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14: CHAPTER XII. Wrong Notions on Unhappiness

CHAPTER XII. Wrong Notions on Unhappiness (Huo-hsü). 

Since what the world calls happiness and divine grace is believed to be the outcome of moral conduct, it is also a common belief that the victims of misfortune and disgrace are thus visited because of their wickedness. Those sunk in sin, and steeped in iniquity Heaven and Earth punish, and the spirits retaliate upon them. These penalties, whether heavy or light, will be enforced, and the retributions of the spirits reach far and near. 

Tse Hsia 1 is related to have lost his sight, while mourning for his son. Tsêng Tse 2 by way of condolence wept. Tse Hsia thereupon exclaimed "O Heaven, I was not guilty!" Tsêng Tse grew excited, and said " In what way are you innocent, Shang? "3 I served our master with you between the Chu and the Sse, but you retired to the region above the West River,5 where you lived, until you grew old. You misled the people of the West River into the belief that you were equal to the master. That was your first fault.  When mourning for your parents, you did nothing extraordinary, that people would talk about. That was your second fault. But in your grief over your son, you lost your eye-sight. That was your third fault. How dare you say that you are not guilty?" 

Tse Hsia threw away his staff, went down on his knees and said, "I have failed, I have failed! I have left human society, and also led a solitary life for ever so long." 6 

Thus Tse Hsia having lost his sight, Tsêng Tse reproved him for his faults. Tse Hsia threw away his stick, and bowed to Tsêng Tse's words. Because, as they say, Heaven really punishes the guilty, therefore evidently his eyes lost their sight. Having thus humbly 

1 A disciple of Confucius. 

2 One of the most famous disciples of Confucius, whose name has been connected with the authorship of the Great Learning. 

3 Pu Shang was the name of Tse Hsia. Tse Hsia is his style. 

4 A small river in the province of Shantung, flowing into the Sse. 

5 Presumably the western course of the Yellow River. 

6 Quoted from the Li-ki, T'an Kung I (cf. Legge's translation, Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXVII, p. 135). 

Wrong Notions on Unhappiness. 165 

acknowledged his guilt, he is reported to have regained his sight by degrees. Everybody says so, nevertheless a thorough investigation will show us that this belief is illusory. 

Loss of sight is like loss of hearing. Loss of sight is blind- ness, and loss of hearing, deafness. lie who suffers from deafness, is not believed to have faults, therefore it would be erroneous to speak of guilt, if a man becomes blind. Now the diseases of the ear and the eye are similar to those of the heart and the stomach.  In case the ear and the eye lose their faculties, one speaks of guilt perhaps, but can any fault be inferred, when the heart or the stomach are sick? 

Po Niu was ill. Confucius grasped his hand through the window saying "It will kill him, such is his fate! Such a man to get such a disease!"' Originally Confucius spoke of Po Niu's bad luck, and therefore pitied him. Had Po Niu's guilt been the cause of his sickness, then Heaven would have punished him for his wickedness, and he would have been on a level with Tse Hsia. In that case Confucius ought to have exposed his guilt, as Tsêng Tse did with Tse Hsia. But instead he spoke of fate. Fate is no fault. 

Heaven inflicts its punishments on man, as a sovereign does on his subjects. If a man thus chastised, submits to the punishment, the ruler will often pardon him. Tse Hsia admitted his guilt, humiliated himself, and repented. Therefore Heaven in its extreme kindness ought to have cured his blindness, or, if Tse Hsia's loss of sight was not a retribution from Heaven, Tse Hsia cannot have been thrice guilty. 

Is not leprosy much worse than blindness? If he who lost his sight, had three faults, was then the leper 2 ten times guilty? 

Yen Yuan 3 died young and Tse Lu came to a premature end, being chopped into minced meat.4 Thus to be butchered is the most horrid disaster. Judging from Tse Hsia's blindness, both Yen Yuan and Tse Lu must have been guilty of a hundred crimes. From this it becomes evident that the statement of Tsêng Tse was preposterous. 

1 Quotation of Analects VI, 8. 

2 Po Niu, who was suffering from leprosy. 

3 The favourite disciple of Confucius, whose name was Yen Hut. 

4 The Tso-chuan, Book XII Duke Ai 15th year, relates that Tse Lu was killed in a revolution in Wei, struck with spears, no mention being made of his having been hacked to pieces (cf. Legge, Ch'un Ch'iu Pt. II, p. 842). This is related, however, in the Li-ki, T'an-kung I (Legge Sacred Books Vol. XXVII, p. 123) and by Huai Nan Tse VII, 13v. 

166 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical. 

Tse Hsin lost his sight, while bewailing his son. The feelings for one's children are common to mankind, whereas thankfulness to one's parents is sometimes forced. When Tse Hsia was mourning for his father and mother, people did not notice it, but, when bewailing his son, he lost his sight. This shows that his devotion to his parents was rather weak, but that he passionately loved his son. Consequently he shed innumerable tears. Thus ceaselessly weeping, he exposed himself to the wind, and became blind. 

Tsêng Tse following the common prejudice invented three faults for Tse Hsia. The latter likewise stuck to the popular belief. Because he had lost his sight, he humbly acknowledged his guilt.  Neither Tseng Tse nor Tse Hsia could get rid of these popular ideas.  Therefore in arguing, they did not rank very high among Confucius followers. 

King Hsiang of Ch'in 1 sent a sword to Po Chi, 2 who thereupon was going to commit suicide, falling on the sword, " How have I offended Heaven?," quoth he. After a long while he rejoined: — "At all events I must die. At the battle of Cliang-ping 3 the army of Chao, several hundred thousand men, surrendered, but I deceived them, and caused them to be buried alive.  Therefore I deserve to die." Afterwards he made away with himself. 4 

Po Chi was well aware of his former crime, and acquiesced in the punishment consequent upon it. He knew, how he himself had failed, but not, why the soldiers of Chao were buried alive.  If Heaven really had punished the guilty, what offence against Heaven had the soldiers of Chao committed, who surrendered? Had they been wounded and killed on the battle-field by the random blows of weapons, many out of the four hundred thousand would certainly have survived. Why were these also buried in spite of their goodness and innocence? Those soldiers being unable to obtain Heaven's protection through their virtue, why did Po Chi alone suffer the condign punishment for his crime from Heaven? We see from this that Po Chi was mistaken in what he said. 

1 King Ch'ao Hsiang of Ch'in 305-249 B.C. 

2 A famous general of the Ch'in State who by treachery annihilated the army of Chao Vid. p. 136. 

3 In Shansi. 

4 Po Chi had fallen into disfavour with his liege upon refusing to lead another campaign against Chao. 

Wrong Notions on Unhappiness. 167 

The Chin emperor Erh Shih Huang Ti 1 sent an envoy to Mêng T'ien,2 and commanded him to commit suicide. Mêng T'ien heaving a deep sigh said "How have I failed against Heaven? I die innocent." After a long while, he slowly began, "Yet I am guilty, therefore I am doomed to die. When I was constructing the Great Wall connecting Liao-tung 3 with Lin-t'ao, 4 ten thousand Li in a straight line. I could not avoid cutting the veins of the earth.  That was my guilt." Upon this he swallowed a drug, and expired.5 

The Grand Annalist Sse Ma Chien finds fault with him. "When the Ch'in dynasty, he said, had exterminated the feudal princes, and peace was not yet restored to the empire, nor the wounds healed, Mêng T'ien, a famous general at that time, did not care to strongly remonstrate with the emperor, or help people in their distress, feeding the old, befriending the orphans, or bringing about a general concord. He flattered those in power, and instigated them to great exploits. That was the fault of men of his type, who well deserved to be put to death. Why did he make the veins of the earth responsible? " 6 

If what Mêng T'ien said was wrong, the strictures of the Grand Annalist are not to the point either. How so? Mêng T'ien being guilty of having cut the veins of the earth, deserved death for this great crime. How did the earth, which nourishes all beings, wrong man? Mêng T'ien, who cut its veins, knew very well that by doing so he had committed a crime, but he did not know, why by lacerating the veins of the earth he had made himself guilty.7 Therefore it is of no consequence, whether Mêng T'ien thus impeached himself, or not. The Grand Annalist blames Mêng T'ien for not having strongly protested, when he was a famous general. 

1 209-207 B.C. 

2 A general of Erh Shih Huang Ti's father, ('Kin Shih Huang Ti, who fought successfully against the Hsiung-nu, and constructed the Great Wall as a rampart of defence against their incursions. 

3 The Manchurian province of Fêng-t'ien. 

4 A city in Kansu at the western extremity of the Great Wall. 

5 Quoted from the Shi-chi chap. 88, p. 5. 

6 Remarks of Sse Ma Ch'ien to Shi-chi chap. 88, p. 5v. 

7 The earth is here treated like an animated being, and its wounding by digging out ditches for the earth-works requisite for the Great Wall, and by piercing mountains, is considered a crime. But provided that Mêng T'ien suffered the punishment of his guilt, then another difficulty arises. Why did Heaven allow Earth to be thus maltreated, why did it punish innocent Earth? Wang Ch'ung's solution is very simple. Heaven neither rewards nor punishes. Its working is spontaneous, unpremeditated, and purposeless. Mêng T'ien's death is nothing but an unfelicitous accident. 

168 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical. 

that therefore he met with this disaster, for those that do not speak, when they ought to remonstrate, will have to suffer a violent death. 

Sse Ma Ch'ien himself had to suffer for Li Ling in the warm room.1 According to the Grand Annalist's own view the misfortune suffered tells against a person. Consequently capital punishment takes place by Heaven's decree. If Sse Ma Ch'ien censures Mêng T'ien for not having strongly remonstrated with his sovereign, wherefore he incurred his disaster, then there must have been something wrong about himself likewise, since he was put into the warm room. If he was not wrong, then his criticisms on Mêng T'ien are not just. 

In his memoir on Po Yi 2 the Grand Annalist, giving examples of good and bad actions says, " Out of his seventy disciples Confucius only recommended Yen Yuan for his ardent love of learning.  Yet Yen Yuan was often destitute. He lived on bran, of which he could not even eat his fill, and suddenly died in his prime. Does Heaven reward good men thus?" 

" Robber Chê assassinated innocent people day after day, and ate their flesh. By his savageness and imposing haughtiness he attracted several thousand followers, with whom he scourged the empire. Yet he attained a very great age after all. Why was he so specially favoured?" 

Yen Yuan ought not to have died so prematurely, and robber Chê should not have been kept alive so long. Not to wonder at Yen Yuan's premature death, but to say that Mêng T'ien deserved to die, is inconsistent. 

The Han general Li Kuang 3 said in a conversation which he had with the diviner Wang Shê, "Ever since the Han 4 have fought the Hsiung-nu,5 I was there. But several tens of officers of a lower 

1 For his intercession in favour of the defeated general Li Ling the emperor Wu Ti condemned Sse Ma Ch'ien to castration, which penalty was inflicted upon him in a warm room serving for that purpose. (Cf. Chaiannes, Mém. Historiques Vol. I. p. XL.) 

2 Shi-chi chap. 61, p. 3v. Po Yi (12th cent, b.c.) and his elder brother Shu Ch'i were sons of the Prince of Ku-chu in modern Chili. Their father wished to make the younger brother Shu Ch'i his heir, but he refused to deprive his elder brother of his birth-right, who, on his part, would not ascend the throne against his father's will. Both left their country to wander about in the mountains, where at last they died of cold and hunger. They are regarded as models of virtue. 

3 Died 125 B.C. 

4 The Han dynasty. The Former Han dynasty reigned from 206 b.c. -- 25 a.d.  the Later Hun dynasty from 25 -- 220 a. d. 

5 A Turkish tribe. 

Wrong Notions on Unhappiness. 169 

rank than commander of a city gate, with scarcely moderate abilities, have won laurels in the campaigns against the Hu 1 and marquisates withal. I do not yield the palm to these nobles, but how is it that I have not even acquired a square foot of land as a reward of my services, and much less been enfeolfed with a city? Are my looks not those of a marquis? Surely it is my fate." 

Wang Shê asked him to think, whether there was anything which always gave him pangs of conscience. Li Kuang replied, "When I was magistrate of Lung-hsi, 2 the Chiang 3 continuously rebelled. I induced over eight hundred to submission, and, by a stratagem, had them all killed on the same day. This is the only thing for which I feel sorry upto now." 

Wang Shê rejoined: — "There can be no greater crime than to murder those that have surrendered. That is the reason, why you, general, did not get a marquisate."* 

Li Kuang agreed with him, and others who heard of it, believed this view to be true. Now, not to become a marquis is like not becoming an emperor. Must he who is not made a marquis, have anything to rue, and he who does not become emperor, have committed any wrong? Confucius was not made an emperor, but nobody will say of him that he had done any wrong, whereas, because Li Kuang did not become a marquis, Wang Shê said that he had something to repent of. But his reasoning is wrong. 

Those who go into these questions, mostly hold that, whether a man will be invested with a marquisate or not, is predestinated by Heaven, and that marks of Heaven's fate appear in his body.  When the great general Wei Ch'ing 5 was in the Chien-chang palace, a deported criminal with an iron collar predicted his fate to the effect that he was so distinguished, that he would even be made a marquis. Later on, he in fact became a marquis over ten thou- sand families, owing to his great services. Before Wei Ch'ing had performed his great achievements, the deported criminal saw those signs pointing to his future rank. Consequently, to be raised to the rank of a marquis depends on fate, and man cannot attain to it by his works. What the criminal said turned out true, as shown by the result, whereas Wang Shê's assertion is untenable and without proof. Very often people are perverse and selfish without 

1 A general term for non-Chinese tribes in the north. 

2 District in Kansu. 

3 Tribes in the West of China. 

4 A quotation from Shi-chi chap. 109. p. 6, the biography of General U 

5 A favourite and a general of Han Wu Ti, died 106 b.c. 

170 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical. 

becoming unhappy by it, and others who always follow the path of virtue, may lose their happiness. Wang Shê's opinion is of the same kind as the self-reproach of Po Ch'i, and the self-impeachment of Mêng T'ien. 

In this flurried, bustling world it constantly happens that people rob and murder each other in their greed for wealth. Two merchants having travelled together in the same cart or the same boat a thousand Li, one kills the other, when they arrive at a far- off place, and takes away all his property. The dead body is left on the spot, uncared for, and the bones bleech in the sun unburied.  In the water, the corpse is eaten up by fish and turtles, on land, ants and vermin feed upon it. The lazy fellows won't exert their strength in agriculture, but resort to commerce, and even that reluctantly, in order to amass grain and goods. When then in a year of scarcity they have not enough to still the hunger of their bellies, they knock down their fellow-citizens like beasts, cut them to pieces, and eat their flesh. No difference is made between good and bad men, they are all equally devoured. It is not generally known, and the officials do not hear of it. In communities of over a thousand men up to ten thousand only one man out of a hundred remains alive, and nine out of ten die.1 This is the height of lawlessness and atrocity, yet all the murderers walk publicly about, become wealthy men, and lead a gay and pleasant life, without Heaven punishing them for their utter want of sympathy and benevolence. 

They kill one another, when they meet on the roads, not because they are so poor, that they cannot undertake anything, but only because they are passing through hard times, they feed on human flesh, thus bringing endless misery on their fellow-creatures, and compassing their premature deaths. How is it possible that they can make their guilt public, openly showing to the whole world the indelible proofs thereof? Wang Shê's opinion can certainly not be right. 

The historians tell us that Li Sse, 2 envious that Han Fei Tse 3 equalled him in talent, had him assassinated in jail 4 in Ch'in, but 

1 A Chinese does not take exception to the incongruity of the equation: — 100:1 = 10: 1. The meaning is plain: — a small percentage of survivors, and a great many dying. 

2 Prime Minister of Ch'in Shi Huang Ti and a great scholar. He studied together with Han Fei Tse under the philosopher Hsün Tse. 

3 A Taoist philosopher, son of a duke of the Han State. 

4 By his intrigues Li Sse had induced the king of Ch'in to imprison Han Fei Tse. He then sent him poison, with which Han Fei Tse committed suicide. Vid.  Shi-chi chap. 63, p. 11 v., Biography of Han Fei Tse. 

Wrong Notions on Unhappiness. 171 

that, afterwards, he was torn to pieces by carts,1 furthermore that Shang Yang 2 under pretence of his old friendship, captured Ang, prince of Wei, but that, subsequently, he had to suffer death. They wish to imply that those men had to endure these misfortunes as a punishment for their having destroyed a wise man, or broken an old friendship. For what cause had Han Fel Tse given, to be incarcerated by Li Sse, or what fault had prince Ang committed, to be taken prisoner by Shang Yang? How did the murder of a scholar, who died in prison, and the breaking of an old friendship resulting in the arrest of the prince, bring about the violent death of the culprit, torn to pieces by carts, 3 or the decapitation? If Han Fei Tse or prince Ang were wicked, and Heaven had placed retribution in the hands of Li Sse and Shang Yang, then the latter would have acted by Heaven's order, and be deserving of his reward, not of misfortune. Were Han Fei Tse and prince Ang blameless, and not punished by Heaven, then Li Sse and Shang Yang ought not to have imprisoned and captured them. 

It will be argued that Han Fei Tse and Prince Ang had concealed their crimes, and hidden their faults so, that nobody heard about them, but Heaven alone knew, and therefore they suffered death and mishap. The guilt of men consists, either in outrages on the wise, or in attacks on the well-minded. If they commit outrages on the wise, what wrong have the victims of these outrages done? And if they attack the well-minded, what fault have the people thus attacked committed? 4 

When misery or prosperity, fortune or mishap are falling to man's share with greater intensity, it is fate, when less so, it is 

1 Li Sse fell a victim to the intrigues of the powerful eunuch Chao Kao.  The Shi-chi chap. 87, p. 20v., Biography of Li Sse, relates that he was cut asunder at the waist on the market place. At all events he was executed in an atrocious way. The tearing to pieces by carts driven in opposite directions is a punishment several times mentioned in the Ch'un-ch'iu. 

2 Shang Yang is Wei Yang, Prince of Shang, died 338 b.c. In the service of the Ch'in State he defeated an army of Wei, commanded by Prince Ang, whom he treacherously seized, and assassinated at a meeting, to which he had invited him as an old friend. According to the Shi-chi, chap. G8, p. 9, Biography of Prince Shang, he lost his life in battle against his former master, and his corpse was torn to pieces by carts like Li Sse. 

3 The culprit being bound to the carts, which then were driven in different directions. 

4 Why does Heaven punish the innocent through the guilty? If Han Fei Tse and Ang had sinned in secret, Heaven would have been unjust towards those they had wronged, and so on. 

172 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical. 

time. T'ai Kung 1was in great distress, when he happened to be enfeoffed with a territory by the Chou king Wên Wang. Ning Ch'i 2 was living in obscurity and difficulties, when Duke Huan of Ch'i gave him an appointment. It cannot be said that these two men, when they were poor and miserable, bad done wrong, but had reformed, when they obtained their investment or appointment.  Calamity and prosperity have their time, and good or bad luck depend on fate. 

T'ai Kung and Ning Ch'i were worthies, but they may have had their faults. Sages, however, possess perfect virtue. Nevertheless Shun was several times almost done to death by the foul play of his father and brother.3 When he met with Yao, the latter yielded the throne to him, and raised him to the imperial dignity. It is evident that, when Shun had to endure these insidious attacks, he was not to blame, and that he did not behave well, when he was made emperor. First, his time had not yet come, afterwards, his fate was fulfilled, and his time came. 

When princes and ministers in olden days were first distressed, and afterwards crowned with success, it was not, because they had at first been bad, and Heaven sent them calamities, or that subsequently they suddenly improved, and then were helped and protected by the spirits. The actions and doings of one individual from his youth to his death bear the same character from first to last. Yet one succeeds, the other fails, one gets on, the other falls off, one is penniless, the other well-to-do, one thriving, the other ruined. All this is the result of chance and luck, and the upshot of fate and time. 

1 A high officer, who had gone into exile to avoid the tyrannous rule of Chou Hsin 1122 b.c, and subsequently joined Wên Wang. 

2 King Ch'i lived in the 7th cent. b.c. 

3 Cf. p. 173.