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Anciently, Shun made the lute with five strings, and used it in singing the Nan Fang. Khwei was the first who composed (the pieces of) music to be employed by the feudal lords as an expression of (the royal) approbation of them 1.

Thus the employment of music by the son of Heaven was intended to reward the most virtuous among the feudal lords. When their virtue was very great, and their instructions were honoured, and all the cereals ripened in their season, then they were rewarded by (being permitted) the use of the music. Hence, those of them whose toils in the government of the people were conspicuous, had their rows of pantomimes extended far; and those of them who had been indifferent to the government of the people had those rows made short. On seeing their pantomimes, one knew what was (the degree of) their virtue, (just as) on hearing their posthumous designations, we know what had been (the character of) their conduct.

The Tâ Kang expressed the brilliance (of its author's virtue); the Hsien Kih, the completeness (of its author's); the Shâo showed how (its author) continued (the virtue of his predecessor); the Hsiâ, the greatness (of its author's virtue); the music of Yin and Kâu embraced every admirable quality 2.

In the interaction of heaven and earth, if cold and heat do not come at the proper seasons, illnesses arise (among the people); if wind and rain do not come in their due proportions, famine ensues. The instructions (of their superiors) are the people's cold and heat; if they are not what the time requires, an injury is done to society. The affairs (of their superiors) are the people's wind and rain; if they are not properly regulated, they have no success. In accordance with this, the object of the ancient kings in their practice of music was to bring their government into harmony with those laws (of heaven and earth). If it was good, then the conduct (of the people) was like the virtue (of their superiors).

(The feast on) grain-fed animals, with the adjunct of drinking, was not intended to produce evil, and yet cases of litigation are more numerous in consequence of it:--it is the excessive drinking which produces the evil. Therefore the former kings framed the rules to regulate the drinking. Where there is (but) one presentation of the cup (at one time), guest and host may bow to each other a hundred times, and drink together all the day without getting drunk. This was the way in which those kings provided against evil consequences.Such feasts served for the enjoyment of the parties at them. The music was intended to illustrate virtue; the ceremonies to restrain excess.

Hence the former kings, on occasions of great sorrow, had their rules according to which they expressed their grief; and on occasions of great happiness, they had their rules by which they expressed their pleasure. The manifestations, whether of grief or joy, were all bounded by the limits of these rules 3.

In music the sages found pleasure, and (saw that) it could be used to make the hearts of the people good. Because of the deep influence which it exerts on a man, and the change which it produces in manners and customs, the ancient kings appointed it as one of the subjects of instruction.

Now, in the nature of men there are both the energy of their physical powers and the intelligence of the mind; but for their (affections of) grief, pleasure, joy, and anger there are no invariable rules. They are moved according to the external objects which excite them, and then there ensues the manifestation of the various faculties of the mind.

Hence, when a (ruler's) aims are small, notes that quickly die away characterise the music, and the people's thoughts are sad; when he is generous, harmonious, and of a placid and easy temper, the notes are varied and elegant, with frequent changes, and the people are satisfied and pleased; when he is coarse, violent, and excitable, the notes, vehement at first and distinct in the end, are full and bold throughout the piece, and the people are resolute and daring; when he is pure and straightforward, strong and correct, the notes are grave and expressive of sincerity, and the people are self-controlled and respectful; when he is magnanimous, placid, and kind, the notes are natural, full, and harmonious, and the people are affectionate and loving; when he is careless, disorderly, perverse, and dissipated, the notes are tedious and ill-regulated, and the people proceed to excesses and disorder.

Therefore the ancient kings (in framing their music), laid its foundations in the feelings and nature of men; they examined (the notes) by the measures (for the length and quality of each); and adapted it to express the meaning of the ceremonies (in which it was to be used). They (thus) brought it into harmony with the energy that produces life, and to give expression to the performance of the five regular constituents of moral worth. They made it indicate that energy in its Yang or phase of vigour, without any dissipation of its power, and also in its Yin or phase of remission, without the vanishing of its power. The strong phase showed no excess like that of anger, and the weak no shrinking like that of pusillanimity. These four characteristics blended harmoniously in the minds of men, and were similarly manifested in their conduct. Each occupied quietly in its proper place, and one did not interfere injuriously with another.

After this they established schools for (teaching their music), and different grades (for the learners). They marked most fully the divisions of the pieces, and condensed into small compass the parts and variations giving beauty and elegance, in order to regulate and increase the inward virtue (of the learners). They gave laws for the great and small notes according to their names, and harmonised the order of the beginning and the end, to represent the doing of things. Thus they made the underlying principles of the relations between the near and distant relatives, the noble and mean, the old and young, males and females, all to appear manifestly in the music. Hence it is said that 'in music we must endeavour to see its depths.'

When the soil is worn out, the grass and trees on it do not grow well. When water is often troubled, the fish and tortoises in it do not become large. When the energy (of nature) is decayed, its production of things does not proceed freely. In an age of disorder, ceremonies are forgotten and neglected, and music becomes licentious.

In such a case the notes are melancholy but without gravity, or joyous without repose. There is remissness (in ceremonies) and the violation of them is easy. One falls into such a state of dissoluteness that he forgets the virtue properly belonging to his nature. In great matters he is capable of treachery and villainy; in small matters he becomes greedy and covetous. There is a diminution in him of the enduring, genial forces of nature, and an extinction of the virtue of satisfaction and harmony. On this account the Superior man despises such (a style of music and ceremonies) 4.

Whenever notes that are evil and depraved affect men, a corresponding evil spirit responds to them (from within); and when this evil spirit accomplishes its manifestations, licentious music is the result. Whenever notes that are correct affect men, a corresponding correct spirit responds to them (from within); and when this correct spirit accomplishes its manifestations, harmonious music is the result. The initiating cause and the result correspond to each other. The round and the deflected, the crooked and the straight, have each its own category; and such is the character of all things, that they affect one another severally according to their class.

Hence the superior man returns to the (good) affections (proper to his nature) in order to bring his will into harmony with them, and compares the different qualities (of actions) in order to perfect his conduct. Notes that are evil and depraved, and sights leading to disorder, and licentiousness, are not allowed to affect his ears or eyes. Licentious music and corrupted ceremonies are not admitted into the mind to affect its powers. The spirit of idleness, indifference, depravity, and perversity finds no exhibition in his person. And thus he makes his ears, eyes, nose, and mouth, the apprehensions of his mind, and the movements of all the parts of his body, all follow the course that is correct, and do that which is right.

After this there ensues the manifestation (of the inward thoughts) by the modulations of note and tone, the elegant accompaniments of the lutes, small and large, the movements with the shield and battleaxe, the ornaments of the plumes and ox-tails, and the concluding with the pipes and flutes 5. All this has the effect of exhibiting the brilliance of complete virtue, stirring up the harmonious action of the four (seasonal) energies; and displaying the true natures and qualities of all things.

Hence in the fine and distinct notes we have an image of heaven; in the ample and grand, an image of earth; in their beginning and ending, an image of the four seasons; in the wheelings and revolutions (of the pantomimes), an image of the wind and rain. (The five notes, like) the five colours, form a complete and elegant whole, without any confusion. (The eight instruments of different materials, like) the eight winds, follow the musical accords, without any irregular deviation. The lengths of all the different notes have their definite measurements, without any uncertainty. The small and the great complete one another. The end leads on to the beginning, and the beginning to the end. The key notes and those harmonising with them, the sharp and the bass, succeed one another in their regular order.

Therefore, when the music has full course, the different relations are clearly defined by it; the perceptions of the ears and eyes become sharp and distinct; the action of the blood and physical energies is harmonious and calm; (bad) influences are removed, and manners changed; and all under heaven there is entire repose.

Hence we have the saying, 'Where there is music there is joy.' Superior men rejoice in attaining to the course (which they wish to pursue); and smaller men in obtaining the things which they desire. When the objects of desire are regulated by a consideration of the course to be pursued, there is joy without any disorder. When those objects lead to the forgetfulness of that course, there is delusion, and no joy.

It is for this purpose that the superior man returns to the (good) affections (proper to his nature), in order to bring his will into harmony with them, and makes extensive use of music in order to perfect his instructions. When the music has free course, the people direct themselves to the quarter (to which they should proceed), and we can see (the power of) his virtue.

Virtue is the strong stem of (man's) nature, and music is the blossoming of virtue. Metal, stone, silk, and bamboo are (the materials of which) the instruments of music (are made). Poetry gives expression to the thoughts; singing prolongs the notes (of the voice); pantomimic movements put the body into action (in harmony with the sentiments). These three things originate in the mind, and the instruments of the music accompany them.

In this way the affections (from which comes the music) are deeply seated, and the elegant display of them is brilliant. All the energies (of the nature) are abundantly employed, and their transforming power is mysterious and spirit-like. A harmonious conformity (to virtue) is realised within, and the blossoming display of it is conspicuous without, for in music, more than other things, there should be nothing that is pretentious or hypocritical.

Music springs from the movement of the mind; the notes are the manifestation of the music; the elegant colours and various parts are the ornaments of the notes. The superior man puts its fundamental cause in movement, makes its manifesting notes into music, and regulates its ornaments.

Thus they first strike the drum to warn (the performers) to be in readiness, and (the pantomimes) take three steps to show the nature of the dance. This is done a second time and they begin to move forward; and when they have completed their evolutions, they return and dress their ranks. However rapid their movements may be, there is nothing violent in them; however mysterious they may be, they are not beyond the power of being understood. One, studying them alone, finds pleasure in the object of them, and does not tire in his endeavours to understand them. When he has fully understood them, he does not keep what he desires to himself. Thus the affections (of joy) are displayed; the (ideal) of righteousness is established; and when the music is ended, the (due) honour has been paid to virtue. Superior men by it nourish their love of what is good; small men in it hear the (correction of) their errors. Hence it is said, that 'for the courses to be pursued by men the influence of music is great.'

In music we have the outcome and bestowal (of what its framers felt); in ceremonies a return (for what their performers had received). Music expresses the delight in what produces it, and ceremonies lead the mind back to (the favours) which originate them. Music displays the virtue (of the framer); ceremonies are a return of the feelings (which led to them), as carrying the mind back to what originated them.

What is called 'a Grand carriage' is one which is (the gift) of the son of Heaven; the flag with dragons, and a nine-scolloped border, was the banner (conferred by) the son of Heaven; that with the azure and black edging exhibited the precious tortoises, and was (also the gift of) the son of Heaven; and when these were followed by herds of oxen and sheep, they were the gifts bestowed on the feudal lords 6.


1. Nan Fang, 'the South wind,' was the name of a poetical piece made by Shun, and celebrating the beneficent influence of rulers and parents as being like that of the south wind. Four lines of it are found in the Narratives of the School (Article 35):--

The invention of the khin or lute, here ascribed to Shun, is also attributed to the more ancient Tîs, Shan Nang and Fû-hsî. Perhaps Shun was the first to make it with five strings. Khwei was his minister of music; see vol. iii, pages 44, 45.

2. Tâ Kang was the name of Yâo's music; Hsien Kih, that of Hwang Tî's; Shâo, that of Shun's; and Hsiâ, that of Yü's. Pages would be required to condense what is said about the pieces and their names.

3. With this paragraph ends the fourth division of the Book, called Yo Shih (樂施), meaning 'The grant of Music,' or the principles on which the ancient kings permitted their music to be used by the feudal princes, to signify their approval of what was good, and stimulate all to virtue.

4. This and the six previous paragraphs form the fifth division of the Book, and are called Yo Yen (樂言), 'Words about Music.' The Khien-lung editors, however, propose changing the Yen (言) into Hsing (形), so that the meaning would be 'Manifestations of Music.'

5. Thus:-- {illustration}

6. With this ends the sixth chapter of the Book, called Yo Hsiang (樂象), meaning the natural symbols of music.

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