Miscellaneous essays Traduits et annotés

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May those be deemed Worthies who, by their wonderful influence and cunning, are apt to command troops and lead the masses ?

p2.144 They would be men like Han Hsin 2, who in contending States win laurels and become celebrated generals ; but in peaceful times they cannot exert themselves and plunge into disastrous adventures. When the high-flying bird is dead, they store the good bow away, and after the cunning hare has been caught, the good greyhound is cooked 3. A potent and wily officer is like the bow used for the high-flying bird and the greyhound chasing the cunning hare. In times of peace, there is no use for him, wherefore the bow is stored away, and the dog, cooked. In peaceful times, the ruler does not disdain such an officer, or slight a hero, but he cannot give that assistance to the sovereign which the time requires.

Had the talent of Han Hsin been so versatile, that he could have acted like Shu Sun T‘ung 4, he would never have planned an insurrection nor miserably perished by execution 5. He was endowed with strength and heroism, but had not the wisdom of preserving peace ; he knew all the devices to marshal troops, but did not see the benefits of a settled state. Living in a time of peace, he plotted a rebellion, whereby he was deprived of his glory, lost his country, and did not obtain the name of a Worthy.


Are those Worthies who are able debaters with sweet words and clever speech ?

Then they would resemble Tse Kung. As a debater Tse Kung surpassed Yen Yuan, nevertheless Confucius placed him below the latter, because his real talents did not rank so very high.

People very much appreciate an able speaker. Since Wên Ti gave his favour mostly to the guardian of the tiger cage, and thought little of the intendants of the imperial parks, Chang Shih Chih 1 p2.145 commended Chou P‘o and Chang Hsiang-Ju 2, and the emperor became aware of his error. Able debaters are like the guardian of the tiger cage and can hardly pass for Worthies.


Then are Worthies those proficient in penmanship whose style and calligraphy are equally good ?

Penmanship is not much different from speech. What the mouth utters becomes a word, and what the pencil writes, a character. The talents of controversialists are not of a very high order, and so the knowledge of clever writers is not very varied.

Furthermore in what must these penmen be well versed ? They must be familiar with office work. Among the office work nothing is more laborious than law-suits. A case being doubtful, a judgment is asked for. There was no better judge in the world than Chang T‘ang whose writings were very profound, yet at the court of the Han he was not accounted a Worthy. The Grand Annalist in his introduction classes him with the cruel, and the proceedings of the cruel are not those of Worthies 3.

In the forests of Lu a woman cried because a tiger had eaten her husband, and it again devoured her son, without her leaving the place, for the government was good and not oppressive, and the officers were not tyrannical 4. The cruel are of the same type as the oppressive and tyrannical, and it is impossible to take them for Worthies.


Do those deserve this name who are skilled in panegyrics and irregular verse, writing a pompous and highly polished style ?

Sse-Ma Hsiang-Ju 1 and Yang Tse Yün 2would be the right persons. Their style was refined, and their subjects grand, their p2.146 expressions exquisit, and their meaning deep, but they could not find out right and wrong, or discriminate between truth and falsehood. Although their diction was as brilliant as brocade and embroidery, and as deep as the Yellow River and the Han, the people did not learn thereby the difference between right and wrong, nor did they help to bring about reforms aiming at the furtherance of truth.


May those be called Worthies who live in perfect purity, never submitting to any defilement of their person?

Such are people who flee from the world and avoid all that is vulgar, like Ch‘ang Chü and Chieh Ni  . Although they did not shun the company of common people altogether, they lived as if they had left the world, purifying their persons and not serving their sovereign, adhering to their principles and not troubling their fellow-citizens.

A great Worthy lives in this world in such a way, that when the time requires action he acts, and when it demands inaction he remains passive. Considering what is proper and what not, he upon that determines pure and impure actions. Tse Kung was yielding, but his goodness was limited; Tse Lu liked to receive, and passed for a virtuous man. Yielding is unselfishness and receiving, covetousness. Covetousness is profitable and unselfishness, injurious. Analogically human dealings cannot always be pure and without blemish 3.

Po Yi cannot be considered an ideal. Confucius disapproves of him 4, and he cannot be held to be a Worthy, his doings being opposed to those of a sage.

[Some one inquired of Confucius saying,

— What kind of a man is Yen Yuan ?

— A benevolent man, replied Confucius, and I am not his equal.

— And how is Tse Kung ?

— He is an excellent debater, and I do not come up to his standard.

— And Tse Lu ?He is a hero, said Confucius, and I cannot compete with him.

— These three gentlemen are all superior to you, Master, the stranger went on to say, why then do they serve you as their master ?

— I am benevolent, said Confucius, and at the same time submit to p2.147 ill-treatment, I am a clever disputant and a bad speaker, I am bold and timid. It is impossible to interchange the accomplishments of the three gentlemen with my ways.

Confucius knew how to use his faculties.] 1 Those who possess high talents and lead a pure life, but ignore how to employ their gifts, are really like imbeciles who do not act at all.


Consequently, all have their faults, then can the faultless be considered Worthies ?

They would be like those good people of the villages of whom Mencius says,

[— If you would blame them, you would find nothing to allege. If you would criticise them, you would have nothing to criticise. They agree with the current customs. They consent with an impure age. Their principles have a semblance of right-heartedness and truth. Their conduct has a semblance of disinterestedness and purity. All men are pleased with them, and they think themselves right, so that it is impossible to proceed with them to the principles of Yao and Shun. On this account Confucius said that those good people of the villages are the thieves of virtue. Because they seem what they really are not, Confucius hated them.] 2


Then, how are the real Worthies to be recognised, and which method is to be used to acquire this knowledge ? People at large noticing great talents and brilliant gifts, and that a person has achieved success, Gall him a Worthy. Accordingly it is very easy to find out, wherefore then should it be difficult to know a Worthy ?

The Shuking says,

« To know a man one must be wise, but the emperor finds it difficult 3.

If a man be called a Worthy in view of his great abilities and extraordinary accomplishments, whence does the difficulty arise which is referred to ? There is a reason for this difficulty. For the emperor Shun it was not p2.148 easy to know men, the statement of ordinary people that they are able to know a Worthy is, therefore, erroneous.

Then are Worthies altogether unrecognisable ? No, they are easy to be recognised. Those who find it an arduous task, do not know how they may be recognised, and therefore put forward this difficulty. A Sage is not easy to know. Knowing his criteria, even persons of moderate abilities may recognise him.

It is like artisans making a vessel. For those who understand their business, it is not difficult, for those who do not understand it, it is not easy. Worthies are more easily recognised than vessels produced. But in the world no difference is made, and true Worthies are mixed up with common scholars. Common scholars, by their eloquence and complaisance, the distinction of the official positions they occupy, and by the marks of conspicuous favour which they may expect, obtain the names of Worthies. The latter live in small alleys, poor and wretched they terminate their lives, having suffered from defamation, although they could not be convicted of any crime.

But, under these circumstances, when may they be recognised ? Wishing to recognise them, one must look at their good hearts. The abilities of Worthies must not of necessity be of a very high order, but their hearts are bright, and though their intellectual power be not very great, they do what is right.

How then can their hearts be known ? From their speech : those who have a good heart speak good words. They serve to investigate their dealings. Good words are accompanied by good actions. Words and proceedings being right, in governing the family, all relations are assigned their proper places, and in governing the State, high and low have their proper ranks. Those with bad hearts cannot distinguish between white and black, and make no difference between good and bad. Their administration causes disorder and confusion, and their institutions lack the right measure.

Consequently with a good heart a man is always good, and with a bad heart he can never be good. Having a good heart, he is apt to distinguish between right and wrong. The principles of right and wrong being established, and the excellence of the heart in evidence, a person may be poor and wretched, troubled and miserable, his undertakings may fail, and no success be achieved, still he is a Worthy. In government not the result is to be considered, the important thing being whether the means employed are proper, and of actions the effect is not decisive, but it must p2.149 be hoped that what has been done is correct. This correctness and propriety being manifest, it is not necessary that there be a flow of words or a great many actions. Therefore it has been said :

« Words must not be many, but their meaning must be ascertained ; deeds must not be far-reaching, but their source should be examined.

This signifies that those possessing a well-principled heart, although they be bad speakers and debaters, discuss these questions in their bosoms. Men like the discussion of the heart, and not that of the mouth. When the heart is discussing, the words may be awkward, but no injustice is done. When the mouth is discussing, there are beautiful phrases perhaps, but there is no result. Confucius referring to the wickedness of Shao Chêng Mao 1said that his words were bad, but overflowing, and that he conformed to what was wicked, but was very smooth. If people are wicked inwardly, but outwardly are able to dissimulate it, the masses do not see it and take them for Worthies.

As those who are vicious inwardly, but specious, are looked upon as Worthies by the world, so those possessing intrinsic merit who cannot make a show of it, in the eyes of the public are unworthy. When right and wrong are confounded and there is no real government, only a Sage knows it, and when the words and deeds of a man are mostly like those of Shao Chêng Mao, only a Worthy perceives it. Much is said in this world in which right and wrong are interchanged, and many things are done in which truth and error are confounded. To discriminate between such erroneous statements and to adjust such a confusion, but Sages and Worthies are qualified.

The heart of a Sage is bright and never beclouded, that of a Worthy well-principled and never perplexed. If this enlightenment be used to inquire into wickedness, it all comes out, and if those principles be employed to weigh the doubts, all doubts become settled, quite another result than that arrived at by the world.

What is the reason that the masses, although the words spoken be true and correct, do not understand this ? It is because they have been too long befooled by common prejudices, that they have not the force to retrace their steps and to follow truth. For this reason true and correct statements are rejected by the people, and all customs departing from the ordinary are criticised by the public.

p2.150 Kuan Tse  said that a superior man speaking in a hall, fills the hall, and speaking in a room, fills the room. I wonder how his words can fill an apartment. True and correct words being uttered, and the people of the hall all possessing a true and correct knowledge, they afterwards will fill the hall. But how can they fill it, if their knowledge be not true and correct, so that they feel surprised, and find fault with what they hear ?

When songs are very beautiful, there are very few who can sing them in a chorus, and when a speech is to the point, those who approve of it are not many. Falling in with a song and hearing a speech is about the same thing. A song being beautiful, people are not all able to chime in, and a statement being true, not all believe it.

Duke Wên of Lu sacrificing contrary to the custom, three men went away, and Duke Ting having made an offering according to the rules, five men rebelled 1. Those used to old customs are forward to believe that the rites are not proper.

The number of those who know the rites is very small, and similarly those knowing the truth are but few. How then can the words of a superior man fill halls or rooms ? Therefore, unless it were said of men that they fill the world, one could not see whether the words spoken are true 2.

The traces of ink and pencil left on boards and tablets, are unmistakable signs. Therefore Confucius, not becoming an emperor, composed the Ch‘un-ch‘iu, in order to make known his ideas. Although the Ch‘un-ch‘iu was but a mere literary work, yet it showed that Confucius possessed the virtues qualifying him for an emperor. Confucius was a Sage, and if the productions of anybody be like those of Confucius, this is a sufficient proof of his being a Worthy, though he have not the genius of Confucius.

Worthies and Sages walk the same way, but bear different names. When Worthies can be known, it is also possible to discourse on Sages. However, if Confucius, upon investigation, had not discovered that the ways of the Chou were corrupt, he would p2.151 not have written the Ch‘un-ch‘iu. The production of this work originated from the corruption of the Chou. Had the principles of the Chou dynasty not been so degenerate, Confucius would not have written the Ch‘un-ch‘iu, yet for that he would not have been without talents, only he would not have had an occasion to write his book.

Consequently, the fact of Confucius having written the Ch‘un-ch‘iu, would not be a sufficient proof of his sagehood, and we cannot be sure whether those whose productions are like those of Confucius are real Worthies.

I reply to this objection that, owing to the depravity of the principles of Chou, Confucius took occasion to write his work, with a view to commending and denouncing right and wrong. He used a right method and did not commit the fault of wrongly condemning or favouring, whence the virtue of Confucius becomes evident. In default of utterances, we examine into the writings, and if there be none, we consider the utterances. Had Confucius written nothing, there would still be the words which he left behind. Such words have been elicited by something just as literary works have their raison d’être. It suffices to examine the quality of the writings, without troubling about their origin.

There are many works current in which no distinction is made between right and wrong, and where truth and falsehood are not determined. Huan Chün Shan 1, in his reflections, may be said to have hit the truth. His discussions are an investigation into the truth. In so far he is a Worthy of the Han time.

Before Ch‘ên P‘ing 2became an officer he cut meat in a village, and he divided the pieces so equally, that his qualification for the post of a prime minister became apparent. Between the cutting of meat and the cutting of words there is no great difference. If Huan Chün Shan might have governed the Han, Ch‘ên P‘ing, if he had devoted himself to discussions, would have had about the same result as the other. Confucius did not become an emperor, but the work of a typical emperor was embodied in the Ch‘un-ch‘iu. And so the traces of Huan Chün Shan’s fitness to become a typical chief minister, are to be found in his ‘New Reflections’.



Fictitious Phenomena

17. IV, II. Pien-hsü

© — @

p2.152 There is a tradition that [during the time of Duke Ching of Sung, the Planet Mars stood in the constellation of the Heart  . The duke, alarmed, summoned Tse Wei 1and asked him what it meant that Mars was in the Heart.

Tse Wei replied,

Mars means a punishment of Heaven. Sung is that part of the earth which corresponds to the Heart. A misfortune is menacing Your Highness. Nevertheless, it can be shifted on the prime minister.

— The prime minister, said the duke, is required for the administration of the State. To bring death upon him would be most unfortunate.

Tse Wei suggested that it might be shifted upon the people, but the duke retorted by saying,

— When the people are dead, whom have I to care for ? It is better that I die alone.

Tse Wei said that it might be shifted on the year.

— If the people starve, replied the duke, they will perish. Should a ruler of men contrive the death of his people, with a view to preserving his own life, who would still consider me a sovereign ? It is inevitable that my life must come to a close, therefore speak no more of it.

Tse Wei took his leave, but turned to the north, he bowed again and said,

— Your servant begs to congratulate Your Highness. Heaven is on high, but it hears what is below. Your Highness has uttered three maxims worthy of a superior man. Heaven surely will confer upon you three favours. This night the planet will pass through three solar mansions, and the life of Your Highness will increase by 21 years.

Upon the duke inquiring how he knew this, he replied,

— Your Highness has three accomplishments  , hence the three favours, p2.153 and the three motions which the planet must make. By each it will pass seven stars 1. One star is equivalent to one year. Three times seven makes 21. Therefore 21 years will be added to the life of Your Highness. Your servant desires to fall down on the steps of the palace and to await the event. Should the planet not pass, your servant is willing to die.

The same night the planet Mars really passed through three solar mansions,] 2just as Tse Wei had predicted  . Thus, in fact, the prolongation of the duke’s life by 21 years came into effect. Since the planet really passed, this prolongation took place, and, this prolongation being apparent, Heaven rewarded the duke for his goodness. Consequently, if some one be able to act like the duke, he would be sure to obtain the same blessing.

All this is absurd. Provided that almighty Heaven was wreaking its anger, and caused Mars to stay in the constellation of the Heart, owing to Duke Ching’s personal wickedness, then even if he had listened to Tse Wei’s advice, it would not have been of any benefit to him. In case Duke Ching was not the object of Heaven’s wrath, although he took no heed of Tse Wei’s words, it could not injure him.

[In the time of Duke Ching of Ch‘i there appeared a comet 3, and the duke enjoined upon the people to avert it by prayer. Yen Tse 4declared,

— It boots not, and it is but a superstition. Heaven’s way is not hidden, and its will must not be suspected. Why then deprecate it ? Moreover Heaven uses the Sweeping Star to sweep away filth. Your Highness’ virtue is not filthy, wherefore should you pray ? Should however your virtue be tarnished, of what use would these deprecations be ?

The Shiking says : [This king Wên, Watchfully and reverently, With entire intelligence served God, And so secured the great blessing. His virtue was without deflection ; And in consequence he received the allegiance of the p2.154 States from all quarters.] 

If Your Highness’ virtue does not degenerate, all the States round about will submit to you, what evil can befall you through a comet ?

The Shiking likewise has it that : « I have no beacon to look at, But the Sovereigns of Hsia and Shang. It was because of their disorders That the people fell away from them 1. »

If the virtue declines and degenerates, the people will be scattered and lost, and all the incantator’s and historiographer’s prayers would be of no avail.

The duke was pleased and had his orders countermanded.] 2The prince of Ch‘i wanted to avert the calamitous presage of the comet, as Tse Wei was endeavouring to remove the misfortune which Mars was portending. The duke of Sung would not listen to the advice which was given him, just as Yen Tse declined to comply with his master’s order. Thus the prince of Ch‘i was like Tse Wei, and Yen Tse took the place of the duke of Sung. The same calamity was sent down on both sovereigns, but Heaven only recognised the virtue of the duke of Sung, by making Mars pass through three solar mansions and adding 21 years to his span, and did not, for Yen Tse’s sake, cause the comet to disperse nor prolong his life. Why was Heaven so biassed and unjust in requiting goodness ?

When an honest man does good, his goodness springs from his heart, and his good maxims issue from his mind. They flow from a common source and are essentially the same. When Duke Ching of Sung worded the three excellent sentiments, his conduct must have been good before he gave utterance to them. That being the case, his administration was likewise good, and under a good government propitious omens abound, and bliss and happiness supervene. Then does the planet Mars not intrude upon the Heart. If, on the other hand, something was amiss in the dealings of Duke Ching, so that his administration became vitiated, under a perverted government dreadful prodigies must have appeared.

Mars staying in the Heart was like the paper-mulberry tree growing in court 3. Kao Tsung removed this portent by his p2.155 administration, not by words. In the same manner Duke Ching should have averted the extraordinary phenomenon of the planet Mars by his actions. Provided that Duke Ching’s proceedings were blameworthy, and that, for this reason, Mars was staying in the Heart, how could he hope to touch Heaven, or how would Heaven have responded, if, instead of changing his government and reforming, he had merely propounded three excellent sentiments, but done nothing ? How can we substantiate our view ?

Let us suppose that Duke Ching had enounced three wicked maxims, could he have induced Mars to take its place in the constellation of the Heart thereby ? Since three bad maxims would not have had this effect, how should the three excellent sentiments have caused the planet to revert three solar mansions ? If by three good maxims 21 years were obtained, would, by the utterance of a hundred fine things, the span of human life be extended to a thousand years ? The idea of a heavenly reward of virtue is preposterous, in reality there is nothing but fortune.

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