This Taoist poem shows that trying to label something can make a non-existent thing wrongly seem as if it had concrete or material existence, as Starshine finds out when he questions Non-Being.

Poems: Starshine and non-being


Do the Preparation task first. Then go to Text and read the poem or story (you can also listen to the audio while you read). Next go to Task and do the activity.

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Starshine and Non-Being

by Chuang-Tzu

Starshine asked Non-Being,
"Master, do you exist? Or do you not exist?"
Since he received no answer at all,
Starshine set himself to watch for Non-Being.
He waited to see if Non-Being would appear.
He kept his eyes fixed on the deep Void,
hoping to catch a glimpse of Non-Being.
All day long he looked.
He saw nothing.
He listened.
He heard nothing.
Then Starlight cried out at last: "This is IT!"
"This is the farthest yet! Who can reach it?
I can understand the absence of Being.
But who can understand the absence of Nothing?
If now, on top of all this, Non-Being exists,
Who can understand it?"


Task 2

Put the verbs into the correct category.





Good ending and profound! I think it’s OK not to have to understand ‘somethings’ or many things, and  be fine with that.Thank you.

Sorry. I like so much this site. But I think to have a mistake in a activity 1 on the answer in printer paper to downloads. Thanks

This poem is deep and elegant at once.

I incline to think that introductory explanation is right.
Non-Being or Nothingness are only abstract nouns, labels to design the absence of Being at all or of someone specific being. Besides absence can't really exist, absence is absence of something. Therefore about Non-Being or Nothingness there is neither presence nor absence!
But perhaps the poet was only joking...


this is a beautiful poem,I love learn English this way!!!  This poem makes me think about the esence of things. As I have understand,  non-being´s nature is elusive.
 I think our minds are made to describe, to make categories, hypotheses... Thinking about anything, we make our ideas become real ,( at least in our mind)  but the  Whole Non-being cannot be enterely thought (neither can its opposite) so that we can´t undestand its infinity.

Hi Thierry, you were right about the difference between the text and the audio - it's now been fixed. Thank you.

hope to improve my english from this web, i think it's a good web to study english for someone who want to improve their english.

I am a little bit interrogative about the introductory phrase at the top of the display "Preparation/Text/Task".
After reading and listening to the poem, I think that the author suggests a way to discover the absence of Being. But the absence of Nothing is not perceptible because Nothing is not existing. It's rather different of what it is said in the introductory phrase. No question of trying to label something as it  is described in your words.
Discovering the absence of Being is the way to reach the existence of Being. It's what I understand reading and listening to the poem.
But I'm not a Taoist professor, not even a Taoist student, so perhaps I'm totally wrong! Don't worry.
Besides that, there is a difference between the text and the audio. The second verse begins with Starlight but the audio says Starshine. Am I right ? Or perhaps Non-Being played with the words of the poem!