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Chapter XXXIX. Criticisms of the Ancients, Series Four

1Once Sun Wên-tzŭ of Wei visited the court of Lu. When the Duke was going up a flight of steps, he also went up at the same time. Thereupon Shu-sun Mu-tzŭ rushed forward and said, "At every conference of the feudal lords, His Highness never walks behind the Ruler of Wei. Now, you are not walking one step behind our Ruler while our Ruler does not notice the fault. Will you go a little bit more slowly?" Yet Sun Tzŭ neither had any word to say nor showed any sign of reform. When Mu-tzŭ withdrew from the party, he said to people, "Sun Tzŭ will go to ruin. Being a failing minister, he would not walk behind a ruler. Committing a fault, he would not reform himself. This is the basic factor of ruin."

Some critic says: When Sons of Heaven lost the way of government, feudal lords replaced 2 them. For example, T`ang and Wu replaced Chieh and Chow. When feudal lords lost the way of government, high officers replaced them. For example, high officers in Ch`i and Chin replaced their rulers. Were the minister replacing the ruler doomed to ruin, then T`ang and Wu could not become rulers and the new ruling dynasties in Ch`i and Chin 3 could not be established. Now, Sun Tzŭ in Wei rivalled his ruler in power but never became a minister in Lu. If any minister turns ruler, it is because the original ruler has lost the reins of government. Therefore, notwithstanding that Sun Tzŭ had gained the reins of government, Mu-tzŭ warned the minister having the gain, of ruin instead of warning the ruler suffering the loss, of ruin. Thus, Mu-tzŭ was not clear-sighted at all. Indeed, Lu could not punish the envoy from Wei while the Ruler of Wei was not enlightened enough to know the unreformable minister. Though Mu-tzŭ had found these two faults, how 4 could he foretell Sun Tzŭ's ruin? The way he ruined his status as minister 5 was the way he broke the ministerial etiquette and thereby acquired the power of the ruler. 6

Some other critic says: Minister and ruler have their respective duties. If the minister can rob the ruler of the throne, it is because they have over-ridden each other's duties. Therefore, if the ruler takes what is not his due, the masses will take it away from him. If the minister declines his due and takes it afterwards, the people will give it back to him. For this reason, Chieh sought after the girls of Min-shan and Chow made request for Pi Kan's heart with the immediate result that All-under-Heaven were thereby estranged from them. Likewise, T`ang had to change his personal name and Wu received punishment 7 , wherefore everybody within the seas obeyed them. Similarly, Viscount Hsüan 8 of Chao fled to the mountains and Viscount T`ien Ch`êng took refuge abroad. In consequence, however, the peoples of Ch`i and Chin followed them. Such being the case, T`ang and Wu could become kings and the new ruling dynasties of Ch`i and Chin could be established, not because they usurped the throne first and then took what was their due, but because they first took what was their due and later proceeded to the throne. Now that Sun Wên-tzŭ never took what was his due but behaved himself like a ruler, he opposed the principle of justice and violated the doctrine of propriety. To oppose the principle of justice causes the failure of affairs; to violate the doctrine of propriety causes the accumulation of the people's grudge. Why did the critic take no notice of the impending calamity of failure and destruction?

Yang Hu of Lu schemed to attack the Three Huans, failed in the campaign, and fled to Ch`i. There Duke Ching paid him great respects. Against such a measure Pao Wên-tzŭ remonstrated with him, saying, "It is not practicable. Yang Hu had been in favour with the Chi Clan but attempted to attack 9 Chi-sun because he was covetous of their wealth. Now that Your Highness is wealthier than Chi-sun and Ch`i is larger than Lu, Yang Hu will exert all his deceitful tricks." Duke Ching, accordingly, imprisoned Yang Hu.

Some critic says: If the millionaire's son is not benevolent, it is because everybody is by nature anxious to gain profit. Duke Huan was the first of the Five Hegemonic Rulers, but in struggling for the throne, he killed his elder brother because the profit was great. The relationship between minister and ruler is not even as intimate as that between brothers. If through the accomplishment of intimidation and murder one can rule over the state of ten thousand chariots and enjoy the great profit, then who among the body of officials will not do the same as Yang Hu? To be sure, every plan, if delicately and skilfully carried out, will succeed, and, if crudely and clumsily carried out, is bound to fail. The ministers do not cause any disturbance because they are not yet well prepared. If the ministers all have the mind of Yang Hu which the ruler does not notice, their plan must be delicate and skilful. Contrasted with them, Yang Hu was known to be covetous of the rule over All-under-Heaven and schemed to attack his superior, wherefore his plan must have been crude and clumsy. Instead of advising Duke Ching to censure 10 the astute ministers of Ch`i, Pao Wên-tzŭ advised him to censure clumsy Hu. Thus, his persuasion was unreasonable. Whether the ministers are loyal or deceitful, it all depends upon the ruler's action. If the ruler is enlightened and strict, all the ministers will be loyal to him. If the ruler is weak and stupid, then all ministers will be deceitful. To be well informed of secrets is called "enlightened"; to grant no pardon is called "strict". Pao Wên-tzŭ did not know the astute ministers of Ch`i but wanted to censure the plotter of a disturbance in Lu. Was this not absurd?

Some other critic says: Benevolence and covetousness do not inhere in the same mind. For instance, Prince Mu-i declined the throne of Sung offered by his brother, whereas Shang-ch`ên of Ch`u murdered his royal father in order to get the throne. Ch`ü-chih of Chêng passed the reins of government over to his younger brother, whereas Duke Huan of Lu murdered his elder brother, Duke Yin. The Five Hegemonic Rulers practised the policy of annexing weaker states with Duke Huan, 11 as example. If so, all of them observed no code of fidelity and integrity. Moreover, if the ruler is enlightened, all the officials will be loyal. Now, Yang Hu plotted a disturbance in Lu, failed, and fled to Ch`i. If the authorities of Ch`i did not censure him, they would be doing the same as taking over an unsuccessful trouble-maker from Lu. If the ruler were enlightened, he would know 12 that by censuring Yang Hu an impending civil disturbance could be prevented. This is the right way of disclosing an evil in the bud. According to an old saying, "Every feudal lord must consider his friendship with other states as more important than with any private individual." If the Ruler of Ch`i was strict at all, he would never overlook the guilt of Yang Hu. This is the practice of giving no pardon. If so, to censure Yang Hu would be the way to make the body of officials loyal. Who took no notice of the astute ministers of Ch`i but neglected the punishment of a culprit already guilty of treason in Lu, blamed a person before he as yet committed any offence but refused to censure a man evidently convicted of felony, was thoughtless, indeed. Therefore, to punish the criminal guilty of treason in Lu and thereby both over-awe the crooked-minded ministers of Ch`i and cultivate terms of friendship with the Clans of Chi-sun, Mêng-sun, and Shu-sun, Pao Wên's persuasion was by no means absurd as alleged by the preceding critic.

When Chêng Pai was about to appoint Kao Chü-mi high officer, Duke Chao, then the heir apparent, disliked him and remonstrated firmly with his father. His father, however, would not listen. After Duke Chao's accession to the throne, Kao Chü-mi, afraid of being killed by the new ruler, murdered Duke Chao on the day of the Golden Rabbit 13 and established his younger brother, Prince Wei, 14 on the throne. Gentlemen of that time gave comment on the events, saying, "Duke Chao knew the right man to dislike." Prince Yü said, "How murderous Kao Pai must be! His revenge for a dislike was too much."

Some critic says: Prince Yü's remark was absurd. Duke Chao met the disaster because he was too late in revenging himself on his enemy. If so, Kao Pai died late because his revenge for a dislike was too serious. Indeed, the enlightened ruler does not manifest his indignation. For, if he manifests his indignation at any minister, then the guilty minister 15 will rashly scheme to carry out his plot. If so, the lord of men will fall into danger. For instance, during the carousal at the Spiritual Tower, the Ruler of Wei was angry at Ch`u Shih but did not censure him. In consequence, Ch`u Shih caused a disturbance. Again, when Prince Tzŭ-kung tasted the turtle soup, the Ruler of Chêng was angry at him but did not punish him. In consequence, Tzŭ-kung murdered him.

The gentleman's remark on Duke Chao's knowledge of the right man to dislike did not mean that the dislike was too serious, but that in spite of his clear knowledge as such he never inflicted punishment upon the man till finally he died at the hands of the man. Therefore, the saying, "He knew the right man to dislike," exposed the powerlessness of Duke Chao. As a ruler of men, he not only failed to foresee an impending danger, but also failed to prevent and suppress it. Now, Duke Chao displayed his dislike for Kao Chü-mi but suspended the conviction of his crime and did not censure him. Thereby he made Chü-mi bear him a grudge, fear capital punishment, and risk his own fortune. In consequence, the Duke could not evade murder. Thus, Kao Pai's 16 revenge for dislike was natural and never too serious.

Some other critic says: Who over-compensates for an evil, would inflict a big punishment for a small offence. To inflict a big punishment for a small offence is an eccentric action by the criminal court. It constitutes a worry to the court. The menace arises not from the criminals already 17 punished but from the number of enemies thereby made. For instance, Duke Li of Chin destroyed three Ch`is, 18wherefore the Luans and the Chung-hangs caused a disturbance; Tzŭ-tu of Chêng executed Pai-hsüan, wherefore Shih-ting started a trouble; and the King of Wu chastised Tzŭ-hsü, wherefore Kou-chien of Yüeh became Hegemonic Ruler. Such being the case, that the Ruler of Wei was banished and the Duke of Chêng was murdered, was not because Ch`u Shih had not been executed and Tzŭ-kung had not been punished, but because the rulers had the angry colour when they should not have expressed their indignation, and they had the mind to punish them when they were not in the position to punish them. In fact, when they were angry at the two crooks, if the punishment of them would not go against public opinion, there would be no harm in manifesting their indignation. Indeed, to blame a minister before the accession and wait to punish him for the previous offence after the accession was the reason why Duke Hu of Ch`i was destroyed by Tsou Ma-hsü. Thus, even the ruler's manifestation of his anger at the minister has evil after-consequences; how much more so should be the minister's manifestation of his anger at the ruler? If it was not right to censure the minister, then to strive to realize his wish would be the same as to make enemies with All-under-Heaven. If so, was it unreasonable that he was murdered?

At the time of Duke Ling of Wei, Mi Tzŭ-hsia was in favour with him in the Wei State. One day, a certain clown, when seeing the Duke, said, "The dream of thy servant has materialized, indeed." "What did you dream?" asked the Duke. "Thy servant dreamt of a cooking stove," replied 19 the clown, "on seeing your Highness." "What? As I understand," said the Duke in anger, "who sees the lord of men in dreaming, dreams of the sun. Why did you see a cooking stove in your dream of me?" The clown then said, "Indeed, the sun shines upon everything under heaven while nothing can cover it. Accordingly, who sees the lord of men in dreaming, dreams the sun. In the case of a cooking stove, however, if one person stands before it, then nobody from behind can see. Supposing someone were standing before Your Highness, would it not be possible for thy servant to dream of a cooking stove?" "Right" said the Duke and, accordingly, removed Yung Ch`u, dismissed Mi Tzŭ-hsia, and employed Ssŭ-k`ung Kou.

Some critic says: The clown did very well in making a pretext of dreaming of a cooking stove and thereby rectifying the way of the sovereign, whereas Duke Ling did not fully understand the clown's saying. For to remove Yung Ch`u, dismiss Mi Tzŭ-hsia, and employ Ssŭ-k`ung Kou, was to remove his favourites and employ a man he regarded as worthy. For the same reason, Tzŭ-tu of Chêng regarded Ch`in Chien as worthy, he was deluded; Tzŭ-k`uai regarded Tzŭ-chih as worthy, he was deluded. Indeed, who dismisses his favourites and employs men he considers worthy, cannot help allowing the "worthies" to stand before him. If an unworthy man stands before the sovereign, he is not sufficient to hurt the sovereign's sight. Now, if the Duke in no wise increased his wisdom 20 but allowed an astute man to stand before him, he would certainly endanger himself.

Some other critic says: Ch`ü Tao tasted water-chestnuts, King Wên tasted calamus pickles. The two worthies did taste them, though both were not delicious tastes. Thus, what man tastes is not necessarily delicious. Duke 21 Ling of Chin liked Shan Wu-hsü, K`uai of Yen regarded Tzŭ-chih as worthy. The two rulers did esteem them, though neither was an honest man. Thus, who is regarded by the ruler as worthy, is not necessarily worthy. To regard an unworthy man as worthy and take him into service, is the same as to employ a favourite. However, to regard a real worthy as worthy and raise him, is not the same 22 as to employ a favourite. For this reason, King Chuang of Ch`u raised Sun-shu 23 Ao, wherefore he became Hegemonic Ruler; Hsing 24 of Ying employed Fei Chung, wherefore he went to ruin. Both these Kings employed men they considered worthy but harvested entirely opposite results. K`uai of Yen, though he raised a man he considered worthy, did the same as employing a favourite. Whether or not the Ruler of Wei was making the same mistake, who could be sure? Before the clown saw Duke Ling, the Duke, though deluded, did not know he was being deluded. It was only after the clown had interviewed him that he came to know the deception. Therefore, to dismiss the deluding ministers was to increase his wisdom. 25 The preceding critic said 26 : "If the ruler, without increasing his wisdom, allows any astute man to stand before him, he will fall into danger." Now that the Duke had increased his wisdom by dismissing two deceitful men, though the new man he employed might stand before him, he never would be jeopardized.


1. 難四. In this Work each criticism is followed by a counter-criticism.

2. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 伐 should be 代 and so in the following sentence.

3. With Wang Hsien-shen 晉齊 should be 齊晉.

4. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 臣 should be 巨 which means 詎.

5. With Wang Hsien-shen 其所以亡 means 亡其為臣.

6. With Wang 其失所以得君 means 失其為臣之禮, 故得為其君.

7. With Kao Hêng this referred to Wu's being enchained at the Jade Gate (Cf. supra, XXI, p. 218).

8. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 咺 should be 宣.

9. With Wang 於 below 伐 is superfluous.

10. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê below 不使景公加誅於 should be supplied 齊之巧臣,而使加誅於.

11. Wang Hsien-shen thought 桓 referred to the Three Huans and so proposed the supply of 三 above it. I disagree with him. 桓 must refer to Duke Huan inasmuch as he, being the first Hegemonic Ruler, was guilty of fratricide and could make no good example.

12. With Wang 知 below 誅 should be above it.

13. 辛卯. 辛 is the eighth one among the ten heavenly stems, and 卯, the fourth one among the twelve earthly branches according to the accepted cosmology of classic antiquity in China. By framing the ten stems with the twelve branches ancient Chinese invented the cosmic cycle with sixty steps, each representing one type of the chance combination of heavenly and earthly factors. After this cycle they have named from time immemorial the years, the months, the days, and the hours, the Chinese having divided one day into twelve instead of twenty-four hours.

14. Lu Wên-shao suspected 亶 was a mistake for 亹.

15. With Ku 臣罪 should be 罪臣.

16. With Wang Hsien-shen 昭公 should be 高伯.

17. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 以 above 誅 should be 已.

18. Ch`i Chih, Ch`i Yi, and Ch`i Ch`iu.

19. Work XXX has 對曰 above 夢見.

20. Both Hirazawa's and the Waseda edition have 知 in place of 誅. The following counter-criticism has 知 in its quotation from the present critic. I believe 誅 should be 知.

21. Both Hirazawa's and the Waseda edition have 公 in place of 候.

22. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 狀 below 異 is superfluous.

23. With Wang Wei 叔孫 should be 孫叔.

24. Namely, King Chow.

25. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 之 below 知 is superfluous.

26. I regard 日 as a mistake for 曰. The Palace Library edition has 曰 in place of 日, too. Ku considered it wrong, however.

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