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周書 秦誓 Zhou Shu - Speech of the Marquis of Qin

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The duke said, 'Ah! my officers, listen to me without noise. I solemnly announce to you the most important of all sayings. (It is this which) the ancients have said, "Thus it is with all people, they mostly love their ease. In reproving others there is no difficulty, but to receive reproof, and allow it to have free course, this is difficult." The sorrow of my heart is, that the days and months have passed away, and it is not likely they will come again, (so that I might pursue a different course.)


'There were my old counsellors. I said, "They will not accommodate themselves to me," and I hated them. There were my new counsellors, and I would for the time give my confidence to them. So indeed it was with me; but hereafter I will take advice from the men of yellow hair, and then I shall be free from error. That good old officer! - his strength is exhausted, but I would rather have him (as my counsellor). That dashing brave officer! - his shooting and charioteering are faultless, but I would rather not wish to have him. As to men of quibbles, skilful at cunning words, and able to make the good man change his purposes, what have I to do to make much use of them?


'I have deeply thought and concluded. Let me have but one resolute minister, plain and sincere, without other ability, but having a straightforward mind, and possessed of generosity, regarding the talents of others as if he himself possessed them; and when he finds accomplished and sage men, loving them in his heart more than his mouth expresses, really showing himself able to bear them: such a minister would be able to preserve my descendants and people, and would indeed be a giver of benefits. But if (the minister), when he finds men of ability, be jealous and hates them; if, when he finds accomplished and sage men, he oppose them and does not allow their advancement, showing himself really not able to bear them: such a man will not be able to protect my descendants and people; and will he not be a dangerous man?


'The decline and fall of a state may arise from one man. The glory and tranquillity of a state may also arise from the goodness of one man.'

English translation: James Legge

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