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SECTION I.: LIFE OF CONFUCIUS. - Confucius, The Chinese Classics: Vol. 1. The Life and Teachings of Confucius (Analects, Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean) 
The Chinese Classics: Translated into English with Preliminary Essays and Explanatory Notes by James Legge. Vol. 1. The Life and Teachings of Confucius. Second Edition (London: N. Trübner, 1869).
Part of: The Chinese Classics
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LIFE OF CONFUCIUS.
1. “And have you foreigners surnames as well?” This question has often been put to me by Chinese. It marks the ignorance which belongs to the people of all that is external to themselves, and the pride of antiquity which enters largely as an element into their character.His ancestry. If such a pride could in any case be justified, we might allow it to the family of the K‘ung, the descendants of Confucius. In the reign K‘ang-he, twenty-one centuries and a half after the death of the sage, they amounted to eleven thousand males. But their ancestry is carried back through a period of equal extent, and genealogical tables are common, in which the descent of Confucius is traced down from Hwang-te, the inventor of the cycle, bc 2637.1
The more moderate writers, however, content themselves with exhibiting his ancestry back to the commencement of the Chow dynasty, bc 1121. Among the relatives of the tyrant Chow, the last emperor of the Yin dynasty, was an elder brother, by a concubine, named K‘c, who is celebrated by Confucius, Ana. XVIII. i., under the title of the viscount of Wei. Foreseeing the impending ruin of their family, K‘e withdrew from the court; and subsequently, he was invested by the Emperor Ch‘ing, the second of the house of Chow, with the principality of Sung, which embraced the eastern portion of the present province of Ho-nan, that he might there continue the sacrifices to the emperors of Yin. K‘e was followed as duke of Sung by a younger brother, in whose line the succession continued. His great-grandson, the Duke Min, was followed, bc 908, by a younger brother, leaving, however, two sons, Fuh-foo Ho, and Fang-sze. Fuh Ho resigned his right to the dukedom in favour of Fang-sze, who put his uncle to death in bc 893, and became master of the State. He is known as the Duke Le, and to his elder brother belongs the honour of having the sage among his descendants.
Three descents from Fuh Ho, we find Ching K‘au-foo, who was a distinguished officer under the dukes Tae, Woo, and Seuen (bc 799—728). He is still celebrated for his humility, and for his literary tastes. We have accounts of him as being in communication with the Grand-historiographer of the empire, and engaged in researches about its ancient poetry, thus setting an example of one of the works to which Confucius gave himself. K‘aou gave birth to K‘ung-foo Kea, from whom the surname of K‘ung took its rise. Five generations had now elapsed since the dukedom was held in the direct line of his ancestry, and it was according to the rule in such cases that the branch should cease its connection with the ducal stem, and merge among the people under a new surname. K‘ung Kea was Master of the Horse in Sung, and an officer of well-known loyalty and probity. Unfortunately for himself, he had a wife of surpassing beauty, of whom the chief minister of the State, by name Hwa Tuh, happened on one occasion to get a glimpse. Determined to possess her, he commenced a series of intrigues, which ended, bc 709, in the murder of Kea and the reigning Duke Shang. At the same time, Tuh secured the person of the lady, and hastened to his palace with the prize, but on the way she had strangled herself with her girdle.
An enmity was thus commenced between the two families of K‘ung and Hwa which the lapse of time did not obliterate, and the latter being the more powerful of the two, Kea’s great-grandson withdrew into the State of Loo to avoid their persecution. There he was appointed commandant of the city of Fang, and is known in history by the name of Fang-shuh. Fang-shuh gave birth to Pih-hea, and from him came Shuh-leang Heih, the father of Confucius. Heih appears in the history of the times as a soldier of great prowess and daring bravery. In the year bc 562, when serving at the siege of a place called Peih-yang, a party of the assailants made their way in at a gate which had purposely been left open, and no sooner were they inside than the portcullis was dropped. Heih was just entering, and catching the massive structure with both his hands, he gradually by dint of main strength raised it and held it up, till his friends had made their escape.
Thus much on the ancestry of the sage. Doubtless he could trace his descent in the way which has been indicated up to the imperial house of Yin, nor was there one among his ancestors during the rule of Chow to whom he could not refer with satisfaction. They had been ministers and soldiers of Sung and Loo, all men of worth; and in Ching K‘aou, both for his humility and literary researches, Confucius might have special complacency.
2. Confucius was the child of Shuh-leang Heih’s old age. The soldier had married in early life, but his wife brought him only daughters,—to the number of nine, and no son.From his birth to his first public employment bc 551—531. By a concubine he had a son, named Măng-p‘e, and also Pih-ne, who proved a cripple, so that, when he was over seventy years, Heih sought a second wife in the Yen family, from which came subsequently Yen Hwuy, the favourite disciple of his son. There were three daughters in the family, the youngest being named Ching-tsae. Their father said to them, “Here is the commandant of Tsow. His father and grandfather were only scholars, but his ancestors before them were descendants of the sage emperors. He is a man ten feet high,1 and of extraordinary prowess, and I am very desirous of his alliance. Though he is old and austere, you need have no misgivings about him. Which of you three will be his wife?” The two elder daughters were silent, but Ching-tsae said, “Why do you ask us, father? It is for you to determine.” “Very well,” said her father in reply, “you will do.” Ching-tsae, accordingly, became Heih’s wife, and in due time gave birth to Confucius, who received the name of K‘ew, and was subsequently styled Chung-ne.1 The event happened on the 21st day of the 10th month of the 21st year of the Duke Seang, of Loo, being the 20th year of the Emperor Ling, bc 551.2 The birth-place was in the district of Tsow, of which Heih was the governor. It was somewhere within the limits of the present department of Yen-chow in Shan-tung, but the honour of being the exact spot is claimed for two places in two different districts of the department.
The notices which we have of Confucius’ early years are very scanty. When he was in his third year his father died. It is related of him, that as a boy he used to play at the arrangement of sacrificial vessels, and at postures of ceremony. Of his schooling we have no reliable account. There is a legend, indeed, that at seven he went to school to Gan P‘ing-chung, but it must be rejected, as P‘ing-chung belonged to the State of Ts‘e. He tells us himself that at fifteen he bent his mind to learning;1 but the condition of the family was one of poverty. At a subsequent period, when people were astonished at the variety of his knowledge, he explained it by saying, “When I was young my condition was low, and therefore I acquired my ability in many things; but they were mean matters.”2
When he was nineteen, he married a lady from the State of Sung, of the Keen-kwan family; and in the following year his son Le was born. On the occasion of this event, the Duke Ch‘aou sent him a present of a couple of carp. It was to signify his sense of his prince’s favour, that he called his son Le (The Carp), and afterwards gave him the designation of Pih-yu (Fish Primus). No mention is made of the birth of any other children, though we know, from Ana. V. i., that he had at least one daughter. The fact of the duke of Loo’s sending him a gift on the occasion of Le’s birth shows that he was not unknown, but was already commanding public attention and the respect of the great.
It was about this time, probably in the year after his marriage, that Confucius took his first public employment, as keeper of the stores of grain, and in the following year he was put in charge of the public fields and lands. Mencius adduces these employments in illustration of his doctrine that the superior man may at times take office on account of his poverty, but must confine himself in such a case to places of small emolument, and aim at nothing but the discharge of their humble duties. According to him, Confucius as keeper of stores, said, “My calculations must all be right:—that is all I have to care about;” and when in charge of the public fields, he said, “The oxen and sheep must be fat and strong and superior:—that is all I have to care about.”1 It does not appear whether these offices were held by Confucius in the direct employment of the State, or as a dependent of the Ke family in whose jurisdiction he lived. The present of the carp from the duke may incline us to suppose the former.
3. In his twenty-second year, Confucius commenced his labours as a public teacher, and his house became a resort for young and inquiring spirits, who wished to learn the doctrines of antiquity. However small the fee his pupils were able to afford, he never refused his instructions.2Commencement of his labours as a teacher. The death of his mother bc 530—526. All that he required, was an ardent desire for improvement, and some degree of capacity. “I do not open up the truth,” he said, “to one who is not eager to get knowledge, nor help out any one who is not anxious to explain himself. When I have presented one corner of a subject to any one, and he cannot from it learn the other three, I do not repeat my lesson.”3
His mother died in the year bc 528, and he resolved that her body should lie in the same grave with that of his father, and that their common resting-place should be in Fang, the first home of the K‘ung in Loo. But here a difficulty presented itself. His father’s coffin had been for twenty years, where it had first been deposited, off the road of The Five Fathers, in the vicinity of Tsow:—would it be right in him to move it? He was relieved from this perplexity by an old woman of the neighbourhood, who told him that the coffin had only just been put into the ground, as a temporary arrangement, and not regularly buried. On learning this, he carried his purpose into execution. Both coffins were conveyed to Fang, and put in the ground together, with no intervening space between them, as was the custom in some States. And now came a new perplexity. He said to himself, “In old times, they had graves, but raised no tumulus over them. But I am a man, who belongs equally to the north and the south, the east and the west. I must have something by which I can remember the place.” Accordingly he raised a mound, four feet high, over the grave, and returned home, leaving a party of his disciples to see everything properly completed. In the mean time there came on a heavy storm of rain, and it was a considerable time before the disciples joined him. “What makes you so late?” he asked. “The grave in Fang fell down,” they said. He made no reply, and they repeated their answer three times, when he burst into tears, and said, “Ah! they did not make their graves so in antiquity.”1
Confucius mourned for his mother the regular period of three years,—three years nominally, but in fact only twenty-seven months. Five days after the mourning was expired, he played on his lute but could not sing. It required other five days before he could accompany an instrument with his voice.2
Some writers have represented Confucius as teaching his disciples important lessons from the manner in which he buried his mother, and having a design to correct irregularities in the ordinary funeral ceremonies of the time. These things are altogether “without book.” We simply have a dutiful son paying the last tribute of affection to a good parent. In one point he departs from the ancient practice, raising a mound over the grave, and when the fresh earth gives way from a sudden rain, he is moved to tears, and seems to regret his innovation. This sets Confucius vividly before us,—a man of the past as much as of the present, whose own natural feelings were liable to be hampered in their development, by the traditions of antiquity which he considered sacred. It is important, however, to observe the reason which he gave for rearing the mound. He had in it a presentiment of much of his future course. He was “a man of the north, the south, the east, and the west.” He might not confine himself to any one State. He would travel, and his way might be directed to some “wise ruler,” whom his counsels would conduct to a benevolent sway that would break forth on every side till it transformed the empire.
4. When the mourning for his mother was over, Confucius remained in Loo, but in what special capacity we do not know. Probably he continued to encourage the resort of inquirers to whom he communicated instruction, and pursued his own researches into the history, literature, and institutions of the empire.He learns music, visits the court of Chow, and returns to Loo. bc 526—517. In the year bc 524, the chief of the small state of T‘an1 made his appearance at the court of Loo, and discoursed in a wonderful manner, at a feast given to him by the duke, about the names which the most ancient sovereigns, from Hwang-te downwards, gave to their ministers. The sacrifices to the Emperor Shaou-haou, the next in descent from Hwang-te, were maintained in T‘an, so that the chief fancied that he knew all about the abstruse subject on which he discoursed. Confucius, hearing about the matter, waited on the visitor, and learned from him all that he had to communicate.2
To the year bc 523, when Confucius was twenty-nine years old, is referred his studying music under a famous master of the name of Seang. He was approaching his 30th year when, as he tells us, “he stood firm,”3 that is, in his convictions on the subjects of learning to which he had bent his mind fifteen years before. Five years more, however, were still to pass by before the anticipation mentioned in the conclusion of the last paragraph began to receive its fulfilment,4 though we may conclude from the way in which it was brought about that he was growing all the time in the estimation of the thinking minds in his native State.
In the 24th year of Duke Ch‘aou, bc 517, one of the principal ministers of Loo, known by the name of Măng He, died. Seventeen years before he had painfully felt his ignorance of ceremonial observances, and had made it his subsequent business to make himself acquainted with them. On his deathbed, he addressed his chief officer, saying, “A knowledge of propriety is the stem of a man. Without it he has no means of standing firm. I have heard that there is one K‘ung Kew, who is thoroughly versed in it. He is a descendant of Sages, and though the line of his family was extinguished in Sung, among his ancestors there were Fuh-foo Ho, who resigned the dukedom to his brother, and Ching K‘aou-foo, who was distinguished for his humility. Tsang Heih has observed that if sage men of intelligent virtue do not attain to eminence, distinguished men are sure to appear among their posterity. His words are now to be verified, I think, in K‘ung K‘ew. After my death, you must tell Ho-ke to go and study proprieties under him.” In consequence of this charge, Ho-ke, Măng He’s son, who appears in the Analects under the name of Măng E,1 and a brother, or perhaps only a near relative, named Nan-kung King-shuh, became disciples of Confucius. Their wealth and standing in the State gave him a position which he had not had before, and he told King-shuh of a wish which he had to visit the court of Chow, and especially to confer on the subject of ceremonies and music with Laou Tan. King-shuh represented the matter to the Duke Ch‘aou, who put a carriage and a pair of horses at Confucius’ disposal for the expedition.
At this time the court of Chow was in the city of Lŏ, in the present department of Ho-nan of the province of the same name. The reigning emperor is known by the title of King, but the sovereignty was little more than nominal. The state of China was then analogous to that of one of the European kingdoms, during the prevalence of the feudal system. At the commencement of the dynasty, the various States of the empire had been assigned to the relatives and adherents of the reigning family. There were thirteen principalities of greater note, and a large number of smaller dependencies. During the vigorous youth of the dynasty, the emperor or lord paramount exercised an effective control over the various chiefs, but with the lapse of time there came weakness and decay. The chiefs—corresponding somewhat to the European dukes, earls, marquises, barons, &c.,—quarrelled and warred among themselves, and the stronger among them barely acknowledged their subjection to the emperor. A similar condition of things prevailed in each particular State. There were hereditary ministerial families, who were continually encroaching on the authority of their rulers, and the heads of those families again were frequently hard pressed by their inferior officers. Such was the state of China in Confucius’ time. The reader must have it clearly before him, if he would understand the position of the sage, and the reforms which, we shall find, it was subsequently his object to introduce.
Arrived at Chow, he had no intercourse with the court or any of the principal ministers. He was there not as a politician, but an inquirer about the ceremonies and maxims of the founders of the dynasty. Laou Tan, whom he had wished to see the acknowledged founder of the Taouists, or Rationalistic sect, which has maintained its ground in opposition to the followers of Confucius, was then a treasury-keeper. They met and freely interchanged their views, but no reliable account of their conversation has been preserved. In the 5th Book of the Le Ke, which is headed, “The philosopher Tsăng asked,” Confucius refers four times to the views of Laou-tsze on certain points of funeral ceremonies, and in the “Family Sayings,” Book xxiv., he tells Ke K‘ang what he had heard from him about “The Five Te,” but we may hope their conversation turned also on more important subjects. Sze-ma Ts‘een, favourable to Laou-tsze, makes him lecture his visitor in the following style:—“Those whom you talk about are dead, and their bones are mouldered to dust; only their words remain. When the superior man gets his time, he mounts aloft; but when the time is against him, he moves as if his feet were entangled. I have heard that a good merchant, though he has rich treasures deeply stored, appears as if he were poor, and that the superior man whose virtue is complete, is yet to outward seeming stupid. Put away your proud air and many desires, your insinuating habit and wild will. These are of no advantage to you. This is all which I have to tell you.” On the other hand, Confucius is made to say to his disciples, “I know how birds can fly, how fishes can swim, and how animals can run. But the runner may be snared, the swimmer may be hooked, and the flyer may be shot by the arrow. But there is the dragon. I cannot tell how he mounts on the wind through the clouds, and rises to heaven. To-day I have seen Laou-tsze, and can only compare him to the dragon.”
While at Lŏ, Confucius walked over the grounds set apart for the great sacrifices to Heaven and Earth; inspected the pattern of the Hall of Light, built to give audience in to the princes of the empire; and examined all the arrangements of the ancestral temple and the court. From the whole he received a profound impression. “Now,” said he with a sigh, “I know the sage wisdom of the duke of Chow, and how the house of Chow attained to the imperial sway.” On the walls of the Hall of Light were paintings of the ancient sovereigns from Yaou and Shun downwards, their characters appearing in the representations of them, and words of praise or warning being appended. There was also a picture of the duke of Chow sitting with his infant nephew, the king Ch‘ing, upon his knees, to give audience to all the princes. Confucius surveyed the scene with silent delight, and then said to his followers, “Here you see how Chow became so great. As we use a glass to examine the forms of things, so must we study antiquity in order to understand the present.” In the hall of the ancestral temple there was a metal statue of a man with three clasps upon his mouth, and his back covered over with an enjoyable homily on the duty of keeping a watch upon the lips. Confucius turned to his disciples, and said, “Observe it, my children. These words are true, and commend themselves to our feelings.”
About music he made inquiries of Ch‘ang Hwang, to whom the following remarks are attributed:—“I have observed about Chung-ne many marks of a sage. He has river eyes and a dragon forehead,—the very characteristics of Hwang-te. His arms are long, his back is like a tortoise, and he is nine feet six inches in height,—the very semblance of T‘ang the Successful. When he speaks, he praises the ancient kings. He moves along the path of humility and courtesy. He has heard of every subject, and retains with a strong memory. His knowledge of things seems inexhaustible.—Have we not in him the rising of a sage?”
I have given these notices of Confucius at the court of Chow, more as being the only ones I could find, than because I put much faith in them. He did not remain there long, but returned the same year to Loo, and continued his work of teaching. His fame was greatly increased; disciples came to him from different parts, till their number amounted to three thousand. Several of those who have come down to us as the most distinguished among his followers, however, were yet unborn, and the statement just given may be considered as an exaggeration. We are not to conceive of the disciples as forming a community, and living together. Parties of them may have done so. We shall find Confucius hereafter always moving amid a company of admiring pupils; but the greater number must have had their proper avocations and ways of living, and would only resort to the master, when they wished specially to ask his counsel or to learn of him.
5. In the year succeeding the return to Loo, that State fell into great confusion. There were three Families in it, all connected irregularly with the ducal house, which had long kept the rulers in a condition of dependency.He withdraws to Ts‘e, and returns to Loo the following year bc 516, 515. They appear frequently in the Analects as the Ke clan, the Shuh, and the Măng; and while Confucius freely spoke of their usurpations,1 he was a sort of dependent of the Ke family, and appears in frequent communication with members of all the three. In the year bc 516, the duke Chaou came to open hostilities with them, and being worsted, fled into Ts‘e, the State adjoining Loo on the north. Thither Confucius also repaired, that he might avoid the prevailing disorder of his native State. Ts‘e was then under the government of a duke, afterwards styled King, who “had a thousand teams, each of four horses, but on the day of his death the people did not praise him for a single virtue.”2 His chief minister, however, was Gan Ying, a man of considerable ability and worth. At his court the music of the ancient sage-emperor, Shun, originally brought to T‘se from the State of Ch‘in, was still preserved.
According to the “Family Sayings,” an incident occurred on the way to Ts‘e, which I may transfer to these pages as a good specimen of the way in which Confucius turned occurring matters to account in his intercourse with his disciples. As he was passing by the side of the T‘ae mountain, there was a woman weeping and wailing by a grave. Confucius bent forward in his carriage, and after listening to her for some time, sent Tsze-loo to ask the cause of her grief. “You weep, as if you had experienced sorrow upon sorrow,” said Tsze-loo. The woman replied, “It is so. My husband’s father was killed here by a tiger, and my husband also; and now my son has met the same fate.” Confucius asked her why she did not remove from the place, and on her answering, “There is here no oppressive government,” he turned to his disciples, and said, “My children, remember this. Oppressive government is fiercer than a tiger.”1
As soon as he crossed the border from Loo, we are told he discovered from the gait and manners of a boy, whom he saw carrying a pitcher, the influence of the sage’s music, and told the driver of his carriage to hurry on to the capital. Arrived there, he heard the strain, and was so ravished with it, that for three months he did not know the taste of flesh. “I did not think,” he said, “that music could have been made so excellent as this.”2 The Duke King was pleased with the conferences which he had with him,3 and proposed to assign to him the town of Lin-k‘ew, from the revenues of which he might derive a sufficient support; but Confucius refused the gift, and said to his disciples, “A superior man will only receive reward for services which he has done. I have given advice to the Duke King, but he has not yet obeyed it, and now he would endow me with this place! Very far is he from understanding me.”
On one occasion the duke asked about government, and received the characteristic reply, “There is government when the prince is prince, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son.”1 I say that the reply is characteristic. Once, when Tsze-loo asked him what he would consider the first thing to be done if intrusted with the government of a State, Confucius answered, “What is necessary is to rectify names.”2 The disciple thought the reply wide of the mark, but it was substantially the same with what he said to the Duke King. There is a sufficient foundation in nature for government in the several relations of society, and if those be maintained and developed according to their relative significancy, it is sure to obtain. This was a first principle in the political ethics of Confucius.
Another day the duke got to a similar inquiry the reply that the art of government lay in an economical use of the revenues; and being pleased, he resumed his purpose of retaining the philosopher in his State, and proposed to assign to him the fields of Ne-k‘e. His chief minister, Gan Ying, dissuaded him from the purpose, saying, “Those scholars are impracticable, and cannot be imitated. They are haughty and concerted of their own views, so that they will not be content in inferior positions. They set a high value on all funeral ceremonies, give way to their grief, and will waste their property on great burials, so that they would only be injurious to the common manners. This Mr K‘ung has a thousand peculiarities. It would take generations to exhaust all that he knows about the ceremonies of going up and going down. This is not the time to examine into his rules of propriety. If you, prince, wish to employ him to change the customs of Ts‘e, you will not be making the people your primary consideration.”3
I had rather believe that these were not the words of Gan Ying; but they must represent pretty correctly the sentiments of many of the statesmen of the time about Confucius. The duke of Ts‘e got tired ere long of having such a monitor about him, and observed, “I cannot treat him as I would the chief of the Ke family. I will treat him in a way between that accorded to the chief of the Ke, and that given to the chief of the Măng family.” Finally he said, “I am old; I cannot use his doctrines.”1 These observations were made directly to Confucius, or came to his hearing.2 It was not consistent with his self-respect to remain longer in Ts‘e, and he returned to Loo.3
6. Returned to Loo, he remained for the long period of about fifteen years without being engaged in any official employment.He remains without office in Loo, bc 515-501. It was a time, indeed, of great disorder. The Duke Chaou continued a refugee in Ts‘e, the government being in the hands of the great Families, up to his death in bc 509, on which event the rightful heir was set aside, and another member of the ducal house, known to us by the title of Ting, substituted in his place. The ruling authority of the principality became thus still more enfeebled than it had been before, and, on the other hand, the chiefs of the Ke, the Shuh, and the Măng, could hardly keep their ground against their own officers. Of those latter the two most conspicuous were Yang Hoo, called also Yang Ho, and Kung-shan Fuh-jaou. At one time Ke Hwan, the most powerful of the chiefs, was kept a prisoner by Yang Hoo, and was obliged to make terms with him in order to secure his liberation. Confucius would give his countenance to none, as he disapproved of all, and he studiously kept aloof from them. Of how he comported himself among them we have a specimen in the incident related in the Analects, xvii. 1.—“Yang Ho wished to see Confucius, but Confucius would not go to see him. On this, he sent a present of a pig to Confucius, who, having chosen a time when Ho was not at home, went to pay his respects for the gift. He met him, however, on the way. ‘Come, let me speak with you,’ said the officer. ‘Can he be called benevolent, who keeps his jewel in his bosom, and leaves his country to confusion?’ Confucius replied, ‘No.’ ‘Can he be called wise, who is anxious to be engaged in public employment, and yet is constantly losing the opportunity of being so?’ Confucius again said, ‘No.’ The other added, ‘The days and months are passing away; the years do not wait for us.’ Confucius said, ‘Right; I will go into office.’ ” Chinese writers are eloquent in their praise of the sage for the combination of propriety, complaisance, and firmness, which they see in his behaviour in this matter. To myself there seems nothing remarkable in it but a somewhat questionable dexterity. But it was well for the fame of Confucius that his time was not occupied during those years with official services. He turned them to better account, prosecuting his researches into the poetry, history, ceremonies, and music of the empire. Many disciples continued to resort to him, and the legendary writers tell us how he employed their services in digesting the results of his studies. I must repeat, however, that several of them, whose names are most famous, such as Tsăng Sin, were as yet children, and Min Sun was not born till bc 500.
To this period we must refer the almost single instance which we have of the manner of Confucius’ intercourse with his son Le. “Have you heard any lessons from your father different from what we have all heard?” asked one of the disciples once of Le. “No,” said Le. “He was standing alone once, when I was passing through the court below with hasty steps, and said to me, ‘Have you read the Odes?’ On my replying, ‘Not yet,’ he added, ‘If you do not learn the Odes, you will not be fit to converse with.’ Another day, in the same place and the same way, he said to me, ‘Have you read the rules of Propriety?’ On my replying, ‘Not yet,’ he added, ‘If you do not learn the rules of Propriety, your character cannot be established.’ I have heard only these two things from him.” The disciple was delighted, and observed, “I asked one thing, and I have got three things. I have heard about the Odes; I have heard about the rules of Propriety. I have also heard that the superior man maintains a distant reserve towards his son.”1
I can easily believe that this distant reserve was the rule which Confucius followed generally in his treatment of his son. A stern dignity is the quality which a father has to maintain upon his system. It is not to be without the element of kindness, but that must never go beyond the line of propriety. There is too little room left for the play and development of natural affection.
The divorce of his wife must also have taken place during these years, if it ever took place at all, which is a disputed point. The curious reader will find the question discussed in the notes on the second Book of the Le Ke. The evidence inclines, I think, against the supposition that Confucius did put his wife away. When she died, at a period subsequent to the present, Le kept on weeping aloud for her after the period for such a demonstration of grief had expired, when Confucius sent a message to him that his sorrow must be subdued, and the obedient son dried his tears.1 We are glad to know that on one occasion—the death of his favourite disciple, Yen Hwuy—the tears of Confucius himself would flow over and above the measure of propriety.2
7. We come to the short period of Confucius’ official life.He holds office. bc 500—496. In the year bc 501, things had come to a head between the chiefs of the three Families and their ministers, and had resulted in the defeat of the latter. In bc 500, the resources of Yang Hoo were exhausted, and he fled into Ts‘e, so that the State was delivered from its greatest troubler, and the way was made more clear for Confucius to go into office, should an opportunity occur. It soon presented itself. Towards the end of that year he was made chief magistrate of the town of Chung-too.3
Just before he received this appointment, a circumstance occurred of which we do not well know what to make. When Yang-hoo fled into Ts‘e, Kung-shan Fuh-jaou, who had been confederate with him, continued to maintain an attitude of rebellion, and held the city of Pe against the Ke family. Thence he sent a message to Confucius inviting him to join him, and the sage seemed so inclined to go that his disciple Tsze-loo remonstrated with him, saying, “Indeed you cannot go! why must you think of going to see Kung-shan?” Confucius replied, “Can it be without some reason that he has invited me? If any one employ me, may I not make an eastern Chow?”1 The upshot, however, was that he did not go, and I cannot suppose that he had ever any serious intention of doing so. Amid the general gravity of his intercourse with his followers, there gleam out a few instances of quiet pleasantry, when he amused himself by playing with their notions about him. This was probably one of them.
As magistrate of Chung-too he produced a marvellous reformation of the manners of the people in a short time. According to the “Family Sayings,” he enacted rules for the nourishing of the living, and all observances to the dead. Different food was assigned to the old and the young, and different burdens to the strong and the weak. Males and females were kept apart from each other in the streets. A thing dropt on the road was not picked up. There was no fraudulent carving of vessels. Inner coffins were made four inches thick, and the outer ones five. Graves were made on the high grounds, no mounds being raised over them, and no trees planted about them. Within twelve months, the princes of the States all about wished to imitate his style of administration.
The Duke Ting, surprised at what he saw, asked whether his rules could be employed to govern a whole State, and Confucius told him that they might be applied to the whole empire. On this the duke appointed him assistant-superintendent of Works,2 in which capacity he surveyed the lands of the State, and made many improvements in agriculture. From this he was quickly made minister of Crime, and the appointment was enough to put an end to crime. There was no necessity to put the penal laws in execution. No offenders showed themselves.
These indiscriminating eulogies are of little value. One incident, related in the annotations of Tso-k‘ew on the Ts‘un Ts‘ew, commends itself at once to our belief, as in harmony with Confucius’ character. The chief of the Ke, pursuing with his enmity the Duke Chaou, even after his death, had placed his grave apart from the graves of his predecessors; and Confucius surrounded the ducal cemetery with a ditch so as to include the solitary resting-place, boldly telling the chief that he did it to hide his disloyalty. But he signalized himself most of all, in bc 499, by his behaviour at an interview between the dukes of Loo and Ts‘e, at a place called Shih-k‘e, and Keă-kuh, in the present district of Lae-woo, in the department of T‘ae-gan. Confucius was present as master of ceremonies on the part of Loo, and the meeting was professedly pacific. The two princes were to form a covenant of alliance. The principal officer on the part of Ts‘e, however, despising Confucius as “a man of ceremonies, without courage,” had advised his sovereign to make the duke of Loo a prisoner, and for this purpose a band of the half-savage original inhabitants of the place advanced with weapons to the stage where the two dukes were met. Confucius understood the scheme, and said to the opposite party, “Our two princes are met for a pacific object. For you to bring a band of savage vassals to disturb the meeting with their weapons, is not the way in which Ts‘e can expect to give law to the princes of the empire. These barbarians have nothing to do with our Great Flowery land. Such vassals may not interfere with our covenant. Weapons are out of place at such a meeting. As before the spirits, such conduct is unpropitious. In point of virtue, it is contrary to right. As between man and man, it is not polite.” The duke of Ts‘e ordered the disturbers off, but Confucius withdrew, carrying the duke of Loo with him. The business proceeded, notwithstanding, and when the words of the alliance were being read on the part of Ts‘e,—“So be it to Loo, if it contribute not 300 chariots of war to the help of Ts‘e, when its army goes across its borders,” a messenger from Confucius added,—“And so it be to us, if we obey your orders, unless you return to us the fields on the south of the Wăn.” At the conclusion of the ceremonies, the prince of Ts‘e wanted to give a grand entertainment, but Confucius demonstrated that such a thing would be contrary to the established rules of propriety, his real object being to keep his sovereign out of danger. In this way the two parties separated, they of Ts‘e filled with shame at being foiled and disgraced by “the man of ceremonies,” and the result was that the lands of Loo which had been appropriated by Ts‘e were restored.1
For two years more Confucius held the office of minister of Crime. Some have supposed that he was further raised to the dignity of chief minister of State, but that was not the case. One instance of the manner in which he executed his functions is worth recording. When any matter came before him, he took the opinion of different individuals upon it, and in giving judgment would say, “I decide according to the view of so and so.” There was an approach to our jury system in the plan, Confucius’ object being to enlist general sympathy, and carry the public judgment with him in his administration of justice. A father having brought some charge against his son, Confucius kept them both in prison for three months, without making any difference in favour of the father, and then wished to dismiss them both. The head of the Ke was dissatisfied, and said, “You are playing with me, Sir minister of Crime. Formerly you told me that in a State or a family filial duty was the first thing to be insisted on. What hinders you now from putting to death this unfilial son as an example to all the people?” Confucius with a sigh replied, “When superiors fail in their duty, and yet go to put their inferiors to death, it is not right. This father has not taught his son to be filial;—to listen to his charge would be to slay the guiltless. The manners of the age have been long in a sad condition; we cannot expect the people not to be transgressing the laws.”
At this time two of his disciples, Tsze-loo and Tsze-yew, entered the employment of the Ke family, and lent their influence, the former especially, to forward the plans of their master. One great cause of disorder in the State was the fortified cities held by the three chiefs, in which they could defy the supreme authority, and were in turn defied themselves by their officers. Those cities were like the castles of the barons of England in the time of the Norman kings. Confucius had their destruction very much at heart, and partly by the influence of persuasion, and partly by the assisting counsels of Tsze-loo, he accomplished his object in regard to Pe, the chief city of the Ke, and How, the chief city of the Shuh.
It does not appear that he succeeded in the same way in dismantling Ch‘ing, the chief city of the Măng;1 but his authority in the State greatly increased. “He strengthened the ducal House and weakened the private Families. He exalted the sovereign, and depressed the ministers. A transforming government went abroad. Dishonesty and dissoluteness were ashamed, and hid their heads. Loyalty and good faith became the characteristics of the men, and chastity and docility those of the women. Strangers came in crowds from other States. Confucius became the idol of the people, and flew in songs through their mouths.
But this sky of bright promise was soon overcast. As the fame of the reformations in Loo went abroad, the neighbouring princes began to be afraid. The duke of Ts‘e said, “With Confucius at the head of its government, Loo will become supreme among the States, and Ts‘e which is nearest to it will be the first swallowed up. Let us propitiate it by a surrender of territory.” One of his ministers proposed they should first try to separate between the sage and his sovereign, and to effect this, they hit upon the following scheme. Eighty beautiful girls, with musical and dancing accomplishments, were selected, and a hundred and twenty of the finest horses that could be found, and sent as a present to Duke Ting. They were put up at first outside the city, and Ke Hwan having gone in disguise to see them, forgot the lessons of Confucius, and took the duke to look at the bait. They were both captivated. The women were received, and the sage was neglected. For three days the duke gave no audience to his ministers. “Master,” said Tsze-loo to Confucius, “it is time for you to be going.” But Confucius was very unwilling to leave. The time was drawing near when the great sacrifice to Heaven would be offered, and he determined to wait and see whether the solemnity of that would bring the duke back to his right mind. No such result followed. The ceremony was hurried through, and portions of the offerings were not sent round to the various ministers, according to the established custom. Confucius regretfully took his departure, going away slowly and by easy stages. He would have welcomed a messenger of recall. The duke continued in his abandonment, and the sage went forth to thirteen weary years of homeless wandering.
8. On leaving Loo, Confucius first bent his steps westward to the State of Wei, situate about where the present provinces of Chih-le and Ho-nan adjoin.He wanders from State to State bc 496—483. He was now in his 56th year, and felt depressed and melancholy. As he went along, he gave expression to his feeling in verse:—
A number of his disciples accompanied him, and his sadness infected them. When they arrived at the borders of Wei, at a place called E, the warden sought an interview, and on coming out from the sage, he tried to comfort the disciples, saying, “My friends, why are you distressed at your Master’s loss of office? The empire has been long without the principles of truth and right; Heaven is going to use your master as a bell with its wooden tongue.”1 Such was the thought of this friendly stranger. The bell did indeed sound, but few had ears to hear.
Confucius’ fame, however, had gone before him, and he was in little danger of having to suffer from want. On arriving at the capital of Wei, he lodged at first with a worthy officer, named Yen Ch‘ow-yew.2 The reigning duke, known to us by the epithet of Ling, was a worthless, dissipated man, but he could not neglect a visitor of such eminence, and soon assigned to Confucius a revenue of 60,000 measures of grain. Here he remained for ten months, and then for some reason left it to go to Ch‘in. On the way he had to pass by K‘wang, a place probably in the present department of K‘ae-fung in Ho-nan, which had formerly suffered from Yang-hoo. It so happened that Confucius resembled Hoo, and the attention of the people being called to him by the movements of his carriage-driver, they thought it was their old enemy, and made an attack upon him. His followers were alarmed, but he was calm, and tried to assure them by declaring his belief that he had a divine mission. He said to them, “After the death of King Wăn, was not the cause of truth lodged here in me? If Heaven had wished to let this cause of truth perish, then I, a future mortal, should not have got such a relation to that cause. While Heaven does not let the cause of truth perish, what can the people of K‘wang do to me?”3 Having escaped from the hands of his assailants, he does not seem to have carried out his purpose of going to Ch‘in, but returned to Wei.
On the way, he passed a house where he had formerly been lodged, and finding that the master was dead, and the funeral ceremonies going on, he went in to condole and weep. When he came out, he told Tsze-kung to take one of the horses from his carriage, and give it as a contribution to the expenses of the occasion. “You never did such a thing,” Tsze-kung remonstrated, “at the funeral of any of your disciples; is it not too great a gift on this occasion of the death of an old host?” “When I went in,” replied Confucius, “my presence brought a burst of grief from the chief mourner, and I joined him with my tears. I dislike the thought of my tears not being followed by anything. Do it, my child.”1
On reaching Wei, he lodged with Keu Pih-yuh, an officer of whom honourable mention is made in the Analects.2 But this time he did not remain long in the State.bc 495. The duke was married to a lady of the house of Sung, known by the name of Nan-tsze, notorious for her intrigues and wickedness. She sought an interview with the sage, which he was obliged unwillingly to accord. No doubt he was innocent of thought or act of evil; but it gave great dissatisfaction to Tsze-loo that his master should have been in company with such a woman, and Confucius, to assure him, swore an oath, saying, “Wherein I have done improperly, may Heaven reject me! May Heaven reject me!”3 He could not well abide, however, about such a court. One day the duke rode out through the streets of his capital in the same carriage with Nan-tsze, and made Confucius follow them in another. Perhaps he intended to honour the philosopher, but the people saw the incongruity, and cried out, “Lust in the front; virtue behind!” Confucius was ashamed, and made the observation, “I have not seen one who loves virtue as he loves beauty.”4 Wei was no place for him. He left it, and took his way towards Ch‘in.
Ch‘in, which formed part of the present province of Ho-nan, lay south from Wei. After passing the small State of Ts‘aou, he approached the borders of Sung, occupying the present prefecture of Kwei-tih, and had some intentions of entering it, when an incident occurred, which it is not easy to understand from the meagre style in which it is related, but which gave occasion to a remarkable saying. Confucius was practising ceremonies with his disciples, we are told, under the shade of a large tree. Hwan T‘uy, an ill-minded officer of Sung, heard of it, and sent a band of men to pull down the tree, and kill the philosopher, if they could get hold of him. The disciples were much alarmed, but Confucius observed, “Heaven has produced the virtue that is in me;—what can Hwan T‘uy do to me?”1 They all made their escape, but seem to have been driven westwards to the State of Ch‘ing, on arriving at the gate conducting into which from the east, Confucius found himself separated from his followers. Tsze-kung had arrived before him, and was told by a native of Ch‘ing that “there was a man standing by the east gate, with a forehead like Yaou, a neck like Kaou-yaou, his shoulders on a level with those of Tsze-ch‘an, but wanting, below the waist, three inches of the height of Yu, and altogether having the disconsolate appearance of a stray dog.” Tsze-kung knew it was the master, hastened to him, and repeated to his great amusement the description which the man had given. “The bodily appearance,” said Confucius, “is but a small matter, but to say I was like a stray dog—capital! capital!” The stay they made at Ch‘ing was short, and by the end of bc 495, Confucius was in Ch‘in.
In bc 493, Ch‘in was much disturbed by attacks from Woo, a large State, the capital of which was in the present department of Soo-chow, and Confucius determined to retrace his steps to Wei. On the way he was laid hold of at a place called P‘oo, which was held by a rebellious officer against Wei, and before he could get away, he was obliged to engage that he would not proceed thither. Thither, notwithstanding, he continued his route, and when Tsze-kung asked him whether it was right to violate the oath he had taken, he replied, “It was a forced oath. The spirits do not hear such.”4 The duke Ling received him with distinction, but paid no more attention to his lessons than before, and Confucius is said then to have uttered his complaint, “If there were any of the princes who would employ me, in the course of twelve months I should have done something considerable. In three years the government would be perfected.”1
A circumstance occurred to direct his attention to the State of Tsin, which occupied the southern part of the present Shan-se, and extended over the Yellow river into Ho-nan. An invitation came to Confucius, like that which he had formerly received from Kung-shan Fuh-jaou. Peih Heih, an officer of Tsin, who was holding the town of Chung-mow against his chief, invited him to visit him, and Confucius was inclined to go. Tsze-loo was always the mentor on such occasions. He said to him, “Master, I have heard you say, that when a man in his own person is guilty of doing evil, a superior man will not associate with him. Peih Heih is in rebellion; if you go to him, what shall be said?” Confucius replied, “Yes, I did use those words. But is it not said that if a thing be really hard, it may be ground without being made thin; and if it be really white, it may be steeped in a dark fluid without being made black? Am I a bitter gourd? Am I to be hung up out of the way of being eaten?”2
These sentiments sound strangely from his lips. After all, he did not go to Peih Heih; and having travelled as far as the Yellow river that he might see one of the principal ministers of Tsin, he heard of the violent death of two men of worth, and returned to Wei, lamenting the fate which prevented him from crossing the stream, and trying to solace himself with poetry as he had done on leaving Loo. Again did he commuuicate with the duke, but as ineffectually, and disgusted at being questioned by him about military tactics, he left and went back to Ch‘in.
He resided in Ch‘in all the next year, bc 491, without anything occurring there which is worthy of note. Events had transpired in Loo, however, which were to issue in his return to his native State. The duke Ting had deceased bc 494, and Ke Hwan, the chief of the Ke family, died in this year. On his deathbed, he felt remorse for his conduct to Confucius, and charged his successor, known to us in the Analects as Ke K‘ang, to recall the sage; but the charge was not immediately fulfilled. Ke K‘ang, by the advice of one of his officers, sent to Ch‘in for the disciple Yen K‘ew instead. Confucius willingly sent him off, and would gladly have accompanied him. “Let me return!” he said, “Let me return!”1 But that was not to be for several years yet.
In bc 490, accompanied, as usual, by several of his disciples, he went from Ch‘in to Ts‘ae, a small dependency of the great fief of Ts‘oo, which occupied a large part of the present provinces of Hoo-nan and Hoo-pih. On the way, between Ch‘in and Ts‘ae, their provisions became exhausted, and they were cut off somehow from obtaining a fresh supply. The disciples were quite overcome with want, and Tsze-loo said to the master, “Has the superior man indeed to endure in this way?” Confucius answered him, “The superior man may indeed have to endure want; but the mean man, when he is in want, gives way to unbridled license.”2 According to the “Family Sayings,” the distress continued seven days, during which time Confucius retained his equanimity, and was even cheerful, playing on his lute and singing. He retained, however, a strong impression of the perils of the season, and we find him afterwards recurring to it, and lamenting that of the friends that were with him in Ch‘in and Ts‘ae, there were none remaining to enter his door.3
Escaped from this strait, he remained in Ts‘ae over bc 489, and in the following year we find him in Shĕ, another district of Ts‘oo, the chief of which had usurped the title of duke. Puzzled about his visitor, he asked Tsze-loo what he should think of him, but the disciple did not venture a reply. When Confucius heard of it, he said to Tsze-loo, “Why did you not say to him,—He is simply a man who in his eager pursuit of knowledge forgets his food, who in the joy of its attainment forgets his sorrows, and who does not perceive that old age is coming on?”4 Subsequently, the duke, in conversation with Confucius, asked him about government, and got the reply, dictated by some circumstances of which we are ignorant, “Good government obtains, when those who are near are made happy, and those who are far off are attracted.”5
After a short stay in Shĕ, according to Sze-ma Ts‘een, he returned to Ts‘ae, and having to cross a river, he sent Tsze-loo to inquire for the ford of two men who were at work in a neighbouring field. They were recluses,—men who had withdrawn from public life in disgust at the waywardness of the times. One of them was called Ch‘ang-tseu, and instead of giving Tsze-loo the information he wanted, he asked him, “Who is it that holds the reins in the carriage there?” “It is K‘ung Kew.” “K‘ung Kew of Loo?” “Yes,” was the reply, and then the man rejoined, “He knows the ford.”
Tsze-loo applied to the other, who was called Këĕ-neih, but got for answer the question, “Who are you, Sir?” He replied, “I am Chung Yew.” “Chung Yew, who is the disciple of K‘ung Kew of Loo?” “Yes,” again replied Tsze-loo, and Keĕ-heih addressed him, “Disorder, like a swelling flood, spreads over the whole empire, and who is he that will change it for you? Than follow one who merely withdraws from this one and that one, had you not better follow those who withdraw from the world altogether?” With this he fell to covering up the seed, and gave no more heed to the stranger. Tsze-loo went back and reported what they had said, when Confucius vindicated his own course, saying, “It is impossible to associate with birds and bcasts as if they were the same with us. If I associate not with these people,—with mankind,—with whom shall I associate? If right principles prevailed through the empire, there would be no use for me to change its state.”1
About the same time he had an encounter with another recluse, who was known as “The madman of Ts‘oo.” He passed by the carriage of Confucius, singing out, “O Fung, O Fung, how is your virtue degenerated! As to the past, reproof is useless, but the future may be provided against. Give up, give up your vain pursuit.” Confucius alighted and wished to enter into conversation with him, but the man hastened away.2
But now the attention of the ruler of Ts‘oo—king, as he styled himself—was directed to the illustrious stranger who was in his dominions, and he met Confucius and conducted him to his capital, which was in the present district of E-shing, in the department of Seang-yang, in Hoo-pih. After a time, he proposed endowing the philosopher with a considerable territory, but was dissuaded by his prime minister, who said to him, “Has your Majesty any officer who could discharge the duties of an ambassador like Tsze-kung? or any one so qualified for a premier as Yen Hwuy? or any one to compare as a general with Tsze-loo? The kings Wăn and Woo, from their hereditary dominions of a hundred le, rose to the sovereignty of the empire. If K‘ung K‘ew, with such disciples to be his ministers, get the possession of any territory, it will not be to the prosperity of Ts‘oo? On this remonstrance, the king gave up his purpose, and when he died in the same year, Confucius left the State, and went back again to Wei.
The Duke Ling had died four years before, soon after Confucius had last parted from him, and the reigning duke, known to us by the title of Ch‘uh, was his grandson, and was holding the principality against his own father.bc 489. The relations between them were rather complicated. The father had been driven out in consequence of an attempt which he had instigated on the life of his mother, the notorious Nan-tsze, and the succession was given to his son. Subsequently, the father wanted to reclaim what he deemed his right, and an unseemly struggle ensued. The Duke Ch‘uh was conscious how much his cause would be strengthened by the support of Confucius, and hence when he got to Wei, Tsze-loo could say to him, “The prince of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government;—what will you consider the first thing to be done?”1 The opinion of the philosopher, however, was against the propriety of the duke’s course, and he declined taking office with him, though he remained in Wei for between five and six years. During all that time there is a blank in his history. In the very year of his return, according to the “Annals of the Empire,” his most beloved disciple, Yen Hwuy, died, on which occasion he exclaimed, “Alas! Heaven is destroying me! Heaven is destroying me!”1 The death of his wife is assigned to bc 484, but nothing else is related which we can connect with this long period.
9. His return to Loo was brought about by the disciple Yen Yew, who, we have seen, went into the service of Ke K‘ang, in bc 491.From his return to Loo to his death. bc 483—478. In the year bc 483, Yew had the conduct of some military operations against Ts‘e, and being successful, Ke K‘ang asked him how he had obtained his military skill;—was it from nature, or by learning? He replied that he had learned it from Confucius, and entered into a glowing eulogy of the philosopher. The chief declared that he would bring Confucius home again to Loo. “If you do so,” said the disciple, “see that you do not let mean men come between you and him.” On this K‘ang sent three officers with appropriate presents to Wei, to invite the wanderer home, and he returned with them accordingly.
This event took place in the eleventh year of the Duke Gae, who succeeded to Ting, and according to K‘ung Foo, Confucius’ descendant, the invitation proceeded from him. We may suppose that while Ke K‘ang was the mover and director of the proceeding, it was with the authority and approval of the duke. It is represented in the chronicle of Tso-k‘ew Ming as having occurred at a very opportune time. The philosopher had been consulted a little before by K‘ung Wăn, an officer of Wei, about how he should conduct a feud with another officer, and disgusted at being referred to on such a subject, had ordered his carriage and prepared to leave the State, exclaiming, “The bird chooses its tree. The tree does not chase the bird.” K‘ung Wăn endeavoured to excuse himself, and to prevail on Confucius to remain in Wei, and just at this juncture the messengers from Loo arrived.
Confucius was now in his 69th year. The world had not dealt kindly with him. In every State which he had visited he had met with disappointment and sorrow. Only five more years remained to him, nor were they of a brighter character than the past. He had, indeed, attained to that state, he tells us, in which “he could follow what his heart desired without transgressing what was right,”1 but other people were not more inclined than they had been to abide by his counsels. The Duke Gae and Ke K‘ang often conversed with him, but he no longer had weight in the guidance of State affairs, and wisely addressed himself to the completion of his literary labours. He wrote, it is said, a preface to the Shoo-king; carefully digested the rites and ceremonies determined by the wisdom of the more ancient sages and kings; collected and arranged the ancient poetry; and undertook the reform of music. He has told us himself, “I returned from Wei to Loo, and then the music was reformed, and the pieces in the Imperial Songs and Praise Songs found all their proper place.”2 To the Yih-king he devoted much study, and Sze-ma Ts‘een says that the leather thongs by which the tablets of his copy were bound together were thrice worn out. “If some years were added to my life,” he said, “I would give fifty to the study of the Yih, and then I might come to be without great faults.”3 During this time also, we may suppose that he supplied Tsăng Sin with the materials of the classic of Filial Piety. The same year that he returned, Ke K‘ang sent Yen Yew to ask his opinion about an additional impost which he wished to lay upon the people, but Confucius refused to give any reply, telling the disciple privately his disapproval of the proposed measure. It was carried out, however, in the following year, by the agency of Yen, on which occasion, I suppose, it was that Confucius said to the other disciples, “He is no disciple of mine; my little children, beat the drum and assail him.”4 The year bc 482 was marked by the death of his son Le, which he seems to have borne with more equanimity than he did that of his disciple Yen Hwuy, which some writers assign to the following year, though I have already mentioned it under the year bc 488.
In the spring of bc 480, a servant of Ke K‘ang caught a k‘e-lin on a hunting excursion of the duke in the present district of Këa-ts‘eang. No person could tell what strange animal it was, and Confucius was called to look at it. He at once knew it to be a lin, and the legend-writers say that it bore on one of its horns the piece of ribbon, which his mother had attached to the one that appeared to her before his birth. According to the chronicle of Kung-yang, he was profoundly affected. He cried out, “For whom have you come? For whom have you come?” His tears flowed freely, and he added, “The course of my doctrines is run.”
Notwithstanding the appearance of the lin, the life of Confucius was still protracted for two years longer, though he took occasion to terminate with that event his history of the Ch‘un Ts‘ew. This Work, according to Sze-ma Ts‘een, was altogether the production of this year, but we need not suppose that it was so. In it, from the stand-point of Loo, he briefly indicates the principal events occurring throughout the empire, every term being expressive, it is said, of the true character of the actors and events described. Confucius said himself, “It is the Spring and Autumn which will make men know me, and it is the Spring and Autumn which will make men condemn me.”1 Mencius makes the composition of it to have been an achievement as great as Yu’s regulation of the waters of the deluge.—“Confucius completed the Spring and Autumn, and rebellious ministers and villainous sons were struck with terror.”2
Towards the end of this year, word came to Loo that the duke of Ts‘e had been murdered by one of his officers. Confucius was moved with indignation. Such an outrage, he felt, called for his solemn interference. He bathed, went to court, and represented the matter to the duke, saying, “Ch‘in Hăng has slain his sovereign, I beg that you will undertake to punish him.” The duke pleaded his incapacity, urging that Loo was weak compared with Ts‘e, but Confucius replied, “One half of the people of Ts‘e are not consenting to the deed. If you add to the people of Loo one half of the people of Ts‘e, you are sure to overcome.” But he could not infuse his spirit into the duke, who told him to go and lay the matter before the chief of the three Families. Sorely against his sense of propriety, he did so, but they would not act, and he withdrew with the remark, “Following in the rear of the great officers, I did not dare not to represent such a matter.”1
In the year bc 479, Confucius had to mourn the death of another of his disciples, one of those who had been longest with him,—the well-known Tsze-loo. He stands out a sort of Peter in the Confucian school, a man of impulse, prompt to speak and prompt to act. He gets many a check from the master, but there is evidently a strong sympathy between them. Tsze-loo uses a freedom with him on which none of the other disciples dares to venture, and there is not one among them all, for whom, if I may speak from my own feeling, the foreign student comes to form such a liking. A pleasant picture is presented to us in one passage of the Analects. It is said, “The disciple Min was standing by his side, looking bland and precise; Tsze-loo (named Yew), looking bold and soldierly; Yen Yew and Tsze-kung, with a free and straightforward manner. The master was pleased, but he observed, ‘Yew there!—he will not die a natural death.’ ”2
This prediction was verified. When Confucius returned to Loo from Wei, he left Tsze-loo and Tsze-kaou engaged there in official service. Troubles arose. News came to Loo, bc 479, that a revolution was in progress in Wei, and when Confucius heard it, he said, “Ch‘ae will come here, but Yew will die.” So it turned out. When Tsze-kaou saw that matters were desperate he made his escape, but Tsze-loo would not forsake the chief who had treated him well. He threw himself into the mêlée, and was slain. Confucius wept sore for him, but his own death was not far off. It took place on the 11th day of the 4th month in the following year, bc 478.
Early one morning, we are told, he got up, and with his hands behind his back, dragging his staff, he moved about by his door, crooning over,—
After a little, he entered the house and sat down opposite the door. Tsze-kung had heard his words, and said to himself, “If the great mountain crumble, to what shall I look up? If the strong beam break, and the wise man wither away, on whom shall I lean? The master, I fear, is going to be ill.” With this he hastened into the house. Confucius said to him, “Ts‘ze, what makes you so late? According to the statutes of Hea, the corpse was dressed and coffined at the top of the eastern steps, treating the dead as if he were still the host. Under the Yin, the ceremony was performed between the two pillars, as if the dead were both host and guest. The rule of Chow is to perform it at the top of the western steps, treating the dead as if he were a guest. I am a man of Yin, and last night I dreamt that I was sitting with offerings before me between the two pillars. No intelligent monarch arises; there is not one in the empire that will make me his master. My time is come to die.” So it was. He went to his couch, and after seven days expired.1
Such is the account which we have of the last hours of the great philosopher of China. His end was not unimpressive, but it was melancholy. He sank behind a cloud. Disappointed hopes made his soul bitter. The great ones of the empire had not received his teachings. No wife nor child was by to do the kindly offices of affection for him. Nor were the expectations of another life present with him as he passed though the dark valley. He uttered no prayer, and he betrayed no apprehensions. Deep-treasured in his own heart may have been the thought that he had endeavoured to serve his generation by the will of God, but he gave no sign. “The mountain falling came to nought, and the rock was removed out of his place. So death prevailed against him and he passed; his countenance was changed, and he was sent away.”
10. I flatter myself that the preceding paragraphs contain a more correct narrative of the principal incidents in the life of Confucius than has yet been given in any European language. They might easily have been expanded into a volume, but I did not wish to exhaust the subject, but only to furnish a sketch, which, while it might satisfy the general reader, would be of special assistance to the careful student of the classical Books. I had taken many notes of the manifest errors in regard to chronology and other matters in the “Family Sayings,” and the chapter of Sze-ma Ts‘een on the K‘ung family, when the digest of Keang Yung, to which I have made frequent reference, attracted my attention. Conclusions to which I had come were confirmed, and a clue was furnished to difficulties which I was seeking to disentangle. I take the opportunity to acknowledge here my obligations to it. With a few notices of Confucius’ habits and manners, I shall conclude this section.
Very little can be gathered from reliable sources on the personal appearance of the sage. The height of his father is stated, as I have noted, to have been ten feet, and though Confucius came short of this by four inches, he was often called “the tall man.” It is allowed that the ancient foot or cubit was shorter than the modern, but it must be reduced more than any scholar I have consulted has yet done, to bring this statement within the range of credibility. The legends assign to his figure “nine-and-forty remarkable peculiarities,” a tenth part of which would have made him more a monster than a man. Dr Morrison says that the images of him, which he had seen in the northern parts of China, represent him as of a dark swarthy colour.1 It is not so with those common in the south. He was, no doubt, in size and complexion much the same as many of his descendants in the present day.
But if his disciples had nothing to chronicle of his personal appearance, they have gone very minutely into an account of many of his habits. The tenth book of the Analects is all occupied with his deportment, his eating, and his dress. In public, whether in the village, the temple, or the court, he was the man of rule and ceremony, but “at home he was not formal.” Yet if not formal, he was particular. In bed even he did not forget himself;—“he did not lie like a corpse,” and “he did not speak.” “He required his sleeping dress to be half as long again as his body.” “If he happened to be sick, and the prince came to visit him, he had his face to the east, made his court robes be put over him, and drew his girdle across them.”
He was nice in his diet,—“not disliking to have his rice dressed fine, nor to have his minced meat cut small.” “Anything at all gone he would not touch.” “He must have his meat cut properly, and to every kind its proper sauce; but he was not a great eater.” “It was only in wine that he laid down no limit to himself, but he did not allow himself to be confused by it.” “When the villagers were drinking together, on those who carried staves going out, he went out immediately after.” There must always be ginger at the table, and “when eating, he did not converse.” “Although his food might be coarse rice and poor soup, he would offer a little of it in sacrifice, with a grave respectful air.”
“On occasion of a sudden clap of thunder, or a violent wind, he would change countenance. He would do the same, and rise up moreover, when he found himself a guest at a loaded board.” “At the sight of a person in mourning he would also change countenance, and if he happened to be in his carriage, he would bend forward with a respectful salutation.” “His general way in his carriage was not to turn his head round, nor talk hastily, nor point with his hands.” He was charitable. “When any of his friends died, if there were no relations who could be depended on for the necessary offices, he would say, ‘I will bury him.’ ”
The disciples were so careful to record these and other characteristics of their master, it is said, because every act, of movement or of rest, was closely associated with the great principles which it was his object to inculcate. The detail of so many small matters, however, does not impress a foreigner so favourably. There is a want of freedom about the philosopher. Somehow he is less a sage to me, after I have seen him at his table, in his undress, in his bed, and in his carriage.
[1 ] See Mémoires eoncernant les Chinois, Tome XII. p. 447, et seq. Father Amiot states, p. 501, that he had seen the representative of the family, who succeeded to the dignity of the “Duke, Continuator of the Sage’s line,” in the 9th year of K‘een-lung, ad 1744. It is hardly necessary that I should say here, that the name Confucius is merely the Chinese characters, K‘ung Foo-tsze, “The master, K‘ung,” latinized.
[1 ] See, on the length of the ancient foot, Ana. VIII. vi., but the point needs a more sifting investigation than it has yet received.
[1 ] The legends say that Ching-tsae, fearing lest she should not have a son, in consequence of her husband’s age, privately ascended the Ne-k‘ew hill to pray for the boon, and that when she had obtained it, she commemorated the fact in the names—K‘ew and Chung-ne. But the cripple, Măng-p‘e, had previously been styled Pih-ne. There was some reason, previous to Confucius’ birth, for using the term ne in the family. As might be expected, the birth of the sage is surrounded with many prodigious occurrences. One account is, that the husband and wife prayed together for a son in a dell of mount Ne. As Ching-tsae went up the hill, the leaves of the trees and plants all erected themselves, and bent downwards on her return. That night she dreamt the Black Te appeared, and said to her, “You shall have a son, a sage, and you must bring him forth in a hollow mulberry tree.” One day during her pregnancy, she fell into a dreamy state, and saw five old men in the hall, who called themselves the essences of the five planets, and led an animal which looked like a small cow with one horn, and was covered with scales like a dragon. This creature knelt before Ching-tsae, and cast forth from its mouth a slip of gem, on which was the inscription,—“The son of the essence of water shall succeed to the withering Chow, and be a throneless king.” Ching-tsae tied a piece of embroidered ribbon about its horn, and the vision disappeared. When Heih was told of it, he said, “The creature must be the K‘e-lin.” As her time drew near, Ching-tsae asked her husband if there was any place in the neighbourhood called “The hollow mulberry tree.” He told her there was a dry cave in the south hill, which went by that name. Then she said, “I will go and be confined there.” Her husband was surprised, but when made acquainted with her former dream, he made the necessary arrangements. On the night when the child was born, two dragons came and kept watch on the left and right of the hill, and two spirit-ladies appeared in the air, pouring out fragrant odours, as if to bathe Ching-tsae; and as soon as the birth took place, a spring of clear warm water bubbled up from the floor of the cave, which dried up again when the child had been washed in it. The child was of an extraordinary appearance, with a mouth like the sea, ox lips, a dragon’s back, &c., &c. On the top of his head was a remarkable formation, in consequence of which he was named K‘ew, &c. Sze-ma Ts‘een seems to make Confucius to have been illegitimate, saying that Heih and Miss Yen cohabited in the wilderness. Keang Yung says that the phrase has reference simply to the disparity of their ages.
[2 ] Sze-ma Ts‘een says that Confucius was born in the 22nd year of Duke Seang, bc 550. He is followed by Choo He in the short sketch of Confucius’ life prefixed to the Lun Yu, and by “The Annals of the Empire,” published with imperial sanction in the reign Kea-k‘ing. (To this work I have generally referred for my dates.) The year assigned in the text above rests on the authority of Kuh-Jeang and Kung-yang, the two commentators on the Ch‘un Ts‘ew. With regard to the month, however, the 10th is that assigned by Kuh-leang, while Kung-yang names the 11th.
[1 ] Ana. II. iv.
[2 ] Ana. IX. vi.
[1 ] Mencius, V. Pt. II. v. 4.
[2 ] Ana. VII. vii.
[3 ] Ana. VII. viii.
[1 ] Le Ke, II. Pt. I. i. 10; Pt. II. iii. 30; Pt. I. i. 6. See also the discussion of those passages in Keang Yung’s “Life of Confucius.”
[2 ] Le Ke, II. Pt. I. i. 22.
[1 ] See the Ch‘un Ts‘ew, under the 7th year of Duke Ch‘aou.
[2 ] This rests on the respectable authority of Tso-k‘ew Ming’s annotations on the Ch‘un Ts‘ew, but I must consider it apocryphal. The legend-writers have fashioned a journey to T‘an. The slightest historical intimation becomes a text with them, on which they enlarge to the glory of the sage. Amiot has reproduced and expanded their romancings, and others, such as Pauthier (Chine, pp. 121—183) and Thornton (History of China, vol. i. pp. 151—215) have followed in his wake.
[3 ] Ana. II. iv.
[4 ] The journey to Chow is placed by Sze-ma Ts‘een before Confucius’ holding of his first official employments, and Choo He and most other writers follow him. It is a great error, and has arisen from a misunderstanding of the passages from Tso-K‘ew Ming upon the subject.
[1 ] Ana. II. v.
[1 ] See Analects, III. i. ii. et al.
[2 ] Ana. XVI. xii.
[1 ] I have translated, however, from the Le Ke, II. Pt. II. iii. 10, where the same incident is given, with some variations, and without saying when or where it occurred.
[2 ] Ana VII. xiii.
[3 ] Some of these are related in the Family Sayings;—about the burning of the ancestral shrine of the Emperor Le, and a one-footed bird which appeared hopping and flapping its wings in Ts‘e. They are plainly fabulous, though quoted in proof of Confucius’ sage wisdom. This reference to them is more than enough.
[1 ] Ana. XII. xi.
[2 ] Ana. XIII. iii.
[3 ] See in Sze-ma’s History of Confucius.
[1 ] Ana. XVIII. iii.
[2 ] Sze-ma Ts‘een makes the first observation to have been addressed directly to Confucius.
[3 ] According to the above account Confucius was only once, and for a portion of two years, in Ts‘e. For the retutation of contrary accounts, see Keang Yung’s Life of the sage.
[1 ] Ana. XVI. xiii.
[1 ] See the Le Ke, II. Pt. I. i. 27.
[2 ] Ana. XI. ix.
[3 ] Amiot says this was “la ville meme ou le Souverain tenoit sa Cour” (Vie de Confucius, p. 147). He is followed of course by Thornton and Pauthier. My reading has not shown me that such was the case. In the notes to K‘ang-he’s edition of the “Five King,” Le Ke, II. Pt. I. iii. 4, it is simply said—“Chung-too,—the name of a town of Loo. It afterwards belonged to Ts‘e, when it was called P‘ing-luh.”
[1 ] Ana. XVII. v.
[2 ] This office, however, was held by the chief of the Măng family. We must understand that Confucius was only an assistant to him, or perhaps acted for him.
[1 ] This meeting at Keă-kuh is related in Sze-ma Ts‘een, the Family Sayings, and Kuh-leang, with many exaggerations.
[1 ] In connection with these events, the Family Sayings and Sze-ma Ts‘een mention the summary punishment inflicted by Confucius on an able but unscrupulous and insidious officer, the Shaou-ching, Maou. His judgment and death occupy a conspicuous place in the legendary accounts. But the Analects, Tsze-sze, Mencius, and Tso-k‘ew Ming are all silent about it, and Keang Yung rightly rejects it, as one of the many narratives invented to exalt the sage.
[1 ] See Keang Yung’s Life of Confucius.
[1 ] Ana. III. xxiv.
[2 ] See Mencius, V. Pt. I. viii. 2.
[3 ] Ana. IX. v. In Ana. XI. xxii. there is another reference to this time, in which Yen Hwuy is made to appear.
[1 ] See the Le Ke. II. Pt. I. ii. 16.
[2 ] Ana. XIV. xxvi.; XV. vi.
[3 ] Ana. VI. xxvi.
[4 ] Ana. IX. xvii.
[1 ] Ana. IX. xxii.
[2 ] See Mencius, V. Pt. I. viii. 3.
[3 ] Keang Yung digests in this place two foolish stories,—about a large bone found in the State of Yuĕ, and a bird which appeared in Ch‘in and died, shot through with a remarkable arrow. Confucius knew all about them.
[4 ] This is related by Sze-ma Ts‘een, and also in the Family Sayings. I would fain believe it is not true. The wonder is, that no Chinese critic should have set about disproving it.
[1 ] Ana. XII. x.
[2 ] Ana. XVII. vii.
[1 ] Ana. V. xxi.
[2 ] Ana. XV. i. 2, 3.
[3 ] Ana XI. ii.
[4 ] Ana. VII. xviii.
[5 ] Ana. XIII. xvi.
[1 ] Ana. XVIII. vi.
[2 ] Ana. XVII. v.
[1 ] Ana. XIII. iii. In the notes on this passage, I have given Choo He’s opinion as to the time when Ts‘ze-loo made this remark. It seems more correct, however, to refer it to Confucius’ return to Wei from Ts‘oo, as is done by Keang Yung.
[1 ] Ana. XI. viii. In the notes on Ana. XI. vii., I have adverted to the chronological difficulty connected with the dates assigned respectively to the deaths of Yen Hwuy and Confucius’ own son, Le. Keang Yung assigns Hwuy’s death to bc 481.
[1 ] Ana. II. iv. 6.
[2 ] Ana. IX. xiv.
[3 ] Ana. VII. xvi.
[4 ] Ana. XI. xvi.
[1 ] Mencius, III. Pt. II. ix. 8.
[2 ] Mencius, III. Pt. II. ix. 11.
[1 ] Analects, XIV. xxii.
[2 ] Ana. XI. xii.
[1 ] See the Le Ke, II. Pt. I. ii. 20.
[1 ] Chinese and English Dictionary, char. Kung. Sir John Davis also mentions seeing a figure of Confucius, in a temple near the Po-yang Lake, of which the complexion was “quite black.” (“The Chinese,” vol. II. p. 66.)