Wang Anshi: Reply to a Letter from Counsellor Sima Guang ~ 王安石 《答司马谏议书》 with English Translations

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小编导读:《答司马谏议书》是北宋著名文学家王安石所作,篇中对司马光加给作者的“侵官、生事、征利、拒谏、怨谤”五个罪名逐一作了反驳,并批评士大夫阶层的因循守旧,表明坚持变法的决心。言辞犀利,针锋相对,是古代的驳论名篇之一。

王安石 《答司马谏议书》

某启:昨日蒙教,窃以为与君实游处相好之日久,而议事每不合,所操之术多异故也。虽欲强聒,终必不蒙见察,故略上报,不复一一自辨。重念蒙君实视遇厚,于反复不宜卤莽,故今具道所以,冀君实或见恕也。

盖儒者所争,尤在于名实,名实已明,而天下之理得矣。今君实所以见教者,以为侵官、生事、征利、拒谏,以致天下怨谤也。某则以为受命于人主,议法度而修之于朝廷,以授之于有司,不为侵官;举先王之政,以兴利除弊,不为生事;为天下理财,不为征利;辟邪说,难壬人,不为拒谏。至于怨诽之多,则固前知其如此也。人习于苟且非一日,士大夫多以不恤国事、同俗自媚于众为善,上乃欲变此,而某不量敌之众寡,欲出力助上以抗之,则众何为而不汹汹然?盘庚之迁,胥怨者民也,非特朝廷士大夫而已。盘庚不为怨者故改其度,度义而后动,视而不见可悔故也。如君实责我以在位久,未能助上大有为,以膏泽斯民,则某知罪矣;如曰今日当一切不事事,守前所为而已,则非某之所敢知。

无由会晤,不任区区向往之至。


Reply to a Letter from Counsellor Sima Guang

Wang Anshi

Greetings from Wang Anshi:

Yesterday I had the honour to receive your instructions. We have long been acquainted and on a friendly footing, yet it seems to me that we usually disagree in our deliberations because the lines we take are fundamentally different. Much as I would have liked to argue my case at length, I knew you would never accept it; that is why I simply acknowledged your letter briefly instead of justifying myself point by point. In view, however, of the high regard you have shown me, I have since reflected that such a cursory reply was inappropriate. So I crave your indulgence now, sir, for explaining my views in more detail.

What scholars dispute most hotly is whether or not names accord with reality. Once the relationship between these is clear, we can grasp the principles governing all things in the universe.

However, sir, you now reproach me for causing a great uproar throughout the country by infringing on the prerogatives of officials, fomenting trouble, practicing extortion, and rejecting advice.

But I consider that when I receive orders from the Emperor to discuss certain laws and measures and have them amended at court, then passed on to the offices concerned, this cannot be called infringing on the prerogatives of officials. When I revive the policies of kings of old to benefit the country and do away with abuses, this cannot be called fomenting trouble. When I regulate the empire’s finances, this cannot be called extortion. When I refuse vicious talk and rebut sophists, this cannot be called rejecting advice.

As for the widespread uproar, this is something which I had foreseen in advance. People have been used to blundering on for some time and most of the gentry think it best to ignore affairs of state, swim with the tide and curry favour with the multitude. Now the Emperor wishes to change this and, not caring how many my opponents are, I am eager to do my utmost to help him stem the tide; so naturally this has raised a storm of protests. When Pan Geng (1) moved his capital it caused a great clamour among the whole populace, not merely among court officials. But he did not because of this outcry change his plan, for he considered it correct and, having carried it out, saw no reason to regret it.

If you censure me because in my long term of office I have failed to do much to help the Emperor benefit the people, then I must plead guilty, sir. If you urge me to do nothing now but simply abide by the old ways, this is something I cannot venture to accept.

Having no chance to meet you, I can only send you my most respectful regards.

(1)A king of the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600-1066 BC) who moved his capital from present-day Qufu, where it was often flooded, to Anyang further south from the Yellow River

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