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Chapter II. On the Preservation of Han: Issue Between Han Fei and Li Ssŭ1

Han Fei Tzŭ's Memorial to the King of Ch`in2 :—

"Han has served Ch`in for upwards of thirty years. To Ch`in she has formed a shielding barrier in case of war and made a restful carpet in time of peace. Thus, whenever Ch`in sends out crack troops to conquer new territory and Han 3 follows at her heels, Han incurs hatred from All-underHeaven, but every achievement belongs to Ch`in.

"Further, since Han pays tribute and renders services to Ch`in, she does not differ from a district or county of Ch`in. Of late, however, thy servant has in secret heard of the scheme of Your Majesty's ministers to raise an army to invade Han. Verily it is the Chaos that have been recruiting officers and soldiers and supporting the advocates of the Perpendicular Union with a view to uniting the troops of All-under-Heaven. And, with the clear understanding that unless Ch`in be weakened, the feudal lords would eventually see their ancestral shrines ruined, they plan to turn west and accomplish their task. This is not such a scheme as could be devised in the brief space of one day. Now supposing Ch`in left the impending harm Chao has been causing and spurned Han so trustworthy a vassal as a eunuch, then Allunder-Heaven would accordingly find reason for the scheme of the Chaos.

"Verily Han is a small country. To stand the pressure by All-under-Heaven from the four directions, the sovereign has to bear disgrace and the ministers have to undergo hardships, high and low having thus for years shared griefs with each other in mending garrisons, in making provision against strong foes, in keeping hoardings and savings, and in building walls and moats, in order to solidify their defence works. Therefore, though Ch`in starts invading Han now, she may be unable to take her in a year. Should Ch`in withdraw after taking only a city, she would fall into contempt by All-under-Heaven, who might in their turn crush her soldiers. Again, should Han rebel, Wey would join her and Chao would look to Ch`i for safety. 4 If so, Ch`in will eventually supply Chao with the strength of Han and Wey and let Ch`i unite all these powers to solidify the Perpendicular Union and thereby struggle for supremacy with Ch`in. The result would be Chao's fortune and Ch`in's misfortune, come what might.

"Indeed, if Ch`in on going forward to raid Chao cannot take and on turning backward to attack Han cannot win, her troops, however invulnerable, will become tired of field operations abroad and her transport corps will fall short of supplies 5 from home. Then, if Ch`in masses her distressed and weakened troops to cope with the twenty thousand chariots of Ch`i and Chao, 6 the result will not go in accordance with the original plan to destroy Han. 7 Thus, if everything be done according to the scheme of Your Majesty's ministers, 8 Ch`in will infallibly become the anvil 9 of the forces of All-under-Heaven, wherefore even though Your Majesty's reign may last as long as metals and rocks, there never will come the day to bring the world under one rule.

"Now, it is the stupid suggestion of thy humble servant to send an envoy to Ching and, by bribing the ministers in charge of her state affairs with precious presents, convince them of the reasons why Chao has been conspiring against Ch`in, and at the same time send a hostage to Wey to make her feel at ease, and then 10 to fall upon Chao. Consequently, Chao will not make any serious trouble in spite of her confederation with Ch`i. After the removal of the difficulties with these two countries, Ch`i and Chao, the problem of Han can be solved by means of an official despatch. Likewise, if we can at one effort doom the two countries to ruin, Ching and Wey will voluntarily surrender themselves to us.

"Hence the saying: `Weapons are dangerous implements, and should not be employed at random.' For illustration, Ch`in in vying with Chao has to challenge Ch`i and simultaneously break off with Han while she is as yet unsuccessful in winning the good-will of Ching and Wey, so that once she fails to win in a single combat, she will certainly suffer a tremendous adversity. Verily schemes are means whereby affairs are settled and therefore should be carefully scrutinized.

"The turning-point 11 of Ch`in, whether towards strength or towards weakness, will come to pass within this year. It is, indeed, a long time since Chao began to plot with other feudal lords against Ch`in. It will be a castastrophe to be defeated by the feudal lords in the first engagement with them. Again, it is a great risk to devise such a scheme as would excite the feudal lords' suspicion. Exposing these two carelessnesses to the world is not the right way to display our strength before the feudal lords. Therefore, with due reverence may thy humble servant pray Your Majesty to ponder over such eventualities and foresee that should the expedition against Han be utilized by the Perpendicular Unionists, it would be too late to regret the consequences?" 12

Li Ssŭ's Memorial to the King of Ch`in13:—

"Under His Majesty's edict the memorial submitted by the envoy from Han, in which he maintained that Han should not be taken, was handed down to thy servant, Ssŭ. Thy servant, Ssŭ, 14 however, considers the viewpoint presented therein extremely fallacious.

"What stomach and heart diseases are to man, that is Han to Ch`in. The man having stomach and heart diseases ordinarily only feels like standing in the mud which is sticky and cannot be brushed off; but as soon as he starts running fast, the trouble becomes serious. Similarly, Han, though she pays homage to Ch`in, is a constant menace to Ch`in. At the news of any kind of hostilities she cannot be trusted. Vying with Chao, Ch`in has sent Ching Su to Ch`i. Nobody is yet able to foretell the outcome. From thy servant's viewpoint, it remains uncertain whether the friendship of Ch`i and Chao will be broken by the mission of Ching Su. Should it remain unbroken, Ch`in 15 would have to exert all her forces to cope with the twenty thousand chariots. To be sure, Han has yielded not to Ch`in's kindness but to her strength. As soon as we move our forces against Ch`i and Chao, Han will make trouble as stomach and heart diseases do. Besides, if Han and Ching have any conspiracy against Ch`in and other feudal lords respond to it, Ch`in is then bound to encounter another humiliation as met at the fort of Mount Yao. 16

"Fei came here most probably with the intention to elevate 17 his own position in the Han Government by demonstrating his ability to save the Han State. By means of eloquent speeches and beautiful phrases he embellishes lies and falsifies plots in order thereby to fish for advantages from Ch`in and watch Your Majesty's mind on behalf of Han. Indeed, if the friendship of Ch`in and Han becomes intimate, Fei will be esteemed; which is his self-seeking scheme. Having found Fei in his memorial twisting so many beguiling contentions and showing his sophistic ability to the utmost, thy servant is afraid lest Your Majesty should be bewildered 18 by his eloquence and listen to his crooked viewpoint and consequently neglect the consideration of the actual conditions.

"Now thy servant has devised a stupid scheme as follows: Suppose Ch`in sends out troops without announcing the object of the expedition. Then the ministers in charge of Han's state affairs will consider serving Ch`in a good policy. Then thy servant will ask for Your Majesty's permission to interview the King of Han and make him come to visit Your Majesty. When he comes, Your Majesty retains him and never sends him away, but, instead, summons a few important ministers 19 from the Han Government and make bargains with them. In consequence we will be able to encroach upon Han farther inside. After that, if Your Majesty similarly orders Mêng Wu 20 to despatch the garrisons of the eastern districts to guard against enemy troops along the border without announcing their objective, the Ch`is will fear surprise invasion and accept the proposal of Ching Su. 21 As a result, before our forces march outside the boundary, we will capture Han while Ch`i will yield to our pressure. As soon as such news spreads among the feudal lords, the Chao Clan will be struck with terror while the Chings will be in doubt how to act and eventually decide to remain loyal to Ch`in. If the Chings make no move at all, Wey will not be sufficient to cause worries, so that we will be able to encroach upon the territories of the feudal lords in the way silkworms eat mulberry-leaves and cope with the forces of Chao. May Your Majesty ponder deliberately over the scheme of thy stupid servant with no hesitation?"

Ch`in accordingly sent Ssŭ to the court of Han. Li Ssŭ went to interview the King of Han, but could not have an audience of him. Therefore he sent in a memorial saying:—

"Of old, when Ch`in and Han combined their forces and united their purposes to refrain from invading each other, 22 nobody in the whole world dared to aggress. Such a situation lasted for several generations. Some time ago, when the five 23 feudal lords sent a joint-expedition against Han, Ch`in sent out troops to rescue her. Han being a central state, her territory scarcely stretches a thousand li. Thanks to the traditional policy she has pursued from generation to generation to serve Ch`in, 24 she has been able to occupy an equal position among the feudal lords in All-under-Heaven.

"Another time, however, when the five feudal lords launched a joint-attack upon Ch`in, Han in her turn joined them and stood at the front of the allied line to meet the forces of Ch`in beneath the Pass of the Armour Gorge. 25 With their armies worn out and their strength exhausted, the feudal lords were compelled to cease hostilities. 26 When Tu Ts`ang was Premier of Ch`in, he mobilized soldiers and despatched generals to revenge the wrong of the allies and attacked Ching 27 first. The Chancellor of Ching, feeling uneasy about it, said: `Han at first regarded Ch`in as unjust and yet kept fraternal terms with Ch`in in order jointly to menace the rest of the world. Then she betrayed Ch`in and took the lead of the allied forces in storming the Pass. Thus, centrally located, Han is so fickle that nobody knows what she is going to do next.' Thereupon the allies ceded to Ch`in ten cities from the best districts of Han as an apology for their wrong and thereby ceased hostilities.

"Thus, ever since Han turned against Ch`in, the country has been oppressed, her territory invaded, and her army weakened, till the present day. The reason therefor is: Her rulers have been listening to the flippant theories of wicked ministers but have never considered actual conditions. Even if the wicked ministers be put to death, it would be impossible for Han to recover her former strength.

"At present, Chao is massing officers and soldiers 28 with Ch`in as target. Therefore, she has sent envoys to Han to borrow the way through the country on the pretext of attacking Ch`in. Indeed, in her campaign against Ch`in she will naturally invade Han first and Ch`in next. Besides, thy servant has heard: `When the lips are gone, the teeth are cold.' Verily Ch`in and Han have to share the same hazard. And such an eventuality is now visible enough.

"Formerly, when Wey was about to despatch troops to attack Han, Ch`in ordered guards to escort her good-will envoys to Han. 29 Now thy servant, Ssŭ, is sent here by the King of Ch`in, he is not granted an audience. Therefore, he is afraid the present chamberlains of Your Majesty have inherited the scheme of the former wicked ministers and might once more cause Han territorial losses. If thy servant, Ssŭ, is granted no audience while here and has to go home to report to His Majesty the King of Ch`in on his mission, the relations between Ch`in and Han will certainly be severed. On this mission Ssŭ came to present the good-will of His Majesty the King of Ch`in to the court of Han and hopes to make the best plan for Your Majesty; which in no wise constitutes sufficient reason for Your Majesty's according thy humble servant such a cold reception as this. Thy servant, Ssŭ, has petitioned for an audience only to present his stupid counsels inside the court and then to be chopped into inches to death outside the court. Thereon may Your Majesty deliberate!

"Now supposing Your Majesty executed thy servant in Han, it would not do Your Majesty any good. Moreover, since Your Majesty turns no ear to thy servant's counsels, there will be fostered the seed of catastrophes. For once Ch`in marches her troops out without stopping, Han will then feel concern for the safety of her Altar of the Spirits of Land and Grain. After thy servant, Ssŭ, has had his corpse exposed in the market-place in the capital of Han, though Your Majesty might begin to think about thy servant's stupid but loyal counsels, it would be impossible to prevent disaster. After the frontiers have been raided and only the defence work of the capital is held and when the sounds of drums and bells are filling 30 up the ears, though Your Majesty might then apply the counsels of thy servant, Ssŭ, it will be too late.

"Moreover, though the limits of Han's military strength are generally known throughout the world, she is now betraying Ch`in. Indeed, if cities are evacuated and troops defeated, rebels among the rear forces will infallibly raid the capital. When the capital falls, the civilians will scatter. When the civilians scatter, no more troops can be recruited. Even though the capital might be well defended, yet Ch`in would send out all her men to besiege the only city of Your Majesty. When its communication with the outside world is cut off, it will be impossible to accomplish any scheme, till the situation becomes unsavable. As the consideration of the whole situation by the chamberlains is not thorough, 31 may Your Majesty deliberate on it carefully!

"If what thy servant, Ssŭ, has said contains anything that does not coincide with actual facts, may Your Majesty allow him to complete his memorial before the throne! After that it will not be too late to put him to death through official censure. The King of Ch`in neither indulges in drinking and eating nor amuses himself with travelling and sight-seeing, but is whole-heartedly scheming against Chao. Therefore he has sent thy servant, Ssŭ, here to speak on his behalf. Thy servant has petitioned for a personal interview because he feels he must parley with Your Majesty on matters of urgent importance.

"Now, if Your Majesty grants no audience to thy servant, the faith of Han never will be proved. Verily Ch`in will cease the campaign against Chao and move the army against Han. May Your Majesty, therefore, kindly ponder over the matter again and again and grant thy servant a definite answer?"


1. 存韓. The content of this chapter is not unique. The first part was the petition Han Fei Tzŭsubmitted to the King of Ch`in. It was followed by Li Ssŭ's memorial refuting Han Fei Tzŭ's arguments in favour of the preservation of the Han State and then by the memorial Li Ssŭ sent to the King of Han. These memorials were apparently compiled by subsequent editors.

2. Italics mine.

3. With Wang Hsien-shen 韓 should be below 而.

4. Ku Kuang-ts`ê proposed 厚 for 原.

5. With Kao Hêng 攻 below 内 should read 共 which means 共給.

6. With Wang Wei 而共 above 二萬乘 is superfluous.

7. Ku Kuang-ts'ê proposed 韓 for 趙.

8. Lu Wên-shao proposed 臣 for 人.

9. The target of military operations—the common enemy of the world.

10. With Yü Yüeh and Wang Hsien-shen 韓 below 從 is superfluous.

11. Ku Kuang-ts`ê and Wang Hsien-shen proposed 轉 for 韓.

12. With this paragraph ends Han Fei Tzŭ's memorial.

13. Italics mine.

14. With Kao Hêng 臣斯 should be supplied above 甚以爲不然 inasmuch as this sentence as well as the preceding one was uttered by Li Ssŭ in his memorial.

15. Wang Wei proposed 秦 for 趙.

16. In 247 b.c. under the command of Lord Hsin-ling of Wey the allied forces of Chao, Ch`u, Han, Wey, and Yen defeated the Ch`in invaders and drove them as far back as the Pass of the Armour Gorge.

17. With Kao Hêng 爲重 means 求重.

18. With Kao 淫 below 陛下 means 惑.

19. 社稷之臣 literally means "ministers from the Altar of the Spirits of Land and Grain", that is, such ministers as would risk their lives for the welfare of the state.

20. Wang Wei proposed 蒙武 for 象武.

21. His mission was to persuade Ch`i to break with Chao.

22. This means that they signed and observed a mutual non-aggression pact.

23. As a matter of fact, only Chao and Wey attacked Han in 273 b.c.

24. Han served Ch`in for several generations, but Ch`in saved Han only once.

25. Han joined Ch`i, Chao, Wey, Sung, and Central Hills, in attacking Ch`in in 296 b.c.

26. In reality Ch`in made territorial cessions to bring the war to an end.

27. In 278 b.c. General Pai Ch`i captured the capital of Ching.

28. With Wang Hsien-shen 兵 above 士卒 is superfluous.

29. Wey had sent envoys to Ch`in to conclude an alliance against Han.

30. With Wang Hsien-shen 盈 should be supplied above 於耳.

31. With Ku Kuang-ts`ê 用 should be 周.

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