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SECTION II.: HIS INFLUENCE AND OPINIONS. - 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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HIS INFLUENCE AND OPINIONS.
1.Confucius died, we have seen, complaining that of all the princes of the empire there was not one who would adopt his principles and obey his lessons.Homage rendered to Confucius by the emperors of China. He had hardly passed from the stage of life when his merit began to be acknowledged. When the Duke Gae heard of his death, he pronounced his eulogy in the words, “Heaven has not left to me the aged man. There is none now to assist me on the throne. Woe is me! Alas! O venerable Ne!”1 Tsze-Kung complained of the inconsistency of this lamentation from one who could not use the master when he was alive, but the duke was probably sincere in his grief. He caused a temple to be erected, and ordered that sacrifice should be offered to the sage, at the four seasons of the year.
The emperors of the tottering dynasty of Chow had not the intelligence, nor were they in a position, to do honour to the departed philosopher, but the facts detailed in the first chapter of these prolegomena, in connection with the attempt of the founder of the Ts‘in dynasty to destroy the monuments of antiquity, show how the authority of Confucius had come by that time to prevail through the empire. The founder of the Han dynasty, in passing through Loo, bc 194, visited his tomb and offered an ox in sacrifice to him. Other emperors since then have often made pilgrimages to the spot. The most famous temple in the empire now rises over the place of the grave. K‘ang-he, the second and greatest of the rulers of the present dynasty, in the twenty-third year of his reign, there set the example of kneeling thrice, and each time laying his forehead thrice in the dust, before the image of the sage.
In the year of our Lord 1, began the practice of conferring honorary designations on Confucius by imperial authority. The Emperor P‘ing then styled him—“The Duke Ne, all-complete and illustrious.” This was changed, in ad 492, to—“The venerable Ne, the accomplished Sage.” Other titles have supplanted this. Shun-che, the first of the Manchow dynasty, adopted, in his second year, ad 1645, the style,—“K‘ung, the ancient Teacher, accomplished and illustrious, all-complete, the perfect Sage;” but twelve years later, a shorter title was introduced,—“K‘ung, the ancient Teacher, the perfect Sage.” Since that year no further alteration has been made.
At first the worship of Confucius was confined to the country of Loo, but in ad 57 it was enacted that sacrifices should be offered to him in the imperial college, and in all the colleges of the principal territorial divisions throughout the empire. In those sacrifices he was for some centuries associated with the duke of Chow, the legislator to whom Confucius made frequent reference; but in ad 609 separate temples were assigned to them, and in 628 our sage displaced the older worthy altogether. About the same time began the custom, which continues to the present day, of erecting temples to him,—separate structures, in connection with all the colleges, or examination-halls, of the country.
The sage is not alone in those temples. In a hall behind the principal one occupied by himself are the tablets—in some cases, the images—of several of his ancestors, and other worthies; while associated with himself are his principal disciples, and many who in subsequent times have signalized themselves as expounders and exemplifiers of his doctrines. On the first day of every month, offerings of fruits and vegetables are set forth, and on the fifteenth there is a solemn burning of incense. But twice a year, in the middle months of spring and autumn, when the first “ting” day of the month comes round, the worship of Confucius is performed with peculiar solemnity. At the imperial college the emperor himself is required to attend in state, and is in fact the principal performer. After all the preliminary arrangements have been made, and the emperor has twice knelt and six times bowed his head to the earth, the presence of Confucius’ spirit is invoked in the words, “Great art thou, O perfect sage! Thy virtue is full; thy doctrine is complete. Among mortal men there has not been thine equal. All kings honour thee. Thy statutes and laws have come gloriously down. Thou art the pattern in this imperial school. Reverently have the sacrificial vessels been set out. Full of awe, we sound our drums and bells.”
The spirit is supposed now to be present, and the service proceeds through various offerings, when the first of which has been set forth, an officer reads the following, which is the prayer on the occasion:—“On this. . . .month of this. . . .year, I, A.B., the emperor, offer a sacrifice to the philosopher K‘ung, the ancient Teacher, the perfect Sage, and say,—O Teacher, in virtue equal to Heaven and Earth, whose doctrines embrace the past time and the present, thou didst digest and transmit the six classics, and didst hand down lessons for all generations! Now in this second month of spring (or autumn), in reverent observance of the old statutes, with victims, silks, spirits, and fruits, I carefully offer sacrifice to thee. With thee are associated the philosopher Yen, continuator of thee; the philosopher Tsăng, exhibiter of thy fundamental principles; the philosopher Tsze-sze, transmitter of thee; and the philosopher Măng, second to thee. May’st thou enjoy the offerings!”
I need not go on to enlarge on the homage which the emperors of China render to Confucius. It could not be more complete. It is worship and not mere homage. He was unreasonably neglected when alive. He is now unreasonably venerated when dead. The estimation with which the rulers of China regard their sage leads them to sin against God, and this is a misfortune to the empire.
2. The rulers of China are not singular in this matter, but in entire sympathy with the mass of their people. It is the distinction of this empire that education has been highly prized in it from the earliest times.General appreciation of Confucius. It was so before the era of Confucius, and we may be sure that the system met with his approbation. One of his remarkable sayings was,—“To lead an uninstructed people to war, is to throw them away.”1 When he pronounced this judgment, he was not thinking of military training, but of education in the duties of life and citizenship. A people so taught, he thought, would be morally fitted to fight for their government. Mencius, when lecturing to the duke of T‘ăng on the proper way of governing a kingdom, told him that he must provide the means of education for all, the poor as well as the rich. “Establish,” said he, “ts‘eang, seu, heŏ, and heaou,—all those educational institutions,—for the instruction of the people.”1
At the present day education is widely diffused throughout China. In no other country is the schoolmaster more abroad, and in all schools it is Confucius who is taught. The plan of competitive examinations, and the selection for civil offices only from those who have been successful candidates,—good so far as the competition is concerned, but injurious from the restricted range of subjects with which an acquaintance is required,—have obtained for more than twelve centuries. The classical works are the text books. It is from them almost exclusively that the themes proposed to determine the knowledge and ability of the students are chosen. The whole of the magistracy of China is thus versed in all that is recorded of the sage, and in the ancient literature which he preserved. His thoughts are familiar to every man in authority, and his character is more or less reproduced in him.
The official civilians of China, numerous as they are, are but a fraction of its students, and the students, or those who make literature a profession, are again but a fraction of those who attend school for a shorter or longer period. Yet so far as the studies have gone, they have been occupied with the Confucian writings. In many school-rooms there is a tablet or inscription on the wall, sacred to the sage, and every pupil is required, on coming to school on the morning of the first and fifteenth of every month, to bow before it, the first thing, as an act of worship.2 Thus, all in China who receive the slightest tincture of learning do so at the fountain of Confucius. They learn of him and do homage to him at once. I have repeatedly quoted the statement that during his life-time he had three thousand disciples. Hundreds of millions are his disciples now. It is hardly necessary to make any allowance in this statement for the followers of Taouism and Buddhism, for, as Sir John Davis has observed, “whatever the other opinions or faith of a Chinese may be, he takes good care to treat Confucius with respect.1 For two thousand years he has reigned supreme, the undisputed teacher of this most populous land.
3. This position and influence of Confucius are to be ascribed, I conceive, chiefly to two causes:—his being the preserver, namely, of the monuments of antiquity, and the exemplifier and expounder of the maxims of the golden age of China; and the devotion to him of his immediate disciples and their early followers.The causes of his influence. The national and the personal are thus blended in him, each in its highest degree of excellence. He was a Chinese of the Chinese; he is also represented, and all now believe him to have been, the beau ideal of humanity in its best and noblest estate.
4. It may be well to bring forward here Confucius’ own estimate of himself and of his doctrines. It will serve to illustrate the statements just made. The following are some of his sayings.His own estimate of himself and of his doctrines.—“The sage and the man of perfect virtue;—how dare I rank myself with them? It may simply be said of me, that I strive to become such without satiety, and teach others without weariness.” “In letters I am perhaps equal to other men; but the character of the superior man, carrying out in his conduct what he professes, is what I have not yet attained to.” “The leaving virtue without proper cultivation; the not thoroughly discussing what is learned; not being able to move towards righteousness of which a knowledge is gained; and not being able to change what is not good;—these are the things which occasion me solicitude.” “I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity and earnest in seeking it there.” “A transmitter and not a maker, believing in and loving the ancients, I venture to compare myself with our old P‘ang.”2
Confucius cannot be thought to speak of himself in these declarations more highly than he ought to do. Rather we may recognize in them the expressions of a genuine humility. He was conscious that personally he came short in many things, but he toiled after the character, which he saw, or fancied that he saw, in the ancient sages whom he acknowledged; and the lessons of government and morals which he laboured to diffuse were those which had already been inculcated and exhibited by them. Emphatically he was “a transmitter and not a maker.” It is not to be understood that he was not fully satisfied of the truth of the principles which he had learned. He held them with the full approval and consent of his own understanding. He believed that if they were acted on, they would remedy the evils of his time. There was nothing to prevent rulers like Yaou and Shun and the great Yu from again arising, and a condition of happy tranquillity being realized throughout the empire under their sway.
If in anything he thought himself “superior and alone,” having attributes which others could not claim, it was in his possessing a Divine commission as the conservator of ancient truth and rules. He does not speak very definitely on this point. It is noted that “the appointments of Heaven was one of the subjects on which he rarely touched.”1 His most remarkable utterance was that which I have already given in the sketch of his Life:—“When he was put in fear in K‘wang, he said, ‘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?’ ”2 Confucius, then, did feel that he was in the world for a special purpose. But it was not to announce any new truths, or to initiate any new economy. It was to prevent what had previously been known from being lost. He followed in the wake of Yaou and Shun, of T‘ang, and King Wăn. Distant from the last by a long interval of time, he would have said that he was distant from him also by a great inferiority of character, but still he had learned the principles on which they all happily governed the empire, and in their name he would lift up a standard against the prevailing lawlessness of his age.
5. The language employed with reference to Confucius by his disciples and their early followers presents a striking contrast with his own. I have already, in writing of the scope and value of “The Doctrine of the Mean,” called attention to the extravagant eulogies of his grandson Tsze-sze.Estimate of him by his disciples and their early followers. He only followed the example which had been set by those among whom the philosopher went in and out. We have the language of Yen Yuen, his favourite, which is comparatively moderate, and simply expresses the genuine admiration of a devoted pupil.1 Tsze-kung on several occasions spoke in a different style. Having heard that one of the chiefs of Loo had said that he himself—Tsze-kung—was superior to Confucius, he observed, “Let me use the comparison of a house and its encompassing wall. My wall only reaches to the shoulders. One may peep over it, and see whatever is valuable in the apartments. The wall of my master is several fathoms high. If one do not find the door and enter by it, he cannot see the rich ancestral temple with its beauties, nor all the officers in their rich array. But I may assume that they are few who find the door. The remark of the chief was only what might have been expected.”2
Another time, the same individual having spoken revilingly of Confucius, Tsze-kung said, “It is of no use doing so. Chung-ne cannot be reviled. The talents and virtue of other men are hillocks and mounds which may be stept over. Chung-ne is the sun or moon, which it is not possible to step over. Although a man may wish to cut himself off from the sage, what harm can he do to the sun and moon? He only shows that he does not know his own capacity.”3
In conversation with a fellow-disciple, Tsze-kung took a still higher flight. Being charged by Tsze-k‘in with being too modest, for that Confucius was not really superior to him, he replied, “For one word a man is often deemed to be wise, and for one word he is often deemed to be foolish. We ought to be careful indeed in what we say. Our master cannot be attained to, just in the same way as the heavens cannot be gone up to by the steps of a stair. Were our master in the position of the prince of a State, or the chief of a Family, we should find verified the description which has been given of a sage’s rule:—He would plant the people, and forthwith they would be established; he would lead them on, and forthwith they would follow him; he would make them happy, and forthwith multitudes would resort to his dominions; he would stimulate them, and forthwith they would be harmonious. While he lived, he would be glorious. When he died, he would be bitterly lamented. How is it possible for him to be attained to?”1
From these representations of Tsze-kung, it was not a difficult step for Tsze-sze to make in exalting Confucius not only to the level of the ancient sages, but as “the equal of Heaven.” And Mencius took up the theme. Being questioned by Kung-sun Ch‘ow, one of his disciples, about two acknowledged sages, Pih-e and E Yin, whether they were to be placed in the same rank with Confucius, he replied, “No. Since there were living men until now, there never was another Confucius;” and then he proceeded to fortify his opinion by the concurring testimony of Tsae Go, Tsze-kung, and Yew Jŏ, who all had wisdom, he thought, sufficient to know their master. Tsae Go’s opinion was, “According to my view of our master, he is far superior to Yaou and Shun.” Tsze-kung said, “By viewing the ceremonial ordinances of a prince, we know the character of his government. By hearing his music, we know the character of his virtue. From the distance of a hundred ages after, I can arrange, according to their merits, the kings of a hundred ages;—not one of them can escape me. From the birth of mankind till now, there has never been another like our master.” Yew Jŏ said, “Is it only among men that it is so? There is the k‘elin among quadrupeds; the fung-hwang among birds; the T‘ae mountain among mounds and ant-hills; and rivers and seas among rain-pools. Though different in degree, they are the same in kind. So the sages among mankind are also the same in kind. But they stand out from their fellows, and rise above the level; and from the birth of mankind till now, there has never been one so complete as Confucius.”1 I will not indulge in farther illustration. The judgment of the sage’s disciples, of Tsze-sze, and of Mencius, has been unchallenged by the mass of the scholars of China. Doubtless it pleases them to bow down at the shrine of the sage, for their profession of literature is thereby glorified. A reflection of the honour done to him falls upon themselves. And the powers that be, and the multitudes of the people, fall in with the judgment. Confucius is thus, in the empire of China, the one man by whom all possible personal excellence was exemplified, and by whom all possible lessons of social virtue and political wisdom are taught.
6. The reader will be prepared by the preceding account not to expect to find any light thrown by Confucius on the great problems of the human condition and destiny. He did not speculate on the creation of things or the end of them.Subjects on which Confucius did not treat.—That he was unreligious, unspiritual and open to the charge of insincerity. He was not troubled to account for the origin of man, nor did he seek to know about his hereafter. He meddled neither with physics nor metaphysics.2 The testimony of the Analects about the subjects of his teaching is the following:—“His frequent themes of discourse were the Book of Poetry, the Book of History, and the maintenance of the rules of Propriety.” “He taught letters, ethics, devotion of soul, and truthfulness.” “Extraordinary things; feats of strength; states of disorder; and spiritual beings he did not like to talk about.”3
Confucius is not to be blamed for his silence on the subjects here indicated. His ignorance of them was to a great extent his misfortune. He had not learned them. No report of them had come to him by the ear; no vision of them by the eye. And to his practical mind the toiling of thought amid uncertainties seemed worse than useless.
The question has, indeed, been raised, whether he did not make changes in the ancient creed of China,1 but I cannot believe that he did so consciously and designedly. Had his idiosyncrasy been different, we might have had expositions of the ancient views on some points, the effect of which would have been more beneficial than the indefiniteness in which they are now left, and it may be doubted so far, whether Confucius was not unfaithful to his guides. But that he suppressed or added, in order to bring in articles of belief originating with himself, is a thing not to be charged against him.
I will mention two important subjects in regard to which there is a growing conviction in my mind that he came short of the faith of the older sages. The first is the doctrine of God. This name is common in the She-king, and Shoo-king. Te or Shung Te appears there as a personal being, ruling in heaven and on earth, the author of man’s moral nature, the governor among the nations, by whom kings reign and princes decree justice, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the bad. Confucius preferred to speak of Heaven. Instances have already been given of this. Two others may be cited:—“He who offends against Heaven has none to whom he can pray.”2 “Alas!” said he, “there is no one that knows me.” Tsze-kung said, “What do you mean by thus saying that no one knows you?” He replied, “I do not murmur against Heaven. I do not grumble against men. My studies lie low, and my penetration rises high. But there is Heaven;—that knows me!”3 Not once throughout the Analects does he use the personal name. I would say that he was unreligious rather than irreligious; yet by the coldness of his temperament and intellect in this matter, his influence is unfavourable to the development of true religious feeling among the Chinese people generally, and he prepared the way for the speculations of the literati of mediæval and modern times, which have exposed them to the charge of atheism.
Secondly, Along with the worship of God there existed in China, from the earliest historical times, the worship of other spiritual beings,—especially, and to every individual, the worship of departed ancestors. Confucius recognized this as an institution to be devoutly observed. “He sacrificed to the dead as if they were present; he sacrificed to the spirits as if the spirits were present. He said, ‘I consider my not being present at the sacrifice as if I did not sacrifice.’ ”1 The custom must have originated from a belief of the continued existence of the dead. We cannot suppose that they who instituted it thought that with the cessation of this life on earth there was a cessation also of all conscious being. But Confucius never spoke explicitly on this subject. He tried to evade it. “Ke Loo asked about serving the spirits of the dead, and the master said, ‘While you are not able to serve men, how can you serve their spirits?’ The disciple added, ‘I venture to ask about death,’ and he was answered, ‘While you do not know life, how can you know about death.’ ”2 Still more striking is a conversation with another disciple, recorded in the “Family Sayings.” Tsze-kung asked him, “Do the dead have knowledge (of our services, that is), or are they without knowledge?” The master replied, “If I were to say that the dead have such knowledge, I am afraid that filial sons and dutiful grandsons would injure their substance in paying the last offices to the departed; and if I were to say that the dead have not such knowledge, I am afraid lest unfilial sons should leave their parents unburied. You need not wish, Ts‘ze, to know whether the dead have knowledge or not. There is no present urgency about the point. Hereafter you will know it for yourself.” Surely this was not the teaching proper to a sage. He said on one occasion that he had no concealments from his disciples.3 Why did he not candidly tell his real thoughts on so interesting a subject? I incline to think that he doubted more than he believed. If the case were not so, it would be difficult to account for the answer which he returned to a question as to what constituted wisdom. “To give one’s-self earnestly,” said he, “to the duties due to men, and, while respecting spiritual beings, to keep aloof from them, may be called wisdom.”1 At any rate, as by his frequent references to Heaven, instead of following the phraseology of the older sages, he gave occasion to many of his professed followers to identify God with a principle of reason and the course of nature; so, in the point now in hand, he has led them to deny, like the Sadducees of old, the existence of any spirit at all, and to tell us that their sacrifices to the dead are but an outward form, the mode of expression which the principle of filial piety requires them to adopt, when its objects have departed this life.
It will not be supposed that I wish to advocate or defend the practice of sacrificing to the dead. My object has been to point out how Confucius recognized it, without acknowledging the faith from which it must have originated, and how he enforced it as a matter of form or ceremony. It thus connects itself with the most serious charge that can be brought against him,—the charge of insincerity. Among the four things which it is said he taught, “truthfulness” is specified,2 and many sayings might be quoted from him, in which “sincerity” is celebrated as highly and demanded as stringently as ever it has been by any Christian moralist; yet he was not altogether the truthful and true man to whom we accord our highest approbation. There was the case of Măng Chefan, who boldly brought up the rear of the defeated troops of Loo, and attributed his occupying the place of honour to the backwardness of his horse. The action was gallant, but the apology for it was weak and wrong. And yet Confucius saw nothing in the whole but matter for praise.3 He could excuse himself from seeing an unwelcome visitor on the ground that he was sick, when there was nothing the matter with him.4 These perhaps were small matters, but what shall we say to the incident which I have given in the sketch of his Life,—his deliberately breaking the oath which he had sworn, simply on the ground that it had been forced from him? I should be glad if I could find evidence on which to deny the truth of that occurrence. But it rests on the same authority as most other statements about him, and it is accepted as a fact by the people and scholars of China. It must have had, and it must still have, a very injurious influence upon them. Foreigners charge, and with reason, a habit of deceitfulness upon the nation and its government. For every word of falsehood and every act of insincerity the guilty party must bear his own burden, but we cannot but regret the example of Confucius in this particular. It is with the Chinese and their sage, as it was with the Jews of old and their teachers. He that leads them has caused them to err, and destroyed the way of their paths.1
But was not insincerity a natural result of the unreligion of Confucius? There are certain virtues which demand a true piety in order to their flourishing in the corrupt heart of man. Natural affection, the feeling of loyalty, and enlightened policy, may do much to build up and preserve a family and a State, but it requires more to maintain the love of truth, and make a lie, spoken or acted, to be shrunk from with shame. It requires in fact the living recognition of a God of truth, and all the sanctions of revealed religion. Unfortunately the Chinese have not had these, and the example of him to whom they bow down as the best and wisest of men, encourages them to act, to dissemble, to sin.
7. I go on to a brief discussion of Confucius’ views on government, or what we may call his principles of political science.His views on government. It could not be in his long intercourse with his disciples but that he should enunciate many maxims bearing on character and morals generally, but he never rested in the improvement of the individual. “The empire brought to a state of happy tranquillity” was the grand object which he delighted to think of; that it might be brought about as easily as “one can look upon the palm of his hand,” was the dream which it pleased him to indulge in.2 He held that there was in men an adaptation and readiness to be governed, which only needed to be taken advantage of in the proper way. There must be the right administrators, but given those, and “the growth of government would be rapid, just as vegetation is rapid in the earth; yea, their government would display itself like an easily-growing rush.”1 The same sentiment was common from the lips of Mencius. Enforcing it one day, when conversing with one of the petty princes of his time, he said in his peculiar style, “Does your Majesty understand the way of the growing grain? During the seventh and eighth months, when drought prevails, the plants become dry. Then the clouds collect densely in the heavens, they send down torrents of rain, and the grain erects itself as if by a shoot. When it does so, who can keep it back?”2 Such, he contended, would be the response of the mass of the people to any true “shepherd of men.” It may be deemed unnecessary that I should specify this point, for it is a truth applicable to the people of all nations. Speaking generally, government is by no device or cunning craftiness; human nature demands it. But in no other family of mankind is the characteristic so largely developed as in the Chinese. The love of order and quiet, and a willingness to submit to “the powers that be,” eminently distinguish them. Foreign writers have often taken notice of this, and have attributed it to the influence of Confucius’ doctrines as inculcating subordination; but it existed previous to his time. The character of the people moulded his system, more than it was moulded by it.
This readiness to be governed arose, according to Confucius, from the duties of universal obligation, or those between sovereign and minister, between father and son, between husband and wife, between elder brother and younger, and those belonging to the intercourse of friends.”3 Men as they are born into the world, and grow up in it, find themselves existing in those relations. They are the appointment of Heaven. And each relation has its reciprocal obligations, the recognition of which is proper to the Heaven-conferred nature. It only needs that the sacredness of the relations be maintained, and the duties belonging to them faithfully discharged, and the “happy tranquillity” will prevail all under heaven. As to the institutions of government, the laws and arrangements by which, as through a thousand channels, it should go forth to carry plenty and prosperity through the length and breadth of the country, it did not belong to Confucius, “the throneless king,” to set them forth minutely. And indeed they were existing in the records of “the ancient sovereigns.” Nothing new was needed. It was only requisite to pursue the old paths, and raise up the old standards. “The government of Wăn and Woo,” he said, “is displayed in the records,—the tablets of wood and bamboo. Let there be the men, and the government will flourish, but without the men, the government decays and ceases.”1 To the same effect was the reply which he gave to Yen Hwuy when asked by him how the government of a State should be administered. It seems very wide of the mark, until we read it in the light of the sage’s veneration for ancient ordinances, and his opinion of their sufficiency. “Follow,” he said, “the seasons of Hea. Ride in the state-carriages of Yin. Wear the ceremonial cap of Chow. Let the music be the Shaou with its pantomimes. Banish the songs of Ch‘ing, and keep far from specious talkers.”2
Confucius’ idea then of a happy, well-governed State did not go beyond the flourishing of the five relations of society which have been mentioned; and we have not any condensed exhibition from him of their nature, or of the duties belonging to the several parties in them. Of the two first he spoke frequently, but all that he has said on the others would go into small compass. Mencius has said that “between father and son, there should be affection; between sovereign and minister, righteousness; between husband and wife, attention to their separate functions; between old and young, a proper order; and between friends, fidelity.”3 Confucius, I apprehend, would hardly have accepted this account. It does not bring out sufficiently the authority which he claimed for the father and the sovereign, and the obedience which he exacted from the child and the minister. With regard to the relation of husband and wife, he was in no respect superior to the preceding sages who had enunciated their views of “propriety” on the subject. We have a somewhat detailed exposition of his opinions in the “Family Sayings.”—“Mau,” said he, “is the representative of Heaven, and is supreme over all things. Woman yields obedience to the instructions of man, and helps to carry out his principles. On this account she can determine nothing of herself, and is subject to the rule of the three obediences. When young, she must obey her father and elder brother; when married, she must obey her husband; when her husband is dead, she must obey her son. She may not think of marrying a second time. No instructions or orders must issue from the harem. Woman’s business is simply the preparation and supplying of wine and food. Beyond the threshold of her apartments she should not be known for evil or for good. She may not cross the boundaries of the State to accompany a funeral. She may take no step on her own motion, and may come to no conclusion on her own deliberation. There are five women who are not to be taken in marriage:—the daughter of a rebellious house; the daughter of a disorderly house; the daughter of a house which has produced criminals for more than one generation; the daughter of a leprous house; and the daughter who has lost her father and elder brother. A wife may be divorced for seven reasons, which may be overruled by three considerations. The grounds for divorce are disobedience to her husband’s parents; not giving birth to a son; dissolute conduct; jealousy (of her husband’s attentions, that is, to the other inmates of his harem); talkativeness; and thieving. The three considerations which may overrule these grounds are—first, if, while she was taken from a home, she has now no home to return to; second, if she have passed with her husband through the three years’ mourning for his parents; third, if the husband have become rich from being poor. All these regulations were adopted by the sages in harmony with the natures of man and woman, and to give importance to the ordinance of marriage.”
With these ideas—not very enlarged—of the relations of society, Confucius dwelt much on the necessity of personal correctness of character on the part of those in authority, in order to secure the right fulfilment of the duties implied in them. This is one grand peculiarity of his teaching. I have adverted to it in the review of “The Great Learning,” but it deserves some further exhibition, and there are three conversations with the chief Ke K‘ang, in which it is very expressly set forth. “Ke K‘ang asked about government, and Confucius replied, ‘To govern means to rectify. If you lead on the people with correctness, who will dare not to be correct?’ ” “Ke K‘ang, distressed about the number of thieves in the State, inquired of Confucius about how to do away with them. Confucius said, ‘If you, sir, were not covetous, though you should reward them to do it, they would not steal.’ ” “Ke K‘ang asked about government, saying, ‘What do you say to killing the unprincipled for the good of the principled?’ Confucius replied, ‘Sir, in carrying on your government, why should you use killing at all? Let your evinced desires be for what is good, and the people will be good. The relation between superiors and inferiors is like that between the wind and the grass. The grass must bend, when the wind blows across it.’ ”1
Example is not so powerful as Confucius in these and many other passages represented it, but its influence is very great. Its virtue is recognized in the family, and it is demanded in the Church of Christ. “A bishop”—and I quote the term with the simple meaning of overseer—“must be blameless.” It seems to me, however, that in the progress of society in the West we have come to think less of the power of example in many departments of State than we ought to do. It is thought of too little in the army and the navy. We laugh at the “self-denying ordinance” and the “new model” of 1644, but there lay beneath them the principle which Confucius so broadly propounded,—the importance of personal virtue in all who are in authority. Now that Great Britain is the governing power over the masses of India, and that we are coming more and more into contact with tens of thousands of the Chinese, this maxim of our sage is deserving of serious consideration from all who bear rule, and especially from those on whom devolves the conduct of affairs. His words on the susceptibility of the people to be acted on by those above them, ought not to prove as water spilt on the ground.
But to return to Confucius.—As he thus lays it down that the mainspring of the well-being of society is the personal character of the ruler, we look anxiously for what directions he has given for the cultivation of that. But here he is very defective. “Self-adjustment and purification,” he said, “with careful regulation of his dress, and the not making a movement contrary to the rules of propriety;—this is the way for the ruler to cultivate his person.”1 This is laying too much stress on what is external; but even to attain to this is beyond unassisted human strength. Confucius, however, never recognized a disturbance of the moral elements in the constitution of man. The people would move, according to him, to the virtue of their ruler as the grass bends to the wind, and that virtue would come to the ruler at his call. Many were the lamentations which he uttered over the degeneracy of his times; frequent were the confessions which he made of his own shortcomings. It seems strange that it never came distinctly before him, that there is a power of evil in the prince and the peasant, which no efforts of their own and no instructions of sages are effectual to subdue.
The government which Confucius taught was a despotism, but of a modified character. He allowed no “jus divinum,” independent of personal virtue and a benevolent rule. He has not explicitly stated, indeed, wherein lies the ground of the great relation of the governor and the governed, but his views on the subject were, we may assume, in accordance with the language of the Shoo-king:—“Heaven and Earth are the parents of all things, and of all things men are the most intelligent. The man among them most distinguished for intelligence becomes chief ruler, and ought to prove himself the parent of the people.”2 And again, “Heaven, protecting the inferior people, has constituted for them rulers and teachers, who should be able to be assisting to God, extending favour and producing tranquillity throughout all parts of the empire.” The moment the ruler ceases to be a minister of God for good, and does not administer a government that is beneficial to the people, he forfeits the title by which he holds the throne, and perseverance in oppression will surely lead to his overthrow. Mencius inculcated this principle with a frequency and boldness which are remarkable. It was one of the things about which Confucius did not like to talk. Still he held it. It is conspicuous in the last chapter of “The Great Learning.” Its tendency has been to check the violence of oppression, and to maintain the self-respect of the people, all along the course of Chinese history.
I must bring these observations on Confucius’ views of government to a close, and I do so with two remarks. First, they are adapted to a primitive, unsophisticated state of society. He is a good counsellor for the father of a family, the chief of a clan, and even the head of a small principality. But his views want the comprehension which would make them of much service in a great empire. Within three centuries after his death, the government of China passed into a new phase. The founder of the Ts‘in dynasty conceived the grand idea of abolishing all its feudal Kingdoms, and centralizing their administration in himself. He effected the revolution, and succeeding dynasties adopted his system, and gradually moulded it into the forms and proportions which are now existing. There has been a tendency to advance, and Confucius has all along been trying to carry the nation back. Principles have been needed, and not “proprieties.” The consequence is that China has increased beyond its ancient dimensions, while there has been no corresponding development of thought. Its body politic has the size of a giant, while it still retains the mind of a child. Its hoary age is but senility.
Second, Confucius makes no provision for the intercourse of his country with other and independent nations. He knew indeed of none such. China was to him “The middle Kingdom,” “The multitude of Great States,” “All under heaven.” Beyond it were only rude and barbarous tribes. He does not speak of them bitterly, as many Chinese have done since his time. In one place he contrasts them favourably with the prevailing anarchy of the empire, saying, “The rude tribes of the east and north have their princes, and are not like the States of our great land which are without them.”1 Another time, disgusted with the want of appreciation which he experienced, he was expressing his intention to go and live among the nine wild tribes of the east. Some one said, “They are rude. How can you do such a thing?” His reply was, “If a superior man dwelt among them, what rudeness would there be?”2 But had he been an emperor-sage, he would not only have influenced them by his instructions, but brought them to acknowledge and submit to his sway, as the great Yu did. The only passage of Confucius’ teachings from which any rule can be gathered for dealing with foreigners, is that in the “Doctrine of the Mean,” where “indulgent treatment of men from a distance” is laid down as one of the nine standard rules for the government of the empire. But “the men from a distance” are understood to be pin and leu simply,—“guests,” that is, or officers of one State seeking employment in another, or at the imperial court; and “visitors,” or travelling merchants. Of independent nations the ancient classics have not any knowledge, nor has Confucius. So long as merchants from Europe and other parts of the world could have been content to appear in China as suppliants, seeking the privilege of trade, so long the government would have ranked them with the barbarous hordes of antiquity, and given them the benefit of the maxim about “indulgent treatment,” according to its own understanding of it. But when their governments interfered, and claimed to treat with that of China on terms of equality, and that their subjects should be spoken to and of as being of the same clay with the Chinese themselves, an outrage was committed on tradition and prejudice, which it was necessary to resent with vehemence.
I do not charge the contemptuous arrogance of the Chinese government and people upon Confucius; what I deplore is, that he left no principles on record to check the development of such a spirit. His simple views of society and government were in a measure sufficient for the people, while they dwelt apart from the rest of mankind. His practical lessons were better than if they had been left, which but for him they probably would have been, to fall a prey to the influences of Taouism and Buddhism; but they could only subsist while they were left alone. Of the earth earthy, China was sure to go to pieces when it came into collision with a Christianly-civilized power. Its sage had left it no preservative or restorative elements against such a case.
It is a rude awakening from its complacency of centuries which China has now received. Its ancient landmarks are swept away. Opinions will differ as to the justice or injustice of the grounds on which it has been assailed, and I do not feel called to judge or to pronounce here concerning them. In the progress of events, it could not be but that the collision should come; and when it did come, it could not be but that China should be broken and scattered. Disorganization will go on to destroy it more and more, and yet there is hope for the people, with their veneration of the relations of society, with their devotion to learning, and with their habits of industry and sobriety;—there is hope for them, if they will look away from all their ancient sages, and turn to Him, who sends them, along with the dissolution of their ancient state, the knowledge of Himself, the only living and true God, and of Jesus Christ whom He hath sent.
8. I have little more to add on the opinions of Confucius. Many of his sayings are pithy, and display much knowledge of character; but as they are contained in the body of the Work, I will not occupy the space here with a selection of those which have struck myself as most worthy of notice. The fourth Book of the Analects, which is on the subject of jin, or perfect virtue, has several utterances which are remarkable.
Thornton observes:—“It may excite surprise, and probably incredulity, to state that the golden rule of our Saviour, ‘Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you,’ which Mr Locke designates as ‘the most unshaken rule of morality, and foundation of all social virtue,’ had been inculcated by Confucius, almost in the same words, four centuries before.”1 I have taken notice of this fact in reviewing both “The Great Learning,” and “The Doctrine of the Mean,” and would be far from grudging a tribute of admiration to Confucius for it. The maxim occurs also twice in the Analects. In Book XV. xxiii., Tsze-kung asks if there be one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life, and is answered, “Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself do not do to others.” The same disciple appears in Book V. xi., telling Confucius that he was practising the lesson. He says, “What I do not wish men to do to me, I also wish not to do to men;” but the master tells him, “Ts‘ze, you have not attained to that.” It would appear from this reply, that he was aware of the difficulty of obeying the precept; and it is not found, in its condensed expression at least, in the older classics. The merit of it is Confucius’ own.
When a comparison, however, is drawn between it and the rule laid down by Christ, it is proper to call attention to the positive form of the latter,—“All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them.” The lesson of the gospel commands men to do what they feel to be right and good. It requires them to commence a course of such conduct, without regard to the conduct of others to themselves. The lesson of Confucius only forbids men to do what they feel to be wrong and hurtful. So far as the point of priority is concerned, moreover, Christ adds, “This is the law and the prophets.” The maxim was to be found substantially in the earlier revelations of God.
But the worth of the two maxims depends on the intention of the enunciators in regard to their application. Confucius, it seems to me, did not think of the reciprocity coming into action beyond the circle of his five relations of society. Possibly, he might have required its observance in dealings even with the rude tribes, which were the only specimens of mankind besides his own countrymen of which he knew anything, for on one occasion, when asked about perfect virtue, he replied, “It is, in retirement, to be sedately grave; in the management of business, to be reverently attentive; in intercourse with others, to be strictly sincere. Though a man go among the rude uncultivated tribes, these qualities may not be neglected.”1 Still, Confucius delivered his rule to his countrymen only, and only for their guidance in their relations of which I have had so much occasion to speak. The rule of Christ is for man as man, having to do with other men, all with himself on the same platform, as the children and subjects of the one God and Father in heaven.
How far short Confucius came of the standard of Christian benevolence, may be seen from his remarks when asked what was to be thought of the principle that injury should be recompensed with kindness. He replied, “With what then will you recompense kindness? Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness.”1 The same deliverance is given in one of the Books of the Le Ke, where he adds that “He who recompenses injury with kindness is a man who is careful of his person.” Ch‘ing Heuen, the commentator of the second century, says that such a course would be “incorrect in point of propriety.” This “propriety” was a great stumbling-block in the way of Confucius. His morality was the result of the balancings of his intellect, fettered by the decisions of men of old, and not the gushings of a loving heart, responsive to the promptings of Heaven, and in sympathy with erring and feeble humanity.
This subject leads me on to the last of the opinions of Confucius which I shall make the subject of remark in this place. A commentator observes, with reference to the inquiry about recompensing injury with kindness, that the questioner was asking only about trivial matters, which might be dealt with in the way he mentioned, while great offences, such as those against a sovereign or a father, could not be dealt with by such an inversion of the principles of justice. In the second Book of the Le Ke there is the following passage:—“With the slayer of his father, a man may not live under the same heaven; against the slayer of his brother, a man must never have to go home to fetch a weapon; with the slayer of his friend, a man may not live in the same State.” The lex talionis is here laid down in its fullest extent. The Chow Le tells us of a provision made against the evil consequences of the principle, by the appointment of a minister called “The Reconciler.” The provision is very inferior to the cities of refuge which were set apart by Moses for the manslayer to flee to from the fury of the avenger. Such as it was, however, it existed, and it is remarkable that Confucius, when consulted on the subject, took no notice of it, but affirmed the duty of blood-revenge in the strongest and most unrestricted terms. His disciple Tsze-hea asked him, “What course is to be pursued in the case of the murder of a father or mother?” He replied, “The son must sleep upon a matting of grass, with his shield for his pillow; he must decline to take office; he must not live under the same heaven with the slayer. When he meets him in the market-place or the court, he must have his weapon ready to strike him.” “And what is the course on the murder of a brother?” “The surviving brother must not take office in the same State with the slayer; yet if he go on his prince’s service to the State where the slayer is, though he meet him, he must not fight with him.” “And what is the course on the murder of an uncle or a cousin?” “In this case the nephew or cousin is not the principal. If the principal on whom the revenge devolves can take it, he has only to stand behind with his weapon in his hand, and support him.”
Sir John Davis has rightly called attention to this as one of the objectionable principles of Confucius.1 The bad effects of it are evident even in the present day. Revenge is sweet to the Chinese. I have spoken of their readiness to submit to government, and wish to live in peace, yet they do not like to resign even to government the “inquisition for blood.” Where the ruling authority is feeble, as it is at present, individuals and clans take the law into their own hands, and whole districts are kept in a state of constant feud and warfare.
But I must now leave the sage. I hope I have not done him injustice; but after long study of his character and opinions, I am unable to regard him as a great man. He was not before his age, though he was above the mass of the officers and scholars of his time. He threw no new light on any of the questions which have a world-wide interest. He gave no impulse to religion. He had no sympathy with progress. His influence has been wonderful, but it will henceforth wane. My opinion is, that the faith of the nation in him will speedily and extensively pass away.
[1 ] Le Ke, II. Pt. I. iii. 43. This eulogy is found at greater length in Tso-K‘ew Ming, immediately after the notice of the sage’s death.
[1 ] Ana. XIII. 30.
[1 ] Mencius, III. Pt. I. iii. 10.
[2 ] During the present dynasty, the tablet of the god of literature has to a considerable extent displaced that of Confucius in schools. Yet the worship of him does not clash with that of the other. He is “the father” of composition only.
[1 ] “The Chinese,” vol. II. p. 45.
[2 ] All these passages are taken from the VIIth Book of the Analects. See ch. xxxiii.; xxxii.; iii.; xix.; and i.
[1 ] Ana. IX. i.
[2 ] Ana. IX. iii.
[1 ] Ana. IX. x.
[2 ] Ana. XIX. xxiii.
[3 ] Ana. XIX. xxiv.
[1 ] Ana. XIX. xxv.
[1 ] Mencius, II. Pt. I. ii. 23—28.
[2 ] The contents of the Yih-king, and Confucius’ labours upon it, may be objected in opposition to this statement, and I must be understood to make it with some reservation. Six years ago, I spent all my leisure time for twelve months in the study of that Work, and wrote out a translation of it, but at the close I was only groping my way in darkness to lay hold of its scope and meaning, and up to this time I have not been able to master it so as to speak positively about it. It will come in due time, in its place, in the present publication, and I do not think that what I here say of Confucius will require much, if any, modification.
[3 ] Ana. VII. xvii.; xxiv.; xx.
[1 ] See Hardwick’s “Christ and other Masters,” Part III. pp. 18, 19, with his reference in a note to a passage from Meadows’ “The Chinese and their Rebellions.”
[2 ] Ana. III. xiii.
[3 ] Ana. XIV. xxxvii.
[1 ] Ana. III. xii.
[2 ] Ana. XI. xi.
[3 ] Ana. VII. xxiii.
[1 ] Ana. VI. xx.
[2 ] See above, near the beginning of this paragraph.
[3 ] Ana. VI. xiii.
[4 ] Ana. XVII. xx.
[1 ] Isaiah iii. 12.
[2 ] Ana. III. xi., et al.
[1 ] Doctrine of the Mean, xx. 3.
[2 ] Mencius, I. Pt. I. vi. 6.
[3 ] Doctrine of the Mean, xx. 8.
[1 ] Doctrine of the Mean, xx. 2.
[2 ] Ana. XV. x.
[3 ] Mencius, III. Pt. I. iv. 8.
[1 ] Analects, XII. xvii.; xviii.; xix.
[1 ] Doctrine of the Mean, xx. 14.
[2 ] See the Shoo-king, V. i. Sect. I. 2, 7.
[1 ] Ana. III. v.
[2 ] Ana. IX. xiii.
[1 ] History of China, vol. i. p. 209.
[1 ] Analects, XIII. xix.
[1 ] Ana. XXV. xxxvi.
[1 ] The Chinese, vol. II. p. 41.
[* ]Title of the Work.—Literally, “Discourses and Dialogues;” that is, the discourses or discussions of Confucius with his disciples and others on various topics, and his replies to their inquiries. Many chapters, however, and one whole book, are the sayings, not of the sage himself, but of some of his disciples. The characters may also be rendered “Digested Conversations,” and this appears to be the more ancient signification attached to them, the account being, that, after the death of Confucius his disciples collected together and compared the memoranda of his conversations which they had severally preserved, digesting them into the twenty books which compose the work. I have styled the work “Confucian Analects,” as being more descriptive of its character than any other name I could think of.