Sima Guang is not pedantic and believes that honest officials without administrative ability are “bad guys”

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Sima Guang’s portrait

There is a folk saying “officials have two mouths”, one for themselves and the other for others. In fact, this is about the basic quality of officials, so that they can do both. Being unable to control oneself is a failure for officials, just like being unable to control others. Later generations have a saying of “pedantry”, which refers to the officials who were born as scribes. They are more self disciplined, but they are ineffective, just like bad guys. Gong Yu in the period of emperor yuan of Han Dynasty was such a person.

Gongyu (124-43 BC), with the word “Shaoweng”, was familiar with Confucian classics. The saying of Tongjian is “clear Scripture and clean conduct”, and there is knowledge and conduct. Ban Gu wrote the book of Han Dynasty, and listed him, Wang Ji, and Gao Shi Xue Fang in volume 72 of the book of Han Dynasty, which was obviously regarded as a hermit.

Wang Ji, Wang Yang, Gong Yu’s good friend. Ban Gu said, “when Wang Yang was in power, Gong Gong played the crown”, and Bai Shouyi explained, “this means that they have the same choice.” I support this view. In the first year of shenjue (61 BC), Wang Ji went to Shuhan to proclaim the emperor, saying extravagance and frugality. Later, Gong Yu became emperor yuan of the Han Dynasty, and he talked most about this issue.

In the first year of the early Yuan Dynasty (48 BC), emperor yuan of the Han Dynasty learned the reputation of Wang Ji and Gong Yu, so he recruited them. Unexpectedly, Wang Ji died halfway, and the Yuan emperor appointed Gong Yu to advise the doctor. Gong Yu was a Confucian, and the Yuan emperor was also fond of Confucianism. His temperament was right together, so “the number was empty, and he asked for politics”. Gong Yu was also rude, talking about the importance of frugality. What Chengyu, clothing, utensils, how much should be reduced, how much should the maid of honor be reduced, and how much should the stable horse be reduced. The emperor of the Yuan Dynasty said it was reasonable, and immediately did what he wanted.

It is reasonable to say that Gong Yu advised the Yuan emperor to strictly prohibit the private use of buses and strictly implement the “four dishes and one soup”, which is a good thing. Extravagance and extravagance are enough to subjugate the country. You see, in the early years of the Western Jin Dynasty, it was so extravagant that his eyes were red, so he was in a mess. Sima Guang himself often advised song Shenzong to be frugal, open source and save money. However, in Chapter 34 of “Chen Guang Yue”, Sima Guang cursed Gong Yu with bloody words. Why?

Emperor yuan of the Han Dynasty was very kind and weak. In other words, he was cowardly, had no means, was indecisive, and had no opinions, so that later there was a situation of sycophantic ministers exercising power. This is the main problem of the Yuan Dynasty, but also a major problem. The Western Han Dynasty declined from prosperity. At the time of prosperity and sorrow, relatives and eunuchs took turns to be cheap, which was the legacy of the situation that the Yuan emperor could not control. The Yuan emperor’s soft temper was fully responsible.

However, Gong Yu didn’t talk about this urgent task, but talked about the “respectful and thrifty” problem that the Yuan emperor was interested in, which he had done well and could do without being reminded. Quite digressive, so even though Gong Yu later gave more advice, it was more unrealistic, which was not helpful to the world customs.

Therefore, Sima Guang believes that to give advice to leaders, it is necessary to start with the most difficult problems, grasp the main contradictions and solve the main problems, which is the duty and ability of “loyal ministers and victims”. The so-called “it is better to be urgent before being slow”. When giving advice to leaders, they should point out what they have done wrong or what they lack, which is all beneficial. However, Gong Yu didn’t do so, which was really a negative expectation of the Yuan emperor. So Sima Guang said bitterly: if Gong Yu’s wisdom is not enough to understand the current situation, he is not worthy of being called a sage; If Gong Yu knew what was urgent but kept silent, Gong Yu would be guilty of the most heinous crime.

The words are heavy, but they are reasonable. At the beginning of emperor yuan’s reign, he wanted to make a difference, otherwise he wouldn’t ask Gong Yu for advice several times, but Gong Yu didn’t give him such an opportunity. Gong Yu kept silent, as Sima Guang said, for two reasons: first, he dared not touch the vested interests of interest groups, so he had to pick up trifles to fill the bill; Second, his wisdom is not enough to understand the current situation.

On these two points, I think the most likely is the latter. In other words, Gong Yu’s wisdom is not enough to support him to see through the future situation. The emperor of the Yuan Dynasty has just fulfilled his position, and his great power will fall aside. It is just a clue. It is not easy to know that he is not a wise man. It is difficult to know oneself, let alone know others and the world. According to historical data, Gong Yu only knew himself.

Not long after the Yuan emperor promoted Gong Yu to be doctor Guanglu, he himself resigned, saying that he was 81 years old, blood gas exhaustion, deaf ears, unclear eyes, and was difficult to take office. He was a “Minister of the dynasty of vegetarian food and Lu food”, and asked to retire and return to his hometown. Emperor yuan disagreed. In June of the fifth year of the early Yuan Dynasty (44 BC), Gong Yu was promoted to the rank of censor, ranking third. Ban Gu commented on him: “in the spring and Autumn period, there were many ministers in various countries, including the generals and famous ministers in the Han Dynasty. Many people lost their lives because of their wealth. Therefore, the scholars of the Qing Dynasty were so expensive, but they were more self-governing than governing.” This evaluation is quite pertinent, pointing to the death of such people, not just Gong Yu.

I think of Confucius’ comments on Meng gongchuo. Meng gongchuo was a doctor of the state of Lu. He was honest, contented and contented. Confucius said that he could be a minister under a doctor, but he could not come out to be a doctor himself, because he was incompetent. The emperor of the Yuan Dynasty lacked knowledge.

Sima Guang commented on Gong Yu, probably to tell us such a fact: as an official, just being a good person is not enough, but also has the opportunity to become a “bad person”, because good people can also do bad things. A good man is good enough to be able, wise enough to deal with affairs and punish traitors, and beneficial to the country and the common people. Only then can he be called a sage.

Attachment: Chen Guang said 34: if you are loyal to your ministers, and blame them for their difficulties, then those who are easy will be right without effort; Make up for their shortcomings, then their elders will not persuade and succeed. At the beginning of Xiaoyuan’s practice, he asked Yu modestly. Yu should be anxious first and slow down later. However, Yu didn’t think it was a great disaster at that time because he was constantly wandering and slandering the use of power; Respectful and thrifty, filial piety yuan Suzhi also, and Yu diligently said, what is it? Make Yu’s wisdom insufficient to know, and Wu De is virtuous. Knowing without speaking is the greater the sin. (general review volume 28)

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