Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Canon of Yâo. - The Sacred Books of China: The Texts of Confucianism. Part I The Shu King, the Religious Portions of the Shih King, the Hsiao King
Return to Title Page for The Sacred Books of China: The Texts of Confucianism. Part I The Shu King, the Religious Portions of the Shih King, the Hsiao King
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
The Canon of Yâo. - Misc (Confucian School), The Sacred Books of China: The Texts of Confucianism. Part I The Shu King, the Religious Portions of the Shih King, the Hsiao King 
The Sacred Books of China: The Texts of Confucianism. Part I The Shu King, the Religious Portions of the Shih King, the Hsiao King, trans. James Legge (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1879).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The Canon of Yâo.
Shû King, the name of the whole work, has been sufficiently explained in the Introduction. The name of this Part, the first of the five into which the whole is divided, is the Book of Thang, Thang being taken as the dynastic designation of Yâo, who before his elevation to the throne had been marquis of the small state of Thang, the name of which is supposed to be still retained in Thang, one of the districts of the department Pâo-ting, in Kih-lî. It is said that after his elevation he established his capital in Phing-yang, lat. 36° 06′, long. 111° 33′, in Shan-hsî. But all this is very uncertain. See on Part III, Book iii, ch. 2. The one Book, forming this Part, is called the Canon of Yâo. The character which we translate ‘Canon’ means a document of the most exalted nature, the contents of which are entitled to the greatest regard. The name is given expressly only to one other Book in the Shû. The Canons are the first of the six classes of documents which the Shû contains.
Yâo is the subject of the Book:—In ch. 1, in his personal character and the general results of his government; in ch. 2, in his special care for the regulation of the calendar and the labours of agriculture; in ch. 3, in his anxiety to find one who could cope with the ravages of a terrible inundation, and take his place on the throne. The third chapter introduces to our notice Shun, the successor of Yâo.
1. Examining into antiquity, (we find that) the Tî Yâo1 was styled Fang-hsün2 . He was reverential, intelligent, accomplished, and thoughtful,—naturally and without effort. He was sincerely courteous, and capable of (all) complaisance. The bright (influence of these qualities) was felt through the four quarters (of the land), and reached to (heaven) above and (earth) beneath.
He made the able and virtuous distinguished, and thence proceeded to the love of (all in) the nine classes of his kindred, who (thus) became harmonious. He (also) regulated and polished the people (of his domain), who all became brightly intelligent. (Finally), he united and harmonized the myriad states; and so the black-haired people were transformed. The result was (universal) concord.
2. He commanded the Hsîs and Hos3 , in reverent accordance with (their observation of) the wide heavens, to calculate and delineate (the movements and appearances of) the sun, the moon, the stars, and the zodiacal spaces, and so to deliver respectfully the seasons to be observed by the people.
He separately commanded the second brother Hsî to reside at Yü-î1 , in what was called the Bright Valley, and (there) respectfully to receive as a guest the rising sun, and to adjust and arrange the labours of the spring. ‘The day,’ (said he), ‘is of the medium length, and the star is in Niâo;—you may thus exactly determine mid-spring. The people are dispersed (in the fields), and birds and beasts breed and copulate.’
He further commanded the third brother Hsî to reside at Nan-kiâo2 , (in what was called the Brilliant Capital), to adjust and arrange the transformations of the summer, and respectfully to observe the exact limit (of the shadow). ‘The day,’ (said he), ‘is at its longest, and the star is in Hwo;—you may thus exactly determine mid-summer. The people are more dispersed; and birds and beasts have their feathers and hair thin, and change their coats.’
He separately commanded the second brother Ho to reside at the west, in what was called the Dark Valley, and (there) respectfully to convoy the setting sun, and to adjust and arrange the completing labours of the autumn. ‘The night,’ (said he), ‘is of the medium length, and the star is in Hsü;—you may thus exactly determine mid-autumn. The people feel at ease, and birds and beasts have their coats in good condition.’
He further commanded the third brother Ho to reside in the northern region, in what was called the Sombre Capital, and (there) to adjust and examine the changes of the winter. ‘The day,’ (said he), ‘is at its shortest, and the star is in Mâo;—you may thus exactly determine mid-winter. The people keep in their houses, and the coats of birds and beasts are downy and thick.’
The Tî said, ‘Ah! you, Hsîs and Hos, a round year consists of three hundred, sixty, and six days. Do you, by means of the intercalary month, fix the four seasons, and complete (the period of) the year. (Thereafter), the various officers being regulated in accordance with this, all the works (of the year) will be fully performed.’
3. The Tî said, ‘Who will search out (for me) a man according to the times, whom I can raise and employ?’ Fang-khî said, ‘(Your) heir-son Kû1 is highly intelligent.’ The Tî said, ‘Alas! he is insincere and quarrelsome:—can he do?’
The Tî said, ‘Who will search out (for me) a man equal to the exigency of my affairs?’ Hwan-tâu2 said, ‘Oh! the merits of the Minister of Works have just been displayed on a wide scale.’ The Tî said, ‘Alas! when all is quiet, he talks; but when employed, his actions turn out differently. He is respectful (only) in appearance. See! the floods assail the heavens!’
The Tî said, ‘Ho! (President of) the Four Mountains1 , destructive in their overflow are the waters of the inundation. In their vast extent they embrace the hills and overtop the great heights, threatening the heavens with their floods, so that the lower people groan and murmur! Is there a capable man to whom I can assign the correction (of this calamity)?’ All (in the court) said, ‘Ah! is there not Khwăn2 ?’ The Tî said, ‘Alas! how perverse is he! He is disobedient to orders, and tries to injure his peers.’ (The President of) the Mountains said, ‘Well but—. Try if he can (accomplish the work).’ (Khwăn) was employed accordingly. The Tî said (to him), ‘Go; and be reverent!’ For nine years he laboured, but the work was unaccomplished.
The Tî said, ‘Ho! (President of) the Four Mountains, I have been on the throne seventy years. You can carry out my commands;—I will resign my place to you.’ The Chief said, ‘I have not the virtue;—I should disgrace your place.’ (The Tî) said, ‘Show me some one among the illustrious, or set forth one from among the poor and mean.’ All (then) said to the Tî, ‘There is an unmarried man among the lower people, called Shun of Yü3 .’ The Tî said, ‘Yes, I have heard of him. What have you to say about him?’ The Chief said, ‘He is the son of a blind man. His father was obstinately unprincipled; his (step-)mother was insincere; his (half-) brother Hsiang was arrogant. He has been able, (however), by his filial piety to live in harmony with them, and to lead them gradually to self-government, so that they (no longer) proceed to great wickedness.’ The Tî said, ‘I will try him; I will wive him, and thereby see his behaviour with my two daughters.’ (Accordingly) he arranged and sent down his two daughters to the north of the Kwei1 , to be wives in (the family of) Yü. The Tî said to them, ‘Be reverent!’
THE BOOKS OF YÜ.
[1 ] Yâo is to us now the name of the ancient ruler so denominated. The character means ‘high,’ ‘lofty and grand.’ It may originally have been an epithet, ‘the Exalted One.’ On the meaning of Tî in Tî Yâo, see what has been said in the Preface.
[2 ] The Han scholars held that Fang-hsün was the name of Yâo. Those of Sung, taking the characters as an epithet, make them signify ‘the Highly Meritorious.’
[3 ] The Hsîs and Hos seem to have been brothers of two families, on whom devolved the care of the calendar, principally with a view to regulate the seasons of agriculture. See Parts III, iv, and V, xxvii. On Yâo’s directions to them, see the Introduction, pp. 24-28.
[1 ] Yü-î is by some identified with Tăng-kâu, in Shan-tung, lat. 37° 48′, long. 121° 4′; by others, it is sought in Corea.
[2 ] Nan-kiâo was south, it is said, on the border of An-nan or Cochin-China. The characters for ‘in what was called the Brilliant Capital’ are supposed to have dropt out of the text.
[1 ] In Part II, iv, 2, Yü speaks of this son of Yâo as ‘the haughty Kû of Tan,’ Tan probably being the name of a state, over which, according to tradition, he had been appointed.
[2 ] Hwan-tâu and the Minister of Works, whom he recommends, appear in the next Book as great criminals.
[1 ] (President of) the Four Mountains, or simply Four Mountains, appears to have been the title of the chief minister of Yâo. The four mountains were—mount Thâi in the east; Hwâ in the west, in Shan-hsî; Hăng in the south, in Hû-nan; and Hăng in the north, in Kih-lî. These, probably, were the limits of the country, so far as known, and all within these points were the care of the chief minister.
[2 ] Khwăn is believed to have been the father of Yü, who afterwards coped successfully with the inundation. We are told that he was earl of Khung, corresponding to the present district of Hû, in Shen-hsî.
[3 ] See on the title of next Book.
[1 ] The Kwei is a small stream in Shan-hsî, which flows into the Ho.