The Complete Works of Zhuangzi

The Complete Works of Zhuangzi

TRANSLATED BY Burton Watson
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 368
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/wats16474
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  • Book Info
    The Complete Works of Zhuangzi
    Book Description:

    Only by inhabiting Dao (the Way of Nature) and dwelling in its unity can humankind achieve true happiness and freedom, in both life and death. This is Daoist philosophy's central tenet, espoused by the person -- or group of people -- known as Zhuangzi (369?-286? B.C.E.) in a text by the same name. To be free, individuals must discard rigid distinctions between good and bad, right and wrong, and follow a course of action not motivated by gain or striving. When one ceases to judge events as good or bad, man-made suffering disappears and natural suffering is embraced as part of life.

    Zhuangzi elucidates this mystical philosophy through humor, parable, and anecdote, deploying non sequitur and even nonsense to illuminate a truth beyond the boundaries of ordinary logic. Boldly imaginative and inventively worded, theZhuangzifloats free of its historical period and society, addressing the spiritual nourishment of all people across time. One of the most justly celebrated texts of the Chinese tradition, theZhuangziis read by thousands of English-language scholars each year, yet only in the Wade-Giles romanization. Burton Watson's pinyin romanization brings the text in line with how Chinese scholars, and an increasing number of other scholars, read it.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53650-9
    Subjects: Religion, Language & Literature, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. vii-xxxii)

    All we know about the identity of Zhuangzi, or Master Zhuang, are the few facts recorded in the brief notice given him in theShijiorRecords of the Historian(ch. 63) by Sima Qian (145?–89? BCE). According to this account, his personal name was Zhou, he was a native of a place called Meng, and he once served as “an official in the lacquer garden” there. Sima Qian adds that he lived at the same time as King Hui (370–319 BCE) of Liang and King Xuan (319–301 BCE) of Qi, which would make him a contemporary...

  4. OUTLINE OF EARLY CHINESE HISTORY
    (pp. xxxiii-xxxvi)
  5. 1 FREE AND EASY WANDERING
    (pp. 1-6)

    In the northern darkness there is a fish and his name is Kun.¹ The Kun is so huge I don’t know how many thousandlihe measures. He changes and becomes a bird whose name is Peng. The back of the Peng measures I don’t know how many thousandliacross, and when he rises up and flies off, his wings are like clouds all over the sky. When the sea begins to move,² this bird sets off for the southern darkness, which is the Lake of Heaven.

    TheUniversal Harmony³ records various wonders, and it says: “When the Peng...

  6. 2 DISCUSSION ON MAKING ALL THINGS EQUAL
    (pp. 7-18)

    Ziqi of South Wall sat leaning on his armrest, staring up at the sky and breathing—vacant and far away, as though he’d lost his companion.¹ Yan Cheng Ziyou, who was standing by his side in attendance, said, “What is this? Can you really make the body like a withered tree and the mind like dead ashes? The man leaning on the armrest now is not the one who leaned on it before!”

    Ziqi said, “You do well to ask the question, Yan. Now I have lost myself. Do you understand that? You hear the piping of men, but you...

  7. 3 THE SECRET OF CARING FOR LIFE
    (pp. 19-21)

    Your life has a limit, but knowledge has none.¹ If you use what is limited to pursue what has no limit, you will be in danger. If you understand this and still strive for knowledge, you will be in danger for certain! If you do good, stay away from fame. If you do evil, stay away from punishments. Follow the middle; go by what is constant and you can stay in one piece, keep yourself alive, look after your parents, and live out your years.

    Cook Ding was cutting up an ox for Lord Wenhui.² At every touch of his...

  8. 4 IN THE WORLD OF MEN
    (pp. 22-33)

    Yan Hui went to see Confucius and asked permission to take a trip.¹

    “Where are you going?”

    “I’m going to Wei.”

    “What will you do there?”

    “I have heard that the ruler of Wei is very young. He acts in an independent manner, thinks little of how he rules his state, and fails to see his faults. It is nothing to him to lead his people into peril, and his dead are reckoned by swampfuls like so much grass.² His people have nowhere to turn. I have heard you say, Master, ‘Leave the state that is well ordered and go...

  9. 5 THE SIGN OF VIRTUE COMPLETE
    (pp. 34-41)

    In Lu there was a man named Wang Tai who had had his foot cut off.¹ He had as many followers gathered around him as Confucius.

    Chang Ji asked Confucius, “This Wang Tai who’s lost a foot—how does he get to divide up Lu with you, Master, and make half of it his disciples? He doesn’t stand up and teach, he doesn’t sit down and discuss, yet they go to him empty and come home full. Does he really have some wordless teaching, some formless way of bringing the mind to completion? What sort of man is he?”

    Confucius...

  10. 6 THE GREAT AND VENERABLE TEACHER
    (pp. 42-54)

    He who knows what it is that Heaven does, and knows what it is that man does, has reached the peak. Knowing what it is that Heaven does, he lives with Heaven. Knowing what it is that man does, he uses the knowledge of what he knows to help out the knowledge of what he doesn’t know and lives out the years that Heaven gave him without being cut off midway—this is the perfection of knowledge.

    However, there is a difficulty. Knowledge must wait for something before it can be applicable, and that which it waits for is never...

  11. 7 FIT FOR EMPERORS AND KINGS
    (pp. 55-59)

    Nie Que was questioning Wang Ni. Four times he asked a question, and four times Wang Ni said he didn’t know. Nie Que proceeded to hop around in great glee and went and told Master Puyi. Master Puyi said, “Are you just now findingthatout?¹ The clansman Youyu was no match for the clansman Tai.² The clansman Youyu still held on to benevolence and worked to win men over. He won men over all right, but he never got out into [the realm of] ‘notman.’ The clansman Tai, now—he lay down peaceful and easy; he woke up wide-eyed...

  12. 8 WEBBED TOES
    (pp. 60-64)

    Two toes webbed together, a sixth finger forking off—these come from the inborn nature but are excretions as far as Virtue is concerned.¹ Swelling tumors and protruding wens—these come from the body but are excretions as far as the inborn nature is concerned. Men overnice in the ways of benevolence and righteousness try to put these into practice, even to line them up with the five vital organs!² This is not the right approach to the Way and its Virtue. Therefore he who has two toes webbed together has grown a flap of useless flesh; he who has...

  13. 9 HORSES’ HOOFS
    (pp. 65-67)

    Horses’ hoofs are made for treading frost and snow, their coats for keeping out wind and cold. To munch grass, drink from the stream, lift up their feet and gallop—this is the true nature of horses. Though they might possess great terraces and fine halls, they would have no use for them.

    Then along comes Bo Luo.¹ “I’m good at handling horses!” he announces and proceeds to singe them, shave them, pare them, brand them, bind them with martingale and crupper, tie them up in stable and stall. By this time, two or three out of ten horses have...

  14. 10 RIFLING TRUNKS
    (pp. 68-73)

    If one is to guard and take precautions against thieves who rifle trunks, ransack bags, and break open boxes, then he must bind with cords and ropes and make fast with locks and hasps. This the ordinary world calls wisdom. But if a great thief comes along, he will shoulder the boxes, hoist up the trunks, sling the bags over his back, and dash off, only worrying that the cords and ropes, the locks and hasps, are not fastened tightly enough. In that case, the man who earlier was called wise was in fact only piling up goods for the...

  15. 11 LET IT BE, LEAVE IT ALONE
    (pp. 74-83)

    I have heard of letting the world be, of leaving it alone; I have never heard of governing the world. You let it be for fear of corrupting the inborn nature of the world; you leave it alone for fear of distracting the Virtue of the world. If the nature of the world is not corrupted, if the Virtue of the world is not distracted, why should there be any governing of the world?

    Long ago, when the sage Yao governed the world, he made the world bright and gleeful; men delighted in their nature, and there was no calmness...

  16. 12 HEAVEN AND EARTH
    (pp. 84-97)

    Heaven and earth are huge, but they are alike in their transformations. The ten thousand things are numerous, but they are one in their good order. Human beings are many, but they all are subjects of the sovereign. The sovereign finds his source in Virtue, his completion in Heaven. Therefore it is said that the sovereign of dark antiquity ruled the world through inaction, through Heavenly Virtue and nothing more.

    Look at words in the light of the Way—then the sovereign of the world will be upright.¹ Look at distinctions in the light of the Way—then the duty²...

  17. 13 THE WAY OF HEAVEN
    (pp. 98-107)

    It is the Way of heaven to keep moving and to allow no piling up—hence the ten thousand things come to completion. It is the Way of the emperor to keep moving and to allow no piling up—hence the whole world repairs to his court. It is the Way of the sage to keep moving and to allow no piling up—hence all within the seas bow to him. Comprehending Heaven, conversant with the sage, walker in the six avenues and four frontiers of the Virtue of emperors and kings—the actions of such a man come naturally;...

  18. 14 THE TURNING OF HEAVEN
    (pp. 108-118)

    Does heaven turn? Does the earth sit still? Do sun and moon compete for a place to shine? Who masterminds all this? Who pulls the strings? Who, resting inactive himself, gives the push that makes it go this way? I wonder, is there some mechanism that works it and won’t let it stop? I wonder if it just rolls and turns and can’t bring itself to a halt? Do the clouds make the rain, or does the rain make the clouds? Who puffs them up, who showers them down like this? Who, resting inactive himself, stirs up all this lascivious...

  19. 15 CONSTRAINED IN WILL
    (pp. 119-121)

    To be constrained in will, lofty in action, aloof from the world, apart from its customs, elevated in discourse, sullen and critical, indignation his whole concern—such is the life favored by the scholar in his mountain valley, the man who condemns the world, the worn and haggard one who means to end it all with a plunge into the deep. To discourse on benevolence, righteousness, loyalty, and good faith, to be courteous, temperate, modest, and deferential, moral training his whole concern—such is the life favored by the scholar who seeks to bring the world to order, the man...

  20. 16 MENDING THE INBORN NATURE
    (pp. 122-125)

    Those who set about mending the inborn nature through vulgar learning, hoping thereby to return once more to the Beginning; those who set about muddling their desires through vulgar ways of thought, hoping thereby to attain clarity—they may be called the blind and benighted people.¹

    The men of ancient times who practiced the Way employed tranquillity to cultivate knowledge. Knowledge lived in them, yet they did nothing for its sake. So they may be said to have employed knowledge to cultivate tranquillity. Knowledge and tranquillity took turns cultivating each other, and harmony and order emerged from the inborn nature....

  21. 17 AUTUMN FLOODS
    (pp. 126-138)

    The time of the autumn floods came, and the hundred streams poured into the Yellow River. Its racing current swelled to such proportions that, looking from bank to bank or island to island, it was impossible to distinguish a horse from a cow. Then the Lord of the River¹ was beside himself with joy, believing that all the beauty in the world belonged to him alone. Following the current, he journeyed east until at last he reached the North Sea. Looking east, he could see no end to the water.

    The Lord of the River began to wag his head...

  22. 18 SUPREME HAPPINESS
    (pp. 139-144)

    Is there such a thing as supreme happiness in the world, or isn’t there? Is there some way to keep yourself alive, or isn’t there? What to do, what to rely on, what to avoid, what to stick by, what to follow, what to leave alone, what to find happiness in, what to hate?

    This is what the world honors: wealth, eminence, long life, a good name. This is what the world finds happiness in: a life of ease, rich food, fine clothes, beautiful sights, sweet sounds. This is what it looks down on: poverty, mean-ness, an early death, a...

  23. 19 MASTERING LIFE
    (pp. 145-155)

    He who has mastered the true nature of life does not labor over what life cannot do. He who has mastered the true nature of fate does not labor over what knowledge cannot change. He who wants to nourish his body must, first of all, turn to things. And yet it is possible to have more than enough things and for the body still to go unnourished. He who has life must, first of all, see to it that it does not leave the body. And yet it is possible for life never to leave the body and still fail...

  24. 20 THE MOUNTAIN TREE
    (pp. 156-165)

    Zhuangzi was walking in the mountains when he saw a huge tree, its branches and leaves thick and lush. A wood-cutter paused by its side but made no move to cut it down. When Zhuangzi asked the reason, he replied, “There’s nothing it could be used for!” Zhuangzi said, “Because of its worthlessness, this tree is able to live out the years Heaven gave it.”

    Down from the mountain, the Master stopped for a night at the house of an old friend. The friend, delighted, ordered his son to kill a goose and prepare it. “One of the geese can...

  25. 21 TIAN ZIFANG
    (pp. 166-175)

    Tian Zifang was sitting in attendance on Marquis Wen of Wei.¹ When he repeatedly praised one Qi Gong, Marquis Wen asked, “Is Qi Gong your teacher?”

    “No,” replied Zifang. “He comes from the same neighborhood as I do. Discussing the Way with him, I’ve found he often hits the mark—that’s why I praise him.”

    “Have you no teacher then?” asked Marquis Wen.

    “I have,” said Zifang.

    “Who is your teacher?”

    “Master Shun from east of the Wall,” said Zifang.

    “Then why have you never praisedhim?” asked Marquis Wen.

    Zifang said, “He’s the kind of man who is True...

  26. 22 KNOWLEDGE WANDERED NORTH
    (pp. 176-187)

    Knowledge wandered north to the banks of the Black Waters, climbed the Knoll of Hidden Heights, and there by chance came upon Do-Nothing-Say-Nothing. Knowledge said to Do-Nothing-Say-Nothing, “There are some things I’d like to ask you. What sort of pondering, what sort of cogitation does it take to know the Way? What sort of surroundings, what sort of practices does it take to find rest in the Way? What sort of path, what sort of procedure will get me to the Way?”

    Three questions he asked, but Do-Nothing-Say-Nothing didn’t answer. It wasn’t that he just didn’t answer—he didn’t know...

  27. 23 GENGSANG CHU
    (pp. 188-198)

    Among the attendants of Lao Dan was one Gengsang Chu, who had mastered a portion of the Way of Lao Dan, and with it went north to live among the Mountains of Zigzag. His servants, with their bright and knowing looks, he discharged; his concubines, with their tender and solicitous ways, he put far away from him. Instead, he shared his house with drabs and dowdies and employed the idle and indolent to wait on him. He had been living there for three years when Zigzag began to enjoy bountiful harvests, and the people of Zigzag said to one another,...

  28. 24 XU WUGUI
    (pp. 199-214)

    Through Nü Shang, the recluse Xu Wugui obtained an interview with Marquis Wu of Wei. Marquis Wu greeted him with words of comfort, saying, “Sir, you are not well. I suppose that the hardships of life in the mountain forests have become too much for you, and so at last you have consented to come and visit me.”

    “I am the one who should be comforting you!” said Xu Wugui. “What reason have you to comfort me? If you try to fulfill all your appetites and desires and indulge your likes and dislikes, then you will bring affliction to the...

  29. 25 ZEYANG
    (pp. 215-226)

    When Zeyang was traveling in Chu, Yi Jie spoke to the king of Chu about him but gave up and went home without having persuaded the king to grant Zeyang an interview. Zeyang went to see Wang Guo and said, “Sir, I wonder if you would mention me to the king.”¹

    Wang Guo replied, “I would not be as good at that as Gong Yuexiu.”

    Zeyang said, “Gong Yuexiu? What does he do?”

    “In winter he spears turtles by the river; in summer he loafs around the mountains, and if anyone comes along and asks him about it, he says,...

  30. 26 EXTERNAL THINGS
    (pp. 227-233)

    External things cannot be counted on. Hence Longfeng was executed, Bi Gan was sentenced to death, Prince Ji feigned madness, E Lai was killed, and Jie and Zhou were overthrown.¹ There is no ruler who does not want his ministers to be loyal. But loyal ministers are not always trusted. Hence Wu Yun was thrown into the Yangzi, and Chang Hong died in Shu, where the people stored away his blood, and after three years it was transformed into green jade.² There is no parent who does not want his son to be filial. But filial sons are not always...

  31. 27 IMPUTED WORDS
    (pp. 234-238)

    Imputed words make up nine-tenths of it; repeated words make up seven-tenths of it; goblet words come forth day after day, harmonizing things in the Heavenly Equality.¹

    These imputed words that make up nine-tenths of it are like persons brought in from outside for the purpose of exposition. A father does not act as go-between for his own son because the praises of the father would not be as effective as the praises of an outsider. It is the fault of other men, not mine, [that I must resort to such a device, for if I were to speak in...

  32. 28 GIVING AWAY A THRONE
    (pp. 239-251)

    Yao wanted to cede the empire to Xu You, but Xu You refused to accept it.¹ Then he tried to give it to Zichou Zhifu. Zichou Zhifu said, “Make me the Son of Heaven?—that would be all right, I suppose. But I happen to have a deep-seated and worrisome illness that I am just now trying to put in order. So I have no time to put the empire in order.” The empire is a thing of supreme importance, yet he would not allow it to harm his life. How much less, then, any other thing! Only he who...

  33. 29 ROBBER ZHI
    (pp. 252-265)

    Confucius was a friend of Liuxia Ji, who had a younger brother known as Robber Zhi. Robber Zhi, with a band of nine thousand followers, rampaged back and forth across the empire, assaulting and terrorizing the feudal lords, tunneling into houses, prying open doors,¹ herding off men’s horses and cattle, seizing their wives and daughters. Greedy for gain, he forgot his kin, gave not a look to father or mother, elder or younger brother, and performed no sacrifices to his ancestors. Whenever he approached a city, if it was that of a great state, the inhabitants manned their walls; if...

  34. 30 DISCOURSING ON SWORDS
    (pp. 266-270)

    In ancient times, King Wen of Zhao was fond of swords. Expert swordsmen flocked to his gate, and more than three thousand of them were supported as guests in his household, day and night, engaging in bouts in his presence till the dead and wounded numbered more than a hundred men a year. Yet the king’s delight never seemed to wane, and things went on in this way for three years while the state sank into decline and the other feudal lords conspired against it.

    The crown prince Kui, distressed at this, summoned his retainers around him and said, “I...

  35. 31 THE OLD FISHERMAN
    (pp. 271-278)

    Confucius, after strolling through the Black Curtain Forest, sat down to rest on the Apricot Altar.¹ While his disciples turned to their books, he strummed his lute and sang. He had not gotten halfway through the piece he was playing when an old fisherman appeared, stepped out of his boat, and came forward. His beard and eyebrows were pure white; his hair hung down over his shoulders; and his sleeves flapped at his sides. He walked up the embankment, stopped when he reached the higher ground, rested his left hand on his knee, propped his chin with his right, and...

  36. 32 LIE YUKOU
    (pp. 279-286)

    Lie Yukou was going to Qi, but halfway there he turned around and came home. By chance he met Bohun Wuren. “What made you turn around and come back?” asked Bohun Wuren.

    “I was scared.”

    “Why were you scared?”

    “I stopped to eat at ten soup stalls along the way, and at five of them they served me soup ahead of everybody else!”

    “What was so scary about that?” said Bohun Wuren.

    “If you can’t dispel the sincerity inside you, it oozes¹ out of the body and forms a radiance that, once outside, overpowers men’s minds and makes them careless...

  37. 33 THE WORLD
    (pp. 287-300)

    Many are the men in the world who apply themselves to doctrines and policies, and each believes he has something that cannot be improved on. What in ancient times was called the “art of the Way’—where does it exist? I say, there is no place it does not exist. But, you ask, where does holiness descend from, where does enlightenment emerge from? The sage gives them birth, the king completes them, and all have their source in the One. He who does not depart from the Ancestor is called the Heavenly Man; he who does not depart from the...

  38. INDEX
    (pp. 301-328)
  39. Back Matter
    (pp. 329-332)