Withdrawal symptoms

子曰:「賢者辟世,其次辟地,其次辟色,其次辟言。」子曰:「作者七人矣!」
Confucius said: “The wise withdraw from the world; next come those who withdraw from a particular state; next come those who withdraw because of a particular look; next come those who withdraw because of a particular word.” Confucius said: “Seven men did this.”

Weird: this could either be a Taoist hack extolling the virtues of withdrawing from a dark and evil world or advice from Confucius on what to do when faced with a hostile and suspicious ruler.

Confucius was a strong believer that discretion is the better part of valor when it comes to dealing with evil rulers who were beyond redemption; so the second interpretation is probably more likely than the Taoist hack theory. If this is the case, a translation like this would probably make more sense and remove most of the ambiguities from the original text:

Confucius said: “Wise men withdraw from the world when it is in chaos; next come those who withdraw from states that have fallen into chaos to go somewhere else; next come those who withdraw to escape from the evil looks of their ruler; and next come those who withdraw to escape from their ruler’s threatening words.”

Nobody knows who the “seven men” were that Confucius refers to. Indeed, it’s possible that this section was slipped in by mistake.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *