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Book of Documents 尚書

商書 太甲上 Shang Shu - Tai Jia I

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The king, on succeeding to the throne, did not follow (the advice of) A-heng. (A-heng or) Yi Yin then made the following writing: 'The former king kept his eye continually on the bright requirements of Heaven, and so he maintained the worship of the spirits of heaven and earth, of those presiding over the land and the grain, and of those of the ancestral temple - all with a sincere reverence. Heaven took notice of his virtue, and caused its great appointment to light on him, that he should soothe and tranquillize the myriad regions. I, Yin, then gave my assistance to my sovereign in the settlement of the people; and thus it is that you, O heir-king, have received the great inheritance. I have seen it myself in Xia with its western capital, that when its rulers went through a prosperous course to the end, their ministers also did the same, and afterwards, when their successors could not attain to such a consummation, neither did their ministers. Take warning, O heir-king. Reverently use your sovereignty. If you do not play the sovereign, as the name requires, you will disgrace your grandfather.'


The king would not think (of these words), nor listen to them. On this Yi Yin said, 'The former king, before it was light, sought to have large and clear views, and then sat waiting for the dawn (to carry them into practice). He (also) sought on every side for men of ability and virtue, to instruct and guide his posterity. Do not frustrate his charge (to me), and bring on yourself your own overthrow. Be careful to strive after the virtue of self-restraint, and cherish far-reaching plans. Be like the forester, who, when he has adjusted the spring, goes to examine the end of the arrow, whether it be placed according to rule, and then lets I go; reverently determine your aim, and follow the ways of your grandfather. Thus I shall be delighted, and be able to show to all ages that I have discharged my trust.'


The king was not yet able to change (his course). Yin said (to himself), 'This is (real) unrighteousness, and is becoming by practice (a second) nature. I cannot bear to be near (so) disobedient (a person). I will build (a place) in the palace at Tong, where he can be in silence near (the grave of) the former king. This will be a lesson which will keep him from going astray all his life.' The king went (accordingly) to the palace at Tong, and dwelt during the period of mourning. In the end he became sincerely virtuous.

English translation: James Legge

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