Sacred Books of the East/Volume 3/The Shih/The Major Odes of the Kingdom/Decade 1/Ode 3

Sacred Books of the East, Vol. III, The Shih King translated by James Legge
The Major Odes of the Kingdom, Decade i, Ode 3: The Mien

Mián () doubled corresponds to "In long trains" on the first line.

Ode 3. The Mien.

Small beginnings and subsequent growth of the House of Kâu in Kâu. Its removal from Pin under Than-fû, with its first settlement in Kâu, with the place then given to the building of the ancestral temple, and the altar to the spirits of the land. Consolidation of its fortunes by king Wăn.

'The ancient duke Than-fû' was the grandfather of king Wăn, and was canonized by the duke of Kâu as 'king Thâi.' As mentioned in a note on p. 316, he was the first of his family to settle in Kâu, removing there from Pin, the site of their earlier settlement, 'the country about the Khü and the Khî.'

In long trains ever increasing grow the gourds[1].
When (our) people first sprang,
From the country about the Khü and the Khî[2],
The ancient duke Than-fû
Made for them kiln-like huts and caves,
Ere they had yet any houses[3].

The ancient duke Than-fû
Came in the morning, galloping his horses,
Along the banks of the western rivers,
To the foot of mount Khî[4];
And there he and the lady Kiang[5]
Came and together looked out for a site.

The plain of Kâu looked beautiful and rich,
With its violets, and sowthistles (sweet) as dumplings.
There he began by consulting (with his followers);
There he singed the tortoise-shell, (and divined).
The responses were there to stay and then;
And they proceeded there to build[6].

He encouraged the people, and settled them;
Here on the left, there on the right.
He divided the ground, and subdivided it;
He dug the ditches; he defined the acres.
From the east to the west,
There was nothing which he did not take in hand[7].

He called his Superintendent of Works;
He called his Minister of Instruction;
And charged them with the rearing of the houses.
With the line they made everything straight;
They bound the frame-boards tight, so that they should rise regularly:
Uprose the ancestral temple in its solemn grandeur[8].

Crowds brought the earth in baskets;
They threw it with shouts into the frames;
They beat it with responsive blows.
They pared the walls repeatedly, till they sounded strong.
Five thousand cubits of them arose together,
So that the roll of the great drums did not overpower (the noise of the builders)[9].

They reared the outer gate (of the palace),
Which rose in lofty state.
They set up the gate of audience,
Which rose severe and exact.
They reared the great altar to the spirits of the land,
From which all great movements should proceed[10].

Thus though he could not prevent the rage of his foes[11],
He did not let fall his own fame.
The oaks and the buckthorns were (gradually) thinned,
And roads for travellers were opened.
The hordes of the Khwăn disappeared,
Startled and panting.

(The chiefs of) and Zui[12] were brought to an agreement
By king Wăn's stimulating their natural virtue.
Then, I may say, some came to him, previously not knowing him;
Some, drawn the last by the first;
Some, drawn by his rapid successes;
And some by his defence (of the weak) from insult.

  1. As a gourd grows and extends, with a vast development of its tendrils and leaves, so had the House of Kâu increased.
  2. These were two rivers in the territory of Pin, which name still remains in the small department of Pin Kâu, in Shen-hsî. The Khü flows into the Lo, and the Khî into the Wei.
  3. According to this ode then, up to the time of Than-fû, the Kâu people had only had the dwellings here described; but this is not easily reconciled with other accounts, or even with other stanzas of this piece.
  4. See a graphic account of the circumstances in which this migration took place, in the fifteenth chapter of the second Part of the first Book of Mencius, very much to the honour of the ancient duke.
  5. This lady is known as Thâi-kiang, the worthy predecessor of Thâi-zăn.
  6. This stanza has reference to the choice—by council and divination—of a site for what should be the chief town of the new settlement.
  7. This stanza describes the general arrangements for the occupancy and cultivation of the plain of Kâu, and the distribution of the people over it.
  8. This stanza describes the preparations and processes for erecting the buildings of the new city. The whole took place under the direction of two officers, in whom we have the germ probably of the Six Heads of the Boards or Departments, whose functions are described in the Shû and the Official Book of Kâu. The materials of the buildings were earth and lime pounded together in frames, as is still to be seen in many parts of the country. The first great building taken in hand was the ancestral temple. Than-fû would make a home for the spirits of his fathers, before he made one for himself. However imperfectly directed, the religious feeling asserted the supremacy which it ought to possess.
  9. The bustle and order of the building all over the city is here graphically set forth.
  10. Than-fû was now at leisure to build the palace for himself, which appears to have been not a very large building, though the Chinese names of its gates are those belonging to the two which were peculiar to the palaces of the kings of Kâu in the subsequent times of the dynasty. Outside the palace were the altars appropriate to the spirits of the four quarters of the land, the 'great' or royal altar being peculiar to the kings, though the one built by Than-fû is here so named. All great undertakings, and such as required the co-operation of all the people, were preceded by a solemn sacrifice at this altar.
  11. Referring to Than-fû's relations with the wild hordes, described by Mencius, and which obliged him to leave Pin. As the new settlement in Kâu grew, they did not dare to trouble it.
  12. The poet passes on here to the time of king Wăn. The story of the chiefs of and Zui (two states on the east of the Ho) is this:—They had a quarrel about a strip of territory, to which each of them laid claim. Going to lay their dispute before the lord of Kâu, as soon as they entered his territory, they saw the ploughers readily yielding the furrow, and travellers yielding the path, while men and women avoided one another on the road, and old people had no burdens to carry. At his court, they beheld the officers of each inferior grade giving place to those above them. They became ashamed of their own quarrel, agreed to let the disputed ground be an open territory, and withdrew without presuming to appear before Wăn. When this affair was noised abroad, more than forty states, it is said, tendered their submission to Kâu.