One-Legged Man

Chuang Tzu Translation and Commentary

Kung Wen Hsien saw Yo Shi and exclaimed:
“What kind of person is this?
How come only one foot?
Is this ordained by Heaven,
Or caused by Man?”

He then said to himself:
“It is Heaven, not Man.
Heaven’s destiny let him be crippled.
The image of Man is given by Heaven.
Therefore we know this is the work of Heaven, not Man.”

Yo Shi, “Right-Hand Minister” (not to be confused with Yoshi, a Japanese name), is a highly placed official in the Emperor’s court.

Kung Wen is a double-character Chinese surname in ancient times. People with this surname would be extremely rare today.

When Mr. Kung Wen saw the minister, he wondered if the official was born with one foot, or if perhaps the Emperor ordered the amputation as punishment.

Upon further reflection, he came upon the realization that, even if this was a man-made effect, its underlying cause was still predestination. The Yo Shi had been born with characteristics suited for politics and high office, and destiny placed him under the power of a cruel master. Amputation was the inevitable result of an inevitable mistake.

Derek Lin
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