Wang ch‘ung lun-hêng miscellaneous essays Traduits et annotés par Alfred forke

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p2.024 Reply : Why should it not acquiesce in what King Ch‘êng did, and Heaven admitted ?

Objection : Was the mat of a great officer presented by Chi Sun woven by Tsêng Tse himself ? 5 Why did he alone not feel at ease ?

[The Master being very ill, Tse Lu sent the disciples to act as officers to him. During a remission of his illness, he said,

— Long has the conduct of Yu been deceitful ! By pretending to have officers when I have them not, whom should I impose upon ? Should I impose upon Heaven ?] 6

Confucius blamed Tse Lu for calling upon the disciples to act as officers to him, although he was not a sovereign. To do something recklessly and contrary to the wish of Heaven is imposing upon Heaven. Chou Kung was not a son of Heaven either. If we credit him with the same feelings as Confucius, he certainly cannot have felt at ease.

[The chief of the Chi family was about to sacrifice to the T‘ai mountain . . . . 1 Confucius said,

— Does Tsêng say that the T‘ai mountain is not so discerning as Lin Fang ? 23

He was of opinion that even Tsêng Tse with his small abilities would repudiate such an idea as improper. Chou Kung was a sage of first order, how could he have acquiesced in an imperial burial ? Should the Duke of Chou be held to be less critical than Tsêng Tse ? From this point of view, Chou Kung could not feel at ease. A great man equals Heaven and Earth in virtue 4. If Chou Kung was dissatisfied, Heaven would have been dissatisfied too, why then should it have caused thunder and rain to reprove King Ch‘êng ?

Another question may be asked : ‘Life and death depend on destiny ; wealth and honour proceed from Heaven’ 5. How could there be a substitution for Wu Wang’s life ?

Reply : When Wu Wang dreamed of the nine twelve-months, Heaven took several years from Wên Wang which it added to p2.025 Wu Wang’s span 6. In the second year after the destruction of the Yin dynasty, the term of these nine twelve-months was not yet up. Wu Wang was suffering, therefore Chou Kung prayed for him. As a rule, man’s life cannot be prayed for, only in the case of Wu Wang it was possible. But it was an unusual device, and, for that reason, preserved in the metal-bound trunk. It could not be repeated, and therefore was concealed and stored away.

Objection : — Did Wu Wang obtain the years of Wên Wang already during the dream on the nine twelve-months, or not yet ?

Reply : He did obtain them.

Objection : If he had already received the years of Wên Wang, his life ought to have been prolonged of itself, and, in the second year after the overthrow of the Yin, he was not going to die, in spite of his sickness. Why, then, did the Duke of Chou still need pray, and take his place ?

Reply : When a sovereign raises somebody to a high post, he does not forthwith give it him though it be already resolved upon, for the clerks must first have made the necessary entries into the archives, before the monarch can give his formal sanction. Although Heaven had taken away the years from Wên Wang to add them to those of Wu Wang, the Duke of Chou had to pray for him before he definitely obtained them.

(Objection) : Fate regulating the length of life is a very subtle essence, and not to be obtained in a dream.

Reply : By the dream of the nine twelve-months it could be obtained.

Objection : As regards this dream of the nine twelve-months, Wên Wang dreamed that he gave nine twelve-months to Wu Wang 1, and Wu Wang, that God granted him nine twelve-months. Consequently, Heaven had already granted, and Wu Wang obtained them ; what need was there for a further prayer ?

A person going to be called to office receives his new dignity in a dream, beforehand, and afterwards is appointed without further recommendation, for a presage is seen in advance and necessarily followed by its realisation.

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 ?

Another question : 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 Wu Wang 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 3 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 12.

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‘êng Liang 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. Confucius censured 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‘ang Hsieh 6 by the foot-prints of birds nor impress Hsi Chung 7 with the flying creepers, but these creepers deeply affected Hsi Chung, and Ts‘ang Hsieh was struck at the foot-prints.

When Duke Wên of Chin returned to his country 8 he gave orders for the removal of Mi (?) 9 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.

Hua Ch‘ên 1 of Sung, despising the weakness of his clan, employed six ruffians, attached to his family, to murder Hua Wu 2 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 Hua Ch‘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 3.

p2.028 Hua Ch‘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‘ang Hsieh and Hsi Chung ; and his alarm, like the agitation of the Master of the Left and of Hua Ch‘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 4, 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 1, 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 2, 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 Wei 4, 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‘i 6 discoursing 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’ 7 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.



Success and Luck

1. I, I. Fêng-yü


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 Yao 2.

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.

Wu Yuan 3 and Po P‘i 4 both served Fu Ch‘ai. Po P‘i rose to the highest honours, and Wu Yuan 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 Yin 5 and Chi Tse 6. 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. Confucius was short of provisions in Ch‘ên and Ts‘ai1 and Mencius distressed in Ch‘i and Liang 2.

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 3 one must be a Wang Liang 4, and to use a Yü, a Chi 5 and a Kao Yao 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 6, 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 Hsü Yu 7, T‘ai Kung and Po Yi are instances. Shun and Hsü Yu were both sages, living at the time of T‘ang 8. Both fell under the notice of Yao. Shun continued the imperial sway, whereas Hsü Yu absconded in a mountain forest.

T‘ai Kung and Po Yi 9 were both worthies who rose together in the kingdom of Chou. Both saw Wu Wang. 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 Hsü Yu 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.

Hsü Yu 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 1. 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, Wu Wang bloodthirsty and T‘ai Kung a cruel tyrant. They were all equally squalid and equally coarse, and their doings in harmony 2. That was the cause of (T‘ai Kung’s) luck.

Thus when Shun was king of the world, Kao Yao assisted him in his administration, whereas Pei Jên Wu Tsê concealed himself p2.033 in the remotest hiding place and was seen no more 3. When Yu was king, Po Yi acted as his helpmate, whereas Po Ch‘êng Tse Kao declined to take office and tilled the ground 4. The talents of Kao Yao 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.

Shang Yang 5 spoke 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 1 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 Fan 2, and the latter won the good graces of Mêng Ch‘ang 3. Tse Fan liked the thieving official, and Mêng Ch‘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‘ung 4. Chi Ju was a favourite of the emperor Hsiao Hui Ti, and Têng T‘ung, of Hsiao Wên Ti. 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.

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