The ancients called a year a twelve-month 2. The acquisition of nine twelve-months is like a man’s dream of promotion. If the p2.026 Duke of Chou relying on the dream that was bound to be realised, invoked Heaven, how could his merit be reputed very great ?
Anotherquestion : People admire him to whom they must look up to and in whom they trust, irrespective of the greatness of his achievements or the number of his perfections. Had Chou Kung not become the substitute of King Wu, and King Wu died of his illness, would Chou Kung, conjointly with King Ch‘êng, have been qualified to bring about universal peace all over the empire ?
Reply : Indeed, Chou Kung supporting King Ch‘êng, there would have been no troubles in the empire. If WuWang had not found a substitute, and subsequently had died of his disease, Chou Kung, no doubt, would have been able to secure a general peace.
Objection : Under these circumstances, the life of King Wu was of no advantage, and his death, no great loss, since to achieve success the Duke of Chou was required.
When the Chou dynasty was on the decline, and the princes in open revolt, Kuan Chung’ united them, and rectified the empire. Confucius said,
[— But for Kuan Chung, we should now be wearing our hair unbound, and the lappets of our coats buttoned on the left side 1 ] 2.
If it had not been for Kuan Chung who united the princes, the I and the Ti would have continued their incursions into China until they had extinguished it. This disgrace threatened if it had not been for Kuan Chung.
Ch‘êngLiang magnifying the accomplishments of Kuan Chung, placed him on a level with the Duke of Chou. When Kuan Chung expired, Duke Huan did not bury him with the ceremonies customary for a prince. Heaven ought to have been angry as in the case of the Duke of Chou ; why did it not produce a faint sound of thunder, and send down a little rain at least ? Did it regard Chou Kung as a sage, and Kuan Chung not as a wise man ?
Kuan Chung possessed a stand for inverted cups, and the San-kuei tower 3. Confuciuscensured him, and did not take him for a wise man 4. Such stands, and the San-kuei tower were privilege of princes as a burial, according to the ritual of the son of Heaven, is a royal prerogative. Both were ministers, and in this capacity not entitled to such honours.
p2.027 A great man agrees with Heaven and Earth in virtue 5. Confucius is such a great man. He criticized Kuan Chung for claiming rites not belonging to him. If Heaven desired Chou Kung to encroach upon the royal institutions, this would not prove the conformity of its virtue with that of Confucius. The statement of the commentators of the Shuking, therefore, cannot be correct.
The observation of the foot-prints of birds gave rise to the invention of writing, and the aspect of creeping plants flying about led to the construction of carts. Heaven did not convey its commands to Ts‘angHsieh1by the foot-prints of birds nor impress Hsi Chung with the flying creepers, but these creepers deeply affected Hsi Chung, and Ts‘angHsieh was struck at the foot-prints.
When Duke Wên of Chin returned to his country 2 he gave orders for the removal of Mi Mê (?) 3 This made such an impression upon his uncle Fan, that he quitted his post and returned home. Duke Wên, having Mi Mê dismissed, did not intend to expel his uncle Fan, but Fan felt abashed, likening himself to Mi Mê.
HuaCh‘ên4of Sung, despising the weakness of his clan, employed six ruffians, attached to his family, to murder Hua Wu in Sung with a long spear. They had been ordered to do the deed behind the house of Ho, Master of the Left. The Master of the Left was afraid, and said to them,
— The old man has committed no crime.
Subsequently, the Master of the Left bore a grudge to HuaCh‘ên, who took his precautions. The people pursued a mad dog, which entered the premises of Hua Ch‘ên. The latter, under the delusion that the Master of the Left was coming to attack him, climbed over the wall and made his escape 5.
p2.028 HuaCh‘ên, of himself, killed Hua Wu, and the Master of the Left became afraid ; the people, of themselves, pursued the mad dog, and Hua Ch‘ên, of himself, ran away. The fright of King Ch‘êng was of this kind. He had misgivings about his not burying the duke with imperial honours, and when he met with thunder and rain his fears knew no bounds. It is by no means evident that by way of thunder and rain, Heaven intimated its disapproval to the king, but when they came King Ch‘êng took alarm and impeached himself. His emotion is like the feeling of Ts‘angHsieh and Hsi Chung ; and his alarm, like the agitation of the Master of the Left and of HuaCh‘ên.
Harbouring thoughts of distrust and discomfort, and falling in with a vehement outburst of the elements, one sees in it the proof of some affinity, and Heaven’s wrath becomes a well established fact. Noticing such an affinity of events, one is affected even in silence and solitude, and how could King Ch‘êng be expected to have remained free of terror, being already afraid and, in addition, hearing the noise of thunder and rain shaking the roof of his carriage ?
When there were incessant thunderclaps and the storm was raging, Confucius would change countenance. According to the Rites a superior man, hearing thunder, must sit up in full dress and with his hat on, though it be night 1, out of respect for the thunder and in awe of the elements.
A sage is a superior man with untarnished virtue, and yet, conforming to Heaven, he is agitated. How, then, should King Ch‘êng already troubled with doubts about Chou Kung, not tremble with fear, upon hearing the sudden outburst of thunder and rain ?
Thunder and rain would seem to be produced by the heavenly fluid, and the fright of King Ch‘êng, to result from the influence of similar objects upon his mind. The principle of Heaven is inaction. If Heaven by thunder and rain did scold at, and vent its anger against mankind, then it might, as well, kill the vicious by thunder and rain. In ancient times, there were a great many wicked people, why were they not exterminated with thunder and rain ? Why had sages to be called upon to raise troops and move armies 2,and to take the trouble of blunting their swords in killing their adversaries, whereas it would have been so easy to destroy p2.029 them with one flash of lightning ? Would Heaven not have shunned the difficulty of crushing the enemies by force of arms ?
Some narrate of the emperor Ti Yi, the father of Chou, that he was in the habit of shooting at Heaven 3, and flogging the Earth. On an excursion between the Ching and the Wei4, he was struck by lightning and killed 5. Thus Heaven destroys depraved characters by a thunderbolt.
However, how could the wickedness of Ti Yi be compared with that of Chieh and Chou ? Tsou Po Ch‘i6discoursing on the depravity of Chieh and Chou, says that it fell short of doomed Ch‘in, and doomed Ch‘in’s fell short of Wang Mang’s. Nevertheless, the territories of Chieh and Chou, of Ch‘in and Wang Mang were spared by thunder and lightning.
Confucius wrote the Ch‘un-ch‘iu in such a way, that he recommended the slightest good thing, and blamed the smallest evil, but in recommending goodness, he did not exaggerate its excellence, and in blaming evil, he did not magnify its wickedness. A man like him would never have made great reproaches for a small offence. In view of the slight doubts of King Ch‘êng, Heaven caused a big tempest. If he had made up his mind to bury the duke like an official, why should the phenomenal change be so excessive ? According to the ‘Examination of Doubts’ in the ‘Great Plan’ it is owing to the weakness of their intellect that people often do not understand the meaning of calamities, yet Heaven does not reprove them for their doubts. The doubts of King Ch‘êng were not yet settled, when Heaven reprimanded him by the big tempest. This cannot have been the intention of august Heaven, I should say, and I am afraid that the writers on the Shuking have missed the truth.
p2.030 By one’s conduct one may always prove oneself a worthy man, but one can never be sure of success in one’s official career. Worthiness is the outcome of natural gifts, but success depends upon time. Some one may have remarkable talents, and lead a pure life ; that is by no means a guarantee that he will become noble and exalted, and another of poor talents and base conduct is not therefore doomed to wretchedness and meanness. It happens that men of genius and purity are unsuccessful and sink back into the vile vulgus, whereas the narrow-minded and the vicious rise above the heads of all others.
Every age has its own way of promoting scholars, and the scholars likewise have their methods of advancement 1, but promotion is good luck and rejection bad one. Those who are illustrious, and live in high spheres are not necessarily clever, they are merely lucky, and those whose position is mean and low are not necessarily stupid, but unlucky. The lucky may eventually behave most disgracefully, yet they will find favour at the court of Chieh, and the unlucky may be ever so pure and disinterested, they will be slighted in the palace of Yao2.
This good or bad luck may occur in different ways. Sometimes a worthy person assists a wicked man, or great talents are coupled with small ones, or there are great talents on both sides, but the ways of one party are pure, and those of the other filthy, or a person is devoid of virtue, but ingratiates himself by his ability, or has no skill, but pleases by his beauty.
WuYuan3 and Po P‘i4 both served Fu Ch‘ai. Po P‘i rose to the highest honours, and WuYuan was put to death. Their conduct p2.031 was different, but their master the same. Sometimes the conduct is the same, but the master different, that is also good and bad luck. Such was the case of Yi Yin1 and Chi Tse2. Both of them possessed the same talents, but Yi Yin became prime minister and Chi Tse, a slave. The former met with Ch‘êng T‘ang, the latter with Chou of Shang.
Provided that a good sovereign is served with goodness, that he wishes to govern accordingly, and that a minister helps him with virtue and talents, then their conduct agrees, and luck is the necessary consequence. But if a bad prince is served with goodness, then he declines to adopt this mode of government ; his minister may assist him in the most loyal manner, but their ways and principles are so conflicting, that bad luck is the inevitable result.
Sometimes a wise and sage minister may come across a prince willing to practice his theories, but fails at the end. That was the same of Confucius and Mencius. Confuciuswas short of provisions in Ch‘ên and Ts‘ai, 3 and Mencius distressed in Ch‘i and Liang4.
When there is not the proper time, a sovereign does not employ able men, and those whose talents are small and whose wisdom is shallow cannot make use of men of genius. To drive a Bayardo or a Green Ear 5 one must be a WangLiang6, and to use a Yü, a Chi 7 and a KaoYao as ministers a Yao or a Shun is required. If a man whose hands are able to manage a hundred Li horse endeavours to master a courser making a thousand Li 8, he is sure to have a disaster, breaking the yoke and rending the halter, and should a prince be able to appreciate the talents of ordinary officials, use the wisdom of a great minister, his heart will prove obdurate and his mind impervious to reason. Thus excellent advice is repudiated, and worthies and sages are rejected, not because they are hated, or because their advice is disliked, but their ideals are too high, and their advice is hard to follow.
p2.032 When a great talent falls in with a small one, the latter cannot grasp it, and bad luck must be the result. When a minister of great talents meets with a very talented prince, there will be either good or bad luck, Shun and HsüYu 9, T‘ai Kung and Po Yi are instances.Shun and HsüYu were both sages, living at the time of T‘ang10. Both fell under the notice of Yao. Shun continued the imperial sway, whereas HsüYu absconded in a mountain forest.
T‘ai Kung and Po Yi1 were both worthies who rose together in the kingdom of Chou. Both saw WuWang. T‘ai Kung became a feudal lord, and Po Yi was starved to death. The principles of worthies and sages are the same, their intentions similar, and their aims agree, but the actions of Shun and T‘ai Kung were fitting, and the conduct of HsüYu and Po Yi,mal à propos. They were not born in the proper age, and did not appear at the proper time.
Even if the principles are the same, there are differences in spite of this agreement, and even if the intentions agree, there are still discrepancies, for principles may be refined or coarse, and intentions more or less pure.
HsüYu was a helpmate for an emperor, but he was born under a ruler, and Po Yi would have assisted a ruler, but rose under the reign of a king 2. Both walked the path of virtue, and practised benevolence and justice. Making virtue their main principle, they did not care but for what was pure, and insisting upon benevolence and justice, they felt at ease in the highest spheres only. That was the cause of their bad luck.
Yao was filthy and Shun impure, WuWang bloodthirsty and T‘ai Kung a cruel tyrant. They were all equally squalid and equally coarse, and their doings in harmony 3. That was the cause of (T‘ai Kung’s) luck.
Thus when Shun was king of the world, KaoYao assisted him in his administration, whereas Pei Jên Wu Tsê concealed himself p2.033 in the remotest hiding place and was seen no more 4. When Yu was king, Po Yi acted as his helpmate, whereas Po Ch‘êng Tse Kao declined to take office and tilled the ground 5. The talents of KaoYao did not surpass those of Pei Jên Wu Tsê, nor did Po Yi outshine Po Ch‘êng Tse Kao, but the two former were promoted, while the two latter took their refuge into obscurity. The actions of those promoted were à propos, the conduct of those who retired were the reverse. The circumstances under which they retired were different. Notwithstanding their humble condition, they did not wish to advance. The princes did not necessarily reject their proposals or dislike their ideas, but there was no mutual sympathy.
ShangYang1spoke three times to Duke Hsiao of Ch‘in. The first two speeches were not listened to, but the last was accepted. The first were fit for emperors and kings only, the last an overture appropriate for an usurper. When he addressed a leading prince with words fit for an emperor or a king, they were spurned in spite of their elegance, but when they were made to suit an usurper, they were accepted in spite of their coarseness. Refinement was lost upon Duke Hsiao, coarseness was what he liked. It matters not whether a speech be good, but whether he who is spoken to think it so, nor must faculties be rare, provided only that he in whose service they are employed appreciates them.
The words of the groom were platitudes, but the country-people liked them, and Tse Kung’s address was full of meaning, but the peasants would not listen to them.
A piper played a beautiful melody. Since the king of Yüeh did not like it, he fell into a vulgar tune at which the king was enraptured. Consequently, he who performs something excellent for a prince who does not care for good things, does not find favour in spite of his excellence, whereas another who does something bad for a sovereign who wants bad things, does not incur his displeasure notwithstanding his badness.
In this manner minor abilities may please the sovereign. Pleasing means good luck, not pleasing, bad luck. Some do not p2.034 possess such wanton talents, but ingratiate themselves by their astuteness and cunning, and thus become lucky, e. g. the official who stole the hair-pin, and the companion who caused the cocks to crow. The former became intimate with Tse Fan2, and the latter won the good graces of MêngCh‘ang3. Tse Fan liked the thieving official, and MêngCh‘ang the wily companion.
If anybody is useful to a prince who can rely upon him, he is sure to be successful. Sometimes a man may not be of direct use, but the ruler likes him, as was the case with Chi Ju and Têng T‘ung1. Chi Ju was a favourite of the emperor HsiaoHui Ti, and Têng T‘ung, of HsiaoWênTi. They were not endowed with the smallest talents, or the slightest abilities, but they had a handsome body, graceful bones, a smooth skin, and a wonderful complexion. People are fond of beautiful looks, consequently their luck was ensured.
It may happen that even people with ugly faces and bad looks are represented to a ruler as very attractive, as were Mu Mu2 and WuYen3. Mu Mu was sent to the emperor Huang Ti, and WuYen chosen by the king of Ch‘i. Therefore virtue and vice may be predetermined, but it is difficult to foresee success, because the likes and dislikes of a prince are uncertain, and the promotion of an official cannot be known beforehand.
p2.035 Happening to fall in with an employer, is the proper thing, and to harmonise with him, means advancement. Those who are promoted need not always be clever, or those who are not, un-intelligent. He who, when meeting with a prince, finds favour, advances, he who does not, loses his opportunity.
There is a wide-spread opinion that wise men can be successful and that, if they are not, it is their own fault, because they do not adapt themselves to their surroundings. They should watch the sovereign to learn his views, regulate their mind and cultivate their talents, pay attention to their words, and be careful about their expressions, await an opportunity to offer their services, and see how they can be useful to the ruler. Would they not be lucky then ? But now it is different. They cultivate useless talents and give impracticable advice. In summer they offer a stove, and in winter a fan. They do things which are not wanted, and say words which no one likes to hear. Then, of course, their bad luck and their misfortune is certain, for how could they thus become happy ?
Talents must be useful and advice profitable, every body knows that, but very often the useless obtain happiness, or those who have benefited their master, suffer punishment. And in summer time a stove may be used to dry moisture, or a fan in winter to fan the fire. Other people can be imitated, but it is impossible to meet a ruler’s wishes. Words may be changed, but talents cannot be transmuted. When the reigning sovereign is fond of learning, and somebody is a literary man, he suits him. When, on the other hand, the prince is addicted to militarism, that same person would not suit him.
WênWang did not like war, and WuWang was not a friend of peace. A philosophical prince does not care for action, and an active one does not like arguments. Literature and words can quickly be learned by study, but actions and talents cannot be accomplished all at once. He who has not thoroughly mastered a science, cannot give the proper names, and if his expressions are mostly not correct, he does not find favour with the sovereign. If a study be made in a hasty manner, and names be given in a hurried way, one says that the faculties of the person in question are insufficient and not worth notice. How then should such a man be able to understand the prince and offer his remarks, or step forward and show his abilities ?
Of old during the Chou time, there was a great number of unsuccessful scholars. They were old, had white hair, and stood crying on the road-side. Others inquired what was the cause of their tsars. They rejoined : p2.036
— We scholars have had no chance. We are so sad, because we are old and have lost the right time. Hence our tears.
— How is it possible, said their interlocutors, that you scholars never had any chance ?
— When we were young, replied the scholars, we studied literature, and after we had completed our studies, we wished to take office, but the sovereign liked to use old men. This prince died, and his successor only wanted warriors. Then we turned to military science, but, when we had mastered all its branches, the military prince likewise died, and the young prince ascended the throne. He wished to employ young men only. Meanwhile we had become old. Thus we never had the slightest chance 1.
For officials there exists a propitious time which cannot be sought, for it is impossible to imitate other people, or to know a prince’s character, and still less can this be done by a man with the highest principles and loftiest aims who is not influenced by profit, or by persons with a strong nature and firm character who do not care for a prince. Moreover, luck cannot be predetermined, and advice cannot be given in advance. By accident, one may meet with success and fall in with a sovereign’s view, therefore they speak of luck. To observe a prince’s ways, and to choose one’s words with a view to acquiring honour, may be called calculation, but not luck.
In spring the seed sown grows, in autumn it is cut and harvested. Seeking things one obtains them, and doing things one completes them, but we cannot call that luck. That which comes of itself without any seeking, or is completed of itself without any doing, is called luck. It is like picking up things lost on the road, or taking something thrown away in the country, like the fertility of heaven and the productiveness of earth, or the assistance of ghosts and the succour of the spirits. That the spirit of a Ch‘in Hsi secretly benefits, and the mind of a Pao Shu silently promotes a man, are cases of luck 1. But ordinary people cannot argue on good and bad luck. They extol the lucky and decry the unlucky. They look to success and ask what has been accomplished, but cannot appreciate conduct or value powers and talents.