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Formerly Kung-nî was present as one of the guests at the Kâ sacrifice 1; and when it was over, he went out and walked backwards and forwards on the terrace over the gate of Proclamations 2, looking sad and sighing. What made him sigh was the state of Lû 3. Yen Yen was by his side, and said to him, 'Master, what are you sighing about?' Confucius replied, 'I never saw the practice of the Grand course 4, and the eminent men of the three dynasties 5; but I have my object (in harmony with theirs).

'When the Grand course was pursued, a public and common spirit ruled all under the sky; they chose 6 men of talents, virtue, and ability; their words were sincere, and what they cultivated was harmony. Thus men did not love their parents only, nor treat as children only their own sons. A competent provision was secured for the aged till their death, employment for the able-bodied, and the means of growing up to the young. They showed kindness and compassion to widows, orphans, childless men, and those who were disabled by disease, so that they were all sufficiently maintained. Males had their proper work, and females had their homes. (They accumulated) articles (of value), disliking that they should be thrown away upon the ground, but not wishing to keep them for their own gratification. (They laboured) with their strength, disliking that it should not be exerted, but not exerting it (only) with a view to their own advantage 7. In this way (selfish) schemings were repressed and found no development. Robbers, filchers, and rebellious traitors did not show themselves, and hence the outer doors remained open, and were not shut. This was (the period of) what we call the Grand Union.

'Now that the Grand course has fallen into disuse and obscurity, the kingdom is a family inheritance. Every one loves (above all others) his own parents and cherishes (as) children (only) his own sons. People accumulate articles and exert their strength for their own advantage. Great men imagine it is the rule that their states should descend in their own families. Their object is to make the walls of their cities and suburbs strong and their ditches and moats secure. The rules of propriety and of what is right are regarded as the threads by which they seek to maintain in its correctness the relation between ruler and minister; in its generous regard that between father and son; in its harmony that between elder brother and younger; and in a community of sentiment that between husband and wife; and in accordance with them they frame buildings and measures; lay out the fields and hamlets (for the dwellings of the husbandmen); adjudge the superiority to men of valour and knowledge; and regulate their achievements with a view to their own advantage. Thus it is that (selfish) schemes and enterprises are constantly taking their rise, and recourse is had to arms; and thus it was (also) that Yü, Thang, Wan and Wû, king Khang, and the duke of Kâu obtained their distinction. Of these six great men every one was very attentive to the rules of propriety, thus to secure the display of righteousness, the realisation of sincerity, the exhibition of errors, the exemplification of benevolence, and the discussion of courtesy, showing the people all the normal virtues. Any rulers who did not follow this course were driven away by those who possessed power and position, and all regarded them as pests. This is the period of what we call Small Tranquillity 8.'

Yen Yen again asked, 'Are the rules of Propriety indeed of such urgent importance?' Confucius said, 'It was by those rules that the ancient kings sought to represent the ways of Heaven, and to regulate the feelings of men. Therefore he who neglects or violates them may be (spoken of) as dead, and he who observes them, as alive. It is said in the Book of Poetry,Therefore those rules are rooted in heaven, have their correspondencies in earth, and are applicable to spiritual beings. They extend to funeral rites, sacrifices, archery, chariot-driving, capping, marriage, audiences, and friendly missions. Thus the sages made known these rules, and it became possible for the kingdom, with its states and clans, to reach its correct condition.'

Yen Yen again asked, 'May I be allowed to hear, Master, the full account that you would give of these rules?' Confucius said, 'I wished to see the ways of Hsiâ, and for that purpose went to Khî. But it was not able to attest my words, though I found there "The seasons of Hsiâ." I wished to see the ways of Yin, and for that purpose went to Sung. But it was not able to attest my words, though I found there "The Khwan Khien." In this way I got to see the meanings in the Khwan Khien, and the different steps in the seasons of Hsiâ 10.

'At the first use of ceremonies, they began with meat and drink. They roasted millet and pieces of pork 11; they excavated the ground in the form of a jar, and scooped the water from it with their two hands; they fashioned a handle of clay, and struck with it an earthen drum. (Simple as these arrangements were), they yet seemed to be able to express by them their reverence for Spiritual Beings.

'(By-and-by) 12, when one died, they went upon the housetop, and called out his name in a prolonged note, saying, "Come back, So and So." After this they filled the mouth (of the dead) with uncooked rice, and (set forth as offerings to him) packets of raw flesh. Thus they looked up to heaven (whither the spirit was gone), and buried (the body) in the earth. The body and the animal soul go downwards; and the intelligent spirit is on high.Thus (also) the dead are placed with their heads to the north, while the living look towards the south. In all these matters the earliest practice is followed.

'Formerly the ancient kings 13 had no houses. In winter they lived in caves which they had excavated, and in summer in nests which they had framed. They knew not yet the transforming power of fire, but ate the fruits of plants and trees, and the flesh of birds and beasts, drinking their blood, and swallowing (also) the hair and feathers. They knew not yet the use of flax and silk, but clothed themselves with feathers and skins.

'The later sages then arose, and men (learned) to take advantage of the benefits of fire. They moulded the metals and fashioned clay, so as to rear towers with structures on them, and houses with windows and doors. They toasted, grilled, boiled, and roasted. They produced must and sauces. They dealt with the flax and silk so as to form linen and silken fabrics. They were thus able to nourish the living, and to make offerings to the dead; to serve the spirits of the departed and God 14. In all these things we follow the example of that early time.

'Thus it is that the dark-coloured liquor is in the apartment (where the representative of the dead is entertained) 15; that the vessel of must is near its (entrance) door; that the reddish liquor is in the hall; and the clear, in the (court) below. The victims (also) are displayed, and the tripods and stands are prepared. The lutes and citherns are put in their places, with the flutes, sonorous stones, bells, and drums. The prayers (of the principal in the sacrifice to the spirits) and the benedictions (of the representatives of the departed) are carefully framed. The object of all the ceremonies is to bring down the spirits from above, even their ancestors 16; serving (also) to rectify the relations between ruler and ministers; to maintain the generous feeling between father and son, and the harmony between elder and younger brother; to adjust the relations between high and low; and to give their proper places to husband and wife. The whole may be said to secure the blessing of Heaven.

'They proceed to their invocations, using in each the appropriate terms. The dark-coloured liquor is employed in (every) sacrifice. The blood with the hair and feathers (of the victim) is presented. The flesh, uncooked, is set forth on the stands 17. The bones with the flesh on them are sodden; and rush mats and coarse cloth are placed underneath and over the vases and cups. The robes of dyed silk are put on. The must and clarified liquor are presented. The flesh, roasted and grilled, is brought forward 18. The ruler and his wife take alternate parts in presenting these offerings, all being done to please the souls of the departed, and constituting a union (of the living) with the disembodied and unseen.

'These services having been completed, they retire, and cook again all that was insufficiently done. The dogs, pigs, bullocks, and sheep are dismembered. The shorter dishes (round and square), the taller ones of bamboo and wood, and the soup vessels are all filled. There are the prayers which express the filial piety (of the worshipper), and the benediction announcing the favour (of his ancestors). This may be called the greatest omen of prosperity; and in this the ceremony obtains its grand completion 19.'


1. Offered in the end of the year, in thanksgiving for all the crops that had been reaped. See in Book IX, ii, paragraphs 9, 10.

2. The gateway where illustrated copies of the laws and punishments were suspended. It belonged of right only to the royal palace, but it was among the things which Lû had usurped, or was privileged to use.

3. As usurping royal rites, and in disorder.

4. This sounds Tâoistic. It is explained of the time of the five Tîs.

5. The founders of the Hsiâ, Shang, and Kâu, and their great ministers.

6. 'They chose;' who are intended by the 'they?' Shall we find them in the 'all under the sky' of the preceding clause? Callery has:--'Sous le grand régne de la vertu, l'empire était la chose publique. On choisissait pour le gouverneur les hommes éminents,' &c. Khung Ying-tâ explains the clause by 'They made no hereditary princes.' Perhaps it would be well to translate passively,--'Men of virtue and ability were chosen (to govern).' The writer has before him the Tâoistic period of the primitive simplicity, when there was no necessity for organised government as in after ages.

7. It is rather difficult to construe and translate these two sentences. Callery gives for them, not very successfully:--'Quant aux objets matériels, ceux qu'on n'aimait pas, on les abandonnait (aux personnes qui en avaient besoin), sans les mettre en réserve pour soi. Les choses dont on était capable, on regardait comme fort mauvais de ne pas les faire, lors même que ce n'était pas pour soi.'

8. The Tâoism in this and the preceding paragraph is evident, and we need not be surprised that Wang of Shih-liang should say that they ought not to be ascribed to Confucius. The Khien-lung editors try to weaken the force of his judgment by a theory of misplaced tablets and spurious additions to the text.

9. The Shih, I, iv, 8; metrical version, page 99.

10. Compare with this paragraph the ninth in the third Book of the Analects. In that Confucius tells of his visits to Khî and Sung; but says nothing of his finding any book or fragment of a book in either, dwelling instead on the insufficiency of their records. 'The seasons of Hsia,' which it is said here 'he got in Khî,' is supposed to be the 'small calendar of Hsiâ,' preserved by the Greater Tai, and 'the Khwan Khien' to have been the 'Kwei Zhang Yî,' attributed by many to the Shang dynasty. But all this is very uncertain.

11. In an unartificial manner, we are told, 'by placing them on heated stones.' It is only the last sentence of the paragraph which makes us think that the previous parts have anything to do with sacrifice or religion.

12. Khung Ying-tâ thinks that this describes the practices of the period of 'the five Tîs.' The north is the quarter of darkness and decay, the south that of brightness and life. 'The paragraph teaches us,' says Hsu Shih-zang, 'that the burial and other mourning ceremonies were not inventions of later sages, but grew from the natural feelings and sorrow of the earliest men.'

13. This was, says Kang, 'the time of the highest antiquity;' 'the time,' says Ying-tâ, 'before the five Tîs.'

14. According to Ying-tâ, 'this is descriptive of the times of Shan Nang in middle antiquity, of the five Tîs, and of the three kings.' This would extend it over a very long space of time. When it is said that men in their advancing civilisation were able to serve the spirits of the departed and God, the peculiarity of style by which those spirits (literally, the Kwei Shan) are placed before God (Shang Tî) does not fail to attract the notice of the student. The explanation of it was given ingeniously, and I believe correctly, by Dr. Medhurst (Theology of the Chinese, page 78), who says, 'it was done, probably, in order to distinguish the one from the other, and to prevent the reader from imagining that the Kwei Shans belonged to the Shang Tî, which mistake might have occurred had the characters been differently arranged.' I translate the last sentence in the present tense, the, speaker having, I think, his own times in mind.

15. The 'dark-coloured' liquor was water, which was employed in the earliest times, before there was any preparation of liquor made from grain, either by fermentation or distillation, and the use of it was continued in the subsequent times of which this paragraph speaks, in honour of the practice of antiquity; and is continued, probably, to the present day. The other liquors are mentioned in the order of their invention, following one another in the historical line of their discovery, the older always having a nearer and more honourable place.

16. Dr. Medhurst rendered this--'to bring down the Shans of the upper world, together with the manes of their first ancestors.' In giving to the two phrases one and the same reference I am following Ying-tâ and others.

17. The last three observances were in imitation of what was done in the earliest antiquity.

18. In these six things the ways of 'middle antiquity' were observed. The whole paragraph is descriptive of a sacrifice in the ancestral temple under Kâu, where an effort was made to reproduce all sacrificial customs from the earliest times.

19. This last paragraph appears to me to give a very condensed account of the banquet to a ruler's kindred, with which a service in the ancestral temple concluded. Paragraphs 10, 11, 12 are all descriptive of the parts of such a service. Compare the accounts of it in the Shih II, vi, ode 5, and other pieces.

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IATHPublished by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia