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周書 無逸 Zhou Shu - Against Luxurious Ease

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The duke of Zhou said, 'Oh! the superior man rests in this, that he will indulge in no luxurious ease. He first understands how the painful toil of sowing and reaping conducts to ease, and thus he understands how the lower people depend on this toil (for their support). I have observed among the lower people, that where the parents have diligently laboured in sowing and reaping, their sons (often) do not understand this painful toil, but abandon themselves to ease, and to village Slang, and become quite disorderly. Or where they do not do so, they (still) throw contempt on their parents, saying, "Those old people have heard nothing and know nothing."'


The duke of Zhou said, 'Oh! I have heard that aforetime Zhong Zong, one of the kings of Yin, was grave, humble, reverential, and timorously cautious. He measured himself with reference to the decree of Heaven, and cherished a reverent apprehension in governing the people, not daring to indulge in useless ease. It was thus that he enjoyed the throne seventy and five years. If we come to the time of Gao Zong, he toiled at first away from the court, and was among the lower people. When he came to the throne, and occupied the mourning shed, it may be said that he did not speak for three years. (Afterwards) he was (still inclined) not to speak; but when he did speak, his words were full of harmonious (wisdom). He did not dare to indulge in useless ease, but admirably and tranquilly presided over the regions of Yin, till throughout them all, small and great, there was not a single murmur. It was thus that he enjoyed the throne fifty and nine years. In the case of Zu-jia, he refused to be king unrighteously, and was at first one of the lower people. When he came to the throne, he knew on what they must depend (for their support), and was able to exercise a protecting kindness towards their masses, and did not dare to treat with contempt the wifeless men and widows. Thus it was that he enjoyed the throne thirty and three years. The kings that arose after these, from their birth enjoyed ease. Enjoying ease from their birth, they did not know the painful toil of sowing and reaping, and had not heard of the hard labours of the lower people. They sought for nothing but excessive pleasure; and so not one of them had long life. They (reigned) for ten years, for seven or eight, for five or six, or perhaps (only) for three or four.'


The duke of Zhou said, 'Oh! there likewise were king Tai and king Ji of our own Zhou, who were humble and reverentially cautious. King Wen dressed meanly, and gave himself to the work of tranquillization and to that of husbandry. Admirably mild and beautifully humble, he cherished and protected the inferior people, and showed a fostering kindness to the wifeless men and widows. From morning to mid-day, and from mid-day to sundown, he did not allow himself leisure to eat; thus seeking to secure the happy harmony of the myriads of the people. King Wen did not dare to go to excess in his excursions or his hunting, and from the various states he would receive only the correct amount of contribution. The appointment (of Heaven) came to him in the middle of his life, and he enjoyed the throne for fifty years.'


The duke of Zhou said, 'Oh! from this time forward, do you who have succeeded to the throne imitate Wen's avoiding of excess in his sight-seeing, his indulgence in ease, his excursions, his hunting; and from the myriads of the people receive only the correct amount of contribution. Do not allow yourself the leisure to say, "To-day I will indulge in pleasure." This would not be holding out a lesson to the people, nor the way to secure the favour of Heaven. Men will on the contrary be prompt to imitate you and practise evil. Become not like Shou the king of Yin, who went quite astray, and, became abandoned to drunkenness.'


The duke of Zhou said, 'Oh! I have heard it said that, in the case of the ancients, (their ministers) warned and admonished them, protected and loved them, taught and instructed them; and among the people there was hardly one who would impose on them by extravagant language or deceiving tricks. If you will not listen to this (and profit by it), your ministers will imitate you, and so the correct laws of the former kings, both small and great, will be changed and disordered. The people, blaming you, will disobey and rebel in their hearts; yea, they will curse you with their mouths.'


The duke of Zhou said, 'Oh! those kings of Yin, Zhong Zong, Gao Zong, and Zu-jia, with king Wen of our Zhou, these four men carried their knowledge into practice. If it was told them, "The lower people murmur against you and revile you," then they paid great and reverent attention to their conduct; and with reference to the faults imputed to them they said, "Our faults are really so," thus not simply shrinking from the cherishing of anger. If you will not listen to this (and profit by it), when men with extravagant language and deceptive tricks say to you, "The lower people are murmuring against you and reviling you," you will believe them. Doing this, you will not be always thinking of your princely duties, and will not cultivate a large and generous heart, You will confusedly punish the guiltless, and put the innocent to death. There will be a general murmuring, which will be concentrated upon your person.'


The duke of Zhou said, 'Oh! let the king, who has succeeded to the throne, make a study of these things.'

English translation: James Legge

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