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Marquis Wên of Wei wished to appoint a prime minister

Marquis Wên of Wei wished to appoint a prime minister. Summoning Li K’o, he inquired saying, "I wish to appoint a prime minister, and it is to be either Chai Huang, or Wei Ch’êng-tzŭ. I wish to take your advice in this matter."

Li K’o, withdrawing from the mat, declined, saying, "I have heard that a person of mean rank does not dispose of one who is of honourable rank, nor does a stranger come between relatives. I dwell outside the palace, and so dare not accept your command."

Marquis Wên said, "Sir, feel yourself free to manage this affair."

Li K’o said, "Now if you would investigate a man, when he is living at home, see what he loves; when he is rich, see what he gives away; when he is successful, see whom he recommends; when he is in extremity, see what he will not do; when he is poor, see what he will not take. These five situations suffice for an investigation."

Marquis Wên said, "You may go home, sir. My prime minister has been decided upon."

Li K’o went out and met Chai Huang, who said, "Today I hear the prince summoned you to advise about a prime minister. Who is it to be?"

Li K’o said, "It will be Wei Ch’êng-tzŭ."

Chai Huang, taken aback, coloured up and said, "How am I inferior to Wei Ch’êng-tzŭ? The governor of Hsi-ho was put forward by me. When the Prince was worried by the district of Yeh, I put in Hsi-mên Pao. When the Prince wished to attack Chung-shan, I brought forward Yo Yang. After Chung-shan had been captured and there was no governor for the district, I got you the appointment. When our Prince wished to appoint a tutor for the Heir Apparent, I got the place for Chao Ts’ang-t’ang. All of these men were perfectly deserving and served faithfully. How am I inferior to Wei Ch’êng-tzŭ?"
Li K’o said, "When you mentioned me to your Prince, surely it could not have been with the idea of using the connection to seek high office? Our Prince asked me about the appointment of a prime minister, saying, ‘It is to be either Ch’êng or Huang, one of the two. How about it?' And I replied, ‘If Your Highness is undecided, it is because he has not made a careful examination of the men. When they are living at home, see what they love; when they are rich, see what they give away, when they are successful, see whom they recommend; when they are in extremity, see what they will not do; when they are poor, see what they will not take. These five determine it; what is the use of waiting for advice from me?' This is how I know that Wei Ch'êng-tzŭ is to be the prime minister. For how can you be compared with Wei Ch’êng-tzŭ? He has an allowance of a thousand chung of grain, and uses only one tenth for himself. The other nine tenths he uses for gifts to attract the empire's worthy gentlemen. In this way he got Pu Tzŭ-hsia, T’ien Tzŭ-fang, and Tuan-kan Mu. All these three men our Prince treats as teachers and friends. All those whom you brought forward he treats as subjects. How then can you be compared with Wei Ch’êng-tzŭ?"

Chai Huang drew back, bowed twice to the ground, and said, "This uncouth person is truly inferior, and has replied improperly to his master." The Ode says,

Brilliant and illustrious is the House of Chou;
He has regulated the positions of the princes.





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