Eight legged essays

Old is new is old.

Did you know China’s ancient civil service exam demanded you write essay in a formal style, the eight-legged essay which is essentially the same as America’s five paragraph essay.

Chinese eight-legged essay
-1 Snappy title
-2 Clarify theme
-3 Introduction
-4 1st argument
-5 2nd argument
-6 3rd argument
-7 4th argument
-8 Conclusion

American
-1 Introduction
-2 1st argument
-3 2nd argument
-4 3rd argument
-5 Conclusion

So the American’s are really just short a snappy title and a 4th argument.

Also, from this is the winning essay from 1529 by Tang Shunzi

Mencius’ contemporary Zi Mo wanted to rectify the deviation of heterodox teachings, but did not realize that he himself fell into deviation.

The fact is, the middle is defined as “not deviant,” and the correct application of the middle is the proper measure. Zi Mo wanted to rectify the deviant ways of Yang Zi and Mo Zi, but did not know the proper measure, so this was but another deviation. This was the standard Mencius used to repudiate his error and to establish our way.

To elaborate, for our Way is the principal one, but the manifestations are many; egoism and indiscriminate love certainly deviate from the Way. And our way uses the one principle to join together the many, but those who hold on to egoism or indiscriminate love are certainly holding on to an extreme which leads nowhere. Thus there was Zi Mo who understood the errors of Yang Zi and Mo Zi, and thereupon mediated between the two in order to grasp the middle course.

Zi Mo would probably say, I cannot bear to be like Yang Zi, who cut off all ties with others in a niggardly fashion; I simply stop short of loving indiscriminately.

I have not time to be like Mo Zi who joyfully sacrifices himself for others: I simply stop short of being an egoist.

Because one rejects egoism, one may be thought to be escaping from the error of Yang Zi and heading towards benevolence.

Because one rejects indiscriminate love, one may be thought to be escaping for the error of Mo Zi and heading towards righteousness.

Zi Mo seems to be close to the Way, but he does not understand the following: the proper measure is defined as following the Way at the right time; the middle is defined as others with the proper measure; and the position between Yang Zi and Mo Zi is not the place to seek the middle.

If one just knows that one should not sever ties with others but does not know how to weigh others to give evenly, then there is no danger of becoming an egoist, but on the other hand those who follow the Way and strive to perfect themselves will also be seen as approaching egoism and consequently one will not dare act in like manner.

If one understands that one should not sacrifice oneself for others but cannot give to others on an individual basis, then there is no danger of loving indiscriminately, but on the other hand those who follow the Way and strive to perfect the whole Empire will also be seen as approaching indiscriminate love and consequently one will not be willing to act in like manner.

One may say that I plan to escape from Yang Zi. However, Yang Zi saw himself and not others, while Zi Mo saw a fixed position not an open passage. In essence, all these are but parochial teachings. Really, can those who know how to adapt to myriad changes be like this?

One may say that I plan to escape from Mo Zi. However, Mo Zi saw others and not himself, while Zi Mo saw tracks and not transformations. In essence all these are but one-sided delusions. Really, can those who respond to eternal inconstancy be like this?

The point is, egoism is one extreme, and indiscriminate love is another extreme. That is why it is easy to understand that Yang Zi and Mo Zi each held on to an extreme.

The middle is not an extreme: but if one holds on to the middle without applying the proper measure, then this is also an extreme. That is why it is difficult to understand that Zi Mo was holding on to an extreme.

If Mencius had not demonstrated this with his eloquence, then most people would have thought that Zi Mo was able to be one with the Way.

It’s nice to see a 16th century essay of false equivalence.

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