Chuang Tzu Chapter 5, Section C

Recommended Posts

Section C


In Lu there was a cripple, called Shu-shan the Toeless, who came on his heels to see Zhongni. Zhongni said to him, 'By your want of circumspection in the past, Sir, you have incurred such a calamity; of what use is your coming to me now?' Toeless said, 'Through my ignorance of my proper business and taking too little care of my body, I came to lose my feet. But now I am come to you, still possessing what is more honourable than my feet, and which therefore I am anxious to preserve entire. There is nothing which Heaven does not cover, and nothing which Earth does not sustain; you, Master, were regarded by me as doing the part of Heaven and Earth - how could I know that you would receive me in such a way?' Confucius rejoined, 'I am but a poor creature. But why, my master, do you not come inside, where I will try to tell you what I have learned?' When Toeless had gone out, Confucius said, 'Be stimulated to effort, my disciples. This toeless cripple is still anxious to learn to make up for the evil of his former conduct;-- how much more should those be so whose conduct has been unchallenged!' Mr. Toeless, however, told Lao Dan (of the interview), saying, 'Kong Qiu, I apprehend, has not yet attained to be a Perfect man. What has he to do with keeping a crowd of disciples around him? He is seeking to have the reputation of being an extraordinary and marvellous man, and does not know that the Perfect man considers this to be as handcuffs and fetters to him.' Lao Dan said, 'Why did you not simply lead him to see the unity of life and death, and that the admissible and inadmissible belong to one category, so freeing him from his fetters? Would this be possible?' Toeless said, 'It is the punishment inflicted on him by Heaven. How can he be freed from it?'

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

from Victor Mair's "Wandering on the Way: Taoist Tales and Parables"


In the state of Lu there was a mutilated man, Toeless Nuncle

Hill, who went plodding along on his heels to see Confucius.

"Because you weren't careful," said Confucius, "you have long

since brought such a misfortune upon yourself. Although you've

come to see me, it's already too late."

"It's only because I didn't know my duty and was heedless of

my body that I lost the front of my feet," said Toeless. "In

coming to you now, I am still possessed of something more

precious than my feet and that's why I am striving to preserve it

whole. There is nothing that heaven does not cover; there is

nothing that earth does not support. I thought of you as heaven

and earth, sir. How could I have expected that you would treat

me like this?"

" That was uncouth of me," said Confucius. "Why don't you

come in and allow me to explain for you what I have heard?"


Toeless left.


" Be diligent, my disciples!" said Confucius. "Toeless has

been mutilated, and yet he conscientiously studies to make up

for the error of his previous conduct. How much more should

someone whose virtue is whole!"


Toeless went to see Old Longears and told him: "As for

being an ultimate man, he hasn't made it yet, has he? So why does

he imitate you so assiduously, sir? He probably hopes to become

famous for his bizarre ideas and strange notions, but he doesn't

realize that the ultimate man would consider himself to be

shackled by them."

"Why not just have him consider life and death as a single

cord and 'permissible' and 'impermissible' as a single strand?"

asked Old Longears. "Wouldn't that free him of his shackles?"

"Heaven is punishing him," said Toeless. "How can he be


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

the Mair helps that one make sense. I couldn't get it just from reading the Legge.


they're really laying into ol Confucius now. That one seems almost pointless except to say that daoism is better than confucianism! I mean what Lao had to say is certainly nothing that isn't covered elsewhere. I don't really see the point of that chapter except from the point of view of frat rivalry.


If the writer wanted to say that life and death were the same, he should have written a story about that. These anti-confucian stories are losing their um je ne sais quoi.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


they're really laying into ol Confucius now. That one seems almost pointless ...


Exactly. The concept had already been presented. Confucius had already been criticized. Just beating a dead horse.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites