Guan Zhong’s morality, meritorious service and words

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“Zuo Zhuan” said: “the Supreme Master has virtue, followed by meritorious service, followed by advice; although it has not been abolished for a long time, this is immortality.” I thought Guan Zhong was the only thinker in the pre Qin Dynasty who could fully realize the “three Immortalities”.

The spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period were a time of great changes in Chinese history. In the ideological field, there was also a prosperous situation of contention among scholars and a hundred schools of thought. Such an era has indeed provided a broad stage for all kinds of “scholars” to stand out and emerge. However, after careful comparison, it is not difficult to find that most of the various schools of thought in this period were men of cloth. Although they wrote thousands of words, they had no handle in their hands. Therefore, they were unable to implement their own political and economic propositions, could not test the correctness of their theories, and had no opportunity to prove the truth of their thoughts in practice, except Guan Zhong and Shang Yang.

Guan Zhong and Shang Yang not only have their own set of ideas, but also hold important positions and power. Therefore, they have the opportunity to implement their own ideas and practice their own theories. More importantly, from the results of practice, both have achieved great success. According to historical records, Guan Zhong assisted Duke Huan of Qi to “unite the nine princes and conquer the world”, making Qi the first overlord in the spring and Autumn period. However, Shang Yang, a public official of Qin Xiao, “changed customs and customs, made the people prosperous with Yin, made the country prosperous and powerful, made the people happy with it, and the princes were obedient to it. He was a teacher of Chu and Wei, and held the land for thousands of miles” (historical records · biographies of Lisi), which made “Qin invincible in the world and established the power of the princes” (Volume III of the Warring States Policy), laying a solid foundation for Qin to destroy the six countries and unify China. If we make a comparison again, although Shang Yang was successful in his career, he was a loser from a personal point of view (he died after being split by the conservative forces); Guan Zhong, on the other hand, has been in power for more than 40 years and has achieved great success. He is not only a knowledgeable thinker, but also a politician with outstanding political achievements. It can be said that he is the only successful model among the pre-Qin scholars. Even today, Guan Zhong’s ideological heritage is still of referential significance.

In politics, Guan Zhong especially emphasized the establishment of a set of strict methods for assessing, appointing and promoting officials at all levels. The ancients said, “the sage governs officials but not the people.” This problem is discussed in many chapters of Guanzi. Guan Zhong advocated that in the appointment and management of officials, they should “receive rewards for their work”, “receive rewards but not for their merits”, “therefore, it is also clear that the rule of the Lord should be divided into different duties and pay tribute”, “reward for their merits and punish for their crimes”. He also fiercely criticized the following three bad phenomena: “first, morality is not his position, second, merit is not his salary, and third, ability is not his official.” He believes that these three phenomena are the root causes of the great trouble and turmoil in the country.

He put forward the principle of employment as follows: “those whose virtue and righteousness are not clear in the dynasty cannot be placed in a position of honor; those whose skills are not known in the country cannot be given a heavy salary; those who do not believe in the people can not be appointed as senior officials.” In today’s words, the appointment of all officials must be based on their actual political achievements, especially the real achievements that win the trust of the people, rather than the false and superficial achievements. In addition, he also summed up a set of specific measures to reward and punish officials at all levels.

In terms of economy, Guan Zhong put the people’s prosperity in the first place. He said: “every way of governing a country must first enrich the people. If the people are rich, it is easy to govern, and if the people are poor, it is difficult to govern.” He also said a famous saying that has been passed down through the ages: “a barn knows etiquette, and enough food and clothing knows honor and disgrace.” For more than twothousand years, this famous saying has been repeatedly recited by progressive thinkers of all dynasties in China, and has also been regarded as the standard by all enlightened politicians in history. In ancient times, people were still unable to master materialism and historical materialism, but Guanzi’s famous saying was in perfect harmony with materialism and historical materialism.

How to achieve the goal of “enriching the people”? Guanzi thinks that developing agricultural production is the most important. Because “five grains and millet are the command of the people”, “millet is the skill of the king and the great task of the Lord”. In order to develop agricultural production, it is necessary to “open up fields, make altars and houses, build trees, persuade scholars and people, encourage crops and build houses on walls, which is called” enriching their lives “. In ancient times, agricultural production was the pillar industry of the national economy, which was always valued by all promising rulers and thinkers. Guanzi was different from most other thinkers in that he not only attached importance to agricultural production, but also attached great importance to industry and commerce. This is where he is more wise and wise than other thinkers in the pre Qin period.

He said, “if there is no city, the people will be exhausted.” “If there is no profit at the end of the day, then where will this business come from?” Therefore, Guanzi believes that agriculture, industry and commerce must be taken into account at the same time, “the end of the business is rich”. There are probably two reasons why Guan Zi has such a brilliant view: before he became a politician, he ran business for many years, thus accumulating a wealth of perceptual knowledge and practical experience; The main reason is that the political stage for him to display his talents is not located in the remote western inland area (such as Shang Yang), but in the eastern Qilu land facing the sea and with relatively developed economy. The vast ocean has expanded the thinker’s mind and vision, and his rich practical experience has fused into his profound and wise thoughts.

In terms of social policies, Guan Zhong paid special attention to regulating the gap between the rich and the poor. He advocated that to govern the country, we should “have justice from top to bottom, distinction between high and low, distinction between old and young, and degree between rich and poor”. He believed that “if the people are rich, they can not be employed, and if they are poor, they can not be punished. If laws and regulations are not effective, the people will not be governed, and the rich and the poor will be uneven.” He also said that “the rich cannot be used, and the poor do not know their shame”. Therefore, he believed that the primary task of the rulers was to timely adjust the social wealth and wealth: “scattered accumulation, lack of admiration, sharing wealth and profits, and adjusting civil affairs”.

How to adjust it? His method is “the old break it, the short continue it; the full of it, the empty of it”; “Rich and able to seize, poor and able to give, can be the world.”. How to seize the rich and give to the poor? He proposed the following measures: levying a consumption tax on the rich; Restrict the rich from entering certain industries to avoid competing for profits with the people; Indirect use of administrative means to force the rich to disperse their property. At the same time, for the poor, we should “enrich their livelihood”, “lose their wealth”, “leave them for profit”, “ease their politics”, “eliminate their urgency” and “invigorate their poverty”. In addition, Guanzi has made profound and wonderful discussions on foreign trade, currency and price, grain and many other aspects. These discussions are concentrated in Guanzi · weight, leaving valuable ideological wealth for future generations.

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