The softest things in the world override the hardest. That which has no substance enters where there is no fissure. And so I know that there is advantage in Inaction.
Such doctrines as these were, however, not likely to appeal with force to the sympathies of a practical people. In the sixth century B.C., before Lao Tzŭ's death, another Prophet arose. He taught his countrymen that duty to one's neighbour comprises the whole duty of man. Charitableness of heart, justice, sincerity, and fortitude,—sum up the ethics of Confucius. He knew nothing of a God, of a soul, of an unseen world. And he declared that the unknowable had better remain untouched.
Against these hard and worldly utterances, Chuang Tzŭ raised a powerful cry. The idealism of Lao Tzŭ had seized upon his poetic soul, and he determined to stem the tide of materialism in which men were being fast rolled to perdition.
He failed, of course. It was, indeed, too great a task to persuade the calculating Chinese nation that by doing nothing, all things would be done. But Chuang Tzŭ bequeathed to posterity a work which, by reason of its marvellous literary beauty, has always held a foremost place. It is also a work of much originality of thought. The writer, it is true, appears chiefly as a disciple insisting upon the principles of a Master. But he has contrived to extend the field, and carry his own speculations Into regions never dreamt of by Lao Tzŭ.
It may here be mentioned that the historian Ssŭ-ma Ch'ien, already quoted, states in his notice of Lao Tzŭ that the latter left behind him a small volume in 5,000