The Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu. Chapter 28. Happy Under Success And Failure*

Yao offered to resign the empire to Hsü Yu, but the latter declined.

He then offered it to Tzu Chou Chih Fu, who said, 'There is no objection to making me emperor. But just now I am suffering from a troublesome disease, and am engaged to trying to cure it. I have no leisure to look after the empire.'

Now the empire is of paramount importance. Yet here was a man who would not allow it to injure his chance of life. How much less then would he let other things do so? Yet it is only he who would do nothing in the way of government who is fit to be trusted with the empire.

Shun offered to resign the empire to Tzu Chou Chih Poh. The latter said, 'Just now I am suffering from a troublesome disease, and am engaged in trying to cure it. I have no leisure to look after the empire.'

Now the empire is a great trust; but not to sacrifice one's life for it is precisely where the man of Tao differs from the man of the world.

Shun offered to resign the empire to Shan Chüan. Shan Chüan said, 'I am a unit in the sum of the universe. In winter I wear fur clothes. In summer I wear grass-cloth. In spring I plough and sow, toiling with my body. In autumn I gather in the harvest, and devote myself to rest and enjoyment. At dawn I go to work; at sunset I leave off. Contented with my lot I pass through life with a light heart. Why then should I trouble myself with the empire? Ah, Sir, you do not know me.'

So he declined, and subsequently hid himself among the mountains, nobody knew where.

Shun offered the empire to a friend, a labourer of Shih-hu.

'Sire', said the latter, 'you exert yourself too much. The chief thing is to husband one's strength'; meaning that in point of real virtue Shun had not attained.

Then, husband and wife, bearing away their household goods and taking their children with them, went off to the sea and never came back.

When T'ai Wang Shan Fu was occupying Pin, he was attacked by savages. He offered them skins and silk, but they declined these. He offered them dogs and horses, but they declined these also. He then offered them pearls and jade, but these too they declined. What they wanted was the territory.

'To live with a man's elder brother', said T'ai Wang Shan Fu, 'and slay his younger brother; to live with a man's father and slay his son, this I could not bear to do. Make shift to remain here. To be my subjects or the subjects of these savages, where is the difference? Besides I have heard say that we ought not to let that which is intended to nourish life become injurious to life.'

Thereupon he took his staff and went out. His people all followed him, and they founded a new state at the foot of Mount Ch'i.

Now T'ai Wang Shan Fu undoubtedly had a proper respect for life. And those who have a proper respect for life, if rich and powerful, do not let that which should nourish injure the body. If poor and lowly, they do not allow gain to involve them in physical wear and tear.

But the men of the present generation who occupy positions of power and influence, are all afraid of losing what they have got. Directly they see a chance of gain, away goes all care for their bodies. Is not that a cause for confusion?

In three successive cases the people of Yüeh had put their prince to death. Accordingly, Shou, the son of the last prince, was much alarmed, and fled to Tan-Hsüeh, leaving the State of Yüeh without a ruler.

Shou was at first nowhere to be found, but at length he was traced to Tan-Hsüeh. He was, however, unwilling to come forth, so they smoked him out with moxa. They had a royal carriage ready for him; and as Shou seized the cord to mount the chariot, he looked up to heaven and cried, 'Oh! ruling, ruling, could I not have been spared this?'

It was not that Shou objected to be a prince. He objected to the dangers associated with such positions. Such a one was incapable of sacrificing life to the State, and for that very reason the people of Yüeh wanted to get him.

The States of Han and Wei were struggling to annex each other's territory when Tzu Hua Tzu went to see prince Chao Hsi. Finding the latter very downcast, Tzu Hua Tzu said, 'Now suppose the representatives of the various States were to sign an agreement before your Highness, to the effect that although cutting off the left hand would involve the loss of the right, while cutting off the right would involve loss of the left, nevertheless that whosoever would cut off either should be emperor over all, ‹ would your Highness cut?'

'I would not', replied the prince.

'Very good', said Tzu Hua Tzu. 'It is clear therefore that one's two arms are worth more than the empire. And one's body is worth more than one's arms, while the State of Han is infinitely less important than the empire. Further, what you are struggling over is of infinitely less importance than the State of Han. Yet your Highness is wearing out body and soul alike in fear and anxiety lest you should not get it.'

'Good indeed!' cried the prince. 'Many have counselled me, but I have never heard the like of this.'

From which we may infer that Tzu Hua Tzu knew the difference between what was of importance and what was not.

The prince of Lu, hearing that Yen Ho had attained to Tao, despatched messengers with presents to open communications.

Yen Ho lived in a hovel. He wore clothes of coarse grass, and occupied himself in tending oxen.

When the messengers arrived, Yen Ho went out to meet them; whereupon they enquired, 'Is this where Yen Ho lives?'

'This is Yen Ho's house', replied the latter.

The messengers then produced the presents; but Yen Ho said, 'I fear you have made a mistake. As you might get into trouble, it would be as well to go back and make sure.'

This the messengers accordingly did. When however they returned, there was no trace to be found of Yen Ho. Thus it is that men like Yen Ho hate wealth and power.

Wherefore it has been said that the best part of Tao is for self-culture, the surplus for governing a State, and the dregs for governing the empire. From which we may infer that the great deeds of kings and princes are but the leavings of the Sage. For preserving the body and nourishing vitality, they are of no avail. Yet the superior men of today endanger their bodies and throw away their lives in their greed for the things of this world. Is not this pitiable?

The true Sage in all his actions considers the why and the wherefore. But there are those nowadays who use the pearl of the prince of Sui to shoot a bird a thousand yards off. And the world of course laughs at them. Why? Because they sacrifice the greater to get the less. But surely life is of more importance even than the prince's pearl!

Lieh Tzu was poor. His face wore a hungry look.

A visitor one day mentioned this to Tzu Yang of Cheng, saying, 'Lieh Tzu is a scholar who has attained to Tao. He lives in your Excellency's State, and yet he is poor. Can it be said that your Excellency does not love scholars?'

Thereupon Tzu Yang gave orders that Lieh Tzu should be supplied with food. But when Lieh Tzu saw the messengers, he bowed twice and declined.

When the messengers had gone, and Lieh Tzu went within, his wife gazed at him, and beating her breast said, 'I have heard that the wife and children of a man of Tao are happy and joyful. But see how hungry I am. His Excellency sent you food, and you would not take it. Is not this flying in the face of Providence?'

'His Excellency did not know me personally', answered Lieh Tzu with a smile. 'It was because of what others said about me that he sent me the food. If then men were to speak ill of me, he would also act upon it. For that reason I refused the food.'

Subsequently, there was trouble among the people of Cheng, and Tzu Yang was slain.

When Prince Chao of the Ch'u State lost his kingdom, he was followed into exile by his butcher, named Yüeh.

On his restoration, as he was distributing rewards to those who had remained faithful to him, he came to the name of Yüeh.

Yüeh, however, said, 'When the prince lost his kingdom, I lost my butchery. Now that the prince has got back his kingdom, I have got back my butchery. I have recovered my office and salary. What need for further reward?'

On hearing this, the prince gave orders that he should be made to take his reward.

'It was not through my fault', argued Yüeh, 'that the prince lost his kingdom, and I should not have taken the punishment. Neither was it through me that he got it back, and I cannot therefore accept the reward.'

When the prince heard this answer, he commanded Yüeh to be brought before him. But Yüeh said, 'The laws of the Ch'u State require that a subject shall have deserved exceptionally well of his prince before being admitted to an audience. Now my wisdom was insufficient to preserve this kingdom, and my courage insufficient to destroy the invaders. When the Wu soldiers entered Ying, I feared for my life and fled. That was why I followed the prince. And if now the prince wishes to set law and custom aside, and summon me to an audience, this is not my idea of proper behaviour on the part of the prince.'

'Yüeh', said the prince to Tzu Chi, his master of the horse, 'occupies a lowly position; yet his principles are of the most lofty. Go, make him a San Ching.'

'I am aware', replied Yüeh to the master of the horse, 'that the post of San Ching is more honourable than that of butcher. And I am aware that the emolument is larger than what I now receive. Still, although I want preferment and salary, I cannot let my prince earn the reputation of being unjudicious in his patronage. I must beg to decline. Let me go back to my butchery.'

And he adhered to his refusal.

Yüan Hsien dwelt in Lu, ‹ in a mud hut, with a grass-grown roof, an apology for a door, and two mulberry-trees for doorposts. The windows which lighted his two rooms were no bigger than the mouth of a jar, and were closed by a wad of old clothes. The hut leaked from above and was damp under foot; yet Yüan Hsien sat gravely there playing on the guitar.

Tzu Kung came driving up in a fine chariot, in a white robe lined with purple; but the hood of the chariot was too big for the street.

When he went to see Yüan Hsien, the latter came to the door in a flowery cap, with his shoes down at heel, and leaning on a stalk.

'Good gracious!' cried Tzu Kung, 'whatever is the matter with you?'

'I have heard', replied Yüan Hsien, 'that he who is without wealth is called poor, and that he who learns without being able to practise is said to have something the matter with him. Now I am merely poor; I have nothing the matter with me.'

Tzu Kung was much abashed at this reply; upon which Yüan Hsien smiling continued, 'To try to thrust myself forward among men; to seek friendship in mutual flattery; to learn for the sake of others; to teach for my own sake; to use benevolence and duty to one's neighbour for evil ends; to make a great show with horses and carriages, ‹ these things I cannot do.'

Tseng Tzu lived in the Wei State. His wadded coat had no outside cloth. His face was bloated and rough. His hands and feet were horny hard. For three days he had had no fire; no new clothes for ten years. If he set his cap straight the tassel would come off. If he drew up his sleeve his elbow would poke through. If he pulled up his shoe, the heel would come off. Yet slipshod he sang the Sacrificial Odes of Shang, his voice filling the whole sky, as though it had been some instrument of metal or stone.

The Son of Heaven could not secure him as a minister. The feudal princes could not secure him as a friend. For he who nourishes his purpose becomes oblivious of his body. He who nourishes his body becomes oblivious of gain. And who who has attained Tao becomes oblivious of his mind.

'Come hither', said Confucius to Yen Hui. 'Your family is poor, and your position lowly. Why not go into official life?'

'I do not wish to', replied Yen Hui. 'I have fifty acres of land beyond the city walls, which are enough to supply me with food. Ten more within the walls provide me with clothes. My lute gives me all the amusement I want; and the study of your doctrines keeps me happy enough. I do not desire to go into official life.'

'Bravo! well said!' cried Confucius with beaming countenance. 'I have heard say that those who are contented do not entangle themselves in the pursuit of gain. That those who have really obtained do not fear the contingency of loss. That those who devote themselves to cultivation of the inner man, though occupying no position, feel no shame. Thus indeed I have long preached. Only now, that I have seen Yen Hui, am I conscious of the realization of these words.'

Prince Mou of Chung-shan said to Chan Tzu, 'My body is in the country, but my heart is in town. What am I to do?'

'Make life of paramount importance', answered Chan Tzu, 'and worldly advantage will cease to have weight'.

'That I know', replied the Prince; 'but I am not equal to the task'.

'If you are not equal to this', said Chan Tzu, 'then it were well for you to pursue your natural bent. Not to be equal to a task, and yet to force oneself to stick to it, ‹ this is called adding one injury to another. And those who suffer such two-fold injury do not belong to the class of the long-lived.'

Prince Mou of Wei was heir to the throne of a large State. For him to become a hermit among the hills was more difficult than for an ordinary cotton-clothed scholar. And although he had not attained to Tao, he may be said to have been on the way thither.

When Confucius was caught between the Ch'ens and the Ts'ais, he went seven days without proper food. He ate soup of herbs, having no rice. He looked very much exhausted, yet he sat within playing his guitar and singing to it.

Yen Hui was picking over the herbs, while Tzu Lu and Tzu Kung were talking together. One of them said, 'Our Master has twice been driven out of Lu. They will have none of him in Wei. His tree was cut down in Sung. He got into trouble in Shang and Chou. And now he is surrounded by the Ch'ens and the Ts'ais. Whoever kills him is to be held guiltless. Whoever takes him prisoner is not to be interfered with. Yet all the time he goes on playing and singing without cease. Is this the right thing for a superior man to do?'

Yen Hui said nothing, but went inside and told Confucius, who laid aside his guitar and said with a loud sign, 'Yu and Tz'u are ignorant fellows. Bid them come, and I will speak to them.'

When they entered Tzu Lu said, 'We seem to have made a thorough failure'.

'What do you mean?' cried Confucius. 'The superior man who succeeds in Tao, has success. If he fails in Tao, he makes a failure. Now I, holding fast to the Tao of charity and duty towards one's neighbour, have fallen among the troubles of a disordered age. What failure is there in that?

'Therefore it is that by cultivation of the inner man there is no failure in Tao, and when danger comes there is no loss of virtue. It is the chill winter weather, it is frost, it is snow, which bring out the luxuriance of the pine and the fir. I regard it is as a positive blessing to be thus situated as I am.'

Thereupon he turned abruptly round and went on playing and singing.

At this Tzu Lu hastily seized a shield and began dancing to the music, while Tzu Kung said, 'I had no idea of the height of heaven and of the depth of earth'.

The ancients who attained Tao were equally happy under success and failure. Their happiness had nothing to do with their failure or their success. Tao once attained, failure and success became mere links in a chain, like cold, heat, wind, and rain. Thus Hsü Yu enjoyed himself at Ying-yang, and Kung Poh found happiness on the hill-top.

Shun offered to resign the empire to his friend Pei Jen Wu Tse.

'What a strange manner of man you are!' cried the latter. 'Living in the furrowed fields, you exchanged such a life for the throne of Yao. And as if that was not enough, you now try to heap indignity upon me. I am ashamed of you.'

Thereupon he drowned himself in the waters of Ch'ing-ling.

When T'ang was about to attack Chieh, he went to consult with Pien Sui.

'It is not a matter in which I can help you', said the latter.

'Who can?' asked T'ang.

'I do not know', replied Pien Sui.

T'ang then went to consult with Wu Kuang.

'It is not a matter in which I can help you', said the latter.

'Who can?' asked T'ang.

'I do not know', replied Wu Kuang.

'What do you think of I Yin?' asked T'ang.

'He forces himself', said Wu Kuang, 'to put up with obloquy. Beyond this I know nothing of him.'

So T'ang took I Yin took his counsels. They attacked Chieh, and vanquished him.

Then T'ang offered to resign the empire in favour of Pien Sui. But Pien Sui declined, saying, 'When your Majesty consulted with me about attacking Chieh, you evidently looked on me as a robber. Now that you have vanquished him, and you offer to resign in my favour, you evidently regard me as covetous. I was born indeed in a disordered age. But for a man without Tao to thus insult me twice, is more than I can endure.'

So he drowned himself in the river Chou.

Then T'ang offered to resign in favour of Wu Kuang, saying, 'The wise plan, the brave execute, the good rest therein, such was the Tao of the ancients. Why, Sir, should not you occupy the throne?'

But Wu Kuang declined, saying, 'To depose a ruler is not to do one's duty to one's neighbour. To slay the people is not charity. For others to suffer these wrongs, while I enjoy the profits, is not honest. I have heard say that one should not accept a wage unless earned in accordance with right; and that if the world is without Tao, one should not put foot upon its soil, still less over it! I can bear this no longer.'

Thereupon he took a stone on his back and jumped into the river Lu.

At the rise of the Chou dynasty there were two scholars, named Po I and Shu Ch'i, who lived in Ku-tu.

One of these said to the other, 'I have heard that in the west there are men who are apparently in possession of Tao. Let us go and see them.'

When they arrived at Ch'i-yang Wu Wang heard of their arrival and sent Shu Tan to enter into a treaty with them. They were to receive emoluments of the second degree and rank of the first degree. The treaty was to be sealed with blood and buried.

At this the two looked at each other and smiled. 'Ah!' said one of them, 'this is strange indeed. It is not what we call Tao.

'Whe Shen Nung ruled the empire, he worshipped God without asking for any reward. Sometimes it was the law he put in force; sometimes it was his personal influence he brought to bear. He was loyal and faithful to his people without seeking any return. He did not build his success upon another's ruin, nor mount high by means of another's fall, nor seize opportunities to secure his own advantage.

'But now that the Chous, beholding the iniquities of the Yins, have taken upon themselves to govern, we have intrigues above and bribes below. Troops are mobilized to protect prestige. Victims are slaughtered to give good faith to a treaty. A show of virtue is made to amuse the masses. Fighting and slaughter are made the means of gain. Confusion has simply been exchanged for disorder.

'I have heard tell that the men of old, living in quiet times, never shirked their duties; but lighting upon troublous times, nothing could make them stay. The empire is now in darkness. The virtue of the Chous has faded. For the empire to be united under the Chous would be a disgrace to us. Better flee away and keep our actions pure.'

Accordingly, these two philosophers went north to mount Shou-yang, where they subsequently starved themselves to death.

Men like Poh I and Shu Ch'i, if wealth and honour came to them so that they could properly accept, would assuredly not have recourse to such heroic measures, nor would they be content to follow their own bent, without giving their services to their generation. Such was the purity of these two scholars.

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


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