The place of this piece among the sacrificial odes makes us assign it to the conclusion of some sacrifice; but what the sacrifice was we cannot tell. The Preface says that it was addressed, at the conclusion of the spring sacrifice to ancestors to the princes who had been present and taken part in the service. Kû Hsî says nothing but what I have stated in the above argument of the piece.
Ah! ah! ministers and officers, Reverently attend to your public duties. The king has given you perfect rules;--Consult about them and consider them.
Ah! ah! ye assistants, It is now the end of
spring 1; And what have ye to seek for? (Only) how to manage the new fields and those of the third year, How beautiful are the wheat and the barley! The bright and glorious God Will in them give us a good year. Order all our men To be provided with their spuds and hoes:--Anon we shall see the sickles at work.
321:1 It is this line which makes it difficult to determine after what sacrifice we are to suppose these instructions to have been delivered. The year, during the Hsiâ dynasty, began with the first month of spring, as it now does in China, in consequence of Confucius having said that that was the proper time. Under the Shang dynasty, it commenced a month earlier; and during the Kâu period, it ought always to have begun with the new moon preceding the winter solstice,--between our November 22 and December 22. But in the writings of the Kâu period we find statements of time continually referred to the calendar of Hsiâ,--as here.