posted 17 Mar 2013, 13:47 by Jim Sheng
[A Taoism, said by Chuang Tzu (q.v.) to have been able to "ride upon the wind and dispense with walking."] 


TZU KUNG said to Confucius, "Master, I am aweary, and would fain have rest." 

"In life," replied the sage, "there is no rest." 

"Shall I, then, never have rest?" asked the disciple. 

"You will," said Confucius. "Behold the tombs which lie around; some magnificent, some mean. In one of these you will find rest." 

"How wonderful is Death !" rejoined Tzu Kung. "The wise man rests, the wordly man is engulfed therein." 

"My son," said Confucius, "I see that you understand. Other men know life only as a boon: they do not perceive that it is a bane. They know old age as a state of weakness: they do not perceive that it is a state of ease. They know death only as an abomination: they do not perceive that it is a state of rest. 

"How grand," cried Yen Tzu, "is the old conception of Death! The virtuous find rest, the wicked are engulfed therein. In death, each reverts to that from which he came. The ancients regarded death as a return to, and life as an absence from, home. And he who forgets his home becomes an outcast and a by-word in his generation." 


A man of the State of Cheng was one day gathering fuel, when he came across a startled deer, which he pursued and killed. Fearing lest any one should see him, he hastily concealed the carcass in a ditch and covered it with plaintain-leaves, rejoicing excessively at his good fortune. By-and-by, he forgot the place where he had put it; and, thinking he must have been dreaming, he set off towards home, humming over the affair on his way. 

Meanwhile, a man who had overheard his words, acted upon them, and went and got the deer. The latter, when he reached his house, told his wife, saying, "A woodman dreamt he had got a deer, but he did not know where it was. Now I have got the deer; so his dream was a reality." "It is you," replied his wife, "who have been dreaming you saw a woodman. Did he get the deer? and is there really such a person? It is you who have got the deer: how, then, can his dream be a reality?" "It is true," assented the husband, "that I have got the deer. It is therefore of little importance whether the woodman dreamt the deer or I dreamt the woodman." 

Now when the woodman reached his home, he became much annoyed at the loss of the deer; and in the night he actually dreamt where the deer then was, and who had got it. So next morning he proceeded to the place indicated in his dream, and there it was. He then took legal steps to recover possession; and when the case came on, the magistrate delivered the following judgment: "The plaintiff began with a real deer and an alleged dream. He now comes forward with a real dream and an alleged deer. The defendant really got the deer which plaintiff said he dreamt, and is now trying to keep it; while, according to his wife, both the woodman and the deer are but the figments of a dream, so that no one got the deer at all. However, here is a deer, which you had better divide between you." 

When the Prince of Cheng heard this story, he cried out, "The magistrate himself must have dreamt the case!" So he enquired of his prime minister, who replied, "Only the Yellow Emperor and Confucius could distinguish dream from reality, and they are unfortunately dead. I advise, therefore, that the magistrate's decision be confirmed." 


Confucius was one day sitting at leisure, when Tzu Kung went in to attend upon him. The disciple noticed that his master wore a sorrowful air; but not venturing to ask the reason, went out and told Yen Hui. Thereupon Yen Hui seized his guitar and began to sing; at which Confucius called him in and said, "Hui, why are you alone glad?" "Master," retorted Hui, "why are you alone sorrowful?" "First answer my question," said Confucius. "I once heard you declare," explained Yen Hui, "that he who was contented with his lot and prepared for the appointments of destiny, could not be sorrowful. Accordingly, I am glad." 

The master's expression for a moment changed. Then he answered, saying, "I did use those words. But you are misapplying them here. Such utterances are of the past. Rather adopt those which I deliver now. Alas ! you know only the superficial principle that he who is contented with his lot and prepared for the appointments of destiny cannot be sorrowful. You do not perceive the deeper sorrow entailed by this very absence of sorrow. I will tell you all. 

"You cultivate yourself. You accept success or failure as they may come. You see that life and death are independent of your efforts. You maintain your moral and mental equilibrium. And you consider that under such conditions of contentment and preparedness you are without sorrow. 

"Now, I edited the Odes and the Book of History. I defined the functions of Music and Ceremonial. I did this in order to benefit the whole earth, and to be a guide for posterity. I did not do it merely for my own personal advantage, nor for that of my own individual State. But now, even in my own State, the obligations between prince and subject are forgotten; charity and duty to one's neighbour are passing away; and right feeling is all but gone. If then the truth cannot prevail for a brief space in a single State, how is it likely to prevail over the whole earth through all generations to come? I know now that all I have achieved is in vain; and I am utterly at a loss to discover the true remedy. Therefore I am sad."