Saturday, April 17, 2010

Influence (2)

Mencius said,

‘Po-i, that he might avoid Chou, was dwelling on the coast of the northern sea. When he heard the rise of king Wen, he roused himself, and said, “Why should I not go and follow him? I have heard that the chief of the West knows well how to nourish the old.”

Tai-kung, that he might avoid Chou, was dwelling on the coast of the eastern sea. When he heard of the rise of king Wen, he roused himself, and said, “Why should I not go and follow him? I have heard that the chief of the West knows well how to nourish the old.”

Those two old men were the greatest old men of the kingdom. When they came to follow king Wen, it was the fathers of the kingdom coming to follow him. When the fathers of the kingdom joined him, how could the sons go to any other?

Were any of the princes to practise the government of king Wen, within seven years he would be sure to be giving laws to the kingdom.’

[The Works of Mencius Book 4, Part 1. 13 Legge]

To excel in the study of ancient Chinese philosophy we need to keep an open and empty mind to understand the thoughts of exemplary ancients.

If you cannot understand the thoughts of the exemplary ancients, studying the ideas of Chen Tuan and Shao Yong, and to a lesser degree, Wang Bi and Zhu Xi, could be complementary and helpful. Instead I see many fellow Yi and Daoist students examining and quoting thoughts of modern scholars as if these scholars know everything there is to learn about Tao and the Zhouyi.

If we carry a whole baggage of ideas borrowed over from modern scholars, we can certainly miss the woods for the trees.

Who is to say that these modern scholars, unless they are already first class scholars of Tao and the Zhouyi, understand the profound subjects in depth?

Take for instance, how many sinologists would want to settle for the word ‘virtue’ to be that of Te in the Tao Te Ching? Trying to be sophisticated or appear deep, they coin many meanings for Te until students especially those in the West who read or follow them are often confused. This can liken to ‘sincerity in disintegrating influence’. (Also refer to the recent entry, February 22, 2010, on this particular line in the Yi.)

In the first entry on Influence (March 31, 2010), I highlighted in bold the respective and yet similar comments by the two greatest old men of the kingdom at the time. King Wen’s virtue influenced the two old men and through them, influenced the sons of the kingdom.

James Legge probably prompted by his learned Chinese mentors referred to a conversation between king Wen and Tai-kung in the Book of History, whereby Wen indicated that his grandfather was looking for him (Tai-kung / Jiang Jiya / Patriarch Lu Shang) long ago. To my knowledge, Wen’s grandfather was pivotal to the aim of locating and employing the worthy to help expand the influence of the Zhou clan.

But somehow the more important historical values in the comments made by Mencius in passing, seemed to escape the notice of both Legge and his learned mentors.

One explanation could be that they thought the comments were of no significant value; since like me, they harbored no doubts to the authenticity of ancient Chinese classics and books.

The more likely explanation is that the comments present no significant historical values to them at all. Perhaps, a kinder way to say it must have gone above their heads, since they did not connect Mencius’s comments made in passing, to the Tao and the Zhouyi.

The three historical personages, Po-I, Tai-kung, and King Wen, knew Heaven and Earth. They also knew their roots, and the timing to do what is right. The two greatest old men of the kingdom recognized the virtue of King Wen and therefore joined him.

Legge and his mentors referred to King Wen, Prince Chi, and Chou Hsin in the Ming Yi / Darkening of the Light hexagram. Wilhelm and his mentor mentioned six historical personages: Po-I, King Wen, King Wu, Prince Wei Tzu, Prince Chi and Chou Hsin, whom the wise and learned deemed to represent the respective six lines in this Hexagram 36.

Both Legge and Wilhelm together with their respective mentors seemed not to have spotted the insight of the ancient sage, Mencius, given on the subject of Tao and the Zhouyi. There is no evidence to the contrary shown in their respective translation of the Book of Changes, notwithstanding their comments in the Ming Yi hexagram. It does not say they have missed important issues nor their respective translations are not quite up to mark. If you still do not own a Wilhelm / Baynes translation of the Book of Changes, it is high time you bought one.

I had already made a link to Tao and the Zhouyi in the first entry and this second one too.

Perhaps you can broaden your mind and deepen your Daoist and Yi studies by trying to spot the connection to the two profound subjects?

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