תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

2. Who then was the author ? An ancient tradition attributes it to K‘ung Keih, the grandson of Confucius. In a notice published, at the time of their preparation, about the stone slabs of Wei, the following statement by Kea Kwei, a noted scholar of the 1st century is found:-“When Kóung Keih was living, and in straits, in Sung, being afraid lest the lessons of the former sages should become obscure, and the principles of the ancient emperors and kings fall to the ground, he therefore made The Great Learning as the warp of them, and The Doctrine of the Mean, as the woof."1 This would seem, therefore, to have been the opinion of that early time, and I may say the only difficulty in admitting it is that no mention is made of it by Ch‘ing Heuen. There certainly is that agreement between the two treatises, which makes their common authorship not at all unlikely

3. Though we cannot positively assign the authorship of The Great Learning, there can be no hesitation in receiving it as a genuine monument of the Confucian school. There are not many words in it from the sage himself, but it is a faithful reflection of his teachings, written by some of his followers, not far removed from him by lapse of time. It inust synchronize pretty nearly with the Analects, and may be safely referred to the fifth century before

our era.

SECTION III.

ITS SCOPE AND VALUE.

[ocr errors]

1. The worth of The Great Learning has been celebrated in most extravagant terms by many Chinese writers, and there have been foreigners who have not yielded to them in their estimation of it. Pauthier, in the “Argument Philosophique,” prefixed to his translation of the Work, says :-“It is evident that the aim of the Chinese philosopher is to exhibit the duties of political government as those of the perfecting of self, and of the practice of virtue by all men. He felt that he had a higher mission than that with which the greater part of ancient and modern philosophers have contented

1唐氏奏疏有日虞松校刻石經于魏表,引漢賈逵之言, 日孔吸窮居于宋懼先聖之學不明,而帝王之道墜故 作大學以經之中庸以緯之; ; sce the 大學證文一, P. 5.

themselves ; and his immense love for the happiness of humanity, which dominated over all his other sentiments, has made of his philosophy a system of social perfectionating, which, we venture to say, has never been equalled.”

Very different is the judgment passed upon the treatise by a writer in the Chinese Repository :-“The Ta Hëõ is a short politicomoral discourse. Ta Hëõ, or “Superior Learning,' is at the same time both the name and the subject of the discourse; it is the summum bonum of the Chinese. In opening this Book, compiled by a disciple of Confucius, and containing his doctrines, we might expect to find a Work like Cicero's De Officiis; bnt we find a very different production, consisting of a few commonplace rules for the maintenance of a good government."l

My readers will perhaps think, after reading the present section, that the truth lies between these two representations.

2. I believe that the Book should be styled Tae Hëő, and not Ta Hëõ, and that it was so named as setting forth the higher and more extensive principles of moral science, which come into use and manifestation in the conduct of government. When Choo He endeavours to make the title mean—“The principles of Learning, which were taught in the higher schools of antiquity,” and tells us how at the age of 15, all the sons of the emperor, with the legitimate sons of the nobles, and high officers, down to the more promising scions of the common people, all entered these seminaries, and were taught the difficult lessons here inculcated, we pity the ancient youth of China. Such “strong meat" is not adapted for the nourishment of youthful minds. But the evidence adduced for the existence of such educational institutions in ancient times is unsatisfactory, and from the older interpretation of the title we advance more easily to contemplate the object and method of the Work.

3. The object is stated definitely enough in the opening paragraph: “What The Great Learning teaches, is—to illustrate illustrious virtue; to love the people; and to rest in the highest excellence." The political aim of the writer is here at once evident. He has before him on one side, the people, the masses of the empire, and over against them are those whose work and duty, delegated by Heaven,

1 Chinese Repository, vol. ii, p. 98. # , not to See the note on the title of the Work, p, 219.

is to govern them, culminating, as a class, in “ the son of Heaven,"3 " the one man,"4 the emperor. From the 4th and 5th paragraphs, we see that if the lessons of the treatise be learned and carried into practice, the result will be that “illustrious virtue will be illustrated throughout the empire,” which will be brough t, through all its length and breadtlı, to a condition of happy tranquillity. This object is certainly both grand and good ; and if a reasonable and likely method to secure it were proposed in the Work, language would hardly supply terms adequate to express its value.

4. But the above account of the object of The Great Learning leads us to the conclusion that the student of it should be an emperor. What interest can an ordinary man have in it? It is high up in the clouds, far beyond his reach. This is a serious objection to it, and quite unfits it for a place in schools, such as Choo He contends it once had. Intelligent Chinese, whose minds were somewhat quickened by Christianity, have spoken to me of this defect, and complained of the difficulty they felt in making the book a practical directory for their conduct. “It is so vague and vast,” was the observation of one man. The writer, however, has made some provision for the general application of his instructions. He tells us that, from the emperor down to the mass of the people, all must consider the cultivation of the person to be the root, that is, the first thing to be attended to. As in his method, moreover, he reaches from the cultivation of the person to the tranquillization of the Empire, through the intermediate steps of the regulation of the family, and the government of the State, 6 there is room for setting forth principles that parents and rulers generally may find adapted for their guidance.

5. The method which is laid down for the attainment of the great object proposed, consists of seven steps :—the investigation of things; the completion of knowledge; the sincerity of the thoughts; the rectifying of the heart; the cultivation of the

regu. lation of the family; and the government of the State. These form the steps of a climax, the end of which is the empire tranquillized. Pauthier calls the paragraphs where they occur instances of the sorites, or abridged syllogism. But they belong to rhetoric, and not to logic. 3 #F, C1. Text, par. 6, 2. 4-1, Comm, ix. 3. 5 C1. Text, par. 6. 6 C1. Text, parr. 4,5.

person; the

6. In offering some observations on these steps, and the writer's treatment of them, it will be well to separate them into those preceding the cultivation of the person, and those following it; and to deal with the latter first.—Let us suppose that the cultivation of the person is all attained, every discordant mental element having been subdued and removed. It is assumed that the regulation of the family will necessarily flow froin this. Two short paragraphs are all that are given to the illustration of the point, and they are vague generalities on the subject of men's being led astray by their feelings and affections.

The family being regulated, there will result from it the government of the State. First, the virtues taught in the family have their correspondencies in the wider sphere. Filial piety will appear as loyalty. Fraternal submission will be seen in respect and obedience to elders and superiors. Kindness is capable of universal application. Second, “From the loving example of one family, a whole State becomes loving, and from its courtesies the whole State becomes courteous."7 Seven paragraphs suffice to illustrate these statements, and short as they are, the writer goes back to the topic of selfcultivation, returning from the family to the individual.

The State being governed, the whole empire will become peaceful and happy. There is even less of connection, however, in the treatment of this theme, between the premiss and the conclusion, than in the two previous chapters. Nothing is said about the relation between the whole empire, and its component States, or any one of them. It is said at once, “What is meant by “The making the whole empire peaceful and happy depends on the government of the State, is this.—When the sovereign behaves to his aged, as the aged should be behaved to, the people become filial; when the sovereign behaves to his elders, as elders should be behaved to, the people learn brotherly submission; when the sovereign treats compassionately the young and helpless, the people do the same." This is nothing but a repetition of the preceding chapter, instead of that chapter's being made a step from which to go on to the splendid consummation of the good government of the whole empire.

The words which I have quoted are followed by a very striking enunciation of the golden rule in its negative form, and under the

7 See Comm, ix, 3. 8 Sec Comm, x. I.

[ocr errors]

name of the measuring square, and all the lessons of the chapter are connected more or less closely with that. The application of this principle by a ruler, whose heart is in the first place in loving sympathy with the people, will guide him in all the exactions which he lays upon them, and in the selection of ministers, in such a way

that he will secure the affections of his subjects, and his throne will be established, for “by gaining the people, the kingdom is gained, and, by losing the people, the kingdom is lost."9 There are in this part of the treatise

many valuable sentiments, and counsels for all in authority over others. The objection to it is, that, as the last step of the climax, it does not rise upon all the others with the accumulated force of their conclusions, but introduces us to new principles of action, and a new line of argument. Cut off the commencement of the first paragraph which connects it with the preceding chapters, and it would forin a brief but admirable treatise by itself on the art of government.

This brief review of the writer's treatment of the concluding steps of his method will satisfy the reader that the execution is not equal to the design; and, moreover, underneath all the reasoning, and more especially apparent in the 8th and 9th chapters of commentary (according to the ordinary arrangement of the work), there lies the assumption that example is all but omnipotent. We find this principle pervading all the Confucian philosophy. And doubtless it is a truth, most important in education and government, that the influence of example is very great. I believe, and will insist upon it hereafter in these prolegomena, that we have come to overlook this element in our conduct of administration. It will be well if the study of the Chinese Classics should call attention to it. Yet in them the subject is pushed to an extreme, and represented in an extravagant manner. Proceeding from the view of human nature that it is entirely good, and led astray only by influences from without, the sage of China and his followers attribute to personal example and to instruction a power which we do not find that they actually possess.

7. The steps which precede the cultivation of the person are more briefly dvalt with than those which we have just considered. “The cultivation of the person results from the rectifying the heart

[ocr errors]

9 Conim, x. 5.

« הקודםהמשך »