Quotes by Zhuang Zhou (Zhuangzi)


Zhuang Zhou




The dust that rises from the hooves of wild horses is the life that fills all the creatures of the earth. Is the blue of the sky its true color? Or is it because the sky is unattainable far away from us? And if we look down from there, we will surely see the same thing.

A bird nesting in the forest is satisfied with a single branch. The field mouse, when it comes to the river, will drink as much water as its belly can hold. I have no use for the celestial world! Even if the cook is out of order in the kitchen, the master of the house and the steward of sacrifices will not stand at the kitchen table in his place.



Large ships will not pass through the shallow waters. If you pour a cup of water into a hole in the floor, a mustard seed will float there like a ship. And if you put the cup there, it will turn out that the water is too little and the ship is too big.



With a little knowledge you cannot understand a lot of knowledge. A short age is no match for a long one. Day flies are unaware of the change of day and night. The cicada that lives one summer does not know what the seasons are. Far away in the southern mountains grows a minnow tree. To it, five hundred years is like one spring, and another five hundred years is like one autumn.



With the blind you will not admire the colors of paintings. With the deaf you will not enjoy the sound of bells and drums. But is it only the body that is blind and deaf? Consciousness, too, can be blind and deaf. All is one in the world, but people love to bring confusion and discord into the world - how can they not get bogged down in vanity?



Mirth and anger, sorrow and joy, hope and repentance, change and constancy, noble intentions and low deeds - like music, springing from emptiness, like mushrooms arising from

like day and night alternating before our eyes. And who knows where it all comes from?



The organs of our body cannot control each other and alternate as ruler and subject. Or do they have one true sovereign? But even if we identify that sovereign, we can neither add to its authenticity nor take away from it.



Once we have our body, we possess it until death and cannot take another. Knowing no rest, we swim in the turbulent waters of life, striving irrepressibly, like a galloping horse, toward the end that is common to all. How sad it is! We wear ourselves out all our lives...

and we spend our days in toil and toil, and we don't even know why we are so destined. How bitter it is!

Why speak of immortality, if body sooner or later will turn to dust and along with it disappear and consciousness? This is the greatest of man's sorrows! Is the life of man really so unreasonable? Or am I alone so unreasonable, and others are smarter than me? If you follow your own views as a guide, who among men would not have a guide?



To reason about truth and falsehood before there is a clear understanding of their nature is like "going to Yue today and getting there yesterday." It means to declare as existing something that does not exist. And even the great Yu didn't know how to make something that doesn't exist. I certainly don't know about it.



The ordinary is defined by the useful, the useful by the insight, and the insight by the accessible. Once we come to the accessible, we don't need to go very far. To stop there and not know why this is the case is to be in the Way.



The speaker has something to say, but what he says is extremely vague. Do we say anything? Or are we really saying nothing? Human speech is said to be different from the chirp of a chick. Is there a difference? Or is there not? Why is the Way so obscure, that there is true and false? Why is speech so obscure that there is truth and deception?



The people of antiquity reached the limits of knowledge. They knew that originally things do not exist-that is the limit, that is the whole abyss of meaning, and there is nothing to add to it. Those who followed them believed that things existed, but that there were no boundaries between things. Those who walked afterwards believed that boundaries between things existed.



Only the man who has comprehended the truth to the end knows that all things come to one. He does not resort to private judgments, but leaves all things in their usual place.



The path initially has no limits, words initially have no set meaning. Only when we cling to our invented truths do distinctions appear.



In the whole world, there is nothing bigger than the tip of an autumn cobweb, and the great mountain Taishan is small. No one lives longer than a dead baby, and Pengzu died at a young age. Heaven and Earth live together with me, all the darkness of things constitute one with me.



About that which abides within the universe, the wise one speaks, but does not pass judgment. Concerning the deeds of former kings, which are mentioned in the annals, the wise makes judgments, but does not seek explanations for them. Indeed, in every definition there is something indefinable, and in every proof there is something unprovable.


The Way that has manifested itself ceases to be the Way. Speech that has become a word does not express the truth. Humanity, which is always good, will not do good. Ostentatious honesty does not inspire confidence. Courage that knows no restraint does not bring victory. To know how to stoop to the unknown is perfection.



How do we know if the dead man does not repent of previously begging for prolonged life? He who drinks wine in his sleep, wakes up and sheds tears. He who sheds tears in a dream, wakes up and goes hunting. When we dream something, we do not know that we are dreaming. Fools think they are awake and know for sure who is king and who is a shepherd in the world. How stupid they are.



The wise do not burden themselves with worldly affairs, do not seek profit, do not try to avoid hardship, do not strive for anything and do not even cling to the Way. Sometimes he is silent and says everything, sometimes he speaks and says nothing. And so the soul wanders beyond the world of dust and dirt. This is what the Heavenly Pantry is all about:

Add to it and it will not overflow,

and draw from it, and it shall not run dry,

and one does not know why this is so.



The perfect man lives a spiritual life! Even if the great marshes catch fire, he will not feel the heat. Even if the great rivers freeze, he will not feel cold. Even if lightning were to split the great mountains, and hurricanes were to raise waves on the sea up to the sky, he would not succumb to fear. Such a man wanders with clouds and mists, rides the sun and the moon, and is carried away in his wanderings beyond the four seas. Neither life nor death changes anything about him!



The Half Shadow asked the Shadow: "Before you moved, now you stand still; before you sat, now you stand. Why are you so fickle?" Shadow replied:

"Isn't it because I'm dependent on something? Could it be that what I depend on depends on something, too? Maybe I depend on the scales on a snake's spine or the wings of a cicada. How can I know why I am this way or that way?"



A pheasant living in the reeds needs to walk a dozen steps to peck a grain and a hundred steps to drink a sip of water, but it doesn't want to live in a cage where it will have plenty to eat and drink. The spiritualized man will not be tempted even by royal rank.



One day I, Zhuang Zhou, saw myself in a dream as a butterfly flitting among flowers in its pleasure and not at all aware that it was Zhuang Zhou. Suddenly I woke up and saw that I was Zhuang Zhou. I didn't know whether I was Zhuang Zhou who dreamed he was a butterfly or a butterfly who dreamed she was Zhuang Zhou.



Doing good, avoid glory; doing evil, avoid punishment. By taking the median path, you can protect yourself, live your years safely, nurture your family, exhaust your earthly time.

A good cook changes his knife once a year - because it cuts. An ordinary cook changes his knife once a month - because he chops. I've been using my knife for nineteen years, and I've cut several thousand carcasses, and it looks like it just came off the sharpening stone. There is always a gap in the articulation of the carcass, and the blade of the knife has no thickness. And when one introduces that which has no thickness into the void, there is always plenty of room for the knife to walk around.



Walk free, don't fill your head with thoughts of glory. When you are listened to, sing your song; when

When they don't listen to you, shut up. There should be no inner rest for you and no expanse outward. Stop at the inevitable - and in that find your one home. Then you will be close to the truth.



The Great Way does not tolerate confusion, for when minds are seized by confusion, truth is fragmented, and when truth is fragmented, people are seized by anxiety; if you cannot overcome the anxiety in your soul, you will never be free. The perfect men of old taught others only what they themselves found a firm footing in. And until you yourself have found such a support

in yourself, how can you take on the education of an arrogant overlord?



If you insist too much on being right, the person you are talking to is bound to argue with you, and he won't even know why. If he doesn't even understand what prompted him to do so, how can he know how the conversation will end?



It is easy to walk without leaving footprints. It is hard to walk without touching the ground. The deeds of men are easy to imitate, the accomplishments of Heaven are hard to imitate. You know what it is to fly with wings, but you don't know what it is to fly without wings. You know what it is to gain knowledge through knowledge, but you do not yet know what it is to gain knowledge through ignorance.


Tigers are creatures of a different kind than humans, but if they are affectionate to the one who feeds them, it is because man follows their natural inclinations. If they are fierce, it is because man goes against their nature.

Those who are competing in some art, first try to show themselves off as best they can, then they become stealthy, and in the heat of the contest they resort to all sorts of tricks. The participants in the feast are very formal at first, then forget about proprieties, and in the heat of the feast have a great deal of fun. It is the same in all affairs: they begin with restraint, but end with swagger. And what at first seems simple, at the end is beyond our control.



Warriors who die in battle do not need luxurious coffins. A man who has had his feet cut off as punishment will gladly lend you his shoes. For all of them have already lost that which made them important in this world.



What do people who tame tigers do? They do not give them live animals, for the tigers will become furious when they kill them. Nor do they give the tigers whole animal carcasses, for the tigers will become furious when they tear those carcasses apart. Knowing when the tigers are hungry and when they are fed, they know how to tame their fury.



Walking in the crosshairs of an archer and not being hit by an arrow is destiny.

Among all that grows on the earth, only pines and cypresses live in truth, for they do not shed their green attire even in winter.



A rider who loves his horse will humbly collect the manure of his favorite horse. But if a mosquito perches on the horse and the master swats it, the horse will jump with hooves and will break the master's head. The master's intentions were the kindest, but the outcome of the incident would be the most pitiable. So is it possible not to be careful in this life?



Being strictly level is a property of resting water. If water can serve as a model here, it is only because inside it is left to itself and does not seek itself outwardly. The fullness of properties is the pinnacle of our perfection in the harmony of life. Nothing in this world can depart from the fullness of our qualities, even if it does not fully manifest itself in the physical form.



To the extent that the fullness of the attributes comes forth in people, so much so that their bodily appearance is forgotten. When people do not forget that which is ordinarily forgotten, and forget that which is ordinarily not forgotten, this is called true forgetting.



To know the action of the heavenly and the action of the human is the pinnacle of knowledge. He who knows the work of Heaven takes life from Heaven. He who knows the work of man uses knowledge to nurture the unknowable in the known. To live to the end the term prepared by Heaven, and not to perish halfway - this is the triumph of knowledge.



In ancient times they did not oppose the lot of the lonely, did not flaunt before people, and did not wish for the future. Such people did not regret their failures and were not proud of their successes. They climbed to heights without fear, plunged into water without getting themselves soaked, entered the fire without being burned.



The real people of antiquity slept without dreams, woke up without worries, found all food equally delicious, and the breath in them came from their innermost depths. For a real man breathes with his heels, but ordinary people breathe with their throats. Modest and compliant, they spoke confusedly and with difficulty, as if they had stuttered. But for those in whom the desires

are deeply imbued, the source of heavenly life lies on the surface.

For a true man, punishment is the foundation, ritual is the complement, knowledge is the ability to fit the circumstances, and valor is following the natural course of events.



The real people of antiquity did not know what it was to rejoice in life and dread death; they did not hasten to come into this world and resist leaving it. Without giving up the origin of all things, without striving by thought toward the end of all things, they rejoiced in what they had been given, but forgot it when they were deprived of it.



We cannot look into flowing waters, but see our image only in standing water. Only peace can calm all that can rest.



A man who wants to know everything is not wise. To favor someone, however, is not to be kind. He who tries to buy time is not a worthy man. He who does not look beyond profit and harm is not called a noble man. One who seeks fame without caring for himself would not be called a prudent man.



What real men loved was one. And what they did not love was also one. In the one they were one, but in the un# one they were also one. In the one they were servants of Heaven. In the unity they were the servants of man. The one in whom neither the unity...

...and human beings do not disadvantage each other, is worthy to be called a true man.


The real people of old lived righteously and did not try to please others. They looked as if they lacked something, but they took nothing for themselves. They were sure of themselves, but not stubborn. They were open to the world, but they did not like to show off. They lived with a light heart and as if for their own pleasure, they did only what it was impossible not to do. They were determined and did things their own way.



The wise man stays where things cannot be lost and are present. It is equally good for him to perish in his youth and to die in his old age, to begin and to end.



The way exists authentically and inspires confidence, in spite of the fact that it does not work and has no appearance. It can be perceived but cannot be transmitted, it can be comprehended but cannot be seen. It is its own trunk and its own root. He is above the upper edge of the universe, not high. He is below the lower edge of the universe, not low. He was born before the earth, and his age is not long. He is older than the grayest antiquity, and his age is not old.



The horse can tread with his hooves in the snow, and his hide protects him from the wind and the cold. He pinches grass and drinks water, stands on his haunches and gallops. That is the true nature of the horse. And if he were allowed to live in high terraces and spacious halls, he would hardly rejoice.



In dreams we see ourselves as birds and soar into the sky, or suddenly we see ourselves as fish and plunge into the abyss of water. And no one knows whether the one who is now speaking these words is asleep or awake. It is better to laugh than to calculate, and we cannot understand why we laugh. Trusting yourself to the order of things, act at the same time with the eternal transformation - then you will enter the expanse of

Then thou shalt enter the expanse of Heavenly Oneness.



The heart of the real people of antiquity was oblivious, the countenance serene, the forehead sublime. Cool as autumn, warm as spring, they followed in their feelings the four seasons, lived in accordance with all things, and no one knew where their limit was.



We receive life when the time comes, and we forfeit it when the time expires. So submit to time, do not resist the care, and then neither joy nor sorrow will touch you. This is what the ancients called "liberation from fetters. And those who cannot free themselves, things will bind them even tighter.



Fish arrange their lives in the water, and people arrange their lives in the Way. For those who arrange their lives in the water, it is enough to dig a pond. For those who make their life in the Way, it is enough to disengage. That is why they say, "Fish forget each other in the water, people forget each other in the art of the Way.



Connect to the end with the Infinite and find your home in bottomless peace. Exhaust what Heaven has bestowed upon thee, and desire no acquisitions: be empty - and no more. The Higher Man's heart is like a mirror: it does not draw towards things, it does not strive towards them, it contains everything in itself - and holds nothing back. That is why such a person is able to transcend things and suffer no damage from them.



He destroys all things, and is not cruel; he bestows mercy on thousands of generations, and is not kind; he is older than the grayest antiquity, and is not old; he embraces Heaven and Earth, he carves all forms, and is not skillful. This is what we must abide in!



To govern the Celestial Empire is like wading the ocean, chiselling a river, teaching mosquitoes to walk in formation, or carrying a mountain on our backs. When the wise man takes up affairs of state, will he govern the outside? He rectifies himself first, and then acts and does only that which he can do perfectly.



Let your heart sink into the unflawed. Let thy spirit merge with the formless. Follow the nature of all things and have nothing personal in you. Then there will be order in the Celestial Empire.


Be friends for a long time with a worthy husband, and you will not be able to commit a bad deed.



To look at others and not look at yourself, not to comprehend yourself, but to comprehend others is to acquire what belongs to others and not to acquire what belongs to yourself. It means to adjust to what is pleasing to others and not to adjust to what is pleasing to oneself.



Curvature as a permanent property of things does not come from the carpenter's compass, and straightness does not come from his angle, the splicing of things is not achieved by glue and varnish, the binding of things is not achieved by ropes and knots. Thus all beings in the Celestial World live and do not know to what they owe their lives. They all equally possess the fullness of life's properties, and why this is so, they do not know.



He who steals a belt buckle is dragged to the scaffold, but he who steals a kingdom sits on a throne, and lovers of humanity and duty throng at the gates of his palace. Is this not the theft of humanity and duty, of wisdom and knowledge?



To rely on a compass, a plumb line, and an angle to straighten things out is to rape their nature. Relying on rope, glue and varnish to bind things together is an assault on their vital properties. And to bow and bend according to etiquette, to extol humanity and duty, wishing to appease the hearts of men, is to deny constancy in oneself.



To destroy the whole tree in order to make a single object is the tinker's transgression. To break the Way and its properties in order to plant humanity and duty is the transgression of the illustrious sages.



Before, people, living in their homes, did not know what they were doing, and when they left on a journey, did not know where they were going. They stuffed their mouths and rejoiced. They patted themselves on the belly - and walked around at their pleasure. That was their natural inclination. And then people began to compete for their own benefit, and it was impossible to put an end to it.



To ward off thieves who break into chests, rummage through sacks, and climb into chests of drawers, people tie them with ropes and put locks on them. But if a big thief comes along, he'll take the chest, pick up the sack, and drag the dresser away, fearing only that the ropes and locks aren't strong enough.



The beautiful pattern on the hide of the tiger and leopard attracts the hunter, and the most nimble monkey and the most industrious dog are the first to be put on a leash.



If the ruler loves knowledge but does not follow the Way, there will be turmoil in the Celestial Empire. If we know too much about bows and crossbows, snares and traps, there will be no order among the birds in the sky. If we know too much about hooks and harpoons, traps and seines, there will be no order among the fish in the deep. When one knows too much about holes and traps and spears and slings, there will be no order among the beasts in the thicket. So whenever there is turmoil in the Celestial Empire, the fault lies with the lovers of knowledge.



When wise men are born, outlaws are born. Remove the wise men, leave the brigands alone, and order will prevail in the world. If the wise men are dead, the robbers will also disappear. There will be peace everywhere, and there will be no disorder. But until the wise men are dead, the outlaws will also be dead.



If people rely only on their eyesight, there will be no blinded by things in the world. If people rely only on their ears, there will be no more people left in the world who are fascinated by things. If people rely only on their attributes of life, the world will not be left with the partial.



Everyone in the world knows how to know the unknowable, but no one knows how to know what is already known. Everyone knows how to reject what we think is bad, but no one knows how to reject what we think is good. That is why there is great turmoil in the world today.

And so people are obstructing the light of the sun and the moon

above, destroying the nature of the mountains and rivers below and interfering with the cycle of the seasons. Oh, into what confusion have the lovers of knowledge plunged the celestial world!



The ancient shepherds of the Celestial World had no desires, and in the world reigned contentment; they did nothing, and in the world everything was accomplished; they were calm in the depths of their hearts, and the people lived serenely.



When Yin and Yang are not in balance, the circulation of time is broken, cold and heat are in discord, and human health is damaged. Then people stop to the place to rejoice and in the place to sorrow, deprived of consistency in life, a lot of thinking, but can not achieve satisfaction, all abandoned halfway.



If a noble man has to ascend to the throne, it is best for him to follow non-denial. Through non-denial he will find peace in his nature and destiny. That is why it is said, "If you value yourself more than the whole Celestial Empire, you can be trusted with the fate of the world. If you love your life more than the world, the world can be left to your care.


A man's heart sinks when he is humiliated and rises when he is praised. A man with a lowered heart is like a prisoner; a man with an uplifted heart is like an executioner. A man's heart, while yielding and soft, becomes strong and hard; it is both sharp and smooth. As it ignites, it becomes as hot as a flame. When it cools, it becomes as cold as ice.



Let your eyes have nothing to see, your ears nothing to hear, and your mind nothing to know. Guard your body with your spirit, and it will live forever. Take heed to that which is kept within, shut yourself off from all that comes from without, for much knowledge promises perdition.



Tend to your heart, abide in non-indifference, and things will accomplish all things by themselves. Forget about people and things, merge with the limitless, set your heart free, let your spirit go, disappear as if your soul were no longer in you.



Look into the unseen and listen into the voiceless. In darkness you will see light, in silence you will hear harmony. Be deeper than the deep and you can

and you can understand the Real. Be more spiritual than the spirit, and you can merge with the seed of life. Accept all that is in the world. Then the great will be small, the long will be short, and the close will be distant.



Let not an ounce of knowledge remain in you, sink into bottomless chaos and exist like that forever. If you try to understand it, distance yourselves from it. Do not ask for its name, do not ask for its properties, and all things will be born of their own accord.



Are you not of those who know much, who praise the wise in order to rise above others? Are you not of those who alone pluck the strings and sing sadly, peddling your name in the world? If you would forget your spirit and free yourself from your bodily shell, you might come closer to the truth. But you can't help yourself, so where can you find a solution for the whole Celestial Empire?



No matter how great Heaven and Earth are, their transformations are balanced. No matter how many things there are in the world, their order is one. No matter how many people there are in the world, they all obey the ruler. The ruler draws strength from the properties of life itself and fulfills his purpose thanks to Heaven.



A man endowed with royal power finds refuge in the transformations of things, but finds it shameful to be involved in worldly affairs. He finds support in the Primordial Basis and is versed in spiritual things, and therefore his power extends widely.



The greater the number of sons, the greater the excitement. The greater the wealth, the greater the anxiety. The longer you live, the more humiliation.



You may have sons, but if you find something for everyone to do, why worry? Let you be rich - but if you give everyone his share, why should you worry?



A wise man stands like a quail and eats like a chicken, leaving no trace in his path. When there is order in the Celestial Empire, rejoices in life with everyone else. When there is no order in the Celestial Empire, he nurtures the Force in solitude. In a thousand years, he will be fed up with the world, leave it and ascend to heaven. Love for people and usefulness to things is called humanity. The likeness of the unlike is called greatness. Behavior that makes no boundaries or distinctions is called generosity. The possession of the darkness of different things is called wealth.



He who cares for his nature returns to the Life Force. And he who has reached the limit of the Power becomes one with the Beginning. When we become one, we empty ourselves; when we are empty, we become great, and when we are great, we bring to harmony the chirping of all the birds.



He who works with a machine does everything like a machine; in him who does everything like a machine, the heart also becomes a machine. And when the heart becomes like a machine, chastity and purity disappear. If there is no chastity and purity, there is no firmness of spirit. And he who is not steadfast in spirit will not keep the Way within himself.



A man of vitality does not think at rest, does not ponder in motion, does not follow the opinions of "true" and "false", "beautiful" and "ugly". He finds joy in doing what is good for everyone. He finds peace in that which brings pleasure to all. Without him, the nation would be as confused as a child who has lost his mother or a wayfarer who has lost his way. He will have plenty of good things, but no one knows where they come from; he will have plenty of food and drink, but no one knows from whom.



Great music does not touch the ears of commoners, but when they listen to songs, they become enraptured. Therefore lofty speeches do not linger in the hearts of ordinary people. And when words of truth are not heard, vulgar speeches triumph. The ringing of a couple of empty pots will drown out the noble bell, and then it will be too late to strike it.



To be whole in spirit is the Way of the truly wise. In the act of living, the wise man acts in concert with all men and does not know why he does so. So obscure is he and so unsophisticated! Thoughts of merit and gain, tricks and fortune do not trouble his heart. Such a man will not go against his will, he will not live against his desires. He will not admire himself, even if the whole world praises him. When he fails, he will not be embarrassed, even if the world scolds him. Neither praise nor blasphemy of light will add anything to him or take anything away from him.



Emptiness and peace, the absence of images and deeds - this is the basis of Heaven and Earth, the limit of the Way and its vital properties. Therefore, true sages are at peace. Being at peace, they are empty. Being empty, they are filled. When they are full, they are perfect. In rest they move, in movement they attain the immutable. Emptiness and stillness, formlessness

and non-activity are the root of all things.



One day some guy thought of imitating the Han-dan walkers. He had to crawl home on his elbows and knees.



Call a man a flatterer and he will be offended. Call him a liar and he gets angry. But perhaps that person has indeed been a flatterer and a liar all his life. When he draws a crowd with his big words and pompous speeches, he does not connect the beginning with the end, the goals do not coincide with the result. He dresses elegantly and behaves politely, catching admiration, while he himself considers himself neither a flatterer nor a liar.



He who is aware of his delusions is not so deeply deluded. One does not get rid of a deep delusion all one's life. One will not be free from great folly for the rest of one's life. If only one among three wayfarers goes astray, they will still reach the goal, for the astray among them is in the minority. But if two people go astray, no matter how hard they try, they will not reach the goal, for the astray among them will be in the majority.



The swan does not need to bathe every day to be white. A crow does not need to be smeared with mud to be black. There is no need to argue about the natural properties of whiteness or blackness.



He who has seen Heaven, gained wisdom, and learned the mystery of the royal ancestors, is always at peace in his actions, even without noticing it himself. The wise man is not at peace because he regards peace as a virtue. He is at peace because nothing in the world can put anxiety in his heart. Standing water is so calm that it reflects every hair on our face, and it is so smooth that it will serve as a model for even the best carpenter. If water, being calm, is able to so

to reveal the nature of things, what about the human spirit?



Before, when Yao ruled the world, people worked diligently, not even hoping for a reward, and were obedient, not even fearing punishment. Now you reward and punish, but there is no goodness in men. From now on, morals will deteriorate and punishments will multiply. This is where the seeds of the coming confusion lie!



They cut down the hundred-year-old tree, made a sacrificial bowl out of its trunk, decorated it with an ornament, and threw the stumps into the gutter. They compared the vessel and the trunks in the ditch, and they saw the great difference between the beauty and the ugliness. But both the vessel and the stumps had lost the nature of the tree.



When water is released from a pond and the fish are stacked on the shore, the fish cling to each other more closely, moistening each other with their gills. But they will forget about each other if they end up in the lake or river again.

There are five reasons for nature to be ruined:

Five colors upset our sight, five sounds upset our hearing, five smells upset our sense of smell, five tastes upset our sense of taste, and cravings and dislikes pollute our minds. These five are the enemies of life.



To stand out with vain thoughts and unusual actions, to withdraw from the world and live differently, to speak contemptuously of people and to mock them, to be obsessed with their own greatness: such are the manners of the mountains and gorges, who rejected the light and found pleasure in torturing and tormenting themselves in every way.


Those who ruled the Celestial Empire in ancient times did not seek the application of their minds, even though their knowledge encompassed Heaven and Earth. They did not speak for themselves, even if they had fully grasped the nature of things. They did not undertake any acts of their own, even though they could accomplish any deed within the seas.



Both the subtle and the gross are present in every form. The formless cannot be divided, and the vast cannot be exhausted by counting. What can be told in words is the coarse side of things. That which can be comprehended by thought is the subtle side of things. And that which cannot be told in words and cannot be comprehended by thought is neither coarse nor subtle.



If you had called me a bull yesterday, I would have been a bull. If you had called me a horse, I would have been a horse. If people give a name to an entity, if you don't take that name, you're in trouble. I submitted because I wanted to submit. I submitted without thinking about being submissive.



Your features are coarse, your speeches are impertinent, and you look smug. You seem to be about to rush, galloping like a horse, but you keep trying to hold yourself back. Your movements are sharp, your eyes are fastidious, your mind is calculating, you are too sure of yourself. They won't trust you. There are a lot of men like you everywhere, and they call them thieves.



To inhale and exhale in a special way, to remove from oneself the old and attract in oneself the new, to walk like a bear and to stretch like a #bird, dreaming only of prolonging one's years, these are the manners of the experts in physical exercises, who perfect their bodies; these like only the secrets of longevity.



Among things, measure has no lasting meaning, time knows no stop, the boundaries of things are impermanent, beginnings and ends are not set once and for all. That is why wise people gaze at the distant and the near, and therefore do not regard the small as insignificant and the great as great. For the knowledge of the measure of things itself has no end. Those who love to correct nature, being proud of their empty knowledge, want to restore the original properties of things. Seduced by vulgar desires, proud of their empty notions, they try to achieve enlightenment of the spirit. Such people should be called dazzled. The ancients, who were embodying the Way, nurtured knowledge with serenity. Knowledge was growing, but it was not applied to the case - this is called "cultivating the case with serenity". Knowledge and serenity strengthened each other, and the nature of all things maintained harmony and truth.



An owl would run a thousand leagues in a day, but it certainly would not compare to a wildcat in catching mice - so this animal had its own special abilities. An owl would catch even a flea at night and see the tip of a hair, but in broad daylight it would stare and not see even a mountain - so it had a special nature.



On the water, do not avoid meeting the dragon - that is the courage of a fisherman. On land, not to avoid the tiger, that is the courage of the hunter. To go out to meet an outstretched blade and meet death as life - that is the courage of a hero. To know that failure comes from fate, to know that success depends on timing, and to face great misfortune with serenity - that is the courage of the wise.



How could Sun Xu, a man who had seen little in life, not be frightened? Telling him about the qualities of a perfect man was like having a mouse in a cart or entertaining a quail with a drumbeat:

Both are likely to die of fright.



If you try to play the melodies of the Xianchi in the vast lake, the birds will fly up into the sky when they hear the music, the animals will run into the forest, the fish will go to the depths. People, on the contrary, will gather to listen. The fish, being in the water, live for their own pleasure, while the man, once under water, dies. They are so different because they have very different needs.



He who wants to get rid of the cares of his body is better off leaving the light. He who leaves the light will be spared the burdens. And he who gets rid of his burdens, his soul is straight and level. He who is straight and level in soul knows how to live by daily renewal. And he who lives by daily renewal is close to the truth.



A drunken man who falls from a cart may be badly hurt, but he will not be killed to death. His body is the same as anyone else's, but he will be bruised in a special way, for his spirit is whole. He did not know that he was riding in a wagon, nor did he know that he had fallen from it; dreams of life and fear of death did not nestle in his chest, and so he, faced with an object, knows no fear. If a man can become

so whole from wine, how much more whole can he become through Heaven?



To have the Way and its power, and not to put it into practice, is what it means to live badly. To be dressed in a patched up robe and wear holey sandals is to live poorly, but not badly. That's what's called being born in a bad time.



Dan Bao nurtured the inner, and the tiger ate his outer. Zhang Yi took care of the external, and the disease ruined his internal. They both did not make up for what they had lagged behind.


In the shingle game you will be agile. In a game of belt buckle you'll be excited. And in a game of betting on gold, you'll lose your head. The art will be the same in all cases, but the attention will shift to external things. He who is attentive to the outward is unsophisticated in the inward.



We forget the foot when the sandals fit us. We forget the waistband when the belt doesn't pinch. We forget "right" and "wrong" when the mind doesn't get in the way. And we don't change inwardly and are not drawn to the outward when we don't get in the way of business. Not to have affairs from the beginning and never to have them afterwards is not to give ourselves a hindrance even by forgetting the hindrance.

I enter the water with the current carrying me to the middle of the river, and I exit with the current carrying me to the shore. I follow the movement of the waters and do not impose my will on the waves. This is how I stay afloat.



The fox with its lush fur and the leopard with its spotted pelt hide in the woods to have peace. They go out at night and rest during the day-so cautious they are. Even when they have to endure hunger and thirst, they only allow themselves to go out once

for prey or to drink water, they're so restrained. And if even with their caution and restraint they sometimes fail to avoid a trap or a net, is it their fault? Their fur and pelt are the source of their misfortune.



Have you ever seen a monkey climbing a tree? It can easily climb a catalpa, a cedar or a camphor tree and jump from branch to branch so nimbly that the archer himself has no time to aim at it. Having got in a thicket of small thorny bushes, she treads sideways, clumsily and looks around, stumbling and losing her balance every now and then. It's not that she has to do more or that her muscles have weakened. It's just that she's not in the right environment for her and doesn't have the opportunity to show what she can do.



Yao and Shun owned the entire Celestial Empire, and their descendants had nowhere to even stick their awl. Tang and Wu bore the title of Son of Heaven, but their lineage was cut short. Was it not because the benefits accruing to them were too great?



He stuck to those who had no knowledge, was at one with the seemingly inept and obtuse. He was simple and guileless. He accompanied those who were leaving and met those who were coming, not hindering those who were leaving and not hindering those who were coming. I followed the strong ones and the cunning ones, so they gave everything to me. In this way I collected money from morning till night, without hurting anyone even by a hair. All the more so, it should be done by one who has found the true Path.



The straight tree is cut down first. The well of sweet water is drained first. But you try to embellish your knowledge in order to impress the ignorant, to gain perfection yourself in order to expose the lowliness of others, and you shine like the sun and the moon in the sky. That is why you cannot escape misfortune.



People are skilled in ritual and duty, but ignorant of the human heart. Those who visited me entered as if by a compass, and exited as if by an angle, with a solemn appearance, as if I saw a dragon or a tiger before me. They exhorted me like a son, instructed me like a father. That is why I am so sad.


The man whose leg has been cut off as punishment has no fear of law or human judgment. Criminals, chained together, climb the mountain, despising life and death.



Those who are bound by profit abandon one another to poverty and misery. Those who are bound by Heaven are brought closer together in poverty and in misery. And the difference between those who draw near and those who estrange is immense. A noble man's companionship is as unleavened as water, while an inferior man's companionship is as sweet as new wine. The noble man is sweet in intimacy, the low man is sweet in separation. And he who thoughtlessly gets together, thoughtlessly and thoughtlessly separates.



There are five evil qualities. Chief among them is narcissism. What does narcissism mean? It means to exalt one's own virtues and to condemn others for doing otherwise.



No bird is wiser than a swallow. When her gaze stops on a place unfit for her, she looks at it no more. When she drops the food from her beak, she leaves it and flies away. It is afraid of people, but settles near the human dwelling and nests at the altar of spirits.



Animals that eat grass do not suffer from a change of pasture. Water creatures do not suffer from a change of water. With little change, both retain the great constancy of their nature. Let neither joy, nor anger, nor sadness, nor merriment enter thee. The celestial world is that in which all things are one. Understand this unity, and you yourself will be like it.



There is something through which one is born or dies. Once I have my bodily form, I do not change it until I die. Day and night, without pausing for a moment, I act and do not know what the consequences of what I have done will be. And not even the best fate expert can guess what I will end up with. This is how, day by day, I have become what I am now.



The great unity penetrates everything, the great peace dissipates everything, the great contemplation reveals everything, the great constancy brings everything back to its source, the great order gives form to everything, the great trust exposes all that is true, the great certainty sustains everything.



When the Way is lost, there is a need for power. When power is lost, there is a need for humanity. When humanity is lost, there is a need for duty. When duty is lost, there is a need for propriety. And propriety is an empty embellishment of the Way and the beginning of confusion. He who realizes the Way loses every day. Having lost and still losing, he comes to non-reality. There is nothing left undone in non-doing.



He who does not give thanks for gifts has forgotten about people, and he who has forgotten about people has become a Heavenly man. Give him honor - and he will not be pleased. Humiliate him and he will not be angry.


Life is the successor of death, and death is the beginning of life. Human life is the accumulation of the life force.

force. When the power is collected, one lives, and when it is dissipated, one dies. And if life and death succeed each other, what have I to grieve about!



All things in the world are one. Those that we like we think are beautiful, and those that we do not like we think are disgusting. But what is disgusting can turn out beautiful, and what is beautiful can turn out disgusting.



The heavens and the earth have great beauty, but they do not speak of it. The four seasons have a clear law, but they are not judged. All the darkness of things has an unchangeable order, but they are not spoken about. The wise man enters into the prowess of heaven and earth and comprehends the essence of all things. Therefore the perfect man does nothing, the truly wise man creates nothing. This means that they take Heaven and Earth as their model.



The universe is great, and it does not go beyond the world of things. The tip of a hair is small, yet it constitutes a complete body. There is nothing in the world that has not undergone a transformation to the end of his days, and in the alternation of Yin and Yang, the four seasons is an immutable order. Then they are hidden, as if disappearing, but in fact existing; then shine brightly, not having a bodily image, but possessing spiritual power. All the darkness of things grows out of this and does not know it.



Even a gudgeon would be crowded in a roadside ditch, and no big fish would be allowed there. Not even a beast could hide behind a low hill, and only a werewolf fox could settle there. Highly respected leaders employed the skillful, valuing the good before the benefit.



To answer a question about the Way is not to know the Way. One who asks about the Way has never heard of it. There is nothing to ask about the Way, and if you ask, you get no answer. Asking about what is unavailable to ask - means to ask in vain. To answer where there can be no answer is to lose the inner. He who has lost his inner and asks in vain does not see the universe around him, and he does not see the Great Beginning within himself.



To penetrate the heart of man is harder than to penetrate a mountain gorge, and to know it is harder than to know Heaven itself. Heaven has established spring and fall, summer and winter, day and night. Man's face is impenetrable, his feelings are hidden deep.



One transformation, and there it is, life. One more transformation, and there it is, death. All living beings grieve for this, the human race grieves for this. But that is when Heaven's sheath given to us is torn, Heaven's scabbard falls to the ground. That is when the Great Return comes for us!



Zhu Pingman learned to slay dragons. He lost his family fortune but mastered the art to perfection. He was unhappy with his skills, though he found no use for them.



He who wants to make Heaven his teacher cannot learn from Heaven. He who turns with things, dies with things. What follows from this? The wise man possesses neither the heavenly nor the human. He abides in the beginning, which has not yet begun and in which things do not yet exist. He moves with time and substitutes for nothing. In his deeds he is blameless and knows no defeat. This is what his integrity is like!



He who knows how to appreciate life, no matter how rich or noble he may be, will not allow himself to be harmed by care for himself. And he, even when he is poor and humiliated, will not impose a burden on himself even for the sake of worldly glory.



If someone's foot is stepped on in the marketplace, he will ask forgiveness for the embarrassment. If an older brother does that to a younger one, he will only pity him, nothing more. It is not without reason that they say, "He who is truly courteous is not ceremonious. He who is just indeed does not distinguish between his own and those of others. He who knows the truth does not calculate. He who is human in truth knows no pity. He who trusts the truth does not demand gold as collateral.



If I have no intelligence, people will call me a fool, and if I have intelligence, it will bring me misfortune. If I am good, I will bring harm to myself, and if I am unkind, I will bring harm to others. If I am just, I will bring misfortune on myself, and if I am unjust, I will bring misfortune on others. So how do we avoid these three predicaments?



A baby cries all day long and does not wheeze - this is the limit of harmony. He clenches his fists all day long - and nothing is missing - such is the universal fullness of life's properties. He stares all day long and does not blink - such is his unboundness to the outside. He walks without knowing where; he stops without knowing why. He slips away from all things and floats along with change. Such is the way of life's saving.


A person's life is like a horse's leap over a crevasse: in an instant, it flashes and disappears without a trace. By themselves, unknowingly, things come from there. By themselves, unnoticed, they go there.



The worst dogs think only of how to fill their bellies. A dog of average qualities looks up as if to the sun. The best dogs, on the other hand, seem to forget about themselves.



All things are born of something, but one cannot see their root; they come out of something, but one cannot see the gate.



After living in exile for a few days, I was glad to meet someone I knew. After living in exile for a few months, I was glad to meet someone from my own country. And after living in exile for a year, I was glad to meet anyone who resembled my fellow countrymen.



In the clarity of the eye lurks the danger of the eye. In the sensitivity of the ear lurks the danger to the ear. In the intelligence of the mind lurks the danger to the mind. And every ability that has appeared in us is fraught with danger. When danger is ripe, it cannot be averted, and our troubles grow like weeds. It is hard to get rid of them. People regard their dangers as treasures.



All life is a cloud of vapor, if you look at it from its foundation. And let some die old and others young-what in essence separates them? Just a moment! So why worry about who was right and who was wrong-the sage Yao or the villain Jie? Responding to the circumstances, being in tune with them, that is the true Power. Responding to the world by being at one with the world is the true Way.



On the left horn of the snail is the kingdom of the Bodacious, and on the right horn the kingdom of the Wild. These kingdoms are forever at war with each other. The bodies of the slain lie in the tens of thousands, the defeated enemy is pursued for ten days and another five, only to return from the march.



Rulers conceal their deeds and call those who do not know about it fools. They give unenforceable commands and punish those who dare not carry them out. They assign burdensome duties and punish those who fail to meet them. They send them on

And they reproach those who are late in coming. People, knowing that they can not fulfill orders, substitute diligence pretend.



Qiu Boyu by the age of sixty changed sixty times and what he initially claimed, later denied. Who knows if we won't have to deny fifty-nine times what we now regard as the truth?



Once there was a man who was afraid of his own shadow, who hated his footprints and tried to run away from them. But the faster he ran, the more footprints he left behind him, and the shadow was still chasing after him. He didn't think he was running fast enough, so he ran faster and faster until he dropped dead. He didn't have the sense to just sit in the shadows to get rid of both his shadow and his footprints.



Trouble is brought on by eight extremes. Beauty, lush beard, tall stature, strong constitution, strength, grace, courage, courage - these are the eight extremes that elevate us above others and therefore serve as a source of trouble.



I will tell you what man is: his eyes love to look at the beautiful, his ears love to hear the sweet-sounding, his mouth loves a pleasant taste, his will and spirit are ever seeking satisfaction. The highest longevity for him is a hundred years, the middle eighty, the lowest sixty. Minus sickness and hardship, sorrow and mourning, he has not more than

more than four or five for a whole month.


Suppose someone were to load a crossbow with a pearl in order to shoot a sparrow. The whole world would laugh at such a person. Why? Because he spares nothing of value in order to get nothing of value. Is not life more valuable than the greatest pearl?



The men of olden times, who had found the Way, were full of joy regardless of whether their lives were good or bad, for it was not successes or failures that delighted them. Where there is a Way, successes and failures are inseparable from the cycle of heat and cold, winds and rains.



Space and time are the yard in which I dwell. In winter I clothe myself in skins and skins, in summer in canvas and canvas. I let my body work hard in the spring and take a good rest in the fall. At sunrise I go out to work, at sundown I go to rest. I wander freely between Heaven and Earth, and contentment reigns in my heart. What does the world of Heaven mean to me?



The achievements of earthly kings are the dregs of the accomplishments of the truly wise, and are of no use to personal improvement. Isn't it unfortunate that so many worthy men nowadays put themselves in danger and risk their lives for external things! The wise man always knows exactly how and what he must do.



When the Son of Heaven, the lords, the lords of the land, the servants and the commoners are in their places, the world is in order. But if they are not in their places, great turmoil will break out in the world. Let the officials perform their duties and the common people go about their business, then no one will be in anyone's way.



Fake tears will not touch anyone, fake anger will not frighten anyone, fake love will not be mutual. Genuine sadness is voiceless, but will cause sadness in others without a sound; genuine anger does not manifest outwardly, but brings fear; genuine love even without a smile will generate a response. When there is the genuine within, the outward appearance is spiritualized.



The wise does not consider the necessary to be a necessity, and therefore does without weapons. The common man considers even the unnecessary as a necessity, and therefore has many weapons. He who is accustomed to weapons always uses them to get what he wants. But he who trusts in the power of weapons perishes himself.



The divine turtle was able to appear in King Yuan's dream, but was unable to escape the fisherman's nets. Her knowledge was enough for seventy-two divinations, but not enough to avoid his own death. It turns out that even knowledge does not get rid of difficulties and even divine power is somehow limited. Even he who has perfect knowledge will be outsmarted by the mob. A fish is not afraid of nets, but is afraid of a pelican.



He burrows even pheasant feathers, can only speak beautifully, and takes the unimportant as the main thing. He is soft with people, but does not know them and does not trust them. Perceives only his own thoughts, thinks only of his own soul. How can he stand above the people? Only through unthoughtfulness can he be attracted to his service and patronize him.



The outward execution is done with iron and wood. Inwardly it is done by deeds and mistakes. Ordinary men sentenced to external execution are tormented with iron and wood. Those who are destined to internal execution are gnawed by the forces of Yin and Yang. Only a Real Man can escape both external and internal punishment.



Everyone wants something material - he preferred emptiness and said, "Don't create stocks and you will have everything in abundance. And he himself, trusting only in himself, had more than enough.



Kao-fu, nicknamed the Righteous, received the first assignment, lowered his head; received the second assignment, humped; received the third assignment, bowed to the ground and crawled away along the wall. Who would not consider him a model? And there are such: at the first appointment they look haughty, at the second they glory in the chariot, and after the third they call their elders by name.



To be open to everything and free from predilections, to change unceasingly and to seek nothing out for oneself, to live freely without choosing the main thing for oneself, to follow every urge without hesitation, not to think before time, not to make calculations relying on one's knowledge, not to choose among things, but to change together with them - that was the art of the Way of the ancients.


Have you ever seen a sacrificial bull? They dress him up in patterned cloths and feed him fresh grass and beans. And then he is led and enters the temple of the ancestors. Even if at that moment he really wanted to be a free calf again, could his wish come true?



If you level with the unleveled, the leveled will also become unleveled. If one proves with the unproven, the proven will become unproved. He who relies on external perception can only influence things. He who relies on the spirit has reliable knowledge.



If a horse gallops straight ahead as if on a plumb line, makes a turn as if on a hook, describes a square,

as if on a square, and runs in a circle as if on a compass, it is the horse of the kingdom. The horse of the Celestial Empire has a completely unusual talent: he looks as if he is afraid of something, he has lost something, he has disconnected from himself. Such a horse rushes ahead of everyone without raising the dust, not knowing where he rides.



To mind one's own business is called "exceeding one's authority. Pointing out what is not worthy

is called "fidgeting." Relying on other people's opinions and referring to other people's words is called "obsequiousness. To repeat another's speech without distinguishing between what is true and what is false is called "flattery. Taking pleasure in judging others is called "backbiting. Breaking the bonds of friendship and kinship is called "disorderliness. To flatter and deceive in order to receive a reward from a villain is called "deceitfulness." To make no distinction between good and bad people, but to please all for their own self-interest is called "villainy.



Vague, boundless, devoid of form; abiding in transformations without permanence. Is it life, is it death? Is the enlightened spirit moving - where does it so suddenly drift away, whence it so suddenly appears? All the darkness of things is like a spread net, and there is no beginning in it - this is also the art of the Way of the ancients.



Zhuang Zhou (Zhuangzi)

Quotes by Zhuang Zhou (Zhuangzi)