The Shih King by James Legge

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  • 1879
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Translated by

James Legge

From the Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 3

First Published 1879

Scanned at August-September 2000







1. Among the Chinese classical books next after the Shu in point of antiquity comes the Shih or Book of Poetry.

The meaning of the character Shih.

The character Shu, as formed by the combination of two others, one of which signified ‘a pencil,’ and the other ‘to speak,’ supplied, we saw in its structure, an indication of its primary significance, and furnished a clue to its different applications. The character Shih was made on a different principle, that of phonetical formation, in the peculiar sense of these words when applied to a large class of Chinese terms. The significative portion of it is the character for ‘speech,’ but the other half is merely phonetical, enabling us to approximate to its pronunciation or name. The meaning of the compound has to be learned from its usage. Its most common significations are ‘poetry,’ a poem, or poems,’ and a collection of poems! This last is its meaning when we speak of the Shih or the Shih King.

The earliest Chinese utterance that we have on the subject of poetry is that in the Shu by the ancient Shun, when he said to his Minister of Music, ‘Poetry is the Expression of earnest thought, and singing, is the prolonged utterance of that expression.’ To the same effect is the language of a Preface to the Shih, sometimes ascribed to Confucius and certainly older than our Christian era: ‘Poetry is the product of earnest thought. Thought cherished in the mind becomes earnest; then expressed in words, it becomes poetry. The feelings move inwardly, and are embodied in words. When words are insufficient for them, recourse is had to sighs and exclamations. When sighs and exclamations are insufficient for them, recourse is had to the prolonged utterance of song. When this again is insufficient, unconsciously the hands begin to move and the feet to dance….. To set forth correctly the successes and failures (of government), to affect Heaven and Earth, and to move spiritual beings, there is no readier instrument than poetry.’

Rhyme, it may be added here, is a necessary accompaniment of poetry in the estimation of the Chinese. Only in a very few pieces of the Shih is it neglected.

The contents of the Shih.

2. The Shih King contains 305 Pieces and the titles of six others. The most recent of them are assigned to the reign of king Ting of the Kau dynasty, B.C. 606 to 586, and the oldest, forming a group of only five, to the period of the Shang dynasty which preceded that of Kau, B.C. 1766 to 1123. Of those five, the latest piece should be referred to the twelfth century B.C., and the most ancient may have been composed five centuries earlier. All the other pieces in the Shih have to be distributed over the time between Ting and king Wan, the founder of the line of Kau. The distribution, however, is not equal nor continuous. There were some reigns of which we do not have a single Poetical fragment.

The whole collection is divided into four parts, called the Kwo Fang, the Hsiao Ya, the Ta Ya, and the Sung.

The Kwo Fang, in fifteen Books, contains 160 pieces, nearly all of them short, and descriptive of manners and events in several of the feudal states of Kau. The title has been translated by The Manners of the Different States, ‘Les Moeurs des Royaumes,’ and, which I prefer, by Lessons from the States.

The Hsiao Ya, or Lesser Ya, in eight Books, contains seventy-four pieces and the titles of six others, sung at gatherings of the feudal princes, and their appearances at the royal court. They were produced in the royal territory, and are descriptive of the manners and ways of the government in successive reigns. It is difficult to find an English word that shall fitly represent the Chinese Ya as here used. In his Latin translation of the Shih, p. Lacharme translated Hsiao Ya by ‘Quod rectum est, sed inferiore ordine,’ adding in a note:–‘Siao Ya, latine Parvum Rectum, quia in hac Parte mores describuntur, recti illi quidem, qui tamen nonnihil a recto deflectunt.’ But the manners described are not less correct or incorrect, as the case may be, than those of the states in the former Part or of the kingdom in the next. I prefer to call this Part ‘Minor Odes of the Kingdom,’ without attempting to translate the term Ya.

The Ta Ya or Greater Ya, in three Books, contains thirty-one pieces, sung on great occasions at the royal court and in the presence of the king. p. Lacharme called it ‘Magnum Rectum (Quod rectum est superiore ordine).’ But there is the same objection here to the use of the word ‘correct’ as in the case of the pieces of the previous Part. I use the name ‘Major Odes of the Kingdom.’ The greater length and dignity of most of the pieces justify the distinction of the two Parts into Minor and Major.

The Sung, also in three Books, contains forty pieces, thirty-one of which belong to the sacrificial services at the royal court of Kau; four, to those of the marquises of Lu; and five to the corresponding sacrifices of the kings of Shang. p. Lacharme denominated them correctly ‘Parentales Cantus.’ In the Preface to the Shih, to which I have made reference above, it is said, ‘The Sung are pieces in admiration of the embodied manifestation of complete virtue, announcing to the spiritual Intelligences their achievement thereof.’ Ku Hsi’s account of the Sung was–‘Songs for the Music of the Ancestral Temple;’ and that of Kiang Yung of the present dynasty–‘Songs for the Music at Sacrifices.’ I have united these two definitions, and call the Part–‘Odes of the Temple and the Altar.’ There ‘is a difference between the pieces of Lu and the other two collections in this Part, to which I will call attention in giving the translation of them.

Only the pieces of the fourth Part have professedly a religious character.

From the above account of the contents of the Shih, it will be seen that only the pieces in the last of its four Parts are professedly of a religious character. Many of those, however, in the other Parts, especially the second and third, describe religious services, and give expression to religious ideas in the minds of their authors.

Classification of the pieces from their form and style.

3. Some of the pieces in the Shih are ballads, some are songs, some are hymns, and of others the nature can hardly be indicated by any English denomination They have often been spoken of by the general name of odes, understanding by that term lyric poems that were set to music.

My reason for touching here on this point is the earliest account of the Shih, as a collection either already formed or in the process of formation, that we find in Chinese literature. In the Official Book of Kau, generally supposed to be a work of the twelfth or eleventh century B.C., among the duties of the Grand Music-Master there is ‘the teaching,’ (that is, to the musical performers,) ‘the, six classes of poems:–the Fang; the Fu; the Pi; the Hsing; the Ya; and the Sung.’ That the collection of the Shih, as it now is, existed so early as the date assigned to the Official Book could not be; but we find the same account of it given in the so-called Confucian Preface. The Fang, the Ya, and the Sung are the four Parts of the classic described in the preceding paragraph, the Ya embracing both the Minor and Major Odes of the Kingdom. But what were the Fu, the Pi, and the Hsing? We might suppose that they were the names of three other distinct Parts or Books. But they were not so. Pieces so discriminated are found in all the four Parts, though there are more of them in the first two than in the others.

The Fu may be described as Narrative pieces, in which the writers tell what they have to say in a simple, straightforward manner, without any hidden meaning reserved in the mind. The metaphor and other figures of speech enter into their composition as freely as in descriptive poems in any other language.

The Pi are Metaphorical pieces, in which the poet has under his language a different meaning from what it expresses,–a meaning which there should be nothing in that language to indicate. Such a piece may be compared to the AEsopic fable; but, while it is the object of the fable to inculcate the virtues of morality and prudence, an historical interpretation has to be sought for the metaphorical pieces of the Shih. Generally, moreover, the moral of the fable is subjoined to it, which is never done. in the case of these pieces.

The Hsing have been called Allusive pieces. They are very remarkable, and more numerous than the metaphorical. They often commence with a couple of lines which are repeated without change, or with slight rhythmical changes, in all the stanzas. In other pieces different stanzas have allusive lines peculiar to themselves. Those lines are descriptive, for the most part, of some object or circumstance in the animal or vegetable world, and after them the poet proceeds to his proper subject. Generally, the allusive lines convey a meaning harmonizing with those which follow, where an English poet would begin the verses with Like or As. They are really metaphorical, but the difference between an allusive and a metaphorical piece is this,–that in the former the writer proceeds to state the theme which his mind is occupied with, while no such intimation is given in the latter. Occasionally, it is difficult,. not to say impossible, to discover the metaphorical idea in the allusive lines, and then we can only deal with them as a sort of refrain.

In leaving this subject, it is only necessary to say further that the allusive, the metaphorical, and the narrative elements sometimes all occur in the same piece.



Statement of Sze-ma Khien.

1. Sze-ma Khien, in his memoir of Confucius, says: ‘The old poems amounted to more than 3000. Confucius removed those which were only repetitions of others, and selected those which would be serviceable for the inculcation of propriety and righteousness. Ascending as high as Hsieh and Hau-ki, and descending through the prosperous eras of Yin and Kau to the times of decadence under kings Yu and Li, he selected in all 305 pieces, which he’ sang over to his lute, to bring them into accordance with the musical style of the Shao, the Wu, the Ya, and the Fang.’

The writer of the Records of the Sui Dynasty.

In the History of the Classical Books in the Records of the Sui Dynasty (A.D.589 to 618), it is said:–‘When royal benign rule ceased, and poems were no more collected, Kih, the Grand Music-Master of Lu, arranged in order those that were existing, and made a copy of them. Then Confucius expurgated them; and going up to the Shang dynasty, and coming down to the state of Lu, he compiled altogether 300 Pieces.’

Opinion of Ku Hsi.

Ku Hsi, whose own standard work on the Shih appeared in A.D. 1178, declined to express himself positively on the expurgation of the odes, but summed up his view of what Confucius did for them in the following words:–‘Royal methods had ceased, and poems were no more collected. Those which were extant were full of errors, and wanting in arrangement. When Confucius returned from Wei to Lu, he brought with him the odes that he had gotten in other states, and digested them, along with those that were to be found in Lu, into a collection Of 300 pieces.’

View of the author.

I have not been able to find evidence sustaining these representations, and must adopt the view that, before the birth of Confucius, the Book of Poetry existed, substantially the same as it was at his death, and that while he may have somewhat altered the arrangement of its Books and pieces, the service which he rendered to it was not that of compilation, but the impulse to study it which he communicated to his disciples.

Groundlessness of Khien’s statement.

2. If we place Khien’s composition of the memoir of Confucius in B.C. 100, nearly four hundred years will have elapsed between the death of the sage and any statement to the effect that he expurgated previously existing poems, or compiled the. collection that we now have; and no writer in the interval affirmed or implied any such things. The further statement in the Sui Records about the Music-Master of Lu is also without any earlier confirmation. But independently of these considerations, there is ample evidence to prove, first, that the poems current before Confucius were not by any means so numerous as Khien says, and, secondly, that the collection of 300 pieces or thereabouts, digested under the same divisions as in the present classic, existed before the sage’s time.

3. i. It would not be surprising, if, floating about and current among the people of China in the sixth century before our era, there had been more than 3000 pieces of poetry. The marvel is that such was not the case. But in the Narratives of the States, a work of the Kau dynasty, and ascribed by many to Zo Khiu-ming, there occur quotations from thirty-one poems, made by statesmen and others, all anterior to Confucius; and of those poems there are not more than two which are not in the present classic. Even of those two, one is an ode of it quoted under another name. Further, in the Zo Kwan, certainly the work of Khiu-ming, we have quotations from not fewer than 219 poems, of which only thirteen are not found in the classic. Thus of 250 poems current in China before the supposed compilation of the Shih, 236 are found in it, and only fourteen are absent. To use the words of Kao Yi, a scholar of the present dynasty, ‘If the poems existing in Confucius’ time had been more than 3000, the quotations of poems now lost in these two works should have been ten times as numerous as the quotations from the 305 pieces said to have been preserved by him, whereas they are only between a twenty-first and twenty-second part of the existing pieces. This is sufficient to show that Khien’s statement is not worthy of credit.’

ii. Of the existence of the Book of Poetry before Confucius, digested in four Parts, and much in the same order as at present, there may be advanced the following proofs:–

First. There is the passage in the Official Book of Kau, quoted and discussed in the last paragraph of the preceding chapter. We have in it a distinct reference to poems, many centuries before the sage, arranged and classified in the same way as those of the existing Shih. Our Shih, no doubt, was then in the process of formation.

Second. Li the ninth piece of the sixth decade of the Shih, Part II, an ode assigned to the time of king Yu, B.C. 78, to 771, we. have the words,

‘They sing the Ya and the Nan,
Dancing to their flutes without error.’

So early, therefore, as the eighth century B.C. there was a collection of poems, of which some bore the name of the Nan, which there is much reason to suppose were the Kau Nan and the Shao Nan, forming the first two Books of the first Part of the present Shih; and of which others bore the name of the Ya, being, probably, the earlier pieces that now compose a large portion of the second and third Parts.

Third. In the narratives of Zo Khiu-ming, under the twenty-ninth year of duke Hsiang, B.C. 544, when Confucius was only seven or eight years old, we have an account of a visit to the court of Lu by an envoy from Wu, an eminent statesman of the time, and a man of great learning. We are told that as he wished to hear the music of Kau, which he could do better in Lu than in any other state, they sang to him the odes of the Kau Nan and the Shao Nan; those of Phei, Yung, and Wei; of the Royal Domain; of Kang; of Khi; of Pin; of Khin; of Wei; of Thang; of Khan; of Kwei; and of Zhao. They sang to, him also the odes of the Minor Ya and the Greater Ya; and they sang finally the pieces of the Sung. We have thus, existing in the boyhood of Confucius, what we may call the present Book of Poetry, with its Fang, its Ya, and its Sung. The only difference discernible is slight,-in the order in which the Books of the Fang followed one another.

Fourth. We may appeal in this matter to the words of Confucius himself. Twice in the Analects he speaks of the Shih as a collection consisting of 300 pieces[1]. That work not being made on any principle of chronological order, we cannot positively assign those sayings to any particular years of Confucius’ life; but it is, I may say, the unanimous opinion of Chinese critics that they were spoken before the time to which Khien and Ku Hsi refer his special labour on the Book of Poetry.

To my own mind the evidence that has been adduced is decisive on the points which I specified. The Shih, arranged very much as we now have it, was current in China before the time of Confucius, and its pieces were in the mouths of statesmen and scholars, constantly quoted by them on festive and other occasions. Poems not included in it there doubtless were, but they were comparatively few. Confucius may have made a copy for the use of himself and his disciples; but it does not appear that he rejected any pieces which had been previously received into the collection, or admitted any which had not previously found a place in it.

What Confucius did for the Shih.

4. The question now arises of what Confucius did for the Shih, if, indeed, he did anything at all. The only thing from which we can hazard an opinion on the point we have from himself. In the Analects, IX, xiv, he tells us:–‘I returned from Wei to Lu, and then the music was reformed, and the pieces in

[1. In stating that the odes were 300, Confucius probably preferred to use the round number. There are, as I said in the ‘former chapter, altogether 305 pieces, which is the number given by Sze-ma Khien. There are also the titles of six others. It is contended by Ku Hsi and many other scholars that these titles were only the names of tunes. More likely is the view that the text of the pieces so styled was lost after Confucius’ death.]

the Ya and the Sung received their proper places.’ The return from Wei to Lu took place only five years before the sage’s death. He ceased from that time to take an active part in political affairs, and solaced himself with music, the study of the ancient literature of his nation, the writing of ‘the Spring and Autumn,’ and familiar intercourse with those of his disciples who still kept around him. He reformed the music,–that to which the pieces of the Shih were sung; but wherein the reformation consisted we cannot tell. And he gave to the pieces of the Ya and the Sung their proper places. The present order of the Books in the Fang, slightly differing from what was common in his boyhood, may have now been determined by him. More than this we cannot say.

While we cannot discover, therefore, any peculiar and important labours of Confucius on the Shih, and we have it now, as will be shown in the next chapter, substantially as he found it already compiled to his hand, the subsequent preservation of it may reasonably be attributed to the admiration which he expressed for it, and the enthusiasm for it with which he sought to inspire his disciples. It was one of the themes on which he delighted to converse with them[1]. He taught that it is from the poems that the mind receives its best stimulus[2]. A man ignorant of them was, in his opinion, like one who stands with his face towards a wall, limited in his view, and unable to advance [3]. Of the two things that his son could specify as enjoined on him by the sage, the first was that he should learn the odes[4]. In this way Confucius, probably, contributed largely to the subsequent preservation of the Shih, the preservation of the tablets on which the odes were inscribed, and the preservation of it in the memory of all who venerated his authority, and looked up to him as their master.

[1. Analects, VII, xvii.

2 Analects, VIII, viii, XVII, ix.

3. Analects, XVII, x.

4. Analects, XVI, xiii.]



From Confucius to rise of the Khin dynasty.

1. Of the attention paid to the study of the Shih from the death of Confucius to the rise -of the Khin dynasty, we have abundant evidence in the writings of his the grandson Dze-sze, of Mencius, and of Hsuen Khing. One of the acknowledged distinctions of Mencius is his acquaintance with the odes, his quotations from which are very numerous; and Hsuen Khing survived the extinction of the Kau dynasty, and lived on into the times of Khin.

The Shih was all recovered, after the fires of Khin.

2. The Shih shared in the calamity which all the other classical works, excepting the Yi, suffered, when the tyrant of Khin issued his edict for their destruction. But I have shown, in the Introduction to the Shu, p. 7, that that edict was in force for less than a quarter of a century. The odes were all, or very nearly all[1], recovered; and the reason assigned for this is, that their preservation depended on the memory of scholars more than on their inscription on tablets of bamboo and on silk.

Three different texts.

3. Three different texts of the Shih made their appearance early in the Han dynasty, known as the Shih of Lu, of Khi, and of Han; that is, the Book of Poetry was recovered from three different quarters. Liu Hin’s Catalogue of the Books in the Imperial Library of Han (B.C. 6 to 1) commences, on the Shih King, with a collection of the three texts, in twenty-eight chapters.

[1. All, in fact, unless we except the six pieces of Part II, of which we have only the titles. It is contended by Ku Hsi and others that the text of these had been lost before the time of Confucius. It may have been lost, however, after the sage’s death; see note on p. 283.]

The text of Lu.

i. Immediately after the mention of the general collection in the Catalogue come the titles of two works of commentary on the text of Lu. The former of them was by a Shan Phei of whom we have some account in the Literary Biographies of Han. He was a native of Lu, and had received his own knowledge of the odes from a scholar of Khi, called Fau Khiu-po. He was resorted to by many disciples, whom he taught to repeat the odes. When the first emperor of the Han dynasty was passing through Lu, Shan followed him to the capital of that state, and had an interview with him. Subsequently the emperor Wu (B.C. 140 to 87), in the beginning of his reign, sent for him to court when he was more than eighty years old; and he appears to have survived a considerable number of years beyond that advanced age. The names of ten of his disciples are given, all of them men of eminence, and among them Khung An-kwo. Rather later, the, most noted adherent of the school of Lu was Wei Hsien, who arrived at the dignity of prime minister (from B.C. 71 to 67), and published the Shih of Lu in Stanzas and Lines. Up and down in the Books of Han and Wei are to be found quotations of the odes, that must have been taken from the professors of the Lu recension; but neither the text nor the writings on it long survived. They are said to have perished during the Kin dynasty (A.D.265 to 419). When the Catalogue of the Sui Library was made, none of them were existing.

The text of Khi.

ii. The Han Catalogue mentions five different works on the Shih of Khi. This text was from a Yuean Ku, a native of Khi, about whom we learn, from the same collection of Literary Biographies, that he was one of the great scholars of the court in the time of the emperor King (B.C. 156 to 141),–a favourite with him, and specially distinguished for his knowledge of the odes and his advocacy of orthodox Confucian doctrine. He died in the succeeding reign of Wu, more than ninety years old; and we are told that all the scholars of Khi who got a name in those days for their acquaintance with the Shih sprang from his school. Among his disciple’s was the well-known name of Hsia-hau Shih-khang, who communicated his acquisitions to Hau Zhang, a native of the present Shan-tung province, and author of two of the works in the Han Catalogue. Hau had three disciples of note, and by them the Shih of Khi was transmitted to others, whose names, with quotations from their writings, are scattered through the Books of Han. Neither text nor commentaries, however, had a better fate than the Shih of Lu. There is no mention of them in the Catalogue of Sui. They are said to have perished even before the rise of the Kin dynasty.

The text of Han Ying.

iii. The text of Han was somewhat more fortunate. Hin’s Catalogue contains the names of four works, all by Han Ying, whose surname is thus perpetuated in the text of the Shih that emanated from him. He was a native, we are told, of Yen, and a great scholar in the time of the emperor Wan (B.C. 179 to 155), and on into the reigns of King, and Wu. ‘He laboured,’ it is said, ‘to unfold the meaning of the odes, and published an Explanation of the Text., and Illustrations of the Poems, containing several myriads of characters. His text was somewhat different from the texts of Lu and Khi, but substantially of the same meaning.’ Of course, Han founded a school; but while almost all the writings of his followers soon perished, both the works just mentioned continued on through the various dynasties to the time of Sung. The Sui Catalogue contains the titles of his Text and two works on it; the Thang, those of his Text and his Illustrations; but when we come to the Catalogue of Sung, published under the Yuean dynasty, we find only the Illustrations, in ten books or chapters; and Au-yang Hsiu (A.D. 1017 to 1072) tells us that in his time this was all of Han that remained. It continues entire, or nearly so, to the present day.

A fourth text; that of Mao.

4. But while those three different recensions of the Shih all disappeared, with the exception of a single treatise of Han Ying, their unhappy fate was owing not more to the convulsions by which the empire was often rent, and the consequent destruction of literary monuments such as we have witnessed in China in our own day, than to the appearance of a fourth text, which displaced them by its superior correctness, and the ability with which it was advocated and commented on. This was what is called the Text of Mao. It came into the field rather later than the others; but the Han Catalogue contains the Shih of Mao, in twenty-nine chapters, and a Commentary on it in thirty-nine. According to Kang Hsuean, the author of this was a native of Lu, known as Mao Hang or ‘the Greater Mao,’ who had been a disciple, we are told by Lue Teh-ming, of Hsuen Khing. The work is lost. He had communicated his knowledge of the Shih, however, to another Mao,–Mao Kang, ‘the Lesser Mao,’ who was a great scholar, at the court of king Hsien of Ho-kien, a son of the emperor King. King Hsien was one of the most diligent labourers in the recovery of the ancient books, and presented the text and work of Hang at the court of his father,–probably in B.C. 129. Mao Kang published Explanations of the Shih, in twenty-nine chapters,–a work which we still possess; but it was not till the reign of Phing (A.D. 1 to 9) that Mao’s recension was received into the Imperial College, and took its place along with those of Lu, Khi, and Han Ying.

The Chinese critics nave carefully traced the line of scholars who had charge of Mao’s Text and Explanations down to the reign of Phing. The names of the men and their works are all given. By the end of the first quarter of our first century we find the most famous scholars addicting themselves to Mao’s text. The well-known Kia Khwei (A.D. 30 to 101) published a work on the Meaning and Difficulties of Mao’s Shih, having previously compiled a digest of the differences between its text and those of the other three recensions, at the command of the emperor Ming (A.D. 58 to 75). The equally celebrated Ma Yung (A.D. 79 to 166) followed with another commentary;–and we arrive at Kang Hsuean or Kang Khang-khang (A.D. 127 to 200), who wrote a Supplementary Commentary to the Shih of Mao, and a Chronological Introduction to the Shih. The former of these two works complete, and portions of the latter, are still extant. After the time of King the other three texts were little heard of, while the name of the commentators on Mao’s text speedily becomes legion. It was inscribed, moreover, on the stone tablets of the emperor Ling (A.D. 168 to 189). The grave of Mao Kang is still shown near the village of Zun-fu, in the departmental district of Ho-kien, Kih-li.

The different texts guarantee the genuineness of the recovered Shih.

5. Returning now to what I said in the second paragraph, it will be granted that the appearance of three different and independent texts, soon after the rise of the Ha dynasty, affords the most satisfactory a evidence of the recovery of the Book of Poetry as it had continued from the time of Confucius. Unfortunately, only fragments of those texts remain now; but they were, while they were current, diligently compared with one another, and with the fourth text of Mao, which subsequently got the field to itself. When a collection is made of their peculiar readings, so far as it can now be done, it is clear that their variations from one another and from Mao’s text arose from the alleged fact that the preservation of the odes was owing to their being transmitted by recitation. The rhyme helped the memory to retain them, and while wood, bamboo, and silk had all been consumed by the flames of Khin, when the time of repression ceased, scholars would be eager to rehearse their stores. It was inevitable, and more so in China than in a country possessing an alphabet, that the same sounds when taken down by different writers should be represented by different characters.

On the whole, the evidence given above is as full as could be desired in such a case, and leaves no reason for us to hesitate in accepting the present received text of the Shih as a very close approximation to that which was current in the time of Confucius.



1. It has been shown above, in the second chapter, that the Shih existed as a collection of poetical pieces before the time of Confucius[1]. In order to complete this Introduction to it, it is desirable to give some account of the various subjects indicated in the heading of the present chapter.

How were the odes collected in the first place? In his Account of a Conversation concerning ‘a Right Regulation of Governments for the Common Good of Mankind’ (Edinburgh, 1704), p. 10, Sir Andrew Fletcher, of Saltoun, tells us the opinion of ‘a very wise man,’ that ‘if a man were permitted to make all the ballads of a nation, he need not care who should make its laws.’ A writer in the Spectator, no. 502, refers to a similar opinion as having been entertained in England earlier than the time of Fletcher. ‘I have heard,’ he says, ‘that a minister of state in the reign of Elizabeth had all manner of books and ballads brought to him, of what kind soever, and took great notice how they took with the people; upon which he would, and certainly might, very well judge of their present dispositions, and of the most proper way of applying them according to his own purposes [2].’

[1. As in the case of the Shu, Confucius generally speaks of ‘the Shih,’ never using the name of ‘the Shih King.’ In the Analects, IX, xiv, however, he mentions also the Ya and the Sung; and in XVII, x, he specifies the Kau Nan and the Shao Nan, the first two books of the Kwo Fang. Mencius similarly speaks of ‘the Shih;’ and in III, i, ch. 4, he specifies ‘the Sung of Lu,’ Book ii of Part IV. In VI, ii, ch. 3, he gives his views of the Hsiao Phan, the third ode of decade 5, Part II, and of the Khai Fung, the seventh ode of Book iii of Part I.

2 This passage from the Spectator is adduced by Sir John Davis in his treatise on the Poetry of the Chinese, p. 35.]

The theory of the Chinese scholars about a collection of poems for governmental purposes.

In harmony with the views thus expressed is the theory of the Chinese scholars, that it was the duty of the ancient kings to make themselves acquainted with all the poems current in the different states, and to judge from them of the rule exercised by the several princes, so that they might minister praise or blame, reward or punishment accordingly.

The rudiments of this theory may be found in the Shu, in the Canon of Shun; but the one classical passage which is appealed to in support of it is in the Record of Rites, III, ii, parr. 13, 14:–‘Every fifth year, the Son of Heaven made a progress through the kingdom, when the Grand Music-Master was commanded to lay before him the poems of the different states, as an exhibition of the manners and government of the people.’ Unfortunately, this Book of the Li Ki, the Royal Ordinances, was compiled only in the reign of the emperor Wan of the Han dynasty (B.C. 179 to 155). The scholars entrusted with the work did their best, we may suppose, with the materials at their command they made much use, it is evident, of Mencius, and of the I Li. The Kau Li, or the Official Book of Kau, had not then been recovered. But neither in Mencius nor in the I Li do we meet with any authority for the statement before us. The Shu mentions that Shun every fifth year made a tour of inspection; but there were then no odes for him to examine, for to him and his minister Kao-yao is attributed the first rudimentary attempt at the poetic art. Of the progresses of the Hsia and Yin sovereigns we have no information; and those of the kings Of Kau were made, we know, only once in twelve years. The statement in the Royal Ordinances, therefore, was probably based only on tradition.

Notwithstanding the difficulties that beset this passage of the Li Ki, I am not disposed to reject it altogether. It derives a certain amount of confirmation from the passage quoted from the Official Book of Kau on p. 278, showing that in the Kau dynasty there was a collection of poems, under the divisions of the Fang, the Ya, and the Sung, which it was the business of the Grand, Music-Master to teach the musicians of the court. It may be accepted then, that the duke of Kau, in legislating for his dynasty, enacted that the poems produced in the different feudal states should be collected on occasion of the royal progresses, and lodged thereafter among the archives of the bureau of music at the royal court. The same thing, we may presume a fortiori, would be done, at certain other stated times, with those produced within the royal domain itself.

The music-master of the king would get the odes of each state from its music-master.

But the feudal states were modelled after the pattern of the royal state. They also had their music-masters, their musicians, and their historiographers. The kings in their progresses did not visit each particular state, so that the Grand Music Master could have the opportunity to collect the odes in it for himself. They met, at well-known points, the marquises, earls, barons, &c., of the different quarters of the kingdom; there gave audience to them; adjudicated on their merits, and issued to them their orders. We are obliged to suppose that the princes were attended to the places of rendezvous by their music-masters, carrying with them the poetical compositions gathered in their several regions, to present them to their superior of the royal court. We can understand how, by means of the above arrangement, the poems of the whole kingdom were accumulated and arranged among the archives of the capital.

How the collected poems were disseminated through the states.

Was there any provision for disseminating thence the poems of one state among all the others? There is sufficient evidence that such dissemination was effected out in some way. Throughout the Narratives of the States, and the details of Zo Khiu-ming on the history of the Spring and Autumn, the officers of the states generally are presented to us as familiar not only with the odes of their particular states, but with those of other states as well. They appear equally well acquainted with all the Parts and Books of our present Shih; and we saw how the whole of it was sung over to Ki Ka of Wu, when he visited the court of Lu in the boyhood of Confucius. There was, probably, a regular communication from the royal court to the courts of the various states of the poetical pieces that for one reason or another were thought worthy of preservation. This is nowhere expressly stated, but it may be contended for by analogy from the accounts which I have given, in the Introduction to the Shu, pp. 4, 5, of the duties of the royal historiographers or recorders.

How the Shih is so small and incomplete.

2. But if the poems produced in the different states were thus collected in the capital, and thence again disseminated throughout the kingdom, we might conclude that the collection would have been far more extensive and complete than we have it now. The smallness of it is to be accounted for by the disorder into which the kingdom fell after the lapse of a few reigns from king Wu. Royal progresses ceased when royal government fell into decay, and then the odes were no more collected[1]. We have no account of any progress of the kings during the Khun Khiu period. But before that period there is a long gap of nearly 150 years between kings Khang and I, covering the reigns of Khang, Kao, Mu, and Kung, if we except two doubtful pieces among the Sacrificial Odes of Kau. The reign of Hsiao, who succeeded to I, is similarly uncommemorated; and the latest odes are of the time of Ting, when 100 years of the Khun Khiu period had still to run their course. Many odes must have been made and collected during the 140 and more years after king Khang. The probability is that they perished during the feeble reigns of I and the three monarchs who followed him. Then came the long and vigorous reign of Hsuean (B.C. 827 to 782), when we may suppose that the ancient custom of collecting the poems was revived. After him all was in the main decadence and confusion. It was probably in the latter part of his reign that King-khao, an ancestor of Confucius, obtained from the Grand Music-Master at the court of Kau twelve of the sacrificial odes of the previous dynasty, as will be related under the Sacrificial Odes of Shang, with which he returned to Sung,

[1. See Mencius, IV, ii, ch. 21.]

which was held by representatives of the line of Shang. They were used there in sacrificing to the old Shang kings; yet seven of the twelve were lost before the time of the sage.

The general conclusion to which we come is, that the existing Shih is the fragment of various collections made during the early reigns of the kings of Kau, and added to at intervals, especially on the occurrence of a prosperous rule, in accordance with the regulation that has been preserved in the Li Ki. How it is that we have in Part I odes of comparatively few of the states into which the kingdom was divided, and that the odes of those states extend only over a short period of their history:–for these things we cannot account further than by saying that such were the ravages of time arid the results of disorder. We can only accept the collection as it is, and be thankful for it. How long before Confucius the collection was closed we cannot tell.

Bearing of these views on the interpretation of particular pieces.

3. The conclusions which I have thus sought to establish concerning the formation of the Shih as a collection have an important bearing on the interpretation of many of the pieces. The remark of Sze-ma Khien that Confucius selected those pieces which would be service able for the inculcation of propriety and righteousness’ is as erroneous as the other, that be selected 305 pieces out of more than 3000. The sage merely studied and taught the pieces which he found existing, and the collection necessarily contained odes illustrative of bad government as well as of good, of licentiousness as well as of a pure morality. Nothing has been such a stumbling-block in the way of the reception of Ku Hsi’s interpretation of the pieces as the readiness with which he attributes a licentious meaning to many of those in the seventh Book of Part I. But the reason why the kings had the odes of the different states collected and presented to them was, ‘that they might judge from them of the manners of the people,’ and so come to a decision regarding the government and morals of their rulers. A student and translator of the odes has simply to allow them to speak for themselves, and has no more reason to be surprised by references to vice in some of them than by the language of virtue in many others. Confucius said, indeed, in his own enigmatical way, that the single sentence, ‘Thought without depravity,’ covered the whole 300 pieces[1]; and it may very well be allowed that they were collected and preserved for the promotion of good government and virtuous manners. The merit attaching to them is that they give us faithful pictures of what was good and what was bad in the political state of the country, and in the social, moral, and religious habits of the people.

The writers of the odes.

The pieces were of course made by individuals who possessed the gift, or thought that they possessed the gift, of poetical composition. Who they were we could tell only on the authority of the pieces themselves, or of credible historical accounts, contemporaneous with them or nearly so. It is not worth our while to question the opinion of the Chinese critics who attribute very many of them to the duke of Kau, to whom we owe so much of the fifth Part of the Shu). There is, however, independent testimony only to his composition of a single ode,–the second of the fifteenth Book in Part I [2]. Some of the other pieces in that Part, of which the historical interpretation may be considered as sufficiently fixed, are written in the first person; but the author may be personating his subject.

In Part II, the seventh ode of decade 2 was made by a, Kia-fu, a noble of the royal court, but we know nothing more about him; the sixth of decade 6, by a eunuch styled Mang-Dze; and the sixth of decade 7, from a concurrence of external testimonies, should be ascribed to duke Wu of Wei, B.C. 812 to 758.

In the third decade of Part III, the second piece was composed by the same duke Wu; the third by an earl of Zui in the royal domain; the fourth must have been made by one of king, Hsuean’s ministers, to express the king’s

[1. Analects, II, ii.

2. See the Shu, V, vi, par. 3.]

feelings under the drought that was exhausting the kingdom; and the fifth and sixth claim to be the work of Yin Ki-fu, one of Hsuean’s principal officers.

4. The ninth ode of the fourth Book, Part II, gives us a note of time that enables us to fix the year of its composition in a manner entirely satisfactory, and proves also the correctness, back to that date, of the ordinary Chinese chronology. The piece is one of a group which their contents lead us to refer to the reign of king Yu, the son of Hsuean, B.C. 781 to 771. When we examine the chronology of his period, it is said that in his sixth year, B.C. 776, there was an eclipse of the sun. Now the ode commences:–

‘At the conjunction (of the sun and moon) in the tenth month, on the first day of the moon, which was Hsin-mao, the sun was eclipsed.’

This eclipse is verified by calculation as having taken place in B.C. 776, on August 29th, the very day and month assigned to it in the poem.

The Preface to the Shih.

5. In the Preface which appeared along with Mao’s text of the Shih, the occasion and authorship of many of the odes are given; but I do not allow much weight to its testimony. It is now divided into the Great Preface and the Little Preface; but Mao himself made no such distinction between its parts. It will be sufficient for me to give a condensed account of the views of Ku Hsi on the subject:–

‘Opinions of scholars are much divided as to the authorship of the Preface. Some ascribe it to Confucius; some to (his disciple) Dze-hsia, and some to the historiographers of the states. In the absence of clear testimony it is impossible to decide the point, but the notice about Wei Hung (first century) in the Literary Biographies of Han[1] would seem to make it clear that the Preface was

[1. The account is this: ‘Hung became the disciple of Hsieh Man-khing, who was famous for his knowledge of Mao’s Shih; and he afterwards made the Preface to it, remarkable for the accuracy with which it gives the meaning of the pieces in the Fang and the Ya, and which is now current in the world.’]

his work. We must take into account, however, on the other hand, the statement of King Khang-khang, that the Preface existed as a separate document when Mao appeared with his text, and that he broke it up, prefixing to each ode the portion belonging to it, The natural conclusion is, that the Preface had come down from a remote period, and that Hung merely added to it, and rounded it off. In accordance with this, scholars generally bold that the first sentences in the introductory notices formed the original Preface, which Mao distributed, and that the following portions were subsequently added.

‘This view may appear reasonable; but when we examine those first sentences themselves, we find that some of them do not agree with the obvious meaning of the odes to which they are prefixed, and give only rash and baseless expositions. Evidently, from the first, the Preface was made up of private speculations and conjectures on the subject-matter of the odes, and constituted a document by itself, separately appended to the text. Then on its first appearance there were current the explanations of the odes that were given in connexion with the texts of Lu, Khi, and Han Ying, so that readers could know that it was the work of later hands, and not give entire credit to it. But when Mao no longer published the Preface as a separate document, but each ode appeared with the introductory notice as a portion of the text, this seemed to give it the authority of the text itself. Then after the other texts disappeared and Mao’s had the field to itself, this means of testing the accuracy of its prefatory notices no longer existed. They appeared as if they were the production of the poets themselves, and the odes seemed to be made from them as so many themes. Scholars handed down a faith in them from one to another, and no one ventured to express a doubt of their authority. The text was twisted and chiseled to bring it into accordance with them, and no one would undertake to say plainly that they were the work of the scholars of the Han dynasty.’

There is no western sinologist, I apprehend, who will not cordially concur with me in the principle of Ku Hsi that we must find the meaning of the poems in the poems themselves, instead of accepting the interpretation of them given by we know not whom, and to follow which would reduce many of them to absurd enigmas.



IT was stated in the Introduction, p. 278, that the poems in the fourth Part of the Shih are the only ones that are professedly religious; and there are some even of them, it will be seen, which have little claim on internal grounds to be so considered.

I commence with them my selections from the Shih for the Sacred Books of the Religions of the East. I will give them all, excepting the first two of the Praise Odes of Lu, the reason for omitting which will be found. when I come to that division of the Part.

The ancestral worship of the common people.

The Odes of the Temple and the Altar are, most of them, connected with the ancestral worship of the sovereigns of the Shang and Kau dynasties, and of the marquises of Lu. Of the ancestral worship of the common people we have almost no information in the Shih. It was binding, however, on all, and two utterances of Confucius may be given in illustration of this. In the eighteenth chapter of the Doctrine of the Mean, telling how the duke of Kau, the legislator of the dynasty so called, had ‘completed the virtuous course of Wan and Wu, carrying up the title of king to Wan’s father and grandfather, and sacrificing to the dukes before them with the royal ceremonies,’ he adds, And this rule he extended to the feudal princes, the great officers, the other officers, and the common people. In the mourning and other duties rendered to a deceased father or mother, he allowed no difference between the noble and the mean. Again, his summary in the tenth chapter of the Hsiao King, of the duties of filial piety, is the following:–‘A filial son, in serving his parents, in his ordinary intercourse with them, should show the utmost respect; in supplying them with food, the greatest delight; when they are ill, the utmost solicitude; when mourning for their death, the deepest grief; and when sacrificing to them, the profoundest solemnity. When these things are all complete, he is able to serve his parents.’

The royal worship of ancestors.

Of the ceremonies in the royal worship of ancestors, and perhaps on some other occasions, we have much information in the pieces of this Part, and in many others in the second and third Parts. They were preceded by fasting and various purifications on the part of the king and the parties who were to assist in the performance of them. The was a great concourse of the feudal princes, and much importance was attached to the presence among them of the representatives of former dynasties; but the duties of the occasion devolved mainly on the princes of the same surname as the royal House. Libations of fragrant spirits were made, especially in the Kau period, to attract the Spirits, and their presence was invoked by a functionary who took his place inside the principal gate. The principal victim, a red bull in the temple of Kau, was killed by the king himself, using for the purpose a knife to the handle of which small bells were attached. With this he laid bare the hair, to show that the animal was of the required colour, inflicted the wound of death, and cut away the fat, which was burned along with southernwood to increase the incense and fragrance. Other victims were numerous, and the fifth ode of the second decade, Part II, describes all engaged in the service as greatly exhausted with what they had to do, flaying the carcases, boiling the flesh, roasting it, broiling it, arranging it on trays and stands, and setting it forth. Ladies from the palace are present to give their assistance; music peals; the cup goes round. The description is that of a feast as much as of a sacrifice; and in fact, those great seasonal occasions were what we might call grand family reunions, where the dead and the living met, eating and drinking together, where the living worshipped the dead, and the dead blessed the living.

This characteristic of these ceremonies appeared most strikingly in the custom which required that the departed ancestors should be represented by living relatives of the same surname, chosen according to certain rules that are not mentioned in the Shih.. These took for the time the place of the dead, received the honours which were due to them, and were supposed to be possessed by their spirits. They ate and drank as those whom they personated would have done; accepted for them the homage rendered by their descendants; communicated their will to the principal in the service, and pronounced on him and on his line their benediction, being assisted in this point by a mediating priest, as we may call him for want of a more exact term. On the next day, after a summary repetition of the ceremonies of the sacrifice, those personators of the dead were specially feasted, and, as it is expressed in the second decade of Part III, ode 4, ‘their happiness and dignity were made complete.’ We have an allusion to this strange custom in Mencius (VI, i, ch. 5), showing how a junior member of a family, when chosen to represent one of his ancestors, was for the time exalted above his elders, and received the demonstrations of reverence due to the ancestor.

When the sacrifice to ancestors was finished, the king feasted his uncles and younger brothers or cousins, that is, all the princes and nobles of the same surname with himself, in another apartment. The musicians who had discoursed with instrument and voice during the worship and entertainment of the ancestors, followed the convivial party ‘to give their soothing aid at the second blessing.’ The viands that had been provided, we have seen, in great abundance, were brought in from the temple, and set forth anew. The guests ate to the full and drank to the full, and at the conclusion they all did obeisance, while one of them declared the satisfaction of the Spirits, and assured the king of their favour to him and his posterity, so long as they did not neglect those observances. During the feast the king showed particular respect to those among his relatives who were aged filled their cups again and again, and desired ‘that their old age might be blessed, and their bright happiness ever increased.’

The above sketch of the seasonal sacrifices to ancestors shows that they were intimately related to the duty of filial piety, and were designed mainly to maintain the unity of the family connexion. There was implied in them a belief in the continued existence of the spirits of the departed; and by means of them the ancestors of the kings were raised to the position of the Tutelary spirits of the dynasty; and the ancestors of each family became its Tutelary spirits. Several of the pieces in Part IV are appropriate, it will be observed, to sacrifices offered to some one monarch. They would be used on particular occasions connected with his achievements in the past, or when it was supposed that his help would be valuable in contemplated enterprises. With regard to all the ceremonies of the ancestral temple, Confucius gives the following account of the purposes which they were intended to serve, hardly adverting to their religious significance, in the nineteenth chapter of the Doctrine of the Mean:–‘By means of them they distinguished the royal kindred according to their order of descent. By arranging those present according to their rank, they distinguished the more noble and the less. By the apportioning of duties at them, they made a distinction of talents and worth. In the ceremony of general pledging, the inferiors presented the cup to their superiors, and thus something was given to the lowest to do. At the (concluding) feast places were given according to the hair, and thus was marked the distinction of years.’

The worship paid to God.

The Shih does not speak of the worship which was paid to God, unless it be incidentally. There were two grand occasions on which it was rendered by the sovereign,–the summer and winter solstices. These two sacrifices were offered on different altars, that in winter being often described as offered to Heaven, and that in summer to Earth; but we have the testimony of Confucius, in the nineteenth chapter of the Doctrine of the Mean, that the object of them both was to serve Shang-Ti. Of the ceremonies on these two occasions, however, I do not speak here, as there is nothing said about them in the Shih. But there were other sacrifices to God, at stated periods in the course of the year, of at least two of which we have some intimation in the pieces of this fourth Part. The last in the first decade of the Sacrificial Odes of Kau is addressed to Hau Ki as having proved himself the correlate of Heaven, in teaching men to cultivate the grain which God had appointed for the nourishment of all. This was appropriate to a sacrifice in spring, offered to God to seek His blessing on the agricultural labours of the year, Hau Ki, as the ancestor of the House of Kau, being associated with Him in it. The seventh piece of the same decade again was appropriate to a sacrifice to God in autumn, in the Hall of Light, at a great audience to the feudal princes, when king Wan was associated with Him as being the founder of the dynasty of Kau.

With these preliminary observations to assist the reader in understanding the pieces in this Part, I proceed to give–


THESE Odes of Shang constitute the last Book in the ordinary editions of the Shih. I put them here in the first place, because they are the oldest pieces in the collection. There are only five of them.

The sovereigns of the dynasty of Shang who occupied the throne from B.C. 1766 to 1123. They traced their lineage to Hsieh, appears in the Shu as Minister of Instruction to Shun. By Yao or by Shun, Hsieh was invested with the principality of Shang, corresponding to the small department which is so named in Shen-hsi. Fourteenth in descent from him came Thien-Yi, better known as Khang Thang, or Thang the Successful, who dethroned the last descendant of the line of Hsia, and became the founder of a new dynasty. We meet with him first at a considerable distance from the ancestral fief (which, however, gave name to the dynasty), having as his capital the southern Po, which seems correctly referred to the present district of Shang-khiu, in the department of Kwei-teh, Ho-nan. Among the twenty-seven sovereigns who followed Thang, there were three especially distinguished:–Thai Kia, his grandson and successor (B.C. 1753 to 1721), who received the title of Thai Zung; Thai Mau (B.C. 1637 to 1563), canonized as Kung Zung; and Wu-ting (B.C. 1324 to 1266), known as Kao Zung. The shrines of these three sovereigns and that of Thang retained their places in the ancestral temple ever after they were first set up and if all the sacrificial odes of the dynasty had been preserved, most of them would have been in praise of one or other of the four. But it so happened that at least all the odes of which Thai Zung was the subject were lost; and of the others we have only the small portion that has been mentioned above.

Of how it is that we have even these, we have the following account in the Narratives of the States, compiled, probably, by a contemporary of Confucius. The count of Wei was made duke of Sung by king Wu of Kau, as related in the Shu, V, viii, there to continue the sacrifices of the House of Shang; but the government of Sung fell subsequently into disorder, and the memorials of the dynasty were lost. In the time of duke Tai (B.C. 799 to 766), one of his ministers, Kang-khao, an ancestor of Confucius, received from the Grand Music-Master at the court of Kau twelve of the sacrificial odes of Shang with which he returned to Sung, where they were used in sacrificing to the old Shang kings. It is supposed that seven of these were lost subsequently, before the collection of the Shih was formed.

ODE 1. THE NA [1].


We cannot tell by which of the kings of Shang the sacrifice here referred to was first performed. He is simply spoken of as ‘a descendant of Thang.’ The ode seems to have been composed by some one, probably a member of the royal House, who had taken part in the service.

How admirable! how complete! Here are set our hand-drums and drums. The drums resound harmonious and loud, To delight our meritorious ancestor [2].

The descendant of Thang invites him with this music, That he may soothe us with the realization of our thoughts[3]. Deep is the sound of our hand-

[1. The piece is called the Na, because a character so named is an important part of the first line. So generally the pieces in the Shih receive their names from a character or phrase occurring in them. This point will not be again touched on.

2. The ‘meritorious ancestor’ is Thang. The sacrifices of the Shang dynasty commenced with music; those of the Kau with libations of fragrant spirits;–in both cases with the same object, to attract the spirit, or spirits, sacrificed to, and secure their presence at the service. Khan Hao (Ming dynasty) says, ‘The departed spirits hover between heaven and earth, and sound goes forth, filling the region of the air. Hence in sacrificing, the people of Yin began with a performance of music.’

3. The Li Ki, XXIV, i, parr. 2, 3, tells us, that the sacrificer, as preliminary to the service, had to fast for some days, and to think of the person of his ancestor,–where he had stood and sat, how he had smiled and spoken, what had been his cherished aims, pleasures, and delights; and on the third day he would have a complete image of him in his mind’s eye. Then on the day of sacrifice, when he entered the temple, he would seem to see him in his shrine, and to hear him, as he went about in the discharge of the service. This line seems to indicate the realization of all this.]

drums and drums; Shrilly sound the flutes; All harmonious and blending together, According to the notes of the sonorous gem. Oh! majestic is the descendant of Thang; Very admirable is his music.

The large bells and drums fill the ear; The various dances are grandly performed[1]. We have the admirable visitors[2], who are pleased and delighted.

From of old, before our time, The former men set us the example;–How to be mild and humble from morning to night, And to be reverent in discharging the service.

May he regard our sacrifices of winter and autumn[3], (Thus) offered by the descendant of Thang!



Neither can we tell by which of the kings of Shang this ode was first used. Ku Hsi says that the object of the sacrifice was Thang. The Preface assigns it to Thai Mau, the Kung Zung, or second of the three ‘honoured Ones.’ But there is not a

[1. Dancing thus entered into the service as an accompaniment of the music. Two terms are employed; one denoting the movements appropriate to a dance Of war, the other those appropriate to a dance of peace.

2. The visitors would be the representatives of the lines of Hsia, Shun, and Yao.

3. Two of the seasonal sacrifices are thus specified, by synecdoche, for all the four.]

word in praise of Fung Zung, and the ‘meritorious ancestor’ of the first line is not to be got over. Still more clearly than in the case of the former ode does this appear to have been made by some one who had taken part in the service, for in line 4 he addresses the sacrificing king as ‘you.’

Ah! ah! our meritorious ancestor! Permanent are the blessings coming from him, Repeatedly conferred without end;–They have come to you in this place.

The clear spirits are in our vessels, And there is granted to us the realization of our thoughts. There are also the well-tempered soups, Prepared beforehand, with the ingredients rightly proportioned. By these offerings we invite his presence, without a word, Without (unseemly) contention (among the worshippers). He will bless us with the eyebrows of longevity, With the grey hair and wrinkled face in unlimited degree.

With the naves of their wheels bound with leather, and their ornamented yokes, With the eight bells at their horses’ bits all tinkling, (The princes) come to assist at the offerings[1]. We have received the appointment in all its greatness, And from Heaven is our prosperity sent down, Fruitful years of great abundance. (Our ancestor) will come and enjoy (our offerings), And confer on us happiness without limit.

May he regard our sacrifices of winter and autumn, (Thus) offered by the descendant of Thang!

[1. These lines are descriptive of the feudal princes, who were present and assisted at the sacrificial service. The chariot of each was drawn by four horses yoked abreast, two insides and two outsides, on each side of the bits of which small bells were attached.]



If this ode were not intended to do honour to Wu-ting, the Kao Zung of Shang, we cannot account for the repeated mention of him in it. Ku Hsi, however, in his note on it, says nothing about Wu-ting, but simply that the piece belonged to the sacrifices in the ancestral temple, tracing back the line of the kings of Shang to its origin, and to its attaining the sovereignty of the kingdom. Not at all unlikely is the view of Kang Hsuean, that the sacrifice was in the third year after the death of Wu-ting and offered to him in the temple of Hsieh, the ancestor of the Shang dynasty.

Heaven commissioned the swallow, To descend and give birth to (the father of our) Shang[1]. (His descendants) dwelt in the land of Yin, and became great. (Then) long ago God appointed the martial Thang, To regulate the boundaries throughout the four quarters (of the kingdom).

(In those) quarters he appointed the princes, And grandly possessed the nine regions[2]. The

[1. The father of Shang is Hsieh, who has already been mentioned. The mother of Hsieh was a daughter of the House of the ancient state of Sung, and a concubine of the ancient ruler Khu (B.C. 2435). According to Mao, she accompanied Khu, at the time of the vernal equinox, when the swallow made its appearance, to sacrifice and pray to the first match-maker, and the result was the birth of Hsieh. Sze-ma Khien and Kang make Hsieh’s birth more marvellous:–The lady was bathing in some open place, when a swallow made its appearance, and dropt an egg, which she took and swallowed; and from this came Hsieh. The editors of the imperial edition of the Shih, of the present dynasty, say we need not believe the legends;–the important point is to believe that the birth of Hsieh was specially ordered by Heaven.

2 ‘The nine regions’ are the nine provinces into which Yue divided the kingdom.]

first sovereign of Shang[1] Received the appointment without any element of instability in it, And it is (now) held by the descendant of Wu-ting [2].

The descendant of Wu-ting Is a martial sovereign, equal to every emergency. Ten princes, (who came) with their dragon-emblazoned banners, Bear the large dishes of millet.

The royal domain of a thousand li Is where the people rest; But the boundaries that reach to the four seas commence there.

From the four seas [3] they come (to our sacrifices); They come in multitudes. King has the Ho for its outer border [4]. That Yin[5] should have received the appointment (of Heaven) was entirely right;–(Its sovereign) sustains all its dignities.



It does not appear on occasion of what sacrifice this piece was made. The most probable view is that of Mao, that it was the

[1. That is, Thang.

2. If this ode were used, as Mang supposes, in the third year after Wu-ting’s death, this ‘ descendant’ would be his son Zu-kang, B.C. 1265 to 1259.

3. This expression, which occurs also in the Shu, indicates that the early Chinese believed that their country extended to the sea, east, west, north, and south.

4. Ku Hsi Says he did not understand this line; but there is ground in the Zo Kwan for our believing that King was the name of a hill in the region where the capital of Shang was.

5. We saw in the Shu that the name Shang gave place to Yin after the time of Pan-kang, B.C. 1401 to 1374. Wu-ting’s reign was subsequent to that of Pan-kang.]

‘great Ti sacrifice,’ when the principal object of honour would be the ancient Khu, the father of Hsieh, with Hsieh as his correlate, and all the kings of the dynasty, with the earlier lords of Shang, and their famous ministers and advisers, would have their places at the service. I think this is the oldest of the odes of Shang.

Profoundly wise were (the lords of) Shang, And long had there appeared the omens (of their dignity).

When the waters of the deluge spread vast abroad, Yu arranged and divided the regions of the land, And assigned to the exterior great states their boundaries, With their borders extending all over (the kingdom). (Even) then the chief of Sung was beginning to be great, And God raised up the son (of his daughter), and founded (the line of) Shang[1].

The dark king exercised an effective sway[2]. Charged with a small state, he commanded success: Charged with a large state, he commanded success[3]. He followed his rules of conduct without error; Wherever he inspected (the people), they responded (to his instructions[4]. (Then came) Hsiang-thu all ardent [5], And all within the four seas, beyond (the middle regions), acknowledged his restraints.

[1. This line refers to the birth of Hsieh, as described in the previous ode, and his being made lord of Shang.

2. It would be hard to say why Hsieh is here called ‘the dark king.’ There may be an allusion to the legend about the connexion of the swallow,–‘the dark bird,’–with his birth, He never was ‘a king;’ but his descendants here represented him as such.

3. All that is meant here is, that the territory of Shang was enlarged under Hsieh.

4. There is a reference here to Hsieh’s appointment by Shun to be Minister of Instruction.

5. Hsiang-thu appears in the genealogical lists as grandson of Hsieh. We know nothing of him but what is related here.]

The favour of God did not leave (Shang), And in Thang was found the fit object for its display. Thang was not born too late, And his wisdom and reverence daily advanced:–Brilliant was the influence of his character (on Heaven) for long. God he revered, And God appointed him to be the model for the nine regions.

He received the rank-tokens of the states, small and large, Which depended on him like the pendants of a banner:–So did he receive the blessing of Heaven. He was neither violent nor remiss, Neither hard nor soft. Gently he spread his instructions abroad, And all dignities and riches were concentrated in him.

He received the tribute of the states, small and large, And he supported them as a strong steed (does its burden):–So did he receive the favour of Heaven. He displayed everywhere his valour, Unshaken, unmoved, Unterrified, unscared:–All dignities were united in him.

The martial king displayed his banner, And with reverence grasped his axe. It was like (the case of) a blazing fire which no one can repress. The root, with its three shoots, Could make no progress, no growth[1]. The nine regions were effectually secured by Thang. Having smitten (the princes of) Wei and Ku, He dealt with (him of) Kuen-wu and with Kieh of Hsia.

Formerly, in the middle of the period (before

[1. By ‘the root’ we are to understand Thang’s chief opponent, Kieh, the last king of Hsia. Kieh’s three great helpers were ‘the three shoots,’–the princes of Wei, Ku, and Kuen-wu; but the exact sites of their principalities cannot be made out.]

Thang), There was a time of shaking and peril[1]. But truly did Heaven (then) deal with him as a son, And sent him down a high minister, Namely, A-hang[2], Who gave his assistance to the king of Shang.



The concluding lines indicate that the temple was made on the occasion which I thus assign to it. After Wu-ting’s death, his spirit-tablet would be shrined in the ancestral temple, and he would have his share in the seasonal sacrifices; but several reigns would elapse before there was any necessity to make any other arrangement, so that his tablet should not be removed, and his share in the sacrifices not be discontinued. Hence the composition of the piece has been referred to the time of Ti-yi, the last but one of the kings of Shang.

Rapid was the warlike energy of (our king of) Yin, And vigorously did he attack King-Khu [3].

[1. We do not know anything of this time of decadence in the fortunes of Shang between Hsieh and Thang.

2. A-hang is I Yin, who plays so remarkable a part in the Shu, IV, Books iv, v, and vi.

3. King, or Khu, or King-Khu, as the two names are combined here, was a large and powerful half-savage state, having its capital in the present Wu-pei. So far as evidence goes, we should say, but for this ode, that the name of Khu was not in use till long after the Shang dynasty. The name King appears several times in ‘the Spring and Autumn’ in the annals of duke Kwang (B.C. 693 to 662), and then it gives place to the name Khu in the first year of duke Hsi (B.C. 659), and subsequently disappears itself altogether. In consequence of this some critics make this piece out to have been composed under the Kau dynasty. The point cannot be fully cleared up; but on the whole I accept the words of the ode as sufficient proof against the silence of other documents.]

Boldly he entered its dangerous passes, And brought the multitudes of King together, Till the country was reduced under complete restraint: Such was the fitting achievement of the descendant of Thang!

‘Ye people,’ (he said), ‘of King-Khu, Dwell in the southern part of my kingdom. Formerly, in the time of Thang the Successful, Even from the Kiang of Ti[1], They dared not but come with their offerings; (Their chiefs) dared not but come to seek acknowledgment[2]:–Such is the regular rule of Shang.’

Heaven had given their appointments (to the princes), But where their capitals, had been assigned within the sphere of the labours of Yue, For the business of every year they appeared before our king[3], (Saying), ‘Do not punish nor reprove us; We have not been remiss in our husbandry.’

When Heaven by its will is inspecting (the kingdom), The lower people are to be feared. (Our king) showed no partiality (in rewarding), no excess (in punishing); He dared not to allow himself in indolence:–So was his appointment (established)

[1. The Ti Kiang, or Kiang of Ti, still existed in the time of the Han dynasty, occupying portions of the present Kan-su.

2. The chiefs of the wild tribes, lying beyond the nine provinces of the kingdom, were required to present themselves once in their lifetime at the royal court. The rule, in normal periods, was for each chief to appear immediately after he had succeeded to the headship of his tribe.

3. The feudal lords had to appear at court every year. They did so, we may suppose, at the court of Wu-ting, the more so because of his subjugation of King-Khu.]

over the states, And he made his happiness grandly secure.

The capital of Shang was full of order, The model for all parts of the kingdom. Glorious was (the king’s) fame; Brilliant his energy. Long lived he and enjoyed tranquillity, And so he preserves us, his descendants.

We ascended the hill of King[1], Where the pines and cypresses grew symmetrical. We cut them down and conveyed them here; We reverently hewed them square. Long are the projecting beams of pine; Large are the many pillars. The temple was completed,–the tranquil abode (of the martial king of Yin).


IN this division we have thirty-one sacrificial odes of Kau, arranged in three decades, the third of which, however, contains eleven pieces. They belong mostly to the time of king Wan, the founder of the Kau dynasty, and to the reigns of his son and grandson, kings Wu and Khang. The decades are named from the name of the first piece in each.

The First Decade, or that of Khing Miao.



Chinese critics agree in assigning this piece to the sacrifice mentioned in the Shu, in the end of the thirteenth Book of Part V, when, the building of Lo being finished, king Khang came to

[1. See on the last line but two of ode 3.]

the new city, and offered a red bull to Win, and the same to Wu. It seems to me to have been sung in honour of Wan, after the service was completed. This determination of the occasion of the piece being accepted, we should refer it to B.C. 1108.

Oh! solemn is the ancestral temple in its pure stillness. Reverent and harmonious were the distinguished assistants[1]; Great was the number of the officers [2]:–(All) assiduous followers of the virtue of (king Wan). In response to him in heaven, Grandly they hurried about in the temple. Distinguished is he and honoured, And will never be wearied of among men.



According to the Preface, there is an announcement here of the realization of complete peace throughout the kingdom, and some of the old critics refer the ode to a sacrifice to king Win by the duke of Kau, when he had completed the statutes for the new dynasty. But there is nothing to authorize a more definite argument of the contents than I have given.

The ordinances of Heaven,–How deep are they and unintermitting! And oh! how illustrious Was the singleness of the virtue of king Wan [3]!

How does he (now) show his kindness? We will receive it, Striving to be in accord with him, our

[1. These would be the princes who were assembled on the occasion, and assisted the king in the service.

2 That is, the officers who took part in the libations, prayers, and other parts of the sacrifice.

3 See what Dze-sze says on these four lines in the Doctrine of the Mean, XXVI, par. 10.]

king Wan; And may his remotest descendant be abundantly the same!



Nothing more can, with any likelihood of truth, be said of this short piece, which moreover has the appearance of being a fragment.

Clear and to be preserved bright, Are the statutes of king Wan. From the first sacrifice (to him), Till now when they have issued in our complete state, They have been the happy omen of (the fortunes of) Kau.



The Preface says that this piece was made on the occasion of king Khang’s accession to the government, when he thus addressed the princes who had assisted him in the ancestral temple. Ku Hsi considers that it was a piece for general use in the ancestral temple, to be sung when the king presented a cup to his assisting guests, after they had thrice presented the cup to the representatives of the dead. There is really nothing in it to enable us to decide in favour of either view.

Ye, brilliant and accomplished princes, Have conferred on me this happiness. Your favours to me are without limit, And my descendants will preserve (the fruits of) them.

Be not mercenary nor extravagant in your states, And the king will honour you. Thinking of this service, He will enlarge the dignity of your successors.

What is most powerful is the being the man:–Its influence will be felt throughout your states. What is most distinguished is the being virtuous:–It will secure the imitation of all the princes. Ah! the former kings cannot be forgotten!



We cannot tell what the sacrifice was; and the Preface, indeed, says that the piece was used in the seasonal sacrifices to all the former king., s and dukes of the House of Kau. King Thai was the grandfather of king Wan, and, before he received that title, was known as ‘the ancient duke Than-fu.’ In B.C. 1327, he moved with his followers from Pin, an earlier seat of his House, and settled in the plain of Khi, about fifty li to the north-east of the present district city of Khi-shan, in Shen-hsi.

Heaven made the lofty hill[1], And king Thai brought (the country about) it under cultivation. He made the commencement with it, And king Wan tranquilly (carried on the work), (Till) that rugged (mount) Khi Had level roads leading to it. May their descendants ever preserve it!



Khang was the honorary title of Sung, the son and successor of king Wu, B.C. 1115 to 1079.

Heaven made its determinate appointment, which our two sovereigns received[2]. King Khang did not dare to rest idly in it, But night and day enlarged

[1. Meaning mount Khi.

2. Wan and Wu.]

its foundations by his deep and silent virtue. How did he continue and glorify (his heritage), Exerting all his heart, And so securing its tranquillity!



There is, happily, an agreement among the critics as to the occasion to which this piece is referred. It took place in the last month of autumn, in the Hall of Audience, called also ‘the Brilliant Hall,’ and ‘the Hall of Light.’ We must suppose that the princes are all assembled at court, and that the king receives them in this hall. A sacrifice is then presented to God, with him is associated king Wan, and the two being the fountain from which, and the channel through which, the sovereignty had come to Kau.

I have brought my offerings, A ram and a bull. May Heaven accept them[1]!

I imitate and follow and observe the statutes of king Wan, Seeking daily to secure the tranquillity of the kingdom. King Wan, the Blesser, has descended on the right, and accepted (the offerings).

Do I not, night and day, Revere the majesty of Heaven, Thus to preserve (its favour).



Here again there is an agreement among the critics. We find from the Zo Kwan and ‘the Narratives of the States.’ that the

[1. This is a prayer. The worshipper, it is in view of the majesty of Heaven, shrank from assuming that God would certainly accept his sacrifice. He assumes, below, that king Wan does so.]

piece was, when those compilations were made, considered to be the work of the duke of Kau; and, no doubt, it was made by him soon after the accession of Wu to the kingdom, and when he was making a royal progress in assertion of his being appointed by Heaven to succeed to the rulers of Shang. The ‘I’ in the fourteenth line is, most probably, to be taken of the duke of Kau, who may have recited the piece on occasion of the sacrifices, in the hearing of the assembled princes and lords.

Now is he making a progress through his states; May Heaven deal with him as its son!

Truly are the honour and succession come from it to the House of Kau. To his movements All respond with tremulous awe. He has attempted and given rest to all spiritual beings [1], Even to (the spirits of) the Ho and the highest hills. Truly is the king our sovereign lord.

Brilliant and illustrious is the House of Kau. He has regulated the positions of the princes; He has called in shields and spears; He has returned to their cases bows and arrows[2]. He will cultivate admirable virtue, And display it throughout these great regions. Truly will the king preserve the appointment.

[1. ‘All spiritual beings’ is, literally, ‘the hundred spirits,’ meaning the spirits presiding, under Heaven, over all nature, and especially the spirits of the rivers and hills throughout the kingdom. Those of the Ho and the lofty mountains are mentioned, because if their spirits Were satisfied with Wu, those of all other mountains and hills, no doubt, were so.

2. Compare with these lines the last chapter of ‘the Completion of the War’ in the Shu.]



The Chinese critics differ in the interpretation of this ode, the Preface and older scholars restricting it to a sacrifice to king Wu, while Ku Hsi and others find reference in it, as to me also seems most natural, to Khang and Khang, who succeeded him.

The arm of king Wu was full of strength; Irresistible was his ardour. Greatly illustrious were Khang and Khang [1], Kinged by God.

When we consider how Khang and Khang Grandly held all within the four quarters (of the kingdom), How penetrating was their intelligence!

The bells and drums sound in harmony; The sounding-stones and flutes blend their notes; Abundant blessing is sent down.

Blessing is sent down in large measure. Careful and exact is all our deportment; We have drunk, and we have eaten, to the fall; Our happiness and dignity will be prolonged.



Hau-ki was the same as Khi, who appears in Part II of the Shu as Minister of Agriculture to Yao and Shun, and co-operating with

[1. If the whole piece be understood only of a sacrifice to Wu, this line will have to be translated–‘How illustrious was he, who completed (his great work), and secured its tranquillity.’ We must deal similarly with the next line. This construction is very forced; nor is the text clear on the view of Ku-Hsi.]

Yue in his labours on the flooded land. The name Hau belongs to him as lord of Thai; that of Ki, as Minister of Agriculture. However the combination arose, Hau-ki became historically the name of Khi of the time of Yao and Shun, the ancestor to whom the kings of Kau traced their lineage. He was to the people the Father of Husbandry, who first taught men to plough and sow and reap. Hence, when the kings offered sacrifice and prayer to God at the commencement of spring for his blessing on the labours of the year, they associated Hau-ki with him at the service.

O accomplished Hau-ki, Thou didst prove thyself the correlate of Heaven. Thou didst give grain-food to our multitudes:–The immense gift of thy goodness. Thou didst confer on us the wheat and the barley, Which God appointed for the nourishment of all. And without distinction of territory or boundary, The rules of social duty were diffused throughout these great regions.

The Second Decade, or that of Khan Kung.



The place of this piece among the sacrificial odes makes us assign it to the conclusion of some sacrifice; but what the sacrifice was we cannot tell. The Preface says that it was addressed, at the conclusion of the spring sacrifice to ancestors to the princes who had been present and taken part in the service. Ku Hsi says nothing but what I have stated in the above argument of the piece.

Ah! ah! ministers and officers, Reverently attend to your public duties. The king has given you perfect rules;–Consult about them and consider them.

Ah! ah! ye assistants.. It is now the end of spring [1]; And what have ye to seek for? (Only) how to manage the new fields and those of the third year, How beautiful are the wheat and the barley! The bright and glorious God Will in them give us a good year. Order all our men To be provided with their spuds and hoes:–Anon we shall see the sickles at work.



Again there is a difficulty in determining to what sacrifice this piece should be referred. The Preface says it was sung on the occasions of sacrifice by the king to God, in spring and summer, for a good year. But the note on the first two lines will show that this view cannot be accepted without modification.

Oh! yes, king Khang [2] Brightly brought himself near [2]. Lead your husbandmen To sow their various kinds of grain, Going vigorously to work

[1. It is this line which makes it difficult to determine after what sacrifice we are to suppose these instructions to have been delivered. The year, during the Hsia dynasty, began with the first month of spring, as it now does in China, in consequence of Confucius having said that that was the proper time. Under the Shang dynasty, it commenced a month earlier; and during the Kau period, it ought always to have begun with the new moon preceding the winter solstice,–between our November 22 and December 22. But in the writings of the Kau period we find statements of time continually referred to the calendar of Hsia,–as here.

2 These first two lines are all but unmanageable. The old critics held that there was no mention of king Khang in them; but the text is definite on this point. We must suppose that a special service had been performed at his shrine, asking him to intimate the day when the sacrifice after which the instructions were given should be performed; and that a directing oracle had been received.]

on your private fields[1], All over the thirty li[2]. Attend to your ploughing, With your ten thousand men all in pairs.



This piece may have been used when the king was dismissing his distinguished guests in the ancestral temple. See the introductory note to this Part, pp. 300, 301.

A flock of egrets is flying, About the marsh there in the west[3]. My visitors came, With an (elegant) carriage like those birds.

There, (in their states), not disliked, Here, (in Kau), never tired of;-They are sure, day and night, To perpetuate their fame.

[1. The mention of ‘the private fields’ implies that there were also ‘the public fields,’ cultivated by the husbandmen in common, in behalf of the government. As the people are elsewhere introduced, wishing that the rain might first fall on ‘the public fields,’ to show their loyalty, so the king here mentions only ‘the private fields,’ to show his sympathy and consideration for the people.

2. For the cultivation of the ground, the allotments of single families were separated by a small ditch; ten allotments, by a larger; a hundred, by what we may call a brook; a thousand, by a small stream; and ten thousand, by a river. The space occupied by 10,000 families formed a square of a little more than thirty-two li. We may suppose that this space was intended by the round number of thirty li in the text. So at least Kang Khang-kang explained it.

3. These two lines make the piece allusive. See the Introduction, p. 279.]



The Preface says the piece was used at sacrifices in autumn and winter. Ku Hsi calls it an ode of thanksgiving for a good year,–without any specification of time. He supposes, however, that the thanks were given to the ancient Shan-nang, ‘the father of Agriculture,’ Hau-ki, ‘the first Husbandman,’ and the spirits presiding over the four quarters of the heavens. To this the imperial editors rightly demur, saying that the blessings which the piece speaks of could come only from God.

Abundant is the year with much millet and much rice And we have our high granaries, With myriads, and hundreds of thousands, and millions (of measures in them); For spirits and sweet spirits, To present to our forefathers, male and female, And to supply all our ceremonies. The blessings sent down on us are of every kind.



The critics agree in holding that this piece was made on occasion of the duke of Kau’s completing his instruments of music for the ancestral, temple, and announcing the fact at a grand performance in the temple of king Wan. It cam hardly be regarded as a sacrificial ode.

There are the blind musicians; there are the blind musicians; In the court of (the temple of) Kau.[1]

[1. The blind musicians at the court of Kau were numerous. The blindness of the eyes was supposed to make the ears more acute in hearing, and to be favourable to the powers of the voice. In the Official Book of Kau, III, i, par. 22, the enumeration of these blind musicians gives 2 directors of the first rank, and 4 of the second; 40 performers of the first grade, 100 of the second, and 160 of the third; with 300 assistants who were possessed of vision. But it is difficult not to be somewhat incredulous as to this great collection of blind musicians about the court of Kau.]

There are (the music-frames with their) face-boards and posts, The high toothed-edge (of the former), and the feathers stuck (in the latter); With the drums, large and small, suspended from them; And the hand-drums and sounding-stones, the instrument to give the signal for commencing, and the stopper. These being all complete, the music is struck up. The pan-pipe and the double flute begin at the same time [1].

Harmoniously blend their sounds; In solemn unison they give forth their notes. Our ancestors will give ear. Our visitors will be there;–Long to witness the complete performance.



Such is the argument of this piece given in the Preface, and in which the critics generally concur. In the Li Ki, IV, vi, 49, it is recorded that the king, in the third Month of winter, gave orders to his chief fisher to commence his duties, and went himself to see his operations. He partook of the fish first captured, but previously presented some as an offering in the back apartment of the ancestral temple. In the third month of spring, again, when the sturgeons began to make their appearance (Li Ki, IV, i, 25), the king presented one in the same place. On

[1. All the instruments here enumerated were performed on in the open court below the hall. Nothing is said of the stringed instruments which were used in the hall itself; nor is the enumeration of the instruments in the courtyard complete.]

these passages, the prefatory notice was, no doubt, constructed. Choice specimens of the earliest-caught fish were presented by the sovereign to his ancestors, as an act of duty, and an acknowledgment that it was to their favour that he and the people were indebted for the supplies of food, which they received from the waters.

Oh! in the Khi and the Khue, There are many fish in the warrens;–Sturgeons, large and snouted, Thryssas, yellow-jaws, mud-fish, and carp;–For offerings, for sacrifice, That our bright happiness may be increased.



From a reference in the Analects, III, ii, to an abuse of this ode in the time of Confucius, We learn that it was sung When the sacrificial vessels and their contents were being removed.

They come full of harmony; They are here in all gravity;–The princes assisting, While the Son of Heaven looks profound.

(He says), ‘While I present (this) noble bull, And they assist me in setting forth the sacrifice, O great and august Father, Comfort me, your filial son.

With penetrating wisdom thou didst play the man. A sovereign with the gifts both of peace and war, Giving rest even to great Heaven[1], And ensuring prosperity to thy descendants.

[1. To explain this line one commentator refers to the seventh stanza of the first piece in the Major Odes of the Kingdom, where it is said, ‘God surveyed the four quarters of the kingdom, seeking for some one to give settlement and rest to the people;’ and adds, ‘Thus what Heaven has at heart is the settlement of the people, When the), have rest given to them, then Heaven is at rest.’]

‘Thou comfortest me with the eyebrows of longevity; Thou makest me great with manifold blessings, I offer this sacrifice to my meritorious father, And to my accomplished mother[1].’



They appeared before their sovereign king, To seek from him the rules (they were to observe). With their dragon-emblazoned banners, flying bright, The bells on them and their front-boards tinkling, And with the rings on the ends of the reins glittering, Admirable was their majesty and splendour.

He led them to appear before his father shrined on the left [2], Where he discharged his filial duty, and presented his offerings;–That he might have granted to him long life, And ever preserve (his dignity). Great and many are his blessings. They are the brilliant and accomplished princes, Who cheer him with his many sources of happiness,

[1. At sacrifices to ancestors, the spirit tablets of wives were placed along with those of their husbands in their shrines, so that both shared in the honours of the service. So it is now in the imperial ancestral temple in Peking. The ‘accomplished mother’ here would be Thai Sze, celebrated often in the pieces of the first Book of Part I, and elsewhere.

2 Among the uses of the services of the ancestral temple, specified by Confucius and quoted on p. 302, was the distinguishing the order of descent in the royal House. According to the rules for that purpose, the characters here used enable us to determine the subject of this line as king Wu, in opposition to his father Wan.]

Enabling him to perpetuate them in their brightness as pure blessing.



The mention of the white horses here in the chariot of the visitor sufficiently substantiates the account in the Preface that he was the famous count of Wei, mentioned in the Shu, IV, xi, and whose subsequent investiture with the duchy of Sung, as the representative of the line of the Shang kings, is also related in the Shu, V, viii. With the dynasty of Shang white had been the esteemed and sacred colour, as red was with Kau, and hence the duke had his carriage drawn by white horses. ‘The language,’ says one critic, ‘is all in praise of the visitor, but it was sung in the temple, and is rightly placed therefore among the Sung.’ There is, in the last line, an indication of the temple in it.

The noble visitor! The noble visitor! Drawn, like his ancestors, by white horses! The reverent and dignified, Polished members of his suite!

The noble guest will stay (but) a night or two! The noble guest will stay (but) two nights or four! Give him ropes, To bind his horses [1].

I will convoy him (with a parting feast); I will comfort him in every possible way. Adorned with such great dignity, It is very natural that he should be blessed.

[1. These four lines simply express the wish of the king, to detain his