Notwithstanding the greatness of heaven and earth, their transforming power proceeds from one lathe; notwithstanding the number of the myriad things, the government of them is one and the same; notwithstanding the multitude of mankind, the lord of them is their (one) ruler. The ruler's (course) should proceed from the qualities (of the Dao) and be perfected by Heaven, when it is so, it is called 'Mysterious and Sublime.' The ancients ruled the world by doing nothing - simply by this attribute of Heaven.
If we look at their words in the light of the Dao, (we see that) the appellation for the ruler of the world was correctly assigned; if we look in the same light at the distinctions which they instituted, (we see that) the separation of ruler and ministers was right; if we look at the abilities which they called forth in the same light, (we see that the duties of) all the offices were well performed; and if we look generally in the same way at all things, (we see that) their response (to this rule) was complete. Therefore that which pervades (the action of) Heaven and Earth is (this one) attribute; that which operates in all things is (this one) course; that by which their superiors govern the people is the business (of the various departments); and that by which aptitude is given to ability is skill. The skill was manifested in all the (departments of) business; those departments were all administered in righteousness; the righteousness was (the outflow of) the natural virtue; the virtue was manifested according to the Dao; and the Dao was according to (the pattern of) Heaven.
Hence it is said, 'The ancients who had the nourishment of the world wished for nothing and the world had enough; they did nothing and all things were transformed; their stillness was abysmal, and the people were all composed.' The Record says, 'When the one (Dao) pervades it, all business is completed. When the mind gets to be free from all aim, even the Spirits submit.'
The Master said, 'It is the Dao that overspreads and sustains all things. How great It is in Its overflowing influence! The Superior man ought by all means to remove from his mind (all that is contrary to It). Acting without action is what is called Heaven(-like). Speech coming forth of itself is what is called (a mark of) the (true) Virtue. Loving men and benefiting things is what is called Benevolence. Seeing wherein things that are different yet agree is what is called being Great. Conduct free from the ambition of being distinguished above others is what is called being Generous. The possession in himself of a myriad points of difference is what is called being Rich. Therefore to hold fast the natural attributes is what is called the Guiding Line (of government); the perfecting of those attributes is what is called its Establishment; accordance with the Dao is what is called being Complete; and not allowing anything external to affect the will is what is called being Perfect. When the Superior man understands these ten things, he keeps all matters as it were sheathed in himself, showing the greatness of his mind; and through the outflow of his doings, all things move (and come to him). Being such, he lets the gold lie hid in the hill, and the pearls in the deep; he considers not property or money to be any gain; he keeps aloof from riches and honours; he rejoices not in long life, and grieves not for early death; he does not account prosperity a glory, nor is ashamed of indigence; he would not grasp at the gain of the whole world to be held as his own private portion; he would not desire to rule over the whole world as his own private distinction. His distinction is in understanding that all things belong to the one treasury, and that death and life should be viewed in the same way.
The Master said, 'How still and deep is the place where the Dao resides! How limpid is its purity! Metal and stone without It would give forth no sound. They have indeed the (power of) sound (in them), but if they be not struck, they do not emit it. Who can determine (the qualities that are in) all things?
'The man of kingly qualities holds on his way unoccupied, and is ashamed to busy himself with (the conduct of) affairs. He establishes himself in (what is) the root and source (of his capacity), and his wisdom grows to be spirit-like. In this way his attributes become more and more great, and when his mind goes forth, whatever things come in his way, it lays hold of them (and deals with them). Thus, if there were not the Dao, the bodily form would not have life, and its life, without the attributes (of the Dao), would not be manifested. Is not he who preserves the body and gives the fullest development to the life, who establishes the attributes of the Dao and clearly displays It, possessed of kingly qualities? How majestic is he in his sudden issuings forth, and in his unexpected movements, when all things follow him! This we call the man whose qualities fit him to rule.'
He sees where there is the deepest obscurity; he hears where there is no sound. In the midst of the deepest obscurity, he alone sees and can distinguish (various objects); in the midst of a soundless (abyss), he alone can hear a harmony (of notes). Therefore where one deep is succeeded by a greater, he can people all with things; where one mysterious range is followed by another that is more so, he can lay hold of the subtlest character of each. In this way in his intercourse with all things, while he is farthest from having anything, he can yet give to them what they seek; while he is always hurrying forth, he yet returns to his resting-place; now large, now small; now long, now short; now distant, now near.'
Huang-Di, enjoying himself on the north of the Red-water, ascended to the height of the Kun-lun (mountain), and having looked towards the south, was returning home, when he lost his dark-coloured pearl. He employed Wisdom to search for it, but he could not find it. He employed (the clear-sighted) Li Zhu to search for it, but he could not find it. He employed (the vehement debater) Chi Gou to search for it, but he could not find it. He then employed Purposeless, who found it; on which Huang-Di said, 'How strange that it was Purposeless who was able to find it!'
The teacher of Yao was Xu You; of Xu You, Nie Que; of Nie Que, Wang Ni; of Wang Ni, Bei-yi. Yao asked Xu You, saying, 'Is Nie Que fit to be the correlate of Heaven? (If you think he is), I will avail myself of the services of Wang Ni to constrain him (to take my place).' Xu You replied, 'Such a measure would be hazardous, and full of peril to the kingdom! The character of Nie Que is this - he is acute, perspicacious, shrewd and knowing, ready in reply, sharp in retort, and hasty; his natural (endowments) surpass those of other men, but by his human qualities he seeks to obtain the Heavenly gift; he exercises his discrimination in suppressing his errors, but he does not know what is the source from which his errors arise. Make him the correlate of Heaven! He would employ the human qualities, so that no regard would be paid to the Heavenly gift. Moreover, he would assign different functions to the different parts of the one person. Moreover, honour would be given to knowledge, and he would have his plans take effect with the speed of fire. Moreover, he would be the slave of everything he initiated. Moreover, he would be embarrassed by things. Moreover, he would be looking all round for the response of things (to his measures). Moreover, he would be responding to the opinion of the multitude as to what was right. Moreover, he would be changing as things changed, and would not begin to have any principle of constancy. How can such a man be fit to be the correlate of Heaven? Nevertheless, as there are the smaller branches of a family and the common ancestor of all its branches, he might be the father of a branch, but not the father of the fathers of all the branches. Such government (as he would conduct) would lead to disorder. It would be calamity in one in the position of a minister, and ruin if he were in the position of the sovereign.'
Yao was looking about him at Hua, the border-warden of which said, 'Ha! the sage! Let me ask blessings on the sage! May he live long!' Yao said, 'Hush!' but the other went on, 'May the sage become rich!' Yao (again) said, 'Hush!' but (the warden) continued, 'May the sage have many sons!' When Yao repeated his 'Hush,' the warden said, 'Long life, riches, and many sons are what men wish for - how is it that you alone do not wish for them?' Yao replied, 'Many sons bring many fears; riches bring many troubles; and long life gives rise to many obloquies. These three things do not help to nourish virtue; and therefore I wish to decline them.' The warden rejoined, 'At first I considered you to be a sage; now I see in you only a Superior man. Heaven, in producing the myriads of the people, is sure to have appointed for them their several offices. If you had many sons, and gave them (all their) offices, what would you have to fear? If you had riches, and made other men share them with you, what trouble would you have? The sage finds his dwelling like the quail (without any choice of its own), and is fed like the fledgling; he is like the bird which passes on (through the air), and leaves no trace (of its flight). When good order prevails in the world, he shares in the general prosperity. When there is no such order, he cultivates his virtue, and seeks to be unoccupied. After a thousand years, tired of the world, he leaves it, and ascends among the immortals. He mounts on the white clouds, and arrives at the place of God. The three forms of evil do not reach him, his person is always free from misfortune - what obloquy has he to incur?'
With this the border-warden left him. Yao followed him, saying, 'I beg to ask-- ;' but the other said, 'Begone!'
When Yao was ruling the world, Bo-cheng Zi-Gao was appointed by him prince of one of the states. From Yao (afterwards) the throne passed to Shun, and from Shun (again) to Yu; and (then) Bo-cheng Zi-Gao resigned his principality and began to cultivate the ground. Yu went to see him, and found him ploughing in the open country. Hurrying to him, and bowing low in acknowledgment of his superiority, Yu then stood up, and asked him, saying, 'Formerly, when Yao was ruling the world, you, Sir, were appointed prince of a state. He gave his sovereignty to Shun, and Shun gave his to me, when you, Sir, resigned your dignity, and are (now) ploughing (here) - I venture to ask the reason of your conduct.' Zi-Gao said, 'When Yao ruled the world, the people stimulated one another (to what was right) without his offering them rewards, and stood in awe (of doing wrong) without his threatening them with punishments. Now you employ both rewards and punishments, and the people notwithstanding are not good. Their virtue will from this time decay; punishments will from this time prevail; the disorder of future ages will from this time begin. Why do you, my master, not go away, and not interrupt my work?' With this he resumed his ploughing with his head bent down, and did not (again) look round.
In the Grand Beginning (of all things) there was nothing in all the vacancy of space; there was nothing that could be named. It was in this state that there arose the first existence - the first existence, but still without bodily shape. From this things could then be produced, (receiving) what we call their proper character. That which had no bodily shape was divided; and then without intermission there was what we call the process of conferring. (The two processes) continuing in operation, things were produced. As things were completed, there were produced the distinguishing lines of each, which we call the bodily shape. That shape was the body preserving in it the spirit, and each had its peculiar manifestation, which we call its Nature. When the Nature has been cultivated, it returns to its proper character; and when that has been fully reached, there is the same condition as at the Beginning. That sameness is pure vacancy, and the vacancy is great. It is like the closing of the beak and silencing the singing (of a bird). That closing and silencing is like the union of heaven and earth (at the beginning). The union, effected, as it is, might seem to indicate stupidity or darkness, but it is what we call the 'mysterious quality' (existing at the beginning); it is the same as the Grand Submission (to the Natural Course).
The Master asked Lao Dan, saying, 'Some men regulate the Dao (as by a law), which they have only to follow - (a thing, they say,) is admissible or it is inadmissible; it is so, or it is not so. (They are like) the sophists who say that they can distinguish what is hard and what is white as clearly as if the objects were houses suspended in the sky. Can such men be said to be sages?' The reply was, 'They are like the busy underlings of a court, who toil their bodies and distress their minds with their various artifices - dogs, (employed) to their sorrow to catch the yak, or monkeys that are brought from their forests (for their tricksiness). Qiu, I tell you this - it is what you cannot hear, and what you cannot speak of: Of those who have their heads and feet, and yet have neither minds nor ears, there are multitudes; while of those who have their bodies, and at the same time preserve that which has no bodily form or shape, there are really none. It is not in their movements or stoppages, their dying or living, their falling and rising again, that this is to be found. The regulation of the course lies in (their dealing with) the human element in them. When they have forgotten external things, and have also forgotten the heavenly element in them, they may be named men who have forgotten themselves. The man who has forgotten himself is he of whom it is said that he has become identified with Heaven.'
At an interview with Ji Che, Jiang-li Wan said to him, 'Our ruler of Lu asked to receive my instructions. I declined, on the ground that I had not received any message for him. Afterwards, however, I told him (my thoughts). I do not know whether (what I said) was right or not, and I beg to repeat it to you. I said to him, "You must strive to be courteous and to exercise self-restraint; you must distinguish the public-spirited and loyal, and repress the cringing and selfish - who among the people will in that case dare not to be in harmony with you?"' Ji Che laughed quietly and said, 'Your words, my master, as a description of the right course for a Di or King, were like the threatening movement of its arms by a mantis which would thereby stop the advance of a carriage - inadequate to accomplish your object. And moreover, if he guided himself by your directions, it would be as if he were to increase the dangerous height of his towers and add to the number of his valuables collected in them - the multitudes (of the people) would leave their (old) ways, and bend their steps in the same direction.'
Jiang-li Wan was awe-struck, and said in his fright, 'I am startled by your words, Master, nevertheless, I should like to hear you describe the influence (which a ruler should exert).' The other said, 'If a great sage ruled the kingdom, he would stimulate the minds of the people, and cause them to carry out his instructions fully, and change their manners; he would take their minds which had become evil and violent and extinguish them, carrying them all forward to act in accordance with the (good) will belonging to them as individuals, as if they did it of themselves from their nature, while they knew not what it was that made them do so. Would such an one be willing to lookup to Yao and Shun in their instruction of the people as his elder brothers? He would treat them as his juniors, belonging himself to the period of the original plastic ether. His wish would be that all should agree with the virtue (of that early period), and quietly rest in it.'
Zi-gong had been rambling in the south in Chu, and was returning to Jin. As he passed (a place) on the north of the Han, he saw an old man who was going to work on his vegetable garden. He had dug his channels, gone to the well, and was bringing from it in his arms a jar of water to pour into them. Toiling away, he expended a great deal of strength, but the result which he accomplished was very small. Zi-gong said to him, 'There is a contrivance here, by means of which a hundred plots of ground may be irrigated in one day. With the expenditure of a very little strength, the result accomplished is great. Would you, Master, not like (to try it)?' The gardener looked up at him, and said, 'How does it work?' Zi-gong said, 'It is a lever made of wood, heavy behind, and light in front. It raises the water as quickly as you could do with your hand, or as it bubbles over from a boiler. Its name is a shadoof.' The gardener put on an angry look, laughed, and said, 'I have heard from my teacher that, where there are ingenious contrivances, there are sure to be subtle doings; and that, where there are subtle doings, there is sure to be a scheming mind. But, when there is a scheming mind in the breast, its pure simplicity is impaired. When this pure simplicity is impaired, the spirit becomes unsettled, and the unsettled spirit is not the proper residence of the Dao. It is not that I do not know (the contrivance which you mention), but I should be ashamed to use it.' (At these words) Zi-gong looked blank and ashamed; he hung down his head, and made no reply.
After an interval, the gardener said to him, 'Who are you, Sir?' 'A disciple of Kong Qiu,' was the reply. The other continued, 'Are you not the scholar whose great learning makes you comparable to a sage, who make it your boast that you surpass all others, who sing melancholy ditties all by yourself, thus purchasing a famous reputation throughout the kingdom? If you would (only) forget the energy of your spirit, and neglect the care of your body, you might approximate (to the Dao). But while you cannot regulate yourself, what leisure have you to be regulating the world? Go on your way, Sir, and do not interrupt my work.'
Zi-gong shrunk back abashed, and turned pale. He was perturbed, and lost his self-possession, nor did he recover it, till he had walked a distance of thirty li. His disciples then said, 'Who was that man? Why, Master, when you saw him, did you change your bearing, and become pale, so that you have been all day without returning to yourself?' He replied to them, 'Formerly I thought that there was but one man in the world, and did not know that there was this man. I have heard the Master say that to seek for the means of conducting his undertakings so that his success in carrying them out may be complete, and how by the employment of a little strength great results may be obtained, is the way of the sage. Now (I perceive that) it is not so at all. They who hold fast and cleave to the Dao are complete in the qualities belonging to it. Complete in those qualities, they are complete in their bodies. Complete in their bodies, they are complete in their spirits. To be complete in spirit is the way of the sage. (Such men) live in the world in closest union with the people, going along with them, but they do not know where they are going. Vast and complete is their simplicity! Success, gain, and ingenious contrivances, and artful cleverness, indicate (in their opinion) a forgetfulness of the (proper) mind of man. These men will not go where their mind does not carry them, and will do nothing of which their mind does not approve. Though all the world should praise them, they would (only) get what they think should be loftily disregarded; and though all the world should blame them, they would but lose (what they think) fortuitous and not to be received - the world's blame and praise can do them neither benefit nor injury. Such men may be described as possessing all the attributes (of the Dao), while I can only be called one of those who are like the waves carried about by the wind.' When he returned to Lu, (Zi-gong) reported the interview and conversation to Confucius, who said, 'The man makes a pretence of cultivating the arts of the Embryonic Age. He knows the first thing, but not the sequel to it. He regulates what is internal in himself, but not what is external to himself. If he had intelligence enough to be entirely unsophisticated, and by doing nothing to seek to return to the normal simplicity, embodying (the instincts of) his nature, and keeping his spirit (as it were) in his arms, so enjoying himself in the common ways, you might then indeed be afraid of him! But what should you and I find in the arts of the embryonic time, worth our knowing?'
Zhun Mang, on his way to the ocean, met with Yuan Feng on the shore of the eastern sea, and was asked by him where he was going. 'I am going,' he replied, 'to the ocean;' and the other again asked, 'What for?' Zhun Mang said, 'Such is the nature of the ocean that the waters which flow into it can never fill it, nor those which flow from it exhaust it. I will enjoy myself, rambling by it.' Yuan Feng replied, 'Have you no thoughts about mankind? I should like to hear from you about sagely government.' Zhun Mang said, 'Under the government of sages, all offices are distributed according to the fitness of their nature; all appointments are made according to the ability of the men; whatever is done is after a complete survey of all circumstances; actions and words proceed from the inner impulse, and the whole world is transformed. Wherever their hands are pointed and their looks directed, from all quarters the people are all sure to come (to do what they desire): this is what is called government by sages.'
'I should like to hear about (the government of) the kindly, virtuous men,' (continued Yuan Feng). The reply was, 'Under the government of the virtuous, when quietly occupying (their place), they have no thought, and, when they act, they have no anxiety; they do not keep stored (in their minds) what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad. They share their benefits among all within the four seas, and this produces what is called (the state of) satisfaction; they dispense their gifts to all, and this produces what is called (the state of) rest. (The people) grieve (on their death) like babies who have lost their mothers, and are perplexed like travellers who have lost their way. They have a superabundance of wealth and all necessaries, and they know not whence it comes; they have a sufficiency of food and drink, and they know not from whom they get it: such are the appearances (under the government) of the kindly and virtuous.'
'I should like to hear about (the government of) the spirit-like men,' (continued Yuan Feng once more). The reply was, 'Men of the highest spirit-like qualities mount up on the light, and (the limitations of) the body vanish. This we call being bright and ethereal. They carry out to the utmost the powers with which they are endowed, and have not a single attribute unexhausted. Their joy is that of heaven and earth, and all embarrassments of affairs melt away and disappear; all things return to their proper nature: and this is what is called (the state of) chaotic obscurity.'
Men Wu-gui and Chi-zhang Man-ji had been looking at the army of king Wu, when the latter said, 'It is because he was not born in the time of the Lord of Yu, that therefore he is involved in this trouble (of war).' Men Wu-gui replied, 'Was it when the kingdom was in good order, that the Lord of Yu governed it? Or was it after it had become disordered that he governed it?' The other said, 'That the kingdom be in a condition of good order, is what (all) desire, and (in that case) what necessity would there be to say anything about the Lord of Yu? He had medicine for sores; false hair for the bald; and healing for those who were ill: he was like the filial son carrying in the medicine to cure his kind father, with every sign of distress in his countenance. A sage would be ashamed (of such a thing). In the age of perfect virtue they attached no value to wisdom, nor employed men of ability. Superiors were (but) as the higher branches of a tree; and the people were like the deer of the wild. They were upright and correct, without knowing that to be so was Righteousness; they loved one another, without knowing that to do so was Benevolence; they were honest and leal-hearted, without knowing that it was Loyalty; they fulfilled their engagements, without knowing that to do so was Good Faith; in their simple movements they employed the services of one another, without thinking that they were conferring or receiving any gift. Therefore their actions left no trace, and there was no record of their affairs.'
The filial son who does not flatter his father, and the loyal minister who does not fawn on his ruler, are the highest examples of a minister and a son. When a son assents to all that his father says, and approves of all that his father does, common opinion pronounces him an unworthy son; when a minister assents to all that his ruler says, and approves of all that his ruler does, common opinion pronounces him an unworthy minister. Nor does any one reflect that this view is necessarily correct. But when common opinion (itself) affirms anything and men therefore assent to it, or counts anything good and men also approve of it, then it is not said that they are mere consenters and flatterers - is common opinion then more authoritative than a father, or more to be honoured than a ruler? Tell a man that he is merely following (the opinions) of another, and at once he flushes with anger. Tell a man that he is flatterer of others, and immediately he flushes with anger. And yet all his life he is merely following others, and flattering them. His illustrations are made to agree with theirs; his phrases are glossed: to win the approbation of the multitudes. From first to last, from beginning to end, he finds no fault with their views. He will let his robes hang down, display the colours on them, and arrange his movements and bearing, so as to win the favour of his age, and yet not call himself a flatterer. He is but a follower of those others, approving and disapproving as they do, and yet he will not say that he is one of them. This is the height of stupidity. He who knows his stupidity is not very stupid; he who knows that he is under a delusion is not greatly deluded. He who is greatly deluded will never shake the delusion off; he who is very stupid will all his life not become intelligent. If three men be walking together, and (only) one of them be under a delusion (as to their way), they may yet reach their goal, the deluded being the fewer; but if two of them be under the delusion, they will not do so, the deluded being the majority. At the present time, when the whole world is under a delusion, though I pray men to go in the right direction, I cannot make them do so - is it not a sad case?
Grand music does not penetrate the ears of villagers; but if they hear 'The Breaking of the Willow,' or 'The Bright Flowers,' they will roar with laughter. So it is that lofty words do not remain in the minds of the multitude, and that perfect words are not heard, because the vulgar words predominate. By two earthenware instruments the (music of) a bell will be confused, and the pleasure that it would afford cannot be obtained. At the present time the whole world is under a delusion, and though I wish to go in a certain direction, how can I succeed in doing so? Knowing that I cannot do so, if I were to try to force my way, that would be another delusion. Therefore my best course is to let my purpose go, and no more pursue it. If I do not pursue it, whom shall I have to share in my sorrow? If an ugly man have a son born to him at midnight, he hastens with a light to look at it. Very eagerly he does so, only afraid that it may be like himself.
From a tree a hundred years old a portion shall be cut and fashioned into a sacrificial vase, with the bull figured on it, which is ornamented further with green and yellow, while the rest (of that portion) is cut away and thrown into a ditch. If now we compare the sacrificial vase with what was thrown into the ditch, there will be a difference between them as respects their beauty and ugliness; but they both agree in having lost the (proper) nature of the wood. So in respect of their practice of righteousness there is a difference between (the robber) Zhi on the one hand, and Zeng (Shen) or Shi (Qiu) on the other; but they all agree in having lost (the proper qualities of) their nature.
Now there are five things which produce (in men) the loss of their (proper) nature. The first is (their fondness for) the five colours which disorder the eye, and take from it its (proper) clearness of vision; the second is (their fondness for) the five notes (of music), which disorder the ear and take from it its (proper) power of hearing; the third is (their fondness for) the five odours which penetrate the nostrils, and produce a feeling of distress all over the forehead; the fourth is (their fondness for) the five flavours, which deaden the mouth, and pervert its sense of taste; the fifth is their preferences and dislikes, which unsettle the mind, and cause the nature to go flying about. These five things are all injurious to the life; and now Yang and Mo begin to stretch forward from their different standpoints, each thinking that he has hit on (the proper course for men).
But the courses they have hit on are not what I call the proper course. What they have hit on (only) leads to distress - can they have hit on what is the right thing? If they have, we may say that the dove in a cage has found the right thing for it. Moreover, those preferences and dislikes, that (fondness for) music and colours, serve but to pile up fuel (in their breasts); while their caps of leather, the bonnet with kingfishers' plumes, the memorandum tablets which they carry, and their long girdles, serve but as restraints on their persons. Thus inwardly stuffed full as a hole for fuel, and outwardly fast bound with cords, when they look quietly round from out of their bondage, and think they have got all they could desire, they are no better than criminals whose arms are tied together, and their fingers subjected to the screw, or than tigers and leopards in sacks or cages, and yet thinking that they have got (all they could wish).
Source: Chinese Text Project http://ctext.org/zhuangzi, English translation: 'The Writings of Chuang Tzu', James Legge, 1891