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28. 文侯之命





The king spoke to the following effect:--'Uncle Î-ho, how illustrious were Wan and Wû! Carefully did they make their virtue brilliant, till it rose brightly on high, and the fame of it was widely diffused here below. Therefore God caused his favouring decree to light upon king Wan.* There were ministers also (thereafter), who aided and illustriously served their sovereigns, following and carrying out their plans, great and small, so that my fathers sat tranquilly on the throne. 'Oh! an object of pity am I, who am (but as) a little child. Just as I have succeeded to the throne, Heaven has severely chastised me.* Through the interruption of the (royal) bounties that ceased to descend to the inferior people, the invading barbarous tribes of the west have greatly (injured) our kingdom. Moreover, among the managers of my affairs there are none of age and experience and distinguished ability in their offices. I am (thus) unequal (to the difficulties of my position), and say to myself, "My grand-uncles and uncles, you ought to compassionate my case." Oh! if there were those who could establish their merit in behalf of me, the One man, I might long enjoy repose upon the throne. 'Uncle Î-ho, you render still more glorious your illustrious ancestor. You were the first to imitate the example of Wan and Wû, collecting (the scattered powers), and continuing (the all but broken line of) your sovereign. Your filial piety goes back to your accomplished ancestor, (and is equal to his.) You have done much to repair my (losses), and defend me in my difficulties, and of you, being such, I am full of admiration.'

The king said, 'Uncle Î-ho, return home, survey your multitudes, and tranquillize your state. I reward you with a jar of spirits, distilled from the black millet, and flavoured with odoriferous herbs 2, with a red bow, and a hundred red arrows 3; with a black bow, and a hundred black arrows; and with four horses. Go, my uncle. Show kindness to those that are far off, and help those who are near at hand; cherish and secure the repose of the inferior people; do not idly seek your ease; exercise an inspection and (benign) compassion in your capital (and all your borders);--thus completing your illustrious virtue.'


1. THE king to whom this charge is ascribed was Phing (B.C. 770-719). Between him and Mû there was thus a period of fully two centuries, of which no documents are, or ever were, in the collection of the Shû. The time was occupied by seven reigns, the last of which was that of Nieh, known as king Yû, a worthless ruler, and besotted in his attachment to a female favourite, called Pâo-sze. For her sake he degraded his queen, and sent their son, Î-khiû, to the court of the lord of Shan, her father, 'to learn good manners.' The lord of Shan called in the assistance of some barbarian tribes, by which the capital was sacked, and the king slain; and with him ended the sway of 'the Western Kâu.' Several of the feudal princes went to the assistance of the royal House, drove away the barbarians, brought back Î-khiû from Shan, and hailed him as king. He is known as king Phing, 'the Tranquillizer,' His first measure was to transfer the capital from the ruins of Hâo to Lo, thus fulfilling at length, but under disastrous circumstances, the wishes of the duke of Kâu; and from this time (B.C. 770) dates the history of 'the Eastern Kâu.' Among king Phing's early measures was the rewarding the feudal lords to whom he owed his throne. The marquis of Kin was one of them. His name was Khiû, and that of Î-ho, by which he is called in the text, is taken as his 'style,' or designation assumed by him on his marriage. Wan, 'the Accomplished,' was his sacrificial title. The lords of Kin were descended from king Wû's son, Yü, who was appointed marquis of Thang, corresponding to the present department of Thâi-yüan, in Shan-hsî. The name of Thang was afterwards changed into Kin. The state became in course of time one of the largest and most powerful in the kingdom. The charge in this Book is understood to be in connexion with Wan's appointment to be president or chief of several of the other princes. The king begins by celebrating the virtues and happy times of kings Wan and Wû, and the services rendered by the worthy ministers of subsequent reigns. He contrasts with this the misery and distraction of his own times, deploring his want of wise counsellors and helpers, and praising the marquis for the services which he had rendered. He then concludes with the special charge by which be would reward the prince's merit in the past, and stimulate him to greater exertions in the future.

2. Compare king Khang's gift to the duke of Kâu, in the Announcement concerning Lo, ch. 6.

3. The conferring on a prince of a bow and arrows, invested him with the power of punishing throughout the states within his jurisdiction all who were disobedient to the royal commands, but not of taking life without first reporting to the court. The gift was also a tribute to the merit of the receiver. See the Book of Poetry, II, iii, ode I.

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