Tolstoy and Confucius

  Tolstoy’s contact with ancient Chinese sages, according to the relevant data, was probably during the period when he was studying in the Department of Oriental Linguistics of Kazan University. At that time, a group of Russian oriental scholars and Chinese scholars were teaching here, and Tolstoy should be more or less potentially influenced. However, there is a clear record of his connection with classic Chinese characters and writings, in 1884, after he had completed the great works “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina”.
  In the late 1870s and early 1880s, Tolstoy experienced a radical change in his worldview. At this time, through personal observation and deep thinking, he denied his aristocratic life style, and tried to stand in the position of the common people, live and even think like them. In January 1880, he began writing an ideological account called “Confessions.” In the article, Tolstoy not only denies the way of life of the past, but also considers it “meaningless” along with his great literary works. It is because of such a drastic change in thought that he has the desire to seek the true meaning from the thoughts of ancient sages.
  In March 1884, in Tolstoy’s diary, there was a clear record of reading Chinese sages. On March 6, “I didn’t reach the conclusion I thought in the translation of Lao Tzu.” At that time, Toshiro translated some chapters from Lao Tzu’s French text “The Book of Truth and Life”, but he was not very satisfied. On March 11, he read the English translations of the Chinese classics “The Great Learning” and “The Doctrine of the Mean”, which are believed to express Confucius’ thought. In his diary that day, he wrote about his reading experience: “Confucius’s doctrine of the mean – it is amazing. It is exactly the same as Laozi – using the laws of nature – this is a famous saying, this is a kind of power, a kind of life. Use this A law is silent, and at that time, it is what it is. When applying this law is simple, unknowing, and without compulsion, at this time, the realization of this law is powerful. I don’t know from my research But this research has led me to do many good deeds, and the mark is sincerity—singleness, not duality. It’s a sign that the sky is always and truly affected.”
  This may not be the earliest, but it is the clearest record of the exchange of ideas between Tolstoy and Confucius. Soon, Chinese sages had an influence on Tolstoy. On the 15th of the month, he said in his diary: “I also hate the viciousness of my latest article. It should be written clearly and gently.” Why did such a thought arise? “My good mental state is also due to reading Confucius, but mainly Lao Tzu.” The “bitter” article mentioned here is “What Is My Faith?” Tolstoy is writing. “. The ancient Chinese sages had brilliant insights in this regard, so they had an influence on him and formed his “good mental state” at this time.
  In the diary on the 19th of the month, there was such an entry: “Wake up late, read Confucius and take notes. Religious – rational preaching of power and related Chinese doctrines are a revelation to me. If God wills, I will do it for others. The welfare of the people to do this. This aspect was unclear at first, but it is now more and more clear in my mind. Once power is considered to be morally and intellectually supreme, it may not be violence. Power arises as violence only when we recognize as supreme that which is not sovereign according to the demands of our hearts and minds.” In this way, power should be based on “morality and reason,” There will be no modern “tyranny”. Confucius’ view of the power of monarchs and ministers gave Tuo some inspiration.
  During this time, Tolstoy read Confucius very intensively. Two days later, in the diary, the following words appeared again: “I read Ledger’s English translation of Confucius until late at night, and almost every word is important and profound.” In the diary on March 29, it said: “What makes me happy is to read Confucius’ books are becoming more and more profound and beautiful.” He also said, “Without Confucius and Lao Tzu, the Gospels would not be complete. Without the Gospels, Confucius could pass.” On March 31, Toshi “reading Confucius, lying down and sleeping very late”. After such a concentrated reading, Confucius left a deep imprint on Tolstoy’s heart.
  Not only Confucius, but Tolstoy soon began to read the works of Mencius. On April 9, “I started to read Mencius. I felt very important and beautiful. ‘Mencius taught how to regain and find the lost heart.’ It was beautiful.” An English version of “The Life and Writings of Mencius” by Gai. Over the next few days, his diary continued to have records of reading the book.
  On the basis of such reading, Tolstoy wrote a short essay “The Sages of China”, which briefly introduced the writings of Confucius and Laozi. In the section “The Writings of Confucius”, Toshi described the state of the Chinese he recognized: “The Chinese are the oldest nation in the world. The Chinese are the largest nation in the world. They have a population of 450 million people. , almost double the total number of Russians, Germans, French, Italians, British. The Chinese are the most peace-loving people in the world. They don’t want to possess other people’s things, they are not warlike. The Chinese are The peasants, their emperors also cultivated their own fields. Therefore, the Chinese are the most peace-loving people in the world.”
  This description should be said to be roughly appropriate. However, when it comes to the Chinese emperor himself “farming”, it may be the story of several kings in ancient legends; later, the emperors at most went to a piece of land to symbolically “perform” when they worshiped the heavens and the earth. These contents were recorded in the canons, which gave Tolstoy the misunderstanding that the Chinese emperor himself was still “farming” in spite of the wind and rain.
  Tolstoy also said: “They (press: Chinese) think that if a person boasts that he is good at fighting, then this person is a great sinner.” I don’t know if there is a specific source for this sentence. However, in the writings of Chinese sages such as Confucius and Sun Tzu, such a generalization is roughly in line with their ideas. Next, Tolstoy makes a brief comparison of the Chinese with Europeans: “The Chinese follow their own way of life, not like us Europeans. They know why we live, but do not follow our way. They see themselves as better way of life. French, Russian, German, Turk, there is no nation in the world that can work like the Chinese: eat so little, work so much. And there is no nation in the world The Chinese are as good at cultivating and supporting themselves as the Chinese. One dessiatin can feed one Russian and two Germans, and the same area can feed ten Chinese.”
  Tolstoy This observation and feeling probably comes from reading the writings of Confucius and the impression of the Chinese people obtained from various sources of information. Overall, however, this description is generally accurate and appropriate.
  Comparing Chinese with Americans, Tolstoy had this to say: “Chinese labor is cheaper, better, and more honest than American labor. They demand less, so that pay for all types of work has fallen. Some Americans say they should be hired; other Americans say they should be kicked out. Whether you like it or not, it’s always the people who get the job who do the better job and who don’t do bad things to others and get it for themselves. Less, those who give more to others are better. The Chinese don’t do bad things, they don’t quarrel with anyone, they always give more and take less, so they are better.” For some reason, Tolstoy chose the American and the Compared with Chinese people, the differences in personality between Chinese and American people are especially obvious. However, such a comparison still seems to be in line with today’s reality more than a hundred years later. It can be seen that the national character of the Chinese has a long history.

  Not content with comparison, Tolstoy also wanted to explore what was behind this nationality. “They (press: Chinese) are better, and to know why, you should know what their beliefs are. Look at their beliefs. Their master Confucius said this: All people are Heavenly Fathers so that there is no one who does not possess love, kindness, beauty, manners, and wisdom. But although there is an innate gift and goodness in all people, very few are able to make this goodness in themselves. So often not all people can find this kind of goodness in themselves and nurture it. Only the wise with great reason, intelligence and talent can cultivate the goodness of the soul, they are the outstanding people in the crowd. The father entrusted them to be guides and teachers. For this reason, they were entrusted from generation to generation to manage and teach people, so that all people would return to their own inherent simplicity.”
  ”Father”, or Tolstoy Paraphrasing the original text as a near-religious concept; or the translation he read is the same as the original text, which can be ignored. The rest of the content should be the tone of the Chinese sages. Although it is difficult for us to trace its original words in the complicated and distant process of dissemination, we can take a closer look and compare it with the opening chapter of the famous “Three Character Classic”, which is quite similar.
  Regarding the Chinese people’s emphasis on education, Tolstoy said: “This has finally developed to the extent that everyone from the imperial court to the most remote villages has to learn. Once a boy turns nine years old – whether he is an emperor or a prince, , or the sons of ordinary farmers—all go to elementary school. They are taught to farm, irrigate, dig, clean, teach them how to enter the house and greet their elders, teach them how to greet guests, teach them to ride horses, shoot arrows, teach them They read, write, and count.” Such a phenomenon does not seem to be completely consistent with reality. But the content is really the ideal realm in the book of Confucius. Taking the descriptions in the book as real social conditions is still a long way off. But this may reflect that the social scene that Tolstoy expected is unknown.
  After the above explanation of “the writings of Confucius”, Tolstoy then introduced “The Great Learning”, a Confucian article that is regarded as a classic: “This book is written by Confucius, the ancestor of China, it is It is recognized as a holy book, just as the Book of Moses is to the Jews, and the Bible is to us Europeans.” Of course, from today’s common sense, it is obviously inaccurate to say that the Daxue was written by Confucius, but the Daxue was written by Confucius. is indeed an important chapter in Confucianism. Confucianism originated from Confucius. For foreigners who are not familiar with the various academics and schools in our country, Tolstoy’s understanding is understandable.
  Next, Tolstoy cites several sentences in “University” in succession. These sentences, if they were completely returned to the original text, would not have much meaning. Here we might as well cite two back-translated texts to see the interesting phenomenon in the process of cultural dissemination.
  ”First of all, you should know what you are striving for, that is, your ultimate mission, and then you can choose a path. Only those who choose the path can have peace of mind and enjoy a state of mind that cannot be destroyed. Only those who have achieved a state of mind that cannot be destroyed can think , study the essence of things. After thinking about and discussing the essence of things, he will be able to achieve the perfection and beauty he seeks.” The original text of this paragraph is: “Knowing cessation and then there is calmness, after being calm, you can be still, and then you can be calm. Peace, and then you can think about it, and after you think about it, you can get it.”
  ”Only when you have insight into the motives of your actions can you perfect your judgment of good and evil. And when your judgment of good and evil is perfect, your will can be pure. When the will is pure, the mind becomes just. When the mind is just, people correct their mistakes and become better. When people become better, the home is in good order. When the home is managed, it can be Governing the people. When the people are well governed, then the whole world will live in peace and harmony.” The original text of this paragraph is: “After you know things, you will be sincere, and you will be sincere, and then your heart will be right. Then cultivate the body, cultivate the body, then the family will be aligned, the family will be aligned, then the state will be governed, and the state will be governed by then the world will be peaceful.”
  These famous sentences were Tolstoy’s choice at that time, but they certainly did not have the ancient Chinese text. Today, I am going to read the vernacular translated from Russian. These distant ancient sage thoughts have some fresh and sensible flavors. The spread of culture, due to the travel of time and the tossing between different languages, has many not-so-real variations. But after careful consideration, the essence in it is not easy to fade.
  In October 1891, Tolstoy listed the major works that he had read throughout his life in a letter to his publisher, Gore Gerre. Among them, the writings of several Chinese sages are ranked in the forefront of the “profound” impression. “Confucius and Mencius – very deep”; “Laozi – strong”. Of course, the older people are, the more profound they experience these profound thoughts, so the writings of Chinese sages are listed in the reading period between Tolstoy’s 50 and 63 years old (the age of Tolstoy at that time). Pointing out this point can also give us an overview of a “feature” of these Chinese classics.
  In the years that followed, Tolstoy read the writings of Confucius from time to time. On November 12, 1900, he said in his diary: “(Morning) in good health, did not write anything, was busy reading Confucius’ writings, felt good, and gained spiritual strength. I want to write what I understand now. “The Great Theory” and “The Doctrine of the Mean”.” Based on these “feel good” readings, Toshiro later compiled a section on Confucianism. More than ten days later, on November 23, he made a note in his diary: “Confucius—the doctrine that individuals should pay special attention to themselves will eventually produce results.”
  1909 was the year before Tolstoy’s death. year. For some reason, this year he read Confucius much more intensively than before. Speaking to People on March 20, he pointed out that “our circles should give up the idea of ​​being superior to the people”. This is based on the fact that “there are legends similar to the doctrine of Christ among other unfamiliar peoples.” Among the doctrines listed are “the Chinese concept and the three religions”; “Buddhist teachings”; “Confucius doctrine”; ” Taoism” (press: Tao is Tao Yuanming)… In this way, Tolstoy regarded Confucius and other theories as important spiritual products similar to Christ’s theory.
  On April 8, “I didn’t write anything today, just read Confucius repeatedly.” (What he was reading at the time was a French text called “The Book of Oriental Saints.”) And “I also studied Confucius yesterday…” In In the process of reading, he learned a lot: “Contemporary people have no choice: either continue to maintain modern life and truly destroy it; or change it from the top down.” “Everything grows, and changes at the same time. Is it not the only thing on which man bases his life that remains the same?” “Learn to think for yourself as you think about other people; and learn to sympathize with others as you sympathize with yourself.” … , Confucius’ thought is promoting Tolstoy’s thinking at this time.
  April 11, “Today I want and am studying Chinese Confucius.” May 1: “Teaching Ivan Ivanovich about Confucius and Lao Tzu… Studying Lao Tzu is very important to me… He How well said: the sublime state of mind is always associated with the fullest harmony.” August 24: “Reading Confucius in the evening…” 25: “I am reading Confucius, Lao Tzu, Buddha (likely speaking of reading Confucius) The Gospels).” September 30: “Here Boulanger speaks to him about Confucius.” October 23: “We have the work of the greatest thinkers who have grown from billions over thousands of years , outstanding people who have emerged from billions of people. The ideological achievements of these great people are selected through time. Throw away all the low-quality things, and leave the only unique, profound, and needed things. Leaving the Vedas, Zarathustra, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Mencius…” November 21: “After dinner, read Boulanger’s excellent book on Confucius (by: Toshi read here , a proof of Confucius’ writings), and revised it. There are many things that should be written down.” November 23: “I revised Boulanger’s “Confucius” in the evening, and I felt at ease…”
  After reading that Tolstoy completed the novel “Anna Karenina”, a Chinese scholar said, “The huge literary space in Tolstoy’s brain has become unquestionable. Facts. Tolstoy’s name is forever associated with words that signify greatness, such as richness, thickness, breadth, breadth and depth.” After reading Tolstoy’s excellent writings, you can’t help but agree with the above evaluation. . To achieve such an achievement, Tolstoy’s genius is beyond doubt. Of course, judging from what we know about the cultural giant, in addition to basic elements such as “genius”, he must also absorb sufficient and abundant cultural nutrients. Judging from the incomplete statement of this article, one of Tolstoy’s cultural nutrient resources came from the East, from the land of China, and from a distant ancient sage, Confucius. He not only read Confucius, but also wrote to introduce Confucius to the Russian people. After reading Confucius himself, he was “happy” and had “a good state of mind”, “inner peace”, and “obtained spiritual strength”… He placed Confucius in Buddha, Jesus, Socrates, Aurelius . . . These ranks of great men who have provided the most important and richest spiritual nourishment for mankind are correct and appropriate. Of course, Leo Tolstoy is also indispensable in this ranks.
  From the perspective of cultural content and form, the East and the West are indeed quite different. However, this difference should not create a divide. Judging from Tolstoy’s reading of Confucius, far-flung eastern cultures not only did not create distance from each other, but moved him with a heterogeneous force that infected him, completed and enriched him… This can be a cultural exchange between the East and the West. Classic example in .
  Human culture is a huge current. Its formation is the joint creation of the world, both the East and the West. In the face of this huge current, except for the scum and turbid current that should be discarded, all the clear currents that are beneficial to the spiritual development and progress of the people can be widely absorbed and quoted for us to enrich and strengthen our nation. Only from the communication process between Confucius and Tolstoy, we can see its legitimacy. Therefore, we should of course have a peaceful and moderate attitude that is neither arrogant nor arrogant about the excellent culture of our nation. Contribute economic achievements to the world, but also dedicate outstanding cultural achievements. Proceed with confidence and humility as a truly mighty nation.