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12: CHAPTER X. On Chance and Luck

CHAPTER X. On Chance and Luck (Hsiny-ou). 

In their doings men may be clever or stupid, but with regard to the happiness or unhappiness, which fall to their share, they are either lucky or unlucky. Their works are good or evil, but, whether they meet with rewards or punishment, depends on their good or bad fortune. If several people suffer an armed attack at the same time, those who find a hiding place, are not wounded, and if some persons are overtaken by frost on the same day, those who obtain shelter, suffer no injury. It does not follow that the wounded or injured are wicked, or that those who found a hiding place or a shelter, are meritorious. To find a refuge or shelter is good luck, to be wounded or injured is bad luck. There are many who would be pleased to give proofs of their loyalty, but out of these some are rewarded, some punished: many would fain benefit their country, but only some are trusted by their sovereign, the others he suspects. Those whom he rewards and confides in, are not necessarily trustworthy, nor are those whom he punishes and mistrusts, of necessity traitors. Reward and trust is good fortune, punishment and suspicion, bad. 

From among the seventy odd pupils of Confucius, Yen Hid died in early youth. Confucius said, " Unluckily his span was short, therefore he died." If a short life be spoken of as unlucky, then longevity must be a matter of luck, and a short life, something unlucky. He who walks in the footsteps of sages and worthies, and expounds the doctrines of kindness and justice, ought to enjoy bliss and happiness. However, Po Niu 1 fell sick, and did not fare much better than Yen Hui; they were both unlucky. 

Mole-crickets and ants creep on the ground. If man lifts his foot, and walks on them, the crickets and ants crushed by his feet die at once, whereas those which are untouched continue alive and unhurt. Wild grass is consumed by fire kindled by the friction of cart-wheels. People are fond of the grass which remained unburnt, and commonly call it " lucky grass." Nevertheless, that an insect has not been trodden upon, or some grass not been reached by 

1 Another disciple of Confucius. On his sickness cf. Analects VI, 8 and p. 1G5. 

152 Lun-hêng: B. Metaphysical. 

the fire, is not yet a proof of their excellence. The movement of the feet, and the spread of the fire are merely accidental. 

The same reasoning holds good for the breaking out of ulcers.  When the free circulation of humours is stopped, they coagulate, and form a boil; as it begins to run, it becomes a sore: — the blood comes out, and matter is discharged. Are those pores, where the ulcer breaks through, better than others? No, only the working of the good constitution has been checked in some places. 

When the spider has woven its web, some of the flying insects pass it unharmed, others are caught; when the hunter has spread his nets, some of the beasts stirred up come to bay, the others escape. In the fishing nets thrown into rivers and lakes many fish are pulled out, others get away. It happens that robbers and the like, guilty of the worst crimes, are never found out, whereas people who have committed a small offence to be atoned for by a fine only, are immediately discovered. Thus, general calamities affect people differently. Such as are unlucky die of the shock, and the lives of the fortunate are spared. Unlucky means not favoured by circumstances. Confucius said: — " Man's life must be upright. A life without it is based on good fortune only."' Accordingly, those who on a smooth road meet with accidents, have bad luck. 

Should anybody standing at the foot of a high wall be crushed by its fall, or, while walking on a river bank full of crevices, be buried by the earth's collapsing under his feet, such a one would simply have met with an accident, that is to say would have been unlucky. 

The city gate of the capital of Lu was in a state of decay since a long time, and about to tumble down. When Confucius passed it, he hurried up, and quickened his pace. His attendants said to him: — " It has been like this ever so long." Confucius replied saying, " Its having so long remained so is just what displeases me." Confucius was pre cautious in the extreme; had the gate fallen down, just when he passed it, one might speak of him as unlucky.  Confucius said, " Superior men may have no luck, but there are none who have luck. Low people often have luck, and there are none quite devoid of luck,'" and further: — " The superior man keeps 

1 Analects VI, 17. 

^ The meaning is that the successes of superior men are due to their own excellence, not to mere chance, but that they are often visited with misfortune.  With common people it is different. Their happiness is never their own work, but luck, which often favours them. 

On Chance and luck. 153 

in safe places, thus awaiting his destiny, the ordinary man courts dangers, relying on favourable circumstances." 1 Impostors like Hung Ju, and Chieh Ju, 2 though possessed of no virtue of ability, were nevertheless admired for their beauty; unworthy of love, they found favour, and unfit to associate with, they were chosen as companions.  According to right and reason this ought not to be. Therefore, the Grand Annalist devotes a chapter to them. 3 Bad characters who in a similar way, though perverting all moral principles, are honoured, and held in high esteem, are by a common name called adventurers. 

If a man devoid of virtue receives favours, it amounts to the same, as if another without any fault of his own meets with misfortune. All creatures originally endowed with vitality become partly men, partly beasts, or birds. Of human beings, men though they be one and all, some are honoured, others despised, some are rich, others poor. The rich man may hoard up heaps of gold, whereas a poor fellow is compelled to beg for his food. A nobleman will perhaps rise to the rank of a marquis, whilst the low born sinks into a state of slavery. It is not, because Heaven has given them different qualities. 

Man's natural disposition may be kind or mean: yet even if the conduct of some persons be equally honest and virtuous, happiness and misfortune are not equally divided among them, and although they practise benevolence and justice in the same way, success and failure are not the same. Wên of Chin 4 sought to acquire knowledge and virtue, and Yen of Hsü 5 acted with benevolence and justice; the former was rewarded, the latter utterly ruined. A man of Lu 6 having avenged his father, remained quietly where he was, and did not flee. The pursuers let him off. Niu Chüeh was abducted by robbers; he endured it fearlessly and with equanimity, but the robbers killed him. Now, knowledge and virtue are about the same as benevolence and justice, and not running away as much as fearlessness, nevertheless Duke Wên and the man of Lu were happy, and King Yen 7 and Niu Chüeh, unhappy, the 

1 Chung-yung (Doctrine of the Mean) chap. XV.  2 Two minions of the emperors Han Kao Tsu (206—194 b.c.) and Hui Ti (194-187). 

3 Shi-chi chap. 125. 

4 An old State in modern Shansi, where the Marquis Wen reigned from 779-744 B.C. 

5 The name of a State, whose lords were viscounts, in modern Anhui. 

6 An old feudal State in Shantung. 

7 Higher titles used to be given to those feudal princes than they were entitled to. 

154 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical. 

one had good luck, the others bad. The Duke of Han, Chao, while drunk fell asleep, and would have caught cold but for the master of caps, who covered him with a cloak. When the duke became aware of it, he made inquiries, and learnt that the master of caps had shown him this mark of his affection, yet he punished him for having transgressed his proper duties. A lackey in Wei perceiving that the charioteer was driving wrong, shouted from behind towards the chariot with a view to preserving it from danger, but was not called to account. The lackey when shouting towards the chariot, and the master of the caps when spreading the cloak, had the same intentions. The one was afraid that his master might catch cold, the other that his prince would be in danger.  Both followed the impulses of goodness and kindheartedness. but the man in Han was punished, the other in Wei, considered a faithful servant. The lackey had good fortune, the master of the caps not. 

The same principle applies to things as well as to man.  Bamboos several tenths of feet in height, and trees measuring some yards in circumference are cut down by artisans for use. Some are worked into tools, and carried here and there, others are not taken as material, and neglected. The artisans are not biased in favour of some, or prejudiced against others, but knives and adzes cut down the wood, as it were, by chance. 

Grain, when steamed, becomes food; out of cooked grain wine is distilled. Distilled wine has different flavours, it may be sweet or bitter. Cooked food tastes differently, being either hard or soft.  The cook and the distiller while at work have not different intentions, but the movements of hands and fingers are subject to chance. Well done food is kept in different baskets, and sweet wine is filled in various vessels. Supposing an insect drops into such a vessel, then the wine is spilled, and not drunk; should a mouse contaminate a basket, the food is thrown away, and not eaten. 

The various plants are all good for something. Those which happen to be plucked by a physician, become medicine, others are left in the dried-up ravines, and burnt as fuel. So with metals: — some are wrought into swords and halberds, some into spears and hoes; so with wood: — some is shaped into the beams of a palace, some into the pillars of a bridge. The same with fire: — it may have to light a candle, or to burn dry grass; the same with earth: — some builds up halls and mansions, some serves as plaster for porches, and with water, which may be used for cleansing tripods and cauldrons as well as for washing filthy things. 

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All things, whether good or had, are used by man. If one can be sorry for those things, which in this respect have no luck and no chance, living creatures are still much more to he pitied. 

Shun was a sage, and ought to have obtained perfect peace and happiness in life. But he had a blockhead for a father and a silly mother, and his brother was arrogant and brutal. They disliked him, the faultless, and punished him, although he did no wrong. His was extremely bad luck. Confucius was inferior to Shun. He never owned a foot of land in his life, but restlessly wandered about, seeking employment. His traces were obliterated,1 and his food cut off. 2 In spite of their being sages these two personages were visited with bad luck and bad chance. Shun still happened to take over the empire, which Yao resigned to him, but Confucius died in Chüeh-li. If even with the qualities of a sage one has no luck, we cannot be surprised to find much bad luck and misfortune among ordinary men. 

1 Chuang Tse XIV, 25v. (T'ien-yün) informs us that the traces of Confucius were obliterated in Wei. Confucius spent there many years of his life, but without gaining any influence on its prince, and therefore left no trace. 

2 When Confucius was travelling from the Ch'ên State to T'sai, his provisions became exhausted, and Confucius with his followers had to suffer hunger. Analects XV, 1. Ch'ên and T'sai were situated in south-eastern Honan. 

156 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical.