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Officers that are ‘altar rats' and functionaries that are ‘bad dogs'

Tradition has it that Duke Ching of Ch’i asked Yen-tzŭ about the worries of governing a state. Yen-tzŭ replied, "What one worries about are ‘altar rats.' "

Duke Ching said, "What do you mean by altar rats?"

Yen-tzŭ said, "Altar rats steal things outside and then go inside the altar for protection. You would drown them out, but you fear damaging the mud wall. You would burn them out, but you fear setting the wood on fire. This is the worry of rats. Now as to Your Highness' officers, outside they sell you for profit, and inside they depend on Your Highness not to punish them for throwing the laws into disorder. Your Highness moreover both protects and supports them. This is the worry of altar rats."
Duke Ching said, "Alas! How can this be?"

"A man sold wine of very fine quality, and put out a long advertisement, but the wine soured before he had sold any. He asked the villagers why they had not bought his wine, and one of them said, ‘Your dog is very fierce, and every time anyone comes with a container wanting to buy wine, the dog comes out and bites him.' This is why the wine had soured before he had sold any. If, when a gentleman wishes to communicate with the ruler of a state of ten thousand chariots, the functionaries come out and bite him, they too are the bad dogs of a state. Officers that are ‘altar rats' and functionaries that are ‘bad dogs'— these are the great worries of a state."

The Ode says,
Look into the middle of the forest;
There are only large faggots and small branches in it.
It says that those in the court are all mean men.

传曰:齐景公问晏子:“为人何患?”晏子对曰:“患夫社鼠。”景公曰:“何谓社鼠?”晏子曰:“社鼠出窃于外,入托于社,灌之恐坏墙,熏之恐烧木,此鼠之患。今君之左右,出则卖君以要利,入则托君不罪乎乱法,又并覆而育之,此社鼠之患也。”

景公曰:“呜呼!岂其然?”

“人有市酒而甚美者,置表甚长,然至酒酸而不售,问里人其故。里人曰:‘公之狗甚猛,而人有持器而欲往者,狗辄迎而啮之,是以酒酸不售也。’士欲白万乘之主,用事者迎而啮之,亦国之恶狗也。左右者为社鼠,用事者为恶狗,此国之大患也。”

《诗》曰:“瞻彼中林,侯薪侯蒸。”言朝廷皆小人也。

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