[Died 117 B.C. A distinguished statesman, scholar, and poet, who flourished during the reigns of Ching Ti and Wu Ti of the Han dynasty. In his early days, he eloped with a young widow, and the two of them ran a wine-shop until her father came to the rescue with pecuniary assistance.]
I HAD accompanied the Imperial hunt to Ch'ang-yang. At that time His Majesty was an ardent follower of the chase, and loved to slaughter bears and wild boars with his own hands. Therefore I handed in the following Memorial:
May it please your Majesty,
I have heard that although the human race is comprised under one class, the capabilities of each individual are widely different. Thus we praise the strength of this man, the swiftness of that, and the courage of a third. And I venture to believe that what is true of us in this respect is equally true of the brute creation.
Now your Majesty enjoys laying low the fierce quarry in some close mountain pass. But one day there will come a beast, more terrible than the rest, driven from its lair; and then disaster will overtake the Imperial equipage. There will be no means of escape, no time to do anything, no scope for the utmost skill or strength, over the rotten branches and decaying trunks which help to complete the disorder. The Huns rising up under your Majesty's chariot-wheels, the barbarians of the west clinging on behind, would hardly be worse than this. And even if, in every case, actual injury is avoided, still this is not a fitting scene for the presence of the Son of Heaven. Besides, even on smooth ground and on a beaten track there is always a risk of accident, a broken rein or a loose pin; how much more so in the jungle or on the rough mountain-side, where, with the pleasure of the chase ahead and no thought of danger within, misfortune easily comes?
To neglect the affairs of a mighty empire and to find no peaceful occupation therein, but to seek for pleasure in the chase, never wholly without peril, this is what in my opinion your Majesty should not do. The clear of vision discern coming events before they actually loom in sight: the wise in counsel avoid dangers before they definitely assume a shape. Misfortunes often lie concealed in trifles, and burst forth when least expected. Hence the vulgar saying. He who has piled up a thousand ounces of gold, should not sit with chair overhanging the dais; which proverb, though trivial in itself, may be used in illustration of great matters. I trust that your Majesty will deign to reflect hereon.