The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 26 (cont.): What comes from Without

Chuang Tzu

Wâi Wû, or 'What comes from Without.' (cont.)

6. The ruler Yüan of Sung (once) dreamt at midnight that a man with dishevelled hair peeped in on him at a side door and said, 'I was coming from the abyss of Tsai-lû, commissioned by the Clear Kiang to go to the place of the Earl of the Ho; but the fisherman Yü Tsü has caught me.' When the ruler Yüan awoke, he caused a diviner to divine the meaning (of the dream), and was told, 'This is a marvellous tortoise.' The ruler asked if among the fishermen there was one called Yü Tsü, and being told by his attendants that there was, he gave orders that he should be summoned to court. Accordingly the man next day appeared at court, and the ruler said, 'What have you caught (lately) in fishing?' The reply was, 'I have caught in my net a white tortoise, sievelike, and five cubits round.' 'Present the prodigy here,' said the ruler; and, when it came, once and again he wished to kill it, once and again he wished to keep it alive. Doubting in his mind (what to do), he had recourse to divination, and obtained the answer, 'To kill the tortoise for use in divining will be fortunate.' Accordingly they cut the creature open, and perforated its shell in seventy-two places, and there was not a single divining slip which failed.

Kung-nî said, 'The spirit-like tortoise could show itself in a dream to the ruler Yüan, and yet it could not avoid the net of Yü Tsü. Its wisdom could respond on seventy-two perforations without failing in a single divination, and yet it could not avoid the agony of having its bowels all scooped out. We see from this that wisdom is not without its perils, and spirit-like intelligence does not reach to everything. A man may have the greatest wisdom, but there are a myriad men scheming against him. Fishes do not fear the net, though they fear the pelican. Put away your small wisdom, and your great wisdom will be bright; discard your skilfulness, and you will become naturally skilful. A child when it is born needs no great master, and yet it becomes able to speak, living (as it does) among those who are able to speak.'

7. Hui-tsze said to Kwang-tsze, 'You speak, Sir, of what is of no use.' The reply was, 'When a man knows what is not useful, you can then begin to speak to him of what is useful. The earth for instance is certainly spacious and great; but what a man uses of it is only sufficient ground for his feet. If, however, a rent were made by the side of his feet, down to the yellow springs, could the man still make use of it?' Hui-tsze said, 'He could not use it,' and Kwang-tsze rejoined, 'Then the usefulness of what is of no use is clear.'

8. Kwang-tsze said, 'If a man have the power to enjoy himself (in any pursuit), can he be kept from doing so? If he have not the power, can he so enjoy himself? There are those whose aim is bent on concealing themselves, and those who are determined that their doings shall leave no trace. Alas! they both shirk the obligations of perfect knowledge and great virtue. The (latter) fall, and cannot recover themselves; the (former) rush on like fire, and do not consider (what they are doing). Though men may stand to each other in the relation of ruler and minister, that is but for a time. In a changed age, the one of them would not be able to look down on the other. Hence it is said, "The Perfect man leaves no traces of his conduct."

'To honour antiquity and despise the present time is the characteristic of learners; but even the disciples of Khih-wei have to look at the present age; and who can avoid being carried along by its course? It is only the Perfect man who is able to enjoy himself in the world, and not be deflected from the right, to accommodate himself to others and not lose himself. He does not learn their lessons; he only takes their ideas into consideration, and does not discard them as different from his own.

9. 'It is the penetrating eye that gives clear vision, the acute ear that gives quick hearing, the discriminating nose that gives discernment of odours, the practised mouth that gives the enjoyment of flavours, the active mind that acquires knowledge, and the far-reaching knowledge that constitutes virtue. In no case does the connexion with what is without like to be obstructed; obstruction produces stoppage; stoppage, continuing without intermission, arrests all progress; and with this all injurious effects spring up.

'The knowledge of all creatures depends on their breathing. But if their breath be not abundant, it is not the fault of Heaven, which tries to penetrate them with it, day and night without ceasing; but men notwithstanding shut their pores against it. The womb encloses a large and empty space; the heart has its spontaneous and enjoyable movements. If their apartment be not roomy, wife and mother-in-law will be bickering; if the heart have not its spontaneous and enjoyable movements, the six faculties of perception will be in mutual collision. That the great forests, the heights and hills, are pleasant to men, is because their spirits cannot overcome (those distracting influences). Virtue overflows into (the love of) fame; (the love of) fame overflows into violence; schemes originate in the urgency (of circumstances); (the show of) wisdom comes from rivalry; the fuel (of strife) is produced from the obstinate maintenance (of one's own views); the business of offices should be apportioned in accordance with the approval of all. In spring, when the rain and the sunshine come seasonably, vegetation grows luxuriantly, and sickles and hoes begin to be prepared. More than half of what had fallen down becomes straight, and we do not know how.

10. 'Stillness and silence are helpful to those who are ill; rubbing the corners of the eyes is helpful to the aged; rest serves to calm agitation; but they are the toiled and troubled who have recourse to these things. Those who are at ease, and have not had such experiences, do not care to ask about them. The spirit-like man has had no experience of how it is that the sagely man keeps the world in awe, and so he does not inquire about it; the sagely man has had no experience of how it is that the man of ability and virtue keeps his age in awe, and so he does not inquire about it; the man of ability and virtue has had no experience of how it is that the superior man keeps his state in awe, and so he does not inquire about it. The superior man has had no experience of how it is that the small man keeps himself in agreement with his times that he should inquire about it.'

11. The keeper of the Yen Gate, on the death of his father, showed so much skill in emaciating his person that he received the rank of 'Pattern for Officers.' Half the people of his neighbourhood (in consequence) carried their emaciation to such a point that they died. When Yâo wished to resign the throne to Hsü Yû, the latter ran away. When Thang offered his to Wû Kwang, Wû Kwang became angry. When Kî Thâ heard it, he led his disciples, and withdrew to the river Kho, where the feudal princes came and condoled with him, and after three years, Shan Thû-tî threw himself into the water. Fishing-stakes are employed to catch fish; but when the fish are got, the men forget the stakes. Snares are employed to catch hares, but when the hares are got, men forget the snares. Words are employed to convey ideas; but when the ideas are apprehended, men forget the words. Fain would I talk with such a man who has forgot the words!