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



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Now in our Nine Statutes we have symbolical 9, but not corporal punishments. Wên Ti lived later than Hsiao Ho, and we know that then corporal punishments were still in vogue. Hsiao Ho in his legislation restored corporal punishments ; are we entitled then to assume that the Nine Statutes are the work of Hsiao Ho 10 ?

Of old [there were three hundred rules of ceremony, and three thousand rules of demeanour] 11. Of penalties there were likewise p2.082 three hundred, and three thousand minor paragraphs. Such rules as were separated from the ceremonies were added to the penalties, and what was excluded from the former was incorporated into the latter. Therefore both were of equal number. Our Ritual has sixteen sections, and the laws of Hsiao Ho have nine sections ; how does this discrepancy come in ?

All the chapters of the Five Canons have headings referring to the subjects treated for the sake of distinction. Only the Ritual and the Penal Code are without such headings. A Ritual with headings is considered disfigured, and a Code spurious. What is the reason of this ?

In short, if we inquire of the scholars the meaning of old and modern institutions, they are at pains how to distinguish between the names, and if we question them on things concerning their Classics, they are no less ignorant. How can their indolence be held to be the proper method of teaching ? Their horizon is rather limited ; this we must reproach them with.

The officials pretend that they know official business and understand their books and registers. An inquirer would ask whether, in order to understand all these matters, it was not requisite thoroughly to grasp their principles and completely comprehend their meaning. In this respect the officials would prove quite incompetent.

Let me ask : In olden days the feudal barons were entrusted with the administration of special territories, now prefects and magistrates are appointed. What does that mean 1 ?

In ancient times there was the joined field system, people having to cultivate one field for the community. Now land taxes are levied in grain and grass. What does that signify 2 ?

People are expected continually to exercise the same profession. On what is based the monthly turn 3 ?



p2.083 With the twenty-third year corvées 4 begin, from the fifteenth year the land tax is to be paid, and from the seventh the poll-tax. Why was the twenty-third year chosen ?

Under which ruler was introduced the sacrifice before the winter solstice ? Wherefore have been established the offerings to the Gate, the Door, the Well, and the Hearth ? And wherefore are the Spirits of the Land and Grain 5, Shên Nung, and the Ling Star sacrificed to 6 ?

Why is sickness expelled at the close of the year 7 ? What does it mean that they set up a human figure of peach wood at the door, and for what purpose do they suspend cords of reeds over the entrance, and paint tigers on the door-screens 8 ? What is the idea of those who on the walls of the porches paint a hero, who is to quell fire ?

To what do the six feet of a pace, and the six inches of a bonnet correspond ?

If there is a commanding officer, and a chancellor, but no assisting under-secretary of State 1, which rule then obtains ?

Two prefects corresponding together use the phrase : Your servant ventures to state ; two district magistrates do not say so. How is this to be explained ? When a prefect has to address the two fu 2, he says that he ventures to say, whereas corresponding with the minister of works he uses the expression ‘to report’. What style is that ?

In what manner are the eight degrees of nobility 3 conferred upon the people ? What is the meaning of the titles : tsan-niao and shang-tsao 4 ?

p2.084 Extraordinary merits of officials are termed fa-yüeh. What does the expression : chi-mo mean ?

At the age of seventy, old people are presented with a jade staff 5. How did this custom arise ? What sort of sticks are those with a pigeon, but not with another bird, at one end ? If the pigeon is considered auspicious, why do they not give a pigeon, but a pigeon-staff, and not a staff with another bird 6 ?

When the water in the clepsydra has sunk so far, the drum is sounded up to five times. For what reason 7 ?

The day is divided into sixty parts.

Officers dress in black, but within the palace gates they wear red single garments. Wherefore this nice distinction ?

Dresses are tightened round the waist. On the right side one carries the sword of honour in the girdle, and on the left, the blade for fighting. Who established this custom ?



p2.085 Shoes are curved like a hook, and what are the bonnets on the head like ? 1

Officials live in the suburbs, and going out, ride in a carriage. Which emperor, who was in the habit of drawing up documents, first built suburbs ? And which artisan invented carriages ? Which was the place for breeding horses ? Which ruler invented the art of writing ?

It is difficult to know, who first erected suburbs, and where horses were bred, for it is too far away. The inventors of carriages and writing are easy to be known and, to be sure, people will reply to our question by saying that T‘sang Hsieh invented writing, and that Hsi Chung constructed the first carriage. But if we go on to inquire what prompted T‘sang Hsieh to make his invention, and whence Hsi Chung got the impulse to build a cart, they again do not know it 2.

The officials ignore what they ought to know, and are to be blamed for not extending their learning. The scholars do not study ancient and modern times ; how can they understand what is distant in time ? Trusting in the text of the Classics, they peruse the same paragraphs over and over again, explaining complicated expressions and elucidating crucial points. The officials again are not at home in their own sphere. They merely go by decisions, investigate matters, write letters, and take notes. In the presence of a minister they give their opinion with great volubility, but know nothing well. All their devices are superficial and inadequate. They are one-sided, unsteady, and lack thoroughness. All have their short-comings, and no reason whatever to cavil at one another.



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CHAPTER X

The Display of Energy

37. XIII, I. Hsiao-li



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p2.086 In the chapters on the Weighing of Talents 1 and the Valuation of Knowledge 2 the discussion has been limited to knowledge and learning, and we have not yet spoken of the energy of talent. All the learned possess this energy. Officials display it in the administration, and students in their studies.

Some one inquired of Yang Tse Yün 3, whether among the wise and virtuous there were also men strong enough to carry a huge tripod, or hold a decorative flag. ‘A hundred’, was the reply. A hundred among the wise and virtuous were held to be fit to match those carrying a big tripod or lifting a decorative flag, for athletes of great strength are capable of carrying a tripod or holding a flag, just as scholars of great energy possess an extensive knowledge and a penetrating intellect. Enlarged views and penetration are the force of students, whereas in raising heavy loads and tearing off hard objects lies the force of strong men.

We read in the chapter Tse-t‘sai 4 :

« Powerful is the king who opens the path to wisdom. He leads and reforms the people.

That means that the wise are likewise powerful in propriety and righteousness, and therefore can open the path to wisdom, guiding and reforming the people. Reforming requires propriety and rectitude, and propriety and rectitude necessitate literary abilities. Having still energy left after all exertions, one may use it for study, and this ability to study proves that one possesses energy.

Somebody might ask, whether a scholar who can explain one Classic may be regarded as a man full of energy. I would reply that he may not 5.



p2.087 P‘ang Shao Tu of Ch‘ên-liu 6, whenever he recommended some scholar for an office, was in the habit of saying that the talents of Mr. So-and-So equalled those of a hundred men. The prefect being diffident of these abilities and not replying, P‘ang Shao Tu would add that perhaps he had not said enough, and that Mr. So-and-So could vie with a million men in talent.

— You speak nonsense, my dear friend, returned the prefect angrily,

but P‘ang Shao Tu rejoined,

— Officials do not understand a single word of a single Canon and cannot repeat one sentence spoken by a teacher. Students, however, are able to enounce a million paragraphs and phrases, is their knowledge, therefore, not equal to that of a million people ?

The prefect could give no answer.

The remark of P‘ang Shao Tu is true, still it is not quite to the point, for the scholars may be able to repeat a million sentences, yet they pay no heed to ancient and modern history. They have a blind faith in the methods of their teachers and, though their topics be manifold, after all they do not deserve the name of profound scholars. Many events which happened before the Yin and Chou epochs have been recorded in the Six Canons, but of these the literati know nothing. Of the affairs of the Ch‘in and Han time they take no notice and thereby evince a lack of zeal and energy 1.

The Chou looked up to the Two Dynasties 2, and the Han, to the Chou and Ch‘in times. What happened after the Chou and Ch‘in does not exist for the literati. The Han wished to learn, the scholars have not this ambition. In case scholars are inclined to enlarge their views, they may be called learned scholars. They have more energy than common ones and, as P‘ang Shao Tu puts it, the talents of learned scholars are equal to those of ten million people 3.

[Tsêng Tse said,

— The learned man may not be without breadth of mind and vigorous endurance. His burden is heavy and his course is long. Perfect virtue is the burden which he considers it is his to sustain ; is it not heavy ? Only with death does his course stop ; is it not long ?] 4

p2.088 We learn from this that the scholar has to carry the burden of his conviction alone, and alone to walk the long way leading to the goal for which he is striving. His body carries a heavy burden up to his last moments, never tired and never broken, such is his single energy. The burden of Tsêng Tse consists in virtue, that of the scholar in learning ; the loads are dissimilar, but the weight is the same 1.

A hundred-weight may be lifted by one man, but two men are incapable of moving more than 10 cwt. In the world, there are many apt to lift a hundred-weight, but very few have the force to raise 10 cwt. What the scholars carry is above 10 cwt.

When the productive power of the soil is great, plants and trees pullulate, and the trop of one acre is as much as the produce of five acres of average quality. Farmers know that the exuberant growth of grain is owing to the natural fertility of the soil, but people ignore that abundant literary productions are the upshot of extraordinary talents, and thus do not understand the real state of affairs. Now, the energy of learned scholars surpasses that of common students, and in a still higher degree that of functionaries.

Those who promote the wise and recommend the learned, are usually accounted very energetic. In order to raise the wise and recommend the learned, they draw up their daily reports to the throne. Those able to write them are learned scholars, who must not necessarily be professionals. It suffices that they have a keen intellect as well as a ready pen. The memorials of Ku Tse Yün and T‘ang Tse Kao 2 number more than a hundred, all written in a most vigorous style. They speak out what they think, conceal nothing, and are never at a loss how to express their ideas. Only men of genius can do that.



Confucius was the strongest man in the Chou epoch. He wrote the Ch‘un-ch‘iu, revised the Five Classics, and fixed the doubtful text of many an abstruse book 3. The higher the mountains, the more clouds gather around them. Before the morning is over, Mt. T‘ai has produced so much rain, that it pours down on the whole empire 4. The knowledge of the wise is like those clouds and rain. p2.089 Consequently they put forth more than thousands of tablets full of letters, and must be admired for their great energy.

In praising force, people use to extol Wu Huo 5. Tung Chung Shu 6 and Yang Tse Yün are the Wu Huos of letters. King Wu of Ch‘in attempted with Mêng Yüeh to lift a tripod, but he could not carry it, broke a blood-vessel, and died 7. When inferior scholars lay open their innermost thoughts to men like Tung Chung Shu, they are unable to carry the burden which they have taken, and break down, having sprung an artery.

When, in Wang Mang’s time, the clauses of all the chapters of the Five Canons were gone through, they amounted to two hundred thousand. A gentlemen of vast learning, Kuo Lu, fixed the old text, during the night, and expired under his candle. His mind could not bear the strain, his arteries were broken, and his life extinguished.

The son of Yen 1 had already all but outrun Confucius in his course, when he flagged, completely shattered and exhausted. His hair turned white, and his teeth fell out. Even a person with almost perfect endowments may still break down. The strength of Confucius was wonderful, Yen Yuan could not bear the strain.

Unless talents and energy are equally balanced, knowledge does not come up to the mark. Those who perforce will rise from the rank and file up to the highest grades, come to spitting blood, swooning, and losing their consciousness, until at last their life ends.

To fill boards with five rows of characters or to write memorials of ten tablets, is a hard task for people of small talents and bad writers. How could they combine sentences to paragraphs, and write hundreds of chapters ? That requires special energy.

If the waters of streams and rivers come rushing, taking their course through the country, always flowing on and never drying up or stopping, they must have copious sources. People are aware that the long courses of rivers and streams require springs p2.090 abounding in water in the earth, but they overlook that men who write thousands of tablets have in their bosom an ever-flowing spring of ideas, and thus they are far from the truth. Looked at, the hoof of a racer does not distinguish itself from the hoof of a common horse, but no sooner does it gallop through the plain, than it becomes visible that it can run a thousand Li. The hoof of a horse and a human hand are the same after all. If those who make much of the hoof of a steed, do not call attention to the hand of a man of letters, they do not understand analogies.

A good judge of the strength of muscles, who has an eye for analogous facts, will place a man of great scientific energy in the service of the State, for a man strong in letters, assisted by a strong governor, is sure of great success through his strength, whereas, when a strong man is not assisted by another strong one, it ends in disaster. This will become evident from the following consideration :

A strong man may lift a big and ponderous thing, and a strong ox may draw a heavy cart. Such a cart ascending a hill, a strong ox must draw in front, and a strong man push behind, then it is possible to pull the vehicle over the height. If, however, the ox be feeble, and the man worn out, the heavy cart rolls back, tumbles into a ditch, upsets, and is smashed.

Learned scholars, cherishing the principles of the former kings in their hearts and harbouring the dicta of the diverse schools of thought, are hard to be pushed or pulled, even more so than a heavy cart. Should those who recommend and push them be weak and without energy, then they retire and hide in rock caverns 1.

The Yellow River rises in the K‘un-lun, and the Yangtse comes from the Min-shan 2. The force of their currents is very great. After a heavy rainfall still greater masses of water flow down, and unless their banks were so wide, and the land so low, they would never reach the eastern sea in their course. If the banks were narrow, and the land high, a breach in a canal would cause the entire hill land to be flooded.

The knowledge of an able student bears some resemblance to this. When his learning pours out, and he does not fall in with a strong governor to introduce and recommend him, he is lost in p2.091 his poor cottage, for how could he rise to the palace of the holy ruler and impart to him his views on government ?

The flame of a fire does not shine, unless it be raised. Now, here is a man whose knowledge rises as high as a peak, and whose virtue is like a mountain. In spite of his immense force, he cannot boast of it himself, and stands in need of somebody to introduce him. Should he not find such an assistant, he takes his wonderful energy and absconds in some small alley of a village for want of an opportunity to rise.

Ao 3 and Hsia Yü 4 were two men of great strength in ancient times. They could carry a thousand chün 5 on their bodies and with their hands tear off a horn or twist a hook, but called upon to lift themselves from the ground, they would have been unable to detach themselves from it.

Men whose bosoms are filled with wisdom and genius, deserve to be in the king’s palace. They require no more than a tongue of three inches and a pencil of one foot to assert themselves. But they cannot push themselves to the front, and, if they could, not stay there. They want others to push them, and expect others to prepare a position for them. However it is rather difficult to find a suitable post for men imbued with great principles and extensive learning.

A small stone being attached to a mountain, the force of the mountain can hold it in its gravel and mounds of earth. Besides, the small stone is so light and subtle, that it can itself keep its position. As regards a big stone, however, it is not embedded in sand or earth, and the mountain cannot hold it. Placed on a precipitous cliff, it is sure to tumble down into the deep valley.

Provided that a scholar, heavy with knowledge, comes across a superior of modest endowments, there is no sand nor earth right and left to support him, and even if he is given an exalted position, his chief cannot keep him there. He shares the fate of the big stone tumbling down 1.

Somebody cuts firewood on a mountain. The light brushwood can easily be tied together, but the big trees of ten spans and more p2.092 neither admit of being moved by pulling nor of being pushed behind. Therefore the fuel-gatherer leaves them in the forest and returns home, collecting the small wood, which he binds together. Carrying on this argument, we must own that men of great abilities resemble trees of over ten spans in circumference. Human force cannot raise nor recommend them 2, as the fuel-gatherer is incapable of pushing or dragging a huge tree.

Confucius was wandering about, and nowhere did he find a resting-place, not because his sagehood was not enlightened enough, but his grand principles were too difficult to be put into practice, and nobody could make use of him. Consequently Confucius stood there like an enormous tree on a mountain.

*

That Duke Huan succeeded in bringing about a confederation of the princes and re-adjusting the empire, was due to Kuan Chung’s energy. Kuan Chung had this energy, and since Duke Huan could raise him, he may well be called a mighty monarch. Wu could not avail itself of Wu Tse Hsü 3, and Ch‘u had no employment for Ch‘u Yuan 4. The energies of these two persons were very great, but their sovereigns were unable to raise them.



After some unsuccessful efforts to raise a thing, people eventually leave it on the spot and depart, but it also happens that, out of anger, they cut it down with an axe and destroy it. This hardship was suffered by Wu Tse Hsü and Ch‘ü Yuan 5.

Fish in a pond mutually devour each other. Those which passing their mouths find room in them, are swallowed, but those which their mouths cannot hold, are not gulped down. Similarly Shang Yang thrice addressed Duke Hsiao, but solely his last proposal was accepted. The two former proved impracticable, and the last only was fit to be carried out. We notice that the enlightened laws of Kuan Chung, and the agricultural and military system of Shang Yang 6 were measures not to be taken by weak rulers.



p2.093 In the era of the Six States very clever officers went to Ch‘u, and the Ch‘u State became powerful 1 ; they abandoned Ch‘i, and its power declined. They succoured Chao, and Chao was well provided 2, they turned their back upon Wei, and Wei had to suffer 3.

The Han State employed Shên Pu Hai 4 carrying out his three devices 5, and for fifteen years no foe dared infest its territory. Then it dispensed with his services and did not read his books. The weapons were destroyed, the armour gone to pieces, and the State was annexed by Ch‘in.

In the Yin and Chou epochs there was an uninterrupted series of revolutions, and one disaster followed the other. Their intention was not to do without government, but their power was too weak, and their knowledge too limited, so that the best advice was lost upon them. Thus a heavy mound of earth cannot be trampled down by one man’s footsteps, nor a huge pile of stones be subverted by one man’s hand. Wise officers excel by their strong sinews, and narrow-minded rulers are no match for them. If they seek each other, they pass one another like fish and quadrupeds 6.

Unless a Kan-chiang blade 7 be thrust by a man, water-plants and gourds receive no injury, and unless fine bamboo arrows be shot from a cross-bow, Lu tissues 8 cannot be pierced. Not that the blade and the fine bamboo are worthless, but without a person dealing a blow or shooting, the gourd and the silk are not cut p2.094 or pierced 9. How could the feat of cutting a flag or piercing an armour be achieved ?




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