K'ung-ts'ung-tzu: The K'ung Family Masters' Anthology

K'ung-ts'ung-tzu: The K'ung Family Masters' Anthology

by Yoav Ariel

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In analyzing evidence indicating that K'ung-ts'ung-tzu was a forgery, Yoav Ariel questions current views of the Confucian school in the time between the Sage's death in the fifth century B.C. and the emergence in the eleventh century of Neo-Confucianism. The text, traditionally ascribed to a descendant of Confucius, K'ung Fu (264-208 B.C.), provides a setting for a


In analyzing evidence indicating that K'ung-ts'ung-tzu was a forgery, Yoav Ariel questions current views of the Confucian school in the time between the Sage's death in the fifth century B.C. and the emergence in the eleventh century of Neo-Confucianism. The text, traditionally ascribed to a descendant of Confucius, K'ung Fu (264-208 B.C.), provides a setting for a series of philosophical debates between K'ung family members and representatives of such non-Confucian schools as Legalism, Mohism, and the School of Names.

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The K'ung Family Masters' Anthology

By Yoav Ariel


Copyright © 1989 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-691-06770-4




1.1 (A, 6a3) When the Master went to Chou he met Ch'ang Hung. When their conversation was over he retired. Ch'ang Hung then said to Duke Wen of Liu: "To me K'ung Chung-ni seems to have the outward manifestations of a sage. The flowing shape of his eyes and the rise of his forehead make him look like the Yellow Emperor. His long arms and arched back, along with his nine-foot six-inch stature, give him a stature like Ch'eng T'ang. Yet in his speech he is deferential to the former kings, and his personal bearing is extremely modest. He is a man of broad learning and retentive memory, and his general knowledge is inexhaustible. Shouldn't these things account for the advent of a sage?"

Liu Tzu said: "At present there is a fierce struggle between the feudal lords" at the very time when the royal house of Chou is in decline. K'ung Ch'iu has no official title; so where would sagehood be manifested?"

Ch'ang Hung said: "The Way of Yao, Shun, Wen, and Wu is most likely to be reached at the point of total ruin. Rites and music are collapsing. AU he can do is to try to rectify the moral foundations of orderly rule and nothing else."

Later the Master heard what they had said, and he remarked: "I could never be so presumptuous as to do this, though I am, after all, one who devotes himself to rites and music."

1.2 (A, 6b4) It was for the purpose of fortifying his city wall that Duke Hui of Ch'en built the Ling-yang tower. Before the project had reached its final stage, he had already put to death several tens of workers and imprisoned three supervisors, whose death he decreed. When the Master came to Ch'en, he heard about it. Then he came to see the Marquis of Ch'en and both of them climbed to the tower and took in the view. "O what a magnificent tower," said the Master. "Since antiquity, when the Sage Kings built their city walls and towers, an achievement of similar magnitude has never been brought about without any bloodshed."

The Marquis of Ch'en retired without a reply. Hurriedly, without fanfare, he pardoned the three supervisors and then, upon meeting the Master, he asked him: "Formerly, in Chou, when marvelous towers were built, was there also bloodshed?"

The Master answered: "At the time of King Wen's rise to power, six of the nine provinces were brought under unified rule. All the people of these six provinces came traveling to join him, bringing their own children along with them. Therefore the project of building a tower of limited size was accomplished in less than the allotted time. How could there be any occasion for killings? It is only a ruler such as you who is able to realize such a great achievement with so few people."

1.3 (A, 735) Tzu-chang asked: "Why must a girl approach the age of twenty before she is allowed to get married?"

Confucius said: "A girl is engaged to be married at the age of fifteen and only afterward can she follow her husband. This is analogous to the principle of yin's response to the yang's stirring, and the female following the male's call. The tasks of an unmarried girl consist of reeling, spinning, and weaving. The beauty of the variously colored figures embroidered on robes are the great achievements of a married woman. She must be past the age of fifteen and approaching the age of twenty before she can master these activities. It is only afterward that she can, first, treat her parents-in-law filially and, then, serve her husband and raise her children."

1.4 (A, 7b4) When Tsai-wo returned from his mission to Ch'i he appeared before the Master and said: "Liang-ch'iu Chü was bitten by a poisonous snake and after thirty days he recovered. He then came to pay court to the Prince of Ch'i, who assembled his counsellors and many other guests to celebrate the occasion. I, your disciple, was one among the guests. Both counsellors and guests submitted their own prescriptions for curing a snakebite. I, your disciple, said to them: 'Usually the reason for submitting a prescription would be for the sake of curing an illness. Liang-ch'iu has by now been cured, but all of you submitted your prescriptions. Where could these prescriptions be applied? Do you actually wish that Counsellor Liang-ch'iu should be injured again by a snake, and then use your prescriptions?' The various guests sat silently and uttered no word. What do you think of these words of mine?"

The Master said: "What you have said was wrong. The healing of a broken arm in three places, or Liang-ch'iu's cure after a poisonous snakebite — those who suffer from such an affliction will surely ask for a prescription with which to end it. It is for this reason that the various guests submitted their prescriptions. Each one described his own prescription, hoping to have it adopted in order to cure people's afflictions. The presentation of a prescription is made through reference to its virtues. Moreover, it is through such presentations that one can verify what it is that makes a prescription aimed to cure people's afflictions superior to another."

1.5 (A, 8a8) When the Master came to Ch'i, Yen Tzu came to see him in his guest house during a feast. After the banquet Yen Tzu met with him alone and said: "The current situation in Ch'i is so dangerous that it may be compared to riding down an enormously deep valley in a chariot without linchpins. Surely it would be unreasonable to hope that this chariot will not turn over. You are my very heart; if you will make Ch'i your headquarters for your traveling and resting it will be possible to save the situation. I hope you will not evade my request for assistance."

The Master replied: "There is no way of effecting a cure for a fatal illness. Governmental orders are the bridle and reins with which the ruler controls those under his command. It has been a long time since the Prince of Ch'i has lost control of the situation. Now, even if you wish to pull the chariot pole under your arm, and to push its wheel, it will probably be to no avail. It seems that this state of things will last as long as the Prince of Ch'i and you live, but afterward Ch'i will become the possession of the T'ien clan."

1.6 (A, 8b8) Tung-kuo Hai of Ch'i wanted to attack the T'ien clan. Carrying an introductory present, he appeared before the Master and asked for his advice. The Master said: "Your intention is righteous, but I, Ch'iu, am not in a position to join you in planning this matter." The Master introduced Tzukung, allowing him to reply to the plan.

Tzu-kung said to Tung-kuo Hai: "The present situation is that you are a Gentleman. This means that your status is low though your ambitions are great. People do not tend to join forces with those of low status, and they are intimidated by men of great ambition. It is probably not your duty to attack the T'ien clan. Why don't you abandon the plan? Think of a man who ties a heavy weight with one thread, hangs it on an extremely high post, and suspends it over an immeasurably deep abyss. All the bystanders are apprehensive that the thread will snap, but the one who did this fails to recognize the approaching danger. Is this case not analogous to that of yours? When you strike a drum and scare an already startled horse, when you add weight and overload a rope that is on the verge of snapping, the horse bolts and the chariot overturns. When the six reins are unloosened, and when the rope on the high peak snaps and the weight falls into the abyss, the danger is unavoidable."

With a visibly frightened look on his face Tung-kuo Hai kneeled down and said: "I will not go on, and I wish you to say no more." Then the Master said to Tzu-kung: "Tung-kuo Hai's intention was righteous. If you had merely told him about how difficult or easy it was, it would have been enough. Why did you have to frighten him?"

1.7 (A, 9b4) Tsai-wo asked: "Does the superior man set the highest value on using the right expressions?"

Confucius answered: "The superior man regards principle as of high value. He ignores extensive arguments that do not focus on essentials and turns a deaf ear to intricate arguments and extravagant doctrines. It is only the intelligent who avoids losing sight of the principle."

Confucius said: "As for Yü, I approve of the way he argues by convincing analogy, while in the case of Ssu, I approve of the way he adheres to the facts of the situation. Convincing analogy is enough to make people grasp the application to their own situation, while adherence to the facts of the situation is enough to frighten them."




2.1 (A, 10a2) Tzu-chang asked: "When the sage receives the mandate he must receive it at Heaven's bequest. Why, then, does the Book of Documents say: 'Shun received Yao's retirement in the temple of the Accomplished Ancestor'?"

Confucius answered: "As examples of those who received the mandate from Heaven we have T'ang and Wu. Those who received it from men include Shun and Yü. If one is not versed in the Book of Odes, the Book of Documents, the Book of Changes, and the Spring and Autumn Annals, then not only does one not understand the mind of the sage, but one also has no means of distinguishing between Yao and Shun, who received the mandate by peaceful succession, and T'ang or Wu, who received it by force of arms."

2.2 (A, 10a7) Tzu-chang asked: "According to the rites, a man gets married at the age of thirty, and yet, in the days of old, Shun was summoned to employment at the age of thirty, as when the Book of Documents made the following reference to him:

There is an unmarried man among the people called Shun of Yü.

How so? Previously I received from you, Master, the teachings that when a sage holds sway and the superior man occupies his rightful position, there are neither resentful women within the inner chambers nor unmarried men abroad. While Yao ruled as the Son of Heaven, how could there be an unmarried man among the people?"

Confucius answered: "When a young man reaches the age of twenty he undergoes the capping ceremony, and only then is he allowed to take a wife. This is a universal principle that has been accepted by all people from the earliest times down to our own day. Shun's father was stupid and his mother deceitful. Neither of them could maintain proper order in their family. For this reason he reached the age of thirty and was still in the category of unmarried person. The Book of Odes says:

How does one take a wife? By first seeking approval from one's parents.

If one's parents are alive, then the parents should make the proper arrangements for the marriage. But when one's parents are already gone, then one takes a wife by oneself and one announces the marriage in the ancestral temple. In this case, the reason why Shun was unmarried was that his parents were stupid and deceitful. How could Yao, even as the Son of Heaven, have had an effect on Shun's case?"

2.3 (A, 11a1) Tzu-hsia asked what were the most fundamental ideas of the Book of Documents. The Master answered: "In the 'Canon of the Emperors' I see the sagehood of Yao and Shun. In the 'Great Yü,' the 'Counsels of Kao-yao,' and the 'I and Chi,' I see the loyalty, diligence, accomplishments, and merit of Yü, Chi, and Kao-yao. In the 'Announcement Concerning Lo,' I see the virtue of the Duke of Chou. Therefore one may observe excellence in the 'Canon of the Emperors,' implementations in the 'Counsels of the Great Yü' and the 'Tribute of Yü,' government in the 'Counsels of Kao-yao' and the 'I and Chi,' ordering of society in the 'Great Plan,' righteousness in the 'Speech of the Duke of Ch'in,' benevolence in the 'Five Announcements,' and admonishment in the 'Punishments of the Prince of Fu.' If one thoroughly masters these seven items, then the fundamental ideas of the Book of Documents will become evident."

2.4 (A, 11a8) Confucius said: "The attitude of the Book of Documents toward events is this: It goes far without a sense of detachment; it gets close without exerting pressure. It fully expresses its intended meaning without indulging in grievance. Its words are agreeable, yet not to the point of sycophantic praise. In the 'Day of the Supplementary Sacrifice of Kao-tzung' I see how rapidly virtue is rewarded. If one follows his proper Way and extends his benevolence to others, then people from far away will submit their wills to his, and fulfill their reverence toward him. In the 'Great Plan,' I see that the superior man cannot bear words concerning other people's vices but fosters examples of human perfection. It arises from the depth of the mind and is expressed in external formulation, thus forming this piece of literature: this is surely the case of the 'Great Plan.'"

2.5 (A, 11b6) Tzu-chang asked: "In the age of Yao and Shun the world was ordered without a single man being punished. How was this possible? Because their moral teaching was grounded in truth and their concern for the people was deep. According to Lung-tzu, however, all teachings were uniformly enforced by the threat of the five punishments. Might I ask the meaning of this statement?"

Confucius answered: "It is not so. The five punishments are only to be used as a prop to basic moral teaching. As for Lung-tzu, he could never be considered someone who was able to engage in the study of the Book of Documents."

2.6 (A, 12a2) After Tzu-hsia had concluded his study of the Book of Documents, 38 he appeared before the Master. The Master said: "What have you attained in your study of Book of Documents!"

Tzu-hsia replied: "The manner in which the Book of Documents discusses events is as brilliantly illuminating as the sun and the moon in their alternating illumination, and as distinctively arranged as the stars in their overlapping paths of movement. It ranges from the virtue of Yao and Shun in remote antiquity, down to the righteousness of the Three Kings in later times. Whatever I, Shang, have learned from you about the Book of Documents is firmly imprinted in my mind. Could I ever allow myself to forget it? Even if I were to retire and live in poverty between the Ho and the Chi channels, or in the depths of the mountains, if I were to build a mud hut with a door of plaited grass and spend my days there unceasingly strumming my lute, as I sang the praises of the Way of the former kings — even there I could still express my pent up indignation, sigh for lost glory, and forget my own poverty and destitution. Therefore, whether I am in the company of others or not, I always find delight in the Way. Whenever I contemplate the virtue of Yao and Shun in remote antiquity and the righteousness of the Three Kings in later times, I immediately lose all thought of sorrows, troubles, and death."

Changing his countenance, the Master said: "Ah! You are apparently a man with whom I can speak about the Book of Documents. Nevertheless, you are still approaching it from the exterior alone; you have not yet viewed the interior. If one peers through the gate without entering the chamber, how can one view the inner recesses of the ancestral temple or the splendor of the hundred officials?"

2.7 (A, 12b6) Tsai-wo asked for instruction in the Book of Documents, asking what was meant by the words:

Although sent to the great foothill forest he was not led astray by violent winds, thunder, and rain.

Confucius said: "These words refer to the correspondence between Heavenly phenomena and human deeds. When Yao had already gained the service of Shun, he repeatedly examined him by many difficult tasks. Later he recruited him for honorable and prestigious office, appointing him as Grand Recorder to exercise governmental control over numerous contingencies. Therefore the yin and the yang were purified and harmonized, the five planets made their regular appearance, and violent winds, thunder, and rain responded in proper accord, with neither error nor imbalance. The harmony between Shun's conduct and Heavenly phenomena was thus clearly manifested."

2.8 (A, 13a4) Tsai-wo asked: "May I ask what was meant by the Pure Sacrifice to the Six Honored Ones?"

Confucius answered: "The Honored Ones are six in number, to all of whom the pure sacrifices are offered. By burying a small animal at the Altar of Shining Splendor, they sacrificed to the four seasons. By offering prayers of greeting to the departure of Cold and to the arrival of Heat in the pit and on the altar, they sacrificed to the winter cold and summer heat. When sacrifice was performed on the Altar of the Border-Palace, they sacrificed to the sun; on the Altar of the Night-Light, they sacrificed to the moon; on the Altar of Honored Gloom, they sacrificed to the stars; and on the Altar of the Honored Rain, they sacrificed to the flood and drought. This is what was meant by the pure sacrifice to the Six Honored Ones."


Excerpted from K'ung-Ts'ung-Tzu by Yoav Ariel. Copyright © 1989 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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