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YANG CHU said:
"The world praises Shun-Yu, Duke Chow, and Confucius, and condemns Chieh and Chow. Now Shun had to plough in Ho-yang and to burn tiles in Lei-tse. His four limbs had no p. 55 rest, and rich food and warm clothing were unknown to him.
"His parents and his kinsfolk did not love him, and his brothers and sisters did not bear him affection.
"In his thirtieth year he was obliged to marry without telling his parents.
"When he received the empire from Yao he was already an old man and his mental powers were declining. His son Shang-Chun having no talents, he left the imperial dignity to Yü. Still he had to toil and slave till he died.
"Of all mortals he was the most pitiable and miserable.
"Kun's services in regulating the water and earthworks being impracticable, he was put to death on Mount Yu Shan.
"Yü, his son, continued his task, served his enemy, and spent all his energy on the earthworks. When a son was born to him he could not take him in his arms, nor in passing his door did he enter. His whole body became withered, his hands and feet hardened by toil. When Shun yielded the empire to him he still lived in a small house and wore only an elegant sash and a coronet. He also had to toil and slave till he died. Of all mortals he was the most overworked and fatigued.
"When King Yü died Cheng was still of tender age, and Duke Chow became Prince Regent.
"The Duke of Chow was dissatisfied, and spread evil rumours about Chow throughout the empire. Chow stayed three years in the east, caused his elder brother to be beheaded and his younger to be banished, and nearly lost his own life. Till he died he had to toil and slave.
"Of all mortals, he was the most menaced and terrorised.
"Confucius was well acquainted with the principles of the old emperors. He accepted the invitations of the princes of his time. But a tree was felled over him in Sung and his footprints were wiped out in Wei. In Shang and Chow he came to distress, was assaulted in Chen and Tsai, humiliated by Chi and insulted by Yang-hu.
"Till he died he had to toil and slave.
"Of all mortals he was the most harassed and worried.
"All these four sages, while alive, had not one day's pleasure, and after their death a reputation lasting many years.
"Yet reputation cannot bring back reality.
"You praise them and they do not know it, and you honour them and they are not aware of it. There is now no distinction between them and a clod of earth.
"Chieh availed himself of the wealth of many generations, and attained to the honour of facing south as king. His wisdom was sufficient to p. 57 restrain his many subjects, and his power great enough to shake the land within the four seas. He indulged in what was agreeable to his eyes and ears, and fulfilled his heart's desires. He was gay and merry till death.
"Of all mortals he was the most reckless and dissipated.
"Chow also availed himself of the wealth of many generations, and became King.
"Everything yielded to his will.
"Abandoning himself to his desires through the long night, he indulged in debauchery in his seraglio. Nor did he embitter his life with propriety and righteousness.
"He was merry and gay till he was put to death.
"Of all mortals he was the most licentious and extravagant.
"These two villains while alive took delight in following their own inclination and desires, and after death were called fools and tyrants. Yet reality is nothing that can be given by reputation.
"Ignorant of censure and unconscious of praise, they differed in no respect from the stump of a tree or a clod of earth.
"The four sages, though objects of admiration, were troubled up to their very end, and were equally and alike doomed to die.
"The two villains, though detested and hated by many, remained in high spirits up to the very end, and they too were equally doomed to die."