Back to collection
《徐無鬼》 Xu Wu-gui
》 Xu Wu-gui
Xu Wu-gui having obtained through Nu Shang an introduction to the marquis Wu of Wei, the marquis, speaking to him with kindly sympathy, said, 'You are ill, Sir; you have suffered from your hard and laborious toils in the forests, and still you have been willing to come and see poor me.' Xu Wu-gui replied, 'It is I who have to comfort your lordship; what occasion have you to comfort me? If your lordship go on to fill up the measure of your sensual desires, and to prolong your likes and dislikes, then the condition of your mental nature will be diseased, and if you discourage and repress those desires, and deny your likings and dislikings, that will be an affliction to your ears and eyes (deprived of their accustomed pleasures) - it is for me to comfort your lordship, what occasion have you to comfort me?' The marquis looked contemptuous, and made no reply.
After a little time, Xu Wu-gui said, 'Let me tell your lordship something: I look at dogs and judge of them by their appearance. One of the lowest quality seizes his food, satiates himself, and stops - he has the attributes of a fox. One of a medium quality seems to be looking at the sun. One of the highest quality seems to have forgotten the one thing - himself. But I judge still better of horses than I do of dogs. When I do so, I find that one goes straight forward, as if following a line; that another turns off, so as to describe a hook; that a third describes a square as if following the measure so called; and that a fourth describes a circle as exactly as a compass would make it. These are all horses of a state; but they are not equal to a horse of the kingdom. His qualities are complete. Now he looks anxious; now to be losing the way; now to be forgetting himself. Such a horse prances along, or rushes on, spurning the dust and not knowing where he is.' The marquis was greatly pleased and laughed.
When Xu Wu-gui came out, Nu Shang said to him, 'How was it, Sir, that you by your counsels produced such an effect on our ruler? In my counsellings of him, now indirectly, taking my subjects from the Books of Poetry, History, Rites, and Music; now directly, from the Metal Tablets, and the six Bow-cases, all calculated for the service (of the state), and to be of great benefit - in these counsellings, repeated times without number, I have never seen the ruler show his teeth in a smile: by what counsels have you made him so pleased to-day?' Xu Wu-gui replied, 'I only told him how I judged of dogs and horses by looking at their appearance.' 'So?' said Nu Shang, and the other rejoined, 'Have you not heard of the wanderer from Yue? When he had been gone from the state several days, he was glad when he saw any one whom he had seen in it; when he had been gone a month, he was glad when he saw any one whom he had known in it; and when he had been gone a round year, he was glad when he saw any one who looked like a native of it. The longer he was gone, the more longingly did he think of the people - was it not so? The men who withdraw to empty valleys, where the hellebore bushes stop up the little paths made by the weasels, as they push their way or stand amid the waste, are glad when they seem to hear the sounds of human footsteps; and how much more would they be so, if it were their brothers and relatives talking and laughing by their side! How long it is since the words of a True man were heard as he talked and laughed by our ruler's side!'
At (another) interview of Xu Wu-gui with the marquis Wu, the latter said, 'You, Sir, have been dwelling in the forests for a long time, living on acorns and chestnuts, and satiating yourself with onions and chives, without thinking of poor me. Now (that you are here), is it because you are old? or because you wish to try again the taste of wine and meat? or because (you wish that) I may enjoy the happiness derived from the spirits of the altars of the Land and Grain?' Xu Wu-gui replied, 'I was born in a poor and mean condition, and have never presumed to drink of your lordship's wine, or eat of your meat. My object in coming was to comfort your lordship under your troubles.' 'What? comfort me under my troubles?' 'Yes, to comfort both your lordship's spirit and body.' The marquis said, 'What do you mean?' His visitor replied, 'Heaven and Earth have one and the same purpose in the production (of all men). However high one man be exalted, he should not think that he is favourably dealt with; and however low may be the position of another, he should not think that he is unfavourably dealt with. You are indeed the one and only lord of the 10,000 chariots (of your state), but you use your dignity to embitter (the lives of) all the people, and to pamper your ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. But your spirit does not acquiesce in this. The spirit (of man) loves to be in harmony with others and hates selfish indulgence'. This selfish indulgence is a disease, and therefore I would comfort you under it. How is it that your lordship more than others brings this disease on yourself?'
The marquis said, 'I have wished to see you, Sir, for a long time. I want to love my people, and by the exercise of righteousness to make an end of war - will that be sufficient?' Xu Wu-gui replied, 'By no means. To love the people is the first step to injure them. By the exercise of righteousness to make an end of war is the root from which war is produced. If your lordship try to accomplish your object in this way, you are not likely to succeed. All attempts to accomplish what we think good (with an ulterior end) is a bad contrivance. Although your lordship practise benevolence and righteousness (as you propose), it will be no better than hypocrisy. You may indeed assume the (outward) form, but successful accomplishment will lead to (inward) contention, and the change thence arising will produce outward fighting. Your lordship also must not mass files of soldiers in the passages of your galleries and towers, nor have footmen and horsemen in the apartments about your altars. Do not let thoughts contrary to your success lie hidden in your mind; do not think of conquering men by artifice, or by (skilful) plans, or by fighting. If I kill the officers and people of another state, and annex its territory, to satisfy my selfish desires, while in my spirit I do not know whether the fighting be good, where is the victory that I gain? Your lordship's best plan is to abandon (your purpose). If you will cultivate in your breast the sincere purpose (to love the people), and so respond to the feeling of Heaven and Earth, and not (further) vex yourself, then your people will already have escaped death - what occasion will your lordship have to make an end of war?'
Huang-Di was going to see Da-gui at the hill of Ju-Zi. Fang Ming was acting as charioteer, and Chang Yu was occupying the third place in the carriage. Zhang Ruo and Xi Peng went before the horses; and Kun Hun and Gu Ji followed the carriage. When they arrived at the wild of Xiang-cheng, the seven sages were all perplexed, and could find no place at which to ask the way. just then they met with a boy tending some horses, and asked the way of him. 'Do you know,' they said, 'the hill of Ju-zi?' and he replied that he did. He also said that he knew where Da-gui was living. 'A strange boy is this!' said Huang-Di. 'He not only knows the hill of Ju-zi, but he also knows where Fa-gui is living. Let me ask him about the government of mankind.' The boy said, 'The administration of the kingdom is like this (which I am doing) - what difficulty should there be in it? When I was young, I enjoyed myself roaming over all within the six confines of the world of space, and then I began to suffer from indistinct sight. A wise elder taught me, saying, "Ride in the chariot of the sun, and roam in the wild of Xiang-cheng." Now the trouble in my eyes is a little better, and I am again enjoying myself roaming outside the six confines of the world of space. As to the government of the kingdom, it is like this (which I am doing) - what difficulty should there be in it?' Huang-Di said, 'The administration of the world is indeed not your business, my son; nevertheless, I beg to ask you about it.' The little lad declined to answer, but on Huang-Di putting the question again, he said, 'In what does the governor of the kingdom differ from him who has the tending of horses, and who has only to put away whatever in him would injure the horses?' Huang-Di bowed to him twice with his head to the ground, called him his 'Heavenly Master,' and withdrew.
If officers of wisdom do not see the changes which their anxious thinking has suggested, they have no joy; if debaters are not able to set forth their views in orderly style, they have no joy; if critical examiners find no subjects on which to exercise their powers of vituperation, they have no joy: they are all hampered by external restrictions.
Those who try to attract the attention of their age (wish to) rise at court; those who try to win the regard of the people count holding office a glory; those who possess muscular strength boast of doing what is difficult; those who are bold and daring exert themselves in times of calamity; those who are able swordmen and spearmen delight in fighting; those whose powers are decayed seek to rest in the name (they have gained); those who are skilled in the laws seek to enlarge the scope of government; those who are proficient in ceremonies and music pay careful attention to their deportment; and those who profess benevolence and righteousness value opportunities (for displaying them).
The husbandmen who do not keep their fields well weeded are not equal to their business, nor are traders who do not thrive in the markets. When the common people have their appropriate employment morning and evening, they stimulate one another to diligence; the mechanics who are masters of their implements feel strong for their work. If their wealth does not increase, the greedy are distressed; if their power and influence is not growing, the ambitious are sad. Such creatures of circumstance and things delight in changes, and if they meet with a time when they can show what they can do, they cannot keep themselves from taking advantage of it. They all pursue their own way like (the seasons of) the year, and do not change as things do. They give the reins to their bodies and natures, and allow themselves to sink beneath (the pressure of) things, and all their lifetime do not come back (to their proper selves) is it not sad?
Zhuangzi said, 'An archer, without taking aim beforehand, yet may hit the mark. If we say that he is a good archer, and that all the world may be Yis, is this allowable?' Huizi replied, 'It is.' Zhuangzi continued, 'All men do not agree in counting the same thing to be right, but every one maintains his own view to be right; (if we say) that all men may be Yaos, is this allowable?' Huizi (again) replied, 'It is;'.
Jump to dictionaryShow parallel passagesShow additional information
Zhuangzi went on, 'Very well; there are the literati, the followers of Mo (Di), of Yang (Zhu), and of Bing - making four (different schools). Including yourself, Master, there are five. Which of your views is really right? Or will you take the position of Lu Ju? One of his disciples said to him, "Master, I have got hold of your method. I can in winter heat the furnace under my tripod, and in summer can produce ice." Lu Ju said, "That is only with the Yang element to call out the same, and with the Yin to call out the yin - that is not my method. I will show you what my method is." On this he tuned two citherns, placing one of them in the hall, and the other in one of the inner apartments. Striking the note Gong in the one, the same note vibrated in the other, and so it was with the note Jiao; the two instruments being tuned in the same way. But if he had differently tuned them on other strings different from the normal arrangement of the five notes, the five-and-twenty strings would all have vibrated, without any difference of their notes, the note to which he had tuned them ruling and guiding all the others. Is your maintaining your view to be right just like this?'
Huizi replied, 'Here now are the literati, and the followers of Mo, Yang, and Bing. Suppose that they have come to dispute with me. They put forth their conflicting statements; they try vociferously to put me down; but none of them have ever proved me wrong: what do you say to this?' Zhuangzi said, 'There was a man of Qi who cast away his son in Song to be a gatekeeper there, and thinking nothing of the mutilation he would incur; the same man, to secure one of his sacrificial vessels or bells, would have it strapped and secured, while to find his son who was lost, he would not go out of the territory of his own state: so forgetful was he of the relative importance of things. If a man of Chu, going to another state as a lame gate-keeper, at midnight, at a time when no one was nigh, were to fight with his boatman, he would not be abie to reach the shore, and he would have done what he could to provoke the boatman's animosity.'
As Zhuangzi was accompanying a funeral, when passing by the grave of Huizi, he looked round, and said to his attendants, 'On the top of the nose of that man of Ying there is a (little) bit of mud like a fly's wing.' He sent for the artisan Shi to cut it away. Shi whirled his axe so as to produce a wind, which immediately carried off the mud entirely, leaving the nose uninjured, and the (statue of) the man of Ying standing undisturbed. The ruler Yuan of Song heard of the feat, called the artisan Shi, and said to him, 'Try and do the same thing on me.' The artisan said, 'Your servant has been able to trim things in that way, but the material on which I have worked has been dead for a long time.' Zhuangzi said, 'Since the death of the Master, I have had no material to work upon. I have had no one with whom to talk.'
Guan Zhong being ill, duke Huan went to ask for him, and said, 'Your illness, father Zhong, is very severe; should you not speak out your mind to me? Should this prove the great illness, to whom will it be best for me to entrust my State?' Guan Zhong said, 'To whom does your grace wish to entrust it?' 'To Bao Shu-ya,' was the reply. 'He will not do. He is an admirable officer, pure and incorruptible, but with others who are not like himself he will not associate. And when he once hears of another man's faults, he never forgets them. If you employ him to administer the state, above, he will take the leading of your Grace, and, below, he will come into collision with the people - in no long time you will be holding him as an offender.' The duke said, 'Who, then, is the man?' The reply was, 'If I must speak, there is Xi Peng - he will do. He is a man who forgets his own high position, and against whom those below him will not revolt. He is ashamed that he is not equal to Huang-Di, and pities those who are not equal to himself. Him who imparts of his virtue to others we call a sage; him who imparts of his wealth to others we call a man of worth. He who by his worth would preside over others, never succeeds in winning them; he who with his worth condescends to others, never but succeeds in winning them. Xi Peng has not been (much) heard of in the state; he has not been (much) distinguished in his own clan. But as I must speak, he is the man for you.'
The king of Wu, floating about on the Jiang, (landed and) ascended the Hill of monkeys, which all, when they saw him, scampered off in terror, and hid themselves among the thick hazels. There was one, however, which, in an unconcerned way, swung about on the branches, displaying its cleverness to the king, who thereon discharged an arrow at it. With a nimble motion it caught the swift arrow, and the king ordered his attendants to hurry forward and shoot it; and thus the monkey was seized and killed. The king then, looking round, said to his friend Yan Bu-yi, 'This monkey made a display of its artfulness, and trusted in its agility, to show me its arrogance - this it was which brought it to this fate. Take warning from it. Ah! do not by your looks give yourself haughty airs!' Yan Bu-yi, when he returned home, put himself under the teaching of Dong Wu, to root up his pride. He put away what he delighted in and abjured distinction. In three years the people of the kingdom spoke of him with admiration.
Nan-bo Zi-qi was seated, leaning forward on his stool, and sighing gently as he looked up to heaven. (Just then) Yan Cheng-zi came in, and said, when he saw him, 'Master, you surpass all others. Is it right to make your body thus like a mass of withered bones, and your mind like so much slaked lime?' The other said, 'I formerly lived in a grotto on a hill. At that time Tian He once came to see me, and all the multitudes of Qi congratulated him thrice (on his having found the proper man). I must first have shown myself, and so it was that he knew me; I must first have been selling (what I had), and so it was that he came to buy. If I had not shown what I possessed, how should he have known it; if I had not been selling (myself), how should he have come to buy me? I pity the men who lose themselves; I also pity the men who pity others (for not being known); and I also pity the men who pity the men who pity those that pity others. But since then the time is long gone by; (and so I am in the state in which you have found me).
Zhongni, having gone to Chu, the king ordered wine to be presented to him. Sun Shu-ao stood, holding the goblet in his hand. Yi-liao of Shi-nan, having received (a cup), poured its contents out as a sacrificial libation, and said, 'The men of old, on such an occasion as this, made some speech.' Zhongni said, 'I have heard of speech without words; but I have never spoken it; I will do so now. Yi-liao of Shi-nan kept (quietly) handling his little spheres, and the difficulties between the two Houses were resolved; Sun Shu-ao slept undisturbed on his couch, with his (dancer's) feather in his hand, and the men of Ying enrolled themselves for the war. I wish I had a beak three cubits long.'
In the case of those two (ministers) we have what is called 'The Way that cannot be trodden;' in (the case of Zhongni) we have what is called 'the Argument without words.' Therefore when all attributes are comprehended in the unity of the Dao, and speech stops at the point to which knowledge does not reach, the conduct is complete. But where there is (not) the unity of the Dao, the attributes cannot (always) be the same, and that which is beyond the reach of knowledge cannot be exhibited by any reasoning. There may be as many names as those employed by the Literati and the Mohists, but (the result is) evil. Thus when the sea does not reject the streams that flow into it in their eastward course, we have the perfection of greatness. The sage embraces in his regard both Heaven and Earth; his beneficent influence extends to all tinder the sky; and we do not know from whom it comes. Therefore though when living one may have no rank, and when dead no honorary epithet; though the reality (of what he is) may not be acknowledged and his name not established; we have in him what is called 'The Great Man.'
A dog is not reckoned good because it barks well; and a man is not reckoned wise because be speaks skilfully - how much less can he be deemed Great! If one thinks he is Great, he is not fit to be accounted Great - how much less is he so from the practice of the attributes (of the Dao)! Now none are so grandly complete as Heaven and Earth; but do they seek for anything to make them so grandly complete? He who knows this grand completion does not seek for it; he loses nothing and abandons nothing; he does not change himself from regard to (external) things; he turns in on himself, and finds there an inexhaustible store; he follows antiquity and does not feel about (for its lessons) - such is the perfect sincerity of the Great Man.
Zi-qi had eight sons. Having arranged them before him, he called Jiu-fang Yin, and said to him, 'Look at the physiognomy of my sons for me - which will be the fortunate one?' Yan said, 'Kun is the fortunate one.' Zi-qi looked startled, and joyfully said, 'In what way?' Yin replied, 'Kun will share the meals of the ruler of a state to the end of his life.' The father looked uneasy, burst into tears, and said, 'What has my son done that he should come to such a fate?' Yin replied, 'When one shares the meals of the ruler of a state, blessings reach to all within the three branches of his kindred, and how much more to his father and mother! But you, Master, weep when you hear this - you oppose (the idea of) such happiness. It is the good fortune of your son, and you count it his misfortune.'
Zi-qi said, '0 Yin, what sufficient ground have you for knowing that this will be Kun's good fortune? (The fortune) that is summed up in wine and flesh affects only the nose and the mouth, but you are not able to know how it will come about. I have never been a shepherd, and yet a ewe lambed in the south-west corner of my house. I have never been fond of hunting, and yet a quail hatched her young in the south-east corner. If these were not prodigies, what can be accounted such? Where I wish to occupy my mind with my son is in (the wide sphere of) heaven and earth; I wish to seek his enjoyment and mine in (the idea of) Heaven, and our support from the Earth. I do not mix myself up with him in the affairs (of the world); nor in forming plans (for his advantage); nor in the practice of what is strange. I pursue with him the perfect virtue of Heaven and Earth, and do not allow ourselves to be troubled by outward things. I seek to be with him in a state of undisturbed indifference, and not to practise what affairs might indicate as likely to be advantageous. And now there is to come to us this vulgar recompense. Whenever there is a strange realisation, there must have been strange conduct. Danger threatens - not through any sin of me or of my son, but as brought about, I apprehend, by Heaven. It is this which makes me weep!'
Not long after this, Zi-qi sent off Kun to go to Yan, when he was made prisoner by some robbers on the way. It would have been difficult to sell him if he were whole and entire, and they thought their easiest plan was to cut off (one of his) feet first. They did so, and sold him in Qi, where he became Inspector of roads for a Mr. Qu. Nevertheless he had flesh to eat till he died.
Nie Que met Xu You (on the way), and said to him, 'Where, Sir, are you going to?' 'I am fleeing from Yao,' was the reply. 'What do you mean?' 'Yao has become so bent on his benevolence that I am afraid the world will laugh at him, and that in future ages men will be found eating one another. Now the people are collected together without difficulty. Love them, and they respond with affection; benefit them, and they come to you; praise them, and they are stimulated (to please you); make them to experience what they dislike, and they disperse. When the loving and benefiting proceed from benevolence and righteousness, those who forget the benevolence and righteousness are few, and those who make a profit of them are many. In this way the practice of benevolence and righteousness comes to be without sincerity and is like a borrowing of the instruments with which men catch birds. In all this the one man's seeking to benefit the world by his decisions and enactments (of such a nature) is as if he were to cut through (the nature of all) by one operation - Yao knows how wise and superior men can benefit the world, but he does not also know how they injure it. It is only those who stand outside such men that know this.'
There are the pliable and weak; the easy and hasty; the grasping and crooked.
Those who are called the pliable and weak learn the words of some one master, to which they freely yield their assent, being secretly pleased with themselves, and thinking that their knowledge is sufficient, while they do not know that they have not yet begun (to understand) a single thing. It is this which makes them so pliable and weak.
Jump to dictionaryShow parallel passagesShow additional information
The easy and hasty are like lice on a pig. The lice select a place where the bristles are more wide apart, and look on it as a great palace or a large park. The slits between the toes, the overlappings of its skin, about its nipples and its thighs - all these seem to them safe apartments and advantageous places - they do not know that the butcher one morning, swinging about his arms, will spread the grass, and kindle the fire, so that they and the pig will be roasted together. So do they appear and disappear with the place where they harboured: this is why they are called the easy and hasty.
Of the grasping and crooked we have an example in Shun. Mutton has no craving for ants, but ants have a craving for mutton, for it is rank. There was a rankness about the conduct of Shun, and the people were pleased with him. Hence when he thrice changed his residence, every one of them became a capital city. When he came to the wild of Tang, he had 100,000 families about him. Yao having heard of the virtue and ability of Shun, appointed him to a new and uncultivated territory, saying, 'I look forward to the benefit of his coming here.' When Shun was appointed to this new territory, his years were advanced, and his intelligence was decayed - and yet he could not find a place of rest or a home. This is an example of being grasping and wayward.
Therefore (in opposition to such) the spirit-like man dislikes the flocking of the multitudes to him. When the multitudes come, they do not agree; and when they do not agree, no benefit results from their coming. Hence there are none whom he brings very near to himself, and none whom he keeps at a great distance. He keeps his virtue in close embrace, and warmly nourishes (the spirit of) harmony, so as to be in accordance with all men. This is called the True man. Even the knowledge of the ant he puts away; his plans are simply those of the fishes; even the notions of the sheep he discards. His seeing is simply that of the eye; his hearing that of the ear; his mind is governed by its general exercises. Being such, his course is straight and level as if marked out by a line, and its every change is in accordance (with the circumstances of the case). The True men of old waited for the issues of events as the arrangements of Heaven, and did not by their human efforts try to take the place of Heaven.
The True men of old (now) looked on success as life and on failure as death; and (now) on success as death and on failure as life. The operation of medicines will illustrate this: there are monk's-bane, the Jie-geng, the tribulus fruit, and china-root; each of these has the time and case for which it is supremely suitable; and all such plants and their suitabilities cannot be mentioned particularly.
Gou-jian took his station on (the hill of) Gui-ji with 3,000 men with their buff-coats and shields: (his minister) Zhong knew how the ruined (Yue) might still be preserved, but the same man did not know the sad fate in store for himself. Hence it is said, 'The eye of the owl has its proper fitness; the leg of the crane has its proper limit, and to cut off any of it would distress (the bird).' Hence (also) it is (further) said, 'When the wind passes over it, the volume of the river is diminished, and so it is when the sun passes over it. But let the wind and sun keep a watch together on the river, and it will not begin to feel that they are doing it any injury: it relies on its springs and flows on.' Thus, water does its part to the ground with undeviating exactness; and so does the shadow to the substance; and one thing to another.
Therefore there is danger from the power of vision in the eyes, of hearing in the ears, and of the inordinate thinking of the mind; yea, there is danger from the exercise of every power of which man's constitution is the depository. When the danger has come to a head, it cannot be averted, and the calamity is perpetuated, and goes on increasing. The return from this (to a state of security) is the result of (great) effort, and success can be attained only after a long time; and yet men consider (their power of self-determination) as their precious possession: is it not sad? It is in this way that we have the ruin of states and the slaughtering of the people without end; while no one knows how to ask how it comes about.
Therefore, the feet of man on the earth tread but on a small space, but going on to where he has not trod before, he traverses a great distance easily; so his knowledge is but small, but going on to what he does not already know, he comes to know what is meant by Heaven. He knows it as The Great Unity; The Great Mystery; The Great Illuminator; The Great Framer; The Great Boundlessness; The Great Truth; The Great Determiner. This makes his knowledge complete. As The Great Unity, he comprehends it; as The Great Mystery, he unfolds it; as the Great Illuminator, he contemplates it; as the Great Framer, it is to him the Cause of all; as the Great Boundlessness, all is to him its embodiment; as The Great Truth, he examines it; as The Great Determiner, he holds it fast.
Thus Heaven is to him all; accordance with it is the brightest intelligence. Obscurity has in this its pivot; in this is the beginning. Such being the case, the explanation of it is as if it were no explanation; the knowledge of it is as if it were no knowledge. (At first) he does not know it, but afterwards he comes to know it. In his inquiries, he must not set to himself any limits, and yet he cannot be without a limit. Now ascending, now descending, then slipping from the grasp, (the Dao) is yet a reality, unchanged now as in antiquity, and always without defect: may it not be called what is capable of the greatest display and expansion? Why should we not inquire into it? Why should we be perplexed about it? With what does not perplex let us explain what perplexes, till we cease to be perplexed. So may we arrive at a great freedom from all perplexity!
Source: Chinese Text Project http://ctext.org/zhuangzi, English translation: 'The Writings of Chuang Tzu', James Legge, 1891
See the Help page for more
information on the best use of the dictionary or if you have problems.
Copyright Fo Guang Shan Nan Tien Institute 佛光山南天大學 2013-2017,
This work is licensed under a
Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. See
About. Please send comments to
This page was last updated on 2017-11-21.