Sunday, May 30, 2010

A translation from the Mencius (《孟子 · 盡心下》)

I’m bored tonight, so why not translate something?

Wan Zhang asked, “When Confucius was in Chen, he said, ‘Why should I not return! The scholars of my hometown are ambitious and simplistic, for they cannot forget their old ways.’ When Confucius was in Chen, why did he think of the ambitious scholars of Lu?”

Mencius said, “Confucius ‘could not find and be with those who had attained the Middle Way, so it was necessary to seek out the ambitious and the narrow-minded. The ambitious rush out to seize it; while there is that which the narrow-minded will not do.’ Did Confucius not want to find those who had attained the Middle Way? He could not be certain of finding them, and so he thought of their inferiors.”

“May I ask what sort of man is called ambitious?”

Mencius answered, “Men like Qin Zhang, Zeng Xi, and Du Pi were those whom Confucius called ambitious.”

“Why did he call them ambitious?”

Mencius answered, “Their aim was to be grandiloquent; they said, ‘The men of old! The men of old!’ But if one considers their behavior, it did not match their words.

“And when Confucius could not find even the ambitious, he wished to find and be with scholars who would have nothing to do with the impure. These are the narrow-minded, and they are again inferior. Confucius said, ‘When they pass my door but do not enter my house, I do not regret it. They are only the village worthies. The village worthies are the thieves of virtue.’”

Wan Zhang asked, “Why did he call them village worthies?”

Mencius said, “[They are those who say] ‘Why all this grandiloquence? Their words do not accord with their actions; their actions do not accord with their words, and they say, “The men of old! The men of old!” Why is their behavior so cold and distant? We live in this age, let us act according to this age. It is enough to be a good person.’ Eunuch-like, they flatter their age. These are the village worthies.”

Wan Zhang said, “The whole village calls them honest men, and wherever they go, they act worthily. Why is it that Confucius saw them as thieves of virtue?”

Mencius replied, “If you would condemn them, there is nothing you could point out; if you would criticize them, you could find nothing to criticize. They go along with the prevailing customs; they are suited to a polluted age. Their habits seem to be loyal and honest; their behavior seems to be upright and pure. The masses all delight in them; and they themselves think they are correct. But one cannot enter with them into the way of Yao and Shun. Therefore are they called the thieves of virtue.

“Confucius said, ‘I hate that which appears to be, but is not. I hate the tares, for they may be confused for wheat. I hate smooth talk, for it may be confused for righteousness. I hate eloquence, for it may be confused for honesty. I hate the tones of Zheng, for they may be confused for music. I hate purple, for it may be confused for red. I hate the village worthies, for they may be confused for virtuous men. The Superior Man seeks only to restore the standard. When the standard is correct, then the common people will be inspired [to virtue]. When the common people are inspired, then public evil and private vice will be no more. ’”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So this is how you spend your idle moments. Translating classical Chinese! It is remarkable how much you have accomplished since you began to learn Chinese in September of 2003! You truly are the best student I've ever had, or ever will have. God bless, Ke laoshi