The Chuan Tzu

Translated by Lin Yutang


Introduction [ 1 ]

1] A Happy Excursion

2 ] On Leveling All Things

3 ] The Preservation of Life

4 ] This Human World

5 ] Deformities, or Evidence of a Full Character (23)

6 ] The Great Supreme

7 ] Joined Toes

8 ] Horses' Hooves

9 ] Opening Trunks, or a Protest against Civilization

10 ] On Tolerance

11 ] Autumn Floods (64)






































































Deformities, or Evidence of a Full Character

In the state of Lu there was a man, named Wang T'ai, who had had one of his legs cut off. His disciples were as numerous as those of Confucius. Ch'ang Chi asked Confucius, saying, "This Wang T'ai has been mutilated, yet he has as many followers in the Lu State as you. He neither stands up to preach nor sits down to give discourse; yet those who go to him empty, depart full. Is he the kind of person who can teach without words and influence people's minds without material means? What manner of man is this?"

"He is a sage," replied Confucius, "I wanted to go to him, but am merely behind the others. Even I will go and make him my teacher, -- why not those who are lesser than I? And I will lead, not only the State of Lu, but the whole world to follow him."

"The man has been mutilated," said Ch'ang Chi, "and yet people call him 'Master.' He must be very different from the ordinary men. If so, how does he train his mind?"

"Life and Death are indeed changes of great moment," answered Confucius, "but they cannot affect his mind. Heaven and earth may collapse, but his mind will remain. Being indeed without flaw, it will not share the fate of all things. It can control the transformation of things, while preserving its source intact."

"How so?" asked Ch'ang Chi. "From the point of view of differentiation of things," replied Confucius, "we distinguish between the liver and the gall, between the Ch'u State and the Yueh State. From the point of view of their sameness, all things are One. He who regards things in this light does not even trouble about what reaches him through the senses of hearing and sight, but lets his mind wander in the moral harmony of things. He beholds the unity in things, and does not notice the loss of particular objects. And thus the loss of his leg is to him as would be the loss of so much dirt."

"But he cultivates only himself," said Ch'ang Chi. "He uses his knowledge to perfect his mind, and develops his mind into the Absolute Mind. But how is it that people flock around him?"

"A man," replied Confucius, "does not seek to see himself in running water, but in still water. For only what is itself still can instill stillness into others. The grace of earth has reached only the pines and cedars; winter and summer alike, they are green. The grace of God has reached to Yao and to Shun, who alone attained rectitude. Happily he was able to rectify himself and thus become the means through which all were rectified. For the possession of one's original (nature) is evidenced in true courage.

A man will, single-handed, brave a whole army. And if such a result can be achieved by one in search of fame through self control, how much greater courage can be shown by one who extends his sway over heaven and earth and gives shelter to all things, who, lodging temporarily within the confines of a body with contempt for the superficialities of sight and sound, brings his knowledge to level all knowledge and whose mind never dies! Besides, he (Wang T'ai) is only awaiting his appointed hour to go up to Heaven. Men indeed flock to him of their own accord. How can he take seriously the affairs of this world?"

Shent'u Chia had only one leg. He studied under Pohun Wujen (Muddle-Head No-Such-Person") together with Tsech'an (24) of the Cheng State. The latter said to him, "When I leave first, do you remain behind. When you leave first, I will remain behind." Next day, when they were again together sitting on the same mat in the lecture-room, Tsech'an said, "When I leave first, do you remain behind. Or if you leave first, I will remain behind. I am now about to go. Will you remain or not? I notice you show no respect to a high personage. Perhaps you think yourself my equal?"

"In the house of the Master," replied Shent'u Chia, "there is already a high personage (the Master). Perhaps you think that you are the high personage and therefore should take precedence over the rest. Now I have heard that if a mirror is perfectly bright, dust will not collect on it, and that if it does, the mirror is no longer bright. He who associates for long with the wise should be without fault. Now you have been seeking the greater things at the feet of our Master, yet you can utter words like these. Don't you think you are making a mistake?"

"You are already mutilated like this." retorted Tsech'an, "yet you are still seeking to compete in virtue with Yao. To look at you, I should say you had enough to do to reflect on your past misdeeds!"

"Those who cover up their sins," said Shent'u Chia, "so as not to lose their legs, are many in number. Those who forget to cover up their misdemeanors and so lose their legs (through punishment) are few. But only the virtuous man can recognize the inevitable and remain unmoved. People who walked in front of the bull's-eye when Hou Yi (the famous archer) was shooting, would be hit. Some who were not hit were just lucky. There are many people with sound legs who laugh at me for not having them. This used to make me angry. But since I came to study under our Master, I have stopped worrying about it. Perhaps our Master has so far succeeded in washing (purifying) me with his goodness. At any rate, I have been with him nineteen years without being aware of my deformity. Now you and I are roaming in the realm of the spiritual, and you are judging me in the realm of the physical. (25) Are you not committing a mistake?" At this Tsech'an began to fidget and his countenance changed, and he bade Shent'u Chia to speak no more.

There was a man of the Lu State who had been mutilated, by the name of Shushan No-toes. He came walking on his heels to see Confucius; but Confucius said, "You were careless, and so brought this misfortune upon yourself. What is the use of coming to me now?" "It was because I was inexperienced and careless with my body that I hurt my feet," replied No-toes. "Now I have come with something more precious than feet, and it is that which I am seeking to preserve. There is no man, but Heaven shelters him; and there is no man, but the Earth supports him. I thought that you, Master, would be like Heaven and Earth. I little expected to hear these words from you."

"Pardon my stupidity," said Confucius. "Why not come in? I shall discuss with you what I have learned." But No-toes left. When No-toes had left, Confucius said to his disciples, "Take a good lesson. No-toes is one-legged, yet he is seeking to learn in order to make atonement for his previous misdeeds. How much more should those who have no misdeeds for which to atone?"

No-toes went off to see Lao Tan (Laotse) and said, "Is Confucius a Perfect One or is he not quite? How is it that he is so anxious to learn from you? He is seeking to earn a reputation by his abstruse and strange learning, which is regarded by the Perfect One as mere fetters."

"Why do you not make him regard life and death, and possibility and impossibility as alternations of one and the same principle," answered Lao Tan, "and so release him from these fetters?"

"It is God who has thus punished him," replied No-toes. "How could he be released?"

Duke Ai of the Lu State said to Confucius, "In the Wei State there is an ugly person, named Ait'ai (Ugly) T'o. The men who have lived with him cannot stop thinking about him. Women who have seen him, would say to their parents, 'Rather than be another man's wife, I would be this man's concubine.' There are scores of such women. He never tries to lead others, but only follows them. He wields no power of a ruler by which he may protect men's lives. He has no hoarded wealth by which to gratify their bellies, and is besides frightfully loathsome. He follows but does not lead, and his name is not known outside his own State. Yet men and women alike all seek his company. So there must be some thing in him that is different from other people. I sent for him, and saw that he was indeed frightfully ugly. Yet we had not been many months together before I began to see there was something in this man. A year had not passed before I began to trust him. As my State wanted a Prime Minister, I offered him the post. He looked sullenly before he replied and appeared as if he would much rather have declined. Perhaps he did not think me good enough for him! At any rate, I gave the post to him; but in a very short time he left me and went away. I grieved for him as for a lost friend, as though there were none left with whom I could enjoy having my kingdom. What manner of man is this?"

"When I was on a mission to the Ch'u State," replied Confucius, "I saw a litter of young pigs sucking their dead mother. After a while they looked at her, and then all left the body and went off. For their mother did not look at them any more, nor did she seem any more to have been of their kind. What they loved was their mother; not the body which contained her, but that which made the body what it was. When a man is killed in battle, his coffin is not covered with a square canopy. A man whose leg has been cut off does not value a present of shoes. In each case, the original purpose of such things is gone. The concubines of the Son of Heaven do not cut their nails or pierce their ears. Those (servants) who are married have to live outside (the palace) and cannot be employed again. Such is the importance attached to preserving the body whole. How much more valued is one who has preserved his virtue whole? "Now Ugly T'o has said nothing and is already trusted. He has achieved nothing and is sought after, and is offered the government of a country with the only fear that he might decline. Indeed he must be the one whose talents are perfect and whose virtue is without outward form!"

What do you mean by his talents being perfect?" asked the Duke. Life and Death, ' replied Confucius, "possession and loss, success and failure, poverty and wealth, virtue and vice, good and evil report hunger and thirst, heat and cold -- these are changes of things in the natural course of events. Day and night they follow upon one another, and no man can say where they spring from. Therefore they must not be allowed to disturb the natural harmony, nor enter into the soul's domain. One should live so that one is at ease and in harmony with the world, without loss of happiness, and by day and by night, share the (peace of) spring with the created things. Thus continuously one creates the seasons in one's own breast. Such a person may be said to have perfect talents."

"And what is virtue without outward form?"

"When standing still," said Confucius, "the water is in the most perfect state of repose. Let that be your model. It remains quietly within, and is not agitated without. It is from the cultivation of such harmony that virtue results. And if virtue takes no outward form, man will not be able to keep aloof from it."

Some days afterwards Duke Ai told Mintse saying, "When first I took over the reins of government, I thought that in guiding the people and caring for their lives, I had done all my duty as a ruler. But now that I have heard the words of a perfect man, I fear that I have not achieved it, but am foolishly squandering my bodily energy and bringing ruin to my country. Confucius and I are not prince and minister, but friends in spirit.'

Hunchback-Deformed-No-Lips spoke with Duke Ling of Wei and the Duke took a fancy to him. As for the well- formed men, he thought their necks were too scraggy. Big-Jar-Goiter spoke with Duke Huan of Ch'i, and the Duke took a fancy to him. As for the well-formed men, he thought their necks were too scraggy. Thus it is that when virtue excels, the outward form is forgotten. But mankind forgets not that which is to be forgotten, forgetting that which is not to be forgotten. This is forgetfulness indeed!

And thus the Sage sets his spirit free, while knowledge is regarded as extraneous growths - agreements are for cementing relationships, goods are only for social dealings, and the handicrafts are only for serving commerce. For the Sage does not contrive, and therefore has no use for knowledge; he does not cut up the world, and therefore requires no cementing of relationships; he has no loss, and therefore has no need to acquire; he sells nothing, and therefore has no use for commerce. These four qualifications are bestowed upon him by God, that is to say, he is fed by God. And he who is thus fed by God has little need to be fed by man.

He wears the human form without human passions. Because he wears the human form he associates with men. Because he has not human passions the questions of right and wrong do not touch him. Infinitesimal indeed is that which belongs to the human; infinitely great is that which is completed in God.

Hueitse said to Chuangtse, "Do men indeed originally have no passions?"

"Certainly," replied Chuangtse.

"But if a man has no passions," argued Hueitse, "what is it that makes him a man?"

"Tao," replied Chuangtse, "gives him his expressions, and God gives him his form. How should he not be a man?"

"If then he is a man," said Hueitse, "how can he be without passions?"

"Right and wrong (approval and disapproval)," answered Chuangtse, "are what I mean by passions. By a man without passions I mean one who does not permit likes and dislikes to disturb his internal economy, but rather falls in line with nature and does not try to improve upon (the materials of) living."

"But how is a man to live this bodily life," asked Hueitse.

"He does not try to improve upon (the materials of) his living?"

"Tao gives him his expression," said Chuangtse, "and God gives him his form. He should not permit likes and dislikes to disturb his internal economy. But now you are devoting your intelligence to externals, and wearing out your vital spirit. Lean against a tree and sing; or sit against a table and sleep! God has made you a shapely sight, yet your only thought is the hard and white." (26)


Translator's notes

(23) - This chapter deals entirely with deformities, a literary device for emphasizing the contrast of the inner and the outer man.

(24) - A well-known historical person, a model minister referred to in the Analects.

(25) - Lit. "The outside of frame and bones."

(26) - Hueitse often discusses the nature of attributes, like the "hardness" and "whiteness" of objects.