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Chinese Text Project
Show translation:[None] [English]

《率性 - Shuaixing》

English translation: Albert Forke [?] Library Resources
1 率性:
Speaking of human nature one must distinguish good and bad characters. The good ones are so of themselves, the wicked can be instructed and urged on to do good. A sovereign or a father seeing that his subjects or sons have good characters, provides for them, exhorts them, and keeps them out of the reach of evil. If the latter come into contact with it, they assist and shield them, and try to win them back to the cause of virtue. It is by the transition of virtue into wickedness and of wickedness into virtue that the characters are formed.

2 率性:
The duke of Shao admonished King Cheng saying: "Now you for the first time carry out Heaven's decree. Oh! you are like a youth with whom all depends on his first years of life." By youth is meant the age up to fifteen. If a youth's thoughts are directed towards virtue, he will be virtuous to the last, but if his propensities tend to badness, he will end badly. The Shijing says "What can that admirable man be compared to?" The Zuozhuan answers, "He is like boiled silk; dyed with indigo, it becomes blue; coloured with vermilion, it turns crimson." A youth of fifteen is like silk, his gradual changes into good or bad resembling the dying of boiled silk with indigo and vermilion, which gives it a blue or a red colour. When these colours have once set, they cannot be altered again. It is for this reason that Yangzi wept over the by-roads and Mozi over boiled silk. They were sorrowful, because men having gone astray from the right path cannot be transformed any more. Human nature turns from good into bad, and from bad into good only in this manner. Creepers growing amidst hemp, stand upright without support by themselves. White silk yarn placed amongst dark, becomes black without boiling. Creepers are not straight by nature, nor is the black colour an attribute of silk yarn. The hemp affording support, and the dark silk lending the colour, creepers and white silk become straight and black. Human nature bears a resemblance to creepers and silk yarn. In a milieu favourable to transformation or colouring, it turns good or bad.

3 率性:
Wang Liang and Zao Fu were famous as charioteers: out of unruly and vicious animals they made good ones. Had they only been able to drive good horses, but incapable of breaking bad ones, they would have been nothing more than jockeys and ordinary equerries. Their horsemanship would not have been remarkable nor deserving of world-wide fame. Of Wang Liang the saying goes that, when he stepped into a chariot, the steeds knew no exhaustion. Under the rule of Yao and Shun people were neither seditious nor ignorant. Tradition says that the people of Yao and Shun might have been invested with fiefs house by house, whereas those of Jie and Zhou were worthy of death door by door. The people followed the way prescribed by the three dynasties. That the people of the holy emperors were like this, those of the wicked emperors otherwise, was merely the result of the influence of their rulers, not of the people's original nature. The covetous hearing of Bo Yi's fame became disinterested, and the weak resolute. The news of Liu Xia Hui's reputation made the niggardly generous and the mean liberal. If the spread of fame alone could bring about such changes, what then must be the effect of personal intercourse and tuition?

4 率性:
The seventy disciples of the school of Confucius were each of them able to creditably fill the post of a minister of state. Conforming to the holy doctrines, they became accomplished scholars, and their knowledge and skill grew tenfold. This was the result of teaching; thus latent faculties were gradually developed. Before they joined Confucius' school, they sauntered about in the streets as quite ordinary and in no wise exceptional people. The most ungovernable of all was Zilu, who is generally reported to have been a common and unsteady individual. Before he became Confucius' pupil, he wore a feather hat and a pig skin belt. He was brutal and unmannerly. Whenever he heard some reading, he tossed up his feather hat, pulled his belt, and uttered such a yell, that he deafened the ears of the worthies and sages. Such was his wickedness. Confucius took him under his guidance. By degrees he polished and instructed him. The more he advanced in knowledge, the more he lost his fierceness, and his arrogance was broken. At last he was able to govern a state, and ranked in the four classes. This is a shining example of how a man's character was changed from bad into good.

5 率性:
Fertility and sterility are the original nature of the soil. If it be rich and moist, the nature is good, and the crops will be exuberant, whereas, if it be barren and stony, the nature is bad. However, human efforts: deep ploughing, thorough tilling, and a copious use of manure may help the land, so that the harvest will become like that of the rich and well watered fields. Such is the case with the elevation of the land also. Fill up the low ground with earth, dug out by means of hoes and spades, and the low land will be on a level with the high one. If these works are still continued, not only will the low land be on a level, but even higher than the high land. The high ground will then become the low one. Let us suppose that the human natures are partly good, partly bad; as the land may be either high or low. By making use of the good effects of education goodness can be spread and generalized. Reformation being pushed on and instruction persevered in, people will change and become still better. Goodness will increase and reach a still higher standard than it had before, just as low ground, filled up with hoes and spades, rises higher than the originally elevated ground.

6 率性:
Ci though not predestinated thereto, made a fortune. His capital increased without a decree from Heaven which would have him rich. The accumulation of wealth is due to the cleverness of the rich men of the time in making a fortune. Through this ability of theirs they are themselves the authors of their growing wealth without a special decree from Heaven. Similarly, he who has a wicked nature changes his will and his doings, if he happens to be taught by a Sage, although he was not endowed with a good character by Heaven. One speaks of good swords for which a thousand jin are paid, such as the Yuchang sword of Tangqi and the Tai'a sword of Longquan. Their blade is originally nothing more than a common piece of iron from a mountain. By the forger's smelting and hammering they become sharp-edged. But notwithstanding this smelting and hammering the material of good swords is not different from others. All depends on excellent workmanship and on the blade-smith's ability in working the iron. Take a sword worth only one jin from Dongxia, heat it again, and forge it, giving it sufficient fire, and smoothing and sharpening its edge, and it will be like a sword of a thousand jin. Iron and stones are made by Heaven, still being worked, they undergo a modification of their substance. Why then should man, whose nature is imbued with the five virtues, despair of the badness of his character, before he has been thoroughly worked upon by Worthies and Sages? The skillful physicians that in olden days were held in high esteem, knew the sources where virulent diseases sprang from, and treated and cured them with acupuncture and medicines. Had they merely known the names of the complaints, but done nothing besides, looking quietly on, would there have been anything wonderful in them? Men who are not good have a disease of their nature. To expect them to change without proper treatment and instruction would be hopeless indeed.

7 率性:
The laws of Heaven can be applied in a right and in a wrong way. The right way is in harmony with Heaven, the wrong one owes its results to human astuteness, but cannot in its effects be distinguished from the right one. This will be shown by the following. Among the "Tribute of Yu" are mentioned jade and white corals. These were the produce of earth and genuine precious stones and pearls. But the Daoists melt five kinds of stones, and make five-coloured gems out of them. Their lustre, if compared with real gems, does not differ. Pearls in fishes and shells are as genuine as the jade-stones in the Tribute of Yu. Yet the Marquis of Sui made pearls from chemicals, which were as brilliant as genuine ones. This is the climax of Daoist learning and a triumph of their skill. By means of a burning-glass one catches fire from heaven. Of five stones liquefied on the Bingwu day of the 5th moon an instrument is cast, which, when polished bright, held up against the sun, brings down fire too, in precisely the same manner as, when fire is caught in the proper way. Now, one goes even so far as to furbish the crooked blades of swords, till they shine, when, held up against the sun, they attract fire also. Crooked blades are not burning-glasses; that they can catch fire is the effect of rubbing. Now, provided the bad-natured men are of the same kind as good-natured ones, then they can be influenced, and induced to do good. Should they be of a different kind, they can also be coerced in the same manner as the Daoists cast gems, Sui Hou made pearls, and people furbish the crooked blades of swords. Enlightened with learning and familiarized with virtue, they too begin by and by to practise benevolence and equity.

8 率性:
When Huang Di fought with Yan Di for the empire, he taught bears, leopards, and tigers to combat for him in the wilds of Banquan. After three battles he gained his end, and Yan Di was routed. Yao yielded the empire to Shun. Gun, one of his vassals, desired to become one of the three chief ministers, but Yao did not listen to this request. Thereupon Gun became more infuriated than even ferocious animals are, and wished to rebel. The horns of animals, all in a line, served him as a rampart, and their lifted tails were his banners. They opposed and tackled their foe with the utmost determination and energy.---If birds and beasts, which are shaped otherwise than man, can nevertheless be caused to fight, how much more so man's own kindred? Proceeding on this line of argument we have no reason to doubt that (by music) the multitudinous animals were made to dance, the fish in the ponds to come out and listen, and the six kinds of horses to look up from their fodder. The equalization of what varies in different categories as well as the differentiation of what is the same in similar classes, does not depend on the thing itself, but is man's doing.

9 率性:
It is by instruction that living beings are transformed. Among the Three Miao tribes some were honest, some disreputable. Yao and Shun made them all alike by conferring the boon of instruction upon them. Suppose the men of Chu and Yue to settle down in Zhuang or Yue. Having passed there months and years, they would become pliant and yielding, and their customs changed. They say that the people of Qi are soft and supple, those of Qin unsteady and versatile, of Chu lively and passionate, of Yan dull and simple. Now let us suppose that people of the four States alternately went to live in Zhuang and Yue for a certain time, the prolonged stay in a place remote from their country would undubitably bring about a change of their character. A bad natured man's heart is like wood or stone, but even wood and stone can be used by men, why not what really is neither wood nor stone? We may hope that it will still be able to understand the precepts of superior men.

10 率性:
Only in the case of insanity, when a person sings and weeps in the streets, knowing neither east nor west, taking no heed of scorching heat or humidity, unaware of his own madness and unconscious of hunger and satiety, nature is deranged and upset, and there is no help. As such a man sees nothing before him, he is afraid of nothing. Therefore the government does not abolish the officers of public instruction or dispense with criminal judges, wishing thereby to inculcate the observance of the moral laws. The schools guide people at first, the laws control and restrain them later on. Even the will of a Dan Zhu might be curbed; the proof is that the soldiers of a big army are kept in order by reproofs. Men and officers are held in check to such an extent, that they look at death as a return. He Lu put his soldiers to the test by the "Five Lakes." They all cut their arms with swords, that the blood trickled down to the ground. Gou Jian also gave his men a trial in the hall of his inner palace. Those who jumped into the fire and perished, were innumerable. Human nature is not particularly fond of swords and fire, but the two rulers had such a power over their men, that they did not care for their lives. It is the effect of military discipline to make light of cuts and blood. Meng Ben was bold, but on hearing the order for the army he became afraid. In the same way the officers who were wont to draw their swords to fight out, whose merits were first, went through all the ceremonial, and prostrated themselves (before the emperor), when Shusun Tong had fixed the rites. Imperious and overbearing first, they became obedient and submissive. The power of instruction and the influence of virtue transform the character. One need not sorrow that a character is bad, but it is to be regretted, if it does not submit to the teachings of the sages. Such an individual owes his misfortune to himself.

11 率性:
Beans and wheat are different from rice and millet, yet their consumption satisfies the appetite. Are the natures of low and superior men then of a different kind? They resemble the Five Grains, all have their use. There is no fundamental difference between them, only their manifestations are unlike. The fluid men are endowed with, is either copious or deficient, and their character correspondingly good or bad. The wicked have received but a small dose of kindness, the irascible, plenty of temper. If kindness be unsufficient, people do wrong, and there is not much hope for an improvement. With plenty of temper, people become violent, and have no sense of justice. Moreover, their feeling of sympathy is defective, joy and anger do not happen at the proper time, and they have baseless and irreasonable fears. Reckless men like that commit outrages, therefore they are considered bad. Man has in his body the Five Qualities and the Five Organs. If he got too little of them, or if they are too small, his actions do not attain to goodness. Man himself is either accomplished or deficient, but accomplishment and deficiency do not mean a difference of organisation. Use leaven in big, or in small quantities, and the result will be similar. In rich as well as in poor wine there is the same leaven. Good men as well as bad ones are permeated by the same original fluid. According to its greater or smaller volumen the mind of the individual is bright or dull. Ximen Bao would tighten his leathern belt, whenever he wanted to relax himself. Dongan Yu loosened his girdle strings, when he was going to rouse himself. Yet neither passion nor indolence is the right medium. However, he who wears a belt or a girdle on his body is properly dressed. When the question arises, how deficiencies can be made good by means of belts and strings, the names of Ximen Bao and Dongan Yu must be mentioned together. Houses of poor, wretched people are not in a proper state. They have holes in the walls under the roof, to which others take objection. When rich and well-to-do people build houses, they have the walls made in a way, that they find there real shelter. The whole house is in good repair, and nobody could say anything against it.

12 率性:
In Wei the land was divided in lots of a hundred mu, in Ye alone the lots measured two hundred mu. Ximen Bao irrigated his land with water from the Zhang and made it so fertile, that it yielded one bushel per mu. Man's natural parts are like the fields of Ye, tuition and education, like the water from the Zhang. One must be sorry for him that cannot be transformed, but not for a man whose character it is difficult to govern. In the streets of the city of Luoyang there was no water. It was therefore pulled up from the Luo by watermen. If it was streaming quickly day and night, it was their doing. From this point of view kindness and justice must increase manifold in him who comes into close contact with an excellent man. Mencius' mother changed her domicile, for she had ascertained this truth.

13 率性:
Water amongst men is dirty and muddy, in the open country it is clear and limpid. It is all the same water, and it flows from the confines of heaven; its dirtiness and limpidity are the effects of its environments. Zhao Ta, king of the southern Yue, was originally an honourable man of the Han State, but he took to the habits of the southern barbarians, disregarded the imperial commands, dressed his hair in a tuft, and used to squat down. He was so fond of this, as if it had been his nature. Lu Jia spoke to him of the virtues of the Han, and impressed him with their holy power, so that he suddenly rose up, and felt remorse. He received the commands of his sovereign, and communicated them to the savages. Against his hair-dress and to his squatting he felt something like a natural repugnancy. First he acted in the aforesaid manner, afterwards thus. It shows what force instruction also has, and that nature is not the only factor.

URN: ctp:lunheng/lv-xing