Chuang Tzu. Chapter 25. Argument: Influence
of virtue concealed. The true Sage a negative quantity. The great,
the small, the infinte. Crime and Capital. Rulers and their vices.
What is Society? Predistination or Chance?*
When Tse Yang visited the Ch'u State, I Chieh
spoke of him to the prince; but the latter refused an audience.
Upon I Chieh's return, Tse Yang went to see Wang
Kuo, and asked him to obtain an interview with the prince.
'I am not so fitted for that', replied Wang Kuo,
'as Kung Yüeh Hsiu'.
'What sort of a man is he?' enquired Tse Yang.
'In winter', said Wang Kuo, 'he catches turtles
on the river. In summer, he reposes in some mountain copse. If
any passers-by ask of him, he tells them, "This is my home".
Where I Chieh could not succeed, still less should I. I am not
equal even to him.
'He is a man without virtue, but possessed of
knowledge. Were it not for an air of arrogance, he would be very
popular with his superiors. But help without virtue is a hindrance.
Shivering people borrowing clothes in the coming spring! Hot people
thinking of last winter's icy blast!
'The prince of Ch'u is dignified and severe.
In punishing, he is merciless as a tiger. Only a very practised
or a very perfect man could influence him.
'The true Sage, when in obscurity, causes those
around him to forget their poverty. When in power, he causes princes
to forget ranks and emoluments, and to become as though of low
estate. He rejoices exceedingly in all creation. He exults to
see Tao diffused among his fellow-men, while suffering no loss
Thus, although silent, he can instil peace; and
by his mere presence cause men to be to each other as father and
son. From his very return to passivity comes this active influence
for good. So widely does he differ in heart from ordinary men.
Wherefore I said, "Wait for Kung Yüeh Hsiu".
'The true Sage is free from all embarrassments.
All things are to him as One. Yet he knows not that this is so.
It is simply nature. In the midst of action he remains the same.
He makes God his guide, and men make him theirs. He grieves that
wisdom carries one but a short distance, and at times comes altogether
to a deadlock.
'To a beauty, mankind is the mirror in which
she sees herself. If no one tells her she is beautiful, she does
not know that she is so. But whether she knows it or whether she
does not know it, whether she hears it or whether she does not
hear it, her joy will never cease, neither will mankind ever cease
to take pleasure therein. It is nature.
'The love of a Sage for his fellows likewise
finds expression among mankind. Were he not told so, he would
not know that he loved his fellows. But whether he knows it or
whether he does not know it, whether he hears it or whether he
does not hear it, his love for his fellows is without end, and
mankind cease not to repose therein.
'The old country, the old home, gladden a wanderer's
eyes. Nay, though nine-tenths of it be a howling wilderness, still
his eye will be glad. How much more to see sight and hear hearing,
from a lofty dais suspended in their very midst!'
Jen Hsiang Shih reached the centre and attained.
He recognized no beginning, no end, no quantity, no time. Daily
modified together with his environment, as part of One he knew
no modification. Why not rest in this?
To strive to follow god and not to succeed is
to display an activity fatal to itself. How can success ever be
The true Sage ignores God. He ignores man. He
ignores a beginning. He ignores matter. He moves in harmony with
his generation and suffers not. He takes things as they come and
is not overwhelmed. How are we to become like him?
T'ang appointed his Equerry, Men Yin Teng Heng,
to be his tutor, listening to his counsels but not being restricted
by them. He got Tao for himself and a reputation for his tutor.
But the reputation was a violation of principle, and landed him
in the domain of alternatives.
As a tutor, Confucius pushed care and anxiety
to an extreme limit.
Yung Ch'eng Shih said, 'Take away days, and there
would be no years. If there is no inside, there can be no outside.'
Prince Hui of Wei had made a treaty with prince
Wei of Ch'i, which the latter broke.
Thereupon prince Hui was wroth, and was about
to send a man to assassinate him. But the Captain-General heard
of this, and cried out in shame, 'Sire, you are ruler over a mighty
State, yet you would seek the vengeance of a common man. Give
me two hundred thousand warriors, and I will do the work for you.
I will take his people prisoners, and carry off their oxen and
horses. I will make the heat of the prince's mind break out on
his back. Then I will seize his country, and he will flee. Then
you can wring his neck as you please.'
When Chi Tzu heard this, he cried out in shame
and said, 'If you are building a ten-perch wall, and when the
wall is near completion, destroy it, you inflict great hardship
on the workmen. Now for seven years the troops have not been called
out. That is, as it were, your Highness' foundation work. Listen
not to the Captain-General. He is a mischievous fellow.'
When Hua Tzu heard this, he was very indignant
and said, 'He who argued in favour of punishing the Ch'i State
was a mischievous fellow. And he who argued against punishing
the Ch'i State was a mischievous fellow. And he who says that
either of the above is a msichievous fellopw, is a mischievous
'Where then shall I find what to do?' enquired
'In Tao alone', said Hua Tzu.
When Hui Tzu heard this, he introduced Tai Chin
Jen to the prince.
'There is a creature called a snail', said Tai
Chin Jen. 'Does your Highness know what I mean?'
'I do', replied the prince.
'There is a kingdom on its left horn', continued
Tai Chin Jen, 'ruled over by Aggression, and another on its right
horn, ruled over by Violence. These two rulers are constantly
fighting for territory. In such cases, corpses lie about by thousands,
and one party will pursue the other for fifteen days before returning.'
'Whew!' cried the prince. 'Surely you are joking.'
'Sire', replied Tai Chin Jen, 'I beg you to regard
it as fact. Does your Highness recognize any limit to space?'
'None', said the prince. 'It is boundless.'
'When, therefore', continued Tai Chin Jen, 'the
mind descends from the contemplation of boundless space to the
contemplation of a kingdom with fixed boundaries, that kingdom
must seem to be of dimensions infinitesimally small?'
'Of course', replied the prince.
'Well then', said Tai Chin Jen, 'in a kingdom
with fixed boundaries there is the Wei State. In the Wei State
there is the city of Liang. In the city of Liang there is a prince.
In what does that prince differ from Violence?'
'There is no difference', said the prince.
Thereupon Tai Chin Jen took his leave, and the
prince remained in a state of mental perturbation, as though he
had lost something.
When Tai Chin Jen had gone, Hui Tzu presented
himself, and the prince said, 'Our friend is truly a great man.
Sages are not his equal.'
'If you blow through a tube', replied Hui Tzu,
'the result will be a note. If you blow through the hole in a
sword-hilt, the result will be simply whssh. Yao and Shun have
been belauded by mankind; yet compared with Tai Chin Jen they
are but whssh.'
When Confucius went to Ch'u, he stopped at a
restaurant on Mount I. The servant to a man and his wife who lived
next door, got up on top of the house.
'Whatever is he doing up there?' asked Tzu Lu.
'He is a Sage', replied Confucius, 'under the
garb of a menial. He buries himself among the people. He effaces
himself at the wayside. Fame, he has none; but his perseverance
is inexhaustible. Though his mouth speaks, his heart speaks not.
He has turned his back upon mankind, not caring to abide amongst
them. He has drowned himself on dry land. I think 'tis I Liao
Tzu Lu asked to be allowed to go and call him;
but Confucius stopped him, saying, 'No. He knows that I know what
he is. He knows that I have come to Ch'u to recommend him to the
prince. And he looks on me as a toady. Under the circumstances,
as he would to hear the words of a toady, how much more would
he scorn to see him in the flesh! How could you keep him?'
Tzu Lu went to see, but the house was empty.
The border-warden of Ch'ang-wu said to Tzu Lao,
'A prince in his administrative details must
not lack thoroughness; in his executive details he must not be
inefficient. Formerly, in my ploughing I lacked thoroughness and
the results also lacked thoroughness. In my weeding I was inefficient,
and the results were also inefficient. By and by, I changed my
system. I ploughed deep, and weeded carefully, the result being
an excellent harvest, more than I could get through in a year.'
Chuang Tzu, upon hearing this, observed, 'The
men of today in their self-regulation and their self-organization
are mostly as the Border-warden has described. They put their
Godhead out of sight. They abandon their natural dispositions.
They get rid of all feeling. They part with their souls, carried
away by the fashion of the hour.
'Those who lack thoroughness in regard to their
natural dispositions suffer an evil tribe to take the place thereof.
These grow up rank as reeds and rushes, at first of apparent value
to the body, but afterwards to destroy the natural disposition.
They they break out, at random, like sores and ulcers carrying
off pent-up humours.'
Poh Chü was studying under Lao Tzu. 'Let
us go', said he, 'and wander over the world'.
'No', replied Lao Tzu, 'the world is just as
you see it here'.
But as he again urged it, Lao Tzu said, 'Where
would you go to begin with?'
'I would begin', answered Poh Chü 'by going
to the Ch'i State. There I would view the dead bodies of their
malefactors. I would push them to make them rise. I would take
off my robes and cover them. I would cry to God and bemoan their
lot, as follows: "O sirs, O sirs, there was trouble upon
earth, and you were the first to fall into it!"
'I would say, "Perhaps you were robbers,
or perhaps murderers?" ... Honour and disgrace were set up,
and evil followed. Wealth was accumulated, and contentions began.
Now the evil which has been set up and contentions which have
accumulated, endlessly weary man's body and give him no rest.
What escape is there from this?
'The rulers of old set off all success to the
credit of their people, attributing all failure to themselves.
All that was right went to the credit of their people, all that
was wrong they attributed to themselves. Therefore, if any matter
fell short of achievement, they turned and blamed themselves.
'Not so the rulers of today. They conceal a thing
and blame those who cannot see it. They impose dangerous tasks
and punish those who dare not undertake them. They inflict heavy
burdens and chastise those who cannot bear them. They ordain long
marches and slay those who cannot make them.
'And the people, feeling that their powers are
inadequate, have recourse to fraud. For when there is so much
fraud about, how can the people be otherwise than fraudulent?
If their strength is insufficient, they will have recourse to
fraud. If their strength is insufficient, they will have recourse
to deceit. If their means are insufficient, they will steal. And
for such robbery and theft, who is really responsible?'
When Chü Poh Yü reached his sixtieth
year, he changed his opinions. What he had previously regarded
as right, he now came to regard as wrong. But who shall say whether
the right of today may not be as wrong as the wrong of the previous
Things are produced around us, but no one knows
the whence. They issue forth, but no one sees the portal. Men
one and all value that part of knowledge which is unknown. They
do not know how to avail themselves of the unknown in order to
reach knowledge. Is not this misguided?
Alas! alas! the impossibility of escaping from
this state results in what is known as elective affinity.
Confucius asked the historiographers Ta T'ao,
Poh Ch'ang Ch'ien, and Hsi Wei, saying, 'Duke Ling of Wei was
fond of wine and given up to pleasure, and neglected the administration
of his State. He spent his time in hunting, and did not cultivate
the goodwill of the other feudal princes. How was it he came to
be called Ling?
'For those very reasons', replied Ta T'ao.
'The Duke', said Poh Ch'ang Ch'ien, 'had three
wives. He was having a bath together with them when Shih Ch'iu,
summoned by his Highness, entered the apartment. Thereupon the
Duke covered himself and the ladies. So outrageously did he behave
on the one hand, and yet so respectful was he towards a virtuous
man. Hence he was called Ling.'
'When the Duke died', said Hsi Wei, 'divination
showed that it would be inauspicious to bury him in the old family
burying-ground, but auspicious to bury him at Sha-ch'iu. And upon
digging a grave there, several fathoms deep, a stone coffin was
found, which, being cleaned, yielded the following inscription:
"Posterity cannot be trusted. Duke Ling will seize this for
'As a matter of fact, Duke Ling had been named
Ling long before. What should these two persons know about it?'
Shao Chih asked T'ai Kung Tiao, syaing, 'What
is meant by society?'
'Society', replied T'ai Kung Taio, 'is an agreement
of a certain number of families and individuals to abide by certain
customs. Discordant elements unite to form a harmonious whole.
Take away this unity and each has a separate individuality.
'Point at any one of the many parts of a horse,
and that is not a horse, although there is the horse before you.
It is the combination of all which makes the horse.
'Similarly, a mountain is high because of its
individual particles. A river is large because of its individual
drops. And he is a just man who regards all parts from the point
of view of the whole.
'Thus, in regard to the views of others, he holds
his own opinon, but not obstinately. In regard to his own views,
while conscious of their truth, he does not despise the opinions
'The four seasons have different characteristics,
but God shows no preference for either, and therefore we have
the year complete. The functions of the various classes of officials
differ; but the sovereign shows no partiality, and therefore the
empire is governed. There are the civil and the military; but
the truly great man shows no preference for either, and therefore
their efficacy is complete. All things are under the operation
of varying laws: but Tao shows no partiality and therefore it
cannot be identified. Not being able to be identified, it consequently
does nothing. And by doing nothing all things can be done.
'Seasons have their beginnings and their ends.
Generations change and change. Good and evil fortune alternate,
bringing sorrow here, happiness there. He who obstinately views
things from his own standpoint only, may be right in one case
and wrong in another. Just as in a great jungle all kinds of shrubs
are found together; or as on a mountain you see trees and stones
indiscriminately mixed, ‹ so is what we call society.'
'Would it not do then', asked Shao Chih, 'if
we were to call this Tao?'
'It would not', replied T'ai Kung Tiao. 'All
creation is made up of more than ten thousand things. We speak
of creation as the Ten Thousand Things merely because it is a
convenient term by which to express a large number. In point of
outward shape the universe is vast. In point of influence the
Positive and Negative principles are mighty. Yet Tao folds them
all in its embrace. For convenience sake the bond of society is
called great. But how can that which is thus conditioned be compared
with Tao? There is a wide difference between them as there is
between a horse and a dog.'
'Whence then', enquired Shao Chih, 'comes the
vitality of all things between the four points of the compass,
between heaven above and earth beneath?'
'The Positive and Negative principles', answered
T'ai Kung Tiao, 'influence, act upon, and regulate each other.
The four seasons alternate with, give birth to, and destroy one
another. Hence, loves and hates, and courses rejected and courses
adopted. Hence too, the intercourse of the sexes.
'States of peril and safety alternate. Good and
evil fortune give birth to one another. Slowness and speed are
mutually exclusive. Collection and dispersion are correlates.
The actuality of these may be noted. The essence of each can be
verified. There is regular movement forward, modified by deflection
into a curve. Exhaustion leads to renewal. The end introduces
a new beginning. This is the law of material existences. The force
of language, the reach of knowledge, cannot pass beyond the bounds
of such material existences. The disciple of Tao refrains from
prying into the states after or before. Human speculation stops
short of this.'
'Chi Chen', said Shao Chih, 'taught Chance; Chieh
Tzu taught Predestination. In the speculations of these two schools,
on which side did right lie?'
'The cock crows', replied T'ai Kung Tiao, 'and
the dog barks. So much we know. But the wisest of us could not
say why one crows and the other barks, nor guess why they crow
or bark at all.
'Let me explain. The infinitely small is inappreciable;
the infinitely great is immeasurable. Chance and Predestination
must refer to the conditioned. Consequently, both are wrong.
'Predestination involves a real existence. Chance
implies an absolute absence of any principle. To have a name and
the embodiment thereof, this is to have a material existence.
To have no name and no embodiment, of this one can speak and think;
but the more one speaks the farther off one gets.
'The unborn creature cannot be kept from life.
The dead cannot be tracked. From birth to death is but a span;
yet the secret cannot be known. Chance and Predestination are
but a priori solutions.
'When I seek for a beginning, I find only time
infinite. When I look forward to an end, I see only time infinite.
Infinity of time past and to come implies no beginning and is
in accordance with the laws of material existences. Predestination
and Chance give us a beginning, but one which is compatible only
with the existence of matter.
'Tao cannot be existent. If it were existent,
it could not be non-existent. The very name of Tao is only adopted
for convenience sake. Predestination and Chance are limited to
material existences. How can they bear upon the infinite?
'Were language adquate, it would take but a day
to fully set forth Tao. Not being adequate, it takes that time
to explain material existences. Tao is something beyond material
existences. It cannot be conveyed either by words or by silence.
In that state which is neither speech nor silence, its transcendental
nature may be apprehended.'
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Translated from the Chinese by Herbert A. Giles. First edition,
1889; second edition, 1923.