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Chapter XXVII. How to Use Men: Problems of Personnel Administration1

They say the ancients who were skilful in personnel administration always conformed to the way of heaven, accorded with the nature of man, and clarified the principles of reward and punishment. As they conformed to the way of heaven, they expended few efforts, but harvested fruitful results. As they accorded with the nature of man, penal acts were simplified, but orders took effect. As they clarified the principles of reward and punishment, Po-i and Robber Chê were never mixed up. That being so, white and black were clearly distinguished from each other.

Ministers of an orderly state render meritorious service to the country so as to fulfil their official duties, manifest their talents in office so as to obtain promotions, and devote their strength to the observance of yard and weight so as to manage affairs. As all officials have due abilities, are competent for their duties, and do not covet any additional post 2 ; and as they have no ulterior motive in mind and shift no responsibility of any of their additional offices to the ruler; inside there occurs no uprising from hidden resentment nor does such a disaster as caused by the Lord of Ma-fu 3 happen outside.

The intelligent ruler allows no offices to meddle with each other, wherefore no dispute can happen; no personage to hold an additional post, wherefore everybody's talented skill can improve; and nobody to share the same meritorious service with anybody else, wherefore no rivalry can ensue. When rivalry and dispute cease and talents and specialities grow, the strong and the weak will not struggle for power, ice and charcoal will not mix their features, 4 and All-underHeaven will not be able to harm one another. Such is the height of order.

Casting law and tact aside and trusting to personal judgments, even Yao could not rectify a state. Discarding compasses and squares and trusting to optional measures, even Hsi Chung could not make a single wheel. Giving rulers up and thereby attempting to make shortness and length even, even Wang Erh could not point out the middle. Supposing an average sovereign abode by law and tact and an unskilful carpenter used compasses, squares, and rulers, certainly there would be no mistake in a myriad cases. Who rules men, if he casts aside what the wise and the skilful fall short of and maintains what the average and the unskilful never fail in, can then exert the forces of the people to the utmost and accomplish his achievement and reputation.

The intelligent sovereign offers rewards that may be earned and establishes punishments that should be avoided. Accordingly, worthies are encouraged by rewards and never meet Tzŭ-hsü's disaster; unworthy people commit few crimes and never see the humpback being cut open; blind people walk on the plain and never come across any deep ravine; stupid people keep silent and never fall into hazards. Should such be the case, the affection between superior and inferior would be well founded. The ancients said, "It is hard to know the mind. It is hard to balance joy and anger." Therefore, the sovereign uses bulletins to show the eye, instructions 5 to tell the ear, and laws to rectify 6 the mind. If the ruler of men discards these three easy measures and practises the sole difficult policy of mind-reading, then anger will be accumulated by the superior and resentment would be accumulated by the inferior. When accumulators of anger are governing accumulators of resentment, both will be in danger.

The bulletins of the intelligent sovereign being so easy to see, his promises keep. His teachings being so easy to understand, his words function. His laws being so easy to observe, his orders take effect. When these three things are well founded and the superiors have no self-seeking mind, the inferiors will obey the law and maintain order; will look at the bulletin and move; will follow the inked string and break; and will follow the flat pins 7 and sew. In such a case, superiors will incur no bad name for selfishness and arrogance nor will inferiors receive any blame for stupidity and awkwardness. Hence the ruler is enlightened and rarely angry while the people are loyal and rarely guilty.

They say, "To manage an affair and have no worry, even Yao would be unable." Yet the world is always full of affairs. The ruler of men, unless generous in conferring titles and bounties and easy in rewarding people of merit with riches and honours, is not worth helping in saving his jeopardized state. Therefore, the intelligent sovereign encourages men of integrity and bashfulness and invites men of benevolence and righteousness. Of yore, Chieh Tzŭ-t`ui 8 had neither rank nor bounty but followed Duke Wên in the cause of righteousness, and, being unable to bear the thirst of the Duke's mouth and the hunger of his stomach, sliced off his own flesh to feed his master in the cause of benevolence. Henceforth the lords of men have cited his virtue and books and pictures have quoted his name.

Generally speaking, the lord of men rejoices in making the people exert their strength for public causes and suffers by the usurpation of his authority by self-seeking ministers. The minister feels content when receiving appointment to office and overburdened when taking charge of two responsibilities at one time. The intelligent sovereign, therefore, abolishes what the ministers suffer and establishes what the lord of men rejoices in. Such an advantage to both superior and inferior is surpassed by nothing else. Contrary to this, if the ruler fails to observe closely the interiors of private residences, handles important affairs with slight concerns of mind, inflicts severe censure for minor offences, resents small faults for a long time, habitually teases people for amusement's sake and frequently requites trouble-makers with favours, it is the same as to cut off the arm and replace it with a jewel one. Hence the world encounters calamities of dethronement.

If the lord of men institutes difficult requirements and convicts anybody whosoever falls short of the mark, then secret resentment will appear. If the minister disuses his merit and has to attend to a difficult work, then hidden resentment will grow. If toil and pain are not removed and worry and grief are not appeased; if the ruler, when glad, praises small men and rewards both the worthy and the unworthy, and, when angry, blames superior men and thereby makes Po-i and Robber Chê equally disgraced, then there will be ministers rebelling against the sovereign.

Supposing the King of Yen hated his people at home but loved the Lus abroad, then Yen would not serve him nor would Lu obey him. The Yens, 9 as hated, would not exert their strength to render him meritorious services; while the Lus, though delighted, would never forget the death-or-life question and thereby become intimate with the sovereign of another state. In such a case, the ministers would fall into discord; the lord of men, into isolation. The country in which ministers in discord serve the sovereign left in isolation, is said to be in a great danger.

Supposing you discarded the mark and target and shot blindly, then though you hit it, you would not thereby be skilful. Similarly, supposing you cast laws and institutions aside and got angry blindly, then, though you slaughter many, the culprits would not be afraid of you. If the crime is committed by "A" but the consequent disaster befalls "B", 10 then hidden resentment will grow. Therefore, in the state of the highest order there are reward and punishment but neither joy nor anger. For the same reason, the sage enacts all kinds of penal law; whereas, though he sentences criminals to death, he is neither malicious nor cruel. Hence the culprits yield to his justice.

Wherever the shot arrow hits the mark and reward and punishment correspond with the tallies of merits and demerits, there Yao can come to life again and Yi can reappear. In such an orderly country, superiors will encounter no catastrophe as met by the Yins and the Hsias; inferiors will suffer no disaster as met by Pi-kan; the ruler can sleep without worries; ministers can rejoice in their daily work; Tao will spread all over heaven and earth; and Teh will last throughout a myriad generations.

Indeed, if the lord of men, instead of paving cracks and gaps, works hard on painting the surface with red and white clay, be sure swift rain and sudden gale will tumble the house down. Likewise, if he does not escape the impending disaster as near as the eyebrows and eyelashes but yearns after the manner of the death of Pên and Yü; if he takes no heed of the imminent trouble within the enclosure but solidifies the iron castles in remote frontiers; and if he does not adopt the schemes of the worthies near by him but cultivates friendships with the states of ten thousand chariots a thousand li away; then once the whirlwind arises, Pên and Yü will not be in time to rescue him nor will foreign friends arrive in time, till the catastrophe will be surpassed by none. In the present age, whoever gives loyal counsels to the sovereign, should neither make the King of Yen like the Lus, nor make the modern age yearn after the worthies of antiquity, nor expect the Yüehs to rescue the drowning persons in the Central States. Should such be the case, superior and inferior would be mutually affectionate, great achievement would be accomplished at home, and good reputation would be established abroad.


1. 用人. The English rendering by L. T. Ch`ên is "The Use of Men" (Liang Ch`i-ch`ao, op. cit., p. 121, n. 3).

2. With Wang Hsien-shen 輕其任 means 不兼官.

3. The title of Chao Kua, Commander of the Chao Army, defeated by General Pai Ch`i in 260 b.c. at Ch`ang-p`ing.

4. This is to say, good and bad people, who are as clearly differentiated from each other as ice and charcoal are, will not be confused with each other.

5. Ku Kuang-ts`ê proposed 教 for 鼓.

6. With Ku 教 is a mistake but no correction is made. I propose 嬌 for it.

7. Yü Yüeh proposed 簪 for 攢.

8. A loyal follower of Prince Ch`ung-erh, subsequently Duke Wên of Chin.

9. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 燕 should be supplied above 見憎.

10. 甲 in Chinese is often used as "A" in English to symbolize a certain thing or person. So is 乙 equivalent to "B".

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