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語稱上世之人，侗長佼好，堅強老壽，百歲左右；下世之人短小陋醜，夭折早死。何則？上世和氣純渥，婚 姻以時，人民稟善氣而生，生又不傷，骨節堅定，故長大老壽，狀貌美好。下世反此，故短小夭折，形面醜 惡。
〔人，物也；〕物，亦物也。人生一世，壽至一百歲。生為十歲兒時，所見地上之 物，生死改易者多。至於百歲，臨且死時，所見諸物，與年十歲時所見，無以異也。使上世下世， 民人無有異，則百歲之間，足以蔔筮。
人生長六七尺，大三四圍，面有五色，壽至於百，萬世不異。如以上世人民侗長佼好 ，堅強老壽，下世反此；則天地初立，始為人時，長可如防風之君，色如宋朝，壽如彭祖乎？從當今至 千世之後，人可長如莢英，色如嫫母，壽如朝生乎？
語稱上世之人，質樸易化；下世之人，文薄難治。故《易》曰：“上古之時，結繩以 治，後世易之以書契。”先結繩，易化之故；後書契，難治之驗也。故夫宓犧之前，人民至質樸，臥者 居居，坐者于於，群居聚處，知其母不識其父。至宓犧時，人民頗文，知欲詐愚，勇欲恐怯，強欲淩弱， 眾欲暴寡，故宓犧作八卦以治之。至周之時，人民文薄，八卦難複因襲，故文王衍為六十四首，極其變， 使民不倦。至周之時，人民〔文〕薄，故孔子作《春秋》，采毫毛之善，貶纖介之惡，稱曰：“周監於 二代，鬱鬱乎文哉！吾從周。”孔子知世浸弊，文薄難治，故加密緻之罔，設纖微之禁，檢〔押〕守持， 備具悉極。
此言妄也。 上世之人，所懷五常也；下世之人，亦所懷五常也。俱懷五常之道，共稟一氣而生，上世何以質樸？下世何以文薄？彼見上世之民飲血茹毛，無五穀之食，後世穿地為井，耕土種谷，飲井食粟，有水火之調；又見上古岩居穴處，衣禽獸之皮，後世易以宮室，有布帛之飾，則謂上世質樸，下世文薄矣。 夫器業變易，性行不異。然而有質樸文薄之語者，
語稱上世之人重義輕身，遭忠義之事，得己所當赴死之分明也，則必赴湯趨鋒，死不 顧恨。故弘演之節，陳不占之義，行事比類，書籍所載，亡命捐身，眾多非一。今世趨利苟生，棄義妄得， 不相勉以義，不相激以行，義廢身不以為累，行隳事不以相畏。
此言妄也。 夫上世之士，今世之士也，俱含仁義之性，則其遭事並有奮身之節。古有無義之人，今有建節之士。 善惡雜廁，何世無有。述事者好高古而下今，貴所聞而賤所見。辨士則談其久者，文人則著其遠者。近 有奇而辨不稱，今有異而筆不記。
若夫琅邪兒子明，歲敗之時，兄為饑人所食，自縛叩頭，代兄為食，餓 人美其義，兩舍不食。兄死，收養其孤，愛不異於己之子，歲敗穀盡，不能兩活，餓殺其子，活兄之子。 臨淮許君叔亦養兄孤子，歲倉卒之時，餓其親子，活兄之子，與子明同義。
會稽孟章父英為郡決曹掾，郡將撾殺非辜，事至覆考，英引罪自予，卒代將死 。章後複為郡功曹，從役攻賊，兵卒北敗，為賊所射，以身代將，卒死不去。此弘演之節，陳不占之 義何以異？當今著文書者，肯引以為比喻乎？比喻之證，上則求虞、夏，下則索殷 、周。秦、漢之際，功奇行殊，猶以為後。又況當今在百代下，言事者目親見之乎？ 畫工好畫上代之人，秦、漢之士，功行譎奇，不肯圖今世之士者，尊古卑今也。貴鵠賤雞，鵠遠而雞近也。
語稱上世之時，聖人德優，而功治有奇。故孔子曰：“大哉，堯之為君也！唯天為大 ，唯堯則之。蕩蕩乎民無能名焉！巍巍乎其有成功也！煥乎其有文章也！ ”舜承堯不墮洪業，禹襲舜不虧 大功。其後至湯，舉兵代桀，武王把鉞討紂，無巍巍蕩蕩之文，而有動兵討伐之言。蓋其德劣而兵試，武 用而化薄。化薄，不能相逮之明驗也。及至秦、漢，兵革雲擾，戰力角勢，秦以得天下。既得在下，無嘉 瑞之美，若“葉和萬國”、“鳳皇來儀”之類，非德劣不及，功被若之徵乎？
此言妄也。 夫天地氣和，即生聖人。聖人之治，即立大功。和氣不獨在古先，則聖人何故獨優！世俗之性，好褒古而毀今， 少所見而多所聞。又見經傳增賢聖之美，孔子尤大堯、舜之功。又聞堯、舜禪而相讓，湯、武伐而相奪。則謂古 聖優於今，功化渥地後矣。夫經有褒增之文，世有空加之言，讀經覽書者所共見也。
孔子曰： “紂之不善，不若是之甚也。是以君子惡居下流，天下之惡皆歸焉。”世常以桀、紂與堯、舜相反，稱美則說堯、舜，言惡則舉紂、桀。孔子曰“紂之不善，不若是之甚也”，則知堯、舜之德，不若是其盛也。 堯、舜之禪，湯、武之誅，皆有天命，非優劣所能為，人事所能成也。使湯、武在唐、虞，亦禪而不伐；堯、舜在殷、周，亦誅而不讓。蓋有天命之實，而世空生優劣之語。經言“葉和萬國”，時亦有丹硃；“鳳皇來儀”，時亦有有苗；兵皆動而並用，則知德亦何優劣而小大也？
世論桀、紂之惡，甚於亡秦。實事者謂亡秦惡甚於桀、紂。秦、漢善惡相反，猶 堯、舜、桀、紂相違也。亡秦與漢皆在後世，亡秦惡甚於桀、紂，則亦知大漢之德不劣於唐、虞也 。唐之“萬國”，固增而非實者也。有虞之“鳳皇”，宣帝貼已五致之矣。孝明帝符瑞並至。夫德 優故有瑞，瑞鈞則功不相下。宣帝、孝明如劣，不及堯、舜，何以能致堯、舜之瑞？
世稱周之成、康不虧 文王之隆，舜巍位虧堯之盛功也。方今聖朝，承光武，襲孝明，有浸酆溢美之化，無細小毫髮之虧，上何以不 逮舜、禹？下何以不若成、康？世見五帝、三王事在經傳之上，而漢之記故尚為文書，則謂古聖優而功大 ，後世劣而化薄矣。
Chapter XXXVIII. The Equality of the Ages (Ch`i-shih).
There is a saying that in ancient times people were tall, good-looking, and strong, and lived to become about a hundred years old, whereas in modern times they are short, ugly, cut off in their prime, and short-lived. The following cause is given:---In ancient times the harmonious fluid was in abundance. People married at the proper time. At their birth they received this good fluid, and therefore suffered no injuries afterwards. Their bones and joints being strong and solid, they grew tall, and reached a high age, and their outward appearance was beautiful. In later generations all this was reversed, therefore they were small, died young, and looked nasty.
This statement is preposterous. In olden days the rulers were sages, and so they are in modern times. The virtue of the sages then and now does not differ, therefore their government in ancient and modern times cannot be different. The Heaven of antiquity is the Heaven of later ages. Heaven does not change, and its fluid has not been altered. The people of former ages are the same as those of modern times. They all are filled with the original fluid. This fluid is genuine and harmonious now as well as in days of yore, why then should their bodies, which are made of it, not be the same? Being imbued with the same fluid, they have the same nature, and their nature being the same, their physical frames must be alike. Their physical frames being alike, their outward appearance must be similar, and this being the case, their length of life cannot but be equal. One Heaven and one Earth conjointly produce all beings. When they are created, they all receive the same fluid. Its scarcity and abundance varies in all ages equally. Emperors and kings reign over successive generations, and all the different ages have the same principles. People marry at the same time and with similar ceremonies, for although it has been recorded that men married at the age of thirty, and women at that of twenty, and though there has been such a rule for marriages, 1 it is not certain that it really has been observed. We can infer this from the fact that it is not observed now either. The rules for ceremonies and music have been preserved up to our days, but are the people of to-day willing to comply with them? Since they do not like to practise them, people of old have not done so either. From the people of to-day we learn to know the people of old.
Creatures are creatures. Man can live up to one hundred years, but very often we see boys who only reach the age of ten years. The lives of the creatures living on earth and their transformations at the utmost last one hundred years. When they approach this period, they die, which can always be observed. Between all these creatures and those who do not become older them ten years is no fundamental difference. If people of ancient and modern times do not differ, it must be possible to predetermine the length of their lives within the limit of one hundred years by means of divination.
In the height of the domestic animals, the size of the various kinds of grain, the reptiles, plants, trees, metals, stones, pearls, and jewels as well as in the creeping, wriggling, crawling, and panting of the various animals there is no difference, which means that their shape is identical. The water and the fire in olden days are the present water and fire. Now, the fluid changes into water or fire. Provided that there be a difference in the fluids, was the water pellucid, and the fire hot formerly, and is now the water opaque, and the fire, cold?
Man grows six to seven feet high, measures three to four spans in circumference, his face has five colours, 2 and his greatest age is one hundred years. During thousands and thousands of generations there is no change. Let us suppose that in ancient times men were tall, good-looking, strong, and long-lived, and that in later generations all this was reversed. Then, when Heaven and Earth were first established, and the first men were created, could they be as tall as the Prince of Fang-fêng,3 as handsome as Prince Chao of Sung,4 and as long-lived as Pêng Tsu?5 And after thousand generations hence, will they be as small as flower-seeds, as ill-favoured as Mu Mu,6 and as short-lived as an ephemeral fly?
Under the reign of Wang Mang7 there was a giant ten feet high, called Pa Ch`u, and during the Chien-wu8 period Chang Chung Shih in Ying-ch`uan9 measured ten feet, two inches, and Chang T`ang over eight feet, whereas his father was not quite five feet high. They all belong to the present generation, and were either tall or small. The assertion of the Literati is wrong therefore and a mistake.
They say that in times of yore people were employed, as befitted them. Hunchbacks were used as gate-keepers, and dwarfs as actors. But, if all were tall and good-looking, where did the hunchbacks and the dwarfs come from?
It is further alleged that the natures of the people of the past were honest and easily reformed, whereas the culture of later ages is superficial, so that they are difficult to be governed. Thus the Yiking says that in the remote past, cords were knotted as a means of governing the people, which knots in later ages were replaced by books. 10 First knots were used, because reforms were easy, the books afterwards prove the difficulty of government. Prior to Fu Hsi,11 the characters of the people were of the plainest kind:---They lay down self-satisfied, and sat up perfectly pleased. They congregated, and flocked together, and knew their mothers, but not their fathers. 12 At Fu Hsi's time people had attained such a degree of refinement, that the shrewd attempted to deceive the simple-minded, the courageous would frighten the timid, the strong insult the weak, and the many oppress the few. Therefore Fu Hsi invented the eight diagrams for the purpose of restraining them. At the Chou epoch, the state of the people had become very degenerate, and it was difficult to raise the eight diagrams to their former importance. Therefore King Wên increased their number to sixty-four. The changes were the principal thing, and the people were not allowed to flag. When, during the Chou epoch, they had been down for a long while, Confucius wrote the "Spring and Autumn," extolling the smallest good, and criticizing the slightest wrong. He also said, "Chou13 had the advantage of viewing the two past dynasties. How complete and elegant are its regulations. I follow Chou." 14Confucius knowing that the age was steeped in sin, ill-bred, and hard to govern, made the strictest rules, and took the minutest preventive measures to repress the disrespectful, and everything was done in the way of restrictions.