Khiû Shui, or 'Autumn Waters,' the first two characters of the first paragraph of this Book, are adopted as its title. Its subject, in that paragraph, however, is not so much the waters of autumn, as the greatness of the Tâo in its spontaneity, when it has obtained complete dominion over man. No illustration of the Tâo is so great a favourite with Lâo-dze as water, but he loved to set it forth in its quiet, onward movement, always seeking the lowest place, and always exercising a beneficent influence. But water is here before Kwang-dze in its mightiest volume,--the inundated Ho and the all but boundless magnitude of the ocean; and as he takes occasion from those phenomena to deliver his lessons, I translate the title by 'The Floods of Autumn.'
To adopt the account of the Book given by Lû Shû-kih:--'This Book,' he says, shows how its spontaneity is the greatest characteristic of the Tâo, and the chief thing inculcated in it is that we must not allow the human element to extinguish in our constitution the Heavenly.
'First, using the illustrations of the Ho and the Sea, our author gives us to see the Five Tîs and the Kings of the Three dynasties as only exhibiting the Tâo, in a small degree, while its great development is not to be found in outward form and appliances so that it cannot be described in words, and it is difficult to find its point of commencement, which indeed appears to be impracticable, while still by doing nothing the human may be united with the Heavenly, and men may bring back their True condition. By means of the conversations between the guardian spirit of the Ho and Zo (the god) of the Sea this subject is exhaustively treated.
'Next (in paragraph 8), the khwei, the millepede, and other subjects illustrate how the mind is spirit-like in its spontaneity and doing nothing. The case of Confucius (in par. 9) shows the same spontaneity, transforming violence.
[paragraph continues] Kung-sun Lung (in par. 10), refusing to comply with that spontaneity, and seeking victory by his sophistical reasonings, shows his wisdom to be only like the folly of the frog in the well. The remaining three paragraphs bring before us Kwang-dze by the spontaneity of his Tâo, now superior to the allurements of rank; then, like the phnix flying aloft, as enjoying himself in perfect ease; and finally, as like the fishes, in the happiness of his self-possession.' Such is a brief outline of this interesting chapter. Many of the critics would expunge the ninth and tenth paragraphs as unworthy of Kwang-dze, the former as misrepresenting Confucius, the latter as extolling himself. I think they may both be allowed to stand as from his pencil.