FLUNKEYISM

《报刘一丈书》(〔明〕宗臣)

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Flunkeyism is a term indicating toadyism, servile attitude, or worship of the powerful. The following piece is from his correspondence by Tsung Ch’en of Ming dynasty (16 centure). Several sentences of it have quite a Juvenalian style. Tsung Ch’en was an official who took the highest degree (进士) at the age of twenty and rose to high rank. He is noted for his defence of Foochow against the Japanese (1560). He opened the west gate, of which he was in charge, as if to admit the enemy by treachery; and then his troops and the populace attacked the invaders from the top of the wall and slaughtered them in great numbers.

I WAS very glad at this distance to receive your letter which quite set my mind at rest, together with the present you were so kind as to add. I thank you very much for your good wishes, and especially for your thoughtful allusion to my father.

As to what you are pleased to say in reference to official popularity and fitness for office, I am much obliged by your remarks. Of my unfitness I am only too well aware; while as to popularity with my superiors, I am utterly unqualified to secure that boon.

How indeed does an official find favour in the present day with his chief? Morning and evening he must whip up his horse and go dance attendance at the great man’s door.* If the porter refuses to admit him, then honied words, a coaxing air, and money drawn from the sleeve, may prevail. The porter takes in his card; but the great man does not come out. So he waits in the stable among grooms, until his clothes are charged with the smell ; in spite of hunger, in spite of cold, in spite of a blazing heat. At nightfall, the porter who had pocketed his money comes forth and says his master is tired and begs to be excused, and will he call again next day. So he is forced to come once more as requested. He sits all night in his clothes. At cock-crow he jumps up, performs his toilette, and gallops off and knocks at the entrance gate. “Who’s there? ” shouts the porter angrily; and when he explains, the porter gets still more angry and begins to abuse him, saying, ” You are in a fine hurry, you are ! Do you think my master sees people at this hour? ” Then is the visitor shamed, but has to swallow his wrath and try to persuade the porter to let him in. And the porter, another fee to the good, gets up and lets him in ; and then he waits again in the stable as before, until perhaps the great man comes out and summons him to an audience.

Now, with many an obeisance, he cringes timidly towards the foot of the dais steps : and when the great man says ” Come ! ” he prostrates himself twice and remains long without rising. At length he goes up to offer his present, which the great man refuses. He entreats acceptance; but in vain. He implores, with many instances; whereupon the great man bids a servant take it. Then two more prostrations, long drawn out; after which he arises, and with five or six salutations he takes his leave.

On going forth, he bows to the porter, saying, ” It’s all right with your master. Next time I come you need make no delay.” The porter returns the bow, well pleased with his share in the business.* Meanwhile, our friend springs on his horse, and when he meets an acquaintance flourishes his whip and cries out, ” I have just been with His Excellency. He treated me very kindly, very kindly indeed.” And then he goes into detail, upon which his friends begin to be more respectful to him as a protege of His Excellency. The great man himself says, ” So-and-so is a good fellow, a very good fellow indeed;” upon which the bystanders of course declare that they think so too

Such is popularity with one’s superiors in the pre- sent day. Do you think that I could be as one of these? No ! Beyond sending in a complimentary card at the summer and winter festivals, I do not go near the great from one year’s end to another. Even when I pass their doors I stuff my ears and cover my eyes, and gallop quickly by, as if some one was after me. In conse- quence of this want of breadth, I am of course no favourite with the authorities ; but what care I ? There is a destiny that shapes our ends, and it has shaped mine towards the path of duty alone. For which, no doubt, you think me an ass.

(From Gems of Chinese Literature A History of Chinese Literature by H. A. Giles)