The Early Chinese Empires
(History of Imperial China)

Mark Lewis

The following quote from the first empire appears on Page 16: This demands some serious hermeneutics! I am incompetent on the issue of translation to modern English from ancient Chinese.

First, what is supposed as wished? to have lands ‘submit’. Sounds like power for the sake of power to me. Very Machiavellian. There is at the end a reference to ‘bringing order’ which may indeed be a worthy goal. Of course one man’s order is another’s tyranny, but not all tyranny comes from afar.

Next is “petty profit”. Is there another sort of profit that is worthy? I suspect not and “petty” is merely a redundant pejorative. Perhaps ‘plunder’ would have been a better translation. The speaker fits the stereotype of Jane Jacob’s “Guardian”.

Having one’s senses escape from the sway of custom may amount to critical thinking, but I doubt it. It sounds more like advice to be ruthless as a means to an end.

I don’t like this guy! It may well be good advice for building empires.

“lands beyond the seas” is often used to refer to far away places, but over only a river or two.

Later in the book, in the chapter on cities, page 84, Lewis describes the division that Jacobs makes between the governing and merchant classes. In this section it is clear that “profit” may well pertain to ill gotten goods.

Lewis says:

There was a perception that justice could be bought and the law (perhaps including property rights) was thus in jeopardy. Jacobs also remarks on this hazard.

Lewis also remarks on the competition between these classes to set the styles of fashion for clothes and other expressions.