Chuang Tzu. Chapter 33. The Empire. Summary
by early editors.Chuang Tzu. Chapter 33. The Empire. A rather
unique and valuable summary by early editors of the different
Chinese philosophical schools. Like most of the later chapters
of Chuang Tzu, almost certainly not written by him since he himself
is one of the philosophers discussed. Note the differences in
the various schools of Taoism discussed.*
Systems of government are many. Each man thinks his own perfect.
Where then does what the ancients called the system of Tao come
in? There is nowhere where it does not come in.
It may be asked whence our spirituality, whence our intellectuality.
The true Sage is born; the prince is made. Yet all proceed from
an original One.
He who does not separate from the Source is one with God. He
who does not separate from the essence is a spiritual man. He
who does not separate from the reality is a perfect man. He who
makes God the source, and Te the root, and Tao the portal, passively
falling in with the modifications of his environment, ‹
he is the true Sage.
He who practices charity as a kindness, duty to one's neighbour
as a principle, ceremony as a convenience, music as a pacificator,
and thus becomes compassionate and charitable, he is a superior
He who regulates his conduct by law, who regards fame as an external
adjunct, who verifies his hypotheses, who bases his judgment upon
proof, ‹ such men rank one, two, three, four, etc. It is
thus that officials rank. In a strict sense of duty, in making
food and raiment of paramount importance, in caring for and nourishing
the old, the weak, the orphan, and the widow, they all exemplify
the principle of true government.
Thus far-reaching was the extension of Tao among the ancients.
The companion of the gods, the purifier of the universe, it nourishes
all creation, it unites the empire, it benefits the masses. Illuminating
the fundamental, it is bound up with the accessory, reaching to
all points of the compass and to the opposite extremes of magnitude.
There is indeed nowhere where it is not!
How it enlightened the polity of past ages is evidenced in the
records which historians have preserved to us. Its presence in
the Canons of Poetry, History, Rites and Music, has been made
clear by many scholars of Chou and Lu. It informs the Canon of
Poetry with its vigour, the Canon of History with its usefulness,
the Canon of Rites with its adaptability, the Canon of Music with
its harmonizing influence, the Canon of Changes with its mysterious
Principles, and the Spring and Autumn with its discriminations.
Spread over the whole world, it is focussed in the Middle Kingdom,
and the learning of all schools renders constant homage to its
But when the world is disorganized, true Sages do not manifest
themselves, Tao ceases to exist as One, and the world becomes
cognizant of the idiosyncrasies of the individual. These are like
the senses of hearing, sight, smell and taste, ‹ not common
to each organ. Or like the skill of various artisans, each excellent
of its kind and each useful in its turn, but not equally at the
command of all.
Consequently, when a mere specialist comes forward and dogmatizes
on the beauty of the universe, the principles which underlie all
creation, the position occupied by the ancients in reference to
the beauty of the universe, and the limits of the supernatural,
‹ it follows that the Tao of inner wisdom and of outer strength
is obscured and prevented from asserting itself. Every one alas!
regards the course he prefers as the infallible course. The various
schools diverge never to meet again; and posterity is debarred
from viewing the original purity of the universe and the grandeur
of the ancients. For the system of Tao is scattered in fragments
over the face of the earth.
Not to covet posthumous fame, nor to aim at dazzling the world,
nor to pose as a benefactor of mankind, but to be a strict self-disciplinarian
while lenient to the faults of others, herein lay the Tao of the
Mo Tzu and Ch'in Hua Li became enthusiastic followers of Tao,
but they pushed the system too far, carrying their practice to
excess. The former wrote an essay Against Music, and another which
he entitled Economy. There was to be no singing in life, no mourning
after death. He taught universal love and beneficence towards
one's fellow men, without contentions, without censure of others.
He loved learning, but not in order to become different from others.
Yet his views were not those of the ancient Sages, whose music
and rites he set aside.
The Yellow Emperor gave us the Hsien-ch'ih. Yao gave us the Ta-chang.
Shun, the Tao-shao. Yü, the Ta-hsia. T'ang, the Ta-hu. Wen
Wang the P'i-yung. Wu Wang and Chou Kung added the Wu.
The mourning ceremonial of old was according to the estate of
each, and determined in proportion to rank. Thus, the body of
the Son of Heaven was enclosed in a seven-fold coffin. That of
a feudal prince, in a five-fold coffin. That of a minister, in
a three-fold coffin. That of a private individual, in a two-fold
coffin. But now Mo Tzu would have no singing in life, no mourning
after death, and a single coffin of only three inches in thickness
as the rule for all alike!
Such doctrines do not illustrate his theory of universal love;
neither does his practice of them establish the fact of his own
personal self-respect. They may not suffice to destroy his system
altogether; though it is unreasonable to prohibit singing, and
weeping, and rejoicing in due season.
He would have men toil through life and hold death in contempt.
But this teaching is altogether too unattractive. It would land
mankind in sorrow and lamentation. It would be next to impossible
as a practical system, and cannot, I fear, be regarded as the
Tao of the true Sage. It would be diametrically opposed to human
passions, and as such would not be tolerated by the world. Mo
Tzu himself might be able to carry it out; but not the rest of
the world. And when one separates from the rest of the world,
his chances of developing an ideal State become small indeed.
Mo Tzu argued in favour of his system as follows: Of old, the
great Yü drained off the flood of waters, and caused rivers
and streams to flow through the nine divisions of the empire and
the parts adjacent thereto, ‹ three hundred great rivers,
three thousand branches, and streams without number. With his
own hands he plied the bucket and dredger, in order to reduce
confusion to uniformity, until his calves and shins had no hair
left upon them. The wind bathed him, the rain combed him; but
he marked out the nations of the world, and was in very truth
a Sage. And because he thus sacrificed himself to the commonwealth,
ages of Mihists to come would also wear short serge jackets and
straw sandals, and toil day and night without stopping, making
self-mortification their end and aim, and say to themselves, 'If
we cannot do this, we do not follow the Tao of Yü, and are
unworthy to be called Mohists'.
The disciples of Hsiang Li Ch'in, the followers of the five princes,
Mohists of the south, such as K'u Huo, Chi Ch'ih, and Teng Ling,
‹ all these studied the canon of Mo Tzu, but their disagreements
and agreements were not identical. They called each other schismatics,
and quarrelled over the 'hard and white', the 'like and unlike',
and argued over questions of 'odd and even'. Chü Tzu was
their Sage, and they wanted to canonize him as a saint, that they
might carry on his doctrines into after ages. Even now these differences
are not settled.
Thus we see that Mo Tzu and Ch'in Hua Li, while right in theory,
were wrong in practice. They would merely have taught mankind
to compete with each other in working the hair off their calves
and shins. The evil of that system would have predominated over
the good. Nevertheless, Mo Tzu was undoubtedly a well-meaning
man. In spite of failure, with all its withering influences, he
stuck to his text. He may be called a man of genius.
Not to be involved in the mundane, not to indulge in the specious,
not to be overreaching with the individual, nor antogonistic to
the public; but to desire the tranquillity of the world in general
with a view to the prolongation of life, to seek no more than
sufficient for the requirements of oneself and others, and by
such a course to purify the heart, ‹ herein lay the Tao
of the ancients.
Sung Hsing and Yin Wen became enthusiastic followers of Tao.
They adopted a cap, shaped like the Hua mountain, as a badge.
They bore themselves with kindly discrimination towards all things.
They spoke of the passive qualities of the heart as though they
had been active; and declared that whosoever could bring joy among
mankind and peace within the girdle of ocean should be made ruler
They suffered obloquy without noticing the insult. They preserved
the people from strife. They prohibited aggression and caused
arms to lie unused. They saved their generation from wars, and
carried their system over the whole empire, to the delight of
the high and to the improvement of the lowly. Though the world
would have none of them, yet they struggled on and would not give
way. Hence it was said that when high and low became tired of
seeing them, they intruded themselves by force. In spite of all
this, they did too much for others, and too little for themselves.
'Give us', said they, 'but five pints of rice, and it will be
enough.' The master could not thus eat his fill; but the disciples,
although starving, did not forget the world's claims. Day and
night they toiled on, saying, 'Must we necessarily live? Shall
we ape the so-called saviours of mankind?'
'The superior man', they say, 'is not a fault-finder. He does
not appropriate the credit of others. He looks on one who does
no good to the world as a worthless fellow. He regards prohibition
of aggressive actions and causing arms to lie unused, as external;
the diminution and restraint of our passions, as internal. In
all matters, great or small, subtle or gross, such is the point
to which he attains.'
To be public-spirited and belong to no party, in one's dealings
not to be all for self, to move without being bound to a given
course, to take things as they come, to have no remorse for the
past, no anxiety for the future, to have no partialities, but
to be on good terms with all, herein lay the Tao of the ancients.
P'eng Meng, T'ien P'ien, and Shen Tao, became enthusiastic followers
of Tao. Their criterion was the identity of all things. 'The sky',
said they, 'can cover but cannot support us. The earth can support
but cannot cover us. Tao can embrace all things but cannot deal
They knew that in creation all things had their possibilities
and their impossibilities. Therefore they said, 'Selection excludes
universality. Training will not reach in all directions. But Tao
Consequently, Shen Tao discarded all knowledge and self-interest
and became a fatalist. Passivity was his guiding principle. 'For',
said he, 'we can only know that we know nothing, and a little
knowledge is a dangerous thing'.
Take any worthless fellow who laughs at mankind for holding virtue
in esteem, or any unprincipled vagabond who reviles the great
Sages of the world; subject them to torture, they will turn round
and discard positive and negative alike. If they can but get free,
they will trouble no more about knowledge and forethought. Past
and future will cease to exist for them, in their then neutral
Move when pushed, come when dragged. Be like a whirling gale,
like a feather in the wind, like a mill-stone going round. The
mill-stone as an existence is perfectly harmless. In motion or
at rest it does no more than is required, and cannot therefore
Why? Because it is simply an inanimate thing. It has no anxieties
about itself. It is never entangled in the trammels of knowledge.
In motion or at rest it is always governed by fixed laws, and
therefore it never becomes open to praise. Hence it has been said,
'Be as though an inanimate thing, and there will be no use for
'For a clod cannot be without Tao', at which some full-blooded
young buck covered the argument with ridicule by crying out, 'Shen
Tao's Tao is not for the living, but for the dead!'
It was the same with T'ien P'ien. He studied under P'eng Meng;
with the result that he learnt nothing.
P'eng Meng's tutor said, 'Those of old who knew Tao, reached
the point where positive and negative ceased to exist. That was
Now the bent of these men is one of opposition, which it is difficult
to discuss. They act in every way differently from other people,
but cannot escape the imputation of purpose. What they call Tao
is not Tao; and what they predicate affirmatively cannot escape
being negative. The fact is that P'eng Meng, T'ien P'ien, and
Shen Tao, did not know Tao. Nevertheless they all had a certain
acquaintance with it.
To make the root the essential, to regard objective existences
as accidental, to look upon accumulation as deficiency, and to
meekly accept the dispositions of Providence, herein lay the Tao
of the ancients.
Kuan Yin and Lao Tzu became enthusiastic followers of Tao. They
based their system upon nothingness, with One as their criterion.
Their outward expression was gentleness and humility. Their inward
belief was in unreality and avoidance of injury to all things.
Kuan Yi said, 'Adopt no absolute position. Let externals take
care of themselves. In motion, be like water. At rest, like a
mirror. Respond, like the echo. Be subtle, as though non-existent.
Be still, as though pure. Regard uniformity as peace. Look on
gain as loss. Do not precede others. Follow them.'
Lao Tzu said, 'He who conscious of being strong, is content to
be weak, ‹ he shall be a cynosure of men.
'He who conscious of purity, puts up with disgrace, ‹ he
shall be the cynosure of mankind.
'He who when others strive to be first, contents himself with
the lowest place, is said to accept the contumely of the world.
'He who when others strive for the substantial, contents himself
with the unsubstantial, stores up nothing and therefore has abundance.
There he is in the midst of his abundance which comes to him without
effort on his part. He does nothing, and laughs at the artifices
'He who when others strive for happiness is content with security,
is said to aim at avoiding evil.
'He who makes depth of fundamental importance and moderation
his rule of life, is said to crush that which is hard within him
and temper that which is sharp.
'To be in liberal sympathy with all creation, and not to be aggressive
towards one's fellow-men, ‹ this may be called perfection.'
O Kuan Yin! O Lao Tzu! verily ye were the true Sages of old.
Silence, formlessness, change, impermanence, now life, now death,
heaven and earth blended in one, the soul departing, gone no one
knows where: suddenly, no one knows whither, as all things go
in turn, never to come back again; ‹ herein lay the Tao
of the ancients.
Chuang Tzu became an enthusiastic follower of Tao. In strange
terms, in bold words, in far-reaching language, he gave free play
to his thoughts, without following any particular school or committing
himself to any particular line.
He looked on the world as so sunk in corruption that it was impossible
to speak gravely. Therefore he employed 'goblet words' which apply
in various directions; he based his statements upon weighty authority
in order to inspire confidence; and he put words in other people's
mouths in order to secure breadth.
In accord with the spirit of the universe, he was at peace with
all creation. He judged not the rights and wrongs of mankind,
and thus lived quietly in his generation. Although his book is
an extraordinary production, it is plausible and harmless enough.
Although the style is most irregular, it is at the same time ingenious
As a thinker, he is endlessly suggestive. Above, he roams with
god. Below, he consorts with those who are byeond the pale of
life and death, who deny a beginning and an end. In relation to
the root, he speaks on a grand and extensive scale. In relation
to Tao, he establishes a harmony between man and the higher powers.
Nevertheless, he yields to the modifications of existence and
responds to the exigencies of environment. His arguments are inexhaustible,
and never illogical. He is far-reaching, mysterious, and not to
be fully explored.
Hui Tzu was a man of many ideas. His works would fill five carts.
But his doctrines are paradoxical, and his terms are used ambiguously.
He calls infinite greatness, beyond which there is nothing, the
Greater One. He calls infinite smallness, within which there is
nothing, the Lesser One. He says that that which is without dimensions
cannot be piled up, yet it measures a thousand li. That heaven
and earth are equally low. That mountain and marsh are equally
level. That the sun at noon is the sun setting. That when an animal
is born, it dies. That the likeness of things partly unlike is
called the lesser likeness of unlikes. That southwards there is
no limit, and yet there is a limit. That one can go to Yüeh
today and yet be there before. That joined rings can be separated.
That the middle of the world is north of Ye and south of Yüeh.
That he loves all creation equally, just as heaven and earth are
impartial to all.
Accordingly, Hui Tzu was regarded as a great philosopher and
a very subtle dialectitian; and became a favourite with the other
dialectitian of the day.
He said that there were feathers in an egg. That a fowl had three
feet. That Ying was the world. That a dog could be a sheep. That
a mare could lay eggs. That a nail has a tail. That fire is not
hot. That mountains have mouths. That wheels do not press down
the ground. That the eye does not see. That the finger does not
touch. That the uttermost extreme is not the end. That a tortoise
is longer than a snake. That a carpenter's square is not square.
That compasses will not make a circle. That a mortise does not
surround a tenon. That the shadow of a flying bird does not move.
That there is a moment when a swiftly-flying arrow is neither
moving nor at rest. That a dog is not a hound. That a bay horse
and a dun cow are three. That a white dog is black. That a motherless
colt never had a mother. That if you take a stick a foot long
and every day cut it in half, you will never come to the end of
it. And such was the stuff which dialecticians used to argue about
with Hui Tzu, also without ever getting to the end of it.
Hua T'uan and Kung Sun Lung were of this class. By specious premises
they imposed on people's minds and drove them into false conclusions.
But though they won the battle in words, they did not carry conviction
into their adversaries' heart. Theirs were but the snares of the
Hui Tzu daily devoted his intelligence to such pursuits, purposely
advancing some preposterous thesis upon which to dispute. That
was his characteristic. He had besides a great opinion of his
own wisdom, and used to say, 'The universe does not hold my peer'.
Hui Tzu makes a parade of his strength, but is devoid of any
sound system. An eccentric fellow in the south, named Huang Liao,
asked why the sky did not fall and the earth sink; also, whence
came wind, rain, and thunder.
Hui Tzu was not backward in replying to these questions, which
he answered unhesitatingly. He went into a long discussion on
all creation, and talked away without end, though to himself he
seemed to be saying very little. He supplemented this with most
extraordinary statements, making it his chief object to contradict
others, and being desirous of gaining fame by defeating all comers.
Thus, he was never popular. Morally, he was weak; physically,
he was violent. His was a dark and narrow way.
Looked at from the point of view of the Tao of the universe,
the value of Hui Tzu may be compared with the efforts of a mosquito
or a gadfly. Of what use was he to the world? As a specialist,
he might have succeeded. But to let him put himself forward as
an exponent of Tao, would have been dangerous indeed.
He would not however be content to be a specialist. He must needs
roam insatiably over all creation, though he only succeeded in
securing the reputation of a sophist.
Alas for the talents of Hui Tzu. He is extravagantly energetic,
and yet has no success. He investigates all creation, but does
not conclude in Tao. He makes a noise to drown an echo. He is
like a man running with his own shadow. Alas!
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Translated from the Chinese by Herbert A. Giles. First edition,
1889; second edition, 1923.