Hui Shi said to Zhuangzi, "I have a large tree, of the sort people call
a shu tree. Its trunk is too gnarled for measuring lines to be applied to
it, its branches are too twisted for use with compasses or T-squares. If
you stood it on the road, no carpenter would pay any attention to it Now
your talk is similarly vast but useless, people are unanimous in rejecting
Zhuangzi replied, "Haven't you ever seen a wildcat or a
weasel? It crouches down to wait for something to pass, ready to pounce
east or west, high or low, only to end by falling into a trap and dying in
a net But then there is the yak. It is as big as a cloud hanging in the
sky. It has an ability to be big, but hardly an ability to catch mice. Now
you have a large tree but fret over its uselessness. Why not plant it in
Nothing At All town or Vast Nothing wilds? Then you could roam about doing
nothing by its side or sleep beneath it. Axes will never shorten its life
and nothing w ill ever harm it. If you are of no use at all, who will make
trouble for you?"
How do I know that enjoying life is not a delusion? How do I know
that in hating death we are not like people who got lost in early
childhood and do not know the way home? Lady Li was the child of a border
guard in Ai. When first captured by the state of Jin, she wept so much her
clothes were soaked. But after she entered the palace, shared the king's
bed, and dined on the finest meats, she regretted her tears. How do I know
that the dead do not regret their previous longing for life? One who
dreams of drinking wine may in the morning weep; one who dreams weeping
may in the morning go out to hunt. During our dreams we do not now we are
dreaming. We may even dream of interpreting a dream. Only on waking do we
know it was a dream. Only after the great awakening will we realize that
this is the great dream. And yet fools think they are awake, presuming to
know that they are rulers or herdsmen. How dense! You and Confucius are
both dreaming, and I who say you are a dream am also a dream. Such is my
tale. It will probably be called preposterous, but after ten thousand
generations there may be a great sage who will be able to explain it, a
trivial interval equivalent to the passage from morning to night.
Once Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a butterfly, a fluttering
butterfly. What fun he had, doing as he pleased! He did not know he was
Zhou. Suddenly he woke up and found himself to be Zhou. He did not know
whether Zhou had dreamed he was a butterfly or a butterfly had dreamed he
was Zhou. Between Zhou and the butterfly there must be some distinction.
This is what is meant by the transformation of things.
Cook Ding was cutting up a cow for Duke Wenhui. With a touch of his
hand a lunge of his shoulder a stamp of his toot a bend of his knee, zip,
his knife slithered. never missing a beat,. in time to "the dance of the
mulberry forest," or the "Jingshou Suite". Lord Wenhui exclaimed "How
amazing that your skill has reached such heights!
Cook Ding put
down his knife and replied What I love is the Way, which goes beyond skill
When I first butchered cows, I saw nothing but cows. After three years, I
never saw a eat as a whole At present, I deal with it through my spirit
rather than looking at it with my eyes My perception stops and my spirit
runs its course I rely on the natural patterning striking at the big
openings leading into the main cavities By following what is inherently so
I never cut a ligament or tendon, not to mention a bone A good cook
changes his knife once a year, because he cuts An ordinary cook changes
his knife every month, because he hacks. This knife of mine is nineteen
years old. It has carved several thousand cows, yet its blade looks like
it had just carne from the grindstone. There are spaces in the joints, and
the blade has no thickness So when something with no thick ness enters
something with space it has plenty of room to move about This is why after
nineteen years it seems fresh from the grindstone
However when I
come to something complicated I inspect it closely to prepare myself I
keep my eyes on what I am doing and proceed deliberately, moving my knife
imperceptibly. Then with a stroke it all comes apart like a clod of earth
crumbling. I stand there, my knife in my hand look all around, enjoying my
success. Then I clean the knife and put it away
Lord Wenhui said,
Excellent! By listening to Cook Ding I learned how to nurture life."
Consider Cripple Shu. His chin is down by his navel His shoulders
stick up above his head. The bones at the base of his neck point to the
sky. The five pipes of his spine are on top: his two thighs form ribs. Yet
by sewing and washing he is able to fill his mouth; by shaking the
fortune-telling sticks he earns enough to feed ten. When the authorities
draft soldiers, a cripple can walk among them confidently flapping his
sleeves; when they are conscripting work gangs, cripples are excused
because of their infirmity. When the authorities give relief grain to the
ailing a cripple gets three measures along with undles of firewood. Thus
one whose form is crippled can nurture his body and live out the years
Heaven grants him. Think that he could do if his virtue was crippled too!
Root of Heaven roamed on the south side of Mount Vast. When he came to
the bank of Clear Stream he met Nameless Man and asked him. "Please tell
me how to manage the world."
"Go away you dunce." Nameless Man
said. "Such questions are no fun I was Just about to join the Creator of
Things. If I get bored with that, I'll climb on the bird Merges with the
Sky and soar beyond the six directions. I'll visit Nothing Whatever town
and stay in Boundless country. Why do you bring up managing the world to
disturb my thoughts? ''
Still Root of Heaven repeated his question
and Nameless Man responded "Let your rnind wander among the insipid, blend
your energies with the featureless, spontaneously accord with things, and
you will have no room for selfishness. Then the world will be in order."
Duke Huan was reading a book in the hall. Wheelwright Pian, who had
been chiseling a wheel in the courtyard below, set down his tools and
climbed the stairs to ask Duke Huan, "may I ask what words are in the book
Your Grace is reading?"
"The words of sages." the Duke responded.
"Are these sages alive?"
"They are already dead"
That means you are reading the dregs of long gone men, doesn't
Duke Huan said How does a wheelwright get to have opinions on
the books I read? If you can
explain yoursel f I'll let it pass
otherwise, it's death."
W'heelwright Pian said ''In my case I see
things in terms of my own work. When I chisel at a wheel, if I go slow the
chisel slides and does not stay put; if I hurry, it jams and doesn't move
properly When it is neither too slow nor too fast I can feel it in my hand
and respond to it from my heart. My mouth cannot describe it in words but
there is something there 1 cannot teach it to my son and my son cannot
learn it from me So I have gone on for seventy years, growing old
chiseling wheels The men of old died in possession of what could not
transmit. So it follows that what you are reading is their dregs."
When Zhuangzi's wife died and Hui Shi came to convey his condolences,
he found Zhuangzi squatting with his knees out, drumming on a pan and
singing ''You lived with her she raised your children, and you grew old
together, Hui Shi said "Not weeping when she died would have been bad
enough. Aren't you going too far by drurnming on a pan and singing ?'
"No," Zhuangzi said, "when she first died how could I have escaped
feeling the loss? Then I looked back to the beginning before she had life
Not only before she had life but before she had form. Not only before she
had form, but before she had vital energy. In this confused amorphous
realm, something changed and vital energy appeared,- when the vital energy
was changed, form appeared; with changes in form, life began. Now there is
another change bringingdeath This is like the progression of the four
seasons of spring and fall, winter and summer. Here she was lying down to
sleep in a huge room and I followed her sobbing and wailing. When I
realized my actions showed I hadn't understood destiny, I stopped."
When Zhuangzi was about to die, his disciples wanted to bury him in a
well-appointed tomb. Zhuangzi said, ''I have the sky and the earth for
inner and outer coffins the sun and the moon for jade disks the stars for
pearls and the ten thousand things for farewell gifts. Isn't the
paraphernalia for my burial adequate without adding anything?"
''We are afraid the crows and kites will eat you master," a
"Above ground, I will be eaten by crows and kites;
below ground by ants. You are robbing from the one to give to the other.
Why play favorites'''