Where the will is not diverted from its object, the spirit is concentrated

When Kung-nî was on his way to Khû, as he issued from a forest, he saw a hunchback receiving cicadas (on the point of a rod), as if he were picking them up with his hand. ‘You are clever!’ said he to the man. ‘Is there any method in it?’

The hunchback replied, ‘There is. For five or six months, I practised with two pellets, till they never fell down, and then I only failed with a small fraction of the cicadas (which I tried to catch). Having succeeded in the same way with three (pellets), I missed only one cicada in ten. Having succeeded with five, I caught the cicadas as if I were gathering them. My body is to me no more than the stump of a broken trunk, and my shoulder no more than the branch of a rotten tree. Great as heaven and earth are, and multitudinous as things are, I take no notice of them, but only of the wings of my cicadas; neither turning nor inclining to one side. I would not for them all exchange the wings of my cicadas;–how should I not succeed in taking them?’

Confucius looked round, and said to his disciples, “Where the will is not diverted from its object, the spirit is concentrated;”–this might have been spoken of this hunchback gentleman.’

Learned Men in Lû

At an interview of Kwang-dze with duke Âi of Lû, the duke said, ‘There are many of the Learned class in Lû; but few of them can be compared with you, Sir.’

Kwang-dze replied, ‘There are few Learned men in Lû.’

 ‘Everywhere in Lû,’ rejoined the duke, ‘you see men wearing the dress of the Learned;–how can you say that they are few?’

‘I have heard,’ said Kwang-dze, ‘that those of them who wear round caps know the times of heaven; that those who wear square shoes know the contour of the ground; and that those who saunter about with semicircular stones at their girdle-pendents settle matters in dispute as they come before them. But superior men who are possessed of such knowledge will not be found wearing the dress, and it does not follow that those who wear the dress possess the knowledge. If your Grace think otherwise, why not issue a notification through the state, that it shall be a capital offence to wear the dress without possessing the knowledge.’

 On this the duke issued such a notification, and in five days, throughout all Lû, there was no one who dared to wear the dress of the Learned. There was only one old man who came and stood in it at the duke’s gate. The duke instantly called him in, and questioned him about the affairs of the state, when he talked about a thousand points and ten thousand divergences from them.

Kwang-dze said, ‘When the state of Lû can thus produce but one man of the Learned class, can he be said to be many?’

(Kwang-dze, Zhuāng zi, 庄子)

The Wars on Snail’s Horns

King Yíng of Wèi made a treaty with the marquis Tián Móu of Qí, which the latter violated. The king was enraged, and intended to send a man to assassinate him.

When the Minister of War heard of it, he was ashamed, and said to the king, ‘You are a ruler of 10,000 chariots, and by means of a common man would avenge yourself on your enemy. I beg you to give me, Yán, the command of 200,000 soldiers to attack him for you. I will take captive his people and officers, halter and lead off his oxen and horses, kindling a fire within him that shall burn to his backbone. I will then storm his capital; and when he shall run away in terror, I will flog his back and break his spine.’

Jì Zǐ heard of this advice, and was ashamed of it, and said to the king, ‘We have been raising the wall of our capital to a height of eighty cubits, and the work has been completed. If we now get it thrown down, it will be a painful toil to the convict builders. It is now seven years since our troops were called out, and this is the foundation of the royal sway. Yán would introduce disorder;–he should not be listened to.’

Huá Zǐ heard of this advice, and, greatly disapproving of it, said to the king, ‘He who shows his skill in saying “Attack Qí” would produce disorder; and he who shows his skill in saying “Do not attack it” would also produce disorder. And one who should merely say, “The counsellors to attack Qí and not to attack it would both produce disorder,” would himself also lead to the same result.’ The king said, ‘Yes, but what am I to do?’

Huì Zǐ, having heard of this counsel, introduced to the king Tài Jìn Rén, who said, ‘There is the creature called a snail; does your majesty know it?’

‘I do.’

‘On the left horn of the snail there is a kingdom which is called Provocation, and on the right horn another which is called Stupidity. These two kingdoms are continually striving about their territories and fighting. The corpses that lie on the ground amount to several myriads. The army of one may be defeated and put to flight, but in fifteen days it will return.’

The king said, ‘Pooh! that is empty talk!’

The other rejoined, ‘Your servant begs to show your majesty its real significance. When your majesty thinks of space–east, west, north, and south, above and beneath–can you set any limit to it?’

‘It is illimitable,’ said the king.

And his visitor went on, ‘Your majesty knows how to let your mind thus travel through the illimitable, and yet as compared with this does it not seem insignificant whether the kingdoms that communicate one with another exist or not?’

The king replies, ‘It does so.’

And Tài Jìn Rén said, finally, ‘Among those kingdoms, stretching one after another, there is this Wei; in Wei there is this city of Liáng; and in Liáng there is your majesty. Can you make any distinction between yourself, and the king of that kingdom of Stupidity?’

To this the king answered, ‘There is no distinction.’

And his visitor went out, while the king remained disconcerted and seemed to have lost himself.

When the visitor was gone, Huì Zǐ came in and saw the king, who said, ‘That stranger is a Great man. An (ordinary) sage is not equal to him.’

Huì Zǐ replied, ‘If you blow into a flute, there come out its pleasant notes; if you blow into a sword-hilt, there is nothing but a wheezing sound. Yáo and Shùn are the subjects of men’s praises, but if you speak of them before Tài Jìn Rén, there will be but the wheezing sound.’

A goby in the carriage rut

The family of Zhuāng Zhōu being poor, he went to ask the loan of some rice from the Marquis Superintendent of the Hé (the Yellow River), who said, ‘Yes, I shall be getting the tax-money from the people soon, and I will then lend you three hundred ounces of silver;–will that do?’

Zhuāng Zhōu flushed with anger, and said, ‘On the road yesterday, as I was coming here, I heard some one calling out. On looking round, I saw a goby in the carriage rut, and said to it, “Goby fish, what has brought you here?”

The goby said, “I am Minister of Waves in the Eastern Sea. Have you, Sir, a gallon or a pint of water to keep me alive?”

I replied, “Yes, I am going south to see the kings of Wú and Yuè, and I will then lead a stream from the Western Jiāng (the Yangtze River) to meet you;–will that do?”

The goby flushed with anger, and said, “I have lost my proper element, and I can here do nothing for myself; but if I could get a gallon or a pint of water, I should keep alive. Than do what you propose, you had better soon look for me in a stall of dry fish.”‘