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In general there are eight ways whereby ministers are led 2 to commit villainy:—
The first is said to be "through the bribery of sharers of the same bed". 3 What is meant by "through the bribery of sharers of the same bed"? In reply I say: By graceful ladies, beloved concubines, feminine courtiers, and pretty lads, the lord of men is bewildered. Counting on the sovereign's pleasant rest from governmental work and taking advantage of his being drunken and satiated, the sharers of the same bed would get from him what they want. This is the way to secure unfailing grants. Therefore, ministers bribe them in secret with gold and jewelry and thereby make them bewilder the sovereign. This is said to be "through the bribery of sharers of the same bed".
The second is said to be "through the bribery of bystanders". 4 What is meant by "through the bribery of bystanders"? In reply I say: Actors, jokers, and clowns as well as attendants and courtiers would say, "At your service, at your service," before the sovereign has given any order, and say, "Yes, yes," before he has commanded them to do anything, thus taking orders ahead of his words and looking at his facial expressions and judging his needs by his colour in order thereby to render him service before he makes up his mind. Such people advance and withdraw en bloc, respond and reply with one accord, 5 thus identifying their deeds and unifying their words so as to move the sovereign's mind. Therefore, ministers bribe them in secret with gold, jewelry, curios, and the like, and commit unlawful acts to their advantage and thereby make them beguile the sovereign. This is said to be "through the bribery of bystanders".
The third is said to be "through the entertainment of uncles and brothers". 6 What is meant by "through the entertainment of uncles and brothers"? In reply I say: Sons by concubines are much loved by the sovereign; prime ministers and court officials are consulted by the sovereign. All such people exert their energies and exchange their ideas while the sovereign always listens to them. Ministers, accordingly, entertain concubines and their sons with music and beauties, and win the hearts of prime ministers and court officials with twisted words and sentences. Then through them they make promises and submit projects to the throne, so that when the tasks are accomplished, their ranks are raised, their bounties increased, and their minds thereby satisfied. In this way they make them violate the sovereign. This is said to be "through the entertainment of uncles and brothers".
The fourth is said to be "through fostering calamities". 7 What is meant by "through fostering calamities"? In reply I say: The sovereign enjoys beautifying his palatial buildings, terraces, and pools, and decorating boys, girls, dogs, and horses, so as to amuse his mind. This will eventually bring him calamities. Therefore, ministers exhaust the energy of the people to beautify palatial buildings, terraces, and pools, and increase exactions and taxation for decorating boys, girls, dogs, and horses, and thereby amuse the sovereign and disturb his mind, thus following his wants and harvesting their own advantages thereby. This is said to be "through fostering calamities".
The fifth is said to be "through buying up vagabonds". 8 What is meant by "through buying up vagabonds"? In reply I say: Ministers distribute money out of public revenues to please the masses of people and bestow small favours to win the hearts of the hundred surnames, and thereby make everybody, whether in the court or in the market-place, praise them, and, by deluding the sovereign in this manner, get what they want. This is said to be "through buying up vagabonds".
The sixth is said to be "through the employment of fluent and convincing speakers". 9 What is meant by "through the employment of fluent and convincing speakers"? In reply I say: The sovereign, with all avenues to news blockaded, rarely hears any disputes and discussions and is therefore apt to change his mind by eloquent persuaders. Accordingly, ministers find eloquent speakers from among the subjects of other feudal lords and feed able persuaders in the country, then make them speak about their self-seeking designs with skilfully polished words and fluent and convincing phrases, show the sovereign the direction of advantages and powers, overawe him with the location of calamities and disadvantages, manipulate all kinds of false sayings, and thereby deprave him. This is said to be "through the employment of fluent and convincing speakers".
The seventh is said to be "through the arrogation of authority and strength". 10 What is meant by "through the arrogation of authority and strength"? In reply I say: The ruler of men maintains his authority and strength by keeping all officials and the hundred surnames on his side. Whatever he considers good is regarded as good by the officials and the people; whatever he never considers good is not regarded as good by the officials and the people. Ministers then gather bold swordsmen and desperate rascals to display their authority and make it known that whoever sides with them always gains and whoever does not side with them is bound to die, and thereby overawe the officials and the people and practise selfishness. This is said to be "through the arrogation of authority and strength".
The eighth is said to be "through the accumulation of support from the four directions". 11 What is meant by "through the accumulation of support from the four directions"? In reply I say: The ruler of men, if his country is small, has to serve big powers, and, if his army is weak, has to fear strong armies. Any request by a big power the small country always has to accept; any demand by a strong army the weak army always has to obey. Accordingly, ministers raise exactions and taxations, exhaust public treasuries and armouries, empty the provisions of the country, and thereby serve big powers and utilize their influence to mislead the ruler. In serious cases, they would even send for foreign troops to assemble in the border-lands while they restrain 12 their sovereign inside the country. Otherwise, they would invite special envoys from enemy states to molest their ruler and thereby overawe him. This is said to be "through the accumulation of support from the four directions".
These eight in general are the ways whereby ministers are led to commit villainy and the sovereigns of the present age are deluded, molested, and deprived of their possessions. Therefore, every sovereign should not fail to study them carefully.
The intelligent ruler, as regards women, may enjoy their beauty but ought not to follow their entreaties and comply with their requests.
As regards those near him, though he enjoys their presence, he must always call their words to account and never let them utter any uncalled-for opinion.
As regards uncles, brothers, and chief vassals, the ruler, on adopting their words, ought to hold them liable to penalties in case of failure and appoint them to office in case of success but never give them any arbitrary promotion.
On seeking pleasures and enjoying curios, the ruler ought to have a definite personnel in charge of them and allow nobody to bring such objects in and out at pleasure 13 and thereby let the ministers anticipate the sovereign's want.
In regard to favour-distribution, it ought to be done on the initiative of the ruler to open the emergency treasury and public storehouses and benefit the people. No minister should be allowed to bestow personal favours.
Regarding persuasions and discussions, the ruler must ascertain the abilities of men reputed to be good and testify to the defects of those reputed to be bad, but never allow the ministers to speak to one another about them.
As regards bold and strong men, the ruler should neither neglect reward for merit on the battle-field nor remit punishment for boldness in the village quarrel, and allow no minister to give them money in private.
With respect to the requests made by other feudal lords, if they are lawful, grant them; if they are unlawful, spurn them. 14
The so-called doomed ruler is not one who no longer has a state but one who has a state but not in his grip. If he lets his ministers control the home affairs through the support they receive from abroad, the ruler of men will be doomed to ruin. Granting that to obey big powers is to save one's own country from ruin, the ruin will in case of obedience come faster than in the case of disobedience. Hence never obey them. As soon as the ministers realize that the ruler will not obey, they will not make friends abroad with other feudal lords. As soon as the feudal lords realize that he will not obey, 15 they will not trust that any of his ministers can befool him.
The reason why the intelligent ruler establishes posts, offices, ranks, and bounties, is to promote the worthy and encourage the men of merit. Hence the saying: "The worthy get large bounties and take charge of high offices; the men of merit have honourable rank and receive big rewards." The sovereign appoints the worthy to office by estimating their abilities, and bestows bounties according to the various merits. For this reason worthies do not disguise their abilities in serving the sovereign; and men of merit rejoice in advancing their careers. As a result, tasks are accomplished and merits achieved.
That is not so nowadays. There is neither any discrimination between the worthy and the unworthy nor 16 any distinction between men of merit and of no merit. Anybody esteemed by the feudal lords is taken into service. Any request made by the courtiers is granted. Uncles and brothers as well as chief vassals ask for ranks and bounties from the sovereign and sell them off to their inferiors and thereby accumulate money and advantages and support their personal dependents. Therefore, men who have much money and many advantages purchase offices in order to become noble, and those who have friendships with the courtiers ask for grants in order to uplift their social prestige. In consequence, officials and officers who have rendered the country meritorious services are lost sight of, and the shift of posts and offices runs off the legitimate track. For this reason, everybody in governmental service overrides his post, cultivates friendship with foreign powers, neglects his duties, and covets money 17 in every way, with the result that worthies are disheartened and will no longer exert their efforts while men of merit idle their time away and give up their careers. Such is the atmosphere of a decaying country, indeed!
2. With Kao Hêng 道 above 成 means 由.
5. With Kao Hêng — 一辭同軌 should be 同軌一辭.
6. 父兄. 父 here refers to 叔父伯父仲父 or "uncles" in English; 兄 here refers to half-brothers.
12. With Wang Hsien-shen 制斂 means 制攝.
13. With Wang 不使 above 擅退 is superfluous.
14. So much for the eight precautions against the eight ways to villainy. In the rest of the chapter the ruler is advised to allow no weakness in his own personality or any carelessness in his governmental work to be taken advantage of by rapacious ministers.
15. With Wang Wei and Wang Hsien-shen 諸侯之不聽 should be 諸侯知不聽 .
16. Wang Hsien-shen proposed the supply of 不 above 論.
17. With Kao Hêng 財親 should be 親財.
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|Published by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia|