Three in the Morning and Four in the Evening

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"Three in the Morning and Four in the Evening" is a Daoist anecdote, an allusion found in the chapter "On the Equality of All Things ( 齊物論 Qiwu Lun )" in The Book of Master Zhuang ( 莊子 Zhuangzi ). It is recorded in the book that a man who raised monkeys gave them chestnuts to eat. He told the monkeys that he would give them three sheng (a traditional unit of volume) of chestnuts in the morning and four in the evening. Hearing this, the monkeys got angry. Then he said that he would give them four sheng in the morning and three sheng in the evening. Hearing this, the monkeys turned happy. After recounting this fable, the chapter explains the meaning, saying that neither the name nor the reality is changed, but the monkeys show different feelings. The man's offer just complies with the monkeys' subjective psychological needs. Therefore, a saint does not persist in debating right and wrong, but keeps a natural balance of the ways of the world. Through this fable, this chapter intends to state the principle of letting things take their own course. According to The Book of Master Zhuang, the elementary step to enlightenment is nothing but being unconcerned. Enlightened by this approach, regard all things as equal, be simple-minded, and you may find that "Dao" is right there.