Book Summary: A short history of Chinese philosophy, by: Fung, Yu-Lan



short historyThe Chou dynasty (1122?-256 B.C.) is the golden age of Chinese philosophy. Philosophy is the systematic reflective thinking of life.

Religion also has something to do with life. In the heart of every great religion is a philosophy. In fact every great religion is a philosophy with a certain amount of superstructure, which consists of superstitions, dogma, rituals, and institutions.

Taoism as a philosophy called Tao chia (the Taoist school), and the Taoist religion (Tao chiao). Their teachings are not only different; they are even contradictory. Taoism as a philosophy teaches the doctrine of following nature, while Taoism as a religion teaches the doctrine of working against nature. For instance, according to Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu, life followed by death is the course of nature, and man should follow this natural course calmly. But the main teaching of the Taoist religion is the principle and technique of how to avoid death, which is expressly working against nature. The Taoist religion has the spirit of science, which is the conquering of nature. If one is interested in the history of Chinese science, the writings of religious Taoists will supply much information.

Buddhism as a philosophy called Fo hsueh (the Buddhist learning), and Buddhism as a religion, which is called Fo chiao (the Buddhist religion).

Lao-tzu: to work on learning is to increase day by day; to work on Tao (the Way, the Truth) is to decrease day by day.

In Chinese philosophy there is a distinction between working on learning and working on Tao (the Way). The purpose of the former is what I call the increase of positive knowledge. That of the latter is the elevation of the mind.

What is the highest form of achievement of which a man as a man is capable? According to Chinese philosophy it is not nothing less than being a sage. And the highest achievement of a sage is the identification of the individual with the universe. The problem is, if men want to achieve this identification, do they necessarily have to abandon society or even negate life? According to some philosophers, this is necessary. The Buddha said that life is the root and fountain head of the misery of life. Likewise, Plato said that the body is the prison of soul. And some of Taoists said that life is an excrescence, a tumor, and death is to be taken as the breaking of the tumor.

What Chinese philosophy has striven for: It is at one and the same time both extremely idealistic and extremely realistic, and very practical, though not in a superficial way. This-worldliness and other-worldliness stand in contrast to each other as do realism and idealism. The task of Chinese philosophy is to accomplish a synthesis out of these antitheses.

According to Chinese philosophy, the man who accomplishes this synthesis, not only in theory but also in deed, is the sage. He is both this-worldly and other-worldly. His character is described as one of “Sageliness within and kingliness without”. The study of philosophy is not simply an attempt to acquire this kind of knowledge, but it also an attempt to develop this kind of character. Philosophy is not simply to be known, but is also something to be experienced. To a Chinese philosopher to live in accordance with his philosophical convictions was part of his philosophy. It was his business to school himself continually and persistently to that pure experience in which selfishness and egocentricity were transcended, so that he would be one with universe.

According to Confucianism the daily task of dealing with social affairs to the sage is the very essence of the development of the perfection of his personality. He performs it not only as a citizen of society, but also as a “citizen of universe”, otherwise his deeds would not have super-moral value.

A western student beginning to study of Chinese philosophy is instantly confronted with two obstacles. One, of course, is the language barrier; the other is the peculiar way in which the Chinese philosophers have expressed themselves.

When one begins to read Chinese philosophical works, the first impression one gets is perhaps the briefness and disconnectedness of the sayings and writings of their authors. Open the Confucian Analects and you will see that each paragraph consists of only a few words, and there is hardly any connection between one paragraph and the next. Open a book containing the philosophy of Lao Tzu, and you will find  that the whole book consists of about five thousand words- no longer than a magazine article; yet in it one will find the whole of his philosophy.

The purpose of the study of philosophy is to enable a man, as a man to be a man, not some particular kind of man. Other studies—not the study of philosophy—enable a man to be some special kind of man. Besides, according to Chinese tradition, the study of philosophy is not a profession. So there were no professional philosophers; and non-professional philosophers did not have to produce formal philosophical writings.

Chinese philosophers were accustomed to express themselves in the form of aphorisms, apothegms, or allusions, and illustrations. The whole book of Lao-tzu consists of aphorisms, and most of the chapters of the Chuang-tzu are full of allusions and illustrations. Aphorisms must be very brief; allusions and illustrations must be disconnected. Aphorisms, allusions, and illustrations are thus not articulated enough. Their insufficiency in articulateness is compensated for, however, by their suggestiveness.

Articulateness and suggestiveness are, of course, incompatible. The more an expression is articulate, the less it is suggestive, just as the more an expression is prosaic, the less it is poetic. The sayings and writings of the Chinese philosophers are so inarticulate that their suggestiveness is almost boundless.

Suggestiveness, not articulateness, is the ideal of all Chinese art, whether it be poetry, painting or anything else. In poetry what the poet intends to communicate is often not what is directly said in poetry, but what is not said in it. According to Chinese literary tradition, in good poetry “the number of words is limited but the idea it suggests is limitless.” So an intelligent reader of poetry reads what is outside the poem; and a good reader of books reads “what is inside the lines.

The ideal of Chinese art is not without its philosophical background…Words are for holding ideas, but when one has got the idea, one need no longer think about words. According to Taoism, the Tao (the Way) cannot be told, but only suggested. Words are something that should be forgotten when they have achieved their purpose. Why should we trouble ourselves with them any more than necessary? This is true of the words and rhymes in poetry, and the lines and colours in painting. It is suggestiveness that is attractive.

A monk of the Buddhist Ch’an (or Zen school of later period) said: “The suggestiveness of the sayings and writing of the Chinese philosophy is something that can hardly be translated. When one read them in translation, one misses the suggestiveness and this means that one misses a great deal.”



Feng_YoulanPhilosophy is the systematic reflective thinking of life.

In the social and economic thinking of Chinese philosophers, there is a distinction between what they call “the root” and “the branch”. “The root” refers to agriculture and “the branch” to commerce. Throughout Chinese history, social and economical theories and policies have all attempted “to emphasize the root and slight the branch”. The people who deal with “the branch”, that is, the merchants, were therefore looked down upon.

Taoism and Confucianism are the two main trend of Chinese thought. They are poles apart one another, yet they are also the two poles of one and the same axis. They both express, in one way or another, the aspirations and inspirations of the farmers.

There is a theory that maintained this is that in the sphere of nature and in that of man, when the development of anything brings it to one extreme, a reveal to the other extreme, a reversal to the other extreme takes place. It is no doubt inspired by the movements of the sun and moon and the succession of the four seasons, to which farmers must pay particular heed in order to carry on their own work. This theory has had a great effect on the Chinese people and has contributed much to their success and in their overcoming the many difficulties. Convinced of this theory, they remain cautious in the time of prosperity, and hopeful even in the time of extreme danger.

Taoism and Confucianism differ because they are the rationalization or theoretical expression of different aspects of the life of the farmers.

The farmers are always in contact with nature, so they admire and love nature. This admiration and love were developed by the Taoists to the fullest extent. According to them, what is of nature is the source of human happiness, and what is of man is the root of all human suffering, as the final development of this trend of thinking, the Taoists maintained that the highest achievement in the spiritual cultivation of a sage lies in the identification of himself with the whole of nature, i.e. the universe.

Confucianism is the philosophy of social organization, and so is also the philosophy of man, while Taoism emphasizes what is natural and spontaneous to him. These two trends of Chinese philosophy correspond roughly to the traditions of Classicism and Romanticism in Western thought.

Since it “roams between the bounds of society”, Confucianism appears more this-worldly than Taoism, and because it “roams beyond the bound of society”, Taoism appears more other-worldly than Confucianism. These two trends of thought rivalled one another, but also complemented each other. They exercised a sort of balance of power. This gives to the Chinese people a better sense of balance in regard to this-worldly and other-worldly.

There were Taoists in the third and fourth centuries, who attempted to make Taoism closer to Confucianism, and there were also Confucianists in the eleventh and twelfth centuries who attempted to make Confucianism closer to Taoism. We call these Taoists the Neo-Taoists, and these Confucianists the Neo-Confucianists.

In the methodology of Chinese philosophy professor Northip has said that there are two major concepts, that achieved by intuition and that by postulation. “A concept of intuition” he says, “is one which denotes, and the complete meaning of which is given by, something which immediately apprehended.” A concept by postulation is one the complete meaning of which is designated by the postulates of the deductive theory in which it occurs.

When a student of Chinese philosophy begins to study western philosophy, he is glad to see that the Greek philosophers also made the distinction between Being and Non-Being, the limited and the unlimited, but he feels rather surprised to find that the Greek philosophers held that Non-Being and unlimited are inferior to being and limited. In Chinese philosophy the case is just reverse.

The reason for this difference is that Being and the limited are the distinct, while Non-Being and the unlimited are the indistinct. Those philosophers who start with concepts by postulations have a liking for the distinct, while those who start with intuition value the indistinct. And the farmers in their primitivity and innocence, they value what they thus immediately apprehend. It is no wonders of things as the starting point of their philosophy.

This explains why epistemology has never developed in Chinese philosophy. Whether the table that I see before me is real or illusory, and whether this is only an idea in my mind or is occupying objective space, was never seriously considered by Chinese philosophers.

This also explains why the language used by Chinese philosophy is suggestive, but not articulate. It is not articulate, because it does not represent concepts in any deductive reasoning. The philosopher only tells us what he sees. And because of this, what he tells is rich in content, though terse in words. This is the reason why his words are suggestive rather than precise.

The way of life of the farmer is to follow nature. They admire nature and condemn the artificial, and in their primitivity and innocence, they are easily made content. They desire no change, nor can they conceive of any change. In China there have been not a few notable inventions or discoveries, but we often find that these were discouraged rather than encouraged.

And now we can paraphrase Confucius by saying that the people of maritime countries are the wise, while those of continental countries are the good. Also we can repeat what Confucius said: “The wise delight in water, the good delight in mountains. The wise move, the good stay still. The wise are happy, the good endure.”



the editor: Derk Bodde (1909-2003 The editor: Derk Dodde (1909-2003)
The editor: Derk Bodde (1909-2003)

Confucianism and Taoism are the two main streams of Chinese thought. They became so only after a long evolution, however, and from the fifth through the third centuries B.C. they only two among many other rival schools of thought. During that period the number of schools was so great that the Chinese referred to them as “hundred schools”.

Later historians have attempted to make a classification of these hundred schools. For instance, Ssu-ma Tán classifies the philosophers of preceding several centuries into six major schools as follows:

  1. The Yin-Yang chia or Yin-Yang school, which is one of cosmologists. Yin being the female principle, and yang the male principle, the combination and interaction of which is believed by the Chinese to result in all universal phenomena.
  2. The Ju chia or school of literati. This school is known in western literature as the Confucianist school, but the word Ju literally means “literatus”or scholar. Thus the western title is somewhat misleading, because it misses the implication that the followers of this school were scholars and as well as thinkers; they above all others, were the teachers of ancient classics and that the inheritors of the ancient cultural legacy. Confucius, to be sure, is the leading figure of this school and may rightly be considered as its founder. Nevertheless the term Ju notably denotes “Confucius” or “Confucianist”, but has a wider implication as well.
  3. The Mo chia or Mohist school. This school had a close-knit organization and strict discipline under the leadership of Mo Tzu. Its followers actually called themselves the Mohists.
  4. The Ming chia or school of names. The followers of this school were interested in the distinction between and relation of , what they called “names” and “actualities”.
  5. The Fa chia or legalist school. The Chinese word Fa means pattern of law. The school derived from a group of statesmen who maintained that good government must be one based on a fixed code of law instead of on the moral institutions which the literati stressed for government.
  6. The Tao-Te chia or school of the Way and its power. The followers of this school centred their metaphysics ans social philosophy around the concept of Non-Being, which is the Tao or Way, and its concentration in the individual as the natural virtue of man, which is Te, translated as “virtue”but better rendered as the “power” that inheres in any individual thing. This group, called the Tao-Te school, was later simply as the Tao chia, and is referred to in western literature as the Taoist school. It should be kept carefully distinct from the Taoist religion.

Let us imagine what China looked like politically and socially in, say, the tenth century B.C.:

At the top of the political and social structure, there was the king of the Chou royal house, who was the “common lord”  of all the different states. Under him were hundreds of states, each owned and governed by its Princes. Within each state under the Prince, the land was again divided into many fiefs, each with its own feudal lord, who were relatives of the Prince. The other social class was what of common people or the mass. These were the serfs of the feudal lords, who cultivated the land for the Chun-tzu, a term which literally means “sons of the Princes”, in time of peace, and fought for then in time of war.

The aristocrats were not only the political rulers and land lords, but also the only persons who had a chance to receive an education. Thus the houses of the feudal lords were not only centers of political and economic power, but also centers of learning. Attached to them were officers who possessed specialized knowledge along various lines. But the common people, for their part, had no chance to become educated, so that among them there were no men of learning. This is in fact supports the theory that in the early Chou dynasty “there was no separation between officers and teachers.”

This feudal system was formally abolished by the first Emperor of the Ch’in dunasty in 221 B.C. But hundreds of years before that,the system  had already begun to disintegrate, whereas, thousands of years later, economic remnants of feudalism still remained in the form of the power of the landlord class.

With this disintegration, the former official representatives of the various branches of learning became scattered among the common people. They had either been actual nobles themselves, or had been specialists holding hereditary offices in the service of the aristocratic ruling families. And there is a quotation from Confucius in this regard: “When ceremonies become lost [at the court], it is necessary to search for them in the countryside.

Thus when these former nobles or officials scattered throughout the country, they maintained a livelihood by carrying on, in a private capacity, their specialized abilities or skills. Those of them who expressed their ideas to other private individuals became professional “teachers,” and thus there arose the separation between the teacher and the officer.

So, there were different kinds of chia (school, which at the same time is used to denote a family or home), because these teachers were specialists in varying branches of learning and of the arts. Thus there were some who were specialists in the teaching of classics and the practice of ceremonies and music. These were known as the Ju or literati. There were also specialists in the art of war. These were the hsieh or knights. There were specialists in the art of speaking, who were known as the pien-che or debaters. There were specialists in magic, divination, astrology, and numerology, who were known as fang-shih, or practitioners of occult arts. There were also the practical politicians who could act as private advisers to the feudal rulers, and who were known as fang-shu chih shih, or men of methods. And finally there were some men who possessed learning and talent, but who were so embittered by the political disorders of their time that they retired from human society into the world of nature. These were known as the yin-che or hermits or recluses.

According to my theory, it is from these six different kind of people that the six school of thought as listed by Ssu-ma T’an originated. Paraphrasing Liu Hsin, therefore I would say:

  • Members of the Ju school had their origin in literati.
  • Members of the Mohist school had their origin in the knights.
  • Members of the Taoist school had their origin in the hermits.
  • Members of the school of names had their origin in the debators.
  • Members of the Yin-Yang school had their origin in the practitioners of the occult arts.
  • Members of the Legalist school had their origin in the “men of methods.”



confuciusConfucius is the Latinized name of a person who has been known in China as Kúng Tzu or Master K’ung [The word “Tzu” or “Master”is a polite suffix added to names of most philosophers of Chou Dynasty]. His family name was K’ung and his personal name Ch’iu. He was born in 551 B.C. in the state of Lu, in the southern part of the present Shantung province in eastern China. His ancestors had been members of the ducal house of Shang, the dynasty that had preceded the Chou. Because of the political troubles, the family before the birth of Confucius, had lost its noble position and migrated to Lu.

Confucius was poor in his youth, but entered the government of Lu and by the time he was fifty had reached high official rank. As a result of political intrigue, however he was soon forced to resign his post and go into exile. For the next thirteen years he travelled from one state to another,always hoping to find and opportunity to realize his ideal of political and social reform. Nowhere, however, did he succeed, and finally as an old man he returned to Lu,where he died three years later in 479 B.C.

Confucius was the first person in Chinese history thus to teach large numbers of students in a private capacity, by whom he was accompanied during his travels  in different states, and several tens of his students became famous thinkers and scholars. There is no question that he was a very influential teacher, and what is more important and unique, China’s first private teacher [not first writer]. His ideas are best known through the Lun Yu or Confucian Analects, a collection of his scattered sayings which was compiled by some of his disciples.

Confucius was the founder of Ju school, which has been known in the West as the Confucian school. Regarding this school we saw that, in the last chapter, it “delighted in the study of the Liu Yi and emphasized matters concerning human heartedness and righteousness.” The term Liu Yi means the “six arts,” i.e., the six liberal arts, but it is more commonly translated as the “Six Classics.”

Six classics:

  1. The Yi or Book of Changes
  2. The Shih or Book of Odes (or Poetry)
  3. The Shu or Book of History
  4. The Li or Rituals or Rites
  5. The Yueh or Music (no longer preserved as a separated work)
  6. The Ch’un Ch’iu or Spring and Autumn Annals (a chronicle history of state of Lu extending from 722 to 479 B.C., the year of Confucius’ death)

The nature of these classics is clear from their titles, with the exception of the Book of Changes. This work was in later times interpreted by the Confucianists as treatise on metaphysics, but originally it was a book of divination.

The Six Classics had existed before the time of Confucius, and they constituted the cultural legacy of the past. They had been the basis of education for the aristocrates during the early centuries of feudalism of the Chou dynasty. As feudalism began to disintegrate, however, roughly from the seventh century B.C. onward, the tutors of the aristocrates, or even some of aristocrates themselves—men who had lost their positions and titles but were well versed in the Classics—began to scatter among the people. They made their living by teaching the Classics or by by acting as skilled “assistants,” well versed in rituals, on the occasion of the funeral, sacrifice, wedding, and other ceremonies. This class of men was known as the ju or literati.

Confucius, however, was more than a ju (educator) in the common sense of the word. He wanted his disciples to be “rounded men” who would be useful to state and society, and therefore he taught them various branches of knowledge based upon the different classics. His primary function as a teacher, he felt, was to interpret to his disciples the ancient cultural heritage. That is why, in his own word as recorded in the Analects, he was “a transmitter and not an originator,” as some schools of traditional scholarship maintained that Confucius was the author of these works. There is another aspect of Confucius as well that he gave his students interpretations derived from his own moral concepts and new interpretation of the Classics. In this way, however, Confucius was more than a mere transmitter, for in transmitting, he originated something new.

This spirit of originating through transmitting was perpetuated by the followers of Confucius, by whom , as the classical texts were handed down from generation to generation, countless commentaries and interpretations were written. A great portion of what in later times came to be known as the Thirteen Classics developed as commentaries in this way on the original texts.

This is what set Confucius apart from the ordinary literati of his time , and made him the founder of new school. Because the followers of this school were at the same time scholars and specialists on the Six Classics, the school became known as the School of the Literati. Besides the new interpretations which Confucius gave to the classics, he had his own ideas about the individual and society, heaven and man.

Rectification of the name:

In regard to the society, he held that in order to have a well-ordered one, the most important thing is to carry out what he called the rectification of names. That is, things in actual fact should be made to accord with the implication attached to them by names. Every name in the social relationship implies certain responsibilities and duties. Ruler, minister, father and son are all the names of such social relationships, and the individuals bearing these names must fulfil their responsibilities and duties accordingly. Such is the implications of Confucius’s theory of the rectification of the name.

Human-heartedness and righteousness:

With regard to the virtues of individual, Confucius emphasized  human-heartedness and righteousness, especially in the  former. Righteousness means the “oughtness” of situation. It is a categorical imperative. Everyone in society has certain things which he ought to do. If, however, he does them only because of other non-moral considerations, then even though he does what he ought to do, his action is no longer  a righteous one. He is then acting for “profit.” Righteousness and profit are in Confucianism are diametrically opposed terms. Confucius himself says: “The superior man comprehend Yi (righteousness); the small man comprehend Li (profit).”

The formal essence of the duties of man in society is their “oughtness” but the material essence of these duties is “loving others” i.e. Jen or human-heartedness. The father acts according to the way a father should act who loves his son; the son acts according to the way a son should act who loves his father. Confucius says: “human-heartedness consists in loving others.

Chung and Shu:

The practice of Jen (human-heartedness) consists in consideration for others. “desired to sustain oneself, one sustain others; desiring to develop oneself, one develops others.” In other words: “Do the others what you wish yourself.” This is the positive aspect of the practice which was called by Confucius Chung or “conscientiousness to others.” And the negative aspect which was called by Confucius Shu or “altruism”is: “Do not do to others what you do not wish yourself.” The practice as a whole is called the principle of chung and shu, which is “the way of practice jen.”

Knowing Ming:

As we shall see, the Taoists taught the theory of “doing nothing,”whereas the Confucianists taught that of “doing for nothing.” A man cannot do nothing, according to Confucianistm, because for every man there is something which he ought to do. Nevertheless, what he does is “for nothing,” because the value of doing what he ought to do lies in the doing itself, and not in the external result,

About himself Confucius said : “If  my principles are to prevail in the world, it is Ming. If they are to fail to the ground, it is also Ming.” He tried his best, but the issue he left to Ming. Ming is aften translated as Fate, Destiny or Decree. To Confucius, it meant the Decree of heaven  or Will of heaven;in other words it was conceived as a purposeful force. In later Confucianism, however, Ming simply means the total existent conditions and forces of the whole universe. For the external success of our activity, the cooperation of these conditions is always needed. But the cooperation is wholly beyond our control. Hence the best thing for us to do is simply to try to carry out what we know we ought to carry out, without caring whether in the process we succeed or fail. For if we do our duty, that duty through our very act is morally done,regardless of the external success or failure of our action.As a result we always shall be free from anxiety as to success or fear as to failure, and so shall be happy. This is why Confucius said: “The superior man is always happy; the small man sad.”

Confucius’spiritual development:

Taoists often ridiculed Confucius as one who confined himself to the morality of Human-heartedness and righteousness, thus being conscious only of moral values, and not super-moral values. Superficially they were right, but actually they were wrong. The super-moral value experienced by Confucius, however, was, as we shall see, not quite the same as that experienced by the Taoists. For the latter abandoned entirely the idea of an intelligent and purposeful Heaven, and sought instead for mystical union with an undifferentiated union. The super-moral value which they knew and experienced, therefore was freer from the ordinary concepts of the human relationships.

Speaking about his own spiritual development, Confucius said: “At fifteen I set my heart on learning. At thirty I could stand. At forty I had no doubts. At fifty I knew the Decree of heaven. At sixty I was already obedient [to this Decree]. At seventy I could follow the desires of my mind without overstepping the boundaries [of what is right]. The brief explanation of each as follows:

  • At fifteen: The “learning” which Confucius here refers to is not what we now call learning. In Analects, Confucius said: “Set your heart on the Tao.” And again: “To hear the Tao in the morning and then die at night, that would be all right.” Here Tao means the Way or Truth. It was this Tao which Confucius at fifteen set his heart upon learning. What we now call learning means the increase of our knowledge, but the Tao is that whereby we can elevate our mind.
  • At thirty: Confucius also said: “Take your stand in the li [rituals, ceremonies, proper product]. Again he said: “Not to know the li is to have no means of standing.” Thus when Confucius says that at thirty he could “stand,” he means that he then understood the li and so could practice proper conduct.
  • At forty: This statement means that he had then become a wise man. For, as quoted before, “The wise are free from doubts.”
  • At fifty and sixty: Up to the age of forty Confucius was perhaps conscious only of moral values. But at the age of fifty and sixty, he knew the Decree of Heaven and was obedient to it. In other words, he was then also conscious of super-moral values. Confucius in this respect was like Socrates. Socrates thought that he had been appointed by a divine order to awaken the Greeks, and Confucius had a similar consciousness of a divine mission.
  • At seventy: At this age, as has been told above, Confucius allowed his mind to follow whatever it desired, yet everything he did was naturally right of itself. His actions no longer needed a conscious guide. He was acting without effort. This represents the last stage in the development of the sage.

Confucius’ position in Chinese history:

Confucius is probably is better known in the West than any other single Chinese.Yet in China itself, though always famous, his place in history has changed considerably from one period to another. Historically speaking he was primarily a teacher, that is, only one teacher among many. But after his death, he gradually came to be considered as the teacher, superior to all others. And in the second century B.C. he was elevated to an even higher place. According to many Confucianists of that time, Confucius had actually been appointed by Heaven to begin a new dynasty that would follow that of Chou. Though in actual fact without a crown or a government, he had ideally speaking become a king who ruled the whole empire.This apotheosis (according to many people of that time, he was a living god among men) was the climax of Confucius’ glory, and in the middle of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) Confucianism could properly be called a religion.

The time of glorification, however, did not last very long. Already beginning in the first century A.D., Confucianists of a more rationalistic type began to get the upper hand. Hence in the later times Confucius was no longer regarded as a divine being, though his position as that of the Teacher remained high. At the very end of the nineteenth century, to be sure, there was a brief revival of the theory that Confucius had been divinely appointed to be a king. Soon afterwards, however, with the coming of the Chinese Republic, his reputation fell until he came to be regarded as something less than the Teacher, and at present most Chinese would say that he was primarily a teacher, and certainly a good one, but far from being the only teacher.



Mo TzuThe next major philosopher after Confucius was Mo Tzu. His family name was Mo and his personal name was Ti. As historical record does not say where he come from, there has been difference of opinion regarding his native state. His exact date are also uncertain, but probably he lived within the years of 479-381 B.C. The main source for the study of his thought is the book bearing his name, the Mo-Tzu, which contains 53 chapters and a collection of writings by his followers as well as by himself.

            Mo Tzu was the founder of a school known after his name as the Mohist school. In ancient times his fame was as great as that of Confucius, and his teaching was no less influential. The contrast between the two men is interesting. Confucious felt a sympathetic understanding for the traditional institutions, rituals, music, and literature of the early Chou dynasty. And try to rationalize and justify them in ethical terms;Mo Tzu, on the contrary, questioned their validity and usefulness, and tried to replace them with something that was simpler, but in his view, more useful. In short Confucius was the rationalizer  and justifier of the ancient civilization, while Mo Tzu was in  its critic. Confucius was a refined gentleman, while Mo Tzu was a militant preacher. A major aim of his preaching was to oppose both the traditional institutions and practices, and the theories of Confucius and Confucianists.

Social background of the Mohist school:

            With the disintegration of feudalism that took place in the latter part of the Chou dynasty, the warrior specialists who constituted the backbone of the army at that time, lost their positions and titles, scattered throughout the country, and made a living by offering their services to anyone who could afford to employ them. This class of people known as hsieh, or yu hsieh, terms which can be translated as “knights errant.” Concerning these knight-errants, their words always sincere, and trustworthy, , and their actions always quick and decisive. They were always true to what they promised, and without regard to their own persons, they would rush into dangers threatening them. Such was their  professional ethics. A large part of Mo Tzu’s teaching was an extension of this ethics.

            In Chinese history both the ju (literati) and hsieh (knights–errant) originated as specialists attached to the houses of aristocrats, and were themselves members of the upper classes. In later times the ju (literati) continued to come mainly from the upper or middle classes but the hsieh (knights–errant), on the contrary, more frequently were recruited from the lower classes. In ancient times, such social amenities as rituals and music were are exclusively for the aristocrats; from the point of view of the common man, therefore, they were luxuries that had no practical was from this point of view that Mo Tzu and the Mohists criticised the traditional institutions and their rationalizers, Confucius and the Confucians. This criticism, together with the elaboration and rationalization of professional ethics of their own social class, that of the hsieh, constituted the central core of Mohist philosophy.

            There is aplenty of evidence for inference that Mo Tzu and his followers came from the hsieh (knights-errant). From the Mo-tzu, as well as from other contemporary sources, we know that  the Mohists constituted a strictly disciplined organization capable of military action. The leader of the Mohist organization was called the Chü Tzu, “Great Master.” And had the authority of life or death over the members of the group. We are also told that Mo Tzu was the first “Great Master” of  his group, and that at least once he actually led his followers to prepare for the military defence of Sung, when that state was threatened with invasion from the neighbouring state of Ch’u.

            Based on a work of the second century B.C. (Huai-nan-tzu), the disciples of Mo Tzu were one hundred and eighty in number, all of whom he could order to enter fire or tread on sword blades, and whom even death would not cause to turn on their heels. And in the Mo-tzu itself , no less than nine chapters deal with the tactics of fighting a defensive war and the techniques of building instruments for defending city walls. All of this shows that the Mohists as originally constituted, were a group of warriors.

            Mo Tzu and his followers, however, differed from the ordinary knights-errant in two respects. In the first place, the latter were men ready to engage to any fighting whatever, only provided that they were paid for their efforts of favoured by the feudal lords. Mo Tzu and his followers, on the contrary, were strongly opposed to aggressive war; hence they agreed to fight only in wars that strictly for self-defence. Secondly, the ordinary hsieh confined themselves only to their code of professional ethics. Mo Tzu, however, elaborated his professional ethics and give it a rationalistic justification. Thus though Mo Tzu’s background was that of a hsieh, he at the same time became the founder of new philosophical school.

Mo Tzu’s criticism of Confucianism:

            According to Mo Tzu, “the principles of the Confucianists ruin the whole world in four ways”; (1) The Confucianists do not believe in the existence og God or of spirits, “with the result that god and the spirits are displeased.” (2) The Confucianists insist on elaborate funerals and the practice of three years of mourning on the death of a parent, so that the wealth and the energy of the people are thereby wasted. (3) the Confucianists lay stress on the practice of music, leading to an identical result. (4) The Confucianists believe in a determined fate, causing the people to be lazy and to resign themselves to this fate.

            In another chapter entitled “anti-Confucianism,” the Mu-tzu also says: “Even those with long life cannot exhaust the learning required for their [Confucianist] studies. Even people with the vigour of youth cannot perform all the ceremonial duties. And even those who have amassed wealth cannot afford music. They [the Confucianists] enhanced the beauty of wicked arts and lead their sovereign astray. Their doctrine cannot meet the needs of the age, nor can their learning educate the people.

            These criticisms reveal the differing social backgrounds of the Confucianists and Mohists. Already before Confucious, persons who were better educated and more sophisticated had been abandoning the belief in the existence of a personal God and of divine spirits. People of the lower classes, however had, as always in such matters, lagged behind in this rise of skepticism, and Mo Tzu held the point of view the lower classes. This is the significance of his first point of criticism against the Confucianists. The second and Third point, too, were made from the same basis. The fourth point, however, was really irrelevant, because though the Confucianists often spoke about Mink (Fate or Decree), what they meant by it was not the predetermined fate attacked by MoTzu. Ming, for the Confucianists, signified something that is beyond human control. But there are other things that remain within man’s power to control if he will exert himself, therefore, should he accept with calm and resignation what comes thereafter as inevitable. Such is what the Confucianists mean when they spoke of “knowing Ming.”

All-embracing love:

Mo Tzu makes no criticism of the Confucianists’ central idea of jen (human-heartedness) and yi (righteousness); in the Mo tzu (his book), in deed he speaks often of these two qualities and of the man of jen and man of yi. What he means by these terms, however, differs somewhat from the concept of them held by the Confucianists. For Mo Tzu jen and yi signify an all-embracing love, and the man of jen and man of yi are persons who practice this all embracing love. This concept is a central one in Mo Tzu’s philosophy, and represents a logical extension of the professional ethics of the class of hsieh (knights-errant) from which Mo Tzu sprang. This ethics was, namely, that within their group the hsieh “enjoy equally and suffer equally.” (This was a common saying of the hsieh of later times.) Taking this group concept as a basis, Mo Tzu tried to broaden it by preaching the doctrine that everyone in the world should love everyone else equally and without discrimination.

Mo Tzo (in his book Mo tzu) first makes a distinction between what he calls the principles of “discrimination” and “all-embracingness.” The man who hold to the principle of discrimination says: It is absurd for me to care for friends as much as I would for myself, and to look after their parents as I would my own. As a result, such a man does not do very much for his friends. But the man who holds to the principle of all-embracingness says, on the contrary: I must care for my friends as much as I do for myself, and for their parents as I would my own. As a result, he does everything he can for his friends. Having made this distinction, Mo Tzu then asks the question: Which of these two principles is the right one?

According to Mo Tzu’s “test of judgement”, every principle must be examined by three tests, namely: “Its basis, its verifiability, and its applicability.”

  1. A sound and right principle “should be based on the Will of Heaven and of the spirits and on the deeds of the ancient sage-kings.”
  2. Then “it is to be verified by the senses of hearing and the sight of the common people.”
  3. And finally, “it is to be applied by adopting it in government and observing whether it is beneficial to the country and the people.”

And of these three tests, the last is the most important. “Being beneficial to the country and the people” is the standard by which Mo Tzu determines all values. This standard is the chief one used by Mo Tzu to prove the desirability of all embracing love. Under the title of “All embracing love,” he argues that:

The task of the human-hearted man is to produce benefits for the world and to eliminate its calamities. Now among all the current calamities of the world, which are the greatest? I say that attacks on small states by large ones, disturbances of small houses by large ones, oppression of the weak by the strong, misuse of the few by the many, deception of the simple by the cunning, and disdain toward the humble by the honoured; these are the misfortunes of the world.

When we come to think about the causes of all these calamities, how have they arisen? Have they arisen out of love of others and benefiting others? We must reply that it is not so. Rather we should say that they have arisen  out of hate of others and injuring others, and we classify them as “discriminating. So, then, the case of “mutual discrimination” is the cause of the major calamities of the world. Therefore the principle of discrimination is wrong.

Whoever criticizes others must have something to substitute for what he criticizes. Therefore I say: “Substitute all-embracingness for discrimination.” The reason is that when everyone regards the state of others, the cities of others, and the houses of others, as he regarded his own; who will attack other states, seize other cities, and disturb other houses? Others will be regarded like the self. Now when states and cities do not attack and seize one another, and when clans and individuals  do not disturb and harm one another, is this a calamity or a benefit to the world? We must say it is benefit.

When we come to consider the origin of the various benefits, how have they arisen? Have they arisen out of hate of others  and injuring others? We must say not so. We should say that they have arisen out of love of the others and benefiting others, and  classify them as “all-embracing.”  So, then  the case of “mutual all-embracingness” is the cause of major benefit of the world. Therefore the principle of “all-embracingness” is right.

            So using the utilitarianistic argument, Mo Tzu proves the principle of all-embracing love to be absolutely right. The human-hearted man whose task is to produce  benefits for the world and eliminate its calamities, must establish all-embracing love as the standard of the action both for himself and all others in the world. When everyone in the world acts according to this standard, “then attentive ears and keen eyes will respond to serve one another, and those who know the proper principle will untiringly instruct others. Thus the aged and widowers will have support and nourishment with which to round out their old age, and the young and weak and orphans will have a place of support in which to grow up. When all-embracing love is adopted as the standard, such are the consequent benefits.” This, then, is Mo Tzu’s ideal world, which can be created only through the practice of all-embracing love.

The will of God and existence of Spirits:

            There remains, however a basic question: how to persuade people to love one another?  One may tell them that the practice of all-embracing love is the only way to benefit the world and that every human-hearted man is one who practices all- embracing love. Yet people may still ask : Why should I personally act to benefit the world and why should I be a human hearted man? One may then argue further that if the world as a whole benefited, this means benefit for every individual as well. Or as Mo Tzu says: He who loves and benefits the others must be loved and also benefited by others. And he who hates and injures others must also be hated and injured by others.

            In order , therefore, to induce people to practice the principle of all-embracing love, Mo Tzu in addition to the forgoing arguments, introduces a number of religious and political sanctions. Thus MO Tzu  said that God exists; that He loves mankind; and that his Will is that all men should love one another. He constantly supervises the activities of men, especially those of the rulers of men. He punishes with calamities persons who disobey his will, and rewards with good fortune those who obey. Besides God, there are also numerous lesser spirits who likewise reward men, who practice all embracing love, and punish those who practice “discrimination”.

            There is an interesting story about Mo Tzu: When he was once ill, somebody came to him and inquired: “Sir you hold that the spirits are intelligent and control calamities and mlessings. They reward the good and punish the evil. Now you are a sage. How then can you be ill? Is it that your teaching is not entirely correct or that the spirits are after all not intelligent?” Mo Tzu replied something that in modern logical terminology means that punishment by the spirits is a sufficient cause for the disease of a man, but not its necessary cause.

A seeming inconsistency:

            Here it is timely to point out that both the Mohists and the Confucianists seem to be inconsistent in their attitude toward the existence of spirits and the performance of rituals connected with the spirits. Certainly it seems inconsistent for the Mohists to have believed in the existence of the spirits, yet at the same time to have opposed the elaborate rituals that were conducted on the occasion of funerals and of the making of sacrifices to the ancestors. Likewise, it is inconsistent that the Confucianists stressed those funeral and sacrificial rituals, yet did not believe in the existence of spirits.

            Yet the seeming inconsistencies of the Confucianists and Mohists are both unreal. According to the former, the reason for performing the sacrificial rituals is no longer a belief that the spirits actually exist, though no doubt this was the original reason. Rather, the performance springs from the sentiment of respect toward his departed forbears held by the man who offers the sacrifice. Hence the meaning of the ceremonies is poetic, not religious. Hence there is no real inconsistency at all.

            Likewise there is no actual inconsistency in the Mohist point of view, For Mo Tzu’s proof of the existence of the spirits is done primarily in order that he may introduce a religious sanction for his doctrine of all- embracing love, rather than because of any real interest in supernatural matters. Thus in his Chapter on “Proof of the Existence of Spirits” he attributes the existing confusion of the world to “a doubt (among men) as to the existence of spirits and a failure to understand that they can reward the good and punish the bad.” He then asks: “If now all the people of the world could be made to believe that the spirits can reward the good and punish the bad, would the world then be in chaos?” Thus his doctrine of the Will of God and the existence of spirits is only to induce people  to believe that they will me rewarded if they practice all-embracing love, and punished if they do not. Such a belief among the people was something useful; hence Mo Tzu wanted it. “Economy of expenditure” in the funeral and sacrificial services was also useful; hence Mo Tzu wanted it too. From his ultra-utilitarian point of view, there was no inconsistency in wanting both things, since both were useful. {Morad: It also seems that he does not really believe in the existence of God and Spirits as he only use them as placeholders when he is unable to answer the ones that challenge him about the reasons of having all-embracing love.}

Origin of the state:

            Besides religious sanctions, political ones are also needed if people are to practice all-embracing love. According to Mo Tzu’s theory of the origin of the state, the authority of the ruler of the state comes from two sources: the will of the people and the will of God. Furthermore, the main task of the ruler is to supervise the activities of the people, rewarding those who practice all-embracing love and punishing those who do not. In order to do this effectively, his authority must be absolute. At this point we may ask: Why should people voluntarily choose to have such an absolute authority over them?

            The answer for Mo Tzu, is that the people accept such an authority, not because they prefer it, but because they have no alternative. According to him, before the creation of an organized state, everyone had his own standard of right and wrong. Every man considered himself as right and others as wrong. “The world was in great disorder and men were like birds and beasts.  They understood that all the disorders of the world were due to the fact that there was no political ruler. Therefore they selected the most virtuous and most able man  of the world, and established him as the Son of Heaven.” Thus the ruler of the state was first established by the will of the people, in order to save themselves from anarchy.

            In another chapter Mo Tzu says: “Of old when God and spirits established the state and cities and installed rulers, it was to produce benefits for the people and eliminate their adversities; to enrich the poor and increase the few; and to bring safety out of danger and order out of confusion. According to this statement, therefore, the state and its ruler were established through the Will of God.

            No matter what was the way in which the ruler gained his power once he was established , he, according to Mo Tzu, issued a mandate to the people of the world, saying: “Upon hearing good or evil, one shall report it to one superior. What the superior thinks to be right, all shall think to be right. What the superior thinks to be wrong, all shall think to be wrong.” This leads Mu Tzu to the following dictum: “Always agree with the superior; never follow the inferior.”

Thus Mo Tzu argues, the state must be totalitarian and the authority of its ruler absolute. This is an evitable conclusion to his theory of the origin of the state. For the state was created precisely in order to end the disorder which had existed owing to the confused standards of right and wrong. The state’s primary function, therefore, is, quoting Mo Tzu, “to unify the standards.” Within the state only one standard can exist, and it must be one which is fixed by the state itself. No other standards can be tolerated, because there cold be nothing but disorder and chaos. In this political theory we may see Mo Tzu’s development of the professional ethics of the hsieh, with its emphasis upon group obedience and discipline. No doubt it also reflects the troubled political conditions of Mo Tzu’s day, which caused many people to look with favour on a centralized authority, even if it were to be an autocratic one.

So, then, there can be only one standard or right and wrong. Right, for Mo Tzu, is the practice of “mutual all-embracingness,”and wrong is the practice of “mutual discrimination.” Through appeal to this political sanction, together with his religious one, Mo Tzu hoped to bring all people of the world  to practice his principle of all-embracing love. Such was Mo Tzu’s teaching, and it is unanimous report of all sources of his time that in his own activities he was a true example of it.



yang chuIn the Confucian Analects, we are told that Confucius, while travelling from state to state, met many men whom he called yin che, “those who obscure themselves,”and described as persons who had “escaped from the world.” These recluses ridiculed Confucius  for what they regarded as  his vain efforts to save the world.  By one of them he was described as “the one who knows he cannot succeed, yet keeps on trying to do so,” These recluses were individualists who “desired to maintain their personal purity.” They were also, in a sense, defiantists who thought that the world was so bad that nothing could be done for it. I t was from men of this sort , most of them living far away from other men in the world of nature, that the Taoist  were probably originally drawn.

The Early Taoists and the Recluses:

The Taoists, however were not ordinary recluses who escaped the world,”desiring to maintain their personal purity,” and who, once in retirement made no attempt ideologically to justify their conduct. On the contrary, they were men who, having gone into seclusion, attempted to work out a system of thought that would give meaning to their action. Among them , Yang Chu seems to have been the earliest prominent exponent. Yang Chu’s dates are not clear, but he must be lived between the time of Mo Tzu (479-381 B.C.) and Mencius (371-289 B.C.). this is indicated by the fact that though unmentioned by Mo Tzu, he, by the time of Mencius, had become as influential as were the Mohists. Yang Chu’s actual ideas, unfortunately, are nowhere described consecutively, but must be deduced from scattered  references in a number of works by other writers.

Yang Chu’s Fundamental Ideas:

Putting all sources and quotations together, we can deduce that Yang Chu’s two fundamental ideas were: “Each one for himself,” and “the despising of things and valuing of life.” Such ideas of precisely the opposite of those of Mo Tzu, who held the principle of an all-embracing love.  The quotation that says : Yang Chu would not give up a hair from his shank even to gain the entire world, differs somewhat from what Mencius says, which is that Yang Chu would not sacrifice a single hair even in order to profit the whole world. Both statements, however, are consistent with Yang Chu’s fundamental ideas. The latter harmonizes with his doctrine of “each one for himself”; the former with that of “despising things and valuing life.” Both may be said to be but the two aspects of a single theory.

Illustrations of Yang Chu’s ideas:

Here are two stories in which you may be find out both the above mentioned aspects of Yung Chu’s ideology from the Taoist literature:

  1. A story about a meeting between the legendary sage-ruler and a hermit. The sage-ruler was anxious to hand over his rule of the world to the hermit, but the latter rejected it, saying: “You govern the world and it is already at peace. Suppose I were to take your place, would I do it for the name? Name is but the shadow of real gain. Would I do it for real gain? The tit building its nest in the mighty forest, occupies but a single twig. The tapir, slaking its thirst from the river, drinks only enough to fill its belly. You return and be quiet. I have no need of the world.” Here was a hermit who would not take the world, even were it given to him for nothing. Certainly, then, he would not exchange it for even a single hair from his shank.
  2. There is another story in which a man asked Yang Chu: “If by plucking out a single hair of your body you could save the whole world, would you do it?” Yang Chu answered: “The whole world is surely not to be saved by a single hair.” Then asked him: “But supposing it possible, would you do it?” Yang Chu made no answer. Then one of his disciples explained instead: “You do not understand the mind of the master. Supposing by tearing off a piece of your skin, you were to get ten thousand pieces of gold, would you do it?” The man said: “I would.” The disciple continued: “Supposing by cutting off one of your limbs, you were to get a whole kingdom, would you do it? The man was silent for a while. Then the disciple said: “A hair is unimportant compared with the skin. A piece of skin is unimportant with a limb. But many hairs put together are as important as a piece of skin. Many pieces of skin put together are as important as a limb. A single hair is one of the ten thousand parts of the body. How can you disregard it?” This is an illustration of the other aspect of Yang Chu’s theory.

In the same sources, Yang Chu is reported to have said: “The man of antiquity, if by injuring a single hair they could have profited the world, would not have done it. Had the world been offered to them as their exclusive possession, they would not have taken it. If everybody to refuse to pluck out even a single hair, and everybody would refuse to take the world as a gain, then the world would be in perfect order.” We cannot  be sure that this is really a saying of Yang Chu, but it sums up very well the two aspects of his theory, and the political philosophy of early Taoists.

Yang Chu’s Ideas as Expressed in the Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu, Lü-shih and Ch’un-ch’iu 

Reflections of Yang Chu’s idea can be found in portions in these sources as follow:

  1. About the importance of self: “Our life is our possession, and its benefit to us is very great. Regarding its dignity, even the honour of being Emperor could not compare with it. Regarding its importance, even the worth of possessing the world would not be exchanged for it. Regarding its safety, were we to lose it for one morning we could never again bring it back. These three are points of which those who have understanding are careful.” This passage explains why one should despise things and value life. Even an empire, once lost, may some day be regained, but once dead, one never live again.
  2. Another idea of despising things and valuing life: “He who in his conduct values his body more than he does the world, may be given the world. He who in his conduct loves himself more than he does the world, may be entrusted with the world.” “Name person, which is more dear? Person or fortune, which is more important?”
  3. Under the topic of “Fundamentals for cultivation of life”: “When you do something good , beware of reputation, when you do something evil, beware of punishment. Follow the middle way and take this to be your constant principle. Then you can guard your person, nourish your parents, and complete your natural term of years.” This againfollows Yang Chu’s line of thought. And, according to earlier Taoists , it is the best way to preserve one’s life against the harms that come from the human world. If a man’s conduct is so bad that the society punishes him, this is obviously not the way to preserve his life. But if a man is so good in his conduct that he obtains a fine reputation, this too is not the way to preserve his life.
  4. They also tell us: “Mountain trees are their own enemies, and the leaping fire is the cause of its own quenching. Cinnamon is edible, therefore the cinnamon tree is cut down. A man having a reputation of ability and usefulness will suffer a fate just that of cinnamon trees.
  5. Passages that admire the usefulness of the useless: In one chapter, there is a description of a sacred oak , which, because its wood was good for nothing. Had been spared the axe, and which said to someone in a dream: “For a long time I have been learning to be useless. There were several occasions on which I was nearly destroyed, but now I have succeeded to being useless, which is of the greatest use to me. If I were useful, could I have become so great?” Again it is said that “the world knows only the usefulness of the useful, but does not know the usefulness of the useless.” To be useless is the way to preserve one’s life. The man who is skilful in preserving life must not do much evil, but neither must he do much good. He must live midway between good and evil. He tries to be useless, which in the end proves of the greatest usefulness to him.

Development of Taoism:

In this chapter we have been seeing the first phase in the development of early Taoist philosophy. Altogether there have been three phases:

  1. The ideas attributed to Yang Chu represent the first: The starting point of Taoist philosophy is the preservation of life and avoiding the injury. Yang Chu’s method for so doing is “to escape.” This is the method of ordinary recluse who flees from society  and hides himself in the mountains and forests. By doing this he thinks he can avoid the evil of the human world. Things in the human world, however, are so complicated that no matter how well one hides oneself, there are always the evils that cannot be avoided. There are times, therefore, when the method of “escaping “does not work.
  2. Those expressed in the greater mart of Lao-tzu {the book} represent the second: The ideas expressed in the greater part of the Lao-tzu represent an attempt to reveal the laws underlying the changes of things in the universe. Things change, but the laws underlying the changes remain unchanging. If one understand these laws and regulates one’s action in conformity with them, one can then turn everything to one’s advantage. Even so, however, there is no absolute guarantee. In the changes of things, both in the world of nature and of man, thare are always unseen elements. So despite every care, the possibility remains that one will suffer injury. This is why the Lao-tzu says with still deeper insight: “the reason that I have great disaster is that I have a body. If there was no body, what disaster could there be?”
  3. Those expressed in the greater part of the Chuang-tzu {the book} represent the third and last phase: The words of greater understanding  are developed in much of the Chuang-tzu, in which occur the concepts of equalization of life with death, and the identity of self with others. This means to see life and death, self and others, from a higher point of view. By seeing things from this higher point of view, one can transcend the existing world. This is also a form of “escape”; not one, however, from society to mountains and forests, but rather from this world to another world.

All these developments are illustrated by a story which we find in the twentieth chapter of the Chuang-tzu, titled “The Mountain Tree.” The story runs:

Chuang Tzu was travelling through the mountains, when he saw a great tree well covered with foliage. A tree-cutter was standing beside it, but he did not cut it down. Chuang Tzu asked him the reason and he replied: “It is no use.” Chuang Tzu then said: “By virtue of having no exceptional qualities, this tree succeeds in completing its natural span.”

When the master (Cuhang Tzu) left the mountains, he stopped at the home of a friend. The friend was glad and ordered the servant to kill a goose and cook it. The servant asked: “One of the geese can cackle. The other cannot. Which shall I kill?” The master said: “Kill the one that cannot cackle.” Next day, a disciple asked Chuang Tzu the question: “Yesterday the tree in the mountains, because it had no exceptional quality, succeeded in completing its normal span. But now the goose of our host, because it had no exceptional quality, had to die. What will be your position?”

Chuang Tzu laughed and said: “My position will lie between having exceptional qualities and not having them. Yet this position only seems to be right, but really is not so. Therefore those who practice this method are not able to be completely free from troubles. If one wonders about with Tao and Te (the Way and its spiritual power), it will be otherwise.” Then Chuang Tzu went on to say that  he who links himself with Tao and Te is with the “ancestor of things, using things as things, but not being used by things as things. When that is so, what is there that can trouble him?”

In this story, the first part illustrates the theory of preserving life as practised by Yang Chu, while the second part gives that of Chuang Tzu. “Having exceptional quality”corresponds to the doing of good things and “Having no exceptional quality” corresponds to the doing of bad things. And the position between these two extremes corresponds to the middle way. Yet if a man cannot see things from a higher point of view, none of these methods can absolutely guarantee him from danger and harm. To see things from the higher point of view, however, means to abolish the self. We may say that the early Taoists were selfish. Yet in their later development this selfishness became reversed and destroyed itself.




menciusMencius (371?-289 B.C.) was a native of the state of Tsou, in the present Southern part of Shantung province in east China. He was linked with Confucius through his study  under a disciple was Confucius grandson. At that time the kings of a larger state also in present Shantung were great admirers of learning.  Near the west gate of their capital, they had established a centre of learning. All the scholars living in this centre “were ranked as great officers  and were honoured and courted by having large housed build for them on the main road.

Mencius for a while was one of this eminent scholars but he also travelled to other states, vainly trying to get a hearing for his ideas among the rulers. Finally, he retired  and with his disciples composed the Mencius in seven books. This work records the conversations between Mencius and the feudal lords of his time, and between him and his disciples, and in later times it was honoured by being made one of the famous “Four Books” which for the most one thousand years have formed the basis of Confucian education.Mencius represents the idealistic wing of Confucianism and the later Hsün Tzu the realistic wing.

The Goodness of Human Nature:

We have seen that Confucius spoke very much about jen (human-heartedness), and made a sharp distinction between yi (righteousness) and li (profit). Every man should, without thought of personal advantage, unconditionally do what he ought to do, and be what he ought to be. In other words, he should “extend himself so as to include others,” which in essence, is the practice of jen. But though Confucius held these doctrines, he failed to explain why it is that a man should act in this way. Mencius, however, attempted to give an answer to this question, and in so doing developed the theory for which he is most famed: that of the original goodness of human nature.

Whether human nature is good or bad–-that is,what, precisely, is the nature of human nature—has been one of the most controversial problems in Chinese philosophy. According to Mencius, there were, in this time, three other theories besides his own on this subject: 1) Human nature is neither good nor bad. 2) Human nature can be either good or bad (which seems to mean that in the nature of man there are both good and bad elements). 3) The nature of some men is good and that of others is bad.

When Mencius holds that human nature is good, he does not mean that every man is born a Confucius, that is, a sage. His theory has some similarity with one side of the second theory mentioned above, that is, that in the nature of man there are good elements. He admits, to be sure, that there are also other elements, which are neither good, nor bad in themselves, but which, if not duly controlled, can lead to evil. According to Mencius, however, these are elements which man shares in common with other living creatures. They present the “animal” aspect of man’s life, and therefore, strictly speaking, should not be considered as part of the “human nature”.

To support this theory, Mencius presents numerous arguments, among them the following:

 “All men have a mind which cannot bear [to see the suffering of] others….If now men suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, they will without exception experience a feeling of alarm and distress….From this case we may perceive that he who lacks the feeling of commiseration, a feeling of shame and dislike, a feeling of modesty and yielding, and a sense of right and wrong,  is not a man. The feeling of commiseration is the beginning of human-heartedness. The feeling of shame and dislike is the beginning of righteousness. The feeling of modesty and is the beginning of propriety. The sense of right and wrong is the beginning of wisdom. Man has these four beginnings, just as he has four limbs….Since all men have these four beginnings in themselves, let them know how to give them full development and completion.  The result will be like fire that begins to burn, or a spring which has begun to find vent. Let them have their complete development, and they will suffice to protect all within the four seas. If they are denied that development, they will not suffice to serve one’s parents.”

All men in their original nature possess these “four beginnings,” which, if fully developed, become the four “constant virtues,” so greatly emphasized in Confucianism. These virtues, if not hindered by external conditions, develop naturally from within, just as a tree grow by itself from the seed, or a flower from the bud. This is the basis of Mencius’s controversy with Kao Tzu, according to whom human nature is in itself  neither good nor bad, and for whom morality is therefore something that is artificially added from without.

There remains another question, which is: Why should man allow free development of his “four beginnings,” instead of to what we may call his lower instincts? Mecius answers that it is these four beginnings that  differentiate man from the beasts. They should be developed, therefore, because it is only through their development that man is truly a “man.” Mencius says: “That whereby man differs from birds and beasts is but slight. The mass of the people cast it away, whereas the superior man preserves it.” Thus he answers the question which had not occurred to Confucius.

Fundamental Difference between Confucianism and Mohism:

One of Mencius’s self appointed task was to “oppose Yang Chu and Mo Ti.” He says: “Yang’s principle of ‘each one for himself’ amounts to making one’s sovereign of no account. Mo’s principle of ‘all-embracing love’amounts to making one’s father of no account. To have no father and no sovereign is to be like the birds and beasts…. These pernicious opinions mislead the people and block the way of human-heartedness and righteousness.” It is very clear that Yang Chu’s theory opposes human-heartedness and righteousness, since the essence of these two virtues is to benefit others, while Yang Chu’s principle is to benefit oneself. But Mo Tzu’s principle of all-embracing love also aimed to benefit others, and he was even more outspoken in this respect than the confucianists. Why, then,  does Mencius  lump him together with Yang Chu in his criticism?

The traditional answer is that according to Mohist doctrine, love should have in it no gradations of greater or lesser love, whereas according to Confucianism, the reverse is true. In other words, the Mohists emphasized equality in loving others, while the Confucianists emphasized gradation. This difference is brought out in a passage in the Mo-tzu {the book} in which a man [Confucianist] is reported as saying to Mo Tzu: “I cannot practice all-embracing love. I love a man of nearby state, my own state and the man of my own district better than a man of distant state, other states, other districts. I love the members of my own clan  better than I love those of my district. I love my parents better than I love the men of my clan. I love myself better than I love my parents.”

The representation of the Confucianist as saying, “I love myself better than love my parents,” comes from a Mohist source and is probably an exaggeration. Certainly it is not consistent with the Confucianist emphasis on filial piety. With this exception, however, the man’s statement is in general agreement with the Confucianist spirit. For according to the Confucianists, there should be degrees in love.

Speaking about the degrees, Mencius says: “The superior man, in his relation to things, loves them but has no feeling of human-heartedness. In his relation to people . he has human-heartedness, but no deep feeling of family affection. One should  have feelings of family affection for the members of one’s family, but human-heartedness for people. Human-heartedness for people, but love for things.” In a discussion with a Mohist, Mencius asked him whether he really  believed that men love their neighbours’ children in the same way as they love their brother’s children; the love for brother’s child is naturally greater. This according to Mencius, is quite proper; what should be done is to extend such love until it includes the more distant members of society. “Treat the aged in your family as they should be treated, and extend this treatment to the aged of other people’s families.” Such is what Mencius calls “extending one’s scope of activity to include others.” It is an extension based on the principle of graded love.

To extend the love for one’s family so as  to include persons outside it as well, is to practice that “principle of chung [conscientiousness to others] and shu [altruism] advocated by Confucius, which in turn is equivalent to the practice of human-heartedness. There is nothing forced in any of these practices, because the original natures of all men have in them a feeling of commiseration, which makes it impossible for them to bear to see the suffering of others. The development of this “beginning” of goodness causes men naturally to love others, but it is equally natural that they should love their parents to a greater degree than they love men in general.

Such is the Confucianist point of view. The Mohists, on the contrary, insist that the love for others should be on a par with the love for parents. Regardless of whether this means that one should love one’s parents less, or others more, the fact remains that the Confucianist type of graded love should be avoided at all costs. It is with this in mind that Mencius attacks the Mohist principle of all-embracing love as meaning that a man treats his father as of no account.

The above difference between the Confucianist and the Mohist theory of love has been pointed out very clearly by Mencius and by many others after him. Besides this, however, there is another difference of a more fundamental nature. This is, that the Confucianists considered human-heartedness as a quality that develops naturally from within the human nature, whereas the Mohists considered all-embracing love as something artificially added to man from without.

Mo Tzu may also said to have answered a question that did not occur to Confucius, namely: Why should man practice human-heartedness and righteousness? His answer, however, is based on utilitarianism, and his emphasis on supernatural and political sanctions to compel and induce people to practice all-embracing love is not consistent with the Confucianist principle that virtue should be done for its own sake. if we compare the Mo-tzu’s “All-embracing Love” as quoted above with the quotations here from the Mencius on the fore moral beginnings in man’s nature, we see very clearly the fundamental difference between the two schools.

Political Philosophy:

We have seen earlier that the Mohist theory of origin of state is likewise a utilitarian one. Here again the confucianist theory differs. Mencius says: “If men have satisfied their hunger, have clothes to wear, and live at ease but lack good teaching, they are close to the birds and beasts. The sage [Shun, a legendary sage ruler] was distressed about this and appointed Hsieh as an official instructor to teach men the basic relationship of life. Father and son should love each other. Ruler and subject should be just to each other. Husband and wife should distinguish their respective spheres. Elder and younger brothers should have a sense of mutual precedence. And between friends there should be good faith.” The existence of human relationships  and the moral principles based on them is what differentiates man from birds and beasts. The state and society have their origin in the existence of these human relationships. Therefore, according to the Mohists, the state exists because it is useful. But according to the Confucianists, it exists because it ought to exist.

Men have their full realization and development only in human relationships. Like Aristotle, Mencius maintains that “man is a political animal” and can fully develop these relationships only within state and society. The state is a moral institution and the head of the state should be a moral leader. Therefore in Confucianist political Philosophy only a sage can be a real king. Mencius pictures this ideal as having existed in an idealized past. According to him, there was a time when the sage Yao (supposed to have lived in the twenty fourth century B.C.) was Emperor. When he was old, he selected a younger sage, Shun, whom he had taught how to be a ruler, so that at Yao’s death, Shun became emperor. Similarly, when Shun was old, he again selected a younger sage, Yü”, to be his successor. Thus the throne was handed from sage to sage, which, according to Mencius, is as it ought to be.

If a ruler lacks the ethical qualities that make a good leader, the people have the moral right of revolution. In that case, even the killing of the ruler is no longer a crime of regicide. This is because according to Mencius, if a sovereign does not act as ideally ought to do, he morally ceases to be a sovereign and, following Confucius’theory of the rectification of names, is a “mere fellow,” as Mencius says. Mencius also says: “The people are the most important element [in a state]; the spirits of the land and the grain are secondary; and the sovereign is the last.” These ideas of Mencius  have exercised a tremendous influence in Chinese history, even as late as the revolution of 1911, which led to the establishment of the Chinese republic. It is true that modern democratic ideas from the West played their role too in this event, but the ancient native concept of the “right of revolution” had a greater influence on the mass of the people.

If a sage becomes king, his government called one of kingly government. According to Mencius and later Confucianists, there are two kinds of government. One is that of the wang or (sage) king; the other is that of the pa or military lord. These are completely different in kind. The government of a sage-king is carried on through moral instruction and education; that of a military lord is conducted through force  and compulsion. The poser of the wang government is moral, that of the pa government , physical. Mencius says in this connection: “He who uses force in the place of virtue is a pa. He who is virtuous and practices human-heartedness is a wang. When one subdues men by force, they do not submit to him in their hearts but only outwardly, because they have insufficient to resist. But when one gains followers by virtue, they are pleased in their hearts and will submit of themselves as did the seventy disciples to Confucius.”

This distinction between wang and pa has always been maintained by later Chinese political philosophers. In terms of contemporary politics, we may say that a democratic government is a wang government, because it respects a free association of people, while a Fascist government is that of a pa, because it reigns terror and physical force.

This sage-king  in his kingly government does all he can for the welfare and benefit of the people, which means that his state must be built on a sound economy basis. Since china has always been overwhelmingly agrarian, it is natural that, according to Mencius, the most important economic basis of kingly government lies in the equal distribution of land.his ideal land system is what has been known as the “well-field-system.” According to this system, each square li (about one third of a mile) of land is to be divided into nine squares (3×3), each consisting of one hundred Chinese acres. The central square is known as the “public field,” while the eight surrounding squares are the private land of eight farmers with their families, each family having one square. These farmers cultivate the public field collectively and their own fields individually. The produce of the public field goes to the government, while each family keeps for itself what it rises from its own field. The arrangement of the nine squares resembles in form the Chinese character for “well” #, which is why it is called the “well-field-system.”

Describing this system further, Mencius states that each family should plant mulberry trees around its five-acre homestead in its own field so that its aged members may be clothed with silk. Each family should also raise fowl and pigs, so that its aged members may be nourished with meat. If this is done, everyone under the kingly government can “nourish the living and bury the dead without the least dissatisfaction, which marks the beginning of the kingly way.” It marks, however, only the “beginning,” because it is an exclusively economic basis for the higher culture of the people. Only when everyone has received some education and come to an understanding of the human relationships, does the kingly way become complete.

The practice of this kingly way is not something alien to human nature, but is rather the direct outcome of the development by the sage-king of his own “feeling of commiseration.” As Mencius says: “All men have a mind which cannot bear [to see the suffering of] others. The early kings, having this unbearing mind, thereby had likewise an unbearing government.” The “unbearing mind” and feeling of commiseration are one in Mencius’ thought.

As we have seen, the virtue of human-heartedness, according to the Confucianists, is nothing but the development of this feeling of commiseration; this feeling in its turn cannot be developed save through the practice of love; and the practice of love is nothing more than the “extension of one’s scope of activity to include others,” which is the way of chung and shu. The kingly way or kingly government is nothing but the result of the king’s practice of love, and his practice of chung and shu.

According to Mencius, there is nothing esoteric or difficult in the kingly way. The Mencius {book} records that on one occasion, when an ox was being led to sacrifice, king Hsüan of Ch’i {state} saw it and could not endure “its frightened appearance, as if it were an innocent person going to the place of death.” He therefore ordered that it be replaced by a sheep. Mencius then told the king that this was an example of his “unbearing mind,” and if he could only extend it  to include human affairs, he could then govern in the kingly way.  The king replied that he could not do this because he had the defect of loving wealth and feminine beauty. Whereupon Mencius told the king that there are things loved by all men. If the king, by understanding his own desires, would also come to understand the desires of all his people, and would take measures whereby the people must might satisfy these desires, this would result  in the kingly way and nothing else.

What Mencius told king Hsüan is nothing more than the “the extension of one’s own scope of activity yo include others.” Which is precisely the practice of chung and shu. Here we see how Mencius developed the idea of Confucius. In his exposition of this principle, Confucius had limited himself to its application to the self-cultivation of the individual, while by Mencius its application was extended to government and politics. For confucius, it was a principle only for “sageliness within.” But by Mencius it was expanded to become also a principle for “kingliness without.”

Even in the former sense of “sageliness within,” Mencius  expresses his concept of this principle more clearly than did Confucius. He says: “He who has completely developed his mind, knows his nature. He who knows his nature, knows heaven.” The mind here referred to is the “unbearing mind” or the “feeling of commiseration.” It is the essence of our nature. Hence when we fully develop this mind, we know our nature. And according to Mencius, our nature is “what heaven has given to us.” Therefore, when we know our nature, we also know Heaven.


According to Mencius and his school of Confucianism, the universe is essentially a moral universe. The moral principles of man are also metaphysical principles of the universe, and the nature of man is an exemplification of these principles. It is this moral universe that Mencius and his school mean when they speak of heaven, and an understanding of this moral universe is what Mencius calls “knowing Heaven.” If a man knows heaven, he is not only a citizen of society, but also a “citizen of heaven,” tíen min as Mencius says. Mencius further makes a distinction between “human honours” and “heavenly honours.” He says: “There are heavenly honours and human honours. Human-heartedness, righteousness, loyalty, good faith, and the untiring practice of the good : these are the honours of heaven. Princes, ministers, and officials: these are the honours of man.” In other words, heavenly honours are those to which a man can attain in the world of values, while human honours are purely material concepts in the human world. The citizen of Heaven, just because he is the citizen of Heaven, cares only for the honours of Heaven, but not those of man.

Mencius also remarks: “all things are complete within us. There is no greater delight than realize this through self cultivation. And there is no better way to human-heartedness than the practice of the principle of shu.” In other words, through the full development of his nature, a man cannot only know Heaven, but can also become what with heaven. Also when a man fully develops his unbearing mind, he has within him the virtue of human heartedness.  And the best way to human-heartedness is the practice of chung and shu. Through this practice, one’s egoism and selfishness are gradually reduced. And when they are reduced, one comes to feel that there is no longer a distinction between oneself and others, and so of the distinction between the individual and the universe. That is to say, one becomes identified with the universe as a whole. This leads to a realization that “all things are complete within us.” In this phrase we see the mystical element of Mencius’ philosophy.

We will understand this mysticism better, if we turn to Mencius’ discussion on what he calls the Hao Jan CH’i, a term which I translate as the “Great Morale.” In this discussion Mencius describes the development of his own spiritual cultivation.

A disciple asked Mencius of what he was a specialist. Mencius replied: “I know the right and wrong in speech, and am proficient in cultivating my Hao Jan Chih Ch’i.” The questioner then asked what this was, and Mencius replied: “It is the Ch’i, supremely great, supremely strong. If it be directly cultivated without handicap, then it pervades all between Heaven and Earth. It is the Ch’i which is achieved by the combination of righteousness and Tao [the way, the truth], and without these it will be weakened.”

The Great Morale (Hao Jan Chih Ch’i), it is of the same nature as the miracle of the warriors. The difference between the two , however, is that this Ch’i is further described as hao jan, which means great to a supreme degree. The morale which warriors cultivate is a matter concerning man and man, and so is a morale value only. But the Great Morale  is a matter concerning man and the universe, and therefore is a super-moral value. It is the morale of the man who identifies himself with the universe, so that Mencius says of it that “it pervades all between  Heaven and Earth.”

The method of cultivating Great morale has two aspects. One may be called the  “understanding of Tao”; that is,  of the way or principle that leads to the elevation of the mind. The other aspect is what Mencius calls  the “accumulation of righteousness”; that is, the constant doing of what one ought to do in the universe as a “citizen of the universe.”the combination of these two aspects is called by Mencius “the combination of righteousness and Tao.”

After one has reached the understanding of Tao and the long accumulation of righteousness, the Great Morale will appear naturally of itself. The least bit of forcing will lead to failure. As Mencious says: “We should not be like the man of Sung. There was a man of Sung who was grieved that his grain did not grow fast enough. So he pulled it up. Then returned to his home with great innocence, and said to his people: “I am tired today, for I have been helping the grain to grow.’His sin ran out to look at it, and found all the grain withered,”

When one grows something, one must on the one hand do something for it, but on the other hand “never help it to grow.” The cultivation of the Great Morale is just like the growing of the grain. One must do something, which the practice of virtue. Though Mencius here speaks of righteousness rather than human-heartedness, there is no practical difference, since human is the inner content,of which righteousness is the outer expression. If one constantly practices righteousness, the Great Morale will naturally emerge from the very centre of one’s being.

Although this Hao Jan Chih Ch’I sounds rather mysterious, it can nevertheless, according to Mencius, be achieved by every man. This is because it is nothing more than the fullest development of the nature of man, and every man has fundamentally the same nature.  His nature is the same, just as every man’s bodily form is the same. As an example, Mencius remarks that when a shoemaker makes shoes, even though he does not know  the exact length of the feet of his customers , he always makes shoes, but not baskets. This is so because the similarity between the feet of all men is much greater than their difference. And likewise the sage, in his original nature, is similar to everyone else. Hence every man can become a sage, if only he gives full development to his original nature. As Mencius affirms: “All men can become Yao or Shun [the two legendary sage –rulers previously mentioned].” Here is Mecius’ theory of education, which has been held by all Confucianists.



the_school_of_namesThe term Ming chia has sometimes been translated as “sophists,” and sometimes  as “logicians” or “dialecticians.”  Although there is some similarities between  the Ming chia and these terms, but they are not quite the same. To avoid confusion, it is better to translate Ming chia literally as the School of Names. This translation also helps to bring to the attention of Westerners one of the important problems discussed by Chinese philosophy, namely that of relation between ming (the name) and shih (the actuality).

The School of Names and the “Debaters”:

The members of the School of Names were known in ancient times as pien che (debaters, disputers, arguers).  Kung-sun Lung one of the leaders of this school says: “I have unified similarity and difference, and separated hardness and whiteness. I have proved the impossible as possible and affirmed what others deny. I have controverted the knowledge of all the philosophers and refuted all the arguments brought against me.” These words are really applicable to the school of Names as a whole.Its members where known as persons who made paradoxical statements, who were ready to dispute with others, and who purposely affirmed what others denied and what others affirmed. Ssu-ma T’n (died 110 B.C.), for example, wrote: “The school of Names conducted minute examinations of trifling points in complicated and elaborate statements, which made it impossible for others to refute their ideas.” The most important leaders of this school were Hui Shih, Huan T’uan , Teng His, and Kung-sun Lung  were the philosophers who liked to deal with strange theories, paradoxical arguments, and indulge in curious propositions.

About Huan Túan we know nothing further, but about Teng His, we know that he was a famous lawyer of his time; his writings, however, no longer are preserved. There are stories about him in which so skilful he was that he was patronized by numerous people; as their lawyer, he succeeded in changing right into wrong and wrong into right, until no standard of right and wrong remained, so that what was regarded as possible and impossible fluctuated from day to day.

It would thus seen that Teng His’s trick was to interpret the formal letter of the law in such a way as to give varying interpretations in different cases at will. This was how he was able to “conduct minute examinations of trifling points in complicated and elaborate statements, which made it impossible for others to refute his ideas.” He thus devoted himself to interpreting and analysing the letter of the law, while disregarding its spirit and its connection with actuality. In other words, his attention was directed to “names,” instead of to “actualities,”. Such was the spirit of the school of names.

From this we may see that the pien che were originally lawyers, among whom Teng His was evidently one of the first. He was, however, only a beginner in the analysis of the names, and made no real contribution to philosophy as such. Hence the real founders of the school of names were the later Hui Shih and Kung-sun Lung. It is said that: “When discussions on “hardness and whiteness” one of Kung-sun Lung’s doctrine and “having no thickness” one of Hui Shih’s doctrine  appear, the government laws lose their effect.

From these stories  we may see that Hui Shih and Kungsun Lung were , to some extent, connected with the legal activities of their time. They represented two tendencies in the school of names, the one emphasizing the relatively of actual things, and the other the absoluteness of names. This distinction becomes evident when one comes to analyse names in their relationship to actualities. Let us take the simple statement, “This is a table.” Here the word “this” refers to the concrete actuality, which is impermanent and may come and go. The word “table,” however, refers to abstract category or name which is unchanging and always remains as it it. The “name” is absolute but the “actuality” is relative. Thus, “beauty” is the name of what is absolutely beautiful, but “a beautiful thing” can only be relatively so. Hui Shih emphasized the fact that actual things are changeable and relative, while Kung-sun Lung emphasized the fact that names are permanent and absolute.

Hui Shih’s Theory of Relativity:

Hui ShihHui Shih (A. 350-260) was a native of the state of Sung, in the present province of Honan. His writings, unfortunately, are lost, and what we know of his ideas may be deduced only from a series of “ten points” preserved in a Chapter in Chuang-tzu.

The first of these points is: “The greatest has nothing beyond itself, and is called the great one. The smallest has nothing within itself , and is called the small one.” These two statements constitutes what are called analytical propositions. They make no assertion in regard to the actual, for they say nothing about what, in the actual world, is the greatest thing and the smallest thing. They only touch upon the abstract concepts or names: “greatest “and “smallest”. In order to understand these two propositions fully, we should compare them with a story in the Chuang-tzu. From this it will become apparent that in one respect Hui Shih and Chang Tzu had very much in common.

This story describes how in autumn when the Yellow river was in flood, the Spirit of the River, who was very proud of his greatness, moved down the river to the sea. There he met the Spirit of the Sea, and realized for the first time that his river, great as it was, was small indeed in comparison with the sea. Yet when, full of admiration, he talked with the spirit of the sea, the latter replied that he himself, in his relationship to heaven and earth, was nothing more than a single grain lying within a grain warehouse. Hence he could only be said to be “small,” but not to be “great.” At this the River spirit asked  the Sea Spirit: “Are we right then in saying that Heaven and Earth are supremely great and the tip of a hair is supremely small?” The Sea Spirit answered : “What men know is less than what they do not know. The time when they are alive is less than the time when they are not alive…. How can we know that the tip of a hair that the tip of a hair is the extreme of smallness?” and he then went on to define the smallest as that which has no form, and the greatest as that which cannot be enclosed (by anything else). This  definition of the supremely great and supremely small is similar to that given by Hui Shih.

To say that Heaven and Earth are the greatest of things and that the tip of a hair is the smallest is to make assertion about the actual, the shih. It makes no analysis of the names of the actualities, the ming. These two propositions are what are called synthetic propositions and both may be false. They have their basis in experience; therefore their truth is only contingent, but necessary. In experience, things that are great and things that are small are relatively so. To quote the Chuang-tzu again: “If we call a thing great, because it is greater than something else, then there is nothing in the world that is not great. If we call a thing small because it is smaller than something else, then there is nothing in the world that is not small.”

We cannot true actual experience decide what is the greatest and what is the smallest of actual things. But we can say independently of experience that that which has nothing beyond itself  is the greatest, and that which has nothing within itself is the smallest. “Greatest” and “Smallest” defined in this way, are absolute and unchanging concepts. Thus by analysing the names, “Great One” and “Small One,” Hui Shih reached the concept of what is absolute and unchanging. From the point of view of this concept, he realized that the qualities and differences of actual concrete things are all relative and liable to change.

 Once we understand this position of Hui Shih, we can see that his series of “points”, as reported by the Chuang-tzu, though usually regarded as paradoxes, are really not paradoxical at all. With the exception of the first, they are all illustrations of the relativity of things, and expressions of what may be called a theory of relativity. Let us study them one by one.

  1. “That which has no thickness cannot be increased [in thickness], yet it is so great that it may cover one thousand miles.” This states that the great and the small are so only relatively. It is impossible for that which has no thickness to be thick. In this sense it may be called small. Nevertheless the ideal plane of geometry, though without thickness, may at the same time be very long and wide. In this sense it may be called great.
  2. “The heavens are as low as the earth; mountains are on the same level as marshes.” This too, states that the high and the low are so only relatively.
  3. “The sun at noon is the sun declining; the creature born in the creature dying.” This states that everything in the actual world in changeable and changing.
  4. “Great similarity differs from little similarity. This is called little-similarity-and-difference. All things are in one way are similar, in another war are different. This is called great-similarity-and-difference.” When we say that all men are animals, we thereby recognise that all human beings are similar in the fact that they are human beings, and are also similar in the fact that they are animals. Their similarity in being human beings, however, is greater than that in being animals, because being a human beings being an animal, but being an animal does not necessarily imply being a human being. For there are other kinds of animals as well, which are different from human beings. It is this kind of similarity and difference, therefore, that Hui Shih calls little-similarity-and-difference. However, if we take “beings” as a universal class, we thereby recognize that all things are similar in the fact that they are beings. But if we take each thing as an individual, we thereby recognize that each individual has its own individuality and so is different from other things. This kind of similarity and difference is what Hui Shih calls great-similarity-and-difference. Thus since we can say that all things are similar to each other, and you can also say that all things are different from each other, this shows that their similarity and difference are both relative. This argument of the school of Names was a famous one in ancient China, and was known as the “argument for the unity of similarity and difference.”
  5. “The south has no limit and yet has a limit.” “The south has no limit”was a common saying of the day. At that time, the south has a little known land very much like the West of America two hundred years ago. For the early Chinese, the south was not limited by see as was the east, nor by barren desert as were the North and West. Hence it was popularly regarded as having no limit. Hui Shih’s statement may thus perhaps be merely an expression of his superior geographical knowledge, that the South is , eventually, also limited by the sea. Most probably, however, it means to say that the limited and the unlimited are both only relatively so.
  6. “I go to the state of Yüeh today and arrived there yesterday.” This states that “today”and “yesterday”are relative terms. The yesterday of today was the today of yesterday, and the today of today will be the yesterday of tomorrow, Herein lies the relativity of the present and the past.
  7. “Connected rings can be separated.”connected rings can not be separated unless they are destroyed. But destruction may, from another point of view, be construction. If one makes a wooden table, from the point of view of the wood, it is destruction, but from the point of view of the table, it is construction. Since destruction and construction are relative, therefore “connected rings can be separated” without destroying them.
  8. “I know the center of the world. It is the north of Yen and south of Yüeh.” Among the states of the time, Yen was in the extreme north and Yüeh in the extreme south. The Chinese regarded China as being the world. Hence it was a matter of common sense that the center of world should be south of Yen and north of Yüeh. Hui Shih’s contrary assertion here is well interpreted by a commentator of the third century A.D., Ssu-ma Piao who says: “The world has no limit, and therefore anywhere is the centre, just as in drawing a circle, any point on the line can be the starting point.”
  9. “Love all things equally; Heaven and Earth are one body.” In the preceding propositions, Hui Shih argues that all things are relative and in a state of flux. There is no absolute difference, or absolute separation among them. Everything is constantly changing into something else. It is a logical conclusion, therefore, that all things are one, and hence that we should love all things equally without discrimination. In the Chuang-tzu it is also said: “If we see things from the point of view of difference, even my liver and gall are as far from each other as are the states of Chú and Yüeh. If we see things from the point of their similarity, all things are one.”

Kung-sun Lung’s Theory of Universals:

kung-sun lungThe other main leader of the School of the Names was Kung-sun Lung who was widely known in his day for his sophistic arguments. It is said that once when he was passing a frontier, the frontier Guards said: “Horses are not allowed to pass.” Kung-sun Lung replied: “My horse is white, and a white horse is not a horse.” And so saying, he passed with his horse.

Instead of emphasizing, as did Hui Shih, that actual things are relative and changeable, Kung-sun Lung Emphasized that names are absolute and permanent. In this way he arrived at the same concept of Platonic ideas or universals that has been so conspicuous in western Philosophy.

In his work titled Kung-sun Lung-tzu, there is a chapter called “Discourse on the White Horse.” Its main propositon is the assertion that “a white horse is not a horse.” The proposition Kung-sun Lung tries to prove through three arguments:

  1. The first is: “The word “horse”denotes a shape; the word “white” denotes a color. That which denotes color is not that which denotes shape. Therefore I say that a white horse is not a horse.” In terms of Western logic, we may say that this argument emphasizes the difference in the intention of the terms “horse,” “white,”and : white horse.” The intention of the first term is one kind of animal, that of the second is one kind of colour, and that of the third is one kind of animal plus one kind of colour. Since the intention of each of the three terms is different, therefore, a white horse is not a horse.
  2. The second argument is: “When a horse is required, a yellow horse or black one may be brought forward, but when one requires a white horse, a yellow or black horse cannot be brought forward….Therefore, a yellow horse or a black horse are both horses. They can inly respond to a call for a horse but cannot respond to a call for a white horse. It is clear that a white horse is not a horse.” And again: “The term ‘horse’ neither excludes nor includes any color; therefore yellow and black ones may respond to it. But the term ‘white horse’ both excludes and includes colour. Therefore only a white horse can fit the requirements. That which is not excluded is not the same as that which is excluded. Therefore I say that a white horse is not a horse.” In terms of Western logic, we may say that this argument emphasizes the difference in the extension of the terms “horse” and “white horse”. The extension of the term “horse” includes all horses, with no discrimination as to their colour. The extension of the term “white horse,” however includes only white horses, with a corresponding discrimination of colour. Since the extension of term “horse” and “white horse” is different, therefore a white horse is not a horse.
  3. The third argument is: “Horses certainly have colour. Therefore there are white horses. Suppose there is a horse without colour, then there is only the horse as such. But how then, do we get a white horse? Therefore a white horse is not a horse. A white horse is ‘horse’ together with ‘white’. ‘Horse’with ‘white’is not horse.” In this argument, Kung-sun Lung seems to emphasize the distinction between the universal, “horseness,”and the universal, “white horseness.” The universal, horseness, is the essential attribute of all horses. It implies no color and is just “horse as such.” Such “horseness” is distinct from “white horseness.” That is to say, the horse as such is distinct from the white horse as such. Therefore a white horse is not a horse.

Besides horse as such, there is also white as such, that is, whiteness. In the same chapter it is said: “White [as such] does not specify what is white. But ‘white horse’specifies what is white. Specified white is not white.” Specified white is the concrete white colour which is seen in this or that particular white object. The word here translated as “specified”is ting, which also has the meaning of “determined.” The white colour which is seen in this or that white object is determined by this or that object. The universal, “whiteness,” however is not determined by any one particular white object. It is the whiteness unspecified.

            The Kung-sun Lung-tzu contains another chapter entitled “Discourse on Hardness and Whiteness.” The main proposition in this chapter is that “hardness and whiteness are separate.” Kung-sun Lung tries to prove this in two ways:

  1. The first is expressed in the following dialogue: “[Supposing there is a hard and white stone], is it possible to say hard, white, and stone are three? No. Can they be two? Yes. How? When without hardness one finds what is white, this gives two. When without whiteness one finds what is hard, this gives two. Seeing does not give us what is hard but only what is white, and there is nothing hard in this. Touching does not give us what is white but only what is hard, and there is nothing white in this.” This dialogue uses epistemological proof to show that hardness and whiteness are separated from each other. Here we have a hard and white stone. If we use our eyes to see it, we only get what is white, i.e., a white stone. But if we use our hands to touch it , we only get what is hard, i.e., a hard stone. While we are sensing that the stone is white, we cannot sense that it is hard, and while we are sensing that it is hard, we cannot sense that it is white. Epistemologically speaking, therefore, there are only a white stone or a hard stone here, but not a hard and white stone. This is the meaning of the saying: “When without hardness one finds what is white, this gives two. When without whiteness one finds what is hard, this gives two.”
  2. Kung-sun Lung’s second argument is a metaphysical one. Its general idea is that both hardness and whiteness, as universals, are unspecified in regard to one particular object it is that is hard or that is white. They can be manifested in any of all white or hard objects. Indeed, even if in the physical world there were no hard or white objects at all, none the less, the universal, hardness, would of necessity remain hardness, and the universal, whiteness, would remain whiteness. Such hardness and whiteness are quite independent of the existence of physical stones or other objects that are hard and white. The fact that they are independent universals is shown by the fact that in the physical world there are some objects that are hard but not white, and other objects that are white but not hard. Thus it is evident that hardness and whiteness are separate from each other.

Whith these epistemological and metaphysical arguments Kung-sun Lung established his proposition that hardness and whiteness are separate. This was a famous proposition in ancient China, and was known as the argument for “the separateness of hardness and whiteness.”

In the Kung-sun Lung-tzu there is yet another chapter entitled “Discourse on Chih and Wu.” By wu Kung-sun Lung means concrete particular things, while by chih he means abstract universals. The literal meaning of meaning of chih is, as a noun, “finger” or “pointer,” or as a verb, “to indicate.” Two explanations may be given as to why Kung-sun Lung uses the word chih to denote universals. A common term, that is, a name, to use the terminology of the School of Names, denotes a class of particular things  and connotes the common attribute of that class. An abstract term, on the contrary, denotes the attribute or universal. Since the Chinese language has no inflection, there is no distinction in form between a common term and an abstract one. Thus, in Chinese, what Westerners would call a common term may also denote a universal. Likewise, the chinese langwage has no articles. Hence, in Chinese, such term as “horse,” “the horse,”and “a horse” are all designated by one word ma or “horse.” It would seem, therefore, that fundamentally the word ma denotes the universal concept, “horse,” while the other terms, “a horse,” “the horse,”etc., are simply particularized applications of this universal concept. From this it may be said that, in the Chinese language a universal is what a name points out, i.e., denotes. This is why Kung-sun Lung refers to universals as chih or “pointers.”

Another explanation of why Kung-sun Lung uses chih to denote the universal, is that chih (finger, pointer, etc.) is a close equivalent of another word, also pronounced chih and written almost the same, which means “idea” or “concept.” According to his explanation, then, when Kung-sun Lung speaks of chih (pointer), he really means by it “idea” or “concept”. As can be seen from his arguments above, However, this “idea” is for him not the subjective idea spoken of in the philosophy of Berkeley and Hume, but rather the objective idea as found in the philosophy of Plato. It is the universal.

In the final chapter of the Chuang-tzu we find a series of twenty one arguments attributed without specification to the followers of the School of Names. Among them, however, it is evident that some of them based on the idea of Hui Shih, and others upon those of Kung-sun Lung, and they can be explained accordingly. They used to be considered as paradoxes, but they see to be such once we understand the fundamental idea of their authors.

Significance of the Theories of Hui Shih and Kung-sun Lung:

Thus by analysing names, and their relation with, or their distinction from, actualities, the philosophers of the School of Names discovered what in Chinese philosophy called “that which lies between shapes and features.” In Chinese philosophy a distinction is made between “being that lies within shapes and features” is the actual, the shih. For instance, the big and the small, the square and the round, the long and the short, the white and the black, are each one class of shapes and features. Anything that is the object or possible object of experience has shape and feature, and lies within the actual world. Conversely, any object in the actual world that has shape and feature is the object or possible object of experience.

When Hu Shih enunciated the first and last of his series of “points,” he was talking about what lies beyond shapes and features.  “The greatest,” he said, “has nothing beyond itself. This is called the great one.” This defines in what manner the greatest is as it is. “Love all things equally; Heaven and Earth are one,” this defines what the greatest consists.  This last statement conveys the idea that all is one and one is all. Since all is one, there can be nothing beyond the all. The all is itself the greatest one, and since there can be nothing beyond the all, the all cannot be the object of experience. This is because an object of experience always stands in opposition to the one who experiences. Hence if we say that the all can be an object or experience, we must also say that there is something that stands in opposition to the all and its experiencer. In other words, we must say that that which has nothing beyond itself at the same time has something beyond itself, which is manifest contradiction.

Kung-sun Lung, too,discovered what lies beyond shapes and features, because the universal he discussed can likewise not be objects of experience. One can see a white something, but one cannot see the universal whiteness as such. All universals that are indicated by names lie in a world beyond shapes and features, though not all universals in that world have names to indicate them. In that world, hardness is hardness and whiteness is whiteness, or as Kung-sun Lung said: “Each is alone and true”.

Hui Shih spoke of “loving all things equally,” and Kung-sun Lung also “wished to extend his argument in order to correct the relations between names and actualities, so as thus to transform the whole world.” Both men thus apparently considered their philosophy as comprising the the “Tao of sageliness within and the kingliness without.” But it was left to the Taoists fully to apply the discovery made by the School of Names of what lies beyond shapes and features. The Taoists were the opponents of this school, but they were also its true inheritors. This is illustrated by the fact that Hui Shih was a great friend of Chuang-tzu.



lao-tzu11According to tradition , Lao Tzu (a name which literally means the “Old Master”) was a native of the state of Chú in the southern part of present Honan province, and was an older contemporary of Confucius, whom he is reputed to have instructed in ceremonies. The book bearing his name, the Lao-tzu, and in later times also known as the Tao Te Ching (Classic of the Way and Power), has therefore been traditionally regarded as the first philosophical work in Chinese history. Modern scholarship, however, has forced us drastically to change this view and date it to a time considerably after Confucius.

Lao Tzu the Man and Lao-tzu the Book: Two questions arise in this connotation. One is about the date of the man, Lao Tzu (whose family name said to have been Li, and personal name Tan), and another about the date of the book itself. There is no necessary connection between the two, for it is quite possible that there actually lived a man known as Lao Tan who was senior to Confucius, but that the book titled the Lao-tzu is a later production. This is the view I take, and it does not necessarily contradict the traditional account of Lao tzu the man, because in these accounts there is no statement that the man Lao Tzu, actually wrote the book by the name. Hence I am willing to accept the traditional stories about Lao Tzu the man, while at the same time placing the book, Lao-tzu, in a later period. I believe the book was written or composed after Hui Shih and Kung-sun Lung and not before them. This is because the Lao-tzu  contains considerable discussion about the Nameless, and in order to do this it would seem that men should first have become concious of the existence of names themselves.

My position does not require me to insist that there is absolutely no connection between Lao Tzu the man and Lao-tzu the book, for the book may contain  a few sayings of the original Lao Tzu. What I maintain, however, is that the system of thought in the book as a whole cannot be the product of time either before or contemporary with that of Confucius. In the pages following, however, to avoid pedantry, I shall refer to Lao Tzu as having said so and so, instead of stating that the book Lao-tzu says so and so, just as we today speak of sunrise and sunset, even though we know very well that the sun itself actually neither rises nor sets.

Tao, the Unnamable: In the last chapter, we have seen that the philosophers of the School of Names, through the story of names, succeeded in discovering “that which lies beyond shapes and features.” Most people, however, think only in terms of “what lies within shapes and features,” that is the actual world. Seeing the actual, they have no difficulty in expressing it, and though they use name for it, they are not conscious that they are names. So when the philosophers of the School of Names started to think about the names themselves, this brought represented a great advance. To think about names is to think about thinking. It is thought about thought and therefore is thought on a higher level.

All things that “Lie within shapes and features” have names, or at least, possess the possibility of having names. They are namables. But in contrast with what is namable, Lao Tzu speaks about the unnamable. Not everything that lies beyond shapes and features is unnamable. Universals, for instance, lie beyond shapes and features, yet they are not unnamable. But on the other hand, what is unnamable most certainly does lie beyond shapes and feature. The Tao or Way of the Taoist is a concept of this sort.

In the first chapter of the Lao-tzu we find the statement: “The Tao that can be comprised in words is not the eternal Tao; the name that can be named is not the abiding name. The unnamable is the beginning of Heaven and Earth.” And in chapter thirty-two: “The Tao is eternal, nameless, and Uncarved block…. Once the block is carved, there are names.” On in chapter fourty-one: The Tao, lying hid, is nameless.” In the Taoist system, there is a distinction between yu (being)  and wu (non-being), and between yu-ming (having name, namable) and wu-ming (having–no-name, unnamable). These two distinctions are in reality only one, for yu and wu are actually abbreviated terms for yu-ming and wu-ming. Heaven and Earth and all things are namables. Thus Heaven has the name of Heaven, Earth the name of Earth, and each kind of kinds have the name of that kind. Or as Lao Tzu says: “Once the block is curved, there are names.” The Tao, however is unnamable; at the same time it is that by which all unnamables come to be. That is why Lao tzu says: “The Unnamable is the beginning of Heaven and Earth; the namable is the mother of all things.”

Since the Tao is unnamable, it therefore cannot be comprised in words. But since we wish to speak about it, we are forced to give it some kind of designation. We therefore call it Tao, which is really not a name at all. That is to say, to call the Tao Tao, is not the same as to call a table table. When we call a table table, , we mean that it has some attributes by which it can be named. But when we call the Tao Tao, we do not mean that it has any such namable attributes. It is simply a designation, or to use an expression common in Chinese philosophy, Tao is a name which is not a name. In chapter twenty-one of Lao-tzu it is said: From the past to the present, its [Tao’s] name has not ceased to be, and has been the beginning [of all things].” The Tao is that by wich anything and everythings comes to be. Since there are always things, Tao never ceases to be and the names of Tao also never ceases to be. It is the beginning of beginnings, and therefore it has seen the beginning of all things. A name that never ceses to be is an abiding name, and such a name is in reality not a name at all. Therefore it is said: “The name that can be name is not the abiding name.”

“The Unnamable is the beginning of Heaven and Earth.” This proposition is only a formal and not a positive one. This is to say, it fails to give any information about matters of fact. The Taoists thought that since there are things, there must be that by which all these things come to be . this “that”is designed by them as Tao, which, however, is really not a name. The concept of Tao, too, is a formal and not a positive one. This is to say, it does not describe anything above what it is through which all the things come to be. All we can say is that Tao, since it is that through which all things come to be, is necessarily not a mere thing among these other things. For if it were such a thing, it could not at the same time be that through which all things whatsoever come to be. Every kind of thing has a name, but Tao is not itself a thing. Therefore it is “nameless, the Uncarved block.”

Anything that comes to be is a being, and there are many beings. The coming to be of beings implies that first of all there is being. These words, “first of all,”here do not mean first in point of time, but first in a logical sense. For instance, if we say there was first a certain kind of animal, then man, the word “first” in this case means first in point of time. But if we say that first there must be animals before there are men , the word “first” in this case means first in a logic sense. The statement about “the origin of species”makes an assertion about matters of fact, and required many years’observation and study by Charles Darwin before it could be made. But the second of our saying make no assertion about matters of fact. It simply says that the existence of men logically implies the existence of animals. In the same way, the being of all things implies the being of Being. This is the meaning of Lao Tzu’s saying: “All things in the world come into being from Being (Yu); and Being comes into being from Non-being (Wu). This saying of Lao Tzu does not mean that there was a time when there was only Non-being, and that there came a time when Being came into being from Non-being. It simply means that if we analyse the existence of things, we see there must be first Being before there can be any things. Tao is the unnamable, is Non-being, and is that by which all things come to be. Therefore, before the being of Being, there must be Non being, from which Being comes into being. What is here said belongs to ontology, not to cosmology. It has nothing to do with time and actuality. For in time and actuality, there is no Being; there are only beings.

There are many beings, but there is only none Being. In the Lao-tzo it is said: “From Tao there comes one. From one there comes two. From two there comes three. From three there comes all things.” The “one” here spoken of refers to Being. To say that “from Tao comes one,” is the same as that from Non-being comes Being. As for “two”and “three,” there are many interpretations. But this saying, that “from one there comes two. From two there comes three. From three there comes all things,” may simply be the same as saying that from being come all things. Being is one, and two and three are the beginning of many.

The Invariable Law of Nature: In the final chapter of Chuang-tzu, “The World,” it is said that the leading idea of Lao Tzu are those of the T’ai Yi or “Super One,” and of Being, Non-being, and the invariable. The “Super One” is the Tao. From the Tao comes one, and therefore Tao itself is the “Super One.” The “invariable” is the translation of the Chinese word ch’ang, which may also be translated as eternal or abiding. Though things are ever changeable and changing, the laws that govern this change of things are not themselves changeable. Hence in the Lao-tzu the word ch’ang is used to show what is always so, or in other words, that can be considered as a rule. For instance, Lao-tzu tells us: “The conquest of the world comes invariably from doing nothing.” Or again: “The way of Heaven has no favourites, it is invariably on the side of the good man.

Among the laws that governs the changes of things, the most fundamental is that “when a thing reaches on e extreme, it reverts from it.” These are not the actual words of Lao-tzu, but a common Chinese sayings , the idea of which no doubt comes from Lao tzu. Lao tzu’s actual words are: “Reversing is the movement of the Tao” and: “To go further and further means to revert again.” The idea is that if anything develops certain extreme qualities, those qualities invariably revert to become their opposites.

This constitutes a law of nature. Therefore: “It is upon calamity that blessing leans, upon blessing that calamity rests.” “Those with little will acquire, those with much will be led astray.” “A hurricane never lasts the whole morning, nor a rainstorm the whole day.” “T he most yielding things in the world master the most unyielding.” “Diminish a thing and it will increase, increase a thing and it will diminish.” All these are paradoxical theories are no longer paradoxical, if one understands the fundamental law of nature. But to the ordinary people who have no idea of this law, they seem paradoxical indeed. Therefore Lao Tzu says: “The gentleman of the low type, on hearing the Truth laughs loudly at it. If he had not laughed, it would not suffice to be the Truth.

It may be asked: Granted that a thing , on reaching an extreme, then reverts, what is meant by the word “extreme”? is there any absolute limit for the development of anything, going beyond which would mean going to the extreme? In the Lao-tzu no such question is asked and therefore no answer is given. But if there had been such a question, I think Lao Tzu would have answered that no absolute limit can be prescribed, the limit for the advancement  a man remains relative to his subjective feelings and objective circumstances. Isaac Newton, for example, felt that compared with the total universe, his knowledge of it was no more than the knowledge of the sea possessed by a boy who is playing at the seashore. With such a feeling as this, Newton, despite his already great achievements in physics, was still far from reaching the limits of advancement in his learning. If, however, a student, having just finished his textbook of physics, thinks that he then know all there is to know about science, he certainly cannot make further advancement in his learning, and will as certainly “revert back.” Lao Tzu tells us: “If people of wealth and exalted position are arrogant, they abandon themselves to unavoidable ruin.” Arrogance is the sign that one’s advancement  has reached its extreme limit. It is the first thing that one should avoid.

The limit of advancement for a given activity is also relative to objective circumstances. When a man eats to much, he suffers. In  overeating, what is ordinarily good for the body become harmful. One should eat only the right amount of food. But this right amount depends on one’s age, health, and the quality of the food one eats.

There are the laws that govern the changes of things. By Lao Tzu they are called the invariables. He says: “To know the invariables is called enlightenment.” Again: “He who knows the invariable is liberal, he is without prejudice. Being without prejudice, he is comprehensive. Being comprehensive, he is vast. Being vast, he is with the Truth. Being with the Truth, he lasts forever and will not fail throughout his lifetime.

Human Conduct: Lao Tzu warns us: “Not to know the invariables and to act blindly is to go to disaster.” One should know the laws of nature and conduct one’s activities in accordance with them. This by Lao Tzo, is called “practising enlightenment.” The general rule for the man “practising enlightenment” is that if he wants to achieve anything,he starts with its opposite, and if he wants to retain anything, he admits in it something of its opposite. If one wants to be strong, one must start with a feeling that one is week, and if one wants to preserve capitalism, one must admit in it some elements of socialism.

Therefore Lao Tzu tells us: “The sage, putting himself in the background, is always to the force. Remaining outside, he is always there. Is it not just because he does not strive for any personal end, that all his personal ends are fulfilled? Again: “He does not show himself; therefore he is seen everywhere. He does not define himself; therefore he is distinct. He does not assert himself; therefore he succds. He does not boast of his work; therefore he endures. He does not contend, and for that very reason no one in the world can contend with him.” These saying illustrate the first point of general rule.

In Lao-tzu we also find: “What is most perfect seems to have something missing, yet its use is something unimpaired. What is most full seems empty, yet its use is inexhaustible. What is most straight seems like crookedness. The greatest skill seems like clumsiness. The greatest eloquence seems like stuttering.” Again: “Be twisted and one shall be whole. Be crooked and one shall be straight. Be hollow and one shall be filled. Be tattered and one shall be renewed. Have little and one shall obtain. But have much and one shall be perplexed.” This illustrate the second point of general rule.

Such is a way in which a prudent man can live safely in the world and achieve his aims.  This is Lao Tzu’s answer and solution to the original problem of the Taoists, which was, how to preserve life and avoid harm and danger in the human world. The man who lived prudently must be meek, humble, and easily content. To be meek is the way to preserve your strength and so be strong.  Humility is the direct opposite of arrogance, so that if arrogance is a sign that a man’s advancement has reached its extreme limit, humility is a contrary sign that that limit is far from reached. And to be content safeguards one from going too far, and therefore from reaching the extreme. Lao Tzu says: “To know how to be content is to avoid humiliation; to know where to stop is to avoid injury.” Again: “The sage, therefore, discards the excessive, the extravagant, the extreme.”

All these theories are deducible from the general theory that “reversing is the movement of Tao.” The well-known Taoist theory of wu-wei is also deducible from this general theory.  Wu-wei can be translated literally as “having-no-activity” or “non-action.” But using this translation, one should remember that the term does not actually mean complete absence of activity, or doing nothing. What it does mean is lesser activity or doing less. It also means acting without artificiality and arbitrariness.

Activities are like many other things. If one has too much of them, they become harmful rather than good. Furthermore, the purpose of doing something is to have something done. But if there is over-doing, this results in something being over-done, which may be worse than not having the thing done at all. A well-known Chinese story describes how two men were once competing in drawing a snake; the one who would finish his drawing first would win. One of them, having indeed finish his drawing, saw that the other man was still far behind, so decided to improve it by adding feet to his snake. There upon the other man said: “You have lost the competition, for a snake has no feet.” This is an illustration of over-doing which defeats its own purpose. In the Lao-tzu we read: “Conquering the world is invariably due to doing nothing; by doing something one cannot conquer the world.” The term “doing nothing” here really means “not over-doing.”

Artificiality and arbitrariness are the opposite of naturalness and spontaneity. According to Lao Tzu, Tao is that by which all things come to be, each individual thing obtains something from the universal Tao, and this something called Te. Te is a word that means “power” or “virtue,”  both in the moral and non-moral sense of the latter term. The Te of a thing is what it naturally is. Lao Tzu says: “All things respect Tao and value Te.” This is because Tao is that by which they come to be, and Te is that by which they are what they are.

According to the theory of “having-no-activity,” a man should restrict his activities to what is necessary and what is natural. “Necessary” means necessary to the achievement of a certain purpose, and never over-doing. “Natural means following one’s Te with no arbitrary effort. In doing this one should take simplicity as the guiding principle of life. Simplicity (p’u) is an important idea of Lao tzu and the Taoists. Tao is the “Uncarved block” (p’u), which is simply itself. There is nothing that can be simpler than the unnamable Tao. Te is the next simplest, and the man who follows Te must lead as simple a life as possible.

The life that follows Te lies beyond the distinctions of good and evil. Lao Tzu tells us: “If all people of the world know that beauty is beauty, there is then already ugliness. If all peopleof the world know that good is good, there is then already evil.” Lao Tzu, therefore, despised such Confucian virtues as human-heartedness and righteousness, for according to him these virtues represent a degeneration from Tao and Te. Therefore he says: “When the Tao is lost, there is the Te. When the Te is lost, there is [the virtue of] human-heartedness. When human-heartedness is lost, there are the ceremonials. Ceremonials are the degeneration of loyalty and good faith, and are the beginning of disorder in the world.” Here we find the direct conflict between Taoism and Confucianism.

People have lost their original Te because they have too many desires and too much knowledge. In satisfying their desires, people are seeking for happiness. But when they try to satisfy too many desires, they obtain an opposite result. Lao Tzu says: “The five colours blind the eye. The five notes dull the ear. The five tastes fatigue the mouth. Riding and hunting madden the mind. Rare treasures hinder right conduct.” “Therefore, “there is no disaster greater than not knowing contentment with what one has; no greater sin that having desire for acquisition.” This is why Lao Tzu emphasizes that people should have few desires.

Likewise Lao Tzu emphasizes that people should have little knowledge. Knowledge is itself an object of desire. It also enables people to know more about the objects of desire and serves as a means to gain these objects. It is both the master oand servants of desire. With increasing knowledge people are no longer in a position to know how to be content and where to stop. Therefore, it is said in the Lao-tzu: “When knowledge and intelligence appeared, Gross Artifice began.”

Political Theory:

From these theories Lao Tzu deduces his political theory. The Taoists agree with the Confucianists that the ideal state is one which has a sage as its head. It is only the sage who can and should rule. The difference between the two schools, however, is that according to the Confucianists, when a sage becomes the ruler, he should do many things for the people, whereas according the Taoists, the duty of the sage ruler is not  to do things, but rather to undo or not to do at all. The reason for this, according to Lao Tzu, is that the troubles of the world come, not because there are many things not yet done, but because to many things are done. In the Lao-tzu we read: “The more restrictions and prohibitions there are in the world, the poorer the people will be. The more sharp weapon the people have, the more troubled will be the country. The more cunning craftsmen there are, the more pernicious contrivances  will appear. The more laws are promulgated, the more thieves and bandits there will be.

The first act of sage ruler, then, is to undo all these. Lao Tzu says: “Banish wisdom, discard knowledge, and the people benefited hundredfold. Banish human-heartedness, discard righteousness, and the people will be dutiful and compassionate. Banish skill, discard profit, and thieves and rubbers will disappear. Again: “Do not exalt the worthies, and the people will no loger be contentious. Do not value treasures that are hard to get, and there will be no more thieves. If the people never see such things as excite desire, their mind will not be confused. Therefore the sage rules the people by emptying their minds, filling their bellies, weakening their wills, and toughening their sinews, ever making the people without knowledge and without desire.”

The sage ruler would undo all the causes of trouble in the world. After that, he would govern with non-action. With non-action he does nothing, yet everything is accomplished. The Lao-tzu says: “I act not and the people of themselves are transformed. I love quiescence and the people of themselves go straight. I concern myself with nothing, and the people of themselves are prosperous. I am without desire and the people of themselves are simple.” “Do nothing and there is nothing that is not done.” This is an other of the seemingly paradoxical idea of the Taoists. In the Lao-tzu we read: “Tao invariably does nothing and yet there is nothing that is not done. Tao is that by wich all thing come to be. It is not itself a thing and therefore it cannot act as do such things. Yet all things come to be. Thus Tao does nothing, yet there is nothing that is not done. It allows each thing what it itself can do. According to the Taoists, the ruler of the state should mode himself on Tao. He, too, should do nothing and should let the people do what they can do themselves. Here is another meaning of wu wei (non-action), which later, with certain modifications, become one of the important theories the Legalists (Fa chia).

Children have limited knowledge and few desires. They are not far away from original te. Their simplicity and innocence are characteristics that every man should if possible retain. Lao Tzu says: “No to part from the invariables Te is to return to the state of infancy.” Again: “He who holds the Te in all its solidity may be likened to an infant.” Since the life of the child nearest to the ideal life, the sage ruler would like all of his people to be like small children. Lao Tzu says: “the sage treats all as children.” He “does not make them enlightened, but keeps them ignorant.”

“Ignorant” here is the translation of the Chinese yu , which means ignorance in the sense of simplicity sand innocence.  The sage, not only wants his people to be yu, but wants himself to be so too. Lao Tzu says: “” Mine is the mind of the very ignorant.” In Taoism yu is not a voice, but a great virtue.

But is the yu of the sage really is the same as the yu of the child and the common people? Certainly not. The yu of the sage is the result of a conscious process of cultivation.  It is something higher than knowledge, something more, not less. There is a common Chinese saying : “Great wisdom is like ignorance.” The yu of the sage is great wisdom, and not the yu of the child of ordinary people. The latter kind of yu is the gift of nature, while that of the sage is an achievement of the spirit. There is a great difference between the two. But in many cases the Taoists seemed to have confused them. We shall see this point more clearly  when we discuss the philosophy of Chuang Tzu.



ChuangtzuStampChuang Chou, better known as Chuang Tzu (369-286), is perhaps the greatest of early Taoists. We know little of his life save that he was a native of little state of Meng on the border between present Shantung and Honan provinces, where he lived a hermit’s life, but was nevertheless famous for for his ideas and writings. It is said that King Wei of Ch’u, having heard his name, once sent messengers with gifts to invite him to his state, promising to make him chief minister. Chuang Tzu, however, merely laughed and said to them: “…Go away, do not defile me…I prefer the enjoyment of my own free will.”

Chuang Tzu the Man and Chuang-tzu the Book:

Though Chuang Tzu was a contemporary of Mencius and a friend of Hui Shih, the book titled the Chuang-tzu, as we know it today, was probably compiled by Kuo Hsiang, Chuang tzu’s great commentator of the third century A.D. We are thus not sure which of the chapters of Chuang-tzu the book were really written by Chuang Tzu himself. It is, in fact, a collection of various Taoist writings, some of which represent Taoism in its first phase of development, some in its second, and some in its third. It is only those chapters representing the thought of this third climactic phase that can properly be called Chuang Tzu’s own philosophy, yet even they may not have been written by Chuang Tzu himself. For though the name of Chuang Tzu can be taken as representative of the last phase of Taoism, it is probable that his system of thought was brought to full completion only by his followers. Certain chapters of the Chuang Tzu, for example, contain statements about Kung-sun Lung, who certainly lived later than Chuang Tzu.

Way of Achieving Relative Happiness:

The first chapter of Cuang Tzu, titled “The Happy Excursion,” is a simple text, full of amusing stories. Their underlying idea is that there are varying degrees in the achievement of happiness. A free development of our natures may lead us to a relative kind of happiness; absolute happiness is achieved through higher understanding of the nature of things.

To carry out the first of these requirements , the free development of our nature, we should have a full and free exercise of our natural ability. The ability of our Te,  which comes directly from the Tao. Regarding the Tao and Te, Chuang Tzu has the same idea as Lao Tzu. For example he says: “At the great beginig there was Non-being. It had neither being nor name and was that from which came the One. When the One came to the existence, there One the one but still no form. When things obtained that by which they came into existence, it was called the Te.” Thus our Te is what makes us what we are. We are happy when this Te or natural ability of ours is fully and freely exercised, that is, when our nature is fully and freely developed.

In connection with this idea of free development, Chuang Tzu makes a contrast between what is of nature and what is of man. “What is of nature,” he says, “is internal. What is of man is external….That oxen and horses should have four feet is what is nature. That a halter should be put on a horse’s head, or a string through an ox’s nose, is what of man.” Following what is of nature, he maintains, is the source of all happiness and goodness, which following what is of man is the source of all pain and evil.

Things are different in their nature and their natural ability is also not the same. What they share in common, however, is that they are all equally happy when they have a full and free exercise of their natural ability. In “The Happy Excursion” a story is told of a very large and small bird. The abilities of the two are entirely differeny. The one can fly thousands of miles, while the other can hardly reach from one tree to the next. Yet they are both happy when they each can what they are able and like to do. Thus there is no absolute uniformity in the natures of things, nor is there any need for such uniformity. Another chapter of Chuang-tzu tells us: “The duck’s legs are short, but if we try to lengthen them, the duck will feel pain. The crane’s legs are long, but if we try to shorten them, the crane will feel grief. Therefore we are not to amputate what is by nature long, nor to lengthen what is by nature short.

Political and Social Philosophy:

Such, however, is just what artificially tries to do. The purpose of all laws, morals, institutions, and governments, is to stablish uniformity and suppress difference. The motivation of the people who try to enforce this uniformity may be wholly admirable. When they find something that is good for them, they may be anxious to see that others have it also. This good intention of theirs, however, only makes the situation more tragic. In the Chuang-tzu there is a story which says: “Of old, when a seabird alighted outside the capital of Lu, the Marquis went out to receive it, gave it wine in the temple, and had the Chiu-shao music played to amuse it, and a bullock slaughtered to feed it. But the bird was dazed and too timid to drink anything. In three days it was dead. This was treating the bird as one would treat oneself, not the bird as a bird….Water is life to fish but is death to man. Being differently constituted, their likes and dislikes must necessarily differ. Therefore the early sages did not make abilities and occupations uniform.” When the Marquis treated the bird in a way which he considered the most honourable, he certainly had good intentions. Yet the result was just opposite to what he expected. This is what happens when uniform codes of law and morals are enforced by government and society upon the individual.

This is why Chuang Tzu violently opposes the idea of governing through the formal machinery of government, and maintained instead that the best way of governing is through non-government. He says: “I have heard of letting mankind alone, but not of governing mankind. Letting alone springs from the fear that people will pollute their innate nature and set aside their Te. When people do not pollute their innate nature and set aside their Te, then is there need for the government of mankind?”

If one fails to leave people alone, and tries instead to rule them with laws and institutions, the process is like putting a halter around a horse’s neck or a string through an ox’s nose. It is also like lengthening the legs of duck or shortening those of the crane. What is natural and spontaneous is changed into something artificial, which is called by Chuang Tzu “overcoming what is of nature by what is of man.” Its result can be misery and unhappiness.

Thus Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu both advocate government through non-government, but for somewhat different reasons. Lao Tzu emphasizes his general principle that “reversing is the movement of Tao.” The more one governs, he argues, the less one achieves the desired result. And Chuang Tzu emphasizes the distinction between what is of nature and what is of man. The more the former is overcome by the latter, the more there will be misery and unhappiness.

Thus far we have only seen Chuang Tzu’s way of achieving relative happiness. Such relative happiness is achieved when one simply follows what is natural in oneself. This every man can do. The political and social philosophy of Chuang Tzu aims at achieving precisely such relative happiness for every man. This and nothing more is the most that any political social philosophy can hope to do.

Emotion and Reason:

Relative happiness is relative because it has to depend upon something. It is true that one is happy when one has a full and free exercise of one’s natural ability. But there aremany ways in which this exercise is obstructed. For instance, there is death which is the end of all human activities. There are diseases which handicap human activities. There is old age which gives man the same trouble. So  it is not without reason that the Buddhists consider these as three of the human miseries, the fourth according to them, being life itself. Hence, happiness which depends upon the full and free exercise of one’s natural ability is a limited and therefore relative happiness.

In the Chuang-tzu there are many discussions about the greatest of all disasters that can befall man, death. Fear of death and anxiety about its coming are among the principal sources of human unhappiness. Such fear and anxiety, however, may be diminished if we have a proper understanding of the nature of things. In the Chuang-tzu there is a story about the death of Lao Tzu. When Lao Tzu died, his friend Chin Shih, who had come after the death, criticized the violent lamentations of the other mourners, saying: “This is to violate the principle of nature and to increase the emotion of man, forgetting what we have received [from nature]. These were called by the ancients the penalth of violating the principle of the nature. When the Master came, it was because he had the occasion to be born. When he went, he simply followed the natural course. Those who are quiet at the proper occasion and follow the natural course, can be affected by sorrow or joy. They were considered by the ancients as the men of gods, who were released from bondage.”

To the extent that the other mourners felt sorrow, to that extent they suffered. Their suffering was the “penalty of violating the principle of nature.” The natural torture inflicted upon man by his emotion is sometimes just as severe as any physical punishment. But by the use of understanding, man can reduce his emotions. For example, a man of understanding will not be angry when rain prevents him from going out, but a child often will. The reason is that the man possesses greater understanding, with the result that he suffers less dis appointment or exasperation than the child who does get angry. As Spinoza has said: “In so far as the mind understands all things are necessary, so far has it greater power over the effects, or suffers less from them.” Such, in the words of the Taoists, is “to disperse emotion with reason.”

A story about Chuang Tzu himself well illustrates this point. It is said that when Chuang Tzu’s wife died, his friend Hui Shih went to condole. To his amazement he found Chuang Tzu sitting on the ground, singing, and on asking him how he could be unkind to his wife, was told by Chuang Tzu: “When she had just died, I could not help being affected. Soon, however, I examined the matter from the very beginning. At the very beginning, she was not living, having no form, nor even substance. But somehow or other there was then her substance, then her form, and then her life. Now by a further change, she has died. The whole process is like the sequence of four seasons, spring, summer, autumn, and winter. While she is thus lying in the great mansion of the universe, for me to go about weeping and wailing would be to proclaim myself ignorant of natural law. Therefore I stop.” On this passage the great commentator Kao Hsiang comments: “When ignorant, he felt sorry. When he understood, he was no longer affected. This teaches man to disperse emotion with reason.” Emotion can be counteracted with reason and understanding. Such was the view of Spinoza and also of the Taoists.

The Taoists maintained that the sage who has the complete understanding of the nature of things, thereby has no emotions. This, however, does not mean that he lacks sensibility. Rather it means that he is not disturbed by the emotions, and enjoys what may be called “the peace of soul.” As Spinoza says: “The ignorant man is not only agitated by external causes in many ways, and never enjoys true peace in the soul, but lives also ignorant, as it were, both of God and of things, and as soon as he ceases to suffer, ceases also to be. On the other hand, the wise man, in so far as he is considered as such, is secretly moved in his mind, but, being conscious by a certain eternal necessity of himself, of God, and things, never ceases to be, and always enjoys the peace of the soul.”

Thus by his understanding of the nature of things, the sage is no longer affected by the changes of the world. In this way he is not dependent upon external things, and hence his happiness is not limited by them. He may be said to have achieved absolute happiness. Such is one line of Taoist thought, in which there is not a little atmosphere of pessimism and resignation. It is a line which emphasizes the inevitability of natural processes and the fatalistic acquiescence in them by man.

Way of Achieving Absolute Happiness:

There is another line of Thaoist thought, however, which emphasizes the relativity of the nature of things and the identification of man with the universe. To achieve this identification, man needs knowledge and understanding of still a higher level, and the happiness resulting from this identifications really absolute happiness, as expounded in Chuang-tzu’s chapter on “The Happy Excursion.”

In this chapter, after describing the happiness of large and small birds, Chuang Tzu adds that among human beings there was a man named Lieh Tzu who could even ride on the wind. “Among those who have attained happiness,” he says, “such a man is rare. Yet although he was able to dispense with walking, he still had to depend upon something.” This something was the wind, and since he had to depend upon the wind, his happiness was to that extent relative. Then Chuang Tzu asks: “but suppose there is one who chariots on the normality of the universe, ride on the transformation of the six elements, and thus makes excursions into the infinite, what has he depend upon? Therefore it is said that the perfect man has no self; the spiritual man has no achievement; and the true sage has no name.”

What is here said by Chuang Tzu describes the man who has achieved absolute happiness. He is the perfect man, the spiritual man, and the true sage. He is absolutely happy, because he transcends the ordinary distinctions of things. He also transcends the distinction between the self and the world, the “me” and “non-me.” Therefore he has no self. He is one with the Tao. The Tao does nothing and yet there is nothing that is not done. The sage is one with the Tao and therefore also has no achievements. He may rule the whole world, but his rule consists of just leaving mankind alone, and letting everyone exercise his own natural ability fully and freely. The Tao is nameless and so the sage who is one with the Tao is also nameless.

The Finite Point of View:

The question that remains in this: How can a person become such a perfect man? To answer it, we must make an analysis of the second chapter of Chuang-tzu, the Ch’i Wu Lun, or “On the Equality of Things.” In the “Happy Excursion” Chuang Tzu discuses two levels of happiness, and in “On the Equality of Things” he discusses two levels of knowledge. Let us start our analysis with the first or lower level. In our chapter on the School of Names, we have said that there is some similarity between Hui Shih and Chuang Tzu. Thus in the Ch’i Wu Lun, Chuang Tzu discusses knowledge of a lower level which is similar to that found in Hui Shih’s ten so-called paradoxes.

The chapter Ch’i Wu Lun begins with a description of the wind. When the wind blows, there are different kinds of sound, each with its own peculiarity. These this chapter calls “the sound of earth.” But in addition there are other sounds that are known as “the sounds of man.” The sounds of earth and the sounds of man together constitute “the sounds of Heaven.”

The sounds of man consists of the words (yen) that are spoken in the human world. They differ from such “sounds of earth” as those caused by the wind, in as much as when words are said, they represent human ideas. They represent affirmation and denials, and the opinions that are made by each individual from his own particular finite point of view. Being thus finite, these opinions are necessarily one sided. Yet most men. Not knowing that their opinions are based on finite point of view, invariably consider their opinions as right and those of others as wrong. “The result,” as the Ch’i Wu Lun says, “is the affirmation and denials of the Confucianists and Mohists, the one regarding as right what the other regards as wrong, and regarding as wrong what the other regards as right.”

When people thus argue each according to his own one-sided view, there is no way either to reach a final conclusion, or to determine which side is really right or really wrong. The Ch’i Wu Lun says: “Suppose that you argue with me. If you beat me, instead of my beating you, are you necessarily right and am I necessarily wrong? Or, if I beat you, and not you me, am I necessarily right and are you necessarily wrong? Is one of us right and the other wrong? Or are both of us right or both os us wrong? Neither you nor I can know, and others are all the more in the dark. Whom shall we ask to produce the right decision? We may ask someone who agrees with you; but since he agrees with you, how can he make the decision? We may ask someone who agrees with me; but since he agrees with me, how can he make the decision? We may ask someone who agrees with both you and me; but since he agrees with both you and me, how can he make the decision?”

This passage is reminiscent of the manner of argument followed by the School of Names. But whereas the members of that school argue thus in order to contradict the common sence of ordinary people, the Ch’i Wu Lun’s purpose is to contradict the followers of the School of Names. For this school did actually believe that argument could decide what is really right and really wrong.

Chuang Tzu, on the other hand, maintains that concepts of right and wrong are built up by each man on the basis of his own finite point of view. All these views are relative. As the Ch’i Wu Lun says: “When there is life , there is death, and when there is death, there is life. When there is possibility, there is impossibility, and when there is impossibility, there is possibility. Because there is right, there is wrong. Because there is wrong, there is right.” Things are ever subject to change and have many aspects. Therefore many views can be held about one and the same thing. Once we say this, we assume that a higher standpoint exists. If we accept this assumption, there is no need to make a decision ourselves about what is right and what is wrong. The argument explains itself.

The Higher Point of View:

To accept this premise is to see things from a higher point of view, or, as the Ch’i Wu Lun calls it, to see things “in the light of Heaven.” “To see things in the light of Heaven” means to see things from the point of view of that which transcends the finite, which is the Tao. It is said in the Ch’i Wu Lun: “The ‘this’ is also ‘that.’ The ‘that’ is also ‘this.’ The ‘that’ has a system of right and wrong. The ‘this’ also has a system of right and wrong. Is there really a distinction between ‘that’ and ‘this’? Or is there really no distinction between ‘that’ and ‘this’? That the ‘that’ and the ‘this’ cease to be opposite is the very essence of Tao. Only the essence, an axis as it were, is the centre of the circle responding to the endless changes. The right is an endless change. The wrong is an endless change. Therefore it is said that there is nothing better than to use the ‘light.’” In other words, the ‘that’ and the ‘this,’ in their mutual opposition of right and wrong, are like an endlessly revolving circle. But the man who sees things from the point of view of Tao stands, as it were, at the centre of the circle. He understands all that is going on in the movements of the circle, but does not himself take part in these movements. This is not wrong to his inactivity and resignation, but because he has transcended the finite and sees things from a higher point of view. In the Chuang-tzu, the finite point of view is compared with the view of the well-frog. The frog in the well can see only a little sky, and so thinks that the sky only so big.

From the point of view of Tao, everything is just what it is. It is said in the Ch’i Wu Lun: “The possible is possible. The impossible is impossible. The Tao makes things and they are what they are. What are they? They are what they are. What are they not? They are not what they are not. Everything is something and is good for something. There is nothing which is not something or is not good for something. Thus it is that there are roof-salts and pillars, ugliness and beauty, the peculiar and the extraordinary. All these by means of the Tao are united and become one.”  Although all things differ, they are alike in that they all constitute something and are good for something. They all equally come from the Tao.  Therefore from the viewpoint of the Tao, things, though different, yet are united and become one.

The Ch’i Wu Lun says again: “To make a distinction is to make some construction. But construction is the same as destruction. For things as a whole there is neither construction nor destruction, but they turn to unity and become one.” For example, when a table made out of wood, from the viewpoint of that table, this is an act of construction. But from the viewpoint of the wood or the tree, it is one of destruction. Such construction or destruction are so, however, only from a finite point of view. From the viewpoint of the Tao, there is neither construction nor destruction. These distinctions are all relative.

The distinction between the “me” and “non-me” is also relative. From the viewpoint of Tao, the “me” and the “non-me” are also united and become one. The Ch’i Wu Lun says: “There is nothing larger in the world than the point of a hair, yet Mount T’ai is small. There is nothing older than a dead child, yet Peng Tsu [a legendary Methuselah] dad an untimely death. Heaven and Earth and I came into existence together, and all things with me are one.” Here are again have Hui Shih’s dictum: “Love all things equally, Heaven and Earth are one body.”

Knowledge of the Higher Level:

This passage in the Ch’i Wu Lun, however, is immediately followed by another statement: “Since all things are one, what room is there for speech? But since I have already spoken of the one, is this not already speech? One plus speech make two. Two plus one make three. Going on from this, even the most skilful reckoner will not be able to reach the end, and how much less able to do so are ordinary people! If proceeding from nothing to something we can reach three, how much further shall we reach, if we proceed from something to something! Let us not proceed. Let us stop here.” It is in this statement that the Ch’i Wu Lun goes a step further than Hui Shih, and begins to discuss a higher kind of knowledge. This higher knowledge is “knowledge which is not knowledge.”

What is really “one” can neither be discussed nor even conceived. For as soon as it is thought of and discussed, it becomes something that exists externally to the person who is doing the thinking and speaking. So since its all-embracing unity is thus lost, it is actually not the real “one” at all. Hui Shih said: “The greatest has nothing beyond itself and is called the Great One.” By these words he described the Great One very well indeed, yet he remained unaware of the fact that since the Great one has nothing beyond itself, it is impossible either to think or speak of it. For anything that can be thought or spoken of has something beyond itself, namely, the thought and the speaking. The Taoists, on the contrary, realized that the “one” is unthinkable and inexpressible. Thereby, they had a true understanding of the “one”and advanced a step further than did the School of Names.

In the Ch’i Wu Lun it is also said: “Referring to the right and the wrong, the ‘being so’ and ‘not being so’ : if the right is really right, we need not dispute about how it is different from the wrong; if the ‘being so’ is really being so , we need not dispute how it is different from ‘not being so.’…Let us forget life. Let us forget the distinction between right and wrong. Let us take our joy in the realm of the infinite and remain there.” The realm of infinite is the realm wherein lives the man who has attained to the Tao. Such a man not only has the knowledge of the “one,” but also has actually experienced it. This experience is the experience of living in the realm of infinite. He has forgotten all the distinctions of things, even those involved in his own life. In his experience there remains only the undifferentiable one, in the midst of which he lives.

Described in poetical language, such a man is he “who chariots on the normality of the universe, rides on the transformations of the six elements, and thus makes excursion into the infinite.” He is really the independent man, so his happiness is absolute.

Here we see how Chuang Tzu reached a final resolution of the original problem of the early Taoists. That problem is how to preserve life and avoid harm and danger. But, to the real sage, it ceases to be a problem. As is said in the Chuang-tzu: “The universe is the unity of all things. If we attain this unity and identify ourselves with it, then the members of our body are but so much dust and dirt, while life and death, end and beginning, are but as the succession of day and night, which cannot disturb our inner peace. How much less shall we be troubled by worldly gain and loss, good-luck and bad-luck.” Thus Chuang Tzu solved the original problem of the early Taoists simply by abolishing it. This is really the philosophical way of solving problems. Philosophy gives no information about matters of fact, and so cannot solve any problem in a concrete and physical way. It cannot, for example, help man either to gain longevity or defy death, nor can it help him to gain riches and avoid poverty. What it can do, however, is to give man a point of view, from which he can see that life is no more than death and loss is equal to gain. From the “practical” point of view, philosophy is useless, yet it can give us a point of view which is very useful. To use an expression of the Chuang-tzu, this is the “usefulness of useless.”

Spinoza has said that in a certain sense, the wise man “never ceases to be.” This is also what Chuang Tzu means. The sage or perfect man is one with the Great One, that is, the universe. Since the universe never ceases to be, therefore the sage also never ceases to be. In the sixth chapter of the Chuang-tzu, we read: “A boat may be stored in a creek, a net may be stored in a lake, these may be said to be safe enough. But at midnight a strong man may come and carry them away on his back. The ignorant do not see that no matter how you well you store things, smaller ones in larger ones, there will always be a chance for them to be lost. But if you store universe in the universe , there will be no room left for it to be lost. This is the great truth of things. Therefore the sage makes excursions into that which cannot be lost, and together with it he remains.” It is in this sense that the sage never ceases to be.

Methodology of Mysticism:

In order to be one with the Great One, the sage has to transcend and forget the distinctions between things. The way to do this is to discard knowledge, and is the method used by the Taoists for achieving “sageliness within.” The task of knowledge in the ordinary sense is to make distinctions; to know a thing is to know the difference between it and other things. Therefore to discard knowledge means to forget these distinctions. Once all distinctions are forgotten, there remains only the undifferentiable one, which is the great whole. By achieving this condition, the sage may be said to have knowledge of another and higher level, which is called by the Taoists “knowledge which is not knowledge.”

In the Chuang-tzu there are many passages about the method of forgetting distinctions. In the sixth chapter,  for example, a report is given of an imaginary conversation between Confucius and his favourite disciple, Yen Hui. The story reads: “Yen Hui said: ‘I have made some progress.’ ‘What do you mean?’ asked Confucius. ‘I have forgotten human heartedness and righteousness,’ replied Yen Hui. ‘Very well, but that is not enough,’ said Confucius. Another day Yen Hui again saw Confucius and said: ‘I have made some progress.’ ‘What do you mean?’ asked Confucius. ‘I have forgotten rituals and music,’ replied Yen Hui. ‘Very well, but that is not enough,’ said Confucius. Another day Yen Hui again saw confucius and said: ‘I have made some progress.’ ‘What do you mean?’ asked Confucius. ‘I sit in forgetfulness,’ replied yen Hui. At this Confucius changed countenance and said: ‘What do you mean by sitting in forgetfulness?’ To which Yen Hui replied: ‘My limbs are nerveless, and my intelligence is dimmed. I have abounded my body and discarded my knowledge. Thus I become one with the Infinite. This is what I mean by sitting in forgetfulness.’ Then Confucius said: ‘If you have become one with the Infinite, you have no personal likes and dislikes. If you have become one with the Great Evolution [of the universe], you are one who merely follow its changes. If you really have achieved this, I should like to follow your steps.’”

Thus Yen Hui achieved “sageliness within” by discarding knowledge. The result of discarding knowledge is to have no knowledge. But there is a difference between “having-no knowledge” and “having no-knowledge.” The state of “having-no knowledge” is one of original ignorance, whereas that of “having no-knowledge” comes only after one has passed through a prior stage of having knowledge. The former is a gift of nature, while the latter is an achievement of the spirit.

Some of the Taoists saw this distinction very clearly. It is significant that they use the word “forget” to express the essential idea of their method. Sages are not persons who remain in a state of original ignorance. They at one time possessed ordinary knowledge and made the usual distinctions, but they since forget them. The difference between them and the man of original ignorance is as great as that between the courageous man and the man who does not fear simply because he is sensible to fear.

But there were also Taoists such as the authors of some chapters of Chuang-tzu, who failed to see this difference. They admired the primitive state of society and mind, and compared sages with children and the ignorant. Children and the ignorant have no knowledge and do not make distinctions, so that they both seem to belong to the undifferentiable one. Their belonging to it, however, is entirely unconsciousness. They remain in the undifferentiable one, but they are not conscious of the fact. They are ones who have-no knowledge, but not who have no-knowledge. It is the latter acquired state of no-knowledge that the Taoists call that of the “knowledge which is not knowledge.”



      CHAPTER 22


Buddhidharma-darumaThe Chinese term Ch’an (Japanese reading: Zen) or Ch’an-na is a phonetic rendering of the Sanskrit Dhyana, which is usually translated in English as meditation. The traditional account of the origin of the Ch’an or Zen school is that the Buddha, in addition to his scriptures, possessed an esoteric teaching that was transmitted independently of written texts. This teaching he transmitted personally to one of his disciples, who in turn transmitted it to his own disciple. In this way, it was handed down until it reached Bodhidharma, who is supposed to have been the twenty-eighth Patriarch in India, and who came to China some time between 520 and 526, where he became the first Tsu (Patriarch, literally, ancestor) of the Ch’an school in China.

Traditional Account of the Origin of Ch’anism:

There Budhidharma transmitted the esoteric teaching to Hui-k’o (486-593), who was China’s second Patriarch. The teaching was thus perpetuated until a major split in the school occurred, caused by the two chief disciples of the fifth Patriarch, Hung-jen (605-675). One of them, Shen-hsiu (died 706), became the founder of the Northern school; the other, Hui-neng (638-713), founded the Southern school. The Southern school soon surpassed the Northern one in popularity, so that Hui-neng came to be recognized as the sixth Patriarch, the true successor of Hung-jen. All the later influential groups in Ch’anism took their rise from the disciples of Hui-neng.

How far we can depend on the earlier part of this traditional account is much questioned, for it is not supported by any documents dated earlier than eleventh century. It is not our purpose in this chapter to make a scholarly examination of this problem. Suffice it to say that no scholar today takes the tradition very seriously. Indeed, as we have already seen  in the last chapter, the theoretical background for Ch’anism had already been created in China by such men as Seng-chao and Tao-sheng. Given this background, the rise of Ch’anism would seem to have been almost inevitable, without looking to the almost legendary Budhidharma as its founder.

The split in the Ch’an school caused by Shen-hsiu and hui-neng is, however, a historical fact. The difference between these founders of the Northern and Southern schools represents the earlier difference between the Hsing tsung (Universal Mind school) and K’ung tsung (Empty school) that was described in the last chapter. This can be seen in Hui-neng’s own autobiography. From this work we learnt that Hui-neng was a native of the present Kwangtung province and became a student of Buddhism under Hung-jen. The account continues that one day Hung-jen, realizing that his time was nearly over, summoned his disciples together and told them that a successor must now be appointed; this successor would be the disciple who could write the best poem summarizing the teaching of Ch’anism. Shen-hsiu then wrote a poem which read:

The body is like unto the Bodhi-tree,

And the mind to a mirror bright;

Carefully we cleanse them hour by hour

Lest dust should fall upon them.

To refute this idea, Hui-neng then wrote the following Poem:

Originally there was no Bodhi-tree,

Nor was there any mirror;

Since Originally there was nothing,

Whereon can the dust fall?

It is said that Hung-jen approved Hui-neng’s poem and appointed him as his successor, the sixth Patriarch.

Shen-hsiu’s poem emphasized the universal mind of Buddha Nature spoken of by Tao-sheng, while Hui-neng’s emphasized the Wu (Non-being) of Seng-chao. There are two phrases that often occur in Ch’anism. One is, “The very mind is Buddha”; the other, “not-mind, and not-Buddha.” Shen-hsiu’s poem is the expression of the first phrase, and Hui-neng’s of the second.

The First Principle Is Inexpressible:

In later times the Ch’an school in its major development followed the line set by Hui-neng. In it the combination already begun between the empty school and Taoism reached its climax. What the empty school called higher sense truth on the third level, the Ch’anists called the First Principle. As we have seen in the last chapter, on this third level one simply cannot say anything. Hence the First Principle by its nature inexpressible. The Ch’an Master Wen-yi (died 958) was once asked: “What is the First Principle?” To which he answered: “If I were to tell you, it would become the second principle.”

It was the principle of the Ch’an Masters to teach their disciples only through personal contact. For the benefit of those who did not have opportunity for such contact, however, written records were made of the saying of the Masters, which were known as yü lu (recorded conversations). This was a practice that was later taken over by the Neo-Confucianists. In this records, we often find that when a student ventured to ask some question about the fundamental principle of Buddhism, we would often be given  a beating  by his Ch’an Master, or simple quite irrelevant answer. He might, for example, be told that a price of a certain vegetable was then three cents. These answers seem very paradoxical to those who are not familiar with the purpose of Ch’anism. But this purpose is simply to let the student know that what he asks about is not answerable. Once he understand that, he understand a great deal.

The First Principle is inexpressible, because what is called the Wu is not something about which anything can be said. By calling it “Mind” or any other name, one is at once giving it a definition and thus imposing on it a limitation. As the Ch’anist s and Taoists both say, one thereby falls into the “net of words.” Ma-tsu or the Patriarch Ma (died 788), a disciple of the disciple of Hui-neng, was once asked: “Why do you say that the very mind is Buddha?” Ma-tsu answered: “I simply want to stop the crying of the children.” “Suppose they do stop crying?” asked the questioner. “Then not-mind, not-Buddha,” was the answer.

Another student asked Ma-tsu: “What kind of man is he who is not linked to all things?”The Master answered: “Wait until one gulp you can drink up all the water in the West River, then I will tell you.” Such an act is obviously impossible and by suggesting it Ma-tsu meant to indicate to the student that he would not answer his question. His question, in fact, was really not answerable, because he who is not linked to all things is one who transcends all things. This being so, how can you ask what kind of man he is?

There were Ch’an Masters who used silence to express the idea of Wu or the First Principle. It is said, for example, that when Hui-chung (died 775) was to debate with another monk, he simply mounted his chair and remained silent. The other monk then said: “Please propose your thesis so I can argue.” Hui-chung replied: “I have already proposed my thesis.” The monk asked: “What is it?” Hui-chung said: “I know it is beyond your understanding,”and with this left his chair. The thesis Hui-chung proposed was that of silence. Since the first principle of Wu is not something about which anything can be said, the best way to expound it to remain silent.

From this point of view no Scripture or Sutras have any real connection with the First Principle. Hence the Ch’an Master Yi-hsüan (died 866), founder of group in Ch’anism known as the Lin-chi school, said: “If you want to have the right understanding, you must not be deceived by others. You should kill everything that you meet internally or externally. If you meet buddha, kill Budha. If you meet the Patriarchs, kill the Patriarchs…. The you can gain your emancipation.”

Method of Cultivation:

The knowledge of First Principle is knowledge that is non-knowledge; hence the method of cultivation is also cultivation that is non-cultivation. It is said that Ma-tsu, before he became a disciple of Huai-jang (died 744), lived on the Heng Mountain (in present Hunan province). There he occupied a solitary hut in which, all alone, he practised meditation. One day Huai-jang began to grind some bricks in front of the hut. When Ma-tsu saw it, he asked Huai-jang what he was doing. He replied that he was planning to make a mirror. Ma-tsu said: “How can grinding bricks make a mirror?” Huai-jang said: “If grinding bricks cannot make a mirror, how can meditation make a Buddha?” By this saying Ma-tsu was enlightened and thereupon became Huai-jang’s disciple.

Thus according to Ch’anism, the best method of cultivation for achieving Buddhahood is not to practice any cultivation. To cultivate oneself in this way is to exercise deliberate effort, which is yu-wei (having action). This yu-wei will, to be sure, produce some good effects, but it will not be everlasting. The Ch’an Master His-yün (died 847), Known as the master of Huang-po, said: “Supposing that through innumerable lives a man has practised the six paramitas [methods of gaining salvation], done good and attain the Buddha Wisdom, this will still not last forever. The reason lies in causation. When the force of the cause is exhausted, he reverts to the impermanent.”

Again he said: “All deeds essentially impermanent. All forces have their final day. They are like a dart discharged through the air; when its strength is exhausted, it turns and falls to the ground. They are all connected with the Wheel of Birth and Death. To practice cultivation through them is to misunderstand the Buddha’s idea and waste labour.”

And yet again: “If you do not understand wu hsin [absence of purposeful mind], then you are attached to objects, and suffer from obstructions….Actually there is no such thing as Bodhi [Wisdom]. That the Buddha talked about it was simply as a means to educate men, just as yellow leaves may be taken as gold coins in order to stop the crying of children….The only thing to be done is to rid yourself of your old Karma, as opportunity offers, and not to create new Karma from which will flow new calamities.”

Thus the best method of spiritual cultivation is to do one’s tasks without deliberate effort to purposeful mind. This is exactly what the Taoists called wu-wei (non-action) and wu-hsin (no mind). It is what Hui-yüan’s theory signifies, as well as, probably, the statement of Tao-sheng that “a good deed does not entail retribution.” This method of cultivation does not aim at doing things in order to obtain resulting good effects, no matter how good these effects may be in themselves. Rather it aims at doing things in such a way as to entail no effects at all. When all one’s actions entail no effect, then after the effects of previously accumulated Karma have exhausted themselves, one will gain emancipation from the Wheel of Birth and Death and attain Nirvana.

To do things without deliberate effort and purposeful mind id to do things naturally and to live naturally. Yi-hsüan said: “To achieve Buddhahood there is no place for deliberate effort. The only method is to carry on one’s ordinary and uneventful tasks: relieve one’s bowels, pass water, wear one’s clothes, eat one’s meals, and when tired, lie down. The simple fellow will laugh at you, but the wise will understand.” The reason why those who try to achieve Buddhahood so often fail to follow this course is because they lack self-confidence. Yi-hsüan said: “Nowadays people who engage in spiritual cultivation fail to achieve their ends. Their fault is not having faith in themselves….Do you wish to know who are the Patriarchs and Buddha? All of you who are before me are the patriarchs and Buddha.”

Thus the way to practice spiritual cultivation is to have adequate confidence in one’s self and discard anything else. All one should do is to pursue the ordinary tasks of one’s everyday life, and nothing more. This is what the Ch’an Masters call cultivation through non-cultivation.

Here a question arises: Granted that this be so, then what is the difference between the man who engages in cultivation of this kind and the man who engages in no cultivation at all? If the latter does precisely what the former does, he too should achieve Nirvana, and so there should come a time when there will be no Wheel of birth and death at all.

To this question it may be answered that although to wear clothes and eat meals are in themselves common and simple matters, it is still not easy to do them with a completely non-purposeful mind and thus without any attachment. A person likes fine clothes, for example, but dislikes bad ones, and he feel pleased when others admire his clothes. These are all the attachments that result from wearing clothes. What the Ch’an Masters emphasized is that spiritual cultivation does not require special acts, such as the ceremonies and players of institutionalized religion.One should simply try to be without a purposeful mind or any attachments in one’s daily life; then cultivation results from the mere carrying on of the common and simple affairs of daily life. In the beginning one will need to exert effort in order to be without effort, and to exercise a purposeful mind in order not to have such a mind, just as, in order to forget, one at first need to remember that one should forget. Later, however, the time comes when one must discard the effort to be without effort, and the mind that purposefully tries to have no purpose, just as one finally forgets to remember that one has to forget.

Thus cultivation through non-cultivation is itself a kind of cultivation, just as knowledge that is not knowledge is nevertheless still a form of knowledge. Such knowledge differs from original ignorance, and cultivation through non-cultivation likewise differs from original naturalness. For original ignorance and naturalness are gifts of nature, whereas knowledge that is not knowledge and cultivation through non-cultivation are both products of the spirit.

Sudden Enlightenment:

The Practice of cultivation, no matter for how long, is in itself  only a sort of preparatory work. For Buddhahood to be achieved, this cultivation must be climaxed by a Sudden Enlightenment, comparable to the leaping over of a precipice. Only after this leaping has taken place can Buddhahood be achieved.

Such Enlightenment is often referred to by the Ch’an Masters as the “vision of the Tao”. P’u-yüan, known as the Master of Nan-ch’üan (died 830), told his disciple: “The Tao is not classifiable as either knowledge or non-knowledge. Knowledge is illusory consciousness and non-knowledge is blind unconsciousness. If you really comprehend the indubitable Tao, it is like a wide expance of emptiness, so how can distinctions be forced in it between right and wrong?” Comprehension of the Tao is the same as being one with it. Its wide expanse of emptiness is not a void; it is simply a state in which all distinctions are gone.

This state is described by the Ch’an Masters as one in which “knowledge and truth become undifferentiable, objects and spirit form a single unity, and there ceases to be a distinction between the experiencer and the experienced.” “A man who drinks water knows by himself whether it is cold or warm.” This last expression first appeared in the Sutra Spoken by the Sixth Patriarch (Hui-neng), but it was later widely quoted by the other Ch’an Masters, meaning that only he who experiences the non-distinction of the experiencer and experienced really knows what it is.

In this state the experiencer has discarded knowledge in the ordinary sense, because this kind of knowledge postulate a distinction between the knower and the known. Nevertheless, he is not without knowledge, because his state differs from that of blind unconsciousness, as Nan-ch’üan calls it. This is what is called the knowledge that is not knowledge.

When the student has reached the verge of Sudden Enlightenment, that is the time when the Master can help him the most. When one is about to make the leap, a certain assistance, no matter how small, is a great help. The Ch’an Masters at this stage used to practice what they called the method of “stick or yell” to help the leap to Enlightenment. Ch’an literature reports many incidents in which a master, having asked his student to consider some problem, suddenly give him several blows with a stick or yelled at him. If these acts were done at the right moment, the result would be a Sudden Enlightenment for the student. The explanation would seem to be that the physical act, thus performed, shocks the student into that psychological awareness of Enlightenment for which he has long been preparing.

To describe Sudden Enlightenment, the Ch’an Masters use the metaphor of “the bottom of a tub falling out.” When this happens, all its contents are suddenly gone. In the same way, when one is suddenly enlightened, he finds all his problems suddenly solved. They are solved not in the sense that he gain some positive solution for them, but in the sense that all the problems have ceased any longer to be problems. That is why the Tao is called “the indubitable Tao.”

The Attainment of Non-attainment:

The attainment of Sudden Enlightenment does not entail the attainment of anything further. The Ch’an Master Ch’ing-yüan, known as the Master of Shu-chou (died 1120), said: “If you now comprehend it, where is that which you did not comprehend before? What you were deluded about  before is what you are now enlightened about, and what you are now enlightened about is what you are deluded about before.” In Ch’anism there is the common expression that “the mountain is the mountain, the river is the river.” In one’s state of delusion, one sees the mountain as the mountain and the river is the river. But after Enlightenment one still sees the mountain as the mountain and the river as the river.

The Ch’an Masters also use another common expression: “Riding an ass to search for the ass.” By this they mean a search for reality outside of the phenomenal, in other words, to search for Nirvana outside of the Wheel of Birth and Death. Shu-chou said: “There are only two diseases: one is riding an ass to search for the ass; the other is riding an ass and being unwilling to dismount. You say that riding an ass to search for the ass is silly and that he who does it should be punished. This is a very serious disease. But I tell you, do not search for the ass at all. The intelligent man, understanding my meaning, stops to search for the ass, and thus the deluded state of his mind cease to exist.

“But if, having found the ass, one is unwilling to dismount, this disease is most difficult to cure. I say to you, do not ride the ass at all. You yourself are the ass. Everything is the ass. Why do you ride on it? If you ride, you cannot cure your disease. But if you do not ride, the universe is as a great expance open to your view. With these two disease expelled, nothing remained to affect your mind. This is spiritual cultivation. You need do nothing more.” If one insists that after attaining Enlightenment one will still attain something else, this is to ride an ass and be unwilling to dismount.

Huang-po said: “[If there be Enlightenment], speech or silence, activity or inactivity, and every sight and sound, all pertain to Buddha. Where should you go to find the Buddha? Do not place a head on top of head or mouth beside a mouth.”If there be enlightenment, everything pertains to Buddha and everywhere there is Buddha. It is said that one Ch’an monk went into a temple and spat on the statue of the Buddha. When he was criticized, he said: “Please show me a place there is no Buddha.”

Thus the Ch’an sage lives just as everyone else lives, and does what everyone else does. In passing from delusion to Enlightenment, he has left his mortal humanity behind and has entered sagehood. But after that he still has to leave sagehood behind and to enter once more into mortal humanity. This is described by Ch’an Masters as “rising yet another step over the top of the hundred-foot bamboo.” The top of the bamboo symbolizes the climax of the achievement of Enlightenment. “Rising yet another step” means that after Enlightenment has come, the sage still has other things to do. What he has to do, however, is not more than the ordinary things of daily life. As Nan-ch’uan said: “After coming to understand the other side, you come back and live on this side.”

Although the sage continues living on this side, his understanding of the other side is not in vain. Although what he does is just what everyone else does, yet it has a different significance to him. As Hui-hai, known as the Master of Pai-ch’ang (died 814), said: “That which before Enlightenment is called lustful anger, is after Enlightenment called the Buddha Wisdom. The man is no different from what he was before; it is only that what he does is different.” It would seem that there must be some textual error in this last sentence. What Pai-ch’ang apparently intended to say was: “What the man does is no different from what he did before; it is only that the man himself is not the same as he was.”

The man is not the same, because although what he does is what everyone else does, he has no attachment to anything. This is the meaning of the common Ch’an saying: “To eat all day and yet not swallow a single grain; to wear clothes all day and yet not touch a single thread.”

There is yet another common saying: “In carrying water and chopping firewood: therein lies the wonderful Tao.” One may ask: If this is so, does not the wonderful Tao also lie in serving one’s family and the state? If we were to draw the logical conclusion from the Ch’an doctrines that have been analyzed above, we should be forced to answer yes. The Ch’an Masters themselves, however, did not give this logical answer. It was reserved to Neo-Confucianists, who are the subject of our next several chapters to do so.