Gems of Chinese Literature/Chou and Ch'in Dynasties

Gems of Chinese Literature
Various Authors, translated by Herbert Allen Giles
Chou and Ch'in Dynasties (6th to 2nd Century b.c.)
1517378Gems of Chinese Literature — Chou and Ch'in Dynasties (6th to 2nd Century b.c.)Herbert Allen GilesVarious Authors


Died 1105 B.C.

[The following is not a translation; it is not even an ordinary paraphrase. It is an attempt to give the spirit of an ancient document by picking out the more interesting sentences and stringing them together, omitting such portions as would require long explanations and be wearisome to the general reader. Dr. Legge has given in his Chinese Classics, vol. III, p. 399, a full translation with copious notes. It only remains to add that the Duke of Chou was a younger son of king Wên, the founder and posthumously first ruler of China under the feudal system which lasted for eight hundred years; and that this edict was issued by order of the Duke's elder brother and second actual sovereign, reigning as King Ch'êng.]


THUS saith the King:―“Make known these important commands in the State of Mei.

“When our great and good father, King Wên, laid the foundations of our empire in the west, daily and nightly he warned his officials, saying, ‘For sacrifice you may use wine.’ And whenever God has favoured the people, it has been because wine was in use only at the great sacrifices. But whenever God has sent down His terrors, and the people have become disorganized and have lost their moral balance, this has always been due to indulgence in wine. So too when States, small and great alike, have similarly suffered, misuse of wine has always been the cause of their downfall.

“Hearken, then, to these instructions, all you high officers and others! When you have done your duty in ministering to your parents and serving your sovereign, then you may drink and eat until you are tipsy and replete. Again, when after constant examination and a course of virtuous conduct you have ministered with sacrifices to the spirits, then you may proceed to indulge yourselves with festivity. Thus, you will be serving your sovereign, God will approve of your great virtue, and you will never be forgotten by the royal House.

“The drunkenness of the last ruler of the House of Yin, and of his creatures, caused the resentment of the people to be heard on high; and God sent down calamity on Yin, because of these excesses God is not cruel; people bring punishment on themselves.

“It is not a pleasure to me to issue these numerous commands. The ancients had a saying, ‘A man should not seek to see himself in water, but as reflected in other people.’ Ought we not then to look back to the House of Yin, which has now perished, in order to secure repose for our own times?

“If persons congregate together to drink, let them all be seized and sent to me at the capital; I will put them to death. Those officers of the House of Yin who have always been accustomed to drink may be exempted from this penalty. Let them be taught; and then, if they obey, they may be allowed to enjoy distinction. Otherwise, I will show no pity.


7th and 6th Centuries b.c.

[Lao Tzŭ was a great Teacher whose birth has been assigned to various ages, of which 604 b.c. has perhaps the best claim. Legend has gathered around his name, and it has even been stated that he was the son of a virgin. He is known to the Chinese as the author of a number of remarkable sayings which have been preserved in the writings of ancient philosophers and which were brought together and issued, with a large amount of absurd padding, in the form of a book―the so-called Tao Tê Ching―possibly as early as the Second century b.c. He is regarded as the founder of Taoism, the doctrine of the WAY.]

THE goodness of doing good is not real goodness.

When merit has been achieved, do not take it to yourself; for if you do not take it to yourself, it shall never be taken from you.

By many words wit is exhausted; it is better to preserve a mean.

Keep behind, and you shall be put in front; keep out, and you shall be kept in.

He who grasps more than he can hold, would be better without any; he who strikes with a sharp point, will not himself be safe for long.

Good words shall gain you honour in the market-place; but good deeds shall gain you friends among men.

To see oneself is to be clear of sight.

He who knows how to shut, uses no bolts,―yet you cannot open; he who knows how to bind, uses no ropes,―yet you cannot undo.

He who does not desire power nor value wealth,―though his wisdom be as a fool's, shall he be esteemed among men.

He who, conscious of being strong, is content to be weak,―he shall be a cynosure of men.

A great principle cannot be divided.[1]

The empire is a divine trust; it may not be ruled. He who rules ruins; he who holds it by force, loses it.

Mighty is he who conquers himself.

If you would contract, you must first expand. If you would weaken, you must first strengthen. If you would take, you must first give.

Fishes cannot be taken from water; the instruments of government cannot be delegated to others.

If the WAY prevails on earth, horses will be used for agriculture; if not, war-horses will breed in camp.[2]

To the good I would be good. To the not-good I would also be good,―in order to make them good.

In governing men and in serving God, there is nothing like moderation.

Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish.

Recompense injury with kindness.

Desire not to desire, and you will not value things difficult to obtain.


Latinized into CONFUCIUS.

b.c. 551-479.

[Confucius was the Socrates of China. He taught virtue for its own sake, unsupported by reference to the supernatural, any reliance upon which he steadily, though indirectly, condemned. He seems, however, to have thoroughly believed in a God; but whether as a force physical, or a force moral, or both, it is quite impossible to decide. Under no circumstances can he be regarded as the founder of a “religion” in the ordinary sense of the term, with a priesthood, sacraments, dogmas, etc.; though what is now called “Confucianism” was actually based in pre-Confucian days on revelation.

Confucius held several official appointments, and finally rose to be chief Minister of Justice in his native State. He “became the idol of the people, and flew in songs through their mouths.” But by the intrigues of a neighbouring prince, he found himself compelled to resign office, and went into voluntary exile, wandering from place to place, and employing himself in literary pursuits, until at length he returned home, where death came upon him in the seventy-third year of his age.

He was an editor rather than an author. He collected and edited the ancient national songs now known as the Odes. He arranged and edited those old records which form the Canon of History. It is claimed by Mencius that he compiled the annals of his own State (but see Yüan Mei), dating from some 200 years previous to the times in which he lived. His discourses were treasured up in the hearts of his disciples, and were committed to writing in later years.]


THE Master said―

A plausible tongue and a fascinating expression are seldom associated with true virtue.

A youth should be filial at home, respectful abroad. He should be earnest and truthful. He should overflow in love to all, but cultivate the friendship of the good. Then, whatsoever of energy may be left to him, he should devote to the improvement of his mind.

Let loyalty and truth be paramount with you. Have no friends not equal to yourself. If you have faults, shrink not from correcting them.

Learning without thought is labour lost. Thought without learning is intellectual death.

The study of the supernatural is injurious indeed.

Yu! shall I teach you in what true knowledge consists? To know what you do know, and to know what you do not know―that is true knowledge.

A man without truthfulness!―I know not how that can be.

In mourning, it is better to be sincere than to be punctilious.

He who offends against God[3] has none to whom he can pray.

Riches and honours are what men desire; yet except in accordance with right these should not be enjoyed. Poverty and degradation are what men dread; yet except in accordance with right these should not be avoided.

The faults of men are characteristic of themselves. By observing a man's faults you may infer what his virtues are.

If a man hear the Truth in the morning, he may die in the evening without regret.

Chi Wen thought thrice and then acted. The Master said, Twice will do.

Man is born to be upright. If he be not so, and yet live, he is lucky to have escaped.

Those who know the Truth are not equal to those who love it; nor those who love it to those who delight in it.

A disciple having asked for a definition of charity,[4] the Master said Love One Another! Having further asked for a definition of knowledge, the Master said, Know One Another!

The Master said―

Rare are they who prefer virtue to the pleasures of sex.

The commander-in-chief of an army may be carried captive, but the convictions even of the meanest man cannot be taken from him.

A disciple having enquired about serving the spirits of the dead, the Master said, You are not even able to serve living men. How then should you serve spirits? Having further enquired about death, the Master said, You do not even understand life. How then should you understand death?

The Master said―

In hearing litigations, I am like any one else. I differ, in wishing to prevent these litigations.

Some one asked Confucius, saying, Master, what think you concerning the principle that good should be returned for evil?

The Master replied, What then will you return for good? No: Return Good For Good; For Evil, Justice.

A disciple having asked for a rule of life in a word, the Master said, Is not Reciprocity that word? What You Would Not Others Should Do Unto You, Do Not Unto Them![5]

When his stable was burnt down, Confucius left the Court and said, “Has any man been hurt?” He did not ask about the horses.

A feudal noble said to Confucius, “The villagers of my State are upright men. If a father steals a sheep, his son will give evidence against him.” Confucius replied, “The uprightness of the villagers in my State is different from that. A father will shield his son, and a son will shield his father. This is what I call uprightness.”[6]



[Very little is known of this writer, whose very name is a matter of doubt. His important work, the Tso Chuan,[7] was a so-called commentary on the Annals of the Lu State, mentioned on p. 1. Those annals consisted of bald statements of the principal events which took place in the successive years of each prince's reign. Tso-ch'iu Ming supplemented these by detailed accounts of the various incidents alluded to; and thus we have a vivid panorama of the wars and treaties, the intrigues and dissensions, the loves and hates, of China's feudal age. The style of the work is grand in the extreme, and is a perfect repertory of Chinese proverbs and familiar household words.]


In the tenth year of his reign, in spring, in the first moon, Duke Chuang defeated the army of the Ch‘i State at Ch'ang-Cho.―Annals.

THE State of Ch‘i having declared war against us, our duke was about to give battle, when a man named Kuei begged for an audience. Kuei's clansmen had said to him, “The authorities will decide upon the proper strategy; what place will there be in their counsels for you?” To which Kuei had replied, “They are but a poor lot, and have no idea whatever of deep-laid plans.”

Accordingly, Kuei was admitted to see the duke, and at once enquired, saying, “On the strength of what is your Highness about to fight?” “I have never monopolized the comforts of food and raiment,” replied the duke; “I have always shared with others.” “That,” said Kuei, “is a small favour, extending only to a few. The people will not rally round you on that account alone.” “Then,” continued the duke, “in the sacrifices to the Gods I have trusted more to earnestness of heart than to costly displays.” “That again,” objected Kuei, “is an insufficient basis. The Gods will not bless your arms on that account alone.” “And in all judicial investigations,” added the duke, “though oft-times unable to ascertain the precise truth, I have always given my decision in accordance with the evidence before me.” “Ha!” cried Kuei; “so far you have done your duty to the people, and you may risk a battle on that. I myself pray to be allowed to accompany your Highness.” To this the duke acceded, and took Kuei with him in his own chariot.

The battle was fought at Ch'ang-chŏ; and on sighting the enemy our duke would have forthwith given orders to beat an attack, but Kuei said “Not yet!” Only when the enemy's drums had sounded thrice did Kuei shout out, “Now!”

Our victory was complete; and the duke would promptly have given orders to pursue, had not Kuei again said, “Not yet!” The latter then alighted and examined the tracks of the enemy's chariot-wheels; after which he got up on the hand-rail in front, and following the flying foe with his eye, cried out, “Now!” Thereupon the order was given to pursue.

When the battle had been gained, our duke asked Kuei for an explanation of his tactics. “A battle,” replied Kuei, “depends wholly upon the martial ardour of the combatants. At the first roll of the drum, that ardour is violently excited; with the second, it begins to flag; with the third, it is exhausted. Now, when the enemy's ardour was at this last stage, ours was at its highest pitch: therefore we conquered them. Still, against a formidable foe, one should be prepared for anything. I feared an ambuscade; but I found that their wheel-tracks were in evident disorder. I then looked at their standards, and saw that these also were in confusion. Therefore I gave the word to pursue.”[8]


[Twenty-first year of Duke Hsi:―In summer there was a great drought.―Annals.]

Thereupon the duke wished to burn a wizard; but his chief minister said to him, “That will avail nothing against the drought. Rather mend the city walls; diminish consumption; be economical; and devote every energy to gathering in the harvest. This is the proper course to take: what can a wizard do for you? If God now desires his death, he might as well have never been born. And if he can cause a drought, to burn him would only make it worse.”

The duke followed this advice; and in the ensuing season, although there was distress, it was not very bad.


[Twenty-fifth year of Duke Hsiang:―In the fifth moon, in summer, Ts'ui of the Ch'i State, slew his prince.―Annals.]

Duke Chuang committed adultery with Ts'ui-tzŭ's wife, and Ts'ui-tzŭ slew him. Thereupon Yen-tzŭ planted himself at the door of the latter's house.

“Are you going to die with your prince,” cried his attendants. “Was he my prince only?” asked Yen-tzŭ, “that I alone should die,” “Will you flee the country?” said the attendants. “Was his death my crime, that I should flee? asked Yen-tzŭ. “Will you then go home?” enquired the attendants. “Where,” said Yen-tzŭ, “is there a home for him whose master is dead? It is not enough for a prince to be merely above the people; the commonwealth is in his hands. It is not enough for a minister merely to draw his pay; the commonwealth is his trust. Therefore, when the prince dies for the commonwealth, his minister dies with him; when the prince flees, his minister flees also. But if a prince dies or flees in consequence of matters which concern only himself, who, save his own private associates, can be expected to share his fate? Besides, if some one else, under obligations similar to my own, slays the prince, why should I die, why flee, why go home?”

By-and-by, the door was opened and Yen-tzŭ went in; and, pillowing the corpse upon his lap gave vent to tears. He then arose, and striking the ground three times with his heel, went out. People advised Ts'ui-tzŭ to put him to death; but Ts'ui-tzŭ replied, “He is a popular man, and to leave him in peace will be to win over the people.”

Ts‘ui now placed another duke upon the throne, and became his chief minister, Ch‘ing Feng being appointed minister of the Left. And when the people were taking the oaths of allegiance in the State temple, beginning, “May those who are not true to Ts‘ui and Ch‘ing——,” Yen-tzŭ, looking up to heaven, sighed and said, “May I, in whatsoever I do not submit to those who are loyal to the prince and true to the commonwealth, be answerable to God!” He then smeared his lips with the blood.


[In 721 b.c., the mother of Duke Chuang of the Ch'ing State conspired against him, with a view to put her younger son on the throne. The plot failed.]

Then the Duke placed his mother under restraint, swearing to her the following oath: “Until we meet in the Underworld, I will not look upon you again,” an oath of which he shortly repented. Later on, one of the frontier officials, who had heard the story, came to pay his respects. The Duke entertained him with a meal, and noticed that he put aside a portion of the meat served to him. On the Duke asking him why he did so, the official replied, “Your servant has a mother, who always shares his food; she has never tasted your Grace's meat, and I beg to be allowed to keep some for her.” The Duke said, “Ah, you have a mother to whom you can give things; alas! I have no mother.” The official ventured to ask how this could be; and the Duke told him, adding that he now repented of his oath. “This need not trouble your Grace,” said the official. It will be necessary only to dig down to the Underworld and form a tunnel in which the meeting can take place. Who shall say that this is not in accordance with your oath?” The Duke agreed, and entered the tunnel singing,

Herein we find
Our peace of mind,

while his mother came in singing,

Without, no more
Was joy in store,

and thus they became mother and son as before.


[An imaginary philosopher, said by Chuang Tzŭ (q.v.) to have been able to “ride upon the wind and dispense with walking,” and generally regarded as a creature of Chuang Tzŭ's own brain. The small work from which the following extracts are taken, was written up some centuries later. It is in a pseudoarchaic style, and is not wanting in interest.]


TZŬ KUNG said to Confucius, “Master, I am aweary, and would fain have rest.”

“In life,” replied the sage, “there is no rest.”

“Shall I, then, never have rest?” asked the disciple.

“You will,” said Confucius. “Behold the tombs which lie around; some magnificent, some mean. In one of these you will find rest.”

“How wonderful is Death!” rejoined Tzŭ Kung. “The wise man rests, the wordly man is engulfed therein.”

“My son,” said Confucius, “I see that you understand. Other men know life only as a boon: they do not perceive that it is a bane. They know old age as a state of weakness: they do not perceive that it is a state of ease. They know death only as an abomination: they do not perceive that it is a state of rest.

“How grand,” cried Yen Tzŭ, “is the old conception of Death! The virtuous find rest, the wicked are engulfed therein. In death, each reverts to that from which he came. The ancients regarded death as a return to, and life as an absence from, home. And he who forgets his home becomes an outcast and a by-word in his generation.”


A man of the State of Cheng was one day gathering fuel, when he came across a startled deer, which he pursued and killed. Fearing lest any one should see him, he hastily concealed the carcass in a ditch and covered it with plaintain-leaves, rejoicing excessively at his good fortune. By-and-by, he forgot the place where he had put it; and, thinking he must have been dreaming, he set off towards home, humming over the affair on his way.

Meanwhile, a man who had overheard his words, acted upon them, and went and got the deer. The latter, when he reached his house, told his wife, saying, “A woodman dreamt he had got a deer, but he did not know where it was. Now I have got the deer; so his dream was a reality.” “It is you,” replied his wife, “who have been dreaming you saw a woodman. Did he get the deer? and is there really such a person? It is you who have got the deer: how, then, can his dream be a reality?” “It is true,” assented the husband, “that I have got the deer. It is therefore of little importance whether the woodman dreamt the deer or I dreamt the woodman.”

Now when the woodman reached his home, he became much annoyed at the loss of the deer; and in the night he actually dreamt where the deer then was, and who had got it. So next morning he proceeded to the place indicated in his dream, and there it was. He then took legal steps to recover possession; and when the case came on, the magistrate delivered the following judgment:―“The plaintiff began with a real deer and an alleged dream. He now comes forward with a real dream and an alleged deer. The defendant really got the deer which plaintiff said he dreamt, and is now trying to keep it; while, according to his wife, both the woodman and the deer are but the figments of a dream, so that no one got the deer at all. However, here is a deer, which you had better divide between you.”

When the Prince of Cheng heard this story, he cried out, “The magistrate himself must have dreamt the case!” So he enquired of his prime minister, who replied, “Only the Yellow Emperor and Confucius could distinguish dream from reality, and they are unfortunately dead. I advise, therefore, that the magistrate's decision be confirmed.”


Confucius was one day sitting at leisure, when Tzŭ Kung went in to attend upon him. The disciple noticed that his master wore a sorrowful air; but not venturing to ask the reason, went out and told Yen Hui. Thereupon Yen Hui seized his guitar and began to sing; at which Confucius called him in and said, “Hui, why are you alone glad?” “Master,” retorted Hui, “why are you alone sorrowful?” “First answer my question,” said Confucius. “I once heard you declare,” explained Yen Hui, “that he who was contented with his lot and prepared for the appointments of destiny, could not be sorrowful. Accordingly, I am glad.”

The master's expression for a moment changed. Then he answered, saying, “I did use those words. But you are misapplying them here. Such utterances are of the past. Rather adopt those which I deliver now. Alas! you know only the superficial principle that he who is contented with his lot and prepared for the appointments of destiny cannot be sorrowful. You do not perceive the deeper sorrow entailed by this very absence of sorrow. I will tell you all.

“You cultivate yourself. You accept success or failure as they may come. You see that life and death are independent of your efforts. You maintain your moral and mental equilibrium. And you consider that under such conditions of contentment and preparedness you are without sorrow.

“Now, I edited the Odes and the Book of History. I defined the functions of Music and Ceremonial. I did this in order to benefit the whole earth, and to be a guide for posterity. I did not do it merely for my own personal advantage, nor for that of my own individual State. But now, even in my own State, the obligations between prince and subject are forgotten; charity and duty to one's neighbour are passing away; and right feeling is all but gone. If then the truth cannot prevail for a brief space in a single State, how is it likely to prevail over the whole earth through all generations to come? I know now that all I have achieved is in vain; and I am utterly at a loss to discover the true remedy. Therefore I am sad.”


4th and 5th centuries b.c.

[A philosopher of the Sung State, who flourished in the days between Confucius and Mencius, and who propounded a doctrine of “universal love,” in opposition to the “selfish” school of Yang Chu, as the proper foundation for organized society. He showed that under such a system all the calamities which men bring upon one another would altogether disappear, and that the peace and happiness of the Golden Age would be renewed. He was vigorously denounced by Mencius, who exhibited the unpractical side of an otherwise fascinating doctrine. See Liang Ch'i-ch'ao.]


THERE are two men, one of whom discriminates in his love for his fellows; the other loves all men equally. The former argues, “I cannot feel for my friend so strongly as I feel for myself, neither can I feel for my friend's parents so strongly as I feel for my own parents.” As a consequence of this, he may see his friend hungry, and will not feed him; he may see him cold, and will not clothe him; he may see him sick, and will not nurse him; he may see him dead, and will not bury him. Not so the latter; he will not argue thus nor will he act thus, but he will say, “He who wishes to attain distinction among men, will feel for his friend as he feels for himself, and for his friend's parents as for his own.” Therefore, when he sees his friend hungry, he will feed him; cold, he will clothe him; sick, he will nurse him; and dead, he will bury him. Such will be the language of one who loves all men equally, and such will be his behaviour.


Of old, Duke Wên liked his soldiers to wear coarse clothes; and therefore all his Ministers wore sheepskin robes, leather sword-belts, and caps of rough silk, both when having audience and when on duty at Court. Why did they do this?―The Duke liked it, and therefore his Ministers did it.

Of old, Duke Ling liked his soldiers to have small waists; and therefore his Ministers made it their rule to have only one meal a day. They drew in their breath before buckling on their belts; they held on to the wall to help themselves to get up; and by the end of a year they were all in danger of turning black from starvation. Why did they do this?―The Duke liked it, and therefore his Ministers did it.

Of old, Prince Kou Chien liked his soldiers to be brave, and instructed his Ministers to train them accordingly. When they had followed out these orders, the Prince set fire to a ship in order to test the soldiers, crying out, “All our State jewels are on board!” He then beat the Drum for advance; and when the soldiers heard its irregular rattle, they rushed headlong to trample out the fire, about a hundred men losing their lives in the attempt, whereupon the Prince beat the gong for retreat.

Now, to achieve fame by scanty food, or coarse clothes, or loss of life, is repugnant to the feelings of people in general; but if they are ready to face such trials merely to gratify their sovereign, how much more could they not achieve if stimulated by mutual love and by mutual interests?


If we do not do that which God wishes us to do, but do that which God wishes us not to do, then God too will not do that which we wish Him to do, but will do that which we wish Him not to do. What are those things which men wish not to suffer?―disease, misfortune, and bewitchment. Now, if we do not do what God wishes us to do, but do that which He does not wish us to do, we shall drag the myriad people of the empire along with us into misfortune and bewitchment.


5th and 4th centuries b.c.

[A commentator on the Annals of the Lu State, said to have been compiled by Confucius. Nothing is known of his life. On the authorship of the Annals, see Yüan Mei.]


WHAT is meant by a Great Exodus?―Extinction.

Who extinguished?―The Ch‘i State extinguished.

Then why not say Ch‘i extinguished?―To avoid the name of Duke Hsiang of Ch‘i. In such cases in the Annals, the name of a good man is always omitted.

What goodness was there in Duke Hsiang? He avenged an injury.

What injury?―Owing to slander by the then Marquis of Chi, a distant ancestor of his had been boiled alive at the suzerain's capital;[10] and what Duke Hsiang did on this occasion was actuated by an overwhelming sense of duty to the manes of this ancestor.

How many generations back was this ancestor?―Nine generations.

May an injury be avenged even after nine generations?―It may be avenged even after one hundred generations.[11]


4th and 5th centuries b.c.

[Author of another commentary upon the Annals said to have been compiled by Confucius. Nothing is known of his life except that he was a pupil of one of the disciples of Confucius, who was born 507 b.c. Even his personal name is differently given as Shu and Ch‘ih.


PRAYERS for rain should be offered up in spring and summer only; not in autumn and winter. Why not in autumn and winter? Because the moisture of growing things is not then exhausted; neither has man reached the limit of his skill. Why in spring and summer? Because time is then pressing, and man's skill is of no further avail. How so? Because without rain just then nothing could be made to grow; the crops would fail, and famine ensue. But why wait until time is pressing, and man's skill of no further avail? Because prayers for rain are the same as asking a favour, and the ancients did not lightly ask favours. Why so? Because they held it more blessed to give than to receive; and as the latter excludes the former, the main object of man's life is taken away. How is praying for rain asking a favour? It is a request that God will do something for us. The divine men of old who had any request to make to God, were careful to prefer it in due season. At the head of all his high officers of State, the prince would proceed in person to offer up his prayer. He could not ask any one else to go as his proxy.[12]


4th century b.c.

[A heterodox thinker who taught the doctrine of egoism, as opposed to the altruism of Mo Tzŭ (q.v.), also a dissenter from Confucianism pure and undefiled.

Yang Chu has left us no book. His views, as given below, are taken from chapter VII of the work ascribed to Lieh Tzŭ (q.v.), the authenticity of which has already been discussed under the name of its alleged author. These views are supposed to be stated in the actual words of Yang Chu, and at any rate may be held to represent adequately the opinions of the great egoist.]


A HUNDRED years are the extreme limit of human life, an age which not one in a thousand attains.

Let us take the case of a man who does. His helpless infancy and his helpless old age will together occupy nearly half the time. Pain and sickness, sorrow and misfortune, actual losses and opportunities missed, anxieties and fears,―these will almost fill up the rest. He may possibly have some ten years or so to the good; but even then he will hardly enjoy a single hour of absolute serenity, undarkened by the gloom of care. What, then, can be the object of human existence? Wherein is happiness to be found?

In the appointments of wealth and luxury? Or in the enjoyment of the pleasures of sense? Alas! those will not always charm, and these may not always be enjoyed.

Then again there is the stimulus of good report, there is the restraint of law, in things we may do and in things we may not do. And thus we struggle on for a breath of fame, and scheme to be remembered after death; ever on our guard against the allurements of sense, ever on the watch over our hearts and actions. We miss whatever of real happiness is to be got out of life, never being able even for a single moment to relax the vigilance of our heed. In what do we differ, indeed, from the fettered captives of a gaol?

The men of old knew that with life they had come but for a while, and that with death they would shortly depart again. Therefore they followed the desires of their own hearts, and did not deny themselves pleasures to which they felt naturally inclined. Fame tempted them not; but led by their instincts alone, they took such enjoyments as lay in their path, not seeking for a name beyond the grave. They were thus out of the reach of censure; while as for precedence among men, or length or shortness of life, these gave them concern whatever.

A disciple asked Yang Chu, saying, “Here is a man who values his life, and loves his body so that he may escape death; is that possible?” “We know,” replied Yang Chu, “that there is no one who does not die.” “So that he may obtain a very long life,” said the enquirer; “is that possible?” “We know,” replied Yang Chu, “that no one has a very long life. Life cannot be kept by being valued, nor can the body be strengthened by being loved. Moreover, what will long life do for you? The five passions, with love and hate, are still with us, as of old. Comfort and discomfort of our four limbs are still with us, as of old. The miseries and pleasures of this life are still with us, as of old. The changes of good government and rebellion are still with us, as of old. And since these things are actually heard and seen and do alternate, even a hundred years seem too many; how much more miserable would be a still further prolongation of life?” To this the enquirer rejoined, “If this is so, then a short life would be better than a long one, an end which could be reached by falling on a spear or a sword, by water or by fire.” “Not so,” answered Yang Chu; “once you are born, regard life as a disease, and bear it, following the desires of your heart until death comes; being about to die, regard death as a disease, and bear it, following its lead until there is an end of you. Life and death should both be regarded as diseases, and both should be borne as such; why worry about slowly or quickly in these matters?”


Yang Chu said, A certain man would not part with a single hair in order to benefit any one. He turned his back on his country and went into retirement, occupying himself with agriculture. The Great Yü (see below) who did not employ himself for his own advantage, became paralysed on one side. The men of old, if by losing one hair they could advantage the empire, would not give it; but all would offer the whole body, which was not wanted. If no man ever lost a single hair, and no man ever advantaged the empire, the empire would enjoy good government. An enquirer then asked Yang Chu, saying, “If by sacrificing a single hair you could help the world, would you do it?” “The world,” replied Yang Chu, “could most certainly not be helped by a single hair.” “But if it could,” urged the enquirer, “would you do it?” To this, Yang Chu returned no answer, and the enquirer took his leave.


Yang Chu said, The admiration of the empire is for Shun, Yü, Chou,[13] and Confucius; its detestation, for Chieh and Chou.[13]

Shun was engaged in ploughing and in making pottery. His four limbs never knew a moment's rest; his palate was never tickled and his belly never full; his parents ceased to love him, and his brothers and sisters ceased to care for him. He had lived for thirty years before he asked his parents' leave to be married; and when Yao resigned the throne to him (2255 b.c.[14]), he was already old, his mind was impaired, and his son was worthless, so he handed on the throne to Yü and dragged out a melancholy existence until the end. Here was a divine man who exhausted all the poisons of this life.

When K'un failed to reduce the waters of the flood[15] and was put to death, Yü (his son), ignoring the question of vengeance, took over the task and worked at it with great energy. A son was born to him, but he had no time to care for it; he even passed his own door without going into the house. He was paralysed on one side; his hands and feet became hard and horny; when he received the throne from Shun (2205 b.c.), his palace was a humble cottage, though his State regalia was magnificent; and thus he dragged out a melancholy existence until the end. Here was a divine man whose life was sorrowful and wretched.

After the death of the Martial King, his heir being a child, Duke Chou became Regent (1122 b.c.). One of the feudal nobles was aggrieved, and mutterings were heard throughout the Four States. The Duke had to stay in the east; he killed his elder brother and banished his younger brother;[16] and then he dragged out a melancholy existence until the end. Here was a divine man whose life was full of dangers and alarms.

Confucius (551-479 b.c.) preached the doctrines of the rulers of old, and took service under the princes of his day. In the Sung State, the tree under which he was preaching was cut down; in the Wei State, his traces were obliterated; in the Shang and Chou States, he was reduced to want; in the Ch'ên and Ts'ai States, he was in danger of his life; he had to take rank below Chi, whose chief Minister insulted him; and thus he dragged out a melancholy existence until the end. Here was a divine man whose life was all hurry, without a moment's leisure.

All these four holy men failed to get a single day's enjoyment out of life. Dead, their fame will last for ten thousand generations; but they will get no reality out of that. Though praised, they do not know it; though rewarded, they do not know it―any more than if they were logs of wood or clods of clay.

Chieh (1818 b.c.) inherited vast wealth and enjoyed the dignity of the throne. He had wit enough to enable him to hold in check his officials, and power enough to make himself feared within the empire. He gave himself over to the lusts of the ear and of the eye; he carried out to the uttermost every fanciful scheme, and had a glorious time until the end. Here was a divine[17] man whose life was all pleasure and dissipation.

Chou (1154 b.c.) likewise inherited great wealth, and enjoyed the dignity of the throne. His power enabled him to do anything, and he might have gratified any ambition. He indulged his passions with his concubines, spending long nights in such revelry. He did not bother about rites and ceremonies or his duties, and had a glorious time until he was slain.[18]

These two scoundrels had every pleasure in life that they wished to have. Dead, they will be branded as fools and tyrants; but they will get no reality out of that. Though reviled, they do not know it;―though praised, they do not know it; what difference is there between these two and logs of wood or clods of clay?

Those four holy men, although objects of admiration to all, suffered miseries throughout their lives and then died like everybody else. Those two scoundrels, although objects of detestation to all, enjoyed themselves throughout their lives and also died like everybody else.


4th century b.c.

[A most original thinker, of whom the Chinese nation might well be proud. Yet his writings are tabooed as heterodox, and are very widely unread, more perhaps on account of the extreme obscurity of the text than because they are under the ban of the Confucianists. What little is known of Chuang Tzŭ's life may be gathered from some of the extracts given. He is generally regarded as an advanced exponent of the doctrines of Lao Tzŭ. So late as the 4th century a.d., the work of Chuang Tzŭ appears to have run to fifty-three chapters. Of these, only thirty-three now remain; and several of them are undoubtedly spurious, while into various other chapters, spurious passages have been inserted.]



FOUR men were conversing together, when the following resolution was suggested:―“Whosoever can make Inaction the head, Life the backbone, and Death the tail, of his existence,―that man shall be admitted to friendship with us.” The four looked at each other and smiled; and tacitly accepting the conditions, became friends forthwith.

By-and-by, one of them, named Tzŭ-yü, fell ill, and another Tzŭ-ssŭ, went to see him. “Verily God is great!” said the sick man. “See how he has doubled me up. My back is so hunched that my viscera are at the top of my body. My cheeks are level with my navel. My shoulders are higher than my neck. My hair grows up towards the sky. The whole economy of my organism is deranged. Nevertheless, my mental equilibrium is not disturbed.” So saying, he dragged himself painfully to a well, where he could see himself, and continued, “Alas, that God should have doubled me up like this!”

“Are you afraid?” asked Tzŭ-ssŭ. “I am not,” replied Tzŭ-yü. “What have I to fear? Ere long I shall be decomposed. My left shoulder may become a cock, and I shall herald the approach of morn. My right shoulder will become a cross-bow, and I shall be able to get broiled duck. My buttocks will become wheels; and with my soul for a horse, I shall be able to ride in my own chariot. I obtained life because is was my time; I am now parting with it in accordance with the same law. Content with the natural sequence of these states, joy and sorrow touch me not. I am simply, as the ancients expressed it, hanging in the air, unable to cut myself down, bound with the trammels of material existence. But man has ever given way before God: why then, should I be afraid?”

By-and-by, another of the four, named Tzŭ-lai, fell ill, and lay gasping for breath, while his family stood weeping around. The fourth friend, Tzŭ-li, went to see him. “Chut!” cried he to the wife and children; “begone! you balk his decomposition.” Then, leaning against the door, he said, “Verily God is great! I wonder what he will make of you now. I wonder whither you will be sent. Do you think he will make you into a rat's liver[19] or into the shoulders of a snake?”

“A son,” answer Tzŭ-lai, “must go whithersoever his parents bid him. Nature is no other than a man's parents. If she bid me die quickly, and I demur, then I am an unfilial son. She can do me no wrong. She gives me form here on earth; she gives me toil in manhood; she gives me repose in old age; she gives me rest in death. And she who is so kind an arbiter of my life, is necessarily the best arbiter of my death.

“Suppose that the boiling metal in a smelting-pot were to bubble up and say, ‘Make of me an Excalibur;’ I think the caster would reject that metal as uncanny. And if a sinner like myself were to say to God, ‘Make of me a man, make of me a man;’ I think he too would reject me as uncanny. The universe is the smelting-pot, and God is the caster. I shall go whithersoever I am sent, to wake unconscious of the past, as a man wakes from a dreamless sleep.”


How do I know that love of life is not a delusion? How do I know that those who fear death are not mere lost lambs which cannot find their way back to the fold?

A daughter of the Governor of Ai, when first captured by the Chins, saturated her robe with tears; but afterwards, when she went into the prince's palace and lived with him on the fat of the land, she repented having wept. And how do I know that the dead do not now repent their former craving for life?

One man will dream of the banquet hour, but wake to lamentation and sorrow. Another will dream of lamentation and sorrow, but wake to enjoy himself in the hunting-field. While men are dreaming, they do not perceive that it is a dream. Some will even have a dream in a dream; and only when they awake do they know that it was all a dream. And so, only when the Great Awakening comes upon us, shall we know this life to be a great dream. Fools believe themselves to be awake now.[20]


Chuang Tzŭ one day saw an empty skull, bleached, but still preserving its shape. Striking it with his riding-whip, he said, “Wert thou once some ambitious citizen whose inordinate yearnings brought him to this pass?―some statesman who plunged his country in ruin and perished in the fray?―some wretch who left behind him a legacy of shame?―some beggar who died in the pangs of hunger and cold? Or didst thou reach this state by the natural course of old age?”

When he had finished speaking, he took the skull, and placing it under his head as a pillow, went to sleep. In the night, he dreamt that the skull appeared to him and said, “You speak well, sir; but all you say has reference to the life of mortals, and to mortal troubles. In death there are none of these. Would you like to hear about death?”

Chuang Tzŭ having replied in the affirmative, the skull began:―“In death, there is no sovereign above, and no subject below. The workings of the four seasons are unknown. Our existences are bounded only by eternity. The happiness of a king among men cannot exceed that which we enjoy.”

Chuang Tzŭ, however, was not convinced, and said, “Were I to prevail upon God to allow your body to be born again, and your bones and flesh to be renewed, so that you could return to your parents, to your wife, and to the friends of your youth, would you be willing?”

At this, the skull opened its eyes wide and knitted its brows and said, “How should I cast aside happiness greater than that of a king, and mingle once again in the toils and troubles of mortality?”[21]


Life is a state which follows upon Death. Death is a state which precedes Life. Which of us understands the laws that govern their succession?

The life of man is the resultant of forces. The aggregation of those forces is life: their dispersion, death. If, then, Life and Death are but consecutive states of existence, what cause for sorrow have I?

And so it is that all things are but phases of unity. What men delight in is the spiritual essence of life. What they loathe is the material corruption of death. But this state of corruption gives place to that state of spirituality, and that state of spirituality gives place in turn to this state of corruption. Therefore, we may say that all in the universe is comprised in unity; and therefore the inspired among us have adopted unity as their criterion.


When Lao Tzŭ died, and Ch'in Shih went to mourn,[22] the latter utted three yells and departed.

A disciple asked him, saying, “Were you not our Master's friend?” “I was,” replied Ch'in Shih. “And if so, do you consider that was a fitting expression of grief at his loss?” added the disciple. “I do,” said Ch'in Shih. “I had believed him to be the man (par excellence), but now I know he was not. When I went in to mourn, I found old persons weeping as if for their children, young ones wailing as if for their mothers. And for him to have gained the attachment of these people in this way, he too must have uttered words which should not have been spoken, and dropped tears which should not have been shed, thus violating eternal principles, increasing the sum of human emotion, and forgetting the source from which his own life was received. Such emotions are but the trammels of mortality. The Master came, because it was his time to be born; he went, because it was his time to die. For those who accept the phenomenon of birth and death in this sense, lamentation and sorrow have no place. Death is but the severance of a thread by which a man hangs suspended in life. Fuel can be consumed; but the fire endureth for ever.”


When Chuang Tzŭ's wife died, Hui Tzŭ went to condole. He found the widower sitting on the ground, singing, with his legs spread out at a right angle, and beating time on a bowl.

“To live with your wife,” exclaimed Hui Tzŭ, “and see your eldest son grow to be a man, and then not to shed a tear over her corpse,―this would be bad enough. But to drum on a bowl, and sing; surely this is going too far.”

“Not at all,” replied Chuang Tzŭ. “When she died, I could not help being affected by her death. Soon, however, I remembered that she had already existed in a previous state before birth, without form, or even substance; that while in that unconditioned condition, substance was added to spirit; that this substance then assumed form; and that the next stage was birth. And now, by virtue of a further change, she is dead, passing from one phase to another like the sequence of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. And while she is thus lying asleep in Eternity, for me to go about weeping and wailing would be to proclaim myself ignorant of these natural laws. Therefore I refrain.”


When Chuang Tzŭ was about to die, his disciples expressed a wish to give him a splendid funeral. But Chuang Tzŭ said, “With Heaven and Earth for my coffin and shell; with the sun, moon, and stars as my burial regalia; and with all creation to escort me to the grave,―are not my funeral paraphernalia ready to hand?”[23]

“We fear,” argued the disciples, “less the carrion kite should eat the body of our Master;” to which Chuang Tzŭ replied, “Above ground, I shall be food for kites; below, I shall be food for mole-crickets and ants. Why rob one to feed the other?

“If you adopt, as absolute, a standard of evenness which is so only relatively, your results will not be absolutely even. If you adopt, as absolute, a criterion of right which is so only relatively, your results will not be absolutely right. Those who trust to their senses become, as it were, slaves to objective existences. Those alone who are guided by their intuitions find the true standard. So far are the senses less reliable than the intuitions. Yet fools trust to their senses to know what is good for mankind, with alas! but external results.


The great Yao begged Hsü-yu to become Emperor in his stead, saying, “If, when the sun and moon are shining brightly, you persist in lighting a torch, is not that misapplication of fire? If, when the rainy season is at its height, you still continue to water the ground, is not that waste of labour? Now, sir, do you assume the reins of government, and the empire will be at peace. I am but a dead body, conscious of my own deficiency. I beg you will ascend the throne.”

“Ever since you, sire, have directed the administration,” replied Hsü-Yu, “the empire has enjoyed tranquillity. Supposing, therefore, that I were to take your place now, should I gain any reputation thereby? Besides, reputation is but the shadow of reality; and should I trouble myself about the shadow? The tit builds its nest in the mighty forest, and occupies but a single twig. The tapir slakes its thirst from the river, but drinks enough only to fill its belly. To you, sire, belongs the reputation: the empire has no need for me. If a cook is unable to dress the sacrifices, the boy who impersonates the corpse may not step over the wines and meats and do it for him.”


Chuang Tzŭ and Hui Tzŭ had strolled on to the bridge over the Hao, when the former observed, “See how the minnows are darting about! That is the pleasure of fishes.”

“You not being yourself a fish,” said Hui Tzŭ, “how can you possibly know in what the pleasure of fishes consists?”

“And you not being I,” retorted Chuang Tzŭ, “how can you know that I do not know?”

“That I, not being you, do not know what you know,” replied Hui Tzŭ, “is identical with my argument that you, not being a fish, cannot know in what the pleasure of fishes consists.”

“Let us go back to your original question,” said Chuang Tzŭ. “You ask me how I know in what consists the pleasure of fishes. Your very question shows that you knew I knew. I knew it from my own feelings on this bridge.


Chuang Tzŭ was one day fishing, when the Prince of Ch'u sent two high officials to interview him, saying that his Highness would be glad of Chuang Tzŭ's assistance in the administration of his government. The latter quietly fished on, and without looking round, replied, “I have heard that in the State of Ch'u there is a sacred tortoise, which has been dead three thousand years, and which the prince keeps packed up in a box on the altar in his ancestral shrine. Now do you think that tortoise would rather be dead and have its remains thus honoured, or be alive and wagging its tail in the mud?” The two officials answered that no doubt it would rather be alive and wagging its tail in the mud; whereupon Chuang Tzŭ cried out “Begone! I too elect to remain wagging my tail in the mud.”


The perfect man is like a spirit. Were the ocean to be scorched up, he would not be hot. Were the Milky Way to be fast frozen, he would not feel cold. Of thunder which rives mountains, of wind which lashes the sea, he is not afraid; and thus, charioted on the clouds of heaven, or riding on the sun and moon, he journeys beyond the limits of mortality. Exempt from the changes of life and death, how much more is he beyond the reach of physical injury. The perfect man can walk under water without difficulty; he can touch fire without being burnt.[24]


A drunken man who falls out of a cart, though he may suffer, yet will not die. His bones are jointed like those of other people, but he meets the accident under different conditions. His mental equilibrium is undisturbed. Unconscious of riding in the cart, he is equally unconscious of falling out of it. The ordinary ideas of life, death, and fear, find no place in his breast; consequently, when thrown into collision with matter, he is not afraid. And if a man can thus get perfect mental equilibrium out of wine, how much more should he do so out of the resources of his own nature? It is there that the wise man takes refuge; and there no one can injure him. To those who would wreak vengeance upon him, he opposes neither spear nor shield; nor does he heed the brick which some spiteful enemy may hurl at his head.


Lieh Yü-k'ou instructed Poh-hun Wu-jên in archery. Drawing the bow to its full, he [the teacher] placed a cup of water on his elbow and began to let fly. Hardly was one arrow out of sight ere another was on the string, the archer all the time standing like a statue. Poh-hun Wu-jên cried out, “This is shooting under ordinary conditions; it is not shooting under extraordinary conditions. Now I will ascend a high mountain with you, and stand on the edge of a precipice a thousand feet in depth, and see if you can shoot like this then.” Thereupon Wu-jên went with his teacher up a high mountain, and stood on the edge of a precipice a thousand feet high, approaching it backwards until one-fifth of his feet overhung the chasm, when he beckoned Lieh Yü-k'ou to come on. But Yü-k'ou had fallen prostrate on the ground, with the sweat pouring down to his heels.


The Penumbra said to the Umbra, “At one moment you move: at another you are at rest. At one moment you sit down: at another you get up. Why this instability of purpose?”

“I depend,” replied the Umbra, “upon something which causes me to do as I do; and that something depends upon something else which causes it to do as it does. My dependence is like that of a snake's scales or a cicada's wings (which do not move of their own accord). How can I tell why I do one thing or do not do another?”


Once upon a time I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of following my fancies (as a butterfly), and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly, I awaked; and there I lay, myself again. I do not know whether I was then dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that it is a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a barrier; and the transition is called Metempsychosis.


4th century b.c.

[A famous poet and minister of one of the feudal princes. Being unjustly dismissed from favour, he committed suicide by drowning, and his death gave rise to an annual spring festival, known as the Dragonboat Festival, at which an imaginary search for his body is made in every available stream of water throughout the Eighteen Provinces.]


THREE years had elapsed since Ch‘ü-p‘ing[25] was dismissed from office, and still he was unable to obtain an audience of his prince. His fervent loyalty had been intercepted by the tongue of slander. He was broken in spirit and knew not whither to direct his steps. In his doubt he repaired to the Chief Augur and asked for a response. The Chief Augur thereupon arranged the divining-grass and wiped the tortoise-shell, saying, “What, sir, are the points on which you desire to be enlightened?”

“Tell me,” cried Ch‘ü-p‘ing, “whether I should steadily pursue the path of truth and loyalty, or follow in the wake of a corrupt generation. Should I work in the fields with spade and hoe, or seek advancement in the retinue of a grandee? Should I court danger by outspoken words, or fawn in false tones upon the rich and great? Should I rest content in the cultivation of virtue, or practise the art of wheedling women in order to secure success? Should I be pure and clean-handed in my rectitude, or an oily-mouthed, slippery, time-serving sycophant? Should I hold on my course like an impetuous charger, or oscillate, with the indecision of of a duck in a pool, to and fro as self-interest commands? Should I yoke myself a fellow in the shafts with Bucephalus, or shamble along by the side of Rozinante? Should I vie with the wild goose in soaring to heaven, or scramble for food on a dunghill with hens? Of these alternatives I would know which to choose. The age is muddy and will not be made clean. The wing of the cicada outweighs a thousand pounds. The priceless goblet is set aside for the delf cup. Flatterers fill high places: men of worth are ignored. Alas! who is there that knows my worth?”

The Chief Augur gathered up his divining apparatus and saluted Ch'ü-p'ing, saying, “A foot is oft-times too short; an inch, too long. The implements of my art are not adequate to your requirements. Think for yourself, and translate your thoughts into action. The divining-grass and the tortoise-shell would avail you naught.”


When Ch'ü-p'ing was dismissed, he wandered away to the banks of a river, and there poured forth his soul in verse. His colour changed. His body wasted to a skeleton.

One day a fisherman accosted him, saying, “Are you not his Excellency the Prime Minister? What has brought you to this pass?”

“The world,” replied Ch'ü-p'ing, “is foul; and I alone am clean. There they are all drunk, while I alone am sober. So I am dismissed.”

“Ah!” said the fisherman, “the true sage does not quarrel with his environment, but adapts himself to it. If, as you say, the world is foul, why not leap into the tide and make it clean? If all men are drunk, why not drink with them, and teach them to avoid excess? Of what avail are these subtle thoughts, these lofty schemes, which end only in disgrace?”

“I have heard,” rejoined Ch'ü-p'ing, “that the bather fresh from the bath will shake the dust from his hat and clothes. How should he allow his pure body to be soiled with the corruption of earth? I am willing to find a grave in the bellies of the fishes that swim in this stream: I will not let my purity be defiled by the filth and corruption of the world.”

The fisherman laughed, and keeping time with his oar, sculled off, singing,―

My tassel I'll wash if the water is sweet;
If the water is muddy 'twill do for my feet.


Methinks there is a Genius of the hills, clad in wistaria, girdled with ivy, with smiling lips, of witching mien, riding on the pard, wild cats galloping in the rear, reclining in a chariot, with banners of cassia, cloaked with the orchid, girt with azalea, culling the perfume of sweet flowers to leave behind a memory in the heart. But dark is the grove wherein I dwell. No light of day reaches it ever. The path thither is dangerous and difficult to climb. Alone I stand on the hill top, while the clouds float beneath my feet, and all around is wrapped in gloom.

Gently blows the east wind: softly falls the rain. In my joy I become oblivious of home; for who in my decline would honour me now?

I pluck the larkspur on the hillside, amid the chaos of rock and tangled vine. I hate him who has made me an outcast, who has now no leisure to think of me.

I drink from the rocky spring. I shade myself beneath the spreading pine. Even though he were to recall me to him, I could not fall to the level of the world.

Now booms the thunder through the drizzling rain. The gibbons howl around me all the long night. The gale rushes fitfully through the whispering trees. And I am thinking of my prince, but in vain; for I cannot lay my grief.[26]


3rd and 4th centuries b.c.

[Nephew of the famous Ch'ü P'ing, and like his uncle a statesman and a poet. His poems are included among the “Rhapsodies of Ch‘u.”]


KING Hsiang of the Ch'u State was strolling in the palace on the Epidendrum Terrace, with Sung Yü and Ching Ch'a in attendance. A breeze suddenly got up, causing the king to draw his robe across his breast as a protection. “The air bites shrewdly,” he said; “do I, the sovereign and my people feel it alike?” Sung Yü replied, “This breeze belongs to your Majesty alone; how could the people share it?” “But wind,” said the king, “is a vivifying principle of the universe; it is universally exhilarating, and it does not distinguish in its favours between those who are honoured and exalted and those who are humble and lowly. You, sir, just now spoke as if the breeze belonged personally to me, the sovereign. How is this so?” “I have learnt from my teacher,” answered Sung Yü, “that forks in the mulberry-tree invite nests and that hollows and holes invite wind, the reason in each case being the different qualities of wind.” “But where does wind come from?” asked the king. “Wind,” replied Sung Yü, “is produced on the earth, and rises from the tips of the green duck-weed leaves; it rushes wildly through ravines and valleys, and roars loudly in large holes. Climbing the slopes of Mt. T‘ai, it dances beneath the pines and the cypresses, with streams of whirling water, with angry flashes of flying flames and peals of booming thunder. Now, back to the holes while blowing from every quarter, flinging about stones, breaking off the ends of branches and destroying the undergrowth of the forest.

“Then, when it begins to abate, after having scattered far and wide the beauty of foliage, it rushes into hollows and rattles door-bars, while a brightness is diffused around as now it calms down and now it comes again. Therefore this pure cool virile wind is wafted about, up and down; it mounts the lofty city walls and enters far into the palace; it touches flowers and leaves, and stimulates their vitality; it wanders among the cinnamon and pepper-trees, and soars round and round over the rolling waters; it strikes at the spirit of the hibiscus; it robs the orchid and scatters the asaram; it levels the magnolia and shrivels the poplar. Returning to its lair, it plays havoc with artemisia and other fragrant plants; it moves to and fro in the court-yard, or northwards to the Jade Hall, where it runs up the silk curtains and passes into the nuptial chamber. That is why it is called the sovereign’s wind.”

“The effect of this wind upon those who are in it, is to make them look sad, and chilled, even to sobbing. Pure and fresh, it cures disease and sobers the drunk; it sharpens one’s sight and hearing; it gives repose to the body and comfort to the man; and thus it is called the virile wind of the sovereign.”

“Well put, indeed,” said the king. “Now can you tell me about the wind of the people.” “The wind of the people,” replied Sung Yü, “rises with a gust in the slums. It sweeps up clouds of dust from holes; suddenly roused, it brings troubles, piercing through crevices and attacking doors; it disturbs graves and blows about dead ashes: it throws everything into confusion, whirling along rotten flesh and other horrors, until at last it passes through the jar-mouth windows and so into the rooms of the cottage.

“The effect of this wind upon those who are in it, is to make them altogether dull and full of anxiety, driving out warmth and engendering dampness and distressful emotions. It breeds disease and produces fevers; affecting the lips, it causes sores; reaching the eyes, it makes them red; it harasses by a racking cough, so that people care nothing whether they live or die; and thus it is called the feminine wind of the people.”


THE Prince of Ch'u said to his prime minister,[27] “What have you done that should cause the officers and people of this State to abuse you so clamorously?”

“Abuse me indeed they do,” replied the minister; “but pardon my boldness, and I will explain. A stranger was singing in one of our villages the other day, and this was the subject of his lay:―There is the music of the masses; there is the music of a narrower circle; that of a narrower circle still; and lastly, the classical music of the cultured few. This classical music is too lofty, and too difficult of comprehension, for the masses.[28]

“Among birds there is the phœnix: among fishes, the leviathan. The phœnix soars aloft, cleaving the red clouds, with the blue firmament above it, away into the uttermost realms of space. But what can the poor hedge-quail know of the grandeur of heaven and earth? The leviathan rises in the morning in one ocean to go to rest at night in another. But what can the minnow of a puddle know of the depth of the sea?

“And there are phœnixes and leviathans, not only among birds and fishes, but among men. There is the Sage, full of nervous thought and of unsullied fame, who dwells complacently alone. What can the vulgar herd know of me?”


3rd and 4th centuries b.c.


WHEN Tzŭ-shang’s mother died, he would not attend her funeral. A disciple asked his father, Tzŭ-ssŭ (grandson of Confucius), saying, “Did not your father attend his divorced mother’s funeral?” “He did,” replied Tzŭ-ssŭ. “Then why cannot you make Tzŭ-shang do likewise?” rejoined the disciple. “My grandfather,” said Tzŭ-ssŭ, “was a man of complete virtue. With him, whatever was, was right. I cannot aspire to his level. As long as the deceased was my wife, she was my son’s mother. When she ceased to be my wife, she ceased also to be his mother.”

From that time forth, it became a rule among the descendants of Confucius not to attend the funeral of a divorced mother.


A certain man travelled from afar to witness the funeral obsequies of Confucius. He stayed at the house of Tzŭ-hsia, who observed, “A sage conducting a funeral is one thing: a sage’s funeral is another thing. What did you expect to see? Do you not remember that our Master once said, ‘Some persons pile up earth into square, others into long-shaped tumuli. Some build spacious mausolea, others content themselves with small axe-shaped heaps. I prefer the heaps.’ He meant what we call horse-neck heaps. So we have given him only a few handfuls of earth, and he is buried. Is not this as he would have wished it himself?”


One day Yu-tzŭ and Tzŭ-yu saw a child weeping for the loss of its parents. Thereupon, the former observed, “I never could understand why mourners should necessarily jump about to show their grief, and would long ago have got rid of the custom. Now here you have an honest expression of feeling, and that is all there should ever be.”

“My friend,” replied Tzŭ-yu, “the mourning ceremonial, with all its material accompaniments, is at once a check upon undue emotion and a guarantee against any lack of proper respect. Simply to give vent to the feelings is the way of barbarians. That is not our way.

“Consider. A man who is pleased will show it in his face. He will sing. He will get excited. He will dance. So, too, a man who is vexed will look sad. He will sigh. He will beat his breast. He will jump about. The due regulation of these emotions is the function of a set ceremonial.

“Further. A man dies and becomes an object of loathing. A dead body is shunned. Therefore, a shroud is prepared, and other paraphernalia of burial, in order that the survivors may cease to loathe. At death, there is a sacrifice of wine and meat; when the funeral cortege is about to start, there is another; and after burial there is yet another. Yet no one ever saw the spirit of the departed come to taste of the food.

“These have been our customs from remote antiquity. They have not been discarded, because, in consequence, men no more shun the dead. What you may censure in those who perform the ceremonial is no blemish in the ceremonial itself.”


When Tzŭ-chü died, his wife and secretary took counsel together as to who should be interred with him.[29] All was settled before the arrival of his brother, Tzŭ-k'ang; and then they informed him, saying, “The deceased requires some one to attend upon him in the nether world. We must ask you to go down with his body into the grave.” “Burial of the living with the dead,” replied Tzŭ-hêng, “is not in accordance with established rites. Still, as you say some one is wanted to attend upon the deceased, who better fitted than his wife and secretary? If this contingency can be avoided altogether, I am willing; if not, then the duty will devolve upon you two.”

From that time forth the custom fell into desuetude.[30]


When Confucius was crossing the T‘ai mountain, he overheard a woman weeping and wailing beside a grave. He thereupon sent one of his disciples to ask what was the matter; and the latter addressed the woman, saying, “Some great sorrow must have come upon you that you give way to grief like this?” “Indeed it is so,” replied she. “My father-in-law was killed here by a tiger; after that, my husband; and now my son has perished by the same death.” “But why, then,” enquired Confucius, “do you not go away?” “The government is not harsh,” answered the woman. “There!” cried the Master, turning to his disciples; “remember that. Bad government is worse than a tiger.”


When Chao Wu had completed his palace, all the great nobles went to offer their congratulations. One of them said, “How beautiful! how grand! how spacious! Here you will sing: there you will weep: and here the clans will gather together.”

“Ah!” replied Chao Wu; “may it indeed come to pass that I shall sing here, and weep there, and that here the clans will gather together; for thus I should go down to the grave of my forefathers with my head safely on my shoulders.” So saying, he bowed twice towards the north, striking his brow upon the ground.

“Well-timed,” exclaims the superior man, “was the panegyric; and well-timed also was the prayer.”[31]


An old friend of Confucius having lost his mother, the Master went to assist in varnishing the coffin. “Ai-ya!” exclaimed the friend as he brought the coffin in, “’tis long since I have had any music.” Thereupon he began to sing―

  \relative c'' {
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    \override Score.BarNumber #'stencil = ##f
    a'~a fis fis8 |
    a[( fis)] a[( fis)] e4 r8 |
    fis8 [( a8 fis8 e8)] d4 b8 |
    a8[( d8)] e8[( fis8)] d4 r8 |
    b8 a8 r8 b8 d8 r8 \bar "||"
    | s % empty bar goes here. How to represent?
  \addlyrics {
   Striped like the |
   wild cat's head, |
   Smooth as a |
   maiden's ___ hand |
   Ai -- yah! Ai -- yah! |
   | % empty bar goes here.
[alluding (1) to the grain of the wood and (2) to the varnish.][32]

Confucius pretended not to hear, and moved away; but one of his disciples cried out, “Master, should you not have done with a fellow like this?”

“It is not right,” replied Confucius, to disregard the duties we owe to our parents; neither is it right to disregard the duties we owe to our friends.”



A certain person having forwarded some elixir of immortality to the Prince of Ching, it was received as usual by the door-keeper. “Is this to be swallowed?” enquired the Chief Warden of the palace. “It is,” replied the door-keeper. Thereupon, the Chief Warden purloined and swallowed it. At this, the prince was exceedingly wroth, and ordered his immediate execution; but the Chief Warden sent a friend to plead for him, saying, “Your Highness’ servant asked the door-keeper if the drug was to be swallowed; and as he replied in the affirmative, your servant accordingly swallowed it. The blame rests entirely with the door-keeper. Besides, if the elixir of life is presented to your Highness, and because your servant swallows it, your Highness slays him, that elixir is clearly the elixir of death; and for your Highness thus to put to death an innocent official is simply for your Highness to be made the sport of men.”

The prince spared his life.


(Latinized into MENCIUS.)

b.c. 372-289.

[Mencius is China’s “second sage.” He was to Confucius much what St. Paul was to Christ. The great principles which were henceforth to guide the nation had been already enunciated, and to these Mencius added nothing new. He lacked the inspiration which has placed Confucius in the front rank of the world’s Prophets. But he did good work in expounding and disseminating the message which the Master had left behind him; especially in denouncing the theories of Mo Ti and Yang Chu (qq. vv.). His writings have been justly included in the Canon of Confucianism, and for more than twenty centuries his name has been a household word over the length and breadth of China.]


KING HUI of Liang said to Mencius, “I exhaust my energies in the administration of government. If the harvest is bad on one side of the river, I transfer a number of the inhabitants to the other, and send supplies to those who remain. No ruler among the neighbouring States devotes himself as I do to the welfare of his people. Yet their populations do not decrease; neither does mine increase. How is this?”

Mencius replied, “Your Majesty loves war. Let us take an illustration from war:―

“The drums beat: blades cross: arms are flung aside: the vanquished seek safety in flight. Some will run a hundred yards and then stop; others, fifty only. Can those who run fifty laugh at those who run a hundred?”

“No, indeed,” replied the king; “it was flight in both cases.”

“And so,” rejoined Mencius, “your Majesty, perceiving the application of what I have said, will not (under present conditions) expect your population to exceed the populations of neighbouring States.

“Let the times for agriculture be not neglected, and there will be more grain than can be eaten. Let no close-meshed nets sweep your streams, and there will be more fishes and turtles than can be eaten. Let forestry be carried on in due season, and there will be more wood than can be used. Thus, the people will be able to feed their living and bury their dead without repining; and this is the first step towards establishing a perfect system of government.

“Let the mulberry-tree be cultivated in accordance with regulation; then persons of fifty years old will be able to wear silk. Let due attention be paid to the breeding of poultry, and swine, and dogs; then persons of seventy years old will be able to eat meat. Let there be no interference with the labour of the husbandman; and there will be no mouths crying out for food. Let education of the people be reverently attended to;―above all, let them be taught their duties towards their parents and brethren;―and there will be no gray-headed burden-carriers to be seen along the highway. For, where septuagenarians wear silk and eat meat, where the black-haired people are neither hungry nor cold, it has never been that perfect government did not prevail.

“Your dogs and swine are battening on the food of men, and you do not limit them. By the roadside there are people dying of hunger, and you do not succour them. If they die, you say, ‘It was not I; it was the bad season.’ What is this but to stab a man to death, and say, ‘It was not I; it was the weapon?’ O king, blame not the season for these things, and all men under the canopy of heaven will flock to you.”

King Hui replied, “I beg to receive your instructions.”

Mencius continued, “Is there any difference between killing a man with a bludgeon and killing him with a sword!”

“There is none,” answered the king.

“Or between killing him with a sword and killing him by misrule?” pursued Mencius.

“There is none,” replied the king again.

“Yet in your kitchen,” said Mencius, “there is fat meat, and in your stables there are sleek horses, while famine sits upon the faces of your people, and men die of hunger in the fields. This is to be a beast, and prey upon your fellow-man.

“Beasts prey upon one another, in a manner abhorrent to us. If, then, he who holds the place of father and mother to the people, preys upon them like a beast, wherein does his prerogative consist?

“Confucius said, ‘Was he not without posterity who first buried images with the dead?’―meaning that these, being in the likeness of man, suggested the use of living men. What then of him who causes his people to die of hunger?”


Kao Tzŭ said, “Human nature may be compared with a block of wood; duty towards one's neighbour, with a wooden bowl. To develop charity and duty towards one's neighbour out of human nature is like making a bowl out of a block of wood.”

To this Mencius replied, “Can you without interfering with the natural constitution of the wood, make out of it a bowl? Surely you must do violence to that constitution in the process of making your bowl. And by parity of reasoning you would do violence to human nature in the process of developing charity and duty towards one’s neighbour. From which it follows that all men would come to regard these rather as evils than otherwise.”

Kao Tzŭ said, “Human nature is like rushing water, which flows east or west according as an outlet is made for it. For human nature makes indifferently for good or for evil, precisely as water makes indifferently for the east or for the west.”

Mencius replied, “Water will indeed flow indifferently towards the east or west; but will it flow indifferently up or down? It will not; and the tendency of human nature towards good is like the tendency of water to flow down. Every man has this bias towards good, just as all water flows naturally downwards. By splashing water, you may indeed cause it to fly over your head; and by turning its course you may keep it for use on the hillside; but you would hardly speak of such results as the nature of water. They are the results, of course, of a force majeure. And so it is when the nature of man is diverted towards evil.”

Kao Tzŭ said, “That which comes with life is nature.”

Mencius replied, “Do you mean that there is such a thing as nature in the abstract, just as there is whiteness in the abstract?”

“I do,” answered Kao Tzŭ.

“Just, for instance,” continued Mencius, “as the whiteness of a feather is the same as the whiteness of snow, or the whiteness of snow as the whiteness of jade?”

“I do,” answered Kao Tzŭ again.

“In that case,” retorted Mencius, “the nature of a dog is the same as that of an ox, and the nature of an ox the same as that of a man.”

Kao Tzŭ said, “Eating and reproduction of the species are natural instincts. Charity is subjective and innate; duty towards one’s neighbour is objective and acquired. For instance, there is a man who is my senior, and I defer to him as such. Not because any abstract principle of seniority exists subjectively in me, but in the same way that if I see a white man I recognise him as such, because he is so objectively to me. Consequently, I say that that duty towards one’s neighbour is objective or acquired.”

Mencius replied, “The cases are not analogous. The whiteness of a white horse is undoubtedly the same as the whiteness of a white man; but the seniority of a horse is not the same as the seniority of a man. Does our duty to our senior begin and end with the fact of his seniority? Or does it not rather consist in the necessity of deferring to him as such?”

Kao Tzŭ said, “I love my own brother; but I do not love another man's brother. The distinction arises from within myself; therefore I call it subjective or innate. But I defer to a stranger who is my senior just as I defer to a senior among my own people. The distinction comes to me from without; therefore I call it objective or acquired.”

Mencius retorted, “We enjoy food cooked by strangers just as much as food cooked by our own people. Yet extension of your principle lands us in the conclusion that our appreciation of cooked food is also objective and acquired.”


A disciple asked, saying, “Is it true that Yao (2357 b.c.) gave the throne to Shun[33] (2255 b.c.)?” “It is not true,” replied Mencius; “the Son of God[34] cannot take the throne and give it to any one.” “Yes,” said the disciple, “but Shun got it. Who gave it to him?” “God gave it to him.” “Oh, God gave it to him, did He? Were there any particular commands as to what his duties would be.” “No,” replied Mencius; “God does not speak. God made manifest His will through Shun's own behaviour.” “Oh,” said the disciple, “through Shun's own behaviour, was it? How did He manage that?” “The Son of God,” replied Mencius, “can recommend any one to God, but he cannot make God give that man the throne. Just so, the feudal nobles can recommend any one to the Son of God, but they cannot make the Son of God appoint that man to be a feudal noble. Likewise, a Minister can recommend any one to his suzerain, but he cannot make his suzerain appoint that man to be a Minister. In those days of old, Yao recommended Shun to God, and God accepted him; he let the people see what sort of man Shun was, and the people accepted him. Therefore I said, God does not speak; He manifests his will through behaviour.” “May I ask,” said the disciple, “how this was managed.” “Yao,” replied Mencius, “caused Shun to preside over the sacrifices; and as the spirits were well pleased, God accepted him. Yao also caused him to preside over the conduct of affairs; and as affairs were well administered and a general wellbeing prevailed, the people accepted him. Thus, it was God and the people who gave Shun the throne; and therefore I said that the Son of God cannot give the throne to any one.


There are dignities of God, and there are dignities of man. Charity of heart, duty towards one's neighbour, loyalty, and truth―these are the dignities of God. To be a duke, a minister of State, or a high official―these are the dignities of man. The men of old cultivated the dignities of God, and the dignities of man followed. The men of to-day cultivate the dignities of God in order to secure the dignities of man; and when they have obtained the dignities of man, they cast aside all further thought of the dignities of God. In this they greatly err, and the probability is that they will lose their dignities of man as well.

Charity of heart is the noblest gift of God; it is a house, so to speak, in which a man may live in peace. No one can prevent us from possessing this gift; if we have it not, that is due to our own folly.

Charity of heart subdues uncharitableness just as water subdues fire. But people nowadays employ charity of heart much in the same way as if they were to try to put out a blazing cartload of firewood with a single cupful of water; and then when they fail to put out the flames, they turn round and blame the water.[35]


“Master,” said a disciple, “people all declare that you are fond of disputing; I venture to ask if this is so.” “It is not,” replied Mencius; “the fact is that I cannot do otherwise. Inspired rulers are no longer in power; the feudal barons have thrown off all restraint; and idle scholars are discussing unorthodox themes. The words of Yang Chu and Mo Ti fill the empire, and those who are not on the side of one will be found on the side of the other. Yang’s doctrine is Every man for himself, which means that he recognizes no ruler. Mo’s doctrine is Love all equally, which means that he does not recognize the special claim of a parent. But to recognize neither parent nor ruler is to be a brute beast. If these doctrines are not checked, and the doctrines of Confucius are not put forward, heterodox teachings will delude the people, and charity of heart and duty towards one's neighbour will cease to prevail. Then, beasts will be led on to devour men, and men will soon be devouring one another. I am alarmed by these things, and address myself to the doctrines of the inspired men of old in order to oppose Yang and Mo.[36]


A philosopher asked Mencius, saying, “That men and women, in giving and receiving, shall not touch hands, is such the rule of propriety?” “It is,” replied Mencius. “But supposing,” said the philosopher, “that a sister-in-law was drowning, should a man not give her a hand and pull her out?” “A man,” answered Mencius, “who could see his sister-in-law drown and not give her his hand, would be a wolfish brute. That men and women, in giving and receiving, do not touch hands, is a rule of propriety; but when a sister-in-law is drowning, to give her a hand and pull her out comes under the head of exceptions to the rule.” “Just now,” retorted the philosopher, “the empire is drowning; why do you not pull it out?” “The drowning empire,” replied Mencius, “must be saved by the eternal principles of Right; a drowning sister-in-law by the hand. Would you have me save the empire by my hand?”


3rd century b.c.

[Famous chiefly for having sustained the heterodox theory that the nature of man is evil in opposition to the Confucian doctrine that man is born good and becomes evil through his environment.]


BY nature, man is evil. If a man is good, that is an artificial result. For, his condition being what it is, he is influenced first of all by a desire for gain. Hence, he strives to get all he can without consideration for his neighbour. Secondly, he is liable to envy and hate. Hence, he seeks the ruin of others, and loyalty and truth are set aside. Thirdly, he is a slave to his animal passions. Hence, he commits excesses, and wanders from the path of duty and right.

Thus, conformity with man's natural disposition leads to all kinds of violence, disorder, and ultimate barbarism. Only under the restraint of law and of lofty moral influences does man eventually become fit to be a member of regularly organised society.

From these premisses it seems quite clear that by nature man is evil; and that if a man is good, that is an artificial result.


3rd century b.c.

[Was for a long period prime minister and trusted adviser of the prince who finally annihilated the feudal system which prevailed under the Chou dynasty, and seated himself upon the throne as the First Emperor of China. It was then that Li Ssŭ suggested the entire destruction of existing literature, with a few trifling exceptions, in order to break off absolutely all connection with the past; a design which was rapidly carried into practical effect, though not to the extent which has been generally supposed, and from the operation of which the sacred books of Confucianism were saved only by the devotion of a few. Li Ssŭ was himself an accomplished scholar, and invented a form of writing which remained in vogue for several centuries, until superseded by the style now in use.]


THE high officers of State had combined to persuade the Prince of Ch'in to dismiss all foreign nobles and other strangers from the Court, urging that such persons were there only in the interests of their masters. This proscription would have included me. I therefore sent up the following Memorial:―

May it please your Majesty,

The present scheme for proscribing strangers is in every way a fatal step. Have we not innumerable examples in the past of the employment of foreigners, to the greater glory of the State and to the infinite advantage of the people?

From the mountains of Tibet your Majesty receives jade; from elsewhere, jewels. Bright pearls, good blades, fine horses, kingfisher banners, triton-skin drums,―of such rarities not one is produced at home, yet your Majesty delights in all. But if nothing is to be used in future save local produce, then will rich pearls shine no more at Court, then will the elephant and the rhinoceros contribute their ivory no more, nor the ladies of Chao throng the Imperial hareem, nor sleek palfreys stand in the Imperial stables, nor gold, nor pewter-ware, nor brilliant hues glow within the Imperial walls.

And if all, too, which adorns the seraglio, and ministers to the pleasure of eye and ear, must for the future be of local growth; then adieu to pearl-set pins, to jewelled ear-drops, to silken skirts and embroidered hems;―welcome the humble and the plain, there where beauty no longer reigns supreme.

Take for instance our local music―shrill songs shrieked to earthen and wooden accompaniments―as compared with the magnificent harmonies of other States. Those we have rejected in favour of these, simply because the latter contributed most to the pleasure of sense.

In the choice of men, however, this principle is not to prevail. There is to be no question of capacity or of incapacity, of honesty or of dishonesty. If he be not a native, he must go: all foreigners are to be dismissed. Surely this is to measure men by a lower standard than music and gems! No method this for stretching the rod of empire over all within the boundary of the sea.

As broad acres yield large crops, so for a nation to be great there should be a great population; and for soldiers to be daring their generals should be brave. Not a single clod was added to T‘ai-shan in vain: hence the huge mountain we now behold. The merest streamlet is received into the bosom of Ocean: hence the Ocean's unfathomable expanse. And wise and virtuous is the ruler who scorns not the masses below. For him, no boundaries of realm, no distinctions of nationality exist. The four seasons enrich him; the Gods bless him; and, like our rulers of old, no man's hand is against him.

But now it is proposed to deliver over the black-haired people into the power of the foe. For if strangers are expelled, they will rally round the feudal princes. The leaders of the age will retire, and none will step forth to fill the vacant place. It is as though one should furnish arms to a rebel, or set a premium upon theft.

Many things that are not produced here are nevertheless highly prized. Countless men who were not born here are nevertheless loyal of heart. Therefore to dismiss all foreigners will be to make our enemies strong; for those who suffer expulsion will go to swell the hostile ranks. There will be but hollowness within and bitterness without; and danger will never cease to menace the State.

On reading the above, the Prince of Ch'in cancelled the edict respecting the proscription of foreigners, and I was restored to office.[37]


[Died 233 b.c. A student of criminal law and procedure, who rose to distinction but incurred the enmity of a rival and was thrown into prison where he committed suicide. Fifty-five of his essays, in a more or less corrupt state, are still extant, and are especially valuable as containing many of the sayings attributed to Lao Tzŭ, woven later on, sometimes with portions of his own commentary, into the spurious work known as the Tao Tê Ching.]


OF old Mi Tzŭ-hsia was much attached to the Prince of the Wei State, where there was a law that any one who should furtively ride in one of the royal chariots would be punished by having his feet cut off. Now when Mi’s mother was ill and her illness was reported to him, he went boldly off in one of the Prince’s chariots to see her. On hearing of this, the Prince entirely approved, saying, “Filial piety! For the sake of his mother he risked the loss of his feet.”

On another occasion, Mi was strolling with the Prince in a fruit-garden; and finding that a peach, of which he had partly eaten, was unusually sweet, he offered the remaining piece to the Prince. The Prince said, “Love for me! He forgets himself.” Mi’s face fell, and his attachment abated. The Prince added, “He furtively rode off in one of my chariots, and now he wants to feed me with the balance of his peach.” Mi’s second act was inconsistent with his first. By the first he showed himself to be a good man, and by the second he incurred punishment, thus illustrating the extreme difference between love and hate. Thus, when there is love for a ruler, wisdom steps in and familiarity is increased; but when there is hatred of a ruler, there comes cause for punishment and the result is alienation. So that when admonishing a ruler, it becomes necessary to consider the question of love or hatred before offering advice. A dragon is a deadly reptile which, however, can be trained to be fit for riding; but if a fishbone a foot long should stick in its throat and a man should try to remove it, there would be an end of the man. Now rulers, too, have fishbones sticking in their throats, and what is the fate of those who try but fail to remove them?


Yo Yang was a general in the army of the Wei State. When he attacked Chung-shan, his son was in the beleagured city. The prince of Chung-shan boiled this son alive and sent some of the broth to his father, who received it sitting in his military headquarters and drank up a whole cupful. The marquis of Wei, speaking in commendation, said to an officer, “Yo Yang ate his son's flesh for my sake.” “If he ate his own son,” replied the officer, “who is there whom he would not eat?” When Yo Yang had captured Chung-shan, the marquis duly rewarded him, but became suspicious of his loyalty.

One day, when Mêng Sun was out hunting, a fawn was captured. Mêng Sun bade his huntsman put it on a cart and take it home; but the dam followed and bleated so piteously that the huntsman could not bear to be unkind to the animal, and let the fawn go. When they got home, Mêng Sun asked where the fawn was, and the huntsman said, “I could not bear to be so unkind, and I gave the fawn back to its dam.” Mêng Sun was furious at this, and dismissed the man from his service; but three months later he recalled him, and appointed him to be tutor to his son. Upon this, an official of the Court said, “Not long ago, you punished this man, and now you appoint him to be tutor to your son; how is this?” Mêng Sun replied, “If he cannot bear to be unkind to an animal, how will he bear to be unkind to my son?”

Therefore it is said that clever trickery is not equal to stupid sincerity. Yo Yang was rewarded and became an object of suspicion; the huntsman was punished and became more trusted than ever.

  1. You must not approbate and reprobate.
  2. No campaign will ever end.
  3. Understood down to a.d. 1200 by the masses as an anthropomorphic Being, resident in the sky and in control of the four elements; but subsequently explained by Chu Hsi, the most famous of all commentators, as “abstract Right.”
  4. In its theological sense. See 1 Corinthians, xiii, Authorized Version. Since this volume was first published, the Revised Version has substituted "love" in all cases.
  5. An attempt has been made to show that this is after all only a negative (and therefore comparatively worthless) enunciation of the Golden Rule as expressed positively by Christ. The worthlessness, if any, lies in the terms of such an argument. For instance, you would not that others should abstain from helping you in trouble. Therefore you do not abstain from helping them in trouble. Consequently, you help them; thus doing unto others what you would they should do unto you.
  6. It may be interesting to compare a recent case, in London, of a man accused of harbouring his son, a deserter from the army.
    The man said that his son had been in the house only a week, and he could not drive him out.
    Mr. Boyd.―You should have informed the police.
    The accused.―I should never have heard the last of it from my family.
    Mr. Boyd.―I appreciate that you were in a difficult position, but it is a serious offence. You must pay £10 or go to prison for six weeks.
  7. This title has been taken by some to mean literally “Helping Commentary,” and the work has been attributed to Confucius himself.
  8. My first acquaintance with the sacred books of China was through the medium of Dr. Legge's translations; and when I subsequently came to make free use of native commentaries, I could not but be impressed by the strict verbal accuracy of his renderings, especially in regard to the Tso Chuan. To this rule there are necessarily exceptions, of a more or less serious character; but their grand total would be wholly insufficient to cast a shadow upon that which is truly a monument more lasting than brass. Sir Thomas Wade, whose scholarship was of a vastly inferior order, characterized Legge's work as “wooden.” His own rendering of “The Lun Yü, being Utterances of Kung (sic!) Tzŭ,” is beneath contempt.
  9. To save his people from the horrors of war. The commentator Ku-liang Ch‘ih (q.v.) says “he did not leave a single man behind him,” which can only mean that his partisans and retainers followed him, as he handed over the feudal throne to a brother. The State of Chi was ultimately absorbed by the victors.
  10. In 893 b.c. The present entry refers to 689 b.c.
  11. The principle of the blood-feud has been attributed to Confucius; but the attribution has only been found in works―the Book of Rites and the Family Sayings―neither of which, certainly not the latter, as possessing the stamp of authenticity.
  12. A commentator adds, “If we are not to ask favours of God, how much less may we ask them of one another. Persons who recklessly ask favours, should not be treated with the consideration to which they would otherwise be entitled.”
  13. 13.0 13.1 These two words are quite distinct in Chinese; in speech, they are differently toned; and in writing, the characters used are differently formed.
  14. Since the discovery of the inscribed bones and their interpretation by Lo Chên-yü and L. C. Hopkins, these early dates are no longer regarded as legendary.
  15. A more or less local catastrophe, which has been foolishly identified with Noah's flood.
  16. Out of loyalty to the reigning house.
  17. As being the vice regent of God. Defeated in battle, he was banished 1766 b.c. and died three years later.
  18. Defeated in battle, he perished in the flames of his own palace.
  19. The Chinese believe that a rat has no liver.
  20. “To any one who objects that all we see, hear, feel and taste, think and do, during our whole being, is but the series and deluding appearances of a long dream, and therefore our knowledge of anything be questioned; I must desire him to consider that, if all be a dream, then he doth but dream that makes the question.”―Locke.
  21. Reminding us strangely of Hamlet.
  22. Of course only in the Taoist sense―i.e., more to take note of the death than for purposes of condolence, etc.
  23. Compare the following lines by Mrs. Alexander, from The Burial of Moses:―

    And had he not high honour?―
    The hillside for his pall;
    To lie in state while angels wait
    With stars for tapers tall;
    And the dark rock pines like nodding plumes
    Above his bier to wave,
    And God's own hand in that lonely land
    To lay him in the grave.

  24. Compare the foolish taunts of Reid and Beattie, who asked Bishop Berkeley why “he did not run his head against a post, walk over precipices, etc.; as, in accordance with his theory, no pain, no broken limbs could result.”―Lewes' Hist. of Philos. II., p. 287.
  25. This use of the third person is common in Chinese Literature.
  26. The above translation of what is more correctly a song has been versified and published without a word of acknowledgement by Mr. Cranmer-Byng in his “Lute of Jade” (which has been called a “Loot of Jade”), p. 32, as follows:―

    Methinks there is a genius
    Roams in the mountains,
    Girdled with ivy
    And robed in wisteria (sic), etc., etc.

  27. Sc. to the writer.
  28. It is vulgarly believed that the Chinese have no music―worthy the name. That they had what they themselves were pleased to call music, a thousand years before Christ, is beyond all doubt; and an idea of its æsthetic value may be gathered from the following extracts from the Tso Chuan (see p. 5):―
    They sang to him the Odes of Chou. “Admirable!” said he; “this is the expression of earnest endeavour, without any resentment.”
    They sang to him the Odes of P'ei. “Admirable!” said he; “here are those who sorrow, and yet are not distressed.”
    They sang to him the Odes of Pin. “Admirable!” said he; “they are expressive of enjoyment without license.”
    They sang to him the Odes of Wei. “Admirable!” said he; “what harmony! Here is grandeur with delicacy, like a defile, dangerous, yet easily traversed.”
    Their ancient music, however, disappeared, and with it the Canon of Music which was formerly included among the Six Classics (now Five), at some period subsequent to the campaign of Alexander the Great in Central Asia. The music of Greece took its place; “cette fille ailée,” said Professor Chavannes, “du génie hellenique erra jusque chez les Chinois qui furent émerveillés de sa beauté, mais qui ne surent pas lui conserver sa pureté native.”
  29. The custom of burying living persons with the dead was first practised in China b.c. 580. It was said to have been suggested by an earlier and more harmless custom of placing straw and wooden effigies in the mausolea of the great.
  30. In the 8th moon (b.c. 590) Duke Wên of Sung died. He was the first duke who had an elaborate funeral. Clam mortar was used for lining the grave. There were additional horses and carriages; and human beings were now for the first time interred alive with the dead.―Tso Chuan.
  31. The strange part of the congratulation was to allude, even indirectly, to the hateful contingency of death, as suggested by the word “weep.” But the reply skilfully turned into a compliment what must otherwise have been taken as an affront.
  32. The music is not part of the text. These few bars are given merely as a sample of a Chinese popular air.
  33. For more about Shun, see Yang Chu. “On Self Sacrifice.”
  34. More commonly called the “Son of Heaven”; but now that the word t'ien has been shown to mean an anthropomorphic Deity―to all intents and purposes the Deity, as universally recognized,―it seems only proper to use the term “God” without reserve. That t'ien tzŭ means the “Son of God” is also beyond the reach of argument. This phraseology may doubtless shock many who are more concerned with accidentals than with essentials. It must however be remembered that priority is on the side of the Chinese, who created the term and used it widely centuries before the Christian era.
  35. It is plain that on this all important topic, much slurred over by many, the Chinese have nothing to learn from St. Paul. See 1 Corinthians, Ch. 1.
  36. For the views of these writers, see the extracts given under their names.
  37. “The iniquity of the writer,” observes a commentator, “must not blind us to the beauty of his appeal.”