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I have a question concerning a passage from a text by Zhu Xi.

The full passage goes as follows (passages I have problem with are marked):

"唐子西嘗曰,弘景知本草而未知經。注本草誤,其禍疾而小,注六經誤,其禍遲而大。前世儒臣引經誤國,其禍至於伏屍百萬,流血千里。武成曰,血流漂杵,武王以此自多之辭,當時倒戈攻後,殺傷固多,非止一處,豈至血流漂杵乎。孟子深慮戰國之君以此藉口,故曰盡信書則不如無書。而謂血流漂杵,未足為多。豈示訓之至哉。經訓之禍,正此類也"

  1. I am at loss when it comes to this sentence: "武王以此自多之辭". What does it mean exactly? My guess is: "through this (i.e. through the bloodshed) King Wu depriaciated himself a lot". But I am almost sure it is wrong.

  2. does '非止一處" mean "[they] did not stay in one place" (implying that this is the reason the bloodshed could not be as sever as it is claimed)?

  3. "未足為多" - how to understand this phrase? Is it something like "it an exaggeration/ [lit.]it cannot be accepted because it is to much"?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated :).

3 Answers 3

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I would like to add on to r13 and 水巷孑蠻's answer.

  1. Zhuxi's central theme here is the problem of annotating classics (經注之禍). Zhuxi was very doubtful of Mencius's interpretation of Shangshu (see the bolded parts below). Consider the following somewhat better punctuated text with paragraphs before and after your excerpt.

    I also think the 陶弘景 and 唐子西 quotes are only examples to illustrate his disapproval of Mencius's interpretation. They are secondary, in a sense. 陶弘景 alludes to 孟子 and 唐子西 alludes to himself.

孟子曰:「盡信《書》,則不如無《書》。仁人無敵於天下,以至仁伐不仁,而何其血之流忤也?」曰:「紂一人惡邪?眾人惡邪?眾皆善而紂獨惡,則去紂久矣,不待周也。夫為天下逋逃主,萃淵藪,同之者可遽數邪?紂亡則逋逃者曷歸乎?其欲拒周者人可數邪?血流漂杵,未足多也。」或曰:「前徒倒戈,攻於後,以北。故荀卿曰殺者皆商人,非周人也。然則商人之不拒周,審矣。」曰:「如皆北也,焉用攻?」又曰:「甚哉:世人之好異也!孔子非吾師乎?眾言驩,千徑百道,倖存孔子,吾得以求其是。《虞》、《夏》、《商》、《周》之《書》出於孔子,其誰不知? 孟子一言,人皆畔之。畔之不已,故今人之取孟子以斷《六經》矣。嗚呼,信孟子而不信經,是猶信他人而疑父母也。

余隱之曰:《魯語》曰:「俎豆之事,則嘗聞之矣。軍旅之事,未之學也。」孔子之意可見矣。客有問陶弘景注《易》與《本草》孰先,陶曰:「注《易》誤,不至殺人。注《本草》誤,則有不得其死者。」世以為知言。唐子西嘗曰: 「弘景知本草而未知經。注《本草》誤,其禍疾而小。注《六經》誤,其禍遲而大。」前世儒臣引經誤國,其禍至於伏屍百萬,流血千里。《武成》曰「血流漂杵」,武王以此自多之辭。當時倒戈攻後,殺傷固多,非止一處,豈至血流漂杵乎?孟子深慮戰國之君以此藉口,故曰「盡信《書》則不如無《書》」。而謂血流漂杵未足為多,豈示訓之意哉? 經注之禍,正此類也。反以孟子為畔經,是亦惑矣。 謂《虞》、《夏》、《商》、《周》之《書》出於孔子,人宜取信。《詩》非孔子之刪乎?《雲漢》之詩曰:「周余黎民,靡有孑遺。」信斯言也,則是周無遺民也。請以此說為證。

This is another of Zhuxi's annotation of Mencius:

杵,舂杵也。或作鹵,楯也。武成言武王伐紂,紂之「前徒倒戈,攻于後以北,血流漂杵」。孟子言此則其不可信者。然書本意,乃謂商人自相殺,非謂武王殺之也。孟子之設是言,懼後世之惑,且長不仁之心耳。

Regarding your questions:

  1. 自多 means 'to be full of oneself; to boast' (自滿;自誇), where 多 is the verb. 血流漂杵,武王以此自多之辭 is an abbreviated statement: 血流漂杵(者),武王以此自多之辭(也). It translates as: (to Mencius) 血流漂杵 is a phrase by which King Wu of Chou used to self-boast.

  2. 止通只. As explained by the rest.

  3. 多 is exactly the same meaning as in the case of 1. As a side note, the online sources I searched did not show 豈示訓之至哉 but 豈示訓之意哉, and I managed to find 《古今圖書集成》 to have used 意 as well (see here). Anyhow I believe the hidden subject is Mencius: (孟子)謂血流漂杵未足為多,豈(孟子)示訓之至哉, because with contextual clues I do not think 血流漂杵未足為多 is Zhuxi's claim, but rather Zhuxi's quote of Mencius's claim.

    Translating (孟子)謂血流漂杵未足為多: ‘Mencius considered "血流漂杵" not as the most self-boastful [meaning there are even worse instances according to Mencius]’. It is not impossible that Zhuxi was mocking Mencius here, given what we saw in 0.

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  • The explanation of 自多 is excellent. Thanks.
    – r13
    Dec 10, 2021 at 4:08
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well, let’s started from 武成曰・血流漂杵

武成 is a chapter in the book 尚書 (one of the six classic 六經), so

武成曰・血流漂杵

mr 朱 quoted as an example, that in the chapter 武成 of 尚書・周書, there‘s a verse “and the blood flowed till it floated the pestles of the mortars” (血流漂杵)

武王以此自多之辭

the chapter 武成 is “supposed” written by 周武王, mr 朱 thought that:

king wu (武王) using this (以此) [“血流漂杵”] as a self exaggerate (自多) record (辭)

the exaggeration is needed, to horrify any potential enemy, that, anyone against him would be dead. an effective method in ancient time (no news, tv, social medias), to stabilise a new born country.

非止一處

the verse “血流漂杵” was used to describe the result of the battle in 牧野. mr 朱 thought that the overturn of the 商 dynasty, there should be many battles, in many places. that, the killing, and wounding [of enemy] were many (殺傷固多), not limited (非止) in only one battlefield “一處” [牧野]

https://ctext.org/dictionary.pl?if=gb&id=43070

而謂血流漂杵・未足為多・豈示訓之至哉

last, mr 朱 thought that if anyone [read 武成] and then claimed (而謂) the verse “the blood flowed till it floated the pestles of the mortars” (血流漂杵), not enough to be (未足為) an exaggeration (多). perhaps, (豈) [such] teaching (示訓) is not best (之至)

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  • I thought the book was talking about just one battle (會于牧野), not many battles, and 非止一處 means the killing didn't happen at just one spot but many spots. So, it's not possible for the blood to congregate to form a river deep enough to make pestles float.
    – joehua
    Dec 10, 2021 at 0:28
  • An excellent reference to the source document.
    – r13
    Dec 10, 2021 at 4:10
  • An excellent answer from 水巷孑蠻, as usual!
    – Pedroski
    Dec 10, 2021 at 6:46
  • @Pedroski thanks 😸 many times, i think that i’m psychotic, to think in cantonese, but mixing literary chinese and english together in writing. 🙀 anyway, if people understand what did i write, i’m not yet lah 😹 Dec 10, 2021 at 12:24
  • @r13, the quoted text in the question might be involved 3 books, i’m checking now 😸 Dec 10, 2021 at 12:25
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I think (武王)以此自多之辭 reflected in 孟子的忧慮 - (戰國之君)以此藉口. I do not quite understand the phase 自多 then.

殺傷固多,非止一處,豈至血流漂杵乎。- although many people were killed or wounded in the fight, the death toll of the war (including many small scale fights) happened not in a single place/fight, how could it had that much of blood to form a river that could make the pestle to float and move with the flow.

This sentence above seems to ridicule the critics of the consequence of the fight, so it drew the comment from 孟子 - The description (血流漂杵) wasn't an exaggeration (未足為多).

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  • Thank you this explains a lot (especially the third question). About the first one: I also have problem with ”自多“, first I thoguht that (武王)以此自多之辭 might mean something like "by this King Wu was boasted [自多] in eulogies/fine words [辭]" (and this is why 戰國之君 could use it as an excuse). But then I thought that maybe 自多 should be read separately like "diminished (辞)himself(自) a lot (多)". What do you think?
    – McCzajnik
    Dec 9, 2021 at 20:55
  • Maybe. Or another guess maybe "自圓之說(之辭)".
    – r13
    Dec 9, 2021 at 21:33
  • 2
    I think, on the opposite, 孟子 believed 血流漂杵 was an exaggeration. That's why he said 盡信書(經)不如無書(經). Actually, for the past 2500 plus years, scholars had thought 血流漂杵 had implied way too much blood. So, various explanations have been proposed to make sense of it, such as 杵 is 盾, 杵 is 杆, etc.
    – joehua
    Dec 10, 2021 at 0:28

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