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Qunshu Zhiyao (A Compendium of the Essentials of Governance)    (Lecture 4) by Professor Yuli Liu  File No.: 56-167-0004-0

群書治要  (第四集)  劉余莉教授  


Respected friends, greetings!



Today we will continue with the Third Passage of Qunshu Zhiyao 360.



Alas! Duke of Rong covets monopoly and does not understand it is a great calamity.  As all things on earth and under heaven create profits that benefit people and all creatures, a monopoly will produce many detriments.  People and all creatures on earth and under heaven have a need for them, how can anyone have a monopoly?  It will incite the wrath of the people.  To teach Your Majesty monopoly without preparing for such great calamity, can Your Majesty’s rule last long?”



This passage is selected from Qunshu Zhiyao, Shiji (Records by the Grand Historian)[1], Part I.



In Wei Zheng’s preface to Qunshu Zhiyao, he mentioned the principle in the meticulous selection process for this compendium on governance to ensure that no stones are left unturned or “not a single tooth or horn was left outside the compendium; all plumage was included in the selected events.”  It means that all the crucial points or important contents in the selected books were not excluded from the compilation.  For example, if the compilers were excerpting from the Analects, then all the verses containing the essence of personal cultivation, family order, state governance, and world peace in the Analects will be included.  If a historical event was selected, the whole picture will be presented without leaving out any details.  From this principle we can perceive the painstaking efforts of Wei Zheng and his team and their best intentions in the compilation of this compendium.  Their purpose was to enlighten future generations with good role models and to provide reference materials to draw lessons from.  We should reaffirm our confidence in Qunshu Zhiyao based on Wei’s good will.  Due to their careful scrutiny to distill the essence from voluminous books, this canon of governance took five years to finish, demonstrating the rigorous scholarly attitude of the ancients.  Compared to them, modern people seem impetuous, restless, and aim for quick success and instant profits.  This comparison leads us to a conclusion that technological development and social advance do not mean that modern people have higher intelligence than the ancients.



There are two reasons that made the ancients wiser than us.  The first was because their mind was very pure and tranquil.  Wisdom arises from a pure mind.  The mind can be analogized to water (to reflect our moods).  If the water is always turbulent like when we are angry or enraged, the surface of the water is like the boiling sea with roaring waves surging high and can no longer reflect the external world truthfully.  Sometimes there may be ripples on the surface of the water like when we are dissatisfied or vexed; the mind is not totally tranquil like the still waters, and things on our mind will be slightly distorted.  Only when our mind is perfectly still, as water without any ripples (or undercurrents), like a mirror with a smooth surface, then our mind can reflect the outside world truthfully and objectively.  The wisdom of the ancients was an illustration of the tranquility of their minds which were much purer than modern people.  The second reason is because their magnanimous minds embraced the world and their heart strings were attached to the common people.  All their thoughts circled around how to benefit people all over the world and how to have good governance to achieve world peace.  Their magnanimity and aspiration made their wisdom well up uninterruptedly like the fountainhead.  When Taizong of Tang commanded Wei Zheng to compile Qunshu Zhiyao, Taizong also had the same magnanimous mind that embraced the world and the aspiration to have a good government that would truly benefit the people.  We should have the same magnanimous attitude when studying Qunshu Zhiyao so that we can receive the wisdom of the ancients.



Chairman Xi can be said to be a sagacious leader with a vision.  In many reports of his New Year’s celebration speech, we found that the book he likes to read the most is Qunshu ZhiyaoThere are many pictures in his office[A1] .  In one of the pictures there is a bookshelf filled with his favorite books and the recent addition of tomes in several volumes.  One of the tomes is Qunshu Zhiyao.  In Chairman Xi’s speeches, he stressed several times: “To have good governance of today’s China, we must have a profound understanding of Chinese history and traditional culture.  We also need to actively summarize our exploration and the wisdom of the governance of ancient China.”  Qunshu Zhiyao has been lauded as the essence of the wisdom of China’s traditional governance.  Using the words of the Venerable Master Chin Kung, it is the crème de la crème of the excellent traditional Chinese culture.  Therefore, reading this compendium will give us a penetrative understanding of the political wisdom of the governance of ancient China.  It is not a coincidence that Chairman Xi loves this book and his father wrote “the ancient mirror that reflects the present” on the flyleaf of the book.  It shows that they both have a thorough understanding of Qunshu Zhiyao.



This Passage is from Part I of Shiji (Records by the Grand Historian).  There is a story behind this passage, which we need to understand fully.  According to the records of Shiji, after King Li (died in 828 BC) of Zhou dynasty ascended the throne (reigned 877–841 BC or 857–842 BC)[2], he coveted riches and was very close to Duke Yi of Rong.  Fortunately, he had a loyal subject called Ray Liang-fu.  Ray remonstrated with the king and said: “The royal family is in decline!”  Then he said the selected passage: “Alas! Duke of Rong covets monopoly and does not understand it is a great calamity.”  Duke of Rong liked to have a monopoly on all natural resources without understanding its dire consequences to the society.  “As all things on earth and under heaven create profits that benefit people and all creatures, a monopoly will produce many detriments.”  All creatures between heaven and earth depend on the profits and riches created from natural resources to survive.  If there is a monopoly, there will be inequity in the distribution of goods and resources, causing great detriments.  “People and all creatures on earth and under heaven have a need for them, how can anyone have a monopoly?”  Everyone needs to profit from natural resources.  How can anyone monopolize them?  “It will incite the wrath of the people.  To teach Your Majesty monopoly without preparing for such great calamity, can Your Majesty’s rule last long?”  A monopoly on all profits created from natural resources will infuriate many people.  Duke of Rong, not realizing its dire consequences, taught and abetted the king to profit (at the expenses of the people) through this devious means.   How can the king’s rule last for long?



The counsel and remonstration of Ray Liang-fu was very sincere and direct.  It can be said that he was admonishing the king under the risk of losing his life.  This had been the proper way or the Dao of loyal subjects in ancient times.  They would not ignore their ruler’s mistakes without censure.  To do otherwise, they would sink into unrighteousness, losing their Dao.  Ray advised:  “As a king, Your Majesty should foster productions, develop the land, distribute equitably to all classes of people, from high to low, so that Heaven (Nature), people, and all things and creatures are in harmony and in their proper places.  Even thusly, Your Majesty should be prudent and apprehensive daily of the incurrence of people’s grudges and grievances.  Instead, Your Majesty is now wishing to have a monopoly (and barred people to profit from communal forests and lakes[3]).  How can this work?  The common people who monopolize profits from natural resource are called poachers.  If Your Majesty does this, the number of people taking refuge under your wings will decline.  If Your Majesty relies on Duke of Rong to rule, Zhou dynasty will definitely collapse.” 



Unfortunately, King Li of Zhou dynasty would not listen to his advice and still appointed Duke of Rong as chancellor to administer governmental affairs.  King Li of Zhou ruled with tyranny.  He was arrogant, cruel, and extravagant[A2] .  All the people living in the capital animadverted on his despotic ways.  At this time, Duke Mu of Zao (died 780 BC)[4] came to censure him saying: “People can’t stand Your Majesty’s decrees any more!”  King Li was furious and found a wizard from the duchy of Wei (or state of Wei) and asked him to spy on people who criticized him.  Whomever the wizard reported as having animadverted on him, he would kill them immediately.  Consequently, the public discussed less and less of political affairs and the dukes no longer sought his audience.



King Li’s rule became more severe to the point whereas “people would not dare to speak and greet each other on the street by exchanging a look.”  Nobody dared to talk and when they met on the streets they would just look at each other as greetings.  This made King Li very happy and boasted to Duke Mu of Zao saying: “I have quieted all complaints; the public dare not slander me now.”  Duke Mu replied: “It is just a blockage (an obstruction).  The damage of banning people’s speech is more dreadful than blocking the flow of water.  If water’s navigation is blocked, it overflows, and the damage to the people caused by flooding will be severe.  The same is with people.  Therefore, the way to manage water is to channel its flow.  The way to mange people is to let them speak their minds.”  The advice given by Duke Mu of Zao—“The damage of banning people’s speech is more dreadful than blocking the flow of water” — became a famous saying in history.  Duke Mu admonished King Li saying that he just gagged people.  The consequence of censoring people’s speech is more severe than blocking the flow of rivers.  When river’s navigation is blocked by the accumulation of mud or levee, once it overflows or breaks the levee, the flooding will cause great damages to people’s properties and their lives.  Censoring people’s speech has the same effect.  Those who are good at controlling flood will dredge the river to let it flow freely (without any blockage).  The governance of people should be the same; also let people speak their minds and express their opinions.  People’s speech is just like the rivers and mountains on earth[A3] .  People’s wealth and livelihood come from mountains, forests, and rivers.  It is also like the different types of geographic landscapes on earth, such as the highlands, the low basins, the wetlands, and the dry deserts, all of them can produce the food and clothing people need.  To let people have freedom of speech and discuss politics can reflect the good or bad of government policies.  People will say whatever they think.  Their mature and constructive opinions can be adopted and implemented.  If a ruler puts a ban on people’s speech, how many people will support such a ruler?



King Li still would not listen.  Thereafter, nobody dared to speak.  Three years later, people revolted and exiled King Li to a place called Zhi.  When his son, King Xuan, ascended the throne, he reestablished order in the government, emulated the paradigm set by his ancestors, the first four Kings of Zhou dynasty Wen, Wu, Cheng and Kang.  All the dukes returned to pay homage to Zhou dynasty.  This is the complete story behind the Third Passage.



There are at least four edifying points in this story.  First, why King Li would listen to Duke of Rong but not his loyal subject Ray Liang-fu and turned a blind ear to the famous advice of Duke Mu of Zao?  In the Book of Changes, the first hexagram, symbolized by the Heaven, stated:  “Notes of the same key respond to one another; creatures of the same nature seek one another.[5]”  People of like virtues will naturally team together to work towards a common goal.  The personality of a ruler determines the kind of people s/he will use.  The level of the ruler’s cultivation determines with whom s/he is compatible.  “From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of the people, all must consider personal cultivation as the root of everything[6],” so it is stated in the Great Leaning.  When the rulers have cultivated their persons, they will find that to achieve family order, state governance, and world peace are not that difficult.



There is another pertinent story in Qunshu Zhiyao, “Lei-zi[A4] .”  Prince Zhung of Chu (died 591 BC), one of the Five Hegemons who tried to wrest control of China from the Zhou dynasty[7], asked Zhan Ho on governance.  Master Zhan replied:  “Why Your Highness understands the cultivation of the person but not the governance of the state?”  Prince Zhung of Chu said reverently:  “I have the privilege to pay respect in the ancestral temple and to rule the state.  I wish to learn how to protect them.”  We can see from this dialogue that Prince Zhung of Chu was a very responsible ruler; wholeheartedly aspiring to make Chu a great state so that his people could live in peace and prosperity.  Master Zhan answered:  “I have never heard of a self-disciplined ruler whose state is chaotic or in disorder.  Neither have I heard of an undisciplined ruler whose state is peaceful and in order.  Thus the root cause of good governance is in the ruler’s personal cultivation and anything else is secondary.  Things secondary to personal cultivation, I dare not speak of them to Your Highness.”  Prince Zhung said:  “Greatly! You have put it well.”  From this story we can discern that the majority of the contents in Qunshu Zhiyao, this compendium on the essentials of good governance, are relevant to the personal cultivation of leaders and politicians, teaching them how to cultivate the person.  There is also a rationale to the arrangement of Qunshu Zhiyao 360 as it begins with the Dao of Rulers.  The first heading under the Dao of Rulers is Personal Cultivation, and Personal Cultivation begins with the Prohibition of Covetousness.  This is in accordance with the order of governance when the ancients ruled their kingdoms. 



If rulers are sagacious, they will definitely use sagacious courtiers.  In the Book of Documents, it stated:  “Rulers transcending their generations will use subjects who surpassed their generations; subjects surpassing their generations will accomplish deeds that transcend their generations.”  After the 18th CPC National Congress, our government’s anti-corruption policy has turned over a new leaf and is greatly effective.  It is all because the paradigm set by our leader, Chairman Xi, who started the anti-extravagance reform with himself first and rigorously practiced frugality.  When he was touring the South, he would only stay in three-star motels and eat cheap buffets.  His actions stimulated the leading cadres to emulate his examples one after another.  He also used those truly sagacious and honest cadres.  We can foresee that his future accomplishments will be outstanding.  “Rulers transcending their generations” means that not every generation can produce a sagacious ruler and not every generation can have outstanding accomplishments.  This is also the reason why we have confidence in our current national leader.



The second edifying point from the story behide the Third Passage is that leaders must eradicate greed; especially those who are local administrators.  They should not compete for profits against the people.  If they were to monopolize profits, they will invoke the wrath of the people and even incur their own ruination.  The reason Taizong of Tang dynasty could establish the Reign of Zhenguan cannot be separated from his familiarity with the teachings in Qunshu Zhiyao.  From the recorded dialogues in the Essentials of the Reign of Zhenguan, we have discovered that Taizong had indeed rigorously implemented these teachings in his governance.



For example in the Essentials of the Reign of Zhenguan, “Discourse on Avarice and Niggardliness,” it recorded a dialogue between Taizong and his courtiers.  In the first year of Zhenguan, Taizong told his courtiers:  “Anyone who owns a pearl worthy of a city would treasure it.   If that person uses it to shoot birds, it will be a misfortune[A5] , won’t it?  However, people’s lives are more precious than such a pearl.  Those officials who will immediately forget their fear of punishment by law and accept the bribes of gold and silver bars, luxurious items, and properties do not understand the preciousness[A6]  of life.  As a precious pearl external to life should not be used to shoot birds; how can anyone gamble life which is more precious than pearls for properties?  If all our government officials can be responsible and loyal, act with integrity and justice to benefit our country and people, they will get any position and noble ranks they desire.  They do not need to resort to bribery in order to acquire wealth and high ranks.  Once their dirty money and proceeds of crime are exposed, they will be executed.  Their malfeasance is really absurd.”  Taizong’s metaphor of “shooting birds with precious pearls” created a very graphic image.  It is a metaphor to ridicule corrupt officials, who do not treasure their government positions, exchanged power for private gains, took bribes, and ended in death.   Indeed, the loss is not worth the gain.



In the second year of Zhenguan, Taizong told his courtiers: “I have said before those who are greedy do not understand the proper way to be rich.  For example, the government officials ranked fifth and above already have ample income.  If they accepted others’ bribes, they only gained several thousands dollars more than their annual salaries.  However, if they are caught, they will lose their positions and their future income.  How can this be the proper way to be rich?  They are penny wise and dollar foolish.  Their loss is more than their gain.  In the past the prime minister of Lu, Gongyi Xiu, loved to eat fish but never accepted others’ gift of them.”



Qunshu Zhiyao has also selected this story of Gongyi Xiu[A7] He was the prime minister of Lu and had been selected in Shiji (Records by the Grand Historian) as one of the “Upright Officials.”  He was very honest and strict with himself and his subordinates.  He had never competed with the people for profits either.  Interestingly, he had a craving for fish and people would gift him with such.  However, he would look at them and send his servants to return them.  His younger brother was puzzled and asked him why he would return them.  Gongyi replied:  “It is just because I love to eat fish that I cannot accept the gift of them.  I am the prime minister.  I have a craving for fish.  With my salary I can easily afford them daily.  Why don’t I just buy them myself?  If I were to accept their gifts, sooner or later I will be sent to jail for bribery.  Will I be able to eat fish in jail?  Will they gift me with fish anymore?”  Gongyi Xiu was very wise.



To be able to cite the story of Gongyi Xiu demonstrates that Taizong had indeed read widely.  He concluded:  “Never accept other’s gifts of fish can let him have fish for a long time.  Besides, a greedy king will lose his kingdom; a greedy subject will lose his life.”  The last verse also became a famous saying.  If the monarch is greedy, the monarchy will perish.  If the subject is greedy, let’s change “subject” with today’s terminology--if the leading cadres are greedy, they will definitely lose their lives.  Taizong also quoted many historical events and numerous examples to warn us not to do such things that will result in higher losses than the gain.  From this dialogue we have observed that Taizong as an emperor often warned his courtiers and other court officials to take such lessons as a warning.



In the fourth year of Zhenguan, Taizong told his subjects: “Your Sovereign is vigilant every day.  Not only do I worry and care about my people, I also want all of you to keep your wealth and ranks.  The heaven is high, the earth is immense.  Your Sovereign has been prudent, reverent, and fearful of heaven and earth.  If all of you can be law-abiding the way I am reverent and fearful of heaven and earth, the common people will be able to live in peace and happiness, and all of you will have life-long happiness as well.  The ancients said:  ‘Abundant wealth erodes the will of the wise; abundant wealth instigates the transgressions of the poor’. ” The ancients had said it well.  “Abundant wealth erodes the will of the wise” mean that people may be wise but with abundant wealth, they will become supercilious, extravagant, indulge in depravity, and rest on their laurels.  They will not be as resolute as before in their aspirations for advancement.  It is a truism that “since ancient times, all noble houses had humble beginnings.”  Many successful people lived in poverty when young.  They were able to strive for success.  Their aspirations were not contaminated by decadence and the resilience of their will was tempered with poverty.  “Abundant wealth instigates the transgressions of the poor” mean that if foolish people were to have great wealth, they will use the money to do all kinds of evils.  In Buddhist terminology, they will create bad karma for themselves. For example, they would kill hundreds of lives in a single meal.  Their bad karma is truly an unnecessary tragedy.  They could have used their abundant wealth to benefit their country and other people, to propagate traditional culture; thus accumulating greater merits or good karma for themselves.  Instead, they indulge in depravity and decadence.  Generally speaking, their wealth cannot last for more than three generations, or even less.  Some will become bankrupt before their life is over.



Taizong continued saying:  “This proverb should be taken as a warning.  If people follow their desires and take bribes, they will violate the law and harm the people.  Even if they are not caught yet, won’t they be apprehensive constantly?  Many would die from such intense apprehension.”  Those corrupt officials are constantly in fear of being exposed.  When they hear sirens, they would think:  “Alas! Are the police coming for me?  Am I going to be caught?”  Such pressure and anxiety will cause them to be agitated.  Many premature deaths are closely connected to such unnecessary pressure and worry.



“How can superior people ruin themselves, wreck their families, and bring shame to their descendants due to their avarice for material goods?”  Corruption not only harms us but also brings shame to our family and posterity once we are imprisoned.   Wherever they go, people will comment behind their backs and say:  “You know somebody in their family took bribes and was put in jail.”  From Taizong’s words we can discern that he was truly a wise ruler.  Not only did he say those words, but he also practiced what he preached.  From the following two stories we will find that Taizong took the lead and set himself as an example for his subjects to emulate.



In the seventh year of Zhenguan, Taizong toured the country and visited Pu-zhou for an inspection of the place.  The governor of Pu-zhou at the time was Zhao Yuan-kai.  Governor Zhao was a former subject of the preceding Sui dynasty.  In the twelfth year of Daye, Emperor Yang of Sui visited Jiangdu, today’s Yang-zhou, Zhao provided fine wine and delicacies to Emperor Yang, Queen Xiao, and the emperor’s favorite concubines. The royal family was drinking wine like water.  Zhao was immediately promoted to mayor of Jiangdu due to his “offerings of exotic foods.”  Since his fawning won him favors with the emperor of Sui, he decided to repeat this tactic.  He ordered the elders to wear yellow chiffon and lined up the roadsides as welcoming groups.  He lavishly decorated the official residences, the street buildings, and the city walls of Pu-zhou.  In addition, he procured hundreds of lambs and thousands of fish to be offered to the royal family.



When Taizong learned of this, he summoned Zhao and castigated him saying:  “I have inspected the regions between the Yellow River and the Luo River and toured several prefectures.  All my sustenance was provided by local officials.  You have now procured lambs, fish, and decorated the government residences following the decadent customs of the demised Sui dynasty, which should not be practiced any more.  You should understand my meaning and reform your old habits.”  Taizong said those words to caution Zhao who was used to be obsequious and not a decent person.  Taizong’s castigation made him contrite and fearful.  Zhao could not eat and after several days he died.  From this story we can understand why the Sui dynasty only lasted for 37 years and the reason Taizong could restore social order in a short time and created the flourishing Reign of Zhenguan.  He learned from the lessons of the classics and understood their core values.



In the tenth year of Zhenguan, the deputy minister of Internal Affairs[8], Guan Wan-ji, reported that “silver mines had been discovered in the big mountains of Xuan-zhou and Rao-zhou.  If excavated, the mines can produce millions of silver dollars annually.”  Upon hearing such reports, leaders who are greedy and chase after profits will immediately order their excavation and approve such proposals.  However, Taizong of Tang who truly understood the classics said: “I am the exalted Son of Heaven and lack of nothing.  What I do need are proposals of good policies that benefit the people.  Moreover, how can a few million dollars’ annual increase in national revenues compare to the recruitment of a sagacious and talented subject?”  What Taizong said are in complete accord with the teachings of the saints and sages.  The ancients did not regard gold, silver, and jewels as precious treasures but deemed talents as precious jewels.  Taizong continued with a reprimand:  “You did not recommend any sagacious and capable persons, propose any good policies, nor did you expose any evil doers to intimidate the local bullies and the powerful nobles.  You only talk about how to make profits by mining silvers.  In the past, the legendary emperors Yao and Shun earned their good reputations for millenniums by throwing away Jade disks into the mountains or deep forests and sinking the jewels into the abyss.  The emperors Huan and Lin of the later Han dynasty earned their bad reputations as fatuous rulers in recent history by chasing after profits and ignoring righteousness.  By your actions, are you putting me in the category of emperors Huan and Lin?”  From this dialogue, we can perceive that the paradigms of sagacious rulers are indeed different from the ordinary.  Besides issuing this rebuke, Taizong suspended Guan and ordered him to stay home.



In the Analects, Confucius said:  “If rulers were not covetous, even if they reward people to steal, they would not do so.”  When the rulers are not greedy, even if they reward people for stealing, they will not do so.  Since whatever the leaders do the followers will emulate, if rulers are greedy and covet curios, profits, and properties, the whole society will compete for profits.  From these stories we can conclude that it was no coincidence that Taizong could govern Tang dynasty well, create unprecedented prosperity during his reign, and become the “Emperor in a Millennium.”



In the sixteenth year of Zhenguan, Taizong told his courtiers:  “The ancients said, ‘Birds, fearing the branch they perched on was not high enough, would nest on the top of the tree.  Fish, fearing the waters they swam in were not deep enough, would live in the caves at the bottom of the ocean.’  Nonetheless, they were still caught by people because they could not resist temptations and were trapped by their greed.  Today’s officials once they accepted their appointments, occupied high positions and enjoyed good salaries should perform their duties with loyalty, honesty, and integrity.  They should be selfless and incorruptible to avoid personal ruinations and thusly maintain their ranks and wealth for a long time!  The ancient said:  ‘There are no doors to fortune and calamity except through the actions of each individual[9].’  People who test the law with their lives are covetous of profits and properties.  How are they different from those birds and fish?  All of you should ponder on this, take it as a caveat, and draw lessons from it.”



Confucius in the Classic of Filial Piety[10] told us that we should “be apprehensive, be cautious, as if on the brink of a deep abyss, as if walking on thin ice when others tempt us with luxury, beauties, rich, and fame.  When you are offered with money and beautiful girls, don’t believe you can walk on air and gloat: “I am a high-ranking official so they must show obsequious deference to me.”  Actually, they are just entrapping us with baits and hoping we will jump off the high cliff with one false step.  If we cannot hold onto our moral compass and slip into the trap, it will be too late for our regrets.  Regrets are predicated on “too late.”    A false step will cause eternal regrets.



Why can the study of Qunshu Zhiyao help in anti-corruption?  It is because after reading these historical lessons and the paradigm set by Taizong’s actualization of the teachings of the saints and sages, we will realize that the result of coveting for riches is like storing water in a bamboo-weaved basket full of holes.  The loss is indeed greater than the gain.  When we understand the meanings of the sayings“There are no doors to fortune and calamity except through the actions of each individual”; The family that accumulates goodness is sure to have superabundant happiness; and the family that accumulates evil is sure to have superabundant misery”—we dare not to be corrupt and take bribes even when the money is in front of us.  From these stories we have observed how Taizong, Lee Shi-min, applied the teachings in Qunshu Zhiyao.  They are applicable in the past and still applicable today.  They are applicable in China and also applicable in the West.



For example, in 2001 we have seen the infamous bankruptcy of Enron Corporation (“Enron”).  The Enron scandal was caused by the top management’s monopoly of corporate profits.  Before the scandal, Enron was ranked seventh in the Fortune Global 500 companies and reported revenues in billions of U.S. dollars.  We know that Western countries emphasized the establishment of corporate systems.  Their corporate systems seemed to be reasonable.  Companies will hire a CEO to run the business.  CEOs are paid with high salaries plus bonuses in company’s stocks to motivate them to work hard for company’s profits.



However, a company’s growth is similar to the vicissitudes of life with ups and downs.  When company’s profits are low, the prices of the company’s stocks will go down, which in turn affect the bonuses of the CEOs.  Therefore, these smart guys, wishing to guarantee the performance of the company stock so that their bonus income would not incur losses, started to fabricate company profits.  In a short few years, they falsified U.S. $600 millions in financial records and covered up $2.9 billions in company losses.  In addition, the 29 members of the board of directors, holding 1,730,000 shares of Enron stocks, profited U.S. $1.1 billions.



When we divide U.S. $1.1 billions among the 29 board members, each member indeed made huge profits.  It is a great temptation but such a scandal will be exposed sooner or later.  After the bankruptcy of Enron Corporation, the CEO was prosecuted and sentenced to jail for 165 years.  A board director killed himself with a gun in the expensive car he just bought after the scandal was exposed.  A lot of them did not get a chance to enjoy the U.S. $1.1 billions.



Enron was once a Fortune Global 500 company operating under the American advanced corporate system.  So how did the scandal happen?  The answer is simple.  “Profits drive the wise crazy.”  People lose their common sense in front of profits and foolishly made irrational decisions.  After the scandal, Enron filed for bankruptcy, and the once Fortune Global 500 Company imploded in a day.



The Enron bankruptcy had been analogized to 911 of the American business world.  Not only because it was the largest case in the fabrication of financial records, but also because after its bankruptcy, the American government started to investigate the syndrome of fabricating financial records in multi-national corporations.  The investigation report shocked America.  Almost all multi-national corporations had experiences in fabricating financial reports.  For example, a famous telecommunication company had fabricated U.S. $3.8 billions in a year and a quarter.  Another famous multi-national corporation fabricated U.S. $6 billions in five years.  Each case is more serious than the other.  By 2002, the American government issued a report and indicated that the fabricated financial reports of American multi-national corporations caused the U. S. government to incur economical losses in the amount of U.S. $200 billions in 2001.



From the Enron case we understood why the Subprime Mortgage Crisis will implode in America?  It is all due to people’s immorality, dishonesty, and avarice.  To recover from such financial crisis, government cannot just rely on one or two systems or policies.  People must understand the root cause and renounce their covetousness.  They must realize that “persistence in evil brings self-destruction.”



If we have learned these truisms earlier, we can avoid many pitfalls and mistakes in life so that we need not be remorseful later.  Our regrets had always been too late.  This is the second edifying points.



The third edifying point is the famous quote:  “The damage of banning people’s speech is more dreadful than blocking the flow of water.”  In addition, the continued advice of Duke Mu:  “If water’s navigation is blocked, it overflows, and the damage to the people caused by flooding will be severe.  The same is with people.  Therefore, the way to manage water is to channel its flow.  The way to mange people is to let them speak their minds.”  If rulers censored people’s speech, it is like blocking the flow of rivers.  Once it floods, the damage will be devastating.  The same principle can be applied to the governance of people.  Those who are good at flood control understand how to channel the water flow.  Those who are good at governing people will do everything to find ways to make people’s voice be heard by the government.  They will have open forums and good systems to let people express their views from the heart.



In the Chronicles of Zhou[11], “Thirty-One Years of the Rule of Duke Xiang of Lu,” (572-542 BC), recorded the story of Zi-Chan (died 522 BC), prime minister of the duchy of Zhen, who would not destroy village schools.  Village schools also served as public gathering places for villagers to discuss political affairs in ancient times.  People of the duchy of Zhen would have recreational activities in the village school and debate over the good or bad of government policies.  The majordomo of Duke of Zhen, Ren-min, said to Prime Minister Zi-chan:  “How about let’s destroy the village school?”  Zi-chan replied:  “Why destroy it?  People gather there to discuss and debate the good or bad of government policies after tilling the land.  What they like, we implement; what they abhor, we rectify.  They are my teachers.  Why destroy the village school?  I have heard that doing our utmost in good will reduce grievances.  I have never heard of using authority to oppress grievances.  To censor speech is very easy, isn’t it?  However, censorship is like stopping the flow of rivers with levee.  The flooding of water once the levee breaks down will cause great damages to many people that I cannot salvage.  It is better to have a small opening to channel the water.  We might as well listen to people’s animadversions and take them as medicines for a cure.”  Upon hearing this, Ren-min replied:  “I now know that you truly have the acumen to accomplish great deeds.  This humble servant has no talent.  If we do as you say, it will not just benefit us, a few courtiers; but the sovereignty of Zhen can be supported.”  Upon hearing this, Confucius commented:  “Based on this dialogue, I would not believe anyone who criticizes Zi-chan as being malevolent.”  We can conclude that open-minded leaders would do their utmost to understand people’s views; to let people express their opinions from the heart; and not just censoring their speech and animadversions. 



This story also clarifies many people’s misconception of traditional culture that the Chinese are not democratic.  It is just the opposite.  The Chinese had believed in “people being the foundation of a country” since ancient times. Rulers put stress on listening to the voices of the people and adopting their suggestions.  Historically, there were many channels and political systems to accomplish this.  Open-minded rulers also had the courage to use subjects who had the audacity to admonish them.  They would listen to their animadversions and adopt their suggestions.  The story between Zhao Jan-zi (died 476 BC) and Zhou Sher was a classic example.



According to the Exoteric Traditions of the Hán Version of the Poems, Zhao Jan-zi was the chancellor of Duke of Jin.  The story begins with his subordinate named Zhou Sher who stood outside his front gate for three days and nights.  Chancellor Zhao asked him:  “What do you want?  Why do you stand outside for three days and nights?”  Zhou replied:  “I don’t ask anything for myself.  I just want to be a subordinate who can follow you everywhere you go, record all you words and actions, especially your transgressions, and admonish you with impunity.”  Chancellor Zhao was very happy upon hearing this and allowed him the privilege to follow him everywhere and record his every word and action, especially his transgressions.




Unfortunately, Zhou Sher passed away shortly thereafter.  Once Zhao was drinking with other ministers and everyone was high and happy, but he laid his head on the table and started to cry.  Everybody stopped drinking, left their seats, and inquired:  “We understand that we have much misconduct.  Please tell us our mistakes.  Please give us your wise counsel.”  Zhao said:  “None of you have done anything wrong.  I just thought of my friend whose name is Zhou Sher.  He once told me that one thousand lamb skins are not worth a piece of the fox gland.  One thousand mediocre subjects cannot benefit me as one subject who had the audacity to admonish me.  Historically, the tyrannical king Zho of Shang dynasty censored his subjects and his dynasty perished.  The subjects of the sagacious king Wu of Zhou dynasty could point out his mistake to his face and Zhou dynasty flourished.  Ever since the death of Zhou Sher, I have not heard any criticisms of my mistakes.  I know I am not far away from my downfall.  This is why I am crying.”



From this story, we can see that ancient leaders were very open-minded and knew to select subjects who could truly assist them.  They would do their utmost to exhort their suggestions and different views.  In addition, they would provide channels so that people’s opinions can reach the top officials and the decisions from the top will reflect the needs of the people.  Consequently, they would have the support of the people.



The fourth edifying point from the background story of this Passage is based on the ending of the story, after King Li was exiled.  “King Xuan, ascended the throne, he reestablished order in the government, emulated the paradigm set by his ancestors, the first four Kings of Zhou dynasty: Wen, Wu, Cheng, and Kang.  All the dukes returned to pay homage to Zhou dynasty.”  Why is it that King Xuan can restore order and change social morés in such a short time?  The reason is very simple.  He set up moral education.  “To establish states and to govern people, ruler’s first priority is to educate the people.”  This is also why the kings of Wen, Wu, Cheng and Kang could establish a thriving Zhou dynasty.  They all ruled the dynasty well due to their emphasis on moral education.  As long as we focus on moral education and teach people to be ethical, the world will be peaceful and social order will be quickly re-established.



Especially we have to mention a few years ago our eminent Venerable Master Chin Kung’s experiment in establishing a model town at his birthplace, Tongchi, in the province of Anhui.   Within a short two years, the townspeople were ethical and courteous; and the social moré completely changed for the better.  Their accomplishments attracted international focus.  Teachers were invited to report at UNESCO.  This wonderful experiment was attributed to our Master’s personal confidence in traditional culture and thorough understanding of the Chinese education on ethical relations and moral conducts.  He firmly believed in “Primordially, peoples self-natures were good. Since peoples true natures were innately good, they can be taught to be good and can be easily taught as well.  Currently, the elderly Master is also developing a multi-cultural model city in Toowoomba, Australia and has achieved excellent results to be reported to UNESCO soon.



In addition, many of the Master’s students in the cities of Chao-zhou and Su-zhou are setting up branches of Academy of Virtues and Dao and running harmonious and happy businesses.  They all have many successful experiences which are without exceptions based on the concept that “Teaching is the First Priority.”  A priori, the crux of the matter is whether we have confidence in traditional Chinese culture.



The famous British historian, professor Arnold Toynbee, after systematically analyzed the historical civilizations of myriads of countries in the world, he proposed the theory that “the future belongs to China.”  He opined that future is the time when Chinese culture will be disseminated globally.  Professor Toynbee, a Westerner, had great faith in traditional Chinese culture. How about us?  Indeed, it may be said that Westerners have many times more the confidence in traditional Chinese culture than we Chinese.  They are eager to learn and vigorously studying traditional Chinese culture.  As to us Chinese, although Chairman Xi had on numerous occasions stressed the importance of the propagation of traditional Chinese culture, many of us are still ambivalent.  Some even think that it is a regression, which indicates a total lack of confidence.



The word “teaching” implies the following key questions:  what should we teach? How to teach? Who should teach?  In the future lectures we will probe these questions.  Today’s lesson will end here.  I welcome everyones corrections and criticisms due to my insufficiencies.  Thank you all!


[1] Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian) is a monumental history of ancient China and the world, finished around 109 BC, by the Han dynasty official Sima Qian, considered the father of Chinese historiography. Later generations refer to him as the Grand Historian (Chinese: 太史公; Tàishǐ Gōng or tai-shih-kung) for his monumental work; a work which in later generations would often only be somewhat tacitly or glancingly acknowledged as an achievement only made possible by his acceptance and endurance of punitive actions against him, including imprisonment, castration, and subjection to servility. The work covers the world as it was then known to Chinese and a 2500-year period from the age of the legendary Yellow Emperor to the reign of Emperor Wu of Han in the author's own time. The Recordsset the model for the 24 subsequent dynastic histories of China. Unlike Western historical works, the Records do not treat history as "a continuous, sweeping narrative," but rather break it up into smaller, overlapping units dealing with famous leaders, individuals such as heroes, assassins, and major topics of significance.

See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sima_Qian and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Records_of_the_Grand_Historian; visited on March 20, 2015.



[3] King Li was a corrupt and decadent king. To pay for his pleasures and vices, King Li raised taxes and caused misery among his subjects. It is said that he barred the commoners from profiting from the communal forests and lakes. He enstated a new law which allowed him to punish anyone, by death, who dared to speak against him.  See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Li_of_Zhou, visited on March 21, 2015.


[4] During the revolt, Duke Mu hid the crown prince in his home and sacrificed his son to die pretending to be the crown prince to pacify people’s wrath.  After King Li died, he helped the prince to the throne, who was King Xuan, the 11th king of Western Zhou dynasty.   See, http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%8F%AC%E7%A9%86%E5%85%AC


[5] Translation by James Legge.  See, http://ctext.org/book-of-changes/qian


[6] Translation by James Legge.  See, http://ctext.org/liji/da-xue


[9] This prologue from the Treatise on Response of Rewards and Retribution has been attributed to Laozi.


[11] Chronicles of Zhou is traditionally attributed to Zhou Quiming, thus named Chronicles of Zhou.  It was published no later than 389 BC.  It is among the earliest Chinese works of narrative history, covering the period from 722 to 468 BC. It is one of the most important sources for understanding the history of the Spring and Autumn period (Chunqiu). Together with the Gongyang Zhuan and Guliang Zhuan, the work forms one of the surviving Three Commentaries on the Spring and Autumn Annals.  With its vivid and concise language, Zuo Zhuan is also a gem of classical Chinese prose. This work and the Shiji or Records of the Grand Historian, were regarded as the ultimate models by many generations of prose stylists in ancient China. See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zuo_Zhuan



 [A1]因為在習主席的辦公室裡有很多的照片,其中有一個書架放著他平時最喜歡讀的書,還添了幾部大部頭的書,這個就是指的《群書治要》。  This is not very clear to me.  I hope the translation is correct.























 [A5]Unfortunate? Regrettable? A Pity?























原出韓非子 外儲說右下


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