Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Chuang Tzu, also spelled Chuang-tsze, Chuang Chou, Zhuangzi, Zhuang Tze, Zhuang Zhou, Chuang Tsu, Chouang-Dsi, Chuang Tse, or Chuangtze

Chinese Taoist Philosopher and Teacher

"The heart of man is more dangerous than mountains and rivers, more difficult to understand than Heaven itself."

"A dog is not considered good because of his barking, and a man is not considered clever because of his ability to talk."

"To exhibit superior merit is not the way to win men's hearts. To exhibit inferior merit is the way."

"A drunken man who falls out of a cart, though he may suffer, does not die. His bones are the same as other people’s; but he meets his accident in a different way. His spirit is in a condition of security. He is not conscious of riding in the cart; neither is he conscious of falling out of it. Ideas of life, death, fear and the like cannot penetrate his breast; and so he does not suffer from contact with objective existence. If such security; is to be got from wine, how much more is it to be got from God?"

"Nonaction does not mean doing nothing and keeping silent. Let everything be allowed to do what it naturally does, so that its nature will be satisfied."

"You cannot speak of ocean to a well-frog, the creature of a narrower sphere. You cannot speak of ice to a summer insect."

"Great truths do not take hold of the hearts of the masses."

"He who has heard but part of the truth thinks no one equal to himself."

"Life follows upon death. Death is the beginning of life. Who knows when the end is reached?"

"Life has its distinctions, but in death we are all made equal."

"Spread out your knowledge, and you will see how shallow it is."

"Perfection of hearing is not hearing others, but oneself. Perfection of vision is not seeing others, but oneself."

"To glorify the past and to condemn the present has always been the way of the scholar."

"Those who seek to satisfy the mind of man by hampering it with ceremonies and music and affecting charity and devotion have lost their original nature."

"What man knows is not to be compared with what he does not know."

"The happiness of ordinary persons seems to me to consist in slavishly following the majority, as if they could not help it."

"The rulers of old set off all success to the credit of their people, attributing all failure to themselves."

"Those who realize their folly are not true fools."

"Calculate what man knows and it cannot compare to what he does not know."

"God is another name for human intelligence raised above all error and imperfection, and extended to all possible truth."

"Life is a fragment, a moment between two eternities, influenced by all that has preceeded, and to influence all that follows. The only way to illumine it is by extent of view."

"What is mysterious, secret, unknown, cannot at the same time be known as an object of faith."

"Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict."

"It [the soul] is truly an image of the infinity of God, and no words can do justice to its grandeur."

"The only God whom our thoughts can rest on, our hearts cling to, and our conscience can recognize, is the God whose image dwells in our own souls."

"I call that mind free which is not passively framed by outward circumstance and is not the creature of accidental impulse, and which discovers everywhere the radiant signatures of the Infinite Spirit, and in them finds help to its own spiritual enlargement."

"The essential and unbounded mercy of my Creator is the foundation of my hope, and a broader and surer the universe cannot give me."

"The great hope of society is individual character."

"Grandeur of character lies wholly in force of soul, not in the force of thought, moral principles, and love, and this may be found in the humblest conditions of life."

"Conscience is an oracle of the Divinity."

"Great understanding is broad and unhurried; little understanding is cramped and busy."

"“True men”… are strong willed, have dignity in their demeanor, serenity in their expression. They are cool like autumn, warm like spring. Their passions arise like the four seasons, in harmony with the ten thousand creatures, and no one knows their limits."

"Chance implies an absolute absence of any principle."

"Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly, I awoke, and there I lay, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man."

"He who knows the part which the Heavenly in him plays, and also knows that which the human in him ought to play, has reached the perfection of knowledge."

"Great wisdom is generous; petty wisdom is contentious."

"In death, there are no rulers above and no subjects below. The course of the four seasons is unknown; our life is eternal. Even a king among men can experience no greater happiness than is ours… If I could restore your body to you, renew your bones and your flesh and take you back to your parents, your wife, and children and old friends, would you not gladly accept my offers?… Why should I throw away a happiness greater than a king’s to once again thrust myself into the troubles and anxieties of mankind?"

"The living all find death unpleasant; men mourn over it. And yet, what is death, but the unbending of the bow and its return to its case?"

"Perfect happiness is the absence of happiness; perfect glory is the absence of glory."

"Verily God does not reward man for what he does, but for what he is."

"When I look at what the world does and where people nowadays believe they can find happiness, I am not sure that that is true happiness. The happiness of these ordinary people seems to consist in slavishly imitating the majority, as if this were their only choice. And yet they all believe they are happy. I cannot decide whether that is happiness or not. Is there such a thing as happiness?"

"The wise man… when he must govern, know how to do nothing… In complete silence, his voice will be like thunder. His movements will be invisible, like those of a spirit, but the powers of heaven will go with them. Unconcerned, doing nothing, he will see all things grow ripe around him. Where will he find time to govern?"

"My opinion is that you never find happiness until you stop looking for it."

"When the shoe fits, the foot is forgotten; when the belt fits, the belly is forgotten; when the heart is right, “for” and “against” are forgotten. There is no change in what is inside, no following what is outside, when the adjustment to events is comfortable. One begins with what is comfortable and never experiences what is uncomfortable, when one knows the comfort of forgetting what is comfortable."

"For we can only know that we know nothing, and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

"The Portal of God is Non-Existence. All things sprang from Non-Existence. Existence could not make existence existence. It must have proceeded from Non-Existence. And Non-Existence and Nothing are one."

"So great is the confusion of the world that comes from coveting knowledge!"

"He who looks too hard at the outside gets clumsy on the inside."

"To a mind that is still the whole universe surrenders."

"The perfect man uses his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing. It regrets nothing. It receives but does not keep."