荀子 Xunzi 勸學 Encourage Learning








荀子 Xunzi 勸學 Encourage Learning

Commentary and Translations


荀子 Xunzi

(PD) Zhao Yong - Egrets Small Birds Willows and Peach Blossoms

(Photo clarity and wording by Larry Neal Gowdy)

Larry Neal Gowdy

Copyright ©2019 December 19, 2019 - updated December 24,2019



Update December 24, 2019: This article has had several small changes of words. Updates are marked with numbered footnotes (e.g. (1)).




A brief glance through 荀子 (Xunzi) appears to suggest ideas of firsthand experience, self-effort, self-observation, self-thinking, self-participation, thoughts of how the environment influences all things, and the reliance of forming logic upon the only unchanging standard: Nature. Obviously, the Xunzi ideas were, and still are, very uncommon, but happily very close to the heart of the topics within this website.

Written around 300 B.C., the thirty-two chapters of Xunzi are attributed to the author Xunzi (Hsün Tzu (Xŭnzĭ)). It has been said that Xunzi is as important to classical Chinese thought as what Aristotle is to European philosophy. It has also been suggested that Xunzi may have been more influential than Confucius. Regardless of the histories that may exist behind Xunzi and the book of Xunzi, the focus of importance is to observe and to discover what is actually spoken of in Xunzi.


Vocabulary


Not unlike all other authors, Xunzi tended to use specific words with specific meanings and patterns that do not closely resemble the meanings and patterns used by other authors. As is common, it is favored to first read and to translate the full book, and to then return to read it again while updating words to reflect how Xunzi had used the words in later chapters.

Also, Xunzi's vocabulary is much larger than the more common ancient texts, as well as the meanings of many words having changed since the Confucius era of around 200 years previously, all of which require lengthy and time consuming updates to personalized dictionaries.


Learning Versus Studying


The first chapter is titled 勸學, which might imply Encourage Learning. The first pause and investigation of the book Xunzi begins within the first sentence, as well as with the second word of the title itself. Does the book speak of learning, or does the book speak of studying? Which word ought to be chosen? Or should a different word be chosen? Whichever word is chosen will influence how the whole of the book is interpreted. Briefing several sentences is sufficient enough to illustrate which word might best agree with the title's word .

The first selection is of ten sentences taken from The Works of Hsüntze by Homer H. Dubs, Ph.D., (publisher Arthur Probsthain, London, 1928).

[1] The superior man says: Study should never stop.

[2] Green dye is taken from blue, but it is nearer the colour of nature than is blue.

[3] Ice comes from water, but is colder than water.

[4] ...the superior man must make his learning broad and daily examine himself in order to have his knowledge exact and his actions without blemish.

[5] If a person does not ascend a high mountain, he will not know how high heaven is;

[6] if he does not descend into a deep ravine, he will not know the depth of the earth;

[7] if he never hears the wisdom handed down from the former Kings, he will not know the greatness of knowledge.

[8] The art begins by reciting the Classics and ends in learning the rites (Li).

[9] Its purpose begins with making the scholar, and ends in making the sage.

[10] For the art of study occupies the whole of life; to arrive at its purpose, you cannot stop for an instant.

Illustrating comparisons to Dubs' translation, and thus being useful to expand Xunzi's concepts, the following second selection is of word-per-word interpretations of the original Chinese text. Note that I have used the { } brackets around words that could be variable sentence particles, imply pauses, imply an end of a sentence, or merely be used for aesthetics. Sometimes the words in brackets can be ignored, resulting in the sentences reading much smoother and of more meaning.

[1] Junzi say: Learning not approve {use} stop.

[2] Blue extract {it} from indigo-plant {while} blue with indigo-plant.

[3] Ice, water become {it} {while} cold with water.

[4] Junzi abundant learning while daily participate examine {in} oneself, then knowledge bright-understanding and behavior not-have mistake {carry}.

[5] Therefore not ascend high mountain, not know sky {it} high {also}.

[6] Not descend deep gorge, not know earth {it} thick-substantial {also}.

[7] Not hear former king {it-him} leave speech, not know learning inquiry {it-him} great {also}.

[8] Say {its} calculate then beginning {in-from} recite Classics, end {in-from} {','} Rites(1).

[9] {Its} right-conduct then beginning {in-from} become topmost(2), finish {in-from} become sage character(3).

[10] Therefore learning calculate have finish, obedient-to {its} right-conduct then not able should-necessary a-moment set-aside {also}.

[(1) The previous given interpretation was 'propound propriety' even though it caused the sentence to feel awkward and less than ideally harmonious with other sentences. The reason for choosing 'propound propriety' was because [1] it is absurd that memorizing and reciting the Classics could somehow end with the enabling of 'propriety', and [2] it is absurd for a junzi or any other self-thinking individual to recite, read aloud, or propound a book's words: the act would be a mere word-memorizer 'ear-to-mouth' recitation-preaching of book words while not understanding what the words mean. Therefore, since the propounding of a book's words is one of the lowest forms of intelligence, then I had chosen 'propriety' with the attempt of making the sentence appear to be more rational relative to the real-world life of many people believing that preaching propriety is an acceptable behavior. However, since the idea of "beginning" and "end" does not agree with Xunzi's other sentences that state that learning never stops, then, therefore, perhaps the sentence did indeed infer that the reading of the books of Rites was to be as the end of the phase of learning through books, which is a rational statement. Therefore, I also changed 'propound' to another possibility of the word implying a comma or pause, which further strengthens the sentence. The following is a copy of one of my own early notes that I had made while translating the sentence: [[note: recite Rites might be correct because it would enable a proper bone structure of contrasts, but if so, then the idea of a 'sage' person is that of him merely being a reciter of other people's words, and still be a scholar. The Chinese word for sage implies ear, mouth, and 'one who connects heaven, humanity, and earth', which would indeed imply a sage, and so, surely Xunzi knew the difference between a scholar of words and a sage of wisdom: maybe.]]]

[(2) The common dictionary terms for (shi) are 'academic, gentleman, scholar, warrior, intellectual, intelligentsia, gentleman, knight, knowledgeable person, military officer' and several others. Shi is composed of which infers '10, ten, complete, perfect, topmost, utmost', plus which infers '1, one, alone, entire, single, whole'. As a composite idea, the word infers something like 'topmost one'. Some old references speak of a popular Asian interpretation that (shi) meant something like 'a person who knows everything from one to ten', with 'ten' implying the top limit. The old idea is not distant from today's popular English opinion that a 'scholar' knows everything about everything from one to infinity. When (shi) is applied within a sentence, the common English interpretation would likely lean towards thinking of the person as being of the topmost possible height of attainment. Within modern English cultures it is claimed by teachers and popular opinion that word memorization is the one and only possible thing that is able to enable an individual to become the topmost within the field of acquiring knowledge, and, so, therefore, when a sentence's topic relates to learning or of books, then the common interpretation easily accepts the word 'scholar'. However, since 'ear to mouth' word memorization has no relevance whatsoever to the acts of understanding, awareness, cognition, intelligence, warrior, nor any other topic that requires self-thinking, self-participation in one's own life, consciously cultivating one's own life, and firsthand experience, then (shi) does not relate to the English idea of 'scholar'. Since there is no known English word that parallels the idea of acquiring knowledge and then rationally applying the knowledge to one's own life, then for the moment the 'scholar' word will be changed to be 'topmost'. Also, by using the 'topmost' word, it then enables sentences to better relate to the sentences' actual words, and not force an incoherent 'memorizer-scholar-teacher' idea upon what the sentences are actually speaking about. The current sentence is a good example: 'right-conduct then beginning become topmost': the topmost being spoken about is of right conduct, not 'right-conduct then beginning become a word-memorizer-scholar'. Also, the use of 'topmost' then enables the three sentences (#8, #9, and #10) to be harmonious, coherent, and complimentary to each other.]

[(3) The common English interpretation of ren is 'person' or 'people', but within the current context of progression from topmost right-conduct to sage, the idea points to inner qualities, not to outer occupations. Although in modern English sentence structuring the use of 'person' might be sufficient within conversational English, technically the interpretation would be wrong because the Chinese sentence structure would not suggest the idea of ren to infer 'person'. If 'person' had been intended, then the more likely choice of words would have been 'person-ist', that is, a person who does the thing; an '-ist'.]

Comparison #1: The differences between the Legge-like 'superior man' and 'junzi' are significant, but for the moment unimportant relative to the question of the meaning of . Perhaps the most useful concept here is that a junzi continues 'learning' throughout life, until, in a way, when the junzi becomes sage. In contrast, most people stop 'learning' when graduating from school.

Comparison #2: Dubs' word "green" for is a correct modern interpretation, but some histories speak of the word having implied 'black' in ancient times, then 'blue' or 'blue-green' in latter eras. The composition of suggests 'fresh bud sprouting from the ground', plus 'burns red' or 'cinnabar' which was used for dyeing, which then suggests at first glance that the word implies a dye that is of the color of sprouting plants. The color of a sprouting plant (usually almost white from the seed, usually green above the soil) varies relative to species, but the process of obtaining a blue dye from indigo plants comes from a method that includes the fermenting of the indigo plant's green leaves, and when the green fades, blue remains. Dubs' choice of "green" is accurate in one way, but "green" appears to disagree with the sentence's inference that blue is extracted-taken-from the indigo plant. The sentence appears to be speaking of how one thing (blue) can be obtained from another thing that does not have the visual appearance of possessing the thing obtained.

Logic: The derived blue did not previously exist as a thing all by itself, but, (in a manner of speaking), blue did exist as a composing ingredient of the green color of the indigo plant. Regardless of how the wording might be phrased in English, one of the underlying ideas is that things are composed of other things, and observable.

The act of (learning or studying) therefore is one that is accomplished by observing how a thing separate from oneself behaves.

Comparison #3: Nature-based logic: Water becomes ice when cold is combined with water. Regardless of how the wording might be phrased in English, one of the underlying ideas is that things are composed of other things, and are observable. Blue is extracted from a thing that previously possessed the ingredient. Water and cold create a new thing that neither water nor cold possess: ice.

Comparison #4: The wording of 'Junzi abundant learning while daily participate examine {in} oneself, then knowledge bright-understanding and behavior not-have mistake {carry}' is good as an example of self-observation, self-thinking, and self-reasoning with the goal of attaining logical thoughts that are then outwardly expressed within one's behavior. The underlying idea here is to make use of the things learned within Nature; to discern logical conclusions based upon what has been self-learned.

Relative to the distinction between 'learning' and studying', examining one's self is firsthand, of one's own inner self, and not an external examination of blue and ice.

Comparison #5: 'Therefore not ascend high mountain, not know sky {it} high {also}'. Ascending a high mountain, and observing that the sky is still far above reach, is a firsthand learning and understanding through a firsthand observation of one's own life. Height cannot be learned from a book. Height is a self-learned thing that little infants learn before or after being born. An individual is able to self-invent imaginary heights, but even the imaginary heights are reasoned from and based upon the necessity of having first learned of height through firsthand experience. If an individual stands upon the top of a high mountain, the self-learning from the firsthand experience is that the skies are truly higher than previously known because the individual then has an additional self-learned base of reference relative to what was previously used as a reference of what had previously implied 'high'.

As an infant, an older sibling of three feet tall might be judged to be 'high', and the ceiling might be judged to be 'high', but not until an individual has stood on the tallest available mountain or skyscraper, will the individual then be able to add to his self-learning of how high the sky really is as compared to standing in a room. Also self-learned while standing on a high mountain is how high one's self is as compared to the lands below. No book is able to provide the necessary learning that all humans must first possess before the individuals are able to form a logical thought.

Comparison #6: Likewise, descending into a deep gorge, and observing that the earth is substantial of thickness of soil, is also firsthand learning through a firsthand observation. Heights and depths are both firsthand observations of real things in Nature, and both learnings are true relative to the observer's ability to observe and to think.

Learning-understanding is acquired from firsthand experiences. Learning-understanding does not occur by reading words. 'Studying' may only infer looking at a thing and mentally analyzing the thing while the individual does not personally participate in the thing. Looking at a book, and memorizing the book words, the act can be named 'studying', but the knowledge itself is imagined. No quantity of words can instill an understanding of anything.

Observing that blue can be extracted from green, observing that ice can be created from water and cold, reasoning self-lessons from self-experiences, acquiring a breadth of understanding of height by standing on a mountain, understanding a breadth of depth by standing in a gorge, it is observable that 'learning' and 'studying' each have their own mental directions of attention and activity. Learning and studying are not identical acts, and thus the words ought not be used to infer identical acts. 'Learning' and 'studying' have different meanings regardless of how the two words are today often used to imply exactly identical synonyms without any distinction in-between either.




Comparison #7: 'Not hear former king him leave speech, not know learning inquiry {it} great {also}'. Knowledge acquired from listening is similar to knowledge acquired from reading books, but still hearing includes the speaker's emotional tones of voice which describe more than what written words are able to convey. Knowledge gained from hearing another person speak has a different angle of approach and retention than the knowledge of blue, ice, mountain, and gorge.

Music(4) heard while an emotional event occurs, the memory of the event might fade and not be thought of for decades, but hearing the music once again, the music is able to immediately spark the forgotten emotion, and bring the listener to rapturous joy or tears even before fully remembering what the event was. The 'learning' through the hearing of a voice is parallel: much more is 'learned' from listening than what is 'learned' by reading the words. [(4) Give note of the current topics of hearing people speak, and of hearing music. The topics are very important and will be referenced again in future articles. As a teaser, the unknowing of the effects of music and sound, was a key ingredient of an ancient ideology that made false claims about music, and, the unknowing of the effects of music and voices remains present within known modern philosophy professors who invent absurd ad hoc excuses about the ideology as well as the environmental effects of sounds. And yes, the professors, possessing very little knowledge, along with no understanding, do indeed claim of themselves to be scholars.]

Also, inquiry is a self-attained interest to investigate things (and self) without first seeing, touching, smelling, and hearing the things. An absence of inquiry is like graduating from school and never again reading another book, nor investigating why blue comes from green, or why ice comes from water, or how high the sky is, or how deep the earth's soil is, or discovering histories and technologies by listening to other people's opinions. Without inquiry, a person's mind is as if dead.

Comparison #8: 'Say {its} calculate then beginning {in-from} recite Classics, finish {in-from} {','} Rites5. The following sentence in comparison #9 speaks of the beginning being of an individual becoming a scholar, and then ending with the individual becoming a sage, which, obviously, conflicts with the idea of 'learning-reading-reciting the Rites' being an act that is capable of creating sage qualities. Apparently Dubs had also recognized the conflict by stating "...ends in learning the rites (Li)" plus the footnote " Or, "rules of proper conduct."" [5 Note that the given sentence was previously changed from 'propound propriety' to ', Rites'. The remainder of the original comparison #8 wording has not been changed.

Nevertheless, the idea of does include 'eye to memory to mouth' memorization to be one of the directions of 'learning'. However, further into the chapter Xunzi explained that memorization by itself is not what implies.

Reading can indeed be a good thing, but only if the knowledge is worthy, and only if the knowledge is applied to one's own life. Reading and reciting books for the purpose of 'memory to mouth' is a waste of life and memory capacity.

Comparison #9: '{Its-his} right-conduct then beginning {in-from} become topmost6, finish {in-from} become sage character'7. While it is agreeable that memorizing books can enable an individual to become a scholar, the memorizing does not and cannot enable the individual to become a sage. The word for sage is (sheng), which infers 'holy, sacred, sage, saint'. Reading a book cannot make a person holy, nor make the person a saint. Obviously, Xunzi had something else in mind, which he did explain in later sentences. [6 The word has been changed from 'scholar' to 'topmost'. 7 The word has been changed from 'person' to 'character'. The remainder of the words within comparison #9 have not been changed.]

Comparison #10: 'Therefore learning calculate have finish, obedient-to {its} right-conduct then not able should-necessary a-moment set-aside {also}'. The sentence is similar to the Zhong Yong idea that no one is able to leave the laws of Nature so much as for a moment even if necessary. Right conduct is self-reasoned and self-chosen; not a thing that a healthy person can walk away from.

Also note that the word for 'obedient-to' might also infer something like 'combing hair', or, as is used today, 'grooming'. Grooming and being obedient to a thing have similarities, but both are achieved from different directions of purpose and application. Perhaps a useful approach then, is to think of applying both ways simultaneously: groom oneself, while also being obedient to the grooming of oneself.

The following quotes approach close to explaining what meant to Xunzi.


Xunzi's Junzi


"This is the manner of the superior man's learning; it goes into his ears, it is taken into his heart, it spreads through his entire body, it shows itself in every movement. Speaking in low tones and moving gently are his ways of action. This is the manner of the little-minded man's learning; it goes into his ear and comes out his mouth; between mouth and ear there are only four inches; how can that be sufficient to make his seven feet of body beautiful? The purpose of the scholarship of the ancients was to improve themselves; the purpose of the study of men at present is to exhibit it to others. The study of the superior man is to beautify himself; the study of the little-minded man makes him a bird or calf." (The Works of Hsüntze, Homer H. Dubs, Ph.D., publisher Arthur Probsthain, London, 1928.)

Quick word-per-word interpretation: 'Junzi {it-him} learning {also}, enter {in-from} ear, attach {in-from} heart(i), spread {in-from} four limbs, body {in-from} move calm. [(i) Note that the choice of 'heart' or 'mind' depends on the individual, of how the individual thinks, whether callous of beliefs and selfish desires, or warm of heart. 'Fist-fist to bosom' is not 'fist-fist to head'. Also, 'move calm' is visually symptomatic of a centered-harmonious heart and mind, one that is conscious, aware, intelligent, and psychologically healthy. Non-calm disharmonious behavior is often given the names of bipolar, psychotic, psychosis, mentally deranged, etc..]

'Hold-level(ii) {and-while} speak, fluid(iii) {and-while} move, alone able use be standard follow.' [(ii) 'Hold-level' implies a voice that is calm and does not rapidly nor excessively change octaves (except, of course, when purposefully making one's wife laugh). Far more is able to be emotionally expressed within a calm voice than what is able to be expressed within a voice that is wild of unbridled tonal accents. A calm voice is symptomatic of intelligence, mental stability, and centeredness; unbridled-wild voices are symptomatic of mental instability. (iii) The word (ruan) is very important for it suggesting a 'snake-like and great' fluidity of movement, which parallels the natural symmetrical-fluid movements of a rational-calm-centered individual who is healthy of body and mind. There does not exist a known English word for symmetrical-fluid body movement. Dubs' "gently" is sufficient as a brief adverb. Intellectually stable individuals are observable by their stable emotionally-calm-fluid voices and stable emotionally-calm-fluid motions. Ruan is very rare.]

'Tiny person {it-him} learning {also}, enter {in-from} ear, come-out {in-from} mouth, mouth ear {it-him} space-between then four cun ear.' [4 cun= about 4/10 chi= about 3.6-4 inches]

'How entirely(iv) {use} beautiful seven chi {it} body {begin-?}?'

[(iv) The word (zu) has numerous possible meanings that include 'entirely, fulfill, sufficient, enough, excessive, correct, right' etc., but primarily implies an anatomical 'foot'. Within the current sentence there is a question of whether Xunzi implied "How entirely" or, perhaps, whether he implied "What foot". Using 'foot' literally could be a play on the differences between a human foot and the tiny person's four inch distance between ear and mouth (i.e. all the 'gray matter' that a tiny person uses to 'learn'), and also be a comparison to the '4 cun ear'. The question quickly compounds of complexities. Historically (and seemingly rewritten as if daily), there are many different claims of what the ancient measurement of 'chi' was, with some of the claims stating that chi was a cubit, the measurement from elbow to the tips of the fingers (the claims sound similar to the Hebrew cubit). No known historical claim makes sense because one's normal arm length is not a seventh of one's height, and, short people have shorter arms than taller people, and so, even if a cubit were the inside of an arm from the elbow to the wrist, then a similar ratio would exist of 'cubit to height' regardless of whether the person were four feet tall or a hundred feet tall. However, Xunzi's comment is helpful in suggesting that the chi of his day was the length of an anatomical foot, which does indeed approximate a seventh of one's height. One chi today equals about nine to ten inches (chi still varies relative to regional standards of measurements), which is near the length of the common adult foot. Therefore, Xunzi's sentences might point to (1) junzi uses his whole body for learning and expression, (2) tiny people only use ear for learning, and mouth for expression (similar to school students memorizing book words), (3) tiny people use ears of four cun length, (4) a tiny person's mental activity is as one ear length between ear and mouth, and (5) 'what anatomical foot' is able to be/use all seven chi of a beautiful body? (References to 'beautiful body' are further explained in later sentences.) When Xunzi's sentences are read as they were written, and combined of meaning, then the concepts and inferences appear to be very obvious of descriptions, although, admittedly, stretching the allegory a bit thin. However, when the 'How entirely / What foot' sentence is weighed relative to the following sentences, then the inference shifts back to 'How entirely' because of the following three sentences speaking of progressing to entirely using a seven chi tall body. If the sentence had been written in English structure and placed at the beginning or ending of a paragraph, then the meaning would be obvious. However, since there was often no firm differentiating of paragraphs within ancient texts, then the sentence's meaning is best judged by the surrounding sentences. The 'four cun ear' is a play of words to the 'foot chi', while also being literal, which leaves little confidence of which was intentionally implied, or if both were playfully implied simultaneously. The fun part is within the inquiry and research to discover the numerous underlying meanings and scales of measurement that may have existed 2,300 years ago, and to then use the 'learning' to find the most rational logic within the sentence.]

'Ancient {it-him} learning {person-ist} be oneself.'

'Modern {it-him} learning {person-ist} be people.' [Note: similar exists today.]

'Junzi {it-him} learning {also}, {use} beautiful his life.'

'Tiny person {it-him} learning {also}, {use} be birds calf.' [Note that birds (ducks) and calves (oxen) were sacrificed in various forms of rituals (perhaps vaguely similar to the Hebrew practice). Also, the sentence points to the tiny people using outside observations and rituals while ignoring the need to observe one's own self's inside.]


Xunzi's


Throughout Xunzi are numerous examples of how (xue) is applied, with most examples being of different directions of attaining, retaining, and using knowledge. Therefore, since [1] can imply most everything from self-observation and self-thinking to the memorization and recitation of book words, and [2] since 'learning' and 'studying' today are popularly synonymous with the act of memorizing book words in schools, then [3] does not closely relate to the modern term 'learning', nor 'studying'.

Perhaps one of the best clues is the previous sentence 'Junzi {it-him} learning {also}, enter {in-from} ear, attach {in-from} heart, spread {in-from} four limbs, body {in-from} move calm.' Returning to the original word 's roots, the word then appears to speak of a process, a process of like 'fist-fist to bosom + cloth cover + child/seed'. could then infer something like 'knowledge reasoned to be honorable is held within the heart as if like a seed from which sprouts the act of intelligently choosing one's own behavior'.

Unfortunately, there is no known English word that parallels the idea of reasoned knowledge held within the heart. The mental ability to consciously cyclically self-reflect on what is outwardly seen and inwardly observed, is not a universal intellectual ability. Some individuals do it naturally, but some individuals simply do not possess the intellectual capacity: some people are unable to feel sympathy, compassion, regret, embarrassment, shame, or other traits that rely upon cyclic self-reflection. No quantity of knowledge, learning, studying, reading books, and reciting words is able to transform a tiny person into a junzi.

If an individual understands a topic, then the individual is able to describe the topic with great details. Quality artists can finely describe how a painting is painted, but non-painters cannot. Quality chess players can finely describe analyses of chess moves, but non-chess players cannot. The Sensory Quotient project verified that very few individuals are able to finely describe anything whatsoever. The absence of details proved that the individuals did not understand nor possess the capacity of quality observation, perception, and thinking.

Therefore, Xunzi's idea of applies to the portion of homo-sapiens who already possess the mental and physical capacity to be a junzi. When combined with Xunzi's other comments about the nature of man being bad-ugly-evil, then it is valid to surmise that Xunzi may have been unaware that people are indeed different, and, similar to all ideologies and sciences of today, Xunzi may have possibly assumed that even a tiny person possessed a physically equal brain and heart as a junzi. In a manner of speaking, some of Xunzi's words are like as if a 200 IQ individual expecting a 60 IQ person to think and learn similarly.

And, so, then, can mean 'learning' if the word is used relative to a junzi, but, if is used relative to a tiny person, then it only infers ear-to-mouth 'knowledge'. The following chapters further clarify Xunzi's intentions.


Xunzi's Current Clarification


It is an injustice to the reader to only be exposed to a few portions of sentences that might lead the reader to incorrect assumptions, while the whole of all chapters ought to be presented in full so as to present a fullness of picture. Nevertheless, since it is necessary for a commentary to be brief, then each topic does require the picking and choosing of which sentences are to be used.

Leading up to the sentence used in comparison #8 were the following sentences:

""If there is jade in the mountain, the trees on it will be flourishing; if there are pearls in the pool the banks will not be parched" How could it be that the man who is virtuous and thoroughly orthodox should not be famous? What should one study? How should one begin? The art begins by reciting the Classics and ends in learning the rites (Li)." (Homer Dubs, Ph.D.)

Word-per-word draft: 'Beautiful-jade in mountain {and-while} grass tree soft-moist-freshen, deep-pool birth vermilion(reddish color) {and-while} cliff(or river bank) not dry. Become good, not accumulate-store unnatural, stable-peaceful be-have not listen-hear person-ist {is-as}. Learning ugly-bad(v) {in-from} beginning, ugly-bad {in-from} finish. Say {its} calculate then beginning {in-from} recite Classics, end {in-from} {'.'} Rites8.' [(v) Note that 'ugly' is antonymous to 'beautiful'. 8 Changed 'propound propriety' to '{','} Rites.]

Xunzi used words to paint the picture of a moist mountain that has lush growth on the outside, while there exists beautiful jade on the inside. Near to the mountain is a pool, reddish of the color of minerals, and all is moist, including the cliff (or river bank). All is seen from the outside, while the inside possesses beautiful jade. Xunzi then said to become good, to not accumulate and to store what is unnatural and wrong.9 Then, with the reader's mind still aware of and visualizing the moist mountain with the jade 'heart', the idea is then that a stable-peaceful person is one who is seen of outwardly expressed behavior, and not one who is merely ear-to-mouth heard. One's beauty is seen; preaching words does not enable a jade heart, nor enable the appearance of a beautiful moist mountain. [9 The idea appears to suggest something unnatural, something of ugliness, that contrasts the beautiful and serene mountain. 'Unnatural', therefore, would be like as if a mountain of trash and other filth. A person is, what the person hoards.]

The next sentence begins with the idea that if an individual begins with ugly things, then the individual will end with ugly things: not be beautiful. Xunzi then gave the contrast of ugly being the ideas found within the Classics as well as in the Rites 10. [10 The word 'propriety' was changed to 'the Rites'].

Xunzi painted a pleasing picture of words that point to the concept of what a junzi is: seven chi of beautiful body.


Xunzi's Logic


Unlike other known authors who merely spoke a single word without defining what the word implied, Xunzi provided numerous examples of what his words implied. Within the circumference of all known philosophers and thinkers throughout history, Xunzi was one of the very few of reasoning minds who were able to convey meaning to their words.