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其本皆起人間有非，故盡思極心，以機世俗。世俗之性，好奇怪之語，說虛妄之文。何則？實事不能快意，而華虛驚耳動心也。 是故才能之士，好談論者，增益實事，為美盛之語；用筆墨者，造生空文，為虛妄之《傳》。聽者以為真然，說而不舍；覽者以為實事，傳而不絕。 不絕，則文載竹帛之上；不舍，則誤入賢者之耳。至或南面稱師，賦姦偽之說；典城佩紫，讀虛妄之書。
今吾不得已也。虛妄顯於真，實誠亂於偽，世人不悟，是非不定，紫朱雜廁，瓦玉集糅，以情言之，豈吾心所能忍哉！ 衛驂乘者越職而呼車，惻怛發心，恐（土）〔上〕之危也。夫論說者閔世憂俗，與衛驂乘者同一心矣。愁精神而幽魂魄，動胸中之靜氣，賊年損壽， 無益於性，禍重於顏回，違負黃、老之教，非人所貪，不得已，故為《論衡》。文露而旨直，辭姦而情實。其《政務》言治民之道。《論衡》諸篇， 實俗間之凡人所能見，與彼作者無以異也。
或曰：聖人作，賢者述，以賢而作者，非也。《論衡》、《政務》，可謂作者。 非曰作也，亦非述也，論也。論者、述之次也。五經之興，可謂作矣。《太史公書》、劉子政序、班叔皮傳，可謂述矣。桓（山君）〔君山〕《新論》， 鄒伯奇《檢論》，可謂論矣。今觀《論衡》、《政務》，桓、鄒之二論也，非所謂作也。
造端更為，前始未有，若倉頡作書、奚仲作車是也。《易》言伏羲作八卦，前是未有八卦，伏羲造之，故曰作也。文王圖八，自演為六十四，故曰衍。謂《論衡》之成，猶六十四卦，而又非也。六 十四卦以狀衍增益，其卦溢，其數多。今《論衡》就世俗之書，訂其真偽，辯其實虛，非造始更為，無本於前也。儒生就先師之說，詰而難之； 文吏就獄卿之事，覆而考之，謂《論衡》為作，儒生、文吏謂作乎？
漢家極筆墨之林，書論之造，漢家尤多。陽成子（張）〔長〕作《樂》，楊子雲造《玄》，二經發於臺下， 讀於闕掖，卓絕驚耳，不述而作，材疑聖人，而漢朝不譏。況《論衡》細說微論，解釋世俗之疑，辯照是非之理，使後進曉見然否之分， 恐其廢失，著之簡牘，祖經章句之說，先師奇說之類也。其言伸繩，彈割俗傳。俗傳蔽惑，偽書放流，賢通之人，疾之無已。孔子曰： 「詩人疾之不能默，丘疾之不能伏。」是以論也。
俗傳既過，俗書又偽。若夫鄒衍謂今天下為一州，四海之外有若天下者九州。《淮南書》言共工與顓頊爭為天子，不勝， 怒而觸不周之山，使天柱折，地維絕。堯時十日並出，堯上射九日。魯陽戰而日暮，援戈麾日，日為（郤）〔卻〕還。世間書傳，多若等類， 浮妄虛偽，沒奪正是。心濆涌，筆手擾，安能不論？
Chapter II. Replies in Self-Defense (Tui-tso).
Some one might put the following question: The worthies and sages were not born for nothing; decidedly their minds were required. How is it that from Confucius and Mê Ti down to Hsün Tse1 and Mencius they all acted as teachers and left their works to posterity?
Our reply is that the sages wrote the Classics, and the worthies composed their records. They rectified the depraved customs, and enjoined upon the people to revert to truth and sincerity. The thirteen thousand chapters of the Six Departments of Literature 2 increased the good and diminished the evil, sometimes restricting, sometimes expanding, and urging on the stragglers, with a view to leading them back from their by-paths into the right way.
Confucius wrote the Ch`un-ch`iu in consequence of the depravity of the people of Chou. He, therefore, established the smallest merit, and blamed the slightest wrong; he removed every disorder, and re-established propriety. The ways of men as well as those of the sovereign were well ordered by him. To check extravagant and mean practices one must take every precaution, and use every means. When a dyke breaks, and no measures are taken, there will be a disastrous inundation. When a net opens, and is not shut again, the animals caught in it are lost. Had the ways of Chou not degenerated, the people would not have been uncultured, and had the people not been uncultured, the Ch`un-ch`iu would not have been written.
If the doctrines of Yang Chu and Mê Ti3 had not perverted the traditions, the records of Mencius would not have been published. Had the Han State not been small and weak, and its system of government corrupt, Han Fei Tse's book would not have appeared. 4 Had Kao Tsu not contested that the conquerors of empires had not alighted from their horses nor changed their martial habits, Lu Chia would not have written his memorials. 5 If the truth had not been lost everywhere, and scientific researches not been in a state of great confusion, the discussions of Huan Tan would not have come forth.
Ergo, when worthies and sages write something, they do not do so for nothing, but have their good reasons. Thus their writings are by no means purposeless, but conducive to reforms, and their reforms to re-establish the right principles.
Accordingly the Han created the censorate to review books and examine their contents. Tung Chung Shu wrote a book on magical arts, in which he spoke much about calamitous events as being caused by the faults of the government. When the book was complete, and the text revised, it was presented to the Imperial Court of the Han. Chu Fu Yen from jealousy slandered the book in a memorial to the throne. The emperor handed Tung Chung Shu over to the tribunal, and the judges declared that he was very stupid, and deserved to die, but the emperor pardoned him. Hsiao Wu Ti did not punish Tung Chung Shu for his remarks on calamities, on the contrary, he honoured him. How much more would he have done so for Tung Chung Shu's inoffensive utterances, for his researches into the nature of the fundamental principles and his collection of old and true sayings?
As long as a wise man holds an official position in this world, he is perfectly loyal to his sovereign, and propagates his reforms to enlighten the government. When he has retired, he still teaches and criticises to rouse the simple-minded who have gone astray. They cannot find their way back to the right path, their principles are shallow, and their doings wrong. Unless we scholars hurry to their rescue, they come to perdition, and do not awake from their slumber. This has prompted me to write the Lun-hêng.
In a great many books reality has no place left: falsehood and immorality triumph over truth and virtue. Therefore, unless such lies be censured, specious arguments cannot be suppressed, and, as long as they spread, truth does not reign. For this reason the Lun-hêng weighs the words, whether they be light or heavy, and holds up a balance for truth and falsehood. It does not trouble about polishing the phrases and embellishing the style, or consider this of great importance.
It has its raison d'être in the innate human weakness. Consequently it criticises the common people most vigorously. By nature these people are very prone to strange words and to the use of falsehoods. Why? Because simple truisms do not appeal to the imagination, whereas elegant inventions puzzle the hearers, and impress their minds. Therefore, men of genius, who are fond of discussions, will magnify and exaggerate the truth, and use flowery language. Masters of style, they simply invent things, and tell stories, which never happened. Their hearers believe in them, and are never tired of repeating them. Their readers take these stories for facts, and one transmits them to the other in an unbroken chain so, that at last the words are engraved on bamboo and silk. Being repeated over and over again, these stories impose even upon the wise. May be that even His Majesty honours such a man as a teacher, and spreads his forgeries, and that magistrates and wearers of red girdle pendants 6 all read these inventions.
He who knows how to discriminate between truth and falsehood, must feel a pang at it; why should he not speak? Mencius was grieved that the discussions of Yang Chu and Mê Ti did great harm to the cause of Confucianism, therefore he used plain and straightforward language to recommend what was right, and to reject what was wrong. People fancied that he was a controversialist, but Mencius replied, "How should I be a controversialist? I cannot do otherwise." 7
Now I also cannot do otherwise. Lies and folly appear in the garb of truth, veracity and sincerity are superseded by imposture. People are in a state of apathy, right and wrong are not determined, purple and vermilion confounded, 8 and tiles mixed up with jade-stones. As regards my feelings, how could my heart endure such a state? The lackey in Wei riding the outer horse transgressed his functions, crying out for the carriage. His sympathy carried him away, for he was apprehending a danger for his prince. 9 Critics commiserate the world, and feel sorry for its deceptions, a sentiment similar to that of the outrider in Wei. A sorrowful mind and a melancholy spirit disturb the tranquil fluid in our breast, which tells upon our years, shortens our span, and is not beneficial to our life. It is a greater misfortune than that suffered by Yen Hui,10 and against the rules of Huang Ti and Lao Tse, and nothing which men like to do. But there was no help, therefore I wrote the Lun-hêng. Its style is indifferent, but the meaning all right, the diction bad, but the feeling good. The Chêng-wu11 treats of the system of government; all the chapters of the Lung-hêng may be read by ordinary people, for it is like writings of other scholars.
As for the Nine Inventions and the Three Exaggerations, and the essays on Death and on Ghosts, 12 the world has long been led astray by the errors exposed therein, and people did not become aware of it.
When a ruler goes wrong, representations must be addressed to the highest place, when the citizens are blindfold, one speaks to them. If this be of effect, their leader will learn also. I fervently desire to rouse the misguided minds, and to teach them, how to tell the full from the hollow. As soon as the difference of reality and emptiness is fully understood, specious arguments will be discarded, and then the progress made in true and real knowledge will daily increase.
Some say that the sages create, whereas the worthies relate, and that, if worthies create, it is wrong. The Lun-hêng and the Chêng-wu are creations, they think. These works are neither creations nor relations. The Five Classics can be regarded as creations. The History of the Grand Annalist, 13 the Introduction of Liu Tse Chêng,14 and the Records of Pan Shu P`i15 may be called relations, and the "New Reflections"16 of Huan Chün Shan and the "Critical Reflections"17 of Tsou Po Chi,18 discussions. Now the Lun-hêng and the Chêng-wu are like the two Reflections of Huan Chün Shan and Tsou Po Chi, and not what they call creations.
To produce something new that did not exist in the past, as T`sang Hsieh19 invented writing and Hsi Chung,20 chariots, is creating. The Yi-king says of Fu Hsi that he created the eight diagrams. They did not exist before, and Fu Hsi made them, 21 hence the term creating is used. Wên Wang evolved these eight pictures, and brought their number up to sixty-four, which is called amplifying. To say that the composition of the Lun-hêng is similar to that of the sixty-four figures is not correct either. In regard to the sixty-four diagrams, these figures were increased by an amplification of their forms, and their number was thus augmented. Now in the Lun-hêng the current literature is taken up with the object of defining right and wrong and distinguishing between truth and falsehood. It is not an original production of something that did not exist previously. The Confucianists take the sayings of former teachers and criticise them, as clerks subject the decisions of the lord chief-justice to a new examination. If the term creating be applied to the Lun-hêng, would the same word be used of the Confucianists and the clerks?
In their reports to the throne and their memorials the memorialists use to propose useful measures. There is always the desire to help the government. Now the creators of classical works are like those memorialists. Their words proceed from the innermost heart, and it is their hand which reduces them to writing. Both cases are identical. In regard to those who address the emperor one speaks of memorialising, whereas for those records another word has been adopted viz. writing.
During the first years of Chien-ch`u,22 there was a great dearth in Chung-chou.23 The people from Yin-ch`uan24 and Ju-nan25 had to leave their homes, and were scattered in all directions. His Holy Majesty felt very much distressed, and many edicts were issued. The writer of the Lun-hêng presented a report 26 to the prefect, urging that all dissipations and extravagancies should be prohibited in order to provide for the time of need. His suggestions were not accepted however. He went home and entitled the draft of his report "Provisions for Times of Want."
When the grain is used for the destillation of wine, robbery is rampant, and as long as there is much drunkeness, robberies never cease. In a memorial sent to the prefect the writer proposed that the use of spirits should be interdicted, and afterwards gave to this report the name "Prohibition of Spirits." From this it may be seen that the writing of the classical authors is like that of memorialists. Those reports are regarded as independent creations presented to the emperor. Reports and memorials to the throne are always creations.
In the Ch`êng of Chin, the T`ao-wu of Ch`u,27 and the Ch`unch`iu of Lu persons and things are all different. As regards the diagrams ch`ien and k`un of the Yiking, the yuan28 of the Ch`un-ch`iu and the mystical principle of Yang Tse Yün, they use diverse terms for divination and time periods. From this we may infer that the Lun-hêng and the Chêng-wu have the same aim as the memorials of T`ang Lin and the essays of Ku Yung.
The Han time is very rich in literary ralents, and the number of essays is especially large, Yang Ch`êng Tse Chang produced the Yüeh-ching29 and Yang Tse Yün the T`ai-hsüan-ching. These two books were current in the court and read in the side-halls. The impression they caused was enormous, they were not relations but creations, and people doubted, whether the ingenious authors were not sages. The court found nothing to blame in them. Now, fancy the Lun-hêng with its minute discussions and thorough arguments, intended to explain the common errors and elucidate the right and wrong principles so, that future generations can clearly see the difference between truth and falsehood! Lest all this be lost, I have committed it to the writing tablets: remarks on chapters and passages of the classics of our ancestors, and on queer sayings of former masters. I offer critical remarks and reject many common traditions. The delusion caused by such traditions and the spread of so many lying books give endless pain to the knowing. Confucius said:---"When a man is touched by poetry, he cannot remain silent. When I am moved, I cannot keep quiet, but must speak."
Jade is being confounded with stones. People cannot distinguish it, as for instance the inspector of works in Ch`u took jade for a stone, and suddenly ordered Pien Ho to have his foot cut off. 30 Right is being turned into wrong, and falsehood into truth. How is it possible not to speak of it?
As the common traditions are full of exaggerations, so the common books teem with falsehoods. Tsou Yen e.g. pretends that our world 31 is one continent, and that beyond the four seas there are still nine other continents like our world. 32Huai Nan Tse says in his book that, when Kung Kung, fighting for the throne with Chuan Hsü, was not victorious, he ran against Mount Pu-chou in his wrath so, that he caused the "Pillar of Heaven" to break, and the confines of the earth to be smashed. 33 In Yao's time ten suns appeared simultaneously. Yao shot an arrow at nine of them. 34 During the battle fought by the Duke of Lu-yang35 the sun went down. Swinging his spear he beckoned to the sun, when he came back. There are a great many books and records of a similar nature in the world. Truth and reality are drowned in a flood of inventions and fabrications. Can we remain silent, when our heart swells to overflowing, and the pencil trembles in our hand?
Discussing a question we must examine into it with our mind, and demonstrate it by facts, and, if there be any inventions, proofs must be given. As the history of the Grand Annalist testifies, Hsü Yu36 did not hide, nor did Tan, the crown-prince of Yen, cause the sun to revert to the meridian. Nobody can read these passages without applauding.
I composed the Chêng-wu for the purpose of showing to the incumbents of the prefectures and the district magistrates, what is of paramount importance in the administration, and with a view to induce all people to reform and gratefully acknowledge the kindness of the government. The nine chapters of the Lun-hêng on Inventions and the three chapters on Exaggerations are intended to impress upon people that they must strive for truthfulness, and the chapters on Death and Ghosts 37 shall induce them to give their dead a simple burial.
Confucius avoided all pomp, but people were very extravagant in burying the dead and decorating the coffin. Liu Tse Chêng was in favour of simple funerals, but people would put costly things into the graves, and spare no money. Kuang Wu Ti regarded straw carriages and reed horses as sufficiently good objects for the sacrificial worship of the dead. Why do the common books and traditions not mention this? The belief in the talk on death has defiled them.
Now I have written the essays on Death and on the False Reports about the Dead 38 to show that the deceased have no consciousness, and cannot become ghosts, hoping that, as soon as my readers have grasped this, they will restrain the extravagance of the burials, and become more economical. Such would be the advantage derived from the Lun-hêng. Provided that my words have this effect, what would it matter, if my work were a creation?
The writing of Ts`ang Hsieh is universally used to record things, the carriages of Hsi Chung for locomotion, the clothes of Po Yü as a protection against heat and cold, and the tiled houses of Chieh to keep off wind and rain. 39 If, irrespective of their usefulness or obnoxiousness, such things be solely found fault with for being innovations, then men like Ts`ang Hsieh would have to be condemned, and the fifteen dynasties at the beginning of history all be blameworthy. 40 Provided that a thing be useful, there is no harm, even if it should be an innovation, and if there be no harm, what can be amiss?
In ancient times great public entertainments were given by imperial order with the object of seeing the customs and learning the feelings of the people. Then the Odes 41 originated among the people. The holy emperors might have said, "Ye, people, how dare you produce such novel things?," and have thrown them into prison, and destroyed their Odes. This was not done, and the Odes were thus handed down. Now the Lun-hêng and the Chêng-wu are like the Odes. I trust that they will not be condemned, before they have been perused.
This is the origin of the Lun-hêng. The reason why people so often take exception to new productions is that they often contain so many unfounded assertions and disparaging remarks on others. The Lun-hêng aims at truth and dislikes all wild speculations. The chapters entitled:---Ch`i-shih,42Hsüan Han, Hui kuo, and Yen-fu43 are full of praise and well-deserved applause, 44 and not disparaging at all. Such a creation might well escape reproach.
1. The philosopher Hsün Tse: Sun Ch`ing, cf. Chap. XXXII.
2. Vid. Chap. XXXVII and the Catalogue of Literature, Han-shu chap. 30.
3. The philosophers of egoism and altruism, both combated by Mencius.
4. The philosopher Han Fei Tse was the son of a Duke of the Han State
5. An allusion to an event in the life of Lu Chia, narrated in his biography, Shi-chi chap. 97 p. 7. When Lu Chia had returned from his successful mission to the King of Yüeh, whom he induced to acknowledge the suzerainty of the Han, Kao Tsu conferred a high rank upon him. Subsequently, when relating his adventures, Lu Chia would always refer to poetry and history. The emperor displeased with these utterances, told him that he had won his laurels on horseback, why must he make such a fuss about literature. Then Lu Chia showed him, how former conquerors had lost the empire again, if they had not consolidated their power by the arts of peace. This conversation with the emperor lead to the composition of a series of memorials, in which Lu Chia developed his ideas about government. This collection of memorials received the title "New Words", Hsin-yü, cf. Chap. XXXVII.
6. Princes and nobles.
7. Mencius Bk. III, Pt. II, chap. IX, 1.
8. Vermilion is regarded as a primary colour, and much liked, purple as secondary, and not much esteemed.
9. Cf. p. 154.
10. The favourite disciple of Confucius, who died very young, cf. Chap. XXXIII.
11. Another of Wang Ch`ung's works, which has been lost.
12. Lun-hêng N. 16-24, N. 25-27, N. 62 and 65 (cf. p. 48 seq. and p. 57 seq.).
13. The Shi-chi.
14. The Hsin-hsü.
15. Pan Shu P`i = Pan Piao, the father of the historian Pan Ku. He also was devoted to the study of history, and intended to continue the Shi-chi, which was finally done by his son.
16. Cf. Chap. XXXVII.
18. Cf. Chap. XXXVII.
19. A mythical personage.
20. Another legendary person, who is said to have been a descendant of Huang Ti and director of chariots under Yü.
21. Vid. Chap. XXXVI, where Wang Ch`ung maintains that Fu Hsi did not make the diagrams, but received them in a supernatural way.
22. The first year of the emperor Chang Ti: 76 A.D.
23. An old name for Honan.
24. A circuit in Anhui.
25. A place in Honan.
26. A report for the emperor, which Wang Ch`ung, not being of sufficiently high rank, could not present directly.
27. The official chronicles of these two States. (Cf. Chap. XXXVI.)
28. A term employed for the first year of a sovereign, also denoting the original fluid of nature.
29. The "Classic of Music."
30. Cf. p. 113.
32. Cf. Chap. XIX.
33. Vid. Chap. XIX.
34. Cf. Chap. XX.
35. A city in Honan. We learn from the Lun-hêng V, 6v. (Kan-hsü) that this battle was fought by Duke Hsiang of Lu against Han. This prince reigned from 572 to 541. Huai Nan Tse VI, 1v., however, from whom this passage is quoted, speaks of the Duke of Lu-yang and the commentary remarks that this was a grandson of King P`ing of Ch`u (528-515), called Lu-yang Wen Tse in the Kuo-yü.
36. A legendary hermit of Yao's time. (Cf. Chap. XXXV.)
37. Cf. pp. 57 and 58.
38. Lun-hêng N. 62 and 63.
39. The tyrant Chieh is reported to have built the first brick houses (Tiwang-shi-chi).
40. The ten dynasties of the fabulous age of Chinese history together with the Five Emperors and their houses, whom Chinese fancy has credited with the invention of all the fundamental institutions of civilisation, such as house building, dress making, writing, etc.
41. The Odes of the Shi-king.
42. "Equality of the ages."
43. Contained in Books XVIII and XIX, N. 56-59.
44. Wang Ch`ung eulogises the emperors of his own time, and places them on a level with the model sovereigns of antiquity.
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