The Joyous Life Of Tuan-Mu-Shu

TUAN-MU-SHU of Wei was descended from Tse-Kung.

He had a patrimony of ten thousand gold pieces.

Indifferent to the chances of life, he followed his own inclinations.

What the heart delights in he would do and delight in: with his walls and buildings, pavilions, verandahs, gardens, parks, ponds and lakes, wine and food, carriages, dresses, women and attendants, he would emulate the princes of Ch’i and Ch’u in luxury.

Whenever his heart desired something, or his ear wished to hear something, his eye to see or his mouth to taste, he would procure it at all costs, though the thing might only be had in a far-off country, and not in the kingdom of Chi.

When on a journey the mountains and rivers might be ever so difficult and dangerous to pass, and the roads ever so long, he would still proceed just as men walk a few steps.

A hundred guests were entertained daily in his palace. In the kitchens there were always fire and smoke, and the vaults of his hall and peristyle incessantly resounded with songs and music. The remains from his table he divided first among his clansmen. What they left was divided among his fellow-citizens, and what these did not eat was distributed throughout the whole kingdom.

When Tuan-mu-Shu reached the age of sixty, and his mind and body began to decay, he gave up his household and distributed all his treasures, pearls and gems, carriages and dresses, concubines and female attendants. Within a year he had disposed of his fortune, and to his offspring he had left nothing. When he fell ill, he had no means to buy medicines and a stone lancet, and when he died, there was not even money for his funeral. All his countrymen who had benefited by him contributed money to bury him, and gave back the fortune of his descendants.

When Ch’in-ku-li heard of this he said:

“Tuan-mu-Shu was a fool, who brought disgrace to his ancestor.”

When Tuan-Kan-Sheng heard of it he said:

“Tuan-mu-Shu was a wise man; his virtue was much superior to that of his ancestors. The commonsense people were shocked at his conduct, but it was in accord with the right doctrine. The excellent man of Wei only adhered to propriety. They surely had not a heart like his.”

Pride and extravagance lead to calamity and ruin in more ways than one

Mr Yü was a wealthy man of the Liang State.

His household was rolling in riches, and his hoards of money and silk and other valuables were quite incalculable. It was his custom to have banquets served, to the accompaniment of music, in a high upper hall overlooking the main road; there he and his friends would sit drinking their wine and amusing themselves with bouts of gambling.

One day, a party of young gallants happened to pass along the road. In the chamber above, play was going on as usual, and a lucky throw of the dice, which resulted in the capture of both fishes, evoked a loud burst of merriment from the players.

Precisely at that moment, it happened that a kite which was sailing overhead dropped the carcass of a rat in the midst of the company outside. The young men held an angry consultation on the spot: ‘This Mr Yü,’ they said, ‘has been enjoying his wealth for many a long day, and has always treated his neighbours in the most arrogant spirit. And now, although we have never offended him, he insults us with this dead art. If such an outrage goes unavenged, the world will look upon us as a set of poltroons. Let us summon up our utmost resolution, and combine with one accord to wipe him and his family out of existence!’ The whole party signified their agreement, and when the evening of the day appointed had come, they collected, fully armed for the attack, and exterminated every member of the family.

DETECTING ROBBERS

In the Chin State, which was infested with robbers, there lived a certain Ch’i Yung, who was able to tell a robber by his face; by examining the expression of his eyes he could read his inmost thoughts. The Marquis of Chin employed him in the inspection of hundreds and thousands of robbers, and he never missed a single one. The Marquis expressed his delight to Wên Tzu of Chao, saying: ‘I have a man who, singlehanded, is ridding my whole State of robbers. He saves me the necessity of employing a whole staff of police.’ Wên Tzu replied: ‘If your Highness relies on a detective for catching robbers, you will never get rid of them. And what is more, Ch’i Yung is certain sooner or later to meet with a violent end.’

Meanwhile, a band of robbers were plotting together. ‘Ch’i Yung,’ they said, ‘is the enemy who is trying to exterminate us.’ So one day they stole upon him in a body and murdered him. When the Marquis of Chin heard the news, he was greatly alarmed and immediately sent for Wên Tzu. ‘Your prophecy has come true,’ he said; ‘Ch’i Yung is dead. What means can I adopt for catching robbers now? ‘in Chou,’ replied Wên Tzu, ‘we have a proverb: “Search not the ocean-depths for fish: calamity comes upon those who pry into hidden mysteries.” If you want to be quit of robbers, the best thing your Highness can do is to promote the worthy to office. Let them instruct and enlighten their sovereign on the one hand, and reform the masses below them on the other. if once the people acquire a sense of shame, you will not find them turning into robbers.’

The Marquis then appointed Sui Hui to be Prime Minister, and all the robbers fled to the Ch’in State.

Timeliness

Mr Shih of Lu had two sons, one of whom was a scholar and the other a soldier. The former found in his accomplishments the means of ingratiating himself with the Marquis of Ch’i, who engaged him as tutor to the young princes. The other brother proceeded to Ch’u, and won favour with the King of that State by his military talents. The King was so well pleased that he installed him at the head of his troops. Thus both of them succeeded in enriching their family and shedding lustre on their kinsfolk.

Now, a certain Mr Mêng, the neighbour of Mr Shih, also had two sons who followed the selfsame professions but were straitened by poverty. Envying the affluence of the Shih family, Mr Mêng called at his neighbour’s house, and wanted to know the secret of their rapid rise in the world. The two brothers readily gave him the desired information, whereupon the eldest son immediately set off for Ch’in, hoping that his cultural attainments would recommend him to the King of that State. But the King said: ‘At the present moment all the feudal princes are struggling to outbid one another in power, and the great essential is to keep up a large army. If I tried to govern my State on the lines of benevolence and righteousness, ruin and annihilation would be the outcome! So saying, he had the unfortunate man castrated, and turned him away.

The second son, meanwhile, had gone to Wei, hoping that his military knowledge would stand him in good stead. But the Marquis of Wei said to himself–‘Mine is a weak State hedged in by powerful ones.

My method of preserving tranquillity is to show subservience to the larger States and to conciliate the lesser ones. If I were to rely on armed force, I could only expect utter destruction. I must not allow this man to depart unscathed, or he may find his way to some other State and be a terrible thorn in my side.’ So, without more ado, he cut off his feet and sent him back to Lu.

On their return, the whole family fell to beating their breasts in despair, and uttered imprecations on Mr Shih. Mr Shih, however, said: ‘Success consists in hitting off the right moment, while missing it means failure. Your method was identical with ours, only the result was different. That is not due to any flaw in the action itself, but simply because it was not well timed. Nothing, in the ordering of this world, is either at all times right or at all times wrong. What formerly passed current may nowadays be rejected; what is now rejected may by and by come into use again. The fact that a thing is in use or in disuse forms no criterion whatever of right or wrong. There is no fixed rule for seizing opportunities, hitting off the right moment, or adapting oneself to circumstances; it is all a matter of native wit. If you are deficient in that, you may possess the learning of a Confucius or the strategical gifts of a Lü Shang, and yet you will remain poor wherever you go.

The Mêng family were now in a more resigned frame of mind, and their indignation had subsided. ‘Yes, you are right,’ they said; ‘please say no more about it.’

DEATH NO CAUSE FOR GRIEF

Duke Ching of Ch’i was travelling across the northern flank of the Ox-mountain in the direction of the capital. Gazing at the view before him, he burst into a flood of tears, exclaiming: ‘What a lovely scene! How verdant and luxuriantly wooded! To think that some day I must die and leave my kingdom, passing away like running water! If only there were no such things as death, nothing should induce me to stir from this spot.’ Two of the Ministers in attendance on the Duke, taking their cue from him, also began to weep, saying: ‘We, who are dependent on your Highness’s bounty, whose food is of an inferior sort, who have to ride on broken-down hacks or in creaking carts–even we do not want to die. How much less our sovereign liege!’

Yen Tzu, meanwhile, was standing by, with a broad smile on his face. The Duke wiped away his tears and, looking at him, said: ‘To-day I am stricken with grief on my journey, and both K’ung and Chü mingle their tears with mine. How is it that you alone can smile? Yen Tzu replied: ‘If the worthy ruler were to remain in perpetual possession of his realm, Duke T’ai and Duke Huan would still be exercising their sway. If the bold ruler were to remain in perpetual possession, Duke Chuang and Duke Ling would still be ruling the land. But if all these rulers were now in possession, where would your Highness be? Why, standing in the furrowed fields, clad in coir cape and hat!

Condemned to a hard life on earth, you would have had no time, I warrant, for brooding over death. Again, how did you yourself come to occupy this throne? By a series of successive reigns and removals, until at last your turn came. And are you alone going to weep and lament over this order of things? That is pure selfishness. it was the sight of these two objects–a self-centred prince and his fawning attendants–that set me quietly laughing to myself just now.’

Duke Ching felt much ashamed. Raising his goblet, he fined himself one cup, and his obsequious courtiers two cups of wine apiece.

A Exchange of Hearts

Kung-hu of Lu and Ch’i-ying of Chao both fell ill at the same time, and called in the aid of the great physician Pien-ch’iao.

Pien-ch’iao cured them both, and when they were well again he told them that the malady they had been suffering from was one that attacked the internal organs from without, and for that reason was curable by the application of vegetable and mineral drugs. ‘But,’ he added, ‘each of you is also the victim of a congenital disease, which has grown along with the body itself. Would you like me now to grapple with this? They said, ‘Yes’; but asked to hear his diagnosis first. Pien-ch’iao turned to Kung-hu. ‘Your mental powers,’ he said, ‘are strong, but your willpower is weak. Hence, though fruitful in plans, you are lacking in decision. Ch’i-ying’s mental powers, on the other hand, are weak, while his will-power is strong. Hence there is want of forethought, and he is placed at a disadvantage by the narrowness of his aim. Now, if I can effect an exchange of hearts between you, the good will be equally balanced in both.’

So saying, Pien-ch’iao administered to each of them a potion of medicated wine, which threw them into a death-like trance lasting three days.

Then, making an incision in their breasts, he took out each man’s heart and placed it in the other’s body, poulticing the wounds with herbs of marvellous efficacy.

When the two men regained consciousness, they looked exactly the same as before; and, taking their leave, they returned home. Only it was Kung-hu who went to Ch’i-ying’s house, where Ch’i-ying’s wife and children naturally did not recognize him, while Ch’i-ying went to Kung-hu’s house and was not recognized either. This led to a lawsuit between the two families, and Pien-ch’iao was called in as arbitrator. On his explaining how the matter stood, peace was once more restored.

Why Heaven dips downwards to the north-west, all rivers and streams roll to the south-east

[Another version of Chinese world creation myth in Lie Tzü, Book V. An ingenious theory to account for the apparent westward revolution of the heavenly bodies, as also for the easterly trend of the great Chinese rivers.]

Heaven and earth are themselves only material objects, and therefore imperfect. Hence it is that Nü Kua of old fashioned many-coloured blocks of stone to repair the defective parts.

He cut off the legs of the Ao (gigantic sea-turtle) and used them to support the four corners of the heavens.

Later on, Kung Kung fought with Chuan Hsü for the throne, and, blundering in his rage against Mount Pu-chou, he snapped the pillar which connects Heaven and earth at the north-western comer.

That is why Heaven dips downwards to the north-west, so that sun, moon and stars travel towards that quarter. The earth, on the other hand, is now not large enough to fill up the south-east, so that all rivers and streams roll in that direction.