Sacred Texts  Confucianism  Index  Previous  Next 


AFTER Pan-kăng came the reigns of Hsiâo-hsin and Hsiâo-yî, of which we have no accounts in the Shû. Hsiâo-yî was followed by Wû-ting (B.C. 1324-1264), to the commencement of whose reign this Book, in three sections, belongs. His name is not in it, but that he is the king intended appears from the prefatory notice, and the Confucian Analects, XIV, xliii. The Book is the first of the 'Charges' of the Shû. They relate the designation by the king of some officer to a particular charge or to some fief, with the address delivered by him on the occasion. Here the charge is to Yüeh, in the first section, on his appointment to be

p. 113

chief minister. In the other two sections Yüeh is the principal speaker, and not the king. They partake more of the nature of the 'Counsels.' Yüeh had been a recluse, living in obscurity. The king's attention was drawn to him in the manner related in the Book, and he was discovered in Fû-yen, or amidst 'the Crags of Fû' from which he was afterwards called Fû Yüeh, as if Fû had been his surname.

The first section tells us how the king met with Yüeh, and appointed him to be his chief minister, and how Yüeh responded to the charge that he received. In the second section, Yüeh counsels the king on a variety of points, and the king responds admiringly. In the third, the king introduces himself as a pupil at the feet of Yüeh, and is lectured on the subject of enlarging his knowledge. In the end the king says that he looks to Yüeh as another Î Yin, to make him another Thang.

Section 1.

1. The king passed the season of sorrow in the mourning shed for three years 1, and when the period of mourning was over, he (still) did not speak (to give any commands). All the ministers remonstrated with him, saying, 'Oh! him who is (the first) to apprehend we pronounce intelligent, and the intelligent man is the model for others. The Son of Heaven rules over the myriad regions, and all the officers look up to and reverence him. They are the king's words which form the commands (for them). If he do not speak, the ministers have no way to receive their orders.' On this the king made a writing, for their information, to the following effect:--'As it is mine to serve as the

p. 114

director for the four quarters (of the kingdom), I have been afraid that my virtue is not equal to (that of my predecessors), and therefore have not spoken. (But) while I was reverently and silently thinking of the (right) way, I dreamt that God gave me a good assistant who should speak for me.'* He then minutely recalled the appearance (of the person whom he had seen), and caused search to be made for him everywhere by means of a picture. Yüeh, a builder in the wild country of Fû-yen, was found like to it.

2. On this the king raised and made (Yüeh) his prime minister, keeping him (also) at his side.

He charged him, saying, 'Morning and evening present your instructions to aid my virtue. Suppose me a weapon of steel;--I will use you for a whetstone. Suppose me crossing a great stream;--I will use you for a boat with its oars. Suppose me in a year of great drought;--I will use you as a copious rain. Open your mind, and enrich my mind. (Be you) like medicine, which must distress the patient, in order to cure his sickness. (Think of we) as one walking barefoot, whose feet are sure to be wounded, if he do not see the ground.

'Do you and your companions all cherish the same mind to assist your* sovereign, that I may follow my royal predecessors, and tread in the steps of my high ancestor, to give repose to the millions of the people. Oh! respect this charge of mine;--so shall you bring your work to a (good) end.'

3. Yüeh replied to the king, saying, 'Wood by the use of the line is made straight, and the sovereign who follows reproof is made sage. When the sovereign can (thus) make himself sage, his ministers,

p. 115

without being specially commanded, anticipate his orders;--who would dare not to act in respectful compliance with this excellent charge of your Majesty?'

Section 2.

1. Yüeh having received his charge, and taken the presidency of all the officers, he presented himself before the king, and said, 'Oh! intelligent kings act in reverent accordance with the ways of Heaven. The founding of states and the setting up of capitals, the appointing of sovereign kings, of dukes and other nobles, with their great officers and heads of departments, were not designed to minister to the idleness and pleasures (of one), but for the good government of the people. It is Heaven which is all-intelligent and observing;--let the sage (king) take it as his pattern.* Then his ministers will reverently accord with him, and the people consequently will be well governed.

'It is the mouth that gives occasion for shame; they are the coat of mail and helmet that give occasion to war. The upper robes and lower garments (for reward should not be lightly taken from) their chests; before spear and shield are used, one should examine himself. If your Majesty will be cautious in regard to these things, and, believing this about them, attain to the intelligent use of them, (your government) will in everything be excellent. Good government and bad depend on the various officers. Offices should not be given to men because they are favourites, but only to men of ability. Dignities should not be conferred on men of evil practices, but only on men of worth.

p. 116

'Anxious thought about what will be best should precede your movements, which also should be taken at the time proper for them. Indulging the consciousness of being good is the way to lose that goodness; being vain of one's ability is the way to lose the merit it might produce.

'For all affairs let there be adequate preparation; with preparation there will be no calamitous issue. Do not open the door for favourites, from whom you will receive contempt. Do not be ashamed of mistakes, and (go on to) make them crimes. Let your mind rest in its proper objects, and the affairs of your government will be pure. Officiousness in sacrificing is called irreverence;* and multiplying ceremonies leads to disorder. To serve the spirits acceptably (in this way) is difficult.'*

2. The king said, 'Excellent! your words, O Yüeh, should indeed be put in practice (by me). If you were not so good in counsel, I should not have heard these rules for my conduct." Yüeh did obeisance with his head to the ground, and said, 'It is not the knowing that is difficult, but the doing. (But) since your Majesty truly knows this, there will not be the difficulty, and you will become really equal in complete virtue to our first king. Wherein I, Yüeh, refrain from speaking (what I ought to speak), the blame will rest with me.'

Section 3.

1. The king said, 'Come, O Yüeh. I, the little one, first learned with Kan Pan 1. Afterwards I lived

p. 117

concealed among the rude countrymen, and then I went to (the country) inside the Ho, and lived there 1. From the Ho I went to Po;--and the result has been that I am unenlightened. Do you teach me what should be my aims. Be to me as the yeast and the malt in making sweet spirits, as the salt and the prunes in making agreeable soup. Use various methods to cultivate me; do not cast me away;--so shall I attain to practise your instructions.'

Yüeh said, 'O king, a ruler should seek to learn much (from his ministers), with a view to establish his affairs; but to learn the lessons of the ancients is the way to attain this. That the affairs of one, not making the ancients his masters, can be perpetuated for generations, is what I have not heard.

'In learning there should be a humble mind and the maintenance of a constant earnestness;--in such a case (the learner's) improvement will surely come. He who sincerely cherishes these things will find all truth accumulating in his person. Teaching is the half of learning; when a man's thoughts from first to last are constantly fixed on learning, his virtuous cultivation comes unperceived.

'Survey the perfect pattern of our first king;--so shall you for ever be preserved from error. Then shall I be able reverently to meet your views, and on every side to look out for men of eminence to place in the various offices.'

2. The king said, 'Oh! Yüeh, that all within the four

p. 118

seas look up to my virtue is owing to you. As his legs and arms form the man, so does a good minister form the sage (king). Formerly, there was the first premier of our dynasty, Pâo-hăng 1, who raised up and formed its royal founder. He said, "If I cannot make my sovereign like Yâo or Shun, I shall feel ashamed in my heart, as if I were beaten in the market-place." If any common man did not get (all he should desire), he said, "It is my fault." (Thus) he assisted my meritorious ancestor, so that he became equal to great Heaven.* Do you give your intelligent and preserving aid to me, and let not Â-hăng engross all the good service to the House of Shang.

'The sovereign should share his government with none but worthy officers. The worthy officer should accept his support from none but the proper sovereign. May you now succeed in making your sovereign a (true) successor of the founder of his line, and in securing the lasting happiness of the people!'

Yüeh did obeisance with his head to the ground, and said, 'I will venture to respond to. and display abroad, your Majesty's excellent charge.'


113:1 A young king, mourning for his father, had to 'afflict' himself in various ways for twenty-five months, nominally for three years. Among other privations, he had to exchange the comforts of a palace for a rough shed in one of the courtyards. During the time of mourning, the direction of affairs was left to the chief minister.

116:1 From Part V, XVI, 2, we learn that Kan Pan was a great minister of Wû-ting. It is supposed that he had been minister to Wû-ting's father, and died during the king's period of mourning.

117:1 We do not know the events of Wû-ting's early life sufficiently to explain his language here. His living concealed among the rude people of the country, and then crossing to the north of the Ho, was owing probably to troubles in the kingdom.

118:1 Styled Â-hăng in the beginning of 'the Thâi-kiâ.' Pâo-hăng = 'the Protector and Steelyard.'

Next: Book IX. The Day of the Supplementary Sacrifice to Kâo Ȝung