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Translated by

A. Charles Muller

February 20, 2010

Table of Contents

1. 逍遙遊

1. 逍遙遊

(Notes from traditional commentaries on Chapter One supplied primarily by Jieun Kang.)1

北冥2 有魚、其名爲鯤。鯤之大、不知其幾千里也。化而爲鳥、其名爲鵬。鵬之背、不知其幾千里也。怒3 而飛、其翼若垂天之雲。是鳥也、海運4 則將徙於南冥。南冥者、天池也。

In the Northern Darkness there is a fish named Kun. Kun is so big that I don't know how many thousands of li long he is. He changes into a bird, named Peng. Peng's back is I don't know how many thousand li wide. When he takes off, his wings seem to cover the clouds. When the currents move, then this bird takes of for the Southern Darkness, to the Heavenly Pond.

『齊諧』者、志怪者也。諧之言曰。「鵬之徙於南冥也、水擊三千里、摶扶搖而上者九萬里、去以六月息者也。」 野馬5 也、塵埃也、生物之以息相吹也6 。天之蒼蒼、其正色邪。其遠而無所至極邪。其視下也、亦若是則已矣。

The Universal Harmony records various amazing things, and about Peng, it says: “When Peng takes off for the Southern Darkness, after roiling the seas for three thousand li, as he ascends ninety thousand li, availing himself to the early summer winds, his flapping causes typhoons. The dust flies about and living creatures are blown about amongst each other.” Is the blueness of heaven its real color? Or does it look like that just because it is so far off? When Peng looks down, it's the same way.

且夫水之積也不厚、則其負大舟也無力。覆杯水於坳堂之上、則芥爲之舟。置杯焉則膠、水淺而舟大也。風之積也不厚、則其負大翼也無力。故九萬里則風斯在下矣。而后乃今培風。背負靑天而莫之夭閼7 者、而后乃今將圖南。

Now, if you don't pile up water deeply enough, it won't have enough strength to carry a large boat. If you pour the water out of a cup into a depression in the floor, then little bits of trash become boats. If you place the cup in that water, it will stick, since the water is shallow and the boat is large. So, if the wind is not piled up deeply enough, then it doesn't have the strength to support the great wings of Peng. Therefore when Peng flies up ninety-thousand li, he needs to have the wind under him like this. Only after this, when the wind is piled up, can he ride on the blue sky with nothing to stop him, after which he aims for the south.

蜩與學鳩8 笑之曰。「我決起而飛9 、搶楡枋10 、時則不至而控於地11 而已矣。奚以之九萬里而圖南爲。」 適莽蒼12 者、三餐而反、腹猶果然13 。適百里者、宿舂糧。適千里者、三月聚糧。之二蟲又何知。

The Cicada and Little Dove laugh, saying: “I set my mind on leaping up and flying, jumping from the elm tree to the sandalwood, but always end up not getting there, and fall back to the ground. How can he fly 90,000 li to the south?” Someone who takes a day trip to the local meadow has three meals and comes back home with his stomach still full. Someone who is going to travel one hundred li grinds his grain the night before. If you are going a thousand li, you need three months to gather provisions. What do these two little creatures know?


Small understanding can't match great understanding; the short-lived cannot match the long-lived. How do we know this? The Morning Mushroom knows nothing of the dawn and twilight. The Summer Cicada knows nothing of the spring and fall. They are the short-lived. In the south of Chu there is the Mingling14 which counts five hundred years as its spring, and five hundred years as its fall. In great antiquity there was a great Camelia, which counted eight thousand years as its spring, and eight thousand years as its fall. And nowadays, Ancestor Peng is known for his longevity, and everyone tries to follow him. Isn't it a shame?

湯之問棘15 也是已。窮髮16 之北、有冥海者、天池也。有魚焉、其廣數千里、未有知其修者。其名爲鯤。

Tang's questions to Ji were about none other than this. In the extremely barren north, there is a dark sea, which is the Heavenly Pond. There is a fish there, which is several thousand li in breadth, and I don't know how long. It's name is Kun.

有鳥焉、其名爲鵬、背若太山。翼若垂天之雲、摶扶搖17 羊角18 而上者九萬里。絕雲氣、負靑天、然後圖南、且適南冥也。

There is a bird, whose name is Peng, whose back is as huge as Mt. Tai. His wings cover the sky like the clouds, and when he beats his wings [the winds] turn into a cyclone like the horns of a ram, as he ascends ninety-thousand li. Cutting through the clouds and mist, he carries the blue sky, after which he sets his sights for the south, journeying all he way to the Southern Darkness.

19 鴳笑之曰。「彼且奚適也。我騰躍而上、不過數仞20 而下、戞翔蓬蒿之間。此亦飛之至也、而彼且奚適也。」 此小大之辯也。

The little quail21 laughs, saying: “How can he do such a thing? I jump up and fly several meters and then fall down flopping and flailing in the midst of the weeds and brambles. And that's the most one can fly anyhow. Where does he think he is going?” This is the difference between the great and the small.

故夫知效一官、行比一鄕、德合一君、而徵一國者、其自視也、亦若此矣。而宋榮子22 猶然23 笑之。且擧世而譽之而不加勸、擧世而非之而不加沮。定乎內外24 之分、辯乎榮辱之境、斯已矣。彼其於世、未數數然25 也。雖然、猶有未樹26 也。

Hence we know that the intelligence sufficient for a single office, the behavior appropriate [to lead] a single village, the merit matching that of a local ruler, or the judgment of running the entire country are still nothing more than one's own point of view, and are thus like this little bird (i.e., each thinks his knowledge is sufficient). ) Yet Rongzi of the Song has a good laugh over it. Furthermore, if the whole world praised him it was no special encouragement, and if the whole world criticized him, he was not especially discouraged. Here, he determined the divisions of inner and outer, and distinguished between glory and disgrace. He did not fret about [his place in] the world; yet, he was still not perfect. 27

夫列子御風而行、泠然28 善也、旬有五日而反。彼於致福者、未數數然29 也。30 此雖免乎行、猶有所待者也。若夫乘天地之正、而御六氣之辯31 、以遊無窮者、彼且惡乎待哉。故曰。至人無己、神人無功、聖人無名。

Now Liezi took off riding the wind, cool and skillful, coming back two weeks later — he was not concerned over gaining fortune. Even though he could avoid walking, there were still things for which he had to wait. But if one rides on the normal processes of heaven and earth, and directs the distinction of the six vapors32 in order to course in the limitless, what is there to wait for? Hence it is said: “In the perfected man there is no selfishness; in the spiritual man, no accomplishment; in the holy man, no [concern for] reputation.”

33 讓天下於許由34 、曰。「日月出矣、而爝火不息、其於光也、不亦難乎。時雨降矣、而猶浸灌、其於澤也、不亦勞乎。夫子立而天下治。而我猶尸之、吾自視缺然。請致天下。」 許由曰。「子治天下、天下旣已治也。而我猶代子、吾將爲名乎。名者、實之賓也、吾將爲賓乎。鷦鷯巢於深林、不過一枝。偃鼠飮河、不過滿腹。歸休乎君、豫無所用天下爲。庖人雖不治庖、尸祝不越樽俎而代之矣。」

Yao,35 seeking to cede the empire to Xu You36 said: “When the sun and moon have come out and the torch fires have not been put out, is their light not meaningless? When the seasonal rains fall, and we still keep watering [the crops] isn't this wasted effort? Sir, take the throne and assume rulership. If I continue to stick around, my deficiency is evident. I beg of you to take the throne.” Xu You said: “You, sir are governing the realm, and it's already well-handled. If I were to take your place, wouldn't it be only for the title? But a title is nothing but the guess of reality of reality. Shall I be a guest? When the tailorbird makes its nest in the deep forest, it doesn't use more than a single branch. When the mole drinks from the river, it fills its belly, and nothing more. Go home and be at ease, my lord; I have no use for rulership. Even if the chef is not doing a great job of managing the kitchen, the person playing the role of the deceased and the priest do not leap over the wine-casks and chopping-board to take his place!”

肩吾問於連叔37 曰。「吾聞言於接輿38 、大而無當、往而不返。吾驚怖其言猶河漢而無極也。大有徑庭39 、不近人情焉。」 連叔曰。「其言謂何哉。」「藐40 姑射之山、有神人居焉。肌膚若冰雪、綽約41 若處子42 。不食五穀、吸風飮露。乘雲氣、御飛龍、而游乎四海之外。其神凝、使物不疵癘而年穀熟。」 吾以是狂而不信也。

Jiān Wú asked Lián Shú, saying: “I heard some words out of Jiē Yú, a big talker with no point, who goes off on his topic without ever coming back. I was amazed at his words, which were endless, just like the Milky Way. Way off the mark, and utterly detached from the real human situation.” Lián Shú said: “What did he say, then?” “He said: ‘There is a divine being living in Mt. Mò gūyè. His skin is white like ice and snow, and he is slender as a maiden. Without eating the five grains, he breathes in the air and drinks the dew. He rides the clouds and drives the dragons, ranging out beyond the four seas. Focusing his spirit, he presents people from getting disease and ripens the yearly harvest.’ I didn't believe it, and took him to be nuts.”

連叔曰。「然、瞽者無以與乎文章之觀、聾者無以與乎鐘鼓之聲。豈唯形骸有聾盲哉。夫知亦有之。是其言也、猶時女43 也。之44 人也、之德也、將旁礡45 萬物以爲一。世蘄46 乎亂、孰弊弊47 焉以天下爲事。之人也、物莫之傷。大浸稽48 天而不溺、大旱金石流、土山焦而不熱。是其塵垢秕糠,將猶陶鑄堯舜者也、孰肯以物爲事。」

“So it is,” responded Lián Shú. “The blind have no way to appreciate the scene of ornate decoration, and the deaf have no way to experience the sound of bells and drums. How could this limitation only show itself in the physical faculties? Intelligence also has limitations. These words reflect your own case at the moment. The virtue of this fellow would take the myriad things and wrap them up into one. The world cries out in its disorder, but why should it be his responsibility to struggle with the burden of the affairs of the world? This fellow cannot be harmed by other beings. Great floods can rise up to the sky and he won't be drowned. Great drought can melt minerals and scorch the lands, and he won't be burnt. He scoops up the dirt and chaff of the world, and mold men like Yao and Shun. Why should he consent to handle the trivial problems of society?”

宋人資章甫而適越。越人斷發文身49 、無所用之。堯治天下之民、平海內之政。往見四子50 藐姑射之山、汾水之陽、杳然喪其天下焉。

A man of Song who made a living selling ceremonial hats brought them to Yue. But the Yue people, who shaved their heads and covered their bodies with tattoos, had no use for them. Yao governed the people in his realm, administering all within the four seas. He went to see the four sages of Mt. Mò gūyè, and returning to (his capital at) the north side of the Fen River, blankly forget about his kingdom.


Huizi, speaking to Zhuangzi, said: “The King of Wei gave me some seeds for a giant gourd. I planted them, and they grew to the size of five bushels. I used them as water containers, but they were so heavy that I couldn't lift them. I cut them into pieces to make ladles, but they were so flat and broad that they wouldn't hold anything. It's not that they weren't huge (as promised), but I had no use for them, and broke them into pieces.”

莊子曰。「夫子固拙於用大矣。宋人有善爲不龜手之藥者、世世以洴澼絖爲事。客聞之、請買其方百金。聚族而謀之曰。「我世世爲洴澼絖、不過數金。今一朝而鬻技百金、請與之。」 客得之、以說吳王。越有難、吳王使之將。冬、與越人水戰、大敗越人。裂地而封之。能不龜手一也、或以封、或不免於洴澼絖 。則所用之異也。今子有五石之瓠。何不慮以爲大樽而浮乎江湖。而憂其瓠落無所容。則夫子猶有蓬之心也夫。」

Zhuangzi said: “Well you are certainly clumsy when it comes to using large things, aren't you? Among the Song people there were some who were good at making a salve that prevented the chapping of the hands. They used it for generations in their family business for bleaching silk. A traveler heard of it, and offered to buy the formula for one hundred pieces of gold. The people of the clan go together and discussed it. One said: “We've been bleaching silk for generations, never making more than several pieces of gold. Now, in one morning we can make a sale of the technique for one hundred pieces. I say we go for it.” The traveler took it, and told the king of Wu about it. There was trouble with Yue, and the king of Wu made him a commander. It was winter, and there was a naval battle with Yue, in which they routed the Yue. So the king took a piece of the conquered lang and enfeoffed him. Now, the ability to prevent the chapping of the hands is one, but one fellow was able to turn this into a fiefdom, while another could not get out of bleaching silk. This is the difference in usage. Now you, sir, have a gourd five bushels in size. Why didn't you think of making it into a great barrel and use it to float on the rivers and lakes? Instead you suffer over the uselessness of large dippers. It's like you have brambles in your brain!”

惠子謂莊子曰。「吾有大樹、人謂之樗。其大本臃腫而不中繩墨、其小枝卷曲而不中規矩。立之涂、匠者不顧。51 今子之言、大而無用、衆所同去也。」 莊子曰。「子獨不見狸狌乎。卑身而伏、以候敖52 者。東西跳梁。不避高下。中於機辟、死於罔罟。今夫斄牛53 、其大若垂天之云。此能爲大矣、而不能執鼠。今子有大樹、患其無用。何不樹之於無何有之鄕、廣莫之野。彷徨乎無爲其側、逍遙乎寢臥其下。不夭斤斧、物無害者。無所可用、安所困苦哉。」

Huizi said to Zhuangzi: “I have a large tree, which people call Ailanthus.54 It has a great trunk that is all swollen and knotted, such that you cannot use a plumb line. Its branches are twisted up so that they don't line up with the carpenter's square. If it were standing along the road, a lumberjack wouldn't give it a glance. Now, sir, your words are big, but lack application — the kind of thing everyone avoids.” Zhuangzi said: “Have you alone never seen badgers and wildcats? They crouch down low, and then are proud of themselves as they dart around from East to West on the beams. But they can't avoid going between the high and low ground, and in the middle get caught in traps, and die in the nets. Then there is the Yak, said to be so large as to cover the sky. Well, it certainly can be regarded as huge, but it can't catch mice. Now you sir, have this great tree, and you fret over its uselessness. Why don't you go and plant it in the Village Where There is Nothing Whatsoever, in the broad and empty fields; hang around without aims at its side, freely and easily nap underneath it. Axes and hatchets do not cut its life short, and it is not harmed by people. Why are you suffering over its uselessness?”


1. This translation of Chapter One was undertaken in conjunction with a readings course in Classical Chinese at the University of Tokyo, Winter Semester, 2009. Hence, student input was integral to this work. Participants included: Wei Wei Shen, Casey Snyder, Akira Inoue, Jieun Kang, Tetsuhiro Yamada, Hirota Mizuno, and Satoshi Ishiyama.

2. 北冥: Lu Deming's 陸德明 commentary 經典繹文 says, “ is written in one recension. It means the northern sea 本一作溟, 北海.” Linxiyi's 林希逸 commentary 莊子口義 supports this, saying 北冥,北海也. (Jieun Kang)

3. Usually means to become angry. But in this case, it is interpreted as “powerfully.” (Jieun Kang)

4. Cheng Xuanying's 成玄英 commentary Zhuangzi shu 莊子疏 says, “ means churn .This bird Peng is heavy and big. If the sea does not churn, he can't fly to the high place himself. 運, 轉也。…即此鵬鳥, 其形重大, 若不海中運轉, 無以自致高昇.” (Jieun Kang)

5. 野馬: Cheng Xuanying's 成玄英 commentary Zhuangzi shu 莊子疏 says, "In the spring time, Yangqi are shimmering. When you watch the middle of the swamp in the distance, it appears as a running horse. Therefore it is called Yema. 此言青春之時, 陽氣發動, 遙望藪澤之中, 猶如奔馬, 故謂之野馬也. (Jieun Kang)

6. 生物之以息相吹也: Guoxiang's 郭象 commentary 莊子注 says, “These all are the things by which Peng flies 此皆鵬之所愚以飛者耳.” (Jieun Kang)

7. Cheng Xuanying's 成玄英 commentary Zhuangzi shu 莊子疏 says, 「夭,折也.閼,塞也.」 (Jieun Kang)

8. 學鳩: Linxiyi's 林希逸 commentary 莊子口義 also says, “the little dove to learns to fly 學飛之小鳩).” (Jieun Kang)

9. 決起而飛: Guoxiang's 郭象 commentary 莊子注 says, ,疾貌.」 (Jieun Kang)

10. 槍楡栃而止: is difficult here. Guoxiang 郭象says, ,突也.」 Linxiyi 林希逸 agrees and translates : “Even though they keep trying to reach the top of the elm tree and Judas tree but can not get to the height of about one zhang 奮起而飛,欲突至於楡栃之上,不過丈尺之高.” (Jieun Kang)

11. 控於地: Linxiyi 林希逸 says, “fall to the ground 投諸地.” (Jieun Kang)

12. 莽蒼: Guoxiang 郭象says, “the colors of near suburb 近郊之色也.” (Jieun Kang)

13. 果然: Guoxiang 郭象says, 飽貌.」 Linxiyi 林希逸 says, “Guo means full. The rice he ate still sits in his stomach. It means near ,實也.食未盡消也. 言其近也.” (Jieun Kang)

14. Interpreted variously as a great tree, or a great turtle.

15. : Guoxiang's 郭象 commentary 莊子注 says, “ He is a wise man in Tang period 湯時賢人.” (Jieun Kang)

16. 窮髮: Guoxiang 郭象says, is similar to. The soil of the North Pole is barren land. Thus hair means grass. According to the geography books, the mountain use plants as their hair. ,猶毛也. 北極之下,無毛之地也. ,,草也. 地理書云,山以草木爲髮.」 (Jieun Kang)

17. 扶搖: whirlwind. Guoxiang 郭象says, “A strong wind goes down and up 暴風從下上.” (Jieun Kang)

18. 羊角: Guoxiang 郭象says, “When a whirlwind rise up to the sky, it takes the shape like horns of sheep 風曲上行若羊角.” (Jieun Kang)

19. Linxiyi's 林希逸 commentary 莊子口義 also says, “means small pond. The bird living there is small bird ,小澤也. 斥澤之鶴, 小鳥也.” (Jieun Kang)

20. : A measurement of length. It was about 157.5 centimeters (7) in the Zhou dynasty. (Jieun Kang)

21. Kuang-ming Wu calls 斥鴳 a marsh-sparrow.

22. 宋榮子: Guoxiang 郭象says, “A wise man of Song 宋國人也.賢者也.” Ziporyn glosses: “The philosopher Song Xing, who taught that that being insulted is not a disgrace. Reappears in Chapter 33. ” (Jieun Kang)

23. 猶然: Linxiyi's 林希逸 commentary 莊子口義 says “smiling face 笑貌也.” (Jieun Kang)

24. 內外: Guoxiang 郭象says, “means me, means other people 內我而外物.” (Jieun Kang)

25. Guoxiang 郭象says, “亦猶鳥之自得於一方也.” (Jieun Kang)

26. : Guoxiang 郭象says, “means establishing, not yet being perfectly virtuous ,立也.未能至德也.” (Jieun Kang)

27. Watson (p. 26) says: “. . . but there was still ground he left unturned.” Legge reads: “but still he had not planted himself firmly (in the right position)”; Ziporyn (p. 5) “But there was still a sense in which he was not firmly planted.”

28. 冷然: Guoxiang 郭象says, “A light and marvelous image 輕妙之貌.” (Jieun Kang)

29. 數數: Guoxiang 郭象says, “數數means busy trying to do something 數數,汲汲也.” (Jieun Kang)

30. Guoxiang 郭象says, “He rides the wind naturally. He's not busy seeking it 自然御風行耳.非敏敷然.求之也.” (Jieun Kang)

31. :Most of the commentaries say that has the same meaning as  辯者,變也。 (Jieun Kang)

32. The six vapors are six elemental energies of the changing seasons: yin 陰, yang 陽, wind 風, rain 雨, darkness 晦 (frost 霧), and brightness 明.

33. : Cheng Xuanying's 成玄英 commentary Zhuangzi shu 莊子疏 says, is a son (or grandson) of Diku. His last name is Yiqi 堯老,帝嚳之子,姓伊祁. (Jieun Kang)

34. 許由:Lu Deming's 陸德明s commentary 經典繹文says, “許由is a recluse 許由,隱人也.” (Jieun Kang)

35. The legendary Chinese sage emperor, whose reign was said to have extended from 2357 to 2255 BCE.

36. Xuyou. A legendary ancient recluse who is said to have refused when offered the emperor's position by Yao , after which he hid himself away in Jishan 箕山. Later on, once again requested by Yao to serve as the governor of Jiuzhou 九州, he cleaned out his ears with water from the Ying River 潁川, claiming that they had been defiled. Thus he is also known as the Ying River hermit 潁水隱士.

37. 肩吾連叔: Lu Deming's 陸德明commentary 經典繹文says, “They are men who find enlightenment 肩吾連叔,竝古之懷道人也.” (Jieun Kang)

38. 接輿: Lu Deming's 陸德明 commentary 經典繹文 says, “His first name is Lu, and his second name is Tong。 His style is 接輿. He is a wise man and a recluse in the Chu 接輿者,姓陸,名通,字接輿,楚之賢人隱者也.” (Jieun Kang)

39. 逕庭: Cheng Xuanying's 成玄英 commentary Zhuangzi shu 莊子疏 says, “逕庭has the same meaning as big difference 逕庭,猶過差.” (Jieun Kang)

40. : Both Lu Deming 陸德明 and Cheng Xuanying 成玄英 take miao to be far-off 貌,遠也。 But It can be taken as a part of the mountain's name, because it appears in other senses as if it is a name. (Jieun Kang)

41. 綽約: Cheng Xuanying 成玄英 says “thin and weak 柔弱也.” (Jieun Kang)

42. 處子: Cheng Xuanying 成玄英 says “unmarried maiden 未嫁女也.” (Jieun Kang)

43. About the meaning of this sentence, Cheng Xuanying 成玄英 says “means very near. 時女means young lady being in the room. This sentence means Jieyu's words are like the elegant lady who is thin, weak and so pure. They are the things that the superior man pursues. But those who are the equivalent of being blind and deaf in terms of knowledge lack this 是者,指斥之言也。時女,少年處室之女也。指此接輿之言,猶如窈窕之女,綽約凝潔,為君子所求,但知之聾盲者謂無此理也。” (Jieun Kang)

44. : Cheng Xuanying 成玄英 says “is a particle. It also means an exclamation. 之是語助,亦歎美也.” (Jieun Kang)

45. 旁礡: Cheng Xuanying 成玄英 says “旁礡 has the same meaning as 混同 旁礡,猶混同也.” (Jieun Kang)

46. : Cheng Xuanying 成玄英 says “ means want 蘄,求也.” (Jieun Kang)

47. 弊弊: 經典繹文 says, “弊弊 is working hard 弊弊,經營貌” (Jieun Kang)

48. : Cheng Xuanying 成玄英 says “means to reach 至也稽,至也.” (Jieun Kang)

49. Cheng Xuanying 成玄英 says “Yue is very close to some rivers. They have cropped hair and tattoos to escape crocodile attacks 越國逼近江湖,斷髮文身,以避蛟龍之難也.” (Jieun Kang)

50. The 經典繹文 says that 四子is Wangni 王倪, Nieque 齧缺, Beiyi 被衣, and Xuyou 許由, but without citing any sources. (Jieun Kang)

51. The Zhuangzi shu 莊子疏 says, 擁腫,槃癭也.卷曲,不端直也.規圓而矩方.塗,道也.樗栲之樹,不材之木,根本擁腫,枝榦攣卷,繩墨不加,方圓無取,立之行路之旁,匠人曾不顧盼也

52. The Zhuangzi shu glosses as: 伺候傲慢之鼠.

53. Also seen rendered as 犛牛.

54. Following Legge and Watson with Ailanthus.

Copyright © Charles Muller— 2010