The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 26: What comes from Without

Chuang Tzu

Wâi Wû, or 'What comes from Without.'

1. What comes from without cannot be determined beforehand. So it was that Lung-fang was killed; Pi-kan immolated; and the count of Kî (made to feign himself) mad, (while) O-lâi died, and Kieh and Kâu both perished. Rulers all wish their ministers to be faithful, but that faithfulness may not secure their confidence; hence Wû Yün became a wanderer along the Kiang, and Khang Hung died in Shû, where (the people) preserved his blood for three years, when it became changed into green jade. Parents all wish their sons to be filial, but that filial duty may not secure their love; hence Hsiâo-kî had to endure his sorrow, and Tsang Shan his grief.

When wood is rubbed against wood, it begins to burn; when metal is subjected to fire, it (melts and) flows. When the Yin and Yang act awry, heaven and earth are greatly perturbed; and on this comes the crash of thunder, and from the rain comes fire, which consumes great locust trees. (The case of men) is still worse. They are troubled between two pitfalls, from which they cannot escape. Chrysalis-like, they can accomplish nothing. Their minds are as if hung up between heaven and earth. Now comforted, now pitied, they are plunged in difficulties. The ideas of profit and of injury rub against each other, and produce in them a very great fire. The harmony (of the mind) is consumed in the mass of men. Their moonlike intelligence cannot overcome the (inward) fire. They thereupon fall away more and more, and the Course (which they should pursue) is altogether lost.

2. The family of Kwang Kâu being poor, he went to ask the loan of some rice from the Marquis Superintendent of the Ho, who said, 'Yes, I shall be getting the (tax-) money from the people (soon), and I will then lend you three hundred ounces of silver;-- will that do?' Kwang Kâu flushed with anger, and said, 'On the road yesterday, as I was coming here, I heard some one calling out. On looking round, I saw a goby in the carriage rut, and said to it, "Goby fish, what has brought you here?" The goby said, "I am Minister of Waves in the Eastern Sea. Have you, Sir, a gallon or a pint of water to keep me alive?" I replied, "Yes, I am going south to see the kings of Wû and Yüeh, and I will then lead a stream from the Western Kiang to meet you;-- will that do ?" The goby flushed with anger, and said, "I have lost my proper element, and I can here do nothing for myself; but if I could get a gallon or a pint of water, I should keep alive. Than do what you propose, you had better soon look for me in a stall of dry fish."'

3. A son of the duke of Zan, having provided himself with a great hook, a powerful black line, and fifty steers to be used as bait, squatted down on (mount) Kwâi Khî, and threw the line into the Eastern Sea. Morning after morning he angled thus, and for a whole year caught nothing. At the end of that time, a great fish swallowed the bait, and dived down, dragging the great hook with him. Then it rose to the surface in a flurry, and flapped with its fins, till the white waves rose like hills, and the waters were lashed into fury. The noise was like that of imps and spirits, and spread terror for a thousand lî. The prince having got such a fish, cut it in slices and dried them. From the Keh river to the east, and from Tshang-wû to the north, there was not one who did not eat his full from that fish; and in subsequent generations, story-tellers of small abilities have all repeated the story to one another with astonishment. (But) if the prince had taken his rod, with a fine line, and gone to pools and ditches, and watched for minnows and gobies, it would have been difficult for him to get a large fish. Those who dress up their small tales to obtain favour with the magistrates are far from being men of great understanding; and therefore one who has not heard the story of this scion of Zan is not fit to take any part in the government of the world;-- far is he from being so'.

4. Some literati, students of the Odes and Ceremonies, were breaking open a mound over a grave. The superior among them spoke down to the others, 'Day is breaking in the east; how is the thing going on?' The younger men replied, 'We have not yet opened his jacket and skirt, but there is a pearl in the mouth. As it is said in the Ode,

The bright, green grain
Is growing on the sides of the mound.
While living, he gave nothing away;
Why, when dead, should he hold a pearl in his mouth?"'

Thereupon they took hold of the whiskers and pulled at the beard, while the superior introduced a piece of fine steel into the chin, and gradually separated the jaws, so as not to injure the pearl in the mouth.

5. A disciple of Lâo Lâi-tsze, while he was out gathering firewood, met with Kung-nî. On his return, he told (his master), saying, 'There is a man there, the upper part of whose body is long and the lower part short. He is slightly hump-backed, and his ears are far back. When you look at him, he seems occupied with the cares of all within the four seas; I do not know whose son he is.' Lâo Lâi-tsze said, 'It is Khiû; call him here;' and when Kung-nî came, he said to him, 'Khiû, put away your personal conceit, and airs of wisdom, and show yourself to be indeed a superior man.' Kung-nî bowed and was retiring, when he abruptly changed his manner, and asked, 'Will the object I am pursuing be thereby advanced?' Lâo Lâi-tsze replied, 'You cannot bear the sufferings of this one age, and are stubbornly regardless of the evils of a myriad ages:-- is it that you purposely make yourself thus unhappy? or is it that you have not the ability to comprehend the case? Your obstinate purpose to make men rejoice in a participation of your joy is your life-long shame, the procedure of a mediocre man. You would lead men by your fame; you would bind them to you by your secret art. Than be praising Yâo and condemning Kieh, you had better forget them both, and shut up your tendency to praise. If you reflect on it, it does nothing but injury; your action in it is entirely wrong. The sage is full of anxiety and indecision in undertaking anything, and so he is always successful. But what shall I say of your conduct? To the end it is all affectation.'