Tzu-kung said, "Then is it true that the Perfect Man can command corpse-like stillness and dragon vision, the voice of thunder and the silence of deep pools; that he breaks forth into movement like Heaven and earth? If only I too could get to see him!"I am dealing with a nasty cold, so my thinking cap isn't working too well. The upshot here is that I don't have anything to write about this snippet, except ah-choo!
In the end he went with an introduction from Confucius and called on Lao Tan. Lao Tan was about to sit down in the hall and stretch out his legs. In a small voice he said, "I've lived to see a great many years come and go. What advice is it you have for me?"
Tzu-kung said, "The Three August Ones and the Five Emperors ruled the world in ways that were not the same, though they were alike in the praise and acclaim they won. I am told, Sir, that you alone do not regard them as sages. May I ask why?"
Lao Tan said, "Young man, come a little closer! Why do you say that they ruled in ways that were not the same?"
"Yao ceded the throne to Shun, and Shun ceded it to Yu. Yu wore himself out over it, and T'ang even resorted to war. King Wen obeyed Chou and did not dare to rebel; but his son King Wu turned against Chou and refused to remain loyal. Therefore I say that they were not the same."
Lao Tan said, "Young man, come a little closer and I will tell you how the Three August Ones and the Five Emperors ruled the world. In ancient times the Yellow Emperor ruled the world by making the hearts of the people one. Therefore, if there were those among the people who did not wail at the death of their parents, the people saw nothing wrong in this. Yao ruled the world by making the hearts of the people affectionate. Therefore, if there were those among the people who decided to mourn for longer or shorter periods according to the degree of kinship of the deceased, the people saw nothing wrong in this. Shun ruled the world by making the hearts of the people rivalrous.
Therefore the wives of the people became pregnant and gave birth in the tenth month as in the past, but their children were not five months old before they were able to talk, and their baby laughter had hardly rung out before they had begun to distinguish one person from another. It was then that premature death first appeared. Yu ruled the world by causing the hearts of the people to change. It was assumed that each man had a heart of his own, that recourse to arms was quite all right. Killing a thief is not a case of murder, they said; every man in the world should look out for his own kind. As a result, there was great consternation in the world, and the Confucians and Mo-ists all came forward, creating for the first time the rules of ethical behavior. But what would they say of those men who nowadays make wives of their daughters?
~ Burton Watson translation ~
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