The Writings of Chuang Tzu

Book 33 (cont.): Thien Hsiâ

Chuang Tzu

Thien Hsiâ. (cont.)

6. That the shadowy and still is without bodily form; that change and transformation are ever proceeding, but incapable of being determined. What is death? What is life? What is meant by the union of Heaven and Earth? Does the spiritual intelligence go away? Shadowy, where does it go? Subtle, whither does it proceed? All things being arranged as they are, there is no one place which can be fitly ascribed to it. Such were the questions belonging to the scheme of Tâo in antiquity, and they were appreciated by Kwang Kâu. When he heard of such subjects, he was delighted with them. (He discussed them), using strange and mystical expressions, wild and extravagant words, and phrases to which no definite meaning could be assigned. He constantly indulged his own wayward ideas, but did not make himself a partisan, nor look at them as peculiar to himself. Considering that men were sunk in stupidity and could not be talked to in dignified style, he employed the words of the cup of endless application, with important quotations to substantiate the truth, and an abundance of corroborative illustrations. He chiefly cared to occupy himself with the spirit-like operation of heaven and earth, and did not try to rise above the myriads of things. He did not condemn the agreements and differences of others, so that he might live in peace with the prevalent views. Though his writings may seem to be sparkling trifles, there is no harm in amusing one's self with them; though his phraseology be ever-varying, its turns and changes are worth being looked at;-- the fulness and completeness of his ideas cannot be exhausted. Above he seeks delight in the Maker; below, he has a friendly regard to those who consider life and death as having neither beginning nor end. As regards his dealing with the Root (origin of all things), he is comprehensive and great, opening up new views, deep, vast, and free. As regards the Author and Master (the Great Tâo Itself), be may be pronounced exact and correct, carrying our thoughts to range and play on high. Nevertheless on the subject of transformation, and the emancipation of that from (the thraldom of) things, his principles are inexhaustible, and are not derived from his predecessors. They are subtle and obscure, and cannot be fully explained.

7. Hui Shih had many ingenious notions. His writings would fill five carriages; but his doctrines were erroneous and contradictory, and his words were wide of their mark. Taking up one thing after another, he would say:-- 'That which is so great that there is nothing outside it may be called the Great One; and that which is so small that there is nothing inside it maybe called the Small One.' 'What has no thickness and will not admit of being repeated is 1000 lî in size.' 'Heaven may be as low as the earth.' 'A mountain may be as level as a marsh.' ' The sun in the meridian may be the sun declining.' 'A creature may be born to life and may die at the same time.' '(When it is said that) things greatly alike are different from things a little alike, this is what is called making little of agreements and differences; (when it is said that) all things are entirely alike or entirely different, this is what is called making much of agreements and differences.' 'The south is unlimited and yet has a limit.' 'I proceed to Yueh to-day and came to it yesterday.' 'Things which are joined together can be separated.' 'I know the centre of the world;-- it is north of Yen or south of Yueh.' 'If all things be regarded with love, heaven and earth are of one body (with me).'

Hui Shih by such sayings as these made himself very conspicuous throughout the kingdom, and was considered an able debater. All other debaters vied with one another and delighted in similar exhibitions. (They would say), 'There are feathers in an egg.' 'A fowl has three feet.' 'The kingdom belongs to Ying.' 'A dog might have been (called) a sheep.' 'A tadpole has a tail.' 'Fire is not hot.' 'A mountain gives forth a voice.' 'A wheel does not tread on the ground.' 'The eye does not see.' 'The finger indicates, but needs not touch, (the object).' 'Where you come to may not be the end.' 'The tortoise is longer than the snake.' 'The carpenter's square is not square.' 'A compass should not itself be round.' 'A chisel does not surround its handle.' 'The shadow of a flying bird does not (itself) move.' 'Swift as the arrowhead is, there is a time when it is neither fiying nor at rest.' 'A dog is not a hound.' 'A bay horse and a black ox are three.' 'A white dog is black.' 'A motherless colt never had a mother.' 'If from a stick a foot long you every day take the half of it, in a myriad ages it will not be exhausted.'-- It was in this way that the debaters responded to Hui Shih, all their lifetime, without coming to an end.

Hwan Twan and Kung-sun Lung were true members of this class. By their specious representations they threw a glamour over men's minds and altered their ideas. They vanquished men in argument, but could not subdue their minds, only keeping them in the enclosure of their sophistry. Hui Shih daily used his own knowledge and the arguments of others to propose strange theses to all debaters;-- such was his practice. At the same time he would talk freely of himself, thinking himself the ablest among them, and saying, 'In heaven or earth who is my match?' Shih maintained indeed his masculine energy, but he had not the art (of controversy).

In the south there was a man of extraordinary views, named Hwang Liâo, who asked him how it was that the sky did not fall nor the earth sink, and what was the cause of wind, rain, and the thunder's roll and crash. Shih made no attempt to evade the questions, and answered him without any exercise of thought, talking about all things, without pause, on and on without end; yet still thinking that his words were few, and adding to them the strangest observations. He thought that to contradict others was a real triumph, and wished to make himself famous by overcoming them; and on this account he was not liked by the multitude of debaters. He was weak in real attainment, though he might seem strong in comparison with others, and his way was narrow and dark. If we look at Hui Shih's ability from the standpoint of Heaven and Earth, it was only like the restless activity of a mosquito or gadfly; of what service was it to anything? To give its full development to any one capacity is a good thing, and he who does so is in the way to a higher estimation of the Tâo; but Hui Shih could find no rest for himself in doing this. He diffused himself over the world of things without satiety, till in the end he had only the reputation of being a skilful debater. Alas! Hui Shih, with all his talents, vast as they were, made nothing out; he pursued all subjects and never came back (with success). It was like silencing an echo by his shouting, or running a race with his shadow. Alas!