(Translation) 李珥 更張之道

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Original Script

Classical Chinese English

臣按。時務不一。各有攸宜。撮其大要。則創業守成與夫更張三者而已。創業之道。非以堯舜湯武之德。値時世改革之際。應乎天而順乎人。則不可也。此無以議爲。若所謂守成者。聖君賢相。創制立法。治具畢張。禮樂濟濟。則後王後賢。只得按其成規。垂拱遵守而已。所謂更張者。盛極中微。法久弊生。狃安因陋。百度廢弛。日謬月誤。將無以爲國。則必有明君哲輔。慨然興作。扶擧綱維。喚醒昏惰。洗滌舊a045_033c習。矯革宿弊。善繼先王之遺志。煥新一代之規模。然後功光前烈。業垂後裔矣。守成者。雖中主具臣。亦可勿失。守成易。更張者。非有高見英才。則不能也。更張難。當守成而務更化。則是無病而服藥。反致成疾矣。當更張而務遵守。則是嬰疾而却藥。臥而待死矣。或問。守成非大無道之世。則皆能仍舊矣。若更張。則必待其人。雖欲更張。而無其人則奈何。曰。不然。人君無意於斯世則已矣。如使誠心願治。則明明揚仄陋。豈無其人乎。自古。人君曷嘗有學道好賢。志濟蒼生。而求賢不遇。竟不能a045_033d有爲者乎。惟其所學非道。所好非賢。故志雖勤。而道益離。賢益遠耳。譬如子孫守先人之舊宅。年深材故。腐朽將頹。而非遇工師。不能修改。主厥家者。將不遠千里。急求工師乎。抑諉以不得工師。坐而視其傾圮乎。更張弊政。何以異此。嗚呼。人情安於故俗。世習溺於前規。膠柱鼓瑟。守株待兔。苟幸目前之無事。釀成意外之奇禍者。多矣。伏惟 殿下深戒焉。

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[1] or guarding a stump to catch a hare.[2] 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.

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