The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 7 (cont.): The Normal Course for Rulers and Kings

Chuang Tzu

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

5. In Kang there was a mysterious wizard called Ki-hsien. He knew all about the deaths and births of men, their preservation and ruin, their misery and happiness, and whether their lives would be long or short, foretelling the year, the month, the decade and the day like a spirit. When the people of Kang saw him, they all ran out of his way. Lieh-tsze went to see him, and was fascinated by him. Returning, he told Hû-tsze of his interview, and said, 'I considered your doctrine, my master, to be perfect, but I have found another which is superior to it.' Hû-tsze replied, 'I have communicated to you but the outward letter of my doctrine, and have not communicated its reality and spirit; and do you think that you are in possession of it? However many hens there be, if there be not the cock among them, how should they lay (real) eggs? When you confront the world with your doctrine, you are sure to show in your countenance (all that is in your mind), and so enable (this) man to succeed in interpreting your physiognomy. Try and come to me with him, that I may show myself to him.'

On the morrow, accordingly, Lieh-tsze came with the man and saw Hû-tsze. When they went out, the wizard said, 'Alas! your master is a dead man. He will not live;-- not for ten days more! I saw something strange about him;-- I saw the ashes (of his life) all slaked with water!' When Lieh-tsze reentered, he wept till the front of his jacket was wet with his tears, and told Hû-tsze what the man had said. Hû-tsze said, 'I showed myself to him with the forms of (vegetation beneath) the earth. There were the sprouts indeed, but without (any appearance of) growth or regularity:-- he seemed to see me with the springs of my (vital) power closed up. Try and come to me with him again.'

Next day, accordingly, Lieh-tsze brought the man again and saw Hû-tsze. When they went out, the man said, 'It is a fortunate thing for your master that he met with me. He will get better; he has all the signs of living! I saw the balance (of the springs of life) that had been stopped (inclining in his favour).' Lieh-tsze went in, and reported these words to his master, who said, 'I showed myself to him after the pattern of the earth (beneath the) sky. Neither semblance nor reality entered (into my exhibition), but the springs (of life) were issuing from beneath my feet;-- he seemed to see me with the springs of vigorous action in full play. Try and come with him again.'

Next day Lieh-tsze came with the man again, and again saw Hû-tsze with him. When they went out, the wizard said, 'Your master is never the same. I cannot understand his physiognomy. Let him try to steady himself, and I will again view him.' Lieh-tsze went in and reported this to Hû-tsze, who said, 'This time I showed myself to him after the pattern of the grand harmony (of the two elemental forces), with the superiority inclining to neither. He seemed to see me with the springs of (vital) power in equal balance. Where the water wheels about from (the movements of) a dugong, there is an abyss; where it does so from the arresting (of its course), there is an abyss; where it does so, and the water keeps flowing on, there is an abyss. There are nine abysses with their several names, and I have only exhibited three of them. Try and come with him again.'

Next day they came, and they again saw Hû-tsze. But before he had settled himself in his position, the wizard lost himself and ran away. 'Pursue him,' said Hû-tsze, and Lieh-tsze did so, but could not come up with him. He returned, and told Hû-tsze, saying, 'There is an end of him; he is lost; I could not find him.' Hû-tsze rejoined, 'I was showing him myself after the pattern of what was before I began to come from my author. I confronted him with pure vacancy, and an easy indifference. He did not know what I meant to represent. Now he thought it was the idea of exhausted strength, and now that of an onward flow, and therefore he ran away.'

After this, Lieh-tsze considered that he had not yet begun to learn (his master's doctrine). He returned to his house, and for three years did not go out. He did the cooking for his wife. He fed the pigs as if he were feeding men. He took no part or interest in occurring affairs. He put away the carving and sculpture about him, and returned to pure simplicity. Like a clod of earth he stood there in his bodily presence. Amid all distractions he was (silent) and shut up in himself. And in this way he continued to the end of his life.

6. Non-action (makes its exemplifier) the lord of all fame; non-action (serves him as) the treasury of all plans; non-action (fits him for) the burden of all offices; non-action (makes him) the lord of all wisdom. The range of his action is inexhaustible, but there is nowhere any trace of his presence. He fulfils all that he has received from Heaven, but he does not see that he was the recipient of anything. A pure vacancy (of all purpose) is what characterises him. When the perfect man employs his mind, it is a mirror. It conducts nothing and anticipates nothing; it responds to (what is before it), but does not retain it. Thus he is able to deal successfully with all things, and injures none.

7. The Ruler of the Southern Ocean was Shû, the Ruler of the Northern Ocean was Hû, and the Ruler of the Centre was Chaos. Shû and Hû were continually meeting in the land of Chaos, who treated them very well. They consulted together how they might repay his kindness, and said, 'Men all have seven orifices for the purpose of seeing, hearing, eating, and breathing, while this (poor) Ruler alone has not one. Let us try and make them for him.' Accordingly they dug one orifice in him every day; and at the end of seven days Chaos died.