A Man of True Self-denying Purity?

Ch’ên Chung Tse belongs to an ancient and noble family of Ch’i. His elder brother Tai received from Ko a revenue of 10,000 chung, but he considered his brother’s emolument to be unrighteous, and would not live on it, and in the same way he considered his brother’s house to be unrighteous, and would not dwell in it. Avoiding his brother and leaving his mother, he went and dwelt in Mountain Wu-ling.

Living in Wu-ling, he himself builds a cottage,  plants the millet, and weaves sandals of hemp, and his wife twists hempen thread, to barter them.

He was so poor that in one occasion for three days was without food, till he could neither hear nor see. Over a well grew a plum tree, the fruit of which had been more than half-eaten by worms. He crawled to it, and tried to eat some of the fruit, when, after swallowing three mouthfuls, he recovered his sight and hearing.

One day afterwards, he returned to their house, when it happened that some one sent his brother a present of a live goose. He, knitting his brows, said, ‘ What are you going to use that cackling thing for?’ — By-and-by his mother killed the goose, and gave him some of it to eat. Just then his brother came into the house, and said, ‘ It’s the flesh of that cackling thing,’ upon which he went out and vomited it.

Mencius’ disciple K’iang Chang Tse asked Mencius, “Is not Ch’ên Chung Tse a man of true self-denying purity?

But Mencius replied, ” Among the scholars of Ch’i, I must regard Ch’ên Chung Tse as the thumb among the fingers. But still, where is the self-denying purity he pretends to? To carry out the principles which he holds, one must become an earth-worm, for so only can it be done.

“Now, an earthworm eats the dry mould above, and drinks from the yellow spring-water below. Was the house in which Ch’ên Chung Tse dwelt built by a Worthy like Po Yi, or was it built by a robber like Chê? Was the millet which he ate planted by a Sage like Po Yi, or was it planted by a robber like Chê? These are things which cannot be known.”

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