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Chapter LIII. Making Orders Trim 1

If orders are made trim, laws never deviate; 2 if laws are equable, there will be no culprit among the officials. Once the law is fixed, nobody can damage 3 it by means of virtuous words. If men of merit are appointed to office, the people will have little to say; if men of virtue are appointed to office the people will have much to talk about. The enforcement of laws depends 4 upon the method of judicial administration. Who administers judicial affairs with the ease of making a distance of five li 5 , attains supremacy; who administers judicial affairs with the effort of making nine li, attains mere strength. Whoever procrastinates in creating order, will see his state dismembered.

Govern by penalties; 6 wage war by rewards; and enlarge the bounties so as to put the principles of statecraft into practice. If so, there will be no wicked people in the state nor will there be any wicked trade at the market. If things are many and trifles are numerous, and if farming is relaxed and villainy prevails, the state will certainly be dismembered.

If the people have a surplus of food, make them receive rank by giving grain to the state. If only through their own effort they can receive rank, 7 then farmers 8 will not idle.

If a tube three inches long has no bottom, it can never be filled. Conferring office and rank or granting profit and bounty without reference to merit, is like a tube having no bottom.

If the state confers office and bestows rank, it can be said to devise plans with complete 9 wisdom and wage war with complete courage. Such a state will find a rival. Again, if the state confers office and bestows rank according to merit, then rules 10 will be simplified and opponents barred; this can be said to abolish government by means of government, abolish words by means of words, and bestow rank according to merit. 11 Therefore the state will have much strength and none else in All-under-Heaven will dare to invade it. When its soldiers march out, they will take the objective and, having taken it, will certainly be able to hold it. When it keeps its soldiers in reserve and does not attack, it will certainly become rich. 12

The affairs of the government, however small, should never be abandoned. For instance, office and rank are always obtained according to the acquired merit; though there may be flattering words, it will be impossible thereby to make any interference in the state affairs. This is said to be "government by figures." 13 For instance, in attacking with force, ten points are taken for every point given out; but in attacking with words, one hundred are lost for every one marched out. If a state is fond of force, it is called hard to attack; if a state is fond of words, it is called easy to attack.

If the ability of the official is equal to his post, 14 if his duty is lightened and he never reserves 15 any surplus energy in mind, and if he does not shift any responsibility of additional offices 16 back to the ruler, then there will be no hidden grudge inside. If the intelligent ruler makes the state affairs never mutually interfere, 17 there will be no dispute; if he allows no official to hold any kind of additional post, everybody will develop his talent or skill; and if he allows no two persons to share the same meritorious achievement, there will be no quarrel. 18

If penalties are heavy and rewards are few, it means that the superior loves the people, wherefore the people will die for rewards. If rewards are many and penalties are light, it means that the superior does not love the people, wherefore the people will never die for rewards.

If the profit issues from one outlet 19 only, the state will have no rival; if it issues from two outlets, its soldiers will be half useful; and if the profit comes from ten outlets, the people will not observe the law. If heavy penalties are clear and if the people are always well disciplined and then if men are engaged in case of emergency, the superior will have all the advantage.

In inflicting penalties light offences ahould be punished severely; if light offences do not appear, heavy offences will not come. This is said to be to abolish penalties by means of penalties. And the state will certainly become strong. 20 If crimes are serious but penalties are light, light penalties breed further troubles. This is said to create penalties through penalties, and such a state will infallibly be dismembered.


1. 節令. This work is in many points identical with Lord Shang's "Making Orders Strict". Duyvendak's translation has furnished its rendering with helpful reference (Cf. The Book of Lord Shang, Par. 13, pp. 252-259).

2. The Book of Lord Shang has 治不留 in place of 法不遷.

3. With Wang Hsien-shen 售 should be 害.

4. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê and Wang 曲 should be 由.

5. Duyvendak was wrong in taking 里 here for "hamlet".

6. Throughout his translation of The Book of Lord Shang Duyvendak made no distinction between 刑 and 罰. Generally speaking, 刑 refers to the implements of punishment while 罰 refers to the act of applying penal implements.

7. Wang Hsien-shen proposed the repetition of 爵.

8. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 震 should be 農.

9. Ku read 成 for 盛.

10. With Ku 威 should be 盛.

11. Following this there is missing a long passage which is found in The Book of Lord Shang.

12. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 當 should be 富.

13. Duyvendak's translation reads "government by statistics". Though 數 here refers to such techniques of political control as involve both mathematical certainty in nature and mechanical efficiency in function, "figures" seems to me more proper than "statistics".

14. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 害 should be 官.

15. With Ku 道壞 should be 莫懷.

16. With Ku 乘宮 should be 兼官.

17. With Ku 使明者不相干 should be 明君使事不相干.

18. As remarked by Wang Wei, the whole paragraph should be collated with Work XXVII (Supra, p. 269 et. seq.) and rectified with it as was done by Ku Kuang-ts`ê. According to Ku 言此謂易攻 below 故莫爭 is superfluous.

19. Ku read 空 for 孔.

20. Wang Hsien-shen proposed the supply of 其國必強 below 此謂以刑去刑.

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