Yesterday’s Stray Dog 喪家狗, Today’s Guard Dog 看門狗

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Dog Days (VIII)

 

This latest addition to Dog Days — a series of canine-themed articles, essays, translations and art works marking The Year of the Dog (16 February 2018—4 February 2019) — takes as its theme China’s most famous ‘stray dog’ 喪家狗, the pre-Qin thinker and latter-day Sage, Confucius. In it, the irrepressible thinker, critic and essayist Liu Xiaobo 劉曉波 reviews the controversy surrounding Peking University professor Li Ling’s 2007 book, Stray Dog: Reading ‘The Analects’ 李零著《喪家狗——我讀論語》. Continuing his two-decade-long critique of the intellectual world, Liu then discusses the history and fate of China’s intellectuals as Homeless Dogs, Guard Dogs, Lap Dogs, Whipping Dogs and even Running Dogs.

Liu’s observations on State Confucianism, as well as on the benighted state of China’s intelligentsia, are even more relevant today, in 2019, than when he made them in 2007.

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Lin Yutang on China’s Homeless Wandering Dog

On 25 November 1930, Lin Yutang 林語堂 — essayist, humourist and editor — made a speech at the Winter Institute of the YMCA in Shanghai titled ‘Confucius as I Know Him’. Lin concluded his remarks with a famous anecdote about the hapless sage:

… Confucius and his disciples had lost track of each other in the city of Cheng. Some one saw Confucius standing at the East Gate, and told Zigong:

‘There is a man at the East Gate, with a head like that of Emperor Yao, a neck like that of Gao Yao, and a shoulder like that of Zichan, but from the waist downwards is shorted than Emperor Yu by three inches. He appears crestfallen like a homeless wandering dog.’

When they had found each other, and Zigong had told the story to Confucius, the latter said:

‘The first part of the description is not quite right, but “like a homeless wandering dog”, he’s quite right, he’s quite right!’

孔子適鄭,與弟子相失,孔子獨立郭東門。鄭人或謂子貢曰:東門有人,其顙似堯,其項類皋陶,其肩類子產,然自要以下不及禹三寸,累累若喪家之狗。子貢以實告孔子,孔子欣然笑曰:形狀,末也。而謂似喪家之狗: 然哉,然哉,然哉。

——《史記 · 孔子世家》

I believe here we have at last arrived at the true Confucius, erring, struggling, sometimes elated and sometimes despondent, but always retaining a personal charm and a good sense of humour, and able to laugh at a joke at his own expense. This is the true Confucius and not the immaculate saint of irreproachable character which the Confucian scholars and the western Sinologues would have us believe.

originally published in The China Critic, IV: 1 (1 January 1931): 5-9
reprinted in China Heritage QuarterlyJune/September 2012
the romanisation has been converted to Hanyu Pinyin and
the Chinese text from Sima Qian added 

Acknowledgements

The following essay is taken from Liu Xiaobo, No Enemies, No Hatred: Selected Essays and Poems, edited by Perry Link, Tienchi Martin-Liao and Liu Xia, Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012, pp.188-200. We are grateful to Perry Link and Lindsay Waters for supporting our request to reprint this essay, to Thomas Moran for his skilful translation and to The Belknap Press for their kind permission. (The typographical style of the original has been retained.)

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
4 January 2019

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Liu Xiaobo in China Heritage


Yesterday’s Stray Dog Becomes Today’s Guard Dog

Liu Xiaobo

translated by Thomas E. Moran

 

Chinese people are talking excitedly these days about the rise of China as a great nation. First we spoke of an economic rise, then a cultural rise; we started spreading money around the globe, then exported soft power. There have been fads for reading the classics, for honoring the memory of Confucius, and for promoting Confucian ethics. China Central Television (CCTV), pressing to reestablish an orthodoxy in China, has used its program Lecture Hall to touch off a fad for reading The Analects. The government has put big money into “Confucius Institutes” around the world in an effort to spread soft power. The dream of ruling “all under heaven,” repressed for a century or more, is now resurgent and is taking Confucius the sage as its unifying force. The craze for Confucius grows ever more fierce.

In my view, the government’s real goal in promoting Confucius is not to give new life to an ancient culture but to restore the tradition of venerating Confucius as a sage, a restoration that fits hand-in-glove with the promotion of radical nationalism. In the years since Tiananmen the government has used a two-pronged strategy of mounting campaigns against liberalization and “peaceful evolution” on the one hand while whipping up “patriotic” sentiment and channeling it in support of itself on the other. This “patriotism” has become a new pillar of the regime’s ideology, and the Party’s advertising of what it calls a “Golden Age of Prosperity” swells the nationalist tide. This could not be more clear than it is in the concluding lines of the official “Address at the Ceremony to Honor Confucius at the 2005 International Confucius Cultural Festival in Qufu, China,” which read: “Prosperity is at hand; Great Unity is the dream; revel in our Golden Age and the glory of strong nation.” Is this Confucius? Or a paean to nationalism and the new Golden Age?

Over the past year the promotion of traditional culture in CCTV’s Lecture Hall has helped to turn Confucius into a commercial product—to become, in Lu Xun’s phrase, a “sage in vogue.” (Much the same thing happened in the Mao Zedong fad a few years ago.) Today books on Confucius in a variety of genres are making big profits for publishing houses, and adult education classes on traditional Chinese culture and the Chinese classics have been highly profitable as well. At Tsinghua University, a course on traditional Chinese culture costs 26,000 yuan; at Fudan University, it costs 38,000 yuan, and the fee for an after-school course on the classics for children is even more astronomical.

The CCTV program has also helped to turn pseudoscholar Yu Dan into a national celebrity. Yu Dan has been hawking Confucius with a sales pitch that combines tall tales about the ancients with insights that are about as sophisticated as the lyrics of pop songs. Her often arbitrary and always shallow interpretation of Confucius injects a bit of the narcotic of pop culture into the current Confucian renaissance. The take-home message of her book Confucius from the Heart is that Confucius teaches that we can all have peachy lives if we just live like cynics: no matter what befalls us, if we just smile at our troubles and do not complain, we can get along and live in bliss.

Just as the Yu Dan-inspired fad to “read Confucius” was taking off, Peking University professor Li Ling published a book called Stray Dog: My Reading of “The Analects.” Li uses his own research to “exorcize nonsense” about Confucius and to try to capture the philosopher in his original form. Li writes in his preface:

My book is the product of my own ideas about Confucius. I do not repeat what others have said. I do not care what Mencius. Wang Anshi, or any of the other greater or lesser scholars have said. If something is not in the original text, then sorry, I reject it … If we want to know what Confucius himself thought, we have to read the original texts … I am not out to join intellectuals in their squabbling, nor am I out to pander to popular taste.

And Li concludes:

After reading The Analects, I find it most fitting neither to put Confucius on a pedestal nor to drag him through the mud but to say he resembles Don Quixote.

Li’s rejection of both idol worship and favor-currying debunks the two-thousand-year-old habit of venerating Confucius as a sage. He writes:

In this book I explain to my readers that Confucius was not, in fact, a sage. The Confucius to whom emperors paid homage in dynasty after dynasty was not the real Confucius, but a “manufactured Confucius.” The real Confucius, the one who actually lived, was neither a sage nor a king-much less, as the popular phrase has it, “inwardly a sage and outwardly a king” … [He was] a mere mortal, a man of humble birth who believed that the ancient aristocracy (his “true gentlemen”) set the standard for how one should conduct oneself. He loved antiquity, studied it assiduously, and never tired of learning. He was an indefatigable teacher who transmitted the culture of the past and encouraged his students to read classic texts. He had no power or status—only morality and learning—and dared to criticize the power elite of his day. He traveled around lobbying for his policies, racking his brains to help the rulers of his day with their problems, always trying to convince them to give up evil ways and be more righteous. He was bighearted and dreamed of restoring the reign of Zhou so that peace could come to everyone in the world. He was tormented, obsessed, and driven to roam, pleading for his ideas, more like a homeless dog than a sage. This was the real Confucius.

In both research and interpretation, Li Ling goes well beyond the shallow and careless Yu Dan as a reader of The Analects. More importantly, he feels a strong empathetic connection with a fellow intellectual of two thousand years ago. He notes that Confucius himself thought of himself as a sort of homeless dog:

Confucius was in despair about his homeland and, with disciples in tow, set out on foot to travel far and wide, living among strangers. He met dukes and princes, but got nowhere with them, and in the end returned to his place of birth, where he ended his days brokenhearted. Before he died he lost a son and others who had been near to him—his disciples Yan Hui and Zhong You—and wept until his tears ran dry. He died at home—but in another sense had no home. He may or may not have been right in his teachings, but in either case his life does illustrate the fate of Chinese intellectuals.

When Li Ling tossed his stray-dog comment into the midst of the popular discussion about Confucius and traditional Chinese culture, it was like tossing a big rock into a pond: it caused huge waves of protest from the new Confucian defenders of the Way. Li became the target of sputtering vitriol and curses from those whose shame turned to humiliated rage. He was denounced as a “prophet of doomsday” and (oddly, given what he stood for) an “angry youth.” People who had not read his book nevertheless felt qualified to judge it “garbage.” All this happened because he had called Confucius a stray dog. It shows that the Confucius fans of today have taken their reverence for the Master to the point where nothing actually meaningful can be said about him. Thank goodness the fans do not have much political power; if they did, we would be back to an era in which (as Lin Biao said of Mao Zedong) “every word is true, every word is worth ten thousand words from others.”

Li Ling, as a serious historian, writes that “I regard The Analects as a subject for historical inquiry, not as a sacred book.” When he calls Confucius a stray dog, he is reminding us that during China’s Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BCE) intellectuals lived lives of uncertainty, even fear, because their talents were often unwelcome, and in that context “an idealist who can find no spiritual home” does resemble a stray dog. In my own view, to say that Confucius lacked a “spiritual home” is already giving him too much praise. The truth is that he was roaming the land to look not for a spiritual home but for a place where he could go to work for someone who held power. His cherished goal was to be the teacher of a king, and in that he failed. He was a stray dog who lacked a master. Had he found a ruler to take him in, the stray dog would have become a guard dog.

Li Ling was not the first to call Confucius a stray dog. Scholars of antiquity have evaluated him that way, too. The biography of Confucius in the Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian (145?-86 BCE) states that, at the age of 40, and having accomplished nothing, Confucius wailed, “My Way has reached its end!” and “There is no place in the land for me!” According to the biography in the Records, people in Confucius’ own time noticed that he was “haggard and worn as a stray dog,” and Confucius, hearing of the remark, allowed that the comparison was apt. Today’s “true defenders of the Way” claim that when Confucius made his acknowledgment he was in fact hinting at some abstruse and profound truth about cultivating humanity and governing countries. For Li Ling to take the response more literally, in their view, is heinous heresy and enough to make his book garbage not worth reading. Some “angry youth” went so far as to say “Professor Li is insane!”

Today’s Confucius worshippers can heap all the scorn upon Li Ling’s book they like, but it remains true that what he writes about Confucius, especially in his plainspoken and captivating preface, far surpasses anything that Mr. Jiang Qing and the other “new Confucian thinkers” have to offer. An impressive range of well-known scholars have given Stray Dog high praise.

In an essay called “On the Feasibility of Benevolence and Righteousness: A Review of Li Ling’s Stray Dog,” historian Wu Si writes, “Li Ling has done a fine service. Cultural projects of the future must be based on reliable core texts. In my view Li Ling, in his work on The Analects, does even better than Zhu Xi (1130-1200).” In a similar review essay, Professor Qian Liqun of the Department of Chinese at Peking University writes, “Li Ling’s reading of The Analects stands out for its powerful ‘heart to heart’ empathy with Confucius, one intellectual to another. This empathy allows him to see the ‘stray dog’ problem clearly … When I saw the ‘stray dog’ phrase, I sensed a touch satire in it, but more than that I sensed Confucius’s perseverance, and his sorrow.” In an interview, Liu Mengxi, director of the Institute of Chinese Culture at the Chinese National Academy of Arts, praised Li Ling’s conscientious textual research, his critical attitude, and his dispelling of myths about Confucius.

Professor Qin Hui of Tsinghua University, in an article entitled “How Did The Analects Become a Classic?” writes that “nowadays there are those who would elevate The Analects to the status of a Confucian Bible, just as, once upon a time, people elevated a thin little book called Quotations of Chairman Mao to the status of a ‘pinnacle’ of Marxism. Did the fervor for Quotations of Chairman Mao enrich Marxism or wreck it? Does the fervor for The Analects advance Confucianism or run it to ruin?”

China has a long tradition of reverence for sages, and in the eyes of the defenders of the Way, be they ancient or modern, Confucius is not to be questioned; he is a venerable “uncrowned king,” the bearer of truth and the teacher of rulers through the ages; he is the Complete and Perfect Sage and King of Culture (a title actually given him in the fourteenth century) to whom emperors must bow. For Kang Youwei (1858-1927) and his Confucian Association, Confucius was the founder of a religion and a god; for the “new Confucians” of today, he is the symbol of Chinese culture. For them, every maxim in The Analects expresses astounding insight into either the management of state affairs or the cultivation of a person’s innate morality. In ancient times the most outlandish claim was “half The Analects can govern the world”; its rival today is “Confucian teachings have governed the world for five thousand years and are ready for five thousand more.” Some even say, “I f you don’t read Confucius, you are not really human.” Today’s “Confucians” go so far as to make up eye-catching fake news—such as the story, spread during the recent fad, that in 1988 seventy-five Nobel Prize winners from around the world gathered in Paris to name Confucius as the greatest thinker in human history. (Does someone covet the approval of Westerners?)

Today’s fans are so smitten with their sage that they have lost the ability to distinguish ordinary human life from sainthood and ordinary language from ritual worship. Pardon me, good people, but Confucius was a human being, and must have farted. Are you sure those, too, had deep meaning? Could it be that the words of The Analects are common sense, not mystical wells of unfathomable wisdom? Let’s look again at the two modest, clear lines that begin The Analects: “Is it not a pleasure to make frequent use of what one has learned? It is not a joy to have friends visit from afar?” Where, exactly, is the mind-bending abstruseness that warrants more than two thousand years of annotation and explanation? Zhou Zuoren (1885-1967), in his “Notes on The Analects,” had it right: “The Analects tells how to be a good person and how to interact with the world … It can be useful a guide for future generations, but we must not take it as immutable truth or moral dogma, and still less should we claim it to hold brilliant political philosophy that can regulate nations and bring peace to all under heaven.” The great German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel considered The Analects to be no more than a collection of daily-life truths.

It was when Emperor Wu of the Han (156-87 BCE) announced his ruling to “venerate Confucianism alone” that the man named Kong Qiu posthumously turned into Master Confucius. The skeleton of that stray dog sprang back to life as a guard dog to defend emperors and the Chinese autocracy. When the autocrats realized how useful Confucian principles could be, the position of court guard dog began to offer excellent job security; once in place, the incumbents stayed for more than two thousand years. The moment when the paragon of China’s intellectuals was elevated by political powerholders to a place of exalted honor, the moment statues of the paragon were gilded and placed inside the ancestral temple of the imperial clan, was the moment Chinese intellectuals arrived in hell on earth, because now they were nothing more than hand- maidens to power. An early example was Sima Tan, father of Sima Qian. Both men had served as “grand historian” at the Han court. When Sima Qian was castrated—his punishment for offending Emperor Wu—he wrote a lament to his father:

My father achieved nothing that merited any mention in the imperial records. He was responsible for astronomy and the calendar, which was mere fortune-telling and communion with the dead. The emperor used him for personal amusement and treated him like a court musician or other performer, and the common people never took him seriously.

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the Western powers forced China to open itself to the world, China’s imperial system and its ideology fell into sudden and rapid decline. In 1911, when a revolution finally brought an end to centuries of imperial dictatorship, Confucianism, which had been the ideology of the dictatorship, lost its institutional support. The Confucian scholars who had been guard dogs went back to being stray dogs. Yuan Shikai (1859-1916) did manage to get himself appointed emperor in January 1916 and did make a big show of reviving the Confucian rituals, but that farce was short-lived. Yuan died six months later. By that time, the complete collapse of traditional institutions and their supporting ideology had become inevitable.

This felt dreadful, of course, to the Confucian scholars who lost their imperial doghouses and were put back out onto the streets. But from another point of view, the transition was a great blessing. It was an opportunity for Chinese scholars to become modern intellectuals, to leave behind the authoritarian props they had been depending upon and to venture into a new world of independent, critical thought. The opportunity was upon them whether they welcomed it or not. Unfortunately, this era of being “stray dogs by necessity” lasted only about fifty years. Once the Chinese Communists brought their totalitarianism to China, it was hard for Chinese intellectuals to be anything quite so comfortable as stray dogs. Most became whipping dogs, the targets of persecution and violent attack, while a fortunate few secured positions as guard dogs for the Mao regime. Guo Moruo (1892-1978), who earlier had dared to make open criticisms of Chiang Kai-shek, after 1949 turned into Mao Zedong’s lap dog.

The fate of Confucius’s reputation in the twentieth century would likely have puzzled Confucius. Twice he was made the target of major political campaigns, once during the May Fourth movement that began in 1919, and once when Mao Zedong launched a campaign to “criticize Lin Biao and Confucius” in 1974. In the years since Tiananmen, a trend in Chinese intellectual circles has opposed “radicalism,” and some people have lumped the radical anti-traditionalism of May Fourth and the radical anti-traditionalism of Mao together, rejecting the two as a package. But these two “anti-Confucius” campaigns were radically different things.

First, the prime movers of the two campaigns could not have been more different. May Fourth was a spontaneous, bottom-up movement by people who were making demands on the government. They were mainly independent intellectuals who had been influenced by new ideas, values, and strategies from the West, and were using Western yardsticks to try to understand why China had fallen so far behind. They had transcended the thinking of the late nineteenth century, which held that “catching up” was merely a matter of technology—or perhaps of government form—and had concluded that the problem was deeply involved with culture. “Confucius” needed to be uprooted. In sharp contrast, the 1974 campaign to “criticize Lin Biao and Confucius” was a top-down political movement launched by a dictator, Mao Zedong, who held absolute political power and who had ensconced Mao Zedong Thought in the sole position of honor in China’s world of ideology. No other ideas, whether from China or elsewhere, were permitted.

Second, the goals of the two campaigns were radically different. The Confucius whom the modern-minded intellectuals of May Fourth were attacking was not the wandering philosopher of the fifth century BCE but Sage Confucius, that artifact of Emperor Wu, the man who had embalmed Confucianism as the “only thought to be venerated.” The new intellectuals wanted to drive off a guard dog and root out an entrenched way of thinking. Mao Zedong’s campaign against Confucius, by contrast, had nothing at all to do with any effort to improve or renew culture, and in fact had nothing to do with Confucius, either. Its purpose, purely and entirely, was to aid Mao Zedong in his power struggles at the top of the Communist Party of China. The point was to utterly demolish the image of Lin Biao and to draw a line in the sand for the “chief Confucian in the Party,” Zhou Enlai.

How much different, in their fundamental natures, could these two “anti-Confucius campaigns” have possibly been? One originated with modern intellectuals who had no political power, the other with a traditional-style despot who held absolute power; one was spontaneous and bottom-up, the other engineered and top—down; one was an effort to find a way forward for the nation, the other an effort to solidify autocratic power for a dictator.

This is why I continue to endorse May Fourth’s anti-Confucius campaign and continue to condemn Mao’s. It is hardly a close call.

In a 1935 essay called “Confucius in Modern China,” Lu Xun denounces the tradition in imperial China of sage worship. He writes:

The ones who put Confucius on a pedestal, who made him a sage, were powerholders and would-be powerholders. This sage-making had nothing at all to do with the common people.

Sage-worship—a product of the joint efforts of kings, emperors, and their hired scribblers over many centuries—in my view is the most impressive piece of mythmaking in all of Chinese history. The Confucius who has been dubbed “sage” long ago lost any connection to the historical Confucius and is nothing but a shoddy counterfeit.

If one actually does some conscientious reading of China’s pre-Qin philosophers, it is not hard to see that Confucius was relatively mediocre. He lacks the grace, ease, and elegance of Zhuangzi (369-286 BCE), has none of Zhuangzi’s gift for powerful language, or beautiful flights of fancy, or genius for unconventional, arresting philosophical insight, and falls far short of Zhuangzi’s clear-eyed understanding of the human tragedy. Compared to Mencius (372-289 BCE), Confucius is no match in boldness of vision or breadth of mind, to say nothing of the ability to stand up to authority with dignity or to show genuine concern for the common people. It was Mencius who said, “The people come first; the social order next; the rulers last.” By comparison with Han Feizi (281-233 BCE), Confucius seems pretentious and crafty; he lacks Han Feizi’s gift for straightforward, trenchant, satirical commentary. As for Mozi (ca. 470-391 BCE), Confucius does not have his talent for logical rigor or the faith in humanity that undergirds his ideal of universal equality.

The sayings of Confucius, by contrast, are clever but contain no great wisdom. They are extremely practical, even slick, but show no aesthetic inspiration or real profundity. Confucius lacked nobility of character and breadth of vision. He ran around trying to get a position at a court, and when this failed he became an expounder of the Way. He enjoyed telling people what to think and how to behave, for which the sage-makers have credited him as “an indefatigable teacher of men,” but what it actually shows is a certain arrogance and small-mindedness. His famous principle of “engaging the world when it is orderly and withdrawing when it is in chaos” is, if you think about it, a formula for irresponsible opportunism. How costly has it been for the Chinese people that this particular thinker—this most sly, most smooth, most utilitarian, most worldly-wise Confucius, who shied away from public responsibility and showed no empathy for people who suffer—became their sage and exemplar for two thousand years? A people is reflected in its sages, and a sage can mold people in his image. I fear that the slave mentality in the Chinese people today came entirely from this source.

In addition to the serious intellectual project of uncovering the original Confucius, Professor Li Ling seems to have had some other targets in mind in publishing his Stray Dog book. Today’s ultranationalism was clearly one of them. Li is challenging the fads for “reading the classics” and “worshipping Confucius” and indirectly is raising questions about the “rise of China as a great nation” as well. His reference to Confucius as a homeless dog “spiritually adrift in the world” is aimed at the “new Confucians” who are promoting Confucius as a worldwide savior. Li comments, “I can imagine nothing more pointless than planting the flag of Confucius all over the world … Confucius could not save China, and he cannot save the world.”

A second target of Li Ling’s critique is the tradition among Chinese intellectuals of cozying up to power, and the critique is timely because the Confucians of today are falling over themselves to do just that. They honor Confucius and spout Confucian teachings, but their purpose is not to use Confucianism to revive the ethics of the nation; it is to reassert the principle that mastery of Confucianism qualifies a person to be a ruler. In stressing that Confucius was an adviser to kings and emperors (even “the teacher of the nation”), in advocating that Confucianism resume its place as the nation’s orthodoxy, and in hoping that the government will use its authority to make these things happen by decree, what the new Confucians are actually doing is showing their own ambitions to be the advisers to the modern-day kings and emperors—or maybe even to be Plato-style philosopher-kings themselves, holding power in their own hands. In giving Confucius his latest makeover they are, in essence, sending China back to the era of Emperor Wu. They are hoping for a resumption of the days when Confucianism was venerated and all other schools of thought were banned—indeed, when all thought was banned, including Confucian thought, because you don’t need thought when unquestioning worship of a sage takes its place.

Li Ling sees the record of history as showing that China’s intellectuals, with all those utopian ideals bulging in their heads, have done good for China only when they find themselves out of power, taking stands as critics of authority. When they have power in their hands, it can spell danger, even disaster, for the nation. “Intellectuals, with their sharp eyes and keen minds,” he writes, “can be more autocratic than anybody. Put the executioner’s sword in their hands and the first to lose their lives will be other intellectuals.” This happens because of the habitual conceit of the Chinese intellectual that his morality, his ideals, and his insights are necessarily superior to anyone else’s. He accords himself the pedestal of being “first in the world to assume its worries, last in the world to enjoy its pleasures” [from Fan Zhongyan (989-1052 CE—Trans.] and believes he can help to save the people from calamity and build a paradise on earth. Zhang Zai (1020-1077 CE) summed up the goals of the Chinese intellectual in four sentences: “Establish morals in the world; establish livelihood for the people; transmit the lost teachings of the sages; bring peace to the world for thousands of years.” Today many Chinese intellectuals still exhibit this mentality, which shows just how deeply the ancient literati traditions of arrogance remain engrained.

Li Ling wants today’s Chinese intellectuals to take lessons from history, to stand apart from power, to give up their ambition to be the teachers of kings, and to stop politicizing the ancient classics with ideological readings. At the end of his preface, Li writes:

We must approach The Analects coolly and objectively—without any politicizing, moralizing, or sermonizing. Our sole purpose should be to fill the need we have for the real Confucius, a need that is particularly acute in this age when, to paraphrase Confucius himself, “the rites have been lost and the music at court is disordered.”

If China’s intellectuals ignore this advice, their fate, like that of their predecessors, will be to serve only as running dogs for others. A stray dog that finds favor with no one and a guard dog prized by its master both are dogs.

In my opinion the greatest tragedy in the history of Chinese culture was not the famous “burning of books and live burials of scholars” for which the First Emperor of the Qin (259-210 BCE) is famous, but Emperor Wu’s “banning all schools of thought and venerating Confucianism alone.” This latter decree led to Dong Zhongshu’s (ca. 175-105 BCE) reinterpretation of Confucianism, which substantiated the theory that the imperial system (in fact founded and maintained by violence) was a manifestation of the Way of Heaven. Dong’s principle, cited in his biography in The History of the Former Han, that “if the will of Heaven does not change, then the Way does not change” was an assertion that the cosmos endorses imperial rule. It wrapped a violent military dictatorship in the dress of benevolent rule. Emperors of course saw the utility of this disguise, were happy to continue upholding Confucianism as the “uniquely venerated” official ideology, laying out a path by which the literati could master Confucian orthodoxy and use it to flourish as lackeys. Mao Zedong got the intellectuals just right when he invoked the saying “With the skin [i.e., the state] gone, what can the hair [the intellectuals] hang onto?”

The most important responsibility of Chinese intellectuals today is not to defend sage-worship that an autocratic political authority sup- ports but to pull free from reliance on and service to such authority. We should inherit and promote the May Fourth tradition, which Professor Chen Yinke (1889-1969) captured in the phrase “independence of thought and autonomy of person.”

Beijing, August 18, 2007

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Source:

  • Originally published online in Chinese on 2 September 2007 and available here
  • This translation by Thomas E. Moran first appeared in Liu Xiaobo, No Enemies, No Hatred: Selected Essays and Poems, edited by Perry Link, Tienchi Martin-Liao and Liu Xia, Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012, pp.188-200

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Other Dog Days in China Heritage


Chinese Text:

昨日喪家狗,今日看門狗
——透視當下中國的「孔子熱」

劉曉波

中國人熱炒大國崛起,由經濟崛起發展為文化崛起,由滿世界撒錢到軟實力輸出。在國內,繼「讀經熱」、「祭孔熱」、「儒教熱」之後,央視「百家講壇」掀起「讀孔熱」,為了重建中國的道統;在海外,中共投資大建「孔子學院」,為了向外輸出軟實力。一種壓抑百年的天下心態的發洩,讓孔聖人在海內外連成一線,「孔子熱」愈演愈烈。

在這種熱潮的背後,我看到的不是古典文化的復興,而是崇聖傳統的復活,是官方主導的極端民族主義的一部分。因為,六四後,官權一方面奉行的反自由化反和平演變,另一方面主導和煽動愛國主義,愛國主義已經成為中共現政權意識形態的支柱之一,配合著官方的「小康盛世」之喧囂是民族主義的泛濫。比如,《2005中國曲阜孔子國際文化節祭孔大典祭文》的結尾寫道:「小康初成,大同在夢。欣逢盛世,強國威風」,就是民族主義和盛世福音的雙重奏的典型文本。

最近一年,央視「百家講壇」對傳統文化的弘揚,掀起了風靡全國的「於丹熱」。一方面,電視傳媒成功地把孔子時尚化商業化了(用魯迅的話說,就是「摩登孔子」),如同前些年毛澤東的時尚化商業化一樣。有關孔子的各類書籍已經變成書業中高盈利品種,各類國學班和讀經班也是高盈利項目(比如,清華的「國學班」學費每人26000元,復旦為每人38000元,少兒讀經班更是收了天價)。另一方面,於丹講孔子,是古人大話與流行歌詞相混合的語言叫賣,她對孔子的任意而淺薄的解讀,為「儒教復興熱」注入通俗化的精神麻醉劑。按照於丹的《「論語」心得》解釋的孔子精華,人人都可以在犬儒心態中活得滋潤——無論遭遇到什麼,只要不抱怨,而是逆來順受,就能隨遇而安,活出幸福。

正當於丹掀起的「讀孔熱」持續升溫之時,北京大學教授李零先生的《喪家狗:我讀「論語」》出版,以考據功夫對孔聖人進行了「祛魅」式還原。他在《自序》中談到自己讀《論語》的態度:「我的書是用我的眼光寫成,不是人云亦云,我才不管什麼二聖人、三聖人怎麼講,大師、小師怎麼講,只要不符合原書,對不起,我概不接受。我讀《論語》,是讀原典。孔子的想法是什麼,要看原書。我的一切結論,是用孔子本人的話來講話———不跟知識分子起哄,也不給人民群眾拍馬屁。」「讀孔子的書,既不捧,也不摔,恰如其分地講,他是個堂吉訶德。」

正是基於這樣的不崇聖、不媚眾的求實態度,李零才會打破綿延二千多年的崇聖尊孔傳統。他說:「在這本書中,我想告訴大家,孔子並不是聖人。歷代帝王褒封的孔子,不是真孔子,只是‘人造孔子’。真正的孔子,活著的孔子,既不是聖,也不是王,根本談不上什麼‘內聖外王’。」「孔子不是聖,只是人,一個出身卑賤,卻以古代貴族(真君子)為立身標準的人;一個好古敏求,學而不厭、誨人不倦,傳遞古代文化,教人閱讀經典的人;一個有道德學問,卻無權無勢,敢於批評當世權貴的人;一個四處遊說,替統治者操心,拼命勸他們改邪歸正的人;一個古道熱腸,夢想恢復周公之治,安定天下百姓的人。他很惶,也很無奈,唇焦口燥,顛沛流離,像條無家可歸的流浪狗。這才是真相。」

李零讀《論語》的水平,無論在考證上還是在釋義上,都遠遠超過淺薄而隨意的於丹。更重要的是,作為當代知識分子的李零,對兩千多年前的知識分子孔子,也頗多感同身受的溫情理解。他說:孔子只承認自己是喪家狗。因為「孔子絕望於自己的祖國,徒興浮海居夷之嘆,但遍乾諸侯,一無所獲,最後還是回到了他的出生地。他的晚年,年年傷心。喪子,哀麟,回死由亡,讓他哭乾了眼淚。他是死在自己的家中——然而,他卻沒有家。不管他的想法對與錯,在他身上,我看到了知識分子的宿命。」

然而,李零的喪家狗之論,猶如投進「孔子熱」和「國學熱」的大石頭,激起儒家衛道士的群情鼎沸,圍攻的口水四溢泛濫,甚至不乏惱羞成怒的謾罵。呵斥為「憤青」者有之,判定為「末世論」者有之,有人甚至沒有讀過李零的書就將其斥為「垃圾」。之所以如此,僅僅因為李零讀《論語》的書名為「喪家狗」。由此可見,當下中國的新儒家對孔子的崇拜,已經到了「孔聖人」碰不得的地步。虧這些當代儒家的手中沒有多大的政治權力,如果有,大概又要回到「句句是真理,一句頂一萬句」的時代了。

李零是嚴肅的歷史學者,他讀《論語》,不是讀聖賢書,而是研究歷史;他考證出的孔子,不是聖人,而是一個找不到歸屬的知識分子。正如他的夫子自道:「我是拿《論語》當歷史研究,不是當崇拜的道具。」其實,李零的「喪家狗」之說,不過是還原了春秋時代的知識分子找不到用武之地的惶惶然狀態。李零把「喪家狗」解釋為流浪狗——「任何懷抱理想,在現實世界找不到精神家園的人,都是喪家狗。」而依我看,用「喪失精神家園」來評價孔子都是抬舉。事實上,孔子周遊列國,並非是為了尋找精神家園,而是為了尋找為權所用的家園。他一心想做「帝王師」而不得,是找不到權力歸屬的「喪家狗」。如果他當年能夠找到重用他的帝王,他也早就變成權力的「看門狗」了。

「喪家狗」的發明者也並非李零,而是古人對孔子的評價,孔子本人也認可這種評價。孔子周遊列國跑官,顛沛流離十四載卻一無所獲,他在極度失望中憤憤地感慨到:「吾道窮矣!」「天下莫能容!」

所以才有後人的「累累若喪家之狗!」的評價。但在衛道士們看來,孔子自稱「喪家狗」是聖人遺訓,飽含著種種治國育人的微言大義;而李零稱孔子是「喪家狗」就是大逆不道,是不值得一閱的「垃圾」。甚至有「憤儒」直呼「李零老師瘋了!」

無論當代崇聖尊孔的儒者們多麼鄙視李零的《喪家狗》,但在我看來,李零讀出的孔子,特別是那篇平實而出彩的《自序》,已經勝過蔣慶等新儒家關於孔子的所有言說。所以,一些著名學者對《喪家狗》給予很高的評價。

歷史學家吳思先生《仁義的可行性——評李零的《喪家狗我讀〈論語〉》》中說:「……我覺得李零乾了一個好活,不管以後我們怎麼做文化的建設,都應該依據一個踏實可靠的版本。李零這個版本,我看已經比朱熹厲害了。」

北大中文系教授錢理群先生在《如何對待從孔子到魯迅的傳統——讀李零《喪家狗:我讀〈論語〉》說:「在我看來,李零這樣的」以心契心「的研究心態與方法,這樣的」平視「的眼光,是他讀《論語》的一大特點,也是他的一個貢獻。李零以心契心的結果,發現了」喪家狗「孔子。……我讀這個詞,感覺其中有一點調侃的意思,但更有一種執著,一種悲哀在裡面。」

中國藝術研究院中國文化研究所所長劉夢溪先生在訪談中,稱贊李零讀《論語》的嚴肅、考據學工夫、消解神聖化和批判精神。

清華大學教授秦暉在「《論語》是怎麼成為經典的?」(《南方週末》2007-07-12)一文中說:「今天有些人把《論語》抬高到近乎‘儒家聖經’的程度,就像當年把一本薄薄的《毛主席語錄》說成是馬克思主義」頂峰「一樣,今天的‘《論語》熱’對於儒家,與當年的‘語錄熱’對於馬克思主義,到底是弘揚,還是糟蹋呢?」

在有著悠久崇聖傳統的中國,古今衛道士眼中的孔子,是不容質疑的聖人,是歷代帝王之師,是擁有道統至尊的「素王」,是皇帝們都要叩拜的「大成至聖文宣王」,是被康有為和孔教會尊為「教主」的神,如今又被新儒們作為中國文化的標誌。孔子說的每句話,既是治國醒世的箴言,也是修身養性的指導。最誇張的說法,古代有「半部《論語》治天下」之說,今天有「孔子上管5000年,下管5000年」之論,更有「不讀孔子,無以為人」之說。當代儒家甚至不惜編造出一些聳人聽聞的假新聞,而且是借洋人以自重的假新聞:1988年世界各國75個諾貝爾獎獲得者群聚巴黎,公選孔子為世界第一思想家。

面對拜聖者的走火入魔,恕我對當代儒家說句糙話:在你們眼中,孔子既然已經成聖,那就放個屁都沈甸甸、香噴噴。崇聖者已經迷失到分不清家常話和微言大義的區別,把《論語》中的家常話當作微言大義來讀。比如,《論語》開篇的「學而時習之,不亦說乎;有朋自遠方來,不亦樂乎;……」這樣的家常話,有什麼微言大義,犯得著浪費那麼多智慧注釋兩千多年、至今還在注釋嗎?正如周作人在《論語小記》所言:「《論語》所說多是做人處世的道理,……可以供後人的取法,但不能做天經地義的教條,更沒有什麼政治哲學的精義,可以治國平天下」。德國大哲黑格爾也認為《論語》不過是常識性的道理而已。

如果說,春秋時期的孔子之命運,猶如得不到權力垂青的喪家之犬,那麼,漢武帝欽定「獨尊儒術」之後,孔老二變成孔夫子,喪家犬遺骸就變成維護皇權獨裁制度的「看門狗」。由於儒術有利於皇權統治,所以儒家的「看門狗」地位也還算穩固,一坐就是二千多年。而當讀書人的偶像被官權捧上了天、甚至變成皇家祖廟里的鍍金偶像之時,恰恰是中國知識人及其思想墮入地獄、變成權力的婢女之時。正如司馬遷被漢武帝閹割之後悲憤地感嘆到:「僕之先人非有剖符丹書之功,文史星歷近乎卜祝之間,固主上所戲弄,倡優畜之,流俗之所輕也。」

直到西方列強敲開中國大門,傳統的制度及意識形態才開始急劇衰落,辛亥革命終結了傳統帝制,作為皇權獨裁意識形態的儒家也失去了制度依託,再次從「看門狗」變回「喪家狗」。儘管,也有過袁世凱的帝制復辟和尊孔大戲,但那不過是過眼煙雲的鬧劇,因為傳統的制度及其意識形態的崩潰已經不可避免。

在我看來,喪失了權力依靠,是傳統儒家的大不幸,使皇權的看門狗變成了流浪狗。但在從傳統讀書人向現代知識分子轉型的過程中,中國讀書人從「看門狗」再次變成「流浪狗」,卻是中國知識界的大幸。因為,不再依靠獨裁權力支撐的知識分子,無論是自願還是被迫,都更容易養成獨立的批判精神。遺憾的是,中國知識分子的「流浪狗」命運,也僅僅持續了半個世紀,隨著中共極權統治君臨中國大地,中國知識分子連「流浪狗」都當不成了。大部分淪為被窮追猛打的「落水狗」,少數幸運兒變成毛澤東政權的「看門狗」。比如,在民國時期敢罵蔣介石的郭沫若,卻在1949年後變成毛澤東的應聲蟲。

孔子在現、當代中國命運頗為詭異,先後經歷了兩次「打倒孔家店」的運動,一次是五四新文化運動,一次是毛澤東發動的批林批孔運動。六四後,中國知識界出現了反激進主義的思潮,把五四運動的反傳統和毛澤東的反傳統一勺燴,同樣作為激進主義革命加以拋棄,而全然不顧兩次「打倒孔家店」的完全不同。

首先,兩次反孔運動的發動者完全不同。五四運動是自下而上的自發的民間文化運動,其發動者大都是來自民間的新型知識分子,他們接受了來自西方的新理念、新價值和新方法,並以西方價值為參照來探討中國落伍的原因。他們不滿足於洋務派的器物不如人和維新派的制度不如人,而深入到文化不如人的層面。而文革時期的批林批孔是自上而下的由獨裁權力操控的政治運動,其發動者毛澤東不僅握有絕對的權力,也用毛澤東思想的獨尊地位代替所有其他的思想——無論是外來的還是中國固有的。

其次,兩次反孔的性質完全不同。五四一代新型知識分子發起「打倒孔家店」的新文化革命,針對不是百家爭鳴的先秦時代的孔子,而是獨尊儒術的漢武帝時代以來的孔聖人,是為了打倒作為獨裁皇權「看門狗」的儒術。而毛澤東發動的批孔運動,沒有任何文化訴求和棄舊圖新的動機,而完全是基於捍衛自身權力的政治需要。他把批孔作為黨內權爭的政治工具,既是為了徹底批臭林彪,也是為了警告「黨內大儒」周恩來。

也就是說,兩次打倒孔家店有著本質的區別:手無權力的新型知識人與手握絕對權力的當代秦始皇之間的區別,自發文化運動與權力操控的政治運動之間的區別,為古老中國尋找文化出路與為鞏固絕對權力而整肅異己之間的區別。

所以,時至今日,我仍然贊同五四時期作為自發文化運動的「打倒孔家店」,但我堅決反對文革時期作為政治運動的「打倒孔家店」。

在《現代中國的孔夫子》一文中,魯迅稱孔子為「摩登聖人」,也是在批判帝制中國的崇聖傳統。他說:「孔夫子之在中國,是權勢者們捧起來的,是那些權勢者或者想做權勢者們的聖人,和一般的民眾並無什麼關係」。而在我看來,中國的崇聖傳統堪稱最大的文化造假工程,由歷代帝王和御用文人共同參與建造。被歷代帝王和大儒們「封聖」的孔子,早已遠離了真實的孔子,堪稱最大的假冒偽劣品。

其實,認真讀讀先秦諸子就會發現,被尊為聖人的孔子,實為先秦諸子中最平庸的道德說教者。與莊子相比,孔子沒有超逸、飄飛、瀟灑以及想象力的奇偉瑰麗、語言的汪洋恣肆,沒有脫俗的哲學智慧和橫溢的文學才華,更沒有對人類悲劇的清醒意識。與孟子相比,孔子缺少男子漢的氣魄、恢弘和達觀,更缺少在權力面前的自尊,缺少「民為重,社稷次之,君為輕」的平民關懷;與韓非子相比,孔子虛偽、狡詐,沒有韓非子的直率、犀利和反諷的才華;與墨子相比,孔子沒有以平等為理想的民粹主義的道德自律,沒有具有形式特徵的邏輯頭腦。孔子所說的一切,缺少大智慧而只有小聰明,極端功利、圓滑,既無審美的靈性和哲理的深邃,也無人格的高貴和心胸的曠達。他先是四處跑官,失敗後就當道德教主,他的好為人師以及「誨人不倦」的為師之道,恰恰是狂妄而淺薄的人格所致。他那種「盛世則入,亂世則隱」的聰明的處世之道,是典型的不負責任的機會主義。可悲的是,正是這個最圓滑最功利最世故最無擔當精神和受難情懷的孔子,成了中華民族幾千年的聖人和楷模。有什麼樣的民族就有什麼樣的聖人,有什麼樣的聖人就只能塑造什麼樣的民族,中國人的全部奴性皆源於此,這種文化上的遺傳一直延續到今天。

李零先生讀《論語》的真意,一是針對當下中國的極端民族主義所發。該書雖為還原「真孔子」的嚴肅的學術著作,剝去了歷代儒家賦予孔子的虛幻聖賢之皮,但也具有強烈的現實關懷,他直接質疑「讀經熱」和「尊孔熱」,間接質疑所謂的「大國崛起」。李零眼中的孔子僅僅是一個「在現實世界找不到精神家園」的「喪家狗」,是在批判拿孔子當救世主的當代儒家。正如李零自己所言:「把孔子的旗幟插遍全世界,我沒有興趣。」「孔子不能救中國,也不能救世界。」

二是針對中國知識分子總想與權力套近乎的傳統,因為現在的儒家正急於與當權者套近乎。他們獨尊儒學,呼喚儒教,並非注重儒學對重建國人道德的作用,而是注重儒家「修齊治平」的政治功能,為的是實行政教合一的王道;他們把孔子推上「帝王師」或「國師」的地位,呼籲把儒教定位「國教」,希望政府以行政權力大樹特樹孔子,實際上是這些新儒家想扮演當代的「帝王師」,進而變成柏拉圖式的手握大權的「哲學王」。於是,新儒家重塑的孔子是向漢武帝時代的倒退,意欲再來一次「罷黜百家、獨尊儒術」,是高度意識形態化的孔子,是在復活把人當作神來崇拜的「人格神」的傳統。

李零認為,在中國歷史上,那些滿懷烏托邦理想知識分子,只有作為獨立於權力的批判力量才是本份,而這樣的知識分子一旦掌握權力,對於一個國家而言恰恰是危險的,甚至是災難性的。李零說:「知識分子心明眼亮,比誰都專制。如果手中有刀,首先喪命的,就是他的同類」。因為中國知識分子大都很狂妄,自以為「最有智慧,最有道德,最有理想。」自詡為「先天下之憂而憂,後天下之樂而樂,」可以拯救百姓於水火之中,建立起人間天堂。宋儒張載的四句話:「為天地立心,為生民立命,為往聖繼絕學,為萬世開太平。」至今還被許多中國知識分子當作座用銘,說明瞭中國士大夫狂妄傳統仍然根深蒂固。

正是基於此,李零告誡中國當代知識分子應該汲取歷史教訓,必須與權力保持距離,放棄「帝王師」的野心,拋棄把古代經典進行政治化和意識形態化的傳統,以維持知識、思想和學術的獨立性,激發知識分子的精神創造力。正如李零在《自序》的最後說:「讀《論語》,要心平氣和———去政治化,去道德化,去宗教化。目的無他,我們需要的是一個真實的孔子,特別是在這個禮壞樂崩的世界。」否則的話,今天的中國知識人,仍然象中國的歷代知識分子那樣,無法擺脫甘當他人走狗的命運。區別只在於,無人賞識時如同「喪家之犬」,得到垂青時猶如中彩的「看門狗」。

在我看來,中國文化的最大悲劇,還不是秦始皇的「焚書坑儒」,而是漢武帝的「罷黜百家,獨尊儒術」,經過董仲舒改造的儒家學說,把靠暴力建立和維繫的帝制秩序描繪為天道的體現,「天不變道亦不變」作為帝制合法性的本體論根據,為人間皇權的永存提供了宇宙論證明,為赤裸裸的暴力統治披上了一件懷柔的仁治外衣。帝王們當然看得出來這件外衣的勸誘作用,遂確立為獨尊的官方意識形態,成為主流讀書人安身立命的「道統」,也就是如何變成「好奴才」的傳統。正如毛澤東對知識人的定位:「皮之不存,毛將焉附?」

對於當代中國的知識人來說,首要的責任並非維護一種靠獨裁權力支撐的崇聖傳統,而是擺脫依附權力的御用地位,承續自五四以來「自由之思想,獨立之人格」的新傳統。

2007年8月18日於北京家中