xuanpin.jpg

Xuanpin

The handsome young man asked Yangzi, "What do you think of people who love life, especially their own life, and seek immortality?"

"There's no such thing as immortality."

"Is it possible to extend life, then?"

"Life-extension is nonsense too. Loving life won't help them survive. Coveting life doesn't make them healthy. And what do they get for living so long? The five senses turn from pleasure to pain, the four limbs from fit to frail, a life's work from joy to sorrow. Out of touch with changing times, they've heard it before, seen it before, done it before. After a hundred years, they're sick and tired. Such a bitter reward."

The young man replied, "When you put it like that, dying young is better than getting old, so I might as well just take this knife and slit my own throat, fall into the fire and get it over with right now."

Yangzi replied, "That's not what I'm saying at all. You're alive, so surrender to life and embrace it. Want what it gives you so you're resigned to death. You're going to die, so surrender to death and embrace it. Go where it takes you so you're relieved of your cares. There's nothing that doesn't give in, nothing that doesn't hold on. Why hurry or delay the comforting call?"

Notes

appears as a student in other texts, but only in Liezi as . In any case, I take this passage as elder Yangzi's advice to a handsome, healthy young man as they chat by Yangzi's fire.

I started looking at this passage because it shares the term with chapter 75 of the Daodejing. I'm guessing that these characters, along with , and , are part of the vocabulary of immortality () and life extension ().

In vs , if and are antonyms, bind and release, and and are synonyms, does the couplet express something like, Resigned to death, liberated from destruction?

Xuanpin is of chapter 6 of the Daodejing. I was thinking of the last characters of the poem, , as the welcoming ease and comfort of , the valley spirit, the female principle of Daoist moral physics. A phoenix seems a fitting symbol.

Vocabulary

mèng
子 39 + 5
first in series; great, eminent
sūn xùn
子 39 + 7
grandchild, descendent; surname
yáng
阜 170 + 9
the active, male principle in Chinese philosophy (yang); light; sun
wèn
口 30 + 8
ask (about), inquire after
yáng
木 75 + 9
willow, poplar, aspen; surname
zi zǐ
子 39 + 0
offspring, child; fruit, seed of; first earthly branch
yuē
曰 73 + 0
say; Kangxi radical 73
yǒu yòu
月 74 + 2
have, own, possess; exist
rén
人 9 + 0
man; people; mankind; someone else
yú wū
方 70 + 4
in, at, on; interjection alas!
止 77 + 2
this, these; in this case, then
guì
貝 154 + 5
expensive, costly, valuable
shēng
生 100 + 0
life, living, lifetime; birth
ài
心 61 + 9
love, be fond of, like
shēn juān
身 158 + 0
body; trunk, hull; Kangxi radical 158
yǐ sì
人 9 + 3
by means of; thereby, therefore; consider as; in order to
qí jī
艸 140 + 16
variety of Artemisia
bù fǒu
一 1 + 3
no, not; un-; negative prefix
歹 78 + 2
die; dead; death
kě gē
口 30 + 2
may, can, -able; possibly
丿 4 + 4
interrogative or exclamatory final particle
玉 96 + 7
reason, logic; manage
无 71 + 0
negative, no, not; Kangxi radical 71
jiǔ
丿 4 + 2
long time (ago); time passage, grow late
fēi fěi
非 175 + 0
not, negative, non-; oppose; Kangxi radical 175
zhī zhū
丿 4 + 3
marks preceding phrase as modifier of following phrase; it, him her, them; go to
suǒ
戶 63 + 4
place, location; numerary adjunct
néng tái
肉 130 + 6
to be able; can, permitted to; ability
cún
子 39 + 3
exist, live, be; survive; remain
hòu
厂 27 + 7
thick; substantial; greatly
qiě jū
一 1 + 4
moreover, also (post-subject); about to, will soon (pre-verb)
大 37 + 7
where? what? how? why?; servant
wèi
火 86 + 5
do, handle, govern, act; be
二 7 + 2
five; surname
qíng
心 61 + 8
feeling, sentiment, emotion
hǎo hào
女 38 + 3
good, excellent, fine; well
è wù
心 61 + 8
evil, wicked, bad, foul
gǔ gù
口 30 + 2
old, classic, ancient
yóu yáo
犬 94 + 9
like, similar to, just like, as
jīn
人 9 + 2
now, today, modern era
yě yí
乙 5 + 2
also; classical final particle of strong affirmation or identity
囗 31 + 2
four
tǐ tī
骨 188 + 13
body; group, class, body, unit
ān
宀 40 + 3
peaceful, tranquil, quiet
wēi
卩 26 + 4
dangerous, precarious; high; 12th lunar mansion, determinative star α Aquarii (Sadalmelik)
shì
一 1 + 4
generation; world; era
shì zì
亅 6 + 7
affair, matter, business; to serve; accident, incident
lè yuè
木 75 + 11
happy, glad; enjoyable; music
kǔ gǔ
艸 140 + 5
bitter; hardship, suffering
biàn
言 149 + 16
change, transform, alter; rebel
日 72 + 4
change; easy
zhì chí
水 85 + 5
govern, regulate, administer
luàn
乙 5 + 12
confusion, state of chaos; create chaos, revolt
jì xì
无 71 + 5
already; de facto; since; then
wén wèn
耳 128 + 8
hear; smell; make known; news
yǐ xián
矢 111 + 2
particle of completed action
jiàn xiàn
見 147 + 0
see, observe, behold; perceive; Kangxi radical 147
gèng gēng
曰 73 + 3
more, still further, much more; to change, alter
bǎi bó
白 106 + 1
one hundred; numerous, many
nián nìng
干 51 + 3
year; new-years; person's age
yàn yā
厂 27 + 12
dislike, detest, reject; satiate
qí jī
八 12 + 6
his, her, its, their; that
duō
夕 36 + 3
much, many; more than, over
kuàng
水 85 + 5
condition, situation; furthermore
ruò ré
艸 140 + 5
if, supposing, assuming; similar
rán
火 86 + 8
yes, certainly; pledge, promise
辵 162 + 7
quick, prompt, speedy
wáng wú
亠 8 + 1
death, destroyed; lose, perish
心 61 + 9
more and more, even more
刀 18 + 7
rule, law, regulation; grades
jiàn
足 157 + 8
trample, tread upon, walk on
fēng
金 167 + 7
point of spear, sharp point
rèn
刀 18 + 1
edged tool, cutlery, knife edge
入 11 + 0
enter, come in(to), join
tāng tàng
水 85 + 9
hot water; soup, gravy, broth
huǒ huō
火 86 + 0
fire, flame; burn; anger, rage
dé děi
彳 60 + 8
obtain, get, gain, acquire
zhì
心 61 + 3
purpose, will, determination; annals
fèi
广 53 + 12
abrogate, terminate, discard
ér néng
而 126 + 0
and; and then; and yet; but; Kangxi radical 126
rèn rén
人 9 + 4
trust to, rely on, appoint; to bear, duty, office; allow
jiū jiù
穴 116 + 2
examine, investigate
欠 76 + 7
desire, want, long for; intend
qí sì
人 9 + 7
wait for, wait until, as soon as
jiāng jiàng
寸 41 + 8
will, going to, future; general
fàng fǎng
攴 66 + 4
put, release, free, liberate
jǐn jìn
皿 108 + 9
exhaust, use up; deplete
hé hè
人 9 + 5
what, why, where, which, how
jù qú
辵 162 + 13
suddenly, unexpectedly; at once
chí zhì
辵 162 + 10
late, tardy; slow; delay
xián jiàn
門 169 + 4
leisure; idle; peaceful, tranquil, calm
xuán xuàn
玄 95 + 0
deep, profound, abstruse; Kangxi radical 95
pìn
牛 93 + 2
female of species; deep gorge
gǔ lù
谷 150 + 0
valley, gorge, ravine; Kangxi radical 150
shén shēn
示 113 + 5
spirit, god, supernatural being