6. For which reason a prince should before all else watch over his own rational and moral motivation. If he possess the resulting virtues he will hold the hearts of mankind; if he possess the hearts of men, he will also possess their territory; if he possess the land, he will have the revenues from it; if he receive the revenues he can use them for the administration of the state.
7. The rational and moral principle is the fundamental; the riches are an accessory.
8. To treat lightly the fundamental basis, that is, the rational, moral principle; and to be greatly concerned with the accessory (wealth) is to pervert the feelings of the people, and to excite them, by example, to theft and rapine.
9. For this cause, if a prince think only of amassing riches, the people, in imitating him, gives itself up to every evil passion; if on the other hand he make intelligent use of the public revenue, the people maintains order and keeps in focus.
10. Thus if a sovereign or magistrates publish decrees and ordinances contrary to justice, they find stubborn resistance to their execution, likewise by unjust means; and if they gather in riches by violent means contrary to justice, they lose them also by means violent and unjust.
11. When the Khang-kao says: “The mandate of heaven that giveth sovereignty to a man, giveth it not in perpetuity,” the inference is that by justice and the using of justice a man gaineth this sovereignty that he loseth again by injustice and the practice of evil.
12. We find in the Chronicle of the ‘Thsou’: “Our nation Thsou counts not its wealth in treasure but in the quality of its men.”*
13. Uncle Fan said: “on my foreign travels I found nothing so valuable as friendliness with one’s relatives.”**
*The actual phrase is, “We don’t count that, etc.” and refers to an anecdote in the “Narratives of the States” of a reply made by a Thsou officer when asked the worth of his fancy belt.
**Uncle Fan was in exile, and in mourning for the father who had exiled him. The answer was made in reply to an offer of help to invade his own country, or to attempt some wangle to regain his position.
14. The Princeling of Thsin said in this ‘Declaration’ (after neglecting the advice of a very faithful advisor): ” Had I but one minister perfectly honest, even though he had no talent save that of a simple heart without rancours, that would be worth a very great genius, if he , seeing men of capacity, would tolerate them and advance them, by acts, not merely by blather. Such a one might preserve my children, and this people with black straight hair. But a minister jealous of men of talent, who keeps them from court by his envy, who keeps them from the administration, and plagues them by his own obstructivity, though he be a man of great talent, cannot safeguard my children, or theirs, or the people, but is the state’s plague and peril.”
15. Only a man of character will have the firmness to eliminate such a person from his court, to send him to live with the barbarians at the far corners of the empire, or at least out of the Middle Kingdom. By which I mean to repeat the saying: It is only the man of character who is able to love and hate.
16. To see a man full of honest talent and not to advance him-promptly and without shilly-shally-is an insult. Not to remove an evil man, remove him to effective distance, is weakness on the part of a prince.
On the duty of maintaining the peace and harmony of the world by good internal government of the country.
1. The expression of text, “causing the world to rejoice in peace and harmony consists in properly governing one’s own state” ought to be explained as follows: if the prince or the man in high position treat his father and mother with respect, the people will show filial deference; if the prince respect the different degrees of age among his brothers, the people will show filial deference; if the prince have pity on orphans, the people will not do the opposite. For which reason the prince has in himself the standard, the weights and the testing measures of actions.
2. If there is something you disapprove in those placed above you, practice it not on them that are below; what thou despisest in them that are placed below thee, practice not it upon them that are aloft; what thou dis-likest int them that precede thee, practice not upon thy next aftercomer; what annoyeth thee from the right, do not unto him at thy left; and what from the left annoyeth thee, do not it unto they right-hand companion: it is this that is termed the true measure-square of any action.
3. The Book of Verse says:
No prinve inspireth joy
Save he be father and mother to the
What the people love, to love that; and to hate what the people hate; this is called being the father and mother of the people.*
4. The Book of Verse says:
The great south mountain afar
Its cliffs are sharp, like a threat;
Yn, Mr. Minister, you gleam with
a deal of pride,
And the people gaze upon you in
He who possesses an empire should not fail to watch with diligence over himself, to practice the good and avoid the evil; if he keep not count of the motivations, the ruin of empire comes upon him.
* This is not a plea for ignorance, or submitting to popular taste in aesthetics; the text deals with ethics, it is a question of meanness or largeness in action.- E.P.
5. The book of Verse says:
Before the princes of that dynasty,
Had lost the heart of the people,
They could be compared to the
From them we learn that the Man-
date of Heaven
Doth not satay in one’s hand of
Or without skill on the part of the
Which comes to the same thing as saying:
Gain the affections of the people,
thou gainest the empire;
Lose the affections of the people,
and thine empire shall be
* The Ho-Kiang says: the fortune of the prince depends upon heaven, and the will of heaven exists in the people.
On the duty of keeping order in one’s family by correcting oneself.*
1. The significance of the phrase. : keeping order in the family consists first in freeing oneself from all distorting passions, is as follows: Men are partial to their parents and to people they like; they are also partial or unjust to those whom they despise and hate; to those whom they respect and revere, they are either partial or servile; they are partial or have an excess of pity toward those who stir their pity and compassion; and they are likewise partial to those whom they can treat with pomposity. For which reason it is a most rare thing under haven to love, and to recognize the defects of those who one loves; to hate, and to recognize the qualities of those whom one hates.
2. Hence the proverb: will you find a man to admit his son’s fault, or a peasant admitting the fertility of his field!
3. This explains that a man who has not corrected his own tendencies to injustice is incapable of putting order in his family.
This is the eighth chapter, and explains the phrase found in the title.
* The rub is in the preposition, hence my italics. Confucius will always annoy theoreticians, and lecturers. because he does not leave these things open to theorizing.-E.P.
On the duty of a prince to govern well, by keeping order in his own family (family, that is, meaning the court as well as his relatives).
1. The phrase of the text: to govern a kingdom perperly one must begin by putting good order into the court family, can be explained as follows: It is impossible for a man who can’t teach his own family, to teach mankind. Conversely, the son of a prince perfects himself in the art of teaching and of governing a kingdom without going outside his own family. Filial respect is the principle which guides his relations to the sovereign; deference is the principle guiding his relations with his elders; good-will, the most considerate good-will, is the principle guiding his relations with the multitude.
2. The Khang-kao says: He is like a mother embracing he newborn. She tries with all her soul to foresee its nascent desires, if she does not completely understand them, she at any rate does not go far wrong. It is not in the nature of things that a girl learn to suckle an infant as a means toward getting married.
3. A single family having humanity and charity is enough to produce a crop of these in the nation; a single family showing politeness and deference is enough to make a nation deferent and polite; a single man, the prince, if he be miserly and grasping can spread disorder throughout the nation. Such is the motivation and modus of moving of these virtues and vices. Hence the proverb: You lose the deal for a word; one man determines the fate of an empire.
4. Yoa and Chun governed the empire with humanity, and the people tried to be like them. Kie and Tcheou governed with cruelty, and the people followed the fashion. These last gave orders contrary to their own taste, and the people refused to submit. For with reason a prince should himself practice all the virtues and then require others to practice them. If he does not possess and practice them he cannot make other men do so. It is impossible and contrary to nature, that a man with nothing good or straight in his heart can order other men to be virtuous and have his orders obeyed.
5. This is why putting one’s own family in order is the first requisite for proper government of a kingdom.
6. The Book of Verse says:
Fair is the peach-tree and charming
In the spread abundance of leaf,
It is like a young bride
That goes to the huose of her bride-
-a young bride who is not
Rude to the rest of her family.
If you can behave properly to the members of you own family you will later be able to teach and direct a nation of men.
7. The Book of Verse says:
Find that balance that is suitable
between brothers and sisters
of different ages.
If you can find the right balance of action between brothers of different ages, you can teach their mutual duties of the elder and younger brothers throughout the kingdom.
8. The Book of Verse says:
The prince whose conduct is full of equity and wisdom
Will see men in the four corners
of the earth
imitating his rightness.
He fulfills the duties of a father, of an elder brother, and of a younger brother, and then the people do likewise.
9. This is what is said in the text: The art of good government starts with putting order in one’s own family.
( The tenth chapter is an heteroclite mass of addenda, part of it probably by the first commentator, but the whole so diffused and disjointed that the reader should, I think, pause a little before embarking upon it, and should rid his mind of the idea that he is still reading Confucius or anything very intimately connected with the Confucian philosophy. It seems to me that the first commentator found himself unable to stop, and that probably other commentators have added a line or two, or inserted here and there a reference to some historical work, corollaries, addenda, etc. One might almost head it: Heteroclite observations on government, with a few random citations.
(The gist of the work has already been presented, at the same time various points of interest prevent one from lopping of his chapter altogether.-E.P.)
On the duty of clarifying and making one’s own intentions sincere.
1. The expression clarify and render sincere one’s own intentions, means: Don’t denature your own direct tropisms; such as the tendency to escape from a disagreeable odour, or to love an agreeable and seductive object. This is called satisfying oneself. For the sake of it the sage keeps close watch on his intentions and secret thoughts.
2. Vulgar men living unobservedly off the highroads commit vicious actions; there is no evil they do not commit. If they see a sage keeping watch on himself, they pretend to be like him, hiding their vicious conduct and parading a similar virtue. A man with an eye is like someone who gets into their liver and kidneys; against him their disguise serves for what? Hence the proverb: the truth is inside, the form is outside. For this reason the sage should keep his eye glued on his intentions and secret thoughts.
3. Thseng the disciple said: Yes, and if then eyes are looking at a man, and ten hands pointing at a man, has he that much more to fear; or must he by so much keep closer watch on himself!
4. Riches adorn the house, virtue adorns the person; in the state of clarification the soul increases, and the material substance submitted thereto profits by the increase. Hence should the sage.
This is the sixth chapter of the commentary. It explains the term “clarify and makes sincere one’s intentions.”
On the duty of perfecting oneself by permeating one’s soul with probity and directness.
1. The words “ridding oneself of all distorting passions consists in giving directness to the soul ” mean: If the soul is troubled by the passions of wrath, it cannot obtain this directness; if the soul is dominated by fear, it cannot obtain this directness; if the soul is bobbing about with the emotions of joy or pleasure, it cannot obtain this directness; if the soul is crushed by grief, it cannot obtain this directness.
2. When the soul is not mistress of herself, one looks and one does not see; one listens and does not hear; one eats without knowing the taste of the food.
3. This explains why the action of ridding one’s soul of all distorting passions consists in the necessity of giving directness to one’s soul.
This is the seventh chapter of the commentary, and explains the phrase found in the title.
( The commentator quoted by Pauthier at the end of the sixth chapter, throws rather more light on this seventh chapter than on the chapter preceding. Sic: The real or proper essence of the intelligence is to be clarified.-E.P. )
On the duty of knowing and of not confusing causes and effects.
1. The Philosopher said: I can listen to cases, and judge law-suits as well as the next man; but the needs would be, perhaps, better met by preventing these law-suits? So that crooks and ill-nautured people should not be able to bring in their lying accusations and frame-ups, by which system we are entirely over-run by vile schemes of these men. That is what I mean by knowing the root from the branch.
This is the fourth chapter of the comment. It refers to the matter of the root and the branch.
On the duty of perfecting one’s knowledge in the matter of morals, and in penetrationg the motivation of action.
1. There are two terms, first:
knowing the root or the cause
perfection of kowledge
(both perceptive knowledge, and aquaintance with the subject.)
(This is all that remains of the fifth chapter of the comment. It dealt with the question indicated in the title. Pauthier says that he tried to fill in the lacuna by referring to the ideas of Tching-tseu, a commentator a little older than Tchou-hi. These indicate that we should give ourselves up to a profound examination of actions and their motivation; for the “spiritual intelligence” is not categorically incapable of knowing; the beings in nature, and the actions of men are not utterly without a cause or a principle.
(Here the Ji-kiang offers the passage: The heart or thinking principle in man is eminently immaterial, eminently intelligent; it is far from being deprived of all natural knowledge (or aptitude, savoir naturel) and human actions are equally far from being causeless or without reason for being.
(Pauthier continues, with reference to Tching-tseu: Only these principles, these causes, these reasons have not yet been submitted to sufficiently profound investigation. For this reason human knowledge is not complete, absolute; and for this reason the “Book of the Great Learning” begins by teaching men that those among them who study moral philosophy should take pains to make a long and profound investigation of natural creatures and human actions, in order that, starting from what they already know about the motivation of actions, they may increase their knowledge, and penetrate into their most intimate nature. In setting oneself thus to make use of all one’s energy and of all one’s intellectual faculties, one arrives after a long time at some knowledge and intimate comprehension of the real motivations of actions; and one penetrates the intrinsic and extrinsic nature of human behaviour, not merely the obvious factors of it, but also the subtler essence; and the motivations of all these actions become clear and manifest to an intelligence thus long and persistently exercised. That is what one means by penetrating the motivation of actions and perfecting one’s knowledge of ethics.)
On the duty of aiming definitely at perfection, the sovereign good.
1. The Book of Verse says: The people like to live within a radius of an hundred leagues from the royal dwelling.
( That is to say the lines in the book of verse fefer to a period when the reigning family possessed a certain charm.- E.P. )
2. The Book of Verse says: The yellow bird
that lifts its plaintive note
with sound of “mien-man,”
Chooseth its dwelling place
in the branchy hollow of the hills.
Saith Kung the master philosopher: Is man with all his wit less wise than this bird with a yellow plumage, that he should not know his dwelling place or fix the point of his aim.
3. The Book of Verse says:
Wide and deep was the virtue of
That for all his splendour
Lost not the point of his aim;
Who turned not aside in his mind
Till his deed were brought to the full.
He who set his aim, as a prince, on the practice of the humanities and in well-wishing to all men; as subject, in consideration for his sovereign; as a son, he placed this aim in the practice of filial respect; as a father, in fatherly kindness; and his relations to and his contracted engagements with other men in the practices of open-hearted fidelity.
4. The Book of Verse says:
That the bamboo are abundant and green
By the Ki, by the bank of the river;
How wise is our prince, Tcheou-Koung*
With the beauty of knowledge.
He is like the carver of ivory,
He is like the carver of precious
That bringeth them to full polish,
Silent and grave he seemeth,
Austere and calm in demeanour,
A prince decked with knowledge
One whom we can not ever forget.
* B.C. 1150
5. The “He is like the artist who cutteth and worketh in ivory” indicates the study of application of the intelligence to the search for the principles (motivations) of our actions; the “He is like the carver and polisher of precious stones” indicates the perfecting of himself. The expression: “O, how silent and grave he seems” indicates his diffidence, and his solicitude for the attainment of perfection; the “austere and calm in demeanour” expresses the care he took to make his conduct an example worth imitation. The “We have a prince decked with knowledge and wisdom; one whom we can not ever forget” shows this wisdom to have been an accomplished fact, and the moral perfection as something the people could not forget.
The Book of Verse says: How hath the tradition of the ancient kings (Wen and Wou) remained in the memory of the people. The sages and princes who followed them imitated their wisdom and their solicitude for the wellbeing (convenience) of their posterity. The populations enjoyed in peace, after them, what things they had wrought for their happiness, and they put to profit their good provision that they had had in a just dividing of land.* For which they will not be forgotten throughout the ages to come.
This is the third chapter of the commentary. It illustrates what one should understand by placing one’s ultimate destination in perfection, the sovereign good.
* Various commentators say that this refers to a division of arable land into sections of one li each; thus every man had an occupation and a means of subsistence. – E.P.
On the duty of renovating or of enlightening the people.
1. On the bathtub of King Tching-thang was the inscription: Renovate, dod gast you, renovate!*
2. The Khang-kao says: Make the people refresh itself.
3. The Book of Verse says: Though the Tcheou family had long held a royal principality
It obtained from heaven a new investiture in the person of Wen-wang.
4. This proves that there is nothing which the sage does not push to the last degree of perfection.
( I. E., His dynasty had already reigned a “thousand years” but he didn’t lie down on the family record.- E.P.)
This second chapter of the commentary offers a few references on the subject of “renovating the people.”
*Or as one translator puts it: the character occurs five times during this passage (verses 1 and 2). Pauthier with greater elegance gives in his French the equivalent to: “Renew thyself daily, utterly, make it new, and again new, make it new.”
The pictures (verse1) are: sun renew sun sun renew (like a tree-shoot) again sun renew.
That is to say a daily organic vegetable and orderly renewal; no hang-over. The “orderly’ I should derive from the upper left-hand bit of the ideograph.-E.P.
The Great Learning
6. From the man in highest dignity, down to the humblest and most obscure, duty is equal (for all): to correct and better one’s “person,” that is the fundamental basis of all progress, of all moral development.
7. Things rooted in disorder and confusion will not, naturally, produce an orderly and ordered result. There is no stupider system than that of treating important matters with levity, and those of secondary importance with honour.
The preceding “book” forms but a single chapter, and contains those words of Confucius which his disciple, Thseng-tseu, has annotated in the succeeding chapters, they in their turn having been collected by his disciples.
(The bamboo tablets of the ancient copies had been tied together confusedly; for which reason Thseng-tseu set them in a fixed order and corrected the composition. His arrangement has been kept to this day. Commentator’s note.)
The entire text of the opening chapter contains 46 characters.
The exposition is composed of various citations serving as commentary to the “book” or original text of Confucius, when it is not wholly narrative. Thus the principles presented int the text are successively developed and set in logical sequence. The blood circulates everywhere in the veins. From the beginning to the end, the grave and gay are employed with a deal of art and finesse. The reading of this book is agreeable and full of soothing. One should meditate on it for a long time, and one will never succeed in exhausting the sense.
(The italics are mine. Despite the apparent simplicity of the text, the commentator is perfectly justified.- E.P.)
THE EXPLANATION OF THSENG-TSEU
(Or, as we should say, the “annotations”)
On the duty of developing and of restoring to its primitive clarity the bright principle of our reason.
1. The Khang-kao says: King Wen succeeded in developing the luminous principle of reason which we receive from the sky, and of making it sine with full glory.
2. The Tai-kia says: King Tching-thang kept his gaze fixed ceaselessly upon this bright gift of intelligence which we receive from the sky.
3. The Ti-tien says : Yao was able to develop and to make to shine in all its brilliance the sublime principle of intelligence which we receive from the sky.
4. These examples show that one should cultivate one’s rational moral nature.
This is the first chapter of the Commentary. It explains what one should understand by the phrase, “develop and restore to light the clear principle of reason which we receive from the sky.”
(“Explains,” that is to say, in the Chinese or ideographic manner; not by abstraction but by citing three historical characters who behaved in a commendable, rational, and enlightened way.-E.P.)
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The Confucian Classics are customarily divided into the Five Ching and the Four Shu. The first of the Four Shu (or Books) is the Ta Hio, a work of which the first chapter is ascribed to Confucius, and the remainder to one of his disciples, Thseng-tseu (Tsang Tzu).
The Great Learning
The law of the Great Learning, or of practicable philosophy, lies in developing and making visible that luminous principle of reason which we have received from the sky, to renew mankind and to place its ultimate destination in perfection, the sovereign good.
2. One should first know the target toward which to aim, that is, one’s ultimate destination; and then make up one’s mind; when one’s mind is made up one can then have the spirit calm and tranquil; and with the spirit calm and tranquil one can then enjoy hat unalterable repose which nothing can trouble; and having succeeded in enjoying that unalterable repose which nothing can trouble, one may then meditate and form a judgment upon the essence of things; and having meditated and formed a judgment upon the essence of things one may then attain that desired state of perfection.
3. The creatures of nature have a cause and effects: human actions have a principle and consequences: to know the causes and the effects, the principles and consequences, is to approach very near to the rational method whereby one attains perfection.
4. The ancient princes who wished to develop and make apparent, in their states, the luminous principle of reason which we receive from the sky, set themselves first to govern well their kingdoms; those who wished to govern their kingdoms well, began by keeping their own families in order; those who wished good order in their families, began by correcting themselves; those who wished to correct themselves tried first to attain rectitude of spirit; those who desired this rectitude of spirit, tried first to make their intentions pure and sincere; those who desired to render their intentions pure and sincere, attempted first to perfect their moral intelligence; the making as perfect as possible, that is , the giving fullest scope to the moral intelligence (or the acquaintance with morals) consists in penetrating and getting to the bottom of the principles (motivations) of actions.
5. When one has penetrated and got to the bottom of the motives (or principles) of actions, the moral intelligence (or one’s enlightenment in the matter of morals) arrives at its last state of perfection; and the moral intelligence having attained its last degree of perfection, one’s intentions are rendered pure and sincere; one’s intentions being simple and sincere, the soul is penetrated by probity and rightness; the soul suffused with probity and rectitude, the person is then corrected and ameliorated; the (person) manners being corrected and bettered, one’s family is then well directed; the family being well directed, the kingdom is then well governed; the kingdom being well governed, the world enjoys peace and good harmony.