THE DOCTRINE OF THE MEAN (CHUNG-YUNG)
The DOCTRINE OF THE MEAN is a monument of Chinese philosophy, culture and government. This work reflects the state of Confucian thought some centuries after Confucius. Regarded as a 'Classic', it profoundly influenced Neo- Confucian thought, and it was one of the texts upon which Civil Service examinations were based for some 600 years.
For further information, see Wing-Tsit Chan, A SOURCE BOOK in CHINESE PHILOSOPHY, Princeton, 1969, E. R. Hughes, THE GREAT LEARNING and the MEAN IN ACTION, New York, 1943, and Tu Wei-ming, CENTRALITY and COMMONALITY: AN ESSAY ON CHUNG-YUNG, Hawaii, 1976.
The translation reproduced here is that of James Legge in THE CHINESE CLASSICS, originally published in 1893, and still in print today, e.g. from Dover.
I have made a few changes:
Text which is italicized in the original translation is here bracketed. (Apparently italics indicate words which Legge considered implicit in the original and which he added to make the sense clear.)
The text now follows the Wade-Giles romanization.
A few notes have been added in parentheses, primarily identifying proper names.
A few terms are printed in small caps, but I felt to reproduce these as capitals is too distracting, so they are now lowercase.
Titles are capitalized. (Some of Legge's punctuation differs from current usage, but I have elected not to do any more than this.)
Chapter numbers use Arabic instead of Roman numerals, and I have added extra blank lines. THE DOCTRINE OF THE MEAN
Translated by James Legge
1. What heaven has conferred is the called the nature; an accordance with
this nature is called the path [of duty]; the regulation of this path is called instruction.
2. The path may not be left for an instant. If it could be left, it would
not be the path. On this account, the superior man does not wait till he sees things, to be cautious, nor till he hears things, to be apprehensive.
3. There is nothing more visible than what is secret, and nothing more
manifest than what is minute. Therefore the superior man is watchful over himself, when he is alone.
4. While there are no stirrings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, or joy, the
mind may be said to be in the state of equilibrium. When those feelings have been stirred, and they act in their due degree, there ensues what may be called the state of harmony. This equilibrium is the great root [from which grow all the human actings] in the world, and this harmony is the universal path [which they all should pursue.]
5. Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a
happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things will be nourished and flourish.
1. Chung-ni (Confucius) said, 'The superior man [embodies] the course of
the Mean; the mean man acts contrary to the course of the Mean.
2. 'The superior man's embodying the course of the Mean is because he is
a superior man, and so always maintains the Mean. The mean man's acting contrary to the course of the Mean is because he is a mean man, and has no caution.'
The Master (Confucius) said, 'Perfect is the virtue which is according to
the Mean! Rare have they long been among the people, who could practise it!'
1. The Master said, 'I know how it is that the path [of the Mean] is not
walked in:–The knowing go beyond it, and the stupid do not come up to it. I know how it is that the path of the Mean is not understood:–The men of talents and virtue go beyond it, and the worthless do not come up to it.
2. 'There is no body but eats and drinks. But they are few who can
The Master said, 'Alas! How is the path of the Mean untrodden!'
The Master said, 'There was (the mythical sage-emperor) Shun:–He indeed was greatly wise! Shun loved to question [others], and to study their words, though they might be shallow. He concealed what was bad [in them] and displayed what was good. He took hold of their two extremes, [determined] the Mean, and employed it in [his government of] the people. It was by this that he was Shun!'
The Master said, 'Men all say, "We are wise;" but being driven forward and
taken in a net, a trap, or a pitfall, they know not how to escape. Men all say "We are wise;" but happening to choose the course of the Mean, they are not able to keep it for a round month.'
The Master said, 'This was the manner of (my disciple) Hui:--he made
choice of the Mean, and whenever he got hold of what was good, he clasped it firmly, as if wearing it on his breast, and did not lose it.'
The Master said, 'The kingdom, it States, and its families, may be
perfectly ruled; dignities and emoluments may be declined; naked weapons may be trampled under the feet;–but the course of the Mean cannot be attained to.'
1. (Confucius' disciple) Tzu-lu asked about energy. 2. The Master said, 'Do you mean the energy of the South, the energy of
the North, or the energy which you should cultivate yourself?
3. 'To show forbearance and gentleness in teaching others; and not to
revenge unreasonable conduct:– this is the energy of Southern regions, and the good man makes it his study.
4. 'To lie under arms; and meet death without regret:--this is the energy
of the Northern regions, and the forceful make it their study.
5. 'Therefore, the superior man cultivates [a friendly] harmony, without
being weak.–How firm is he in his energy! He stands erect in the middle, without flinching to either side.–How firm is he in his energy! When good principles prevail in the government of his country, he does not change from what he was in retirement.–How firm is he in his energy! When bad principles prevail in the country, he maintains his course to death without changing.– How firm is he in his energy!'
1. The Master said, 'To live in obscurity, and yet practise wonders, in
order to mentioned with honour in future ages:–this is what I do not do.
2. 'The good man tries to proceed according to the right path, but when he
has gone halfway, he abandons it:–I am not able [so] to stop.
3. 'The superior man accords with the course of the Mean. Though he may
be all unknown, unregarded by the world, he feels no regret.–It is only the sage who is able for this.'
1. The way which the superior man pursues, reaches far and wide, and yet
2. Common men and women, however ignorant, may intermeddle with the
knowledge of it; yet in its utmost reaches, there is that which even the sage does not know. Common men and women, however much below the ordinary standard of character, can carry it into practise; yet in its utmost reaches, there is that which even the sage is not able to carry into practise. Great as heaven and earth are, men still find some things in them with which to be dissatisfied. Thus it is that, were the superior man to speak of this way in all its greatness, nothing in the world would be found able to embrace it, and were he to speak of it in its minuteness, nothing in the world would be found able to split it.
3. It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'The hawk files up to heaven; the
fishes leap in the deep.' This expresses how this [way] is seen above and below.
4. The way of the superior man may be found, in its simple elements, in
the intercourse of common men and women; but in its utmost reaches, it shines brightly through heaven and earth.
1. The Master said, 'The path is not far from man. When men try to
pursue a course, which is far from the common indications of consciousness, this course cannot be considered the path.
2. 'In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "In hewing an axe-handle, in
hewing an axe-handle, the pattern is not far off." We grasp one axe-handle to hew the other; and yet, if we look askance from the one to the other, we may consider them as apart. Therefore, the superior man governs men, according to their nature, with what is proper to them, and as soon as they change [what is wrong], he stops.
3. 'When one cultivates to the utmost the principles of his nature, and
exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the path. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.
4. 'In the way of the superior man there are four things, to not one of
which have I as yet attained.–To serve my father, as I would require my son to serve me: to this I have not attained; to serve my prince, as I would requires my minister to serve me: to this I have not attained; to serve my elder brother, as I would require my younger brother to serve me: to this I have not attained; to set the example in behaving to a friend, as I would require him to behave to me: to this I have not attained. Earnest in practising the ordinary virtues, and careful in speaking about them, if, in his practice, he has anything defective, the superior man dares not exert himself; and if, in his words, he has any excess, he dares not allow himself such license. Thus his words have respect to his actions, and his actions have respect to words; is it not just an entire sincerity which marks the superior man?'
1. The superior man does what is proper to the station in which he is; he
does not desire to go beyond this.
2. In a position of wealth and honour, he does what is proper to a
position of wealth and honour. In a poor and low position, he does what is proper to a poor and low position. Situated among barbarous tribes, he does what is proper to a situation among barbarous tribes. In a position of sorrow and difficulty, he does what is proper to a position of sorrow and difficulty. The superior man can find himself in no situation in which he is not himself.
3. In a high position, he does not treat with contempt his inferiors. In
a low situation, he does not court the favour of his superiors. He rectifies himself, and seeks nothing from others, so that he has no dissatisfactions. He does not murmur against Heaven, nor grumble against men.
4. Thus it is that the superior man is quiet and calm, waiting for the
appointments [of Heaven], while the mean man walks in dangerous paths, looking for lucky occurrences.
5. The Master said, 'In archery we have something like the way of the
superior man. When the archer misses the centre of the target, he turns around and seeks the cause of his failure in himself.'
1. The way of the superior man may be compared to what takes place in
travelling, when to go to a distance we must first traverse the space that is near, and in ascending a height, when we must begin from the lower ground.
2. It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'Happy union with wife and children,
is like the music of lutes and harps. When there is concord among brethren, the harmony is delightful and enduring. [Thus] may you regulate your family, and enjoy the pleasure of your wife and children.'
3. The Master said, 'In such a state of things, parents have entire
1. The Master said, 'How abundantly do spiritual beings display the powers
that belong to them!
2. 'We look for them, but do not see them; we listen to, but do not hear
them; yet they enter into all things, and there is nothing without them.
3. 'They cause all the people in the kingdom to fast and purify
themselves, and array themselves in their richest dresses, in order to attend at their sacrifices. Then, like overflowing water, they seem to be over their heads, and on the right and left [of their worshippers].
4. 'It is said in the Book of Poetry, "The approaches of the spirits, you
cannot surmise;–and can you treat them with indifference?"
5. 'Such is the manifestness of what is minute! Such is the impossibility
of repressing the outgoings of sincerity!'
1. The Master said, 'How greatly filial was Shun! His virtue was that of
a sage; his dignity was the throne; his riches were all within the four seas. He offered his sacrifices in his ancestral temple, and his descendants preserved the sacrifices to himself.
2. 'Therefore having such great virtue, it could not but be that he should
obtain the throne, that he should obtain those riches, that he should obtain his fame, that he should attain to his long life.
3. 'Thus it is that Heaven, in the production of things, is sure to be
bountiful to them, according to their qualities. Hence the tree that is flourishing, it nourishes, while that which is ready to fall, it overthrows.
4. 'In the Book of Poetry it is said, "The admirable, amiable prince
displayed conspicuously his excelling virtue, adjusting his people, and adjusting his officers. [Therefore], he received from Heaven the emoluments of dignity. It protected him, assisted him, decreed him the throne; sending from Heaven these favours, [as it were] repeatedly."
5. '[We may say] therefore that he who is greatly virtuous will be sure to
receive the appointment of Heaven.'
1. The Master said, 'It is only King Wen (the founder of the Chou dynasty)
of whom it can be said that he had no cause for grief! His father was King Chi, and his son was King Wu. His father laid the foundations of his dignity, and his son transmitted it.
2. 'King Wu continued the enterprise of King T'ai (King Chi's father),
King Chi, and King Wen. He once buckled on his armour, and got possession of the kingdom. He did not lose the distinguished personal reputation which he had throughout the kingdom. His dignity was the royal throne. His riches were the possession of all within the four seas. He offered his sacrifices in his ancestral temple, and his descendants maintained the sacrifices to himself.
3. 'It was in this old age that King Wu received the appointment [to the
throne], and (his brother) the Duke of Chou completed the virtuous course of Wen and Wu. He carried up the title of king to T'ai and Chi, and sacrificed to all the former dukes above them with the royal ceremonies. And this rule he extended to the princes of the kingdom, the great officers, the scholars, and the common people. If the father were a great officer, and the son a scholar, then the burial was that due to a great officer, and the sacrifice that due to a scholar. If the father were a scholar, and the son a great officer, then the burial was that due to a scholar, and the sacrifice that due to a great officer. The one year's mourning was made to extend [only] to the great officers, but the three years' mourning extended to the Son of Heaven. In the mourning for a father or mother, he allowed no difference between the noble and the mean.'
1. The Master said, 'How far-extending was the filial piety of King Wu
and the Duke of Chou!
2. 'Now filial piety is seen in the skilful carrying out of the wishes of
our forefathers, and the skilful carrying forward of their undertaking.
3. 'In spring and autumn, they repaired and beautified the temple-halls
of their fathers, set forth their ancestral vessels, displayed their various robes, and presented the offering of the several seasons.
4. 'By means of the ceremonies of the ancestral temple, they distinguished
the royal kindred according to their order of descent. By ordering the parties present according to their rank, they distinguished the more noble and the less. By the arrangement of the services, they made a distinction of talents and worth. In the ceremony of general pledging, the inferiors presented the cup to their superiors, and thus something was given the lowest to do. At the [concluding] feast, places were given according to the hair, and thus was made the distinction of years.
5. 'They occupied the places of their forefathers, practised their
ceremonies, and performed their music. They reverenced those whom they honoured, and loved those whom they regarded with affection. Thus they served the dead as they would have served them alive; they served the departed as they would have served them had they been continued among them.
6. 'By the ceremonies of the sacrifices to Heaven and Earth they served
God, and by the ceremonies of the ancestral temple they sacrificed to Heaven and Earth, and the meaning of the several sacrifices to ancestors, would find the government of a kingdom as easy as to look into his palm!'
1. The Duke Ai (the ruler of the state of Lu) asked about government. 2. The Master said, 'The government of Wen and Wu is displayed in [the
records],-the tablets of wood and bamboo. Let there be the men and the government will flourish; but without the men, their government decays and ceases.
3. 'With the [right] men the growth of government is rapid, just as
vegetation is rapid in the earth; and moreover [their] government [might be called] an easily-growing rush.
4. 'Therefore the administration of government lies in [getting proper]
men. Such men are to be got by means of [the rulers's own] character. That character is to be cultivated by this treading in the ways of [duty]. And the treading those ways of duty is to be cultivated by the cherishing of benevolence.
5. 'Benevolence is [the characteristic element of] humanity, and the
great exercise of it is in loving relatives. Righteousness is [the accordance of actions with what is] right, and the great exercise of it is in honouring the worthy. The decreasing measures of the love due to relatives, and the steps in the honour due to the worthy, are produced by [the principle] of propriety.
6. 'When those an inferior situations do not possess the confidence of
their superiors, they cannot retain the government of the people.
7. 'Hence the sovereign may not neglect the cultivation of his own
character. Wishing to cultivate his character, he may not neglect to serve his parents. In order to serve his parents, he may not neglect to acquire a knowledge of men. In order to know men, he may not dispense with a knowledge of Heaven.
8. 'The duties of the universal obligation are five, and the virtues
wherewith they are practised are three. The duties are those between sovereign and minister, between father and son, between husband and wife, between elder brother and younger, and those belonging to the intercourse of friends. Those five are the duties of universal obligation. Knowledge, magnanimity, and energy, these three, are the virtues universally binding. And the means by which they carry [the duties] into practise is singleness.
9. ' Some are born with the knowledge [of those duties]; some know them
by study; and some acquire the knowledge after a painful feeling of their own ignorance. But the knowledge being possessed, it comes to the same thing. Some practise them with a natural ease; some from a desire for their advantages; and some by strenuous effort. But the achievement being made, it comes to the same thing.'
10. The Master said, 'To be fond of learning is to be near to knowledge.
To practise with vigour is to be near to magnanimity. To possess the feeling of shame is to be near to energy.
11. 'He who knows these three things, knows how to cultivate his own
character. Knowing how to cultivate his own character, he knows how to govern other men. Knowing how to govern other men, he knows how to govern the kingdom with all its States and families.
12. 'All who have the government of the kingdom with its States and
families have nine standard rules to follow;–viz. the cultivation of their own characters; the nourishing of men of virtue and talents; affection towards their relatives; respect towards the great ministers; kind and considerate treatment of the whole body of officers; dealing with the mass of the people as children; encouraging the resort of all classes of artisans; indulgent treatment of men from a distance; and the kindly cherishing of the princes of the States.
13. 'By the ruler's cultivation of his own character, the duties [of
universal obligation] are set forth. By honouring men of virtue and talents, he is preserved from errors of judgement. By showing affection to his relatives, there is no grumbling nor resentment among his uncles and brethren. By respecting the great ministers, he is kept from error in the practise of government. By kind and considerate treatment of the whole body of officers, they are led to make the most grateful return for his courtesies. By dealing with the mass of the people as his children, they are led to exhort one another to what is good. By encouraging the resort of all classes of artisans, his resources for expenditure are rendered ample. By indulgent treatment of men from a distance, they are brought to resort to him from all quarters. And by kindly cherishing the princes of the States, the whole kingdom is brought to revere him.
14. 'Self-adjustment and purification, with careful regulation of his
dress, and the not making a movement contrary to the rules of propriety:–this is the way for a ruler to cultivate his person. Discarding slanderers, and keeping himself from [the seductions of] beauty; making light of riches, and giving honour to virtue:–this is the way for him to encourage men of worth and talents. Giving them places [of honour] and larger emolument, and sharing with them in their likes and dislikes:–this is the way for him to encourage his relatives to love him. Giving them numerous officers to discharge their orders and commissions:–this is the way for him to encourage the great ministers. According to them a generous confidence, and making their emoluments large:–this is the way to encourage the body of officers. Employing them only at the proper times, and making the imposts light:–this is the way to encourage the people. By daily examinations and monthly trials, and by making their rations in accordance with their labours:–this is the way to encourage the classes of artisans. To escort them on their departure and meet them on their coming; to commend the good among them, and show compassion to the incompetent:–this is the way to treat indulgently men from a distance. To restore families whose line of succession has been broken, and to revive States that have been extinguished; to reduce to order States that are in confusion, and support those which are in peril; to have fixed times for their own reception at court, and the reception of their envoys; to send them away after liberal treatment, and welcome their coming with small contributions:– this is the way to cherish the princes of the States.
15. 'All who have the government of the kingdom with its States and
families have the above nine standard rules. And the means by which they are carried into practise is singleness.
16. 'In all things success depends on previous preparation, and without
such previous preparation there is sure to be failure. If what is to be spoken be previously determined, there will be no stumbling. If affairs be previously determined, there will be no difficultly with them. If one's actions have been previously determined, there will be no sorrow in connexion with them. If principles of conduct have been previously determined, the practise of them will be inexhaustible.
17. 'When those in inferior situations do not obtain the confidence of
the sovereign, they cannot succeed in governing the people. There is a way to obtain the confidence of the sovereign;–if one is not trusted by his friends, he will not get the confidence of his sovereign. There is a way to being trusted by one's friends;–if one is not obedient to his parents, he will not be true to friends. There is a way to being obedient to one's parents;–if one, on turning his thoughts in upon himself, finds a want of sincerity, he will not be obedient to his parents. There is a way to the attainment of sincerity in one's self;–if a man do not understand what is good, he will not attain sincerity in himself.
18. 'Sincerity is the way of Heaven. The attainment of sincerity is the
way of men. He who possesses sincerity, is he who, without an effort, hits what is right, and apprehends, without exercise of thought;–he is the sage who naturally and easily embodies the [right] way. He who attains to sincerity, is he who chooses what is good, and firmly holds it fast.
19. 'To this attainment there are requisite the extensive study of what is
good, accurate inquiry about it, careful reflection on it, the clear discrimination of it, and the earnest practise of it.
20. 'The superior man, while there is anything he has not studied, or
while in what he has studied there is anything he cannot understand, will not intermit his labour. While there is anything he has not inquired about, or anything in what he has inquired about which he does not know, he will not intermit his labour. While there is anything which he has not reflected on, or anything in what he has reflected on which he does not apprehend, he will not intermit his labour. While there is anything which he has not discriminated, or his discrimination is not clear, he will not intermit his labour. If there be anything which he has not practised, or his practise fails in earnestness, he will not intermit his labour. If another man succeed by one effort, he will use a hundred efforts. If another man succeed by ten efforts, he will use a thousand.
21. 'Let a man proceed in this way, and, though dull, he will surely
become intelligent; though weak, he will surely become strong.'
When we have intelligence resulting from sincerity, this condition is to
be ascribed to nature; when we have sincerity resulting from intelligence, this condition is to be ascribed to instruction. But given the sincerity, and there shall be the intelligence; given the intelligence, and there shall be the sincerity.
It is only he who is possessed of the most complete sincerity that can
exist under heaven, who can give its full development to his nature. Able to give its full development to his own nature, he can do the same to the nature of other men. Able to give its full development to the nature of other men, he can give their full development to the natures of animals and things. Able to give their full development to the natures of creatures and things, he can assist the transforming and nourishing powers of Heaven and Earth. Able to assist the transforming and nourishing powers of Heaven and Earth, he may with Heaven and Earth form a ternion.
Next to the above is he who cultivates to the utmost the shoots [of
goodness] in him. From those he can attain to the possession of sincerity. This sincerity becomes apparent. From being apparent, it becomes manifest. From being manifest, it becomes brilliant. Brilliant, it affects others. Affecting others, they are changed by it. Changed by it, they are transformed. It is only he who is possessed of the most complete sincerity that can exist under heaven, who can transform.
It is characteristic of the most entire sincerity to be able to foreknow.
When a nation or family is about to flourish, there are sure to be happy omens; and when it is about to perish, there are sure to be unlucky omens. [Such events are] seen in the milfoil and tortoise, and affect the movements of the four limbs. When calamity or happiness is about to come, the good shall certainly be foreknown by him, and the evil also. Therefore the individual possessed of the most complete sincerity is like a spirit.
1. Sincerity is that whereby self-completion is effected, and [its] way is
that by which man must direct himself.
2. Sincerity is the end and beginning of things; without sincerity there
would be nothing. On this account, the superior man regards the attainment of sincerity as the most excellent thing.
3. The possessor of sincerity does not merely accomplish the self-
completion of himself. With this quality he completes [other men and] things [also]. The completing himself [shows his] perfect virtue. The completing [other men and] things [shows his] knowledge. [Both these are] virtues belonging to the nature, and [this is] the way by which a union is effected of the external and internal. Therefore, whenever he–[the entirely sincere man]–employs them,–[that is, these virtues,–their action will be] right.
1. Hence to entire sincerity there belongs ceaselessness. 2. Not ceasing, it continues long. Continuing long, it evidences itself. 3. Evidencing itself, it reaches far. Reaching far, it becomes large and
substantial. Large and substantial, it becomes high and brilliant.
4. Large and substantial;--this is how it contains [all] things. High
and brilliant;–this is how it overspreads [all] things. Reaching far and continuing long;–this is how it perfects [all] things.
5. So large and substantial, [the individual possessing it] is the co-
equal of Earth. So high and brilliant, it makes him the co-equal of Heaven. So far-reaching and long-continuing, it makes him infinite.
6. Such being its nature, without any display, it becomes manifested;
without any movement, it produces changes; and without any effort, it accomplishes its ends.
7. The way of Heaven and Earth may be completely declared in one
sentence.–They are without any doubleness, and so they produce things in a manner that is unfathomable.
8. The way of Heaven and Earth is large and substantial, high and
brilliant, far-reaching and long-enduring.
9. The heaven now before us is only this bright shining spot; but when
viewed in its inexhaustible extent, the sun, moon, stars, and constellations of the zodiac, are suspended in it, and all things are overspread by it. The earth before us is but a handful of soil; but when regarded in its breadth and thickness, it sustains mountains like the Hua and the Yo, without feeling their weight, and contains the rivers and seas, without their leaking away. The mountain now before us appears only a stone; but when contemplated in all the vastness of its size, we see how the grass and tress are produced on it, and birds and beasts dwell on it, and precious things which men treasure up are found on it. The water now before us appears but a ladleful; yet extending our view to its unfathomable depths, the largest tortoises, iguanas, iguanodons, dragons, fishes, and turtles, are produced in them, articles of value and sources of wealth abound in them.
10. It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'The ordinances of Heaven, how
profound are they and unceasing!' The meaning is, that it is thus that Heaven is Heaven. [And again], 'How illustrious was it, the singleness of the virtue of King Wen!' indicating that it was thus that King Wen was what he was. Singleness likewise is unceasing.
1. How great is the path proper to the Sage! 2. Like overflowing water, it sends forth and nourishes all things, and
rises up to the height of heaven.
3. All-complete is its greatness! It embraces the three hundred rules of
ceremony, and the three thousand rules of demeanor.
4. It waits for the proper man, and then it is trodden. 5. Hence, it is said, 'Only by perfect virtue can the perfect path, in all
its courses, be made a fact.'
6. Therefore, the superior man honours his virtuous nature, and maintains
constant inquiry and study, seeking to carry it out to its breadth and greatness, so as to omit none of the more exquisite and minute points which it embraces, and to raise it to its greatest height and brilliancy, so as to pursue the course of the Mean. He cherishes his old knowledge, and is continually acquiring new. He exerts an honest, generous earnestness, in the esteem and practise of all propriety.
7. Thus, when occupying a high situation he is not proud, and in a low
situation he is not insubordinate. When the kingdom is well-governed, he is sure by his words to rise; and when it is ill-governed, he is sure by his silence to command forbearance to himself. Is not this what we find in the Book of Poetry,–'Intelligent is he and prudent, and so preserves his person?'
1. The Master said, 'Let a man who is ignorant be fond of using his own
judgment; let a man without rank be fond of assuming a directing power to himself; let a man who is living in the present age go back to the ways of antiquity;–on the persons of all who act thus calamities will be sure to come.'
2. To no one but the Son of Heaven does it belong to order ceremonies, to
fix the measures, and to determine the written characters.
3. Now, over the kingdom, carriages have all wheels of the same size; all
writing is with the same characters; and for conduct there are the same rules.
4. One may occupy the throne, but if he have not the proper virtue, he
may not dare to make ceremonies or music. One may have the virtue, but if he do not occupy the throne, he may not presume to make ceremonies or music.
5. The Master said, 'I may describe the ceremonies of the Hsia dynasty,
but (the) Ch'i (dynasty) cannot sufficiently attest my words. I have learned the ceremonies of the Yin (or Shang) dynasty, and in (state of) Sung they still continue. I have learned the ceremonies of (the) Chou (dynasty), which are not used, and I follow Chou.'
1. He who attains to the sovereignty of the kingdom, having [those] three
important things, shall be able to effect that there shall be few errors [under his government].
2. However excellent may have been the regulations of those of former
times, they cannot be attested. Not being attested, they cannot command credence, and not being credited, the people would not follow them. However excellent might be the regulations made by one in an inferior situation, he is not in a position to be honoured. Unhonoured, he cannot command credence, and not being credited, the people would not follow his rules.
3. Therefore the institutions of the Ruler are rooted in his own character
and conduct, and sufficient attestation of them is give by the masses of the people. He examines them [by comparison] with those of the three kings (the founders of the three dynasties, Hsia, Shang or Yin, and Chou), and finds them without mistake. He sets them up before heaven and earth, and finds nothing in them contrary to their mode of operation. He presents himself with them before spiritual beings, and no doubts about them arise. He is prepared to wait for the rise of a sage a hundred ages after, and has no misgivings.
4. His presenting himself [with his institutions] before spiritual beings,
without any doubts arising about them, shows that he knows Heaven. His being prepared, without any misgivings, to wait for the rise of a sage a hundred ages after, shows that he knows men.
5. Such being the case, the movements of such a ruler, [illustrating his
institutions], constitute an example to the world for ages. His acts are for ages a law to the kingdom. His words are for ages a lesson to the kingdom. Those who are far from him, look longingly for him; and those who are near him, are never wearied with him.
6. It is said in the Book of Poetry,--'Not disliked there, not tired of
here, from day to day and night to night, will they perpetuate their praise.' Never has there been a ruler, who did not realise this description, that obtained an early renown throughout the kingdom.
1. Chung-ni handed down the doctrines of Yao and Shun, as if they had been
his ancestors, and elegantly displayed the regulations of Wen and Wu, taking them as his model. Above, he harmonized with the times of heaven, and below, he was conformed to the water and land.
2. He may be compared to heaven and earth in their supporting and
containing, their overshadowing and curtaining of all things. He may be compared to the four season in their alternating progress, and to the sun and moon in their successive shining.
3. All things are nourished together without their injuring one another.
The course [of the seasons, and of the sun and moon], are pursued without any collision among them. The smaller energies are like river currents; the greater energies are seen in mighty transformations. It is this which makes heaven and earth so great.
1. It is only he, possessed of all sagely qualities that can exist under
heaven, who shows himself quick in apprehension, clear in discernment, of far- reaching intelligence, and all-embracing knowledge, fitted to exercise rule; magnanimous, generous, benign, and mild, fitted to exercise forbearance; impulsive, energetic, firm, and enduring, fitted to maintain a firm hold; self-adjusted, grave, never swerving from the Mean, and correct, fitted to command reverence; accomplished, distinctive, concentrative, and searching, fitted to exercise discrimination.
2. All-embracing is he and vast, deep and active as a fountain, sending
forth in their due season his virtues.
3. All-embracing and vast, he is like heaven. Deep and active as a
fountain, he is like the abyss. He is seen, and the people all reverence him; he speaks, and the people all believe him; he acts, and the people all are pleased with him.
4. Therefore his fame overspreads the Middle Kingdom, and extends to all
barbarous tribes. Wherever ships and carriages reach; wherever the strength of man penetrated; wherever the heavens overshadow and the earth sustains; wherever the sun and moon shine; wherever frosts and dews fall:–all who have blood and breath unfeignedly honour and love him. Hence it is said,–'He is the equal of Heaven.'
1. It is only the individual possessed of the most entire sincerity that
can exist under heaven, who can adjust the great invariable relations of mankind, establish the great fundamental virtues of humanity, and know the transforming and nurturing operations of Heaven and Earth;–shall this individual have any being or anything beyond himself on which he depends?
2. Call him man is his ideal, how earnest is he! Call him an abyss, how
deep is he! Call his Heaven, how vast is he!
3. Who can know him, but he who is indeed quick in apprehension, clear in
discernment, of far-reaching intelligence, and all-embracing knowledge, possessing all heavenly virtue?
1. It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'Over her embroidered robe she puts a
plain single garment,' intimating a dislike to the display of the elegance of the former. Just so, it is the way of the superior man to prefer the concealment [of his virtue], while it daily becomes more illustrious, and the way of the mean man to seek notoriety, while he daily goes more and more to ruin. It is characteristic of the superior man, appearing insipid, yet never to produce satiety; while showing a simple negligence, yet to have his accomplishments recognized; while seemingly plain, yet to be discriminating. He knows how what is distant lies in what is near. He knows where the wind proceeds from. He knows how what is minute becomes manifested. Such an one, we may be sure, will enter into virtue.
2. It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'Although [the fish] sink and lie at
the bottom, it is still quite clearly seen.' Therefore the superior man examines his heart, that there may be nothing wrong there, and that he may have no cause for dissatisfaction with himself. That wherein the superior man cannot be equalled is simply this,–his [work] which other men cannot see.
3. It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'Looked at in your apartment, be
there free from shame as being exposed to the light of heaven.' Therefore, the superior man, even when he is not moving, has [a feeling] of reverence, and while he speaks not, he has [the feeling of] truthfulness.
4. It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'In silence is the offering
presented, and [the spirit] approached to; there is not the slightest contention.' Therefore the superior man does not use rewards, and the people are stimulated [to virtue]. He does not show anger, and the people are awed more than by hatchets and battle-axes.
5. It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'What needs no display is virtue.
All the princes imitate it.' Therefore, the superior man being sincere and reverential, the whole world is conducted to a state of happy tranquility.
6. It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'I regard with pleasure your
brilliant virtue, making no great display of itself in sounds and appearances.' The Master said, 'Among the appliances to transform the people, sounds and appearances are but trivial influences. It is said in another ode, "His virtue is light as a hair." Still, a hair will admit of comparison [as to its size]. "The doings of the supreme Heaven have neither sound nor smell."–That is perfect virtue.'