The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 7: The Normal Course for Rulers and Kings

Chuang Tzu

Ying Tî Wang, or 'The Normal Course for Rulers and Kings.'

1. Nieh Khüeh put four questions to Wang Î, not one of which did he know (how to answer). On this Nieh Khüeh leaped up, and in great delight walked away and informed Phû-î-tsze of it, who said to him, 'Do you (only) now know it?' He of the line of Yü was not equal to him of the line of Thâi. He of Yü still kept in himself (the idea of) benevolence by which to constrain (the submission of) men; and he did win men, but he had not begun to proceed by what did not belong to him as a man. He of the line of Thâi would sleep tranquilly, and awake in contented simplicity. He would consider himself now (merely) as a horse, and now (merely) as an ox. His knowledge was real and untroubled by doubts; and his virtue was very true:-- he had not begun to proceed by what belonged to him as a man.

2. Kien Wû went to see the mad (recluse), Khieh-yü, who said to him, 'What did Zah-kung Shih tell you?' The reply was, 'He told me that when rulers gave forth their regulations according to their own views and enacted righteous measures, no one would venture not to obey them, and all would be transformed.' Khieh-yü said, 'That is but the hypocrisy of virtue. For the right ordering of the world it would be like trying to wade through the sea and dig through the Ho, or employing a musquito to carry a mountain on its back. And when a sage is governing, does he govern men's outward actions? He is (himself) correct, and so (his government) goes on;-- this is the simple and certain way by which he secures the success of his affairs. Think of the bird which flies high, to avoid being hurt by the dart on the string of the archer, and the little mouse which makes its hole deep under Shan-khiû to avoid the danger of being smoked or dug out;-- are (rulers) less knowing than these two little creatures?'

3. Thien Kan, rambling on the south of (mount) Yin, came to the neighbourhood of the Liâo-water. Happening there to meet with the man whose name is not known, he put a question to him, saying, 'I beg to ask what should be done in order to (carry on) the government of the world.' The nameless man said, 'Go away; you are a rude borderer. Why do you put to me a question for which you are unprepared? I would simply play the part of the Maker of (all) things. When wearied, I would mount on the bird of the light and empty air, proceed beyond the six cardinal points, and wander in the region of nonentity, to dwell in the wilderness of desert space. What method have you, moreover, for the government of the world that you (thus) agitate my mind?' (Thien Kan), however, again asked the question, and the nameless man said, 'Let your mind find its enjoyment in pure simplicity; blend yourself with (the primary) ether in idle indifference; allow all things to take their natural course; and admit no personal or selfish consideration:-- do this and the world will be governed.'

4. Yang Tsze-kü, having an interview with Lâo Tan, said to him, 'Here is a man, alert and vigorous in responding to all matters, clearsighted and widely intelligent, and an unwearied student of the Tâo;-- can he be compared to one of the intelligent kings?' The reply was, 'Such a man is to one of the intelligent kings but as the bustling underling of a court who toils his body and distresses his mind with his various contrivances. And moreover, it is the beauty of the skins of the tiger and leopard which makes men hunt them; the agility of the monkey, or (the sagacity of) the dog that catches the yak, which make men lead them in strings; but can one similarly endowed be compared to the intelligent kings?'

Yang Tsze-kü looked discomposed and said, 'I venture to ask you what the government of the intelligent kings is.' Lâo Tan replied, 'In the governing of the intelligent kings, their services overspread all under the sky, but they did not seem to consider it as proceeding from themselves; their transforming influence reached to all things, but the people did not refer it to them with hope. No one could tell the name of their agency, but they made men and things be joyful in themselves. Where they took their stand could not be fathomed, and they found their enjoyment in (the realm of) nonentity.'