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On The Subject Of Administration

The Governing Principles of Ancient China - Qunshu Zhiyao 360

The Basis of Principles

There are five types of relations that constitute the moral standards of mankind, and three elements of virtues that are conducive to the fulfillment of these relations. These five types of moral relations include those between the leader and subordinates, parents and children, husband and wife, among siblings, and among friends. The three elements of virtues are wisdom, benevolence and courage, forming the virtuous conduct of mankind. From start to finish, “Sincerity” must be present to enable the five moral relations and the three types of virtuous conduct to work out successfully. Some people are conscious of these moral relations and virtues from birth. Some people become conscious of them after learning about them, and some people become conscious of them only after they have put in tremendous efforts in understanding them. However, the end result is the same. As for actualizing these moral relations and virtues, some people will do it naturally, some people will do it for the sake of acquiring personal benefits, and some people will do it reluctantly. In the end, the results will all be the same.

Scroll 10: Kong Zi Jia Yu

The five emperors and the three sage-kings of ancient times used eight elements—benevolence, righteousness, propriety, music, status, law, punishment and reward—to govern their states. Benevolence was used in order to provide guidance for their people. Righteousness was used in order to guide the people to do the right thing. Propriety was used in order to regulate people’s behavior. Music was used in order to mediate human relations. Status was used in order to define people’s social roles. Law was used in order to align the people. Punishment was used in order to deter people from committing crimes. Reward was used in order to encourage people to do good deeds.

Scroll 37: Yin Wen Zi

Therefore, it was said that being benevolent is nothing more than loving and protecting the people. Being wise is nothing more than knowing who are the virtuous; being an able government leader is nothing more than knowing whom to hire for the right job. If the leader of a state can fulfill these three conditions, people from all over the world will submit to him.

Scroll 10: Kong Zi Jia Yu

The king (Son of Heaven) was responsible for teaching the men, and the queen was responsible for teaching the ladies to be gentle. The king handled the tough masculine matters, and the queen handled the gentler feminine issues. The king managed the external affairs, and the queen managed the internal affairs. When the education of men and the gentleness of women became customary, and when external and internal affairs were harmonized, such that family and official affairs were managed equally well, this could be considered as the glorious exemplification of virtuous conduct.

Scroll 7: Li Ji

There are four skills that enable a good government: First, be trustworthy and loving toward the people. Second, be fair and selfless. Third, appoint virtuous and able people to run the government. Fourth, manage financial resources carefully. Prudent financial management will ensure sufficient wealth for the nation. Employing virtuous and able persons to run the government will enable the government to make more contributions. Selfless devotion provides the source of wisdom, and loving the people trustingly embodies the conduct of parents loving their children.

Scroll 36: Shi Zi

When the granary is replete with staple foods, people will comprehend the meanings of propriety. When they have sufficient food to eat and clothes to keep them warm, they will comprehend the meanings of honor and disgrace. When a leader obeys the legal standards of propriety, his close relatives will live in unity and harmony. When the four anchors in building a nation are upheld, the ruler’s directives will be carried out without impediment. Dispensing with these four anchors will lead to the downfall of a nation. If one of these four anchors was broken, the country would become unstable. If two of these anchors were broken, the country would be in danger. If three of these anchors were broken, the government would be toppled. If all four anchors were broken, the state would be in ruin. A state that is unstable can still be restored to its equilibrium. A state that is in danger can still be restored to its peaceful state. Even when the government is overthrown, it is still possible to save the country. But resurrecting a ruined country would become impossible. So what are these four anchors? They are: propriety, righteousness, integrity, and moral shame. A government is effective because it responds to the common aspirations of the people. A government that runs against people’s aspirations will be abandoned by the people.

Scroll 32: Guan Zi

According to ancient customs, the social status of teachers was highly revered. Thus no sage-king would show disrespect toward his teachers, irrespective of whether the teachers were nobles, low-ranking, wealthy or impoverished.

Scroll 39: Lu Shi Chun Qiu

King Tang asked: “When can a minister not be addressed as a minister by the king?” Yi Yin replied: “There are four scenarios where this can happen. Your majesty’s uncles are senior ministers whom you cannot address as ministers. Your majesty’s elder brothers are senior ministers whom you cannot address as ministers; ministers who had served under the late kings are senior ministers whom you cannot address as ministers. Furthermore, people who are most virtuous can become senior ministers but they cannot be addressed as ministers. This protocol is appropriate within the principles of moral law.”

Scroll 43: Shuo Yuan

Confucius said: “He who is not in any particular office has nothing to do with plans for the administration of its duties.”

Scroll 9: Lun Yu

If a leader were to take charge of everything, his subordinates would not take the initiative to perform their duties. This would mean that the role of the leader and the subordinates is reversed, a situation which will bring forth disorder. If a leader does the opposite, the subordinate will perform the duties that are appropriate to them and complete their appropriate tasks. Such is the orderly leader-subordinate relationship, which is the key to distinguishing peace and order from chaos and turbulence. This should be very well understood.

Scroll 37: Shen Zi

Government regulations should not be issued by too many departments. Different instructions given on the same regulations will confuse people.

Scroll 29: Jin Shu, Vol. 1