Category Archives: Logos (λόγος)

鵬程萬里

原: 莊子, 逍遙遊/1 中

鵬程萬里 (붕정만리, péng chéng wànlǐ, ほうてい-ばんり) big bird / jouney / ten thousand / miles

A large bird travels ten thousand miles.

Jang-ja (莊子, 字: 周) of Taoist school (道家) during the Warring States period wrote the following narrative in his Enjoyment in Untroubled Ease (逍遙遊):

There is a large fish named Gon (鯤) living near a corner of the North Sea. It is not known how many ri (approx. a quarter mile) in length it is. It transforms into a bird called Bung (鵬). The size of Bung is also not known. When it spreads its wings to fly, it covers the clouds of the sky with its wings, and it stirs water of the sea. It can fly from one end of the North Sea to the other end of South Sea in one breath. According to a story by Jehae (齊諧) it rides over the whirlwind of 3,000 ri and travels 90,000 ri without a rest, and then folds its wings in to take a rest.

Jang-ja had envisioned a world where both nature and self become one in harmony (物我一體). He had mentioned this bird to metaphorically describe the appearance of a great person who moves around in the freedom of an ideal world that goes beyond the mundane.

From the mention of this, we have words like bung-gon (鵬鯤), or gon-bung (鯤鵬) which signifies something large that is beyond what anyone can imagine. And bung-bae (鵬背: the back of Bung), or bung-ik (鵬翼: the wing of Bung) are used to refer to anything that is very large. Bung-ik is often used to describe airplanes. And words like bung-bak (鵬搏: the flapping of Bung’s wings), bung-bi (鵬飛: the flying of Bung), bung-geo (鵬擧: the rousing of Bung) all describes an act or spirit of achieving something with a great effort or initiative. Bung-do (鵬圖: the picture of Bung) means a great plan or aspiration.

人無遠慮 必有近憂

原: 論語, 衛靈公
子曰:「人無遠慮,必有近憂。」

人無遠慮 必有近憂 (인무원려 필유근우,rén wúyuǎnlǜ bì yǒu jìn yōu,ひとぶえんりょしんゆうきんゆう)
If a person does not think far ahead, then he will inevitably experience worries nearby.

This is similar to a saying, “One ought to think deeply of what may happen in the future (深謀遠慮)” from The Critique of Jin (過秦論), an essay written by Ga-eui (賈誼).

Related to this saying, there is a Korean narrative about a civil official (文臣) named Heo Jong (許琮) during the reign of King Seong-jong (成宗) of Joseon dynasty. The Queen Consort was found to be temperamental and was eventually deposed. (She is known as the Deposed Queen Yun (廢妃 尹氏) to this day in Korea.) With the increased pressure from officials, she was later sentenced to death by poisoning. In order to draft this decree to poison (賜死) the deposed Queen, King Seong-jong had summoned all court officials (群臣會議). Heo Jong was a Right Minister (右贊成) at the time, so he had to attend the meeting as well.

While on his way to the royal court, he visited his older sister’s house, and his sister said to him, “How could anyone attend a meeting to poison the Queen? I’m troubled by this. If, at a commoner’s house, the servants gathered to participate in the poisoning of the lady of the house, and her son becomes the head of the household later, what would happen to those servants? How could there be no trouble in the future for them?” He came to realize this, and while passing a bridge, he intentionally fell from the bridge. He excused himself from the meeting due to injuries, and returned home.

Just as his sister had predicted, when King Yeonsan (燕山君) came into power and found out about his mother’s death, he unleashed his wrath against all those involved in the infamous purge of 1504 (甲子士禍). Since then, people started calling that bridge, from which Heo Jong fell, “The Bridge where Heo Jong Fell (琮琛橋)”.

A marker stone over where the bridge was stands in front of Se-yang Building, in Jongro-gu Naeja-dong, Seoul

創業守成

原: 唐書, 房玄齡傳; 觀政要, 君道; 資治通鑑, 等等

創業守成 (창업수성,chuàngyè shǒuchéng,そうぎょう-しゅせい) start [of] work, maintain or protect / act of
Short form of 易創業難守成, which means the start of a work is easy, but maintaining it is difficult.

During a chaotic time, near the end of Su (隋) dynasty, Yi Yeon (李淵) and Yi Se-min (李世民), who were father and son, raised an army to defeat Emperor Gong (恭帝) of Su and founded the Tang (唐) dynasty in 618 AD.

In 626, King Tae-jong (太宗), named Yi Se-min, succeeded his father, King Go-jo (高祖), named Yi Yeon, and ushered in an age of great prosperity (盛世) under the era name of Jeong-gwan (貞觀之治, 627-649). He unified the country, expanded the territory, guarded against extravagance, stabilized the economy, recruited talents from abroad, and helped to develop the academia and the culture of the country. He became the model king for subsequent kings to follow.

Such Jeong-gwan rule was possible not only because of King Tae-jong’s abilities, but around him were wise retainers such as Du Yeo-hui (杜如晦) who was known for his decisiveness; Bang Hyeon-ryeong (房玄齡), recognized for his planning skills; and Wi Jing (魏徵), known for his upright character.

One day, King Tae-jong asked his retainers, “Between starting a business, and maintaining that business, which is more difficult?”
Bang Hyeon-ryeong replied, “Starting a business can only be achieved by only successful person among many rival leaders that spring up everywhere, so I would say starting is more difficult.”
Wi Jing gave a different reply, “From the old days, the position of a monarch is finally obtained after going through much hardships, however it is easily lost in complacency. Therefore, I think protecting and maintaining is more difficult.”
King Tae-jong nodded, and said, “Duke Bang had to risk his own life with me to gain the whole world, and that’s why he said starting a work is more difficult. Duke Wi has always been cautious against pride and extravagance for the prosperity and the welfare of people (國泰民安), and also against complacency which causes calamity and chaos (禍亂). And that’s why he has said protecting and maintaining is more difficult. Since the difficulties of a start has come to an end, I shall now focus on maintaining with you.”

傷時歌

As recorded in the Royal Annals of Joseon dynasty, June 19, 1625:

傷時歌

嗟爾勳臣
毋庸自誇
爰處其窓
乃占其田
且乘其馬
又行其事
爾與其人
顧何異哉

Lamentation over the current state of affairs

We lament over thee, royal officials
Do not boast about yourselves
You live in their houses
You took over their lands
You ride on their horses
You do what they did
[Between] you and them
[Looking over] what difference are there?

暴虎馮河

原: 論語, 述而/11
子謂顏淵曰:「用之則行,舍之則藏,唯我與爾有是夫!」
子路曰:「子行三軍,則誰與?」
子曰:「暴虎馮河,死而無悔者,吾不與也。必也臨事而懼,好謀而成者也。」

暴虎馮河 (포호빙하,bào hǔ píng hé,ぼうこ-ひょうが) hit with bare hands / tiger / walk across water / river
Attack a tiger with bare hands and cross a river without anything.

One day, Gong-ja said to his disciple An-yeon (顏淵: 顏回), “Doing the right thing when appointed to an office, and living contently in seclusion when abandoned, are these things only you and I are capable of doing? Gong-ja said this because An-yeon was one of his favorites among over 3,000 disciples. An-yeon was both virtuous and studious, and Gong-ja even fell into a deep despair when he later died at the age of only 31. Gong-ja was praising him with such a comment.

Then, Jaro (仲由), hearing this, became little jealous and asked Gong-ja, “If you were to lead a great army (三軍), who would you have on your side?” Jaro asked this question because he felt himself to be more brave than many. He was sure that Gong-ja would pick him, but the reply was that Gong-ja would not be with someone would be so rash to attack a tiger with bare hands and cross a river without anything. He would rather have someone who thinks deeply about the action to take, and then succeeds in execution of the plan. Gong-ja replied this way to warn him against being rash.

Gong-ja taught it’s difficult to accomplish anything without a good plan, and it can also become prone to failure without being cautious. Jaro became silent at this point.

On the use of word 子 (Son) as an honorific

A passing thought around the use of 子 as a form of honorific: In the Bible, we have the Hebrew conception of the son of man (ben-adam), often applied to Jesus in the New Testament. From a Christian theological perspective, that is used to emphasize a part of his identity as a man, with a respect. In Literary Sinitic, the character for son (子) is used as a form of honorific as in 孔子, 莊子, 荀子, 孫子, etc. There’s also the superlative honorific form 夫子 as in 孔夫子. It is usually applied to an accomplished teacher who has created a new school of thought, or to someone who has simply left a legacy or scholarly works deserving respect. Anyway, I found it interesting that in both, this word, “son,” is used to denote respect. Of course, by its very nature of the meaning of the word, there’s the sense of continuity and connection to our own early forefathers, thereby also implying another form of horizontal connection between the teacher in question and the rest — that we are all related as a big family. The emphasis on personhood seems somewhat related to the concept behind the use of the word 仁, which is often taught as the very core of Confucianism. The etymology may be related to two characters representing person as in 人人, which says a person ought to be a person, in qualitative terms. Again, the main point here is not a mere person, but a virtuous person. Even the Latin root word, vir, from which we have virtue, means a man, or a person. It’s essentially saying the same thing as 人人 is. I don’t know if we have a continuity of such understanding in the use of these words in modernity, but it’d be interesting to find any culture that may have continued in this type of tradition.

有坐之器

原: 孔子家語, 三恕/4 中
孔子曰:吾聞宥坐之器,虛則欹,中則正,滿則覆。

有坐之器 (유좌지기,yǒuzuòzhīqì,ゆうざの-き), nearby [of] bowl
Moderation in all things. Heart should not be emptied nor be overflowing.

Gong-ja was visiting an ancestral shrine (祠堂) of Hwan-gong (桓公) of the country of Ju (周). Inside was a bowl (儀器) used in ritual ceremonies, and it was fixed in a way so that it could tilt freely. Gong-ja asked the keeper of the shrine, “What is this bowl for?”  And he replied, “It is a bowl you always look at nearby (有坐之器)”  At this, Gong-ja nodded and said, “I did hear about the bowl. It tilts to the side if it’s empty, and it stands upright only if it has just enough water, and if it’s completely filled, it would spill over.”

金城湯池

原: 武信君 蒯通傳, 史記, 後漢書 等等
金城湯池 (금성탕지,jīnchéng tāngchí,きんじょうとうち), metal fortress boiling pond
A word to refer to an impregnable place or thing

Emperor Si-hwang (始皇帝) of Jin (秦) had unified the kingdoms, but it started to decline soon after his death. The families (宗室) and those who had served (遺臣) in old kingdoms rose up to overthrow Jin. Many claimed to be a king in their own right, and the governing system of Jin (郡縣制) was being dismantled completely. It was during this time a man named Mu-sin (武信) had subdued the old territory of Jo (趙) and people called him Lord Mu-sin (武信君). Koi-tong (蒯通), an unappointed advisor (論客), saw all this take place, and told Seo-gong (徐公), a ruler (縣令) of Beom-yang (范陽), that the disgruntled people under his rule are about to rise up against him. Seo-gong asked what Koi-tong had in mind, and Koi-tong said that he will go to Lord Mu-sin and convince him that he should make a good example of how someone who surrenders to him would be treated by accepting your surrender, and treating you with extremely generosity. The logic was that if Seo-gong surrendered and he was treated poorly, other fortresses with become even more impregnable (金城湯池) in defending their places. So, that way, Lord Mu-sin will not suffer loss of war, and others will see how you were treated, and instead of suffering great losses themselves, they will find that it’s better to surrender. Seo-gong sent Koi-tong to Lord Mu-shin.  Lord-Mushin, amazed at the wisdom of Koi-tong, invited Seo-gong with the utmost respect and had him go abroad to tell people of this. People of Beom-yang was spared from a war, so they praised Seo-gong, and other regions hearing of this also surrendered to Lord Mu-sin.  It is said that over 30 fortresses had surrendered in the region of Hwa-buk (華北) alone.

良禽擇木

原: 春秋左傳, 哀公, 哀公十一年/2 中
曰,鳥則擇木,木豈能擇鳥

良禽擇木(양금택목,liáng qín zé mù,りょうきんたくぼく), good bird chooses tree

A wise person chooses a person or a place that recognizes and will help to cultivate his talents.

While Gong-ja (孔子) was staying in the country of Wi (衛) Gongmun-ja (孔文子, 孔圉) came to inquire him about his plans to attack Dae-suk-jil (大叔疾), but Gong-ja replied that he has learned about ancestral rites, but he know nothing about waging wars. Immediately, after, he told his disciples to get ready to leave Wi soon. Hearing about this, Gongmun-ja quickly came back to explain he didn’t have other ulterior motives and pleaded him to stay. At this, Gong-ja decided to stay longer, but a person from the country of Noh (魯) came to implore him to come back and he went back to his home country.

Before taking on a job to work for any company, or stay at any place, it’s a worthwhile effort to consider what type of place it is. If it’s a rotten tree that will fall by itself soon, or if it’s a small branch that won’t be able to withstand the weight of your nest, then it’s better not to settle down from the start.

繪事後素

原: 論語, 八佾/8
子夏問曰:「『巧笑倩兮,美目盼兮,素以為絢兮。』何謂也?」子曰:「繪事後素。」曰:「禮後乎?」子曰:「起予者商也!始可與言詩已矣。」

繪事後素(회사후소,huìshìhòusù,かいじこうそ), painting work after white
Horse before carriage. Essentials or canvas come first before formalities or decorations.

This is from a passage where Gong-ja reminds his disciples that a person ought to develop his character first before adding on other stylistic things (文飾).

Jaha (字: 子夏, 卜商) asked, “What does this text mean? ‘Dimples from a beautiful smile are pretty, pupils from beautiful eyes are clear. It is like painting with white silk (素以爲絢).'” Gong-ja (孔子) replied, “You paint after you prepare a white canvas (繪事後素).” To which, Jaha asked again, “So etiquettes/formalities (禮) come after?” And at this, Gong-ja expressed his great pleasure with Jaha’s reply and said that he is now ready to discuss poetry (詩).

Jaha realized that formalities (depicted as a painting (絢)) are expressions of the heart (depicted as a white canvas (素)), and the principle of poetry is the same. This is why Gong-ja praised his reply, and considered him ready to discuss poetry.

The mainstream interpretation of this was reinforced by Zhu-ja (朱子, 朱熹, 1130-1200) of Song (宋) dynasty, but a different interpretation was given earlier during later Han (漢) dynasty by Jung Hyeon (鄭玄, 127-200) who read this as painting white (素) after painting with colors (繪), so as to filling in the spaces between colors with white.