By melting five Stones and moulding an instrument in the fifth month, in the height of summer, one may obtain fire. But now people merely take knives and swords or crooked blades of common copper, and, by rubbing them and holding them up against the sun, they likewise get fire. As by burning glasses, knives, swords, and blades one may obtain fire from the sun 3, so even ordinary men, being neither Worthies nor Sages, can influence the fluid of Heaven, as Tung Chung Shu was convinced that by a clay dragon he could attract the clouds and rain, and he had still some reason for this belief 4. If even those who in this manner conform to the working of Heaven, cannot be termed Worthies, how much less have those a claim to this name who barely win people’s hearts ?
May he be considered a Worthy who, holding office, achieves merit and proves successful ?
p2.133 But what is to be accounted merit or success of an office bearer ? That the populace turn to him ? However, the masses can be won by feigned favours.
When the Yin and the Yang are in harmony, there is a time of public peace. At such periods of harmony, even the depraved fall in with general tranquillity, whereas in times of unrest, even Sages are involved in catastrophes. Should the harmony of the Yin and the Yang determine the worthy or unworthy character of a man, then Yao ought to have been degraded owing to the Great Flood, and T‘ang should have been thrown into the background in view of the Great Drought.
If merit and success be regarded as action, then merit appears and manifests itself by the activity of the body. But the success of designs based on principles is invisible and not apparent. The drum does not belong to the Five Sounds, but the Five Sounds 1do not accord without a drum . The teacher has no place in the Five Degrees of Mourning, but they do not become practical without a teacher 2. Water does not belong to the Five Colours, but in default of water the latter do not shine 3. So principles are the root of merit, and merit is the upshot of principles. If people be called Worthies because of their merits, they would be the unworthy ones of the Taoists 4.
When Kao Tsu came to the throne he rewarded the merits of all his ministers, and HsiaoHo got the highest prize, because the acknowledgement of merit by Kao Tsu was like a hunt, when the hunter lets loose his dog. The dog alone catches the beast, but the hunter has the merit of it. All the ministers of the emperor took a personal part in the war like the dog, but HsiaoHo did the chief part like the hunter. If those pass for Worthies who have achieved merit, then HsiaoHo had no merit. Consequently merit and reward cannot be proofs of worth. That is the first objection.
p2.134 Sages and Worthies have their methods of governing the world. He who knows these principles obtains merit, he who ignores them fails like a physician curing a disease. Possessing a prescription, he may cure even a serious illness, without it be cannot even remove small ulcers 5. A prescription is like a method, a disease like a disorder ; the physician corresponds to the official, and his physics to reforms. The prescription is used, and the physic administered, and so a method is employed, and reforms carried out. By these reforms disorder is stopped, and by the use of physics a disease is cured. A drug curing a disease must not of necessity be better than another without these medical properties, and an official qualified to govern a State is not necessarily worthier than another without such ability. A prescription may be obtained by chance, and a man may happen to know a certain method.
The administration of a State requires a method to secure success, but there are also times of a natural disorder, when no methods are of any use to bring about anything ; and there are other times, when, by nature, peace must prevail, and merit may be achieved even without any method. Thus statesmen hitting upon the proper time, may accomplish their ends, when they lose it, they fail. Men possessing some method may achieve merit in accordance with time, but are not apt to bring about peace in opposition to the right time.
Good physicians may save the life of a man who is not yet about to die, but when his life-time is finished and his span terminated, no prescriptions are of any avail whatever. When there is to be a revolution, even Yao and Shun cannot accomplish anything with all their methods, and when a person is doomed to die, even the medicaments of Pien Ch‘io cannot cure his illness.
Archers and charioteers as well as other artisans and handicraftsmen all have there methods, by means of which they acquire merit, and do business, so that their success becomes visible. Statesmen must be looked upon as being on a level with handicraftsmen. The achievement of merit being like the doing of business, then if those having merit be called Worthies, all handicraftsmen must likewise be Worthies.
Shou Wang of Wu-ch‘iu1,a native of Chao, was an expectant hanlin in the time of the emperor Wu Ti2. The sovereign bade him follow Tung Chung Shu and receive the Ch‘un-ch‘iu from him. His talents were of the highest order, and he thoroughly understood business. Subsequently he became military governor of Tung-chün3, and, in view of his excellence, the emperor did not appoint a civil governor 4. But at one time military expeditions had to be organized, the people were in excitement, the year was bad, and robbers and thieves were rampant. Then the emperor sent a letter to Shou Wang running thus,
« When you were in my presence, you became the centre of all our deliberations, and I imagined that you had not your equal in the world, and that there were not two men like you within the Four Seas. You were given the control of more than ten cities, and your post was a double one of 4 000 piculs 5. What is the reason that now robbers and thieves on boats attack my arsenals to seize their arms, and that the present time so little tallies with the past ?
Shou Wang, by way of excuse, said that there was nothing to be done. He again was appointed commander of the Imperial Palace and constantly kept about His Majesty 6. All his judgments and proposals were sound and just, so great were his talents, and so profound his knowledge. He understood everything and had the greatest experience. Albeit yet during his administration of Tung-chün, the year was bad, robberies and thefts were rampant, and the excitement of the people could not be stopped. I wonder whether Shou Wang did not know a method for governing Tung-chün, or whether this province had just again to pass through a revolution, and the administration of Shou Wang just coincided with this time ?
Thus even a worthy like Shou Wang in his administration of Tung-chün could not achieve merit. Should Worthies be judged p2.136 by their achievements, then even a ShouWang would be rejected and not be promoted. I am afraid that in the world there are a great many persons of the type of Shou Wang, yet the critics are unable to see the value of people in default of their merits.
In Yen there was a valley where in consequence of cold air the Five Grains did not grow. Tsou Yen by blowing the flute attracted a fluid by which the cold was changed into heat, so that in Yen they could sow millet, and the millet grew in great abundance. Up till now the valley bears the name of ‘millet valley’ 1. The harmonisation of the Yin and the Yang requires the most exquisite wisdom and virtue, yet by Tsou Yen’s blowing the flute the cold valley became warm, and grain and millet sprouted luxuriantly. Accordingly, all who have achieved merit have a method like Tsou Yen blowing the flute. Consequently, if they are in possession of some system, even the wicked are successful, and many Worthies and Sages would be unfitted for government in case they have not the proper method. Therefore merit is no criterion of virtue. This is the second point.
When people undertake something their will may be most earnest, still they have no success. Their plan is not carried out though their energy would pierce a mountain. Such was the case of Ching K‘o and of the physician Hsia Wu Chü.
Ching K‘o entered Ch‘in with the intention to rob the king of Ch‘in and convey him alive to Yen, but meeting with an unlucky accident, he was himself caught in Ch‘in. When he was pursuing the king of Ch‘in, who ran round a pillar, the surgeon Hsia Wu Chü hit him with his medicine bag, nevertheless Ching K‘o won world-wide fame as a hero. The king of Ch‘in rewarded Hsia Wu Chü with two hundred yi2 of gold 3. Being himself arrested in Ch‘in, the planned capture and conveyance of the king alive could not be accomplished by Ching K‘o, and the hitting a would-be assassin with a medicine bag, served to save the king’s life. Yet either of them was praised or rewarded, owing to the great sincerity of the one, and the wonderful strength of the other. The scholars of the world did not forbear extolling the honesty of Ching K‘o though he did not accomplish his object, and the king of Ch‘in rewarded Hsia Wu Chü although his action had no consequence.
p2.137 The purpose being good, it matters not whether a result be achieved, and an idea being excellent, one does not think of the outcome. In case an idea is admirable, but the success inadequate, or a purpose grand, but the result small, the wise will reward, and the unwise, punish. If one always has the success in view, no account being taken of the intention, and if only the outward result is insisted upon, without paying attention to the inward motives, then the story of Yü Jang1 drawing his sword and cutting the cloak of Viscount Hsiang, would not be worth mentioning, Wu Tse Hsü’s flogging the corpse of King P‘ing2, would not be worthy of note, and ChangLiang’s dealing a blow at Ch‘in Shih Huang Ti and, by mistake, hitting the accompanying cart 3, would have no interest.
All three had to suffer from unfavourable circumstances and could not accomplish their designs. They had the power, but not the success ; they formed plans, but could not carry them out. Therefore Worthies cannot be gauged by their merits. This is the third objection.
Then can people become Worthies by their filial piety towards their father, or their brotherly behaviour towards their elder brothers ? In that case a dutiful son and a good brother must have a father or an elder brother. These two being unkind, then their filial piety or brotherly love become manifest. Shun had Ku Sou, and TsêngShên had TsêngHsi as father. Thus the filial piety could become apparent, and their fame was established, so that everybody belauded them. If, however, there be no father or elder brother, or if these be kind and good, there is no occasion to show these virtues, and the name of a dutiful son or a good brother cannot be acquired.
Loyalty to one’s sovereign is similar to this : The loyalty of LungFêng4and Pi Kanshone forth in Hsia and Yin, because Chiehp2.138 and Chou were both wicked, whereas the fealty of Chi, Hsieh5, and KaoYao6remained concealed in T‘ang and Yü,since Yao and Shun themselves were virtuous. As the light of a glow-worm is eclipsed by the effulgence of the sun and the moon, so the name of a loyal official is overshadowed by the renown of his virtuous sovereign.
To die for a prince in disgrace, and to sacrifice oneself for him, falls under the same head. When an officer just happens to live at such a time and dies for his lord, his righteousness becomes known, and he earns great fame. A great Worthy, however, passes through this life, flying about and settling down and rising on apprehending some danger . The ruin of a perishing prince does not involve him, nor does the calamity of a tottering State affect his family. Then, how should he meet with such a misfortune, or share the disaster of his lord ?
Chan of Ch‘i asked YenTse1 how a loyal minister had to serve his master. The other replied,
— So that he does not die with him nor see him off, when he leaves his country to go into exile.
— If a man, rejoined Chan, who has been given plenty of land and been the recipient of many honours lavishly bestowed upon him by his sovereign, if such a one does not die for his prince, when the latter is ruined, nor see him off, when he leaves his country, how can he be called loyal ?
— How can, said Yen Tse, a minister die, provided that his advice be followed ? Or how can he see the prince off, provided that his remonstrances be effective, so that his sovereign is never in his whole life compelled to quit the country ? If his advice be rejected, and the minister die for his lord, this would be a reckless death, and if his remonstrances be repudiated, and the minister see off his sovereign going into exile, this would be deception. Thus a loyal minister may share the happiness of his prince, but he cannot be engulphed with him in the same catastrophe.
According to this reply of Yen Tse, in seeking the Worthies of this world, those who die, because their sovereign is ruined, and thereupon base their claim to loyalty, do not count. Great Worthies have few accomplishments that may be named, and small Worthies do many things worthy of praise. Such faults p2.139 for which people may be bambooed, are only small ones, and so are all quantities that may be measured : For the greatest crimes the bamboo is not sufficient, and for the greatest quantifies pints and bushels will not do. Inferior actions are easily described, and they usually occur in times of decay, when they are easily recognised. Thus virtuous acts are manifest, and their fame is heard of 2.
Floating on the ocean, one may be thrown to the east or the west owing to the vastness of the water ; navigating on a creek, one knows the traces left by the oars of the boats on account of its smallness 1. Small things are easy to see and, in times of disorder, easily brought to light. As long as an age is not in jeopardy, remarkable deeds are not taken any notice of, and unless the ruler be wayward and perverse, loyalty cannot be exhibited. The highest and noblest feelings are displayed under a régime at the verge of ruin, and the purest and finest acts done in an epoch of universal decay 2.
Are those Worthies who safeguard themselves from all injuries, so that they do not suffer any punishments like Nan Jung who was afraid about the white sceptre-stone 3 ?
To avoid all injuries is chance and a propitious fate. They are not to be prevented by abilities and knowledge, or to be averted by repressive measures. A divine snake may be cut in two and again grow together, but it cannot hinder men from cutting it, and so may Sages and Worthies be pressed hard and again liberated, but they cannot prevail upon others not to injure them. Nan Jung could free himself from capital punishment, but KungYeh, though quite innocent, was loaded with fetters 4. Chü Po Yü5 could preserve his principles in a degenerate State, whereas WênWang was kept a prisoner in Yu-li and Confucius endangered in Ch‘ên and Tsai6. These are not disasters brought about by one’s own p2.140 doings and coming down upon a man, but unavoidable calamities in which he becomes implicated. This impossibility of avoiding calamities is like the inability to prolong one’s life. The allotted span being terminated, no Worthy can extend it of his own accord, and when the time is perilous, no Sage is apt to save himself.
Are those to be deemed Worthies who quit their country, giving up their dignity, and who reject wealth and honour, preferring penury and misery ?
To quit one’s own country, one must be under compulsion, as Po Yi7 was, who yielded the State to his brother, lest he should be suspected of struggling with him for his share. When the Old King Tan Fu1 had fought several battles, his people all quitted the country. One gives up one’s dignity, when one’s principles prove impracticable, and one does not obtain one’s ends. As long as his principles are successful, and his aims attained, nobody thinks of renouncing his dignity. Thus, for quitting one’s country and giving up one’s dignity one always has one’s reasons. If such persons be called Worthies, are those not affected by similar reasons, to be termed unworthy ?
Moreover, only in case there is a State or a dignity, they may be abandoned and parted with, but there being no State or any high dignity, how can they be rejected ?
The spending of wealth and giving their share to those below, is similar to this. But if there really be no wealth, what can be given away ? When the mouth is hungry, what can be yielded to others ?
While the granaries are full, people know rites and ceremonies, and when food and clothing are sufficient, one is sensible of honour and disgrace. Unselfishness grows from abundance, and strife is engendered by scarcity 2. People may sometimes share their wealth with others. The general Yuan3 again divided his p2.141 family property with his nephew, and many saw in this a great kindness and generosity.
At the foot of Mount K‘un4, jade is as common as pebbles, and on the banks of Lake P‘êng-li, they feed dogs and pigs with fish. Provided that a liberal man whose wealth is like the jade of Mount K‘un and the fish of Lake P‘êng-li5 again divide his family property, this would not be sufficient.
If Han Hsin sent food to the village elder in Nan-ch‘ang6, did he part with his wealth ? And does the fact that Yen Yuan contented himself with a bamboo dish of rice and a gourd dish of drink 7 constitute a renunciation of his property ?
Kuan Chung, in dividing money, took the greater part for himself. Being very poor and destitute, he did not possess disinterestedness, and his moral sense was weakened 1.
Is it possible to become a Worthy by avoiding the world and keeping aloof from all that is common, purifying one’s self and one’s actions ? That would be much the same as abandoning one’s country and giving up one’s dignity. Wealth and honour are generally coveted, and big posts and high rank are a source of pleasure. To abandon them and retire can only be the consequence of a life full of disappointments and of the failure of one’s plans.
Ch‘angChü and Chieh Ni2 both left the world to live in retirement. Po Yi and the recluse of Wu Ling3 rejected honour and put up with meanness. But this was not their real desire.
May those be looked upon as Worthies who are unpassionate and desireless, who do not care to fill an office, merely wishing to preserve their bodies and cultivate their natures ?
These are men like LaoTse. The Taoists belong to another class than the Worthies. The sorrow for the world and the wish to help people in their difficulties, were a cause of great agitation for p2.142 Confucius, and gave much trouble to Mê Tse4. Those who do not co-operate with Confucius and Mê Tse and, on the other side, in their dealings follow Huang Ti and Lao Tse, are not Worthies 5.
Are those to be considered Worthies who carry on righteousness a thousand Li and who as teachers, making friends, never disregard propriety ?
Then people belonging to rich families and living in opulence, who, besides, have strong and powerful muscles, would best meet these requirements. The weak are unable to carry on propriety, and the feeble, unfit to travel very far, and therefore would not come up to it. Families with heaps of gold do not lack friends even outside their country, and States of a thousand chariots 6never stand in need of allies, for they have always enough to spend. If food were as common as water and fire, then even the covetous and avaricious would distribute it beyond the frontier of their country. When there are few resources, not a single one of the fundamental rules is fulfilled, whereas, when there is plenty, gifts are made thoughtlessly to thousands of families. It is a very hard task to induce poor people who do not call a peck or a bumper their own to make friends and to spend much.
Men who carry heavy burdens a thousand Li, are strong men whose feats are admired even in distant countries. Their hands and feet are hardened, their faces dark, they do not feel painful diseases, and their skin and sinews must be different from those of other people. If we compare with them such officers as have proved important witnesses to their princes, in so far as no bodily pain could force a confession from their mouths, their flesh and bones must likewise have been very strong. The strong can conceal something and uphold righteousness, the weak speak ill of their time and defame morality.
Yü Jang so disfigured himself, that his own wife did not recognise him, KuanKao1was so doubled up, that not a single p2.143 piece of flesh on his body was left uninjured. Both must have had bodies different from those of other people, whence their proceedings were not like those of the majority either .
Are those Worthies who know the Classics, have many pupils, and attract the masses ?
Those well versed in the Classics are the Literati, and one becomes literate by study. The Literati have studied, and students are the same as the Literati. They transmit the doctrines of former teachers, and learn the oral precepts of their professors, to impart them to others. But they have no original ideas in their heads, and are unfit to argue the pros and cons of a question. In this respect they resemble postmen conveying letters, and door-keepers transmitting an order. As long as the covers are intact, so that no part of the letter is lost, and that orders are taken care of and not tampered with, they have done their duty. The scholars transmit the teachings of the ancients, without altering a single word, so that the old sayings of former teachers have been preserved down to the present day. Yet, although they have followers a hundred and more, and themselves have obtained the rank of professors and academicians, they are on a level with postmen and door-keepers 1.
May those be called Worthies who possess a vast knowledge of things ancient and modern, and remember all sorts of secret records and chronicles ?
They rank but after the scholars above mentioned. Whoever possesses great talents and many interests, will devote himself to study, and never flag, like heirs specially provided with everything who, in possession of all the writings left by their forefathers, are thus enabled to complete these works, perusing and reciting them, as archivists do their papers. They are like the Grand Annalist and Liu Tse Chêng who, being in charge of all the records, have become famous for their great learning and vast erudition.