The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 29: The Robber Kih

Chuang Tzu

Tâo Kih, or 'The Robber Kih.'

1. Confucius was on terms of friendship with Liû-hsiâ Kî, who had a brother named Tâo Kih. This Tâo Kih had 9,000 followers, who marched at their will through the kingdom, assailing and oppressing the different princes. They dug through walls and broke into houses; they drove away people's cattle and horses; they carried off people's wives and daughters. In their greed to get, they forgot the claims of kinship, and paid no regard to their parents and brethren. They did not sacrifice to their ancestors. Wherever they passed through the country, in the larger states the people guarded their city walls, and in the smaller the people took to their strongholds. All were distressed by them.

Confucius spoke to Liû-hsiâ Kî, saying, 'Fathers should be able to Jay down the law to their sons, and elder to instruct their younger brothers. If they are unable to do so, they do not fulfil the duties of the relationships which they sustain. You, Sir, are one of the most talented officers of the age, and your younger brother is this Robber Kih. He is a pest in the kingdom, and you are not able to instruct him better; I cannot but be ashamed of you, and I beg to go for you and give him counsel.' Liû-hsiâ Kî replied, 'You say, Sir, that fathers must be able to lay down the law to their sons, and elder to instruct their younger brothers, but if sons will not listen to the orders of their fathers, nor the younger receive the lessons of their elder brothers, though one may have your powers of persuasion, what is to be done? And, moreover, Kih is a man whose mind is like a gushing fountain, and his will like a whirlwind; he is strong enough to resist all enemies, and clever enough to gloss over his wrong-doings. If you agree with him, he is glad; if you oppose him, he is enraged; and he readily meets men with the language of abuse. You must not go to him.'

Confucius, however, did not attend to this advice. With Yen Hui as his charioteer, and Tsze-kung seated on the right, he went to see Tâo Kih, whom he found with his followers halted on the south of Thâi-shan, and mincing men's livers, which he gave them to eat. Confucius alighted from his carriage, and went forward, till he saw the usher, to whom he said, 'I, Khung Khiû of Lû, have heard of the general's lofty righteousness,' bowing twice respectfully to the man as he said so. The usher went in and announced the visitor. But when Tâo Kih heard of the arrival, he flew into a great rage; his eyes became like blazing stars, and his hair rose up and touched his cap. 'Is not this fellow,' said he, 'Khung Khiû, that artful hypocrite of Lû? Tell him from me, "You invent speeches and babble away, appealing without ground to (the examples of) Wan and Wû. The ornaments on your cap are as many as the branches of a tree, and your girdle is (a piece of skin) from the ribs of a dead ox, The more you talk, the more nonsense you utter. You get your food without (the labour of) ploughing, and your clothes without (that of) weaving. You wag your lips and make your tongue a drum-stick. You arbitrarily decide what is right and what is wrong, thereby leading astray the princes throughout the kingdom, and making its learned scholars not occupy their thoughts with their proper business. You recklessly set up your filial piety and fraternal duty, and curry favour with the feudal princes, the wealthy and the noble. Your offence is great; your crime is very heavy. Take yourself off home at once. If you do not do so, I will take your liver, and add it to the provision for to-day's food."'

But Confucius sent in another message, saying, 'I enjoy the good will of (your brother) Kî, and I wish and hope to tread the ground beneath your tent.' When the usher had communicated this message, Tâo Kih said, 'Make him come forward.' On this Confucius hastened forwards. Declining to take a mat, he drew hastily back, and bowed twice to Tâo Kih, who in a great rage stretched his legs apart, laid his hand on his sword, and with glaring eyes and a voice like the growl of a nursing tigress, said, 'Come forwards, Khiû. If what you say be in accordance with my mind, you shall live; but, if it be contrary to it, you shall die.' Confucius replied, 'I have heard that everywhere under the sky there are three (most excellent) qualities. To be naturally tall and large, to be elegant and handsome without a peer, so that young and old, noble and mean, are pleased to look upon him;-- this is the highest of those qualities. To comprehend both heaven and earth in his wisdom, and to be able to speak eloquently on all subjects;-- this is the middle one of them. To be brave and courageous, resolute and daring, gathering the multitudes round him, and leading on his troops;-- this is the lowest of them. Whoever possesses one of these qualities is fit to stand with his face to the south, and style himself a Prince. But you, General, unite in yourself all the three. Your person is eight cubits and two inches in height; there is a brightness about your face and a light in your eyes; your lips look as if stained with vermilion; your teeth are like rows of precious shells; your voice is attuned to the musical tubes, and yet you are named "The Robber Kih." I am ashamed of you, General, and cannot approve of you. If you are inclined to listen to me, I should like to go as your commissioner to Wû and Yüeh in the south; to Khî and Lû in the north; to Sung and Wei in the cast; and to Tsin and Khû in the west. I will get them to build for you a great city several hundred lî in size, to establish under it towns containing several hundred thousands of inhabitants, and honour you there as a feudal lord. The kingdom will see you begin your career afresh; you will cease from your wars and disband your soldiers; you will collect and nourish your brethren, and along with them offer the sacrifices to your ancestors:-- this will be a course befitting a sage and an officer of ability, and will fulfil the wishes of the whole kingdom.'

'Come forward, Khiû,' said Tâo Kih, greatly enraged. 'Those who can be persuaded by considerations of gain, and to whom remonstrances may be addressed with success, are all ignorant, low, and ordinary people. That I am tall and large, elegant and handsome, so that all who see me are pleased with me;-- this is an effect of the body left me by my parents. Though you were not to praise me for it, do I not know it myself? And I have heard that he who likes to praise men to their face will also like to speak ill of them behind their back. And when you tell me of a great wall and a multitudinous people, this is to try to persuade me by considerations of gain, and to cocker me as one of the ordinary people. But how could such advantages last for long? Of all great cities there is none so great as the whole kingdom, which was possessed by Yâo and Shun, while their descendants (now) have not so much territory as would admit an awl. Thang and Wû were both set up as the Sons of Heaven, but in after ages (their posterity) were cut off and extinguished;-- was not this because the gain of their position was so great a prize?

[Editor's Note: This section continues next page.]