A slippery slope

子曰:「惡紫之奪朱也,惡鄭聲之亂雅樂也,惡利口之覆邦家者。」
Confucius said: “I loathe purple for replacing vermilion; I loathe the melodies of Zheng for corrupting classical music; I loathe the smooth-tongued for creating chaos in the kingdoms and noble families.”

First the color of the ceremonial caps is changed from vermilion to purple; then the classical music that originated in the Zhou Dynasty is replaced by the decadent melodies of Zheng; and before you know it the “smooth-tongued” are wreaking havoc all over.

Purple is an intermediary color while vermilion is a primary one. To Confucius, its usage violated the purity of the ritual ceremonies.

Allegedly created by Confucius’s hero the Duke of Zhou, (雅樂/yǎyuè) literally means “elegant music” and was performed in ceremonies and court events. Confucius considered it to be healthy in contrast to the supposedly licentious melodies from the state of Zheng that supplanted it.

With the very social fabric being ripped apart, chaos fueled by malicious rumors was bound to happen. A slippery slope indeed!

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