Miscellaneous essays Traduits et annotés

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Ranked according to their usefulness and classed according to their efficiency, the officials are in front, and the students in the rear. That is the point of view of the government. But in a classification on scientific principles, the scholars are above, and the officials below. From an agricultural point of view, agriculturists come first, and from a commercial standpoint, merchants are the first class. As regards government, officers are its men. In their youth already they learn official work, and government in their field of action, knives 4 and pencils being their ploughs, and despatches, their labour. They resemble the sons of a house who, having grown up in it, know all its nooks and corners much better than any foreigner does. When a guest arrives only for a short. while, he may be a second Confucius or Mê Ti, yet he will not be able to distinguish things as well as they do. Scholars are like these guests, and officials represent the sons. As sons the officials know much more than the scholars, for the latter are much less au courant than the former. The governors and ministers of our time know how sons are, yet believe officials to be exceptionally clever, unaware that the officials have acquired their efficiency by practice. They likewise know guests, and yet see in helplessness after a short stay a sign of foolishness, quite forgetting that the incompetence of the scholars is owing to their want of exercise. The vision of these dignitaries is blurred, and they are unable to reason by analogies.

A man fit to be assistant in a district, might also fill the post of a secretary in a prefecture, and he who could reform an entire p2.062 prefecture, would be qualified for service in a province. However the prefecture does not summon the assistant, and the province will not have the reformer. It would be no harm, if they used their talents to acquire the necessary practice, their little knowledge of official correspondence would be compensated by their great virtue.

The Five Secretaries 1of course have their rules and regulations, and for books and registers there exist certain precedents. How can a man who diligently studies and easily learns all these things, so that he becomes a clever official, for that reason be thought more of than others ? Wise governors select officials according to their talents, regardless of their being experienced in discussing official matters. They set the highest store on character, and do not look to book-keeping.

Good officials are called loyal. Loyalty is not exhibited in books and registers. Business may be learned by study, and with the rules of etiquette one becomes familiar by practice ; loyalty and justice however are not to be acquired in this manner. Officials and scholars have both their special aims. Loyalty and faith is the goal of the scholars, whereas the officials are chiefly interested in the management of affairs. As long as loyalty and honesty is maintained, a little bungling in business is not injurious to a man’s reputation. Albeit yet owing to their inexperience in office work students are placed in the second rank by most critics.

Judges give their verdicts according to edicts and laws. In their administration the officials are obliged to consult jurists, and nothing is of greater importance in a district magistrate’s office than edicts. If his competence be taken as a criterion of the worthiness of an official, then the jurisconsults 2 ought to take the first place. Perhaps people will admit this, saying that edicts are the Canons of the Han dynasty, on which the officials base the decisions which p2.063 they propose, and that a case having been settled by law, everything is clear indeed.

I should say that the Five Canons are also standard works her the Han dynasty, and that the literati conversant with the theory of government, have all derived their wisdom therefrom. Tung Chung Shu explained the meaning of the Ch‘un-ch‘iu, and in comparing it with the laws did not find any divergence. Therefore the Ch‘un-ch‘iu is a Canon of the Han, composed by Confucius, it is true, but handed down to the Han. Those critics who merely appreciate jurisprudence and slight the Ch‘un-ch‘iu, are narrow-minded. The purport of this work and the other four Canons is intertwined, and unless the Ch‘un-ch‘iu were a great production, the Five Canons would not be universally read.

The Five Canons deal with principles, and business counts less than principles. There being principles, business is regulated, and in default of principles nothing can be done. Now that which scholars study, are principles, and that which officers learn, is business. In case they are of equal talents, they should study principles if they wish to rank with officials 1.

For washing dirty things one uses water, and for roasting raw and tainted meat, fire. Water and fire are the principles, and their use is business. Business is posterior to principles. If we compare students with officials, the former adjust what is antecedent, the latter care for what is subsequent. From the contrast between principles, which are first, and business, which is last, we may determine the superiority and greater dignity of either.

Yao by his brilliant virtue succeeded in conciliating the black-haired people. Confucius said that filial piety and brotherly love in the highest degree could even touch spirits. Chang Shih Chih 2 remarked that the Ch‘in dynasty relied on petty officers with pencils and knives, and that, the dissolution having gone on up to Erh Shih Huang Ti, the empire broke down. Chang T‘ang and Chao were both honest officials of the Han period, and yet the Grand Annalist places them among the oppressors 3. How can those p2.064 responsible for the breakdown of the empire, be compared with them whose piety affects the spirits ? This should fill people’s minds.

The high dignitaries are cognisant of the great principles of the classical studies, but do not honour the students, because it strikes them that those students of classical literature are in the administration less efficient than functionaries.

With a butcher’s knife one may carve a fowl, but it is difficult to slaughter an ox with a poultry knife. A master in embroidery can sew a curtain or a garment, but a workman twisting thread would be unqualified to weave brocade. Thus the scholars can do the business of the officials, but officials do not find their way through the science of scholars. The knowledge of officials is really bad and not up to the mark, the scholars however, in spite of their want of practice, possess excellent qualities, only they have no experience.

regulating streams and rivers did not handle the hoe or the spade, and the Duke of Chou in building Lo yi 1 did not hold battering-rams or poles in his hands. Pencils and ink, registers and books are like hoes and spades, rams and poles. To expect a man of vast ideas and high principles to carry them out personally, would be like bidding a general fight himself, or an engineer cut wood. In case a scholar able to interpret one Canon is called upon to do the work of one office, he can master it in ten months. For an office-holder, on the other side, to study the contents of one Canon a whole year would not suffice. Why ? Because official work is easy to learn, whereas classical studies offer great difficulties.

Students thumb the Classicsto fathom the meaning of the Sages, and officials move their pencils to take note of public affairs. What is more difficult, to comprehend the thoughts of the great Sages, or to understand the affairs of the small people ? These men who by their genius overcome all difficulties, cherish more than a hundred thousand sentences and paragraphs in their minds, and never flag in what they take in hand. Their profound studies embrace antiquity as well as the present time, and from the rich p2.065 spring in their bosom pour out ingenious thoughts by thousands  . The wisdom of the bureaucrats consists merely in their books and registers, of which they understand all the intricacies.

What means the possession of ten or a hundred coins compared with the wealth of a thousand pieces of gold, and how could the granaries of the capital towering like mountains be placed on a level with heaps of grain not higher than mounds of earth ? A man famous for his talents is like a famous vessel. The bigger the vessel, the greater its capacity. The treasures hidden in the bosoms of the scholars can be pronounced greater than those of the officials.

Creepers growing among hemp, become straight without support, and white silk gauze placed amidst coloured one, takes a dark colour without having been dyed. This means that the good and the evil we practice transforms our character. The nature of scholars cannot always be good, but revering the holy doctrines, they chant and hum them over day and night 2, and thus take the habits of the Sages.

In their childhood already do the future officers become familiar with pencil and ink, which they learn to use by constant practice. They never read a page of a book, or ever hear the words benevolence and justice 1. When they have grown up and are called to office, they abuse their power of writing and their experience in business. All their proceedings are dictated by selfish motives, and influence and profit are their only aims. When they have to make an investigation, they allow themselves to be bribed, and fleece all the people with whom they are brought in contact 2. Having an honourable position, they crave for power, and, should they find favour with the sovereign, they contrive the disgrace of the governors. Once in power, they will wear elegant hats and sharp swords 3, and after one year’s service their estate and their mansion are well provided. They have not all a wicked character, but their p2.066 practices are in opposition to the holy doctrines. Those who follow the method of the literati, reform and learn to love justice, so that their ideas as well as their dealings change and improve.

An enlightened governor who clearly saw this, and therefore employed scholars, was the minister of Tung-hai 4, Tsung Shu Hsi 5. He used to invite obscure scholars on a large scale. In spring and autumn he would assemble them to a feast and divide them into three classes. In a regular order he nominated them to vacant posts. Among the officials of a prefecture nine out of ten were scholars. The prefect of Ch‘ên-Liu 6, Ch‘ên Tse Yü likewise opened the ways to the literati. They were given all the posts of secretaries and clerks, and the bureaucrats were only employed in the ratio of one or two among ten.

These two governors knew the respective value of principles and business, and could judge of the capacities of the candidates. Therefore the age has praised their names, and many of their doings have been recorded in books and memoirs.



The Valuation of Knowledge

35. XII, II. Liang-chih


p2.067 In our essay on the weighing of talents 1 we have spoken on talents and conduct, but the great superiority of learning has not yet been set forth. Scholars surpass the officials by their learning, on which they spend a long time, purifying their characters and refining their talents. The learned thus suppress their evil desires and rectify their natures, until their talents are fully developed, and their virtue is complete. At that juncture a comparison shows that the capacities of those thus refined are much greater than those of the officials.

When poor and rich men both send a present of a hundred cash for funeral expenses 2, the mourners, provided they are intelligent, know that the poor have no means and that, if they likewise have contributed a hundred, the rich, who have plenty, possess much more. The unintelligent infer that, since in both cases the sum is a hundred, the fortunes of the rich and the poor are the same. Scholars and officers are in a similar position. Both being employed as clerks or acting as secretaries, the wise among their chiefs are aware that officials and scholars are alike, as far as their writing is concerned, but that the students have many hidden treasures in their bosoms besides. The simple-minded, however, consider that they are both functionaries, and that, as to the thoroughness and extent of their knowledge, their acquirements are the same, a great mistake.

It is the nature of the earth to produce plants, and the nature of mountains to grow trees. If mallows and leeks be sown in the earth, and jujubes and chestnuts planted upon the mountains, we speak of a garden and a park, which can no more be placed on p2.068 a par with common land or ordinary mountains. The case of officials and students is analogous. Both have their faculties, and both use pencil and ink, but, in addition to this, the students are the guardians of the doctrine of former emperors, which doctrine means more than mallows and leeks, jujubes and chestnuts.

An ordinary woman spins and weaves with her hands. Should she be endowed with extraordinary skill, she will weave brocade and make embroidery, and be accounted exceptional so as not to come in the same class with the common run. Now, when the faculties of the scholars are contrasted with those of the officials, the former have still a surplus in their knowledge of classical and other writings, as the spinning girls still possess the special gift of weaving brocade and embroidering.

Poor fellows are prone to excesses, while rich people observe the rules, because the poor are hard up, whereas the rich live in opulence. Thus scholars do not do evil, but officials indulge in malpractices, for they are devoid of morality and virtue, and scholars have abundance of benevolence and righteousness 1.

When poor and rich men together are guests, and receive a present from the host, the rich are not abashed, but the poor always feel ashamed : the former are in a position to make acknowledgments, the latter have nothing to give in return. Students and officials both look upon the high officers as their hosts. The students receiving their salary from them, repay them with virtue and wisdom ; the hearts of the officials are empty, they have not acquired humanity and equity, and merely live on their income, incapable of showing their gratitude, they are, as it were, dining gratis like the personators of the dead 2.

Gratis means for nothing : without virtue they live on a salary paid by others for nothing, whence the expression : dining gratis. They do not know any method or art, nor can they regulate the administration. They are sitting silent in the court, unable to discourse on any subject, exactly like corpses. Therefore they are called personators of the dead, and it is thus that the p2.069 officials are, so to speak, dining gratis like the personators of the dead.

Occupying places of honour and living in luxury, how would they venture to take notice of any wicked inclinations of their superiors or administer admonitions ? In the first place, they themselves cannot distinguish between right and wrong, and then they are apprehensive of punishment and dare not speak their minds.

The Liki says,

« Human nature is fond of beauty.

Those who can speak with vigour are not appreciated owing to their bad style. They have backbone, it is true, but no flesh, and are not portly enough 1. They who oppose the views of governors and ministers, are sure to incur their displeasure, and even if they should fight for their country, would not earn any fame. Therefore he who covets rank and emoluments must not remonstrate with his superiors.

The officials struggle for rank and money. Once instated, they desire substantial profit, which they can expend at discretion. To extort money they would even risk their lives, and could not explain the right principles to their covetous superiors. They might see wrongs as high as the T‘ai-shan, how would they dare to utter the slightest reproof ? Under these circumstances they cannot clear themselves from the charge of dining gratis like the personators of corpses.

The scholars study the great principles, and serve their chiefs with virtue. When it is useless, they desist. Their aims being those of great ministers, they do their best to establish a just and proper course according to the canon. They do dare to speak. But by their rank they are far below the high authorities, and when such inferior officers approach them to make remonstrances, the Liki calls it flattery 2. Therefore the residences of prefects and district magistrates are always empty and short of men 3.

Somebody may suggest that officials have the faculty of drawing up documents, of keeping books and registers, and of investigating and settling all kinds of affairs. Though ignorant of moral science, they yet exert their strength and their skill, and exhaust it in the p2.070 service of the State, which must also be deemed a manifestation of their indebtedness to those above them 4.

I reply that, in this respect, they again resemble poor men who have been burdened with a heavy official duty. Owing to their poverty, they have no other means of compensation than personally discharging their official duty, more they cannot do. This discharge of their duty is like house or wall building. For houses they use hatchets and axes, and for walls, beetles and spades. What difference is there between carrying hatchets and axes, and grasping beetles and spades, and the holding of knives, or the taking of styles ? If the composition of official papers is held to be a manifestation of the indebtedness to one’s superiors, the masons building houses or walls are likewise showing their gratefulness to those above them, and all are performing official duties, knives, styles, hatchets, axes, beetles, and spades all being the same 5.

One takes cloth to barter silk ; exchanging that which it possesses against that which it has not, each party obtains what they desire. Students take their science to barter wages, the officials however possess nothing to trade with 1. Peasants and merchants have different professions, and their products cannot be the same. He who, in regard to quality and quantity, produces in abundance, is called a rich man. To become rich is the desire of every villager. Now the doctrine of the ancient kings is not merely like the produce of peasants and merchants. Those who become high officers, gain honour and bring about great reforms, have more glory than rich people in their luxury. Moreover the work of the scholars is more than abundant produce. They perfect themselves, their intellect shines brightly and, what is still more remarkable, they correctly distinguish right and wrong.

The similarity of twigs of hempwith the trunks of the trees on the mountains is that they serve as torches  . First they give much smoke, but, after the fire has come through, their radiance is most lustrous, and lighted in a hall, they shed their splendour p2.071 round about to a great distance, and have much more brilliancy then the fire on the hearth 2.

Before a piece of silk is embroidered, or brocade woven, they do not distinguish themselves from common silk or ordinary fabrics. By the skilful use of variegated silk, the needle distributing the thread in an artistic way, a brilliant composition is created, in black and white, or black and blue : pheasants, mountains and dragons, the sun and the moon 3. The savants have likewise compositions, which they study, resembling the multicoloured chefs-d’oeuvres of silk embroidery. By their original endowments they do not exceed others, but, when they have amassed learning, they leave them far behind.

Nuts which have no kernels, are called specious, and if they cannot be opened with knives or axes, they are termed solid. Officials who have not acquired the learning of the age have no kernel. How could the faculties of the specious and the solid be compared together ?

Bone is carved, ivory is sculptured, jade polished, and jewels are ground. By carving, sculpturing, polishing, and grinding 4 precious objects are produced. As regards human learning, knowledge and skill are developed in the same manner as bone, ivory, jade, and jewels are cut, carved, polished, or ground. Even in case such a polished scholar should prefer not to be employed, a wise ruler would not give him up.

Sun Wu 1 and Ho Lü 2 were the best experts of their age in enlisting soldiers. He who knows, or has learned the rules of war, must needs win a battle. But should he ignore the art of marshalling his troops by tens and by hundreds, or not understand fencing and swordsmanship, his army led on by force would be routed, and the leader defeated for not knowing the art of war 3.

p2.072 When rice is ripe, they call it paddy. Pounded in a mortar and separated from chaff by sifting, steamed in a pot, and cooked with fire, it becomes well done food. Then it is sweet and eatable, which means that it has got the proper taste of food, and the necessary softness. Before paddy has been transformed into hulled rice 4, and hulled rice into food, its raw flavour has not yet been removed, and its consumption would be injurious. Now, a man without learning is like rice not yet turned into paddy, or hulled rice not yet cooked. His mind is as unprepared as raw rice, whose consumption is prejudicial to our health. A student is improved by his studies and educated by his teacher, and the result is as remarkable as the transformation of rice into food, and the food becoming soft.

Before copper and tin are found, they are among other minerals. Picked or dug out by miners, melted in a furnace, heated with bellows, and polished, they are wrought into tools. Previous to the smelting process they are called ore 5. Ore is the same as tiles found by the roadside, or small stones on mountains. Thus rice unhusked and not steamed is termed paddy, copper not yet molten and unpolished, ore, and men without instruction, blockheads resembling bamboo and wood.

While bamboo is growing on mountains and wood in forests, their future use is still uncertain. Bamboo is broken into tubes, which are split into tablets. The traces made on these with styles 6 and ink form characters. Big tablets become Classics, the smaller ones, records. Wood is cut into blocks, which are split p2.073 into boards, which by dint of carving and planing become writing tablets for official memorials 1. Bamboo and wood are coarse things, but by cutting and polishing, carving and paring are wrought into useful objects. What about man, the noblest creature of all, whose nature encompasses heaven and earth ? Unless he goes to school to study the Classics and other works, and unless his honest, but uncultured mind is imbued with propriety and righteousness, he stands in the imperial court stiff like a lath or a tablet, and is of no use.

When the grass in the wilds of the mountains is luxuriant, they cut it down with sickles to make a road. Before scholars have taken the road to knowledge, their vicious inclinations have not yet been eradicated like the weeds, and the wood of the mountain wilds, before they have been mowed down to make a road. Dyed cloth and silk are called coloured stuffs. They are appreciated as dresses of lucky augury. Previous to the dying, one speaks of coarse silk, which is unpropitious, for mourners dress in it 2. When illiterate people are in the government service, they cannot bring about any happy results just as mourners dressed in coarse cloth do not attract happiness.

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