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The Attributes of Courage

Duke Ling of Wei had been asleep in the daytime. When he got up, his vitality became progressively weaker. A man was sent in haste to summon the brave soldier Kung-sun Chüan. On the way he met the Hsing-jên Pu Shang. Pu Shang said, "Why are you in such a hurry?"

The man replied, "The Duke having slept in the daytime, when he got up he sent me to summon the brave soldier Kung-sun Chüan."

Tzŭ-hsia said, "Would another person than Chüan, but equal to Chüan in bravery do?"
The driver said, "He would do."

Tzŭ-hsia said, "Carry me back."

When they arrived the ruler said, "I sent you to summon a brave soldier. Why have you brought a literatus?"

The messenger said, "This Hsing-jên said, ‘Would another person than Chüan, but equal to Chüan in bravery do?' And I said, ‘He would do.' So I brought him with me."

The ruler said, "Very well. Invite the gentleman to come up, but in addition summon Kung-sun Chüan."

Suddenly Chüan arrived. He came in the door grasping a sword and impetuously cried, "Shang, if you will come down I will leave you your head!"

Tzŭ-hsia looked at him and said, "What! Put away your sword. I am going to speak with you about courage." Whereupon the ruler ordered him to put away his sword and come up. Tzŭ-hsia said, "Come, now. I once was with you when we followed our ruler to the west to visit Chao Chien-tzŭ. When Chien-tzŭ gave our ruler an audience, his hair was not done up and he held a lance. I was following thirteen ranks behind and came forward and said, ‘When feudal lords meet it is not proper for them not to wear court costume. If Your Highness does not put on court costume, this Hsing-gên, Pu Shang, is going to splash your dress with the blood from your throat.' Now was it you or was it I who caused him to change to court costume to receive our ruler?"

Chüan said, "It was you."

Tzŭ-hsia said, "This is one instance where your courage was not equal to mine. Another time I was with you when we followed our ruler to the east of Ah. When we met the ruler of Ch’i, he sat on a double mat, while our ruler sat on a single mat. I was following thirteen ranks behind and came forward and said, ‘According to etiquette (li), when feudal lords meet, it is not proper that they should face one another as befits commoners.' Now was it you or was it I who took away one of his mats?"

Chüan said, "It was you."

Tzŭ-hsia said, "This is the second instance where your courage was not equal to mine. Another time I was with you when we followed our ruler in the hunting park and two full-grown boars pursued our ruler. Now was it you or was it I who seized a lance and, striking downward, turned them?"

Chüan said, "It was you."

Tzŭ-hsia said, "This is the third instance where your courage was not equal to mine. Now what is valued in a soldier is that while on the one hand he can assist in governing a state of ten thousand chariots, on the other hand he dares not be arrogant toward a commoner. Outside he establishes moderation and compassion, so that enemies do not attack or make disturbances; inside the state he forbids harmful acts, so that the ruler is not in danger. These are the excellencies of a soldier and that to which the superior man attaches the highest value. But covering up the short with the long, ill-treating the few by the many, oppressing a guiltless people and exerting authority inside the village lanes—these are the extreme evils of which a soldier may be guilty; they are that on which the superior man visits his dislike, and what the masses punish and root out. The Ode says,

If a man has no dignity of demeanor,
What should he do but die?

How is it you discuss courage in front of a ruler?"

Whereupon Duke Ling withdrew from the mat, raised his hands, and said, "Though I am not intelligent, I should like to follow your kind of courage."

The Ode says,

He does not insult the poor or the widow,
He does not fear the strong or the oppressive.

Such was Master Pu.



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