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External Things

by Chuang Tzu: When wood rubs against wood, flames spring up. When metal remains by the side of fire, it melts and flows away. When the yin and yang go awry, then heaven and earth see astounding sights. Then we hear the crash and roll of thunder, and fire comes in the midst of rain and burns up the great pagoda tree. Delight and sorrow are there to trap man on either side so that he has no escape.

Fearful and trembling, he can reach no completion. His mind is as though trussed and suspended between heaven and earth, bewildered and lost in delusion. Profit and loss rub against each other and light the countless fires that burn up the inner harmony of the mass of men. The moon cannot put out the fire, so that in time all is consumed and the Way comes to an end.

Chuang Chou’s family was very poor and so he went to borrow some grain from the marquis of Chien-ho. The marquis said, “Why, of course. I’ll soon be getting the tribute money from my fief, and when I do, I’ll be glad to lend you three hundred pieces of gold. Will that be all right?”

Chuang Chou flushed with anger and said, “As I was coming here yesterday, I heard someone calling me on the road. I turned around and saw that there was a perch in the carriage rut. I said to him, `Come, perch – what are you doing here?’ He replied, `I am a Wave Official of the Eastern Sea. Couldn’t you give me a dipperful of water, so I can stay alive?’ I said to him, `Why, of course. I’m just about to start south to visit the kings of Wu and Yueh. I’ll change the course of the West River and send it in your direction. Will that be all right?’ The perch flushed with anger and said, `I’ve lost my element! I have nowhere to go! If you can get me a dipper of water, I’ll be able to stay alive. But if you give me an answer like that, then you’d best look for me in the dried fish store!’ “

Prince Jen made an enormous fishhook with a huge line, baited it with fifty bullocks, settled himself on top of Mount K’uai-chi, and cast with his pole into the eastern sea. Morning after morning he dropped the hook, but for a whole year he got nothing. At last a huge fish swallowed the bait . and dived down, dragging the enormous hook. It plunged to the bottom in a fierce charge, rose up and shook its dorsal fins, until the white waves were like mountains and the sea waters lashed and churned. The noise was like that of gods and demons and it spread terror for a thousand li. When Prince Jen had landed his fish, he cut it up and dried it, and from Chih-ho east, from Ts’ang-wu north, there was no one who did not get his fill. Since then the men of later generations who have piddling talents and a penchant for odd stories all astound each other by repeating the tale.

Now if you shoulder your pole and line, march to the ditches and gullies, and watch for minnows and perch, then you’ll have a hard time ever landing a big fish. If you parade your little theories and fish for the post of district. magistrate, you will be far from the Great Understanding. So if a man has never heard of the style of Prince Jen, he’s a long way from being able to join with the men who run the world.

The Confucians rob graves in accordance with the Odes and ritual. The big Confucian announces to his underlings: “The east grows light! How is the matter proceeding?”

The little Confucians say: “We haven’t got the graveclothes off him yet but there’s a pearl in his mouth! 5 Just as the Ode says:

Green, green the grain

Growing on grave mound slopes;

If in life you gave no alms

In death how do you deserve a pearl?”

They push back his sidelocks, press down his beard, and then one of them pries into his chin with a little metal gimlet and gently pulls apart the jaws so as not to injure the pearl in his mouth.

A disciple of Lao Lai-tzu6 was out gathering firewood when he happened to meet Confucius. He returned and reported, “There’s a man over there with a long body and short legs, his back a little humped and his ears set way back, who looks as though he were trying to attend to everything within the four seas. I don’t know who it can be.”

Lao Lai-tzu said, “That’s Kung Ch’iu. Tell him to come over here!”

When Confucius arrived, Lao Lai-tzu said, “Ch’iu, get rid of your proud bearing and that knowing look on your face and you can become a gentleman!”

Confucius bowed and stepped back a little, a startled and changed expression on his face, and then asked, “Do you think I can make any progress in my labors?”

Lao Lai-tzu said, “You can’t bear to watch the sufferings of one age, and so you go and make trouble for ten thousand ages to come! ‘ Are you just naturally a boor? Or don’t you have the sense to understand the situation? You take pride in practicing charity and making people happy8 – the shame of it will follow you all your days! These are the actions, the `progress’ of mediocre men – men who pull each other around with fame, drag each other into secret schemes, join together to praise Yao and condemn Chieh, when the best thing would be to forget them both and put a stop to praise! What is contrary cannot fail to be injured, what moves [when it shouldn’t] cannot fail to be wrong. The sage is hesitant and reluctant to begin an affair, and so he always ends in success. But what good are these actions of yours? They end in nothing but a boast!”

Lord Yuan of Sung one night dreamed he saw a man with disheveled hair who peered in at the side door of his chamber and said, “I come from the Tsai-lu Deeps. I was on my way as envoy from the Clear Yangtze to the court of the Lord of the Yellow River when a fisherman named Yu Chu caught me!”

When Lord Yuan woke up, he ordered his men to divine the meaning, and they replied, “This is a sacred turtle.” “Is there a fisherman named Yu Chu?” he asked, and his attend­ants replied, “There is.” “Order Yu Chu to come to court!”

he said.

The next day Yu Chu appeared at court and the ruler said, “What kind of fish have you caught recently?”

Yu Chu replied, “I caught a white turtle in my net. It’s five feet around.”

“Present your turtle!” ordered the ruler. When the turtle was brought, the ruler could not decide whether to kill it or let it live and, being in doubt, he consulted his diviners, who replied, “Kill the turtle and divine with it – it will bring good luck.” Accordingly the turtle was stripped of its shell, and of seventy-two holes drilled in it for prognostication, not one failed to yield a true answer.9

Confucius said, “The sacred turtle could appear to Lord Yuan in a dream but it couldn’t escape from Yu Chu’s net. It knew enough to give correct answers to seventy-two queries but it couldn’t escape the disaster of having its belly ripped open. So it is that knowledge has its limitations, and spirituality has that which it can do nothing about. Even the most perfect wisdom can be outwitted by ten thousand schemers. Fish do not [know enough to] fear a net, but only to fear pelicans. Discard little wisdom and great wisdom will become clear. Discard goodness and goodness will come of itself. The little child learns to speak, though it has no learned teachers – because it lives with those who know how to speak.”

Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu, “Your words are useless!”

Chuang Tzu said, “A man has to understand the useless before you can talk to him about the useful. The earth is certainly vast and broad, though a man uses no more of it than the area he puts his feet on. If, however, you were to dig away all the earth from around his feet until you reached the Yellow Springs,10 then would the man still be able to make use of it?”

“No, it would be useless,” said Hui Tzu.

“It is obvious, then,” said Chuang Tzu, “that the useless has its use.”

Chuang. Tzu said, “If you have the capacity to wander, how can you keep from wandering? But if you do not have the capacity to wander, how can you wander? A will that takes refuge in conformity, behavior that is aloof and eccentric – neither of these, alas, is compatible with perfect wisdom and solid virtue. You stumble and fall but fail to turn back; you race on like fire and do not look behind you. But though you may be one time a ruler, another time a subject, this is merely a matter of the times. Such distinctions change with the age and you cannot call either one or the other lowly. Therefore I say, the Perfect Man is never a stickler in his actions.

“To admire antiquity and despise the present – this is the fashion of scholars. And if one is to look at the present age after the fashion of Hsi-wei, then who can be without prejudice? 11 Only the Perfect Man can wander in the world without taking sides, can follow along with men without losing himself. His teachings are not to be learned, and one who understands his meaning has no need for him. 12

“The eye that is penetrating sees clearly, the ear that is penetrating hears clearly, the nose that is penetrating distinguishes odors, the mouth that is penetrating distinguishes flavors, the mind that is penetrating has understanding, and the understanding that is penetrating has virtue. In all things, the Way does not want to be obstructed, for if there is obstruction, there is choking; if the choking does not cease, there is disorder; and disorder harms the life of all creatures.

“All things that have consciousness depend upon breath. But if they do not get their fill of breath, it is not the fault of Heaven. Heaven opens up the passages and supplies them day and night without stop. But man on the contrary blocks up the holes. The cavity of the body is a many-storied vault; the mind has its Heavenly wanderings. But if the chambers are not large and roomy, then wife and mother-in-law will fall to quarreling. If the mind does not have its Heavenly wanderings, then the six apertures of sensation will defeat each other.

“The great forests, the hills and mountains excel man in the fact that their growth is irrepressible. [In man] virtue spills over into a concern for fame, and a concern for fame spills over into a love of show. Schemes are laid in time of crisis; wisdom is born from contention; obstinacy comes from sticking to a position; government affairs are arranged for the convenience of the mob.13 In spring, when the seasonable rains and sunshine come, the grass and trees spring to life, and the sickles and hoes are for the first time prepared for use. At that time, over half the grass and trees that had been pushed over begin to grow again, though no one knows why.

“Stillness and silence can benefit the ailing, massage can give relief to the aged, and rest and quiet can put a stop to agitation. But these are remedies which the troubled and weary man has recourse to. The man who is at ease does not need them and has never bothered to ask about them. The Holy Man does not bother to ask what methods the sage uses to reform the world. The sage does not bother to ask what methods the worthy man uses to reform the age. The worthy man does not bother to ask what methods the gentleman uses to reform the state. The gentleman does not bother to ask what methods the petty man uses to get along with the times.

“There was a man of Yen Gate who, on the death of his parents, won praise by starving and disfiguring himself, and was rewarded with the post of Official Teacher. The other people of the village likewise starved and disfigured themselves, and over half of them died. Yao offered the empire to Hsu Yu and Hsu Yu fled from him. T’ang offered it to Wu Kuang and Wu Kuang railed at him. When Chi T’o heard of this, he took his disciples and went off to sit by the K’uan River, where the feudal lords went to console him for three years. Shen-t’u Ti for the same reason jumped into the Yellow River. 14

“The fish trap exists because of the fish; once you’ve gotten the fish, you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit; once you’ve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning; once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a word with him?”



IMPUTED WORDS MAKE up nine tenths of it; repeated words make up seven tenths of it; goblet words come forth day after day, harmonizing things in the Heavenly Equality.1

These imputed words which make up nine tenths of it are like persons brought in from outside for the purpose of exposition. A father does not act as go-between for his own son because the praises of the father would not be as effective as the praises of an outsider. It is the fault of other men, not mine [that I must resort to such a device, for if I were to speak in my own words], then men would respond only to what agrees with their own views and reject what does not, would pronounce “right” what agrees with their own views and “wrong” what does not.

These repeated words which make up seven tenths of it are intended to put an end to argument. They can do this because they are the words of the elders. If, however, one is ahead of others in age but does not have a grasp of the warp and woof, the root and branch of things, that is commensurate with his years, then he is not really ahead of others. An old man who is not in some way ahead of others has not grasped the Way of man, and if he has not grasped the Way of man, he deserves to be looked on as a mere stale remnant of the past.

With these goblet words that come forth day after day, I harmonize all things in the Heavenly Equality, leave them to their endless changes, and so live out my years. As long as I do not say anything about them, they are a unity. But the unity and what I say about it have ceased to be a unity; what I say and the unity have ceased to be a unity.2 Therefore I say, we must have no-words! With words that are no-words, you may speak all your life long and you will never have said anything. Or you may go through your whole life without speaking them, in which case you will never have stopped speaking.

There is that which makes things acceptable, there is that which makes things unacceptable; there is that which makes things so, there is that which makes things not so. What makes them so? Making them so makes them so. What makes them not so? Making them not so makes them not so. What makes them acceptable? Making them acceptable makes them acceptable. What makes them not acceptable? Making them not acceptable makes them not acceptable. Things all must have that which is so; things all must have that which is acceptable. There is nothing that is not so, nothing that is not acceptable.3 If there were no goblet words coming forth day after day to harmonize all by the Heavenly Equality, then how could I survive for long?

The ten thousand things all come from the same seed, and with their different forms they give place to one another. Beginning and end are part of a single ring and no one can comprehend its principle. This is called Heaven the Equalizer, which is the same as the Heavenly Equality.

Chuang Tzu said to Hui Tzu, “Confucius has been going along for sixty years and he has changed sixty times. What at the beginning he used to call right he has ended up calling wrong. So now there’s no telling whether what he calls right at the moment is not in fact what he called wrong during the past fifty-nine years.” 4

Hui Tzu said, “Confucius keeps working away at it, trying to make knowledge serve him.”

“Oh, no-Confucius has given all that up,” said Chuang Tzu. “It’s just that he never talks about it. Confucius said, `We receive our talents from the Great Source and, with the spirit hidden within us,’ we live.’ [As for you, you] sing on key, you talk by the rules, you line up `profit’ and `righteousness’ before us, but your ‘likes’ and `dislikes,’ your `rights’ and `wrongs’ are merely something that command lip service from others, that’s all. If you could make men pay service with their minds and never dare stand up in defiance – this would settle things for the world so they would stay settled. But let it be, let it be! As for me, what hope have I of ever catching up with Confucius?”

Tseng Tzu twice held office, each time with a change of hearts “The first time, when I was taking care of my parents, I received a salary of only three fu of grain and yet my heart was happy,” he said. “The second time I received a salary of three thousand chung, but I no longer had them to take care of and my heart was sad.”

One of the disciples asked Confucius, “May we say that someone like Tseng Shen has escaped the crime of entanglement?”

“But he was already entangled! If he hadn’t been entangled, how could he have had any cause for sorrow? He would have regarded three fu or three thousand chung as so many sparrows or mosquitoes passing in front of him!”

Yen Ch’eng Tzu-yu said to Tzu-ch’i of East Wall, “When I began listening to your words, the first year I was a bumpkin; the second I followed along; the third I worked into it; the fourth I was just another thing; the fifth it began to come; the sixth the spirits descended to me; the seventh the Heavenly part was complete; the eighth I didn’t understand death and didn’t understand life; and with the ninth I reached the Great Mystery.

“When the living start doing things, they are dead. When they strive for public causes because private ones mean death, they are following a path. But what lives in the light is following no path at all.7′ What is the result then? How can there be any place that is fitting? How can there be any place that isn’t fitting? Heaven has its cycles and numbers, earth its flats and slopes8 – yet why should I seek to comprehend them? No one knows when they will end – how then can we say that they are fated to die? No one knows when they began – how then can we say that they are not fated to die? There seems to be something that responds – how then can we say there are no spirits? There seems to be something that does not respond – how then can we say that spirits do exist?”

Penumbra said to Shadow, “A little while ago you were looking down and now you’re looking up, a little while ago your hair was bound up and now it’s hanging loose, a little while ago you were sitting and now you’re standing up, a little while ago you were walking and now you’re still – why is this?”

Shadow said, “Quibble, quibble! Why bother asking about such things? I do them but I don’t know why. I’m the shell of the cicada, the skin of the snake – something that seems to be but isn’t. In firelight or sunlight I draw together, in darkness or night I disappear. But do you suppose I have to wait around for those things? (And how much less so in the case of that which waits for nothing!) If those things come, then I come with them; if they go, then I go with them; if they come with the Powerful Yang, then I come with the Powerful Yang. But this Powerful Yang – why ask questions about it?” 9

Yang Tzu-chu went south to P’ei, and when he got to Liang, he went out to the edge of the city to greet Lao Tan, who had been traveling west to Chin, and escort him in.10 Lao Tzu stood in the middle of the road, looked up to heaven, and sighed, saying, “At first I thought that you could be taught, but now I see it’s hopeless!”

Yang Tzu-chu made no reply, but when they reached the inn, he fetched a basin of water, a towel, and a comb and, taking off his shoes outside the door of the room, came crawling forward on his knees and said, “Earlier I had hoped to ask you, Sir, what you meant by your remark, but I saw that you were occupied and didn’t dare to. Now that you have a free moment, may I ask where my fault lies?”

Lao Tzu said, “High and mighty, proud and haughty – who could stand to live with you! 11 The greatest purity looks like shame, abundant virtue seems to be insufficient.” 12

When Yang Tzu-chu first arrived at the inn, the people in the inn came out to greet him. The innkeeper stood ready with a mat, his wife with towel and comb, while the other guests moved politely off their mats and those who had been warming themselves at the stove stepped aside. But when Yang returned from his interview with Lao Tzu, the people at the inn tried to push him right off his own mat.13



YAO WANTED TO CEDE THE EMPIRE to Hsu Yu, but Hsu Yu refused to accept it.1 Then he tried to give it to Tzu-chou Chih-fu. Tzu-chou Chih-fu said, “Make me the Son of Heaven? – that would be all right, I suppose. But I happen to have a deep-seated and worrisome illness which I am just now trying to put in order. So I have no time to put the empire in order.” The empire is a thing of supreme importance, yet he would not allow it to harm his life. How much less, then, any other thing! Only he who has no use for the empire is fit to be entrusted with it.

Shun wanted to cede the empire to Tzu-chou Chih-po, but Tzu-chou Chih-po said, “I happen to have a deep-seated and worrisome illness which I am just now trying to put in order. So I have no time to put the empire in order.” The empire is a great vessel, yet he would not exchange his life for it. This is how the possessor of the Way differs from the vulgar man.

Shun tried to cede the empire to Shan Ch’uan, but Shan Ch’uan said, “I stand in the midst of space and time. Winter days I dress in skins and furs, summer days, in vine-cloth and hemp. In spring I plow and plant – this gives my body the labor and exercise it needs; in fall I harvest and store away – this gives my form the leisure and sustenance it needs. When the sun comes up, I work; when the sun goes down, I rest. I wander free and easy between heaven and earth, and my mind has found all that it could wish for. What use would I have for the empire? What a pity that you don’t understand me!” In the end he would not accept, but went away, entering deep into the mountains, and no one ever knew where he had gone.

Shun wanted to cede the empire to his friend, the farmer of Stone Door. The farmer of Stone Door said, “Such vigor and vitality you have, My Lord! You are a gentleman of perseverance and strength!” Then, surmising that Shun’s virtue would hardly amount to very much, he lifted his wife upon his back, took his son by the hand, and disappeared among the islands of the sea, never to return to the end of his days.

When the Great King Tan-fu was living in Pin, the Ti tribes attacked his territory.2 He offered them skins and silks, but they refused them; he offered them dogs and horses, but they refused them; he offered them pearls and jades, but they refused them. What the men of the Ti tribes were after was his land. The Great King Tan-fu said, “To live among the older brothers and send the younger brothers to their death; to live among the fathers and send the sons to their death – this I cannot bear! My people, be diligent and remain where you are. What difference does it make whether you are subjects of mine or of the men of Ti? I have heard it said, one must not injure that which he is nourishing for the sake of that by which he nourishes it.” 3 Then, using his riding whip as a cane, he departed, but his people, leading one another, followed after him, and in time founded a new state at the foot of Mount Ch’i.

The Great King Tan-fu may be said to have known how to respect life. He who knows how to respect life, though he may be rich and honored, will not allow the means of nourishing life to injure his person. Though he may be poor and humble, he will not allow concerns of profit to entangle his body. The men of the present age, if they occupy high office and are honored with titles, all think only of how serious a matter it would be to lose them. Eyes fixed on profit, they make light of the risk to their lives. Are they not deluded indeed?

The men of Yueh three times in succession assassinated their ruler. Prince Sou, fearful for his life, fled to the Cinnabar Cave, and the state of Yueh was left without a ruler. The men of Yueh, searching for Prince Sou and failing to find him, trailed him to the Cinnabar Cave, but he refused to come forth. They smoked him out with mugwort and placed him in the royal carriage. As Prince Sou took hold of the strap and pulled himself up into the carriage, he turned his face to heaven and cried, “To be a ruler! A ruler! Could I alone not have been spared this?” It was not that he hated to become their ruler; he hated the perils that go with being a ruler. Prince Sou, we may say, was the kind who would not allow the state to bring injury to his life. This, in fact, was precisely why the people of Yueh wanted to obtain him for their ruler.

The states of Han and Wei were fighting over a piece of territory. Master Hua Tzu went to see Marquis Chao-hsi, the ruler of Han. Marquis Chao-hsi had a worried look on his face. Master Hua Tzu said, “Suppose the men of the empire were to draw up a written agreement and place it before you, and the inscription read: `Seize this with your left hand and you will lose your right hand; seize it with your right hand and you will lose your left; yet he who seizes this will invariably gain possession of the empire.’ Would you be willing to seize it?”

“I would not!” said Marquis Chao-hsi.

“Very good!” exclaimed Master Hua Tzu. “From this I can see that your two hands are more important to you than the empire. And of course your body as a whole is a great deal more important than your two hands, while the state of Han is a great deal less important than the empire as a whole. Moreover, this piece of territory that you are fighting over is a great deal less important than the state of Han as a whole. And yet you make yourself miserable and endanger your life, worrying and fretting because you can’t get possession of it!”

“Excellent!” said Marquis Chao-hsi. “Many men have given me advice, but I have never been privileged to hear words such as these!” Master Hua Tzu, we may say, understood the difference between important and unimportant things.

The ruler of Lu, having heard that Yen Ho was a man who had attained the Way, sent a messenger with gifts to open up relations with him. Yen Ho was in his humble, back-alley home, wearing a robe of coarse hemp and feeding a cow, when the messenger from the ruler of Lu arrived, and he came to the door in person. “Is this the home of Yen Ho?” asked the messenger. “Yes, this is Ho’s house,” said Yen Ho. The messenger then presented his gifts, but Yen Ho said, “I’m afraid you must have gotten your instructions mixed up. You’ll surely be blamed if you give these to the wrong person, so you’d better check once more.” The messenger returned, checked his instructions, and then went looking for Yen Ho a second time, but he was never able to find him. Men like Yen Ho truly despise wealth and honor.

Hence it is said, The Truth of the Way lies in looking out for oneself; its fringes and leftovers consist in managing the state and its great families; its offal and weeds consist in governing the empire. The accomplishments of emperors and kings are superfluous affairs as far as the sage is concerned, not the means by which to keep the body whole and to care for life. Yet how many gentlemen of the vulgar world today endanger themselves and throw away their lives in the pursuit of mere things! How can you help pitying them? Whenever the sage makes a move, you may be certain that he has looked carefully to see where he is going and what he is about. Now suppose there were a man here who took the priceless pearl of the Marquis of Sui and used it as a pellet to shoot at a sparrow a thousand yards up in the air – the world would certainly laugh at him. Why? Because that which he is using is of such great value, and that which he is trying to acquire is so trifling. And life – surely it is of greater value than the pearl of the Marquis of Sui!

Master Lieh Tzu was living in poverty and his face had a hungry look. A visitor mentioned this to Tzu-yang, the prime minister of Cheng, saying, “Lieh Yu-k’ou appears to be a gentleman who has attained the Way. Here he is living in Your Excellency’s state, and in utter poverty! It would almost seem that Your Excellency has no fondness for such gentlemen, does it not?”

Tzu-yang immediately ordered his officials to dispatch a gift of grain. Master Lieh Tzu received the messenger, bowed twice, and refused the gift. When the messenger had left and Master Lieh Tzu had gone back into his house, his wife, filled with bitterness, beat her breast and said, “I have heard that the wives and children of men who have attained the Way all live in ease and happiness – but here we are with our hungry looks! His Excellency, realizing his error, has sent the Master something to eat, but the Master refuses to accept it – I suppose this is what they call Fate!”

Master Lieh Tzu laughed and said, “His Excellency does not know me personally – he sent me the grain simply because of what someone had told him. And someday he could just as well condemn me to punishment, again simply because of what someone told him. That’s why I refused to accept.”

In the end, as it happened, rebellion broke out among the people of Cheng and Tzu-yang was murdered.

When King Chao of Ch’u was driven from his state, the sheep butcher Yueh fled at the same time and followed King Chao into exile.4 When King Chao regained control of the state, he set about rewarding his followers, but when it came the turn of the sheep butcher Yueh, Yueh said, “His Majesty lost control of the state, and I lost my job as sheep butcher. Now His Majesty has regained the state, and I have also gotten back my sheep-butchering job. So my `title and stipend’ have already been restored to me. Why should there be any talk of a reward?”

“Force him to take it!” ordered the king.

But the sheep butcher Yueh said, “The fact that His Majesty lost the kingdom was no fault of mine – therefore I would not venture to accept any punishment for it. And the fact that His Majesty has regained the kingdom is no accomplishment of mine – therefore I would not venture to accept any reward for it.”

“Bring him into my presence!” ordered the king.

But the sheep butcher Yueh said, “According to the laws of the state of Ch’u, a man must have received weighty awards and accomplished great deeds before he may be granted an audience with the ruler. Now I was not wise enough to save the state, nor brave enough to die in combat with the invaders. When the armies of Wu entered the city of Ying, I was afraid of the dangers ahead and so I ran away from the invaders. I did not purposely follow after His Majesty. Now His Majesty wishes to disregard the laws and break the precedents by granting me an audience. But, in view of the facts, that would not win me any kind of reputation in the world!”

The king said to Tzu-ch’i, his minister of war, “The sheep butcher Yueh is a man of mean and humble position, and yet his pronouncements on righteousness are lofty indeed! I want you to promote him to one of the `three banner’ offices.” 5

When told of this, the sheep butcher Yueh said, “I am fully aware that the `three banner’ rank is a far more exalted place than a sheep butcher’s stall, and that a stipend of ten thousand chung is more wealth than I will ever acquire slaughtering sheep. But how could I, merely out of greed for title and stipend, allow my ruler to gain a reputation for irresponsibly handing out such favors? I dare not accept. Please let me go back to my sheep butcher’s stall.” And in the end he refused to accept the position.

Yuan Hsien lived in the state of Lu, in a tiny house that was hardly more than four walls. It was thatched with growing weeds, had a broken door made of woven brambles and branches of mulberry for the doorposts; jars with the bottoms out, hung with pieces of coarse cloth for protection from the weather, served as windows for its two rooms.6 The roof leaked and the floor was damp, but Yuan Hsien sat up in dignified manner, played his lute, and sang. Tzu-kung, wearing an inner robe of royal blue and an outer one of white, and riding in a grand carriage whose top was too tall to get through the entrance to the lane, came to call on Yuan Hsien. Yuan Hsien, wearing a bark cap and slippers with no heels, and carrying a goosefoot staff, came to the gate to greet him.

“Goodness!” exclaimed Tzu-kung. “What distress you are in, Sir!”

Yuan Hsien replied, “I have heard that if one lacks wealth, that is called poverty; and if one studies but cannot put into practice what he has learned, that is called distress. I am poor, but I am not in distress!”

Tzu-kung backed off a few paces with a look of embarrassment. Yuan Hsien laughed and said, “To act out of worldly ambition, to band with others in cliquish friendships, to study in order to show off to others, to teach in order to please one’s own pride, to mask one’s evil deeds behind benevolence and righteousness, to deck oneself out with carriages and horses – I could never bear to do such things!”

Tseng Tzu7 lived in the state of Wei, wearing a robe of quilted hemp with the outside worn through, his face blotchy and swollen, his hands and feet hard and callused. He would go three days without lighting a fire, ten years without making himself a new suit of clothes. If he tried to straighten his cap, the chin strap would break; if he pulled together his lapels, his elbows poked through the sleeves; if he stepped into his shoes, his heels broke out at the back. Yet, shuffling along, he would sing the sacrificial hymns of Shang in a voice that filled heaven and earth, as though it issued from a bell or a chiming stone. The Son of Heaven could not get him for his minister; the feudal lords could not get him for their friend. Hence he who nourishes his will forgets about his bodily form; he who nourishes his bodily form forgets about questions of gain; and he who arrives at the Way forgets about his mind.

Confucius said to Yen Hui, “Come here, Hui. Your family is poor and your position very lowly. Why don’t you become an official?”

Yen Hui replied, “I have no desire to become an official. I have fifty mou of farmland outside the outer wall,” which is enough to provide me with porridge and gruel, and I have ten mou of farmland inside the outer wall, which is enough to keep me in silk and hemp. Playing my lute gives me enjoyment enough, studying the Way of the Master gives me happiness enough. I have no desire to become an official.”

Confucius’ face took on a sheepish expression and he said, “Excellent, Hui – this determination of yours! I have heard that he who knows what is enough will not let himself be entangled by thoughts of gain; that he who really understands how to find satisfaction will not be afraid of other kinds of loss; and that he who practices the cultivation of what is within him will not be ashamed because he holds no position in society. I have been preaching these ideas for a long time, but now for the first time I see them realized in you, Hui. This is what 1 have gained.”

Prince Mou of Wei, who was living in Chung-shan, said to Chan Tzu, “My body is here beside these rivers and seas, but my mind is still back there beside the palace towers of Wei. What should I do about it?” 9

“Attach more importance to life!” said Chan Tzu. “He who regards life as important will think lightly of material gain.”

“I know that’s what I should do,” said Prince Mou. “But I can’t overcome my inclinations.”

“If you can’t overcome your inclinations, then follow them!” said Chan Tzu.

“But won’t that do harm to the spirit?”

“If you can’t overcome your inclinations and yet you try to force yourself not to follow them, this is to do a double injury to yourself. Men who do such double injury to themselves are never found in the ranks of the long-lived!”

Wei Mou was a prince of a state of ten thousand chariots, and it was more difficult for him to retire and live among the cliffs and caves than for an ordinary person. Although he did not attain the Way, we may say that he had the will to do so.

Confucius was in distress between Ch’en and Ts’ai. For seven days he ate no properly cooked food, but only a soup of greens without any grain in it. His face became drawn with fatigue, but he sat in his room playing the lute and singing. Yen Hui was outside picking vegetables, and Tzu-lu and Tzu-kung were talking with him. “Our Master was twice driven out of Lu,” they said. “They wiped out his footprints in Wei, chopped down a tree on him in Sung, made trouble for him in Shang and Chou, and are now besieging him here at Ch’en and Ts’ai. Anyone who kills him will be pardoned of all guilt, and anyone who wishes to abuse him is free to do so. Yet he keeps playing and singing, strumming the lute without ever letting the sound die away. Can a gentleman really be as shameless as all this?”

Yen Hui, having no answer, went in and reported what they had said to Confucius. Confucius pushed aside his lute, heaved a great sigh, and said, “Those two are picayune men! Call them in here – I’ll talk to them.”

When Tzu-lu and Tzu-kung had entered the room, Tzu-lu said, “I guess you could say that all of us are really blocked in this time.” 10

Confucius said, “What kind of talk is that! When the gentleman gets through to the Way, this is called `getting through.’ When he is blocked off from the Way, this is called `being blocked.’ Now I embrace the way of benevolence and righteousness, and with it encounter the perils of an age of disorder. Where is there any `being blocked’ about this? So I examine what is within me and am never blocked off from the Way. I face the difficulties ahead and do not lose its Virtue. When the cold days come and the frost and snow have fallen, then I understand how the pine and the cypress flourish.11 These perils here in Ch’en and Ts’ai are a blessing to me!” Confucius then turned complacently back to his lute and began to play and sing again. Tzu-lu excitedly snatched up a shield and began to dance, while Tzu-kung said, “I did not realize that Heaven is so far above, earth so far below!”

The men of ancient times who had attained the Way were happy if they were blocked in, and happy if they could get through. It was not the fact that they were blocked or not that made them happy. As long as you have really gotten hold of the Way,12 then being blocked or getting through are no more than the orderly alternation of cold and heat, of wind and rain. Therefore Hsu Yu enjoyed himself on the sunny side of the Ying River, and Kung Po found what he wanted on top of a hill.13

Shun wanted to cede the empire to his friend, a man from the north named Wu-tse. Wu-tse said, “What a peculiar man this ruler of ours is! First he lived among the fields and ditches, then he went wandering about the gate of Yao. Not content to let it rest at that, he now wants to take his disgraceful doings and dump them all over me. I would be ashamed even to see him!” Thereupon he threw himself into the deeps at Ch’ingling.

When T’ang was about to attack Chieh, he went to Pien Sui for help in plotting the strategy.14 “It’s nothing I’d know anything about!” said Pien Sui.

“Who would be good?” asked T’ang.

“I don’t know.”

T’ang then went to Wu Kuang and asked for help. “It’s nothing I’d know anything about!” said Wu Kuang.

“Who would be good?” asked T’ang.

“I don’t know.”

“How about Yi Yin?” asked T’ang.

“A man of violence and force, willing to put up with disgrace – I know nothing else about him.”

In the end T’ang went to Yi Yin and together they plotted the attack. Having overthrown Chieh, T’ang then offered to cede the throne to Pien Sui, Pien Sui refused, saying, “When you were plotting to attack Chieh, you came to me for advice – so you must have thought I was capable of treason. Now you have defeated Chieh and want to cede the throne to me – so you must think I am avaricious. I was born into this world of disorder, and now a man with no understanding of the Way twice comes and tries to slop his disgraceful doings all over me! I can’t bear to go on listening to such proposals again and again!” Thereupon he threw himself into the Ch’ou River and drowned.

T’ang tried to cede the throne to Wu Kuang, saying, “The wise man does the plotting, the military man the seizing, and the benevolent man the occupying – such was the way of antiquity. Now why will you not accept the position?”

But Wu Kuang refused, saying, “To depose your sovereign is no act of righteousness; to slaughter the people is no act of benevolence; to inflict trouble on other men and enjoy the benefits yourself is no act of integrity. I have heard it said, If the man is without righteousness, do not take his money; if the world is without the Way, do not tread its soil. And you expect me to accept such a position of honor? I can’t bear the sight of you any longer!” Thereupon he loaded a stone onto his back and drowned himself in the Lu River.

Long ago, when the Chou dynasty first came to power, there were two gentlemen who lived in Ku-chu named Po Yi and Shu Ch’i. They said to one another, “We hear that in the western region there is a man who seems to possess the Way. Let us try going to look for him.” When they reached the sunny side of Mount Ch’i, King Wu, hearing of them, sent his younger brother Tan to meet them.15 He offered to draw up a pact with them, saying, “You will be granted wealth of the second order and offices of the first rank, the pact to be sealed in blood and buried.” 16

The two men looked at each other and laughed, saying, “Hah – how peculiar! This is certainly not what we would call the Way! In ancient times, when Shen Nung held possession of the empire, he performed the seasonal sacrifices with the utmost reverence, but he did not pray for blessings. In his dealings with men, he was loyal and trustworthy and observed perfect order, but he did not seek anything from them. He delighted in ruling for the sake of ruling, he delighted in bringing order for the sake of order. He did not use other men’s failures to bring about his own success; he did not use other men’s degradation to lift himself up. Just because he happened along at a lucky time, he did not try to turn it to his own profit. Now the Chou, observing that the Yin has fallen into disorder, suddenly makes a show of its rule, honoring those who know how to scheme, handing out bribes,17 relying on weapons to maintain its might, offering sacrifices and drawing up pacts to impress men with its good faith, lauding its achievements in order to seize gain – this is simply to push aside disorder and replace it with violence!

“We have heard that the gentlemen of old, if they happened upon a well-ordered age, did not run away from public office; but if they encountered an age of disorder, they did not try to hold on to office at any cost. Now the world is in darkness and the virtue of the Chou in decline.18 Rather than remain side by side with the Chou and defile our bodies, it would be better to run away and thus protect the purity of our conduct!” The two gentlemen thereupon went north as far as Mount Shou-yang, where they eventually died of starvation.

Men such as Po Yi and Shu Ch’i will have nothing to do with wealth and eminence if they can possibly avoid it. To be lofty in principle and meticulous in conduct, delighting in one’s will alone without stooping to serve the world-such was the ideal of these two gentlemen.



CONFUCIUS WAS A FRIEND of Liu-hsia Chi, who had a younger brother known as Robber Chih. Robber Chih, with a band of nine thousand followers, rampaged back and forth across the empire, assaulting and terrorizing the feudal lords, tunneling into houses, prying open doors,1 herding off men’s horses and cattle, seizing their wives and daughters. Greedy for gain, he forgot his kin, gave not a look to father or mother, elder or younger brother, and performed no sacrifices to his ancestors. Whenever he approached a city, if it was that of a great state, the inhabitants manned their walls; if that of a small state, they fled into their strongholds. The ten thousand people all lived in dread of him.

Confucius said to Liu-hsia Chi, “One who is a father must be able to lay down the law to his son, and one who is an elder brother must be able to teach his younger brother. If a father cannot lay down the law to his son and an elder brother cannot teach his younger brother, then the relationship between father and son and elder and younger brother loses all value. Now here you are, Sir, one of the most talented gentlemen of the age, and your younger brother is Robber Chih, a menace to the world, and you seem unable to teach him any better! If I may say so, I blush for you. I would therefore like to go on your behalf and try to persuade him to change his ways.”

Liu-hsia Chi said, “You have remarked, Sir, that a father must be able to lay down the law to his son, and an elder brother must be able to teach his younger brother. But if the son will not listen when his father lays down the law, or if the younger brother refuses to heed his elder brother’s teachings, then even with eloquence such as yours, what is there to be done? Moreover, Chih is a man with a mind like a jetting fountain, a will like a blast of wind, with strength enough to fend off any enemy, and cunning enough to gloss over any evil. If you go along with his way of thinking, he is delighted, but if you go against him, he becomes furious, and it is nothing to him to curse people in the vilest language. You must not go near him!”

But Confucius paid no attention, and with Yen Hui as his carriage driver, and Tzu-kung on his right, he went off to visit Robber Chih. Robber Chih was just at that time resting with his band of followers on the sunny side of Mount T’ai and enjoying a late afternoon snack of minced human livers. Confucius stepped down from the carriage and went forward till he saw the officer in charge of receiving guests. “I am Kung Ch’iu, a native of Lu, and I have heard that your General is a man of lofty principles,” he said, respectfully bowing twice to the officer. The officer then entered and relayed the message. When Robber Chih heard this, he flew into a great rage. His eyes blazed like shining stars and his hair stood on end and bristled beneath his cap. “This must be none other than that crafty hypocrite Kung Ch’iu from the state of Lu! Well, tell him this for me. You make up your stories, invent your phrases, babbling absurd eulogies of kings Wen and Wu. Topped with a cap like a branching tree, wearing a girdle made from the ribs of a dead cow, you pour out your flood of words, your fallacious theories. You eat without ever plowing, clothe yourself without ever weaving. Wagging your lips, clacking your tongue, you invent any kind of `right’ or `wrong’ that suits you, leading astray the rulers of the world, keeping the scholars of the world from returning to the Source, capriciously setting up ideals of `filial piety’ and ‘brotherliness,’ all the time hoping to worm your way into favor with the lords of the fiefs or the rich and eminent! Your crimes are huge, your offenses grave .2 You had better run home as fast as you can, because if you don’t, I will take your liver and add it to this afternoon’s menu!”

Confucius sent in word again, saying, “I have the good fortune to know your brother Chi, and therefore I beg to be allowed to gaze from a distance at your feet beneath the curtain.” 3

When the officer relayed this message, Robber Chih said, “Let him come forward.” Confucius came scurrying forward, declined the mat that was set out for him, stepped back a few paces, and bowed twice to Robber Chih. Robber Chih, still in a great rage, sat with both legs sprawled out, leaning on his sword, his eyes glaring. In a voice like the roar of a nursing tigress, he said, “Ch’iu, come forward! If what you have to say pleases my fancy, you live. If it rubs me the wrong way, you die!”

Confucius said, “I have heard that in all the world there are three kinds of virtue. To grow up to be big and tall, with matchless good looks, so that everyone, young or old, eminent or humble, delights in you – this is the highest kind of virtue. To have wisdom that encompasses heaven and earth, to be able to speak eloquently on all subjects – this is middling virtue. To be brave and fierce, resolute and determined, gathering a band of followers around you – this is the lowest kind of virtue. Any man who possesses even one of these virtues is worthy to face south and call himself the Lonely One.4 And now here you are, General, with all three of them! You tower eight feet two inches in height, radiance streams from your face and eyes, your lips are like gleaming cinnabar, your teeth like ranged seashells, your voice attuned to the huang-chung pitch pipe – and yet your only title is `Robber Chih.’ If I may say so, General, this. is disgraceful – a real pity indeed! But if you have a mind to listen to my proposal, then I beg to be allowed to go as your envoy south to Wu and Yueh, north to Ch’i and Lu, east to Sung and Wei, and west to Chin and Ch’u, persuading them to create for you a great walled state several hundred li in size, to establish a town of several hundred thousand households, and to honor you as one of the feudal lords. Then you may make a new beginning with the world, lay down your weapons and disperse your followers, gather together and cherish your brothers and kinsmen, and join with them in sacrifices to your ancestors. This would be the act of a sage, a gentleman of true talent, and the fondest wish of the world.”

Robber Chih, furious as ever, said, “Ch’iu, come forward! Those who can be swayed with offers of gain or reformed by a babble of words are mere idiots, simpletons, the commonest sort of men! The fact that I am big and tall, and so handsome that everyone delights to look at me – this is a virtue inherited from my father and mother. Even without your praises, do you think I would be unaware of it? Moreover, I have heard that those who are fond of praising men to their faces are also fond of damning them behind their backs.

“Now you tell me about this great walled state, this multitude of people, trying to sway me with offers of gain, to lead me by the nose like any common fool. But how long do you think I could keep possession of it? There is no walled state larger than the empire itself, and yet, though Yao and Shun possessed the empire, their heirs were left with less land than it takes to stick the point of an awl into. T’ang and Wu set themselves up as Son of Heaven, yet in ages after, their dynasties were cut off and wiped out. Was this not because the gains they had acquired were so great?

“Moreover, I have heard that in ancient times the birds and beasts were many and the people few. Therefore the people all nested in the trees in order to escape danger, during the day gathering acorns and chestnuts, at sundown climbing backup to sleep in their trees. Hence they were called the people of the Nest-builder. In ancient times the people knew nothing about wearing clothes. In summer they heaped up great piles of firewood, in winter they burned them to keep warm. Hence they were called `the people who know how to stay alive.’ In the age of Shen Nung, the people lay down peaceful and easy, woke up wide-eyed and blank. They knew their mothers but not their fathers, and lived side by side with the elk and the deer. They plowed for their food, wove for their clothing, and had no thought in their hearts of harming one another. This was Perfect Virtue at its height!

“But the Yellow Emperor could not attain such virtue. He fought with Ch’ih Yu in the field of Cho-lu, until the blood flowed for a hundred li.’ Yao and Shun came to the throne, setting up a host of officials; T’ang banished his sovereign Chieh; King Wu murdered his sovereign Chou; and from this time on the strong oppressed the weak, the many abused the few. From T’ang and Wu until the present, all have been no more than a pack of rebels and wrongdoers. And now you come cultivating the ways of kings Wen and Wu, utilizing all the eloquence in the world in order to teach these things to later generations! In your flowing robes and loose-tied sash, you speak your deceits and act out your hypocrisies, confusing and leading astray the rulers of the world, hoping thereby to lay your hands on wealth and eminence. There is no worse robber than you! I don’t know why, if the world calls me Robber Chih, it doesn’t call you Robber Ch’iu!

“With your honeyed words you persuaded Tzu-lu to become your follower, to doff his jaunty cap, unbuckle his long sword, and receive instruction from you, so that all the world said, Wung Ch’iu knows how to suppress violence and put a stop to evil.’ But in the end Tzu-lu tried to kill the ruler of Wei, bungled the job, and they pickled his corpse and hung it up on the eastern gate of Wei. This was how little effect your teachings had on him! 6 You call yourself a gentleman of talent, a sage? Twice they drove you out of Lu; they wiped out your footprints in Wei, made trouble for you in Ch’i, and besieged you at Ch’en and Ts’ai – no place in the empire will have you around! You gave instruction to Tzu-lu and pickling was the disaster it brought him. You can’t look out for yourself to begin with, or for others either – so how can this `Way’ of yours be worth anything?

“There is no one, more highly esteemed by the world than the Yellow Emperor, and yet even the Yellow Emperor could not preserve his virtue intact, but fought on the field of Cho-lu until the blood flowed for a hundred li. Yao was a merciless father, Shun was an unfilial son, Yu was half paralyzed, T’ang banished his sovereign Chieh, King Wu attacked his sovereign Chou, and King Wen was imprisoned at Yu-li.7 All these seven men8 are held in high esteem by the world, and yet a close look shows that all of them for the sake of gain brought confusion to the Truth within them, that they forcibly turned against their true form and inborn nature. For doing so, they deserve the greatest shame!

“When the world talks of worthy gentlemen, we hear ‘Po Yi and Shu Ch’i.’ Yet Po Yi and Shu Ch’i declined the rulership of the state of Ku-chu and instead went and starved to death on Shou-yang Mountain, with no one to bury their bones and flesh. Pao Chiao made a great show of his conduct and condemned the world; he wrapped his arms around a tree and stood there till he died. Shen-t’u Ti offered a remonstrance that was unheeded; he loaded a stone onto his back and threw himself into a river, where the fish and turtles feasted on him. Chieh Tzu-t’ui was a model of fealty, going so far as to cut a piece of flesh from his thigh to feed his lord, Duke Wen. But later, when Duke Wen overlooked him, he went off in a rage, wrapped his arms around a tree, and burned to death.9 Wei Sheng made an engagement to meet a girl under a bridge. The girl failed to appear and the water began to rise, but, instead of leaving, he wrapped his arms around the pillar of the bridge and died. These six men were no different from a flayed dog, a pig sacrificed to the flood, a beggar with his alms-gourd in his hand. All were ensnared by thoughts of reputation and looked lightly on death, failing to remember the Source or to cherish the years that fate had given them.

“When the world talks about loyal ministers, we are told that there were none to surpass Prince Pi Kan and Wu Tzu-hsu. Yet Wu Tzu-hsu sank into the river and Pi Kan had his heart cut out.10 These two men are called loyal ministers by the world, and yet they ended up as the laughingstock of the empire. Looking at all these men, from the first I mentioned down to Wu Tzu-hsu and Pi Kan, it is obvious that none is worth respecting.

“Now in this sermon of yours, Ch’iu, if you tell me about the affairs of ghosts, then I have no way of judging what you say. But if you tell me about the affairs of men – and it is no more than what you’ve said so far – then I’ve heard it all already!

“And now I’m going to tell you something – about man’s true form. His eyes yearn to see colors, his ears to hear sound, his mouth to taste flavors, his will and spirit to achieve fulfillment. A man of the greatest longevity will live a hundred years; one of middling longevity, eighty years; and one of the least longevity, sixty years. Take away the time lost in nursing illnesses, mourning the dead, worry and anxiety, and in this life there are no more than four or five days in a month when a man can open his mouth and laugh. Heaven and earth are unending, but man has his time of death. Take this time-bound toy, put it down in these unending spaces, and whoosh! – it is over as quickly as the passing of a swift horse glimpsed through a crack in the wall! No man who is incapable of gratifying his desires and cherishing the years fate has given him can be called a master of the Way. What you have been telling me – I reject every bit of it! Quick, now – be on your way. I want no more of your talk. This `Way’ you tell me about is inane and inadequate, a fraudulent, crafty, vain, hypocritical affair, not the sort of thing that is capable of preserving the Truth within. How can it be worth discussing!”

Confucius bowed twice and scurried away. Outside the gate, he climbed into his carriage and fumbled three times in an attempt to grasp the reins, his eyes blank and unseeing, his face the color of dead ashes. Leaning on the crossbar, head bent down, he could not seem to summon up any spirit at all.

Returning to Lu, he had arrived just outside the eastern gate of the capital when he happened to meet Liu-hsia Chi. “I haven’t so much as caught sight of you for the past several days,” said Liu-hsia Chi, “and your carriage and horses look as though they’ve been out on the road – it couldn’t be that you went to see my brother Chih, could it?”

Confucius looked up to heaven, sighed, and said, “I did.”

“And he was enraged by your views, just as I said he would be?” said Liu-hsia Chi.

“He was,” said Confucius. “You might say that I gave myself the burning moxa treatment when I wasn’t even sick. I went rushing off to pat the tiger’s head and plait its whiskers – and very nearly didn’t manage to escape from its jaws!”

Tzu-chang said to Man Kou-te, “Why don’t you think more about your conduct? 11 No distinguished conduct means no trust; no trust means no official position; no official position means no gain. So if it’s reputation you have your eye on or gain you’re scheming for, then righteous conduct is the real key. And if you set aside considerations of reputation and gain and return to the true nature of the heart, then, too, I would say that you ought not to let a single day pass without taking thought for your conduct.”

Man Kou-te said, “Those who are shameless get rich, those who are widely trusted become famous. The really big reputation and gain seem to go to men who are shameless and trusted. So if your eyes are set on reputation and you scheme for gain, then trust is the real key. And if you set aside considerations of reputation and gain and return to the heart, then in your conduct I think you ought to hold fast to the Heaven within you.” 12

Tzu-chang said, “In ancient times the tyrants Chieh and Chou enjoyed the honor of being Son of Heaven and possessed all the wealth of the empire. Yet now if you say to a mere slave or groom, `Your conduct is like that of a Chieh or Chou,’ he will look shamefaced and in his heart will not acquiesce to such charges, for even a petty man despises the names of Chieh and Chou. Confucius and Mo Ti, on the other hand, were impoverished commoners. Yet now if you say to the highest minister of state, `Your conduct is like that of Confucius or Mo Ti,’ he will flush and alter his expression and protest that he is not worthy of such praise, for a gentleman sincerely honors their names. Therefore, to wield the power of a Son of Heaven does not necessarily mean to be honored, and to be poor and a commoner does not necessarily mean to be despised. The difference between being honored and being despised lies in the goodness or badness of one’s conduct.”

Man Kou-te said, “The petty thief is imprisoned but the big thief becomes a feudal lord, and we all know that righteous gentlemen are to be found at the gates of the feudal lords. In ancient times, Hsiao-po, Duke Huan of Ch’i, murdered his elder brother and took his sister-in-law for a wife, and yet Kuan Chung was willing to become his minister. Ch’ang, Viscount T’ien Ch’eng, murdered his sovereign and stole his state, and yet Confucius was willing to receive gifts from him.13 In pronouncement they condemned them, but in practice they bowed before them. Think how this contradiction between the facts of word and deed must have troubled their breasts! Could the two help but clash? So the book says, Who is bad? Who is good? The successful man becomes the head, the unsuccessful man becomes the tail.”

“But,” said Tzu-chang, “if you take no thought for conduct, then there cease to be any ethical ties between near and distant kin, any fitting distinctions between noble and humble, any proper order between elder and younger. How is one to maintain the distinctions decreed by the five moral principles and the six social relationships?”

Man Kou-te said, “Yao killed his eldest son, Shun exiled his mother’s younger brother – does this indicate any ethical ties between near and distant kin? T’ang banished his sovereign Chieh, King Wu killed his sovereign Chou – does this indicate any fitting distinctions between noble and humble? King Chi received the inheritance, the Duke of Chou killed his elder brother – does this indicate any proper order between elder and younger? 14 The Confucians with their hypocritical speeches, the Mo-ists with their talk of universal love – do these indicate any attempt to maintain the distinctions decreed by the five moral principles and the six social relationships? Now your thoughts are all for reputation, mine all for gain, but neither reputation nor gain, in actual fact, accord with reason or reflect any true understanding of the Way. The other day, when we referred the matter to Wu Yueh for arbitration, he gave this answer: 15

” `The petty man will die for riches, the gentleman will die for reputation. In the manner in which they alter their true form and change their inborn nature, they differ. But in so far as they throw away what is already theirs and are willing to die for something that is not theirs, they are identical. So it is said, Do not be a petty man – return to and obey the Heaven within you; do not be a gentleman – follow the reason of Heaven. Crooked or straight, pursue to the limit the Heaven in you. Turn your face to the four directions, ebb and flow with the seasons. Right or wrong, hold fast to the round center upon which all turns, in solitude bring your will to completion, ramble in the company of the Way. Do not strive to make your conduct consistent,16 do not try to perfect your righteousness, or you will lose what you already have. Do not race after riches, do not risk your life for success, or you will let slip the Heaven within you. Pi Kan’s heart was cut out, Wu Tzu-hsu’s eyes were plucked from their sockets – loyalty brought them this misfortune. Honest Kung informed on his father, Wei Sheng died by drowning – trustworthiness was their curse. Pao Chiao stood there till he dried up; Shen Tzu would not defend himself – integrity did them this injury. Confucius did not see his mother, K’uang Tzu did not see his father – righteousness was their mistake.” These are the tales handed down from ages past, retold by the ages that follow. They show us that the gentleman who is determined to be upright in word and consistent in conduct will as a result bow before disaster, will encounter affliction.’ “

Never-Enough said to Sense-of-Harmony, “After all, there are no men who do not strive for reputation and seek gain. If you’re rich, people flock to you; flocking to you, they bow and scrape; and when they bow and scrape, this shows they honor you. To have men bowing and scraping, offering you honor – this is the way to insure length of years, ease to the body, joy to the will. And now you alone have no mind for these things. Is it lack of understanding? Or is it that you know their worth but just haven’t the strength to work for them? Are you, then, deliberately striving `to be upright and never forgetful’?”

Sense-of-Harmony said, “You and your type look at those who were born at the same time and who dwell in the same community and you decide that you are gentlemen who are far removed from the common lot, who are superior to the times. This shows that you have no guiding principle by which to survey the ages of past and present, the distinctions between right and wrong. Instead you join with the vulgar in changing as the world changes, setting aside what is most valuable, discarding what is most worthy of honor, thinking that there is something that has to be done, declaring that this is the way to insure length of years, ease to the body, joy to the will – but you are far from the mark indeed! The agitation of grief and sorrow, the solace of contentment and joy – these bring no enlightenment to the body. The shock of fear and terror, the elation of happiness and delight – these bring no enlightenment to the mind. You know you are doing what there is to do, but you don’t know why there should be things to do. This way, you might possess all the honor of the Son of Heaven, all the wealth of the empire, and yet never escape from disaster.”

“But,” said Never-Enough, “there is no advantage which riches cannot bring to a man – the ultimate in beauty, the heights of power, things that the Perfect Man cannot attain to, that the worthy man can never acquire. They buy the strength and daring of other men that make one awesome and powerful; they purchase the knowledge and schemes of other men that make one wise and well-informed; they borrow the virtue of other men that make one a man of worth and goodness. With no kingdom to reign over, the rich man commands as much respect as a ruler or a father. Beautiful sounds and colors, rich flavors, power and authority – a man need not send his mind to school before it will delight in them, need not train his body before it will find peace in them. What to desire, what to hate, what to seek, what to avoid – no one needs a teacher in these matters; they pertain to the inborn nature of man. Don’t think this applies only to me. Where is there a man in the whole world who would be willing to give them up? „

Sense-of-Harmony said, “When the wise man goes about doing something, he always moves for the sake of the hundred clans and does not violate the rules. Thus, if there is enough, he does not scramble for more. Having no reason to, he seeks nothing. But if there is not enough, he seeks, scrambling in all four directions, yet he does not think of himself as greedy. If there is a surplus, he gives it away. He can discard the whole empire and yet not think of himself as high-minded. Greed or high-mindedness in fact have nothing to do with standards imposed from the outside – they represent a turning within to observe the rules that are found there. So a man may wield all the power of a Son of Heaven and yet not use his high position to lord it over others; he may possess all the wealth in the empire and yet not exploit his riches to make a mock of others. He calculates the risk, thinks of what may be contrary and harmful to his inborn nature. Therefore he may decline what is offered him, but not because he hopes for reputation and praise. Yao and Shun ruled as emperors and there was harmony – but not because they sought to bring benevolence to the world; they would not have let `goodness’ injure their lives. Shan Ch’uan and Hsu Yu had the opportunity to become emperors and declined, but not because they wished to make an empty gesture of refusal; they would not have let such matters bring harm to themselves. All these men sought what was to their advantage and declined what was harmful. The world praises them as worthies, and it is all right if they enjoy such repute – but they were not striving for any reputation or praise.”

“But in order to maintain a reputation like theirs,” said Never-Enough, “one must punish the body and give up everything sweet, skimp and save merely to keep life going – in which case one is no different from a man who goes on year after year in sickness and trouble, never allowed to die!”

Sense-of-Harmony said, “A just measure brings fortune, an excess brings harm – this is so of all things, but much more so in the case of wealth. The ears of the rich man are regaled with sounds of bell and drum, flute and pipe; his mouth is treated to the flavor of grass- and grain-fed animals, of rich wine, until his desires are aroused and he has forgotten all about his proper business – this may be called disorder. Mired and drowned by swelling passions, he is like a man who carries a heavy load up the slope of a hill – this may be called suffering. Greedy for riches, he brings illness on himself; greedy for power, he drives himself to exhaustion. In the quietude of his home, he sinks into languor; body sleek and well-nourished, he is puffed up with passion – this may be called disease. In his desire for wealth, his search for gain, he crams his rooms to overflowing, as it were, and does not know how to escape, yet he lusts for more and cannot desist – this may be called shame. More wealth piled up than he could ever use, yet he is covetous and will not leave off, crowding his mind with care and fatigue, grasping for more and more with never a stop – this may be called worry. At home he is suspicious of the inroads of pilferers and inordinate demanders; abroad he is terrified of the attacks of bandits and robbers. At home he surrounds himself with towers and moats; abroad he dares not walk alone – this may be called terror. These six – disorder, suffering, disease, shame, worry, and terror – are the greatest evils in the world. Yet all are forgotten and he does not know enough to keep watch out for them. And once disaster has come, then, though he seeks with all his inborn nature and exhausts all his wealth in hopes of returning even for one day to the untroubled times, he can never do so.

“Therefore he who sets his eyes on reputation will find that it is nowhere to be seen; he who seeks for gain will find that it is not to be gotten. To entrap the mind and the body in a scramble for such things – is this not delusion indeed?”



IN ANCIENT TIMES King Wen of Chao was fond of swords. Expert swordsmen flocked to his gate, and over three thousand of them were supported as guests in his household, day and night engaging in bouts in his presence till the dead and wounded numbered more than a hundred men a year. Yet the king’s delight never seemed to wane and things went on in this way for three years, while the state sank into decline and the other feudal lords conspired against it.

The crown prince K’uei, distressed at this, summoned his retainers about him and said, “I will bestow a thousand pieces of gold upon any man who can reason with the king and make him give up these sword fights!”

“Chuang Tzu is the one who can do it,” said his retainers.

The crown prince thereupon sent an envoy with a thousand pieces of gold to present to Chuang Tzu, but Chuang Tzu refused to accept the gift. Instead he accompanied the envoy on his return and went to call on the crown prince. “What instructions do you have for me, that you present me with a thousand pieces of gold?” he asked.

“I had heard, Sir,” said the crown prince, “that you are an enlightened sage, and I wished in all due respect to offer this thousand in gold as a gift to your attendants. But if you refuse to accept it, then I dare say no more about the matter.”

Chuang Tzu said, “I have heard that the crown prince wishes to employ me because he hopes I can rid the king of this passion of his. Now if, in attempting to persuade His Majesty, I should arouse his anger and fail to satisfy your hopes, then I would be sentenced to execution. In that case, what use could I make of the gold? And if I should be able to persuade His Majesty and satisfy your hopes, then what could I ask for in the whole kingdom of Chao that would not be granted me?”

“The trouble is,” said the crown prince, “that my father, the king, refuses to see anyone but swordsmen.”

“Fine!” said Chuang Tzu. “I am quite able to handle a sword.”

“But the kind of swordsmen my father receives,” said the crown prince, “all have tousled heads and bristling beards, wear slouching caps tied with plain, coarse tassels, and robes that are cut short behind; they glare fiercely and have difficulty getting out their words. Men like that he is delighted with! Now, Sir, if you should insist upon going to see him in scholarly garb, the whole affair would go completely wrong from the start.”

“Then allow me to get together the garb of a swordsman,” said Chuang Tzu. After three days, he had his swordsman’s costume ready and went to call on the crown prince. The crown prince and he then went to see the king. The king, drawing his sword, waited with bare blade in hand. Chuang Tzu entered the door of the hall with unhurried steps, looked at the king but made no bow.

The king said, “Now that you have gotten the crown prince to prepare the way for you, what kind of instruction is it you intend to give me?”

“I have heard that Your Majesty is fond of swords, and so I have come with my sword to present myself before you.”

“And what sort of authority does your sword command?” asked the king.

“My sword cuts down one man every ten paces, and for a thousand li it never ceases its flailing!”

The king, greatly pleased, exclaimed, “You must have no rival in the whole world!”

Chuang Tzu said, “The wielder of the sword makes a display of emptiness, draws one out with hopes of advantage, is behind-time in setting out, but beforehand in arriving.2 May I be allowed to try what I can do?”

The king said, “You may leave now, Sir, and go to your quarters to await my command. When I am ready to hold the bout, I will request your presence again.”

The king then spent seven days testing the skill of his swordsmen. Over sixty were wounded or died in the process, leaving five or six survivors who were ordered to present themselves with their swords outside the king’s hall. Then the king sent for Chuang Tzu, saying, “Today let us see what happens when you cross swords with these gentlemen.”

Chuang Tzu said, “It is what I have long wished for.”

“What weapon will you use, Sir,” asked the king, “a long sword or a short one?”

“I am prepared to use any type at all. It happens that I have three swords – Your Majesty has only to indicate which you wish me to use. If I may, I will first explain them, and then put them to the test.”

“Let me hear about your three swords,” said the king.

“There is the sword of the Son of Heaven, the sword of the feudal lord, and the sword of the commoner.”

“What is the sword of the Son of Heaven like?” asked the king.

“The sword of the Son of Heaven? The Valley of Yen and the Stone Wall are its point, Ch’i and Tai its blade, Chin and Wey its spine, Chou and Sung its sword guard, Han and Wei its hilt.3′ The four barbarian tribes enwrap it, the four seasons enfold it, the seas of Po surround it, the mountains of Ch’ang girdle it. The five elements govern it, the demands of punishment and favor direct it. It is brought forth in accordance with the yin and yang, held in readiness in spring and summer, wielded in autumn and winter. Thrust it forward and there is nothing that will stand before it; raise it on high and there is nothing above it; press it down and there is nothing beneath it; whirl it about and there is nothing surrounding it. Above, it cleaves the drifting clouds; below, it severs the sinews of the earth. When this sword is once put to use, the feudal lords return to their former obedience and the whole world submits. This is the sword of the Son of Heaven.”

King Wen, dumfounded, appeared to be at an utter loss. Then he said, “What is the sword of the feudal lord like?”

“The sword of the feudal lord? It has wise and brave men for its point, men of purity and integrity for its blade, men of worth and goodness for its spine, men of loyalty and sageliness for its swordguard, heroes and prodigies for its hilt. This sword too, thrust forward, meets nothing before it; raised, it encounters nothing above; pressed down, it encounters nothing beneath it; whirled about, it meets nothing surrounding it. Above, it takes its model from the roundness of heaven, following along with the three luminous bodies of the sky.4 Below, it takes its model from the squareness of earth, following along with the four seasons. In the middle realm, it brings harmony to the wills of the people and peace to the four directions. This sword, once put into use, is like the crash of a thunderbolt: none within the four borders of the state will fail to bow down in submission, none will fail to heed and obey the commands of the ruler. This is the sword of the feudal lord.”

The king said, “What is the sword of the commoner like?”

“The sword of the commoner? It is used by men with tousled heads and bristling beards, with slouching caps tied with plain, coarse tassels and robes cut short behind, who glare fiercely and speak with great difficulty, who slash at one another in Your Majesty’s presence. Above, it lops off heads and necks; below, it splits open livers and lungs. Those who wield this sword of the commoner are no different from fighting cocks – any morning their lives may be cut off. They are of no use in the administration of the state.

“Now Your Majesty occupies the position of a Son of Heaven, and yet you show this fondness for the sword of the commoner.5 If I may be so bold, I think it rather unworthy of you!

The king thereupon led Chuang Tzu up into his hall, where the royal butler came forward with trays of food, but the king merely paced round and round the room.

“Your Majesty should seat yourself at ease and calm your spirits,” said Chuang Tzu., “The affair of the sword is all over and finished!”

After this, King Wen did not emerge from his palace for three months, and his swordsmen all committed suicide in their quarters.



CONFUCIUS, AFTER STROLLING through the Black Curtain Forest, sat down to rest on the Apricot Altar.1 While his disciples turned to their books, he strummed his lute and sang. He had not gotten halfway through the piece he was playing when an old fisherman appeared, stepped out of his boat, and came forward. His beard and eyebrows were pure white, his hair hung down over his shoulders, and his sleeves flapped at his sides. He walked up the embankment, stopped when he reached the higher ground, rested his left hand on his knee, propped his chin with his right, and listened until the piece was ended. Then he beckoned to Tzu-kung and Tzu-lu, both of whom came forward at his call. The stranger pointed to Confucius and said, “What does he do?”

“He is a gentleman of Lu,” replied Tzu-lu.

The stranger then asked what family he belonged to, and Tzu-lu replied, “The K’ung family.”

“This man of the K’ung family,” said the stranger, “what’s his occupation?”

Tzu-lu was still framing his reply when Tzu-kung answered, “This man of the K’ung family in his inborn nature adheres to loyalty and good faith, in his person practices benevolence and righteousness; he brings a beautiful order to rites and music and selects what is proper in human relationships. Above, he pays allegiance to the sovereign of the age; below, he transforms the ordinary people through education, and in this way brings profit to the world. Such is the occupation of this man of the Kung family!”

“Does he have any territory that he rules over?” asked the stranger, pursuing the inquiry.

“No,” said Tzu-kung. “Is he the counselor to some king or feudal lord?”

“No,” said Tzu-kung.

The stranger then laughed and turned to go, saying as he walked away, “As far as benevolence goes, he is benevolent all right. But I’m afraid he will not escape unharmed. To weary the mind and wear out the body, putting the Truth in peril like this – alas, I’m afraid he is separated from the Great Way by a vast distance indeed!”

Tzu-kung returned and reported to Confucius what had happened. Confucius pushed aside his lute, rose to his feet and said, “Perhaps this man is a sage!” Then he started down the embankment after him, reaching the edge of the lake just as the fisherman was about to take up his punting pole and drag his boat into the water. Glancing back and catching sight of Confucius, he turned and stood facing him. Confucius hastily stepped back a few paces, bowed twice, and then came forward.

“What do you want?” asked the stranger.

“A moment ago, Sir,” said Confucius, “you made a few cryptic remarks and then left. Unworthy as I am, I’m afraid I do not understand what they mean. If I might be permitted to wait upon you with all due humility and be favored with the sound of your august words, my ignorance might in time be remedied.”

“Goodness!” exclaimed the stranger. “Your love of learning is great indeed!” 2

Confucius bowed twice and then, straightening up, said, “Ever since childhood I have cultivated learning, until at last I have reached the age of sixty-nine. But I have never yet succeeded in hearing the Perfect Teaching. Dare I do anything, then, but wait with an open mind?”

“Creatures follow their own kind, a voice will answer to the voice that is like itself,” said the stranger; “this has been the rule of Heaven since time began. With your permission, therefore, I will set aside for the moment my own ways and try applying myself to the things that you are concerned about.3 What you are concerned about are the affairs of men. The Son of Heaven, the feudal lords, the high ministers, the common people – when these four are of themselves upright, this is the most admirable state of order. But if they depart from their proper stations, there is no greater disorder. When officials attend to their duties and men worry about their undertakings, there is no overstepping of the mark.

“Fields gone to waste, rooms unroofed, clothing and food that are not enough, taxes and labor services that you can’t keep up with, wives and concubines never in harmony, senior and junior out of order – these are the worries of the common man. Ability that does not suffice for the task, official business that doesn’t go right, conduct that is not spotless and pure, underlings who are lazy and slipshod, success and praise that never come your way, titles and stipends that you can’t hold on to – these are the worries of the high minister. A court lacking in loyal ministers, a state and its great families in darkness and disorder, craftsmen and artisans who have no skill, articles of tribute that won’t pass the test, inferior ranking at the spring and autumn levees at court, failure to ingratiate himself with the Son of Heaven – these are the worries of a feudal lord.

The yin and rang out of harmony, cold and heat so untimely that they bring injury to all things, feudal lords violent and unruly, wantonly attacking one another till they all but destroy the common people, rites and music improperly performed, funds and resources that are forever giving out, human relationships that are not ordered as they should be, the hundred clans contumacious and depraved – these are the worries of the Son of Heaven and his chancellors. Now on the higher level you do not hold the position of a ruler, a feudal lord, or a chancellor, and on the lower level you have not been assigned to the office of a high minister with its tasks and duties. Yet you presume to `bring a beautiful order to rites and music, to select what is proper in human relationships,’ and in this way to `transform the ordinary people.’ This is undertaking rather a lot, isn’t it?

“Moreover, there are eight faults that men may possess, and four evils that beset their undertakings – you must not fail to examine these carefully. To do what it is not your business to do is called officiousness. To rush forward when no one has nodded in your direction is called obsequiousness. To echo a man’s opinions and try to draw him out in speech is called sycophancy. To speak without regard for what is right or wrong is called flattery. To delight in talking about other men’s failings is called calumny. To break up friendships and set kinfolk at odds is called maliciousness. To praise falsely and hypocritically so as to cause injury and evil to others is called wickedness. Without thought for right or wrong, to try to face in two directions at once so as to steal a glimpse of the other party’s wishes is called treachery. These eight faults inflict chaos on others and injury on the possessor. A gentleman will not befriend the man who possesses them, an enlightened ruler will not have him for his minister.

“As for the four evils which I spoke of, to be fond of plunging into great undertakings, altering and departing from the old accepted ways, hoping thereby to enhance your merit and fame – this is called avidity. To insist that you know it all, that everything be done your way, snatching from others and appropriating for your own use – this is called avarice. To see your errors but refuse to change, to listen to remonstrance but go on behaving worse than before – this is called obstinacy. When men agree with you, to commend them; when they disagree with you, to refuse to see any goodness in them even when it is there – this is called bigotry. These are the four evils. If you do away with the eight faults and avoid committing the four evils, then and only then will you become capable of being taught!”

Confucius looked chagrined and gave a sigh. Then he bowed twice, straightened up, and said, “Twice I have been exiled from Lu; they wiped away my footprints in Wei, chopped down a tree on me in Sung, and besieged me between Ch’en and Ts’ai. I am aware of no error of my own, and yet why did I fall victim to these four persecutions?”

A pained expression came over the stranger’s face and he said, “How hard it is to make you understand! Once there was a man who was afraid of his shadow and who hated his footprints, and so he tried to get way from them by running. But the more he lifted his feet and put them down again, the more footprints he made. And no matter how fast he ran, his shadow never left him, and so, thinking that he was still going too slowly, he ran faster and faster without a stop until his strength gave out and he fell down dead. He didn’t understand that by lolling in the shade he could have gotten rid of his shadow and by resting in quietude he could have put an end to his footprints. How could he have been so stupid!

“Now you scrutinize the realm of benevolence and righteousness, examine the borders of sameness and difference, observe the alternations of stillness and movement, lay down the rules for giving and receiving, regulate the emotions of love and hate, harmonize the seasons of joy and anger – and yet you barely manage to escape harm. If you were diligent in improving yourself, careful to hold fast to the Truth, and would hand over external things to other men, you could avoid these entanglements. But now, without improving yourself, you make demands on others – that is surely no way to go about the thing, is it?”

Confucius looked shamefaced and said, “Please, may I ask what you mean by `the Truth’?”

The stranger said, “By `the Truth’ I mean purity and sincerity in their highest degree. He who lacks purity and sincerity cannot move others. Therefore he who forces himself to lament, though he may sound sad, will awaken no grief. He who forces himself to be angry, though he may sound fierce, will arouse no awe. And he who forces himself to be affectionate, though he may smile, will create no air of harmony. True sadness need make no sound to awaken grief; true anger need not show itself to arouse awe; true affection need not smile to create harmony. When a man has the Truth within himself, his spirit may move among external things. That is why the Truth is to be prized!

“It may be applied to human relationships in the following ways. In the service of parents, it is love and filial piety; in the service of the ruler, it is loyalty and integrity; in festive wine drinking, it is merriment and joy; in periods of mourning, it is sadness and grief. In loyalty and integrity, service is the important thing; in festive drinking, merriment is the important thing; in periods of mourning, grief is the important thing; in the service of parents, their comfort is the important thing. In seeking to perform the finest kind of service, one does not always try to go about it in the same way. In assuring comfort in the serving of one’s parents, one does not question the means to be employed. In seeking the merriment that comes with festive drinking, one does not fuss over what cups and dishes are to be selected. In expressing the grief that is appropriate to periods of mourning, one does not quibble over the exact ritual to be followed.

“Rites are something created by the vulgar men of the world; the Truth is that which is received from Heaven. By nature it is the way it is and cannot be changed. Therefore the sage patterns himself on Heaven, prizes the Truth, and does not allow himself to be cramped by the vulgar. The stupid man does the opposite of this. He is unable to pattern himself on Heaven and instead frets over human concerns. He does not know enough to prize the Truth but instead, plodding along with the crowd, he allows himself to be changed by vulgar ways, and so is never content. Alas, that you fell into the slough of human hypocrisy at such an early age, and have been so late in hearing of the Great Way! “

Confucius once more bowed twice, straightened up, and said, “Now that I have succeeded in meeting you, it would seem as though Heaven has blessed me. If, Master, you would not consider it a disgrace for one like myself to enter the ranks of those who wait upon you, and to be taught by you in person, then may I be so bold as to inquire where your lodgings are? I would like to be allowed to go there, receive instruction, and at last learn the Great Way!”

The stranger replied, “I have heard it said, If it is someone you can go with, then go with him to the very end of the mysterious Way; but if it is someone you cannot go with, someone who does not understand the Way, then take care and have nothing to do with him – only then may you avoid danger to yourself. Keep working at it! Now I will leave you, I will leave you.” So saying, he poled away in his boat, threading a path through the reeds.

Yen Yuan brought the carriage around, Tzu-lu held out the strap for pulling oneself up, but Confucius, without turning in their direction, waited until the ripples on the water were stilled and he could no longer hear the sound of the pole before he ventured to mount.

Tzu-lu, following by the side of the carriage, said, “I have been permitted to serve you for a long time, Master, but I have never seen you encounter anyone who filled you with such awe. The rulers of ten thousand chariots, the lords of a thousand chariots, when they receive you, invariably seat you on the same level as themselves and treat you with the etiquette due to an equal, and still you maintain a stiff and haughty air. But now this old fisherman, pole in hand, presents himself in front of you, and you double up at the waist, as bent as a chiming-stone,4 and bow every time you reply to his words – this is going too far, isn’t it? Your disciples all are wondering about it. Why should a fisherman deserve such treatment?”

Confucius leaned forward on the crossbar, sighed, and said, “You certainly are hard to change! All this time you have been immersed in the study of ritual principles and you still haven’t gotten rid of your mean and servile ways of thinking. Come closer and I will explain to you. To meet an elder and fail to treat him with respect is a breach of etiquette. To see a worthy man and fail to honor him is to lack benevolence. If the fisherman were not a Perfect Man, he would not be able to make other men humble themselves before him. And if men, in humbling themselves before him, lack purity of intention, then they will never attain the Truth. As a result, they will go on forever bringing injury upon themselves. Alas! There is no greater misfortune than for a man to lack benevolence. And yet you alone dare to invite such misfortune!

“Moreover, the Way is the path by which the ten thousand things proceed. All things that lose it, die; all that get it, live. To go against it in one’s undertakings is to fail; to comply with it is to succeed. Hence, wherever the Way is to be found, the sage will pay homage there. As far as the Way is concerned, this old fisherman may certainly be said to possess it. How, then, would I dare fail to show respect to him!”



LIEH YU-K’OU WAS GOING to Ch’i, but halfway there he turned around and came home. By chance he met Po-hun Wu-jen. “What made you turn around and come back?” asked Po-hun Wu-jen.

“I was scared.”

“Why were you scared?”

“I stopped to eat at ten soup stalls along the way, and at five of them they served me soup ahead of everybody else!”

“What was so scary about that?” said Po-hun Wu-jen.

“If you can’t dispel the sincerity inside you, it oozes1 out of the body and forms a radiance that, once outside, overpowers men’s minds and makes them careless of how they treat their own superiors and old people. And it’s from this kind of confusion that trouble comes. The soup sellers have nothing but their broths to peddle and their margin of gain can’t be very large.2 If people with such skimpy profits and so little power still treat me like this, then what would it be like with the ruler of Ch’i, the lord of a state of ten thousand chariots? Body wearied by the burden of such a state, wisdom exhausted in its administration, he would want to shift his affairs onto me and make me work out some solution – that was what scared me!”

“You sized it up very well,” said Po-hun Wu-jen. “But even if you stay at home, people are going to flock around you.”

Not long afterwards, Po-hun Wu-jen went to Lieh Tzu’s house and found the area outside his door littered with shoes .3 He stood gazing north, staff held straight up, chin wrinkled where it rested on it. After standing there a while, he went away without a word. The servant in charge of receiving guests went in and reported this to Lieh Tzu. Lieh Tzu snatched up his shoes and ran barefoot after him, overtaking him at the gate. “Now that you’ve come all this way, don’t you have any `medicine’ to give me?”4

“It’s no use. I told you from the beginning that people would come flocking around you, and here they are flocking around you. It’s not that you’re able to make them come to you – it’s that you’re unable to keep them from coming. But what good is it to you? If you move other people and make them happy, you must be showing them something unusual in yourself. And if you move others, you invariably upset your own basic nature, in which case there’s nothing more to be said. These men you wander around with – none will give you any good advice. All they have are petty words, the kind that poison a man. No one understands, no one comprehends – so who can give any help to anyone else? The clever man wears himself out, the wise man worries. But the man of no ability has nothing he seeks. He eats his fill and wanders idly about. Drifting like an unmoored boat, emptily and idly he wanders along.”

There was a man from Cheng named Huan who, after three years of reciting and memorizing texts at a place called Ch’iu-shih, finally became a Confucian scholar. As the Yellow River spreads its moisture for nine li along its banks, so Huan’s affluence spread to his three sets of relatives. He saw to it that his younger brother Ti became a Mo-ist, and the Confucian and the Mo-ist debated with each other, but their father always took sides with the younger brother. Ten years of this, and Huan committed suicide. Appearing to his father in a dream, he said, “It was I who made it possible for your son to become a Mo-ist. Why don’t you try taking a look at my grave – I have become the berries on the catalpa and the cypress there!” 5

When the Creator rewards a man, he does not reward what is man-made in the man but what is Heaven-made. It was what was in the younger brother that made him a Mo-ist. Yet there are those like Huan who think they are different from others and even despise their own kin. Like men from Ch’i drinking at a well, they try to elbow each other away.6 So it is said, In the world today, we have nothing but Huans – they all think that they alone are right. But the man who truly possesses Virtue is not even aware of it, much less the man who possesses the Way. In ancient times it was said of men like Huan that they had committed the crime of hiding from Heaven.

The sage rests where there is rest and does not try to rest where there is no rest. The common run of men try to rest where there is no rest and do not rest where rest is to be found.

Chuang Tzu said, To know the Way is easy; to keep from speaking about it is hard. To know and not to speak – this gets you to the Heavenly part. To know and to speak – this gets you to the human part. Men in the old days looked out for the Heavenly, not the human.

Chu-p’ing Man studied the art of butchering dragons under Crippled Yi. It cost him all the thousand pieces of gold he had in his house, and after three years he’d mastered the art, but there was no one who could use his services.

The sage looks at the inevitable and decides that it is not inevitable – therefore he has no recourse to arms. The common man looks at what is not inevitable and decides that it is inevitable – therefore he has frequent recourse to arms. He who turns to arms is always seeking something. He who trusts to arms is lost.

The understanding of the little man never gets beyond gifts and wrappings, letters and calling cards. He wastes his spirit on the shallow and trivial, and yet wants to be the savior of both the world and the Way, to blend both form and emptiness in the Great Unity. Such a man will blunder and go astray in time and space; his body entangled, he will never come to know the Great Beginning. But he who is a Perfect Man lets his spirit return to the Beginningless, to lie down in pleasant slumber in the Village of Not-Anything-At-All; like water he flows through the Formless, or trickles forth from the Great Purity. How pitiful – you whose understanding can be encompassed in a hair-tip, who know nothing of the Great Tranquility!

A man of Sung, one Ts’ao Shang, was sent by the king of Sung as envoy to the state of Ch’in. On his departure, he was assigned no more than four or five carriages, but the king of Ch’in, greatly taken with him, bestowed on him an additional hundred carriages. When he returned to Sung, he went to see Chuang Tzu and said, “Living in poor alleyways and cramped lanes, skimping, starving, weaving one’s own sandals, with withered neck and sallow face – that sort of thing I’m no good at. But winning instant recognition from the ruler of a state of ten thousand chariots and returning with a hundred of them in one’s retinue – that’s where I excel!”

Chuang Tzu said, “When the king of Ch’in falls ill, he calls for his doctors. The doctor who lances a boil or drains an abscess receives one carriage in payment, but the one who licks his piles for him gets five carriages. The lower down the area to be treated, the larger the number of carriages. From the large number of carriages you’ve got, I take it you must have been treating his piles. Get out!”

Duke AI of Lu said to Yen Ho, “If I were to make Confucius my pillar and stanchion, do you think it would improve the health of the state?”

“Beware – that way lies danger! Confucius will deck things out in feathers and paint, and conduct his affairs with flowery phrases, mistaking side issues for the crux. He is willing to distort his inborn nature in order to make himself a model for the people, not even realizing that he is acting in bad faith. He takes everything to heart, submits all to the judgment of the spirit – how could such a man be worth putting in charge of the people? Does he meet with your approval? Would you like to provide for his support? It would be a mistake, but you may do it if you like. Yet one who would induce the people to turn their backs on reality and study hypocrisy is hardly fit to be made a model for the people. If we are to take thought for later ages, it would be best to drop the scheme.

“Governing is a difficult thing. To dispense favors to men without ever forgetting that you are doing so – this is not Heaven’s way of giving. Even merchants and peddlers are unwilling to be ranked with such a person; and although their occupations may seem to rank them with him, in their hearts they will never acquiesce to such a ranking.7 External punishments are administered by implements of metal and wood; internal punishments are inflicted by frenzy and excess. When the petty man meets with external punishments, the implements of metal and wood bear down on him; when he incurs internal punishment, the yin and yang eat him up.8 To escape both external and internal punishment – only the True Man is capable of this.”

Confucius said, “The mind of man is more perilous than mountains or rivers, harder to understand than Heaven. Heaven at least has its fixed times of spring and fall, winter and summer, daybreak and dusk. But man is thick-skinned and hides his true form deep within. Thus he may have an earnest face and yet be supercilious; he may seem to have superior qualities and yet be worthless. He may appear to be going about things in a scatter-brained way and yet know exactly what he is doing. Seeming to be firm, he may in fact be lax; seeming to be mild, he may in fact be ruthless. Therefore those who flock to righteousness like thirsty men to water may later flee from it as though from fire.

“For this reason the gentleman will employ a man on a distant mission and observe his degree of loyalty, will employ him close at hand and observe his degree of respect. He will hand him troublesome affairs and observe how well he manages them, will suddenly ask his advice and observe how wisely he answers. He will exact some difficult promise from him and see how well he keeps it, turn over funds to him and see with what benevolence he dispenses them, inform him of the danger he is in and note how faithful he is to his duties. He will get him drunk with wine and observe how well he handles himself, place him in mixed company and see what effect beauty has upon him. By applying these nine tests, you may determine who is the unworthy man.”

Cheng K’ao-fu – when he received his first appointment to office, he bowed his head; when he received his second appointment, he bent his back; when he received his third appointment, he hunched far over; hugging the wall, he scurried along.9 Who would dare to ignore his example? But the ordinary man – on receiving his first appointment, he begins to strut; on receiving his second appointment, he does a dance in his carriage; on receiving his third appointment, he addresses his father’s brothers by their personal names. What a difference from the ways of Yao and Hsu Yu!

There is no greater evil than for the mind to be aware of virtue, and to act as though it were a pair of eyes. For when it starts acting like a pair of eyes, it will peer out from within, and when it peers out from within, it is ruined. There are five types of dangerous virtue, of which inner virtue is the worst.10 What do I mean by inner virtue? He who possesses inner virtue will think himself always in the right, and denigrate those who do not do as he does. There are eight extremes that bring a man trouble, three conditions necessary for advancement, and six respositories of punishment.11 Beauty, a fine beard, a tall stature, brawn, strength, style, bravery, decisiveness – when a man has all these to a degree that surpasses others, they will bring him trouble. Tagging along with things, bobbing and weaving, cringing and fawning – if a man can do all three of these in a way that others do not, then he will succeed in advancing. Wisdom and knowledge, and the outward recognition they involve; bravery and decisiveness, and the numerous resentments they arouse; benevolence and righteousness, and all the responsibilities they involve – these six are what will bring you punishment. 12 He who has mastered the true form of life is a giant; he who has mastered understanding is petty. He who has mastered the Great Fate follows along; he who has mastered the little fates must take what happens to come his way.13

There was a man who had an audience with the king of Sung and received from him a gift of ten carriages. With his ten carriages, he went bragging and strutting to Chuang Tzu. Chuang Tzu said, “There’s a poor family down by the river who make their living by weaving articles out of mugwort. The son was diving in the deepest part of the river and came upon a pearl worth a thousand pieces of gold. His father said to him, `Bring a rock and smash it to bits! A pearl worth a thousand in gold could only have come from under the chin of the Black Dragon who lives at the bottom of the ninefold deeps. To be able to get the pearl, you must have happened along when he was asleep. If the Black Dragon had been awake, do you think there’d have been so much as a shred of you left?’ Now the state of Sung is deeper than the ninefold deeps, and the king of Sung more truculent than the Black Dragon. In order to get these carriages, you must have happened along when he was asleep. If the king of Sung had been awake, you’d have ended up in little pieces!”

Someone sent gifts to Chuang Tzu with an invitation to office. Chuang Tzu replied to the messenger in these words: “Have you ever seen a sacrificial ox? They deck him out in embroidery and trimmings, gorge him on grass and beanstalks. But when at last they lead him off into the great ancestral temple, then, although he might wish he could become a lonely calf once more, is it possible?”

When Chuang Tzu was about to die, his disciples expressed a desire to give him a sumptuous burial. Chuang Tzu said, “I will have heaven and earth for my coffin and coffin shell, the sun and moon for my pair of jade discs, the stars and constellations for my pearls and beads, and the ten thousand things for my parting gifts. The furnishings for my funeral are already prepared – what is there to add?”

“But we’re afraid the crows and kites will eat you, Master!” said his disciples.

Chuang Tzu said, “Above ground I’ll be eaten by crows and kites, below ground I’ll be eaten by mole crickets and ants. Wouldn’t it be rather bigoted to deprive one group in order to supply the other?

“If you use unfairness to achieve fairness, your fairness will be unfair. If you use a lack of proof to establish proofs, your proofs will be proofless. The bright-eyed man is no more than the servant of things, but the man of spirit knows how to find real proofs. The bright-eyed is no match for the man of spirit – from long ago this has been the case. Yet the fool trusts to what he can see and immerses himself in the human. All his accomplishments are beside the point – pitiful, isn’t it!”



MANY ARE THE MEN in the world who apply themselves to doctrines and policies, and each believes he has something that cannot be improved upon. What in ancient times was called the “art of the Way’ – where does it exist? I say, there is no place it does not exist. But, you ask, where does holiness descend from, where does enlightenment emerge from? The sage gives them birth, the king completes them, and all have their source in the One. He who does not depart from the Ancestor is called the Heavenly Man; he who does not depart from the Pure is called the Holy Man; he who does not depart from the True is called the Perfect Man.

To make Heaven his source, Virtue his root, and the Way his gate, revealing himself through change and transformation – one who does this is called a Sage.

To make benevolence his standard of kindness, righteousness his model of reason, ritual his guide to conduct, and music his source of harmony, serene in mercy and benevolence – one who does this is called a gentleman.

To employ laws to determine functions, names to indicate rank, comparisons to discover actual performance, investigations to arrive at decisions, checking them off, one, two, three, four, and in this way to assign the hundred officials to their ranks; to keep a constant eye on administrative affairs, give first thought to food and clothing, keep in mind the need to produce and grow, to shepherd and store away, to provide for the old and the weak, the orphan and the widow, so that all are properly nourished – these are the principles whereby the people are ordered.1

How thorough were the men of ancient times!-companions of holiness and enlightenment, pure as Heaven and earth, caretakers of the ten thousand things, harmonizers of the world, their bounty extended to the hundred clans. They had a clear understanding of basic policies and paid attention even to petty regulations – in the six avenues and the four frontiers, in what was great or small, coarse or fine, there was no place they did not move.

The wisdom that was embodied in their policies and regulations is in many cases still reflected in the old laws and records of the historiographers handed down over the ages. As to that which is recorded in the Book of Odes and Book of Documents, the Ritual and the Music, there are many gentlemen of Tsou and Lu, scholars of sash and official rank, who have an understanding of it. The Book of Odes describes the will; the Book of Documents describes events; the Ritual speaks of conduct; the Music speaks of harmony; the Book of Changes describes the yin and yang; the Spring and Autumn Annals describes titles and functions.2

These various policies are scattered throughout the world and are propounded in the Middle Kingdom, the scholars of the hundred schools from time to time taking up one or the other in their praises and preachings. But the world is in great disorder, the worthies and sages lack clarity of vision, and the Way and its Virtue are no longer One. So the world too often seizes upon one of its aspects, examines it, and pronounces it good. But it is like the case of the ear, the eye, the nose, and the mouth: each has its own kind of understanding, but their functions are not interchangeable. In the same way, the various skills of the hundred schools all have their strong points, and at times each may be of use. But none is wholly sufficient, none is universal. The scholar cramped in one corner of learning tries to judge the beauty of Heaven and earth, to pry into the principles of the ten thousand things, to scrutinize the perfection of the ancients, but seldom is he able to encompass the true beauty of Heaven and earth, to describe the true face of holy brightness. Therefore the Way that is sagely within and kingly without has fallen into darkness and is no longer clearly perceived, has become shrouded and no longer shines forth. The men of the world all follow their own desires and make these their “doctrine.” How sad! – the hundred schools going on and on instead of turning back, fated never to join again. The scholars of later ages have unfortunately never perceived the purity of Heaven and earth, the great body of the ancients, and “the art of the Way” in time comes to be rent and torn apart by the world.

To teach no extravagance to later ages, to leave the ten thousand things unadorned, to shun any glorification of rules and regulations, instead applying ink and measuring line to the correction of one’s own conduct, thus aiding the world in time of crisis – there were those in ancient times who believed that the “art of the Way” lay in these things. Mo Ti and Ch’in Hua-li heard of their views and delighted in them, but they followed them to excess and were too assiduous in applying them to themselves.

Mo Tzu wrote a piece “Against Music,” and another entitled “Moderation in Expenditure,” declaring there was to be no singing in life, no mourning in death.3 With a boundless love and a desire to insure universal benefit, he condemned warfare, and there was no place in his teachings for anger. Again, he was fond of learning and broad in knowledge, and in this respect did not differ from others. His views, however, were not always in accordance with those of the former kings, for he denounced the rites and music of antiquity. The Yellow Emperor had his Hsien-ch’ih music, Yao his Ta-chung, Shun his Ta-shao, Yu his Ta-hsia, T’ang his Ta-huo, and King Wen the music of the Pi-yung, while King Wu and the Duke of Chou fashioned the Wu music. The mourning rites of antiquity prescribed the ceremonies appropriate for eminent and humble, the different regulations for superior and inferior. The inner and outer coffins of the Son of Heaven were to consist of seven layers; those of the feudal lords, five layers; those of the high ministers, three layers; those of the officials, two layers. Yet Mo Tzu alone declares there is to be no singing in life, no mourning in death. A coffin of paulownia wood three inches thick, with no outer shell – this is his rule, his ideal. If he teaches men in this fashion, then I fear he has no love for them; and if he adopts such practices for his own burial, then he surely has no love for himself! I do not mean to discredit his teachings entirely; and yet men want to sing and he says, “No singing!”; they want to wail and he says, “No wailing!” – one wonders if he is in fact human at all. A life that is all toil, a death shoddily disposed of – it is a way that goes too much against us. To make men anxious, to make them sorrowful – such practices are hard to carry out, and I fear they cannot be regarded as the Way of the Sage. They are contrary to the hearts of the world, and the world cannot endure them. Though Mo Tzu himself may be capable of such endurance, how can the rest of the world do likewise? Departing so far from the ways of the world, they must be far removed indeed from those of the true king.

Mo Tzu defends his teachings by saying, “In ancient times, when Yu dammed the flood waters and opened up the courses of the Yangtze and the Yellow River so that they flowed through the lands of the four barbarians and the nine provinces, joining with the three hundred famous rivers,4 their three thousand tributaries, and the little streams too numerous to count – at that time Yu in person carried the basket and wielded the spade, gathering together and mingling the rivers of the world, till there was no down left on his calves, no hair on his shins; the drenching rains washed his locks, the sharp winds combed them, while he worked to establish the ten thousand states. Yu was a great sage, yet with his own body he labored for the world in such fashion!” So it is that many of the Mo-ists of later ages dress in skins and coarse cloth, wear wooden clogs or hempen sandals, never resting day or night, driving themselves on to the bitterest exertions. “If we cannot do the same,” they say, “then we are not following the way of Yu, and are unworthy to be called Mo-ists!”

The disciples of Hsiang-li Ch’in, the followers of Wu Hou, and the Mo-ists of the south such as K’u Huo, Chi Ch’ih, Teng Ling-tzu, and their like all recite the Mo-ist canon, and yet they quarrel and disagree in their interpretations, calling each other “Mo-ist factionalists.” In their discussions of “hard” and “white,” “difference” and “sameness,” they attack back and forth; in their disquisitions on the incompatibility of “odd” and “even” they exchange volleys of refutation.5 They regard the Grand Master of their sect as a sage, each sect trying to make its Grand Master the recognized head of the school in hopes that his authority will be acknowledged by later ages, but down to the present the dispute remains unresolved.6

Mo Ti and Ch’in Ku-li were all right in their ideas but wrong in their practices, with the result that the Mo-ists of later ages have felt obliged to subject themselves to hardship “till there is no down left on their calves, no hair on their shins” – their only thought being to outdo one another. Such efforts represent the height of confusion, the lowest degree of order. Nevertheless, Mo Tzu was one who had a true love for the world. He failed to achieve all he aimed for, yet, wasted and worn with exhaustion, he never ceased trying. He was indeed a gentleman of ability!

To be unsnared by vulgar ways, to make no vain show of material things, to bring no hardship on others,7 to avoid offending the mob, to seek peace and security for the world, preservation of the people’s lives, full provender for others as well as oneself, and to rest content when these aims are fulfilled, in this way bringing purity to the heart – there were those in ancient times who believed that the “art of the Way” lay in these things. Sung Chien’ and Yin Wen heard of their views and delighted in them. They fashioned caps in the shape of Mount Hua to be their mark of distinction.9 In dealing with the ten thousand things, they took the “defining of boundaries” to be their starting point;10 they preached liberality of mind,” which they called “the mind’s activity,” hoping thereby to bring men together in the joy of harmony, to insure concord within the four seas. Their chief task lay, they felt, in the effort to establish these ideals. They regarded it as no shame to suffer insult, but sought to put an end to strife among the people, to outlaw aggression, to abolish the use of arms, and to rescue the world from warfare. With these aims they walked the whole world over, trying to persuade those above them and to teach those below, and though the world refused to listen, they clamored all the louder and would not give up, until men said, “High and low are sick of the sight of them, and still they demand to be seen!”

Nevertheless, they took too much thought for others and too little for themselves. “Just give us five pints of rice and that will be enough,” they said, though at that rate I fear these teachers did not get their fill. Though their own disciples went hungry, however, they never forgot the rest of the world, but continued day and night without stop, saying, “We are determined to make certain that all men can live!” How lofty their aims, these saviors of the world! Again they said, “The gentleman does not examine others with too harsh an eye; he does not need material things in which to dress himself.” If a particular line of inquiry seemed to bring no benefit to the world, they thought it better to abandon it than to seek an understanding of it. To outlaw aggression and abolish the use of arms – these were their external aims. To lessen the desires and weaken the emotions – these were their internal aims. Whether their approach was large-scaled or small, detailed or gross, these were the goals they sought – these and nothing more.

Public-spirited and not partisan, even-minded and not given to favoritism, vacant-eyed, with none for a master, trailing after things without a second thought, giving not a glance to schemes, not a moment of speculation to knowledge, choosing neither this thing nor that, but going along with all of them – there were those in ancient times who believed that the “art of the Way” lay in such things. P’eng Meng, T’ien P’ien, and Shen Tao heard of their views and delighted in them.12 The Way, they believed, lay in making the ten thousand things equal. 13 “Heaven is capable of sheltering but not of bearing up,” they said. “Earth is capable of bearing up but not of sheltering. The Great Way is capable of embracing all things but not of discriminating among them.”14 From this they deduced that each of the ten thousand things has that which is acceptable in it and that which is not acceptable. Therefore they, said, “To choose is to forgo universality; to compare things15 is to fail to reach the goal. The Way has nothing that is left out of it.”

For this reason Shen Tao discarded knowledge, did away with self, followed what he could not help but follow, acquiescent and unmeddling where things were concerned, taking this to be the principle of the Way. “To know is not to know,” he said, and so he despised knowledge and worked to destroy and slough it off. Listless and lackadaisical,16 he accepted no responsibilities, but laughed at the world for honoring worthy men. Casual and uninhibited, he did nothing to distinguish himself, but disparaged the great sages of the world. Lopping off corners, chiseling away the rough places, he went tumbling and turning along with things. He put aside both right and wrong and somehow managed to stay out of trouble. With nothing to learn from knowledge or scheming, no comprehension of what comes before or after, he merely rested where he was and that was all. Pushed, he would finally begin to move; dragged, he would at last start on his way. He revolved like a whirlwind, spun like a feather, went round and round like a grindstone, keeping himself whole and free from condemnation. Without error, whether in motion or at rest, never once was he guilty of any fault. Why was this? Because a creature that is without knowledge does not face the perils that come from trying to set oneself up, the entanglements that come from relying upon knowledge. In motion or in stillness, he never departs from reason – in this way he lives out his years without winning praise. Therefore Shen Tao said, “Let me become like those creatures without knowledge, that is enough.17 Such creatures have no use for the worthies or the sages. Clod-like, they never lose the Way.” The great and eminent men would get together and laugh at him, saying, “The teachings of Shen Tao are not rules for the living but ideals for a dead man. No wonder he is looked on as peculiar!”

T’ien P’ien was a similar case. He studied under P’eng Meng and learned what it means not to compare things. P’eng Meng’s teacher used to say, “In ancient times the men of the Way reached the point where they regarded nothing as right and nothing as wrong – that was all.” But such ways are mute and muffled – how can they be captured in words? P’eng Meng and T’ien P’ien always went contrary to other men and were seldom heeded. They could not seem to avoid lopping away at the corners. What they called the Way was not the true Way, and, when they said a thing was right, they could not avoid raising the possibility that it might be wrong.18′ P’eng Meng, T’ien P’ien, and Shen Tao did not really understand the Way, though all had at one time heard something of what it was like.

To regard the source as pure and the things that emerge from it as coarse, to look upon accumulation as insufficiency; dwelling alone, peaceful and placid, in spiritual brightness there were those in ancient times who believed that the “art of the Way” lay in these things. The Barrier Keeper Yin and Lao Tan heard of their views and delighted in them.19 They expounded them in terms of constant nonbeing and being, and headed their doctrine with the concept of the Great Unity. Gentle weakness and humble self-effacement are its outer marks; emptiness, void, and the noninjury of the ten thousand things are its essence.

The Barrier Keeper Yin said, “When a man does not dwell in self, then things will of themselves reveal their forms to him. His movement is like that of water, his stillness like that of a mirror, his responses like those of an echo. Blank-eyed, he seems to be lost; motionless, he has the limpidity of water. Because he is one with it, he achieves harmony; should he reach out for it, he would lose it. Never does he go ahead of other men, but always follows in their wake.”

Lao Tan said, “Know the male but cling to the female; become the ravine of the world. Know the pure but cling to dishonor; become the valley of the world.” 20 Others all grasp what is in front; he alone grasped what is behind. He said, “Take to yourself the filth of the world.” Others all grasp what is full; he alone grasped what is empty. He never stored away – therefore he had more than enough; he had heaps and heaps of more than enough! In his movement he was easygoing and did not wear himself out. Dwelling in inaction, he scoffed at skill. Others all seek good fortune; he alone kept himself whole by becoming twisted. He said, “Let us somehow or other avoid incurring blame!” He took profundity to be the root and frugality to be the guideline. He said, “What is brittle will be broken, what is sharp will be blunted.” He was always generous and permissive with things and inflicted no pain on others – this may be called the highest achievement.

The Barrier Keeper Yin and Lao Tan – with their breadth and stature, they indeed were the True Men of old!

Blank, boundless, and without form; transforming, changing, never constant: are we dead? are we alive? do we stand side by side with Heaven and earth? do we move in the company of spiritual brightness? absent-minded, where are we going? forgetful, where are we headed for? The ten thousand things ranged all around us, not one of them is worthy to be singled out as our destination – there were those in ancient times who believed that the “art of the Way” lay in these things. Chuang Chou heard of their views and delighted in them. He expounded them in odd and outlandish terms, in brash and bombastic language, in unbound and unbordered phrases, abandoning himself to the times without partisanship, not looking at things from one angle only. He believed that the world was drowned in turbidness and that it was impossible to address it in sober language. So he used “goblet words” to pour out endless changes, “repeated words” to give a ring of truth, and “imputed words” to impart greater breadth. He came and went alone with the pure spirit of Heaven and earth, yet he did not view the ten thousand things with arrogant eyes. He did not scold over “right” and “wrong,” but lived with the age and its vulgarity. Though his writings are a string of queer beads and baubles, they roll and rattle and do no one any harm.21 Though his words seem to be at sixes and sevens, yet among the sham and waggery there are things worth observing, for they are crammed with truths that never come to an end.

Above he wandered with the Creator, below he made friends with those who have gotten outside of life and death, who know nothing of beginning or end. As for the Source, his grasp of it was broad, expansive, and penetrating; profound, liberal, and unimpeded. As for the Ancestor, he may be said to have tuned and accommodated himself to it and to have risen on it to the greatest heights. Nevertheless, in responding to change and expounding on the world of things, he set forth principles that will never cease to be valid, an approach that can never be shuffled off. Veiled and arcane, he is one who has never been completely comprehended.

Hui Shih was a man of many devices and his writings would fill five carriages. But his doctrines were jumbled and perverse and his words wide of the mark. His way of dealing with things may be seen from these sayings:

The largest thing has nothing beyond it; it is called the One of largeness. The smallest thing has nothing within it; it is called the One of smallness.

That which has no thickness cannot be piled up; yet it is a thousand li in dimension.

Heaven is as low as earth; mountains and marshes are on the same level.

The sun at noon is the sun setting. The thing born is the thing dying.

Great similarities are different from little similarities; these are called the little similarities and differences. The ten thousand things are all similar and are all different; these are called the great similarities and differences.

The southern region has no limit and yet has a limit.

I set off for Yueh today and came there yesterday.22

Linked rings can be separated.

I know the center of the world: it is north of Yen and south of Yueh.23

Let love embrace the ten thousand things; Heaven and earth are a single body.

With savings such as these, Hui Shih tried to introduce a more magnanimous view of the world and to enlighten the rhetoricians. The rhetoricians of the world happily joined in with the following sayings:

An egg has feathers.

A chicken has three legs.24

Ying contains the whole world.25

A dog can be considered a sheep.

Horses lay eggs.

Toads have tails.

Fire is not hot.26

Mountains come out of the mouth .27

Wheels never touch the ground.

Eyes do not see.

Pointing to it never gets to it; if it got to it, there would be no separation.28

The tortoise is longer than the snake.

T squares are not right-angled; compasses cannot make circles.

Holes for chisel handles do not surround the handles.

The flying bird’s shadow never moves.

No matter how swift the barbed arrow, there are times when it is neither moving nor at rest.

A dog is not a canine.

A yellow horse and a black cow make three.

White dogs are black.

The orphan colt never had a mother.

Take a pole one foot long, cut away half of it every day, and at the end of ten thousand generations there will still be some left.

Such were the sayings which the rhetoricians used in answer to Hui Shih, rambling on without stop till the end of their days. Huan Tuan and Kung-sun Lung were among such rhetoricians.29 Dazzling men’s minds, unsettling their views, they could outdo others in talking, but could not make them submit in their minds – such were the limitations of the rhetoricians.

Hui Shih day after day used all the knowledge he had in his debates with others, deliberately thinking up ways to astonish the rhetoricians of the world – the examples above will illustrate this. Nevertheless, Hui Shih’s manner of speaking showed that he considered himself the ablest man alive. “Heaven and earth – perhaps they are greater!” he used to declare. All he knew how to do was play the hero; he had no real art.

In the south there was an eccentric named Huang Liao who asked why Heaven and earth do not collapse and crumble, or what makes the wind and rain, the thunder and lightning. Hui Shih, undaunted, undertook to answer him; without stopping to think, he began to reply, touching upon every one of the ten thousand things in his peroration, expounding on and on without stop in multitudes of words that never ended. But still it was not enough, and so he began to add on his astonishing assertions. Whatever contradicted other men’s views he declared to be the truth, hoping to win a reputation for outwitting others. This was why he never got along with ordinary people. Weak in inner virtue, strong in his concern for external things, he walked a road that was crooked indeed! If we examine Hui Shih’s accomplishments from the point of view of the Way of Heaven and earth, they seem like the exertions of a mosquito or a gnat – of what use are they to other things? True, he still deserves to be regarded as the founder of one school, though I say, if he had only shown greater respect for the Way, he would have come nearer being right. Hui Shih, however, could not seem to find any tranquillity for himself in such an approach. Instead he went on tirelessly separating and analyzing the ten thousand things, and in the end was known only for his skill in exposition. What a pity – that Hui Shih abused and dissipated his talents without ever really achieving anything! Chasing after the ten thousand things, never turning back, he was like one who tries to shout an echo into silence or to prove that form can outrun shadow. How sad!

Awaken Philosophy

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Source: AWAKEN


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