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Chapter XXIII. Collected Persuasions, The Lower Series1

Pai-lo2 once taught two men how to select horses that kick habitually. Later, he went with them to Viscount Chien's stable to inspect the horses. One of the men pulled out a kicking horse. The other man 3 went near behind the horse and patted its flank three times, but the horse never kicked. 4 Therefore, the man who had pulled out the horse 5 thought he had been wrong in the way of selection. Yet the other man said: "You were not wrong in the way of selection. The shoulders of this horse are short but its laps are swollen. The horse that kicks habitually has to raise the hindlegs and lay its whole weight upon the forelegs. Yet swollen laps are not dependable. So the hind legs cannot be raised. You were skilful in selecting kicking horses but not in observing 6 the swollen laps." Verily, everything has the supporter of its weight. However, that the forelegs have swollen laps and therefore cannot support its whole weight, is known only by intelligent men. Hui Tzŭ said: "Suppose the monkey was put into a cage, it would turn as clumsy as the pig." For the same reason, as long as the position is not convenient, nobody can exert his ability.

Viscount Wên, a general of the Wei State, once called on Tsêng Tsŭ . Tsêng Tzŭ did not stand up but asked him to take a seat while he set himself on a seat of honour. 7 Later, Viscount Wên said to his coachman: "Tsêng Tzŭ is rustic. If he thinks I am a gentleman, why should he pay me no respect? If he thinks I am a rascal, why should he offend a rascal? That Tsêng Tzŭ has never been humiliated is good luck."

A kind of bird called "little cuckoo" has a heavy head and a curved tail. On drinking water from the river, it is bound to be overturned. Therefore, another bird has to hold its feather upward and let it drink. Similarly, men who fall short of drinking ought to find support for their own feather. 8

Eels are like snakes, silkworms like caterpillars. Men are frightened at the sight of snakes and shocked at the sight of caterpillars. However, fishermen would hold eels in hand and women would pick up silkworms. Thus, where there is profit, there everyone turns as brave as Mêng Pên and Chuan Chu.

Pai-lo taught men whom he disliked how to select swift race-horses and taught men whom he liked how to select inferior horses, because swift race-horses being few and far between would yield slow profits while inferior horses being sold every day would bring about quick profits. That swift race-horses yield profits is as casual 9 as the use of vulgar words in a refined style mentioned in the Book of Chou.

Huan 10 Hê said: "The first step of sculpture is to make the nose large and the eyes small. Because the nose, if too large, can be made small, but, if too small, cannot be enlarged; and the eyes, if too small, can be enlarged, but, if too large, cannot be made small. The same is true with the beginning of any enterprise. If made recoverable at any time, it seldom fails.

Marquis Ch`ung and Wu-lai knew that they would not be chastised by Chow but never foresaw that King Wu would destroy them. Pi-kan and Tzŭ-hsü knew that their masters would go to ruin but never knew the impending death of themselves. Hence the saying: "Marquis Ch`ung and Wu-lai knew the mind of their master but not the course of events while Pi-kan and Tzŭ-hsü knew the course of events but not the minds of their masters. The saintly man knowing both is always secure."

The Prime Minister of Sung was powerful and in charge of all important decisions. When Chi Tzŭ was about to visit the Ruler of Sung, Liang Tzŭ heard about it and said to him: "During the interview, are you sure the Prime Minister will be present? Otherwise, you might not be able to evade disasters." Chi Tzŭ, accordingly, persuaded the Ruler of the need of taking care of his health 11 and leaving the state affairs in the hands of able vassals.

Yang Chu's younger brother, Yang Pu, once wore white clothes and went out. As it started raining, he took off the white clothes and put on black ones. Upon his return, his dog, unable to recognize him, barked at him. Yang Pu became very angry and was about to beat it, when Yang Chu said: "Don't beat the dog. You will do the same, too. Supposing the dog went out white and came back black, wouldn't you feel strange?"

Hui Tzŭ said: "If Hou Yi put the thimble 12 on his right thumb, held the middle of the edge with his left hand, drew the bow, and then released the string, then even men of Yüeh would contentiously go to hold the target for him. But when a small child draws the bow, then even the compassionate mother will run into the house and shut the door." Hence the saying: "If certain of no miss, even men of Yüeh would not doubt Hou Yi. If not certain of no miss, even the compassionate mother will escape her small child."

Duke Huan of Ch`i once asked Kuan Chung if there was any limit of wealth. In reply Kuan Chung said: "Where there is no more water, there is the limit of water. Where there is content with wealth, there lies the limit of wealth. If one cannot stop with his content, it is because he forgets 13 the limit of wealth."

In Sung there was a rich merchant named Chien Chih Tzŭ. Once, when he was competing with other people for buying an uncut jade quoted at one hundred taels of gold, he pretended to drop it and thereby break it by mistake. As a result, he had to pay one hundred taels of gold for the damage. Then he repaired the breakage and sold it for twenty thousand taels. 14 Thus, affairs are started and are sometimes ruined. People must have considered it wise not to have started the competition at the moment when the merchant had to pay the damages.

Once there was a man who owing to his skilfulness in driving wanted to see the King of Ching. All coachmen became jealous of him. Therefore, he said, "Thy servant when driving can catch deer." So he was granted an audience. When the King himself drove, he could not catch any deer. Then the man drove and caught them. The King praised his driving, when he told the King about the coachmen's jealousy of him.

When Ching ordered Kung-sun Ch`ao 15 to lead the expeditionary forces against Ch`ên, his father-in-law saw him off, saying, "Chin is strong. Be sure to take precautions against their reinforcements." "Why should Father worry?" said Kung-sun Ch`ao. "I will rout the Chins on your behalf." "All right," said his father-in-law. "Then I will build a hut outside the south gate of the capital of Ch`ên and wait there for mournful news." "Why do you say that?" asked Ch`ao. "I have to laugh," replied the old man, "at the thought that if it is so easy to scheme for the ruin of enemies as you suppose, why should Kou-chien alone have to endure ten years' hardships in secret and solitude?"

Yao transferred the rule over All-under-Heaven to Hsü Yu. But Hsü Yu ran away. When he stayed in a farmer's house, the farmer put his fur hat out of the guest's sight. Indeed, the farmer put his hat out of the sight of Hsü Yu who had even declined the rule over All-under-Heaven because he never knew of Hsü Yu.

Once three lice were biting a pig and disputing with one another. Another louse, passing by them, asked, "What are you disputing about?" "We are fighting for fat places," replied the three lice. "If you fellows do not worry about the arrival of the mid-winter festival and the burning of the miscanthus, what else should you worry about?" So saying, the last louse joined the three in biting the body of the pig and ate as much as they wanted. In the meantime, the pig became very thin, wherefore people did not kill it at the time of the festival.

There is a kind of worm called "tapeworm", which has two mouths. Once they quarrelled for food and bit each other, till they killed each other. All ministers who quarrel about public affairs and thereby ruin the state, are all like tapeworms.

If buildings are painted white and furniture cleansed with water, then there is cleanliness. The same is true of human conduct and personality. If there is left no room for further painting and cleansing, then faults must be few.

When Prince Chiu was about to cause a rebellion, Duke Huan of Ch`i sent spies to watch him. They came back with the report that Prince Chiu, inasmuch as he never rejoiced when laughing and never saw when looking at a thing, would certainly cause a rebellion. Hearing this, Duke Huan made the Lus kill him.

Kung-sun Hung bobbed his hair and became a cavalier of the King of Yüeh. To sever his relationship with him, Kung-sun Hsi sent someone to tell him, "I and you will no longer be brothers." In reply Kung-sun Hung said: "I have my hair cut off. You might have your neck cut off while serving in the army under somebody else. What do I have to say to you then?" True, in the battle south of Chou, Kung-sun Hsi was killed.

A man who lived next-door to a rascal thought of selling off his estate and thereby keeping away from him. Thereupon someone said to him, "His string of wickedness will soon be full. Better wait for a while." "I am afraid he is going to do something against me for filling his measure of wickedness," was the reply. So saying, the man left for elsewhere. Hence the saying: "No hesitation on the verge of danger."

Confucius once asked his disciples, "Who can tell me the way Tzŭ-hsi made his name?" "Tz`ŭ 16 can," replied Tzŭ-kung, "and hopes nobody will doubt it. Tzŭ-hsi 17 said: `Be broad-minded, never be enticed by profit, and keep the people upright. By nature the people follow certain constant principles, considering crookedness crooked and straightness straight.' " "Yet Tzŭ-hsi could not evade a disastrous end," remarked Confucius. "During the rebellion of the Duke of White he was killed. Hence the saying: `Who pretends to straightness in conduct, is crooked in desire.' "

Viscount Wên of Chung-hang of Chin, while living in exile, once passed through a county town, when his followers said: "The squire of this place is an old acquaintance of Your Excellency. Why does Your Excellency not stay in his house and wait for the carriage coming from behind?" In reply Viscount Wên said: "I used to love music, when this man presented me with an automatic harp. When I liked girdle ornaments, he presented me with a jade bracelet. In this way, he aggravated my indulgences. Who ingratiated himself with me by using such articles as presents, will ingratiate himself with others by using me as a present too." So saying, he left the place. Meanwhile, the man actually retained Viscount Wên's two carriages that arrived later and presented them to his ruler.

Chou Ts`ao once said to Kung T`a, "Will you tell the King of Ch`i that if His Majesty helps me attain to high office in Wey with Ch`i's influence I will in return make Wey serve Ch`i?" "No," replied Kung T`a. "Your request will show him your being powerless in Wey. I am sure the King of Ch`i would not help any powerless man in Wey and thereby incur hatred from the powerful men in the country. Therefore, you had better say, `Whatever His Majesty wants, thy servant will make Wey do accordingly.' Then the King of Ch`i would think you are powerful in Wey and support you. In this way, after you become influential in Ch`i, you will gain influence in Wey with Ch`i's support." 18

Pai Kuei once said to the Premier of Sung: "As soon as your master grows up, he will administer the state affairs himself, and you will have nothing to do. Now your master is young and fond of making a name. Better make the Ching State congratulate him on his filial piety. Then your master never will deprive you of your post and will pay high respects to you and you will always hold high office in Sung."

Kuan Chung and Pao Shu said to each other: "The Ruler who is extremely outrageous, is bound to lose the State. Among all the princes in the Ch`i State, the one worth supporting must be Prince Hsiao-pai, if not Prince Chiu. Let each of us serve one of them and the one who succeeds first recommend the other." So saying, Kuan Chung served Prince Chiu and Pao Shu served Hsiao-pai. In the meantime, the Ruler was actually assassinated by his subjects. Hsiao-pai entered the capital first and proclaimed himself Ruler. The Lus arrested Kuan Chung and sent him to Ch`i. Thereupon Pao Shu spoke to the Throne about him and made him Prime Minister of Ch`i. Hence the proverb saying: "The magician makes good prayers for people but cannot pray for keeping himself away from evil spirits; Surgeon Ch`in 19 was skilful in curing diseases but unable to treat himself with the needle." Similarly, despite his own wisdom, Kuan Chung had to rely on Pao Shu for help. This is exactly the same as what a vulgar proverb says, "The slave sells fur coats but does not buy them, the scholar praises his eloquent speeches but does not believe in them."

The King of Ching attacked Wu. Wu sent Chü Wei and Chüeh Yung to entertain Ching's troops with presents. The Commander of the Ching Army said, "Arrest them and kill them for painting the festive drum with their blood." Then he asked, "Did you divine your fortunes before you started coming here?" "Yes, we did." "Good luck?" "Of course, good luck." "Now, we are going to kill you and paint our festive drum with your blood. Why?" "That is the reason why the omen is good," replied the two men. "Wu sent us here to test Your Excellency. 20 If Your Excellency is serious, they will dig deep trenches and build high ramparts; if not, they will relax their preparations. Now that Your Excellency kills thy servants, the Wus will take strict precautions against your attack. Moreover, the state's divination was not for one or two men. Verily, if it is not called lucky to have one subject killed and thereby preserve the whole state, what is? Again, dead persons never feel. If so, there is no use painting the drum with the blood of thy servants. If dead persons can feel and know, thy servants will make the drum stop sounding during the battle." Accordingly, the Chings did not kill them.

Earl Chih was about to attack the Ch`ou-yu State, and found the path too hazardous to go through. Thereupon he cast large bells and offered to present them to the Ruler of Ch`ou-yu. The Ruler of Ch`ou-yu, greatly pleased thereby, thought of clearing up the path for accepting the bells. "No," said Ch`ih-chang Wan-chi, "he is acting in the way a small state pays respects to a big power. Now that a big state is sending us such a present, soldiers will certainly follow it. Do not accept it." To this counsel the Ruler of Ch`ouyu would not listen but accepted the bells in the long run. Therefore, Ch`ih-chang Wan-chi cut the naves of his carriage short enough for the narrow road and drove away to the Ch`i State. Seven months afterwards Ch`ou-yu was destroyed.

Yüeh having already vanquished Wu asked for reinforcements from Ching in order to attack Chin. Thereupon the Left Court Historiographer Yi Hsiang said to the King of Ching: "Indeed, Yüeh on smashing Wu had able officers killed, brave soldiers extinguished, and heavily-armed warriors wounded. Now they are asking for reinforcements from us to attack Chin and showing us that they are not exhausted. We had better raise an army to partition Wu with them." "Good," said the King of Ching, and, accordingly, raised an army and pursued the Yüehs. Enraged thereby, the King of Yüeh thought of attacking the Chings. "No," said the High Officer Chung. "Our able officers are practically all gone and heavily-armed warriors wounded. If we fight them, we will not win. Better bribe them." Accordingly, the King ceded as bribe to Ching the land of five hundred li on the shady side of the Dew Mountains.

Ching attacked Ch`ên. But Wu went to rescue it. There was only thirty li between the opposing armies. After having been rainy for ten days, the weather began to clear 21 up at night. Thereupon the Left Court Historiographer Yi Hsiang said to Tzŭ-ch`i: "It has been raining for ten days. The Wus must have assembled piles of armour and a number of troops. To-night they would come. Better make preparations against their raid." Accordingly, they pitched their camps. 22 Before the camps were completed, the Wus actually arrived, but, seeing the camps of the Chings, they withdrew. "The Wus have made a round trip of sixty li," remarked the Left Court Historiographer. "By this time their officers must be resting, and their soldiers eating. If we go thirty li and attack them, we will certainly be able to defeat them." Accordingly, they pursued them and routed Wu's troops by long odds.

When Han and Chao were menacing each other, the Viscount of Han asked for reinforcements from Wey, saying, "We hope you will lend us troops to attack Chao." In reply Marquis Wên of Wey said, "Wey and Chao are brothers. I cannot listen to you." Likewise, when Chao asked for reinforcements from Wey to attack Han, Marquis Wên of Wey said, "Wey and Han are brothers. I dare not listen to you." Receiving no reinforcements, both countries were angry and withdrew. After they found out that Marquis Wên had intended to patch up a peace between them, both paid visits to the Court of Wey.

Ch`i attacked Lu and demanded the tripod made in Ch`an. Lu sent them a forged one. "It's a forged one," said the Ch`is. "It's a real one," said the Lus. "Then bring Yo-chêng Tzŭ-ch`un here to look at it," said the Ch`is. "We will listen to what he is going to say." Thereupon the Ruler of Lu asked Yo-chêng Tzŭ-ch`un to take his side. "Why did you not send them the real one?" asked Yo-chêng Tzŭ-ch`un. "Because I love it," replied the Ruler. "I love my own reputation, too," replied Yo-chêng.

When Han Chiu proclaimed himself Ruler and everything was not as yet stabilized, his younger brother was in Chou. The Court of Chou wanted to support him but feared the Hans might not accept him. 23 Thereupon Ch`i-mu Hui said: "The best is to send him back with one hundred chariots. If the people accept him, we will say that the chariots are precautions against emergencies. If they refuse to accept him, we will say that we are delivering their traitor to them."

When the Lord of Ch`ing-kuo 24 was about to build city walls around Hsüeh, many of his guests remonstrated against the plan. The Lord of Ch`ing-kuo, therefore, told the usher not to convey their messages to him. However, there came a man from Ch`i who requested an interview, saying, "Thy servant begs to speak only three words. If he utters more than three words, he will be willing to be steamed to death." The Lord of Ch`ing-kuo, therefore, granted him an audience. The visitor ran forward and said, "Big sea fish," and then ran away. "May I know its meaning?" asked the Lord of Ch`ing-kuo. "Thy servant dare not regard dying as joking," said the visitor. "Be kind enough to explain its meaning to me," insisted the Lord of Ch`ing-kuo. In reply the visitor said: "Has Your Highness ever heard about the big fish? Neither the net can stop it nor the string arrow can catch it. When it jumps at random and gets out of water, then even ants would make fun of it. Now, what the Ch`i State is to Your Excellency, that is the sea to the big fish. As long as Your Excellency remains powerful in Ch`i, why should he care about Hsüeh? Yet once you lose power in Ch`i, then though the city walls of Hsüeh are as high as heaven, you will labour in vain." "Right," said the Lord of Ch`ing-kuo, and, accordingly, never built walls around Hsüeh.

The younger brother of the King of Ching was in Ch`in. When Ch`in refused to send him home, a certain lieutenant 25 spoke to the King, "May Your Majesty finance thy servant with one hundred taels of gold. Then thy servant will be able to make Prince Wu come home." Accordingly, he took one hundred taels of gold along and went to Chin. There he called on Shu-hsiang and said: "The younger brother of the King of Ching is in Ch`in but Ch`in would not let him go home. Therefore His Majesty with one hundred taels of gold as present begs Your Excellency to help his brother go home." Having accepted the money, Shu-hsiang went to see Duke P`ing of Chin 26 and said: "It is now time to construct walls around the Pot Hill." "Why?" asked Duke P`ing. In reply he said: "The younger brother of the King of Ching is in Ch`in but Ch`in refuses to send him home. This means that Ch`in has hatred for Ching. Therefore, Ch`in will certainly not dare to protest against our construction of walls around the Pot Hill. If they do, then we will tell them that if they let the younger brother of the King of Ching go home, we will not build the walls. In case they let Prince Wu go home, we will place the Chings under obligation to us. In case they refuse to send him home, they will execute their wicked plan and therefore certainly not dare to protest against our construction of the walls around the Pot Hill." "Right," said the Duke, and, accordingly, started building walls around the Pot Hill and told the Duke of Ch`in that if he would send the younger brother of the King of Ching home, the Chins would not build the walls. In accordance with the demand Ch`in sent Prince Wu back to Ching. Thereat the King of Ching was greatly pleased, and presented Chin with two thousand taels of fused gold.

Ho-lü attacked Ying and in the fighting won three battles. Then he asked Tzŭ-hsü, "May we turn back now?" In reply Tzŭ-hsü said: "Who wants to drown anybody and stops after giving him one drink, cannot drown him to death. 27 Even to keep giving him water, is not as quick as to follow the force of circumstances and sink him."

A man of Chêng 28 had a son. On going to take up his official post, he said to the family folks, "Be sure to repair the broken places on the mud fence. Otherwise, bad men might come in to steal things." Some dweller in the same alley also said, "Keep the fence in good repair!" Actually a thief broke into the house. The family, 29 therefore, considered the young man wise but suspected that the dweller in the same alley who had warned them was the thief.


1. 說林下.

2. His real name was Sun Yang.

3. With Wang Hsien-shen 擧踶馬其一人 should be removed from below 其一人 to the place above 自以爲失相, and 其 means 之.

4. I regard 此 below 踶 as superfluous.

5. Namely, 擧踶馬之一人自以爲失相.

6. With Kao Hêng 任 sometimes means 察.

7. 奧 means 宛, the south-western corner of the sitting-room where seats of honour were reserved.

8. Chao Yung-hsien suspected that there were hiatus below this passage.

9. With Kao Hêng 惑 means 或.

10. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 桓 might have been a mistake for 杜.

11. With Ku 貴主 should be 貴生.

12. With Wang Yin-chi 鞅 should be 決.

13. With Wang Hsien-shen 亡 should read 忘.

14. 千鎰. One yi was equivalent to twenty taels.

15. With Wang Hsien-shen 公子 should be 公孫朝 and so throughout the whole illustration.

16. The personal name of Tzŭ-kung.

17. Wang Hsien-shen suspected that 孔子曰 was a mistake for 子西曰.

18. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 有齊 should be 齊有.

19. Namely, Pien Ch`iao (vide supra, pp. 214-15).

20. With Lu Wên-shao 怒 below 將軍 is superfluous.

21. With Wang Hsien-shen 星 means 晴.

22. 陳 should be 陣.

23. I propose the change of 恐韓咎不立也 into 恐韓人不立之.

24. Namely, T`ien Ying, son of King Wei of Ch`i and father of Lord Mêngch`ang.

25. The Imperial Library has 中尉 in place of 中射.

26. With Hirazawa 之 between 以見 and 晉平公 is superfluous.

27. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 逆 should be 遂.

28. The "Difficulties in the Way of Persuasion" has 宋 in place of 鄭 (vide supra, p. 110).

29. With Wang Hsien-shen 其家 should be supplied above 以其子為智.

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