Fragments of Song Xing

According to Cheng Xuanying, Song Xing, also known as Song Rong and Song Keng, wrote a book which filled one silk scroll, which is not listed in the "Bibliography" of the Hanshu, and Yin Wen wrote a book that filled two silk scrolls, which is listed under the "logicians" (mingjia), in the Hanshu "Bibliography" as comprising one bamboo bundle.

There was also a Songzi in 18 bamboo books which is listed under the "storytellers" in the Hanshu "Bibliography." Ban Gu assumes that the author is Song Rong noting that Xun Kuang discusses his philosophy and that he discusses the ideas of Lao Dan and the Yellow Emperor. There is, of course, as Chen Qiyou notes, the problem of why this book is placed among the "storytellers" if it is the work of the philosopher Song Rong/Xing/Keng who is generally regarded as a follower of Mo Di.

The Yinwenzi, a work attributed to Yin Wen but not accepted by all authorities, survives. Both Song and Yin are said to have been members of the Jixia academy and to have been active in the time of King Xuan (r. 319-301). It is evident from the literature that Yin Wen was also active during the time of King Min and must have been a younger contemporary, and possibly a student, of Song Xing.

Fragment 1: Zhuangzi, "Tianxia," 33.3

Not to be encumbered by popular fashions, not to be ostentatious with possessions, not to behave indecorously toward other men, not to be oppressive toward the masses; to long for peace and tranquillity throughout the whole world in order to permit the people to live out their allotted span, to seek with a pure heart no more for oneself and for others than what is required to preserve life-the "Method of the Dao" among the ancients included such principles as these.

Song Xing and Yin Wen heard these views and took pleasure in them. They fashioned the Huashan cap as their mark of distinction. In dealing with the myriad things, they took "eliminating partiality" as their starting point. They discussed the states of the mind which they called the "behavior of the mind." They attempted to unite the people in joyous concord, to make harmoniously blended all within the four seas. Establishing which desires were "essential" they took as the fundamental problem ruling all else. By the principle that "there is no shame in suffering insult," they hoped to relieve the people from the obligation of seeking satisfaction in combat. With the principle "forbid aggression and abolish armies," they hoped to rescue the world from warfare. They tried to put these policies into effect by traveling about the whole world, persuading the upper classes and preaching to the lower classes. Though the world was not to be converted by their efforts, they energetically and noisily pressed their views, never relenting, until it came to be said: "High and low have seen enough of them, and still they insistently demand to be seen."

Nonetheless, they did entirely too much for others and far too little for themselves. They said: "With the essential desires definitively established, just give us five pints of rice for the present and that will suffice." Masters, I fear, did not obtain enough to eat their fill and disciples, though hungry, never forgot the rest of the world.1 They continued, day and night without rest, saying: "We are determined to make certain that all obtain what they need to live." How provincially arrogant-these would-be saviors of the world! They would say: "The gentleman does not act so as to cause harassment in his investigations, nor does he use his own body to borrow external things." They preferred to conclude a line of action which did not benefit the world rather than understand its implications. "Forbidding aggression and abolishing armies" they considered the external expression of their doctrine. "The essential desires are few and shallow," they considered the internal expression of their doctrine. In all matters, large and small, coarse and fine, they progressed only this far, and then they stopped.

1"Masters" refers to Song Xing and Yin Wen; "disciples" to their students. That Song Xing had disciples is evident from the Xunzi.

Fragment 2: Zhuangzi, "Xiaoyaoyu"

Men who were clever enough to master one office, or effective enough to manage one village, whose de Power was enough to be harmonious with a single lord, or who were tested in a single state see themselves just as do these little birds. Master Song Rong would have smiled with disdain at them. And not just that, for the praise of the whole world could not encourage him in the least nor could he be even slightly deterred by its censure, for he had settled the division between internal and external qualities and explained the true boundary between honor and disgrace. But he went no further because over and over again he remained too involved with his age. So there still were things which he left uncultivated.

Fragment 3: Mencius, 6B.4

Song Keng was on his way to Chu when Mencius encountered him at Shiqiu, saying: "Where are you going, sir?"

Song replied: "I heard that Qin and Chu are going to war, so I hope to have an audience with the king of Chu and to persuade him to break off the conflict. If the king of Chu does not favor with my proposal, I hope to have an audience with the king of Qin and try to persuade him to break off the conflict. Between the two kings I expect to encounter some opportunity."

"Without going into the details," continued Mencius, "I hope you will tell me the crux of the argument you intend to use to persuade them."

"I shall tell them," replied Song, "that war in unprofitable."

"Your purpose," rejoined Mencius, "is grand, but the rationale you propose to use is unacceptable."

Fragment 4: Xunzi, "Zhenglun," 18.8

Your Master Song said: "Clearly understanding that to suffer insult is no disgrace will cause men to cease fighting. All men consider that to suffer insult is to be disgraced, hence they fight. If they knew that to suffer insult does not disgrace a person, then they would not fight."

I reply to this: If that were so, then would a person not also have to consider the essential nature of man such that he does not hate being insulted?

They rejoin: "You may hate insults, but you should not consider them a disgrace."

I say: If that is granted, then it is certain that your search [for a way to make men stop fighting] will be in vain. As a general principle, the explanation of why men fight must be found in what they hate; the cause is not to be found in what they consider to be a disgrace. Consider the case of court jesters, buffoons, dwarfs, and fools who are treated contemptuously, like a menial, and are vilified and insulted, yet do not fight--would this be due to their realization that it is no disgrace to suffer insult? Those who do not fight in such cases do so because they do not hate being insulted.

Now consider this example: a man enters a place by way of the sewers and pilfers another man's pigs and hogs. The owner takes up arms to pursue him at the risk of serious injury or death. Would this happen because he considers the loss of his pigs to be a disgrace! Men do not shrink from a fight in such cases because of what they hate. Although a man might consider receiving an insult a disgrace, if he does not hate being disgraced, then he will not fight. Although a man knows that to suffer insult is no disgrace, if he hates the disgrace, then he will surely fight. That being the case, then the reason he fights lies not in whether he is disgraced, but rather in whether he hates it.

Now your Master Song is unable to explain the fact of men's hatred of insult and so he devotes his attention to persuading men that they should not consider it a disgrace--is he not utterly wrong! Although he had a metal tongue that destroyed his mouth, it would be to no advantage. Not realizing that it is of no advantage is ignorance; and, to know that it is of no advantage and yet simply to deceive others is not humane. No behavior is more disgraceful than to be both inhumane and ignorant. If what he takes to be of advantage to others is no advantage, he will be forced to withdraw in great disgrace. No theory could be more defective than this!

Fragment 5: Xunzi, "Zhenglun," 18.9

Your Master Song says: "To suffer insult is no disgrace."

I reply to this: As a matter of general principle, in deliberations it is necessary to establish high standards of correctness, for only then may the validity of an argument be determined. If there are no such high standards of correctness, then truth and falsity cannot be separated and discriminations and disputes cannot be settled. Thus, what we have been taught says: "The highest standards are those that establish the boundary between truth and falsity and that give rise to social class distinctions, to the offices of government, and to their names and symbols--these are the regulations of the True King." Thus, as a general rule discussions and deliberations on definitions and terms of right and wrong should take the sages and kings as guide and master. And among the distinctions made by the sages and kings are the distinction between honor and disgrace. In these there are two principles: there is the honor which derives from moral principles and that which derives from the force of circumstances; there is the disgrace which derives from considerations of morality and that which derives from the force of circumstances.

When a person is "developed in will and purpose, substantial in conduct springing from inner power, and lucid in wisdom and thought," then there arises from within the cause of honor, and this is what is meant by honor that derives from considerations of morality. Holding exalted rank and distinction, receiving substantial tribute or emolument, holding a position of overwhelming power and influence, being at the highest Son of Heaven or a feudal lord or at the lowest a minister or prime minister, knight or grand officer--these are honors that arrive from without, and precisely these are what is meant by honors that derive from a person's circumstances.

When a person is wayward and abandoned, base and reckless, when he offends against the divisions of society and brings chaos to rational order, when he is proudly arrogant and cruel with a rapacious appetite for profits--these are disgraces that come from within, and precisely these are what is meant by disgraces that derive from a person's morality. Vilified and insulted, dragged about by the hair and beaten, whipped and cudgeled, kneecaps shattered or legs amputated, decapitated, quartered or hacked apart and made into diced dried meat, chained and fettered, with tongue split in two--these are disgraces that come from without, and precisely these are what is meant by disgraces that derive from a person's circumstances. Such are the two principles of honor and disgrace.

Thus, although it is possible that the gentleman should incur disgrace through personal circumstances, it is not possible that he should incur disgrace from what derives from personal morality. Although it is possible that the petty man should possess honors deriving from personal circumstances, it is not possible that he should possess honors deriving from moral principles. Incurring disgrace through the force of circumstances will not hinder one's becoming a Yao; having the honors that derive from the force of circumstances will not hinder one's becoming a Jie. As for the honor that derives from personal morality and that which derives from circumstances, only the gentleman may possess both at the same time. As for the disgrace which derives from morality and that which derives from circumstances, only the petty man may possess both at the same time. Such is the distinction between honor and disgrace. Sages and kings used this distinction in their laws, the knights and grand officers used it as their way, the various petty bureaucrats considered that they should safeguard it, and the Hundred Clans viewed it as established custom. For a myriad of generations it has been impossible to alter the distinction.

Now your Master Song believes that this is not so, for he distorts things and admit facts on his own and as he chooses. With no more than a single morning's thought he would change the nature of the distinction between honor and disgrace. It is certain that his theories could never be put into practice. They are an example of using balls of mud to dam up rivers and oceans. They are like using the Jiao pygmies to lift up Mount Tai; one need only wait a moment and they will stumble and let it break in two. The two or three masters who take delight in the doctrines of your Master Song stand the risk, I fear, of suffering grave injury to their own persons if they do not cease this admiration.

Fragment 6: Xunzi, "Zhenglun," 18.10

Your Master Song says: "It is the essential nature of man that his desires are few, yet everyone believes in his own case that the desires of his essential nature are numerous.This is an error." Accordingly, he leads his numerous disciples, offers discriminations in defense of his contentions and theories, and elucidates his examples and judgments that he might cause men to realize that the desires inherent in their essential nature are but few.

In response to this I say: Given that assumption, then one must also consider that it is the essential nature of man that the eye does not desire the full range of colors, the ear does not desire the full range of sounds, the mouth does not desire the full range of tastes, the nose does not desire the full range of smells, and the body does not desire the full range of leisure. In regard to these five "full sensory ranges" can it indeed be also considered that the essential nature of man is such that they are not desired?

Master Song admits: "The desires inherent in the essential nature of man are in truth as you say."

I say: If you grant that they are such, then your theory is certainly impractical. It grants that the desires inherent in the essential nature of men have these five "full sensory ranges," yet it denies that such desires are numerous. This is like, for example, considering it a part of man's essential nature to desire wealth and prestige, yet denying that men desire property, or considering that they desire sex and beauty yet despise Xi Shi.1

The ancients thought otherwise: they considered that from his essential nature man's desires were numerous, not few. Accordingly, they rewarded men with wealth and plenty and penalized them with reduction and deprivation. In this respect the Hundred Kings have all been the same. Accordingly, the supremely worthy man received the world as his emolument, those next in worth received a single state, those of lesser worth received fields and cities, and the attentive and diligent among the common people had the full complement of clothing and food. Now your Master Song considers man's essential nature to be that desires are few and not that they are numerous. If this were so, then would it not be equivalent to the ancient kings, employing what men do not desire as their reward and what men do desire as their punishment? No confusion could be greater than this!

Now your Master Song has a commanding presence and is fond of persuasions. He gathers men about him as disciples, he establishes himself as a master of learning, and he perfects, polishes, and documents his essays. Yet, despite all this, his theories do not avoid the mistake of considering the perfection of order the height of chaos. Indeed, does he not greatly transgress the truth!
1Xi Shi was a famous beauty, given by King Goujian of Yue to his enemy King Fuchai of Wu to undermine his power. She became the beloved concubine of Fuchai, who was so devoted to her that he neglected his state and thus perished at the height of his power and glory. So famed was her exquisite beauty that ugly women went about imitating her expressions, attitudes, and gestures, not realizing that the beauty of Xi Shi lay not just in her expressions, her gestures, or her attitudes.

Fragment 7: Xunzi, "Fei shier zi," 6.4

Some men do not know how to unify the world nor how to establish the "evaluations and designations" for the nation, but, rather, elevate the principles of merit and utility, place great stress on frugality and economy, and they ignore gradations of rank and status. They are unwilling to admit that there are differences that must be explained and that there must be social distance between the lord and his subjects. Nonetheless some of what they advocate has a rational basis, and their statements have perfect logic, enough indeed to deceive and mislead the ignorant masses. Such men are Mo Di and Song Xing.

Fragment 8: Xunzi, "Tianlun," 17.12

Song Xing had insight into "reducing," but none into "increasing."1
"Reducing" refers to Song's attempt to limit to very modest amounts one's consumption of food. "Increasing" refers to his disinterest in trying to increase the resources so that everyone has enough to eat and to his hostility toward offering rewards and incentives.

Fragment 9: Xunzi, "Jiebi," 21.4

Song Xing was blinded by desire and was insensible to satisfaction.

Fragment 10: Hanfeizi, "Xianxue," 50.2b

According to the code of conduct of the Qidiao school,

Never let cringe before others,
Never let anyone to outstare you.

"If your conduct is corrupt, do not flee from slave or servant, but if it is upright, then show outraged even with feudal lords." The rulers of the day consider such conduct to demonstrate their integrity and so honor them with special courtesies. The code of Master Song Rong establishes the principles of non-aggression and non-conflict, of choosing the path non-retaliation against adversaries, of not being humiliated by going to jail, and of not regarding it as disgraceful to suffer insult. The rulers of the day consider such conduct to show magnanimity and so honor it with special courtesies. Now, if you approve of the integrity of Qidiao, you should condemn the forgiving spirit of Song Rong, and if you approve of the magnanimity of Song Rong you should condemn the violence of Qidiao. Taken together, then, the teachings of the two philosophers include integrity and forgiving spirit, magnanimity and violence, yet rulers of today pay homage to both doctrines.

Fragment 11: Yinwenzi, "Tianxia," 2.5

Master Tian [Pian] said: "The time of Yao was that of Great Tranquillity."

Master Song asked: "Did the order of that sage reach that level?"

Peng Meng, who was to one side, interrupted with a laugh and said: "The order of the sagely model attained that level. It is not a matter of the order of the sage himself."

Master Song asked: "What distinction is there between the sage and his model?"

Peng Meng said: "You have completely confused the names. The sage drives from within himself. The sage's model derives from rational principles of order. Though these principles derive from the self, the self is not the principles. The self is capable of deriving the principles but the principles are not the self. Thus the order of the sage is a matter of order in a single individual. The order of the sage's model provides that nothing will lack order. This is of benefit to the myriad generations. Only the sage has the ability to do what should be done."

Master Song seemed dazzled and sought confirmation from Master Tian.

Master Tian said: "Peng Meng's view is correct."

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John Knoblock
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Last updated 8/11/96
John Knoblock