The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 14 (cont.): The Revolution of Heaven

Chuang Tzu

Thien Yün, or 'The Revolution of Heaven.' (cont.)

4. When Confucius was travelling in the west in Wei, Yen Yüan asked the music-master Kin, saying, 'How is it, do you think, with the course of the Master?' The music-master replied, 'Alas! it is all over with your Master!' 'How so?' asked Yen Yüan; and the other said, 'Before the grass-dogs are set forth (at the sacrifice), they are deposited in a box or basket, and wrapt up with elegantly embroidered cloths, while the representative of the dead and the officer of prayer prepare themselves by fasting to present them. After they have been set forth, however, passers-by trample on their heads and backs, and the grass-cutters take and burn them in cooking. That is all they are good for. If one should again take them, replace them in the box or basket, wrap them up with embroidered cloths, and then in rambling, or abiding at the spot, should go to sleep under them, if he do not get (evil) dreams, he is sure to be often troubled with the nightmare. Now here is your Master in the same way taking the grass-dogs, presented by the ancient kings, and leading his disciples to wander or abide and sleep under them. Owing to this, the tree (beneath which they were practising ceremonies) in Sung was cut down; he was obliged to leave Wei; he was reduced to extremities in Shang and Kâu:-- were not those experiences like having (evil) dreams? He was kept in a state of siege between Khan and Tshâi, so that for seven days he had no cooked food to eat, and was in a situation between life and death:-- were not those experiences like the nightmare ?

'If you are travelling by water, your best plan is to use a boat; if by land, a carriage. Take a boat, which will go (easily) along on the water, and try to push it along on the land, and all your lifetime it will not go so much as a fathom or two:-- are not ancient time and the present time like the water and the dry land? and are not Kâu and Lû like the boat and the carriage? To seek now to practise (the old ways of) Kâu in Lû is like pushing along a boat on the dry land. It is only a toilsome labour, and has no success; he who does so is sure to meet with calamity. He has not learned that in handing down the arts (of one time) he is sure to be reduced to extremity in endeavouring to adapt them to the conditions (of another).

'And have you not seen the working of a shadoof? When (the rope of) it is pulled, it bends down; and when it is let go, it rises up. It is pulled by a man, and does not pull the man; and so, whether it bends down or rises up, it commits no offence against the man. In the same way the rules of propriety, righteousness, laws, and measures of the three Hwangs and five Tîs derived their excellence, not from their being the same as those of the present day, but from their (aptitude for) government. We may compare them to haws, pears, oranges, and pummeloes, which are different in flavour, but all suitable to be eaten. Just so it is that the rules of propriety, righteousness, laws, and measures, change according to the time.

'If now you take a monkey, and dress it in the robes of the duke of Kâu, it will bite and tear them, and will not be satisfied till it has got rid of them altogether. And if you look at the difference between antiquity and the present time it is as great as that between the monkey and the duke of Kâu. In the same way, when Hsî Shih was troubled in mind, she would knit her brows and frown on all in her neighbourhood. An ugly woman of the neighbourhood, seeing and admiring her beauty, went home, and also laying her hands on her heart proceeded to stare and frown on all around her. When the rich people of the village saw her, they shut fast their doors and would not go out; when the poor people saw her, they took their wives and children and ran away from her. The woman knew how to admire the frowning beauty, but she did not know how it was that she, though frowning, was beautiful. Alas! it is indeed all over with your Master!'

5. When Confucius was in his fifty-first year, he had not heard of the Tâo, and went south to Phei to see Lâo Tan, who said to him, 'You have come, Sir; have you? I have heard that you are the wisest man of the North; have you also got the Tâo?' 'Not yet,' was the reply; and the other went on, 'How have you sought it?' Confucius said, 'I sought it in measures and numbers, and after five years I had not got it.' 'And how then did you seek it?' 'I sought it in the Yin and Yang, and after twelve years I have not found it.' Lâo-tsze said, 'Just so! If the Tâo could be presented (to another), men would all present it to their rulers; if it could be served up (to others), men would all serve it up to their parents; if it could be told (to others), men would all tell it to their brothers; if it could be given to others, men would all give it to their sons and grandsons. The reason why it cannot be transmitted is no other but this,-- that if, within, there be not the presiding principle, it will not remain there, and if, outwardly, there be not the correct obedience, it will not be carried out. When that which is given out from the mind (in possession of it) is not received by the mind without, the sage will not give it out; and when, entering in from without, there is no power in the receiving mind to entertain it, the sage will not permit it to lie hid there. Fame is a possession common to all; we should not seek to have much of it. Benevolence and righteousness were as the lodging-houses of the former kings; we should only rest in them for a night, and not occupy them for long. If men see us doing so, they will have much to say against us.

'The perfect men of old trod the path of benevolence as a path which they borrowed for the occasion, and dwelt in Righteousness as in a lodging which they used for a night. Thus they rambled in the vacancy of Untroubled Ease, found their food in the fields of Indifference, and stood in the gardens which they had not borrowed. Untroubled Ease requires the doing of nothing; Indifference is easily supplied with nourishment; not borrowing needs no outlay. The ancients called this the Enjoyment that Collects the True.

'Those who think that wealth is the proper thing for them cannot give up their revenues; those who seek distinction cannot give up the thought of fame; those who cleave to power cannot give the handle of it to others. While they hold their grasp of those things, they are afraid (of losing them). When they let them go, they are grieved; and they will not look at a single example, from which they might perceive the (folly) of their restless pursuits:-- such men are under the doom of Heaven.

'Hatred and kindness; taking and giving; reproof and instruction; death and life:-- these eight things are instruments of rectification, but only those are able to use them who do not obstinately refuse to comply with their great changes. Hence it is said, "Correction is Rectification." When the minds of some do not acknowledge this, it is because the gate of Heaven (in them) has not been opened.'