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The Huai-Nan Tzu



Spiritual quotes of The Huai-Nan Tzu

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W hat Gives Life to Life . . . Therefore forms come to depletion but spirit never undergoes transformation; this is because when what undergoes no transformation responds to what is transformed, it will never reach an end even throughout one thousand alterations and ten thousand reversals. Undergoing transformations means returning to formlessness; not undergoing transformations means living as long as Heaven and Earth.











T he Formless and the Soundless (Tao) Now, the Formless is the great forefather of creatures, and the Soundless is the great ancestor of sounds. . . . Therefore you look at it and cannot see its form, you listen to it and cannot hear its sound, and you follow it and cannot get to its person. It is formless, but what has form is generated from it; it is soundless, but the five sounds resonate from it; it is tasteless, but the five tastes take form from it; it is colourless, but the five colours are developed from it. Therefore Being is generated from Non-Being, and the actual is generated from the empty.











I n Ancient Times of Creation In ancient times, when there were not yet Heaven and Earth, there were only images without forms. Deep! Obscure! Broad and wide, boundless and measureless! Vaporous and opaque, vast and cavernous! No one knows where this came from. There were two spirits (shen) generated from the inchoate, which aligned Heaven and oriented Earth. Empty! No one knows where it ends. Overflowing! No one knows where it stops. Thereupon it differentiated itself and became Yin and Yang, it separated itself and became the eight poles. The firm and the yielding completed each other, and the ten thousand things took form.











T he Saintly Man has forgotten his five viscera and has abandoned his bodily form. He knows without apprehending, sees without looking, accomplishes without doing, and discerns without applying himself. He spontaneously responds to the outer stimuli and acts only if he cannot do without it. He moves without wanting it, like beams of light and particles of brilliance. As his rule he follows the Tao and attains to it. He embraces his foundation in the Great Clarity and nothing can trouble him. Vast and deep, he maintains himself empty; pure and serene, he is without thoughts and worries.











H eaven, earth, infinite space, and infinite time are the body of one person, and the space within the six cardinal points is the form of one man. (1) Therefore he who understands his nature will not be threatened by Heaven and Earth, and he who comprehends evidences will not be fooled by strange phenomena. Therefore the sage knows the far from what is near, and to him all multiplicity is one. Men of old were one with the universe in the same material force, and were in harmony with the age.




Daoism 2271 | 
Huai-nan Tzu, SPPY, 8:3a-b, in Wing-Tsit Chan, Chinese Philosophy, Chapter 17. 
(1) Read chi (system) as hsing (form), according to Wang Nien-sun, ibid., bk. 13, p. 47. See also Liu Chia-li, Huai-nan chi-cheng (Collected Textual Commentaries on the Huai-nan Tzu), 1924, 8:6a.







B efore heaven and earth took shape, there was only undifferentiated forrmlessness. Therefore it was called the great beginning. (1) Tao originated from vacuity and vacuity produced the universe (of space and time). (2) The universe produced the material force. The material force was extremely secure. (3) That which was clear and light drifted up to become heaven, and that which was heavy and turbid solidified to form earth. It was especially easy for the clear and refined to unite but extremely difficult for the heavy and turbid to solidify. Therefore heaven was formed first and the earth became definite later. The material forces (4) of Heaven and Earth combined to form yin and yang. The concentrated forces of yin and yang became the four seasons, and the scattered forces of the four seasons became the myriad things. When the hot force of yang accumulated, fire was produced and the essence of the material force of fire became the sun. When the cold force of yin accumulated, water was produced and the essence of the material force of water became the moon. The excess of the essence of the sun and moon became the stars and planets. Heaven received the sun, moon, and stars, while earth received water and soil.




Daoism 2270 | 
Huai-nan Tzu, SPPY, 3: 1 a, in Wing-Tsit Chan, Chinese Philosophy, Chapter 17. 
(1) Read chao (light) as shih (beginning), according to Wang Nien-sun (2) According to Kao Yu, yu-chou (universe) means space (yu) and time (chou). (3) Instead of translating the Chinese phrase as "having limits" as practically all other translators have done, I have followed Kao Yu's interpretation. (4) Ching means material force, according to Kao Yu.







T here was a beginning. (2) There was a time before that begining. (*1) (3) There was a time before the time which was before the beginning. (4) There was being. (5) There was non-being. (6) There was a time before that non-being. (7) There was a time before the time which was before that non-being.

(1) What is meant by "There was a beginning" is that there was accumulation which has not sprung unto activity. There were signs of sprouts and shoots but no physical form. (*2) Like insects moving (*3) they are about to spring into life but their species have not yet been formed.

(2) At the time before that beginning, the material force (ch'i) of Heaven began to descend and that of Earth began to ascend. Yin and yang interacted and united, competing leisurely to expand in the universe. Embracing genuine character and containing harmony, they were interfused and stayed together.. (*4) They wanted to come in contact with other things but they had not yet had physical form.

(3) At the stage when there was a time before the time which was before the beginning, Heaven contained harmony but had not yet descended, and Earth embraced the material force but had not yet ascended. It was empty, quiet, desolate, and dark, there was nothing which was even indistinct. At last the material force greatly penetrated the realm of darkness.

(4) "There was being" means that the myriad things appeared (*5) in great numbers. The roots, stems, branches, and leaves of plants were young, luxuriant, flourishing, and colorful. Insects flew, moved, crawled, and breathed. They could be touched and grasped and they could be counted in quantities.

(5) "There was non-being" means that the eye looked at it but could not see any form. The ear listened to it but could not hear any sound. The hand touched it but could not feel anything tangible. And as one look at it, its limit could not be reached. Great and extensive, it could not be measured and was identical with light.

(6) At the time before that non-being, Heaven and Earth were enclosed and the myriad things were molded and produced. The great universal (Tao) (*6) was undifferentiated and noumenal. Nothing, however deep, extensive, vast, or great, existed beyond it. Even the minutest hair and the sharpest point could not exist within it. It was space without surrounding walls. It produced the root of being and non-being.

(7) At the time before the time which was before that non-being, heaven and earth had not come into existence and yin and yang had not been distinguished. The four seasons had not yet separated and the myriad things had not yet been born. It was extremely peaceful and very tranquil. Forms were not yet visible. It was like light in the midst of nonbeing which retreats and is lost sight of. (*7)





Daoism 2269 | 
Huai-nan Tzu, SPPY, 2: la-2a, in Wing-Tsit Chan, Chinese Philosophy, Chapter 17. 
The seven stages were first mentioned by Chuang Tzu (ch.2, nhcc, 1:33b) but Huai-nan Tzu provided them with a content. Hu Shih (1891-1962) has arranged them in this order: 7, 3, 6, 2, 1, 4, 5 Huainan Tzu's view may not be scientific or logical. It is remarkable, however, that in an age of prevalent superstitions and common belief in prodigies, he should have maintained an absolutely naturalistic attitude toward creation.





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