The Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu. Chapter 5. Argument: Correspondence between inward virtue and outward influence. The virtuous person disregards externals. The possession of virtue causes oblivion of utward form. Neglect of the human. Cultivation of the divine.*

In the state of Lu there was a man, named Wang T'ai, who had had his toes cut off. His disciples were as numerous as those of Confucius.

Ch'ang Chi asked Confucius, saying, 'This Wang Ta'i has been mutilated, yet he divides with you, Sir, the teaching of the Lu State. He neither preaches nor discusses; yet those who go to him empty, depart full. He must teach the doctrine which does not find expression in words; and although his shape is imperfect, his mind is perhaps complete. What manner of man is this?'

'He is a prophet', replied Confucius, 'whose instruction I have been late in seeking. I will go and learn from him. And if I, why not those who are not equal to me? And I will take with me, not the State of Lu only, but the whole world.'

'The fellow has been mutilated', said Ch'ang Chi, 'and yet people call him Master. He must be very different from the ordinary run. But how does he use his mind in this sense?'

'Life and Death are all powerful', answered Confucius, 'but they cannot affect it. Heaven and earth may collapse, but that will remain. If this is found to be without flaw, it will not share the fate of all things. It can cause other things to change, while preserving its own constitution intact.'

'How so?' asked Ch'ang Chi.

'From the point of view of difference', replied Confucius, 'we distinguish between the liver and the gall, between the Ch'u State and the Yüeh State. From the point of view of sameness, all things are ONE. Such is the position of Wang T'ai. He does not trouble about what reaches him through the senses of hearing and sight, but directs his whole mind towards the very climax of virtue. He beholds all things as though ONE, without observing their discrepancies. And thus the discrepancy of his toes is to him as would be the loss of so much mud.'

'He devotes himself in fact to himself', said Ch'ang Chi, 'and uses his wisdom to perfect his mind, until it becomes perfect. But how then is it that people make so much of him?'

'A man', replied Confucius, 'does not seek to see himself in running water, but in still water. For only what is itself still can instil stillness into others.

'The grace of earth has reached only to pines and cedars; ‹ winter and summer alike they are green. The grace of God has reached to Yao and to Shun alone; ‹ the first and foremost of all creation. Happily they were able to regulate their own lives and thus regulate the lives of all manking.

'By nourishment of physical courage, the sense of fear may be so eliminated that a man will, single-handed, brave a whole army. And if such a result can be achieved in search of fame, how much more by one who extends his sway over heaven and earth and influences all things; and who, lodging within the confines of a body with its channels of sight and sound, brings his knowledge to know that all things are ONE, and that his soul endures for ever! Besides, he awaits his appointed hour, and men flock to him of their own accord. He makes no effort to attract them.'

Shen T'u Chia had had his toes cut off. Subsequently, he studied under Poh Hun Wu Jen at the same time as Tzu Ch'an of the Cheng State. The latter said to him, 'When I leave first, do you remain awhile. When you leave first, I will remain behind.'

Next day, when they were again together in the lecture-room, Tzu Ch'an said, 'When I leave first, do you remain awhile. When you leave first, I will remain. I am now about to go. Will you remain or not? I notice you shown no respect to a Minister of State. Perhaps you think yourself my equal?'

'Dear me!' replied Shen T'u Chia, 'I didn't know we had a Minister of State in the class. Perhaps you think that because you are one you should take precedence over the rest. Now I have heard that if a mirror is perfectly bright, dust and dirt will not collect on it. That if they do, it is because the mirror was not bright. He who associates for long with the wise will be without fault. Now you have been improving yourself at the feet of our Master, yet you can utter words like these. Is not the fault in you?'

'You are a fine fellow, certainly,' retorted Tzu Ch'an. 'You will be emulating the virtue of Yao next. To look at you, I should say you had enough to do to attend to your own shortcomings!'

'Those who disguise their faults', said Shen T'u Chia, 'so as not to lose their toes, are many in number. Those who do not disguise their faults, and so fail to keep them, are few. To recognize the inevitable and to quietly acquiesce in Destiny, is the achievement of the virtuous man alone. He who should put himself in front of the bull's-eye when Hou Yi was shooting, would be hit. If he was not hit, it would be destiny. Those with toes who laugh at me for having no toes are many. This used to make me angry. But since I have studied under our Master, I have ceased to trouble about it. It may be that our Master has so far succeeded in purifying me. At any rate I have been with him nineteen years without being aware of the loss of my toes. Now you and I are engaged in studying the internal. Do you not then commit a fault by thus dragging me back to the external?'

At this Tzu Ch'an began to fidget, and changing countenance, begged Shen T'u Chia to say no more.

There was a man of the Lu State who had been mutilated, ‹ Shu Shan No-toes. He came walking on his heels to see Confucius; but Confucius said, 'You did not take care and so brought this misfortune upon yourself. What is the use of coming to me now?'

'In my ignorance', replied No-toes, 'I made free with my body and lost my toes. But I come with something more precious than toes which I now seek to keep. There is no man, but Heaven covers him: there is no man, but Earth supports him; and I thought that you, sir, would be as Heaven and Earth. I little expected to hear these words from you.'

'I must apologize,' said Confucius. 'Pray walk in and let us discuss.' But No-toes walked out.

'There!' said Confucius to his disciples. "There is a criminal without toes who seeks to learn in order to make atonement for his previous misdeeds. And if he, how much more those who have no misdeeds for which to atone?'

No-toes went off to Lao Tzu and said, 'Is Confucius a sage, or is he not? How is it he has so many disciples? He aims at being a subtle dialectician, not knowing that such a reputaton is regarded by real sages as the fetters of a criminal.'

'Why do you not meet him with the continuity of life and death, the identity of can and can not', answered Lao Tzu, 'and so release him from these fetters?'

'He has been thus punished by God', replied No-toes. 'It would be impossible to release him.'

Duke Ai of the Lu State said to Confucius, 'In the Wei State there is a leper, named Ai T'ai T'o. The men who live with him like him and make no effort to get rid of him. Of the women who have seen him, many have said to their parents, "Rather than be another man's wife, I would be his concubine".

'He never preaches at people, but puts himself into sympathy with them. He wields no power by which he may protect men's bodies. He has at his disposal no appointments by which to gratify their hearts. He is loathsome to a degree. He sympathizes but does not instruct. His knowledge is limited to his own State. Yet males and females alike all congregate around him.

'So thinking that he must be different from ordinary men, I sent for him, and saw that he was indeed loathsome to a degree. Yet we had not been many months together ere my attention was fixed upon his conduct. A year had not elapsed ere I trusted him thoroughly; and as my State wanted a Prime Minister, I offered the post to him. He accepted it sullenly, as if he would much rather have declined. Perhaps he didn't think me good enough for him! At any rate, he took it; but in a very short time he left me and went away. I grieved for him as for a lost friend, and as though there were none left with whom I could rejoice. What manner of man is this?'

'When I was on a mission to the Ch'u State', replied Confucius, 'I saw a letter of young pigs sucking their dead mother. After a while they looked at her, and then they all left the body and went off. For their mother did not look at them any more, nor did she any more seem to be of their kind. What they loved was their mother; not the body which contained her, but that which made the body what it was.

'When a man is killed in battle, his arms are not buried with him. A man whose toes have been cut off does not value a present of boots. In each case the function of such things is gone.

'The concubines of the Son of Heaven do not cut their nails or pierce their ears. He who has a marriageable daughter keeps her away from menial work. To preserve her beauty is quite enough occupation for her. How much more so for a man of perfect virtue?

'Now Ai T'ai To says nothing, and is trusted. He does nothing, and is sought after. He causes a man to offer him the government of his own State, and the only fear is lest he should decline. Truly his talents are perfect and his virtue without outward form!'

'What do you mean by his talents being perfect?' asked the Duke.

'Life and Death', replied Confucius, 'existence and non-existence, success and non-success, poverty and wealth, virtue and vice, good and evil report, hunger and thirst, warmth and cold, ‹ these all revolve upon the changing wheel of Destiny. Day and night they follow one upon the other, and no man can say where each one begins. Therefore they cannot be allowed to disturb the harmony of the organism, nor enter into the soul's domain. Swim however with the tide, so as not to offend others. Do this day by day without break, and live in peace with mankind. Thus you will be ready for all contingencies, and may be said to have your talents perfect.'

'And virtue without outward form; what is that?'

'In a water-level', said Confucius, 'the water is in a most perfect state of repose. Let that be your model. The water remains quietly within, and does not overflow. It is from the cultivation of such harmony that virtue results. And if virtue takes no outward form, man will not be able to keep aloof from it.'

Some days afterwards Duke Ai told Min Tzu, saying, 'When first I took the reins of government in hand, I thought that in caring for my people's lives I had done all my duty as a ruler. But now that I have heard what a perfect man is, I fear that I have not been succeeding, but foolishly using my body and working destruction to my State. Confucius and I are not prince and minister, but merely friends with a care for each other's moral welfare.'

A certain hunchback, named Wu Ch'un, whose heels did not touch the ground, had the ear of Duke Ling of Wei. The Duke took a great fancy to him; and as for well-formed men, he thought their necks were too scraggy.

Another man, with a goitre as big as a large jar, had the ear of Duke Huan of Ch'i. The Duke took a great fancy to him; and as for well-formed men, he thought their necks were too scraggy.

Thus it is that virtue should prevail and outward form be forgotten. But mankind forgets not that which is to be forgotten, forgetting that which is not to be forgotten. This is forgetfulness indeed! And thus with the truly wise, wisdom is a curse, sincerity like glue, virtue only a means to acquire, and skill nothing more than a commercial capacity. For the truly wise make no plans, and therefore require no wisdom. They do not separate, and therefore require no glue. They want nothing, and therefore need no virtue. They sell nothing, and therefore are not in want of a commercial capacity. These four qualifications are bestowed upon them by God and serve as heavenly food to them. And those who thus feed upon the divine have little need for the human. They wear the forms of men, without human passions. Because they wear the forms of men, they associate with men. Because they have not human passions, positives and negatives find in them no place. Infinitesimal indeed is that which makes them man: infinitely great is that which makes them divine!

Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu, 'Are there then men who have no passions?'

Chuang Tzu replied, 'Certainly.'

'But if a man has no passions', argued Hui Tzu, 'what is it that makes him a man?'

'Tao', replied Chuang Tzu, 'gives him his expression, and God gives him his form. How should he not be a man?'

'If then he is a man', said Hui Tzu, 'how can he be without passions?'

'What you mean by passions', answered Chuang Tzu, 'is not what I mean. By a man without passions I mean one who does not permit good and evil to disturb his internal economy, but rather falls in with whatever happens, as a matter of course, and does not add to the sum of his mortality.'

'But whence is man to get his body', asked Hui Tzu, 'if there is to be no adding to the sum of mortality?'

'Tao gives him his expression', said Chuang Tzu, 'and God gives him his form. He does not permit good and evil to disturb his internal economy. But now you are devoting your intelligence to externals, and wearing out your mental powers. You prop yourself against a tree and mutter, or lean over a table with half-closed eyes.

'God has made you a shapely sight,

'Yet your only thought is the hard and white.'

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


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