Chuang Tzu. Chapter 23. Argument: Tao
is passionless. Immorality of the moral. Obstructions to natural
virtue. The evils of action. Too much zeal. The outward and visible.
The inward and spiritual.*
Hsu Wu Kuei, introduced by Nü Shang, went
to see Wu Hou of Wei.
The Prince greeted him sympathizingly, and said,
'You are suffering, Sir. You must have endured great hardships
in your mountain life that you should be willing to leave it and
'It is I who should sympathize with your Highness,
not your Highness with me', answered Hsü Wu Kuei. 'If your
Highness gives free play to passion and yields to loves and hates,
then the natural conditions of your existence will suffer. And
if your Highness puts aside passion and abjures loves and hates,
then your senses of sight and hearing will suffer. It is I who
should sympathize with your Highness, not your Highness with me.'
The Prince was too astonished to reply; and after
a while Hsü Wu Kuei continued, 'I will try to explain to
your Highness how I judge of dogs. The lowest in the scale will
eat their fill and then stop, like a cat. Those of the middle
class are as though staring at the sun. The highest class are
as though they had parted with their own individuality.
'But I do not judge of dogs as well as I judge
of horses. I judge of horses as follows. Their straightness must
be that of a line. Their curve must be that of an arc. Their squareness,
that of the square. Their roundness, that of the compasses. These
are the horses of the State. They are not equal to the horses
of the Empire. The horses of the Empire are splendid. They move
as though anxious to get along, as though they had lost the way,
as though they had parted with their own individuality. Thus,
they outstrip all competitors, over the unstirred dust, out of
The Prince was greatly pleased and smiled. But
when Hsü Wu Keui went out, Nü Shang asked him, saying,
'What can you have been saying to his Highness? Whenever I address,
it is either in a pacific sense, based upon the Canons of Poetry,
History, Rites, and Music; or in a belligerent sense, based upon
the Golden Roster or the Six Plans of Battle. I have transacted
with great success innumerable matters entrusted to me, yet his
Highness has never vouchsafed a smile. What can you have been
saying to make him so pleased as all this?'
'I merely told him', replied Hsü Wu Keui,
'how I judged of dogs and horses'.
'Was that all?' enquired Nü Shang, incredulously.
'Have you not heard', said Hsü Wu Kuei,
'of the outlaw of Yüeh? After several days' absence from
his State, he was glad to meet any one he had known there. After
a month, he was glad to meet any one he had even seen there. And
after a year, he was glad to meet any one who was in any way like
to his fellow-countrymen. Is not this a case of absence from one's
kind increasing the desire to be with them?
'Thus a man who had fled into the wilderness,
where bishopwort chokes the path of the weasal and stoat, now
advancing, now stopping, ‹ how he would rejoice if the footfall
of a fellow-creature broke upon his ear. And how much more were
he to hear the sound of a brother's, of a relative's voice at
his side. Long it is, I ween, since his Highness has heard the
voice of a pure man at his side!'
Hsü Wu Kuei went to visit the Prince. The
latter said, 'Living, Sir, up in the hills, and feeding upon berries
or satisfying yourself with leeks, you have long neglected me.
Are you now growing old? Or do you hanker after flesh-pots and
wine? Or is it that mine is such a well-governed State?'
'I am of lowly birth', replied Hsü Wu Kuei.
'I could not venture to eat and drink your Highness' meat and
wine. I came to sympathize with your Highness.'
'What do you mean?' cried the Prince. 'What is
there to sympathize about?'
'About your Highness' soul and body', replied
Hsü Wu Kuei.
'Pray explain', said the Prince.
'Nourishment is nourishment', said Hsü Wu
Kuei. 'Being high up does not make one high, nor does being low
make one low. Your Highness is the ruler of a large State, and
you oppress the whole population thereof in order to satisy your
sensualities. But your soul is not a party to this. The soul loves
harmony and hates disorder. For disorder is a disease. Therefore
I came to sympathize. How is it that your Highness alone is suffering?'
'I have long desired to see you', answered the
Prince. 'I wish to love my people, and by cultivation of duty
towards one's neighbour to put an end to war. Can this be done?'
'It cannot', replied Hsü Wu Kuei. 'Love
for the people is the root of all evil to the people. Cultivation
of duty towards one's neighbour in order to put an end to war
is the origin of all the fighting. If your Highness starts from
this basis, the result can only be disastrous.
'Everything that is made good, turns out bad.
And although your Highness should make charity and duty to one's
neighbour, I fear they would be spurious articles. For the inward
intention would appear in the outward manifestation. The adoption
of a fixed standard would lead to complications. And revolutions
within lead to fighting without. Surely your Highness would not
make a bower into a battle-field, nor a shrine of prayer into
a scene of warfare!
'Have nothing within which is obstructive of
virtue. Seek not to vanquish others in cunning, in plotting, in
war. If I slay a whole nation and annex the territory in order
to find nourishment for my passions and for my soul, ‹ irrespective
of military skill, wherein does the victory lie?
'If your Highness will only abstain, that will
be enough. Cultivate the sincerity that is within your breast,
so as to be responsive to the conditions of your environment,
and be not aggressive. The people will thus escape death; and
what need then to put an end to death; and what need then to put
an end to war?'
When the Yellow Emperor went to see Tao upon
the Chü-tz'u Mountain, Fang Ming was his charioteer, Ch'ang
Yü sat on his right, Chang Jo and Hsi P'eng were his outriders,
and K'un Hun and Hua Chi brought up the rear. On reaching the
wilds of Hsiang-ch'eng, these seven Sages lost their way and there
was no one of whom to ask the road. By and by, they fell in with
a boy who was grazing horses, and asked him, saying, 'Do you know
the Chü-tz'u Mountain?'
'I do', replied the boy.
'And can you tell us', continued the Sages, 'where
'I can', replied the boy.
'This is a strange lad', cried the Yellow Emperor.
'Not only does he know where the Chü-Tz'u Mountain is, but
also where Tao abides! Come tell me, pray, how would you govern
'I should govern the empire', said the boy, 'just
the same as I look after my horses. What else should I do?
'When I was a little boy and used to live within
the points of the compass, my eyes got dim of sight. An old man
advised me to mount the chariot of the sun, and visit the wilds
of Hsiang-cheng. My sight is now much better, and I continue to
dwell without the points of the compass. I should govern the empire
in just the same way. What else should I do?'
'Of course', said the Yellow Emperor, 'government
is not your trade. Still I should be glad to hear what you would
The boy declined to answer, but on being again
urged, cried out, 'What difference is there between governing
the empire and looking after horses? See that no harm comes to
the horses, that is all!'
Thereupon the Emperor prostrated himself before
the boy; and addressing him as Divine Teacher, took his leave.
If schemers have nothing to give them anxiety,
they are not happy. If dialecticians have not their premises and
conclusion, they are not happy. If critics have none of whom to
vent their spleen, they are not happy. Such men are the slaves
of objective existences.
Those who attract the sympathies of the world,
start new dynasties. Those who win the people's hearts, take high
official rank. Those who are strong undertake difficulties. Those
who are brave encounter dangers. Men of arms delight in war. Men
of peace think of nothing but reputation. Men of law strive to
improve the administration. Professors of ceremony and music cultivate
deportment. Moralists devote themselves to the obligations between
man and man.
Take away agriculture from the husbandman, and
his classification is gone. Take away trade from the merchant,
and his classification is gone. Daily work is the stimulus of
the labourer. The skill of the artisan is his pride. If money
cannot be made, the avaricious man is sad. If his power meets
with a check, the boaster will repine. Ambitious men love change.
Thus, men are always doing something; inaction
is to them impossible. They observe in this the same regularity
as the seasons, ever without change. They hurry to destruction,
dissipating in all directions their vital forces, alas! never
Chuang Tzu said, 'If archers who aimed at nothing
and hit something were accounted good shots, everybody in the
world would be another Yi. Could this be so?'
'It could', replied Hui Tzu.
'If there was no general standard of right in
the world', continued Chuang Tzu, 'but each man had his own, then
everybody would be a Yao. Could this be so?'
'It could', replied Hui Tzü.
'Very well', said Chuang Tzu. 'Now there are
the Confucianists, the Mohists, the schools of Yang and Ping,
making with your own five in all. Pray which of these is right?
A disciple said to him, "Master, I have attained to your
Tao. I can do without fire in winter: I can make ice in summer."
"You merely avail yourself of latent heat
and latent cold", replied Lu Chü. "That is not
what I call Tao. I will demonstrate to you what my Tao is."
'Thereupon he tuned two lutes, and placed one
in the hall and the other in the adjoining room. And when he struck
the Kung note on one, the Kung note on the other sounded; when
he struck the chio note on one, the chio note on the other sounded.
This because they were both tuned to the same pitch.
'But if he changed the interval of one string,
so that it no longer kept its place in the octave, and then struck
it, the result was that all the twenty-five strings jangled together.
There was sound as before, but the influence of the key-note was
gone. Is this your case?'
'The Confucianists, the Mohists, and the followers
of Yang and Ping', replied Hui Tzu, 'are just now engaged in discussing
this matter with me. They try to overwhelm me with argument or
howl me down with noise. Yet they have not proved me wrong. Why
then should you?'
'A man of the Ch'i State', replied Chuang Tzu,
'sent away his son into the Sung State, to be a doorkeeper, with
maimed body. But a vase, which he valued highly, he kept carefully
'He who would seek for a stray child, but will
not leave his home, is like to lose him.
'If a man of Ch'u, who was sent away to be a
doorkeeper, began, in the middle of the night, when no one was
about, to fight with the boatman, I should say that before his
boat left the shore he would already have got himself into considerable
Chuang Tzu was once attending a funeral, when
he passed by the grave of Hui Tzu. Turning to his attendants,
he said, 'A man of Ying who had his nose covered with a hard scab,
no thicker than a fly's wing, sent for a stone-mason to chip it
off. The stone-mason plied his adze with great dexterity while
the patient let him chip. When the scab was all off, the nose
was found to be uninjured, the man of Ying never having changed
'When Yüan, prince of Sung, heard of this,
he summoned the stone-mason and said, "Try to do the same
"I used to be able to do it, Sire",
replied the stone-mason, "but my material has long since
'And I too, ever since he perished, have been
without my material, having no one with whom I can speak.'
Kuan Chung being at the point of death, Duke
Huan went to see him.
'You are ill, venerable Sir', said the Duke,
'really ill. You had better say to whom, in the event of your
getting worse, I am to entrust the administration of the State.'
'Whom does your Highness wish to choose?' enquired
'Will Pao Yü do?' asked the Duke.
'He will not', said Kuan Chung. 'He is pure,
incorruptible, and good. With those who are not like himself,
he will not associate. And if he has once heard of a man's wrong-doing,
he never forgets it. If you employ him in the administration of
the empire, he will get to loggerheads with his prince and to
sixes and sevens with the people. It would not be long before
he and your Highness fell out.'
'Whom then can we have?' asked the Duke.
'There is no alternative', replied Kuan Chung;
'it must be Hsi P'eng. He is a man who forgets the authority of
those above him, and makes those below him forget his. Ashamed
that he is not the peer of the Yellow Emperor, he grieves over
those who are not the peers of himself.
'To share one's virtue with others is called
true wisdom. To share one's wealth with others is reckoned meritorious.
To exhibit superior merit is not the way to win men's hearts.
To exhibit inferior merit is the way. There are things in the
State he does not hear; there are things in the family he does
not see. There is no alternative; it must be Hsi P'eng.'
The prince of Wu took a boat and went to the
Monkey Mountain, which he ascended. When the monkeys saw him,
they fled in terror and hid themselves in the thicket. One of
them, however, disported himself carelessly, as though showing
off its skill before the prince. The prince took a shot at it;
but the monkey, with great rapidity, seized the flying arrow with
its hand. Then the prince bade his guards try, the result being
that the monkey was killed.
Thereupon the prince turned to his friend Yen
Pu I, and said, 'That monkey flaunted its skill and its dexterity
in my face. Therefore it has come to this pass. Beware! Do not
flaunt your superiority in the faces of others.'
Yen Pu I went home, and put himself under the
tuition of Tung Wu, with a view to get rid of such superiority.
He put aside all that gave him pleasure and avoided gaining reputation.
And in three years his praise was in everybody's mouth.
Tzu Ch'i of Nan-poh was sitting leaning on a
table. He looked up to heaven and sighed, at which juncture Yen
Ch'eng Tzu entered and said, 'How, Sir, can such an important
person as yourself be in body like dry wood, in mind like dead
'I used to live in a cave on the hills', replied
Tzu Ch'i. 'At that time, T'ien Ho, because he once saw me, was
thrice congratulated by the people of Ch'i. Now I must have given
some indication by which he recognized me. I must have sold for
him to buy. For had I not manifested myself, how would he have
recognized me? Had I not sold, how could he have bought?
'Alas! I grieve over man's self-destruction.
And then I grieve over one who grieves for another. And then I
grieve over him who grieves over one who grieves for another!
And so I get daily farther and farther away.'
When Confucius went to Ch'u, the prince entertained
him at a banquet. Sun Shu Ao stood up with a goblet of wine in
his hand, and I Liao of Shih-nan poured a libation, saying, 'On
such occasions as this, the men of old were wont to make some
'Mine', replied Confucius, 'is the doctrine of
wordless utterances. Shall I who make no utterances, make utterance
'I Liao of Shih-nan juggled with balls, and the
trouble of two houses was arranged.
'Sun Shu Ao remained quietly in repose, and the
men of Ying threw down their arms. I should want a three-foot
'Theirs was the Tao of inaction. His was the
argument of silence. Wherefore, for Te to rest in undivided Tao,
and for speech to stop at the unknowable, ‹ this is perfection.
'With undivided Tao, Te cannot be coincident.
No argument can demonstrate the unknowable. Subdivision into Confucianists
and Mohists only makes confusion worse confounded.
'The sea does not reject the streams which flow
eastward into it. Therefore it is immeasurably great. The true
Sage folds the universe in his bosom. His good influence benefits
all throughout the empire, without respect to persons. Born without
rank, he dies without titles. He does not take credit for realities.
He does not establish a name. This is to be a great man.
'A dog is not considered a good dog because he
is a good barker. A man is not considered a good man because he
is a good talker. How much less in the case of greatness? And
if doing great things is not enough to secure greatness, how much
less shall it secure virtue?
'In point of greatness, there is nothing to be
compared with the universe. Yet what does the universe seek in
order to be great?
'He who understands greatness in this sense,
seeks nothing, loses nothing, rejects nothing, never suffers injury
from without. He takes refuge in his own inexhaustibility. He
finds safety in according with his nature. This is the essence
of true greatness.'
Tzu Ch'i had eight sons. He ranged them before
him, and summoning Chiu Fang Yin, said to him, 'Examine my sons
physiognomically, and tell me which will be the fortunate one'.
'K'un', replied Chiu Fang Yin, 'will be the fortunate
'In what sense?' asked the father, beaming with
'K'un', said Chiu Fang Yin, 'will eat at the
table of a prince, and so end his days.'
Thereupon Tzu Ch'i burst into tears and said,
'What has my son done that this should be his fate?'
'Eating at the table of a prince', replied Chiu
Fang Yin, 'will benefit the family for three generations. How
much more his father and mother! But for you, Sir, to go and weep
is enough to turn back the luck from you. The son's fortune is
good, but the father's bad.'
'Yin', said Tzu Ch'i, 'I should like to know
what you mean by calling K'un fortunate. Wine and meat gratify
the palate, but you do not say how these are to come.
'Supposing that to me, not being a shepherd,
a lamb were born in the south-west corner of my hall; or that
to me, not being a sportsman, quails were hatched in the north-east
corner. If you did not call that uncanny, what would you call
'My sons and I do but roam through the universe.
With them I seek the joys of heaven; with them I seek the fruits
of earth. With them I engage in no business; with them I concoct
no plots; with them I engage in no business; with them I concoct
no plots; with them I attempt nothing out-of-the-way. With them
I mount upon the truth of the universe, and do not offer opposition
to the exigencies of our environment. With them I accommodate
myself naturally; but with them I do not become a slave to circumstances.
Yet now the world is rewarding me!
'Every uncanny effect must be preceded by some
uncanny cause. Alas! my sons and I have done nothing. It must
be the will of God. Therefore I weep.'
Shortly afterwards, when K'un was on his way
to the Yen State, he was captured by brigands. To sell him as
he was would be no easy matter. To sell him without his feet would
be easy enough. So they cut off his feet and sold him into the
Ch'i State, where he became door-keeper to Duke Chü and had
meat to his dinner for the rest of his life.
Yeh Ch'üeh meeting Hsü Yu, said ot
him, 'Where are you going?'
'Away from Yao!' replied the latter.
'What do you mean?' asked Yeh Ch'üeh.
'Yao', said Hsü Yu, 'thinks of nothing but
charity. I fear he will become a laughing-stock to the world,
and that in future ages men will eat one another.
'There is no difficulty in winning the people.
Love them and they will draw near. Profit them and they will come
up. Praise them and they will vie with one another. But introduce
something they dislike, and they will be gone.
'Love and profit are born of charity and duty
to one's neighbour. Those who ignore charity and duty to one's
neighbour are few; those who make capital out of them are man.
'For the operation of these virtues is not disinterested.
It is like lending gear to a sportsman. Wherefore, for one man
to dogmatize for the good of the whole empire, is like splitting
a thing at a single blow.
'Yao knows that good men benefit the empire.
But he does not know that they injure it. Only those on a higher
level than good men know this.
'There are nincompoops; there are parasites;
there are enthusiasts.
'A man who learns from a single teacher, and
then goes off exultant, satisfied with his acquirements though
ignorant that there was a time when nothing existed, ‹ such
a one is a nincompoop.
'Parasites are like the lice on the pig's back.
They choose bald patches, which are to them palaces and parks.
The parts between the toes, the joints, the dugs, and the buttocks,
are to them so many comfortable and convenient resting-places.
They know not that one day the butcher will tuck up his sleeves
and spread straw and apply fire, and that they will perish in
the singeing of the pig. As they sow, so do they reap. This is
to be a parasite.
'Of enthusiasts, Shun is an example. Mutton does
not care for ants; it is the ants which care for the mutton. Mutton
has a frowsy smell; and there is a frowsiness about Shun which
attracts the people. Therefore it was that after three changes
of residence, when he came to the Teng district, he had some hundred
thousand families with him.
'Then Yao, hearing of his goodness, appointed
him to a barren region, trusting, as he said, that Shun's arrival
would enrich it. When Shun took up this appointment, he was already
old, and his intellect was failing; yet he would not cease work
and retire from office. He was, in fact, an enthusiast.
'So it is that the spiritual man dislikes a crowd.
For where there is a crowd there is diversity, and where there
is diversity advantage does not accrue. He is therefore neither
very intimate, nor very distant. He clings to virtue and nourishes
a spirit of harmony, in order to be in accord with his fellow-men.
This is to be a divine man.
'Leave wisdom to ants. Strive for what fishes
desire. Leave attractiveness to mutton. Use your eyes to contemplate,
your ears to listen to, your mind to consider, their own internal
workings. For him who can do these things, his level will be that
of a line, his modifications in due and proper season.
'Therefore, the divine man trusts to the natural
development of events. He does not strive to introduce the artificial
into the domain of the natural. Accordingly, life is a gain and
death a loss, or death is a gain and life a loss.
'For instance, drugs. They are characteristically
poisonous. Such are Chieh-Keng, Chi-Yung, and Shih-Ling. Circumstances,
however, make of each a sovereign remedy. The list is inexhaustible.
'When Kou Chien encamped with three thousand
armed warriors at Kuei-ch'i, only Chung saw that defeat would
be followed by a rally. Yet he could not foresee the evil that
was to come upon himself. Wherefore it has been said, "An
owl's eyes are adapted to their use. A crane's leg is of the length
required. 'Twould be disastrous to shorten it."
'Thus it has been said, "The wind blows
and the river suffers. The sun shines and the river suffers."
But though wind and sun be both brought into relations with the
river, it does not really suffer therefrom. Fed from its source,
it still continues to flow on.
'The relation between water and earth is determinate.
The relation between a man and his shadow is determinate. The
relation between thing and thing is determinate.
'The relation between eye and vision is baneful.
The relation between ear and hearing is baneful. The relation
between mind and object is baneful. The relation, between all
kinds of capacity and man's inner self is baneful. If such banefulness
be not corrected, disasters will spring up on all sides. Retrogression
is hard to achieve, and success long in coming. Yet alas! men
regard such capacities as valuable possessions.
'The destruction of States and the ceaseless
slaughter of human beings result from an inability to examine
'The foot treads the ground in walking; nevertheless
it is ground not trodden on which makes up the good walk. A man's
knowledge is limited; but it is upon what he does not know that
he depends to extend his knowledge to the apprehension of God.
'Knowledge of the Great One, of the great Negative,
of the great Nomenclature, of the great Uniformity, of the great
Space, of the great Truth, of the great Law, ‹ this is perfection.
'The great One is omnipresent. The great Negative
is omnipotent. The great Nomenclature is all-inclusive. The great
Uniformity is all-assimilative. The great Space is all-receptive.
The great Truth is all-exacting. The great Law is all-binding.
'The ultimate end is God. He is manifested in
the laws of nature. He is the hidden spring. At the beginning,
he was. This, however, is inexplicable. It is unknowable. But
from the unknowable we reach the known.
'Investigation must not be limited, nor must
it be unlimited. In this vague undefinedness there is an actuality.
Time does not change it. It cannot suffer diminution. May we not
then call it our great Guide?
'Why not bring our doubting hearts to investigation
thereof? And then, using certainty to dispel doubt, revert to
a state without doubt, in which doubt is doubly dead?'
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Translated from the Chinese by Herbert A. Giles. First edition,
1889; second edition, 1923.