Zhuangzi translation and commentary

Thank you for coming to this site, a translation and commentary on the fourth century BC Chinese philosopher, Zhuangzi! This is a work-in-progress, so your feedback is welcome. Feel free to read away below, or here are an introduction to this project, how to use this site, and how to leave comments.

Table of contents

5:02

申徒嘉,兀者也,而與鄭子產同師於伯昏無人。子產謂申徒嘉曰:「我先出,則子止;子先出,則我止。」

其明日,又與合堂同席而坐。子產謂申徒嘉曰:「我先出,則子止;子先出,則我止。今我將出,子可以止乎,其未邪?且子見執政而不違,子齊執政乎?」

申徒嘉曰:「先生之門,固有執政焉如此哉?子而說子之執政而後人者也!聞之曰:『鑑明則塵垢不止,止則不明也。久與賢人處,則無過。』今子之所大者,先生也,而猶出言若是,不亦過乎!」

子產曰:「子既若是矣,猶與堯爭善,計子之以自反邪?」

申徒嘉曰:「自狀其過以不當亡者眾,不狀其過以不當存者寡。知不可奈何而安之若,惟有者能之。

於羿之彀中,中央者,中地也,然而不中者,也。人以其全笑吾不全者多矣。我怫然而怒,而適先生之所,則廢然而反。不知先生之洗我以善邪!吾與夫子十九年矣,而未嘗知吾兀者也。今子與我於形骸之內,而子索我於形骸之外,不亦過乎!」

子產蹴然改容更貌曰:「子無乃稱!」


Shentu Jia had had his foot chopped off and along with Zichan of Zheng was a student of Uncle Twilight Nobody. Zichan said to Shentu Jia, "If I leave first, then you stay; or if you leave first, then I'll stay." [1]

The next day, the sat together in the hall on the same mat. Zichan said to Shentu Jia, "If I leave first, then you stay; or if you leave first, then I'll stay. Now I'm going to leave. Can you stay, or not? If you meet an official and don't yield, are you putting yourself on the same level?"

Shentu Jia said, "Within our teacher's doors, are there really officials like this? I've heard him say, 'If the mirror is bright, the dust doesn't stay. If it stays, the mirror isn't bright. Dwell long with worthy people and you will be without mistakes.' Having identified our teacher as a great person, isn't it a mistake for you still to speak this way?"

Zichan said, "A person like you still vying with Emperor Yao for goodness. See if your own powers don't give you reason to reflect on yourself!"

Shentu Jia said, "Those who dispute their mistakes and say they don't deserve to suffer are many. Those who admit their mistakes and say they don't deserve to be spared are few. To know what you can't do anything about and make peace with it--only powerful people can do that. 

If you wander in front of the target in Archer Yi's range and still you get hit, that's fate. Many people with both feet laugh at my one. I get furiously angry. But I come to the master's house and it's gone by the time I go home. He washes me with goodness without my even being aware of it. I've wandered with him for nineteen years and he's never noticed my missing foot. You and I wander inside of the physical form. Isn't it a mistake for you to haul me to outside?"

Startled, Zichan's face blanched and expression changed. "Say no more!" [2]

[1] Zichan requests that they not walk out together so he won't be seen with a criminal. As prime minister of Zheng, Zichan was an advocate of harsh physical penalties but also of administering them judiciously. Either way, he paid close attention to the body. Why is he chosen for this story? Should we think of this as occurring at the beginning or end of his political career? 

[2] This is a very touching story. Who are we supposed to regard as the hero here? Shentu Jia, or Uncle Twilight Nobody, who doesn't even appear but seems to exercise a transforming inflluence on the people around him? Or even Zichan for admitting his mistake and changing at the end? Assuming there is something more in Nobody's silence than in Shentu Jia's words, is the real action backstage? Compare Uncle Twilight Nobody to what Confucius says about Royal Nag: "He looks at the way things are the same and does not see what they’re missing. He looks at losing a foot like scraping off dirt” (5:01).