Sacred Books of the East/Volume 3/The Shu/Part 2/Book 1

Sacred Books of the East, Vol. III, The Shû King translated by James Legge
Part II, Book I: The Canon of Shun


Book I. The Canon of Shun.

The Books of Yü is the name of this Part of the Shû, Yü being the dynastic designation of Shun, as Thang was that of Yâo. It does not appear so clearly, however, how it came to be so. must be the name of a state, and is commonly identified with the present district of An-yî, in Kieh Kâu, Shan-hsî. Some think that Yâo, after marrying his two daughters to Shun, appointed him lord of this state; but in the first mention of him to Yâo in the last Book, he is called Shun of Yü. It is generally said that Shun's ancestors had been lords of the principality of Yü up to the time of his father, who lost his patrimony and was reduced to the rank of a private man. But after what has been said, in the Introduction, on the Books in the first two Parts of the Shu, it will not be thought surprising that much in the accounts about Yâo and Shun should be open to suspicion. According to Mencius, IV, Part ii, ch. i, Shun was from the country of the wild tribes on the east. Sze-mâ Khien makes him to have been descended from Hwang-Tî, in which case he and his wives, the daughters of Yâo, would have had the same ancestor. Nothing more injurious to the fame of Yâo and Shun, according to Chinese notions of propriety, could be alleged against them.

Shun is the subject of this Canon, as Yâo was of the former. As it now stands, we may divide it into six chapters:—the first, describing Shun's virtues and gradual advancement; the second, Yâo's satisfaction with his administration of affairs, and associating of Shun with himself on the throne; the third, the acts of Shun in that position; the fourth, the demise of Yâo, and Shun's accession as sole monarch; the fifth, his choice of ministers and complete organization of his government; and the sixth, his death.

1. Examining into antiquity, (we find that) the Shun[1] was styled Khung-hwâ[2]. His character was entirely conformed to (that of) the (former) Tî; he was profound, wise, accomplished, and intelligent. He was mild and courteous, and truly sincere. The report of his mysterious virtue was heard on high, and he was appointed to office.

2. (Shun) carefully set forth the beauty of the five cardinal duties, and they came to be (universally) observed. Being appointed to be General Regulator, the affairs of every (official) department were arranged in their proper seasons. (Being charged) to receive (the princes) from the four quarters of the land, they were all docilely submissive. Being sent to the great plains at the foot of the mountains, notwithstanding the tempests of wind, thunder, and rain, he did not go astray.

The said, 'Come, you Shun. I have consulted you on (all) affairs, and examined your words, and found that they can be carried into practice;—(now) for three years. Do you ascend the seat of the Tî.' Shun wished to decline in favour of some one more virtuous, and not to consent to be (Yâo's) successor. On the first day of the first month, (however), he received (Yâo's) retirement (from his duties) in the temple of the Accomplished Ancestor[3].*

3. He examined the pearl-adorned turning sphere, with its transverse tube of jade, and reduced to a harmonious system (the movements of) the Seven Directors[4].

Thereafter, he sacrificed specially, but with the ordinary forms, to God; sacrificed with reverent purity to the Six Honoured Ones; offered their appropriate sacrifices to the hills and rivers; and extended his worship to the host of spirits[5].*

He called in (all) the five jade-symbols of rank; and when the month was over, he gave daily audience to (the President of) the Four Mountains, and all the Pastors[6], (finally) returning their symbols to the various princes.

In the second month of the year he made a tour of inspection eastwards, as far as Thâi-zung[7], where he presented a burnt-offering to Heaven, and sacrificed in order to the hills and rivers.* Thereafter he gave audience to the princes of the east. He set in accord their seasons and months, and regulated the days; he made uniform the standard-tubes, with the measures of length and of capacity, and the steel-yards; he regulated the five (classes of) ceremonies, with (the various) articles of introduction,—the five symbols of jade, the three kinds of silk, the two living (animals) and the one dead one. As to the five instruments of rank, when all was over, he returned them. In the fifth month he made a similar tour southwards, as far as the mountain of the south[8], where he observed the same ceremonies as at Thâi. In the eighth month he made a tour westwards, as far as the mountain of the west[8], where he did as before. In the eleventh month he made a tour northwards, as far as the mountain of the north [8], where he observed the same ceremonies as in the west. He (then) returned (to the capital), went to (the temple of) the Cultivated Ancestor[9], and sacrificed a single bull.*

In five years there was one tour of inspection, and there were four appearances of the princes at court. They gave a report (of their government) in words, which was clearly tested by their works. They received chariots and robes according to their merits.

He instituted the division (of the land) into twelve provinces[10], raising altars upon twelve hills in them.* He (also) deepened the rivers.

He exhibited (to the people) the statutory punishments, enacting banishment as a mitigation of the five (great) inflictions[11]; with the whip to be employed in the magistrates' courts, the stick to be employed in schools[12], and money to be received for redeemable offences. Inadvertent offences and those which could be ascribed to misfortune were to be pardoned, but those who transgressed presumptuously and repeatedly were to be punished with death. 'Let me be reverent! Let me be reverent!' (he said to himself.) 'Let compassion rule in punishment!'

He banished the Minister of Works to island; confined Hwân-tau on mount Khung; drove (the chief of) San-miâo (and his people) into San-wei, and kept them there; and held Khwăn a prisoner till death on mount . These four criminals being thus dealt with, all under heaven acknowledged the justice (of Shun's administration)[13].

4. After twenty-eight years the deceased, when the people mourned for him as for a parent for three years. Within the four seas all the eight kinds of instruments of music were stopped and hushed. On the first day of the first month (of the) next year, Shun went to (the temple of) the Accomplished Ancestor.*

5. He deliberated with (the President of) the Four Mountains how to throw open the doors (of communication between himself and the) four (quarters of the land), and how he could see with the eyes, and hear with the ears of all.

He consulted with the twelve Pastors[14], and said to them, 'The food!—it depends on observing the seasons. Be kind to the distant, and cultivate the ability of the near. Give honour to the virtuous, and your confidence to the good, while you discountenance the artful;—so shall the barbarous tribes lead on one another to make their submission.'

Shun said, 'Ho! (President of) the Four Mountains, is there any one who can with vigorous service attend to all the affairs of the Tî, whom I may appoint to be General Regulator, to assist me in (all) affairs, managing each department according to its nature?' All (in the court) replied, 'There is Po-yü[15], the Minister of Works.' The said, 'Yes. Ho! , you have regulated the water and the land. In this (new office) exert yourself.' Yü did obeisance with his head to the ground, and wished to decline in favour of the Minister of Agriculture, or Hsieh, or Kâo-yâo. The said, 'Yes, but do you go (and undertake the duties).'

The said, 'Khî[16], the black-haired people are (still) suffering from famine. Do you, O prince, as Minister of Agriculture, (continue to) sow (for them) the various kinds of grain.'

The said, 'Hsieh[17], the people are (still) wanting in affection for one another, and do not docilely observe the five orders of relationship. It is yours, as the Minister of Instruction, reverently to set forth the lessons of duty belonging to those five orders. Do so with gentleness.'

The said, 'Kâo-yâo[18], the barbarous tribes trouble our great land. There are (also) robbers, murderers, insurgents, and traitors. It is yours, as the Minister of Crime, to use the five punishments to deal with their offences. For the infliction of these there are the three appointed places. There are the five cases in which banishment in the appropriate places is to be resorted to, to which places, though five, three localities are assigned. Perform your duties with intelligence, and you will secure a sincere (submission).'

The said, 'Who can superintend my works, as they severally require?' All (in the court) replied, 'Is there not Zui[19]?' The said, 'Yes. Ho! Zui, you must be Minister of Works.' Zui did obeisance with his head to the ground, and wished to decline in favour of Shû, Khiang, or Po-yü. The said, 'Yes, but do you go (and undertake the duties). Effect a harmony (in all the departments).'

The said, 'Who can superintend, as the nature of the charge requires, the grass and trees, with the birds and beasts on my hills and in my marshes?' All (in the court) replied, 'Is there not [20]?' The said, 'Yes. Ho! Yî, do you be my Forester.' Yî did obeisance with his head to the ground, and wished to decline in favour of Zhū, , Hsiung, or [21]. The said, 'Yes, but do you go (and undertake the duties). You must manage them harmoniously.'

The said, 'Ho! (President of the) Four Mountains, is there any one able to direct my three (religious) ceremonies[22]?' All (in the court) answered, 'Is there not Po-î[23]?' The said, 'Yes. Ho! Po, you must be the Arranger in the Ancestral Temple. Morning and night be reverent. Be upright, be pure.' Po did obeisance with his head to the ground, and wished to decline in favour of Khwei or Lung. The said, 'Yes, but do you go (and undertake the duties). Be reverential!'*

The said, 'Khwei[24], I appoint you to be Director of Music, and to teach our sons, so that the straightforward shall yet be mild; the gentle, dignified; the strong, not tyrannical; and the impetuous, not arrogant. Poetry is the expression of earnest thought; singing is the prolonged utterance of that expression; the notes accompany that utterance, and they are harmonized themselves by the standard-tubes. (In this way) the eight different kinds of musical instruments can be adjusted so that one shall not take from or interfere with another; and spirits and men are brought into harmony.' Khwei said, 'I smite the (sounding-)stone, I gently strike it, and the various animals lead on one another to dance.'

The said, 'Lung[25], I abominate slanderous speakers and destroyers of the (right) ways, who agitate and alarm my people. I appoint you to be the Minister of Communication. Early and late give forth my orders and report to me, seeing that everything is true.'

The said, 'Ho! you, twenty and two men, be reverent; so shall you be helpful to the business (entrusted to me by) Heaven.'*

Every three years there was an examination of merits, and after three examinations the undeserving were degraded, and the deserving advanced. (By this arrangement) the duties of all the departments were fully discharged; the (people of) San-miâo (also) were discriminated and separated.

6. In the thirtieth year of his age, Shun was called to employment. Thirty years he was on the throne (with Yâo). Fifty years afterwards he went on high and died[26].*

  1. If Shun be taken as an epithet, it will mean 'the Benevolent and Sage.'
  2. Khung-hwâ, the name of Shun according to the Han scholars, may mean 'the Glorious (Yâo) repeated.'
  3. The Accomplished Ancestor would be, probably, the individual in some distant time to whom Yâo traced his possession of the throne.
  4. Probably the seven stars of the Great Bear.
  5. Who the Six Honoured Ones were cannot be determined with certainty. An-kwo thought they were, 'the seasons, cold and heat, the sun, the moon, the stars, and drought,' that is, certain spirits, supposed to rule over these phenomena and things, and residing probably in different stars. The whole paragraph describes Shun's exercise of the prerogative of the sovereign, so far as religious worship was concerned.
  6. The princes of the various states, whose official chief was the President of the Four Mountains, all 'shepherds of men.'
  7. Thâi-zung is mount Thâi, in Shan-tung. See note on the President of the Four Mountains, p. 35.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 See note on the President of the Four Mountains, p. 35.
  9. Probably the same as the Accomplished Ancestor on p. 38.
  10. As , according to Part III, i, divided the land into nine provinces, this division of it into twelve must have been subsequent to the completion of Yü's work. See on the Tribute of Yü.
  11. Those five great inflictions were—branding on the forehead; cutting off the nose; cutting off the feet; castration; and death, inflicted in various ways.
  12. This punishment was for officers in training; not for boys at school.
  13. The Minister of Works, Hwan-tâu, and Khwǎn are mentioned in the former Canon. Yû island, or Yû-Kâu, was in the extreme north of the present district of Mî-yun, department Shun-thien, Kih-lî.
    Mount Khung was in the district of Yung-ting, Kâu, Hû-nan. San-miâo was the name of a territory, embracing the present departments of Wû-khang in Hû-pei, Yo-kâu in Hû-nan, and Kiû-kiang in Kiang-hsî. San-wei was a tract of country round a mountain of the same name in the present department of An-hsî, Kan-sû. Mount Yü was in the present district of Than-khǎng, Shan-tung.
  14. These were the twelve princes holding the chief sway and superintendence in his twelve provinces.
  15. Po-yü is the great Yü;, the founder of the Hsiâ dynasty. Po denotes, probably, his order as the eldest among his brothers.
  16. Khî was the name of the Minister of Agriculture, better known in the Shih and other books as Hâu-kî, the progenitor of the kings of Kâu. See the legend about him in the Shih, Part III, ii, Ode 1.
  17. Hsieh was honoured by the kings of the Shang dynasty as their progenitor. See the Shih, Part IV, iii, Odes 3 and 4.
  18. See the preliminary note to Book iii.
  19. Zui was not claimed by any great family as its progenitor, but he was handed down by tradition as a great artificer. See a reference to him in Part V, xxii, 2. Shû and Khiang must have been named from their skill in making halberds and axes. The (quite different from the name of the great Yü) in Po-yü gives us no indication of the skill of that individual.
  20. For , see the preliminary note to Book iv.
  21. He wishes here to decline his appointment in favour of Kû ('The Cedar'), ('The Tiger'), Hsiung ('The Bear'), or ('The Grisly Bear').
  22. The three ceremonies were the observances in the worship of the Spirits of Heaven, the Spirits of Earth, and the Spirits of Men.
  23. Po-î was the progenitor of the great family of Kiang, members of which ruled in Khî and other states.
  24. Of Khwei we know nothing more than what is here told us. The character denotes a monstrous animal, 'a dragon with one leg.'
  25. We are in ignorance of Lung, as we are of Khwei. The character denotes 'the dragon.'
  26. The Chinese text is here difficult to construe. Kû Hsî says that the term 'went on high' is appropriate to the death of the Son of Heaven; and that the meaning is that Shun went to heaven.