Taoism > Masters > Confucius and Lao-tzu

Confucius Meets Lao-tzu

The story of the meeting of Confucius and Lao-tzu in the state of Chou, while Lao-tzu was curator of the royal archives, was published by Ssu-ma Ch'ien in his Historical Records.

Here it is:

Confucius Meets Lao-tzu

It is  not sure that this meeting took place in reality. But what really matters is to show the difference between  Lao-tzu's and Confucius' thinking by putting them face to face as like they really met.

Confucius once went to Zhou wanting to ask Laozi about the rites. Laozi replied: "As for the things you are talking about - those people along with their bones have already rotted away! All that remains is their words. Moreover, if the gentleman lives at the right time he rides in the carriage of an official; if he does not, then he moves about like a tumbleweed blown by the wind.

I have heard it said that the good merchant has a well-stocked warehouse that appears to be empty; and the gentleman, though overflowing in virtue, gives the appearance of being a fool.

Rid yourself of your arrogant manner, your many desires, your pretentious demeanor and unbridled ambition. None of these is good for your health. What I have to tell you is this, nothing more."

Confucius left and said to his disciples, "As for birds, I understand how they can fly; with fish, I understand how they can swim; and with animals, I understand how they can run. To catch things that run, we can make nets; to catch things that swim, we can make lines; and to get things that fly, we can make arrows. But when it comes to dragons, I cannot understand how they ascend into the sky riding the wind and the clouds. Today I met Laozi, and he's just like a dragon!"

From Robert G. Henricks - Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, Columbia University Press, 2000.

The Meaning of the Story

Confucians and Taoist are not to be seen as simply complementary regarding their social psilosophies. This story clearly shows Lao-tzu's position when confronted with the pendantry of his opponent, Confucius.

In short, rites mean nothing to Lao-tzu who proposes another approach of social intercourse mainly based on the precise evaluation of the momentary trends.

More about the meeting of Confucius and Lao-tzu I already said in my course Lao-tzu and Tao-te ching Revealed, lesson 11.

Click here to learn more...

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