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Section 1.

I. The king, on succeeding to the throne, did not follow (the advice of) -hang 2. (-hang or) Î Yin then made the following writing 3:--'The former king kept his eye continually on the bright requirements of Heaven, and so he maintained the worship of the spirits of heaven and earth, of those presiding over the land and the grain, and of those of the ancestral temple;--all with a sincere reverence.* Heaven took notice of his virtue, and caused its great appointment to light on him, that he should soothe and tranquillize the myriad regions.* I, Yin, then gave my assistance to my sovereign in the settlement of the people; and thus it is that you, O heir-king, have received the great inheritance. I have seen it myself in Hsiâ with its western capital 4, that when its rulers went through a prosperous course to the end, their ministers also did the same, and afterwards, when their successors could not attain to such a consummation, neither did their ministers. Take warning, O heir-king. Reverently use your sovereignty. If you do not play the sovereign, as the name requires, you will disgrace your grandfather.'

The king would not think (of these words), nor listen to them. On this Î Yin said, 'The former king, before it was light, sought to have large and clear views, and then sat waiting for the dawn (to carry them into practice). He (also) sought on every side for men of ability and virtue, to instruct and guide his posterity. Do not frustrate his charge (to me), and bring on yourself your own overthrow. Be careful to strive after the virtue of self-restraint, and cherish far-reaching plans. Be like the forester, who, when he has adjusted the spring, goes to examine the end of the arrow, whether it be placed according to rule, and then lets go; reverently determine your aim, and follow the ways of your grandfather. Thus I shall be delighted, and be able to show to all ages that I have discharged my trust.'

The king was not yet able to change (his course). Î Yin said (to himself), 'This is (real) unrighteousness, and is becoming by practice (a second) nature. I cannot bear to be near (so) disobedient (a person). I will build (a place) in the palace at Thung 5, where he can be in silence near (the grave of) the former king. This will be a lesson which will keep him from going astray all his life.' The king went (accordingly) to the palace at Thung, and dwelt during the period of mourning. In the end he became sincerely virtuous.

Section 2.

On the first day of the twelfth month of his third year, Î Yin escorted the young king in the royal cap and robes back to Po. (At the same time) he made the following writing:-- 'Without the sovereign, the people cannot have that guidance which is necessary to (the comfort of) their lives; without the people, the sovereign would have no sway over the four quarters (of the kingdom). Great Heaven has graciously favoured the House of Shang, and granted to you, O young king, at last to become virtuous.* This is indeed a blessing that will extend without limit to ten thousand generations.'

The king did obeisance with his face to his hands and his head to the ground, saying, 'I, the little child, was without understanding of what was virtuous, and was making myself one of the unworthy. By my desires I was setting at nought all rules of conduct, and violating by my self-indulgence all rules of propriety, and the result must have been speedy ruin to my person. Calamities sent by Heaven may be avoided, but from calamities brought on by one's self there is no escape." Heretofore I turned my back on the instructions of you, my tutor and guardian;--my beginning has been marked by incompetency. Let me still rely on your correcting and preserving virtue, keeping this in view that my end may be good!"

Î Yin did obeisance with his face to his hands and his head on the ground, and said, 'To cultivate his person, and by being sincerely virtuous, bring (all) below to harmonious concord with him;--this is the work of the intelligent sovereign. The former king was kind to the distressed and suffering, as if they were his children, and the people submitted to his commands,--all with sincere delight. Even in the states of the neighbouring princes, (the people) said, "We are waiting for our sovereign; when our sovereign comes, we shall not suffer the punishments (that we now do)." 'O king, zealously cultivate your virtue. Regard (the example of) your meritorious grandfather. At no time allow yourself in pleasure and idleness. In worshipping your ancestors, think how you can prove your filial piety;* in receiving your ministers, think how you can show yourself respectful; in looking to what is distant, try to get clear views; have your ears ever open to lessons of virtue;--then shall I acknowledge (and respond to) the excellence of your majesty with an untiring (devotion to your service).

Section 3.

Î Yin again made an announcement to the king, saying, 'Oh! Heaven has no (partial) affection;--only to those who are reverent does it show affection.* The people are not constant to those whom they cherish;--they cherish (only) him who is benevolent. The spirits do not always accept the sacrifices that are offered to them;--they accept only the sacrifices of the sincere.* A place of difficulty is the Heaven-(conferred) seat. When there are (those) virtues, good government is realized; when they are not, disorder comes. To maintain the same principles as those who secured good government will surely lead to prosperity; to pursue the courses of disorder will surely lead to ruin. He who at last, as at first, is careful as to whom and what he follows is a truly intelligent sovereign. The former king was always zealous in the reverent cultivation of his virtue, so that he was the fellow of God 6.* Now. O king, you have entered on the inheritance of his excellent line;--fix your inspection on him.'

'(Your course must be) as when in ascending high you begin from where it is low, and when in travelling far you begin from where it is near. Do not slight--the occupations of the people;--think of their difficulties. Do not yield to a feeling of repose on your throne;--think of its perils. Be careful for the end at the beginning. When you hear words that are distasteful to your mind, you must enquire whether they be not right; when you hear words that accord with your own views, you must enquire whether they be not contrary to what is right. Oh! what attainment can be made without anxious thought? what achievement can be made without earnest effort? Let the One man be greatly good, and the myriad regions will be rectified by him.'

'When the sovereign does not with disputatious words throw the old rules of government into confusion, and the minister does not, for favour and gain, continue in an office whose work is done,--then the country will lastingly and surely enjoy happiness.'


1. THIS Book also belongs to the class of 'Lessons or Instructions,' and is called 'the Thâi Kiâ,' because the Instructions were addressed to the young monarch so named. It is divided into three sections or parts. Î Yin finds the young sovereign disobedient to his counsels, and proceeds to a high-handed measure. He removes him from his palace and companions, and keeps him in a sort of easy confinement, near the grave of his grandfather, all the period of mourning; and Thâi Kiâ becomes sincerely penitent and virtuous. This is related in the first section. In the second, Î Yin brings the king back with honour to Po, to undertake the duties of the government, and congratulates him on his reformation. The king responds suitably, and asks the minister to continue to afford him his counsels, which the other at once proceeds to do. The third section is all occupied with further and important counsels.

2. A-hang, it is said by Sze-mâ Khien, was the name of Î. Others make it the title of the chief minister under the dynasty of Shang, = 'the Support and Steelyard,' 'the Buttress and Director.'

3. This is the first direct statement in the Shû of a communication made in writing.

4. An-yî, the capital of Hsiâ, might be described as 'western,' from the standpoint of Po.

5. Thung was the place where Thang's tomb was; probably in the present district of Yung-ho, department of Phû-kâu, Shan-hsî. The site or supposed site of the grave there was washed away in an overflow of the Fân river under the Yüan dynasty, and a stone coffin was removed to another position, near which a royal tomb has been built.

6. This phrase is used, as here, with reference to the virtue of a sovereign, making him as it were the mate of God, ruling on earth as He rules above; and with reference to the honours paid to a departed sovereign, when he is associated with God in the great sacrificial services.

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