Zhong-ni 'being at home at ease,' with Zi-zhang, Zi-gong, and Yan You by him, their conversation went on from general matters to the subject of ceremonies. The Master said, 'Sit down, you three, and I will discourse to you about ceremonies, so that you may rightly employ them everywhere and in all circumstances.' Zi-gong crossed over (Zi-zhang's) mat, and replied, 'Allow me to ask what you mean.' The Master said, 'Respect shown without observing the rules of propriety is called vulgarity; courtesy without observing those rules is called forwardness; and boldness without observing them is called violence.' The Master added, 'Forwardness takes away from gentleness and benevolence.'
The Master said, 'Shi, you err by excess, and Shang by defect.' Zi-chan might be regarded as a mother of the people. He could feed them, but he could not teach them'. Zi-gong (again) crossed the mat, and replied, 'Allow me to ask by what means it is possible to secure this due mean.' The Master said, 'By means of the ceremonial rules; by the rules. Yes, it is those rules which define and determine the due mean.'
Zi-gong having retired, Yan You advanced, and said, 'May I be allowed to ask whether the rules of ceremony do not serve to control what is bad, and to complete what is good?' The Master said, 'They do.' 'Very well, and how do they do it?' The Master said, 'The idea in the border sacrifices to Heaven and Earth is that they should give expression to the loving feeling towards the spirits; the ceremonies of the autumnal and summer services in the ancestral temple give expression to the loving feeling towards all in the circle of the kindred; the ceremony of putting down food (by the deceased) serves to express the loving feeling towards those who are dead and for whom they are mourning; the ceremonies of the archery fetes and the drinking at them express the loving feeling towards all in the district and neighbourhood; the ceremonies of festal entertainments express the loving feeling towards visitors and guests.'
The Master said, 'An intelligent understanding of the idea in the border sacrifices to Heaven and Earth, and of the ceremonies of the autumnal and summer services, would make the government of a state as easy as to point to one's palm. Therefore let the ceremonial rules be observed:-in the ordinary life at home, and there will be the (right) distinction between young and old; inside the door of the female apartments, and there will be harmony among the three branches of kin; at court, and there will be the right ordering of office and rank; in the different hunting expeditions, and skill in war will be acquired; in the army and its battalions, and military operations will be successful. In this way, houses and their apartments will be made of the proper dimensions; measures and tripods will have their proper figure; food will have the flavour proper to its season; music will be according to the rules for it; carriages will have their proper form; spirits will receive their proper offerings; the different periods of mourning will have their proper expression of sorrow; discussions will be conducted by those who from their position should take part in them; officers will have their proper business and functions; the business of government will be properly distributed and applied. (The duty) laid on (each) person being discharged in the matter before him (according to these rules), all his movements, and every movement will be what they ought to be.'
The Master said, 'What is (the object of) the ceremonial rules? It is just the ordering of affairs. The wise man who has affairs to attend to must have the right method of ordering them. (He who should attempt) to regulate a state without those rules would be like a blind man with no one to lead him; groping about, how could he find his way? Or he would be like one searching all night in a dark room without a light; how could he see anything? If one have not the ceremonial rules, he would not (know how to) dispose of his hands and feet, or how to apply his ears and eyes; and his advancing and retiring, his bowings and giving place would be without any definite rules. Hence, when the rules are thus neglected - in the ordinary life at home, then the right distinction between old and young will be lost; in the female apartments, then the harmony among the three branches of kin will be lost; in the court, then the order of office and rank will be lost; in the different hunting expeditions, then the prescribed methods of military tactics will be lost; in the army and its battalions, then the arrangements that secure success in war will be lost. (Also), houses and apartments will want their proper dimensions; measures and tripods will want their proper figure; food will want its seasonal flavour; music will want its proper parts; carriages will want their proper forms; Spirits will want their proper offerings; the different periods of mourning will want their proper expression of sorrow; discussions will not be conducted by the proper men for them; officers will not have their proper business; the affairs of government will fail to be properly distributed and applied; and (in the duties) laid on (each) person to be discharged in the matters before him, all his movements, every movement, will fail to be what they ought to be. In this condition of things it will be impossible to put one's self at the head of the multitudes, and secure harmony among them.'
The Master said, 'Listen attentively, you three, while I discourse to you. Regarding the ceremonial rules, there are still nine things (to be described), and four of them belong to the Grand festive entertainments. When you know these, though your lot may lie among the channeled fields, if you carry them into practice, you will become wise as sages. When one ruler is visiting another, they bow to each other, each courteously declining to take the precedence, and then enter the gate. As soon as they have done so, the instruments of music, suspended from their frames, strike up. They then bow and give place to each other again, and ascend to the hall; and when they have gone up, the music stops. In the court below, the dances Xiang and Wu are performed to the music of the flute, and that of Xia proceeds in due order with (the brandishing of feathers and) fifes. (After this), the stands with their offerings are set out, the various ceremonies and musical performances go on in regular order, and the array of officers provided discharge their functions. In this way the superior man perceives the loving regard (which directs the entertainment). They move forward in perfect circles; they return and form again the squares. The bells of the equipages are tuned to the Cai-qi; when the guest goes out they sing the Yong; when the things are being taken away, they sing the Zhen-yu; and thus the superior man (sees that) there is not a single thing for which there is not its proper ceremonial usage. The striking up of the instruments of metal, when they enter the gate, serves to indicate their good feeling; the singing of the Qing Miao, when they have gone up to the hall, shows the virtue (they should cultivate); the performance of the Xiang to the flute in the court below, reminds them of the events (of history). Thus the superior men of antiquity did not need to set forth their views to one another in words; it was enough for them to show them in their music and ceremonies.
The Master said, 'Ceremonial usages are (the prescriptions of) reason; music is the definite limitation(of harmony). The superior man makes no movement without (a ground of) reason, and does nothing without its definite limitation. He who is not versed in the odes will err in his employment of the usages, and he who is not versed in music will be but an indifferent employer of them. He whose virtue is slender will vainly perform the usages.'
The Master said, 'The determinate measures are according to the rules; and the embellishments of them are also so; but the carrying them into practice depends on the men.'
Zi-gong crossed over the mat and replied, 'Allow me to ask whether even Kui was ignorant (of the ceremonial usages)?' The Master said, 'Was he not one of the ancients? Yes, he was one of them. To be versed in the ceremonial usages, and not versed in music, we call being poorly furnished. To be versed in music and not versed in the usages, we call being one-sided. Now Kui was noted for his acquaintance with music, and not for his acquaintance with ceremonies, and therefore his name has been transmitted with that account of him (which your question implies). But he was one of the men of antiquity.'
Zi-gong asked about government. The Master said, 'Shi, did I not instruct you on that subject before? The superior man who is well acquainted with ceremonial usages and music has only to take and apply them (in order to practise government).' Zi-zhang again put the question, and the Master said, 'Shi, do you think that the stools and mats must be set forth, the hall ascended and descended, the cups filled and offered, the pledge-cup presented and returned, before we can speak of ceremonial usages? Do you think that there must be the movements of the performers in taking up their positions, the brandishing of the plumes and fifes, the sounding of the bells and drums before we can speak of music? To speak and to carry into execution what you have spoken is ceremony; to act and to give and receive pleasure from what you do is music. The ruler who vigorously pursues these two things may well stand with his face to the south, for thus will great peace and order be secured all under heaven; the feudal lords will come to his court; all things will obtain their proper development and character; and no single officer will dare to shrink from the discharge of his functions. Where such ceremony prevails, all government is well ordered; where it is neglected, all falls into disorder and confusion. A house made by a good (though unassisted) eye will yet have the corner of honour, and the steps on the east for the host to ascend by; every mat have its upper and lower end; every chariot have its right side and left; walkers follow one another, and those who stand observe a certain order - such were the right rules of antiquity. If an apartment were made without the corner of honour and the steps on the east, there would be confusion in the hall and apartment. If mats had not their upper and lower ends, there would be confusion among the occupants of them; if carriages were made without their left side and right, there would be confusion in their seats; if people did not follow one another in walking, there would be confusion on the roads; if people observed no order in standing, there would be disorder in the places they occupy. Anciently the sage Dis and intelligent kings and the feudal lords, in making a distinction between noble and mean, old and young, remote and near, male and female, outside and inside, did not presume to allow any to transgress the regular rule they had to observe, but all proceeded in the path which has been indicated.' When the three disciples had heard these words from the Master, they saw clearly as if a film had been removed from their eyes.
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