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1What the Great Learning teaches, is to illustrate illustrious virtue; to love the people 2; and to rest in the highest excellence.The point where to rest being known, the object of pursuit is then determined; and, that being determined, a calm unperturbedness may be attained to. To that calmness there will succeed a tranquil repose. In that repose there will be careful deliberation, and that deliberation will be followed by the attainment (of the desired end).Things have their root and their branches; affairs have their end and their beginning. To know what is first and what is last will lead near to what is taught (in the Great Learning).

The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge.

The extension of knowledge is by the investigation of things 3.

Things being investigated, their knowledge became complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated. Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy. From the son of Heaven down to the multitudes of the people, all considered the cultivation of the person to be the root (of everything besides). It cannot be, when the root is neglected, that what should spring from it will be well ordered. It never has been the case that what was of great importance has been slightly cared for, and at the same time what was of slight importance has been greatly cared for 4. This is called 'knowing the root,' this is called 'the perfection of knowledge.'

What is called 'making the thoughts sincere' is the allowing no self-deception;--as when we hate a bad smell and love what is beautiful, naturally and without constraint. Therefore the superior man must be watchful over himself when he is alone. There is no evil to which the small man, dwelling retired, will not proceed; but when he sees a superior man, he tries to disguise himself, concealing his evil, and displaying what is good. The other beholds him as if he saw his heart and reins;--of what use (is his disguise)? This is an instance of the saying, 'What truly is within will be manifested without.' Therefore the superior man must be watchful over himself when he is alone.

Zang-dze said, 'What ten eyes behold, what ten hands point to, is to be regarded with reverence 5. (As) riches adorn a house, so virtue adorns the person. When the mind becomes enlarged, the body appears at ease. Therefore the superior man is sure to make his thoughts sincere.

It is said in the Book of Poetry (I, v, ode 1, 1), (That expression), 'as knife and file make smooth the bone,' indicates the effect of learning. 'Like jade by chisel wrought and stone' indicates that of self-culture. 'Grave and of dignity serene' indicates the feeling of cautious reverence. 'With force of will as plainly seen' indicates an awe-inspiring deportment. (The lines),indicate how when virtue is complete, and excellence extreme, the people cannot forget them.

It is said in the Book of Poetry (IV, i, ode 4),Superior men deem worthy whom they deemed worthy, and love whom they loved. The inferior people delight in what they delighted in, and are benefited by their beneficial arrangements. It is on this account that the former kings, after they have quitted the world, are not forgotten.

It is said in the Announcement to the Prince of Khang (Shû, V, ix, 3),'He was able to make his virtue illustrious.'It is said in the Thâi Kiâ, 'He kept his eye continually on the bright requirements of Heaven' (Shû, III, v, sect. 1, 2).It is said in the Canon of the Tî (Yâo), 'He was able to make illustrious his lofty virtue' (Shû, I, 2).These (passages) all show how (those sovereigns) made themselves illustrious.

On the bathing-tub of Thang 6, the following words were engraved, 'If you can one day renovate yourself, do so from day to day. Yea, daily renovate yourself.'In the Announcement to the Prince of Khang it is said, 'Stir up the new people' (Shû, V, ix, 7).In the Book of Poetry it is said (III, i, 1, 1),Therefore the superior man in everything uses his utmost endeavours 7.

It is said in the Book of Poetry (IV, iii, 3),And in another place (II, viii, i),The Master said, 'Yes, it rests; it knows where to rest. Can one be a man, and yet not equal (in this respect) to this bird?'

It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, i, 1, 4),As a ruler, he rested in benevolence; as a minister, he rested in respect; as a son, he rested in filial piety; as a father, he rested in kindness; in intercourse with his subjects, he rested in good faith.

The Master said, 'In hearing litigations, I am like any other body.' What is necessary is to cause the people to have no litigations, so that those who are devoid of truth shall find it impossible to carry out their speeches, and a great awe be struck into the minds of the people.

This is called 'knowing the root 8.'

What is meant by 'The cultivation of the person depends on the rectifying of the mind' (may be thus illustrated):--If a man be under the influence of anger, his conduct will not be correct. The same will be the case, if he be under the influence of terror, or of fond regard, or of sorrow and distress. When the mind is not present, we look and do not see; we hear and do not understand; we eat and do not know the taste of what we eat. This is what is meant by saying that 'the cultivation of the person depends on the rectifying of the mind.'

What is meant by 'The regulation of the family depends on the cultivation of the person' is this:--Men are partial where they feel affection and love; partial where they despise and dislike; partial where they stand in awe and with a feeling of respect; partial where they feel sorrow and compassion; partial where they are arrogant and rude. Thus it is that there are few men in the world who love and at the same time know the bad qualities (of the object of their love), or who hate and yet know the good qualities (of the object of their hatred). Hence it is said, in the common adage, 'A man does not know the badness of his son; he does not know the richness of his growing corn.' This is what is meant by saying, that 'if his person be not cultivated, a man cannot regulate his family.'

What is meant by 'In order to govern well his state, it is necessary first to regulate his family' is this:--It is not possible for one to teach others while he cannot teach his own family. Therefore the superior man (who governs a state), without going beyond his family, completes the lessons for his state. There is filial piety;--it has its application in the service of the ruler. There is brotherly obedience;--it has its application in the service of elders. There is kindly gentleness;--it has its application in the employment of the multitudes. It is said in the Announcement to the Prince of Khang (Shû, V, ix, 9), '(Deal with the people), as if you were watching over an infant.' If (a mother) be really anxious about it, though she may not hit (exactly the wants of her infant), she will not be far from doing so. There never has been (a girl) who learned (first) to bring up an infant that she might afterwards be married.

From the loving (example) of one family, a whole state may become loving, and from its courtesies, courteous, while from the ambition and perverseness of the One man, the whole state may be thrown into rebellious disorder;--such is the nature of the influence. This is in accordance with the saying, 'Affairs may be ruined by a single sentence; a state may be settled by its One man.'

Yâo and Shun presided over the kingdom with benevolence, and the people followed them. Kieh and Kâu did so with violence, and the people followed them. When the orders of a ruler are contrary to what he himself loves to practise the people do not follow him.

Therefore the ruler must have in himself the (good) qualities, and then he may require them in others; if they are not in himself, he cannot require them in others. Never has there been a man who, not having reference to his own character and wishes in dealing with others, was able effectually to instruct them. Thus we see how 'the government of the state depends on the regulation of the family.'

In the Book of Poetry it is said (I, i, 6, 3),Let the household be rightly ordered, and then the people of the state may be taught.In another ode it is said (II, ii, 9, 3),Let rulers dwell in concord with all their brethren, and then they may teach the people of their states.In a third ode it is said (I, xiv, 3, 3),When the ruler as a father, a son, an elder brother or a younger, is a model for imitation, then the people imitate him. These (passages) show how 'the government of a state depends on the regulation of the family.'

What is meant by 'The making the whole kingdom peaceful and happy depends on the government of its states' is this:--When the superiors behave to their aged as the aged should be behaved to, the people become filial; when they behave to their elders as elders should be behaved to, the people learn brotherly submission; when they treat compassionately the young and helpless, the people do the same. Thus the superior man has a principle with which, as with a measuring square, to regulate his course.

What a man dislikes in his superiors, let him not display in his treatment of his inferiors; and what he dislikes in his inferiors, let him not display in his service of his superiors: what he dislikes in those who are before him, let him not therewith precede those who are behind him; and what he dislikes in those who are behind him, let him not therewith follow those who are before him: what he dislikes to receive on the right, let him not bestow on the left; and what he dislikes to receive on the left, let him not bestow on the right:--this is what is called 'The Principle with which, as with a measuring square, to regulate one's course.'

In the Book of Poetry it is said (II, ii, 7, 3),When (a ruler) loves what the people love, and hates what the people hate, then is he what is called 'The Parent of the People.'

In the Book of Poetry it is said (II, iv, 7, 1),Rulers of states should not neglect to be careful. If they deviate (to a selfish regard only for themselves), they will be counted a disgrace throughout the kingdom.

In the Book of Poetry it is said (III, i, 1, 6),This shows that by gaining the people, the state is gained; and by losing the people, the state is lost.Therefore the ruler should first be careful about his (own) virtue. Possessing virtue will give him the people. Possessing the people will give him the territory. Possessing the territory will give him its wealth. Possessing the wealth, he will have resources for expenditure.Virtue is the root; wealth is the branches. If he make the root his secondary object, and the branches his primary object, he will only quarrel with the people, and teach them rapine. Hence the accumulation of wealth is the way to scatter the people, and the distribution of his wealth is the way to collect the people. Hence (also), when his words go forth contrary to right, they will come back to him in the same way, and wealth got by improper ways will take its departure by the same.

It is said in the Announcement to the Prince of Khang (Shû, V, ix, 2, 3), 'The decree (of Heaven) is not necessarily perpetual.' That is, goodness obtains the decree, and the want of goodness loses it.

In a Book of Khû it is said 9, 'The state of Khû does not consider (such a toy) to be precious. Its good men are what it considers to be precious.'

Fan, the maternal uncle (of duke Wan of Zin), said, 'A fugitive (like you) should not account (that) to be precious. What he should consider precious is the affection due (even) to his (deceased) parent 10.'

It is said in the Speech of (duke Mû of) Khin (Shû, V, xxx, 6, 7), 'Let me have but one minister, plain and sincere, not possessed of other abilities, but with a simple, upright, and at the same time a generous, mind, regarding the talents of others as if they were his own; and when he finds accomplished and perspicacious men, loving them in his heart more than his mouth expresses, and really showing himself able to bear them (and employ them),--such a minister will be able to preserve my sons and grandsons, and other benefits (to the state) may well be expected from him. But if (it be his character), when he finds men of ability, to be jealous of them and hate them; and, when he finds accomplished and perspicacious men, to oppose them, and not allow their advancement, showing himself really not able to bear them,--such a man will not be able to protect my sons and grandsons, and black-haired people; and may he not also be pronounced dangerous (to the state)?'

It is only the truly virtuous man that can send away such a man and banish him, driving him out among the barbarous tribes around, determined not to dwell with him in the Middle states. This is in accordance with the saying, 'It is only the truly virtuous man who can love others or can hate others.'

To see men of worth, and not be able to raise them to office; to raise them to office, but not to do so quickly:--this is treating them with disrespect. To see bad men, and not to be able to remove them; to remove them, but not to do so to a distance:--this is weakness.

To love those whom men hate, and to hate those whom men love:--this is to outrage the natural feeling of men. Calamities are sure to come on him who does so.

Thus we see that the ruler has a great course to pursue. He must show entire self-devotion and sincerity to succeed, and by pride and extravagance he will fail.

There is a great course (also) for the production of wealth. Let the producers be many, and the consumers few. Let there be activity in the production, and economy in the expenditure. Then the wealth will always be sufficient.

The virtuous (ruler) uses his wealth so as to make himself more distinguished. The vicious ruler will accumulate wealth, even though it cost him his life.

Never has there been a case of the superior loving benevolence, and his inferiors not loving righteousness. Never has there been a case where (his inferiors) loved righteousness, and the business (of the superior) has not reached a happy issue. Never has there been a case where the wealth accumulated in the treasuries and arsenals (of such a ruler and people) did not continue to be his.

Mang Hsien-dze 11 said, 'He who keeps his team of horses 12 does not look after fowls and pigs. The family which has its stores of ice 13 does not keep cattle or sheep. The house which possesses a hundred chariots 14 should not keep a grasping minister to gather up all the taxes for it. Than have such a minister, it would be better to have one who would rob it of its revenues.' This is in accordance with the saying, 'In a state gain should not be considered prosperity; its prosperity lies in righteousness.'

When he who presides over a state or a family makes his revenues his chief business, he must be under the influence of some small man. He may consider him to be good; but when such a person is employed in the administration of a state or family, calamities and injuries will befall it together; and though a good man (may take his place), he will not be able to remedy the evil. This illustrates (again) the saying, 'In a state gain should not be considered prosperity; its prosperity should be sought in righteousness.'


1. See the introductory notice, vol. xxvii, pp. 53, 54.

2. The text of the Tâ Hsio, since the labours of Kû Hsî upon it, reads here--'to renovate,' instead of 'to love,' the people. Kû adopted the alteration from Po-shun, called also Ming-tâo, one of his 'masters,' the two brothers Khang; but there is really no authority for it.

3. There is great difficulty in determining the meaning of this short sentence. What Kang and Khung Ying-tâ say on it is unsatisfactory. Kû introduces a long paragraph explaining it from his master Khang;--see Chinese Classics, vol. i, pp. 229, 239.

4. Here ends the first chapter of the Book according to the arrangement of Kû Hsî. He says that it is 'the words of Confucius, handed down by Zang-dze,' all the rest being the commentary of Zang-dze, recorded by his disciples. The sentiments in this chapter are not unworthy of Confucius; but there is no evidence that they really proceeded from him, nor of the other assertions of Kû. See what is said on the subject in the introductory notice.

5. This saying is from Zang-dze; but standing as it does alone and apart, it gives no sanction to the view that the first chapter was handed down by him, or the rest of the Book compiled by his disciples. Rather, the contrary. 'The ten eyes and ten hands,' says Lo Kung-fân, 'indicate all the spirits who know men's inmost solitary thoughts.'

6. A fact not elsewhere noted. But such inscriptions are still common in China.

7. The repeated use of 'new,' 'renovated,' in this paragraph, is thought to justify the change of 'loving the people,' in paragraph 1, to 'renovating the people;' but the object of the renovating here is not the people.

8. It is certainly difficult to see bow paragraphs 13, 14 stand where they do. Lo Kung-fân omits them.

9. The narratives about Khû, Section II, Article 5, in the 'Narratives of the States.' The exact characters of the text are not found in the article, but they might easily arise from what we do find. An officer of Zin is asking Wang-sun Wei, an envoy from Khû, about a famous girdle of that state. The envoy calls it a toy, and gives this answer.

10. See vol. xxvii, page 165, paragraph 19.

11. The worthy minister of Lû, mentioned in vol. xxvii, p. 154, et al. His name was Kung-sun Mieh. Hsien was his posthumous title.

12. An officer who has just attained to be a Great officer, and received from the ruler the carriage of distinction.

13. To be used in sacrificing; but, we may suppose, for other uses as well.

14. A dignitary, possessing an appanage.

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