Stories of Lao Tzu, Confucius, and Chuang Tzu

This page is devoted to stories of Lao Tzu, Confucius and others who laid down the philosophical foundation for Chinese culture more than two thousand years ago. It is part of our effort to make this website more enjoyable to read.

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Story One

A low ranking court official from Sate Chen visited State Lu, and talked to Lord C-Sun privately. C-Sun told this official, "Our state has a sage."

The official asked, "Is that Confucius?"

"Yes," C-Sun answered.

The official asked, "How do you know he is a sage?"

C-Sun said, "I often heard his disciple say that Confucius uses his form, the body, without using his wisdom." In his later years, Confucius had reached a state of perfection: He followed the dictates of his heart, and whatever he desired was within the boundaries of righteousness.

Then the official said, "My state has a sage too. Don't you know?"

"What is this sage's name?" C-Sun asked.

"He is Lao Tzu's disciple Master G-Mulberry, and he has obtained the Tao. He can see with his ears and hear with his eyes."

The king of State Lu was very surprised to learn this, and invited Master G-Mulberry to visit with the ritual formality reserved for top court officials. When the Master came, the king humbly asked him about this miracle.

The Master replied, "The spreading legend has mixed it up. I cannot exchange the functions of eyes and ears but I can see and hear without the use of ears and eyes."

The king said, "That is even more miraculous. How can you do so? I would really like to know it from you."

The Master answered, "My body unites with the heart, my heart unites with energy, my energy unites with the spirit, and my spirit unites with the Non-Being. Even a tiny existence or the softest whisper as far away as beyond the boundaries of the universe and as close as between my eye lashes, I will know immediately if they are coming to interfere with my existence. I do not know if it is my five faculties of sense or my internal organs that have this ability to sense but I can know it anyway."

The king was very happy and told Confucius a few days later. Confucius smiled but said nothing. Confucius had the rule of four no-comments in his teaching and counselling practice: He never talked about parapsychology, psychic power, mental disturbance, and ghosts. (From Lieh Tzu Chapter 4)

Story Two

Once Chuang Tzu travelled in State Chu and came to a stretch of grassland where no houses were in sight. He found a skeleton hidden in the high grass, and it was worn by weather but every bone was there in the form of a human body. Chuang Tzu knocked it with his whip handle and asked, "Did you so lust for life that you acted without reason, and so ended thus? Or did you lose your state and fall as a victim of axe and sword, and so end thus? Or did you do something wrong and were shamed to see your parents, wife, and children, and so ended thus? Or did you freeze or starve, and so end thus? Or did you live your full life span and end thus in your later years?"

As dark set in, Chuang Tzu took the skull as a pillow and fell into sleep. In the middle of the night, the skeleton came into his dream as a middle-aged man, and said, "You sound like an eloquent disputer. What you said are all entanglements of human life, and the dead has not a single one of them. Do you want me to tell you about death?"

"Do please!"

"In death," he said, "There is no lord above and no slave below. There are no such things as the four seasons, cold and hot. The eternity of heaven and earth marks the time. The joy of a king cannot surpass ours."

Chuang Tzu did not believe it, and said, "I happen to know the Official in Charge of Life and Death. If I asked him to bring you back to life, put flesh back on your bones, and return you to your parents, your wife and your children, your neighbours and your friends down home, would you want that?"

The skeleton man became agitated as if he feared some great punishment, and replied, "How could I give up the joy of a king and take up again the suffering of humanity?" (From Chuang Tzu, Chapter 19) Click here to read previous stories