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p. xi



Written from materials supplied by Mr. M. T. Lien.

   The writings and the philosophy of Huai Nan Tzû, are deeply rooted in the ideas of Lao Tan, the reputed founder of Taoism. In order, therefore, to have a better understanding of the teaching of Huai Nan Tzû, it is necessary to be acquainted with the learning of Lao Tan.

   It is well to remember that there were two influences in the training of Lao Tan, one being his vocation, the other his environment. His vocation was that of Royal Historiographer. He had, thus, the means of knowledge and of intercourse denied to most. His environment, undoubtedly, coloured his views and modified all his ideas. It, in many respects, directed his thoughts, as he surveyed his surroundings, to a consideration of the true and lasting foundation of social and political life. It was the conditions of Eastern Chou that formed his environment. The laws of the State were in decay and human relationships in ruins. Loyalty and filial piety, which are the pillars of society, were rotten; and truth and justice were languishing. Ministers murdered their princes and sons their fathers. There was anarchy and disloyalty. Lao Tan, being the historian, knew well the history of the country from ancient times, and could trace the causes that had produced the lamentable anarchy of his times. This explains a passage in the Han work, Records of the Arts and Literature of the Han ### which says that the Taoist stream of ideas issued from the Ministry of History. The Minister had studied and knew the successive periods of the rise and fall, the vitality and dissolution of kingdoms, through the ages, and, therefore, appreciated important principles and grasped the essentials of the success and failures of government. The principles of success, he p. xii judged, depended on purity, spirituality, humility and yieldingness."

   These sentences may help us to understand the thoughts that sprung up in the mind of Lao Tzû as he contemplated the lessons of history and the deplorable conditions that prevailed at his time. So, in a sense, the Tao Tê Ching is the philosophy of the history of contemporary times.

   That little classic of 5,000 words was the background of Huai Nan Tzû and his friends, in their studies and writings. So, in reading his essays, the ideas of Lao Tan must be kept in mind and read with that in view. We may consider Lao Tan's ideas from six points of view.

   1. His cosmology. This is based on Naturalism. He recognised a fundamental cause. Comparing his view with that of Abraham, we find that he was less positive. His is a more abstract view than Abraham's. The latter was more concrete in his theory. He gave the name of Jehovah to the Power which he saw manifested in the universe. This concrete appellation was a useful personification of the abstract. It, at once, revealed the genius of the Hebrew people in religious matters. It was a more intimate mode of thinking of the Power behind the universe, than that thought of by Lao Tzû in the word Naturalism. It was, also, less definite than the name used by Abraham. But they are similar in one sense: both recognise the manifestation of Power. This is explicitly stated in Chapter 25 of the Tao Tê Ching. "There was something undefined and complete, coming into existence before Heaven and Earth. How still it was and formless, standing alone, and undergoing no change, reaching everywhere and in no danger (of exhaustion)! It may be regarded as the mother of all things. "I do not know its name, and I give it the designation of the Tao." "I am, also, forced to add the name Great." Great Tao.

   His definition is vague and shadowy, but it is clear, that he thought of it as independent and unvariable, somewhat p. xiii similar to the Christian term 'sole and primary nature',—'the Absolute, without beginning and ending', "with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning." He thus viewed Naturalism as the absolute. No name was big enough to cover it; so he gave it the conventional name of Tao. He added the word "Great", lest Tao, alone, might be confused with the ordinary tao in current use. This word great may be compared with Lord. In a way it may be synonymous with Jehovah. Yet it would not be right for us to give the same significance to Tao.

   Tao begat one, and one begat two: two begat three, and three begat all things, i.e., Creation. The existent came from the non-existent. Now Lao Tzû had said that Heaven followed Tao, Tao followed Naturalness. So when he said, "Tao begat one and one begat two," it may be concluded that he implied that there was something above Tao which begat it. This something was Naturalness. This is like 'self-existing'. And it may be legitimately argued that he was an advocate of monotheism, and, indirectly his teaching may imply a Trinity.

   2. His view of Life. His view of the cosmos being vague, consequently his view of life, likewise, could not be clear. His view partakes somewhat of negativity. All things are examined and judged from the standard supplied by the Annals or the Spring and Autumn Classic. This classic is a description of the anarchy of the period,—about 242 years. During this period, there were 36 cases of regicide, of which more than half were parricides. It was this tragic state that led Confucius to compose the Annals. Though Mencius said this work aroused fear in the hearts of regicides, yet it is to be questioned whether the statement is correct. Confucius did his best; but reform, to be effectual, must be radical in dealing with such conditions. The reforms of Confucius were not radical enough. In his social system, he placed the relation of prince and minister at the head of the five relationships. But in this he erred. The head relationship should be husband and p. xiv wife. If this had been so established, the others would follow without derangement.

   Just think! The emperor takes nine wives: the dukes married 5 women each. Besides these, there were the women in the three palaces, the 27 honourable women on the 6 courts; the 81 "court wives" and a multitude of others!

   In the palace of the Emperor, Ch‛in Shih, there were concubines who had not seen the face of the emperor for 36 years! The nine ladies who were taken, were the sisters of the 9 empresses; and the wives of their brothers all came into the Court. The idea of getting them all from the clan, was the hope that it would bring harmony and concord into the imperial circle, that strife and contention would be averted and the spirit of coöperation would exist amongst them all. It never occurred to them that this method was the subversion of the ordinances of Heaven. Strife and bickerings were rampant in the palace circle, which, in fact, were more bitter than a war between two countries. The children and the young people that were brought up in this circle moved in a most poisonous atmosphere. They heard the gossip of the women from morning to night. The chief topics would concern state affairs and the work of the regicides and parricides, and all the rivalries and schemings that were all too rife. What an environment! What an evil training for young people who would be future rulers in the kingdom. One can't picture the iniquities of these women nor be surprised at their machinations. The blight of Heaven fell and rested on the children, because the marital relationships were corrupt.

   Confucius did not attempt to make any radical and healthy reform in all this mass of iniquity, arising from a social condition that was monstrously wrong. He did not pull tile fire from under the kettle—the only radical way of reforming the evils,—he simply added a little more water to the boiling kettle, which, in the end, made things all the worse. This hell was not quenched, but rather made p. xv more fierce. He, himself, was a divorced person. His sons and grandsons were all tainted with the same blemishes. He helped, thus, to increase the anarchy of the times. Hence, Lao Tzû said, "If the sage does not die, robbers will not cease from the land.": and again, "Stop the sages and abandon the wise, and the good of the people will be advanced a hundred-fold. Stop benevolence, abandon righteousness, and, then, the people will have filiality. Stop cleverness, give up the practice of profit, and there will be no robbers." He says again, "When the Great Way is abandoned, the sage (Confucianist) resorts to jen i, benevolence and justice." But these creations are artificial: they have the appearance of wisdom and knowledge; but they give rise to many counterfeits and hypocrisies. "When the six relationships came to lack harmony, filial sons did appear. When the country came to anarchy, loyal ministers appeared." (Chap. 18).

   From these words we see that Lao Tzû assigned the anarchy of a country to the teaching of the sages. Further, that the sages were illogical in their method of advancing the art of wisdom and cleverness. That is to say, this method was not radical in reforming and guiding society. The true method of reform is to take the fuel from under the pot—the boiling hell.

   To explain the foregoing. The first two sentences mean that the sage, in his use of jen and i, was not consistent with the Great Way. His use of wisdom and cleverness made it easy for counterfeits to appear. The last two sentences show that the stress on filial piety, by the sage, led to the loss of other human relations: and the high value placed on loyalty of minister, sacrificed the interests of the country leading to anarchy and confusion.

   Lao Tzû, in the passages quoted, wholly opposed the doctrines of the Confucian sage, and said they should be abolished. Then Society would benefit. For, as long as they existed, progress was impossible. The contrast in the result of the one and the other is marked and great. The p. xvi artificial creation of moralities invariably leads to the desire to possess: the possessive element appears strongly. But the natural morality has a creative impulse. It enriches the nature, and therefore there is a constant advance in life and freedom. The artificial morality tends to enslave men and bind them down in the bonds of traditionalism. Work depends on the spiritual and not on the material. In the spiritual sphere, there is always the giving and the receiving. One does not exist without the other. "He that hath shall have more: he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.'

   We shall see this more clearly if we examine the official life of Confucius. When he was Minister in Luh, his face generally wore a smile. But his rule was stern. He put to death powerful politicians and dismissed others. He issued death capitulations which were rigorous. These measures show his domineering nature and his attempt to be the supreme master. All had to follow his will, and those who refused were threatened with death. In face of this, Lao Tzû said, "Heaven and Earth (according to the Confucian creed) have no humanity: all things are considered as 'grass dogs'. Humanity is of no more value than a scarecrow." The Confucian justified his severity by saying that nature produces, in spring, and kills, in autumn. This is a most inhuman doctrine. Nature's course is constructive and for the well being of man. The slaying of opponents is quite another matter and bears no relation to the beneficent work of nature. The sage, in his acts, made it impossible to find the harmony of things. The result was that the rule of Confucius lasted only three months.

   When he paid a visit to the temple of Duke Huan and saw the leaning vessel—which stood upright when half full, but turned right over when full to the brim, he was awakened to the correct meaning of the lesson and how man should not be proud of his powers.

   He met Lao Tzû when he visited Chou. Lao Tzû, in p. xvii bidding him good-bye, said: "The scholars of the present time are most learned; but, when they criticise people, they get near death: wide and profound criticism of life is well; but when the evil of men is exposed, there is danger to the critic. A man should not live to himself: a minister should not consider himself." Confucius said. "Most respectfully do I receive your instruction," When he saw the bronze man with the sewn-up lips, with the inscription on the backside saying: "Be warned, Be warned! Don't speak much: many words mean many defeats. Don't meddle in many things: meddling with many things means much sorrow. Be warned in your joys, and in your life of quiet! Good behaviour brings no regrets. Don't say it is of no consequence; it may bring a long anguish."

   "Don't say: What harm is there in it? The harm may be great. Don't say: "There is no in jury in doing this." The distress may be overwhelming. Don't say: "Nobody hears it." (God will not know). The Spirit watches actions. The flame when not extinguished may burst into a consuming fire. If the driblets of water are not stopped, they will become streams and rivers. When the silk thread is pulled without end, it may become a net (i.e., small faults may entrap you, so that that you cannot get free). The growing sprig, if not pulled up, will become the handle of a hammer (which will do mischief). Real carefulness is the root of happiness." Again we have, "What harm is it?" says one. "Ah! such a view is the gate of disaster." The aggressive man will not have a natural death. He who is fond of striving to be first will meet with defeat. The arrogant and aggressive master will not be welcomed at the head of affairs. The Superior Man, who understands that an aggressive person will not stand at the top, keeps humble: he knows the aggressive man is not liked, so will keep in the background. People long for the man who is gentle, sincere, virtuous. Meekness will not strive to be first: yet, nothing will get ahead of it. If all were to scramble for first place, yet, humility and yieldingness would be my attitude, even if I was the only one. Were all to hesitate p. xviii in following humility, yet, I would follow, even were I the only one. I would hide my intelligence and not display my skill, even then were I in a most honourable position, men would not harm me. Who can act thus? Rivers, though winding, are longer than brooks. The Heavenly Way, though high and distant, is humbler than men's." Confucius understood and withdrew.

   3. His method of self-culture. This consists of (a) Simplicity. (b) Self-knowledge. (c) Self-control. Simplicity casts out all lustful desire. Lust of wine, women, wealth, pleasure, extravagance, luxury, amusements will be eliminated. This is what Lao Tzû means when he speaks of the 5 colours blinding men's eyes, the five tones deafening men's ears and the 5 flavours tickling men's appetites, riding and hunting which derange men's minds. (Chap. 12). Rare objects, and strange, encourage the evil desires of men."

   Such are his ideas of simplicity, viz., the elimination and suppression of the seductions of eye, ear and taste. Lao Tzu said: "He who knows men, has wisdom: Self knowledge is clarity: he who overcomes men has strength, and he who overcomes himself is mighty: he who has contentment has wealth, and he who has self-conquest has will-power.

   Knowledge of men is nothing but a kind of wisdom: but he who knows himself, has true light. Wisdom is gathered from environment and is outward; but the true light comes from within. When the inner clarity is beclouded, wisdom is befogged. Jesus said, "If the light within thee is dark, the darkness is profound." "The overcoming of men is strength; but self-mastery is the great energy. True wisdom is wealth and the exercise of strength is volition. Persistence will ensure eternal life.

   The Taoist method of seeking immortality is not that of the school of Chang Tao-ling, hunting for the elixir of immortality, and their art for becoming a genii. All this is unscientific.

   4. His moral system. He has three views on ethics, which may be taken as mottoes of life. (a) Mercifulness. p. xix (b) Thrift. (c) Meekness. Lao Tzû says, (Chap. 67) "I have 3 precious things which I prize and hold fast. Gentleness, economy and a shrinking from taking precedence of others" (Legge). Compassion, self-restraint, refusal to claim precedence of others (Medhurst).

   Compassion gives courage; temperance gives ample-mindedness and liberality. By shrinking from the struggle for precedence, the physical life is lengthened. When men abandon these three precious things, they hurry on in the path of death. Compassion will be victorious in life: rely on it and you will be firm. Heaven always protects with compassion.

   It is recognised that Lao Tzû had courage; but it is forgotten that this came from his compassion: men recognise he had liberality but forget that it sprung from his temperance: they know, too, his preëminence; but they are unaware that this came from his diffidence and his not pushing himself forward. Jesus also said: "The last shall be first and the first last." The spirit that is willing to be last, comes to be the first.

   5. His Political theory. Purity and tranquility are the leading ideas. Ancillary to these, we have (ning) peace of mind and unity. So Lao Tzû says: "Heaven is bright and pure, by unity: earth is restful, by unity: the soul wins unity through the spiritual: the valleys are full through it (unity); creation is life-giving, through unity: rules get the model of life, which they give to all, by it. (unity: tao). (C. 39) All these are the work of the One, (Tao). When the unity or the Cosmic Spirit is obtained, there is no need for rigorous laws and stern regulations, in order to win the people and keep them. Hence, the 1st Emperor of the Han, when he entered and occupied the Han Ku Pass, swept away the rigorous laws of Ch‛in Shih Huang and made a few simple and humane laws. These were the foundation of the Han dynasty. These plans were determined by Hsiao Ao, Ts‛ao Ch‛an, Ch‛en P‛ing, Ch‛ang Liang. (Advisers of the emperor). As a result of these spiritual ideas, the Western Han was most peaceful under p. xx the Taoist regime of ideas. The first principle of the Taoist conception of government is to have peace and concord. The idea is expressed in the 80th chapter of Tao Tê Ching. It was to be a kingdom of simplicity. That would be his ideal, if he were ruler. The ideal is wholly different from the complex state of modern times. It was a state of moderate population: a people rude and uncultured, abstaining from war and all travel, having little intercourse with others and without the appliances of civilization. This is, in idea, similar to other Utopias of the world.

   6. His view of war. Lao Tzû was averse to the use of soldiers and was definitely anti-war. He has given expression to this in many places, but, in particular, in the 30th chapter.

   "He who would assist his sovereign by the Tao will not coerce the State by armies. Such action is most likely to come back on the user. Where the hosts meet, there thorns and briers will spring up. After great military movements there is sure to ensue bad years. The soldier is a vessel of bad omen. If anyone rejoices in using them there are but ill prospects ahead. The world is a spiritual vessel and should not be subject to this physical force. He who handles this instrument will be defeated finally: he who grasps it will lose it. If weapons are used in the coercion of men, it will be vain: for the people do not fear death really. So how can death be used to frighten them? People think little of death, if they can get fulness of life.

   These 6 points express the main ideas of Lao Tzû, as seen in his little classic of 5,000 words.

   The Taoist view of war may be summed up in this way. Militarism is not required, when the government is governing. When there is good government and the military is efficient, no vassal would dare to attack. When war is inevitable, the organization should be so perfect that victory would be certain in the most sanguinary conflict. But it is to be remembered that, over and over again, war is denounced as harmful and most anti-social.