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T‘ang Fang So 3made the remark that, if the eyes were not in the face, but in the feet, they would not be fit to dispel p2.110 darkness, for how could they see then ? Chi Yen  said to the emperor Wu Ti,

— Your Majesty employs officers as one heaps up fuel. That which comes last is placed on the top.

The dictum of Tung Fang So and the remark of Chi Yen  did not merely disapprove of ordinary officers obtaining positions and able scholars being dismissed. For, when an officer has lost his post, it is difficult to discover his virtue, whereas, while he keeps it, it is hard to perceive his unworthiness. Fame always attends high offices, and aspersions are cast on low positions in which able scholars usually find themselves.

Observing the rules of propriety and walking the right path, purifying themselves and keeping the moral laws, they do not take heed of what is mean and below them. Thus they happen to stick fast, and their progress is checked. They have enough to do to get clear and save themselves, but this impediment prevents them from pushing themselves to the front. For the purpose of acquiring and storing up as much knowledge as possible they do all that is in their power.

Common officers do not think of self-education. When they have advanced, their covetousness is aroused, and they do mean things, making unlawful gain by oppression and extortion 1.

The maple and the varnish trees grow very rapidly, therefore their bark and their wood cannot be very solid. The hard-wood tree gets its leaves but in the fifth month, much later than those trees blooming in spring, but its timber is very hard, so that it can be used for axle-trees. The paper-mulberry of the Yin dynasty 2measured a span after seven days, but after its sudden growth it completely dried up, and therefore was regarded as a miracle. Big vessels require a considerable time for their completion, and precious merchandise is difficult to be sold. That which does not need a whole day and forthwith fetches a price, are things like fruit and vegetables  .

In the current of rapids, gravel turns round, while big stones remain unmoved. Why ? Because big stones are heavy, and gravel is light. The gravel whirling round is deposited on the big stones, p2.111 which are completely hidden and become invisible. Able scholars meeting with ordinary officials in life, are in a similar condition. Blunt-witted superiors push the ordinary officials and make them jump over the heads of the scholars, who must lie low and suffer their rivals to pass over them. So it may happen that they retire altogether, to lead a hermit life in a grotto or a cavern. Those in authority are responsible for it, for they are unfit to discern real merit. These able men are proficient students, but without influence, and they cannot well commend themselves.

Things that can be taken in hand are utensils. He that finds his strength inadequate to lift them, does not dare to move them. The principles of able scholars are not merely as heavy as vessels 1.

Gold and iron placed on the ground are not moved by a north-easter, whereas a hair or straw amongst them are carried away a thousand Li. The principles cherished by the scholars are like the heavy stones in the water, or gold and iron on the ground. Their advance is not as swift as that of ordinary functionaries, and the high officers are too weak to use them. One breath suffices to blow away a hair or a straw from among gold and iron, and no north-easter is required. Ordinary officials are as easily shifted as a hair or chaff are blown away.

When gravel is rolled about by a current, and a mote carried away by a north-easter, it is not a mere swelling, or a soft sea breeze that moves it 2. An unprincipled governor who, acting upon uncontrollable impulses, promotes whomever he just chances to like, without any careful inquiry, (and thus recklessly confers posts and honours), is like a wild current turning gravel about, or a northeaster wafting aloft a hair or a straw. They fly about in a strong gale, gravel rolls to and fro in a wild current, and common officials advance, when falling in with a wayward governor.

When we throw a round thing on the ground, it may roll in one of the four directions, north, south, east, or west. Knocked with a stick, it comes to rest after a short while. Square things thrown on the ground remain motionless immediately after their fall. In order to shift them, men must push or lift them. Able scholars are always square 3, therefore hard to be moved, and to advance them men 4 are required.

p2.112 Birds have more agility than man, who, in hurrying to a distant place, cannot cope with them. In spite of that, amongst the creatures of Heaven and Earth man is the noblest 5. Locusts can fly ten thousand Li, and the unicorn must be sent as a tribute, to reach the court of the emperor. Yet locusts are a plague, and the unicorn, a felicitous presage 6. It has four legs, still it cannot arrive of itself 7, how then should man make his way with his two legs ? Thus swallows are more light-winged than phœnixes, and hares more nimble-footed than unicorns. A frog jumps better than a spiritual tortoise, and a snake leaps with greater agility than a divine dragon 1.

Men like Shang 2are conspicuous among grey-heads, and the wisdom of Po Li Hsi  shines even among persons with yellow hair 3. By their excellent political advice they became the helpmates of their princes. They were weighty personages and not easy to be promoted. Futile and frivolous things are quickly done, calamities and disasters happen quite suddenly. Therefore they say that he who advances with impetuosity is prompt to retire.

The warmth of the Yang, and the cold of the Yin take months till they arrive. A calamitous change is a disaster completed in one day. For the ice of a river to close, one day’s frost is not sufficient, and forming a mountain by heaping up earth is a work not to be completed in a short time.

A Kan-chiang 4sword must be long on the coal in the furnace. To sharpen the blade and make it pointed, it must be smelted and hammered under intense heat, and it is only taken out of the fire after a long heating. The working is a very slow process, but it thus acquires its sharpness.

Flesh suddenly grown, is called a tumor, and a spring violently rushing forth, a fountain. Wine suddenly heated, easily becomes sour, and minced meat, suddenly made sour, is easily spoiled  . From these considerations we may infer that the slow advance of able scholars has its analogies and its causes. Which are they ? Great learning and momentous thoughts weigh heavily upon the whole being.

p2.113 Plants and trees, while alive, are full of sap ; and being sappy, they are heavy. Dead, they are dry : While dry, they are light and easy to lift ; being sappy, they are heavy and difficult to move. Now the original fluid resides in living organisms, not in those withered 5.

When carts drive on land, and ships sail through a canal, those heavy and full of cargo proceed slowly, whereas the empty and light ones move swiftly. The weight of the doctrines of former emperors, carried in the bosom, is heavier than the burden of ships or the loading of carts, and for those carrying so heavy a burden, a quick promotion becomes difficult.

Thieves stealing other people’s property obtain it soon enough, but the things, thus obtained, are not their own, nor acquired by their own industry. A man of the world may very soon obtain a high post which spreads a lustre about him, but, at the same time, evil reports will be set on foot to the effect that he is nothing but a dummy, living on his salary and doing nothing. That able scholars do not get on in their career is owing to the lack of insight on the part of the higher authorities and superior officers.

Peasants bring their grain to the capital, and merchants convey their goods to distant places, both expecting to see their hopes realised. But should the gates and the suburbs be closed to traffic, or fords and bridges have been made impracticable, they would, in spite of all their efforts, and all their speed, not be able to arrive in time and make the gains they expected 1.

The higher officers are envious of able men, and will have nothing to do with them. If the latter are not put in irons and treated as mean criminals, they may congratulate themselves. How can they hope to rise in the service, or expect that their doctrines will soon be realised ?
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CHAPTER XIII

The Real Nature of Knowledge

78. XXVI, I. Shih-chih

© — @

p2.114 The Literati, discoursing on Sages, are of opinion that they know thousands of years of the past, and ten thousand future generations. Merely by the keenness of their sight, and the subtlety of their hearing, they are able to give the proper names to new things. They know spontaneously, without learning, and understand of themselves, without inquiring, wherefore the term Sage is equivalent with supernatural. They are like milfoil and the tortoise, which know lucky and unlucky auguries, whence the milfoil plant is regarded as supernatural, and the tortoise as a divine creature.

The talents of Worthies do not reach this standard ; their intelligence is weaker and not so comprehensive, whence they are called Worthies. This difference of name implies a difference of nature, for the substance being the same, the name uses to be equal. As for the name Sage, it is known that Sages are something extraordinary and different from Worthies.

When Confucius was about to die, he left behind a book of prophecies 1 wherein he says,

— I know not what sort of fellow, styling himself the First Emperor of Ch‘in, comes to my hall, squats on my bed, and turns my clothes topsy-turvy. After arriving at Sha-ch‘iu he will die.

In course of time the king of Ch‘in, having swallowed the empire, assumed the title of First Emperor. On a tour of inspection, he came to Lu and visited the home of Confucius. Then he proceeded to Sha-ch‘iu, but on the road he was taken ill and expired.

Another entry is this,

« Tung Chung Shu carries confusion into my book.

Subsequently, the minister of Chiang-tu 2, Tung Chung Shu made special researches into the Ch‘un-ch‘iu and wrote comments and notes on it 3. The book of prophecies further says,

« Ch‘in will be p2.115 ruined by Hu.

Later on, the Second Emperor Hu Hai in fact lost the empire.

These three instances are used to bear out the statement that Sages foreknow ten thousand future generations.

Confucius ignored his descent, his father and mother having concealed it from him. He blew the flute and then of himself knew that he was a scion of Tse, a great officer of Sung of Yin 1. He did not consult books or ask anybody, his playing the flute and his genius alone revealed to him his generation 2. This would appear to be a proof of the faculty of Sages to know thousands of years of the past.

I say that all this is fallacy. Such miraculous stories are recorded in prophecy books and all in the style of Hu destroying the Ch‘in, told in many books, or of the text of the Plan of the River 3. The plain illustrations of Confucius have been magnified with a view to prove wonders and miracles, or the stories were fabricated in later times to furnish evidence.



Kao Tsu having enfeoffed the king of Wu, and seeing him off, patted him on his shoulder saying,

— Within fifty years hereafter, some one will revolt from the Han in the south-east. Will that not be you ?

In the time of Ching Ti, Pi 4 along with seven other States plotted a rebellion against the Han 5. Those who first made this statement had perhaps noticed the dispositions and the signs of the time, whence they surmised that a rebellion would come, but they ignored the name of the leader. Kao Tsu having observed the valour of Pi, then correctly hinted at him.

If from this point of view we consider Confucius’ cognisance of Ch‘in Shih Huang Ti and of Tung Chung Shu, it may be that at the time he merely spoke of somebody visiting his home and deranging his book, and, later on, people, remarking that Ch‘in Shih Huang Ti entered his house, and that Tung Chung Shu studied his p2.116 work, exaggerated the dicta of Confucius and wrote down the names of the principal persons.

If Confucius was endowed with supernatural powers, so that he could see the First Emperor and Tung Chung Shu ere they existed, then he ought to have at once been aware of his being a descendant of the Yin and a scion of Tse likewise, and have no need of blowing the flute to determine it. Confucius was unable to ascertain his family name without playing the flute, but his seeing the First Emperor and beholding Tung Chung Shu is like blowing the flute.

According to the narrative of Shih Huang Ti 1, he did not go to Lu ; how then should he have entered the hall of Confucius, squatted down on his bed, and turned his clothes topsy-turvy ? In the thirty-seventh year of his reign, on the kuei-ch‘ou day of the tenth month 2, Ch‘in Shih Huang Ti started on a journey to Yün-mêng. From afar he sacrificed to Shun in Chiu-yi. Floating down the Yangtse, he visited Chieh-ko, crossed the stream at Mei-chu 3, went over to Tan-yang, arrived at Ch‘ien-t‘ang, and approached the Chê river. The waves being very boisterous, he went 120 Li westward, crossed the stream at a narrow passage, and went up to Kuei-chi, where he made an oblation to Great , and erected a stone with an encomiastic inscription. Then turning to the southern Sea, he went back. Passing Chiang-ch‘êng, he sailed along the seashore northward as far as Lang-yeh, whence still further north he arrived at the Lao and Ch‘êng 4 Mountains. Then he proceeded to Chefoo, and always keeping near the sea-shore, reached the P‘ing-yuan Ford, where he fell sick. He passed away on the P‘ing Terrace in Sha-ch‘iu 5.

Since he did not go to Lu, wherefrom does the Book of Prophecies derive its knowledge that Shih Huang Ti came to Lu as p2.117 it says ? This journey to Lu not being a fact that might be known, the words ascribed to Confucius ‘I know not what sort of a fellow’, &c. are not trustworthy either, and this utterance being unreliable, the remark about Tung Chung Shu deranging his book becomes doubtful also.

In case records of famous deeds seem rather queer, they are the work of common people. All books, unless they be directly written by Heaven and Earth, go back on former events, there being reliable evidence. Those without experience, of course, cannot utilise these sources. All Sages foreseeing happiness and misfortune, meditate and reason by analogies. Reverting to the beginning, they know the end ; from their villages they argue on the palace, and shed their light into the darkest corners. Prophecy books and other mystic writings see from afar what has not yet come to pass ; they are aware of what is going to happen in future, which, for the time being, is still a void and wrapt in darkness. Their knowledge is instantaneous, supernatural, and passing all understanding.

Although ineloquent persons may not be qualified for it, still it is possible to predict calamities by observing analogies, or to predetermine future events by going back to their sources and examining the past. Worthies have this faculty as well, and Sages are not alone fit to do it.

When Chou Kung was governing Lu, T‘ai Kung knew that his descendants would be reduced to impotence, and when T‘ai Kung was ruling in Ch‘i, Chou Kung saw that his scions would fall victims to robbery and murder. By their methods they foreknew the ultimate end, and perceived the signs of adversity and rebellion.



Chou having ivory chop-sticks made, Chi Tse administered reproof 1, and Confucius sighed because dummies were buried in Lu. From the ivory chop-sticks the one inferred the misery attending the search for dragon-liver, whereas the other saw in the dummies the danger that living persons might be interred along with the dead 2.

T‘ai Kung and Chou Kung were both cognisant of what had not yet come to pass, as Chi Tse and Confucius were aware of what p2.118 had not yet taken place. As regards the source from which they drew the knowledge of the future, there is no diversity between Sages and Worthies.

The marquis of Lu being old, and the crown-prince weak, his daughter by a second wife leaned against a pillar, heaving a sigh. Old age and weakness were to her presages of future disorders and revolutions. Even a woman was clever enough to reason by analogies and thus discover the future. How much more should this be the case with Sages and superior men of exceptional parts and great intelligence ?

In the 10th year of Ch‘in Shih Huang Ti 3 the mother of King Yen Hsiang 4, the queen-dowager Hsia, saw in a dream the consort of King Hsiao Wên 5who said,

— The queen Hua Yang together with her husband Wên Wang  is buried in Shou-ling, and the queen-dowager Hsia and King Yen Hsiang are buried in Fan-ling. For this reason the tomb of the queen-dowager Hsia is transferred to Tu-ling  , so that I can say, ‘I see my son 1in the east and my husband in the west. After a hundred years a city of ten thousand families will rise by my tomb.

In course of time everything turned out as predicted. If those foreknowing the future from analogies be regarded as Sages, then the daughter of the second wife and the queen-dowager Hsia were Sages.

In the 10th year of King Chao of Ch‘in  , Ch‘u Li Tse 2died and was interred in Wei-nan  , east of the Chang terrace. He said,

— A hundred years hence, an emperor’s palaces will hem in my tomb.

After the rise of the Han dynasty, the Ch‘ang-lo palace was built at his east and the Wei-yang palace at his west side. The arsenal was just on his tomb, exactly as he had said. This is a proof of his prescience and of his foreseeing future events. If such an evidence constitutes a claim to sagehood, then Ch‘u Li Tse was a Sage. If he was not a Sage, then the knowledge of the future does not suffice to make a man a Sage.



p2.119 Ch‘u Li Tse seeing the emperor’s palaces close by his grave, was like Hsin Yu, who knew that Yi-ch‘uan 3 would become the territory of the Jung 4. In ancient days Hsin Yu passing through Yi-ch‘uan and noticing the inhabitants, wearing their hair long down on their back, performing sacrifices, said,

— Within a hundred years this land will most likely belong to the Jung.

A hundred years hence Chin 5 transferred the Jung of Lu-hun 6 to Yi-ch‘uan, and what Hsiu Yu knew before became a reality 7. From the omen of the long hair he inferred the expansion of the Jung, just as Ch‘u Li Tse, on beholding the vast plain near his tomb, foresaw that the Son of Heaven would move quite close to his tomb.

Han Hsin 1, burying his mother, likewise had a vast and elevated place built, that by its side there might be room for ten thousand families. Subsequently, in fact ten thousand families settled near his tomb. Ch‘u Li Tse’s comprehending the presages indicative of the imperial buildings in the vast plain was like Han Hsin’s perceiving the edifices of ten thousand families on the plateau. The foreknowing of things to come is not a knowledge requiring the faculty to look through obstacles or an exceptionally fine hearing ; in all these cases omens are taken into account, traces followed up, and inferences drawn from analogous circumstances.

When in the Ch‘un-ch‘iu epoch ministers and high officers held a meeting, they had an eye for all abnormal proceedings and an ear for strange utterances 2. If these were good they took them for indications of felicitous events, if they were bad they saw in them unlucky auguries. Thus they knew how to ascertain happiness and misfortune, and, long before, were aware of what had not yet come to pass. It was no divine or supernatural knowledge, but all derived from signs and analogies.



p.2120 At present all things knowable may be grasped by reflection, but all things unknowable 3 remain incomprehensible without research or inquiry. Neither ancient nor modern history affords any instances of men knowing spontaneously without study or being enlightened without inquiry. For things knowable merely require earnest thought, then even big subjects are not difficult of apprehension, whereas things unknowable, how small soever, do not become easy through mental efforts or research. Consequently great savants are not apt to bring about anything without study or to know anything in default of inquiry.

An objection may be urged on the score that Hsiang T‘o 4, at seven years of age, taught Confucius. At the age of seven, he could not yet have entered an elementary school, and yet he acted as teacher to Confucius. Therefore he must have been self-knowing by nature.



Confucius says that [those who are born with the possession of knowledge are the highest class of men. Those who learn, and so get possession of knowledge, are the next.] 5Speaking of those born with knowledge, without referring to their studies, Confucius has in view men like Hsiang T‘o.

In the time of Wang Mang  , Yin Fang of Po-hai 1 was twenty-one years old. He had neither had a teacher nor a friend, but his inner light was fully developed, so that he was well versed in the Six Arts 2. When the governor of Wei-tu 3, Shun Yü Tsang, had written a memorial, Yin Fang, who had not studied, on seeing the document, could read it and argue on its purport. The quotations from the Five Classics he could elucidate and discourse on the subject to the gratification of all persons present. The emperor summoned him and gave him a theme ‘The flying insects’, on which he wrote an excellent essay. Verily, he was endowed with great erudition, and all under Heaven called him a Sage. A man p2.121 conversant with the Six Arts, without having had a teacher or a friend, and able to read a document placed before him, although he has not studied books formerly, is a Sage. Without study he possesses knowledge spontaneously, and without instruction he is enlightened of himself. If this is not divine, what is it ?




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