So I translate the title of this Book, taking Zung as a verb, and Zung Shih as = 'The Master who is Honoured.' Some critics take Zung in the sense of 'Originator,' in which it is employed in the Tâo Teh King, lxx, 2. Whichever rendering be adopted, there is no doubt that the title is intended to be a designation of the Tâo; and no one of our author's Books is more important for the understanding of his system of thought.
The key to it is found in the first of its fifteen paragraphs. There are in man two elements;-the Heavenly or Tâoistic, and the human. The disciple of the Tâo, recognising them both, cultivates what he knows as a man
so as to become entirely conformed to the action of the Tâo, and submissive in all the most painful experiences in his lot, which is entirely ordered by it. A seal will be set on the wisdom of this course hereafter, when he has completed the period of his existence on earth, and returns to the state of non-existence, from which the Tâo called him to be born as a man. In the meantime he may attain to be the True man possessing the True knowledge.
Our author then proceeds to give his readers in five paragraphs his idea of the True Man. Mr. Balfour says that this name is to be understood 'in the esoteric sense, the partaking of the essence of divinity,' and he translates it by 'the Divine Man.' But we have no right to introduce here the terms 'divine' and 'divinity.' Nan-hwâi (VII, 5b) gives a short definition of the name which is more to the point:--'What we call "the True Man" is one whose nature is in agreement with the Tâo ( ) and the commentator adds in a note, 'Such men as Fû-hsî, Hwang-Tî, and Lâo Tan.' The Khang-hsî dictionary commences its account of the character or 'True' by a definition of the True Man taken from the Shwo Wän as a , 'a recluse of the mountain, whose bodily form has been changed, and who ascends to heaven;' but when that earliest dictionary was made, Tâoism had entered into a new phase, different from what it had in the time of our author. The most prominent characteristic of the True Man is that he is free from all exercise of thought and purpose, a being entirely passive in the hands of the Tâo. In par. 3 seven men are mentioned, good and worthy men, but inferior to the True.
Having said what he had to say of the True Man, Kwang-dze comes in the seventh paragraph to speak directly of the Tâo itself, and describes it with many wonderful predicates which exalt it above our idea of God;--a concept and not a personality. He concludes by mentioning a number of ancient personages who had got the Tâo, and by it wrought wonders, beginning with a Shih-wei, who preceded Fû-hsî, and ending with Fû Yüeh, the minister of
Wû-ting, in the fourteenth century B. C., and who finally became a star in the eastern portion of the zodiac. Phäng Zû is also mentioned as living, through his possession of the Tâo, from the twenty-third century 13. C. to the seventh or later. The sun and moon and the constellation of the Great Bear are also mentioned as its possessors, and the fabulous Being called the Mother of the Western King. The whole passage is perplexing to the reader to the last degree.
The remaining paragraphs are mostly occupied with instances of learning the Tâo, and of its effects in making men superior to the infirmities of age and the most terrible deformities of person and calamities of penury; as 'Tranquillity' under all that might seem most calculated to disturb it. Very strange is the attempt at the conclusion of par. 8 apparently to trace the genesis of the knowledge of the Tâo. Confucius is introduced repeatedly as the expounder of Tâoism, and made to praise it as the ne plus ultra of human attainment.