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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.






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