The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 28 (cont.): Kings who have wished to resign the Throne

Chuang Tzu

Zang Wang, or 'Kings who have wished to resign the Throne.' (cont.)

4. Tsze Lieh-tsze was reduced to extreme poverty, and his person had a hungry look. A visitor mentioned the case to Tsze-yang, (the premier) of Kang, saying, 'Lieh Yü-khâu, I believe, is a scholar who has attained to the Tâo. Is it because our ruler does not love (such) scholars, that he should be living in his state in such poverty?' Tsze-yang immediately ordered an officer to send to him a supply of grain. When Lieh-tsze saw the messenger, he bowed to him twice, and declined the gift, on which the messenger went away. On Lieh-tsze's going into the house, his wife looked to him and beat her breast, saying, 'I have heard that the wife and children of a possessor of the Tâo all enjoy plenty and ease, but now we look starved. The ruler has seen his error, and sent you a present of food, but you would not receive it;-- is it appointed (for us to suffer thus)?' Tsze Lieh-tsze laughed and said to her, 'The ruler does not himself know me. Because of what some one said to him, he sent me the grain; but if another speak (differently) of me to him, he may look on me as a criminal. This was why I did not receive the grain!

In the end it did come about, that the people, on an occasion of trouble and disorder, put Tsze-yang to death.

5. When king Kâo of Khû lost his kingdom, the sheep-butcher Yüeh followed him in his flight. When the king (recovered) his kingdom and returned to it, and was going to reward those who had followed him, on coming to the sheep-butcher Yüeh, that personage said, 'When our Great King lost his kingdom, I lost my sheep-killing. When his majesty got back his kingdom, I also got back my sheep-killing. My income and rank have been recovered; why speak further of rewarding me?' The king, (on hearing of this reply), said, 'Force him (to take the reward);' but Yüeh said, 'It was not through any crime of mine that the king lost his kingdom, and therefore I did not dare to submit to the death (which would have been mine if I had remained in the capital). And it was not through any service of mine that he recovered his kingdom, and therefore I do not dare to count myself worthy of any reward from him.'

The king (now) asked that the butcher should be introduced to him, but Yüeh said, 'According to the law of Khû, great reward ought to be given to great service, and the recipient then be introduced to the king; but now my wisdom was not sufficient to preserve the kingdom, nor my courage sufficient to die at the hands of the invaders. When the army of Wû entered, I was afraid of the danger, and got out of the way of the thieves;-- it was not with a distinct purpose (of loyalty) that I followed the king. And now he wishes, in disregard of the law, and violations of the conditions of our social compact, to see me in court;-- this is not what I would like to be talked of through the kingdom.' The king said to Tsze-khî, the Minister of War, 'The position of the sheep-butcher Yüeh is low and mean, but his setting forth of what is right is very high; do you ask him for me to accept the place of one of my three most distinguished nobles.' (This being communicated to Yüeh), he said, 'I know that the place of such a distinguished noble is nobler than a sheep-butcher's stall, and that the salary of 10,000 kung is more than its profits. But how should I, through my greed of rank and emolument, bring on our ruler the name of an unlawful dispensation of his gifts? I dare not respond to your wishes, but desire to return to my stall as the sheep-butcher.' Accordingly he did not accept (the proffered reward).

6. Yüan Hsien was living in Lû. His house, whose walls were only a few paces round, looked as if it were thatched with a crop of growing grass; its door of brushwood was incomplete, with branches of a mulberry tree for its side-posts; the window of each of its two apartments was formed by an earthenware jar (in the wall), which was stuffed with some coarse serge. It leaked above, and was damp on the ground beneath; but there he sat composedly, playing on his guitar. Tsze-kung, in an inner robe of purple and an outer one of pure white, riding in a carriage drawn by two large horses, the hood of which was too high to get into the lane (leading to the house), went to see him. Yüan Hsien, in a cap made of bark, and slippers without heels, and with a stalk of hellebore for a staff, met him at the door. 'Alas! Master,' said Tsze-kung, 'that you should be in such distress!' Yüan Hsien answered him, 'I have heard that to have no money is to be poor, and that not to be able to carry one's learning into practice is to be distressed. I am poor but not in distress.' Tsze-kung shrank back, and looked ashamed, on which the other laughed and said, 'To act with a view to the world's (praise); to pretend to be public-spirited and yet be a partisan; to learn in order to please men; to teach for the sake of one's own gain; to conceal one's wickedness under the garb of benevolence and righteousness; and to be fond of the show of chariots and horses:-- these are things which Hsien cannot bear to do.'

Tsang-tsze was residing in Wei. He wore a robe quilted with hemp, and had no outer garment; his countenance looked rough and emaciated; his hands and feet were horny and callous; he would be three days without lighting a fire; in ten years he did not have a new suit; if he put his cap on straight, the strings would break; if he drew tight the overlap of his robe, his elbow would be seen; in putting on his shoes, the heels would burst them. Yet dragging his shoes along, he sang the 'Sacrificial Odes of Shang' with a voice that filled heaven and earth as if it came from a bell or a sounding stone. The Son of Heaven could not get him to be a minister; no feudal prince could get him for his friend. So it is that he who is nourishing his mind's aim forgets his body, and he who is nourishing his body discards all thoughts of gain, and he who is carrying out the Tâo forgets his own mind.

Confucius said to Yen Hui, 'Come here, Hui. Your family is poor, and your position is low; why should you not take office?' Hui replied, 'I have no wish to be in office. Outside the suburban district I possess fields to the extent of fifty acres, which are sufficient to supply me with congee; and inside it I have ten acres, which are sufficient to supply me with silk and flax. I find my pleasure in playing on my lute, and your doctrines, Master, which I study, are sufficient for my enjoyment; I do not wish to take office.' Confucius looked sad, changed countenance, and said, "How good is the mind of Hui! I have heard that he who is contented will not entangle himself with the pursuit of gain, that he who is conscious of having gained (the truth) in himself is not afraid of losing other things, and that he who cultivates the path of inward rectification is not ashamed though he may have no official position. I have long been preaching this; but to-day I see it realised in Hui:-- this is what I have gained.'

7. Prince Mâu of Kung-shan spoke to Kan-tsze, saying, 'My body has its place by the streams and near the sea, but my mind dwells at the court of Wei;-- what have you to say to me in the circumstances?' Kan-tsze replied, 'Set the proper value on your life. When one sets the proper value on his life, gain seems to him unimportant.' The prince rejoined, 'I know that, but I am not able to overcome (my wishes).' The reply was, 'If you cannot master yourself (in the matter), follow (your inclinations so that) your spirit may not be dissatisfied. When you cannot master yourself, and try to force yourself where your spirit does not follow, this is what is called doing yourself a double injury; and those who so injure themselves are not among the long-lived.'

Mâu of Wei was the son of a lord of ten thousand chariots. For him to live in retirement among crags and caves was more difficult than for a scholar who had not worn the dress of office. Although he had not attained to the Tâo, he may be said to have had some idea of it.