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Way of Laozi - 76 THE CHINESE TRADITION tN ANTIQUITY...

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Unformatted text preview: 76 THE CHINESE TRADITION tN ANTIQUITY “Moreover, the Confucians corrupt men with their elaborate and showy rites and music and deceive parents with lengthy mournings and hypocritical grief. They propound fatalism, ignore poverty, and behave with the greatest arro- gance. . . . . “The Confucians say, ‘The noble person must use ancient speech and wear ancient dress before he can be considered humane.’ But we answer, "The so- called ancient speech and dress were all modern once, and if at that time the men of antiquity used such speech and wore such dress, then they must not have been noble persons. Must we then wear the dress of those who were not noble persons and use their speech before we can be considered humane?’ " [Mozi jicheng 9:163—18b, 19b720a iadapted from Watson, Mo Tzu. pp, 124-28] may 5F- ;Adz/ _ AS/A 1/6!- —LEG Aer of Chapter 5 THE WAY OF LAOZI AND ZHUANGZI Next to Confucianism, the most important and influential native philosophy of the Chinese has undoubtedly been Daoism. In many ways the doctrines of Confucianism and Daoisrn complement each other, running side by side like two powerful streams through all later Chinese thought and literature. To the solemn gravity and burden of social responsibility of Confucianism, Daoisrn opposes a flight from respectability and the conventional duties of society; in place of the Confucian concern for things worldly and human, it holds out a vision of other, transcendental worlds of the spirit. As the two streams of thought developed in later times, Confucianism has often been understood to represent the mind of the Chinese scholar in his office or study, concerned with matters of family and society, while Daoism represents the same individual in a pri- vate chamber or mountain retreat, often seeking surcease from the cares of official life. METAPHYSICS AND GOVERNMENT IN THE LAOZI The term Daoist — the school or family of the Dao — did not enter the Chinese vocabulary until the Han dynasty, around the second century B.C.E. In earlier periods this current of thought was referred to as “the teachings of the Yellow ASIA 78 THE CHINESE TRADITION IN ANTIQUXTY Emperor and Laozi" (Huang-Lao, in Chinese) and, later, of “the teachings of Laozi and Zhuangzi." Though the Yell0w Emperor is a legendary figure, we do possess two books attributed to Laozi and Zhuangzi. The name Laozi simply means “the old master." Who the philosopher known as Laozi was, when he lived, and what his connection was with the text that has come down to us, are questions that have been debated for centuries. There have also been lively controversies about when the text was compiled and whether it actually appeared any earlier than the third century B.C.E. Con— temporary scholars are generally inclined to agree that the book known as the Laozi or Daodeiing was likely the work of more than one author, writing over a period of time, and that it contains different textual strata. Still, the compiler or compilers of the work seem to have had a rather consistent integrative vision, and despite - or perhaps because of— its brevity the document that has come down to us is one of the most provocative and inspired works in all Chinese literature. In a sense the Laozi, like so many of the works of this period of political chaos and intellectual ferment, proposes a philosophy of government and a way oflife for the ruling class, probably the only people who were capable of reading it. Yet its point of view and approach to the problems of government are vastly broader than this statement might suggest. The teaching of the Laozi is based on a great underlying principle, the Way, or Dao (from which the later name of the school derives), which is the source of all being, the governor of all life, human and natural, and the basic, undivided unity in which all the contradica tions and distinctions of existence are ultimately resolved. Much of the book deals with the nature and workings of this first principle, while admitting that it must remain essentially indescribable and can be known only through a kind of mysterious intuition. The way of life that accords with this basic Dao is marked by an impulse toward acceptance and yielding, an absence of strife and coercion, and a manner of action that is completely spontaneous, effortless, and inexhaustible. This approach to action is often expressed in terms of “doing nothing” — or doing nothing that is unnatural or out of keeping with the Way (,wuwei). In the human sphere the Laozi describes the perfect individual, the sage, who comprehends the Bat) and whose life and actions are ordered in accor- dance with it. It is clear that the sage is conceived of as the ideal ruler, for the Laozi gives definite instructions as to how the sage's government is to be con- ducted. The sage is to refrain from meddling in the lives of the people, give up warfare and luxurious living, and guide the people back to a state ofinnocenee, simplicity, and harmony with the Dan. This is a state thought to have existed in the most ancient times, before civilization appeared to arouse the material desires of the people and impel them to strife and warfare, and before morality was invented to divert their minds from simple goodness and to beguile them with vain distinctions. But such is the vagueness and ambiguity of the Laozi text and the subtlety The Way of Laozi and Zhuangzi 79 of its thought that it may yield different interpretations and be approached on very different levels. At times in Chinese history, notably at the beginning of the Han dynasty, a political interpretation of the text has been highlighted and attempts have been made to translate the doctrines of the Laozi into action through government policies embodying an extreme laissez—faire attitude. But the teachings of the Laozi may also be understood as the philosophy of the recluse, the person of superior wisdom and insight who, instead of taking part in society, chooses to retire from public life to perfect a personal purity and intelligence and to seek harmony with the world of nature. It is this interpre- tation of the Laozi that has often prevailed in later Chinese thought. The style of the Laozi is quite unlike that ofthe works of other schools. The text appears to be a combination of very old adages or cryptic sayings, often in rhyme, extended passages of poetry, and sections of prose interpretation and commentary. There is extensive use of parallel construction and balanced phrases; the statements are laconic and often paradoxical, intended not to con— vince the mind by reasoning but to startle and capture it through poetic vision. Among the prominent images are those of water—symbol of a humble, selfr effacing force that is in the end all-powerful — and the female and the mother — symbol of passivity and creativity. This symbolismiand the paradoxical and poetic view of life that it suggestsihave won for the work a pOpularity and influence that have endured through the centuries. These satire appealing qual- ities have made it the Chinese work most often translated into foreign lan- guages. The selection that follows includes slightly less than half ofthe original work, which is divided into eighty-one brief chapters or sections. The translation owes much to that of the late Wing-tsit Chan. Like the Chan translation, it is based on several different Chinese texts of the Laozi, but it also takes into account two texts that were not available to Professor Chan at the time his translation was madeithe silk manuscripts found in 1973 in an archaeological discovery at Mawangdui in Hunan province. These two closely related versions, the oldest texts of the Laozi to have been discovered thus far, have become known as Dedoojing because the eighty—one sections appear in a different order from that found in the previously known texts. The order in these newly discovered but very ancient texts has been taken by sortie to lend further weight to the argument that, whatever the impulses toward transcendence revealed in the work, the political significance of the Laozi must be recognized as profound. FROM THE DAODEIINC 1 The Way that can be spoken of is not the constant Way; The name that can be named is not the constant name. The nameless is the beginning of Heaven and Earth; 80 THE CHINESE TRADITION IN ANTIQUITY The named is the mother of all things. Thus be constantly without desire, so as to observe its subtlety, And constantly have desire, so as to observe its outcome. These two have the same origin, But are named differently. Both may be called mysterious. Mysterious and still more mysterious, The gateway of all subtleties! 2 When everyone in the world knows beauty as beauty. ugliness appears. When everyone knows good as good, notrgood arrives. Therefore being and non-being give birth to one another; Difficult and easy give completion to one another; Long and short form‘ one another; High and low fill2 one another; Sound and voice harmonize with one another; Ahead and behind follow after one another, Therefore the sage accomplishes things by doing nothing (wuwei), Furthering a teaching that is without words. All things arise, and he does not leave them. He gives them life but without possessing them. He acts but without relying on his own ability. He succeeds but without dwelling on his success. And because he does not dwell on it, it does not leave him. Do not exalt the worthy, and the people will not compete. Do not value goods that are hard to come by, and the people will not steal. 1. Reading xing with the Mass-angdui texts rather than qiao with the text of the third— cornrnentator, \Nang Bi 2. Reading )‘ing with the Mawangdui texts rather than qing with the W century ang Bi text, The Way ofLaozi and Zhuangzi Do not display objects of desire, and the people’s minds will not be disturbed. Therefore the ordering of the sage empties their minds, fills their bellies, weakens their ambitions, strengthens their bones. He always causes the people to be without knowledge, without desire, And causes the wise ones not to dare to act. He does nothing (wuwei), and there is nothing that is not brought to order. The Way is empty. it may be used without ever being exhausted. Fathomless, it seems to be the ancestor of all things. Blunting the sharpness, Untying the tangles, Subduing the light. Merging with the dust. Profound, it appears to exist forever. Whose child it is I do not know. It seems to have existed before the Lord. 5 Heaven and Earth are not humane, Regarding all things as straw dogs.} The sage is not humane, Regarding the people as straw dogs. Between Heaven and Earth —how like a bellows! Vacuous but inexhaustible, Moving and producing ever more. An excess of words ends in impoverishment. it is better to hold to the center. thrown away and there was no sentimental attachment to them. Bi 3. Straw dogs were used for sacrifices in ancient China. After they had been used, thex were THE CHINESE TRADITION IN ANTIQUITY 6 The spirit of the valley does not die. It is called the mysterious female. The gate of the mysterious female ls called the root of Heaven and Earth. Being continuous, it is as if it existed always. Being used, it is still not exhausted. 9 To hold it upright and fill it Is not as good as stopping in time. To sharpen it to its sharpest, Means it cannot last for long.‘1 \Vhen gold and jade fill your hall, You will not be able to keep them. When honor and wealth make you proud, You bring disaster upon yourself. When your work is done, then withdraw: This is Heaven's Way. 10 In preserving the soul and embracing the One, can you avoid departing from them? In concentrating your qi5 and arriving at utmost weakness, can you be like an infant? In cleansing and purifying your profound insight, can you be without fault? In loving the people and governing the state, can you be without knowledge? In the opening and closing of the gates of Heaven, can you play the role of the female? In understanding all within the four reaches, can you do nothing (wuwei)? 4. implicit in these first four lines are the image ofa cup or a bowl and the image ofa sword, respecuvely. 5. Q: is a fundamental concept in Chinese thought. Its sense depends on the context, but among the most frequently encountered translations are “vital energy," “vital force," “material- force." and “breath." The Way of Laozi and Zhuangzi Cive life to things, rear them, Give them life but without possessing them, Act but without relying on your own ability, Lead them but without ruling them— This is called profound virtue. ll Thirty spokes eonjoin in one hub; there being nothing in between, the cart is useful. Clay is molded to form a vessel; there being nothing inside, the vessel is useful. Doors and windows are carved out to make a room: there being nothing within, the room is useful. Thus, with something one gets advantage, While with nothing one gets usefulness. 12 The five colors cause a person’s eyes to go blind, The five tones cause a person’s ears to go deaf. The five flavors cause a person’s palate to be spoiled. Racing and hunting cause a person’s mind to run wild. Goods that are hard to come by impede a person’s actions. This is why the sage concerns himself with the belly, not the eye. And why he rejects the one and chooses the other. 13 Favor and disgrace are like a warning, And honor is a great affliction, like one’s body. What does it mean to say favor and disgrace are like a warning? For favor to be bestowed is like a warning, For favor to be withdrawn is like a warning. This is what is meant by favor and disgrace being like a warning. What does it mean to say honor is great affliction, like one’s self? The reason there is great affliction is that I have a self. 83 84. THE CHINESE. TRADITiON IN ANTIQUITY 6. The six relations are those between parent and and wife. [fl had no self, what affliction would I have? Therefore to one who honors the world as one’s self The world may be entrusted, And to one who loves the world as one’s self The world may be consigned. 17 The highest is one whose existence no one knows, The next is one who is loved and admired, The next, one who is feared, And the next, one who is hated. When his faith in them is not sufficient, They will have no faith in him. Anxiously, he values his words, Fulfills his tasks, completes his work. The people all say, “And with us, it happened naturally.” 18 When the great Way declined, There were humaneness and rightness. When intelligence and wisdom emerged, There was great artifice. When the six relations° were no longer harmonious, There were filial children. When the realm fell into disorder, There were loyal ministers. 19 Do away with sageliness, discard knowledge, And the people will benefit a hundredfold. Do away with humaneness, discard rightness, And the people will once more be filial and loving, Dispense with cleverness, discard profit, child, older and younger brother, husband The Way of Laozi and Zhuangzi And there will be no more bandits and thieves. These three, to be regarded as ornaments, are insufficient. Therefore let the people have something to cling to: Manifest plainness, Embrace unearved wood, Diminish selfishness, Reduce desires. 22 Be bent so as to become whole, Be crooked so as to become straight, Be empty so as to become full, Be worn so as to become new. Possess little so as to acquire; To possess much is to be perplexed. Therefore the sage, by embracing the One, Becomes a model for the world. By not showing himself, He becomes illustrious. By not being self-important, He becomes prominent. By not being given to self-praise, He is given credit. By not promoting himself, He endures for long. Because he does not contend, There is no one in the world who can contend with him. When the ancients said, “Be bent so as to become whole," Could these have been empty words? In truly becoming whole, one returns to it. 28 Knowing the male, but keeping to the female, One may become a ravine to the world. Becoming a ravine to the world, The constant virtue does not depart; One returns to the state of infancy. Knowing the white, but keeping to the black, One may become a model for the world. 35 86 THE CHINESE TRADITION [N ANTIQUITY Becoming a model for the world, The constant virtue does not deviate; One returns to the limitless (wuji). Knowing honor butkeeping to lowliness, One may become a valley to the world. Becoming a valley to the world, The constant virtue will be sufficient; One returns to unearved wood. \thn the uncarved wood is broken up, it hecornes vessels. The sage, using them, becomes head of the officials. Great carving does not rend asunder. 19 If one desires to take the empire and act on it, I see that he will not succeed. The empire is a sacred vessel, That cannot be acted upon. In being acted upon, it is harmed; And in being grasped, it is lost. For amng living things some move ahead and others follow, Some breathe easily and others hard, Some are strong and others are weak, Some rise up and others are brought low. Thus the sage rejects the excessive, the extravagant, the extreme. 36 If you would shrink it, You must first cause it to be expanded. If you would weaken it, You must first cause it to be strengthened. If you would destroy it, You must first cause it to flourish. If you would take from it, You must first give to it. This is called the subtly illumined. The soft and the weak overcome the hard and the strong. The fish should not be removed from the deep; The state's sharp weapons should be revealed to no one. The Way of Load and Zhuangzi 37 The Way is constant: by doing nothing, nothing is left undone. If lords and kings can hold to it, all things will, of themselves, be transformed. If, as they are transformed, desires arise, I suppress them by means of the nameless uncarved wood. From the nameless uncarved wood comes absence of desire, Through not desiring one becomes tranquil, And the empire, of itself. becomes settled. 38 One of superior virtue is not virtuous and therefore has virtue; One of inferior virtue never loses virtue and therefore lacks virtue. One of superior virtue does nothing, and has no motive to do anything; One of inferior virtue does things, and has a motive for doing them. One of superior humaneness does things, but has no motive for doing them; One of superior rightness does things, and has a motive for doing them; One of superior propriety takes action, and when no one responds, stretches his arms and resorts to force. Therefore after the Way was lost there was virtue, After virtue was lost there was humaneness, After humaneness was lost there was rightness, And after tightness was lost there was ritual propriety. Now ritual is the wearing thin of fidelity and trustworthiness and the beginning of chaos. Those who are the first to know have the flowers of the way and the beginning of ignorance. Therefore the great man abides in the thick and does not dwell in the thin, Abides in the substance 37 THE CHINESE TRADITION [N ANTIQUITY and does not dwell in the flower. Therefore he rejects the one and chooses the other. 39 Of old, among those that attained the One: Heaven attained the One and thereby became clear. Earth attained the One and thereby became quiet. Spirits attained the One and thereby became numinous. Valleys attained the One and thereby became full, All beings attained the One and thereby they live. Lords and kings attained the One and thereby became the upright ones of the empire. This came about through the One. Without what allows it to be clear, Heaven might have been sundered. Without what allows it to be settled, Earth might have been shaken. Without what causes them to be numinous, spirits might have ceased. \Nithout what allows them to be full, the valleys might have been depleted. Without what allows them to live, all beings might have perished. Without what allows them to be honorable and exalted, lords and kin...
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