'Horses' and 'Hoofs' are the first two characters of the Text, standing there in the relation of regent and regimen. The account of the teaching of the Book given by Lin Hsî-kung is so concise that I will avail myself of it. He says:--
'Governing men is like governing horses. They may be governed in such a way as shall be injurious to them, just as Po-lâo governed the horse;--contrary to its true nature. His method was not different from that of the (first) potter and carpenter in dealing with clay and wood;--contrary to the nature of those substances. Notwithstanding this, one age after another has celebrated the skill of those parties;--not knowing what it is that constitutes the good and skilful government of men. Such government simply requires that men be made to fulfil their regular constant nature,--the qualities which they all possess in common, with which they are constituted by Heaven, and then be left to themselves. It was this which constituted the age of perfect virtue; but when the sages insisted on the practice of benevolence, righteousness, ceremonies, and music, then the people began to be without that perfect virtue. Not that they were in themselves different from what they had been, but those practices do not really belong to their regular nature; they arose from their neglecting the characteristics of the Tâo, and abandoning their natural constitution; it was the case of the skilful artisan cutting and hacking his raw materials in order to form vessels from them. There is no ground for doubting that Po-lâo's management of horses gave them that knowledge with which they went on to play the part of thieves, or that it was the sages' government of the people which made them devote themselves to the pursuit of gain;--it is impossible to deny the error of those sages.
'There is but one idea in the Book from the beginning to the end;--it is an amplification of the expression in the preceding Book that "all men have their regular and constant
constitution," and is the most easily construed of all Kwang-dze's compositions. In consequence, however, of the wonderful touches of his pencil in describing the sympathy between men and other creatures in their primal state, some have imagined that there is a waste and embellishment of language, and doubted whether the Book is really his own, but thought it was written by some one in imitation of his style. I apprehend that no other hand would easily have attained to such a mastery of that style.'
There is no possibility of adjudicating definitely on the suspicion of the genuineness of the Book thus expressed in Hsî-kung's concluding remarks. The same suspicion arose in my own mind in the process of translation. My surprise continues that our author did not perceive the absurdity of his notions of the primal state of men, and of his condemnation of the sages.