Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter VII.: Filial Piety in Relation to the Three Powers 2 . - 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 VII.: Filial Piety in Relation to the Three Powers 2 . - 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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Filial Piety in Relation to the Three Powers2 .
The disciple Ȝăng said, ‘Immense indeed is the greatness of filial piety!’ The Master replied3 , ‘Yes, filial piety is the constant (method) of Heaven, the righteousness of Earth, and the practical duty of Man1 . Heaven and earth invariably pursue the course (that may be thus described), and the people take it as their pattern. (The ancient kings) imitated the brilliant luminaries of heaven, and acted in accordance with the (varying) advantages afforded by earth, so that they were in accord with all under heaven; and in consequence their teachings, without being severe, were successful, and their government, without being rigorous, secured perfect order.
‘The ancient kings, seeing how their teachings1 could transform the people, set before them therefore an example of the most extended love, and none of the people neglected their parents; they set forth to them (the nature of) virtue and righteousness, and the people roused themselves to the practice of them; they went before them with reverence and yielding courtesy, and the people had no contentions; they led them on by the rules of propriety and by music, and the people were harmonious and benignant; they showed them what they loved and what they disliked, and the people understood their prohibitions.
‘It is said in the Book of Poetry2 ,
[2 ] ‘The Three Powers’ is a phrase which is first found in two of the Appendixes to the Yî King, denoting Heaven, Earth, and Man, as the three great agents or agencies in nature, or the circle of being.
[3 ] The whole of the reply of Confucius here, down to ‘the advantages afforded by earth,’ is found in a narrative in the Ȝo Kwan, under the twenty-fifth year of duke Khâo (bc 517), with the important difference that the discourse is there about ‘ceremonies,’ and not about filial piety. Plainly, it is an interpolation in the Hsiâo, and is rightly thrown out by Kû and Wû Khăng. To my own mind it was a relief to find that the passage was not genuine, and had not come from Confucius. The discourse in the Ȝo Kwan, which is quite lengthy, these sentences being only the commencement of it, is more than sufficiently fanciful; but it is conceivable that what is here predicated of filial piety might be spoken of ceremonies, while I never could see what it could have to do with filial piety, or filial piety with it. After the long discourse in the Ȝo Kwan one of the interlocutors in it exclaims, ‘Immense, indeed, is the greatness of ceremonies!’—the same terms with which Ȝăng-ȝze is made to commence this chapter, saving that we have ‘ceremonies’ instead of ‘filial piety.’ There can be no doubt that the passage is interpolated; and yet the first part of it is quoted by Pan Kû (in our first century), in a note to Liû Hin’s Catalogue, and also in the Amplification of the First Precept of the Khang-hsî Sacred Edict (in our eighteenth century). Pan Kû may not have been sufficiently acquainted with the Ȝo Kwan to detect the forgery; that Chinese scholars should still quote the description as applicable to filial piety shows how liable they are to be carried away by fine-sounding terms and mysterious utterances.
P. Cibot gives a correct translation of the first part in a note, but adds that it carries the sense of the text much too high, and would bring it into collision with the prejudices of the west, and he has preferred to hold to the more common explanation:—‘Ce qu’est la régularité des monuments des astres pour le firmament, la fertilité des campagnes pour la terre, la Piété Filiale l’est constamment pour les peuples!’
[1 ] An amusing translation of this sentence is found in Samuel Johnson’s ‘Oriental Religions, China,’ p. 208, beginning, ‘Filial Piety is the Book of Heaven!’ Mr. Johnson does not say where he got this version.
[1 ] Sze-mâ Kwang changes the character for ‘teachings’ here into that for ‘filial piety.’ There is no external evidence for such a reading; and the texture of the whole treatise is so loose that we cannot insist on internal evidence.
[2 ] See the Shih, II, iv, ode 7, stanza 1.