Section TWENTY-NINE - ROBBER CHIH

CONFUCIUS WAS A FRIEND of Liu‑hsia Chi, who had a younger brother known as Robber Chih. Robber Chih, with a band of nine thousand followers, rampaged back and forth across the empire, assaulting and terrorizing the feudal lords, tunneling into houses, prying open doors,1 herding off men's horses and cattle, seizing their wives and daughters. Greedy for gain, he forgot his kin, gave not a look to father or mother, elder or younger brother, and performed no sacrifices to his ancestors. Whenever he approached a city, if it was that of a great state, the inhabitants manned their walls; if that of a small state, they fled into their strongholds. The ten thousand people all lived in dread of him.

Confucius said to Liu‑hsia Chi, "One who is a father must be able to lay down the law to his son, and one who is an elder brother must be able to teach his younger brother. If a father cannot lay down the law to his son and an elder brother cannot teach his younger brother, then the relationship between father and son and elder and younger brother loses all value. Now here you are, Sir, one of the most talented gentlemen of the age, and your younger brother is Robber Chih, a menace to the world, and you seem unable to teach him any better! If I may say so, I blush for you. I would therefore like to go on your behalf and try to persuade him to change his ways."

Liu‑hsia Chi said, "You have remarked, Sir, that a father must be able to lay down the law to his son, and an elder brother must be able to teach his younger brother. But if the son will not listen when his father lays down the law, or if the younger brother refuses to heed his elder brother's teachings, then even with eloquence such as yours, what is there to be done? Moreover, Chih is a man with a mind like a jetting fountain, a will like a blast of wind, with strength enough to fend off any enemy, and cunning enough to gloss over any evil. If you go along with his way of thinking, he is delighted, but if you go against him, he becomes furious, and it is nothing to him to curse people in the vilest language. You must not go near him!"

But Confucius paid no attention, and with Yen Hui as his carriage driver, and Tzu‑kung on his right, he went off to visit Robber Chih. Robber Chih was just at that time resting with his band of followers on the sunny side of Mount T'ai and enjoying a late afternoon snack of minced human livers. Confucius stepped down from the carriage and went forward till he saw the officer in charge of receiving guests. "I am Kung Ch'iu, a native of Lu, and I have heard that your General is a man of lofty principles," he said, respectfully bowing twice to the officer. The officer then entered and relayed the message. When Robber Chih heard this, he flew into a great rage. His eyes blazed like shining stars and his hair stood on end and bristled beneath his cap. "This must be none other than that crafty hypocrite Kung Ch'iu from the state of Lu! Well, tell him this for me. You make up your stories, invent your phrases, babbling absurd eulogies of kings Wen and Wu. Topped with a cap like a branching tree, wearing a girdle made from the ribs of a dead cow, you pour out your flood of words, your fallacious theories. You eat without ever plowing, clothe yourself without ever weaving. Wagging your lips, clacking your tongue, you invent any kind of `right' or `wrong' that suits you, leading astray the rulers of the world, keeping the scholars of the world from returning to the Source, capriciously setting up ideals of `filial piety' and 'brotherliness,' all the time hoping to worm your way into favor with the lords of the fiefs or the rich and eminent! Your crimes are huge, your offenses grave .2 You had better run home as fast as you can, because if you don't, I will take your liver and add it to this afternoon's menu!"

Confucius sent in word again, saying, "I have the good fortune to know your brother Chi, and therefore I beg to be allowed to gaze from a distance at your feet beneath the curtain." 3

When the officer relayed this message, Robber Chih said, "Let him come forward." Confucius came scurrying forward, declined the mat that was set out for him, stepped back a few paces, and bowed twice to Robber Chih. Robber Chih, still in a great rage, sat with both legs sprawled out, leaning on his sword, his eyes glaring. In a voice like the roar of a nursing tigress, he said, "Ch'iu, come forward! If what you have to say pleases my fancy, you live. If it rubs me the wrong way, you die!"

Confucius said, "I have heard that in all the world there are three kinds of virtue. To grow up to be big and tall, with matchless good looks, so that everyone, young or old, eminent or humble, delights in you ‑ this is the highest kind of virtue. To have wisdom that encompasses heaven and earth, to be able to speak eloquently on all subjects ‑ this is middling virtue. To be brave and fierce, resolute and determined, gathering a band of followers around you ‑ this is the lowest kind of virtue. Any man who possesses even one of these virtues is worthy to face south and call himself the Lonely One.4 And now here you are, General, with all three of them! You tower eight feet two inches in height, radiance streams from your face and eyes, your lips are like gleaming cinnabar, your teeth like ranged seashells, your voice attuned to the huang‑chung pitch pipe ‑ and yet your only title is `Robber Chih.' If I may say so, General, this. is disgraceful ‑ a real pity indeed! But if you have a mind to listen to my proposal, then I beg to be allowed to go as your envoy south to Wu and Yueh, north to Ch'i and Lu, east to Sung and Wei, and west to Chin and Ch'u, persuading them to create for you a great walled state several hundred li in size, to establish a town of several hundred thousand households, and to honor you as one of the feudal lords. Then you may make a new beginning with the world, lay down your weapons and disperse your followers, gather together and cherish your brothers and kinsmen, and join with them in sacrifices to your ancestors. This would be the act of a sage, a gentleman of true talent, and the fondest wish of the world."

Robber Chih, furious as ever, said, "Ch'iu, come forward! Those who can be swayed with offers of gain or reformed by a babble of words are mere idiots, simpletons, the commonest sort of men! The fact that I am big and tall, and so handsome that everyone delights to look at me ‑ this is a virtue inherited from my father and mother. Even without your praises, do you think I would be unaware of it? Moreover, I have heard that those who are fond of praising men to their faces are also fond of damning them behind their backs.

"Now you tell me about this great walled state, this multitude of people, trying to sway me with offers of gain, to lead me by the nose like any common fool. But how long do you think I could keep possession of it? There is no walled state larger than the empire itself, and yet, though Yao and Shun possessed the empire, their heirs were left with less land than it takes to stick the point of an awl into. T'ang and Wu set themselves up as Son of Heaven, yet in ages after, their dynasties were cut off and wiped out. Was this not because the gains they had acquired were so great?

"Moreover, I have heard that in ancient times the birds and beasts were many and the people few. Therefore the people all nested in the trees in order to escape danger, during the day gathering acorns and chestnuts, at sundown climbing backup to sleep in their trees. Hence they were called the people of the Nest‑builder. In ancient times the people knew nothing about wearing clothes. In summer they heaped up great piles of firewood, in winter they burned them to keep warm. Hence they were called `the people who know how to stay alive.' In the age of Shen Nung, the people lay down peaceful and easy, woke up wide‑eyed and blank. They knew their mothers but not their fathers, and lived side by side with the elk and the deer. They plowed for their food, wove for their clothing, and had no thought in their hearts of harming one another. This was Perfect Virtue at its height!

"But the Yellow Emperor could not attain such virtue. He fought with Ch'ih Yu in the field of Cho‑lu, until the blood flowed for a hundred li.' Yao and Shun came to the throne, setting up a host of officials; T'ang banished his sovereign Chieh; King Wu murdered his sovereign Chou; and from this time on the strong oppressed the weak, the many abused the few. From T'ang and Wu until the present, all have been no more than a pack of rebels and wrongdoers. And now you come cultivating the ways of kings Wen and Wu, utilizing all the eloquence in the world in order to teach these things to later generations! In your flowing robes and loose‑tied sash, you speak your deceits and act out your hypocrisies, confusing and leading astray the rulers of the world, hoping thereby to lay your hands on wealth and eminence. There is no worse robber than you! I don't know why, if the world calls me Robber Chih, it doesn't call you Robber Ch'iu!

"With your honeyed words you persuaded Tzu‑lu to become your follower, to doff his jaunty cap, unbuckle his long sword, and receive instruction from you, so that all the world said, Wung Ch'iu knows how to suppress violence and put a stop to evil.' But in the end Tzu‑lu tried to kill the ruler of Wei, bungled the job, and they pickled his corpse and hung it up on the eastern gate of Wei. This was how little effect your teachings had on him! 6 You call yourself a gentleman of talent, a sage? Twice they drove you out of Lu; they wiped out your footprints in Wei, made trouble for you in Ch'i, and besieged you at Ch'en and Ts'ai ‑ no place in the empire will have you around! You gave instruction to Tzu‑lu and pickling was the disaster it brought him. You can't look out for yourself to begin with, or for others either ‑ so how can this `Way' of yours be worth anything?

"There is no one, more highly esteemed by the world than the Yellow Emperor, and yet even the Yellow Emperor could not preserve his virtue intact, but fought on the field of Cho‑lu until the blood flowed for a hundred li. Yao was a merciless father, Shun was an unfilial son, Yu was half paralyzed, T'ang banished his sovereign Chieh, King Wu attacked his sovereign Chou, and King Wen was imprisoned at Yu‑li.7 All these seven men8 are held in high esteem by the world, and yet a close look shows that all of them for the sake of gain brought confusion to the Truth within them, that they forcibly turned against their true form and inborn nature. For doing so, they deserve the greatest shame!

"When the world talks of worthy gentlemen, we hear 'Po Yi and Shu Ch'i.' Yet Po Yi and Shu Ch'i declined the rulership of the state of Ku‑chu and instead went and starved to death on Shou‑yang Mountain, with no one to bury their bones and flesh. Pao Chiao made a great show of his conduct and condemned the world; he wrapped his arms around a tree and stood there till he died. Shen‑t'u Ti offered a remonstrance that was unheeded; he loaded a stone onto his back and threw himself into a river, where the fish and turtles feasted on him. Chieh Tzu‑t'ui was a model of fealty, going so far as to cut a piece of flesh from his thigh to feed his lord, Duke Wen. But later, when Duke Wen overlooked him, he went off in a rage, wrapped his arms around a tree, and burned to death.9 Wei Sheng made an engagement to meet a girl under a bridge. The girl failed to appear and the water began to rise, but, instead of leaving, he wrapped his arms around the pillar of the bridge and died. These six men were no different from a flayed dog, a pig sacrificed to the flood, a beggar with his alms‑gourd in his hand. All were ensnared by thoughts of reputation and looked lightly on death, failing to remember the Source or to cherish the years that fate had given them.

"When the world talks about loyal ministers, we are told that there were none to surpass Prince Pi Kan and Wu Tzu‑hsu. Yet Wu Tzu‑hsu sank into the river and Pi Kan had his heart cut out.10 These two men are called loyal ministers by the world, and yet they ended up as the laughingstock of the empire. Looking at all these men, from the first I mentioned down to Wu Tzu‑hsu and Pi Kan, it is obvious that none is worth respecting.

"Now in this sermon of yours, Ch'iu, if you tell me about the affairs of ghosts, then I have no way of judging what you say. But if you tell me about the affairs of men ‑ and it is no more than what you've said so far ‑ then I've heard it all already!

"And now I'm going to tell you something ‑ about man's true form. His eyes yearn to see colors, his ears to hear sound, his mouth to taste flavors, his will and spirit to achieve fulfillment. A man of the greatest longevity will live a hundred years; one of middling longevity, eighty years; and one of the least longevity, sixty years. Take away the time lost in nursing illnesses, mourning the dead, worry and anxiety, and in this life there are no more than four or five days in a month when a man can open his mouth and laugh. Heaven and earth are unending, but man has his time of death. Take this time‑bound toy, put it down in these unending spaces, and whoosh! ‑ it is over as quickly as the passing of a swift horse glimpsed through a crack in the wall! No man who is incapable of gratifying his desires and cherishing the years fate has given him can be called a master of the Way. What you have been telling me ‑ I reject every bit of it! Quick, now ‑ be on your way. I want no more of your talk. This `Way' you tell me about is inane and inadequate, a fraudulent, crafty, vain, hypocritical affair, not the sort of thing that is capable of preserving the Truth within. How can it be worth discussing!"

Confucius bowed twice and scurried away. Outside the gate, he climbed into his carriage and fumbled three times in an attempt to grasp the reins, his eyes blank and unseeing, his face the color of dead ashes. Leaning on the crossbar, head bent down, he could not seem to summon up any spirit at all.

Returning to Lu, he had arrived just outside the eastern gate of the capital when he happened to meet Liu‑hsia Chi. "I haven't so much as caught sight of you for the past several days," said Liu‑hsia Chi, "and your carriage and horses look as though they've been out on the road ‑ it couldn't be that you went to see my brother Chih, could it?"

Confucius looked up to heaven, sighed, and said, "I did."

"And he was enraged by your views, just as I said he would be?" said Liu‑hsia Chi.

"He was," said Confucius. "You might say that I gave myself the burning moxa treatment when I wasn't even sick. I went rushing off to pat the tiger's head and plait its whiskers ‑ and very nearly didn't manage to escape from its jaws!"

Tzu‑chang said to Man Kou‑te, "Why don't you think more about your conduct? 11 No distinguished conduct means no trust; no trust means no official position; no official position means no gain. So if it's reputation you have your eye on or gain you're scheming for, then righteous conduct is the real key. And if you set aside considerations of reputation and gain and return to the true nature of the heart, then, too, I would say that you ought not to let a single day pass without taking thought for your conduct."

Man Kou‑te said, "Those who are shameless get rich, those who are widely trusted become famous. The really big reputation and gain seem to go to men who are shameless and trusted. So if your eyes are set on reputation and you scheme for gain, then trust is the real key. And if you set aside considerations of reputation and gain and return to the heart, then in your conduct I think you ought to hold fast to the Heaven within you." 12

Tzu‑chang said, "In ancient times the tyrants Chieh and Chou enjoyed the honor of being Son of Heaven and possessed all the wealth of the empire. Yet now if you say to a mere slave or groom, `Your conduct is like that of a Chieh or Chou,' he will look shamefaced and in his heart will not acquiesce to such charges, for even a petty man despises the names of Chieh and Chou. Confucius and Mo Ti, on the other hand, were impoverished commoners. Yet now if you say to the highest minister of state, `Your conduct is like that of Confucius or Mo Ti,' he will flush and alter his expression and protest that he is not worthy of such praise, for a gentleman sincerely honors their names. Therefore, to wield the power of a Son of Heaven does not necessarily mean to be honored, and to be poor and a commoner does not necessarily mean to be despised. The difference between being honored and being despised lies in the goodness or badness of one's conduct."

Man Kou‑te said, "The petty thief is imprisoned but the big thief becomes a feudal lord, and we all know that righteous gentlemen are to be found at the gates of the feudal lords. In ancient times, Hsiao‑po, Duke Huan of Ch'i, murdered his elder brother and took his sister‑in‑law for a wife, and yet Kuan Chung was willing to become his minister. Ch'ang, Viscount T'ien Ch'eng, murdered his sovereign and stole his state, and yet Confucius was willing to receive gifts from him.13 In pronouncement they condemned them, but in practice they bowed before them. Think how this contradiction between the facts of word and deed must have troubled their breasts! Could the two help but clash? So the book says, Who is bad? Who is good? The successful man becomes the head, the unsuccessful man becomes the tail."

"But," said Tzu‑chang, "if you take no thought for conduct, then there cease to be any ethical ties between near and distant kin, any fitting distinctions between noble and humble, any proper order between elder and younger. How is one to maintain the distinctions decreed by the five moral principles and the six social relationships?"

Man Kou‑te said, "Yao killed his eldest son, Shun exiled his mother's younger brother ‑ does this indicate any ethical ties between near and distant kin? T'ang banished his sovereign Chieh, King Wu killed his sovereign Chou ‑ does this indicate any fitting distinctions between noble and humble? King Chi received the inheritance, the Duke of Chou killed his elder brother ‑ does this indicate any proper order between elder and younger? 14 The Confucians with their hypocritical speeches, the Mo‑ists with their talk of universal love ‑ do these indicate any attempt to maintain the distinctions decreed by the five moral principles and the six social relationships? Now your thoughts are all for reputation, mine all for gain, but neither reputation nor gain, in actual fact, accord with reason or reflect any true understanding of the Way. The other day, when we referred the matter to Wu Yueh for arbitration, he gave this answer: 15

" `The petty man will die for riches, the gentleman will die for reputation. In the manner in which they alter their true form and change their inborn nature, they differ. But in so far as they throw away what is already theirs and are willing to die for something that is not theirs, they are identical. So it is said, Do not be a petty man ‑ return to and obey the Heaven within you; do not be a gentleman ‑ follow the reason of Heaven. Crooked or straight, pursue to the limit the Heaven in you. Turn your face to the four directions, ebb and flow with the seasons. Right or wrong, hold fast to the round center upon which all turns, in solitude bring your will to completion, ramble in the company of the Way. Do not strive to make your conduct consistent,16 do not try to perfect your righteousness, or you will lose what you already have. Do not race after riches, do not risk your life for success, or you will let slip the Heaven within you. Pi Kan's heart was cut out, Wu Tzu‑hsu's eyes were plucked from their sockets ‑ loyalty brought them this misfortune. Honest Kung informed on his father, Wei Sheng died by drowning ‑ trustworthiness was their curse. Pao Chiao stood there till he dried up; Shen Tzu would not defend himself ‑ integrity did them this injury. Confucius did not see his mother, K'uang Tzu did not see his father ‑ righteousness was their mistake." These are the tales handed down from ages past, retold by the ages that follow. They show us that the gentleman who is determined to be upright in word and consistent in conduct will as a result bow before disaster, will encounter affliction.' "

Never‑Enough said to Sense‑of‑Harmony, "After all, there are no men who do not strive for reputation and seek gain. If you're rich, people flock to you; flocking to you, they bow and scrape; and when they bow and scrape, this shows they honor you. To have men bowing and scraping, offering you honor ‑ this is the way to insure length of years, ease to the body, joy to the will. And now you alone have no mind for these things. Is it lack of understanding? Or is it that you know their worth but just haven't the strength to work for them? Are you, then, deliberately striving `to be upright and never forgetful'?"

Sense‑of‑Harmony said, "You and your type look at those who were born at the same time and who dwell in the same community and you decide that you are gentlemen who are far removed from the common lot, who are superior to the times. This shows that you have no guiding principle by which to survey the ages of past and present, the distinctions between right and wrong. Instead you join with the vulgar in changing as the world changes, setting aside what is most valuable, discarding what is most worthy of honor, thinking that there is something that has to be done, declaring that this is the way to insure length of years, ease to the body, joy to the will ‑ but you are far from the mark indeed! The agitation of grief and sorrow, the solace of contentment and joy - these bring no enlightenment to the body. The shock of fear and terror, the elation of happiness and delight ‑ these bring no enlightenment to the mind. You know you are doing what there is to do, but you don't know why there should be things to do. This way, you might possess all the honor of the Son of Heaven, all the wealth of the empire, and yet never escape from disaster."

"But," said Never‑Enough, "there is no advantage which riches cannot bring to a man ‑ the ultimate in beauty, the heights of power, things that the Perfect Man cannot attain to, that the worthy man can never acquire. They buy the strength and daring of other men that make one awesome and powerful; they purchase the knowledge and schemes of other men that make one wise and well‑informed; they borrow the virtue of other men that make one a man of worth and goodness. With no kingdom to reign over, the rich man commands as much respect as a ruler or a father. Beautiful sounds and colors, rich flavors, power and authority ‑ a man need not send his mind to school before it will delight in them, need not train his body before it will find peace in them. What to desire, what to hate, what to seek, what to avoid ‑ no one needs a teacher in these matters; they pertain to the inborn nature of man. Don't think this applies only to me. Where is there a man in the whole world who would be willing to give them up?

Sense‑of‑Harmony said, "When the wise man goes about doing something, he always moves for the sake of the hundred clans and does not violate the rules. Thus, if there is enough, he does not scramble for more. Having no reason to, he seeks nothing. But if there is not enough, he seeks, scrambling in all four directions, yet he does not think of himself as greedy. If there is a surplus, he gives it away. He can discard the whole empire and yet not think of himself as high‑minded. Greed or high‑mindedness in fact have nothing to do with standards imposed from the outside ‑ they represent a turning within to observe the rules that are found there. So a man may wield all the power of a Son of Heaven and yet not use his high position to lord it over others; he may possess all the wealth in the empire and yet not exploit his riches to make a mock of others. He calculates the risk, thinks of what may be contrary and harmful to his inborn nature. Therefore he may decline what is offered him, but not because he hopes for reputation and praise. Yao and Shun ruled as emperors and there was harmony ‑ but not because they sought to bring benevolence to the world; they would not have let `goodness' injure their lives. Shan Ch'uan and Hsu Yu had the opportunity to become emperors and declined, but not because they wished to make an empty gesture of refusal; they would not have let such matters bring harm to themselves. All these men sought what was to their advantage and declined what was harmful. The world praises them as worthies, and it is all right if they enjoy such repute ‑ but they were not striving for any reputation or praise."

"But in order to maintain a reputation like theirs," said Never‑Enough, "one must punish the body and give up everything sweet, skimp and save merely to keep life going ‑ in which case one is no different from a man who goes on year after year in sickness and trouble, never allowed to die!"

Sense‑of‑Harmony said, "A just measure brings fortune, an excess brings harm ‑ this is so of all things, but much more so in the case of wealth. The ears of the rich man are regaled with sounds of bell and drum, flute and pipe; his mouth is treated to the flavor of grass‑ and grain‑fed animals, of rich wine, until his desires are aroused and he has forgotten all about his proper business ‑ this may be called disorder. Mired and drowned by swelling passions, he is like a man who carries a heavy load up the slope of a hill ‑ this may be called suffering. Greedy for riches, he brings illness on himself; greedy for power, he drives himself to exhaustion. In the quietude of his home, he sinks into languor; body sleek and well‑nourished, he is puffed up with passion ‑ this may be called disease. In his desire for wealth, his search for gain, he crams his rooms to overflowing, as it were, and does not know how to escape, yet he lusts for more and cannot desist ‑ this may be called shame. More wealth piled up than he could ever use, yet he is covetous and will not leave off, crowding his mind with care and fatigue, grasping for more and more with never a stop ‑ this may be called worry. At home he is suspicious of the inroads of pilferers and inordinate demanders; abroad he is terrified of the attacks of bandits and robbers. At home he surrounds himself with towers and moats; abroad he dares not walk alone ‑ this may be called terror. These six ‑ disorder, suffering, disease, shame, worry, and terror ‑ are the greatest evils in the world. Yet all are forgotten and he does not know enough to keep watch out for them. And once disaster has come, then, though he seeks with all his inborn nature and exhausts all his wealth in hopes of returning even for one day to the untroubled times, he can never do so.

"Therefore he who sets his eyes on reputation will find that it is nowhere to be seen; he who seeks for gain will find that it is not to be gotten. To entrap the mind and the body in a scramble for such things ‑ is this not delusion indeed?"