1: A sagely man
Zeh-yang having travelled to Ku, Î Kieh spoke of him to the king, and then, before the king had granted him an interview, (left him, and) returned home. Zeh-yang went to see Wang Kwo, and said to him,
‘Master, why don’t you mention me to the king?’
Wang Kwo replied,
‘I am not so good a person to do that as Kung-yüeh Hsiu.’
‘What sort of man is he?’ asked the other, and the reply was,
‘In winter he spears turtles in the Kiang, and in summer he rests in shady places on the mountain. When passers-by ask him (what he is doing there), he says, “This is my abode.” Since Î Kieh was not able to induce the king to see you, how much less should I, who am not equal to him, be able to do so! Î Kieh’s character is this: he has no (real) virtue, but he has knowledge. If you do not freely yield yourself to him, but employ him to carry on his spirit-like influence (with you), you will certainly get upset and benighted in the region of riches and honours. His help won’t be of a virtuous character, but will go to make your virtue less; – it will be like heaping on clothes in spring as a protection against cold, or bringing back the cold winds of winter as a protection against heat (in summer). Now the king of Ku is of a domineering presence and stern. He has no forgiveness for offenders, but is merciless as a tiger. It is only a man of subtle speech, or one of correct virtue, who can bend him from his purpose.
‘But the sagely man, when he is left in obscurity, causes the members of his family to forget their poverty; and, when he gets forward to a position of influence, causes kings and dukes to forget their rank and emoluments, and transforms them to be humble. With the inferior creatures, he shares their pleasures, and they enjoy themselves the more; with other men, he rejoices in the fellowship of the Tao, and preserves it in himself. Therefore though he may not speak, he gives them to drink of the harmony (of his spirit). Standing in association with them, he transforms them till they become in their feeling towards him as sons with a father. His wish is to return to the solitude of his own mind, and this is the effect of his occasional intercourse with them. So far-reaching is his influence on the minds of men; and therefore I said to you. “Wait for Kung-yüeh Hsiu .”’
2: How could a sage be a sage if he relied on outwardness alone?
The sage comprehends the connexions between himself and others, and how they all go to constitute him of one body with them, and he does not know how it is so; – he naturally does so. In fulfilling his constitution, as acted on and acting, he (simply) follows the direction of Heaven; and it is in consequence of this that men style him (a sage). If he were troubled about (the insufficiency of) his knowledge, what he did would always be but small, and sometimes would be arrested altogether; – how would he in this case be (the sage)? When (the sage) is born with all his excellence, it is other men who see it for him. If they did not tell him, he would not know that he was more excellent than others. And when he knows it, he is as if he did not know it; when he hears it, he is as if he did not hear it. His source of joy in it has no end, and men’s admiration of him has no end; – all this takes place naturally. The love of the sage for others receives its name from them. If they did not tell him of it, he would not know that he loved them; and when he knows it, he is as if he knew it not; when he hears it, he is as if he heard it not. His love of others never has an end, and their rest in him has also no end: all this takes place naturally.
3: Incapacitated, hence a sage?
When one sees at a distance his old country and old city, he feels a joyous satisfaction. Though it be full of mounds and an overgrowth of trees and grass, and when he enters it he finds but a tenth part remaining, still he feels that satisfaction. How much more when he sees what he saw, and hears what he heard before! All this is to him like a tower eighty cubits high exhibited in the sight of all men.
(The sovereign) Zän-hsiang was possessed of that central principle round which all things revolve, and by it he could follow them to their completion. His accompanying them had neither ending nor beginning, and was independent of impulse or time. Daily he witnessed their changes, and himself underwent no change; and why should he not have rested in this? If we (try to) adopt Heaven as our Master, we incapacitate ourselves from doing so. Such endeavour brings us under the power of things. If one acts in this way, what is to be said of him? The sage never thinks of Heaven nor of men. He does not think of taking the initiative, nor of anything external to himself. He moves along with his age, and does not vary or fail. Amid all the completeness of his doings, he is never exhausted. For those who wish to be in accord with him, what other course is there to pursue?
When Tang got one to hold for him the reins of government, namely, Män-yin Täng-häng, he employed him as his teacher. He followed his master, but did not allow himself to be hampered by him, and so he succeeded in following things to their completion. The master had the name; but that name was a superfluous addition to his laws, and the twofold character of his government was made apparent. Kung-ni ‘s ‘Task your thoughts to the utmost’ was his expression of the duties of a master. Yung-khäng said,
‘Take the days away and there will be no year; without what is internal there will be nothing external.’
4: Wanting to kill an enemy
(King) Yung of Wei made a treaty with the marquis Thien Mâu (of Khi), which the latter violated. The king was enraged, and intended to send a man to assassinate him. When the Minister of War heard of it, he was ashamed, and said (to the king),
‘You are a ruler of 10,000 chariots, and by means of a common man would avenge yourself on your enemy. I beg you to give me, Yen, the command of 200,000 soldiers to attack him for you. I will take captive his people and officers, halter (and lead off) his oxen and horses, kindling a fire within him that shall burn to his backbone. I will then storm his capital; and when he shall run away in terror, I will flog his back and break his spine.’
Master Ki heard of this advice, and was ashamed of it, and said (to the king),
‘We have been raising the wall (of our capital) to a height of eighty cubits, and the work has been completed. If we now get it thrown down, it will be a painful toil to the convict builders. It is now seven years since our troops were called out, and this is the foundation of the royal sway. Yen would introduce disorder; – he should not be listened to.’
Master Hwâ heard of this advice, and, greatly disapproving of it, said (to the king),
‘He who shows his skill in saying “Attack Khi” would produce disorder; and he who shows his skill in saying “Do not attack it” would also produce disorder. And one who should (merely) say, “The counsellors to attack Khi and not to attack it would both produce disorder,” would himself also lead to the same result.’
The king said,
‘Yes, but what am I to do?’
The reply was,
‘You have only to seek for (the rule of) the Tao (on the subject).’
Master Hui, having heard of this counsel, introduced to the king Tâi Zin-zän, who said,
‘There is the creature called a snail; does your majesty know it?’
‘On the left horn of the snail there is a kingdom which is called Provocation, and on the right horn another which is called Stupidity. These two kingdoms are continually striving about their territories and fighting. The corpses that lie on the ground amount to several myriads. The army of one may be defeated and put to flight, but in fifteen days it will return.’
The king said,
‘Pooh! that is empty talk!’ The other rejoined,
‘Your servant begs to show your majesty its real significance. When your majesty thinks of space– east, west, north, and south, above and beneath– can you set any limit to it?’
‘It is illimitable,’ said the king; and his visitor went on,
‘Your majesty knows how to let your mind thus travel through the illimitable, and yet (as compared with this) does it not seem insignificant whether the kingdoms that communicate one with another exist or not?’
The king replies,
‘It does so;’ and Tâi Zin-zän said, finally,
‘Among those kingdoms, stretching one after another, there is this Wei; in Wei there is this (city of) Liang; and in Liang there is your majesty. Can you make any distinction between yourself, and (the king of that kingdom of) Stupidity?’
To this the king answered,
‘There is no distinction,’ and his visitor went out, while the king remained disconcerted and seemed to have lost himself.
When the visitor was gone, Master Hui came in and saw the king, who said,
‘That stranger is a Great man. An (ordinary) sage is not equal to him.’
Master Hui replied,
‘If you blow into a flute, there come out its pleasant notes; if you blow into a sword-hilt, there is nothing but a wheezing sound. Yao and Shun are the subjects of men’s praises, but if you speak of them before Tai Zin-zän, there will be but the wheezing sound.’
5: Eventually found to be empty
Confucius, having gone to Ku, was lodging in the house of a seller of Congee at Ant-hill. On the roof of a neighbouring house there appeared the husband and his wife, with their servants, male and female. Tzu-lu said,
‘What are those people doing, collected there as we see them?’
‘The man is a disciple of the sages. He is burying himself among the people, and hiding among the fields. Reputation has become little in his eyes, but there is no bound to his cherished aims. Though he may speak with his mouth, he never tells what is in his mind. Moreover, he is at variance with the age, and his mind disdains to associate with it; – he is one who may be said to lie hid at the bottom of the water on the dry land. Is he not a sort of Î Liâo of Shih-nan?’
Tzu-lu asked leave to go and call him, but Confucius said,
‘Stop. He knows that I understand him well. He knows that I am come to Ku, and thinks that I am sure to try and get the king to invite him (to court). He also thinks that I am a man swift to speak. Being such a man, he would feel ashamed to listen to the words of one of voluble and flattering tongue, and how much more to come himself and see his person! And why should we think that he will remain here?’
Tzu-lu, however, went to see how it was, but found the house empty.
6: Abandonment it is
The Border-warden of Khang-wu, in questioning Tzu-lâo, said,
‘Let not a ruler in the exercise of his government be (like the farmer) who leaves the clods unbroken, nor, in regulating his people, (like one) who recklessly plucks up the shoots. Formerly, in ploughing my corn-fields, I left the clods unbroken, and my recompense was in the rough unsatisfactory crops; and in weeding, I destroyed and tore up (many good plants), and my recompense was in the scantiness of my harvests. In subsequent years I changed my methods, ploughing deeply and carefully covering up the seed; and my harvests were rich and abundant, so that all the year I had more than I could eat.’
When Master Chuang heard of his remarks, he said,
‘Now-a-days, most men, in attending to their bodies and regulating their minds, correspond to the description of the Border-warden. They hide from themselves their Heaven(-given being); they leave (all care of) their (proper) nature; they extinguish their (proper) feelings; and they leave their spirit to die: abandoning themselves to what is the general practice. Thus dealing with their nature like the farmer who is negligent of the clods in his soil, the illegitimate results of their likings and dislikings become their nature. The bushy sedges, reeds, and rushes, which seem at first to spring up to support our bodies, gradually eradicate our nature, and it becomes like a mass of running sores, ever liable to flow out, with scabs and ulcers, discharging in flowing matter from the internal heat. So indeed it is!’
7: Accumulating failures by and by
Po Kü was studying with Lao Tan, and asked his leave to go and travel everywhere. Lao Tan said,
‘Nay; – elsewhere it is just as here.’
He repeated his request, and then Lao Tan said,
‘Where would you go first?’
‘I would begin with Khi,’ replied the disciple. Having got there, I would go to look at the criminals (who had been executed). With my arms I would raise (one of) them up and set him on his feet, and, taking off my court robes, I would cover him with them, appealing at the same time to Heaven and bewailing his lot, while I said, “My son, my son, you have been one of the first to suffer from the great calamities that afflict the world.”‘ (Lao Tan) said,
‘(It is said), – – Do not rob. Do not kill.” (But) in the setting up of (the ideas of) glory and disgrace, we see the cause of those evils; in the accumulation of property and wealth, we see the causes of strife and contention. If now you set up the things which men fret against; if you accumulate what produces strife and contention among them; if you put their persons in such a state of distress that they have no rest or ease, although you may wish that they should not come to the end of those (criminals), can your wish be realised?
‘The superior men (and rulers) of old considered that the success (of their government) was to be found in (the state of) the people, and its failure to be sought in themselves; that the right might be with the people, and the wrong in themselves. Thus it was that if but a single person lost his life, they retired and blamed themselves. Now, however, it is not so. (Rulers) conceal what they want done, and hold those who do not know it to be stupid; they require what is very difficult, and condemn those who do not dare to undertake it; they impose heavy burdens, and punish those who are unequal to them; they require men to go far, and put them to death when they cannot accomplish the distance. When the people know that the utmost of their strength will be insufficient, they follow it up with deceit. When (the rulers) daily exhibit much hypocrisy, how can the officers and people not be hypocritical? Insufficiency of strength produces hypocrisy; insufficiency of knowledge produces deception; insufficiency of means produces robbery. But in this case against whom ought the robbery and theft to be charged?’
❋ “Unsuccessful thieves are hanged; successful ones become mayors.” (Proverbial)
8: A perplexed man
When Kü Po-yü was in his sixtieth year, his views became changed in the course of it. He had never before done anything but consider the views which he held to be right, but now he came to condemn them as wrong; he did not know that what he now called right was not what for fifty-nine years he had been calling wrong. All things have the life (which we know), but we do not see its root; they have their goings forth, but we do not know the door by which they depart. Men all honour that which lies within the sphere of their knowledge, but they do not know their dependence on what lies without that sphere which would be their (true) knowledge: may we not call their case one of great perplexity? Ah! Ah! there is no escaping from this dilemma. So it is! So it is!
9: Duke Ling’s stone coffin
Kung-ni asked the Grand Historiographer TâThâo, (along with) Po Khang-khien and Khih-wei, saying,
‘Duke Ling of Wei was so addicted to drink, and abandoned to sensuality, that he did not attend to the government of his state. Occupied in his pursuit of hunting with his nets and bows, he kept aloof from the meetings of the princes. In what was it that he showed his title to the epithet of Ling?’
‘It was on account of those very things.’
Po Khang-khien said,
‘Duke Ling had three mistresses with whom he used to bathe in the same tub. (Once, however), when Shih-zhiu came to him with presents from the imperial court, he made his servants support the messenger in bearing the gifts. So dissolute was he in the former case, and when he saw a man of worth, thus reverent was he to him. It was on this account that he was styled “Duke Ling.”‘
‘When duke Ling died, and they divined about burying him in the old tomb of his House, the answer was unfavourable; when they divined about burying him on Shâ-khiu, the answer was favourable. Accordingly they dug there to the depth of several fathoms, and found a stone coffin. Having washed and inspected it, they discovered an inscription, which said,
“This grave won’t be available for your posterity;
Duke Ling will appropriate it for himself.”
Thus that epithet of Ling had long been settled for the duke. But how should those two be able to know this?
10: Sayings of Tai-kung Thiâo
Shâo Kih asked Tai-kung Thiâo, saying,
‘What do we mean by “The Talk of the Hamlets and Villages?”‘
The reply was,
‘Hamlets and Villages are formed by the union– say of ten surnames and a hundred names, and are considered to be (the source of) manners and customs. The differences between them are united to form their common character, and what is common to them is separately apportioned to form the differences. If you point to the various parts which make up the body of a horse, you do not have the horse; but when the horse is before you, and all its various parts stand forth (as forming the animal), you speak of “the horse.” So it is that the mounds and hills are made to be the elevations that they are by accumulations of earth which individually are but low. (So also rivers like) the Kiang and the Ho obtain their greatness by the union of (other smaller) waters with them. And (in the same way) the Great man exhibits the common sentiment of humanity by the union in himself of all its individualities. Hence when ideas come to him from without, though he has his own decided view, he does not hold it with bigotry; and when he gives out his own decisions, which are correct, the views of others do not oppose them. The four seasons have their different elemental characters, but they are not the partial gifts of Heaven, and so the year completes its course. The five official departments have their different duties, but the ruler does not partially employ any one of them, and so the kingdom is governed. (The gifts of) peace and war(are different), but the Great man does not employ the one to the prejudice of the other, and so the character (of his administration) is perfect. All things have their different constitutions and modes of actions, but the Tao (which directs them) is free from all partiality, and therefore it has no name. Having no name, it therefore does nothing. Doing nothing, there is nothing which it does not do.
‘Each season has its ending and beginning; each age has its changes and transformations; misery and happiness regularly alternate. Here our views are thwarted, and yet the result may afterwards have our approval; there we insist on our own views, and looking at things differently from others, try to correct them, while we are in error ourselves. The case may be compared to that of a great marsh, in which all its various vegetation finds a place, or we may look at it as a great hill, where trees and rocks are found on the same terrace. Such may be a description of what is intended by “The Talk of the Hamlets and Villages.”‘
Shâo Kih said,
‘Well, is it sufficient to call it (an expression of) the Tao?’
Tai-kung Thiâo said,
‘It is not so. If we reckon up the number of things, they are not 10,000 merely. When we speak of them as “the Myriad Things,” we simply use that large number by way of accommodation to denominate them. In this way Heaven and Earth are the greatest of all things that have form; the Yin and Yang are the greatest of all elemental forces. But the Tao is common to them. Because of their greatness to use the Tao or (Course) as a title and call it “the Great Tao” is allowable. But what comparison can be drawn between it and “the Talk of the Hamlets and Villages?” To argue from this that it is a sufficient expression of the Tao, is like calling a dog and a horse by the same name, while the difference between them is so great.’
❋ A whole is more (even greater) than the sum of its parts. (Gestalt axiom)
❋ A human being is not really served by prejudice.
11: Tai-kung Thiâo’s Yin Yang centred cosmology of
Shâo Kih said,
‘Within the limits of the four cardinal points, and the six boundaries of space, how was it that there commenced the production of all things?’
Tai-kung Thiâo replied,
‘The Yin and Yang reflected light on each other, covered each other, and regulated each the other; the four seasons gave place to one another, produced one another, and brought one another to an end. Likings and dislikings, the avoidings of this and movements towards that, then arose (in the things thus produced), in their definite distinctness; and from this came the separation and union of the male and female. Then were seen now security and now insecurity, in mutual change; misery and happiness produced each other; gentleness and urgency pressed on each other; the movements of collection and dispersion were established: these names and processes can be examined, and, however minute, can be recorded. The rules determining the order in which they follow one another, their mutual influence now acting directly and now revolving, how, when they are exhausted, they revive, and how they end and begin again; these are the properties belonging to things. Words can describe them and knowledge can reach to them; but with this ends all that can be said of things. Men who study the Tao do not follow on when these operations end, nor try to search out how they began: with this all discussion of them stops.’
Shâo Kih said,
‘Ki Kän holds that (the Tao) forbids all action, and Master Kieh holds that it may perhaps allow of influence. Which of the two is correct in his statements, and which is one-sided in his ruling?’
Tai-kung Thiâo replied,
‘Cocks crow and dogs bark; – this is what all men know. But men with the greatest wisdom cannot describe in words whence it is that they are formed (with such different voices), nor can they find out by thinking what they wish to do. We may refine on this small point; till it is so minute that there is no point to operate on, or it may become so great that there is no embracing it. “Some one caused it; ” “No one did it; ” but we are thus debating about things; and the end is that we shall find we are in error. “Some one caused it; “– then there was a real Being. “No one did it; “– then there was mere vacancy. To have a name and a real existence, – that is the condition of a thing. Not to have a name, and not to have real being; – that is vacancy and no thing. We may speak and we may think about it, but the more we speak, the wider shall we be off the mark. Birth, before it comes, cannot be prevented; death, when it has happened, cannot be traced farther. Death and life are not far apart; but why they have taken place cannot be seen. That some one has caused them, or that there has been no action in the case are but speculations of doubt. When I look for their origin, it goes back into infinity; when I look for their end, it proceeds without termination. Infinite, unceasing, there is no room for words about (the Tao). To regard it as in the category of things is the origin of the language that it is caused or that it is the result of doing nothing; but it would end as it began with things. The Tao cannot have a (real) existence; if it has, it cannot be made to appear as if it had not. The name Tao is a metaphor, used for the purpose of description. To say that it causes or does nothing is but to speak of one phase of things, and has nothing to do with the Great Subject. If words were sufficient for the purpose, in a day’s time we might exhaust it; since they are not sufficient, we may speak all day, and only exhaust (the subject of) things. The Tao is the extreme to which things conduct us. Neither speech nor silence is sufficient to convey the notion of it. Neither by speech nor by silence can our thoughts about it have their highest expression.
1: To endure persistent and wrong teachings accomplishes too little of value
What comes from without cannot be determined beforehand. So it was that Lung-fäng was killed; Pi-kan immolated; and the count of Ki (made to feign himself) mad, (while) O-lâi died, and Kieh and Kâu both perished. Rulers all wish their ministers to be faithful, but that faithfulness may not secure their confidence; hence Wu Yün became a wanderer along the Kiang, and Khang Hung died in Shu, where (the people) preserved his blood for three years, when it became changed into green jade. Parents all wish their sons to be filial, but that filial duty may not secure their love; hence Hsiâo-ki had to endure his sorrow, and Zäng Shän his grief.
When wood is rubbed against wood, it begins to burn; when metal is subjected to fire, it (melts and) flows. When the Yin and Yang act awry, heaven and earth are greatly perturbed; and on this comes the crash of thunder, and from the rain comes fire, which consumes great locust trees. (The case of men) is still worse. They are troubled between two pitfalls, from which they cannot escape. Chrysalis-like, they can accomplish nothing. Their minds are as if hung up between heaven and earth. Now comforted, now pitied, they are plunged in difficulties. The ideas of profit and of injury rub against each other, and produce in them a very great fire. The harmony (of the mind) is consumed in the mass of men. Their moonlike intelligence cannot overcome the (inward) fire. They thereupon fall away more and more, and the Course (which they should pursue) is altogether lost.
2: Asking for loans
The family of Kwang Kâu being poor, he went to ask the loan of some rice from the Marquis Superintendent of the Ho, who said,
‘Yes, I shall be getting the (tax-) money from the people (soon), and I will then lend you three hundred ounces of silver; – will that do?’
Kwang Kâu flushed with anger, and said,
‘On the road yesterday, as I was coming here, I heard someone calling out. On looking round, I saw a goby in the carriage rut, and said to it, “Goby fish, what has brought you here?” The goby said, “I am Minister of Waves in the Eastern Sea. Have you, Sir, a gallon or a pint of water to keep me alive?” I replied, “Yes, I am going south to see the kings of Wu and Yüeh, and I will then lead a stream from the Western Kiang to meet you; – will that do?” The goby flushed with anger, and said, “I have lost my proper element, and I can here do nothing for myself; but if I could get a gallon or a pint of water, I should keep alive. Than do what you propose, you had better soon look for me in a stall of dry fish.”‘
3: To a big fish a big hook
A son of the duke of Zän, having provided himself with a great hook, a powerful black line, and fifty steers to be used as bait, squatted down on (mount) Kwâi Khi, and threw the line into the Eastern Sea. Morning after morning he angled thus, and for a whole year caught nothing. At the end of that time, a great fish swallowed the bait, and dived down, dragging the great hook with him.
Then it rose to the surface in a flurry, and flapped with its fins, till the white waves rose like hills, and the waters were lashed into fury. The noise was like that of imps and spirits, and spread terror for a thousand li. The prince having got such a fish, cut it in slices and dried them. From the Keh river to the cast, and from Zhang-Wu to the north, there was not one who did not eat his full from that fish; and in subsequent generations, story-tellers of small abilities have all repeated the story to one another with astonishment. (But) if the prince had taken his rod, with a fine line, and gone to pools and ditches, and watched for minnows and gobies, it would have been difficult for him to get a large fish. Those who dress up their small tales to obtain favour with the magistrates are far from being men of great understanding; and therefore one who has not heard the story of this scion of Zän is not fit to take any part in the government of the world; – far is he from being so.
4: The pearl in the mouth
Some literati, students of the Odes and Ceremonies, were breaking open a mound over a grave. The superior among them spoke down to the others,
‘Day is breaking in the east; how is the thing going on?’
The younger men replied,
‘We have not yet opened his jacket and skirt, but there is a pearl in the mouth. As it is said in the Ode,
“The bright, green grain
Is growing on the sides of the mound.
While living, he gave nothing away;
Why, when dead, should he hold a pearl in his mouth?”‘
Thereupon they took hold of the whiskers and pulled at the beard, while the superior introduced a piece of fine steel into the chin, and gradually separated the jaws, so as not to injure the pearl in the mouth.
5: A life-long mediocre shame
A disciple of Master Lao Lâi, while he was out gathering firewood, met with Kung-ni. On his return, he told (his master), saying,
‘There is a man there, the upper part of whose body is long and the lower part short. He is slightly hump-backed, and his ears are far back. When you look at him, he seems occupied with the cares of all within the four seas I don’t know whose son he is.’
Master Lao Lâi said,
‘It is Khiu; call him here;’ and when Kung-ni came, he said to him,
‘Khiu, put away your personal conceit, and airs of wisdom, and show yourself to be indeed a superior man.’
Kung-ni bowed and was retiring, when he abruptly changed his manner, and asked,
‘Will the object I am pursuing be advanced thereby?’
Master Lao Lâi replied,
‘You cannot bear the sufferings of this one age, and are stubbornly regardless of the evils of a myriad ages: is it that you purposely make yourself thus unhappy? or is it that you have not the ability to comprehend the case? Your obstinate purpose to make men rejoice in a participation of your joy is your life-long shame, the procedure of a mediocre man. You would lead men by your fame; you would bind them to you by your secret art. Than be praising Yao and condemning Kieh, you had better forget them both, and shut up your tendency to praise. If you reflect on it, it does nothing but injury; your action in it is entirely wrong. The sage is full of anxiety and indecision in undertaking anything, and so he is always successful. But what shall I say of your conduct? To the end it is all affectation.’
6: The marvellous white tortoise
The ruler Yüan of Sung (once) dreamt at midnight that a man with dishevelled hair peeped in on him at a side door and said,
‘I was coming from the abyss of commissioned by the Clear Kiang to go to the place of the Earl of the Ho; but the fisherman Yü Zü has caught me.’
When the ruler Yüan awoke, he caused a diviner to divine the meaning (of the dream), and was told,
‘This is a marvellous tortoise.’
The ruler asked if among the fishermen there was one called Yü Zü, and being told by his attendants that there was, he gave orders that he should be summoned to court. Accordingly the man next day appeared at court, and the ruler said,
‘What have you caught (lately) in fishing?’
The reply was,
‘I have caught in my net a white tortoise, sieve-like, and five cubits round.’
‘Present the prodigy here,’ said the ruler; and, when it came, once and again he wished to kill it, once and again he wished to keep it alive. Doubting in his mind (what to do), he had recourse to divination, and obtained the answer,
‘To kill the tortoise for use in divining will be fortunate.’
Accordingly they cut the creature open, and perforated its shell in seventy-two places, and there was not a single divining slip which failed.
‘The spirit-like tortoise could show itself in a dream to the ruler Yüan, and yet it could not avoid the net of Yü Zü. Its wisdom could respond on seventy-two perforations without failing in a single divination, and yet it could not avoid the agony of having its bowels all scooped out. We see from this that wisdom is not without its perils, and spirit-like intelligence does not reach to everything. A man may have the greatest wisdom, but there are a myriad men scheming against him. Fishes do not fear the net, though they fear the pelican. Put away your small wisdom, and your great wisdom will be bright; discard your skilfulness, and you will become naturally skilful. A child when it is born needs no great master, and yet it becomes able to speak, living (as it does) among those who are able to speak.’
7: Usefulness of what is of no use
Master Hui said to Master Chuang,
‘You speak, Sir, of what is of no use.’
The reply was,
‘When a man knows what is not useful, you can then begin to speak to him of what is useful. The earth for instance is certainly spacious and great; but what a man uses of it is only sufficient ground for his feet. If, however, a rent were made by the side of his feet, down to the yellow springs, could the man still make use of it?’
Master Hui said,
‘He could not use it,’ and Master Chuang rejoined,
‘Then the usefulness of what is of no use is clear.’
8: The Perfect Man does not lose himself
Master Chuang said,
‘If a man have the power to enjoy himself (in any pursuit), can he be kept from doing so? If he have not the power, can he so enjoy himself? There are those whose aim is bent on concealing themselves, and those who are determined that their doings shall leave no trace. Alas! they both shirk the obligations of perfect knowledge and great virtue. The (latter) fall, and cannot recover themselves; the (former) rush on like fire, and do not consider (what they are doing). Though men may stand to each other in the relation of ruler and minister, that is but for a time. In a changed age, the one of them would not be able to look down on the other. Hence it is said, “The Perfect man leaves no traces of his conduct.”
‘To honour antiquity and despise the present time is the characteristic of learners; but even the disciples of Khih-wei have to look at the present age; and who can avoid being carried along by its course? It is only the Perfect man who is able to enjoy himself in the world, and not be deflected from the right, to accommodate himself to others and not lose himself. He does not learn their lessons; he only takes their ideas into consideration, and does not discard them as different from his own.
9: Mere obstructions have injurious effects over time
‘It is the penetrating eye that gives clear vision, the acute ear that gives quick hearing, the discriminating nose that gives discernment of odours, the practised mouth that gives the enjoyment of flavours, the active mind that acquires knowledge, and the far-reaching knowledge that constitutes virtue. In no case does the connexion with what is without like to be obstructed; obstruction produces stoppage; stoppage, continuing without intermission, arrests all progress; and with this all injurious effects spring up.
‘The knowledge of all creatures depends on their breathing. But if their breath be not abundant, it is not the fault of Heaven, which tries to penetrate them with it, day and night without ceasing; but men notwithstanding shut their pores against it. The womb encloses a large and empty space; the heart has its spontaneous and enjoyable movements. If their apartment be not roomy, wife and mother-in-law will be bickering; if the heart have not its spontaneous and enjoyable movements, the six faculties of perception will be in mutual collision. That the great forests, the heights and hills, are pleasant to men, is because their spirits cannot overcome (those distracting influences). Virtue overflows into (the love of) fame; (the love of) fame overflows into violence; schemes originate in the urgency (of circumstances); (the show of) wisdom comes from rivalry; the fuel (of strife) is produced from the obstinate maintenance (of one’s own views); the business of offices should be apportioned in accordance with the approval of all. In spring, when the rain and the sunshine come seasonably, vegetation grows luxuriantly, and sickles and hoes begin to be prepared. More than half of what had fallen down becomes straight, and we don’t know how.
❋ Seasonable fame can be of your virtue’s overflow.
10: What we have no knowledge of, we seldom inquire into either
‘Stillness and silence are helpful to those who are ill; rubbing the corners of the eyes is helpful to the aged; rest serves to calm agitation; but they are the toiled and troubled who have recourse to these things. Those who are at ease, and have not had such experiences, do not care to ask about them. The spirit-like man has had no experience of how it is that the sagely man keeps the world in awe, and so he does not inquire about it; the sagely man has had no experience of how it is that the man of ability and virtue keeps his age in awe, and so he does not inquire about it; the man of ability and virtue has had no experience of how it is that the superior man keeps his state in awe, and so he does not inquire about it. The superior man has had no experience of how it is that the small man keeps himself in agreement with his times that he should inquire about it.’
11: Ceremonial emaciation
The keeper of the Yen Gate, on the death of his father, showed so much skill in emaciating himself that he received the rank of ‘Pattern for Officers.’
Half the people of his neighbourhood (in consequence) carried their emaciation to such a point that they died. When Yao wished to resign the throne to Hsü Yu, the latter ran away. When Tang offered his to Wu Kwang, Wu Kwang became angry. When Ki Thâ heard it, he led his disciples, and withdrew to the river Kho, where the feudal princes came and condoled with him, and after three years, Shän Thu-ti threw himself into the water. Fishing-stakes are employed to catch fish; but when the fish are got, the men forget the stakes. Snares are employed to catch hares, but when the hares are got, men forget the snares. Words are employed to convey ideas; but when the ideas are apprehended, men forget the words. Fain would I talk with such a man who has forgot the words!
1: Men assent to and praise views which agree with their own
Of my sentences nine in ten are metaphorical; of my illustrations seven in ten are from valued writers. The rest of my words are like the water that daily fills the cup, tempered and harmonised by the Heavenly element in our nature.
The nine sentences in ten which are metaphorical are borrowed from extraneous things to assist (the comprehension of) my argument. (When it is said, for instance),
‘A father does not act the part of matchmaker for his own son,’ (the meaning is that) ‘it is better for another man to praise the son than for his father to do so.’
The use of such metaphorical language is not my fault, but the fault of men (who would not otherwise readily understand me).
Men assent to views which agree with their own, and oppose those which do not so agree. Those which agree with their own they hold to be right, and those which do not so agree they hold to be wrong. The seven out of ten illustrations taken from valued writers are designed to put an end to disputations. Those writers are the men of hoary eld, my predecessors in time. But such as are unversed in the warp and woof, the beginning and end of the subject, cannot be set down as of venerable eld, and regarded as the predecessors of others. If men have not that in them which fits them to precede others, they are without the way proper to man, and they who are without the way proper to man can only be pronounced defunct monuments of antiquity.
Words like the water that daily issues from the cup, and are harmonised by the Heavenly Element (of our nature), may be carried on into the region of the unlimited, and employed to the end of our years. But without words there is an agreement (in principle). That agreement is not effected by words, and an agreement in words is not effected by it. Hence it is said,
‘Let there be no words.’
Speech does not need words. One may speak all his life, and not have spoken a (right) word; and one may not have spoken all his life, and yet all his life been giving utterance to the (right) words. There is that which makes a thing allowable, and that which makes a thing not allowable. There is that which makes a thing right, and that which makes a thing not right. How is a thing right? It is right because it is right. How is a thing wrong? It is wrong because it is wrong. How is a thing allowable? It is allowable because it is so. How is a thing not allowable? It is not allowable because it is not so. Things indeed have what makes them right, and what makes them allowable. There is nothing which has not its condition of right; nothing which has not its condition of allowability. But without the words of the (water-) cup in daily use, and harmonised by the Heavenly Element (in our nature), what one can continue long in the possession of these characteristics?
All things are divided into their several classes, and succeed to one another in the same way, though of different bodily forms. They begin and end as in an unbroken ring, though how it is they do so be not apprehended. This is what is called the Lathe of Heaven; and the Lathe of Heaven is the Heavenly Element in our nature.
2: Chuang Tzu on Confucius sayings
Master Chuang said to Hui-Sze,
‘When Confucius was in his sixtieth year, in that year his views changed. What he had before held to be right, he now ended by holding to be wrong; and he did not know whether the things which he now pronounced to be right were not those which he had for fifty-nine years held to be wrong.’
Master Hui replied,
‘Confucius with an earnest will pursued the acquisition of knowledge, and acted accordingly.’
Master Chuang rejoined,
‘Confucius disowned such a course, and never said that it was his. He said, “Man receives his powers from the Great Source (of his being), and he should restore them to their (original) intelligence in his life. His singing should be in accordance with the musical tubes, and his speech a model for imitation. When profit and righteousness are set before him, and his liking (for the latter) and dislike (of the former), his approval and disapproval, are manifested, that only serves to direct the speech of men (about him). To make men in heart submit, and not dare to stand up in opposition to him; to establish the fixed law for all under heaven: ah! ah! I have not attained to that.”‘
❋ Tall approval from inside through watching your dreams rests on not being mistaken.
Master Zäng twice took office, and on the two occasions his state of mind was different. He said,
‘While my parents were alive I took office, and though my emolument was only three fu (of grain), my mind was happy. Afterwards when I took office, my emolument was three thousand kung; but I could not share it with my parents, and my mind was sad.’
The other disciples asked Kung-ni, saying,
‘Such an one as Shän may be pronounced free from all entanglement: is he to be blamed for feeling as he did?’
The reply was,
‘But he was subject to entanglement. If he had been free from it, could he have had that sadness? He would have looked on his three fu and three thousand kung no more than on a heron or a mosquito passing before him.’
4: Attaining the Great Mystery by and by
Yen Tzu Keng Yu said to Tung-kwo, Tzu Ki,
‘When I (had begun to) hear your instructions, the first year, I continued a simple rustic; the second year, I became docile; the third year, I comprehended (your teaching); the fourth year, I was (plastic) as a thing; the fifth year, I made advances; the sixth year, the spirit entered (and dwelt in me); the seventh year, (my nature as designed by) Heaven was perfected; the eighth year, I knew no difference between death and life; the ninth year, I attained to the Great Mystery.
‘Life has its work to do, and death ensues, (as if) the common character of each were a thing prescribed. Men consider that their death has its cause; but that life from (the operation of) the Yang has no cause. But is it really so? How does (the Yang) operate in this direction? Why does it not operate there?
‘Heaven has its places and spaces which can be calculated; (the divisions of) the earth can be assigned by men. But how shall we search for and find out (the conditions of the Great Mystery)? We don’t know when and how (life) will end, but how shall we conclude that it is not determined (from without)? and as we don’t know when and how it begins, how should we conclude that it is not (so) determined?
‘In regard to the issues of conduct which we deem appropriate, how should we conclude that there are no spirits presiding over them; and where those issues seem inappropriate, how should we conclude that there are spirits presiding over them?’
5: Asking about small matters
The penumbras (once) asked the shadow, saying,
‘Formerly you were looking down, and now you are looking up; formerly you had your hair tied up, and now it is dishevelled; formerly you were sitting, and now you have risen up; formerly you were walking, and now you have stopped: how is all this?’
The shadow said,
‘Venerable Sirs, how do you ask me about such small matters? These things all belong to me, but I don’t know how they do so. I am (like) the shell of a cicada or the cast-off skin of a snake; – like them, and yet not like them. With light and the sun I make my appearance; with darkness and the night I fade away. Am not I dependent on the substance from which I am thrown? And that substance is itself dependent on something else! When it comes, I come with it; when it goes, I go with it. When it comes under the influence of the strong Yang, I come under the same. Since we are both produced by that strong Yang, what occasion is there for you to question me?’
6: Lao Tzu mistaken for a while
Master Yang-kü had gone South to Phei while Lao Tan was travelling in the west in Khin. (He thereupon) asked (Master Lao) to come to the border (of Phei), and went himself to Liang, where be met him. Master Lao stood in the middle of the way, and, looking up to heaven, said with a sigh,
‘At first I thought that you might be taught, but now I see that you cannot be.’
Master Yang-kü made no reply; and when they came to their lodging-house, he brought in water for the master to wash his hands and rinse his mouth, along with a towel and comb. He then took off his shoes outside the door, went forward on his knees, and said,
‘Formerly, your disciple wished to ask you, Master, (the reason of what you said); but you were walking, and there was no opportunity, and therefore I did not presume to speak. Now there is an opportunity, and I beg to ask why you spoke as you did.’
Master Lao replied,
‘Your eyes are lofty, and you stare; – who would live with you? The purest carries himself as if he were soiled; the most virtuous seems to feel himself defective.’
Master Yang-kü looked abashed and changed countenance, saying,
‘I receive your commands with reverence.’
When he first went to the lodging-house, the people of it met him and went before him. The master of it carried his mat for him, and the mistress brought the towel and comb. The lodgers left their mats, and the cook his fire-place (as he passed them). When he went away, the others in the house would have striven with him about (the places for) their mats.