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Yüan Hsien dwelt in Lu

Confucius’ disciple Yüan Hsien dwelt in Lu in a house only one room surrounded by four walls; it was thatched with grasses; the door was a mat, and the window the mouth of a broken pot; a bent mulberry tree served as door support; above, the roof leaked, and below the floor was wet. After seating himself correctly, he would play the lute and sing.

Another disciple of Confucius Tzŭ-kung came to see Yüan Hsien, with fat horses to his carriage and wearing light furs, deep purple inside and undyed outside. Since his high chariot could not get into the lane, he walked up to call upon him.

Yüan Hsien answered the door, wearing a cap of ch’u bark and carrying a wooden staff. He straightened his cap and the string broke; he adjusted the lapel of his gown and his elbows came out; he put on his shoes and the heels burst.

Tzŭ-kung said, "Eh, sir, what ails you?"

Yüan Hsien looking up answered, "I have heard that to be without property is termed poverty, and that to be unable to put into practice what one has studied is termed ailing. I am poor; I am not ailing. Now acting with an eye to public opinion, making friends on a partisan basis, studying for the sake of others and teaching for one's own sake, so that benevolent (jên) and righteousness (i) are concealed, so that horse and carriage are ostentatious, so that clothes and furs are elegant—I cannot bear to practice the like."

Tzŭ-kung drew back, his face coloured with shame, and he left without saying farewell. Whereupon Yüan Hsien returned with slow steps, trailing his stick and singing the Sacrificial Odes of Shang. The sound merged with Heaven and Earth, as though it issued from metal and stone [musical instruments]. The emperor had no way of getting him as minister and the feudal lords had no way of getting him for a friend. Truly he who is cultivating his person forgets his family, and he who cultivates his will forgets his person. Since he does not love even his person, who can dishonour him?

The Ode says,
My mind is not a stone; —
It cannot be rolled about.
My mind is not a mat; —
It cannot be rolled up.



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