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Chapter XLVIII. Eight Canons1

1. Accordance with Human Feelings 2: Accumulation of Wisdom 3

Generally speaking, the order of All-under-Heaven must accord with human feelings. Human feelings have likes and dislikes, wherefore reward and punishment can be applied. If reward and punishment are applicable, prohibitions and orders will prevail and the course of government will be accomplished. As the ruler has the handles in his grip and thereby upholds his august position, what is ordered works and what is prohibited stops. The handles are regulators of life and death; the position is the means of overcoming the masses.

If dismissal and appointment have no constant rule, the sovereign's prerogative will be profaned; if matters of reward and punishment are administered in common by the sovereign and the inferiors, the sovereign's authority will be shaken. For this reason, the intelligent sovereign does not listen with the attitude of love nor does he scheme with the sense of delight. For, if he does not compare the words he heeds, his prerogative will be shaken by rapacious ministers; if he does not make use of the ministers' wisdom and strength, he will be harassed by the ministers. Therefore, the sovereign, when enforcing regulations, is as magnificent as heaven, and, when using men, is as mysterious as the spirit. For heaven cannot be confuted and the spirit cannot be harassed by human beings. When the position functions and the training is strict, though the ruler acts contrary to the world, nobody dares to disobey. Once blame and praise prevail under a unified system, nobody dares to dispute. Therefore, to reward the wise and punish the violent is the best way to exalt good people; to reward the outrageous and punish the wise is the extremity to exalt bad people, which is said to be rewarding participants in wickedness and punishing opponents to it.

Now, rewards should not be otherwise than liberal, so that the people will consider them profitable; honours should not be otherwise than attractive, so that the people will consider them glorious; censures should not be otherwise than strict, so that the people will consider them severe; and blame should not be otherwise than odious, so that the people will consider it disgraceful. Thereafter, the ruler will universally enforce his laws. When prohibitions and censures of private families mean no harm to the people, and when men of merit deserving reward and culprits deserving punishment are always known, the system of intelligent service is accomplished.

2. The Tao of the Sovereign4: Organizing the Wise 5

As one man in physical strength can not rival a multitude of people and in wisdom can not comprehend everything, using one man's strength and wisdom can not be compared with using the strength and wisdom of the whole state. Therefore, who with his own strength and wisdom defies people, will be overcome in all things. If he by chance hits the object, he will have already over-worked himself; if he misses the object, he will be held responsible 6 for the mistake.

The inferior ruler exerts his own ability; the average ruler exerts people's physical strength; and the superior ruler exerts people's wisdom. For this reason, in case of emergency he gathers the wise men, listens to each one, and calls a conference. If he does not listen to each one, consequent results will be contrary to antecedent words. If consequent results are contrary to antecedent words, there will be no distinction 7 between the stupid and the wise. If the ruler does not call a conference, there will be hesitation and no decision. Without decision, everything will come to a standstill. If the ruler adopts one of the counsels himself, he will have no fear of falling into the trap of rapacious people. Therefore, he should let everybody utter his opinions. After opinions are settled, he should hold them responsible 8 for equivalent results. For this purpose, on the day that opinions are uttered, he should make written memoranda. Thus, the organizer of wise men verifies their words after starting the tasks; the organizer of able men estimates 9 their merits after seeing their works. Success and failure leave evidence, which reward and punishment follow respectively. If tasks are successfully accomplished, the ruler harvests their fruits; if they fail, the ministers face criminal charges.

Who rules over men, never busies himself with the identification of tallies, not to mention laborious work. Nor does he busy himself in case of 10 emergency at hand, still less with distant affairs. Therefore, self-exhaustion is not the right policy in personnel administration. The ruler does not take advice from the same source. If ministers unify their words, the ruler will reprimand them. If he makes people exert their respective abilities, he will become godlike. If he is godlike, the inferiors will exert their wisdom. If every inferior exerts his wisdom 11 the ministers will not take advantage of the ruler and the Tao of the sovereign will be accomplished.

3. Preventing the Rise of Commotions12

Who knows ruler and minister differ in interest, will become supreme. Who regards the difference 13 as identity, will be intimidated. Who administers the state affairs in common with his ministers, will be killed. Therefore, the intelligent sovereign will scrutinize the distinctions between public and private interests and the relative positions of benefit and harm, so that wicked men will find no chance to act.

There are six kinds of creators of commotions, namely, dowagers, concubines, bastards, brothers, chief vassals, and celebrities for wisdom. If magistrates are appointed and ministers bear responsibilities in accordance with law, the sovereign's mother will not dare any kind of rampancy. If propriety and bestowal have different grades, concubines can not speculate whether their sons might replace the heir apparent. If the supreme position tolerates no rivalry, bastards cannot dispute with legitimate sons. If authority and position 14 are not shaken, royal brothers cannot trespass on the ruler's power. If subordinate officials are not from the same clan, chief vassals can not delude the ruler. If prohibitions and rewards are always enforced, celebrities for wisdom cannot create any commotion. . . . 15

Ministers have two resorts, called outer and inner. The outer is said to be "the feared"; the inner, "the loved". What is requested by the feared is granted; what is suggested by the loved, is followed. Thus, the feared and the loved are what the rapacious ministers appeal to. If officials recommended by foreign states are cross-examined 16 and censured for their continuous development of personal friendships and acceptance of bribes from abroad, they will not count on the outer resort. If ranks and bounties follow meritorious services, and if those who make request on behalf of their friends and relatives are equally implicated in the practice of favouritism, nobody will count on the inner resort. If both the outer and the inner resorts are not relied on, culprits outside and inside 17 the court will be suppressed.

Officials who advance according to the regular order till they reach posts of great responsibilities, are wise. Those whose posts are high and responsibilities are great, should be held under surveillance by three means of control, namely, "taking hostages" 18 , "holding securities" 19 , and "finding sureties" 20 . Relatives, wives and sons can be taken as hostages; ranks and bounties can be held as securities; and the "three units and basic fives" that are implicated 21 in any of the members' illegal acts, can be found as sureties. Worthies refrain from evils for fear of "hostage-taking"; greedy people are transformed by the measure of "security-holding"; and culprits are harassed by the measure of "surety-using". If the superior does not exercise these means of control, the inferiors will dare to infringe upon his authority 22 . If small culprits are not eliminated, he will have to censure great culprits. When censuring 23 culprits, if name and fact correspond to each other, he should immediately enforce the censure. If their life is detrimental to the state affairs and their death penalty is harmful to the ruler's name, then he should poison them through drinking or eating, otherwise send them into the hands of their enemies. This is said to "eliminate invisible culprits" 24 . Harbouring 25 culprits is due 26 to the practice of misrepresentation. The practice of misrepresentation is due to the contempt for the law. If visible merits are always rewarded and disclosed crimes are punished, the practice of misrepresentation will stop. Him who gives no opinion of right or wrong, presents unreasonable persuasions and remonstrations, and shows contempt for the law, the ruler should not take into service.

Uncles, cousins, or worthy and excellent ministers, living in exile, are said to be "roaming calamities" 27 . Their menace comes from their provision of neighbouring enemies with numerous opportunities. Eunuchs and courtiers are said to be "profligate rebels". 28 Their menace comes from their ill will caused by irritation and suspicion. To conceal anger, shelter criminals, and harbour them, is said to "increase commotions" 29 . The menace lies in the rise of men expecting godsends and making arbitrary promotions. To delegate equal authority to two chief vassals and maintain the balance of power between them without partiality, is said to "nourish calamities" 30 . The menace lies in the precipitation of family quarrels 31 , intimidations, and regicides. To be careless and not to keep oneself godlike, is called to "lose prestige" 32 . Its menace lies in the rise of such treason as regicide by poisoning. These five are menaces, which, if the lord of men ignores them, will eventually precipitate such disasters as intimidation and regicide. If matters of dismissal and appointment originate from inside, then there will be order; if from outside 33 , then chaos. Therefore, the intelligent sovereign would estimate meritorious services inside the court and harvest profits from abroad. Consequently, his state is always orderly; his enemies, always chaotic. The reason for chaos is that unduly hated ministers would create such outer commotions by means of delusion, and unduly loved vassals would create such inner commotions by means of poisoning.

4. Enforcing the System of Three Units and Basic Fives34

The system of "three units and basic fives" means to choose the plan held by the majority when different opinions are subsumed under three categories, and to organize basic groups of five families and implicate all the members of each group in any member's misconduct. Thus, the comparison of different opinions always differentiates the majority and the minority from each other; the organization of groups of five families always holds members of the same group jointly responsible 35 . If not differentiated, they would profane the superior's authority; if not held responsible, they would co-operate in evil doings. 36 Therefore, the ruler should differentiate them when their number is still small and can be easily known. When angry, he should censure only the culprits but not their relatives. His position of observing deeds and heeding speeches is demonstrated by his punishing 37 all clique members, rewarding non-partisans 38 , censuring women 39 interviewers, and convicting their adherents. Regarding the diverse opinions uttered simultaneously, he should estimate them in the light of their backgrounds, scrutinize them with the principles of heaven, verify them by the course of affairs, and compare them with the sentiments of mankind. If these four demonstrations coincide with one another, then the ruler may proceed to observe deeds.

Compare different words and thereby know the true one. Change 40 the perspectives and thereby detect 41 the choice abode. Stick to your own view and thereby hold your extraordinary 42 standpoint. Unify the system of personnel administration and thereby warn the courtiers. 43 Dignify your words and thereby scare distant officials. Cite the past facts and thereby check the antecedent words. Keep detectives near by the officials and thereby know their inner conditions. Send detectives 44 afar and thereby know outer affairs. Hold to your clear knowledge and thereby inquire into obscure objects. Give ministers false encouragements and thereby extirpate their attempts to infringe on the ruler's rights. Invert your words and thereby try out the suspects. Use contradictory arguments 45 and thereby find out the invisible culprits. Establish the system of espionage 46 and thereby rectify the fraudulent 47 people. Make appointments and dismissals and thereby observe the reactions of wicked officials. Speak explicitly and thereby persuade people to avoid faults. Humbly follow others' speeches and thereby discriminate between earnest men and flatterers. Get information from everybody and know things you have not yet seen. Create quarrels among adherents and partisans and thereby disperse them. Explore the depths of one culprit and thereby warn the mind of the many. Divulge false ideas and thereby make the inferiors think matters over.

In the case of similarities and resemblances, identify their common points. When stating anybody's faults, grasp the causes, know the due penalties, 48 and thereby justify 49 the exercise of your authority. Send out spies in secret to inspect the enemy states from time to time and thereby find their signs of decay. Gradually change envoys sent abroad and thereby break up their secret communications and private friendships with foreign states. Put every subordinate under surveillance by his immediate principal. Thus, ministers discipline their vassals; vassals discipline their dependents; soldiers and officials discipline their troops; envoys discipline their deputies; prefects discipline their subordinates; courtiers discipline their attendants; and queens and concubines discipline their court maids. Such is said to be "the systematic thorough way" 50 .

If words are divulged and affairs leak out, then no statecraft will function at all.

5. Devotion to Secrecy51

The lord of men has the duty of devoting his attention to secrecy. For this reason, when his delight is revealed, his conduct will be slighted; 52 when his anger is revealed, his prestige will fall to the ground. The words of the intelligent sovereign, therefore, are blockaded in such wise that they are not communicable outwards and are kept in such secrecy that they are unknowable. Therefore, to find ten culprits with the wisdom of one person is an inferior way, to find one culprit through the mutual watch of ten persons is a superior way. 53 As the intelligent sovereign takes both the superior and the inferior ways, no culprit is ever missed. Members of the same group of five families, of the same village, 54 and of the same county, 55 all live like close neighbours. Who denounces anybody else's fault, is rewarded; who misses 56 anybody else's fault, is censured. The same is true of the superior towards the inferior and of the inferior towards the superior. Accordingly, superior and inferior, high and low, warn each other to obey the law, and teach each other to secure profits. 57 By nature everybody wants to live in fact and in reputation. So does the ruler want both the name of being worthy and intelligent and the fact of rewarding and punishing people. When fame and fact are equally complete, he will certainly be known as lucky and good.

6. Comparing Different Speeches58

If speeches heard from inferiors are not compared, the superior will find no reason to call the inferiors to account. If speeches are not held responsible for their utility, heretical theories will bewilder the superior. A word is such that people believe in it because its upholders are numerous. An unreal thing, if its existence is asserted by ten men, is still subject to doubt; if its existence is asserted by one hundred men, its reality becomes probable; and if its existence is asserted by one thousand men, it becomes undoubtable. Again, if spoken about by stammerers, it is susceptible to doubt; if spoken about by eloquent persons, it becomes believable. Wicked men, when violating their superior, rely on the support of the many for their background, display their eloquence by quoting forced analogies so as to embellish their selfish acts. If the lord of men shows no anger at them but expects to compare and identify their deeds with their words, by force of circumstances his inferiors will be benefited.

The sovereign upholding the true path, when heeding words, holds them accountable for their utility, and charges them with their functions. From the requirement of successful functions there issue matters of reward and punishment. Therefore, whoever displays useless eloquence, is never kept in the court; whoever is appointed to office, if known to be unable to perform his duties, is removed from his post; 59 and whoever talks big and exaggerates everything, is driven to his wits' end by the disappointing outcome. In consequence, there will be disclosed wickednesses, wherefore the superior will be in a position to reprimand the culprits. Any word that does not truly materialize with no extraneous hindrance, is a fraud. Of fraud the speaker should then be convicted. In other words, every word has its retribution; every theory has its responsibility for utility. Consequently, the words of rapacious ministers' adherents and partisans will not go into the superior's ear.

According to the right way of heeding suggestions in general, the ruler requires the minister to speak loyally to him about any culprit, and to cite wide illustrations of every suggestion presented to him for adoption. 60 If the sovereign is not wise, culprits will gain the advantage. Yet according to the intelligent sovereign's way, the ruler, when pleased by any counsellor, would examine the accepted counsel in detail; when angered by any counsellor, he would reconsider the whole contentions for the argument, and profane his judgment till his feelings have become normal in order that he may thereby find sufficient reason to award the counsellor honour or disgrace and determine whether his motive is public justice or private greediness.

Ministers usually present as many counsels as possible to display their wisdom and let the ruler choose one out of them, so that they can avoid responsibilities. Therefore, when numerous counsels appear simultaneously, only the fallen ruler would heed them. As for the intelligent sovereign, he would admit no alternative word in addition to the original, but enact the system of future testimony by making 61 the consequent result testify the antecedent project so as to ascertain the falsity or sincerity 62 of the counsellor. The way of the intelligent sovereign never tolerates two different counsels by one minister, but restricts one person to one counsel at one time, allows nobody to act at random, and always synthesizes the results of comparison. Therefore, the culprits find no way to advance.

7. Confiding in the Law63

Officials are over-powerful because there are no effective laws. Laws stop functioning because the superior is stupid. If the superior is stupid and upholds no rule, the officials will act at random. As the officials act at random, their salaries will be surpassed by no precedent. If their salaries are surpassed by no predecessor, taxes will be increased. As taxes are increased, they will become wealthy. The wealth and powerfulness of the officials eventually breed chaos. 64

Under the intelligent sovereign's Tao, only trustworthy men are taken into service, only dutiful officials are praised, and only men of merit are rewarded. When anybody recommends anybody else to the sovereign, if his word materializes truly and thereby delights the ruler, then both he and the official should be equally benefited; if his word does not truly materialize and thereby angers the ruler, then both he and that official should be equally punished. If so, ministers will not dare grant their uncles and cousins personal favours, but will recommend their enemies who have the required abilities. Their influences are sufficient to enforce the law, their allowances are sufficient to perform their duties, and their self-seeking activities find no room to grow in. In consequence, the people will work hard and lessen the officials' burden.

Whoever is entrusted with public affairs, should not be over-powerful. Only to his rank should the ruler ascribe his honour. Whoever holds office should not be self-seeking. Only to his bounty should the ruler limit his income. In consequence, the people will honour ranks and esteem bounties. Thus, rank and bounty will become means of reward. When the people esteem these means of reward, the state will be in good order.

If norms are intricate, it is because terms are mistaken. If prizes and praises are not adequate, the people will hang in suspense. Now that the people hold both fame and prizes in equal esteem, if the rewarded are slandered, reward will not be fit to encourage people; if the punished are admired, then punishment will not be fit to suppress culprits. It is the intelligent sovereign's way that rewards always result from contributions to public benefit and that fame always originates in services to the superior. If reward and fame follow the same track and slander and censure proceed in parallel, the people will find nothing more glorious than to be rewarded 65 and the receivers of heavy penalties will always incur bad names. In consequence, the people will fear punishment, that is, means of prohibition. If the people fear means of prohibition, the state will be in good order.

8. Upholding the Sovereign's Dignity66

If the sovereign manifests chivalrous conduct, his dignity will be shaken. If he follows theories of compassion and benevolence, legal institutions will crumble. On account of such institutions the people revere the superior; by virtue of his position the superior holds down the inferior. Therefore, if inferiors act at random, unscrupulously violate the law, and honour the custom of slighting the ruler, then the sovereign's dignity will be shaken. The people on account of the law hesitate to violate the superior; the superior on account of the law suppresses the sentiments of compassion and benevolence. Thus, the inferiors appreciate favours and charities and strive for a government with bribes and pay. 67 For this reason, laws and orders are failing in their aim. Private actions are honoured, whereby the sovereign's dignity is shaken. Bribes and pay are used, whereby the efficacy of laws and orders 68 is doubted. If such vices are tolerated, the government will be disturbed; if not, the sovereign will be slandered. In the long run, the ruler's status will be despised and the regulations for the officials will be confused. Such is called "a state without constant authority" 69 .

Under the Tao of the intelligent sovereign, no minister is allowed to practise chivalry and give honours nor is he allowed to accomplish any merit for his family's sake. Achievement and reputation are always based on the initiative of the regulations of the officials. What is against law, though it may involve difficulties, cannot be celebrated. In consequence, the people will find no reason to make their reputation. Now, to establish laws and regulations is to unify the people; to make reward and punishment faithful is to exert their abilities; and to make slander and honours clear is to encourage good and discourage evil. Fame and titles, rewards and punishments, laws and orders, are three pairs 70 of statecraft. . . . 71 Therefore, any action by the chief vassals will aim to honour the ruler; any service by the hundred surnames will aim to benefit the superior. Such is called "a state on the true path" 72 .


1. 八經. The text of this work was originally so corrupt that Ku Kuang-ts'ê gave it up as hopeless. Since the time of Wang Hsien-shen scholars have managed to read it intelligibly. 八經 literally means "eight warps", each warp representing a canon giving the ruler advice on how to control his ministers. In structure and function this work closely resembles those on the "Inner and Outer Congeries of Sayings".

2. 因情, removed from the end of the canon to the beginning.

3. 收智. The sub-title is original.

4. 主道.

5. 結智. The sub-title is original.

6. With Wang Hsien-shên 在 should be 任.

7. With Kao Hêng 分 below 不 should be 紛. I disagree with him.

8. With Kao 怒 below 而 means 責.

9. With Wang Hsien-shên 誅 is a mistake for 論.

10. With Ku Kuang-ts'ê 智 should be 至.

11. With Wang Hsien-shen 下 above 則 is superfluous.

12. 起亂.

13. With Wang, Chao's edition has 異 below 以.

14. With Kao Hêng 籍 below 權 means 勢位.

15. Wang Hsien-shen thought there were hiatuses following this passage.

16. With Sun I-jang and Wang Hsien-ch`ien 結 above 誅 should be 詰.

17. 姦 refers to culprits outside; 宄 to those inside.

18. 質.

19. 鎭.

20. 固.

21. Wang Hsien-shen proposed 責怒 for 貴帑.

22. With Wang 忍不制則下上 should be 上不制則下忍.

23. With Ku Kuang-ts'ê 誅 should be supplied above 而.

24. 除陰姦. "Invisible culprits" refer to those who do not openly violate any written law and so can not be publicly convicted of any crime, but are in reality antagonists to the existing law.

25. With Yü Yüeh 翳 means 蔽.

26. With Kao Hêng 曰 in both cases should be 因.

27. 游禍.

28. 狎賊.

29. 增亂.

30. 卷禍. With Sun I-jang 卷 should be 養.

31. Sun read 隆 for 關.

32. 彈威. With Wang Hsien-ch'ien 彈 is a mistake for 殫.

33. "To originate from inside" means "to originate on the initiative of the ruler himself" and "to originate from outside" means "to originate with enemy states".

34. 立道. 道 here refers to 叅伍之道. Cf. Supra, XXXI, p. 5, f. 2.

35. With Kao Hêng 怒 in both cases should be 責.

36. With Kao 前 stands for 剪 meaning 剪裁.

37. Kao proposed the supply of 罰 above 比周.

38. With Kao and Lu Wên-shao 也 below 賞異 is superfluous.

39. With Kao 母謁 means 女謁.

40. With Wang Hsien-shen 攻 should be 攷.

41. With Wang 澤 should read 擇.

42. Hirazawa proposed 其常 for 非常. To me the change is unnecessary.

43. With Kao Hêng 務 above 近習 should be 矜 which means 戒.

44. With Yü Yüeh 疏置 should be 置疏.

45. With Yü 論反 should be 反論.

46. Wang Wei read 諫 for 閒.

47. Wang Hsien-ch`ien read 讀 for 偽.

48. With Kao Hêng 辟 refers to ### which is synonymous with 罪.

49. With Kao 止 above 威 should be 正.

50. 條達之道.

51. For the topic of this canon Hirazawa's edition has 周密 in place of 叅言. I regard 周密 as more suitable than 叅言.

52. Ku Kuang-ts'ê read 償 for 瀆.

53. Kao Hêng called the former way of judicial administration "deductive" and the latter "inductive."

54. 連 consists of two hundred and fifty families.

55. 縣 consists of two thousand five hundred families.

56. Wang Hsien-shen was wrong in regarding 失 as superfluous.

57. Wang proposed 利 for 和.

58. 叅言 as the title of this canon suits the content very well.

59. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 放 below 則 is superfluous, and 官收 should be 收官.

60. With Wang Hsien-ch`ien 内 means 納.

61. With Lu Wên-shao and Wang Hsien-shen 今 is a mistake for 令.

62. With Wang 語 below 誠 is superfluous.

63. 聼法.

64. With Wang Hsien-ch'ien 功 below 亂 is superfluous.

65. Wang Wei thought the sentence 然則民無榮於賞之内 involves errors or hiatuses. Hirazawa's and the Waseda edition proposed 外 for 内. Evidently they treated 於 above 賞之外 as a preposition, "inside". Then 無榮於賞之外 means in English "no glory except reward". To me there is no need of changing 内 into 外. As 於 can be treated as a conjunction, "than", 無榮於賞之内 means "nothing more glorious than to be included among the rewarded" or concisely "nothing more glorious than to be rewarded."

66. 主威. The text of Canon Eight has 類柄 at the beginning and 主威 at the end. 主威 suits the general thought of this canon better than 類柄.

67. With Sun I-jang 紋 should be 納.

68. Wang Hsien-shen proposed the supply of 令 below 法.

69. 無常之國.

70. I read 隅 for 偶.

71. Wang Hsien-shen thought there were hiatuses following this passage.

72. 有道之國.

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