Autumn Floods (Excerpt)
When Huizi became the prime minister in the state of Liang, Zhuangzi was going to see him.
Someone said to Huizi, “Zhuangzi is coming. He wishes to replace you as the prime minister.”
Thereupon Huizi grew afraid and sent people to search for Zhuangzi for three days and nights.
Zhuangzi indeed went and saw Huizi. He said, “Do you know a kind of bird in the south, by the name of phoenix? It set out from the South Sea and flew toward the North Sea. It stopped only on the parasol tree, ate only the bamboo fruit and drank only the sweet water from the spring. As it passed by, an owl which had just caught a rotten rat looked up and threatened with a screech. Now, are you trying to threaten me with your state of Liang?”
Traveling with Huizi over a bridge on the Hao River, Zhuangzi said, “The fish is swimming at ease. This is how the fish enjoy themselves.”
Huizi said, “You are not a fish; how do you know the fish are enjoying themselves?”
Zhuangzi said, “You are not me. How do you know I don’t know about the fish?”
Huizi said, “I am not you and I certainly don’t know about you; you are certainly not a fish and you will not know about the fish. That’s for sure.”
Zhuangzi said, “Let’s trace back to your original question. You said, ‘How do you know the fish are enjoying themselves?’ This question shows that you know I know about the fish. Since you know about me, why can’t I know about the fish? I got to know it over a bridge on the Hao River.”
(Trans. Wang Rongpei)
When Huizi was prime minister of Liang, Zhuangzi set off to visit him.
Someone said to Huizi, “Zhuangzi is coming because he wants to replace you as prime minister!”
With this, Huizi was filled with alarm and searched all over the state for three days and three nights trying to find Zhuangzi.
Zhuangzi then came to see him and said, “In the south there is a bird called the Yuanchu—I wonder if you’ve ever heard of it? The Yuanchu rises up from the South Sea and flies to the North Sea, and it will rest on nothing but the Wutong tree, eat nothing but the fruit of the Lian, and drink only from springs of sweet water. Once there was an owl who had gotten hold of a half-rotten old rat, and as the Yuanchu passed by, it raised its head, looked up at the Yuanchu, and said, ‘Shoo!’ Now that you have this Liang state of yours, are you trying to shoo me?”
Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling along the dam of the Hao River when Zhuangzi said, “See how the minnows come out and dart around where they please! That’s what fish really enjoy!”
Huizi said, “You’re not a fish—how do you know what fish enjoy?”
Zhuangzi said, “You’re not I, so how do you know that I don’t know what fish enjoy?”
Huizi said, “I’m not you, so I certainly don’t know what you know. On the other hand, you’re certainly not a fish—so that still proves that you don’t know what fish enjoy!”
Zhuangzi said, “Let’s go back to your original question, please. You asked me how I know what fish enjoy—so you already knew that I knew it when you asked the question. I know it by standing here beside the Hao.”
(Trans. Burton Watson)