Links Awards The basic writings of Chuang Tzu have been savored by Chinese readers for over two thousand years. Chuang Tzu ? Using parable and anecdote, allegory and paradox, he set forth, in the book that bears his name, the early ideas of what was to become the Taoist school. Central to these is the belief that only by understanding Tao the Way of Nature and dwelling in its unity can man achieve true happiness and freedom, in both life and death. Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings includes the seven "inner chapters," which form the heart of the book, three of the "outer chapters," and one of the "miscellaneous chapters.
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When the sea begins to move,2 this bird sets off for the southern darkness, which is the Lake of Heaven. He beats the whirlwind and rises ninety thousand li, setting off on the sixth month gale. Is that its real color, or is it because it is so far away and has no end?
When the bird looks down, all he sees is blue too. Pour a cup of water into a hollow in the floor and bits of trash will sail on it like boats. But set the cup there and it will stick fast, for the water is too shallow and the boat too large. Only then can he mount on the back of the wind, shoulder the blue sky, and nothing can hinder or block him. Only then can he set his eyes to the south. Now how is anyone going to go ninety thousand li to the south!
If you are going a hundred li, you must grind your grain the night before; and if you are going a thousand li, you must start getting the provisions together three months in advance. What do these two creatures understand? Little understanding cannot come up to great understanding; the shortlived cannot come up to the long-lived.
How do I know this is so? The morning mushroom knows nothing of twilight and dawn; the summer cicada knows nothing of spring and autumn. They are the short-lived. Long, long ago there was a great rose of Sharon that counted eight thousand years as one spring and eight thousand years as one autumn. They are the long-lived. In it is a fish which is several thousand li across, and no one knows how long.
He beats the whirlwind, leaps into the air, and rises up ninety thousand li, cutting through the clouds and mist, shouldering the blue sky, and then he turns his eyes south and prepares to journey to the southern darkness. I give a great leap and fly up, but I never get more than ten or twelve yards before I come down fluttering among the weeds and brambles.
Therefore a man who has wisdom enough to fill one office effectively, good conduct enough to impress one community, virtue enough to please one ruler, or talent enough to be called into service in one state, has the same kind of self-pride as these little creatures. Sung Jung-tzu6 would certainly burst out laughing at such a man.
He drew a clear line between the internal and the external, and recognized the boundaries of true glory and disgrace. But that was all. Lieh Tzu7 could ride the wind and go soaring around with cool and breezy skill, but after fifteen days he came back to earth. He escaped the trouble of walking, but he still had to depend on something to get around. If he had only mounted on the truth of Heaven and Earth, ridden the changes of the six breaths, and thus wandered through the boundless, then what would he have had to depend on?
If you took the throne, the world would be well ordered. I go on occupying it, but all I can see are my failings. I beg to turn over the world to you. Now if I take your place, will I be doing it for a name? But name is only the guest of reality - will I be doing it so I can play the part of a guest?
When the tailorbird builds her nest in the deep wood, she uses no more than one branch. When the mole drinks at the river, he takes no more than a bellyful. Go home and forget the matter, my lord. I have no use for the rulership of the world! Though the cook may not run his kitchen properly, the priest and the impersonator of the dead at the sacrifice do not leap over the wine casks and sacrificial stands and go take his place.
I was completely dumfounded at his words - no more end than the Milky Way, wild and wide of the mark, never coming near human affairs! By concentrating his spirit, he can protect creatures from sickness and plague and make the harvest plentiful.
I thought this was all insane and refused to believe it. And blindness and deafness are not confined to the body alone - the understanding has them too, as your words just now have shown. This man, with this virtue of his, is about to embrace the ten thousand things and roll them into one.
Though the age calls for reform, why should he wear himself out over the affairs of the world? There is nothing that can harm this man. Though flood waters pile up to the sky, he will not drown. Though a great drought melts metal and stone and scorches the earth and hills, he will not be burned.
From his dust and leavings alone you could mold a Yao or a Shun! Why should he consent to bother about mere things? Yao brought order to the people of the world and directed the government of all within the seas. But he went to see the Four Masters of the faraway Ku-she :Mountain, [and when he got home] north of the Fen.
River, he was dazed and had forgotten his kingdom there. I planted them, and when they grew up, the fruit was big enough to hold five piculs. In Sung there was a man who was skilled at making a salve to prevent chapped hands, and generation after generation his family made a living by bleaching silk in water.
A traveler heard about the salve and offered to buy the prescription for a hundred measures of gold. The man called everyone to a family council. The king put the man in charge of his troops, and that winter they fought a naval battle with the men of Yueh and gave them a bad beating. The salve had the power to prevent chapped hands in either case; but one man used it to get a fief, while the other one never got beyond silk bleaching - because they used it in different ways.
Now you had a gourd big enough to hold five piculs. Obviously you still have a lot of underbrush in your head! Its trunk is too gnarled and bumpy to apply a measuring line to, its branches too bent and twisty to match up to a compass or square. You could stand it by the road and no carpenter would look at it twice.
Your words, too, are big and useless, and so everyone alike spurns them! It crouches down and hides, watching for something to come along. It leaps and races east and west, not hesitating to go high or low-until it falls into the trap and dies in the net.
Axes will never shorten its life, nothing can ever harm it. Can you really make the body like a withered tree and the mind like dead ashes? The man leaning on the armrest now is not the one who leaned on it before! Now I have lost myself. Do you understand that? But when it does, then ten thousand hollows begin crying wildly. In the mountain forests that lash and sway, there are huge trees a hundred spans around with hollows and openings like noses, like mouths, like ears, like jugs, like cups, like mortars, like rifts, like ruts.
They roar like waves, whistle like arrows, screech, gasp, cry, wail, moan, and howl, those in the lead calling out yeee! In a gentle breeze they answer faintly, but in a full gale the chorus is gigantic. And when the fierce wind has passed on, then all the hollows are empty again. Have you never seen the tossing and trembling that goes on?
But may I ask about the piping of Heaven? Great words are clear and limpid;3 little words are shrill and quarrelsome. With everything they meet they become entangled.
Day after day they use their minds in strife, sometimes grandiose, sometimes sly, sometimes petty. Their little fears are mean and trembly; their great fears are stunned and overwhelming.
They bound off like an arrow or a crossbow pellet, certain that they are the arbiters of right and wrong. They cling to their position as though they had sworn before the gods, sure that they are holding on to victory. They fade like fall and winter - such is the way they dwindle day by day. They drown in what they do - you cannot make them turn back. They grow dark, as though sealed with seals - such are the excesses of their old age.
And when their minds draw near to death, nothing can restore them to the light. Joy, anger, grief, delight, worry, regret, fickleness, inflexibility, modesty, willfulness, candor, insolence - music from empty holes, mushrooms springing up in dampness, day and night replacing each other before us, and no one knows where they sprout from.
Let it be! Without them we would not exist; without us they would have nothing to take hold of. This comes close to the matter. But I do not know what makes them the way they are.
It would seem as though they have some True Master, and yet I find no trace of him. He can act - that is certain. Yet I cannot see his form. He has identity but no form. The hundred joints, the nine openings, the six organs, all come together and exist here [as my body]. But which part should I feel closest to? I should delight in all parts, you say?
But there must be one I ought to favor more.
Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings