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人之溫病而死也，先有凶色見於面部。其病，遇邪氣也，其病不愈。至於身死，命壽訖也。國之亂亡，與此同驗。有變見 於天地，猶人溫病而死，色見於面部也。有水旱之災，猶人遇氣而病也。災禍不除，至於國亡，猶病不愈，至於身死 也。
Chapter II. Periods of Government (Chih-ch`i).
The world is convinced that, when in ancient times the monarch was wise, truth and virtue were practised, and that when they were practised success was achieved and the government well ordered. When the ruler of men was degenerate, truth and virtue declined, and, in consequence of this decline, all success was lost and government thrown into confusion. All thinkers of ancient and modern times hold this view, for they notice that the wisdom of Yao and Shun brought about universal peace, whereas the lawlessness of Chieh and Chou resulted in rebellion and in their destruction. But if we thoroughly go into the question we find that fate has its proper time, which comes spontaneously, and that virtue has no influence upon it. 1
All officials, those with an income of more than a hundred piculs as well as those living on less than a pint, 2 while in office, govern the people. They exercise their authority, instruct, and admonish, but whether these instructions have any effect, and whether the people are well governed or in revolution, depends on fate.
Some persons may have great talents and lead a pure life, but when called to office, they soon are cashiered, whereas others with very little knowledge and a scandalous conduct govern the people and remain in office. In remote antiquity promotion and degradation of able and incompetent men was merely based on success. Rewards were bestowed on the successful, and penalties inflicted on the unsuccessful. Much consideration was shown for fate, and a great partiality to fortune, but neither were talents investigated nor capacities much appreciated.
Dialecticians use this method of inquiring into the achievements, and determine people's virtue by their success. Thus they hold that the tranquillity of the people, and the peace of the State are due to a wise ruler, and that rebellions and other dangers of a country are the upshot of his depravity. Therefore, when revolutions and other calamities unexpectedly break out, these critics bring them home to the sovereign, charging him with misrule. The prince acquiesces and takes the guilt upon himself. Sorrow and pain shake his body, but the difficulties are not removed thereby. Without reason they harass the mind of the ruler, and overwhelm an enlightened monarch with undeserved reproaches. These ideas are being transmitted and universally accepted. 3
A wise ruler may govern a people who are to live in peace, but he cannot reform an age destined to revolt. A physician clever in using his needles 4 and medicines, is successful with his methods, if he happens to find a patient whose end has not yet arrived, and comes across a disease which is not mortal. If the man's life is ended and his sickness fatal, he can do nothing even though he be a second Pien Ch`io.5 A worn-out life and a fatal disease are incurable as a people in rebellion cannot be pacified. The action of the drugs cures a disease as admonitions serve to pacify the people. Both cases are subject to destiny and time, and cannot be forced at all cost.
[The Kung-po Liao, having slandered Tse Lu to Chi Sun, Tse Fu Ching Po informed Confucius of it..... Confucius said, "If my principles are to advance, it is so ordered. If they are to fall to the ground, it is so ordered."] 6 Consequently, the advance of the doctrine no less than the peace of the people depend on fate and time, and not on human force. Revolutions, the opposition of the citizens, and the danger of the State are commonly caused by calamities which come down from Heaven above. The virtue of a wise ruler is unfit to cope with, and disperse them.
It is mentioned in the Shiking7 that King Hsüan met with a great drought. The words are, `[Of the remnant of Chou, among the black-haired people, there will not be half a man left.]' That means that not a single person was left, but was affected by this disaster. King Hsüan8 was a wise man who regretted the insufficiency of his virtue.
There has never been anybody more benevolent and kindhearted than Yao and T`ang. But Yao met with the Great Flood, and T`ang fell in with a great drought. 9 Inundations and droughts are the worst calamities. Since the two Sages were visited with them, were they brought about by their administration? No, the fixed periods of Heaven and Earth made it so.
From the inundation and the drought of Yao und T`ang we draw the conclusion that the calamities of other kings are not caused by their virtue. That being the case, their happiness and felicity cannot be the result of their virtue either.
A wise ruler's government of his State is like a kind father's administration of his family. The latter gives his instructions to all equally and issues his commands, thus making his sons and grandsons dutiful and virtuous. His descendants being dutiful and virtuous, the family flourishes. When all the citizens live in peace, the State prospers. But prosperity is always succeeded by a decay, and progress, attended by a decline. As prosperity and progress are not brought about by virtue, decline and decay cannot be due to virtue either. Prosperity and progress, decay and decline are all dependent on Heaven and time.
This is the real nature of goodness and badness, but we have not yet spoken of the manifestations of joy and sorrow. A family is not at peace, nor are its members cheerful unless there be sufficient wealth, and ample means to supply its wants. Affluence is the outcome of a generous fate and not to be obtained through wisdom and benevolence. Everybody knows that affluence, peace, and contentment are consequences of a happy destiny, but ignores that the tranquillity of a State, and the success of its institutions are but lucky circumstances.
Consequently good government is not the work of worthies and sages; and decay and disorder, not the result of viciousness. When a State is doomed to fall to pieces, worthies and sages cannot make it thrive, and when an age is to be well governed, no wicked people can throw it into disorder. Order and disorder depend on time, and not on government; the tranquillity and the troubles of a State are determined by its destiny, and not by its culture. Neither a wise nor an unwise ruler, neither an enlightened nor an unenlightened government can be beneficial or deleterious.
The world praises the era of the Five Rulers, when the whole empire was enjoying peace, people had provisions for ten years, and every one behaved like a man of honour. It may be that this was not the case and merely an exaggeration of the time, or it was really the effect of the then government, but how can we know?
What are the causes of disorder? Are they not the predominance of robbery, fighting, and bloodshed, the disregard of the moral obligations by the people, and their rebellion against their ruler? All these difficulties arise from a want of grain and food, in so far as people are unable to bear hunger and cold. When hunger and cold combine, there are few but violate the laws, and when they enjoy both warmth and food, there are few but behave properly. 10
It has been said that, when the granaries and store-houses are full, people know the rules of propriety, and when clothes and food suffice, people are sensible of honour and disgrace. Altruism grows from opulence, and strife springs from indigence. There being abundance of grain and plenty of food, moral feelings emanate, and by paying due consideration to propriety and justice, the foundations of peace and happiness are laid. Thus, in the spring of a year of dearth, not even relatives are fed, whereas in the autumn of a year of plenty, even neighbours are invited to take their share. Not to feed one's own relations is wicked, and to invite even one's neighbours, a great kindness. Good and bad actions are not the upshot of human character, but of the state of the year, its dearth and affluence.
From this point of view, moral conduct is conditioned by the grain supply, and the grain produce depends on the year. When a year is conspicuous by floods or droughts, the Five Grains do not grow. Not the government is responsible for this, but time and circumstances. If inundations and dryness be held to be the result of government, there were never worse rulers than Chieh and Chou. In their time there ought to have been constant floods and droughts, but their reigns were not visited with famines or dearth. Calamities such as these have their periods which sometimes, contrariwise, just fall in the reigns of wise sovereigns.
On mature consideration it will be admitted that the Great Flood of Yao and the Great Drought of T`ang were both accidents and not occasioned by bad government. If, however, the disasters of all the other kings be taken for echoes of their wickedness, it would be an exaltation of the excellence of Yao and T`ang and a depreciation of the other princes. One case gives us a key to a hundred, and the knowledge of wickedness enlightens us upon virtue. Yao and T`ang may serve us as guides vis-à-vis of other rulers. The extraordinary calamities of the latter cannot be caused by their administration. Looking upon them as natural calamities, we get a clearer conception of happiness and misfortune, and it becomes evident that, if the Five Rulers bring about universal peace, they do not do it through their administration.
People about to die from plague 11 show a lugubrious expression, boding ill, in their features beforehand. Their disease arises from contagion by miasms, and unless it be cured they die, their span thus coming to an end. The convulsions, and the final catastrophe of a State show similar symptoms. Extraordinary changes appear in Heaven and on Earth just as in the case of persons dying from plague the mark of death is visible on their faces. Floods, droughts, and other disasters are like the miasms engendering sickness, and unless these calamities be removed, they conduce to the ruin of the State as the disease not cured leads to the death of the individual.
Would those who maintain that phenomenal changes are a test of government, admit that, if worthies catch the plague and have that lugubrious look, it is all caused by their dealings? If floods and droughts be looked upon as sequences of lawlessness, can worthies, attacked by a disease, be said to have contracted it through their disorderly conduct? Death is regarded as the greatest evil, but when worthies die of sickness, must this be considered the heaviest possible punishment inflicted upon them?
Worthies are taken ill and die early, and wicked people may be strong and robust and become very old. Human diseases and death are not a retribution for evil doing, and so the disorder and the ruin of a State have nothing to do with the goodness or the badness of its government. Bad characters are strong and become old, and iniquitous governments enjoy peace and remain unharmed. Consequently, it is plain that misfortunes and disasters are not sufficient indications of depravity, and happiness and lucky auguries are inadequate proofs of virtue.
Amongst the celestial phenomena there are partial eclipses of the sun and the moon. Every forty-two months there is an eclipse of the sun, and every fifty-six months, one of the moon. 12 These eclipses occur at fixed intervals and have no connexion with the government. The hundred phenomena and the thousand disasters manifest themselves in a similar way, and are not brought about by the ruler of men or any administrative measures.
When Jupiter injured the tail of the "Bird," Chou and Ch`u suffered misfortune, and a disaster was sent down on Sung, Wei, Ch`ên and Chêng, when a featherlike air put in an appearance. 13 It does not follow that, at this juncture, the policy of these six States was mistaken. The city of Li-yang sank during one night, and was turned into a lake. 14 At that time, the high officers of Li-yang must not have been deceitful and perverse.
Success and discomfiture emanate from Heaven, and good and bad luck are governed by time. Ere man sets to work the heavenly fluid is already apparent; if this is not time, what else is it?
The Five Grains grow on earth, sometimes in abundance, and sometimes in insufficient quantities. The grain is sold in the market, sometimes dear and sometimes cheap. Rich harvests are not of necessity attended by low prices, nor does a scarcity of production lead to a rising of the prices. Abundance and scarcity have their years, dearness and cheapness, their time. When there is to be dearness and abundance simultaneously, the grain price rises, and when there is to be cheapness and scarcity, it falls. The price of grain does not depend on the state of the harvest, no more than the conditions of a State turn on moral qualities. 15
If a wise ruler happens to rise in an era pre-ordained for order, virtue of itself shines above, and the people behave well below. The age is tranquil, the people at ease, and bliss and felicity never cease. The world then imagines all this to be the work of the wise ruler. If an unprincipled sovereign happens to be born during a period fraught with disturbances, the age is stirred up, the citizens revolt, and there is no end of calamities. In consequence whereof the State is ruined, the sovereign destroyed, and his descendants extinguished. The world invariably sees in this the effect of wickedness. They understand the outward appearances of goodness and badness, but are ignorant of the intrinsic nature of happiness and misfortune.
Happiness and misfortune do not hinge on goodness or badness, and goodness or badness cannot be called to witness in case of happiness and misfortune. Sometimes high functionaries, having taken over a new office, have not yet been active, or the administration, following old precedents, has not been changed. Yet robbery is either rampant or not, and calamities may happen, or may not happen. What is the reason of this?
Great officers, destined to high honours, use a time of general peace as a stepping stone for their advancement, whereas those doomed to baseness and loss of office, begin their career in times of troubles, and thus are degraded and cashiered. From our actual high officers we may draw an inference on the ancient monarchs, and thus discourse on safety and danger, prosperity and decay.
1. Wang Ch`ung's view that fate is not affected by human activity is as one-sided as that which he impugns viz. that virtue can do everything. Human energy is but one of the many circumstances co-operating in what we call fate, but a very important one which cannot be neglected.
2. In former times Chinese officials were paid in grain instead of money, a system not quite abolished even at present.
3. Up to the present day, the Emperor feels himself responsible for the happiness of his State and looks upon an unlucky war or other misfortunes as punishments inflicted upon him by Heaven for his sins. On the other side, he and the manes of his ancestors get the credit for all success.
4. Needles for acupuncture, not for sewing, for there is no cutting in Chinese medicine.
5. A celebrated physician of the 5th cent. b.c. Cf. Vol. I, p. 223, Note 2 and Giles, Biogr. Dict. No. 396.
6. Analects XIV, 38.
7. Shiking III, Bk. III, Ode IV, 3 (Legge, Classics Vol. IV, Part II, p. 530).
8. King Hsüan of the Chou dynasty, 827-781 b.c.
9. Cf. p. 16.
10. Wang Ch`ung here anticipates the theory of many modern historians who ascribe great political changes not to the preponderating influence of some individuals, the great men of history, but to the economical conditions of the people.
11. Edition B erroneously writes which must be as Ed. A and C have it.
12. In Vol. I, p. 270 Wang Ch`ung says that, on an average, an eclipse of the sun occurs every 41 or 42 months and of the moon every 180 days.
13. See Vol. I, p. 118.
14. Cf. Vol. I, p. 136.
15. Neither of these two statements will be unreservedly admitted:---The prices, to a great extent, depend on the harvest, and the welfare of a State, on the moral qualities of its citizens, although there may be still other causes at work.
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|Published by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia|