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Minister T’ien Jao Wants to Leave his King for a Heron Flight

I-yin left Hsia and joined Yin. T’ien Jao left Lu and went to Yen. Chieh Tzŭ-t’ui left Chin and retired to the mountains. T’ien Jao served Duke Ai of Lu, but was not noticed. He said to Duke Ai, "I am going to leave Your Highness for a heron flight."

Duke Ai said, "What do you mean?"

He said, "Has Your Highness never seen the cock? On his head he wears a cap: he has civil culture. To his legs are attached spurs: he is possessed of martial qualities. Faced with an enemy, he dares fight: he has courage. When he gets food, he calls his companions: he has fellow-feeling (jên). When he keeps watch at night, he does not miss the time: he is trustworthy. The cock is possessed of these five virtues, yet Your Highness still has him boiled and eats him every day. Why is this? It is because the place he has come from is near at hand.

Now take the heron: he goes a thousand li at a flight and stops at the pond in Your Highness' garden. He eats your fish and turtles and pecks up your wheat and millet. He lacks these five virtues, yet Your Highness honors him because the place he has come from is far away. I am going to leave Your Highness for a heron flight."

Duke Ai said, "Wait while I write down your words."

T’ien Jao said, "I have heard that one who eats another's food should not damage the vessels it is served in, and that one taking shelter under a tree should not break off its branches. Why then write down the words of a minister of whom you have made no use?"

In the end he left and went to Yen. Yen made him minister, and within three years the government of Yen was in order and the country was without thieves or bandits.

Duke Ai heaved a great sigh, and because of that occurrence kept away from the inner rooms for three months. He abolished the punishment of branding and cutting off the nose, saying, "If care were not exercised before, and there was reason for regret afterwards, how could replacement be made?" The Ode says,

We will leave you
And go to that happy state;
Go to that happy state—

There we shall find ourselves right.



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