Zhuangzi was probably the poorest among the philosophers before the Qin Dynasty. During the difficult times, according to his disciples, he had to earn his living by making straw sandals and even borrowed food from others when he did not know where his next meal would come from.
Once he went to see the King of Wei in a patched dress of coarse cloth and a pair of straw sandals with broken strings, but he was not at all bothered about it. When the King of Wei asked him why he was so distressed, he immediately replied that he was not distressed, but just poor and born at the wrong time, just like a monkey finding itself among prickly thorns, trapped in an unfavorable situation, with its hands and feet tied, not being able to bring its abilities to full play.
Here is another story in Records of the Grand Historian. Hearing that Zhuangzi was very talented, King Wei of Chu sent two envoys with a big reward to invite him to be the prime minister. Zhuangzi said to the envoys with a smile, “A thousand pieces of gold is indeed a large sum and the prime minister is of course a high position, but you might as well take a look at the ox serving as the sacrificial offering. It can usually enjoy good food and beautiful clothes. But once it becomes the sacrificial offering, it’s no longer possible to live as carefree as a piglet. Please leave and do not try to corrupt me. I would rather be like a small fish having fun in the mud than being constrained by the lords.”