Chuang Tzu. Chapter 8. Argument: Virtues
should be natural, not artifical; passive not active.*
Joined toes and extra fingers are an addition to nature, though,
functionally speaking, superfluous. Wens and tumours are an addition
to the bodily form, though, as far as nature is concerned, superfluous.
And similarly, to include charity and duty to one's neighbor among
the functions of man's organism, is not true Tao.
For just as joined toes are but useless lumps of flesh, and extra
fingers but useless excrescences, so are any artifical additions
to our internal economy but harmful adjuncts to real charity and
duty to one's neighbour, and are moreover prejudicial to the right
use of intelligence.
People with extra keenness of vision muddle themselves over the
five colours, exaggerate the value of shades, and of distinction
of greens and yellows for sacrifical robes. Of such was Li chu.
People with extra keenness of hearing muddle themselves over
the five notes, exaggerate the tonic differences of the six pitch-pipes,
and the various timbres of metal, stone, silk and bamboo, of the
Huang-chung, and of the Ta-lü. Of such was Shih K'uang.
People who graft on charity, force themselves to display this
virtue in order to gain reputation and to enjoy the applause of
the world for that which is of no account. Of such were Tseng
People who refine in argument do but pile up tiles or knot ropes
in their maunderings over the hard and white, the like and the
unlike, wearing themselves out over mere useless terms. Of such
were Yang and Mih.
Therefore every addition to or deviation from nature belongs
not to the ultimate perfection of all.
He who would attain to such perfection never loses sight of the
natural conditions of his existence. With him the joined is not
united, nor the separated apart, nor the long in excess, nor the
short wanting. For just as a duck's legs, though short, cannot
be lengthened without pain to the duck, and a crane's legs, though
long, cannot be shortened without misery to the crane, so that
which is long in man's moral nature cannot be cut off, nor that
which is short be lengthened. All sorrow is thus avoided.
Intentional charity of heart and intentional duty to one's neighbour
are surely not included in our moral nature. Yet what sorrow these
have involved. Divide your joined toes and you will howl: bite
off your extra finger and you will scream. In one case there is
too much, in the other too little; but the sorrow is the same.
And the charitable of the age go about sorrowing over the ills
of the age, while the non-charitable cut through the natural conditions
of things in their greed after place and wealth. Surely then intentional
charity and duty to one's neighbour are not included in our moral
nature. Yet from the time of the Three Dynasties downwards what
a fuss has been made about them!
Those who cannot make perfect without arc, line, compasses, and
square, injure the natural constitution of things. Those who require
cords to bind and glue to stick, interfere with the natural functions
of things. And those who seek to satisfy the mind of man by hampering
with ceremonies and music and preaching charity and duty to one's
neighbour, thereby destroy the intrinsicality of things.
For such intrinsicality does exist, in this sense: Things which
are curved require no arcs; things which are straight require
no lines; things which are round require no compasses; things
which are rectangular require no squares; things which stick require
no glue; things which hold together require no cords. And just
as all things are produced, and none can tell how they are produced,
so do all things possess their own intrinsic qualities and none
can tell how they possess them. From time immemorial this has
always been so, without variation. Why then should charity and
duty to one's neighbour be as it were glued or corded on, and
introduced into the domain of Tao, to give rise to doubt among
Lesser doubts change the rule of life; greater doubts change
How do we know this? By the fact that ever since the time when
Shun bid for charity and duty to one's neighbour in order to secure
the empire, men have devoted their lives to the pursuit thereof.
Is it not then charity and duty to one's neighbour which change
the nature of man?
Therefore I have tried to show that from the time of the Three
Dynasties it has always been the external which has changed the
nature of man. If a mean man, he will die for gain. If a superior
man, he will die for fame. If a man of rank, he will die for his
ancestral honours. If a Sage, he will die for the world. The pursuits
and ambitions of these men differ, but the injuiry to their natures
involved in the sacrifice of their lives is the same.
Tsang and Ku were shepherds, both of whom lost their flocks.
On inquiry, it appeared that Tsang had been engaged in reading,
while Ku had gone to take part in some trials of strength. Their
occupations had been different, but the result was in each case
loss of the sheep.
Poh I died for fame at the foot of Mount Shouyang. Robber Che
died for gain on Mount T'ai. Their deaths were not the same, but
the injury to their lives and natures was in each case the same.
How then can we applaud the former and blame the latter?
And so, if a man dies for charity and duty to his neighbour the
world calls him a noble fellow; but if he dies for gain, the world
calls him a low fellow. The dying being the same, one is nevertheless
called noble and the other low. But in point of injury to life
and nature, the robber Che and Poh I are one. Where then does
the distinction of noble and low come in?
Were a man to apply himself to charity and duty towards his neighbour
until he were the equal of Tseng or Shih, this would not be what
I mean by perfection. Or to flavours, until he were the equal
of Yü Erh. Or to sounds, until he were the equal of Shih
K'uang. Or to colours, until he were the equal of Li Chu. What
I mean by perfection is not what is meant by charity and duty
to one's neighbor. It is found in the cultivation of Tao. And
those whom I regard as cultivators of Tao are not those who cultivate
charity and duty to one's neighbour. It is found in the cultivation
of Tao. And those whom I regard as cultivators of Tao are not
those who cultivate charity and duty to one's neighbour. They
are those who yield to the natural conditions of things. What
I call perfection of hearing is not hearing others but oneself.
What I call perfection of vision is not seeing others but oneself.
For a man who sees not himself but others, takes not possession
of himself but of others, thus taking what others should take
and not what he himself should take. Instead of being himself,
he in fact becomes someone else. And if a man thus becomes someone
else instead of himself, this is a fatal error of which both the
robber Che and Poh I can be equally guilty.
And so, conscius of my own deficiency to regard to Tao, I do
not venture at my best to practise the principles of charity and
duty to my neighbour, nor at my worst to fall into the fatal error
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Translated from the Chinese by Herbert A. Giles. First edition,
1889; second edition, 1923.