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

10:04

孔子見老聃,老聃新沐,方將被髮而乾,慹然似非人。孔子便而待之,少焉見曰:「丘也眩與?其信然與?向者先生形體掘若槁木,似遺人而立於獨也。」

老聃曰:「吾心於之初。」

孔子曰:「何謂邪?」

曰:「心困焉而不能知,口辟焉而不能言,嘗為汝議乎其將。至陰肅肅,至陽赫赫;肅肅出乎,赫赫發乎地;兩者交和而生焉,或為之紀而莫見其形。

消息滿虛,一晦一明,日改月化,日有所為,而莫見其功。生有所乎萌,死有所乎歸,始終相反乎無端,而莫知其所窮。非是也,且孰為之宗!」

孔子曰:「請問是。」

老聃曰:「夫得是,至美至樂也。得至美而乎至樂,謂之至人。」

孔子曰:「願聞其方。」

曰:「草食之獸不疾易藪,水生之蟲不疾易水,行小變而不失其大常也,喜怒哀樂不入於胸次。夫下也者,萬之所一也。得其所一而同焉,則四支百體將為塵垢,而死生終始將為晝夜而莫之能滑,而況得喪禍福之所介乎!

棄隸者若棄泥塗,知身貴於隸也,貴在於我而不失於變。且萬化而未始有也,夫孰以患心!已為道者解乎此。」

孔子曰:「夫子地,而猶假至言以修心,古之君子,孰能脫焉?」

老聃曰:「不然。夫水之於汋也,無為而才自然矣。至人之於也,不修而不能焉,若之自高,地之自厚,日月之自明,夫何修焉!」

孔子出,以告顏回曰:「丘之於道也,其猶醯雞與!微夫子之發吾覆也,吾不知地之大全也。」


When Confucius went to visit Lao Dan, Lao Dan had just bathed and had his hair spread out to dry, so hushed he seemed not human. Confucius stepped outside for a moment to wait. In a little bit, he reappeared and said, "Am I dazzled? Were you really that way? A moment ago, sir, your body was hollowed out like a dried tree, as though you'd left things and lost people and were all by yourself."

Lao Dan said, "I was letting my mind wander in the beginning of things.

Confucius said, "What do you mean?"

"The mind founders there and cannot know, the jaws lock and cannot speak, but I'll try to give you the drift. Perfect Yin is so solemn. Perfect Yang is right bright. Such solemnity comes from the sky. Right brightness issues from the earth. These two mingle and harmonize and things are born. Whether something pulls the strings or not, no one sees its shape.

Inhale, exhale. Full, empty. Now gloamy, now bright. The sun changes, the moon morphs. Things happen every day but no one sees the force. At birth something sprouts. At death something returns. Beginnings and ends loop around with no remainder and no one knows where it runs out. If not this, then what is the ancestor?"

Confucius said, "What is it to wander there?"

Lao Dan said, "Achieving this is perfect beauty and perfect joy. Achieving perfect beauty and wandering in perfect joy, is what I call a perfect person.

Confucius said, "May I hear about how?"

"Ruminant beasts don't mind switching pastures; aquatic bugs don't mind switching rivers. They'll make small changes so as not to lose the big constant. There is no joy, anger, sadness, or happiness in their hearts. The world is what is the same for all things. If you can find what is the same and approve of it, your limbs and joints will be dust. Life, death, beginnings and ends will be mornings and evenings and nothing will make them slip, least of all the banana peels of gain, loss, failure, and success. 

People will fire their employees like so much filth because they think they are more important than their employees. "I'm what's important, and I lose nothing in these changes." The million morphs have never begun to have a limit, so how can they be enough to trouble your mind? Only the doer of the way can untangle this."

Confucius said, "Your powers match heaven and earth, but you still rely on perfect words to cultivate your mind. Were there gentleman of old who were able to get around this?"

Lao Dan said, "Nope. The babbling of a brook isn't something it does but a spontaneous talent. The perfected persons powers are not something they cultivate but still things cannot leave them, like the sky's being self-high, the earth self-solid, the sun and moon self-bright. What is there for them to cultivate?"

Confucius left and told Yan Hui about it. "As far as the way goes, I'm yogurt bacteria. If he hadn't popped the top, I'd have had no idea the great world was out there."

[a] CTP 21.04, HYZY 21/24-38.