The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 21: Thien Tsze-fang

Chuang Tzu

Thien Tsze-fang.

1. Thien Tsze-fang, sitting in attendance on the marquis Wan of Wei, often quoted (with approbation) the words of Khî Kung. The marquis said, 'Is Khî Kung your preceptor?' Tsze-fang replied, 'No. He only belongs to the same neighbourhood. In speaking about the Tâo, his views are often correct, and therefore I quote them as I do.' The marquis went on, 'Then have you no preceptor?' 'I have.' 'And who is he?' He is Tung-kwo Shun-tsze.' 'And why, my Master, have I never heard you quote his words?' Tsze-fang replied, 'He is a man who satisfies the true (ideal of humanity); a man in appearance, but (having the mind of) Heaven. Void of any thought of himself, he accommodates himself to others, and nourishes the true ideal that belongs to him. With all his purity, he is forbearing to others. Where they are without the Tâo, he rectifies his demeanour, so that they understand it, and in consequence their own ideas melt away and disappear. How should one like me be fit to quote his words?'

When Tsze-fang went out, the marquis Wan continued in a state of dumb amazement all the day. He then called Lung Lî-khan, and said to him, 'How far removed from us is the superior man of complete virtue! Formerly I thought the words of the sages and wise men, and the practice of benevolence and righteousness, to be the utmost we could reach to. Since I have heard about the preceptor of Tsze-fang, my body is all unstrung, and I do not wish to move, and my mouth is closed up, and I do not wish to speak;-- what I have learned has been only a counterfeit of the truth. Yes, (the possession of Wei) has been an entanglement to me.'

2. Wan-po Hsüeh-tsze, on his way to Khî, stayed some time in Lû, where some persons of the state begged to have an interview with him. He refused them, saying, 'I have heard that the superior men of these Middle States understand the (subjects of) ceremony and righteousness, but are deplorably ignorant of the minds of men. I do not wish to see them.' He went on to Khî; and on his way back (to the south), he again stayed in Lû, when the same persons begged as before for an interview. He then said, 'Formerly they asked to see me, and now again they seek an interview. They will afford me some opportunity of bringing out my sentiments.' He went out accordingly and saw the visitors, and came in again with a sigh. Next day the same thing occurred, and his servant said to him, 'How is it that whenever you see those visitors, you are sure to come in again sighing?' ' I told you before,' was the reply, 'that the people of these Middle States understand (the subjects of) ceremony and righteousness, but are deplorably ignorant of the minds of men. Those men who have just seen me, as they came in and went out would describe, one a circle and another a square, and in their easy carriage would be like, one a dragon and another a tiger. They remonstrated with me as sons (with their fathers), and laid down the way for me as fathers (for their sons). It was this which made me sigh.'

Kung-nî saw the man, but did not speak a word to him. Tsze-Lû said, 'You have wished, Sir, to see this Wan-po Hsüeh-tsze for a long time; what is the reason that when you have seen him, you have not spoken a word?' Kung-nî replied, 'As soon as my eyes lighted on that man, the Tâo in him was apparent. The situation did not admit of a word being spoken.'

3. Yen Yüan asked Kung-nî, saying, 'Master, when you pace quietly along, I also pace along; when you go more quickly, I also do the same; when you gallop, I also gallop; but when you race along and spurn the dust, then I can only stand and look, and keep behind you.' The Master said, 'Hui, what do you mean?' The reply was, 'In saying that "when you, Master, pace quietly along, I also pace along," I mean that when you speak, I also speak. By saying, "When you go more quickly, I also do the same," I mean that when you reason, I also reason. By saying, "When you gallop, I also gallop," I mean that when you speak of the Way, I also speak of the Way; but by saying, "When you race along and spurn the dust, then I can only stare, and keep behind you," I am thinking how though you do not speak, yet all men believe you; though you are no partisan, yet all parties approve your catholicity; and though you sound no instrument, yet people all move on harmoniously before you, while (all the while) I do not know how all this comes about; and this is all which my words are intended to express.'

Kung-nî said, 'But you must try and search the matter out. Of all causes for sorrow there is none so great as the death of the mind;-- the death of man's (body) is only next to it. The sun comes forth in the east, and sets in the extreme west;-- all things have their position determined by these two points. All that have eyes and feet wait for this (sun), and then proceed to do what they have to do. When this comes forth, they appear in their places; when it sets, they disappear. It is so with all things. They have that for which they wait, and (on its arrival) they die; they have that for which they wait, and then (again) they live. When once I receive my frame thus completed, I remain unchanged, awaiting the consummation of my course. I move as acted on by things, day and night without cessation, and I do not know when I will come to an end. Clearly I am here a completed frame, and even one who (fancies that he) knows what is appointed cannot determine it beforehand. I am in this way daily passing on, but all day long I am communicating my views to you; and now, as we are shoulder to shoulder you fail (to understand me);-- is it not matter for lamentation? You are able in a measure to set forth what I more clearly set forth; but that is passed away, and you look for it, as if it were still existing, just as if you were looking for a horse in the now empty place where it was formerly exhibited for sale. You have very much forgotten my service to you, and I have very much forgotten wherein I served you. But nevertheless why should you account this such an evil? What you forget is but my old self; that which cannot be forgotten remains with me.'