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天地事物，人所重敬，皆力劣知極，須仰以給足者也。今世之將相，不責己之不能，而賤儒生之不習；不原 文吏之所得得用，而尊其材，謂之善吏。非文吏，憂不除；非文吏，患不救。是以選舉取常故，案吏取無害。儒生無閥閱，所能 不能任劇，故陋於選舉，佚於朝庭。
是以 古經廢而不修，舊學暗而不明，儒者寂於空室，文吏嘩於朝堂。材能之士，隨世驅馳；節操之人，守隘屏竄。驅馳日以巧，屏竄 日以拙。非材頓知不及也，希見闕為，不狎習也。
蓋足未嘗行，堯、禹問曲折；目未嘗見，孔、墨問形象。 齊部世刺繡，恆女無不能；襄邑俗織錦，鈍婦無不巧。〔目〕見之，日為之，手狎也。使材士未嘗見，巧女未嘗為，異事詭手，暫為卒睹，顯 露易為者，猶憒憒焉。
科用累能，故文吏在前，儒生在後。是從朝庭謂之也。如從儒堂訂之，則儒生在上，文吏 在下矣。從農論田，田夫勝；從商講賈，賈人賢；今從朝庭謂之文吏。朝庭之人也，幼為幹吏，以朝庭為田畝，以刀筆為耒耜， 以文書為農業，猶家人子弟，生長宅中，其知曲折，愈於賓客也。賓客暫至，雖孔、墨之材，不能分別。儒生猶賓客，文吏猶子 弟也。以子弟論之，則文吏曉於儒生，儒生暗於文吏。今世之將相，知子弟以文吏為慧，不能知文吏以狎為能；知賓客以暫為 固，不知儒生以希為拙：惑蔽暗昧，不知類也。
文吏幼則筆墨，手習而行，無篇章之誦，不聞仁義之語。長大成吏，舞文巧法，徇私為己，勉赴權利；考事則受賂，臨民則采漁 ，處右則弄權，幸上則賣將；一旦在位，鮮冠利劍。一歲典職，田宅並兼。性非皆惡，所習為者，違聖教也。故習善儒路，歸化慕義，志操 則勵變從高明。
Chapter VII. Weighing of Talents (Ch`êng-t`sai).
Among those who have discussed the question many are of opinion that scholars cannot be placed on a level with officials. Seeing that the officials are of practical use, and the scholars unemployed, they stigmatise the latter as shallow and incompetent, and praise the former as very ingenious and proficient. That shows that they are as ignorant of scholars as of officials, for both have their talents and abilities, and it is not true that the parts of officers are superior to the accomplishments of literary men. Officers do business, and students have no practice. We may well say that officers are business men, and that students have no practice, but the assumption that officials are ingenious and proficient, and scholars shallow and incompetent, exhibits a want of judgment.
The public usually looks down upon scholars, and these themselves have no very high opinion of their worth, for they would likewise be only too glad to serve their country and imitate the officials, whom they regard as their models. Whatever may be their shortcomings, the public will sneer at them, but the faults of officers they dare not criticise. They lay all the blame on the students, and give all the credit to the functionaries. 1
The talents of the Literati do not fall short of those of the officials, but they lack routine and have not done official work. However, the public slights them, because they notice that the authorities 2 do not like to employ them, a dislike caused by the mass of affairs which they cannot all settle alone, and are obliged to leave to the care of officers. Respecting their qualities and talents they hope that their many abilities may be of use to them. The bureaucrats relieve them of their troubles, working hard in their offices. By their decisions they distinguish themselves, and their chiefs highly appreciate their skill.
The scholars are timid and unqualified to overcome difficulties. When the governors are troubled with doubts, they cannot help them, and are unable to exert themselves. Their services being of no benefit under existing conditions, no post is conferred upon them. The governors judge talents by official efficiency and expect them to become manifest in the discharge of official duties. It is for this reason that the public is wont to esteem the officials and despise the scholars. This contempt of the latter, and admiration of the former, is based on the inability of the students to meet the bureaucratic requirements, for public opinion merely inquires into their usefulness.
At present, those in authority are very able and extremely learned men who thoroughly know the people. They take things up in the proper way and ever bring them to a good end. When they appoint officials, they take a sufficient number to assist them in carrying out their designs. Should these designs aim at the cultivation of virtue or at the introduction of reforms, then officers are only like tiles and stones, but scholars like pearls and jewels. Officers are merely able to break resistance and smooth over difficulties, but they know nothing about preserving their own selves pure and undefiled, and therefore cannot be of any great help to their governor. 3 Scholars have no experience of business, but excel in guiding and possibly rescuing their superiors. When governors and ministers 4 are going wrong, they are not afraid to remonstrate with them, and warn them.
They who on earth were able to establish stringent rules, who up to three times offered their remonstrances, and enjoined upon the governors to examine and purify themselves, despising all crookedness, have for the most part been scholars. They who assent to everything and try to remain in favour at all cost, and, when their governor indulges his desires, merely bow their heads and remain silent, are mostly officials. They are strong in business, but weak in lealty, whereas scholars are excellent on principles, but bad business men. Both have their special merits and demerits, between which those in power may choose. Those who prefer students, are such as uphold virtue and carry out reforms, those who rather take officials, attach the greatest importance to business and the suppression of disorder.
If a person's gifts are insufficient, he wants help, and wanting help, he expects strength. An officer takes an assistant, because his own force is inadequate, and a functionary engages an able man, because his own talents do not come up to the mark. When the sun illuminates the dark, there is no need for lamps and candles, and when Mêng Pên and Hsia Yü oppose the enemy, no further helpmates are requisite. Provided that the knowledge and the power of governors and ministers be like the sun shining upon darkness or the irresistible Mêng Pên and Hsia Yü, then the talents of officials are of no use.
In case of sickness we call in a physician, and when misfortune happens, we employ a sorcerer. 5 If we could ourselves make out the prescriptions and mix the medicines, or enter into the house and expel the evil influences, we should not have to pay for the doctor, nor to invite the sorcerer.
Bridges are built, because the feet cannot cross ditches, and carts and horses used, because one cannot walk long distances. If the feet were able to jump over ditches, or if one could walk a long way, there would be no bridges built, and no carts and horses used.
People estimate those things of the world most, to which they must look to supply their deficiencies, owing to their weakness and limited knowledge. The high authorities of our age do not accuse their own inability, but disdain the students for their want of practice, nor do they study the qualities of the officials, but finding them useful, think very much of their talents, and declare them to be excellent functionaries. Without officials they cannot get rid of their troubles, and in default of these there is nobody to save them from their vexations. Wherefore they fill all posts with ordinary men. Since their appointment is never attended with any inconvenience, whereas the scholars have nothing to distinguish themselves, and with their abilities are incapable of filling difficult posts, they are left out, when new appointments are made, nor are their services desired at court.
Those among them who have a quick intellect, at once change and set about studying official work, following in the wane of the officials. The others who have not yet made themselves conspicuous by their admirable qualities, cling to antiquity and pursue their ideas, observing the rules of propriety and cultivating virtue, but governors and ministers do not entrust them with any duty, and the bureaucrats mock 6 them. Not being called to office, they give up further efforts and resolve to resign. The scorn fills them with disgust. Since in the discharge of their duties they do not meet with encouragement, their treatment of affairs lacks thoroughness. Then they are supposed to be inefficient and pushed aside.
Men possessed of common gifts and not burdened with lofty ideals, commence to learn official work, and are soon merged in officialdom. Taking the knowledge of the high authorities as their load-star, and conforming to the exigencies of the times, they completely change their former ideas and their occupation. Studying day and night, they are not ashamed of anything, provided that they make their mark and master the official correspondence. 7
Conversely, enthusiasts and remarkable characters disdain to sacrifice their convictions, or to demolish the objects of their veneration for the purpose of pushing on by sycophancy. They strongly disapprove of talented students entering into the ranks of office-holders. Strongly maintaining their high aims, they decline to take up those poor studies. 8
Sometimes it may also happen that scholars do not quite understand their business. Their thoughts being wandering and not concentrated enough, they are not fit for the office of which they may be in charge. When asked, they give wrong answers, they do not know the art of genuflexion, and in coming forward and retiring, disregard the fixed rules. In their reports on various matters, young students will disclose faults, adducing the opinions of the ancients. They denounce the selfish desires of their superiors with a terrible outspokenness, saying awkward things which they had better leave unsaid. Obstinate, and bound by their prejudices, they follow their own rules in all their writings, and do not manage things in the proper way. Their style is unusual; being somewhat excentric, they depart from the ordinary standard, and do not do things as they should be done. Therefore people make light of them, the official class despises them, and the high dignitaries hold them in disrespect. 9
It is for this reason that common students dislike to go through the Classics, or make a thorough study in order to become well acquainted with ancient and modern times. Eager to collect one master's dicta and to get a smattering of theory, they all rush to study historical works and read law. 10 Reciting ordinances and institutions, they write reports on various subjects. They learn how to fawn upon their superiors, and how to kneel down and kotow, all with a view to laying the foundation of their house, and establishing their family. Once called to office, they are well off, hence their bias in favour of the present, and their disregard of the past. In the keen competition with their rivals, they give up their former ideas, and struggling to get to the front, pay no heed to propriety. The Classics are neglected, and study is an exploded idea. Ancient literature is no more cultivated, and what they have learned formerly, soon forgotten.
Literati lead a poor life in their lonely houses, while the officials are bustling about in the halls of the palace. Clever and able officials rise, later on, and come to the front, whereas persons fulfilling all moral obligations, are beset with so many difficulties, that they hide and steal away. The success is owing to cunning and the failure to awkwardness. 11 The talents of scholars are not inferior, nor is their knowledge insufficient, but they lack experience and practice.
When the foot has never walked a road, even Yao and Yü must inquire at its turns, and when the eye has not yet spied an object, even Confucius and Mê Ti would ask about its shape. In the region of Ch`i,12 the inhabitants make embroidery from generation to generation, and even common women possess this skill. In the city of Hsiang,13 the people weave brocades, and even stupid girls know the art. That which we daily see and daily do, our hands become accustomed to. If talented scholars have not yet seen a thing, or if clever women have not yet done something, the work seems strange to them, and the handicraft extraordinary. When they are suddenly called upon to perform it, and for the first time behold it, even something apparently very easy gives them the greatest trouble.
Respecting scholars, at present their critics do not speak of a want of practice, but doubt their intellectual faculties; they do not say that they have not yet done anything, but that their knowledge does not reach so far, which is a misrepresentation. The mental power of the literati is not too weak, and there is no profession which they might not comprehend, though they have not taken an active part in it. 14 Now the public noticing that they have no experience, regard them as incapable, and seeing them inactive, ascribe this to their dullness.
Ranked according to their usefulness and classed according to their efficiency, the officials are in front, and the students in the rear. That is the point of view of the government. But in a classification on scientific principles, the scholars are above, and the officials below. From an agricultural point of view, agriculturists come first, and from a commercial standpoint, merchants are the first class. As regards government, officers are its men. In their youth already they learn official work, and government is their field of action, knives 15 and pencils being their ploughs, and despatches, their labour. They resemble the sons of a house who, having grown up in it, know all its nooks and corners much better than any foreigner does. When a guest arrives only for a short while, he may be a second Confucius or Mê Ti, yet he will not be able to distinguish things as well as they do. Scholars are like these guests, and officials represent the sons. As sons the officials know much more than the scholars, for the latter are much less au courant than the former. The governors and ministers of our time know how sons are, yet believe officials to be exceptionally clever, unaware that the officials have acquired their efficiency by practice. They likewise know guests, and yet see in helplessness after a short stay a sign of foolishness, quite forgetting that the incompetence of the scholars is owing to their want of exercice. The vision of these dignitaries is blurred, and they are unable to reason by analogies.
A man fit to be assistant in a district, might also fill the post of a secretary in a prefecture, and he who could reform an entire prefecture, would be qualified for service in a province. However the prefecture does not summon the assistant, and the province will not have the reformer. It would be no harm, if they used their talents to acquire the necessary practice, their little knowledge of official correspondence would be compensated by their great virtue.
The Five Secretaries 16 of course have their rules and regulations, and for books and registers there exist certain precedents. How can a man who diligently studies and easily learns all these things, so that he becomes a clever official, for that reason be thought more of than others? Wise governors select officials according to their talents, regardless of their being experienced in discussing official matters. They set the highest store on character, and do not look to book-keeping.
Good officials are called loyal. Loyalty is not exhibited in books and registers. Business may be learned by study, and with the rules of etiquette one becomes familiar by practice; loyalty and justice however are not to be acquired in this manner. Officials and scholars have both their special aims. Loyalty and faith is the goal of the scholars, whereas the officials are chiefly interested in the management of affairs. As long as loyalty and honesty is maintained, a little bungling in business is not injurious to a man's reputation. Albeit yet owing to their inexperience in office work students are placed in the second rank by most critics.
Judges give their verdicts according to edicts and laws. In their administration the officials are obliged to consult jurists, 17 and nothing is of greater importance in a district magistrate's office than edicts. If his competence be taken as a criterion of the worthiness of an official, then the jurisconsults 18 ought to take the first place. Perhaps people will admit this, saying that edicts are the Canons of the Han dynasty, on which the officials base the decisions which they propose, and that a case having been settled by law, everything is clear indeed.
I should say that the Five Canons are also standard works for the Han dynasty, and that the literati conversant with the theory of government, have all derived their wisdom thereform. 19Tung Chung Shu explained the meaning of the Ch`un-ch`iu, and in comparing it with the laws did not find any divergence. Therefore the Ch`unch`iu is a Canon of the Han, composed by Confucius, it is true, but handed down to the Han. Those critics who merely appreciate jurisprudence and slight the Ch`un-ch`iu, are narrow-minded. The purport of this work and the other four Canons is intertwined, and unless the Ch`un-ch`iu were a great production, the Five Canons would not be universally read.
The Five Canons deal with principles, and business counts less than principles. There being principles, business is regulated, and in default of principles nothing can be done. Now that which scholars study, are principles, and that which officers learn, is business. In case they are of equal talents, they should study principles if they wish to rank with officials. 20
For washing dirty things one uses water, and for roasting raw and tainted meat, fire. Water and fire are the principles, and their use is business. Business is posterior to principles. If we compare students with officials, the former adjust what is antecedent, the latter care for what is subsequent. From the contrast between principles, which are first, and business, which is last, we may determine the superiority and greater dignity of either.
Yao by his brilliant virtue succeeded in conciliating the black-haired people. Confucius said that filial piety and brotherly love in the highest degree could even touch spirits. Chang Shih Chih21 remarked that the Ch`in dynasty relied on petty officers with pencils and knives, and that, the dissolution having gone on up to Erh Shih Huang Ti, the empire broke down. Chang T`ang and Chao Yü were both honest officials of the Han period, and yet the Grand Annalist places them among the oppressors. 22 How can those responsible for the breakdown of the empire, be compared with them whose piety affects the spirits? This should fill people's minds.
The high dignitaries are cognisant of the great principles of the classical studies, but do not honour the students, because it strikes them that those students of classical literature are in the administration less efficient than functionaries.
With a butcher's knife one may carve a fowl, but it is difficult to slaughter an ox with a poultry knife. A master in embroidery can sew a curtain or a garment, but a workman twisting thread would be unqualified to weave brocade. Thus the scholars can do the business of the officials, but officials do not find their way through the science of scholars. The knowledge of officials is really bad and not up to the mark, the scholars however, in spite of their want of practice, possess excellent qualities, only they have no experience.
Yü regulating streams and rivers did not handle the hoe or the spade, and the Duke of Chou in building Lo-yi23 did not hold battering-rams or poles in his hands. Pencils and ink, registers and books are like hoes and spades, rams and poles. To expect a man of vast ideas and high principles to carry them out personally, would be like bidding a general fight himself, or an engineer 24 cut wood. In case a scholar able to interpret one Canon is called upon to do the work of one office, he can master it in ten months. For an office-holder, on the other side, to study the contents of one Canon a whole year would not suffice. Why? Because official work is easy to learn, whereas classical studies offer great difficulties.
Students thumb the Classics 25 to fathom the meaning of the Sages, and officials move their pencils to take note of public affairs. What is more difficult, to comprehend the thoughts of the great Sages, or to understand the affairs of the small people? These men who by their genius overcome all difficulties, cherish more than a hundred thousand sentences and paragraphs in their minds, and never flag in what they take in hand. Their profound studies embrace antiquity as well as the present time, and from the rich spring in their bosom pour out ingenious thoughts by thousands. 26 The wisdom of the bureaucrats consists merely in their books and registers, of which they understand all the intricacies.
What means the possession of ten or a hundred coins compared with the wealth of a thousand pieces of gold, and how could the granaries of the capital towering like mountains be placed on a level with heaps of grain not higher than mounds of earth? A man famous for his talents is like a famous vessel. The bigger the vessel, the greater its capacity. The treasures hidden in the bosoms of the scholars can be pronounced greater than those of the officials.
Creepers growing among hemp, become straight without support, and white silk gauze placed amidst coloured one, takes a dark colour without having been dyed. This means that the good and the evil we practice transforms our character. The nature of scholars cannot always be good, but revering the holy doctrines, they chant and hum them over day and night, 27 and thus take the habits of the Sages.
In their childhood already do the future officers become familiar with pencil and ink, which they learn to use by constant practice. They never read a page of a book, or ever hear the words benevolence and justice. 28 When they have grown up and are called to office, they abuse their power of writing and their experience in business. All their proceedings are dictated by selfish motives, and influence and profit are their only aims. When they have to make an investigation, they allow themselves to be bribed, and fleece all the people with whom they are brought in contact. 29 Having an honourable position, they crave for power, and, should they find favour with the sovereign, they contrive the disgrace of the governors. Once in power, they will wear elegant hats and sharp swords, 30 and after one year's service their estate and their mansion are well provided. They have not all a wicked character, but their practices are in opposition to the holy doctrines. Those who follow the method of the literati, reform and learn to love justice, so that their ideas as well as their dealings change and improve.
An enlightened governor who clearly saw this, and therefore employed scholars, was the minister of Tung-hai,31Tsung Shu Hsi.32 He used to invite obscure scholars on a large scale. In spring and autumn he would assemble them to a feast and divide them into three classes. In a regular order he nominated them to vacant posts. Among the officials of a prefecture nine out of ten were scholars. The prefect of Ch`ên-liu,33Ch`ên Tse Yü likewise opened the ways to the literati. They were given all the posts of secretaries and clerks, and the bureaucrats were only employed in the ratio of one or two among ten.
These two governors knew the respective value of principles and business, and could judge of the capacities of the candidates. Therefore the age has praised their names, and many of their doings have been recorded in books and memoirs.
1. The masses not only in China, but in other countries as well view everything from the practical side. What is a man worth i. e., how much does he earn, is the usual question of an American. They admire and affect wealth and power, and think very little of learning.
3. If these indictments of Wang Ch`ung are just and not dictated by his offended amour-propre owing to his inability to advance in the official career, officialdom in the Han time must have been different from what it is now, for at present the majority are scholars well versed in literature, but not in business.
5. A remark very characteristic for Wang Ch`ung's time.
7. These are the opportunists among the scholars.
8. These uncompromising characters stick to their principles, but do not get on in life.
9. This sort of young firebrands and utopists would reform everything, but they do it with inadequate means, and soon are crushed under the inert masses they are attempting to stop.
10. According to our modern view, this is just what a future official should do. Literature alone, which up to very recent times was the only study of all the candidates, does not suffice. A literary education can be nothing more than a basis for future special studies.
11. This is not true. With virtue and literature alone a country cannot be governed. This requires practical knowledge and experience, of which the typical literati are destitute, and which they disdain to acquire.
12. In Shantung.
13. An ancient name of Kuei-tê-fu in Honan.
14. As a rule perhaps, but there are many students so unpractical and only at home in the high spheres of pure thought, that just their great learning and idealism makes them absolutely unfit for business.
15. Erasing knives, see p. 73, Note 2.
16. See Vol. I, p. 65, Note 1.
18. . The writers on law form one of the Nine Schools into which Liu Hsinb.c. 7 divided the then existing philosophical literature. These writers are not jurists in the modern acceptation of the word, but rather authors philosophising on the nature of law, rewards and punishments, government, and political economy. The Catalogue in the Han-shu mentions only ten works of this class. The Tse-shu po-chia gives six works. The most celebrated so-called jurists are Kuan Chung, Yen Tse, Shang Yang, and Han Fei Tse, all well known to, and several times mentioned by, Wang Ch`ung, who has a special dislike for the criminalists Shang Yang and Han Fei Tse. Cf. Vol. I, chap. XXXV Strictures on Han Fei Tse.
19. . Ed. A. and C. write , which is less good.
20. The last clause from "if they wish . . ." seems to be a gloss which ought to be expunged, since it spoils the meaning:---officials being of equal talents with scholars, instead of devoting themselves to business, ought to study general principles.
21. A high officer of strong character at the court of the Han emperor Wên Ti,b.c. 179-157.
22. Shi-chi chap. 122. Both officers together enacted several laws, hence Sse-Ma Ch`ien's aversion, who like our philosopher had a strong inclination towards Taoism and in his introduction to the above chapter approvingly quotes chap. 57 of the Taotê-king "The more laws and edicts, the more robbers and thieves."
23. The new capital of the Chou dynasty in Honan.
26. Ed. B.:---. Ed. A. and C. write:--- . Wang Ch`ung is bragging somewhat here. Even in the best Chinese authors, let alone ordinary scholars, we do not discover ingenious thoughts by thousands.
27. The recital of the Chinese Classics is more a chanting than a reading.
28. This is greatly exaggerated.
29. Bribery and corruption seem to have been the canker of Chinese officials at all time.
30. The military spirit of the Chinese in the Han time was greater than it is now, for they were then just emerging from feudalism.
31. A place in Kiangsu.
32. The Shih-hsing-p`u calls him Tsung Chün (T. Shu Hsiang). The of our text is probably a misprint. He died in a.d. 76.
33. A place in Honan.
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|Published by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia|