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

13:10

顏淵問於仲尼曰:「夫子步亦步,夫子趨亦趨,夫子馳亦馳,夫子奔逸絕塵,而回瞠若乎後矣。」

夫子曰:「回,何謂邪?」

曰:「夫子步亦步也,夫子言亦言也,夫子趨亦趨也,夫子也,夫子馳亦馳也,夫子言道,回亦言道也。及奔逸絕塵,而回瞠若乎後者,夫子不言而信,不比而周,無器而民滔乎前,而不知所以然而已矣。」

仲尼曰:「惡!可不察與!夫哀莫大於心死,而人死亦次之。日出東方而入於西,萬莫不比方。有目有趾者,待是而後功,待晝而作。是出則存,是入則亡。萬亦然,有待也而死,有待也而生。

吾一受其形,而不化以待盡,效而動,日夜無隙,而不知其所終,薰然其形,知不能規乎其前,丘以是日徂。

吾終身與汝交一臂而失之,可不哀與!女殆著乎吾所以著也。彼已盡矣,而女求之以為有,是求馬於唐肆也。吾服女也甚忘,女服吾也亦甚忘。雖然,女奚患焉!雖忘乎故吾,吾有不忘者存。」[a]


Yen Yuan asked Confucius, "When you, my teacher, walk, I walk. When you jog, I jog. When you run, I run. But when you take off and break through the dust, I'm left gawking behind."

The Master said, "Hui, what?"

"By 'you walk, I walk,' I mean I can talk like you. By 'you jog, I jog,' I mean I can think like you. By 'you run, I run,' I mean I can teach like you. By 'you take off and break through the dust and I'm left gawking,' I mean the way you are believed without speaking, don't compete but are on everyone's side, have nothing to sell but people flood in front of you, and are that way without knowing how."

Confucius said, "Ugh! Better inspect! No loss is greater than mental death. Human death comes second. The sun rises in the east and sets in the western limit, and nothing does not accompany it. Everything with eyes and feet depends on it to complete their work, depend on the day to start it. When it comes, they exist. When it goes, they vanish. Everything is like this, depending on something to die, depending on something to live. 

"Once I take complete form, it doesn't change until the end. Like other things, I move, day and night without a break, no idea where it ends. It takes shape like a cloud. I know my orders but can't spy out what was before. That's how I advance.

"We've been arm in arm our whole lives, and losing it will be sad! You may see in me what is to be seen, but it's already over. Expecting to find me there is like looking for a horse in an open stable. I serve you most by forgetting, and you serve me most by forgetting, as well.  So why worry? Though you will have forgotten the old me, I'll still  have something not forgotten left." [1]

[2] This is very puzzling. Is he contradicting himself, saying even though I'm gone, I won't be gone? Or is he saying that even though the old me is gone, there will be a new me you haven't forgotten yet? Or that the real me is something you (or I) have never known, and so so haven't forgotten? Also, is this Confucius a fool or a hero? He sure seems like a hero. 

[a] CTP 21.03, HYZY 21/21-24.