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1Sacrifices should not be frequently repeated. Such frequency is indicative of importunateness; and importunateness is inconsistent with reverence. Nor should they be at distant intervals. Such infrequency is indicative of indifference; and indifference leads to forgetting them altogether. Therefore the superior man, in harmony with the course of Heaven, offers the sacrifices of spring 2 and autumn. When he treads on the dew which has descended as hoar-frost he cannot help a feeling of sadness, which arises in his mind, and cannot be ascribed to the cold. In spring, when he treads on the ground, wet with the rains and dews that have fallen heavily, he cannot avoid being moved by a feeling as if he were seeing his departed friends. We meet the approach of our friends with music, and escort them away with sadness, and hence at the sacrifice in spring we use music, but not at the sacrifice in autumn.

The severest vigil and purification is maintained and carried on inwardly; while a looser vigil is maintained externally. During the days of such vigil, the mourner thinks of his departed, how and where they sat, how they smiled and spoke, what were their aims and views, what they delighted in, and what things they desired and enjoyed. On the third day of such exercise he will see those for whom it is employed.

On the day of sacrifice, when he enters the apartment (of the temple), he will seem to see (the deceased) in the place (where his spirit-tablet is). After he has moved about (and performed his operations), and is leaving at the door, he will seem to be arrested by hearing the sound of his movements, and will sigh as he seems to hear the sound of his sighing.

Thus the filial piety taught by the ancient kings required that the eyes of the son should not forget the looks (of his parents), nor his ears their voices; and that he should retain the memory of their aims, likings, and wishes. As he gave full play to his love, they seemed to live again; and to his reverence, they seemed to stand out before him. So seeming to live and stand out, so unforgotten by him, how could his sacrifices be without the accompaniment of reverence?

The superior man, while (his parents) are alive, reverently nourishes them; and, when they are dead, he reverently sacrifices to them;--his (chief) thought is how to the end of life not to disgrace them. The saying that the superior man mourns all his life for his parents has reference to the recurrence of the day of their death. That he does not do his ordinary work on that day does not mean that it would be unpropitious to do so; it means that on that day his thoughts are occupied with them, and he does not dare to occupy himself as on other days with his private and personal affairs.

It is only the sage 3 who can sacrifice to God, and (only) the filial son who can sacrifice to his parents. Sacrificing means directing one's self to. The son directs his thoughts (to his parents), and then he can offer his sacrifice (so that they shall enjoy it). Hence the filial son approaches the personator of the departed without having occasion to blush; the ruler leads the victim forward, while his wife puts down the bowls; the ruler presents the offerings to the personator, while his wife sets forth the various dishes; his ministers and Great officers assist the ruler, while their acknowledged wives assist his wife. How well sustained was their reverence! How complete was the expression of their loyal devotion! How earnest was their wish that the departed should enjoy the service!

King Wan, in sacrificing, served the dead as if he were serving the living. He thought of them dead as if he did not wish to live (any longer himself) 4. On the recurrence of their death-day, he was sad; in calling his father by the name elsewhere forbidden, he looked as if he saw him. So sincere was he in sacrificing that he looked as if he saw the things which his father loved, and the pleased expression of his face:--such was king Wan! The lines of the ode (II, v, ode 2),might be applied to king Wang. On the day after the sacrifice, when the day broke, he did not sleep, but hastened to repeat it; and after it was finished, he still thought of his parents. On the day of sacrifice his joy and sorrow were blended together. He could not but rejoice in the opportunity of offering the sacrifice; and when it was over, he could not but be sad.

At the autumnal sacrifice, when Kung-ni advanced, bearing the offerings, his general appearance was indicative of simple sincerity, but his steps were short and oft repeated. When the sacrifice was over, Sze-kung questioned him, saying, 'Your account of sacrificing was that it should be marked by the dignity and intense absorption of all engaged in it; and now how is it that in your sacrificing there has been no such dignity and absorption?'The Master said, 'That dignity of demeanour should belong to those who are only distantly connected (with him who is sacrificed to), and that absorbed demeanour to one whose thoughts are turned in on himself (lest he should make any mistake). But how should such demeanour consist with communion with the spirits (sacrificed to)? How should such dignity and absorption be seen in my sacrifice? (At the sacrifices of the king and rulers) there is the return of the personator to his apartment, and the offering of food to him there; there are the performances of the music, and the setting forth of the stands with the victims on them; there are the ordering of the various ceremonies and the music; and there is the complete array of ther officers for all the services. When they are engaged in the maintenance of that dignity and absorption in their duties, how can they be lost in their abandonment in intercourse with the spiritual presences? Should words be understood only in one way? Each saying has its own appropriate application.'

When a filial son is about to sacrifice, he is anxious that all preparations should be made beforehand; and when the time arrives, that everything necessary should be found complete; and then, with a mind free from all pre-occupation, he should address himself to the performance of his sacrifice.The temple and its apartments having been repaired, the walls and roofs having been put in order, and all the assisting officers having been provided, husband and wife, after vigil and footing, bathe their heads and persons, and array themselves in full dress. In coming in with the things which they carry, how grave and still are they! how absorbed in what they do! as if they were not able to sustain their weight, as if they would let them fall:--Is not theirs the highest filial reverence? He sets forth the stands with the victims on them; arranges all the ceremonies and music; provides the officers for the various ministries. These aid in sustaining and bringing in the things, and thus he declares his mind and wish, and in his lost abstraction of mind seeks to have communion with the dead in their spiritual state, if peradventure they will enjoy his offerings, if peradventure they will do so. Such is the aim of the filial son (in his sacrifice)!

The filial son, in sacrificing, seems never able to exhaust his earnest purpose, his sincerity, and reverence. He observes every rule, without transgression or short-coming. His reverence appears in his movements of advancing and retiring, as if he were hearing the orders (of his parents), or as if they were perhaps directing him.

What the sacrifice of a filial son should be can be known. While he is standing (waiting for the service to commence), he should be reverent, with his body somewhat bent; while he is engaged in carrying forward the service, he should be reverent, with an expression of pleasure; when he is presenting the offerings, he should be reverent, with an expression of desire. He should then retire and stand, as if he were about to receive orders; when he has removed the offerings and (finally) retires, the expression of reverent gravity should continue to be worn on his face. Such is the sacrifice of a filial son.To stand without any inclination of the body would show insensibility; to carry the service forward without an expression of pleasure would show indifference; to present the offerings without an expression of desire (that they may be enjoyed) would show a want of love; to retire and stand without seeming to expect to receive orders would show pride; to retire and stand, after the removal of the offerings, without an expression of reverent gravity would show a forgetfulness of the parent to whom he owes his being. A sacrifice so conducted would be wanting in its proper characteristics.

A filial son, cherishing a deep love (for his parents), is sure to have a bland air; having a bland air, he will have a look of pleasure; having a look of pleasure, his demeanour will be mild and compliant. A filial son will move as if he were carrying a jade symbol, or bearing a full vessel. Still and grave, absorbed in what he is doing, he will seem as if he were unable to sustain the burden, and in danger of letting it fall. A severe gravity and austere manner are not proper to the service of parents;--such is the manner of a full-grown man.

There were five things by means of which the ancient kings secured the good government of the whole kingdom:--the honour which they paid to the virtuous; to the noble; and to the old; the reverence which they showed to the aged; and their kindness to the young. It was by these five things that they maintained the stability of the kingdom.Why did they give honour to the virtuous? Because of their approximation to the course of duty 5. They did so to the noble because of their approximation to the position of the ruler; and to the old because of their approximation to that of parents. They showed reverence to the aged, because of their approximation to the position of elder brothers; and kindness to the young, because of their approximation to the position of sons.

Therefore he who is perfectly filial approximates to be king, and he who is perfectly fraternal approximates to being presiding chieftain. He who is perfectly filial approximates to being king, for even the son of Heaven had the father (whom he must revere); and he who is perfectly fraternal approximates to being presiding chieftain, for even a feudal lord had his elder brothers (or cousins), (whom he must obey). The observance of the lessons of the ancient kings, without admitting any change in them, was the way by which they united and kept together the kingdom with its states and families 6.

The Master said, 'The laying the foundation of (all) love in the love of parents teaches people concord. The laying the foundation of (all) reverence in the reverence of elders teaches the people obedience. When taught loving harmony, they people set the (proper) value on their parents; when taught to reverence their superiors, they people set the (proper) value in obeying the orders given to them. Filial piety in the service of parents, and obedience in the discharge of orders can be displayed throughout the kingdom, and they will everywhere take effect.

At (the time of) the border sacrifice (to Heaven), those who are engaged in funeral rites do not dare to wail, and those who are wearing mourning do not dare to enter the gate of the capital;--this is the highest expression of reverence.

On the day of sacrifice, the ruler led the victim forward, along with and assisted by his son on the opposite side; while the Great officers followed in order. When they had entered the gate of the temple, they fastened the victim to the stone pillar. The ministers and Great officers then bared their arms, and proceeded to inspect the hair, paying particular attention to that of the ears. They then with the knife with the bells attached to it, cut it open, took out the fat about the inwards, and withdrew (for a time 7). Afterwards they offered some of the flesh boiled, and some raw, then (finally) withdrawing. There was the highest reverence about everything.

The sacrifice in the suburb of the capital was the great expression of gratitude to Heaven, and it was specially addressed to the sun, with which the moon was associated 8. The sovereigns of Hsia presented it in the dark. Under the Yin dynasty they did so at noon. Under the Kau they sacrificed all the day, especially at daybreak, and towards evening.

They sacrificed to the sun on the altar, and to the moon in the hollow;--to mark the distinction between (the) gloom (of the one) and (the) brightness (of the other), and to show the difference between the high and the low. They sacrificed to the sun in the east, and to the moon in the west;--to mark the distinction between (the) forthcoming (of the former) and (the) withdrawing (of the latter), and to show the correctness of their (relative) position. The sun comes forth from the east, and the moon appears in the west; the darkness and the light are now long, now short; when the one ends, the other begins, in regular succession:--thus producing the harmony of all under the sky' 9.

The rites to be observed by all under heaven were intended to promote the return (of the mind) to the beginning (= Creator of all); to promote (the honouring of) spiritual Beings; to promote the harmonious use (of all resources and appliances) of government; to promote righteousness; and to promote humility. They promote the return to the beginning, securing the due consideration of their originator. They promote (the honouring) of spiritual Beings, securing the giving honour to superiors. They promote the (proper) use of all resources, thereby establishing the regulations (for the well-being of) the people. They promote righteousness, and thus there are no oppositions and conflictings between high and low. They promote humility, in order to prevent occasions of strife. Let these five things be united through the rites for the regulation of all under heaven, and though there may be some extravagant and perverse who are not kept in order, they will be few.


1. See the introduction, vol. xxvii, pages 36, 37.

2. The spring sacrifice is here called tî (禘), probably by mistake for yo (禴), the proper name for it.

3. According to rule, and in fact, only the sovereign sacrifices to God. He may be 'a sage,' but more frequently is not. But the ritual in China should impress on him, as on no other person, the truth in the words 'noblesse oblige.'

4. Khan Hao says here:--'As if he wished to die himself and follow them.'

5. P. Callery translates this by--'Parce qu'ils sont proche de la verite,' saying in a note:--'According to the Chinese philosophers, they understand by teh (德) that which man has obtained by his own efforts or the virtue he has acquired, and by tao (道) that which all men should be striving to reach, what is suitable, what is in order, or virtue in the abstract. Now, as I think, there is nothing but truth which satisfies these conditions, for, according to the Christian philosophy, God Himself is the truth,' &c. Zottoli's translation is 'Quia hi appropinquant ad perfectionem.'

6. The sequence in the writer's mind in this paragraph almost eludes my discovery; it does so still more in the translation of it by Callery and Zottoli.

7. They withdrew for a time, 'to offer the hair and blood.'

8. This sentence is translated by Zottoli:--'Coeli sacrificio summe rependitur coelum sed potissimum intenditur sol, consociatus cum luna.' Callery says:--'Le sacrifice qu'on offre dans la campagne est un acte de grande reconnaissance envers le ciel, et principalement envers le soleil, auquel on associe la lune.'

Here, again, nature-worship seems to crop up. Khan Hao says on the passage:--'Heaven is the great source of tao (the course of nature and duty), and of all the visible bodies which it hangs out, there are none greater then the sun and moon. Therefore, while the object of the suburban sacrifice was a grateful acknowledgment of Heaven, the sun was chosen as the resting-place for its spirit (or spirits). The idea in the institution of the rite was deep and far-reaching.' It must be borne in mind that the rites described in the text are those of former dynasties, especially of that of Kau. I cannot bring to mind any passages in which there is mention made of any sacrifice to the sun or sun-spirit in connexion with the great sacrifice to Heaven, or Shang Ti, at the service on the day of the winter solstice in the southern suburb.

9. The sacrifices in this paragraph are those at the equinoxes; that to the sun at the vernal in the eastern suburb, and that to the moon at the autumnal in the western suburb. They are still maintained. See the ritual of the present dynasty (大清通禮) Book VIII, where the former is called 朝日, and the latter 夕月.

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