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Chapter XX. Mutual Recriminations

(a) The Lord Grand Secretary: When the ancients set as standard the Well-tithe System1 and put into effect regulations for homestead and hamlet, with every hearty fellow busy tilling his plowland and field and every wench tending her hemp and carl-hemp, no land lay fallow and no man drifted idly; none but the artizan and the merchant was allowed to live upon the increment of his capital, none but the sturdy husbandman to enjoy the fruit of his crops, none but those actually in control of administration, to taste of the corollaries of office and rank. But here we have now `Confucianists by profession' 2 who, having laid aside plough and share, concentrate on learning to discourse on matters unproven and unprovable, wasting day after day and consuming valuable time, without contributing in the least to actual working problems. They come and go in their aimless mayfly-like perambulations, 3 upturning no soil for their food, rearing no silkworms for their clothing, but fraudulently impersonating people of station even unto encroaching on the farmers and encumbering the administration, yea, constituting a genuine cause for concern in our society!

(b) The Literati: When, perturbed by the disaster of the Great Flood, 4 Yü personally undertook the labor of dealing with it, wading through bogs and sleeping by the roadside, he never entered his home even when passing by its gate. In these moments, when he had no time to pick up a fallen hairpin or turn back for his hat forgotten where he had hung it, do you think he could find leisure to till the land? 5`Twas hateful to the poet who could not remain silent: `tis hateful to me, Ch'iu: I cannot conform,6 exclaimed Confucius, so three score and ten times 7 he harangued the princes east, west, south, north, all without avail. Thereupon he retired and culutivated the Way of the Kings, composed the Ch'un Ch'iu and handed it down to posterity to serve as a criterion and standard for the world unto eternity. Would you deem that equipollent to common man and woman's farming and weaving? Should the superior man fail to move at the proper time, says the Chuan, there will be no pageant of edification for the people.Therefore, none but the superior man is to govern the common sort, as without the common folk there will be no one to support the superior man. The latter should not occupy himself in farming or weaving after the fashion of every Jack and Jane. Should superior men engage themselves in the cultivation of land to the detriment of their studies it would only point the road to anarchy. 8

(c) The Lord Grand Secretary: When discoursing on polity you are, Oh Literati, superior indeed to T'ang and Yü, and higher than the autumn sky when talking honor. You certainly blossom forth in speech—but we have yet to see your fruits. In days of old when Kung-i was chancellor of Lu under the reign of Duke Mu, Tzŭ Ssŭ and Tzŭ Yüan served as his ministers, and lo! in the north, they ceded territory to Ch'i down to the line of the river Ssŭ, in the south, they cowered before the Ch'u barbarians, in the west, they paid homage to the state of Ch'in. When Mêng K'o took up his abode in Liang, the troops of that state were smashed by Ch'i, their high commander dead, their crown-prince, captive; to the west, they were defeated by Ch'in and were forced to abandon to the enemy frontier districts and relinquish lands to the extent of losing all the territory within the River and without. 9 Consider also Chung-ni's school, his seventy disciples, 10 who abandoned father and mother, broke up home and family, and followed Confucius bag and baggage—they did not plow, they studied! and anarchy meanwhile increased apace. Therefore, with your chestful of jade chips do not deem yourselves possessors of treasures, nor regard yourselves as possessing Virtue through your droning of the Odes and the Historical Documents and your carrying books by the basketful. Our all-important task is to bring peace to the nation and prosperity to the people without further indulging in involved rhetoric and multifarious speeches.

(d) The Literati: Just as Yü perished for not following Po-li Hsi's advice, so Duke Mu of Ch'in achieved the hegemony as a result of adopting it. As thus proved, doomed is he who employs not the worthy; would you then expect such an one to avoid cession of territory? 11 When Mencius arrived at Liang, King Hui inquired of him on the way to profit, but he replied as to humanity and justice—they could not even come to terms, so Mencius finding no employment was forced to leave, hiding his treasure in his bosom and speaking no more of it. 12 Thus, it would not sate one's hunger, having grain and not partaking of it, nor does it repair loss of territory, when you perceive a worthy yet not employ him. In Tyrant Chou's time there were at court the two viscounts, Chi and Wei, and Chiao Ko and Chi Tzŭ abroad, yet he could not keep them nor preserve his dynasty. 13 Now, when you speak and they follow you not, you admonish, and they hear you not, though you be a man of superior talent, how can you prove to be of benefit to government?

(e) The Lord Grand Secretary: All people find delicious the oranges and pumeloes that are grown south of the River, for all palates share the sense of taste; the lovely tunes produced in Chêng and Wei are enjoyed by all people for the sense of hearing is alike to all ears. I-wu, a man of Yüeh, and Yu Yü, a Jung [barbarian], could be understood only through interpreters, but both were highly honored, the one in Ch'i, the other in Ch'in, for in all men's hearts good and evil find the same response. Thus, when Tsě ng Tzŭ sang on the hillside, the mountain birds came fluttering down; when the music master Kuang stroked his lute, all the animals came dancing to him, for there never was excellence that met no response, and sincerity that found no answering call. May we not infer that there is lack of sincere purpose on your part? For what other reason could there be for no visible actualization of your speeches and your practices finding no meetness?

(f) The Literati: A sick man adverse to needle or physic, P'ien Ch'iao himself would be unable to cure; a prince unwilling to swallow the bitter truth, the worthiest sage is unable to set aright. Thus, Hsia perished in spite of Chieh having Kuan Lung-fêng at his side, and Shang was extinguished, though there were three worthies with the Yin. We have no reason to deplore the lack of arguments such as were advanced by Yu Yü or I-wu; we regret only there is no one to give ear to them as Dukes Huan and Mu did. Thus it was that, went he east or west, Confucius found no favorable reception, and Ch'ü Yüan saw himself driven away from the kingdom of Ch'u, an exile. It has been said, therefore: If we do honest public service where shall we go and not be often dismissed? And if we are willing to do dishonest publicservice14 ......to the end of our days, we may add, there will be no lack of `visible actualization' of such as our speeches would then be and no lack of `meetness to our practices.'

(g) The Lord Grand Secretary: As a singer does not strive to reach high falsetto, but puts value in following closely the rhythm, so the expositor does not tarry to fashion beauteous periods so that he may concentrate upon the crux of matters under consideration. Though one may possess a good voice, he cannot be said to be a singer if he be ignorant of the principles of solfeggio, so likewise he cannot be considered as one able to discourse who, though he utter excellent words, is ignorant of the intricacies of exposition. You pick your compass and find fault with the square, clutch your water-level, but criticize the plumb-line, the single hole—you know it perfectly, the single vein or streak—you have investigated it thoroughly, but poise and scale is somewhat entirely beyond your knowledge. Like cicadas which never behold the snow, you refuse to believe others when it comes to things that are beyond your ken. Your sticking obstinately to ancient script and attempting to meet with it the requirements of the present age is just as incongruous as trying to bring Orion and Scorpio together and tuning a harp after having glued fast the pegs. You may try your hardest, you will find it still harder to make things fit. Thus it was that Confucius was found of no use by his age and Mêng K'o found himself slighted by the feudal lords.

(h) The Literati: The sun and moon shine in splendour, but the blind see them not; thunderclaps resound, but the deaf hear them not. To speak for the benefit of those who know not rhyme nor reason, is but to talk to the deaf and mute, dumber than cicadas unaware of snow-drifts! Now, I Yin with all his wisdom, T'ai Kung with all his accomplishments could not make their words prevail before such as Chieh and Chou, not because of any error on the part of the speakers, but because of the default of the hearers. Thus Ching Ho clasped to his bosom his gem-matrix and wept bitter tears of blood, crying: `Where shall I get a master craftsman who will cut my stone?'; and Ch'ü Yüan roamed along the marsh side wailing: `Where shall I get a Kao Yao who will decide my case?' There is no prince, we believe, who would not like to search out worthy men that they might assist him, who would not be glad to employ an able man that might bring good government to his state, but . . . . . . princes are misled by insinuations and beguiled by flattery. As a result worthies and sages are hidden from them as if with a screen while deceitful sycophants are in control of the business of state. It is due to this state of affairs that kingdoms go to their doom and ruling houses fall while worthies and sages live in indigence in their mountain caves. Formerly, Chao Kao, a man of ordinary wisdom, seated himself on the seat of power ten thousand fold beyond his ability, and consequently brought to its ruin the kingdom of Ch'in, the disaster engulfing him and all his family. He lost his "harp" entirely: what kind of "tuning with pegs glued fast" would you call that?

(i) The Lord Grand Secretary: What we would call Literati of high grade are men whose wisdom and ability are equal to making illustrious the art of ancient kings, are men of parts and substance competent to walk in their path. Such would thus be able to become leaders and teachers of humanity should they remain at home, and a law and an example to the world should they be called to public service. But Literati of your type, such as we have with us to-day, sing the praises of Yao and Shun, when discussing matters of government, and talk of Confucius and Mencius when setting forth the principles of morals; let us but surrender to them some actual problem of administration, and they are unable to make any headway. While doting over the ways of the Ancients, you never succeed in putting them into practice; you speak straight, but make your path crooked; faithful in principle, you are faithless in spirit; in your robes and coifs you can be certainly distinguished from the villager, but in essence there is nothing that marks you off from the commonest sort. All your doctors, so-called straight and true, have merely grasped the lucky opportunity of the time in presenting themselves to make up the prescribed number; we cannot possibly term them enlighteningly selected. I see indeed no possibility yet to discuss with them intelligently the principles of government.

(j) The Literati: Heaven set the Three Luminaries in order to lighten the course of time, the Son of Heaven established high ministers to make manifest orderly rule. It is said, therefore, that the high ministers of state at once form the "contour" of the Four Seas and constitute the "coloring" of Spiritual Progress. Theirs is the responsibility of supporting the enlightened monarch's dignity above, and theirs the business of completing the work of His Sagely education below. It is they who bring Yin and Yang into harmony and attune the four seasons; they who bring peace to the masses and sustain all mankind, so that the Hundred Clans working in harmony may show no sign of frustrated aspirations and the barbarians on the four corners of the world, yielding meekly to Imperial Virtue, may give no cause for worry by a rebellious attitude. Such is the duty of high ministers and that which should engage the attention of those worthy of it, as were I Yin and Dukes Chou and Shao, talents equal to the demands of the offices of the Three Kung, and T'ai T'ien and Hung Yao, men able to fulfill the charges of the Nine Ch'ing.15 If we, the Literati have failed to come up to the mark in the Sage Monarch's enlightened selection, is it not also true that those now in control of administration cannot be said to possess overbounding virtue.

(k) Displeased, the Lord Grand Secretary colored and made no reply.

(l) The Literati: Eclipsed is the administration of a court when there is no loyal minister within it; tottering is the seat of a lord who has no honest vassal. After Jen Tso spoke straight and true of the faults of his prince, Marquis Wên mended his speech and conduct and came to be praised as a worthy prince; after Yüan Yang criticized Marquis Chiang's arrogance and haughtiness right in his face, the latter finished by earning great happiness thereby. Therefore, he who is constantly battering at the shortcomings of his lord, running straight into the danger of death, is a loyal servant; and he is a straightforward knight who dares to face an angry countenance in correcting the misdeeds of a high minister. Humble provincials that we are we cannot criticize you behind your back in our alley-asides. Now that the Ruler of Men has drawn his bow to full strength, that his instructions and regulations are taut and unslackened, we find that, in many cases salaries and emoluments are given to the wrong persons, so as to encumber farmer, merchant and artizan alike; that market profits never revert to the people, whose expectations are not filled up. We find, moreover, that the principles of Emperor and King are mostly in decadence and are cultivated no more. Teeming, teeming are the knights at court says the Book of Odes.16 It is our earnest purpose that this plan be applied to remedy the situation; it is not that we insist merely upon pouring forth empty verbiage.


1. 井 田 Cf. Discourses, II, p. 16, note 2.

2. 儒 者 For the use of the term Confucianist cf. Discourses, VI, p. 38, note 9. See also . . K. Shryock, The Origin and Development of the State Cult of Confucius, Chap. VII.

3. As in Huai Nan Tzŭ 浮 游 ephemerids, may-flies.

4. Cf. Discourses, II, p. 17, note 2.

5. For the cycle of legends of Yü cf. Granet, Danses et legendes de la Chine ancienne, II, pp. 466-572. Cf. also Mencius, III, i, iv, 7.

6. Quotation unidentified. Cf., however, Lun Hêng (Forke's trans.), ch. XXIX, 2 and K'ung Tzŭ Chi Yü 孔 子 集 語, ch. V.

7. Cf. Shou Yüan, 至 公; Huai Nan Tzŭ 泰 族 訓.

8. Mencius vindicates the propriety of the division of labor and of a lettered class conducting government in III, i, iv.

9. Cf. Mencius I, i,v, 1, (See Legge, Chinese Classics, Vol. II, p. 134, note).

10. On the varying number of disciples attributed to Confucius see Legge, Chinese Classics, Vol. I, pp. 112-127.

11. This passage is taken from Mencius, VI, ii, vi, 4, with slight variations.

12. Cf. Mencius I, i, 1. The philosopher left Liang not because of the state of his relations with King Hui, but because the latter's son and successor, King Hsiang, was less favorably disposed to him. On 懷 (其) 寶 see Lun Yü, XVIII, 1.

13. Lu suggests changing 棘 to 箕. Chi Tzŭ has already been mentioned, however and it is therefore hardly possible that he would have been spoken of again. The Hua pên writes 諸 "others." The context would rather require 而 or 然 in place of 故.

14. The Chün Shu Chih Yao completes the quotation as in Lun Yü, XVIII, 2.

15. Three Kung 三 公 often is equivalent to 蜉 蝣, cf. Discourses ch. X, p. 62, note 4, Nine Ch'ing 九 鄉, ibid., ch. V, p. 31, note 5, including the Three Kung. Cf. Mayers, Chi. Reader's Manual.

16. Shih Ching, IV, i, (i), 1.

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