The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 20 (cont.): The Tree on the Mountain

Chuang Tzu

Shan Mû, or 'The Tree on the Mountain.' (cont.)

5. Confucius asked Tsze-sang Hû, saying, 'I was twice driven from Lû; the tree was felled over me in Sung; I was obliged to disappear from Wei; I was reduced to extreme distress in Shang and Kâu; and I was kept in a state of siege between Khan and Tshâi. I have encountered these various calamities; my intimate associates are removed from me more and more; my followers and friends are more and more dispersed;-- why have all these things befallen me?' Tsze-sang Hû replied, 'Have you not heard of the flight of Lin Hui of Kiâ;-- how he abandoned his round jade symbol of rank, worth a thousand pieces of silver, and hurried away with his infant son on his back? If it be asked, "Was it because of the market value of the child?" But that value was small (compared with the value of the jade token). If it be asked again, "Was it because of the troubles (of his office)?" But the child would occasion him much more trouble. Why was it then that, abandoning the jade token, worth a thousand pieces of silver, he hurried away with the child on his back? Lin Hui (himself) said, "The union between me and the token rested on the ground of gain; that between me and the child was of Heaven's appointment." Where the bond of union is its profitableness, when the pressure of poverty, calamity, distress, and injury come, the parties abandon one another; when it is of Heaven's appointment, they hold in the same circumstances to one another. Now between abandoning one another, and holding to one another, the difference is great. Moreover, the intercourse of superior men is tasteless as water, while that of mean men is sweet as new wine. But the tastelessness of the superior men leads on to affection, and the sweetness of the mean men to aversion. The union which originates without any cause will end in separation without any cause.'

Confucius said, 'I have reverently received your instructions.' And hereupon, with a slow step and an assumed air of ease, he returned to his own house. There he made an end of studying and put away his books. His disciples came no more to make their bow to him (and be taught), but their affection for him increased the more.

Another day Sang Hû said further to him, 'When Shun was about to die, he charged Yü, saying, 'Be upon your guard. (The attraction of) the person is not like that of sympathy; the (power of) affection is not like the leading (of example). Where there is sympathy, there will not be separation; where there is (the leading of) example, there will be no toil. Where there is neither separation nor toil, you will not have to seek the decoration of forms to make the person attractive, and where there is no such need of those forms, there will certainly be none for external things.'

6. Kwang-tsze in a patched dress of coarse cloth, and having his shoes tied together with strings, was passing by the king of Wei, who said to him, 'How great, Master, is your distress?' Kwang-tsze replied, 'It is poverty, not distress! While a scholar possesses the Tâo and its Attributes, he cannot be going about in distress. Tattered clothes and shoes tied on the feet are the sign of poverty, and not of distress. This is what we call not meeting with the right time. Has your majesty not seen the climbing monkey? When he is among the plane trees, rottleras, oaks, and camphor trees, he grasps and twists their branches (into a screen), where he reigns quite at his ease, so that not even Î or Phang Mang could spy him out. When, however, he finds himself among the prickly mulberry and date trees, and other thorns, he goes cautiously, casts sidelong glances, and takes every trembling movement with apprehension;-- it is not that his sinews and bones are straitened, and have lost their suppleness, but the situation is unsuitable for him, and he cannot display his agility. And now when I dwell under a benighted ruler, and seditious ministers, how is it possible for me not to be in distress ? My case might afford an illustration of the cutting out the heart of Pî-kan!'