<Previous Section>
<Next Section>


In music we have the expression of feelings which do not admit of any change; in ceremonies that of principles which do not admit of any alteration. Music embraces what all equally share; ceremony distinguishes the things in which men differ. Hence the theory of music and ceremonies embraces the whole nature of man.

To go to the very root (of our feelings) and know the changes (which they undergo) is the province of music; to display sincerity and put away all that is hypocritical is the grand law of ceremonies. Ceremonies and music resemble the nature of Heaven and Earth, penetrate to the virtues of the spiritual Intelligences, bring down the spirits from above, and raise up those whose seat is below. They give a sort of substantial embodiment of what is most subtle as well as material, and regulate the duties between father and son, ruler and subject.

Therefore, when the Great man uses and exhibits his ceremonies and music, Heaven and Earth will in response to him display their brilliant influences. They will act in happy union, and the energies (of nature), now expanding, now contracting, will proceed harmoniously. The genial airs from above and the responsive action below will overspread and nourish all things. Then plants and trees will grow luxuriantly; curling sprouts and buds will expand; the feathered and winged tribes will be active; horns and antlers will grow; insects will come to the light and revive; birds will breed and brood; the hairy tribes will mate and bring forth; the mammalia will have no abortions, and no eggs will be broken or addled,--and all will have to be ascribed to the power of music 1.

When we speak of music we do not mean the notes emitted by the Hwang Kung, Tâ Lü, (and the other musical pipes), the stringed instruments and the singing, or the (brandishing of the) shields and axes. These are but the small accessories of the music; and hence lads act as the pantomimes. (In the same way), the spreading of the mats, the disposing of the vases, and the arranging of the stands and dishes, with the movements in ascending and descending, are but the small accessories of ceremonies; and hence there are the (smaller) officers who direct them. The music-masters decide on the tunes and the pieces of poetry; and hence they have their places with their stringed instruments, and their faces directed to the north. The prayer-officers of the ancestral temple decide on the various ceremonies in it, and hence they keep behind the representatives of the deceased. Those who direct the mourning rites after the manner of the Shang dynasty 2, have their places (for the same reason) behind the presiding mourner.

It is for this reason that the practice of virtue is held to be of superior worth, and the practice of any art of inferior; that complete virtue takes the first place, and the doing of anything, (however ingenious, only) the second. Therefore the ancient kings had their distinctions of superior and inferior, of first and last; and so they could frame their music and ceremonies for the whole kingdom 3.

, The marquis Wan of Wei 4 asked Dze-hsiâ, saying, 'When in my square-cut dark robes and cap I listen to the ancient music, I am only afraid that I shall go to sleep. When I listen to the music of Kang and Wei, I do not feel tired; let me ask why I should feel so differently under the old and the new music.'

Dze-hsiâ replied, 'In the old music, (the performers) advance and retire all together; the music is harmonious, correct, and in large volume; the stringed instruments (above) and those made from gourd shells with the organs and their metal tongues (below), are all kept waiting for the striking of the drum. The music first strikes up at the sound of the drum; and when it ends, it is at the sound of the cymbals. The close of each part of the performance is regulated by the Hsiang, and the rapidity of the motions by the Yâ 5. In (all) this the superior man speaks of, and follows, the way of antiquity. The character is cultivated; the family is regulated; and peace and order are secured throughout the kingdom. This is the manner of the ancient music.

'But now, in the new music, (the performers) advance and retire without any regular order; the music is corrupt to excess; there is no end to its vileness. Among the players there are dwarfs like monkeys, while boys and girls are mixed together, and there is no distinction between father and son. Such music can never be talked about, and cannot be said to be after the manner of antiquity. This is the fashion of the new music.

'What you ask about is music; and what you like is sound. Now music and sound are akin, but they are not the same.'

The marquis asked him to explain, and Dze-hsiâ replied, 'In antiquity, Heaven and Earth acted according to their several natures, and the four seasons were what they ought to be. The people were virtuous, and all the cereals produced abundantly. There were no fevers or other diseases, and no apparitions or other prodigies. This was what we call "the period of great order." After this arose the sages, and set forth the duties between father and son, and between ruler and subject, for the guidance of society. When these guiding rules were thus correctly adjusted, all under heaven, there was a great tranquillity; after which they framed with exactness the six accords (upper and lower), and gave harmony to the five notes (of the scale), and the singing to the lutes of the odes and praise-songs; constituting what we call "the virtuous airs." Such virtuous airs constituted what we call "Music," as is declared in the Book of Poetry (III, i, ode 7, 4),

'May I not say that what you love are the vile airs?' The marquis said, 'Let me ask where the vile airs come from?' Dze-hsiâ replied, 'The airs of Kang go to a wild excess, and debauch the mind; those of Sung tell of slothful indulgence and women, and drown the mind; those of Wei are vehement and rapid, and perplex the mind; and those of Khî are violent and depraved, and make the mind arrogant. The airs of those four states all stimulate libidinous desire, and are injurious to virtue;--they should therefore not be used at sacrifices.

'It is said in the Book of Poetry (IV, i , ode 5),"In solemn unison (the instruments) give forth their notes; Our ancestors will hearken to them."That solemn unison denotes the grave reverence and harmony of their notes:--with reverence, blended with harmony, what is there that cannot be done?

'A ruler has only to be careful of what he likes and dislikes. What the ruler likes, his ministers will practise; and what superiors do, their inferiors follow. This is the sentiment in the Book of Poetry (III, ii, ode 10, 6),"To lead the people is very easy."

'Seeing this, and after (the repose of the people was secured), the sages made hand-drums and drums, the stopper and the starter, the earthen whistle and the bamboo flute,--the six instruments which produced the sounds of their virtuous airs. After these came the bell, the sounding-stone, the organ with thirty-six pipes, and the large lute, to be played in harmony with them; the shields, axes, ox-tails, and plumes, brandished by the pantomimes in time and tune. These they employed at the sacrifices in the temple of the former kings, at festivals in offering and receiving the pledge cup; in arranging the services of officers (in the temple) according to the rank due to each, as noble or mean, and in showing to future ages how they observed the order due to rank and to age.

'The bells give out a clanging sound as a signal. The signal is recognised by all, and that recognition produces a martial enthusiasm. When the ruler hears the sound of the bell, he thinks of his officers of war.'The sounding-stones give out a tinkling sound, as a summons to the exercise of discrimination. That discrimination may lead to the encountering of death. When the ruler hears the sounding-stone, he thinks of his officers who die in defence of his frontiers.'The stringed instruments give out a melancholy sound, which produces the thought of purity and fidelity, and awakens the determination of the mind. When the ruler hears the sound of the lute and cithern, he thinks of his officers who are bent on righteousness.'The instruments of bamboo give out a sound like that of overflowing waters, which suggests the idea of an assembly, the object of which is to collect the multitudes together. When the ruler hears the sound of his organs, pipes, and flutes, he thinks of his officers who gather the people together.'The drums and tambours give out their loud volume of sound, which excites the idea of movement, and tends to the advancing of the host. When the ruler hears the sounds of his drums and tambours, he thinks of his leaders and commanders. When a superior man thus hears his musical instruments, he does not hear only the sounds which they emit. There are associated ideas which accompany these 6.'

Pin-mâu Kiâ 7 was sitting with Confucius. Confucius talked with him about music, and said, 'At (the performance of) the Wû, how is it that the preliminary warning (of the drum) continues so long?' The answer was, 'To show (the king's) anxiety that all his multitudes should be of one mind with him.''How is it that (when the performance has commenced) the singers drawl their notes so long, and the pantomimes move about till they perspire?' The answer was, 'To show his apprehension that some (princes) might not come up in time for the engagement.''How is it that the violent movement of the arms and stamping fiercely with the feet begin so soon?' The answer was, 'To show that the time for the engagement had arrived.''How is it that, (in the performance of the Wû) the pantomimes kneel on the ground with the right knee, while the left is kept up?' The answer was, 'There should be no kneeling in the Wû.''How is it that the words of the singers go on to speak eagerly of Shang?' The answer was, 'There should be no such sounds in the Wû.''But if there should be no such sound in the Wû, where does it come from?' The answer was, 'The officers (of the music) failed to hand it down correctly. If they did not do so, the aim of king Wû would have been reckless and wrong.'The Master said, 'Yes, what I heard from Khang Hung was to the same effect as what you now say.'

Pin-mâu Kiâ rose up, left his mat, and addressed Confucius, saying, 'On the long-continued warning (of the drum) in the Wû, I have heard your instructions; but let me ask how it is that after that first delay there is another, and that a long one?'The Master said, 'Sit down, and I will tell you. Music is a representation of accomplished facts. The pantomimes stand with their shields, each erect and firm as a hill, representing the attitude of king Wû. The violent movements of the arms and fierce stamping represent the enthusiasm of Thâi-kung. The kneeling of all at the conclusion of the performance represents the government (of peace, instituted) by (the dukes of) Kâu and Shâo.

'Moreover, the pantomimes in the first movement proceed towards the north (to imitate the marching of king Wu against Shang); in the second, they show the extinction of Shang; in the third, they show the return march to the south; in the fourth, they show the laying out of the Southern states; in the fifth, they show how (the dukes of) Kau and Shao were severally put in charge of the states on the left and right; in the sixth, they again unite at the point of starting to offer their homage to the son of Heaven. Two men, one on each side of the performers, excite them with bells, and four times they stop and strike and thrust, showing the great awe with which (king Wu) inspired the Middle states. Their advancing with these men on each side shows his eagerness to complete his helpful undertaking. The performers standing long together show how he waited for the arrival of the princes.

'And have you alone not heard the accounts of Mu-yeh? King Wu, after the victory over Yin, proceeded to (the capital of) Shang; and before he descended from his chariot he invested the descendants of Hwang Ti with Ki; those of the Ti Yao with Ku; and those of the Ti Shun with Khan. When he had descended from it, he invested the descendant of the sovereign of Yin to Sung; raised a mound over the grave of the king's son, Pi-kan; released the count of Khi from his imprisonment, and employed him to restore to their places the officers who were acquainted with the ceremonial usages of Shang. The common people were relieved from (the pressure) of the (bad) government which they had endured, and the emoluments of the multitude of (smaller) officers were doubled.'(The king then) crossed the Ho, and proceeded to the west. His horses were set free on the south of mount Hwa, not to be yoked again. His oxen were dispersed in the wild of the Peach forest, not to be put to the carriages again. His chariots and coats of mail were smeared with blood, and despatched to his arsenals, not to be used again. The shields and spears were turned upside down and conveyed away, wrapped in tiger skins, which were styled "the appointed cases." The leaders and commanders were then constituted feudal lords; and it was known throughout the kingdom that king Wu would have recourse to weapons of war no more 8.

'The army having been disbanded (the king commanded) a practice of archery at the colleges in suburbs. At the college on the left (or east) they shot to the music of the Li-shau 9; at that on the right (or west) they shot to the music of the Sau-yu; and (from this time) the archery which consisted in going through (so many) buffcoats ceased. They wore (only) their civil robes and caps, with their ivory tokens of rank stuck in their girdles; and the officers of the guard put off their swords. (The king) offered sacrifice in the Hall of Distinctions, and the people learned to be filial. He gave audiences at court, and the feudal lords knew how they ought to demean themselves. He ploughed in the field set apart for that purpose, and the lords learned what should be the object of reverence to them (in their states). These five things constituted great lessons for the whole kingdom.'

In feasting the three (classes of the) old and the five (classes of the) experienced in the Great college, he himself (the son of Heaven) had his breast bared and cut up the animals. He (also) presented to them the condiments and the cups. He wore the royal cap, and stood with a shield before him. In this way he taught the lords their brotherly duties.

'In this manner the ways of Kau penetrated everywhere, and the interaction of ceremonies and music was established;--is it not right that in the performance of the Wu there should be that gradual and long-continuing action 10?'

A superior man says: 'Ceremonies and music should not for a moment be neglected by any one. When one has mastered completely (the principles of) music, and regulates his heart and mind accordingly, the natural, correct, gentle, and honest heart is easily developed, and with this development of the heart comes joy. This joy goes on to a feeling of repose. This repose is long-continued. The man in this constant repose becomes (a sort of) Heaven. Heaven-like, (his action) is spirit-like. Heaven-like, he is believed without the use of words. Spirit-like, he is regarded with awe, without any display of rage. So it is, when one by his mastering of music regulates his mind and heart.

'When one has mastered completely (the principle of) ceremonies so as to regulate his person accordingly, he becomes grave and reverential. Grave and reverential, he comes to be regarded with awe. If the heart be for a moment without the feeling of harmony and joy, meanness and deceitfulness enter it. If the outward demeanour be for a moment without gravity and respectfulness, indifference and rudeness show themselves.

'Therefore the sphere in which music acts is the interior of man, and that of ceremonies is his exterior. The result of music is a perfect harmony, and that of ceremonies a perfect observance (of propriety). When one's inner man is (thus) harmonious, and his outer man thus docile, the people behold his countenance and do not strive with him; they look to his demeanour, and no feeling of indifference or rudeness arises in them. Thus it is that when virtue shines and acts within (a superior), the people are sure to accept (his rule), and hearken to him; and when the principles of (propriety) are displayed in his conduct, the people are sure (in the same way) to accept and obey him. Hence it is said, "Carry out perfectly ceremonies and music, and give them their outward manifestation and application, and under heaven nothing difficult to manage will appear."

Music springs from the inward movements (of the soul); ceremonies appear in the outward movements (of the body). Hence it is the rule to make ceremonies as few and brief as possible, and to give to music its fullest development. This rule for ceremonies leads to the forward exhibition of them, and therein their beauty resides; that for music leads to the introspective consideration of it, and therein its beauty resides. If ceremonies demanding this condensation were not performed with this forward exhibition of them, they would almost disappear altogether; if music, demanding this full development, were not accompanied with this introspection, it would produce a dissipation of the mind. Thus it is that to every ceremony there is its proper response, and for music there is its introspection. When ceremonies are responded to, there arises pleasure; and when music is accompanied with the right introspection, there arises the (feeling of) repose. The responses of ceremony and the introspection of music spring from one and the same idea, and have one and the same object.

Now music produces pleasure;--what the nature of man cannot be without. That pleasure must arise from the modulation of the sounds, and have its embodiment in the movements (of the body);--such is the rule of humanity. These modulations and movements are the changes required by the nature, and they are found complete in music. Thus men will not be without the ministration of pleasure, and pleasure will not be without its embodiment, but if that embodiment be not suitably conducted, it is impossible that disorder should not arise. The ancient kings, feeling that they would feel ashamed (in the event of such disorder arising), appointed the tunes and words of the Ya and the Sung to guide (in the music), so that its notes should give sufficient pleasure, without any intermixture of what was bad, while the words should afford sufficient material for consideration without causing weariness; and the bends and straight courses, the swell and diminution, the sharp angles, and soft melody throughout all its parts, should be sufficient to stir up in the minds of the hearers what was good in them, without inducing any looseness of thought or depraved air to be suggested. Such was the plan of the ancient kings when they framed their music.

Therefore in the ancestral temple, rulers and ministers, high and low, listen together to the music, and all is harmony and reverence; at the district and village meetings of the heads of clans, old and young listen together to it, and all is harmony and deference. Within the gate of the family, fathers and sons, brothers and cousins, listen together to it, and all is harmony and affection. Thus in music there is a careful discrimination (of the voices) to blend them in unison so as to bring out their harmony; there is a union of the (various) instruments to give ornamental effect to its different parts; and these parts are combined and performed so as to complete its elegance. In this way fathers and sons, rulers and subjects are united in harmony, and the people of the myriad states are associated in love. Such was the method of the ancient kings when they framed their music.

In listening to the singing of the Ya and the Sung, the aims and thoughts receive an expansion. From the manner in which the shields and axes are held and brandished, and from the movements of the body in the practice with them, now turned up, now bent down, now retiring, now stretching forward, the carriage of the person receives gravity. From the way in which (the pantomimes) move to their several places, and adapt themselves to the several parts (of the performance), the arrangement of their ranks is made correct, and their order in advancing and retiring is secured. In this way music becomes the lesson of Heaven and Earth, the regulator of true harmony, and what the nature of man cannot dispense with.

It was by music that the ancient kings gave elegant expression to their joy; by their armies and axes that they gave the same to their anger. Hence their joy and anger always received their appropriate response. When they were joyful, all under heaven were joyful with them; when they were angry, the oppressive and disorderly feared them. In the ways of the ancient kings, ceremonies and music may be said to have attained perfection 11.

(Once), when Sze-kung had an interview with the music-master Yi, he asked him, saying, 'I have heard that in the music and words belonging to it there is that which is specially appropriate to every man; what songs are specially appropriate to me?' The other replied, 'I am but a poor musician, and am not worthy to be asked what songs are appropriate for particular individuals;--allow me to repeat to you what I have heard, and you can select for yourself (what is appropriate to you). The generous and calm, the mild and correct, should sing the Sung; the magnanimous and calm, and those of wide penetration and sincere, the Ta Ya (Major Odes of the Kingdom); the courteous and self-restraining, the lovers of the rules of propriety, the Hsiao Ya (Minor Odes of the Kingdom); the correct, upright, and calm, the discriminating and humble, the Fang (Airs of the States); the determinedly upright, but yet gentle and loving, the Shang; and the mild and honest, but yet capable of decision, the Khi. The object of this singing is for one to make himself right, and then to display his virtue. When he has thus put himself in a condition to act, Heaven and Earth respond to him, the four seasons revolve in harmony with him, the stars and constellations observe their proper laws, and all things are nourished and thrive.

'What are called the Shang 12 were airs and words transmitted from the five Tis; and having been remembered by the people of Shang, we call them the Shang. What are called the Khi were transmitted from the three dynasties; and having been remembered by the people of Khi, we call them the Khi. He who is versed in the airs of the Shang will generally be found to manifest decision in the conduct of affairs. He who is versed in the airs of the Khi, when he is attracted by the prospect of profit, will yet give place to others. To manifest decision in the conduct of affairs is bravery; to give place to others in the prospect of gain is righteousness. Who, without singing these songs, can assure himself that he will always preserve such bravery and righteousness?

'In singing, the high notes rise as if they were borned aloft; the low descend as if they were falling to the ground; the turns resemble a thing broken off; and the finale resembles (the breaking) of a willow tree; emphatical notes seem made by the square; quavers are like the hook (of a spear); and those prolonged on the same key are like pearls strung together. Hence, singing means the prolonged expression of the words; there is the utterance of the words, and when the simple utterance is not sufficient, the prolonged expression of them. When that prolonged expression is not sufficient, there come the sigh and exclamation. When these are insufficient, unconsciously there come the motions of the hands and the stamping of the feet 13.'(Such was the answer to) Sze-kung's question about music 14.


1. There is extravagance in this description. The Great man is the sage upon the throne. The imagination of the eloquent writer runs riot as he dwells on the article of his creed, that 'Heaven, Earth, and Man' are the 'Three Powers (三才),' intended by their harmonious co-operation to make a happy and flourishing world. That would indeed be wonderful music which should bring about such a result. Compare the words of the Hebrew prophet in Hosea ii. 21, 22. Callery's translation of the concluding clause is:--'Tout cela n'est autre chose que l'harmonie de la musique rejaillissant (sous tous les êtres de la nature).'

2. Which was distinguished for the plain simplicity of its observances.

3. With this ends the seventh chapter, called Yo Khing (樂情), 'The attributes of Music.'

4. The marquis Wan ruled in Wei from B.C. 425 to 387. He is said to have received the classical books from Dze-hsiâ, when that disciple of Confucius must have been a hundred years old, and was blind, in B.C. 407.

5. These are names of musical instruments, of which figures are given in the plates to the Khien-lung edition; but there is much uncertainty about them.

6. With this fifteenth paragraph ends the eighth chapter of the Book called simply 'Marquis Wan of Wei's Chapter' (魏文侯章); and the Khien-lung editors say nothing more about it.

7. Pin-mâu Kiâ must have been a scholar of Confucius' time, a master of music; but, so far as I have read, nothing is known about him beyond what appears here. The Khang Hung at the end of the paragraph was a historiographer of Kâu, with whom Confucius is said to have studied music. The Wû was the dance and music which king Wû is said to have made after his conquest of Shang or Yin.

8. See the account of all these proceedings after the victory of Mu in the Shu, V, iii, 9, though it is difficult to reconcile the two accounts in some of their details.

9. See the Kau Li, Book 22, 32. The ode Li-shau was used at the archery celebrations of the feudal lords, and is now lost. The Sau-yu is the last ode in the second Book of the Shih, Part I. It was used at contests where the king presided.

10. The preceding seven paragraphs form the ninth chapter, which, like the former, simply bears the name of one of the parties in it, and is called 'The chapter of Pin-mau Kia.'

11. From paragraph 23 to this forms the tenth chapter of the Book, which has the name of Yo Hwa (樂化), 'The Transforming Operation of Music,' supplementing and summarising all the previous chapters.

12. All the other pieces of song mentioned in the preceding paragraph are well known, as the divisions under which the odes of the Shih King are arranged. What are called the Shang and Khi are lost, but some account of them is given in this paragraph. When it is said that the people of Shang remembered the airs and poetry of the five Tis, we must understand by Shang the duchy of Sung, which was ruled by the representation of the line of the Shang kings. Why the state of Khi should have remembered the airs and songs of 'the three dynasties' more than any other state, I cannot tell.

13. On this passage, P. Callery says:--'Quoique, a la rigueur, on puisse comparer des airs a des objets, ou a des accidents materiels, comme nous disons de tel motif musical qu'il est "Large," "Sec," "Dur," etc., il faut avouer que les comparaisons adptees par l'artiste Chinois sont, en general, fort mauvaises, c'est une amplification gatee de ce qu'il a dit plus haut.'

14. This and the two proceeding paragraphs form the eleventh chapter of the Book, the last of those of which the text has been preserved. It is called, 'Questions of Sze-kung about Music.'

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