Sacred Texts Ssu-ma Chien Taoism



   Lao-Tze said to Confucius, "The men about whom you talk are dead, and their bones are moldered to dust; only their words are left. Moreover, when the superior man gets his opportunity, he mounts aloft; but when the time is against him, he is carried along by the force of circumstances. I have heard that a good merchant, though he have rich treasures safely stored, appears as if he were poor; and that the superior man, though his virtue be complete, is yet to outward seeming stupid. Put away your proud air and many desires, your insinuating habit and wild will. They are of no advantage to you — this is all I have to tell you." Confucius said to his disciples after the interview: "I know how birds can fly, fishes swim, and animals run. But the runner may be snared, the swimmer hooked, and the flyer shot by the arrow. But there is the dragon: I can not tell how he mounts on the wind through the clouds, and rises to heaven. To-day I have seen Lao-Tze, and can only compare him to the dragon."

   Lao-Tze cultivated the Tao and its attributes, the chief aim of his studies being how to keep himself concealed and remain unknown. He continued to reside at the capital of Chau, but after a long time, seeing the decay of the dynasty, he left it and went away to the barrier-gate, leading out of the kingdom on the northwest. Yin Hsi, the warden of the gate, said to him, "You are about to withdraw yourself out of sight. Let me insist on your first composing for me a book." On this, Lao-Tze wrote a book in two parts, setting forth his views on the Tao and its attributes, in more than 5000 characters. He then went away, and it is not known where he died. He was a superior man, who liked to keep himself unknown.

   Those who attach themselves to the doctrine of Lao-Tze condemn that of the Literati, and the Literati on their part condemn Lao-Tze, verifying the saying, "Parties whose principles are different can not take counsel together." Lao-Tze taught that by doing nothing others are as a matter of course transformed, and that rectification in the same way ensues from being pure and still.

   Chuang-Tze had made himself well acquainted with all the literature of his time, but preferred the views of Lao-Tze; and ranked himself among his followers, so that of the more than ten myriads of characters contained in his published writings the greater part are occupied with metaphorical illustrations of Lao's doctrines. He made "The Old Fisherman," "The Robber Chih," and "The Cutting open Satchels," to satirize and expose the disciples of Confucius, and clearly exhibit the sentiments of Lao. Such names and characters as "Wei-lei Hsu" and "Khang-sang Tze" are fictitious, and the pieces where they occur are not to be understood as narratives of real events.

   But Chuang was an admirable writer and skilful composer, and by his instances and truthful descriptions hit and exposed the Mohists and Literati. The ablest scholars of his day could not escape his satire nor reply to it, while he allowed and enjoyed himself with his sparkling, dashing style; and thus it was that the greatest men, even kings and princes, could not use him for their purposes.

   King Wei of Chu, having heard of the ability of Chuang Chau, sent messengers with large gifts to bring him to his court, and promising also that he would make him his chief minister. Chuang-Tze, however, only laughed and said to them, "A thousand ounces of silver are a great gain to me; and to be a high noble and minister is a most honorable position. But have you not seen the victim-ox for the border sacrifice? It is carefully fed for several years, and robed with rich embroidery that it may be fit to enter the Grand Temple. When the time comes for it to do so, it would prefer to be a little pig, but it can not get to be so. Go away quickly, and do not soil me with your presence. I had rather amuse and enjoy myself in the midst of a filthy ditch than be subject to the rules and restrictions in the court of a sovereign. I have determined never to take office, but prefer the enjoyment of my own free will."

Sacred Texts Ssu-ma Chien Taoism