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周書 畢命 Zhou Shu - Charge to the Duke of Bi

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In the sixth month of his twelfth year, the day of the new moon's appearance was Geng-wu, and on Ren-shen, the third day after, the king walked in the morning from the honoured capital of Zhou to Feng, and there, with reference to the multitudes of Cheng-Zhou, gave charge to the duke of Bi to protect and regulate the eastern border.


The king spoke to the following effect: 'Oh! Grand-Master, it was when Wen and Wu had diffused their great virtue all under heaven, that they therefore received the appointment which Yin had enjoyed. The duke of Zhou acted as assistant to my royal predecessors, and tranquillized and established their kingdom. Cautiously did he deal with the refractory people of Yin, and removed them to the city of Luo, that they might be quietly near the royal House, and be transformed by its lessons. Six and thirty years have elapsed; the generation has been changed; and manners have altered. Through the four quarters of the land there is no occasion for anxiety, and I, the One man, enjoy repose. The prevailing ways now tend to advancement and now to degeneracy, and measures of government must be varied according to the manners (of the time). If you (now) do not manifest your approval of what is good, 'the people will not be led to stimulate themselves in it. But your virtue, O duke, is strenuous, and you are cautiously attentive to the smallest things. You have been helpful to and brightened four reigns; with deportment all correct leading on the inferior officers, so that there is not one who does not reverently take your words as a law. Your admirable merits were many (and great) in the times of my predecessors; I, the little child, have but to let my robes hang down, and fold my hands, while I look up for the complete effect (of your measures).'


The king said, 'Oh! Grand-Master, I now reverently charge you with the duties of the duke of Zhou. Go! Signalize the good, separating the bad from them; give tokens of your approbation in their neighbourhoods, making it ill for the evil by such distinction of the good, and thus establishing the influence and reputation (of their virtue). When the people will not obey your lessons and statutes, mark off the boundaries of their hamlets, making them fear (to do evil), and desire (to do good). Define anew the borders and frontiers, and be careful to strengthen the guard-posts through the territory, in order to secure tranquillity (within) the four seas. In measures of government to be consistent and constant, and in proclamations a combination of completeness and brevity, and valuable. There should not be the love of what is extraordinary. Among the customs of Shang was the flattery of superiors; sharp-tonguedness was the sign of worth. The remains of these manners are not yet obliterated. Do you, O duke, bear this in mind. I have heard the saying, "Families which have for generations enjoyed places of emolument seldom observe the rules of propriety. They become dissolute, and do violence to virtue, setting themselves in positive opposition to the way of Heaven. They ruin the formative principles of good; encourage extravagance and display; and tend to carry all (future ages) on the same stream with them." Now the officers of Yin had long relied on the favour which they enjoyed. In the confidence of their prideful extravagance they extinguished their (sense of) righteousness. They displayed before men the beauty of their robes - proud, licentious, arrogant, and boastful - the natural issue was that they should end in being thoroughly bad. Although their lost minds have (in a measure) been recovered, it is difficult to keep them under proper restraint. If with their property and wealth they can be brought under the influence of instruction, they may enjoy lengthened years, virtue, and righteousness! - these are the great lessons. If you do not follow in dealing with them these lessons of antiquity, wherein will you instruct them?'


The king said, 'Oh! Grand-Master, the security or the danger of the kingdom depends on those officers of Yin. If you are not (too) stern with them nor (too) mild, their virtue will be truly cultivated. The duke of Zhou exercised the necessary caution at the beginning (of the undertaking); Jun-chen displayed the harmony proper to the middle of it; and you, O duke, can bring it at last to a successful issue. You three princes will have been one in aim, and will have equally pursued the proper way. The penetrating power of your principles, and the good character of your measures of government, will exert an enriching influence on the character of the people, so that the wild tribes, with their coats buttoning on the left, will all find their proper support in them, and I, the little child, will long enjoy much happiness. Thus, O duke, there in Cheng-Zhou will you establish for ever the power (of Zhou), and you will have an inexhaustible fame. Your descendants will follow your perfect pattern, governing accordingly. Oh! do not say, "I am unequal to this;" but exert your mind to the utmost. Do not say, "The people are few;" but attend carefully to your business. Reverently follow the accomplished achievements of the former kings, and complete the excellence of the government of your predecessors.'

English translation: James Legge

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