This Book is named from the first two characters in it, 'Zeh-yang,' which again are the designation of a gentleman of Lû, called Phäng Yang, who comes before us in Khû, seeking for an introduction to the king of that state, with the view, we may suppose, of giving him good counsel. Whether he ever got the introduction which he desired we do not know. The mention of him only serves to bring in three other individuals, all belonging to Khû, and the characters of two of them; but we hear no more of Zeh-yang. The second and third paragraphs are, probably, sequels to the first, but his name does not appear.
The paragraphs from 4 to 9 have more or less interest in themselves; but it is not easy to trace in them any sequence of thought. The tenth and eleventh are more important. The former deals with 'the Talk of the Hamlets and Villages,' the common sentiments of men, which, correct and just in themselves, are not to be accepted as a sufficient expression of the Tâo; the latter sets forth how the name Tâo itself is only a metaphorical term, used for the purpose of description; as if the Tâo were a thing, and not capable, therefore, from its material derivation of giving adequate expression to our highest notion of what it is.
'The Book,' says Lû Shû-kih, 'illustrates how the Great Tâo cannot be described by any name; that men ought to
stop where they do not really know, and not try to find it in any phenomenon, or in any event or thing. They must forget both speech and silence, and then they may approximate to the idea of the Great Tâo.'