Sacred Books of the East/Volume 3/The Shu/Part 5/Book 22

Sacred Books of the East, Vol. III, The Shû King translated by James Legge
Part V, Book XXII: The Testamentary Charge

Book XXII. The Testamentary Charge.

This Book brings us to the closing act of the life of king Khăng, whose reign, according to the current chronology, lasted thirty-seven years, ending in B.C. 1079. From the appointment of Kün-khăn to his death, the king's history is almost a blank. The only events chronicled by Sze-mâ Khien are a coinage of round money with a square hole in the centre,—the prototype of the present cash; and an enactment about the width and length in which pieces of silk and cloth were to be manufactured.

King Khăng, feeling that his end is near, calls his principal ministers and other officers around his bed, and commits his son Kâo to their care and guidance. The record of all these things and the dying charge form a chapter that ends with the statement of the king's death. The rest of the Book forms a second chapter, in which we have a detailed account of the ceremonies connected with the publication of the charge, and the accession of Kâo to the throne. It is an interesting account of the ways of that distant time on such occasions.

1. In the fourth month, when the moon began to wane, the king was indisposed. On the day Kiâ-zze, he washed his hands and face; his attendants put on him his cap and robes[1]; (and he sat up), leaning on a gem-adorned bench[2]. He then called together the Grand-Guardian Shih, the earls of Zui and Thung, the duke of , the marquis of Wei, the duke of Mâo, the master of the warders, the master of the guards, the heads of the various departments, and the superintendents of affairs[3].

The king said, 'Oh! my illness has greatly increased, and it will soon be over with me. The malady comes on daily with more violence, and maintains its hold. I am afraid I may not find (another opportunity) to declare my wishes about my successor, and therefore I (now) lay my charge upon you with special instructions. The former rulers, our kings Wăn and , displayed in succession their equal glory, making sure provision for the support of the people, and setting forth their instructions. (The people) accorded a practical submission, without any opposition, and the influence (of their example and instructions) extended to Yin, and the great appointment (of Heaven) was secured*. After them, I, the stupid one, received with reverence the dread (decree) of Heaven, and continued to keep the great instructions of Wăn and Wû, not daring blindly to transgress them.*

'Now Heaven has laid affliction on me, and it seems as if I should not again rise or be myself. Do you take clear note of these my words, and in accordance with them watch reverently over my eldest son Kâo, and greatly assist him in the difficulties of his position. Be kind to those who are far off, and help those who are near. Promote the tranquillity of the states, small and great, and encourage them (to well-doing). I think how a man has to govern himself in dignity and with decorum;—do not you allow Kâo to proceed heedlessly on the impulse of improper motives.' Immediately on receiving this charge, (the ministers and others) withdrew. The tent[4] was then carried out into the court; and on the next day, (being) Yî-khâu, the king died.

2. The Grand-Guardian then ordered Kung Hwan[5] and Nan-Kung Mâo[5] to instruct Kî, the marquis of Khî[6], with two shield-and-spearmen, and a hundred guards, to meet the prince Kâo outside the south gate[7], and conduct him to (one of) the side-apartments (near to that where the king lay), there to be as chief mourner[8].

On the day Ting-mâo, (two days after the king's death), he ordered (the charge) to be recorded on tablets, and the forms (to be observed in publishing it). Seven days after, on Kwei-yû, as chief (of the west) and premier, he ordered the (proper) officers to prepare the wood (for all the requirements of the funeral)[9].

The salvage men[10] set out the screens[11], ornamented with figures of axes, and the tents. Between the window (and the door), facing the south, they placed the (three)fold mat of fine bamboo splints, with its striped border of white and black silk, and the usual bench adorned with different-coloured gems. In the side-space on the west, which faced the east, they placed the threefold rush mat, with its variegated border, and the usual bench adorned with beautiful shells. In the side-space on the east, which faced the west, they placed the threefold mat of fine grass, with its border of painted silk, and the usual bench carved, and adorned with gems. Before the western side-chamber, and facing the south, they placed the threefold mat of fine bamboo, with its dark mixed border, and the usual lacquered bench[12].

(They set forth) also the five pairs of gems (or jade), and the precious things of display. There were the red knife, the great lessons, the large round-and-convex symbol of jade, and the rounded and pointed maces,—all in the side-space on the west; the large piece of jade, the pieces contributed by the wild tribes of the east, the heavenly sounding-stone, and the river-Plan,—all in the side-space on the east; the dancing habits of Yin, the large tortoise-shell, and the large drum,—all in the western apartment; the spear of Tûi, the bow of Ho, and the bamboo arrows of Khui,—all in the eastern apartment[13].

The grand carriage was by the guests' steps, facing (the south); the next was by the eastern (or host's) steps, facing (the south). The front carriage was placed before the left lobby, and the one that followed it before the right lobby[14].

Two men in brownish leather caps, and holding three-cornered halberts, stood inside the gate leading to the private apartments. Four men in caps of spotted deer-skin, holding spears with blades upturned from the base of the point, stood, one on each side of the steps east and west, and near to the platform of the hall. One man in a great officer's cap, and holding an axe, stood in the hall, (near the steps) at the east (end). One man in a great officer's cap, and holding an axe of a different pattern, stood in the hall, (near the steps) at the west end. One man in a great officer's cap, and holding a lance, stood at the front and east of the hall, close by the steps. One man in a great officer's cap, and holding a lance of a different pattern, stood in the corresponding place on the west. One man in a great officer's cap, and holding a pointed weapon, stood by the steps on the north side of the hall.

The king, in a linen cap and the variously figured skirt, ascended by the guests' steps, followed by the high ministers, (great) officers, and princes of states, in linen caps and dark-coloured skirts[15]. Arrived in the hall, they all took their (proper) places. The Grand-Guardian, the Grand-Historiographer, and the Minister of Religion were all in linen caps and red skirts. The Grand-Guardian bore the great mace. The Minister of Religion bore the cup and the mace-cover. These two ascended by the steps on the east[16]. The Grand-Historiographer bore the testamentary charge. He ascended by the guests' steps (on the west), and advanced to the king with the tablets containing the charge, and said, 'Our royal sovereign, leaning on the gem-adorned bench, declared his last charge, and commanded you to continue (the observance of) the lessons, and to take the rule of the kingdom of Kâu, complying with the great laws, and securing the harmony of all under the sky, so as to respond to and display the bright instructions of Wăn and Wû.'

The king twice bowed (low), and then arose, and replied, 'I am utterly insignificant and but a child, how should I be able to govern the four quarters (of the kingdom) with a corresponding reverent awe of the dread majesty of Heaven!'* He then received the cup and the mace-cover. Thrice he slowly and reverently advanced with a cup of spirits (to the east of the coffin); thrice he sacrificed (to the spirit of his father);* and thrice he put the cup down. The Minister of Religion said, 'It is accepted[17].'*

The Grand-Guardian received the cup, descended the steps, and washed his hands[18]. He then took another cup, (placed it on) a half-mace which he carried, and repeated the sacrifice[19].* He then gave the cup to one of the attendants of the Minister of Religion, and did obeisance. The king returned the obeisance. The Grand-Guardian took a cup again, and poured out the spirits in sacrifice.* He then just tasted the spirits, returned to his place, gave the cup to the attendant, and did obeisance. The king returned the obeisance. The Grand-Guardian descended from the hall, after which the various (sacrificial) articles were removed, and the princes all went out at the temple gate[20] and waited.

  1. The king's caps or crowns and robes were many, and for each there was the appropriate occasion. His attendants, no doubt, now dressed king Khăng as the rules of court fashions required.
  2. In those days they sat on the ground upon mats; and for the old or infirm benches or stools were placed, in front of them, to lean forward on. The king had five kinds of stools variously adorned. That with gems was the most honourable.
  3. The Grand-Guardian Shih, or the duke of Shâo, and the other five dignitaries were, no doubt, the six ministers of the 20th Book. Zui is referred to the present district of Kâo-yî, department Hsî-an; and Thung to Hwâ Kâu, department Thung-kâu;—both in Shen-hsî. The earl of Zui, it is supposed, was Minister of Instruction, and he of Thung Minister of Religion. corresponded to the present district of Khang-an, department Hsî-an. The duke of Pî was Minister of War, called Duke or Kung, as Grand-Master. It is not known where Mâo was. The lord of it was Minister of Works, and Grand-Assistant. The marquis of Wei,—see on Book ix. He was now, it is supposed, Minister of Crime.
  4. The tent had been prepared when the king sent for his ministers and officers to give them his last charge, and set up outside his chamber in the hall where he was accustomed to hold 'the audience of government,' He had walked or been carried to it, and then returned to his apartment when he had expressed his last wishes, while the tent—the curtains and canopy—was carried out into the courtyard.
    The palace was much more long or deep than wide, consisting of five series of buildings continued one after another, so that, if all the gates were thrown open, one could walk in a direct line from the first gate to the last. The different parts of it were separated by courts that embraced a large space of ground, and were partly open overhead. The gates leading to the different parts had their particular names, and were all fronting the south. Outside the second was held 'the outer levee,' where the king received the princes and officers generally. Outside the fifth was held 'the audience of government,' when he met his ministers to consult with them on the business of the state. Inside this gate were the buildings which formed the private apartments, in the hall leading to which was held 'the inner audience,' and where the sovereign feasted those whom he designed specially to honour. Such is the general idea of the ancient palace given by Kû Hsî. The gateways included a large space, covered by a roof, supported on pillars.
  5. 5.0 5.1 We know nothing more of these officers but what is here related.
  6. The marquis of Khî was the son of Thâi-kung, a friend and minister of king Wăn, who had been enfeoffed by king Wû with the state of Khî, embracing the present department of Khing-kâu, in Shan-tung, and other territory. His place at court was that of master of the guards.
  7. All the gates might be called 'south gates.' It is not certain whether that intended here was the outer gate of all, or the last, immediately in front of the hall, where the king had given his charge. Whichever it was, the meeting Kâo in the way described was a public declaration that he had been appointed successor to the throne.
  8. 'The mourning shed,' spoken of in Part IV, viii, ch. 1, had not yet been set up, and the apartment here indicated—on the east of the hall of audience—was the proper one for the prince to occupy in the mean time.
  9. On the seventh day after his death the king had been shrouded and put into his coffin. But there were still the shell or outer coffin, &c., to be provided.
  10. These 'salvage men' were, I suppose, natives of the wild tribes, employed to perform the more servile offices about the court. Some of them, we know, were enrolled among the guards.
  11. The screens were ornamented with figures of axe-heads, and placed behind the king, under the canopy that overshadowed him.
  12. All these arrangements seem to have been made in the hall where king Khăng had delivered his charge. He had been accustomed to receive his guests at all the places where the tents, screens, and mats were now set. It was presumed he would be present in spirit at the ceremony of proclaiming his son, and making known to him his dying charge; and as they could not tell at what particular spot the spirit would be, they made all the places ready for it.
  13. The western and eastern apartments were two rooms, east and west of the hall, forming part of the private apartments, behind the side rooms, and of large dimensions. The various articles enumerated were precious relics, and had been favourites with king Khăng. They were now displayed to keep up the illusion of the king's still being present in spirit. 'They were set forth,' it is said, 'at the ancestral sacrifices to show that the king could preserve them, and at the ceremony of announcing a testamentary charge to show that he could transmit them.' About the articles themselves it is not necessary to append particular notes. They perished thousands of years ago, and the accounts of them by the best scholars are little more than conjectural.
  14. The royal carriages were of five kinds, and four of them at least were now set forth inside the last gate, that everything might again be done, as when the king was alive. On the west side of the hall were the guests' steps (or staircase), by which visitors ascended, and on the east were those used by the host himself. If one of the royal carriages was absent on this occasion, it must have been that used in war, as not being appropriate at such a time.
  15. All was now ready for the grand ceremony, and the performers, in their appropriate mourning and sacrificial array, take their places in the hall. Kâo is here for the first time styled 'king;' but still he goes up by the guests' steps, not presuming to ascend by the others, while his father's corpse was in the hall.
  16. The Grand-Guardian and the Minister of Religion ascended by the eastern steps, because the authority of king Khăng was in their persons, to be conveyed by the present ceremony to his son. 'The great mace' was one of the emblems of the royal sovereignty, and 'the cup' also must have been one that only the king could use. 'The mace-cover' was an instrument by which the genuineness of the symbols of their rank conferred on the different princes was tested.
  17. According to Khung Ying-tâ, when the king received the record of the charge, he was standing at the top of the eastern steps, a little eastwards, with his face to the north. The Historiographer stood by king Khăng's coffin, on the south-west of it, with his face to the east. There he read the charge, after which the king bowed twice, and the Minister of Religion, on the south-west of the king, presented the cup and mace-cover. The king took them, and, having given the cover in charge to an attendant, advanced with the cup to the place between the pillars where the sacrificial spirits were placed. Having filled a cup, he advanced to the east of the coffin, and stood with his face to the west; then going to the spot where his father's spirit was supposed to be, he sacrificed, pouring out the spirits on the ground, and then he put the cup on the bench appropriated for it. This he repeated three times. At the conclusion the Minister of Religion conveyed to him a message from the spirit of his father, that his offering was accepted.
  18. Preparatory, that is, to his offering a sacrifice.
  19. That is, probably, repeated the sacrifice to the spirit of king Khăng, as if to inform him that his charge had been communicated to his son. The half-mace was used as a handle for the sacrificial cup. This ceremony appears to have been gone through twice. The Grand-Guardian's bowing was to the spirit of king Khăng, and the new king returned the obeisance for his father.
  20. Meaning the fifth or last gate of the palace. The private apartments had for the time, through the presence of the coffin and by the sacrifices, been converted into a sort of ancestral temple.