Section TWENTY-ONE - T'IEN TZU-FANG
T'IEN TZU‑FANG WAS SITTING in attendance on Marquis Wen of Wei.1 When he repeatedly praised one Ch'i Kung, Marquis Wen asked, "Is Ch'i Kung your teacher?"
"No," replied Tzu‑fang. "He comes from the same neighborhood as I do. Discussing the Way with him, I've found he often hits the mark ‑ that's why I praise him."
"Have you no teacher then?" asked Marquis Wen.
"I have," said Tzu‑fang.
"Who is your teacher?"
"Master Shun from east of the Wall," said Tzu‑fang.
"Then why have you never praised him?" asked Marquis Wen.
Tzu‑fang said, "He's the kind of man who is True ‑ the face of a human being, the emptiness of Heaven. He follows along and keeps tight hold of the True; pure, he can encompass all things. If men do not have the Way, he has only to put on a straight face and they are enlightened; he causes men's intentions to melt away. But how could any of this be worth praising!"
Tzu‑fang retired from the room and Marquis Wen, stupefied, sat for the rest of the day in silence. Then he called to the ministers who stood in attendance on him and said, "How far away he is ‑ the gentleman of Complete Virtue! I used to think that the words of the wisdom of the sages and the practices of benevolence and righteousness were the highest ideal. But now that I have heard about Tzu‑fang's teacher, my body has fallen apart and I feel no inclination to move; my mouth is manacled and I feel no inclination to speak. These things that I have been studying are so many clay dolls2 ‑ nothing more! This state of Wei is in truth only a burden to me!"
Wen‑po Hsueh‑tzu, journeying to Ch'i, stopped along the way in the state of Lu.3 A man of Lu requested an interview with him, but Wen‑po Hsueh‑tzu said, "No indeed! I have heard of the gentlemen of these middle states ‑ enlightened on the subject of ritual principles but stupid in their understanding of men's hearts. I have no wish to see any such person."
He arrived at his destination in Ch'i, and on his way home had stopped again in Lu when the man once more requested an interview. Wen‑po Hsueh‑tzu said, "In the past he made an attempt to see me, and now he's trying again. He undoubtedly has some means by which he hopes to `save' me!"
He went out to receive the visitor and returned to his own rooms with a sigh. The following day, he received the visitor once more, and once more returned with a sigh. His groom said, "Every time you receive this visitor you come back sighing. Why is that?"
"I told you before, didn't I? These men of the middle states are enlightened in ritual principles but stupid in the understanding of men's hearts. Yesterday, when this man came to see me, his advancings and retirings were as precise as though marked by compass or T square. In looks and bearing he was now a dragon, now a tiger. He remonstrated with me as though he were my son, offered me guidance as though he were my father! That is why I sighed."
Confucius also went for an interview with Wen‑po Hsueh‑tzu but returned without having spoken a word. Tzu‑lu said, "You have been wanting to see `Yen‑po Hsueh‑tzu for a long time. Now you had the chance to see him, why didn't you say anything?"
Confucius said, "With that kind of man, one glance tells you that the Way is there before you. What room does that leave for any possibility of speech?"
Yen Yuan said to Confucius, "Master, when you walk, I walk; when you trot, I trot; when you gallop, I gallop. But when you break into the kind of dash that leaves even the dust behind, all I can do is stare after you in amazement!"
"Hui, what are you talking about?" asked the Master.
"When you walk, I walk ‑ that is, I can speak just as you speak. When you trot, I trot ‑ that is, I can make discriminations just as you do. When you gallop, I gallop ‑ that is, I can expound the Way just as you do. But when you break into the kind of dash that leaves even the dust behind and all I can do is stare after you in amazement ‑ by that I mean that you do not have to speak to be trusted, that you are catholic and not partisan,' that although you lack the regalia of high office the people still congregate before you, and with all this, you do not know why it is so."
"Ah," said. Confucius, "we had best look into this! There is no grief greater than the death of the mind ‑ beside it, the death of the body is a minor matter. The sun rises out of the east, sets at the end of the west, and each one of the ten thousand things moves side by side with it. Creatures that have eyes and feet must wait for it before their success is complete. Its rising means they may go on living, its setting means they perish. For all the ten thousand things it is thus. They must wait for something before they can die, wait for something before they can live. Having once received this fixed bodily form, I will hold on to it, unchanging, in this way waiting for the end. I move after the model of other things, day and night without break, but I do not know what the end will be. Mild, genial, my bodily form takes shape. I understand my fate but I cannot fathom what has gone before it. This is the way I proceed, day after day.
"I have gone through life linked arm in arm with you, yet now you fail [to understand me]‑is this not sad? You see in me, I suppose, the part that can be seen ‑ but that part is already over and gone. For you to come looking for it, thinking it still exists, is like looking for a horse after the horsefair is over.5 I serve you best when I have utterly forgotten you, and you likewise serve me best when you have utterly forgotten me. But even so, why should you repine? Even if you forget the old me, I will still possess something that will not be forgotten!" 6
Confucius went to call on Lao Tan. Lao Tan had just finished washing his hair and had spread it over his shoulders to dry. Utterly motionless, he did not even seem to be human. Confucius, hidden from sight,7 stood waiting, and then after some time presented himself and exclaimed, "Did my eves play tricks on me, or was that really true? A moment ago, Sir, your form and body seemed stiff as an old dead tree, as though you had forgotten things, taken leave of men, and were standing in solitude itself!"
Lao Tan said, "I was letting my mind wander in the Beginning of things."
"What does that mean?" asked Confucius.
"The mind may wear itself out but can never understand it; the mouth may gape but can never describe it. Nevertheless, I will try explaining it to you in rough outline.
"Perfect Yin is stern and frigid; Perfect Yang is bright and glittering. The sternness and frigidity come forth from heaven, the brightness and glitter emerge from the earth;8 the two mingle, penetrate, come together, harmonize, and all things are born therefrom. Perhaps someone manipulates the cords that draw it all together, but no one has ever seen his form. Decay, growth, fullness, emptiness, now murky, now bright, the sun shifting, the moon changing phase ‑ day after day these things proceed, yet no one has seen him bringing them about. Life has its sproutings, death its destination, end and beginning tail one another in unbroken round, and no one has ever heard of their coming to a stop. If it is not as I have described it, then who else could the Ancestor of all this be?"
Confucius said, "May I ask what it means to wander in such a place?"
Lao Tan said, "It means to attain Perfect Beauty and Perfect Happiness. He who attains Perfect Beauty and wanders in Perfect Happiness may be called the Perfect Man."
Confucius said, "I would like to hear by what means this may be accomplished."
"Beasts that feed on grass do not fret over a change of pasture; creatures that live in water do not fret over a change of stream. They accept the minor shift as long as the all‑important constant is not lost. [Be like them] and joy, anger, grief, and happiness can never enter your breast. In this world, the ten thousand things come together in One, and if you can find that One and become identical with it, then your four limbs and hundred joints will become dust and sweepings; life and death, beginning and end will be mere day and night, and nothing whatever can confound you ‑ certainly not the trifles of gain or loss, good or bad fortune!
"A man will discard the servants who wait upon him as though they were so much earth or mud, for he knows that his own person is of more worth than the servants who tend it. Worth lies within yourself and no external shift will cause it to be lost. And since the ten thousand transformations continue without even the beginning of an end, how could they be enough to bring anxiety to your mind? He who practices the Way understands all this." 9
Confucius said, "Your virtue, Sir, is the very counterpart of Heaven and earth, and yet even you must employ these perfect teachings in order to cultivate your mind. Who, then, even among the fine gentlemen of the past, could have avoided such labors?"
"Not so!" said Lao Tan. "The murmuring of the water is its natural talent, not something that it does deliberately. The Perfect Man stands in the same relationship in virtue. Without cultivating it, he possesses it to such an extent that things cannot draw away from him. It is as natural as the height of heaven, the depth of the earth, the brightness of sun and moon. What is there to be cultivated?"
When Confucius emerged from the interview, he reported what had passed to Yen Hui, saying, "As far as the Way is concerned, I was a mere gnat in the vinegar jar! If the Master hadn't taken off the lid for me, I would never have understood the Great Integrity of Heaven and earth!"
Chuang Tzu went to see Duke Ai of Lu. Duke Ai said, "We have a great many Confucians here in the state of Lu, but there seem to be very few men who study your methods, Sir!"
"There are few Confucians in the state of Lu!" said Chuang Tzu.
"But the whole state of Lu is dressed in Confucian garb!" said Duke Ai. "How can you say they are few?"
"I have heard," said Chuang Tzu, "that the Confucians wear round caps on their heads to show that they understand the cycles of heaven, that they walk about in square shoes to show that they understand the shape of the earth, and that they tie ornaments in the shape of a broken disc at their girdles in order to show that, when the time comes for decisive action, they must `make the break.' But a gentleman may embrace a doctrine without necessarily wearing the garb that goes with it, and he may wear the garb without necessarily comprehending the doctrine. If Your Grace does not believe this is so, then why not try issuing an order to the state proclaiming: `All those who wear the garb without practicing the doctrine that goes with it will be sentenced to death!' "
Duke Ai did in fact issue such an order, and within five days there was no one in the state of Lu who dared wear Confucian garb. Only one old man came in Confucian dress and stood in front of the duke's gate. The duke at once summoned him and questioned him on affairs of state and, though the discussion took a thousand turnings and ten thousand shifts, the old man was never at a loss for words. Chuang Tzu said, "In the whole state of Lu, then, there is only one man who is a real Confucian. How can you say there are a great many of them? "
Po‑li Hsi did not let title and stipend get inside his mind. He fed the cattle and the cattle grew fat, and this fact made Duke Mu of Ch'in forget Po‑li Hsi's lowly position and turn over the government to him.10 Shun, the man of the Yu clan, did not let life and death get inside his mind. So he was able to influence others.11
Lord Wan of Sung wanted to have some pictures painted. The crowd of court clerks all gathered in his presence, received their drawing panels,12 and took their places in line, licking their brushes, mixing their inks, so many of them that there were more outside the room than inside it. There was one clerk who arrived late, sauntering in without the slightest haste. When he received his drawing panel, he did not look for a place in line, but went straight to his own quarters. The ruler sent someone to see what he was doing, and it was found that he had taken off his robes, stretched out his legs, and was sitting there naked. "Very good," said the ruler. "This is a true artist!"
King Wen was seeing the sights at Tsang when he spied an old man fishing.13 Yet his fishing wasn't really fishing. He didn't fish as though he were fishing for anything, but as though it were his constant occupation to fish. King Wen wanted to summon him and hand over the government to him, but he was afraid that the high officials and his uncles and brothers would be uneasy. He thought perhaps he had better forget the matter and let it rest, and yet he couldn't bear to deprive the hundred clans of such a Heaven‑sent opportunity. At dawn the next day he therefore reported to his ministers, saying, "Last night I dreamt I saw a fine man, dark‑complexioned and bearded, mounted on a dappled horse that had red hoofs on one side. He commanded me, saying, `Hand over your rule to the old man of Tsang ‑ then perhaps the ills of the people may be cured!' "
The ministers, awe‑struck, said, "It was the king, your late father!"
"Then perhaps we should divine to see what ought to be done," said King Wen.
"It is the command of your late father!" said the ministers. "Your Majesty must have no second thoughts. What need is there for divination?"
In the end, therefore, the king had the old man of Tsang escorted to the capital and handed over the government to him, but the regular precedents and laws remained unchanged, and not a single new order was issued.
At the end of three years, King Wen made an inspection tour of the state. He found that the local officials had smashed their gate bars and disbanded their cliques, that the heads of government bureaus achieved no special distinction, and that persons entering the four borders from other states no longer ventured to bring their own measuring cups and bushels with them. The local officials had smashed their gate bars and disbanded their cliques because they had learned to identify with their superiors.14 The heads of government bureaus achieved no special distinction because they looked on all tasks as being of equal distinction. Persons entering the four borders from other states no longer ventured to bring their own measuring cups and bushels with them because the feudal lords had ceased to distrust the local measures.
King Wen thereupon concluded that he had found a Great Teacher and, facing north as a sign of respect, he asked, "Could these methods of government be extended to the whole world?"
But the old man of Tsang looked blank and gave no answer, evasively mumbling some excuse; and when orders went out the next morning to make the attempt, the old man ran away the very same night and was never heard of again.
Yen Yuan questioned Confucius about this story, saying, "King Wen didn't amount to very much after all, did he! And why did he have to resort to that business about the dream?"
"Quiet!" said Confucius. "No more talk from you! King Wen was perfection itself ‑ how can there be any room for carping and criticism! The dream ‑ that was just a way of getting out of a moment's difficulty."
Lieh Yu‑k'ou was demonstrating his archery to Po‑hun Wu‑jen.15 He drew the bow as far as it would go, placed a cup of water on his elbow, and let fly. One arrow had no sooner left his thumb ring than a second was resting in readiness beside his arm guard, and all the while he stood like a statue.16 Po‑hun Wu‑jen said, "This is the archery of an archer, not the archery of a nonarcher! Try climbing up a high mountain with me, scrambling over the steep rocks to the very, brink of an eight-hundred‑foot chasm ‑ then we'll see what kind of shooting you can do!"
Accordingly they proceeded to climb a high mountain, scrambling over the steep rocks to the brink of an eight-hundred‑foot chasm. There Po‑hun Wu‑jen, turning his back to the chasm, walked backwards until his feet projected halfway off the edge of the cliff, bowed to Lieh Yu‑k'ou, and invited him to come forward and join him. But Lieh Yu‑k'ou cowered on the ground, sweat pouring down all the way to his heels. Po‑hun Wu‑jen said, "The Perfect Man may stare at the blue heavens above, dive into the Yellow Springs below, ramble to the end of the eight directions, yet his spirit and bearing undergo no change. And here you are in this cringing, eye‑batting state of mind ‑ if you tried to take aim now, you would be in certain peril!"
Chien Wu said to Sun‑shu Ao, "Three times you have become premier, yet you didn't seem to glory in it.17 Three times you were dismissed from the post, but you never looked glum over it. At first I doubted that this was really true, but now I stand before your very nose and see how calm and unconcerned you are. Do you have some unique way of using your mind?"
Sun‑shu Ao replied, "How am I any better than other men? I considered that the coming of such an honor could not be fended off, and that its departure could not be prevented. As far as I was concerned, the question of profit or loss did not rest with me, and so I had no reason to put on a glum expression, that was all. How am I any better than other men? Moreover, I'm not really certain whether the glory resides in the premiership or in me. If it resides in the premiership, then it means nothing to me. And if it resides in me, then it means nothing to the premiership. Now I'm about to go for an idle stroll, to go gawking in the four directions. What leisure do I have to worry about who holds an eminent position and who a humble one?"
Confucius, hearing of the incident, said, "He was a True Man of old, the kind that the wise cannot argue with, the beautiful cannot seduce, the violent cannot intimidate; even Fu Hsi or the Yellow Emperor could not have befriended him. Life and death are great affairs, and yet they are no change to him - how much less to him are things like titles and stipends! With such a man, his spirit may soar over Mount T'ai without hindrance, may plunge into the deepest springs without getting wet, may occupy the meanest, most humble position without distress. He fills all Heaven and earth; and the more he gives to others, the more he has for himself."
The king of Ch'u was sitting with the lord of Fan.18 After a little while, three of the king of Ch'u's attendants reported that the state of Fan had been destroyed. The lord of Fan said, "The destruction of Fan is not enough to make me lose what I am intent on preserving.19 And if the destruction of Fan is not enough to make me lose what I preserve, then the preservation of Ch'u is not enough to make it preserve what it ought to preserve. Looking at it this way, then, Fan has not yet begun to be destroyed, and Ch'u has not yet begun to be preserved!"