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On Fame

On his way to Lu, Yang-tzu put up for the night at Meng's house. During a conversation with him, Mr. Meng said: "Man is nothing more but a man; what good does fame for him?" Yang-tzu replied: "Those who use their fame do so in order to profit by it and gather wealth."

"But why do they yearn after fame once they got wealthy?"

"Because they care for their honor", Yang-tzu answered

"Then they get the honor, too: why do they still crave reputation?"

"Because of death."

"What is the use of lasting if one is mortal?", Meng asked.

"For the sake of one's children and nephews," the philosopher added.

"What benefits does fame yield to one's children and nephews?"

"He who is busy with getting famous receives nothing but troubles and worries. It is only his relatives, the people of his birth place and his children that take advantage of his fame," Yang-tzu said.

"He who is preoccupied by reputation knows nothing; his indifference begets him misfortune. Moreover, the one who thirsts for fame is bound to behave with humility, and humility implies undignified bearing...", Mr. Meng remarked.

Yang-tzu said: "Kuang Zhong was a minister in Ts'i. Whenever his prince was indulging in debauchery, he lived in dissipation, too. Or when that one proved magnanimous, he was generous in his turn. The minister imitated his sovereign in deeds and words alike. Such an attitude led to the principality's ascendancy within the empire. Still, he didn't enjoy fame after his death.

T'ien Zhe was also a minister in Ts'i. Whenever his prince was exceedingly haughty, the minister was humble. When the prince burst with greed, Mr. T'ien used to teach him humbleness. The whole people turned to the minister. This way he came to be called to the throne of Ts'i and his children and nephews have remained influential men until now."

"Should we then think," Meng asked, "that true fame leads to poverty, whereas faked reputation leads to wealth?"
Yang-tzu explained: "Frank behavior has never brought fame; fame goes hand in hand with hypocrisy. All the famous people were nothing but hypocrites. Hypocrites as they were, Yao and Chuen gave up their empire to Hsiu Yu and Chan K'iuen in the old times: this way they didn't lose it and also enjoyed life to the full. Po Yi and Chou Ts'i actually resigned the crown and they lost it forever, nearly dying of starvation at the foot of the Cheou Yang Mountain. We can therefore notice that truth and hypocrisy bring different results.(Extract from Lieu Tseu: "Le vrai classique du vide parfait", translated by Benedykt Grynpas, Gallimard, chapter VII-1. English version by Jhian and Corina berbecar).

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