A year ago on Round and Square (13 August 2012)—Rural Religion in China-9
|[a] Turf RF|
In this series, I will do most of my own translations, but with one twist. In many posts, I plan to quote from the fabulous partial translation by the peerless scholar Achilles Fang (1910-1995). It "only" covers about fifty years of the Comprehensive Mirror's 1,362-year narrative, but it is a brilliant work of historiography, and I want to honor Professor Fang. I will include references for those translations, because at least that book is available in some college and university libraries. I will also quote from translations done by Rafe de Crespigny (1936-) about thirty years ago (covering another fifty or so years of the text). Those are even harder to find, but at least they are "out there." After some time acknowledging and quoting from the work of these venerable scholars, we will set our little boat out onto the full text of the Comprehensive Mirror, and I will show you some of the fascinating caves and inlets from Chinese history along the way.
2—Petty People, Petty Quarrels
|[b] Quarrel RF|
"Kids these days," it seems to say. Well, all I know is that some of the most lasting of petty feuds have been instigated by people a great deal older than quarreling young'uns. I have seen a lot of this (even quite recently), and this author misses the age group, even as he nails the main point.
Big kids fight and cry in the sandbox, too. It's called "turf," and it often isn't pretty at all.
"Of all those who have ruled over the empire there has been none who
did not appreciate men of simplicity and truthfulness, and profoundly dislike
those who were false and untruthful. This is because the latter would
demolish good teachings, disturb good rule, destroy good custom, and
injure good transformation...
"I presume to observe that young men of our times do not consider study
as their fundamental duty but make it their exclusive business to form
associations. These gentlemen of the land do not take filiality, brotherly
affections, and the cultivation of character as the paramount matter, but
put first running after the powerful and associating with those who might
give them profit. They form groups and associate into parties, mutually
praising and eulogizing; calumny and defamation are considered as
capital punishment, partisan commendation and praise as rank and reward.
Those who follow they praise vociferously; those who do not, they find
|[c] Dynamic RF|
So what is it about factions and pettiness, and just-plain-dumb-as-a-rock-inability-to-work-together...ness? What is it?
Well, there is something in here for all managers, but I would suggest a hidden gem that might have slipped by if you were only skimming the first paragraph. It isn't the "quarreling" that is bad for the group (that happens). What is truly problematic (this is my reading of it) is the "how it takes place" dynamic. In the second paragraph we see how looking for advantage (I think of short-term gain) leads, in turn, to privileging individuals and groups that do nothing for long-term individual goals or the organization itself. One set of social choices, in other words, leads to all sorts of organizational ills.
And one more reminder. Whether the individual observations seem trenchant or somewhat obvious, the key to reading the Comprehensive Mirror lies in putting them together—considering them side-by-side. This is, in short, not just another way of putting little maxims together into a slender red, yellow, black, or brown book. It is a way of considering case studies...and this is only the first taste of the Popsicle.
Petty fightin'. More management tomorrow.
|[d] Stakes RF|
Sima Guang 司馬光. Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑑 [The Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Ruling]. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 北京: 中华书局, 1956.