Back to collection
The Book of Rites 《禮記》
《祭義》 The Meaning of Sacrifices
》 The Meaning of Sacrifices
Sacrifices should not be frequently repeated. Such frequency is indicative of importunateness; and importunateness is inconsistent with reverence. Nor should they be at distant intervals. Such infrequency is indicative of indifference; and indifference leads to forgetting them altogether. Therefore the superior man, in harmony with the course of Heaven, offers the sacrifices of spring and autumn. When he treads on the dew which has descended as hoar-frost he cannot help a feeling of sadness, which arises in his mind, and cannot be ascribed to the cold. In spring, when he treads on the ground, wet with the rains and dews that have fallen heavily, he cannot avoid being moved by a feeling as if he were seeing his departed friends. We meet the approach of our friends with music, and escort them away with sadness, and hence at the sacrifice in spring we use music, but not at the sacrifice in autumn.
The severest vigil and purification is maintained and carried on inwardly; while a looser vigil is maintained externally. During the days of such vigil, the mourner thinks of his departed, how and where they sat, how they smiled and spoke, what were their aims and views, what they delighted in, and what things they desired and enjoyed. On the third day of such exercise he will see those for whom it is employed.
On the day of sacrifice, when he enters the apartment (of the temple), he will seem to see (the deceased) in the place (where his spirit-tablet is). After he has moved about (and performed his operations), and is leaving at the door, he will seem to be arrested by hearing the sound of his movements, and will sigh as he seems to hear the sound of his sighing.
Thus the filial piety taught by the ancient kings required that the eyes of the son should not forget the looks (of his parents), nor his ears their voices; and that he should retain the memory of their aims, likings, and wishes. As he gave full play to his love, they seemed to live again; and to his reverence, they seemed to stand out before him. So seeming to live and stand out, so unforgotten by him, how could his sacrifices be without the accompaniment of reverence?
The superior man, while (his parents) are alive, reverently nourishes them; and, when-they are dead, he reverently sacrifices to them; his (chief) thought is how to the end of life not to disgrace them. The saying that the superior man mourns all his life for his parents has reference to the recurrence of the day of their death. That he does not do his ordinary work on that day does not mean that it would be unpropitious to do so; it means that on that day his thoughts are occupied with them, and he does not dare to occupy himself as on other days with his private and personal affairs.
It is only the sage who can sacrifice to God, and (only) the filial son who can sacrifice to his parents. Sacrificing means directing one's self to, The son directs his thoughts (to his parents), and then he can offer his sacrifice (so that they shall enjoy it). Hence the filial son approaches the personator of the departed without having occasion to blush; the ruler leads the victim forward, while his wife puts down the bowls; the ruler presents the offerings to the personator, while his wife sets forth the various dishes; his ministers and Great officers assist the ruler, while their acknowledged wives assist his wife. How well sustained was their reverence! How complete was the expression of their loyal devotion! How earnest was their wish that the departed should enjoy the service!
King Wen, in sacrificing, served the dead as if he were serving the living. He thought of them dead as if he did not wish to live (any longer himself). On the recurrence of their death-day, he was sad; in calling his father by the name elsewhere forbidden, he looked as if he saw him. So sincere was he in sacrificing that he looked as if he saw the things which his father loved, and the pleased expression of his face - such was king Wen! The lines of the ode (II, v, ode 2), 'When early dawn unseals my eyes, Before my mind my parents rise,' might be applied to king Wen. On the day after the sacrifice, when the day broke, he did not sleep, but hastened to repeat it; and after it was finished, he still thought of his parents. On the day of sacrifice his joy and sorrow were blended together. He could not but rejoice in the opportunity of offering the sacrifice; and when it was over, he could not but be sad.
At the autumnal sacrifice, when Zhong-ni advanced, bearing the offerings, his general appearance was indicative of simple sincerity, but his steps were short and oft repeated. When the sacrifice was over, Zi-gong questioned him, saying, 'Your account of sacrificing was that it should be marked by the dignity and intense absorption of all engaged in it; and now how is it that in your sacrificing there has been no such dignity and absorption?'
The Master said, 'That dignity of demeanour should belong to those who are only distantly connected (with him who is sacrificed to), and that absorbed demeanour to one whose thoughts are turned in on himself (lest he should make any mistake). But how should such demeanour consist with communion with the spirits (sacrificed to)? How should such unity and absorption be seen in my sacrifice? (At the sacrifices of the king and rulers) there is the return of the personator to his apartment, and the offering of food to him there; there are the performances of the music, and the setting forth of the stands with the victims on them; there are the ordering of the various ceremonies and the music; and there is the complete array of the officers for all the services. When they are engaged in the maintenance of that dignity and absorption in their duties, how can they be lost in their abandonment to intercourse with the spiritual presences? Should words be understood only in one way? Each saying has its own appropriate application.'
When a filial son is about to sacrifice, he is anxious that all preparations should be made beforehand; and when the time arrives, that everything necessary should be found complete; and then, with a mind free from all pre-occupation, he should address himself to the performance of his sacrifice. The temple and its apartments having been repaired, the walls and roofs having been put in order, and all the assisting officers having been provided, husband and wife, after vigil and footing, bathe their heads and persons, and array themselves in full dress. In coming in with the things which they carry, how grave and still are they! how absorbed in what they do! as if they were not able to sustain their weight, as if they would let them fall - Is not theirs the highest filial reverence? He sets forth the stands with the victims on them; arranges all the ceremonies and music; provides the officers for, the various ministries. These aid in sustaining and bringing in the things, and thus he declares his mind and wish, and in his lost abstraction of mind seeks to have communion with the dead in their spiritual state, if peradventure they will enjoy his offerings, if peradventure they will do so. Such is the aim of the filial son (in his sacrifices)!
The filial son, in sacrificing, seems never able to exhaust his earnest purpose, his sincerity, and reverence. He observes every rule, without transgression or short-coming. His reverence appears in his movements of advancing and retiring, as if he were hearing the orders (of his parents), or as if they were perhaps directing him.
What the sacrifice of a filial son should be can be known. While he is standing (waiting for the service to commence), he should be reverent, with his body somewhat bent; while he is. engaged in carrying forward the service, he should be reverent, with an expression of pleasure; when he is presenting the offerings, he should be reverent, with an expression of desire. He should then retire and stand, as if he were about to receive orders; when he has removed the offerings and (finally) retires, the expression of reverent gravity should continue to be worn on his face. Such is the sacrifice of a filial son. To stand without any inclination of the body would show insensibility; to carry the service forward without an expression of pleasure would show indifference; to present the offerings without an expression of desire (that they may be enjoyed) would show a want of love; to retire and stand without seeming to expect to receive orders would show pride; to retire and stand, after the removal of the offerings, without an expression of reverent gravity would show a forgetfulness of the parent to whom he owes his being. A sacrifice so conducted would be wanting in its proper characteristics.
A filial son, cherishing a deep love (for his parents), is sure to have a bland air; having a bland air, he will have a look of pleasure; having a look of pleasure, his demeanour will be mild and compliant. A filial son will move as if he were carrying a jade symbol, or bearing a full vessel. Still and grave, absorbed in what he is doing, he will seem as if he were unable to sustain the burden, and in danger of letting it fall. A severe gravity and austere manner are not proper to the service of parents;--such is the manner of a full-grown man.
There were five things by means of which the ancient kings secured the good government of the whole kingdom - the honour which they paid to the virtuous; to the noble; and to the old; the reverence which they showed to the aged; and their kindness to the young. It was by these five things that they maintained the stability of the kingdom. Why did they give honour to the virtuous? Because of their approximation to the course of duty. They did so to the noble because of their approximation to the position of the ruler; and to the old because of their approximation to that of parents. They showed reverence to the aged, because of their approximation to the position of elder brothers; and kindness to the young, because of their approximation to the position of sons.
Therefore he who is perfectly filial approximates to be king, and he who is perfectly fraternal approximates to being presiding chieftain. He who is perfectly filial approximates to being king, for even the son of Heaven had the father (whom he must revere); and he who is perfectly fraternal approximates to being presiding chieftain, for even a feudal lord had his elder brothers (or cousins), (whom he must obey). The observance of the lessons of the ancient kings, without admitting any change in them, was the way by which they united and kept together the kingdom with its states and families.
The Master said, 'The laying the foundation of (all) love in the love of parents teaches people concord. The laying the foundation of (all) reverence in the reverence of elders teaches the people obedience. When taught loving harmony, the people set the (proper) value on their parents; when taught to reverence their superiors, the people set the (Proper) value in obeying the orders given to them. Filial piety in the service of parents, and obedience in the discharge of orders can be displayed throughout the kingdom, and they will everywhere take effect.
At (the time of) the border sacrifice (to Heaven), those who are engaged in funeral rites do not dare to wail, and those who are wearing mourning do not dare to enter the gate of the capital - this is the highest expression of reverence.
On the day of sacrifice, the ruler led the victim forward, along with and assisted by his son on the opposite side; while the Great officers followed in order. When they had entered the gate of the temple, they fastened the victim to the stone pillar. The ministers and Great officers then bared their arms, and proceeded to inspect the hair, paying particular attention to that of the ears. They then with the knife with the bells attached to it, cut it open, took out the fat about the inwards, and withdrew (for a time). Afterwards they offered some of the flesh boiled, and some raw, then (finally) withdrawing. There was the highest reverence about everything.
The sacrifice in the suburb of the capital was the great expression of gratitude to Heaven, and it was specially addressed to the sun, with which the moon was associated. The sovereigns of Xia presented it in the dark. Under the Yin dynasty they did so at noon. Under the Zhou they sacrificed all the day, especially at daybreak, and towards evening. They sacrificed to the sun on the altar, and to the moon in the hollow - to mark the distinction between (the) gloom (of the one) and (the) brightness (of the other), and to show the difference between the high and the low. They sacrificed to the sun in the east, and to the moon in the west - to mark the distinction between (the) forthcoming (of the former) and (the) withdrawing (of the latter), and to show the correctness of their (relative) position. The sun comes forth from the east, and the moon appears in the west; the darkness and the light are now long, now short; when the one ends, the other begins, in regular succession - thus producing the harmony of all under the sky.
The rites to be observed by all under heaven were intended to promote the return (of the mind) to the beginning (= Creator of all); to promote (the honouring of) spiritual Beings; to promote the harmonious use (of all resources and appliances) of government; to promote righteousness; and to promote humility. They promote the return to the beginning, securing the due consideration, of their originator. They promote (the honouring) of spiritual Beings, securing the giving honour to superiors. They promote the (proper) use of all resources, thereby establishing the regulations (for the well-being of) the people. They promote righteousness, and thus there are no oppositions and conflictings between high and low. They promote humility, in order to prevent occasions of strife. Let these five things be united through the rites for the regulation of all under heaven, and though there may be some extravagant and perverse who are not kept in order, they will be few.
Zai Wo said, 'I have heard the names Gui and Shen, but I do not know what they mean.' The Master said, 'The (intelligent) spirit is of the shen nature, and shows that in fullest measure; the animal soul is of the gui nature, and shows that in fullest measure. It is the union of gui and shen that forms the highest exhibition of doctrine. All the living must die, and dying, return to the ground; this is what is called kwei. The bones and flesh, moulder below, and, hidden away, become the earth of the fields. But the spirit issues forth, and is displayed on high in a condition of glorious brightness. The vapours and odours which produce a feeling of sadness, (and arise from the decay of their substance), are the subtle essences of all things, and (also) a manifestation of the shan nature. On the ground of these subtle essences of things, with an extreme decision and inventiveness, (the sages) framed distinctly (the names of) kwei and shan, to constitute a pattern for the black-haired race; and all the multitudes were filled with awe, and the myriads of the people constrained to submission.'
'The sages did not consider these (names) to be sufficient, and therefore. they built temples with their (different) apartments, and framed their rules for ancestors who were always to be honoured, and those whose tablets should be removed;--thus making a distinction for nearer and more distant kinship, and for ancestors the remote and the recent, and teaching the people to go back to their oldest fathers, and retrace their beginnings, not forgetting those to whom they owed their being. In consequence of this the multitude submitted to their lessons, and listened to them with a quicker readiness. These two elements (of the human constitution) having been established (with the two names), two ceremonies were framed in accordance with them. They appointed the service of the morning, when the fat of the inwards was burned so as to bring out its fragrance, and this was mixed with the blaze of dried southern-wood. This served as a tribute to the (intelligent) spirit, and taught all to go back to their originating ancestors. They (also) presented millet and rice, and offered the delicacies of the liver, lungs, head, and heart, along with two bowls (of liquor) and odoriferous spirits. This served as a tribute to the animal soul, and taught the people to love one another, and high and low to cultivate good feeling between them - such was the effect of those ceremonies.
'The superior man, going back to his ancient fathers, and returning to the authors of his being, does not forget those to whom he owes his life, and therefore he calls forth all his reverence, gives free vent to his feelings, and exhausts his strength in discharging the above service;-as a tribute of gratitude to his parents he dares not but do his utmost.' Thus it was that anciently the, son of Heaven had his field of a thousand acres, in which he himself held the plough, wearing the square-topped cap with red ties. The feudal princes also had their field of a hundred acres, in which they did the same, wearing the same cap with green ties. They did this in the service of Heaven, Earth, the Spirits of the land and grain, and their ancient fathers, to supply the new wine, cream, and vessels of grain. In this way did they procure these things - it was a great expression of their reverence.
Anciently, the son of Heaven and the feudal lords had their officers who attended to their animals; and at the proper seasons, after vigil and fasting, they washed their heads, bathed, and visited them in person, taking from them for victims those which were spotless and perfect - it was a great expression of their reverence. The ruler ordered the oxen to be brought before him, and inspected them; he chose them by their hair, divined whether it would be fortunate to use them, and if the response were favourable, he had them cared for. In his skin cap, and the white skirt gathered up at the waist, on the first day and at the middle of the month, he inspected them. Thus did he do his utmost - it was the height of filial piety.
Anciently, the son of Heaven and the feudal lords had their own mulberry trees and silkworms' house; the latter built near a river, ten cubits in height, the surrounding walls being topped with thorns, and the gates closed on the outside. In the early morning of a very bright day, the ruler, in his skin cap and the white skirt, divined for the most auspicious of the honourable ladies in the three palaces of his wife, who were then employed to take the silkworms into the house. They washed the seeds in the stream, gathered the leaves from the mulberry trees, and dried them in the wind to feed the worms. When the (silkworm) year was ended, the honourable ladies had finished their work with the insects, and carried the cocoons to show them to the ruler. They then presented them to his wife, who said, 'Will not these supply the materials for the ruler's robes?' She forthwith received them, wearing her head-dress and the robe with pheasants on it, and afterwards caused a sheep and a pig to be killed and cooked to treat (the ladies). This probably was the ancient custom at the presentation of the cocoons. Afterwards, on a good day, the wife rinsed some of them thrice in a vessel, beginning to unwind them, and then distributed them to the auspicious and honourable ladies of her three palaces to (complete) the unwinding. They then dyed the thread red and green, azure and yellow, to make the variously coloured figures on robes. When the robes were finished, the ruler wore them in sacrificing to the former kings and dukes; all displayed the greatest reverence.
The superior man says, 'Ceremonies and music should not for a moment be neglected by any one. When one has mastered (the principles of) music, and regulates his heart and mind accordingly, the natural, correct, gentle, and honest heart is easily developed, and with this development of the heart comes joy. This joy goes on to a feeling of repose. This repose is long continued. The man in this constant repose becomes (a sort of) heaven. Heaven-like, his action is spirit-like. Heaven-like, he is believed, though he do not speak. Spirit-like, he is regarded with awe, though he display no rage. So it is when one by his mastering of music regulates his mind and heart. When one has mastered (the principle of) ceremonies, and regulates his person accordingly, he becomes grave and reverential. Grave and reverential, he is regarded with awe. If the heart be for a moment without the feeling of harmony and joy, meanness and deceitfulness enter it. If the outward demeanour be for a moment without gravity and reverentialness, indifference and rudeness show themselves.
'Therefore the sphere in which music acts is the interior of man, and that of ceremonies is his exterior. The result of music is a perfect harmony, and that of ceremonies is a perfect observance (of propriety). When one's inner man is thus harmonious, and his outer man thus docile, the people behold his countenance and do not strive with him; they look to his demeanour, and no feeling of indifference or rudeness arises in them. Thus it is that when virtue shines and moves within (a superior), the people are sure to accept (his rule) and hearken to him; and when the principles (of propriety) are displayed in his conduct, the people are all sure to accept (his rule) and obey him. Therefore it is said, 'Let ceremonies and music have their course till all under heaven is filled with them; then give them their manifestation and application, and nothing difficult to manage will appear.'
'Music affects the inward movements (of the soul); ceremonies appear in the outward movements (of the body). Hence it is the rule to make ceremonies as few and brief as possible, and to give to music its fullest development. This leads to the forward exhibition of ceremonies, and therein their beauty resides; and to the introspective consideration of music, and therein its beauty resides. If ceremonies, demanding this condensation, did not receive this forward exhibition of them, they would almost disappear altogether; if music, demanding this full development, were not accompanied with the introspection, it would produce a dissipation of the mind. Thus it is that to every ceremony there is its proper response, and for music there is this introspection. When ceremonies are responded to, there arises pleasure, and when music is accompanied with the right introspection, there arises repose. The response of ceremony and the introspection of music spring from one and the same idea, and have one and the same object.'
Zeng-zi said, 'There are three degrees of filial piety. The highest is the honouring of our parents; the second is the not disgracing them; and the lowest is the being able to support them.' (His disciple), Gong-ming Yi, said, 'Can you, master, be considered (an example of a) filial son?' Zeng-zi replied, 'What words are these? What words are these? What the superior man calls filial piety requires the anticipation of our parents' wishes, the carrying out of their aims and their instruction in the path (of duty). I am simply one who supports his parents; how can I be considered filial?'
Zeng-zi said, 'The body is that which has been transmitted to us by our parents; dare any one allow himself to be irreverent in the employment of their legacy? If a man in his own house and privacy be not grave, he is not filial; if in serving his ruler, he be not loyal, he is not filial; if in discharging the duties of office, he be not reverent, he is not filial; if with friends he be not sincere, he is not filial; if on the field of battle he be not brave, he is not filial. If he fail in these five things, the evil (of the disgrace) will reach his parents; dare he but reverently attend to them?'
To prepare the fragrant flesh and grain which he has cooked, tasting and then presenting them before his parents, is not filial piety; it is only nourishing them. He whom the superior man pronounces filial is he whom (all) the people of (his) state praise, saying with admiration, 'Happy are the parents who have such a son as this!' - that indeed is what can be called being filial. The fundamental lesson for all is filial piety. The practice of it is seen in the support (of parents). One may be able to support them; the difficulty is in doing so with the proper reverence. One may attain to that reverence; the difficulty is to do so without self-constraint. That freedom from constraint may be realised; the difficulty is to maintain it to the end. When his parents are dead, and the son carefully watches over his actions, so that a bad name, (involving) his parents, shall not be handed down, he may be said to be able to maintain his piety to the end. True love is the love of this; true propriety is the doing of this; true righteousness is the rightness of this; true sincerity is being sincere in this; true strength is being strong in this joy springs from conformity to this; punishments spring from the violation of this.
Zeng-zi said, 'Set up filial piety, and it will fill the space from earth to heaven; spread it out, and it will extend over all the ground to the four seas;' hand it down to future ages, and from morning to evening it will be observed; push it on to the eastern sea, the western sea, the southern sea, and the northern sea, and it will be (everywhere) the law for men, and their obedience to it will be uniform. There will be a fulfilment of the words of the ode (III, i, ode 10, 6), "From west to east, from south to north, There was no unsubmissive thought."
Zeng-zi said, 'Trees are felled and animals killed, (only) at the proper seasons. The Master said, "To fell a single tree, or kill a single animal, not at the proper season, is contrary to filial piety."' There are three degrees of filial piety - the least, seen in the employment of one's strength (in the service of parents); the second, seen in the endurance of toil (for them); and the greatest, seen in its never failing. Thinking of the gentleness and love (of parents) and forgetting our toils (for them) may be called the employment of strength. Honouring benevolences and resting with the feeling of repose in righteousness may be called the endurance of toil; the wide dispensation of benefits and the providing of all things (necessary for the people) may be called the piety that does not fail. When his parents love him, to rejoice, and not allow himself to forget them; when they hate him, to fear and yet feel no resentment; when they have faults, to remonstrate with them, and yet not withstand them; when they are dead, to ask (the help only of) the good to obtain the grain with which to sacrifice to them - this is what is called the completion (by a son) of his proper services.
The disciple Yue-zheng Chun injured his foot in descending from his hall, and for some months was not able to go out. Even after this he still wore a look of sorrow, and (one of the) disciples of the school said to him, 'Your foot, master, is better; and though for some months you could not go out, why should you still wear a look of sorrow?' Yue-zheng Chun replied, 'It is a good question which you ask! It is a good question which you ask! I heard from Zang-dze what he had heard the Master say, that of all that Heaven produces and Earth nourishes, there is none so great as man. His parents give birth to his person all complete, and to return it, to them all complete may be called filial duty. When no member has been mutilated and no disgrace done to any part of the person, it may be called complete; and hence a superior man does not dare to take the slightest step in forgetfulness of his filial duty. But now I forgot the way of that, and therefore I wear the look of sorrow. (A son) should not forget his parents in a single lifting up of his feet, nor in the utterance of a single word. He should not forget his parents in a single lifting up of his feet, and therefore he will walk in the highway and not take a by-path, he will use a boat and not attempt to wade through a stream - not daring, with the body left him by his parents, to go in the way of peril. He should not forget his parents in the utterance of a single word, and therefore an evil word will not issue from his mouth, and an angry word will not come back to his person. Not to disgrace his person and not to cause shame to his parents may be called filial duty.'
Anciently, the sovereigns of the line of Yu honoured virtue, and highly esteemed age; the sovereigns of Xia honoured rank, and highly esteemed age; under Yin they honoured riches, and highly esteemed age; under Zhou, they honoured kinship, and highly esteemed age. Yu, Xia, Yin, and Zhou produced the greatest kings that have appeared under Heaven, and there was not one of them who neglected age. For long has honour been paid to years under the sky; to pay it is next to the service of parents.
Therefore, at court among parties of the same rank, the highest place was given to the oldest. Men of seventy years carried their staffs at the court. When the ruler questioned one of them, he made him sit on a mat. One of eighty years did not wait out the audience, and when the ruler would question him he went to his house. Thus the submission of a younger brother (and juniors generally) was recognised at the court.
A junior walking with one older (than himself), if they were walking shoulder to shoulder, yet it was not on the same line. If he did not keep transversely (a little behind), he followed the other. When they saw an old man, people in carriages or walking got out of his way. Men, where the white were mingling with their black hairs, did not carry burdens on the roads. Thus the submission of juniors was recognised on the public ways. Residents in the country took their places according to their age, and the old and poor were not neglected, nor did the strong come into collision with the weak, or members of a numerous clan do violence to those of a smaller. Thus the submission of juniors was recognised in the country districts and hamlets.
According to the ancient rule, men of fifty years were not required to serve in hunting expeditions; and in the distribution of the game, a larger share was given to the more aged. Thus the submission of juniors was recognised in the arrangements for the hunts. In the tens and fives of the army and its detachments, where the rank was the same, places were given according to age. Thus the submission of juniors was recognised in the army.
The display of filial and fraternal duty in the court; the practice of them on the road; their reaching to the districts and hamlets; their extension to the huntings; and the cultivation of them in the army, (have thus been described). All would have died for them under the constraint of righteousness, and not dared to violate them.
The sacrifice in the Hall of Distinction served to inculcate filial duty on the feudal lords; the feasting of the three classes of the old and five classes of the experienced in the Great college served to inculcate brotherly submission on those princes; the sacrifices to the worthies of former times in the western school served to inculcate virtue on them; the (king's) ploughing in the field set apart for him, served to teach them the duty of nourishing (the people); their appearances at court in spring and autumn served to inculcate on them their duty as subjects or ministers. Those five institutions were the great lessons for the kingdom.
When feasting the three classes of the old and five classes of the experienced, the son of Heaven bared his arm, cut up the bodies of the victims, and handed round the condiments; he also presented the cup with which they rinsed their mouths, wearing the square-topped cap, and carrying a shield. It was thus he inculcated brotherly submission on the princes. It was thus that in the country and villages regard was paid to age, that the old and poor were not neglected, that the strong did not attack the weak, and that the members of a numerous clan did hot oppress those of a smaller - these things came from the Great college. The son of Heaven appointed the four schools; and when his eldest son entered one of them, he took his place according to his age.
When the son of Heaven was on a tour of inspection, the princes (of each quarter) met him on their borders. The son of Heaven first visited those who were a hundred years old. If there were those of eighty or ninety, on the way to the east, he, though going to the west, did not dare to pass by (without seeing them); and so, if their route was to the west, and his to the west. If he wished to speak of matters of government, he, though ruler, might go to them.
Those who had received the first degree of office took places according to age (at meetings) in the country and villages; those who had received the second, took places in the same way (at meetings) of all the members of their relatives. Those who had received the third degree did not pay the same regard to age. But at meetings of all the members of a clan no one dared to take precedence of one who was seventy years old. Those who were seventy, did not go to court unless for some great cause. When they did so for such a cause, the ruler would bow and give place to them, afterwards going on to the parties possessed of rank.
Whatever good was possessed by the son of Heaven, he humbly ascribed the merit of it to Heaven; whatever good was possessed by a feudal lord, he ascribed it to the son of Heaven; whatever good was possessed by a minister or Great officer, he attributed it to the prince of his state; whatever good was possessed by an officer or a common man, he assigned the ground of it to his parents, and the preservation of it to his elders. Emolument, rank, felicitations, and rewards were (all) transacted in the ancestral temple; and it was thus that they showed (the spirit of) submissive deference.
Anciently, the sages, having determined the phenomena of heaven and earth in their states of rest and activity, made them the basis of the Yi (and divining by it). The diviner held the tortoise-shell in his arms, with his face towards the south, while the son of Heaven, in his dragon-robe and square-topped cap, stood with his face to the north. The latter, however intelligent might be his mind, felt it necessary to set forth and obtain a decision on what his object was;-showing that he did not dare to take his own way, and giving honour to Heaven (as the supreme Decider). What was good in him (or in his views) he ascribed to others; what was wrong, to himself; thus teaching not to boast, and giving honour to men of talents and virtue.
When a filial son was about to sacrifice; the rule was that he should have his mind well adjusted and grave, to fit him for giving to all matters their full consideration, for providing the robes and other things, for repairing the temple and its fanes, and for regulating everything. When the day of sacrifice arrived, the rule was that his countenance should be mild, and his movements show an anxious dread, as if he feared his love were not sufficient. When he put down his offerings, it was required that his demeanour should be mild, and his body bent, as if (his parents) would speak (to him) and had not yet done so; when the officers assisting had all gone out, he stood lowly and still, though correct and straight, as if he were about to lose the sight (of his parents). After the sacrifice, he looked pleased and expectant, as if they would again enter. In this way his ingenuousness and goodness were never absent from his person; his ears and eyes were never withdrawn from what was in his heart; the exercises of his thoughts never left his parents. What was bound up in his heart was manifested in his countenance; and he was continually examining himself;-such was the mind of the filial son.
The sites for the altars to the spirits of the land and grain were on the right; that for the ancestral temple on the left.
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.