Front Page Titles (by Subject) Book XV.: Against Luxurious Ease. - The Sacred Books of China: The Texts of Confucianism. Part I The Shu King, the Religious Portions of the Shih King, the Hsiao King
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Book XV.: Against Luxurious Ease. - 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).
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Against Luxurious Ease.
The name of this Book is taken from two characters in the first sentence of it, which are the key-note of the whole. It is classified among the ‘Instructions’ of the Shû, and was addressed to king Khăng by the duke of Kâu soon after he had resigned the administration of the government into his hands.
There are six pauses in the course of the address, which is resumed always with ‘The duke of Kâu said, “Oh.” ’ This suggests a division into seven chapters.
In the first, the duke suggests to the king to find a rule for himself in the laborious toils that devolve on the husbandman. In the second, he refers to the long reigns of three of the Yin sovereigns, and the short reigns of others, as illustrating how the blessing of Heaven rests on the diligent monarch. In the third, the example of their own kings, Thâi, Kî, and Wăn, is adduced with the same object. In the fourth, the duke addresses the king directly, and exhorts him to follow the pattern of king Wăn, and flee from that of Kâu-hsin. In the fifth, he stimulates him, by reference to ancient precedents, to adopt his counsels, and shows the evil effects that will follow if he refuse to do so. In the sixth, he shows him, by the cases of the good kings of Yin and of king Wăn, how he should have regard to the opinions of the common people, and gird himself to diligence. The seventh chapter is a single admonition that the king should lay what had been said to heart.
1. The duke of Kâu 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.” ’
2. The duke of Kâu said, ‘Oh! I have heard that aforetime Kung Ȝung, one of the kings of Yin1 , 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 Kâo Ȝung1 , he toiled at first away from the court, and was among the lower people2 . 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 Ȝû-kiâ3 , 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.’
3. The duke of Kâu said, ‘Oh! there likewise were king Thâi and king Kî of our own Kâu, who were humble and reverentially cautious. King Wăn 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 Wăn 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 life1 , and he enjoyed the throne for fifty years.’*
4. The duke of Kâu said, ‘Oh! from this time forward, do you who have succeeded to the throne imitate Wăn’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 Shâu the king of Yin, who went quite astray, and became abandoned to drunkenness.’
5. The duke of Kâu 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.’
6. The duke of Kâu said, ‘Oh! those kings of Yin,—Kung Ȝung, Kâo Ȝung, and Ȝû-kiâ, with king Wăn of our Kâu,—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.’
7. The duke of Kâu said, ‘Oh! let the king, who has succeeded to the throne, make a study of these things.’
[1 ]Kung Ȝung was the sacrificial title of Thâi-wû, the seventh of the kings of Shang or Yin, who reigned bc 1637-1563.
[1 ] Kâo Ȝung was the sacrificial title of Wû-ting, the nineteenth sovereign of the Yin line, who reigned bc 1324-1266. He has already appeared in the 8th and 9th Books of Part IV.
[2 ] Compare Part IV, viii, sect. 3, ch. 1.
[3 ] Ȝû-kiâ was the twenty-first of the Yin sovereigns, and reigned bc 1258-1226.
[1 ] This can only be understood of Wăn’s succeeding to his father as duke of Kâu and chief of the West in bc 1185. He died in 1135, leaving it to his son Wû to overthrow the dynasty of Shang.