The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 25 (cont.): Tseh-yang

Chuang Tzu

Tseh-yang. (cont.)

4. (King) Yung of Wei made a treaty with the marquis Thien Mâu (of Khî), which the latter violated. The king was enraged, and intended to send a man to assassinate him. When the Minister of War heard of it, he was ashamed, and said (to the king), 'You are a ruler of 10,000 chariots, and by means of a common man would avenge yourself on your enemy. I beg you to give me, Yen, the command of 200,000 soldiers to attack him for you. I will take captive his people and officers, halter (and lead off) his oxen and horses, kindling a fire within him that shall burn to his backbone. I will then storm his capital; and when he shall run away in terror, I will flog his back and break his spine.' Kî-Tsze heard of this advice, and was ashamed of it, and said (to the king), 'We have been raising the wall (of our capital) to a height of eighty cubits, and the work has been completed. If we now get it thrown down, it will be a painful toil to the convict builders. It is now seven years since our troops were called out, and this is the foundation of the royal sway. Yen would introduce disorder;-- he should not be listened to.' Hwâ-tsze heard of this advice, and, greatly disapproving of it, said (to the king), 'He who shows his skill in saying "Attack Khî!" would produce disorder; and he who shows his skill in saying "Do not attack it " would also produce disorder. And one who should (merely) say, "The counsellors to attack Khî and not to attack it would both produce disorder," would himself also lead to the same result.' The king said, 'Yes, but what am I to do?' The reply was, 'You have only to seek for (the rule of) the Tâo (on the subject).'

Hui-tsze, having heard of this counsel, introduced to the king Tâi Tsin-zan, who said, 'There is the creature called a snail; does your majesty know it?' 'I do.' 'On the left horn of the snail there is a kingdom which is called Provocation, and on the right horn another which is called Stupidity. These two kingdoms are continually striving about their territories and fighting. The corpses that lie on the ground amount to several myriads. The army of one may be defeated and put to flight, but in fifteen days it will return.' The king said, 'Pooh! that is empty talk!' The other rejoined, 'Your servant begs to show your majesty its real significance. When your majesty thinks of space-- east, west, north, and south, above and beneath-- can you set any limit to it?' 'It is illimitable,' said the king; and his visitor went on, 'Your majesty knows how to let your mind thus travel through the illimitable, and yet (as compared with this) does it not seem insignificant whether the kingdoms that communicate one with another exist or not?' The king replies, 'It does so;' and Tâi Tsin-zan said, finally, 'Among those kingdoms, stretching one after another, there is this Wei; in Wei there is this (city of) Liang; and in Liang there is your majesty. Can you make any distinction between yourself, and (the king of that kingdom of) Stupidity?' To this the king answered, 'There is no distinction,' and his visitor went out, while the king remained disconcerted and seemed to have lost himself.

When the visitor was gone, Hui-tsze came in and saw the king, who said, 'That stranger is a Great man. An (ordinary) sage is not equal to him.' Hui-tsze replied, 'If you blow into a flute, there come out its pleasant notes; if you blow into a sword-hilt, there is nothing but a wheezing sound. Yâo and Shun are the subjects of men's praises, but if you speak of them before Tâi Tsin-zan, there will be but the wheezing sound.'

5. Confucius, having gone to Khû, was lodging in the house of a seller of Congee at Ant-hill. On the roof of a neighbouring house there appeared the husband and his wife, with their servants, male and female. Tsze-lû said, 'What are those people doing, collected there as we see them?' Kung-nî replied, 'The man is a disciple of the sages. He is burying himself among the people, and hiding among the fields. Reputation has become little in his eyes, but there is no bound to his cherished aims. Though he may speak with his mouth, he never tells what is in his mind. Moreover, he is at variance with the age, and his mind disdains to associate with it;-- he is one who may be said to lie hid at the bottom of the water on the dry land. Is he not a sort of Î Liâo of Shih-nan?' Tsze-lû asked leave to go and call him, but Confucius said, 'Stop. He knows that I understand him well. He knows that I am come to Khû, and thinks that I am sure to try and get the king to invite him (to court). He also thinks that I am a man swift to speak. Being such a man, he would feel ashamed to listen to the words of one of voluble and flattering tongue, and how much more to come himself and see his person! And why should we think that he will remain here?' Tsze-lû, however, went to see how it was, but found the house empty.

6. The Border-warden of Khang-wû, in questioning Tsze-lâo, said, 'Let not a ruler in the exercise of his government be (like the farmer) who leaves the clods unbroken, nor, in regulating his people, (like one) who recklessly plucks up the shoots. Formerly, in ploughing my corn-fields, I left the clods unbroken, and my recompense was in the rough 'unsatisfactory crops; and in weeding, I destroyed and tore up (many good plants), and my recompense was in the scantiness of my harvests. In subsequent years I changed my methods, ploughing deeply and carefully covering up the seed; and my harvests were rich and abundant, so that all the year I had more than I could eat.' When Kwang-tsze heard of his remarks, he said, 'Now-a-days, most men, in attending to their bodies and regulating their minds, correspond to the description of the Border-warden. They hide from themselves their Heaven(-given being); they leave (all care of) their (proper) nature; they extinguish their (proper) feelings; and they leave their spirit to die:-- abandoning themselves to what is the general practice. Thus dealing with their nature like the farmer who is negligent of the clods in his soil, the illegitimate results of their likings and dislikings become their nature. The bushy sedges, reeds, and rushes, which seem at first to spring up to support our bodies, gradually eradicate our nature, and it becomes like a mass of running sores, ever liable to flow out, with scabs and ulcers, discharging in flowing matter from the internal heat. So indeed it is!'