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Book of Documents 尚書

周書 顧命 Zhou Shu - Testamentary Charge

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In the fourth month, when the moon began to wane, the king was indisposed. On the day Jia-zi, he washed his hands and face; his attendants put on him his cap and robes; (and he sat up), leaning on a gem-adorned bench. He then called together the Grand-Guardian Shi, the earls of Rui and Tong, the duke of Bi, the marquis of Wei, the duke of Mao, the master of the warders, the master of the guards, the heads of the various departments, and the superintendents of affairs.


The king said, 'Oh! my illness has greatly increased, and it will soon be over with me. The malady comes on daily with more violence, and maintains its hold. I am afraid I may not find (another opportunity) to declare my wishes about my successor, and therefore I (now) lay my charge upon you with special instructions. The former rulers, our kings Wen and Wu, displayed in succession their equal glory, making sure provision for the support of the people, and setting forth their instructions. (The people) accorded a practical submission, without any opposition, and the influence (of their example and instructions) extended to Yin, and the great appointment (of Heaven) was secured. After them, I, the stupid one, received with reverence the dread (decree) of Heaven, and continued to keep the great instructions of Wen and Wu, not daring blindly to transgress them. Now Heaven has laid affliction on me, and it seems as if I should not again rise or be myself. Do you take clear note of these my words, and in accordance with them watch reverently over my eldest son Zhao, and greatly assist him in the difficulties of his position. Be kind to those who are far off, and help those who are near. Promote the tranquillity of the states, small and great, and encourage them (to well-doing). I think how a man has to govern himself in dignity and with decorum; do not you allow Zhao to proceed heedlessly on the impulse of improper motives.'


Immediately on receiving this charge, (the ministers and others) withdrew. The tent was then carried out into the court; and on the next day, (being) Yi-chou, the king died.


The Grand-Guardian then ordered Zhong Huan and Nan-Gong Mao to instruct Lu Ji, the marquis of Qi, with two shield-and-spearmen, and a hundred guards, to meet the prince Zhao outside the south gate, and conduct him to (one of) the side-apartments (near to that where the king lay), there to be as chief mourner. On the day Ding-Mao, (two days after the king's death), he ordered (the charge) to be recorded on tablets, and the forms (to be observed in publishing it). Seven days after, on Gui-you, as chief (of the west) and premier, he ordered the (proper) officers to prepare the wood (for all the requirements of the funeral).


The salvage men set out the screens, ornamented with figures of axes, and the tents. Between the window (and the door), facing the south, they placed the (three)fold mat of fine bamboo splints, with its striped border of white and black silk, and the usual bench adorned with different-coloured gems. In the side-space on the west, which faced the east, they placed the threefold rush mat, with its variegated border, and the usual bench adorned with beautiful shells. In the side-space on the east, which faced the west, they placed the threefold mat of fine grass, with its border of painted silk, and the usual bench carved, and adorned with gems. Before the western side-chamber, and facing the south, they placed the threefold mat of fine bamboo, with its dark mixed border, and the usual lacquered bench. (They set forth) also the five pairs of gems (or jade), and the precious things of display. There were the red knife, the great lessons, the large round-and-convex symbol of jade, and the rounded and pointed maces, all in the side-space on the west; the large piece of jade, the pieces contributed by the wild tribes of the east, the heavenly sounding-stone, and the river-plan, all in the side-space on the east; the dancing habits of Yin, the large . large tortoise-shell, and the large drum, all in the western apartment; the spear of Dui, the bow of He, and the bamboo arrows of Chui, all in the eastern apartment. The grand carriage was by the guests' steps, facing (the south); the next was by the eastern (or host' s) steps, facing (the south). The front carriage was placed before the left lobby, and the one that followed it before the right lobby.


Two men in brownish leather caps, and holding three-cornered halberts, stood inside the gate leading to the private apartments. Four men in caps of spotted deer-skin, holding spears with blades upturned from the base of the point, stood, one on each side of the steps east and west, and near to the platform of the hall. One man in a great officer's cap, and holding an axe, stood in the hall, (near the steps) at the east (end). One man in a great officer's cap, and holding an axe of a different pattern, stood in the hall, (near the steps) at the west end. One man in a great officer's cap, and holding a lance, stood at the front and east of the hall, close by the steps. One man in a great officer's cap, and holding a lance of a different pattern, stood in the corresponding place on the west. One man in a great officer's cap, and holding a pointed weapon, stood by the steps on the north side of the hall.


The king, in a linen cap and the variously figured, skirt, ascended by the guests' steps, followed by the high ministers, (great) officers, and princes of states, in linen caps and dark-coloured skirts. Arrived in the hall, they all took their (proper) places. The Grand-Guardian, the Grand-Historiographer, and the Minister of Religion were all in linen caps and red skirts. The Grand-Guardian bore the great mace. The Minister of Religion bore the cup and the mace-cover. These two ascended by the steps on the east. The Grand Historiographer bore, the testamentary charge. He ascended by the guests' steps (on the west), and advanced to the king with the tablets containing the charge, and said, 'Our royal sovereign, leaning on the gem-adorned bench, declared his last charge, and commanded you to continue (the observance of) the lessons, and to take the rule of the kingdom of Zhou, complying with the great laws, and securing the harmony of all under the sky, so as to respond to and display the bright instructions of Wen and Wu.'
The king twice bowed (low), and then arose, and replied, 'I am utterly insignificant and but a child, how should I be able to govern the four quarters (of the kingdom) with a corresponding reverent awe of the dread majesty of Heaven!' He then received the cup and the mace-cover. Thrice he slowly and reverently advanced with a cup of spirits (to the east of the coffin); thrice he sacrificed (to the spirit of his father); and thrice he put the cup down. The Minister of Religion said, 'It is accepted.'
The Grand-Guardian received the cup, descended the steps, and washed his hands. He then took another cup, (placed it on) a half-mace which he carried, and repeated the sacrifice. He then gave the cup to one of the attendants of the Minister of Religion, and did obeisance. The king returned the obeisance. The Grand-Guardian took a cup again, and poured out the spirits in sacrifice. He then just tasted the spirits, returned to his place, gave the cup to the attendant, and did obeisance. The king returned the obeisance. The Grand Guardian descended from the hall, after which the various (sacrificial) articles were removed, and the princes all went out at the temple gate and waited.

English translation: James Legge

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