The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 14 (cont.): The Revolution of Heaven

Chuang Tzu

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

6. At an interview with Lâo Tan, Confucius spoke to him of benevolence and righteousness. Lâo Tan said, 'If you winnow chaff, and the dust gets into your eyes, then the places of heaven and earth and of the four cardinal points are all changed to you. If musquitoes or gadflies puncture your skin, it will keep you all the night from sleeping. But this painful iteration of benevolence and righteousness excites my mind and produces in it the greatest confusion. If you, Sir, would cause men not to lose their natural simplicity, and if you would also imitate the wind in its (unconstrained) movements, and stand forth in all the natural attributes belonging to you!-- why must you use so much energy, and carry a great drum to seek for the son whom you have lost? The snow-goose does not bathe every day to make itself white, nor the crow blacken itself every day to make itself black. The natural simplicity of their black and white does not afford any ground for controversy; and the fame and praise which men like to contemplate do not make them greater than they naturally are. When the springs (supplying the pools) are dried up, the fishes huddle together on the dry land. Than that they should moisten one another there by their gasping, and keep one another wet by their milt, it would be better for them to forget one another in the rivers and lakes.'

From this interview with Lâo Tan, Confucius returned home, and for three days did not speak. His disciples (then) asked him, saying, 'Master, you have seen Lâo Tan; in what way might you admonish and correct him?' Confucius said, 'In him (I may say) that I have now seen the dragon. The dragon coils itself up, and there is its body; it unfolds itself and becomes the dragon complete. It rides on the cloudy air, and is nourished by the Yin and Yang. I kept my mouth open, and was unable to shut it;-- how could I admonish and correct Lâo Tan?'

7. Tsze-kung said, 'So then, can (this) man indeed sit still as a representative of the dead, and then appear as the dragon? Can his voice resound as thunder, when he is profoundly still? Can he exhibit himself in his movements like heaven and earth? May I, Tshze, also get to see him?' Accordingly with a message from Confucius he went to see Lâo Tan.

Lâ Tan was then about to answer (his salutation) haughtily in the hall, but he said in a low voice, 'My years have rolled on and are passing away, what do you, Sir, wish to admonish me about?' Tsze-kung replied, 'The Three Kings and Five Tîs ruled the world not in the same way, but the fame that has accrued to them is the same. How is it that you alone consider that they were not sages?' 'Come forward a little, my son. Why do you say that (their government) was not the same?' 'Yâo,' was the reply, 'gave the kingdom to Shun, and Shun gave it to Yü. Yü had recourse to his strength, and Thang to the force of arms. King Wan was obedient to Kâu (-hsin), and did not dare to rebel; king Wû rebelled against Kâu, and would not submit to him. And I say that their methods were not the same.' Lâo Tan said, 'Come a little more forward, my son, and I will tell you how the Three Hwangs and the Five Tîs ruled the world. Hwang-Tî ruled it, so as to make the minds of the people all conformed to the One (simplicity). If the parents of one of them died, and he did not wail, no one blamed him. Yâo ruled it so as to cause the hearts of the people to cherish relative affection. If any, however, made the observances on the death of other members of their kindred less than those for their parents, no one blamed them. Shun ruled it, so as to produce a feeling of rivalry in the minds of the people. Their wives gave birth to their children in the tenth month of their pregnancy, but those children could speak at five months; and before they were three years old, they began to call people by their surnames and names. Then it was that men began to die prematurely. Yû ruled it, so as to cause the minds of the people to become changed. Men's minds became scheming, and they used their weapons as if they might legitimately do so, (saying that they were) killing thieves and not killing other men. The people formed themselves into different combinations;-- so it was throughout the kingdom. Everywhere there was great consternation, and then arose the Literati and (the followers of) Mo (Tî). From them came first the doctrine of the relationships (of society); and what can be said of the now prevailing customs (in the marrying of) wives and daughters? I tell you that the rule of the Three Kings and Five Tîs may be called by that name, but nothing can be greater than the disorder which it produced. The wisdom of the Three Kings was opposed to the brightness of the sun and moon above, contrary to the exquisite purity of the hills and streams below, and subversive of the beneficent gifts of the four seasons between. Their wisdom has been more fatal than the sting of a scorpion or the bite of a dangerous beast. Unable to rest in the true attributes of their nature and constitution, they still regarded themselves as sages: was it not a thing to be ashamed of? But they were shameless.' Tsze-kung stood quite disconcerted and ill at ease.

8. Confucius said to Lâo Tan, 'I have occupied myself with the Shih, the Shû, the Lî, the Yo, the Yî, and the Khun Khiû, those six Books, for what I myself consider a long time, and am thoroughly acquainted with their contents. With seventy-two rulers, all offenders against the right, I have discoursed about the ways of the former kings, and set forth the examples of (the dukes of Kâu and Shâo; and not one of them has adopted (my views) and put them in practice:-- how very difficult it is to prevail on such men, and to make clear the path to be pursued!'

Lâo-tsze replied, 'It is fortunate that you have not met with a ruler fitted to rule the age. Those six writings are a description of the vestiges left by the former kings, but do not tell how they made such vestiges; and what you, Sir, speak about are still only the vestiges. But vestiges are the prints left by the shoes;-- are they the shoes that produced them? A pair of white herons look at each other with pupils that do not move, and impregnation takes place; the male insect emits its buzzing sound in the air above, and the female responds from the air below, and impregnation takes place; the creatures called lêi are both male and female, and each individual breeds of itself. The nature cannot be altered; the conferred constitution cannot be changed; the march of the seasons cannot be arrested; the Tâo cannot be stopped. If you get the Tâo, there is no effect that cannot be produced; if you miss it, there is no effect that can.'

Confucius (after this) did not go out, till at the end of three months he went again to see Lâo Tan, and said, 'I have got it. Ravens produce their young by hatching; fishes by the communication of their milt; the small-waisted wasp by transformation; when a younger brother comes, the elder weeps. Long is it that I have not played my part in harmony with these processes of transformation. But as I did not play my part in harmony with such transformation, how could I transform men?' Lâo-tsze said, 'You will do. Khiû, you have found the Tâo.'