Sacred Books of the East/Volume 3/The Shu/Part 4/Book 11

Sacred Books of the East, Vol. III, The Shû King translated by James Legge
Part IV, Book XI: The Count of Wei

Book XI. The Count of Wei.

The conversation recorded here—called, like the last Book, and with as little reason, an 'Announcement'—is referred to B.C. 1123, the year in which the dynasty of Shang perished.

Wei was a principality in the royal domain, corresponding to the present district of Lû-khăng, department Lû-an, Shan-hsî, the lords of which were counts. The count who appears here was, most probably, an elder brother of the king, and by the same mother, who was, however, only a concubine when the count was born, but raised to be queen before the birth of Kâu-hsin. Saddened with the thought of the impending ruin of the dynasty, the count seeks the counsel of two other high nobles, and asks them to tell him what was to be done. One of them replies to him in still stronger language about the condition and prospects of the kingdom, and concludes by advising the count to make his escape, and declaring that he himself would remain at his post, and share in the unavoidable ruin.

1. The Count of Wei spoke to the following effect:—'Grand-Master and Junior-Master[1], (the House of) Yin, we may conclude, can no longer exercise rule over the four quarters (of the kingdom). The great deeds of our founder were displayed in former ages, but by our maddened indulgence in spirits, we have destroyed (the effects of) his virtue in these after-times. (The people of) Yin, small and great, are given to highway robberies, villainies, and treachery. The nobles and officers imitate one another in violating the laws, and there is no certainty that criminals will be apprehended. The smaller people (consequently) rise up, and commit violent outrages on one another. Yin is now sinking in ruin;—its condition is like that of one crossing a stream, who can find neither ford nor bank. That Yin should be hurrying to ruin at the present pace!'

He added, 'Grand-Master and Junior-Master, we are manifesting insanity. The most venerable members of our families are withdrawn to the wilds; and you indicate no course (to be taken), but (only) tell me of the impending ruin;—what is to be done?'

2. The Grand-Master made about the following reply:—'O son of our (former) king, Heaven in anger is sending down calamities, and wasting the country of Yin.* Hence has arisen that mad indulgence in spirits. (The king) has no reverence for things which he ought to reverence, but does despite to the venerable aged, the men who have long been in office. The people of Yin will now steal even the pure and perfect victims devoted to the spirits of heaven and earth;* and their conduct is connived at, and though they proceed to eat the victims, they suffer no punishment. (On the other hand), when I look down and survey the people of Yin, the methods by which they are governed are hateful exactions, which call forth outrages and hatred;—and this without ceasing. Such crimes equally belong to all in authority, and multitudes are starving with none to whom to appeal. Now is the time of Shang's calamity;—I will arise and share in its ruin. When ruin overtakes Shang, I will not be the servant (of another House). (But) I tell you, O king's son, to go away, as being the course (for you). Formerly I injured you by what I said; if you do not (now) go away, our (sacrifices) will entirely perish. Let us rest quietly (in our several parts), and each present himself to the former kings[2] (as having done so).* I do not think of making my escape.'

  1. For high ministers with these titles under the Kâu dynasty, see next Part, Book xx. The individuals whom the count of Wei consulted were probably the count of Kî and Pî-kan, who are classed with him in the Confucian Analects, XVIII, 1.
  2. It is understood that the former king, the father of both Khî and Kâu-hsin, had wished to leave the throne to Khî, and that the Grand-Master had advocated such a measure;—thereby injuring Khî when it did not take effect, through making Kâu-hsin jealous of him.