Previously on Confucius. And now, Robert K. Douglas.
Time: 551 BC - 479 BC
This remonstrance not only had the immediate effect which was intended, but appears to have influenced the manner of the duke toward the Sage, for in the interval between this and the duke's death, in the autumn of the same year, we hear of no counsel being either asked or given. In the successor to the throne Confucius evidently despaired of finding a patron, and he once again returned to Wei.
Confucius was now sixty-three, and on arriving at Wei he found a grandson of his former friend, the duke Ling, holding the throne against his own father, who had been driven into exile for attempting the life of his mother, the notorious Nan-tsze. This chief, who called himself the duke Chuh, being conscious how much his cause would be strengthened by the support of Confucius, sent Tsze-loo to him, saying, "The Prince of Wei has been waiting to secure your services in the administration of the state, and wishes to know what you consider is the first thing to be done." "It is first of all necessary," replied Confucius, "to rectify names." "Indeed," said Tzse-loo, "you are wide of the mark. Why need there be such rectification?" "How uncultivated you are, Yew," answered Confucius; "a superior man shows a cautious reserve in regard to what he does not know. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on successfully. When affairs cannot be carried on successfully, proprieties and music will not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not properly be awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore the superior man considers it necessary that names should be used appropriately, and that his directions should be carried out appropriately. A superior man requires that his words should be correct."
The position of things in Wei was naturally such as Confucius could not sanction, and, as the duke showed no disposition to amend his ways, the Sage left his court, and lived the remainder of the five or six years, during which he sojourned in the state, in close retirement.
He had now been absent from his native state of Loo for fourteen years, and the time had come when he was to return to it. But, by the irony of fate, the accomplishment of his long-felt desire was due, not to his reputation for political or ethical wisdom, but to his knowledge of military tactics, which he heartily despised. It happened that at this time Yen Yew, a disciple of the Sage, being in the service of Ke K'ang, conducted a campaign against T'se with much success. On his triumphal return, Ke K'ang asked him how he had acquired his military skill. "From Confucius," replied the general. "And what kind of man is he?" asked Ke K'ang. "Were you to employ him," answered Yen Yew, "your fame would spread abroad; your people might face demons and gods, and would have nothing to fear or to ask of them. And if you accepted his principles, were you to collect a thousand altars of the spirits of the land it would profit you nothing." Attracted by such a prospect, Ke K'ang proposed to invite the Sage to his court, "If you do," said Yen Yew, "mind you do not allow mean men to come between you and him."
But before Ke K'ang's invitation reached Confucius an incident occurred which made the arrival of the messengers from Loo still more welcome to him. K'ung Wan, an officer of Wei, came to consult him as to the best means of attacking the force of another officer with whom he was engaged in a feud. Confucius, disgusted at being consulted on such a subject, professed ignorance, and prepared to leave the state, saying as he went away: "The bird chooses its tree; the tree does not choose the bird." At this juncture Ke K'ang's envoys arrived, and without hesitation he accepted the invitation they brought. On arriving at Loo, he presented himself at court, and in reply to a question of the duke Gae on the subject of government, threw out a strong hint that the duke might do well to offer him an appointment. "Government," he said, "consists in the right choice of ministers." To the same question put by Ke K'ang he replied, "Employ the upright and put aside the crooked, and thus will the crooked be made upright."
At this time Ke K'ang was perplexed how to deal with the prevailing brigandage. "If you, sir, were not avaricious, though you might offer rewards to induce people to steal, they would not." This answer sufficiently indicates the estimate formed by Confucius of Ke K'ang and therefore of the duke Gae, for so entirely were the two of one mind that the acts of Ke K'ang appear to have been invariably indorsed by the duke. It was plainly impossible that Confucius could serve under such a regime, and instead, therefore, of seeking employment, he retired to his study and devoted himself to the completion of his literary undertaking.
Continued on Sunday, December 28th.
More information here.