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Showing posts from April, 2010

Handan Walks

You might know the Chinese idiom ying wu xue she ( parrot talks), might also know the story about Dong Shi xiao bin (Dong Shi imitates a frown). Now we have another story about Han Dan xue bu (Han Dan Walks),

Han Dan Walks was first mentioned in Chuang Tzu, a story about a boy from Shouling (Wade-Giles romanization Shâu-ling, see below) who traveled to Handan to learn the Handan Walk. Before he manages to learn it, however, he had forgotten what he had learned to walk in his old city, and was marched back home on their hands and knees.

In the Book of Chuang Tzu, Chapter XVII, the disciple of Chuang Tzu, Kung-dze Mâu mentioned a story about Handan Walk:

‘And have you not heard of the young learners of Shâu-ling 1, and how they did in Han-tan? Before they had acquired what they might have done in that capital, they had forgotten what they had learned to do in their old city, and were marched back to it on their hands and knees. ’

In the note to ‘Shâo-ling’, James Legge says ‘Of the …

The frog of the dilapidated well and the turtle of the Eastern Sea

One upon a time, there was a frog who lived in a dilapidated well. He said to his friend the turtle of the Eastern Sea, "How I enjoy myself? I leap upon the parapet of this well. I enter, and having by means of the projections formed by the fragments of the broken tiles of the lining proceeded to the water, I draw my legs together, keep my chin up, and strike out. When I have got to the mud, I dive till my feet are lost in it. Then turning round, I see that of the shrimps, crabs, and tadpoles there is not one that can do like me. Moreover, when one has entire command of all the water in the gully, and hesitates to go forward, it is the greatest pleasure to enjoy one's self here in this dilapidated well;--why do not you, Master, often come and enter, and see it for yourself? "

The turtle of the Eastern Sea was then proceeding to go forward, but before he had put in his left foot, he found his right knee caught and held fast. On this he hesitated, drew back, and told the …

The Spirit of the Yellow River laments his littleness before the vast ocean

The time of the autumnal floods was come, and the hundred streams were all discharging themselves into the Yellow River. Its current was greatly swollen, so that across its channel from bank to bank one could not distinguish an ox from a horse.

On this the Spirit-earl of the Yellow River laughed with delight, thinking that all the beauty of the world was to be found in his charge. Along the course of the river he walked east till he came to the North Sea, over which he looked, with his face to the east, without being able to see where its waters began.

Then he began to turn his face round, looked across the expanse, as if he were confronting the North Sea Spirit Zo, and said with a sigh, 'What the vulgar saying expresses about him who has learned a hundred points (of the Tâo), and thinks that there is no one equal to himself, was surely spoken of me. And moreover, I have heard parties making little of the knowledge of Confucius and the righteousness of Po-î, and at first I did not…

A Wise Wheelwright

[We had Cook Ting's story, in that story, Cook Ting acquired Tâo by cutting ox; here we have another workman who was a wheelwright, he learnt Tâo by making wheels. To him, books are just collections of words, words convey some ideas, while ideas are sequence of something else. Words are not sufficient to covey the real nature of the Tâo, the books of sages are 'just the dregs and sediments' of some old men died long ago. How could he make this conclusion? because during his seventy years of making wheels, he could only know just how to make wheel, but he couldn't tell the technique by words of mouth.]

Duke Hwan, seated above in his hall, was (once) reading a book, and the wheelwright Phien was making a wheel below it 2. Laying aside his hammer and chisel, Phien went up the steps, and said, 'I venture to ask your Grace what words you are reading?' The duke said, 'The words of the sages.' 'Are those sages alive?' Phien continued. 'They are d…

The King of Chu Lost His Bow

Once upon a time, the king of Ch'u State went on hunting in his Yün-mêng Park, he drew his bow, and put on arrows to shoot snakes and rhinoceroses, but he lost his bow.

His attendants wished to search for it, but the king stopped them, saying,

--The king of Ch'u has lost the bow, and a man of Ch'u will get it, what need to search for it?

When Confucius heard of this, he said,

--The king of Chu is good and kind, but not quite perfect.

And he went on saying,

-- When a man gets rid of his bow, and another man finds it, it is all right. But why must it be a man of Ch'u?

Does Confucius object to the 'local patriotism'? The king of Ch'u would leave his bow to an inhabitant of Ch'u only, Confucius commented that the king of Ch'u is good and kind, but he was not a sage, his love didn't extended to embraces all mankind, so he was not quite perfect. What if the King of Ch'u lost his throne?

The Spirit of the Clouds and the Mists of Chaos

Yün Kiang, rambling to the east, having been borne along on a gentle breeze, suddenly encountered Hung Mung, who was rambling about, slapping his buttocks and hopping like a bird. Amazed at the sight, Yün Kiang stood reverentially, and said to the other, 'Venerable Sir, who are you? and why are you doing this?'

Hung Mung went on slapping his buttocks and hopping like a bird, but replied, 'I am enjoying myself.'

Yün Kiang said, 'I wish to ask you a question.'

Hung Mung lifted up his head, looked at the stranger, and said, 'Pooh!'

Yün Kiang, however, continued, 'The breath of heaven is out of harmony; the breath of earth is bound up; the six elemental influences 1 do not act in concord; the four seasons do not observe their proper times. Now I wish to blend together the essential qualities of those six influences in order to nourish all living things;-how shall I go about it?'

Hung Mung slapped his buttocks, hopped about, and shook his head, …

Why rob one to feed the other?

When Chuang Tzŭ was about to die, his disciples expressed a wish to give him a splendid funeral. But Chuang Tzŭ said: "With Heaven and Earth for my coffin and shell; with the sun, moon, and stars, as my burial regalia; and with all creation to escort me to the grave,—are not my funeral paraphernalia ready to hand?"

"We fear," argued the disciples, "lest the carrion kite should eat the body of our Master;" to which Chuang Tzŭ replied: "Above ground I shall be food for kites; below I shall be food for mole-crickets and ants. Why rob one to feed the other?"


[1. paraphernalia, short for paraphernalia bona "paraphernal goods", originally means " "a woman's property besides her dowry," here refers to equipments consisting of miscellaneous articles needed for a funeral.
2. regalia, decorations or insignia of an order, here refers to decorations for a funeral.]

When Chuang Tzŭ's wife died

When Chuang Tzŭ's wife died, Hui Tzŭ went to condole. He found the widower sitting on the ground, singing, with his legs spread out at a right angle, and beating time on a bowl.

"To live with your wife," exclaimed Hui Tzŭ, "and see your eldest son grow up to be a man, and then not to shed a tear over her corpse,—this would be bad enough. But to drum on a bowl, and sing; surely this is going too far."

"Not at all," replied Chuang Tzŭ. "When she died, I could not help being affected by her death. Soon, however, I remembered that she had already existed in a previous state before birth, without form, or even substance; that while in that unconditioned condition, substance was added to spirit; that this substance then assumed form; and that the next stage was birth. And now, by virtue of a further change, she is dead, passing from one phase to another like the sequence of spring, summer, autumn and winter. And while she is thus lying asleep in Eterni…

Zhuangzi and The Happy Fish: You knew I knew

Chuang Tzŭ and Hui Tzŭ had strolled on to the bridge over the Hao, when the former observed: "See how the minnows are darting about! That is the pleasure of fishes."

"You not being a fish yourself," said Hui Tzŭ, "how can you possibly know in what consists the pleasure of fishes?"

"And you not being I," retorted Chuang Tzŭ, "how can you know that I do not know?"

"If I, not being you, cannot know what you know," urged Hui Tzŭ, "it follows that you, not being a fish, cannot know in what consists the pleasure of fishes."

"Let us go back," said Chuang Tzŭ, "to your original question. You asked me how I knew in what consists the pleasure of fishes. Your very question shows that you knew I knew. I knew it from my own feelings on this bridge."