Front Page Titles (by Subject) Book XVI.: The Prince Shih. - 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 XVI.: The Prince Shih. - 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:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
The Prince Shih.
The words ‘Prince Shih’ occur at the commencement of the Book, and are taken as its title. Shih was the name of the duke of Shâo, the author of Book xii. To him the address or announcement here preserved was delivered, and his name is not an inappropriate title for it.
The common view of Chinese critics is that the duke of Shâo had announced his purpose to withdraw from office on account of his age, when the duke of Kâu persuaded him to remain at his post, and that the reasons which he set before him were recorded in this Book. It may have been so, but the language is far from clearly indicating it. A few expressions, indeed, may be taken as intimating a wish that Shih should continue at court, but some violence has to be put upon them.
I have divided the whole into four chapters, but the two principal ideas in the address are these:—that the favour of Heaven can be permanently secured for a dynasty only by the virtue of its sovereigns; and that that virtue is secured mainly by the counsels and help of virtuous ministers. The ablest sovereigns of Shang are mentioned, and the ministers by whose aid it was, in a great measure, that they became what they were. The cases of Wăn and Wû of their own dynasty, similarly aided by able men, are adduced in the same way; and the speaker adverts to the services which they—the two dukes—had already rendered to their sovereign, and insists that they must go on to the end, and accomplish still greater things.
1. The duke of Kâu spoke to the following effect:—‘Prince Shih, Heaven, unpitying, sent down ruin on Yin. Yin has lost its appointment (to the throne), which our House of Kâu has received. I do not dare, however, to say, as if I knew it, “The foundation will ever truly abide in prosperity. If Heaven aid sincerity,”—1 .* Nor do I dare to say, as if I knew it, “The end will issue in our misfortunes.” Oh! you have said, O prince, “It depends on ourselves.” I also do not dare to rest in the favour of God, not forecasting at a distance the terrors of Heaven in the present time, when there is no murmuring or disobedience among the people;*—(the issue) is with men. Should our present successor to his fathers prove greatly unable to reverence (Heaven) above and (the people) below, and so bring to an end the glory of his predecessors, could we in (the retirement of) our families be ignorant of it? The favour of Heaven is not easily preserved; Heaven is difficult to be depended on. Men lose its favouring appointment, because they cannot pursue and carry out the reverence and brilliant virtue of their forefathers.* Now I, Tan, the little child, am not able to make (the king) correct. I would simply conduct him to the glory of his fathers, and make him, who is my young charge, partaker of that.’ He also said, ‘Heaven is not to be trusted. Our course is only to seek the prolongation of the virtue of the Tranquillizing king, that Heaven may not find occasion to remove its favouring decree which king Wăn received.’*
2. The duke said, ‘Prince Shih, I have heard that aforetime, when Thang the Successful had received the appointment (to the throne), he had with him Î Yin, making (his virtue) like that of great Heaven;* that Thâi Kiâ had (the same Î Yin), the Pâo-hăng1 ; that Thâi-wû2 had Î Kih and Khăn Hû , through whom (his virtue) was made to affect God,* and Wû Hsien3 who regulated the royal House; that Ȝû-yî had Wû Hsien’s son; and that Wû-ting had Kan Phan4 . (These ministers) carried out (their principles), and displayed (their merit), preserving and regulating the dynasty of Yin, so that, while its ceremonies lasted, (those sovereigns), when deceased, were assessors to Heaven5 ,* and its duration extended over many years. Heaven thus determinately maintained its favouring appointment, and Shang was replenished with men. The various heads of great surnames and members of the royal House, holding employments, all held fast their virtue, and showed an anxious solicitude (for the kingdom). The smaller ministers, and the guardian princes in the Hâu and Tien domains, hurried about on their services. Thus did they all exert their virtue and aid their sovereign, so that whatever affairs he, the One man, had in hand, throughout the land, an entire faith was reposed in their justice as in the indications of the shell or the divining stalks.’*
The duke said, ‘Prince Shih, Heaven gives length of days to the just and the intelligent; (it was thus that those ministers) maintained and regulated the dynasty of Yin.* He who came last to the throne granted by Heaven was extinguished by its terrors. Do you think of the distant future, and we shall have the decree (in favour of Kâu) made sure, and its good government will be brilliantly exhibited in our newly-founded state.’
3. The duke said, ‘Prince Shih, aforetime when God was inflicting calamity (on Yin), he encouraged anew the virtue of the Tranquillizing king, till at last the great favouring decree was concentrated in his person. (But) that king Wăn was able to conciliate and unite the portion of the great kingdom which we came to possess, was owing to his having (such ministers) as his brother of Kwo, Hung Yâo, San Î-shăng, Thâi Tien, and Nan-kung Kwo.’
He said further, ‘But for the ability of those men to go and come in his affairs, developing his constant lessons, there would have been no benefits descending from king Wăn on the people. And it also was from the determinate favour of Heaven that there were these men of firm virtue, and acting according to their knowledge of the dread majesty of Heaven, to give themselves to enlighten king Wăn, and lead him forward to his high distinction and universal rule, till his fame reached the ears of God, and he received the appointment that had been Yin’s.* There were still four of those men who led on king Wû to the possession of the revenues of the kingdom, and afterwards, along with him, in great reverence of the majesty of Heaven, slew all his enemies.* These four men, moreover, made king Wû so illustrious that his glory overspread the kingdom, and (the people) universally and greatly proclaimed his virtue. Now with me Tan, the little child, it is as if I were floating on a great stream;—with you, O Shih, let me from this time endeavour to cross it. Our young sovereign is (powerless), as if he had not yet ascended the throne. You must by no means lay the whole burden on me; and if you draw yourself up without an effort to supply my deficiencies, no good will flow to the people from our age and experience. We shall not hear the voices of the phœnixes1 , and how much less can it be thought that we shall be able to make (the king’s virtue) equal (to Heaven)!’*
The duke said, ‘Oh! consider well these things, O prince. We have received the appointment to which belongs an unlimited amount of blessing, but having great difficulties attached to it. What I announce to you are counsels of a generous largeness.—I cannot allow the successor of our kings to go astray.’
4. The duke said, ‘The former king laid bare his heart, and gave full charge to you, constituting you one of the guides and patterns for the people, saying, “Do you with intelligence and energy second and help the king; do you with sincerity support and convey forward the great decree. Think of the virtue of king Wăn, and enter greatly into his boundless anxieties.” ’
The duke said, ‘What I tell you, O prince, are my sincere thoughts. O Shih, the Grand-Protector, if you can but reverently survey with me the decay and great disorders of Yin, and thence consider the dread majesty of Heaven (which warns) us!—Am I not to be believed that I must reiterate my words? I simply say, “The establishment (of our dynasty) rests with us two.” Do you agree with me? Then you (also) will say, “It rests with us two.” And the favour of Heaven has come to us so largely:—it should be ours to feel as if we could not sufficiently respond to it. If you can but reverently cultivate your virtue (now), and bring to light our men of eminent ability, then when you resign (your position) to some successor in a time of established security, (I will interpose no objection.)
‘Oh! it is by the earnest service of us two that we have come to the prosperity of the present day. We must both go on, abjuring all idleness, to complete the work of king Wăn, till it has grandly overspread the kingdom, and from the corners of the sea, and the sunrising, there shall not be one who is disobedient to the rule (of Kâu).’
The duke said, ‘O prince, have I not spoken in accordance with reason in these many declarations? I am only influenced by anxiety about (the appointment of) Heaven, and about the people.’
The duke said, ‘Oh! you know, O prince, the ways of the people, how at the beginning they can be (all we could desire); but it is the end (that is to be thought of). Act in careful accordance with this fact. Go and reverently exercise the duties of your office.’
[1 ] The text is here defective; or perhaps the speaker purposely left his meaning only half expressed.
[1 ] See Part IV, v, sect. 1, ch. 1, where Î Yin is called Â-hăng, nearly = Pâo-hăng.
[2 ] Thâi-wû is the Kung Ȝung of last Book. Î Kih would be a son or grandson of Î Yin. Of Khăn Hû we know only what is stated here.
[3 ] Ȝû-yî was the eleventh Yin sovereign, reigning bc 1525-1507. We know of Wû Hsien only that he was Ȝû-yî’s minister.
[4 ] See Part IV, viii, sect. 3, ch. 1.
[5 ] That is, they were associated with Heaven in the sacrifices to it.
[1 ] As a token of the goodness of the government and the general prosperity. See Part II, iv, ch. 3.