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The Book of Rites 禮記

《祭統》 A Summary Account of Sacrifices

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》 A Summary Account of Sacrifices

Of all the methods for the good ordering of men, there is none more urgent than the use of ceremonies. Ceremonies are of five kinds, and there is none of them more important than sacrifices. Sacrifice is not a thing coming to a man from without; it issues from within him, and has its birth in his heart. When the heart is deeply moved, expression is given to it by ceremonies; and hence, only men of ability and virtue can give complete exhibition to the idea of sacrifice.

The sacrifices of such men have their own blessing;--not indeed what the world calls blessing. Blessing here means perfection;-it is the name given to the complete and natural discharge of all duties. When nothing is left incomplete or improperly discharged;--this is what we call perfection, implying the doing everything that should be done in one's internal self, and externally the performance of everything according to the proper method. There is a fundamental agreement between a loyal subject in his service of his ruler and a filial son in his service of his parents. In the supernal sphere there is a compliance with (what is due to) the repose and expansion of the energies of nature; in the external sphere, a compliance with (what is due) to rulers and elders; in the internal sphere, the filial service of parents;--all this constitutes what is called perfection. It is only the able and virtuous man who can attain to this perfection; and can sacrifice when he has attained to it. Hence in the sacrifices of such a man he brings into exercise all sincerity and good faith, with all right-heartedness and reverence; he offers the (proper) things; accompanies them with the (proper) rites; employs the soothing of music; does everything suitably to the season. Thus intelligently does he offer his sacrifices, without seeking for anything to be gained by them - such is the heart and mind of a filial son.

It is by sacrifice that the nourishment of parents is followed up and filial duty to them Perpetuated. The filial heart is a storehouse (of all filial duties). Compliance with everything that can mark his course, and be no violation of the relation (between parent and child) - the keeping of this is why we call it a storehouse. Therefore in three ways is a filial son's service of his parents shown - while they are alive, by nourishing them; when they are dead, by all the rites of mourning; and when the mourning is over by sacrificing to them. In his nourishing them we see his natural obedience; in his funeral rites we see his sorrow; in his sacrifices we see his reverence and observance of the (proper) seasons. In these three ways we see the practice of a filial son.

When a son had done everything (for his sacrifices) that he could do himself, he proceeded to seek assistance from abroad; and this came through the rites of marriage. Hence the language of a ruler, when about to marry a wife, was - 'I beg you, O ruler, to give me your elegant daughter, to share this small state with my poor self, to do service in the ancestral temple, and at the altars to (the spirits of) the land and grain.' This underlay his seeking for that assistance (from abroad). In sacrificing, husband and wife had their several duties which they personally attended to; and on this account there was the array of officials belonging to the exterior and interior departments (of the palace). When these officers were complete, all things necessary (for the service) were made ready - small things, such as the sourcrout of water plants and pickles from the produce of dry grounds; and fine things, such as the stands for the bodies of the three victims, and the supplies for the eight dishes. Strange insects and the fruits of plants and trees, produced under the best influences of light and shade, were all made ready. Whatever heaven produces, whatever earth developes in its growth;--all were then exhibited in the greatest abundance. Everything was there from without, and internally there was the utmost effort of the will - such was the spirit in sacrificing.

For this reason, also, the son of Heaven himself guided the plough in the southern suburb, to provide the grain for the sacrificial vessels; and the queen looked after her silkworms in the northern suburb, to provide the cap and robes of silk. The princes of the states guided the plough in their eastern suburb, also to provide the grain for the sacrificial vessels, and their wives looked after their silkworms in the northern suburb, to provide the cap and robes of silk. This was not because the son of Heaven and the princes had not men to plough for them, or 'because the queen and the princes' wives had not women to tend the silkworms for them; it was to give the exhibition of their personal sincerity. Such sincerity was what is called doing their utmost; and such doing of their utmost was what is called reverence. When they had reverently done their utmost, they could serve the spiritual Intelligences--such was the way of sacrificing.

When the time came for offering a sacrifice, the man wisely gave himself to the work of purification. That purification meant the production of uniformity (in all the thoughts);-it was the giving uniformity to all that was not uniform, till a uniform direction of the thoughts was realised. Hence a superior man, unless for a great occasion, and unless he were animated by a great reverence, did not attempt this purification. While it was not attained, he did not take precautions against the influence of (outward) things, nor did he cease from all (internal) desires. But when he was about to attempt it, he guarded against all things of an evil nature, and suppressed all his desires, His ears did not listen to music;--as it is said in the Record, 'People occupied with purification have no music,' meaning that they did not venture to allow its dissipation of their minds. He allowed no vain thoughts in his heart, but kept them in a strict adherence to what was right. He allowed no reckless movement of his hands or feet, but kept them firmly in the way of propriety. Thus the superior man, in his purification, devotes himself to carrying to its utmost extent his refined and intelligent virtue.

Therefore there was the looser ordering of the mind for seven days, to bring it to a state of fixed determination; and the complete ordering of it for three days, to effect the uniformity of all the thoughts. That determination is what is called purification; the final attainment is when the highest degree of refined intelligence is reached. After this it was possible to enter into communion with the spiritual Intelligences. Moreover, on the eleventh day, before that appointed for the sacrifice, the governor of the palace gave warning notice to the wife of the ruler, and she also conducted that looser ordering of her thoughts for seven days, and that more complete ordering of them for three. The ruler accomplished his purification in the outer apartment, and the wife her purification in the inner. After this they met in the grand temple.

The ruler, in the dark-coloured square-topped cap, stood at the top of the steps on the east; his wife in her head-dress and pheasant-embroidered robe stood in the eastern chamber. The ruler from his mace-handled libation-cup poured out the fragrant spirit before the personator of the dead; and the great minister in charge of the temple with his halfmace-handled cup poured the second libation (for the wife). When the victim was introduced, the ruler held it by the rope; the ministers and Great officers followed; other officers carried the dried grass (to lay on the ground when it should be killed); the wives of the ruler's surname followed the wife with the basins; she presented the purified liquid; the ruler held in his hand the knife with bells; he prepared the lungs (to be offered to the personator); and his wife put them on the dishes and presented them. All this shows what is meant in saying that husband and wife had their parts which they personally performed.

When they went in for the dance, the ruler, holding his shield and axe, went to the place for the performance. He took his station at the head of those on the east, and in his square-topped cap,, carrying his shield, he led on all his officers, to give pleasure to the august personator of the dead. Hence the son of Heaven in his sacrifices (gave expression to) the joy of all in the kingdom. (In the same way) the feudal princes at their sacrifices (gave expression to) the joy of all within their territories. In their square-topped caps, and carrying their shields, they led on all their officers, to give joy to the august personators - with the idea of showing the joy of all within their territories.

At a sacrifice there were three things specially important. Of the offerings there was none more important than the libation; of the music there was none more important than the singing in the hall. above; of the pantomimic evolutions there was none more important than that representing (king) Wu's (army) on the night (before his battle). Such was the practice of the Zhou dynasty. All the three things were designed to increase the aim of the superior man by the use of these external representations. Hence their movements in advancing and retreating were regulated by (the degree of) that aim. If it were less intense, they were lighter; if it were more intense, they were more vehement. If the aim were less intense, and they sought to make the outward representation more vehement, even a sage could not have accomplished this. Therefore the superior man, in sacrificing, exerted himself to the utmost in order to give clear expression to these more important things. He conducted everything according to the rules of ceremony, thereby giving prominent exhibition to them, and displaying them to the august personator - Such was the method of the sages.

At sacrifices there are the provisions that are left. The dealing with these is the least important thing in sacrifices, but it is necessary to take knowledge of it. Hence there is the saying of antiquity, 'The end must be attended to even as the beginning:'--there is an illustration of it in these leavings. Hence it was the remark of a superior man of antiquity, that 'The personator also eats what the spirits have left;--it is a device of kindness, in which may be seen (the method of) government.' Hence, when the personator rose, the ruler and his three ministers partook of what he had left. When the ruler had risen, the six Great officers partook;-the officers partook of what the ruler had left. When the Great officers rose, the eight officers partook - the lower in rank ate what the higher had left. When these officers rose, each one took what was before him and went out, and placed it (in the court) below the hall, when all the inferior attendants entered and removed it - the inferior class ate what the superior had left.

Every change in the disposal of these relics was marked by an increase in the number (of those who partook of them); and thus there was marked the distinction between the degrees of the noble and the mean, and a representation given of the dispensation of benefits (by the sovereign). Hence by means of the four vessels of millet there is shown the cultivation of this in the ancestral temple, which becomes thereby a representation of all comprised within the confines (of the state). What is done at sacrifices afforded the greatest example of the dispensation of favours. Hence when the superior possessed the greatest blessing, acts of favour were sure to descend from him to those below him, the only difference being that he enjoyed the blessing first, and those below him afterwards;--there was no such thing as the superior's accumulating a great amount for himself, while the people below him might be suffering from cold and want. Therefore when the superior enjoyed his great blessing, even private individuals waited till the stream should flow down, knowing that his favours would surely come to them. This was shown by what was done with the relics at sacrifices, and hence came the saying that 'By the dealing with these was seen (the method of) government.'

Sacrifice is the greatest of all things. Its apparatus of things employed in it is complete, but that completeness springs from all being in accordance with the requirements (of nature and reason) is it not this which enables us to find in it the basis of all the lessons of the sages? Therefore those lessons, in the external sphere, inculcated the honouring of the ruler and of elders, and, in the internal sphere, filial piety towards parents. Hence, when there was an intelligent ruler above, all his ministers submitted to and followed him. When he reverently sacrificed in his ancestral temple, and at the altars to the (spirits of the) land and grain, his sons and grandsons were filially obedient. He did all his duty in his own walk, and was correct in his righteousness; and thence grew up the lessons (of all duty).

Therefore a superior man, in the service of his ruler, should find (guidance for) all his personal conduct. What does not satisfy him in (the behaviour of) his superiors, he will not show in his employment of those below himself; and what he dislikes in the behaviour of those below him, he will not show in the service of his superiors. To disapprove of anything in another, and do the same himself, is contrary to the rule of instruction. Therefore the superior in the inculcation of his lessons, ought to proceed from the foundation (of all duty). This will show him pursuing the greatest method of what is natural and right in the highest degree; and is not this what is seen in sacrifice? Hence we have the saying that 'The first and greatest teaching is to be found in sacrifice.'

In sacrifice there is a recognition of what belongs to ten relationships. There are seen in it the method of serving spiritual Beings; the righteousness between ruler and subject; the relation between father and son; the degrees of the noble and mean; the distance gradually increasing between relatives; the bestowment of rank and reward; the separate duties of husband and wife; impartiality in government affairs; the order to be observed between old and young; and the boundaries of high and low. These are what are called the (different duties in the) ten relationships.

The spreading of the mat and placing on it a stool to serve for two, was intended as a resting-place for the united spirits (of husband and wife). The instruction to the blesser in the apartment and the going out to the inside of the gate, was the method pursued in (seeking) communion with the spirits.

The ruler went to meet the victim, but not to meet the representative of the dead;-to avoid misconstruction. While the representative was outside the gate of the temple, he was to be regarded only as a subject; inside the temple, he had the full character of a ruler. While the ruler was outside the gate of the temple, he was there the ruler; when he entered that gate (on the occasion of the sacrifice), he had the full character of a subject, or a son. Hence his not going forth (to meet the representative) made clear the right distinction between the ruler and subject.

According to the rule in sacrifices, a grandson acted as the representative of his grandfather. Though employed to act the part of representative, yet he was only the son of the sacrificer. When his father, with his face to the north, served him, he made clear how it is the way of a son to serve his father. Thus (sacrifice) illustrated the relation of father and son.

When the representative had drunk the fifth cup, the ruler washed the cup of jade, and presented it to the ministers. When he had drunk the seventh cup, that of green jasper was presented to the Great officers. When he had drunk the ninth cup, the plain one varnished was presented to the ordinary officers, and all who were taking part in the service. In all the classes the cup passed from one to another, according to age; and thus were shown the degrees of rank as more honourable and lower.

At the sacrifice the parties taking part in it were arranged on the left and right, according to their order of descent from the common ancestor, and thus the distinction was maintained between the order of fathers and sons, the near and the distant, the older and the younger, the more nearly related and the more distantly, and there, was no confusion. Therefore at the services in the grand ancestral temple, all in the two lines of descent were present, and no one failed to receive his proper place in their common relationship. This was what was called (showing) the distance gradually increasing between relatives.

Anciently the intelligent rulers conferred rank on the virtuous, and emoluments on the meritorious; and the rule was that this should take place in the Grand temple, to show that they did not dare to do it on their own private motion. Therefore, on the day of sacrifice, after the first presenting (of the cup to the representative), the ruler descended and stood on the south of the steps on the east, with his face to the south, while those who were to receive their appointments stood facing the north. The recorder was on the right of the ruler, holding the tablets on which the appointments were written. He read these, and (each man) bowed twice, with his head to the ground, received the writing, returned (home), and presented it in his (own) ancestral temple - such was the way in which rank and reward were given.

The ruler, in the dragon robe and square-topped cap, stood at the top of the steps on the east, while his wife in her head-dress and pheasant-embroidered robe, stood in the chamber on the east. When the wife presented and put down the dishes or, stands, she held them by the foot; (the officer) who held the vessels with new wine, presented them to her, holding them by the bottom; when the representative of the dead was handing, the cup to the wife, he held it by, the handle, and she gave it to him by the foot; when husband and wife were giving and receiving, the one did not touch the place where the other had held the article; in passing the pledge cup, they changed the cups - so was the distinction to be maintained between husband and wife shown.

In all arrangements with the stands, the chief attention was given to the bones. Some bones were considered nobler, and some meaner. Under the Yin they preferred the thigh bone; and under the Zhou, the shoulder bone. Generally, the bones in front were thought nobler than those behind. The stands served to illustrate the rule in sacrifices of showing favours. Hence the nobler, guests received the nobler bones, and the lower, the less noble; the nobler did not receive very much, and the lower were not left without any - impartiality was thus shown. With impartiality of favours, government proceeded freely; with the free proceeding of government, undertakings were accomplished; with the accomplishment of undertakings, merit was established. It is necessary that the way in which merit is established should be known. The stands served to show the rule for the impartial bestowment of favours. So did the skilful administrators of government proceed, and hence it is said that (sacrifices showed the principle of) impartiality in the business of government.

Whenever they came to the (general) circulation of the cup, those whose place was on the left stood in one row, and also those whose place was on the right. The members of each row had places according to their age; and in the same way were arranged all the assistants at the service. This was what was called (exhibiting) the order of the old and young.

At sacrifices there were portions given to the skinners, cooks, assistants, feather-wavers, and doorkeepers,--showing how favours should descend to the lowest. Only a virtuous ruler, however, could do this; having intelligence sufficient to perceive (the wisdom of) it, and benevolence equal to the bestowment of it. Apportioning means bestowing; they were able to bestow what was left on those below them. Skinners were the meanest of those who looked after the buff-coats; cooks' assistants, the meanest of those who looked after the flesh; feather-wavers, the meanest of those who had to do with the music; door-keepers, those who looked after the doors; for anciently they did not employ men who had suffered dismemberment to keep the doors. These four classes of keepers were the meanest of the servants; and the representative of the dead was the most honoured of all. When the most honoured, at the close of the sacrifice, did not forget those who were the most mean, but took what was left and bestowed it on them, (it may be seen how) with an intelligent ruler above, there would not be any of the people within his territory who suffered from cold and want. This is what was meant by saying that sacrifices show the relation between high and low.

For the sacrifices (in the ancestral temple) there were the four seasons. That in spring was called yue; that in summer, di; that in autumn, chang; and that in winter, zheng. The yue and di expressed the idea in the bright and expanding (course of nature); the chang and zheng, that in the sombre and contracting (course). The di showed the former in its fullest development, and the chang showed the latter in the same. Hence it is said, 'There is nothing more important than the di and chang.' Anciently, at the di sacrifice, they conferred rank, and bestowed robes - acting according to the idea in the bright and expanding (course); and at the khang they gave out fields and homesteads, and issued the rules of autumn-work - acting according to the idea in the sombre and contracting (course). Hence it is said in the Record, 'On the day of the chang sacrifice they gave forth (the stores of) the ruler's house;' showing how rewards (were then given). When the plants were cut down, the punishment of branding might be inflicted. Before the rules of autumn-work were issued, the people did not dare to cut down the grass. Hence it is said that 'the ideas in the di and chang are great, and lie at the, foundation of the government of a state; and should by all means be known.' It is for the ruler to know clearly those ideas, and for the minister to be able to execute (what they require). The ruler who does not know the ideas is not complete, and the minister who cannot carry them into execution is not complete.

Now the idea serves to direct and help the aim, and leads to the manifestation of all virtue. Hence he whose virtue is the completest, has the largest aims; and he whose aims are the largest, has the clearest idea. He whose idea is the clearest, will be most reverent in his sacrifices. When the sacrifices (of a state) are reverent, none of the sons and grandsons within its borders will dare to be irreverent. Then the superior man, when he has a sacrifice, will feel it necessary to preside at it in person. if there be a (sufficient) reason for it, he may commit the performance of it to another. But when committing the performance to another, the ruler will not fail (to think) of its meaning, because he understands the ideas in it. He whose virtue is slight, has but a small aim. He who is in doubts as to the idea in it, and will yet seek to be reverent in his sacrifice, will find it impossible to be so; and how can he, who sacrifices without reverence, be the parent of his people?

The tripods (at the sacrifices) had inscriptions on them. The maker of an inscription named himself, and took occasion to praise and set forth the excellent qualities of his ancestors, and clearly exhibit them to future generations. Those ancestors must have had good qualities and also bad. But the idea of an inscription is to make mention of the good qualifies and not of the bad - such is the heart of a filial descendant; and it is only the man of ability and virtue who can attain to it.

The inscriber discourses about and panegyrises the virtues and goodness of his ancestors, their merits and zeal, their services and toils, the congratulations and rewards (given to them), their fame recognised by all under heaven; and in the discussion of these things on his spiritual vessels, he "makes himself famous; and thus he sacrifices to his ancestors. In the celebration of his ancestors he exalts his filial piety. That he himself appears after them is natural. And in the clear showing (of all this) to future generations, he is giving instruction.

By the one panegyric of an inscription benefit accrues to the ancestors, to their descendant and to others after them. Hence when a superior man looks at an inscription, while he admires those whom it praises, he also admires him who made it. That maker had intelligence to see (the excellences of his ancestors), virtue to associate himself with them, and wisdom to take advantage (of his position);-he may be pronounced a man of ability and virtue. Such worth without boasting may be pronounced courteous respect.

Thus the inscription on the tripod of Kong Kui of Wei was: 'In the sixth month, on the day ding-hai, the duke went to the Grand Temple, and said, "My young uncle, your ancestor Zhuang Shu assisted duke Cheng, who ordered him to follow him in his difficulties on the south of the Han, and afterwards to come to him in his palace (of imprisonment) in the honoured capital of Zhou; and all these hurried journeyings he endured without wearying of them. From him came the helper of duke Xian, who charged your (later) ancestor Zhuang Shu to continue the service of his ancestor. Your deceased father Wen Shu cherished and stimulated in himself the old desires and aims, roused and led on the admirable officers, and showed his own great personal interest in the state of Wei. His labours for our ducal house never wearied early or late, so that the people all testified how good he was." The duke further said, "My young uncle, I give you (this tripod with) its inscription. Carry on and out the services of your father." Kui bowed with his head to the ground, and said, "In response to the distinction (you have conferred upon me) I will take your great and important charge, and I will put it on the vases and tripods of my winter sacrifice."' Such was the inscription on the tripod of Kong Kui of Wei.

In this way the superior men of antiquity panegyrised the excellent qualities of their ancestors, and clearly exhibited them to future generations, thereby having the opportunity to introduce their own personality and magnify their states. If descendants who maintain their ancestral temples and the altars to the spirits of the land and grain, praised their ancestors for good qualities which they did not possess, that was falsehood; if they did not take knowledge of the good qualities which they did possess, that showed their want of intelligence; if they knew them and did not transmit them (by their inscriptions), that showed a want of virtue - these are three things of which a superior man should have been ashamed.

Anciently, Dan, duke of Zhou, did most meritorious service for the kingdom. After his death the kings Cheng and Kang, bearing in mind all his admirable work, and wishing to honour Lu, granted to its lords the right of offering the greatest sacrifices - those in the borders of their capital to Heaven and Earth, in the wider sphere of sacrifice; and the great summer and autumnal sacrifices in the ancestral temple of the state. At those great summer and autumnal sacrifices, on the hall above, they sang the Qing Miao, and in the courtyard below it they danced the Xiang to the flute; they carried red shields and axes adorned with jade in performing the Da Wu dance; and this was the music employed by the son of Heaven. (Those kings) in acknowledgment of the great merit of the duke of Zhou, allowed (the use of those sacrifices and this music) to the (marquis of) Lu. His descendants have continued it, and down to the present day it is not abolished, thereby showing clearly the virtue of the lords of Zhou and magnifying their state.

Source: Chinese Text Project English translation "Sacred Books of the East, volume 28, part 4: The Li Ki", James Legge, 1885

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