Legends of Rokugan
Late in the Second Century, Scorpion Clan Champion
Bayushi Tangen presented Hantei Genji with a book
called, simply, Lies. Supposedly a treatise composed by
the Emperor’s command on the topic of treachery and
duplicity, the book was actually a scathing attack on
Akodo’s Leadership, as well as a work urging the Emperor
to adopt a ruthless, pragmatic approach to government.
Needless to say, the book quickly became both
famous and hugely controversial, even more so after
Tangen himself dropped dead in a Lion court shortly
afterward… in the midst of defending his book with the
words, “There is not a single lie on those pages.”
Many believe this shameful book shows the true face
of the Scorpion as a Clan completely without morals.
Others suggest it was nothing more than an attempted
slander aimed at Akodo’s great work. The Scorpion, for
their part, seldom speak of the book except to chuckle
and imply that others place too much importance on it.
How much store the Scorpion Clan truly sets in Tangen’s
advice remains a mystery.
One of the book’s central tenets is that the absolute
moral stances advocated by Akodo are useless and impractical.
At one point, for example, Tangen asks: “If a
lie were to save the Son of Heaven, and the truth doom
him, I would ask the Lion what he might choose. A lie
does indeed kill someone in the world, but what if it
saved the Emperor? Who would not give his life for the
Son of Heaven?” Similarly, he claims that following the
tenets of Bushido against an enemy who fails to do so is
a profound error. “If a man has used fraud against me,
I consider him a wretch and a scoundrel, and I vlill not
adhere to rules that he ignores. I will not put myself at
the disadvantage of clinging to ‘morals’ while he takes
the advantage of free action. The world is filled with
evil men, my lord, To refuse an advantage because it is
‘underhanded’ is not only disrespectful to those whom
you protect and lead, it is also the most selfish act I can
Tangen also condemns supposed virtues such as generosity
and pity, arguing they are foolish and breed contempt
from others. "To pause when causing my enemy
pain is “veakness,” he says. “He would not do so for me,
and if he did, I would smite him for his stupidity.”
Lies takes it as a given that all men are base, ambitious,
and treacherous, and advocates the Emperor use
swift, ruthless, and cruel action to suppress such men
and retain power. For example, Tangen suggests dealing
with an ambitious man by killing his wife: “His life will
turn to revenge and away from ambition. All his focus
will be on you and not on those around him. This is
hovv you kill an ambitious man.”
Perhaps the book’s most infamous passage is the
one discussing “true treachery,” which Tangen argues
can only be committed by great men who possess cunning,
strong heart, will, and determination. Such men,
Tangen seems to argue, should never be allowed into
positions of power, no matter how loyal they may seem
to be. “More than anything,” he writes, “you must fear
those upon whom you have bestowed great favor, those
you hold close, and capable men of courage and will.
Do not fear men who are distant, or vvho bear you ill
will. The desire to rule has always been greater than the
desire for revenge.”
In a final irony. Tangen argues that it is easier to trust
peasants than it is to trust a nobleman of the samurai
caste, a view which many samurai find downright blasphemous.
Peasants, he claims, only revolt because they
are fearful of and alienated from their samurai rulers.
Ultimately, though, a peasant only wants to eat, making
him trustworthy. whereas a nobleman has higher and
more sinister ambitions.