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Chapter XXIV. Assertions and Aspersions

(a) The Cancellarius: As once said by Yen Tzŭ, 1 the Ritualists 2 are flowery in speech but short in fulfillment; meticulous as to music, but lax as to the people's needs. Prolonging mourning even at the cost of the living, lavish in funerals so as to injure livelihood 3 ; their rites are so perplexing as to be difficult of execution and their ways so devious as to be difficult to follow. Singing the praises of days past and gone, they speak maladvisedly of the present. Disparaging everything they see, they only treasure what they have heard; holding all men as being fundamentally crooked, they deem themselves straight as a rule.4 Thus it was that Yen I came to be executed and degraded and Ti Shan found death at the hands of the Hsiung-nu. Occupying such positions as they had and yet finding fault with the court, living in their age and yet backbiting their superiors, (it is only too natural that) they ended by being disgraced and ruining their lives. Well now, is there any one among you who would have taken up their burden and shared their tragedy?

(b) The Literati: That which keeps moral laxity in check is Good Form (li), 5 and Music is the wherewithal by which morals are improved; it is when Etiquette (li) is flourishing and Music is orthodox, that penalties and punishments are undeviating. Hence, just as people never suffer from floods when the dams and dikes are kept whole, so there are never revolutionary disturbances among the people whenever decorum and justice take root. We have thus never heard of a case when good government would be attained with Decorum (li) and Justice (i) laid low and dikes and dams broken through. Speaking of Good Form (li) Confucius said 6 : In ceremonies in general, it is better to be simple than lavish; and in the rites of mourning, heartfelt distress is better than observance of detail. It is clear that it was far from being the intention of those who created the rites to injure human lives and impair business; dignified carriage and self-possessed gentility were surely not intended to bring confusion into ethics and deprave morals. A well-governed state is careful as to its ceremonial; a tottering one is diligent in the application of its laws. Remember ancient Ch'in which swallowed up all the Empire by force of arms, how its disasters were aggravated by the monstrous vagaries 7 of Li Ssŭ and Chao Kao. Then it was that we saw the ancient arts abolished and the time-honored ceremonies fall, all reliance put into penal laws and the Confucian and Mihist doctrines passing completely into obscurity. 8 Blocked was the path of the scholar and gagged the mouths of men. Daily the flatterers forged ahead and those on high never heard their mistakes criticized. This was how Ch'in lost the Empire and brought to ruin its own sanctuaries!

It fell out therefore for the sages who strove to restore order first to mete out punishment for those men who by their cunning and artful words so propped up wrong that it entailed the collapse of the nation. Now, you, sir, whence come you with your store of aphorisms that spell the crack of doom for the state? You, the high ministers, occupying such a post, you give no thought to rectifying your ways, but have all your mind on aye-ayeing your superiors, cringing before their slightest frown or promptly trimming your sails before their wind. 'Tis hateful to us to see such low-fawning and about-facing worthy of the meanest man which leads only to fortify those whom you serve in their faults. Therefore, though we know well these words may cost us our lives, we cannot suffer to be led into your train, O tribe of compromisers, yea, spare us not your fetters and chains! Ah, woe!

(c) The Cancellarius: One is sure to find a village where there are spreading trees; an everglade, where there are rushes: this expresses well the affinity of homogeneous things. Virtue never dwells alone, said Confucius, it always has neighbors.9 Thus, rises a T'ang, lo! there enters I Yin, and exeunt the wicked. There has yet to be a case when evil ministers kept their places below when an enlightened monarch sits on high. Now, the late Sovereign 10 himself started on the way of charity and wisdom when he undertook the task of ruling all within the seas: he summoned and selected scholars of supreme ability and excellent worth so as to insure that none but the good would find employment; in pursuing and chastising evil ministers he did not spare even those closest to him. He made every effort to seek out the worthy and expel the incapable, just as Yao did promote such as Shun and Yü, and executed K'un and exiled Huan-tou. With all that you refer to us as being a "tribe of compromisers"! If this be true then should it not be indeed a case of ministers aye-aye-ing an erring ruler?

11 This doubtless refers to the revolt and subsequent death of the crown prince Chü, son of the Empress Wei. The former was charged by Chiang Ch'ung with having cast a spell on the Emperor. Chiang Ch'ung was first killed by the prince who himself was slain. Other members of the Imperial family were implicated. Cf. Discourses, Glossary, p. 132 sub Chiang Ch'ung.

(d) The Literati: Said Kao Yao in reply to Shun: It all depends on knowing the people, which is considered hard even by the Emperor.11 During the time of the Great Flood, Yao stood alone aggrieved and worried not knowing how to regulate it; but once he obtained the services of Shun and Yü, the nine provinces enjoyed peace. Therefore, even if there is an enlightened Monarch like Yao, his pure virtue will not prevail unless there are assisting hands like Shun's and Yü's. The Spring and Autumn criticized the fact that there were rulers, but no ministers. During the time of the late Emperor, there was no sufficient number of good ministers and hence the evil ones got their chance. When Yao got Shun and Yü, K'un was killed and Huan-tou was executed; when Chao Chien-tzŭ got Shu Hsiang, Shêng Ch'ing-chien was dismissed. 12 The case is well stated in the proverb: Until one sees the virtuous, one does not recognize a traitorous minister, or in the words of the Odes: When I do not see the virtuous, my heart is full of worry. When I have seen the virtuous, my heart settles down.13

(e) The Cancellarius: Yao employed K'un and Huan Tou, but exiled one and executed the other when he got Shun and Yü. He exiled or executed them because of their guilt, and hence in the Empire all yielded to him for he had punished its evil ones. The ruler of men looks for service among the common people. Yen I was a police constable at Chi Nan. The late Emperor promoted him and bestowed on him a high position, until he reached the rank of Superior Minister. Ti Shan rose from the plain-clothed to the post of Councillor to the house of Han. They both occupied the position of Shun and Yü and held the central power of the Empire. They were unable, moreover, to achieve anything conductive to good government but on the contrary were found guilty of criticizing the Emperor. Hence the punishment inflicted on Huan Tou was imposed on them and even more, they suffered the extreme penalty of the law. The worthy receive their reward while the inferior suffer their punishment. This is certainly just. Why wonder then, O Literati?

(f) The Literati: Parties to a discussion should support each other with reason and admonish each other following logic; in striving after the good not seek victory, and in yielding to reason, not feel shame at being worsted. If we try to confound each other with falsehood, and confuse each other by rhetoric, each side priding itself on having the last word, each striving after victory at any cost, this would be destroying all the value of the debate. Now, Su Ch'in and Chang I completely dazzled and befuddled the feudal lords, but upset The Myriad Chariots14 and caused rulers of men to lose their grasp: they were certainly eloquent, but theirs was the path to anarchy. The Superior Man decried the impossibility to serve one's prince along with servile fellows, for he feared that should they obtain a hearing there would be no length to which they would not go.15 Now, sir, you do not want to heed the dictates of Right and Reason so that you may fittingly assist the minister and the Chancellor, but only follow and meekly obey your masters. You love to make extemporary speeches and never weigh their consequences. If we be judges of your qualifications as a subordinate officer, it would seem meet to confer upon you the highest penalty. Keep your peace, sir, for the time being.

(g) The Cancellarius 16 : Scholars living in this world, so have I heard, should have enough clothes to cover their bodies and enough food to be able to supply their parents. At home, they should possess sufficient means to take care of one another; abroad, they should depend on no one. One is in a position to undertake the responsibilities of a family only after one has proved to be able to care for himself; is in a position to take up office only when his family is well managed. Hence he who feeds on coarse grain is not fit to talk of filial piety, and he whose wife and children are hungering and cold is unfit to talk of compassion, while he who has established no permanent business is not fit to discuss real problems. These three handicaps, which you, living in this world and maintaining this bodily existence, seem to share, appear to me amply sufficient to make you hold your peace.


1. The quotation is in a general way reminiscent of Yen Tzŭ Ch'un Ch'iu, Wai Pien VIII. The exact citation is not to be found in the present text. Note that for some of the Mihist themes Yen Tzŭ is quoted. For dating the Mihist school this is important as it would indicate that Yen Tzŭ represented the pure early Mihist school which had now become distasteful to officials (cf. coupling Ju and Mo together in previous chapter).

Re Yen Tzŭ cf. Forke, p. 57, par. 2. Cf. also Mo Tzŭ par. 25 and 39.

2. 儒 者 "the learned, the followers of Confucius, the orthodox, [Mencius] III. i. 5. 3: VII. ii. 26. i." Legge, Chi. Classics, Vol. II, p. 522. But cf. Discourses, p. 38, note 9; ibid., p. 66, note 1. For Les Ritualistes, see H. Maspero, La Chine Antique.

3. The familiar phrases of Mo-tzŭ 久 喪 , 厚 葬 are here used.

4. 此 of the text is changed to 比, ? (“木”字旁加 “式”) 式. The aphorism here follows the theory of Hsün Tzŭ that the nature of man is evil; such evil nature can be rectified only by the practice of i (righteousness) and li (ceremonies), as performed by the ju. Cf. Hsün-tzŭ, chap. 17. Cf. Maspero, op. cit., p. 568.

5. The terminology of Confucius and Hsün Tzŭ is here employed. For the stereotyped expressions for li 禮 and i 義 an attempt is made to use English synonyms to indicate the extensive connotations of the Chinese terms.

6. Lun Yü, III, 4 (Soothill).

7. As enumerated in the celebrated essay of Chia I. Cf. Chia-tzŭ Hsin Shu, chap. I, Kuo Ch'in.

8. Despite Mencius' reprobation of the doctrines of Mo Tzŭ, the Ju here associated them with the teachings of Confucius. Cf. notes supra.

9. Lun Yü, IV, 25 [Soothill].

10. Han Wu Ti (漢 武 帝). For an account of the part taken by this Emperor in promoting scholarship, cf. Shryock, The Origin and Development of The State Cult of Confucius, chap. III, "Han Wu Ti and the Confucian Triumph."

11. Based on Shu Ching, the Counsels of Kao-yao, I, 2.

12. Shu Hsiang was not a contemporary of Chao Chien-tzŭ. Cf. Discourses, Glossary of Names.

13. Shih Ching, II, i, VIII, 5. But see Legge, Chi. Classics, Vol. IV, part II, p. 264, for a different rendering.

14. 萬 乘 "the sovereign's domain = 1,000 li square, produced 10,000 war chariots." This was the ideal of the early Chou. Here doubtless in the Chan Kuo period, it represents a feudal state of the first rank.

15. Paraphrase of Lun Yü, XVII, 15.

16. 丞 相 史 曰 蓋 聞 士 之 居 世 也 . . . Chang's ed. puts this whole paragraph at the beginning of the next (XXVth) chapter.

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