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Chapter XXVII. Shrill Polemics

(a) The Lord Grand Secretary: It is because of his solicitude for the myriads of his subjects and the deep concern over the continuing unrest on the Northern frontier that the Enlightened Monarch, the molder of his age, sent out envoys to seek out worthies and literati of high grade and to make diligent inquiries after scholars of high principle. 1 His wish, meseems, was that diverse proposals and various plans be submitted to him so that he might with unprejudiced mind lend an indulgent ear to the most feasible. But there is no one among you doctors, who has been found able to advance a plan outof-the-ordinary or a far-reaching scheme respecting the questions of the Hsiung-nu and the pacification of the borderland. Clinging 2 to your rotting bamboo slips and holding fast to your empty words, you never want to recognize the necessity of coming to terms or the imperative need of changing with the time. You hold to no firm basis in your discussions, reminding one of persons scratching their backs when their knees are a-itching. Unbearable is the din of brawls you raise by your railings at the Portals of the Commonweal. As if your orchestrated vociferation will ever bring practical result! Do you wish us to believe that this is what the Englightened Monarch desired to hear?

(b) The Literati: All of us in submitting respectfully our proposals have reached one conclusion though following different channels. 3 Our proposals all point to the necessity of re-establishing Form and Justice on the pinnacle by relegating monetary gain, of reviving the principles of old so as to rectify the mistakes of the present day. There is not a single one of them which does not spell a universal peace. We realize, of course, that all of these proposals cannot be actually put into practice, yet it would seem to us that at least some could be effectuated indeed. On the other hand, you, having control of affairs, prefer to remain in the darkness in the face of the illustrious practices of conformity and get your only cue from mercenary preoccupations; it is through your obstructionism, censoriousness, your manoeuvring and subterfuges that no decision has been reached even until now. It is not that the Confucianists can never achieve practical results, but that you, high ministers of state, are too engrossed in achieving practical profits.4

(c) The Lord Grand Secretary: Confounders of truth you are, O Literati, with your flinty faces and mushy hearts, corrupt to the core with your pompous appearance and pliant insides! You plagiarize Chou Kung in your dress with all these well-cuffed robes and loose belts, plagiarize Chung Ni in your appearance with all these low-crooked courtsies and mincing steps, 5 plagiarize Shang and 6 in your oratory with all this crooning and sententiousness. Discussing politics—you pasquinade, O talents superior to Kuan (Chung) and Yen (Ying)! belittling ministers and Chancellor in your hearts, determined to slight the Myriad Chariots. Should we intrust you with practical problems of administration you will bring nothing but confusion worse confounded and complete misgovernment. Indeed recommending such men on the strength of their words is similar to appraising a horse by its coat only. I have demonstrated here sufficiently whereby most of you do not deserve the recommendation you have received. The edict quotes: `Greatly gratified by the scholars of Our domain, We intend to search out diligently such of them who by their great worth, literary knowledge and wide experience can quickly be given official posts 7 .' But—fine talkers are not necessarily possessors of moral excellence. Preposterous? To talk is easy, 'tis difficult to act.8 We should prefer to take cognizance of the dumb ox and discard the squeaking cart, for the former is to be prized for accomplishing much while talking little. Just as the great bell of Wu by wagging its own tongue smashed itself, so Chu-fu Yen by wagging his caused his own death. Master Chu-fu's owl screeches proved of no avail against impending death just as the nightingale's night songs do not prevail against the dawn's first light. 'Tis not that we public officials are too engrossed in seeking profit, but you rather are too well manacled to the yoke of obsolete practices which drags you into idle talk.

(d) The Literati: T'ang and Wu (Wang) were men who could talk as well as act, but you bureaucrats can but talk, not act. If we have purloined the dress of Chou Kung, you have stolen his position; if we are manacled to the yoke of obsolete practices, you are fettered to that of pelf and profit; if Chu-fu Yen may have caused his own death by wagging his tongue, you have penned yourselves in by wagging after profit. Now we hold that none but Tsao Fu can so bring out the latent talent of a noble steed that it will run for a myriad li; if it were not for Shun who made him his minister, Yü would never have seen employment though in wisdom he was one in a myriad. Thus when a Chi Huan-tzŭ sits in control of the administration such as Hui of Liu-hsia suddenly vanish from sight, 9 but when a Confucius is Minister of Justice, then, perversely enough, they blaze out again. The power of selecting a noble steed rests with a Po Lo, that it rises to the height of its possibilities depends on a Tsao Fu. Let a Tsao Fu take the reins and sorry jade or fine horse, all can be given the freedom of the roads. In the age of a Chou Kung all scholars, be they worthy or incapable, will be admitted to take part in the discussion on the best form of government. It is the best among drivers who will be found expert in teamstering horses, and the worthiest among the ministers who will be found expert in making use of the scholars. Now-a-days they select men of unusual ability but let benighted lackeys drive them. It is like yoking a noble steed to a salt-wain and belaboring it, demanding speed. This demonstrates well enough how worthies and Literati are found to be mostly unworthy for recommendation.

(e) The Lord Grand Secretary: Faugh! You are, my doctors, ne'er-do-wells 10 devoid of principle, never practicing what you preach, the spirit of the letter in you never second each other. A plague since days of old have you been, like the wall-piercing burglars!11 Rightly indeed was Confucius booted out by the Prince of Lu, and found of no use by his age! How so? Well, they were always malaprop with their doltish reactions to their age, too much preoccupied with the flock of budding ideas in their skulls. It fell to the king of Ch'in to do away by fire with their lore instead of practicing it, and burying their kind in Wei Chung instead of finding employment for them. Ha! he gave them, indeed, no opportunity to set their tongues adrumming in their mouths and to arch their eyebrows premeditating their pro and contra disquisitions on affairs of national scope. 12


1. Cf. Discourses, chap. I, p. 1, note 4.

2. For 明 read 抱 following the I-lin 意 林. On this work see P. Pelliot, T'oung Pao, Vol. XIX.

3. 殊 路 同 歸 cf. I Ching 繫 辭 下. 同 歸 而 殊 塗.

4. Chang's ed. has 利 following 成. It seems to be required by parallelism and by the occurrence of a similar expression in the Ta-fu's reply 非 有 司 欲 成 利 [14b].

5. 鞠 躬 踧 踖 cf. Lun Yü X, 2, 4.

6. Apparently Tzŭ Hsia [卜] 商 and Tzŭ Kung [ 端 木 ] 賜.

7. Lu suggests 超 for 趨. 超 is also the reading of Chang's edition. This passage is not found in the edicts of the Ch'ien Han Shu, referred to in Discourses, chap. I, p. 1, note 4.

8. 言 之 易 而 行 之 難 an aphorism frequently repeated by the late Dr. Sun Yat Sen.

9. Huan-tzŭ and Liu-hsia Hui were not contemporaries. Can the original saying be that in Huan-tzŭ's time there were no such men as Liu-hsia Hui?

10. 闒 茸 t'o n'i. Cf. Discourses, p. 117, "Low, mean, base." The K'ang Hsi Tzŭ Tien quotes the YTL in explanation of this term.

11. Cf. Lun Yü, XVII, 12.

12. All this paragraph is joined to the next chapter in Chang Chih-hsiang's edition.

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