Chuang Tzŭ (Giles)/Chapter 8

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Chuang Tzŭ  (1889) 
Zhuang Zi, translated by Herbert A. Giles
Chapter VIII. Joined Toes

Bernard Quaritch, London, pages 99–105


Joined Toes.

Argument:—Virtues should be natural, not artificial; passive not active.
[Chs. viii to xiii inclusive are illustrative of, or supplementary to, ch. vii.]

JOINED toes and extra fingers are an addition to nature, though, functionally speaking, superfluous. Wens and tumours are an addition to the bodily form, though, as far as nature is concerned, superfluous. And similarly, to include charity and duty to one's neighbour among the functions of man's organism, is not true Tao.

The whole of this chapter is a violent tirade against the leading doctrines of Confucianism.

For just as joined toes are but useless lumps of flesh, and extra fingers but useless excrescences, so are any artificial additions to our internal economy but harmful adjuncts to real charity and duty to one's neighbour,

Which are the outcome of Tao.

and are moreover prejudicial to the right use of intelligence.

People with extra keenness of vision muddle themselves over the five colours, exaggerate the value of shades, and of distinctions of greens and yellows for sacrificial robes. Of such was Li Chu.

Who could see a pin's point at a distance of 1,000 li. He is mentioned by Mencius.

People with extra keenness of hearing muddle themselves over the five notes, exaggerate the tonic differences of the six pitch-pipes, and the various timbres of metal, stone, silk, and bamboo, of the Huang-chung, and of the Ta-lü. Of such was Shih K'uang.

The blind musician mentioned in ch. ii. The Huang-chung and the Ta-lü were two of the twelve bamboo tubes, or pitch-pipes, on which ancient Chinese music was based. Six were male or positive, and six female or negative. Hence they are spoken of collectively as six.

People who graft on charity, force themselves to display this virtue in order to gain reputation and to enjoy the applause of the world for that which is of no account. Of such were Tsêng and Shih.

Tsêng Shên, a famous disciple of Confucius, and Shih Yu, both noted for their high moral characters.

People who refine in argument do but pile up tiles or knot ropes in their maunderings over the hard and white, the like and the unlike, wearing themselves out over mere useless terms. Of such were Yang and Mih.

Yang Chu, a philosopher of the fourth century B.C., whose "selfish" system was condemned by Mencius; and Mih Tzǔ, already mentioned in ch. ii.

Therefore every addition to or deviation from nature belongs not to the ultimate perfection of all.

Which is in Tao.

He who would attain to such perfection never loses sight of the natural conditions of his existence. With him the joined is not united, nor the separated apart, nor the long in excess, nor the short wanting. For just as a duck's legs, though short, cannot be lengthened without pain to the duck, and a crane's legs, though long, cannot be shortened without misery to the crane, so that which is long in man's moral nature cannot be cut off, nor that which is short be lengthened. All sorrow is thus avoided.

Intentional charity and intentional duty to one's neighbour are surely not included in our moral nature. Yet what sorrow these have involved. Divide your joined toes and you will howl: bite off your extra finger and you will scream. In one case there is too much, in the other too little; but the sorrow is the same. And the charitable of the age go about sorrowing over the ills of the age, while the non-charitable cut through the natural conditions of things in their greed after place and wealth. Surely then intentional charity and duty to one's neighbour are not included in our moral nature. Yet from the time of the Three Dynasties downwards what a fuss has been made about them!

Those who cannot make perfect without arc, line, compasses, and square, injure the natural constitution of things. Those who require cords to bind and glue to stick, interfere with the natural functions of things. And those who seek to satisfy the mind of man by hampering with ceremonies and music and preaching charity and duty to one's neighbour, thereby destroy the intrinsicality of things.

For such intrinsicality does exist, in this sense:— Things which are curved require no arcs; things which are straight require no lines; things which are round require no compasses; things which are rectangular require no squares; things which stick require no glue; things which hold together require no cords. And just as all things are produced, and none can tell how they are produced, so do all things possess their own intrinsic qualities and none can tell how they possess them. From time immemorial this has always been so, without variation. Why then should charity and duty to one's neighbour be as it were glued or corded on, and introduced into the domain of Tag, to give rise to doubt among mankind?

Lesser doubts change the rule of life; greater doubts change man's nature.

How do we know this? By the fact that ever since the time when Shun bid for charity and duty to one's neighbour in order to secure the empire, men have devoted their lives to the pursuit thereof. Is it not then charity and duty to one's neighbour which change the nature of man?

Therefore I have tried to show that from the time of the Three Dynasties it has always been the external which has changed the nature of man. If a mean man, he will die for gain. If a superior man, he will die for fame. If a man of rank, he will die for his ancestral honours. If a Sage, he will die for the world. The pursuits and ambitions of these men differ, but the injury to their natures involved in the sacrifice of their lives is the same.

Tsang and Ku were shepherds, both of whom lost their flocks. On inquiry, it appeared that Tsang had been engaged in reading, while Ku had gone to take part in some trials of strength. Their occupations had been different, but the result was in each case loss of the sheep.

Poh I died for fame at the foot of Mount Shou-yang.

See ch. vi.

Robber Chê died for gain on Mount T'ai.

Robber Chê has a chapter to himself, from which, though spurious, it may be gathered that he was a very remarkable personage in his day.
Mount T'ai has been mentioned in ch. i.

Their deaths were not the same, but the injury to their lives and natures was in each case the same. How then can we applaud the former and blame the latter?

And so, if a man dies for charity and duty to his neighbour the world calls him a noble fellow; but if he dies for gain, the world calls him a low fellow. The dying being the same, one is nevertheless called noble and the other low. But in point of injury to life and nature, the robber Chê and Poh I are one. Where then does the distinction of noble and low come in?

Were a man to apply himself to charity and duty towards his neighbour until he were the equal of Tsêng or Shih, this would not be what I mean by perfection. Or to flavours, until he were the equal of Yü Erh.

Probably identical with I Ya, the Soyer of China.

Or to sounds, until he were the equal of Shih K'uang. Or to colours, until he were the equal of Li Chu. What I mean by perfection is not what is meant by charity and duty to one's neighbour. It is found in the cultivation of Tao. And those whom I regard as cultivators of Tao are not those who cultivate charity and duty to one's neighbour. They are those who yield to the natural conditions of things. What I call perfection of hearing is not hearing others but oneself. What I call perfection of vision is not seeing others but oneself.

A saying attributed by Han Fei Tzŭ to Lao Tzŭ:—"To see oneself is to be clear of sight." See The Remains of Lao Tzŭ, p. 18.

For a man who sees not himself but others, takes not possession of himself but of others, thus taking what others should take and not what he himself should take.

Multi sunt, qui urbes, qui populos habuere in potestate, paucissimi, qui se.

Instead of being himself, he in fact becomes some one else. And if a man thus becomes some one else instead of himself, this is a fatal error of which both the robber Chê and Poh I can be equally guilty.

And so, conscious of my own deficiency in regard to Tao, I do not venture at my best to practise the principles of charity and duty to my neighbour, nor at my worst to fall into the fatal error above-mentioned.