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Book of Documents 尚書

周書 酒誥 Zhou Shu - Announcement about Drunkenness

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The king speaks to the following effect: 'Do you clearly make known my great commands in the country of Mei. When your reverent father, the king Wen, laid the foundations of our kingdom in the western region, he delivered announcements and cautions to (the princes of) the various regions, and to all his (high) officers, with their assistants, and the managers of affairs, saying, morning and evening, "At sacrifices spirits should be employed." When Heaven was sending down its favouring decree, and laying the foundations of (the eminence of) our people, (spirits) were used only at the great sacrifices. When Heaven sends down its terrors, and our people are thereby greatly disorganized and lose their virtue, this may be traced invariably to their indulgence in spirits; yea, the ruin of states, small and great, (by these terrors), has been caused invariably by their guilt in the use of spirits.


'King Wen admonished and instructed the young nobles, who were charged with office or in any employment, that they should not ordinarily use spirits; and throughout all the states, he required that such should drink spirits only on occasion of sacrifices, and that then virtue should preside so that there might be no drunkenness. He said, 'Let my people teach their young men that they are to love only the productions of the soil, for so will their hearts be good. Let the young also hearken wisely to the constant instructions of their fathers; and let them look at all virtuous actions, whether great or small, in the same light (with watchful heed).


'(Ye people of) the land of Mei, if you can employ your limbs, largely cultivating your millets, and hastening about in the service of your fathers and elders; and if, with your carts and oxen, you traffic diligently to a distance, that you may thereby filially minister to your parents; then, when your parents are happy, you may set forth your spirits clear and strong, and use them.


'Hearken constantly to my instructions, all ye my (high) officers and ye heads of departments, all ye, my noble chiefs; when ye have largely done your duty in ministering to your aged, and serving your ruler, ye may eat and drink freely and to satiety. And to speak of greater things: when you can maintain a constant, watchful examination of yourselves, and your conduct is in accordance with correct virtue, then may you present the offerings of sacrifice, and at the same time indulge yourselves in festivity. In such case you will indeed be ministers doing right service to your king, and Heaven likewise will approve your great virtue, so that you shall never be forgotten in the royal House.'


The king says, 'O Feng, in our western region, the princes of states, and the young (nobles), sons of the managers of affairs, who in former days assisted king Wen, were all able to obey his lessons, and abstain from excess in the use of spirits; and so it is that I have now received the appointment which belonged to Yin.'


The king says. 'O Feng, I have heard it said, that formerly the first wise king of Yin manifested a reverential awe of the bright principles of Heaven and of the lower people, acting accordingly, steadfast in his virtue, and holding fast his wisdom. From him Tang the Successful, down to Di-Yi, all completed their royal virtue and revered their chief ministers, so that their managers of affairs respectfully discharged their helping duties, and dared not to allow themselves in idleness and pleasure; how much less would they dare to indulge themselves in drinking! Moreover, in the exterior domains, (the princes of) the Hou, Dian, Nan, and Wei (states), with their presiding chiefs and in the interior domain, all the various officers, the directors of the several departments, the inferior officers and employés, the heads of great houses, and the men of distinguished name living in retirement, all eschewed indulgence in spirits. Not only did they not dare to indulge in them, but they had not leisure to do so, being occupied with helping to complete the sovereigns virtue and make it more illustrious, and helping the directors of affairs reverently to attend to his service.


'I have heard it said likewise, that the last successor of those kings was addicted to drink, so that no charges came from him brightly before the people, and he was (as if) reverently and unchangingly bent on doing and cherishing what provoked resentment. Greatly abandoned to extraordinary lewdness and dissipation, for pleasure's sake he sacrificed all his majesty. The people were all sorely grieved and wounded in heart; but he gave himself wildly up to drink, not thinking of restraining himself. but continuing his excess, till his mind was frenzied, and he had no fear of death. His crimes (accumulated) in the capital of Shang: and though the extinction of the dynasty (was imminent), this gave him no concern, and he wrought not that any sacrifices of fragrant virtue might ascend to Heaven. The rank odour of the people's resentments, and the drunkenness of his herd of creatures, went loudly up on high, so that Heaven sent down ruin on Yin, and showed no love for it - because of such excesses. There is not any cruel oppression of Heaven; people themselves accelerate their guilt, (and its punishment).


The king says, 'O Feng, I make you this long announcement, not (for the pleasure of doing so); but the ancients have said, "Let not men look into water; let them look into the glass of other people." Now that Yin has lost its appointment, ought we not to look much to it as our glass, (and learn) how to secure the repose of our time?


I say to you, Strenuously warn the worthy ministers of Yin, and (the princes) in the Hou, the Dian, the Nan, and the Wei domains; and still more your friends, the great Recorder and the Recorder of the Interior, and all your worthy ministers, the heads of great Houses; and still more those whom you serve, with whom you calmly discuss matters, and who carry out your measures; and still more those who are, as it were, your mates; your Minister of War who deals with the rebellious, your Minister of Instruction who is like a protector to the people, and your Minister of Works who settles the boundaries; and above all, do you strictly keep yourself from drink.


'If you are informed that there are companies that drink together, do not fail to apprehend them all, and send them here to Zhou, where I may put them to death. As to the ministers and officers of Yin who were led to it and became addicted to drink, it is not necessary to put them to death (at once); let them be taught for a time. If they follow these (lessons of mine), I will give them bright distinction. If they disregard my lessons, then I, the One man, will show them no pity. As they cannot change their way, they shall be classed with those who are to be put to death.'


The king says, 'O Feng, give constant heed to my admonitions. If you do not rightly manage the officers, the people will continue lost in drunkenness.'

English translation: James Legge

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