Click on any word to see more details.《緇衣》 The Black Robes
These were the words of the Master: 'When the superior is easily served, his inferiors are easily known, and in this case punishments are not numerous (in the state).'
The Master said, 'When (the superior) loves the worthy as (the people of old loved him of) the black robes (Shi, I, vii, ode 1), and hates the bad as Xiang-bo (hated them; II, v, ode 6), then without the frequent conferring of rank the people are stimulated to be good, and without the use of punishments they are all obedient to his orders. It is said in the Da Ya (III, i, ode 1, 7), "From Wen your pattern you must draw, And all the states will own your law."'
The Master said, 'If the people be taught by lessons of virtue, and uniformity sought to be given to them by the rules of ceremony, their minds will go on to be good. If they be taught by the laws, and uniformity be sought to be given to them by punishments, their minds will be thinking of how they can escape (the punishment; Analects, II, iii). Hence, when the ruler of the people loves them as his sons, they feel to him as a parent; when he binds them to himself by his good faith, they do not turn away from him; when he presides over them with courtesy, their hearts are docile to him. It is said in the Punishments of Fu (Shu, V, xxvii, 3), "Among the people of Miao they did not use orders simply, but the restraints of punishment. They made the five punishments engines of oppression, calling them the laws." In this way their people became bad, and (their rulers) were cut off for ever (from the land).'
The Master said, 'Inferiors, in serving their superiors, do not follow what they command, but what they do. When a ruler loves anything, those below him are sure to do so much more. Therefore the superior should by all means be careful in what he likes and dislikes. This will make him an example to the people.'
The Master said, 'When Yu had been on the throne three years, the humanity of the common people was in accordance with his - was it necessary that all (at court) should be perfectly virtuous? It is said in the Book of Poetry (II, v, ode 7, 1), "Awe-inspiring are you, O (Grand-)Master Yin, And the people all look up to you." It is said in the Punishments of Fu (V, xxvii, 13), "I, the One man, will have felicity, and the millions of the people will look to you as their sure dependence." It is said in the Da Ya (III, i, ode 9, 3), "King Wu secured the people's faith, And gave to all the law."'
The Master said, 'When superiors are fond of showing their humanity, inferiors strive to outstrip one another in their practice of it. Therefore those who preside over the people should cherish the clearest aims and give the most correct lessons, honouring the requirement of their humanity by loving the people as their sons; then the people will use their utmost efforts with themselves to please their superiors. It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, iii, ode 2, 2), "Where from true virtue actions spring, All their obedient homage bring."'
The Master said, 'The kings words are (at first) as, threads of silk; but when given forth, they become as cords. Or they are (at first) as cords; but when given forth, they become as ropes. Therefore the great man does not take the lead in idle speaking. The superior does not speak words which may be spoken indeed but should not be embodied in deeds; nor does he do actions which may be done in deed but should not be expressed in words. When this is the case, the words of the people can be carried into action without risk, and their actions can be spoken of without risk. It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, iii, ode 2, 8), "Keep on your acts a watchful eye, That you may scrutiny defy."'
The Master said, 'The superior man leads men on (to good) by his words, and keeps them (from evil) by (the example of) his conduct. Hence, in speaking, he must reflect on what may be the end of his words, and examine whether there may not be some error in his conduct; and then the people will be attentive to their words, and circumspect in their conduct. It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, iii, ode 2, 5), "Be circumspect in all you say, And reverent bearing still display." It is said in the Da Ya (III, i, ode 1, 4), "Deep were Wen's thoughts, unstained his ways; His reverence lit its trembling rays."'
The Master said, 'When the heads of the people use no (improper) variations in their dress, and their manners are always easy and unconstrained, and they seek thus to give uniformity to the people, the virtue of the people does become uniform. It is said in the Book of Poetry (II, viii, ode i, i), "In the old capital they stood, With yellow fox-furs plain; Their manners all correct and good, Speech free from vulgar stain. Could we go back to Zhou's old days, All would look up to them with praise."'
The Master said, 'When (the ruler) above can be known by men looking at him, and (his ministers) below can have their doings related and remembered, then the ruler has no occasion to doubt his ministers, and the ministers are not led astray by their ruler. The Announcement of Yin says (Shu, IV, vi, 3), "There were I, Yin, and Tang; both possessed the same pure virtue." It is said in the Book of Poetry (I, xiv, ode 3, 3), "In soul so steadfast is that princely man, Whose course for fault or flaw we vainly scan."'
The Master said, 'When the holders of states and clans give distinction to the righteous and make it painful for the bad, thus showing the people the excellence (they should cultivate), then the feelings of the people do not swerve (to what is evil). It is said in the Book of Poetry (II, vi, ode 3, 5), "Your duties quietly fulfil, And hold the upright in esteem, With earnest love."'
The Master said, "when the highest among men has doubts and perplexities, the common people go astray. When (the ministers) below him are difficult to be understood, the toil of the ruler is prolonged. Therefore when the ruler exhibits clearly what he loves, and thus shows the people the style of manners (they should aim at), and is watchful against what he dislikes, and thereby guards the people against the excesses (of which they are in danger), then they do not go astray. When the ministers are exemplary in their conduct, and do not set a value on (fine) speeches; when they do not try to lead (the ruler) to what is unattainable, and do not trouble him with what cannot be (fully) known, then he is not toiled. It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, ii, ode 10, i), "Reversed is now the providence of God; The lower people groan beneath their load." It is said in the Xiao Ya (II, v, ode 4, 4), "They do not discharge their duties, But only cause distress to the king."'
The Master said, 'When (the measures of) government do not take effect, and the lessons of the ruler do not accomplish their object, (it is because) the giving of rank and emoluments is unfit to stimulate the people to good, and (the infliction of) punishments and penalties is unfit to make them ashamed (of evil). Therefore (the ruler) above must not be careless in punishing, nor lightly confer rank. It is said in the Announcement to the Prince of Kang (Shu, V, ix, 8), "Deal reverently and understandingly in your infliction of punishments;" and in the Punishments of Fu (Shu, V, xxvii, 12), "He spreads abroad his lessons to avert punishments."'
The Master said, 'When the great ministers are not on terms of friendly intimacy (with the ruler), and the common people consequently are not restful, this is because the loyalty (of the ministers) and the respect (of the ruler) are not sufficient, and the riches and rank conferred (on the former) are excessive. (The consequence is, that) the great ministers do not discharge their functions of government, and the ministers closer (to the ruler) form parties against them. Therefore the great ministers should by all means be treated with respect; they are examples to the people; and ministers nearer (to the ruler) should by all means be careful - they direct the way of the people. Let not the ruler consult with inferior officers about greater, nor with those who are from a distance about those who are near to him, nor with those who are beyond the court about those who belong to it. If he act thus, the great ministers will not be dissatisfied; the ministers closer to him will not be indignant; and those who are more remote will not be kept in obscurity. The duke of She in his dying charge said, "Do not by little counsels ruin great enterprises; do not for the sake of a favourite concubine provoke queen Zhuang; do not for the sake of a favourite officer provoke your grave officers - the Great officers or high ministers."'
The Master said, 'If the great man be not in affectionate sympathy with (his officers) whom he considers worthy, but give his confidence to others whom he despises, the people in consequence will not feel attached to him, and the lessons which he gives them will be troublesome (and ineffective). It is said in the Book of Poetry (II, ii, ode 8), "As if I were hidden they sought me at first, At court for a pattern to shine; 'Tis with hatred intense they now bend their scowls, And my services curtly decline." It is said in the Jun-chen (Shu, V, xxiv, 4), "While they have not seen a sage, (they are full of desire) as if they could not get a sight of him; but after they have seen him, they are still unable to follow him."'
The Master said, 'A small man is drowned in the water; a superior man is drowned or ruined by his mouth; the great man suffers his ruin from the people - all suffer from what they have played and taken liberties with. Water is near to men, and yet it drowns them. Its nature makes it easy to play with, but dangerous to approach - men are easily drowned in it. The mouth is loquacious and troublesome; for words once uttered there is hardly a place of repentance - men are easily ruined by it. The people, restricted in their humanity, have vulgar and rude minds; they should be respected, and should not be treated with contempt - men are easily ruined by them. Therefore the superior man should by all means be careful in his dealings with them. It is said in the Tai Jia (Shu, III, v, sect. 1, 5, 7), "Do not frustrate the charge to me, and bring on yourself your own overthrow. Be like the forester, who, when he has adjusted the string, goes to examine the end of the arrow, whether it be placed according to rule, and then lets go." It is said in the Charge to Yue (III, viii, Sect. 2, 4), "It is the mouth which gives occasion to shame; they are the coat of mail and helmet which give occasion to war. The upper robes and lower garments (for reward) should not be taken (lightly from) their chests; before spear and shield are used, one should examine himself." It is said in the Tai Jia (Shu, III, v, sect. 2, 3), "Calamities sent by Heaven may be avoided; but from those brought on by one's self there is no escape." It is said in the Announcement of Yin (Shu, III, v, sect. 1, 3), "I have seen it myself in Xia with its western capital, that when its sovereigns went through a prosperous course to the end, their ministers also did the same."'
The Master said, 'To the people the ruler is as their heart; to the ruler the people are as his body. When the heart is composed, the body is at ease; when the heart is reverent, the body is respectful; when the heart loves anything, the body is sure to rest in it. (So), when the ruler loves anything, the people are sure to desire it. The body is the complement of the heart, and a wound in it makes the heart also suffer. So the ruler is preserved by the people, and perishes also through the people. It is said in an ode, "Once we had that former premier, His words were wise and pure; The states and clans by him were at rest, The chief cities and towns by him were well regulated, All the people by him enjoyed their life. Who (now) holds the ordering of the kingdom? Not himself attending to the government, The issue is toil and pain to the people." It is said in, the Jun-ya (Shu, V, xxv, 5), "In the heat and rain of summer days the inferior people may be described as murmuring and sighing. And so it may be said of them in the great cold of winter."'
The Master said, 'In the service by an inferior of his superior, if his personal character be not correct, his words will not be believed; and in this case their views will not be the same, and the conduct (of the superior) will not correspond (to the advice given to him).'
The Master said, 'Words should be capable of proof by instances, and conduct should be conformed to rule; when the case is so, a man's aim cannot be taken from him while he is alive, nor can his good name be taken away when he is dead. Therefore the superior man, having heard much, verifies it by inquiry, and firmly holds fast (what is proved); he remembers much, verifies it by inquiry, and makes it his own; when he knows it exactly, he carries the substance of it into practice. It is said in the Jun-chen (Shu, V, xxi, 5), "Going out and coming in, seek the judgment of the people about things, till you find a general agreement upon them." It is said in the Book of Poetry (I, xiv, ode 3, i), "The virtuous man, the princely one, Is uniformly correct in his deportment."'
The Master said, 'It is only the superior man who can love what is correct, while to the small man what is correct is as poison. Therefore the friends of the superior man have the definite aims which they pursue, and the definite courses which they hate. In consequence, those who are near at hand have no perplexities of thought about him, and those who are far off, no doubts. It is said in the Book of Poetry (I, i, ode 1, 1), "For our prince a good mate."'
The Master said, 'When a man on light grounds breaks off his friendship with the poor and mean, and only on great grounds with the rich and noble, his love of worth cannot be great, nor does his hatred of evil clearly appear. Though men may say that he is not influenced by (the love of) gain, I do not believe them. It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, ii, ode 3, 4), "And all the friends assisting you Behave with reverent mien."'
The Master said, 'The superior man will not voluntarily remain to share in private acts of kindness not offered on grounds of virtue. In the Book of Poetry it is said (II, i, ode 1, 1), "They love me, and my mind will teach How duty's highest aim to reach."'
The Master said, 'If there be a carriage (before you), you are sure (by-and-by) to see the cross-board (in front); if there be a garment, you are sure (in the same way) to see (the traces of) its being worn; if one speaks, you are sure to hear his voice; if one does anything, you are sure to see the result. It is said in the Book of Poetry (I, i, ode 2, 2), "I will wear them without being weary of them."'
The Master said, 'When one says anything, and immediately proceeds to act it out, his words cannot embellish it; and when one does anything, and immediately proceeds to describe it, the action cannot be embellished. Hence the superior man saying little, and acting to prove the sincerity of his words, the people cannot make the excellence of their deeds greater than it is, nor diminish the amount of their badness. It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, iii, ode 2, 5), "A flaw in mace of white jade may By patient toil be ground away; But for a flaw we make in speech, What can be done? 'Tis past our reach." It is said in the Xiao Ya (II, iii, ode 5, 8), "Well does our lord become his place, And high the deeds his reign have crowned." It is said to the Prince Shi (Shu, V, xvi, 11), "Aforetime, when God beheld the virtue of king Wen in the fields of Zhou, he made the great decree light on his person."'
The Master said, 'The people of the south have a saying that "A man without constancy cannot be a diviner either with the tortoise-shell or the stalks." This was probably a saying handed down from antiquity. If such a man cannot know the tortoise-shell and stalks, how much less can he know other men? It is said in the Book of Poetry (II, v, ode 1, 3), "Our tortoise-shells are wearied out, And will not tell us anything about the plans." The Charge to Yue says (Shu, IV, Viii, sect. 2, 5, 11), "Dignities should not be conferred on men of evil practices. (If they be), how can the people set themselves to correct their ways? If this be sought merely by sacrifices, it will be disrespectful (to the spirits). When affairs come to be troublesome, there ensues disorder; when the spirits are served so, difficulties ensue." It is said in the Yi, "When one does not continuously maintain his virtue, some will impute it to him as a disgrace - (in the position indicated in the Hexagram.) When one does maintain his virtue continuously (in the other position indicated), this will be fortunate in a wife, but in a husband evil."'
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
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