2. The Laozi
2.1. Visual Metaphors
Accordingly, the Way is not only “indistinct”, but, at the same time, also “dim” and “dark”. However, inside of its “dimness” there is a genuine and reliable “essence” (jing 精). While giving here no explanation as to how this dark essence can be recognized, the Laozi still employs a number of visual metaphors when talking about the realization of its highest truths. These metaphors seem to be distinct from the ordinary use of vision (shi 視) whose role is consistently rejected (chapters 14 and 35). The most significant among them is “clear-sightedness; illumination or enlightenment” (ming 明) appearing in the text twelve times.10 Laozi 52 is particularly dense in regard to visual metaphors as well as the related imagery of light:恍兮忽兮, 其中有物。窈兮冥兮, 其中有精; 其精甚真, 其中有信。Shadowy and indistinct,Yet within it is a substance.Dim and dark,Yet within it is an essence.This essence is quite genuineAnd within it is something that can be tested.
見小曰明, 守柔曰強。用其光, 復歸其明, 無遺身殃; 是為習常。(Laozi 52A/18/5)
The opening definition of this passage was interpreted very differently by the two most influential commentators of the Laozi, Wang Bi 王弼 (226–249) and (legendary) Heshang Gong 河上公. While the former reads the first two characters as “manifesting smallness” (xian xiao 見小), that is, assuming humble public appearance (as a ruler)11, Heshang Gong interprets them as “seeing the small”, highlighting the sage’s unique visual abilities, that is, cognition.12 The latter view has become the standard interpretation of the passage. And even though in this particular example, Heshang Gong understands the object of sagely cognition, the “small” (xiao 小), as the time when “misfortune and disorder are not yet manifest” (huo luan wei xian 禍亂未見), “smallness” is one of the main attributes of the Way in other chapters (most prominently, in Laozi 32)13, so that interpreting the “small” as the Way would certainly be in line with the text’s standpoint.Seeing what is small is called enlightenment. Keeping to weakness is called strength. Use the light. Revert to enlightenment. And thereby avoid danger to one’s life—This is called practicing the eternal.
Although the subject of the sentence, the “sage” (sheng ren 聖人), is absent from the earliest excavated versions of the text (Gao 1996, p. 112), it is clear from context that these lines depict an ideal form of behaviour. “To shine but not dazzle” means, in Heshang Gong’s interpretation, that the sage, although having unique cognitive abilities, makes his outer appearance “obscure” (anmei 闇昧) so as “to not bedazzle people with his brightness” (不以曜亂人)20. This is consistent with the depiction of the sage in Laozi 70 as someone who “while clad in homespun, conceals on his person a priceless piece of jade” (聖人被褐懷玉) (Lau 2001, p. 102).21是以聖人方而不割, 廉而不劌, 直而不肆, 光而不燿。Therefore the sage is square-edged but does not scrape,Has corners but does not jab,Extends himself but not at the expense of others,Shines but does not dazzle.
2.2. Auditory Metaphors
In contrast to “listening”, “hearing” does not always involve a direct experience of the matter so perceived as it can also mean “to hear about” something. This is the meaning in which this verb figures in the above passage, talking about instruction on the principles of the Way which, depending on the students’ abilities, may or may not lead to their comprehension. Alan Chan has pointed out that the verb “hearing” as employed in Confucian classics often involves more than just auditory perception, referring to “asking questions, thinking, evaluating, and in short, the proves of learning and knowing through dialogue and critical engagement” (Chan 2014, p. 110). How much of it is true in regard to the Laozi is unclear but it certainly would not be an exaggeration to say that by introducing the topic of “hearing” the text acknowledges the importance of instruction. In light of this, it stands to reason that, although famously rejecting the conventional/Confucian curriculum for self-cultivation, the Laozi still suggested its own program which, ideally, could lead to the realization of the Way. This shows that the direct experience and comprehension of the Way vigorously championed by the text is embedded in the greater context in which a student initially has to accept and follow certain prescripts reflecting the authoritative experiences of others. Laozi 50 gives a good example of how “hearing” can refer to such authoritative knowledge formulated by others:上士聞道, 勤而行之; 中士聞道, 若存若亡; 下士聞道, 大笑之。不笑不足以為道。When the best student hears about the Way he practices it assiduously; When the average student hears about the Way it seems to him one moment there and gone the next; When the worst student hears about the way he laughs out loud. If he did not laugh it would be unworthy of being the way.
The author of the Laozi clearly valorises this statement reflecting someone else’s insight and accepts its authority.蓋聞善攝生者, 陸行不遇兕虎, 入軍不被甲兵; 兕無所投其角, 虎無所措其爪, 兵無所容其刃。I have heard it said that one who excels in safeguarding his own life does not meet with rhinoceros or tigers when travelling on land nor is he touched by weapons when charging into an army.
2.3. “Grasping” and “Following” Metaphors
Although it might be argued that the “way of antiquity” (gu zhi dao 古之道)24 is distinct from the Way as the source of the universe and an entity which can be experienced, other chapters mention “grasping” in a context allowing such an interpretation, just like the opening lines from chapter 35:執古之道,以御今之有。Hold fast to the way of antiquityIn order to keep in control the realm of today.
Heshang Gong interprets the “great image” (da xiang 大象) as the Way.25 In both cases then, “grasping” the Way leads to the effective management of political affairs. Given this, it is not surprising to also find passages praising the advantages of “using” (yong 用) the Way (chps. 4, 6, 35 and 45).執大象,天下往。Have in your hold the great imageAnd the empire will come to you.
2.4. Visual and Auditory Metaphors in the Context of the Laozi’s Philosophy
3. The Zhuangzi
3.1. Visual Metaphors
While Confucius’ appeal to put the mind and knowledge on the “outside” (wai 外) is sometimes understood as the expression of Zhuangzi’s “intuitionism” which exceeds the “regular function of human senses” (Liu 2015, p. 216), the reference to senses here is still apparent. The eyes (and ears) are to be directed inwardly (nei 內), possibly to detect the “empty chamber” (xu shi 虛室) that is told to emit “brightness” (bai 白). This “brightness” appears to emerge only under certain circumstances and in a specific environment (as communicated through the enigmatic notion of “closed room” (que 闋)), which is a possible hint to certain techniques (associated with emptiness).29瞻彼闋者, 虛室生白, 吉祥止止。… 夫徇耳目內通而外於心知, 鬼神將來舍, 而況人乎! (Zhuangzi 4/10/3–4)Look into that closed room, the empty chamber where brightness is born! Fortune and blessing gather where there is stillness. […] Let your ears and eyes communicate with what is inside and put mind and knowledge on the outside. Then even gods and spirits will come to dwell, not to speak of men!
因是因非, 因非因是。是以聖人不由, 而照之于天, 亦因是也。是亦彼也, 彼亦是也。… 彼是莫得其偶, 謂之道樞。樞始得其環中, 以應無窮。是亦一無窮, 非亦一無窮也。故曰「莫若以明」。(Zhuangzi 2/4/14–20)
While seemingly solely criticizing the limitations and rigidity of Confucians and Mohists, this passage rather addresses the inevitable restrictions of any particular “view”. The “hinge of the Way” (dao shu 道樞)—another metaphor for how the problem of partiality and bias is to be solved—is usually associated with the central position in a circle which is equally removed from the periphery representing opposing views and conflicting opinions. When observed from this centre, “this” and “that” no longer stand in opposition to each other. Returning to the imagery of vision and light, we see that “using clarity” and “illuminating things in the light of Heaven” expands the initially limited area of what one can “see”.“This” and “that” are mutually dependent; right and wrong are also mutually dependent. Therefore, the sage does not proceed in such a way but illuminates all in the light of Heaven. And that too is only a case of going by the rightness of the present “this.” “This” is also a “that.” “That” is also a “this.” […] A state in which “this” and “that” no longer find their opposites is called the hinge of the Way. When the hinge is fitted into the socket, it can respond endlessly. For it has an endless supply of “rights,” and an endless supply of “wrongs.” So I say, the best thing to use is clarity.
名實未虧, 而喜怒為用, 亦因是也。是以聖人和之以是非, 而休乎天鈞, 是之謂兩行。(Zhuangzi 2/5/5–6)
Accordingly, the sage, resting in the centre of the “potter’s wheel of Heaven” (tian jun 天鈞)—yet another metaphor for the exemplary being’s detachment from common value judgments (for more, see De Reu 2010)—is able to “harmonize” (he 和) with others’ “right” and “wrong” by adapting his actions to a concrete situation. In the case of the monkey keeper, his actions seemed to be determined by “the prospect of conflict” and the attempt to “diffuse” it (De Reu 2010, pp. 52–53). Hence, it stands to reason that “using clarity” and “illuminating things in light of Heaven” includes profound knowledge of different life situations and appropriate strategies for dealing with them in a harmonious manner. In other words, sages know how “to change their practice to fit different contexts in ordinary life” (Lai and Wai 2013, p. 537). The harmony that the sage thus achieves concerns his everyday interactions and is ultimately based on his understanding of the complex interrelation between the different perspectives (Ziporyn 2003, p. 53).There was no change in the reality behind the words and yet the monkeys responded with joy and anger. This is also an example of following “this”. So the sage harmonizes the right and wrong of things and rests at the centre of the potter’s wheel of Heaven. This is called walking two roads.
3.2. Auditory Metaphors
仲尼曰: 「若一志, 无聽之以耳而聽之以心, 无聽之以心而聽之以氣。聽止於耳, 心止於符。氣也者, 虛而待物者也。唯道集虛。虛者, 心齋也。」顏回曰: 「回之未始得使, 實自回也; 得使之也, 未始有回也。可謂虛乎? 」夫子曰: 「盡矣。」(Zhuangzi 4/10/1–4)
Accordingly, Confucius distinguishes between the three different levels with which a person engage in the physical act of listening: using the “ears” (er 耳), “heart” (xin 心) and qi 氣.32 Among them, only the former denotes auditory perception in the generic sense, while “listening with qi” is often explained in terms of meditative practices of focusing on one’s “breathing” (Roth 1999, p. 155).33 In the current investigation, however, it is the appearance of “listening” in connection with “emptiness” (xu 虛), “heart” and the attitude of “waiting” (dai 待) that is especially worth noticing. With Sweetser it could be explained as follows: “auditory ‘channelling’ is mainly a mental activity”, therefore “it is natural that auditory reception should be linked with heedfulness and internal ‘receptivity’” (Sweetser 1990, p. 41). Now, the “emptiness” of the heart can certainly have different interpretations34 but here it seems to signal the utmost heedfulness of the discerning subject up to the point of losing his self: “there is no more Hui” (未始有回也).Confucius said: “Make your will one! Don’t listen with your ears, listen with your heart. No, don’t listen with your heart, but listen with your qi. Listening stops with the ears, the heart stops with recognition, but qi is empty and waits for all things. The Way gathers in emptiness alone. Emptiness is the fasting of the heart.” Yan Hui said, “Before I heard this, I was certain that I was Hui. But now that I have heard it, there is no more Hui. Can this be called emptiness?” “That’s all there is to it,” said Confucius.
南伯子葵問乎女偊曰: 「子之年長矣, 而色若孺子, 何也? 」曰: 「吾聞道矣。」… 南伯子葵曰: 「子獨惡乎聞之? 」曰: 「聞諸副墨之子, 副墨之子聞諸洛誦之孫, 洛誦之孫聞之瞻明, 瞻明聞之聶許, 聶許聞之需役, 需役聞之於謳, 於謳聞之玄冥, 玄冥聞之參寥, 參寥聞之疑始。」(Zhuangzi 6/17/10–20)
From this passage, we can draw several implications in regard to the meaning of “hearing” in the Zhuangzi. On the one hand, this verb seems to signify a direct experience of the Way, which had such a profound impact on “Woman Crookback” as to change her appearance. On the other hand, however, the same term is used here to emphasize the importance of instruction as well as to construct the authority of a particular lineage which began with “Copy-the-Source” (Yishi 疑始) and, by means of oral transmission, eventually reached Woman Crookback. The blurred lines between the Way as the universal principle and the teaching of this particular lineage, aims to underscore the authority of the latter.Nanpo Zikui said to the Woman Crookback, “You are old in years, and yet your complexion is that of a child. Why is this?”“I have heard the Way!” […] Nanpo Zikui asked, “Where did you happen to hear this?”“I heard it from the son of Aided-by-Ink, and Aided-by-Ink heard it from the grandson of Repeated-Recitation, and the grandson of Repeated-Recitation heard it from Seeing-Brightly, and Seeing-Brightly heard it from Whispered-Agreement, and Whispered-Agreement heard it from Waiting-for-Use, and Waiting-for-Use heard it from Exclaimed-Wonder, and Exclaimed-Wonder heard it from Dark-Obscurity, and Dark-Obscurity heard it from Participation-in-Mystery, and Participation-in-Mystery heard it from Copy-the-Source!”
南郭子綦隱几而坐, 仰天而噓, 嗒焉似喪其耦。顏成子游立侍乎前, 曰: 「何居乎? 形固可使如槁木, 而心固可使如死灰乎? 今之隱几者, 非昔之隱几者也。」子綦曰: 「偃, 不亦善乎而問之也! 今者吾喪我, 汝知之乎? 女聞人籟而未聞地籟, 女聞地籟而未聞天籟夫! 」子游曰: 「敢問其方。」子綦曰: 「夫大塊噫氣, 其名為風。是唯无作, 作則萬竅怒呺。而獨不聞之翏翏乎? 山林之畏佳, 大木百圍之竅穴, 似鼻, 似口, 似耳, 似枅, 似圈, 似臼, 似洼者, 似污者; 激者, 謞者, 叱者, 吸者, 叫者, 譹者, 宎者, 咬者, 前者唱于而隨者唱喁。泠風則小和, 飄風則大和, 厲風濟則眾竅為虛。而獨不見之調調、之刁刁乎? 」子游曰: 「地籟則眾竅是已, 人籟則比竹是已。敢問天籟。」子綦曰: 「夫吹萬不同, 而使其自已也, 咸其自取, 怒者其誰邪! 」(Zhuangzi 2/11/14–24)
First, it is noteworthy that the protagonist “Ziqi of Southwall” reported to his student to have lost his “self” (wo 我), while, at the same time, having the outer appearance of someone who has lost his “companion” or “counterpart” (ou 耦). Regardless of what the “self”, “counterpart” and the process of their “loss” (sang 喪) exactly stand for35, what is described here is reminiscent of the “hinge of the Way” where “this” and “that” lose their oppositions. It is in light of this parallel, that various sounds produced by the hollows of the trees are taken to mean “conflicting utterances of philosophers” (Graham  2001, p. 49) and, on a larger scale, to also include “emotional perspectives”, “concepts of identity” as well as “life” and “death” (Ziporyn 2003, p. 35). However, the “piping of Heaven” has its unique significance in that it is a musical metaphor. As such, it first reflects the common pre-Qin belief that “great music stems from the cosmic processes of Heaven and Earth” and that whoever “can preserve the original imprint of Heaven’s pattern on his heart-mind will be able to understand such music” (Brindley 2012, pp. 115–16). Secondly, as music, that is, “a perfect combination of diverse pairs of opposing elements” (Jo 2017, p. 378), the “piping of Heaven” entails a notion of “harmony” (he 和) which is opposed to “sameness” (tong 同). It is certainly questionable whether we can infer from this that Ziqi of Southwall actually appreciated the different sounds (that is, conflicting theories) he was hearing, given their consequent criticism in the inner chapters. But, because the recognition of harmony has to do with the “attitude of the listener” (Cook 2003, p. 75), Ziqi of Southwall appears here not as a “perceptual” but an “aesthetic” virtuoso. That is, he differs from his puzzled disciple not in the what but in the how of his auditory perception. Lastly, in order to be able to hear and understand a piece of music one has to be silent. The empty and silent state is evident in Ziqi’s loss of the self and him looking like “a withered tree”. As we saw above, it is this impersonal state that the Zhuangzi calls “Heaven” and not a certain separate entity. The centrality of the wind in the story that, while being “something invisible, the power of a no-thing”, produces music by blowing on the cavities which are themselves “a lack” (Wu 1990, p. 186) seems to underscore this point.36Ziqi of South Wall sat leaning on his armrest, staring up at the sky and breathing—vacant and far away, as though he’d lost his companion. Yan Cheng Ziyou, who was standing by his side in attendance, said, “What is this? Can you really make the body like a withered tree and the mind like dead ashes? The man leaning on the armrest now is not the one who leaned on it before!”Ziqi said, “You do well to ask the question, Yan. Now I have lost myself. Do you understand that? You hear the piping of men, but you haven’t heard the piping of earth.Or if you’ve heard the piping of earth, you haven’t heard the piping of Heaven!”Ziyou, “May I venture to ask what this means?”Ziqi said, “The Great Clod belches out breath, and its name is wind. So long as it doesn’t come forth, nothing happens. But when it does, then ten thousand hollows begin crying wildly. Can’t you hear them, long drawn out? In the mountain forests that lash and sway, there are huge trees a hundred spans around with hollows and openings like noses, like mouths, like ears, like jugs, like cups, like mortars, like rifts, like ruts. They roar like waves, whistle like arrows, screech, gasp, cry, wail, moan, and howl, those in the lead calling out yeee! those behind calling out yuuu! A light breeze brings a small harmony, while a powerful gale makes for a harmony vast and grand. And when the fierce wind has passed on, then all the hollows are empty again. Have you never seen the tossing and trembling that goes on?”Ziyou said, “By the piping of earth, then, you mean simply [the sound of] these hollows, and by the piping of man, [the sound of] flutes and whistles. But may I ask about the piping of Heaven?” Ziqi said, “Blowing on the ten thousand things in a different way, so that each can be itself—all take what they want for themselves, but who does the sounding?”
3.3. “Grasping” Metaphors
3.4. Visual and Auditory Metaphors in the Context of the Zhuangzi’s Philosophy
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Interpreting this line in Laozi 52, Wang Bi writes (Wagner 2003, pp. 295–97): 兌, 事欲之所由生; 門, 事欲之所由從也。“‘Openings’ are the basis from which desires for action arise. ‘Doors’ are the basis on which desires for action are pursued.”
Blumenberg distinguished between the vision-oriented intellectual tradition of the ancient Greek and the religious faith (of the Bible) with its predominant metaphor of “hearing” (Blumenberg  1993, p. 46): “For the Greeks, ‘hearing’ is of no significance for truth and is initially nonbinding. As an imparting of doxa, it represents an assertion that must always be confirmed visually. For the Old Testament literature, however, and for the consciousness of truth it documents, seeing is always predetermined, put into question, or surpassed by hearing. The created is based on the Word, and in terms of its binding claim, the Word always precedes the created.”
Gadamer writes (Gadamer  1998, p. 478): “in contrast to all other experience of the world, language opens up a completely new dimension, the profound dimension from which tradition comes down to those now living.”
Moreover, the “gaze” as an instrument of objectification and control has become a prominent topic in last century’s philosophy (Sharma and Barua 2017).
Some scholars, explicitly following Gadamer, interpret the role of “hearing” in Confucian classics as an active dialogue with tradition, leaving room “for innovation and individual flourishing” (Chan 2014, pp. 114–15). Others, however, emphasize sound’s “penetration” through the ears in the process of hearing which suggests “inescapable obedience” (Geaney 2011, p. 134).
The term cheng 誠, used to signify “true and genuine without falseness” as the basis of all other cardinal virtues in such Confucian works as the Zhongyong 中庸 (Johnston and Wang 2012, p. 209), plays no role in the two Daoist texts selected for this study.
Chps. 1, 6, 10, 15, 51, 56 and 65.
Chps. 10, 16, 22, 24, 27, 33, 36, 41, 52, 55 and 65. A related metaphor is “white” (bai 白) appearing in chps. 10, 28 and 41.
Laozi 52.11C/115/15: 昭然獨見為明。 “To see something alone in an illuminating manner is clear-sightedness.”
Heshang Gong commentary of the first line of chapter 32 reads, for instance (Laozi 32.2C/83/17): 道樸雖小, 微妙無形, 天下不敢有臣使道者也。 “Although the simple Tao is small, it is subtle and without form. There is no minister in the world who dares to use the Way” (Chan 1991, p. 136).
Among the most popular translations of the text, the interpretations vary as far as: “He who having used the outer-light can return to the innerlight” (Waley  1994, p. 206); “If you use the rays to return to the bright light” (Henricks 2000, p. 21), “Use the light but give up the discernment” (Lau 2001, pp. 75–77).
Wang Bi’s comment on the line fu gui qi ming 用其光, 復歸其明 is (Wagner 2003, pp. 296–97): 不明察也。 “[That is, if he] does not use [his] intelligence to spy [on other entities].”
Laozi 52.13C/115/23: 用其目光於外, 視時世之利害。 “This means to use one’s vision externally to see the good and bad fortune of the present situation” (Chan 1991, p. 147).
Laozi 52.13C/115/27: 復當返其光明於內, 無使精神泄也。 “[T]hen one ought to revert one’s vision inwardly, so as not to allow the essence and spirit to be discharged” (Chan 1991, p. 147).
Some scholars believe that the terms ming 明 and guang 光 as employed in the Laozi connote two different kinds of wisdom, the “inner” and the “outer” respectively. See Gao Ming (Gao 1996, p. 78), who attributes this view to Zhu Qianzhi 朱謙之.
Laozi 15 (15.3C/51/5) and 33 (33.2C/84/31). For translation, see Erkes (1945, pp. 151, 182). In the subsequent centuries, “inward vision”, together with the concomitant “reverse hearing” (fan ting 反聽), was to become an important meditative practice of Daoist practitioners. However, as opposed to Heshang Gong’s view, where the outer and inner visions could coexist, the idea in later times was that to successfully master the practice of “inward vision” (which by then was believed to lead to the observation of one’s inner organs) an adept had to first achieve “isolation from the outside world” (Chan 2010, p. 169).
Laozi 15.15C/128/1–2. Lo Yuet Keung even believes that the sage would forfeit his luminosity in exposing his light (Lo 1999, p. 154): “it is obvious that the sage can only preserve his ming by not revealing it. The fact that a person would reveal his ming (light) indicates that his mind is not ming (luminous) anymore.”
The obscurity of a sage when compared to ordinary people is addressed especially in Laozi 20 (Lau 2001, p. 31): 沌沌兮, 俗人昭昭, 我獨若昏。俗人察察, 我獨悶悶。 “Vulgar people are clear. I alone am drowsy. Vulgar people are alert. I alone am muddled.”
Some passages of the Laozi, just like its opening chapter, suggest that desire (yu 欲) has detrimental influence on one’s “observing” (guan 觀), a person’s cognitive abilities.
The notions in question have different connotations which cannot be discussed here at length. To give just one example, Behunaik (2009) maintains that “holding to the one” (zhi yi 執一) is radically different from “embracing the one” (bao yi 抱一). Accordingly, while the former implies the “logical” order, whose “constituents [are] recognized not in their particularity but for their ability to satisfy a pre-designated function in a precedent order”, the latter represents “a deference toward particularity and a preference for unforced, spontaneous orders” (Behunaik 2009, p. 366).
Both Mawangdui versions of the Laozi read “the Way of the present” (jin zhi dao 今之道) instead of “the way of antiquity” (Gao 1996, p. 288). The emphasis on using new solutions to contemporary problems as propagated by the Mawangdui versions is rather uncharacteristic of the Laozi, which always places a great weight on the antiquity of the Way. However, the slightly later Beida-version already confirms the reading of textus receptus (Beida-Laozi 2012, 150n8).
Laozi 35.1C/87/12–13: 執, 守也。象, 道也。聖人守大道, 則天下萬民移心歸往之也。“‘Hold fast to’ means to secure. The image is the Way. When the sage secures the great Way, all the people in the world will be reformed and return to him” Chan (1991, p. 152). Wang Bi, on the other hand, interprets this term rather vaguely as “mother of heavenly images” (tianxiang zhi mu 天象之母). For more, see Wagner (2003, p. 232).
Laozi 21 says, for instance (Lau 2001, p. 31): 孔德之容, 唯道是從。“In his every movement a man of great virtue follows the way and the way only.” Laozi 25 uses the term fa (Lau 2001, p. 39): 人法地, 地法天, 天法道, 道法自然。“Man models himself on earth, Earth on heaven, Heaven on the way, and the way on that which is naturally so.”
Zhuangzi 6/17/1: 夫道 […] 可得而不可見。“As for the Way, you can get it but cannot see it.”
For instance, the notion bao guang 葆光, apart from the more common understanding as “shaded”/“dimmed” light in the sense of “shining but not dazzling” mentioned in the discussion of Laozi 58 (Wang (1988, p. 77), Gao (1996, p. 78), Lo (1999, p. 166)), is also read as “the light that issues from the very split between light and darkness” (Møllgaard 2007, p. 141), “inner light” (Mair 1994, p. 20) and, even, “Benetnash Star” (Graham  2001, p. 57). Another controversial notion, hua yi zhi yao 滑疑之耀, has been interpreted variously as “torch of chaos and doubt” used by the sage (Watson  2013, p. 12), “glitter of glib implausibilities” despised by the sage (Graham  2001, p. 55) and “radiance of drift and doubt” pointing to a person “who does not consider himself to be in the right” (Ziporyn 2009, p. 152).
However, we can distinguish a “positive” and a “negative” view on the connection between man and Heaven. The “positive” view states that: “Heaven is not something distinct from earth and man, but a name applied to the natural and spontaneous functioning of the two” (Watson  2013, p. 8). The “negative” standpoint promulgates the idea that: “Heaven […] is not the secret hidden essence of things, the harmonious creator behind their present conflicting appearances, but rather that surface of obvious conflict itself, once we cease the futile attempt to try to get to the bottom of it or find out what harmony lies behind it” (Ziporyn 2012, p. 175).
This is reminiscent of Robert Allison’s view that the concept of harmony with the Way cannot emerge during the experience of the Way “because there are no distinctions to be harmonized during that state” (Allison 1988, p. 182). Accordingly, such a concept can emerge only either prior to or after this realization.
Xunzi offers a complex definition of “emptiness” (21/104/2): 人生而有知, 知而有志; 志也者, 臧也; 然而有所謂虛; 不以所已臧害所將受謂之虛。 (Xunzi 1996) “Men from birth have awareness. Having awareness, there is memory. Memories are what is stored, yet the mind has the property called emptiness. Not allowing what has previously been stored to interfere with what is being received in the mind is called emptiness” (Knoblock 1994, p. 104).
As Ziporyn puts it, “it is thus perhaps this question itself—the “who?” [that concludes the “piping of Heaven” story]—that most adequately evokes the wonder of the unfixable multifariousness of the wind’s sonic identity” (Ziporyn 2012, p. 166).
Duke Ai of Lu魯哀公 is said in chapter five, “The Sign of Virtue Complete” (de chong fu 德充符), to “grasp the ‘reins’ of (governing) the people” (zhi min zhi ji 執民之紀) (for the whole passage, see Mair 1994, pp. 46–48).
For unity, see Zhuangzi 6/19/21: 同於大通。“to become identical with the Great Thoroughfare.” For unity and wandering, see Zhuangzi 6/18/20–21: 假於異物, 託於同體, 忘其肝膽, 遺其耳目, 反覆終始, 不知端倪, 芒然彷徨乎塵垢之外, 逍遙乎無為之業。“They borrow the forms of different creatures and house them in the same body. They forget liver and gall, cast aside ears and eyes, turning and revolving, ending and beginning again, unaware of where they start or finish. Idly they roam beyond the dust and dirt; they wander free and easy in the service of inaction” (Watson  2013, p. 50).
Note that, unlike the Laozi, the Zhuangzi does not use possessive pronouns, such as, for instance, “his” (qi 其) when speaking about the light used by the sage.
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