Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter I.: The Scope and Meaning of the Treatise. - 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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Chapter I.: The Scope and Meaning of the Treatise. - 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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The Scope and Meaning of the Treatise.
(Once), when Kung-nî1 was unoccupied, and his disciple Ȝăng2 was sitting by in attendance on him, the Master said, ‘Shăn, the ancient kings had a perfect virtue and all-embracing rule of conduct, through which they were in accord with all under heaven. By the practice of it the people were brought to live in peace and harmony, and there was no ill-will between superiors and inferiors. Do you know what it was3 ?’ Ȝăng rose from his mat, and said, ‘How should I, Shăn, who am so devoid of intelligence, be able to know this?’ The Master said, ‘(It was filial piety). Now filial piety is the root of (all) virtue1 , and (the stem) out of which grows (all moral) teaching. Sit down again, and I will explain the subject to you. Our bodies—to every hair and bit of skin—are received by us from our parents, and we must not presume to injure or wound them:—this is the beginning of filial piety. When we have established our character by the practice of the (filial) course, so as to make our name famous in future ages, and thereby glorify our parents:—this is the end of filial piety. It commences with the service of parents; it proceeds to the service of the ruler; it is completed by the establishment of the character.
‘It is said in the Major Odes of the Kingdom,
[1 ]Kung-nî was the designation or marriage-name of Confucius. We find it twice in the Doctrine of the Mean (chh. 2 and 30), applied to the sage by Ȝze-sze, his grandson, the reputed author of that treatise. By his designation, it is said, a grandson might speak of his grandfather, and therefore some scholars contend that the Classic of Filial Piety should also be ascribed to Ȝze-sze; but such a canon cannot be considered as sufficiently established. On the authorship of the Classic, see the Introduction, p. 451.
[2 ] Ȝăng-ȝze, named Shăn, and styled Ȝze-yü, was one of the most distinguished of the disciples of Confucius. He was a favourite with the sage, and himself a voluminous writer. Many incidents and sayings are related, illustrative of his filial piety, so that it was natural for the master to enter with him on the discussion of that virtue. He shares in the honour and worship still paid to Confucius, and is one of his ‘Four Assessors’ in his temples.
[3 ] Both the translator in the Chinese Repository and P. Cibot have rendered this opening address of Confucius very imperfectly. The former has:—‘Do you understand how the ancient kings, who possessed the greatest virtue and the best moral principles, rendered the whole empire so obedient that the people lived in peace and harmony, and no ill-will existed between superiors and inferiors?’ The other:—‘Do you know what was the pre-eminent virtue and the essential doctrine which our ancient monarchs taught to all the empire, to maintain concord among their subjects, and banish all dissatisfaction between superiors and inferiors?’ P. Cibot comes the nearer to the meaning of the text, but he has neglected the characters corresponding to ‘through which they were in accord with all under heaven,’ that are expounded clearly enough by Hsüan Ȝung. The sentiment of the sage is, as he has tersely expressed it in the Doctrine of the Mean (ch. 13), that the ancient kings ‘governed men, according to their nature, with what is proper to them.’
[1 ] ‘All virtue’ means the five virtuous principles, the constituents of humanity, ‘benevolence, righteousness, propriety, knowledge, and fidelity.’ Of these, benevolence is the chief and fundamental, so that Mencius says (VII, ii, ch. 16), ‘Benevolence is man.’ In man’s nature, therefore, benevolence is the root of filial piety; while in practice filial piety is the root of benevolence. Such is the way in which Kû Hsî and other critical scholars reconcile the statements of the text here and elsewhere with their theory as to the constituents of humanity.
[1 ] See the Shih King, III, i, ode 2, stanza 4. Kû Hsî commences his expurgation of our classic with casting out this concluding paragraph; and rightly so. Such quotations of the odes and other passages in the ancient classics are not after the manner of Confucius. The application made of them, moreover, is often far-fetched, and away from their proper meaning.