Greetings Fish Guys,
Here’s a favorite story from the Liezi, a Daoist work that contains material dating from the Warring States period, but possibly not actually composed into a book until as late as A.D. 300. The explicit reference to a 'thread of silk out of the cocoon' is evocative. The story includes a quote about "equalizing" from the 3rd cent. B.C. Mohist Canons:
"Equalising the give and the pull is the ultimate principle of dealing with the world. The same applies to the things within it. 'Equalising. Let a hair hang so that the give and pull are equal. Pull too hard, give too easily, and the hair will snap, because the give and pull are not equal. If they were kept equal, nothing that snaps would snap.' Men doubt this, but there have been those who knew that it is so.
"Chan Ho made a fishing line from a single thread of silk out of the cocoon, a hook from a beard of wheat, a rod from one of the pygmy bamboos of Ch'u, and baited it with a split grain of rice. He hooked a fish big enough to fill a cart, in the middle of a swift current in waters seven hundred feet deep. The line did not snap, the hook did not straighten out, the rod did not bend, because he let out and drew in the line following the pull and give of the water. The King of Ch'u marvelled when he heard of it, and summoned him to ask him the reason. Chan Ho told him:
" 'I heard my late father speak of P'u-chu-tzu's archery with a line attached to the arrow. Using a weak bow and thin line, and shaking the line so that it rode with the winds, he transfixed both of a pair of black cranes on the edge of a dark cloud-because his attention was concentrated and the movement of his hand equalised the give and the pull. I profited by this story, and took it as my model when I learned to fish. It took me five years to learn all that there is to learn about this Way. When I overlook the river holding my rod, there are no distracting thoughts in my mind. I contemplate nothing but the fish. When I cast the line and sink the hook, my hand does not pull too hard nor give too easily, so that nothing can disturb it. When the fish see the bait on my hook, it is like sinking dust or gathered foam, and they swallow it without suspecting. This is how I am able to use weak things to control strong ones, light things to bring in heavy ones.' " (A.C. Graham, trans., _The Book of Lieh-tzu: A Classic of Tao_, pp. 105-106)