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Chapter LII. The Lord of Men1

The reason why the lord of men finds himself endangered and sees his state ruined is that chief vassals are too influential and the attendants are too rampant. Who is called powerful, observes no law but simply acts at random and manipulates the handles of the state for facilitating his self-seeking purposes. Who is called rampant, exercises all undue powers and influence at his pleasure and makes arbitrary determinations of right and wrong. These two types of officials the lord of men must observe carefully.

Indeed, the horse can carry a heavy load, pull the wagon, and make a distant trip, because of its muscular strength; the sovereign of ten thousand chariots and the ruler of one thousand chariots can rule over the world and subdue the feudal lords, because of their prestige and position. Thus, prestige and position are the muscular strength of the lord of men. Now suppose chief vassals gain the sovereign's prestige and attendants abuse the august position. Then the lord of men will lose his strength. The lord of men who has lost his strength and is still able to keep the state, is none out of a thousand.

The tiger and the leopard can overcome men and catch the hundred beasts 2 by virtue of their claws and fangs. Supposing the tiger and the leopard lost their claws and fangs, they would fall under the control of men. Now that the august position is the claws and fangs of the lord of men, if any ruler of men loses his claws and fangs, he will be like the tiger and the leopard that have lost theirs. For instance, the Ruler of Sung lost his claws and fangs to Tzŭ-han, and Duke Chien lost his claws and fangs to T`ien Ch`ang. Because they failed to recover them early enough, they were themselves killed and their states were ruined.

Today, the tactless sovereigns all know very well the errors of the Ruler of Sung and Duke Chien, but never comprehend their own mistakes. For they never observe closely the similarities between things.

Moreover, upholders of law and tact and the authorities in power are incompatible with each other. How can this be proved? Well, if the sovereign has upholders of tact around, then chief vassals will not be able to control matters of decision and the courtiers will not dare to abuse their privileges. Once the power and influence of the chief vassals and attendants stop, the Tao of the lord of men will become illustrious.

The same is not so in these days. The ministers in power arrogate favourable positions and manage the state affairs at random in order to further 3 their private interests. The attendants and the courtiers would form juntas and associate for the wicked purpose of checking distant officials. If so, when will the upholders of law and tact be able to go into the ruler's service? And when will the lord of men settle his opinion and make his decision? Naturally the upholders of tact are not necessarily engaged by the ruler and cannot stand together with the authorities in power. Then how can the upholders of law and tact have no danger?

For such reasons, unless the ruler of men can reject the chief vassals' counsels, oppose the attendants' opinions, and conform independently to reasonable theories, how can the upholders of law and tact venture their lives in presenting their ideas to the Throne? This is the reason why the present age is not orderly.

The intelligent sovereign confers ranks and bounties according to merits and assigns offices and tasks in correspondence with abilities. Therefore, the persons appointed always have worthy qualities; those taken into service always have required abilities. If worthy and able men are in governmental service, all requests by private clans will disappear. Indeed, if men of merit receive great bounties and men of ability attain high offices, then private swordsmen will infallibly stop their self-seeking bravery and attack 4 public enemies. So will the itinerant politicians stop handing around the private residences of influential clans and start striving for purity and cleanliness. This is the way to gather the worthy and able men and scatter the dependents of influential clans.

Now the courtiers are not necessarily wise. Yet, if the lord of men in his personnel administration first considers somebody wise 5 and heeds his advice, and, after going inside, if he esteems the advice of the courtiers and listens to them regardless of the adviser's wisdom, he will thereby esteem the wise with the stupid. Again, the authorities in power are not necessarily worthy. Yet, if the lord of men in his personnel administration first considers somebody worthy and respects him, and, after going inside, if he esteems the worthy's conduct with the authorities in power and listens to them regardless of his worthiness, he will thereby esteem the worthy with the worthless. Therefore, if wise men have to see their plans acknowledged by fools and worthies have to see their characters estimated by worthless men, when will the men of worthiness and wisdom be able to enter the ruler's service? So will the lord of men's sight be obscured.

Of old, Kuan Lung-p`êng admonished Chieh but had his four limbs injured; Prince Pi-kan remonstrated with Chow but had his heart cut open; and Tzŭ-hsü was loyal and honest to Fu-ch`a but was censured with the Shu-lou 6 sword. These three personages, while ministering to their rulers, were not disloyal; nor were their counsels untrue. However, they could not evade the disaster of unjust death penalties, because of the calamity that their sovereigns never deliberated carefully on the words of the wise and the worthy but were deluded by the stupid and the worthless.

In these days, if the lord of men does not want to engage upholders of law and tact but listens only to stupid and unworthy ministers, then who among the worthy and wise men dare face the risk of these three personages in presenting their wisdom and ability to the Throne? This is the reason why the present age is disorderly.


1. 人主.

2. 百獸 refers to all kinds of animals.

3. Wang Hsien-shen read 環 for 營.

4. Wang proposed the supply of 於 before 距敵.

5. Wang read 知 for 智.

6. 屬鏤, name of the sword which King Fu-ch`a in 484 b.c. accorded Wu Tzŭ-hsü for suicide.

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