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.

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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.