Taoistic
TAOISM EXPLAINED


     
     


Chuang Tzu 1

Chuang Tzu dreaming of a butterfly. Ink by Ike no Taiga, 18th Century.

The Taoist Text, Chapter 1


Enjoyment in Untroubled Ease.

1.     In the Northern Ocean there is a fish, the name of which is Khwan,- I do not know how many l in size. It changes into a bird with the name of Phang, the back of which is (also)- I do not know how many l in extent. When this bird rouses itself and flies, its wings are like clouds all round the sky. When the sea is moved (so as to bear it along), it prepares to remove to the Southern Ocean. The Southern Ocean is the Pool of Heaven.



       There is the (book called) Kh Hsieh,- a record of marvels. We have in it these words:- "When the phang is removing to the Southern Ocean it flaps (its wings) on the water for 3000 l. Then it ascends on a whirlwind 90,000 l, and it rests only at the end of six months." (But similar to this is the movement of the breezes which we call) the horses of the fields, of the dust (which quivers in the sunbeams), and of living things as they are blown against one another by the air. Is its azure the proper colour of the sky? Or is it occasioned by its distance and illimitable extent? If one were looking down (from above), the very same appearance would just meet his view.


2.     And moreover, (to speak of) the accumulation of water;- if it be not great, it will not have strength to support a large boat. Upset a cup of water in a cavity, and a straw will float on it as if it were a boat. Place a cup in it, and it will stick fast;- the water is shallow and the boat is large. (So it is with) the accumulation of wind; if it be not great, it will not have strength to support great wings. Therefore (the phang ascended to) the height of 90,000 l, and there was such a mass of wind beneath it; thenceforth the accumulation of wind was sufficient. As it seemed to bear the blue sky on its back, and there was nothing to obstruct or arrest its course, it could pursue its way to the South.

       A cicada and a little dove laughed at it, saying, "We make an effort and fly towards an elm or sapanwood tree; and sometimes before we reach it, we can do no more but drop to the ground. Of what use is it for this (creature) to rise 90,000 l, and make for the South?" He who goes to the grassy suburbs, returning to the third meal (of the day), will have his belly as full as when he set out; he who goes to a distance of 100 l will have to pound his grain where he stops for the night; he who goes a thousand l, will have to carry with him provisions for three months. What should these two small creatures know about the matter? The knowledge of that which is small does not reach to that which is great; (the experience of) a few years does not reach to that of many. How do we know that it is so? The mushroom of a morning does not know (what takes place between) the beginning and end of a month; the short-lived cicada does not know (what takes place between) the spring and autumn. These are instances of a short term of life. In the south of Kh there is the (tree) called Ming-ling, whose spring is 500 years, and its autumn the same; in high antiquity there was that called T-khun, whose spring was 8000 years, and its autumn the same. And Phang Tsu is the one man renowned to the present day for his length of life:- if all men were (to wish) to match him, would they not be miserable?


3.     In the questions put by Thang to K we have similar statements:- "In the bare and barren north there is the dark and vast ocean,- the Pool of Heaven. In it there is a fish, several thousand l in breadth, while no one knows its length. Its name is the khwan. There is (also) a bird named the phang; its back is like the Thi mountain, while its wings are like clouds all round the sky. On a whirlwind it mounts upwards as on the whorls of a goat's horn for 90,000 l, till, far removed from the cloudy vapours, it bears on its back the blue sky, and then it shapes its course for the South, and proceeds to the ocean there." A quail by the side of a marsh laughed at it, and said, "Where is it going to? I spring up with a bound, and come down again when I have reached but a few fathoms, and then fly about among the brushwood and bushes; and this is the perfection of flying. Where is that creature going to?" This shows the difference between the small and the great.

       Thus it is that men, whose wisdom is sufficient for the duties of some one office, or whose conduct will secure harmony in some one district, or whose virtue is befitting a ruler so that they could efficiently govern some one state, are sure to look on themselves in this manner (like the quail), and yet Yung-tsze of Sung would have smiled and laughed at them. (This Yung-tsze), though the whole world should have praised him, would not for that have stimulated himself to greater endeavour, and though the whole world should have condemned him, would not have exercised any more repression of his course; so fixed was he in the difference between the internal (judgment of himself) and the external (judgment of others), so distinctly had he marked out the bounding limit of glory and disgrace. Here, however, he stopped. His place in the world indeed had become indifferent to him, but still he had not planted himself firmly (in the right position).

       There was Lieh-tsze, who rode on the wind and pursued his way, with an admirable indifference (to all external things), returning, however, after fifteen days, (to his place). In regard to the things that (are supposed to) contribute to happiness, he was free from all endeavours to obtain them; but though he had not to walk, there was still something for which he had to wait. But suppose one who mounts on (the ether of) heaven and earth in its normal operation, and drives along the six elemental energies of the changing (seasons), thus enjoying himself in the illimitable,- what has he to wait for? Therefore it is said, "The Perfect man has no (thought of) self; the Spirit-like man, none of merit; the Sagely-minded man, none of fame."


4.     Yo, proposing to resign the throne to Hs Y, said, "When the sun and moon have come forth, if the torches have not been put out, would it not be difficult for them to give light? When the seasonal rains are coming down, if we still keep watering the ground, will not our toil be labour lost for all the good it will do? Do you, Master, stand forth (as sovereign), and the kinadorn will (at once) be well governed. If I still (continue to) preside over it, I must look on myself as vainly occupying the place;- I beg to resign the throne to you." Hs Y said, "You, Sir, govern the kingdom, and the kingdom is well governed. If I in these circumstances take your place, shall I not be doing so for the sake of the name? But the name is but the guest of the reality;- shall I be playing the part of the guest? The tailor-bird makes its nest in the deep forest, but only uses a single branch; the mole drinks from the Ho, but only takes what fills its belly. Return and rest in being ruler,- I will have nothing to do with the throne. Though the cook were not attending to his kitchen, the representative of the dead and the officer of prayer would not leave their cups and stands to take his place."


5.     Kien W asked Lien Sh, saying, "I heard Khieh-y talking words which were great, but had nothing corresponding to them (in reality);- once gone, they could not be brought back. I was frightened by them;- they were like the Milky Way which cannot be traced to its beginning or end. They had no connexion with one another, and were not akin to the experiences of men." "What were his words?" asked Lien Sh, and the other replied, (He said) that "Far away on the hill of K-shih there dwelt a Spirit-like man whose flesh and skin were (smooth) as ice and (white) as snow; that his manner was elegant and delicate as that of a virgin; that he did not eat any of the five grains, but inhaled the wind and drank the dew; that he mounted on the clouds, drove along the flying dragons, rambling and enjoying himself beyond the four seas; that by the concentration of his spirit-like powers he could save men from disease and pestilence, and secure every year a plentiful harvest." These words appeared to me wild and incoherent and I did not believe them. "So it is," said Lien Sh. "The blind have no perception of the beauty of elegant figures, nor the deaf of the sound of bells and drums. But is it only the bodily senses of which deafness and blindness can be predicated ? There is also a similar defect in the intelligence; and of this your words supply an illustration in yourself. That man, with those attributes, though all things were one mass of confusion, and he heard in that condition the whole world crying out to him to be rectified, would not have to address himself laboriously to the task, as if it were his business to rectify the world. Nothing could hurt that man; the greatest floods, reaching to the sky, could not drown him, nor would he feel the fervour of the greatest heats melting metals and stones till they flowed, and scorching all the ground and hills. From the dust and chaff of himself, he could still mould and fashion Yos and Shuns;- how should he be willing to occupy himself with things?"


6.     A man of Sung, who dealt in the ceremonial caps (of Yin), went with them to Yeh, the people of which cut off their hair and tattooed their bodies, so that they had no use for them. Yo ruled the people of the kingdom, and maintained a perfect government within the four seas. Having gone to see the four (Perfect) Ones on the distant hill of K-shih, when (he returned to his capital) on the south of the Fan water, his throne appeared no more to his deep-sunk oblivious eyes.


7.     Hui-tsze told Kwang-tsze, saying, "The king of Wei sent me some seeds of a large calabash, which I sowed. The fruit, when fully grown, could contain five piculs (of anything). I used it to contain water, but it was so heavy that I could not lift it by myself. I cut it in two to make the parts into drinking vessels; but the dried shells were too wide and unstable and would not hold (the liquor); nothing but large useless things! Because of their uselessness I knocked them to pieces." Kwang-tsze replied, "You were indeed stupid, my master, in the use of what was large. There was a man of Sung who was skilful at making a salve which kept the hands from getting chapped; and (his family) for generations had made the bleaching of cocoon-silk their business. A stranger heard of it, and proposed to buy the art of the preparation for a hundred ounces of silver. The kindred all came together, and considered the proposal. "We have," said they, "been bleaching cocoon-silk for generations, and have only gained a little money. Now in one morning we can sell to this man our art for a hundred ounces;- let him have it." The stranger accordingly got it and went away with it to give counsel to the king of W, who was then engaged in hostilities with Yeh. The king gave him the command of his fleet, and in the winter he had an engagement with that of Yeh, on which he inflicted a great defeat, and was invested with a portion of territory taken from Yeh. The keeping the hands from getting chapped was the same in both cases; but in the one case it led to the investiture (of the possessor of the salve), and in the other it had only enabled its owners to continue their bleaching. The difference of result was owing to the different use made of the art. Now you, Sir, had calabashes large enough to hold five piculs;- why did you not think of making large bottle-gourds of them, by means of which you could have floated over rivers and lakes, instead of giving yourself the sorrow of finding that they were useless for holding anything. Your mind, my master, would seem to have been closed against all intelligence!"

       Hui-tsze said to Kwang-tsze, "I have a large tree, which men call the Ailantus. Its trunk swells out to a large size, but is not fit for a carpenter to apply his line to it; its smaller branches are knotted and crooked, so that the disk and square cannot be used on them. Though planted on the wayside, a builder would not turn his head to look at it. Now your words, Sir, are great, but of no use;- all unite in putting them away from them." Kwang-tsze replied, "Have you never seen a wildcat or a weasel? There it lies, crouching and low, till the wanderer approaches; east and west it leaps about, avoiding neither what is high nor what is low, till it is caught in a trap, or dies in a net. Again there is the Yak, so large that it is like a cloud hanging in the sky. It is large indeed, but it cannot catch mice. You, Sir, have a large tree and are troubled because it is of no use;- why do you not plant it in a tract where there is nothing else, or in a wide and barren wild? There you might saunter idly by its side, or in the enjoyment of untroubled ease sleep beneath it. Neither bill nor axe would shorten its existence; there would be nothing to injure it. What is there in its uselessness to cause you distress?"

Chuang Tzu


Chuang Tzu


Chuang Tzu

  1. Enjoyment in Untroubled Ease


  2. The Adjustment of Controversies


  3. Nourishing the Lord of Life


  4. Man in the World, Associated with other Men


  5. The Seal of Virtue Complete


  6. The Great and Most Honoured Master


  7. The Normal Course for Rulers and Kings


  8. Webbed Toes


  9. Horse's Hooves


  10. Cutting Open Satchels


  11. Letting Be, and Exercising Forbearance


  12. Heaven and Earth


  13. The Way of Heaven


  14. The Revolution of Heaven


  15. Ingrained Ideas


  16. Correcting the Nature


  17. The Floods of Autumn


  18. Perfect Enjoyment


  19. The Full Understanding of Life


  20. The Tree on the Mountain


  21. Thien Tsze-fang


  22. Knowledge Rambling in the North


  23. Kang-sang Kh


  24. Hs W-kwei


  25. Tseh-yang


  26. What Comes from Without


  27. Metaphorical Language


  28. Kings who have wished to resign the Throne


  29. The Robber Kih


  30. Delight in the Sword Fight


  31. The Old Fisherman


  32. Lieh Y-khu


  33. Thien Hsi



The Book of Chuang Tzu.

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A modern translation of Chuang Tzu, by Martin Palmer and Elizabeth Breuilly.
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