Xunzi: The Complete Text

Xunzi: The Complete Text


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ISBN-13: 9780691169316
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 03/22/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 749,466
Product dimensions: 9.20(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Eric L. Hutton is associate professor of philosophy at the University of Utah.

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The Complete Text

By Eric L. Hutton


Copyright © 2014 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4008-5255-0


An Exhortation to Learning

The gentleman says: Learning must never stop. Blue dye derives from the indigo plant, and yet it is bluer than the plant. Ice comes from water, and yet it is colder than water. Through steaming and bending, you can make wood as straight as an ink-line into a wheel. And after its curve conforms to the compass, even when parched under the sun it will not become straight again, because the steaming and bending have made it a certain way. Likewise, when wood comes under the ink-line, it becomes straight, and when metal is brought to the whetstone, it becomes sharp. The gentleman learns broadly and examines himself thrice daily, and then his knowledge is clear and his conduct is without fault.

And so if you never climb a high mountain, you will not know the height of Heaven. If you never visit a deep ravine, you will not know the depth of the Earth. If you never hear the words passed down from the former kings, you will not know the magnificence of learning. The children of the Han, Yue, Yi, and Mo peoples all cry with the same sound at birth, but when grown they have different customs, because teaching makes them thus. The Odes says:

O harken, all ye gentlemen,
Don't always be at ease and rest!
Perform your office steadfastly.
Love what's correct and upright best.
The spirits will thus hear of this,
And they will make you greatly bless'd.

No spirit-like state is greater than having transformed oneself wit the Way. No blessing is superior to being without misfortunes.

I once spent the whole day pondering, but it was not as good as a moment's worth of learning. I once stood on my toes to look far away, but it was not as good as the broad view from a high place. If you climb to a high place and wave, you have not lengthened your arms, but you can be seen from further away. If you shout from upwind, you have not made your voice stronger, but you can be heard more clearly. One who makes use of a chariot and horses has not thereby improved his feet, but he can now go a thousand li. One who makes use of a boat and oars has not thereby become able to swim, but he can now cross rivers and streams. The gentleman is exceptional not by birth, but rather by being good at making use of things.

In the south there is a bird called the meng jiu. It makes its nest from feathers, weaving it together with hair, and attaches it to the slender branch of a reed. When the wind comes along, the branch snaps, the eggs break, and its young perish. This happens not because the nest itself is flawed, but rather because of what it is attached to. In the west there is a plant called the ye gan. Its stem is four inches long, and it grows on the top of high mountains, so that it overlooks ravines a hundred yards deep. It has this view not because its stem can grow long, but rather because of where it stands.

Likewise, when the peng vine grows among hemp plants, it goes up straight without being stood upright. The root of the lan huai plant is sweet-smelling angelica, but if you soak it in foul water then the gentleman will not draw near it, and the common people will not wear it. This happens not because the original material is not fra grant, but rather because of what it is soaked in. Therefore, the gentleman is sure to select carefully the village where he dwells, and he is sure to associate with well-bred men when he travels. This is how he avoids corruption and draws near to what is correct.

All the things and the kinds that come about
Surely have a point from which they start out.
Honor or disgrace that comes unto you
Surely reflects your degree of virtue.
In rotten meat bugs are generated.
In fish that's spoiled maggots are created.
Lazy, haughty men who forget their place
Shall have misfortune and ruin to face.
Rigid things get themselves used for bracing.
Pliant things get themselves used for lacing.
If with corruption your person is filled,
It's this upon which hate toward you will build.

You may spread out firewood as though all of the same kind, but fire will still seek out the dry pieces. You may level the earth so that it appears all even, but water will still seek out the wet places. Wherever grasses and trees grow together, birds and beasts will flock. This is because each thing follows its own class. For this reason, wherever an archery target is set out, bows and arrows will follow. Wherever wood grows in abundance, axes and hatchets will go. Wherever trees create shade, flocks of birds will rest. Wherever something turns sour, flies will gather. Likewise, there are words that summon misfortune, and there is conduct that beckons disgrace, so the gentleman is careful about where he takes his stand.

If you accumulate enough earth to form a mountain, then wind and rain will arise from it. If you accumulate enough water to form a deep pool, then dragons will come to live in it. If you accumulate enough goodness to achieve virtue, then you will naturally attain to spirit-like powers and enlightenment, and the heart of a sage is complete therein. And so,

Without accumulating tiny steps,
You have no way to go a thousand li.
Without accumulating little streams,
You have no way to form river or sea.
Let the horse Qi Ji take a single leap;
It still would go no farther than ten strides.
Yet old nags ridden ten days equal him;
Not giving up is where success resides.

If you start carving and give up, you will not be able to break even rotten wood, but if you start carving and do not give up, then you can engrave even metal and stone. The earthworm does not have sharp teeth and claws, nor does it have strong bones and muscles. Yet, it eats of the earth above, and it drinks from the Yellow Springs below, because it acts with single-mindedness. In contrast, the crab has six legs and two pincers. Yet were it not for the abandoned holes of water snakes and eels, it would have no place to lodge, because it is frenetic-minded. For this reason,

If you do not first have somber intention,
No brilliant understanding can there be.
If you do not first have determined effort,
No glorious achievements will you see.
One walking both forks of a road goes nowhere.
One serving two lords is not viewed welcomely.
Eyes focused on two things at once are not sharp.
Ears tuned to two things at once don't hear clearly.
Though footless, the teng snake moves quick as flying,
Yet five limbs give the wu rodent no safety.

The Odes says:

The shi jiu bird is on the mulberry.
Seven is the number of its offspring.
As for the noble man and gentleman,
Their standard is one and unwavering.
Their standard is one and unwavering
Like their hearts were tied to it by binding.

Thus is the gentleman bound to one thing.

In ancient times, Hu Ba played the lute, and the swimming fish came up to listen. Bo Ya played the zither, and the six kinds of horses all raised up their heads from grazing. There is no sound so small as not to be heard. There is no action so subtle as not to be manifest. Where there is jade in a mountain, the vegetation is lush, and where a pool begets pearls, its banks do not dry out. If you do good, will it not accumulate? How could it be that none hear of it?

Where does learning begin? Where does learning end? I say: Its order begins with reciting the classics, and ends with studying ritual. Its purpose begins with becoming a well-bred man, and ends with becoming a sage. If you truly accumulate effort for a long time, then you will advance. Learning proceeds until death and only then does it stop. And so, the order of learning has a stopping point, but its purpose cannot be given up for even a moment. To pursue it is to be human, to give it up is to be a beast. Thus:

The Documents is the record of government affairs.
The Odes is the repository of balanced sound.
Rituals are the great divisions in the model for things.
Outlines of things' proper classes are in the rituals found.

And so, learning comes to ritual and then stops, for this is called the ultimate point in pursuit of the Way and virtue. In the reverence and refinement of ritual, the balance and harmony of music, the broad content of the Odes and Documents, the subtleties of the Spring and Autumn Annals, all things between Heaven and Earth are complete.

The learning of the gentleman enters through his ears, fastens to his heart, spreads through his four limbs, and manifests itself in his actions. His slightest word, his most subtle movement, all can serve as a model for others. The learning of the petty person enters through his ears and passes out his mouth. From mouth to ears is only four inches—how could it be enough to improve a whole body much larger than that? Students in ancient times learned for their own sake, but the students of today learn for the sake of impressing others. Thus the learning of the gentleman is used to improve his own person, while the learning of the petty man is used like gift oxen. To speak without being asked is what people call being presumptuous, and to speak two things when asked only one is what people call being wordy. Being presumptuous is wrong, and being wordy is wrong. The gentleman is simply like an echo.

In learning, nothing is more expedient than to draw near to the right person. Rituals and music provide proper models but give no precepts. The Odes and Documents contain ancient stories but no explanation of their present application. The Spring and Autumn Annals is terse and cannot be quickly understood. However, if you imitate the right person in his practice of the precepts of the gentleman, then you will come to honor these things for their comprehensiveness, and see them as encompassing the whole world. Thus, in learning, nothing is more expedient than to draw near to the right person.

Of the paths to learning, none is quicker than to like the right person, and exalting ritual comes second. If at best you cannot like the right person, and at worst you cannot exalt ritual, then you will simply be learning haphazard knowledge and focusing your intentions on blindly following the Odes and Documents. If so, then to the end of your days you cannot avoid being merely a vulgar ru. If you are going to take the former kings as your fount and make ren and yi your root, then rituals are exactly the highways and byways for you. It will be like the action of turning up your fur collar by simply curling your five fingers and pulling on it—it goes smoothly numberless times. If you do not take the regulations of ritual as your way, but instead go at it with just the Odes and Documents, then it will be like trying to measure the depth of a river with your finger, or trying to pound millet with a halberd, or trying to eat out of a pot with an awl—you simply will not succeed at it. And so if you exalt ritual, then even if you are not brilliant, you will still be a man of the proper model. If you do not exalt ritual, then even if you are an acute debater, you will be only a dissolute ru.

Do not answer one who asks about something improper. Do not ask questions of one who speaks on something improper. Do not listen to one who tries to persuade you of something improper. Do not debate with a person of combative demeanor. Only if people approach you in the proper way should you receive them. If they do not approach you in the proper way, then avoid them. And so, only if they follow ritual and are reverent should you discuss the methods of the Way with them. Only if their speech is calm should you discuss the pattern of the Way with them. Only if their countenance is agreeable should you discuss the culmination of the Way with them. To discuss these things with those unfit to discuss them is called being presumptuous. Not to discuss these things with those fit to discuss them is called being secretive. To discuss these things without first observing the person's manner and countenance is called being blind. The gentleman is neither presumptuous nor secretive nor blind; he carefully acts according to the other person's character. The Odes says:

The gentlemen are not indolent or haughty.
Rewarded by the Son of Heaven shall they be.

This expresses my meaning.

One who misses a single shot out of a hundred does not deserve to be called good at archery. One who falls short of going a thousand li by the distance of even a half step does not deserve to be called good at chariot driving. One who does not fully comprehend the proper kinds and classes of things, or who is not single-minded in pursuit of ren and yi, does not deserve to be called good at learning. Learning is precisely learning to pursue them single-mindedly. To depart from it in one affair and adhere to it in another is to be such as common people. To have in oneself little that is good and much that is not good is to be such as the tyrants Jie and Zhòu and Robber Zhi. Perfect it and complete it, and only then is one truly a learned person.

The gentleman knows that whatever is imperfect and unrefined does not deserve praise. And so he repeatedly recites his learning in order to master it, ponders it in order to comprehend it, makes his person so as to dwell in it, and eliminates things harmful to it in order to nourish it. He makes his eyes not want to see what is not right, makes his ears not want to hear what is not right, makes his mouth not want to speak what is not right, and makes his heart not want to deliberate over what is not right. He comes to the point where he loves it, and then his eyes love it more than the five colors, his ears love it more than the five tones, his mouth loves it more than the five flavors, and his heart considers it more profitable than possessing the whole world. For this reason, power and profit cannot sway him, the masses cannot shift him, and nothing in the world can shake him. He lives by this, and he dies by this. This is called the state in which virtue has been grasped.

When virtue has been grasped, only then can one achieve fixity. When one can achieve fixity, only then can one respond to things. To be capable both of fixity and of responding to things—this is called the perfected person. Heaven shows off its brilliance, Earth shows off its breadth, and the gentleman values his perfection.


Cultivating Oneself

When you observe goodness in others, then inspect yourself, desirous of cultivating it. When you observe badness in others, then examine yourself, fearful of discovering it. If you find goodness in your person, then commend yourself, desirous of holding firm to it. If you find badness in your person, then reproach yourself, regarding it as calamity. And so, he who rightly criticizes me acts as a teacher toward me, and he who rightly supports me acts as a friend toward me, while he who flatters and toadies to me acts as a villain toward me. Accordingly, the gentleman exalts those who act as teachers toward him and loves those who act as friends toward him, so as to utterly hate those who act as villains toward him. He loves goodness tirelessly, and can receive admonitions and take heed. Even if he had no desire to improve, how could he avoid it? The petty man is the opposite. He is utterly disorderly, but hates for people to criticize him. He is utterly unworthy, but wishes for people to consider him worthy. His heart is like that of a tiger or wolf, and his conduct like that of beasts, but he hates for people to consider him a villain. To those who flatter and toady to him he shows favor, while those who would admonish him he keeps at a distance. Those who cultivate correctness he considers laughable, and those truly loyal to him he considers villains. Even though he does not wish to perish, how could he avoid it? The Odes says:

These men conspire and practice slander.
This is a matter for great sorrow!
To any plan that's worth adopting,
Complete resistance is what they show.
But as for plans not worth adopting,
These they completely wish to follow!


Excerpted from Xunzi by Eric L. Hutton. Copyright © 2014 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.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xi

A Traditional Timeline of Early Chinese History xxxi

Chapter 1: An Exhortation to Learning 1

Chapter 2: Cultivating Oneself 9

Chapter 3: Nothing Improper 16

Chapter 4: On Honor and Disgrace 23

Chapter 5: Against Physiognomy 32

Chapter 6: Against the Twelve Masters 40

Chapter 7: On Confucius 47

Chapter 8: The Achievements of the Ru 52

Chapter 9: The Rule of a True King 68

Chapter 10: Enriching the State 83

Chapter 11: The True King and the Hegemon 99

Chapter 12: The Way to Be a Lord 117

Chapter 13: The Way to Be a Minister 133

Chapter 14: On Attracting Men of Worth 141

Chapter 15: A Debate on Military Affairs 145

Chapter 16: The Strong State 163

Chapter 17: Discourse on Heaven 175

Chapter 18: Correct Judgments 183

Chapter 19: Discourse on Ritual 201

Chapter 20: Discourse on Music 218

Chapter 21: Undoing Fixation 224

Chapter 22: Correct Naming 236

Chapter 23: Human Nature Is Bad 248

Chapter 24: The Gentleman 258

Chapter 25: Working Songs 262

Chapter 26: Fu 277

Chapter 27: The Grand Digest 288

Chapter 28: The Right-Hand Vessel 318

Chapter 29: The Way to Be a Son 325

Chapter 30: The Proper Model and Proper Conduct 330

Chapter 31: Duke Ai 333

Chapter 32: Yao Asked 339

Appendix 1: Important Terms and Names 344

Appendix 2: Cross-Reference List 347

Textual Notes 359

Bibliography 385

Index 387

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