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Book of Documents 《尚書》

周書 大誥 Zhou Shu - Great Announcement


The king speaks to the following effect: 'Ho! I make a great announcement to you, (the princes of) the many states, and to you, the managers of my affairs. We are unpitied, and Heaven sends down calamities on our House, without the least intermission. It greatly occupies my thoughts that I, so very young, have inherited this illimitable patrimony with its destinies and domains. I cannot display wisdom and lead the people to prosperity; and how much less should I be able to reach the knowledge of the decree of Heaven!


'Yes, I who am but a little child am in the position of one who has to go through a deep water; I must go and seek where I can cross over. I must diffuse the elegant institutions of my predecessor and display the appointment which he received (from Heaven); so shall I not be forgetful of his great work. Nor shall I dare to restrain the majesty of Heaven in sending down its inflictions (on the criminals).


'The Tranquillizing king left to me the great precious tortoise-shell, to bring into connexion with me the intelligence of Heaven. I divined by it, and it told me that there would be great trouble in the region of the west and that the western people would not be still. Accordingly we have these senseless movements. Small and reduced as Yin now is, (its prince) greatly dares to take in hand its (broken) line. Though Heaven sent down its terrors (on his House), yet knowing of the evils in our kingdom, and that the people are not tranquil, he says, "I will recover (my patrimony);" and so (he wishes to) make our Zhou a border territory again. One day there was a senseless movement, and the day after, ten men of worth appeared among the people, to help me to go forward to restore tranquillity and perpetuate the plans (of my father). The great business I am engaging in will (thus) have a successful issue. I have divined (also) by the tortoise-shell, and always got a favourable response.


'Therefore I tell you, the princes of my friendly states, and you, the directors of departments, my officers, and the managers of my affairs; I have obtained a favourable reply to my divinations. I will go forward with you from all the states, and punish those vagabond and transported ministers of Yin. (But) you the princes of the various states, and you the various officers and managers of my affairs, all retort on me, saying, "The hardships will be great, and that the people are not quiet has its source really in the king's palace and in the mansions of the princes in that (rebellious) state. We little ones, and the old and reverend men as well, think the expedition ill-advised; why does your Majesty not go contrary to the divinations?"


I, in my youth, (also) think continually of these hardships, and say, Alas! these senseless movements will deplorably afflict the wifeless men and widows! But I am the servant of Heaven, which has assigned me this great task, and laid the hard duty on my person. I therefore, the young one, do not pity myself; and it would be right in you, the many officers, the directors of departments, and the managers of my affairs, to comfort me, saying, "Do not be distressed with sorrow. We shall surely complete the plans of your Tranquillizing father."


'Yes, I, the little child, dare not disregard the Charge of God. Heaven, favourable to the Tranquillizing king, gave such prosperity to our small country of Zhou. The Tranquillizing king divined and acted accordingly, and so he calmly received his (great) appointment. Now when Heaven is (evidently) aiding the people, how much more should we follow the indications of the shell! Oh! the clearly intimated will of Heaven is to be feared: it is to help my great inheritance.


The king says, 'You, who are the old ministers, are fully able to remember the past; you know how great was the toil of the Tranquillizing king. Where Heaven (now) shuts up (our path) and distresses us, is the place where I must accomplish my work; I dare not but do my utmost to complete the plans of the Tranquillizing king. It is on this account that I use such efforts to remove the doubts and carry forward the inclinations of the princes of my friendly states. And Heaven assists me with sincere expressions (of sympathy), which I have ascertained among the people; how dare I but aim at the completion of the work formerly begun by the Tranquillizer? Heaven, moreover, is thus toiling and distressing the people; it is as if they were suffering from disease; how dare I allow (the appointment) which my predecessor, the Tranquillizer, received, to be without its happy fulfilment?'


The king says, 'Formerly, at the initiation of this expedition, I spoke of its difficulties, and thought of them daily. But when a deceased father, (wishing) to build a house, had laid out the plan, if his son be unwilling to raise up the hall, how much less will he be willing to complete the roof! Or if the father had broken up the ground, and his son be unwilling to sow the seed, how much less will he be willing to reap the crop! In such a case could the father, (who had himself) been so reverently attentive (to his objects), have been willing to say, "I have a son who will not abandon his patrimony?" How dare I therefore but use all my powers to give a happy settlement to the great charge entrusted to the Tranquillizing king? If among the friends of an elder brother or a deceased father there be those who attack his son, will the elders of the people encourage (the attacker, and not (come to the) rescue?'


The king says, 'Oh! take heart, ye princes of the various states, and ye managers of my affairs. The enlightening of the country was from the wise, even from the ten men who obeyed and knew the charge of God, and the real assistance given by Heaven. At that time none of you presumed to change the rules (prescribed by the Tranquillizing king). And now when Heaven is sending down calamity on the country of Zhou, and the authors of these great distresses (make it appear on a grand scale as if) the inmates of a house were mutually to attack one another, you are without any knowledge that the decree of Heaven is not to be changed!


'I ever think and say, Heaven in destroying Yin was doing husbandman's work - how dare I but complete the work on my fields? Heaven will thereby show its favour to my predecessor, the Tranquillizer. How should I be all for the oracle of divination, and presume not to follow (your advice)? I am following the Tranquillizer, whose purpose embraced all within the limits of the land. How much more must I proceed, when the divinations are all favourable! It is on these accounts that I make this expedition in force to the east. There is no mistake about the decree of Heaven. The indications given by the tortoise-shell are all to the same effect.'

English translation: James Legge

Glossary and Other Vocabulary