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Has Wang T'ai not legs, no feet, or just no toes?

posted 21 Nov 2013, 16:50 by Jim Sheng
There is not question that Wang Thâi (or Wang T'ai) is a cripple, but is he a person without two feet, or who has just one leg, or whose toes were cut off?

James Legge translated the first sentence of Chapter V of Chuang Tzu as "In Lû there was a Wang Thâi who had lost both his feet."  

But Herbert A. Giles translated this sentence as "In the State of Lu there was a man, named Wang T'ai, who had had his toes cut off."

The whole feet or just his toes? Was it cut off by himself or the result of punishment for a criminal act? According K'ang Hsi dictionary, Wu "兀" is a phonetic loan character of Yue "刖", which means a kind of punishement by cutting feet off.

We may find internal evidence from the next paragraph, "He looks on the loss of his feet as only the loss of so much earth." Here the text uses Chu "足" instead of Chi "趾", toes. We have no doubt of the meaning of Chu "足". It seem the translation "lost his feet" is more accurate than "had his toes cut off".

Another cripple called Shän-tû Kîa, he said, "There are many with their feet entire who laugh at me because I have lost my feet, which makes me feel vexed and angry." Here we also have no doubt that he was talking about his feet instead of toes. 

But why did H. A. Giles translated Wu Che “兀者” as person without toes? We may find also internal evidence for it. There is another man of the Lu State who was also a cripple, his name was "Shu Shan No-toes".