Chuang Tzu. Chapter 28. Happy Under Success
Yao offered to resign the empire to Hsü Yu, but the latter
He then offered it to Tzu Chou Chih Fu, who said, 'There is no
objection to making me emperor. But just now I am suffering from
a troublesome disease, and am engaged to trying to cure it. I
have no leisure to look after the empire.'
Now the empire is of paramount importance. Yet here was a man
who would not allow it to injure his chance of life. How much
less then would he let other things do so? Yet it is only he who
would do nothing in the way of government who is fit to be trusted
with the empire.
Shun offered to resign the empire to Tzu Chou Chih Poh. The latter
said, 'Just now I am suffering from a troublesome disease, and
am engaged in trying to cure it. I have no leisure to look after
Now the empire is a great trust; but not to sacrifice one's life
for it is precisely where the man of Tao differs from the man
of the world.
Shun offered to resign the empire to Shan Chüan. Shan Chüan
said, 'I am a unit in the sum of the universe. In winter I wear
fur clothes. In summer I wear grass-cloth. In spring I plough
and sow, toiling with my body. In autumn I gather in the harvest,
and devote myself to rest and enjoyment. At dawn I go to work;
at sunset I leave off. Contented with my lot I pass through life
with a light heart. Why then should I trouble myself with the
empire? Ah, Sir, you do not know me.'
So he declined, and subsequently hid himself among the mountains,
nobody knew where.
Shun offered the empire to a friend, a labourer of Shih-hu.
'Sire', said the latter, 'you exert yourself too much. The chief
thing is to husband one's strength'; meaning that in point of
real virtue Shun had not attained.
Then, husband and wife, bearing away their household goods and
taking their children with them, went off to the sea and never
When T'ai Wang Shan Fu was occupying Pin, he was attacked by
savages. He offered them skins and silk, but they declined these.
He offered them dogs and horses, but they declined these also.
He then offered them pearls and jade, but these too they declined.
What they wanted was the territory.
'To live with a man's elder brother', said T'ai Wang Shan Fu,
'and slay his younger brother; to live with a man's father and
slay his son, this I could not bear to do. Make shift to remain
here. To be my subjects or the subjects of these savages, where
is the difference? Besides I have heard say that we ought not
to let that which is intended to nourish life become injurious
Thereupon he took his staff and went out. His people all followed
him, and they founded a new state at the foot of Mount Ch'i.
Now T'ai Wang Shan Fu undoubtedly had a proper respect for life.
And those who have a proper respect for life, if rich and powerful,
do not let that which should nourish injure the body. If poor
and lowly, they do not allow gain to involve them in physical
wear and tear.
But the men of the present generation who occupy positions of
power and influence, are all afraid of losing what they have got.
Directly they see a chance of gain, away goes all care for their
bodies. Is not that a cause for confusion?
In three successive cases the people of Yüeh had put their
prince to death. Accordingly, Shou, the son of the last prince,
was much alarmed, and fled to Tan-Hsüeh, leaving the State
of Yüeh without a ruler.
Shou was at first nowhere to be found, but at length he was traced
to Tan-Hsüeh. He was, however, unwilling to come forth, so
they smoked him out with moxa. They had a royal carriage ready
for him; and as Shou seized the cord to mount the chariot, he
looked up to heaven and cried, 'Oh! ruling, ruling, could I not
have been spared this?'
It was not that Shou objected to be a prince. He objected to
the dangers associated with such positions. Such a one was incapable
of sacrificing life to the State, and for that very reason the
people of Yüeh wanted to get him.
The States of Han and Wei were struggling to annex each other's
territory when Tzu Hua Tzu went to see prince Chao Hsi. Finding
the latter very downcast, Tzu Hua Tzu said, 'Now suppose the representatives
of the various States were to sign an agreement before your Highness,
to the effect that although cutting off the left hand would involve
the loss of the right, while cutting off the right would involve
loss of the left, nevertheless that whosoever would cut off either
should be emperor over all, ‹ would your Highness cut?'
'I would not', replied the prince.
'Very good', said Tzu Hua Tzu. 'It is clear therefore that one's
two arms are worth more than the empire. And one's body is worth
more than one's arms, while the State of Han is infinitely less
important than the empire. Further, what you are struggling over
is of infinitely less importance than the State of Han. Yet your
Highness is wearing out body and soul alike in fear and anxiety
lest you should not get it.'
'Good indeed!' cried the prince. 'Many have counselled me, but
I have never heard the like of this.'
From which we may infer that Tzu Hua Tzu knew the difference
between what was of importance and what was not.
The prince of Lu, hearing that Yen Ho had attained to Tao, despatched
messengers with presents to open communications.
Yen Ho lived in a hovel. He wore clothes of coarse grass, and
occupied himself in tending oxen.
When the messengers arrived, Yen Ho went out to meet them; whereupon
they enquired, 'Is this where Yen Ho lives?'
'This is Yen Ho's house', replied the latter.
The messengers then produced the presents; but Yen Ho said, 'I
fear you have made a mistake. As you might get into trouble, it
would be as well to go back and make sure.'
This the messengers accordingly did. When however they returned,
there was no trace to be found of Yen Ho. Thus it is that men
like Yen Ho hate wealth and power.
Wherefore it has been said that the best part of Tao is for self-culture,
the surplus for governing a State, and the dregs for governing
the empire. From which we may infer that the great deeds of kings
and princes are but the leavings of the Sage. For preserving the
body and nourishing vitality, they are of no avail. Yet the superior
men of today endanger their bodies and throw away their lives
in their greed for the things of this world. Is not this pitiable?
The true Sage in all his actions considers the why and the wherefore.
But there are those nowadays who use the pearl of the prince of
Sui to shoot a bird a thousand yards off. And the world of course
laughs at them. Why? Because they sacrifice the greater to get
the less. But surely life is of more importance even than the
Lieh Tzu was poor. His face wore a hungry look.
A visitor one day mentioned this to Tzu Yang of Cheng, saying,
'Lieh Tzu is a scholar who has attained to Tao. He lives in your
Excellency's State, and yet he is poor. Can it be said that your
Excellency does not love scholars?'
Thereupon Tzu Yang gave orders that Lieh Tzu should be supplied
with food. But when Lieh Tzu saw the messengers, he bowed twice
When the messengers had gone, and Lieh Tzu went within, his wife
gazed at him, and beating her breast said, 'I have heard that
the wife and children of a man of Tao are happy and joyful. But
see how hungry I am. His Excellency sent you food, and you would
not take it. Is not this flying in the face of Providence?'
'His Excellency did not know me personally', answered Lieh Tzu
with a smile. 'It was because of what others said about me that
he sent me the food. If then men were to speak ill of me, he would
also act upon it. For that reason I refused the food.'
Subsequently, there was trouble among the people of Cheng, and
Tzu Yang was slain.
When Prince Chao of the Ch'u State lost his kingdom, he was followed
into exile by his butcher, named Yüeh.
On his restoration, as he was distributing rewards to those who
had remained faithful to him, he came to the name of Yüeh.
Yüeh, however, said, 'When the prince lost his kingdom,
I lost my butchery. Now that the prince has got back his kingdom,
I have got back my butchery. I have recovered my office and salary.
What need for further reward?'
On hearing this, the prince gave orders that he should be made
to take his reward.
'It was not through my fault', argued Yüeh, 'that the prince
lost his kingdom, and I should not have taken the punishment.
Neither was it through me that he got it back, and I cannot therefore
accept the reward.'
When the prince heard this answer, he commanded Yüeh to
be brought before him. But Yüeh said, 'The laws of the Ch'u
State require that a subject shall have deserved exceptionally
well of his prince before being admitted to an audience. Now my
wisdom was insufficient to preserve this kingdom, and my courage
insufficient to destroy the invaders. When the Wu soldiers entered
Ying, I feared for my life and fled. That was why I followed the
prince. And if now the prince wishes to set law and custom aside,
and summon me to an audience, this is not my idea of proper behaviour
on the part of the prince.'
'Yüeh', said the prince to Tzu Chi, his master of the horse,
'occupies a lowly position; yet his principles are of the most
lofty. Go, make him a San Ching.'
'I am aware', replied Yüeh to the master of the horse, 'that
the post of San Ching is more honourable than that of butcher.
And I am aware that the emolument is larger than what I now receive.
Still, although I want preferment and salary, I cannot let my
prince earn the reputation of being unjudicious in his patronage.
I must beg to decline. Let me go back to my butchery.'
And he adhered to his refusal.
Yüan Hsien dwelt in Lu, ‹ in a mud hut, with a grass-grown
roof, an apology for a door, and two mulberry-trees for doorposts.
The windows which lighted his two rooms were no bigger than the
mouth of a jar, and were closed by a wad of old clothes. The hut
leaked from above and was damp under foot; yet Yüan Hsien
sat gravely there playing on the guitar.
Tzu Kung came driving up in a fine chariot, in a white robe lined
with purple; but the hood of the chariot was too big for the street.
When he went to see Yüan Hsien, the latter came to the door
in a flowery cap, with his shoes down at heel, and leaning on
'Good gracious!' cried Tzu Kung, 'whatever is the matter with
'I have heard', replied Yüan Hsien, 'that he who is without
wealth is called poor, and that he who learns without being able
to practise is said to have something the matter with him. Now
I am merely poor; I have nothing the matter with me.'
Tzu Kung was much abashed at this reply; upon which Yüan
Hsien smiling continued, 'To try to thrust myself forward among
men; to seek friendship in mutual flattery; to learn for the sake
of others; to teach for my own sake; to use benevolence and duty
to one's neighbour for evil ends; to make a great show with horses
and carriages, ‹ these things I cannot do.'
Tseng Tzu lived in the Wei State. His wadded coat had no outside
cloth. His face was bloated and rough. His hands and feet were
horny hard. For three days he had had no fire; no new clothes
for ten years. If he set his cap straight the tassel would come
off. If he drew up his sleeve his elbow would poke through. If
he pulled up his shoe, the heel would come off. Yet slipshod he
sang the Sacrificial Odes of Shang, his voice filling the whole
sky, as though it had been some instrument of metal or stone.
The Son of Heaven could not secure him as a minister. The feudal
princes could not secure him as a friend. For he who nourishes
his purpose becomes oblivious of his body. He who nourishes his
body becomes oblivious of gain. And who who has attained Tao becomes
oblivious of his mind.
'Come hither', said Confucius to Yen Hui. 'Your family is poor,
and your position lowly. Why not go into official life?'
'I do not wish to', replied Yen Hui. 'I have fifty acres of land
beyond the city walls, which are enough to supply me with food.
Ten more within the walls provide me with clothes. My lute gives
me all the amusement I want; and the study of your doctrines keeps
me happy enough. I do not desire to go into official life.'
'Bravo! well said!' cried Confucius with beaming countenance.
'I have heard say that those who are contented do not entangle
themselves in the pursuit of gain. That those who have really
obtained do not fear the contingency of loss. That those who devote
themselves to cultivation of the inner man, though occupying no
position, feel no shame. Thus indeed I have long preached. Only
now, that I have seen Yen Hui, am I conscious of the realization
of these words.'
Prince Mou of Chung-shan said to Chan Tzu, 'My body is in the
country, but my heart is in town. What am I to do?'
'Make life of paramount importance', answered Chan Tzu, 'and
worldly advantage will cease to have weight'.
'That I know', replied the Prince; 'but I am not equal to the
'If you are not equal to this', said Chan Tzu, 'then it were
well for you to pursue your natural bent. Not to be equal to a
task, and yet to force oneself to stick to it, ‹ this is
called adding one injury to another. And those who suffer such
two-fold injury do not belong to the class of the long-lived.'
Prince Mou of Wei was heir to the throne of a large State. For
him to become a hermit among the hills was more difficult than
for an ordinary cotton-clothed scholar. And although he had not
attained to Tao, he may be said to have been on the way thither.
When Confucius was caught between the Ch'ens and the Ts'ais,
he went seven days without proper food. He ate soup of herbs,
having no rice. He looked very much exhausted, yet he sat within
playing his guitar and singing to it.
Yen Hui was picking over the herbs, while Tzu Lu and Tzu Kung
were talking together. One of them said, 'Our Master has twice
been driven out of Lu. They will have none of him in Wei. His
tree was cut down in Sung. He got into trouble in Shang and Chou.
And now he is surrounded by the Ch'ens and the Ts'ais. Whoever
kills him is to be held guiltless. Whoever takes him prisoner
is not to be interfered with. Yet all the time he goes on playing
and singing without cease. Is this the right thing for a superior
man to do?'
Yen Hui said nothing, but went inside and told Confucius, who
laid aside his guitar and said with a loud sign, 'Yu and Tz'u
are ignorant fellows. Bid them come, and I will speak to them.'
When they entered Tzu Lu said, 'We seem to have made a thorough
'What do you mean?' cried Confucius. 'The superior man who succeeds
in Tao, has success. If he fails in Tao, he makes a failure. Now
I, holding fast to the Tao of charity and duty towards one's neighbour,
have fallen among the troubles of a disordered age. What failure
is there in that?
'Therefore it is that by cultivation of the inner man there is
no failure in Tao, and when danger comes there is no loss of virtue.
It is the chill winter weather, it is frost, it is snow, which
bring out the luxuriance of the pine and the fir. I regard it
is as a positive blessing to be thus situated as I am.'
Thereupon he turned abruptly round and went on playing and singing.
At this Tzu Lu hastily seized a shield and began dancing to the
music, while Tzu Kung said, 'I had no idea of the height of heaven
and of the depth of earth'.
The ancients who attained Tao were equally happy under success
and failure. Their happiness had nothing to do with their failure
or their success. Tao once attained, failure and success became
mere links in a chain, like cold, heat, wind, and rain. Thus Hsü
Yu enjoyed himself at Ying-yang, and Kung Poh found happiness
on the hill-top.
Shun offered to resign the empire to his friend Pei Jen Wu Tse.
'What a strange manner of man you are!' cried the latter. 'Living
in the furrowed fields, you exchanged such a life for the throne
of Yao. And as if that was not enough, you now try to heap indignity
upon me. I am ashamed of you.'
Thereupon he drowned himself in the waters of Ch'ing-ling.
When T'ang was about to attack Chieh, he went to consult with
'It is not a matter in which I can help you', said the latter.
'Who can?' asked T'ang.
'I do not know', replied Pien Sui.
T'ang then went to consult with Wu Kuang.
'It is not a matter in which I can help you', said the latter.
'Who can?' asked T'ang.
'I do not know', replied Wu Kuang.
'What do you think of I Yin?' asked T'ang.
'He forces himself', said Wu Kuang, 'to put up with obloquy.
Beyond this I know nothing of him.'
So T'ang took I Yin took his counsels. They attacked Chieh, and
Then T'ang offered to resign the empire in favour of Pien Sui.
But Pien Sui declined, saying, 'When your Majesty consulted with
me about attacking Chieh, you evidently looked on me as a robber.
Now that you have vanquished him, and you offer to resign in my
favour, you evidently regard me as covetous. I was born indeed
in a disordered age. But for a man without Tao to thus insult
me twice, is more than I can endure.'
So he drowned himself in the river Chou.
Then T'ang offered to resign in favour of Wu Kuang, saying, 'The
wise plan, the brave execute, the good rest therein, such was
the Tao of the ancients. Why, Sir, should not you occupy the throne?'
But Wu Kuang declined, saying, 'To depose a ruler is not to do
one's duty to one's neighbour. To slay the people is not charity.
For others to suffer these wrongs, while I enjoy the profits,
is not honest. I have heard say that one should not accept a wage
unless earned in accordance with right; and that if the world
is without Tao, one should not put foot upon its soil, still less
over it! I can bear this no longer.'
Thereupon he took a stone on his back and jumped into the river
At the rise of the Chou dynasty there were two scholars, named
Po I and Shu Ch'i, who lived in Ku-tu.
One of these said to the other, 'I have heard that in the west
there are men who are apparently in possession of Tao. Let us
go and see them.'
When they arrived at Ch'i-yang Wu Wang heard of their arrival
and sent Shu Tan to enter into a treaty with them. They were to
receive emoluments of the second degree and rank of the first
degree. The treaty was to be sealed with blood and buried.
At this the two looked at each other and smiled. 'Ah!' said one
of them, 'this is strange indeed. It is not what we call Tao.
'Whe Shen Nung ruled the empire, he worshipped God without asking
for any reward. Sometimes it was the law he put in force; sometimes
it was his personal influence he brought to bear. He was loyal
and faithful to his people without seeking any return. He did
not build his success upon another's ruin, nor mount high by means
of another's fall, nor seize opportunities to secure his own advantage.
'But now that the Chous, beholding the iniquities of the Yins,
have taken upon themselves to govern, we have intrigues above
and bribes below. Troops are mobilized to protect prestige. Victims
are slaughtered to give good faith to a treaty. A show of virtue
is made to amuse the masses. Fighting and slaughter are made the
means of gain. Confusion has simply been exchanged for disorder.
'I have heard tell that the men of old, living in quiet times,
never shirked their duties; but lighting upon troublous times,
nothing could make them stay. The empire is now in darkness. The
virtue of the Chous has faded. For the empire to be united under
the Chous would be a disgrace to us. Better flee away and keep
our actions pure.'
Accordingly, these two philosophers went north to mount Shou-yang,
where they subsequently starved themselves to death.
Men like Poh I and Shu Ch'i, if wealth and honour came to them
so that they could properly accept, would assuredly not have recourse
to such heroic measures, nor would they be content to follow their
own bent, without giving their services to their generation. Such
was the purity of these two scholars.
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Translated from the Chinese by Herbert A. Giles. First edition,
1889; second edition, 1923.