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All about the Rites

 | 
Anne Cheng
, 
Stéphane Feuillas

The pre-imperial Book of Rites

Confucius after hours: an analysis of the “master at leisure” dialogues in the Liji

Scott Cook

Texte intégral

  • 1 Given that the texts to be discussed in this paper refer to Confucius variously as “Master Kong” 孔子(...)
  • 2 For some intriguing recent scholarship on Confucius as a literary figure and the examination of com (...)

1As perhaps the leading authority on ritual matters of his time and the man who, possessing the knowledge, wisdom, and charisma necessary to attract large numbers of disciples to his gates, effectively established the dominant tone for all discourse on ritual from his time forward, the figure of Confucius (Kong Zi 孔子)1 –not to mention his disciples– understandably looms large in both the Liji 禮記 (Book of Ritual) and Da Dai Liji 大戴禮記 (Elder Dai Book of Ritual). Outside of the Lunyu 論語 (Analects of Confucius), which is devoted exclusively to utterances and conversations of Confucius and his disciples, these two works are among our most valuable sources for understanding the thought of both Confucius himself and those who, in the subsequent few centuries, laid claim to his mantle. Needless to say, the Confucius of all these works is at once both an historical and literary figure. As an historical figure, he was that man of Lu  who at times probably achieved administrative and advisory positions of some prominence but at others remained largely beyond the political fray and devoted most of his time to the instruction of his disciples; as a literary figure, he was the subject of countless imaginative recreations that, consciously or not, may have served somewhat different ends or philosophical positions that differed in subtle ways from those of the historical Confucius –texts produced by way of a literary license that was nonetheless bound, I would stress, by the limits of credulity established by historical memory of the living Confucius (itself, to be sure, constantly evolving over time).2

2Given the inherent difficulties of dating texts from the Warring States (and into the early Han), the task of seeking out some sort of order amongst the maze of Confucius dialogues found in such early sources is an unimaginably difficult one. Nonetheless, the effort to do so remains a worthwhile and intellectually stimulating task –particularly with the discovery of unearthed bamboo manuscripts that help to further flesh out the picture we aim to reconstruct– as novel insights can always be gleaned from the careful reading of texts that may point us in new and unexpected directions. The present paper endeavours to contribute to such a quest by examining three texts that are placed within a specific type of literary context: dialogues portraying the “Master at leisure” (xianju 閒居 or yanju 燕居) and in conversation with disciples in an after-hours setting, namely, “Zhongni Rested at Ease” 仲尼燕居 and “Kong Zi Rested at Leisure” 孔子閒居 from the Liji, and “Discourse of the Sovereign” 主言 from the Da Dai Liji.

  • 3 These definitions come from surviving citations of Zheng Xuan’s entries on “Zhongni yanju” and “Kon (...)
  • 4 James Legge gets somewhat more specific in his own introduction of the contents of each chapter, st (...)

3According to (Han) Zheng Xuan 鄭玄, “To dwell at ease after leaving court is called ‘yanju’” 退朝而處曰燕居, and “To avoid other people after leaving a banquet is called ‘xianju’” 退燕避人曰閒居.3 While he thus differentiates the two terms somewhat, the emphasis in both is on an informal and relatively private setting after the conclusion of all the day’s official, ceremonial, and diplomatic duties; the wording of the terms themselves, which I respectively translate as “rest at ease” and “rest at leisure,” implies just such a sense of ease and informality.4 These definitions aside, our best means of getting a handle on just what sort of situations the terms were meant to describe and the types of conversations they were imagined to facilitate undoubtedly lies in the texts themselves, to which we shall now turn.

“Zhongni rested at ease” 仲尼燕居

4This text begins with explicit mention of Confucius taking advantage of the informal, after-hours setting to “speak freely” (zong yan 縱言) with a group of disciples about certain matters. Though the matters in question here might at first glance appear barely indistinguishable from those of his teachings more generally, the manner in which the narrative frames them suggests something unique in the way of at least scope, if not content. In this instance the topic in question is, broadly, ritual:

  • 5 The text of this chapter as given here is cited from (Qing) Sun Xidan 孫希旦 (1736–1784), Liji jijie 1 (...)

仲尼燕居,子張、子貢、言游侍,縱言至於禮.子曰:「居!女三人者,吾語女禮,使女以禮周流,無不遍也.」5

Zhongni rested at ease, with Zizhang, Zigong, and Yan You (a.k.a. Ziyou 子游) in attendance, and in the course of speaking freely they came to the matter of ritual. The Master said: “Sit, you three, and I shall tell you about ritual, so that you may smoothly make your rounds in accordance with ritual and lack nothing in the way of breadth.”

  • 6 The term yue xi 越席 has traditionally been understood as simply “arise from one’s mat” or “come away (...)

5Zigong takes the initiative to ask the first question, and does so in a manner that, unsurprisingly, demonstrates his basic grasp of ritual decorum –by moving over to the other side of his mat to ask it:6

子貢越席而對曰:「敢問何如?」子曰:「敬而不中禮,謂之野;恭而不中禮,謂之給;勇而不中禮,謂之逆.」子曰:「給奪慈仁.」子曰:「師!爾過,而商也不及.子產猶眾人之母也,能食之,不能教也.」

Zigong came over from across his mat and replied: “May I venture to ask how this is to be done?”

The Master said: “To be reverent yet fail to hit the mark in ritual we call being ‘wild’; to be humble yet fail to hit the mark in ritual we call being ‘ingratiating’; and to be courageous yet fail to hit the mark in ritual we call being ‘defiant.’” The Master [further] said: “To be ingratiating is to rob from [true] affection and humanity.” The Master [finally] added: “Shi (i.e., Zizhang), you go too far, whereas Shang (i.e., Zixia 子夏) does not go far enough. Zichan [on the other hand] was like a mother to the masses: he was able to feed them, but unable to instruct them.”

  • 7 Some have suspected that at least the last sentence, regarding Zichan, does not even belong in this (...)

6It is unclear in exactly which, if not all, of the three aspects of virtue Zizhang and Zixia overreach or underachieve, respectively, but Zizhang, for one, was known for his courageous but (much like Zilu 子路) somewhat impetuous temperament. The Zheng  statesman Zichan, on the other hand, is given as an example of someone who failed to hit the mark in a somewhat different way, fully satisfying the material needs of his people with the charitable and benevolent impulses of a mother, but failing to properly instruct them with the stern but affectionate “tough love” of a father –perhaps this, too, was a form of “ingratiation.” In any case, it seems curious, and perhaps even a bit unfair, that Zizhang gets singled out for criticism among the three disciples when he was not even the one who asked the question, and that Zixia, entirely absent from the scene, gets criticised behind his back –one almost suspects that the second “Master”  here is an error of partial omission for “Zizhang” 子張. But assuming that the text is not corrupt,7 the twice repetition of “The Master said” would appear to indicate pregnant pauses between each of his separate utterances, giving Zigong more than enough time to have either sat back down or returned to his initial standing place before once again springing into action:

子貢越席而對曰:「敢問將何以為此中者也?」

Zigong [again] arose from (/came over from across) his mat and replied: “May I venture to ask by what means one may be able to achieve this hitting of the mark?”

7While this appears to be something of a dumb question, it is only designed to set up Confucius’ emphatic reiteration by way of conclusion:

子曰:「禮乎禮!夫禮,所以制中也.」

The Master said: “Ritual! Ritual! It is ritual by which the central mark is fashioned.”

8This is the summarising thought which brings the first section of text to an end, after which it is the second disciple’s turn to come to the fore:

子貢退,言游進曰:「敢問禮也者,領惡而全好者與?」子曰:「然.」「然則何如?」子曰:「郊社之義,所以仁鬼神也.嘗禘之禮,所以仁昭穆也.饋奠之禮,所以仁死喪也.射鄉之禮,所以仁鄉黨也.食饗之禮,所以仁賓客也.」

Zigong withdrew, and Yan You came forward, asking: “May I venture to ask whether ritual is that which takes charge of what is flawed and completes what is fine?”

The Master replied: “It is so.”

“In what manner, then, is this the case?”

  • 8 The jiao  and were each (according to at least some early texts and commentaries) annual sacrifi (...)
  • 9 The chang , or autumnal sacrifice, was a sacrifice for heralding in the autumn season, held (at le (...)
  • 10 Upon graduation from the three-year curriculum of local schools, worthy candidates were presented b (...)

The Master said: “The proprieties of the suburban sacrifices at the altars of Heaven and Earth are those by which the ghosts and spirits are shown humanity.8 The rituals of the autumnal sacrifice and grand ancestral sacrifice are those by which the ancestral orderings of left and right are shown humanity.9 The rituals of sacrificial offerings at the side of the newly departed are those by which mourning for the deceased is shown humanity. The rituals of the archery and drinking ceremonies in honour of local worthies are those by which the towns and villages are shown humanity.10 The rituals of banquet feasts are those by which honoured guests are shown humanity.

  • 11 Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 glosses ren  as a near-equivalent to cun , “preserve,” but there appears to be no g (...)

9Ziyou asks what is clearly a leading question, one designed to elicit the master’s approbation before seeking further elucidation by way of a follow-up question. Confucius’ response, however, does not address the matters of what is “flawed” and “fine” directly, but it does speak to the idea of “taking charge” (ling ) and “completing” (quan ) in the sense of focusing on grand state rituals in which the ruler plays the leading role. The function of these rituals is to “humanise” or “show humanity” (ren )11 to both the spirits of the departed and all those among the living who may be brought under ritual’s sway. The result of such attention to ritual at the highest levels is a ritual modelling that so thoroughly pervades all aspects of social and political life below that everything naturally finds its appropriate measure, as Confucius goes on to elucidate after what is perhaps a further intentional pause:

子曰:「明乎郊社之義,嘗禘之禮,治國其如指諸掌而已乎!是故以之居處有禮,故長幼辨也.以之閨門之內有禮,故三族和也.以之朝廷有禮,故官爵序也.以之田獵有禮,故戎事閑也.以之軍旅有禮,故武功成也.是故宮室得其度,量鼎得其象,味得其時,樂得其節,車得其式,鬼神得其饗,喪紀得其哀,辨說得其黨,官得其體,政事得其施.加於身而錯於前,凡眾之動得其宜.」

  • 12 In this case, san zu 三族 may refer to the separate clans of the father, the mother, and the wife, th (...)
  • 13 (Tang) Kong Yingda 孔穎達 instead glosses zhong  here as “myriad tasks” (wan shi 萬事).
  • 14 Cf. Legge, who has a very different interpretation of these final lines: “(The duty) laid on (each) (...)

The Master continued: “If one were to clearly understand and bring to light the proprieties (/significance) of the suburban sacrifices at the altars of Heaven and Earth, the rituals of the autumnal sacrifice and grand ancestral sacrifice, [and so on,] bringing order to the state would surely be [as easy] as simply pointing it out on the palm of one’s hand! And so on this basis, there would be ritual decorum at home, and thus distinction between elder and younger; there would be ritual decorum within the women’s quarters, and thus harmony among all three family clans;12 there would be ritual decorum at court, and thus order among the ranks of officers; there would be ritual decorum on hunting expeditions, and thus discipline in martial matters; and there would be ritual decorum within army battalions, and thus success in military endeavours. And so houses and dwellings would obtain their proper dimensions, measuring vessels and tripods would obtain their proper insignia, flavours would obtain their proper seasons, music would obtain its proper rhythms, carriages would obtain their proper models, ghosts and spirits would obtain their proper offerings, mourning norms would obtain their proper expressions of grief, discussions and deliberations would obtain their proper allies, offices would obtain their proper structures, and administrative tasks would obtain their proper deployments. [With the ruler thus] placing [the ritual foundations] upon [his] self and laying them out in front [as the model], the movements of the masses13 will all obtain their appropriate [expressions].”14

  • 15 Significantly, in the “Lun li” version of this passage, the following is posed as a separate questi (...)

10Thus not only does ritual intrinsically entail hierarchy, there is also a hierarchy among rituals themselves, such that those performed at the top radiate down to those below and their efficacy is echoed at all levels. Having fleshed out this point, Confucius is not quite done in his response to Ziyou, as he now goes on to pose his own question about the very nature of ritual:15

子曰:「禮者何也?即事之治也.君子有其事,必有其治.治國而無禮,譬猶瞽之無相與,倀倀乎其何之?譬如終夜有求於幽室之中,非燭何見?若無禮,則手足無所錯,耳目無所加,進退揖讓無所制.是故以之居處,長幼失其別,閨門三族失其和,朝廷官爵失其序,田獵戎事失其策,軍旅武功失其制,宮室失其度,量鼎失其象,味失其時,樂失其節,車失其式,鬼神失其饗,喪紀失其哀,辨說失其黨,官失其體,政事失其施.加於身而錯於前,凡眾之動失其宜.如此則無以祖洽於眾也.」

  • 16 Cf. the second stanza of the “Cheng xiang” 成相 chapter of the Xunzi: “To serve as sovereign of the p (...)

The Master continued: “What is ritual? It is none other than the ordering of undertakings. The noble man has his undertakings, and these undertakings must have their orderings. To order (/govern) a state without the use of ritual may be compared to a blind person having no one to guide him –aimless and bewildered, where is he headed?16 It may be compared to seeking for something all night in a dark room –without a candle, what could one see? If one lacks ritual, he will have nowhere to place his hands and feet, nothing to apply his eyes and ears to, and nothing by which to tailor his advances, retreats, and expressions of deference. And so on this basis, elder and younger will lose their distinctions at home, the three family clans will lose their harmony within the women’s quarters, the ranks of officers will lose their order at court, martial undertakings will lose their direction on hunting expeditions, army battalions will lose their control in military endeavours, houses and dwellings will lose their proper dimensions, measuring vessels and tripods will lose their proper insignia, flavours will lose their proper seasons, music will lose its proper rhythms, carriages will lose their proper models, ghosts and spirits will lose their proper offerings, mourning norms will lose their proper expressions of grief, discussions and deliberations will lose their proper allies, offices will lose their proper structures, and administrative tasks will lose their proper deployments. [With the ruler thus] placing [such lack of ritual] upon [his] self and laying it out in front [as the model], the movements of the masses will all lose their appropriate [expressions]. If things are thus, there will be nothing by which to initiate an immersive (/harmonious) influence upon the masses.”

11There are features of this passage that would seem to suggest at a mid-to-late Warring States composition for the text, namely the employment of critical analogies of a type strongly reminiscent of both the core chapters of the Mozi and, especially, the Xunzi’s response to Mohist ideas, as well as the nearly verbatim reformulation of a lengthy passage in the negative to re-emphasise the importance of some point by spelling out the consequences that would entail from failing to heed it, a tactic also frequently employed in chapters of both of those works. In any case, the Master’s response to Ziyou here has now come to a close, and he then proceeds with a further interlude addressed to all three of the disciples present:

子曰:「慎聽之!女三人者.吾語女:禮猶有九焉,大饗有四焉.苟知此矣,雖在畎畝之中,事之,聖人已.兩君相見,揖讓而入門,入門而縣興,揖讓而升堂,升堂而樂闋,下管《象》、《武》,《夏》籥序興,陳其薦俎,序其禮樂,備其百官,如此而后,君子知仁焉.行中規,還中矩,和鸞中〈采齊〉,客出以〈雍〉,徹以〈振羽〉.是故君子無物而不在禮矣.入門而金作,示情也.升歌〈清廟〉,示德也.下而管《象》,示事也.是故古之君子不必親相與言也,以禮樂相示而已.」

  • 17 According to Zheng Xuan, the grand banquet, or da xiang 大饗, was “a banquet/feast offered to the reg (...)
  • 18 Zheng Xuan takes shi zhi 事之 differently, in the sense of the one in question “being placed in an of (...)
  • 19 “Suspended instruments” (xuan ) could also include chimestones, but here I follow the interpretati (...)
  • 20 As various commentators have described it, this momentary cessation of music actually occurs only a (...)
  • 21 Sun Xidan parses differently, pairing Wu with the civil panpipe dance of Xia below. I here follow Z (...)
  • 22 “Yong” (“Harmonious”) and “Zhen yu” 振羽 were both Zhou hymns (the latter equivalent to “Zhen lu” (...)
  • 23 “Qing miao” 清廟 (“Pure temple”) is the first ode of the Zhou hymn section in the Shi jing as it has (...)

The Master went on: “Listen carefully, you three! I will tell you how there are yet nine further [aspects] of ritual, four of which occur within the Grand Banquet.17 Should one understand these, then even though he may reside in the midst of farm fields, he will become a sage if he [is able to] make them his task.18 When two rulers meet with each other, they enter the door following deferential bows of yielding; suspended instruments (bells and drums)19 are performed upon their entry; they ascend to the hall following deferential bows of yielding; the music ceases upon ascent to the hall;20 [the martial dances of] Xiang and Wu21 are performed to the accompaniment of bamboo flutes below the hall; [the civil dance of] Xia is then performed, in succession, to the accompaniment of panpipes; the sacrificial trays of offerings are laid out; [various] rituals and music are [performed] in proper succession; and the hundred officials are all completely [arrayed]. Only once all is like this does the noble man realise how humanity is shown therein. The movements forward [of all the participants] hit the mark of the compass, and their returns hit the mark of the carpenter’s square; the jingle bells of carriages [receiving the guests] sing in tune with [a performance] of ‘Cai qi’; the guests take their leave to [the accompaniment of] ‘Yong’; and the offerings are cleared to [the accompaniment of] ‘Zhen yu.’22 There is thus nothing of [which] the nobleman [partakes] that does not lie in [accord with] ritual. That the bronze [bells] are played upon entering the door is in order to exhibit true affection [for the guests]. That the Ode ‘Qing miao’ (extolling King Wen’s virtue) is sung upon ascent [to the hall] is in order to exhibit charismatic virtue.23 That the Xiang dance is performed to reed-instrument [accompaniment] below [the hall] is in order to exhibit service to undertakings. Thus the noble men of antiquity did not [even] need to talk with each other in person, as they [were able to] simply reveal themselves to each other through ritual and music.”

12This unusual interlude, focusing as it does on the ceremonial details of the Grand Banquet, gives us a level of specificity we have not seen elsewhere in this text. Yet it does so in the service of driving home an understanding of the ultimate functions of ritual, which include the “realisation” (zhi ) of “humanity” (ren ) and the “exhibition” (shi ) of “true affection” (qing ), “charismatic virtue” (de ), and “service to undertakings” (shi ). Ritual is thus primarily concerned, at one level, with display and exhibition: it is the vehicle of conveyance of sentiments that need not, and indeed largely cannot, be expressed in words alone. In this aspect, the efficacy of ritual can only be fully realised through the assistance of its twin sister, music, as Confucius goes on to spell out in further terms:

子曰:「禮也者,理也.樂也者,節也.君子無理不動,無節不作.不能詩,於禮繆;不能樂,於禮素;薄於德,於禮虛.」子曰:「制度在禮,文為在禮,行之其在人乎!」

子貢越席而對曰:「敢問夔其窮與?」

子曰:「古之人與!古之人也.達於禮而不達於樂,謂之素;達於樂而不達於禮,謂之偏.夫夔達於樂而不達於禮,是以傳於此名也,古之人也.」

  • 24 In the “Lun li”’ version, this last sentence comes after the end of the Master’s comments on Kui be (...)

The Master continued: “Ritual is ordered pattern; music is rhythmic regularity. The noble man does not move without order and does not act without regularity. To be incapable of poetic expression is to be hamstrung in regard to ritual; to be incapable of musical expression is to be lacklustre in regard to ritual; to be meager in virtue is to be vacuous in regard to ritual.” The Master added: “Regulations and standards reside in ritual, and refined actions reside in ritual –but to implement them, does this not reside in the person?!”24

Zigong arose from his mat and responded: “Might I dare to ask whether [the ancient music master] Kui was impoverished [in this regard]?”

  • 25 Kui  is a term that ordinarily referred to a mythical one-legged beast.

The Master said: “Was he not a man of antiquity? Yes, a man of antiquity he was. To be accomplished in ritual but not in music, we call being ‘lacklustre.’ To be accomplished in music but not in ritual, we call being ‘one-sided.’ For Kui was accomplished in music but not in ritual, and thus he was passed down to us with this [particular] name.25 A man of antiquity he was.”

13With this, we have briefly moved back to the issue of balance with which the entire discussion opened, except that it is no longer simply a matter that ritual must serve as the guide by which to allow virtuous impulses to “hit the mark,” but that ritual itself must be balanced with musical (and poetic) expression and infused with inner virtue in order for the ritual to hold any genuine meaning.

14Finally, Zizhang takes his turn, though in this case we have no mention of his getting up from his mat to ask his question, or even a direct quotation of the exact words by which he asked it. At the same time, he also appears to want to shift towards a separate topic, though in fact his subject of inquiry turns out to be not so distinct after all:

子張問政.

子曰「師乎,前!吾語女乎!君子明於禮樂,舉而錯之而已.」

子張復問.

子曰:「師,爾以為必鋪几筵,升降,酌、獻、酬、酢,然後謂之禮乎?爾以為必行綴兆,興羽籥,作鍾鼓,然後謂之樂乎?言而履之,禮也.行而樂之,樂也.君子力此二者,以南面而立.夫是以天下大平也,諸侯朝,萬物服體,而百官莫敢不承事矣.禮之所興,眾之所治也.禮之所廢,眾之所亂也.目巧之室,則有奧阼,席則有上下,車則有左右,行則有隨,立則有序,古之義也.室而無奧阼,則亂於堂室也.席而無上下,則亂於席上也.車而無左右,則亂於車也.行而無隨,則亂於塗也.立而無序,則亂於位也.昔聖帝、明王、諸侯,辨貴賤、長幼、遠近、男女、外內,莫敢相踰越,皆由此塗出也.」

三子者既得聞此言也於夫子,昭然若發矇矣.

  • 26 In the version from the “Wen yu” chapter of the Kongzi jiayu, Zizhang poses a different question to (...)

Zizhang asked about governance.26

  • 27 Shi is Zizhang’s given name. His full name was Zhuansun Shi 顓孫師, and Zizhang was his designation.
  • 28 James Legge (Legge 1885, Part III, 276) understands this line quite differently, placing qian adv (...)

The Master replied: “Shi!27 Come forward and I shall tell you!28 The noble man has a clear understanding of ritual and music and simply raises them up and puts them into place.”

Zizhang asked again.

The Master said: “Shi, do you think that one must lay forth tables and mats, ascend and descend staircases, and pour libations and offer rounds of toasts before it can be called ritual? Do you think that one must move along choreographed positions, raise up feathers and panpipes, and strike up bells and drums before it can be called music? To speak and put one’s words into practice is ritual. To act and find contentment in it is music. The noble man exerts his efforts in these two things, and thereby establishes himself when facing south [in the position of a ruler]. For by means of these, the world will be brought to great peace, the regional lords will pay court, the myriad creatures will all submit, and none of the hundred officers will dare to fail to accept his tasks. Wherever ritual prospers is where the masses are well ordered. Wherever ritual is abandoned is where the masses are in chaos.

“[Even] a room crafted only by sight will have its southwest corner [for the honoured] and eastern staircase [for the host]; seating mats will have their [placements at] upper and lower positions; carriages will have their [seating positions of] left and right; marching lines will have their ordered followings; and standing positions will have their orders of precedence –such was the propriety of the ancients. If rooms lack southwest corners and eastern staircases, chaos will prevail in the halls and rooms; if seating mats lack their [placements] of upper and lower, chaos will prevail atop the mats; if carriages lack [seating positions of] left and right, chaos will prevail in the carriages; if marching lines lack their ordered followings, chaos will prevail on the roads; and if standing positions lack their orders of precedence, chaos will prevail amongst the positions. The sagely sovereigns, enlightened kings, and regional lords of former times distinguished noble from base, elder from younger, distant from near, male from female, and external from internal, [such that] none dared to transgress each other’s boundaries –this was because they all set forth from such a path [of ritual order].”

Upon hearing these words from the Master, the three disciples [suddenly saw things] in a bright light, as if their blindness had been lifted.

15In short, ritual effectively is governance: the key to achieving social order and avoiding chaos lies not in legal institutions, economic policies, or any other such unspoken aspects of rulership that Zizhang had clearly expected in asking the question, but in the practice and implementation of ritual (and music), the guiding matrix of self-control and social existence that Zhongni had been stressing all along. Though this was surely not the first time these disciples had heard such ideas, so central as they are to Confucius’ philosophy, the narrative nonetheless does its best to make it seem so, ending most dramatically with a description of how their minds have been utterly blown away by these notions. This is no doubt the effect the author of this text wished it to have on its contemporary readers as well.

  • 29 We are, for now, treating “Zhongni yanju” as an integral composition. The “Lun li” variations, of c (...)

16Structurally, “Zhongni yanju” might be seen as comprising four main parts, punctuated mainly by the introduction of new questions posed by alternating disciples.29 The first question, by Zigong, leads to the notion of “hitting the mark” in such virtues as reverence, humility, and courage, with Confucius stressing the importance of doing everything in appropriate measure, as excesses of “virtues” are just as bad as their failings and thus no longer virtues at all, and revealing how the core function of ritual is to train humans to act appropriately in accord with the spirit of humanity and true affections. With Ziyou’s question, Confucius becomes somewhat more explicit in describing the ways in which ritual is used to humanise society, the main idea being how the leader sets the model for the rest of the populace to follow. We thus have the grand rituals of state, in which everyone from the ghosts and spirits and the royal ancestors on down to the village worthies and guests of state are “shown humanity” (ren ), and the key to which lies in the sense of “order” (zhi ) that they encapsulate; once they have properly set the model, the rest of society simply follows in lockstep –from the home and extended family down to hunts and military exhibitions, all proceed smoothly on the basis of their ritually ordered operations– whereas failure to set the proper model, conversely, results in disorder throughout the realm. Following Ziyou’s question, we have an interlude in which all three disciples are addressed, wherein Confucius alludes to “nine” further aspects of ritual, of which “four” are manifested in the Grand Banquet, and it is here that we are given a level of ritual specificity that is otherwise largely absent from this text. The four aspects in question would appear to be the ways in which this ritual exhibits the virtues of “humanity,” “true affection,” “charismatic virtue,” and “service to undertakings” –things ritual cannot fully achieve alone, but which require the assistance of its complementary institution: music. This forms the bridge to the final question, Zizhang’s inquiry on governance, to which Confucius patiently responds by explaining how successful governance is simply a matter of implementing ritual and music, no more and no less. The essence of this lies not so much in the details, but in how the rituals embody the core notions they were designed to express: “To speak and put one’s words into practice is ritual; to act and find contentment in it is music.” Attention to this is all that is needed: the masses will follow once the tone is set, and order or disorder in the world will ensue according to whether ritual (and music), derived from such a basis, prospers or not. To an extent, Confucius ends here by largely reiterating points he had already made to Ziyou, but the fact that Zizhang had to ask the question twice is indicative of the fact that these were ideas that were not always met with immediate acceptance.

17With that, let us now turn to the second of our texts, in which Confucius appears at leisure with only one disciple.

“Kong Zi rested at leisure” 孔子閒居

  • 30 The text of this chapter as given here is taken from (Qing) Liji jijie 1989, 1274-1279, with refere (...)

孔子閒居,子夏侍.子夏曰:「敢問詩云『凱弟君子,民之父母』,何如斯可謂民之父母矣?」孔子曰:「夫民之父母乎!必達於禮樂之原,以致五至而行三無,以橫於天下.四方有敗,必先知之,此之謂民之父母矣.」30

  • 31 Significantly, “Min zhi fumu” does not include the opening line “Kong Zi rested at leisure,” beginn (...)
  • 32 The quoted lines come from the ode “Jiong zhuo” 泂酌 (“Drawing Water from Afar”) of the “Da Ya” 大雅 se (...)

Kong Zi (Master Kong) rested at leisure, with Zixia in attendance.31 Zixia said: “An ode states: ‘Harmonious and genial is the noble man, parent of the people’32 –may I ask what one must be like in order to be called ‘parent of the people’?”

  • 33 For zhi , “Min zhi fumu” has zhi ; I use “achieve” here to capture both possible senses of “bring (...)
  • 34 For ci , “this,” “such,” “Min zhi fumu” has the particle of suggestion qi  (which could also poss (...)

Kong Zi replied: “A parent of the people! He must comprehend the source(s) of ritual and music, so as to achieve the five attainments and practise the three absences, and thereby transfuse the world.33 Should there be any [impending] calamities within the four quarters, he must recognise them in advance. Such [a man] may be called ‘parent of the people.’”34

18In contrast with “Zhongni Rested at Ease,” this text begins not with Confucius bringing up a topic he suddenly has the inspiration to discuss in the casual presence of three disciples, but rather with a single disciple, Zixia, posing the question that will lead to a profound and wide-ranging discourse, utilising a vehicle of conversation that is both a hallmark of Confucius’ instruction and an area of inquiry in which Zixia himself was particularly well versed: the interpretation of a line from the Odes. This fact will quickly become relevant to what follows, as Kong Zi is prodded –as usual– for elaboration upon his initially somewhat opaque answer, which in this case defines the notion of “parent of the people” in such vague terms as “five attainments” and “three absences.”

  • 35 At this point, our “Kongzi xianju” text has twenty-eight additional characters: “明目而視之不可得而見也傾耳而聽之(...)

子夏曰:「民之父母,既得而聞之矣,敢問何謂五至?」孔子曰:「志之所至,詩亦至焉;詩之所至,禮亦至焉;禮之所至,樂亦至焉;樂之所至,哀亦至焉.哀樂相生,是故正.{}35此之謂五至.」

Zixia said: “Now that I have been able to hear about the ‘parent of the people,’ might I ask to what the ‘five attainments’ refer?”

  • 36 For “intent” and “poetry,” “Min zhi fumu” instead has “things” (wu ) and “intent,” respectively. T (...)
  • 37 Note that “reach” and “attain” in fact translate the same word here (zhi ). More significantly, “m (...)
  • 38 The reading of this last phrase is based primarily on the “Min zhi fumu” parallel; see note 35 abov (...)

Kong Zi replied: “Wherever one’s intent reaches, poetry also attains;36 wherever poetry reaches, ritual also attains; wherever ritual reaches, musical expression also attains; and wherever musical expression (/happiness) reaches, sorrow also attains.37 Sorrow and happiness give rise to each other, and [the noble man] rectifies [himself] thereby.38 This is what is meant by the ‘five attainments.’”

  • 39 The connection with Lunyu 8.8 is already implicit in Lü Yushu’s 呂與叔 (Lü Dalin呂大臨; ca. 1040-1092) co (...)

19Whether this enumerated chain of causation really clarifies things so much is debatable, but Zixia is at least given the referents for the “five attainments” that he is seeking. The statement is abstractly worded, but it would appear to suggest a typical Confucian program in which ritual and music serve to guide human affections in their inevitable reactions to things and events, keeping them in balance so as not to let the pendulum of emotions swing too far in either direction while still providing a proper outlet for natural human sentiments. In some ways, the unearthed version of this text gives us a seemingly more logical series of “five attainments” than our Liji version; there, in place of “intent” and “poetry,” we find “things” and “intent,” respectively: “things” impel our “intent” in different directions, but training in ritual and guidance in musical expression are always there to keep things from leading our intent too far astray. However, the Liji version –whether the outcome of editorial alteration (purposeful or otherwise) or in fact a truer reflection of the original statement– presents an arguably more satisfying result from the standpoint of the dialogue as a whole. Not only does the movement from poetry, to ritual, to musical expression precisely parallel the program of self-cultivation expressed by the Master in Lunyu VIII.8 –“Arise through the Odes, become established through Ritual, and achieve completion through Music” 興於詩立於禮成於樂39– but it even suggests something in the way of approbation or justification for the manner in which Zixia initiated the dialogue: by citing one of the Odes.

20Zixia then continues to inquire about the “three absences,” once more seeking the aid of lines from the Odes in the process:

子夏曰:「五至既得而聞之矣,敢問何謂三無?」

  • 40 On the erroneous displacement of this text to the previous paragraph, see note 35 above.

孔子曰:「無聲之樂,無體之禮,無服之喪.{明目而視之,不可得而見也;傾耳而聽之,不可得而聞也;志氣塞乎天地,}40此之謂三無.」

子夏曰:「三無既得略而聞之矣,敢問何詩近之?」

孔子曰:「『夙夜其命宥密』,無聲之樂也.『威儀逮逮,不可選也』,無體之禮也.『凡民有喪,匍匐救之』,無服之喪也.」

Zixia said: “Now that I have been able to hear about the ‘five attainments,’ might I ask to what the ‘three absences’ refer?

  • 41 In “Min zhi fumu,” this particular line is written 而得/既塞於四海矣, which Chen Jian reads in the sense (...)

Kong Zi replied: “The music of no sounds, the ritual of no bodily deportment, and the mourning of no apparel. {Viewing these clearly with eyes wide open, one is [still] unable to see them, and listening to them attentively with cocked ears, one is [still] unable to hear them, [and yet the virtuous] energy of their intentions fills [the expanse between] Heaven and Earth.}41 This is what is meant by the ‘three absences.’”

  • 42 Note that this notion of “having heard in broad outline” is not present in the formulation of Zixia (...)

Zixia said: “Now that I have been able to hear about the ‘three absences’ in broad outline, might I ask which [lines from the] Odes come close to [expressing] them?”42

  • 43 The three cited lines in this reply come, respectively, from the Zhou hymn “Hao tian you cheng ming (...)

Kong Zi replied: “‘Day and night he upholds the mandate, broadly and tranquilly’ –such is the ‘music of no sounds.’43 ‘Elegant all around is his imposing demeanour; nothing [therein] may be singled out’ –such is the ritual of no bodily deportment. ‘Whenever the people have cause for mourning, on hands and knees he comes to their rescue’ –such is the ‘mourning of no apparel.’”

  • 44 See the “Yang Huo” 陽貨 chapter, Lunyu XVII.11.
  • 45 In fact, these notions are borrowed in the “Xiu wen” 修文 chapter of the Shuoyuan (and in the “Liu be (...)

21Despite their arcane language, the lines from these Odes really do give one a more direct sense of what the immensely abstract “three absences” actually entail: a tireless spirit of striving toward social harmony that must ultimately precede any music composed to encapsulate and extol it; an embodied elegance that captures at once the entirety of what each individual rule of bodily deportment was designed to achieve yet manages to draw attention to none of them; and a compassion of sharing with the people their sense of grave loss that manifests itself not in the proscribed mourning apparel that one might wear for one’s own kin, but is rather a determination to assist that reveals itself in action. In all of these, it is that spirit that infuses music, ritual, and mourning practices and yet at once precedes, surpasses, and suffuses all of those practices in their totality, the foundation upon which those practices rest and which gives them their meaning. This vaguely echoes a sentiment seen in the Lunyu: “The Master said: ‘Ritual, ritual –is it merely jades and silks? Music, music –is it merely bells and drums?’” 子曰「禮云禮云玉帛云乎哉樂云樂云鐘鼓云乎哉44 –not to mention an idea already seen in “Zhongni yanju” above. And the notion that none of this can be either seen or heard also points to that kind of quasi-miraculous state wherein the “noble man” has embodied the essence of these three practices so thoroughly that their effects “fill the expanse of Heaven and Earth” without any discernible means of conveyance –an idea often seen in Confucian texts of the period, such as in the opening passage of the “Biaoji” 表記 chapter of the Liji , wherein Confucius describes the noble man as one who “is solemn without airs, awesome without severity, and trusted without speaking” ›’矜而莊›’厲而威›’言而信.45

22Yet while the Ode citations have helped him to see all this, Zixia is still left wanting more:

子夏曰:「言則大矣,美矣,盛矣!言盡於此而已乎?」

孔子曰:「何為其然也?君子之服之也,猶有五起焉.」

子夏曰:「何如?」

孔子曰:

「無聲之樂,氣志不違;無體之禮,威儀遲遲;無服之喪,內恕孔悲.

無聲之樂,氣志既得;無體之禮,威儀翼翼;無服之喪,施及四國.

無聲之樂,氣志既從;無體之禮,上下和同;無服之喪,以畜萬邦.

無聲之樂,日聞四方;無體之禮,日就月將;無服之喪,純德孔明.

無聲之樂,氣志既起;無體之禮,施及四海;無服之喪,施于孫子.」

Zixia said: “These lines are indeed great, fine, and magnificent! But is that all there is to say about them?”

Kong Zi said: “How could that be the case? In devoting himself to them, the noble man yet has ‘five arisings’ therefrom.”

Zixia said: “How so?”

Kong Zi said:

  • 46 Alternatively, we might understand this separately as “energy” and “intent,” or perhaps “spirit” an (...)

“With the music of no sounds, one’s essential intent46 does not go astray; with the ritual of no bodily deportment, one’s imposing demeanour is relaxed and leisurely; with the mourning of no apparel, one’s internal sense of sympathy is truly sorrowful.

With the music of no sounds, one’s essential intent has been captured; with the ritual of no bodily deportment, one’s imposing demeanour is solemn and august; with the mourning of no apparel, one’s graces reach the four realms.

With the music of no sounds, one’s essential intent has gained a following; with the ritual of no bodily deportment, superiors and subordinates are in harmonious accord; with the mourning of no apparel, the myriad states are thereby reared.

With the music of no sounds, one’s renown grows daily throughout the four quarters; with the ritual of no bodily deportment, there are daily accomplishments and monthly progressions; with the mourning of no apparel, pure virtue is truly radiant.

With the music of no sounds, one’s essential intent has arisen; with the ritual of no bodily deportment, one’s graces reach the four seas; with the mourning of no apparel, one’s graces fall upon one’s descendants.”

23It is hardly surprising that the ultimate import of such an abstract concept as the “three absences” could be described in anything less arcane than such a series of rhymed triplets, which derive their strength as much from the coherence of the prosody as they do from the content inscribed therein. But there appears to be a progression here, and as much as the description as seen in the Chinese text above coheres line by line “horizontally,” it is no doubt meant to be read “vertically” as well, though the precise nature of the advancement from one line to the next still leaves ample room for the imagination.

  • 47 “Lun li,” by contrast, contains only lines one and three (again with some variation) and omits the (...)

24In this regard, it is interesting to note that in the unearthed version of this text, “Min zhi fumu” 民之父母, the ordering of these parallel lines is different: what are here lines four and five come right after line one, such that the order is 1-4-5-2-3, with some variations in wording within each line as well.47 Most of these variations are minor, but a few are more significant; here, I will cite as an example only the parallel to line five –line three in the unearthed text– which contains the greatest number of variants:

亡(無)聖(聲)之樂,它(施)(及)孫=(孫子);亡(無)(體)之豊(禮),塞于四海;亡(無)備(服)之(喪),為民父母.

With the music of no sounds, one’s graces reach one’s descendants; with the ritual of no bodily deportment, [they] fill out the space within the four seas; with the mourning of no apparel, one serves as parent to the people.

  • 48 Ning Zhenjiang proposes just this sort of explanation; see Ning 2004, 279-80.

25The rhyme, however, remains consistent. Given that these lines are twenty-four characters in length (counting any graphic repetition or combination marks), and that the assumed average number of characters per strip of the Liji source manuscript was around twenty-seven to twenty-eight characters (see note 35 above), one could imagine that the scribe of that source manuscript (or even one from which “Min zhi fumu” was itself copied) could have just decided to write each of the lines describing the “five arisings” on separate bamboo strips. The variations in order among the five may thus have simply resulted from a failed attempt at restoring the original order among five strips that had become jumbled from the breaking of their tying strings.48 However, the “columnar” order in “Min zhi fumu” (actually horizontal “rows” on the bamboo strips) is arguably even less satisfying than that of the received, and variations of order within lines such as those just given point to a scenario that defies such a simple explanation. A more likely origin for the variations lies in the nature of the passage as a rhymed text: it was probably composed in a manner to be orally memorised and recited, and, as such recitations were passed along, it was only natural that variations and confusions in order would be introduced at the same time that the rhymes within each line were themselves always preserved. When we combine this with the fact that “Kongzi xianju” contains elsewhere displaced lines that clearly did result from a misplaced bamboo strip on a written source manuscript, it is hard to come to any conclusion other than that both oral and written forms of transmission were involved at different stages in the development and transmission of this text.

  • 49 “Lun li” carries through to the end of the next section below but then “omits” everything else up u (...)

26Even more significantly, the text of “Min zhi fumu” clearly ends at this point –following Kong Zi’s rhymed description with a text-end marker and loads of blank space on what is certainly the final strip– and contains none of the subsequent paragraphs of text.49 Two basic scenarios immediately present themselves: either the scribe of “Min zhi fumu” simply copied down, purposes uncertain, what he or his patron considered the “core” portion of an originally lengthier text, or else it in fact closely resembles an originally shorter text upon which the author(s) of “Kongzi xianju” attempted, for one reason or another, to expand. But if the latter is true, then he (/they) went about such expansion with great care indeed, as what follows adheres closely to the style of what precedes. Zixia’s next question indeed tightly mirrors the wording of his first –and in response to it the Master gives only a brief answer, compelling Zixia to once again request elaboration:

子夏曰:「三王之德,參於天地,敢問何如斯可謂參於天地矣?」

孔子曰:「奉三無私以勞天下.」

子夏曰:「敢問何謂三無私?」

孔子曰:「天無私覆,地無私載,日月無私照.奉斯三者以勞天下,此之謂三無私.其在詩曰:『帝命不違,至于湯齊.湯降不遲,聖敬日齊.昭假遲遲,上帝是祗.帝命式于九圍.』是湯之德也.」

  • 50 The “three kings” ordinarily referred to Yu, King of Xia 夏王禹; Tang, King of Shang 商王湯; and King Wen (...)

Zixia said: “The virtues of the three kings formed a triad with Heaven and Earth.50 May I venture to ask what [such virtue] must be like in order to be called ‘forming a triad with Heaven and Earth’?”

Kong Zi replied: “[It must] uphold the ‘three absences of partiality’ so as to bring comfort and relief to the world.”

Zixia said: “Might I ask to what the ‘three absences of partiality’ refer?”

Kong Zi replied: “Heaven provides no partial cover, Earth provides no partial support, and the sun and moon provide no partial illumination. Upholding these three [models] so as to bring comfort and relief to the world is what is meant by the ‘three absences of partiality.’ Its expression in the Odes is this:

  • 51 I am reading the qi  here as is, in accordance with the Mao interpretation. Zheng Xuan reads ji , (...)
  • 52 Zheng Xuan reads here in the sense of “solemn,” probably taking it as equivalent to . I read it (...)
  • 53 If we can take this “respect”  in a softer sense of “approval,” we might alternatively read this l (...)
  • 54 These lines come from the Shang hymn 商頌 “Chang fa” 長發 (“Long Manifested”), written in praise of Tan (...)

‘[The Shang] did not depart from the Sovereign[-on-high]’s mandate, and equalled up to it when it came to [King] Tang.51
Tang did not delay in handing down [this mandate to the world],
his sagacity and reverence rising by the day.
52
His radiance reached down slowly and soothingly,
and he showed his respect to the Sovereign-on-high;
53
the Sovereign[-on-high] commanded him to take charge of [the land throughout] the nine peripheries.’
54

  • 55 See the line chunri chichi 春日遲遲 in the odes “Qi yue” 七月 and “Cai wei” 采薇, from the “Bin feng” 豳風 su (...)

27As Zixia has now opened up a whole new line of questioning, it is easy to see how this and the following passages could have been treated as more or less a separate text altogether: the passages preceding this having all arisen from the question about the “parent of the people,” these now turn to the separate (though not unrelated) issue of “forming a triad with Heaven and Earth.” As with his initial answer to the previous question, Kong Zi gives his brief preliminary response here in the form of an enumerated concept, the “three absences of partiality,” and, following the requisite elaboration, he goes on, once again, to finally provide poetic substantiation for this notion in the lines of the Odes, this time without Zixia’s prompting. As Zheng Xuan sums the lines up, they express how “Tang upheld the impartial virtue of Heaven” (是湯奉天無私之德也). Tang is, in fact, implicitly compared directly to a heavenly body, the sun, as his radiance reaches down “slowly and gently” (chichi 遲遲), a reduplicative binome that appears elsewhere in the Odes to describe the soothing caress of a springtime sun.55 Just like that springtime sun, Tang’s virtue shone soothingly upon all throughout the world, causing the mandate of Heaven to finally be given over to the Shang.

28Without any further need for Zixia’s interlocution, Kong Zi goes on to elaborate:

「天有四時,春秋冬夏,風雨霜露,無非教也.地載神氣[風霆],神氣{風霆}風霆流形,庶物露生,無非教也.」

“Heaven has four seasons: spring, autumn, winter, summer, [sending] winds, rains, frost, and dew [down under] –it is all nothing but instruction.

  • 56 The text here reads “地載神氣神氣風霆風霆流形”; Lü Yushu 呂與叔 suspects that the four graphs 神氣風霆 in the middle (...)

Earth supports a spiritual energy and tempest storms, all of which flow into forms,56 [so that] the many creatures are revealed and born –it is all nothing but instruction.

29In their life-giving and life-nurturing operations –perhaps themselves forms of “instruction” on the metaphoric level– Heaven and Earth also serve as instructional models for the human sovereign below. Kong Zi then elaborates further:

「清明在躬,氣志如神.嗜欲將至,有開必先.天降時雨,山川出雲.其在詩曰:『嵩高惟嶽,峻極于天.惟嶽降神,生甫及申.惟申及甫,惟周之翰.四國于蕃,四方于宣.』此文武之德也.」

  • 57 Or, in Sun Xidan’s reading, “he makes an opening [which is] invariably preceded [by Heaven’s assist (...)
  • 58 According to Kong Yingda (based primarily on the Mao interpretation of the ode), the Marquis of Fu (...)
  • 59 These lines are from the ode “Song gao” 崧高 (“High and Lofty”) from the “Da Ya” 大雅 section of the Sh (...)

“Clarity and brilliance reside within his person,
and his essential intent is spirit-like.
When the object of his desires (i.e., the mandate) is about to arrive,
an opening will invariably present itself in advance.
57
[As when] Heaven pours down its timely rains,
the mountains and rivers [first] send forth clouds.
Its expression in the
Odes is this:
‘High and lofty are the mountain peaks,
their steep expanse culminating in Heaven.
These peaks sent down their spirits,
giving rise to [the Marquis of] Fu and [the Earl] of Shen.
58
This Shen and this Fu
were the pillars of the Zhou.
Over the four regions did they guard,
And throughout the four quarters did they promulgate [the Zhou’s virtue].’
59
Such was the virtue of [Kings] Wen and Wu.

30Not only does Kong Zi continue to cite the Odes for Zixia, but he also precedes the citation here with some more poetry of his own. As such, we have an ode within an ode, and a concrete historical example embedded within a poetic expression of the more general principle. Kong Zi finally concludes his mini-lecture as follows:

「三代之王也,必先其令聞.詩云『明明天子,令聞不已』,三代之德也.『弛其文德,協此四國』,大王之德也.」

子夏蹶然而起,負牆而立,曰:「弟子敢不承乎!」

  • 60 This interpretation partly follows that of Sun Xidan; alternatively, we could understand this as “T (...)
  • 61 The cited lines come from consecutive couplets forming the final stanza of the ode “Jiang Han” 江漢 ( (...)

“In coming to rule the kingdom, the [sages of the] Three Dynasties invariably first [accomplished] a fine reputation.60 As the ode has it, ‘Brilliant, oh brilliant, is the Son of Heaven, his glorious reputation never ceasing’ –[such] were the virtues of the Three Dynasties; and ‘He promulgates his refined virtue, and harmonises the four regions’ –[such] were the virtues of the great kings.”61

  • 62 According to Zheng Xuan, this action indicates that his inquiry of the Master has finished, and he (...)

Zixia arose abruptly, stood with his back against the wall,62 and said: “Would I, your disciple, dare not to receive and undertake [such instruction]?!”

  • 63 If, however, King Tai were in fact the correct reading of da wang 大王, we could perhaps imagine that (...)

31Having earlier cited an ode extolling the virtue of King Tang of Shang, Kong Zi has thus moved on to cite a further ode in praise, ostensibly, of Zhou Kings Wen and Wu, before finally concluding with further poetic examples lauding the “great kings” of the Three Dynasties more generally.63

  • 64 Richter 2013, 61. Richter’s argument that “Kongzi xianju” was a conscious amalgamation of originall (...)

32While centred around two main questions, “Kongzi xianju” nonetheless presents itself as an integrally unified piece with a relatively consistent style of exposition and logically developing structure. Nonetheless, the fact that both the unearthed manuscript “Min zhi fumu” and the “Lun li” 論禮 chapter of the Kongzi jiayu present the text in “abbreviated” form, the question naturally arises as to whether the text as we have it in the Liji accurately reflects the text as first conceived, or is it, in fact, the result of a gradual (or perhaps sudden) process of accretion? Given that “Min zhi fumu” lacks the narrative frame of “Kong Zi resting at leisure” that we find in the Liji text, Matthias Richter, among others, argues for a scenario in which “Min zhi fumu” represents the earliest stage of the text (among the three we have, that is), that the narrative frame of “Kongzi xianju” was added to it only after the text came to be placed immediately after “Zhongni yanju” in the Liji collection, “as a means of creating greater coherence between these two subsequent chapters,” and that a “similar coherence is achieved by concluding both scenes with the narrator’s voice describing the students as impressed with the words of their master.” “Lun li,” in turn, intentionally makes these narrative features less conspicuous in order to merge these two originally separate texts more seamlessly into a single text focused on a discussion of ritual.64 Such a scenario is entirely plausible and may indeed turn out to be the correct one, but we cannot yet rule out the possibility that the unearthed text was in fact abridged from a larger text (something like the received Liji text) in which that narrative frame was already present, simplifying the introduction in order to focus more exclusively on the content of the extracted passage. It could also be the case that “Kongzi xianju” was placed together with “Zhongni yanju” in the Liji collection precisely because it already –by that point, anyway– shared the same type of narrative frame, or perhaps even because it was seen as closely akin to it both stylistically and philosophically. With this possibility in mind, what can a comparison of these two Liji chapters reveal that might lend credence to the prospect that they were in fact both conceived as integral wholes?

33Before we get to this, however, let us briefly examine our third chapter with a similar narrative frame.

“Discourse of the sovereign” 主言

34From the outset, the “Zhu yan” 主言 (“Discourse of the Sovereign”) chapter of the Da Dai Liji proves to be even more self-consciously deliberate with the crafting of its narrative frame than either of the two texts just discussed. Its opening lines are as follows:

  • 65 The text of this chapter as given here is cited from (Qing) Wang Pinzhen 王聘珍, Da Dai Liji jiegu 198 (...)

孔子閒居,曾子侍.孔子曰:「參,今之君子,惟士與大夫之言之聞也,其至於君子之言者甚希矣.於乎!吾主言其不出而死乎?哀哉!」65

  • 66 Shen is Zeng Zi’s given name. Zeng Zi (“Master Zeng”) is an honorific; its use here suggests the po (...)
  • 67 For wen , most Da Dai Liji editions read jian , giving the phrase the sense of something like “re (...)
  • 68 As with “noble men” above, this “men of royalty” also translates junzi 君子, but it is clear from con (...)

Kong Zi rested at leisure, with Zeng Zi in attendance. Kong Zi said: “Shen,66 regarding noble men of today, we only hear about67 the discourses of men of service and the great officers, but almost nothing when it comes to the discourse of men of royalty.68 Alas! Will I die before my discourse of the sovereign sees the light of day? How sad!”

35How sad indeed! Kong Zi clearly has something he wants to get off his chest, as his lament appears to be completely unprompted by anything Zeng Zi might possibly have said. Tragically, Kong Zi seems destined to go to the grave before his doctrine on this matter, the “discourse of the sovereign,” might ever be passed down. There would appear to be an easy solution to this, but Kong Zi has his reasons for not immediately divulging his precious discourse to the disciple directly, and can only suggest elliptically the great urgency for such a revelation. Zeng Zi takes the bait:

曾子起,曰:「敢問:何謂『主言』?」孔子不應.曾子懼,肅然摳衣下席,曰:「弟子知其不孫也,得夫子之閒也難,是以敢問也.」

Zeng Zi arose and said: “Dare I ask to what the ‘discourse of the sovereign’ refers?”

Kong Zi did not respond. Zeng Zi grew fearful and, alighting from his mat while reverently holding up the lapels of his garment, said: “Your disciple is aware of his lack of humility. I only dared to ask because it is not easy to find such a moment of leisure with you, my master.”

36At this, Kong Zi still remains silent, terrifying poor Zeng Zi even further:

孔子不應,曾子懼,退負序而立.孔子曰:「參!女可語明主之道與?」

Kong Zi did not respond. Zeng Zi grew [ever more] fearful and receded to stand with his back against the wall. Kong Zi [finally] said: “Shen, are you really worthy of being told of the way of an enlightened ruler?”

37It is only with his disciple’s gesture of great humility that Kong Zi finally speaks, clearly wishing to unburden himself of his weighty doctrine yet nonetheless rebuking his disciple in the process. In response Zeng Zi professes, of course, that he would never dare to be so audacious, but he once again reiterates his fundamental impetus for such boldness:

曾子曰:「不敢以為足也,得夫子之閒也難,是以敢問.」

Zeng Zi said: “I dare not consider myself sufficient. I only dared to ask because it is not easy to find such a moment of leisure with you, my master.”

38The narrative frame has thus clearly established the expectation of a discourse that is at once urgent, esoteric, and extraordinary, and having now achieved that purpose, it has Kong Zi finally relent in his didactic posturing:

孔子曰:「吾語女:道者,所以明德也;德者,所以尊道也.⋯⋯」

Kong Zi said: “I will tell you. ‘The [proper] way’ is that by which one manifests [charismatic] virtue, and ‘[charismatic] virtue’ is that by which one honours the [proper] way…”

  • 69 That is to say, familiar from “Zhongni yanju,” as we will discuss further below.
  • 70 At this point, his justification takes a kind of “legalist” turn by stating how “it is the officers (...)

39Space here will not allow for a full exposition of the contents of this discourse and the details of the ensuing discussion, but a basic synopsis is as follows. The gist of Kong Zi’s doctrine –the way of the ancient kings, of course– lay in “cultivating the seven teachings within, and implementing the three attainments without” (內脩七教外行三至), which prove, in turn, to be the means by which to hold firm guard over the realm without toiling oneself, on the one hand, and to militarily punish recalcitrant enemies without expending any resources, on the other. This naturally leads to a “dumb question” by Zeng Zi: “Dare I ask: can one be considered enlightened without either expending or toiling?” (敢問不費、不勞可以為明乎). And this naturally leads to Kong Zi frowning, raising his eyebrows, and responding to this foolish query with the by-now familiar, “Did you really think…?” question: “Did you really think that an enlightened ruler toils himself?” (女以明主為勞乎).69 Kong Zi then gives the sage king Shun as an example of an ancient ruler who employed the right associates and, as a result, “The world was put in order without his ever getting off his mat” (不下席而天下治).70 He then, in a manner seen both in the Mengzi 孟子 and certain chapters of the Guanzi 管子, discusses in more detail an economic model in which there is limited taxation, restricted customs duties, prohibitions without levies, and the like, as the concrete means by which the enlightened ruler gathers resources without any need for extravagant expenditures. Then, much as in “Kongzi xianju,” Zeng Zi proceeds to ask for elaboration on the specifics of the enumerated terms: first, “Dare I ask to what the seven teachings refer?” (敢問何謂七教). In this case, it is all about teaching through example, such that “when those above are respectful towards elders, then those below will be increasingly filial; when those above act in accord with seniority, then those below will be increasingly brotherly” (上敬老則下益孝上順齒則下益悌), and so on, with the result that “the leader will not be toiled” (正不勞矣). In sum:

  • 71 Da Dai Liji jiegu 1983, 4; Da Dai Liji buzhu 2013, 19.

「七教者,治民之本也,教定是正矣.上者,民之表也.表正,則何物不正?是故君先立於仁,則大夫忠,而士信、民敦、工璞、商愨、女憧、婦空空.七者,教之志也.七者布諸天下而不窕,內諸尋常之室而不塞.是故聖人等之以禮,立之以義,行之以順,而民棄惡也如灌.」71

“The ‘seven teachings’ are the foundations of governance –this (governance) is rectified once the teachings are established. The ‘superior’ is the standard for the people –once the standard is correct, what will not be correct? Thus, when the ruler stands firmly in humanity (ren ) before them, the great officers will be loyal, men of service will be trustworthy, the people will be earnest, craftsmen will be genuine, merchants will be scrupulous, women will be unassuming, and wives will be self-effacing. These seven are the aims of teaching. When the seven [teachings] are promulgated throughout the world, they will not fail to pervade, and entered into common households, they will meet with no obstruction. Thus, when the sage ranks the people through ritual, establishes them through propriety, and conducts them through compliant order, the people will ditch depravity as easily as if bathing themselves.”

40Kong Zi having thus laid forth the basics of the seven teachings, Zeng Zi is then compelled to interject that, “Your disciple is inadequate, but as for the doctrine, it is the ultimate” (弟子則不足道則至矣) –to which Kong Zi responds: “But wait, there is more!” (姑止又有焉). And at this point, he follows up with the details of territorial administration, which proves basically to be the method of dividing up the land into nested administrative units, such that at the local level everyone is entrusted to take care of their elderly and disadvantaged and identify worthies for promotion, whereas at the higher levels, resources are moderately taxed and not taken to fill official coffers. As they are thus provided with an adequate social safety net, the people come to naturally trust their superiors at the same time that they hold them in awe.

41With Kong Zi having fleshed all this out, Zeng Zi now comes around to asking about what the “three attainments” (san zhi 三至) might refer to, and here Kong Zi gives a response that sounds alarmingly like the description of the “three absences” we heard of in the “Kongzi xianju” text:

  • 72 Da Dai Liji jiegu 1983, 7; Da Dai Liji buzhu 2013, 21.

「至禮不讓而天下治,至賞不費而天下之士說,至樂無聲而天下之民和.明主篤行三至,故天下之君可得而知也,天下之士可得而臣也,天下之民可得而用也.」72

“The ultimate attainment in ritual is such that, without any gestures of yielding, the world is put in order; the ultimate attainment in rewarding is such that, without any expenditures, the world’s men of talent are pleased; the ultimate attainment in musical expression is such that, without any sounds, the people of the world are in harmony. Because the enlightened sovereign earnestly practises these three attainments, all the rulers of the world can be brought to realisation, the men of service in the world can be brought to serve as ministers, and the people of the world can be brought to employment.”

  • 73 The phrase “like the falling of timely rain” ((/)時雨降) appears in similar contexts in both the “Li (...)

42This, of course, leads Zeng Zi to ask for clarification: “Dare I ask what this [all] means?” (敢問何謂), and this leads to Kong Zi’s final elaboration in the text, which first points to a kind of honouring and rewarding of worthy men in some sort of decentralised fashion that is only vaguely conceptualised, wherein the sovereign simply “relies on ranks and salaries of the world” (因天下之爵祿) to do so, upon which the people will also naturally come to respect those worthies and respond harmoniously to their leadership, and this, in turn, will ultimately result in the sovereign’s ability to carry out punitive expeditions abroad. As these sorts of punitive expeditions are conceived as inherently justified –“Wherever the enlightened sovereign campaigns against is invariably where the proper way has been abandoned (明主之所征必道之所廢者也)– they are said to lead, in rather Mengzian fashion, to the subjects of the vanquished welcoming their conquerors with open arms, “as if they were timely rain” (猶時雨).73 It is this, Kong Zi concludes, that is referred to as “recalling the army back home from atop one’s mat” (衽席之上乎還師).

43There are, to be certain, some manifest differences between “Zhu yan” and the other two texts under consideration. Perhaps the most obvious one is the unique attention it pays to the matter of military expeditions and the fact that it goes into great detail concerning administrative and economic methods while having little to say about the specific ceremonial procedures of ritual. Its economic descriptions in fact resonate more with what we see in certain passages of the Mengzi and Guanzi, and, perhaps more strikingly, its emphasis on the sovereign “not toiling” and “not expending” in a kind of acting-to-no-purpose framework wherein the onus is placed upon officials when just commands fail to be implemented, would appear to betray the influence of a growing body of “Legalist” discourse. Given that the likely (though uncertain) temporal provenance of the Shanghai Museum Manuscripts, and thus the high probability that at least the “Min zhi fumu” portion of “Kongzi xianju” was written by no later than the end of the 4th Century BCE, these facts suggest that “Zhu yan” was most probably conceived somewhat later than “Kongzi xianju” and quite possibly “Zhongni yanju” as well –a likelihood not inconsistent with its more consciously elaborate narrative introduction. Nonetheless, there are a number of factors that strongly suggest that it may have been written under the direct influence of those texts, including exceptionally close resonances not only in form, but in philosophical outlook and linguistic usage as well, as we shall now discuss further.

Comparative analysis

  • 74 See the brief discussion of such passages in relation to the term in Zuo 2008, 62. Note that the gr (...)
  • 75 Ibid. Zuo cites in this regard relevant later passages from the Shi ji 史記 and Han shu 漢書. Though as (...)

44Whether Zheng Xuan’s distinction between the terms yanju 燕居 and xianju 閒居 has any substantial basis or not, his definition of the latter as “to avoid other people after leaving a banquet” (退燕避人曰閒居) is nonetheless noteworthy, as it points to the notion of privacy, or a situation that allows for both deeper reflection and the discussion of things that might not normally be conversed upon in more public settings. The idea of privacy is reinforced by the usage of the term xianju in such texts as the “Daxue” 大學 chapter of the Liji: “The petty person, when dwelling [alone] at leisure, will stop at no point in committing bad deeds” (小人閒居為不善無所不至); or the “Jie bi” 解蔽 chapter of the Xunzi, in its description of the man who went to live in a cave in order to shun all noises and temptations so that he could “rest at leisure and contemplate in tranquillity” (閑居靜思).74 The term yanju, while perhaps not directly connoting the sense of privacy quite as strongly, is nonetheless likewise associated with the idea of speaking more frankly on matters in avoidance of a public setting.75 Given this, we should expect that the discussions framed within such a narrative context would reveal unique features not found in those whose context is either not explicit or set in other terms. The foregoing analysis suggests that this was indeed the case. Before taking such a conclusion any further, however, we need to first examine more closely whether the texts as we have them can in fact be reliably read as coherent units in the first place and, moreover, assess whether there are other ways, beyond their common narrative frames, in which these texts might be seen to bear an especially close relationship to one another.

Philosophical evidence

45Turning to the second of these questions first, we should initially take notice of the fact that the three texts in question all share an undeniably close philosophical viewpoint. In “Zhongni yanju,” for instance, in his answer to Ziyou’s question about ritual, Confucius emphasises how ritual modelling at the highest ranks so naturally works its way down to all levels of society so effortlessly that everything falls into its proper place and order is achieved almost automatically. Later, in his discussion of the Grand Banquet, he stresses how ritual and music in antiquity served to allow noble men to communicate effectively to one another without the need for any exchange of words, and how what they served to reveal were in each case aspects of virtue that lay deep beneath the surface of the ritual and musical gestures themselves. And finally, in his answer to Zizhang’s question, he comes around to the central point that ritual and music are not at all about the “tables and mats” or “bells and drums,” but rather simply the notion of sincerely putting one’s words into practice and finding contentment in one’s actions, by means of which “great peace” will be brought to the entire world and “the myriad creatures will all submit.” This is precisely the idea behind the “music of no sounds” and “ritual of no bodily deportment” that, when practised by the “parent of the people,” “fill the expanse between Heaven and Earth” that we see in “Kongzi xianju,” save for the fact that the latter text expresses such ideas directly in abstract generalities, whereas the former draws them out more gradually from the description of relatively concrete ceremonial institutions –the core notions, however, are one and the same. And while “Zhu yan” does indeed delve into detailed administrative matters which do not concern the other two texts, it too resonates closely when it comes to its core philosophical notions. Save for replacing the “mourning of no apparel” with the “rewarding” of “no expenditures” and changing the description of ultimate “ritual” from one of “no bodily deportment” to one “without any gestures of yielding,” its “three attainments” are otherwise practically identical with the “three absences” of “Kongzi xianju” and likewise, upon being “earnestly practised” by the enlightened sovereign, form the basis of social and political harmony and efficacy throughout the world. And the effects it achieves through the standards established among its “seven teachings” are nothing short of a thorough permeation of such instruction down through each and every level of society, from the ranks of the great officers to the confines of the women’s quarters, as seen in a description that closely echoes that found in the example of ritual modelling delineated in the opening dialogue of “Zhongni yanju.”

46One could, of course, always make the argument that much the same could be said about any number of Confucian texts, or even that such notions lie at the very heart of Confucian thought more generally. To be sure, the general notion of rulership through charismatic virtue is a defining feature of Confucian thought as we know it not only from the Lunyu, but from practically every early text that ascribes itself to or associates itself with the Master. And while far fewer texts describe the ruler’s ultimate influence in the kind of quasi-miraculous terms we see in these texts, wherein the message is conveyed throughout the world prior to even the appearance of the medium, such examples are nonetheless clearly to be found elsewhere, as in the “Biao ji” and a few other early texts. Given all this, any attempt to demonstrate a substantially closer connection among the three texts in question beyond that of common intellectual affiliation would require more in the way of direct linguistic correspondences or other such forms of evidence. As it turns out, there is plenty in this regard to corroborate that connection.

Linguistic evidence

  • 76 By “early Chinese texts” I mean those that date from either pre-Han or Han times. And regardless of (...)

47We might start with the most obvious example, noted just above, of the close correspondence between the “three absences” (san wu 三無) of “Kongzi xianju” with the “three attainments” (san zhi 三至) of “Zhu yan,” and further take note of the latter’s linguistic similarity to the “five attainments” (wu zhi 五至) of the former work. Why the author(s) of “Zhu yan” chose to switch the referent of zhi  to the notion formerly expressed by wu  is an interesting question that need not overly concern us here, but the likelihood of direct influence of the one text upon the other is hard to deny, especially when we consider that there is not a single other instance in other early texts wherein a term in the form of “number + zhi ” (or zhi ) appears as a philosophical concept.76 The opening lines of Kong Zi’s statement in “Kongzi jiayu” also show unique resonances with Zhongni’s utterances in “Zhongni yanju,” insofar as they both contain distinctive lines about “comprehending ritual” and “comprehending music” (達於禮樂) or the sources thereof:

〈孔子閒居〉:「必達於禮樂之原,以致五至而行三無,以橫於天下.」

He must comprehend the source(s) of ritual and music, so as to achieve the five attainments and practise the three absences, and thereby transfuse the world.

〈仲尼燕居〉:「達於禮而不達於樂,謂之素;達於樂而不達於禮,謂之偏.」

“To comprehend (/be accomplished in) ritual but not (in) music, we call being ‘lacklustre.’ To comprehend (/be accomplished in) music but not (in) ritual, we call being ‘one-sided’.”

  • 77 There are two appearances of da yu li 達於禮 in the Zhanguo ce (and one in a Kongzi jiayu chapter, “Zi (...)

48Aside from the Zhanguo ce 戰國策, these are the only two places in early Chinese texts where the combination of da yu li 達於禮 or da yu yue 達於樂 occurs.77

49The texts are also uncannily similar in terms of the specific (if seemingly mundane) expressions chosen to advance the dialogues on a narrative level. Let us first look at the way Confucius questions his disciples in both “Zhongni yanju” and “Zhu yan,” the first coming on the heels of Zizhang’s obstinately repeating his question about “governance” (zheng ), and the second following Zeng Zi’s questioning of the Master’s assertion that the enlightened ruler “neither toils nor expends” (不勞、不費):

〈仲尼燕居〉:「爾以為必鋪几筵,升降,酌、獻、酬、酢,然後謂之爾以為必行綴兆,興羽籥,作鍾鼓,然後謂之?」

“Shi, do you [really] think that one must lay forth tables and mats, ascend and descend staircases, and pour libations and offer rounds of toasts before it can be called ritual? Do you [really] think that one must move along choreographed positions, raise up feathers and panpipes, and strike up bells and drums before it can be called music?”

〈主言〉:  「參!女以明主為勞乎?昔者舜左禹而右皋陶,不下席而天下治⋯」

“Shen, do you [really] think that an enlightened ruler toils himself? In former times, Shun was closely assisted by Yu and Gao Yao, and the world was put in order without his ever leaving his mat…

  • 78 The one prime example found elsewhere in early literature comes from a statement directed at Zigong (...)
  • 79 A particularly intriguing anomaly here is the fact that the same phrase, “I will tell you” (吾語汝), i (...)
  • 80 The most notable occurrence outside of these collections comes from the “Yang Huo” 陽貨 chapter of th (...)

50The dismissive tone is strikingly close, and while one might think that such forms of questioning disciples’ assumptions would be commonly seen in early Confucian dialogue texts, the evidence in fact corroborates the relative uniqueness of such utterances.78 We may further note that the seemingly innocuous phrase “Dare I ask in what manner…?” (敢問 […]何如…) occurs in both “Kongzi xianju” and “Zhongni yanju,” and the similar phrase “Dare I ask to what the (…) refers?” (敢問何謂…), which appears several times in “Kongzi xianju,” is also found expressed from Zeng Zi’s mouth multiple times in “Zhu yan.” While these two phrases are by no means unheard of in early Chinese texts, the number of such texts still does not exceed what one can count with one’s hands. Kong Zi’s phrase “I will tell you (…)” (吾語女…), which appears three different times in “Zhongni yanju,” is also to be found in “Zhu yan.”79 While this phrase may be somewhat more common, it is nonetheless found in only three other texts within the entire Liji and Da Dai Liji collections.80 Finally, we may take note of the similarities in wording of the following three utterances:

孔子曰:「何為其然也?君子之服之也,猶有五起焉.」

Kong Zi said: “How could that be the case? In devoting himself to them, the noble man yet has ‘five arisings’ therefrom.” (“Kongzi xianju”)

子曰:「慎聽之!女三人者.吾語女:禮猶有九焉,大饗有四焉.」

The Master went on: “Listen carefully, you three! I will tell you how there are yet nine further [aspects] of ritual, four of which occur within the Grand Banquet.” (“Zhongni yanju”)

孔子曰:參!姑止!又有焉⋯⋯.」

Kong Zi said: “Shen, but wait, there is more!” (‘Zhu yan’)

  • 81 One other interesting item, not listed in Table 1 below, is the phrase “fu X er liX而立 (“stood wi (...)

51To be sure, there are other examples of such phrases as “猶有” and “又有” in a few other early texts, but aside from these three distinct “rested at leisure texts,” there is not a single one in which the phrase occurs in a context wherein Kong Zi expresses it in the interest of further elucidating some principle in a direct address to his disciples, as they all, in signature fashion, do here.81

52A final point to be emphasised here is that both “敢問 […]何如…” and “敢問何謂…” occur in both halves of “Kong Zi xianju” –a strong indication that, save for the possibility of editorial manipulation to make two distinct texts seamlessly conform, the two halves were in fact originally part of the same integral text, or at least two texts which were, from the beginning, closely affiliated through either common authorship or conscious imitation. It is also noteworthy that in “Zhongni yanju,” one of the three “吾語女” phrases of that text is found duplicated in the “Wen yu” 問玉 rather than “Lun li” chapter of the Kongzi jiayu, and its lone “爾以為” phrase also appears in that same portion. Finally, it is particularly worth noting that the term (or term-pair) qizhi 氣志 (“essential intent”), which plays such a central role in the description of the “five arisings” 五起 at the end of the “Min zhi fumu” portion of “Kongzi xianju,” appears once more in the second half of the latter, yet nowhere else among all pre-imperial texts that can even arguably be described as Confucian. Such phenomena go a long way toward answering in the affirmative the first of the two questions we posed earlier in this section: on whether the received texts as we have them can in fact be reliably read as coherent units in spite of the alternate configurations presented in both unearthed and received counterparts.

Table 1.

Table 1.

Shared language between “Kongzi xianju,” “Zhongni yanju,” “Zhu yan,” and other early texts

  • 82 As noted above, certain features of “Zhongni yanju” suggest perhaps a slightly later date for it th (...)

53The relative uniqueness of all these phrases, particularly as they are clustered within these three texts, can be seen at a glance from Table 1. From this, it is readily apparent that there is an unusually close connection between our three texts in terms of shared signature phrases which prove relatively distinctive when compared with the rest of the Liji and Da Dai Liji corpuses. Moreover, if we broaden our focus to include the “Ai Gong wen” 哀公問, “Ai Gong wen yu Kongzi” 哀公問於孔子, and “Ai Gong wen wuyi” 哀公問五義 texts, along with portions of the “Yue ji” 樂記, we see the emergence of a particular cluster of texts that would appear to bear an uncommonly intimate and practically unique relationship within the two corpuses –suggesting that the various “Ai Gong asked” texts might prove a fruitful area for further research both as a group and in relation to the various “Confucius rested at leisure” texts. And beyond the two Liji collections, it is also noteworthy that a great percentage of the passages sharing these assorted phrases would appear to have been consciously derivative in nature –such as the playfully imitative Confucius dialogues that we find at certain points in the Zhuangzi. This further suggests the likelihood that texts like “Kongzi xianju” and “Zhongni yanju” were well known and widely studied by scholars and philosophers of the late Warring States.82

Conclusion

54From the foregoing discussion, it is readily evident that the “Kongzi xianju” and “Zhongni yanju” chapters of the Liji are closely connected in terms of philosophical orientation, and that the “Zhu yan” chapter of the Da Dai Liji also reveals some manifest similarities in this regard. An analysis of their shared language, moreover, evidences a remarkable degree of overlap in the use of certain terms which prove to be either exclusively or relatively idiosyncratic when compared to both other texts within those two collections and among early Chinese texts more generally. While the evidence may not yet be firmly conclusive, it at least suggests the likelihood that the three texts in question, if not derived from the same authorship, at least originated from the same textual community or were written in close textual imitation of one another. That they all begin with a narrative-frame opening of “Kong Zi rested at leisure” or “Zhongni rested at ease” can hardly be seen as either a coincidence or the haphazard result of an editor who added the phrase to the one just to make it formally conform to the other because of their ostensibly random placement together in the Liji collection. A much more likely scenario is in fact that they were placed together within that collection precisely because of their manifest similarities, including their common narrative frame –for otherwise, it would indeed be difficult to account for the preponderance of other evidence linking them together.

  • 83 See especially note 49 above.
  • 84 As mentioned earlier, a third possibility might be that the second half of the text represented a l (...)
  • 85 The archaeological record is not without examples of tombs containing texts or collections of passa (...)

55Against this, we have only the evidence of the unearthed manuscript “Min zhi fumu” and the “Lun li” chapter of the Kongzi jiayu. As detailed above, the latter can be shown to have clearly derived from a somewhat careless reconfiguration of certain portions of both “Zhongni yanju” and “Kongzi xianju,” and it in fact tells us almost nothing about the state of the text prior to its inclusion in the Liji.83 More worthy of our consideration is “Min zhi fumu” –the oldest physical witness we have to the text– which lacks both the narrative frame and, moreover, the entire second half of the text as we find it in “Kongzi xianju.” However, given the fact that, as shown above, the two halves of “Kongzi xianju” are so seamlessly interwoven and in fact also share some of the same common language described earlier, it is difficult to imagine that “Kongzi xianju” is just a simple amalgamation of two originally distinct passages.84 Given this, the simplest and most direct explanation of all evidence is this: “Min zhi fumu” is in fact an abridgement of, or should we say extracted excerpt from, a larger text –excised for purposes that are not altogether clear, but may well have simply involved the pedagogical desire to give greater focus to one of the two main philosophical points espoused within that larger text. This would surely not be the first time that excerpted texts appeared in tombs,85 and it is not methodologically sound to assume that an unearthed manuscript must necessarily represent the closest thing we have to the original form of a text merely because it is our oldest physical witness and in other ways does not include certain corruptions that have found their way into the received text over its long course of transmission. In fact, the mere existence of the unearthed manuscript in Chu script serves to attest to the fact that by the mid-to-late Warring States, this was most likely a text of great importance and widespread transmission, and as we argued just above from evidence in other received texts, both “Kongzi xianju” and “Zhongni yanju” appear to have been greatly studied and consciously imitated as standard Confucius dialogue texts in the late Warring States.

56In short, a careful reading of all the evidence suggests that we just might yet be well justified to speak in terms of authorial intent when it comes to the narrative frame of such a text as “Kongzi xianju,” rather than in terms of merely editorial intent. In light of this, it follows that there is a need to take the “Confucius at leisure” texts more seriously as a kind of self-conscious genre, one in which the narrative strategy aimed to subtly impart the sense that the philosophy expressed within these texts was in fact something rare, profound, and truly extraordinary.

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Notes

1 Given that the texts to be discussed in this paper refer to Confucius variously as “Master Kong” 孔子 and Zhongni 仲尼, I will reserve the use of those Chinese appellations mainly to refer to the figure of Kong Zi as he appears specifically in those texts, and use the Latinisation of “Confucius” when referring to him as a literary and historical figure more generally.

2 For some intriguing recent scholarship on Confucius as a literary figure and the examination of compositional features and editorial strategies that marked or informed the texts centred on that figure, see Weingarten 2009; and Hunter 2017 (or 2012). For my own discussion on how such recreations nevertheless remained bound by the limits of historical believability, see Cook 2015.

3 These definitions come from surviving citations of Zheng Xuan’s entries on “Zhongni yanju” and “Kongzi xianju,” respectively, in his long-lost work Sanli mulu 三禮目錄 (Record of the Contents of the Three Classics of Ritual). See Liji zhengyi 2008, v. 1, 1939.

4 James Legge gets somewhat more specific in his own introduction of the contents of each chapter, stating in regard to “Zhongni yanju” that “Confucius has returned from his attendance at the court of Lû, and is at home in his own house. Three of his disciples are sitting by him and his conversation flows on till it has reached the subject of ceremonial usages… he discourses on it at length… in a familiar and practical manner”; and in regard to “Kongzi xianju,” he similarly suggests, Confucius “was at home and at leisure.” He further avers that “[f]rom their internal analogies in form and sentiment, I suppose that the two Books were made by the same writer.” See Legge 1885, Part III, 40-41.

5 The text of this chapter as given here is cited from (Qing) Sun Xidan 孫希旦 (1736–1784), Liji jijie 1989, 1267-74, with reference also to (Qing) Zhu Bin 朱彬 (1753–1834), Liji xunzuan 1996, 745-50. The entire text (including the ending lines), minus the final exchange with Zizhang, also constitutes (with a few variations) the bulk of the “Lun li” 論禮 chapter of the Kongzi jiayu 孔子家語, which also appends to the end of it an abridged version of “Kongzi xianju”; “Lun li,” however, does not open with the phrase “Zhongni yanju,” but rather with “Kongzi xianju,” and would appear to be a conscious amalgamation of the two chapters (more on this below). The concluding exchange with Zizhang is found separately as the final dialogue of the “Wen yu” 問玉 chapter of the Kongzi jiayu. As Wang E notes, the disciples in “Zhongni yanju” ask their questions in order of age, as would be ritually appropriate, but Zizhang is listed first in the narrative opening. This leads Wang to speculate that “Zhongni yanju” was edited by either Zizhang or his disciples, though he believes that it in fact represents an authentic dialogue that took place near the end of Confucius’ life (by Qian Mu’s 錢穆 dating, Zigong would have only been around twenty-four years old when Confucius died), the same period in which he believes the “Ai Gong wen” 哀公問 chapter to have been written. See Wang 2006, 8.

6 The term yue xi 越席 has traditionally been understood as simply “arise from one’s mat” or “come away from one’s mat.” Compare the “Quli, shang” 曲禮上 chapter of the Liji: “One should arise when inquiring about a subject of learning, and arise when requesting elaboration” 請業則起請益則起; and again, referring to a slightly different situation: “When a noble man inquires about a new topic, one should arise when responding” 君子問更端則起而對. Legge interprets the phrase here somewhat differently: “Zigong crossed over (Zizhang’s) mat,” and he sees this as “substantially a violation” of the injunction in “Quli, shang” (par. 26 by his numbering) to (in his translation) “not stride across the mat” 毋踖席. See Legge 1885, Part IV, 270 (I have changed all romanisation to standard pinyin, here and below). But yue xi 越席 is in fact clearly a ritually appropriate act, as evidenced in the “Yuzao” 玉藻 chapter of the Liji: “If the ruler bestows a rank upon him, he is to leave (/come over to the other side of) his mat (yue xi), bow twice, and receive it touching his head to the ground” 君若賜之爵則越席再拜稽首受. Given that the disciples must have been standing when the Master asked them to sit, my assumption is that Zigong then crossed over to the front of his mat, closer to the Master, to ask his question, which would have been functionally equivalent to his arising from his mat had he already been sitting.

7 Some have suspected that at least the last sentence, regarding Zichan, does not even belong in this text. As Legge has mentioned (Legge 1885, Part IV, 271), the (Qing) editors of the Qinding Liji yishu 欽定禮記義疏 (of the Qinding Siku quanshu 欽定四庫全書) note that an extended version of this remark on Zichan appears in the “Zhenglun jie” 正論解 chapter of the Kongzi jiayu, and they aver that the lines appear here as the result of a misplaced strip. For this to be true, however, one would have to assume an unusually short source manuscript of around fifteen characters per strip and which just happened to contain exactly one complete and self-sufficient sentence. Nonetheless, it remains true that the sentence does feel somewhat out of place here. As Wang E points out, both this and the previous line about Zizhang and Zixia are absent from the “Lun li” version of the text; Wang thus also argues they are extraneous here. See Wang 2006, 7. This would indeed increase the number of characters to twenty-five, a plausible number for a misplaced strip, though the other aforementioned coincidences would remain, and it is just as likely that the “Lun li” editor consciously chose to omit these lines from his version of the dialogue

8 The jiao  and were each (according to at least some early texts and commentaries) annual sacrifices held at altars on the southern and northern peripheries of the city, respectively: the former, to Heaven and the celestial deities, held at the winter solstice (to welcome in the gradual arrival of longer days), and the latter, to Earth and the terrestrial deities, at the summer solstice.

9 The chang , or autumnal sacrifice, was a sacrifice for heralding in the autumn season, held (at least by the Zhou calendar) in the first month of fall (mengqiu 孟秋). There are a number of explanations for what the di  sacrifice refers to, depending on context, one of them being a seasonal sacrifice held in the summer, another, more salient here, a great sacrifice held in the ancestral temple in which all the ancestors are sacrificed to collectively. The Shuowen jiezi 說文解字 defines with the sound gloss of , “carefully examine,” and (Qing) Duan Yucai 段玉裁 interprets this to mean a sacrifice in which the lineage orderings of zhao  and mu  are examined and manifested. In the Zhou ritual system (as described, at least, in such sources as the “Wang zhi” 王制 chapter of the Liji), the number of ancestors sacrificed to in the ancestral temple varied by status, with the sacrificial tablet for each ancestor taking its place on the left or right in alternation. The grand ancestral temple of the Son of Heaven, for instance, was said to hold the tablets of seven ancestors, with the progenitor (Wang Ji 王季) in the middle, his son (Wen Wang 文王) to his left (zhao ), his grandson (Wu Wang 武王) to his right (mu ), and so on in alternation through the seventh generation. For more on the chang and di sacrifices, see also the notes in Yang 1990, 107 & 321.

10 Upon graduation from the three-year curriculum of local schools, worthy candidates were presented by ministers to the ruler, after which a banquet ceremony was held (xiang yinjiu li 鄉飲酒禮), followed by an archery contest (xiang she li 鄉射禮).

11 Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 glosses ren  as a near-equivalent to cun , “preserve,” but there appears to be no good reason not to read ren at face value here, as it was likely to be chosen deliberately to emphasise precisely the humanising aspect of rituals that are performed with sincere intent.

12 In this case, san zu 三族 may refer to the separate clans of the father, the mother, and the wife, though Zheng Xuan enumerates them here as the families of father, son, and grandson.

13 (Tang) Kong Yingda 孔穎達 instead glosses zhong  here as “myriad tasks” (wan shi 萬事).

14 Cf. Legge, who has a very different interpretation of these final lines: “(The duty) laid on (each) person being discharged in the matter before him (according to these rules), all his movements, and every movement, will be what they ought to be.” Legge 1885, Part IV, 272.

15 Significantly, in the “Lun li” version of this passage, the following is posed as a separate question by Zizhang following a return of Zigong to his place, rather than a self-addressed question by the Master. Let us recall that in the “Lun li” version, however, the final exchange with Zizhang later on is not included, thus necessitating a role for him here. Conversely, we could also imagine –though to my mind far less likely– that the later Zizhang exchange was not in the original text and thus it was the “Zhongni yanju” version that introduced a change here in order to avoid the two separate questions by Zizhang that would have resulted from that addition. Wang E simply avers that “Zhongni yanju” might have missing text here; but if that were the case, a certain “correction” would have to have been made subsequently in order for the opening of the section to now have the form of a self-addressed question (Wang 2006, 7).

16 Cf. the second stanza of the “Cheng xiang” 成相 chapter of the Xunzi: “To serve as sovereign of the people without the use of worthies is like a blind person having no guide –how aimless and bewildered is he!” 人主無賢如瞽無相何倀倀

17 According to Zheng Xuan, the grand banquet, or da xiang 大饗, was “a banquet/feast offered to the regional lords who pay court” 饗諸侯來朝者; Kong Yingda interprets this here as referring to “a meeting between neighbouring states” 鄰國相會, and Sun Xidan similarly explains it as a “banquet held by regional lords for each other” 諸侯相饗. Though various attempts at identification have been made, it is unclear exactly to what the “nine” and “four” refer, though Sun is surely correct in not taking them as mutually exclusive lists, but rather seeing the “four” of the “Grand Banquet” as four of those nine. As there are precisely nine sequential actions from “揖讓而入門” to “備其百官,” Lu Zhi 盧植 (d. 192 CE; cited in Liji xunzuan 1996) takes these to be the “nine” in question, but as these would all appear to be descriptive of the Grand Banquet itself, this interpretation is problematic. Interpretations of the “four” are equally problematic, all involving arbitrary additions or subtractions of some kind. For instance, Sun Xidan may be on the right track in identifying the first three of these as the three moments of musical performance that “exhibit,” respectively, “true affections,” “virtue,” and “service to undertakings” (qing , de , shi ), but his addition of the “successive performance of Wu and Xia with panpipes” (according to his punctuation and reading) as the fourth is arbitrary, in the sense that the text does not explicitly associate this performance with the revelation of anything deeper. It may perhaps make more sense to instead group the three revealed aspects in question together with the “humanity” (ren ) that the noble man “realizes” in the middle of the paragraph, so that of some nine unnamed primary concepts that are capable of being revealed through ritual (and musical) performance, the Grand Banquet reveals four of them: “humanity,” “true affections,” “virtue,” and “service to undertakings.”

18 Zheng Xuan takes shi zhi 事之 differently, in the sense of the one in question “being placed in an official position” 立置於位.

19 “Suspended instruments” (xuan ) could also include chimestones, but here I follow the interpretation of Sun Xidan. In any case, only bells are mentioned in reference back to this later in the paragraph.

20 As various commentators have described it, this momentary cessation of music actually occurs only after the completion of an exchange of toasts between host and guest. Sun Xidan believes that there was originally a line “升歌〈清廟〉” (“The Ode ‘Qing miao’ is sung upon ascent”) that has dropped out just after this point, which would make sense given that this performance is alluded to later in the paragraph.

21 Sun Xidan parses differently, pairing Wu with the civil panpipe dance of Xia below. I here follow Zheng Xuan, who considers both Xiang and Wu martial dances (as the latter clearly is); Xiang and Wu are indeed closely associated together in early texts as separate dances of Zhou King Wu, whereas Xia is associated with Yu  and the Xia dynasty. Referring to an entry from the “Preface” (Xu ) to the Shi jing, Sun Xidan states that the Xiang dance was performed to the singing of the Zhou hymn 周頌 “Wei qing” 維清 (“Clear and Bright”); this is a one-stanza ode extolling the meritorious achievements of King Wen, who laid the basis for King Wu’s ultimate success.

22 “Yong” (“Harmonious”) and “Zhen yu” 振羽 were both Zhou hymns (the latter equivalent to “Zhen lu” 振鷺, “The Egrets Fly”); the former originally took the form of a sacrificial hymn from King Wu to King Wen, while the latter was ostensibly written to praise the descendants of the Xia and Shang kings –the regional lords of Qi  and Song – and performed when they came to assist in a royal sacrifice in the Zhou capital. “Cai qi” is not found in the Shi jing, and it is unclear whether it was a sung ode or simply an instrumental piece. As Sun Xidan notes, the hymns performed here at the guest-leaving and offering-clearing of the regional lords’ banquets are, according to early sources, purposefully differentiated from those respectively performed at the Zhou King’s banquet for the regional lords (where “Yong” is used for the clearing and the musical piece “Si Xia” 肆夏 for the guests’ departure).

23 “Qing miao” 清廟 (“Pure temple”) is the first ode of the Zhou hymn section in the Shi jing as it has been passed down to us; its lyrics extol King Wen as the founder of the dynasty who set forth the clear model to be eternally followed by all the Zhou’s subjects.

24 In the “Lun li”’ version, this last sentence comes after the end of the Master’s comments on Kui below and effectively marks the end of Confucius’ comments to the three disciples in the text.

25 Kui  is a term that ordinarily referred to a mythical one-legged beast.

26 In the version from the “Wen yu” chapter of the Kongzi jiayu, Zizhang poses a different question to elicit the same answers: “Zizhang asked about the means by which the sages instructed” (子張問聖人之所以教).

27 Shi is Zizhang’s given name. His full name was Zhuansun Shi 顓孫師, and Zizhang was his designation.

28 James Legge (Legge 1885, Part III, 276) understands this line quite differently, placing qian adverbially at the head of the second phrase: “Shi, did I not instruct you on that subject before?”

29 We are, for now, treating “Zhongni yanju” as an integral composition. The “Lun li” variations, of course, suggest at least the possibility that the former may have been pieced together from originally separate parts, or, at the very least, that its separate sections appeared distinct enough to later editors that they felt free to break up the text and reframe its parts differently in their own narrative accounts. As will become clear below, however, the first of these two scenarios is in fact unlikely.

30 The text of this chapter as given here is taken from (Qing) Liji jijie 1989, 1274-1279, with reference also to (Qing) Liji xunzuan 1996, 751-756. As will be discussed below, a substantial portion of the text appears in the Shanghai Museum manuscripts, where it is given the title of “Min zhi fumu” 民之父母; see Ma 2002, 3 & 15–30 (photographic reproductions) and 149-180 (Pu Maozuo’s 濮茅左 transcription). The manuscript text as it stands is complete, though it is possible that it may have been bound together with other texts on a longer physical manuscript; for further discussion of this, see Richter 2013, 55-57. I have presented my own annotated transcription of “Min zhi fumu” in Gu 2019; below, I restrict my notes on “Min zhi fumu” variants to only the more significant ones. A somewhat abridged version of the “Kongzi xianju” text also appears at the end of the “Lun li” chapter of the Kongzi jiayu, whereas the short section near the end of “Kongzi xianju” (from “Heaven has four seasons” to “[such] was the virtue of the great kings [/King Tai]”) appears instead, in a relatively ill-fitting context, at the end of the second section of the “Wen yu” chapter of that work (the same chapter in which an orphaned section from “Zhongni yanju” is also found).

31 Significantly, “Min zhi fumu” does not include the opening line “Kong Zi rested at leisure,” beginning simply with “Zixia asked Kong Zi” 子夏問於孔子. “Lun li,” too, simply has “Zixia was sitting in attendance on Kong Zi, and said” 子夏侍坐於孔子曰 at this point, but the phrase “Kongzi xianju” does occur at the very beginning of the chapter (which otherwise begins with the contents of “Zhongni yanju”).

32 The quoted lines come from the ode “Jiong zhuo” 泂酌 (“Drawing Water from Afar”) of the “Da Ya” 大雅 section of the Shi jing 詩經, an ode ostensibly written in praise of the virtue of Zhou King Cheng 周成王.

33 For zhi , “Min zhi fumu” has zhi ; I use “achieve” here to capture both possible senses of “bring about” or simply “attain.” For heng , here translated as “transfuse,” “Min zhi fumu” writes huang , possibly just a phonetic loan for heng , though we might alternatively understand it along the lines of “shine brightly.”

34 For ci , “this,” “such,” “Min zhi fumu” has the particle of suggestion qi  (which could also possibly be read si , “this,” “such”).

35 At this point, our “Kongzi xianju” text has twenty-eight additional characters: “明目而視之不可得而見也傾耳而聽之不可得而聞也志氣塞乎天地.” As comparison with the unearthed manuscript “Min zhi fumu” now makes abundantly clear, this segment was accidentally displaced –almost certainly as the result of a misplaced bamboo strip in the received version’s source text– from the section elaborating on the “three absences” below, where I now relocate them. Chen Jian 陳劍 was the first to explicitly point this out; see Chen 2004, 251-255; see also the discussion of Chen’s findings in Shaughnessy 2006, 46-49. As the number of characters on this displaced strip would amount to twenty-eight, I would add that if we assume an average of twenty-seven to twenty-eight characters per strip on the hypothetical source manuscript, then the displaced strip would have come right after the fifth strip on such a manuscript; on this point, see my Gu 2004, 72 n. 14. Following “哀樂相生,” “Min zhi fumu” contains the additional line “君子以正,” which, given the even number of syllables and the obvious rhyme, suggests that those two lines should be read as a unit, and that the “是故正” of “Kongzi xianju,” in turn, is probably a corruption of “君子以正,” perhaps altered slightly in an attempt to make sense of the text at this point following the textual displacement. Chen Jian already makes note of the oddity of the character in the received texts at the head of 明目 and likewise suggests that it is a holdover from the line “君子以正,” but makes no further observations regarding the rhyme here. Interestingly, although the “Lun li” chapter of the Kongzi jiayu contains the same misplaced lines as “Kongzi xianju,” it introduces its own rhyme before the “哀樂相生,” preceding it with the additional phrase of “詩禮相成” (“Poetry and ritual complete each other”) –its compiler perhaps sensing the incompleteness of the lone phrase and thus attempting to flesh out the sentence in his own way. “Lun li” also writes 是以正 where “Kongzi xianju” has 是故正, which is at least slightly closer to the “君子以正” of the unearthed manuscript.

36 For “intent” and “poetry,” “Min zhi fumu” instead has “things” (wu ) and “intent,” respectively. This is a significant variation and suggests that either “Min zhi fumu” or “Kongzi xianju” may, at this point, have been separately re-crafted for a somewhat distinct pedagogical purpose –though we cannot rule out the possibility that the “Kongzi xianju” reading may have instead resulted from some sort of two-step scribal error (for one such scenario, see Ji 2003, 7). Given our focus in this paper on the Liji, however, I will concentrate here on the wording as given in “Kongzi xianju.”

37 Note that “reach” and “attain” in fact translate the same word here (zhi ). More significantly, “musical expression” and “happiness” are alternately used to capture the two main senses of the word yue/le .

38 The reading of this last phrase is based primarily on the “Min zhi fumu” parallel; see note 35 above.

39 The connection with Lunyu 8.8 is already implicit in Lü Yushu’s 呂與叔 (Lü Dalin呂大臨; ca. 1040-1092) commentary on this passage, for which see Liji xunzuan, 752.

40 On the erroneous displacement of this text to the previous paragraph, see note 35 above.

41 In “Min zhi fumu,” this particular line is written 而得/既塞於四海矣, which Chen Jian reads in the sense of “and yet one’s virtue has already filled the expanse within the four seas,” and he suggests that the particles and were removed and that was read and rewritten as the phonetically close 志氣 in the received texts all in order to make sense of the text following the accidental displacement. Chen’s interpretation is entirely sensible and probably correct, but as 志氣 also makes sense here (roughly equivalent to the 氣志 we see elsewhere in the text) and would in any event not differ dramatically in sense from having 德既, I translate the “Kongzi xianju” lines here as is, though I add the word “virtuous” in the bracketed portion. Note that “Lun li,” in which the wording of the line is the same as in “Kongzi xianju,” adds an additional line following it: “and their practice pervades [the area within] the four seas” 行之充於四海. As Ning Zhenjiang has argued, this is just one of many instances in which the compilers of the Kongzi jiayu appear to have added lines “to change an isolated line into a pair of parallel lines” 將散文改成對偶句; the same phenomenon may also partly account for that chapter’s 詩禮相成 phrase discussed in note 35 above. See Ning 2004, 284-85.

42 Note that this notion of “having heard in broad outline” is not present in the formulation of Zixia’s follow-up question in either “Min zhi fumu” or “Lun li,” each of which phrases the question somewhat differently.

43 The three cited lines in this reply come, respectively, from the Zhou hymn “Hao tian you cheng ming” 昊天有成命, and the odes “Bo zhou” 柏舟 and “Gu feng” 谷風 from the “Airs of Bei” (“Bei feng” 邶風). In “Min zhi fumu,” preceding these citations in Kong Zi’s reply are the lines “Wonderful! Shang, you have become worthy of teaching the Odes to!” 善才)!商也,()(. In the first ode, the received Shi jing reads 其命 as 基命, “foundational mandate,” “original mandate,” though Zheng Xuan takes here in the sense of , “plan for”; the lines in question refer to King Cheng 成王.

44 See the “Yang Huo” 陽貨 chapter, Lunyu XVII.11.

45 In fact, these notions are borrowed in the “Xiu wen” 修文 chapter of the Shuoyuan (and in the “Liu ben” 六本 chapter of the Kongzi jiayu) and placed into just such a context: “The ritual of no bodily deportment is ‘reverence,’ the mourning of no apparel is ‘grief,’ and the music of no sounds is ‘joy.’ To be trusted without even speaking, awesome without even taking action, and humane without even bestowing is [all a matter of] ‘intent.’ When bells and drums are struck with anger, they will be martial; when struck with grief, they will be grave; and when struck with pleasure, they will be joyful. When the intent changes, so will the sounds. If one’s intent is sincere, it will penetrate through even bronze and stone –let alone humans!” 無體之禮敬也無服之喪憂也無聲之樂懽也不言而信不動而威不施而仁志也鐘鼓之聲怒而擊之則武憂而擊之則悲喜而擊之則樂其志變其聲亦變其志誠通乎金石而況人乎. See Shuoyuan jiaozheng 1987, 497.

46 Alternatively, we might understand this separately as “energy” and “intent,” or perhaps “spirit” and “will.”

47 “Lun li,” by contrast, contains only lines one and three (again with some variation) and omits the other three, untenably substituting in their stead a summary statement of the “three absences of partiality,” a notion that, in this text, forms the core of the next section.

48 Ning Zhenjiang proposes just this sort of explanation; see Ning 2004, 279-80.

49 “Lun li” carries through to the end of the next section below but then “omits” everything else up until the final line, this “omitted” portion relocated to “Wen yu”’ instead. The second half of “Lun li” may simply be an abridgement of “Kongzi xianju,” but if not, it would obviously complicate the scenarios presented below even further. However, the “omitted” portion clearly fits better within the context of “Kongzi xianju” than it does in “Lun li,” and further mitigating against the idea that it had made its way from the latter into the former is the fact that it also closely echoes the structure and wording of that context, repeating the phrase “Its expression in the Odes is this” (qi zai shi yue 其在詩曰) verbatim from the non-omitted portion as well as concluding those cited odes with nearly identical final lines to the effect of “[such] was the virtue of King X,” as Ning Zhenjiang has already pointed out. Since these phrases are all present in the “Wen yu” version of this passage, it is clear that it was “Wen yu” that lifted it out from “Kongzi xianju” (or a close predecessor to it) rather than the other way around. Wu Kejing offers a third scenario, in which the passage in question was originally an independent passage that made its way into the two texts separately, but this no less fails to account for the structurally repeated phrases just mentioned (which also occur in a Hanshi waizhuan 韓詩外傳 excerpt of the same passage). See Ning 2004, 283; and Wu 2015, 104-9.

50 The “three kings” ordinarily referred to Yu, King of Xia 夏王禹; Tang, King of Shang 商王湯; and King Wen of Zhou 周文王 –though this is not strictly reflected in the text below.

51 I am reading the qi  here as is, in accordance with the Mao interpretation. Zheng Xuan reads ji , “ascend,” “reach up to,” as his version of the Shi jing apparently had it, though in the received Mao shi 毛詩 it is instead the of 日齊 below that is written ; Zheng takes it here in the sense of Tang “ascending to the throne.” For the first phrase, (Song) Zhu Xi 朱熹 reads in the sense of “Heaven’s command never left them,” an interpretation that Legge also follows; as with Karlgren, my reading instead follows that of Zheng Xuan.

52 Zheng Xuan reads here in the sense of “solemn,” probably taking it as equivalent to . I read it here like , as the Mao shi has it. My reading of the first half of this sentence follows along the lines of Zheng’s interpretation. It is also possible to read in the sense of “Tang came down in good time,” as Karlgren has it, following the Mao interpretation; Legge interprets similarly.

53 If we can take this “respect”  in a softer sense of “approval,” we might alternatively read this line as “and the Sovereign-on-high gave this his respect”; the nature of the verb, however, seems to suggest the reading given here, which is roughly also as Legge has it.

54 These lines come from the Shang hymn 商頌 “Chang fa” 長發 (“Long Manifested”), written in praise of Tang , founding King of the Shang. Cf. the translations of James Legge (Legge 1871, 640); and Bernhard Karlgren (Karlgren 1946, 189-90).

55 See the line chunri chichi 春日遲遲 in the odes “Qi yue” 七月 and “Cai wei” 采薇, from the “Bin feng” 豳風 sub-section and “Xiao ya” 小雅 section of the Shi jing, respectively.

56 The text here reads “地載神氣神氣風霆風霆流形”; Lü Yushu 呂與叔 suspects that the four graphs 神氣風霆 in the middle of these lines are extraneous, as they make little sense as a unit and disrupt the otherwise even length of the descriptions for Heaven and Earth; see Liji xunzuan, 755. The resulting lines could be translated something like “Earth supports a spiritual energy, [which] flows into forms in a tempest.” Lü could well be right, or, more specifically, the terms shenqi 神氣 and fengting 風霆 could have both been accidentally repeated, though what may have caused such an accidental repetition would be difficult to determine. Qiu Xigui 裘錫圭, however, offers an intriguing alternate possibility: that the base text was written with repetition markers that were originally meant to be parsed differently, such that it should be read “地載神氣風霆神氣風霆流形庶物露生, which, though presenting phrases of uneven lengths, would rhyme; I tentatively follow this reading here (and try to reflect something of the rhymes in the English). See Qiu 2010, 442-443. Note that fengting, “tempest,” is more literally “wind and sudden thunder.” “Wen yu,” on the other hand, reads “地載神氣吐納雷霆流形庶物,” perhaps the result of an effort to make sense of an already corrupt or misunderstood source text; on this point, see Wu 2015, 110 (further citing the opinion of Guo Yongbing 郭永秉).

57 Or, in Sun Xidan’s reading, “he makes an opening [which is] invariably preceded [by Heaven’s assistance].”

58 According to Kong Yingda (based primarily on the Mao interpretation of the ode), the Marquis of Fu (a.k.a. Lü ) and Earl of Shen were both descendants of Boyi 伯夷 and were in charge of the sacrifices to the Four Peaks 四嶽 (Mt. Tai 泰山 in the East, Mt. Hua in the West, Mount Heng 衡山 in the South, and the other Mt. Heng 恆山 to the North), which explains their close relationship with the spirits of the mountain peaks in the ode.

59 These lines are from the ode “Song gao” 崧高 (“High and Lofty”) from the “Da Ya” 大雅 section of the Shi jing. The ode was actually written in praise of King Xuan 宣王 and his ministers, but the author here is clearly borrowing them to express a similar sentiment in regard to Kings Wen and Wu. Legge 1871, 535; Karlgren 1946, 121-22.

60 This interpretation partly follows that of Sun Xidan; alternatively, we could understand this as “The Kings of the Three Dynasties invariably prioritized their fine reputations.”

61 The cited lines come from consecutive couplets forming the final stanza of the ode “Jiang Han” 江漢 (“The Jiang and Han Rivers”) of the “Da Ya” section. This was also an ode written in praise of King Xuan (and his minister Shao Bohu 召伯虎), used here toward other purposes. For chi , one edition has shi , whereas the Mao shi has shi ; for xie , Mao shi writes qia . Da wang 大王 could be read Tai wang 太王, “King Tai” 太王, as it in fact appears in “Wen yu” in some editions of the Kongzi jiayu; King Tai was King Wen’s grandfather, a kind of founding-father of the Zhou state. However, reading da wang 大王 as a general descriptor of “great kings” here would appear to make much better sense as a concluding line than to have a chronological jump backwards to King Tai (an attempt to resolve the oddity of the latter might also explain why this and the previous line about the Three Dynasties have been reversed in “Wen yu”). Note also that the ostensibly somewhat more reliable Song-dynasty “Large character Shu edition” 宋蜀大字本 of the Kongzi jiayu, preserved in the Yuhaitang 玉海堂 collection of Song manuscript editions, has Wen wang 文王, “King Wen,” instead of Tai wang 太王, presenting yet another possible (though less satisfactory) reading.

62 According to Zheng Xuan, this action indicates that his inquiry of the Master has finished, and he thereby makes way for the next person to come forward. If this is indeed the case, then it would suggest that there may have been other disciples present on this occasion after all.

63 If, however, King Tai were in fact the correct reading of da wang 大王, we could perhaps imagine that he was singled out not only in order to emphasise how virtue is something built up over time and kingly rule follows only on its heels, but also because he was a paragon of the “absence of partiality,” having famously forsaken possession of his threatened territory of Bin / in order to spare his people the sufferings of battle.

64 Richter 2013, 61. Richter’s argument that “Kongzi xianju” was a conscious amalgamation of originally distinct texts can be said to represent one particular version of a general view of the development of these texts that appears to be the dominant one among Chinese scholarship over the past fifteen years as well. See, for instance, Ning 2004, 283; and Wu 2015, 95.

65 The text of this chapter as given here is cited from (Qing) Wang Pinzhen 王聘珍, Da Dai Liji jiegu 1983, (1-8), with reference also to (Qing) Kong Guangsen 孔廣森 (1751–1786), Da Dai Liji buzhu 2013, 17-22. “Zhu yan” is listed as the thirty-ninth chapter of the original Da Dai Liji, but now appears as the first chapter in the surviving version of the work. The Kongzi jiayu contains a roughly equivalent chapter entitled “Wang yan jie” 王言解, in which zhu yan 主言 is written wang yan 王言 throughout, thus making it a “discourse of the king”; it appears likely that either wang or zhu resulted from graphic confusion with the other. Kong Guangsen finds the reading of 王言 more likely and follows it in his edition; I here stick with 主言.

66 Shen is Zeng Zi’s given name. Zeng Zi (“Master Zeng”) is an honorific; its use here suggests the possibility that this text may have been authored by, or at least at some point passed through the editorial hands of, Zeng Shen’s own disciples or followers. He, of course, appears as “Zeng Zi” throughout much of the Lunyu as well.

67 For wen , most Da Dai Liji editions read jian , giving the phrase the sense of something like “remains within the limits of men of service and great officers”; I here follow Kong Guangsen in following the variant of wen .

68 As with “noble men” above, this “men of royalty” also translates junzi 君子, but it is clear from context that in this latter instance it cannot be taken in its ordinary sense. It must refer specifically to heads of state; I suspect the here is extraneous and that jun , “ruler,” was intended here. Wang Pinzhen attempts to surmount this difficulty by, somewhat implausibly, understanding junzi 君子 here as a kind of quasi-compound meaning one who “serves as ruler and cares for the people as he would for his children.”

69 That is to say, familiar from “Zhongni yanju,” as we will discuss further below.

70 At this point, his justification takes a kind of “legalist” turn by stating how “it is the officers’ fault if the governance is moderately appropriate and yet commands are not implemented” (政之既中令之不行職事者之罪也). This kind of language leads one to suspect that this text may have, in part, been written in quasi-concessive response to a kind of growing “Legalist” challenge to Confucian ideas, one factor among others that would argue for a relatively late Warring States dating for this text.

71 Da Dai Liji jiegu 1983, 4; Da Dai Liji buzhu 2013, 19.

72 Da Dai Liji jiegu 1983, 7; Da Dai Liji buzhu 2013, 21.

73 The phrase “like the falling of timely rain” ((/)時雨降) appears in similar contexts in both the “Liang Hui Wang, xia” 梁惠王下 and “Teng Wen Gong, xia” 滕文公下 chapters of the Mengzi (I B.11 and III B.5).

74 See the brief discussion of such passages in relation to the term in Zuo 2008, 62. Note that the graphs and are equivalent in this sense.

75 Ibid. Zuo cites in this regard relevant later passages from the Shi ji 史記 and Han shu 漢書. Though associating xianju 閒居 and yanju燕居 closely together, as I do, Zuo does aver that the latter does not necessarily always demand the condition of “avoiding others” or limitations on the number of people present. He notes that all of the early Confucius dialogue texts in which the term xianju appears (i.e., “Kongzi xianju” and “Zhu yan,” along with two passages from the Hanshi waizhuan 韓詩外傳 and Xiao jing 孝經) involve the Master in conversation with only one disciple, whereas “Zhongni yanju” has him in conversation with three. The difference is indeed noteworthy, but it does not diminish the overall import of a relatively private setting, allowing for more wide-ranging and open discussion, for both terms.

76 By “early Chinese texts” I mean those that date from either pre-Han or Han times. And regardless of how one chooses to date them, in here and what follows I exclude from consideration both the Kongzi jiayu and Kongcongzi 孔叢子, which are manifestly derivative in nature (as our analysis of the former’s “Lun li” and “Wen yu” chapters shows) and would only confuse the analysis. I do, however, include such texts as the Shuoyuan 說苑 and Xinxu 新序.

77 There are two appearances of da yu li 達於禮 in the Zhanguo ce (and one in a Kongzi jiayu chapter, “Zigong wen” 子貢問, other than “Lun li”); the phrase da yu yue 達於樂 or the combination da yu li yue 達於禮樂 appears nowhere else than our two texts in question.

78 The one prime example found elsewhere in early literature comes from a statement directed at Zigong in the “Wei Ling Gong” 衛靈公 chapter of the Lunyu (XV.2): “The Master said: ‘Si, did you [really] think that I was one who [just] learns a lot and takes note of it all?’” 子曰「賜也女以予為多學而識之者與. The only other comparable example comes from the “You zuo” 宥坐 chapter of the Xunzi: in a couple of consecutive questions the Master puts forth to a disgruntled Zilu during their “difficulties between Chen  and Cai ” (note that the Lunyu passage in question also happens to come directly after one [XV.1] involving the Master’s answer to Zilu’s angry question upon meeting difficulties in Chen). A slightly different use of the er yi… hu 爾以 construction also appears in the “Tangong, xia” 檀弓下 chapter of the Liji, but it does not involve a teacher-disciple interaction. Aside from these, there are no further examples to be found.

79 A particularly intriguing anomaly here is the fact that the same phrase, “I will tell you” (吾語汝), is also to be found in the “Lun li” chapter of the Kongzi jiayu, just before the phrase “其義猶有五起焉” (“There are yet ‘five arisings’ of significance therein”), whereas in “Kongzi xianju” we instead find only “君子之服之也” (“In devoting himself to him, [the noble man]…”) in the equivalent place (“Min zhi fumu” is marred by a lacuna at this point). There are two possibilities to explain this: one is that the phrase was originally in the “Kongzi xianju” text but inadvertently omitted by a scribe at some point in its transmission (which would only strengthen the case for shared language suggesting common authorship or affiliation); the other is that the compiler of “Lun li” chose to add it here because it already appeared twice above in the portion of that chapter taken from “Zhongni yanju” and thus seemed only natural to include here as well (note that one of the three instances of the phrase in “Zhongni yanju” occurred in the passage transported over to the “Wen yu” chapter –perhaps yet another tell-tale sign that the passage did indeed originally occur in “Zhongni yanju” and was forcibly separated by the Kongzi jiayu compilers).

80 The most notable occurrence outside of these collections comes from the “Yang Huo” 陽貨 chapter of the Lunyu (XVII.8), where Kong Zi uses the phrase in addressing Zilu.

81 One other interesting item, not listed in Table 1 below, is the phrase “fu X er liX而立 (“stood with back against the X,” wherein X is a wall [qiang  or xu ] or some other object), which is not found with a disciple as its subject in any early text other than “Kongzi xianju” and “Zhu yan” (or the latter’s duplicate text “Wang yan jie,” wherein xu  is given as xi , “mat”). Though the precise context of the action is slightly different in each of the two texts, the uniqueness of their common occurrence can hardly be coincidental.

82 As noted above, certain features of “Zhongni yanju” suggest perhaps a slightly later date for it than “Kongzi xianju,” but not necessarily one that would preclude it from having an influence upon texts written in the middle decades of the 3rd Century BCE or thereabouts.

83 See especially note 49 above.

84 As mentioned earlier, a third possibility might be that the second half of the text represented a later, altogether new addition to an already existing text, written in the same spirit and with very close attention to its style and wording. But even if we were to take that portion of the text as a later, conscious addition, the very fact of its being so would still argue for treating “Kongzi xianju” as an integral text of sorts, just simply not one by a single author conceived in whole at a single point in time.

85 The archaeological record is not without examples of tombs containing texts or collections of passages derived from a larger text or collection. For example, as I and others have argued elsewhere –though this opinion is by no means universally shared– the three “Lao Zi” manuscripts of Guodian 郭店 most probably all represented deliberate selections from a larger collection of “Lao Zi” materials (though not necessarily equivalent to the whole of the received Daode jing 道德經). See Cook 2012, 199-205. Qiu Xigui 裘錫圭 has put forth a similar argument in Qiu 1999, 26–30.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 1.
Légende Shared language between “Kongzi xianju,” “Zhongni yanju,” “Zhu yan,” and other early texts
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/13003/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 295k

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Yale–NUS College, Singapore

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