Chuang Tzu

Translation and commentary by Derek Lin

One-Legged Man

Kung Wen Hsien saw Yo Shi and exclaimed:
"What kind of person is this?
How come only one foot?
Is this ordained by Heaven,
Or caused by Man?"

He then said to himself:
"It is Heaven, not Man.
Heaven's destiny let him be crippled.
The image of Man is given by Heaven.
Therefore we know this is the work of Heaven, not Man."

Yo Shi, "Right-Hand Minister" (not to be confused with Yoshi, a Japanese name), is a highly placed official in the Emperor’s court.

Kung Wen is a double-character Chinese surname in ancient times. People with this surname would be extremely rare today, if they exist at all.

When Mr. Kung Wen saw the minister, he wondered if the official was born with one foot, or if perhaps the Emperor ordered the amputation as punishment.

Upon further reflection, he came upon the realization that, even if this was a man-made effect, its underlying cause was still predestination. The Yo Shi had been born with characteristics suited for politics and high office, and destiny placed him under the power of a cruel master. Amputation was the inevitable result of an inevitable mistake.

The Marsh Pheasant

The marsh pheasant
Takes ten steps to get a peck of food
And a hundred steps to get a drink of water
It does not wish to be kept in a cage
Where it may seem spirited
But will not be happy