Hsin Chuang's Opinion on Favored But Disreputable Officials
Strategies During the Warring States Period (403 B.C-221 B.C.)
I heard a saying once: it is not too late to kill a rabbit if seeing one
brings a retriever to mind; it is not too late to repair a pen after some sheep
go missing. I heard that Emperor T'ang and Emperor Wu flourished by starting
with only 20 square miles of land. Tyrant Chieh and Tyrant Chou were destroyed,
even though they had once controlled the entire land of China. Although
present-day Country Chuu is small, it contains several hundred square miles,
which can be easily counted by adding the area of small cities to that of the
large ones. In other words, our country still has a great potential to become
the most powerful country in China.
Don't you see that dragonfly? It has six feet and four wings. Flying between
heaven and earth, it catches mosquitoes and black flies when facing down and
drinks honey when facing up. It thinks nothing will happen to it because it is
not in competition with humans. How could it imagine that a three-foot-tall
child could make a large hoop with a lead line, glue a spider's web on it, use
it to catch him six high above ground, and then feed him to ants and bugs?
A dragonfly is just one small example. The same lesson applies to a sparrow.
It comes down to peck grains and flies up to roost on a tree abounding in
leaves. It flaps its wings and thinks nothing will happen to it because it is
not in competition with humans. How could it imagine that a young man from an
aristocratic family, with a slingshot in one hand and stones in the other, would
aim at him as he flies 20 feet above ground? All of a sudden, he falls into the
hand of the young man. The sparrow travels among dense trees during the day and
is seasoned with salt and vinegar in the evening.
Again, the sparrow is just another small example. The lesson also applies to
a swan. It flies over a river or an ocean and dives into a lake. It pecks eel
and carp when facing down and nibbles caltrop and aquatic plants when facing up.
It flaps its wings, rides on fresh wind, drift and rolls when gliding in the
sky. It thinks nothing will happen to it because it is not in competition with
humans. How could it imagine that an archer, who had just fixed his bow and
arrow head and attached a line on the arrow, could shoot it flying 60 feet above
ground? Hit by the arrow, it drops down from the wind along with the thin line.
Consequently, the swan, flying along a river during the day, is cooked in a
boiler at night.
The swan is just a third small example. The same lesson applied to Marquis
Ts’ai. In the south, he traveled along a high mountain slope. In the north, he
climbed Mount Wizard. He drank the flowing water of Creek Ju and ate fish that
had just been caught in the wave of River Hsiang. He rode a carriage in uptown
City Ts'ai with a young concubine in his left arm and a favorite pretty girl in
his right. He disregarded his duty to state affairs. How could he imagine
Official Fa, just ordered by king Hsuan, was about to bind him with a red rope
and send him to the king?
Marquis Ts'ai is just a fourth small example. The same lesson applies to
kingship. You are surrounded by favored but irresponsible officials. Marquis
Chou is on your left side and Marquis Hsia is on your right. Officials Yen and
Shou follow wherever your carriage goes. You eat rice from feudal land, take
gold from the Treasury, ride a fast boat on Lake Clouds and Dreams, but fail to
give a thought to state affairs. How could you imagine that Marquis Jang, just
ordered by the King of Country Ch'in, will fill our Fortress M with their troops
and throw you out of the fortress?