NIEH CH'UEH WAS QUESTIONING Wang Ni. Four times he asked a question and four times Wang Ni said he didn't know. Nieh Ch'ueh proceeded to hop around in great glee and went and told Master P'u‑i. Master P'u‑i said, "Are you just now finding that out? 1 The clansman Yu‑yu was no match for the clansman T'ai.2 The clansman Yu‑yu still held on to benevolence and worked to win men over. He won men over all right, but he never got out into [the realm of] `notman.' The clansman T'ai, now ‑ he lay down peaceful and easy; he woke up wide‑eyed and blank. Sometimes he thought he was a horse; sometimes he thought he was a cow. His understanding was truly trustworthy; his virtue was perfectly true. He never entered [the realm of] `not‑man.' " 3

Chien Wu went to see the madman Chieh Yu. Chieh Yu said, "What was Chung Shih telling you the other day?" 4 Chien Wu said, "He told me that the ruler of men should devise his own principles, standards, ceremonies, and regulations, and then there will be no one who will fail to obey him and be transformed by them."

The madman Chieh Yu said, "This is bogus virtue! To try to govern the world like this is like trying to walk the ocean, to drill through a river, or to make a mosquito shoulder a mountain! When the sage governs, does he govern what is on the outside? He makes sure of himself first, and then he acts. He makes absolutely certain that things can do what they are supposed to do, that is all. The bird flies high in the sky where it can escape the danger of stringed arrows. The field mouse burrows deep down under the sacred hill where it won't have to worry about men digging and smoking it out. Have you got less sense than these two little creatures?"

T'ien Ken was wandering on the sunny side of Yin Mountain. When he reached the banks of the Liao River, he happened to meet a Nameless Man. He questioned the man, saying, "Please may I ask how to rule the world?"

The Nameless Man said, "Get away from me, you peasant! What kind of a dreary question is that! I'm just about to set off with the Creator. And if I get bored with that, then I'll ride on the Light‑and‑Lissome Bird out beyond the six directions, wandering in the village of Not‑Even‑Anything and living in the Broad‑and‑Borderless field. What business5 do you have coming with this talk of governing the world and disturbing my mind?"

But T'ien Ken repeated his question. The Nameless Man said, "Let your mind wander in simplicity, blend your spirit with the vastness, follow along with things the way they are, and make no room for personal views‑then the world will be governed."

Yang Tzu‑chu6 went to see Lao Tan and said, "Here is a man swift as an echo, strong as a beam, with a wonderfully clear understanding of the principles of things, studying the Way without ever letting up ‑ a man like this could compare with an enlightened king, couldn't he?"

Lao Tan said, "In comparison to the sage, a man like this is a drudging slave, a craftsman bound to his calling, wearing out his body, grieving his mind. They say it is the beautiful markings of the tiger and the leopard that call out the hunters, the nimbleness of the monkey and the ability of the dog to catch rats' that make them end up chained. A man like this ‑ how could he compare to an enlightened king?"

Yang Tzu‑chu, much taken aback, said, "May I venture to ask about the government of the enlightened king?"

Lao Tan said, "The government of the enlightened king? His achievements blanket the world but appear not to be his own doing. His transforming influence touches the ten thousand things but the people do not depend on him. With him there is no promotion or praise ‑ he lets everything find its own enjoyment. He takes his stand on what cannot be fathomed and wanders where there is nothing at all."

In Cheng there was a shaman of the gods named Chi Hsien. He could tell whether men would live or die, survive or perish, be fortunate or unfortunate, live a long time or die young, and he would predict the year, month, week,8 and day as though he were a god himself. When the people of Cheng saw him, they dropped everything and ran out of his way. Lieh Tzu went to see him and was completely intoxicated. Returning, he said to Hu Tzu,9 "I used to think, Master, that your Way was perfect. But now I see there is something even higher!"

Hu Tzu said, "I have already showed you all the outward forms, but I haven't yet showed you the substance‑and do you really think you have mastered this Way of mine? There may be a flock of hens but, if there is no rooster, how can they lay fertile eggs? You take what you know of the Way and wave it in the face of the world, expecting to be believed! This is the reason men can see right through you. Try bringing your shaman along next time and letting him get a look at me."

The next day Lieh Tzu brought the shaman to see Hu Tzu. When they had left the room, the shaman said, "I'm so sorry ‑ your master is dying! There's no life left in him ‑ he won't last the week. I saw something very strange‑something like wet ashes!"

Lieh Tzu went back into the room, weeping and drenching the collar of his robe with tears, and reported this to Hu. Tzu.

Hu Tzu said, "Just now I appeared to him with the Pattern of Earth ‑ still and silent, nothing moving, nothing standing up. He probably saw in me the Workings of Virtue Closed Off.10 Try bringing him around again."

The next day the two came to see Hu Tzu again, and when they had left the room, the shaman said to Lieh Tzu, "It certainly was lucky that your master met me! He's going to get better - he has all the signs of life! I could see the stirring of what had been closed off!"

Lieh Tzu went in and reported this to Hu Tzu.

Hu Tzu said, "Just now I appeared to him as Heaven and Earth - no name or substance to it, but still the workings, coming up from the heels. He probably saw in me the Workings of the Good One.11 Try bringing him again."

The next day the two came to see Hu Tzu again, and when they had left the room, the shaman said to Lieh Tzu, "Your master is never the same! I have no way to physiognomize him! If he will try to steady himself, then I will come and examine him again."

Lieh Tzu went in and reported this to Hu Tzu.

Hu Tzu said, "Just now I appeared to him as the Great Vastness Where Nothing Wins Out. He probably saw in me the Workings of the Balanced Breaths. Where the swirling waves12 gather there is an abyss; where the still waters gather there is an abyss; where the running waters gather there is an abyss. The abyss has nine names and I have shown him three.13 Try bringing him again."

The next day the two came to see Hu Tzu again, but before the shaman had even come to a halt before Hu Tzu, his wits left him and he fled.

"Run after him!" said Hu Tzu, but though Lieh Tzu ran after him, he could not catch up. Returning, he reported to Hu Tzu, "He's vanished! He's disappeared! I couldn't catch up with him."

Hu Tzu said, "Just now I appeared to him as Not Yet Emerged from My Source. I came at him empty, wriggling and turning, not knowing anything about `who' or `what,' now dipping and bending, now flowing in waves - that's why he ran away."

After this, Lieh Tzu concluded that he had never really begun to learn anything.14 He went home and for three years did not go out. He replaced his wife at the stove, fed the pigs as though he were feeding people, and showed no preferences in the things he did. He got rid of the carving and polishing and returned to plainness, letting his body stand alone like a clod. In the midst of entanglement he remained sealed, and in this oneness he ended his life.

Do not be an embodier of fame; do not be a storehouse of schemes; do not be an undertaker of projects; do not be a proprietor of wisdom. Embody to the fullest what has no end and wander where there is no trail. Hold on to all that you have received from Heaven but do not think you have gotten anything. Be empty, that is all. The Perfect Man uses his mind like a mirror - going after nothing, welcoming nothing, responding but not storing. Therefore he can win out over things and not hurt himself.

The emperor of the South Sea was called Shu [Brief], the emperor of the North Sea was called Hu [Sudden], and the emperor of the central region was called Hun-tun [Chaos]. Shu and Hu from time to time came together for a meeting in the territory of Hun-tun, and Hun-tun treated them very generously. Shu and Hu discussed how they could repay his kindness. "All men," they said, "have seven openings so they can see, hear, eat, and breathe. But Hun-tun alone doesn't have any. Let's trying boring him some!"

Every day they bored another hole, and on the seventh day Hun-tun died.