Chu Hsi

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The Rule of Existence

Law, Nature and Feelings

Good and Evil

The Physical Element


Perfecting the Mind

Preserving the Mind


Love and Righteousness


Solicitude, Sincerity, Seriousness

Inward and Outward Conduct






Chu Hsi ( 1130-1200 CE) became the acknowledged exponent of Neo-Confucianism, which combined the traditional values of Confucianism with a metaphysical theory of humanity’s relation to the universe. Chu Hsi saw human nature as perfectly moral, deriving from the law or principle of the universe (expressed as descending from heaven). He identified the chief principles of human nature as love, righteousness, reverence, and wisdom. However, Chu Hsi believed that morality could be clouded by the physical element, or material force, inherent in matter and in the mind. The humanistic aspects of Chu’s philosophy derive very much from the Confucian canon, and his texts are replete with quotations from the Master and from the Chinese Classics of even earlier centuries. Chu Hsi thus integrated his new thinking with texts that went back nearly 2,000 years before his own time.


Chu Hsi grew up among philosophers and gained his academic degree at the early age of nineteen. He served as a sub-prefect registrar for three years and then for about twenty years he found a series of minor posts, such as guardian of a temple, that gave him freedom to pursue his philosophical interests. During this time, Chu Hsi produced several books, and engaged in a voluminous correspondence and in oral discussions, both of which were circulated as part of his literary works. His thought came to be highly regarded and he re-entered public life as a city prefect. Later, Chu Hsi indicted a number of high officials for misconduct in public office. A corrupt relative of the emperor mounted a campaign against Chu Hsi and his school, and he and his philosophy were driven from the public scene. A few years after Chu Hsi’s death, the corrupt relative also died and Chu’s work was honored again. In the next century it became the orthodox philosophy on which state exams for the civil service were based until the Twentieth Century.





The Rule of Existence


1   Human nature is the all-comprehensive substance of the supreme ultimate, and in its essence is indefinable; but within it are innumerable principles which are summed up in four leading comprehensive principles. To these, then, the names love, righteousness, reverence, and wisdom are given.


2   "Heaven in giving birth to the multitudes of the people so ordained it that inherent in every single thing there is its rule of existence.'' This means that at the very time when a particular man is born, heaven has already decreed for him his nature. This nature is simply law; as it is received by man it is called human nature. 


3   For heaven and man are one, the subjective and objective are one law, flowing and permeating in organic union so that there is no separating barrier. Not to realize this means that though living in the universe we are ignorant of the law of that universe's existence: though possessed of the form and countenance of a man, we are ignorant of the very principles which make us to be man. 


4   Moral law is human nature, and human nature is moral law. It is true, these two are one and the same thing; but we need to understand why the term nature is used, and why the term moral law is used.

    "Human nature is law." Subjectively it is human nature, objectively it is law.

    The principle of life is termed human nature.

    Human nature consists of innumerable principles produced by heaven.

    Human nature consists of substantive principles: love, righteousness, reverence, and wisdom are all included in it. 



Law, Nature and Feelings


5   Human nature is the law of the mind; the feelings are human nature in action; and the mind is the ruler of human nature and feelings. 


6   In the dictum, "The decree of heaven is what is termed human nature," the decree is like a document containing instructions from a superior; human nature is official duty, such as the keeping of records or the settling of accounts, or the work of a district military officer or constable; the mind is the officer himself; the physical element is the disposition shown by the officer, whether lenient or violent; the feelings correspond to his sitting in court and judging cases. The feelings are thus the manifested operations; and human nature is love, righteousness, reverence, and wisdom. As to the statement that the decree of heaven and the physical element are bound up together: as soon as the decree of heaven exists, so soon does the physical element exist. They cannot be apart. If one is lacking, then nothing can be produced. 


7   In discussing human nature it is important first of all to know what kind of entity human nature is. Human nature as a matter of fact is formless; it consists of principles implanted in man's mind. Ch'eng Tzu put it well when he said, "Human nature is law." Now if we regard it as law, then surely it is without form or similitude. It is nothing but this single principle. In man love, righteousness, reverence, and wisdom are human nature, but what form or shape have they? They are principles only. It is because of such principles that men's manifold deeds are done. It is because of them that we are capable of solicitude, that we can be ashamed of wrong-doing, that we can be courteous, and can distinguish between right and wrong. Take as an illustration the nature of drugs, some have cooling and some heating properties. But in the drug itself you cannot see the shape of these properties: it is only by the result which follows upon taking the drug that you know what its property is; and this constitutes its nature. It is so with love, righteousness, reverence, and wisdom. According to Mencius these four principles have their root in the mind. When, for example, he speaks of a solicitous mind, he attributes feeling to the mind. 


8   Shao Yao Fu said, "Human nature is the concrete expression of moral order, and the mind is the enclosure of human nature." This is well said, for moral order in itself is without concrete expression; it finds it in human nature. But if there were no mind where could human nature be? There must be mind to receive human nature and carry it into operation; for the principles contained in human nature are love, righteousness, reverence, and wisdom, and they are real principles. We of the Confucian school regard human nature as real. Buddhists regard it as unreal. To define human nature as the mind, as is done so frequently in these days, is incorrect. It is essential first to understand our terms and then proceed to definition. If we point to that which possesses consciousness as human nature, we are speaking of what is really the mind. 


9   Yesterday evening it was said that human nature consists of the processes of creation and transformation. This is not correct; creation and transformation are material processes, while law, by which creation and transformation proceed, is immaterial.



Good and Evil


10   Moral law is simply the comprehensive term for the cardinal principles and must not be regarded as their operation. Love, righteousness, reverence, wisdom, and sincerity are principles, and moral law unites them in one comprehensive term. 


11   The original nature, it is true, is the all-comprehensive perfect goodness apart from any comparison with evil. This is what is imparted to me by heaven. But the practice of it rests with man, and then it is that you have evil in addition to good. Conduct in accord with this original nature is good. Conduct out of accord with it is evil. How can it be said that the good is not man's original nature? It is in man's conduct that the distinction arises, but the good conduct is the outcome of the original nature.


12   "Our nature is originally good. It is only after it has been acted upon by external influences that it may lose its poise and fall into evil." Such passages we may verify by reference to ourselves, and need not question them. Their proof lies in the fact that we have constantly to watch and keep guard over ourselves with reference to those things acting upon us in the direction of good or evil. 


13   In regard to these two, therefore, we must use the utmost discrimination and singleness, and so make the altruistic and invariably good the perpetual master of our entire personality and of all our conduct, while the selfish and potentially evil must be allowed no place in our lives. Then, in everything we do and say, there will be no need to choose between excess and shortcoming: it will spontaneously and unfailingly accord with the Mean


14   The reason why ordinary men fail in steadfastness, however, is not because human nature was originally defective, but because its love has been violated by self-absorption, its righteousness has been injured by calculating cleverness, and so the feelings are beclouded and feverish anxiety prevails. They do not think of turning upon themselves and eliminating the evil, but fix their attention upon hatred of external things as their object, and seek illumination in solitude. The result is that the more they toil and expend their energy, the more beclouded is the illuminating principle within them, and they are all the more feverishly anxious and self-ignorant. 


15   In my opinion what is called "human desire" is exactly the opposite of "divine law". You can say that human desire exists because of divine law, but to say that it is divine law is wrong. For originally there is no human desire in divine law. It is from the deviation in the latter's flow that human desire originates.


16   But in our daily affairs there needs to be ethical nurture, so that when the time comes for action we may act intelligently. If we act hastily and without self-control, delaying preparation until it is too late, then by sheer neglect we fail to keep pace with events.


17   Good and evil, truth and error, activity and repose, the antecedent and the sequent, the former and the latter, all receive their names from their mutual opposition. Apart from its contrast with evil, good cannot be predicated of anything. Apart from its opposition to activity, repose cannot be predicated of anything. If a thing cannot be false, then neither can it be true, and there is nothing of which these things can be predicated at all. Now, if the goodness of human nature has no real existence for us, it follows that there is no such thing as evil. And so with truth, if it does not exist there is no such thing as error. To predicate repose implies activity. Therefore, to say that neither good and evil, nor truth and error, nor activity and repose—nor indeed any relative terms—can be used to define human nature, but that transcending these relative terms there is another absolute good and absolute repose, which alone can be regarded as representing the mystery of nature as imparted by heaven, is surely very strange!



The Physical Element


18   Some one asked whether when the physical element is not good it can be changed or not; to which the Master replied: it must be changed and converted, as when it is said, "If another man succeed by one effort the noble man will use a hundred efforts; if another man succeed by ten efforts he will use a thousand. Thus, though dull he will surely become intelligent, though weak he will surely become strong." 


19   For in the production of things by heaven, while there is no diversity in law, the physical element as received by men and things varies; hence mind differs in the degree of its intelligence, and human nature differs in the degree of its completeness. As to love, of which you speak, it is the head of the four virtues; it is not another entity outside human nature, and parallel to it. In man alone, however, is the mind perfectly spiritual, so that he can perfect love, righteousness, reverence, and wisdom and manifest them as feelings of solicitude, conscientiousness, courtesy, and moral insight.


20   "When the mind is fixed, importance is attached to calmness of speech." The meaning of this statement is speech is the outcome of the mind. If the mind be fixed there will be careful discrimination in the use of language, with the result that it will carry the accent of assurance, and will be calm and deliberate. When the mind is not fixed, confusion prevails within, while language flows forth without previous thought, and is shallow and hasty in consequence. This, too, is the fruit of the action of the will upon the physical element. 





21   Although human nature is formless it consists of concrete principles. Although the mind is a distinct entity, it too is formless and therefore can contain innumerable principles. It is desirable that people should examine this for themselves, and so arrive at the truth.

    Human nature is essentially without form, but consists of concrete principles. The mind is as though it had form, but its substance is really formless.

    Human nature consists of the concrete principles contained in the mind. The mind is the seat of the assemblage of those principles.

    Human nature is law. The mind is the receptacle which holds and stores the principles of human nature, the agent which distributes and sets them in operation.


22   Wu Feng said, "Truth is the ethical principle of the decree, the Mean is the ethical principle of human nature, love is the ethical principle of the mind." This statement is excellent in its discrimination. I would, however, prefer the word "virtue" to "ethical principle" as more apt. The expression "ethical principle" does not perfectly fit the meaning. 


23   Back through the countless ages of the past, or forward through the unknown periods of future time, my thought reaches to the end of them the very moment it proceeds from my mind. It is unfathomable in its spiritual intelligence, most intangible, most spiritual and marvelous in its orderliness! And yet, though there is no one who does not possess this mind, most men know only the desire for gain, till the mind becomes completely submerged in it. At home or abroad, all that they seek is pleasure and self-indulgence; their every thought, the moment it is born, is of these things. 


24   When there is selfish thought, obstruction arises between the subject and object. We see only ourselves, and everything external is regarded as having no relation to the self. Such is egoism. 


25   The mind that is perfected is like a clear mirror which is free from blemishes. If you look into a mirror with patches which do not reflect, the effect will be that your own person appears blotchy. In the present day the conduct of many is marred by a number of follies and blemishes because their vision of themselves is imperfect. The mind is essentially formless spirit: all laws are complete within it, and all phenomena come within the sphere of its knowledge. In these days people are for the most part perverted by their physical nature, and beclouded by creaturely desire. Thus their minds are darkened and they are unable to perfect knowledge. 


26   Let the mind go, so that it may be broad and tranquil; and it will be enlarged. Do not let it be prepossessed by the divisive influence of selfish thought, and it will be enlarged. With the mind enlarged it naturally follows that there will be no hastiness; if we meet with calamity there will be no fear; if we meet with prosperity there will be no exultation; for in a very little while calamity may give place to prosperity, and prosperity to calamity. 


27   The mind is the agent by which man rules his body. It is one and not divided. It is subject and not object. It controls the external world and is not its slave. Therefore, with the mind we contemplate external objects, and so discover the principles of the universe.


28   Is there any connection between bodily movements and the mind? How can it be otherwise? It is the mind which causes bodily movements. . . When there are no stirrings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy, it is the mind which has not as yet put forth its activity. The movements of the hand and foot are purely bodily movements. 


29   Human nature is that which precedes activity, the feelings follow activity; and the mind includes both the pre-active and the post-active states. For the mind's pre-active state is human nature, and its post-active state is feeling, as is expressed in the saying: "The mind unites human nature and the feelings." Desire is feeling in its manifestation. The mind is like water, human nature is the stillness of water at rest, feeling is the flow of water, and desires are the waves. But waves are good and bad. So with desires: there are good desires, as when "I desire virtue"; and there are evil desires that rush out precipitately like wild and boisterous waves. 



Perfecting the Mind


30   The essence of Confucian teaching is to put the investigation of principles first, because each individual thing has its own law. This must be first understood, and then the phenomena of the mind will be seen to have in each case a standard by which their character may be estimated. 


31   "To perfect the mind" means "to investigate things", "to study exhaustively the laws of the universe " and "to be possessed of a wide and far-reaching penetration", and so to have that by means of which we may develop to their utmost extent the principles inherent in the mind. 


32   The teaching of the sages is that with the mind we exhaustively investigate principles, and by following these principles we determine our attitudes to external things, just as the body uses the arm, and the arm the hand. Their doctrine is even and clear, their attitude broad and calm, their principles real, and the practice of them spontaneous. 


34   The expressions "guard your mind" and "make the mind true" do not mean that we are to be immersed in a condition of no-thought; but that we should be constantly on the watch, think upon what we ought to think upon, and not violate moral principles.

    In the "investigation of things" and "perfecting of knowledge", even though the response to environment be natural and easy, how can there be neglect of thought when approaching any matter? And still more, when we have not attained to that condition, how can we fail to exercise repeated thought?



Preserving the Mind


35   The practice of righteousness is by the operation of love, therefore the student must constantly preserve this aspect of mind; thus only will he be able thoroughly to estimate the principles of things. If not, there will be no controlling faculty in the mind, and he will be unable to estimate right and wrong or to fulfill his duty in life. This is why the school of Confucius always puts the pursuit of love first. For love is the source of all things and the foundation of all things, and therefore the understanding and nurture of love must be put before everything else; then only shall we secure our starting point.


36   If, at. this moment, I am doing anything, I must put my whole heart into it to be satisfactory—I am not, of course, speaking of bad things. If I am studying the Analects and my mind is on Mencius, how can I understand what I read? We shall never succeed in anything we do if while doing it the mind is on something else.

    Seriousness includes the idea of apprehension.

    When one is occupied about something, the mind is concentrated on that one thing; when one is not occupied with anything, the mind is clear. 


37   To preserve the mind we must not be overcome by selfish desire, we must apply ourselves with energy to everything requiring our attention. We must not allow ourselves to be led away by external things, but keep an extremely watchful guard. If we continually preserve our minds, then, in dealing with all affairs, "although we may not hit the center of the target, we shall not be far from it." Anxious thought and inward distraction are because we are unable to preserve the mind. When we fail to preserve the mind, we are unable to see what we ought to see, or hear what we ought to hear. 


38   Men have only one mind; it is not reasonable to divide it in so many directions. If you give only spare scraps of time to the proper use of the mind, to what good will it lead ? It does not help the original object of study in any sense. . . But to attain to "making the desires few" and to "preserve this mind" are extremely difficult. Even of the wise ones, T'ang and Wu, Mencius says that they were what they were "by conversion ". Conversion means to return; that is, to return and receive again the original mind. For example, the passage which says T'ang "did not come within the sound of lewd music, nor approach dissolute women, nor seek to accumulate property or money" means simply that his desire was to preserve this original mind. 


39   When Mencius speaks of "preserving "and "losing ", "outgoing" and "incoming", his meaning surely is that the mind should be held fast and preserved; for one must suppose that he did not use such expressions with the idea merely that the mind should be understood. If we can constantly hold fast and preserve it, then the reverent care. . .will be perfect. If this is perfect it will be the same whether in activity or inactivity, and the mind will be continually preserved. . .The master Ming Tan said, "If we can enter into things with joy, we need not fear inability to guard the mind." We must adopt this attitude; only thus will our position be unassailable, without flaw, and free from vitiating errors. 


40   The mind is a unity. What is called "intelligence" is also the mind. The idea of seeking the mind and using the mind by means of "intelligence", feverishly trying to get hold of it in various ways, I fear is a mistake. Not only is it exactly like pulling up the young corn [in a misguided attempt to make it grow taller], but, in itself, it is not so good as to be guided by reverent care in daily life and never to lose sight of it. There naturally the real mind will be unclouded; when acted upon by external things it will penetrate them, and be "intelligent" with respect to everything without waiting to be made so. Therefore Confucius spoke of self-mastery and return to right principle and not of making oneself intelligent or exercising reverent care. Mencius speaks only of holding fast and preserving the mind, or of letting go and losing it, and does not say that it is by intelligence it is preserved and by unintelligence it is lost. The Master Hsieh, although he liked to define love in terms of consciousness, nevertheless did not speak of being conscious of the mind, but said, "The mind must have consciousness." 





41   To-day we shall endeavor to understand what is the meaning of the word "love". Wise men of the past expounded it frequently, one in one way and another in another. Their use of words and the meanings attached to them differ, but when we have definitely ascertained what the meaning is in each case, and when we have collected together and carefully examined their statements—scattered as they are like the stars—we shall find that this is the invariable interpretation, and that it is everywhere consistent. In the definition of love as "The principle of affection and the virtue of the mind ", which is given in the Collected Comments, affection is solicitude, and solicitude is feeling; its principle is love. In the phrase, "The virtue of the mind," virtue, again, is simply affection, because the reason why love is called the virtue of the mind is that it is the source of affection. 


42   The statement, "Love is the principle of affection," regards love as divided into four. Love is the principle of affection; affection for men or for other creatures is the manifestation of this principle. Righteousness is the principle of obligation, reverence is the principle of respectfulness, wisdom is the principle of moral discrimination. Principles are invisible: it is from affection, the sense of obligation, respectfulness, and moral insight, that we know that there are the principles love, righteousness, reverence, and wisdom in the mind—what are termed the virtues of the mind. But this ability of love thus to include the four virtues is in its pervading operation, in what is called, "preserving in union the conditions of great harmony." Love is a principle of life. To be without love is to be dead. Man is never without love, it is simply clouded by selfish desire. When he "masters self and returns to right principle", love is still found to be present. 


43   It is manifest that we should use our efforts in all kinds of virtuous conduct, but how are we to ascertain what they are? All kinds of virtuous conduct are summed up in the five cardinal virtues—love, righteousness, reverence, wisdom, sincerity—and the five cardinal virtues are summed up in love. Therefore Confucius and Mencius simply taught men to seek love. To seek love is to make seriousness the ruling principle, and thus to seek the lost mind. If we can do this we shall have found the truth.


44   When, having thus clearly understood love, we come to practice it, we must "master self and return to right principle." When we go abroad "we must behave to everyone as if we were receiving an honored guest, we must employ people as if assisting at a great sacrifice, and we must not do to others what we would not wish done to ourselves." This is to practice love. 


45   To say that when selfish desire is absent we have love is allowable, but to say that the absence of selfish desire is love is incorrect. For it is simply that when selfish desire is absent love is made manifest, just as when there is nothing to choke the channel water can flow freely. 


46   To-day, upon investigating the gracious teaching of wise men of the past, we find that their aim was that men should practice it in their own person and act in accord with its doctrine, cultivate inward rectitude and conquer selfishness, make all forms of frivolity, meanness, self-exaltation, and contempt of others dissolve into nothingness, and that we should preserve and never lose the honest and kindly, just and upright character of our original mind. This is love. Practice and effort in it may differ according to its degree in each man's disposition, but the important thing is in energetic practice to reach ripe maturity. 


47   Altruism is without feeling, love has the feeling of affection. Altruism pertains to law, and love pertains to personality. What is altruism but "the mastery of self and the return to right principle" with the elimination of every atom of selfishness? What is love but "attachment to parents, love of the people, and kindness to other creatures"? 



Love and Righteousness


48   Love contains the idea of flowing movement and activity put forth, but its operation is tender and gentle. Righteousness contains the idea of deliberation as to what is in accord with right, but its operation is decisive and distinct. 


49   Love is simply the flowing forth; righteousness lies in its obligation to flow in a particular direction. Like water, the flowing movement of which is love, the flow as in rivers, or in the collection in pools and ponds, is righteousness. The feeling of solicitude is love, the difference in the varying degrees of affection due to parents, to brothers, to neighbors, and to friends and acquaintances, is righteousness. Again, respectfulness is but one, but there are many different ways of showing respect, dependent upon whether it is accorded to the sovereign, or to elders, or to sages. So also with reverence. 


50   Again, take a home with ten families: that every father is tender to his son, and every son filial to his father, and the neighbors all respect them, is as it should be. The tenderness and the filialness are love; that each son is affectionate to his own father, and each father tender to his own child is righteousness. These things cannot be separated. In its outflow it is love, but in the very moment that love is called into movement there are present righteousness, reverence, and wisdom. It is not that when love comes into operation righteousness remains behind to be set free after a little while. In a word, it is one principle, but with many well-marked distinctions. 


51   Seeing that love is the principle of affection, it is evident, that righteousness is the principle of obligation, because both are the original substance preceding the manifestation, and affection and duty are their operation.


52   Love and reverence are centrifugal and give out. Righteousness is stern and incisive, wisdom stores up, as a man stores up many things in his mind so that they are invisible, and the greater his wisdom the more deeply are they stored. This accords exactly with the passage in the Yi: "In representing the law of heaven they used the terms 'negative' and 'positive', in representing the law of Earth they used the terms 'weak' and 'strong', in representing the law of man they used the terms 'love' and 'righteousness'." The commentators as a rule regard love as weak and righteousness as strong; but this is a mistake, it is love that is strong and righteousness weak. For the movement of love is outward, and so is inflexible and forceful; righteousness gathers in, its movement is inward, and so appears externally as weak. 


53   The important point is that love cannot exhaust the whole meaning of moral law. Moral law is universally diffused in all things; love cannot exhaust it, but it can and does imply it in its full substantive meaning. If we know the positive we know the negative; if we know love we know righteousness. When we know the one we know all the rest. 





54   Wisdom is still more incisive, its idea of gathering-in is still more prominent; for example, you know a thing to be true or you know it to be false. You know it and that ends it, it has no further function, differing in this respect from the other three. Wisdom knows, and then hands on the matter to the other three, solicitude, conscientiousness, and courtesy; so that its gathering-in quality is more keen even than that of righteousness. 


55   Reverence is the going forth of love, wisdom is the storing up of righteousness. If we extend this thought to men's natural dispositions, we shall find that the gentle and honest disposition is generally humble and courteous, while the man who knows everything is sharp and exacting. 



Solicitude, Sincerity, Seriousness


56   The feeling of solicitude is solicitude from beginning to end; the other three [of the four feelings or terminals] are solicitude in the beginning but end as conscientiousness, courtesy and moral insight respectively. Without solicitude these three are dead, because solicitude is the fountain-head from which the other three proceed.

    Love and reverence represent the idea of giving out life, righteousness and wisdom represent the idea of gathering in. 


57   In the "investigation of principles ", the principles are to be sought for in one's own person. They are none other than love, righteousness, reverence, and wisdom. Look at all the myriad transformations and you will find nothing without these four principles. You, sir, need only to examine the common affairs of daily life, and you will find that there is nothing without them. As to sincerity, it is so called as expressing the reality of the existence of the other four. Sincerity is reality, and reality means that a thing is. In terms of the substance, there really are love, righteousness, reverence, and wisdom. In terms of their operation, there really are solicitude, conscientiousness, respectfulness, and moral insight; it cannot be that they are counterfeit.. Search the universe and where can you find counterfeit love, counterfeit righteousness, counterfeit reverence, or counterfeit wisdom? Therefore sincerity is defined as the expression of the fact that they have a real existence and are not counterfeit. 


58   Someone asked: how is it that to the four virtues of human nature, another, sincerity, is added, the whole number being termed the five nature-principles? Sincerity gives reality to the four, so that love has a real existence, and righteousness has a real existence, and reverence and wisdom. 


59   Of these five, that which we term sincerity is the principle of reality. As in the case of love, righteousness, reverence, and wisdom, they are all real, with nothing false in them. Therefore there is no need to say anything further on the term sincerity. But there are differences between the other four terms which must be distinguished. For love is the principle of mild gentleness and kindly affection. Righteousness is the principle of' judgment and decision; reverence is the principle of respectfulness and reserve; wisdom is the principle of discrimination between right and wrong. The possession of the whole of these four is what constitutes the original substance of human nature. Before their going forth they are illimitable and invisible; after their going forth into operation, love becomes solicitude, righteousness conscientiousness, reverence respectfulness, and wisdom moral insight, manifesting themselves according to circumstances, each having its ramifications, but without confusion. These are what we term the feelings. 


60   Sincerity and seriousness are not identical. Sincerity is the principle of reality. It is to be the same whether before men's faces or behind their backs. In doing a thing, to do it perfectly is sincerity. If we do it partially, and talk exaggeratedly about how we will do it while all the time we are really indifferent as to whether we do it in this particular way or not—that is the opposite of sincerity. Seriousness is to be "cautious and apprehensive". 


61   Seriousness is apprehension, as if there were something feared. Sincerity is truth, and the utter absence of anything false. The meaning of the two words is different. The sentence, "Sincerity is followed by seriousness," means: when the motives are sincere the heart becomes upright. The sentence, "By seriousness we can attain to sincerity," means although the motives as yet are not sincere, yet by constant apprehensiveness we shall become afraid to allow self-deception, and so attain to sincerity. 


62    Sedateness has to do with demeanor, and seriousness with action. For the learner, seriousness has more force than sedateness, but from the point of view of the virtue attained to, sedateness has more of repose. 


63   When there is unfailing seriousness, the body will naturally assume a corresponding self-control, and it will not be necessary to wait while one deliberately settles oneself. The bodily posture will be easy and natural. If one requires consciously and deliberately to arrange one's posture, then, indeed, to continue in it long will be difficult and fatiguing. 



Inward and Outward Conduct


64   If in a time of solitary leisure I am affected by the external world and ought to respond in some particular way, but my mind remains rigidly and obstinately unresponsive, then, although there is the absence of corruption of my heart, the inaction is in itself out of accord with right principle. Or if I ought to respond to a certain phenomenon in a certain way, but I actually respond to it in a different way, then, although not necessarily proceeding from intentional selfishness, this alone is out of accord with right principle. Seeing that it is out of accord with right principle, what is it if it is not a form of corruption? We must not depend solely on rectitude and carefulness for preservation and nurture of the mind, thinking that if I preserve the mind in this way, there will be no corruption of my heart. On the contrary, we must bear in mind that it is possible for carefulness to fail through anxieties and distractions, and pave the way for falseness and corruption. 


65   If we compare the statements of the saints and sages from early times to the Ch'eng school, all would put neatness in dress and gravity of demeanor first for one beginning his study. For this must be first attained to, and after that the mind is preserved, and lapse into corruption of the heart guarded against; as is said in the Yi: "Guarding against corruption he preserves his sincerity." Ch'eng Tu's saying, "By control of outward conduct he nourished his heart," is just this idea. But we must not go off to an extreme and sink in the slough of externals, such as ceremonies and fancy clothing. 





Adapted from The Philosophy of Human Nature by Chu Hsi, translated by J. Percy Bruce. Probsthain & Co., London, 1922.


A biography of Chu Hsi and a description of his era is contained in Learning to be a Sage by Chu Hsi, translated by Daniel K. Gardener. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1990.