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Chapter XXI. How Ways Diverge

(a) The Lord Grand Secretary: It has been your wont to tell us that the Seventy Disciples who received in person instructions in the science of the Sage and ranked so famous in the School of Confucius were all of the caliber that fitted them to become ministers and chancellors to the feudal lords, while several of them were qualified to sit facing the south as rulers themselves. For public administration, there were Jan Yu and Chi Lu; for oratory and dialectics, Tsai Wo and Tzŭ Kung.1 Tsai Wo, who obtained hold over affairs and enjoyed so great a favor in Ch'i, found, nevertheless, that his principles could not be put into effect when T'ien Ch'ang fomented trouble, and perished himself in the great courtyard, while his patron, Duke Chien, was being murdered in the T'an Tower. 2 Tzŭ Lu took up service in Wei, but during the revolution provoked by K'uei he was unable to save his prince, and while Ch'u3 fled Tzŭ Lu's body was embrined in Wei. 4 Tzŭ Kung and Tzŭ Kao made their escape; they could not die for their prince in the hour of his peril. They enjoyed handsome salaries bestowed upon them, but were unable to requite their benefactor, sat in the honorable offices conferred upon them but proved themselves incapable to safeguard the interests of their patron. Why, pray, did they put so much stock in their own persons and so little in their prince's. Fellow-students and confrères, all these men thought themselves well-versed in the moral principles of ancient and modern times and able to make illustrious the decorous interdependence of prince and minister. Yet while some fittingly died, others sought safety in flight. These several gentlemen followed divergent roads. Wherein lies this contumacy to principle?

(b) The Literati: Duke Shang 5 of Sung perished himself because of his failure to employ K'ung Fu earlier though he knew his great worth; Duke Chuang of Lu likewise knew the ability of Chi Yu, but surrendered him the administration too late to save his state from anarchy. The prince of Wei surrounded himself with specious flatterers and estranged men of talent; thus, Tzŭ Lu remained at P'u, while K'ung K'u was in charge of the government. Duke Chien paid no heed to Tsai Wo and let the latter's secret plans leak out. Thus it came about that the two princes suffered, one exile, the other death, and the disaster encompassed their faithful ministers. The other two gentlemen6, though they had charges, yet were not given an opportunity to participate in their ruler's policies, they could die for him, but so could they also choose to live: whether they stayed or departed, their honor remained unimpaired. Yen Ying could not be termed disloyal to his prince when he did not die in the trouble of Ts'ui Ch'ing; and could Viscount Wei be said to lack in humanity when he fled the anarchy of the Yin?

(c) The Lord Grand Secretary: The unadulterated simplicity of the supremely beautiful nothing can embellish further; so no artificial elaboration can add a thing to supreme worth which holds fast to its essence. Thus a jade solitaire needs not be carved, nor a beautiful pearl decorated with designs.7 Now, Chung Yu and Jan Ch'iu had not the toughness of hance timber, nor was the gem of their talent enclosed in a Sui Ho matrix; to spend one's efforts to embellish them would be similar to carving decayed wood or polishing a lead knife, to beautifying Mo Mu or painting a clay figure. Such as the latter though decorated with all the five colors would be resplendant enough as a finished product, but let him but come into contact with driving rain and raging waves then he will turn to slush. To dote too much on ancient principles with the Odes and the Documents for pillow and mat would bring no peace in moments of danger or good government in times of anarchy. You will find as much company with such methods as field watchmen chasing chickens.

(d) The Literati: If it were not for Learning there would be nothing wherewith to cultivate one's personality; nothing would sustain Virtue, if it were not for Propriety. The Empire's beautiful treasure was the jade-matrix of Ho Shih, but its beauty became manifest only after it underwent the skilled treatment of an expert gem-cutter. The most winsome in all the Empire was the Lady Mao, but her beauty become recognized only after she had made use of fragrant ointments and rich powder. The greatest Sage of the world was Chou Kung, but even he had to pass through the hands of virtuous teachers and a course of instruction before he became perfect. But at the present time we see mediocrities scarcely rising higher than the common level disdaining study and instruction and relying exclusively upon their stupid selves and yet taking upon their shoulders immense responsibilities. This course of action can only be compared with trying to cross river or sea without oar or rudder only to be carried away by the first encountered storm and sunk in an abyss a hundred fathoms deep or to drift eastward to the shoreless Ocean. From such a predicament do you expect to get away with only being a little "squashed"?

(e) The Lord Grand Secretary: Things being flexible and inflexible in their very nature, beautiful and ugly in their permanent form, the sage man can only follow the natural bent, he cannot hope to alter nature. 8 Confucius succeeded only in changing the outward dress of two or three of his disciples, he could not convert their hearts. Thus Tzŭ Lu unbuckling his long sword and doffing his bully's cap bent in low obeisance at the gate of the Master, but in his treatment of teacher and friends he continued in his boisterous ways and remained at heart a rowdy. Tsai Yü slept in the daytime and wished to shorten the three year long period of mourning. A wall of dirt is unfit for plastering, thereupon exclaimed Confucius, A man like Yu will not come to a natural death.9 Hence, attempting to learn culture outwardly while lacking its essence within is like trying to paint on grease and carve in ice—though one may have virtuous teachers and excellent friends, it is nothing but a waste of time and energy. Thus the best teacher cannot improve upon Ch'i Shih, nor can most fragrant ointment transform Mo Mu.

(f) The Literati: A country bumpkin would cover his nose at the sight of beauty covered with filth, but the homeliest man in gorgeous attire may serve in the sacrifices to Shang Ti. If these two men, Tzŭ Lu and Tsai Yü, had not passed through the school of the Sage, they would never have escaped the lot of the beggar; how would they have acquired their reputation as lords and ministers? As the whetstone is the wherewithal by which a blade is sharpened, so study is the means to bring out all the possibilities of latent ability. Said Comfucius: A Wassail-bowl that is not a bowl, what a bowl! what a bowl!10 Thus if man apply himself to improve upon it, it will come to serve as a vessel in the ancestral temple; if not, then it must have an innate flaw in its grain. If a sword forged in Kan Yüeh remain unsharpened, the common man will disdain it, but after the craftsman has applied his skill to it, the ruler of men will put it on to appear at court. Now, an ugly hag under the impression that she is beauteous, will not try to embellish herself; a stupid fellow who deems himself wise will not study. Unbeknown to themselves, they make of their persons a laughing stock. Their fault lies in their disinclination to use the services of others and in trusting unto themselves.


1. Cf. Shih Chi, Ch. LXVII, Preface.—Names of historical personages mentioned in the text are usually to be found in Discourses, Glossary A., Historical. Otherwise consult Chinese Biographical Dictionary 中 國 人 名 大 辭 典 (Shanghai, Commercial Press, 1921) or H. A. Giles, Chinese Biographical Dictionary (London, 1898).

2. 宰 我 seems to be a mistake for 闞 止 (cf. Note in Shih Chi, 67, bio. of Tsai Yü).

3. Ch'u 出 evidently refers to Duke Ch'u, but the title Kung 公 is unaccountably omitted. On the other hand ch'u cannot represent the verb as 出 亡 "to flee" as Tzŭ Lu is noted for loyally remaining at his post. Cf. Soothill, Analects, Intro., p. 80 for the episode, in which Tzŭ Kung and Tzŭ Kao also participated. Tso Chuan, Ai Kung, XV.

4. Cf. Mo Tzŭ 非 儒 下 : 子 路 為 享 豚 孔 某 不 問 肉 之 所 由 來 而 食 Cf. Granet, Danses, p. 166.

5. 襄 is an obvious mistake for 殤 Shang, the duke of Sung murdered in 710 b.c. (Ch'un Ch'iu 桓 II).

6. I.e. Tzŭ Kung and Tzŭ Kao.

7. Cf. Shuo Yüan (Confucius speaking): 丹 漆 不 文 白 玉 不 雕 寶 珠 不 飾 何 也 質 有 餘 者 不 受 飾 也.

8. Although such terms as 柔 and 剛 occur already in the I Ching (see 繫 辭), they became popularized in Taoist ideology (cf. Lao Tzŭ, ch. LXXVIII).

9. Lun Yü, V, 9 and XI, 12.

10. Lun Yü, VI, 23.

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