The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 25 (cont.): Tseh-yang

Chuang Tzu

Tseh-yang. (cont.)

7. Po Kü was studying with Lâo Tan, and asked his leave to go and travel everywhere. Lâo Tan said, 'Nay;-- elsewhere it is just as here.' He repeated his request, and then Lâo Tan said, 'Where would you go first?' 'I would begin with Khî,' replied the disciple. 'Having got there, I would go to look at the criminals (who had been executed). With my arms I would raise (one of) them up and set him on his feet, and, taking off my court robes, I would cover him with them, appealing at the same time to Heaven and bewailing his lot, while I said, "My son, my son, you have been one of the first to suffer from the great calamities that afflict the world."' (Lâo Tan) said, '(It is said), "Do not rob. Do not kill." (But) in the setting up of (the ideas of) glory and disgrace, we see the cause of those evils; in the accumulation of property and wealth, we see the causes of strife and contention. If now you set up the things against which men fret; if you accumulate what produces strife and contention among them; if you put their persons in such a state of distress, that they have no rest or ease, although you may wish that they should not come to the end of those (criminals), can your wish be realised?

'The superior men (and rulers) of old considered that the success (of their government) was to be found in (the state of) the people, and its failure to be sought in themselves; that the right might be with the people, and the wrong in themselves. Thus it was that if but a single person lost his life, they retired and blamed themselves. Now, however, it is not so. (Rulers) conceal what they want done, and hold those who do not know it to be stupid; they require what is very difficult, and condemn those who do not dare to undertake it; they impose heavy burdens, and punish those who are unequal to them; they require men to go far, and put them to death when they cannot accomplish the distance. When the people know that the utmost of their strength will be insufficient, they follow it up with deceit. When (the rulers) daily exhibit much hypocrisy, how can the officers and people not be hypocritical? Insufficiency of strength produces hypocrisy; insufficiency of knowledge produces deception; insufficiency of means produces robbery. But in this case against whom ought the robbery and theft to be charged?'

8. When Kü Po-yü was in his sixtieth year, his views became changed in the course of it. He had never before done anything but consider the views which he held to be right, but now he came to condemn them as wrong; he did not know that what he now called right was not what for fifty-nine years he had been calling wrong. All things have the life (which we know), but we do not see its root; they have their goings forth, but we do not know the door by which they depart. Men all honour that which lies within the sphere of their knowledge, but they do not know their dependence on what lies without that sphere which would be their (true) knowledge:-- may we not call their case one of great perplexity? Ah! Ah! there is no escaping from this dilemma. So it is! So it is!

9. Kung-nî asked the Grand Historiographer Tâ Thâo, (along with) Po Khang-khien and Khih-wei, saying, 'Duke Ling of Wei was so addicted to drink, and abandoned to sensuality, that he did not attend to the government of his state. Occupied in his pursuit of hunting with his nets and bows, he kept aloof from the meetings of the princes. In what was it that he showed his title to the epithet of Ling?' Tâ Thâo said, 'It was on account of those very things.' Po Khang-khien said, 'Duke Ling had three mistresses with whom he used to bathe in the same tub. (Once, however), when Shih-tsziû came to him with presents from the imperial court, he made his servants support the messenger in bearing the gifts. So dissolute was he in the former case, and when he saw a man of worth, thus reverent was he to him. It was on this account that he was styled "Duke Ling."' Khih-wei said, 'When duke Ling died, and they divined about burying him in the old tomb of his House, the answer was unfavourable; when they divined about burying him on Shâ-khiû, the answer was favourable. Accordingly they dug there to the depth of several fathoms, and found a stone coffin. Having washed and inspected it, they discovered an inscription, which said,

"This grave will not be available for your posterity;
Duke Ling will appropriate it for himself"

Thus that epithet of Ling had long been settled for the duke. But how should those two be able to know this?'