The Analects of Confucius - Book 20

Extracts from the Book of History

This is Book 20 of the Analects of Confucius.

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Chinese painting - 4th century

New Bamboo, hanging scroll, ink on paper, 91 x 33.1 cm. Located at the Palace Museum, Beijing

4th century -Yuan Dynasty


Extracts from the Book of History

The Emperor Yau said to Shun, "Ah, upon you, upon your person, lies the Heaven-appointed order of succession! Faithfully hold to it, without any deflection; for if within the four seas necessity and want befall the people, your own revenue will forever come to an end."

Shun also used the same language in handing down the appointment to Yu.

The Emperor T'ang in his prayer, said, "I, the child Li, presume to avail me of an ox of dusky hue, and presume to manifestly announce to Thee, O God, the most high and Sovereign Potentate, that to the transgressor I dare not grant forgiveness, nor yet keep in abeyance Thy ministers. Judgment rests in Thine heart, O God. Should we ourself transgress, may the guilt not be visited everywhere upon all. Should the people all transgress, be the guilt upon ourself!"

Chow possessed great gifts, by which the able and good were richly endowed.

"Although," said King Wu, "he is surrounded by his near relatives, they are not to be compared with men of humane spirit. The people are suffering wrongs, and the remedy rests with me—the one man."

After Wu had given diligent attention to the various weights and measures, examined the laws and regulations, and restored the degraded officials, good government everywhere ensued.

He caused ruined States to flourish again, reinstated intercepted heirs, and promoted to office men who had gone into retirement; and the hearts of the people throughout the empire drew towards him.

Among matters of prime consideration with him were these—food for the people, the duty of mourning, and sacrificial offerings to the departed.

He was liberal and large-hearted, and so won all hearts; true, and so was trusted by the people; energetic, and thus became a man of great achievements; just in his rule, and all were well content.

Tsz-chang in a conversation with Confucius asked, "What say you is essential for the proper conduct of government?"

The Master replied, "Let the ruler hold in high estimation the five excellences, and eschew the four evils; then may he conduct his government properly."

"And what call you the five excellences?" he was asked.

"They are," he said, "Bounty without extravagance; burdening without exciting discontent; desire without covetousness; dignity without haughtiness; show of majesty without fierceness."

"What mean you," asked Tsz-chang, "by bounty without extravagance?"

"Is it not this," he replied—"to make that which is of benefit to the people still more beneficial? When he selects for them such labors as it is possible for them to do, and exacts them, who will then complain? So when his desire is the virtue of humaneness, and he attains it, how shall he then be covetous? And if—whether he have to do with few or with many, with small or with great—he do not venture ever to be careless, is not this also to have dignity without haughtiness? And if—when properly vested in robe and cap, and showing dignity in his every look—his appearance be so imposing that the people look up to and stand in awe of him, is not this moreover to show majesty without fierceness?"

"What, then, do you call the four evils?" said Tsz-chang.

The answer here was, "Omitting to instruct the people and then inflicting capital punishment on them—which means cruel tyranny. Omitting to give them warning and yet looking for perfection in them—which means oppression. Being slow and late in issuing requisitions, and exacting strict punctuality in the returns—which means robbery. And likewise, in intercourse with men, to expend and to receive in a stingy manner—which is to act the part of a mere commissioner."

"None can be a superior man," said the Master, "who does not recognize the decrees of Heaven.

"None can have stability in him without a knowledge of the proprieties.

"None can know a man without knowing his utterances."

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