What is Water?
"Water" might be the only mind-concept that was concrete in the minds of a few very early Chinese philosophers.
mind-concept is the special Chinese way to think. They would use a pictogram, or the graphic symbol character, to represent a mind-concept, which is usually not definable by the reasoning power of the left brain, for example, "tao" was a mind-concept, and left-right another.
What is a "water"?
From the books of Zhuang Zi , water is something like wind, it could float things. If there were some water on the table, you could float some small bits on it. But if you put a cup, the small among of water cannot float the cup, the cup would stick on the table. Zhuang Zi was the most balanced talent by that time. He can look into the facts, and find out the truth. However, Lao Zi was not that balanced. What is water? Lao Zi would not see into the reality of the water, but only saw the symbolic meaning of the water. He said, water was the symbol of weakness: and he changed his attention immediately from water to "weakness', which was another important mind-concept. According to Lao Zi : being weak is good, as it can turn into strong. Weakness is strong, like water is strong. As water has no form, can go every where, is an undefendable weapon in war.
Fail to look into reality, was the weakest point in Chinese culture. Whenever they see something, they would use the mind-concept to analyse it , and try to find out the "inner" meaning.
And actually, the so-called "inner meaning" could be another trap in the front steps of a treasure mountain. In a balanced mind like Zhuang Zi, things are always reachable both from the external side and the internal side, and only the balanced mind can see into the real reality which is not necessary the same as a symbolic moral. A water is a water, which is a real thing, and of course, you can see that as a symbol and try to find out the inner meaning.
Why is it a trap?
But in the old times, people cannot distinguish between "inner meaning" and "moral". They thought that every mind-concept has got some "moral" in it.
The trap is forgetting the internal search. It is not only moral . There is an inner meaning for everything. To search only outside, is the fatal dead end for any civilization. And the Chinese were not mainly internal searching, they had confused the internal with the moral.
And that is why, Confucius was so much fond of moral and neglecting all the scientific and external search. All the books by the Confucian scholars were moral books, not even one of them science.