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3. 五子之歌





Thâi Khang occupied the throne like a personator of the dead 2. By idleness and dissipation he extinguished his virtue, till the black-haired people all wavered in their allegiance. He, however, pursued his pleasure and wanderings without any self-restraint. He went out to hunt beyond the Lo, and a hundred days elapsed without his returning. (On this) Î, the prince of Khiung, taking advantage of the discontent of the people, resisted (his return) on (the south of) the Ho. The (king's) five brothers had attended their mother in following him, and were waiting for him on the north of the Lo; and (when they heard of Î's movement), all full of dissatisfaction, they related the Cautions of the great Yü in the form of songs.

The first said, 'It was the lesson of our great ancestor:-- The people should be cherished, And not looked down upon. The people are the root of a country; The root firm, the country is tranquil. When I look at all under heaven, Of the simple men and simple women, Any one may surpass me. If the One man err repeatedly 3, Should dissatisfaction be waited for till it appears? Before it is seen, it should be guarded against. In my dealing with the millions of the people, I should feel as much anxiety as if I were driving six horses with rotten reins. The ruler of men-- How should he be but reverent (of his duties)?' The second said, 'It is in the Lessons:-- When the palace is a wild of lust, And the country is a wild for hunting; When spirits are liked, and music is the delight; When there are lofty roofs and carved walls;-- The existence of any one of these things Has never been but the prelude to ruin.' The third said, 'There was. the lord of Thâo and Thang 4, Who possessed this region of Kî. Now we have fallen from his ways, And thrown into confusion his rules and laws;-- The consequence is extinction and ruin.' The fourth said, Brightly intelligent was our ancestor, Sovereign of the myriad regions. He had canons, he had patterns, Which he transmitted to his posterity. The standard stone and the equalizing quarter Were in the royal treasury. Wildly have we dropt the clue he gave us, Overturning our temple, and extinguishing our sacrifices.'* The fifth said, 'Oh! whither shall we turn? The thoughts in my breast make me sad. All the people are hostile to us; On whom can we rely? Anxieties crowd together in our hearts; Thick as are our faces, they are covered with blushes. We have not been careful of our virtue; And though we repent, we cannot overtake the past.'


1. This Book ranks in that class of the documents of the Shû which goes by the name of 'Instructions.' Though the form of it be poetical, the subject-matter is derived from the Lessons left by Yü for the guidance of his posterity. Thâi Khang succeeded to his father in B.C. 2188, and his reign continues in chronology to 2160. His character is given here in the introductory chapter. Khiung, the principality of Î who took the field against him, is identified with the sub-department of Tê-Kâu, department Kî-nan, Shan-tung. There is a tradition that Î, at an early period of his life, was lord of a state in the present Ho-nan. This would make his movement against Thâi Khang, 'south of the Ho,' more easy for him. The name of Thâi Khang remains in the district so called of the department Khan-kâu, Ho-nan. There, it is said, he died, having never been able to recross the Ho. In his song the king's first brother deplores how he had lost the affections of the people; the second speaks of his dissolute extravagance; the third mourns his loss of the throne; the fourth deplores his departure from the principles of Yü, and its disastrous consequences; and the fifth is a wail over the miserable condition of them all.

2. The character that here as a verb governs the character signifying 'throne' means properly 'a corpse,' and is often used for the personator of the dead, in the sacrificial services to the dead which formed a large part of the religious ceremonies of the ancient Chinese. A common definition of it is 'the semblance of the spirit,' = the image into which the spirit entered. Thâi Khang was but a personator on the throne, no better than a sham sovereign.

3. Any king, in the person of Yü, may be understood to be the speaker.

4. The lord of Thâo and Thang is Yâo, who was lord of the principalities of Thâo and Thang, but of which first and which last is uncertain, before his accession to the throne. Kî is the Kî Kâu of the Tribute of Yü.

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