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The Tao Teh King: A Short Study in Comparative Religion, by C. Spurgeon Medhurst, [1905], at

p. 122


Why use death as a deterrent, when the people have no fear of death?

Even supposing they shrank from death as from a monster, and by playing on their terror I could slay them, should I dare? 1

There is one who inflicts sentence of death. To usurp his functions and to kill would be to assume the role of the Master-Carpenter. There are few who can act as master-carpenter without cutting their hands. 2

Dr. Hartmann, of Leipzig, comments as follows on this chapter in the Lotusblüthen: "The death penalty as a deterrent measure is a legacy from an ignorant generation. That which incites men to action cannot be killed. The evil inclination toward crime when driven from the body by execution is only thereby made still more generally harmful, because it again influences others, and leads them to perform similar deeds to those for which the execution took place. Moreover, through suffering the wrong of execution desires for retaliation are aroused in the soul of the executed, and in this way he is made more dangerous than before. What is the use of destroying the tool, while the ringleader is beyond reach? It will be easy for him to find another instrument. What is the use of banishing the evil from the house, when it can readily find another dwelling? Better

p. 123

endeavor to reform the criminal, by bringing him to a better conception of things, and in this way transform the evil into a good spirit."


122:1 Mr. Thos. Kingsmill's translation is illuminative—"With folk who have no fear of death, what object is there in making its apprehension a deterrent? How should we dare to apprehend and to execute people who dread death as the greatest terror?"

122:2 Cf. chap. 30.

Cf. a saying by Confucius; he is expounding the fundamental principle of all Chinese law, the veneration of the inferior for the superior, an idea which bas strong affinities with the philosophy of the ancient Greeks. "Why when governing, depend on capital punishment? Seek righteousness and the people will be righteous. The relation between the rulers and the ruled is like that between the wind and the grass. The grass must bend when the wind blows across it." Confucian Analects, xii, 19.

Next: Chapter LXXV