THANG died in B.C. 1754 or 1753, and was succeeded, so far as the evidence of the Shû goes, by his grandson, known as Thâi Kiâ. The chief minister of Thang had been Î Yin, who delivers these Instructions to his young sovereign soon after his accession. was a great and wise man, 'a great sage,' as Thang calls him in the last Book, and is classed by Mencius among other celebrated ministers as 'the one most inclined to take office.' He reasons thus:--'Heaven's plan with mankind is that they who are first informed should instruct those who are later in being informed, and they who first apprehend principles should instruct those who are later in doing so.' He thought he was one of the former class, and a fire burned within him, impelling him to see], for office with a view to benefit the ignorant and erring. There were many legends about him in the times of Kâu. He was surnamed Î, from having been born near the river of that name, an affluent of the Ho. His name is said to have been Kih, and also Â-hăng (see the beginning of next Book). Yin was his designation. Thang had, probably, entrusted to him the guardianship of his grandson, and so he now went over the history of the kingdom from Yü, till it was transferred from the line of Hsiâ to that of Shang, celebrated the virtues of Thang and his government, and warned the young king of the fate that he must incur if he neglected the instructions given to him.
1. In the twelfth month of the first year, on (the day) Yî-khâu, Î Yin sacrificed to the former king, and presented the heir-king reverently before (the shrine of) his grandfather.* All the princes from the domain of the nobles and the royal domain were present; all the officers (also), each continuing to discharge his particular duties, were there to receive the orders of the chief minister. Î Yin then clearly described the complete virtue of the Meritorious Ancestor for the instruction of the (young) king.
2. He said, 'Oh! of old the former kings of Hsiâ cultivated earnestly their virtue, and then there were no calamities from Heaven. The spirits of the hills and rivers likewise were all in tranquillity; and the birds and beasts, the fishes and tortoises, all enjoyed their existence according to their nature.* But their descendant did not follow (their example), and great Heaven sent down calamities, employing the agency of our (ruler) who was in possession of its favouring appointment.* The attack (on Hsiâ) may be traced to (the orgies in) Ming-thiâo 1, but our (rise) began in Po. Our king of Shang brilliantly displayed his sagely prowess; for oppression he substituted his generous gentleness; and the millions of the people gave him their hearts. Now your Majesty is entering on the inheritance of his virtue;--all depends on (how) you commence your reign. To set up love, it is for you to love (your relations); to set up respect, it is for you to respect (your elders). The commencement is in the family and the state; the consummation is in (all within) the four seas.'
3. 'Oh! the former king began with careful attention to the bonds that hold men together. He listened to expostulation, and did not seek to resist it; he conformed to (the wisdom. of) the ancients; occupying the highest position, he displayed intelligence; occupying an inferior position, he displayed his loyalty; he allowed (the good qualities of) the men (whom he employed), and did
not seek that they should have every talent; in the government of himself, he seemed to think that he could never (sufficiently) attain. It was thus he arrived at the possession of the myriad regions.--How painstaking was he in these things!
'He extensively sought out wise men, who should be helpful to you, his descendant and heir. He laid down the punishments for officers, And warned those who were in authority, saying, "If you dare to have constant dancing in your palaces, and drunken singing in your chambers,--that is called the fashion of sorcerers; if you dare, to set your hearts on wealth and women, and abandon yourselves to wandering about or to the chase,--that is called the fashion of extravagance; if you dare to despise sage words, to resist the loyal and upright, to put far from you the aged and virtuous, and to seek the company of procacious youths,--that is called the fashion of disorder. Now if a high noble or officer be addicted to one of these three fashions with their ten evil ways 1, his family will surely come to ruin; if the prince of a country be so addicted, his state will surely come to ruin. The minister who does not (try to) correct (such vices in the sovereign) shall be punished with branding." These rules were minutely inculcated (also) on the sons of officers and nobles in their lessons.'
4. 'Oh! do you who now succeed to the throne, revere (these warnings) in your person. Think of
them!--sacred counsels of vast importance, admirable words forcibly set forth! (The ways) of God are not invariable:--on the good-doer he sends down all blessings, and on the evil-doer he sends down all miseries.* Do you but be virtuous, be it in small things (or in large), and the myriad regions will have cause for rejoicing. If you be not virtuous, be it in large things (or in small), it will bring the ruin of your ancestral temple.'
93:1 Ming-thiâo was a place not far from the capital of Kieh (in the present district of An-yî, Hâi Kâu, Shan-hsî). He had a palace there, where the vilest orgies were celebrated that alienated the minds of the people from him.
94:1 The 'ten evil ways' are those mentioned in connexion with the three evil fashions;--two under the sorcerers' fashion, and four under each of the other two fashions.