THE state of Khin, at the time to which this speech belongs, was one of the most powerful in the kingdom, and already giving promise of what it would grow to. Ultimately, one of its princes overthrew the dynasty of Kâu, and brought feudal China to an end. Its earliest capital was in the present district of Khăng-shui, Khin Kâu, Kan-sû.
Khin and Kin were engaged together in B.C. 631 in besieging the capital of Kăng, and threatened to extinguish that state. The marquis of Kin, however, was suddenly induced to withdraw his troops, leaving three of his officers in friendly relations with the court of Kăng, and under engagement to defend the state from aggression. These men played the part of spies in the interest of Khin, and in B.C. 629, one of them, called Khî-ȝze, sent word that he was in charge of one of the gates, and if an army were sent to surprise the capital, Kang might be added to the territories of Khin. The marquis--known in history as duke Mû--laid the matter before his counsellors. The most experienced of them--Pâi-lî Hsi and Khien-shû were against taking advantage of the proposed treachery; but the marquis listened rather to the promptings of ambition; and the next year he sent a large force, under his three ablest commanders, hoping to find Kăng unprepared for any resistance. The attempt, however, failed; and the army, on its way back to
[paragraph continues] Khin, was attacked by the forces of Kin, and sustained a terrible defeat. It was nearly annihilated, and the three commanders were taken prisoners.
The marquis of Kin was intending to put these captives to death, but finally sent them to Khin, that duke Mû might himself sacrifice them to his anger for their want of success. Mû, however, did no such thing. He went from his capital. to meet the disgraced generals, and comforted them, saying that the blame of their defeat was due to himself, who had refused to listen to the advice of his wise counsellors. Then also, it is said, he made the speech here preserved for the benefit of all his ministers, describing the good and bad minister, and the different issues of listening to them, and deploring how he had himself foolishly rejected the advice of his aged counsellors, and followed that of new men;--a thing which he would never do again.
The duke 1 said, 'Ah! my officers, listen to me without noise. I solemnly announce to you the most important of all sayings. (It is this which) the ancients have said, "Thus it is with all people,--they mostly love their ease. In reproving others there is no difficulty, but to receive reproof, and allow it to have free course,--this is difficult." The sorrow of my heart is, that the days and months have passed away, and it is not likely they will come again, (so that I might pursue a different course.)
'There were my old counsellors 2.--I said, "They will not accommodate themselves to me," and I hated them. There were my new counsellors, and I would for the time give my confidence to them 3. So indeed it was with me; but hereafter I will
take advice from the men of yellow hair, and then I shall be free from error. That good old officer!--his strength is exhausted, but I would rather have him (as my counsellor). That dashing brave officer!--his shooting and charioteering are faultless, but I would rather not wish to have him. As to men of quibbles, skilful at cunning words, and able to make the good man change his purposes, what have I to do to make much use of them?
'I have deeply thought and concluded.--Let me have but one resolute minister, plain and sincere, without other ability, but having a straightforward mind, and possessed of generosity, regarding the talents of others as if he himself possessed them; and when he finds accomplished and sage men, loving them in his heart more than his mouth expresses, really showing himself able to bear them:--such a minister would be able to preserve my descendants and people, and would indeed be a giver of benefits.
'But if (the minister), when he finds men of ability, be jealous and hates them; if, when he finds accomplished and sage men, he oppose them and does not allow their advancement, showing himself really not able to bear them:--such a man will not be able to protect my descendants and people; and will he not be a dangerous man?
'The decline and fall of a state may arise from one man. The glory and tranquillity of a state may also arise from the goodness of one man.'
271:1 The prince of Khin was only a marquis; but the historiographers or recorders of a state always gave their ruler the higher title. This shows that this speech is taken from the chronicles of Khin.
271:2 Pâi-lî Hsî and Khien-shû.
271:3 Khî-ȝze and others.