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夫肥沃墝埆，土地之本性也。肥而沃者性美，樹稼豐茂。墝而埆者性惡，深耕細鋤，厚加糞壤，勉致人功，以助地力，其樹稼與彼 肥沃者相似類也。地之高下，亦如此焉。以鍤鑿地，以埤增下，則其下與高者齊；如複增鍤，則夫下者不徒齊者也，反更為高，而其高者 反為下。使人之性有善有惡，彼地有高有下，勉致其教令之善，則將善者同之矣。善以化渥，釀其教令，變更為善。善則且更宜反過於往善， 猶下地增加鍤更崇於高地也。
世稱利劍有千金之價。棠溪、魚腸之屬，龍泉、太阿之輩，其本鋌，山中之恆鐵也。冶工鍛煉，成為銛利，豈利劍之鍛與煉， 乃異質哉？工良師巧，煉一數至也。試取東下直一金之劍，更熟鍛煉，足其火，齊其銛，猶千金之劍也。夫鐵石天然，尚為鍛煉者變易故質，況人含 五常之性，賢聖未之熟鍛煉耳，奚患性之不善哉？
天道有真偽。真者固自與天相應，偽者人加知巧，亦與真者無以異也。何以驗之？《禹貢》曰“璆琳琅玕”，此則土地所生真玉珠也 。然而道人消爍五石，作五色之玉，比之真玉，光不殊別，兼魚蚌之珠，與《禹貢》璆琳皆真玉珠也。然而隨侯以藥作珠，精耀如真，道士之教至，知 巧之意加也。
陽遂取火於天，五月丙午日中之時，消煉五石，鑄以為器，磨曆生光，仰以向日，則火來至。此真取火之道也。今妄 取刀劍月，摩拭朗白，仰以向日，亦得火焉。夫月非陽遂也，所以耐取火者，摩拭之所致也。今夫性惡之人，使與性善者同類乎？可率勉之令 其為善；使之異類乎，亦可令與道人之所鑄玉、隨侯之所作珠、人之所摩刀劍月焉，教導以學，漸漬以德，亦將日有仁義之操。
Chapter XXXI. The Forming of Characters (Shuai-hsing).
Speaking of human nature one must distinguish good and bad characters. The good ones are so of themselves, the wicked can be instructed and urged on to do good. A sovereign or a father seeing that his subjects or sons have good characters, provides for them, exhorts them, and keeps them out of the reach of evil. If the latter come into contact with it, they assist and shield them, and try to win them back to the cause of virtue. It is by the transition of virtue into wickedness and of wickedness into virtue that the characters are formed.
The duke of Shao admonished King Chêng saying:---"Now you for the first time carry out Heaven's decree. Oh! you are like a youth with whom all depends on his first years of life." 1
By youth is meant the age up to fifteen. If a youth's thoughts are directed towards virtue, he will be virtuous to the last, but if his propensities tend to badness, he will end badly.
The Shiking says "What can that admirable man be compared to?" 2 The Tso-chuan answers, "He is like boiled silk; dyed with indigo, it becomes blue; coloured with vermilion, it turns crimson." A youth of fifteen is like silk, his gradual changes into good or bad resembling the dying of boiled silk with indigo and vermilion, which gives it a blue or a red colour. When these colours have once set, they cannot be altered again. It is for this reason that Yang Tse3 wept over the by-roads and Mê Tse4 over boiled silk. They were sorrowful, because men having gone astray from the right path cannot be transformed any more. Human nature turns from good into bad, and from bad into good only in this manner. Creepers growing amidst hemp, stand upright without support by themselves. White silk yarn placed amongst dark, becomes black without boiling. Creepers are not straight by nature, nor is the black colour an attribute of silk yarn. The hemp affording support, and the dark silk lending the colour, creepers and white silk become straight and black. Human nature bears a resemblance to creepers and silk yarn. In a milieu favourable to transformation or colouring, it turns good or bad.
Wang Liang and Tsao Fu were famous as charioteers:---out of unruly and vicious animals they made good ones. Had they only been able to drive good horses, but incapable of breaking bad ones, they would have been nothing more than jockeys and ordinary equerries. Their horsemanship would not have been remarkable nor deserving of world-wide fame. Of Wang Liang the saying goes that, when he stepped into a chariot, the steeds knew no exhaustion.
Under the rule of Yao and Shun people were neither seditious nor ignorant. Tradition says that the people of Yao and Shun might have been invested with fiefs house by house, 5 whereas those of Chieh Kuei6 were worthy of death door by door. The people followed the way prescribed by the three dynasties. That the people of the holy emperors were like this, those of the wicked emperors otherwise, was merely the result of the influence of their rulers, not of the people's original nature.
The covetous hearing of Po Yi's7 fame became disinterested, and the weak resolute. The news of Liu Hsia Hui's8 reputation made the niggardly generous and the mean liberal. If the spread of fame alone could bring about such changes, what then must be the effect of personal intercourse and tuition?
The seventy disciples of the school of Confucius were each of them able to creditably fill the post of a minister of state. Conforming to the holy doctrines, they became accomplished scholars, and their knowledge and skill grew tenfold. This was the result of teaching; thus latent faculties were gradually developed. Before they joined Confucius' school, they sauntered about in the streets as quite ordinary and in no wise exceptional people. The most ungovernable of all was Tse Lu, who is generally reported to have been a common and unsteady individual. Before he became Confucius' pupil, he wore a feather hat and a pig skin belt. He was brutal and unmannerly. Whenever he heard some reading, he tossed up his feather hat, pulled his belt, and uttered such a yell, that he deafened the ears of the worthies and sages. Such was his wickedness. Confucius took him under his guidance. By degrees he polished and instructed him. The more he advanced in knowledge, the more he lost his fierceness, and his arrogance was broken. At last he was able to govern a state, and ranked in the four classes. 9 This is a shining example of how a man's character was changed from bad into good.
Fertility and sterility are the original nature of the soil. If it be rich and moist, the nature is good, and the crops will be exuberant, whereas, if it be barren and stony, the nature is bad. However, human efforts:---deep ploughing, thorough tilling, and a copious use of manure may help the land, so that the harvest will become like that of the rich and well watered fields. Such is the case with the elevation of the land also. Fill up the low ground with earth, dug out by means of hoes and spades, and the low land will be on a level with the high one. If these works are still continued, not only will the low land be on a level, but even higher than the high land. The high ground will then become the low one. Let us suppose that the human natures are partly good, partly bad; as the land may be either high or low. By making use of the good effects of education goodness can be spread and generalized. Reformation being pushed on and instruction persevered in, people will change and become still better. Goodness will increase and reach a still higher standard than it had before, just as low ground, filled up with hoes and spades, rises higher than the originally elevated ground.
T`se10 though not predestinated thereto, made a fortune. His capital increased without a decree from Heaven which would have him rich. The accumulation of wealth is due to the cleverness of the rich men of the time in making a fortune. Through this ability of theirs they are themselves the authors of their growing wealth without a special decree from Heaven. Similarly, he who has a wicked nature changes his will and his doings, if he happens to be taught by a Sage, although he was not endowed with a good character by Heaven.
One speaks of good swords for which a thousand chin11 are paid, such as the Yü-ch`ang12 sword of T`ang-ch`i13 and the T`ai-a sword 14 of Lung-ch`üan.15 Their blade is originally nothing more than a common piece of iron from a mountain. By the forger's smelting and hammering they become sharp-edged. But notwithstanding this smelting and hammering the material of good swords is not different from others. All depends on excellent workmanship and on the blade-smith's ability in working the iron. Take a sword worth only one chin from Tung-hsia, heat it again, and forge it, giving it sufficient fire, and smoothing and sharpening its edge, and it will be like a sword of a thousand chin. Iron and stones are made by Heaven, still being worked, they undergo a modification of their substance. Why then should man, whose nature is imbued with the five virtues, despair of the badness of his character, before he has been thoroughly worked upon by Worthies and Sages?
The skillful physicians that in olden days were held in high esteem, knew the sources where virulent diseases sprang from, and treated and cured them with acupuncture and medicines. Had they merely known the names of the complaints, but done nothing besides, looking quietly on, would there have been anything wonderful in them? Men who are not good have a disease of their nature. To expect them to change without proper treatment and instruction would be hopeless indeed.
The laws of Heaven can be applied in a right and in a wrong way. The right way is in harmony with Heaven, the wrong one owes its results to human astuteness, but cannot in its effects be distinguished from the right one. This will be shown by the following. Among the "Tribute of Yü" 16 are mentioned jade and white corals. 17 These were the produce of earth and genuine precious stones and pearls. But the Taoists melt five kinds of stones, and make five-coloured gems out of them. Their lustre, if compared with real gems, does not differ. Pearls in fishes and shells are as genuine as the jade-stones in the Tribute of Yü. Yet the Marquis of Sui18 made pearls from chemicals, which were as brilliant as genuine ones. 19 This is the climax of Taoist learning and a triumph of their skill.
By means of a burning-glass one catches fire from heaven. Of five stones liquefied on the Ping-wu20 day of the 5th moon an instrument is cast, which, when polished bright, held up against the sun, brings down fire too, in precisely the same manner as, when fire is caught in the proper way. Now, one goes even so far as to furbish the crooked blades of swords, till they shine, when, held up against the sun, they attract fire also. Crooked blades are not burning-glasses; that they can catch fire is the effect of rubbing. Now, provided the bad-natured men are of the same kind as good-natured ones, then they can be influenced, and induced to do good. Should they be of a different kind, they can also be coerced in the same manner as the Taoists cast gems, Sui Hou made pearls, and people furbish the crooked blades of swords. Enlightened with learning and familiarized with virtue, they too begin by and by to practise benevolence and equity.
When Huang Ti fought with Yen Ti21 for the empire, he taught bears, leopards, and tigers to combat for him in the wilds of Fan-chüan. After three battles he gained his end, and Yen Ti was routed.
Yao yielded the empire to Shun. Kun,22 one of his vassals, desired to become one of the three chief ministers, but Yao did not listen to this request. Thereupon Kun became more infuriated than even ferocious animals are, and wished to rebel. The horns of animals, all in a line, served him as a rampart, and their lifted tails were his banners. They opposed and tackled their foe with the utmost determination and energy.---If birds and beasts, which are shaped otherwise than man, can nevertheless be caused to fight, how much more so man's own kindred? Proceeding on this line of argument we have no reason to doubt that (by music) the multitudinous animals were made to dance, the fish in the ponds to come out and listen, and the six kinds of horses 23 to look up from their fodder. 24
The equalization of what varies in different categories as well as the differentiation of what is the same in similar classes, does not depend on the thing itself, but is man's doing.
It is by instruction that living beings are transformed. Among the Three Miao tribes 25 some were honest, some disreputable. Yao and Shun made them all alike by conferring the boon of instruction upon them.
Suppose the men of Ch`u and Yüeh26 to settle down in Chuang or Yü.27 Having passed there months and years, they would become pliant and yielding, and their customs changed. They say that the people of Ch`i are soft and supple, those of Ch`in unsteady and versatile, of Ch`u lively and passionate, of Yen28 dull and simple. Now let us suppose that people of the four States alternately went to live in Chuang and Yü for a certain time, the prolonged stay in a place remote from their country would undubitably bring about a change of their character.
A bad natured man's heart is like wood or stone, but even wood and stone can be used by men, why not what really is neither wood nor stone? We may hope that it will still be able to understand the precepts of superior men. Only in the case of insanity, when a person sings and weeps in the streets, knowing neither east nor west, taking no heed of scorching heat or humidity, unaware of his own madness and unconscious of hunger and satiety, nature is deranged and upset, and there is no help. As such a man sees nothing before him, he is afraid of nothing.
Therefore the government does not abolish the officers of public instruction or dispense with criminal judges, wishing thereby to inculcate the observance of the moral laws. The schools guide people at first, the laws control and restrain them later on.
Even the will of a Tan Chu might be curbed; the proof is that the soldiers of a big army are kept in order by reproofs. Men and officers are held in check to such an extent, that they look at death as a return.
Ho Lu29 put his soldiers to the test by the "Five Lakes." 30 They all cut their arms with swords, that the blood trickled down to the ground. Kou Chien31 also gave his men a trial in the hall of his inner palace. Those who jumped into the fire and perished, were innumerable. Human nature is not particularly fond of swords and fire, but the two rulers had such a power over their men, that they did not care for their lives. It is the effect of military discipline to make light of cuts and blood.
Mêng Pên32 was bold, but on hearing the order for the army he became afraid. In the same way the officers who were wont to draw their swords to fight out, whose merits were first, went through all the ceremonial, and prostrated themselves (before the emperor), when Shu Sun T`ung33 had fixed the rites. Imperious and overbearing first, they became obedient and submissive. The power of instruction and the influence of virtue transform the character. One need not sorrow that a character is bad, but it is to be regretted, if it does not submit to the teachings of the sages. Such an individual owes his misfortune to himself.
Beans and wheat are different from rice and millet, yet their consumption satisfies the appetite. Are the natures of low and superior men then of a different kind? They resemble the Five Grains, 34 all have their use. There is no fundamental difference between them, only their manifestations are unlike. The fluid men are endowed with, is either copious or deficient, and their character correspondingly good or bad. The wicked have received but a small dose of kindness, the irascible, plenty of temper. If kindness be unsufficient, people do wrong, and there is not much hope for an improvement. With plenty of temper, people become violent, and have no sense of justice. Moreover, their feeling of sympathy is defective, joy and anger do not happen at the proper time, and they have baseless and irreasonable fears. Reckless men like that commit outrages, therefore they are considered bad.
Man has in his body the Five Qualities 35 and the Five Organs. 36 If he got too little of them, or if they are too small, his actions do not attain to goodness. 37 Man himself is either accomplished or deficient, but accomplishment and deficiency do not mean a difference of organisation. Use leaven in big, or in small quantities, and the result will be similar. In rich as well as in poor wine there is the same leaven. Good men as well as bad ones are permeated by the same original fluid. According to its greater or smaller volumen the mind of the individual is bright or dull.
Hsi Mên Pao would tighten his leathern belt, whenever he wanted to relax himself. Tung An Yü loosened his girdle strings, when he was going to rouse himself. 38 Yet neither passion nor indolence is the right medium. However, he who wears a belt or a girdle on his body is properly dressed. When the question arises, how deficiencies can be made good by means of belts and strings, the names of Hsi Mên Pao and Tung An Yü must be mentioned together. 39
Houses of poor, wretched people are not in a proper state. They have holes in the walls under the roof, to which others take objection. When rich and well-to-do people build houses, they have the walls made in a way, that they find there real shelter. The whole house is in good repair, and nobody could say anything against it. 40
In Wei41 the land was divided in lots of a hundred mow, in Yeh42 alone the lots measured two hundred mow. Hsi Mên Pao irrigated his land with water from the Chang43 and made it so fertile, that it yielded one bushel 44 per mow. Man's natural parts are like the fields of Yeh, tuition and education, like the water from the Chang. One must be sorry for him that cannot be transformed, but not for a man whose character it is difficult to govern.
In the streets of the city of Loyang45 there was no water. It was therefore pulled up from the Lo by watermen. 46 If it was streaming quickly day and night, it was their doing. From this point of view kindness and justice must increase manifold in him who comes into close contact with an excellent man. 47Mencius' mother changed her domicile, for she had ascertained this truth. 48
Water amongst men is dirty and muddy, in the open country it is clear and limpid. It is all the same water, and it flows from the confines of heaven; its dirtiness and limpidity are the effects of its environments.
Chao T`o, king of the southern Yüeh, was originally an honourable man of the Han State, 49 but he took to the habits of the southern barbarians, disregarded the imperial commands, dressed his hair in a tuft, and used to squat down. He was so fond of this, as if it had been his nature. Lu Chia spoke to him of the virtues of the Han, and impressed him with their holy power, so that he suddenly rose up, and felt remorse. He received the commands of his sovereign, and communicated them to the savages. Against his hair-dress and to his squatting he felt something like a natural repugnancy. First he acted in the aforesaid manner, afterwards thus. It shows what force instruction also has, and that nature is not the only factor.
1. Shuking, The Announcement of Shao V, Bk. XII, 18-19. Wang Ch`ung reads "alas!" instead of .
2. Shiking I, Bk. IV, Ode IX, 2 where we read now "what can he give?" instead of "what can he be compared to?"
3. Yang Chu, the philosopher of egoism. The story referred to here is told in Lieh Tse VIII, 10v. A sheep had been lost on by-roads. When Yang Chu heard of it, he became thoughtful and changed countenance. No mention is made of his having wept. Wang Ch`ung seems to have quoted from Huai Nan Tse XVII, 25 v, who expressly mentions Yang Tse's weeping.
4. Mê Ti, the philosopher of altruism. We read in his works:---Mê Tse chap. 3, p. 4 (What colours) and in the Lü-shih-ch`un-ch`iu chap. 2, No. 4, p. 8 (Colouring) that Mê Tse witnessing the dying of silk said, heaving a sigh, "Dyed blue, it turns blue, and dyed yellow, it turns yellow" and then he goes on to explain, how man also takes the colour of his environments, especially of those with whom he has intercourse, wherefore "colouring" is a very serious affair. Nothing is said about his having shed tears.
5. So excellent were they all.
6. The last emperor of the Hsia dynasty, the type of a tyrant.
7. Po Yi and Shu Ch`i, two brothers famous for their disinterestedness in refusing to ascend the throne of their father, lest the other should be deprived of it. Mayers No. 543.
8. An official of the State of Lu famous for honesty and upright character, often mentioned by Confucius.
9. The four classes, into which the ten principal followers of Confucius were divided. Cf. Analects XI, 2.
10. A disciple of Confucius, whose full name was Tuan Mu T`se alias Tse Kung, possessed of great abilities. He became a high official.
11. The name of the ancient copper coins, which first were called "metal," not "gold," as may be seen from the works on coinage.
12. This sword is said to have been fabricated by the famous blade-smith Ou Yeh in the kingdom of Yüeh.
13. A place in Honan.
14. This sword is the work of Ou Yeh of Yüeh and Kan Chiang of Wu, both celebrated sword-cutlers, who wrought it for the King of Ch`u.
15. A place most likely in Chekiang, called "Sword river" under the Sung dynasty. Playfair, Cities No. 4650.
16. The Tribute of Yü, Yü-kung, is also the name of a book of the Shuking.
17. Cf. Shuking Pt. III, Book I (Legge, Classics Vol. III, Pt. I, p. 127).
18. A principality in Hupei.
19. The time of this Marquis of Sui is unknown. His pearls are very famous in Chinese literature. According to one tradition the Marquis found a wounded snake, and cured it. Out of gratitude the snake presented him with a precious pearl, which shone at night. Wang Ch`ung makes the Marquis produce artificial pearls himself.
20. A number of the sexagenary cycle used for the designation of years, months, and days.
21. Yen Ti is usually identified with Shên Nung and said to have been his predecessor, but we do not learn that he fought with Huang Ti for the empire.
22. According to Kang Hi, Kun = would be the same as Kun, Yao's Minister of Works, who in vain endeavoured to drain the waters of the great flood. His son Yü, who subsequently became emperor, succeeded at last in regulating the water courses. Here we seem to have a different tradition.
23. Six kinds of horses were distinguished in the studs of the Chou emperors, according to their height. Tcheou Li (Chou Li), trad. par Biot, Vol. II, p. 262.
24. There are many myths illustrative of the power of music. Hu Pa, , played the guitar, so that the fish came out to listen, and Po Ya, , played the lute in such an admirable way, that the horses forgot their fodder, and looked up to harken. Han-shih-wai ch`uan, quoted by the P`ei-wên-yün fu chap. 96 under .
25. The aborigines of China.
26. They were settled in modern Hukuang and Chekiang.
27. An allusion to Mencius Bk. III, Pt. II, chap. 6, where the difference of the dialects of Ch`i and Ch`u is pointed out. Chuang and Yü were two quarters in the capital of Ch`i.
28. The Ch`i State was in northern Shantung, Ch`in in Shensi, and Yen in Chili. The characteristic of the inhabitants of these provinces is partly still true to-day.
29. King of the Wu State, 514-496 b.c.
30. Another name of the T`ai-hu lake in Kiangsu, which consisted of five lakes, or five connected sheets of water.
31. The ruler of the Yüeh State, 496 b.c., who overthrew the kingdom of Wu.
32. A hero of enormous strength in the Chou epoch.
33. An official of great power under Han Kao Tsu, who subdued the arrogance and superciliousness of the princes and nobles by the ceremonial they were made to undergo at an audience before the new emperor. Shi-chi chap. 99, p. 7v.
34. Hemp, millet, rice, wheat, and beans.
35. The Five Cardinal Virtues:---benevolence, justice, propriety, knowledge, and truth.
36. The heart, the liver, the stomach, the lungs, and the kidneys.
37. Human character, to wit the Five Qualities, depends on the volumen of the original fluid, the vital force, which shapes the Five Organs. According as they are bigger or smaller, the nature of the individual is different. This idea finds expression in the Chinese language. A man with a big heart, , is generous and liberal, with a small heart, , mean. The fluid of the stomach, , is equivalent to anger.
38. Cf. p. 122.
39. In both cases the belt or girdle is the same indispensible part of a gentleman's toilet, but the use made of it, and the results achieved, are quite different. The same may be said of human nature.
40. Human nature is like those houses. They are all houses, and serve the same purpose, but some are in good repair, others in a wretched state.
41. An ancient State in North Honan and South Chili.
42. The modern Chang-tê-fu.
43. A large tributary of the river Wei in Honan, near Chang-tê-fu.
44. A Chung, an ancient measure equal to 4 pecks = 1 bushel, as some say. According to others it would be as much as 34 pecks.
45. The capital of the Chou dynasty in Honan, the modern Honanfu.
46. Probably with pump-works.
47. The excellent man is like the river Lo. Streams of kindness and justice part from him.
48. She changed her domicile for the purpose of saving her son from the bad influences of the neighbourhood.
49. Chao T`o went to Yüeh, modern Kuang-tung, as general of Ch`in Shih Huang Ti, and subsequently became king of the southern barbarians, whose customs he adopted. Lu Chia was sent to him by the first emperor of the Han dynasty to receive his declaration of allegiance.
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