THE DOCTRINE OF THE MEAN.
ITS PLACE IN THE LI CHI, AND ITS PUBLICATION SEPARATELY.
1. The Doctrine of the Mean was one of the treatises which came to
light in connexion with the labors of Liu Hsiang, and its place as the
thirty-first Book in the Li Chi was finally determined by Ma Yung and
Chang Hsuan. In the translation of the Li Chi in 'The Sacred Books of
the East' it is the twenty-eighth Treatise.
2. But while it was thus made to form a part of the great collection
of Treatises on Ceremonies, it maintained a separate footing of its own.
In Liu Hsin's Catalogue of the Classical Works, we find 'Two p'ien
of Observations on the Chung Yung [l].' In the Records of the dynasty of
Sui (A.D. 589-618), in the chapter on the History of Literature ,
there are mentioned three Works on the Chung Yung;-- the first called
'The Record of the Chung Yung,' in two chuan, attributed to Tai
Yung, a scholar who flourished about the middle of the fifth century;
the second, 'A Paraphrase and Commentary on the Chung Yung,' attributed
to the emperor Wu (A.D. 502-549) of the Liang dynasty, in one chuan
; and the third, 'A Private Record, Determining the Meaning of the Chung
Yung,' in five chuan, the author, or supposed author, of which is
not mentioned .
It thus appears, that the Chung Yung had been published and commented
on separately, long before the time of the Sung dynasty. The scholars of
that, however, devoted special attention to it, the way being led by the
famous Chau Lien-ch'i . He was followed by the two brothers Ch'ang,
but neither of them published upon it. At last came Chu Hsi, who
produced his Work called
2 隋書,卷三十二,志第二十七,經籍,一, p. 12.
'The Chung Yung, in Chapters and Sentences ,' which was made the
text book of the Classic at the literary examinations, by the fourth
emperor of the Yuan dynasty (A.D. 1312-1320), and from that time the
name merely of the Treatise was retained in editions of the Li Chi.
Neither text nor ancient commentary was given.
Under the present dynasty it is not so. In the superb edition of 'The
Three Li Ching,' edited by numerous committees of scholars
towards the middle of the Ch'ien-lung reign, the Chung Yung is published
in two parts, the ancient commentaries from 'The Thirteen Ching'
being given side by side with those of Chu Hsi.
ITS AUTHOR; AND SOME ACCOUNT OF HIM.
1. The composition of the Chung Yung is attributed to K'ung Chi, the
grandson of Confucius . Chinese inquirers and critics are agreed on
this point, and apparently on sufficient grounds. There is indeed no
internal evidence in the Work to lead us to such a conclusion. Among the
many quotations of Confucius's words and references to him, we might
have expected to find some indication that the sage was the grandfather
of the author, but nothing of the kind is given. The external evidence,
however, or that from the testimony of authorities, is very strong. In
Sze-ma Ch'ien's Historical Records, published about B.C. 100, it is
expressly said that 'Tsze- sze made the Chung Yung.' And we have a still
stronger proof, a century earlier, from Tsze-sze's own descendant, K'ung
Fu, whose words are, 'Tsze- sze compiled the Chung Yung in forty-nine
p'ien .' We may, therefore, accept the received account without
2. As Chi, spoken of chiefly by his designation of Tsze-sze, thus
occupies a distinguished place in the classical literature of China, it
2 子思作中庸; see the 史記,四十七,孔子世家.
3 This K'ung Fu (孔鮒) was that descendant of Confucius, who hid several
books in the wall of his house, on the issuing of the imperial edict for
their burning. He was a writer himself, and his Works are referred to
under the title of 孔叢子. I have not seen them, but the statement given
above is found in the 四書拓餘說;-- art. 中庸. -- 孔叢子云,子思撰中庸之書,四十九篇.
may not be out of place to bring together here a few notices of him
gathered from reliable sources.
He was the son of Li, whose death took place B.C. 483, four years
before that of the sage, his father. I have not found it recorded in
what year he was born. Sze-ma Ch'ien says he died at the age of 62. But
this is evidently wrong, for we learn from Mencius that he was high in
favour with the duke Mu of Lu , whose accession to that principality
dates in B.C. 409, seventy years after the death of Confucius. In the
'Plates and Notices of the Worthies, sacrificed to in the Sage's Temples
,' it is supposed that the sixty-two in the Historical Records should
be eighty-two . It is maintained by others that Tsze-sze's life was
protracted beyond 100 years . This variety of opinions simply shows
that the point cannot be positively determined. To me it seems that the
conjecture in the Sacrificial Canon must be pretty near the truth .
During the years of his boyhood, then, Tsze-sze must have been with
his grandfather, and received his instructions. It is related, that one
day, when he was alone with the sage, and heard him sighing, he went up
to him, and, bowing twice, inquired the reason of his grief. 'Is it,'
said he, 'because you think that your descendants, through not
cultivating themselves, will be unworthy of you? Or is it that, in your
admiration of the ways of Yao and Shun, you are vexed that you fall
short of them?' 'Child,' replied Confucius, 'how is it that you know my
thoughts?' 'I have often,' said Tsze-sze, 'heard from you the lesson,
that when the father has gathered and prepared the firewood, if the son
cannot carry the bundle, he is to be pronounced degenerate and unworthy.
The remark comes frequently into my thoughts, and fills me with great
apprehensions.' The sage was delighted. He
1. 魯穆(or 繆)公.
3. 或以六十二似八十二之誤. Eighty-two and sixty-two may more easily be confounded,
as written in Chinese, than with the Roman figures.
4 See the 四書集證, on the preface to the Chung Yung, -- 年百餘歲卒.
5 Li himself was born in Confucius's twenty-first year, and if Tsze-sze
had been born in Li's twenty-first year, he must have been 103 at the
time of duke Mu's accession. But the tradition is, that Tsze-sze was a
pupil of Tsang Shan who was born B.C. 504. We must place his birth
therefore considerably later, and suppose him to have been quite young
when his father died. I was talking once about the question with a
Chinese friend, who observed:-- 'Li was fifty when he died, and his wife
married again into a family of Wei. We can hardly think, therefore, that
she was anything like that age. Li could not have married so soon as his
father did. Perhaps he was about forty when Chi was born.'
smiled and said, 'Now, indeed, shall I be without anxiety! My
undertakings will not come to naught. They will be carried on and
flourish .' After the death of Confucius, Chi became a pupil, it is
said, of the philosopher Tsang. But he received his instructions with
discrimination, and in one instance which is recorded in the Li Chi, the
pupil suddenly took the place of the master. We there read: 'Tsang said
to Tsze-sze, "Chi, when I was engaged in mourning for my parents,
neither congee nor water entered my mouth for seven days." Tsze-sze
answered, "In ordering their rules of propriety, it was the design of
the ancient kings that those who would go beyond them should stoop and
keep by them, and that those who could hardly reach them should stand on
tiptoe to do so. Thus it is that the superior man, in mourning for his
parents, when he has been three days without water or congee, takes a
staff to enable himself to rise ."'
While he thus condemned the severe discipline of Tsang, Tsze-sze
appears, in various incidents which are related of him, to have been
himself more than sufficiently ascetic. As he was living in great
poverty, a friend supplied him with grain, which he readily received.
Another friend was emboldened by this to send him a bottle of spirits,
but he declined to receive it.' You receive your corn from other
people,' urged the donor, 'and why should you decline my gift, which is
of less value? You can assign no ground in reason for it, and if you
wish to show your independence, you should do so completely.' 'I am so
poor,' was the reply, 'as to be in want, and being afraid lest I should
die and the sacrifices not be offered to my ancestors, I accept the
grain as an alms. But the spirits and the dried flesh which you offer to
me are the appliances of a feast. For a poor man to be feasting is
certainly unreasonable. This is the ground of my refusing your gift. I
have no thought of asserting my independence .'
To the same effect is the account of Tsze-sze, which we have from Liu
Hsiang. That scholar relates:-- 'When Chi was living in Wei, he wore a
tattered coat, without any lining, and in thirty days had only nine
meals. T'ien Tsze-fang having heard of his
1 See the 四書集證, in the place just quoted from. For the incident we
are indebted to K'ung Fu; see note 3, p. 36.
2 Li Chi, II. Sect. I. ii. 7.
3 See the 四書集證, as above.
distress, sent a messenger to him with a coat of fox-fur, and being
afraid that he might not receive it, he added the message,-- "When I
borrow from a man, I forget it; when I give a thing, I part with it
freely as if I threw it away." Tsze-sze declined the gift thus offered,
and when Tsze- fang said, "I have, and you have not; why will you not
take it?" he replied, "You give away as rashly as if you were casting
your things into a ditch. Poor as I am, I cannot think of my body as a
ditch, and do not presume to accept your gift ." 'Tsze-sze's mother
married again, after Li's death, into a family of Wei. But this
circumstance, which is not at all creditable in Chinese estimation, did
not alienate his affections from her. He was in Lu when he heard of her
death, and proceeded to weep in the temple of his family. A disciple
came to him and said, 'Your mother married again into the family of the
Shu, and do you weep for her in the temple of the K'ung?' 'I am wrong,'
said Tsze-sze, 'I am wrong;' and with these words he went to weep
In his own married relation he does not seem to have been happy, and
for some cause, which has not been transmitted to us, he divorced his
wife, following in this, it has been wrongly said, the example of
Confucius. On her death, her son, Tsze-shang , did not undertake any
mourning for her. Tsze-sze's disciples were surprised and questioned
him. 'Did your predecessor, a superior man,' they asked, 'mourn for his
mother who had been divorced?' 'Yes,' was the reply. 'Then why do you
not cause Pai  to mourn for his mother?' Tsze-sze answered, 'My
progenitor, a superior man, failed in nothing to pursue the proper path.
His observances increased or decreased as the case required. But I
cannot attain to this. While she was my wife, she was Pai's mother; when
she ceased to be my wife, she ceased to be Pai's mother.' The custom of
the K'ung family not to mourn for a mother who had been divorced, took
its rise from Tsze-sze .
These few notices of K'ung Chi in his more private relations bring
him before us as a man of strong feeling and strong will, independent,
and with a tendency to asceticism in his habits.
1 See the 四書集證, as above.
2 See the Li Chi, II. Sect. II. iii. 15. 庶氏之母死 must be understood as I
have done above, and not with Chang Hsuan, -- 'Your mother was born a
3 子上 -- this was the designation of Tsze-sze's son.
4 白,-- this was Tsze-shang's name.
5 See the Li Chi, II. Sect. I. i. 4.
As a public character, we find him at the ducal courts of Wei, Sung;
Lu, and Pi, and at each of them held in high esteem by the rulers. To
Wei he was carried probably by the fact of his mother having married
into that State. We are told that the prince of Wei received him with
great distinction and lodged him honourably. On one occasion he said to
him, 'An officer of the State of Lu, you have not despised this small
and narrow Wei, but have bent your steps hither to comfort and preserve
it; vouchsafe to confer your benefits upon me.' Tsze-sze replied. 'If I
should wish to requite your princely favour with money and silks, your
treasuries are already full of them, and I am poor. If I should wish to
requite it with good words, I am afraid that what I should say would not
suit your ideas, so that I should speak in vain and not be listened to.
The only way in which I can requite it, is by recommending to your
notice men of worth.' The duke said. 'Men of worth are exactly what I
desire.' 'Nay,' said Chi. 'you are not able to appreciate them.'
'Nevertheless,' was the reply, 'I should like to hear whom you consider
deserving that name.' Tsze-sze replied, 'Do you wish to select your
officers for the name they may have or for their reality?' 'For their
reality, certainly,' said the duke. His guest then said, 'In the eastern
borders of your State, there is one Li Yin, who is a man of real worth.'
'What were his grandfather and father?' asked the duke. 'They were
husbandmen,' was the reply, on which the duke broke into a loud laugh,
saying, ' I do not like husbandry. The son of a husbandman cannot be fit
for me to employ. I do not put into office all the cadets of those
families even in which office is hereditary.' Tsze-sze observed, 'I
mention Li Yin because of his abilities; what has the fact of his
forefathers being husbandmen to do with the case? And moreover, the duke
of Chau was a great sage, and K'ang-shu was a great worthy. Yet if you
examine their beginnings, you will find that from the business of
husbandry they came forth to found their States. I did certainly have my
doubts that in the selection of your officers you did not have regard to
their real character and capacity.' With this the conversation ended.
The duke was silent .
Tsze-sze was naturally led to Sung, as the K'ung family originally
sprang from that principality. One account, quoted in 'The
1 See the 氏姓譜,卷一百二,孔氏,孔伋.
Four Books, Text and Commentary, with Proofs and Illustrations ,'
says that he went thither in his sixteenth year, and having foiled an
officer of the State, named Yo So, in a conversation on the Shu Ching,
his opponent was so irritated at the disgrace put on him by a youth,
that he listened to the advice of evil counsellors, and made an attack
on him to put him to death. The duke of Sung, hearing the tumult,
hurried to the rescue, and when Chi found himself in safety, he said,
'When king Wan was imprisoned in Yu-li, he made the Yi of Chau. My
grandfather made the Ch'un Ch'iu after he had been in danger in Ch'an
and Ts'ai. Shall I not make something when rescued from such a risk in
Sung?' Upon this he made the Chung Yung in forty-nine p'ien.
According to this account, the Chung Yung was the work of Tsze-sze's
early manhood, and the tradition has obtained a wonderful prevalence.
The notice in 'The Sacrificial Canon' says, on the contrary, that it was
the work of his old age, when he had finally settled in Lu, which is
much more likely .
Of Tsze-sze in Pi, which could hardly be said to be out of Lu, we
have only one short notice,-- in Mencius, V. Pt. II. iii. 3, where the
duke Hui of Pi is introduced as saying, 'I treat Tsze-sze as my master.'
We have fuller accounts of him in Lu, where he spent all the latter
years of his life, instructing his disciples to the number of several
hundred , and held in great reverence by the duke Mu. The duke indeed
wanted to raise him to the highest office, but he declined this, and
would only occupy the position of a 'guide, philosopher, and friend.' Of
the attention which he demanded, however, instances will he found in
Mencius, II. Pt. II. xi. 3; V. Pt. II. vi. 4, and vii. 4. In his
intercourse with the duke he spoke the truth to him fearlessly. In the
'Cyclopaedia of Surnames ,' I find the following conversations, but I
cannot tell from what source they are extracted into that Work.-- 'One
day, the duke said to Tsze-sze, "The officer Hsien told me that you do
1 This is the Work so often referred to as the 四書集證, the full title
being 四書經註集證. The passage here translated from it will be found in the
place several times referred to in this section.
2 The author of the 四書拓餘說 adopts the view that the Work was composed in
Sung. Some have advocated this from ch. xxviii. 5, compared with Ana.
III. ix, 'it being proper,' they say, 'that Tsze-sze, writing in Sung,
should not depreciate it as Confucius had done out of it!'
3 See in the 'Sacrificial Canon,' on Tsze-sze.
4 This is the Work referred to in note 1, p. 40.
wishing for any praise from men;-- is it so?" Tsze-sze replied, "No,
that is not my feeling. When I cultivate what is good, I wish men to
know it, for when they know it and praise me, I feel encouraged to be
more zealous in the cultivation. This is what I desire, and am not able
to obtain. If I cultivate what is good, and men do not know it, it is
likely that in their ignorance they will speak evil of me. So by my
good-doing I only come to be evil spoken of. This is what I do not
desire, but am not able to avoid. In the case of a man, who gets up at
cock-crowing to practise what is good and continues sedulous in the
endeavour till midnight, and says at the same time that he does not wish
men to know it, lest they should praise him, I must say of such a man,
that, if he be not deceitful, he is stupid."'
Another day, the duke asked Tsze-sze, saying, 'Can my state be made
to flourish?' 'It may,' was the reply. 'And how?' Tsze-sze said, 'O
prince, if you and your ministers will only strive to realize the
government of the duke of Chau and of Po-ch'in; practising their
transforming principles, sending forth wide the favours of your ducal
house, and not letting advantages flow in private channels; if you will
thus conciliate the affections of the people, and at the same time
cultivate friendly relations with neighboring states, your state will
soon begin to flourish.'
On one occasion, the duke asked whether it had been the custom of old
for ministers to go into mourning for a prince whose service and state
they had left. Tsze-sze replied to him, 'Of old, princes advanced their
ministers to office according to propriety, and dismissed them in the
same way, and hence there was that rule. But now-a-days, princes bring
their ministers forward as if they were going to take them on their
knees, and send them away as if they would cast them into an abyss. If
they do not treat them as their greatest enemies, it is well.-- How can
you expect the ancient practice to be observed in such circumstances
These instances may suffice to illustrate the character of Tsze-sze,
as it was displayed in his intercourse with the princes of his time. We
see the same independence which he affected in private life, and a
dignity not unbecoming the grandson of Confucius. But we miss the reach
of thought and capacity for administration which belonged to the Sage.
It is with him, how-
1 This conversation is given in the Li Chi, II. Sect. II. Pt. ii, 1.
ever, as a thinker and writer that we have to do, and his rank in
that capacity will appear from the examination of the Chung Yung in the
section iv below. His place in the temples of the Sage has been that of
one of his four assessors, since the year 1267. He ranks with Yen Hui,
Tsang Shan, and Mencius, and bears the title of 'The Philosopher
Tsze-sze, Transmitter of the Sage .'
In the testimony of K'ung Fu, which has been adduced to prove the
authorship of the Chung Yung, it is said that the Work consisted
originally of forty-nine p'ien. From this statement it is argued
by some, that the arrangement of it in thirty-three chapters, which
originated with Chu Hsi, is wrong ; but this does not affect the
question of integrity, and the character p'ien is so vague and
indefinite, that we cannot affirm that K'ung Fu meant to tell us by it
that Tsze-sze himself divided his Treatise into so many paragraphs or
It is on the entry in Liu Hsin's Catalogue, quoted section i,-- 'Two
p'ien of Observations on the Chung Yung,' that the integrity of
the present Work is called in question. Yen Sze-ku, of the Tang dynasty,
has a note on that entry to the effect:-- 'There is now the Chung Yung
in the Li Chi in one p'ien. But that is not the original Treatise
here mentioned, but only a branch from it ' Wang Wei, a writer of the
Ming dynasty, says:-- 'Anciently, the Chung Yung consisted of two
p'ien, as appears from the History of Literature of the Han dynasty,
but in the Li Chi we have only one p'ien, which Chu Hsi, when he
made his "Chapters and Sentences," divided into thirty-three chapters.
The old Work in two p'ien is not to be met with now .'
These views are based on a misinterpretation of the entry in the
2 See the 四書拓餘說, art. 中庸.
4 王氏緯曰,中庸古有二篇,見漢藝文志,而在禮記中者,一篇而已,朱子為章句,因其一篇者, 分為三十三章,而古所謂而篇者不可見矣.
Catalogue. It does not speak of two p'ien of the Chung Yung,
but of two p'ien of Observations thereon. The Great
Learning carries on its front the evidence of being incomplete, but the
student will not easily believe that the Doctrine of the Mean is so. I
see no reason for calling its integrity in question, and no necessity
therefore to recur to the ingenious device employed in the edition of
the five ching published by the imperial authority of K'ang Hsi,
to get over the difficulty which Wang Wei supposes. It there appears in
two p'ien, of which we have the following account from the author
of 'Supplemental Remarks upon the Four Books:'-- 'The proper course now
is to consider the first twenty chapters in Chu Hsi's arrangement as
making up the first p'ien, and the remaining thirteen as forming
the second. In this way we retain the old form of the Treatise, and do
not come into collision with the views of Chu. For this suggestion we
are indebted to Lu Wang-chai' (an author of the Sung dynasty ) .
ITS SCOPE AND VALUE.
1. The Doctrine of the Mean is a work not easy to understand. 'It
first,' says the philosopher Chang, 'speaks of one principle; it next
spreads this out and embraces all things; finally, it returns and
gathers them up under the one principle. Unroll it and it fills the
universe; roll it up, and it retires and lies hid in secrecy .' There
is this advantage, however, to the student of it, that more than most
other Chinese Treatises it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The
first chapter stands to all that follows in the character of a text,
containing several propositions of which we have the expansion or
development. If that development were satisfactory, we should be able to
bring our own minds en rapport with that of the author.
Unfortunately it is not so. As a writer he belongs to the intuitional
school more than to the logical. This is well put in the 'Continuation
of the General Examination of Literary Monuments and Learned Men,'--
'The philosopher Tsang reached his conclusions by following in the train
of things, watch-
1 See the 四書拓餘說, art. 中庸.
2 See the Introductory note of Chu Hsi.
ing and examining; whereas Tsze-sze proceeds directly and reaches to
Heavenly virtue. His was a mysterious power of discernment, approaching
to that of Yen Hui .' We must take the Book and the author, however,
as we have them, and get to their meaning, if we can, by assiduous
examination and reflection.
2. 'Man has received his nature from Heaven. Conduct in
accordance with that nature constitutes what is right and true,-- is a
pursuing of the proper Path. The cultivation or regulation of
that path is what is called Instruction.' It is with these axioms
that the Treatise commences, and from such an introduction we might
expect that the writer would go on to unfold the various principles of
duty, derived from an analysis of man's moral constitution.
Confining himself, however, to the second axiom, he proceeds to say
that 'the path may not for an instant be left, and that the superior man
is cautious and careful in reference to what he does not see, and
fearful and apprehensive in reference to what he does not hear. There is
nothing more visible than what is secret, and nothing more manifest than
what is minute, and therefore the superior man is watchful over his
aloneness.' This is not all very plain. Comparing it with the sixth
chapter of Commentary in the Great Learning, it seems to inculcate what
is there called 'making the thoughts sincere.' The passage contains an
admonition about equivalent to that of Solomon,-- 'Keep thy heart with
all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.'
The next paragraph seems to speak of the nature and the
path under other names. 'While there are no movements of pleasure,
anger, sorrow, or joy, we have what may be called the state of
equilibrium. When those feelings have been moved, and they all act
in the due degree, we have what may be called the state of harmony.
This equilibrium is the great root of the world, and this harmony is its
universal path.' What is here called 'the state of equilibrium,' is the
same as the nature given by Heaven, considered absolutely in itself,
without deflection or inclination. This nature acted on from without,
and responding with the various emotions, so as always 'to hit ' the
mark with entire
1 See the 續文獻通考, Bk. cxcix, art. 子思,--曾子得之于隨事省察,而子思之學,則直達天德,庶幾顏氏之妙悟.
correctness, produces the state of harmony, and such harmonious
response is the path along which all human activities should proceed.
Finally. 'Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in
perfection, and a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth,
and all things will be nourished and flourish.' Here we pass into the
sphere of mystery and mysticism. The language, according to Chu Hsi,
'describes the meritorious achievements and transforming influence of
sage and spiritual men in their highest extent.' From the path of duty,
where we tread on solid ground, the writer suddenly raises us aloft on
wings of air, and will carry us we know not where, and to we know not
3. The paragraphs thus presented, and which constitute Chu Hsi's
first chapter, contain the sum of the whole Work. This is acknowledged
by all;-- by the critics who disown Chu Hsi's interpretations of it, as
freely as by him . Revolving them in my own mind often and long, I
collect from them the following as the ideas of the author:-- Firstly,
Man has received from Heaven a moral nature by which he is constituted a
law to himself; secondly, Over this nature man requires to exercise a
jealous watchfulness; and thirdly, As he possesses it, absolutely and
relatively, in perfection, or attains to such possession of it, he
becomes invested with the highest dignity and power, and may say to
himself-- 'I am a god; yea, I sit in the seat of God.' I will not say
here that there is impiety in the last of these ideas; but do we not
have in them the same combination which we found in the Great
Learning,-- a combination of the ordinary and the extraordinary, the
plain and the vague, which is very perplexing to the mind, and renders
the Book unfit for the purposes of mental and moral discipline?
And here I may inquire whether we do right in calling the Treatise by
any of the names which foreigners have hitherto used for it? In the note
on the title, I have entered a little into this question. The Work is
not at all what a reader must expect to find in what he supposes to be a
treatise on 'The Golden Medium,' 'The Invariable Mean,' or 'The Doctrine
of the Mean.' Those
l Compare Chu Hsi's language in his concluding note to the first
chapter:-- 楊氏所謂一篇之禮要, and Mao Hsi-ho's, in his 中庸說, 卷一, p. 11:--
names are descriptive only of a portion of it. Where the phrase
Chung Yung occurs in the quotations from Confucius, in nearly every
chapter from the second to the eleventh, we do well to translate it by
'the course of the Mean,' or some similar terms; but the conception of
it in Tsze-sze's mind was of a different kind, as the preceding analysis
of the first chapter sufficiently shows .
4. I may return to this point of the proper title for the Work again,
but in the meantime we must proceed with the analysis of it.-- The ten
chapters from the second to the eleventh constitute the second part, and
in them Tsze-sze quotes the words of Confucius, 'for the purpose,'
according to Chu Hsi, 'of illustrating the meaning of the first
chapter.' Yet, as I have just intimated, they do not to my mind do this.
Confucius bewails the rarity of the practice of the Mean, and
graphically sets forth the difficulty of it. 'The empire, with its
component States and families, may be ruled; dignities and emoluments
may be declined; naked weapons may be trampled under foot; but the
course of the Mean can not be attained to .' 'The knowing go beyond
it, and the stupid do not come up to it .' Yet some have attained to
it. Shun did so, humble and ever learning from people far inferior to
himself ; and Yen Hui did so, holding fast whatever good he got hold
of, and never letting it go . Tsze-lu thought the Mean could be taken
by storm, but Confucius taught him better . And in fine, it is only
the sage who can fully exemplify the Mean .
All these citations do not throw any light on the ideas presented in
the first chapter. On the contrary, they interrupt the train of thought.
Instead of showing us how virtue, or the path of duty is in accordance
with our Heaven-given nature, they lead us to think of it as a mean
between two extremes. Each extreme may be a violation of the law of our
nature, but that is not made to appear. Confucius's sayings would be in
place in illustrating the doctrine of the Peripatetics, 'which placed
all virtue in a medium between opposite vices .' Here in the Chung
Yung of Tsze-sze I have always felt them to be out of place.
5. In the twelfth chapter Tsze-sze speaks again himself, and we seem
at once to know the voice. He begins by saying that 'the way of the
superior man reaches far and wide, and yet is
1 In the version in 'The Sacred Books of the East,' I call the
Treatise 'The State of Equilibrium and Harmony.'
2 Ch. ix.
3 Ch. iv.
4 Ch. vi.
5 Ch. viii.
6 Ch. x.
7 Ch. xi.
8 Encyclop¬?dia Britannica, Preliminary Dissertations, p. 318, eighth
secret,' by which he means to tell us that the path of duty is to be
pursued everywhere and at all times, while yet the secret spring and
rule of it is near at hand, in the Heaven-conferred nature, the
individual consciousness, with which no stranger can intermeddle. Chu
Hsi, as will be seen in the notes, gives a different interpretation of
the utterance. But the view which I have adopted is maintained
convincingly by Mao Hsi-ho in the second part of his 'Observations on
the Chung Yung.' With this chapter commences the third part of the Work,
which embraces also the eight chapters which follow. 'It is designed,'
says Chu Hsi, 'to illustrate what is said in the first chapter that "the
path may not be left."' But more than that one sentence finds its
illustration here. Tsze-sze had reference in it also to what he had
said-- 'The superior man does not wait till he sees things to be
cautious, nor till he hears things to be apprehensive. There is nothing
more visible than what is secret, and nothing more manifest than what is
minute. Therefore, the superior man is watchful over himself when he is
alone.' It is in this portion of the Chung Yung that we find a good deal
of moral instruction which is really valuable. Most of it consists of
sayings of Confucius, but the sentiments of Tsze-sze himself in his own
language are interspersed with them. The sage of China has no higher
utterances than those which are given in the thirteenth chapter.-- 'The
path is not far from man. When men try to pursue a course which is far
from the common indications of consciousness, this course cannot be
considered the path. In the Book of Poetry it is said--
"In hewing an axe-handle, in hewing an axe-handle,
The pattern is not far off."
We grasp one axe-handle to hew the other, and yet if we look askance
from the one to the other, we may consider them as apart. Therefore, the
superior man governs men according to their nature, with what is proper
to them; and as soon as they change what is wrong, he stops. When one
cultivates to the utmost the moral principles of his nature, and
exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the
path. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.'
'In the way of the superior man there are four things, to none of
which have I as yet attained.-- To serve my father as I would require my
son to serve me: to this I have not attained; to serve
my elder brother as I would require my younger brother to serve me:
to this I have not attained; to serve my ruler as I would require my
minister to serve me: to this I have not attained; to set the example in
behaving to a friend as I would require him to behave to me: to this I
have not attained. Earnest in practising the ordinary virtues, and
careful in speaking about them; if in his practice he has anything
defective, the superior man dares not but exert himself; and if in his
words he has any excess, he dares not allow himself such license. Thus
his words have respect to his actions, and his actions have respect to
his words;-- is it not just an entire sincerity which marks the superior
We have here the golden rule in its negative form expressly
propounded:-- 'What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to
others.' But in the paragraph which follows we have the rule virtually
in its positive form. Confucius recognises the duty of taking the
initiative,-- of behaving himself to others in the first instance as he
would that they should behave to him. There is a certain narrowness,
indeed, in that the sphere of its operations seems to be confined to the
relations of society, which are spoken of more at large in the twentieth
chapter, but let us not grudge the tribute of our warm approbation to
This chapter is followed by two from Tsze-sze, to the effect that the
superior man does what is proper in every change of his situation,
always finding his rule in himself; and that in his practice there is an
orderly advance from step to step,-- from what is near to what is
remote. Then follow five chapters from Confucius:-- the first, on the
operation and influence of spiritual beings, to show 'the manifestness
of what is minute, and the irrepressibleness of sincerity;' the second,
on the filial piety of Shun, and how it was rewarded by Heaven with the
throne, with enduring fame, and with long life; the third and fourth, on
the kings Wan and Wu, and the duke of Chau, celebrating them for their
filial piety and other associate virtues; and the fifth, on the subject
of government. These chapters are interesting enough in themselves, but
when I go back from them, and examine whether I have from them any
better understanding of the paragraphs in the first chapter which they
are said to illustrate, I do not find that I have. Three of them, the
seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth, would be more in place in the
Classic of Filial Piety than here in the Chung Yung. The meaning of the
sixteenth is shadowy and undefined. After all the study which I have
directed to it, there are some points in reference to which I have still
doubts and difficulties.
The twentieth chapter, which concludes the third portion of the Work,
contains a full exposition of Confucius's views on government, though
professedly descriptive only of that of the kings Wan and Wu. Along with
lessons proper for a ruler there are many also of universal application,
but the mingling of them perplexes the mind. It tells us of 'the five
duties of universal application,'-- those between sovereign and
minister, husband and wife, father and son, elder and younger brother,
and friends; of 'the three virtues by which those duties are carried
into effect,' namely, knowledge, benevolence, and energy; and of 'the
one thing, by which those virtues are practised,' which is singleness or
sincerity . It sets forth in detail the 'nine standard rules for the
administration of government,' which are 'the cultivation by the ruler
of his own character; the honouring men of virtue and talents; affection
to his relatives; respect towards the great ministers; kind and
considerate treatment of the whole body of officers; cherishing the mass
of the people as children; encouraging all classes of artisans;
indulgent treatment of men from a distance; and the kindly cherishing of
the princes of the States .' There are these and other equally
interesting topics in this chapter; but, as they are in the Work, they
distract the mind, instead of making the author's great object more
clear to it, and I will not say more upon them here.
6. Doubtless it was the mention of 'singleness,' or 'sincerity,' in
the twentieth chapter, which made Tsze-sze introduce it into this
Treatise, for from those terms he is able to go on to develop what he
intended in saying that 'if the states of Equilibrium and Harmony exist
in perfection, a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth,
and all things will be nourished and flourish.' It is here, that now we
are astonished at the audacity of the writer's assertions, and now lost
in vain endeavours to ascertain his meaning. I have quoted the words of
Confucius that it is 'singleness' by which the three virtues of
knowledge, benevolence, and energy are able to carry into practice the
duties of universal obligation. He says also that it is this same
'singleness' by which 'the nine standard rules of government' can be
effectively carried out . This 'singleness' is merely a name for 'the
states of Equilibrium
1 Par. 8.
2 Par. 12.
3 Par. 15.
and Harmony existing in perfection.' It denotes a character
absolutely and relatively good, wanting nothing in itself, and correct
in all its outgoings. 'Sincerity' is another term for the same thing,
and in speaking about it, Confucius makes a distinction between
sincerity absolute and sincerity acquired. The former is born with some,
and practised by them without any effort; the latter is attained by
study, and practised by strong endeavour . The former is 'the way of
Heaven;' the latter is 'the way of men .' 'He who possesses
sincerity,'-- absolutely, that is,-- 'is he who without effort hits what
is right, and apprehends without the exercise of thought; he is the sage
who naturally and easily embodies the right way. He who attains to
sincerity, is he who chooses what is good and firmly holds it fast. And
to this attainment there are requisite the extensive study of what is
good, accurate inquiry about it, careful reflection on it, the clear
discrimination of it, and the earnest practice of it .' In these
passages Confucius unhesitatingly enunciates his belief that there are
some men who are absolutely perfect, who come into the world as we might
conceive the first man was, when he was created by God 'in His own
image,' full of knowledge and righteousness, and who grow up as we know
that Christ did, 'increasing in wisdom and in stature.' He disclaimed
being considered to be such an one himself , but the sages of China
were such. And moreover, others who are not so naturally may make
themselves to become so. Some will have to put forth more effort and to
contend with greater struggles, but the end will be the possession of
the knowledge and the achievement of the practice.
I need not say that these sentiments are contrary to the views of
human nature which are presented in the Bible. The testimony of
Revelation is that 'there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good
and sinneth not.' 'If we say that we have no sin,' and in writing this
term, I am thinking here not of sin against God, but, if we can conceive
of it apart from that, of failures in regard to what ought to be in our
regulation of ourselves, and in our behavior to others;-- 'if we say
that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.'
This language is appropriate in the lips of the learned as well as in
those of the ignorant, to the highest sage as to the lowest child of the
soil. Neither the scriptures of God nor the experience of man know of
1 Par. 9.
2 Par. 18.
3 Pars. 18, 19.
4 Ana. VII. xix.
absolutely perfect. The other sentiment that men can make themselves
perfect is equally wide of the truth. Intelligence and goodness by no
means stand to each other in the relation of cause and effect. The
sayings of Ovid, 'Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor,' 'Nitimur
in velitum semper. cupimusque negata,' are a more correct expression
of the facts of human consciousness and conduct than the high-flown
praises of Confucius.
7. But Tsze-sze adopts the dicta of his grandfather without
questioning them, and gives them forth in his own style at the
commencement of the fourth part of his Treatise. 'When we have
intelligence resulting from sincerity, this condition is to be ascribed
to nature; when we have sincerity resulting from intelligence, this
condition is to be ascribed to instruction. But given the sincerity, and
there shall be the intelligence; given the intelligence, and there shall
be the sincerity .'
Tsze-sze does more than adopt the dicta of Confucius. He applies them
in a way which the Sage never did, and which he would probably have
shrunk from doing. The sincere, or perfect man of Confucius, is he who
satisfies completely all the requirements of duty in the various
relations of society, and in the exercise of government; but the sincere
man of Tsze-sze is a potency in the universe. 'Able to give its full
development to his own nature, he can do the same to the nature of other
men. Able to give its full development to the nature of other men, he
can give their full development to the natures of animals and things.
Able to give their full development to the natures of creatures and
things, he can assist the transforming and nourishing powers of Heaven
and Earth. Able to assist the transforming and nourishing powers of
Heaven and Earth, he may with Heaven and Earth form a ternion .' Such
are the results of sincerity natural. The case below this -- of
sincerity acquired, is as follows,-- 'The individual cultivates its
shoots. From these he can attain to the possession of sincerity. This
sincerity becomes apparent. From being apparent, it becomes manifest.
From being manifest, it becomes brilliant. Brilliant, it affects others.
Affecting others, they are changed by it. Changed by it, they are
transformed. It is only he who is possessed of the most complete
sincerity that can exist under heaven, who can transform .' It may
safely be affirmed, that when he thus expressed himself, Tsze-sze
understood neither what he said nor
1 Ch. xxi.
2 Ch. xxii.
3 Ch. xxiii.
whereof he affirmed. Mao Hsi-ho and some other modern writers explain
away many of his predicates of sincerity, so that in their hands they
become nothing but extravagant hyperboles, but the author himself would,
I believe, have protested against such a mode of dealing with his words.
True, his structures are castles in the air, but he had no idea himself
that they were so.
In the twenty-fourth chapter there is a ridiculous descent from the
sublimity of the two preceding. We are told that the possessor of entire
sincerity is like a spirit and can foreknow, but the foreknowledge is
only a judging by the milfoil and tortoise and other auguries! But the
author recovers himself, and resumes his theme about sincerity as
conducting to self-completion and the completion of other men and
things, describing it also as possessing all the qualities which can be
predicated of Heaven and Earth. Gradually the subject is made to
converge to the person of Confucius, who is the ideal of the sage, as
the sage is the ideal of humanity at large. An old account of the object
of Tsze-sze in the Chung Yung is that he wrote it to celebrate the
virtue of his grandfather . He certainly contrives to do this in the
course of it. The thirtieth, thirty-first, and thirty-second chapters
contain his eulogium, and never has any other mortal been exalted in
such terms. 'He may be compared to heaven and earth in their supporting
and containing, their over-shadowing and curtaining all things; he may
be compared to the four seasons in their alternating progress, and to
the sun and moon in their successive shining.' 'Quick in apprehension,
clear in discernment, of far-reaching intelligence, and all-embracing
knowledge, he was fitted to exercise rule; magnanimous, generous,
benign, and mild, he was fitted to exercise forbearance; impulsive,
energetic, strong, and enduring, he was fitted to maintain a firm hold;
self-adjusted, grave, never swerving from the Mean, and correct, he was
fitted to command reverence; accomplished, distinctive, concentrative,
and searching, he was fitted to exercise discrimination.' 'All-embracing
and vast, he was like heaven; deep and active as a fountain, he was like
the abyss.' 'Therefore his fame overspreads the Middle Kingdom, and
extends to all barbarous tribes. Wherever ships and carriages reach;
wherever the strength of man penetrates; wherever the heavens overshadow
1 唐陸德明釋文謂孔子之孫,子思,作此以昭明祖德; see the 中庸唐說一, p. 1.
and the earth sustains; wherever the sun and moon shine; wherever
frosts and dews fall;-- all who have blood and breath unfeignedly honour
and love him. Hence it is said,-- He is the equal of Heaven!' 'Who can
know him but he who is indeed quick in apprehension, clear in
discernment, of far-reaching intelligence, and all-embracing knowledge,
possessing all heavenly virtue?'
8. We have arrived at the concluding chapter of the Work, in which
the author, according to Chu Hsi, 'having carried his descriptions to
the highest point in the preceding chapters, turns back and examines the
source of his subject; and then again from the work of the learner, free
from all selfishness and watchful over himself when he is alone, he
carries out his description, till by easy steps he brings it to the
consummation of the whole world tranquillized by simple and sincere
reverentialness. He moreover eulogizes its mysteriousness, till he
speaks of it at last as without sound or smell .' Between the first
and last chapters there is a correspondency, and each of them may be
considered as a summary of the whole treatise. The difference between
them is, that in the first a commencement is made with the mention of
Heaven as the conferrer of man's nature, while in this the progress of
man in virtue is traced, step by step, till at last it is equal to that
of High Heaven.
9. I have thus in the preceding paragraphs given a general and
somewhat copious review of this Work. My object has been to seize, if I
could, the train of thought and to hold it up to the reader. Minor
objections to it, arising from the confused use of terms and singular
applications of passages from the older Classics, are noticed in the
notes subjoined to the translation. I wished here that its scope should
be seen, and the means be afforded of judging how far it is worthy of
the high character attributed to it. 'The relish of it,' says the
younger Ch'ang, 'is inexhaustible. The whole of it is solid learning.
When the skilful reader has explored it with delight till he has
apprehended it, he may carry it into practice all his life, and will
find that it cannot be exhausted .'
My own opinion of it is less favourable. The names by which it has
been called in translations of it have led to misconceptions of its
character. Were it styled 'The states of Equilibrium and Harmony,' we
should be prepared to expect something strange and probably extravagant.
Assuredly we should expect nothing more
1 See the concluding note by Chu Hsi.
2 See the Introductory note below.
strange or extravagant than what we have. It begins sufficiently
well, but the author has hardly enunciated his preliminary apophthegms,
when he conducts into an obscurity where we can hardly grope our way,
and when we emerge from that, it is to be bewildered by his gorgeous but
unsubstantial pictures of sagely perfection. He has eminently
contributed to nourish the pride of his countrymen. He has exalted their
sages above all that is called God or is worshipped, and taught the
masses of the people that with them they have need of nothing from
without. In the meantime it is antagonistic to Christianity. By-and-by,
when Christianity has prevailed in China, men will refer to it as a
striking proof how their fathers by their wisdom knew neither God nor