Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Confucius again

The Ideal society under moral rule or the rule of rites defined by Confucius

The translation of “da tong pian”(great equality society)

The ideal society under moral rule or the rule of rites defined by Confucius is called DATONG, which is  literally equivalent to  great equality society, yet it is translated  by different people differently. Here are just a few examples:

The Great Harmony

When the great principle prevails, the world is a commonwealth in which rulers are selected according to their wisdom and ability. Mutual confidence is promoted and good neighborliness cultivated.

Hence men do not regard as parents only their own parents, nor do they treat as children only their own children. Provision is secured for the aged till death, employment for the able-bodied, and the means of growing up for the young.

Helpless widows and widowers, orphans and the lonely, as well as the sick and the disabled, are well cared for.

Men have their respective occupations and women their homes. They do not like to see wealth lying idle, yet they do not keep it for their own gratification.

They despise indolence, yet they do not use their energies for their own benefit. In this way selfish scheming are repressed, and robbers, thieves and other lawless men no longer exist, and there is no need for people to shut their outer doors. This is called the great harmony

The Commonwealth State

When the perfect order prevails, the world is like a home shared by all. Virtuous and worthy men are elected to public office, and capable men hold posts of gainful employment in society; peace and trust among all men are the maxims of living. All men love and respect their own parents and children, as well as the parents and children of others. This is caring for the old; there are jobs for adults; there are nourishment and education for the children. There is a means of support for the widows, and the widowers; for all who find themselves alone in the world; and for the disabled. Every man and woman has an appropriate role to play in the family and society. A sense of sharing displaces the effects of selfishness and materialism. A devotion to public duty leaves no room for idleness. Intrigues and conniving for ill gain are unknown. Villains such as thieves and robbers do not exist. The door to every home need never be locked and bolted day or night. These are the characteristics of an ideal world, commonwealth state.

The Grand Union

When the Grand course was pursued, a public and common spirit ruled all under the sky; they chose men of talents, virtue, and ability; their words were sincere, and what they cultivated was harmony. Thus men did not love their parents only, nor treat as children only their own sons. A competent provision was secured for the aged till their death, employment for the able-bodied, and the means of growing up to the young. They showed kindness and compassion to widows, orphans, childless men, and those who were disabled by disease, so that they were all sufficiently maintained. Males had their proper work, and females had their homes. (They accumulated) articles (of value), disliking that they should be thrown away upon the ground, but not wishing to keep them for their own gratification. (The), laboured) with their strength, disliking that it should not be exerted, but not exerting it (only) with a view to their own advantage. In this way (selfish) schemings were repressed and found no development. Robbers, filchers, and rebellious traitors did not show themselves, and hence the outer doors remained open, and were not shut. This was (the period of) what we call the Grand Union.
Translated by James Legge



From the ancient Book of  Rites 礼记 大同篇

The exemplary moral rulers mentioned by Confucius in The Analects are  Emperors Yao, Shun, Tang, and Wu:

Yao said, "Oh! you, Shun, the Heaven-determined order of succession now rests in your person. Sincerely hold fast the due Mean. If there shall be distress and want within the four seas, the Heavenly revenue will come to a perpetual end."

Shun also used the same language in giving charge to Yu.

T'ang said, "I the child Li, presume to use a dark-colored victim, and presume to announce to Thee, O most great and sovereign God, that the sinner I dare not pardon, and thy ministers, O God, I do not keep in obscurity. The examination of them is by thy mind, O God. If, in my person, I commit offenses, they are not to be attributed to you, the people of the myriad regions. If you in the myriad regions commit offenses, these offenses must rest on my person."

Chou conferred great gifts, and the good were enriched.
"Although he has his near relatives, they are not equal to my virtuous men. The people are throwing blame upon me, the One man"….

Confucius on how to act rightly for a political leader:

Tsze-chang asked Confucius, saying, "In what way should a person in authority act in order that he may conduct government properly?" The Master replied, "Let him honor the five excellent, and banish away the four bad, things;-then may he conduct government properly." Tsze-chang said, "What are meant by the five excellent things?" The Master said, "When the person in authority is beneficent without great expenditure; when he lays tasks on the people without their repining; when he pursues what he desires without being covetous; when he maintains a dignified ease without being proud; when he is majestic without being fierce."

Tsze-chang said, "What is meant by being beneficent without great expenditure?" The Master replied, "When the person in authority makes more beneficial to the people the things from which they naturally derive benefit;-is not this being beneficent without great expenditure? When he chooses the labors which are proper, and makes them labor on them, who will repine? When his desires are set on benevolent government, and he secures it, who will accuse him of covetousness? Whether he has to do with many people or few, or with things great or small, he does not dare to indicate any disrespect;-is not this to maintain a dignified ease without any pride? He adjusts his clothes and cap, and throws a dignity into his looks, so that, thus dignified, he is looked at with awe;-is not this to be majestic without being fierce?"

Tsze-chang then asked, "What are meant by the four bad things?" The Master said, "To put the people to death without having instructed them;-this is called cruelty. To require from them, suddenly, the full tale of work, without having given them warning;-this is called oppression. To issue orders as if without urgency, at first, and, when the time comes, to insist on them with severity;-this is called injury. And, generally, in the giving pay or rewards to men, to do it in a stingy way;-this is called acting the part of a mere official."

Notes and Comments /by Mingshen Zhou/

  1. A few places in the translations are disputable, depending upon different understanding of the original text.. Take 大道之行也,天下for example, its English equivalent can be:
    • When the great way is followed, all under heaven will be equal.
    • When the Grand Course was purchased, a public and common spirit ruled all under the sky.
    • When the perfect order prevails, the world is like a home shared by all.
  2. There is a controversy over the existence of this great equality society.
  3. The two founders of Daoist philosophy Laozi and Zhuangzi were radical  anti-statists and anarchists. They seem to have been primitive libertarians, representing the aspirations and interest of independent farmers.

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