Previously on Confucius. And now, Robert K. Douglas.
Time: 551 BC - 479 BC
But even Confucius found it impossible to carry all his theories into practice, and his experience as Minister of Crime taught him that something more than mere example was necessary to lead the people into the paths of virtue. Before he had been many months in office, he signed the death-warrant of a well-known citizen named Shaou for disturbing the public peace. This departure from the principle he had so lately laid down astonished his followers, and Tsze-kung--the Simon Peter as he has been called among his disciples--took him to task for executing so notable a man. But Confucius held to it that the step was necessary. "There are five great evils in the world," said he: "a man with a rebellious heart who becomes dangerous; a man who joins to vicious deeds a fierce temper; a man whose words are knowingly false; a man who treasures in his memory noxious deeds and disseminates them; a man who follows evil and fertilizes it. All these evil qualities were combined in Shaou. His house was a rendezvous for the disaffected; his words were specious enough to dazzle any one; and his opposition was violent enough to overthrow any independent man."
But notwithstanding such departures from the lines he had laid down for himself, the people gloried in his rule and sang at their work songs in which he was described as their savior from oppression and wrong.
Confucius was an enthusiast, and his want of success in his attempt completely to reform the age in which he lived never seemed to suggest a doubt to his mind of the complete wisdom of his creed. According to his theory, his official administration should have effected the reform not only of his sovereign and the people, but of those of the neighboring states. But what was the practical result? The contentment which reigned among the people of Loo, instead of instigating the duke of T'se to institute a similar system, only served to rouse his jealousy. "With Confucius at the head of its government," said he, "Loo will become supreme among the states, and T'se, which is nearest to it, will be swallowed up. Let us propitiate it by a surrender of territory." But a more provident statesman suggested that they should first try to bring about the disgrace of the Sage.
With this object he sent eighty beautiful girls, well skilled in the arts of music and dancing, and a hundred and twenty of the finest horses which could be procured, as a present to the duke King. The result fully realized the anticipation of the minister. The girls were taken into the duke's harem, the horses were removed to the ducal stables, and Confucius was left to meditate on the folly of men who preferred listening to the songs of the maidens of T'se to the wisdom of Yaou and Shun. Day after day passed and the duke showed no signs of returning to his proper mind. The affairs of state were neglected, and for three days the duke refused to receive his ministers in audience.
"Master," said Tsze-loo, "it is time you went." But Confucius, who had more at stake than his disciple, was disinclined to give up the experiment on which his heart was set. Besides, the time was approaching when the great sacrifice to Heaven at the solstice, about which he had had so many conversations with the duke, should be offered up, and he hoped that the recollection of his weighty words would recall the duke to a sense of his duties. But his gay rivals in the affections of the duke still held their sway, and the recurrence of the great festival failed to awaken his conscience even for the moment. Reluctantly therefore Confucius resigned his post and left the capital.
Continued on Sunday, December 14th.
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