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34: CHAPTER XXXIII Criticisms on Confucius

CHAPTER XXXIII Criticisms on Confucius (Wên K'ung). 

The students of Confucianism of the present day like to swear 

in verba magistri, and to believe in antiquity. The words of the 

Worthies and Sages are to them infallible, and they do their best 

to explain and practise them, but they are unable to criticize them. 

When the Worthies and Sages take the pencil, and commit their 

thoughts to writing, though they meditate, and thoroughly discuss 

their subject, one cannot say that they always hit the truth, and 

much less can their occasional utterances all be true. But although 

they cannot be all true, the scholars of to-day do not know, how 

to impugn them, and, in case they are true, but so abstruse that 

they are difficult to understand, those people do not know how to 

interpret their meaning. The words of the Sages on various occasions are often contradictory, and their writings at different times 

very often mutually clash. That however is, what the scholars of 

our time do not understand. 

One always hears the remark that the talents of the Seventy 

Disciples of the school of Confucius surpassed those of the savants 

of our days. This statement is erroneous. They imagine that Confucius acting as teacher, a Sage propounding the doctrine, must 

have imparted it to exceptionally gifted men, whence the idea that 

they were quite unique. The talents of the ancients are the talents 

of the moderns. What we call men of superior genius now-a-days, 

were regarded by the ancients as Sages and supernatural beings, 

hence the belief that the Seventy Sages could not appear in other 


If at present there could be a teacher like Confucius, the 

scholars of this age would all be like Yen and Min,1 and without 

Criticisms on Confucius. 393 

Confucius, the Seventy Disciples would be only like the Literati of 

the present day. For though learning from Confucius, they could 

not thoroughly inquire. The words of the Sage they did not 

completely understand, his doctrines and principles they were 

unable to explain. Therefore they ought to have asked to get 

a clearer conception, and not understanding thoroughly, they 

ought to have raised objections in order to come to a complete 


The sentiments which Kao Yao 2 uttered before the Emperor 

Shun were shallow and superficial, and not to the point. Yü asked 

him to explain himself, when the shallow words became deeper, 

and the superficial hints more explicit,3 for criticisms animate the 

discussion, and bring out the meaning, and opposition leads to 

greater clearness. 

Confucius ridiculed the guitar-playing and singing of Tse Yu,4 

who, however, retorted by quoting what Confucius had said on a 

previous occasion. If we now take up the text of the Analects, 

we shall see that in the sayings of Confucius there is much like 

the strictures on the singing of Tse Yu. But there were few dis- 

ciples able to raise a question like Tse Yu. In consequence the 

words of Confucius became stereotyped and inexplicable, because 

the Seventy could not make any objection, and the scholars of 

the present time are not in a position to judge of the truth of 

the doctrine. 

Their scientific methods do not arise from a lack of ability, 

but the difficulty consists in opposing the teacher, scrutinizing his 

doctrine, investigating its meaning, and bringing evidence to ascertain right and wrong. Criticism is not solely permitted vis-a-vis to 

sages, as long as they are alive. The commentators of the present 

day do not require the instruction of a sage, before they dare to 


If questions be asked on things which seem inexplicable, and 

Confucius be pressed hard, how can this be deemed a violation of 

the moral laws, and if those who really are able to hand down 

the holy teachings, impugn the words of Confucius, why must their 

undertaking be considered unreasonable? I trust that, as regards 

1 Yen Hui and Min Tse Ch'ien, two prominent disciples of Confucius. 

2 The minister of Shun. 

3 The discussions of the two wise men before Shun are to be found in the 

Shuking, Kao Yao mo. 

4 Cf. Analects XVII, 4. 

394 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique. 

those inquiries into the words of Confucius and those remarks on 

his unintelligible passages, men of genius of all ages, possessing 

the natural gift of answering questions and solving difficulties, 

will certainly appreciate the criticisms and investigations made in 

our time. 

" Mêng I Tse asked, what filial piety was. The Master said, 

' To show no disregard.' Soon after, as Fan Chih 2 was driving 

him, the Master told him saying, " Meng Sun 3 asked me, what filial 

piety was, and I answered him, ' To show no disregard.' " 

Fan Chih said, 'What does that mean?' The Master replied, ' That parents, while alive, should be served according to 

propriety; that, when dead, they should be buried according to 

propriety; and that they should be sacrificed to according to propriety.' "4

Now I ask, Confucius said that no disregard is to be shown 

viz. no disregard to propriety. But a good son also must anticipate 

his parents' thoughts, conform to their will, and never disregard their 

wishes. Confucius said " to show no disregard," but did not speak 

of disregard for propriety. Could Mêng I Tse., hearing the words 

of Confucius., not imagine that he meant to say, " no disregard for 

(the parents) wishes? " When Fan Chih came, he asked, what it 

meant. Then Confucius said, " That parents while alive should be 

served according to propriety; that, when dead, they should be 

buried according to propriety; and that they should be sacrificed 

to according to propriety." Had Fan Chih not inquired, what the 

words " no disregard " meant, he would not have understood them. 

Mêng I Tse's talents did not surpass those of Fan Chih., therefore there is no record of his sayings or doings in the chapters 

of the Analects. Since Fan Chih could not catch the meaning, would 

Mêng I Tse have done so? 

Mêng Wu Po asked what filial piety was. The Master replied 

" If the only sorrow parents have, is that which they feel, when 

their children are sick." 5 

1 Mêng I Tse was the chief of one of three powerful families in Lu. 

2 A disciple of Confucius. 

3 I, e. Meng I Tse. 

4 Analects II, 5. — The citations from the Analects are quoted from Legge's 

translation, but here and there modified so as to suit the text, for Wang Ch'ung 

often understands a passage quite differently from Legge and his authorities. 

5 Analects II, 6. 

Criticisms on Confucius. IV^b 

Mêng Wu Po used to cause his parents much sorrow, therefore 

Confucius spoke the afore-mentioned words. Mêng Wu Po was a 

cause of sorrow to his parents, whereas Mêng I Tse disregarded 

propriety. If in reproving this fault Confucius replied to Mêng Wu 

Po " If the only sorrow parents have is that which they feel, when 

their children are sick," he ought to have told Mêng I Tse that 

only in case of fire or inundation might propriety be neglected. 

Chou Kung says that small talents require thorough instructions, whereas for great ones a hint is sufficient. Tse Yu possessed 

great talents, yet with him Confucius went into details. The talents 

of Mêng I Tse were comparatively small, but Confucius gave him a 

mere hint. Thus he did not fall in with Chou Kung's views. Reproving the shortcomings of Mêng I Pse, he lost the right principle. 

How was it that none of his disciples took exception? 

If he did not dare to speak too openly owing to the high 

position held by Mêng I Tse, he likewise ought to have said to 

Mêng Wu Po nothing more than ' not to cause sorrow (is filial piety),' 

for both were scions of the Mêng family, and of equal dignity. 

There is no apparent reason, why he should have spoken to Mêng 

Wu Po in clear terms and to Mêng I Pse thus vaguely. Had Confucius freely told Mêng I Tse not to disregard propriety, what harm 

would there have been? 

No other family was more powerful in Lu than the Chi 

family, yet Confucius blamed them for having eight rows of pantomimes in their court,1 and objected to their performing a sacrifice 

on Mount T'ai.2 He was not afraid of the evil consequences, which 

this lack of reserve in regard to the usurpation of territorial rights 

by the Chi family might have for him, but anticipated bad results 

from a straightforward answer given to Mêng I Tse? Moreover, 

he was questioned about filial piety more than once, and he had 

always his charioteer at hand. 3 When he spoke to Mêng I Tse, 

he was not merely in a submissive mood,4 therefore he informed 

Fan Chih. 

Confucius said 5 "Riches and honour are what men desire. If 

they cannot be obtained in the proper way, they should not be 

1 Analects III, 1. 

2 Analects III, 6. This sacrifice was a privilege of the sovefeign. 

3 So that he might have used him as his mouth-piece as in the case of 

Mêng I Tse. 

4 He was not afraid of Mêng I Tse. 

5 Analects IV, 5. 

396 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique. 

held. Poverty and meanness are what men dislike. If they cannot 

be obtained in the proper way, they should not be avoided." 1 

The meaning is that men must acquire riches in a just and 

proper way, and not take them indiscriminately, that they must 

keep within their bounds, patiently endure poverty, and not recklessly throw it off. To say that riches and honour must not be 

held, unless they are obtained in the proper way, is all right, but 

what is poverty and meanness not obtained in a proper way? 

Wealth and honour can, of course, be abandoned, but what is the 

result of giving up poverty and meanness? By giving up poverty 

and meanness one obtains wealth and honour. As long as one 

does not obtain wealth and honour, one does not get rid of poverty and meanness. If we say that, unless wealth and honour 

can be obtained in a proper way, poverty and meanness should 

not be shunned, then that which is obtained is wealth and honour, 

not poverty and meanness. How can the word " obtaining " be 

used with reference to poverty and meanness? Therefore the passage ought to read as follows: 

" Poverty and meanness are what people dislike. If they cannot be avoided in the proper way, they should not be avoided." 

Avoiding is the proper word, not obtaining. Obtaining is 

used of obtaining. Now there is avoiding, how can it be called 

obtaining? Only in regard to riches and honour we can speak of 

obtaining. How so? By obtaining riches and honour one avoids 

poverty and meanness. Then how can poverty and meanness be 

avoided in the proper way? — By purifying themselves and keeping 

in the proper way officials acquire rank and emoluments, wealth 

and honour, and by obtaining these they avoid poverty and meanness. 

How are poverty and meanness avoided not in the proper 

way? — If anybody feels so vexed and annoyed with poverty and 

meanness, that he has recourse to brigandage and robbery for 

the purpose of amassing money and valuables, and usurps official 

emoluments, then he does not keep in the proper way. 

Since the Seventy Disciples did not ask any question regarding 

the passage under discussion, the literati of to-day are likewise 

incapable of raising any objection. 

If the meaning of this utterance is not explained, nor the 

words made clear, we would have to say that Confucius could not 

1 Wang Ch'ung thus interprets the passage, which gives no sense. I should 

say that he misunderstood Confucius, for every difficulty is removed, if we take the 

words to mean what Legge translates:- " if it cannot be obtained " viz. " if it is not 

possible to act in the aforesaid manner" instead of  "if they cannot he obtained." 

Criticisms on Confucius 397 

speak properly. As long as the meaning continues unravelled, and the 

words unexplained, the admonition of Confucius remains uncomprehensible. Why did his disciples not ask, and people now say nothing? 

''Confucius said of Kung Yeh Ch'ang that he might be wived 

and that, although he was put in bonds, he was not guilty. Accordingly he gave him his daughter to wife." 1 

I ask what was the idea of Confucius, when he gave a wife 

to Kung Yeh Ch'ang. Did he think him fit to marry, because he 

was thirty years old, or on account of his excellent conduct? If 

he had his thirty years in view, he should not have spoken of 

his being in fetters, and if he looked upon his conduct, there was 

no occasion either for mentioning his imprisonment. Why? Because 

all who joined the school of Confucius were well-behaved. Therefore they were called accomplished followers. If among these 

followers one or the other was unmarried, he might have been 

married, but it need not he mentioned. If among the disciples 

many unmarried ones existed and Kung Yeh Ch'ang was the most 

virtuous of them, and should therefore Confucius have given him a 

wife alone, then in praising him Confucius ought to have enumerated his deeds instead of speaking of his imprisonment. There are 

not a few persons in the world, who suffer violence without being 

guilty, but they are not perfect sages therefore. Of ordinary people 

who are wronged, there are a great many, not only one. If Confucius 

made an innocent man his son-in-law, he selected not a virtuous man, 

but one who had suffered injustice. The only praise Confucius had for 

Kung Yeh Ch'ang was his innocence: of his doings or his qualities he 

said not a word. If in fact he was not virtuous, and Confucius made 

him his son-in-law, he did wrong, and if he was virtuous indeed, 

but Confucius in praising him did not mention it, he was wrong 

likewise. It was like his giving a wife to Nan Yung,2 of whom he 

said that ' if the country were well-governed, he would not be out 

of office, and if it were ill-governed, he would escape punishment 

and disgrace,'3 a praise which left nothing to be desired. 4 

1 Analects V, 1 . 

2 Confucius gave Nan Yung the daughter of his elder brother to wife. 

3 Analects V, 1. 

4 Wang Ch'ung's objections are again far-fetched and groundless. The words 

of Confucius imply that Kung Yeh Ch'ang's character was so excellent and above 

suspicion, that Confucius would not doubt him, even if he were condemned by the 

world and treated like a criminal, and therefore he made him his son-in-law. 

398 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique. 

The Master said to Tse Kung, " Which of you two, yourself 

or Hui is superior? " Tse Kung replied, " How dare I compare myself with Hui? If Hui hears one point, he knows therefrom ten 

others. If I hear one, I know but two." The Master said " Not 

equal to him, I and you together cannot compare with him." 1 

Thus with a view to setting forth the excellence of Yen Hui this 

question was put to Tse Kung. This calls for the following remark : 

That which Confucius propounded was propriety and modesty. 

Tse Lu would govern a State with propriety, but his words were 

not modest, therefore Confucius criticized him.2 Had Tse Kung 

really been superior to Hui, he would, on being asked by Confucius, 

have replied nevertheless that he was not equal to him, and had 

he been inferior in fact, he would likewise have owned to his inferiority. In the first case the answer would not have been wrong 

or a deception of the Master, for propriety and modesty require 

depreciatory and humble words. 

What was the purport of this inquiry of Confucius? If he was 

aware that Yen Hui surpassed Tse Kung, he did not need to ask the 

latter, and if he really did not know, and therefore asked Tse Kung, 

he would not have learned it in this way either, for Tse Kung was 

bound to give a modest and humble reply. If Confucius merely 

wanted to eulogise Hui and praise his virtue, there were many 

other disciples not enjoying the same fame, why must he just ask 

Tse Kung? 

The Master said, "Admirable indeed was the virtue of Hui! "3 

and further, " I have talked with Hui for a whole day, and he has 

not made any objection, as if he were stupid"4 and, "Such was 

Hui, that for three months there would be nothing in his mind 

contrary to perfect virtue."5 In all these three chapters Hui is 

praised directly, but not at the cost of any other person, why 

then must Tse Kung in one chapter serve to him as a foil? 

Somebody might think that Confucius wanted to snub Tse Kung. 

At that time the fame of Tse Kung was greater than that of Yen 

Hui. Confucius apprehensive, lest Tse King should become too conceited and overbearing, wanted to humble him. 

If his name ranked above that of Hui, it was a simple fact 

at that time, but not brought about by Tse Kung's endeavours to 

1 Analects V, 8. 

2 Analects XI, 10. 

3 Analects VI, 9. 

4 Analects II, 9. 

5 Analects VI, 5. 

Criticisms on Confucius. 399

supersede his rival. How could the judgment of Tse Kung have 

affected the case? Even supposing that, in case Yen Hui's talents 

were superior to his, he had submitted of his own accord, there 

was no necessity for any snubbing. If Tse Kung could not know it 

himself, he would, notwithstanding anything Confucius might have 

said, have been convinced that the latter only wanted to humble 

him, and in that case questioning or no questioning would have 

neither humbled nor elated him. 

Tsai Wo being asleep during the day time, the Master said, 

"Rotten wood cannot be carved; a wall of dirty earth will not 

receive the trowel. But what is the use of my reproving Tsai 

Wo!" 1 — For sleeping during the day Tsai Wo was reprimanded in 

this way. 

Sleeping during day time is a small evil. Rotten wood and 

dirty earth are things in such a state of decay, that they cannot 

be repaired, and must be regarded as great evils. If a small evil 

is censured, as though it were a great one, the person in question 

would not submit to such a judgment. If Tsai Wo's character was 

as bad as rotten wood or dirty earth, he ought not to have been 

admitted to the school of Confucius nor rank in one of the four 

classes of disciples.2 In case his character was good however, 

Confucius dealt too harshly with him. 

" If a man is not virtuous, and you carry your dislike of 

him to extremes, he will recalcitrate."3 The dislike shown by 

Confucius for Tsai Wo has been, so to say, too strong. Provided 

that common and ignorant people had committed some smaller 

punishable offence, and the judge condemned them to capital 

punishment, would they suffer the wrong, and complain of the 

injustice, or would they quietly submit, and consider themselves 

guilty? Had Tsai Wo been an ignorant man, his feelings would 

have been the same with those people guilty of some offence; being 

a worthy, he must have understood a reproof of Confucius, and 

have reformed at the slightest remark. An open word was sufficient 

1 Analects V, 9. 

2 The four classes into which the ten principal disciples of Confucius were 

divided according to their special abilities: — virtue, eloquence, administrative talents, 

and literary acquirements. Tsai Wo belongs to the second class of the able speakers 

together with Tse Kung. Cf. Analects XI, 2. 

3 Analects VIII, 10. 

400 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique. 

to enlighten him, whereas an exaggeration would have missed its 

mark. At the first allusion he would already have reformed. That 

however did not depend on the strength of the language used, but 

on Tsai Wo's ability to change. 

The scheme of the " Ch'un Ch'iu" is to point out any small 

goodness, and to censure small wrongs.1 But if Confucius praised 

small deserts in high terms, and censured trifling wrongs immoderately, would Tsai Wo having the scheme of the Ch'un Ch'iu in view 

agree with such criticism? If not, he would not accept it, and 

the words of Confucius would be lost. 

The words of a Sage must tally with his writings. His words 

come from his mouth, and his writings are in his books, but both 

flow from the heart, and are the same in substance. When Confucius composed the "Ch'un Ch'iu" he did not censure small things, 

as if they were very important, but in reproving Tsai Wo he condemned a small offence in the same manner as an enormous crime. 

His words and his writings disagree. How should they convince 

a man? 

The Master said, " At first my way with men was to hear 

their words, and to give them credit for their conduct. Now my 

way is to hear their words, and look at their conduct. It is from 

Tsai Wo that I have learnt to make this change.''2 That is from 

the time, when Tsai Wo was asleep in the day time, he changed 

his method of studying men. But one may well ask, how can a 

man's sleeping during the day time spoil his character, and how 

can a man of bad conduct become good by not sleeping day or 

night? Is it possible to learn anything about people's goodness 

or badness from their sleeping during the day time? 

Amongst the disciples of Confucius in the four classes Tsai 

Wo took precedence over Tse Kung. If he was so lazy, that nothing 

could be made out of his character, how could he advance so far? 

If Tsai Wo reached such a degree of perfection notwithstanding his 

sleeping during the day, his talents must have been far superior to 

those of ordinary people. Supposing that he had not yet reached 

the goal, but was under the impression that he had done enough, 

he did not know better himself. That was a lack of knowledge, 

but his conduct was not bad. He only wanted some enlightenment, but to change the method of studying men for that reason 

was superfluous. 

1 This is professedly the aim of the " Ch'un Ch'iu" or " Spring and Autumn " 

Record, the only classical work, of which Confucius claims the authorship. 

2 Analects V, 9. 

Criticisms on Confucius. 401 

Let us assume that Tsai Wo was conscious of his deficiencies, 

but felt so exhausted, that ho fell asleep during day time. That 

was a relaxation of his vital force. This exhaustion may increase 

to such a degree, that death ensues and not only sleep.1 

As regards the method of judging human character by taking 

into consideration the actions, the words are disregarded, and by 

laying all stress on words, the conduct is left out of consideration. 

Now although Tsai Wo was not very energetic in his actions, his 

words were well worth hearing. There is a class of men who 

speak very well, but whose deeds are not quite satisfactory. From 

the time that Tsai Wo slept during the day, Confucius began to hear 

the words, and look at the conduct, and only in case they both 

corresponded, called a man virtuous. That means to say, he wanted 

a perfect man, but how does that agree with his principle that 

perfection must not be expected from one man? 2 

Tse Chang asked saying, "The minister Tse Wên 3 thrice took 

office, and manifested no joy in his countenance. Thrice he retired 

from office, and manifested no displeasure. He made it a point to 

inform the new minister of the way in which he had conducted 

the government; — what do you say of him?" The Master replied, 

"He was loyal." — "Was he benevolent?" — "I do not know. How 

can he be pronounced benevolent? 4 Tse Wên recommended Tse Yü 

of Ch'u as his successor. Tse Yü attacked Sung with a hundred war-chariots, but was defeated and lost most of his men. 5 If Tse Wên 

was ignorant like that, how could he be considered benevolent?" — 

My question is this. When Tse Wên recommended Tse Yü, he 

did not know him, but wisdom has nothing to do with virtue. 

Ignorance does not preclude benevolent deeds. There are the five 

virtues: — benevolence, justice, propriety, intelligence, and truth, but 

these five are separate, and not necessarily combined. Thus there 

are intelligent men, benevolent men, there are the well-mannered, 

and the just. The truthful must not always be intelligent, or the 

intelligent, benevolent, the benevolent, well-mannered, or the well- 

mannered, just. Tse Wêns intelligence was obfuscated by Tse Yü, 

1 Tsai Wo could no more be made responsible for bis bodily weakness, than 

for his death. 

2 Analects XIII, 15 and XVIII, 10. 

3 A minister of the Ch'u State. 

4 Analects V, 18. The following words of Confucius are omitted in our Analects. 

5 This battle took place in 632 b.c. It is described in the Tso-chuan Book V, 27 

(Duke Hsi 27th year). 

402 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique. 

but how did his benevolence suffer therefrom? Consequently it is 

not right to say, "How can he be pronounced benevolent?" 

Moreover loyal means generous, and generosity is benevolence. 

Confucius said, " By observing a man's faults it may be known that 

he is benevolent." 1 Tse Wên possessed true benevolence. If Confucius 

says that loyalty is not benevolence, he might as well assert that 

father and mother are not the two parents, or that husband and 

wife are not a pair. 

The duke Ai 2 asked which of the disciples loved to learn. 

Confucius replied to him, " There was Yen Hui. He did not vent 

his anger on others, nor did he twice commit the same fault. Alas! 

his fate was short and he died; and now there is none. I. have 

not yet heard of any one who loves to learn." 3 — 

What was really the cause of Yen Hui's death? It is, of course, 

attributed to his short fate, which would correspond to Po Niu's 

sickness.4 All living men have received their fate, which is complete, and must be clean. 5 Now there being the evil disease of Po 

Niu,6 one says that he had no fate. 7 Those who remain alive, 

must have been endowed with a long fate. If a person has obtained a short fate, we should likewise say that he has no fate. 

Provided that heaven's fate can be short or long, it also must be 

good or bad. Speaking of Yen Hui's short fate, one can speak likewise of Po Niu's bad fate. Saying that Po Niu had no fate, one 

must admit that Yen Hui had no fate either. One died, the other 

was diseased; Confucius pitied them both, and called it fate. The 

thing which is derived from heaven is the same, but it is not given 

the same name, for which I do not see any apparent reason.8 

1 Analects IV, 7, 

2 Duke Ai of Lu, 494-468 b.c. 

3 Analects VI,2 

4 Analects VI, 8. 

5 Wang Ch'ung understands by fate something material, not a decree. Cf. 

Chap. VII and VIII. 

6 Leprosy. Cf. p. 165. 

7 Fate is a pure substance pervading the body, which cannot excite a foul 

disease like leprosy. 

8 The entire polemic is against the expression " short fate " used by Confucius, 

who takes fate in the usual acceptation of decree, or appointment of heaven. Wang 

Ch'ung from his materialistic point of view argues, that fate is always complete and 

pure, and that there can be no long or short one. The premature death of Yen Hui 

and the disease of Po Niu are not fate at all. 

Criticisms on Confucius. 403 

Duke Ai asked Confucius who loved to learn. Confucius replied, 

" There was Yen Hui who loved to learn, but now there is none. 

He did not vent his anger on others nor commit the same fault 

twice." — Why did Confucius say so? 

There are those who presume that Confucius wished to add a 

criticism on Duke Ai's character, and that therefore he spoke of 

the venting of anger and committing faults twice. Sticking to the 

duke's inquiry, he gave him this reply, thereby at the same time 

censuring the duke's short-comings, but without committing himself. 

However K'ang Tse 1 likewise asked about the love of learning, 

and Confucius in his answer also indicated Yen Hui. 2 K'ang Tse had 

his faults as well, why did Confucius not answer so as to reprove 

K'ang Tse too? K'ang Tse was not a sage, his doings were not 

without fault. In fact K'ang Tse was distressed about the number 

of thieves. Confucius replied, " If you, sir, were not covetous, although you should reward them to do it, they would not steal." 3 

This shows that K'ang Tse's weak point was his covetousness. Why 

did not Confucius attack it? 

Confucius having visited Nan Tse, Tse Lu was displeased, on 

which the Master said, " If I have done a wicked thing, may 

Heaven fall down on me, may Heaven fall down on me! "4 — 

Nan Tse was the wife of Duke Ling of Wei.5 She had invited 

Confucius. Tse Lu was displeased and suspected Confucius of having 

had illicite intercourse with her. In order to exculpate himself 

Confucius said, " If I have done any thing disgraceful, may Heaven 

crush me." To prove his perfect sincerity he swore that he did 

not deceive Tse Lu. 

I ask: — by thus exonerating himself, does Confucius really clear 

himself? If it had happened once that Heaven fell down, and killed 

people for having perpetrated any disgraceful act, Confucius might 

allude to, and swear by it. Tse Lu would most probably believe 

him then, and he would be whitewashed. Now, nobody has ever 

1 The head of the Chi family in Lu. 

2 Analects XI, 6 

3 Analects XII, 18. 

4 Analects VI, 26. 

5 A most disreputable woman, guilty of incest with her half-brother, Prince 

Chou of Sung. The commentators take great pains to whitewash Confucius, who 

called upon this unworthy princess. What induced her to invite the Sage, and him 

to accept the invitation, is not known. Various conjectures have been put forward. 

404 Lun-hêng: E. Critique. 

been crushed by Heaven. Would therefore Tse Lu believe in an 

oath to the effect that Heaven might fall down on him? 

It happens sometimes that a man is killed by lightning, 

drowned by water, burned by fire, or crushed by the tumbling 

wall of a house. Had Confucius said " May the lighting strike me, 

the water drown me, the fire burn me, or a wall crush me," Tse 

Lu would undoubtedly have believed him, but instead of that he 

swore before Tse Lu by a disaster, which has never before happened. 

How could this dispel Tse Lu's doubts, and make him believe? 

Sometimes people are crushed while asleep, before they awake. 

Can we say that Heaven crushed them? All those who are crushed 

in their sleep, before they awake, have not of necessity done some dishonest deed. Though not far advanced in philosophy, yet Tse Lu knew 

how to distinguish the truth of a thing. Confucius swearing by something unreal Tse Lu would assuredly not have got rid of his doubts. 

Confucius asserted that life and death were fate, and that 

wealth and honour depended on Heaven.1 Accordingly human life 

can be long or short, which has nothing to do with human actions, 

goodness or badness. In fact Yen Hui died prematurely, and Confucius 

spoke of his short fate.2 Are we entitled to conclude therefrom 

that people whose fate is short and who die young, must have 

done something wrong? 

Although Tse Lu was not yet very proficient in philosophy, 

yet from the words of Confucius he knew the real meaning of life 

and death. Confucius swore that, if he had done anything dishonest. 

Heaven might crush him instead of telling Tse Lu that he was only 

under the rule of fate, for how could Heaven fall down upon him 

and kill him, before the appointed time of his death had come? 

Thus on taking his oath before Tse Lu that Heaven might crush 

him, he could not expect to find credence, and in that case the 

exculpation of Confucius would have been no exculpation. 

The Shu-king 3 says, " Be not as arrogant as Tan Chu, 4 who only 

liked to saunter idly about," Thus the Emperor Shun admonished 

Yü not to treat an unworthy son like a son, and to pay attention 

to the commands of Heaven. He was alarmed, lest Yü should be 

partial to his son, therefore he adduced Tan Chu as an example 

calculated to deter him. But Yü replied: 5 — "I had my marriage 

1 Cf. p. 136. 

2 Cf. p. 151. 

3 Shu-king, Yi-chi, Pt. H, Bk. IV, 1 (Lec/ge Vol. Ill, Pt. 1, p. 84). 

4 Yao's son. 

5 Shu-king loc. cit. 

Criticisms on Confucius. 405 

on the hsing, jen, kwei, and chia days. When the cries and whines 

of my son were first heard, I did not treat him like my son." He 

related something that had happened, from the past forecasting 

the future, and deducting what could not be seen from that which 

was apparent. Thus he demonstrated that he would not venture 

to show partiality for an unworthy son. He did not say. — "May 

Heaven fall down on me," knowing very well that common people 

in swearing like to invoke Heaven. 

When Tse Lu suspected the actions of Confucius, the latter did 

not refer to his conduct in the past to prove that he had done 

nothing reproachable, but said that Heaven might crush him. How 

does he differ from common people, who for the purpose of dis- 

pelling a doubt will solemnly protest by Heaven? 

Confucius said: — " The phoenix does not come; the River sends 

forth no Plan: — it is all over with me!" 1

The Master felt distressed that he did not become emperor. 

As emperor he would have brought about perfect peace. At such 

a time the phoenix would have made its appearance, and the Plan 

would have emerged from the Yellow River. 2 Now he did not 

obtain imperial authority, therefore there were no auspicious portents 

either, and Confucius felt sick at heart and distressed. Hence his 

words: — "It is all over with me!" 

My question is: — -Which after all are the necessary conditions 

preceding the appearance of the phoenix and the Plan of the River, 

which though fulfilled, did not bring about their arrival? 3 If it 

be perfect peace, it may be urged that not all the emperors, under 

whose reign perfect peace prevailed, attracted the phoenix or the 

Plan of the River. 

The Five Emperors and the Three Rulers 4 all brought about 

perfect peace, but comparing their omens, we find that they had 

not all the phoenix as an indispensable attribute. During the time 

of perfect peace the phoenix is not a necessary omen. That Confucius, a sage, should have longed so much for something that was 

not at all indispensable, and that he worried himself, is not right. 

1 Analects IX, 8. 

2 On the Plan of the Yellow River vid. p. 294 Note 1. 

3 In the case of Confucius, 

4 Cf. p. 138. 

406 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique. 

Somebody might object that Confucius did not sorrow, because 

he was not appointed emperor, but that, when he felt so sad, there 

was no wise ruler, and that therefore he did not find employment. 

The phoenix and the Plan of the River are omens of a wise ruler. 

As long as they are absent, there is no wise ruler, and without a 

wise ruler Confucius had no chance of finding employment. 

How are these auguries called forth? By appointing wise 

and able men the government is set right, and great success obtained. Then the omens appear. After they have made their appearance, there is no further need for a Confucius. Why has Confucius only the end in view? 1 He does not think of the first steps,2 

and solely sees the end, does not assist a king as minister, but 

speaks of those portents.3 The government not being in order, 

those things, of course, do not become visible. 

To conclude from their arrival that there must be a wise 

ruler, would also be a mistake. The emperor Hsiao Wên Ti 4 deserved 

the name of a wise ruler, yet in his annals 5 we find nothing about 

a phoenix or the Plan of the River. Had Confucius lived under 

Hsiao Wên Ti he would likewise have complained: — "It is all over 

with me! " 

The Master was expressing a wish to live among the Nine 

Wild Tribes of the east. Some one said, " They are brutish. How 

can you do such a thing?" The Master said, "If a superior man 

dwelt among them, what brutality would there be?"" 

Confucius felt annoyed, because his doctrine did not find its 

way into China. This loss of his hopes roused his anger, and 

made him wish to emigrate to the Wild Tribes. Some one remonstrated, asking, how he could do such a thing, since the savages 

were brutish and unmannerly. To which Confucius retorted by 

saying, " If a superior man dwelt among them, what brutality 

would there be?", which means to say that, if a superior man were 

1 The time when the lucky omens become visible. 

2 The steps to secure a wise government and perfect peace, which must have 

been successful, ere the phoenix and the Plan will come forward. 

3 Wishing to behold those auspicious portents, Confucius ought first to have 

instituted an excellent administration, as minister of the reigning sovereign. He sees 

the result, but overlooks the causes. 

4 The Han emperor whose reign lasted from 179-156 b.c. 

5 In the Shi-chi. 

6 Analects X, 13. 

Criticisms on Confucius. 407 

living among them and imparting his doctrine, there would be no 

more rudeness. 

How did Confucius conceive the idea of going to the Nine 

Tribes? — Because his doctrine did not spread in China, he wished 

to go there. But if China was no field for it, how could it have 

spread among the savages? "The rude tribes of the east and north 

with their princes are still not equal to China without princes."' 

That shows that things which are easily managed in China are 

very difficult among the savages. Can then something which has 

failed, where everything is easy, be carried through, where everything is difficult? 

Furthermore, Confucius said, " If a superior man dwelt among 

them, how came one to speak of brutality." Does that mean that 

the superior man keeps his culture for himself, or that he imparts 

it? Should he keep it closed up in his bosom, he might do that 

in China as well, and need not go to the savages for that purpose. 

If, however, he should instruct the savages in it, how could they 

be taught? 

Yü visited the State of the Naked People. He was naked 

himself, while he stayed with them, and only when he left, he 

put on his clothes again. The habit of wearing clothes did not 

take root among the wild tribes. Yü was unable to teach the 

Naked People to wear clothes, how could Confucius make superior 

men of the Nine Tribes? 

Perhaps Confucius, as a matter of fact, did not wish to go 

to the wild tribes after all, but grieved that his doctrine was not 

accepted, he merely said so in angry mood. Or, when some one 

remonstrated, he knew pretty well that the wild tribes were barbarians, but nevertheless he said, " What brutality would there 

be?", insisting on having his own way and warding off the attack 

of his interlocutor. If he really did not want to go, but said so 

out of disgust, he did not tell the truth. '' What the superior 

man requires, is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect."- If Confucius know that the wild tribes were uncivilized, 

but at all costs insisted on being right, this was like the discussion 

of Tse Lu with Confucius about Tse Kao. 

Tse Lu got Tse Kao 3 appointed governor of Pi. 4 The Master 

said, " You are injuring a man's son." Tse Lu replied, '' There 

1 Analects in, 5. 

2 Analects XIII, 3. 

3 The disciple Kao Tse Kao. 

4 A city in Shantung. 

408 Lun-hêng: E. Critique. 

are the spirits of the land and grain, and there are the people. 

Why must one read books, before he can be considered to have 

learned?" The Master said, "It is on this account that I hate 

your glib-tongued people." 1 

Tse Lu knew that one must not give an inconsiderate answer 

in order to have one's own way. Confucius was displeased with 

him, and compared him with those glib-tongued people. He like- 

wise knew the impropriety of such replies, but he and Tse Lu gave 

both glib-tongued answers. 

Confucius said, "T'se 2 did not receive 3 Heaven's decree, but 

his goods are increased by him, and his calculations are generally 


What does he mean by saying that T'se did mot receive 

Heaven's decree? One might suppose that he received the fate 

that he should become rich, and by his own method knew beforehand, what was going to happen, and in his calculation did not 

miss the right moment. Now, does wealth and honour depend on 

Heaven's appointment or on human knowledge? In the first case 

nobody could obtain them by his own knowledge or cleverness, 

if, on the other hand, men were the chief agents, why does Confucius say that life and death are fate, and wealth and honour 

depend on heaven?5 

If we admit that wealth can be acquired by knowing the 

proper way without receiving Heaven's decree, then honour also 

can be won through personal energy without fate. But in this 

world there is nobody who has won honour quite by himself 

without a heavenly order to that effect. Hence we learn that we 

cannot acquire wealth by ourselves, unless we have received Heaven's 


1 Analects XI, 24. 

2 Tse Kung. 

3 We must translate here " receive," and not " acquiesce," as Legge does, 

relying on the commentators. " Acquiesce " gives no sense here, as can be seen 

by comparing Hutchinson's translation, China Review Vol. VII, p. 169. Moreover, 

" receive " is in accordance with Wang Ch'ung's system. Throughout his work he 

si)eaks of " receiving the fate." Hutchinson has felt, that " receive " is the proper 

word here — vid. his note to p. 170 loc. cit. — but is overawed by Legge and the 

commentators. We must bear in mind that Wang Ch'ung very frequently puts another 

construction on the words of the Sage than other commentators. 

4 Analects XI, 18. 

5 Cf. p. 136. 

Criticisms on Confucius. 409 

In fact Confucius did not acquire wealth and honour. He 

wandered about, hoping that his services would be required. Having 

exhausted all his wisdom in remonstrating with the princes and 

being at his wits' end, he went home, and fixed the text of the 

Shiking and the Shuking. His hopes were gone, and expectations 

he had none. He said that it was all over with him,1 for he was 

well aware that his destiny was not to be rich and honoured, and 

that all his travels could not supply this want. Confucius knew 

that he had not received the destiny of a man who will become 

exalted, and that searching for honour on his travels, he would 

never find it. Yet he maintained that T'se was not destined to 

be rich, but acquired wealth by his astuteness. The words and 

the actions of Confucius disagree, one does not know why. 

Some say that he wished to attack the faults of Tse Kung, 

who did not care much for the right doctrine or virtue, but only 

for the increase of his wealth. Confucius therefore reproved his 

fault, wishing to induce him to comply entirely, and to change his 

conduct. Combating Tse Kung's shortcomings he might say that he 

did not love the doctrine or virtue, but only his wealth, but why 

must he assert that he had not received the fate, which is in opposition to his former utterance that wealth and honour depend 

on Heaven? 

When Yen Yuan died, the Master said: — "Alas! Heaven is 

destroying me! Heaven is destroying me!"2 

This means that, when a man is to rise. Heaven gives him 

a support, whereas, when his destruction is impending, he deprives 

him of his assistance. Confucius had four friends, by whom he 

hoped to rise,3 but Yen Yuan died prematurely. Therefore his exclamation: — "Heaven is destroying me!" 

One may ask: — Did Yen Yuan die, because Confucius did not 

become an emperor, snatched away by Heaven, or did he die an 

untimely death of himself, his allotted span being so short? — If 

he died prematurely, because his appointed time was short, he 

was bound to die, and even if Confucius had become an emperor, 

he would not have remained alive. 

1 Cf. above p. 405. 

2 Analects XI, 8. 

3 These four friends were: Yen Yuan, Tse Kung, Tse Chang, and Tse Lu, all 

his disciples. 

410 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique. 

The support of a man is like a stick, on which a sick person 

is leaning. A sick man requires a stick to walk. Now, let the 

stick be shortened by cutting off a piece, can we say then that 

Heaven compelled the sick man not to walk any more? If he 

could rise still, could the short stick be lengthened again? Yen 

Yuan's short life is like the shortness of the stick. 

Confucius said that Heaven was destroying him, because Yen 

Yuan was a worthy.  But worthies in life must not necessarily 

act as supporters of somebody, just as sages do not always receive 

Heaven's special appointment. Among the emperors there are many 

who are not sages, and their ministers are very often not worthies. 

Why? Because fate and externals 2 are different from man's talents. 

On this principle it was by no means certain that Yen Yuan, had 

he been alive, would have become the supporter of Confucius, or 

that by his death he ruined Confucius. What proof had the latter 

then for his assertion that Heaven was destroying him? 

What was Heaven's idea after all that it did not make Confucius emperor? Did it not appoint him, when he received his 

life and his fate, or was it going to appoint him, but repented 

afterwards? If originally he was not appointed, what harm could 

be done by Yen Yuans death? If he was first chosen for the imperial dignity, and this scheme was abandoned later on, no externals came into question, and the decision rested solely with 

Heaven. And then which good acts of Confucius did Heaven see 

to make him emperor, and which bad ones did it hear subsequently, that it changed its mind, and did not invest him? The 

Spirit of Heaven must have erred in his deliberations and not have 

made the necessary investigations. 

When Confucius went to Wei, the funeral rites of a former 

land-ford of his were just going on there. He stepped into the 

house and wept, and, when he came out, he ordered Tse Kung to 

unharnass one out side horse, and give it as a present. Tse Kung 

remarked: — "'At the death of your disciple, you did not unharnass 

a horse, but do it now for an old land-ford. Is that not too much? " 

1 As a worthy, a degree of excellence next to sageliood, he would have 

assisted Confucius in his brilliant career. 

2 In externals viz. the osseous structure and the physignomy of an individual 

his fate becomes manifest. Cf. Chap. XXIV. But fate by no means corresponds to 

talents and virtue. 

Criticisms on Confucius. 411 

Confucius replied, "When I just now went in, I wept, and overwhelmed with grief", went out, and cried. I cannot bear the idea 

that my tears should not be accompanied by something. Therefore, 

my son, do as I told you." 1 

Confucius unharnassed his horse, and gave it away for the 

old lodging-house keeper, because he could not bear the thought 

that his feelings should not be accompanied by some act of courtesy. 

Along with such feelings politeness must he shown. When his feelings are touched, a man is moved to kindness. Courtesy and emotion 

must correspond. A superior man at least will act in that way. 

When Yen Yuan died, the Master bewailed him, and was 

deeply moved. His disciples said to him: — "Master, you are deeply 

moved." He replied: — "If I were not deeply moved at this man's 

demise, at whose should I be?" 2 

Such deep emotion is the climax of grief. Bewailing Yen Yuan 

his emotion was different from that of all the other pupils. Grief 

is the greatest sorrow. — When Yen Yuan died, his coffin had no 

outer shell. Yen Lu 3 begged the carriage of the Master to sell and 

get an outer shell for the coffin, but Confucius did not give it, 

because a high officer could not walk afoot." 4 Mourning over the 

old lodging-house keeper, he unharnassed a horse to give it away 

as a present, because he did not like that his teare should not 

be accompanied by some gift. Bewailing Yen Yuan he was deeply 

moved, yet, when asked, he declined to give his carriage away, 

so that his emotion had no counterpart in his actions. What 

difference is there between tears and emotion, or between a horse 

and a carriage? In one case politeness and sentiment were in harmony, in the other kindness and right feeling did not correspond. 

We do not see clearly what Confucius' ideas about politeness were. 

Confucius said, "There was Li; when he died, he had a coffin, 

but no outer shell. I would not walk on foot to get a shell for 

him." 5 — The love for Li must have been deeper than that for Yen 

Yuan. When Li died, he got no shell, because it was not becoming 

for a high officer to walk on foot. Li was the son of Confucius, 

Yen Yuan bore another surname. When the son died, he did not 

receive that present, how much less had a man of another name 

a right to it? 

1 Quotation from the Li-ki, Tan Kung I (Legge's transl. Vol. I, p. 136). 

2 Analects XI, 9. 

3 The father of Yen Yuan. 

4 Analects XI, 7. 

5 Loc. cit. 

412 Lun-hêng: E. Critique. 

Then this would be a proof of the real kindness of Confucius. 

If he showed himself affectionate towards his old land-ford, whereas 

his kindness did not extend to his son, was it perhaps, because 

previously he was an inferior official, and afterwards a high officer? 

When he was an inferior official first, as such he could ride in a 

carriage with two horses, as a high officer he would drive with 

three. A high officer could not do without his carriage and walk 

on foot, but why did he not sell two horses to get a shell, and 

drive with the remaining one? When he was an official, he rode in 

a carriage with two horses, and parted with one for the sake of 

the old lodging-house keeper. Why did he not part with two now 

to show his kindness, only keeping one to avoid walking on foot? 

Had he not given away one horse as a present for the old 

lodging-house keeper, he would not have transgressed any statute, 

but by burying his son with a coffin, but without a shell he committed an offence against propriety, and showed a disregard for 

custom. Confucius attached great importance to the present, which 

he was kind enough to make to the old man, and treated the funeral 

ceremonies for his son very lightly. Honour was shown to a 

stranger, but the rites were neglected in the case of his own son. 

Since Confucius did not sell his carriage to get a shell for Li, he 

cannot clear himself of the reproach of being an office-hunter, 

who was afraid of being without his carriage. And yet he has 

maintained himself that a superior man " will even sacrifice his 

life to preserve his virtue complete." 1 Could it then be so difficult 

to give up one's dignity in order to preserve propriety? 

Tse Kung asked about government. The Master said, "The requisites of government are that there be a sufficiency of food, a sufficiency 

of military equipment, and the confidence of the people in their ruler."' 

Tse Kung said, " If it cannot be helped, and one of these 

must be dispensed with, which of the three should be foregone 

first?" "The military equipment" said the Master. 

Tse Kung again asked, " If it cannot be helped, and one of 

the remaining two must be dispensed with, which of them should 

be foregone?" The Master answered: "Part with the food. From 

of old, death has been the lot of all men; but if the people have 

no faith in their rulers, there is no standing for the State." 2 — 

Faith is the most important of all. 

1 AnalfcU XV, 8. 

2 Analects XII, 7. 

Criticisms on Confucius. IK' 

Now, if a State has no food, so that the people must starve, 

they care no more for propriety and righteousness. Those being 

neglected, how can confidence still be maintained? 

It has been said that, as long as the granaries are full, people 

observe the rules of propriety, and that, while they have sufficiency 

of clothing and food, they know what honour and shame is. 

Charity is the upshot of abundance, and mutual fighting the result 

of privation. Now, provided that there is nothing to live on, how 

could faith be preserved'.' 

During the Ch'un-ch'iu period the contending States were 

famine-stricken. People changed their sons in order to eat them, 

and broke their bones for fuel to cook with. 1 Starving and without 

food, they had no time to trouble about kindness or justice. The 

love between father and son is based on faith, yet in times of 

famine faith is thrown away, and the sons are used as food. How 

could Confucius tell Tse Kung that food might be foregone, but that 

faith ought to be preserved? If there is no faith, but food, though 

unsought, faith will grow, whereas, if there is no food, but faith, 

it cannot be upheld, though we may strive for it. 

When the Master went to Wei, Jan Yu 2 acted as driver of 

his carriage. The Master observed, " How numerous are the people! " 

Jan Yu said: — "Since they are so numerous, what more could be 

done for them?" — "Enrich them," was the reply. — "And when they 

have been enriched, what more could be done?" — The Master said: 

"Teach them." 3 — Speaking with Jan Yu, Confucius placed wealth first 

and instruction after, but he told Tse Kung that food might be 

dispensed with, provided there was faith. What difference is there 

between food and wealth, faith and instruction? Both scholars 

received different answers. The object prized most was not the 

same in both cases. The opinions of Confucius about political 

economy cannot have been very well settled. 

Chu Po Yü 4 sent a messenger to Confucius, who questioned 

him what his master was doing. The messenger replied, " My 

master is anxious to make his faults few, but cannot succeed." 

1 Cf. p. 159. 

2 A disciple of Confucius. 

3 Analects XIII, 9. 

4 A disciple of Confucius in Wei, with whom he lodged. After Confucius' 

return to Lu, he sent the messenger to make friendly inquiries. 

414 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique. 

He then went out, and Confucius said, "This messenger! This 

messenger! " ' 

This is a reproach. Those discussing the Analects hold that 

Confucius reproves him for his humility on behalf of another.^ 

Confucius inquired of the messenger what his master was doing, 

he asked about his business, not about his conduct. The messenger 

ought to have replied to this question of Confucius: — "My master 

does such and such a thing," or, "is occupied with such and such 

a government affair," instead of saying: — "My master is anxious to 

make his faults few, but cannot succeed." How do we know but 

that in his reply he missed the point of the question, and that it 

was to this that Confucius took exception? What did Confucius really 

reproach the messenger for? Because he spoke humbly on another's 

behalf, or because in his reply he missed the point? 

The blame referred to something definite, but Confucius did 

not make clear his fault merely saying: — "This messenger! This 

messenger! " In later ages people began to have their doubts as 

to wherein the messenger had failed. Han Fei Tse says: — "If the 

style be too terse, it will prove a cause of dispute for the disciples." 

How concise is Confucius' remark: — "This messenger!" 

Some say that the idea of the " Spring and Autumn " 3 was 

to keep a respectful silence on the faults of worthies, that Chü Po 

Yu was such a worthy, and that therefore the same practice was 

observed with regard to his messenger. 

If one wants to know a person one must look at his friends, 

and to know a prince one must observe his messengers. Chu Po Yü

was not a worthy, therefore his messenger had his faults. The 

idea of the " Spring and Autumn " was to cover the faults of 

worthies, but also to censure smaller misdemeanours.4 Now, if no 

reproach was made, but silence kept, where would the censuring 

of minor offences come in? If Confucius was anxious to keep silence 

on Chil Po Yü, he ought to have kept quiet, but since he said 

with much pathos: — "This messenger! This messenger!", all his 

contemporaries must have understood the blame. How could such 

utterances serve the purpose of a respectful silence. 

1 Analects XIV, 26. 

2 This may have been the view of the old commentators at Wang Ch'ung's 

time. Chu Hsi, on the contrary, holds that the reply of the messenger was admirable, 

and that the laconic utterance of Confucius contains a praise, not a reproach. 

3 See p. 400 Note 1. 

4 Cf. above p. 400. 

Criticisms on Confucius. 415 

Pi Hsi 1 inviting him to visit him, the Master was inclined to 

go, Tse Lu was displeased, and said: — "Master, formerly I have 

heard you say, ' When a man in his own person is guilty of doing 

evil, a superior man will not associate with him.' Pi Hsi is in rebellion, holding possession of Chung-mao; if you go to him, what 

shall be said? "—The Master said, "So it is. But is it not said 

that, if a thing be really hard, it may be ground without being 

made thin? Is it not said that, if a thing be really white, it may 

be steeped in a dark fluid without being made black? — Am I a 

bitter gourd? Plow could I be hung up and not eat?" 2 

Tse Lu quoted a former remark of Confucius to refute him. 

Formerly Confucius had spoken those words with the object of inducing his pupils to act accordingly. Tse Lu quoted it to censure 

Confucius. He was well aware of it, but did not say that his former 

words were a joke meaning nothing, which could be disregarded. 

He admitted that he had spoken those words, and that they must 

be carried out, but "is it not said," he continued "that, if a thing 

be really hard, it may be ground without being made thin, or if 

it be white, that it may be steeped in a dark fluid without being 

made black? " Could he invalidate Tse Lu's objections with these 

words? "When a man in his own person is guilty of doing evil, 

a superior man will not associate with him." To invalidate this 

objection Pi Hsi ought not yet to have committed any evil, so that 

one might still associate with him. However Confucius said that 

what was hard, might be ground without becoming thin, and what 

was white, might be steeped in a dark fluid without turning black. 

According to this argument those whose conduct was, so to 

speak, perfectly hard or perfectly white, might consort with Pi Hsi, 

but why not those superior men, whose ways are soft and easily 

tainted by wickedness? 

Confucius would not drink the water from the " Robber Spring," 

and Tsêng Tse declined to enter into a village called " Mother's 

Defeat."3 They avoided the evil, and kept aloof from pollution, 

out of respect for the moral laws and out of shame at the disgraceful names. " Robber Spring " and "Mother's Defeat" were 

nothing but empty names, but nevertheless were shunned by 

Confucius and Tsêng Tse. Pi Hsi had done some real wrong, yet 

1 A high officer in the service of the Chao family in the Chin State, who took 

possession of C'hung-mao, a city in Honan, in the Chang-tê prefecture, for himself. 

2 Analects XVII, 7. 

3 Cf. thud Nan T^e XVI, 13 who adds that Me Ti, who condemned music, 

would not enter into a city named " Morning Song." 

416 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique. 

Confucius intended visiting him. That he did not like the " Robber 

Spring " was correct, but that he wished to open up relations with 

Pi Hsi was wrong. 

" Riches and honours acquired by unrighteousness are to me 

as a floating cloud." ' If Confucius, who said so, had taken the 

wrong way, and lived on the salary paid him by a rebel, his words 

about floating; clouds would have been futile. 

Perhaps he wanted to propagate his doctrine for a time only. 

If that was his aim, he could meet the objections of Tse Lu by 

speaking of the propagation of his doctrine, but not by speaking 

of food. There might be allowed some time for the propagation 

of his doctrine, but there would be none for his outlook for food. 

In the words:— "Am I a bitter gourd? How could I be hung- 

up, and not eat" Confucius compares himself to a gourd, saying 

that being in office a man must live on his salary. " I am no gourd 

that might be hung up, and would require no food." 6 This is a 

rebuff to Tse Lu, but this rejoinder of Confucius does not dispose 

of Tse Lu's objection, for in criticising the master Tse Lu does not 

assert that he ought not to take office. But he should choose a 

proper State to live in. By the above comparison Confucius showed 

that his only wish was to comfortably eat his bread. How undignified is such an utterance! Why must he compare himself 

with an official who wants to eat? A gentleman must not speak 

like that. 

It would make little difference, whether one speaks of being 

hung up like a gourd without eating, or of being hung up out of 

employ. In reply to Tse Lu he might have retorted " Am I a gourd 

to be hung up, and out of employ? " Now speaking of food Confucius admits that he sought office not for the sake of his doctrine, 

but merely to find food. In taking office the motive of men is their 

thirst for money, but giving it a moral aspect they say that they 

do it to propagate their principles. Likewise in marrying the motive 

is lust, but morally speaking it is to serve the parents. If an official 

bluntly speaks of his food, would a bridegroom also own to his 


The utterance of Confucius explains his feelings. The meaning 

is unmistakable, and not obscured by a well sounding moral name. 

It is very common, and unworthy of a superior man. The Literati 

1 Analects VII, 15. 

2 Legge and some commentators take the words 而不食 in a passive 

sense "How could I be hung up and not be eaten" i.e. "not be employed." 

Criticisms on Confucius. 41 7 

say that Confucius travelled about to find employment, But did not 

succeed, and regretted that his doctrine did not spread. Methinks 

they misunderstand Confucius' character. 

Kung Shan Fu Jao, when he was holding Pi,1 and in an attitude 

of rebellion,2 invited the Master to visit him, who was rather inclined to go. Tse Lu said: — "Indeed you cannot go! Why must 

you think of going to see Kung Shan!'' The Master said, "Can it 

be without some reason that he has invited me? If any one employ 

me, may I not make an eastern Chou?" 3 — Making an eastern Chou 

means that he intended putting forth his doctrine. 4

Kung Shan Fu Jao and Pi Hsi were both in rebellion. With the 

former he hoped to introduce his doctrine, whereas from the latter 

he expected food. So his utterances are wavering, and his actions 

are consequently inconsistent. Should this perhaps have been the 

reason of his migrations and his inability to find employment? 

"Yang Huo wanted to see Confucius, but he did not see him." 5

He offered him a post, but Confucius would not have it. That was 

disinterested indeed! When Kung Shan Fu Jao and Pi Hsi invited 

him, he was inclined to go. That was very base! Kung Shan Fu 

Jao and Yang Huo both rebelled, and kept Chi Huan Tse prisoner. 

They were equal in their wickedness, and both invited Confucius in 

the same polite way. However Confucius responded to Kung Shan 

Fu Jao's call and did not see Yang Huo. Was Kung Shan Fu Jao still 

a fit person to associate with, and Yang Huo not? Tse Lu remonstrated against Kung Shan Fu Jao's invitation. Confucius ought to have 

removed this objection by showing that he was as good at least 

as Pi Hsi, and that his character was not so very bad. 

1 A city in Shantung. 

2 Kung Shan Fu Jao and Yang Huo combined were holding their liege, Prince 

Huan of Chi, imprisoned, and trying to arrogate the supreme power of the State of Lu. 

3 Analects XVII, 5. 

4 The eastern Chou dynasty 770-255 owes its name to its capital Lo-yi, 

where it had removed from Hao-ching in the West (Shensi). The commencement of 

the Eastern Chou, prior to the civil wars, was felicitous. 

5 Analects XVII, 1.