Confucius on reclusion II

In the Analects, Confucius writes: “What I call a great minister is one who will only serve the emperor when it can be done without infringement of the Way, and as soon as this is impossible, resigns.” (11.23)
Here resignation is not opting for an alternative career or pursuit. Officials were deemed disloyal, even treasonous, if they refused the plaudits of the palace. Nor were there other options outside of court in any case, for everything in society was controlled from the top. The import of the statement is directed at the heart of personal integrity in a corrupt world. The official may have heard a word or seen a gesture or come to a personal decision, but in any case will have to dissemble in order to exit gracefully. Even later, in retirement, the recluse was often hunted up by existing officials to be persuaded or summoned back to court. Officials who reclused plead infirmity, family need, or even — like Tao Chien — alcoholism, in order to avoid service.