The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 17 (cont.): The Floods of Autumn

Chuang Tzu

Khiû Shui, or 'The Floods of Autumn.' (cont.)

8. The khwei desires to be like the millipede; the millipede to be like the serpent; the serpent like the wind; the wind to be like the eye; and the eye to be like the mind.

The khwei said to the millipede, 'With my one leg I hop about, and can hardly manage to go along. Now you have a myriad feet which you can employ; how is it that you are so abundantly furnished?' The millipede said, 'It is not so. Have you not seen one ejecting saliva? The largest portion of it is like a pearl, while the smaller portions fall down like a shower of mist in innumerable drops. Now I put in motion the springs set in me by Heaven, without knowing how I do so.'

The millipede said to the serpent, 'I go along by means of my multitude of feet; and yet bow is it that I do not go so fast as you who have no feet at all?' The serpent replied, 'How can the method of moving by the springs set in us by Heaven be changed? How could I make use of feet?'

The serpent said to the wind, 'I get along by moving my backbone and ribs, thus appearing to have some (bodily) means of progression. But now you, Sir, rise with a blustering force in the North Sea, and go on in the same way to the South Sea;-- seemingly without any such means. How does it take place?' The wind said, 'Yes. With such a blustering force I rise in the North Sea and go on to the South Sea. But you can point to me, and therein are superior to me, as you are also in treading on me. Yet notwithstanding, it is only I who can break great trees, and blow down great houses. Therefore he whom all that are small cannot overcome is a great overcomer. But it is only he who is the sagely man that is the Great Conqueror (of all).'

9. When Confucius was travelling in Khwang, some people of Sung (once) surrounded him (with a hostile intention) several ranks deep; but he kept singing to his lute without stopping. Tsze-lû came in, and saw him, and said, 'How is it, Master, that you are so pleased?' Confucius said, 'Come here, and I will tell you. I have tried to avoid being reduced to such a strait for a long time; and that I have not escaped shows that it was so appointed for me. I have sought to find a ruler that would employ me for a long time, and that I have not found one, shows the character of the time. Under Yâo and Shun there was no one in the kingdom reduced to straits like mine; and it was not by their sagacity that men succeeded as they did. Under Kieh and Kâu no (good and able man) in the kingdom found his way to employment; and it was not for (want of) sagacity that they failed to do so. It was simply owing to the times and their character.

'People that do business on the water do not shrink from meeting iguanodons and dragons;-- that is the courage of fishermen. Those who do business on land do not shrink from meeting rhinoceroses and tigers;-- that is the courage of hunters. When men see the sharp weapons crossed before them, and look on death as going home;-- that is the courage of the determined soldier. When he knows that his strait is determined for him, and that the employment of him by a ruler depends on the character of the time, and then meeting with great distress is yet not afraid;-- that is the courage of the sagely man. Wait, my good Yû, and you will see what there is determined for me in my lot.' A little afterwards, the leader of the armed men approached and took his leave, saying, 'We thought you were Yang Hû, and therefore surrounded ypu. Now we see our mistake.' (With this) he begged to take his leave, and withdrew.