Ten Matters Calling for Reform
This memorial, presented by Ch'eng Yi's elder brother to the Emperor Shen-tsung (r. 1068-1085), opens with the characteristic assertion that despite the need for adapting institutions to the times there are certain underlying principles of Confucianism which remain valid even for later dynasties like the Sung. He then details ten evils of the day which require bold action. Some of these are urgent problems from almost any point of view—unequal distribution of land, population pressure, inadequate educational facilities, the expense and ineffectiveness of a professional army, the danger of famine and need for increased grain storage, and the need for conservation of natural resources. Other reforms are more doctrinaire in character, though from the Confucian point of view they are the most fundamental of all. These involve the ritual functions of government, and reflect the Confucian conviction that all human evils are attributable in some basic way to improper government. Conversely the moral reformation of mankind is believed possible through the maintenance of a perfectly ordered hierarchy of offices, ranks, and rites. It was, therefore, precisely this belief in the perfectibility of man and
society which dictated complete conformity to the ancient pattern.1
Your servant considers that the laws established by the sage-kings were all based on human feelings and in keeping with the order of things. In the great reigns of the Two Emperors and Three Kings, how could these laws not but change according to the times and be embodied in systems which suited the conditions obtaining in each? However, in regard to the underlying basis of government, to the teachings by which the people may be shepherded, to the principles which remain forever unalterable in the order of things, and to that upon which the people depend for their very existence, on such points there has been no divergence but rather common agreement among the sages of all times, early or late. Only if the way of sustaining life itself should fail, could the laws of the sage-kings ever be changed. Therefore in later times those who practiced the Way [of the sage-kings] to the fullest achieved perfect order, while those who practiced only a part achieved limited success. This is the clear and manifest lesson of past ages....
But it may be objected that human nature today is no longer the same as in ancient times, and that____________________