Advice to Jiao Meng

Han, Yu (768 A.D.-824 A.D.)

    In general, an object not in equilibrium will make a noise. The grass and trees are silent. They rustle only when the wind blows through them. Water is silent. However, it makes a splashing sound when the wind generates waves. Water splashes because it is stirred. Water goes downhill due to natural forces. Water boils because it is heated by fire. Gold and stones are silent, but they ring when they are struck. One’s speech also arises from a disturbance. One speaks only after he feels compelled. One sings about what is in his mind and weeps to vent his sorrow. Every sound one utters originates from an agitated mind.

    Music is something pent-up in someone's mind and released outwardly. It selects the instruments that can produce harmony such as bells, hollow stones, strings, flutes, and other pipe instruments, and then uses them to sing. Nature orchestrates the seasons the same way. It selects the best voices and uses them to represent a season. For example, nature uses birds to sing the song of spring, thunders to roar the sound of summer, insects to hum the song of autumn, and wind to howl the sound of winter. Seasons evolve because they are not in equilibrium. A disturbance makes human beings behave the same way. Language is the soul of human sound and rhetoric is the pith of a language. People select their best communication tools to express themselves.

    For example, the Yu 1 dynasty used Gao-Yao 2 and Yu 3, who voiced their great opinions, to speak for itself. Kui was a musician in Emperor Shun's court. He could not express himself through poetry, so he voiced his feelings through music. In the Xia dynasty, Emperor T's five brothers ridiculed him with song for his excessive hunting. Yin Yi 4 was the speaker of the Shang dynasty; Duke Zhou was the speaker of the Zhou dynasty. All the lessons in the Bible of Poetry and the Six Bibles were skillfully written by those who best knew the pulse of their times.

    When the Zhou dynasty was in decline, Confucius and his followers proposed their ideas, and their loud voices reached far. The Analects of Confucius say, "God uses Confucius as a bell 5." Can we not believe in what this book says? At the end of the Zhou dynasty, Zhou Zhuang 6 proposed his metaphysical Taoism. Shortly before large Country Chu was destroyed, Yuan Qu lamented through poetry that the King of Chu had not trusted his advice. Sun-Chen Zhang, Mencius, Qing Xun voiced their thoughts through philosophy. Zhu Yang 7, Di Mo 8, Yi-Wu Guan 9, Ying Yan 10, Lao-zi, Bu-Hai Shen 11, Fei Han 12, Dao Shen 13, Pian Tian 14, Yan Zou 15, Jiao Shi 16, Wu Sun 17, Yi Zhang 18, Qin Su 19, and the like all voiced their ideas through tactics.

    When Country Qin flourished, Prime Minister Si Li responded by voicing his ideas. During the Han dynasty, Qian Si-Ma, Xiang-Ru Si-Ma, Xiong Yang were the best speakers who spoke for their times. Later, the speakers for the Wei and Jin dynasties were not as good. Even though the quality declined, there remained continuous presence of speakers throughout the two dynasties. The best of those who expressed their thoughts had voices that were fancy and rash, rhythms that were dense and restless, rhetoric that was flowery and pessimistic, and wills that were weak and undisciplined. Their speeches lacked themes and were not organized. Did God discard these speakers out of disgust with the sins each dynasty had committed? Why did God not use their talents to voice better ideas for their times?

    Since the time when the Tang dynasty began to govern China, Zi-Ang Cheng, Jie Yuan, Fu Du, and Guan Li spoke about the topics of their expertise. Later, Jiao Meng started to find his voice through poetry. His structures are compact and his arguments are rigorous. His best poems are better than any of those written in the Wei and Jin dynasties, and can compete with ancient poetry. Meng's other literary works are influenced by the writings of the Han dynasty. Ao Li and Ji Zhang are the best students of mine. The voices of these three scholars are truly great. I wonder whether God plans to accompany their voices and let them sing of the achievements of the government or starve them and let them lament their personal misfortunes? The destinies of these three scholars are determined by God. They should not congratulate themselves if they can sing of the prosperity of the nation. At the same time, they should not blame themselves if they can only sing of their misfortunes.

    Jiao Meng was on his way to assume his new office south of the Yangtze River. He seemed disturbed. Therefore, I consoled him by saying that his fate was controlled by God.

1 Yu was a dynasty around 2070 B.C.

2 Gao-Tao was the supervisor of jailers during Emperor Shun's reign.

3 Yu was the emperor who established the Xia dynasty.

4 Yin Yi was a prime minister in the Shang dynasty.

5 In the olden times, when a politician spoke to his audience, he rang a bell to call their attention.

6 Zhou Zhuang was a cofounder of Taoism along with Lao-zi.

7 Zhu Yang claimed that one should not sacrifice oneself to serve others. Even if someone asked him just to pluck a tiny hair from his head to benefit the world, Yang would not do it.

8 Di Mo believed that one should sacrifice oneself to serve others. Mo promoted love and peace. With his wisdom, he actually averted several wars during his lifetime. One time a warlord declared a war simply because he wanted to test the new weapon he had invented. Mo went to see the warlord and simulate the war using pieces on a table. Mo effectively built a defense against the new weapon, and then defeated the warlord in the simulation. Therefore, the warlord changed his mind and decided not to go to war.

9 Yi-Wu Guan was the Prime Minister of King Huan of Country Qi.

10 Ying Yan was a prime minister of Country Qi many years after Yi-Wu Guan.

11 Bu-Hai Shen was a lawyer and prime minister of Country Han.

12 Fei Han and Si Li, the Prime Minister of Country Qin, studied under Qing Xun.

13 Dao Shen was a lawyer and an official of Country Han.

14 Pian Tian was an orator in Country Qi.

15 Yan Zou promoted morals and virtue as a means of strengthening a nation.

16 Jiao Shi was the teacher of Yang Shang who was the Prime Minister of Country Qin.

17 Wu Sun wrote The Art of War.

18 Ying Zhang, the Prime Minister of Country Qin, advocated for the unification of six small countries in China to serve the strongest one, Country Qin.

19 Qin Su, the Prime Minister of Country Zhao, advocated for the unification of the six countries to fight against Country Qin.