The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 29 (cont.): The Robber Kih

Chuang Tzu

Tâo Kih, or 'The Robber Kih.' (cont.)

1. (cont.) 'And moreover I have heard that anciently birds and beasts were numerous, and men were few, so that they lived in nests in order to avoid the animals. In the daytime they gathered acorns and chestnuts, and in the night they roosted on the trees; and on account of this they are called the people of the Nest-builder. Anciently the people did not know the use of clothes. In summer they collected great stores of faggots, and in winter kept themselves warm by means of them; and on account of this they are called the people who knew how to take care of their lives. In the age of Shan Nang, the people lay down in simple innocence, and rose up in quiet security. They knew their mothers, but did not know their fathers. They dwelt along with the elks and deer. They ploughed and ate; they wove and made clothes; they had no idea of injuring one another:-- this was the grand time of Perfect virtue. Hwang-Tî, however, was not able to perpetuate this virtuous state. He fought with Khih-yû in the wild of Ko-lû till the blood flowed over a hundred lî. When Yâo and Shun arose, they instituted their crowd of ministers. Thang banished his lord. King Wû killed Kâu. Since that time the strong have oppressed the weak, and the many tyrannised over the few. From Thang and Wû downwards, (the rulers) have all been promoters of disorder and confusion. You yourself now cultivate and inculcate the ways of Wan and Wû; you handle whatever subjects are anywhere discussed for the instruction of future ages. With your peculiar robe and narrow girdle, with your deceitful speech and hypocritical conduct, you delude the lords of the different states, and are seeking for riches and honours. There is no greater robber than you are;-- why does not all the world call you the Robber Khiû, instead of styling me the Robber Kih?

'You prevailed by your sweet speeches on Tsze-lû, and made him your follower; you made him put away his high cap, lay aside his long sword, and receive your instructions, so that all the world said, "Khung Khiû is able to arrest violence and repress the wrong-doer;" but in the end, when Tsze-lû wished to slay the ruler of Wei, and the affair proved unsuccessful, his body was exhibited in pickle over the eastern gate of the capital;-- so did your teaching of him come to nothing.

'Do you call yourself a scholar of talent, a sage? Why, you were twice driven out of Lû; you had to run away from Wei; you were reduced to extremity in Khî; you were held in a state of siege between Khan and Tshâi; there is no resting-place for your person in the kingdom; your instructions brought Tsze-lû to pickle. Such have been the misfortunes (attending your course). You have done no good either for yourself or for others;-- how can your doctrines be worth being thought much of?

'There is no one whom the world exalts so much as it does Hwang-Tî, and still he was not able to perfect his virtue, but fought in the wilderness of Ko-lû, till the blood flowed over a hundred lî. Yâo was not kind to his son. Shun was not filial. Yü was paralysed on one side. Thang banished his sovereign. King Wû smote Kâu. King Wan was imprisoned in Yû-lî. These are the six men of whom the world thinks the most highly, yet when we accurately consider their history, we see that for the sake of gain they all disallowed their true (nature), and did violence to its proper qualities and tendencies:-- their conduct cannot be thought of but with deep shame.

'Among those whom the world calls men of ability and virtue were (the brothers) Po-Î and Shû-khî. They declined the rule of Kû-kû, and died of starvation on the hill of Shâu-yang, leaving their bones and flesh unburied. Pâo Tsiâo vaunted his conduct, and condemned the world, but he died with his arms round a tree. When Shan-thû Tî's remonstrances were not listened to, he fastened a stone on his back, and threw himself into the Ho, where he was eaten by the fishes and turtles. Kieh Tsze-thui was the most devoted (of followers), and cut a piece from his thigh as food for duke Wan. But when the duke afterwards overlooked him (in his distribution of favours), he was angry, and went away, and was burned to death with a tree in his arms. Wei Shang had made an appointment with a girl to meet him under a bridge; but when she did not come, and the water rose around him, he would not go away, and died with his arms round one of the pillars. (The deaths of) these four men were not different from those of the dog that is torn in pieces, the pig that is borne away by a current, or the beggar (drowned in a ditch) with his alms-gourd in his hand. They were all caught as in a net by their (desire for) fame, not caring to nourish their life to its end, as they were bound to do.

'Among those whom the world calls faithful ministers there have been none like the prince Pî-kan and Wû Tsze-hsü. But Tsze-hsü's (dead) body was cast into the Kiang, and the heart of Pî-kan was cut out. These two were what the world calls loyal ministers, but the end has been that everybody laughs at them. Looking at all the above cases, down to those of Tsze-hsü and Pî-kan, there is not one worthy to be honoured; and as to the admonitions which you, Khiû, wish to impress on me, if you tell me about the state of the dead, I am unable to know anything about it; if you tell me about the things of men (alive), they are only such as I have stated, what I have heard and know all about. I will now tell you, Sir, my views about the condition of man. The eyes wish to look on beauty; the ears to hear music; the mouth to enjoy flavours; the will to be gratified. The greatest longevity man can reach is a hundred years; a medium longevity is eighty years; the lowest longevity is sixty. Take away sickness, pining, bereavement, mourning, anxieties, and calamities, the times when, in any of these, one can open his mouth and laugh, are only four or five days in a month. Heaven and earth have no limit of duration, but the death of man has its (appointed) time. Take the longest amount of a limited time, and compare it with what is unlimited, its brief existence is not different from the passing of a crevice by one of king Mû's horses. Those who cannot gratify their will and natural aims, and nourish their appointed longevity, are all unacquainted with the (right) Way (of life). I cast from me, Khiû, all that you say. Be quick and go. Hurry back and say not a word more. Your Way is only a wild recklessness, deceitful, artful, vain, and hypocritical. It is not available to complete the true (nature of man); it is not worth talking about!'

Confucius bowed twice, and hurried away. He went out at the door, and mounted his carriage. Thrice he missed the reins as he tried to take hold of them. His eyes were dazed, and he could not see; and his colour was that of slaked lime. He laid hold of the cross-bar, holding his head down, and unable to draw his breath. When he got back, outside the east gate of (the capital of) Lû, he encountered Liû-hsiâ Kî, who said to him, 'Here you are, right in the gate. For some days I have not seen you. Your carriage and horses are travel-stained;-- have you not been to see Tâo Kih?' Confucius looked up to heaven, sighed, and said, 'Yes.' The other went on, 'And did he not set himself in opposition to all your views, as I said he would do?' 'He did. My case has been that of the man who cauterised himself without being ill. I rushed away, stroked the tiger's head, played with his whiskers, and narrowly escaped his mouth.'