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Chapter XI. Solitary Indignation1

Men well versed in the principles of tact 2 are always farseeing and clearly observing. For, if not clearly observing, they cannot discern selfishness. Men able to uphold the law are always decisive and straightforward. For, if not straightforward, they cannot correct crookedness.

Ministers who attend to their duties in conformity to orders and fulfil their posts in accordance with laws, are not called "heavy-handed men". 3 The heavy-handed men would without any order act on their will, benefit themselves by breaking the law, help their families by consuming state resources, and have enough power to manipulate their ruler. Such are the so-called 4 "heavy-handed men".

Men well versed in the principles of tact, being clearly observing, if listened to and taken into service by the ruler, will discern the secret motives of the heavy-handed men. Men able to uphold the law, being straightforward, if listened to and taken into service by the ruler, will correct the crooked deeds of the heavy-handed men. In short, if these types of men are taken into service, noble and powerful ministers will infallibly fall off the inked string. 5 This is the reason why they and the authorities in charge of the state affairs 6 are bad enemies and unable to coexist.

If the authorities concerned take all matters of the state into their own hands, then everybody, whether outside or inside the court, will be bound to become their tool. Thus, unless through their good offices, feudal lords from abroad cannot accomplish any negotiation, wherefore even enemy states praise 7 them; unless through their good offices, no official in governmental service can advance his career, wherefore the body of officials becomes their tool; unless through their good offices, the courtiers cannot approach the sovereign, wherefore the courtiers conceal their vices; and, unless through their good offices, the allowances of scholars will decrease and the treatment accorded them will deteriorate, wherefore the learned men speak well of them. These four assistances are means whereby wicked ministers embellish themselves.

The heavy-handed men cannot be so loyal to the sovereign as to recommend their enemies and the lord of men cannot rise above their four assistances in such wise as to discern the right types of ministers. Therefore, the more deluded 8 the sovereign is, the more powerful the chief vassals become.

In general, the authorities concerned, in relation to the lord of men, are rarely not trusted and beloved, and, moreover, are his old acquaintances and long time intimates. To please the sovereign's mind by sharing the same likes and hates with him, is, of course, their beaten way of self-elevation. Their posts and ranks are noble and powerful; their friends and partisans are numerous; and the whole country praises them with one accord. Contrary to these, upholders of law and tact, when they want to approach the Throne, have neither the relationship of the trusted and beloved nor the favour of the long acquaintances and old intimates, and, what is still worse, intend to reform the biased mind of the lord of men with lectures on law and tact; which altogether is opposed to the taste of the lord of men. Naturally they have to acquiesce in a low and humble status and, having no partisans, live in solitude and singleness.

Indeed, the strange and distant, when contesting with the near and dear, have no reason to win; newcomers and travellers, when contesting with long acquaintances and old intimates, have no reason to win; opponents of the sovereign's opinion, when contesting with his supporters of the same taste, have no reason to win; the humble and powerless, when contesting with the noble and powerful, have no reason to win; and a single mouth, 9 when contesting with the whole country, has no reason to win. Confronted with these five handicaps, upholders of law and tact, though they wait for a number of years, are still 10 unable to see the sovereign. On the contrary, the authorities concerned, possessed of the advantages of five winnings, speak freely to the Throne at any time. If so, how can upholders of law and tact distinguish themselves and when can the lord of men realize his own mistakes?

Being thus hopelessly handicapped in their equipment and rendered incompatible with the authorities by force of circumstances, how can upholders of law and tact avoid dangers? Those who can be falsely accused of criminal offences are censured with state laws; those who cannot be indicted as criminals are ended by private swordsmen. For this reason, 11 those who clarify the principles of law and tact but act contrary to the sovereign's taste, if not executed through official censure, are infallibly dispatched by private swordsmen.

However, friends and partisans who form juntas on purpose to delude the sovereign and twist their words so as to benefit themselves, always win the confidence of the heavy-handed men. Accordingly, those who can be accorded the pretext of meritorious services are ennobled with official rank; those who cannot 12 be accorded any good reputation are empowered through foreign influences. For this reason, men who delude the sovereign and frequent the gates of private mansions, if not celebrated for official rank, are always empowered through foreign influence.

In these days, the lord of men, without investigating evidence and witness, inflicts censure and punishment upon upholders of law and tact, and, without waiting for meritorious services to appear, confers rank and bounties upon friends and partisans of the authorities. If so, how can the upholders of law and tact risk their lives in presenting their ideas to the Throne, and how would the wicked ministers discard their private advantages and withdraw themselves from office? Therefore, the more humbled the sovereign is, the more ennobled are the private clans.

Indeed, the Yüeh State was rich and her army was strong. Yet the sovereign of every Central State, knowing that she was useless to him, would say: "She is not within the reach of my control." Take for example a state at present. However extensive the territory and however numerous the people, if the lord of men is deluded and the chief vassals have all powers to themselves, that state is the same as Yüeh. 13 If the ruler only perceives 14 no resemblance of his state to Yüeh but fails to perceive no resemblance of the state out of his control to the state under his control, he never thoroughly understands what resemblance is.

People 15 speak of the fall of Ch`i. Not that the land and cities fell to pieces, but that the Lü Clan failed to rule while the T`ien Clan assumed the ruling power. They speak of the fall of Chin. Not that the land and cities fell to pieces, but that the Chi Clan failed to rule while the Six Nobles had all powers to themselves. To-day, if chief vassals have the ruling power in their grip and decide on all state policies by themselves and the sovereign does not know how to recover his prerogatives, it is because the lord of men is not intelligent. Whoever catches the same diseases as dead people did, cannot survive; whoever shows the same symptoms as ruined states did, cannot exist. Therefore, the present followers of the footsteps of Ch`i and Chin, even though they want to secure and preserve their states, will find it to be an unattainable task.

In general, the difficulty in enacting law and tact is met not only by rulers of ten thousand chariots but also by rulers of one thousand chariots. As the attendants of the lord of men are not necessarily intelligent, if in estimating new personnel he first takes counsel from men whom he considers wise and then discusses their words with his attendants, he is talking about wise men to fools. As the attendants of the lord of men are not necessarily worthy, if in estimating new personnel he first pays respect to men whom he considers worthy and then discusses their deeds with his attendants, he is talking about worthies to ruffians. If wise men have to submit their plans for fools' approval and worthies have to see their deeds estimated by ruffians, men of worthiness and wisdom will feel ashamed and the ruler's conclusions will be full of fallacies.

Among the sovereign's subjects aspiring to official honours, refined men would keep their characters clean, and wise men would advance their careers 16 by improving their eloquence. They cannot please anybody with bribes. Counting on their cleanness and eloquence, 17 they are unable to join governmental service by bending the law. Consequently, refined and intelligent men would neither bribe the attendants nor comply with private requests.

The attendants of the lord of men are not as upright in conduct as Poh-i. 18 If they fail to get what they want and receive the bribes they expect, then the refined and intelligent men's merits of cleanness and eloquence will come to naught while words of slander and false accusation will ensue instead. When merits of eloquence 19 are restricted by the courtiers and virtues of cleanness are estimated by slanderers, then refined and intelligent magistrates will be deposed while the sagacity of the lord of men will be debarred. When the ruler estimates wisdom and virtue not according to meritorious services and judges crimes and faults not through the processes of investigation and testimony but simply listens to the words of the courtiers and attendants, then incapable men will fill up the court and stupid and corrupt magistrates will occupy all posts.

The threat to the ruler of ten thousand chariots is the chief vassals' being too powerful. The threat to the ruler of one thousand chariots is the attendants' being too much trusted. Both these threats, indeed, are common to every lord of men. Moreover, whether ministers commit major offences or the lord of men has serious faults, ruler and minister always have mutually 20 different interests. How is this known? In reply I say: "The sovereign is interested in appointing able men to office; the minister is interested in securing employment with no competent abilities. The sovereign is interested in awarding rank and bounties for distinguished services; the minister is interested in obtaining wealth and honour without merit. The sovereign is interested in having heroic men exerting their abilities; the minister is interested in having their friends and partisans effect self-seeking purposes. Accordingly, when the land of the state is dismembered, private families are enriched; when the sovereign is degraded, chief vassals are empowered. In consequence, when the sovereign loses his influence, ministers gain the rule over the state; when the sovereign changes his title into that of a feudatory vassal, the prime minister splits tallies into halves. 21 These are the reasons why ministers attempt to beguile the ruler and further their private interests."

Thus, if the sovereign ever changes the circumstances, 22 not even two or three out of ten chief vassals of the present age can remain in favour with him. What is the reason therefor? It is because crimes committed by ministers are serious.

Ministers guilty of major offences must have deceived their sovereign. Such crimes deserve the death penalty. The wise men, far-seeing and afraid of death, never will obey the heavy-handed men. Similarly, the worthies, anxious to cultivate their personal integrity and ashamed of joining the wicked ministers in deceiving the sovereign, never will obey the chief vassals. That being so, the adherents and dependents of the authorities concerned, if not stupid and ignorant of the impending calamity, must be corrupt and mind no wickedness.

The chief vassals, holding such stupid and corrupt men under control, co-operate with them in deceiving the sovereign from above and collect spoils from below. Their friends and partisans exploit the masses of the people, 23 associate for treasonable purposes, bewilder the sovereign by unifying their words, and disturb the gentry and commoners by breaking the law. In so doing they incline the state towards danger and dismemberment and the sovereign towards hardship and disgrace. Such is a major offence. When ministers are guilty of such a major offence and the sovereign never suppresses them, he is then committing a serious fault. Should the sovereign commit such a serious fault and ministers commit such a major offence, to prevent the state from going to ruin would be impossible.


1. 孤憤. This chapter vividly reflects the political and social background of the author's intellectual responses. Since Lin Yutang in his book, My Country and My People, repeatedly quoted Han Fei Tzŭ and since almost every page of the book reveals his solitary indignation at his country and his people, I wonder if it was this work, if not the whole works, of Han Fei Tzŭ that inspired him to protest against his age.

2. 術 was rendered by Forke, Duyvendak, and Bodde as "method", which is too vague and therefore rather misleading. My rendering is "tact" in most cases and "craft" or "statecraft" sometimes.

3. 重人.

4. Wang Hsien-shen reads 所為 for 所謂.

5. They will be found guilty and dismissed from office.

6. 當塗之人. The personnel directing the course of the state.

7. I read 訟 for 頌.

8. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 弊 reads 蔽.

9. 一口 here refers to every upholder of law and tact living in solitude and singleness.

10. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 又 should be 猶.

11. I propose the supply of 故 below 是.

12. Ku Kuang-ts`ê proposed the supply of 不 below 其. Wang Hsien-shen disagreed with him. I agree with Ku because Han Fei Tzŭ apparently intended to maintain parallelism between this sentence and the corresponding sentence in the preceding paragraph.

13. It is because that state slips off the sovereign's control just as Yüeh was situated beyond the reach of the control by the sovereign of a Central State.

14. With Wang Hsien-shen 智 in both cases should be 知.

15. With Sun I-jang 主 below 人 is superfluous.

16. With Yü Yüch and Wang Hsien-shen 其修士 below 進業 is superfluous.

17. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 精潔 should be 精辨.

18. Poh-i and Shu-ch`i were sons of the Ruler of Ku-chu. The father appointed the younger brother Shu-ch`i to be his successor. After the father's death each refused the throne, because each considered the other more entitled thereto. When the people in the country established the middle brother on the throne, they went to spend the rest of their life under the protection of the Earl of the West. On the way they met Fa, subsequently King Wu of Chou, who had revolted against Chow during the mournful period of the Earl. As they never approved of such an action, instead of submitting to the change of the ruling dynasty which they condemned as a change from tyrant to tyrant, they left for the Shou-yang Mountains, where they died of starvation. Hence both brothers became types of morality.

19. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 亂 should be 辯. With Wang Hsien-shen Chang Pang's edition has 辯 in place of 亂.

20. With Ku 與 above 相 should be below it.

21. 剖符 means to issue official decrees and exercise the ruling authorities. On issuing them the prime minister would put each decree on a tally which he first splits into two halves and gives one to the appointee and keeps the other half in his office for subsequent identification.

22. 變勢. For instance, the sovereign comes to realize his past faults, discards favouritism, and enforces strict legalism.

23. With Wang Hsien-shen 侵漁朋黨 should be 朋黨侵漁.

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IATHPublished by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia