Front Page Titles (by Subject) Book VI.: The Common Possession of Pure Virtue. - 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:
Book VI.: The Common Possession of Pure Virtue. - 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 Common Possession of Pure Virtue.
This is the last of the ‘Instructions’ of Î Yin;—addressed, like those of the last two Books, to Thâi Kiâ, but at a later period when the great minister wished to retire from the toils of administration. He now disappears from the stage of history, though according to Sze-mâ Khien, and a notice in the Preface to the Shû, he lived on to bc 1713, the eighth year of Thâi Kiâ’s son and successor.
In this Book, his subject is ‘Pure or Single-eyed Virtue,’ and the importance of it to the ruler of the kingdom. He dwells on the fall of Kieh through his want of this virtue, and the elevation of Thang through his possession of it; treats generally on its nature and results; and urges the cultivation of it on Thâi Kiâ.
1. Î Yin, having returned the government into the hands of his sovereign, and being about to announce his retirement, set forth admonitions on the subject of virtue.
2. He said, ‘Oh! it is difficult to rely on Heaven;—its appointments are not constant.* (But if the sovereign see to it that) his virtue be constant, he will preserve his throne; if his virtue be not constant, the nine provinces will be lost by him. The king of Hsiâ could not maintain the virtue (of his ancestors) unchanged, but contemned the spirits and oppressed the people. Great Heaven no (longer) extended its protection to him. It looked out among the myriad regions to give its guidance to one who should receive its favouring appointment, fondly seeking (a possessor of) pure virtue, whom it might make lord of all the spirits.* Then there were I, Yin, and Thang, both possessed of pure virtue, and able to satisfy the mind of Heaven. He received (in consequence) the bright favour of Heaven, so as to become possessor of the multitudes of the nine provinces, and proceeded to change Hsiâ’s commencement of the year. It was not that Heaven had any private partiality for the lord of Shang;—it simply gave its favour to pure virtue.* It was not that Shang sought (the allegiance of) the lower people;—the people simply turned to pure virtue. Where (the sovereign’s) virtue is pure, his enterprizes are all fortunate; where his virtue is wavering and uncertain, his enterprizes are all unfortunate. Good and evil do not wrongly befal men, but Heaven sends down misery or happiness according to their conduct.’*
3. ‘Now, O young king, you are newly entering on your (great) appointment,—you should be seeking to make new your virtue. At last, as at first, have this as your one object, so shall you make a daily renovation. Let the officers whom you employ be men of virtue and ability, and let the ministers about you be the right men. The minister, in relation to (his sovereign) above him, has to promote his virtue, and, in relation to the (people) beneath him, has to seek their good. How hard must it be (to find the proper man)! what careful attention must be required! (Thereafter) there must be harmony (cultivated with him), and a oneness (of confidence placed in him).
‘There is no invariable model of virtue;—a supreme regard to what is good gives the model of it. There is no invariable characteristic of what is good that is to be supremely regarded;—it is found where there is a conformity to the uniform consciousness (in regard to what is good). (Such virtue) will make the people with their myriad surnames all say, “How great are the words of the king!” and also, “How single and pure is the king’s heart!” It will avail to maintain in tranquillity the rich possession of the former king, and to secure for ever the (happy) life of the multitudes of the people.’
4. ‘Oh! (to retain a place) in the seven-shrined temple1 of ancestors is a sufficient witness of virtue.* To be acknowledged as chief by the myriad heads of families is a sufficient evidence of one’s government. The sovereign without the people has none whom he can employ; and the people without the sovereign have none whom they can serve. Do not think yourself so large as to deem others small. If ordinary men and women do not find the opportunity to give full development to their ability, the people’s lord will be without the proper aids to complete his merit.’
[1 ] It is beyond a doubt that the ancestral temple of the kings of Kâu contained seven shrines or seven small temples, for the occupancy of which, by the spirit-tablets of such and such kings, there were definite rules, as the line of sovereigns increased. It would appear from the text that a similar practice prevailed in the time of the Shang dynasty.