The Potter Yu Shun Influenced the Land of Dongyi (Part 2)

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According to legend, since everybody bought the pots made by Shun, the other potters had hardly any business, and nobody went to them anymore. They were very angry with Shun, so one day they went to make trouble for him. Shun said to them, “Do you think that I came here to compete with you and steal your customers? Whether or not to make pots is up to me, yet the choice to buy is not mine. If nobody wants to buy my pots, I cannot force them; if everybody buys my pots, I cannot refuse. Please think about it, everyone. We all make pots, yet why do people buy my pots and not yours? Why is that?” The potters answered, “Your pots are durable and reasonably priced. Our pots are fragile and pricy. Therefore, people buy from you, not from us. Aren’t you purposely opposing us and competing for our business and clients?”

Shun asked, “Think about the fabric and textile products that we use every day. It is obvious you people would not buy low quality products. Then why would I make fragile ceramic products to sell?” The potters said, “People used to buy our pots. Ever since you came, they stopped buying from us. So it’s all because of you and not because our pots are fragile.”

Shun said, “That is not true. People used to buy from you because there was no one else they could buy from. They had to buy from you, not that they liked to. For example, during the years of big crop failures, people ate bran and grass, not because they wanted to, but because they had to. By selling fragile products, you are doing the same as forcing them to eat bran scraps and grass roots. Isn’t that so?” The potters responded, “We are craftsman who live off of our skills. We only know about making money and becoming rich. We don’t care about being nice!” Shun said, “That is not so. Wealth is within kindness. Without kindness, where could you find wealth?”

Hearing this, the potters eagerly wanted to know what the reasons were, so Shun guided the potters, saying, “The difference between humans and animals is kindness. If I do not cheat others, then they also will not cheat me. If I cheat them, then they must cheat me. In order to become rich, you have cheated others by selling them fragile pots. However, everybody wants to make money and become rich. If people in all the trades think like you and make shabby products of poor quality, I ask you, ‘Could you still make money?’ What you make is only earthenware, and you have to buy countless other commodities from others. You only have one product to compete with many other products, so how could you win? Even if you make more profit on the pots, you do not know how much more money you have to spend on other products! Without kindness there is no wealth, so isn’t it wise to be kind?”

The potters seemed to come to a realization and said, “True, in the past few years, many products on the market have become less and less durable, all because of this.” Afterwards, the potters followed Shun’s good example, conducted themselves, and ran their businesses honestly. They paid attention to their pots and no longer made low quality products. They produced strong and durable pots again.

The land of Dongyi was relatively undeveloped at the time, and the local people were unkind. In doing business, it was common among the merchants to produce poor quality products in order to make a profit. Yet when a wise and genuine person ruled the country, “Morals came first and guidance was emphasized.” He did not use strict laws and harsh punishments. After hearing what Shun said and seeing how he conducted himself, the potters changed their ways of doing things and started over. The locals again became more kind and honest. There was no need for repeated demands or coercion. All that was needed was to teach and pass on the spiritual obligations, and then everybody improved their characters and was kind. There was not much that needed to be done, yet the world was well ruled and everything in order.

The book Records of the Grand Historian has a chapter “Annals of the Five Emperors” in which the author, Sima Qian, evaluated Emperor Shun as follows: “When Shun was a farmer at Mount Li, the local people gave him their land; when he was a fisherman at Thunder Lake, the local fishermen let him stay in their houses; when he was a potter at the Yellow River, the earthenware in that area was not of poor quality. When he remained at the same place for one year, people gathered; for two years, a city was built; by the third year, a great metropolis was established.” Wherever he worked, there would be a trend toward courtliness and kindness; wherever he went, people followed him. Thus, Sima Qian praised Shun, “Civilization and kindness in the world started with Yu Shun.”

虞舜製陶化東夷 (下)

傳說,因為大家紛紛購買舜製作的陶器,以至於舊陶人個個生意清淡,門可張羅。大家氣忿不過,就來和舜滋鬧。舜對大家說道:「諸位以為我是來爭奪諸位的生意嗎?可是制貨之權在我,買貨之權不在我。人不來買,我不能強;人家來買,我不能推。諸位試想,同爲陶器,何以諸位所做的大家不喜買;我所做的大家都喜買?是甚麼原故呢?」眾人說道:「你所做的堅牢,價又便宜;我們所做鬆脆,價值又貴。所以大家買你的,不買我們的了。這豈不是有意和我們作對,奪我們的生意嗎?」

舜道:「對於人生日用織物,諸位一定不要鬆脆的物品。那麼我怎樣可以做了鬆脆的物品去賣給人?」眾人說:「向來我們所做的大家都要買;現在你來做了,大家才不要買。可見是你之故,不是貨色鬆脆之故了。」

舜道:「這又不然。從前大家要買,是因為除諸位所做之外無處可買,是不得已而買,並非歡喜要買。譬如凶荒之年,吃糠吃草,是不得以而吃,並非歡喜去吃。現在諸位拿了鬆脆之物強賣給人,與拿了草根糠屑去強人吃無異,豈不是不仁嗎?」眾人回答說:「我輩做手藝的只知道求富,不管甚麼仁不仁!」舜又道:「不是如此。仁字之中才有富字,除去仁字之外,哪裡還有富呢?」

眾人忙問何故,舜趁機引導大家說:「人與禽獸不同的地方,就是仁。我不欺人,人亦不欺我。我欺人,人亦必欺我。現在諸位因為求富的原故,拿鬆脆的物品去欺人,但是欲富者,人之同心。百工之事,假使都和諸位一樣的窳陋,無物不劣,無品不惡,試問諸位還能夠富嗎?諸位所做的只有一種陶器,而須向他人去買的,不可勝計。以一種敵多種,怎能敵得過呢?即便在陶器上多得了利益,但是消耗於其他種類的不知有多少倍!不仁而不富,這不是不明智嗎?」

眾人似有所悟的說道:「是呀,這幾年來,各項物件都有些不耐用,就是這個原故啊。」從此之後,那些製假的陶工們,都開始以舜為榜樣,以誠實為做人、經商的原則,認真製陶,不再粗製濫造,製作出的陶器又堅固耐用了。

東夷荒蠻,民風澆薄,經商中為追逐利益而製造劣質產品的現象頗似當下。但聖人治國,「德為先,重教化」,不以嚴刑峻法為本。製陶人在舜的言傳身教下改過自新,風氣也日漸淳厚,無須三令五申,更不必高壓強制,只需以心法相傳,人人皆重德行善,無為而天下治。《史記﹒五帝本記》這樣評價舜帝:「舜耕於歷山,歷山之人皆讓畔;漁雷澤,雷澤之人皆讓居;陶河濱,河濱器皆不苦窳。一年而所成聚,二年成邑,三年成都」。只要是舜勞作的地方,便興起禮讓的風尚;走到哪裡,人們都願意追隨。故司馬遷讚歎說:「天下明德,皆自虞舜始。」

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