Food Handed out in Contempt

During a great dearth in Qí, Qián-áo had food prepared on the roads, to wait the approach of hungry people and give to them.

(One day), there came a famished man, looking as if he could hardly see, his face covered with his sleeve, and dragging his feet together.

Khián-áo, carrying with his left hand some rice, and holding some drink with the other, said to him, ‘Hey, Poor man! come and eat.’

The man, opening his eyes with a stare, and looking at him, said, ‘It was because I would not eat “Hey come and eat’s” food, that I am come to this state.’

Qhián-áo immediately apologised for his words, but the man after all would not take the food and died.

When Zēng-zǐ heard the circumstances, he said, ‘Was it not a small matter? When the other expressed his pity as he did, the man might have gone away. When he apologised, the man might have taken the food.’

A man in the Ch’i State was afraid the universe would collapse and fall to pieces


There was once a man in the Ch’i State who was so afraid the universe would collapse and fall to pieces, leaving his body without a lodgment, that he could neither sleep nor eat.

Another man, pitying his distress, went to enlighten him. ‘Heaven,’ he said, ‘is nothing more than an accumulation of ether, and there is no place where ether is not. Processes of contraction and expansion, inspiration and expiration are continually taking place up in the heavens. Why then should you be afraid of a collapse?’ The man said: ‘It is true that Heaven is an accumulation of ether; but the sun, the moon, and the stars–will they not fall down upon us? His informant replied: ‘Sun, moon and stars are likewise only bright lights Within this mass of ether. Even supposing they were to fall, they could not possibly harm us by their impact.’ ‘But what if the earth should fall to pieces? ‘The earth,’ replied the other, ‘is merely an agglomeration of matter, which fills and blocks up the four comers of space. There is no part of it where matter is not. All day long there is constant treading and tramping on the surface of the earth. Why then should you be afraid of its falling to pieces? Thereupon the man was relieved of his fears and rejoiced exceedingly. And his instructor was also joyful and easy in mind.

But Ch’ang Lu Tzu laughed at them both, saying: ‘Rainbows, clouds and mist, wind and rain, the four seasons–these are perfected forms of accumulated ether, and go to make up the heavens. Mountains and cliffs, rivers and seas, metals and rocks, fire and timber–these are perfected forms of agglomerated matter, and constitute the earth. Knowing these facts, who can say that they will never be destroyed? Heaven and earth form only a small speck in the midst of the Void, but they are the greatest things in the sum of Being. This much is certain: even as their nature is hard to fathom, hard to understand, so they will be slow to pass away, slow to come to an end. He who fears lest they should suddenly fall to pieces is assuredly very far from the truth. He, on the other hand, who says that they will never be destroyed has also not reached the right solution. Heaven and earth must of necessity pass away, but neither will revert to destruction apart from the other.

The Master Lieh Tzu heard of the discussion, and smiling said: ‘He who maintains that Heaven and earth are destructible, and he who upholds the contrary, are both equally at fault. Whether they are destructible or not is something we can never know, though in both cases it will be the same for all alike. The living and the dead, the going and the coming, know nothing of each other’s state. Whether destruction awaits the world or no, why should I trouble my head about it?

The Simpleton of the North Mountain and The Wise Old Man of the River-bend

The two mountains T’ai-hsing and Wang-wu, which cover an area of 700 square li, and rise to an enormous altitude, originally stood in the south of the Chi district and north of Ho-yang. The Simpleton of the North Mountain, an old man of ninety, dwelt opposite these mountains, and was vexed in spirit because their northern flanks blocked the way to travellers, who had to go all the way round. So he called his family together, and broached a plan. ‘Let us,’ he said, ‘put forth our utmost strength to clear away this obstacle, and cut right through the mountains until we come to Han-yin. What say you? They all assented except his wife, who made objections and said: ‘My goodman has not the strength to sweep away a dunghill, let alone two such mountains as T’ai-hsing and Wang-wu. Besides, where will you put all the earth and stones that you dig up? The others replied that they would throw them on the promontory of P’o-hai. So the old man, followed by his son and grandson, sallied forth with their pickaxes, and the three of them began hewing away at the rocks, and cutting up the soil, and carting it away in baskets to the promontory of P’o-hai. A widowed woman who lived near had a little boy who, though he was only just shedding his milk teeth, came skipping along to give them what help he could. Engrossed in their toil, they never went home except once at the turn of the season.

The Wise Old Man of the River-bend burst out laughing and urged them to stop. ‘Great indeed is your witlessness!’ he said. ‘With the poor remaining strength of your declining years you will not succeed in removing a hair’s breadth of the mountain, much less the whole vast mass of rock and soil.’ With a sigh, the Simpleton of the North Mountain replied: ‘Surely it is you who are narrow-minded and unreasonable. You are not to be compared with the widow’s son, despite his puny strength. Though I myself must die, I shall leave a son behind me, and through him a grandson. That grandson will beget sons in his turn, and those soils will also have sons and grandsons. With all this posterity, my line will not die out, while on the other hand the mountain will receive no increment or addition. Why then should I despair of levelling it to the ground at last? The Wise Old Man of the River-bend had nothing to say in reply.

One of the serpent-brandishing deities heard of the undertaking and, fearing that it might never be finished, went and told God Almighty, who was touched by the old man’s simple faith, and commanded the two sons of K’ua O to transport the mountains, one to the extreme north-east, the other to the southern comer of Yung.

Ever since then, the region lying between Chi in the north and Han in the south has been an unbroken plain.

(from Book of Lieh-Tzü, Translated with Introduction and Notes by LIONEL GILES. There is another version here.)

Notch the boat in search of the sword


A man from the state of Chu was crossing a river. In the boat, his sword fell into the water. Immediately he made a mark on the boat. The boat man was very curious and asked the swordsman.

“This is where my sword fell off,” he said.

When the boat stopped moving, he went into the water to look for his sword at the place where he had marked the boat.

The boat had moved but the sword had not. Is this not a very foolish way to look for a sword?

Buys the glittering casket and return the pearls to the seller


A man of the state of Chu went to the state of Zheng to sell his pearls. He had a casket made of the wood of the magnolia tree, and then had it scented with cinnamon and pepper, set with jewels, carved in rose patterns, and inlaid with jade. A man of the state of Zheng bought the casket but gave back the pearls. Thus we can say that the man from Chu knew how to sell his casket but not how to sell his pearls.

The moral of this story normally is to show lack of judgement as one who buys the glittering casket and return the pearls to the seller, rather not the seller. But this actually is quite misunderstanding the original meaning of Han Feitsu who is the original author.

In “Han Fei tzu”,there is another story come with this one: King Qin married his daughter to Prince Jin. The King Qin sent his daughter with 70 beautifully dressed servant girl to Prince Jin. Prince Jin just ignored his wife but loved his 70 concubines. King Qin is quite foolish on marrying his daughter but very good of marrying his servant girls.

The seller of the jewel is as foolish as King Qin, who over-decorated his casket, the casket is far more valuable than the jewel itself, so the buyer just bought the jewel casket and gave back the jewel to the seller. So did Prince Jin who couldn’t gave back his wife to King Qin, so he just ignored her and enjoyed the happiness with his 70 concubines.

Did the buyer lack of judgement? did he overpaid for the casket? Not at all.