Zhuangzi translation and commentary

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無趾語老聃曰:「孔丘之於至人,其未邪!彼何 以學子為?彼且蘄以諔詭幻怪之名聞,不知至人之以是為己桎梏邪?」



[a] 以刑為體,以禮為翼,以知為時,以為循。以刑為體者,綽乎其殺也;以禮為翼者,所以行於世也;以知為時者,不得已於事也;以為循者,言其與有者至於丘也,而人真以為勤行者也。

Mountain-Uncle No-toes, a man from Lu who'd had has foot chopped off, heeled on in to see Zhong Ni. Zhong Ni said, "You weren't careful and have already gotten yourself in trouble. Why come to me now?"

No-toes said, "I only ignored my responsibilities and took myself lightly, so I'm missing a foot. I come today because there is still something more important than a foot remaining, so I have a responsibility to preserve it. There is nothing that heaven does not protect, nothing earth does not support. I thought you were like heaven. How did I know you would be this way? [1]

Confucius said, "That was stupid of me. Won't you come in, sir? Let me tell you what I have learned." But No-toes left. 

Confucius said to his students, "You disciples, pay attention! No-toes had had a foot chopped off but still takes responsibility for studying to make up for his former mistake. How much more so should a person whose powers are whole!" [2]

No-toes said to Lao Dan, "Confucius is not yet one of the perfect people, is he? What was he doing fawning around here to study with you? He longs for the sham-glam of reputation; he has no idea that perfect people see this as shackling themselves."

Lao Dan said, "Why can't you just show him that life and death are two sides of the same strip, that acceptable and unacceptable are strung on a single string? Can't you release his shackles?" [3]

No-toes said, "When heaven has punished him, how can I release him?" [4]

He took punishment as physical, ritual as a means of flight, knowledge as a matter of timeliness; and powers as conformity. By taking punishment as physical, he killed generously. By taking rituals means of flight, he moved through the world. By taking knowledge as a matter of timeliness, he did what couldn't be helped. Taking powers as conformity describes how he got to Confucius along with people who had feet, and people truly took him to be hardworking! [5]

[1] The word in classical Chinese means both "foot" and "enough." Couple this with the fact that amputation was often punishment for a crime or political indiscretion, the characters without feet are therefor people who are thought to be both morally and physically incomplete. But their ability to get along without a foot suggests that not having enough is enough for them. But what does it mean for not enough to be enough? Does it mean they are content with whatever they have, like Splay-limb Shu in 4:07? Or does it mean that it is alright for them always to want to be a better person, like Confucius in 6:06? The adequacy of inadequacy would seem not to rule anything out. On the one hand, that might be a good thing, like Zhuangzi's idea of being all-inclusive like nature here and in 1:03. On the other hand, it's hard to know what we do with that. Lamanou lamanieThe line that 'something more important than a foot remains' implies paradoxically that there is something more important than "enough." This may point in the direction of what he means by "splayed powers" at the end of 4:07.

[2] What does Confucius mean by a person 'whose powers are whole'? Does he mean a whole body or something else? Also, the question implies that No-toes is not such a person, that he is once again only a partial illustration of the ideal (4:07), a finger pointing, not the moon. But then, this is Confucius talking and his initial response to Noe-toes beings his judgment into question. Should we take his word for it

[3] 貫 guàn refers to beads or coins on a string. Compare Analects 4.15 where Confucius said that a single string threads all his teachings. 條 tiáo may refer to a ribbon or writings on a strip of bamboo. But what exactly does it mean to say that acceptable and unacceptable are beads on a single string?

[4] No-toes would appear to be contrasting his punishment at human hands with Confucius's punishment by nature. Is one redeemable, the other not? Why? For the idea of Heaven's punishment, compare 3:03 and 6:06. Once again, who is the authority in this story, Confucius, Noe-toes, or Lao Dan, since they all end up disagreeing with each other?

[5] Is this last paragraph a description of No-toes, of Confucius, or both? Is the speaker Not-toes, Laozi, or, as Graham suspects, some later commentator whose remark got worked into the text? Feel free to try changing the "he"s to "I"s.

cheng Xuanying says (6.160): 禮雖忠信之薄,而為御世之首,故不學禮無以立,非禮勿動,非禮勿言,人而無禮,胡不遄死。是故禮之於,要哉!羽翼人倫,所以大行於世者也。Though tradition is the wearing thin of loyalty (DDJ 38), it is the way of governing, so without studying ritual you have no means to stand: if it not tradition, don't do it, don't say it (Analects 12.1). Without tradition, how could people not die? So tradition is essential in government. Flapping human relations is the way of the world.

[a] Graham places the following snippet from CTP 6.01 (HYZY 6/17-19) here since No-toes's final comment seems cut off, it seems to fit here better than there, and it allows us to read 丘 as referring to Confucius in the final sentence, though he had been referred to as Zhong Ni previously in the story (Roth 23-4).