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Chapter XLVI. Six Contrarieties1

Who fears death and shuns difficulty, is the type of citizen who would surrender or retreat, but the world reveres him by calling him "a life-valuing gentleman". Who studies the ways of the early kings and propounds theories of his own, is the type of citizen that would neglect the law, but the world reveres him by calling him "a cultured and learned gentleman". Who idles his time away and obtains big awards, is the type of citizen who would live on charities, but the world reveres him by calling him "a talented gentleman". Who twists his speeches and pretends to erudition, is the fraudulent and deceitful type of citizen, but the world reveres him by calling him "an eloquent and intelligent gentleman". Who brandishes his sword and attacks and kills, is the violent and savage type of citizen, but the world reveres him by calling him "a hardy and courageous gentleman". Who saves thieves and hides culprits, is the type of citizen that deserves the death penalty, but the world reveres him by calling him "a chivalrous and honourable gentleman". These six types of citizens are what the world praises.

Who would venture risks and die in the cause of loyalty, is the type of citizen that chooses death before infidelity, but the world despises him by calling him "a planless subject". Who learns little but obeys orders, is the law-abiding type of citizen, but the world despises him by calling him "a naive and rustic subject". Who works hard and earns his livelihood, is the productive type of citizen, but the world despises him by calling him "a small-talented subject". Who is frank, generous, pure, and genuine, is the right and good type of citizen, but the world despises him by calling him "a foolish and silly subject". Who esteems commands and reveres public affairs, is the superior-respecting type of citizen, but the world despises him by calling him "a cowardly and fainthearted subject". Who suppresses thieves and oppresses culprits, is the superior-obeying type of citizen, but the world despises him by calling him "a flattering and slanderous subject". These six types of citizens are what the world blames.

Thus, the wicked, fraudulent, and useless citizens include six types, but the world praises them in those manners; so do the tilling, fighting, and useful citizens include six types, but the world blames them in these manners. These are called "six contrarieties".

If the hemp-clothed commoners in accordance with their private interests praise people, and if the lord of this age believing in bubble reputations respects them, then whoever is respected, will be accorded profits. If the hundred surnames on account of private feud with them slander them, and if the lord of this age, as misled by the beaten track of men, despises them, then whoever is despised, will suffer damage. Therefore, fame and rewards will go to selfish, vicious citizens deserving punishment; while blame and damages will befall public-spirited, upright gentlemen deserving reward. If so, then to strive for the wealth and strength of the state is impossible.

The ancients had a proverb saying: "To govern the people is like washing one's head. Though there are falling hairs, the washing must needs be done." Whoever regrets the waste of the falling hairs and forgets the gain of the growing hairs, does not know the doctrine of expediency. 2

Indeed, opening boils causes pain; taking drugs causes bitter taste. Yet, if boils are not opened on account of pain and drugs not taken on account of bitterness, the person will not live and the disease will not stop.

Now the relationship between superior and inferior involves no affection of father and son, if anyone wishes to rule the inferiors by practising righteousness, the relationship will certainly have cracks. Besides, parents in relation to children, when males are born, congratulate each other, and, when females are born, lessen 3 the care of them. Equally coming out from the bosoms and lapels of the parents, why should boys receive congratulations while girls are ill-treated? Because parents consider their future conveniences and calculate their permanent benefits. Thus, even parents in relation to children use the calculating mind in treating them, how much more should those who have no affection of parent and child?

The learned men of to-day, on counselling the lord of men, all persuade him to discard the profit-seeking mind and follow the way of mutual love. Thereby they demand more from the lord of men than from parents. Such is an immature view of human relationships: it is both deceitful and fallacious. Naturally the enlightened sovereign would not accept it. The sage, in governing the people, deliberates upon laws and prohibitions. When laws and prohibitions are clear and manifest, all officials will be in good order. 4 He makes reward and punishment definite. When reward and punishment are never unjust, the people will attend to public duties. If the people attend to public duties and officials are in good order, 5 then the state will become rich; if the state is rich, then the army will become strong. In consequence, hegemony will be attained. The enterprise of the Hegemonic Ruler is the highest goal of the lord of men. With this highest goal in view the lord of men attends to governmental affairs. Therefore, the officials he appoints to office must have the required abilities, and the rewards and punishments he enforces must involve no selfishness but manifest public justice to gentry and commoners. Whoever exerts his strength and risks his life, will be able to accomplish merits and attain rank and bounty. When rank and bounty have been attained, the enterprise of wealth and nobility will be accomplished. Now, wealth and nobility constitute the highest goal of the ministers. With this highest goal in view the ministers attend to their official duties. Therefore, they will work hard at the peril of their lives and never resent even the exhaustion of their energy. This amounts to the saying that if the ruler is not benevolent and the ministers are not loyal, hegemony cannot be attained.

Indeed, the culprits, if infallibly detected, would take precautions; if definitely censured, they would stop. If not detected, they would become dissolute; if not censured, they would become active. For illustration, when cheap articles are left at a deserted spot, even Tsêng Shan and Shih Ch`in can be suspected of stealing them; whereas when a hundred pieces of gold hang at the market-place, even the greatest robber dare not take them. Even Tsêng Shan and Shih Ch`in are liable to suspicion at a deserted spot if detection is unlikely; if sure to be found out, the greatest robber dare not touch the gold hanging at the market-place.

Therefore, the enlightened sovereign in governing the state would increase custodians and intensify penalties and make the people stop vices according to law but not owing to their own sense of integrity. For illustration, mothers love children twice as much as fathers do, but a father enforces orders among children ten times better than a mother does. Similarly, officials have no love for the people, but they enforce orders among the people ten thousand times better than their parents do. Parents heap up their love but their orders come to naught; whereas officials exercise force and the people obey them. Thus, you can easily make the choice between severity and affection.

Furthermore, what parents desire of children is safety and prosperity in livelihood and innocence in conduct. What the ruler requires of his subjects, however, is to demand their lives in case of emergency and exhaust their energy in time of peace. Now, parents, who love their children and wish 6 them safety and prosperity, are not listened to; whereas the ruler, who neither loves nor benefits his subjects but demands their death and toil, can enforce his orders. As the enlightened sovereign knows this principle, he does not cultivate the feeling of favour and love, but extends his influence of authority and severity. Mothers love sons with deep love, but most of the sons are spoilt, for their love is over-extended; fathers show their sons less love and teach them with light bamboos, 7 but most of the sons turn out well, for severity is applied.

If any family of to-day, in making property, share hunger and cold together and endure toil and pain with one another, it would be such a family that can enjoy warm clothes and nice food in time of warfare and famine. On the contrary, those who help one another with clothing and food and amuse one another with entertainments, would become such families that give wives in marriage and set children for sale in time of famine and during the year of drought. Thus, law as the way to order may cause gain at first, but will give gain in the long run; whereas benevolence as the way to order may give pleasure for the moment, but will become fruitless in the end. Measuring their relative weights and choosing the one for the greatest good, the sage would adopt the legal way of mutual perseverance and discard the benevolent 8 way of mutual pity. The teachings of the learned men all say, "Mitigate penalties". This is the means of inviting turmoil and ruin. In general, the definiteness of reward and punishment is based on encouragement and prohibition. If rewards are liberal, it is easy to get what the superior wants; if punishments are heavy, it is easy to forbid what the superior hates. Indeed, whoever wants benefit, hates injury, which is the opposite of benefit. Then how can there be no hatred for the opposite of the wanted? Similarly, whoever wants order, hates chaos, which is the opposite of order. For this reason, who wants order urgently, his rewards must be liberal; who hates chaos badly, his punishments must be heavy. Now, those who apply light penalties are neither serious in hating chaos nor serious in wanting order. Such people are both tactless and helpless. Therefore, the distinction 9 between the worthy and the unworthy, between the stupid and the intelligent, 10 depends on whether reward and punishment are light or heavy.

Moreover, heavy penalties are not for the sole purpose of punishing criminals. The law of the intelligent sovereign, in suppressing rebels, is not disciplining only those who are being suppressed, for to discipline only the suppressed is the same as to discipline dead men only 11 ; in penalizing robbers, it is not disciplining only those who are being penalized, for to discipline only the penalized is the same as to discipline convicts only. Hence the saying: "Take seriously one culprit's crime and suppress all wickednesses within the boundaries." This is the way to attain order. For the heavily punished are robbers, but the terrified and trembling are good people. Therefore, why should those who want order doubt the efficacy of heavy penalties?

Indeed, liberal rewards are meant not only to reward men of merit but also to encourage the whole state. The rewarded enjoy the benefits; those not as yet rewarded look forward to their future accomplishment. This is to requite one man for his merit and to encourage the whole populace within the boundaries. Therefore, why should those who want order doubt the efficacy of liberal rewards?

Now, those who do not know the right way to order all say: "Heavy penalties injure the people. Light penalties can suppress villainy. Then why should heavy penalties be necessary?" Such speakers are really not well versed in the principles of order. To be sure, what is stopped by heavy penalties is not necessarily stopped by light penalties; but what is stopped by light penalties is always stopped by heavy penalties. For this reason, where the superior sets up heavy penalties, there all culprits disappear. If all culprits disappear, how can the application of heavy penalties be detrimental to the people?

In the light of the so-called "heavy penalties", what the culprits can gain, is slight, but what the superior inflicts, is great. As the people never venture a big penalty for the sake of a small gain, malefactions will eventually disappear. In the face of the so-called "light penalties", however, what the culprits gain, is great, but what the superior inflicts, is slight. As the people long for the profit and ignore the slight punishment, malefactions never will disappear. Thus, the early sages had a proverb, saying: "Nobody stumbles against a mountain, but everybody trips over an ant-hill." The mountain being large, everyone takes notice 12 of it; the ant-hill being small, everyone disregards it. Now supposing penalties were light, people would disregard them. To let criminals go unpunished is to drive the whole state to the neglect of all penalties; to censure criminals properly is to set traps for the people. Thus, light punishment is an ant-hill to the people. For this reason, the policy 13 of light punishment would either plunge the state into confusion or set traps for the people. Such a policy may thus be said to be detrimental to the people.

The learned men of to-day, one and all, cite the panegyrics in the classics, and, without observing closely the real facts, of the present age, say: "If the superior does not love the people and always levies exactions and taxations, then living expenses will become insufficient and the inferiors will hate 14 the superior. Hence the chaos in the world." This means that if the superior lets the people have enough money to spend and loves them besides, then notwithstanding light punishment order can be attained. Such a saying is not true. Generally speaking, men incur heavy punishment 15 only after they have had enough money. Therefore, though you let them have enough money to spend and love them dearly, yet light penalties cannot get them out of disorder.

Take, for example, the beloved sons of wealthy families, who are given sufficient money to spend. Having sufficient money to spend, they spend it freely. Spending money freely, they indulge in extravagance. The parents, loving them so much, cannot bear to restrict them. Not restricted, they become self-willed. Being extravagant, they impoverish their families. Being self-willed, they practise violence. Such is the calamity of deep love and light penalty, even though there is enough money to spend.

Men as a whole, while living, if they have enough money to spend, do not use energy; if the superior's rule is weak, they indulge in doing wrong. He who has enough money to spend and yet still exerts himself strenuously, can be nobody but Shên-nung. Those who cultivate their conduct though the superior's rule is weak, can be nobody but Tsêng Shan and Shih Ch`iu. Clearly enough, indeed, the masses of people cannot live up to the levels of Shên-nung, Tsêng Shan and Shih Ch`iu.

Lao Tan 16 said: "Who knows how to be content, gets no humiliation, who knows where to stop, risks no vitiation." 17 Indeed, who on account of vitiation and humiliation seeks nothing other than contentment, can be nobody but Lao Tan. Now, to think that by contenting the people order can be attained is to assume everybody to be like Lao Tan. For illustration, Chieh, having the dignity of the Son of Heaven, was not content with the honour; and, having the riches within the four seas, was not content with the treasures. The ruler of men, though able to content the people, cannot content all of them with the dignity of the Son of Heaven while men like Chieh would not necessarily be content with the dignity of the Son of Heaven. If so, even though the ruler might attempt to content the people, how could order be attained? Therefore, the intelligent sovereign, when governing the state, suits his policy to the time and the affairs so as to increase his financial resources, calculates taxes and tributes so as to equalize the poor and the rich, extends ranks and bounties for the people so as to exert their wisdom and ability, enlarges penal implements so as to forbid villainy and wickedness, and makes the people secure riches by virtue of their own efforts, receive punishments owing to their criminal offences, get rewards by performing meritorious services, and never think of any gift by beneficence and favour. Such is the course of imperial and kingly government.

If all men are asleep, no blind man will be noticed; if all men remain silent, no mute will be detected. Awake them and ask each one to see, or question them and ask each one to reply. Then both the blind and the mute will be at a loss. Likewise, unless their speeches be heeded, the tactless will not be known; unless appointed to office, the unworthy will not be known. Heed their speeches and seek their truth; appoint them to office and hold them responsible for the results of their work. Then both the tactless and the unworthy would be at a loss. Indeed, when you want to get wrestlers but merely listen to their own words, then you cannot distinguish between a mediocre man and Wu Huo. Given tripods and bowls, then both the weak and the strong come to the fore. Similarly, official posts are the tripods and bowls to able men. Entrusted with affairs, the stupid and the intelligent will be differentiated. As a result, the tactless will not be used; the unworthy will not be appointed to office.

Nowadays, those who find their words not adopted, pretend to eloquence by twisting their sentences; those who are not appointed to office, pretend to refinement by disguising themselves. Beguiled by their eloquence and deceived by their refinement, the sovereigns of this age honour and esteem them. This is to tell the bright without finding their sight and to tell the eloquent without finding their replies, wherefore the blind and the mute never will be detected. Contrary to this, the intelligent sovereign, whenever he listens to any speech, would hold it accountable for its utility, and when he observes any deed, would seek for its merit. If so, empty and obsolete learning cannot be discussed and praised and fraudulent action cannot be disguised.


1. 六反. Its English rendering by L. T. Chen is "Six Contradictions" (Liang, op. cit., p. 126, f. 1).

2. 權. The doctrine of expediency is peculiarly utilitarian: The end justifies any means. It is what the Confucians abhorred most and the Legalists practised best.

3. With Hirazawa 殺 here does not mean "kill" but 減 "lessen" or "subtract."

4. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 法 should be 洽.

5. With Ku 官官治 should be 民用官治.

6. With Kao Hêng 關 above 子 means 置 or 措.

7. Used in punishing criminals and mischievous children.

8. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 人 below 仁 is superfluous.

9. With Ku 美 should be 分.

10. With Ku 知 should be 智.

11. According to Yü Yüeh the original of this passage should be 明主之法也揆賊非治所揆也治所揆也者是治死人也。

12. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 順 should read 愼.

13. With Wang Hsien-shen 民 above 道 is superfluous.

14. With Ku and Wang 恐 is a mistake for 怨.

15. With Wang Wei 賞 should be 刑.

16. Lao Tzŭ's appellation.

17. v. Lao Tzŭ's Tao Tah Ching, Chap. XLIV.

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