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INTRODUCTION. - Lao Tzu, The Sacred Books of China. The Texts of Taoism. Part I: The Tao Teh King. The Writings of Kwang Ze Books I-XVII 
The Sacred Books of China. The Texts of Taoism. Part I: The Tao Teh King. The Writings of Kwang Ze Books I-XVII, trans. James Legge (Oxford University Press, 1891).
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Was Tâoism older than Lâo-ȝze?
1. In writing the preface to the third volume of these Sacred Books of the East in 1879, I referred to Lâo-ȝze as ‘the acknowledged founder’ of the system of Tâoism. Prolonged study and research, however, have brought me to the conclusion that there was a Tâoism earlier than his; and that before he wrote his Tâo Teh King, the principles taught in it had been promulgated, and the ordering of human conduct and government flowing from them inculcated.
For more than a thousand years ‘the Three Religions’ has been a stereotyped phrase in China, meaning what we call Confucianism, Tâoism, and Buddhism.Three Religions in China. The phrase itself simply means ‘the Three Teachings,’ or systems of instruction, leaving the subject-matter of each ‘Teaching’ to be learned by inquiry. Of the three, Buddhism is of course the most recent, having been introduced into China only in the first century of our Christian era. Both the others were indigenous to the country, and are traceable to a much greater antiquity, so that it is a question to which the earlier origin should be assigned. The years of Confucius’s life lay between bc 551 and 478; but his own acknowledgment that he was ‘a transmitter and not a maker,’ and the testimony of his grandson, that ‘he handed down the doctrines of Yâo and Shun (bc 2300), and elegantly displayed the regulations of Wân and Wû (bc 1200), taking them as his model,’ are well known.
2. Lâo-ȝze’s birth is said, in the most likely account of it, to have taken place in the third year of king Ting of the Kâu dynasty, (bc) 604. He was thus rather more than fifty years older than Confucius. The two men seem to have met more than once, and I am inclined to think that the name of Lâo-ȝze, as the designation of the other, arose from Confucius’s styling him to his disciples ‘The Old Philosopher.’ They met as Heads of different schools or schemes of thought; but did not touch, so far as we know, on the comparative antiquity of their views. It is a peculiarity of the Tâo Teh King that any historical element in it is of the vaguest nature possible, and in all its chapters there is not a single proper name.Peculiarity of the Tâo Teh King. Yet there are some references to earlier sages whose words the author was copying out, and to ‘sentence-makers’ whose maxims he was introducing to illustrate his own sentiments1 . In the most distant antiquity he saw a happy society in which his highest ideas of the Tâo were realised, and in the seventeenth chapter he tells us that in the earliest times the people did not know that there were their rulers, and when those rulers were most successful in dealing with them, simply said, ‘We are what we are of ourselves.’ Evidently, men existed to Lâo-ȝze at first in a condition of happy innocence,—in what we must call a paradisiacal state, according to his idea of what such a state was likely to be.
When we turn from the treatise of Lâo-ȝze to the writings of Kwang-ȝze, the greatest of his followers, we are not left in doubt as to his belief in an early state of paradisiacal Tâoism. Hwang Tî, the first year of whose reign is placed in bc 2697, is often introduced as a seeker of the Tâo, and is occasionally condemned as having been one of the first to disturb its rule in men’s minds and break up ‘the State of Perfect Unity.’ He mentions several sovereigns of whom we can hardly find a trace in the records of history as having ruled in the primeval period, and gives us more than one description of the condition of the world during that happy time1 .
I do not think that Kwang-ȝze had any historical evidence for the statements which he makes about those early days, the men who flourished in them, and their ways. His narratives are for the most part fictions, in which the names and incidents are of his own devising. They are no more true as matters of fact than the accounts of the characters in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress are true, with reference to any particular individuals; but as these last are grandly true of myriads of minds in different ages, so may we read in Kwang-ȝze’s stories the thoughts of Tâoistic men beyond the restrictions of place and time. He believed that those thoughts were as old as the men to whom he attributed them. I find in his belief a ground for believing myself that to Tâoism, as well as to Confucianism, we ought to attribute a much earlier origin than the famous men whose names they bear. Perhaps they did not differ so much at first as they came afterwards to do in the hands of Confucius and Lâo-ȝze, both great thinkers, the one more of a moralist, and the other more of a metaphysician. When and how, if they were ever more akin than they came to be, their divergence took place, are difficult questions on which it may be well to make some remarks after we have tried to set forth the most important principles of Tâoism.
Those principles have to be learned from the treatise of Lâo-ȝze and the writings of Kwang-ȝze. We can hardly say that the Tâoism taught in them is the Tâoism now current in China, or that has been current in it for many centuries; but in an inquiry into the nature and origin of religions these are the authorities that must be consulted for Tâoism, and whose evidence must be accepted. The treatise, ‘Actions and the Responses to them,’ will show one of the phases of it at a much later period.
The Texts of the Tâo Teh King and Kwang-ȝze Shû, as regards their authenticity and genuineness, and the arrangement of them.
I.1. I will now state briefly, first, the grounds on which I accept the Tâo Teh King as a genuine production of the age to which it has been assigned, and the truth of its authorship by Lâo-ȝze to whom it has been ascribed. It would not have been necessary a few years ago to write as if these points could be called in question, but in 1886 Mr. Herbert A. Giles, of Her Majesty’s Consular Service in China, and one of the ablest Chinese scholars living, vehemently called them in question in an article in the China Review for the months of March and April. His strictures have been replied to, and I am not going to revive here the controversy which they produced, but only to state a portion of the evidence which satisfies my own mind on the two points just mentioned.
2. It has been said above that the year bc 604 was, probably, that of Lâo-ȝze’s birth. The year of his death is not recorded. Sze-mâ Khien, the first great Chinese historian, who died in about bc 85, commences his ‘Biographies’ with a short account of Lâo-ȝze.The evidence of Sze-mâ Khien, the historian. He tells us that the philosopher had been a curator of the Royal Library of Kâu, and that, mourning over the decadence of the dynasty, he wished to withdraw from the world, and proceeded to the pass or defile of Hsien-ku1 , leading from China to the west. There he was recognised by the warden of the pass, Yin Hsî (often called Kwan Yin), himself a well-known Tâoist, who insisted on his leaving him a writing before he went into seclusion. Lâo-ȝze then wrote his views on ‘The Tâo and its Characteristics,’ in two parts or sections, containing more than 5000 characters, gave the manuscript to the warden, and went his way1 ; ‘nor is it known where he died.’ This account is strange enough, and we need not wonder that it was by and by embellished with many marvels. It contains, however, the definite statements that Lâo-ȝze wrote the Tâo Teh King in two parts, and consisting of more than 5000 characters. And that Khien was himself well acquainted with the treatise is apparent from his quotations from it, with, in almost every case, the specification of the author. He thus adduces part of the first chapter, and a large portion of the last chapter but one. His brief references also to Lâo-ȝze and his writings are numerous.
3. But between Lâo-ȝze and Sze-mâ Khien there were many Tâoist writers whose works remain. I may specify of them Lieh-ȝze (assuming that his chapters, though not composed in their present form by him, may yet be accepted as fair specimens of his teaching); Kwang-ȝze (of the fourth century bcLieh-ȝze, Han Fei-ȝze, and other Tâoist authors. We find him refusing to accept high office from king Wei of Khû, bc 339-299); Han Fei, a voluminous author, who died by his own hand in bc 230; and Liû An, a scion of the Imperial House of Han, king of Hwâi-nan, and better known to us as Hwâi-nan Ȝze, who also died by his own hand in bc 122. In the books of all these men we find quotations of many passages that are in our treatise. They are expressly said to be, many of them, quotations from Lâo-ȝze; Han Fei several times all but shows the book beneath his eyes. To show how numerous the quotations by Han Fei and Liû An are, let it be borne in mind that the Tâo Teh King has come down to us as divided into eighty-one short chapters; and that the whole of it is shorter than the shortest of our Gospels. Of the eighty-one chapters, either the whole or portions of seventy-one are found in those two writers. There are other authors not so decidedly Tâoistic, in whom we find quotations from the little book. These quotations are in general wonderfully correct. Various readings indeed there are; but if we were sure that the writers did trust to memory, their differences would only prove that copies of the text had been multiplied from the very first.
In passing on from quotations to the complete text, I will clinch the assertion that Khien was well acquainted with our treatise, by a passage from the History of the Former Han Dynasty (bc 206-ad 24), which was begun to be compiled by Pan Kû, who died however in 92, and left a portion to be completed by his sister, the famous Pan Kâo.Evidence of Pan Kû. The thirty-second chapter of his Biographies is devoted to Sze-mâ Khien, and towards the end it is said that ‘on the subject of the Great Tâo he preferred Hwang and Lâo to the six King.’ ‘Hwang and Lâo’ must there be the writings of Hwang-Tî and Lâo-ȝze. The association of the two names also illustrates the antiquity claimed for Tâoism, and the subject of note 1, p. 2.
4. We go on from quotations to complete texts, and turn, first, to the catalogue of the Imperial Library of Han, as compiled by Liû Hsin, not later than the commencement of our Christian era. There are entered in it Tâoist works by thirty-seven different authors, containing in all 993 chapters or sections (phien).Catalogue of the Imperial Library of Han. Î Yin, the premier of Khăng Thang (bc 1766), heads the list with fifty-one sections. There are in it four editions of Lâo-ȝze’s work with commentaries:—by a Mr. Lin, in four sections; a Mr. Fû, in thirty-seven sections; a Mr. Hsü, in six sections; and by Liû Hsiang, Hsin’s own father, in four sections. All these four works have since perished, but there they were in the Imperial Library before our era began. Kwang-ȝze is in the same list in fifty-two books or sections, the greater part of which have happily escaped the devouring tooth of time.
We turn now to the twentieth chapter of Khien’s Biographies, in which he gives an account of Yo Î, the scion of a distinguished family, and who himself played a famous part, both as a politician and military leader, and became prince of Wang-kû under the kingdom of Kâo in bc 279. Among his descendants was a Yo Khăn, who learned in Khî ‘the words,’ that is, the Tâoistic writings ‘of Hwang-Tî and Lâo-ȝze from an old man who lived on the Ho-side.’ The origin of this old man was not known, but Yo Khăn taught what he learned from him to a Mr. Ko, who again became preceptor to Ȝhâo Ȝhan, the chief minister of Khî, and afterwards of the new dynasty of Han, dying in bc 190.
5. Referring now to the catalogue of the Imperial Library of the dynasty of Sui (ad 589-618), we find that it contained many editions of Lâo’s treatise with commentaries.The catalogue of the Sui dynasty. The first mentioned is ‘The Tâo Teh King,’ with the commentary of the old man of the Ho-side, in the time of the emperor Wăn of Han (bc 179-142). It is added in a note that the dynasty of Liang (ad 502-556) had possessed the edition of ‘the old man of the Ho-side, of the time of the Warring States; but that with some other texts and commentaries it had disappeared.’ I find it difficult to believe that there had been two old men of the Ho-side1 , both teachers of Tâoism and commentators on our King, but I am willing to content myself with the more recent work, and accept the copy that has been current—say from bc 150, when Sze-mâ Khien could have been little more than a boy. Tâoism was a favourite study with many of the Han emperors and their ladies. Hwâi-nan Ȝze, of whose many quotations from the text of Lâo I have spoken, was an uncle of the emperor Wăn. To the emperor King (bc 156-143), the son of Wăn, there is attributed the designation of Lâo’s treatise as a King, a work of standard authority. At the beginning of his reign, we are told, some one was commending to him four works, among which were those of Lâo-ȝze and Kwang-ȝze. Deeming that the work of Hwang-ȝze and Lâo-ȝze was of a deeper character than the others, he ordered that it should be called a King, established a board for the study of Tâoism, and issued an edict that the book should be learned and recited at court, and throughout the country1 . Thenceforth it was so styled. We find Hwang-fû Mî (ad 215-282) referring to it as the Tâo Teh King.
The second place in the Sui catalogue is given to the text and commentary of Wang Pî or Wang Fû-sze, an extraordinary scholar who died in ad 249, at the early age of twenty-four.The work of Wang Pî. This work has always been much prized. It was its text which Lû Teh-ming used in his ‘Explanation of the Terms and Phrases of the Classics,’ in the seventh century. Among the editions of it which I possess is that printed in 1794 with the imperial moveable metal types.
I need not speak of editions or commentaries subsequent to Wang Pî’s. They soon begin to be many, and are only not so numerous as those of the Confucian Classics.
6. All the editions of the book are divided into two parts, the former called Tâo, and the latter Teh, meaning the Qualities or Characteristics of the Tâo, but this distinction of subjects is by no means uniformly adhered to.Divisions into parts, chapters; and number of characters in the text.
I referred already to the division of the whole into eighty-one short chapters (37 + 44), which is by common tradition attributed to Ho-shang Kung, or ‘The old man of the Ho-side.’ Another very early commentator, called Yen Ȝun or Yen Kün-phing, made a division into seventy-two chapters (40 + 32), under the influence, no doubt, of some mystical considerations. His predecessor, perhaps, had no better reason for his eighty-one; but the names of his chapters were, for the most part, happily chosen, and have been preserved. Wû Khăng arranged the two parts in sixty-seven chapters (31 + 36). It is a mistake, however, to suppose, as even Mr. Wylie with all his general accuracy did1 , that Wû ‘curtails the ordinary text to some extent.’ He does not curtail, but only re-arranges according to his fashion, uniting some of Ho-shang Kung’s chapters in one, and sometimes altering the order of their clauses.
Sze-mâ Khien tells us that, as the treatise came from Lâo-ȝze, it contained more than 5000 characters; that is, as one critic says, ‘more than 5000 and fewer than 6000.’ Ho-shang Kung’s text has 5350, and one copy 5590; Wang Pî’s, 5683, and one copy 5610. Two other early texts have been counted, giving 5720 and 5635 characters respectively. The brevity arises from the terse conciseness of the style, owing mainly to the absence of the embellishment of particles, which forms so striking a peculiarity in the composition of Mencius and Kwang-ȝze.
In passing on to speak, secondly and more briefly, of the far more voluminous writings of Kwang-ȝze, I may say that I do not know of any other book of so ancient a date as the Tâo Teh King, of which the authenticity of the origin and genuineness of the text can claim to be so well substantiated.
II. 7. In the catalogue of the Han Library we have the entry of ‘Kwang-ȝze in fifty-two books or sections.’ By the time of the Sui dynasty, the editions of his work amounted to nearly a score. The Books of Kwang-ȝze. The earliest commentary that has come down to us goes by the name of Kwo Hsiang’s. He was an officer and scholar of the Ȝin dynasty, who died about the year 312. Another officer, also of Ȝin, called Hsiang Hsiû, of rather an earlier date, had undertaken the same task, but left it incomplete; and his manuscripts coming (not, as it appears, by any fraud) into Kwo’s hands, he altered and completed them as suited his own views, and then gave them to the public. In the short account of Kwo, given in the twentieth chapter of the Biographies of the Ȝin history, it is said that several tens of commentators had laboured unsatisfactorily on Kwang’s writings before Hsiang Hsiû took them in hand. As the joint result of the labours of the two men, however, we have only thirty-three of the fifty-two sections mentioned in the Han catalogue. It is in vain that I have tried to discover how and when the other nineteen sections were lost. In one of the earliest commentaries on the Tâo Teh King, that by Yen Ȝun, we have several quotations from Kwang-ȝze which bear evidently the stamp of his handiwork, and are not in the current Books; but they would not altogether make up a single section. We have only to be thankful that so large a proportion of the original work has been preserved. Sû Shih (Ȝze-kan, and Tung-pho), it is well known, called in question the genuineness of Books 28 to 311 . Books 15 and 16 have also been challenged, and a paragraph here and there in one or other of the Books. The various readings, according to a collation given by Ȝiâo Hung, are few.
8. There can be no doubt that the Books of Kwang-ȝze were hailed by all the friends of Tâoism. It has been mentioned above that the names ‘Hwang-Tî’ and ‘Lâo-ȝze’ were associated together as denoting the masters of Tâoism, and the phrase, ‘the words of Hwang-Tî and Lâo-ȝze,’ came to be no more than a name for the Tâo Teh King. Importance to Tâoism of the Books of Kwang-ȝze. Gradually the two names were contracted into ‘Hwang Lâo,’ as in the passage quoted on p. 6 from Pan Kû. After the Han dynasty, the name Hwang gave place to Kwang, and the names Lâo Kwang, and, sometimes inverted, Kwang Lâo, were employed to denote the system or the texts of Tâoism. In the account, for instance, of Kî Khang, in the nineteenth chapter of the Biographies of Ȝin, we have a typical Tâoist brought before us. When grown up, ‘he loved Lâo and Kwang;’ and a visitor, to produce the most favourable impression on him, says, ‘Lâo-ȝze and Kwang Kâu are my masters.’
9. The thirty-three Books of Kwang-ȝze are divided into three Parts, called Nêi, or ‘the Inner;’ Wâi, or ‘the Outer;’ and Ȝâ, ‘the Miscellaneous.’ The first Part comprises seven Books; the second, fifteen; and the third, eleven. Division of the Books into three Parts. ‘Inner’ may be understood as equivalent to esoteric or More Important. The titles of the several Books are significant, and each expresses the subject or theme of its Book. They are believed to have been prefixed by Kwang-ȝze himself, and that no alteration could be made in the composition but for the worse. ‘Outer’ is understood in the sense of supplementary or subsidiary. The fifteen Books so called are ‘Wings’ to the previous seven. Their titles were not given by the author, and are not significant of the Tâoistic truth which all the paragraphs unite, or should unite, in illustrating; they are merely some name or phrase taken from the commencement of the first paragraph in each Book,—like the names of the Books of the Confucian Analects, or of the Hebrew Pentateuch. The fixing them originally is generally supposed to have been the work of Kwo Hsiang. The eleven Miscellaneous Books are also supplementary to those of the first Part, and it is not easy to see why a difference was made between them and the fifteen that precede.
10.Kwang-ȝze’s writings have long been current under the name of Nan Hwa Kăn King. He was a native of the duchy of Sung, born in what was then called the district of Măng, and belonged to the state or kingdom of Liang or Wei. The general title of Kwang-ȝze’s works. As he grew up, he filled some official post in the city of Ȝhî-yüan,—the site of which it is not easy to determine with certainty. In ad 742, the name of his birth-place was changed (but only for a time) to Nan-hwa, and an imperial order was issued that Kwang-ȝze should thenceforth be styled ‘The True Man of Nan-hwa,’ and his Book, ‘The True Book of Nan-hwa1 .’ To be ‘a True Man’ is the highest Tâoistic achievement of a man, and our author thus canonised communicates his glory to his Book.
What is the meaning of the name Tâo? And the chief points of belief in Tâoism.
1. The first translation of the Tâo Teh King into a Western language was executed in Latin by some of the Roman Catholic missionaries, and a copy of it was brought to England by a Mr. Matthew Raper, F. R. S., and presented by him to the Society at a meeting on the 10th January, 1788,—being the gift to him of P. Jos. de Grammont, ‘Missionarius Apostolicus, ex-Jesuita.’ Meaning of the name Tâo. In this version Tâo is taken in the sense of Ratio, or the Supreme Reason of the Divine Being, the Creator and Governor.
M. Abel Rémusat, the first Professor of Chinese in Paris, does not seem to have been aware of the existence of the above version in London, but his attention was attracted to Lâo’s treatise about 1820, and, in 1823, he wrote of the character Tâo, ‘Ce mot me semble ne pas pouvoir être bien traduit, si ce n’est par le mot λόγος dans le triple sens de souverain Être, de raison, et de parole.’
Rémusat’s successor in the chair of Chinese, the late Stanislas Julien, published in 1842 a translation of the whole treatise. Having concluded from an examination of it, and the earliest Tâoist writers, such as Kwang-ȝze, Ho-kwan Ȝze, and Ho-shang Kung, that the Tâo was devoid of action, of thought, of judgment, and of intelligence, he concluded that it was impossible to understand by it ‘the Primordial Reason, or the Sublime Intelligence which created, and which governs the world,’ and to this he subjoined the following note:—‘Quelque étrange que puisse paraître cette idée de Lâo-ȝze, elle n’est pas sans exemple dans l’histoire de la philosophie. Le mot nature n’a-t-il pas été employé par certains philosophes, que la religion et la raison condamnent, pour désigner une cause première, également dépourvue de pensée et d’intelligence?’ Julien himself did not doubt that Lâo’s idea of the character was that it primarily and properly meant ‘a way’, and hence he translated the title Tâo Teh King by ‘Le Livre de la Voie et de la Vertu,’ transferring at the same time the name Tâo to the text of his version.
The first English writer who endeavoured to give a distinct account of Tâoism was the late Archdeacon Hardwick, while he held the office of Christian Advocate in the University of Cambridge. In his ‘Christ and other Masters’ (vol. ii, p. 67), when treating of the religions of China, he says, ‘I feel disposed to argue that the centre of the system founded by Lâo-ȝze had been awarded to some energy or power resembling the “Nature” of modern speculators. The indefinite expression Tâo was adopted to denominate an abstract cause, or the initial principle of life and order, to which worshippers were able to assign the attributes of immateriality, eternity, immensity, invisibility.’
It was, probably, Julien’s reference in his note to the use of the term nature, which suggested to Hardwick his analogy between Lâo-ȝze’s Tâo, and ‘the Nature of modern speculation.’ Canon Farrar has said, ‘We have long personified under the name of Nature the sum total of God’s laws as observed in the physical world; and now the notion of Nature as a distinct, living, independent entity seems to be ineradicable alike from our literature and our systems of philosophy1 .’ But it seems to me that this metaphorical or mythological use of the word nature for the Cause and Ruler of it, implies the previous notion of Him, that is, of God, in the mind. Does not this clearly appear in the words of Seneca?—‘Vis illum (h.e. Jovem Deum) naturam vocare, non peccabis:—hic est ex quo nata sunt omnia, cujus spiritu vivimus1 .’
In his translation of the Works of Kwang-ȝze in 1881, Mr. Balfour adopted Nature as the ordinary rendering of the Chinese Tâo. He says, ‘When the word is translated Way, it means the Way of Nature,—her processes, her methods, and her laws; when translated Reason, it is the same as lî,—the power that works in all created things, producing, preserving, and life-giving,—the intelligent principle of the world; when translated Doctrine, it refers to the True doctrine respecting the laws and mysteries of Nature.’ He calls attention also to the point that ‘he uses NATURE in the sense of Natura naturans, while the Chinese expression wan wû (= all things) denotes Natura naturata.’ But this really comes to the metaphorical use of nature which has been touched upon above. It can claim as its patrons great names like those of Aquinas, Giordano Bruno, and Spinoza, but I have never been able to see that its barbarous phraseology makes it more than a figure of speech2 .
The term Nature, however, is so handy, and often fits so appropriately into a version, that if Tâo had ever such a signification I should not hesitate to employ it as freely as Mr. Balfour has done; but as it has not that signification, to try to put a non-natural meaning into it, only perplexes the mind, and obscures the idea of Lâo-ȝze.
Mr. Balfour himself says (p. xviii), ‘The primary signification of Tâo is simply “road.” ’ Beyond question this meaning underlies the use of it by the great master of Tâoism and by Kwang-ȝze3 . Let the reader refer to the version of the twenty-fifth chapter of Lâo’s treatise, and to the notes subjoined to it. There Tâo appears as the spontaneously operating cause of all movement in the phenomena of the universe; and the nearest the writer can come to a name for it is ‘the Great Tâo.’ Having established this name, he subsequently uses it repeatedly; see chh. xxxiv and liii. In the third paragraph of his twentieth chapter, Kwang-ȝze uses a synonymous phrase instead of Lâo’s ‘Great Tâo,’ calling it the ‘Great Thû,’ about which there can be no dispute, as meaning ‘the Great Path,’ ‘Way,’ or ‘Course1 .’ In the last paragraph of his twenty-fifth Book, Kwang-ȝze again sets forth the metaphorical origin of the name Tâo. ‘Tâo,’ he says, ‘cannot be regarded as having a positive existence; existences cannot be regarded as non-existent. The name Tâo is a metaphor used for the purpose of description. To say that it exercises some causation, or that it does nothing, is speaking of it from the phase of a thing;—how can such language serve as a designation of it in its greatness? If words were sufficient for the purpose, we might in a day’s time exhaust the subject of the Tâo. Words not being sufficient, we may talk about it the whole day, and the subject of discourse will only have been a thing. Tâo is the extreme to which things conduct us. Neither speech nor silence is sufficient to convey the notion of it. When we neither speak nor refrain from speech, our speculations about it reach their highest point.’
The Tâo therefore is a phenomenon; not a positive being, but a mode of being. Lâo’s idea of it may become plainer as we proceed to other points of his system. In the meantime, the best way of dealing with it in translating is to transfer it to the version, instead of trying to introduce an English equivalent for it.
2. Next in importance to Tâo is the name Thien, meaning at first the vaulted sky or the open firmament of heaven. In the Confucian Classics, and in the speech of the Chinese people, this name is used metaphorically as it is by ourselves for the Supreme Being, with reference especially to His will and rule.Usage of the term Thien. So it was that the idea of God arose among the Chinese fathers; so it was that they proceeded to fashion a name for God, calling Him Tî, and Shang Tî, ‘the Ruler,’ and ‘the Supreme Ruler.’ The Tâoist fathers found this among their people; but in their idea of the Tâo they had already a Supreme Concept which superseded the necessity of any other. The name Tî for God only occurs once in the Tâo Teh King; in the well-known passage of the fourth chapter, where, speaking of the Tâo, Lâo-ȝze says, ‘I do not know whose Son it is; it might seem to be before God.’
Nor is the name Thien very common. We have the phrase, ‘Heaven and Earth,’ used for the two great constituents of the kosmos, owing their origin to the Tâo, and also for a sort of binomial power, acting in harmony with the Tâo, covering, protecting, nurturing, and maturing all things. Never once is Thien used in the sense of God, the Supreme Being. In its peculiarly Tâoistic employment, it is more an adjective than a noun. ‘The Tâo of Heaven’ means the Tâo that is Heavenly, the course that is quiet and undemonstrative, that is free from motive and effort, such as is seen in the processes of nature, grandly proceeding and successful without any striving or crying. The Tâo of man, not dominated by this Tâo, is contrary to it, and shows will, purpose, and effort, till, submitting to it, it becomes ‘the Tâo or Way of the Sages,’ which in all its action has no striving.
The characteristics both of Heaven and man are dealt with more fully by Kwang than by Lâo. In the conclusion of his eleventh Book, for instance, he says:—‘What do we mean by Tâo? There is the Tâo (or Way) of Heaven, and there is the Tâo of man. Acting without action, and yet attracting all honour, is the Way of Heaven. Doing and being embarrassed thereby is the Way of man. The Way of Heaven should play the part of lord; the Way of man, the part of minister. The two are far apart, and should be distinguished from each other.’
In his next Book (par. 2), Kwang-ȝze tells us what he intends by ‘Heaven:’—‘Acting without action,—this is what is called Heaven.’ Heaven thus takes its law from the Tâo. ‘The oldest sages and sovereigns attained to do the same,’—it was for all men to aim at the same achievement. As they were successful, ‘vacancy, stillness, placidity, tastelessness, quietude, silence, and non-action’ would be found to be their characteristics, and they would go on to the perfection of the Tâo1 .
The employment of Thien by the Confucianists, as of Heaven by ourselves, must be distinguished therefore from the Tâoistic use of the name to denote the quiet but mighty influence of the impersonal Tâo; and to translate it by ‘God’ only obscures the meaning of the Tâoist writers. This has been done by Mr. Giles in his version of Kwang-ȝze, which is otherwise for the most part so good. Everywhere on his pages there appears the great name ‘God;’—a blot on his translation more painful to my eyes and ears than the use of ‘Nature’ for Tâo by Mr. Balfour. I know that Mr. Giles’s plan in translating is to use strictly English equivalents for all kinds of Chinese terms2 . The plan is good where there are in the two languages such strict equivalents; but in the case before us there is no ground for its application. The exact English equivalent for the Chinese thien is our heaven. The Confucianists often used thien metaphorically for the personal Being whom they denominated Tî (God) and Shang Tî (the Supreme God), and a translator may occasionally, in working on books of Confucian literature, employ our name God for it. But neither Lâo nor Kwang ever attached anything like our idea of God to it; and when one, in working on books of early Tâoist literature, translates thien by God, such a rendering must fail to produce in an English reader a correct apprehension of the meaning.
There is also in Kwang-ȝze a peculiar usage of the name Thien. He applies it to the Beings whom he introduces as Masters of the Tâo, generally with mystical appellations in order to set forth his own views.Peculiar usage of Thien in Kwang-ȝze. Two instances from Book XI will suffice in illustration of this. In par. 4, Hwang-Tî does reverence to his instructor Kwang Khăng-ȝze1 , saying, ‘In Kwang Khăng-ȝze we have an example of what is called Heaven,’ which Mr. Giles renders ‘Kwang Khăng Ȝze is surely God.’ In par. 5, again, the mystical Yûn-kiang is made to say to the equally fabulous and mystical Hung-mung, ‘O Heaven, have you forgotten me?’ and, farther on, ‘O Heaven, you have conferred on me (the knowledge of) your operation, and revealed to me the mystery of it;’ in both which passages Mr. Giles renders thien by ‘your Holiness.’
But Mr. Giles seems to agree with me that the old Tâoists had no idea of a personal God, when they wrote of Thien or Heaven.Mr. Giles’s own idea of the meaning of the name ‘God’ as the equivalent of Thien. On his sixty-eighth page, near the beginning of Book VI, we meet with the following sentence, having every appearance of being translated from the Chinese text:—‘God is a principle which exists by virtue of its own intrinsicality, and operates without self-manifestation.’ By an inadvertence he has introduced his own definition of ‘God’ as if it were Kwang-ȝze’s; and though I can find no characters in the text of which I can suppose that he intends it to be the translation, it is valuable as helping us to understand the meaning to be attached to the Great Name in his volume.
I have referred above (p. 16) to the only passage in Lâo’s treatise, where he uses the name Tî or God in its highest sense, saying that ‘the Tâo might seem to have been before Him.’The relation of the Tâo to Tî. He might well say so, for in his first chapter he describes the Tâo, ‘(conceived of as) having no name, as the Originator of heaven and earth, and (conceived of as) having a name, as the Mother of all things.’ The reader will also find the same predicates of the Tâo at greater length in his fifty-first chapter.
The character Tî is also of rare occurrence in Kwang-ȝze, excepting as applied to the five ancient Tîs. In Bk. III, par. 4, and in one other place, we find it indicating the Supreme Being, but the usage is ascribed to the ancients. In Bk. XV, par. 3, in a description of the human Spirit, its name is said to be ‘Thung Tî,’ which Mr. Giles renders ‘Of God;’ Mr. Balfour, ‘One with God;’ while my own version is ‘The Divinity in Man.’ In Bk. XII, par. 6, we have the expression ‘the place of God;’ in Mr. Giles, ‘the kingdom of God;’ in Mr. Balfour, ‘the home of God.’ In this and the former instance, the character seems to be used with the ancient meaning which had entered into the folklore of the people. But in Bk. VI, par. 7, there is a passage which shows clearly the relative position of Tâo and Tî in the Tâoistic system; and having called attention to it, I will go on to other points. Let the reader mark well the following predicates of the Tâo:—‘Before there were heaven and earth, from of old, there It was, securely existing. From It came the mysterious existence of spirits; from It the mysterious existence of Tî (God). It produced heaven, It produced earth1 .’ This says more than the utterance of Lâo,—that ‘the Tâo seemed to be before God;’—does it not say that Tâo was before God, and that He was what He is by virtue of Its operation?
3. Among the various personal names given to the Tâo are those of Ȝâo Hwâ, ‘Maker and Transformer,’ and Ȝâo Wû Kê, ‘Maker of things.’No idea of Creation proper in Tâoism. Instances of both these names are found in Bk. VI, parr. 9, 10. ‘Creator’ and ‘God’ have both been employed for them; but there is no idea of Creation in Tâoism.
Again and again Kwang-ȝze entertains the question of how it was at the first beginning of things. Different views are stated. In Bk. II, par. 4, he says:—‘Among the men of old their knowledge reached the extreme point. What was that extreme point?
‘Some held that at first there was not anything. This is the extreme point,—the utmost limit to which nothing can be added.
‘A second class held that there was something, but without any responsive recognition of it (on the part of man).
‘A third class held that there was such recognition, but there had not begun to be any expression of different opinions about it. It was through the definite expression of different opinions about it that there ensued injury to the (doctrine of the) Tâo1 .’
The first of these three views was that which Kwang-ȝze himself preferred. The most condensed expression of it is given in Bk. XII, par. 8:—‘In the Grand Beginning of all things there was nothing in all the vacancy of space; there was nothing that could be named2 . It was in this state that there arose the first existence; the first existence, but still without bodily shape. From this things could be produced, (receiving) what we call their several characters. That which had no bodily shape was divided, and then without intermission there was what we call the process of conferring. (The two processes) continued to operate, and things were produced. As they were completed, there appeared the distinguishing lines of each, which we call the bodily shape. That shape was the body preserving in it the spirit, and each had its peculiar manifestation which we call its nature.’
Such was the genesis of things; the formation of heaven and earth and all that in them is, under the guidance of the Tâo. It was an evolution and not a creation. How the Tâo itself came,—I do not say into existence, but into operation,—neither Lâo nor Kwang ever thought of saying anything about. We have seen that it is nothing material1 . It acted spontaneously of itself. Its sudden appearance in the field of non-existence, Producer, Transformer, Beautifier, surpasses my comprehension. To Lâo it seemed to be before God. I am compelled to accept the existence of God, as the ultimate Fact, bowing before it with reverence, and not attempting to explain it, the one mystery, the sole mystery of the universe.
4. ‘The bodily shape was the body preserving in it the spirit, and each had its peculiar manifestation which we call its nature.’ So it is said in the passage quoted above from Kwang-ȝze’s twelfth Book, and the language shows how Tâoism, in a loose and indefinite way, considered man to be composed of body and spirit, associated together, yet not necessarily dependent on each other. Man is composed of body and spirit. Little is found bearing on this tenet in the Tâo Teh King. The concluding sentence of ch. 33, ‘He who dies and yet does not perish, has longevity,’ is of doubtful acceptation. More pertinent is the description of life as ‘a coming forth,’ and of death as ‘an entering2 ;’ but Kwang-ȝze expounds more fully, though after all unsatisfactorily, the teaching of their system on the subject.
At the conclusion of his third Book, writing of the death of Lâo-ȝze, he says, ‘When the master came, it was at the proper time; when he went away, it was the simple sequence (of his coming). Quiet acquiescence in what happens at its proper time, and quietly submitting (to its sequence), afford no occasion for grief or for joy. The ancients described (death) as the loosening of the cord on which God suspended (the life). What we can point to are the faggots that have been consumed; but the fire is transmitted elsewhere, and we know not that it is over and ended.’
It is, however, in connexion with the death of his own wife, as related in the eighteenth Book, that his views most fully—I do not say ‘clearly’—appear. We are told that when that event took place, his friend Huî-ȝze went to condole with him, and found him squatted on the ground, drumming on the vessel (of ice), and singing. His friend said to him, ‘When a wife has lived with her husband, brought up children, and then dies in her old age, not to wail for her is enough. When you go on to drum on the vessel and sing, is it not an excessive (and strange) demonstration?’ Kwang-ȝze replied, ‘It is not so. When she first died, was it possible for me to be singular, and not affected by the event? But I reflected on the commencement of her being, when she had not yet been born to life. Not only had she no life, but she had no bodily form. Not only had she no bodily form, but she had no breath. Suddenly in this chaotic condition there ensued a change, and there was breath; another change, and there was the bodily form; a further change, and she was born to life; a change now again, and she is dead. The relation between those changes is like the procession of the four seasons,—spring, autumn, winter, and summer. There she lies with her face up, sleeping in the Great Chamber1 ; and if I were to fall sobbing and going on to wail for her, I should think I did not understand what was appointed for all. I therefore restrained myself.’
The next paragraph of the same Book contains another story about two ancient men, both deformed, who, when looking at the graves on Kwăn-lun, begin to feel in their own frames the symptoms of approaching dissolution. One says to the other, ‘Do you dread it?’ and gets the reply, ‘No. Why should I dread it? Life is a borrowed thing. The living frame thus borrowed is but so much dust. Life and death are like day and night.’
In every birth, it would thus appear, there is, somehow, a repetition of what it is said, as we have seen, took place at ‘the Grand Beginning of all things,’ when out of the primal nothingness, the Tâo somehow appeared, and there was developed through its operation the world of things,—material things and the material body of man, which enshrines or enshrouds an immaterial spirit. This returns to the Tâo that gave it, and may be regarded indeed as that Tâo operating in the body during the time of life, and in due time receives a new embodiment.
In these notions of Tâoism there was a preparation for the appreciation by its followers of the Buddhistic system when it came to be introduced into the country, and which forms a close connexion between the two at the present day, Tâoism itself constantly becoming less definite and influential on the minds of the Chinese people. The Book which tells us of the death of Kwang-ȝze’s wife concludes with a narrative about Lieh-ȝze and an old bleached skull1 , and to this is appended a passage about the metamorphoses of things, ending with the statement that ‘the panther produces the horse, and the horse the man, who then again enters into the great machinery (of evolution), from which all things come forth (at birth) and into which they re-enter (at death).’ Such representations need not be characterised.
5. Kû Hsî, ‘the prince of Literature,’ described the main object of Tâoism to be ‘the preservation of the breath of life;’ and Liû Mî, probably of our thirteenth century2 , in his ‘Dispassionate Comparison of the Three Religions,’ declares that ‘its chief achievement is the prolongation of longevity.’ The Tâo as promotive of longevity. Such is the account of Tâoism ordinarily given by Confucian and Buddhist writers, but our authorities, Lâo and Kwang, hardly bear out this representation of it as true of their time. There are chapters of the Tâo Teh King which presuppose a peculiar management of the breath, but the treatise is singularly free from anything to justify what Mr. Balfour well calls ‘the antics of the Kung-fû, or system of mystic and recondite calisthenics1 .’ Lâo insists, however, on the Tâo as conducive to long life, and in Kwang-ȝze we have references to it as a discipline of longevity, though even he mentions rather with disapproval ‘those who kept blowing and breathing with open mouth, inhaling and exhaling the breath, expelling the old and taking in new; passing their time like the (dormant) bear, and stretching and twisting (their necks) like birds.’ He says that ‘all this simply shows their desire for longevity, and is what the scholars who manage the breath, and men who nourish the body and wish to live as long as Phăang-ȝû, are fond of doing2 .’ My own opinion is that the methods of the Tâo were first cultivated for the sake of the longevity which they were thought to promote, and that Lâo, discountenancing such a use of them, endeavoured to give the doctrine a higher character; and this view is favoured by passages in Kwang-ȝze. In the seventh paragraph, for instance, of his Book VI, speaking of parties who had obtained the Tâo, he begins with a prehistoric sovereign, who ‘got it and by it adjusted heaven and earth.’ Among his other instances is Phăng-ȝû, who got it in the time of Shun, and lived on to the time of the five leading princes of Kâu,—a longevity of more than 1800 years, greater than that ascribed to Methuselah! In the paragraph that follows there appears a Nu Yü, who is addressed by another famous Tâoist in the words, ‘You are old, Sir, while your complexion is like that of a child;—how is it so?’ and the reply is, ‘I became acquainted with the Tâo.’
I will adduce only one more passage of Kwang. In his eleventh Book, and the fourth paragraph, he tells us of interviews between Hwang-Tî, in the nineteenth year of his reign, which would be bc 2679, and his instructor Kwang Khăng-ȝze. The Tâoist sage is not readily prevailed on to unfold the treasures of his knowledge to the sovereign, but at last his reluctance is overcome, and he says to him, ‘Come, and I will tell you about the Perfect Tâo. Its essence is surrounded with the deepest obscurity; its highest reach is in darkness and silence. There is nothing to be seen, nothing to be heard. When it holds the spirit in its arms in stillness, then the bodily form will of itself become correct. You must be still, you must be pure; not subjecting your body to toil, not agitating your vital force:—then you may live for long. When your eyes see nothing, your ears hear nothing, and your mind knows nothing, your spirit will keep your body, and the body will live long. Watch over what is within you; shut up the avenues that connect you with what is external;—much knowledge is pernicious. I will proceed with you to the summit of the Grand Brilliance, where we come to the bright and expanding (element); I will enter with you the gate of the dark and depressing element. There heaven and earth have their Controllers; there the Yin and Yang have their Repositories. Watch over and keep your body, and all things will of themselves give it vigour. I maintain the (original) unity (of these elements). In this way I have cultivated myself for 1200 years, and my bodily form knows no decay.’ Add 1200 to 2679, and we obtain 3879 as the year bc of Kwang Khăng-ȝze’s birth!
6. Lâo-ȝze describes some other and kindred results of cultivating the Tâo in terms which are sufficiently startling, and which it is difficult to accept.Startling results of the Tâo. In his fiftieth chapter he says, ‘He who is skilful in managing his life travels on land without having to shun rhinoceros or tiger, and enters a host without having to avoid buff coat or sharp weapon. The rhinoceros finds no place in him into which to thrust its horn, nor the tiger a place in which to fix its claws, nor the weapon a place to admit its point. And for what reason? Because there is in him no place of death.’ To the same effect he says in his fifty-fifth chapter, ‘He who has in himself abundantly the attributes (of the Tâo) is like an infant. Poisonous insects will not sting him; fierce beasts will not seize him; birds of prey will not strike him.’
Such assertions startle us by their contrariety to our observation and experience, but so does most of the teaching of Tâoism. What can seem more absurd than the declaration that ‘the Tâo does nothing, and so there is nothing that it does not do?’ And yet this is one of the fundamental axioms of the system. The thirty-seventh chapter, which enunciates it, goes on to say, ‘If princes and kings were able to maintain (the Tâo), all things would of themselves be transformed by them.’ This principle, if we can call it so, is generalised in the fortieth, one of the shortest chapters, and partly in rhyme:—
All things under heaven sprang from it as existing (and named); that existence sprang from it as non-existent (and not named).’
Ho-shang Kung, or whoever gave their names to the chapters of the Tâo Teh King, styles this fortieth chapter ‘Dispensing with the use (of means).’ If the wish to use means arise in the mind, the nature of the Tâo as ‘the Nameless Simplicity’ has been vitiated; and this nature is celebrated in lines like those just quoted:—
I do not cull any passages from Kwang-ȝze to illustrate these points. In his eleventh Book his subject is Government by ‘Let-a-be and the exercise of Forbearance.’
7. This Tâo ruled men at first, and then the world was in a paradisiacal state. Neither of our authorities tells us how long this condition lasted, but as Lâo observes in his eighteenth chapter, ‘the Tâo ceased to be observed.’The paradisiacal state.Kwang-ȝze, however, gives us more than one description of what he considered the paradisiacal state was. He calls it ‘the age of Perfect Virtue.’ In the thirteenth paragraph of his twelfth Book he says, ‘In this age, they attached no value to wisdom, nor employed men of ability. Superiors were (but) as the higher branches of a tree; and the people were like the deer of the wild. They were upright and correct, without knowing that to be so was Righteousness; they loved one another, without knowing that to do so was Benevolence; they were honest and leal-hearted, without knowing that it was Loyalty; they fulfilled their engagements, without knowing that to do so was Good Faith; in their movements they employed the services of one another, without thinking that they were conferring or receiving any gift. Therefore their actions left no trace, and there was no record of their affairs.’
Again, in the fourth paragraph of his tenth Book, addressing an imaginary interlocutor, he says, ‘Are you, Sir, unacquainted with the age of Perfect Virtue?’ He then gives the names of twelve sovereigns who ruled in it, of the greater number of whom we have no other means of knowing anything, and goes on:—‘In their times the people used knotted cords in carrying on their business. They thought their (simple) food pleasant, and their (plain) clothing beautiful. They were happy in their (simple) manners, and felt at rest in their (poor) dwellings. (The people of) neighbouring states might be able to descry one another; the voices of their cocks and dogs might be heard from one to the other; they might not die till they were old; and yet all their life they would have no communication together. In those times perfect good order prevailed.’
One other description of the primeval state is still more interesting. It is in the second paragraph of Bk. IX:—‘The people had their regular and constant nature:—they wove and made themselves clothes; they tilled the ground and got food. This was their common faculty. They were all one in this, and did not form themselves into separate classes; so were they constituted and left to their natural tendencies. Therefore in the age of Perfect Virtue men walked along with slow and grave step, and with their looks steadily directed forwards. On the hills there were no footpaths nor excavated passages; on the lakes there were no boats nor dams. All creatures lived in companies, and their places of settlement were made near to one another. Birds and beasts multiplied to flocks and herds; the grass and trees grew luxuriant and long. The birds and beasts might be led about without feeling the constraint; the nest of the magpie might be climbed to, and peeped into. Yes, in the age of Perfect Virtue, men lived in common with birds and beasts, and were on terms of equality with all creatures, as forming one family;—how could they know among themselves the distinctions of superior men and small men? Equally without knowledge, they did not leave the path of their natural virtue; equally free from desires, they were in the state of pure simplicity. In that pure simplicity, their nature was what it ought to be.’
Such were the earliest Chinese of whom Kwang-ȝze could venture to give any account. If ever their ancestors had been in a ruder or savage condition, it must have been at a much antecedent time. These had long passed out of such a state; they were tillers of the ground, and acquainted with the use of the loom. They lived in happy relations with one another, and in kindly harmony with the tribes of inferior creatures. But there is not the slightest allusion to any sentiment of piety as animating them individually, or to any ceremony of religion as observed by them in common. This surely is a remarkable feature in their condition. I call attention to it, but I do not dwell upon it.
8. But by the time of Lâo and Kwang the cultivation of the Tâo had fallen into disuse. The simplicity of life which it demanded, with its freedom from all disturbing speculation and action, was no longer to be found in individuals or in government.The decay of the Tâo before the growth of knowledge. It was the general decay of manners and of social order which unsettled the mind of Lâo, made him resign his position as a curator of the Royal Library, and determine to withdraw from China and hide himself among the rude peoples beyond it. The cause of the deterioration of the Tâo and of all the evils of the nation was attributed to the ever-growing pursuit of knowledge, and of what we call the arts of culture. It had commenced very long before;—in the time of Hwang-Tî, Kwang says in one place1 ; and in another he carries it still higher to Sui-zăn and Fu-hsî2 . There had been indeed, all along the line of history, a groping for the rules of life, as indicated by the constitution of man’s nature. The results were embodied in the ancient literature which was the lifelong study of Confucius. He had gathered up that literature; he recognised the nature of man as the gift of Heaven or God. The monitions of God as given in the convictions of man’s mind supplied him with a Tâo or Path of duty very different from the Tâo or Mysterious Way of Lâo. All this was gall and wormwood to the dreaming librarian or brooding recluse, and made him say, ‘If we could renounce our sageness and discard our wisdom, it would be better for the people a hundredfold. If we could renounce our benevolence and discard our righteousness, the people would again become filial and kindly. If we could renounce our artful contrivances and discard our (scheming for) gain, there would be no thieves nor robbers3 .’
We can laugh at this. Tâoism was wrong in its opposition to the increase of knowledge. Man exists under a law of progress. In pursuing it there are demanded discretion and justice. Moral ends must rule over material ends, and advance in virtue be ranked higher than advance in science. So have good and evil, truth and error, to fight out the battle on the field of the world, and in all the range of time; but there is no standing still for the individual or for society. Even Confucius taught his countrymen to set too high a value on the examples of antiquity. The school of Lâo-ȝze fixing themselves in an unknown region beyond antiquity,—a prehistoric time between ‘the Grand Beginning of all things’ out of nothing, and the unknown commencement of societies of men,—has made no advance but rather retrograded, and is represented by the still more degenerate Tâoism of the present day.
There is a short parabolic story of Kwang-ȝze, intended to represent the antagonism between Tâoism and knowledge, which has always struck me as curious. The last paragraph of his seventh Book is this:—‘The Ruler (or god Tî) of the Southern Ocean was Shû (that is, Heedless); the Ruler of the Northern Ocean was Hû (that is, Hasty); and the Ruler of the Centre was Hwun-tun (that is, Chaos). Shû and Hû were continually meeting in the land of Hwun-tun, who treated them very well. They consulted together how they might repay his kindness, and said, “Men have all seven orifices for the purposes of seeing, hearing, eating, and breathing, while this (poor) Ruler alone has not one. Let us try and make them for him.” Accordingly they dug one orifice in him every day; and at the end of seven days Chaos died.’
So it was that Chaos passed away before Light. So did the nameless Simplicity of the Tâo disappear before Knowledge. But it was better that the Chaos should give place to the Kosmos. ‘Heedless’ and ‘Hasty’ did a good deed.
9. I have thus set forth eight characteristics of the Tâoistic system, having respect mostly to what is peculiar and mystical in it. I will now conclude my exhibition of it by bringing together under one head the practical lessons of its author for men individually, and for the administration of government.The practical lessons of Lâo-ȝze. The praise of whatever excellence these possess belongs to Lâo himself: Kwang-ȝze devotes himself mainly to the illustration of the abstruse and difficult points.
First, it does not surprise us that in his rules for individual man, Lâo should place Humility in the foremost place. A favourite illustration with him of the Tâo is water. In his eighth chapter he says:—‘The highest excellence is like that of water.Humility. The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things, and in its occupying, without striving to the contrary, the low ground which all men dislike. Hence (its way) is near to that of the Tâo.’ To the same effect in the seventy-eighth chapter:—‘There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water, and yet for attacking things that are firm and strong there is nothing that can take precedence of it. Every one in the world knows that the soft overcomes the hard, and the weak the strong; but no one is able to carry it out in practice.’
In his sixty-seventh chapter Lâo associates with Humility two other virtues, and calls them his three Precious Things or Jewels.Lâo’s three Jewels. They are Gentleness, Economy, and Shrinking from taking precedence of others. ‘With that Gentleness,’ he says, ‘I can be bold; with that Economy I can be liberal; Shrinking from taking precedence of others, I can become a vessel of the highest honour.’
And in his sixty-third chapter, he rises to a still loftier height of morality. He says, ‘(It is the way of the Tâo) to act without (thinking of) acting, to conduct affairs without (feeling) the trouble of them; to taste without discerning any flavour, to consider the small as great, and the few as many, and to recompense injury with kindness.’Rendering good for evil.
Here is the grand Christian precept, ‘Render to no man evil for evil. If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.’ We know that the maxim made some noise in its author’s lifetime; that the disciples of Confucius consulted him about it, and that he was unable to receive it1 . It comes in with less important matters by virtue of the Tâoistic ‘rule of contraries.’ I have been surprised to find what little reference to it I have met with in the course of my Chinese reading. I do not think that Kwang-ȝze takes notice of it to illustrate it after his fashion. There, however, it is in the Tâo Teh King. The fruit of it has yet to be developed.
Second, Lâo laid down the same rule for the policy of the state as for the life of the individual. He says in his sixty-first chapter, ‘What makes a state great is its being like a low-lying, down-flowing stream;—it becomes the centre to which tend all (the small states) under heaven.’ He then uses an illustration which will produce a smile:—‘Take the case of all females. The female always overcomes the male by her stillness. Stillness may be considered (a sort of) abasement.’ Resuming his subject, he adds, ‘Thus it is that a great state, by condescending to small states, gains them for itself; and that small states, by abasing themselves to a great state, win it over to them. In the one case the abasement tends to gaining adherents; in the other case, to procuring favour. The great state only wishes to unite men together and nourish them; a small state only wishes to be received by, and to serve, the other. Each gets what it desires, but the great state must learn to abase itself.’
‘All very well in theory,’ some one will exclaim, ‘but, the world has not seen it yet reduced to practice.’ So it is. The fact is deplorable. No one saw the misery arising from it, and exposed its unreasonableness more unsparingly, than Kwang-ȝze. But it was all in vain in his time, as it has been in all the centuries that have since rolled their course. Philosophy, philanthropy, and religion have still to toil on, ‘faint, yet pursuing,’ believing that the time will yet come when humility and love shall secure the reign of peace and good will among the nations of men.
While enjoining humility, Lâo protested against war. In his thirty-first chapter he says, ‘Arms, however beautiful, are instruments of evil omen; hateful, it may be said, to all creatures. They who have the Tâo do not like to employ them.’ Perhaps in his sixty-ninth chapter he allows defensive war, but he adds, ‘There is no calamity greater than that of lightly engaging in war. To do that is near losing the gentleness which is so precious. Thus it is that when weapons are (actually) crossed, he who deplores the (situation) conquers.’
There are some other points in the practical lessons of Tâoism to which I should like to call the attention of the reader, but I must refer him for them to the chapters of the Tâo Teh King, and the Books of Kwang-ȝze. Its salient features have been set forth somewhat fully. Notwithstanding the scorn poured so freely on Confucius by Kwang-ȝze and other Tâoist writers, he proved in the course of time too strong for Lâo as the teacher of their people. The entrance of Buddhism, moreover, into the country in our first century, was very injurious to Tâoism, which still exists, but is only the shadow of its former self. It is tolerated by the government, but not patronised as it was when emperors and empresses seemed to think more of it than of Confucianism. It is by the spread of knowledge, which it has always opposed, that its overthrow and disappearance will be brought about ere long.
Accounts of Lâo-Ȝze and Kwang-Ȝze given by Sze-mâ Khien.
It seems desirable, before passing from Lâo, and Kwang in this Introduction, to give a place in it to what is said about them by Sze-mâ Khien. I have said that not a single proper name occurs in the Tâo Teh King. There is hardly an historical allusion in it. Only one chapter, the twentieth, has somewhat of an autobiographical character. It tells us, however, of no incidents of his life. He appears alone in the world through his cultivation of the Tâo, melancholy and misunderstood, yet binding that Tâo more closely to his bosom.
The Books of Kwang-ȝze are of a different nature, abounding in pictures of Tâoist life, in anecdotes and narratives, graphic, argumentative, often satirical. But they are not historical. Confucius and many of his disciples, Lâo and members of his school, heroes and sages of antiquity, and men of his own day, move across his pages; but the incidents in connexion with which they are introduced are probably fictitious, and devised by him ‘to point his moral or adorn his tale.’ His names of individuals and places are often like those of Bunyan in his Pilgrim’s Progress or his Holy War, emblematic of their characters and the doctrines which he employs them to illustrate. He often comes on the stage himself, and there is an air of verisimilitude in his descriptions, possibly also a certain amount of fact about them; but we cannot appeal to them as historical testimony. It is only to Sze-mâ Khien that we can go for this; he always writes in the spirit of an historian; but what he has to tell us of the two men is not much.
And first, as to his account of Lâo-ȝze. When he wrote, about the beginning of the first century bc, the Tâoist master was already known as Lâo-ȝze. Khien, however, tells us that his surname was Lî, and his name R, meaning ‘Ear,’ which gave place after his death to Tan, meaning ‘Long-eared,’ from which we may conclude that he was named from some peculiarity in the form of his ears. He was a native of the state of Khû, which had then extended far beyond its original limits, and his birth-place was in the present province of Ho-nan or of An-hui. He was a curator in the Royal Library; and when Confucius visited the capital in the year bc 517, the two men met. Khien says that Confucius’s visit to Lo-yang was that he might question Lâo on the subject of ceremonies. He might have other objects in mind as well; but however that was, the two met. Lî said to Khung, ‘The men about whom you talk are dead, and their bones are mouldered to dust; only their words are left. Moreover, when the superior man gets his opportunity, he mounts aloft; but when the time is against him, he is carried along by the force of circumstances1 . I have heard that a good merchant, though he have rich treasures safely stored, appears as if he were poor; and that the superior man, though his virtue be complete, is yet to outward seeming stupid. Put away your proud air and many desires, your insinuating habit and wild will. They are of no advantage to you;—this is all I have to tell you.’ Confucius is made to say to his disciples after the interview: ‘I know how birds can fly, fishes swim, and animals run. But the runner may be snared, the swimmer hooked, and the flyer shot by the arrow. But there is the dragon:—I cannot tell how he mounts on the wind through the clouds, and rises to heaven. To-day I have seen Lâo-ȝze, and can only compare him to the dragon.’
In this speech of Confucius we have, I believe, the origin of the name Lâo-ȝze, as applied to the master of Tâoism. Its meaning is ‘The Old Philosopher,’ or ‘The Old Gentleman1 .’ Confucius might well so style Lî R. At the time of this interview he was himself in his thirty-fifth year, and the other was in his eighty-eighth. Khien adds, ‘Lâo-ȝze cultivated the Tâo and its attributes, the chief aim of his studies being how to keep himself concealed and remain unknown. He continued to reside at (the capital of) Kâu, but after a long time, seeing the decay of the dynasty, he left it and went away to the barrier-gate, leading out of the kingdom on the north-west. Yin Hsî, the warden of the gate, said to him, “You are about to withdraw yourself out of sight. Let me insist on your (first) composing for me a book.” On this, Lâo-ȝze wrote a book in two parts, setting forth his views on the Tâo and its attributes, in more than 5000 characters. He then went away, and it is not known where he died. He was a superior man, who liked to keep himself unknown.’
Khien finally traces Lâo’s descendants down to the first century bc, and concludes by saying, ‘Those who attach themselves to the doctrine of Lâo-ȝze condemn that of the Literati, and the Literati on their part condemn Lâo-ȝze, verifying the saying, “Parties whose principles are different cannot take counsel together.” Lî R taught that by doing nothing others are as a matter of course transformed and that rectification in the same way ensues from being pure and still.’
This morsel is all that we have of historical narrative about Lâo-ȝze. The account of the writing of the Tâo Teh King at the request of the warden of the barrier-gate has a doubtful and legendary appearance. Otherwise, the record is free from anything to raise suspicion about it. It says nothing about previous existences of Lâo, and nothing of his travelling to the west, and learning there the doctrines which are embodied in his work. He goes through the pass out of the domain of Kâu, and died no one knowing where.
It is difficult, however, to reconcile this last statement with a narrative in the end of Kwang-ȝze’s third Book. There we see Lâo-ȝze dead, and a crowd of mourners wailing round the corpse, and giving extraordinary demonstrations of grief, which offend a disciple of a higher order, who has gone to the house to offer his condolences on the occasion. But for the peculiar nature of most of Kwang’s narratives, we should say, in opposition to Khien, that the place and time of Lâo’s death were well known. Possibly, however, Kwang-ȝze may have invented the whole story, to give him the opportunity of setting forth what, according to his ideal of it, the life of a Tâoist master should be, and how even Lâo-ȝze himself fell short of it.
Second, Khien’s account of Kwang-ȝze is still more brief. He was a native, he tells us, of the territory of Măng, which belonged to the kingdom of Liang or Wei, and held an office, he does not say what, in the city of Khî-yüan. Kwang was thus of the same part of China as Lâo-ȝze, and probably grew up familiar with all his speculations and lessons. He lived during the reigns of the kings Hui of Liang, Hsüan of Khî, and Wei of Khû. We cannot be wrong therefore in assigning his period to the latter half of the third, and earlier part of the fourth century bc He was thus a contemporary of Mencius. They visited at the same courts, and yet neither ever mentions the other. They were the two ablest debaters of their day, and fond of exposing what they deemed heresy. But it would only be a matter of useless speculation to try to account for their never having come into argumentative collision.
Khien says: ‘Kwang had made himself well acquainted with all the literature of his time, but preferred the views of Lâo-ȝze, and ranked himself among his followers, so that of the more than ten myriads of characters contained in his published writings the greater part are occupied with metaphorical illustrations of Lâo’s doctrines. He made “The Old Fisherman,” “The Robber Kih,” and “The Cutting open Satchels,” to satirize and expose the disciples of Confucius, and clearly exhibit the sentiments of Lâo. Such names and characters as “Wei-lêi Hsü” and “Khang-sang Ȝze” are fictitious, and the pieces where they occur are not to be understood as narratives of real events1 .
‘But Kwang was an admirable writer and skilful composer, and by his instances and truthful descriptions hit and exposed the Mohists and Literati. The ablest scholars of his day could not escape his satire nor reply to it, while he allowed and enjoyed himself with his sparkling, dashing style; and thus it was that the greatest men, even kings and princes, could not use him for their purposes.
‘King Wei of Khû, having heard of the ability of Kwang Kâu, sent messengers with large gifts to bring him to his court, and promising also that he would make him his chief minister. Kwang-ȝze, however, only laughed and said to them, “A thousand ounces of silver are a great gain to me, and to be a high noble and minister is a most honourable position. But have you not seen the victim-ox for the border sacrifice? It is carefully fed for several years, and robed with rich embroidery that it may be fit to enter the Grand Temple. When the time comes for it to do so, it would prefer to be a little pig, but it cannot get to be so. Go away quickly, and do not soil me with your presence. I had rather amuse and enjoy myself in the midst of a filthy ditch than be subject to the rules and restrictions in the court of a sovereign. I have determined never to take office, but prefer the enjoyment of my own free will.” ’
Khien concludes his account of Kwang-ȝze with the above story, condensed by him, probably, from two of Kwang’s own narratives, in par. 11 of Bk. XVII, and 13 of XXXII, to the injury of them both. Paragraph 14 of XXXII brings before us one of the last scenes of Kwang-ȝze’s life, and we may doubt whether it should be received as from his own pencil. It is interesting in itself, however, and I introduce it here: ‘When Kwang-ȝze was about to die, his disciples signified their wish to give him a grand burial. “I shall have heaven and earth,” he said, “for my coffin and its shell; the sun and moon for my two round symbols of jade; the stars and constellations for my pearls and jewels;—will not the provisions for my interment be complete? What would you add to them?” The disciples replied, “We are afraid that the crows and kites will eat our master.” Kwang-ȝze rejoined, “Above, the crows and kites will eat me; below, the mole-crickets and ants will eat me; to take from those and give to these would only show your partiality.” ’
Such were among the last words of Kwang-ȝze. His end was not so impressive as that of Confucius; but it was in keeping with the general magniloquence and strong assertion of independence that marked all his course.
On the Tractate of Actions and Their Retributions.
1. The contrast is great between the style of the Tâo Teh King and the Books of Kwang-ȝze and that of the Kan Ying Phien, a translation of which is now submitted as a specimen of the Texts of Tâoism.Peculiar style and nature of the Kan Ying Phien. The works of Lâo and Kwang stand alone in the literature of the system. What it was before Lâo cannot be ascertained, and in his chapters it comes before us not as a religion, but as a subject of philosophical speculation, together with some practical applications of it insisted on by Lâo himself. The brilliant pages of Kwang-ȝze contain little more than his ingenious defence of his master’s speculations, and an aggregate of illustrative narratives sparkling with the charms of his composition, but in themselves for the most part unbelievable, often grotesque and absurd. This treatise, on the other hand, is more of what we understand by a sermon or popular tract. It eschews all difficult discussion, and sets forth a variety of traits of character and actions which are good, and a still greater variety of others which are bad, exhorting to the cultivation and performance of the former, and warning against the latter. It describes at the outset the machinery to secure the record of men’s doings, and the infliction of the certain retribution, and concludes with insisting on the wisdom of repentance and reformation. At the same time it does not carry its idea of retribution beyond death, but declares that if the reward or punishment is not completed in the present life, the remainder will be received by the posterity of the good-doer and of the offender.
A place is given to the treatise among the Texts of Tâoism in ‘The Sacred Books of the East,’ because of its popularity in China. ‘The various editions of it,’ as observed by Mr. Wylie, ‘are innumerable; it has appeared from time to time in almost every conceivable size, shape, and style of execution. Many commentaries have been written upon it, and it is frequently published with a collection of several hundred anecdotes, along with pictorial illustrations, to illustrate every paragraph seriatim. It is deemed a great act of merit to aid by voluntary contribution towards the gratuitous distribution of this work1 .’
2. The author of the treatise is not known, but, as Mr. Wylie also observes, it appears to have been written during the Sung dynasty.The origin of the treatise. The earliest mention of it which I have met with is in the continuation of Ma-twan Lin’s encyclopedic work by Wang Khî, first published in 1586, the fourteenth year of the fourteenth emperor of the Ming dynasty. In Wang’s supplement to his predecessor’s account of Tâoist works, the sixth notice is of ‘a commentary on the Thâi Shang Kan Ying Phien by a Lî Khang-ling,’ and immediately before it is a commentary on the short but well-known Yin Fû King by a Lû Tien, who lived 1042-1102. Immediately after it other works of the eleventh century are mentioned. To that same century therefore we may reasonably refer the origin of the Kan Ying Phien.
As to the meaning of the title, the only difficulty is with the two commencing characters Thâi Shang. Julien left them untranslated, with the note, however, that they were ‘l’abréviation de Thâi Shang Lâo Kün, expression honorifique par laquelle les Tâo-sze désignent Lâo-ȝze, le fondateur de leur secte1 .’The meaning of the title. This is the interpretation commonly given of the phrase, and it is hardly worth while to indicate any doubt of its correctness; but if the characters were taken, as I believe they were, from the beginning of the seventeenth chapter of the Tâo Teh King, I should prefer to understand them of the highest and oldest form of the Tâoistic teaching2 .
3. I quoted on page 13 the view of Hardwick, the Christian Advocate of Cambridge, that ‘the indefinite expression Tâo was adopted to denominate an abstract Cause, or the initial principle of life and order, to which worshippers were able to assign the attributes of immateriality, eternity, immensity, invisibility.’Was the old Tâoism a religion? His selection of the term worshippers in this passage was unfortunate. Neither Lâo nor Kwang says anything about the worship of the Tâo, about priests or monks, about temples or rituals. How could they do so, seeing that Tâo was not to them the name of a personal Being, nor ‘Heaven’ a metaphorical term equivalent to the Confucian Tî, ‘Ruler,’ or Shang Tî, ‘Supreme Ruler.’ With this agnosticism as to God, and their belief that by a certain management and discipline of the breath life might be prolonged indefinitely, I do not see how anything of an organised religion was possible for the old Tâoists.
The Tâoist proclivities of the founder of the Khin dynasty are well known. If his life had been prolonged, and the dynasty become consolidated, there might have arisen such a religion in connexion with Tâoism, for we have a record that he, as head of the Empire, had eight spirits1 to which he offered sacrifices. Khin, however, soon passed away; what remained in permanency from it was only the abolition of the feudal kingdom.
4. We cannot here attempt to relate in detail the rise and growth of the Kang family in which the headship of Tâoism has been hereditary since our first Christian century, with the exception of one not very long interruption.The family of Kang. One of the earliest members of it, Kang Liang, must have been born not long after the death of Kwang-ȝze, for he joined the party of Liû Pang, the founder of the dynasty of Han, in bc 208, and by his wisdom and bravery contributed greatly to his success over the adherents of Khin, and other contenders for the sovereignty of the empire. Abandoning then a political career, he spent the latter years of his life in a vain quest for the elixir of life.
Among Liang’s descendants in our first century was a Kang Tâo-ling, who, eschewing a career in the service of the state, devoted himself to the pursuits of alchemy, and at last succeeded in compounding the grand elixir or pill, and at the age of 123 was released from the trammels of the mortal body, and entered on the enjoyment of immortality, leaving to his descendants his books, talismans and charms, his sword, mighty against spirits, and his seal. Tâo-ling stands out, in Tâoist accounts, as the first patriarch of the system, with the title of Thien Shih, ‘Master or Preceptor of Heaven.’ Hsüan Ȝung of the Thang dynasty in 748, confirmed the dignity and title in the family; and in 1016 the Sung emperor Kăn Ȝung invested its representative with large tracts of land near the Lung-hû mountain in Kiang-hsî. The present patriarch—for I suppose the same man is still alive—made a journey from his residence not many years ago, and was interviewed by several foreigners in Shanghai. The succession is said to be perpetuated by the transmigration of the soul of Kang Tâo-ling into some infant or youthful member of the family; whose heirship is supernaturally revealed as soon as the miracle is effected1 .
This superstitious notion shows the influence of Buddhism on Tâoism. It has been seen from the eighteenth of the Books of Kwang-ȝze what affinities there were between Tâoism and the Indian system; and there can be no doubt that the introduction of the latter into China did more than anything else to affect the development of the Tâoistic system.Influence of Buddhism on Tâoism. As early as the time of Confucius there were recluses in the country, men who had withdrawn from the world, disgusted with its vanities and in despair from its disorders. Lâo would appear to have himself contemplated this course. When their representatives of our early centuries saw the Buddhists among them with their images, monasteries, and nunneries, their ritual and discipline, they proceeded to organise themselves after a similar fashion. They built monasteries and nunneries, framed images, composed liturgies, and adopted a peculiar mode of tying up their hair. The ‘Three Precious Ones’ of Buddhism, emblematic to the initiated of Intelligence personified in Buddha, the Law, and the Community or Church, but to the mass of the worshippers merely three great idols, styled by them Buddha Past, Present, and To Come: these appeared in Tâoism as the ‘Three Pure Ones,’ also represented by three great images, each of which receives the title of ‘His Celestial Eminence,’ and is styled the ‘Most High God (Shang Tî).’ The first of them is a deification of Chaos, the second, of Lâo-ȝze, and the third of I know not whom or what; perhaps of the Tâo.
But those Three Pure Ones have been very much cast into the shade, as the objects of popular worship and veneration, by Yü Hwang Tî or Yu Hwang Shang Tî. This personage appears to have been a member of the Kang clan, held to be a magician and venerated from the time of the Thang dynasty, but deified in 1116 by the Sung emperor Hui Ȝung at the instigation of a charlatan Lin Ling-sû, a renegade Buddhist monk. He is the god in the court of heaven to whom the spirits of the body and of the hearth in our treatise proceed at stated times to report for approval or condemnation the conduct of men.
Since the first publication of the Kan Ying Phien, the tenets of Buddhism have been still further adopted by the teachers of Tâoism, and shaped to suit the nature of their own system. I have observed that the idea of retribution in our treatise does not go beyond the present life; but the manifestoes of Tâoism of more recent times are much occupied with descriptions of the courts of purgatory and threatenings of the everlasting misery of hell to those whom their sufferings in those courts fail to wean from their wickedness. Those manifestoes are published by the mercy of Yü Hwang Shang Tî that men and women may be led to repent of their faults and make atonement for their crimes. They emanate from the temples of the tutelary deities1 which are found throughout the empire, and especially in the walled cities, and are under the charge of Tâoist monks. A visitor to one of the larger of these temples may not only see the pictures of the purgatorial courts and other forms of the modern superstitions, but he will find also astrologers, diviners, geomancers, physiognomists, et id genus omne, plying their trades or waiting to be asked to do so, and he will wonder how it has been possible to affiliate such things with the teachings of Lâo-ȝze.
Other manifestoes of a milder form, and more like our tractate, are also continually being issued as from one or other of what are called the state gods, whose temples are all in the charge of the same monks. In the approximation which has thus been going on of Tâoism to Buddhism, the requirement of celibacy was long resisted by the professors of the former; but recent editions of the Penal Code2 contain sundry regulations framed to enforce celibacy, to bind the monks and nuns of both systems to the observance of the Confucian maxims concerning filial piety, and the sacrificial worship of the dead; and also to restrict the multiplication of monasteries and nunneries. Neither Lâo nor Kwang was a celibate or recommended celibacy. The present patriarch, as a married man, would seem to be able still to resist the law.
[1 ] The sixth chapter of Lâo’s treatise, that about ‘the Spirit of the Valley,’ is referred to in Lieh-ȝze (I, 1b), as being from Hwang Tî, from which the commentator Tû Tâo-kien (about ad 1300) takes occasion to say: ‘From which we know that Lâo-ȝze was accustomed to quote in his treatise passages from earlier records,—as when he refers to the remarks of “some sage,” of “some ancient,” of “the sentence-makers,” and of “some writer on war.” In all these cases he is clearly introducing the words of earlier wise men. The case is like that of Confucius when he said, “I am a transmitter and not a maker,” &c.’ Found in Ȝiâo Hung, in loc.
[1 ] See in Books IX, X, and XII.
[1 ] In the present district of Ling-pâo, Shan Kâu, province of Ho-nan.
[1 ] In an ordinary Student’s Manual I find a note with reference to this incident to which it may be worth while to give a place here:—The warden, it is said, set before Lâo-ȝze a dish of tea; and this was the origin of the custom of tea-drinking between host and guest (see the , ch. 7, on Food and Drink).
[1 ] The earlier old man of the Ho-side is styled in Chinese ; the other ; but the designations have the same meaning. Some critical objections to the genuineness of the latter’s commentary on the ground of the style are without foundation.
[1 ] See Ȝiâo Hung’s Wings or Helps, ch. v, p. 11a.
[1 ] Notes on Chinese Literature, p. 173.
[1 ] A brother of Shih, Sû Kêh (Ȝze-yû and Ying-pin), wrote a remarkable commentary on the Tâo Teh King; but it was Shih who first discredited those four Books, in his Inscription for the temple of Kwang-ȝze, prepared in 1078.
[1 ] See the Khang-hsî Thesaurus (), under .
[1 ] Language and Languages, pp. 184, 185.
[1 ] Natur. Quaest. lib. II, cap. xlv.
[2 ] Martineau’s ‘Types of Ethical Theory,’ I, p. 286, and his whole ‘Conjectural History of Spinoza’s Thought.’
[3 ] is equivalent to the Greek ἡ ὁδός, the way. Where this name for the Christian system occurs in our Revised Version of the New Testament in the Acts of the Apostles, the literal rendering is adhered to, Way being printed with a capital W. See Acts ix. 2; xix. 9, 23; xxii. 4; xxiv. 14, 22.
[1 ]. The Khang-hsî dictionary defines thû by lû, road or way. Medhurst gives ‘road.’ Unfortunately, both Morrison and Williams overlooked this definition of the character. Giles has also a note in loc., showing how this synonym settles the original meaning of Tâo in the sense of ‘road.’
[1 ] The Tâo Teh King, ch. 25, and Kwang-ȝze, XIII, par. 1.
[2 ] See ‘Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio,’ vol. i, p. 1, note 2.
[1 ] Kwang Khăng-ȝze heads the list of characters in Ko Hung’s ‘History of Spirit-like Immortals (),’ written in our fourth century. ‘He was,’ it is said, ‘an Immortal of old, who lives on the hill of M‘ung-thung in a grotto of rocks.’
[1 ] For this sentence we find in Mr. Balfour:—‘Spirits of the dead, receiving It, become divine; the very gods themselves owe their divinity to its influence; and by it both Heaven and Earth were produced.’ The version of it by Mr. Giles is too condensed:—‘Spiritual beings drew their spirituality therefrom, while the universe became what we see it now.’
[1 ] Compare also Bk. XXII, parr. 7, 8, and XXIII, par. 10.
[2 ] Mr. Balfour had given for this sentence:—‘In the beginning of all things there was not even nothing. There were no names; these arose afterwards.’ In his critique on Mr. Balfour’s version in 1882, Mr. Giles proposed:—‘At the beginning of all things there was nothing; but this nothing had no name.’ He now in his own version gives for it, ‘At the beginning of the beginning, even nothing did not exist. Then came the period of the nameless;’—an improvement, certainly, on the other; but which can hardly be accepted as the correct version of the text.
[1 ] The Tâo Teh King, ch. 14; et al.
[2 ] Ch. 50.
[1 ] That is, between heaven and earth.
[1 ] Quoted in the Amplification of the Sixteen Precepts or Maxims of the second emperor of the present dynasty by his son. The words are from Dr. Milne’s version of ‘the Sacred Edict,’ p. 137.
[2 ] In his Index to the Tripitaka, Mr. Bunyio Nanjio (p. 359) assigns Liû Mî and his work to the Yuan dynasty. In a copy of the work in my possession they are assigned to that of Sung. The author, no doubt, lived under both dynasties,—from the Sung into the Yuan.
[1 ] See note on p. 187 of his Kwang-ȝze.
[2 ] See Bk. XV, par. 1.
[1 ] Bk. XI, par. 5.
[2 ] Bk. XVI, par. 2.
[3 ] Tâo Teh King, ch. 19.
[1 ] Confucian Analects, XIV, 36.
[1 ] Julien translates this by ‘il erre à l’aventure.’ In 1861 I rendered it, ‘He moves as if his feet were entangled.’ To one critic it suggests the idea of a bundle or wisp of brushwood rolled about over the ground by the wind.
[1 ] The characters may mean ‘the old boy,’ and so understood have given rise to various fabulous legends; that his mother had carried him in her womb for seventy-two years (some say, for eighty-one), and that when born the child had the white hair of an old man. Julien has translated the fabulous legend of Ko Hung of our fourth century about him. By that time the legends of Buddhism about Sâkyamuni had become current in China, and were copied and applied to Lâo-ȝze by his followers. Looking at the meaning of the two names, I am surprised no one has characterized Lâo-ȝze as the Chinese Seneca.
[1 ] Khang-sang Ȝze is evidently the Kăng-sang Khû of Kwang’s Book XXIII. Wei-lêi Hsü is supposed by Sze-mâ Kăng of the Thang dynasty, who called himself the Lesser Sze-mâ, to be the name of a Book; one, in that case, of the lost books of Kwang. But as we find the ‘Hill of Wei-lêi’ mentioned in Bk. XXIII as the scene of Kăng-sang Khû’s Tâoistic labours and success, I suppose that Khien’s reference is to that. The names are quoted by him from memory, or might be insisted on as instances of different readings.
[1 ] Notes on Chinese Literature, p. 179.
[1 ] See ‘Le Livre des Récompense et des Peines en Chinois et en François’ (London, 1835).
[2 ] The designation of Lâo-ȝze as Thâi Shang Lâo Kün originated probably in the Thang dynasty. It is on record that in 666 Kâo Ȝung, the third emperor, went to Lâo-ȝze’s temple at Po Kâu (the place of Lâo’s birth, and still called by the same name, in the department of Făng-yang in An-hui), and conferred on him the title of Thâi Shang Yüan Yüan Hwang Tî, ‘The Great God, the Mysterious Originator, the Most High.’ ‘Then,’ says Mayers, Manual, p. 113, ‘for the first time he was ranked among the gods as “Great Supreme, the Emperor (or Imperial God) of the Dark First Cause.” ’ The whole entry is (or ) . Later on, in 1014, we find kăn Ȝung, the fourth Sung emperor, also visiting Po Kâu, and in Lâo’s temple, which has by this time become ‘the Palace of Grand Purity,’ enlarging his title to Thâi Shang Lâo Kün Hwun Yüan Shang Teh Hwang Tî, ‘The Most High, the Ruler Lâo, the Great God of Grand Virtue at the Chaotic Origin.’ But such titles are not easily translated.
[1 ] The eight spirits were:—1. The Lord of Heaven; 2. The Lord of Earth; 3. The Lord of War; 4. The Lord of the Yang operation; 5. The Lord of the Yin operation; 6. The Lord of the Moon; 7. The Lord of the Sun; and 8. The Lord of the Four Seasons. See Mayers’s C. R. Manual, pp. 327, 328. His authority is the sixth of Sze-mâ Khien’s monographs. Khien seems to say that the worship of these spirits could be traced to Thâi Kung, one of the principal ministers of kings Wăn and Wû at the rise of the Kâu dynasty in the twelfth century bc, and to whom in the list of Tâoist writings in the Imperial Library of Han, no fewer than 237 phien are ascribed.
[1 ] See Mayers’s C. R. Manual, Part I, article 35.
[1 ] Called Khăng Hwang Miâo, ‘Wall and Moat Temples,’ Palladia of the city.
[2 ] See Dr. Eitel’s third edition of his ‘Three Lectures on Buddhism,’ pp. 36-45 (Hongkong: Lane, Crawford & Co., 1884). The edition of the Penal Code to which he refers is of 1879.