The Ch'un Ts'ew/Prolegomena/I/v

The Ch'un Ts'ew  (1872)  by Confucius, translated by James Legge
Prolegomena, Chapter I, Section V

 


SECTION V.

THE VALUE OF THE CH‘UN TS‘ËW.


1. I come now to what must-be considered as the most important subject in this chapter,—to endeavour to estimate the value of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw as a document of history; Object of this section.and this will involve a judgment, first, on the character of Confucius as its author, or as having made himself responsible for it by copying it from the tablets of his native State and giving it to the world with his imprimatur, and, next, a judgment on the influence which it has had on the successive governments of China and on the Chinese people at large.

2. My readers have received, I hope, a distinct idea of the nature of the Work as made up of the briefest possible notices of the events of the time which it covers, Statement of the case.without any attempt to exhibit the connexion between them, or any expression of opinion as to the moral character which attaches to many of them. I have spoken of the disappointment which this occasions us, when we address ourselves to its perusal with the expectations which its general reputation and the glowing accounts of it given by Mencius have awakened. We cannot reconcile it with our idea of Confucius that he should have produced so trivial a Work; and we cannot comprehend how his countrymen, down to the present day, should believe in it, and set it forth as a grand achievement.

If there were no other attribute but this triviality belonging to it, we might dismiss it from our notice, and think of it only as of a mirage, which had from the cloudland lured us to it by the attractive appearances which it presented, all vanishing as we approached it and subjected it to a close examination. But there are other attributes of the Work which are of a serious character, and will not permit us to let it go so readily. On p. 13 I have applied the term colourlessness to the notices composing it, meaning thereby simply the absence of all indication of feeling or opinion respecting the subjects of them on the part of the writer or compiler. But are the things so dispassionately told correct in point of fact? Are all the notices really informing, or are many of them misleading? Is the very brief summary a fair representation of the events, or is it in many cases a gross misrepresentation of them?

In what I have said in the preceding sections, I have repeatedly intimated my own opinion that many of the notices of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw are not true; and the proof of this is found in the contradictions which abound between them and the events as given in detail in the Chuen of Tso, contradictions which are pointed out in my notes in hundreds of cases. It may occur to some that the Classic itself is to be believed rather than the narratives of Tso and the other commentators on it. If we are to rest in this dictum, there is of course an end of all study of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw period. From the Work of Confucius, confessedly, we learn nothing of interest, and now the relations of Tso which are so rich in detail are not to be credited;—the two centuries and a half become a blank. But it is impossible to rest in this view. The multitude of details which Tso gives makes him the principal witness in the case; but Kung and Kuh, greatly differing as they do from him in the style of their commentaries, very often bear out his statements, and are equally irreconcileable with the notices of the sage and the inferences which we naturally draw from them. How is it that the three men, all looking up with veneration to Confucius, yet combine to contradict him as they do? Kung and Kuh have their praise-and-censure theory to explain the language which the master uses; but we have seen that it is inadmissible, and it supplies no answer to the question which I have just put. And the mass of Chinese scholars and writers, for nearly 2000 years, have not scrupled to accept the history of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw period given by Tso as in the main correct, maintaining at the same time their allegiance to Confucius as 'the teacher of all ages,' the one man at whose feet the whole world should sit, accepting every paragraph from his stylus as a divine oracle. The thing is to me inexplicable. There have been many times when I have mused over the subject in writing the pages of this volume, and felt that China was hardly less a strange country to me than Lilliput or Laputa would be.

3. The scholars of China are ready, even forward, to admit that Confucius in the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw often conceals[1] the truth about things. On V. i. 6 Kung-yang says, Chinese scholars admit that the Classic conceals things.'The Ch‘un Ts‘ëw conceals [the truth] on behalf of the high in rank, out of regard to kinship, and on behalf of men of worth.'[2] On V. i. 1 Tso says that it was the rule for the historiographers to conceal any wickedness which affected the character of the State.[3] But this 'concealing' covers all the ground occupied by our three English words—ignoring, concealing, and misrepresenting.

[i.] The Ch‘un Ts‘ëw often ignores facts, and of this I will content myself with adducing two instances. The first shall be comparatively, if not quite, an innocent omission. It ignores facts.The fifth Book, containing the annals of duke He, commences simply with the notice that 'it was his first year, the spring, the king's first month.' It is not said that 'he came to the [vacant] seat,' that is, that he did so with the formal ceremonies proper to celebrate his accession to the marquisate. Tso asks why this notice was not given, and says it was because the duke He had gone out of the State. 'The duke,' says he, 'had fled out of the State and now re-entered it; but this is not recorded, being concealed (i.e., being ignored). To conceal the wickedness of the State was according to rule.' On the murder of duke Chwang's son Pan, who should have succeeded to his father, Shin, who became duke He, had fled to the State of Choo, and a boy of eight years old, known as duke Min, was made marquis, and when, within less than two years, he shared the fate of Pan, Shin returned to Loo, and took his place. What connexion all this had with the omission of the usual pageantry or ceremonies, and whether we have in it the true explanation of the absence of the usual notice, I am not prepared to say; but we cannot see what harm there could have been in mentioning duke He's flight from the State and subsequent return to it. A good and faithful chronicler would have been careful to do so, especially if the events did affect, as Tso says, the inauguration of the new rule.[4]

The second instance of ignoring shall be one of more importance. It is well known that the lords of the great States of Ts‘oo and Woo usurped during the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw period the title of king, thus renouncing their allegiance to the dynasty of Chow which acknowledged them only as viscounts. It is by this style of viscount that they are designated in the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw; but the remarkable fact is that it does not once notice the burial of anyone of all the lords of Ts‘oo, or of Woo. The reason is that in such notices he must have appeared with his title of king. The rule was that every feudal lord, duke, marquis, earl, or baron, should after death be denominated as kung or duke, and to this was added the honorary or sacrificial epithet by which he was afterwards to be known. When a notice was entered in the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Loo, say of the burial of the marquis Ch‘ung-urh of Tsin, the entry was that on such and such a month and day they buried duke Wăn of Tsin. But the officers, deputed for the purpose from Loo, had assisted at the burial not of any duke of Ts‘oo or of Woo, but of king so and so. What were the historiographers to do? If they called the king when living a viscount, it would seem to us reasonable that they might have been satisfied to call him a duke when dead. But this would have been a direct falsification of the notification which they had received from the State of the deceased. They therefore ignored the burial altogether, and so managed to make their suzerain of Chow the only king that appeared in their annals. Confucius sanctioned the practice; or if he suppressed all the paragraphs in which the burials of the lords of Ts‘oo and Woo were entered, either as dukes or kings, then specially against him lies the charge of thus shrinking from looking the real state of things fairly in the face, as if he could make it any better by taking no notice of it.

[ii.] A large list of cases of ignoring might be made out by comparing the notes and narratives of Tso with the entries of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, but the cases of concealing the truth are much more numerous; It conceals the truth about things.and in fact it is difficult to draw the line in regard to many of them between mere concealment and misrepresentation. I have quoted, on  13, from Maou K‘e-ling many startling instances of the manner in which the simple notice ‘he died' is used, covering almost every possible way of violent and unnatural death. It may be said that most of them relate to the deaths of princes of other States, and that the historiographers of Loo simply entered the notices as they were communicated to them from those States. Might we not have expected, however, that when their entries came under the revision of Confucius, he would have altered them so as to give his readers at least an inkling of the truth? But it is the same with the chronicling of deaths in Loo itself. Duke Yin was basely murdered, with the connivance of his brother who succeeded him, and all that is said about it in I. xi. 4 is— ‘In winter, in the 11th month, on Jin-shin, the duke died.' His successor was murdered in turn, with circumstances of peculiar atrocity, and the entry in II. xviii. 2 is simply—'In summer, in the 4th month, on Ping-tsze, the duke died in Ts‘e.' In III. xxxii. three deaths are recorded. We read:—'In autumn, in the 7th month, on Kwei-sze, duke [Hwan's son] Ya died;' 'In the 8th month, on Kwei-hae, the duke died in the State-chamber;' 'In winter, in the 10th month, the duke's son Pan died.' Only the second of these deaths was a natural one. Ya was compelled to take poison by a half-brother Ke-yëw, under circumstances which are held by many critics to justify the deed. Pan who was now marquis, though he could not be entered as such by the historiographers till the year had elapsed, was murdered by an uncle, who wished to seize the marquisate for himself, without any mitigating circumstances. How is it that these three deaths, so different in their nature and attendant circumstances, are described by the same word? Here it is said 'Ya died,' and 'Pan died;' and they did not die natural deaths. In I. v. 7 it is said— 'duke [Hëaou's] son K‘ow died,' and in VIII. v. 13 we have—'Ke-sun Hăng-foo died;' and they both died natural deaths. What are we to think of a book which relates events in themselves so different without any difference in its forms of expression? The K‘ang-he editors are fond of the solution of such perplexities which says that Confucius meant to set his readers inquiring after the details of the events which he indicated; but why did he not obviate the necessity for such inquiries altogether by varying his language as it would have been very easy to do? But for the Chuen we should entirely misunderstand a great number of the entries in the text.

To take two instances of a less violent kind than these descriptions of deaths,—in III. i. 2, we read that ‘in the 3d month the [late duke Hwan's,] wife [Wăn Këang] retired to Ts‘e,' and in X. xxv. 5 we read that ‘in the 9th month, on Ke-hae, the duke [Ch‘aou] retired to Ts‘e.' In both passages ‘retired' is equivalent to ‘fled.' Duke Hwan's widow was understood to have been an accomplice in the murder of her husband, and to have been guilty of incest with her half-brother, the marquis of Ts‘e;—she found it unpleasant, probably dangerous, for her to remain in Loo, and so she fled to Ts‘e, where she would be safe and could continue to follow her evil courses. All this the historiographers and Confucius thought it necessary to gloss over by writing that she withdrew or retired to Ts‘e. The case of duke Ch‘aou was different. He had been kept, like several of his predecessors, in a state of miserable subjection by the principal nobles of the State, especially by the Head of the Ke-sun family. Instigated by his sons, high-spirited young men who could not brook the restraints and shame of their condition, he attempted to cope with his powerful minister, and got the worst of it in the struggle. The consequence was that he fled to Ts‘e; and the text is all that the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw tells us about these affairs, unless we accept its most important entry of the ominous fact that a few months before the duke's flight ‘grackles came to Loo and built nests in trees!' Every one will allow that sons should speak tenderly of the errors of their parents, and ministers and subjects generally throw a veil over the faults of their rulers; but it seems to be carrying the instinctive feeling of dutiful forbearance too far when a historian or chronicler tries to hide the truth about his ruler's conduct and condition from himself and his readers in the manner of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw. It should be kept in mind, moreover, that the historiographers of Loo, if Ch‘aou had been the ruler of another State, would, probably, not have scrupled to say that Ke-sun E-joo drove him out, and that he fled to Ts‘e. Where their own State was concerned, they dared not look the truth in the face. Had Wăn Këang been the marchioness of another State, they would have thought that it did not come within their province to say anything about her.

Two more instances of concealment will finish all that it is necessary to say on this part of my indictment against our Classic; and they shall be entries concerning the king. In V. xxviii. 16, it is said that 'the king [by] Heaven's [grace] held a court of inspection at Ho-yang;' and we suppose that we have an instance of one of those exercises of the royal prerogative which distinguished the kingdom in normal times. But the fact was very different. In the 4th month of the year Tsin had defeated Ts‘oo in a great battle, and the States of the north were safe for a time from the encroachments of their ambitious neighbour. Next month the marquis of Tsin called a great meeting of the northern princes at which he required the king to be present. The king responded to the summons of his feudatory, and a brother of his own presided over the meeting;—though both of these facts are ignored in the text. In the winter, the marquis called another meeting in Ho-yang, a place in the present district of Wăn, in the department of Hwae-k‘ing, Ho-nan, at which also he required the presence of the king, and which is chronicled in the 16th paragraph. Tso quotes a remark of Confucius on the case,—that 'for a subject to call his ruler to any place is a thing not to be set forth [as an example];' but to this I would reply that, the fact being so, it should not be recorded in a way to give the reader quite a different idea of it.

The other instance is less flagrant. In V. xxiv. 4 it is said, 'The king [by] Heaven's [grace] left [Chow], and resided in Ch‘ing].' The facts were that a brother of the king had raised an insurrection against him, so that he was obliged to leave his capital and the imperial domain, and take refuge in Ch‘ing, where he remained until in the next year he was restored to the royal city by an army of Tsin. But as the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw says nothing of the troubles which occasioned the king's flight, so it says nothing about the manner in which he was restored. The whole history of the case is summed up in the paragraph that I have quoted, which conceals the facts, and of itself would not convey to us anything like an accurate impression of the actual circumstances.

[iii.] I go on to the third and most serious charge which can be brought against the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw. It not only ignores facts, and conceals them, but it also often misrepresents them, The Ch‘un Ts‘ëw misrepresents.thus not merely hiding truth or distorting it, but telling us what was not the truth. The observation of Mencius, that, when the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw was made, rebellious ministers and villainous sons became afraid, suggests the instances by which this feature of the Classic may be best illustrated.

Let us first take the case of Chaou Tun, according to the entry in VII. ii. 4, that 'Chaou Tun of Tsin murdered his ruler, E-kaou.' The fact is that Tun did not murder E-kaou. The marquis of Tsin was a man of the vilest character, utterly unfit for his position, a scourge to the State, and a hater of all good men. Tun was his principal minister, a man of dignity and virtue, and had by his remonstrances, excited the special animosity of the marquis, who at one time had sent a bravo to his house to assassinate him, and at another had let loose a bloodhound upon him. Wearied out with the difficulties of his position, Tun had fled from the Court, and had nearly left the State, when a relative of his, called Chaou Ch‘uen, attacked the marquis and put him to death; on which Tun returned to the capital, and resumed his place as chief minister. The only fault which I can see that he committed was that he continued to employ his relative Ch‘uen in the government; but the probability is that he had not the power to deal with him in any other way. Had he been able to execute him, and proceeded to do so, it would have been, I venture to think, a proceeding of doubtful justice. But I ask my readers whether it was right, considering all the circumstances of the case, to brand Tun himself as the murderer of the marquis.

According to Tso, the entry in the text was made in the first place by Tung Hoo, the grand-historiographer of Tsin, who showed it openly in the court, and silenced Tun when he remonstrated with him on its being a misrepresentation of himself. Tso also gives a remark of Confucius, praising Tung Hoo, who made it his rule in what he wrote 'not to conceal!' and praising also Chaou Tun who humbly submitted to a charge of such wickedness. 'Alas for him!' said our sage. 'If he had crossed the border of the State, he would have escaped the charge.' The historiographers of Loo had entered the record in their Ch‘un Ts‘ëw as they received it from Tsin; but I submit whether Confucius, in revising their work, ought not to have exercised his 'pruning pencil,' and modified the misrepresentation. A sage, as we call him, he might have allowed something for the provocations which Tun had received, and for the wickedness of the marquis's government; he ought not to have allowed Tun to remain charged with what was the deed of another.

Let us take a second case. In X. xix. 2 we read—'Che, heir-son of Heu, murdered his ruler Mae.' This, if it were true, would combine the guilt of both regicide and parricide. According to all the Chuen, Che was not the murderer in this case. He was watching his sick father, and gave him a wrong medicine in consequence of which he died. We have no reason to conclude that there was poison in the medicine which the son ignorantly gave. Some critics say that he ought to have tasted it himself before he gave it to his father. He might have done so, and yet not have discovered that it would be so injurious. There is no evidence, indeed, that he did not do so. The result preyed so on the young man's mind that he resigned the State to a younger brother, refused proper nourishment, and soon died. Even if it were he himself who insisted on the form of the entry about his father's death, Confucius, if he had feeling for human infirmity, would have modified it, and not allowed poor Che to go down to posterity charged with the crime of parricide, which, if we had only the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, there would be no means of denying.

Let us take a third case. It may seem to come properly under the preceding count of concealment of the truth, but I introduce it here, because of its contrast with the record in the next case which I will adduce. In X. i. 11, it is said,—'In winter, in the 11th month, on Ke-yëw, Keun, viscount of Ts‘oo, died.' The viscount, or king as he styled himself, was suddenly taken ill, of which Wei, the son of a former king, was informed, when he was on his way, in discharge of a mission, to the State of Ch‘ing. He returned immediately, and entering the palace as if to inquire for the king's health, he strangled him, and proceeded to put to death his two sons. Here certainly was a murder, which ought to have been recorded as such. No doubt, the murderer caused a notification to be sent to other States in the words of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, saying simply that Keun had died, as if the death had been a natural one, and the historiographers had chronicled it in the terms in which it reached them; but ought not Confucius, in such a case especially, to have corrected their entry? To allow so misleading a statement to remain in his text was not the way to make 'rebellious ministers afraid.'

The fourth case relates to the death of the above Wei, also called K‘ëen, the murderer of his king. Twelve years afterwards he himself came to an evil end. In X. xiii. 2 it is said'In summer, in the 4th month, the Kung-tsze Pe of Ts‘oo returned from Tsin to Ts‘oo, and murdered his ruler K‘ëen in Kan-k‘e.' The real facts were these. Wei or K‘ëen displayed in his brief reign an insatiable ambition, and was guilty of many acts of oppression and cruelty. Having despatched a force to invade Seu, he halted himself at Kan-k‘e to give whatever aid might be required. Certain discontented spirits took the opportunity of his absence from the capital to organize a rebellion, which was headed by three of his brothers, one of whom was the Kung-tsze Pe. This Pe had fled to Tsin when K‘ëen murdered Keun, and was invited by the conspirators from that State back to Ts‘ae in the first place, and forced to take command of the rebel forces. These were greatly successful. They advanced on the capital of Ts‘oo, took possession of it, and put to death the sons of the absent king. The intelligence of these events threw him into the greatest distress and consternation. His army dispersed, and he took refuge with an officer who remained faithful to him, and in his house he strangled himself in the 5th month, unable to endure the disgrace and misery of his condition. What are we to make of such opposite and contradictory methods of describing events? Wei murdered Keun; and the deed is told as if Keun had died a natural death. The same Wei strangled himself, and the deed is told as if it had been a murder done by the Kung-tsze Pe. Pe was led by the device of a brother, K‘e-tsih, to kill himself in the 5th month, perhaps before Wei had committed suicide. The Ch‘un Ts‘ëw says of this event that 'K‘e-tsih put to death—not murderedthe Kung-tsze Pe;' and we may suppose that K‘e-tsih, who became king, sent word round the States that Pe had murdered his predecessor; but surely Confucius ought to have taken care that the whole series of transactions should not be misrepresented as it is in his paragraphs.

Let us take a fifth case. In XII. vi. 8 it is said that 'Ch‘in K‘eih of Ts‘e murdered his ruler T‘oo.' In the previous year, Ch‘oo-k‘ëw, marquis of Ts‘e, had died, leaving the State to his favourite son T‘oo, who was only a child. His other sons, who were grown up, fled in the winter to various States. Ch‘in K‘eih, one of the principal ministers of the State, finding that the government did not go on well, sent to Loo for Yang-săng, one of Ch‘oo-k‘ëw's sons, who had taken refuge there, and so managed matters in Ts‘e that he was declared marquis, and the child T‘oo displaced. Yet Ts‘e had no malice against T‘oo, and so spoke of him in a dispute which he had with Yang-săng, not long after the accession of the latter, as to awaken his fears lest the minister should attempt to restore the degraded child. The consequence was that he sent a trusty officer to remove T‘oo from the city where he had been placed for safety to another. Whether it was by the command of the new marquis, or on an impulse originating with himself, that officer took the opportunity to murder the child on the way. This man, therefore, whose name was Choo Maou, was the actual murderer of T‘oo. If he were too mean in position to obtain a place in the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, the murder should have been ascribed to Yang-săng or the marquis Taou, by whose servant and in whose interest, if not by whose command, it was committed. To ascribe it to Ch‘in K‘eih must be regarded as a gross misrepresentation. I cannot think that the existing marquis of Ts‘e could have sent such a notification of the event to Loo, for for him to make Ch‘in K‘eih responsible for the deed was to declare that his own incumbency of the State was unjust, as it was Ch‘in K‘eih who had brought it about. Are we then to ascribe the entry entirely to Confucius? And are we to see in it a remarkable proof of his hatred of rebellion and usurpation, and his determination to hold the prime mover to it, however distant, and under whatever motives he had acted, responsible for all the consequences flowing from it?

The sixth and last case which I will adduce may be said not to be so contrary to the letter of the facts as the preceding five cases, and yet I am mistaken if in every western reader, who takes the trouble to make himself acquainted with those facts, it do not awaken a greater indignation against the record and its compiler than any of them. In VII. x. 8 we read that 'Hëa Ch‘ing-shoo of Ch‘in murdered his ruler P‘ing-kwoh.' The circumstances in which the murder took place are sufficient, I am sure, to make us pronounce it a case of justifiable homicide. Hëa Ch‘ing-shoo's mother, a widow, was a vile woman, and was carrying on a licentious connexion with the marquis of Ch‘in and two of his ministers at the same time.[5] The things which are related about the four are inexpressibly filthy. As the young man grew up, he felt deeply the disgrace of his family; and one day when the marquis and his ministers were feasting in an apartment of his mother's mansion, or rather of his own, for he was now the Head of the clan, he overheard them joking about himself. 'He is like you,' said the marquis to one of his companions. 'And he is also like your lordship,' returned the other. The three went on to speculate on what share each of them had in the youth, till he could no longer contain himself, and made a violent attack upon them. The ministers made their escape, and the marquis had nearly done so too, when, as he was getting through a hole in the stable, an arrow from the young man's bow transfixed him. So he died, and the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw records the event as if it had been an atrocious murder! The poor youth met with a horrible fate. In the following year, the viscount of Ts‘oo, himself flaunting the usurped title of king, determined to do justice upon him. Aided by the forces of other States, he invaded Ch‘in, made a prisoner of Hëa Ch‘ing-shoo, and had him torn in pieces by five chariots to which his head and his four limbs were bound. This execution is coldly related in xi. 5 by 'The people of Ts‘oo put to death Hëa Ch‘ing-shoo of Ch‘in.' The text goes on to tell that the viscount entered the capital of Ch‘in, and restored the two ministers, partners in the marquis's adultery, who had made their escape to Ts‘oo; the whole being worded, according to Tso, 'to show how he observed the rules of propriety!'

4. It remains for me, having thus set forth the suppressions, the concealments, and the misrepresentations which abound in the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, to say a few words on the view which we must take from it of Confucius as its author or compiler. Again and again I have spoken of the triviality of the Work, What are we to think from the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Confucius?and indicated my opinion of its being unworthy of the sage to have put together so slight a thing. But these positively bad characteristics of it on which I have now enlarged demand the expression of a sterner judgment.

  The appointment of historiographers, at whatever period it first took place, was intended, no doubt, to secure the accurate record of events, and Confucius tells us, Ana. XV. xxv., that 'even in his [early] days a historiographer would leave a blank in his text,' that is, would do so rather than enter incorrectly anything of which he was not sure. I have mentioned on p. 45 the exaggerated idea of his duty which was cherished and manifested by Tung Hoo the grand-historiographer of Tsin; and in Tso's Chuen on IX. xxv. 2, we have a still more shining example of the virtue which men in this office were capable of displaying. There three brothers, historiographers of Ts‘e, all submit to death rather than alter the record, which they had made correctly, that 'Ts‘uy Ch‘oo of Ts‘e murdered his ruler Kwang,' and a fourth brother, still persisting in the same entry, is at last let alone. These instances serve to show the idea in which the institution originated, and that there were men in China who understood it, appreciated it, and were prepared to die for it. Such men according to Confucius' testimony were no more to be found in his time. According to the testimony of a thousand scholars and critics, it was because of this fact,—the few faithful historiographers in the past and the entire want of them in the present,—that the sage undertook the revision of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Loo. Might not the history of the institution in that ante-Christian time be adduced as a good illustration of what Lord Elgin once said, that 'at all points of the circle described by man's intelligence, the Chinese mind seems occasionally to have caught glimpses of a heaven far beyond the range of its ordinary ken and vision?'[6]

Well—we have examined the model summary of history from the stylus of the sage, and it testifies to three characteristics of his mind which it is painful to have thus distinctly to point out. First, he had no reverence for truth in history,—I may say no reverence for truth, without any modification. He understood well enough what it was,—the description of events and actions according as they had taken place; but he himself constantly transgressed it in all the three ways which I have indicated. Second, he shrank from looking the truth fairly in the face. It was through this attribute of weakness that he so frequently endeavoured to hide the truth from himself and others, by ignoring it altogether, or by giving an imperfect and misleading account of it. Wherever his prejudices were concerned, he was liable to do this. Third, he had more sympathy with power than with weakness, and would overlook wickedness and oppression in authority rather than resentment and revenge in men who were suffering from them. He could conceive of nothing so worthy of condemnation as to be insubordinate.[7] Hence he was frequently partial in his judgments on what happened to rulers, and unjust in his estimate of the conduct of their subjects. In this respect he was inferior to Mencius his disciple.

I have written these sentences about Confucius with reluctance, and from the compulsion of a sense of duty. I have been accused of being unjust to him, and of dealing with him inhumanly.[8] Others have said that I was partial to him, and represented his character and doctrines too favourably. The conflicting charges encourage me to hope that I have pursued the golden Mean, and dealt fairly with my subject. My conscience gives no response to the charge that I have been on the lookout for opportunities to depreciate Confucius. I know on the contrary that I have been forward to accord a generous appreciation to him and his teachings. But I have been unable to make a hero of him. My work was undertaken that I might understand for myself, and help others to understand, the religious, moral, social, and political condition of China, and that I might see and suggest the most likely methods of accomplishing its improvement. Nothing stands in the way of this improvement so much as the devotion of its scholars and government to Confucius. It is he who leads them that causes them to err and has destroyed the way of their paths.

5. The above sentence leads me to the last point on which I proposed to touch in this section,—the influence which the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw has had on the Influence of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw on Chinese governments and the people.successive governments of China and on the Chinese people at large. And here I will be brief.

A great part of the historical literature of the country continues still to be modelled after our Classic and the Chuen of Tso. Immediately after the Chow dynasty the name of Ch‘un Ts‘ëw was given to a species of Work having little affinity with that of Confucius. We have the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Leu Puh-wei, the chief minister of Ts‘in, Luh Këa's Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Ts‘oo and Han,[9] and many others, which were never held in great repute. In the after Han dynasty, however, there was composed the 'Chronicles of Han,'[10] on the plan of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw. Histories of this kind received in the Sung dynasty the name of 'General Mirrors,'* and 'General Mirrors, with Summary and Details,'[11] the summary corresponding to the text of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, and the details to the Chuen. Down to the present dynasty Works have been composed with names having more or less affinity to those; and in reading them the student has to be on the watch and determine for himself how far the details bear out the statement of the summary. Such Works as the 'Digest of the History of the Successive Dynasties'[12] are more after the plan of the text of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, but they become increasingly complex and difficult of execution with the lapse of time and the increasing extent of the empire.

But the influence of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw on the literature of China is of little importance excepting as that influence has aided its moulding power on the government and character of the people; and in this respect it appears to me to have been very injurious. The three defects of Confucius which have left their impress so clearly on his Work have been painfully conspicuous in the history of the country and the people down to the present day. The teachings of Mencius, bringing into prominence the lessons of the Shoo and the She concerning the different awards of Providence, according as a government cherished or neglected the welfare of the people, have modified the extreme reverence for authority which was so remarkable in Confucius; but there remain altogether unmitigated the want of reverence for truth, and the shrinking from looking fairly at the realities of their condition and relations. And these are the great evils under which China is suffering at the present day. During the past forty years her position with regard to the more advanced nations of the world has been entirely changed. She has entered into treaties with them upon equal terms; but I do not think her ministers and people have yet looked this truth fairly in the face, so as to realize the fact that China is only one of many independent nations in the world, and that the 'beneath the sky,' over which her emperor has rule, is not all beneath the sky, but only a certain portion of it which is defined on the earth's surface and can be pointed out upon the map. But if they will not admit this, and strictly keep good faith according to the treaties which they have accepted, the result will be for them calamities greater than any that have yet befallen the empire. Their lot has fallen in critical times, when the books of Confucius are a very insufficient and unsafe guide for them. If my study of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw help towards convincing them of this, and leading them to look away from him to another Teacher, a great aim of my life will have been gained.


  1. The character employed for to conceal is , which is explained in various dictionaries by , 'to avoid;' , 'to keep out of view,' and , 'to shun,' 'to be cautious of.'
  2. 春秋,,.
  3. ,.
  4. It will be well for the student to read the long note of K‘ung Ying-tah on Too Yu's remarks on the Chuen here. He acknowledges that it is impossible to say when the rule for concealing things was observed and when not. ,,,.
  5. See vol. IV. Pt. I. xii. ode IX.
  6. See Letters and Journals of James, eighth Earl of Elgin, p. 302.
  7. See the Analects, VII. xxxv.
  8. See a review of my 1st volume, in the Edinburgh Review, April, 1869.
  9. ,呂氏春秋,陸賈楚漢春秋. See Chaou Yih's first chapter on the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, where he gives the names of a score of these Works.
  10. 漢紀, composed by , at the command of the emperor Hëen ().
  11. E.g., Sze-ma Kwang's 資治通鑑, and Choo He's 通鑑綱目. 綱目 means a net,—the rope by which the whole is drawn together and the eyes or meshes of which it is composed.
  12. 曆代統紀表.