Thus far, scholarship on early China has mainly focused on conceptual debates and re-interpretations of terminology. I showcase in this article a methodology called metaphorology that enables us to analyze how discourses developed through the reworking of images. In particular, I reconstruct a discourse on governance and self-cultivational practices as enshrined in Mengzi 3A.4, the Zhuangzi’s “Mati” chapter and Huainanzi 9.13. While Mengzi 3A.4 purports that the cultivation of agricultural fields and human bodies are necessary steps in the civilizational process, the Zhuangzi’s “Mati” chapter demands a decultivation of the human population and a return to the wilderness. In my reading, Huainanzi 9.13, from the “Arts of Rulership” chapter, amalgamates these two image-based debates with the help of the metaphors of the ruler as an overgrown courtyard and the officials as tilled fields. Hence, I propose that Huainanzi 9.13 creates its integrative vision of governance that promotes both education and decultivation by synthesizing the “Mati” chapter's focus on wilderness and Mengzi 3A.4's concerns with tilling. As a result, I encourage us to engage fully in imagery's role as a central and foundational aspect of early Chinese debate culture rather than a rhetorical side effect of its various discourses.