Back to collection

Book of Documents 尚書

周書 康誥 Zhou Shu - Announcement to the Prince of Kang

Click on any word to see more details.


[On the third month, when the moon began to wane, the duke of Zhou commenced the foundations, and proceeded to build the new great city of Lo, of the eastern states. The people from every quarter assembled in great harmony. From the Hou, Dian, Nan, Cai, and Wei domains, the various officers stimulated this harmony of the people, and introduced them to the business there was to be done for Zhou. The duke encouraged all to diligence, and made a great announcement about the performance (of the works).]


The king speaks to this effect: 'Head of the princes, and my younger brother, little one, Feng, it was your greatly distinguished father, the king Wen, who was able to illustrate his virtue and be careful in the use of punishments. He did not dare to treat with contempt (even) wifeless men and widows. He employed the employable, and revered the reverend; he was terrible to those who needed to be awed - so getting distinction among the people. It was thus he laid the foundations of (the sway of) our small portion of the kingdom, and the one or two (neighbouring) regions were brought under, his improving influence, until throughout our western land all placed in him their reliance. The fame, of him ascended up to the high God, and God approved. Heaven accordingly gave a grand charge to king Wen, to exterminate the great (dynasty of) Yin, and grandly receive its appointment, so that the various countries belonging to it and their peoples were brought to an orderly condition. Then your unworthy elder brother exerted himself; and thus it is that you Feng, the little one, are here in this eastern region.'


The king says, 'Oh! Feng, bear these things in mind. Now (your success in the management of) the people will depend on your reverently following your father Wen; do you carry out his virtuous words which you have heard, and clothe yourself with them. (Moreover), where you go, seek out among (the traces of) the former wise kings of Yin what you may use in protecting and regulating their people. (Again), you must in the remote distance study the (ways of) the old accomplished men of Shang, that you may establish your heart, and know how to instruct (the people). (Further still), you must search out besides what is to be learned of the wise kings of antiquity, and employ it in tranquillizing and protecting the people. (Finally), enlarge (your thoughts) to (the comprehension of all) heavenly (principles), and virtue will be richly displayed in your person, so that you will not render nugatory the king's charge.'


The king says, 'Oh! Feng, the little one, be respectfully careful, as if you were suffering from a disease. Awful though Heaven be, it yet helps the sincere. The feelings of the people can for the most part be discerned; but it is difficult to preserve (the attachment of) the lower classes. Where you go, employ all your heart. Do not seek repose, nor be fond of ease and pleasure. I have read the saying, "Dissatisfaction is caused not so much by great things, or by small things, as by (a ruler's) observance of principle or the reverse, and by his energy of conduct or the reverse."


Yes, it is yours, O little one, it is your business to enlarge the royal (influence), and to protect the people of Yin in harmony with their feelings. Thus also shall, you assist the king, consolidating the appointment of Heaven, and renovating the people.'


The king says, 'Oh! Feng, deal reverently and intelligently in your infliction of punishments. When men commit small crimes, which are not mischances, but purposed, they of themselves doing what is contrary to the laws intentionally, though their crimes be but small, you may not but put them to death. But in the case of great crimes, which were not purposed, but from mischance and misfortune, accidental, if the transgressors confess their guilt without reserve, you must not put them to death.'


The king says, 'Oh! Feng, there must be the orderly regulation (of this matter). When you show a great discrimination, subduing (men's hearts), the people will admonish one another, and strive to be obedient. (Deal firmly yet tenderly with evil), as if it were a disease in your own person, and the people will entirely put away their faults;. (Deal with them) as if you were protecting your own infants, and the people will be tranquil and orderly. It is not you, O Feng, who (can presume to) inflict a (severe) punishment or death upon a man; do not, to please yourself, so punish a man or put him to death.' Moreover, he says, 'It is not you, O Feng, who (can presume to inflict a lighter punishment), cutting off a man's nose or ears; do not, to please yourself, cause a man's nose or ears to be cut off.'



The king says, 'In things beyond (your immediate supervision), have laws set forth which the officers may observe, and these should be the penal laws of Yin which were rightly ordered.' He also says, 'In examining the evidence in (criminal) cases, reflect upon it for five or six days, yea, for ten days or three months. You may then boldly come to a decision in such cases.'


The king says, 'In setting forth the business of the laws, the punishments will be determined by (what were) the regular laws of Yin. But you must see that those punishments, and (especially) the penalty of death, be righteous. And you must not let them be warped to agree with your own inclinations, O Feng. Then shall they be entirely accordant with right, and you may say, "They are properly ordered;" yet you must say (at the same time), "Perhaps they are not yet entirely accordant with right."


Yes, though you are the little one, who has a heart like you, O Feng? My heart and my virtue are also known to you.


'All who of themselves commit crimes, robbing, stealing, practising villainy and treachery, and who kill men or violently assault them to take their property, being reckless and fearless of death - these are abhorred by all.'


The king says, 'O Feng, such great criminals are greatly abhorred, and how much more (detestable) are the unfilial and unbrotherly! - as the son who does not reverently discharge his duty to his father, but greatly wounds his father's heart, and the father who can (no longer) love his son, but hates him; as the younger brother who does not think of the manifest will of Heaven, and refuses to respect his elder brother, and the elder brother who does not think of the toil of their parents in bringing up their children, and is very unfriendly to his junior. If we who are charged with government do not treat parties who proceed to such wickedness as offenders, the laws (of our nature) given by Heaven to our people will be thrown into great disorder and destroyed. You must resolve to deal speedily with such according to the penal laws of king Wen, punishing them severely and not pardoning.


'Those who are disobedient (to natural principles) are to be thus subjected to the laws; how much more the officers employed in your state as the instructors of the youth, the heads of the official departments, and the smaller officers charged with their several commissions, when they propagate other lessons, seeking the praise of the people, not thinking (of their duty), nor using (the rules for their offices), but distressing their ruler! These lead on (the people) to wickedness, and are an abomination to me. Shall they be let alone? Do you speedily, according to what is right, put them to death.


'And you will be yourself ruler and president; if you cannot manage your own household, with your smaller officers, and the heads of departments in the state, but use only terror and violence, you will greatly set aside the royal charge, and be trying to regulate your state contrary to virtue. You must in everything reverence the statutes, and proceed by them to the happy rule of the people. There were the reverence of king Wen and his caution; in proceeding by them to the happy rule of the people, say, "If I could only attain to them." So will you make me, the One man, to rejoice.'


The king says, 'O Feng, when I think clearly of the people, I see that they should be led (by example) to happiness and tranquillity. I think of the virtue of the former wise kings of Yin, whereby they tranquillized and regulated the people, and rouse myself to make it my own. Moreover, the people now are sure to follow a leader. If one do not lead them, he cannot be said to exercise a government in their state.'


The king says, 'O Feng, I can not dispense with the inspection (of the ancients),;and I make this declaration to you about virtue in the use of punishments. Now the people are not quiet; they have not yet stilled their minds; notwithstanding my leading of them, they have not come to accord (with my government). I clearly consider that severe as are the inflictions of Heaven on me, I dare not murmur. The crimes (of the people), though they were not great or many, (would all be chargeable on me), and how much more shall this be said when the report of them goes up so manifestly to heaven!'


The king says, 'Oh! Feng, be reverent! Do not what will cause murmurings; and do not use bad counsels and uncommon ways. With the determination of sincerity, give yourself to imitate the active virtue (of the ancients). Hereby give repose to your mind, examine your virtue, send far forward your plans; and thus by your generous forbearance you will make the people repose in what is good, and I shall not have to blame you or cast you off.'


The king says, 'Oh! you, Feng, the little one, (Heaven's) appointments are not unchanging." Think of this, and do not make me deprive you of your dignity. Make illustrious the charge which you have received; exalt (the instructions) which you have heard, and tranquillize and regulate the people accordingly.'


The king speaks to this effect: 'Go, Feng. Do not disregard the statutes you should reverence; hearken to what I have told you; so shall you among the people of Yin enjoy (your dignity), and hand it down to your posterity.'

English translation: James Legge

Dictionary cache status: not loaded

Glossary and Other Vocabulary