The Ch'un Ts'ew/Prolegomena/I/ii

The Ch'un Ts'ew  (1872)  by Confucius, translated by James Legge
Prolegomena, Chapter I, Section II




1. What were Confucius’ authorities for the events which he has chronicled in the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw? In proceeding to an inquiry into the Sources of the Work, it will be well to give at the commencement an explanation of its name.

  The two characters, translated literally, simply mean Spring and Autumn. ‘Anciently,’ says Maou K‘e-ling, ‘the historiographers, in recording events, Meaning of the name,—the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw.did so with the specification of the day, the month, the season, and the year, to which each event belonged; and to the whole they gave the name of annals. ‘It was proper that under every year there should be written the names of the four seasons, and the entire record of a year went by the name of Spring and Autumn, two of the seasons, being a compendious expression for all the four.’[1] ‘Spring and Autumn’ is thus equivalent to—Annals, digested under the seasons of every year. An inspection of the Work will prove that this is the proper meaning of its title. Even if there were nothing to be recorded under any season, it was still necessary to make a record of the season and of the first month in it. Entries like that in the 6th year of duke Yin,—‘It was autumn, the 7th month,’ where the next paragraph begins with ‘ln winter,’ are frequent. If now and then a year occurs in which we do not find every season specified, we may be sure the omission is owing to the loss of a character or of a paragraph in the course of time. Chaou K‘e explains the title in the same way,[2] and so does Too Yu in the preface to his edition of the Tso Chuen.[3] Other accounts of the name are only creations of fancy, and have arisen from a misconception of the nature of the Work. Thus Dr. Williams says, 'The spring and autumn annals are so called, because “their commendations are life-giving like spring, and their censures are life-withering like autumn.'[4] The Han scholars gave forth this, and other accounts of a similar kind, led away by their notions as to the nature of the Work on which I have touched in the preceding section. Not even, as l have said, in the Work itself do we find such censures and commendations; and much less are they trumpeted in the title of it.

  2. That we are not to seek for any deep or mystical meaning in the title is still more evident from the fact that the name was in in use, use before it was given to the compilation of Confucius. The first narrative of the Tso Chuen under the second year of duke Ch‘aou, when Confucius was only eleven years old, shows that this was the case in Loo. Then the principal minister of Tsin, being on a visit to the court of Loo, examined the documents in the charge of the grand-historiographer, and ‘saw,’ we are told, ‘the Yih with its diagrams and the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Loo.’[5]

But the records, or a class of the records, of every State in the kingdom of Chow appear to have been called by this name of Spring and Autumn. In the ‘Narratives of the States,’ the appointment of Shuh-hëang to be tutor to the heir-apparent of the State of Tsin is grounded on ‘his acquaintance with the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw.’[6] I take the name there as equivalent to history in general,—the historical summaries made in the various States of the kingdom. Shuh-hëang’s appointment was made in B.C. 568, about twenty years before Confucius was born. In the same Narratives, at a still earlier date, it is laid down as a rule for the heir-apparent of the State of Ts‘oo, that he should be taught the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw.[7] According to Mencius, the annals of Loo went by the name of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, while those of Tsin were called the Shing, and those of Ts‘oo the T‘aou-wuh.[8] All these, however, he says, were books of the same character; and though the annals of different States might have other and particular names given to them, it seems clear that they might all be designated Ch‘un Ts‘ëw. Thus we have a statement in Mih Teih that he ‘had seen the Ch‘un-ts‘ëw histories of a hundred States’;[9] and elsewhere we find him speaking of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Chow, the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Yen, the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Sung, and the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Ts‘e.[10]

  4. The Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Loo supplied, it seems to me, the materials for the sage’s Work;if, indeed, he did any thing more than copy out what was ready to his hand. Ho Hëw, the famous Han editor of Kung-yang's commentary on it, The Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Loo supplied the materials for the existing Ch‘un Ts‘ë his introductory notes to the first year of duke Yin, quotes from a Min Yin to the effect that Confucius, having received the command of Heaven to make his Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, sent Tsze-hëa and others of his disciples, fourteen men in all, to seek for the historical records of Chow, and that they got the precious books of 120 States, from which he proceeded to make his chronicle.[11] This, however, is one of the wild statements which we find in many writers of the Han and Tsin dynasties. There is nothing in the Work to make it necessary to suppose that any other records were consulted but those of Loo. This is the view almost universally entertained by the scholars and critics of China itself, as in the statement given from Chaou K‘e on p. 5. The omission, moreover, of many events which are narrated in the Chuen of Tso-she makes it certain to my mind that Confucius confined himself to the tablets of his native State. Whether any of his disciples were associated with him in the labour of compilation we cannot tell. Pan Koo, in the chapter on the Literary History of the early Han dynasty, says that Tso K‘ëw-ming was so.[12] How this was will be considered when I come to speak of Tso’s commentary. Sze-ma Ts‘ëen’s account would rather incline us to think that the whole was done by Confucius alone, for he says that when the Work was completed and shown to the disciples of Tsze-hëa, they could not improve it in a single character.[13]

5. The Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Loo then was the source of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Confucius. The chronicles or annals which went by this name were the work of the historiographers or recorders, The nature of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of the States.who, we know, were attached to the royal court and to the courts of the various feudal princes. I have spoken of those officers in the prolegomena to vol. III. p. 11, and in those to vol. IV., pp. 24–26. Pan Koo in the same chapter from which I have made a quotation from him in the preceding paragraph, says that the historiographers of the Left recorded words, that is, Speeches, Charges, &c., and those of the Right recorded affairs; that the words formed the Shoo, and the affairs the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw.[14]

But if we are to judge of what the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of the States were from what the one Ch‘un Ts‘ëw preserved to us is, the statement that they contained the records of events cannot be admitted without considerable modification. There can have been no details in them, but only the briefest possible compends of the events, or references to them.

That there were the records of events, kept in the ofiices of historiography, must be freely admitted, and it will appear, when I come to speak of the commentary of Tso K‘ëw-ming, that to them we are mainly indebted for the narratives which impart so much interest to his Work. But the entries in the various Ch‘un Ts‘ëw were not made from them,not made from them fairly and honestly as when one tries to give in a very few words the substance of a narrative which is before him. Those entries related to events in the State itself, at the royal court, and in other States with which it maintained friendly relations. Communications about remarkable and ominous occurrences in one State, and about important transactions, were sent from it to others, and the receiving State entered them in its Ch‘un Ts‘ëw in the terms in which they were made out, without regard to whether they conveyed a correct account of the facts or not. Then the great events in a State itself,those connected with the ruling House and the principal families or clans in it, its relations with other States, and natural phænomena supposed to affect the general wellbeing, also found a place. Sometimes these things were recorded under the special direction of the ruler; at other times we must suppose that the historiographers committed them to their tablets as a part of their official duty. How far truth, an exact conformity of the record with the circumstances, was observed in these entries about the internal affairs of a State, is a point on which it is not competent for me at this point of the inquiry to pronounce an opinion.

  6. In the prolegomena to vol. IV. p. 25, referring to the brief account which we have in the official Book of Chow of the duties of the historiographers of the Exterior at the royal court, I have made it appear that they had charge of the Histories of all the States,[15] rendering the character che by ‘Histories.’ M. Biot, in his translation of the Official Book, has done the same; but Maou K‘e-ling contends that those che were the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of the different States, or the brief notices of which they were made up.[16] I have failed, however, to find elsewhere any evidence to support his view;[17] and when he goes on to argue that three copies of those notices were always madeone to be kept in the State itself, one for the royal court, and one to be sent to the historiographers of the various feudal courts with which the State was in the habit of exchanging such notifications,the single passage to which he refers by no means bears out the conclusion which he draws from it;[18] and indeed, as many copies must have been made as there were States to which the notice was to be sent. In other respects the account which he gives of those notices is so instructive that I subjoin a summary of it.

They were merely, he says, ‘slips of subjects,’ and not ‘summaries’ or synopses,—containing barer the mention of the subject to which each of them referred.[19] Maou K‘e-ling's account of the contents of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of the States.It was necessary there should be nothing in them inconsistent with, or contradictory to, the fuller narratives, but they themselves gave no indication of the beginning or end of the events to which they referred, or of the various circumstances which marked their course. For instance, suppose the subject was going from Loo to the court of TsinIn VIII. xviii. 4, we are told that ‘the duke went to Tsin,’ the occasion of his doing so being to congratulate the new marquis of Tsin on his accession; whereas, in IX. iii. 2, we have a notice in the same characters about the child-marquis Sëang, his going to Tsin being to present himself to that court on his own accession to Loo. Suppose, again, the subject to be a meeting between the rulers of Loo and Ts‘e.In III. xiii. 4, we are told that it is said that ‘duke Chwang had a meeting with the marquis of Ts‘e, when they made a covenant in Ko,’ the object being to make peace between the two States after the battle of Shing-k‘ëw; whereas, in xxiii. 10, we have the notice of a meeting and covenant between the same princes in Hoo, having reference to an alliance by marriage which they had agreed upon.

After further illustrating the nature of the notices, Maou observes correctly, that to look in them for slight turns of expression, such as the mention of an individual’s rank, or of his clan-name, or the specification of the day when an event occurred without the month, and to find in the presence or absence of these particulars the expression of praise or blame, is no better than the gropings of a man in a dream. In this I fully agree with him, but as he has said that the ‘slip-notices of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw’ should not be inconsistent with the facts in a detailed narrative of the events to which they refer, he seems to push the point as to the colourlessness of the notices to an extreme, when he adds the following illustration of it on the authority of a brother of his own:—‘The deaths of princes and great officers recorded in the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw took place in various ways; but they all appear under the same form—died.” Thus in V. xxiv. 5 it is said that “E-woo, marquis of Tsin, died,” the fact being that he was slain; in X. viii. 2 it is said that “Neih, marquis of Ch‘in, died,” the fact being that he strangled himself; in II. v. 1 it is said that “Paou, marquis of Ch‘in, died,” the fact being that he went mad and died; in XI. xiv. 6 it is said that “Kwang, Viscount of Woo, died,” the fact being that he did so of wounds received in battle; in XI. iii. 2 it is said that “Ch‘uen, Viscount of Woo, died,” the fact being that he burned himself to death; in III. xxxii. 3 it is said that “the Kung-tsze Ya died,” the fact being that he was compelled to take poison; in X. iv. 8 it is said that “Shuh-sun Paou died,” the fact being that he was starved to death; in X. xxv. 7 it is said that “Shuh-sun Shay died,” the fact being that he did so in answer to his own prayers; and in X. xxix. 3, it is said that “Shuh E died,” the fact being that he did so without any illness. The one word “died,” is used in such a variety of cases, and it is only one who knows profoundly the style of the text who can explain the comprehensive meaning of the term.’ But there is no meaning in the term beyond that of dying, and the conclusion of the mind is that the death indicated by it was a natural one. It is not history in any proper sense of the term which is given in such an undiscriminating style.

7. The reader has now a sufliciently accurate idea of what all the annals that went under the name of Ch‘un Ts‘ëw were, of what especially the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw still existing and with which we have to do is. Did Confucius in compiling his Ch‘un Ts‘ëw add to or take from his authorities?It only remains for me in this section to inquire whether we have reason to believe that Confucius made any changes in the style of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Loo.

On this point, as on so many others connected with the Work, we have not sufficient evidence to pronounce a very decided opinion. We are without a single word about it from Confucius himself, or from any of his immediate disciples; and from later scholars and critics we have the most conflicting utterances regarding it. I have quoted a few words on p. 9, ‘from Sze-ma Ts‘ëen’s account of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, but I now give the whole of it:—‘The master said, “No! No! The superior man is distressed lest his name should not be honourably mentioned after death. My principles do not make way in the world;—how shall I make myself known to future ages?" On this, from the records of the historians he made the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, commencing with duke Yin, coming down to the 14th year of duke Gae, and thus embracing the times of twelve marquises. He kept close in it to [the annals of] Loo, showed his affection for Chow, and purposely made the three dynasties move before the reader.[20] His style was condensed, but his scope was extensive. Thus the rulers of Woo and Ts‘oo assumed to themselves the title of king; but in the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw they are censured by being only styled viscounts. Thus also the son of Heaven was really summoned [by the marquis of Tsin] to attend the meeting at Ts‘ëen-t‘oo (V. xxviii. 8), but the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw conceals the fact, and says (par. 16) that “the king by Heaven’s grace held a court of inspection in Ho-yang.” Such instances serve to illustrate the idea of the master in the censures and elisions which be employed to rectify the ways of those times, his aim being that, when future kings should study the work, its meaning should be appreciated, and all rebellions ministers and villainous sons under the sky become afraid.[21] When Confucius was in office, his language in listening to litigations was what others would have employed, and not peculiar to him; but in making the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, he wrote what he wrote, and he retrenched what he retrenched, so that the disciples of Tsze-hëa could not improve it in a single character. When his disciples received from him the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, he said, “It is by the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw that after ages will know me, and also by it that they will condemn me." ’[22]

  A thousand expressions of opinion, modelled upon that of Sze-ma Ts‘ëen, might easily be adduced, all, it seems to me, as I have said already, prompted by an endeavour to reconcile the existing Work with the accounts of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw given in Mencius. As we come down the course of time, we find the scholars of China less positive in the view that Confucius made any change in the text of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Loo. Choo He says, ‘The entries in the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, that, for instance, “Such a man did such a thing” are according to the old text of the historiographers of Loo, come down to us from the stylus of the sage, transcribing or retrenching. Now-a-days, people, when they see the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, are sure to say, “Such and such a character has its stigma for such and such a man,” so that Confucius thus took it on him, according to his private views, to dispense without authority his praise or blame. But Confucius simply wrote the thing correctly as it was, and the good or evil of it was manifest of itself. If people feel that they must express themselves as I have said, we must get into our hands the old text of the historiographers of Loo, so that, comparing it with what we now have, the difference and agreement between them would be apparent. But this is now impossible.’[23]

Chaou Yih adduces two paragraphs from the ‘Annals of the Bamboo Books,’ which, he thinks, may be the original form of two in the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw. The one is—‘Duke Yin of Loo and duke Chwang of Choo made a covenant at Koo-meeh,’[24] corresponding to I. i. 2, ‘In the third month, the duke and E-foo of Choo made a covenant in Mëeh.’ The other is‘Duke Hëen of Tsin united with the army of Yu, and, attacking Kwoh, extinguished Hëa-yang,’[25] corresponding to V. ii. 3, ‘An army of Yu and an army of Tsin extinguished Hëa-yang.’ ‘These two cases,’ observes Chaou, ‘show that the style of the historiographers of the States was, we may say, similar to that of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, and that Confucius on deliberation only altered a few characters to lodge in others of his own his praise or censure’.[26] But to make these two instances exactly to the point, it would be necessary that they should occur in the annals of the State of Loo, somehow preserved to us. Besides, the expressions ‘duke Chwang’ and ‘duke Hëen’ are retrospective, and not after the manner of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw.

With regard to the entry in III. vii. 2, that ‘at midnight there was a fall of stars like rain,’ referring, we must believe, to a grand appearance of meteors, Kung-yang tells us that the old text of the historiographers was—‘It rained stars to within a foot of the earth, when they re-ascended’? Certainly the text was not altered here by Confucius to express either praise or censure. And if Kung-yang was able thus to quote the old text, it is strange he should only have done it in this solitary instance. If it had been so different from the present, with his propensities he would not have been slow to adduce it frequently. I must doubt his correctness in this case.

After the first entry under the 14th year of duke Gae, with which according to all Chinese critics the labours of Confucius terminated, Tso-she gives no fewer than 27 paragraphs, bringing the history down to the death of the sage in Gae’s 16th year. Those paragraphs were added, it is said, from the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Loo by Confucius’ disciples; and I can see no difference between the style in them, and in the more than a thousand which passed under the revision of the master.

Is it a sign of my having imbibed something of the prejudice of native scholars, of which I spoke in the end of last section, that I do not like to express my opinion that Confucius did not alter a character in his authorities? Certainly he made no alterations to convey his sentiments of praise or blame;—the variations of style where there could be no change of sentiment or feeling underlying them forbid our supposing this.

  1. 史官,,,,,而後其下,調,,,然而春秋,可以,;—春秋毛氏傳, the introductory chapter.
  2. 春秋,,;—on Men. III. Pt. ii. XXI. 3.
  3. ,,,,,⋯⋯,,,以爲. On this passage K‘ung Ying-tah quotes the following Words from Ch‘ing K'ang-shing:—春秋; and then he adds himself, 春秋.
  4. The Middle Kingdom, vol. I., p. 512. See to the same effect Du Halde's 'Description de l'Empire de la Chine, et de la Tartarie Chinoise,' vol. II. p. 318.
  5. 太史,春秋. In my translation of this passage on p. 583, I have omitted inadvertently to render the , and the whole might be taken as if ‘the Ch‘un Ts'ëw of Loo' were not one of the documents in the keeping of the historiographer.
  6. 春秋,使太子;—see the 國語,晉語,, at the end.
  7. 春秋;—See the 國語,楚語,, art I. The prince to be taught was the son of king Chwang, who died B.C. 590.
  8. Men IV. Pt. ii. XXI. 2. ,檮杌,春秋,.
  9. 百國春秋史. See the 墨子佚文, appended to the 15th Book of his Works.
  10. In his 明鬼,.
  11. ,孔子,春秋,使十四,二十.
  12. ,,,輿史記:—see note to Lëw Hin's catalogue of the tablets of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw and Works on it, 漢書三十,,. Yen P‘ăng-tsoo, another scholar of the early Han dynasty, gives rather a different form to Tso's association with Confucius in the Work,—that they went together to Chow to examine the Books in the keeping of the historiographers at the royal court:—,孔子春秋,,. Quoted by K‘ung Ying-tah on Too Yu's Preface to the Tso Chuen.
  13. 春秋,,,;—see the 史記,十七,孔子
  14. ,,春秋,.
  15. 四方.
  16. ,,,四方⋯⋯⋯⋯,春秋.
  17. Compare the use of , in Mencius, III. Pt. i. II. 3, and Pt. ii. I. 1., and in the Tso Chuen on VI. ii. 1; vi. 3: VII. xii. 2: VIII. iv. 7; et al.
  18. From the 國語,魯語,, Art. 7,—at the end.
  19. Acc. to Maou, the contents of the ancient Ch‘un Ts‘ëw might all be arranged under twenty-two heads:—1st, the changing of the first year of a ruler (); 2d, the new ruler’s solemn accession (); 3d, the birth of a son to the ruler (生子); as in II. vi. 5); 4th, the appointment of a ruler in another State (立君; as in I. iv. 7); 5th, court and complimentary visits (朝聘, in the various forms of ;來朝;;來聘;歸脤;錫命); 6th, covenants and meetings (盟會, in the various forms—;;來盟;涖盟;不盟;逃盟;;胥命;;); 7th, incursions and invasions, (侵伐, in the various forms—;;;;;;;;;帥師;乞師;取師;;;;;;敗績;;;師還;歸俘;獻捷); 8th, the removal and extinction of States (遷滅, in the various forms—;;;;); 9th, marriages (昏覿, in the various forms—納幣;逆女;逆婦;求婦;;;致女;來勝;婦致;覿); 10th, entertainments and condolences (享唁); 11th, deaths and burials (喪葬, in the various forms of ;;;;會葬;歸喪;奔喪;;;;;求金;錫命); 12th, sacrifices (祭祀, in the various forms of ;;;;;;;作主;有事;大事;朝廟;告朔;視朔;;從祀;;); 13th, huntings (蒐狩, in the various forms of ;;;;觀社;大閱); 14th, building (興作, in the various forms of 立宮;築台;作門觀;丹楹;刻桷;屋壞;毀臺;新廐;築城;城郛;浚渠;築囿); 15th, military arrangements (甲兵, in the various forms of 治甲兵;作丘甲;作三軍;舍中軍); 16th, military taxation (田賦, in the various forms of 稅畝;用田賦;求車;假田;取田;歸田); 17th, good years and bad (豐凶, in the various forms of 有年;;告糴;無麥苗;無麥禾); 18th, ominous occurrences (災祥, in the various forms of 日食;;螽蝝;雨雪;雷電;;;星隕;大水;無水;;;;;多麋;;不雨;沙鹿崩;山崩;;地震;星孛;六鷁退飛;隕霜殺菽;隕霜不殺草;鸜鵒來巢;獲麟); 19th, leaving one’s city or State (, in the various forms of ;;出奔;;大去); 20th, entering a city or State (, in the various forms of ;;;;來歸;復歸;;來奔;逃歸); 21st, ruffians and murders (盜弑, in the various forms of 盜殺;;;); 22d, punishments (刑戮, in the various forms of ;;;;;;;;;肆眚). This analysis of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw is ingenious; but it is all based on the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Confucius. Some of the subjects may be called in question, as, e.g., the 3d. In the 12 books of the Spring and Autumn only one such birth is chronicled.
  20. ,,. I shall be glad if any Sinologue can make out the meaning of this passage more clearly than I have done. Chang Show-tsëeh (), the glossarist of Sze-ma Ts‘ëen under the T‘ang dynasty (His preface is dated in the 8th month of A.D. 736), says on the last clause—,,.
  21. Here again Sze-ma's style is involved, and far from clear: ,,春秋,天下.
  22. Lëw He (Proleg. to vol. III, p. 205) has a strange note on this utterance of Confucius:—,,,, 'The knowers would be those who practiced the principles of Yaou and Shun; the condemners would be kings and dukes in office who were censured and condemned [by the sage's righteous decisions].' This is ingenious, but far-fetched.
  23. See the K‘ang-he Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, , p. 18:—春秋,,云云.
  24. See the proleg. to vol. III, p. 160.
  25. Ib., p. 168.
  26. ,春秋,孔子;—see the 陔餘業考,, the chapter 春秋.