Chuang-tzu - Quotes


On the Dress of Learned Class

At an interview of Chuang-tzu with duke Ai of Lu, the duke said, "There are many of the Learned class in Lu; but few of them can be compared with you, Sir." Chuang-tzu replied, "There are few Learned men in Lu." "Everywhere in Lu," rejoined the duke, "you see men wearing the dress of the Learned; how can you say that they are few?" "I have heard," said Chuang-tzu, "that those of them who wear round caps know the times of heaven; that those who wear square shoes know the contour of the ground; and that those who saunter about with semicircular stones at their girdle-pendents settle matters in dispute as they come before them. But superior men who are possessed of such knowledge will not be found wearing the dress, and it does not follow that those who wear the dress possess the knowledge. If your Grace think otherwise, why not issue a notification through the state, that it shall be a capital offence to wear the dress without possessing the knowledge?"

On this, the duke issued such a notification, and in five days, throughout all Lu, there was no one who dared to wear the dress of the Learned. (Chuang-tzu, Book XXI, version James Legge.)

Commentary:
We can draw a parallel between this anecdote and Jesus' words in the New Testament, when speaking about John: What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. (Matthew 11 : 7, and the next).

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Selection and commentary by Jhian Yang

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