The Writings of Chuang Tzu

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

Chuang Tzu

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

7. When Confucius was reduced to great distress between Khan and Khâi, and for seven days he had no cooked food to eat, he laid hold of a decayed tree with his left hand, and with his right hand tapped it with a decayed branch, singing all the while the ode of Piâo-shih. He had his instrument, but the notes were not marked on it. There was a noise, but no blended melody. The sound of the wood and the voice of the man came together like the noise of the plough through the ground, yet suitably to the feelings of the disciples around. Yen Hui, who was standing upright, with his hands crossed on his breast, rolled his eyes round to observe him. Kung-nî, fearing that Hui would go to excess in manifesting how he honoured himself, or be plunged in sorrow through his love for him, said to him, 'Hui, not to receive (as evils) the inflictions of Heaven is easy; not to receive (as benefits) the favours of men is difficult. There is no beginning which was not an end. The Human and the Heavenly may be one and the same. Who, for instance, is it that is now singing?' Hui said, 'I venture to ask how not to receive (as evils) the inflictions of Heaven is easy.' Kung-nî said, 'Hunger, thirst, cold, and heat, and having one's progress entirely blocked up;-- these are the doings of Heaven and Earth, necessary incidents in the revolutions of things. They are occurrences of which we say that we will pass on (composedly) along with them. The minister of another does not dare to refuse his commands; and if he who is discharging the duty of a minister feels it necessary to act thus, how much more should we wait with ease on the commands of Heaven!' 'What do you mean by saying that not to receive (as benefits) the favours of men is difficult?' Kung-nî said, 'As soon as one is employed in office, he gets forward in all directions; rank and emolument come to him together, and without end. But these advantages do not come from one's self;-- it is my appointed lot to have such external good. The superior man is not a robber; the man of worth is no filcher;-- if I prefer such things, what am I? Hence it is said, "There is no bird wiser than the swallow." Where its eye lights on a place that is not suitable for it, it does not give it a second glance. Though it may drop the food from its mouth, it abandons it, and hurries off. It is afraid of men, and yet it stealthily takes up its dwelling by his; finding its protection in the altars of the Land and Grain.'

'What do you mean by saying that there is no beginning which was not an end?' Kung-nî said, 'The change-- rise and dissolution-- of all things (continually) goes on, but we do not know who it is that maintains and continues the process. How do we know when any one begins? How do we know when he will end? We have simply to wait for it, and nothing more.'

'And what do you mean by saying that the Human and the Heavenly are one and the same?' Kung-nî said, 'Given man, and you have Heaven; given Heaven, and you still have Heaven (and nothing more). That man can not have Heaven is owing to the limitation of his nature. The sagely man quietly passes away with his body, and there is an end of it.'

8. As Kwang Kâu was rambling in the park of Tiâo-ling he saw a strange bird which came from the south. Its wings were seven cubits in width, and its eyes were large, an inch in circuit. It touched the forehead of Kâu as it passed him, and lighted in a grove of chestnut trees. 'What bird is this?' said he, 'with such great wings not to go on! and with such large eyes not to see me!' He lifted up his skirts, and hurried with his cross-bow, waiting for (an opportunity to shoot) it. (Meanwhile) he saw a cicada, which had just alighted in a beautiful shady spot, and forgot its (care for its) body. (Just then), a preying mantis raised its feelers, and pounced on the cicada, in its eagerness for its prey, (also) forgetting (its care for) its body; while the strange bird took advantage of its opportunity to secure them both, in view of that gain forgetting its true (instinct of preservation). Kwang Kâu with an emotion of pity, said, 'Ah! so it is that things bring evil on one another, each of these creatures invited its own calamity.' (With this) he put away his cross-bow, and was hurrying away back, when the forester pursued him with terms of reproach.

When he returned and went into his house, he did not appear in his courtyard for three months. (When he came out), Lan Tsü (his disciple) asked him, saying, 'Master, why have you for this some time avoided the courtyard so much?' Kwang-tsze replied, 'I was guarding my person, and forgot myself; I was looking at turbid water, till I mistook the clear pool. And moreover I have heard the Master say, "Going where certain customs prevail, you should follow those customs." I was walking about in the park of Tiâo-ling, and forgot myself. A strange bird brushed past my forehead, and went flying about in the grove of chestnuts, where it forgot the true (art of preserving itself). The forester of the chestnut grove thought that I was a fitting object for his reproach. These are the reasons why I have avoided the courtyard.'

9. Yang-tsze, having gone to Sung, passed the night in a lodging-house, the master of which had two concubines;-- one beautiful, the other ugly. The ugly one was honoured, however, and the beautiful one contemned. Yang-tsze asked the reason, and a little boy of the house replied, 'The beauty knows her beauty, and we do not recognise it. The ugly one knows her ugliness, and we do not recognise it.' Yang-tsze said, 'Remember it, my disciples. Act virtuously, and put away the practice of priding yourselves on your virtue. If you do this, where can you go to that you will not be loved?'