The Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu. Chapter 27. Argument: Speech, natural and artifical. Natural speech in harmony with the divine. Destiny. The ultimate cause. Purification of the soul.*

Of language put into other people's mouths, nine-tenths will succeed. Of language based upon weighty authority, seven-tenths. But language which flows constantly over, as from a full goblet, is in accord with God.

When language is put into other people's mouths, outside support is sought. Just as a father does not negotiate his son's marriage; for any praise he could bestow would not have the same value as praise by an outsider. Thus, the fault is not mine, but that of others.

To that which agrees with our own opinions we assent; from that which does not we dissent. We regard that which agrees with our own opinion as right. We regard that which differs from our opinion as wrong. Language based on weighty authority is used to bar futher argument. The authorities are our superiors, our elders in years. But if they lack the requisite knowledge and experience, being our superiors only in the sense of age, then they are not our superiors. And if men are not the superiors of their fellows, no one troubles about them. And those about whom no one troubles are merely stale.

Language which flows constantly over, as from a full goblet, is in accord with God. Because it spreads out on all sides, it endures for all time. Without language, contraries are identical. The identity is not identical with its expression: the expression is not identical with its identity. Therefore it has been said, Language not expressed in language is not language. Contantly unspoken, it is as though not spoken. Constantly unspoken, it is not as though not spoken.

From the subjective point of view, there are possibilities and impossibilities, there are suitabilities and unsuitabilities. This results from the natural affinity of things for what they are and their natural antagonism to what they are not. For all things have their own particular constitutions and potentialities. Nothing can exist without these. But for language that constantly flows over, as from a full goblet, and is in accord with God, how should the permanent be attained?

All things spring from germs. Under many diverse forms these things are ever being reproduced. Round and round, like a wheel, no part of which is more the starting-point than any other. This is called the equilibrium of God. And he who holds the scales is God.

Chuang Tzu said to Hui Tzu, 'When Confucius reached his sixtieth year he changed his opinions. What he had previously regarded as right, he ultimately came to regard as wrong. But who shall say whether the right of today may not be as wrong as the wrong of the previous fifty-nine years?'

'He was a persevering worker', replied Hui Tzu, 'and his wisdom increased day by day'.

'Confucius', replied Chuang Tzu, 'discarded both perseverance and wisdom, but did not attempt to formulate the doctrine in words. He said, "Man has received his talents from God, together with a soul to give them life. He should speak in accordance with established laws. His words should be in harmony with fixed order. Personal advantage and duty to one's neighbour lie open before us. Likes and dislikes, rights and wrongs, are but as men chose to call them. But to bring submission into men's hearts, so that they shall not be stiff-necked, and thus fix firmly the foundations of the empire, ‹ to that, alas! I have not attained."'

Tsent Tzu held office twice. His emotions varied in each case.

'As long as my parents were alive', said he, 'I was happy on a small salary. When I had a large salary, but my parents were no more, I was sad.'

A disciple said to Confucius, 'Can we call Tseng Tzu a man without cares to trouble him?'

'He had cares to trouble him', replied Confucius. 'Can a man who has no cares to trouble him feel grief? His small salary and his large salary were to him like a heron or a mosquito flying past.'

Yen Ch'eng Tzu Yu said to Tung Kuo Tzu Ch'i, 'One year after receiving your instructions I became naturally simple. After two years, I could adapt myself as required. After three years, I understood. After four years, my intelligence developed. After five years, it was complete. After six years, the spirit entered into me. After seven, I knew God. After eight, life and death existed for me no more. After nine, perfection.

'Life has its distinctions; but in death we are all made equal. That death should have an origin, but that life should have no origin, can this be so? What determines its presence in one place, its absence in another?

'Heaven has its fixed order. Earth has yielded up its secrets to man. But where to seek whence am I?

'Not knowing the hereafter, how can we deny the operation of Destiny? Not knowing what preceded birth, how can we assert the operation of Destiny? When things turn out as they ought, who shall say that the agency is not supernatural? When things turn out otherwise who shall say that it is?'

The various Penumbrae said to the Umbra, 'Before you were looking down, now you are looking up. Before you had your hair tied up, now it is all loosed. Before you were sitting, now you have got up. Before you were moving, now you are stopping still. How is this?'

'Gentlemen', replied the Umbra, 'the question is hardly worth asking. I do back these things, but I do not know why. I am like the scaly back of the cicada, the shell of the locust, ‹ apparently independent, but not really so. By firelight or in daylight I am seen: in darkness or by night I am gone. And if I am dependent on these, how much more are they dependent on something else? When they come, I come with them. When they go, I go with them. When they live, I live with them. But who it is that gives the life, how shall we seek to know?'

Yang Tzu Chü went southwards to P'ei, and when Lao Tzu was travelling westwards to Ch'in, hastened to receive him outside the city. Arriving at the bridge, he met Lao Tzu; and the latter standing in the middle of the road, looked up to heaven and said with a sigh, 'At first, I thought you could be taught. I think so no more.'

Yang Tzu Chü made no reply, but when they reached the inn, handed Lao Tzu water for washing and rinsing, and a towel and comb. He then removed his own boots outside the door, and crawling on his knees into the Master's presence, said, 'I have been wishing to ask for instruction, Sir, but as you were travelling and not at leisure, I did not venture. You are now, Sir, at leisure. May I enquire the reason of what you said?'

'You have an overbearing look', said Lao Tzu. 'Who would live with such a man? He who is truly pure behaves as though he were sullied. He who has virtue in abundance behaves as though it were not enough.'

Yang Tzu Chü changed countenance at this, and replied, 'I hear and obey.'

Now when Yang Tzu Chü first went to the inn, the visitors there had come out to receive him. Mine host had arranged his mat, while the landlady held towel and comb. The visitors had given him up the best seats, and those who were cooking had left the stove free for him. But when he went back, the other visitors struggled to get the best seats for themselves.

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* Translated from the Chinese by Herbert A. Giles. First edition, 1889; second edition, 1923.


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