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Dêng Hsi Tse 2

The turning of words

(16) For a long time the world has been led astray by the words grief and despair, pleasure and joy, anger and wrath, sadness and melancholy. Now I propose to restrict despair, joy, anger and melancholy to self, and grief, pleasure, wrath and sadness to others. Between supporting and leading, declining and blaming, reason and right, agreeing and self there is the greatest difference.

The art of speech consists in the following: With the intelligent speech must be based on vast learning, with the learned on dialectic, with dialecticians on equanimity, with the noble on power, with the wealthy on influence, with the poor on profit, with the brave on boldness, with the stupid on demonstration. That is the art of speech. One does not succeed, if one starts before having thought the matter over; one reaps very little, if one begins the harvest too soon.

One must not say what is not proper, nor do what is not correct to avoid danger. Nor must one take away anything, if not allowed to do so for fear of punishment, nor dispute on things which are not debatable, lest the word escape. The swiftest horse does not bring back a wrong utterance nor overtake a rash word. Therefore he is called an ideal man who never utters bad words nor listens to wicked talk.

When officials are appointed, the unintelligent are unable to fill a post, the clever are not compliant, the benevolent not attached to one person, the bold do not make advances, those who trust others cannot be trusted. Not to be guided by men’s human qualities when employing them is what I call divine.

Anger originates from no anger, action from no action. Looking at what is not there, one obtains that which one sees, listening to what has no sound, one obtains that which one hears. Hence the immaterial is the root of the material, the soundless is the mother of sound.

The truth discovered through researches into names is the highest truth, and names given in accordance with truth are perfect names. By combining those two methods to an equal degree so that they complete one another one finds objects and their names.

(17) When the rivers are dried up, the valleys become empty, when the hills fall down, the streams are blocked with the débris.

The sages being dead, the big robbers do not come to the front, and the land enjoys peace. If the sages do not die, the big robbers do not stop. How do we know that it is so ? If one measures something with pecks and bushels, it is stolen together with the pecks and bushels. If one weighs it with balance and scales, the balance and scales are stolen too. If one relies on something owing to a token or a seal, it is stolen with the token and seal. What is instructed in benevolence and justice is stolen with benevolence and justice to-boot. How so? Those who steal property, are put to death, those who steal kingdoms, become princes. Since in the palaces of such princes benevolence and justice are still to be found, have they not been stolen likewise? That big robbers usurp princely rights is a great success, of which robber Chê could not boast. The sages are responsible for it.

Likes and dislikes, goodness and wickedness, any attempts at reforming these four are useless. Courtesy and bad manners, politeness and arrogance, any offence in regard to these four can be made good. Those who are simple and honest and know how to endure pain and disappointments do not offend, and have not to make amends. That is everlasting virtue. With those who always talk about trust, but cannot be trusted in what they do, or who will discourse on goodness, but do nothing good, one must be on one’s guard.

(18) The first principle of government is not to allow private interests to prevail. The greatest success consists in restraining the people from quarrelling. In the government which we have now, there is action: individual interests are in conflict with the government, and the confusion is worse than as if there was no government. A ruler is set up, and there the strife begins. The stupid people fight with the ruler, and the confusion is worse than it would be without a ruler. Therefore in a well principled state no actions, neither selfish nor altruistic are done. A ruler is elected, and the stupid people do not oppose him. They are one with their sovereign, things are decided according to law. That is the proper way for a state. A wise ruler at the head of his ministers finds out people’s reputation by inquiring into their conduct. From their reputation he learns how they appear to others, and from their appearance how they really are. Afraid of severe punishments, his subjects dare not yield to their selfishness.

(19) The heart is fond of quietude, the intellect likes to roam far and wide. When the heart is quiet, it obtains what it wants, when the intellect roams far and wide, schemes and plans are laid. The heart dislikes agitation, and the intellect narrowness. The heart being agitated, one loses one’s temper; the intellect being narrow, its many projects fail.

In good times the manners are free and easy, in troublesome times they are very ceremonious and difficult to observe. In remote antiquity the music was sound and not plaintive, now it is depraved and licentious. In remote antiquity the people were honest and simple, now they are deceitful and over-active. Once exemplary punishments were used, and nobody committed an offence. As soon as an attempt is made to better by tattooing and cutting off people’s noses they lose all sense of shame. Then there is more disorder than order.

Yao put up a drum for those who had to made complaints, Shun a wood for those who wanted to impeach some one. Tang had censors, Wu warnings engraved in metal. These four sovereigns were sages, and yet they took all these pains.

Li Lu killed Tung Li Tse, and Su Sha murdered Chi Wên, Chieh executed Lung Fêng, and Chao disembowelled Pi-Kan. These four princes were criminal rulers, therefore they hated sages like enemies. Hence there is as much distance between the wise and the stupid as between a valley several thousand feet deep and a mountain several ten thousand high, or between the deepest Hades and the loftiest mountain peak.

(20) A wise ruler leads his people as a charioteer his coursers, without a bridle, and as a man walks over ice with a heavy burden on his shoulders. Those near him he treats like strangers, and strangers like near relatives. If he is prudent and thrifty, he is blessed with happiness, if extravagant and dissipated, misfortune arises.

A sage leads an easy life. In his own generation he seldom finds his peer. The nature of all things is repose (it needs no punishments with whips and sticks) — silence (there is no noise, no cries). Then the families are well supplied, and so are the individuals, and the whole world enjoys universal peace. One sees everything clearly and distinctly, and knows what is hidden. One surmises what has not yet happened, and beholds what has not yet come to pass. That is what is called the invisible spirit and the invisible mystery.

(21) If a sovereign cannot keep his independence and likes to rely on his subordinates, his knowledge becomes more and more narrowed and his position more and more precarious. Pressed from below he has not his hands free, and conforming in all to the people, he cannot uphold his dignity. His knowledge is not sufficient for the administration, his power to mete out punishment, and there is no link between him and the people. If then a sovereign gives rewards, because he is pleased, one must not imagine that one has done something meritorious, and if he punishes, because he is angry, one must not consider it a condign penalty. Because sovereigns will not control their pleasure and anger, rewarding and punishing at will, and like to leave all the  responsibility to their officials, one kingdom after the other has been lost, and many a prince has been assassinated. The ancients had a saying that many mouths can melt metal, and that three men are as dangerous as a tiger. That ought to be a warning.

(22) The nature of man is such that in discussions he desires to have the last word, and what he has begun he likes to put through. A wise man does not envy others for their excellence on account of his own shortcomings, nor is he jealous of other people’s successes, because he himself failed.

If a prince follows those who give good advice and rewards them, and exposes them who give bad advice and punishes them, thus cutting off the way of depravity and evil, and doing away with all licentious talk, his subjects will take the key, and his attendants hold their tongues, and he can be called an intelligent ruler. Those who do good, the prince rewards, those who do evil, he punishes. He treats the people according to the manner in which they show themselves, and requites them conformably to their accomplishments. He follows a sage, and therefore can make use of him. He does so in a reasonable way, and therefore can go on for a long time. The sovereigns of the present day have not the ability of Yao and Shun, but are anxious to have the same government. That plunges them in utter confusion and darkness, and things are not cleared up at p.55 all. In vain they strive for the semblance of a government, but are incapable of bringing order into the general confusion.

(23) Sorrows begin after one has obtained an appointment. A disease breaks out, when the patient has already recovered a little. Misfortune is the outcome of idleness. Filial conduct is lost through the wife. Of these four things one must take great care at the end as much as at the beginning.

The wealthy must help the poor, the young and strong the old. Those who are dominated by their propensities and yield to their desires, will become extravagant and brutal. Therefore I hold that there is no reason, why we should esteem people for their nobility, or think much of them for their talents, why we should look up to them, because they have money, or bow to them, because they are strong and bold. He who acts up to this, deserves the name of a perfect man.

(24) For those who have a proposition to make the greatest difficulty is to get a hearing, for those who want to do something, to carry it through. To carry through something the circumstances must be favourable, to get a hearing the hearer must be favourably predisposed. Therefore throwing a heap of fuel on a fire, one must first light it, and watering a level ground, one first soaks it. Touching a kindred note one always gets a response. That is the only practical way.

(25) If, after a prince has established his laws, those who abide by them are rewarded, and those who break through the restrictions are punished, such a prince is called a silly ruler and his state a lost state.

(26) A wise man stands quietly between right and wrong, and good and evil are distinguished. A prudent man keeps quiet between what is desirable and what is not, and going forward and backward are well defined. If a wise man cannot distinguish between right and wrong or a prudent one between what is desirable and what is not, they are frauds.

(27) The eye is prized for vision, the ear for hearing, the heart for justice. If we see with the world eye, there is nothing which we do not see. If we hear with the world ear, there is nothing which we do not hear. If we think with the world intellect, there is nothing which we do not understand 3. Possessing these three faculties one preserves them in inaction.