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在縣位至掾功曹，在都尉府位亦掾功曹，在太守為列掾五官功曹行事，入州為從事。不好徼名於世，不為利害見將。常言人長， 希言人短。專薦未達，解已進者過。及所不善，亦弗譽；有過不解，亦弗復陷。能釋人之大過，亦悲夫人之細非。好自周，不肯自彰，勉以行操為基， 恥以材能為名。
羊勝為讒，或使之也；鄒陽得免，或拔之也。孔子稱命，孟子言天，吉凶安危，不在於人。昔人見之，故歸之於命，委之於時， 浩然恬忽，無所怨尤。福至不謂己所得，禍到不謂己所為。故時進意不為豐，時退志不為虧。不嫌虧以求盈，不違險以趨平；不鬻智以干祿， 不辭爵以弔名；不貪進以自明，不惡退以怨人。同安危而齊死生，鈞吉凶而一敗成，遭十羊勝，謂之無傷。動歸於天，故不自明。
荅曰：可效放者，莫過孔子。孔子之仕，無所避矣。為乘田、委吏，無於邑之心；為司空相國，無說豫之色。舜耕歷山，若終不免； 及受堯禪，若卒自得。憂德之不豐，不患爵之不尊；恥名之不白，不惡位之不遷。垂棘與瓦同櫝，明月與礫同囊，苟有二寶之質，不害為世所同。 世能知善，雖賤猶顯；不能別白，雖尊猶辱。處卑與尊齊操，位賤與貴比德，斯可矣。
俗性貪進忽退，收成棄敗。充升擢在位之時，眾人蟻附；廢退窮居，舊故叛去。志俗人之寡恩，故閑居作《譏俗節義》十二篇。 冀俗人觀書而自覺，故直露其文，集以俗言。或譴謂之淺。荅曰：以聖典而示小雅，以雅言而說丘野，不得所曉，無不逆者。故蘇秦精說於趙， 而李兌不說；商鞅以王說秦，而孝公不用。夫不得心意所欲，雖盡堯、舜之言，猶飲牛以酒，啖馬以脯也。故鴻麗深懿之言，關於大而不通於小。 不得已而強聽，入胸者少。
夫口論以分明為公，筆辯以荴露為通，吏文以昭察為良。深覆典雅，指意難，唯賦頌耳。 經傳之文，賢聖之語，古今言殊，四方談異也。當言事時，非務難知，使指〔意〕閉隱也。後人不曉，世相離遠，此名曰語異，不名曰材鴻。淺文讀之難曉， 名曰不巧，不名曰知明。
堯、舜之典，伍伯不肯觀；孔、墨之籍，季、孟不肯讀。寧危之計， 黜於閭巷；撥世之言，訾於品俗。有美味於斯，俗人不嗜，狄牙甘食。有寶玉於是，俗人投之，卞和佩服。孰是孰非？可信者誰？禮俗相背， 何世不然？魯文逆祀，〔去者三人〕；〔定公順祀〕，畔者五人。
充書不能純美。或曰：「口無擇言，筆無擇文。文必麗以好，言必辯以巧。言瞭於耳，則事味於心；文察於目，則篇留於手。 故辯言無不聽，麗文無不寫。今新書既在論譬，說俗為戾，又不美好，於觀不快。蓋師曠調音，曲無不悲；狄牙和膳，肴無澹味。然則通人造書，文無瑕穢。 《呂氏》、《淮南》，懸於市門，觀讀之者，無訾一言。今無二書之美，文雖眾盛，猶多譴毀。」
辯士之言要而達，文人之辭寡而章。今所作新書，出萬言，繁不省， 則讀者不能盡；篇非一，則傳者不能領。被躁人之名，以多為不善。語約易言，文重難得。玉少石多，多者不為珍；龍少魚眾，少者固為神。」 荅曰：有是言也。蓋寡言無多；而華文無寡。為世用者，百篇無害；不為用者，一章無補。如皆為用，則多者為上，少者為下。累積千金， 比於一百，孰為富者？
充以元和三年徙家辟〔難〕，詣楊州部丹陽、九江、廬江。後入為治中，材小任大，職在（剌）〔刺〕割，筆札之思，歷年寢廢。 章和二年，罷州家居。年漸七十，時可懸輿。仕路隔絕，志窮無如。事有否然，身有利害。髮白齒落，日月踰邁，儔倫彌索，鮮所恃賴。貧無供養，志不娛快。 曆數冉冉，庚辛域際，雖懼終徂，愚猶沛沛，乃作《養性》之書凡十六篇。
既晚無還，垂書示後。惟人性命，長短有期， 人亦蟲物，生死一時。年歷但（記）〔訖〕，孰使留之？猶入黃泉，消為土灰。上自黃、唐，下臻秦、漢而來，折衷以聖道，（）〔析〕理於通材， 如衡之平，如鑑之開，幼老生死古今，罔不詳該。命以不延，吁嘆悲哉！
Chapter I. Autobiography. (Tse-chi).
Wang Ch`ung is a native of Shang-yü-hsien1 in K`uei-chi2 . His style is Chung Jên. His family hails from Yuan-ch`êng3 in the Wei4 circuit. One of his clan, Sun-yi, served his whole life as a soldier, and distinguished himself so much, that he was appointed warden of the southern part of K uei-chi, but, when one year a disturbance broke out, which disorganised the State, he continued to reside there, and became a farmer and cultivator of mulberry-trees.
His great grand-father was very bold and violent, and, when in a passion, cared for nobody. In a year of dearth he behaved like a ruffian, and wounded and killed people. Those whom he had wronged, and who were waiting for an opportunity to wreak their vengeance, were very numerous. As in K`uei-chi revolts were of constant occurrence, and there was danger that his enemies would seize upon him, the grand-father Fan removed his family and his household from K`uei-chi, and settled in Ch`ien-t`ang-hsien,5 where he lived as a merchant. He had two sons, the elder was called Mêng, the younger Sung. Sung is the father of Wang Ch`ung.
The grand-father had a violent temper, which in his sons, Mêng and Sung, became so intense, that many people in Ch`ien-t`ang had to suffer from their vehemence. At last they became involved again in a feud with Ting Po and other influential families, in consequence of which they emigrated with their families to Shang-yü.
In the third year of Chien-wu,6Wang Ch`ung was born. When playing with his companions, he disliked all frivolous games. His comrades would entrap birds, catch cicadas, play for money, and gambol on stilts. Wang Ch`ung alone declined to take part in their games to the great amazement of his father.
At the age of six, he received his first instruction, and learned to behave with politeness, honesty, benevolence, obedience, propriety, and reverence. He was grave, earnest, and very quiet, and had the will of a great man. His father never flogged him, his mother never gave him a harsh word, and the neighbours never scolded him. When he was eight years old, he went to school. There were over one hundred small boys in this school. As a punishment for faults committed they used to be stripped, or were whipped for bad writing. Wang Ch`ung made daily progress, and never committed any offence.
When he could write sentences, his teacher explained to him the Analects and the Shuking, of which he daily read a thousand characters. When he knew the Classics, and his virtue had thus been developed, he left his teacher, and devoted his private studies to writing and composing so, that every one was astonished, and the extent of his reading widened day by day. But he did not make bad use of his talents, and though he possessed great dialectical skill, he was not fond of disputations. Unless he found the proper audience, he did not speak the whole day. His speech was quaint and not like that of others, but those who listened to him to the end, agreed with him. Such were also the productions of his pen, and so were his conduct, and his behaviour towards his superiors.
In a district he rose to the rank of a secretary, and held the same office in the department of a military governor. In a prefecture he was one of the five chief secretaries, 7 and in a department he was appointed assistant-magistrate. He did not strive for fame, and did not regulate his conduct in accordance with his personal profits. He always spoke of people's merits and seldom of their faults. Those who had not yet got on in their career, were specially recommended by him, and he exposed only the faults of those who had secured a position. When he thought anything wrong, he did not praise it, and when a fault was not done away with, he did not again condemn the man. He could pardon the great faults of a man, and also pitied his minor mistakes. His desire was to be unimpeachable himself, but he did not wish to shine. He endeavoured to base his claims on recognition upon his actions, and was ashamed to presume upon his talents.
In public meetings he did not speak, unless he was asked, and in the presence of princes and generals he only replied, when he was addressed. In the country he attempted to follow the example of Chü Po Yü,8 and in the court he wished to imitate Shih Tse Yü.9
When insulted, he did not white-wash himself, and, when in his career he was not promoted, he did not feel grieved. Although he was poor and had not an acre to dwell upon, his mind was freer than that of kings and dukes, and though he had no emoluments counted by pecks and piculs, he felt, as if he had ten thousand chung10 to live upon. Obtaining an appointment, he was not overjoyed, and losing it, he did not feel distressed. He enjoyed a tranquil happiness, but his desires did not run riot, and though he was living in a state of poverty, his energy was not broken. The study of ancient literature was his debauchery, and strange stories his relish. In the current books and common sayings he found much, in which he could not aquiesce. A recluse in his solitary retirement, he tried to find truth and falsehood.
Wang Ch`ung had a pure and sterling character. He made friends wherever he went, but did not contract these friendships carelessly. The position of his friends might be ever so low, and in years they might be ever so young, provided only that they rose above common-place mediocrity, he would seek their friendship. He had a great admiration for superior men, and liked to associate with distinguished people, but would not lightly become intimate with men of common gifts. In case these latter slandered him for a slight fault or any insignificant mistake, he would not clear himself of these accusations, nor did he bear any grudge against them.
Some one might ask, why a man of remarkable gifts and extraordinary literary talent should not defend himself against false incriminations. Yang Shêng and others were foul-mouthed and glibtongued; but Tsou Yang vindicated himself and came out of jail again. 11 When a man's conduct is perfect, people should not attempt to find flaws in it, and when somebody exerts himself to come to the front, they should not keep him down.
I reply that none but the pure remark dust, and none but the exalted perceive dangers. Only those living in abundance, feel restraints, and those in opulence know what is want. The scholars at present talk too much of themselves, therefore they are slandered by others, which is their due. Desirous to get on, they show themselves, and resenting neglect, they assert themselves. Being free of these desires and resentments, I keep quiet.
The slanders of Yang Shêng were probably prompted by somebody, and when Tsou Yang was delivered, some one saved him. Confucius spoke of destiny and Mencius of heaven. Luck and mishap, quietude and danger do not depend on man. The ancients knew this, therefore they ascribed these things to destiny and attributed them to time. Placid, tranquil, and equanimous, they did not complain of injustice. When happiness came, they did not imagine that they themselves had brought it about, and when misfortune befell them, they did not consider it their own doing. When they were successful, their joy was not immoderate, and when they suffered reverses, their courage did not fail them. They did not hate need, and therefore crave for plenty, nor did they brave dangers to win peace. Their wisdom they did not sell for wages, and they did not decline honours to become famous. Not being bent on success, they did not try to show off, and not resenting reverses, they did not complain of others. Tranquillity and excitement were the same to them, life and death equal, luck and mishap identical, and victory and defeat one. Meeting even ten Yang Shêngs, they would have said that it mattered not; they left everything to heaven, and therefore did not wish to shine.
Wang Ch`ung was of a cheerful and easy-going disposition, and did not strive for wealth and honour. When his superiors took notice of him, and promoted him above the heads of others, he did not cling to his high post, and, when they ignored, denounced, and degraded him, he did not pine at his low rank. When in the district magistrate's office, he had no ambition and no repugnance.
Some one might object that to act like this is easy enough, but that the difficulty lies with the heart. Meeting with congenial friends, scholars do not care for the place, but whose example can they follow, when they have dirty and distasteful business to do?
There is no better paragon than Confucius, I should say. Confucius as an official had no aversions. In charge of the public fields and as keeper of the granaries he was not low-spirited, and when he was superintendent of works and minister, his face was not beaming with joy. Shun tilled the land on the Li-shan,12 as though he should continue to do so for ever, and when he had received the empire from Yao, he behaved, as if he had obtained it later on as a matter of course. We must be sorry that our virtue is not quite perfect, but not regret our humble rank, and we may be abashed, if our name is not without blemish, but should not feel chagrined, because we do not advance in our career. Marble may be kept in the same box with tiles, and moon-stones in the same bag with pebbles. Being both of precious stuff, they are not injured by being mixed with other things in the world. For him who knows what is good, good things shine even in base places, whereas to those who cannot make these distinctions, they look common even in a prominent place. As long as the deeds of people in low and high spheres can be measured, and as the virtues of men in humble positions, and of noble rank can be compared, it is all right.
The world courts those who have been successful, and disdains those who have failed. It hails the victor, and spurns the defeated. As long as Wang Ch`ung was rising, and holding rank and office, all the people swarmed around him like ants, but, when he had lost his position and was living in poverty, his former friends abandoned him. He pondered over the heartlessness of the world and in his leisure he wrote twelve chapters "Censures on Common Morals", 13 hoping that the reading of these books would rouse the public conscience. For this purpose he expressly wrote it in an easy, popular style. Should anybody condemn it as shallow, I would reply that if the style of the Sacred Institutions 14 be employed for the Lesser Odes, 15 or if an elegant speech be addressed to rustics, they would not understand anything, and therefore not agree. Thus Su Ch`in16 spoke very elegantly in Chao, but Li Tui was not enchanted at all. Shang Yang17 spoke in Ch`in, as if he had addressed an emperor, but Duke Hsiao18 did not follow his advice. If no attention be paid to the individuality and inclinations of the hearers, one may exhaust the eloquence of Yao and Shun, it would be like giving an ox wine to drink and feeding a horse on preserved meat. A refined, rhetorical, and scientific style is fit for the upper classes of society, but out of place for small-minded people. It happens very seldom, that those who must hear something nolens volens, take it to heart.
When Confucius had lost a horse in the country, the country-people locked it up, and did not return it. Tse Kung spoke to them in well turned sentences, but only made them angry, but when the groom addressed them in a familar, jocular tone, they relented. 19
To use high-flown expressions at all costs instead of the plain and simple language of the people is like mixing an elixir, as the spirits use, to cure a cold or a cough, and to put on a fur-coat of sable or fox to fetch firewood or vegetables. As regards propriety, a thing is often out of place, and many an action is often better left undone. To give a decision, and understand a grievance, one must not be a Kao Yao,20 and to cook sunflower-seed and onions, no Yi Ti21 or Yi Ya22 is required. In a side-alley one does not play the music of Shun and Wu, and to the Village Mother 23 one does not sacrifice a whole ox. What is unnecessary, is also inadequate.
To carve a fowl with a butcher's knife, to reap sun-flowers with a Shu24 spear, to cut chop-sticks with an iron halberd, and to pour a glassful into a basin or a tureen would be incongruous, and few would recommend it. What is the principle of debating? To illustrate deep thoughts by simple ones. And how do we prove that we possess knowledge? By illustrating difficult points by easy ones. Sages and worthies use to weigh, what suits the different talents. Hence the difference of style, which may be difficult or easy.
Since Wang Ch`ung deplored the popular feeling, he wrote his Censures on Public Morals, and also lamenting the vain efforts of the emperor's government, which was endeavouring to govern the people, but could not find the right way, nor understand what was required, and mournful and disheartened did not see its course, he wrote the book on government. 25 Furthermore disgusted with the many deceitful books and popular literature devoid of veracity and truthfulness, he composed the Disquisitions (Lun-hêng).
The worthies and sages are dead, and their great doctrine has split up. Many new roads have been struck out, on which many people have stumbled. Every one must have his own school. Intelligent men have seen this, but were unable to find the right way. Old traditions have been transmitted, either written down, or spread by hearsay. Since they were dating from over a hundred years backwards and growing older from day to day, people have regarded them as antique lore and therefore near the truth, and this belief became so rooted in their minds, that they themselves were incapable of eradicating it again.
For this reason the Disquisitions have been written to show the truth. They are in a lively style and full of controversy. Every specious and futile argument has been tested, semblance and falsehood have been rejected, and only what is real and solid has been preserved. Loose manners have been suppressed, and the customs of Fu Hsi's time 26 revived.
Wang Ch`ung's writings are lucid and easy to understand. There are those who pretend that the words of a good debater must be profound, and the compositions of an able writer obscure. The style of the classic literature and the sayings of worthies and sages are grand and majestic, beautiful and refined, and difficult to grasp at first. Those who study their whole life, learn to understand them with the necessary explanations. The genius of the first thinkers being so wonderful, their expressions cannot be the same as those of ordinary people. Gems, they say, are concealed in stones, and pearls in fish-maws. Only jewel-lapidaries and pearl-experts can find them. These precious things cannot be seen, because they are hidden, and thus truisms must be profound and deep, and hard to grasp.
The "Censures on Morals" are intended to rouse people, therefore the meaning is perspicuous and the style quite plain. But why must the Lung-hêng be like this too? Is the talent of the author so shallow, that it was absolutely impossible to hide anything? Why is the style so perspicuous, and quite a different principle followed than in the classical literature?
My reply is as follows. A gem is concealed in a stone and a pearl in a fish-maw, and therefore they are covered and in the dark. But, when the colour of the gem beams from the heart of the stone, and the lustre of the pearl breaks through the fish-maw, are they still hidden? They are like my thoughts, before they have been fixed in books. Enshrined in my bosom, they are like gems or pearls in their concealment, shining forth, brilliant as the splendour of the heavenly bodies, and clear as the distinct lines of the surface of the earth.
Lest things should remain doubtful and obscure to us, we can describe them all by names, and, provided that the names are clear, all the things become defined. The Lun-hêng discusses these questions impartially.
In speaking, it is essential to use clear words, and in writing, to employ plain signs. The style of eminent scholars is refined, but their words can always be understood, and their meaning always be caught. Their readers are suddenly enlightened like blind men who recover their sight, or stirred up like deaf men who suddenly learn to hear. When a child who has been blind for three years, unexpectedly sees his parents, he would not, at once, know them on perceiving them, why then should he give utterance to his joy?
Let a huge tree stand by the road-side, and a long ditch run along a bank, then the locality is well defined, and everybody knows it. Now, should the tree not be huge any more and disappear, and the ditch not be long and be hidden, and the place be shown to people, even Yao and Shun would be perplexed.
The human features are divided into more than seventy different classes. The flesh of the cheeks being pure and white, the five colours can be clearly discerned, and the slightest sorrow, pleasure, and other emotions, all find expression in the features. A physiognomist will not once be mistaken in ten cases. But if the face be blackened and begrimed, or covered with a layer of dirt so, that the features are hidden, then physiognomists will give wrong answers nine times out of ten.
The style is formed of words. It may be shallow, perspicuous, and distinct, or deep, abstruse, elegant, and polished. Who shall distinguish it?
We speak to express our thoughts, and from fear, that our words might be lost, we commit them to writing. Writing having the same purpose as speaking, wherefore should it conceal the meaning?
A judge must hate wrong. Now, would a magistrate, who while deciding a doubtful case gives a confuse and unintelligent verdict, be a better official than another, who clearly distinguishes every point, and can easily be understood?
In oral discussions, one makes clear distinctions out of regards for the audience, and in written disputations one elucidates one's meaning to be understood. In historical works, a clear and intelligible style is most appreciated, and of profound productions, full of beautiful thoughts, but hard to read, there are only pieces of irregular verse and dithyrambs. As for the classical and semiclassical works and the words of the worthies and sages, the ancient and modern languages are different, and speech varies in the different parts of the empire. At the time, when these men spoke, they did not wish that their words should be difficult to understand, or that their meaning should be hidden. If later ages did not understand them, this is owing to the remoteness of time. Therefore one may speak of the difference of language, but not of genius or shallowness of style. If the reading offers great difficulties, the works may be considered as not very cleverly written, but this should not be reputed a great wisdom.
Ch`in Shih Huang Ti reading Han Fei Tse's work exclaimed with a sigh! "Alas! that I am alone, and have not got this man!" 27 They were contemporaries, he could understand his words and reflect upon what he said. If the book had been so profound and exquisite, that he wanted a teacher to comprehend it, he would have flung it to the ground, and it was no use sighing. 28
An author wishes his work to be intelligible, but difficult to write, and he does not care, if it be hard to grasp, but easy to write. In lectures one aims at perspicuity, that the hearers can follow, and does not affect obscurity and ambiguity to baffle the readers. Mencius knew an intelligent man by the sparkling of his eyes. 29 One learns to know what a text is worth by its lucidity.
The book of Wang Ch`ung is of another type than the usual writings. The following objection might be raised against it:---
In literature it is of importance to conform to the public feeling, and not to be in opposition to received ideas. Then not one out of a hundred readers will find anything to blame, and not one out of a thousand hearers will take exception. Therefore Kuan Tse30 said that, where somebody is speaking in a house, the audience must fill the whole house, and, when he speaks in a hall, the entire hall should be full. Now Wang Ch`ung's arguments are not in accordance with public opinion. Consequently his words controvert all common ideas, and do not tally with the general views.
I reply that in arguing, the essential thing is truth, not elegance, that the facts should at all events be correct, and that consensus is not the highest aim. Investigating a question, one discusses the pros and cons, how would it be possible not to deviate from old ideas and perhaps offend the ears of the common hearer? When the general feeling is wrong, it cannot be followed. One denounces and discards that which is false, and keeps and establishes that which is true. If we were to go by majority, and conform to the public feeling, we could only follow the good old rules and precedents, and recite them over and over again, but how could there be any discussion?
When Confucius was attending the court and sitting next to Duke Ai of Lu, the duke favoured him with a peach and millet. Confucius first ate the millet and then the peach. This, we must admit, was the right order of eating the two courses. The courtiers, however, all covered their mouth and laughed. They had, for a long time, been used to another custom. Now I, in fact, resemble Confucius eating the two dishes in the order described above. Ordinary people take exception like the courtiers laughing in their sleeves.
Beautiful festive songs were considered as too melancholic, in Chêng31 and pantomimes, at great celebrations, found no favour in Chao.
The five Leading Princes 32 declined to cast a look upon the Canons of Yao and Shun, and Chi and Mêng33 would not read the works of Confucius and Mê Ti. Plans for securing the peace in times of danger are scoffed at in side-alleys, and schemes of reform ridiculed by common people. If there were an exquisite dish, vulgar people would not taste it, though Yi Ti and Yi Ya34 might eat it with the greatest relish, and if there were a precious jade-stone, ordinary people would throw it away, whereas Pien Ho35 would hoard it up as a treasure. Who would be right, who wrong, and who could be trusted? Propriety and common usage are always in opposition, when has it not been so? When Duke Wên of Lu infringed the rule of sacrifices, 36 five men resisted him.
Great scholars will never give up researches of the above mentioned kind, and common people will always dislike them. And so will the savants enjoy and appreciate books, which bewilder the masses, and which the narrow-minded will flee.
Wang Ch`ung's book cannot be free from imperfection. Some say that in speaking he does not choose the words, nor in writing, the phrases. Compositions must be tastefully written, and discussions ingeniously conducted. When such words strike the ear, they cause a pleasant feeling in the heart, and when the eye falls on writing, the hand does not lay the book aside again. Such disputations are always listened to, and excellent compositions always appreciated. Now, since this new book chiefly consists of comparisons and strictures on the depravity of the age, and does not praise what is good, it does not please the reader. The tunes played by the music-master K`uang37 were always full of feeling, and the delicacies prepared by Yi Ti and Yi Ya were never tasteless. When a clever man writes a book, it is without a flaw. Lü Shih38 and Huai Nan made an advertisement on the market gates, and the readers did not find fault with one word in their books. 39 Now the Lun-hêng does not possess the beauties of these two books. It is long enough, but open to objections in many respects.
In reply I beg to state that he who cherishes veracity does not trouble much about beauty, and that regulating the conduct, he does not polish his words. Luxuriant grass has often abundance of blossoms, and mighty forests have many dry branches. The purport of words is to clearly show the nature of things, how can they be polished and above all censure? Saving a man from fire or out of water, we do not care, whether we do it in a beautiful style or not, and, when we debate on a question, our words must not necessarily be ingenious. Plunging into a lake to seize turtles, we have no time to think, whether we place our feet right, and catching dragons in deep water, we have no time to care for the position of our hands.
In spite of bad style and faulty terms the meaning may be excellent and far reaching sometimes, and sweet words and beautiful expressions give often a very poor sense. When a thousand chung of grain are cleansed, more than half are husks, and examining a hundred thousand cash, one finds that the broken coins exceed ten thousand. Fine soups are often insipid, and the best jewels have their flaws. A slip-shod production may possess great beauties, and a great artist do very second-rate work. Every discussion has its weak points, and in the ablest production some deficiencies can be detected.
Golden words come from noble houses, and foul productions from poor families, they think.---Huai Nan Tse and Lü Shih40 did not encounter any difficulties, because they were descendants of rich houses and of high rank. Since they were noble, they could well advertise on the market place, and being so wealthy, they could easily make the alternate promise of a thousand chin. Their readers were intimidated and in awe, and would never have ventured to criticise one character, even if it had been quite out of place.
When Wang Ch`ung's book was completed, it was compared by some with the works of the ancients, and found to be quite different from the writings of previous authors. Some hold that the book may be said to be written partly in a slovenly style. Sometimes it is terse, at others diffuse, sometimes concise, sometimes prolix. When a problem is being discussed or a question investigated, the author is too summary or too loquacious, half sweet, half sour. The Classics he does not resemble, with the semi-classics he does not agree, nor does he harmonize with either Yang Ch`êng Tse Chang or Yang Tse Yün.41 Since he is unlike the ancient authors, how can he be considered a good writer, or his book be reputed an able production?
I answer that, if anybody puts on an alien appearance forcibly to be like somebody else, his own shape is lost, and if he changes his style to resemble others, he loses his peculiar character. The sons of a hundred persons have not the same parents. Being all born in different families, they cannot be similar. Each one distinguishes himself by his peculiar gifts. If writings could only then be considered good, when they are conform to a certain standard, this would be like substituting one workman for another and declaring his work to be a master-piece, provided that in hewing he did not cut his own hand.
All literary men have their own specialties. The one polishes his phrases to produce an elegant composition, the other combats all errors to establish the truth. Their ultimate aims are the same, and the words follow of themselves. Thus the deeds of the Five Emperors were not different, and there was no conflict between the actions of the Three Rulers. Beautiful looks are not the same, but their aspect is always pleasing to the eye: sentimental airs are not identical, but their music is always gratifying to the ear. Wines have different flavours, but they all inebriate, the tastes of various cereals vary, but they all appease our hunger. If conformity to old standard be required of a literary production, then we would be entitled to expect that Shun also should have eye-brows with eight colours 42 and Yü eyes with double pupils. 43
Wang Ch`ung's book is very voluminous. Some say that in writing the chief thing is to be brief and clear, and that in speaking one must be short and plain. The words of a good debater are succinct, but to the point, the style of a good writer is concise, but perspicuous. Now Wang Ch`ung's new work contains more than ten thousand sentences. For a reader it is impossible to work through such an enormous mass, and there are so many chapters, that they cannot all be transmitted. The author of so much bad stuff may well be called a fool. Short sentences are easy to enunciate, whereas a bulky work presents great difficulties. Gems are few, stones many; that which occurs in great number, is not precious. Dragons are rare, fish numerous; that which is of rare occurence, is justly deemed divine.
I admit that there is such a saying. Concise language is not long, but beautiful language must not be concise. If they are useful to the world, a hundred chapters do no harm, while one paragraph, if useless, may be superfluous. If there are several things, all useful, the longer rank before the shorter. Who is richer, he who has piled up a thousand chin, or he who possesses a hundred?
Longer works are preferable to shorter ones, and a small amount of wealth is better than poverty. Most people have not a single book, I possess a hundred chapters: others have not one character, I have more than ten thousand sentences. Who is the cleverer?
Now they do not say that my words are wrong, but that they are too many; they do not say that the world does not like good things, but that it cannot take them all in. The reason why my book cannot be so concise is that for building many houses a small ground would not be sufficient, and that for the registration of a large populace few registers would be inadequate. At present, the errors are so many, that the words necessary to point out the truth, show what is right, and controvert what is false, cannot well be brief and succinct.
Han Fei Tse's work is like the branch of a tree. The chapters are joined together by tens, and the sentences count by ten thousands. For a large body the dress cannot be narrow, and if there be many subjects, the text must not be too summary. A great variety of subjects requires abundance of words. In a large extent of water, there are many fish, in an emperor's capital, there is plenty of grain, and on the market of a metropolis, there is a throng of people.
My book may be voluminous, but the subjects treated are manifold. T`ai Kung Wang44 in ancient times and recently Tung Chung Shu45 produced books containing more than a hundred chapters. My book also contains more than a hundred chapters. Those who contend that they are too many, only mean to say that the author is of low origin, and that the readers cannot but take exception to it.
When we compare a river, whose waters overflow the banks, with others, which is the biggest? And, when the cocoons of a certain species of worms are especially heavy and big, which worms yield most silk?