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Section 1.

In the spring of the thirteenth year 2 there was a great assembly at Mâng-king 3. The king said, 'Ah! ye hereditary rulers of my friendly states, and all ye my officers, managers of my affairs, hearken clearly to my declaration. 'Heaven and earth is the parent of all creatures; and of all creatures man is the most highly endowed.* The sincerely intelligent (among men) becomes the great sovereign; and the great sovereign is the parent of the people. But now, Shâu, the king of Shang, does not reverence Heaven above, and inflicts calamities on the people below.* Abandoned to drunkenness and reckless in lust, he has dared to exercise cruel oppression. He has extended the punishment of offenders to all their relatives. He has put men into offices on the hereditary principle. He has made it his pursuit to have palaces, towers, pavilions, embankments, ponds, and all other extravagances, to the most painful injury of you, the myriads of the people. He has burned and roasted the loyal and good. He has ripped up pregnant women. Great Heaven was moved with indignation, and charged my deceased father Wan to display its terrors; but (he died) before the work was completed.* 'On this account, I, Fâ, the little child, have by means of you, the hereditary rulers of my friendly states, contemplated the government of Shang; but Shâu has no repentant heart. He sits squatting on his heels, not serving God nor the spirits of heaven and earth, neglecting also the temple of his ancestors, and not sacrificing in it.* The victims and the vessels of millet all become the prey of wicked robbers, and still he says, "The people are mine; the (heavenly) appointment is mine," never trying to correct his contemptuous mind.* 'Heaven, for the help of the inferior people, made for them rulers, and made for them instructors, that they might be able to be aiding to God, and secure the tranquillity of the four quarters (of the kingdom). In regard to who are criminals and who are not, how dare I give any allowance to my own wishes?* '"Where the strength is the same, measure the virtue of the parties; where the virtue is the same, measure their righteousness." Shâu has hundreds of thousands and myriads of officers, but they have hundreds of thousands and myriads of minds; I have (but) three thousand officers, but they have one mind. The iniquity of Shang is full. Heaven gives command to destroy it. If I did not obey Heaven, my iniquity would be as great.* 'I, the little child, early and late am filled with apprehensions. I have received the command of my deceased father Wan; I have offered special sacrifice to God; I have performed the due services to the great earth; and I lead the multitude of you to execute the punishment appointed by Heaven.* Heaven compassionates the people. What the people desire, Heaven will be found to give effect to.* Do you aid me, the One man, to cleanse for ever (all within) the four seas. Now is the time!--It should not be lost.'

Section 2.

On (the day) Wû-wû 4, the king halted on the north of the Ho. When all the princes with their hosts were assembled, the king reviewed the hosts, and made the following declaration:--'Oh! ye multitudes of the west, hearken all to my words. 'I have heard that the good man, doing good, finds the day insufficient; and that the evil man, doing evil, also finds the day insufficient. Now Shâu, the king of Shang, with strength pursues his lawless way. He has driven away the timeworn sires, and cultivates intimacies with wicked men. Dissolute, intemperate, reckless, oppressive, his ministers have become assimilated to him; and they form combinations and contract animosities, and depend on their power to exterminate one another. The innocent cry to Heaven. The odour of such a state is felt on high.* 'Heaven loves the people, and the sovereign should reverently carry out (this mind of) Heaven. Kieh, the sovereign of Hsiâ, would not follow the example of Heaven, but sent forth his poisonous injuries through the states of the kingdom:--Heaven therefore gave its aid to Thang the Successful, and charged him to make an end of the appointment of Hsiâ.* But the crimes of Shâu exceed those of Kieh. He has degraded from office the greatly good man 5; he has behaved with cruel tyranny to his reprover and helper 6. He says that with him is the appointment of Heaven; he says that a reverent care of his conduct is not worth observing; he says that sacrifice is of no use; he says that tyranny is no harm.* The beacon for him to look to was not far off;--it was that king of Hsiâ. It would seem that Heaven is going by means of me to rule the people. My dreams coincide with my divinations; the auspicious omen is double.* My attack on Shang must succeed. 'Shâu has hundreds of thousands and millions of ordinary men, divided in heart and divided in practice;--I have of ministers, able to govern, ten men 7, one in heart and one in practice. Though he has his nearest relatives with him, they are not like my virtuous men. Heaven sees as my people see; Heaven hears as my people hear.* The people are blaming me, the One man, for my delay;--I must now go forward. My military prowess is displayed, and I enter his territories to take the wicked tyrant. My punishment (of evil) will be great, and more glorious than that executed by Thang. Rouse ye, my heroes! Do not think that he is not to be feared;--better think that he cannot be withstood. (His) people stand in trembling awe of him, as if the horns were falling from their heads. Oh! unite your energies, unite your hearts;--so shall you forthwith surely accomplish the work, to last for all ages!'

Section 3.

The time was on the morrow, when the king went round his six hosts in state, and made a clear declaration to all his officers. He said, 'Oh! my valiant men of the west, from Heaven are the illustrious courses of duty, of which the (several) requirements are quite plain. And now Shang, the king of Shâu, treats with contemptuous slight the five regular (virtues), and abandons himself to wild idleness and irreverence. He has cut himself off from Heaven, and brought enmity between himself and the people.* He cut through the leg-bones of those who were wading in the morning 8; he cut out the heart of the worthy man 9. By the use of his power, killing, and murdering, he has poisoned and sickened all within the four seas. His honours and confidence are given to the villainous and bad. He has driven from him his instructors and guardians. He has thrown to the winds the statutes and penal laws. He has imprisoned and enslaved the upright officer 10. He neglects the sacrifices to heaven and earth. He has discontinued the offerings in the ancestral temple. He makes contrivances of wonderful device and extraordinary cunning to please his wife 11.--God will no longer indulge him, but with a curse is sending down on him this ruin.* Do ye with untiring zeal support me, the One man, reverently to execute the punishment appointed by Heaven. The ancients have said, "He who soothes us is our sovereign; he who oppresses us is our enemy." This solitary fellow Shâu, having exercised great tyranny, is your perpetual enemy. (It is said again), "In planting (a man's) virtue, strive to make it great; in putting away (a man's) wickedness, strive to do it from the roots." Here I, the little child, by the powerful help of you, all my officers, will utterly exterminate your enemy. Do you, all my officers, march forward with determined boldness to sustain your prince. Where there is much merit, there shall be large reward; where you do not so advance, there shall be conspicuous disgrace. 'Oh! (the virtue of) my deceased father Wan was like the shining of the sun and moon. His brightness extended over the four quarters of the land, and shone signally in the western region. Hence it is that our Kâu has received (the allegiance of) many states. If I subdue Shâu, it will not be from my prowess, but from the faultless (virtue of) my deceased father Wan. If Shâu subdue me, it will not be from any fault of my deceased father Wan, but because I, the little child, am not good.'


1. KÂU is the dynastic designation under which king Wû and his descendants possessed the throne from B.C. 1122 to 256, a period of 867 years. They traced their lineage up to Khî, who was Minister of Agriculture under Shun. He was invested with the principality of Thâi, the present district of Fû-fang, department of Fang-hsiang, Shen-hsî. Long afterwards Than-fû, claiming to be one of his descendants, appears in B.C. 1326, founding the state of Kâu, near mount Khî, in the same department of Fang-hsiang. This Than-fû was the great-grandfather of king Wû. The family surname was Kî. When the collection of the Shû was complete, it contained thirty-eight different documents of the Kâu dynasty, of which twenty-eight remain, twenty of them being of undisputed genuineness. This first Book, 'the Great Declaration,' is one of the contested portions; and there is another form of it, that takes the place of this in some editions. It has appeared in the Introduction that the received text of the Shû was formed with care, and that everything of importance in the challenged Books is to be found in quotations from them, while the collection was complete, that have been gathered up by the industry of scholars. King Wû, having at last taken the field against Kâu-hsin, the tyrant of Shang, made three speeches to his officers and men, setting forth the reasons for his enterprise, and urging them to exert themselves with him in the cause of humanity and Heaven. They are brought together, and constitute ' the Great Declaration.' 'In the first Part,' says a Chinese critic,' king Wû addresses himself to the princes and nobles of inferior rank; in the second, to their hosts; and in the third, to his officers. The ruling idea in the first is the duty of the sovereign,--what he ought to be and to do; with this it begins and ends. There is not the same continuity of thought in the second, but the will and purpose of Heaven is the principal thing insisted on. The last Part shows the difference between the good sovereign and the bad, and touches on the consent that there is between Heaven and men. There is throughout an unsparing exhibition of the wickedness of Kâu-hsin.

2. The thirteenth year is reckoned from king Wû's succeeding to his father as 'the Chief of the West.'

3. Mâng-king, or 'the Ford of Mang,' is still the name of a district in the department of Ho-nan, Ho-nan.

4. In Book iii we are told that Wû commenced his march to attack Kâu-hsin, on Kwei-kî, the 2nd day of the moon. Calculating on to the day Wû-wû, we find that it was the 28th day of the same moon.

5. The count of Wei.

6. Pî-kan.

7. Confucius tells us, in the Analects, VIII, xx, that one of these ten was a woman; but whether the lady was Wû's wife or mother is disputed.

8. This was in winter. Observing some people then wading through a stream, Kâu-hsin caused their legs to be cut through at the shank-bone, that he might see their marrow.

9. Pî-kan.

10. The count of Khî; see Book iv.

11. The notorious Tâ-ki, the accounts of whose shameless wickedness and atrocious cruelties almost exceed belief.

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