Texts of Taoism
Chuang Tzu

Introductory Notes


Lieh Yü-khâu, the surname and name of Lieh-dze, with which the first paragraph commences, have become current as the name of the Book, though they have nothing to do with any but that one paragraph, which is found also in the second Book of the writings ascribed to Lieh-dze. There are some variations in the two Texts, but they are so slight that we cannot look on them as proofs that the two passages are narratives of independent origin.

Various difficulties surround the questions of the existence of Lieh-dze, and of the work which bears his name. They will be found distinctly and dispassionately stated and discussed in the 146th chapter of the Catalogue of the Khien-lung Imperial Library. The writers seem to me to make it out that there was such a man, but they do not make it clear when he lived, or how his writings assumed their present form. There is a statement of Liû Hsiang that he lived in the time of duke Ma of Käng (B.C. 627-606); but in that case he must have been earlier than Lâo-dze himself, whom he very frequently quotes. The writers think that Lift's 'Mû of Käng' should be Mû of Lû (B.C. 409-377), which would make him not much anterior to Mencius and Kwang-dze; but this is merely an ingenious conjecture. As to the composition of his chapters, they are evidently not at first hand from Lieh, but by some one of his disciples; whether they were current in Kwang-dze's days, and be made use of various passages from them, or those passages were Kwang-dze's originally, and taken from him by the followers of Lieh-dze and added to what fragments they had of their master's teaching;—these are points which must be left undetermined.

Whether the narrative about Lieh be from Kwang-dze or not, its bearing on his character is not readily apprehended; but, as we study it, we seem to understand that his master Wû-zän condemned him as not having fully attained to the Tâo, but owing his influence with others mainly to the manifestation of his merely human qualities. And this is the lesson which our author keeps before him, more or less distinctly, in all his paragraphs. As Lû Shû-kih. says:—

'This Book also sets forth Doing Nothing as the essential condition of the Tâo. Lieh-dze, frightened at the respect shown to him by the soup-vendors, and yet by his human doings drawing men to him, disowns the rule of the heavenly; Hwan of Käng, thinking himself different from other men, does not know that Heaven recompenses men according to their employment of the heavenly in them; the resting of the sages in their proper rest shows how the ancients pursued the heavenly and not the human; the one who learned to slay the Dragon, but afterwards did not exercise his skill, begins with the human, but afterwards goes on to the heavenly; in those who do not rest in the heavenly, and perish by the inward war, we see how the small men do not know the secret of the Great Repose; Zhâo Shang, glorying in the carriages which he had acquired, is still farther removed from the heavenly; when Yen Ho shows that the sage, in imparting his instructions, did not follow the example of Heaven in diffusing its benefits, we learn that it is only the Doing Nothing of the True Man which is in agreement with Heaven; the difficulty of knowing the mind of man, and the various methods required to test it, show the readiness with which, when not under the rule of Heaven, it seems to go after what is right, and the greater readiness with which it again revolts from it; in Khao-fû, the Correct, we have one indifferent to the distinctions of rank, and from him we advance to the man who understands the great condition appointed for him, and is a follower of Heaven; then comes he who plays the thief under the chin of the Black Dragon, running the greatest risks on a mere peradventure of success, a resolute opponent of Heaven; and finally we have Kwang-dze despising the ornaments of the sacrificial ox, looking in the same way at the worms beneath and the kites overhead, and regarding himself as quite independent of them, thus giving us an example of the embodiment of the spiritual, and of harmony with Heaven.'

So does this ingenious commentator endeavour to exhibit the one idea in the Book, and show the unity of its different paragraphs.

Part III Section X

Lieh Yü-khâu1.

1. Lieh Yü-khâu had started to go to Khî, but came back when he was half-way to it. He met Po-hwän Wû-zän2, who said, 'Why have you come back?' His reply was, 'I was frightened.' 'What frightened you?' 'I went into ten soup-shops3 to get a meal. and in five of them the soup was set before me before (I had paid for it)4.' 'But what was there in that to frighten you?' (Lieh-dze) said, 'Though the inward and true purpose be not set forth, the body like a spy gives some bright display of it. And this outward demonstration overawes men's minds, and makes men on light grounds treat one as noble or as aged, from which evil to him will be produced. Now vendors of soup supply their commodity simply as a matter of business, and however much they may dispose of, their profit is but little, and their power is but slight; and yet they treated me as I have said:—how much more would the lord of ten thousand chariots do so! His body burdened with (the cares of his) kingdom, and his knowledge overtasked by its affairs, he would entrust those affairs to me, and exact from me the successful conduct (of its government). It was this which frightened me.' Po-hwän Wû-zän replied, 'Admirable perspicacity! But if you carry yourself as you do, men will flock to you for protection.'

Not long after, Po-hwän Wû-zän went (to visit Lieh-dze), and found the space outside his door full of shoes5. There he stood with his face to the north, holding his staff upright, and leaning his chin on it till the skin was wrinkled. After standing so for some time, and without saying a word, he was going away, when the door-keeper6 went in, and told Lieh-dze. The latter (immediately) took up his shoes, and ran barefoot after the visitor. When he overtook him at the (outer) gate, he said, 'Since you, Sir, have come, are you going away without giving me some medicine7?' The other replied, 'It is of no use. I did tell you that men would flock to you, and they do indeed do so. It is not that you can cause men to flock to you, but you cannot keep them from not so coming;—of what use is (all my warning)? What influences them and makes them glad is the display of your extraordinary (qualities); but you must also be influenced in your turn, and your proper nature be shaken, and no warning can be addressed to you. Those who associate with you do not admonish you of this. The small words which they speak are poison to a man. You perceive it not; you understand it not;—how can you separate yourself from them?

'The clever toil on, and the wise are sad. Those who are without ability seek for nothing. They eat to the full, and wander idly about. They drift like a vessel loosed from its moorings, and aimlessly wander about8.'

2. A man of Käng, called Hwan, learned9 his books in the neighbourhood of Khiû-shih10, and in no longer time than three years became a Confucian scholar, benefiting the three classes of his kindred11 as the Ho extends its enriching influence for nine lî. He made his younger brother study (the principles of) Mo12, and then they two—the scholar and the Mohist—disputed together (about their respective systems), and the father took the side of the younger13. After ten years Hwan killed himself. (By and by) he appeared to his father in a dream, saying, 'It was I who made your son become a Mohist; why did you not recognise that good service14? I am become (but) the fruit of a cypress in autumn15.' But the Creator16, in apportioning the awards of men, does not recompense them for their own doings, but recompenses them for the (use of the) Heavenly in them. It was thus that Hwan's brother was led to learn Mohism. When this Hwan thought that it was he who had made his brother different from what he would have been, and proceeded to despise his father, he was like the people of Khî, who, while they drank from a well, tried to keep one another from it. Hence it is said, 'Now-a-days all men are Hwans17.' From this we perceive that those who possess the characteristics (of the Tâo) consider that they do not know them; how much more is it so with those who possess the Tâo itself! The ancients called such (as Hwan) 'men who had escaped the punishment of Heaven.'

3. The sagely man rests in what is his proper rest; he does not rest in what is not so;—the multitude of men rest in what is not their proper rest; they do not rest in their proper rest18.

4. Kwang-dze said, To know the Tâo is easy; not to say (that you know it) is difficult. To know it and not to speak of it is the way to attain to the Heavenly; to know and to speak of it, is the way to show the Human. The ancients pursued the Heavenly (belonging to them), and not the Human.'

5. Kû Phing-man19 learned how to slaughter the dragon20 from Kih-lî Yî, expending (in doing so) all his wealth of a thousand ounces of silver. In three years he became perfect in the art, but he never exercised his skill.

6. The sage looks on what is deemed necessary as unnecessary, and therefore is not at war21 (in himself). The mass of men deem what is unnecessary to be necessary, and therefore they are often at war (in themselves). Therefore those who pursue this method of (internal) war, resort to it in whatever they seek for. But reliance on such war leads to ruin.

7. The wisdom of the small man does not go beyond (the minutiae of) making presents and writing memoranda, wearying his spirits out in what is trivial and mean. But at the same time he wishes to aid in guiding to (the secret of) the Tâo and of (all) things in the incorporeity of the Grand Unity. In this way he goes all astray in regard to (the mysteries of) space and time. The fetters of embodied matter keep him from the knowledge of the Grand Beginning. (On the other hand), the perfect man directs the energy of his spirit to what was before the Beginning, and finds pleasure in the mysteriousness belonging to the region of nothingness. He is like the water which flows on without the obstruction of matter, and expands into the Grand Purity.

Alas for what you do, (O men)! You occupy yourselves with things trivial as a hair, and remain ignorant of the Grand Rest!

8. There was a man of Sung, called Zhâo Shang, who was sent by the king of Sung on a mission to Khin. On setting out, he had several carriages with him; and the king (of Khin) was so pleased with him that he gave him another hundred. When he returned to Sung, he saw Kwang-dze, and said to him, 'To live in a narrow lane of a poor mean hamlet, wearing sandals amid distress of poverty, with a weazen neck and yellow face22;—that is what I should find it difficult to do. But as soon as I come to an understanding with the Lord of a myriad carriages, to find myself with a retinue of a hundred carriages,—that is wherein I excel.' Kwang-dze replied, 'When the king of Khän is ill, the doctor whom he calls to open an ulcer or squeeze a boil receives a carriage; and he who licks his piles receives five. The lower the service, the more are the carriages given. Did you, Sir, lick his piles? How else should you have got so many carriages? Begone!'

9. Duke Âi of Lû asked Yen Ho, saying, 'If I employ Kung-nî as the support of my government, will the evils of the state be thereby cured?' The reply was, '(Such a measure) would be perilous! It would be full of hazard! Kung-nî, moreover, will try to ornament a feather and paint it; in the conduct of affairs he uses flowery speeches. A (mere) branch is to him more admirable (than the root); he can bear to misrepresent their nature in instructing the people, and is not conscious of the unreality of his words. He receives (his inspiration) from his own mind, and rules his course from his own spirit:—what fitness has he to be set over the people? Is such a man suitable for you (as your minister)? Could you give to him the nourishment (of the people)? You would do so by mistake (but not on purpose, for a time, but not as a permanency). To make the people leave what is real, and learn what is hypocritical—that is not the proper thing to be shown to them; if you take thought for future ages, your better plan will be to give up (the idea of employing Confucius). What makes government difficult, is the dealing with men without forgetting yourself; this is not according to the example of Heaven in diffusing its benefits. Merchants and traffickers are not to be ranked (with administrative officers); if on an occasion you so rank them, the spirits (of the people) do not acquiesce in your doing so. The instruments of external punishment are made of metal and wood; those of internal punishment are agitation (of the mind) and (the sense of) transgression. When small men become subject to the external punishment, the (instruments of) metal and wood deal with them; when they become liable to the internal punishments, the Yin and Yang23 consume them. It is only the true man who can escape both from the external and internal punishment.'

10. Confucius said, 'The minds of men are more difficult of approach than (the position defended by) mountains and rivers, and more difficult to know than Heaven itself. Heaven has its periods of spring and autumn, of winter and summer, and of morning and evening; but man's exterior is thickly veiled, and his feelings lie deep. Thus the demeanour of some is honest-like, and yet they go to excess (in what is mean); others are really gifted, and yet look to be without ability; some seem docile and impressible, but yet they have far-reaching schemes; others look firm, and yet may be twisted about; others look slow, and yet they are hasty. In this way those who hasten to do what is right as if they were thirsty will anon hurry away from it as if it were fire. Hence the superior man looks at them when employed at a distance to test their fidelity, and when employed near at hand to test their reverence. By employing them on difficult services, he tests their ability; by questioning them suddenly, he tests their knowledge; by appointing them a fixed time, he tests their good faith; by entrusting them with wealth, he tests their benevolence; by telling them of danger, he tests their self-command in emergencies; by making them drunk, he tests their tendencies24; by placing them in a variety of society, he tests their chastity:—by these nine tests the inferior man is discovered.'

11. When Khâo-fû, the Correct25, received the first grade of official rank, he walked with head bowed down; on receiving the second, with bent back; on receiving the third, with body stooping, he ran and hurried along the wall:—who would presume not to take him as a model? But one of those ordinary men, on receiving his first appointment, goes along with a haughty stride; on receiving his second, he looks quite elated in his chariot; and on receiving the third, he calls his uncles by their personal names;—how very different from Hsü (Yû) in the time (of Yâo of) Thang!

Of all things that injure (men) there is none greater than the practising of virtue with the purpose of the mind, till the mind becomes supercilious. When it becomes so, the mind (only) looks inwards (on itself), and such looking into itself leads to its ruin. This evil quality has five forms, and the chief of them is that which is the central. What do we mean by the central quality? It is that which appears in a man's loving (only) his own views, and reviling whatever he does not do (himself).

Limiting (men's advance), there are eight extreme conditions; securing (that advance), there are three things necessary; and the person has its six repositories. Elegance; a (fine) beard; tallness; size; strength; beauty; bravery; daring; and in all these excelling others:—(these are the eight extreme conditions) by which advance is limited. Depending on and copying others; stooping in order to rise; and being straitened by the fear of not equalling others:— these are the three things that lead to advancing. Knowledge seeking to reach to all that is external; bold movement producing many resentments; benevolence and righteousness leading to many requisitions; understanding the phenomena of life in an extraordinary degree; understanding all knowledge so as to possess an approach to it; understanding the great condition appointed for him, and following it, and the smaller conditions, and meeting them as they occur:—(these are the six repositories of the person)26.

12. There was a man who, having had an interview with the king of Sung, and been presented by him with ten carriages, showed them boastfully to Kwang-dze, as if the latter had been a boy. Kwang-dze said to him, 'Near the Ho there was a poor man who supported his family by weaving rushes (to form screens). His son, when diving in a deep pool, found a pearl worth a thousand ounces of silver. The father said, "Bring a stone, and break it in pieces. A pearl of this value must have been in a pool nine khung deep27, and under the chin of the Black Dragon. That you were able to get it must have been owing to your finding him asleep. Let him awake, and the consequences to you will not be small!" Now the kingdom of Sung is deeper than any pool of nine khung, and its king is fiercer than the Black Dragon. That you were able to get the chariots must have been owing to your finding him asleep. Let him awake, and you will be ground to powder28.'

13. Some (ruler) having sent a message of invitation to him, Kwang-sze replied to the messenger, 'Have you seen, Sir, a sacrificial ox? It is robed with ornamental embroidery, and feasted on fresh grass and beans. But when it is led into the grand ancestral temple, though it wished to be (again) a solitary calf, would that be possible for it29?

14. When Kwang-dze was about to die, his disciples signified their wish to give him a grand burial. 'I shall have heaven and earth,' said he, 'for my coffin and its shell; the sun and moon for my two round symbols of jade; the stars and constellations for my pearls and jewels; and all things assisting as the mourners. Will not the provisions for my burial be complete? What could you add to them?' The disciples replied, 'We are afraid that the crows and kites will eat our master.' Kwang-dze rejoined, 'Above, the crows and kites will eat me; below, the mole-crickets and ants will eat me:—to take from those and give to these would only show your partiality30.'

The attempt, with what is not even, to produce what is even will only produce an uneven result; the attempt, with what is uncertain, to make the uncertain certain will leave the uncertainty as it was. He who uses only the sight of his eyes is acted on by what he sees; it is the (intuition of the) spirit, that gives the assurance of certainty. That the sight of the eyes is not equal to that intuition of the spirit is a thing long acknowledged. And yet stupid people rely on what they see, and will have it to be the sentiment of all men;—all their success being with what is external:—is it not sad?


back 1 See vol. xxxix, pp. 160-162.

back 2 The same teacher, no doubt, who is mentioned in II, par. 2, and XXI, par. 2, though the Wû in Wû-zän is here ###, and there ###.

back 3 Like the tea and congee shanties, I suppose, which a traveller in China finds still on the road-side.

back 4 The meaning is not plain. There must have been something in the respect and generosity of the attendants which made Lieh-dze feel that his manner was inconsistent with his profession of Tâoism.

back 5 See the Lî Kî (vol. xxvii, pp. 70, 71). It is still the custom in Japan for visitors to leave their shoes outside, in order not to soil the mats.

back 6 Whose business it was to receive and announce the guests.

back 7 Good advice.

back 8 Was this then Wû-zän's idea of how the Tâoist should carry himself? From 'those who associate with you' Wû-zän's address might be rhymed.

back 9 Read them aloud, and so committed them to memory;—as Chinese schoolboys do still.

back 10 The name of a place, or, perhaps, of Hwan's schoolmaster.

back 11 Probably, the kindred of his father, mother, and wife;—through his getting office as a scholar.

back 12 Or Mih Tî;—Mencius's heresiarch.

back 13 Literally, 'of Tî,' as if that had been the name of the younger brother, as it was that of the heresiarch.

back 14 The character for this in the text (###) is explained as meaning 'a grave,' with special reference to this passage, in the Khang-hsî dictionary.

back 15 The idea of a grave is suggested by the 'cypress,' and we need not try to find it in ###.

back 16 The creator was, in Kwang-dze's mind, the Tâo.

back 17 Arrogating to themselves what was the work of the Tâo.

back 18 The best editions make this sentence a paragraph by itself.

back 19 These are names fashioned by our author.

back 20 'Slaughtering the dragon' means 'learning the Tâo,' by expending or putting away all doing and knowledge, till one comes to the perfect state of knowing the Tâo and not speaking of it.

back 21 Being 'at war' here is not the conflict of arms, but of joy, anger, and desire in one's breast. See Ziâo Hung in loc.

back 22 The character for I face' generally means 'ears;' but the Khang-hsî dictionary, with special reference to this paragraph, explains it by 'face.'—The whole paragraph is smart and bitter, but Lin Hsî-kung thinks it too coarse to be from Kwang-dze's pencil.

back 23 Compare the use of 'the Yin and the Yang' in XXIII, par. 8.—Yen Ho does not flatter Confucius in his description of him.

back 24 Is this equivalent to the adage 'In vino veritas?'

back 25 A famous ancestor of Confucius in the eighth century B.C., {footnote p. 210"> before the Khung family fled from Sung. See the account of him, with some verbal alterations, in the Zo Khwan, under the seventh year of duke Kâo.

back 26 These eight words are supplied to complete the structure of the paragraph; but I cannot well say what they mean, nor in what way the predicates in the six clauses that precede can be called 'the stores, or repositories of the body or person.'

back 27 = in a pool deeper than any nine pools. Compare the expression ###.

back 28 Compare paragraph 8. But Lin again denies the genuineness of this.

back 29 Compare XVII, par. 11.

back 30 We do not know whether Kwang-dze was buried according to his own ideal or not. In the concluding sentences we have a strange descent from the grandiloquence of what precedes.