<Previous Section>
<Next Section>

Chapter XIX. On Pretentions and Heresies: A Memorial1

It was Chao that, after boring the tortoise-shell, counting the bamboo slips, and finding the omen saying, "Great luck," attacked Yen. 2 It was Yen that, after boring the tortoise-shell, counting the bamboo slips, and finding the omen saying, "Great luck," attacked Chao. Chü Hsin, 3 when serving Yen, rendered no meritorious service, till the Altar of the Spirits of Land and Grain fell into danger. Tsou Yen, 4 when serving Yen, rendered no meritorious service, till the course of the state policy came to a deadlock. Chao 5 was first successful in Yen and later successful in Ch`i. Though her state once fell into confusion, yet she always held her prestige high and assumed herself adequate to rival Ch`in on an equal footing. It was not because Chao's tortoiseshell was effective and Yen's tortoise-shell was deceptive.

Chao once again bored the tortoise-shell, counted the bamboo slips, and invaded Yen in the north with a view to resisting Ch`in by molesting Yen. 6 The omen said, "Great luck." No sooner had her army marched out 7 through Ta-liang in Wey than Ch`in began to invade 8 Shang-tang in Chao. When her troops reached Li in Yen, she had lost six cities to Ch`in. When they reached Yang-ch`êng in Yen, Ch`in had taken Yeh in Chao. When P`ang Yüan turned Chao's army southward, practically all the strongholds of Chao had fallen into Ch`in's hands.

Thy servant, therefore, says: Chao's tortoise-shell, even though not able to foresee the outcome of her campaign in Yen, should have been able to foretell the victory of Ch`in's invasion at hand. Ch`in, believing in the great luck of the expedition, expanded her territory in fact and rescued Yen in the good cause. 9 Chao, believing in the great luck of the campaign, had her soil dismembered and her forces humiliated, till the sovereign, unable to realize his ambition, passed away. Again, this was not because Ch`in's tortoise-shell was effective and Chao's tortoise-shell was deceptive.

At the outset of the founding of the state, Wey faced the east for several years and completely conquered both T`ao and Wei. Then she turned westward for several years to cope with Ch`in and, as a result, lost land to Ch`in. This was not because such lucky stars as Fêng-lung, 10 Wu-hsing, 11 T`ai-yi, 12 Wang-hsiang, 13 Shê-t`i, 14 Liu-shên, 15 Wu-kua, 16 T`ien-ho, 17 Yin-ch`iang, 18 and Sui-hsing, 19 were for so many years 20 in the direction of Ch`in and to the west of Wey; nor was it because such unlucky stars as T`ien-ch`üeh, 21 Hu-ni, 22 Hsing-hsing, 23 Yung-hui, 24 and K`uei-t`ai, 25 were for so many years 26 in the direction of Wey and to the east of Ch`in. Hence the saying: "Tortoise-shells, bamboo slips, devils, and deities, are not qualified to guarantee victory; nor are the directions of the stars, whether right or left, front or back, qualified to decide the outcome of war." If so, to believe in them is more stupid than anything else.

In ancient times, the early kings exerted their forces to renovate the people and doubled their efforts to clarify the law. As the law was made clear, loyal subjects were encouraged. As punishment was made definite, wicked subjects were suppressed. It was Ch`in whose loyal subjects were encouraged and wicked ones were suppressed and whose territory was expanded and sovereign was glorified. It was the states to the east of Mount Hua whose officials formed factions, associated for selfish purposes and thereby obscured the right way of government and committed crookedness in secret, and whose territories were dismembered and sovereigns humiliated. That disorderly and weak states go to ruin, is known to everybody. That orderly and strong states attain supremacy has been the beaten track since antiquity.

Kou-chien, King of Yüeh, believed in the Ta-p`êng Tortoise and waged a war with Wu, but did not win, till finally he had to surrender himself as vassal and went personally to serve the King of Wu. 27 Upon his return, he threw away the tortoise, clarified the law, and renovated the people, with a view to giving Wu his revenge. In the end Fu-ch`a, King of Wu, was taken captive. 28 Therefore, whoever believes in devils and deities, neglects the law.

Similarly, whoever relies on other feudal lords, endangers his native soil. For instance, Ts`ao, relying on Ch`i, turned a deaf ear to Sung, so that when Ch`i attacked Ching, Sung destroyed Ts`ao. Hsing, 29 relying on Wu, took no advice from Ch`i, so that when Yüeh invaded Wu, Ch`i destroyed Hsing. Hsü, relying on Ching, would not listen to Wey, so that when Ching attacked Sung, Wey destroyed Hsü. Chêng, relying on Wey, would not listen to Han, so that when Wey attacked Ching, Han destroyed Chêng.

To-day, Han, being a small state, is relying upon big powers. Her sovereign, paying little attention to the law, takes every word from Ch`in. The above-mentioned small states, having relied upon Wey, Ch`i, Ching, and Wu for support, 30 went to ruin one after another. Thus reliance on others is not sufficient to extend the native soil. Yet Han never looks at these instances. Again, when Ching attacked Wey, she sent her troops to Wey's allies, Hsü and Yen. 31 When Ch`i attacked Jên and Hu and dismembered Wey's territory, the combined forces of the allies were not even sufficient to preserve Chêng. 32 Yet Han takes no notice of these instances. All these states, indeed, never clarified laws and prohibitions in order to govern their peoples, but relied on foreign powers entirely, and thereby drove their Altars of the Spirits of Land and Grain to extinction.

Thy servant, therefore, says: If measures for political order are clarified, the state, though small in size, will become rich. If reward and punishment are dignified and of faith, the people, though small in number, will become strong. If reward and punishment follow no regulations, the state, however large in size, will have weak soldiers. For the soil is no longer its territory, the people no longer its subjects. Without territory and people, even Yao and Shun never could reign supreme nor could the three dynasties 33 ever become strong. 34

Moreover, when the sovereign gives indiscriminately, ministers take inconsiderately. Those who discard legal rules, praise the early kings, and thereby illustrate the achievements of the ancients, are entrusted by the ruler with the state affairs. Thy servant, therefore, says: Such an act is to hope for ancient achievements and reward modern men with ancient rewards. In consequence, the sovereign gives wrongly, ministers take idly. If the sovereign gives wrongly, then ministers will expect undue rewards; if ministers take idly, meritorious services will not be held in high esteem. If men of no merit receive rewards, the state exchequer will run low and the people will resent it 35 ; if the state exchequer runs low and the people resent it, then nobody will apply his strength to his duties. Therefore, who over-uses reward loses the people; who over-uses penalty cannot hold the people in awe. If reward is not sufficient to encourage, and penalty is not sufficient to prohibit the people, then the state, however large in size, will fall into danger.

Hence the saying: "Who knows few things, should not be allowed to scheme for enterprises; who practises loyalty in small ways, should not be allowed to take charge of judicial administration."

Once King Kung of Ching and Duke Li of Chin fought at Yen-ling. The Ching troops suffered a defeat. King Kung was wounded. During the bloody battle, Tzŭ-fan, High Commissioner of the Army, was thirsty and wanted some drink. His attendant, 36 Shu Yang-ko, 37 brought a cup of wine and presented it to him. "Get away!" exclaimed Tzŭ-fan. "It's wine." "No," replied Yang-ko. Tzŭ-fan, accordingly, took it and drank it. Habitually fond of wine, Tzŭ-fan felt it so delicious that he could not keep it off his mouth till he became drunk and lay down asleep. Thinking of having another battle, and fixing the stratagems therefor, King Kung sent for Tzŭ-fan, but Tzŭ-fan gave heart-aching as excuse for his absence from the conference. Thereupon, King Kung rode in a carriage and went to see him. As soon as he entered the tent, he smelt wine and turned back right away, saying: "In to-day's battle, I, the King, was wounded at my eye. The only person I have looked to for help is the High Commissioner of the Army. Now that the High Commissioner of the Army is so drunk, he is certainly ruining the Altar of the Spirits of Land and Grain of the Ching State and feeling no concern for the welfare of my subjects. I, the King, have no reason to have him with me on the battle-field any longer." So he ceased hostilities and retreated. He then beheaded Tzŭ-fan as an expiatory punishment for his disgrace of His Majesty. Hence the saying: "The presentation of wine by Shu Yang-ko was not out of any malice against Tzŭ-fan, but his mind that really loved him with loyalty was only enough to put him to death." This is to practise loyalty in small ways and thereby betray loyalty in big ways. Hence the saying: "Small loyalty is the betrayer of big loyalty." Thus, if the ruler puts men loyal in small ways in charge of judicial administration, they will pardon criminal offences. To pardon culprits and thereby love them, is to enjoy temporary peace with the inferiors, whereas it stands in the way of governing the people.

At the time when Wey was clarifying and establishing laws and upholding mandates 38 without fail, men of merit were infallibly rewarded; men guilty of crimes were infallibly censured; her strength was sufficient to rectify All-underHeaven and her authority prevailed among the neighbours on the four sides. As soon as laws came to be neglected and rewards became arbitrary, the state was dismembered day after day. Similarly, at the time when Chao was enacting state laws and training a big army, she had a large population and a strong army and extended her territory into Ch`i and Yen. As soon as the state laws came to be neglected and the personnel in charge of the state affairs became weak, the state was dismembered day after day. Again, at the time when Yen was upholding the law and scrutinizing official decisions in detail, to the east she seized counties from the Ch`i State and to the south occupied the whole territory of Central Hills. When the upholders of the law died, the official decisions became useless, the attendants disputed with each other, and public opinion had to follow the lead of the inferiors; then the army became weak, the soil was dismembered, and the state fell under the spell of the surrounding enemies. Hence the saying: "Who clarifies the law, is strong; who neglects the law, is weak." The causes of strength and weakness are so vivid. Yet sovereigns of this age never attempt to foster the cause of strength. No wonder their states are doomed to ruin.

There is an ancient proverb saying: "The family that has a definite occupation, does not have to starve in time of famine; the state that has definite laws, does not go to ruin in case of emergency." Indeed, if the ruler discards definite laws and follows private opinions, then ministers will pretend to wisdom and ability; if ministers pretend to wisdom and ability, then laws and prohibitions will not hold good. In other words, when arbitrary opinions prevail, the way of governing the state dwindles. Therefore, the right way to govern the state is to remove the injurers of the law. In that case, there will be neither bewilderment by pretensions to wisdom and ability nor deception by pretensions to name and fame.

Of yore, Shun ordered officials to drain the Great Deluge. One official set himself to work before the order came, and accomplished merit. However, Shun executed him. Once Yü received the feudal lords in audience in the vicinity of Kuei-chi. As the Ruler of Fang-fêng arrived late, Yü beheaded him. From this viewpoint it is clear that if those who went ahead of orders were executed and those who lagged behind orders were beheaded, the ancients must have held conformity to orders in high esteem.

For illustration, if the mirror keeps clean and has no obstacle, then the beautiful and the ugly can be compared; if the balance keeps right and has no obstacle, then the light and the heavy can be weighed. Indeed, when you shake the mirror, the mirror cannot keep clear; when you shake the balance, the balance cannot keep even. The same is true of the law. Therefore, the early kings took Tao as the constant standard, and the law as the basis of government. For, if the basis is orderly, the name is exalted; if the basis is confused, the name is extinguished. In general, wisdom, ability, cleverness, and erudition, if properly employed, take effect; otherwise, all come to nought. Therefore, though wisdom and ability are exerted, 39 if the exertion is not proper, the right way of government cannot be communicated to people. Indeed, the true path and the law are absolutely reliable, wisdom and ability are liable to errors. Similarly, to hang up the balance and know the plane, and to turn round the compasses and know the circle, is an absolutely reliable way.

The intelligent sovereign makes the people conform to the law 40 and thereby knows 41 the true path; wherefore with ease he harvests meritorious results. To discard the compasses and trust to skilfulness, and to discard the law and trust to wisdom, leads to bewilderment and confusion. The violent sovereign lets the people pretend to wisdom but does not know the true path; wherefore in spite of his toil he gets no credit. If the sovereign discards laws and prohibitions and imprudently grants requests and audiences, then ministers will obtain posts from the sovereign for sale and accept pay 42 from their inferiors. For this reason, profits go to private families and authority rests with ministers. In consequence, the people have no mind to exert their strength to serve the sovereign but merely strive to develop friendships with their superiors. If the people are fond of developing friendships with their superiors, then goods and cash will flow upwards and proficient speakers will be taken into service. Should that be the case, men of merit would decrease, wicked ministers would advance, and talented ministers would withdraw, till the sovereign falls into bewilderment and does not know what to do, and the masses flock together but do not know whom to obey. This is the fault of discarding laws and prohibitions, leaving merits and services behind, exalting names and reputations, and granting requests and audiences.

The law-breakers, on the whole, always set fabrications and make excuses in order thereby to seek 43 intimate contact with the sovereign, and would also speak about events of rare occurrence in the world. This is the reason why the outrageous rulers and violent sovereigns are bewildered, and why able ministers and worthy counsellors are violated. For instance, ministers who praise Yi Yin and Kuan Chung for their rendering meritorious services and their being taken into service, 44 will have sufficient reason to act against the law and pretend to wisdom; those who praise Pi-kan and Tzŭ-hsü for their being loyal but killed, will have sufficient citations to display hasty persuasions 45 and forcible remonstrations. Indeed, if they now praise worthy and intelligent rulers such as the masters of Yi Yin and Kuan Chung and then blame outrageous and violent sovereigns such as the masters of Pi-kan and Tzŭ-hsü, then their forced analogies are not worth taking. 46 Such men must be suppressed. 47 The ruler makes laws so as to establish the standard of right. Yet most ministers of to-day exalt their private wisdom. 48 Those who condemn the law as wrong, regard heretic creeds as wise and establish their own standards of conduct beyond the boundary of the law. 49 To suppress such crooks, is the duty of the sovereign. 50

It is the duty of the sovereign 51 to make clear the distinction between public and private interests, enact laws and statutes openly, and forbid private favours. Indeed, to enforce whatever is ordered and stop whatever is prohibited, is the public justice of the lord of men. To practise personal faith to friends, and not to be encouraged by any reward nor to be discouraged by any punishment, is the private righteousness of ministers. Wherever private righteousness prevails, there is disorder; wherever public justice obtains, there is order. Hence the necessity of distinction between public and private interests.

Every minister cherishes both selfish motive and public justice. To refine his personality, improve his integrity, practise public creeds, and behave unselfish in office, 52 is the public justice of the minister. To corrupt his conduct, follow his desires, secure his personal interests, and benefit his own family, is the selfish motive of the minister. If the intelligent sovereign is on the Throne, every minister will discard his selfish motive and practise public justice. If the violent sovereign is on the Throne, every minister will cast public justice aside and act on his selfish motive. Thus, ruler and minister have different frames of mind.

The ruler keeps the minister in service with a calculating mind. So does the minister with a calculating mind serve the ruler. As both ruler and minister are equally calculating, each for himself, the minister never cares to injure his body and benefit the state, nor does the ruler want to injure the state and benefit the minister. By nature the minister would regard the injury of himself as unprofitable. By nature the ruler would think the injury of the state as merciless. In short, ruler and minister work together, each with a calculating mind.

In the face of a crisis, the minister may sacrifice his life, exert his wisdom, and apply his strength. He would do so only on account of the law.

Therefore, the early kings, in order to encourage ministers, made rewards clear, and, in order to overawe them, made penalties severe. For, when rewards and penalties were clarified, the people would risk their lives in the cause of their native soil; when the people were resolved to risk their lives, the army would become strong and the sovereign would be honoured. When reward and penalty were not clearly enacted, men of no merit would expect undue rewards; when men found guilty were pardoned by grace, the army would become weak and the sovereign would become ignoble. Therefore, the early kings and their worthy counsellors applied their strength and exerted their wisdom to make laws clear and penalties severe. Hence the saying: "That public and private interests must be clearly distinguished and laws and prohibitions must be carefully enacted, the early kings already understood."


1. 飾邪. The substance of this work seems to have been an admonitory memorial submitted to the King of Han.

2. In 242 b.c.

3. Yen's general captured by P`ang Yüan, commander of Chao's forces.

4. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê the career of Tsou Yen in Yen is not clear.

5. With Wang Wei 代 below 趙 is superfluous.

6. In 236 b.c., when Ch`in and Yen were allies.

7. In 236 b.c., when Ch`in and Yen were allies.

8. With Wang Hsien-shen 攻 and 出 should replace each other.

9. With Wang Wei 有有名 should read 又有名.

10. 豐隆, the star of the god of thundering.

11. 五行, the constellation having five stars around a circle.

12. 太乙, the star of a heavenly god.

13. 王相, the star commanding the motion of Wu-hsing.

14. 攝提. Both the right and left Shê-ti stars are located in the constellation of Bootes according to modern astronomers. For this I owe Mr. Ch`ên Tsun-Kuei.

15. 六神, stars of six gods.

16. 五括, five stars clustering in a certain constellation.

17. 天河, the Milky Way.

18. 殷搶, a star portending warfare and disturbance.

19. 歲星, Jupiter.

20. With Wang Hsien-shen 非 above 數年 in both cases is superfluous.

21. 天缺, the star of the god of lightning.

22. 弧逆, four stars in a certain constellation whose arc was said to be irregular.

23. 刑星, Venus.

24. 熒惑, Mars, which ancient Chinese like ancient Greeks regarded as the god of war. Thus it is said in the Records of the Heavens that the appearance of Yung-hui or planet Mars forecasts serious warfare, and that the ruler in whose direction it appears is bound to incur territorial losses.

25. 奎台, the constellation having sixteen stars resembling a person striding.

26. With Wang Hsien-shen 非 above 數年 in both cases is superfluous.

27. In 494 b.c.

28. In 473 b.c.

29. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 荊 should be 刑.

30. With Kao Hêng 魏恃齊荊為用 should be 恃魏齊荊吳為用.

31. 鄢 not 燕.

32. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê there are errors and hiatuses in these few sentences, but he proposed no way of improvement. I have kept the English rendering as intelligible and faithful to the original as possible.

33. Hsia, Yin, and Chou.

34. Clear enough, Han Fei Tzŭ regarded territory, people, and sovereignty as the three basic elements of a state.

35. With Wang Hsien-shen 望 should be 怨.

36. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê and Wang Hsien-shen 友 above 豎 is superfluous.

37. The Historical Records has 豎陽穀 in place of 豎穀陽 (vide supra, p. 70, n. 3).

38. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 行 below 憲令 is superfluous.

39. With Wang Hsien-ch`ien 單 means 盡.

40. With Wang Wei 法知 should be supplied above 道.

41. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 知 should precede 道.

42. With Wang Hsien-shen 賞 should read 償.

43. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 來 should be 求.

44. With Wang Hsien-shen 而見用 should be supplied below 故人臣稱伊尹管仲之功.

45. I propose the supply of 說 below 疾.

46. That is to say, because great men like Yi Yin and Kuan Chung do not appear in every age and because remonstrants are not always as loyal as Pi-kan and Tzŭ-hsü, it is improper for such ministers to compare themselves to Yi Yin and Kuan Chung or to Pi-kan and Tzŭ-hsü. If they do compare themselves to such great and loyal personages, they only pretend to worthiness and loyalty.

47. Hirazawa and the Waseda University Press for 若是者禁,君之立法以為是也 misread 若是者,禁君之立法以為是也.

48. 今人臣多立其私智.

49. 以法為非者,是邪以智,過法立智. With Kao Hêng the last character 智 should be 私.

50. 如是者禁,主之道也. For this the Japanese editors misread 如是者,禁主之道也.

51. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 禁 above 主 is superfluous.

52. With Wang Hsien-shen 正 above 居官 is superfluous.

<Previous Section>
<Next Section>
IATHPublished by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia