(Translation) 李珥 更張之道
|Translator(s)||Participants of 2018 Summer Hanmun Workshop (Advanced Translation Group)|
In your subjects opinion: The trends of time are not constant, all have their appropriate time. Selected by their general essentials, there are the three times of: laying the foundation [beginning], keeping what was achieved [consolidation], and change to something new [renewal], nothing more.
If the way of laying the foundation, is not done by virtues of Yao, Shun, Tang, and Wu at a time of generational change and by conforming to heaven and following the people’s needs, then it cannot be done. Then there is nothing by which you can discuss doing this.
In the so-called keeping of what was achieved, sagacious rulers and wise ministers created regulations, establish law, provided and expanded the necessary tools for governance, and rituals and music were dignified and stately. The later kings and wise men just received and followed these established rules and with folded robes and folded hands respectfully guarded them, nothing more.
As for the so-called change to something new, the highest point of flourishment already contains subtle marks of decline [change], when the laws are old abuses arise, being accustomed to contentment becomes the cause of vulgarity, then all measures are neglected and every day there are blunders and every month there are errors. There will be nothing by which a country can be governed [nothing which can be considered as a state]. Then far-sighted rulers and wise assistants are needed, who will passionately exert themselves, uphold and push forward principles of state, awaken the indolent in darkness, cleanse out old habits and correct entrenched evils. This goodness succeeds the intentions left by the former kings and illustriously renews the models and rules for the whole generation. Then the achievements of the former will be brightly illuminated and will descend on to the later.
The matter of keeping what was achieved, even virtuous rulers and their ministers cannot lose it, and therefore keeping what was achieved is easy. For the matter of change to something new, if there is no deep insight and there are no talents of outstanding ability, then it cannot be done and therefore renewal is difficult. To make efforts at renewal at a time of consolidation is like taking medicine without being sick and in reverse will lead to illness. To make efforts at guarding achievements at a time of renewal, is like falling ill and rejecting all medicine, meaning to just lay down and wait for death.
Someone asked: “If the time of consolidation is not a time of absence of the way, then all can remain the same. Yet for the renewal, one must wait for such people. Although one desires renewal, if there none of these people then how can one do it?”
I answer: “No, if a ruler has no interest in this world, then that’s it. [But] if he sincerely desires to rule peacefully and in prosperity, then he will see clearly and raise talents out of low-born origins, how can there not be such people?”
Since old, is it not so that rulers had those that studied the Way and admired the worthy? Wishing to rule/benefit the common people and to seek the worthy but not meet them, then in the end one cannot exert oneself for that goal. Only for those that study what is not in accordance with the Way, and admire those that are not worthy, even though they exert themselves, they get more detached from the Way and the worthy get further away from them.
For instance, when descendants guard their forefather’s old residence, after some time its wood will be old, start to rot and then the house is going to collapse. If they do not meet a carpenter, they cannot renovate. So the head of the family will go a thousand miles, urgently seeking a carpenter or blame others for not being able to find a carpenter and sit down to watch their building topple. How is the renewal of wrong governance different from this?
Ahja, when the sentiment of the people rests in old customs, when generations practice and drown in norms of the former, then it is like tuning the zither after having glued its pegs or guarding a stump to catch a hare. If, the fact that there are currently are no matters to attend is only due to luck, then this will lead to unexpected disasters. I bow to you, your highness, take profound precautions against this.
- Huainanzi 19.5 淮南子·齊俗訓·19/5
- Han Feizi 1.5 韓非子·五蠹第四十九·1/5