The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 24 (cont.): Hsü Wû-kwei

Chuang Tzu

Hsü Wû-kwei. (cont.)

10. Kung-nî, having gone to Khû, the king ordered wine to be presented to him. Sun Shû-âo stood, holding the goblet in his hand. Î-liâo of Shih-nan, having received (a cup), poured its contents out as a sacrificial libation, and said, 'The men of old, on such an occasion as this, made some speech.' Kung-nî said, 'I have heard of speech without words; but I have never spoken it; I will do so now. Î-liâo of Shih-nan kept (quietly) handling his little spheres, and the difficulties between the two Houses were resolved; Sun Shû-âo slept undisturbed on his couch, with his (dancer's) feather in his hand, and the men of Ying enrolled themselves for the war. I wish I had a beak three cubits long.'

In the case of those two (ministers) we have what is called 'The Way that cannot be trodden;' in (the case of Kung-nî) we have what is called 'the Argument without words.' Therefore when all attributes are comprehended in the unity of the Tâo, and speech stops at the point to which knowledge does not reach, the conduct is complete. But where there is (not) the unity of the Tâo, the attributes cannot (always) be the same, and that which is beyond the reach of knowledge cannot be exhibited by any reasoning. There may be as many names as those employed by the Literati and the Mohists, but (the result is) evil. Thus when the sea does not reject the streams that flow into it in their eastward course, we have the perfection of greatness. The sage embraces in his regard both Heaven and Earth; his beneficent influence extends to all tinder the sky; and we do not know from whom it comes. Therefore though when living one may have no rank, and when dead no honorary epithet; though the reality (of what he is) may not be acknowledged and his name not established; we have in him what is called 'The Great Man.'

A dog is not reckoned good because it barks well; and a man is not reckoned wise because be speaks skilfully;-- how much less can he be deemed Great! If one thinks he is Great, he is not fit to be accounted Great;-- how much less is he so from the practice of the attributes (of the Tâo)! Now none are so grandly complete as Heaven and Earth; but do they seek for anything to make them so grandly complete? He who knows this grand completion does not seek for it; he loses nothing and abandons nothing; he does not change himself from regard to (external) things; he turns in on himself, and finds there an inexhaustible store; he follows antiquity and does not feel about (for its lessons);-- such is the perfect sincerity of the Great Man.

11. Tsze-khî had eight sons. Having arranged them before him, he called Kiû-fang Yan, and said to him, 'Look at the physiognomy of my sons for me;-- which will be the fortunate one?' Yan said, 'Khwan is the fortunate one.' Tsze-khî looked startled, and joyfully said, 'In what way?' Yan replied, 'Khwan will share the meals of the ruler of a state to the end of his life.' The father looked uneasy, burst into tears, and said, 'What has my son done that he should come to such a fate?' Yan replied, 'When one shares the meals of the ruler of a state, blessings reach to all within the three branches of his kindred, and how much more to his father and mother! But you, Master, weep when you hear this;-- you oppose (the idea of) such happiness. It is the good fortune of your son, and you count it his misfortune.' Tsze-khî said, '0 Yan, what sufficient ground have you for knowing that this will be Khwan's good fortune? (The fortune) that is summed up in wine and flesh affects only the nose and the mouth, but you are not able to know how it will come about. I have never been a shepherd, and yet a ewe lambed in the south-west corner of my house. I have never been fond of hunting, and yet a quail hatched her young in the south-east corner. If these were not prodigies, what can be accounted such? Where I wish to occupy my mind with my son is in (the wide sphere of) heaven and earth; I wish to seek his enjoyment and mine in (the idea of) Heaven, and our support from the Earth. I do not mix myself up with him in the affairs (of the world); nor in forming plans (for his advantage); nor in the practice of what is strange. I pursue with him the perfect virtue of Heaven and Earth, and do not allow ourselves to be troubled by outward things. I seek to be with him in a state of undisturbed indifference, and not to practise what affairs might indicate as likely to be advantageous. And now there is to come to us this vulgar recompense. Whenever there is a strange realisation, there must have been strange conduct. Danger threatens;-- not through any sin of me or of my son, but as brought about, I apprehend, by Heaven. It is this which makes me weep!'

Not long after this, Tsze-khî sent off Khwan to go to Yen, when he was made prisoner by some robbers on the way. It would have been difficult to sell him if he were whole and entire, and they thought their easiest plan was to cut off (one of his) feet first. They did so, and sold him in Khî, where he became Inspector of roads for a Mr. Khû. Nevertheless he had flesh to eat till he died.