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The king of Kâu brought the myriad regions (of the kingdom) to tranquillity; he made a tour of inspection through the Hâu and Tien tenures; he punished on all sides the chiefs who had refused to appear at court; thus securing the repose of the millions of the people, and all the (princes in the) six tenures acknowledging his virtue. He then returned to the honoured capital of Kâu, and strictly regulated the officers of the administration.

The king said, 'It was the grand method of former times to regulate the government while there was no confusion, and to secure the country while there was no danger.' He said, 'Yâo and Shun, having studied antiquity 2, established a hundred officers. At court, there were the General Regulator and (the President of) the Four Mountains; abroad, there were the pastors of the provinces and the princes of states. Thus the various departments of government went on harmoniously, and the myriad states all enjoyed repose. Under the dynasties of Hsiâ and Shang, the number of officers was doubled, and they were able still to secure good government. (Those early) intelligent kings, in establishing their government, cared not so much about the number of the offices as about the men (to occupy them). Now I, the little child, cultivate with reverence my virtue, concerned day and night about my deficiencies; I look up to (those) former dynasties, and seek to conform to them, while I instruct and direct you, my officers.'

'I appoint the Grand-Master, the Grand-Assistant, and the Grand-Guardian. These are the three Kung 3. They discourse about the principles of reason 4 and adjust the states, harmonizing (also) and regulating the operations (in nature) of heaven and earth 5. These offices need not (always) be filled; there must (first) be the men for them. '(I appoint) the Junior Master, the Junior Assistant, and the Junior Guardian. These are called the three Kû 6. They assist the Kung to diffuse widely the transforming influences, and display brightly with reverence (the powers of) heaven and earth,--assisting me, the One man. '(I appoint) the Prime Minister, who presides over the ruling of the (various) regions, has the general management of all the other officers, and secures uniformity within the four seas; the Minister of Instruction, who presides over the education in the states, diffuses a knowledge of the duties belonging to the five relations of society, and trains the millions of the people to obedience; the Minister of Religion, who presides over the (sacred) ceremonies of the country, regulates the services rendered to the spirits and manes, and makes a harmony between high and low 7;* the Minister of War, who presides over the (military) administration of the country, commands the six hosts, and secures the tranquillity of all the regions; the Minister of Crime, who presides over the prohibitions of the country, searches out the villainous and secretly wicked, and punishes oppressors and disturbers of the peace; and the Minister of Works, who presides over the land of the country, settles the four classes of the people, and secures at the proper seasons the produce of the ground 8. 'These six ministers with their different duties lead on their several subordinates, and set an example to the nine pastors of the provinces, enriching and perfecting the condition of the millions of the people. In six years (the lords of) the five tenures appear once at the royal court; and after a second six years, the king makes a tour of inspection in the four seasons, and examines the (various) regulations and measures at the four mountains. The princes appear before him each at the mountain of his quarter; and promotions and degradations are awarded with great intelligence.'

The king said, 'Oh! all ye men of virtue, my occupiers of office, pay reverent attention to your charges. Be careful in the commands you issue; for, once issued, they must be carried into effect, and cannot be retracted. Extinguish all selfish aims by your public feeling, and the people will have confidence in you, and be gladly obedient. Study antiquity as a preparation for entering on your offices. In deliberating on affairs, form your determinations by help (of such study), and your measures will be free from error. Make the regular statutes of (our own) dynasty your rule, and do not with artful speeches introduce disorder into your offices. To accumulate doubts is the way to ruin your plans; to be idle and indifferent is the way to ruin your government. Without study, you stand facing a wall, and your management of affairs will be full of trouble. 'I warn you, my high ministers and officers, that exalted merit depends on the high aim, and a patrimony is enlarged only by diligence; it is by means of bold decision that future difficulties are avoided. Pride comes, along with rank, unperceived, and extravagance in the same way with emolument. Let reverence and economy be (real) virtues with you, unaccompanied with hypocritical display. Practise them as virtues, and your minds will be at ease, and you will daily become more admirable. Practise them in hypocrisy, and your minds will be toiled, and you will daily become more stupid. In the enjoyment of favour think of peril, and never be without a cautious apprehension;--he who is without such apprehension finds himself amidst what is really to be feared. Push forward the worthy, and show deference to the able; and harmony will prevail among all your officers. When they are not harmonious, the government becomes a mass of confusion. If those whom you advance be able for their offices, the ability is yours; if you advance improper men, you are not equal to your position.'

The king said, 'Oh! ye (charged) with the threefold business (of government) 9 and ye great officers, I reverently attend to your departments, and conduct well the affairs under your government, so as to assist your sovereign, and secure the lasting happiness of the millions of the people;--so shall there be no dissatisfaction throughout the myriad states.'


1. 'THE Officers of Kau' contains a general outline of the official system of the Kâu dynasty, detailing the names and functions of the principal ministers about the court and others, to whom, moreover, various counsels are addressed by the king who speaks in it,--no doubt, king Khang. Chinese critics class it with the 'Instructions' of the Shû, but it belongs rather to the 'Announcements.' There is no mention in it of the duke of Kâu; and its date must therefore be in some year after he had retired from the regency, and resigned the government into the king's own hands. The Book has a beginning, middle, and end, more distinctly marked than they are in many of the documents in the Shû. The whole is divided into five chapters. The first is introductory, and describes the condition of the kingdom, when the arrangements of the official system were announced. In the second, the king refers to the arrangements of former dynasties. In the third, he sets forth the principal offices of state, the ministers of which had their residence at court, and goes on to the arrangements for the administration of the provinces. The two other chapters contain many excellent advices to the ministers and officers to discharge their duties so that the fortunes of the dynasty might be consolidated, and no dissatisfaction arise among the myriad states.

2. It is the same phrase here, which occurs at the beginning, of the Canons of Yâo and Shun, and of some other Books. It may be inferred, as P. Gaubil says, that Yâo and Shun had certain sources of knowledge, that is to say, some history of the times anterior to their own.

3. That is, 'the three dukes;' but the term is here a name of office, more than of nobility, as is evident from the name of the three Ka, who were next to them. Kû was not used as a term expressing any order of nobility. It would seem to indicate that, while the men holding the office were assistant to the Kung, they yet had a distinct standing of their own. The offices of Grand-Master & c. had existed under the Shang dynasty; see Book xi, Part IV.

4. Meaning, I suppose, the courses or ways, which it was right for the king, according to reason, to pursue.

5. That is, probably, securing the material prosperity of the kingdom, in good seasons, & c.

6. See note 2 on the preceding page.

7. The name here for 'the Minister of Religion' is the same as that in the Canon of Shun. 'The spirits and manes' are 'the spirits of heaven, earth, and deceased men.' All festive, funeral, and other ceremonies, as well as those of sacrifices, came under the department of the Minister of Religion, who had therefore to define the order of rank and precedence. This seems to be what is meant by his 'making a harmony between high and low.'

8. 10"> Out of these six ministers and their departments have grown the Six Boards of the Chinese Government of the present day:--the Board of Civil Office; the Board of Revenue; the Board of Rites; the Board of War; the Board of Punishment; and the Board of Works.

9. 'The threefold business of government' is the appointment of the men of office, the officers of law, and the pastors, 'the three concerns of those in the three highest positions,' as described in the last Book, ch. 4. The king, probably, intends the Kung, the Kû, and the six ministers, whose duties he has spoken of. The 'great officers' will be all the officers inferior to these in their several departments.

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