The Records Of The Human Emperor Chapter 1306
Chapter 1306: Master Zhu
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Li Junxian stood at the entrance, sweeping a glance over the 'students'. He noticed that there were quite a few major civil officials, but in this place, they did not put on any of the airs they had in court, all of them focused on reciting the books before them.
"This is… the Grand Preceptor!"
Li Junxian stared in alarm at the elder wearing a simple robe kneeling at the very front row.
This elder seemed no different from any of the other venerable Confucians, but it was none other than the Grand Preceptor of the Great Tang, Zhan Zhongmi. This man who was respected and revered by even the Sage Emperor was kneeling here and studying just like any other student.
If word got out, it would probably stun the entire realm.
The Grand Preceptor was nearly eighty years old, and there were very few people that had the right to be his teacher and make him act like a student.
But Li Junxian knew that the person within the thatched hall just so happened to be a person with the right to teach the Grand Preceptor, because this was the spiritual leader of the Confucian school, and also the only existence since the time of the Eastern Han Dynasty to be referred to as 'Master'1.
The man worshiped and revered by the Confucians as the teacher of all Confucians.
Emperor Gaozong had been an ardent admirer of this man and had tried every method possible to invite him to the Imperial Palace, but he was denied every time. With no better method, Gaozong built a palace for this man so that the 'Leader of the Confucian School' would remain at his side.
This man had lived for more than one hundred and twenty years, and had even made commentaries on the Four Books and Five Classics2, including the work of the Supreme Sage, the 'Analects'. These commentaries were even today studied and pored over by the Confucians of the world. The Four Books and Five Classics, particularly the 'Analects', were the sacred texts of the Confucian school.
These were the books written by the sages of the Spring and Autumn Period!
These were not books that just anyone could write commentaries on. If one did not possess sufficient learning and still wrote and published a commentary, one would be criticized by all the people of the realm, and when that time came, there would be no place left for that person in all the vastness of the land. One who could write a commentary on the 'Analects' had to be incredibly erudite and virtuous.
He was born in the era of Emperor Gaozu of the Great Tang. At the age of eight, he was invited by Gaozu into the palace to look over memorials with him.
Later on, he had a dialogue with Emperor Taizong, upon which he was invited to become Prime Minister, but he once more refused. Thus, he was hailed as the Living Sage of the Great Tang.
Although he had never once entered the Imperial Court, many of his disciples had served as Prime Minister, Grand Preceptor, or Grand Tutor. One could say that almost all the civil officials and illustrious Confucians of the realm were his students!
This was 'Master Zhu'!
This was also the important person that Li Junxian had come to meet.
Li Junxian turned in the direction that all these renowned Confucians were looking and spotted a thin elder wearing a wide-sleeved white robe, a tall hat, and a broad belt, his hair and beard entirely white. He was seated on a raised platform as he lectured on the classics. His face was solemn and inflexible, and he gripped a black iron ruler in his hand.
This old man had gone past the age of ninety some time ago, and though the Confucians down below were white-haired and wrinkled, they immediately seemed like young men in contrast to this elder.
And even though this elder did not know martial arts, his energy was as lofty and as thick as a high mountain. His profound aura of learning was so vast and boundless that any scholar in the world would be awed.
"…I like fish, and I also like bear paws. If the two cannot be had together, I would give up on the fish and take the bear paws. I like life, and I also like righteousness. If the two cannot be had together, I would give up on life and take righteousness3!
"…Kong spoke of seeking benevolence while Meng spoke of taking righteousness. Kill the body to achieve benevolence; give up on life to take righteousness! Benevolence and righteousness are the foundation of the ideas espoused by the Supreme Sage and the Second Sage, the origin of the theories of our Confucian school. By delving into and understanding the essence of these two words, you will comprehend the essence of all the books and classics of the Confucian school."
The elder's voice was calm and gentle, comforting the minds of those who listened as it drifted through the air. Each word seemed to be reaching deep into the minds of the students and enlightening them.
All the learned and renowned Confucians down below, including the Grand Preceptor, reverentially listened and pondered, not daring to show the slightest neglect.
This thatched hall was a place of learning, a holy ground. Li Junxian stood at the door, not daring to intrude, and silently waited.
After some time, an ancient and melodious chime sounded, and then there was a rustling of robes as class concluded and these illustrious Confucians stood up and filed out in an orderly manner. At the same time, a voice came from within.
"Master Zhu is of advanced age. Do not take up too much of his time!"
The Grand Preceptor stopped and aimed a profound glance at Li Junxian. Li Junxian froze, and then he nodded.
The Grand Preceptor did not say anything more, and stepped past Li Junxian. This exchange garnered little attention. At this time, Li Junxian heard a familiar voice.
"Junxian, come in!"
The voice was mellow and deep, imbued with a strength that could peer into hearts, making one feel as if one's secrets were all revealed before one had even said a word.
Li Junxian took in a deep breath, steadied his mind, tidied his robes, and respectfully walked in.
While still several paces from Master Zhu, Li Junxian stopped and bowed.
"Junxian pays respects to Senior Brother!" Li Junxian finally said. The information divulged by his words was enough to startle anyone.
Master Zhu, the man personally titled as the Leader of All Confucians by Emperor Gaozong, a man of esteemed character and status who was already one hundred and twenty years old, was actually Li Junxian's senior brother.
Master Zhu's eyelids drooped as he extended a wrinkled finger at the seat next to him. His face was as placid as an ancient well, devoid of any emotion.
"It has been around ten years since our last meeting, yes?"
Li Junxian fell silent, a hint of sorrow appearing on his handsome face. Ten years ago, he was only seventeen while Master Zhu was already Master Zhu. There was a time when he would often venture into this plum forest and come to this thatched hall to find his centenarian senior brother.
But he had not visited ever since that incident.
The pair of fellow disciples had not talked for a very long time.
"I have heard everything about what you are doing out there!" Master Zhu calmly said, enclosing his arms in his sleeves, his expression indifferent and aloof. Given how long he had lived and how much he had experienced, there was very little that could shake his mindset.
Li Junxian fell silent. After a long while, he said, "Junxian's foolishness has disgraced Senior Brother's eyes and ears!"
"Your talent and capabilities are unequalled, and Master personally chose you to be 'Son of Heaven's Mandate'. But the Confucian school has its outside and inside. I am outside and you are inside. You should know that I will not interfere in matters of the Confucian Sect!"
Master Zhu shook his head.
The common people only knew of the Confucian school, with very few knowing of the Confucian Sect, but even fewer people knew that the Confucian school was divided into an outer and inner.
The outer school focused only on study and theory, serving as the spiritual leader of the realm, enlightening the minds of the people and guiding them in the right path, pursuing the theories of Confucius and Mencius. The inner school was the Confucian Sect, and while it excelled in both scholarly and martial pursuits, it primarily focused on the martial path. Not one person who entered the Confucian Sect was not a person of vigorous strength and skill in martial arts.
Pure learning was not enough to implement one's theories throughout the world or enlighten the minds of the people. Thus, even though Confucius traveled the lands for decades and had audiences with all the sovereigns, he was never placed in a high position. The theories of the Confucian school were never able to be put into practice and were often rejected by the militarists. One could see this as one of the initial reasons the Confucian Sect had begun to practice martial arts. Moreover, the Sage Confucius had seventy-two disciples at his side, and there were those like Zilu4, possessing formidable martial arts, who protected the Sage on his travels.
In truth, the Confucian Sect contained a set of martial arts passed down from Zilu.
But later on, for the sake of secrecy, the Confucian Sect gradually began to pull away from the Confucian school. Even so, the two were still inextricably connected. Li Junxian was able to order around the Grand Preceptor and all the other officials of court, even transferring them out of the Imperial Court, due to the influence of Master Zhu.
"Junxian understands, but the matter this time has nothing to do with the Harmonious World or any other project of the Confucian Sect. Rather, it relates to the ideals that the Confucian school has adhered to for centuries," Li Junxian sternly said.
"Is it the King of Foreign Lands?"
Master Zhu's face twitched as he finally opened his eyes.
"Senior Brother already knows?!"
Li Junxian was taken aback.
"That child Zhongmi has already told me," Master Zhu said, his expression calm.
Li Junxian was stunned, but he finally understood why the Grand Preceptor had appeared here.
"Senior Brother, the matters of the Imperial Court are secondary compared to what is happening with the people. 'Might makes right', 'the law of the jungle', 'the strong eat the weak'… no person or organization has ever proposed this sort of viewpoint before, nor was there ever a book written explaining these theories, spreading these ideals throughout the realm. At the start, I did not believe that he would succeed, but now, father fights son, brother goes against brother, and even children know of the law of the jungle. If we do not stop this now, and allow these ideas to continue penetrating into the minds of the people, even the thousand-year foundation of the Confucian school will be destabilized."
Li Junxian stared at Master Zhu and sternly said, "If these ideals are advanced throughout the realm, man will eat man and all familial affection will cease to be. We will return once more to the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods, an era where propriety is no more and beasts feast on each other. At that time, all the blood and sweat poured in by the sages and our forebears will have been for nothing!"
The thatched hall fell silent as Master Zhu closed his eyes in thought, his brow creasing. Li Junxian quietly waited for an answer. The ideological clash between the militarists and Confucians was only intensifying as time went on. If there was one person that could stop the further spread of Wang Chong's ideas, it could only be Master Zhu.
1. 'Master' here refers to the word '子', Zi. For example, the Chinese philosophers known as Confucius and Mencius are actually 'Kongzi' and 'Mengzi', Master Kong and Master Meng.
2. The Four Books are 'The Great Learning', 'The Doctrine of the Mean', 'Analects', and 'Mencius'. The Five Classics are the 'Book of Songs', 'Book of History', 'Classic of Rites', 'Book of Changes', and 'Spring and Autumn Annals'.
3. This passage is from 'Gao Zi I' of the 'Mencius'.
4. Zilu was one of Confucius's most well-learned and accomplished disciples, and he was known for being brave and rash.