Skip to main content


Showing posts from March, 2017

To tie up a bunch of grass and ask for a light

In Ch’i were two retired gentlemen, Master Tung-kuo and Master Liang Shih. At the time when Minister of State Ts’ao was minister of Ch’i, a retainer said to Master K’uei, "Master Tung-kuo and Master Liang Shih are the worthy men of the times. They have secreted themselves in the depths of the mountains and will not bend their bodies or degrade their wills to seek office. I hear that you have access to Minister of State Ts’ao. I wish you might recommend them. Now in my village the matrons are on good terms with one another. A girl was suspected of stealing meat, and her mother-in-law drove her out. Indignant, the girl told a village matron, who said, ‘Go slowly, and presently I will have your mother-in-law call you back,' and tying up a bunch of grass, she went to ask for a light from the family that had driven the girl out. She said, ‘My dogs were fighting over a piece of meat and killed each other. May I have a light so that I can cook them?' Whereupon the mother-in-law i

Which is the more important, a father or a ruler?

King Hsüan of Ch’i said to T’ien Kuo, "I have heard that Confucians mourn three years for their parents, and three years for a ruler. Now which is the more important, a father or a ruler?" Kuo replied: “A ruler is almost not as important as one’s father.” King Hsüan became very angry, “Then why do you literati leave your parents to serve a ruler?” T’ien Kuo replied, "Without a ruler's lands there is no place to settle one's parents; without a ruler's pay there is no means of supporting one's parents; without rank conferred by a ruler there is no way of making one's parents respected and illustrious. What is received from the ruler is passed on to the parents. So serving a ruler is also something always done on behalf of one's parents." King Hsüan was taken aback and had nothing to answer him. The Ode says, The king's business is not to be slackly performed, And I have no leisure to nourish my father. 齐宣王谓田过曰:“吾闻:儒者亲丧三年。君与父孰重?”过对曰

The King of Chao was on the point of sending an envoy to Ch’u

The King of Chao was on the point of sending an envoy to Ch’u. He played for a while on the cither, and then dispatched him saying, "Be careful not to forget the words of my message." The envoy received the order kneeling and said without rising, "Never have I heard Your Majesty play such moving music on the cither as today." The king said, "It is true. The cither is certainly well tuned." The envoy said, "Since it is in tune, it would be a good thing to make a note of the position of the bridge." The king said, "It will not do. As the weather is dry or wet, so the strings are loose or tight. The bridge must be adjustable, and cannot be marked for a given position." The envoy said, "May I borrow a metaphor from this? Ch’u is more than a thousand li distant from Chao. Furthermore fortune is variable. Bad luck calls for condolences, and good luck for congratulation. It is like the bridge of a cither which must be adjustable and

The heron in going a thousand li at a single flight relies on only six quills.

Duke P’ing of Chin was happily drifting along the River and said, "Where am I to get worthy gentlemen to enjoy this with me?" His boatman Ho Hsü knelt and replied, "It is simply because Your Highness does not care for worthy gentlemen that he has none. Now pearls from river and ocean, and jade from the K’un mountains, come to you without having feet, because of Your Highness' liking for them. If worthy gentlemen, possessed of feet, do not come, it means nothing else than that Your Highness does not care for gentlemen. Do not worry about there being no gentlemen." Duke P’ing said, "As for the guests I support, to the left of the gate there are a thousand men, and to the right of the gate another thousand. If in the morning there is not enough for their support, in the evening I give them the market revenues; if in the evening there is not enough for their support, in the morning I give them the market revenues. Can it be said of me that I do not care for

Ch’ü-tzŭ saw a stone lying in his path which he took to be a reclining tiger

With one shout the brave officer puts to flight all the three armies: it is because of his sincerity. Of old Hsiung Ch’ü-tzŭ of Ch’u was traveling at night. He saw a stone lying in his path which he took to be a reclining tiger. Bending his bow, he shot it, so that the head of the arrow was buried up to the feathers. When he looked down and realized it was a stone, he then again shot it, but the arrow bounced off without leaving a mark. When Hsiung Ch’ü-tzŭ showed a sincere mind, metal and stone opened up for him; how much the more will men! Now if a person initiates a thing and others do not join in with him, or if when he acts others do not agree, it is certainly because he is not complete within. The man who rules the empire without descending from his mat has sought in himself for sincerity. Confucius said, "When a prince's personal conduct is correct, his government is effective without the issuing of orders. If his personal conduct is not correct, he may issue orders

The superior man does not take advantage of another in distress, nor does he make trouble for a man who is in straits

Of old Chao Chien-tzŭ had died and before he was buried the district of Chung-mou revolted. When he had been buried five days, Hsiang-tzŭ raised troops and attacked Chung-mou. Before he had finished surrounding the city, ten ch’ang of its walls fell down of their own accord. Hsiang-tzŭ beat the signal for retreat, and his forces withdrew. An officer objected, "When Your Highness is punishing the crime of Chung-mou and their walls break down of themselves, it is Heaven aiding you. Why have you withdrawn your forces?" Hsiang-tzŭ said, "I have heard Shu-hsiang say that the superior man does not take advantage of another in distress, nor does he make trouble for a man who is in straits. Have them repair their walls; after that we will launch an attack." When the people of Chung-mou heard how just (i) he had been, they asked to surrender. The superior man would say, "Good. Hsiang-tzŭ is meant by this." The Ode says, The king's plans were true and s

Chien-tzŭ was about to kill Yang Hu

Confucius had gone on a journey when Chien-tzŭ was about to kill Yang Hu. Confucius resembled the latter, and Chien-tzŭ surrounded Confucius' dwelling with troops. Tzŭ-lu was angry, and, brandishing a lance, was about to strike when Confucius stopped him, saying, "Yu, how is it you are so lacking in an abundance of jên and i? If the Shih and the Shu are not studied, if rites (li) and music are not explained, that is my fault. If when I am not Yang Hu, they take me for Yang Hu, that is not my fault; it is fate. You sing and I will accompany you." Tzŭ-lu sang and Confucius accompanied him. When they had finished three strophes, the soldiers had left off surrounding them. The Ode says, Rambling and singing. This is how through a display of the harmony of flourishing virtue non-interference is practiced. 孔子行,简子将杀阳虎,孔子似之,带甲以围孔子舍,子路愠怒,奋戟将下,孔子止之,曰:“由。何仁义之寡裕也!夫诗书之不习,礼乐之不讲,是丘之罪也。若吾非阳虎,而以我为阳虎,则非丘之罪也,命也!我歌,子和若。”子路歌,孔子和之,三终而围罢。《诗》曰:“来游来歌。”以陈盛德之和而无为也。

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

He does not devour the soft, or eject the powerful.

King Chuang of Ch’u attacked and defeated Chêng. The Earl of Chêng advanced with bared body, holding in his left hand an ox-tail tufted banner and in his right grasping a sacrificial knife with bells, and said to King Chuang, "I am devoid of goodness. Because of my behaviour toward your subjects on the frontier, I have met with a Heaven-sent disaster and have caused you, Prince of a great state, to have the overwhelming disgrace of coming from afar to this place." King Chuang said, "It was the words of Your Highness' bad subjects in their intercourse with us that gave me the opportunity of viewing Your Highness' jade countenance, and this is the insignificant reason which has brought us to this pass." Taking his signal staff King Chuang signalled to his attendants to remove the camp of Ch’u's army seven li. The general Tzŭ-chung proffered an objection, "Nan-ying is several thousand li distant from Chêng. Among the Great Officers there have been

Why was this time not before me or after me?

Mencius exercised his eloquence on King Hsüan of Ch’i, who was not pleased. Ch’un-yü K’un was in attendance. Mencius said, "Today I exhorted your ruler, but he was not pleased. I suppose that he does not know what good is?" Ch’un-yü K’un said, "Master, it is only that you are really not good. Of old when Hu-pa played the cither, the fishes of the deep came out to listen; and when Po-ya played the lute, his six horses raised their heads from their feeding. If even fishes and horses know what is good, how much the more must a prince know it." Mencius said, "Lightning and thunder occur and split bamboo, break trees, and convulse the empire, but they are not able suddenly to make the deaf have hearing. The brightness of sun and moon everywhere illumines the world, but it is not able suddenly to make the blind have sight. Now it is like this with your ruler." Ch’un-yü K’un said, "Not so. Of old when I-fêng lived in Kao-shang, the people of Ch’i were

To go forwards or backwards is alike impracticable.

After T’ien Ch’ang had assassinated Duke Chien, he made a covenant with the people of the state, saying, "Those who do not covenant with me will be put to death with their families." Shih T’o said, "Of old those who served a ruler died in their ruler's interests. To abandon one's ruler so as to preserve one's parents is not loyal. To abandon one's parents so as to die in the interests of one's ruler is not filial. So I cannot do it. However, if I do not covenant, it will be to kill my parents. If I do as others do and covenant, it will be repudiating my ruler. Alas! One born in disordered times cannot achieve upright conduct, and one suffering violence at the hands of a cruel man cannot behave in complete conformity with i. Too bad!" Whereupon he went up and covenanted so as to spare his father and mother, and then withdrew and threw himself on his sword to die for his ruler. Those who heard of it said, "A superior man indeed! What could

The earlier awakened, the Later awakened, and the not awakened at all

One asked, "The ancients' designation for a person of understanding was ‘earlier born.' What does this mean?" It is like saying "earlier awakened." A man who has not heard of the methods of the True Way is in the dark as to success and failure, and does not know the sources of government and disorder. His befuddlement is like drunkenness. Now among the world's rulers there are those who are earlier awakened, those who are later awakened, and those who are not awakened at all. Of old, when King Chuang of Ch’u was making plans, whenever one turned out well he would have an anxious look. Shên-Kung Wu Ch'en asked, "Why is Your Highness anxious?" King Chuang said, "I have heard it said of the potentialities (tê) of the feudal lords that one who can himself choose his teachers will be king; one that can himself choose his friends will be hegemon; and one whose associates are not his equals will be lost. I am unworthy insofar as none of t

Tzŭ-lu had been governing P’u for three years

After Tzŭ-lu had been governing P’u for three years, Confucius went to see him. On entering the borders of P’u he approved, saying, "Yu trusts those who are respectful." On entering the city he said, "Excellent! Yu is generous to the loyal and trustworthy." On arriving at the audience hall he said, "Excellent! Yu is enlightened in his judgments." Grasping the reins, Tzŭ-kung asked, "Master, you have not yet seen Yu, and still have thrice praised his excellence. Might I hear your reasons?" Confucius said, "On entering the borders, I saw that the grain fields and the hemp fields were very well attended to, and that the fallow lands were well opened up. This is the result of trusting those who are respectful, so that the people put forth all their strength. On entering the city I saw that walls and dwellings were very high, and that the trees were very flourishing. This is the result of being generous to the loyal and trustworthy, so that t

Duke Huan of Ch’i condescends to cotton-clothed gentleman

Duke Huan of Ch’i, wishing to see the Hsiao-ch’ên Chi, thrice went to him without being granted an interview. His attendants said, "The office of hsiao-ch’ên is the lowest in the state. Having thrice gone to him without being granted an interview, Your Highness may properly desist." Duke Huan said, "Alas, what sort of talk is this? I have heard that a gentleman in cotton clothes who does not desire riches and honour will stand on his dignity toward the ruler of a state of ten thousand chariots, and that the ruler of a state of ten thousand chariots who does not love jên and i will stand on his dignity toward a cotton-clothed gentleman. It is all right if our master does not desire riches and honour, but for me not to love jên and i is not all right." When he went for the fifth time, he was granted an interview. On hearing of this the feudal lords of the empire said, "If Duke Huan condescends even to a cotton-clothed gentleman, how much the more can a prince o

Confucius was sitting by one of the Chi-sun family.

Confucius was sitting by one of the Chi-sun family. The Chi-sun's minister T’ung said, "If the prince should send someone to borrow a horse, should it be given him?" Confucius said, "I have heard that when a prince takes a thing from his subject, it is termed ‘taking'; one does not speak of ‘borrowing.' " The Chi-sun understood and said to the minister T’ung, "From now on when your prince takes a thing, call it taking. Do not speak of borrowing." Confucius rectified the expression "borrowing a horse," and as a result the proper relation between prince and subject was established. The Lun yü says, "What is necessary is to rectify names." The Ode says, The prince should not lightly utter his words. 孔子侍坐于季孙。季孙之宰通曰:“君使人假马,其与之乎?”孔子曰:“吾闻君取于臣,谓之取,不曰假。”季孙悟,告宰通曰:“今以往,君有取,谓之取,无曰假。”孔子曰正假马之言,而君臣之义定矣。《论语》曰:“必也正名乎!”《诗》曰:“君子无易由言。”

Three sprouts united to put forth a single ear

In King Ch’êng's time there were three sprouts that grew up through a mulberry leaf and united to put forth a single ear of grain large enough nearly to fill a cart and long enough nearly to cover the bed of a wagon. King Ch’êng asked the Duke of Chou, "What is this thing?" The Duke of Chou said, "It seems to me that three sprouts united into a single ear of grain means that the empire is now about to become unified." Three years after this in fact the ruler of Yüeh-shang sent a mission with nine interpreters to present to the Duke of Chou some white pheasants. The envoy said, "So distant was the road, so secluded the mountains and so deep the rivers, that it was feared an envoy would not reach here without the aid of many interpreters." The Duke of Chou declined saying, "Why should I be given a present?" The interpreter said, "We received the order from the elders of my state who said, ‘For a long time in the heavens there have

Confucius was studying the lute under the music master Hsiang-tzŭ

Confucius was studying the lute under the music master Hsiang-tzŭ, but made no progress. Master Hsiang-tzŭ said, "It is within your power, sir, to make progress." Confucius said, "I have already grasped the melody, but as yet I have not got the structure of this music." After a while Hsiang-tzŭ said, "It is within your power, sir, to make more progress." Confucius said, "I have already grasped the structure, but as yet I do not have its meaning." After a while Hsiang-tzŭ again said, "It is within your power, sir, to make more progress," and Confucius said, "I have already got its meaning, but I have not yet got the man." After a while (Hsiang-tzŭ) again said, "It is within your power, sir, to make (more) progress," and (Confucius) said, "I have already got the man who composed the piece, but I still have not managed to place him." For a while he gazed off into the distance, lost in deep thought.

King Ch’êng of Ch’u was reading in the hall

King Ch’êng of Ch’u was reading in the hall, and at work below was Lun-pien, who asked, "What is the book Your Highness is reading?" King Ch’êng said, "It is a book of the Former Sages." Lun-pien said, "It is certainly only the dregs of the Former Sages, and not their essence." King Ch’êng said, "What grounds have you for saying that?" Lun-pien said, "Let us put it in terms of the wheels I make. With the compass I make them round, and with a square I make them straight. These techniques I can pass on to my sons and grandsons. But when it comes to bringing three pieces of wood together, there is a response in the heart and a movement in the body which there is no way to transmit. Hence what has been transmitted is certainly nothing but the dregs. Thus it is possible to examine the methods of T’ang and Yü, but there is no attaining to their illumination of men's hearts. The Ode says, The doings of High Heaven Have neither soun

There was a visitor who had an interview with the Duke of Chou

There was a visitor who had an interview with the Duke of Chou. Meeting him at the door, the Duke of Chou said, "How are you going to instruct me?" The man said, "Outside I would speak of externals; inside, of essentials. Shall I come in or not?" The Duke of Chou said, "Please come in." The guest said, "Standing, I would speak of i; sitting, of jên. Shall I sit or not?" The Duke of Chou said, "Please take a seat." The guest said, "Speaking distinctly will result in trouble; speaking softly, in not being heard. Shall I speak or not?" The Duke of Chou said, "Yes, yes. I understand." And next day he mobilized troops and punished the princes of Kuan and Ts’ai. Truly the visitor was good at giving counsel without speech, and the Duke of Chou was good at listening to counsel without speech. A person like the Duke of Chou may be called capable of listening to subtle discourse. Truly what the superior man tells

A true King should respect Heaven.

Duke Huan of Ch’i asked Kuan Chung, "What is it the True King should respect?" Kuan Chung said, "He respects Heaven." Duke Huan looked up at the sky. Kuan Chung said, "What I called Heaven is not the blue void of the sky. The True King regards the people as Heaven. When the people are with him, there is peace. When they support him, he is strong. When they disapprove of him, he is in peril. When they rebel against him, he is lost. The Ode says, People who he thinks are not good Hate him with one accord. When the people all with one accord hate their ruler, there has never been an instance when he was not lost." 齐桓公问于管仲曰:“王者何贵?”曰:“贵天。”桓公仰而视天。管仲曰:“所谓天,非苍莽之天也。王者以百姓为天,百姓与之则安,辅之则强,非之则危,倍之则亡。《诗》曰:‘民之无良,相怨一方。’民皆居一方而怨其上,不亡者、未之有也。”

Yen-tzŭ made a visit of state to Lu

Yen-tzŭ made a visit of state to Lu. In ascending the hall he hastened. In presenting the jade he knelt. Tzŭ-kung was surprised at this and asked Confucius, "Does Yen-tzŭ know ritual (li)? He came today on a visit of state to Lu, and when he ascended the hall, he hastened; when he presented the jade he knelt. Why did he do this?" Confucius said, "He had his reasons. Wait until he comes to see me, and I will ask him about it." Soon afterward Yen-tzŭ came in, and Confucius asked him about it. Yen-tzŭ replied, "Now the ritual (li) of ascending the hall is for the minister to take two steps when the prince steps once. Today the prince went quickly—did I dare not hasten? Today the prince received my present on a low level. Did I dare not kneel?" Confucius approved, saying, "In the canon of ritual there are even more rites. With the little experience you Tz’ŭ, have had in such matters, how can you be up to knowing ritual?" The Ode says, Li an

Duke Huan of Ch’i returned from attacking the Shan-jung

When Duke Huan of Ch’i went to attack the Shan-jung, his route passed through Yen, and the Prince of Yen escorted him beyond the borders of his own state. Duke Huan asked Kuan Chung, "When one feudal lord escorts another, is it right that he should go beyond his own borders?" Kuan Chung said, "Unless it is the Son of Heaven whom he is escorting, he does not go beyond his own borders." Duke Huan said, "Then it was out of fear of me that he violated ritual usage (li). It is not right that I should be the cause of the Prince of Yen's violating ritual (li)." Whereupon he cut off his territory as far as the Prince of Yen had gone and presented it to Yen. When the feudal lords heard of this, they all payed their respects in the court of Ch’i. The Ode says, Quietly fulfill the duties of your offices, Loving the correct and the upright. So shall the Spirits hearken to you, And give you large measures of bright happiness. 齐桓公伐山戎,其道过燕,燕君送之出境。桓公

Duke Huan of Ch’i planned in private with Kuan Chung to attack Chü

Duke Huan of Ch’i planned in private with Kuan Chung to attack Chü, and yet the people knew of it. Duke Huan said to Kuan Chung, "I spoke to you alone, and yet the people know. Why is this?" Kuan Chung said, "It seems to me that there is a sage in the country. Where is Tung-kuo Ya?" Duke Huan looked around and said, "Here he is." Kuan Chung said, "Did you tell it?" Tung-kuo Ya said, "I did." Kuan Chung said, "How did you know it?" He said, "I have heard that the superior man has three aspects. From this I knew it." Kuan Chung said, "What do you mean by three aspects?" He said, "Pleased and happy —this is the musical aspect. Anxious and grieved—this is the aspect of mourning. Fierce and replete—this is the military aspect. From this I knew." Kuan Chung said, "How did you know it was to be Chü?" He replied, "His Highness pointed to the southeast. His mouth opened a

Chieh made a wine lake in which a boat could move about

Chieh made a wine lake in which a boat could move about, and the resulting mound of dregs was so high that from it one could see for a distance of ten li. There were three thousand men who drank from the lake like cattle. Kuan Lung-fêng proffered a remonstrance: "In antiquity rulers themselves practiced li and i. They loved the people and were sparing of property. As a result their states were at peace and they themselves lived out their span of life. But your Highness now is using up property as though it could not be exhausted and is putting people to death as though he were afraid he would not be able to kill them all. If Your Highness does not reform, the retribution of Heaven will certainly descend on him and punishment will inevitably come to him. May Your Highness reform!" He stood at his post without leaving the court until Chieh imprisoned him and put him to death. On hearing of this the superior man says, "It was the will of Heaven." The Ode says, T

The tyrant Chou invented the punishment of the fiery pit and the pillar

The tyrant Chou invented the punishment of the fiery pit and the pillar. The Prince Pi-kan said, "If, when his master is outrageous, the minister does not remonstrate, he is not loyal. If from fear of death he does not speak, he is not brave. If he sees a fault, he objects, and if his objections go unheeded, he dies: this is the height of loyalty." Whereupon he remonstrated for three days without leaving the court. Chou accordingly put him to death. The Ode says, The terrors of Great Heaven are very excessive; I shall take care to commit no offence. 纣作炮烙之刑。王子比干曰:“主暴不谏,非忠也;畏死不言,非勇也。见过即谏,不用即死,忠之至也。”遂谏,三日不去朝,纣囚杀之。《诗》曰:“昊天大怃,予慎无辜!”

Confucius paid a visit to the ancestral temple of Chou

Confucius paid a visit to the ancestral temple of Chou, where they had a vessel that leaned at an angle. Confucius asked the caretaker of the temple, "What vessel is that?" The caretaker replied, "Why that, I believe, is a Warning Vessel." Confucius said, "I have heard that a Warning Vessel, when full, turns over, when empty it leans at an angle, and when half full it stands straight. Is this true?" "It is." Confucius had Tzŭ-lu bring water to try it. Full, it turned over; half full, it stood straight; empty, it leaned at an angle. Confucius heaved a sigh and said, "Ah, does it ever happen that those who are full do not turn over!" Tzŭ-lu said, "I should like to ask whether there is a method for controlling fullness?" Confucius said, "The method of controlling fullness is to repress and diminish it." Tzŭ-lu said, "Is there a method for diminishing it?" Confucius said, "Let those whose v

Duke Wên of Chin thrice gave out rewards, but none reached T’ao Shu-hu.

There is the following traditional story: When Duke Wên of Chin had returned to his state from exile, he thrice gave out rewards, but none reached T’ao Shu-hu. T’ao Shu-hu said to Uncle Fan, "I followed our prince into exile for eleven years until my complexion was burnt black and my hands and feet were covered with calluses. Now he has returned to his state and thrice has given out rewards, but nothing to me. Is it that the prince has forgotten me? Or am I greatly to blame? Would you try speaking on my behalf?" Uncle Fan spoke about it to Duke Wên, who said, "Eh, how could it be that I have forgotten this man? Those who were greatly enlightened and most worthy, whose minds and conduct were perfect, who soothed me with the True Way and persuaded me with jên, who changed my conduct and made bright my fame, making me an accomplished person, to these I gave the highest reward. Those who treated me with respect according to the rites (li), who protected me with i, who gua

Chi-sun-tzŭ had people put to death on a large scale

In his administration of Lu, Chi-sun-tzŭ had people put to death on a large scale, as their crimes strictly merited, and frequently inflicted punishments on people, as their faults strictly deserved. Tzŭ-kung said, "A cruel government!" When he heard of this remark, Chi-sun said, "I put the people to death when their crimes strictly merit it, and I punish them when their faults strictly deserve it. How is it that you, sir, find it cruel?" Tzŭ-kung said, "How unlike Tzŭ-ch’an's administration of Chêng! In one year the number of faults requiring punishment diminished; in two years crimes requiring capital punishment disappeared. In three years the prisons had no prisoners. As a result the people turned to him as water flows downhill, and loved him as a filial son respects his father and mother. When Tzŭ-ch’an was sick and on the point of death, the citizens all lamented, saying, ‘Is there not someone else who could die in the place of Tzŭ-ch’an?' When