The Book of Filial Duty, by Ivan Chen, , at sacred-texts.com
GOVERNMENT BY THE SAGE
Tsêng Tzŭ asked: "Is filial piety the highest of all the virtues possessed by a great sage?" To this Confucius replied: "There is nothing so great in the world as man, and there is nothing so great in a man as filial piety. The first duty of a son is to venerate his parent, and in order to show reverence for his dead father he has to offer him sacrifice when he offers sacrifices to Heaven. A man who had done this was the Duke of Chou. When he offered sacrifices to Heaven in a suburban district, he also offered a sacrifice to his deceased ancestor Hou Chi, and when he offered sacrifice to Heaven at the temple named Ming Tang, he also made one to his deceased father Wên Wang. His good action produced such an effect that all the feudal barons at that time came to assist him in performing the ceremony of offering sacrifice to Heaven. It is therefore evident that there is nothing so great in human nature as filial piety. The feeling of affection is fostered during the time of infancy, and from that affection springs reverence. Since every man has a natural reverence, the great sages of the time teach him how and when to show it; and since he has a natural feeling of affection, they teach him when and how to cultivate it. As the teachings of these sages are based on the principle of filial
piety, their doctrine is propagated without effort, and their government is effectual without resorting to force. The affection between a father and a son is natural, and also a source from which springs the reverence which a minister ought to show to his sovereign. When parents have a son born to them, the regular line of descent in the family is thereby secured. This is the greatest duty in family life. We must treat our parents with the same reverence as is shown to our sovereign, because we receive boundless kindness from them and are under a natural obligation to do so. If any one does not love his parents, but others, he is a rebel against virtue; and if any one does not respect his parents, but others, he is also a rebel against the standard of rites. Any action which is against the law of nature will certainly not be an example for the public; and any one who gets a high position, such as that of a ruler, by undue influence instead of by good actions, will be despised by good men. As to the latter, they say what they ought to say, and do what they think is good for the public. Their virtue and justice are estimable, their actions are worthy of being followed, their behaviour is creditable, and their manner is correct in every way. If such persons are rulers of a state, they will afford to the people a good example to follow and will also inspire them with reverence and affection. This is principally the cause of their being successful
in propagating their doctrines, and in effectually carrying on their government. Do you not remember what is said in the Shih Ching?Look at that good man. How correct his behaviour is!"