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Myths and Legends of China

Page: 32

Between the monism of Lao Tzŭ and the positivism of Confucius on the one hand, and the landmark of the Taoistic transcendentalism of Chuang Tzŭ (fourth and third centuries B.C.) on the other, we find several “guesses at the riddle of existence” which must be briefly noted as links in the chain of Chinese speculative thought on this important subject.

Mencius

Mencius

Chuang Tzŭ’s Super-tao

Chuang Chou (fourth and third centuries B.C.), generally known as Chuang Tzŭ, the most brilliant Taoist of all, maintained with Lao Tzŭ that the universe started from the Nameless, but it was if possible a more absolute and transcendental Nameless than that of Lao Tzŭ. He dwells on the relativity of knowledge; as when asleep he did not know that he was a man dreaming that he was a butterfly, so when awake he did not know that he was not a butterfly dreaming that he was a man.8 But “all is embraced in the obliterating unity of the tao, and the wise man, passing into the realm of the Infinite, finds rest therein.” And this tao, of which we hear so much in Chinese philosophy, was before the Great Ultimate or Grand Terminus (t’ai chi), and “from it came the mysterious existence of God [ti]. It produced Heaven, it produced earth.”

Popular Cosmogony still Personal or Dualistic

These and other cosmogonies which the Chinese have devised, though it is necessary to note their existence in order to give a just idea of their cosmological speculations, need not, as I said, detain us long; and the reason Page 92why they need not do so is that, in the matter of cosmogony, the P’an Ku legend and the yin-yang system with its monistic elaboration occupy virtually the whole field of the Chinese mental vision. It is these two—the popular and the scientific—that we mean when we speak of Chinese cosmogony. Though here and there a stern sectarian might deny that the universe originated in one or the other of these two ways, still, the general rule holds good. And I have dealt with them in this order because, though the P’an Ku legend belongs to the fourth century A.D., the


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