Tail in the Mud

Master Chuang was fishing in the P’u River. The king of Ch’u dispatched two high-ranking officials to go before him with this message: “I wish to encumber you with the administration of my realm.”

Without turning around, Master Chuang just kept holding on to his fishing rod and said, “I have heard that in Ch’u there is a sacred tortoise that has already been dead for three thousand years. The king stores it in his ancestral temple inside of a hamper wrapped with cloth. Do you think this tortoise would rather be dead and have its bones preserved as objects of veneration, or be alive and dragging its tail through the mud?”

“It would rather be alive and dragging its tail through the mud,” said the two officials.

“Begone!” said Master Chuang. “I’d rather be dragging my tail in the mud.”


- Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu

1 comment: