Shu Jing

These readings from the Shu Jing (Shu Ching) are taken from the translation of James Legge (reprinted by Hong Kong University Press, 1960, vol. III). They were selected and entered by Bro. Andrew Thornton, O.S.B. at Saint Anselm College. Names in Legge's romanization have been changed to pinyin. The text is in the public domain and may be freely used.


Back to Top THE CANON OF YAO (Legge, p. 15)

1 Examining into antiquity, we find that the emperor Yao was called Fang Xun. He was reverential, intelligent, accomplished, and thoughtful, naturally and without effort. He was sincerely courteous and capable of all complaisance. The display of these qualities reached to the four extremities of the empire and extended from earth to heaven. (2) He was able to make the able and virtuous distinguished, and thence proceeded to the love of the nine classes of his kindred, who all became harmonious. He also regulated and polished the people of his domain, who all became brightly intelligent. Finally, he united and harmonized the myriad states of the empire, and lo! the black-haired people were transformed. The result was universal concord.

3 Thereupon Yao commanded Xi and He, in reverent accordance with their observation of the wide heavens, to calculate and delineate the movements and appearances of the sun, the moon, the stars, and the zodiacal spaces, and so to deliver respectfully the seasons to the people.

4 He separately commanded the second brother Xi to reside at Yu, in what was called the Bright Valley, and there respectfully to receive as a guest the rising sun, and to adjust and arrange the labors of the spring. "The day," he said, "is of the medium length and the star is in Niao; you may thus exactly determine mid-spring. The people begin to disperse, and birds and beasts breed and copulate.

5 He further commanded the the third brother Xi to reside at Nan Jiao, and arrange the transformations of the summer, and respectfully to observe the extreme limit of the shadow. "The day," said he, "is at its longest, and the star is in Huo. You may thus exactly determine mid-summer. The people are more dispersed, and birds and beasts have their feathers and hair thin and change their coats."

6 He separately commanded the second brother He to reside at the west, in what was called the Dark Valley, and there respectfully to convoy the setting sun, and to adjust and arrange the completing labors of the autumn. "The night," he said, "is of the medium length, and the star is Xu; you may thus exactly determine mid-autumn. The people begin to feel at ease, and birds and beasts have their coats in good condition."

7 He further commanded the third brother He to reside in the northern region, in what was called the Sombre Capital, and there to adjust and examine the changes of the winter. "The day," said he, "is at its shortest, and the star is Mao. You may thus exactly determine mid-winter. The people keep their cosy corners, and the coats of birds and beasts are downy and thick."

8 The emperor said, "Ah! you, Xi and He, a round year consists of three hundred, sixty, and six days. By means of an intercalary month do you fix the four seasons, and complete the determination of the year. Thereafter, in exact accordance with this, regulating the various officers, all the works of the year will be fully performed.

9 The emperor said, "Who will search out for me a man according to the times, whom I may raise and employ?" Fang Qi said, "There is your heir-son Zhu, who is highly intelligent." The emperor said, "Alas! he is insincere and quarrelsome. Can he do?"

10 The emperor said, "Who will search out for me a man equal to the exigency of my affairs?" Huan Dou said, "Oh! there is the minister of Works, whose merits have just been displayed in various ways." The emperor said, "Alas! when unemployed, he can talk, but when employed, his actions turn out differently. He is respectful only in appearance. See! the floods assail the heavens!"

11 The emperor said, "Oh! chief of the four mountains, destructive in their overflow are the waters of the inundation. In their vast extent they embrace the mountains and overtop the hills, threatening the heavens with their floods, so that the inferior people groan and murmur. Is there a capable man to whom I can assign the correction of this calamity?" All in the court said, "Oh! there is Gun." The emperor said, "Alas! no, by no means! He is disobedient to orders and tries to injure his peers." His Eminence said, "Well, but try him, and then you can have done with him." The emperor said to Gun, "Go, and be reverent!" For nine years he labored, but the work was unaccomplished.

12 The emperor said, "Oh! you chief of the four mountains, I have been on the throne for seventy years. You can carry out my appointments; I will resign my throne to you." His Eminence said, "I have not the virtue; I should only disgrace the imperial seat." The emperor said, "Point out some one among the illustrious, or set forth one from among the poor and mean." All in the court said to the emperor, "There is an unmarried man among the lower people called Shun of Yu." The emperor said, "Yes, I have heard of him. What is his character?" His Eminence said, "He is the son of a blind man. His father was obstinately unprincipled; his step-mother was insincere; his half brother Xiang was arrogant. He has been able, however, by his filial piety to live in harmony with them, and to lead them gradually to self-government, so that they no longer proceed to great wickedness." The emperor said, "I will try him! I will wive him, and then see his behavior with my two daughters." On this he gave orders, and sent down his two daughters to the north of the Gui, to be wives in the family of Yu. The emperor said to them, "Be reverent!"

Back to Top THE CANON OF SHUN (Legge, p. 29)

1 Examining into antiquity, we find the emperor Shun was called Chong Hua. He corresponded to the former emperor; he was profound, wise, accomplished, and intelligent. He was mild and respectful, and entirely sincere. The report of his mysterious virtue was heard on high, and he was appointed to occupy the imperial Seat.

2 Shun carefully set forth the beauty of the five cardinal duties, and they came to be universally observed. Being appointed to be General Regulator, the affairs of each department were arranged in their proper seasons. Having to receive the princes from the four quarters of the empire, they were all docilely submissive. Being sent to the great plains at the foot of the mountains, amid violent wind, thunder, and rain, he did not go astray.

3 The emperor said, "Come, you Shun. I have consulted you on all affairs, examined your words, and found that your words can be carried into practice, now for three years. Do you ascend the imperial throne." Shun wished to decline in favor of someone more virtuous, and not to consent to be successor. (4) On the first day, of the first month, however, he received Yao's retirement from the imperial duties in the temple of the Accomplished ancestor.

5 He examined the gem-adorned turning sphere, and the transverse tube, that he might regulate the seven Directors.

6 Thereafter, he sacrificed specially, but with the ordinary forms, to God; sacrificed purely to the six Honored ones; offered their appropriate sacrifices to the hills and rivers, and extended his worship to the host of spirits.

7 He called in all the five tokens of gem, and when the month was over, he gave daily audience to the chief of the four Mountains, and all the Pastors, finally returning the tokens to the several nobles.

8 In the second month of the year, he made a tour of inspection eastwards, as far as Dai Zhong, where he presented a burnt offering to Heaven, and sacrificed in order to the hills and rivers. Thereafter he gave audience to the nobles of the East, putting in accord their seasons and months, and rectifying the days; he made uniform the standard tubes, the measures of length and of capacity, and the steelyards; he regulated the five classes of ceremonies. As to the several articles of introduction, the five instruments of gem, the three kinds of silk, the two living animals, and the one dead one. When all was over, he returned the five instruments. In the fifth month, he made a similar tour to the south as far as the southern mountain, observing the same ceremonies as at Dai. In the eighth month, he travelled westwards, as far as the western, and in the eleventh month he travelled northwards, as far as the northern mountain. When he returned to the capital, he went to the temple of the cultivated Ancestor, and offered a single bullock.

9 In five years there was one tour of inspection, and four appearances of the nobles at court. They set forth a report of their government in words. This was clearly tested by their works. They received chariots and robes according to their services.

10 Shun instituted the divison of the land into twelve provinces, raising altars upon twelve hills in them. He likewise deepened the rivers.

11 He gave delineations of the statutory punishments, enacting banishment as a mitigation of the five great inflictions, with the whip to be employed in the magistrates' courts, the stick to be employed in schools, and money to be received for redeemable crimes. Inadvertent offenses and those which might be caused by misfortune were to be pardoned, but those who offended presumptuously or repeatedly were to be punished with death. "Let me be reverent; let me be reverent!" he said to himself. "Let compassion rule in punishment!"

12 He banished the minister of Works to You island; confined Huan Dou on Mount Chong; drove the chief of San Miao and his people into San-wei and kept them there; held Gun til death a prisoner on Mount Yu. These four criminals being thus dealt with, universal submission prevailed throughout the empire.

13 After twenty-eight years the emperor demised, when the people mourned for him as for a parent for three years. All within the four seas, the eight kinds of instruments of music were stopped and hushed. (14) On the first day of the first month, Shun went to the temple of the Accomplished Ancestor.

15 He deliberated with the chief of the four Mountains, how to throw open the doors of communication between the court and the empire, sought to see with the eyes and hear with the ears of all.

16 He consulted with the twelve Pastors, and said, "The food! It depends on observing the seasons. Be kind to the distant and cultivate the ability of the near. Give honor to the virtuous, and your confidence to the good, while you discountenance the artful. So shall the barbarous tribes lead on one another to make their submission."

17 Shun said, "Ah! chief of the four Mountains, is there any one who can vigorously display his merits, and give wide development to the undertakings of the emperor, whom I may make General Regulator, to aid me in all affairs, and manage each department according to its nature?" All in the court said, "There is baron Yu, the superintendent of Works." The emperor said, "Yes. Ah! Yu, you have regulated the water and the land. In this new office exert yourself." Yu did obeisance with his head to the ground, and wished to decline in favor of the minister of Agriculture, or Xie, or Gao Yao. The emperor said, "Yes, but do you go, and undertake the duties."

18 The emperor said, "Qi, the black-haired people are still suffering from the distress of hunger. It is yours, O prince, the minister of Agriculture, to sow for them these various kinds of grain."

19 The emperor said, "Xie, the people continue unfriendly with one another, and do not observe docilely the five orders of relationship. It is yours, as the minister of Instruction, reverently to set forth the lessons of duty belonging to those five orders. Do so with gentleness."

20 The emperor said, "Gao Yao, the barbarous tribes disturb our bright great land. There are also robbers, murderers, insurgents, and traitors. It is yours, as the minister of Crime, to employ the five punishments for the treatment of offenses, for the infliction of which there are the three appointed places, and the five banishments with their several places of detention, for which three localities are assigned. Perform your duties with intelligence, and you will secure a sincere submission."

21 The emperor said, "Who is equal to the duty of superintending my workmen?" All in the court said, "There is Chui?" The emperor said, "Yes. Ah! Chui, you must be minister of Works." Chui did obeisance, with his head to the ground, and wished to decline in favor of Shu, Qiang, or Bo Yu. The emperor said, "Yes, but do you go and undertake the duties. Effect a harmony in all the departments."

22 The emperor said, "Who is equal to the duty of superintending the grass and the trees, with the birds and beasts, on my mountains and in my marshes?" All in the court said, "There is Yi." The emperor said, "Yes. Ah! Yi, do you be my Forester." Yi did obeisance with his head to the ground and wished to decline in favor of Zhu, Hu, Xiong, or Pi. The emperor said, "Yes, but do you go and undertake the duties. You must manage them harmoniously."

23 The emperor said, "Ah! chief of the four Mountains, is there any who can direct my three religious ceremonies?" All in the court said, "There is the baron Yi?" The emperor said, "Yes. Ah! baron, you must be the Arranger of the ancestral temple. Morning and night be respectful. Be upright, be pure." The baron did obeisance with his head to the ground, and wished to decline in favor of Kui or Long. The emperor said, "Yes, but do you go and undertake the duties. Be reverential!"

24 The emperor said, "Kui, I appoint you to be Director of music, and to teach our sons, so that the straightforward may yet be mild, the gentle may yet be dignified, the strong not tyrannical, and the impetuous not arrogant. Poetry is the expression of earnest thought; singing is the prolonged utterance of that expression. The notes accompany that utterance, and they are harmonized themselves by the pitch pipes. In this way the eight different kinds of instruments can all be adjusted so that one shall not take from or interfere with another, and spirits and men will thereby be brought into harmony." Kui said, "Oh! I smite the stone; I smite the stone. The various animals lead on one another to dance."

25 The emperor said, "Long, I abominate slanderous speakers, and destroyers of right ways, who agitate and alarm my people. I appoint you to be the minister of Communication. Early and late give forth my orders and report to me, seeing that every thing is true."

26 The emperor said, "Ah! you, twenty and two men, be reverent, and so shall you aid me in performing the service of heaven."

27 Every three years there was an examination of merits, and after three examinations the undeserving were degraded, and the deserving promoted. By this arrangement the duties of all the departments were fully discharged. The people of San Miao were discriminated and separated.

28 In the thirtieth year of his life, Shun was called to employment. Thirty years he was on the throne with Yao. Fifty years after he went on high and died.

Back to Top THE COUNSELS OF THE GREAT YU (Legge, p. 52)

1 On examining into antiquity, we find that the great Yu was called Wen Ming. Having arranged and divided the empire, all to the four seas, in reverent response to the inquiries of the former emperor, (2) he said, "If the sovereign can realize the difficulty of his sovereignship, and the minister can realize the difficulty of his ministry, government will be well ordered, and the people will sedulously seek to be virtuous." (3) The emperor said, "Yes, let this really be the case, and good words will nowhere lie hidden; no men of virtue and talents will be neglected away from court, and the myriad States will all enjoy repose. But to ascertain the views of all; to give up one's opinion and follow that of others; to refrain from oppressing the helpless, and not neglect the straitened and poor: it was only the emperor Yao who could attain to this."

4 Yi said, "Oh! your virtue, O emperor, is vast and incessant. It is sagely, spiritual, awe-inspiring, and adorned with all accomplishments. Great Heaven regarded you with its favoring decree, and suddenly you obtained all within the four seas, and became sovereign of the empire."

5 Yu said, "Accordance with the right is good fortune; the following of evil is bad: the shadow and the echo." (6) Yi said, "Alas! be cautious! Admonish yourself to caution, when there seems to be no reason for anxiety. Do not fail in due attention to the laws and ordinances. Do not find your enjoyment in indulgent ease. Do not go to excess in pleasure. In your employment of men of worth, let none come between you and them. Put away evil without hesitation. Do not try to carry out doubtful plans. Study that all your purposes may be with the light of reason. Do not go against what is right to get the praise of the people. Do not oppose the people to follow your own desires. Attend to these things without idleness or omission, and from the four quarters the barbarous tribes will come and acknowledge your sovereignty."

7 Yu said, "Oh! think of these things, O emperor. Virtue is seen in the goodness of the government, and the government is tested by its nourishing of the people. There are water, fire, metal, wood, earth, and grain; these must be duly regulated. There are the rectification of the people's virtue, the conveniences of life, and the securing abundant means of sustentation; these must be harmoniously attended to. When the nine services thus indicated have been orderly accomplished, let that accomplishment be celebrated by songs. Caution the people with gentle words; correct them with the majesty of law; stimulate them with the songs on those nine subjects, in order that your success may never suffer diminution."

8 The emperor said, "Yes, the earth is now reduced to order, and the influences of heaven operate with effect; those six magazines and three businesses are all truly regulated, so that a myriad generations may perpetually depend on them: this is your merit."

9 The emperor said, "Come, you, Yu. I have occupied the imperial throne for thirty and three years. I am between ninety and a hundred years old, and the laborious duties weary me. Do you, eschewing all indolence, take the leadership of my people." (10) Yu said, "My virtue is not equal to the position; the people will not repose in me. But there is Gao Yao, with vigorous activity sowing abroad his virtue, which has descended on the black-haired people, till they cherish him in their hearts. O emperor, think of him! When I think of him, my mind rests on him, as the man for this office; when I would put him out of my thoughts, they still rest on him; when I name and speak of him, my mind rests on him for this; the sincere outgoing of my thoughts about him is that he is the man. O emperor, think of his merits."

11 The emperor said, "Gao Yao, that of these my ministers and people, hardly one is found to offend against the regulations of my government, is owing to your being the minister of Crime, and intelligent in the use of the five punishments to assist the inculcation of the five duties, with a view to the perfection of my government, and that through punishment there may come to be no punishments, but the people accord with the path of the Mean. Continue to be strenuous." (12) Gao Yao replied, "Your virtue, O emperor, is faultless. You condescend to your ministers with a liberal ease; you preside over the multitude with a generous forbearance. Punishments do not extend to the criminal's heirs, while rewards reach to after generations. You pardon inadvertent faults, however great, and punish purposed crimes, however small. In cases of doubtful crimes, you deal with them lightly; in cases of doubtful merit, you prefer the high estimation. Rather than put to death an innocent person, you will run the risk of irregularity and error. This life-loving virtue has penetrated the minds of the people, and this is why they do not render themselves liable to be punished by your officers." (13) The emperor said, "To enable me to follow after and obtain what I desire in my government, the people everywhere responding as if moved by the wind: this is your excellence."

14 The emperor said, "Come, Yu. The inundating waters filled me with dread, when you realized all that you represented and accomplished your task, thus showing your superiority to other men. Full of toilsome earnestness in the service of the State, and sparing in your expenditure on your family, and this without being full of yourself or elated; you again show your superiority to other men. Without any prideful assumption, there is no one in the empire to contest with you the palm of ability; without any boasting, there is no one in the empire to contest with you the claim of merit. I see how great is your virtue, how admirable your vast achievements. The determinate appointment of Heaven rests on your person; you must eventually ascend the throne of the great sovereign. (15) The mind of man is restless, prone to err; its affinity for the right way is small. Be discriminating, be undivided, that you may sincerely hold fast the Mean. (16) Do not listen to unsubstantiated words; do not follow undeliberated plans. (17) Of all who are to be loved, is not the sovereign the chief? Of all who are to be feared, are not the people the chief? If the multitude were without the sovereign, whom should they sustain aloft? If the sovereign had not the multitude, there would be none to guard the country for him. Be reverent. Carefully demean yourself on the throne which you will occupy, respectfully cultivating the virtues which are to be desired in you. If within the four seas there be distress and poverty, your Heaven-conferred revenues will come to a perpetual end. It is the mouth which sends forth what is good, and gives rise to war. My words I will not repeat."

18 Yu said, "Submit the meritorious ministers one by one to the trial of divination, and let the fortunate indication be followed."

The emperor said, "Yu, the officer of divination, when the mind has been made up on a subject, then refers it to the great tortoise. Now, in this matter, my mind was determined in the first place. I consulted and deliberated with all my ministers and people, and they were of one accord with me. The spirits signified their assent, and the tortoise and the grass having both concurred. Divination, when fortunate, may not be repeated." Yu did obeisance, with his head to the ground, and firmly declined the throne. The emperor said, "Do not do so. It is you who can suitably occupy my place." (19) On the first morning of the first month, Yu received the appointment in the temple of the spiritual Ancestor, and took the leading of all the officers, as had been done at the commencement of the emperor's government.

20 The emperor said, "Alas! O Yu, there is only the prince of the Miao, who refuses obedience; do you go and correct him." Yu on this assembled all the princes, and made a speech to the host, saying, "Ye multitudes, listen all to my orders. Stupid is this prince of Miao, ignorant, erring, and disrespectful. Despiteful and insolent to others, he thinks that all ability and virtue are with himself. A rebel to right, he destroys all the obligations of virtue. Superior men are kept by him in obscurity, and mean men fill all the offices. The people reject and will not protect him. Heaven is sending calamities down upon him. On this account I have assembled you, my multitude of gallant men, and bear the instructions of the emperor to punish his crimes. Do you proceed with united heart and strength, so shall our enterprise be crowned with success."

21 At the end of three decades, the people of Miao continued rebellious against the emperor's commands, when Yi came to the help of Yu, saying, "It is virtue which moves Heaven; there is no distance to which it does not reach. Pride brings loss, and humility receives increase: this is the way of Heaven. In the early time of the emperor, when he was living by Mount Li, he went into the fields and daily cried with tears to compassionate Heaven, and to his parents, taking to himself and bearing all guilt and evil. At the same time, with respectful service, he appeared before Gu Sou, looking grave and awe-struck, til Gu also became truly transformed by his example. Entire sincerity moves spiritual beings; how much more will it move this prince of Miao!" Yu did homage to the excellent words and said, "Yes." Thereupon he led back his army, having drawn off the troops. The emperor also set about diffusing his accomplishments and virtue more widely. They danced with shields and feathers between the two staircases of the court. In seventy days the prince of Miao came to make his submission.

Back to Top THE COUNSELS OF KAO YAO (Legge, p. 68)

1 On examining into antiquity, we find that Gao Yao said, "If a sovereign sincerely pursue the course of his virtue, the counsels offered to him will be intelligent, and the aids of admonitions will be harmonious." Yu said, "Yes, but explain yourself." Gao Yao said, "Oh! let him be careful about his personal cultivation, with thoughts that are far-reaching, and then he will effect a generous kindness and nice observance of distinctions among the nine classes of his kindred; all the intelligent also will exert themselves in his service, and from what is near he may reach in this way to what is distant." Yu did reverence to the admirable words and said, "Yes." (2) Gao Yao said, "Oh! it lies in knowing men, and in giving repose to the people." Yu said, "Alas! to attain to both these things was a difficulty even to the emperor Yao. When a sovereign knows men, he is wise, and can put men into their proper offices. When he gives repose to the people, he is kind, and the black-haired people cherish him in their hearts. When a sovereign can be thus wise and kind, what occasion will he have for anxiety about a Huan Dou? what to be removing a prince of Miao? what to fear any one of fair words, insinuating appearance, and great artfulness?"

3 Gao Yao said, "Oh! there are in all nine virtues to be discovered in conduct; and when we say that a man possesses any virtue, that is as much as to say, he does such and such things."

Yu said, "What are the nine virtues?" Gao Yao said, "Affability combined with dignity; mildness combined with firmness; bluntness combined with respectfulness; aptness for government combined with reverence; docility combined with boldness; straightforwardness combined with gentleness; easiness combined with discrimination; vigor combined with sincerity; and and valor with righteousness. When these qualities are displayed, and that permanently, have we not the good officer?

4 "When there is a daily display of three of these virtues, their possessor could early and late regulate and enlighten the Family, of which he was made chief. When there is a daily severe and reverent cultivation of six virtues, their possessor could brilliantly conduct the affairs of the State, to which he was constituted ruler. When such men are all received and employed, the possessors of these nine virtues will all have their services. Then men of a thousand and men of a hundred fill the offices of the State; the various ministers will emulate one another; all the officers will accomplish their duties at the proper times, observant of the five elements-regulated seasons, and thus their various duties will be fully accomplished.

5 "Let not the emperor set to the rulers of States an example of indolence or dissoluteness. Let him be wary and fearful, remembering that in one day or two days there may occur ten thousand springs of things. Let him not have the various officers comberers of their places. The work is Heaven's; it is men's to act for it!

6 "From Heaven are the social arrangements with their several duties; to us it is given to enforce those five duties, and then we have the five courses of generous conduct! From Heaven are the social distinctions with their several ceremonies; from us proceed the observances of those five ceremonies, and then do they appear in regular practice! When sovereign and ministers show a common reverence and respect for these, do they not harmonize the moral nature of the people? Heaven graciously distinguishes the virtuous; are there not the five habiliments, five decorations of them? Heaven punishes the guilty; are there not the five punishments to be severally used for that purpose? The business of government! ought we not to be earnest in it? ought we not to be earnest in it?

7 "Heaven hears and sees as our people hear and see; Heaven brightly approves and displays its terrors, as our people brightly approve and would awe: such connection there is between the upper and lower worlds. How reverent ought the masters of the earth to be!"

8 Gao Yao said, "My words are reasonable and may be put in practice." Yu said, "Yes, your words may be put in practice, and crowned with success." Gao Yao said, "As to that I do not know, but I wish daily to be helpful. May the government be perfected!"

Back to Top THE GREAT DECLARATION (Legge, p. 281)

Part One

1 In the spring of the thirteenth year, there was a great assembly at Meng Jin. (2) The king said, "Ah! ye hereditary rulers of my friendly States, and all ye my officers, managers of my affairs, listen clearly to my declaration.

3 "Heaven and Earth is the parent of all creatures, and of all creatures man is the most highly endowed. The sincere, intelligent and perspicacious among men becomes the great sovereign, and the great sovereign is the parent of the people. (4) But now Shou, the king of Shang, does not reverence Heaven above, and inflicts calamities on the people below. (5) He has been abandoned to drunkenness, and reckless in lust. He has dared to exercise cruel oppression. Along with criminals he has punished all their relatives. He has put men into office on the hereditary principle. He has made it his pursuit to have palaces, towers, pavilions, embankments, ponds, and all other extravagances, to the most painful injury of you, the myriad people. He has burned and roasted the loyal and good. He has ripped up pregnant women. Great Heaven was moved with indignation, and charged my deceased father Wen reverently to display its majesty, but he died before the work was completed.

6 "On this account I, Fa, who am but a little child, have by means of you, the hereditary rulers of my friendly States, contemplated the government of Shang, but Shou has no repentant heart. He abides squatting on his heels, not serving God or the spirits of heaven and earth, neglecting also the temple of his ancestors, and not sacrificing in it. The victims and the vessels of millet all become the prey of wicked robbers, and still he says, 'The people are mine; the decree is mine,' never trying to correct his contemptuous mind. (7) Now Heaven, to protect the inferior people, made for them rulers, and made for them instructors, that they might be able to be aiding to God, and secure the tranquillity of the four quarters of the empire. In regard to who are criminals and who are not, how dare I give any allowance to my own wishes?

8 "'Where the strength is the same, measure the virtue of the parties; where the virtue is the same, measure their righteousness.' Shou has hundreds of thousands and myriads of ministers, but they have hundreds of thousands and myriads of minds; I have three thousand ministers, but they have one mind.(9) The iniquity of Shang is full. Heaven gives command to destroy it. If I did not comply with Heaven, my iniquity would be as great.

10 "I, who am a little child, early and late am filled with apprehensions. I have received charge from my deceased father Wen; I have offered special sacrifice to God; I have performed the due services to the great Earth, and I lead the multitude of you to execute the punishment appointed by Heaven. (11) Heaven compassionates the people. What the people desire, Heaven will be found to give effect to. Do you aid me, the one man, to cleanse for ever all within the four seas. Now is the time! It may not be lost."

Part Two

1 On the day mo-wu, the king halted on the north of the River. When all the chiefs with their hosts were assembled, the king reviewed the hosts, (2) and made the following declaration, saying, "Ah! ye multitudes of the West, listen all to my words.

3 "I have heard that the good man, doing good, finds the day insufficient, and that the evil man, doing evil, likewise finds the day insufficient. Now Shou, the king of Shang, with strength pursues his lawless way. He has cast away the time-worn sires, and cultivates intimacies with wicked men. Dissolute, intemperate, reckless, oppressive, his ministers have become assimilated to him, and they form parties, and contract animosities, and depend on the emperor's power to exterminate one another. The innocent cry to Heaven. The odor of such a state is plainly felt on high.

4 "Heaven loves the people, and the sovereign should reverence this mind of Heaven. Jie, the sovereign of Xia, could not follow the example of Heaven, but sent forth his poisonous injuries through the States of the empire. Heaven favored and charged Tang, the Successful, to make an end of the decree of Xia. (5) But the crimes of Shou exceed those of Jie. He has stripped and degraded the greatly good man; he has behaved with cruel tyranny to his reprover and helper. He says that his is the decree of Heaven; he says that a reverent care of his conduct is not worth observing; he says that sacrifice is of no use; he says that tyranny is no matter. The case for his inspection was not remote: in that king of Xia. It would seem that Heaven by means of me is going to rule the people. My dreams coincide with my divinations; the auspicious omen is double. My attack on Shang must succeed.

6 "Shou has hundreds of thousands and millions of ordinary men, divided in heart and divided in practice; I have of ministers capable of government ten men, one in heart and one in practice. Although he has his nearest relatives with him, they are not like my virtuous men. (7) Heaven sees as my people see; Heaven hears as my people hear. The people are blaming me, the one man, for my delay; I must now go forward. (8) My military prowess is displayed, and I enter his territories, to take the wicked tyrant. My punishment of evil will be shown more glorious than that of Tang. (9) Rouse ye, my heroes! Do not think that he is not to be feared; better think that he cannot be withstood. His people stand in trembling awe of him, as if the horns were falling from their heads. Oh! unite your energies, unite your hearts; so shall you forthwith surely accomplish the work to last for all ages!"

Part Three

1 The time was on the morrow, when the king went round his six hosts in state, and made a clear declaration to all his officers. (2) He said, "Oh! my valiant men of the west, Heaven has enjoined the illustrious courses of duty, of which the several characters are quite plain. And now Shou, king of Shang, treats with contemptuous slight the five constant virtues, and abandons himself to wild idleness and irreverence. He has cut himself off from Heaven, and brought enmity between himself and the people.

3 "He cut through the leg-bones of those who were wading in the morning; he cut out the heart of the worthy man. By the use of his power killing and murdering, he has poisoned and sickened all within the four seas. His honor and confidence are given to the villainous and bad. He has driven from him his instructors and guardians. He has thrown to the winds the statutes and penal laws. He has imprisoned and enslaved the upright officer. He neglects the sacrifices to Heaven and Earth. He has discontinued the offerings in the ancestral temple. He makes contrivances of wonderful device and extraordinary cunning to please his woman. God will no longer indulge him, but with a curse is sending down on him this ruin. Do ye support with untiring zeal me, the one man, reverently to execute the punishment appointed by Heaven. (4) The ancients have said, 'He who soothes us is our sovereign; he who oppresses us is our enemy.' This solitary fellow Shou, having exercised great tyranny, is your perpetual enemy. It is said again, 'In planting a man's virtue, strive to make it great; in putting away a man's wickedness, strive to do it from the root.' Here I, who am a little child, by the powerful help of you, all my officers, will utterly exterminate your enemy. Do you, all my officers, march forwards with determined boldness to sustain your prince. Where there is much merit, there shall be large reward. Where you advance not so, there shall be conspicuous disgrace.

5 "Oh! the virtue of my deceased father Wen was like the shining and influence of the sun and moon. His brightness extended over the four quarters of the empire, and shone signally in the western region. Hence it is that our Zhou has received the allegiance of many States. If I subdue Shou, it will not be my prowess, but the faultless virtue of my deceased father Wen. If Shou subdue me, it will not be from any fault of my deceased father Wen, but because I, who am a little child, am not good."


1 In the first month, the day ren-chen immediately followed the end of the moon's waning. The next day was gui-ji, when the king in the morning marched from Zhou to attack and punish Shang.

2 In the fourth month, at the first appearance of the moon, the king came from Shang to Feng, when he hushed all the movements of war, and attended to the cultivations of peace. He sent back his horses to the south of mount Hua, and let loose his oxen in the open country of Tao Lin, showing the empire that he would not use them again.

3 On the day ding-wei he sacrificed in the ancestral temple of Zhou, when the chiefs of the imperial domain, and of the tien, hou, and wei domains all hurried about, carrying the dishes. Three days after, he presented a burnt-offering to Heaven, and worshiped towards the mountains and rivers, solemnly announcing the successful completion of the war.

4 After the moon began to wane, the hereditary princes of the various States, and all the officers, received their appointments from Zhou.

5 The king spoke to the following effect: "Oh! ye host of princes, the first of our kings founded the State and commenced our territory. The duke Liu was able to consolidate the merits of his predecessor. But it was King Tai who laid the foundations of the imperial inheritance. Then king Qi was diligent for the royal House, and my deceased father, King Wen, completed his merit, and received the great decree of Heaven to soothe the regions of the great bright land. The great States feared his strength; the small States cherished his virtue. In nine years, however, the whole empire was not collected under his rule, and it fell to me, who am but a little child, to carry out his will.

6 "Detesting the crimes of Shang, I announced to great Heaven and the sovereign Earth, to the famous hill and the great river, by which I passed, saying, 'I, Fa, the principled, king of Zhou, by a long descent, am about to have a great righting with Shang. Shou, the king of Shang, is without principle, cruel and destructive to the creatures of Heaven, injurious and tyrannical to the multitudes of the people, chief of the vagabonds of the empire, who collect about him as fish in the deep, and beasts in the prairie. I, who am but a little child, having obtained the help of virtuous men, presume reverently to comply with the will of God, to make an end of his disorderly ways. The great and flowery region, and the wild tribes of the south and north, equally follow and consent with me. (7) Reverently obeying the determinate counsel of Heaven, I pursue my punitive work to the east, to give tranquillity to its men and women. Its men and women bring their baskets full of azure and yellow silks to show forth the virtue of us the kings of Zhou. Heaven's favors stir them up, so that they come with their allegiance to our great State of Zhou. (8) And now, ye spirits, grant me your aid, that I may relieve the millions of the people, and nothing turn out to your shame.'"

9 On the day mo-wu the army crossed the ford of Meng; on the day gui-hai it was drawn up in array in the borders of Shang, waiting for the gracious decision of Heaven. On the day jia-zi, at early dawn, Shou led forward his hosts like a forest, and assembled them in the wilderness of Mu. But they would offer no opposition to our army. Those in the front inverted their spears, and attacked those behind them, till they fled, and the blood flowed till it floated the pestles about. Thus did King Wu once don his arms, and the kingdom was greatly settled. He overthrew the existing government of Shang, and made it resume its old course. He delivered the count of Qi from prison, and raised a tumulus over the grave of Bi Gan. He bowed in his carriage at the gate of Shang Yong's village. He dispersed the treasures of the Lu Dai, and distributed the grain of Zhu Jiao, thus conferring great gifts throughout the empire, and all the people joyfully submitted.

10 He arranged the orders of nobility into five, assigning the territories to them on to a threefold scale. He gave offices only to the worthy, and employments only to the able. He attached great importance to the people's being taught the duties of the five relations of society, and to take care for food, for funeral ceremonies, and for sacrifices. He showed the reality of his truthfulness, and proved clearly his righteousness. He honored virtue, and rewarded merit. Then he had only to let his robes fall down, fold his hands, and the kingdom was orderly ruled.

Back to Top THE GREAT PLAN (Legge, p. 320)

1 In the thirteenth year, the king went to enquire of the viscount of Qi, and said to him, (2) "Oh! viscount of Qi, Heaven, unseen, has given their constitution to mankind, aiding also the harmonious development of it in their various conditions. I do not know how their proper virtues in their various relations should be brought forth in due order."

3 The viscount of Qi thereupon replied, "I have heard that of old time Gun dammed up the inundating waters, and thereby threw into disorder the arrangement of the five elements. God was thereby roused to anger, and did not give him 'the great Plan with its nine Divisions,' whereby the proper virtues of the various relations were left to go to ruin. Gun was then kept a prisoner till his death, and Yu rose up to continue his undertaking. To him Heaven gave 'the great Plan with its nine Divisions,' and thereby the proper virtues of the various relations were brought forth in their order.

4 "Of those divisions, the first is called 'The five Elements'; the second is called 'The Reverent Practice of the five Businesses'; the third is called 'Earnest Devotion to the eight objects of Government'; the fourth is called 'The Harmonious Use of the five Arrangements'; the fifth is called 'The Establishment and Use of royal Perfection'; the sixth is called 'The Cultivation and Use of the three Virtues'; the seventh is called 'The Intelligent Use of the Examination of Doubts'; the eighth is called 'The Thoughtful Use of the various Verifications'; the ninth is called 'The Hortatory Use of the five Happinesses, and the Awing Use of the six Extremities.'

5 "First, of the five elements: the first is named water; the second, fire; the third, wood; the fourth, metal; the fifth, earth. The nature of water is to soak and descend; of fire, to blaze and ascend; of wood, to be crooked and to be straight; of metal, to obey and to change; while the virtue of earth is seen in seed-sowing and ingathering. That which soaks and descends becomes salt; that which blazes and ascends becomes bitter; that which is crooked and straight becomes sour; that which obeys and changes becomes acrid; and from seed-sowing and ingathering comes sweetness.

6 "Second, of the five businesses: the first is called demeanor; the second, speech; the third, seeing; the fourth, hearing; and the fifth, thinking. The virtue of the demeanor is called is respectfulness; of speech, accordance with reason; of seeing, clearness; of hearing, distinctness; of thinking, perspicaciousness. The respectfulness becomes manifest in gravity; accordance with reason, in orderliness; the clearness, in wisdom; the distinctness, in deliberation; and perspicaciousness, in sageness.

7 "Third, of the eight objects of government: the first is food; the second, commodities; the third, sacrifices; the fourth, the minister of works; the fifth, the minister of instruction; the sixth, the minister of crime; the seventh, the entertainment of guests; the eighth, the army.

8 "Fourth, of the five arrangements: the first is called the year; the second, the month; the third, the day; the fourth, the stars and planets, and the zodiacal signs; and the fifth, the calendaric calculations.

9 "Fifth, of royal perfection: the sovereign having established his highest point of excellence, he concentrates in himself the five happinesses, and then diffuses them so as to give them to his people. Then on their part the multitudes of the people, resting in your perfection, will give to you the preservation of it. (10) That the multitudes of the people have no lawless confederacies, and that men in office have no selfish combinations, will be an effect of the sovereign's establishing his highest point of excellence. (11) Among all the multitudes of the people, when any have counsel, and conduct, and keep themselves from evil, do you bear them in mind; those who do not come up to the highest excellence, yet do not involve themselves in evil, let the sovereign receive; and when a placid satisfaction appears in their countenances, and they say, 'Our love is fixed on virtue,' do you then confer favor on them. Those men will in this way advance to the perfection of the sovereign. (12) Do not oppress the friendless and childless; do not fear the high and illustrious. (13) When men have ability and administrative power, cause them still more to cultivate their conduct, and the prosperity of the country will be promoted. All right men, having a competency, will go on to be good. If you cannot make men have what they love in their families, they will only proceed to be guilty of crime; while they do not love virtue, though you confer favor on them, they will involve you in the guilt of employing them thus evil.

14 "Without deflection, without unevenness,

Pursue the Royal righteousness;

Without any selfish likings,

Pursue the Royal way;

Without any selfish dislikings,

Pursue the Royal path;

Without deflection, without partiality,

The Royal path is level and easy;

Without perversity, without one-sidedness,

The Royal path is right and straight.

Seeing this perfect excellence,

Turn to this perfect excellence."

15 He went on to say, "This amplification of the Royal perfection contains the unchanging rule, and is the great lesson; yea, it is the lesson of God. (16) All the multitudes, instructed in this amplification of the perfect excellence, and carrying it into practice, will approximate to the glory of the son of Heaven, and say, 'The son of Heaven is the parent of the people, and so becomes the sovereign of the empire.'

17 "Sixth, of the three virtues: the first is called correctness and straightforwardness; the second, strong government; and the third, mild government. In peace and tranquillity, correctness and straightforwardness must sway; in violence and disorder, strong government must sway; in harmony and order, mild government must sway. For the reserved and retiring there is the strong rule; for the lofty and intelligent there is the mild rule.

18 "It belongs only to the prince to confer favors, to display the terrors of majesty, and to receive the revenues of the empire. (19) There should be no such thing as a minister conferring favors, displaying the terrors of justice, or receiving the revenues of the country. Such a thing is injurious to the familier, and fatal to the States of the empire: small officers become one-sided and perverse, and the people commit assumptions and excesses.

20 "Seventh, of the examination of doubts: having chosen and appointed officers for divining by the tortoise and by the milfoil, they are to be charged on occasion to perform their duties. (21) In doing this, they will find the appearances of rain, clearing up, cloudiness, want of connection, and crossing, (22) and the symbols, solidity, and repentance. (23) In all the indications are seven: five given by the tortoise and two by the milfoil, by which the errors of affairs may be traced out. (24) These officers having been appointed, when the operations with the tortoise and milfoil are proceeded with, three men are to obtain and interpret the indications and symbols, and the consenting words of two of them are to be followed.

25 "If you have doubts about any great matter, consult with your own heart; consult with your nobles and officers;consult with the masses of the people; consult the tortoise and milfoil. (26) If you, the tortoise, the milfoil, the nobles and officers, and the common people all consent to a course, this is what is called a great concord, and the result will be the welfare of your person, and good fortune to your descendants. (27) If you, the tortoise, and the milfoil all agree, while the nobles and common people oppose, the result will be fortunate. (28) If the nobles and officers, the tortoise, and the milfoil all agree, while you oppose and the common people oppose, the result will be fortunate. (29) If the common people, the tortoise, and the milfoil all agree, while you and the nobles and officers oppose, the result will be fortunate. (30) If you and the tortoise agree, while the milfoil, the nobles and officers, and the common people oppose, internal operations will be fortunate, and external operations will be unlucky. When the tortoise and milfoil are both opposed to the views of men, there will be good fortune in stillness, and active operations will be unlucky.

32 "Eighth, of the various verifications: they are rain, sunshine, heat, cold, wind, and seasonableness. When the five come all complete, and each is in its proper order, even the various plants will be abundantly luxuriant. (33) Should any one of them be either excessively abundant or excessively deficient, there is evil.

34 "There are the favorable verifications: namely, of gravity, which is emblemed by seasonable rain; of orderliness, emblemed by seasonable sunshine; of wisdom, emblemed by seasonable heat; of deliberation, emblemed by seasonable cold; and of sageness, emblemed by seasonable wind. There are also the unfavorable verifications: namely, of wildness, emblemed by constant rain; of assumption, emblemed by constant sunshine; of indolence, emblemed by constant heat; of haste, emblemed by constant cold; and of stupidity, emblemed by constant wind."

35 He went on to say, "The sovereign is to examine the character of the whole year; nobles and officers, that of the month; and the inferior officers, that of the day. (36) If, throughout the year, the month, the day, there be an unchanging seasonableness, all the kinds of grain are matured; the operations of government are wise; heroic men stand forth eminent; and in the families of the people there are peace and prosperity. (37) If, throughout the year, the month, the day, the seasonableness is interrupted, the various kinds of grain do not become matured; the operations of government are dark and unwise; heroic men are reduced to obscurity; in the families of the people there is no repose.

38 "The common people are like the stars. Some stars love the wind, and some love the rain. The course of the sun and moon give winter and summer. The course of the moon among the stars gives wind and rain.

39 "Ninth, of the five happinesses: the first is long life; the second is riches; the third is soundness of body and serenity of mind; the fourth is the love of virtue; the fifth is an end crowning the life. (40) As to the six extremities again, the first is misfortune, shortening the life; the second is sickness; the third is sorrow; the fourth is poverty; the fifth is wickedness; the sixth is weakness."

Back to Top THE HOUNDS OF LU (Legge, p. 345)

1 After the conquest of Shang, the way being open to the nine wild and the eight savage tribes, the people of the western tribe of Lu sent in as tribute some of their hounds, on which the Great-guardian made "The Hounds of Lu," by way of instruction to the king.

2 He said, "Oh! the intelligent kings have paid careful attention to their virtue, and the wild tribes on every side have willingly acknowledged subjection to them. The nearer and the more remote have all made offerings of the productions of their countries: clothes, food, and vessels for use. (3) The kings have then displayed the things thus produced by their virtue, and distributed them to the princes of the States of different surnames, to encourage them not to neglect their duties. The precious things and gems they have distributed among their uncles in charge of States, thereby increasing their attachment to the throne. The recipients have thus not despised the things, but have seen in them the power of virtue.

4 "Complete virtue allows no contemptuous familiarity. When a prince treats superior men with such familiarity, he cannot get them to give him all their hearts; when he so treats inferior men, he cannot get them to put forth for him all their strength. (5) If he be not in bondage to his ears and eyes, all his conduct will be ruled by correctness. (6) By trifling with men, he ruins his virtue; by finding his amusement in things, he ruins his aims.

7 "The aims should repose in what is right; words should be listened to according to their relation to right.

8 "A prince should not do what is unprofitable to the injury of what is profitable, and then his merit may be completed. He should not value strange things to the contemning things that are useful, and then his people will be able to supply all his needs. Even dogs and horses that are not native to his country he will not keep; fine birds and strange animals he will not nourish in his kingdom. When he does not look on foreign things as precious, foreigners will come to him; when it is worth which is precious to him, his own people near at hand will enjoy repose.

9 "Oh! early and late never be but earnest. If you do not attend jealously to your small actions, the result will be to affect your virtue in great matters, as when, in raising a mound of nine fathoms, the work is unfinished for want of one basket of earth. If you really follow this course, the people will preserve their possessions, and the throne will descend from generation to generation."

Back to Top THE METAL-BOUND COFFER (Legge, p. 351)

1 Two years after the conquest of the Shang dynasty, the king fell ill and was quite disconsolate. (2) The two dukes said, "Let us reverently consult the tortoise concerning the king," (3) but the duke of Zhou said, "You must not so distress our former kings."

4 He then took the business on himself and made three altars of earth on the same cleared space, and having made another altar on the south, facing the north, he there took his own position. The convex symbols were put on their altars, and he himself held his mace, while he addressed the kings Tai, Ji, and Wen.

5 The grand historian by his order wrote on tablets his prayer to the following effect: "A. B., your chief descendant, is suffering from a severe and dangerous sickness. If you three kings have in heaven the charge of watching over him, Heaven's great son, let me, Tan, be a substitute for his person. (6) I have been lovingly obedient to my father; I am possessed of many abilities and arts which fit me to serve spiritual beings. Your chief descendant, on the other hand, has not so many abilities and arts as I, and is not so capable of serving spiritual beings. (7) And moreover he was appointed in the hall of God to extend his aid to all the four quarters of the empire, so that he might establish your descendants in this lower world. The people of the four quarters stand in reverent awe of him. Oh! do not let that precious Heaven-conferred appointment fall to the ground, and all our former kings will also have a perpetual reliance and resort. (8) I will now seek for your orders from the great tortoise. If you grant what I request, I will take these symbols and this mace, and return and wait for the issue. If you do not grant it, I will put them by."

9 The duke then divined with the three tortoises, and all were favorable. He took a key, opened and looked at the oracular responses, which were also were favorable. (10) He said, "According to the form of the prognostic, the king will take no injury. I, who am but a little child, have got his appointment renewed by the three kings, by whom a long futurity has been consulted for. I have to wait the issue. They can provide for our one man." (11) Having said this, he returned and placed the tablets in the metal-bound coffer, and next day the king got better.

12 Afterwards, upon the death of King Wu, the duke's elder brother, he of Guan, and the duke's younger brothers, spread a baseless rumor through the kingdom, saying, "The duke will do no good to the king's young son." (13) Upon this the duke of Zhou represented to the two dukes, saying, "If I do not take the law to these men, I shall not be able to make my report to our former kings."

14 He resided accordingly in the east for two years, when the criminals were got and brought to justice. (15) Afterward, he made a poem to present to the king and called it "The Owl." The king on his part did not dare to blame the duke.

16 In the autumn, when the grain was abundant and ripe, but before it was reaped, Heaven sent a great storm of thunder and lightning, along with wind, by which the grain was all beaten down and great trees torn up. The people were greatly terrified, and the king and great officers, all in their caps of state, proceeded to open the metal-bound coffer and examine the writings, when they found the words of the duke of Zhou when he took on himself the business of taking the place of king Wu. (17) The king and the two dukes asked the grand historian and all the other officers about the thing. They replied, "Ah! it was really thus, but the duke charged us that we should not presume to speak about it." (18) The king held the writing and wept, saying, "We need not now go on reverently to divine. Formerly the duke was thus earnest for the royal house, but I, being a child, did not know it. Now Heaven has moved its terrors to display the virtue of the duke of Zhou. That I meet him a new man is what the rules of propriety of our empire require."

19 The king then went out to the borders, when Heaven sent down rain, and by virtue of a contrary wind, the grain all rose up. The two dukes gave orders to the people to take up all the large trees which had fallen and replace them. The year then turned out very fruitful.


1 [In the third month, when the moon began to wane, the duke of Zhou commenced the foundations and proceeded to build the new great city of Luo of the eastern states. The people from every quarter assembled in great harmony. From the Hou, Dian, Nan, Cai, and Wei domains, the various offlicers stimulated this harmony of the people and introduced them to the business there was for Zhou. The duke of Zhou encouraged all to diligence and made a great announcement about the performance of the works.]

2 The king speaks to this effect: "Head of the princes, my younger brother, little one, Feng. (3) It was your greatly distinguished father, the king Wen, who was able to illustrate his virtue and be careful in the use of punishments. (4) He did not dare to to show any contempt to the widower and widows. He employed the employable and revered the reverend. He was terrible to those who needed to be awed--so getting distinction among the people. It was thus he laid the first beginnings of the sway of our small portion of the empire, and the one or two neighboring countries were brought under his improving influence, until throughout our western regions all placed in him their reliance. The fame of him ascended up to the High God, and God approved. Heaven gave a great charge to King Wen, to exterminate the great dynasty of Yin and receive its great appointment, so that the various States belonging to it and their peoples were brought to an orderly condition. Then your unworthy elder brother exerted himself, and so it is that you Feng, the little one, are here in this eastern region."

5 The king says, "Oh! Feng, bear these things in mind. Now your management of the people will depend on your reverently following your father Wen. Do you carry out his virtuous words which you have heard, and clothe yourself with them. Moreover, where you go, seek out among the traces of the former wise kings of Yin what you may use in protecting and regulating their people. Again, you must more remotely study the old accomplished men of Shang, that you may establish your heart and know how to instruct the people. Further still, you must seek out besides what is to be learned f the wise kings of antiquity and employ it in the tranquilizing and protecting of the people. Finally, enlarge your thoughts to the comprehension of all Heavenly principles, and virtue will be richly displayed in your person, so that you will not render nugatory the king's charge.

6 The king says, "Oh! Feng, the little one, it is as if some disease were in your person; be respectfully careful. Heaven in its awfulness yet helps the sincere. The feelings of the people can for the most part be discerned, but it is difficult to calculate on the attachment of the lower classes. Where you go, employ all your heart. Do not seek repose, nor be fond of idleness and pleasure. So may you regulate the people. I have read the saying: Dissatisfaction is caused, not so much by great things or by small things, as by a ruler's observance of principle or the reverse, and by his energy of conduct or the reverse.

7 "'Yes, it is yours, O little one, it is your business to enlarge the royal influence, and harmoniously to protect this people of Yin. Thus also shall you assist the king, consolidating the appointment of Heaven and renovating this people."

8 The king says, "Oh! Feng, deal reverently and understandingly in your infliction of punishments. When men commit small crimes which are not mischances, but purposed, themselves doing what is contrary to the laws, intentionally, though their crimes be but small, you may not but put them to death. But in the case of great crimes which are not purposed, but from mischance and misfortune, accidental, if the offenders confess unreservedly their guilt, you may not put them to death."

9 The king says, "Oh! Feng, there must be the right regulation in this matter. When you show a great discrimination, subduing men's hearts, the people will admonish one another and strive to be obedient. Deal with evil, as if it were a sickness in your person, and the people will entirely put away their faults. Deal with them as if you were guarding your infants, and the people will be tranquil and orderly. (10) It is not you, Feng, who inflict a severe punishment or death upon a man. You may not, of yourself, so punish a man or put him to death.' Moreover, he says, 'It is not you, Feng, who cut off a man's nose or ears. You may not, of yourself, cut off a man's nose or ears.'"

11 The king says, "In things beyond your immediate jurisdiction, have laws set forth which the officers may observe, and those should be the penal laws of Yin, which were right-ordered."

12 He also says, "In examining the evidence in criminal cases, reflect upon it for five or six days, yea, for ten days, or three months. You may then boldly carry your decision into effect in such cases."

13 The king says, "In setting forth the business of the laws, the punishments will be determined by the regular laws of Yin. But you must see that those punishments, as well as the penalty of death, be righteous. And you must not let them be warped to agree with your own inclinations, O Feng. Then shall you be entirely accordant with right and may say, 'These are properly ordered.' Yet you must say at the same time, 'Perhaps they are not yet entirely accordant with right.' (14) Yes, you are the little one. Who has a heart like you, O Feng? My heart and my virtue are also known to you.

15 "All people who of themselves commit crimes, robbing, stealing, practicing villainy and treason, and who kill men or violently assault them to take their property, being violent and fearless of death--those are abhorred by all."

16 The king says, "Feng, such chief criminals are greatly abhorred, and how much more detestable are the unfilial and unbrotherly, as the son who does not reverently discharge his duty to his father, but greatly wounds his father's heart, and the father who can no longer love his son, but hates him; and the younger brother who does not think of the manifest will of Heaven, and refuses to respect his elder brother, so that the elder brother does not think of the toil of their parents in bringing them up, and is very unbrotherly to his junior. If we who are charged with government do not treat parties who proceed to such wickedness as offenders, the laws of our nature given by Heaven to our people will be thrown into great disorder and destroyed. You must deal speedily with such parties according to the penal laws of king Wen, punishing them severely and not pardoning.

17 "'Those who are disobedient to natural principles are to be thus severely subjected to the laws. How much more the officers employed in your State as the instructors of the youth, the heads of the various official departments, and the petty officers, charged with their several commissions, when they propagate and spread abroad other lessons, seeking the praise of the people, not thinking of the the sovereign nor using the rules for their duties, but distressing him! These lead on to wickedness and are an abomination to me. Shall they be let alone? Do you quickly, according to what is recognized as right, put them to death.

18 "And you are here prince and president. If you cannot manage your own household, with your petty officers, the instructors, and heads of departments, but use only terror and violence, you greatly set aside the royal charge and try to regulate your State contrary to virtue. (19) Do you also in everything reverence the constant statutes and so proceed to the happy rule of the people. There are the reverence of King Wen and his caution; in proceeding by them to the happy rule of the people, say, "If I can only attain to them." So will you make me, the one man, to rejoice."

20 The king says, "O Feng, when I think clearly of the people, I see they are to be led to happiness and tranquillity. I think of the virtue of the former wise kings of Yin, whereby they tranquilized and regulated the people, and rouse myself to realize it. Moreover, the people now are sure to follow a leader. If one do not lead them, he cannot be said to exercise a government in their State."

21 The king says, "Feng, I cannot dispense with the inspection of the ancients, and I make this declaration to you about virtue in the use of punishments. Now the people are not quiet; they have not stilled their minds; notwithstanding my frequent leading of them, they have not come to accord with my government. I reflect on Heaven's severe punishments, but I do not murmur. The crimes of the people, whether they are great or many, are all chargeable on me, and how much more shall this be said, when the report of them goes up so manifestly to Heaven!"

22 The king says, "Oh! Feng, be reverent. Do not what will create murmurings; do not use bad counsels and uncommon ways. Decidedly and with sincerity, give yourself to imitate the active virtue of the ancients. Hereby give repose to your mind; examine your virtue; send far forward your plans, and thus by your generous forbearance you will conduct the people to repose in what is good. So shall I not have to blame you or cast you off."

23 The king says, "Oh! you, Feng, you the little one, Heaven's appointments are not constant. Do you think of this, and do not make me deprive you of your dignity. Reflect clearly on the charges you have received. Think highly of what you have heard, and tranquilize and regulate the people accordingly."

24 The king thus says, "Go, Feng. Do not disregard the statutes you should reverence; hearken to what I have told you. So with the people of Yin you will enjoy your dignity and hand it down to your posterity."

Back to Top PRINCE SHI (Legge, p. 474)

1 The duke of Zhou spoke to the following effect: (2) "Prince Shi, Heaven, unpitying, sent down ruin on Yin; Yin has lost its appointment, and the princes of our Zhou have received it. I do not dare, however, to say as if I knew, 'The foundation will ever truly abide in prosperity. [If Heaven aid sincerity . . .'] Nor do I dare to say, as if I knew, 'The final end will issue in our misfortunes.' (3) Oh! you have said, O prince, 'It depends on ourselves.' I also do not dare to rest in the favor of God, never forecasting at a distance the terrors of Heaven in the present time when there is no murmuring or disobedience among the people. The issue is with men. Should our present successor to his fathers prove greatly unable to reverence Heaven and the people, and so bring to an end their glory, could we in our families be ignorant of it? (4) The favor of Heaven is not easily preserved. Heaven is hard to be depended on. Men lose its favoring appointment because they cannot pursue and carry out the reverence and brilliant virtue of their forefathers. (5) Now I, Dan, being but as a little child, am not able to correct our king. I would simply conduct him to the glory of his forefathers and make his youth partaker of that."

6 He also said, "Heaven is not to be trusted. Our course is simply to seek the prolongation of the virtue of the Tranquilizing king, and Heaven will not find occasion to remove its favoring decree which King Wen received."

7 The duke said, "Prince Shi, I have heard that of ancient time, when Tang the Successful had received the favoring decree, he had with him Yi Yin, making his virtue like that of great Heaven. Tai Ja, again, had Bao Heng. Tai Wu had Yi Zhi and Chen Hu, through whom his virtue was made to affect God; he had also Wu Xian, who regulated the royal house; Zu Yi had Wu Xian. Wu Ding had Gan Pan. (8) These ministers carried out their principles and effected their arrangements, preserving and regulating the empire of Yin, so that, while its ceremonies lasted, those sovereigns, though deceased, were assessors to Heaven, while it extended over many years. (9) Heaven thus determinately maintained its favoring appointment, and Shang was replenished with men. The various officers and members of the royal House holding employments all held fast their virtue and displayed an anxious solicitude for the empire. The smaller officers and the chiefs in the Hou and Dian domains hurried about on their services. Thus did they all put forth their virtue and aid their sovereign, so that whatever affairs he, the one man, had in hand throughout the four quarters of the empire, an entire sincerity was conceded to them as to the indications of the tortoise or the milfoil."

10 The duke said, "Prince Shi, Heaven gives long life to the just and the intelligent. It was thus that those ministers maintained and regulated the dynasty of Yin. He who at last came to the throne was extinguished by the majesty of Heaven. Think you of the distant future, and we shall have the decree in favor of Zhou made sure, and its good government will be brilliantly displayed in our new-founded State."

11 The duke said, "Prince Shi, aforetime when God was afflicting Yin, he encouraged anew the virtue of the Tranquilizing king, till at last the great favoring decree was concentrated in his person. (12) But that king Wen was able to conciliate and unite the portion of the great empire which we came to possess, was owing to his having such ministers as his brother of Guo, Hong Yao, San Yi Sheng, Tai Dian, and Nan Gong Guo."

13 He repeated this sentiment, "But for the ability of these men to go and come in his affairs, developing his constant lessons, there would have been no benefits descending from King Wen on the people. And it also was from the determinate favor of Heaven that there were these men of firm virtue, and acting according to their knowledge of the dread majesty of Heaven, to give themselves to enlighten king Wen and lead him forward to his high distinction and universal over-rule, til his fame reached the cars of God, and he received the decree of Yin. (15) There were still four of these men who led on king Wu to the possession of that decree with all its emoluments. Afterwards, along with him, in great reverence of the majesty of Heaven, they slew all his enemies. And then these four men made king Wu distinguished all over the empire, till the people universally and greatly proclaimed his virtue. (16) Now with me, Dan, who am but a little child, it is as if I were floating on a great stream. Let me from this time cross it along with you, O Shi. Our young sovereign is powerless, as if he had not yet ascended the throne. You must by no means lay the whole burden on me, and if we draw ourselves up without an effort to supply his deficiencies, no good will flow to the people from our age and experience. We shall not hear the voices of the singing birds, and much less can it be thought that we shall make his virtue equal to Heaven!"

17 The duke said, "Oh! consider well, O prince, these things. We have received the favoring decree of Heaven, to which belongs an unlimited amount of what is desirable, but having great difficulties attached to it. What I announce to you are counsels of a generous largeness. I cannot allow the successor of our kings to go astray."

18 The duke said, "The former king laid bare his heart and gave full charge to you, constituting you one of the guides of the people, saying, 'Do you with intelligence and energy prove a helper to the king; do you with sincerity support and carry on this great decree. Think of the virtue of King Wen, and enter greatly into his boundless anxieties.'"

19 The duke said, "What I tell you, O prince, are my sincere thoughts. O Shi, Grand-protector, if you can but reverently survey with me the decay and great disorders of Yin, and thence consider the dread majesty of Heaven which warns us!--

20 Am I not to be believed, that I must thus speak? I simply say, 'The establishment of our dynasty rests with us two.' Do you agree with me? Then you also will say, 'It rests with us two.' And the favor of Heaven has come to us so largely, it should be ours to feel as if we could not sustain it. If you can but reverently cultivate your virtue and bring to light our men of eminence, then when you resign to some successor in a time of established security--

21 "Oh! it is by the eariiest assistance of us two that we have come to the prosperity of the present day. We must go on, abjuring all idleness, to complete the work of King Wen, til it has entirely overspread the empire, and from the corners of the sea and the sunrising there shall not be one who is disobedient to our rule."

22 The duke said, "O prince, am I not speaking in accordance with reason in these many declarations? I am only influenced by anxiety about the decree of Heaven and about the people."

23 The duke said, "Oh! 0 prince, you know the ways of the people, how at the beginning they can be all we could desire, but it is the end which is to be thought of. Act in careful accordance with this fact. Go and reverently exercise your government."

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