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Chapter XLVII. Eight Fallacies1

Who does private favours to old acquaintances, is called a kind-hearted alter ego. Who distributes alms with public money, is called a benevolent man. Who makes light of bounties but thinks much of himself, is called a superior man. Who strains the law to shield his relatives, is called a virtuous man. Who deserts official posts for cultivating personal friendships, is called a chivalrous man. Who keeps aloof from the world and avoids all superiors, is called lofty. Who quarrels with people and disobeys orders, is called an unyielding hero. Who bestows favours and attracts the masses of people, is called a popular idol.

However, the presence of kind-hearted men implies the existence of culprits among the magistrates; the presence of benevolent men, the losses of public funds; the presence of superior men, the difficulty in employing the people; the presence of virtuous men, the violation of laws and statutes; the appearance of chivalrous men, vacancies of official posts; the appearance of lofty men, the people's neglect of their proper duties; the emergence of unyielding heroes, the inefficacy of orders; and the appearance of popular idols, the isolation of the sovereign from the subjects.

These eight involve private honours to ruffians but great damage to the lord of men. The opposite of these eight involve private damage to ruffians but public benefits to the lord of men. If the lord of men does not consider the benefits and damage to the Altar of the Spirits of Land and Grain but promotes the private honours of ruffians, to find neither danger nor chaos in the state will be impossible.

To entrust men with state affairs is the pivot between life and death, between order and chaos. If the superior has no tact to appoint men to office, every appointment to office will end in failure. Now, those who are taken into office by the ruler of men are either eloquent and astute or refined and polished. To entrust men is to let them have influence. Yet astute men are not necessarily trustworthy. Inasmuch as the ruler makes much of their wisdom, he is thereby misled to trust them. If such astute men, with their calculating mind, take advantage of their official influence and work after their own private needs, the ruler will, no doubt, be deceived. For astute men are not trustworthy. For the same reason, to appoint refined gentlemen to office is to let them decide on state affairs. Yet the refined gentlemen are not necessarily wise. Inasmuch as the ruler makes much of their polished manners, he is thereby misled to regard them as wise. If such stupid men, 2 despite their mental confusion, take advantage of their administrative posts and do as they please, the state affairs will fall into turmoil. Thus, if the ruler has no tact to use men, when astute men are taken into service, he will be deceived; when refined men are appointed to office, the state affairs 3 will fall into turmoil. Such is the calamity of tactlessness.

According to the Tao of the enlightened ruler, the humble can 4 criticize the faults of the noble; the inferiors must denounce the crimes of the superiors; sincerity is judged by the comparison of diverse opinions; and information has no biased channel. Consequently, wise men can not practise fraud and deceit; rewards are bestowed according to meritorious services; men are assigned different duties according to their respective talents; and failures are determined in the light of original purposes. Whoever commits an offence, is convicted; whoever has a special talent, is given a post. Therefore, stupid men can not be entrusted with state affairs. If astute men dare not deceive the superior and stupid men can not decide on any state affair, then nothing will fail.

What can be understood only by clear-sighted scholars should not be made an order, because the people are not all clear-sighted. What can be practised only by wise men should not be made a law, because the people are not all wise. Yang Chu and Mo Ti were regarded as clear-sighted by Allunder-Heaven. Though their teachings have alleviated the chaos of the world, yet they have not brought the world into order. However enlightened, the creeds should not be promulgated as decrees by any governmental organ. Pao Chiao and Hua Chioh were regarded as wise by All-underHeaven. Yet Pao Chiao dried up to death like a tree while Hua Chioh drowned himself in a river. However wise, they could not be turned into farmers and warriors. Therefore, whoever is regarded by the lord of men as clear-sighted, must be a wise man who would exert his eloquence; whoever is regarded by the lord of men as honourable, must be an able man who would do his best. Now that sovereigns of this age give ear to useless eloquence and uphold fruitless conduct, to strive after the wealth and strength of the state is impossible.

Erudite, learned, eloquent, and wise, as Confucius and Mo Tzŭ were, if Confucius and Mo Tzŭ would never till and weed farming land, what could they contribute to the state? Cultivating the spirit of filial piety and eliminating desires as Tsêng Shan and Shih Ch`iu did, if Tsêng Shan and Shih Ch`iu would never fight and attack, how could they benefit the state? The ruffians have their private advantages, the lord of men has his public benefits. Acquiring enough provisions without hard work and cultivating fame without holding office, are private advantages. Clarifying laws and statutes by forbidding literary learning and concentrating on meritorious services by suppressing private advantages, are public benefits. To enact the law is to lead the people, whereas if the superior esteems literary learning, the people will become sceptical in following 5 the law. To reward for merit is to encourage the people, whereas if the superior honours the cultivation of virtuous conduct, the people will become lazy in producing profits. If the superior holds literary learning in high esteem and thereby causes doubt in the law, and if he honours the cultivation of virtuous conduct and thereby causes disbelief in meritorious work, to strive after the wealth and strength of the state is impossible.

Neither the official tablet inserted in the girdle nor the dancer's shield and small axe can rival 6 the real halberd 7 and the iron harpoon. The manners of ascending and descending the steps and standing and turning in the court can not be compared with the march 8 of one hundred li a day. Shooting the feigned badger's head 9 is not equivalent to discharging swift arrows from the wide-drawn cross-bow. Shield and walls as well as huge war chariots 10 are not as good defence works as earthen forts, trenches, and under-ground bellows.

Men of antiquity strove to be known as virtuous; those of the middle age struggled to be known as wise; and now men fight for the reputation of being powerful. In antiquity, events were few; measures were simple, naïve, crude, and incomplete. Therefore there were men using spears made of mother-of-pearl, and those pushing carts. In antiquity, again people were few and therefore kind to one another; things being few, they made light of profits and made alienations easy. Hence followed alienations of the throne by courtesy and transfer of the rule over All-under-Heaven. That being so, to do courteous alienations, promote compassion and beneficence, and follow benevolence and favour, was to run the government in the primitive way. In the age of numerous affairs, to employ the instruments of the management of affairs that were few, is not the wise man's measure. Again, in the age of great struggles, to follow the track of courteous alienations, is not the sage's policy. For this reason, wise men do not personally push carts and sages do not run any government in the primitive way.

Laws are means of controlling affairs. Affairs are means of celebrating merits. When laws are made and found to involve difficulties, then the ruler must estimate the difficulties. If he finds the tasks can be accomplished, then he must enact them. If he finds the accomplishment of the tasks involves losses, then he must estimate the losses. If he finds gains will exceed losses, then he must transact them. For there are in Allunder-Heaven neither laws without difficulties nor gains without losses. For this reason, whoever takes a city whose walls are ten thousand feet long and defeats any army of one hundred thousand troops, though he has to lose at least one third 11 of his men and see his arms and weapons either crushed or broken and his officers and soldiers either killed or injured, yet he celebrates his victory in the war and his gain of new territory because by calculation he has harvested great gains at the cost of small losses. Indeed, the washer of the head has falling hair, the curer of boils hurts blood and flesh. Who governs men, encounters difficulties in the way, and therefore gives up the work, is a tactless man. The early sages said: "When compasses have aberrations, or when water has waves, though I want to correct them, nothing can be done." This is a dictum well used in the doctrine of expediency. For this reason, there are theories that are plausible but far from practical and there are speeches that have poor wording but are urgently useful. The sages, accordingly, never looked for any harmless word but attended to difficult tasks.

Men make no fuss about balance and weight. This is not because they are upright and honest and would ward off profits, but because the weight can not change the quantities of things according to human wants nor can the balance make things lighter or heavier according to human wishes. Acquiescing in the inability to get what they want, people make no fuss. In the state of an intelligent sovereign, officials dare not bend the law, magistrates dare not practise selfishness, and bribery does not prevail. It is because all tasks within the boundary work like weight and balance, wherefore any wicked minister is always found out and anybody known for wickedness is always censured. For this reason, the sovereign upholding the true path, instead of seeking magistrates who are pure and honest, strives after omniscience.

The compassionate mother, in loving her little child, is surpassed by none. Yet, when the child has mischievous actions, she sends him to follow the teacher; when he is badly ill, she sends him to see the physician. For without following the teacher he is liable to penalty; without seeing the physician he is susceptible to death. Thus, though the compassionate mother loves the child, she is helpless in saving him from penalty and from death. If so, what preserves the child is not love.

The bond of mother and child is love, the relationship of ruler and minister is expediency. If the mother can not preserve the family by virtue of love, how can the ruler maintain order in the state by means of love? The intelligent sovereign, if well versed in the principles of wealth and strength, can get what he wants. Thus, prudence in heeding memorials and managing affairs is the royal road to wealth and strength. He makes his laws and prohibitions clear and considers his schemes and plans carefully. If laws are clear, at home there will be no worry about any emergency or disturbance; if plans are right, there will be no disaster of either death or captivity abroad. Therefore, what preserves the state is not benevolence and righteousness. Who is benevolent, is tender-hearted and beneficent and makes light of money; who is violent, has a stubborn mind and censures people easily. If tender-hearted and beneficent, he will be unable to bear executions; if easy in money, he will like to bestow favours. If he has a stubborn mind, he will reveal his ill will to the inferiors; if he censures people easily, he will inflict the death penalty upon anybody. Unable to bear executions, one would remit most punishments; fond of bestowing favours, one would mostly reward men of no merit. When ill will is revealed, the inferiors will hate the superiors; when arbitrary censure prevails, the people will rebel. Therefore, when a benevolent man is on the throne, the inferiors are wild, easily violate laws and prohibitions, expect undue gifts, and hope for personal favours from the superior. When a violent man is on the throne, laws and decrees are arbitrary; ruler and minister oppose each other; the people grumble and beget the spirit of disorder. Hence the saying: "Both benevolence and violence drive the state to ruin."

Who can not prepare good food but invites starvelings to diet, can not save their lives. Who can not mow grass and grow rice but promotes the distribution of loans, alms, prizes, and gifts, can not enrich the people. The learned men of today, in their speeches, do not emphasize the need of primary callings but are fond of advocating secondary works and preach the gospel of emptiness and saintliness so as to delight the people. To do this is as fallacious as to invite people to poor diet. Any persuasion of the "invitation-to-poor-diet" 12 type the intelligent sovereign never accepts.

When writings are too sketchy, pupils debate; when laws are too vague, vagabonds dispute 13 . For this reason, the writings of the sages always illustrate their discussions, the laws of the intelligent ruler always penetrate the minute details of fact. To exert thought and consideration and forecast gains and losses, is hard even to wise men; to hold the antecedent word accountable for the consequent result, is easy even to fools. The intelligent sovereign accepts what is easy to stupid men but rejects 14 what is difficult to wise men. Therefore, without resorting to wisdom and thought, the state is in good order.

If the taste, whether sour or sweet, salty or insipid, is not judged by the mouth of the sovereign but determined by the chef, then all the cooks will slight the ruler and revere the chef. If the note, whether high or low, clear or mixed, is not judged by the ear of the sovereign but by the head musician, then the blind 15 players will slight the ruler and revere the head musician. Similarly, if the government of the state, whether right or wrong, is not judged by the sovereign's own tact but determined by his favourites, then the ministers and inferiors will slight the ruler and revere the favourites. The lord of men, who does not personally observe deeds and examine words but merely entrusts the inferiors with all matters of restriction and judgment, is nobody other than a lodger and boarder in the state.

Suppose people have neither clothes nor food and suffer neither hunger nor cold and, moreover, do not fear death, then they will have no intention to serve the superior. If they intend not to be ruled by the ruler, the ruler can not employ them. Now, if the power over life and death is vested in the chief vassals, then no decree of the sovereign can ever prevail. Should tigers and leopards make no use of their claws and fangs, in influence they would become the same as rats and mice; should families worth ten thousand pieces of gold make no use of their riches, in status they would become the same as gate-keepers. If the ruler of a country could neither benefit men he approves nor injure men he disapproves, to make men fear and revere him would be impossible.

Ministers who act at random and give rein to their wants, are said to be chivalrous; the lord of men who acts at random and gives rein to his wants, is said to be outrageous. Ministers who slight the superior, are said to be brave 16 ; the lord of men who slights the inferiors is said to be violent. While the principles of conduct follow the same track, the inferiors thereby receive praises and the superior thereby incurs blame. If the ministers gain so much, the lord of men will lose so much. In the state of an intelligent sovereign, however, there are noble ministers but no powerful ministers. By noble ministers are meant those whose ranks are high and whose posts are big; by powerful ministers are meant those whose counsels are adopted and whose influences are enormous. In the state of the intelligent sovereign, again, officials are raised and ranks are granted according to their respective merits, 17 wherefore there are noble ministers; words always turn into deeds 18 and any fraud is always censured, wherefore there are no powerful ministers.


1. 八說. Its English rendering by L. T. Chen is "The Eight Theories" (Liang, op. cit., p. 127, f. 3), which is inaccurate.

2. With Wan Hsien-ch`ien 所 before 惽 is superfluous.

3. With Wang 君 before 事 is superfluous.

4. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 德 should be 得.

5. With Wang Hsien-ch`ien 所 before 師法 is superfluous.

6. Ku Kuang-ts'ê read 適 for 敵.

7. With Sun I-jang 有方 should be 酋矛.

8. Ku Kuang-ts'ê read 奏 for 溱.

9. Such was the practice of one of the Six Arts in the school curriculum during the Chou Dynasty.

10. These were special kinds of weapons employed by King Wên of Chou.

11. Wang Hsien-shen proposed 垂 for 乘.

12. 勸飯之說.

13. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 民訟簡 should be 民盟訟.

14. With Ku 以 above 責 should be 不.

15. Most famous musicians in those days were talented blind folk.

16. Sun I-jang proposed 橋 for 驕.

17. With Wang Hsien-shen 遷官襲級官爵受功 means 遷官襲紙必因其功.

18. With Wang 言不度行 should be 言必行.

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