Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK XIV. - The Sacred Books of China. The Texts of Taoism. Part I: The Tao Teh King. The Writings of Kwang Ze Books I-XVII
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BOOK XIV. - Lao Tzu, The Sacred Books of China. The Texts of Taoism. Part I: The Tao Teh King. The Writings of Kwang Ze Books I-XVII 
The Sacred Books of China. The Texts of Taoism. Part I: The Tao Teh King. The Writings of Kwang Ze Books I-XVII, trans. James Legge (Oxford University Press, 1891).
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Part II. Section VII.
Thien Yün, or ‘The Revolution of Heaven1 .’
1. How (ceaselessly) heaven revolves! How (constantly) earth abides at rest! And do the sun and moon contend about their (respective) places? Who presides over and directs these (things)? Who binds and connects them together? Who is it that, without trouble or exertion on his part, causes and maintains them? Is it, perhaps, that there is some secret spring, in consequence of which they cannot be but as they are? Or is it, perhaps, that they move and turn as they do, and cannot stop of themselves?
(Then) how the clouds become rain! And how the rain again forms the clouds! Who diffuses them so abundantly? Who is it that, without trouble or exertion on his part, produces this elemental enjoyment, and seems to stimulate it?
The winds rise in the north; one blows to the west, and another to the east; while some rise upwards, uncertain in their direction. By whose breathing are they produced? Who is it that, without any trouble and exertion of his own, effects all their undulations? I venture to ask their cause2 .
Wû-hsien Thiâo1 said, ‘Come, and I will tell you. To heaven there belong the six Extreme Points, and the five Elements2 . When the Tîs and Kings acted in accordance with them, there was good government; when they acted contrary to them, there was evil. Observing the things (described) in the nine divisions (of the writing) of Lo3 , their government was perfected and their virtue was complete. They inspected and enlightened the kingdom beneath them, and all under the sky acknowledged and sustained them. Such was the condition under the august (sovereigns4 ) and those before them.’
2. Tang5 , the chief administrator of Shang , asked Kwang-ȝze about Benevolence6 , and the answer was, ‘Wolves and tigers are benevolent.’ ‘What do you mean?’ said Tang. Kwang-ȝze replied, ‘Father and son (among them) are affectionate to one another. Why should they be considered as not benevolent?’ ‘Allow me to ask about perfect benevolence,’ pursued the other. Kwang-ȝze said, ‘Perfect benevolence1 does not admit (the feeling) of affection.’ The minister said, ‘I have heard that, without (the feeling of) affection there is no love, and without love there is not filial duty;—is it permissible to say that the perfectly benevolent are not filial?’ Kwang-ȝze rejoined, ‘That is not the way to put the case. Perfect Benevolence is the very highest thing;—filial duty is by no means sufficient to describe it. The saying which you quote is not to the effect that (such benevolence) transcends filial duty;—it does not refer to such duty at all. One, travelling to the south, comes (at last) to Ying2 , and there, standing with his face to the north, he does not see mount Ming3 . Why does he not see it? Because he is so far from it. Hence it is said, “Filial duty as a part of reverence is easy, but filial duty as a part of love is difficult. If it be easy as a part of love, yet it is difficult to forget4 one’s parents. It may be easy for me to forget my parents, but it is difficult to make my parents forget me. If it were easy to make my parents forget me, it is difficult for me to forget all men in the world. If it were easy to forget all men in the world, it is difficult to make them all forget me.”
‘This virtue might make one think light of Yâo and Shun, and not wish to be they5 . The profit and beneficial influences of it extend to a myriad ages, and no one in the world knows whence they come. How can you simply heave a great sigh, and speak (as you do) of benevolence and filial duty? Filial duty, fraternal respect, benevolence, righteousness, loyalty, sincerity, firmness, and purity;—all these may be pressed into the service of this virtue, but they are far from sufficient to come up to it. Therefore it is said, “To him who has what is most noble1 , all the dignities of a state are as nothing2 ; to him who has what is the greatest riches, all the wealth of a state is as nothing; to him who has all that he could wish, fame and praise are as nothing.” It is thus that the Tâo admits of no substitute.’
3. Pei-măn Khăng3 asked Hwang-Tî, saying, ‘You were celebrating, O Tî, a performance of the music of the Hsien-khih4 , in the open country near the Thung-thing lake. When I heard the first part of it, I was afraid; the next made me weary; and the last perplexed me. I became agitated and unable to speak, and lost my self-possession.’ The Tî said, ‘It was likely that it should so affect you! It was performed with (the instruments of) men, and all attuned according to (the influences of) Heaven. It proceeded according to (the principles of) propriety and righteousness, and was pervaded by (the idea of) the Grand Purity.
‘The Perfect Music first had its response in the affairs of men, and was conformed to the principles of Heaven; it indicated the action of the five virtues, and corresponded to the spontaneity (apparent in nature). After this it showed the blended distinctions of the four seasons, and the grand harmony of all things;—the succession of those seasons one after another, and the production of things in their proper order. Now it swelled, and now it died away, its peaceful and military strains clearly distinguished and given forth. Now it was clear, and now rough, as if the contracting and expanding of the elemental processes blended harmoniously (in its notes). Those notes then flowed away in waves of light, till, as when the hibernating insects first begin to move, I commanded the terrifying crash of thunder. Its end was marked by no formal conclusion, and it began again without any prelude. It seemed to die away, and then it burst into life; it came to a close, and then it rose again. So it went on regularly and inexhaustibly, and without the intervention of any pause:—it was this which made you afraid.
‘In the second part (of the performance), I made it describe the harmony of the Yin and Yang, and threw round it the brilliance of the sun and moon. Its notes were now short and now long, now soft and now hard. Their changes, however, were marked by an unbroken unity, though not dominated by a fixed regularity. They filled every valley and ravine; you might shut up every crevice, and guard your spirit (against their entrance), yet there was nothing but gave admission to them. Yea, those notes resounded slowly, and might have been pronounced high and clear. Hence the shades of the dead kept in their obscurity; the sun and moon, and all the stars of the zodiac, pursued their several courses. I made (my instruments) leave off, when (the performance) came to an end, and their (echoes) flowed on without stopping. You thought anxiously about it, and were not able to understand it; you looked for it, and were not able to see it; you pursued it, and were not able to reach it. Allamazed, you stood in the way all open around you, and then you leant against an old rotten dryandratree and hummed. The power of your eyes was exhausted by what you wished to see; your strength failed in your desire to pursue it, while I myself could not reach it. Your body was but so much empty vacancy while you endeavoured to retain your self-possession1 :—it was that endeavour which made you weary.
‘In the last part (of the performance), I employed notes which did not have that wearying effect. I blended them together as at the command of spontaneity. Hence they came as if following one another in confusion, like a clump of plants springing from one root, or like the music of a forest produced by no visible form. They spread themselves all around without leaving a trace (of their cause); and seemed to issue from deep obscurity where there was no sound. Their movements came from nowhere; their home was in the deep darkness;—conditions which some would call death, and some life; some, the fruit, and some, (merely) the flower. Those notes, moving and flowing on, separating and shifting, and not following any regular sounds, the world might well have doubts about them, and refer them to the judgment of a sage, for the sages understand the nature of this music, and judge in accordance with the prescribed (spontaneity). While the spring of that spontaneity has not been touched, and yet the regulators of the five notes are all prepared;—this is what is called the music of Heaven, delighting the mind without the use of words. Hence it is said in the eulogy of the Lord of Piâo1 , “You listen for it, and do not hear its sound; you look for it, and do not perceive its form; it fills heaven and earth; it envelopes all within the universe.” You wished to hear it, but could not take it in; and therefore you were perplexed.
‘I performed first the music calculated to awe; and you were frightened as if by a ghostly visitation. I followed it with that calculated to weary; and in your weariness you would have withdrawn. I concluded with that calculated to perplex; and in your perplexity you felt your stupidity. But that stupidity is akin to the Tâo; you may with it convey the Tâo in your person, and have it (ever) with you.’
4. When Confucius was travelling in the west in Wei, Yen Yüan asked the music-master Kin2 , saying, ‘How is it, do you think, with the course of the Master?’ The music-master replied, ‘Alas! it is all over with your Master!’ ‘How so?’ asked Yen Yüan; and the other said, ‘Before the grass-dogs1 are set forth (at the sacrifice), they are deposited in a box or basket, and wrapt up with elegantly embroidered cloths, while the representative of the dead and the officer of prayer prepare themselves by fasting to present them. After they have been set forth, however, passers-by trample on their heads and backs, and the grass-cutters take and burn them in cooking. That is all they are good for. If one should again take them, replace them in the box or basket, wrap them up with embroidered cloths, and then in rambling, or abiding at the spot, should go to sleep under them, if he do not get (evil) dreams, he is sure to be often troubled with the nightmare. Now here is your Master in the same way taking the grass-dogs, presented by the ancient kings, and leading his disciples to wander or abide and sleep under them. Owing to this, the tree (beneath which they were practising ceremonies) in Sung was cut down2 ; he was obliged to leave Wei3 ; he was reduced to extremities in Shang and Kâu4 :—were not those experiences like having (evil) dreams? He was kept in a state of siege between Khăn and Ȝhâi5 , so that for seven days he had no cooked food to eat, and was in a situation between life and death:—were not those experiences like the nightmare?
‘If you are travelling by water, your best plan is to use a boat; if by land, a carriage. Take a boat, which will go (easily) along on the water, and try to push it along on the land, and all your lifetime it will not go so much as a fathom or two:—are not ancient time and the present time like the water and the dry land? and are not Kâu and Lû like the boat and the carriage? To seek now to practise (the old ways of) Kâu in Lû is like pushing along a boat on the dry land. It is only a toilsome labour, and has no success; he who does so is sure to meet with calamity. He has not learned that in handing down the arts (of one time) he is sure to be reduced to extremity in endeavouring to adapt them to the conditions (of another).
‘And have you not seen the working of a shadoof? When (the rope of) it is pulled, it bends down; and when it is let go, it rises up. It is pulled by a man, and does not pull the man; and so, whether it bends down or rises up, it commits no offence against the man. In the same way the rules of propriety, righteousness, laws, and measures of the three Hwangs1 and five Tîs derived their excellence, not from their being the same as those of the present day, but from their (aptitude for) government. We may compare them to haws2 , pears, oranges, and pummeloes, which are different in flavour, but all suitable to be eaten. Just so it is that the rules of propriety, righteousness, laws, and measures, change according to the time.
‘If now you take a monkey, and dress it in the robes of the duke of Kâu, it will bite and tear them, and will not be satisfied till it has got rid of them altogether. And if you look at the difference between antiquity and the present time it is as great as that between the monkey and the duke of Kâu. In the same way, when Hsî Shih1 was troubled in mind, she would knit her brows and frown on all in her neighbourhood. An ugly woman of the neighbourhood, seeing and admiring her beauty, went home, and also laying her hands on her heart proceeded to stare and frown on all around her. When the rich people of the village saw her, they shut fast their doors and would not go out; when the poor people saw her, they took their wives and children and ran away from her. The woman knew how to admire the frowning beauty, but she did not know how it was that she, though frowning, was beautiful. Alas! it is indeed all over with your Master2 !’
5. When Confucius was in his fifty-first year3 , he had not heard of the Tâo, and went south to Phei4 to see Lâo Tan, who said to him, ‘You have come, Sir; have you? I have heard that you are the wisest man of the North; have you also got the Tâo?’ ‘Not yet,’ was the reply; and the other went on, ‘How have you sought it?’ Confucius said, ‘I sought it in measures and numbers, and after five years I had not got it.’ ‘And how then did you seek it?’ ‘I sought it in the Yin and Yang, and after twelve years I have not found it.’ Lâo-ȝze said, ‘Just so! If the Tâo could be presented (to another), men would all present it to their rulers; if it could be served up (to others), men would all serve it up to their parents; if it could be told (to others), men would all tell it to their brothers; if it could be given to others, men would all give it to their sons and grandsons. The reason why it cannot be transmitted is no other but this,—that if, within, there be not the presiding principle, it will not remain there, and if, outwardly, there be not the correct obedience, it will not be carried out. When that which is given out from the mind (in possession of it) is not received by the mind without, the sage will not give it out; and when, entering in from without, there is no power in the receiving mind to entertain it, the sage will not permit it to lie hid there1 . Fame is a possession common to all; we should not seek to have much of it. Benevolence and righteousness were as the lodging-houses of the former kings; we should only rest in them for a night, and not occupy them for long. If men see us doing so, they will have much to say against us.
‘The perfect men of old trod the path of benevolence as a path which they borrowed for the occasion, and dwelt in Righteousness as in a lodging which they used for a night. Thus they rambled in the vacancy of Untroubled Ease, found their food in the fields of Indifference, and stood in the gardens which they had not borrowed. Untroubled Ease requires the doing of nothing; Indifference is easily supplied with nourishment; not borrowing needs no outlay. The ancients called this the Enjoyment that Collects the True.
‘Those who think that wealth is the proper thing for them cannot give up their revenues; those who seek distinction cannot give up the thought of fame; those who cleave to power cannot give the handle of it to others. While they hold their grasp of those things, they are afraid (of losing them). When they let them go, they are grieved; and they will not look at a single example, from which they might perceive the (folly) of their restless pursuits:—such men are under the doom of Heaven1 .
‘Hatred and kindness; taking and giving; reproof and instruction; death and life:—these eight things are instruments of rectification, but only those are able to use them who do not obstinately refuse to comply with their great changes. Hence it is said, “Correction is Rectification.” When the minds of some do not acknowledge this, it is because the gate of Heaven1 (in them) has not been opened.’
6. At an interview with Lâo Tan, Confucius spoke to him of benevolence and righteousness. Lâo Tan said, ‘If you winnow chaff, and the dust gets into your eyes, then the places of heaven and earth and of the four cardinal points are all changed to you. If musquitoes or gadflies puncture your skin, it will keep you all the night2 from sleeping. But this painful iteration of benevolence and righteousness excites my mind and produces in it the greatest confusion. If you, Sir, would cause men not to lose their natural simplicity, and if you would also imitate the wind in its (unconstrained) movements, and stand forth in all the natural attributes belonging to you!—why must you use so much energy, and carry a great drum to seek for the son whom you have lost3 ? The snow-goose does not bathe every day to make itself white, nor the crow blacken itself every day to make itself black. The natural simplicity of their black and white does not afford any ground for controversy; and the fame and praise which men like to contemplate do not make them greater than they naturally are. When the springs (supplying the pools) are dried up, the fishes huddle together on the dry land. Than that they should moisten one another there by their gasping, and keep one another wet by their milt, it would be better for them to forget one another in the rivers and lakes4 .’
From this interview with Lâo Tan, Confucius returned home, and for three days did not speak. His disciples (then) asked him, saying, ‘Master, you have seen Lâo Tan; in what way might you admonish and correct him?’ Confucius said, ‘In him (I may say) that I have now seen the dragon. The dragon coils itself up, and there is its body; it unfolds itself and becomes the dragon complete. It rides on the cloudy air, and is nourished by the Yin and Yang. I kept my mouth open, and was unable to shut it;—how could I admonish and correct Lâo Tan?’
7. Ȝze-kung1 said, ‘So then, can (this) man indeed sit still as a representative of the dead, and then appear as the dragon? Can his voice resound as thunder, when he is profoundly still? Can he exhibit himself in his movements like heaven and earth? May I, Ȝhze, also get to see him?’ Accordingly with a message from Confucius he went to see Lâo Tan.
Lâo Tan was then about to answer (his salutation) haughtily in the hall, but he said in a low voice, ‘My years have rolled on and are passing away, what do you, Sir, wish to admonish me about?’ Ȝze-kung replied. ‘The Three Kings and Five Tîs2 ruled the world not in the same way, but the fame that has accrued to them is the same. How is it that you alone consider that they were not sages?’ ‘Come forward a little, my son. Why do you say that (their government) was not the same?’ ‘Yâo,’ was the reply, ‘gave the kingdom to Shun, and Shun gave it to Yü. Yü had recourse to his strength, and Thang to the force of arms. King Wăn was obedient to Kâu (-hsin), and did not dare to rebel; king Wû rebelled against Kâu, and would not submit to him. And I say that their methods were not the same.’ Lâo Tan said, ‘Come a little more forward, my son, and I will tell you how the Three Hwangs and the Five Tîs1 ruled the world. Hwang-Tî ruled it, so as to make the minds of the people all conformed to the One (simplicity). If the parents of one of them died, and he did not wail, no one blamed him. Yâo ruled it so as to cause the hearts of the people to cherish relative affection. If any, however, made the observances on the death of other members of their kindred less than those for their parents, no one blamed them2 . Shun ruled it, so as to produce a feeling of rivalry in the minds of the people. Their wives gave birth to their children in the tenth month of their pregnancy, but those children could speak at five months; and before they were three years old, they began to call people by their surnames and names. Then it was that men began to die prematurely. Yü ruled it, so as to cause the minds of the people to become changed. Men’s minds became scheming, and they used their weapons as if they might legitimately do so, (saying that they were) killing thieves and not killing other men. The people formed themselves into different combinations;—so it was throughout the kingdom. Everywhere there was great consternation, and then arose the Literati and (the followers of) Mo (Tî). From them came first the doctrine of the relationships (of society); and what can be said of the now prevailing customs (in the marrying of) wives and daughters? I tell you that the rule of the Three Kings and Five Tîs may be called by that name, but nothing can be greater than the disorder which it produced. The wisdom of the Three Kings was opposed to the brightness of the sun and moon above, contrary to the exquisite purity of the hills and streams below, and subversive of the beneficent gifts of the four seasons between. Their wisdom has been more fatal than the sting of a scorpion or the bite of a dangerous beast1 . Unable to rest in the true attributes of their nature and constitution, they still regarded themselves as sages:—was it not a thing to be ashamed of? But they were shameless.’ Ȝze-kung stood quite disconcerted and ill at ease.
8. Confucius said to Lâo Tan, ‘I have occupied myself with the Shih, the Shû, the Lî, the Yo, the Yî, and the Khun Khiû, those six Books, for what I myself consider a long time2 , and am thoroughly acquainted with their contents. With seventy-two rulers, all offenders against the right, I have discoursed about the ways of the former kings, and set forth the examples of (the dukes of) Kâu and Shâo; and not one of them has adopted (my views) and put them in practice:—how very difficult it is to prevail on such men, and to make clear the path to be pursued!’
Lâo-ȝze replied, ‘It is fortunate that you have not met with a ruler fitted to rule the age. Those six writings are a description of the vestiges left by the former kings, but do not tell how they made such vestiges; and what you, Sir, speak about are still only the vestiges. But vestiges are the prints left by the shoes;—are they the shoes that produced them? A pair of white herons look at each other with pupils that do not move, and impregnation takes place; the male insect emits its buzzing sound in the air above, and the female responds from the air below, and impregnation takes place; the creatures called lêi are both male and female, and each individual breeds of itself1 . The nature cannot be altered; the conferred constitution cannot be changed; the march of the seasons cannot be arrested; the Tâo cannot be stopped. If you get the Tâo, there is no effect that cannot be produced; if you miss it, there is no effect that can.’
Confucius (after this) did not go out, till at the end of three months he went again to see Lâo Tan, and said, ‘I have got it. Ravens produce their young by hatching; fishes by the communication of their milt; the small-waisted wasp by transformation1 ; when a younger brother comes, the elder weeps2 . Long is it that I have not played my part in harmony with these processes of transformation. But as I did not play my part in harmony with such transformation, how could I transform men?’ Lâo-ȝze said, ‘You will do. Khiû, you have found the Tâo.’
[1 ] See pp. 145, 146.
[2 ] Down to this we have a description of the phenomena of heaven and earth and of nature generally as proceeding regularly and noiselessly, without any apparent cause; which is the chief subject of the Book. As the description is not assigned to any one, we must suppose it to be from Kwang-ȝze himself; and that it is he who asks the question in the last three characters.
[1 ] This is said by the critics to have been a minister of the Shang dynasty, under Thâi-mâu in the seventeenth century bc; but even Kwang-ȝze would hardly so violate the unity of time.
[2 ] Generally means ‘the Five Regular Virtues;’ supposed to mean here ‘the Five Elements.’
[3 ] Probably the ‘Nine Divisions of the Great Plan,’ in the Shû King, V, iv, fancied to be derived from the writing, which a tortoise from the Lo river exhibited to the great Yü.
[4 ] Possibly Fû-hsî, Shăn Năng, and Hwang-Tî.
[5 ] ‘Shang’ must be taken as the duchy of Sung, assigned by king Wû to the representative of the kings of the dynasty of Shang. ‘Tang’ would be a principal minister of it in the time of Kwang-ȝze.
[6 ] The chief of all the virtues according to Confucianism.
[1 ] A denomination here for the Tâo, employed by Kwang-ȝze for the purpose of his argument.
[2 ] The capital of the state of Khû in the south.
[3 ] Name of a hill in the extreme north.
[4 ] The Tâo requires such forgetfulness on the part of both giver and receiver; it is a part of its ‘doing-nothing.’
[5 ] I think this is the meaning.
[1 ] The Tâo.
[2 ] This free version takes as = . So the Khang-hsî dictionary explains it.
[3 ] Only heard of, so far as I know, in this passage.
[4 ] The name of Hwang-Tî’s music; I do not venture to translate it. In his elaborate description of it, our author intended to give an idea of the Tâo, and the effect which the study of it was calculated to produce on the mind; as appears from the concluding sentence of the paragraph.
[1 ] See the usage of the two characters in the Shih King, I, ii, Ode 3.
[1 ] Some sovereign of antiquity, of whom it is difficult to find any other mention but this. Even in the Lû Shih I have not discovered him. The name is said to be pronounced Piâo; in which case it should consist of three , and not of three .
[2 ] Only heard of here.
[1 ] See the Tâo Teh King, ch. 5.
[2 ] Analects III, xxii.
[3 ] In consequence of the dissoluteness of the court; Analects VI, xxvi; IX, 17.
[4 ] Meaning Sung and Wei.
[5 ] Analects XI, ii, 1.
[1 ] It is impossible to speak definitely of who these three Hwangs (Augustuses) and five Tîs were, or whom the speaker intended by them. The former would seem to lead us to the purely fabulous ages, when twelve (or thirteen) Heavenly Hwangs, eleven Earthly, and nine Human ruled over the young world, for a period of 576,000 years. There is a general agreement of opinion that the five Tîs ended with Yâo and Shun.
[2 ] See Williams’s Dictionary, sub voc. He says it is the Crataegus cuneata and pinnatifida, common in China, and much esteemed for its acidity.
[1 ] A famous beauty,—the concubine of king Fû-khâi of Wû.
[2 ] The comparisons in this paragraph are not complimentary to Confucius. Of course the conversation never took place, and must have been made up to ridicule the views of the sage.
[3 ] This would be in bc 503 or 502, and Lâo-ȝze would be more than a hundred years old.
[4 ] Probably in what is now the district of Phei, department of Hsü-kâu, Kiang-sû.
[1 ] That is, the sage will not deposit it, where it will lie hidden;—compare Analects XVI, vi.
[1 ] See the same expression used in Book VI, par. 11, used by Confucius of himself. Comparing the two passages together, I must doubt the correctness of my note there (2, p. 252), that ‘Heaven’ is used in the Confucian sense of Tî, or God. The men here pursued and toiled after the pleasures of the world, rather than the quiet satisfactions of the Tâo.
[1 ] See Book XXIII, par. 9. The phrase = .
[2 ] The common reading is a mistake for .
[3 ] Compare the same illustration in the preceding Book, par. 7.
[4 ] This illustration is from Book VI, par. 5.
[1 ] Ȝze-kung would seem to have undertaken this expedition to maintain the reputation of the Master and his school;—only to be defeated by Lâo-ȝze more signally than Confucius had been.
[2 ] These are different probably, though the text is not quite certain, from the three Hwangs and five Tîs of par. 3. The Hwangs (or August Sovereigns) preceded the Tîs; the Kings (Wangs) came after them. The Three Kings are the three lines of kings commencing with the dynasty of Hsiâ, and following Shun. From the names mentioned by Ȝze-kung, we ought certainly so to understand the designation here.
[1 ] See note 2, preceding page.
[2 ] Referring to some abuses, contrary to the doctrine of relationship.
[1 ] What beast is meant here cannot be ascertained from the characters in the text,—.
[2 ] But with the preparation of the Khun Khiû Confucius’s life ended;—it is very plain that no conversation such as Kwang-ȝze has fabricated here could ever have taken place.
[1 ] Where had Lâo-ȝze or his author learned his zoology?
[1 ] See the Shih King, II, v, Ode II, 3, about the sphex.
[2 ] Because, as we say, ‘his nose is put out.’ But the sentiment, though it is ascribed to Confucius, is rarely according to the fact of the case.