Shi Jing Introduction Table of content – The Book of Odes

The oldest collection of Chinese poetry, more than three hundred songs, odes and hymns. Tr. Legge (en) and Granet (fr, incomplete).

Section III — Greater odes of the kingdom
1 2 3
Chapter 3 — Decade of Dang

255 256 257 258 259 260 261 262 263 264 265

Shijing III. 3. (256)


An outward demeanour, cautious and grave,
Is an indication of the [inward] virtue.
People have the saying,
'There is no wise man who is not [also] stupid. '
The stupidity of the ordinary man,
Is determined by his [natural] defects.
The stupidity of the wise man,

What is most powerful is the being the man ; –
In all quarters [of the State] men are influenced by it.
To an upright virtuous conduct,
All in the four quarters of the State render obedient homage.
With great counsels and determinate orders,
With far-reaching plans and timely announcements,
And with reverent care of his outward demeanour,
One will become the pattern of the people.
Is from his doing violence [to his natural character].

As for the circumstances of the present time,
You are bent on error and confusion in your government.
Your virtue is subverted ;
You are besotted by drink.
Although you thus pursue nothing but pleasure,
How is it you do not think of your relation to the past,
And do not widely study the former kings,
That you might hold fast their wise laws ?

Shall not those whom great Heaven does not approve of,
Surely as the waters flow from a spring,
Sink down together to ruin ?
Rise early and go to bed late,
Sprinkle and sweep your court-yard ; –
So as to be a pattern to the people.
Have in good order your chariots and horses,
Your bows and arrows, and [other] weapons of war ; –
To be prepared for warlike action,
To keep at a distance [the hordes of] the South.

Perfect what concerns your officers and people ;
Be careful of your duties as a prince [of the kingdom] ; –
To be prepared for unforeseen dangers.
Be cautious of what you say ;
Be reverently careful of your outward demeanour ;
In all things be mild and correct.
A flaw in a mace of white jade,
May be ground away,
But for a flaw in speech,
Nothing can be done.

Do not speak lightly ; – your words are your own : –
Do not say, ' This is of little importance. '
No one can hold my tongue for me ;
Words are not to be cast away.
Every word finds its answer ;
Every good deed has its recompense.
If you are gracious among your friends,
And to the people, as if they were your children,
Your descendants will continue in unbroken line,
And all the people will surely be obedient to you.

Looked at in friendly intercourse with superior men,
You make your countenance harmonious and mild ; –
Anxious not to do anything wrong.
Looked at in your chamber,
You ought to be equally free from shame before the light which shines in.
Do not say, ' This place is not public ;
No one can see me here. '
The approaches of spiritual Beings,
Cannot be calculated [beforehand] ;
But the more should they not be slighted.

O prince, let your practice of virtue,
Be entirely good and admirable.
Watch well over your behaviour,
And allow nothing wrong in your demeanour.
Committing no excess, doing nothing injurious ; –
There are few who will not in such a case take you for their pattern.
When one throws to me a peach,
I return to him a plum.
To look for horns on a young ram,
Will only weary you, my son.

The soft and elastic wood,
Can be fitted with the silken string.
The mild and the respectful man,
Possesses the foundation of virtue.
There is a wise man ; –
I tell him [good] words,
And he yields to them the practice of docile virtue.
There is a stupid man ; –
He says on the contrary that my words are not true : –
So different are people's minds.

Oh ! my son,
When you did not know what was good, and what was not good,
Not [only] did I lead you on by the hand,
But I showed the difference by appealing to affairs.
Not [only] did I charge you face to face,
But I held you by the ears.
And still perhaps you do not know,
Although you have held a son in your arms.
If people are not self-sufficient,
Who comes [only] to a late maturity after early instruction ?

Great Heaven is very intelligent,
And I pass my life without pleasure.
When I see you so dark and stupid,
My heart is full of pain.
I taught you with assiduous repetition,
And you listened to me with contempt.
You would nto consider me your teacher,
But regarded me as troublesome.
Still perhaps you do not know ; –
But you are very old.

Oh ! my son,
I have told you the old ways.
Hear and follow my counsels ; –
Then shall you have no cause for great regret.
Heaven is now inflicting calamities,
And is destroying the State.
My illustrations are not taken from things remote ; –
Great Heaven makes no mistakes.
If you go on to deteriorate in your virtue,
You will bring the people to great distress.

Legge 256

[Xref] Lunyu XI. 6. quotes Shi Jing III. 3. (256)
gbog – Lunyu 273 – 2005/12/02
Shi Jing III. 3. (256) IntroductionTable of content
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Alias Shijing, Shi Jing, Book of Odes, Book of Songs, Classic of Odes, Classic of Poetry, Livre des Odes, Canon des Poèmes.

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