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“This little brother would like to ask all the brothers who are present here,” said Chen Xing with a smile, “who has a feud with the Tiele tribe? If anyone does, you may as well unsheathe your sword and come over. I’ll pay the debt with my life on my friend’s behalf.”
When everyone was asked like this, they couldn’t respond at all. The Tiele tribe that Xiang Shu belonged to had never slaughtered the Han. During the few times they entered the pass, all they did was assist Fu Jian in settling the internal disputes between the Hu people.
A scholar sneered. “The Hu have heads as small and sharp as a buck, and eyes as small and round as a rat. Also, vermin all work in concert with one another. It doesn’t matter if he is a Tiele, a Xiongnu, a Di, or a Xianbei. Those who have slaughtered our Han kin are all mortal enemies of our Great Jin, so what’s the difference? Isn’t a Tiele a Hu? Since he’s a Hu, what’s wrong with us taking revenge?”
Chen Xing thought, just now I clearly heard you guys praise Xiang Shu for being a gentleman as beautiful as jade, and now he’s a buck and a rat? Scholars truly are capricious. So he said sincerely, “According to what this worthy older brother had said, the Hu are people, and the Han are people too. If one wants to take revenge, then they could just kill them straight away. Why go through so much trouble like this?”
Once he spoke, some people who had remained in their seats couldn’t help laughing. That scholar was instantly enraged and refuted, “You’re being importunate! How are the two equal?”
“Of course it’s not equal.” Chen Xing thought about it, then answered, “According to me, since both the Hu and Han aren’t human, would everyone still sit down to have a discussion?”
Xie Xuan couldn’t help saying, “What do you mean by that?”
“’Human’, is how the form is named,” Chen Xing said calmly. “’Hu’ and ‘Han’, are how the ethnicities are named. A ‘white horse’ is not a ‘horse’, and a ‘Hu human’ is not a ‘human’, it’s the same principle.”
Xiang Shu, “???”
The whole room roared with laughter. Xie An narrowed his eyes a little, understanding that Chen Xing was intending to follow their example and take the initiative in calling for a discussion. The meaning behind Chen Xing’s words was that ‘Hu’ and ‘Han’ were ethnicities, which were general terms referring to collective groups, so they could not concretely define the term ‘human’. This was the ability to use syntactic expletives, and the art of sophism, which evolved from the Warring State period’s Gongsun Long’s “A White Horse is not a Horse”. Jiangdong was a region that revered light, intellectual conversation, and everyone here had been familiar with this proposition long ago. Chen Xing’s move was no different from sending himself to their doorsteps to let them hang him up and hit him, so those who had gotten up to leave started sitting down one after another, intending to refute Chen Xing until he was dumbstruck and speechless.
“Hu people, are one type of Human,” another scholar said, “just like how Han people are a type of Human, like how streams are a subset of rivers, light intellectual conversation isn’t sophistry. Little brother, this is something we’ve all played with since a long time ago.”
But unexpectedly, Chen Xing diverted and asked, “Then I’d like to ask everyone, what is ‘human’? We should at least define what a ‘Human’ is before we can argue whether the Tiele people or Hu are humans or not, and whether they have feuds with everyone present.”
As soon as he said that, everyone fell silent. “Is a Hu human a human?” wasn’t a tough question to explain, but what defined ‘Human’ was an issue that very few people have seriously considered before.
At first, Xiang Shu guessed that the situation had no chance of being settled peacefully, so he was just waiting for someone to report him to the officials, and then he would rush out with Chen Xing. Although there were a lot of people in the hall, they were all scholars and wouldn’t even be able to withstand one hit from him. In consideration for Xie An, he wouldn’t strike them down too hard. But who would have known that Chen Xing would be a gentleman who used his mouth and not his fists, and managed to stun everyone present with just a few sentences. From the looks of it, the situation didn’t seem too bad, but this Q&A session left Xiang Shu a little puzzled as well.
Wang Xizhi said with a smile, “Everyone present is human, is that a question that still needs to be asked?”
Chen Xing thought for a bit, then said, “From what I see, that’s not necessarily true. To know what you are, you must first specify what the definition of this ‘thing’ is, otherwise how can you use it to define yourself?”
“You’re right.” Xie Xuan was duped into the ditch by Chen Xing as well. Humans are the wisest of all creatures, this was a saying that had persisted since ancient times. But how can one give a clear and accurate definition of ‘human’? Even the former great sages would not be able to do so.
And thus, the hall remained quiet for a while before someone said, “Bodies seven chi long, hands and legs that differ from each other, hair on their heads, teeth in their mouths, able to stand and walk quickly -- that’s the definition of being ‘human’.”
That was an excerpt from “Liezi Huangdi”. Chen Xing retorted without even thinking, “Then what about those with bodies eight chi long? What about those with three chi bodies? Aren’t small people ‘human’?”
“Those born with two arms, two legs, and a head are human,” The scholar who had first clamoured about “reporting” Xiang Shu spoke.
“Then what about those who were born missing a limb?” Chen Xing said with a smile. “If anyone says that soldiers who have lost a limb on the battlefield aren’t human anymore, I’ll be the first to say ‘no’.”
Xie An said, “Those who are born with three yang and seven yin souls, no matter their form, are human.”
Xie An can be said to have pointed out the essence of being ‘human’ in metaphysics. Everyone seated were instantly enlightened and sighed in admiration. Yet Chen Xing said, “Then for a human, if their three yang and seven yin souls no longer exist, they won’t be ‘human’ anymore.”
Xiang Shu thought, isn’t that a given?
Xie An said, “They would just be a layer of skin then.”
“We can take our revenge now,” someone said.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Chen Xing said. “Humans who have lost their three yang and seven yin souls, if I remember correctly, should be called ‘dead humans’, right? Then are dead humans, ‘human’?”
Everyone started scolding Chen Xing, but Chen Xing explained, “’Dead’, is a designated term. ‘Human’ is the name of the form. If ‘dead humans’ aren’t ‘human’, then ‘Hu humans’ shouldn’t be considered ‘human’ either.”
Xiang Shu: “…”
“How can the dead be the same as the Hu?” The Hans were quite dissatisfied with Chen Xing’s sophistry.
“Are you just trying to scold me in a roundabout manner?” Xiang Shu was quite dissatisfied with Chen Xing as well.
Chen Xing quickly said, “Then, let’s put it another way. Do cats and dogs have the three yang and seven yin souls?”
Xie An, “...”
Chen Xing said doubtfully, “If cats and dogs have souls, then can they be considered ‘human’? If they don’t, then who can prove that all creatures aside from humans don’t have souls?”
This time, Xie An had practically picked up a rock and smashed it onto his foot himself. Originally, if he had forcibly said that all creatures aside from humans don’t have complete souls, it could sort of serve as a plausible explanation. But what about proving it? To prove that the only creature that possessed souls in this world were humans? To do so, one must first prove that no animal other than man had souls.
The theory of souls was still an unfounded one. If one tried to forcibly prove that there were none, not only would it not have the support of theories, but Chen Xing would also be able to suggest a ton of counter examples -- for example, the ‘Six Realms of Rebirth’, ‘Yin and Yang’, ‘Reincarnation’. After humans die in this life, they may reincarnate as animals in the next. That is to say, animals are the same as humans -- they have souls too.
Chen Xing added, “There are people who are born lacking a soul or two, but we can’t not treat them as humans, right? Let’s shelve that first. The legends say that there are fox yaos in the world who cultivate into humans and are no different from humans, except for a sliver of their beastly nature that they couldn’t be rid of. In that case, are yaos that turn into humans considered ‘human’? Why don’t people in the world regard yaos as humans then?”
Xie An decisively said, “That’s different. None of us have seen fox yaos after all, we can’t look into that.”
“In that case, no one has seen souls before either,” Chen Xing readily agreed. “So the talk about souls cannot be included in the discussion.”
“Yes, yes.” Everyone wiped their sweat away.
But after that, silence filled the hall again. After the topic made a detour back, they were even less able to answer Chen Xing’s question regarding the definition of ‘humans’.
“’Human’ is but a conventional reference,” Xie An pondered for a long time before saying. “How they are addressed depends on ourselves. There isn’t much meaning in bothering so much with a form of address.”
Chen Xing said, “But no one has ever told us how this form of address came about. Expressing one’s curiosity towards it, and for this little brother here to want to discuss it properly and clearly with the Geges here is understandable.”
Xie An’s delaying tactics didn’t work. He scratched his back a few times and thought, what should I do now?
Xie Xuan said, “Then, Brother Tianchi, what do you think?”
Chen Xing uttered in surprise, “It’s my turn again?”
Chen Xing dealt with the literati in the same way Xiang Shu dealt with martial artists, and he did so even more cleanly than Xiang Shu did. After all, Xiang Shu’s strength could rival a thousand troops, but he had to fight them off one by one. Chen Xing engaged in a duel of words with scholars and managed to get rid of a whole batch of them every time -- a classic group attack. Originally, Chen Xing had even prepared a bunch of “are immortal humans considered human?”, “if ‘immortals’ aren’t ‘human’, then why are they called ‘immortal humans’?” After resolving the problem regarding ‘immortal humans’, there were still ‘ancestors’, ‘gods’, orangutans and monkeys who have their own sign language and can communicate through cries, parrots that can talk, and so on.
But unexpectedly, this group of people didn’t seem to be very strong, since they were ready to admit defeat so soon.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.