THROUGH NU SHANG, the recluse Hsu Wu‑kuei obtained an interview with Marquis Wu of Wei. Marquis Wu greeted him with words of comfort, saying, "Sir, you are not well. I suppose that the hardships of life in the mountain forests have become too much for you, and so at last you have consented to come and visit me."

"I am the one who should be comforting you!" said Hsu Wu‑kuei. "What reason have you to comfort me? If you try to fulfill all your appetites and desires and indulge your likes and dislikes, then you bring affliction to the true form of your inborn nature and fate. And if you try to deny your appetites and desires and forcibly change your likes and dislikes, then you bring affliction to your ears and eyes. It is my place to comfort you ‑ what reason have you to comfort me!"

Marquis Wu, looking very put out, made no reply.

After a little while, Hsu Wu‑kuei said, "Let me try telling you about the way I judge dogs. A dog of the lowest quality thinks only of catching its fill of prey ‑  that is, it has the nature of a wildcat. One of middling quality seems always to be looking up at the sun.1 But one of the highest quality acts as though it had lost its own identity. And I'm even better at judging horses than I am at judging dogs. When I judge a horse, if he can gallop as straight as a plumb line, arc as neat as a curve, turn as square as a T square, and round as true as a compass, then I'd say he was a horse for the kingdom to boast of. But not a horse for the whole world to boast of. A horse the whole world can boast of ‑ his talents are already complete. He seems dazed, he seems lost, he seems to have become unaware of his own identity, and in this way he overtakes, passes, and leaves the others behind in the dust. You can't tell where he's gone to!"

Marquis Wu, greatly pleased, burst out laughing.

When Hsu Wu‑kuei emerged from the interview, Nu Shang said, "Sir, may I ask what you were talking to our ruler about? When I talk to him, I talk to him back and forth about the Odes and Documents, about ritual and music; and then I talk to him up and down about the Golden Tablets and the Six Bow‑cases.2 I have made proposals that led to outstanding success in more cases than can be counted, and yet he never so much as bared his teeth in a smile. Now what were you talking to him about that you managed to delight him in this fashion?"

Hsu Wu‑kuei said, "I was merely explaining to him how I judge dogs and horses, that was all."

"Was that all?" said Nu Shang.

"Haven't you ever heard about the men who are exiled to Yueh?'' said Hsu Wu‑kuei. "A few days after they have left their homelands, they are delighted if they come across an old acquaintance. When a few weeks or a month have passed, they are delighted if they come across someone they had known by sight when they were at home. And by the time a year has passed, they are delighted if they come across someone who even looks as though he might be a countryman. The longer they are away from their countrymen, the more deeply they long for them ‑ isn't that it? A man who has fled into the wilderness, where goosefoot and woodbine tangle the little trails of the polecat and the weasel, and has lived there in emptiness and isolation for a long time, will be delighted if he hears so much as the rustle of a human footfall. And how much more so if he hears his own brothers and kin chattering and laughing at his side! It has been a long time, I think, since one who speaks like a True Man has sat chattering and laughing at our ruler's side."

Hsu Wu‑kuei was received in audience by Marquis Wu. "Sir," said Marquis Wu, "for a long time now you have lived in your mountain forest, eating acorns and chestnuts, getting along on wild leeks and scallions, and scorning me completely. Now is it old age, or perhaps a longing for the taste of meat and wine, that has brought you here? Or perhaps you have come to bring blessing to my altars of the soil and grain."

Hsu Wu‑kuei said, "I was born to poverty and lowliness and have never ventured to eat or drink any of your wine or meat, my lord. I have come in order to comfort you."

"What?" said the ruler. "Why should you comfort me?"

"I want to bring comfort to your spirit and body."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Marquis Wu.

Hsi! Wu‑kuei said, "Heaven and earth provide nourishment for all things alike. To have ascended to a high position cannot be considered an advantage; to live in lowliness cannot be considered a handicap. Now you, as sole ruler of this land of ten thousand chariots, may tax the resources of the entire populace of your realm in nourishing the appetites of your ears and eyes, your nose and mouth. But the spirit will not permit such a way of life. The spirit loves harmony and hates licentiousness. Licentiousness is a kind of sickness, and that is why I have come to offer my comfort. I just wonder, my lord, how aware you are of your own sickness." 3

Marquis Wu said, "I have in fact been hoping to see you for a long time, Sir. I would like to cherish my people, practice righteousness, and lay down the weapons of war - how would that do?"

"It won't!" said Hsu Wu‑kuei "To cherish the people is to open the way to harming them! To practice righteousness and lay down your weapons is to sow the seeds for more weapon‑wielding! If you go at it this way, I'm afraid you will never succeed. All attempts to create something admirable are the weapons of evil. You may think you are practising benevolence and righteousness, but in effect you will be creating a kind of artificiality. Where a model exists, copies will be made of it; where success has been gained, boasting follows; where debate4 exists, there will be outbreaks of hostility. On the other hand, it will not do, my lord, to have files of marching soldiers filling the whole area within your fortress towers, or ranks of cavalry drawn up before the Palace of the Black Altar. Do not store in your heart what is contrary to your interests. Do not try to outdo others in skill. Do not try to overcome others by stratagems. Do not try to conquer others in battle. If you kill the officials and people of another ruler and annex his lands, using them to nourish your personal desires and your spirit, then I cannot say which contender is the better fighter, and to which the real victory belongs! If you must do something, cultivate the sincerity which is in your breast and use it to respond without opposition to the true form of Heaven and earth. Then the people will have won their reprieve from death. What need will there be for you to resort to this `laying down of weapons'?"

The Yellow Emperor set out to visit Great Clod at Chi!‑tz'u Mountain.5 Fang Ming was his carriage driver, while Ch'ang Yu rode at his right side; Chang Jo and Hsi P'eng led the horses and K'un Hun and Ku Chi followed behind the carriage. By the time they reached the wilds of Hsiang‑ch'eng, all seven sages had lost their way and could find no one to ask directions from. Just then they happened upon a young boy herding horses, and asked him for directions. "Do you know the way to Chu‑tz'u Mountain?" they inquired.


"And do you know where Great Clod is to be found?"


"What an astonishing young man!" said the Yellow Emperor. "You not only know the way to Chu‑tz'u Mountain, but you even know where Great Clod is to be found! Do you mind if I ask you about how to govern the empire?"

"Governing the empire just means doing what I'm doing here, doesn't it?" said the young boy. "What is there special about it? When I was little, I used to go wandering within the Six Realms, but in time I contracted a disease that blurred my eyesight. An elderly gentleman advised me to mount on the chariot of the sun and go wandering in the wilds of Hsiang‑ch'eng, and now my illness is getting a little better. Soon I can go wandering once more, this time beyond the Six Realms. Governing the empire just means doing what I'm doing ‑ I don't see why it has to be anything special."

"It's true that the governing of the empire is not something that need concern you, Sir," said the Yellow Emperor. "Nevertheless, I would like to ask you how it should be done."

The young boy made excuses, but when the Yellow Emperor repeated his request, the boy said, "Governing the empire I suppose is not much different from herding horses. Get rid of whatever is harmful to the horses ‑ that's all."

The Yellow Emperor, addressing the boy as "Heavenly Master," bowed twice, touching his head to the ground, and retired.

The wise man is not happy without the modulations of idea and thought; the rhetorician is not happy without the progression of argument and rebuttal; the examiner is not happy without the tasks of interrogation and intimidation. All are penned in by these things. Men who attract the attention of the age win glory at court; men who hit it off well with the people shine in public office; men of strength and sinew welcome hardship; men of bravery and daring are spurred on by peril; men of arms and armor delight in combat; men of haggard hermit looks reach out for fame; men of laws and regulations long for broader legislation; men of ritual and instruction revere appearances; men of benevolence and righteousness value human relationships. The farmer is not content if he does not have his work in the fields and weed patches; the merchant is not content if he does not have his affairs at the market place and wellside. The common people work hardest when they have their sunup to sundown occupations; the hundred artisans are most vigorous when they are exercising their skills with tools and machines. If his goods and coin do not pile up, the greedy man frets; if his might and authority do not increase, the ambitious man grieves. Servants to circumstance and things, they delight in change, and if the moment comes when they can put their talents to use, then they cannot keep from acting. In this way they all follow along with the turning years, letting themselves be changed by things.6 Driving their bodies and natures on and on, they drown in the ten thousand things, and to the end of their days never turn back. Pitiful, are they not?

Chuang Tzu said, "If an archer, without taking aim at the mark, just happens to hit it, and we dub him a skilled archer, then everyone in the world can be an Archer Yi ‑ all right?"

"All right," said Hui Tzu.

Chuang Tzu said, "If there is no publicly accepted `right' in the world, but each person takes right to be what he himself thinks is right, then everyone in the world can be a Yao ‑all right?"

"All right," said Hui Tzu.

Chuang Tzu said, "Well then, here are the four schools of the Confucians, Mo, Yang, and Ping,7 and with your own that makes five. Now which of you is in fact right? Or is it perhaps like the case of Lu Chu? His disciple said to him, `Master, I have grasped your Way. I can build a fire under the caldron in winter and make ice in summer.' `But that is simply using the yang to attract the yang, and the yin to attract the yin,' said Lu Chu.8 `That is not what I call the Way! I will show you my Way!' Thereupon he tuned two lutes, placed one in the hall, and the other in an inner room. When he struck the kung note on one lute, the kung on the other lute sounded; when he struck the chueh note, the other chueh sounded - the pitch of the two instruments was in perfect accord. Then he changed the tuning of one string so that it no longer corresponded to any of the five notes. When he plucked this string, it set all the twenty‑five strings of the other instrument to jangling. But he was still using sounds to produce his effect; in this case it just happened to be the note that governs the other notes. Now is this the way it is in your case?" 9

Hui Tzu said, "The followers of Confucius, Mo, Yang, and Ping often engage with me in debate, each of us trying to overwhelm the others with phrases and to silence them with shouts ‑ but so far they have never proved me wrong. So what do you make of that?"

Chuang Tzu said, "A man of Ch'i sold his own son into service in Sung, having dubbed him Gatekeeper and maimed him;10 but when he acquired any bells or chimes, he wrapped them up carefully to prevent breakage. Another man went looking for a lost son, but was unwilling to go any farther than the border in his search ‑ there are men as mixed up as this, you know. Or like the man of Ch'u who had been maimed and sold into service as a gatekeeper and who, in the middle of the night, when no one else was around, picked a fight with the boatman. Though he didn't actually arouse any criticism, what he did was enough to create the grounds for a nasty grudge." 11

Chuang Tzu was accompanying a funeral when he passed by the grave of Hui Tzu. Turning to his attendants, he said, "There was once a plasterer who, if he got a speck of mud on the tip of his nose no thicker than a fly's wing, would get his friend Carpenter Shih to slice it off for him. Carpenter Shih, whirling his hatchet with a noise like the wind, would accept the assignment and proceed to slice, removing every bit of mud without injury to the nose, while the plasterer just stood there completely unperturbed. Lord Yuan of Sung, hearing of this feat, summoned Carpenter Shih and said, `Could you try performing it for me?' But Carpenter Shih replied, `It's true that I was once able to slice like that ‑ but the material I worked on has been dead these many years.' Since you died, Master Hui, I have had no material to work on. There's no one I can talk to any more."

When Kuan Chung fell ill, Duke Huan went to inquire how he was. 12 "Father Chung," he said, "you are very ill. If ‑ can I help but say it? ‑ if your illness should become critical, then to whom could I entrust the affairs of the state?"

Kuan Chung said, "To whom would Your Grace like to entrust them?"

"Pao Shu‑ya," said the duke.

"That will never do! He is a fine man, a man of honesty and integrity. But he will have nothing to do with those who are not like himself. And if he once hears of someone's error, he won't forget it to the end of his days. If he were given charge of the state, he would be sure to tangle with you on the higher level and rile the people below him. It would be no time at all before he did something you considered unpardonable."

"Well then, who will do?" asked the duke.

"If I must give an answer, then I would say that Hsi P'eng will do. He forgets those in high places and does not abandon those in low ones.13 He is ashamed that he himself is not like the Yellow Emperor, and pities those who are not like himself. He who shares his virtue with others is called a sage; he who shares his talents with others is called a worthy man. If he uses his worth in an attempt to oversee others,. then he will never win their support; but if he uses it to humble himself before others, then he will never fail to win their support. With such a man, there are things within the state that he doesn't bother to hear about, things within the family that he doesn't bother to look after. If I must give an answer, I would say that Hsi P'eng will do."

The king of Wu, boating on the Yangtze, stopped to climb a mountain noted for its monkeys. When the pack of monkeys saw him, they dropped what they were doing in terror and scampered off to hide in the deep brush. But there was one monkey who, lounging about nonchalantly, picking at things, scratching, decided to display his skill to the king. When the king shot at him, he snatched hold of the flying arrows with the greatest nimbleness and speed. The king thereupon ordered his attendants to hurry forward and join in the shooting, and the monkey was soon captured and killed. The king turned to his friend Yen Pu‑i and said, "This monkey, flouting its skill, trusting to its tricks, deliberately displayed its contempt for me ‑ so it met with this end. Take warning from it! Ah - you must never let your expression show arrogance toward others! "

When Yen Pu‑i returned, he put himself under the instruction of Tung Wu, learning to wipe the expression from his face, to discard delight, to excuse himself from renown ‑ and at the end of three years everyone in the state was praising him.

Tzu‑ch'i of Nan‑po14 sat leaning on his armrest, staring up at the sky and breathing. Yen Ch'eng‑tzu entered and said, "Master, you surpass all other things! Can you really make the body like a withered tree and the mind like dead ashes?"

"Once I lived in a mountain cave. At that time, T'ien Ho came to pay me one visit and the people of the state of Ch'i congratulated him three times.15  I must have had hold of16 something in order for him to find out who I was; I must have been peddling something in order for him to come and buy. If I had not had hold of something, then how would he have been able to find out who I was? If I had not been peddling something, then how would he have been able to buy? Ah, how I pitied those men who destroy themselves! Then again, I pitied those who pity others; and again, I pitied those who pity those who pity others. But all that was long ago."

When Confucius visited Ch'u, the king of Ch'u ordered a toast. Sun‑shu Ao came forward and stood with the wine goblet, while I‑liao from south of the Market took some of the wine and poured a libation, saying, "[You have the wisdom of] the men of old, have you not? On this occasion perhaps you would speak to us about it."

Confucius said, "I have heard of the speech that is not spoken, though I have never tried to speak about it. Shall I

take this occasion to speak about it now? I‑liao from south of the Market juggled a set of balls and the trouble between the two houses was resolved. Sun‑shu Ao rested comfortably, waving his feather fan, and the men of Ying put away their arms. I wish I had a beak three feet long!" 17

These were men who followed what is called the Way that is not a way, and this exchange of theirs is what is called the debate that is not spoken. Therefore, when virtue is resolved in the unity of the Way and words come to rest at the place where understanding no longer understands, we have perfection. The unity of the Way is something that virtue can never master;18 what understanding does not understand is something that debate can never encompass. To apply names in the manner of the Confucians and Mo‑ists is to invite evil. The sea does not refuse the rivers that come flowing eastward into it ‑ it is the perfection of greatness. The sage embraces all heaven and earth, and his bounty extends to the whole world, yet no one knows who he is or what family he belongs to. For this reason, in life he holds no titles, in death he receives no posthumous names. Realities do not gather about him, names do not stick to him ‑ this is what is called the Great Man.

A dog is not considered superior merely because it is good at barking; a man is not considered worthy merely because he is good at speaking. Much less, then, is he to be considered great. That which has become great does not think it worth trying to become great, much less to become virtuous. Nothing possesses a larger measure of greatness than Heaven and earth, yet when have they ever gone in search of greatness? He who understands what it means to possess greatness does not seek, does not lose, does not reject, and does not change himself for the sake of things. He returns to himself and finds the inexhaustible; he follows antiquity and discovers the imperishable ‑ this is the sincerity of the Great Man.

Tzu‑ch'i had eight sons and, lining them up in front of him, he summoned Chiu‑fang Yin and said, "Please physiognomize my sons for me and tell me which one is destined for good fortune."

Chiu‑fang Yin replied, "K'un ‑ he is the one who will be fortunate."

Tzu‑ch'i, both astonished and pleased, said, "How so?"

"K'un will eat the same food as the lord of a kingdom, and will continue to do so to the end of his days."

Tears sprang from Tzu‑ch'i's eyes, and in great dejection he said, "Why should my boy be brought to this extreme?"

"He who eats the same food as the ruler of a kingdom will bring bounty to all his three sets of relatives, not to mention his own father and mother," said Chiu‑fang Yin. "Yet now when you hear of this, Sir, you burst out crying ‑ this will only drive the blessing away! The son is auspicious enough, but the father is decidedly inauspicious!"

Tzu-ch’i said, “Yin, what would you know about this sort of thing! You say K’un will be fortunate – but you are speaking solely of the meat and wine that are to affect his nose and mouth. How could you understand where such things come from! Suppose, although I have never been a shepherd, a flock of ewes were suddenly to appear in the southwest corner of my grounds; or that, although I have no taste for hunting, a covey of quail should suddenly appear in the southeast corner ‑ if this were not to be considered peculiar, then what would be? When my son and I go wandering, we wander through Heaven and earth. He and I seek our delight in Heaven and our food from the earth. He and I do not engage in any undertakings, do not engage in any plots, do not engage in any peculiarities. He and I ride on the sincerity of Heaven and earth and do not allow things to set us at odds with it. He and I stroll and saunter in unity, but never do we try to do what is appropriate to the occasion. Now you tell me of this vulgar and worldly `reward' that is to come to him. As a rule, where there is some peculiar manifestation, there must invariably have been some peculiar deed to call it forth. But surely this cannot be due to any fault of my son and me ‑ it must be inflicted by Heaven. It is for this reason that I weep!"

Not long afterwards, Tzu‑ch'i sent his son K'un on an errand to the state of Yen, and along the way he was seized by bandits. They considered that he would be difficult to sell as a slave in his present state, but that if they cut off his feet they could dispose of him easily.19 Accordingly they cut off his feet and sold him in the state of Ch'i. As it happened, he was made gatekeeper of the inner chamber in the palace of Duke K'ang,20 and so was able to eat meat until the end of his days.

Nieh Ch'ueh happened to meet Hsi! Yu. "Where are you going?" he asked.

"I'm running away from Yao."

"Why is that?"

"Because Yao is so earnestly and everlastingly benevolent! I'm afraid he'll make himself the laughing stock of the world. In later ages men may even end up eating each other because of him! 21 There is nothing difficult about attracting the people. Love them and they will feel affection for you, benefit them and they will flock to you, praise them and they will do their best, do something they dislike and they will scatter. Love and benefit are the products of benevolence and righteousness. There are few men who will renounce benevolence and righteousness, but many who will seek to benefit by them. To practice benevolence and righteousness in such a fashion is at best a form of insincerity, at worst a deliberate lending of weapons to the evil 22 and rapacious. Moreover, to have one man laying down decisions and regulations for the `benefit' of the world is like trying to take in everything at a single glance. Yao understands that the worthy man can benefit the world, but he does not understand that he can also ruin the world. Only a man who has gotten outside the realm of `worthiness' can understand that!"

There are the smug‑and‑satisfied, there are the precariously perched, and there are the bent‑with‑burdens. What I call the smug‑and‑satisfied are those who, having learned the words of one master, put on a smug and satisfied look, privately much pleased with themselves, considering that what they've gotten is quite sufficient, and not even realizing that they haven't begun to get anything at all. These are what I call the smug-and‑satisfied.

What I call the precariously perched are like the lice on a pig. They pick out a place where the bristles are long and sparse and call it their spacious mansion, their ample park; or a place in some corner of the hams or hoofs, between the nipples, or down around the haunches, and call it their house of repose, their place of profit. They do not know that one morning the butcher will give a swipe of his arm, spread out the grass, light up the fire, and that they will be roasted to a crisp along with the pig. Their advancement in the world is subject to such limitations as this, and their retirement from it is subject to similar limitations. This is what I call the precariously perched.

What I call the bent‑with‑burdens are those like Shun. The mutton doesn't long for the ants; it is the ants who long for the mutton. Mutton has a rank odor, and Shun must have done rank deeds for the hundred clans to have delighted in him so. Therefore, though he changed his residence three times, each place he lived in turned into a city, and by the time he reached the wilderness of Teng, he had a hundred thousand households with him. Yao heard of the worthiness of Shun and raised him up from the barren plains, saying, "May I hope that you will come and bestow your bounty upon us?" When Shun was raised up from the barren plains, he was already well along in years and his hearing and eyesight were failing, and yet he was not able to go home and rest. This is what I call the bent-with‑burdens.

Therefore the Holy Man hates to see the crowd arriving, and if it does arrive, he does not try to be friendly with it; not being friendly with it, he naturally does nothing to benefit it. So he makes sure that there is nothing he is very close to, and nothing he is very distant with. Embracing virtue, infused with harmony, he follows along with the world ‑ this is what is called the True Man. He leaves wisdom to the ants, takes his cue from the fishes, leaves willfulness to the mutton.23

Use the eye to look at the eye, the ear to listen to the ear, and the mind to restore the mind. Do this and your levelness will be as though measured with the line, your transformations will be a form of compliance. The True Man of ancient times used Heaven to deal with man; he did not use man to work his way into Heaven. The True Man of ancient times got it and lived, lost it and died; got it and died, lost it and lived. Medicines will serve as an example.24 There are monkshood, balloonflower, cockscomb, and chinaroot; each has a time when it is the sovereign remedy, though the individual cases are too numerous to describe.

Kou‑chien, with his three thousand men in armor and shield, took up his position at K'uai‑chi; at that time Chung alone was able to understand how a perishing state can be saved, but he alone did not understand how the body may be brought to grief.25 Therefore it is said, The owl's eyes have their special aptness, the stork's legs have their proper proportions; to try to cut away anything would make the creatures sad.

It is said, When the wind passes over it, the river loses something; when the sun passes over it, it loses something. But even  if we asked the wind and sun to remain constantly over the river, the river would not regard this as the beginning of any real trouble for itself ‑ it relies upon the springs that feed it and goes on its way. The water sticks close by the land, the shadow sticks close by the form, things stick close by things. Therefore keen sight may be a danger to the eye, sharp hear­ing may be a danger to the ear, and the pursuit of thought may be a danger to the mind. All the faculties that are stored up in man are a potential source of danger, and if this danger becomes real and is not averted, misfortunes will go on piling up in increasing number. A return to the original condition takes effort, its accomplishment takes time. And yet men look upon these faculties as their treasures ‑ is it not sad? Therefore we have this endless destruction of states and slaughter of the people ‑ because no one knows enough to ask about This! 26

 The foot treads a very small area of the ground, but although the area is small, the foot must rely upon the support of the untrod ground all around before it can go forward in confidence. The understanding of man is paltry, but although it is paltry, it must rely upon all those things that it does not understand before it can understand what is meant by Heaven. To understand the Great Unity, to understand the Great Yin, to understand the Great Eye, to understand the Great Equal­ity, to understand the Great Method, to understand the Great Trust, to understand the Great Serenity ‑ this is perfection. With the Great Unity you may penetrate it;27 with the Great Yin, unknot it; with the Great Eye, see it; with the Great Equality, follow it; with the Great Method, embody it; with the Great Trust, reach it; with the Great Serenity, hold it fast.

 End with what is Heavenly, follow what is bright, hide in what is pivotal, begin in what is objective ‑ then your com­prehension will seem like noncomprehension, your understanding will seem like no understanding; not understanding it, you will later understand it. Your questions about it cannot have a limit, and yet they cannot not have a limit. Vague and slippery, there is yet some reality there. Past and present, it does not alter ‑ nothing can do it injury. We may say that there is one great goal, may we not? Why not inquire about it? Why act in such perplexity? If we use the unperplexed to dispel perplexity and return to unperplexity, this will be the greatest unperplexity.