Texts of Taoism
Chuang Tzu

Introductory Notes

The three characters which form the title of this Book have all of them the ideagram ###, (Ko), which gives the idea, as the Shwo Wän explains it, of 'now walking, now halting.' We might render the title by 'Sauntering or Rambling at Ease;' but it is the untroubled enjoyment of the mind which the author has in view. And this enjoyment is secured by the Tâo, though that character does not once occur in the Book. Kwang-Sze illustrates his thesis first by the cases of creatures, the largest and the smallest, showing that however different they may be in size, they should not pass judgment on one another, but may equally find their happiness in the Tâo. From this he advances to men, and from the cases of Yung-dze and Lieh-dze proceeds to that of one who finds his enjoyment in himself, independent of every other being or instrumentality; and we have the three important definitions of the accomplished Tâoist, as 'the Perfect Man,' 'the Spirit-like Man,' and 'the Sagely Man.' Those definitions are then illustrated;—the third in Yâo and Hsü Yû, and the second in the conversation between Kien Wû and Lien Shû. The description given in this conversation of the spirit-like man is very startling, and contains statements that are true only of Him who is a 'Spirit,' 'the Blessed and only Potentate,' 'Who covereth Himself with light as with a garment, Who stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, Who layeth the beams of His chambers in the waters, Who maketh the clouds His chariot, Who walketh on the wings of the wind,' 'Who rideth on a cherub,' 'Who inhabiteth eternity.' The most imaginative and metaphorical expressions in the Tâo Teh King about the power of the possessor of the Tâo are tame, compared with the language of our author. I call attention to it here, as he often uses the same extravagant style. There follows an illustration of 'the Perfect Man,' which is comparatively feeble, and part of it, so far as I can see, inappropriate, though Lin Hsî-kung says that all other interpretations of the sentences are ridiculous.

In the seventh and last paragraph we have two illustrations that nothing is really useless, if only used Tâoistically; 'to the same effect,' says Ziâo Hung, 'as Confucius in the Analects, XVII, ii.' They hang loosely, however, from what precedes.

An old view of the Book was that Kwang-dze intended himself by the great phäng, 'which,' says Lû Shû-kih, 'is wide of the mark.'

Book I
Part I Section I

Hsiao-yao Yu, or 'Enjoyment in Untroubled Ease1.'

1. In the Northern Ocean there is a fish, the name of which is Khwan2,—I do not know how many li in size. It changes into a bird with the name of Phing, the back of which is (also)—I do not know how many li in extent. When this bird rouses itself and flies, its wings are like clouds all round the sky. When the sea is moved (so as to bear it along), it prepares to remove to the Southern Ocean. The Southern Ocean is the Pool of Heaven.

There is the (book called) Khi Hsieh3,—a record of marvels. We have in it these words:—'When the phang is removing to the Southern Ocean it flaps (its wings) on the water for 3000 li. Then it ascends on a whirlwind 90,000 li, and it rests only at the end of six months.' (But similar to this is the movement of the breezes which we call) the horses of the fields, of the dust (which quivers in the sunbeams), and of living things as they are blown against one another by the air4. Is its azure the proper colour of the sky? Or is it occasioned by its distance and illimitable extent? If one were looking down (from above), the very same appearance would just meet his view.

2. And moreover, (to speak of) the accumulation of water;—if it be not great, it will not have strength to support a large boat. Upset a cup of water in a cavity, and a straw will float on it as if it were a boat. Place a cup in it, and it will stick fast;—the water is shallow and the boat is large. (So it is with) the accumulation of wind; if it be not great, it will not have strength to support great wings. Therefore (the phang ascended to) the height of 90,000 li, and there was such a mass of wind beneath it; thenceforth the accumulation of wind was sufficient. As it seemed to bear the blue sky on its back, and there was nothing to obstruct or arrest its course, it could pursue its way to the South.

A cicada and a little dove laughed at it, saying, 'We make an effort and fly towards an elm or sapan-wood tree; and sometimes before we reach it, we can do no more but drop to the ground. Of what use is it for this (creature) to rise 90,000 li, and make for the South?' He who goes to the grassy suburbs5, returning to the third meal (of the day), will have his belly as full as when he set out; he who goes to a distance of 100 li will have to pound his grain where he stops for the night; he who goes a thousand li, will have to carry with him provisions for three months. What should these two small creatures know about the matter? The knowledge of that which is small does not reach to that which is great; (the experience of) a few years does not reach to that of many. How do we know that it is so? The mushroom of a morning does not know (what takes place between) the beginning and end of a month; the short-lived cicada does not know (what takes place between) the spring and autumn. These are instances of a short term of life. In the south of Khu6, there is the (tree) called Ming-ling7, whose spring is 500 years, and its autumn the same; in high antiquity there was that called Ta-khu8, whose spring was 8000 years, and its autumn the same. And Phang Zu9 is the one man renowned to the present day for his length of life:—if all men were (to wish) to match him, would they not be miserable?

3. In the questions put by Thang10 to Ki we have similar statements:—'In the bare and barren north there is the dark and vast ocean,—the Pool of Heaven. In it there is a fish, several thousand li in breadth, while no one knows its length. Its name is the khwan. There is (also) a bird named the phang; its back is like the Thai mountain, while its wings are like clouds all round the sky. On a whirlwind it mounts upwards as on the whorls of a goat's horn for 90,000 li, till, far removed from the cloudy vapours, it bears on its back the blue sky, and then it shapes its course for the South, and proceeds to the ocean there.' A quail by the side of a marsh laughed at it, and said, 'Where is it going to? I spring up with a bound, and come down again when I have reached but a few fathoms, and then fly about among the brushwood and bushes; and this is the perfection of flying. Where is that creature going to?' This shows the difference between the small and the great.

Thus it is that men, whose wisdom is sufficient for the duties of some one office, or whose conduct will secure harmony in some one district, or whose virtue is befitting a ruler so that they could efficiently govern some one state, are sure to look on themselves in this manner (like the quail), and yet Yung Tzu11 of Sung 11 would have smiled and laughed at them. (This Yung Tzu), though the whole world should have praised him, would not for that have stimulated himself to greater endeavour, and though the whole world should have condemned him, would not have exercised any more repression of his course; so fixed was he in the difference between the internal (judgment of himself) and the external (judgment of others), so distinctly had he marked out the bounding limit of glory and disgrace. Here, however, he stopped. His place in the world indeed had become indifferent to him, but still he had not planted himself firmly (in the right position).

There was Lieh Tzu12, who rode on the wind and pursued his way, with an admirable indifference (to all external things), returning, however, after fifteen days, (to his place). In regard to the things that (are supposed to) contribute to happiness, he was free from all endeavours to obtain them; but though he had not to walk, there was still something for which he had to wait. But suppose one who mounts on (the ether of) heaven and earth in its normal operation, and drives along the six elemental energies of the changing (seasons), thus enjoying himself in the illimitable,—what has he to wait for'? Therefore it is said, 'The Perfect man has no (thought of) self; the Spirit-like man, none of merit; the Sagely-minded man, none of fame13.'

4. Yao14, proposing to resign the throne to Hsu Yu15, said, 'When the sun and moon have come forth, if the torches have not been put out, would it not be difficult for them to give light? When the seasonal rains are coming down, if we still keep watering the ground, will not our toil be labour lost for all the good it will do? Do you, Master, stand forth (as sovereign), and the kingdom will (at once) be well governed. If I still (continue to) preside over it, I must look on myself as vainly occupying the place;—I beg to resign the throne to you.' Hsu Yu said, 'You, Sir, govern the kingdom, and the kingdom is well governed. If I in these circumstances take your place, shall I not be doing so for the sake of the name? But the name is but the guest of the reality;—shall I be playing the part of the guest? The tailor-bird makes its nest in the deep forest, but only uses a single branch; the mole16 drinks from the Ho, but only takes what fills its belly. Return and rest in being ruler,—I will have nothing to do with the throne. Though the cook were not attending to his kitchen, the representative of the dead and the officer of prayer would not leave their cups and stands to take his place.'

5. Kien Wu17 asked Lien Shu17, saying, 'I heard Khieh-yu18 talking words which were great, but had nothing corresponding to them (in reality);—once gone, they could not be brought back. I was frightened by them;—they were like the Milky Way19 which cannot be traced to its beginning or end. They had no connexion with one another, and were not akin to the experiences of men.' 'What were his words?' asked Lien Shift, and the other replied, (He said) that 'Far away on the hill of Ku-shih20 there dwelt a Spirit-like man whose flesh and skin were (smooth) as ice and (white) as snow; that his manner was elegant and delicate as that of a virgin; that he did not eat any of the five grains, but inhaled the wind and drank the dew; that he mounted on the clouds, drove along the flying dragons, rambling and enjoying himself beyond the four seas; that by the concentration of his spirit-like powers he could save men from disease and pestilence, and secure every year a plentiful harvest.' These words appeared to me wild and incoherent and I did not believe them. 'So it is,' said Lien Shu. 'The blind have no perception of the beauty of elegant figures, nor the deaf of the sound of bells and drums. But is it only the bodily senses of which deafness and blindness can be predicated? There is also a similar defect in the intelligence; and of this your words supply an illustration in yourself. That man, with those attributes, though all things were one mass of confusion, and he heard in that condition the whole world crying out to him to be rectified, would not have to address himself laboriously to the task, as if it were his business to rectify the world. Nothing could hurt that man; the greatest floods, reaching to the sky, could not drown him, nor would he feel the fervour of the greatest heats melting metals and stones till they flowed, and scorching all the ground and hills. From the dust and chaff of himself, he could still mould and fashion Yaos and Shuns21;how should he be willing to occupy himself with things22?'

6. A man of Sung, who dealt in the ceremonial caps (of Yin)23, went with them to Yueh24, the people of which cut off their hair and tattooed their bodies, so that they had no use for them. Yao ruled the people of the kingdom, and maintained a perfect government within the four seas. Having gone to see the four (Perfect) Ones25 on the distant hill of Ku-shih, when (he returned to his capital) on the south of the Fan water26, his throne appeared no more to his deep-sunk oblivious eyes27.

7. Hui Tzu28 told Chuang Tzu, saying, 'The king of Wei29 sent me some seeds of a large calabash, which I sowed. The fruit, when fully grown, could contain five piculs (of anything). I used it to contain water, but it was so heavy that I could not lift it by myself. I cut it in two to make the parts into drinking vessels; but the dried shells were too wide and unstable and would not hold (the liquor); nothing but large useless things! Because of their uselessness I knocked them to pieces.' Chuang Tzu replied, 'You were indeed stupid, my master, in the use of what was large. There was a man of Sung who was skilful at making a salve which kept the hands from getting chapped; and (his family) for generations had made the bleaching of cocoon-silk their business. A stranger heard of it, and proposed to buy the art of the preparation for a hundred ounces of silver. The kindred all came together, and considered the proposal. "We have," said they, "been bleaching cocoon-silk for generations, and have only gained a little money. Now in one morning we can sell to this man our art for a hundred ounces;—let him have it." The stranger accordingly got it and went away with it to give counsel to the king of Wu30, who was then engaged in hostilities with Yueh. The king gave him the command of his fleet, and in the winter he had an engagement with that of Yueh, on which he inflicted a great defeat31, and was invested with a portion of territory taken from Yueh. The keeping the hands from getting chapped was the same in both cases; but in the one case it led to the investiture (of the possessor of the salve), and in the other it had only enabled its owners to continue their bleaching. The difference of result was owing to the different use made of the art. Now you, Sir, had calabashes large enough to hold five piculs;—why did you not think of making large bottle-gourds of them, by means of which you could have floated over rivers and lakes, instead of giving yourself the sorrow of finding that they were useless for holding anything. Your mind, my master, would seem to have been closed against all intelligence!'

Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu, 'I have a large tree, which men call the Ailantus32. Its trunk swells out to a large size, but is not fit for a carpenter to apply his line to it; its smaller branches are knotted and crooked, so that the disk and square cannot be used on them. Though planted on the wayside, a builder would not turn his head to look at it. Now your words, Sir, are great, but of no use;—all unite in putting them away from them.' Chuang Tzu replied, 'Have you never seen a wildcat or a weasel? There it lies, crouching and low, till the wanderer approaches; east and west it leaps about, avoiding neither what is high nor what is low, till it is caught in a trap, or dies in a net. Again there is the Yak33, so large that it is like a cloud hanging in the sky. It is large indeed, but it cannot catch mice. You, Sir, have a large tree and are troubled because it is of no use;—why do you not plant it in a tract where there is nothing else, or in a wide and barren wild? There you might saunter idly by its side, or in the enjoyment of untroubled case sleep beneath it. Neither bill nor axe would shorten its existence; there would be nothing to injure it. What is there in its uselessness to cause you distress?'



















back 1 See notice on pp. 127, 128, on the Title and Subject-matter of the Book.

back 2 The khwan and the phang are both fabulous creatures, far transcending in size the dimensions ascribed by the wildest fancy of the West to the kraken and the roc. Chuang Tzu represents them as so huge by way of contrast to the small creatures which he is intending to introduce;—to show that size has nothing to do with the Tao, and the perfect enjoyment which the possession of it affords. The passage is a good specimen of the Yu Yen (###) metaphorical or parabolical narratives or stories, which are the chief characteristic of our author's writings; but the reader must keep in mind that the idea or lesson in its 'lodging' is generally of a Taoistic nature.

back 3 There may have been a book with this title, to which Chuang Tzu appeals, as if feeling that what he had said needed to be substantiated.

back 4 This seems to be interjected as an afterthought, suggesting to the reader that the phang, soaring along at such a height, was only an exaggerated form of the common phenomena with which he was familiar.

back 5 In Chinese, Mang Zhan; but this is not the name of any particular place. The phrase denotes the grassy suburbs (from their green colour), not far from any city or town.

back 6 The great state of the South, having its capital Ying in the present Hu-pei, and afterwards the chief competitor with Khin for the sovereignty of the kingdom.

back 7 Taken by some as the name of a tortoise.

back 8 This and the Ming-ling tree, as well as the mushroom mentioned above, together with the khwan and phang, are all mentioned in the fifth Book of the writings of Lieh Tzu, referred to in the next paragraph.

back 9 Or 'the patriarch Phang.' Confucius compared himself to him (Analects, VII, i);—'our old Phang;' and Ku Hsi thinks he was a worthy officer of the Shang dynasty. Whoever he was, the legends about him are a mass of Taoistic fables. At the end of the Shang dynasty (B. C. 1123) he was more than 767 years old, and still in unabated vigour. We read of his losing 49 wives and 54 sons; and that he still left two sons, Wu and I, who died in Fu-kien, and gave their names to the Wu-i, or Bu-i hills, from which we get our Bohea tea! See Mayers' 'Chinese Reader's Manual,' p. 175.

back 10 The founder of the Shang dynasty (B.C. 1766-1754). In Lieh Tzu his interlocutor is called Hsia Ko, and Dze-ki.

back 11 We can hardly tell who this Yung Tzu was. Sung was a duchy, comprehending portions of the present provinces of Ho-nan, An-hui, and Kiang-su.

back 12 See note on the title of Book XXXII. Whether there ever was a personage called Lieh Tzu or Lieh Yu-khau, and what is the real character of the writings that go under his name, are questions that cannot be more than thus alluded to in a note. He is often introduced by Chuang Tzu, and many narratives are common to their books. Here he comes before us, not as a thinker and writer, but as a semi-supernatural being, who has only not yet attained to the highest consummations of the Tao.

back 13 The description of a master of the Tao, exalted by it, unless the predicates about him be nothing but the ravings of a wild extravagance, above mere mortal man. In the conclusion, however, he is presented under three different phrases, which the reader will do well to keep in mind.

back 14 The great sovereign with whom the documents of the Shu King commence:—B. C. 2357-2257.

back 15 A counsellor of Yao, who is once mentioned by Sze-ma Khien in his account of Po-i,—in the first Book of his Biographies (###). Hsu Yu is here the instance of 'the Sagely man,' with whom the desire of a name or fame has no influence.

back 16 Some say the tapir.

back 17 Known to us only through Chuang Tzu.

back 18 'The madman of Khu' of the Analects, XVIII, 5, who eschews intercourse with Confucius. See Hwang-fu Mi's account of him, under the surname and name of Lu Thung, in his Notices of Eminent Taoists, 1, 25.

back 19 Literally, 'the Ho and the Han;' but the name of those rivers combined was used to denote 'the Milky Way.'

back 20 See the Khang-hsi Thesaurus under the character ###. All which is said about the hill is that it was 'in the North Sea.'

back 21 Shun was the successor of Yao, in the ancient kingdom.

back 22 All this description is to give us an idea of the 'Spirit-like man.' We have in it the results of the Tao in its fullest embodiment.

back 23 See the Li Ki, IX, iii, 3.

back 24 A state, part of the present province of Kieh-kiang.

back 25 Said to have been Hsu Yu mentioned above, with Nieh Khueh, Wang I, and Phi-i, who will by and by come before us.

back 26 A river in Shan-hsi, on which was the capital of Yao;—a tributary of the Ho.

back 27 This paragraph is intended to give us an idea of 'the Perfect man,' who has no thought of himself. The description, however, is brief and tame, compared with the accounts of Hsu Yu and of the Spirit-like man.'

back 28 Or Hui Shih, the chief minister of 'king Hui of Liang (or Wei), (B. C. 370-333),' with an interview between whom and Mencius the works of that philosopher commence. He was a friend of Chuang Tzu, and an eccentric thinker; and in Book XXXIII there is a long account of several of his views. I do not think that the conversations about 'the great calabash' and 'the great tree' really took place; Kwan Tzu probably invented them, to illustrate his point that size had nothing to do with the Tao, and that things which seemed useless were not really so when rightly used.

back 29 Called also Liang from the name of its capital. Wei was one of the three states (subsequently kingdoms), into which the great fief of Zin was divided about B. C. 400.]

back 30 A great and ancient state on the sea-board, north of Yueh. The name remains in the district of Wu-kiang in the prefecture of Su-kau.

back 31 The salve gave the troops of Wu a great advantage in a war on the Kiang, especially in winter.

back 32 The Ailantus glandulosa, common in the north of China, called 'the fetid tree,' from the odour of its leaves.

back 33 The bos grunniens of Thibet, the long tail of which is in great demand for making standards and chowries.