
how t i ger t r ai ners act wi t h t he i r danger ous pupi l s. They never
gi ve them l i v i ng prey , for the sa t i sf ac t i on of k i l l i ng i ncreases
t hei r brut al cruel t y . The y do not e ven g i v e t hem bi g pi eces of
meat , for the act of t ear i ng t hem woul d e x c i te t hei r bl oody i n
sti ncts. They gi ve t hem the i r food i n s mal l por t i ons and onl y
approach t hem when, rest ed and c a l m, t hey ha v e as much good
humour as poss i bl e for a t i ger . I n t hi s way t he y have more chance
of not bei ng devour ed. . . Howe ver , do not make your di sci ple
untreat abl e by spo i l i ng h i m. Cer t ai n cr azy horse breeders l ove
thei r ani mal s so much t hat t hey even conser ve t hei r excrement.
What happens then? I t happens t hat , ha v i ng become capr i ci ous
t o the poi nt of frenz y , t hese horses become carri ed awa
y
and
break e ver yt hi ng, even when one appr oaches t hem gent l y and
wi th the best i nt en t i ons. The mor e one spoi l s the m, the less grate
ful they become ' . . . (Te Daoi st pri nci pl es for the management
of men and affai rs expouded abve, come bck to this: Treat every
thing from afar and above, general l y, and not in detai l , wi thout
applying oneself too much, and wi thout preoccupat ion. Act with
prudence, condescension, pt i ence; l et things go to some extent,
but wi thout slackness. If necessary, face death, which the Daoist
does not fear. - For the rest , be devoted to abtention and retreat,
which the Daoists al ways put above act ion, because inaction
conserves, whereas act i on wears one out).
D. The master carpent er Shi , t ravel l i ng i n the l and of Qi , passed
near the famous oak whi ch shaded the mound of the earth geni
e at
Qu Yuan. The trunk of t hi s famous t ree coul d hol d a cow. It rose
strai ght to a hei ght of e i ght y fee t , then spread out a dozen mai n
branches, i n each of whi ch one coul d have dug out a canoe. Peopl e
came i n crowds to admi re i t . - The carpenter came cl ose by
wi thout cast i ng a gl ance at i t . - ' But l ook , ' s ai d hi s apprenti ce.
' Si nce I have wi el ded an axe, I have never seen such a beaut i ful
1 32
Zhuag Zi, ch. 4 D, E, F, G, H.
pi ece of wood, and you don' t even l ook at i t . ' - ' I have seen i t , '
sai d the master. ' I t i s unsui t abl e for mak i ng a boat, a cof f i n, a
pi ece of furni ture, a door, or a col umn. I ts wood i s of no pract i cal
use. I t wi l l J i ve a l ong t i me. ' - When master carpenter Shi returned
to Qi , he spent the ni ght at Qu Yuan. The tree appeared to hi m i n
a dream and sai d: ' Yes, trees whi ch hav e good wood are cut down
young. I n the case of f ru i t t rees, peopl e break thei r branches i n
thei r ardour to r avi sh them of t hei r fru i ts . The i r ut i l i t y i s fatal to
al l of them. Therefore I am happy t o be usel ess. I t i s the same for
you men as i t i s for us. I f you are useful , you wi l l not reach ol d
age. ' - The next morni ng the apprent i ce asked the master: ' I f t hi s
great t ree i s cont ent t o be usel ess, why has i t al l owed i t sel f to be
made the geni e of t he pl ace ? ' - ' They put i t there , ' sai d the
master, ' wi thout aski ng i ts op i n i on, and i t l aughs at tha t . I t is not
popul ar venerat i on whi ch protects i t s e x i st ence, but i t s i ncapac i t y
f or ordi nary us e. I t s t u t el ary ac t i on, moreo ver, amount s t o doi ng
nothi ng. ' ( Such i s the Daoi s t Sage, put i n pl ace desp i te hi msel f, and
keepi ng hi msel f from ac t i ng) .
E. ( Another var i at i on on the same t heme, al most i dent i cal , and
therefore not transl at ed) .
F. In the l and of Song, at Ji ng S hi , t he t rees grow thi ck. The very
smal l ones are cut down t o make i nto monkey cages, the medi um
for mak i ng houses for the l i v i ng, the b i g ones for cof f i ns for the
dead. They al l per i sh by t he axe, be fore the i r t i me, because they
can be used. I f t hey were usel ess, they woul d grow ol d eas i l y. The
Treat i se on Vi ct i ms decl ares that whi t e headed cat t l e, pi gs wi th
turned - up snouts, and men wi th f i s t ul as, cannot be sacri f i ced
to the Geni e of the Ri ver; for these t hi ngs are sai d to be i l l
omened. Transcendent men t hi nk t hi s i s l ucky f or t hem, si nce i t
saves t hei r l i ves.
G. The l egl ess cr i ppl e Shu, a real monster, earned hi s l i vi ng and
kept a f ami l y of ten, by mendi ng, basket maki ng, and so on. When
hi s count ry mob i l i zed, he r emai ned i n peace. On the days of
statutory l abour they asked not hi ng of h i m. When there was di stri
but i on i n ai d of the poor , he recei ved grai n and wood. Hi s i ncapaci ty
for ordi nary offi ces al l owed hi m to l i ve t i l l the end of hi s days.
In the same way, transcendent man ' s i ncapaci t y for ordi nary
dut i es, al l ows hi m to l i ve hi s al l ot ted t i me.
H. When Confuci us vi s i ted t he l and of Chu, t he fool Ji e Yu*
shouted at hi m: ' Phoeni x ! Phoeni x ! There i s no doubt that the
worl d i s decadent ; but what can you do about i t ? The future has
*A Daoist Sage, who passed as a fool .
1 33
Zhuag Zi, ch. 4 H, I.
not yet come, the past i s al ready far away. I n t i mes of good order,
the Sage works for the st at e. I n ti mes of di sorder, he concentrates
on hi s own sal vat i on. Now the t i mes are such t hat escapi ng death
i s di ffi cul t . There i s no l onger any happi ness; ev i l crushes everyone.
Thi s i s not the t i me to show yoursel f. You speak i n vai n of vi rtue,
and you wi l l J ose control of yoursel f . I t pl eases me to run about
l i ke a fool ; don ' t get i n my way. I t pl eases me t o wal k si deways;
don ' t get under my feet . I t i s the t i me for l et t i ng t hi ngs happen. '
I. In produci ng forests, the mount ai n at t r act s those who stri p i t.
The fat dr i pp i ng from the roast fuel s the fi re whi ch cooks i t.
The ci nnamon tree i s cut down because i ts bark i s a sought -after
condi ment . The varni sh tree is cut i nt o and r av i shed of i t s preci ous
sap. Al most al l men i magi ne t hat to be j udged competent at
somet hi ng i s a good t hi ng. I n real i t y , it is to be j udged i nept for
ever yt hi ng whi ch i s an advant age.
Zhuag Zi, ch. . A.
Capter 5. Perfect Action.
A. In the Pr i nci pal i t y of Lu, a cert ai n Wang Tai , whose feet had
been cut off ( a common puni shment at that t i me) , had more
di sci pl es than Confuci us. Chang Ji was astoni shed by t hi s, and sai d
to hi s master: ' Thi s Wang Tai nei ther gi ves l ectures nor hol ds
di scussi ons, and yet, those who go to hi m empty return home
ful l . I s there a method o f teachi ng wi thou t words, an i mpal pabl e
process for for mi ng hearts? Where does thi s man ' s i nf l uence come
from?' - ' From hi s transcendence, ' repl i ed Confuci us. ' I came to
know hi m too l at e. I shoul d have put mysel f i n hi s school . Everyone
shoul d take hi m as the i r master. ' - ' I n what, exact l y, i s he superi or
to you? ' asked Chang J i . - ' I n the fac t , ' repl i ed Con fuc i us, ' that he
has reached perfect i mpassi v i t y . L i fe and death bei ng equal l y
i ndi fferent t o hi m, the col l apse of the uni verse woul d not cause hi m
any emoti on. By force of scru t i ny, he has come to the abstract
i mmobi l e truth, knowl edge of the uni que uni versa! Pri nci pl e. He
l ets al l bei ngs eva! ve accordi ng t o the i r dest i ni es*. ' - Con fuci us
conti nued: ' There are two ways of l ooki ng at bei ngs; ei ther as
di st i nct ent i t i es, or as bei ng al l one i n the great Whol e. For those
who have at t ai ned t hi s l ast poi nt of vi ew, i t mat ters l i t t l e what
thei r senses percei ve. Thei r sp i r i t gl i des, al l i ts ac t i on bei ng
concentrated. In thi s abstract comprehens i ve vi ew, detai l s of
defi ci ts di sappear. Thi s i s what makes the transcendence of Wang
Tai , whi ch the mut i l at i on of hi s body coul d not di mi ni sh. ' - ' Ah, '
s ai d Chang J i , ' I understand. Hi s refl ec t i ons have made hi m the
master of hi s senses, and he has thus reached i mpassi vi t y. But i s
there, i n al l t hat , any reason for runni ng after hi m? ' - ' Yes, '
cont i nued Confuci us; ' ment al fi x at i on draws those who search for
wi sdom, j ust as s t i l l wat er draws those who wi sh to mi rror themsel
ves. No one l ooks for thei r refl ec t i on i n runni ng wat er. No one
l earns from an unstabl e mi nd. It i s i mmutabi l i t y that characteri zes
the Sage i n the mi ds t of the crowd, j ust as the pi nes and cypresses
remai n green amongst the trees. I n the same way , amongst common
men, Emperor Shun r emai ned st rai ght , rect i fyi ng the others . . . . .
The exteri or si gn of t hi s i nt er i or st at e i s i mperturbabi l i ty. Not that
of the brave man, who charges al one for the l ove of gl ory i nt o an
army ranged for bat t l e; but that of the spi r i t whi ch, superi or
to heaven, earth, and al l bei ngs, i nhabi ts a body to whi ch i t i s
not at t ached, maki ng no speci al case of the i mages furni shed by
i ts senses, knowi ng al l through total knowl edge i n i ts mot i onl ess
uni ty . Thi s spi r i t , absol utel y i ndependent, is the master of men.
If i t shoul d pl ease hi m to summon the peopl e together, al l woul d
run there on the appoi nted day. But he does not wi sh to make
use of thi s power . '
*Compare wi th chapter 2 C.
1 35
Zhuag Zi, ch. . B, c.
B. Shentu Ji a had also had hi s feet cut of f , for a real , or an
al l eged faul t . I n the Pr i nci pal i t y of Zheng he fol l owed, wi th Zi
Chan, the l essons of Bo Hun Wu Ren. Zi Chan scoffed at thi s
cri ppl e, demandi ng precedence. . . ' There are no ranks i n our mast
er ' s school , ' sai d Shentu Ji a. ' If you hol d t o et i quet t e, go el sewhere.
Dust does not st i ck to a perfect l y cl ear mi rror; i f any does sti ck i t
i s because the mi rror i s damp or greas y. Your demand i n a r i tual
matter shows that you are not yet wi thout faul ts. ' - ' You, a
cri ppl e, ' sai d Zi Chan, ' gi ve me the i mpress i on o f t r yi ng to pose
as a Yao. I f you exami ne yoursel f, perhaps you wi l l f i nd reasons
for si l ence. ' - ' You r efer , ' sai d Shent u Ji a, ' t o the puni shment
that I have suffered, and t hi nk that I have mer i t ed i t for some
gra ve faul t . Most of those who are i n my si t uat i on say qui te
i ndi gnantl y that i t shoul d not have happened t o t hem. Wi ser than
they , I say not hi ng, and r esi gn myse l f i n peace t o my desti ny.
Whoever passed wi thi n the v i sual f i el d of Yi , the famous archer,
coul d have been pi erced by an arrow; i f i t d i d not happen, i t
was because des t i ny di d not wi sh i t. Des t i ny wi l l ed that I l ose
my feet and that ot hers keep t he i rs. Men who hav e thei r feet
mock me, because I have l os t mi ne. I n the past t hi s affected
me. Now I have o vercome th i s weakness. I have now studi ed
ni neteen years under our mast er , who, most at t ent i v e to my
i nt eri or, has never once comment ed on my e x ter i or . You, hi s
di sci pl e, do qui t e the oppos i t e. Are you not wrong ? ' - Zi Chan
sensed the repr i mand, changed hi s express i on, and sai d: 'I wi l l
ne ver ment i on thi s agai n. ' ( Accor di ng t o t he comment ar y , Zi Chan,
here shown badl y , i s a Con fuc i an par agon. As Pr i nce of Zheng, i n
the s i xth cent ury B. C. , he was famous, espec i al l y as an admi ni stra
tor. Confuci us wept freel y when he di ed) .
C. In the Pr i nc i pal i t y of Lu, a cer t ai n Shu Shan, whose toes had
been cut off, asked Confuc i us to i nst ruc t hi m. - ' What ' s the good, '
he sai d, ' si nce you have not been abl e t o keep your bodi l y i nteg
r i t y. ' - ' I woul d l i ke, i n order t o c ompensat e for t hi s l oss, to l earn
how to preserve my ment al i nt egr i t y , ' sai d Shu Shan. ' Heaven and
earth l avi sh themsel ves on al l be i ngs, wi thout di scri mi nat i on, and
I thought that you rese mbl ed t hem. I wi l l not wai t to be rebuffed
by you further . ' - ' Ex cuse my i nci v i l i t y , pl ease come i n, ' sai d
Confuci us; ' I wi l l tel l you what I know. ' - After the i nt ervi ew, when
Shu Shan had gone away , Confuci us s ai d to hi s di sci pl es: ' Thi s
exampl e shoul d make you act for the bet t er, my chi l dren. Here we
have thi s cri ppl e seek i ng to make amends for hi s past mi st akes. Do
not make mi st akes yoursel ves. ' - However Shu Shan was not sati s
fied wi th Confuci us, and went to speak wi th Lao Dan. ' Thi s Con
fuci us, ' he sai d, ' i s not a super i or man. He acti vel y attracts di sci pl es
to hi msel f, poses as a master, and openl y seeks a reputati on.
Now the superi or man consi ders preoccupati ons as handcuffs
1 36
Zhuag Zi, ch. ' C, D.
and fet ters. ' - ' Why , ' sai d Lao Dan, ' di d you not prof i t from your
i ntervi ew by t el l i ng hi m that l i fe and death are one and the same
thi ng, that there i s no di st i nct i on between yes and no? Perhaps
you could have del i vered hi m from hi s handcuffs and fet ters. '
- ' I mpossi bl e , ' sai d Shu Shan; ' thi s man i s t oo ful l of hi msel f.
Heaven has puni shed hi m by bl i ndi ng hi m. No one wi l l make hi m
see more cl earl y . '
D. Duke Ai of Lu sai d to Confuc i us: ' I n the l and of Wei l i ved a
man cal l ed Tuo the Ugl y. He was i n f act ugl i ness i tsel f , a real
scarecrow, and yet hi s wi ves, hi s f el l ow c i t i zens, al l those who
knew hi m, were very fond of hi m. Why ? Not because of hi s geni us,
because he had the same opi ni ons as the ot her s. Nor hi s nobi l i ty,
for he was a commoner. Nor hi s weal t h, for he was poor. Nor hi s
knowl edge, for al l he knew o f t he wor l d was hi s v i l l age I wan ted
to meet h i m. Cer t ai nl y he was fearsomel y ugl y. Despi te that, he
charmed me, as he charmed e ver yone . Af ter se veral months I
became hi s f r i end. Before t he end of a year he had my total
confi dence. I asked hi m t o be my mi n i st er . He accep ted wi th
repugnance, and soon l ef t me. I cou l d not consol e mysel f for
havi ng l ost hi m. To what shoul d one at t r i but e the fasci nat i on
exerci sed by t hi s man? ' - ' Once , ' sa i d Conf uci us , ' i n the l and of
Chu, I s aw t he fol l owi ng scene: A s ow had j us t di ed; i ts young
ones were s t i l l suck i ng at i ts t eat s. Suddenl y they di sbanded,
afrai d. They had percei ved that t he i r mot her no l onger l ooked at
them, t hat she was no l onger t hei r mot her. What t hey had l oved i n
her f r om f i l i al l ove was not her body but that whi ch ani mated i t
In t he body of Tuo the Ugl y l i ved a per fec t l at ent vi rtue . I t was
t hi s vi r tue t hat at tract ed peopl e to h i m, desp i te the repugnant
for m of hi s body. ' - ' And what , ' asked Duke Ai , ' i s perfec t v i rtue? '
- Confuc i us repl i ed: ' I t i s a ff abl e i mpassi v i t y . Li fe and death,
prosperi t y and decadence, success and fai l ure, weal th and povert y,
superi or i t y and i nferi or i t y , prai se and bl ame, hunger and t hi rst,
heat and col d, are the a! ternat i ve v i c i ssi tudes from whi ch dest i ny
i s made. They succeed one another unpredi ct abl y and wi thout
known cause. One must negl ec t these t hi ngs and not l et them
penetrate the pal ace of the mi nd, l est they troubl e i ts cal m peace.
To conserve t hi s peace i n a st abl e manner, wi thout al l owi ng i t
t o b e troubl ed even by j o y , t o l ook wel l o n al l , t o accommodate
onesel f to al l ; t hat , ' sai d Confuci us, ' i s perfect vi rt ue. ' - ' Why, '
asked Duke Ai , ' do you cal l i t l at ent ?' - ' Because, ' sai d Confuci us,
' i t i s i mpal pabl e, l i ke the cal m whi ch at tracts one to the water of
a l ake. Thus the cal m peace of t hi s character, i n no other way
defi nabl e, attracts everyone to hi m. ' - A few days l ater, Duke Ai ,
converted to Daoi sm by Confuci us, confi ded to Mi n Zi t he i mpress
i on thi s conversat i on had made on hi m. ' Unt i l now, ' he sai d,
' I bel i eved that to govern, control the st at i st i cs, and protect the
1 37
Zhuang Zi, ch. 5 D, E, F.
l i ves of my subj ects, was my st at el y duty . But s i nce I have heard
the words of a superi or man
(
Confuci us) , I r eal l y bel i eve I was
wrong. I have achi e ved not hi ng for mys el f through bei ng too
agi tated, and not hi ng for my pr i nci pal i t y t hrough bei ng too pre
occupi ed wi th i t . Al ready Confuc i us i s no l onger my subj ect, but
my fri end, because of the ser vi ce he has rendered me i n openi ng
my eyes. '
E. A l egl ess cri ppl e won the conf i dence o f Duke Li ng of Wei so
much that the l at ter came to prefer h i m to bet t er-made men.
Another, i nfl i cted wi t h an enormous goi t r e, was t he favouri te
counsel l or of Duke Huan of Qi . The gl or y o f a superi or capaci ty
ecl i pses the corporeal forms t o whi ch i t adheres. Pl aci ng i mport
ance on bodi es and not on v i r tue i s the worst of errors . - Keepi ng
hi msel f i n hi s f i el d of uni versa! knowl edge, t he Sage di sregards
knowl edge of det ai l s, al l convent i on, af fect i on, and art . Free
from these art i f i ci al and di s trac t i ng t hi ngs , he nour i shes hi s bei ng
wi th cel esti al food ( pure reason, says the commen t ar y) , and he
is i ndi fferent to human af f ai r s . In t he body of a man, he is no
l onger a man. He l i ves wi th men, bu t absol ut el y i ndi fferent to thei r
prai se or bl ame, because he no l onger has thei r senti ments.
That by whi ch he i s s t i l l a man ( hi s body) is i nf i ni t el y smal l ; that
by whi ch he i s one wi t h heaven ( hi s reason) is i nf i ni tel y great.
F. Hui Zi ( a musi ci an and sophi s t
)
obj ect ed: ' A man cannot come to
be wi thout affect i on, as you say he can . ' - ' Yes he can, ' repl i ed
Zhuang Zi . - ' Then, ' s ai d Hui Z i , ' he is no l onger a man. ' - ' He is
sti l l a man, ' s ai d Zhuang Zi ; ' because t he Pr i nci pl e and heaven have
gi ven hi m what makes a man. ' - ' If he has l ost sent i ment , ' rej oi ned
Hui Zi , ' he has ceased to be a man. ' - ' I f he had l ost i t even as
far as i ts strengt h, perhaps , ' s ai d Zhuang Zi , ( because i ts strength
i s confounded wi t h nat ure) , ' but i t is not l i ke that . The strength
remai ns wi th hi m but he does not use i t for di st i ngui shi ng, taki ng
si des, or l ovi ng and ha t i n g, and i n consequence he does not use hi s
body i n vai n, a body whi ch t he Pr i nc i pl e and heaven have gi ven
hi m. Thi s is not your case. You ki l l yoursel f maki ng musi c and
i nventi ng sophi sms . '
1 38
Zhuag Zi, ch. 6 A, B.
Chapter 6. The Principle, Fi rst Master.
A. Underst andi ng the part pl ayed by heaven and man, is the hi ghest
sci ence. - Knowi ng what i s recei ved from heaven and what one
shoul d add onesel f , i s the hi ghest underst andi ng. - The gi ft of
heaven i s one ' s nature recei ved at bi rt h. The rol e of man i s to seek,
st ar t i ng from what he knows, and l ear n what he does not know;
to mai nt ai n hi s l i fe unt i l the end of the years assi gned to i t by
heaven, wi t hout shorteni ng i t through hi s own faul t . Knowi ng
thi s, i s the hei ght of knowl edge. - And what are the cr i teri a of
these assert i ons, whose truth i s not e v i dent ? Thi s cert ai nt y of the
di st i nct i on between heavenl y and hu man i n man i s based on the
teachi ngs of the True Men. From them comes True Knowl edge.
B. Who were these True Men? The True Men of ant i qui t y accepted
advi ce e ven from mi nor i t i es. They di d not seek for gl ory, mi l i tary
or pol i t i cal . Fai l ure di d not sadden t hem, success di d not i nfl ate
them. No he i ght gave them ver t i go. They were not drowned by
water, nor burnt by fi re, because the y were el e vat ed to the subl i me
regi ons of the Pr i nci pl e*. The anc i ent True Men were not troubl ed
by dreams dur i ng thei r sl eep, nor b y sadness when awake. Refi ned
or subt l e- f l avoured foods were unknown t o the m. Thei r cal m and
deep breat hi ng penetrated t hei r organi s m down to thei r toes,
whereas common peopl e breat he onl y i n thei r throat , as i s demons
trated by the gl ottal spasms of those who argue. The more a man
i s i mpassi oned, the more super f i c i al i s hi s respi r at i on** - The
anci ent True Men i gnored l ove of l i fe and horror of death. Thei r
entrance on the scene of l i fe, caused t hem no j oy; thei r return
behi nd the scenes at deat h, caused t hem no horror. Cal ml y they
came, cal ml y they went , wi t hout j er ki ng, as though they were
gl i di ng. Remember i ng onl y thei r l ast begi nni ng ( bi rth) , they were
not preoccupi ed wi t h thei r nex t end ( deat h) . The y l oved thi s l i fe
as l ong as i t l asted, and forgot i t wi t h the departure for another
l i fe, at death. Thus thei r human sent i ments di d not contradi ct
t he Pri nci pl e i n them; the human i n them di d not hi nder the
heavenl y. Such were the True Men. I n consequence thei r heart was
cl osed, thei r at t i tude was wi thdrawn, the i r expressi on was si mpl e,
thei r conduct was tempered, and thei r feel i ngs were control l ed.
They di d, on every occasi on, what was necessary, wi thout confi di ng
thei r i nner moti ves to anyone. They made war wi t hout hat e, and
di d good wi thout l ovi ng. He i s not a Sage, who l i kes to commun
i cate, who makes fri ends, who cal cul ates t i mes and ci rcumstances,
*They were one, i n the Pri nci pl e, wi th t he nat ur al forces. He who i s one wi th the
Pri nci ple, I s one wi th water, fi re, etc., and I s unharmed by them.
*l l l ualons, passions, tastes, are al l contrary to the truth. For the Daol sts, pure ai r i s
the food par excellence of the vi tal force.
1 39
Zhuang Zi, ch. 6 8, c.
who i s not i ndi fferent to success and fai l ure, and who shows
hi msel f off for gl ory or favour. Hu Bu Xi e, Wu Guang, Bo Yi ,
Shu Qi , Ji Zi , Xu Yu, Ji Tuo, and Shen Tu Di served everyone and
di d good to all wi thout any emot i on of t hei r heart debasi ng thei r
acts of goodness. - The anci ent True Men were al ways equi table,
never l ovabl e; al ways modest, never fl at terers. They kept to thei r
own way, but wi thout be i ng hard. Thei r di sregard for al l was cl ear,
but not affected. Thei r e x ter i or was peacef ul l y j oyful . Al l thei r
acts seemed natural and spont aneous. They i nspi red affecti on by
thei r manners, and respect by the i r v i r t ue. Under an ai r of apparent
condescensi on, t hey kept themsel ves cl earl y apart from the common
peopl e. They were fond of sec l us i on; they never prepared thei r
di scourses. - For the m, puni sh ment s were the essent i al i n govern
ment , but they appl i ed the m wi t hout anger. They kept to the r i tes
as an accessory, and perf ormed the m so far as i t was necessary,
i n order not to shock the common peopl e. Thei r sci ence was to
al l ow the t i mes t o act , and the i r v i r t ue was t o fol l ow the stream.
Those who j udge t hey move d the mse l ves act i vel y , are wrong. In
real i t y they l et themsel ves f ol l ow the t i mes and event s. For them,
t o l ove and hate was al l one; or r at her , they nei ther l oved nor
hated. They cons i dered al l as essent i al l y one, in the manner of
heaven, and onl y ar t i f i ci a l l y di s t i ngui s hed i nd i v i dual human cases.
Thus they experi enced no conf l i ct bet ween t he heavenl y and human.
And that, j ustl y, i s what makes a Tr ue Man.
C. The al ternat i on of l i fe and deat h i s predet ermi ned by heaven,
l i ke that of day and n i gh t . I f a man submi ts hi msel f stoi cal l y to
fate, then nothi ng can happen a ga i nst h i s wi l l . I f somet hi ng happens
whi ch wounds hi m, i t i s because he h as concei ve d affect i on for
some bei ng& Shoul d he l ove not hi ng, t hen he woul d be i nvul nerable.
There are sent i ments more el e vat ed than the l oves whi ch are
reputed to be nobl e. Thus, i nst ead of l ov i ng heaven as a father he
venerates i t as a uni versal fact , and i n pl ace of l ovi ng hi s pri nce,
even as far as dyi ng for h i m, he s acr i f i ces hi msel f for the sole
abstract noti on of absol ute devot i on. When the streams dry up, the
fi sh come together seeki ng to keep themsel ves moi st by pressi ng
agai nst each other; and men admi re t hi s mut ual char i t y! Woul d i t
not have been bet ter i f, earl i er , t hey had each sought sal vati on i n
the deeper waters?. . . Ins tead o f al ways c i t i ng as exampl es the
goodness of Yao and the mal i ce of Ji e, woul d men not be better off
forget t i ng these two persons and ori ent at i ng thei r moral i t y towards
the abstract perfect i on of the Pri nci pl e? - My body makes up
a part of the great mass ( of the cosmos, of nature, of the Whole
)
.
In i t l i es the sustenance of my chi l dhood, the act i vi t y of my
maturi t y, peace i n my ol d age, and rest i n my deat h. It has been
good to me duri ng my l i fe and i t wi l l be good to me dur i ng the
state of death. From any part i cul ar pl ace, an obj ect put there may
1 40
Z
huan Zi, ch. 6 C, D, E.
be stol en; but an obj ect entrusted to the Whol e i tsel f cannot be
taken away . I dent i fy yoursel f wi t h the great mass; in i t there i s
permanence. A permanence whi ch i s not moti onl ess. There i s a
chai n of transformat i ons, wi th the Sel f persi st i ng through mutati ons
wi thout end. Thi s t i me I am happy to be in a human form*. 1 have
al ready experi enced i n the past, and wi l l experi ence i n the future,
the same content ment of bei ng i n an un l i mi ted success i on of di verse
forms. Then why shoul d I hate deat h, the begi nni ng of my next
content ment ? The Sage devotes hi msel f t o e veryt hi ng i n whi ch he
takes part , whi ch cont ai ns hi m, and in whi ch he e vol ves. Abandoni ng
hi msel f to the thread of thi s evol u t i on, he smi l es at premature
death, at excess ol d age, at the begi nni ng, and at the end. He
smi l es, and wi shes one to smi l e, at al l the vi c i ssi tudes of l i fe. For
he knows that al l bei ngs are part of t he whol e whi ch evol ves.
D. Now thi s Whol e i s the Pr i nc i pl e, wi l l , real i t y , non-act i ng, non
apparent . I t can be t ransmi t t ed but not gr asped, apprehended but
not seen. I t has i ts essence and i ts root i n i tse l f . I t ex i sted, i m
mutabl e, before heaven and eart h wer e for med. I t i s the source
of the transcendence of the heavenl y be i ngs and the Soverei gn of
the Annal s and the Odes. It was, be fore forml ess mat ter, be fore
space, before the worl d, be fore t i me; wi t hout one be i ng abl e to
cal l i t hi gh, profound, durabl e, anci ent
(
s i nce the absol ut e does not
admi t of rel at i ve epi t het s) . Xi Wei knew i t , and deri ved from thi s
knowl edge the astronomi cal l aws. Fu Xi knew i t, and took from
thi s knowl edge the physi cal l aws. The bear ( the pol e-star) owes i ts
i mperturbabl e f i x i t y t o i t . The sun and moon owe thei r regul ar
courses t o i t. Through i t Kan Pi est abl i shed hi msel f on the Kun Lun
Mountai ns, Pi ng Vi fol l owed the course of the Yel l ow Ri ver,
Ji an Wu est abl i shed hi msel f on Mount Tai , the Yel l ow Emperor
ascended to heaven, Zhuan Xu l i ved i n the azure pal ace, Yu Qi ang
became the Geni e of the North Pol e, Xi Wang Mu was establ i shed
at Shao Guang** No one knows anyt hi ng of i ts begi nni ng or i ts
end. Through i t Peng Zu l i ved from the t i me of Emperor Shun
unti l the t i me of the f i ve hegemoni es. Through i t Fu Vue governed
the empi re of hi s master, Emperor Wu Di ng, and became, after hi s
death, a star ( i n the constel l at i on of Sagi t tari us) .
E. Master Kui , al so known as Nan Bo, asked Nu Yu: ' How i s i t
that , despi te your great age, you have the freshness of a chi l d?'
- ' Because, ' sai d Nu Yu, ' I have l i ved i n conformi t y wi th the
doct ri ne of the Pri nci pl e, and have not worn mysel f. ' - ' Coul d I
l earn t hi s doct ri ne? ' asked Master Kui . - ' You do not have the
*To be a man now, i s an episode i n the chai n of ten thousand successi ve trans
formati ons.
**Remi ni scences or fi cti on? Nothi ng can be drawn from the commentar ies.
1 41
Zhuag Zi, ch. 6 E, F.
abi l i ty, ' repl i ed Nu Yu. ' Bu Li ang Yi had the requi si t e di sposi t i on. I
taught i t to hi m. After three days he had forgot t en the outsi de
worl d. Seven days more and he had l ost t he not i on of the obj ects
whi ch surrounded hi m. Ni ne days more and he had l ost the not i on of
hi s own exi stence. He then acqui red cl ear penet rat i on, and through
i t the sci ence of moment ary ex i stence i n t he uni nterrupted chai n.
Havi ng acqui red thi s knowl edge he ceased t o di s t i ngui sh the past
from the present and the fut ure, and l i fe from deat h*. He unde
r
stood that i n real i t y , ki l l i ng di d not cause deat h, engenderi ng di d
not cause bi rt h, the Pri nci pl e sus t ai ni ng the bei ng across i ts endi ngs
and becomi ngs. It is t herefore j us t l y cal l ed the permanent fi xer. It
is from i t , the f i xed, t hat al l mut at i ons come . ' - ' Di d you i nvent
thi s doct r i ne ?' asked Master Kui . ' No, ' s ai d Nu Yu, ' I l earnt i t
from the son of Fu Mei , di s ci pl e of Lao Son g ' s l i t t l e son, di sci ple
of Zhan Mi ng, di sci pl e of Ni e Xu, di s ci pl e of Su Yi , di sci pl e of
Yu Nou, di sci pl e of Huan Mi ng, di s ci pl e of San Li ao, di sci pl e of
Yi Shi . '
(
The comment ar y says: Are t hese t he names of men? It
i s possi bl e, but unl i kel y. These words can be i nterpret ed as meani ng:
' I have not drawn t hi s doct r i ne from my i magi nat i on . I have di scov
ered i t , by medi t at i ng on the mys t er y of the ori g i n ' ) .
F. Zi S i , Zi Yu, Zi L i , and Zi La i were t al ki ng. One of them sai d:
' I wi l l take as my f r i end he who t hi nks as I do t hat al l bei ngs are
eternal , and l i fe and deat h succeed one anot her as two phases of
the same bei ng' . . . Now the t hree ot her s t hought t he same, and all
four men l aughed and became cl ose fr i ends . - Now it happened that
Zi Yu feJ I ser i ousl y i l l . He was horr i bl y hu mpbacked and deformed.
Zi Si went to vi s i t hi m. Breat hi ng pai nf ul l y but wi th a cal m heart,
the dy i ng man sai d t o hi m: ' I f , when I have l ef t t hi s form, my l eft
arm i s made i nt o a cock, I wi l l s i ng to announce the dawn. I f i t i s
made i nt o a bol t for a cross- bow, I wi l l knock down the crows. If
my trunk i s made i nt o a car r i age harnessed t o my spi r i t transform
ed i nt o a horse, I wi l l st i l l be s at i s f i ed. Each bei ng recei ves i ts
form i n i t s t i me, and l eaves i t at the appoi nted t i me. That bei ng
so, why conce i ve of j oy or sadness i n these v i ci ssi tudes? There is
no pl ace for i h As t he anc i ents sai d: " The faggot i s successi vel y
bound and unbound**. " The be i ng does not bi nd or unbi nd i tsel f. I t
depends on heaven f or l i fe and deat h. Why shoul d I , a bei ng
among
bei ngs, . co'pl ai n about dy i ng?' - Nex t , Zi Lai fel l i l l . He
was
gaspi nq for breat h and cl ose to death. Hi s wi fe and chi l dren sur
rounded hi m cryi ng. Zi Li went to vi s i t hi m and sai d to them:
' Shut up! Get out! Don ' t troubl e hi s passi ng ' ( whi ch requi res
cal m,
j ust as goi ng to sl eep does) . . . Then, l eani ng agai nst the door
post, he sai d to the pat i ent : ' Tr ansfor mat i on is good. What i s i t
goi ng to make of you? Where are you goi ng? Wi l l you become an
*Phases, peri ods, of one and the same evol uti on.
**Compare wi th chapter J C.
1 42
Zhuag Zi, ch. 6 F, G.
organ of a rat, or the foot of an i nsect ? ' . . . ' I t mat ters l i ttl e to
me, ' sai d the dyi ng man. ' The chi l d must go i n whatever di rect i on
hi s parent s send hi m. Now the y i n and the yang are more to a man
than hi s parets*. When
.
th
.
ei r r evol ut i on bri ngs about
my death, i f
I do not subm1 t mysel f wi l l i ngl y, I wi l l be a rebel The great mass
( the cosmos) has served me for my l i vi ng, consol ed
me i n my
ol d age, and gi ves me peace i n deat h. I t has been good to me i n
l i fe, and i t wi l l be so i n death Let us i magi ne a smel ter mel t i ng
hi s metal . I f a bi t of t hi s met al , j u mp i ng up i n the mel t i ng pot
. d "I b
'
sa1 : want to ecome a sword, no ot her thi ng; " the smel ter
woul d cer t ai nl y fi nd thi s met al unsu i t abl e. L i kewi se i f, at the t i me
of hi s transformat i on, a dy i ng man cr i ed out : " I want to become
a man agai n, no other thi ng; " i t i s qui t e cer t ai n t hat the transform
er woul d fi nd h i m unsui t abl e. Heaven and ear t h ( the cosmos
)
are
the great furnace, t ransformat i on i s t he gr eat smel t er ; what e ver i t
shoul d make of u s shoul d be agr eeabl e t o us. Le t u s abandon
oursel ves to i t i n peace. Li f e ter mi nates i n a sl eep, whi ch i s
fol l owed by a new awakeni ng. '
G. Master Sang Hu, Meng Zi Fan, and Mast er Qi n Zhang were
fri ends. One of t hem s ai d: ' Who i s per fec t l y i ndi fferent to any
i nfl uence, to any act i on? Who can el ev ate h i msel f to the heavens
by abstract i on, saunt er on the cl ouds by specul at i on, pl ay i n the
ether, and forget the present l i fe and t he deat h to come ? '
The three men l ooked at each ot her and l aughed, f or t hey wer e al l
l i ke t hat , and t hey became bet t er fr i ends t han e ver . When one of
t he t hree, Mast er Sang Hu, di ed, Conf uci us sent hi s di sci pl e Zi
Gong to t he dead man ' s house t o ask i f assi st ance was needed for
the funeral . When Zi Gong arri ved, the two sur vi vi ng fri ends were
si ngi ng the fol l owi ng r efr ai n, i n front of the corpse, to the accomp
ani ment of a l ut e: ' 0 Sang Hu! 0 Sang Hu! There you are uni ted
wi th transcendence, wher eas we are s t i l l men, al as ' Zi Gong went
up to them and sai d: ' Is i t i n conformi t y wi t h the ri tes to si ng l i ke
that i n t he presence of a corpse ? ' . . . The two men l ooked at each
other and burst out l aughi ng, s ayi ng: ' What can t hi s chap understand
of our r i t es ?' - Zi Gong went back to tel l Confuci us of what
he had seen, and t o ask hi m: ' What k i nd of men are t

se, wi th
nei ther
manners nor beari ng, who si ng i n front of a corp wi thout
trace
of sadness? I understand not hi ng of t hi s. ' - ' Thes peopl e, '
sai d
Confuci us, ' move out si de t he worl d. There can be n hi ng i n
common between them and me. I was wrong to send you there.
Accordi ng t o them, man shoul d l i ve i n communi on wi th the author
of bei ngs ( the cosmi c Pr i nci pl e) , by pl aci ng hi msel f at the t i me
when heaven and eart h were not yet separated. For them, the form
*The yi n and yang, as superi or agents of the Pr i nci pl e, gi ve l i fe or death, whereas
par
ents, i nferi or agents, bri ng about l i fe onl y.
1 43
Zhuag Zi, ch. 6 G, H.
that they have i n t hi s ex i stence i s an accessory, an appendage, of
whi ch death del i vers them, whi l st wai t i ng to be reborn i n another.
I n consequence, for t hem, there i s nei ther J i fe nor death, past nor
future, i n the usual meani ng of t hese words. Accordi ng to them the
matter of thei r bodi es has ser ved, and wi l l successi vel y serve, a
number of di fferent bei ngs. The i r vi scera and organs are of l i ttl e
i mport ance t o peopl e who bel i eve i n a cont i nual successi on of
begi nni ngs and endi ngs. They wal k i n s pi r i t outs i de t hi s dusty worl d,
and abst ai n from mi x i ng i n i ts affai rs. Why shoul d they gi ve them
sel ves the troubl e of accompl i shi ng the common r i tes, or even
the appearance of accompl i s hi ng t he m? ' ' But you, Master, '
asked Zi Gong won over t o Oaoi s m, ' why do you make t hese ri tes
the basi s of your moral i t y ? ' - ' Because heaven has condemned me
to t hi s i rksome task , ' sai d Con fu c i us. ' I speak thus, but in fact,
l i ke you, I no l onger bel i e ve i n i t . F i sh are born i n the water, men
in the Pri nci pl e. The t rue supe r i or man i s he who has broken wi th
al l the rest , i n order t o adher e un i que l y t o heaven. He al one should
be cal l ed a Sage by men. Too of t en t hose who are cal l ed Sages are
onl y common men in t he e yes of heaven . '
H. Yen Hui asked Confuci us: ' At hi s mot her ' s funeral Mengsun Cai
made onl y the cust omary l ament a t i ons wi thout sheddi ng a tear, and
he per for med al l the cere mon i es wi t hout t he l east sorrow. Never
thel ess, i n the l and of Lu he passed as ha vi ng sat i sf i ed f i l i al pi ety.
I understand not hi ng of t hi s . ' - ' He sat i s f i ed i t effect ual l y, ' repl i ed
Confuci us. ' Enl i ght ened as he i s, he coul d not abst ai n from the
exteri or cer emoni es; t hat woul d have shocked the common people
too much; but he abs t ai ned f r om t he i r i nner feel i ngs, whi ch he does
not share. For hi m, the s t at es o f l i fe and deat h are one, and he
recogni zes nei t her be fore nor a ft er , for he sees them as l i nks i n
an i nf i ni t e chai n. He bel i e ves that be i n gs are subj ect through fate
to successi ve t ransfor mat i ons, t o whi ch t hey have onl y t o submi t i n
peace, wi t hout bei ng pr eoccupi ed by t hem. I mmersed i n the current
of these transfor mat i ons t he be i ng has onl y a confused knowl edge
of what happens to i t . Al l l i fe i s as a dream. You and I who are
t al ki ng at t hi s t i me, we ar e t wo unawakened dreamers Therefore
death was nothi ng but a change o f for m for Mengsun Cai , not worth
saddeni ng onesel f for , no mor e t han l eavi ng a dwel l i ng one has onl y
J i ved i n for a si ngl e day. Thi nki ng l i ke t hi s , he rest r i ct s hi msel f to
the exteri or ri tes. In t hi s way he shocks nei ther the publ i c nor hi s
own convi ct i ons. - No one knows exact l y the i nt i mat e nature of hi s
own sel f . The same man who dreams he i s a bi r d gl i di ng i n the sky ,
dreams l ater that he i s a f i sh gl i di ng i n the depths. He cannot
be certai n i f he says what he says awake or asl eep. Nothi ng of
what happens is worth movi ng onesel f for. Peace consi sts in wai t
i ng, submi ssi ve to the di sposi t i ons of the Pr i nci pl e. When i t departs
from the present l i fe, the bei ng ent ers agai n i nt o the current
1 44
Zhuang Zi, ch. 6 H, I, J, K.
of transformat i ons. Thi s i s the meani ng of the formul a "to enter
i nt o uni on wi t h the heavenl y i nf i ni t e. ' " ( Wi t h heaven, nature, the
Pri nc i pl e, adds the comment ary) .
I. When Yi Er Zi v i s i ted Xu You*, the l at t er asked hi m what
Emperor Yao had taught hi m. ' He t ol d me, ' sai d Yi Er Zi , ' to
cul t i vat e goodness and f ai rness, to cl ear l y di s t i ngui sh good from
bad. ' - ' Then, ' s ai d Xu You, ' why have you come t o me now? Si nce
Yao has i mbued you wi th hi s pr i nc i pl es pi l e d one on top of the
other , you are no l onger capabl e of bei ng el e vat ed to the hi gher
i deas. ' - ' That i s, howe ver , my desi re, ' sai d Yi Er Zi . ' An unreal
i zabl e i dea , ' sai d Xu You. ' A man whos e e yes have been torn
out can l earn not hi ng about col our s . ' - Yi Er Zi sai d: ' You have
reformed ot hers who were def or med; why can you not al so succeed
i n refor mi ng me? ' - ' Ther e i s l i t t l e hope , ' sa i d Xu You. ' However,
here i s the summary of my doc t r i ne: 0 Pr i nci pl e, gi ver to al l
bei ngs of t hat whi ch sui t s t hem, wi t hout c l a i mi ng to be equ i t abl e;
producer of good works t hat e x t end t o al l t ime, wi t hout cl ai mi ng
to be char i t abl e; ex i s t i ng be fore t he or i gi n, and not cl ai mi ng
to be venerabl e; envel oper and support er of t he uni verse, wi thout
cl ai mi ng t o be capabl e; i t i s i n you that I move. '
J. Yen Hui , t he cher i shed di sc i pl e, s ai d t o hi s master Confuci us: ' I
advanc e' . . . ' How do you know? ' as ked Con fuc i us . . ' I l ose t he not i on
of goodness and f ai r ness , ' repl i ed Yen Hui . . . ' That i s good, ' sai d
Confuci us, ' but i t i s not al l ' . . . Anot her t i me Yen Hui sai d t o
Confuc i us: ' I pr of i t ' . . . ' How do you recogn i z e i t ? ' asked Confuci us . . .
' I forget r i tes and mus i c, ' sai d Yen Hui . . . ' That i s good, ' sai d
Confuci us , ' bu t i t i s not a l l ' . . . Anot her t i me Yen Hui s ai d t o
Confuc i us: ' I progress' . . . ' What s i gn have y ou of i t ? ' asked Confu
c i us . . . ' Now, ' sai d Yen Hu i , ' when I si t down t o medi t at e, I forget
absol ut el y ever yt hi ng** ' - Great l y moved, Confuci us asked: ' What
does that mean?' - Yen Hui repl i ed: ' Cas t i ng of f my body, obl i ter
at i ng my i nt el l i gence, l eavi ng al l forms, dr i v i ng away al l knowl edge,
I uni t e mysel f wi t h t he one who penet r at es al l . That is what
I mean by s i t t i ng and forget t i ng ever yt hi ng. ' - Confuc i us sai d: ' Thi s
i s uni on, i n whi ch desi re ceases; i t i s t he transfor mat i on i n whi ch
the i ndi v i dual i t y i s l ost. You have reached true wi sdom. Be my
master f rom now on. '
K. Zi Yu and Zi Sang wer e f r i ends . Once, when i t had r ai ned for
ten consecut i v e days, Zi Yu made up a food parcel to take to
*Compare wi th chapt er 1 D.
**Yen Hui i s del i ver ed f rom what essent i al l y const i tutes Confuci ani sm; goodness,
f ai rness, r i tes and music; he has reached Daoist contempl at i on, and Confuci us
is obl i ged to approve of i t .
1 45
Zhuag Zi, ch. 6 K.
Zi Sang, who was very poor , and woul d be wi thout prov1 s1 ons. As
he approached hi s door he heard hi s voi ce, hal f s i ngi ng, hal f cry i ng,
whi ch sai d to the accompani ment of the l ut e: ' 0 fat her! 0 mother!
0 heaven! 0 humani t y! ' 0 The voi ce was weakened and the song
staccat o. When Zi Yu went i n he found Zi Sang dyi ng of starvati on.
' What are you s i ngi ng there, ' he asked hi m. ' I thought , ' sai d
Zi Sang, ' of the poss i bl e causes of my ex tr eme d i stress. I t certai nl y
di d not come from the wi l l of my fat her and mother , no more
than it came from heaven and ear t h whi ch cover and sustai n all
bei ngs. There was no l ogi cal cause for my mi ser y; thus it was
my dest i ny*. '
*Thi s is the l ast cr y; bl i nd acqui escence to the t urni ng of the uni versal wheel ,
whi ch al ways prevai l s; Daoi st f at al i sm.
Zhuang Zi, ch. 7 A, B, C, 0.
Chapter 7. The Government Of Princes.
A. Ni e Que put four questi ons to Wang Ni , who coul d not repl y.
Jumpi ng for j oy, Ni e Que i nfor med Pu Yi Zi of hi s tri umph. -
' Are you real l y super i or to hi m?' sai d Pu Yi Zi . - ' Emperor Shun
was not as good as the anci ent soverei gn Tai Shi . Shun was i nfat
uated by the v i rtues he bel i eved he possessed, and al ways cr i t i ci zed
others. Ol d Tai Shi was not so mal i ci ous. He sl ept peaceful l y
and awoke wi t hout worr i es. He di d not consi der hi msel f worth more
than a horse or a cow. Si mpl e and peace ful , he cr i t i ci zed no one.
You are more l i ke Shun. '
B. Ji an Wu went t o see the fool J i e Yu* who asked hi m: ' What di d
you l ear n f r om Ren Zhong Shi ?' ' I l earnt , ' sai d Ji an Wu, ' that
when pr i nces make l aws, and obl i ge peopl e to obey t hem, al l goes
wel l . ' - ' Al l appears to go wel l , ' sai d Ji e Yu, ' but i t i s a fal se
appearance, the ex ter i or al one bei ng r ul ed, and not the i nter i or. To
seek to govern by thi s process i s of as much val ue as tryi ng to
cross the sea by a ford, keepi ng the Yel l ow Ri ver i n i ts bed,
or maki ng a mosqui t o carry of f a mount ai n, al l thi ngs absol utel y
i mpossi bl e. The Sage does not rul e the ext er i or , he gi ves an exam
pl e of rect i t ude, whi ch men wi l l fol l ow, i f i t pl eases them. He i s
too prudent to do more, l i ke the bi rd whi ch fl i es hi gh to avoi d the
arrow, or the rat whi ch di gs so deep t hat i t can nei ther be smoked,
nor dug, out. Legi s l at i on i s usel ess and dangerous . '
C. When Ti an Gen wandered t owards the Ri ver Li ao, south of Mount
Yi n, he met Wu Mi ng Ren and asked hi m st ra i ght out: ' What shoul d
one do to govern the empi re ? ' - Wu Mi ng Ren sai d to hi m: ' You
have been badl y taught i f you quest i on in such a manner. Moreover,
why shoul d I worry mysel f about the government of the empi re,
when I , di sgusted wi t h the worl d, l i ve i n cont empl at i on of the
Pri nci pl e, wal k i n space l i ke the bi rds, and ri se up as far as the
empti ness beyond space. ' - Ti an Gen i nsi st ed. - Then Wu Mi ng Ren
sai d to hi m: ' St i ck to s i mpl i c i ty, hol d yoursel f i n the voi d, let al l
thi ngs go, desi re not hi ng for yoursel f, and the empi re wi l l be wel l
governed, for e veryt hi ng wi l l fol l ow i ts natural course. '
D. Yang Zi Ju went t o see Lao Dan, a nd asked hi m: ' Woul d an
i ntel l i gent , courageous, zeal ous man be the equal of the Sage Ki ngs
of anti qui t y?' - ' No, 1 sai d Lao Dan. ' Hi s ki nd woul d be l i ke that of
the l ower offi ci al s, overwhel med wi t h work and ea ten away by
worri es. Hi s qual i t i es woul d cause hi s rui n. The t i ger and l eopard
are ki l l ed because the i r ski n i s beaut i ful . Monkeys and dogs are
reduced to sl avery because they are useful . 1 Di sconcerted, Yang
Zi Ju asked: ' But then, what was i t that made the Sage Ki ngs?'
Compare wi th chapter 4 H.
1 47
Zhuag Zi, ch. 7 0, E.
' The Sage Ki ngs, ' sai d Lao Dan, ' covered the empi re wi th thei r good
works, wi thout maki ng i t known t hat t hey were the authors of
them. They di d good to al l bei ngs, not through det ect abl e act i ons,
but through an i mpercept i bl e i nfl uence. Bei ng unknown, they made
ever yone happy. The y hel d t hemsel ves on the abyss and wal ked in
nothi ngness; ' ( that i s to say, they di d not hi ng det ermi nate, but
al l owed uni versa! e vol ut i on to act ).
E. At Zheng there was a transcendent sorcerer cal l ed Ji X i an*. Thi s
man kne w ever yt hi ng about the l i fe and deat h, prosper i t y and mi s
for t une of i nd i v i dual s, e ven so far as predi ct i ng the preci se day
of death, as exact l y as i f done by a gen i e. So the peopl e of Zheng,
who coul d not bear t o know these t hi ngs so l ong i n advance,
fl ed as far as poss i bl e when the y saw h i m comi ng. - Li e Zi went to
see hi m and was fasc i nat ed. On hi s ret urn he s ai d t o hi s master,
Hu Zi : ' Unt i l now I have t aken your t each i ng as the most perfect,
but now I have found bet t er . ' - ' Are you qu i te sure of t hi s?' sai d
Hu Zi ; ' cons i der i ng that you have onl y rece i ved my exoter i c teach
i ng, and not yet t he esot er i c, whi ch i s t he fecund germ of i t,
the pr i nci pl e of l i fe. Your knowl edge i s l i ke t hat of an i nfert i l e egg
l ai d by a hen wi t hout a cock; the essent i al is mi ssi ng And as far
as the power of d i v i na t i on of t hi s sorcerer goes, coul d he not have
read your i nt er i or ? Br i ng h i m to me and I wi l l show you that he
sees onl y what one al l ows h i m to see . ' - The next day Li e Zi
brought the sorcerer, who saw Hu Z i as a doct or sees a pati ent.
After the vi s i t the sorcerer s ai d to Li e Zi : ' Your master is a
dead man; he wi l l be f i ni shed wi t hi n ten days ; I saw, when I l ooked
at hi m, a vi s i on of humi d ashes. ' - Li e Zi wen t back cryi ng and
reported the sorcerer ' s words to Hu Z i . ' That , ' sai d Hu Zi , ' i s
because I showed myse l f t o h i m i n the for m o f a wi nter earth, al l
my energy bei ng i mmobi l i zed. Thi s phenomenon i s onl y produced i n
common peopl e at the approach of deat h, and i t has made hi m
bel i eve t hat my end i s cl os e. Bri ng h i m agai n, and you wi l l see the
next part of the e xper i men t . ' - The ne x t day Li e Zi brought back
the sorcerer. Aft er the v i s i t the l at t er sai d: ' I t is good that your
master addressed h i msel f to me . He i s al ready i mprovi ng. Today I
saw i n hi m onl y s i gns of l i fe; what I saw i n hi m yesterday was
therefore onl y a pass i ng phase, not the end. ' - When Li e Zi had
reported these words to Hu Zi , the l at t er sai d: ' That i s because I
showed mysel f to h i m i n the form of a sunl i t eart h, al l the spri ngs
of my energy act i ng. Br i ng hi m once more. ' - The nex t day Li e Zi
brought back t he sorcerer. Aft er the vi si t t he l at ter sai d: ' Hi s
condi t i on i s too i ndet er mi nat e. I cannot make any prognosti cati on.
After del i berat i on, I wi l l pronounce on i t . ' - Li e Zi reported these
words to Hu Zi , who sai d: ' That is because I showed mysel f to hi m
*Thi s part has probabl y been di spl aced. Compare wi th Li e Zi, chapter 2 L.
1 48
Zhua Zi, ch. 7 E, F, G.
in the form of the great chaos, wi t h all my forces hel d in bal ance.
He coul d di st i ngui sh not hi ng. An eddy , a whi r l pool , can be caused
by a sea- monster, a reef , a current , or yet a hal f-dozen other
causes; i t i s an i ndet ermi nat e t hi ng, suscept i bl e of ni ne di verse
expl anat i ons. The great chaos i s e ven more so. Bri ng hi m agai n, j ust
once more. ' - The next day L i e Zi brought back the sorcerer. At
the fi rst gl ance the l at t er fl ed. Desper at el y Li e Zi ran after
hi m, but coul d not catch up wi t h hi m. - ' He wi l l come back no
more , ' sai d Hu Zi B ' I showed mysel f t o h i m i n the state of my
emanat i on from the Pr i nci pl e. He has seen, i n an i mmense voi d,
somet hi ng l i ke a serpent wr i thi ng, somet hi ng gushi ng towards hi m.
Thi s spect acl e, uni ntel l i gi bl e to hi m, has terr i f i ed hi m and put hi m
to fl i ght . ' - Con v i nced t hat he was as yet noth i ng but i gnorant ,
Li e Zi conf i ned hi mse l f wi thi n hi s house f or t hr ee consecut i ve
years. He di d the housework for hi s wi fe and served the pi gs wi th
respect , i n order t o destroy i n hi msel f the van i t y whi ch had al most
made hi m desert hi s mast er. He cast off a l l i nterest , freed hi msel f
from al l art i f i ci al cul t ur e, and d i rect ed al l hi s forces towards
ori gi nal s i mpl i ci t y . Fi nal l y , he became l i ke a l ump of eart h, cl osed
and i nsensi bl e t o al l that happened around hi m, and remai ned i n
thi s state unt i l hi s end.
F. Make of nonact i on your gl or y, ambi t i on, busi ness, and sci ence.
Non-act i on does not wear one out. I t i s i mpersonal . I t gi ves what i t
has recei ved f rom heaven, wi t hout keep i ng anythi ng for i tsel f.
I t i s essent i al l y a voi d. - The super i or man onl y exerci ses hi s
i nt el l i gence l i ke a mi rror. He knows and understands wi thout feel i ng
attract i on or repul si on, or i t maki ng a permanent i mpressi on on
hi m. Thi s bei ng so, he i s super i or to al l t hi ngs, and neutral wi th
respect t o them.
G. Carr i ed Away, Ki ng o f t he Sou thern Sea, and Turned Away, Ki ng
of the Northern Sea, were on good terms wi th Chaos, Ki ng of the
Centre. They asked themsel ves what ser vi ce they coul d render hi m.
- ' Men, ' t hey sai d, ' have seven ori fi ces ( two eyes, ears, nostri l s, and
a mouth) . Thi s poor Chaos hasn ' t any. Let ' s make some for hi m. '
Set t i ng themsel ves t o work, they made hi m one ori f i ce a day. On
the seventh day Chaos di ed (ceased to be Chaos). - Al l bei ngs
shoul d be l ef t i n thei r natural depr i ved state; one shoul d not seek
to perfect them art i f i ci al l y, ot herwi se they cease to be what they
were, and shoul d remai n.
1 49
Zhuang Zi, ch. 8 A, B.
Chapter 8. Webbed Feet.
A. The body has produced such t hi ngs as a membrane
l i nki ng the
toes, a super-numerary fi nger, i t i s true , but i n e xcess of what is
normal . I t i s the same for a growth or a t umour; whate ver i ssues
from the body i n such a way, i s agai nst nat ure. One must say
the
same of vari ous theor i es on goodness and fai rness
(
vi r tues
)
born of
the mi nd, and tastes whi ch come from t he fi ve vi scera (
of the
temperament ) of each one of us. These t hi ngs are not natural , but
art i fi ci al , morbi d. They do not conform t o t he nor m. Yes, j ust
as
the membrane l i nki ng a man ' s t oes, and the super-numerary fi nger
on hi s hand, hi nder hi s nat ural physi cal movement s; in t he same w
ay
hi s tastes, and the vi r tues i magi ned by hi s mi nd, hi nder hi s natural
moral funct i oni ng. - Per vers i on of s i ght br i ngs about an excess of
col ouri ng and ornament at i on, whi ch the pai nt er Li Zhu promo
ted.
Perversi on of heari ng produces abuse of mus i cal har mony, whi ch the
mus i ci an Shi Kuang i ns t i gat ed. Theor i es on goodness and fai rness
produce reput at i on hunt ers such as Zeng Shen, Shi Qi u*, and others
who used the fl ut es and t ambour i nes of t he whol e empi re to
make t hei r unreal i zabl e ut opi as famous. Ar gument at i ve abuse
produces men l i ke Yang Zhu and Mo Z i , who make up reasons and
deduct i ons, j ust as one moul ds t i l es and makes ropes; for whom
di scuss i ng substance and acc i dent s , s i mi l ar i t y and di fference,
make a ment al game; t hey are sophi s ts and rhet or i ci ans who wear
t hemsel ves out wi th usel ess e ffort s and words. Al l t hi s i s onl y a
waste of t i me and agai ns t the t r ut h, whi ch consi st s i n keepi ng the
nat ural , and excl udi ng t he ar t i f i ci al . One s houl d not do vi ol ence to
nature, e ven under pre t ex t of put t i ng it r i ght . The compl ex should
st ay compl e x, the s i mpl e, s i mpl e. The l ong s houl d r emai n l ong, and
the shor t , short . Guard yourse l f from want i ng to l engthen a duck' s
feet , or shorten a crane ' s . To t r y t o do such th i ngs woul d cause
them suf fer i ng, whi ch i s t he char act er i s t i c not e of e verythi ng
agai nst nature , whereas pl easure i s t he mar k o f t he nat ural .
B. I t f ol l ows from t hese pr i nci pl es t hat t he ar t i f i ci al goodness and
fai rness of Confuc i us are not sen t i ment s natural to man, for
thei r acqui s i t i on and ex erc i se are accompani ed by hi ndrance and
sufferi ng. Those who have webbed fee t , or too many fi ngers,
suffer from the i r phys i cal def or mi t y , or e xcess, when they move. In
our days, those who pose for goodness and j ust i ce, suf fer to see
what is happeni ng, and su ffer from struggl i ng agai nst human
passi ons. No! Goodness and f ai rness are not natural senti ments;
otherwi se they woul d be more apparent i n the worl d, whi ch,
for the l ast ei ghteen cent uri es has been onl y struggl e and noi se.
- The use of the quart er-c i rcl e and the l i ne , of compass and square,
*Shi Yu al i as Shi Qi u. ' Entret lens de Confuci us,' bk. VI I I , ch. XV.
1 50
Zhuag Zi, ch. 8 B, C, D.
onl y produces regul ar forms at the cost of l osi ng natural harmony
and beaut y. The cords that bi nd, gl ue that sti cks, and varni sh that
covers, al l do vi ol ence t o the products of ar t . Rhythm i n ri tes and
musi c, off i ci al decl amat i ons on goodness and fai rness, desi gned to
i nfl uence the hearts of men, are ar t i f i ci al , convent i onal , and
agai nst nature. Nature rul es the worl d. Nature ' s bei ngs have
become curved wi thout use of the quarter- c i rcl e, st rai ght wi thout
use of the l i ne, round and square wi thout use of the compass and
square. Everythi ng hol ds i n nat ure wi t hout cords, gl ue, or varni sh.
Everythi ng becomes, wi t hout vi ol ence, fol l owi ng a sor t of cal l or
i rresi st i bl e at t ract i on. Be i ngs do not ask themsel ves why they
became, they de vel op wi thou t knowi ng how, the manner of thei r
becomi ng and de vel opment bei ng i nt r i ns i c. I t i s , and has al ways
been, thus, from an i nvi s i bl e l aw. So why pret end t o ti e up men and
uni te them wi th art i f i ci al cords of goodness and fai rness, ri tes and
musi c, the cords, gl ue, and varn i sh of ph i l osophi cal pol i t i ci ans?
Why not l et them fol l ow t hei r nat ure ?. . . S i nce Emperor Shun
( towards 2255 B. C. ) di sor i ent at ed the empi re wi t h hi s fal se formul a
' goodness and f ai rness ' human nat ure has suffered, st i fl ed by the
arti f i ci al and convent i onal .
C. Yes , f r om Shun unt i l now, men have fol l owed di verse l ures, not
thei r true nat ure. The common peopl e k i l l themsel ves for money,
t he educated f or reput at i on, nobl es f or t he gl or y of thei r house,
and Sages for the empi re. Famous men of di verse types have
al l thi s i n common, that they have ac ted agai nst nature and are
thereby rui ned. What does the di versi t y of the worl d matter,
i f the fat al resul t i s the same? - Two shepherds who have l ost
thei r sheep, the one t hrough hav i ng st udi ed, the ot her through
havi ng pl ayed, have suffered the same l oss. - Bo Vi peri shed
for the l ove of gl or y, and Zhi bec ause of bri gandage, di fferent
mot i ves, but i dent i cal resul t . - However of f i ci al hi story says that
Bo Vi was a nobl e charact er, because he sacri fi ced hi msel f for
goodness and fai rness; on t he other hand i t says that Zhi was
base, because he peri shed for the l ove of gai n. I n sum, as they
came to the same end, there i s no reason to make the di st i nct i on
of nobl e and common i n thei r case. Both of them outraged thei r
nature, and peri shed al i ke. Then why prai se Bo Vi and bl ame
Zhi ?
D. No, i t i s the same for Zeng Shen and Shi Qi u, I wi l l not speak
wel l of those who di d v i ol ence to t hei r nature by pract i si ng good
ness and fai rness, nor of those who appl i ed themsel ves to the
study of tastes, sounds, or col ours, e ven i f they are famous l i ke
Yu Er, Shi Kuang, or Li Zhu. No, man i s not good because he
pract i ses art i f i ci al goodness and fai rness; he i s good by exerci se
of hi s natural facul t i es. To fol l ow one ' s natural appet i tes makes
1 5 1
Zhuang Zi, ch. 8 D.
good use of taste, to l i sten t o one ' s i nner voi ce makes good use of
heari ng. To l ook onl y at onesel f makes good use of si ght . Those
who l ook at , and l i sten t o, ot hers, t ake somet hi ng from thei r
manner and j udgement t o the det ri ment of t hei r own nat ural
sense. From the moment t hat t hei r nat ural rect i tude i s deformed,
whether they be reput ed bandi t s l i ke Zhi or Sages l i ke Bo Yi
matters l i t t l e t o me; t hey have al l , i n my vi ew, gone astray.
Because for me the rul e i s conformi t y , or non-conformi t y to
nature. Art i fi ci al goodness and f ai rness are as odi ous t o me as
vi ce and deprav i t y.
.
Zhuag Zi, ch. 9 A, B, c.
Chapter 9. Trained Horses.
A. Horses have by nat ure hooves capabl e of treadi ng the snow, and
hai r i mpenet rabl e t o the col d. They eat grass, dri nk water, and run
and j ump. That i s thei r true nat ure, whi ch has not hi ng to do wi t h
court yards and stabl es . . . When Bo Lao, the fi rst groom, decl ared
that he al one knew how t o deal wi t h horses; when he taught
men t o brand t hem, t r i m t hei r ha i r, shoe them, bri dl e them,
fetter t hem, and t o pen i n these poor beast s, t hen t wo or three out
of ten horses di ed premat urel y, because of t hi s vi ol ence agai nst
thei r nature. hen the art of dressage progressed, t hey made them
suffer hunger and t hi rst t o harden t hem, and they forced them to
gal l op i n squadrons, t o order and measur e, t o make them warl i ke.
The bi t tormented t hei r mout h, and t he horsewhi p cut thei r rump.
Then, out of ten horses, fi ve di ed pr emat urel y, because of thi s
vi ol ence agai nst nature. - When t he f i rs t pot t er announced that he
knew how t o treat cl ay, t hey made from t hi s mat er i al round vases
on the wheel and square br i cks i n Lhe moul d. - When the fi rst
carpenter decl ared t hat he knew how t o work wood, t hey gave to
thi s materi al curved or stra i ght forms, by means of t he poi nt and
chal k l i ne. I s t hi s t rul y how t o t r eat horses, cl ay, and wood,
accordi ng t o t he i r nat ur e? Cer t ai nl y not . Yet, however, from
age t o age, men have pr ai sed t he f i rs t groom, the fi rst potter,
and the f i rs t carpent er, for t he i r geni us and thei r i nvent i ons.
B. Li kewi se they prai se t hose who i n vent ed the modern form of
government , for t hei r geni u s and i n ven t i ons. In my vi ew, thi s i s
an error. Man ' s cond i t i on was qui te di fferent under the good
soverei gns of ant i qui t y . Peopl e f ol l owed t hei r nat ure, and nothi ng
but thei r nature. Each person wove hi s own cl ot hi ng and l aboured
for hi s own food. They formed a whol e wi thout di v i s i on, rul ed by
a s i ngl e natural l aw. I n those t i mes of perfec t nat ural i sm, men
wal ked as they pl eased, and l et the i r eyes wander i n freedom. No
ri tual control l ed t hei r wal ki ng and l ooki ng. I n the mount ai ns there
were nei ther paths nor dykes, on the water nei ther boats nor dams.
Al l bei ngs were born and l i ved i n common. Fl y i ng bei ngs and
quadrupeds l i ved i n the grass whi ch grew spontaneousl y. As man di d
them no har m, t he ani mal s l et themsel ves be l ed by hi m wi thout
resi stance, and the bi rds di d not worry i f one l ooked i n t hei r nest.
Yes, at that t i me of perfect natural i sm, men l i ved as brothers to
the ani mal s, on the basi s of equal i t y wi th al l bei ngs. They were
i gnorant then of the di s t i nct i on made famous by Confuci us, bet ween
the Sage and the common man. Equal l y depri ved of sci ence,
men al l acted accordi ng to thei r nature. Equal l y wi thout ambi t i on,
al l acted s i mpl y. Everywhere nature opened out freel y.
C. Al l thi s was done away wi t h when the fi rst Sage appeared.
1 53
Zhuang Zi, ch. 9 C.
S

ei ng hi m st rai ni ng h i msel f and t wi rl i ng hi msel f r i t ual l y, heari ng


h1 m hol d for th on goodness and f ai rness, men, astoni shed, asked
themsel ves i f t hey had not been wrong up t i l l t hen. Then came the
i nt oxi cat i on of musi c, and i nfat uat i on wi t h ceremoni es. Al as, the
art i f i ci al carri ed away the natural . I n consequence , peace and
char i t y di sappeared from the worl d. Man made war agai nst the
ani mal s, whi ch were sacr i fi ced for hi s l uxury. In order to make
offeri ng vases, he put wood t o the t ort ure. In order to make
ri tual sceptres, he i nfl i c t ed t he i r s t yl e on to j ade. Under pretext
of goodness and fa i rness he di d v i ol ence t o nature . Ri tes and
musi c rui ned the nat ural ness of movement s. The rul es of pai nt i ng
di sordered the col ours. The of f i ci al scal e di sordered the tones of
musi c. In summar y, ar t i st s are gu i l t y of ha v i ng tormented matter
i n order t o execute t he i r works of ar t , and Sages are execrabl e
for havi ng subs t i t ut ed i mi t at i on goodness and f ai rness for what was
natural . - Once, in the st at e of na ture , horses grazed on grass
and drank water. When t hey were happy t hey rubbed t hei r necks
together. When t hey were angr y, t hey di d a hal f-t urn and ki cked
out . Knowi ng no more t han t hat , the y were per fect l y s i mpl e and
natural . But when Bo Lao had harnessed t hem, t hey became knav i sh
and wi cked, through hat red of t he b i t and br i dl e. Thi s man is
gui l t y of the cri me of havi ng per vert ed horses. - At the t i me of
old Emperor He Xu, men s t ayed i n the i r houses doi ng nothi ng, or
went for a wal k wi t hout knowi ng where t hey were goi ng. When
thei r appet i t e was sat i s f i ed t hey pat t ed t hemse l ves on the stomach
as a s i gn of cont ent men t . Knowi ng no more t han t hat , they were
per fect l y s i mpl e and nat ur al . But when the f i rst Sage had taught
them to bow and scrape r i t ual l y t o the sound of musi c, and to
make sent i ment al cont ort i ons i n the name of goodness and fai rness,
then compe t i t i ons began for know-how and ri ches. There arose
i mmeasurabl e pret ent i ons and i nsat i abl e amb i t i ons. It is the cri me
of the Sage t o ha ve t hus di sor i ent ated humani t y .
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 0 A.
Chapter 1 0. Thi eves, Great And Small.
A. The common peopl e secure thei r sacks and trunks wi t h ropes and
strong l ocks, from fear that smal l thi eves may ge t thei r hands i nt o
them. Havi ng done t hi s, they be l i eve themsel ves, and are consi dered
to be, wi se. Then comes a great t hi ef who carri es of f sacks and
trunks wi t h t hei r ropes and l ocks, very happy that someone has
made up hi s packages so wel l . And i t turns out that the wi sdom of
these common peopl e had consi st ed i n prepari ng the t hi e f ' s booty
for hi m. - I t i s the same i n mat t ers of government and admi ni stra
ti on. Those who are commonl y cal l ed Sages, are nothi ng but pack
age makers f or future bri gands. Here i s an exampl e: I n t he Pri n
ci pal i t y of Qi , al l had been r ul ed wel l , accordi ng to t he l aws of
the Sages. The popul at i on was so great t hat each v i l l age coul d hear
the cocks and dogs of the ne i ghbour i ng vi l l age. The waters were
expl oi ted by nets and t raps, the ear t h by the pl ough and the hoe.
Everywhere, i n the t empl es of t he ancest ors, of the earth spi r i t
and t he patron of t he har vest s, t he ur ban cent res, t he count rysi de,
and even the remote corners, t here was a most perfect order. One
fi ne day, Ti an Cheng Zi assass i nat ed the Pri nce of Qi ( i n 482 B. C. )
and took hi s pr i nci pal i t y , wi t h al l t ha t the Sages had put there.
Then, thi s bri gand enj oyed the fru i t of hi s cr i me as peace ful l y as
i n the t i mes of Yao and Shun. No pr i nce , great or smal l , dared
attempt t o take hi m by the t hroa t . On hi s deat h, he bequeathed
the pri nci pal i t y t o hi s successors ( who kept i t unt i l 2 2 1 B. C. ) . That
agai n, was thanks to the Sages, who advi sed e ver yone to submi t to
the fai t accompl i.
*
The most famous of the Sages of hi story have
thus worked for great t hi e ves, e ven so far as sacr i f i ci ng thei r l i ves.
Long Feng was decapi tat ed, Bi Gan was di sembowel l ed, Chang Long
was drawn, Zi Xu peri shed i n the wat er . The sum i s that profes
si onal bri gands al so appl y, i n the i r way, t he pr i nci pl es of Sages.
Look what the famous Zhi t aught hi s pupi l s : ' Di vi ni ng where there
i s a good hoard i s wi sdom; bei ng the f i r st to go i n i s courage;
l eav i ng l ast i s expedi ence; j udgi ng i f the coup i s feas i bl e or not,
i s prudence; di v i di ng the boot y equal l y, i s goodness and fai rness;
onl y those who uni t e these qual i t i es i n themsel ves are worthy
bri gands. ' - Thus, i f the pri nci pl es of Sages have somet i mes ben
efi ted honest peopl e, they have bene f i t ed vi l l ai ns al so and more
often, to the detri ment of honest peopl e. I wi l l onl y ci te as ev
i dence for what I say, t he two hi stori cal facts recal l ed by the
sentences: ' When the l i ps are cut off the teeth are col d' and ' The
bad wi ne of Lu caused the si ege of Han Dan*. ' - Yes, the appari t i on
of Sages causes bri gands to appear, and the di sappearance of
Sages t he di sappearance of bri gands. Sages and bri gands, these
two terms are correl at i ve, l i nked wi t h each other, l i ke torrent and
flood, di tch and embankment .
*
I repeat , i f the race of Sages came
to be ext i nct , bri gands would di sappear, and there would be perfect
*T H pages 1 89, 226.
1 5 5
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 0 A, B.
peace i n t hi s worl d. It i s because the race of Sages does not
become ex t i nct that there are al ways br i gands. The more one uses
Sages to govern the st at e, the more the bri gands mul t i pl y; because
the i nvent i ons of Sages produce t hem. By the i nvent i on of measures
of capaci t y, of wei ghts and scal es, of cont ract s di v i ded i nt o two,
and of seal s, they have t aught fraud t o many. By the i nvent i on of
goodness and fai rness , t hey have t aught many mal i ce and knavery. -
If a poor dev i l were t o st eal the buckl e of a bel t , he woul d be
decapi tat ed. If a great t hi ef were to st eal a pr i nci pal i t y, he would
become a l ord, and the ex t ol l ers of goodness and f ai rness ( Sages,
hi red pol i t i ci ans) woul d f l ock to hi m and pl ace al l t hei r wi sdom
at hi s di sposal . The l ogi cal concl us i on of t hi s i s t hat one should
not waste one ' s t i me s t ar t i ng wi th s mal l t hef t s, but begi n strai ght
away by steal i ng a pr i nci pal i t y . Then one wi l l not have to go
to the troubl e of t hi evi ng agai n; one wi l l no l onger have to fear
the execut i oner ' s axe. Then one wi l l have al l the Sages, wi th all
thei r i nvent i ons, for onesel f . Yes, mak i ng br i gands and preventi ng '
thei r bei ng unmade, i s the work of Sages ( professi onal pol i t i ci ans) .
B. It i s s ai d*, ' t hat the f i sh shoul d not l eave deep wat er where i t
l i ves i gnored, but i n s afe t y ; t hat a st at e shoul d not show i ts re
sources, out of fear of bei ng r av aged ' . . . Now Sages ( pol i t i ci ans)
are consi der ed to be a resource of t he s t at e. One shoul d therefore
hi de them, keep t hem in obscur i t y, no t e mpl oy them. Thus the race
of Sages woul d become e x t i nct , and wi th i t the race of bri gands
woul d al so become ex t i nct . Pul veri ze the j ade and t he pearl s and
there wi l l be no more t hi e ves . Burn cont ract s, break up the seal s,
and men wi l l become honest agai n. Suppress wei ghts and measures,
and there wi l l be no more quarrel s. Destroy radi cal l y all the
ar t i f i ci al i nst i t ut i ons of the Sages, and peopl e wi l l f i nd thei r own
good natural sense. Abol i sh the scal e of tones, break up the musi cal
i nstruments, bl ock up the ears of the mus i ci ans, and men wi l l
recover thei r nat ural heari ng. Abol i sh the spectrum of col ours
and the rul es of pai nt i ng, put out the e yes of the pai nters, and men
wi l l recover the i r nat ur al s i ght . Pr ohi b i t the spi ke and chal k l i ne,
the compass and the square; break the fi ngers of the carpenters,
and men wi l l redi scover nat ural ways, those whi ch are descri bed
as ' dexter i t y under an ai r of awkwardness** ' Brand Zeng Shen
and Shi Qi u ( l egal i st s) , gag Yang Zhu and Mo Zi ( sophi sts) , ban
the goodness-fai rness formul a ( of the Confuc i ans) , and the natural
ways may once more exer ci se thei r myst eri ous and uni fy i ng vi rtue.
*Lao Zl , chapter 36.
**Lao Zl, chapter 45. Each kind of being, says the commentary, has i ts natural
type. Thus each speci es of spi der has i ts form of web, speci al , but i nvariable.
Therefore man shoul d hold hi msel f to a few si mpl e natural types, nei ther mul ti pl ying
nor embel lishing them. All art is per versi on.
1 56
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 0 B, C, 0.
Yes, come back t o s i ght , heari ng, good sense, to natural i nst i nct ,
and be done wi th dea feni ng, gl ari ng rambl i ngs, and art i fi ci al gr i m
aces. Phi l osophers, musi ci ans, pai nters, di verse arti sts, have onl y
wronged and perverted men, through pl ausi bl e appearances. They
have not been of any real use to humani t y.
C. I t was qui te otherwi se, at t he t i me of perfect nature, of the
anci ent soverei gns, before Fu Xi , Shen Nang, and the Yel l ow
Emperor . Then men onl y knew knot t ed cords as far as the Annal s
were concerned. They found the i r coarse food good, as al so the i r
si mpl e cl ot hi ng. They were happy i n the i r pr i mi t i ve ways, and
peaceabl e i n thei r poor habi t at i ons. The need t o have rel at i onshi ps
wi th others di d not t orment t hem. They di ed of ol d age be fore
havi ng vi s i ted the ne i ghbour i ng pr i nci pal i t y, wh i ch they had seen
from afar, and from whi ch t hey had heard the dogs and cocks every
day*. In those t i mes, because of thei r ways, peace and order
were absol ut e. - Why i s i t qu i t e ot her wi s e i n our t i me? Because
the government s are t ai nted by Sages and the i r i nvent i ons. The
peopl e st rai n thei r necks and s t and on t i p toe to l ook in the di rec
t i on whence some so-cal l ed Sage comes. They abandon the i r parents,
they l eave the i r mast er , to run after thi s man. Pedes t ri ans fol l ow
each other i n a queue, and f i l es of car r i ages make deep ruts i n
t he r oad l eadi ng t o hi s door . Al l th i s i s because t he common
peopl e, i mi t at i ng the pr i nces, are i nfat ua ted wi th the pursui t of
knowl edge. Now noth i ng i s more deadl y f or a state t han t hi s
unfortunate i nf at uat i on.
D. I t i s art i f i ci al knowl edge, agai ns t nat ure, whi ch has caused al l
the i l l s of the worl d, and the unhapp i ness of al l those who i nhabi t
i t . The i nvent i on of bows and barbed arrows, and spr i ng traps,
has brought unhappi ness to the bi rds of the ai r . The i nvent i on of
f i sh-hooks, bai t s, nets, and traps, has brought unhappi ness to the
fi sh i n the wat er. The i nvent i on of nets and snares has brought
unhappi ness to the quadrupeds i n thei r coverts. The i nvent i on of
sophi st ry, trai torous and venomous, wi t h i ts theori es of substance
and acc i dents, and i ts arguments on i dent i t y and di fference,
has troubl ed the s i mpl i c i ty of the common peopl e. Yes, the l ove of
knowl edge, i nvent i ons, and i nnovat i ons, i s respons i bl e f or al l the
i l ls of the worl d. Preoccupi ed wi t h l earni ng what they do not know
( the vai n sci ence of the sophi sts) , men l ose what they know ( the
natural truth of good sense) . Preoccupi ed wi t h cri t i ci zi ng the
opi ni ons of others, they cl ose thei r eyes to thei r own errors. From
thi s fol l ows a moral di sorder whi ch has repercussi ons i n heaven on
the sun an moon, on earth on the mountai ns and ri vers, and i n
the i ntermedi ate space on t he four seasons, reachi ng even as far
as the i nsects ( l ocusts, et c. ) whi ch mi grate and swarm out of t i me.
*Lao Zi , chapt er 80.
1 57
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 0 o.
Al l bei ngs are i n danger of l osi ng the propri et y of thei r nature.
I t i s the l ove of knowl edge t hat has caused t hi s di sorder. I t has
been goi ng on throughout the three dynast i es. For ei ghteen cen
turi es they have been accustomed t o pooh-pooh at natural si mpl i ci ty
and to make a bi g thi ng of ri t ual knavery. They have become
accustomed to prefer verbose and fal l aci ous pol i t i cs to frank and
l oyal non-act i on. I t is the praters ( Sages, pol i t i ci ans, rhetori ci ans)
who have put di sorder i nt o the worl d.
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 1 A.
Chapter 11. True And False Pol itics.
A. One must l et the worl d fol l ow i t s course, and not try to govern.
Otherwi se peopl e wi l l no l onger act natural l y ( but art i f i ci al l y,
l egal l y, r i t ual l y, et c. ) . When each one' s nat ur e, be i ng sane, l ooks
after i t sel f and acts i n i ts own sphere, then the worl d i s governed
natural l y and by i t sel f ; there i s no need to i nt ervene. In the
ol d days Yao governed t o make hi s subj ect s happy. Now happi ness,
whi ch i s a passi on, rupt ures nat ural apathy . Yao' s government was
therefore defect i v e, si nce he i mpass i oned h i s subj ects. - The wi cked
Ji e af fl i ct ed hi s subj ect s. Now a f fl i c t i on, whi ch i s a passi on,
ruptures natural pl aci di t y . J i e ' s government was there fore defect
i ve, si nce he i mpassi oned hi s subj ect s. - Al l emot i on, bei ng agai nst
nature, i s unstabl e and cannot l ast . Pl easure and sat i sfact i on are
emot i ons of the pr i nci pl e yang. Di spl easure and di ssat i s fact i on are
emot i ons of the pr i nci pl e y i n. In the macroc osm, di sturbance of
the yi n and y ang causes t he four seasons t o come out of t i me, and
di srupts the success i on of heat and col d I n t he human mi crocosm,
di sturbance of the y i n and yang by t he passi ons al so causes great
di sorders. The body s uffers, mi nds soft en; men no l onger keep
themsel ves i n the i r pl ace, l ose cont r ol of t he i r thoughts and desi res,
and undert ake wi t hout achi ev i ng, ( t hei r mobi l e passi ons carry i ng
them wi t hout cease t o ot her obj ect s) . Then i n t he empi re ambi t i ous
pretensi ons and struggl es for domi na t i on were born. Some became
Zhi s (bri gands) , others Zeng Shens and Shi Qi us ( pol i t i ci ans) . They
then l egi sl at ed wi th the a i m of r ewar di ng t he good and puni shi ng
the wi cked. A superhuman, i mposs i bl e task , i n vi ew of the numbers
of each. - Al as , i t i s wi t h t hat ai m, t hat t he governments of the
three dynasti es hav e wast ed t hei r t i me and effort, i nstead of
peaceful l y fol l owi ng thei r nat ure and dest i ny. - Al l theori es,
al l convent i ons, are compl et el y fal se. Opt i cal t heori es have fal si fi ed
the natural sense of col ours. Acoust i c t heori es have fal si fi ed
t he not i on of sounds. Theori es of goodness have pervert ed t he
spontanei t y of rel at i onshi ps. Theori es of fai rness have obl i t erated
peopl e' s i nner sense of j us t i ce. Theor i es of ri t es have produced
subt l et y, those of musi c have i nc i t ed to l ust . Theor i es of wi sdom
have mul t i pl i ed t he pol i t i c i ans, t hose of knowl edge have mul t i pl i ed
the qui bbl ers. It woul d s t i l l be al l r i ght , i f, keepi ng themsel ves
pract i cal l y to the natural l aws, they specul at ed theoret i cal l y
on t he above t hemes; t hat woul d be a mat t er of i ndi fference.
But i f, havi ng done away wi th the natural l aws, t hey l et these
specul ati ons i nfl uence pract i ce, there wi l l be di sorder and anarchy;
and i f one comes to honour thei r theori es, to gi ve t hem t he force
of l aw, al as, poor worl d, i t wi l l be i n a compl et e frenzy. - Look
what the government has come t o i n our days, not hi ng but an
uni nterrupted successi on of ri tes. Hardl y has one ceremony f i ni shed,
before i t i s necessary to keep one' s abst i nence i n preparat i on
1 59
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 1 A, B.
for the next , and then go through al l the seri es of bowi ngs and
scrapi ngs, songs and dances, and so on, wi t hout resp i te or end.
A true Sage woul d act qu i t e di fferent l y, i f , obvi ousl y agai nst
hi s wi l l , he had to take charge of the empi r e. Hol di ng hi msel f
to non-act i on, he woul d use t he l e i sure of hi s non-i nt er venti on
to gi ve free course to hi s nat ur al i ncl i nat i ons. The empi re woul d
fi nd i tsel f wel l off i n the hands of t hi s man*. Wi thout putti ng
hi s organs to work, wi thout usi ng hi s corporeal senses, seated
moti onl ess, he woul d see al l wi t h hi s t ranscendent eye; absorbed
i n contempl at i on he woul d shake al l l i ke t hunder; the physi cal
sky woul d adapt i tsel f wi t h doc i l i t y to t he movements of hi s
spi r i t; al l bei ngs woul d fol l ow the
(
negat i ve) i mpul si on of hi s
non- i ntervent i on, j ust as dust goes wi th t he wi nd. Why shoul d
thi s man appl y h i msel f to t he mani pul at i on of the empi r e, when
to let i t go i s enough ?
B. Cui Zhu asked Lao Dan: ' How can one govern men wi thout
posi t i ve ac t i on ? ' Lao Dan s ai d: ' By doi ng no v i ol ence to thei r
hearts. The heart of man i s made so t hat any oppr essi on put s i t
down, any exci t at i on l i fts i t up. Depr i ved i t becomes i ner t ; exci ted
i t becomes car r i ed away. Somet i mes suppl e, i t bends t o every t hi ng;
someti mes i t i s h ard enough t o br eak ev er y thi ng. Somet i mes
i t i s burni ng l i ke f i r e, s omet i mes i t becomes col d l i ke i ce. I ts
expansi on i s so r api d t hat , i n t he t i me i t t akes t o nod your head,
i t has been to the end of t he four oceans and come back. I ts
concent r at i on i s profound l i k e an abyss, i ts movements free and
i ncoerci bl e, l i ke those of t he heavenl y bodi es. The human heart i s
proud of i ts freedom, i ts nat ur e not l et t i ng i tsel f be at tached to
anyone . ' - Now i n the ol d days
(
t owards 3000 B. C.
)
the Yel l ow
Emperor was the fi rst to do v i ol ence t o t he human heart, wi th hi s
theor i es on goodness and f ai rness. Then Yao and Shun used up thei r
strength rushi ng abou t for t he mat er i al wel fare of thei r subj ects.
They harmed the i r vi scer a i n t he exer ci se of goodness and fai rness,
and wasted thei r sweat and br eat h devi s i ng rul es for these arti fi ci al
vi rtues. And for al l that, t hey di d not s ucceed. They had to put
down the upr i si ngs of Huan Dou at Chong Shan, the San Mi aos at
San Wei , and Gong Gong at You Du. Thi s resort i ng to vi ol ence
proves cl earl y that , despi te thei r goodness and fai rness, the empi re
was not devotedl y i n submi ssi on t o them. It was much worse under
the three dynast i es. Under them appeared Ji es ( tyrants) and Zhi s
( bri gands) , Zeng Shens and Shi Qi us ( pol i t i ci ans) , and fi nal l y the
Confuci ans and the Mo-i sts. What t i mes! The theoret i ci ans for
and agai nst regarded each other wi th ani mosi ty; wi se and fool i sh
mutual l y contradi cted each other; good and bad persecuted each
other reci procal l y, and the l i ars and the truthful mocked one an
other. The empi re fel l i nto decadence. They no l onger understood
the fi rst pri nci pl es, and the remnants of natural vi r tue di sappeared,
*L ao Zl chapter 1 3.
1 60
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 1 B, c.
as i f consumed by f i r e, or carri ed off i n a great wave. Everyone
wi shed t o become wi se i n order to succeed, and the peopl e wore
themsel ves out i n vai n e fforts. - I t was then that they i nvented
the mathemat i cal syst em of government *. The empi re was squared
up wi t h the ax e and the saw. The penal t y for those who dev i ated
from the st rai ght l i ne was death. Hammers and chi sel s were
appl i ed to the manners and cust oms of l i fe. The resul t was a
turni ng ups i de -down, a general col l apse. The peopl e turned agai nst
the Sages and pr i nces. The Sages had t o hi de themsel ves i n mount
ai n caves, and t he pri nces were no l onger safe i n the i r fami l y
templ es. Vi ol ent react i ons f ol l owed when Sages and pri nces came
back to power . Now t he bodi es of those puni shed are pi l ed hi gh,
pri soners march past i n l ong chai ns, ever ywhere one sees not hi ng
but men puni shed i n di v erse ways . And i n the mi ddl e of t hi s atr o
ci ous decor, amongst the handcuf fs, fe t t ers, and i nst ruments of
torture, t he Confuc i ans and Mo- i s t s s t and on t i ptoe t o appear bi g,
turn up thei r sl eeves, and compl acent l y admi re the i r work . Ah, t he
hardeni ng of these men i s ex t r eme. Ex t r eme i s the i r i mmodest y!
Coul d torture s ummar i z e the wi sdom o f t he Sages? Cou l d t he hand
cuffs, fetters, and t or t ures, be the expressi on of the i r goodness
and fai rness? Coul d Zeng Shen and Shi Qi u , these t ypi cal Sages, not
be more e v i l than t he t yr ant Ji e and t he br i gand Zhi ? The say i ng
' ext ermi nat e wi sdom, dest roy knowl edge, and the empi re wi l l
spontaneousl y ret urn t o or der , ' i s r i ght .
C. The Yel l ow Emper or had r ei gned for ni neteen years and hi s
orders were obeyed t hroughout the empi re, when he heard of
Master Guang Cheng, who l i ved on Mount Kong Tong. He sought
hi m out and addressed h i m i n the fol l owi ng words: ' I have heard
t el l , Master, that you have reached the supreme Pr i nci pl e. I
venture t o ask you t o communi cat e i ts qu i ntessence to me. I wi l l
use i t f or maki ng good cer eal har vests to nouri sh t he peopl e. I
wi l l regul at e t he t emper at ur e for the benef i t of al l l i v i ng bei ngs.
Gi ve me the formul a, pl ease . ' - Master Guang Cheng repl i ed: ' You
push ambi t i on even as far as wi shi ng to l ord i t over nature. To
entrust i ts forces to you, woul d be to the l oss of al l bei ngs. Pas
si onate man, i f you were to govern the worl d, you woul d want
i t t o rai n before the cl ouds were for med, you woul d make the
l eaves fal l whi l st s t i l l green, t he sun and the moon woul d soon
be ext i ngui shed. Concei ted and sel fi sh bei ng, what can you have i n
common wi t h t he supreme Pr i nci pl e?' - The Yel l ow Emperor
returned home confused, gave up hi s government, and l i ved i n a
makeshi f t hut wi t h a straw mat as hi s sol e furni shi ng. After
spendi ng three months i n thi s ret reat , refl ect i ng and medi t at i ng, he
went back to Master Guang Cheng, whom he found l y i ng wi t h hi s
head towards the north ( l ooki ng south, the pos i t i on of a teacher).
*T H pages 1 96-201 .
1 6 1
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 1 C, D.
Taki ng the pl ace of a pupi l , qui t e humbl y, the Yel l ow Emperor
approached on hi s knees, prost rat ed hi msel f , t ouchi ng the ground
wi t h hi s forehead, and sai d: ' I know, Mast er, t hat you have reached
the supreme Pri nci pl e. Wi l l you t each me how to conduct and
conserve mysel f ?' - ' Wel l put , t hi s t i me, ' s ai d Mast er Guang Cheng.
' Come cl oser, I am goi ng t o reveal the basi s of the Pri nci pl e to
you. Its essence i s myst er y; i t i s obscur i t y , i ndi s t i nc t i on, si l ence.
When one l ooks at not hi ng, l i st ens to not hi ng, envel ops one ' s spi ri t
i n wi thdrawal , t he mat t er of t he body becomes spont aneousl y
ri ght. Be wi t hdrawn, det ached, don ' t fat i gue your body or rouse
your i nst i nct s, and you can l ast fore ver . When your eyes no l onger
l ook at anyt hi ng, when your ears no l onger l i st en t o any t hi ng, when
your heart ( i nt el l i gence and wi l l ) knows and desi res not hi ng more,
when your spi ri t has env el oped and i n a sense absorbed your mat ter,
then thi s mat t er ( your body ) wi l l l ast forever . Take care of your
i nt eri or, defend your ex t er i or . Wi s hi ng t o l ear n many t hi ngs i s what
wears one out Fol l ow me i n spi r i t , beyond the l i gh t as far as
the pr i nci pl e yang of al l spl endour; and beyond the darkness as
far as the pri nci pl e y i n of dar kness. Fol l ow me now, beyond these
two pr i nc i pl es, as far as uni t y ( t he supreme Pr i nci pl e) whi ch rul es
over heaven and ear t h, whi ch cont ai ns i n ger m, and from whi ch
emanat e, t he y i n and t he yang, and al l bei ngs. Knowi ng thi s Pri n
ci pl e i s t he great sc i ence whi ch does not wear one out. Hol di ng
onesel f at rest i n i t s c ont empl a t i on i s what makes one l ast forever.
Any bei ng who conserves h i msel f , keeps hi s v i gour . I mysel f have
embraced uni t y ; I am est abl i shed i n uni versal har mon y . I have now
l i ved t wel ve hundred years, and my body is not weakened. ' - ' You
are a heavenl y bei ng , ' sa i d the Yel l ow Emperor, t ouchi ng hi s
forehead on the ground. - ' Li s t en, ' s ai d Master Guang Cheng,
' wi t hout i nt errupt i ng. The f i rst Pr i nc i pl e i s essent i al l y i n fi ni te and
unf at homabl e; men use i n error, when speaki ng of i t , the terms
"end" and "hi ghest . " Those who knew i t became the emperors and
ki ngs of the heroi c age and ended by bec omi ng gods. Those who di d
not know i t , r emai ned t errest r i al be i ngs, i gnorant and sensual .
Nowadays t he fi rst Pr i nc i pl e i s so forgot t en that al l bei ngs l eavi ng
the earth, r eturn to i t . I al so wi l l s t ay no l onger i n t hi s worl d. I
l eave you, to go beyond t he gat e of the i nf i ni t e, to saunter i n
i mmeasurabl e spaces. I am goi ng to uni te my l i ght wi th that of
the sun and the moon; I am goi ng t o fuse my durat i on wi t h that of
heaven and earth. I don ' t e ven wi sh t o know i f men thi nk as I
do, or di fferent l y. When t hey are al l dead, I wi l l survi ve, havi ng
al one, i n these decadent t i mes, reached uni on wi t h uni t y. '
D. The pol i t i c i an Yun Ji ang, who was wander i ng i n the east ,
beyond the Fu Yao Ri ver, unexpec tedl y met the i mmortal Hong
Meng, who was hoppi ng al ong, beat i ng out a rhyt hm on hi s thi ghs*.
*Daolst Immor tal s are al most al ways shown in eccent r i c posture, a si gn of
thei r
contempt for ordi nary l i fe.
1 62
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 1 D.
Surpr i sed, Yun Ji ang st opped, assumed the r i tual posture, and sai d
to h i m: ' Venerabl e one, who are you? What are you doi ng ther e?' -
Wi t hou t ceasi ng t o hop, and t ap on hi s t hi ghs, Hong Meng repl i ed: ' I
am taki ng a wal k . ' Conv i nced t hat he was deal i ng wi th a transcend
ent be i ng, Yun Ji ang sai d: ' I woul d l i ke to ask you a ques t i on. ' -
' Bah , ' s ai d Hong Meng. - ' Yes, ' sa i d Yun Ji ang. ' The heavenl y i nfl ux
i s upset , the eart hl y one i s hi ndered; t he s i x emanat i ons ar e ob
struct ed, t he four seasons are deranged. I wou l d l i ke to put order
back i nto t he uni verse , for the good of the be i ngs who i nhabi t i t .
Wi l l you t el l me how? ' - ' I don ' t know, I don ' t know, ' sai d Hong
Meng, shaki ng h i s head, sl app i ng hi s si des, and hopp i ng . . . Yun Ji ang
coul d get no furt her . - Three years l a t er , when he was wanderi ng
agai n, beyond t he pl ai n of You Song i n the east , Yun Ji ang agai n
unexpec tedl y met Hong Meng. Ful l of j oy , he ran towards hi m, and
reached h i m say i ng: ' Heavenl y bei ng, do you s t i l l remember me? '
Then, prostrat i ng h i msel f t wi ce and bowi ng hi s head, he added: ' I
wi sh t o as k you a quest i on. ' - ' What can I teach you? ' sai d Hong
Meng; ' I who wal k wi t hout knowi ng why , who wander wi t hout
knowi ng where I am goi ng; I who onl y saunt er about wi t hout bei ng
occupi ed wi t h anyt hi ng, so as to avoi d be i ng annoyed by any
unt i mel y i nt erference. ' - ' I al so , ' s ai d Yun Ji ang, ' woul d l i ke, as
you, t o wander free and wi thou t worr i es; but peopl e fol l ow me
e verywhere I go; i t i s real sl aver y; they have j ust l et me go and
I pr of i t f r om t hi s resp i te to quest i on you. ' - ' Poor man, ' sai d
Hong Meng; ' what can I say to you, i n vol ved as you are wi th
the government of men? Who t roubl es the empi r e, does vi ol ence
to nature, and hi nders t he ac t i on of heaven and earth? Who upsets
t he ani mal s, troubl es t he sl eep of t he bi rds, and annoys even the
pl ants and the i nsects? Who act s t hus, i f i t i s not the pol i t i ci an
wi th hi s systems for gover ni ng men ? ' - ' Is t hat how you j udge me ? '
sai d Yun Ji ang. ' I hav e gone to much t roubl e t o f i nd you; I beg you
to i nstruct me. ' - ' Ac tual l y , ' sai d Hong Meng, ' you have great need
to l earn. Li st en, t herefore. . . Begi n by i nt erveni ng i n nothi ng,
and ever yt hi ng wi l l nat ural l y fol l ow i ts course. Get ri d of your
personal i t y ( l i teral l y, l et your body f al l of f l i ke cl ot hi ng
)
, gi ve up
the use of your senses, forget r el at i onshi ps and cont i ngenci es,
drown yoursel f i n the great whol e; ri d yoursel f of your wi l l and
i ntel l i gence, anni hi l at e y ourse l f by abstract i on even as far as no
l onger havi ng a soul . What ' s the good of specul at i ng, si nce the
unconsci ous i s the uni versa! l aw? The mass of bei ngs return uncon
sci ousl y to thei r ori gi n. He who spends hi s l i fe i n unconsci ousness,
fol l ows hi s nature. Si nce he i s born spontaneousl y wi t hout anyone
havi ng asked hi m who or what he wi shed to be, nat ure wants hi m
t o return l i kewi se to i t , wi t hout havi ng known ei ther who or
why. ' - ' Ah, ' cri ed Yun Ji ang, ' heavenl y bei ng, you have enl i ghtened
me, transformed me. Throughout my l i fe I have searched for the
sol uti on to the probl em, and now I have i t ' . . . That sai d, Yun
1 63
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 1 D, E, F.
Ji ang prost rated hi msel f wi t h hi s forehead on the ground, got up,
and cont i nued on hi s way.
E. The gr eat concern of common pol i t i ci ans i s t o at t ach themsel ves
to men; t hey wash thei r hands of those who wi l l not make common
cause wi t h them. Si nce t hey pr efer t hose who share thei r opi ni on,
and detest those who are i n oppos i t i on , i t happens t hat they
seek onl y, i n fac t , t hei r own el evat i on. When the y have achi eved
the obj ect of thei r amb i t i on , are t hey t r ul y superi or to t he common
peopl e? Are t hey usef ul for t he count r y? I mpos i ng on the peopl e
what they are pl eased t o cal l the i r exper i ence, i s t hi s not worse
than abandoni ng t hem to t hemsel ves? Smi t t en wi t h the i dea of
doi ng good to the pr i nci pal i t y , whi ch t hey admi ni st er after the
system of the t hree anci ent dynast i es, they pay no at t ent i on
to the v i ces of t hat syst e m. The i r ent erpr i se exposes t he pr i nci pal
i t y t o the gravest of haz ards. I t i s l ucky i f i t escapes. I t has one
chance of sal vat i on i n t en t housand. For one pr i nc i pa l i t y i n whi ch
they succeed i mper f ec t l y , t hey absol ut el y r ui n t en t housand others.
I s i t sad enough that the mast e rs of the earth don ' t perc e i ve thi s
danger? The most i mpor t ant t hi ng of al l i s wi t hi n t hei r grasp. They
shoul d not conf i de i t to such l i mi t ed and s el f i sh peopl e. I f onl y
they were t o put t he i r trust i n t ranscendent men, i n t hose who are
free of al l wor l d l y i nt eres t , who come and go i n space , wal k i n
the ni ne regi ons, and who ar e c i t i zens, not of t he count ry, but of
the uni verse. They ar e t he most nobl e men of al l *. The est eem of
common men at t aches t o t hem j ust as i n fal l i bl y as a shadow
f ol l ows an opaque body, as an echo fol l ows a s ound. When he i s
consul t ed, the t ranscendent man ex hausts t he ques t i on by hi s
repl y, and makes good the wi shes of the c onsul t ant . He i s the
resort of al l the empi r e . Hi s rest i s cal m and s i l ent , hi s comi ngs
and goi ngs are wi t hout det er mi ned ai m. He l eads on and bri ngs
back t hose he speaks wi t h, wi t hout shock and t hrough an i mpal pabl e
i nfl uence. Hi s mov ement s have no f i xed r ul es. L i ke the sun,
he shi nes al ways . Thi s man can be s ummed up by these words:
He i s one wi t h the gr eat whol e. He i s the gr eat whol e and i s no
l onger hi msel f . Havi ng no par t i cul ar ex i st ence, he no l onger has
any possessi veness. The anc i ent emperors s t i l l had some possessi ve
ness. I t i s necessary to have none at al l , i n order to become the
fri end of heaven and ear t h, t o reach uni on.
F. The bei ngs t hat f i l l up t he worl d are s mal l , but respectabl e. The
peopl e are humbl e, but necessary . Thei r af f ai rs are uncertai n, but
i mportant . The l aws are hard, but i ndi spensabl e. Justi ce i s unsym
patheti c, but obl i gat ory. Unsel f i sh af fect i on i s s ympathet i c. The
*Commentaryz Supreme nobi l i t y consi sts In having absol ute di sregard for men and
worl dl y thi ngs, along wi t h mysti cal uni on wi t h the great whol e,
1 64
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 1 F.
ri tes are pet t y , but one must perform them. These say i ngs sum up
the common wi sdom. - And I add: At the centre of al l t hi ngs and
super i or t o al l , i s the supreme Pr i nci pl e, uni que and transformi ng
i tsel f i nt o product i ve act i on. Heaven, the sky ( physi cal i nstrument
of the product i ve act i on of the Pr i nci pl e) , i s transcendent and acts
wi thout cease. The t rue Sages al so have the rul e of l e t t i ng heaven
act wi t hout ai di ng i t , l et t i ng the produc t i ve act i on act wi thout
i nt erference, l ea v i ng the f i rst Pr i nc i p l e free. Tha t i s what i s
i mport ant i n t he i r eyes. For the res t , l i ke the common pract i ce,
t hey are l ov i ng wi t hout af fect i on, j ust wi t hou t pretens i on, r i tual i st i c
wi thout scrupul os i t y, ac t i ve wi t hout fuss or ceremoni es, l egal
wi thout pass i on , de vot ed t o the peopl e and respect ful of the r i ghts
of al l . They do not cons i der any bei ngs as par t i cul ar l y apt , and yet
use them i n the absence of bet t er means. The i gnorance of those
who do not understand the act i on of heaven, comes from the fact
that t hey do not cl ear l y underst and the ac t i on of the supreme
Pri nci pl e, of whi ch heaven i s t he i nst rument . Those who have no
not i on of the Pr i nc i pl e are good- f or-not hi ng, one shoul d weep for
them. - There are two ways, the heavenl y way and the human way.
Concent rat i ng onese l f nobl y on non- ac t i on, i s the way of heaven.
Fr i t teri ng onesel f away, and t roub l i ng over de t ai l s, i s the human
way. The t wo ways are ver y di fferen t . We are goi ng to scrut i ni ze
them careful l y i n t he fol l owi ng chapt ers.
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 2 A, B, C.
Chapter 1 2. Heaven And Earth.
A. A uni form transfor mi ng force emanat es from t he i mmense
compl ex of heaven and eart h; a uni que l aw governs the mass of
bei ngs; a si ngl e rul er rul es over a popul ous humani t y . The rul er' s
power deri ves from t he Pr i nci pl e; hi s person i s chosen by heaven; so
that he i s referred t o as myst eri ous, l i ke t he Pr i nci pl e. The rul ers
of ant i qui t y abst ai ned from al l personal i nter vent i on, l et t i ng
heaven govern through t hem. When t he Pr i nci pl e act s t hrough the
rul er, hi s mi ni st ers and of f i ci al s, al l bei ngs respond by absol ute
submi ss i on t o thi s j ust and enl i ght ened gover nment . Above the
uni verse the f i rst Pr i nci pl e i nfl uences heaven and ear t h, whi ch
trans mi t t hi s i nfl uence t o al l bei ngs, maki ng for good government
i n the worl d of men and br i ngi ng out t al ent s and abi l i t i es. Looked
at anot her way , al l pr osper i t y comes f r om t he gover nment , whose
effect i veness der i v es from the Pr i nci pl e, t hrough the i ntermedi ary
of heaven and ear t h. That i s why , when t he anci ent r ul ers desi red
not hi ng, there was an abundance i n t he wor l d; t hey d i d not act, and
everyt hi ng evol ved; t hey r emai ned deep i n medi t at i on, and the
peopl e l i ved in the most per f ect order. The ol d say i ng sums t hi s up
as fol l ows: ' For hi m who is uni t ed wi th Uni t y , ev er y thi ng prospers;
to hi m who has no personal i nt erest , even the subt l e bei ngs are
subj ect ed. '
B. How t r ue are t hese wor ds of t he Mast er How great, how
i mmense i s the Pr i nci pl e whi ch covers and supports al l bei ngs!
The r ul er shoul d t ake great car e t o f ol l ow hi s i nner sense Natural
acti on i s heavenl y act i on; the spont aneous ver b i s the heavenl y
i nfl uence; t o l ove al l men and do good t o al l bei ngs i s true good
ness; t o fuse al l di f ferences i nt o one i s t r ue gr eat ness; not to wi sh
to domi nat e ot hers i n any way i s t r ue br eadth of spi r i t; t o possess
di verse t hi ngs wi t hout d i v i di ng one ' s hear t is true weal th; to
fol l ow the heavenl y i nfl uence is t he way to act ; to act under thi s
i nfl uence i s t o act ef fect i vel y; to ser ve as a doci l e i ntermedi ary
of the Pr i nci pl e i s per fect i on; not t o al l ow one' s determi nati on
to be a ffect ed by anyt hi ng i s constancy. The rul er shoul d concen
trate these si x pr i nci pl es i n hi ms el f , then appl y them to the govern
ment, and ever yt hi ng wi l l fol l ow i ts nat ural course. He should leave
the gold i n the rocks and the pear l s i n the depths, scorn weal th and
honour, and be i ndi fferent to l ong l i fe and earl y death. He should
be nei ther vai n i n prosperi t y nor humi l i at ed by advers i t y, he should
di sdai n al l the goods of thi s worl d, am he shoul d not gl ori fy
hi msel f because of hi s exal t at i on. Hi s gl ory shoul d be i n understand
ing that al l bei ngs are a si ngl e uni versal compl ex, and that l i fe and
death are two modal i t i es of the same bei ng.
C. The Master has sai d: ' The act i on of the Pri nci pl e through heaven
1 66
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 2 C, 0, E.
i s i nfi ni te i n i ts expansi on, ungraspabl e i n i ts subtl et y. I t resi des,
i mpercept i bl e, i n al l bei ngs, as the cause of thei r be i ng and thei r
qual i t i es. I t i s t hat whi ch resonates i n metal s and sonorous fl i nts. I t
i s al so i n the bl ow that makes them resonate. Wi thout i t, nothi ng
woul d be. . . The man who takes the qual i t i es of a ki ng from i t ,
wal ks i n s i mpl i ci t y and abstai ns f r om occupa ti on wi t h mul t i pl e
thi ngs. Keepi ng hi msel f wi th the or i gi n, the source , uni ted wi th
uni t y, he knows l i ke the geni es, by i nt ui t i on in the Pri nci pl e.
In consequence hi s capac i t y ext ends to everythi ng. When hi s spi r i t
goes out through one of hi s senses, for exampl e si ght , as soon as
i t meets a bei ng, i t grasps i t , pene t rat es i t , and knows i t i n depth.
Thi s i s because bei ngs have become what they are through par t i
ci pat i on i n t he Pri nci pl e, and t hey are known through par t i ci pat i on
i n the vi rtue of the Pr i nci pl e. To l ook after bei ngs, knowi ng thei r
nature, to act on t hem wi t h f ul l knowl edge of t he Pr i nci pl e, these
are the at t r i butes of one born t o be ki ng. He appears une xpectedl y
on the scene of the worl d, pl ays hi s rol e, and al l bei ngs gi ve
themsel ves to hi m. Thi s i s because he has rece i ved from the
Pri nci pl e the qual i t i es whi ch make a ki ng. He sees i n the darkness
of the Pri nci pl e, he hears the mut e word of the Pr i nci pl e. For hi m,
darkness i s l i ght , s i l ence i s harmony. He grasps be i ng, at t he most
profound l evel of bei ng; and hi s purpose , at the hi ghest abstract i on,
i s t he Pri nci pl e. Keepi ng hi mse l f at t hi s hei ght , ent i rel y empt y and
denuded, he gi ves what i s f i t t i ng t o al l . Hi s act i on ex tends i n t i me
and space. '
D. The Yel l ow Emperor had advanced as f ar as the north of the
Red Ri ver, and cl i mbed Mount Kun Lun i n order to vi ew the
regi ons of the south, when he l ost hi s bl ack pearl ( hi s treasure, the
noti on of the Pr i nci pl e, l ost through ha v i ng surrendered hi msel f to
hi s ambi t i ous dreams) . He made Sci ence l ook for i t , but he coul d
not recover i t . I nvest i gat i on and Di scussi on coul d not fi nd i t ei ther.
Fi nal l y, Abstract i on recovered i t . The Yel l ow Emperor sai d to
hi msel f: ' Is i t not strange t hat i t was found by Abstract i on, consi d
ered by the common peopl e t o be t he l east pract i cal of facul t i es. '
E. Yao was i nstructed by Xu You, di sc i pl e of Ni e Que, di sci pl e of
Wang Ni , di sci pl e of Pi Yi . Yao was t hi nki ng of abdi cat i ng i n order
to devote hi msel f to cont empl at i on, so he asked Xu You: ' Has Ni e
Que the qual i t i es to col l aborate wi th heaven ( to be emperor i n
my pl ace) ? I f he has, I wi l l make hi s master, Wang Ni *, i mpose
the pos i t i on on hi m. ' - ' That , ' sai d Xu You, ' woul d be hazardous,
perhaps fatal . Ni e Que i s too i nt el l i gent and capabl e. He woul d
appl y hi s human i ntel l i gence and abi l i t i es to the go vernment ,
thereby hi nder i ng heaven, t he Pr i nci pl e, from governi ng. He woul d
*I n Chi na the master' s authori ty i s equal or superi or to the parents' .
1 67
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 2 E, F, G.
i ncrease t ax at i on, honour the l earned, take deci s i ons, preoccupy
hi msel f wi t h tradi t i ons, ent angl e hi mse l f i n compl i cat i ons, l i sten to
opi ni ons, appl y theor i es deduct i vel y on the evol ut i on of thi ngs, etc.
Thi s man i s too i ntel l i gent to be emperor. Al t hough hi s nobi l i ty
qual i fi es hi m for the pos i t i on, hi s e xcess o f abi l i t y makes hi m onl y
fi t t o be a mi nor of fi ci al . He has what one needs for capturi ng
bri gands. I f he were t o become a mi ni st er , i t woul d be a mi sfort
une; i f he were t o s i t on the t hrone, i t woul d r ui n the country. '
F. When Yao was i nspect i ng the t erri tory of Hua, the offi ci al in
charge of that l and s ai d t o hi m: ' 0 Sage ! I wi sh you prosperi ty and
l ong l i fe. ' - ' Be s i l en t , ' s ai d Yao. - But t he of f i ci a l cont i nued: ' I
wi s h you weal t h. ' - ' S i l ence , ' sai d Yao. - ' And many mal e chi l dren, '
concl uded the of f i ci al . - ' Si l ence , ' s ai d Yao, f or the t hi rd t i me. -
The of fi ci al repl i ed: ' Long l i fe , weal t h, mal e hei rs , a l l men desi re
these thi ngs. Why do you al one not want the m? ' - ' Because, '
sai d Yao, ' he who has ma ny sons, ha s ma ny troubl es; he who is
r i ch, has many worr i es; he who l i ves a l ong t i me, meets many
contradi ct i ons. These three drawbacks hi nder the cul t i vati on of
moral vi r t ue, t hat is why I d i d not want what you wi shed for me. '
- ' Then , ' sai d t he of f i c i al , ' I no l onger consi der you a Sage, but an
ordi nary man. Heaven gi ves to each i ndi v i dual t hat i t procreates,
the sense necessary for i t s conduc t ; t here fore your sons woul d sort
themsel ves out on t he i r own. To r i d yourse l f of any encumbrance
of weal t h, you woul d onl y have t o di st ri but e i t . You preoccupy
yoursel f more t han a Sage e ver woul d. The true Sage l i ves in thi s
worl d j ust as a quai l l i ves i n a f i el d, wi thout at t achment to any
home, or worr yi ng about hi s nour i s hment . I n t i mes of peace, he
takes hi s share of t he common prosper i t y . I n t i mes of troubl e, he
occupi es h i msel f wi t h hi s own i nt er i or devel opment and i s di si n
terested i n af f ai rs. Af ter a thousand years, weary of thi s worl d, he
l eaves i t and ascends t owards t he i mmor t al s. Mounted on a whi te
cl oud, he arri ves i n t he reg i on of the Soverei gn*. There, none of
the three mi sf ort unes reach h i m; h i s body l asts a l ong t i me wi thout
suffer i ng; he no l onger exper i ences cont radi ct i ons. ' - Havi ng sai d
thi s, the off i ci al moved of f . Recogni z i ng that he was a hi dden
Sage, Yao ran after h i m and sa i d: ' I have some questi ons to ask
you. ' - ' Leave me in peace , ' sai d the of f i ci al .
G. When Yeo governed t he empi re, Mast er Gao, known as Bo
Cheng, was i nvested by hi m wi t h a fi e f. Yeo transmi tted the
empi re to Shun, who t rans mi t t ed i t t o Yu** Then Master Gao gave
up hi s f i ef, and set hi msel f t o cul t i vat i ng the l and. Yu went to
see hi m, and found hi m busy worki ng on the pl ai n. Approachi ng hi m
*The Soverei gn of the Annal s and t he Odes. Cf . Lao Zi , chapter 4 E.
**To the Daol sts, a bl ack sheep who i nvented systemati c pol i t ics.
1 68
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 2 G, H, I.
respect ful l y, he sai d: ' Master, Emperor Yao i nvested you wi th a
fi ef, whi ch you kept unt i l now. Why do you now want to gi ve i t
up?' - ' Because the wor l d i s no l onger what i t was under Yao, '
sai d Master Gao. ' Under Yao the peopl e conduct ed themsel ves wel l ,
wi t hout bei ng rewarded for thei r good behavi our; the y were obed
i ent wi thout be i ng const rai ned by chast i sement . Now you reward
and puni sh systemat i cal l y , whi ch has made the peopl e l ose thei r
natural qual i t i es. Nature has di sappeared, l aws have repl aced i t ,
and from t hi s there has come l awl essness. Why waste my t i me?
Why hi nder my work ? ' And, l ean i ng on hi s pl ough, Master Gao
cont i nued the furrow he had begun, and never l ooked back at Yu.
H. At the great begi nn i ng, t here was forml essness, t he i mpercep
ti bl e bei ng; there was no sent i ent be i ng, and i n consequence, no
name*. The fi rst bei ng was non -sent i ent , the One , the Pr i nci pl e.
The nor m, the v i rt ue emanat i ng f rom the One, whi ch gi ves bi rth
to al l bei ngs, i s cal l ed de. Mul t i pl y i ng i t se l f wi thout end, thi s
part i ci pat i ng v i rt ue i s cal l ed, i n each one, mi ng, i t s share, l ot, or
dest i ny. I t i s t hrough al ternat i ng concent rat i on and expansi on that
the norm gi ves bi r t h t o be i ngs. I n t he bei ng whi ch i s born, cert ai n
def i ni t e l i nes spec i fy i ts corpor eal f or m. Thi s corporeal form
cont ai ns t he v i t al spi r i t . Each be i ng has i ts way of act i ng, whi ch
const i t ut es i t s own nat ur e. Thi s i s how bei ngs descend f rom the
Pri nci pl e. They r et ur n t hrough ment al and moral Daoi st cul t ure,
whi ch bri ngs i nd i v i dual nat ur e back t o conf or mi t y wi t h t he uni versal
act i ng vi r t ue, and t he par t i cul ar bei ng to uni on wi th the pri mordi al
Pr i nci pl e, t he gr eat Voi d, t he gr eat Whol e. Thi s ret urn, t hi s uni on,
i s achi eved not t hrough act i on but cessat i on ; j ust as a bi r d cl oses
i ts beak, ceases i t s song , and i s s i l ent ; a s i l ent fusi on wi t h heaven
and earth, i n an apat hy whi ch seems st up i d t o those who understand
nothi ng, but whi ch i s t rue mys t i cal vi r t ue, communi on wi th the
evol ut i on of t he cosmos.
I . Confuc i us asked Lao Dan: ' Some peopl e seek the essent i al
i dent i t y of t hi ngs, and cl ai m t hat l i ci t and i l l i c i t , yes and no, are
one and the same t hi ng. Ot hers seek t o di s t i ngui sh everyt hi ng,
and decl are that the non- i dent i t y of substance and acci dents i s
real i t y. Ar e these peopl e Sages ?' - ' They ar e men who wear
themsel ves out wi t hout benef i t t o themsel ves, ' repl i ed Lao Dan,
' l i ke offi ci al s' henchmen, hunt ers' dogs, and comedi ans' monkeys.
Qi u**, I am goi ng t o tel l you a truth t hat you wi l l nei ther be abl e
to understand nor even repeat correct l y. There are no more Sages.
Now, men are numerous who, havi ng a head and feet , have nei ther
mi nd nor ears. But y ou wi l l search i n vai n for those who, i n thei r
*Compare wi t h Lao Z i chapter 1 .
*
*The f i r st name o f Confuci us; sl i ghtl y scornful f ami l i ar i t y.
1 69
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 2 I, J, K.
mat eri al body, have kept thei r part of the or i gi nal Pri nci pl e i ntact.
Those ( the Sages, when there were any) nei t her acted nor rested,
nei ther l i ved nor di ed, nei ther cl i mbed up nor went down, through
any effort of t hei r own, bu t l et themsel ves go al ong the thread of
uni versal evol ut i on. To do t hat ( and i n consequence become a true
Oaoi st Sage) is in the power of al l men. To become a Sage, it is
onl y necessary to forget bei ngs ( i ndi v i dual s) , heaven ( the causes),
and onesel f ( one ' s i nterests) . Through t hi s uni versa! forget ful ness,
a man becomes one wi th Heaven, mel t s h i ms el f in the cosmos. '
J. Ji ang!U Mi an v i si ted Master Ji Che and s ai d t o hi m: ' The Pri nce
of Lu asked me to advi se h i m how to govern hi s pr i nci pal i ty wel l .
I repl i ed that you had not commi ssi oned me for t hat . He i nsi sted
i n order to have my personal advi ce. Thi s i s what I s ai d to hi m;
j udge i f I spoke wel l or bad! y I s ai d t o t he pr i nce: "Be di gni fi ed
and sober; empl oy devot ed of f i cers and send away sel f i sh egoi sts; i f
you do t hat , e veryone wi l l be on your s i de. " ' - Ji Che burst out
l aughi ng. ' Your pol i t i cs , ' he s ai d, ' ar e as usef ul as the manti s that
t ri ed to st op a carri age. What you s ai d i s absol ut el y usel ess, and
coul d be harmf ul . ' - ' But t hen, ' s ai d Ji ang! U Mi an, ' what is the art
of governi ng?' - ' Thi s , ' s ai d Ji Che, ' i s how the great Sages conduc
ted themsel ves. They encouraged the peopl e to i mprove themsel ves,
to advance t hemsel ves, by i nspi r i ng t hem wi t h t he t ast e for i m
provement and advancement ; l eav i ng them t o ev ol v e spont aneousl y;
and l et t i ng them bel i ev e t hat they wi shed and act ed by themsel ves.
That is great pol i t i cs. These men d i d not r ul e at the t i me of ole
Yao and Shun
(
so ext ol l ed by Confuc i us) , for t hey are more anci ent
than these venerabl es. They were of pr i mordi al or i gi n, and thei r
pol i t i cs consi st ed i n bri ngi ng back to l i fe the spark of cosmi c vi rtue
resi di ng i n e veryone ' s hear t . '
K. Zi Gong, a di s ci pl e of Conf uci us , had been to the Pri nci pal i t}
of Chu , and was comi ng back t owards that of Ji n. Near the Ri ver
Han he saw a man busy wat er i ng hi s veget abl e garden. He fi l lec
a cont ai ner at the wel l and subsequent l y empti ed i t i nto the trough
of hi s beds o f pl ants - har d work , gi vi ng l i t t l e resul t . - ' Don' t yoL
know, ' sai d Zi Gong, ' that t here i s a machi ne wi t h whi ch a hundrec
beds are eas i l y wat ered in a day wi thou t hard work? ' - ' How doe
it work ? ' asked the man. - Zi Gong repl i ed: ' I t is a caunterbal ancec
l adl e whi ch takes t he wat er from one si de and pours it aut at
the ather. ' - ' Too cl ever to be good, ' sai d the gardener, annoyed. '
l earnt from my master that al l machi nes have to do wi th formulae,
arti f i ci al i t y. Now for mul ae and art i f i ces destroy nat i ve i ngenui ty,
troubl e the vi tal spi r i ts, and prevent the Pri nci pl e from resi di n
peaceful l y i n one ' s heart. I want not hi ng of your caunterbal ancec
l adl e. ' - Si l enced, Zi Gang l owered hi s head and di d nat repl y
In hi s turn the gardener asked: ' Who are you ?' ' A Confuci an
,
1 70
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 2 K, L.
sai d Zi Gong. - ' Ah, ' s ai d t he gardener, ' one of those pedants who
thi nk they are super i or t o the common peopl e, and who try to make
themsel ves i nt erest i ng by si ngi ng compl ai nts about the bad state of
the empi re. Go! Forget your mi nd, forget your body, and you wi l l
take t he fi rst s t ep al ong the r oad to wi s dom. For, i f you cannot put
yoursel f ar i ght , how can you cl ai m to set ari ght the empi re? Cl ear
off, now! You have made me l ose enough t i me. ' - Zi Gong went
away, pal e wi t h emot i on. He di d not recover unt i l after he had
covered t hi r t y l i . Then t he di s ci pl es who accompan i ed hi m asked:
' What ki nd of man i s he t o have t roubl ed you so? ' - ' Ah, ' sai d
Zi Gong, ' unt i l now I bel i eved t hat t here was i n the empi re but a
si ngl e man wort hy o f hi s name, my mast er Confuci us. That was
because I di d not know t hi s man. I expl ai ned t o hi m the Con fuc i an
theory, o f the t endency t owar ds the goal , by t he most f i t t i ng means
and wi th the l east e f f ort . I t ook that for the formul a of wi sdom.
Now he has ref ut ed me and has gi ven me to understand t hat
wi sdom consi sts of i nt egrat i on of t he vi t al spi r i t s, conser vat i on of
one ' s nat ur e, and uni on wi th t he Pr i nci pl e. These t r ue Sages do
not di ffer f r om the common peopl e ex t er i or l y; i nt er i or l y thei r
di st i nct i ve t ra i t i s t he absence of goal , l et t i ng l i fe unfol d wi thout
want i ng t o know where i t i s goi ng. Al l e ffor t , tendency , art , i s
for them the resul t of havi ng forgot t en what man shoul d be.
Accordi ng t o them, t he True Man onl y mo ves under hi s natural
i nst i nct . He scorns pr ai se and bl ame equal l y , whi ch nei t her gi ve hi m
benef i t nor depri ve hi m. That i s true wi sdom, whereas I am buffet
ed about by t he wi nd and t he waves. ' - When he returned to the
Pr i nci pal i t y of Lu, Zi Gong, conver t ed t o Daoi sm, recounted hi s
adventure t o Conf uci us. The l at t er sa i d: ' Thi s man cl ai ms to
pract i se the wi sdom of the pr i mor di al age. He hol ds hi msel f to
the pri nc i pl e, t o t he for mul a, af fect i ng i gnorance of appl i cat i ons
and modi fi cat i ons. Cert ai nl y, if in the present worl d there were
st i l l a means of l i vi ng wi t hout t hi nki ng and wi thout act i ng, at tend
i ng uni quel y t o one ' s own wel l -bei ng, there woul d be grounds for
admi ri ng hi m. But we are born, you and I, i n a cent ury of i nt r i gues
and struggl es, where the wi sdom of the pr i mor di al age i s no l onger
worth st udyi ng, f or i t i s no l onger appl i cabl e . '
L. Zhun Mang was goi ng towards the eastern ocean, when h e met
Yuan Feng, who sai d t o hi m: ' Mast er, where are you goi ng? '
' To the sea, ' sai d Zhun Mang. - ' Why? ' asked Yuan Feng. - ' Because
i t i s the i mage of the Pri nci pl e, ' sai d Zhun Mang. ' Al l the ri vers
run i nt o i t wi t hout fi l l i ng i t . Wat er l eaves i t wi thout empt yi ng i t ;
j us t as bei ngs l eave t he Pri nci pl e and return to i t . That i s why
I am goi ng t o the sea. ' - ' And what do you t hi nk of humani t y ? '
asked Yuan F eng. ' What are t he pol i t i cs of the l esser Sages,
the Confuci ans ?' - Zhun Mang answered: ' They are to do good
to al l , favour the t al ented, rul e the empi re, and make the peopl e
1 7 1
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 2 L, M, N.
obey, these are the i r pol i t i cs. ' - ' And the pol i t i cs of the Daoi st
Sages, who col l aborate wi t h the cosmi c i nf l ux ? ' asked Yuan Feng. -
' They are , ' sai d Zhun Mang, ' not t o make pl ans; t o act under the
i nspi r at i on of the moment ; to count as not hi ng t he arti fi ci al
di st i nct i ons of ri ght and wrong, good and e v i l ; t o gi ve to everyone
as one woul d g i ve to orphans, wai fs , and st rays, i n order to sati sfy
thei r needs, wi t hout expect i ng any ret ur n, wi t hout aski ng thanks of
them, wi t hout even maki ng onese l f known. ' - ' And the pol i t i cs of
whol l y superi or transcendent men? ' asked Yuan Feng. - ' The l at ter, '
sai d Zhun Mang, ' fuse t he i r spi r i t wi t h t he l i ght , and thei r body
wi th the uni verse. Thei r l umi nos i t y and empt i ness is the total
abnegat i on of the sel f. Sub mi t t ed t o t he i r dest i ny , these men
enj oy the di s i nterest ed j oy of heaven and ear t h, pract i s i ng non
i nt ervent i on wi t hout l ove or hat e, so t hat al l goes spontaneousl y
to i ts nat ural sol ut i on. Governed by t hem, al l bei ngs woul d return to
thei r i nborn i ns t i nct , and t he worl d t o i ts pr i mor di al st ate. '
M. Men Wu Gui and Chi Zhang Man J i had watched Emperor
Yu' s army march past them. Man Ji s ai d: ' I f t hi s emperor were
as good as old Shun, he woul dn ' t have to make war . ' - ' Di d Shun
rei gn duri ng a t r oubl ed or a peace ful epoch? ' asked Wu Gui .
' You are r i ght , ' sai d Man Ji ; ' t here are no grounds for compari son.
Shun rei gned duri ng an epoch so peacef ul t hat anyone coul d have
passed hi msel f off as e mperor. He wast ed h i s t i me over tri fles,
such as cur i ng ul cers, rest or i ng hai r , and car i ng for the si ck. He
drugged the empi re wi t h al l t he anx i e t y o f a son who drugs hi s
father . ' The Confuci ans pr ai se h i m for hi s act i ons. A true Sage
woul d have been ashamed to act l i ke t hat At t he t i me of perfect
act i on, t hey made no speci al case of wi sdom or abi l i ty . Govern
ments were l i ke the branches of gr eat t rees, whi ch shel tered and
protected wi t hout knowi ng or wi s hi ng to know i t ; the peopl e were
l i ke wi l d ani mal s who t ook refuge under t hese branches and benefi t
ed from thei r shade , wi t hout t hank i ng t he m. The governments
acted equi tabl y wi t hout knowi ng the word equ i t y , chari t abl y wi thout
knowi ng the word goodness, l oyal l y and fai thful l y, si mpl y, and
wi thout ask i ng for pay ment in r et ur n. In vi ew of thei r extreme
si mpl i ci t y, no str i k i ng f act s ha ve come down from these t i mes, and
thei r hi story has not been wr i t ten.
N. A son, a mi ni s t er , who does not approve of an ev i l deed commi t
ted by hi s father or pr i nce, i s procl ai med a good son, a good
mi ni ster, by the peopl e , from author i t y, wi thout argument; and the
masses adopt t hi s verdi ct doci l el y, each one bel i ev i ng he has
pronounced i t hi msel f*. If one says t o these peopl e, that thei r
*Al though thi s I s not, however, evi dent, for one coul d cl ai m that the hei ght of pi ety
and devoti on is to approve of everythi ng, even evi l , says the commentary.
1 72
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 2 N, 0.
j udgement is not thei r own, that i t has been suggested to them
they wi l l be of fended. I t i s l i ke thi s i n most cases, for most peopl e:
Al most al l of them recei ve thei r i deas al ready made, and fol l ow
popul ar opi ni on al l t hei r l i ves. They speak i n the st yl e of the ti mes
and dress accordi ng to fashi on, not from any pri nci pl e, but i n orde;
to act l i ke the ot hers. Ser vi l e i mi t at ors, who say yes or no accord
i ng to sugges t i on, t hey bel i eve themsel ves to be sel f -determi ni ng.
Is thi s not f ol l y ? An i ncurabl e fol l y , for men are sure that they are
not caught up i n t hi s mani a for i mi tat i on. I t i s a general fol l y, for
the whol e empi re i s touched wi t h t hi s madness. I t woul d there fore
be i n vai n for me to try to put men back on the way of spontan
eous personal act i on, emanat i ng from t he sel f, from thei r own
i nst i nct . Al as! - Nobl e mus i c l eaves vi l l agers i ndi fferent , whereas a
tri vi al song easi l y makes t hem swoon. Li kewi se, el evat ed thoughts
do not enter mi nds stuffed wi t h common i deas. The noi se of
two earthenware drums drowns t he sound of a bronze bel l . How
coul d I make the fool s who popul at e t he empi re l i st en t o me? I f
I hoped to achi eve that, I al so woul d be a fool . Therefore I l eave
them al one, wi thout at t empt i ng t o enl i ghten t hem. None of t hem,
moreover, wi sh me t o, for they cl i ng t o t hei r common fol l y.
Just l i ke t he l eper who onl y caresses hi s new-born son af ter he
has assured hi msel f that he is j ust as l eprous as he.
0. Take a l i vi ng tree from whi ch a branch has been cut . From a
part of t hi s branch a r i t ual vase i s made, chi sel l ed and pai nt ed;
and the rest i s thrown i nto t he rubbi sh pi t t o decay. Then they wi l l
say t he vas e i s beaut i ful and t he r es t i s ugl y. And I say, bot h the
vase and the rest are ugl y for they are no l onger nat ural wood, but
art i f i ci al l y deformed obj ect s. I j udge bri gand Zhi , and t he Sages
Zeng Shen and Shi Qi u, i n t he same way. The fi rst i s sai d to be
vi ci ous, the others v i rtuous. In my eyes they were equal l y wrong for
not bei ng true men, for they act ed agai nst nat ure, and therefore
i t matters l i t t l e i f i t was wi t h good or evi l i nt ent i ons. - And
what are the causes of thi s rui n of human nat ure? They are the
art i f i ci al theori es of col our, whi ch have pervert ed si ght ; theori es
of sound, whi ch have perverted heari ng; theori es of odour, whi ch
have perverted the sense of smel l ; t heori es of taste, whi ch have
perverted taste; and l i terary art i fi ces, whi ch have di stracted
the heart of man and fal si fi ed hi s nature. Look at these enemi es
of human nature, so dear to Yang Zhu and Mo Zi . I shal l never
consi der the arts as good t hi ngs. Strangl i ng, i mpri soni ng, art i fi ci al
rul es; how can t hey make peopl e happy? Shoul d t he i deal of
happi ness be the state of the dove l ocked i n a cage, or t hat
of the dove free i n the ai r ? Poor peopl e, thei r theori es torment
thei r i nteri or l i ke fi re, thei r ri tes truss thei r ext eri or l i ke a corset .
Thus tortured and bound, shoul d I compare t hem wi t h cri mi nal s
i n the tongs, or wi th encaged wi l d ani mal s? Is t hi s happi ness?
1 73
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 J A.
Chapter 1 3. Heavenly Influence.
A. The i nfl uence of heaven acts freel y, produci ng all bei ngs.
The i mperi al i nfl uence, act i ng i mpar t i al l y, draws all the peopl e
to i t . The Sage ' s i nfl uence spreads uni for ml y, and everyone submi ts
to hi m. Those who understand t hi s mode of act i on of heaven,
of the Sage, and of the i deal head of st at e, concentrate them
sel ves i n medi t at i ve peace, whi ch i s the source of natural act i on.
Thi s peace i s not an obj ect i ve, whi ch t he Sage reaches by di rect
efforts. I t consi sts i n the negat i ve fact t hat hi s heart i s no l onger
moved by anyt hi ng; i t i s acqu i red through abstract i on. Thi s i s
the pri nci pl e of the Sage ' s cl ear i ns i ght. Just as perfect l y cal m
water i s cl ear and refl ect s even the ha i rs of the beard and eye
brows of one who l ooks i n i t . Not hi ng t ends more t owards rest,
towards equi l i br i um, than wat er; so much so t hat the name of
the perfect grade ( l evel of wat er) i s deri ved from i t . Now just as
rest cl ari fi es wat er, i t l i kewi se cl ar i f i es the v i t al spi r i ts , i ncl udi ng
the i ntel l i gence . The Sage ' s hear t , per fect l y cal m, i s l i ke a mi rror
whi ch refl ect s heaven and ear t h, and al l bei ngs. Empt i ness, peace,
content ment , apat hy, si l ence, comprehensi ve vi ew, non- i nt erventi on;
these make the for mul a of the i nfl uence of heaven and earth, of
the Pr i nci pl e. The anci ent emperors and Sages knew t hi s formul a.
Empty ( of al l pass i on) , they kept t he general l aws truthful l y.
Peace ful ( wi t hout any emot i on) , they act ed e ffect i vel y. Not i nter
veni ng, l eavi ng de t ai l s to the i r of f i ci al s , t hey were exempt from
pl easure and pai n, and, in consequence, t hey l i ved a l ong t i me.
Is i t not cl ear that empt i ness, peace, cont ent ment , apathy , si l ence,
comprehensi ve vi ew, non- i nt erven t i on , are the root of al l good? He
who understands t hi s coul d be as good an e mperor as Yao, and as
good a mi ni st er as Shun. He coul d re i gn, as k i ng, over the desti ny
of men; or as a Sage , over the i r spi r i t ual wel l -bei ng& Whether he
J i ves i n re t reat as an anchor i t e by t he wat er s, i n the mountai ns, or
in the forest s, or happens t o be a wor l d teacher , i n each case he
wi l l be recogni zed and at t r act peopl e t o hi m. Yes, the specul ati ons
of the great Sages, and the act i ons of the great ki ngs, emanate
from peace; non- i nt ervent i on makes t hem famous; abstracti on
el evates them above ever yt hi ng. Underst and cl earl y the i nfl uence of
heaven and eart h, whi ch i s a ki ndl y and tol erant non- i ntervent i on; i t
i s the great root , the underst andi ng wi t h heaven. The pri nci pl e of
havi ng such an understandi ng wi t h men is pract i s i ng an anal ogous
non i ntervent i on in government . Now human j oy, supreme happi ness,
is l i vi ng i n harmony wi t h men. Zhuang Zi praises his ideal, empti
ness, rest, the Principl e, saying: ' 0 my Master! My Master! You
destroy wi thout be i ng ev i l , construct wi t hout bei ng good, were
before t i me but are not ol d, cover al l l i ke the sky, support al l l i ke
the earth, and are the author of al l wi thout cl ai mi ng to be able
(unconsci ous acti on) . I t i s heavenl y joy to understand you thus. It
1 74
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 A, B.
is supreme happi ness t o know that I was born through your i nfl uen
ce, that on my death I wi l l enter i nto your way; that resti ng I
communi cate wi t h the yi n, your pass i ve modal i t y, acti ng I commun
i cate wi th the yang, your act i ve modal i t y. For the enl i ghtened who
possess t hi s happi ness, no more compl ai nts agai nst heaven ( the
i ntel l i gent i nt ermedi ary of dest i ny) , no more resentment agai nst
men ( who go t hei r way as I do), no more worry about busi ness
( whi ch i sn ' t worth i t ) , no more fear of ghosts (who can do nothi ng) .
The act i on of the enl i ght ened i s confounded wi t h heaven ' s act i on,
hi s rest wi th eart h' s repose. Hi s cl osed spi r i t domi nates t he worl d;
i n death hi s i nferi or soul wi l l not ac t badl y ( wi l l di ssi pate i tsel f
peaceful l y) , hi s super i or s oul wi l l not wander as a ghost (wi l l pass
i nto another form) . Yes, t hi s i s heavenl y j oy, t o fol l ow the evol u
ti on of the Pri nci pl e, i n heaven, eart h, and al l be i ngs. Thi s j oy i s
the subsoi l of the Sage ' s heart . He draws hi s pri nci pl e of govern
ment from t hi s. '
B. Fai thful i mi t at ors of heaven and eart h, of the Pri nci pl e and i ts
i nfl uence, the anci ent rul ers di d not i nter vene di rect l y or occupy
themsel ves wi th det ai l s. I t was because of thi s that they were abl e
to govern the whol e empi r e. I nact i v e, t hey l et thei r subj ects act.
I mmobi l e, they l et men move t hemsel ves. Thei r thought ex tended
to everyt hi ng, wi thout thei r t hi nki ng of anyt hi ng; they saw every
thi ng i n pri nci pl e, wi t hout di s t i ngui shi ng det ai l s; thei r power,
capabl e of anythi ng, was appl i ed t o not hi ng. Just as the non
act i on of heaven and earth causes bei ngs t o be born and grow; so
the rul er ' s non-act i on makes hi s subj ect s prosper. How transcendent
i s the i nfl uence of heaven, earth, and such a rul er. And there i s
reason for sayi ng, i n thi s sense, that the rul er ' s i nfl uence uni tes
i tsel f wi th that of heaven and earth! I ndefi nabl e l i ke that of
heaven and earth, i t attract s al l be i ngs and moves the mass of
humans. - Uni que i n i ts superi or sphere, thi s i nfl uence spreads
i tsel f as i t descends. The rul er formul ates the abstract l aw; hi s
mi ni sters appl y i t t o concrete cases. Mi l i tary art , l aws and sanc
ti ons, r i tes and customs, musi c and dances, weddi ngs and funeral s,
and other thi ngs whi ch torment the Confuci ans; al l these are
mi nute detai l s, whi ch the Sage l eaves to hi s offi ci al s. - One must
not thi nk, however, that there are, i n human affai rs, nei ther
degrees nor subordi nat i on, nor success i on. There i s a natural
order, based on the reci procal rel at i onshi p of heaven and earth, and
on cosmi c evol ut i on. The rul er i s super i or to the mi ni ster, father to
son, ol der to younger brothers, ol d peopl e to young peopl e, man to
woman, husband to wi fe; because heaven i s superi or to earth. In
the cycle of the seasons, the two product i ve seasons precede the
two unproducti ve ones; each bei ng passes through two success i ve
phases of vi gour and decl i ne; al l thi s comes from the fact of
cosmi c evol uti on; and i t fol l ows that parents have precedence i n
1 75
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 3 B, C, D, E.
the fami l y, rank comes fi rst at court , the old are honoured i n the
vi l l age, the wi sest are entrusted in human affai rs. To l ack these
thi ngs, woul d be to l ack respect for the Pr i nci pl e, from whi ch these
rul es have been deri ved.
C. The anci ent s consi dered the Pr i nci pl e i n the heaven-earth
bi nomi al . I t i s from t hi s bi nomi al t hat t hey drew the nat ural i deas
of (bl i nd) goodness and ( unconsci ous) fai rness, ( opposed to the art i fi
ci al i deas of goodness and fai rness of the Confuci ans) ; t hen the
i deas of funct i ons and of f i ce; and t hen those of capaci t y , respon
s i bi l i t y, sanc t i on et c. As abst ract i deas i ncreased, i nt el l ectuals
di st i ngui shed themsel ves from i mbec i l es; t hen there were superi or
and i nfer i or men. Al l were t reat ed accor di ng t o t hei r degree. The
Sages served the r ul er , nurt ured t he fool i s h, amendi ng them by
exampl e, wi t hout constrai ni ng t hem, l i ke the act i on of heaven and
eart h. Thi s was the era of absol ut e peace, of per fect government.
No one made di sser t at i ons, or qui bbl ed about ent i t i es and denomi na
t i ons, as do the soph i st s t oday. They di d not t r y to reward or
puni sh adequat el y ever y good or ev i l deed, as our l egal i st s woul d
l i ke to. For ever y sol ut i on, t hey i nqui r ed i nt o the r oot , the ori gi n,
the Pri nc i pl e whi ch cont ai ns al l ; and i t i s t hi s v i ew from above,
whi ch made the super i or i t y of t he i r gover nment . Whereas through
bei ng l ost i n det ai l s , our sophi s ts and l egal i st s are good- for-nothi ng.
D. When Shun was s t i l l a mi ni st er , he asked Yao: ' Emperor appoi nt
ed by heaven, how do you exer c i se your funct i ons? ' Yao repl i ed: ' I
do not oppress the l i t t l e ones, I do not wrong the poor, I take care
of wi dows and orphans . ' - ' That i s good, ' s ai d Shun, ' but i t i s hardl y
el evat ed. ' - ' Then , ' asked Yao, ' what s houl d I do? ' - ' The i nfl uence
of heaven, ' s ai d Shun, ' paci f i es t hrough i ts own emanat i on. To
produce the successi on of seasons, days and ni ght s, cl ouds and rai n,
the sun and moon are cont ent to s hi ne . ' - ' I understand, ' sai d
Yao, ' I have act ed too much, and t r i ed too hard t o pl ease . '
E. Confuc i us was l eavi ng the Pr i nc i pal i t y o f Lu, i n the east , for
the capi t al of Zhou ( t hen Lao Yang) i n the west . He wi shed to
present hi s books to the i mper i al l i brar y . Hi s di sc i pl e Zi Lu sai d to
hi m: ' I have heard t el l t hat a cer t ai n Lao Dan used to be keeper of
t hi s l i br ar y. He i s ret i red now. Pay h i m a vi s i t . He coul d help you
get your books accept ed. ' ' So be i t , ' s ai d Conf uci us; and he went to
see Lao Dan. The l at t er re fused out ri ght to pat r oni ze hi s books. To
coax hi m, Confuc i us began by expoundi ng the contents to hi m. -
' Not so much verbi age , ' sai d Lao Dan; ' tel l me, i n two words, what
they are about . ' - ' Goodness and fai rness , ' s ai d Confuci us. - ' Ah, '
sai d Lao Dan. ' Are t hey about nat ural goodness and fai rness?' -
' But yes, ' sai d Confuci us; ' of t hose whi ch make man. ' - ' Then go
on and defi ne them, ' sai d Lao Dan. - ' To l ove al l bei ngs and to
1 76
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 3 E, F, G.
treat them wel l , wi t hout egoi sm, that i s goodness and fai rness, ' sai d
Confuci us. - ' And y ou preach that , bei ng yoursel f ambi t i ous and
egoi s t i cal , ' sai d Lao Dan. ' Mast er, i f you t rul y wi sh good for the
empi r e, begi n by st udyi ng the i nvari abl e i nfl uence of heaven and
earth, the constant i l l umi nat i on of the sun and the moon, the
perfect order of the st ars, the st ab i l i t y of ani mal and vegetabl e
speci es; obser ve t hat e ver yt hi ng i n nat ure i s cont i nuat i on and
uni formi t y , and t hat the Pri nc i pl e pene t r at es al l wi t h i ts peaceful
i nfl uence. You, al so, shoul d uni t e your i nfl uence wi t h that of the
Pr i nci pl e, and you coul d ge t somewher e. Cease wanti ng to i nt roduce
your i deas and vi rtues by force ; the y are ar t i f i ci al and agai nst
nature. . . A man whose son had r un away had the dr um beaten as
a si gnal t o begi n a man - hunt , i nstead of seek i ng to bri ng hi m
back gent l y. The resul t was t hat t he fug i t i ve went s o far away that
he coul d never be found agai n. Your ef for t s to bri ng back, to the
beati ng of drums, goodness and fai rness to the worl d, wi l l , I fear,
have the same negat i ve resu l t . Mas t er , you cause what i s l e ft of
nature t o f l ee away . '
F. Shi Cheng Qi went t o f i nd Lao Zi , and s ai d t o hi m: ' Havi ng
heard that you are a Sage , I have made a l ong j ourney to come and
see you. I have wal ked for a hundr ed days, ge t t i ng cal l osi t i es on
t he sol es of my feet , and now I f i nd t hat you ar e not a Sage . For
you keep the l ef t -o vers from your meal s i nde fi n i tel y ; you have
i l l - t reat ed your si s t er , because t he rat s have st ol en t he l e ft-over
veget abl es ' ( whi ch she coul d have eat en) . - Lao Zi l ooked on absent
mi ndedl y, l et t i ng hi m speak and mak i ng no repl y . - The nex t day ,
Shi Cheng Qi r et urned to Lao Z i ' s house and s ai d to hi m: ' Yesterday
I bl amed you. Your si l ence has made me r ef l ect . Pl ease excuse
me for yest erday . ' - ' I am no more i mpressed by your excuses
than by your bl ames , ' s ai d Lao Zi . ' I have del i vered mysel f from
all desi re t o be cal l ed l earned, transcendent , wi se. You coul d
treat me as a cow or a horse and I woul d not repl y. Whether
what they say i s true or fal se , l et t i ng men speak, spares one
the troubl e of repl y i ng. I t i s my pri nc i pl e al ways to l et men speak
as they wi l l . My s i l ence of yest erday was an appl i cat i on of i t . '
- Shi Cheng Qi wal ked around Lao Zi , avoi di ng treadi ng on hi s
shadow; t hen, present i ng hi msel f be fore hi m, asked hi m what he
shoul d do to amend hi msel f . Lao Zi rebuffed hi m wi t h these words:
' Counterfe i t bei ng, of whom al l the ai rs and graces denote untamed
passi ons and l awl ess i nt ent i ons, how can you cl ai m to i mpose
yoursel f on me and make me bel i eve t hat you des i re, and are
capabl e of, cul t ure? Go! I have no more conf i dence i n you than i n
any si ngl e one of the front i er bri gands. '
G. Lao Zi sai d: ' Inf i ni te i n i t sel f , the Pr i nci pl e penetrates the
smal l est of bei ngs through i ts vi rt ue. Al l are ful l of i t . I mmense i n
1 77
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 3 C, H, I.
i ts ex tensi on, deepl y profound, i t embraces al l and cannot be
fathomed. Al l sent i ent bei ngs and thei r qual i t i es, al l abstracti ons
such as goodness and fai rness, are rami fi cat i ons of the Pr i nci ple,
but deri ved, far-off. The super i or man understands thi s. Confuci us,
a common Sage, i s wrong on t hi s poi nt . Thus, when he governs, the
superi or man does not encumber h i msel f wi t h these det ai l s, and i n
consequence the government of the worl d onl y wei ghs l i ght l y on
hi m. He onl y occupi es hi msel f wi t h t he t i l l er , and avoi ds any
contact wi t h af fai rs. From above, hi s gl ance domi nates e verythi ng.
No part i cul ar i nterest t ouches hi m. He i nqui res onl y i nto the
essence of t hi ngs. He l et s heaven and ear t h, and al l bei ngs, act,
wi thout the sl i ght est ment al f at i gue, because he i s wi thout passi on.
Havi ng penet rat ed as far as t he Pri nc i pl e and i dent i f i ed hi s act i on
wi t h i ts ac t i on, he rej ect s ar t i f i ci al goodness and fai rness, conven
t i onal r i tes and mus i c. For hi s mi nd i s domi nat ed by a uni que and
f i xed i dea, not to i nt er vene , to al l ow nat ur e and t i me to act . '
H. I n t he present wor l d t he vogue i s f or books ( anthol ogi es of
Con fuci us) . Books are onl y col l ec t i ons of words. Words form i deas.
Now true i deas are der i ved f rom a pr i nci pl e bey ond the real m of
sensi bi l i t y , and t hey can scar cel y be ex pl ai ned any bet t er i n words.
The formul ae whi ch f i l l the books onl y expl ai n convent i onal i deas
whi ch correspond l i t t l e or not t o t he nat ur e of t hi ngs, to the truth.
Those who know the nat ure o f t hi ngs, do not try to expl ai n i t i n
words; and those who t r y, show t her eby , t hat t hey do not know. The
common peopl e are mi s t aken i n see k i ng the t rut h i n books; they
onl y cont ai n fal se i deas.
I . One day, whi l st Duke Huan of Qi was readi ng, seat ed i n t he great
hal l , Pi an the whee l wr i ght was maki ng a wheel i n the court yard.
Suddenl y, put t i ng down hi s hammer and chi se l , he cl i mbed the
stai rs, approached the duke, and asked hi m: ' What ar e you readi ng
there?' - ' The words of t he Sages, ' repl i ed the duke. - ' Of l i vi ng
Sages?' asked Pi an. - ' Of dead Sages, ' s ai d the duke. ' Ah, ' sai d Pi an,
' the detri tus of the anci ents. ' - I rr i t at ed, the duke sai d to hi m:
' Wheel wri ght , what r i ght ha ve you t o i nt er fer e? Expl ai n yoursel f
qui ckl y, or I wi l l have you put t o deat h. ' - ' I wi l l expl ai n as a man
of my cra ft, ' rep l i ed the wheel wr i ght . ' When I make a wheel , i f I
go gent l y, the resul t i s weak; i f I go st rongl y , the resul t i s massi ve;
i f I go wi thout t hi nki ng of what I am doi ng, the resul t conforms to
my i deal of a good and beaut i ful wheel ; I cannot defi ne thi s method
for i t is a knack whi ch cannot be expl ai ned; so much so that I
have not been abl e to expl ai n i t t o my son, and at the age of
sevent y, to have a good wheel I s t i l l have to make i t mysel f. Were
the anci ent defunct Sages, whose books you read, abl e to do better
than I? Coul d they wr i t e down thei r knack, thei r geni us ? I f not,
thei r books cont ai n onl y the re fuse of thei r departed spi r i t. '
1 78
Zhuan Zi, ch. 1 4 A, B.
Chapter 1 4. Natural Evoluti on.
A. The starry heaven turns, the ear t h i s fi xed. The sun and moon
al t ernat e wi th each ot her. Who governs al l t hi s? Who mai nt ai ns
thi s harmony? Where i s the mot i onl ess motor that moves ever y
thi ng? Is the cosmi c movement f ree or forced? . . . Cl ouds resol ve
themse l ves i nt o ra i n, and the ra i n, e vaporat ed, forms agai n i nt o
cl ouds. Who di st ri but es abundance and wel l -bei ng thus, wi thout
movi ng?. . . From the nort h, the wi nd bl ows towards the west,
towards the east, i n al l d i rect i ons. Who moves t hi s powerful breath?
Who, i mmob i l e, i mpart s t hese vari a t i ons to i t ? P . . ' I am goi ng to
tel l you, ' sai d Wux i an Ti ao. ' I t i s heaven, by the revol ut i on of the
fi ve el ements, i n the s i x reg i ons of space. I t i s t hi s re vol ut i on that
mai nt ai ns order i n nature; and i n human a ffai r s , i f the government
conforms t o i t , t here wi l l be good order , and di sorder i f i t does not .
When the anci ent sover ei gns appl i ed t he i r ni ne l aws*, thei r govern
ment was prosperous and e f fec t i ve. They enl i ght ened the empi re,
whi ch submi t ted to t he m per fect l y . They are cal l ed the August
Sovere i gns. '
B. Tang, t he pr i me mi ni s t er of Shang, asked Zhuang Zi : ' What i s
goodness? ' . . . The l at t er s ai d: ' I t i s the v i rt ue of t i gers and wol ves. '
' How s o?' s ai d Tang. - ' Don ' t t i gers and wol ves l ove thei r l i ttl e
ones? ' sai d Zhuang Zi . - ' And supreme goodness ?' sai d Tang.
' Supreme goodness, ' r epl i ed Zhuang Zi , ' consi st s i n not l ovi ng. ' -
' Then , ' sai d Tang, ' the man who possesses supreme goodness wi l l be
depr i ved of f i l i al pi et y . ' - ' No, ' sa i d Zhuang Zi . ' Supreme goodness
i s undi fferent i at ed, tot al and abst rac t , but i t i s not contrary
t o any speci fi c bene vol ence. I t i s t o l ove from so hi gh, from so
far, that t he obj ect i s l ost t o s i ght . Thus when one l ooks from Yi ng,
one cannot see t he Mi n Shan Mount ai ns i n t he nort h. They are
there, however - an ef fect of di st ance. - For fi l i al pi et y to
approach supreme goodness, the son must l ove wi thout envi sagi ng
hi s parent s, and t he parent s must l ove hi m wi thout envi sagi ng
hi m al so. Lovi ng al l the empi re wi t hout t hi nki ng of i t , and bei ng
l oved by i t wi t hout bei ng known t o i t , approaches even more
towards supreme goodness. Bei ng more benevol ent than Yao or Shun
wi thout t aki ng account of i t , doi ng good to al l wi thout anyone
suspect i ng i t , i s supreme goodness, s i mi l ar to the unconsci ous
i nfl uence of heaven and eart h, whi ch causes everyt hi ng t o evol ve
spontaneous! y . To understand thi s, i t i s not s uffi ci ent j ust to
val ue fi l i al pi et y . . . No doubt vi rtues such as f i l i al and fraternal
pi et y, ordi nary goodness and fai rness, f i del i t y and l oyal t y, ri ghteous
ness and constancy , enter i n a way i nto supreme goodness, but they
are cl earl y smal l i n compari son wi th i ts grandeur. I t i s sai d that
*Of the Great Rul e. See Annal es, Tcheou, ch. 4; Textes Phi l osophi ques, p. 25.
1 79
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 4 B, c.
ornaments add not hi ng t o one who has e very beaut y; monetary gi fts
add nothi ng to one who has al l weal t h; no di s t i nct i on what ever adds
anyt hi ng to one who has al l honours. Therefore he who possesses
absol ut e goodness, whi ch i s none ot her t han the Pr i nci pl e, wi l l , as
the occasi on demands, pract i se any par t i cul ar goodness of an
i nferi or order, but wi t hou t i t addi ng anyt hi ng to hi m. And i t
i s not by st ar t i ng f r om t hes e det ai l s , t hat one can cl ear l y defi ne,
i nduct i vel y, supreme goodness; i t i s bet t er t o def i ne i t deduct i vel y,
st art i ng from the Pr i nci pl e. '
C. Bi emen Cheng s ai d to t he Yel l ow Emperor: ' When I l i stened to
the performance of your Xi an Chi s ymphony near Lake Dong
Ti ng, the fi rst par t made me a frai d, t he second made me di zzy,
t he t hi r d ga ve me a sensa t i on of vagueness fro m whi ch I have st i l l
not recovered. ' - ' That i s as i t shoul d be , ' sa i d the emperor. ' Thi s
symphony cont ai ns e ver yt hi ng. I t i s a human e xpressi on of heavenl y
act i on, of uni versa! ev ol ut i on. - The f i r s t par t e xpresses the con
trast of terres t r i al fac t s wh i ch come under heavenl y i nfl uence;
the struggl e of the f i ve e l e ment s , the successi on of the four
seasons; bi rt h and decay of pl ant l i fe ; ac t i on and react i on of heavy
and l i ght , l i ght and dar kness , sound and s i l ence; the renewal of
ani mal l i fe i n spr i ngt i me , t o the sound of t hunder , af t er the wi nter
torpor; the i ns t i t ut i on of human l aws , c i v i l and mi l i t ar y offi ces,
et cet era. Al l abrup t l y , wi t h ne i t her i n t r oduc t i ons nor t rans i t i ons; i n
shocki ng sounds, a su i t e of di ssonances, l i ke t he chai n of bi r ths and
deaths, of the appearance and di sappearance of ephemeral earthl y
t hi ngs. I t shoul d have made you a frai d. - The second part of
the sy mphony renders, i n so f t or l oud, prol onged and drawn out,
sounds, the cont i nui t y of t he act i on of the y i n and the yang,
of the course of the t wo gr eat l umi nar i es, o f the arr i val of the
l i vi ng and the depar t ur e of the dead. It is t hi s su i te , cont i nui ng
unt i l i t fades awa y , t hat made you d i z z y by i t s i nfi ni tude, to the
poi nt t hat , no l onger knowi ng where you were, you cl ung to a
tree trunk, gas pi ng wi t h ver t i go and anx i e t y caused by the voi d. -
The t hi rd par t of the s ymphony expresses the product i ons of
nature , the unfol di ng of dest i ni es . Hence the effer vescence fol l owed
by cal m; the mur mur of the great forests , then a mysteri ous
si l ence. For t hat i s how be i ngs are born, comi ng, i n streams and
waves, from an unknown or i gi n, and l eavi ng for an unknown des
t i nat i on. The Sage al one can understand t hi s harmony, for he
al one understands nat ure and dest i ny. Heavenl y j oy, whi ch is fel t
but cannot be expl ai ned, consi st s i n graspi ng the threads of becom
i ng, before bei ng, whi l st they are st i l l hel d by the craft of cosmi c
weavi ng. I t consi sts, as Master Yen has chanted, i n heari ng that
whi ch has not yet any sound, seei ng t hat whi ch has not yet any
form, whi ch fi l l s heaven and earth, and embraces space, the
Pr i nci pl e, the motor of cosmi c evol ut i on. Not knowi ng that
,
1 80
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 4 C, D.
you remai ned vague. My expl anat i ons have made y ou pass from
thi s vagueness t o the knowl edge of t he Pr i nci pl e. Guard thi s wel l . '
0. Whi l s t Con fuci us was t r avel l i ng t o t he west of t he Pri nci pal i t y
of Wei , hi s di s ci pl e Yen Yuan as ked t he mast er musi ci an Ji n: ' What
do you thi nk of my mast er ' s fut ure ? ' - ' I t hi nk , ' sai d Master Ji n,
wi th a s i gh, ' that he wi l l get nowhere . ' - ' Why ? ' sa i d Yen Yuan. -
' Look , ' sai d Ji n, ' at t he st raw dogs used as offeri ngs*. Before the
offeri ng they are conserved i n boxes, wrapped i n beaut i ful cl oths,
whi l st t hey are puri f i ed through prayer and abst i nence. Aft er the
offeri ng they are thrown awa y , trampl ed on, burnt . I f they were put
back i n t he boxes to be used a second t i me , everyone i n the house
woul d be t orment ed by ni ght mar es, these f i l t ers of bad i nfl uence
di sgorgi ng the i l l - fat ed i nfl uences they have t aken up. Now Confu
c i us col l ects together i n hi s school t he st raw dogs of the soverei gns
of ant i qui t y (hi s out of dat e books f ul l of sou veni rs , whi ch have
become i l l - omened) . Thi s i s the cause of hi s persecut i on; ni ght mares
whi ch hi s ol d straw dogs have procured for hi m. - On wat er, one
takes a boat ; on l and, one t akes a carr i age; i t i s i mpossi bl e to
travel on wat er i n a carr i age, or on l and i n a boat. Now the
anci ent t i mes are t o the present l i ke wat er and l and; the Zhou
Empi re and t he Duchy of Lu may be l i kened t o a boat and a
carri age. To wi sh now t o appl y t he out dat ed pr i nci pl es of the
anci ents, t o wi sh t o empl oy i n t he Duchy of Lu t he procedures of
the Zhou Empi re i s wi shi ng t o travel by boat on dry l and, at t empt
i ng the i mpossi bl e. Conf uci us works i n vai n and draws mi s fortune
t o hi msel f , l i ke al l those who have at t empt ed t o appl y a gi ven
system i n di fferent ci rcumst ances. - I n our days, to r ai se water, the
anci ent peopl e' s bucket has been abandoned for the counterbal anced
l adl e, and no one feel s a need t o return t o the bucket . Thus the
anci ent e mperors ' met hods of government , whi ch were apt i n t hei r
t i mes and are now out of dat e, shoul d not now be i mposed by force.
I n each season one eats cert ai n fru i t s , whi ch taste good at t hat
t i me, whereas t hey woul d not be so good at another t i me. I t i s the
same for l aws and cust oms; t hey must vary accordi ng to the t i mes.
- Dress up a monkey i n the Duke of Zhou ' s robe. What wi l l happen?
He wi l l tear i t up i n anger, wi th hi s t eet h and nai l s, and wi l l onl y
rest peacef ul l y when the l ast bi t i s t orn away. Now ant i qui t y and
the present di ffer as much as the Duke of Zhou and a monkey. Do
not try t o dress the moderns i n the anci ent ' s cast off cl ot hi ng. -
Once, when the beaut i ful Xi Shi had her tantrums she was even
more seduct i ve. A most unseeml y woman, who had seen her i n
thi s state, one day di d the same t hi ng. The resul t was that the ri ch
i nhabi tants of the vi l l age barr i caded themsel ves i n thei r houses, and
the poor fl ed terri f i ed wi t h thei r women and chi l dren. The ugl y one
had onl y reproduced the furores, not the beaut y, of Xi Shi . So i t i s
*And at funeral s. See Lao Zl chapter 5.
1 8 1
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 4 D, E, F.
for the parody Confuc i us gi ves us of ant i qui t y, i t makes men run
away. Thi s man wi l l not succeed. '
E. At the age of fi fty Confuci us s t i l l had no i dea of the Pri nci pl e.
Therefore he went to Pei and vi s i ted Lao Dan. - ' Ah! There you
are, ' sai d the l at t er. ' Is that you, the Sage of the North? What do
you know of the Pr i nci pl e ? ' - ' Not hi ng , ' sai d Confuci us. - ' Then, '
sai d Lao Dan, ' why don ' t you l ook for i t ? ' - ' I have searched for
fi ve whol e years, in the for mul ae and numbers, wi t hout fi ndi ng i t , '
sai d Con fuci us. - ' And t hen? ' as ked Lao Dan. - ' Then, ' sai d Confu
ci us, ' I l ooked for i t dur i ng t we l ve whol e years, i n the y i n and the
yang, equal l y wi t hout resu l t . ' - ' That does not surpri se me , ' sai d
Lao Dan. ' I f the Pri nc i pl e coul d be found i n that way, i t woul d l ong
si nce have fi gured amongst the present s whi ch fri ends g i ve t o each
other. Knowl edge of the Pr i nci pl e cannot be found, nor commun
i cat ed, so easi l y . I t requi res a man t o be per fect rul er of hi msel f.
You shoul d not seek an excl us i ve monopo l y of reput at i on, to
whi ch so many have a cl ai m, nor of t he i deas of goodness and
fai rness, whi ch have al r eady s er ved so many i n the pas t . You shoul d
onl y take your share of these t hi ngs, i n your t urn. Other wi se e very
one wi l l turn aga i nst you, for they seek t hei r share al so. The
anci ents monopo l i z e d not hi ng. They hel d t o one t hi ng onl y, freedom
to wander i n the voi d, to s pecul at e wi t hout fet ters, t o have nei ther
at tachment s nor af f ai r s . That i s how t hey came t o knowl edge of
the Pr i nc i pl e, t hrough t hi s de t achment . Whoe ver i s t i ed by the J ove
of weal t h, gl ory , or power , i s t oo di s t r act ed e ven t o t urn t owards
i t . And, as for gover nment , whi ch shoul d consi st i n fol l owi ng
exact l y the movement of nat ur al e vol ut i on , onl y those who are
st rai ght are capabl e of correc t i ng ot hers . As for he who cl ai ms
t o correct ot her s, wi t hout be i ng s t r ai ght h i msel f , one can onl y say
that the l i ght of reason has not y et dawned i n hi m*. '
F. Anot her t i me, Con fuc i us went t o v i s i t Lao Dan, and expl ai ned
hi s i deas on goodness and f ai rness to h i m. ' Li st en, ' s ai d t he l atter,
' wi nnowers cannot see because of the dus t ; when mosqui toes are
l egi on, one cannot r el ax . Your di scourse on goodness and fai rness
has an anal ogous e ffect on me; I am b l i nded, maddened by i t . Go!
Leave the peopl e i n peace . Bel i e ve what e ver you wi l l , i n theory;
but i n pract i ce, bend wi t h t he wi nd, accept t he changes that have
come upon the worl d, do not beat t he drum t o r ecal l the runaway
son ( what is l ef t of ant i qui t y ; compare wi t h chapt er 1 3 E) . Wi l d
geese are nat ural l y whi t e, crows are nat ural l y bl ack; no di ssertat i on
wi l l change t hi s fact . I t i s t he same for success i ve peri ods of
*So many bl ows to the ambi t i ous and i nt r i gui ng Confuci us, who cl ai med al one to
have the secr et of goodness and fai rness; who sought to monopol i ze, for hi msel f and
hi s di sci pl es, the government of f i ef s and the empi re; et c.
1 82
Zhua Zi, ch. 1 4 F, G.
t i me. Your di scourses wi l l not make today' s crows change i nto
yesterday ' s geese. You wi l l not save what i s l eft of the anc i ent
worl d; i ts t i me has come. When the ri vers dry up, the fi sh come
together i n t he hol es, and seek t o save thei r l i ves by mut ual l y
smeari ng themsel ves wi t h the mucus whi ch co vers t hem. Poor
thi ngs! They shoul d have scat t ered i n t i me and found the deeper
waters. ' - Af t er t hi s vi s i t , Confuci us sai d not hi ng for three days.
Hi s di sci pl es asked h i m at l ast : ' Mast er, how di d you refute Lao
Dan ? ' - ' I saw the dragon person i f i ed i n that man , ' sa i d Confuc i us .
' The dragon coi l s up v i s i bl y , t hen ex t ends i t sel f i nvi s i bl y, produc i ng
cl oudy or cl ear weather, wi t hout anyone bei ng abl e to understand
i ts power f ul but myst er i ous act i on. I remai ned open mouthed i n
front of that unf at homabl e man. He has too much breadt h for me.
What coul d I say t o r ef ut e h i m? '
G. ' Then , ' sai d the di sci pl e Z i Gong, ' coul d t hi s man b e the Sage
who i s sai d t o be r et i r ed and si l ent , e x t endi ng hi s i nfl uence every
where, powerful as thunder, pro found l i ke an abyss, and act i ng l i ke
heaven and eart h ? Wi l l you per mi t me to v i s i t h i m? ' - Wi t h the
per mi ssi on of Confuc i us, Zi Gong went t o fi nd Lao Dan . The l atter
l ooked hi m up and down, and sai d: ' I am qui t e ol d and you are very
young! What do you wi sh to l earn from me ? ' - Zi Gong sai d: ' The
three great emperors and t he f i ve gr eat ki ngs d i d not govern
i n the same manner, i t i s t rue , but e ver yone cal l s them Sages. Why
do you al one re fuse the m t hi s t i t l e ? ' ' Appr oach, my boy, so tha t I
may see you more cl ose l y , ' sai d ol d Lao Dan. ' You say t hey di d not
govern i n t he same way ? ' - ' There i s no doubt about t ha t , ' sai d
Zi Gong. ' Yao abdi cat ed. Shun nomi nat ed Yu hi s successor. Yu and
Tang made war. Ki ng Wen ceded to the t yrant Zhou, who, on the
contrary, was over thrown by Cheng Wang. Are these not di fferen
ces? ' - ' Come cl oser, my boy, so tha t I may see you bet t er , ' sai d
Lao Dan. ' Is t hat al l you know about hi st ory? Then l i st en! - The
Yel l ow Emperor organ i zed hi s peopl e i nt o an empi r e, and i n so far
as he di d that , he wounded nat ure; but he l aughed at the rest,
even at what Confuci us takes as most essent i al , such as mourni ng
one ' s dead parents; i n hi s t i me, no one coul d care l ess whether
anyone performed r i tes or not. - Yao constra i ned the peopl e to the
ri tes of mourni ng for parents, but he l aughed at the rest . - Shun
pushed for reproduct i on. By order, women had t o have a chi l d every
ten months; the chi l dren had to speak at the age of fi ve months,
and know thei r fel l ow ci t i zens before the age of three. He over
worked them and i ntroduced premature deaths i nto the worl d. -
Yu compl et el y perverted the heart of man. He l egal i zed murder, by
decl ari ng that, i n war, one ki l l ed bri gands, not men, and t hat thi s
was not ev i l . Then he took possessi on of the empi re for the benef i t
of hi s fami l y ( made i t heredi tary) . Si nce then , di sorder has grown
worse and worse. I t reached i ts hi ghest pi t ch when the Confuci ans
1 83
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 4 G, H.
and Mo-i sts appeared, i nven t i ng so-cal l ed soc i al rel at i ons, l aws of
marri age, et cet era. - And you say t hat the anc i ents governed the
empi re. No, t hey turned i t upsi de -down. Through thei r i nnovat i ons,
they rui ned the base of al l st abi l i t y , the strong i nfl uence of the sun
and the moon, the mount ai ns and r i vers, and the four seasons. Thei r
ar t i f i ci al know-how has been more deadl y than the sti ng of a
scorpi on or the t eet h of a wi l d beast . Sur el y these men , who fai l ed
to recogni ze the l aws of nat ure and human des t i ny, showed too
l i t t l e modest y i n cl a i mi ng the t i t l e of Sages. ' - I n front of thi s
sort i e of Lao Dan, Zi Gong r emai ned wi th hi s mout h open, i l l at
ease.
H. Conf uci us sa i d to Lao Dan: ' I have gi ven care ful at t ent i on to the
Odes, Annal s, Ri tes and Mus i c, the Mut at i ons, and the Chroni cl e.
I have appl i ed myse l f at l engt h t o the study o f these si x treat i ses,
and I ha ve fami l i ar i z ed mysel f wi t h the m. I have spoken be fore
se vent y- two l awl ess pr i nces , e xpound i ng the pr i nc i pl es of the
anci ent soverei gns, of Dukes Zhou and Shao, for t he i r amendment.
Not one of t hem has bene f i t ed from my di scourses. I t i s di ffi cul t
t o persuade such peopl e . ' - ' How fort una t e , ' s ai d Lao Zi , ' that none
of them l i st ened to you! If t hey had done s o, they woul d have
become worse . Your s i x treat i ses are out of d3t e, st ori es of thi ngs
that happened in ci rcumst ances t hat no l onger exi s t , of act i ons
whi ch woul d now be out o f pl ace 4 Wha t can one deduce from a
footpri nt , except tha t i t was made by a foot ? The i mpri nt i s
dumb t o ques t i ons of who, why , how, and o ther ci rcumstances. It
i s the same for i mpr i n ts l ef t by the f act s of hi st ory; they do not
teach us the true and l i v i ng rea l i t y as i t was. - Each t i me has i ts
own nat ur e, j ust as each bei ng has i ts own; a nature whi ch cannot
be changed. Herons mat e by l ooki ng at each ot her, cert ai n i nsects
by buz z i ng, ot hers are her maphr odi t e, ot hers do otherwi se. Each
shoul d be l ef t to act nat ural l y . Nat ure and dest i ny do not change,
t i me cannot be st opped, e vol ut i on cannot be obstructed. Let every
thi ng fol l ow i ts nat ur al cour se, and you wi l l have nothi ng but
success. Run count er t o t hi ngs, and you wi l l have nothi ng but
fai l ure. ' - Confuc i us conf i ned hi msel f at home for three months, i n
order to medi t ate on t hi s l esson. Then he went to see Lao Zi , and
sai d: ' I ' ve got i t ! Crows and magpi es brood, fi sh i mpregnate thei r
spawn, the sphex i s born by transformat i on from a s pi der; men have
success i ve chi l dren, the bi rth of each younger brother maki ng the
el der cry. For a l ong t i me I have kept away from natural evol uti on,
and even t ri ed to make t hi ngs go backwards. That i s why I have
fai l ed to make humani t y evol ve. ' - ' Good, ' s ai d Lao Zi , ' you have
found the key . '
1 84
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 . A, B.
Chapter 1 5. Wi sdom And Incrustation.
A. Havi ng i deas encrusted i n t hei r mi nds and a hi gh opi ni on of the i r
si ngul ar ways; breaki ng wi th the wor l d and for mi ng a separate
group; speaki ng haught i l y and cr i t i c i z i ng ot hers; i n a word, beha vi ng
l i ke pedants; these are t he ones who I i ve as anchor i tes on the
mount ai ns and i n the va l l eys, showi ng cont empt for the common
way , and endi ng up dyi ng of st ar vat i on or drown i ng i n some torrent .
- Di scoursi ng on goodness and f ai rness, l oyal t y and f i del i t y; pract i s
i ng respect for others, s i mpl i c i t y , modes t y , i n a word const r ai ni ng
themsel ves i n ever yt hi ng; t hes e are t he ones who t r y t o pac i fy the
world and take men t o t ask, mas t ers of ambul ant or sedentary
school s. - Exal t i ng the i r mer i ts, wor k i ng t o make a name for
themsel ves, qui bbl i ng about r i tes and e t i quet t e, want i ng to regul ate
everyt hi ng; these are the ones who f r equent the cour t s, pol i t i c i ans
seeki ng to ser ve a master , or gan i z e a pr i nc i pa l i t y , or medi at e
al l i ances. - Ret i r i ng t o l ake shor es or sol i t ar y pl aces, f i shi ng wi t h
a l i ne, or doi ng nothi ng; t hat i s wha t l ove rs o f na t ure or i dl eness
do. - Breat hi ng i n t i me, e vacu a t i ng the a i r cont a i ned i n the l ungs
and repl aci ng i t wi th fresh a i r , a i d i ng t he i r br eat hi ng by gest ures
s i mi l ar to those of a cl i mbi ng bear or a bi r d i n fl i ght ; these are
the ones who aspi re to l i ve a l ong t i me , i mi t a t or s of Peng Zu.
Al l these are craz y . Let us speak now o f ser i ous men.
B. Hav i ng el e vated asp i r at i ons, wi t hou t pr econce i ved i deas; t endi ng
towards perfect i on, bu t not f ol l owi ng t he scheme of goodness
fai rness; governi ng wi t hout seek i ng t o make a name; not re t i r i ng
from t he wor l d; l i vi ng wi thout pr ac t i s i ng resp i ra t or y gym1ast i cs;
havi ng e veryt hi ng, and maki ng no spec i al case of anyt hi ng; at t r act
i ng e veryone , wi thout doi ng anyt hi ng; t hat i s t he way o f heaven and
earth, whi ch the Daoi st Sage f ol l ows. - Empt i ness, peace , content
r
e_t__ Epathy, _l f!C

, t ot al vi ew, non- i nt er vent i on*; t hi s is the


formul a of heaven and ear t h, t he secr e t of t he Pri nc i pl e and
i ts vi rtue . The Daoi st Sage acts l i ke t ha t . Peace ful , s i mpl e, di si n
terested, no sadness t r oubl es hi s hear t ; he i s moved ne i ther by
covetousness nor l ust , hi s conduct i s pe rfect , and hi s vi tal spi r i t
remai ns i nt act . Throughout hi s l i fe he ac ts l i ke heaven, at hi s
death he ent ers the great trans format i on. I n sl eep he communi cates
by the mode yi n, i n movement by the mode yang, of the uni verse.
He causes nei ther happ i ness nor ev i l to others. He onl y ac ts when
he i s constrai ned t o do so, when he cannot do otherwi se. He rej ects
al l sc i ence, tradi t i on, precedent . In every thi ng, he i mi tates the
i ndi fferent opport uni sm of heaven. There fore he has nothi ng to
suffer, from heaven, be i ngs, men, or phantoms. Dur i ng l i fe he
sai l s at the wi l l of events , at death he stops. He does not thi nk
of the future, and does not make pl ans. He shi nes wi thout gl are or
*Cf . chapter 1 3 A.
1 85
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 . B.
dazzl e; he i s f ai t hf ul wi t hout bei ng bound. Duri ng sl eep, he does
not suffer from dreams, awake he i s not mel anchol y . Hi s v i t al spi ri t
i s al ways wel l - di sposed, and hi s soul i s al ways ready t o act . Empty,
peace ful , cont ent , s i mpl e, he communes wi th heavenl y vi rtue. -
Happi ness and sadness are equal l y v i ces, af fec t i on and resentment
are both excesses; he who l oves or hates has l ost hi s equi l i bri um.
The hei ght of vi r t ue i s knowi ng nei t her pl easure nor di spl easure; the
hei ght of peace i s bei ng al ways the same, wi t hout changi ng; the
hei ght o f empt i ness i s hol di ng on t o not hi ng; the hei ght of apathy
i s havi ng no at t achment s to anyone; the hei ght of di s i nt erestedness
i s l et t i ng go, pract i s i ng non- i nt er vent i on. - I ncessant muscul ar
fat i gue and ac t i v i t y wears one out . Look at t he wat er . I ts nature
i s pure and cal m. I t i s onl y i mpur e or agi t at ed when i t has been
di st urbed by v i ol ent means. It i s t he perfec t i mage of heavenl y
v i rt ue, cal m spont ane i t y . The v i t al spi r i t i s preser ved through puri ty
wi t hout mi x t ure; repose wi t hout al t era t i on; apat hy wi t hout act i on;
movement conf or med to t hat of heaven, unconsci ous, wi thout
di spensat i on of t hought or e f f or t . - The owner of an excel l ent
sword from Gan Yue keeps i t caref ul l y wrapped i n a fur, and onl y
uses i t on spec i al occ asi ons, out of f ear that he mi ght wear i t out
i n vai n. I t i s a st range t hi ng that t he maj or i t y of men go to l ess
t roubl e to l ook a ft er t he i r v i t al sp i r i t , whi ch i s more preci ous than
the best bl ade from Gan Yue. Now t hi s pr i nc i p l e of l i fe bel ongs
everywhere, from heaven above to eart h bel ow, to the transforma
t i ons of al l bei ngs, confound i ng i t s act i on wi th that of t he Soverei gn
(
the cosmi c Sovere i gn, soul of t he wor l d) . I nt egr i t y and pur i t y, i s
wha t preserves the soul and pr event s i t from be i ng worn out . I n
i ts st at e of i nt egri t y and pur i t y , i t communi c at es wi th the cel esti al
rul e
(
synon y m of t he cosmi c Sover ei gn
)
. From thi s come the
fol l owi ng sayi ngs: ' The common peopl e es t eem fortune , the educa
ted reput at i on and posi t i ons, the Sage the i nt egr i t y of hi s vi tal
spi r i t . The pr i nc i pl e of l i fe i s the pur i t y and i ntegr i t y whi ch pre
serves i t . Pur i t y i mp l i es absence of mi x t ure, i nt egr i t y means
absence of al l de f ect s. He whose v i t al s pi r i t i s per fect l y i ntegrated
and pure, is a Tr ue Man . '
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 6 A, B.
Chapter 1 6. Nature And Conventi on.
A. Tryi ng to rest ore na ture t o i t s or i gi nal st at e, by the st udi es that
are under t aken i n the present - day school s; wi shi ng to regul at e
peopl e ' s i ncl i nat i ons by enl i ght eni ng them wi th cl assi cal reason i ng,
shows a great bl i ndness. The anc i ent Sages knew of sc i ence onl y
that i t emanat ed spont aneousl y from the cal m of t hei r nat ure , a
si mpl e sens i ng of t hi ngs, whi ch di d not t roubl e t hem. The i r natural
reason, deri ved from t he Pri nc i pl e , func t i oned nor mal l y i n the i r
i nt eri or peace. Thus these qu i te s i mpl e not i ons were born: Good
ness, suppor t i ng e ver yt h i ng; fai rness, bei ng reasonabl e. From fai r
ness came l oyal t y; the f r ank t rut h pr oduced j oy and i ts expressi on
i n mus i c; mut ual con fi dence produced pol i teness and i ts express i on
in t he ri t es. Later on, r i tes and mus i c became fal s i fi ed, an el ement
of pervers i on, whi ch i s what happens t o e ver yt hi ng t hat no l onger
conforms wi t h nature . - Ri ght at t he begi nn i ng men were si mpl e
and nat ural . There were no di sorders from nat ur al physi cal forces.
The course of t he seasons was regul ar so that no one suffered,
and there were no premat ure deat hs, t heor i es, or sci ences. That
was the age of per fect uni t y and un i on, of men wi t h each other,
and wi t h nat ur e. No one i nt er fer ed wi th the natural order and
everyt hi ng fol l owed i ts course spont aneousl y . - However decadence
came. I t began wi t h t he i nst i t ut i ons of Sui Ren and Fu Xi
(
ar t i f i ci al
product i on of f i r e, l aws of fami l y and mar r i age) whi ch seemed t o
be a progress but whi ch i naugur at ed t he ru i n of the pr i mordi al
si mpl i ci t y and promi scui t y . Decadence i ncreased at t he t i me of
Shen Nang and t he Yel l ow Emperor ( abandon i ng of nomadi c l i fe for
agri cul ture , and for mat i on of the s t at e) . Wel l -be i ng i ncreased,
but at the expense of the anc i ent spont ane i t y . The decadence
i ncreased further when Yao and Shun re i gned, i nt roduci ng sys
temat i c correct i on ( through l aws and school s) and the obl i gatory
pract i ce of a convent i onal so-cal l ed goodness. The peri od of pri mi t
i ve ways was f i ni shed. Si nce then men have subs t i t ut ed theori es
i n pl ace of thei r i nborn i nst i nct , and peace has di sappeared from
the empi r e. Now the progress of the arts and sc i ences has done
away wi th what remai ned of nat ural s i mpl i ci t y, and peopl e ' s
mi nds have been f i l l ed wi th di st ract i ons. Now e veryt hi ng i s di sorder
and perversi on.
B. From t hi s hi st ori cal revi ew, i t fol l ows t hat t he adopt i on of
convent i onal ways has been the r ui n of pr i mi t i ve ways, and t hi s rui n
of pri mordi al nature has been the rui n of the worl d. Nat ure and
convent i on are two i rreconci l abl e contradi ct i ons. The fol l owers of
these t wo ways cannot l i ve i n t he same house together. They
cannot even understand each other si nce they do not t hi nk or speak
i n the same way. A Sage of the part of nature ( a Daoi st ) woul d not
need t o hi de hi msel f i n the mount ai ns and woods; J i vi ng amongst
1 87
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 6 B.
hi s fel l ow c i t i zens, he woul d be unknown because he woul d not be
unders t ood. Thi s st at e of t hi ngs i s not recent ; i t dates from qui t e
a l ong t i me ago. The anc i ent Sages who are commonl y known
as the hi dden ones, di d not make t hemsel ves i n vi si bl e, nor keep
thei r mouths cl osed, nor del i bera t el y hi de t hei r wi sdom. They di d
not hi de themsel ves. I t was t hei r compl et e oppos i t i on t o the i r ti mes
t hat hi d them, maki ng t hem pass unperce i ved, unknown, and mi s
underst ood. I n favourabl e t i mes t hey coul d perhaps have reformed
the worl d by r et ur ni ng i t t o i ts l ost s i mpl i ci t y . But s i nce unfavour
abl e t i mes pre vent ed them from doi ng t hi s , they spent thei r l i ves
keepi ng the not i on of pr i mi t i ve per fect i on to t hemsel ves, and
wai t ed in peace. - These men di d not l ook for knowl edge vari ed by
subt l e di fferences, as do the present - day soph i st s; t hey di d not wi sh
t o know al l , nor to do al l . Somewhat reser ved, al most t i mi d,
they kept t hemsel ves i n t he i r r i ght ful pl ace, medi t at i ng on thei r
nature. The subj ect i s, moreover , s uf f i ci ent l y vast t o occupy a
man, and suf f i ci ent l y di f f i cul t t o requ i r e di scret i on. To set onesel f
up as a mast er of t he doct r i ne of the Pr i nci pl e, wi th i mperfect
knowl edge and conduct , woul d be t o deny t he doctr i ne, not t o serve
i t . They worked t her ef or e on t hei r own s el f , t aki ng al l t hei r hap
pi ness from t hei r mo vement t owards the goal . The y di d not dream,
l i k e t he ambi t i ous
(
Conf uci ans) of our t i mes , of grades and di sti nc
t i ons. Wha t can t hese ar t i fi ci al t hi ngs do for t he per fect i on of
nature ? Not hi ng at al l ! They e ven g i ve l i t t l e s at i sf act i on, for,
bei ng cl earl y prec ar i ous, he who has obt ai ned t hem cannot be sure
that he wi l l keep t he m. The Sages are equal l y i nd i fferent to
fortune or di st ress, nei t her r ej o i c i ng nor bei ng saddened by any
t hi ng. When a gai n makes one r ej oi ce, when a l oss saddens one, i t
i s a s i gn t hat one l i kes t he obj ec t , af fe c t i on and sadness bei ng two
di sorders. Those who show t he i r af f ec t i on to any bei ngs whatever;
who do vi ol ence t o t hei r nat ur al i nst i nc t for no mat t er what
convent i on; such peopl e do the oppos i t e of what t hey shoul d do.
They shoul d onl y fol l ow t hei r i ns t i nct , and l i ve absol ut el y det ached.
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 7 A.
Chapter 1 7. The Autumn Fl ood.
A. It was the t i me of the aut umn fl ood. A hundred swol l en ri vers
poured t hei r wat ers i nt o the Yel l ow Ri ver, whose bed was so wi de
that one coul d not di s t i ngui sh a cow from a horse on t he opposi te
si de. The si ght o f t hi s pl eased the Gen i e of the Ri ver, who sai d to
hi msel f that there was not hi ng be t t er i n t he worl d than hi s doma i n.
Fol l owi ng the current , he descended as far as the Nort h SeaB At
t he si ght of i t s wat ers, whi ch ex t ended east wards wi t hout l i mi t s, he
real i zed t hat there e x i s t ed be t t er domai ns t han hi s, and he sai d
wi th a s i gh t o t he Geni e of t he Sea: ' The say i ng "he who knows
l i t t l e, t hi nks hi ms el f gr eat " appl i es t o me. I have cer t ai nl y heard i t
sai d that there was bet t er t han Con fuc i us and hi s heroes, but
I di d not bel i eve i t . Now t hat I have seen the ex t ent of your
empi re, I begi n to bel i eve t hat your doc t r i ne al so i s superi or t o
that of Confuci us*. I t hi nk I have done we J J i n comi ng for i nstruc
ti on, ot herwi se t he trul y wi se woul d ha ve f i ni shed by l aughi ng at
me. ' - ' Wel come , ' sai d the Gen i e of the Sea. ' Yes, the frog that
l i ves at the bot t om of a wel l has no i dea of the ocean; i t onl y
knows i t s own hol e. Th e mayf l y hat ched, and dead, by summer, does
not know what i ce i s; i t has known on l y one season. A l i mi ted
schol ar l i ke Conf uc i us knows not hi ng of the super i or sc i ence of
t he Pri nc i pl e, besot t ed as he i s wi t h t he prej udi ces of hi s cast.
Havi ng come out from your narrow bed, you have seen the ocean
wi t hout l i mi ts. Con v i nced now of your i mperfec t i on, you have
become capabl e of l ear ni ng the supe r i or sci ence. Li st en! Of al l
the wat ers, t he great est i s the ocean. I nnumerabl e r i vers pour
thei r wat ers i nt o i t wi t hout cease , yet never augment i ng i t . I t
fl ows out cont i nuousl y through the eastern st r ai ts, wi thou t di mi ni sh
i ng. I t ne i t her fl oods nor shr i nks as do the great r i vers; i ts l e vel i s
al ways t he same, i nvar i abl e. Such i s my empi r e. Ah wel l , i ts
i mmens i t y has never i nspi red any pr i de i n me. Why ? Because i n
compari son wi th heaven and ear t h, wi t h the phys i cal cosmos, I
fi nd i t smal l . I feel mysel f to be no more than a stone or a shrub
on a mount ai n. Bei ng so smal l , why shoul d I esteem mysel f ? Com
pared wi t h the uni verse, the dept hs of the four oceans are re
duced to l i t t l e hol es i n an i mmense surface. Compared wi t h the
earth, our Chi na i s reduced t o di mensi ons proport i onal to that of
a grai n i n an enor mous granary. I f the total i t y of ex i st i ng bei ngs
can be expressed by the number ten thousand
.
, humani t y i s worth
onl y a s i ngl e uni t . Nowher e, i n fact , over al l the i nhabi ted earth,
does the proport i on of men wi t h reference to that of other bei ngs,
exceed thi s quant i t y. Therefore humani t y i s to the mass of the
uni verse, what a hai r i s to the body of a horse. There you have
*Ri versi de school of t he Yel l ow Ri ver. The Geni e of t he Sea i s Daoi st. The Geni e of
t he Ri ver i s Confuci an, and he i s goi ng to be conver ted to Daoi sm.
1 89
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 7 A.
reduced to a st raw, what has so occupi ed the anci ent soverei gns,
torment ed the Sages, and worn out the pol i t i ci ans. The Confuci an
hero Bo Yi i s reputed great for the rol e he pl ayed on t hi s l i ttl e
scene; and Con fuc i us i s reput ed wi se for hi s rhet ori cal speeches
about i t. These men bel i eved t hemsel ves t o be somet hi ng because
they knew no better; j ust as you bel i eved yoursel f to be the fi rst
amongst the aquat i c geni es, before you had seen the sea. '
Recal l i ng the di scussi ons of t he sophi s t s of hi s t i me, on the noti on
of great and smal l , the Gen i e of the Ri ver asked t he one of the
sea: ' Then from now on shoul d I consi der the uni verse as the
e xpressi on of absol ut e great ness, and a hai r as a sy mbol of absol ute
smal l ness; i s that so? ' - ' No, ' s ai d t he Geni e of the Sea, ' i t i s not
l i ke that . The uni verse e x i s t i ng at t he present t i me i s not the
expressi on of absol ut e great ness, for i ts quant i t y i s not constant.
I t vari es wi th the dura t i on of t i me , wi t h t he course of e vol ut i on,
accordi ng to the geneses and cessa t i ons . En vi saged thus, through
hi gh sci ence, t hi ngs change the i r aspe c t , the . absol ut e becomi ng
rel at i ve. Thus the di fference be t ween gr eat and s mal l is ef faced,
i n the vi s i on from an i nf i ni te di s t ance. The di fference bet ween
past and present i s e f f aced s i mi l ar l y, before and a ft er di sappeari ng
i n the l i mi tl ess chai n; and i n consequence the past no l onger
i nspi res sadness and the present has no more i nt er est . The di fferen
ce between prosper i t y and dest i t ut i on i s wi ped out i n the same way,
these ephemeral phases di sappear i ng i n t he et er nal evol ut i on; and
i n consequence, t o have , no l onger causes any pl easure, to l ose,
no l onger causes any sadness. For those who see from t hi s di stance
and t hi s he i ght , l i fe i s no l onger a happi ness, deat h i s no l onger a
mi s fort une; for t hey know t hat these phases succeed one another,
and t hat not hi ng can l as t . Man i s i gnor ant o f many more thi ngs
than he knows. Compar ed wi t h t he uni verse he is an i n fi ni t el y smal l
t hi ng. Wi shi ng t o cone l ude from the l i t t l e t hat he knows, from the
l i t t l e that he i s, what he does not know, the un i versal i t y of bei ngs,
i s a process whi ch l eads h i m nowhere . Do not t here for e, i n your
specul at i ons, use the hai r t hat you are , as a measure of smal lness,
or the changi ng cosmos as a measure of great ness. '
Sat i sfi ed t o have found s o good a mast er , the Geni e of the Ri ver
cont i nued hi s quest i oni ng: ' The phi l osophers cl ai m, ' he sai d, ' that
an ext remel y at tenuat ed bei ng becomes zero, and that the same
bei ng, ex tremel y ampl i f i ed, becomes i nf i ni te . Is that true?' -
' Yes and no, ' sai d the Geni e of the Sea. ' The not i ons of extreme
at tenuat i on and ex t reme ampl i f i cat i on cannot be establ i shed by
taki ng one and the same be i ng as an exampl e. The concei vable
ex treme at tenuat i on i s the abst ract essence. The measurabl e base
of ampl i fi cat i on is concret e mat t er. Essence and matter are
two di fferent t hi ngs, whi ch coexi s t in e ver y sent i ent bei ng superi or
1 90
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 7 A.
to zero. Zero i s that whi ch cal cul at i on can no l onger di vi de; the
i nf i ni te i s that whi ch numbers can no longer embrace. The word
"smal l
"
descr i bes concret e mat t er ; t hought reaches the abstract
essence. Beyond that come met aphysi cal i nt ui t i ons, i nner voi ces
whi ch are nei t her mat t er nor essence, and are known onl y through
subj ect i ve appreci at i on . I t i s by f ol l owi ng these i nexpl i cabl e i ntui
t i ons t hat t h e super i or ma n does ma n y thi ngs qui t e di fferent l y
from t he common man, but wi t hout desp i si ng t he l at t er because
he does not have the same enl i ght enment . These are the t hi ngs
that pl ace h i m beyond honour and shame, reward and puni shment .
They are t he t hi ngs whi ch make h i m forge t t he di s t i nct i ons bet ween
great and smal l , good and bad. F rom al l t hi s, one may say: "The
man of t he Pr i nci pl e keeps s i l ent ; t he per f ect man seeks after
not hi ng; t he gr eat man has no l onge r an ' ! ' ; for he has brought
al l t he parts t oget her i nto one , an ecs t at i c cont empl a t i on of
uni versal uni t y . " '
The Gen i e o f t he Ri ver havi ng yet aga i n i ns i s t ed, i n order to l earn
about t he di s t i nct i ons bet ween nobl e and v i l e, great and smal l , et c. ,
t he Geni e o f t he Sea cont i nued: ' I f one consi ders bei ngs i n t he l i ght
of the Pr i nc i pl e, t hese di s t i nct i ons do not ex i s t , al l be i ng one. I n
thei r own eyes , al l be i ngs are nobl e and consi der ot her s vi l e wi t h
reference t o t hemsel ves; a subj ect i ve poi nt o f v i ew. In t he eyes of
t he common peopl e, be i ngs ar e nobl e or vi l e accord i ng to a cert ai n
rou t i ne appreci at i on, i ndependent of rea l i t y ; a con vent i onal poi nt
of vi ew. Cons i de re d obj ect i ve l y and re l at i vel y , any bei ng i s great
wi t h reference t o those smal l er t han i ts el f , and any are smal l wi t h
reference t o those great er t han themse l ves; heaven and earth are
but a grai n, a hai r i s a mount ai n. Consi dered from the poi nt
of vi ew o f u t i l i t y , al l be i ngs are useful for what t hey can do, al l
ar e usel ess for what t hey cannot do; the east and west coex i st
necessar i l y , by oppos i t i on, each one havi ng at t r i but es of i ts own.
Fi nal l y, wi th r eference t o the taste of t he obser ver, al l bei ngs have
some si de through whi ch they pl ease some, and another s i de through
whi ch they di spl ease others; Yao and Ji e bot h had admi rers and
detractors. - Abdi cat i on r ui ned nei t her Yao nor Shun, whereas i t
rui ned Baron Kuai . Revol t bene f i t ed Emperors Tang and Wu,
whereas i t caused Duke Bo t o peri sh. Accordi ng to the t i mes and
ci rcumstances the same act i ons do not gi ve the same resul ts; what
i s expedi ent for one , or i n cer t ai n ci rcumstances,
.
i s not for another.
Al l of thi s i s rel at i ve and vari abl e. - A bat t eri ng-ram i s the best
thi ng for breachi ng a rampart; whereas i t woul d be qui t e unsui tabl e
for bl ock i ng up a hol e; di fferent means. Emperor Mu' s coursers
coul d cover a thousand l i i n a day , but they woul d not have been
as good as a cat for cat chi ng a rat ; di fferent qual i t i es. The owl
counts hi s feathers and catches hi s l i ce at ni ght , whereas i n day
l i ght he cannot e ven see a mount ai n; a di fferent nature. Wi th
1 9 1
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 7 A.
stronger reason not hi ng i s f i xed amongst moral t hi ngs, esteem,
opi ni on, et cet era; they al l have a doubl e aspect . - I n consequence,
to wi sh for good wi thout ev i l , r i ght wi t hout wrong, order wi thout
di sorder, i s to show that one understands not hi ng of the l aws of the
uni verse; i t i s to dream of a heaven wi thout ear t h, a yi n wi thout a
yang. The doubl e aspect coex i sts i n ever yt hi ng. To wi sh to di st i ng
ui sh, as real ent i t i es , these t wo i nseparabl e correl at i ves, i s to show
a weak mi nd; hea ven and ear t h are one , the y i n and the yang are
one, and l i kewi se the opposed aspect s of al l cont rari es. Of the
anci ent so vere i gns, some obt ai ned the throne by successi on, others
by usur pat i on. Al l are cal l ed good sover ei gns because t hey acted i n
confor mi t y wi t h the t aste of the peopl e of t hei r t i mes. Mi sunder
standi ng the epoch , act i ng cont rary t o the t ast e of one ' s contem
porar i es, t hat i s what qual i fi es one t o be cal l ed an ursurper.
Medi t at e on these t hi ngs , Geni e of the Ri ver , and you wi l l under
stand t hat there i s nei t her great ness nor s mal l ness, nobi l i t y nor
l owl i ness, good nor e v i l , i n the absol ute sense; but that al l these
t hi ngs are rel at i ve, dependi ng on the t i mes and ci rcumstances, on
the apprec i at i on of men, on opport un i s m. '
' But t hen, ' s a i d t h e Gen i e o f t h e Ri ver , ' wh a t shoul d I d o ? What
shoul d I not do? What shoul d I admi t ? What s houl d I regret ? -
Is there a yes or a no, a mor al r ul e o f conduct ? ' ' From the poi nt
of vi ew of the Pr i nci pl e , ' repl i ed t he Geni e of t he Sea, ' there i s
onl y an absol ut e uni t y , and changi ng aspect s. To put anyt hi ng of
the absol ut e outs i de the Pr i nci pl e, woul d be t o er r about the
Pr i nci pl e. Therefore t here i s no absol ut e mor al i ty , but onl y an
opportuni s t expedi ence. Pract i cal l y , f ol l ow t he t i mes and ci rcum
stances. Be uni f or ml y j ust as a re i gn i ng pr i nce, benef i cent l i ke
the God of the Ear t h, i ndi f f erent as an i nd i v i dual ; embrace al l
bei ngs, for al l are one . - The Pr i nci pl e i s i mmut abl e, havi ng had
no begi nni ng, and not hav i ng an end. Bei ngs change, bei ng born
and dyi ng, wi t hout a s t abl e per manence . From non- bei ng they pass
t o bei ng, wi t hout rest under any for m, t hrough t he course of
t he years and the ages. Begi nni ngs and endi ngs, growt h and decay,
succeed one anot her . That i s al l that we can ascer t ai n, as a rul e,
as a l aw, r ul i ng bei ngs. Thei r l i fe passes on the scene of the worl d,
j ust as a fl eei ng horse passes be fore one ' s eyes; not a moment
wi thout change , wi thout v i ci ss i t udes. And you ask what to do, what
not to do? Fol l ow the course of the t rans for mat i ons, act accord
i ng to the ci rcumst ances of the moment ; t hat i s al l there i s to do. '
' Fi nal l y, ' sai d the Geni e of the Ri ver , ' wi l l you teach me the
advantages of knowl edge of t he Pr i nci pl e?' - ' These advantages, '
s ai d the Geni e of t he Sea, ' are as fol l ows : He who knows the
Pri nci pl e, knows the l aw whi ch deri ves from i t , appl i es it as
i t shoul d be appl ied, and i s i n consequence respected by all bei ngs.
1 92
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 7 A, B, C.
The man whose conduct i s thus al l -wi se, i s not burnt by f i re,
drowned by wat er, harmed by heat or col d, nor by feroc i ous
beasts. Not t hat he has not hi ng t o fear from these dangers, but
because hi s wi sdom hel ps h i m to avoi d al l mi s fort une. He behaves
wi t h such c i rcumspe c t i on t hat no i l l comes t o h i m* . - Thi s wi sdom,
whi ch comes from the knowl edge of t he Pr i nci pl e, i s what one cal l s
t he heavenl y el ement ( nat ural i n man) , by oppos i t i on t o the human
(art i fi ci al ) el ement . For act i on t o c on form t o ori gi nal perfect i on,
the heavenl y el ement
(
nat ur e
)
must pr edomi nat e . ' - ' Woul d you
cl ari f y t he di fference bet ween t he heavenl y and the human, '
i nsi sted t he Geni e of t he Ri ver . - ' I t may be expl ai ned as fol l ows, '
sai d the Geni e o f t he Sea: ' Cat t l e and horses are quadrupeds,
that i s t he heavenl y el ement
(
t he i r nat ur e
)
. I f t hey have a bi t i n
thei r mout h or a ri ng t hrough the i r nose , that i s t he human el ement
(whi ch i s art i f i ci al , aga i ns t nat ur e) . The human must not strangl e
the heavenl y, t he ar t i f i ci al must not e x t i ngui sh the nat ural , the
artefact must not des t r oy the ent i t y of t he truth. To rest ore one ' s
nature, i s t o come back t o t he f i rs t t rut h of be i ng. '
B. A Kui ( a fabul ous ani mal ) wi t h one f oot , asked a mi l l i pede: ' How
do you come t o have so many l egs ? ' - The mi l l i pede sa i d: ' Nat ure
made me thus, wi t h a cent r al body and f i l i form l egs al l round. I
move my heavenl y gi f ts
(
t hat nat ur e has gi ven me
)
wi t hout knowi ng
why nor how. ' - The mi l l i pede s ai d t o the snake: ' Wi t hout feet , you
move fast er than I who have so many; how do you do i t ? ' - ' I don ' t
know, ' sai d t he snake. ' I gl i de l i ke t hi s , nat ur al l y . ' - The snake s ai d
to t he wi nd: ' I move by means of my vert ebrae and my s i des; you
have no such t hi ngs, and yet you go from the Nort h Sea to the
South Sea qui cker than I can gl i de; how do you do i t ? ' - ' I bl ow
natural l y , ' s ai d t he wi nd, ' e ven as f ar as bl owi ng down trees and
turni ng over houses. But you, l i t t l e creat ures, I have no hol d
over you, you domi nat e me. ' One bei ng al one i s domi nated by
nothi ng, t he Sage, possessor of t he Pr i nc i pl e.
C. Confuci us was passi ng through Kuang when a t roop of armed
men of Song surrounded hi m i n such a way that al l escape was
i mpossi bl e. Confuci us took out hi s l ut e and began to si ng. Hi s
di sci pl e Zi Lu asked hi m: ' Mast er, how can you be so gay i n these
ci rcumstances ?' . . . ' Because , ' sai d Confuci us, ' I have done what I
can t o avoi d such an adventure; i t comes therefore, not through
my own faul t , but from dest i ny. I have al so done what I coul d to
break out of t hi s cordon, and i f I have not succeeded, i t i s not due
to any negl i gence, but a consequence of the evi l s of these t i mes.
Under Yao and Shun none of t he Sages were reduced t o the ex trem
i ty I am now i n, not because of thei r great er prudence, but because
*Therefore no i nvul nerabi l i t y, as i nterpreted l at er ; but such gr eat prudence, t hat al l
danger i s avoi ded.
1 93
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 7 C, D.
des t i ny was then f avourabl e t o e ver yone. Under Ji e and Zhou, none
of the Sages coul d make the i r way, not because of reduced abi l i t y,
but because dest i ny was t hen unfavour abl e t o al l . The bravery of
fi shermen l i es i n not fear i ng mar i ne monst ers; t hat of hunt ers i n
not fear i ng wi l d beast s; t hat of war r i ors i n not f ear i ng unsheathed
swords, and l ook i ng equal l y wel l on l i fe and deat h . . . Knowi ng that
no happi ness comes except i n i t s own t i me, that al l unhappi ness
i s wri t t en i n dest i ny , and i n consequence not be i ng afr ai d even i n
front of i mmi nent danger , but submi t t i ng onesel f s t oi cal l y to fate;
t hat i s the bra very of t he Sage. Wai t a momen t , Lu, and you wi l l
s ee accompl i shed what i s wr i t t en i n my dest i ny . ' - A few moments
af t er the Sage had spoken t hese words, the chi ef of the armed men
approached and s ai d: ' We had t aken you for a cer t ai n Yang Huo,
whom we shoul d arres t ; pl ease e x cuse our e rr or ' . . . And t hey l ef t *.
D. Gong Sun Long t he soph i s t , sai d t o Pri nce Mou o f We i : ' When
I was young, f i rs t I s t udi ed the doct r i ne of the anc i ent soverei gns
( the cl ass i cal t r ad i t i ons ) ; l at er I pene t r at ed deep i nt o t he quest i on
of goodness and f ai rness ( Con fuc i ani s m) ; t hen I scru t i n i z ed s i mi l ar
i t y and di fference , subst ance and acci dent s , yes and no, l i c i t and
i l l i c i t ( moral l ogi c) ; I have been r i ght to the bot t om of the t heori es
and argument s of a l l t he s chool s , and I bel i e ved mysel f t o be t rul y
strong , when i t happened t hat a cer t a i n Zhuang Zi ast ounded and
upset me. I don ' t know i f i t i s a f aul t i n my di al ec t i c , or a defi ci t
i n my knowl edge; but t he f act i s t hat I , t he rhet or i cal sophi s t , was
struck dumb i n fron t of h i m, unabl e to r epl y and no t dar i ng t o ask
furt her . ' - Pr i nce Mou t ook a seat , l et out a s i gh, rai sed hi s eyes
t o heav en, s mi l ed and sa i d: ' Do you know the s t or y of the frog of
the ol d wel l and the t ur t l e of the eas t er n sea ? . . . "How happy I am
i n my we l l , " s ai d the frog to t he t ur t l e; "I can j ump on the edge,
hi de i n the hol es bet ween the br i cks , swi m on the surface , or di ve
i nt o the mud. None o f t he i nhabi t ant s o f t hi s wel l , l ar vae, t adpol es,
can do so much as I ; t here f ore I pr ef er my wel l t o your sea; come
and try some of i l s char ms" . . . To pl ease the frog, the t ur t l e t ri ed.
Bu t once i t s ri ght f oot was i n t roduced i nt o the wel l , i t was i mpos
si bl e for i t t o get i t s l e f t foot i n , so narrow was the wel l . After
havi ng wi thdrawn i t s f oo t , i t gav e t he frog the fol l owi ng i nforma
t i on about the sea: " I t is mor e t han a t housand li in l engt h, it i s
deeper than the he i ght o f a t housand men mount ed on top of each
ot her. At the t i me of E mperor Yu, there were ni ne floods i n
ten years; al l of t hi s wat er ran i nt o the sea, wi t hout augment i ng i t .
At t he t i me of Emperor Tang, t here were seven drought s i n ei ght
years; no water ran i nt o the sea and i t s t i l l showed not the sl i ght
est di mi nut i on. Durat i on, quant i t y , t hese terms do nat appl y to
*Daoi st versi on of the Confuci an t ext. Confuci us bel i eved he escaped because he
was desti ned to save the anci ent r i tes. Here he act s f rom mot i ves of pure fatal ism.
1 94
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 7 D, E, F.
the sea. Thi s const ant i mmobi l i t y i s the charm of my home" Wi th
these words the frog of the wel l got vert i go and went out of hi s
l i t t l e mi nd. - And you i nv ol ve yoursel f i n exami ni ng t he asser t i ons
of Zhuang Zi , wi t hout knowi ng cl ear l y how t o di s t i ngui sh between
yes and no; don' t you resembl e t hat frog who tri ed t o understand
the sea? You are t r yi ng t o do what you are not capabl e of. One
mi ght as wel l try t o make a fl y carry of f a mounta i n, or an
earthworm wrest l e wi t h a t orrent . What do you understand of the
subl i me l anguage of t hi s man? You , the frog of the ol d wel l ! -
He descends as far as t he undergr ound s pr i ngs , and cl i mbs as far
as the f i r mament . He underst ands bey ond space; the un fathomabl e
depths, the great myst er i es. Your rul es of di a l e ct i c and your l ogi cal
di st i nct i ons are not i nst r uments pr opor t i onal t o such an obj ect i ve.
You mi ght as wel l t ry t o embr ace heaven wi th a pi pe, or cut up
the earth wi th an awl . Cl ear off now, and don ' t ask for more, out
of fear t hat the same t hi ng wi l l happen t o you as happened to the
chi l dren of Shou Li ng who were sent t o be educa t ed at Han Dan,
and returned t o t hei r coun t r y on t hei r hands and knees. Don ' t
enqui re furt her, for y o u wi l l for get your common l i t t l e knowl edge
of sophi st ry , wi thout comi ng to under st and anyt h i ng of t he super i or
sci ence of Zhuang Zi . ' - Gong Sun Long l i st ened t o t hi s broadsi de
wi th h i s mouth open, hol di ng hi s t ongue , and he fl ed away i n
desperat i on.
E. When Zhuang Zi was f i shi ng wi th a l i ne on t he banks of the
Ri ver Pu, t he Ki ng of Chu sent two of h i s gr and of f i cers t o offer
hi m t he of f i ce of mi ni s t er . Wi t hout pul l i ng i n hi s l i ne, wi thout
taki ng hi s eyes off hi s f l oa t , Zhuang Zi sai d t o t hem: ' I have
heard i t sai d that t he Ki ng of Chu car efu l l y guards , i n the templ e
of hi s ancestors, the carapace of a t ranscendent t ur t l e sacr i fi ced
t hree t housand y ears ago, t o be used for d i v i na t i on. Tel l me, i f
they had gi ven i t t he choi ce, woul d th i s t ur t l e have preferred to
di e so t hat i ts carapace woul d be honoured, or woul d i t have
preferred t o l i ve draggi ng i t s t ai l i n t he mud of the swamps?' -
' I t woul d have preferred t o l i ve draggi ng i t s t ai l i n the mud of the
swamps , ' sai d the two grand of fi cers t oget her. - ' Then , ' sai d Zhuang
Zi , ' return t o where you came from, I al so prefer t o drag my t ai l
i n the mud of the swamps. I wi l l cont i nue to l i ve obscurel y,
but free; I don ' t want an of f i ce, whi ch of t en costs t he l i fe of hi m
who hol ds i t , and whi ch costs hi m peace al ways . '
F. Hui Zi was mi ni st er of t he Pri nci pal i t y of Li ang when Zhuang Zi
went t o pay hi m a vi s i t . Someone made Hui Zi bel i eve that Zhuang
Zi was comi ng wi th t he i nt ent i on of suppl ant i ng hi m. Therefore Hui
Zi ordered a search l asti ng three days and ni ght s, wi th the i nt ent i on
of havi ng hi m sei zed. Zhuang Zi , who had not yet entered Li ang,
was not taken, but heard about t he search. Lat er , when he met
1 95
Zhuang Zi , ch. 1 7 F, G.
Hui Zi , he s ai d: ' Do you know t hat bi rd from the sout h cal l ed the
argus? When i t fl i es from the sout h t owards the nor t h, i t onl y rests
on the Wu Tong t r ee, i l onl y feeds on the bread t ree, and i t
only dri nks from the purest spri ngs. And yet , when i t fl ew by
one day, an owl t hat was eat i ng a dead f i el d- mouse feared that
i t was goi ng t o di sput e i ts car r i on and l et out a cry t o i nt i mi date
i t . The mi ni st er of Li ang d i d t he s ame i n my case . '
G. Zhuang Zi a n d Hu i Zi were t aki ng t hei r r ecreat i on o n a foot
bri dge over a s t r eam; Zhuang Zi sai d: ' Look how the f i sh are
j umpi ng, t hat i s how t hey t ake t hei r pl easure . ' - ' You are not a
fi sh, ' sai d Hui Zi ; ' how do you know what t he i r pl easure i s?' -
' You are not I , ' s ai d Zhuang Zi ; ' how do you know t hat I don ' t know
they t ake pl easure i n t ha t ? ' ' I am not y ou , ' sai d Hui Zi , ' and i n
consequence I don ' t know what y ou know or don ' t know, t hat I
agree; but i n any case I know t hat you ar e not a f i sh, and i t
rema i ns es t abl i s hed t her efore t hat you don ' t know what i s thei r
pl easure . ' - ' You ar e t aken , ' s ai d Zhuang Z i . ' Le t ' s come back to
your fi rst quest i on. You asked me "how do you know what thei r
pl easure i s ?" . . . By t hat phrase you have admi t t ed t hat I know i t;
because you wou l d not hav e as ked me t he "how" of what y ou knew
I d i d not know. And now, how d i d I know i t ? By d i rect obser vat i on,
from t he foot br i dge of t he s t r ea m. ' A means unknown t o the
sophi st s of t hat t i me , qui bbl ers who do not obser v e.
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 8 A, B.
Chapter 18. Perfect Joy.
A. Under heaven is t here, or i s there not , a state of perfect
contentment ? Is there, or i s there not, a means of l engt heni ng t he
l i fe of the body? What shoul d one do, what shoul d one not do, i n
order to at t ai n thi s? - The common peopl e l ook for thei r content
ment i n weal t h, rank, l ongev i t y , and t he esteem of others; i n
repose, good l i vi ng, good cl ot hi ng, beaut y, mus i c, and t he rest.
They dread pover t y, obscur i t y, shorten i ng of l i fe, and i l l - repute;
l ack of repose, good food, good cl ot hi ng, beaut i ful si ghts and
sounds. I f they do not obt ai n t hese t hi ngs t hey are saddened and
a ff l i ct ed I s i t not sensel ess t o ascr i be e ver yt hi ng thus to the
body ? Some of these t hi ngs are e ven ex t eri or and forei gn t o the
body; such as weal t h accumul at ed beyond possi bl e ut i l i zat i on, rank,
and the esteem of ot hers. And yet , for t hese t hi ngs, the common
peopl e use up thei r st rengt h and t ort ure themsel ves day and ni ght .
Trul y wor r i es are bor n wi th man, and fol l ow hi m al l hi s l i fe; even
i n the dul l ness of ol d age, t he fear of death does not l eave hi m.
Al one, t he mi l i t ar y of f i cers do not fear deat h and t hey are esteem
ed by the common peopl e for i t , r i ght l y or wrongl y, I do not know;
for, i f the i r bravery depri ves t hem of l i fe, i t preserves the l i ves of
thei r co-c i t i zens; there i s f or and agai ns t . Ci vi l offi ci al s who bri ng
death on t hemsel ves by t he i r i mper t i nent cr i t i ci sms, are, on the
contrary , bl amed by the common peopl e; r i ght l y or wrongl y, I
do not know, for, i f t he i r out spokenness depr i ves them of l i fe, i t
assures t hem of fame, t here i s f or and agai nst . As for the common
peopl e t hemsel ves, I a vow that I do not understand how they draw
content ment from that whi ch cont ents them; the fact i s that these
thi ngs cont ent t hem, and do not cont ent me. For me, happi ness
consi sts i n i nact i on, whereas the common peopl e rush about al l the
t i me. I hol d as true the say i ng whi ch goes: ' Supreme contentment
i s t o have nothi ng whi ch contents; supreme gl ory i s not to be
gl or i f i ed. ' Any act accompl i shed wi l l be di scussed, and wi l l be
qual i fi ed as good by some and bad by others. Onl y that whi ch has
not been done cannot be cr i t i ci zed. In i nact i on there i s supreme
content ment , whi ch makes the l i fe of the body l ast. Al l ow me to
support my asser t i on by an i l l ust ri ous exampl e: Heaven owes i ts
l i mpi di t y, and eart h i ts st abi l i t y , to non-act i on; conj oi nt l y, these
two non-act i ons, heavenl y and earthl y, produce al l bei ngs. ' Heaven
and earth, ' goes the sayi ng, ' do everyt hi ng by doi ng not hi ng. '
Where i s the man who has come to do nothi ng? That man wi l l
hi msel f al so be capabl e of doi ng everyt hi ng.
B. Zhuang Zi ' s wi fe di ed and Hui Zi went to mourn her, as was the
custom. He found Zhuang Zi crouchi ng, si ngi ng and beat i ng out a
rhythm on a bowl hel d between hi s feet . Shocked, Hui Zi sai d
to hi m: ' That y ou do not weep for the death of she who was your
1 97
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 8 B, C, D.
compani on for l i fe and who gave you sons, i s al r eady qui te si ngul ar;
but to s i ng and beat out a r hyt hm i n front of her coffi n; thi s i s
too much . ' - ' Not at al l , ' s ai d Zhuang Zi . ' When she di ed, I was
affect ed for an i nst ant . Then, r efl ect i ng on t he e vent , I understood
that there was no reason for i t . There was a t i me when thi s
bei ng had not been born, had no organ i zed body, had not even a
l i t t l e subt l e mat t er, but was cont ai ned i ndi s t i nct l y i n the great
mass. One turn of thi s mass gave her her subt l e mat ter , whi ch,
formi ng an organi z ed body, became ani ma t e d and was born. Another
turn of the mass, and t here she i s , dead. The phases of l i fe and
deat h are l i nked t oget her l i ke the per i ods of the four seasons.
She who was my wi fe sl eeps now i n the great dormi tory ( the
i nt er medi at e s t at e be t ween heaven and ear t h) , awai t i ng her next
transformat i on. I f I shoul d cry for her , I woul d g i ve t he i mpressi on
of knowi ng not hi ng about des t i ny ( about the uni versa! and i nescap
abl e l aw of transfor mat i ons) . Now, s i nce I know somet hi ng of
thi s, I do not weep for her . '
C. Zhi Li and Hua J i ( f i c t i t i ous char ac t er s) were cont empl at i ng
t oget her the t ombs of the anci ent s , sca t t er ed on the pl ai n at the
foot of the Kun Lun Moun t a i ns, the pl ace wher e the Yel l ow Emper
or s et t l ed and found hi s r est . Suddenl y the t wo of t hem not i ced
t hat each had a car bunc l e on hi s l ef t arm ( whi ch was often mortal
i n Chi na) . Af t er the f i r s t moment of s urpr i s e, Zhi Li asked: ' Does
i t fr i ght en you ? ' - ' Why shoul d i t ? ' r epl i ed Hua J i . ' Li fe i s some
thi ng borrowed , a s t at e of passage, a s t age i n t he dust and smel l
of thi s worl d. L i fe and death succeed each ot her , l i k e day and
ni ght . And t hen, d i d we not come to cont empl at e, amongst the
t ombs of t he anci ent s , t he e f fect of t he l aw o f t ransformat i on?
When t hi s l aw r eaches us i n our t ur n, why s houl d we compl ai n?'
D. When Zhuang Z i was r et ur ni ng t o t he Ki ngdom of Chu, he
saw an i nt act bare s kul l l y i ng on t he r oads i de. St r oki ng i t wi th hi s
s wi t ch, he s ai d t o i t : ' Di d you per i s h because of br i gandage, or
t hrough de vot i on t o your count r y; t hrough bad behavi our or from
povert y; or d i d you d i e a nat ur al deat h, because your t i me had
come? ' Then, p i c k i ng up the s kul l , he used i t the fol l owi ng ni ght
as a pi l l ow. - At mi dni ght t he s kul l appeared t o h i m i n a dream and
sai d: ' You spoke t o me i n the s t yl e of the sophi st s and rhetor i ci ans,
l i ke a man who t akes human t hi ngs as true. Now, aft er deat h, these
thi ngs are fi ni shed wi t h. Woul d you l i ke me to t el l you about the
beyond? ' - ' Wi l l i ng y , ' s ai d Zhuang Zi . - The . skul l sai d: ' After death
there are nei ther super i ors nor i nferi ors, seasons nor work. I t i s
repose i n the constancy of heaven and eart h. Its peace surpasses
the happi ness of ki ngs. ' - ' Bah , ' sai d Zhuang Zi , ' i f I were to
persuade the governor of dest i ny ( the Pr i nci pl e) to return to you
your body, sk i n, fl esh and bones, your father, mot her, wi fe, chi l dren,
1 98
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 8 D, E.
vi l l age, and al l t hat you knew; I t hi nk that woul d not di spl ease you ?'
- The skul l l ooked f i xedl y at hi m wi th i t s caved orbi ts, and sai d:
' No! I woul d not renounce my royal peace i n order t o return
to human mi sery. '
E. When Yen Yuan, the cheri shed di sci pl e , l eft for the Pri nci pal i t y
of Qi , Confuci us appeared sad. Hi s di sci pl e Zi Gong got up from hi s
mat and sai d: ' May I dar e t o ask you why t hi s j ourney of Hui
saddens you?' - ' I wi l l tel l you, ' sa i d Confuci us. ' Once, Guan Zi
pronounced t hese words, whi ch I have al ways found to be t rue: "A
smal l bag cannot hol d a l arge obj ect ; a short rope cannot reach to
the bottom of a wel l . " Yes, the capac i t y of each bei ng i s i ncl uded
i n i ts dest i ny, not hi ng can be added t o i t , not hi ng can be taken
away from i t . I fear t herefore that i f, f ol l owi ng hi s convi ct i ons
and hi s zeal , Hui expounds to the Mar qui s of Qi the theori es of
Yao and Shun, of t he Yel l ow Emper or , Sui Ren, and Shen Nang,
thi s man of l i mi ted capaci t y , see i ng onl y a cr i t i c i sm of hi s govern
ment i n hi s di scourses, may become angry and put hi m to deat h. -
Opport uni sm al one makes for success. Everyt hi ng does not sui t
everyone. One shou l d n o t j udge ot hers af t er onesel f . Once , a
sea bi rd fel l down a t t he gat es of t he capi tal of Lu. As i t was an
ext raordi nary phenomenon, t he mar qui s t hought perhaps i t was a
t ranscendent bei ng v i s i t i ng hi s pr i nc i pal i t y . He went therefore i n
person t o care for t he bi rd, and carri ed i t t o t he templ e of hi s
ancestors, where he gave i t a feast . They performed the Gi u Shao
symphony of Emperor Shun i n front of i t . They of fered i t a great
sacri f i ce, a bul l , a bi l l y- goat , and a pi g. Howe ver the bi rd, i ts eyes
haggard and l ooki ng hear t -broken, di d not touch the stew nor taste
the wi ne. After three days i t di ed of hunger and thi rst Thi s was
because the marqui s , j udgi ng the tastes of the bi rd after hi s own,
had treated i t as he t reat ed hi msel f , and not as one shoul d treat
a bi rd. A sea bi rd needs space, forests and pl ai ns, r i vers and
l akes, f i sh for i ts food, freedom t o f l y and rest where i t wi l l s.
Hear i ng the speech of men was a puni shment for t hi s poor bi rd;
how much more the musi c t hey made for i t , and al l the movement
they made around i t . I f one were t o pl ay the Gi u Shao symphony of
Shun, or l i kewi se the Xi an Chi symphony of the Yel l ow Emperor, on
the banks of l ake Dong Ti ng, t he bi rds woul d f l y away, quadrupeds
woul d hi de themsel ves, fi sh woul d d i ve i nto the deepest waters, and
men, on the cont rary, woul d l i sten and marvel . Fi sh l i ve i n the
water, and men di e i n i t . The nature of bei ngs i s di verse, and thei r
tastes are not t he same. I t i s t he same for men, there are di fferen
ces; what pl eases some does not pl ease others. Thus the anci ent
Sages di d not assume that al l men had the same capaci t y, and they
di d not empl oy no matter whom for no matter what. They cl assed
men accordi ng to t hei r works, and deal t wi th them accordi ng to
thei r resul t s. Thi s adequate and j ust recogni t i on of i ndi vi dual s i s
1 99
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 8 E, F.
a condi t i on for any success. I f Yen Hui wei ghs up the Marqui s of Qi
wel l , and speaks t o hi m accordi ngl y, he wi l l succeed, i f not, he
wi l l peri sh. '
F. Whi l st Li e Zi , who was t ravel l i ng, was t aki ng hi s meal by the
roads i de, he saw an ol d skul l *, pi cked i t up, and s ai d t o i t : ' You
and I know about l i fe and deat h; t hat t hi s di s t i nct i on i s not real ,
but onl y modal ; t hat one shoul d not say of you t hat you rest, and
of me that I move; the wheel turns and transformat i ons succeed
one another wi t hout cease. ' The germs of l i fe are numerous
and i ndet ermi nat e. Such a germ wi l l become a cover i ng of duck
weed i f i t fal l s on a pond, a carpe t of moss i f i t i s t hrown on
a hi l l . Ri si ng up, t he moss becomes t he Wu Zu pl ant , whose roots
change i nto worms and whose l ea ves change i nt o but terfl i es.
These but t erf l i es produce a l ar va that l i ves around f i repl aces,
whi ch i s cal l ed Qu Tuo. Af t er a t housand days t hi s Qu Tuo becomes
t he bi r d Qi an Wu Gu, whose sal i va gi ves bi r t h t o t he S i Mi i nsect .
The l at t er becomes Shi Xi , t hen Mou Ru i , t hen Fu Kuan Yang Xi
and Bu Sun pl ants are two al t er nat i ng forms. From ol d bamboos
comes the Qi ng Ni ng i nsect , whi ch becomes a l eopar d, then a
horse, t hen a man. Man ret urns t o t he cr af t of weavi ng from
the i ncessant uni versa! re v ol ut i on . I n t hei r t ur n, al l bei ngs come
from t he great cos mi c cr af t , t o r et ur n t here i n t hei r t i me, and
so on**.
*Compare wi t h Li e Zi chapt er 1 E, and D above.
**Daoi st t ransformi sm; compare wi t h Li e Zi chapt er 1 E. Nei ther l i fe nor death, but
i ndestruct i bl e germs, whi ch f or m i ndi vi dual s; a cont i nuous t r ansformati on i n whi ch
the bei ng i s successi vel y r ecl ot hed i n percept i bl e f or m.
Zhua Zi, ch. 1 9 A, B.
Chapter 1 9. The Maning Of Li fe.
A. He who underst ands the meani ng of l i fe i s no l onger troubl ed by
what does not cont ri but e t o l i fe. He who understands the nature of
dest i ny no l onger t r i es t o scrut i ni z e t hi s i nscrutabl e ent i t y. To
mai nt ai n the body one must use appropr i at e means, wi thou t excess
however, for all excess i s usel ess. I t i s even more i mportant to
mai nt ai n the v i t al spi r i t , wi t hout whi ch the body i s fi ni shed. The
l i vi ng bei ng has not been abl e to pre vent i t s comi ng to l i fe ( at
bi rt h) ; i t cannot , moreover , av oi d the fac t that one day ( at the
t i me of deat h) l i fe wi l l l eave i t . The common peopl e bel i eve
that , to conserve l i fe , i t i s enough t o mai nt ai n the body. They are
wrong. I t i s necessary above al l to pre vent wear of one ' s vi tal
spi r i t , whi ch i s al most i mpossi bl e amongst the troubl es of the
worl d. Therefore, t o conser ve and l engt hen l i fe, one must l eave the
worl d and i ts t roubl es. I t i s i n the peace of a regul ated ex i stence,
i n communi on wi t h nature, that one fi nds a resurgence of v i tal i t y, a
renewal of l i fe . - Let us repeat : Abandon i ng worry and busi ness
conser ves l i fe , for t hi s prot ec t s the body from fat i gue and the vi tal
spi r i t from wear. He whose body and v i t al spi r i t are i ntact and
wel l , i s uni t ed wi th nature . Now nat ure i s the father-mother
of al l bei ngs. The bei ng i s formed by condensa t i on; i t i s done away
wi th through di ssi pat i on, t o become yet agai n another bei ng. And
i f , at the moment of t hi s di ssi pat i on, i t s body and v i t al sp i r i t are
i nt act , i t i s capabl e of transmi gra t i on. I n essence , i t becomes the
co-operat or wi th heaven*.
B. Li e Zi s ai d t o Yi n ( Yi n Xi ) , the guardi an of t he pass, con fi dant
of Lao Zi : ' The supreme man pene t rates al l bodi es (stone , metal ,
says the comment ary) wi t hout encount eri ng any resi stance from
them; he i s not burnt by f i re; no a l t i tude gi ves hi m vert i go; tel l
me why thi s i s so? ' - ' Uni que l y , ' sai d Yi n, ' because he has kept the
ori gi nal vi t al sp i r i t rece i ved at bi r t h, pure and i nt act ; not through
any procedure or for mul a. Si t down and I wi l l expl ai n i t to you. Al l
mater i al be i ngs have a shape , sound, and col our, of thei r own. From
these di verse qual i t i es come thei r mutual enmi t i es ( fi re destroys
wood, et c. ) . I n the pr i mor di al state of uni t y and uni versal i mmobi l
i t y, these oppos i t i ons do not exi s t . They ar e al l deri ved from
the di versi f i cat i on of be i ngs, and from thei r contacts caused by
the uni versal gyrat i on. They woul d cease , i f the di versi t y and
movement were t o cease. They cease strai ght away to affect the
bei ng who has reduced hi s i nd i v i dual sel f and i ts movement to
al most nothi ng. Thi s bei ng ( the perfect Daoi st Sage) no l onger
*The comment ary says that i t passes f r om t he category of bei ngs i nfl uenced by
heaven and ear t h, i nto t he gr eat Whol e, as an i ntegral par t . Daoi st i dea of co
operat i on wi t h heaven, comparabl e to t he I ndi an not i on of r et r eat i n Brahms.
201
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 9 B, C.
enters i nt o confl i ct wi t h any bei ng, because he i s establ i shed i n
the i nf i ni t e, effaced i n the i ndefi n i te. He has become, and hol ds
hi msel f at , the poi nt of depart ure of transfor mat i ons, a neutral
poi nt where there are no conf l i ct s
(
whi ch are onl y produced wi th
respect t o par t i cul ar , separat e, ways) . Through concent rat i on of hi s
nat ure, nurt uri ng of hi s vi t al spi r i t , and br i ngi ng together al l hi s
forces, he i s uni t ed wi t h t he pr i nci pl e of al l geneses. No bei ng can
harm hi m because hi s nat ure i s whol e, and hi s v i t al spi r i t i s i ntact.
- Take, for exampl e, an absol ut el y drunken man; i f he shoul d fal l
from a carri age, he woul d perhaps be brui sed, but not ki l l ed. Why
shoul d t hi s be so? Hi s bones and j oi nt s do not di f f er from t hose of
other men, but , at t he moment of the fal l , the v i tal spi r i t of thi s
man, concent rat ed through unconsc i ousness, was absol ut el y i ntact.
At the moment of t he f al l , because of hi s unconsci ousness, the
i deas of l i fe and death, fear and hope , had not aroused the heart of
t hi s man. He di d not tense hi msel f , and the ground was not hard to
hi m, that i s why he d i d not break any l i mbs. Thi s drunk owed the
i nt egr i t y of hi s body t o hi s st at e of drunkenness. I n the same way
the per fect Sage wi l l keep i nt act t hrough hi s st at e of uni on wi th
nat ure. The Sage i s h i dden i n nat ur e, and not hi ng can harm hi m. -
Therefore, whosoever i s har med shou l d not bl ame what has harmed
hi m; he shoul d bl ame h i msel f , hi s vul nerab i l i ty bei ng a proof of
i mper fect i on. A reasonabl e man does not bl ame the sword that
wounded hi m, or t he t i l e t hat fel l on hi m. I f al l men wer e t o seek
the cause of t hei r own i l l s i n t hei r own i mper f ect i on, there woul d
be perfect peace, t he end of wars and puni shment s. I t woul d be
the end of the re i gn of t hi s fal se human nat ur e (an art i fi ci al
nature i nvent ed by the pol i t i c i ans) whi ch has f i l l ed the worl d wi th
bri gands; i t woul d be t he begi nni ng of t he r ei gn of t rue heavenl y
nat ure
(
nat ur al na t ure) , the source of al l good act i ons. Not to
strangl e nat ur e, not t o bel i ev e i n men; that i s t he way of return to
the truth
(
t o or i gi nal i ntegr i t y) . '
C. When Confuc i us was t ravel l i ng i n the Ki ngdo m of Chu, comi ng
out of a wood, he saw a hunchback who was cat chi ng f l yi ng grass
hoppers wi t h a rod* , j ust as eas i l y as one pi cks up an obj ect wi th
the hand. ' You are t r ul y sk i l l ed, ' sai d Confuci us t o hi m; ' tel l me
your secret . ' - ' My secret , ' s ai d the hunchback, ' i s t hi s: For about
si x months I pract i sed hol di ng bal l s st eady on the end of my rod.
When I coul d hol d t wo, few grasshoppers escaped me. When I coul d
hol d three, I mi ssed onl y one i n ten. When I coul d hol d fi ve, I
never mi ssed any. My secret consi sts i n concent rat i ng al l my energy
on the goal . I have mastered my ar m, my ent i re body, such that
they show no more emot i on or di s t ract i on than a pi ece of wood.
* The commentators expl ai n thi s i n two ways. He st abbed them i n fl i ght, say
some; hardl y bel i evabl e. There was gl ue on the end of the rod, sa
y
others; most
l i kel y. Cf. L i e Zi ch. 2 J.
202
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 9 C, D, E.
In the vast uni verse ful l of t hi ngs, I see onl y the grasshopper that
I wi sh t o take. S i nce not hi ng di st ract s me, i t i s taken natural l y. ' -
Turni ng h i msel f t owards hi s di s ci pl es, Con fuc i us sai d to them: ' To
uni fy one ' s i ntent i ons; t o have onl y one , whi ch becomes bl ended
wi th the v i t al energy; t hat sums up thi s hunchback ' s di scourse. '
D. Yen Yuan, t he fa vour i t e di s ci pl e , s ai d t o Con fuc i us: ' When I was
crossi ng t he Shang rapi ds* , the fe rryman handl ed hi s craft wi t h a
mar vel l ous dex ter i t y . I asked h i m: "How can one l earn t o man
oeuvre so wel l ?" "A swi mmer , " he sa i d, "l earns i t eas i l y, a di ver
knows i t wi t hout havi ng t o l earn" . . . I d i d not understand hi m. Can
you expl ai n i t t o me? ' - ' Yes, ' sa i d Con fuc i us
(
speaki ng as a
Daoi st mast er
)
: ' A swi mme r t hi nks l i t t l e of the water, be i ng
fami l i ar wi th i ts dangers, whi ch he scarce l y fears any more; a
di ver does not t hi nk of i t a t al l , bei ng i n hi s el ement i n wat er. The
feel i ng of danger aff ect s the s wi mmer l i t t l e, he has al most com
pl ete use of hi s nat ural facu l t i es. The feel i ng of danger does not
affect t he d i ver at al l , he i s one wi t h the ferry- boat and i n conseq
uence go verns i t perfect l y . - I n an archery cont est , i f t he pr i ze i s
an eart henware obj ect of l i t t l e val ue , the archer wi l l be uni nfl uen
ced and have free use of al l hi s sk i l l . I f the pr i ze i s a bel t buckl e
i n bronz e or j ade, the archer wi l l be i nfl uenced, and hi s ai m l ess
certai n. If the proposed pr i z e is a gol den obj ect , hi s ai m wi l l be
strongl y i nf l uenced and qu i te uncert a i n. The same man, the same
t al ent , but more , or l ess, i nfl uenced by an exter i or obj ect . Al l
di st ract i ons cause fool i shness and ner vousness. '
E. Whi l st Duke Wei of Zhou was rece i vi ng Ti an Kai Zhi i n audi ence ,
he sai d to hi m: ' I have heard t el l t hat your master Zhu Xi an has
studi ed the probl em of the conser vat i on of l i fe. Pl ease t el l me what
you have heard h i m say on thi s subj ect . ' - ' What can I t el l you?'
sai d Ti an Kai Zhi , ' si nce I was onl y t he sweeper-up i n Zhu Xi an ' s
house** ' - ' Don ' t run yoursel f down, Master Ti an , ' sai d the duke;
' I expect t o be sat i s f i ed. ' - Then Ti an Kai Zhi sai d: ' Zhu Xi an
sai d t hat , t o conserve one ' s l i fe, one shoul d do as the shepherds,
who, when a sheep goes astray , beat i t to make i t rej oi n the
fl ock, where i t i s i n safe keepi ng. ' - ' What does that mean?' sai d
the duke. - ' I wi l l expl ai n i t , ' sai d Ti an Kai Zhi . ' In the Pr i nci pal i t y
of Lu, a cer t ai n Shan Baa passed hi s l i fe i n t he mount ai ns, dri nk i ng
onl y wat er and havi ng no rel at i ons wi t h men. Thanks to thi s regi me,
at t he age of se vent y he was s t i l l as fresh as a chi l d. A hungry
t i ger found hi m and devoured hi m . . . Zhang Yi was one of the most
ski l l ed doctors. Ri ch and poor squabbl ed for hi s consul t at i ons. At
the age of fort y he di ed of a cont agi ous fe ver pi cked up at the
*Compare wi t h Li e Zi , chapter 2 H.
**Ri t ual humi l i t y of t he di sci pl e, who must f ear doi ng har m to hi s master by
badl y repor ti ng hi s teachi ng.
203
Zhua Zi, ch. 1 9 E, F, G.
bedsi de of a pat i ent Shan Baa cared for hi s vi tal spi r i t , but let
a t i ger de vour hi s body . Zhang Yi cared for hi s body, but l et hi s
vi tal spi r i t be dest royed by a fever. Both of them were wrong for
not beat i ng t hei r sheep ( for not wat chi ng o ver the i r securi ty) .
Confuci us has sa i d: "Wi sdom i s keepi ng t o the true centre; not too
much i sol at i on; not too many rel a t i onshi ps. " At a dangerous pass
where acci dents are frequent , men warn each other, and onl y pass
in numbers, t aki ng the necessary precaut i ons. They do not warn
each ot her, on the ot her hand, of t he dangers i nherent in an
eccent ri c conduct or di al ect i c. Thi s i s unreasonabl e. '
F. The sacri fi ci al of f i cer who was vi s i t i ng, i n grand of f i ci al cost
ume, the encl osure of the pi gs dest i ned for sacr i f i ce, gave them the
fol l owi ng l ect ure: ' Why do you d i e wi th such bad grace, when your
death procures for you so many advant ages and honours? I fatten
you for three mont hs. Be fore the sacr i f i ce I keep i n cont i nence for
ten days and abs t i nence for t hree days , al l for your sakes. After
the sacr i fi ce, I arrange your par t s care fu l l y , on whi te cl oths, l yi ng
on scul pt ured si deboards. Aren ' t you wrong i n gi v i ng me such bl ack
l ooks? ' - I f t hi s man had t r ul y t hought of the pi gs ' wel fare, he
woul d have J et t hem l i ve i n t he i r encl osure unt i l the end of thei r
days, e ven i f i t were onl y wi th husks and bran as food. But he was
t hi nki ng o f hi s own good, hi s work, hi s sal ar y, thei r funeral s, and
hi s of f i ci al dut i es aft er the i r deat h. He was sat i sf i ed because he
had what he needed; he j udged t hat t he p i gs shoul d be sati sfi ed
al though t reat ed agai nst nat ur e; an i l l us i on caused by egoi sm.
G. Duke Huan of Qi was hun t i ng near a swamp, hi s mi ni ster Guan
Zhong dr i vi ng hi s char i ot . Suddenl y the duke saw a spectre. He
pl aced hi s hand on Guan Zhong ' s and s ai d qui et l y: ' Can you see i t ?'
' I can s ee nothi ng, ' sai d t he mi ni st er . - When he got back t o hi s
pal ace the duke began t o r ambl e , s ai d he was i l l , and spent several
days wi t hout comi ng out of hi s bedroom. Then Gao Ao
(
an offi ci al
of i mperi al bl ood) gave h i m t he fol l owi ng di s course: ' You are onl y
i l l from a fool i sh fear ; a spect re cannot har m a person such as
you. When too much v i t al spi r i t has been di s pensed i n a fi t of
passi on
(
anger or fear) , i t produces a de fi c i t . When t he vi tal spi ri t
accumul ated i n the upper part of the body
(
excess of yang
)
cannot
descend, a man becomes i rasci bl e. When the vi tal spi r i t accumul
ated i n the l ower part of the body
(
e xcess of yi n
)
cannot ri se up,
a man becomes forget ful . When the vi tal s pi r i t accumul ated i n
the centre can nei ther ri se up nor descend, then a man feel s i l l
(
hi s heart bei ng obstructed, says the comment ar y
)
. That i s your
case; too much concent r at i on; di st ract yoursel f . ' - ' Yes, perhaps, '
sai d the duke; ' but teJ J me, do spectres exi s t ? ' - ' They do, ' sai d the
offi ci al . ' There are the Li o f the drai ns , the Ji of the stoke-holes,
the Lei Ti ng of the dunghi l l s. There are the Bei A and Wa Long
204
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 9 G, H, 1.
in the north-east; the Vi Yang i n the north-west. There are the
Wang Xi ang i n the wat er; the Zhen on the hi l l s; the Kui i n the
mount ai ns; the Fang Huang on the steppes; the Wei Tuo* i n the
swamps. ' - ' Ah, ' sai d the duke, who had seen hi s spectre near a
swamp. ' What does the Wei Tuo l ook l i ke?' - ' I t is as thi ck as an
axl e, ' sai d Gao Ao, ' l ong as a carri age pol e, cl othed in vi ol et and
capped i n red. I t does not l i ke the rol l i ng of chari ots. When i t
hears t hem, i t rears u p, bl ocki ng i ts ears. I t s appar i t i on i s a
good si gn. He who sees i t becomes supreme rul er' ( the great
ambi t i on of the Duke of Qi ) . - ' Ah, ' sai d the duke, burst i ng out
l aughi ng; ' the Wei Tuo that I saw i s a good t hi ng. ' - Strai ght
away he performed hi s t oi l et , whi l st conti nui ng to chat wi th
the offi ci al . Before eveni ng he was found t o be compl etel y cured,
by suggest i on, wi thout havi ng taken any medi ci ne**.
H. Ji Si ng Zi was t r ai ni ng a f i ght i ng - cock for Emperor Xuan of
the Zhou dynasty***. After ten days, when asked for news, he
repl i ed: ' The t rai ni ng i s not yet f i ni shed; the ani mal i s s t i l l vai n and
wi l ful . ' - Ten days l at er, asked agai n, he sai d: ' Not yet, the ani mal
i s st i l l too pass i onat e, too nervous. ' - Ten days l at er, asked once
more, he sai d: ' I t i s ready! The sound and si ght of si mi l ar bi rds
move i t no more than i f t hey were of wood. No cock wi l l hold out
agai nst i t**** '
I. Confuci us was admi ri ng t he wat erfal l at Lu Li ang***** Fal l i ng
from t hi r t y t i mes a man ' s hei ght , i t produced a foami ng torrent
forty l i i n l engt h, so turbul ent that nei ther t urt l e, cayman, nor
fi sh coul d frol i c i n i t . Suddenl y Confuci us saw a man swi mmi ng
amongst the eddi es. Taki ng hi m for a desperat e man who had
i ntended to drown hi msel f , he t ol d hi s di sci pl es to fol l ow the bank
and pul l hi m out , i f possi bl e. Several hundred paces l ower down,
the man came out of the water hi msel f , undi d hi s hai r t o dry, and
began to wal k al ong si ngi ng. Confuci us caught up wi th hi m and sai d:
' I al most took you for a transcendent bei ng, but now I see tha t you
are a man. How can one l earn t o swi m wi th such ease? Pl ease tel l
me your secret . ' - ' I have no secret , ' sai d the man. ' I began by
swi mmi ng methodi cal l y; then i t became natur al , and now I move
l i ke an aquat i c bei ng. My body becomes one wi th the water,
descendi ng wi th the turbul ence, comi ng up wi th the eddi es. I
*Fol k-l ore of the ti me. The Wei Tuo al i as Wei Vi .
**Heal th and sani ty resul t from perfect natural equi l i br i um. Spectres are subj ecti ve,
not obj ecti ve; an exteri ori sati on of i nteri or di sorders, l i ke dreams, hal l uci nati ons, etc.
***Compare wi th li e Zi chapter 2 Q.
****Commentary: It i s concent r ated on one, on one thi ng. Its act i vi t y turned
i nwards i s fused wi th i ts vi tal pri nci pl e.
*****Compare wi th Li e Zi chapter 2 I .
205
Zhuang Zi, ch. 1 9 I, J, K, L.
fol l ow the movement of the wat ers, not my own wi l l . That i s my
secret I want ed to l earn to swi m, hav i ng been born besi de the
water. From habi t , swi mmi ng became nat ural to me. Si nce I have
l ost al l not i on of what I do when I s wi m, wat er has become my
el ement and i t supports me because I am one wi t h i t . '
J . Qi ng the scul pt or made, for a peal of bel l s, a bel fr y whose
harmoni ous beaut y marvel l ed e ver yone. The Marqui s of Lu went to
admi re i t , and asked Qi ng how he di d i t . - ' Li k e t hi s , ' s ai d Qi ng
' When I recei ved t he commi ss i on to make t he bel fr y, I concentrated
al l my vi t al forces, and wi t hdr ew myse l f compl et el y i nt o my heart.
Aft er three days of thi s exer ci se, I had forgot t en t he prai se and
remunerat i on t hat I wou l d rece i ve for t hi s wor k. Af t er f i ve days,
I no l onger hoped for success, and I no l onger feared f ai l ur e. After
seven days I had l ost e ven t he not i on of my body and l i mbs, and
ent i rel y forgot t en your h i ghness and hi s cour t esans; al l my facul t i es
were concent r at ed on t he i r obj ect and I fel t t hat the moment for
act i on had come. I went i nt o the forest and cont empl at ed the
nat ural shapes of the t r ees, the most per fect f rom amongst them.
When I had become ful l y per meat ed wi t h thi s i deal , onl y t hen di d
I put my hands t o work . That was what di r ect ed my work . I t was
through the fusi on of my nat ure i nt o one wi t h t hat o f the trees,
t hat t hi s bel fr y has t he qual i t i es whi ch make i t admi re d . '
K. Dong Ye Ji present ed h i msel f t o Duke Zhuang, i n order t o show
hi m hi s t eam of horses, and hi s t al ent as a dr i ver. Hi s horses
advanced and re treat ed wi t hout t he s l i ght es t de v i at i on from a
strai ght l i ne. They descr i bed, t o r i ght and l ef t , such perfect ci rcl es,
that t hey mi gh t have been t raced wi t h a compass. The duke admi r
ed t hi s prec i s i on, t hen, wi s hi ng t o assure hi mse l f o f i ts constancy,
he asked Ji t o do a hundred consecut i ve t urns on a gi ven track.
Ji had the fool i shness t o accept . Yen He, who saw, whi l st passi ng,
thi s force d over t i me, s ai d t o t he duke: ' Ji ' s horses are goi ng to be
fagged out . ' The duke d i d not repl y . A l i t t l e l at er, Ji ' s horses had
to be brought back . Then t he duke asked Yen He: ' How coul d you
predi ct what woul d happen ? ' - ' Because , ' sai d Yen He, ' I saw Ji
pushi ng horses t hat were al ready t i red * . '
L. Chui the cra ftsman drew free-hand c i rcl es as i f they had been
drawn wi th a compass. That was because he had come to draw
them wi t hout t hi nki ng of t hem; i n consequence hi s ci rcl es were
perfect l i ke the product s of nat ure. Hi s mi nd was concentrated on
one, wi thout preoccupat i on or di st ract i on. - A shoe i s perfect when
the foot does not feel i t . A bel t i s perfect when the wai st does not
feel i t . A heart i s perfect when, havi ng l ost the arti f i ci al not i on
*Al l effort i s agai nst nature. Nature al one l asts, and anythi ng that i s against i t does
not.
206
Zhuag Zi, ch. 1 9 L, M.
of good and e v i l , it does good nat ural l y and abstai ns natural l y from
evi l . . . A mi nd i s perfect when i t i s wi thout i nteri or percept i on,
wi thout tendenci es towards any t hi ng exteri or. Perfect i on i s to be
perfect wi t hout knowi ng i t , ( l i ke unconsc i ous nature
)
.
M. Sun Xi u went to Bi an Qi ng Zi and compl ai ned: ' They have
unj ustl y gi ven me the reputati on of a good-for-nothi ng, of a bad
ci t i zen. Now i f my l ands have gi ven a poor return, i t i s because the
years have been bad; i f I have done nothi ng for my pr i nce, i t i s
because the oppor t uni t y has not presented i tsel f . And yet they
wi sh to have not hi ng t o do wi th me, nei ther i n the vi l l age nor i n
the town. I n heaven ' s name, what have I done to deserve such
a dest i ny ? ' - ' The super i or man, ' s ai d Bi an Zi , ' forgets hi msel f to
the poi nt of not knowi ng i f he has organs or senses. He hol ds hi m
sel f outsi de t he dus t and mud of t hi s wor l d, f ar from t he affai rs of
men. He act s wi thout ai mi ng f or success, and governs wi thout
seeki ng to domi nat e. I s that how you have behaved yoursel f ? Have
you not rather made a show of your knowl edge, t o the poi nt of
offendi ng the i gnorant ? Have you not made a show of your super
i ori t y, and sought to shi ne even so far as t o ecl i pse the sun and the
moon, thus al i enat i ng yoursel f from e ver yone? And after that, you
bl ame heaven! Has heaven not gi ven you al l that i t shoul d, a wel l
made body, a normal span of l i fe, and the rest ? Is i t not thanks to
heaven that you are ne i ther bl i nd, nor deaf, nor cri ppl ed, l i ke so
many others? What r i ght have you to bl ame heaven ? Cl ear off. ' -
When Sun Xi u had gone, Bi an Zi sat down, col l ected hi msel f , rai sed
hi s eyes to heaven, and s i ghed. - ' What i s the matter ? ' asked hi s
di sci pl es. - Bi an Zi sai d: ' I spoke to Sun Xi u of the qual i ti es of the
super i or man. I t i s too much for hi m. Perhaps he wi l l l ose hi s head. '
- ' Be at peace, ' sai d the di sci pl es. ' I f Sun Xi u i s r i ght , he wi l l
percei ve i t, and what you sai d wi l l do hi m no har m. I f he i s wrong,
what you sai d wi l l torment hi m, and he wi l l come back to l earn
more, to hi s benefi t . ' - ' I was wrong, never thel ess, ' sai d Bi an Zi .
' One shoul d not t el l a man what one understands onesel f, i f he i s
not capabl e of understandi ng i t . . . A l ong t i me ago, t he Pri nce
of Lu sacri fi ced and gave a concert to a sea bi rd whi ch had fal l en
at the gate of hi s town*. The bi rd di ed of hunger, thi rst, and
fear. The pri nce shoul d have treated i t, not after hi s own manner,
but i n the manner of bi rds, then the resul t woul d have been di ffer
ent, favourabl e and not fatal . I acted l i ke the Pri nce of Lu, i n
speaki ng of the superi or man to thi s i mbeci l e of a Sun Xi u . . .
To dri ve a mouse i n a horse and carri age, t o gi ve a concert of
bell s and drums to a quai l , i s to terri fy these l i ttl e creatures.
I must have dri ven Sun Xi u crazy . '
Compare with chapter 1 8 E.
207
Zhuang Zi, ch. 20 A, B.
Chapter 20. Voluntary Obscuri ty.
A. When Zhuang Zi was cross i ng the mount ai ns, he saw a great tree
wi t h long and l uxur i ant branches. A woodman who was cut t i ng wood
nearby di d not touch t hi s t ree. ' Why not ?' asked Zhuang Zi
' Because i t s wood i s good- for-not hi ng, ' sai d the woodman. . . ' The
fact of bei ng good- for-not hi ng is val uabl e to t hi s tree , al l owi ng i t
to J i ve unt i l i t s nat ur al deat h , ' concl uded Zhuang Zi . - After
crossi ng t he mount ai ns, Zhuang Zi rece i ved hospi t al i t y at a fri end ' s
house. Happy to see hi m aga i n, t he mast er of t he house tol d hi s
domes t i c t o ki l l a duck and cook i t . ' Whi ch of our t wo ducks shoul d
I k i l l ? ' asked the domes t i c; ' t he one t hat quacks, or t he mute one?'
- ' The mut e one , ' sai d t he mast er . - The nex t day t he di sc i pl e who
accompani ed Zhuang Zi s ai d to hi m: ' Yest er day the t ree was saved
because i t was good- for-not hi ng; t hat duck was k i l l ed because i t
coul dn ' t quack; t here fore , be i ng capabl e or i ncapabl e, whi ch one
sa ves ? ' - ' That depends on the case , ' s ai d Zhuang Zi l aughi ng. ' One
s i ngl e t hi ng s aves in al l cases; i t i s t o be el e vat ed t o the knowl edge
of the Pr i nci pl e and i ts act i on, and to keep onese l f i n i ndi fference
and abstract i on. Such a man t hi nks as l i t t l e of pr ai se as of bl ame.
He knows how t o r i se up l i k e t he dr agon, and t o f l at ten hi msel f
l i ke the serpent , bendi ng hi ms el f t o ci r cums t ances, not persi stentl y
taki ng any si de. Shoul d hi s pos i t i on be el e vat ed or humbl e, he
adapts t o hi s ci rcumst ances. He frol i cs i n t he bosom of the ancestor
of al l thi ngs ( the Pr i nci pl e ) . He di sposes of al l be i ngs as he sees fi t ,
not bei ng at t ached to any of t hem. Come what ma y , he fears no
t hi ng. Such were Shen Nang and the Yel l ow Emperor. The present
day pol i t i ci ans ( Con fuc i us and hi s di s ci pl es) act i n qui te the oppos
i te way, and therefore t hey e xper i ence set backs. Aft er condensa
t i on comes di s s i pat i on; a f t er success, r ui n. St rengt h draws on the
at tack , el ev at i on at t racts cr i t i ci s m, act i on i s not e f fect ed wi thout
def i ci ts, wi se adv i ce i s mi sunder st ood, not hi ng i s st abl e and durabl e.
Remember wel l , di s ci pl e, t hat t he onl y sol i d base of knowl edge i s
the Pri nc i pl e and i ts act i on ' ( i ndi fference and abst r act i on) .
B. The i ncorrupt i bl e Xi ong Yi l i ao went to vi s i t the Marqui s of Lu,
and not i ng t hat he was sad, asked h i m the reason for i t. The
marqui s sai d: ' Al though I ha ve st udi ed the rul es of the anci ents and
sought to honour my ancestors; al t hough I have venerated the
spi r i ts and honoured the Sages, personal l y and constant l y, I have
been affl i ct ed, t i me aft er t i me, wi th al l sorts of i l l s. ' - ' That does
not surpr i se me, ' sai d Vi Li ao. ' The means you have empl oyed wi l l
not protect you. Cons i der the fox and the l eopard. These ani mal s
take care to ret i re i nt o the depths of the forests and the mountai n
ca ves, comi ng out onl y at ni ght wi th many precaut i ons, enduri ng
hunger and t hi rst rather than r i s ki ng advent uri ng i nto i nhabi ted
pl aces; they al ways end up i n a net or trap. Why? Because men
208
Zhuang Zi, ch. 20 B, C.
covet thei r beaut i ful fur. Now, your hi ghness, the Marqu i sate of
Lu i s your fur, whi ch your nei ghbours covet . I f you wi sh to f i nd
peace, l ose yoursel f i n benevol ence, ext i ngui sh al l the desi res of
your heart , ret i re i nt o sol i tude. In t he l and of Nan Vue there i s a
town cal l ed the Seat of Sol i d Vi rt ue. I ts i nhabi t ant s are i gnorant
and dul l , wi thout personal i nt erests and desi res. They produce, but
do not hoard; they gi ve wi thout ask i ng for anyt hi ng i n return. They
have nei ther et i quet t e nor ceremoni es. However, despi te thei r
savage ai r , they prac t i se t he gr eat nat ural l aws, cel ebrat i ng bi rths
and mourni ng deaths. Marqui s, l eave y our marqui sat e, renounce the
common l i fe; let us go and l i ve there t oge t her. ' - ' I t i s far , ' sai d
the marqui s; ' the road i s di f f i cul t ; there are mount ai ns and r i vers to
cross; I have nei ther boat nor car r i age . ' Vi Li ao sai d: ' I f you were
detached from your posi t i on, i f y ou were not at t ached to your
count ry, i f you desi red t o go t her e, your desi re woul d transport
you. ' - ' I t i s far, ' sai d t he marqu i s, ' and what about provi si ons?
What about compani ons?' - Vi Li a o sai d: ' If you woul d not cl i ng to
your l uxur y, i f you were not at t ached to your wel l -bei ng, you woul d
not preoccupy yoursel f wi t h prov i s i ons; you woul d conf i de yoursel f
to the ri vers, t o the sea, not even fear i ng t o l ose s i ght of l and; and
abandoni ng your compan i ons woul d not make you draw back. But
I see cl earl y , mast er of y our subj ect s , that y our subj ect s are your
masters, for you cl i ng t o t hem. You are not a Yao, who woul d
never consi der anyone as hi s subj ect , and was never subj ect to any
one. I have t r i ed t o cure y ou of your mel anchol y, but you are not
man enough t o empl oy t he sol e e f fec t i ve remedy, whi ch consi sts,
after hav i ng abandoned e ver yt hi ng, i n uni t i ng onesel f wi th the
Pr i nc i pl e, i n abstract i on. Thi s abst ract i on must go as far as the
forget t i ng of one ' s personal i t y . For, i f one keeps the not i on of one' s
personal i t y, i t s confl i ct s wi th t hose of others wi l l prevent one
f i ndi ng peace. Take a ferry crossi ng a ri ver. If an empt y boat dri fts
i nto col l i s i on wi t h i t , even i f the ferrymen were i rasci bl e, they
woul d not get angry, because no person had entered i nt o confl i ct
wi t h t hem, t he boat bei ng empt y. I f , on t he contrary , there was a
person i n the boat , cr i es and i nsul ts woul d qui ckl y come from the
ferry. Why ? Because there was a confl i ct of persons. . . A man
del i vered of hi s personal i t y coul d run al l over the worl d wi thout
exper i enc i ng confl i ct . '
C. Duke Li ng of Wei charged a cer t ai n She wi th the col l ect i on
of money for mak i ng a peal of bel l s. He establ i shed hi msel f
on a knol l by t he t own entrance. Aft er three months t he peal was
cast and hung i n pl ace. Qi ng Ji of the Zhou i mperi al bl ood, sai d to
hi m: ' How di d you succeed so wel l and so qui ckl y ? ' - He sai d: ' I
took care to do nothi ng. Doesn' t the sayi ng go: "Chi sel l i ng and
pol i shi ng are not as good as l et t i ng nature ac t . " Looki ng qui te
i ndi fferent , wi thout occupy i ng mysel f i n any way, I l et the peopl e
209
Zhuang Zi, ch. 20 C, D, E.
do as t hey wi shed, spontaneousl y, l i ke the operat i on of nat ure. They
came, br i ngi ng t hei r donat i ons, wi t hout my havi ng cal l ed t hem, and
they went away wi t hout my havi ng r et ai ned t hem. I sai d nothi ng,
nei ther t o those who di spl eased me, nor t o t hose who pl eased me.
They al l gave what t hey coul d, or woul d, and I cashed up wi thout
observat i ons. I t al l happened wi t hout t he sl i ght est hi t ch. The same
approach woul d make the most consi derabl e ent erpr i se succeed i n
the same way ' ( t he government of a pr i nci pal i t y or an empi re,
says t he comment ary) .
D. Af ter Confuci us had been bl ockaded for seven days wi t h hi s
di sci pl es on the borders of t he Pr i nci pal i t i es of Chen and Cai , and
where he had al most di ed of st ar va t i on, Grand Duke Ren presented
hi s condol ences t o hi m i n these t er ms: ' Mast er, you have seen death
cl ose by , t hi s t i me. ' - ' Yes, ' s ai d Conf uci us. - ' Wer e you afrai d?' -
' Yes, ' sai d Confuci us. - ' Then , ' s ai d Grand Duke Ren, ' I wi l l gi ve
you t he reci pe whi ch preser ves one f rom t he r i sk of deat h . . . The
Yi Dai bi r d l i ves in fl ocks on t he east coast . As each i ndi vi dual
i s afrai d, t hey fl y away i n per f ect cl ose forma t i on , not one of them
l eavi ng t he mass t o advance or r et r eat . When they eat, they do so
i n a troop, none of them st ray i ng off to snat ch a bet t er mouthful ,
each one peck i ng i n i ts pl ace. Thi s good co-ordi nat i on prot ects
them agai nst ani mal s, men, and al l acci dent s . I t i s the same for
men who l i v e al i ke wi t h the ot hers, who do not form a separate
group as you do, Conf uci us. To av oi d i l l s , i t i s al so necessary
to avoi d af fect i ng ex t r aor di nar y qual i t i es or t al en ts as you do. The
strai ght est t r ee i s the f i r st to be cut down. The wel l wi th the
sweetest wat er i s the f i r s t to be dr ai ned dry . Your sci ence fri ght
ens t he i gnorant , your l i gh t daz z l es the f ool i sh. Do not ecl i pse the
sun and t he moon. These pret ensi ons draw mi sfortune towards you.
Once, I heard t hi s spoken by a man of hi gh mer i t : "Boast i ng cl oses
up the way of f or t une; havi ng mer i t and renown at t ract s rui n to
onesel f . Ef f aci ng onesel f , hi di ng amongst the masses, gi ves secur
i t y" Fol l owi ng the rest wi t hout di st i ngui shi ng onesel f , goi ng one' s
way wi thout maki ng onesel f not i ced, modes t l y, si mpl y, even maki ng
onesel f pass as a common person; ef f aci ng the memory of one' s
meri ts and reput at i on; t hi s i s the secret for l i v i ng i n peace wi th
men. The super i or man seeks for obscur i t y. Why do you seek for
notor i et y?' ' Thank you, ' sai d Confuci us; and, i nterrupti ng hi s
ordi nary rel at i onshi ps, he sent hi s di sci pl es away, hi d hi msel f
amongst the reeds of a swamp, dressed i n ski ns, and l i ved on
acorns and chestnuts. At l ength he returned so perfect l y to a state
of nature that hi s presence no l onger gave any fear t o the bi rds
and quadrupeds. Even men ended up by fi ndi ng hi m bearabl e.
E. One day Confuci us sai d to Master Sang Hu: ' I have been run out
of the Pri nci pal i t y of Lu t wi ce. At Song they cut down the tree
2 1 0
Zhuang Zi, ch. 20 E, F, G.
that was she! t eri ng me. They bl ocked my route i n Wei . I had t o
r un f r om danger at Shang and Zhou. I was bl ockaded between Chen
and Cai . Fol l owi ng these successi ve mi sfortunes, my fri ends keep
away from me, and my di sci pl es l eave me. What have I done for
all t hi s t o happen to me? ' - Sang Hu sai d: ' You know the story of
Li n Hui , who, duri ng the rout of Ji a, f l ed, throwi ng away hi s j ade
sceptre wort h a good thousand i ngot s of gol d, and carry i ng hi s l i t t l e
chi l d on hi s back. The scept re was cert ai nl y worth more t han the
chi l d, and the chi l d was more di f f i cul t to save than the sceptre.
Why? Because i nt erest al one at t ached hi m t o hi s scept re, whereas
nature bound hi m t o t he chi l d. Now i nt erest i s a feebl e l i nk whi ch
mi sfortune t akes away, whereas nat ure i s a strong l i nk, whi ch
resi sts al l t r i al s. I t i s the same for i nterested fri endshi p and
transcendent f r i endshi p. The super i or man, somewhat col d, at tracts;
the common person, al t hough war m, repel s. Li nks wi t hout a pro
found reason are undone as easi l y as they are made. Now you are
not hi ng but a common man and i nt erest i s t he onl y t hi ng between
you and your di sci pl es. Theref ore t he i r at t achment ceases wi th
advers i t y. ' - ' Thank y ou, ' sa i d Confuc i us He ret i red pensi ve,
cl osed hi s school and renounced t he study of books. Hi s di sc i pl es
who had been sent away no l onger revered hi m, but began to
esteem hi m. - Anot her t i me, Sang Hu s ai d: ' When he was at the
poi nt of deat h, Shun i nt i mat ed t o Yu the fol l owi ng: "Take great
care! Affect i on whi ch has as i t s base not hi ng more than corporeal
forms i s not s ol i d. To be sol i d, af fect i on must be founded on
seri ous reasons. To be l oved t hrough i mpos i t i on i s worthl ess.
Ascendancy conquered by true qual i t i es i s al one durabl e. One i s
f ai t hf ul to such a man, not for hi s beaut y , nor hi s favours, but for
hi s i nt r i nsi c val ue. "
'
F. Dressed i n a pat ched robe of coarse cl ot h, hi s shoes t i ed to hi s
feet wi th st ri ng, Zhuang Zi met t he Ki ng of Wei . - ' What di stress I
see you i n, mast er , ' s ai d the k i ng. - ' I beg your pardon, ' sai d
Zhuang Zi ; ' povert y , not di s t ress. He who possesses the sci ence of
the Pri nci pl e and i t s act i on, i s never i n di st ress. He can experi en
ce povert y , i f he i s born i n unfortunat e t i mes . . . Take a monkey i n
a wood of beaut i ful trees wi th l ong, smooth, branches; i t frol i cs
wi th such ease that nei t her Yi nor Peng Meng ( famous archers)
woul d be abl e t o ai m at i t . But when i t must cl i mb i n stunted and
spi ny trees, how much l ess agi l e i t i s! I t i s neverthel ess the same
ani mal , wi t h the same bones and t endons, but the ci rcumst ances
have become unf avourabl e and prevent i t from maki ng free use of
i ts means . . . Li kewi se the Sage born under a st upi d pri nce who i s
surrounded by i ncapabl e mi ni sters, has t o suffer. Thi s was the case
of Bi Gan, whose heart was torn out by the tyrant Zhou Xi n. '
G. When Confuci us was bl ockaded between Chen and Cai f or seven
2 1 1
Zhuang Zi, ch. 20 G.
days wi thout bei ng abl e to cook any food, he took a pi ece of dead
wood i n hi s l eft hand, and beat upon i t wi t h a dead branch in hi s
ri ght hand, si ngi ng the ode of Mast er Pi ao. I t was musi c wi thout
notes or rhyt hm, the nat ural murmur of a wounded hear t , recal l i ng
that of the earth under the
pl oughshare. - Yen Hu i , the favouri te
di sci pl e, hel d the pose of a desperate man, wi t h arms crossed,
l ooki ng at hi s mast er. Fear i ng that he was becomi ng too i nfl amed,
Confuci us sai d to hi m: ' Hui , i t i s easy t o res i gn onesel f t o natural
t ri al s. It i s di ffi cul t to remai n i ndi ffer ent t o t he favours of men.
There i s no begi nni ng that i s not fol l owed by an end. Man i s one
wi th heaven. I who s i ng now, who am ! *? ' - Yen Hui d i d not under
stand, and asked for an expl ana t i on: ' "I t i s eas y t o res i gn onesel f
to nat ural t r i al s; " what does t hat mean, master ? ' - Confuci us sai d:
' Hunger, t hi r st , col d, hea t , povert y , obst acl es and cont r adi ct i ons,
al l these are i ncl uded i n cosmi c ev ol ut i on, i n the l aw of trans
for mat i ons; there fore ever y man meet s wi t h these t hi ngs al ong
hi s way, and must resi gn h i mse l f t o t hem. An i n fer i or must not
re vol t agai nst the di spos i t i ons of hi s super i or . How much more
i s submi ssi on i ncumbent on al l men wi t h r efer ence t o heaven! '
- Yen Hui cont i nued: ' " I t i s d i f f i cul t t o rema i n i nd i fferent to the
favours of men; " what does t hat mean?' - Confuci us s ai d: ' A man i n
offi ce at t ract s bot h honours and mone y . These e x ter i or t hi ngs add
not hi ng t o hi s moral wor t h, and change not hi ng of hi s dest i ny. He
who l et s h i ms el f be seduced by t hem fai l s from the rank of Sage
to the l e vel of thi e ves ( who ar e t empt ed by money
)
. Now, to l i ve
ami dst weal th and honour s wi t hout al l owi ng onesel f t o be seduced
by them, i s very di f f i cul t . The Sage needs, i n t hi s s i t uat i on, the
ci rcumspect i on of t he mar t i n. Thi s bi r d never perches anywhere
t hat i ts pi erc i ng eye has j udged unsa fe . When i t mi sses i ts prey, i t
ne i ther s t ops nor t urns bac k , but cont i nues i t s f l i ght . I t l i ves
amongst human hab i t a t i ons, but al ways i n mi st rust of t hei r i nhabi t
ants. ' - Yen Hui con t i nued: "' There i s no begi nni ng that i s not
f ol l owed by an end; " what does t hat mean? ' - Confuci us sai d: ' Al l
bei ngs ceasel essl y change the i r for m, t he gi ver of these forms bei ng
unknown and the r ul es t hat he fol l ows be i ng mysteri ous. What can
one know of one ' s end? There is nothi ng to do but wai t for what
wi l l come, hol di ng onesel f i n a correct at t i tude . ' - Yen Hui conti n
ued: "' Man i s one wi t h heaven; " what does t hat mean? ' - Confuci us
sai d: ' To be a man, i s t o be heaven ( an i ntegral part of the uni vers
al norm
)
. What pre vent s man from bei ng one wi th heaven ( mel ted i n
the mass wi t h l oss of hi s personal i t y) i s hi s own act i vi t y. Therefore
the Sage abst ai ns from act i ng, and abandons hi msel f to the evol u
t i on whi ch wi l l absorb hi m, i n the end, i nto the great whol e. '
*I n real i ty I have no stabl e personal i t y. I know nei ther who nor what I have been
former l y. I know nei ther who nor what I am goi ng to become. Succe
ssion
of
comi ngs and goi ngs, of and In the great whol e.
2 1 2
Zhuang Zi, ch. 20 H, 1.
H. When Zhuang Z i was poachi ng i n t he Di ao Li ng hunt i ng reserve, a
great bi r d came f l yi ng from the sout h. I ts wi ngs were se ven feet
long. I ts eyes were more than a thumb' s l ength i n ci rcumference.
I t passed so cl ose to Zhuang Zi that i ts wi ng touched hi s head, and
i t al i ghted i n a copse of chestnuts. Zhuang Zi ran af ter i t, armi ng
hi s cross-bow. On a shaded t ree-trunk a ci cada was tak i ng the ai r,
absorbed i n i t s mus i c. A preyi ng mant i s at tacked i t . The great bi rd
fel l on the two, whi ch gave Zhuang Zi the chance to take i t . Whi l st
he was pi cki ng i t up, he thought to hi msel f how egoi sm and antag
oni sm bri ng bei ngs, who have neverthe l ess one and the same nature,
to destroy each other As he was comi ng out of the wood he was
al most caught by t he gamekeeper for poachi ng. - Back home,
Zhuang Zi shut hi msel f i n for three months. Hi s di sci pl e Li n Zi
asked hi m the- reason for t hi s l ong conf i nement . He sai d: ' I have
used thi s t i me to conv i nce mysel f that, i n order to l i ve a l ong t i me,
one must not f i ght wi th t he ot hers, but do and t hi nk l i ke e veryone
else. Al ways doi ng bat t l e, one ends up de feated i n one ' s turn. I have
l earnt thi s from the gamekeeper of Di ao Li ng*. '
1. Master Yang ( Yang Zhu) , who was trave l l i ng i n the Pri nc i pal i ty
of Song, passed the ni ght at an i nn. The i nnkeeper had two wi ves,
one beaut i ful , the other ugl y. The ugl y one was wel l l i ked; the
beaut i ful was not. - ' Why i s thi s so? ' asked Master Yang. - ' Be
cause , ' sai d a l i t t l e servant t o hi m, ' the beaut i ful one knows she i s
beaut i ful , and poses, whi ch makes us del i berat el y i gnore her beaut y;
whereas the ugl y one knows she i s ugl y , and ef faces hersel f , whi ch
makes us del i berat el y i gnore her ugl i ness . ' - ' Remember t hi s,
di sci pl es, ' sai d Master Yang. ' Excel l i ng wi thout mak i ng one ' s
excel l ence fel t , i s the way t hat makes one l i ked everywhere. '
*The ci cada, the mant i s, the bi r d, the ar cher , the gamekeeper, represent the
phi l osophi cal and pol i t i cal school s of the t i me, al ways fi ghti ng one another. The
cicada i s Confuci us, hypnoti zed by his monot onous song. The contempl ati ve and
mordant manti s i s L ao Zi. Zhuang Zi ' s three months i n retreat wi l l not change
him. He remai ns cr i t i cal and combati ve.
2 1 3
Zhuag Zi, ch 21 A, B.
Chapter 21 . Transcendent Action.
A. Ti an Zi fang, who assi sted Marqui s Wen of Wei , often quoted
Xi Gong. ' Was he your master ?' asked the marqui s . - ' No, ' sai d Ti an
Zi fang. ' We come from the same vi l l age . I have oft en been struck
by the j usti ce of hi s di scourses. That i s why I quote hi m. ' - ' Then, '
sai d t he marqui s, ' you di dn ' t ha ve a master ?' - ' Of course I di d. '
' Who then? ' asked the marqu i s. - ' Master Shun of the eastern
suburb. ' - ' I f he was your master , ' sai d t he marqui s, ' why do you
never quote hi s words ? ' - ' Because he does not speak, ' sai d Ti an
Zi fang. ' He i s a transcendent man, heaven i n human for m. Empt y of
all i nessent i al t hi ngs, he mot hers transcendence i n hi msel f . Wel l
di sposed towards al l , when anyone ac t s i ncorrect l y , he makes them
not i ce i t by hi s correct a t t i t ude, so correct i ng them wi t hout words.
You can see now why I cannot quot e h i m. ' - When Ti an Zi fang
l ef t , Marqu i s Wen r emai ned qui t e dumbfounde d , and di d not say a
word for the rest of the day . He t hen cal l ed hi s ordi nary confi dants
and sai d t o t hem: ' How di f f er ent the man of per fect v i rt ue i s. I had
bel i e ved t i l l now t hat the s t udy of the words of the Sages and the
schol ars, and the prac t i ce of goodness and fai rness, were qui te the
i deal ( Con fuci ani s m) . But si nce I have hear d Ti an Zi fang speak, I am
all undone and as t hough par al ysed; I can no l onger open my mouth.
Everythi ng I have l ear nt t i l l now i s wi thout foundat i on. The mar
qui sat e, wi t h i ts worr i es whi ch pre vent me from gi v i ng mysel f up
to Daoi sm, has become odi ous to me. '
B. Master Xue, Count of Wen ( a Daoi s t ) , travel l i ng from the south
to Qi , passed by t he capi t al of Lu , t he l and of Confuci us , where
several peopl e asked to see h i m ' What ' s the good of i t ? ' he sai d.
' The l earned men of t hi s l and onl y s t udy convent i onal r i t es, and not
human nat ur e. I do not wi sh to see t he m. ' - When he came back
from Qi , Mast er Xue st opped once more i n Lu, and the same people
asked agai n to see h i m, so he recei ved t hem i n the guest -room, and
then ret urned to hi s apar t ment s i ghi ng. The ne x t day, a new vi si t
and anot her s i gh a ft er the v i s i t . I nt ri gued, t he di s ci pl e who served
Master Xue, asked h i m: ' Why do you s i gh l i ke that , each t i me you
recei ve vi s i tors ? ' - ' Because, ' sai d Mast er Xue, ' I conv i nce mysel f
more and more, t hat t he l earned men of thi s l and, ver y wel l
i nformed i n the mat t er of convent i onal r i t es, understand nothi ng
of human nat ure . My v i s i tors have made thei r ent rances and exi ts
i n the most careful l y s t udi ed and measured way, wi th the ai rs of
dragons and t i gers. Then, i nst ead of aski ng me anyt hi ng, they have
reproached me l i ke masters and l ect ured me as fat hers ( superi ors).
That i s why I s i ghed. ' - Confuci us ( about to be converted to
Daoi sm, and represent ed here as more perspi caci ous than the other
l earned men of Lu) , went al so t o see Mast er Xue, and wi thdrew
wi thout havi ng sai d a word. . . ' Why di d you keep si l ent ? ' asked
2 1 4
Zhuan Zi, ch. 21 B, c.
hi s di sci pl e Z i Lu ' Because, ' sai d Con fuc i us, ' i t was enough for
me to look at t hi s man. The super i or sc i ence ( t ranscendence)
fl ashes from hi s eyes and penet rates; words cannot expl ai n i t . '
C. Yen Yuan ( the favour i te di sc i pl e) sa i d t o Confuc i us ( compl etel y
converted to Daoi s m) : ' Mast er, when you wal k, I fol l ow your
wal ki ng; when you trot, I fol l ow at a trot ; when you gal l op, 1
fol l ow at a gal l op; but when you t ake off and l eave the ground, 1
can onl y fol l ow by wat chi ng you. ' - ' Ex pl ai n yoursel f, Hui , ' sai d
Confuci us. - ' I t i s l i ke t hi s, sai d Yen Hu i . ' wal k i ng i s your di s
course; I can fol l ow i t . The trot i s your reason i ng; I can fol l ow that.
The gal l op i s your specul at i on; I can fol l ow i t . But what I cannot
come t o grasp, i s the transcendent ( Dao i st ) i nfl uence by whi ch you
persuade, you wi n. What i s i t ? ' - Con fu c i us sa i d: ' I t i s the fasci na
t i on exerci sed by my super i or sel f , my part of the uni versal norm,
on the sel f, the part of the norm of my l i st ener, i f he has not
ext i ngui shed i t . Medi t at e wel l on tha t ! The deat h of the heart
( ext i nc t i on of t he nor m) i s t he most l ament abl e of deaths, much
worse than t he deat h of t he body. The man whose heart l i ves, acts
on the hearts of those who l i ve , i n t he manner of the sun whi ch
v i v i fi es t he wor l d. The sun r i ses i n the east and set s i n the west . I t
shi nes on al l bei ngs, who al l t urn t owards i t . The i r act i on begi ns
wi th i ts appearance, and t hey become i ner t wi t h i t s di sappearance .
Such i s t he di urnal rhy t hm, day and n i ght . The rhyt hm of l i fe and
death resembl es i t . Ti me aft er t i me , the be i ng di es and l i ves agai n.
When i t rece i ves a def i n i t i ve for m, i t keeps i t so unt i l t he end of
that ex i stence , the per i od o f day dur i ng whi ch i t acts. Then comes
death, the per i od of n i ght dur i ng whi ch i t rests; and so on, wi thout
i nterrupt i on, l i ke t he cha i n of t i me . I t becomes a be i ng agai n as a
funct i on of i ts mer i t , but knows onl y ( i n i t s new ex i stence) that i t
i s such through des t i ny, wi t hout be i ng abl e t o measure i ts precedi ng
mass ( the mass of moral ant ecedent s, the karma that we i ghs on
i t) . At the end of t hi s ex i stence, be i ngs t hat were in i nt i mate
contact (shoul der t o shoul der ) , l eave one another wi th sadness.
Those who sur vi ve seek to know the state of the de funct , whi ch
i s cl earl y i n vai n, for he has ceased t o be hi msel f. I nqui r i ng after
hi m, i s therefore l i ke l ooki ng for one ' s horse at the fai r (stol en,
and al ready wi th a new master) . Mourni ng for another shows a
grave doct r i nal overs i ght , ( forget t i ng that the other no l onger
exi sts i n hi s precedi ng personal i t y) . One shoul d not l ook on the
cessat i on of personal i t y as a mi sfortune, for the anni hi l at i on i s
not total . The physi cal sel f has ceased to be, i t i s true , and i t
woul d be an error t o t hi nk of i t as ex i st i ng. But the transcendent
sel f ( the part of the norm t hat was i n t hi s person) subs i sts, and one
can t hi nk of i t as exi s t i ng . . . It i s through thi s al most i mpersonal
transcendent sel f that I act on my audi ence. I t i s not unpl easant,
l i ke the personal sel f of the man named Con fuci us. '
2 1 5
Zhuang Zi, ch. 21 D.
o. Confuci us went to v i s i t Lao Dan and found h i m s i tt i ng mot i on
l ess, carri ed away i n ecst asy. The t ransport had s ei zed hi m whi l st
he was dry i ng hi s hai r , after hi s abl ut i ons*. Confuc i us wai ted
di screet l y unt i l he came to, and then s ai d: ' You had l eft t hi ngs and
men, you had wi thdrawn yoursel f i nto the i s ol a t i on of the sel f. ' -
' Yes, ' s ai d Lao Dan. ' I was frol i ci ng i n t he or i gi n of t hi ngs. ' -
' What does that mean ? ' asked Confuc i us . - ' I have not yet ful l y
recovered, ' sai d Lao Dan; ' my t i red mi nd i s not yet free to t hi nk,
my cl osed mout h can scarcel y ar t i cul at e; however I wi l l try t o
s at i s f y you 0 When the t wo modal i t i es o f bei ng are d i fferent i ated
i n the pr i mordi al bei ng, t he i r gy ra t i on begi ns , and cos mi c evol ut i on
fol l ows. The hi ghest poi nt of t he y i n ( condensed i n the earth) i s
peaceful pass i v i t y . The hi ghest poi nt of the yang
(
condensed i nto
heaven) i s fecund ac t i v i t y . The passi v i t y of t he eart h of f ers i tsel f
to heaven, and heaven ' s ac t i v i t y acts on i t , produc i ng al l bei ngs.
An i nv i si bl e force, the ac t i on and r eac t i on of t he heaven-earth
bi nomi al , produces al l ev ol ut i on. Beg i nn i ng and endi ng, f ul l ness
and empt i ness, ast ronomi cal r evol u t i ons , phases of the sun and
moon; these t hi ngs are pr oduced by the s ame uni que cause, whi ch
no one sees, but whi ch func t i ons al ways . L i fe devel ops i tsel f
t owards an end, deat h i s a ret urn t owards a t erm. Begi nni ngs
succeed one anot her wi t hout ceas e, wi t hout one knowi ng the ori gi n,
wi t hout one seei ng the end. The act i on and react i on of heaven and
earth i s the uni que mot or of t hi s movement . In t hi s i s beaut y,
supreme j oy. I t i s the l ot of t he s uper i o r man t o frol i c i n t hi s
rapture. ' - ' But how may one r each t ha t ? ' asked Confuci us. -
' Through absol ut e i ndi fferenc e , ' repl i ed Lao Dan. ' The ani mal s
t hat popul at e the st eppes ar e not at t r act ed by a par t i cul ar pasture;
the f i sh l i v i ng i n the wat er do not hol d t hems el ves t o any f i xed
hab i t at ; i n consequence, no d i spl acement upsets thei r peace. Al l
bei ngs form an i mmense whol e. He who i s uni t ed wi t h t hi s uni t y,
even so far as t o have l ost t he awar eness of hi s personal i t y, who
consi ders hi s body as he cons i ders dust , l i fe and deat h as day and
ni ght ; what is t here t hat can move t hi s man, for whom gai n and
l oss, happi ness and mi s for t une, ar e not hi ng? He despi ses ranks l i ke
mud, because he knows more nobl e th i ngs than these. No v i ci ssi tude
can t ouch one who has t hi s nob i l i t y o f sel f . Of all possi bl e changes,
none can al t er hi s peace. He who has reached the Pri nci pl e,
understands t hi s. ' ' Ah, ' sai d Confuci us amazed, ' here i s a
teachi ng as great as heaven and eart h; can i t be s ummed up i n
some formul a, af t er the manner of the anci ent s ?' - Lao Dan repl i ed:
' Spri ngs wel l up nat ural l y . The superi or man is such spontan
eousl y . Heaven i s hi gh, the eart h i s deep, the sun and moon are
l umi nous, al l wi thout for mul ae. ' - When he was out si de, Confuci us
tol d al l t hi s t o hi s di sc i pl e Yen Hui . ' Unt i l now, ' he sai d, ' I have
known as much about the Pr i nci pl e as the worms that l i ve i n
*Compare wi th chapt er J A.
2 1 6
Zhuang Zi, ch. 21 D, E, F, G, H.
vi negar . I f the mast er had not l i fted the ve i l coveri ng my eyes, 1
woul d never have caught a gl i mpse of t he perfect compl ex of
hea ven and ear t h ( t he gr eat cosmi c uni t y) . '
E. Whi l st Zhuang Zi was vi s i t i ng Duke Ai of L u , the l at ter sai d to
hi m: ' There are many schol ars i n the Duchy of Lu, but none,
Master, are comparabl e wi t h you . ' - ' There are onl y a few schol ars
i n the Duchy of Lu , ' repl i ed Zhuang Zi . - ' How can you sa y that ? '
sai d the duke, ' when e ver ywhere one sees men weari ng academi c
cost ume. ' - ' The cost ume, yes, ' sa i d Zhuang Zi . ' They announce by
thei r round bonnet t hat t hey know the thi ngs of heaven; by thei r
square shoes t hat t hey know t he thi ngs of eart h; by the i r sonorous
pendants that they know how to creat e harmony everywhere. Some
know al l of these t hi ngs wi thout wear i ng the cost ume. These wear
the cost ume, wi thout knowi ng the t hi ngs. I f you do not be l i eve me,
make an exper i ment ; forb i d, by edi ct , under pai n of deat h, the
wear i ng of t hi s cost ume by anyone who has not the compe tence . '
- Duke Ai di d t hi s. F i ve days l at er , al l b u t one of the schol ars of
Lu had changed t hei r dress. The duke hi msel f ques t i oned t hi s uni que
person on the government of the st at e. He repl i ed to everyt hi ng
per t i nent l y, wi t hout any poss i bi l i t y o f bei ng brought down. - ' You
were sayi ng, ' sai d Zhuang Zi to the duke, ' that there were many
schol ars i n the Duchy of Lu; one i s not ver y many . '
F. Bo Li Xi had no i nterest i n rank and wea l t h. He set hi msel f to
ra1 smg cat t l e and produced superb beasts, hi s natural i nst i nct
reveal i ng to hi m how to t reat t hem accordi ng to thei r nature.
Seei ng thi s , Duke Mu of Qi n made hi m hi s mi ni st er, so that he
shoul d de vel op hi s peopl e. - Shun nei ther l oved l i fe nor feared
death; t hi s made hi m worthy and capabl e of governi ng men.
G. Pri nce Yuan of Song desi red a map and the scri bes who had been
summoned presented themsel ves, rece i ved thei r i nstructi ons, sal ut
i ng; t hen, those who were di scouraged went away; t he others l i cked
thei r brushes and s t i rred the i r i nk, wi th a thousand ai rs and graces.
One scr i be who had come l at e wi th a nonchal ant ai r, al so recei ved
hi s i nstruct i ons, sal ut ed, and i mmedi at el y ret i red to hi s cel l . The
duke sent to see what he was doi ng. They ascer t ai ned that he was
at hi s ease, str i pped to the wai st , hi s l egs crossed, and begi nni ng by
rest i ng hi msel f . When the duke heard thi s, he sai d: ' Thi s one wi l l
succeed; he i s a man who knows how t o go about t hi ngs*. '
H. Whi l st Ki ng Wen, the ancestor of the Zhou fami l y , was i n Zang,
he saw a man fi shi ng wi th a rod and l i ne, nonchal ant l y, mechani cal
l y, nature al one act i ng i n hi m, wi thout any admi x ture of passi on.
*One onl y succeeds on condi ti on of l etti ng one' s nat ur e act . The opposi te hi nders
success.
2 1 7
Zhuang Zi, ch. 21 H, I.
Ki ng Wen resol ved to make hi m hi s mi ni st er as soon as possi bl e.
But havi ng t hought l ater o f hi s parent s ' and offi ci al s ' di scont ent , he
t r i ed to dri ve t hi s i dea out of hi s head. It was i mposs i bl e! The fear
that hi s peopl e woul d be separat ed from heaven ( wi t hou t a mi ni ster
who woul d go vern them nat ur al l y , l i ke hea ven) , made h i m unabl e to
forget hi s pl an. He t hen t hought of t he fol l owi ng means. I n the
morni ng, havi ng cal l ed hi s of f i ci al s toge t her, he s ai d t o t hem: ' Last
ni ght I dreamt of a man of good appearance, sunt anned and beard
ed, moun t ed on a saddl ed horse whose hoofs were pai nt ed red, who
cal l ed out t o me: "Hand over your power t o t he man of Zang, and
your peopl e wi l l bene f i t f rom i t . " ' - Great l y moved, t he of f i ci al s
excl ai med: ' I t i s t he l at e k i n g , your f at her , who has appeared to
you. ' - ' Then , ' s ai d Ki ng Wen, ' shoul d we consul t the carapace of
t he t or t oi se on t hi s mat t er ? ' - ' No, ' s ai d the of f i c i al s unani mousl y.
' A verbal order f r om t he l a t e k i ng shoul d not be quest i oned. ' -
Ki ng Wen t here fore sent for hi s f i sher man, and put h i m i n charge of
the go vernment . The l at t er changed not hi ng, made no rul es, and
gave no orders. Thr ee year s l at er , when Ki ng Wen i nspec ted hi s
k i ngdom, he ascer t a i ned t ha t br i gands had di sappear ed, of f i ci al s
had i nt egr i t y , and feas t s we re respect ed. The peopl e were uni ted,
c i v i l ser vants d i d t he i r t asks, and feudal chi efs d i d not trespass.
Then Ki ng Wen t r eat ed t he man of Zang as hi s mast er , sea ted hi m
fac i ng sout h, hi mse l f s t and i ng be fore hi m faci ng nor t h, and asked
h i m: ' Coul d you not do for an empi re the good that you have done
for a k i ngdo m? ' - The man o f Zang repl i ed onl y by a fr i ghtened
l ook . He d i sappear ed be f ore t he e veni ng of t hat sa me day. They
ne ver l ear nt what became o f h i m. - However a de t ai l of t hi s story
shocked the honest Yen Yuan. ' How coul d Ki ng Wen c i te a dream
that he had not had ? ' he as ked Conf uc i us . - ' Shut up, ' s ai d Confu
c i us. ' Ever y t hi ng Ki ng Wen d i d was wel l done. You shoul d not
j udge t hi s man. Nat ur a l l y s t r ai ght and hones t , i n t hi s case he had
t o bend h i mse l f to c i r cums t ances*. '
I. Li e Yukou ( Li e Zi ) was pr ac t i s i ng ar cher y i n the presence of
Bo Hun Wu Ren. He hel d h i s bow so surel y that a cup ful l of
wat er at t ached t o hi s l eft el bow di d not sp i l l when he l et hi s arrow
f l y. Hi s r i gh t hand was so act i ve t hat an arrow was scarcel y i n
f l i ght before the ne x t was i n pl ace. And duri ng al l t hi s t i me hi s
body remai ned upr i gh t l i k e a st at ue ( the i deal of an archer of the
ol d school ) ' Tha t , ' sa i d ( the Daoi st ) Bo Hun Wu Ren, ' i s the art
of an archer , of a man who wants t o shoot , of a man who knows
that he i s shoot i ng ( ar t , not na ture) . Come wi th me t o the mount
ai ns, to the edge of an abyss, and l et ' s see what remai ns of your
postur i ng. ' - They went t oget her up a hi gh mount ai n, t o the edge of
a prec i pi ce whi ch dropped more than a hundred t i mes a man' s
*Confuci an oppor tuni sm overr i di ng moral i t y. Confuci us i s not wel l converted. He i s
out of hi s depth here.
2 1 8
Zhuang Zi, ch. 21 I, J, K.
hei ght . Bo Hun Wu Ren pl aced hi msel f on the edge wi th hi s heel s
proj ect i ng out wards. Hel d onl y by the fore part of hi s feet , he
bowed to Li e Yukou, and i nvi ted hi m to take hi s pl ace al ongs i de
hi m. But vert i go had al ready made the l a t ter crouch on al l fours,
the sweat runni ng down t o hi s feet . Bo Hun Wu Ren sa i d to hi m:
' The super i or man t akes hi s gaze as f ar as the l i mi t of t he bl ue
heavens, i nto the depths of the ear t hl y abysses, to the ex tremi t i es
of the hor i zon, wi thout hi s v i t al spi r i t bei ng moved i n the s l i ghtest .
He who has not reached t hi s poi nt i s not a super i or man*. Look i ng
at your drawn eyes, you g i ve me the i mpress i on of havi ng ver t i go9 '
J. Ji an Wu sai d t o Sunshu Ao: ' You have hel d of f i ce three t i mes
wi thout exal t i ng yoursel f , and you have been di s mi ssed three
t i mes wi thout be i ng af fec t ed. At f i rs t I suspec t ed you were pret end
i ng to be i ndi fferent . But, conv i nced t hat dur i ng these events your
breat hi ng remai ned perfect l y cal m, I bel i e ve now t hat you are trul y
i ndi fferent . What di d you do t o achi eve t hi s s t at e ? ' ' I di d nothi ng
at al l , ' sai d Sunshu Ao. ' Nei t her my nomi nat i ons nor my degrada
t i ons have meant any t hi ng t o me. These event s have caused me
nei ther gai n nor l oss, t hat i s why I was nei t her exal t ed nor af fect
ed. What coul d be ex t raor di nary about al l t hat ? On the cont rary,
nothi ng coul d be more nat ural . My post was not mysel f , my sel f
was not my post . Favour and di sf avour concerned my pos i t i on, not
mysel f . Then why shoul d I worry and t i re mysel f out by bei ng
preoccupi ed wi th such t hi ngs? Woul d I not have wasted my t i me by
thi nki ng of t he pr ai se and bl ame of men? ' - Confuc i us heard
about thi s repl y , and s ai d: ' There you have a true man of ol d. The
anci ents of t hi s st amp di d not al l ow t hemsel ves to be i mpressed
by the di scourses of t he l earned, nor t o be seduced by the charms
of beauty, nor t o be i nt i mi dat ed by t hreat s of v i ol ence. Fu Xi and
the Yel l ow Emperor courted the i r fr i endshi p i n vai n. Nei ther l ove
of l i fe nor fear of deat h, mot i ves so st rong amongst common men,
coul d make an i mpress i on on t hem. Then what effect coul d weal th
and rank have on t hem? Thei r spi r i t was hi gher than the mount ai ns,
more profound than an abyss. What di d i t mat t er t o t hem i f the i r
soci al posi t i on was t he l owest ? Si nce t he ent i re uni verse was thei rs
through thei r uni on wi th the uni versa! cosmos, concedi ng rank and
weal th to common men d i d not i mpoveri sh them; the great whol e
remai ned as thei rs. '
K. The Ki ng of Chu was speaki ng wi th the deposed Pr i nce of Fan.
The courtesans sai d: ' Fan has al ready been rui ned three t i mes. '
- The Pri nce of Fan i nterrupted them: ' The rui n of Fan has not cost
me my l i fe. I t i s not cert ai n that the prosperi t y of Chu wi l l
preserve your l i ves f or you. Do not r el y on t he present prosperi t y
*Any physi cal perturbati on i s a symptom of i mperfecti on of nature. Compare wi th
L ie Zi , chapter 2 E.
2 1 9
Zhuang Zi, ch. 21 K.
so far as t o bel i eve you ar e pr ot ec t ed f rom f ut ur e r ui n. Prosper i t y
and rui n al t erna t e. I f we p l ace oursel ves i n t he hi ghest pos i t i on,
above t he wheel t hat t urns, Fan i s not des t r oyed, Chu i s not
prosperous. Ever yt hi ng, a l t erna t e l y , passes t hr ough t wo phases
of prospe r i t y and ru i n . '
Zhuang Zi, ch. 22 A.
Chapter 22. Knowledge Of The Princi ple.
A. Knowl edge went north as far as the Bl ack Sea and cl i mbed the
Mount ai n of Obscuri t y, where she met I nac t i on. Knowl edge sa i d to
Inact i on: ' I have somet hi ng t o ask you. How can one come t o know
t he Pri nc i pl e? What posi t i on shoul d one t ake, and what shou l d one
do t o underst and i t ? Where shou l d one st art and whi ch way shoul d
one fol l ow i n order t o reach i t ? ' - I nact i on d i d not rep l y t o these
three quest i ons. Not because she d i d not wi sh t o rep l y, but because,
i n truth, she di d nol know how t o repl y . - Obt ai n i ng no repl y ,
Knowl edge went as f ar as t he Wh i t e Sea and cl i mbed t he Mount ai n
of I nves t i ga t i on, where s he s aw Abs t ra c t i on , and asked her these
same three ques t i ons. ' Ah , ' sa i d Abst r ac t i on, ' I wi l l tel l you' -
but j ust as she was goi ng t o speak, she forgot what i t was al l
about . - Di sappoi nt ed, Knowl edge went t o t he I mper i al Pal ace and
put these three ques t i ons t o t he Yel l ow Emperor. The l at t er sai d
t o her: ' I n order t o know t he Pr i nc i pl e , i t i s above a l l necessary
not t o thi nk or r efl e ct . To unders t and i t , no posi t i on shoul d be
taken, nothi ng must be done. To reach i t , one shoul d begi n at no
preci se poi nt , and one shoul d fol l ow no f i x ed way . ' - ' We l l , ' sa i d
Knowl edge, ' from amongst t he m and u s , who act ed t he best ? ' -
' I nact i on, ' s ai d t he Yel l ow Emper or , ' be cause she sa i d not hi ng at
al l . Then Abstract i on, who bar el y s poke abou t i t . We t wo wer e
wrong i n speaki ng. The say i ng goes: "He who knows does not speak
( because he knows he cannot ex pl ai n what he knows) ; he who speaks
shows that he does not know. " The Sage does not speak, even i n
order t o t each. The Pr i nci pl e cannot be r eached, i t s ac t i on cannot
be grasped. Al l t hat whi ch may be t aught and l ear nt , such as
goodness, f ai rness, r i tes; al l such t h i ngs ar e pos t er i or and i n fer i or
t o t he Pri nc i pl e; t hes e t hi ngs wer e on ! i nv ent ed when t he t rue
not i on of the Pr i nci pl e and i t s act i on was l os t , at t he begi nni ng of
t he decadence. The s ayi ng goes : " He who i mi t at es the Pr i nci pl e,
di mi ni shes hi s act i on day by day , un t i l he comes no l onger t o act
at al l . " When he has r eached t hat ( pur e non- i nter vent i on) , he i s
equal t o any task . But t o t r avel back t hus as f ar as t he or i gi n, i s
somet hi ng v er y d i ff i cul t , and onl y t he super i or man can succeed i n
i t . - Li fe fol l ows deat h, deat h i s t he ori gi n of l i fe. The why and
wherefore of t hi s al t erna t i on i s i nscrut abl e . . . The l i fe of a man
depends on a condensat i on of mat t er , whose di ssi pat i on wi l l be hi s
death; and so on, success i v el y . Thi s bei ng so, i s t here any poi nt i n
bei ng saddened by anyt hi ng?. . Al l bei ngs form a whol e whi ch i s
transformed wi t hout cease. Some ar e cal l ed beaut i fu l , ot hers ugl y .
An abuse of words, for not hi ng l asts. On i t s next met amorphos i s ,
perhaps t hat whi ch i s beau t i ful wi l l become ugl y , and t hat whi ch
was ugl y wi l l become beaut i ful . . . Thi s i s summed up by the say i ng:
"Al l the uni verse has one and the same underl y i ng subst ance. "
The Sage nei ther prai ses nor bl ames any par t i cul ar bei ng, and gi ves
2 2 1
Zhuag Zi, ch. 22 A, B, C.
al l hi s prai se t o the cos mi c uni t y, the great whol e . ' - (What fol l ows
appears to be an intercalated fragment). Summi ng up hi s conversa
t i on wi th the Yel l ow Emperor, Knowl edge s ai d: ' I nact i on was not
abl e t o repl y; Abstract i on forgot t o repl y; you repl i ed and then
ret ract ed your repl y ' ' Yes, ' sai d the Yel l ow Emperor. ' One can
say nothi ng of t he Pri nci pl e. He who speaks of i t i s wrong. '
-
I nact i on and Abst ract i on heard about t he Yel l ow Emperor ' s repl y
and consi dered i t t o be good.
B. Heaven and eart h, so maj est i c , are dumb. The course of the
st ars and seasons, so regul ar , i s not del i ber at e. The e vol ut i on of
bei ngs fol l ows an i mmanent , non- for mul at ed l aw. I mi t at i ng these
model s , the super i or man, t he True Sage , does not i nt ervene,
does not act , but l et s ev er yt hi ng fol l o w i t course. The transcendent
heaven- eart h bi nomi al presi des over al l t ransfor mat i ons, the succes
si on of l i ves and deat hs , t he mut at i ons of al l bei ngs, wi thout
any of these bei ngs hav i ng an ex pl i c i t knowl edge of the fi rst
cause of al l these movement s, of the Pr i nci pl e whi ch makes every
t hi ng pers i s t si nce t he begi nni ng. The i mmens i t y of space i s the go
between of heaven and ear t h. The l eas t s t r aw owes i ts exi stence
to heaven and ear t h. Heaven and e ar t h presi de over the cont i nual
evol ut i on of be i ngs, whi ch t i me after t i me are rai sed up or put
down; over t he regul ar r ot at i on of t he y i n and the yang, of the four
seasons, etc. From amongst be i ngs, some seem t o di sappear, but
cont i nue never t hel ess t o ex i s t ; ot her s, t hrough hav i ng l os t thei r
bodi es, onl y become more t ranscendent . Heaven and earth nouri sh
al l bei ngs wi t hou t the i r knowi ng i t . Fr om t hi s i d e a o f t he uni verse,
we can go back t o t he confused knowl edge of i ts cause, the Pri n
ci pl e. Thi s i s t he onl y way. One c an s ay o f t he Pr i nci pl e onl y that
i t i s the ori gi n of ever yt hi ng, that i t i n fl uences ev eryt hi ng whi l st
remai ni ng i ndi fferent .
C. Ni e Que asked Pi Yi t o expl a i n t he Pr i nci pl e to hi m. Pi Yi sai d
to hi m: ' Cont rol your habi t s, concen trate your percept i on, and
uni versal har mony wi l l spread i nto you. Wi t hdraw your facul t i es,
uni fy your t hought s, and t he vi tal spi r i t of the uni verse wi l l l i ve
as a prol onga t i on i n you. The act i on of the Pr i nci pl e, commun
i cat i ng i tsel f t o you, wi l l become the pr i nci pl e of your qual i ti es.
You wi l l l i ve i n the Pr i nci pl e. You wi l l acqui re the s i mpl i ci ty of a
new-born cal f , and cease to preoccupy yoursel f wi th what you are
and where you have come from' ... Before Pi Yi had f i ni shed his
di scourse, Ni e Que had fal l en i nt o a profound sl eep (carri ed away i n
ecstasy) . Astoni shed, Pi Vi sang: ' See how hi s body has become l i ke
dead wood, and hi s heart l i ke dead ashes. Havi ng become transcen
dent , hi s true sci ence no l onger hesi tates. Havi ng become bl i nd, hi s
mi nd no l onger debates. He has reached the i nt ui t i on of the Pri n
ci pl e. What a man! '
222
Zhuang Zi, ch. 22 D, E.
D. Shun asked hi s mi ni ster Cheng: ' Can one come to possess the
Pri nci pl e?' - Cheng repl i ed: ' Not possessi ng your own body, how can
you aspi re to possess the Pr i nci pl e ? ' - ' I f my body i s not mi ne,
whose i s i t ?' asked Shun. - ' Your body , ' sa i d Cheng, ' i s a l oan of
gross mat t er, whi ch heaven and eart h have l ent you for a t i me.
Your l i fe i s a trans i t ory combi nat i on of sub tl e matter, whi ch you
owe al so to heaven and eart h. Your des t i ny, your act i vi t y , form
an i nt egral part of the fl ux of be i ngs, under the ac t i on of heaven
and earth. Your chi l dren and grandchi l dren are a renewal ( l i teral l y,
a change of sk i n) t hat hea ven and eart h have gi ven you. You
go forward i n l i fe wi t hout knowi ng what pushes you, you eat
wi thout knowi ng how you ass i mi l at e; the powerful and unknowabl e
act i on of heaven and earth moves you i n ever y t hi ng; and you
wi sh to appropr i at e somet hi ng t o yoursel f ? '
E. Confuci us s ai d t o Lao Dan: ' As I hav e some spare t i me today, I
woul d very much l i ke to hear you speak on the essence of the
Pr i nci pl e . ' - Lao Dan sai d: ' You shoul d fi rst of al l have l i ghtened
( i l l umi ned) your heart by abstent i on, pur i f i ed your v i t al spi r i t , and
ri d yoursel f of preconce i ved i deas. For the subj ect i s abstruse,
di f f i cul t t o express and to underst and. Never the l ess I wi l l try to
tel l you somet hi ng about i t . . . The l umi nous i s born from darkness,
forms are born from the undi fferent i at ed. The ( uni versa! ) vi tal
spi r i t , ( i n whi ch part i cul ar v i t al spi r i ts are par t i ci pants) , i s born
of the Pr i nci pl e; the f i r st mat t er i s born from the ( un i versal )
sper m, ( of whi ch par t i cul ar sper m i s a par t i c i pant ) . Then, bei ngs
are mut ual l y engendered, by commun i cat i on of the i r matter,
ei ther by ut er i ne gest at i on or produc t i on of eggs. Thei r ent rance
on the scene of l i fe i s not not i ced, the i r l eav i ng makes no noi se.
There i s no vi s i bl e door, no fi xed abode. Cont i ngent and ephemeral ,
bei ngs come from al l s i des, and f i l l up the i mmens i t y of the worl d.
Those who understand t hi s, preoccupy t hemsel ves wi th nothi ng, keep
themsel ves wel l , have a free mi nd, and conser ve the i r organs of
sense i n perfect cond i t i on*. Wi thout t i r i ng the i r i nt el l i gence, they
are capabl e of any task. For they act ( or rather do not act, but
al l ow act i on) spontaneous l y, nat ural l y, j ust as ( by nat ure) heaven
i s el e vated, the eart h i s extended, the sun and moon are l umi nous,
j ust as be i ngs bustl e about nat ural l y . . . Study and debate do not
bel ong to the Pr i nci pl e, and there fore Sages abstai n from these
thi ngs. Knowi ng that the Pri nci pl e i s an i nf i ni t y whi ch can be
nei ther augmented nor di mi ni shed, the Sages content themsel ves
to embrace i t i n i ts ent i rety . . . Yes, i t i s i mmense l i ke the ocean.
What maj esty i n thi s i ncessant re vol ut i on, i n whi ch endi ngs are
i mmedi at el y fol l owed by new begi nni ngs . . . To fol l ow the fl ux of
bei ngs by doi ng good to al l , i s the way of ordi nary ( Confuci an)
*Bl i ndness, deafness, for the Daoi sts, are a premature weari ng out, through i mmod
erate use of the vi tal force.
2 2 3
Zhuag Zi, ch. 22 E, F.
Sages. But t o take a pos i t i on out si de t hi s fl ux , and t o do good to
t hose he l eads, i s the way of t he super i or ( Daoi st ) Sage ( who acts
l i ke the Pr i nci pl e) . - Let us consi der a human bei ng i n the earl y
embryoni c st at e, whose sex i s not yet det er mi ned. I t has devel oped
between heaven and ear t h. Scarcel y devel oped, i t may happen that
i t ret urns t o i t s or i gi n ( i s s t i l l -born) . Consi der ed i n thi s begi nni ng,
i s i t anyt hi ng ot her t han a mi xt ur e o f breat h and sperm? And i f
i t sur vi ves, i t wi l l onl y be for a f ew years. The di fference bet ween
what one cal l s a l ong, and a short l i fe , i s so s mal l ! Summed up, i t
i s a moment i n t he i nfi n i t e course o f t i me . Ma ny ha v e not even the
l ei sure to show i f t hey have the mi nd o f a Yao ( v i rt uous emperor)
or of a Ji e ( v i ci ous t yr ant ) . - The e vo l u t i on of each i nd i v i dual of
the pl ant k i ngdom fol l ows a det er mi ned l aw. L i kewi se the l aw that
presi des over human ev ol ut i on i s l i ke a meshwor k of gears. The
Sage fol l ows the movement , wi t hout k i c k i ng , wi t hout bei ng at t ach
ed. To l ook ahead and cal cul at e, i s an ar t i f i ce; t o l et onesel f be,
i s t o f ol l ow t he Pr i nci pl e. I t was t hrough l e t t i ng be t hat t he
emperors and k i ngs of great ant i q u i t y became el e vat ed and famous.
- The passage of man bet ween heaven and ear t h, from l i fe to
deat h, i s l i ke the j ump of a whi t e s t eed across a ra v i ne; an affai r
of an i nst ant . Just as bei ngs ent er i nt o l i fe by a spur t i ng forth;
l i kewi se t hey ent er i nt o deat h t hrough a dra i n i n g away. One trans
format i on has made them l i v i ng, one t r ans for ma t i on has made them
dead. Al l l i v i ng bei ngs f i nd deat h unpl eas ant ; men cry over i t . And
yet , what ot her t hi ng i s i t but the uns t r i ngi ng of the bow and i ts
return t o i t s sheat h; t he empt y i ng o f t he cor por eal sack and the
l i berat i on of t he two soul s t hat wer e i mpr i soned i n i t ? Aft er the
di ffi cul t i es and v i ci ss i t udes of l i fe , the two soul s l eave, the body
fol l ows t hem i nt o r est . Thi s i s the gr eat ret urn (soul s and body
retur ni ng i nt o t he whol e) . Thi s not i on o f perpet ual gyrat i on, of
the i ncorporeal pr oduci ng t he cor poreal , of the body returni ng to
i ncorpore i t y , i s known t o many men, but onl y the el i te draw pract
i cal consequences from i t . Common peopl e wi l l i ngl y di scuss thi s
subj ect , whereas t he super i or man keeps a profound s i l ence. I f he
tri ed to speak about i t , he woul d go agai ns t hi s sc i ence, through
whi ch he knows t hat t o speak of i t i s i mposs i bl e, and that one can
onl y medi tate on i t . To under s tand that one gai ns not hi ng by
quest i oni ng about the Pr i nci pl e, but that one must cont empl ate i t
i n si l ence, i s t o hav e what i s cal l ed t he gr eat resul t ( to have
reached the goa I ) *. '
F. Dong Guo Zi sa i d to Zhuang Zi : ' Where i s the Pri nc i pl e? ' -
' Ever ywhere , ' s ai d Zhuang Zi . - ' For exampl e ? ' asked Dong Guo Zi . -
' For exampl e , i n t hi s bl ade of grass. ' - ' And l ower ? ' - ' In thi s
* Thus Confuci us i s di smissed from hi s questi oni ng and referred to contempl ation,
which hi s busy pol i ti cal l i fe makes him i ncapabl e of doi ng.
224
Zhua Zi, ch. 22 F, G.
fragment of t i l e. ' - ' And l ower ?' - ' I n t hi s pi ss and dung, ' sai d
Zhuang Z i . - Dong Guo Zi asked no furt her. - Then Zhuang Zi ,
t aki ng up t he conversat i on, s ai d to hi m: ' Master, ques t i oni ng
l i ke t hat wi l l get you nowhere. Such a procedure i s t oo i mperfect .
I t i s l i ke t hat of t he marke t exper t s who summar i l y j udge t he
fatness of a pi g by press i ng a foot on i t ( the foot mak i ng a more,
or l ess, deep i mpr i nt accordi ng to whether the pi g i s fat or l ean) .
Do not ask i f the Pr i nci pl e i s i n thi s or t hat . I t i s i n al l bei ngs.
That i s why i t i s gi ven the epi t he t s grea t , supreme, ent i r e, uni ver
sal , t ot al . Al l these di fferent t erms appl y t o one and the same
real i t y , t o the cos mi c uni t y . - Let us transport ourse l ves i n sp i r i t ,
beyond t hi s uni verse of di mensi ons and pl aces, and there i s no
l onger a ques t i on of s i t uat i ng t he Pr i nci pl e. Let us transport
oursel ves out si de the worl d of act i v i t y , i nt o t he real m of i nact i on,
i ndi fference, r est , the voi d, s i mpl i c i t y , l ei sure , and harmony, and
there wi l l no l onger be a ques t i on of wi s hi ng to qua l i fy the Pri n
ci pl e. I t i s the i nde t er mi nat e i nf i n i t e . I t i s a waste of t i me wi shi ng
to reach i t , t o s i t uat e i t , and t o st udy i t s movement s. No sc i ence
goes t hat f ar . That whi ch has caused al l bei ngs t o be bei ngs ( t he
Pri nci pl e) , i s not i tsel f subj ect t o the same l aws as be i ngs. That
whi ch has caused al l bei ngs t o be l i mi t ed ( the Pri nc i pl e) , i s i tsel f
unl i mi ted, i nfi n i te. I t i s t here fore st up i d t o ask where i t may be
found. - As for e vol ut i on and i ts phases, pl eni tude and vacui t y,
prosper i t y and decadence, t he Pr i nc i pl e produces t hi s success i on,
but i s not thi s success i on. I t i s t he aut hor of causes and effec ts,
but not the causes and e ffec t s. I t i s the author of condensat i ons
and di ssi pat i ons ( bi rt hs and deat hs) , but i t i s not i t sel f condensat i on
nor di ssi pat i on. Ever yt hi ng comes from i t , and evol ves by, and
under, i ts i nf l uence. I t i s i n al l bei ngs, through a t ermi nat i on of
the norm; but i t i s not i dent i cal wi t h be i ngs, si nce i t i s nei ther
di fferent i at ed nor l i mi ted. '
G. A He Gan and t he f ut ure emperor Shen Nang were studyi ng
under Lao Long Ji . Seat ed on a st ool , Shen Nang was taki ng hi s
s i esta i ndoors. A He Gan pushed the door open, and announced to
hi m poi nt -bl ank that t hei r mast er had j ust di ed. Shen Nang got up
i n one movement , dropped hi s st af f , burst out l aughi ng and sai d:
' Perhaps he di ed out of desper at i on, t hrough not havi ng been
abl e to el evate me wi t h hi s grand phrases ? ' - The Daoi st Yen Gang
who had come to offer hi s condol ences, heard these words and sai d
t o Shen Nang: ' The st udy of the Pri nci pl e draws the best mi nds of
the empi re. You have what i t takes to appl y yoursel f t o i t . For,
wi thout havi ng l earnt anyt hi ng , you ha ve found out for yoursel f, as
is wi t nessed by your outburst on the death of your master, that
grand phrases do not gi ve i nt el l i gence, whi ch i s a fundamental
Daoi st axi om. The Pr i nci pl e i s at t ai ned nei ther by s i ght nor heari ng.
One may onl y say of i t t hat i t i s mystery. He who speaks about i t ,
225
Zhuang Zi, ch. 22 G, H, I.
shows that he does not underst and i t . '
H. Pur i t y sai d t o I n fi n i t y*: ' Do y o u know t h e Pr i nci pl e?' - ' I d o not
know i t , ' sai d I nf i n i t y . - Then Pur i t y sa i d t o I nact i on: ' Do you know
the Pr i nci pl e ? ' - ' I know i t , ' s ai d I nact i on . - ' By refl ect i on or
i ntu i t i on ? ' asked Pur i t y . - ' By ref l ect i on , ' s ai d I nact i on . - ' Expl ai n
yourse l f, ' sai d Pur i t y . - ' I t i s l i ke t hi s , ' s ai d I nact i on . ' I t hi nk that
the Pri nci pl e i s the con fl uence of cont rast s, nob i l i t y and baseness,
col l ect i on and di spers i on; I know i t t here fore by r ef l ect i on. ' -
Pur i t y went al ong to consul t the Pri mor di a l St at e. ' Whi ch one , ' he
asked, ' repl i ed bes t ? Who was r i ght and who was wr ong ? ' The
Pri mord i al St at e sa i d: ' I nfi n i t y s ai d, "I do not know the Pr i nci pl e; "
t hi s repl y i s profound. I nact i on sa i d , "I know t he Pr i nci pl e; " thi s
repl y i s superf i ci al . I nf i n i t y was r i ght t o s ay that he knew not hi ng
of the essence of the Pr i nc i pl e. I nac t i on was abl e t o s ay t hat she
knew i t , as far as i ts e x t er i or man i fes t at i ons. ' - S t r uck by t hi s
repl y, Pur i t y sai d: ' Ah! Then not t o know i t i s t o know i t ( i ts
essence) , t o know i t ( i t s mani fes t at i ons) i s not t o know i t ( such as
i t i s i n real i t y ) . But how can one underst and t hat i t i s through not
knowi ng i t t hat one knows i t ? ' - ' I t i s l i k e t hi s , ' s ai d t he Pr i mordi al
St at e. ' The Pr i nci pl e cannot be unders t ood; what i s underst ood i s
not i t . The Pr i nci pl e cannot be seen , what i s seen i s not i t . The
Pr i nci pl e cannot be ex pressed, what i s e xpressed i s not i t . Can one
conce i ve ot her t han by reason
(
not by i ma gi na t i on ) , the non-senti ent
bei ng t hat has produced al l sen t i en t bei ngs ? No, wi t hout doubt!
I n consequence t he Pr i n c i pl e wh i ch i s t hi s non- sent i ent bei ng, not
bei ng i magi nabl e, cannot furt her be descr i bed. Remember thi s wel l :
He who asks ques t i ons about t he Pr i n c i pl e, and he who repl i es, show
bot h t hat t he y are i gnor ant of what the Pr i nci pl e i s. One cannot
ask nor repl y conce rn i ng what the Pr i nci pl e i s. Vai n quest i ons,
i nept rep l i es , whi ch i mp l y that those who make t hem are i gnorant
of what t he uni verse i s and of what was the great or i gi n. Such
peopl e wi l l not el e v at e t hemsel ves beyond the t erres t r i al hei ghts ( of
Mount Kun Lun) . They wi l l not reach the absol ut e voi d of perfect
abstract i on . '
I . Di ffuse Li ght asked Forml ess ( t he i nf i ni te , i ndet er mi nate bei ng,
the Pr i nci pl e) : ' Do you ex i s t , or do you not ? ' - She heard no repl y,
Havi ng st ared at hi m for a l ong t i me, she onl y saw an obscure voi d,
i n whi ch, despi te al l her ef for t s, she coul d di s t i ngui sh not hi ng, coul d
percei ve not hi ng, coul d grasp not hi ng. ' Thi s i s the hi ghest poi nt , '
she sai d; ' i t i s i mposs i bl e t o i nqui r e about t hi s s t at e. I deas of bei ng
and not hi ngness are current . Non-be i ng cannot be concei ved of as
exi stent . But here, ex i s t i ng, i s For ml ess ( the i nf i ni t e, i ndet ermi nate
bei ng
)
. Thi s i s the supreme hei ght ; i t i s the Pri nci pl e . '
*Compare wi t h A above; a n anal ogous pi ece.
226
Zhuang Zi, ch. 22 J, K, L.
J. At the age of ei ght y- four the man who forged swords for the
mi ni stry of war had s t i l l not l ost hi s dex ter i t y*. The mi n i ster sai d
to hi m: ' You are ski l l ed; t el l me your secret . ' - ' I t consi sts uni quel y
i n al ways doi ng the same work , ' repl i ed the bl acksmi th. ' The taste
for for gi ng swords came to me when I was twent y. I onl y have eyes
for t hat obj ec t i ve. I appl y mysel f onl y to that . By di nt of forgi ng
swords, I have ended by forgi ng t hem wi t hout t hi nk i ng of them.
What ever one does, when one does i t wi t hout cease , i t ends up by
becomi ng unr ef l ect ed, nat ural , spontaneous ( and i n consequence
conformi ng to the unre f l ect ed and spont aneous i n fl uence of the
Pri nci pl e
)
; such act i on succeeds al ways . '
K. Ran Qi u asked Con fuc i us : ' Can one know wha t t here was be fore
heaven and ear t h were forme d? ' - ' Yes , ' sa i d Con fuc i us; ' that whi ch
i s now'
(
the et er nal , i mmut abl e Pr i nc i pl e) . - Ran Qi u wi thdrew
hi msel f wi t hout ask i ng more . The ne x t day he went to see Confu
ci us agai n, and s ai d: ' Yest erda y , I asked you what there was be fore
heaven and ear t h, and you repl i ed, " t hat whi ch i s now. " At fi rst I
bel i eved I underst ood; but s i nce t hen, t he more I t hi nk about
i t, the l ess I underst and i t . Pl ease ex pl ai n the mean i ng of your
repl y . ' - Confuc i us s ai d: ' Yest er day you used your facul t y of natural
apprehensi on ( i ntu i t i on whi ch wel l s up i n the voi d of the hear t , says
the comment ary
)
, and i n consequence you grasped the truth of my
propos i t i on. But s i nce then you have reasoned , usi ng ar t i f i ci al l ogi c,
whi ch has obscured t he e v i dence o f your f i r st i nt ui t i on. I sai d t o
you, "t hat whi ch was i s t hat whi ch I s . " For t her e i s no past and
present , begi nni ng and endi ng, wi t h re ference t o the Pr i nci pl e,
whi ch i s al ways i n the pr esent . . . But now i t i s my turn to ask you
a ques t i on. Tel l me, can t here be chi l dren and grandchi l dren who
have no parents, no grandpar ents ? ' - As Ran Qi u remai ned speech
l ess, Confuci us s ai d to hi m: ' Amongst men, no. The human mode of
engender i ng cons i st s i n de t ermi ned bei ngs communi cat i ng the i r
pri nci pl e of l i fe t o offspr i ng of the same nat ur e. Qui t e otherwi se
was the generat i on of heaven and eart h ( pseudo-chi l dren) , and
of al l bei ngs ( pseudo-grandchi l dren, of the Pri nci pl e) . What was
before heaven and eart h
( the Pri nc i pl e) , was i t a determi ned
be i ng, havi ng a form and shape? No. . . That whi ch determi nes
al l bei ngs (the Pri nci pl e) was not i tsel f a determi ned bei ng. Thi s
was the pri mordi al i ndet ermi nat e bei ng of whom I sai d, "that whi ch
was i s that whi ch i s. " I t l ogi cal l y refutes that sent i ent bei ngs
have been produced by other sent i ent bei ngs i n an i nde fi ni te
chai n. ' ( Thi s chai n had a begi nni ng, the Pri nci pl e, the non-sent i ent ,
whose i nfl uence ex tends s i nce i ts unfol di ng) .
L. Yen Yuan sai d t o Confuci us: ' Mas t er, I have oft en heard you say
that one shoul d not preoccupy onesel f wi th rel at i onshi ps nor worry
*Cf . chapter 3 B.
227
Zhuag Zi, ch. 22 L, M.
about such t hi ngs. What does thi s mean ? ' - Conf uci us repl i ed: ' The
anc i ent peopl es remai ned i mpassi ve amongst the vi ci ss i t udes of
J i fe, because the y kept t hemse l ves out s i de t he f l ux . The moderns,
on the
cont rary, fol l ow the fl u x , and are i n consequence tor mented
by di verse i nt erest s. There i s, above the t ransformat i ons, a
uni t y ( a
Pri nc i pl e) whi ch remai ns i mmobi l e , i ndi fferent , non- di fferent i ated,
non-mul t i pl i ed. I t i s from t hi s uni t y t hat t he anci ent s, the true
Sages, t ook t he i r model . I t was of t hi s t hat t hey conversed i n the
park of Xi Wei , i n the Yel l ow Emperor ' s garde n, i n Shun' s pal ace,
and t he resi dences of Emperors Tang and Wu. ' Interpolation:
Lat er , those who were cal l ed schol ar s, the mas t ers amongst the
Confuc i ans and Mo- i s t s , t ook t hemsel ves t o di s put i ng on yes and
no. Nowadays di scussi ons are gener al . The anci ent s di d not act
l i ke that. - ' Just l i ke un i t y i t s el f , the anci ent s were cal m and
neut ral . As they wounded no one , no one wi shed t hem i l l . Thi s
uni que rul e of not maki ng enemi es , s uf f i ced t hem i n t he mat ter
of rel at i onshi ps. '
M. (An addi t ional fragment , probbl y displaced). . . ' When I reJ Oi ce
at t he si ght of t he wooded mount a i ns , of t he h i gh pl at eau x , sadness
suddenl y comes to t r oubl e my j oy . Happ i ness and sadness come and
go i n my hear t , wi t hout my bei ng abl e t o go vern t hem. I can
ne i t her ret a i n t he one , nor pr ot ect myse l f f rom t he ot her . Al as!
Must the heart of man be t hus a shel t er for al l comers? One can
pre vent cer t ai n t hi ngs , bu t ot he rs cannot be pre vent ed. The unpre
di ctabl e, the f at al ; t her e i s no r emedy agai ns t t hese t wo i l l s.
Whomsoe ver t r i es t o st ruggl e agai nst t hem, makes h i msel f e ven
more unhappy , fai l ur e bei ng cer t ai n i n t he st r uggl e for t he i mpos
s i bl e. There i s t her e f ore onl y t o submi t onese l f t o dest i ny , whi ch
deri ves from t he Pr i nci p l e . S i l ence i s t he best use one can make
of t he facu l t y of speech. Doi ng not hi ng i s t he best use one can
make o f t he fac u l t y o f a c t i on . Lear ni ng not hi ng i s t he best use one
can make of one ' s i nt el l i gence. Wi s hi ng to l earn much, t o know
e ver yt hi ng
(
l i ke Con fu c i us ) , i s the worst of errors . '
Zhuag Zi, ch. 23 A.
Chapter 23. Return To Nature*.
A. Among the di sc i pl es of Lao Dan , a cer t ai n Geng Sang Chu went
northwards, est abl i shed hi msel f at the foot of Mount Wei Lei , and
taught di sci pl es i n hi s turn. For the l ove of Daoi st si mpl i ci t y he
di smi ssed those of hi s servant s who gave themsel ves i nt el l i gent
ai rs, and kept away from t hose of hi s concubi nes who were refi ned,
onl y keepi ng the rust i c and weat herbeat en around hi msel f. After
three years, through the effect of hi s presence and hi s exampl e,
Wei Lei found pr osper i t y . The peopl e of the pl ace sai d t o each
other: ' When Mast er Geng Sang est abl i shed hi msel f amongst us,
we found i t strange . That was because we di d not know hi m wel l
enough. Now that we have had t i me t o get t o know hi m, who
amongst us does not cons i der h i m a Sage? Why don ' t we make hi m
our l ocal Sage, honour i ng hi m as one honours t he representat i ve
of the dead, the geni e of t he sun and the one of the harvests, by
reverence and of f er i ngs at cer t ai n t i mes of the year ?' - Geng Sang
Chu l earnt of these proposal s. Seat ed i n hi s school , i n hi s pos i t i on
of mast er, he l ooked embarrassed. Hi s di sci pl es asked hi m why .
' Because , ' he sa i d, ' accordi ng to my mast er Lao Dan, i f the spr i ng
bri ngs the pl ants back t o l i fe and aut umn makes the frui t r i pen,
these are natural effect s produced by the great Pr i nci pl e operat i ng
i n everyt hi ng, and not from t he mer i ts of the seasons. Just l i ke
nat ure, t he super i or man shoul d rema i n hi dden ( i ns i de hi s house) ,
and not al l ow t he crowds t o accl ai m hi m. Now i t happens that
these l i t t l e peopl e of Wei Lei are t hi nki ng of g i v i ng me ( a common
man) the rank and of f eri ngs of a Sage. Thi s embarrasses me, for
I do not wi sh to cont ra vene the t each i ng of my master Lao Dan. ' -
' Have no fear , ' sai d the di s ci p l es; ' y ou have the qual i t i es, and the
pos i t i on i s easy. A whal e cannot turn round i n a canal , but a smal l
f i sh moves i n i t wi th ease. A buffal o woul d not be safe on a knol l ,
but a f ox woul d l i ve there qui t e wel l . And t hen, why shoul dn ' t
Sages be honoured, t he abl e el evat ed, the good and useful di st i ng
ui shed? Thi s has been the general rul e si nce the days of Yao and
Shun. Master, l et these l i t t l e peopl e of Wei Lei do as they wi sh.
Gi ve i n t o t hei r wi shes . ' - Geng Sang Chu sai d: ' Approach my
chi l dren, t hat I may expl ai n t o you . . . Showi ng onesel f i s al ways
deadl y. Even an ani mal l arge enough t o swal l ow a carr i age, woul d
not avoi d nets and snares, were i t t o l eave i t s hi de-out i n the
mount ai ns. Even a f i sh bi g enough t o swal l ow a boat , woul d be
eaten by the ants i f i t were grounded. I t i s for thei r own safety
that bi rds and wi l d beasts seek the hi gh pl aces, f i sh and turtl es
the deep waters . . . In the same way the man who wi shes to protect
hi msel f shoul d hi de i n retreat and mystery . . . As for Yao and
Shun, whom y ou have ci t ed, thei r aut hor i t y i s nul l . What have they
*The t ext of thi s chapter i s ver y obscure. I t seems t o have suf fered muti l at i on
and transposi t i on.
229
Zhuang Zi, ch. 23 A, B, C.
done for the good of humani t y , these phrase-co i ner s , i nnovators,
t hi nkers whol l y occupi ed wi t h vul gar i t i es and t r i f l es ? They honoured
the Sages; the fi nest way t o make the peopl e compet i t i ve. They
el evated the s ki l l ed and abl e; the best way to make everyone
bri gands*. Of al l thei r i nvent i ons, none have g i ven benef i t to the
peopl e. Qui t e the cont rar y , t hey over - exci t ed the peopl e to egoi sm,
a passi on whi ch makes parr i c i des, r egi ci des, t hi eves and pi l l agers.
I tel l you, al l the di sorders dat e from the r ei gn of these two men.
I f thei r pol i t i cs are cont i nued, a day wi l l come when men wi l l
devour each ot her . '
B. Nan Rang Zhu ( a man al ready advanced i n age, who had put
hi msel f i n the school of Geng Sang Chu) , assumed t he most respect
ful post ure, and as ked hi m: ' At my age, what can I do t o become a
super i or man ? ' - Geng Sang Chu s ai d: ' See t o i t t hat your heal thy
body i mpr i sons your vi t al sp i r i t compl et el y; do not l et thoughts
or i mages buzz i ns i de you; i f you do t hat for t hr ee whol e years, you
wi l l obt ai n what you des i re . ' Nan Rang Zhu r epl i ed: ' Al l eyes
appear al i ke, but t hose of the b l i nd do not s ee. Al l ear s appear the
same, but those of t he deaf do not hear . Al l hear t s appear the
same, and yet fool s do not under st and. I n my bod y , I am made l i ke
you, but my mi nd mus t d i f f er from yours. I cannot grasp the
meani ng of your words. ' - ' That must be due to my i ncapac i ty to
expl ai n mysel f , ' sai d Geng Sang Chu. ' A l i t t l e fl y can do nothi ng
for a bi g 'sphi nx . A l i t t l e hen from Yue cannot i ncubate a goose
egg. I have e v i dent l y not the abi l i t y t o t each you t he way. Why
don ' t you go sout h and consu l t Lao Zi ? '
C. Fol l owi ng Geng Sang Chu ' s advi ce, Nan Rang Zhu furni shed
hi msel f wi th the necessary provi s i ons, wal ked for se ven days and
ni ghts, and ar r i ved at t he pl ace wher e Lao Zi l i ved ' Di d Geng
Sang Chu send y ou ? ' asked the l at ter . - ' Yes, ' s ai d Nan Rang Zhu. -
' Why have you br ought such a l ar ge r et i nue **? ' asked Lao Zi .
Nan Rang Zu l ooked behi nd h i msel f , qu i t e scared. - ' You di d not
underst and my quest i on , ' s ai d Lao Zi . - Nan Rang Zhu l owered hi s
head i n shame, t hen, hav i ng r ai sed i t , he s i ghed and s ai d: ' Because
I coul d not underst and your quest i on, do you for bi d me to say what
has brought me here ? ' - ' No, ' s ai d Lao Zi ; ' go on. ' - Then Nan Rang
Zhu sai d: ' I f I stay i gnorant , men wi l l scof f at me; i f I become
l earned, i t wi l l be t hr ough weari ng mysel f out . I f I stay bad,
I wi l l do e vi l t o ot her s; i f I become good, i t wi l l wear me out. If
I do not practi se f ai rness, I shal l wound Othrs; i f I pract i se i t, I
shal l harm mysel f . These three doubts torment me. What shoul d
I do, or not do? Geng Sang Chu has sent me to ask your advi ce. ' -
*Compare wi th L ao Zi chapter J.
**Of prejudi ces, at t achments, passi ons, i l l usi ons, and errors.
2 30
Zhuag Zi, ch. 2., C.
Lao Zi sai d: ' At the f i rst gl ance I cl ear l y saw i n your eyes that you
had l ost your head. You are l i ke a man who tri es to recover
hi s drowned parents from the bot t om of the sea. I pi t y you. ' -
Nan Rang Zhu was admi tted t o Lao Zi ' s househol d as a payi ng
guest , and began a moral treat ment . He appl i ed hi msel f f i rst of
al l t o f i xi ng hi s qual i t i es and el i mi nat i ng hi s v i ces. After ten
days of t hi s exerci se, whi ch he found hard, he saw Lao Zi agai n,
who asked hi m: ' I s the work of your puri fi cat i on advanc i ng? I t
seems t o me that i t i s not yet perfect . Troub l es from outsi de
( entered through the senses) can onl y be arrested by the oppos i t i on
of an i nternal barri er ( wi t hdrawal ) . Troubl es from wi thi n ( comi ng
from the mi nd) can onl y be barred by an ex ternal barri er ( sel f
control ) . Even t hose who are advanced i n the sci ence of the
Pri nci pl e occasi onal l y exper i ence at t acks from these t wo ki nds
of emot i ons, and s t i l l have t o guard t hemsel ves agai nst them;
how much more so t hose l i ke you who have l i ved a l ong t i me
wi thout knowi ng t he Pr i nci pl e, and are l i t t l e advanced. ' - ' Al as , '
sai d Nan Rang Zhu di scouraged, ' when a peasant f al l s i l l , he
bl ames hi s i l l ness on anot her, and f i nds hi msel f at l east rel i eved,
i f not cured. Whereas each t i me I consul t on the great Pri nc i pl e,
the i l l t hat t orment s my heart i ncreases, as t hough I had taken
the wrong medi ci ne. I t i s t oo much for me. Pl ease gi ve me the
reci pe t o prol ong my l i fe; I wi l l be cont ent wi th that . ' - ' And
you t hi nk , ' sai d Lao Zi , ' t hat i t can be passed on j ust l i ke that ,
f r om hand t o hand? Prol ongi ng l i fe assumes many t hi ngs. Are
you capabl e of conser vi ng y our phys i cal i nt egr i t y, of not comprom
i si ng i t? Woul d you al ways be abl e t o di st i ngui sh the favourabl e
from t he f at al ? Woul d you be abl e t o s t op yoursel f , and abstai n
yoursel f , t o the l i mi t ? Coul d you become di si nt erested i n others,
i n order t o become concent rat ed i n your own i nt eri or? Coul d
you come to keep y our mi nd free and wi thdrawn? Coul d you
return t o the st at e of y our f i rst i nfancy ? The newl y -born baby cri es
day and ni ght wi thout becomi ng hoarse , so sol i d i s i ts new nature.
I t does not l et go of what i t grasps, so concentrated i s i ts wi l l .
I t l ooks at l engt h wi thout bl i nki ng, not hi ng movi ng i t . I t moves
wi t hout ai m and st ops wi t hout mot i ve, spontaneousl y, wi thout
refl ect i on. Bei ng i ndi fferent and fol l owi ng nature i s the formul a for
prol ongi ng l i fe. ' - ' Al l the formul a ? ' asked Nan Rang Zhu ... Lao Zi
cont i nued: ' That i s j ust the begi nni ng, what I cal l the thawi ng out,
the breaki ng up of the i ce, after whi ch the r i ver begi ns to take
i t s course. The superi or man l i ves, l i ke other men, on the frui ts of
t he earth, the gi fts of good t hi ngs from heaven. But he i s at tached
nei ther t o man nor t hi ngs. Prof i t and l oss l eave hi m equal l y i ndi f
ferent . Nothi ng offends hi m, nothi ng makes hi m rej oi ce. He gl i des,
concentrated i n hi msel f . Thi s i s the formul a for maki ng one ' s l i fe
l ast . ' - ' Al l the formul a? ' asked Nan Rang Zhu . . . Lao Zi went on:
' I have sai d that one must become agai n l i ke a smal l chi l d. Movi ng,
2 3 1
Zhuag Zi, ch. 23, C, D.
act i ng, the chi l d has no ai m, no i nt ent i on. Hi s body i s i ndi fferent
l i ke dead wood, hi s heart i s i nert l i k e col d ashes. For hi m, there i s
nei ther happi ness nor sadness. What harm can men do, t o hi m who
i s above these t wo great vi ci ssi t udes of dest i ny? The super i or man
i s he who is l odged in i ndi fference . '
D. (n what fol l ows, i t is probably Zhuang Zi who speaks). He whose
heart has reached t hi s hei ght of i mmut ab i l i t y , emi t s a nat ural l i ght
( pure reason, wi th not hi ng convent i onal ) whi ch r eveal s to hi m what
s t i l l remai ns of t he ar t i f i ci al wi t hi n. Then he r i ds h i msel f of thi s
art i f i ci al i t y and becomes s t abl e. Wi t h t i me, the ar t i f i ci al d i sappears
compl et el y, and onl y the nat ural r emai ns . Men who have reached
thi s state are cal l ed sons of heaven, heavenl y peopl e; that i s to
say they have ret urned t o t hei r nat ur al s t at e, become agai n what
heaven had ori gi nal l y made t hem. - Thi s cannot be l ear nt ei ther by
theory or prac t i ce, but onl y by i nt ui t i on or excl us i on. To st op there,
where one can l earn no more, ( and t o hol d onesel f , says the com
ment ary, i n i ndi fference and i nac t i on) , i s to be per fect l y wi se. He
who shoul d t ry t o pass beyond ( dec i d i ng, act i ng, chanci ng
)
wi l l be
broken by the fat al course of t hi ngs ( for he wi l l i nev i t abl y enter
i nt o confl i ct wi t h dest i ny ) . - When al l pr ovi s i ons have been made
and al l precaut i ons t aken for the mai nt enance of the body, when
one has not pr ovoked anot her by any of f ence , t hen, i f some mi sfor
tune comes al ong, i t must be at t r i but ed to dest i ny, not men, and
i n consequence one shoul d take care not to a v oi d i t by havi ng
recourse t o some baseness, and t ake care l i kewi se not t o be
saddened i n one ' s hear t . I t i s i n the power of man to seal the t ower
of hi s spi r i t ( hi s hear t ) ; i t i s i n hi s p ower to keep i t seal ed, on
cond i t i on t hat he nei t her ex ami nes nor di scusses what i s presented
t o i t , but s i mpl y refuses i t access. Each act of he who i s not
yet perfec t l y i ndi f f erent , causes di sorder. The obj ec t of the act
pene t rat es hi s hear t , i s l odged t her e, and wi l l come out of i t no
more. Wi t h each new act t her e is a new di sorder. - Whoever does
evi l in dayl i ght wi l l be puni shed by men; i f done under cover of
darkness, he wi l l be puni shed by the shades. Remi ndi ng onesel f that,
when one i s not obser ved by men, one i s by i nv i s i bl e bei ngs, makes
for good beha v i our , ev en i n one ' s secret ret reat . - Those who fear
for t hei r l i ves do not st r uggl e i n order t o become famous. Those
who burn wi th acqu i s i t i v eness spread thei r act i v i t i es outsi de. The
f i rst are men of reason, t he second are busi nessmen. One sees these
men r ai si ng t hemsel ves on t i pt oe, hoi s t i ng t hemsel ves up, stri vi ng
to succeed. They are storehouses of preoccupat i ons and worri es.
They are so ful l of them, that there i s no l onger room, i n thei r
hearts, even for the l ove of thei r fel l ow bei ngs. Therefore they
are detested as bei ng no l onger men. - Of al l the i nst ruments of
death, des i re i s the most murderous; the f amous Mo Ye sword has
not ki l l ed as many men. The worst assassi ns are, they say, the yi n
232
Zhuag Zi, ch. 23 D, E.
and the yang, from whom no one escapes, out of al l the men
who popul ate the space bet ween heaven and earth. And yet ,
i n t rut h, i f the yi n and the yang ki l l men, i t i s because men' s
appet i tes del i ver t hem up to these assassi ns.
E. The uni que uni versal pri nci pl e subsi sts i n the mul t i pl i ci t y of
bei ngs, i n t hei r begi nni ngs and endi ngs. Al l di st i nct bei ngs are such
through acci dent al and temporary di fferent i at i on ( i ndi v i duat i on)
from the Whol e , and thei r dest i ny i s t o return agai n i nto t hi s
Whol e, of whi ch t hei r essence i s a part i ci pat i on. Of t hi s return,
the common pe opl e say that t he l i vi ng who, ha vi ng di ed, do not fi nd
thei r way, wander as phant oms; and that those who, havi ng di ed,
have found the way, are defunct ( ex t i ngui shed) . Sur vi val , ext i nct i on,
these are t wo ways of speaki ng of an i dent i cal r et ur n, whi ch
comes from t he i r havi ng appl i ed not i ons proper to sent i ent bei ngs,
to the state of bei ng non-sent i ent . The truth i s that, come out by
thei r emergence f rom forml essness ( t he i ndet ermi nat e bei ng) ,
returned by t hei r deat h i nt o forml essness, bei ngs retai n a real i t y
( t hat of t he uni versal Whol e) but t hey hav e no l onger a pl ace; they
keep a dur at i on ( t hat of the et er nal Whol e
)
but t hey no l onger have
t i me. Rea l i t y wi t hout pl ace, durat i on wi thout t i me, i s the uni verse,
the cos mi c uni t y , t he Whol e, the Pr i nci pl e. I t i s i n the bosom of
t hi s uni t y , t hat bi rt hs and deat hs, appearances and di sappearances,
are produced, s i l ent l y and i mpercept i bl y. They have cal l ed i t the
heavenl y gate or t he nat ur al gat e, the gat eway of ent rance and
exi t of ex i st ence. Thi s gate i s the non-be i ng of for m, the i ndef i ni te
bei ng. Ever yt hi ng comes out from i t . The sent i ent bei ng cannot be,
i n the l ast i nst ance, t he i ssue of the sent i ent bei ng. I t i s necessar
i l y i ssued from the non-bei ng of form. Thi s non-be i ng of form i s
uni t y , t he Pr i nci pl e. Thi s i s the secret of the Sages, the kernel of
esoteri c sci ence. I n thei r di ssert at i ons on the or i gi n, those of
the anci ent s who had reached a superi or degree of knowl edge
expressed t hree opi ni ons. Some thought that the def i ni t e, i nf i ni t e
bei ng, aut hor of al l l i mi ted bei ngs, exi sted f r om al l eterni t y.
Others, doi ng away wi th the i nfi ni t e bei ng, thought that l i mi ted
bei ngs ex i st ed from al l et erni t y , passi ng through al t ernat i ng phases
of l i fe and deat h. Others, fi nal l y , t hought that forml essness ( the
i ndef i ni t e, i nf i ni t e bei ng) was fi rst of al l , from whom emanated al l
the f i ni t e bei ngs, wi t h thei r geneses and cessat i ons. I ndef i ni t e
bei ng, genesi s, cessat i on, these t hree terms hol d together l i ke the
head, body, and t ai l of an ani mal . I ( Zhuang Zi ) support thi s thesi s.
For me , the i ndef i ni t e bei ng, al l becomi ngs, al l endi ngs, form a
compl ex, a whol e. I shake hands wi t h those who t hi nk the same.
However, st ri ct l y speaki ng, the three opi ni ons stated above can be
reconci l ed. They are rel at ed l i ke the branches of one and the same
tree. - The part i cul ar bei ng i s to the i ndef i ni t e bei ng, what the
soot ( pal pabl e depos i t ) i s t o the ( i mpal pabl e) smoke. When the soot
233
Zhuang Zi, ch. 23 E, F, G.
is deposi t ed, there has been no new product i on, but onl y a passage
from the i mpal pabl e to the pal pabl e, soot bei ng concret e smoke.
And l i kewi se, i f t hi s soot i s redi ssi pat ed i n smoke, t here wi l l agai n
onl y have been a convers i on, wi t hout essent i a l modi f i cat i on. I
know t hat the t erm conver si on, whi ch I empl oy i n order t o express
the successi on of l i ves and deat hs i n t he bosom of t he Pri nci pl e,
i s not i n common usage; but I must speak t hus, under pai n of not
bei ng abl e t o express mysel f at al l The di s j oi nt ed members of
a sacri fi ced cow, are a v i ct i m. Severa l rooms are a house . Li fe
and deat h are a same st at e. Fr om l i fe t o deat h, t here i s no trans
format i on; t here i s a conver si on. Phi l osophers become heat ed when
i t comes t o defi ni ng the di fference bet ween t hese t wo st at es. For
me, t here i s no di ffer ence; t he t wo st at es ar e onl y one.
F. When one hur t s someone, t he c l oser t hat person i s t o one, the
l ess one makes excuses. One asks pardon of a peasant st ranger
whose foot one has st epped on; but the f at her does not apol ogi se
t o hi s son i n t he same s i t uat i on. The h i ghest of r i t es, i s not to
perform t hem. The h i ghest expedi ence i s t o l augh at everyt hi ng.
The hei ght of i nt el l i gence i s t o t hi nk of not hi ng. The hei ght
of si ncer i t y i s not t o pay depos i t s. I t i s necessary t o curb the
di gressi ons of appet i t e, c or r ect the aberrat i ons of t he mi nd, and
push asi de al l t hat hi nder s the free i n fl owi ng of t he Pr i nci pl e.
Wi shi ng t o be nobl e , ri ch, di s t i ngui shed, respect ed, renowned,
endowed, makes up the s i x appet i t es. Appear ance, deport ment,
breat hi ng, t hought , cause ment al aberrat i ons. Ant i pat hy , s ympathy,
compl acency , anger , sadness, j o y , h i nder t he free i nfl owi ng of the
Pr i nci pl e. Repul s i on and a t t r ac t i on, gi ve and t ake, knowl edge and
abi l i t y, are so many obst acl es . The i nt er i or from whi ch these
t went y -four causes of di sorder have been el i mi nat ed, becomes
regul at ed, cal m, l u mi nous, empt y, non-act i ng, and capabl e of
al l t hi ngs. - The Pr i nc i pl e is t he source of al l act i ve facul t i es, l i fe
i s thei r man i fes t at i on, i nd i v i dual nat ure i s a modal i t y of thi s l i fe,
i t s movement s are t he act s, wast ed act s are i ts faul t s. - The
l earned devi s e and specul at e; and, when t hey are unabl e to see
more cl ear l y, t hey act l i ke l i t t l e chi l dren and st are at an obj ect .
Orderl y act i on i s ac t i ng onl y when one cannot do otherwi se.
Act i ng wi thout bei ng obl i ged t o do so, i s hazardous i nt er ference.
Knowi ng and act i ng must go hand i n hand.
G. Yi was a most abl e archer ( art i fi ci al ar t) , and ext r emel y stupi d
by nat ur e. Some peopl e are nat ur al l y ver y wi se, whi ch has nothi ng
t o do wi t h ar t . Nat ure i s t he base of ever yt hi ng. - Freedom bel ongs
t o natural perfect i on. It i s not l ost onl y through bei ng l i teral l y
i mpri soned i n a cage. Tang encaged Yi Yi n by maki ng hi m hi s cook.
Duke Mu of Qi n encaged Bo Li Xi by gi vi ng hi m fi ve goatski ns.
They
encage men by gi v i ng t hem what t hey l i ke. All favours
234
Zhuang Zi, ch. 23 G.
ensl ave. - Freedom of mi nd cal l s for absence of i nterest . He who
has been puni shed by havi ng hi s feet cut off, no longer dresses
hi msel f up, because he can no l onger make hi msel f at trac t i ve.
He who i s goi ng t o be execut ed does not get vert i go at no matter
what hei ght ; for he no l onger has any fear of fal l i ng. The one has
no further i nt erest i n maki ng hi msel f at t rac t i ve, the other i n con
ser vi ng hi s l i fe . - To ret urn to the st at e of nature, one shoul d
renounce t he fri endshi p of men, and al l the petty ways whi ch serve
to wi n fr i ends and keep them. One shoul d become i ndi fferent
t o vener at i on and out rage; and hol d onesel f al ways i n natural
equi l i br i um. - One shoul d be i ndi fferent before maki ng an effort,
before act i ng; such t hat the ef f or t , the ac t i on, ari si ng from non
effor t , non-ac t i on, i s nat ur al . - I n order to enj oy peace, one shoul d
keep one ' s body i n good order . I n order t hat t he vi tal spi r i t shoul d
funct i on proper l y, one shoul d put one ' s heart compl e tel y at ease .
In order al ways t o ac t wel l , one shoul d come out from one ' s rest
onl y when one cannot do ot her wi se. Thi s i s the Sages' way.
Zhuag Zi, ch. 24 A.
Chapter 24. Simplicity.
A. When the l earned Ni Shang had i nt roduced t he anchor i te Xu
Wugui to Marqui s Wu of Wei , the mar qui s pronounced the words of
i nterest requ i red by the ri t es, say i ng: ' Your pr i v at i ons in the
mount ai ns and woods have no doubt deb i l i tat ed you; y ou are no
l onger abl e to cont i nue t hi s ki nd of l i fe and seek some soci al
pos i t i on; t hat i s why you have come, i sn ' t i t ? ' - ' Not i n t he l east , '
sai d Xu Wugui ; ' I hav e come t o offer y ou my condol ences. I f you
cont i nue t o l et your passi ons ravage your i nt er i or , y our vi t al
spi r i t wi l l be used up. I f you deci de t o curb t hem, i n v i ew of the
way you have gi ven t hem free rei n , you wi l l have to di s ci pl i ne
t hem very much. I offer y ou my condol ences i n e i t her case. ' -
Thi s di scourse di s pl eased t he mar qui s , who l ooked at Xu Wugui
haught i l y , and di d not repl y . - Real i s i ng that the marqui s was not
capabl e of recei v i ng t he abst ract Daoi s t t eachi ng, Xu Wugui
at t empt ed t o gi v e i t t o h i m under a concr et e f or m. ' Per mi t me
to speak to you of anot her t hi ng, ' he s ai d. ' I cons i der mysel f to
be good at j udgi ng dogs. I hol d t hose whi ch are onl y i nt erest ed i n
sat i sf yi ng t hei r v orac i t y ( t he sensual t ypes
)
as t he i nfer i or ki nd,
t hose whi ch bay at t he sun ( t he i nt el l ect u al s
)
as t he medi um ki nd,
and f i nal l y , I consi der t hat t hose whi ch have an a i r i ndi fferent
t o anyt hi ng are t he super i or k i nd, for, once set on a t r ai l , no
di st ract i on wi l l make them dev i at e from i t I underst and about
j udgi ng horses al so. I hol d t hose that can descri be cl e ver geomet
ri cal fi gures wor t hy of a pr i nce, t hose that charge t o the end
wi t hout fear of danger, t o be made for an emperor Marqui s, ri d
y oursel f of preoccupat i ons and di s t r ac t i ons of an i nfer i or order;
appl y yoursel f to the essent i a l . ' - Qu i t e happy to hav e understood
t hi s s i mpl e di sc ourse , Marqui s Wu l aughed l oudl y. When Xu Wugui
had come out , Ni. Shang s ai d t o hi m: ' You are the f i rst t o have
succeeded i n pl eas i ng our pr i nce. I mys el f have spoken most
el oquent l y t o h i m of t he Odes, Annal s , Ri t es and Mus i c, st at i st i cs
and mi l i t ar y ar t *; never have I seen h i m s mi l e enough t o show hi s
teeth. What di d you speak abou t , t o put h i m i n such good humour?'
' I spoke t o h i m about subj ect s that i nterest h i m, about dogs and
horses, ' sai d Xu Wugu i . ' You know the st ory of t hat man from Vue,
exi l ed i n a far di s t ant l and. Af te r several days, seei ng a man of
Vue gave hi m pl easur e. Af t er several years, seei ng a man or an
obj ect whi ch mere l y resembl ed those of hi s count ry, gave hi m
pl easure; an ef f ect of hi s growi ng nost al gi a For a man l ost i n
the nort hern steppes, l i v i ng amongst wi l d pl ant s and beasts, to
hear the footsteps of a man i s a bl essi ng; and how much more so
when thi s man i s a fri end, a brot her, wi th whom he can converse
heart to heart It was as a brot her, through nat ure, that I spoke
* The pet themes of the Confuci ansj mortal l y tedi ous.
236
Zhua Zi, ch. 24 A, B, C.
to your pri nce. It was such a long t i me si nce t hi s poor man,
saturated wi th pedant i c di scourses, had heard the si mpl e and
natural words of another man. Therefore what j oy he found when
he understood them; an al l evi at i on of hi s nost al gi a. '
B. (Another vriation on the same theme). Marqui s Wu rece i ved
Xu Wugui i n audi ence and sai d t o hi m: ' Mast er, you have l i ved a
l ong t i me i n the mount ai ns and woods, feedi ng yoursel f on roots and
chestnuts, oni ons and wi l d garl i c. Now I see you are ol d and
i ncapabl e of cont i nui ng t hi s ki nd of l i fe. The taste for wi ne and
meat has no doubt r et urned t o you. Have you not come t o me to
offer your advi ce for the good government of my marqui sate,
i n order t o have your share of t hese t hi ngs* ? ' - ' No, ' sai d Xu Wugui ,
' i t i s not for t hat . Accust omed a s I am t o pri vat i ons si nce my
chi l dhood, I do not envy your wi ne, nor your meat . I have come to
offer you my condol ences. ' - ' For what mi sfortune ? ' asked the
marqui s , ast oni shed. - ' For the r ui n of your mi nd and body , ' sai d
Xu Wugui . . . ' Heaven and ear t h e x t end a uni form i nfl uence t o al l
bei ngs, f r om the most el evat ed t o t he most humbl e, whi ch hel ps
them each t o at t ai n t he i r nat ural perfect i on. Then why do you, l ord
of a marqui sate, make your peopl e suffer by your demands, to
pl ease your senses and ru i n your body? Your spi r i t natural l y con
formed t o t he t endency of heaven and earth, cannot approve , and
therefore suffers a v i ol ence whi ch rui ns i t . I t i s for the doubl e rui n
of your mi nd and body t hat I of f er you my condol ences. ' - St ruck
by t hi s di scourse, Marqui s Wu sai d: ' I have wi shed you woul d
vi si t me for a l ong t i me. I shoul d l i k e t o pract i se goodness t owards
my peopl e, and fai rness towards my nei ghbours. What shoul d I
do?' - Xu Wugui s ai d: ' Cease your construct i ons of forts, your
manoeuvres and exerci ses, whi ch i mpover i sh your peopl e and worry
your nei ghbours. St op purchas i ng pl ans of conquests and manual s
of stratagems. Any war uses up t he peopl e, the enemy, and he who
makes i t through t he anx i et i es i t causes hi m. Just l i ke heaven and
earth, be benevol ent to al l , and do not i nj ure anyone. Everyone wi l l
benef i t , your peopl e, your nei ghbours, and yoursel f. '
C. The Yel l ow Emperor was on hi s way t o vi s i t Da Wei on Mount
Ju Ci , Fang Mi ng dr i v i ng hi s char i ot , Chang Yu act i ng as counter
wei ght , Zhang Ruo and Xi Peng wal ki ng i n front , and Kun Hun and
Hua Ji f ol l owi ng behi nd. On the pl ai n of Xi ang Cheng the seven
Sages l ost thei r way. They met a boy who was tendi ng some horses,
and asked hi m i f he knew where Mount Ju Ci was and where
Da Wei l i ved. - ' I know t hat , ' sai d the boy. - ' How can i t be, ' sai d
t he Yel l ow Emperor, ' that , wi thout havi ng l earnt , t hi s boy knows
where Mount Ju Ci is, and knows Da Wei ? Coul d he be a transcend-
*Bl ow to t he professi onal pol i ti ci ans of t he t i mes.
237
Zhuang Zi, ch. 24 C, D, E.
ent bei ng? ' - And the Yel l ow Emperor asked h i m what to do i n
order t o govern t he empi re wel l . -