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My answer to this objection is this : Although Yin Fang had no teacher or friend, yet he must himself have learned many things, and though he did not study books, he must himself have plied pen and ink. When an infant is born, and its eyes first open, it has no knowledge, even though it possess the nature of a Sage. Hsiang T‘o was seven years old. At the age of three and four already he must have listened to other men’s speeches. Yin Fang counted twenty-one years. At fourteen and fifteen years of age he has probably learnt a great deal.

When a man of great natural intelligence and remarkable parts is confined to his own thoughts and has no experience, neither beholding signs and omens nor observing the working of various sorts of beings, he may imagine that after many generations a horse will give birth to an ox, and an ox to a donkey, or that from a peach-tree plums may grow, or cherries from a plum-tree. Could a Sage know this ? 4

If a subject assassinated his sovereign, or a son killed his father and if, on the other side, somebody were as kind-hearted as Yen Yuan, as dutiful a son as Tsêng Tse, as brave as Mêng Pên and Hsia Yü and as critical as Tse Kung and Tse Wo 5, would a Sage be apt to find this out ?

Confucius says that [some other dynasty may follow the Chou, but though it should be at the distance of a hundred ages, its affairs may be known] 1, and elsewhere he remarks,

[— A youth is to be regarded with respect. How do we know that his future will not be equal to our present ?] 2

In regard of abrogations and innovations he believes that they may be known, but he asks how the future of a youth could be known. The future of a youth is hard to be pre-ordained, whereas abrogations and innovations are easy to detect.

p2.122 However, all this is very far away, and nothing that may be heard or investigated.

Let us suppose that somebody standing at the east side of a wall raises his voice, and that a Sage hears him from the west side, would he know whether he was of a dark or a pale complexion, whether he was tall or short, and which was his native place, his surname, his designation, and his origin ? When a ditch is dug out and filled with water, affectionate care is bestowed on human skeletons excavated. Provided that the face and the hair of such a skeleton be deformed and partially destroyed, and the flesh decomposed and gone, would a Sage, upon inquiry, be apt to tell whether the deceased was a peasant or a merchant, young or old, or eventually the crime he had committed and for which he had to suffer death ? Not that a Sage is devoid of knowledge, but this cannot be known through his knowledge. Something unknowable by knowledge may only be learned by inquiry. Being thus unable to know, Sages and Worthies equally fail.

An opponent might retort with the following story : When Chan Ho 3 was sitting in his room with a pupil in attendance upon him, a cow was heard lowing outside the gate. The pupil said,

— This is a black cow, but it has white hoofs.

Chan Ho concurred saying,

— Yes, it is a black cow, but with white hoofs,

and he sent somebody to look at it. In fact, it was a black cow with its hoofs wrapped in some stuff. Chan Ho being merely a Worthy, was still in a position to distinguish the sound of the cow and to know its colour ; should a Sage with his superior insight not be qualified to know this ?

I beg leave to put a counter-question : If Chan Ho knew the cow to be black and to have white hoofs, did he also know to whom it belonged, and for what purpose its hoofs had been made white ? With this manner of devices one barely finds out one point, but cannot exhaust the whole truth. People thus may learn one thing, but being questioned and cross-examined, they show that they do not possess the entire knowledge, for only what has been seen with the eyes and asked with the mouth, may be perfectly known.

In the 29th year of Duke Hsi of Lu, Ko Lu of Chieh 1 came to court and stopped above Chang-yen. Hearing a cow lowing, he p2.123 said,

— This cow has already had three calves, but they have all been taken away from her.

Somebody asking how he knew this, he replied that her voice disclosed it. The man applied to the owner of the cow, and it was really as Ko Lu had said 2. This again is an instance of the use of some scheme and not knowable by knowledge alone.

Yang Wêng Chung of Kuang-han 3 understood the voices of birds and brutes. Once, when he was driving a lame horse in the open country, another blind horse was grazing at some distance. Both horses took notice of each other by neighing. Yang Wêng Chung said to his charioteer,

— That loose horse knows this one, although it be blind.

The charioteer inquiring how it could know that, Yang Wêng Chung replied,

— It abuses this horse in the shafts for being lame, and our horse, in turn, reviles the other because it is blind.

The charioteer did not believe it ; he went to look at it, and the eyes of the other horse were really blind 4. Yang Wêng Chung understood the voices of horses as Chan Ho and Ko Lu of Chieh could distinguish the lowing of cows.

They used a method and relied on a certain device. If both are combined it is not necessary to look or hear through, or to see at a distance and make distinctions, the eyes wandering about. For hearing sounds there is a method, and for discerning colours there is a device. Using these methods is like foreseeing. The public does not understand this, and under these circumstances speaks of a Sage with supernatural gifts.

Confucius seeing an animal named it rhinopithecus, and the Grand Annalist had the idea that Chang Liang looked like a woman. Confucius had never before seen a rhinopithecus, but when it arrived hecould give it its name. The Grand Annalist belonged to another age than Chang Liang, but his eyes beheld his shape. If the people at large had heard of this, they would have looked upon both as divine beings who were prescient. However Confucius could name the rhinopithecus, because he had heard the songs of the people of Chao, and the Grand Annalist knew Chang Liang from a picture p2.124 which he had seen in the emperor’s memorial hall  . They kept secret what they had seen, concealed their knowledge, and did not disclose their hidden thoughts. The great majority of people are thoughtless and know little. Noticing Worthies or Sages giving some creatures their proper names, they take them for supernatural beings.

From this point of view Chan Ho as well, who knew a cow to be black with white hoofs, comes under this category. Unless he was in possession of a peculiar method or device of his own, he must have got his information about the animal from without beforehand.

The present diviners look to their methods and calculations and, those being of no avail, contemplate the circumstances of the case. By combining these circumstances with their theory, they appear to be in possession of supernatural powers. Chan Ho and the like are the diviners of the present day. If Chan Ho and others had an intuitive knowledge and needed no theory, then they were like those animals living in nests which foresee a storm, or those cave-dwellers which foresee rain 1. Their intellect was prematurely developed as was the case of Hsiang T‘o and Yin Fang.

Against this it may be urged that Huang Ti, at his birth, was endowed with supernatural faculties, and that he could already speak as a babe. The emperor K‘u could tell his name after he was born. They had not yet gained any experience from without and immediately after their births were able to talk and tell their names. Was not this a proof of their superhuman faculties and an instance of their innate knowledge ?

I answer that, if Huang Ti could talk after his birth, his mother had carried him twenty months before she gave birth to p2.125 him, and that, according to this computation of the months, he must have been about two years in his mother’s womb 2.

The Emperor K‘u could speak his own name, but he could not tell those of other people. Although he possessed this one gift it did not reach very far. Did his so-called divine and innate knowledge merely amount to his faculty to utter his name when he was born ? The allegation that he knew it and did not learn it from any one, cannot be verified. Even if Huang Ti and Ti K‘u should really have been in possession of supernatural powers, these would only have been some prematurely developed talents.

A man’s talents may be precocious, or they may be completed rather late. Even in case he has been without a teacher, he has at home acquired the learning of his family. People upon remarking his precociousness and premature erudition, in their admiration exceed all bounds. If they say that Hsiang T‘o was seven years of age, he must have been ten, and their assertion that he instructed Confucius shows only that Confucius put a question to him. If they say of Huang Ti and Ti K‘u that, after their birth, they were able to talk, the time has, no doubt, been several months, and the twenty-one years which they ascribe to Yin Fang must have been about thirty. If they contend that he had no teacher nor a friend, and that he did not study, as a matter of fact, he travelled about to gather information and worked at home. But the masses are extravagant in their commendations, and in condemning they magnify the faults.

There is a popular tradition about Yen Yuan to the effect that, at the age of eighteen, he ascended Mount T‘ai, whence, in the far distance, he viewed a white horse fastened outside the Chang gate in Wu 1. An investigation reveals the fact that Yen Yuan, at that time, was thirty years old, and did not ascend Mount T‘ai, nor descry the Chang gate in Wu. The credit given to Hsiang T‘o and the praise bestowed on Yin Fang are like the admiration of which Yen Yuan was the object.

Tse Kung asked,

[— Why should the Master not study ? But, on the other side, how could he always find a teacher ?] 2

And Confucius remarks that at the age of fifteen he had his mind bent p2.126 on learning 3. The Five Emperors and Three Rulers all had their teachers. I believe that this has been set up as an example for mankind.

Somebody may object that mere cogitation might be recommended as well, and that there is no need for learning. Things may be difficult to be grasped without any alien assistance, still the talents of Worthies and Sages are equal to it.

The so-called spirits have knowledge without learning, and the so-called Sages require learning, to become Sages. Since they are compelled to study we know that they are not Sages 1.

Among the creatures between Heaven and Earth that are not provided with innate knowledge, the rhinopithecus knows the past and the magpie, the future 2. The heavenly nature which pervades them thus acts spontaneously. Should Sages resemble the rhinopithecus, then they ought to belong to the same class viz. of beasts and birds.

The queer ditties of boys are known without study, and may be described as supernatural and prescient. If Sages be put on a level with these songs, they would be uncanny like these songs.

Or are the divine Sages on earth held to be sorcerers ? Ghosts and spirits speak to men through the mouths of sorcerers. If Sages be regarded as sorcerers, in this capacity they would likewise be preternatural. That which is of the same stuff as prodigies are, has nothing in common with Sages. Sorcerers differ from Sages, therefore the latter cannot be spiritual. Not being spiritual, they are akin to Worthies, and being akin to Worthies, their knowledge cannot be diverse.

As to their difference, Sages are quick in embracing the right principles, and Worthies, slow. Worthies have many talents, and Sages, great knowledge. Their objects of thought are the same, only the amount differs. They walk the same road, but in their progress one overruns the other.

Things are hard to be understood, or easy of apprehension, and call the attention of both Worthies and Sages. For example, the alternation of culture and simplicity, the repetition of the three systems of government 3, the succession of the first days of the first moon, the concatenation of the abolitions from, and improvements upon the institutions of the various dynasties, all these things p2.127 Worthies and Sages equally know. Water and fire of ancient times are the water and fire of the present day, and sounds and colours of the present are the sounds and colours of later ages. As regards beasts and birds, plants and trees, the goodness and wickedness of men, we learn to understand antiquity from the present, and from what is now infer what is to come. Between a thousand years back and ten thousand generations hereafter there is no diversity. In investigating remotest antiquity and in inquiring into future ages, in such matters as civilization and primitive simplicity, or water and fire, Worthies and Sages are equal. In observing omens and noticing signs as well as in drawing schemes showing people’s destiny, Worthies and Sages are equal. Meeting with anomalies, they know their names and have no doubts about them, Worthies no less than Sages.

Things that may be known Worthies and Sages equally know, and things that may not be known, Sages do not comprehend either. I prove it thus :

Suppose that a Sage by mental abstraction foresees a rainfall, then his nature excels in one thing, but if his understanding does not reach to the remotest principles with all their details, it is not worth speaking of. What we speak of is the gift of prescience, and an intelligent mind, completely understanding the natures of all creatures, and fully apprehending thousands of important methods. If somebody is familiar with one thing, but not with the second, or if he knows the left and ignores the right, he is one-sided and imperfect, crippled in mind and not accomplished, and not what we call a Sage. Should he pass for a Sage it would be evident that a Sage has no superiority, and men like Chan Ho would be Sages, as Confucius and his equals are considered Sages. Then Sages would not distinguish themselves from Worthies, or Worthies come short of Sages.

If Worthies and Sages both possess many abilities, wherefore are Sages held in higher respect than Worthies ? If they are both dependent on their schemes and devices, why do not Worthies come up to the standard of Sages ? As a matter of fact, neither Worthies nor Sages are apt to know the nature of things, and want their ears and eyes, in order to ascertain their real character. Ears and eyes being thus indispensable, things that may be known are determined by reflexion, and things that may not be known are explained after inquiry. If things under Heaven or worldly affairs may be found out by reflexion, even the stupid can open their minds, if, however, they are unintelligible, even Sages with the highest intelligence cannot make anything out of them.

Confucius said

[— I have been the whole day without eating, and the whole night without sleeping — occupied with thinking. It was of no use. The better plan is to learn.] 1

Those things under Heaven which are incomprehensible are like knots that cannot be undone. By instruction one learns how to untie them, and there are no knots but can be undone. In case they cannot be untied, even instruction does not bring about this result. Not that instruction does not qualify to undo knots, but it may be impossible to untie them, and the method of undoing them is of no use 2.

The Sage knowing things, things must be knowable, if, however, things are unknowable, neither the Sage can understand them. Not that a Sage could not know them, but things may prove incomprehensible, and the knowing faculty cannot be used. Therefore things hard to grasp may be attained by learning, whereas unknowable things cannot be comprehended, neither by inquiry, nor by study.



A Definition of Worthies

80. XXVII, I. Ting-hsien

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p2.129 Sages are difficult to know, and it is much easier to recognise a Worthy than a Sage. Ordinary people are unable to recognise a Worthy, how then could they find out a Sage ? Although they pretend to know Worthies, this is a random statement. But from what signs may Worthies be known, and by what method ?

Are officials holding high positions and being wealthy and honoured to be looked upon as Worthies ?

Wealth and honour are heavenly fate. Those who by fate are wealthy and honoured, are not Worthies, nor can those who by fate are poor and miserable be held to be depraved. Should wealth and honour be made the criterion of virtue and vice, then officials would have to rely solely on their abilities, and not on fate.


Are those Worthies who in serving their sovereign take care to gloss over everything and never to give offence ?

These are those pliant courtiers, sycophants, and favourites who never say a word, without considering its effect upon their master, and in all their doings are opportunists. They never show any backbone, or dare to make opposition, and consequently never run the risk of being dismissed or cashiered. Or they have a stately and handsome bodily frame and a pleasing appearance, so that the emperor does not look at them with disfavour, which assures their good fortune, for they enjoy the imperial grace to an extraordinary degree. Still they cannot be called Worthies.


Are those Worthies whom the government chooses for employment, and who thus come to honour ?

Of those who make a show of themselves and are known to others, a great many are promoted, whereas those living in obscurity and retirement and unknown to the world, very seldom are recommended. This was the case with Shun. Yao wishing to employ p2.130 him, first inquired about Kun and Kung Kung 1. Thus even the chiefs of the mountains 2 were unqualified. Therefore, the selection and promotion of a man does not inform us about his real character. Sometimes men of superior virtue are recommended by very few persons, whereas a great many intercede for men of inferior talents. An enlightened ruler, wishing to employ good men, in order to find out whether they are really good or bad, inquires into the faults of all those introduced to him.

Moreover, he who consorts with many people and tries to win the heart of the masses, is generally liked and praised. On the other side, whoever is so pure and upright, that he does not feel at home with his own kindred, and whose lofty aspirations preclude any intimacy with low characters, loses the general sympathy, and people dislike and slander him. Thus, a name is often won by the art of ingratiating one’s self, and defamation often a consequence of the loss of sympathy.

King Wei of Ch‘i 3 enfeoffed the great officer of Chi-mo 4, in spite of his having been slandered, and caused the great officer of O 5 to be boiled, notwithstanding his fame. The former had great merits, but no fame, whereas the latter had done nothing, but was very celebrated 6.

[Tse Kung asked how a person was who was liked by all his fellow-villagers. Confucius replied that that was not sufficient. He then asked again about a man hated by all his fellow-villagers. The master replied that that would not do either. The best thing would be, if all the good ones among the villagers esteemed and all the bad ones amongst them hated him.] 7 Accordingly, it does not follow that a person praised and belauded by the majority, whom big and small, all declare to be a man of honour, is a Worthy. If the good speak well of him, and the wicked disparage him, so that one half defames, the other extols him, he may be a Worthy.

p2.131 Then, provided that a man meet with the approval of the virtuous and be vilified by the wicked, may we see a Worthy in him ?

Thus Worthies would be recognised conformably to the principle laid down by Confucius. But we do not know whether he who praises somebody be virtuous, or whether another speaking ill of him, be a bad man. It happens that those who praise are wicked, and that those disparaging are good. People are thus led astray and cannot draw a distinction.


May those be taken for Worthies to whom the masses turn and who assemble hosts of guests and retainers ?

Those to whom the masses turn are oftentimes persons having intercourse with many people. The public likes and esteems them and turns to them in great numbers. Either are they noble and exalted, and may be of use, or they are partial to warriors and condescending to guests, forgetting their dignity and waiting upon Worthies. The princes of Hsin Ling, Mêng Ch‘ang, P‘ing Yuan, and Ch‘un Shên 1 entertained thousands of guests and were called worthy peers and great generals, but Wei Ch‘ing 2and Ho Ch‘ü Ping  had not a single guest in their houses and, nevertheless, were celebrated generals. Thus many guests and followers assemble in the palaces of kind and condescending princes and of Worthies who may be useful or dangerous. If somebody is not fond of soldiers he must not be held in low repute for that, although the masses do not turn to him, and the warriors do not follow him.


Is he a Worthy who is in a position to govern others, and who wins people’s hearts to such an extent, that they sing songs in his praise ?

To gain the affections of the people does not differ from currying favour with the warriors. Propitiating the people by empty favours, one takes their fancy, and they are pleased and happy. We may adduce T‘ien Ch‘êng Tse of Ch‘i 3 and King Kou Chien of Yüeh 4 as examples. T‘ien Ch‘êng Tse wishing to usurp the p2.132 authority in Ch‘i, would use a big bushel, while lending out grain, and a small one, when taking it back, so that people were enchanted. Kou Chien, with a view to wiping out the disgrace of Kuei-chi 5, insinuated himself with his people by condoling, when somebody had died, and inquiring after people’s health, so that all were charmed. Both had their own selfish ends, for which they needed the support of others, and merely humbugged their people. There was no sincerity in them, yet people were contented.

The prince of Mêng-Ch‘ang 1 wished to pass through a gate of Ch‘in during the night, but the cocks had not yet crowed, and the gate was not yet open. One of his inferior retainers, who occupied a low position, beat his arm 2and imitated the cock-crow, when all the cocks responded, and the gate was thrown open, so that the prince could pass  . As cocks can be moved by false sounds, so men may be imposed upon by fictitious grace, and as men are subject to such impostures, even Heaven may be induced to respond, by tricks. In order to stir up the heavenly fluid, the spirit should be used, but people will employ burning glasses, to attract the fire from the sky.

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