Back to collection
The Book of Rites 《禮記》
《文王世子》King Wen as Son and Heir
》King Wen as Son and Heir
Thus did king Wen act when he was eldest son and heir: Thrice a day he made a visit in due form to king Ji. When the cock first crowed he dressed himself, and going to the outside of the bedroom, asked one of the servants of the interior who was in attendance how the king was and if he were well. When told that he was well, the prince was glad. At midday he repeated the visit in the same way; and so he did again in the evening. If the king were not so well as usual, the servant would tell the prince, and then his sorrow appeared in his countenance, and his walk was affected and disturbed. When king Ji took his food again, Wen recovered his former appearance. When the food went up (to the king), he would examine it and see if it were cold and hot as it ought to be. When it came down, he asked of what dishes the king had eaten. He gave orders to the cook that none of the dishes should go up again, and withdrew on receiving the cook's assurance accordingly.
King Wu acted according to the example (of Wen), not presuming to go (in anything) beyond it. When king Wen was ill, Wu nursed him without taking off his cap or girdle. When king Wen took a meal, he also took a meal; and when king Wen took a second, he did the same. It was not till after twelve days that he intermitted his attentions.
: Originally read: "說
King Wen said to Wu, 'What have you been dreaming?' 'I dreamt,' was the reply, 'that God gave me nine ling.' 'And what do you think was the meaning?' King Wu said, 'There are nine states in the west - may it not mean that you will yet bring them all under your happy sway?' Wen said, 'That was not the meaning. Anciently they called a year ling. The age is also called ling. I am 100; and you are 90. I give you three years.' King Wen was 97 when he died, and king Wu was 93.
King Cheng, being quite young, could not perform his part at the eastern steps. The duke of Zhou acted as regent, trod those steps, and administered the government. He illustrated the rules for the behaviour of a young heir in his treatment of Bo-Qin, that king Cheng might thereby know the courses to be pursued by father and son, ruler and minister, old and young. When he committed an error, the duke punished Bo-Qin. This was the way in which he showed king Cheng his duty as the son and heir. So much on the way in which king Wen acted as son and heir.
In teaching the heir-sons (of the king and feudal princes), and young men (chosen from their aptitude) for 'learning', the subjects were different at different seasons. In spring and summer they were taught the use of the shield and spear; in autumn and winter that of the feather and flute - all in the eastern school. The inferior directors of music taught the use of the shield aided by the great assistants. The flute masters taught the use of the spear, aided by the subdirectors, while the assistants regulated by the drum (the chanting of) the Nan. In spring they recited (the pieces), and in summer they played on the guitar, being taught by the grand master in the Hall of the Blind. In autumn they learned ceremonies, being instructed by the masters of ceremonies. In winter they read the book of History, being instructed by the guardians of it. Ceremonies were taught in the Hall of the Blind; the book in the upper school.
All the rules about sacrificial offerings and at the nourishing of the old begging them to speak (their wise counsels) and the conversation at general reunions, were taught by the lower directors of Music in the eastern school. The Grand director of Music taught how to brandish the shield and axe. He also delivered the graduated rules relating to conversations and the charges about begging the old to speak. The Grand perfecter (of Instruction) discussed all about (these matters) in the eastern school. Whenever a pupil was sitting with the Grand completer (of Instruction), there was required to be between them the width of three mats. He might put questions to him; and when he had finished, sit back on the mat near to the wall. While the instructor had not finished all he had to say on any one point, he did not ask about another.
In all the schools, the officer (in charge), in spring set forth offerings to the master who first, taught (the subjects); and in autumn and winter he did the same. In every case of the first establishment of a school the offerings must be set forth to the earlier sages and the earlier teachers; and in the doing of this, pieces of silk must be used. In all the cases of setting forth the offerings, it was required to have the accompaniments (of dancing and singing). When there were any events of engrossing interest in a state (at the time), these were omitted. When there was the accompaniment of music on a great scale, they proceeded immediately to feast the aged.
At all examinations in the suburban schools, the rule was to select the best and mark out the most talented. The pupils might be advanced for their virtue, or commended for something they had accomplished, or distinguished for their eloquence. Those who had studied minor arts were encouraged and told to expect a second examination. If they (then) had one of the three things (above mentioned), they were advanced to a higher grade, according to their several orders, and were styled 'Men of the schools.' They were (still, however,) kept out of the royal college, and could not receive the cup from the vase restricted to the superior students.
On the first establishment of schools (in any state), when the instruments of music were completed, offerings of silk were set forth; and afterwards those of vegetables. But there was no dancing and (consequently) no giving out of the spears and other things used in it. They simply retired and received visitors in the eastern school. Only one cup was passed round. The ceremony might pass without (parade of) attendants or conversation. (All these things) belonged to the education of the young princes.
In the education of the crown princes adopted by the founders of the three dynasties the subjects were the rules of propriety and music. Music served to give the interior cultivation; the rules served to give the external cultivation. The two, operating reciprocally within, had their outward manifestation, and the result was a peaceful serenity, reverence of inward feeling and mild elegance of manners. The Grand tutor and the assistant tutor were appointed for their training, to make them acquainted with the duties of father and son, and of ruler and minister. The former made himself perfectly master of those duties in order to exhibit them; the latter guided the princes to observe the virtuous ways of the other and fully instructed him about them. The Grand tutor went before them, and the assistant came after them. In the palace was the guardian, outside it was the master; and thus by this training and instruction the virtue (of the princes) was completed. The master taught them by means of occurring things, and made them understand what was virtuous. The guardian watched over their persons, and was as a stay and wings to them, leading them in the right way. The history says, 'Under the dynasties of Yu, Xia, Shang, and Zhou, there were the master, the guardian, the Yi, and the Cheng, and there were appointed the four aides and the three ducal ministers. That these offices should all be filled was not so necessary as that there should be the men for them' - showing how the object was to employ the able.
When we speak of 'a superior man' we intend chiefly his virtue. The virtue perfect and his instructions honoured; his instructions honoured and the (various) officers correct; the officers correct and order maintained in the state: these things give the ideal of a ruler.
Zhong-ni said, 'Formerly, when the duke of Zhou was administering the government, he did so while he (continued to) go up by the eastern steps. He (also) set forth the rules for a crown prince in (his dealing with) Bo-Qin, and it was thus that he secured the excellence of king Cheng. I have heard it said, "A minister will sacrifice himself to benefit his ruler, and how much more will he swerve from the ordinary course to secure his excellence!" This was what the duke of Zhou did with ease and unconcern. Therefore he who knows how to show himself what a son should be can afterwards show himself what a father should be; he who knows how to show himself what a minister should be can afterwards show himself what a ruler should be; he who knows how to serve others can afterwards employ them. King Cheng, being quite young, could not discharge the duties of the government. He had no means of learning how to show himself what the crown prince should be. On this account the rules for a crown prince were exhibited in (the treatment of) Bo-Qin, and he was made to live with the young king that the latter might thus understand all that was right between father and son, ruler and minister, elders and youngers.'
Take the case of the sovereign and his son and heir. Looked at from the standpoint of affection, the former is father; from that of honour, he is ruler. If the son can give the affection due to the father, and the honour due to the ruler, hereafter he 'will (be fit to) be the lord of all under the sky. On this account the training of crown princes ought to be most carefully attended to. It is only in the case of the crown prince that by the doing of one thing three excellent things are realised; and it is with reference to his taking his place in the schools according to his age that this is spoken. Thus it is that when he takes his place in them in this way, the people observing it, one will say, 'He is to be our ruler, how is it that he gives place to us in the matter of years?' and it will be replied, 'While his father is alive, it is the rule that he should do so.' Thus all will understand the right course as between father and son. A second will make the same remark, and put the same question; and it will be replied, 'While the ruler is alive, it is the rule that he should do so;' and thus all will understand the righteousness that should obtain between ruler and minister. To a third putting the same question it will be said, 'He is giving to his elders what is due to their age;' and thus all will understand the observances that should rule between young and old. Therefore, while his father is alive, he is but a son; and, while his ruler is alive, he may be called merely a minister. Occupying aright the position of son and Minister is the way in which he shows the honour due to a ruler and the affection due to a father. He is thus taught the duties between father and son, between ruler and minister, between old and young; and when he has become master of all these, the state will be well governed. The saying, 'Music's Director the foundation lays; The Master this doth to perfection raise. Let him but once the great and good be taught, And all the states are to correctness brought,' finds its application in the case of the heir-son. So much for the duke of Zhou's going up by the eastern steps.
The Shu-zi, who had the direction of the (other) members of the royal and princely families, inculcated on them filial piety and fraternal duty, harmony and friendship, and kindly consideration; illustrating the righteousness that should prevail between father and son, and the order to be observed between elders and juniors.
When they appeared at court, if it were at a reception in the innermost (courtyard of the palace), they took their places, facing the east, those of the most honourable rank among them, as ministers, being to the north (of the others); but they were arranged according to their age. If it were a reception in the outer (and second courtyard), they were arranged according to their offices; (as in the former case), by the superintendents of the official lists.
When they were in the ancestral temple, they took their places as at the reception in the outer (and second courtyard); and the superintendent of the temple assigned his business to each according to rank and office. In their ascending (to the hall), partaking of what had been left (by the personator of the dead), presenting (the cup to him), and receiving it (from him), the eldest son by the wife took the precedence. The proceedings were regulated by the Shu-zi. Although one might have received three of the gifts of distinction, he did not take precedence of an uncle or elder cousin.
At the funeral rites for rulers, they were arranged according to the character of their mourning-dress in the fineness or coarseness of the material. In case of such rites among themselves, the same order was observed, the principal mourner, however, always taking precedence of all others.
If the ruler were feasting with his kindred, then all of a different kindred were received as guests. The cook acted as master of the ceremonies. The ruler took place among his uncles and cousins according to age. Each generation of kindred took a lower place as it was a degree removed from the parent-stem.
When with the army, the kindred guarded the spirit-tablets that had been brought from their shrines. If any public duties called the ruler beyond the limits of the state, those officers of the kindred employed the members of it, who had not other duties, to guard the ancestral temple and the apartments of the palace, the eldest sons by the proper wives guarding the temple of the Grand ancestor; the various uncles, the most honoured temple-shrines and apartments; the other sons and grandsons, the inferior shrines and apartments.
All descended from any of the five rulers to whom the temple-shrines were dedicated, even those who were now classed among the common people, were required to announce the events of capping and marriage, so long as the temple-shrine of the (Grand ancestor) had not been removed. Their deaths had to be announced; and also their sacrifices during the period of mourning. In the relations of the kindred among themselves, the proper officers punished any neglect of the regulations for condoling and not condoling, leaving off and not leaving off the cap (in mourning). There were the correct rules for the mourning gifts of articles, money, robes, and jade to put into the mouth (of the deceased).
When one of the ruler's kindred was found guilty of a capital offence, he was hanged by some one of the foresters' department. If the punishment for his offence were corporal infliction or dismemberment, it was also handed over to the same department. No one of the ruler's kindred was punished with castration. When the trial was concluded, the proper officer reported the sentence to the ruler. If the penalty were death, he would say, 'The offence of So and So is a capital crime.' If the penalty were less, he would say, 'The offence of So and So has received a lighter sentence.' The ruler would say', 'Let the sentence be remitted for another;' and the officer would say, 'That is the sentence.' This was repeated till the third time, when the officer would make no answer, but hurry off and put the execution into the hands of the appointed forester. Still the ruler would send some one after him, and say, 'Yes, but grant forgiveness,' to which there would be the reply, 'It is too late.' When the execution was reported to the ruler, he put on white clothes, and did not have a full meal or music, thus changing his usual habits. Though the kinsman might be within the degree for which there should be mourning rites, the ruler did not wear mourning, but wailed for him himself (in some family of a different surname).
That the rulers kindred appeared at the reception in the innermost (court) showed how (the ruler) would honour the relatives of his own surname. That they took places according to their age, even those among them of high rank, showed the relation to be maintained between father and son. That they took places at the reception in the outer court according to their offices, showed how (the ruler) would show that they formed one body with (the officers of) other surnames.
Their taking their places in the ancestral temple according to rank served to exalt the sense of virtue. That the superintendent of the temple assigned to them their several services according to their offices was a tribute of honour to worth. That the eldest son by the proper wife was employed to ascend, take precedence in partaking of what had been left, and in receiving the cup, was to do honour to their ancestor.
That the distinctions at the funeral rites were arranged according to the fineness or coarseness of their mourning robes was not to take from any one the degree of his relationship.
The ruler, when feasting with his kindred, took his place among them according to age, and thus development was given to filial piety and fraternal duty. That each generation took a lower place as it was removed a degree from the parent-stem showed the graduation of affection among relatives.
The guard maintained during war over the spirit-tablets in the army showed the deep sense of filial piety and love. When the eldest son by the proper wife guarded the temple of the Grand ancestor, honour was done to the temple by the most honoured, and the rule as between ruler and minister was exhibited. When the uncles guarded the most honoured shrines and apartments, and the cousins those that were inferior, the principles of subordination and deference were displayed.
That the descendants of the five rulers, to whom the temple-shrines were dedicated, were required, so long as the shrine of the Grand ancestor had not been removed, to announce their cappings and marriages, and their death was also required to be announced, showed how kinship was to be kept in mind. While the kinship was yet maintained, that some were classed among the common people showed how mean position followed on want of ability. The reverent observance of condoling, wailing, and of presenting contributions to the funeral rites in articles and money, Was the way taken to maintain harmony and friendliness.
Anciently, when the duties of these officers of the royal or princely kindred were well discharged, there was a constant model for the regions and states; and when this model was maintained, all knew to what to direct their views and aims.
When any of the ruler's kindred were guilty of offences, notwithstanding their kinship, they were not allowed to transgress with impunity, but the proper officers had their methods of dealing with them - this showed the regard cherished for the people. That the offender was punished in secret, and not associated with common people, showed (the ruler's) concern for his brethren. That he offered no condolence, wore no mourning, and wailed for the criminal in the temple of a different surname, showed how he kept aloof from him as having disgraced their ancestors. That he wore white, occupied a chamber outside, and did not listen to music, was a private mourning for him, and showed how the feeling of kinship was not extinguished. That one of the ruler's kindred was not subjected to castration, showed how he shrank from cutting off the perpetuation of their family.
When the son of Heaven was about to visit the college, the drum was beaten at early dawn to arouse all (the students). When all were come together, the son of Heaven then arrived and ordered the proper officers to discharge their business, proceeding in the regular order, and sacrificing to the former masters and former Sages. When they reported to him that everything had been done, he then began to go to the nourishing (of the aged). Proceeding to the school on the east, he unfolded and set forth the offerings to the aged of former times, and immediately afterwards arranged the mats and places for the three (classes of the) old, and the five (classes of the) experienced, for all the aged (indeed who were present). He (then) went to look at the food and examine the liquor. When the delicacies for the nourishment of the aged were all ready, he caused the song to be raised (as a signal for the aged to come). After this he retired and thus it was that he provided for (the aged) his filial nourishment. When (the aged) had returned (to their seats after partaking of the feast), the musicians went up and sang the Qing Miao, after which there was conversation to bring out fully its meaning. They spoke of the duties between father and son, ruler and minister, elders and juniors. This union (of the conversation) with the highest description of virtue in the piece constituted the greatest feature of the ceremony. Below (in the court-yard), the flute-players played the tune of the Xiang, while the Da-wu was danced, all uniting in the grand concert according to their parts, giving full development to the spirit (of the music), and stimulating the sense of virtue. The positions of ruler and minister, and the gradations of noble and mean were correctly exhibited, and the respective duties of high and low took their proper course. The officers having announced that the music was over, the king then charged the dukes, marquises, earls, counts, and barons, with all the officers, saying, 'Return, and nourish the aged and the young in your eastern schools.' Thus did he end (the ceremony) with (the manifestation of) benevolence.
The above statements show how the sage (sovereign) bore in mind the various steps (of this ceremony). He anxiously thought of it as its greatness deserved; his love for the aged was blended with reverence; he carried the thing through with attention to propriety; he adorned it with his filial nourishing; he connected with it the exhibition of the legitimate distinctions (of rank); and concluded it with (the manifestation of) benevolence. In this way the ancients, in the exhibition of this one ceremony, made all know how complete was their virtue. Among them, when they undertook any great affair, they were sure to carry it through carefully from beginning to end, so that it was impossible for any not to understand them. As it is said in the Yue Ming', 'The thoughts from first to last should be fixed on (this) learning.'
The Record of (king Wen's) son and heir says, 'Morning and evening he went to the outside of the door of the great chamber, and asked the attendant of the interior whether his father were well, and how he was. If told that he was well, his joy appeared in his countenance. If his father were not so well, the attendant would tell him so, and then his sorrow and anxiety appeared, and his demeanour was disturbed. When the attendant told him that his father was better, he resumed his former appearance. Morning and evening when the food went up, he would examine it and see if it were hot or cold as it ought to be. When it came down, he asked what his father had eaten. He made it a point to know what viands went in, and to give his orders to the cook; and then he retired. If the attendant reported that his father was ill, then he himself fasted and waited on him in his dark-coloured dress. He inspected with reverence the food prepared by the cook, and tasted himself the medicine for the patient. If his father ate well of the food, then he was able to eat. If his father ate but little, then he could not take a full meal. When his father had recovered, then he resumed his former ways.'
Source: Chinese Text Project http://ctext.org/liji. English translation "Sacred Books of the East, volume 28, part 4: The Li Ki", James Legge, 1885
See the Help page for more
information on the best use of the dictionary or if you have problems.
Copyright Fo Guang Shan Nan Tien Institute 佛光山南天大學 2013-2017,
This work is licensed under a
Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. See
About. Please send comments to
This page was last updated on 2018-01-16.