"And the sword of the People?" enquired the prince.
"The sword of the People," replied Chuang Tzŭ, "has dishevelled hair hanging over its temples. It wears a slouching cap with coarse tangled tassel, and a short-tailed coat. It glares with its eyes and talks in a fierce tone. When it engages in conflict, above, it cuts off head and neck; below, it smites liver and lungs. Such is the sword of the People. It is like a game-cock. One day, its life is cut short, and it is of no more use to the State.
"Now you, great prince, wield sovereign power, and yet you devote yourself to this sword of the People. I am truly ashamed of it."
Thereupon the prince drew Chuang Tzŭ up on to the dais, and the attendants served food, the king three times assisting with his own hand.
- The prince each time received the dish from the attendants, handed it to Chuang Tzŭ, and then walked round to his own seat again.
"Be seated, great prince," said Chuang Tzŭ, "and compose your mind. I have said all I have to say on swords."
After this the prince did not quit his palace for three months, while the swordsmen, submitting to the new order of things, died in their own homes.
- One commentator says "killed themselves in their own dwellings." But if so, Chuang Tzŭ's influence was of small practical value as far as the swordsmen were concerned. They might as well have continued their profession of arms.