Han Fei: Loyalty and Filial Piety

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All-under-Heaven approve the Tao of filial piety, fraternal respect, loyalty, and obedience, but never carefully investigate the Tao of filial piety, fraternal respect, loyalty, and obedience; nor do they act intelligently upon these; wherefor All-under-Heaven is in disorder.

As everybody approves the Tao of Yao and Shun and conforms to it, there are murderers of rulers and rebels against fathers. Yao, Shun, T`ang, and Wu, each in his turn, acted contrary to the right relationship of ruler and minister, and the moral of the subsequent generations has consequently been upset. Yao, while ruler of men, made a minister his ruler. Shun, while ministering to a ruler, made the ruler a minister. T`ang and Wu, while ministering to rulers, murdered the sovereigns and dismembered their bodies. Yet All-underHeaven have honoured them. This is the reason why Allunder-Heaven has hitherto not attained political order.

Indeed, the so-called intelligent ruler is one who is able to keep his ministers in his service; the so-called worthy minister is one who is able to make laws and crimes clear and attend to his official duties so as to support his master. Now, Yao, assuming himself to be enlightened, could not keep Shun in his service; Shun, assuming himself to be worthy, could not continue supporting Yao; and T`ang and Wu, assuming themselves to be righteous, murdered their masters and superiors. That was the way “enlightened” rulers would give and “worthy” ministers would take. In consequence, hitherto there have been sons robbing their fathers’ houses and ministers robbing their masters’ states. Thus, fathers give way to sons and rulers give way to ministers. Such is not the right way to determine the distinction of rank between ruler and minister and unify the system of morale between father and son.

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Thy servant has heard, “Minister serving ruler, son serving father, and wife serving husband, if these three relationships run in harmony, All-under-Heaven will have order; if these three relationships run in discord, All-under-Heaven will have disorder.” If this is an immutable principle of the world, which neither the intelligent king nor the worthy minister dares to depart from, then even though the lord of men might be unworthy, no minister would dare to infringe his prerogative. In these days, however, the exaltation of the worthy, the appointment of the wise, and the lack of a constant principle, all follow the wrong way; but All-underHeaven always regard it as the royal road to order. For this reason, the T`ien Clan replaced the Lü Clan in Ch`i and the Tai Clan replaced the Tzŭ Clan in Sung. Both T`ien Hêng and Tzŭ-han were worthy and astute and never were stupid and worthless. Thus, when the immutable principle is abolished and worthies are exalted, confusion appears; when the law is discarded and astute men are taken into service, danger arises. Hence the saying: “Exalt law but never exalt worthiness.”

The ancient Records says: “Shun, when he saw his father, Ku-sou, looked uneasy”.  On this Confucius remarked: “How critical the age was! For All-under-Heaven was then hanging by a hair. If anybody was a follower of the true path, even his father could not treat him as a son, and, even his ruler could not treat him as a minister.”

However, thy servant would say, “Confucius in the first place did not understand the Tao of filial piety, fraternal respect, loyalty, and obedience.” By that remark did he mean that a follower of the true path, when in the court, could not be a minister to the sovereign,  and, when at home, could not be a son of the father? The reason why fathers want to have worthy sons, is that the family, if poor, will be enriched by them, and the fathers, when suffering, will be gladdened by them. The reason why the ruler wants to have worthy ministers, is that the state, if in chaos, will be put into order by them, and the sovereign, when humbled, will be elevated by them. Now supposing there were a son never doing his father any good, then the father in managing the domestic affairs would suffer. Again, supposing there were a worthy minister never doing the ruler any good, then the ruler while safeguarding his throne would be jeopardized. If so, to have a worthy son and to have a worthy minister will constitute a harm to the father and the ruler respectively. Then how can they get any benefit at all?

They say the loyal minister never endangers his ruler and the dutiful son never disowns his parents. Now, Shun, by pretending to worthiness, took the ruler’s state; T`ang and Wu, by pretending to righteousness, dethroned and murdered their rulers. Though all these people endangered their sovereigns by pretending to worthiness, yet All-underHeaven has considered them really worthy.

The heroes of antiquity, when in public, would never minister to any ruler, and, when in private, would never serve their families. By so doing, they disowned their rulers in public and their parents in private. Moreover, to minister to no ruler when active in public and serve no family when retired in private, is the road to world-confusion and family-extinction. Therefore, to regard Yao, Shun, T`ang, and Wu, as worthy, and approve ancient heroes, is a disturbing craft in All-under-Heaven.

Ku-sou was Shun’s father but Shun exiled him; Hsiang was Shun’s brother but Shun killed him. Who exiled his father and killed his brother, could not be called benevolent. Nor could one who married the emperor’s two daughters and took the rule over All-under-Heaven be called righteous. Who was neither benevolent nor righteous, could not be called enlightened. It is said in the Book of Poetry:

Under the whole heaven,
Every spot is the sovereign’s ground;
To the borders of the land,
Every individual is the sovereign’s minister.

As against the principle of this poem, Shun in public made his ruler a minister, and in private made his father a manservant, his mother a woman-servant, and his master’s daughters wives.

For the same reason, every hero in private never did his family any good; disturbing the world and exterminating his posterity, and in public attempting to oppose the ruler in every way. Though his decaying bones and spoilt flesh might eventually lie unburied on the open ground or flow on the mountain-stream, he never avoided going through water and fire in order to make All-under-Heaven take him as model, whereby he would make everybody in the world die and end his life young without regret. This type of man would always desert the world and never care about political order.

Similarly, whoever is a hero in this age, acts contrary to the masses, practises his own creed, prefers differences from others, pursues the philosophy of peace and quietude, and expounds the doctrine of vagueness and illusion.  Thy servant, however, thinks the philosophy of peace and quietude is a useless creed and the doctrine of vagueness and illusion is a lawless theory. He whose word is lawless and whose creed is useless, is regarded by the world as observing. Thy servant, however, maintains: Everybody during his life-time should serve the ruler and support the parents, but serving the ruler and supporting the parents can not depend upon the philosophy of peace and quietude; again everybody during his life-time  should live up to his word and doctrine, loyalty and sincerity, law and tact,  but word and doctrine, loyalty and sincerity, law and tact, can not be based on the teaching of vagueness and illusion; wherefore the teaching of vagueness and illusion and the philosophy of peace and quietude are nothing but bewildering crafts in the world.

A dutiful son, in serving his father, never fights with his brothers for the father’s household; a loyal minister, in serving the ruler, never struggles with other ministers for the ruler’s state. Indeed, if a son always praises other people’s parents, saying, for instance, “The parents of Mr. So and So go to bed late at night and get up early in the morning and work hard to make money and thereby support their children and grandchildren and keep so many men and women servants,” he is a defamer of his parents. Similarly, if a minister always praises the early kings for the greatness of their virtues and longs after them, he is a defamer of his ruler. Now, one who defames his parents is called undutiful; whereas one who defames his ruler, the world considers worthy. This is the reason why there is chaos.

Therefore, the minister who neither extols the worthiness of Yao and Shun, nor admires the achievement of T`ang and Wu, nor speaks well of the nobleness of the ancient heroes, but applies all his strength to observing the law and devotes his mind to serving the sovereign, is a loyal minister, indeed.

In antiquity the black headed  were mindless and stupid. Therefore, it was possible to win their homage by means of empty fame. The people of today, however, are alert and astute and apt to preen themselves and disobey the superior. Therefore, the superior needs to encourage them with rewards, so that they will advance, and to terrify them with punishments, so that they will never dare to retreat.

However, people of this age all say: “As Hsü Yu declined the rule over All-under-Heaven, mere reward would not be sufficient to encourage worthies. As Robber Chê purposely transgressed the penal law and bravely underwent the consequent disaster, punishment would not be sufficient to prevent culprits.” In response thy servant would say: “Who had never had the rule over All-under-Heaven and left All-under-Heaven out of consideration, was Hsü Yu. Who had already acquired the rule over All-under-Heaven but left All-under-Heaven out of consideration, were Yao and Shun. Who ruined his personal integrity for seeking money, violated the criminal law in seizing on profit, and forgot the impending death penalty, was Robber Chê. The two persons were extremes. The right way of governing the state and employing the people should not take these rare persons as standards. For government is to govern the ordinary persons; its true path is to lead the ordinary persons; wherefore extreme things and eccentric words are detrimental to political order.

The highest man of the world can not be encouraged with reward; nor can the lowest man of the world be restrained by penalty. However, if on account of the highest man reward is not established, and on account of the lowest man punishment is not established, the right way of governing the state and employing the people will be missed.

For that reason, most men of this age never speak of the law of the state but advocate the Perpendicular Union or the Horizontal Alliance. The advocates of the Union say, “No Union, no Hegemony.” The advocates of the Alliance say, “No Alliance, no supremacy.” Now, to the east of the Mountain advocates of the Alliance have never stopped for a single day speaking on the subject. Yet if no achievement nor any reputation has been accomplished nor any Hegemonic Ruler has emerged, it is because empty words are not means of attaining political order. The king enjoys independent actions, wherefore he is called “supreme”. For this reason, the Three Kings never strove for any kind of union or separation; nor did the Five Hegemonic Rulers  attempt to form any kind of Perpendicular Union or Horizontal Alliance. They only investigate ways and means of managing home affairs and thereby fix foreign policies.

Full Text of Han Fei >>

Translated by Wenkui Liao

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