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Chapter XXVI. The Way to Maintain the State1

When a sage-king makes laws, he makes rewards sufficient to encourage the good, his authority sufficient to subjugate the violent, and his preparation sufficient to accomplish 2 a task. Ministers of an orderly age, who have rendered the country many meritorious services, hold high posts. Those who have exerted their strength, receive big rewards. Those who have exerted the spirit of loyalty, establish names. If good, they live on as flowers and insects do in spring; if bad, they die out as flowers and insects do in autumn. Therefore, the people strive to apply all their forces and rejoice in exerting the spirit of loyalty. This is said to have high and low living in harmony. As high and low are living in harmony, users of forces exert their strength to the observance of yard and weight and strive to play the role of Jên P`i; warriors march out at the risk of their lives 3 and hope to accomplish the merits of Mêng Pên and Hsia Yü; and upholders of the true path all cherish the mind of gold and stone to die in the cause of fidelity as Tzŭ-hsü did. If the users of forces are as strong as Jên P`i and fight as bravely as Pên and Yü while cherishing the mind of gold and stone, then the ruler of men can sleep without worries 4 and his preparations for the maintenance of the state are already complete.

In by-gone days, the good maintainers of the state forbade what they considered light with what they considered heavy, and stopped what they considered easy with what they considered hard. Therefore, both gentlemen and rustics were equally upright. Robber Chê and Tsêng Ts`an and Shih Ch`iu were equally honest. How do I know this? Indeed, the greedy robber does not go to the ravine to snatch gold. For, if he goes to the ravine to snatch gold, he will not be safe. Similarly, Pên and Yü, without estimating their opponents' strength, would have gained no fame for bravery; Robber Chê, without calculating the possibilities of success, would have gained no booty.

When the intelligent sovereign enacts prohibitions, even Pên and Yü are restrained by what they cannot vanquish and Robber Chê is afflicted with what he cannot take. Therefore, if the ruler can forbid with what Pên and Yü cannot transgress and maintain what Robber Chê cannot take, the violent will become prudent; the brave, respectful; and the wicked, upright. Then All-under-Heaven will become just and fair and the common people will become right-spirited.

Once the lord of men leaves the law and loses the hearts of the people, he will fear lest Po-i should take anything away, and will not escape such calamities as are caused by T`ien Ch`êng and Robber Chê. Why? Because the present world has not a single man as upright as Po-i but the age is full of culprits. That is the reason why laws, weights, and measures are made. If weights and measures are of faith, Po-i loses no reason to be right and Robber Chê cannot do wrong. If laws are distinct and clear, the worthy cannot over-run the unworthy, the strong cannot outrage the weak, and the many cannot violate the few. If the ruler commits All-under-Heaven to the care of the Law of Yao, honest men never miss their due posts and wicked men never seek any godsend. If the arrow of Hou Yi is entrusted with a thousand taels of gold, Po-i cannot lose and Robber Chê dare not take. As Yao was too clever to miss the culprits, All-under-Heaven had no wickedness. As Yi was too skilful to miss the mark, the thousand taels of gold would not be lost. Thus, wicked men could not live long, and Robber Chê would stop.

Should such be the case, among the pictures there would be inserted no worthy like Tsai Yü and enumerated no rapacious ministers like the Six Nobles; among the books there would be recorded no personage like Tzŭ-hsü and described no tyrant like Fu-ch`a; the tactics of Sun Wu and Wu Ch`i would be abandoned; and Robber Chê's malice would give way. Then the lord of men might enjoy sound sleep inside the jade palace with no trouble of glaring his eyes and grinding his teeth with anger and turning his ear with anxiety; while the ministers might drop their clothes and fold their hands in an iron-walled city with no calamity of seeing their arms clutched, their lips shut tight, and hearing sighs and griefs.

To subdue the tiger not by means of the cage, to suppress the culprit not by means of the law, or to impede the liar not by means of the tally, would be a worry to Pên and Yü and a difficulty to Yao and Shun. Therefore, to construct a cage is not to provide against rats but to enable the weak and timid to subdue the tiger; to establish laws is not to provide against Tsêng Ts`an and Shih Ch`iu but to enable the average sovereign to prohibit Robber Chê; and to make tallies is not to guard against Wei Shêng but to make the masses never deceive one another. Thus, the right way is not to rely on Pi Kan's martyrdom in the cause of fidelity nor to count on the rapacious minister's committing no deception, but to rely on the ability of the timid to subdue the tiger and appropriate the facilities of the average sovereign to maintain the state. In the present age, who schemes loyally for the sovereign and accumulates virtue for All-underHeaven, finds no advantage more permanent than this! 5 If so, the ruler of men will see no figure of a doomed state and the loyal ministers will cherish no image of a ruined personality. As the ruler knows how to honour ranks and make rewards definite, he can make people apply their strength to the observance of yard and weight, die in the cause of their official duties, understand the real desire of Pên and Yü not to choose the death penalty before a peaceful life, and scrutinize 6 the covetous acts of Robber Chê so as not to ruin their characters for the sake of money. Then the way to maintain the state is completely paved.


1. 守道.

2. Lu Wên-shao suspected that 法 below 完 was superfluous.

3. With Wang Hsien-shên there are hiatuses below this passage.

4. 高枕 literally means to use a high pillow while asleep.

5. With Wang Hsien-shen 如 above 此 is superfluous.

6. With Wang Wei 惑 is a mistake. I propose 審 for it.

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