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Chapter XLV. Absurd Encouragements1

Means the sage employs to lead to political order are three. The first is said to be profit; the second, authority; and the third, fame. Profit is the means whereby the people's hearts are won; authority is the means whereby to enforce orders; fame is the common way linking superior and inferior. Nothing other than these three is so needful to government.

In these days, there is no lack of profit, but the people are not won over to the superior's wishes; there is no absence of authority, but the inferiors do not obey decrees; and there is no absence of laws among the officials, but government does not correspond to fame. In short, though the three means are not out of existence, yet order and chaos in the world follow on each other's heels. Why is this?

Indeed, what the superior values is often contrary to the purpose of government. For instance, to institute names and titles is to embody honours; but those who look down upon fame and make light of facts, the world calls advanced. Again, to institute ranks and grades is to establish the basal scale of high and low; but those who slight the superior and never petition for audience, the world calls worthy. Again, authority and profit are means to enforce orders; but those who desire no profit and disregard all authority, the world calls dignified. Again, laws and decrees are means to attain political order; but those who obey neither laws nor decrees but pursue their own good, the world calls loyal. Again, office and rank are means to encourage people; but those who like fame but want no office, the world calls heroic patriots. Finally, punishments are means to solidify authority; but those who make light of law, and award neither penalty nor slaughter, the world calls fearless. If the people seek fame more urgently than they look for profit, small wonder scholars who are starving and destitute would even dwell in rocky caves and torture themselves purposely to fight for a name in the world.

Therefore, the cause of disorder in the world is not the inferior's fault but the superior's loss of Tao. As the superior always values the way to chaos and despises the way to order, the ideal of the inferiors is always contrary to the purpose of the superior's government.

Now, the inferiors' obedience to the superior is what the superior urgently needs. However, those who are generous, sincere, genuine, and faithful, and active in mind but timid in speech, are called spiritless; those who follow laws firmly and obey orders fully, are called stupid; those who revere the superior and fear punishment, are called cowardly; those who speak on the right occasions and act in the proper manner are called unworthy; and those who are not double-faced and engaged in private studies 2 but listen to magistrates and conform to public instructions, are called vulgar. Those who are hard to employ, are called righteous; those who are hard to reward, are called clean-handed; and those who are hard to rule, are called heroic; those who do not obey decrees, are called courageous; those who render no profit to the superior, are called straightforward; and those who extend kindnesses and bestow favours, are called benevolent. Those who are self-assertive and arrogant, are called elders; those who pursue private studies and form juntas, are called tutors and pupils; those who lead a tranquil and complacent life, are called considerate; those who betray their fellow men and grab advantages, are called smart; those who are crafty, deceitful, 3 and fickle, 4 are called wise; those who act for others first and for themselves later, coin terms and invent words, and assume to love All-under-Heaven, are called sages; those who speak on big subjects and talk about fundamental but impracticable principles, and act contrary to the beaten track of the world, are called great men; and those who despise ranks and bounties and do not yield to the superior's opinions are called excellent.

The inferiors, acting in such wicked 5 ways, would disturb the people in private and do no good when in office. The superior, who ought to suppress their desires and constantly uproot their motives, lets them go and honours their deeds. This is to attain political order by teaching the inferiors how to violate the superior.

In general, what the superior administers, is penal infliction, but people doing favours in private are honoured. The Altar of the Spirits of Land and Grain can stand because of national safety and tranquillity, but deceitful, crafty, slanderous, and flattering people are appointed to office. Everybody under the jurisdiction of the state obeys orders because of trust and justice, but people exerting their wisdom to upset the present regime are employed. Orders prevail widely and authority stands well because of the inferiors' prudence and alertness to obey the superior, but men living in rocky caves and cursing the world are celebrated. Public storehouses and granaries are full because of the people's devotion to the primary duties of tilling and farming, but men engaged in such secondary callings as weaving twilled cloth, embroidering and knitting clothes in gold and silver, and engraving and drawing, are enriched. Reputation is accomplished and territory 6 is extended because of the warrior's services, but in these days war orphans go hungry, starving, and begging in the streets, while relatives of actors, harlots, and drinkers, ride in carriages and wear silk. Rewards and bounties are meant to exert the people's forces and risk their lives, but in these days warriors winning in warfare and taking in attack, work hard but are not properly rewarded, while diviners, palmists, and swindlers, 7 playing with compliant words before the Throne, receive gifts every day.

The superior holds scales and measures in his hands in order to have the power over everybody's life in his grip, but nowadays men who obey scales and observe measures, though anxious to exert the spirit of loyalty to serve the superior, cannot have an audience, while those who utter artful words and flattering phrases, play villainous tricks, and by lucky chance rise in the world, frequently attend on the Throne. To abide by law, talk straight, keep fame equal to norm, and censure the culprit according to the inked string, is to promote order on behalf of the superior, but people so doing are estranged while adulatory and heretical 8 men, obeying the opinions and following the desires of the superior and thereby endangering the world, become courtiers. To exact taxes and revenues and concentrate the people's forces is to provide against eventualities and fill up the public storehouses and the state treasury, but officers and soldiers who desert their posts, hide themselves, find shelter in the residences of powerful men, and thereby evade taxation and military service, but whom the superior fails to catch, number tens of thousands.

Indeed, to parade good fields and pretty residences is to encourage warriors to fight, but men resolved to have their heads cut off, abdomens torn open, and bones exposed in wildernesses, 9 though they may lose their lives this way, have neither shelter nor estates 10 , while persons whose daughters and sisters are attractive and chief vassals and attendants who render the country no distinguished services, receive residences of their own choice and live on fields selected by themselves. Rewards and profits issue solely from the superior purposely to control the inferiors with success, but warriors and armed officers get no post while men idling their time away are honoured and celebrated. Now that the superior takes these practices for the ways of civic education, how can his name escape degradation and how can his position escape dangers?

Indeed, when the superior's name is degraded and his position endangered, it is always because the inferiors are not obedient to laws and orders, double-faced, pursuing private studies, 11 and acting against the world. Yet if their actions are not forbidden, their gangs are not dissolved, and their partisans are not thereby dispersed, but they are honoured instead, it is the fault of the authorities in charge of state affairs.

The superior sets up the principles of integrity and bashfulness for the purpose of encouraging 12 the inferiors, whereas gentry and officials of to-day are not ashamed of dirty mud and ugly insults, but under the influence of daughters and sisters married to powerful men and of private friends they take up office with no need of following the proper order.

Prizes and gifts are meant to exalt men of merit, but men having given distinguished service in warfare remain poor and humble while flatterers and actors rise above their due grades, names, and titles. Sincerity and faith are meant to manifest authority, but the sovereign is deluded by courtiers; ladies and interviewers proceed in parallel; officials administer the bestowal of ranks and change the personnel as they please. This is the fault of the authorities in charge of state affairs. If chief vassals appoint people to office by intriguing with the subordinates beforehand and then play into each other's hands, and, though against the law, they extend their influence and benefits among their subordinates, then the sovereign will become powerless and the chief vassals will become influential.

Indeed, the purpose of enacting laws and decrees is to abolish selfishness. Once laws and decrees prevail, the way of selfishness collapses. Selfishness disturbs the law. Nevertheless, scholars, who, being double-faced, pursue private studies, dwell in rocky caves, hide themselves by the roadside, and pretend to profound thought, denounce the world in general and beguile the inferiors in particular. Instead of suppressing them, the superior honours them with titles and provides them with actual support. Thereby men of no merit are celebrated and men doing no service are enriched. If so, scholars who are double-faced and are pursuing private studies, will pretend to profound thought, endeavour to learn intrigues, denounce laws and decrees, and thereby elaborate opposite views to the course of the age.

In general, whoever disturbs the superior and acts contrary to the age, is always a scholar having a double-face and pursuing private studies. Therefore, in my main discourse I say: "The cause of order is law, the cause of chaos is selfishness. Once law is enacted, no selfish act can be done." Hence the saying: "Whoever tolerates selfishness finds chaos, whoever upholds law finds order." If the superior misses the right way, astute men will use selfish phraseology and worthies will cherish selfish motives, principals will bestow selfish favours, and subordinates will pursue selfish desires. When worthy and astute men form juntas, coin terms, manipulate phrases, and thereby denounce laws and decrees 13 before the superior, if the superior, instead of stopping and debarring them, honours them, it is to teach the inferiors neither to follow the superior nor to obey the law. For this reason, worthies cultivate their fame and live comfortably and wicked men count on rewards and accumulate wealth. Because the worthies live comfortably by cultivating their fame and wicked men accumulate wealth by counting on rewards, the superior is unable to subdue the inferiors.


1. 詭使.

2. 私學. By "private studies" Han Fei Tzŭ means studies in any subject not directly allied with Politics and Jurisprudence.

3. With Kao Hêng 躁 below 險 reads 譟 which means 詐.

4. With Wang Hsien-shen 佻 above 反覆 is superfluous.

5. With Kao Hêng 漸 above 行 means 姦亂.

6. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 池 should be 地, and with Yü Yüeh 城 above it is superfluous.

7. With Yü 狐蟲 should be 孤蠱.

8. With Kao Hêng 施 below 諂 stands for 迆 which means "to walk out of the straight path".

9. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 平 before 原野 is superfluous.

10. With Kao Hêng 無宅容身死田畝 should be 身死無宅舍田畝 .

11. With Lu Wên-shao 無 above 私學 is superfluous.

12. With Wang Nien-sun 屬 is a mistake for 厲.

13. 措 below 法 should be 令.

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