The somber and liturgical section “The Hymns” (Song) is divided into three parts: two are associated with the royal houses—the Zhou (nos. 266—96) and Shang as preserved in the feudal state of Song (nos. 301-05)—and the third with the state of Lu (nos. 297-300), the home of Confucius. “The Zhou Hymns” is universally accepted as the oldest layer of The Book of Songs, while the other two sections of hymns are considered somewhat younger, perhaps contemporaneous with “The Major Odes.” Thus, the cultural and critical weight of this section is squarely with “The Zhou Hymns,” although special attention should be paid to the “Dark Bird” poem (303), which contains the origin myth of the Shang people. The oldest hymns are like bronze vessels: staid, solid, and not for daily fare. Their most common subject is again the Heavenly charge received by the Zhou royal family, but here the poems are brief and elliptical, suggesting their accompaniment to the rituals of the ancestral temple. This is particularly true of the first decade of poems, which is closely associated with King Wen: “Our ritual is patterned/ On the rules of King Wen./ Daily we bring peace to frontier lands./ See, King Wen blesses us;/ He has approved and accepted” (272). Even when the poems lapse into air- or ode-like language and imagery, in the end they return to the solemnity of ritual; poems 290 and 291 both begin with a description of agricultural activities but conclude by making those activities a preface to the offerings to the “blessed elders” and “men of old.”




Ah! solemn is the ancestral temple in its pure stillness.
Reverent and harmonious were the distinguished assistants;
Great was the number of the officers:
[All] assiduous followers of the virtue of [king] Wen.
In response to him in heaven,
Grandly they hurried about in the temple.
Distinguished is he and honoured,
And will never be wearied of among men.


The Hallowed Temple

Solemn the hallowed temple,
Awed and silent the helpers,1
Well purified the many knights
That handle their sacred task.
There has been an answer in Heaven;
Swiftly they2 flit through the temple,
Very bright, very glorious,
Showing no distaste toward men.

1. Feudal lords in attendance at the sacrifice.
2. The Spirits.



The ordinances of Heaven,
How deep are they and unintermitting!
And oh! how illustrious,
Was the singleness of the virtue of king Wen!
How does he [now] show his kindness?
We will receive [his favour],
Striving to be in accord with him, our king Wen;
And may his remotest descendant be abundantly the same!


The Charge That Heaven Gave

The charge that Heaven gave
Was solemn, was for ever.
And ah, most glorious
King Wen in, plenitude of power!
With blessings he has whelmed us;
We need but gather them in.
High favors has King Wen vouchsafed to us;
May his descendants hold them fast.

Kings rule in virtue of a charge (ming), an appointment assigned to them by Heaven just as barons hold their fiefs in virtue of a ming from their overlord.



Clear, and to be preserved bright,
Are the statutes of king Wen.
From the first sacrifice [to him],
Till now when they have issued in our complete State,
They have been the happy omen of [the fortunes of] Zhou.



Clear and glittering bright
Are the ordinances of King Wen.
He founded the sacrifices
That in the end gave victory,
That are the happy omens of Zhou.

These are said to be the words of a mime-dance (xiang-wu) that enacted the battles of King Wen. This type of tradition is, however, very unreliable. The piece reads like a sacrificial hymn.



Ye, brilliant and accomplished princess,
Have conferred on me this happiness.
Your favours to me are without limit,
And my descendants will preserve [the fruits of] them.
Be not mercenary nor extravagant in your States,
And the king will honour you.
Thinking of this great service,
He will enlarge the dignity of your successors.
What is most powerful is the being the man;
Its influence will be felt throughout your States.
What is most distinguished is being virtuous;
It will secure the imitation of all the princes.
Ah! the former kings are not forgotten!


Renowned and Gracious

Renowned and gracious are those rulers, those sovereigns
That bestow upon us happy blessings.
Their favor toward us is boundless;
May sons and grandsons never forfeit it!
There are no fiefs save in your land;
It is you, O kings, who set them up.
Never forgetting what your valor won
May we continue it in our sway!
None are strong save the men of Zhou,
Every land obeys them.
Nothing so glorious as their power,
All princes imitate them.
Ah, no! The former kings do not forget us.



Heaven made the lofty hill,
And king Da brought [the country about] it under cultivation.
He made the commencement with it,
And king Wen tranquilly [carried on the work],
[Till] that rugged [mount] Qi,
Had level roads leading to it.
May their descendants ever preserve it!


Heaven Made

Heaven made a high hill;
The Great King laid hand upon it.
He felled the trees;
King Wen strengthened it.
He cleared the bush;
Mount Qi has level ways.
May sons and grandsons keep it!

Mount Qi is about seventy miles west of Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi, on the north side of the Wei River. The “Great King” is Dan-fu| grandfather of Wen (the first Zhou king). This poem has recently been discussed by Yu Xing-wu, in Yü Kung for March 1936.



Heaven made its determinate appointment,
Which [our] two sovereigns received.
King Cheng did not dare to rest idly in it.
But night and day enlarged its foundations by his deep and silent virtue.
How did he continue and glorify [his heritage],
Exerting all his heart,
And so securing its tranquillity!


High Heaven Had a Firm Charge

High heaven had a firm charge;
Two monarchs received it.
Nor did King Cheng stay idle,
Day and night he buttressed the charge
By great endeavors.
Ah! The Bright Splendors
Hardened his will;
Therefore he could establish it.

The “two monarchs” are Wen and his son Wu, who conquered the Shang. Cheng (1115-1079 BC, standard chronology), as his name implies, completed their work. The bright splendors are what the early Persians would have called the hvareno, the magic halo of the former kings. See no. 266.



I have brought my offerings,
A ram and a bull.
May Heaven accept them!
I imitate and follow and observe the statutes of king Wen,
Seeking daily to secure the tranquillity of hte kingdom.
King Wen, the Blesser,
Has descended on the right and accepted [the offerings].
Do not I, night and day,
Revere the majesty of Heaven.
Thus to preserve [their favour]?


We Bring

We bring our offerings,
Our bulls and sheep;
May Heaven bless them!
Our ritual is patterned
On the rules of King Wen.
Daily we bring peace to frontier lands.
See, King Wen blesses us;
He has approved and accepted.
Now let us day and night
Fear Heaven’s wrath,
And thus be shielded.

Heaven’s “charge,” as we shall see constantly in the songs which follow, is “changeable.” Just as the king can withdraw the ming which entitles a baron to hold his fief, so Heaven when displeased can in a moment withdraw its dynastic charge.



Now is he making a progress through the States,
May Heaven accept him as its Son!
Truly are the honour and succession come from it to the House of Zhou.
To his movements,
All respond with tremulous awe.
He has attracted and given rest to all spiritual Beings,
Even to [the Spirits of] the He, and the highest hills.
Truly is the king the sovereign Lord.
Brilliant and illustrious is the House of Zhou.
He has regulated the positions of the princes;
He has called in shields and spears;
He has returned to their cases bows and arrows.
I will cultivate admirable virtue,
And display it throughout these great regions:
Truly will the king preserve the appointment.


He Goes

He goes through his lands;
May high Heaven cherish him!
Truly the succession is with Zhou.
See how they tremble before him!
Not one that fails to tremble and quake.
Submissive, yielding are all the Spirits,
Likewise the rivers and high hills.
Truly he alone is monarch.
Bright and glorious is Zhou;
It has succeeded to the seat of power.
“Then put away your shields and axes,
Then case your arrows and bows;
I have store enough of good power
To spread over all the lands of Xia.”1
And in truth, the king protected them.

1. China in general.



The arm of king Wu was full of strength;
Irresistable was his ardour.
Greatly illustrious were Cheng and Kang,
Kinged by God.
When we consider how Cheng and Kang,
Grandly held all within the four quarters [of the kingdom],
How penetrating was their intelligence!
The bells and drums sound in harmony;
The sounding stones and flutes blend their notes;
Abundant blessing is sent down.
Blessing is sent down in large measure;
Careful and exact is all our deportment;
We have drunk, and we have eaten, to the full;
Our happiness and dignity will be prolonged.


Terrible in His Power

Terrible in his power was King Wu;
None so mighty in glory.
Illustrious were Cheng and Kang
Whom God on high made powerful.
From the days of that Cheng, that Kang,1
All the lands were ours.
Oh, dazzling their brightness!
Let bell and drum blend,
Stone-chime and pipes echo,
That rich blessings may come down,
Mighty blessings come down.
Every act and posture has gone rightly,
We are quite drunk, quite sated;
Blessings and bounties shall be our reward.

1. 1078-53 BC (standard chronology).



O accomplished Hou-ji,
Thou didst prove thyself the correlate of Heaven;
Thou didst give grain-food to our multitudes;
The immense gift of thy goodness.
Thou didst confer on us the wheat and the barley,
Which God appointed for the nourishment of all;
And without distinction of territory or boundary,
The rules of social duty were diffused throughout these great regions.


Mighty Are You

Mighty are you, Houji,1
Full partner in Heaven’s power.
That we, the thronging peoples, were raised up
Is all your doing. r
You gave us wheat and barley
In obedience to God’s command.
Not to this limit only or to that frontier
But near, far, and for ever throughout these lands of Xia.2

1. The ancestor of the Zhou people; the inventor of agriculture. See no 245.
2. I.e., China.



Ah! Ah! ministers and officers,
Reverently attend to your public duties.
The king has given you perfect rules;
Consult about them and consider them.
Ah! Ah! ye assistants,
It is now the end of spring;
And what have ye to seek for?
[Only] how to manage the new fields and those of the third year.
How beautiful are the wheat and the barley,
Whose bright produce we shall receive!
The bright and glorious God.
Will in them give us a good year.
Order all our men,
To be provided with their spuds and hoes:
Anon we shall see the sickles at work.


Servants and Officers

Ho, ho, my servants and officers!
Be zealous at your tasks.
The king will reward your achievements;
Come and take counsel, come and take thought.
Ho, ho, guardians and protectors,1
The spring is at its close.
What more do you look for?
How goes the new field?
Oh, royal the wheat and barley!
You shall gather in its bright grain;
Brightly has shone God on high
Till yours now is a rich harvest.
Call all my men saying, “Get ready your spades and hoes;
Have a look, all of you, to your sickles and scythes.”

1. I.e., of the people. I think this is only a name for the king’s officers. But much in this song is uncertain and obscure.



Oh! yes, king Cheng,
Brightly brought himself near.
Lead your husbandmen,
To sow their various kinds of grain,
Going vigorously to work on your private fields,
All over the thirty Li.
Attend to your ploughing,
With your ten thousand men all in pairs.


Come Now

Come now! the victorious kings1
Are shedding their light upon you.
Lead those farm laborers
To scatter the many grains.
Work your private lands to the full,
The whole thirty leagues;2
And labor with your ploughs
Ten thousand of you in pairs.

1. The spirits of former kings. I do not think one king in particular is meant.
2. Compare no. 177.



A flock of egrets is flying,
About the marsh there in the west.
My visitors came,
With an [elegant] carriage like those birds.
There, [in their States], not disliked;
Here, [in Zhou], never tired of;
They are sure, day and night,
To penetrate their fame.


 Flock the Egrets

Flock the egrets in their flight
To that western moat.
My guest has come,
He too with like movements.
They there find no harm;
Of him here we shall never weary.
Through the day, into the night,
May he long keep holiday!



Abundant is the year, with much millet and much rice;
And we have our high granaries,
With myriads, and hundreds of thousands, and millions [of measures in them];
For spirits and sweet spirits,
To present to our ancestors, male and female,
And to supply all out ceremonies.
The blessings sent down on us are of every kind.


 Abundant Is the Year

Abundant is the year, with much millet, much rice;
But we have tall granaries,
To hold myriads, many myriads and millions of grain.
We make wine, make sweet liquor,
We offer it to ancestor, to ancestress,
We use it to fulfill all the rites,
To bring down blessings upon each and all.



There are the bird musicians; there are the blind musicians;
In the court of [the temple of] Zhou.
There are [the music frames] with their face-boards and posts,
The high toothed-edge [of the former], and the feathers stuck [in the latter];
With the drums, large and small, suspended from them;
And the hand-drums and sounding-stones, the instrument to give the signal for commencing, and the stopper.


 Blind Men

Blind men, blind men1
In the courtyard of Zhou.
We have set up the cross-board, the stand,
With the upright hooks, the standing plumes.
The little and big drums are hung for beating;
The tambourines and stone-chimes, the mallet-box and scraper.
All is ready, and they play.
Pan-pipes and flute are ready and begin.
Sweetly blend the tones,
Solemn the melody of their bird-music.
The ancestors are listening;
As our guests they have come,
To gaze long upon their victories.2

1. Musicians were generally blind men.
2. As re-enacted in our pantomime.



Oh! in the Qi and the Ju,
There are many fish in the warrens;
Sturgeons, large and snouted,
Zhan, yellow-jaws, mudfish, and carp:
For offerings, for sacrifice,
That our bright happiness may be increased.


 In Their Warrens

Oh, the Qi and the Ju1
In their warrens have many fish,
Sturgeons and snout-fish,
Long-fish, yellow-jaws, mud-fish and carp,
For us to offer, to present,
And gain great blessings.

1. Northern tributaries of the Wei. They join and flow into the Wei about halfway between Xi’an and Wei-nan.



They come full of harmony;
They are here, in all gravity;
The princess assisting,
While the Son of Heaven looks profound.
‘While I present [this] noble bull,
And they assist me in setting forth the sacrifice,
O great and august Father,
Comfort me, your filial Son!
‘With penetrating wisdom thou did’st play the man,
A sovereign with the gifts both of peace and war,
Giving rest even to great Heaven,
And ensuring prosperity to thy descendants.
‘Thou comfortest me with the eyebrows of longevity;
Thou makest me great with manifold blessings.
I offer this sacrifice to my meritorious father,
And to my accomplished mother.’


 Solemn State

He comes in solemn state,
He arrives in all gravity
By rulers and lords attended,
The Son of Heaven, mysterious:
“Come, let us offer up the Broad Male!1
Help me to set out the sacrifice.
Approach, O royal elders,
To succor me, your pious son.
None so wise in all things as the men of our tribe
Or so skilled in peace and war as their kings,
Who now repose at august Heaven’s side
And can lend luster to their posterity.
May they grant us long life,
Vouchsafe to us manifold securities.
May they help us, the glorious elders;
May they help us, the mighty mothers.”

1. Compare the kennings in no. 211.



They appeared before their sovereign king,
To seek from him the rules [they were to observe].
With their dargon-emblazoned banners, flying bright,
The bells on them and their front-boards tinkling,
And with the rings on the ends of the reins glittering,
Admirable was their majesty, and splendour.
He led them to appear before his father shrined on the left,
Where he discharged hisi filial duty, and presented his offerings;
That he might have granted to him long life,
And ever preserve [his dignity].
Great and many are his blessings.
They are the brilliant and accomplished princes.
Who cheer him with his many sources of happiness,
Enabling him to perpetuate them in their brightness as pure blessing.


 So They Appeared

So they appeared before their lord the king
To get from him their emblems,
Dragon-banners blazing bright,
Tuneful bells tinkling,
Bronze-knobbed reins jangling—
The gifts shone with glorious light.
Then they showed them to their shining ancestors
Piously, making offering,
That they might be vouchsafed long life,
Everlastingly be guarded.
Oh, a mighty store of blessings!
Glorious and mighty, those former princes and lords
Who secure us with many blessings,
Through whose bright splendors
We greatly prosper.

Ancestors were called zhao “bright” and mu “quiet,” “solemn”in alternate generations. The zhao ancestral tablets were on the left, the mu ancestral tablets were on the right side of the ancestral temple. Thus father, grandson, great-great-grandson (i.e., son’s son; son’s son’s son’s son, etc.) came together on one side. Son, great-grandson, great-great-great-grandson on the other. This no doubt merely reflects the original habits of the living; hence the double nomenclature of Chinese officials, scribe of the left, scribe of the right, etc. Compare the prohibition against a father carrying his son in his arms (separation of immediate male generations), or teaching him. All this implies an original system of exchange marriage between two matrilineal units. The odd generations would then all belong to one unit, the even generations to the other.



The noble visitor! The noble visitor!
Drawn like his ancestors by white horses!
The revered and dignified,
Polished members of his suite!
The noble guest will stop [but] a night or two!
The noble guest will stop [but] two nights or four!
Give him ropes,
To blind his horses.
I will convoy him [with a parting feast];
I will comfort him in every possible way.
Adorned with such great dignity,
It is very natural that he should be blessed.


 A Guest

A guest, a guest,
And white his horse.
Rich in adornment, finely wrought
The carving and chiseling of his spear-shafts.

A guest so venerable,
A guest of great dignity.
Come, give him a tether
To tether his team.

Here we follow him,
To left and right secure him.
Prodigal is he in his courtesies;
He will bring down blessings very joyful.



Oh! great wast thou, O king Wu,
Displaying the utmost strength in thy work.
Truly accomplished was king Wen,
Opening the path for his successors.
Thou did’st receive the inheritance from him;
Thou did’st vanquish Yin, and put a stop to its cruelties;
Effecting the firm establishment of thy merit.



Oh, great were you, King Wu!
None so doughty in glorious deeds.
A strong toiler was King Wen;
Well he opened the way for those that followed him.
As heir Wu received it,
Conquered the Yin, utterly destroyed them.1
Firmly founded were his works.

1. Usually interpreted “put an end to the slaughters.” The Confucians created a myth that King Wu conquered by goodness and not by force. But compare Shu jing (Legge, The Chinese Classics, vol. 3, p. 482), “He exterminated his enemies.”

This and nos. 293-96 are said to be words of the mime dance which enacted the victories of King Wu. They may ultimately have been used for that purpose, but I doubt if they originally belonged to the war-dance. There is a pun on the word I have translated “toiler” and the name of King Wen. One must read the first wen with the “heart” radical underneath.



Alas for me, who am [as] a little child,
On whom has devolved the unsettled State!
Solitary am I and full of distress.
Oh! my great Father,
All thy life long, thou wast filial.
Thou didst think of my great grandfather,
[Seeing him, as it were,] ascending and descending in the court.
I, the little child,
Day and night will be so reverent.
Oh! ye great kings,
As your successor, I will strive not to forget you.


 Pity Me, Your Child

Pity me, your child,
Inheritor of a House unfinished,
Lonely and in trouble.
O august elders,
All my days I will be pious,
Bearing in mind those august forefathers
That ascend and descend in the courtyard.
Yes, I your child,
Early and late will be reverent.
O august kings,
The succession shall not stop!

This poem, along with nos. 287 and 289 (also compare no. 155), are all songs from the legend of King Cheng. It is said that when he came to the throne he was a mere child and had to be helped in his rule by his uncle, Duke of Zhou. He also had wicked uncles, who rebelled against him, making common cause with the son of the last Shang king. The story in its main features is probably historical. But the part played by the Duke of Zhou has perhaps been exaggerated by the Confucians, who made the duke into a sort of patron saint of their school.



I take counsel at the beginning of my [rule],
How I can follow [the example] of my shrined father.
Ah! far-reaching [were his plans],
And I am not yet able to carry them out.
However I endeavour to reach to them,
My continuation of them will still be all-deflected.
I am [but as] a little child,
Unequal to the many difficulties of the State.
In his room, [I will look for him] to go up and come down in the court,
To ascend and descend in the house.
Admirable art thou, O great Father,
[Condescend] to preserve and enlighten me.


 Here I Come

Here, then, I come,
Betake myself to the bright ancestors:
“Oh, I am not happy.
I have not yet finished my task.
Help me to complete it.
In continuing your plans I have been idle.
But I, your child,
Am not equal to the many troubles that assail my house.
You that roam in the courtyard,1 up and down,
You that ascend and descend in His house,
Grant me a boon, august elders!
Protect this my person, save it with your light.”

1. Of God.



Let me be reverent, let me be reverent, [in attending to my duties];
[The way of] Heaven is evident,
And its appointment is not easily [preserved].
Let me not say that It is high aloft above me.
It ascends and descends about our doings;
It daily inspects us wherever we are.
I am [but as] a little child,
Without intelligence to be reverently [attractive to my duties];
But by daily progress and monthly advance,
I will learn to hold fast the gleams [of knowledge], till I arrive at bright intelligence.
Assist me to bear the burden [of my position],
And show me how to display a virtuous conduct.



Reverence, reverence!
By Heaven all is seen;
Its charge is not easy to hold.
Do not say it is high, high above,
Going up and down about its own business.
Day in, day out it watches us here.
I, a litde child,
Am not wise or reverent.
But as days pass, months go by,
I learn from those that have bright splendor.
O Radiance, O Light,
Help these my strivings;
Show me how to manifest the ways of power.



I condemn myself [for the past], and will be on my guard against future calamity.
I will have nothing to do with a wasp,
To seek for myself its painful sting.
At first, indeed, the thing seemed but a wren,
But it took wing and became a [large] bird.
I am unequal to the many difficulties of the kingdom;
And I am placed in the midst of bitter experiences.


 Take Guard

I will take warning,
Will guard against ills to come.
Never again will I bump myself and bang myself
With bitter pain for my reward.
Frail was that reed-warbler;
It flew away a great bird.
I, not equal to the troubles of my house,
Must still perch upon the smartweed.

In ancient Chinese myth, when the reed-warbler grows up it turns into an eagle. Till then it perches in a nest precariously hung between the stems of reeds or other water-plants, liable to be hurled to disaster at the first coming of wind or rain. So the boy king, when he gets older, will pounce upon his enemies. But for the present he must becontent to “perch upon the smartweed,” i.e., put up with his troubles.



They clear away the grass and the bushes;
And the ground is laid open by their ploughs.
In thousands of pairs they remove the roots,
Some in the low wet lands, some along the dykes.
There are the master and his eldest son;
His younger sons, and all their children;
Their strong helpers, and their hired servants.
How the noise of their eating the viands brought to them resounds!
[The husbands] think lovingly of their wives;
[The wives] keep close to their husbands.
[Then] with their sharp plough-shares,
They set to work on the south-lying acres.
They sow their different kinds of grain,
Each seed containing in it a germ of life.
In unbroken lines rises the blade,
And well-nourished the stalks grow long.
Luxuriant looks the young grain,
And the weeders go among it in multitudes.
Then come the reapers in crowds,
And the grain is piled up the fields,
Myriads, and hundreds of thousands, and millions [of stacks];
For spirits and for sweet spirits,
To offer to our ancestors, male and female,
And to provide for all ceremonies.
Fragrant is their aroma,
Enhancing the glory of the State.
Like pepper is their smell,
To give comfort to the aged.
It is not here only that there is this [abundance];
It is not now only that there is such a time:
From of old it has been thus.


 Clear Away the Grass

They clear away the grass, the trees;
Their ploughs open up the ground.
In a thousand pairs they tug at weeds and roots,
Along the low grounds, along the ridges.
There is the master and his eldest son,
There the headman and overseer.1
They mark out, they plough.
Deep the food-baskets that are brought;
Dainty are the wives,
The men press close to them.
And now with shares so sharp
They set to work upon the southern acre.
They sow the many sorts of grain,
The seeds that hold moist life.
How the blade shoots up,
How sleek, the grown plant;
Very sleek, the young grain!
Band on band, the weeders ply their task.
Now they reap, all in due order;
Close-packed are their stooks—
Myriads, many myriads and millions,
To make wine, make sweet liquor,
As offering to ancestor and ancestress,
For fulfillment of all the rites.
“When sweet the fragrance of offering,
Glory shall come to the fatherland.
When pungent the scent,
The blessed elders are at rest.”2
Not only here is it like this,
Not only now is it so.
From long ago it has been thus.

1. “Headman and overseer.” Ya 亞 is literally “seconder.” I take lu in the sense of government inspector, who sees that a due proportion of land is tilled for tithe purposes. See Zhou li, chapter 30, folio 1. But this is pure speculation. Kao means “deceased fathers,” the term “father” including paternal uncles.
2. Or, “are reassured”; ning is technical of visits to “reassure” the anxious. The two sayings have the form of proverbs.



Very sharp are the excellent shares,
With which they set to work on the south-lying acres.
They sow their different kinds of grain,
Each seed containing a germ of life.
There are those who come to see them,
With their baskets round and square,
Containing the provision of millet.
With their light splint hats on their heads,
They ply their hoes on the ground,
Clearing away the smart-weed on the dry land and wet.
These weeds being decayed,
The millets grow luxuriantly.
They fall rustling before the reapers.
And [the sheaves] are set up solidly,
High as a wall,
United together like the teeth of a comb;
And the hundred houses are opened [to receive the grain].
Those hundred houses being full,
The wives and children have a feeling of repose.
[Now] we kill this black-muzzled tawny bull,
With his crooked horns,
To imitate and hand down,
To land down [the observances of] our ancestors.


 Very Sharp

Very sharp, the good shares,
At work on the southern acre.
Now they sow the many sorts of grain,
The seeds that hold moist life.
Here come provisions for you,
Carried in baskets, in hampers.
Their dinner is fine millet,
Their rush-hats finely plaited,
Their hoes cut deep
To clear away thisde and smartweed:
“Where thistle and smartweed lie rotting,
Millet grows apace.”
It rustles at the reaping,
Nods heavy at the stacking,
It is piled high as a wall,
Is as even as the teeth of a comb.
All the barns are opened:
“When all the barns are brim full,
Wife and child will be at peace.”
We kill this black-muzzled bull.
Oh, crooked1 is its horn!
We shall succeed, we shall continue,
Continue the men of old.

1. The crumpled horn suggests “hooking on” one generation to another.



In his silken robes, clear and bright,
With his cap on his head, looking so respectful,
From the hall he goes to the foot of the stairs,
And from the sheep to the oxen.
[He inspects] the tripods, large and small.
The good spirits are mild;
There is no noise, no insolence:
An auspice, [all this], of great longevity.


 Silk Robes

In silk robes so spotless,
In brown caps closely sewn,
From the hall we go to the stair-foot,
From the sheep to the bulls,
With big cauldrons and litde.
Long-curving the drinking-horn;
The good wine so soft.
No noise, no jostling;
And the blessed ancestors will send a boon.



Oh! powerful was the king’s army;
But he nursed it in obedience to circumstances while the time was yet dark.
When the time was clearly bright,
He thereupon donned his grand armour.
We have been favoured to receive,
What the martial king accomplished.
To deal aright with what we have inherited,
We have to be sincere imitators of thy course, [O king].



Oh, gloriously did the king lead;
Swift was he to pursue and take.
Unsullied shines his light;
Hence our great succor,
We all alike receive it.
Valiant were the king’s deeds;
Therefore there is a long inheritance.
Yes, it was your doing;
Truly, you it was who led.

This is perhaps the most difficult poem in the whole book, and I not confident that I have understood it correctly.



There is peace throughout our myriad regions;
There has been a succession of plentiful years:
Heaven does not weary in its favour.
The martial king Wu,
Maintained [the confidence of] his officers,
And employed them all over the kingdom,
So securing the establishment of his Family.
Oh! glorious was he in the sight of Heaven,
Which kinged him in the room [of Shang].



He brought peace to myriad lands,
And continual years of abundance.
Heaven’s bidding he never neglected.
Bold was King Wu,
Guarded and aided by his knights
He held his lands on every side.
Firmly he grounded his House.
Bright he shines in Heaven,
Helping those that succeed him.



King Wen laboured earnestly;
Right is it we should have received [the kingdom].
We will diffuse [his virtue], ever cherishing the thought of him;
Henceforth we will seek only the settlement [of the kingdom].
It was he through whom came the appointment of Zhou;
Oh! let us ever cherish the thought of him.



It was King Wen that labored;
We, according to his work, receive.
He spread his bounties;
Ours now to make secure
The destiny of this Zhou.
Oh, his bounties!



Oh! great now is Zhou.
We ascend the high hills,
Both those that are long and narrow, and the lofty mountains;
Yes, and [we travel] along the regulated He,
All under the sky,
Assembling those who now respond to me.
Thus it is that the appointment belongs to Zhou.



Mighty this people of Zhou!
It climbed those high hills,
The narrow ridges, towering peaks;
Followed gully and wide stream.
To all that is under Heaven
Is linked as compeer
The destiny of Zhou.


The next song is traditionally supposed to have been made by Ke, Grand Scribe of Lu, who flourished about 609 BC, but lived on a
considerable time later. The most natural explanation of it is to suppose that the Lu people had received a gift of horses (possibly from the Zhou State).



Fat and large are the stallions,
On the plains of the far-distant borders.
Of those stallions, fat and large,
Some are black and white-breeched; some light yellow;
Some, pure black; some, bay;
[All], splendid carriage horses.
His thoughts are without limit;
He thinks of his horses, and they are thus good.

Fat and large are the stallions,
On the plains of the far-distant borders.
Of those stallions, fat and large,
Some are piebald, green and white; others, yellow and white;
Some, yellowish red; some, dapple grey;
[All], strong carriage horses.
His thoughts are without end;
He thinks of his horses, and they are thus strong.

Fat and large are the stallions,
On the plains of the far-distant borders.
Of those stallions, fat and large,
Some are flecked as with scales; some, white and black-maned;
Some, red and black-maned; some, black and white-maned;
[All], docile in the carriage,
His thoughts never weary;
He thinks of his horses, and such they become.

Fat and large are the stallions,
On the plains of the far-distant borders.
Of those stallions, fat and large,
Some are cream-coloured; some, red and white;
Some, with white hairy legs; some, with fishes’ eyes;
[All], stout carriage horses.
His thoughts are without depravity;;
He thinks of his horses, and thus serviceable are they.



Stout and strong our stallions
In the paddock meadows;
Look what strong ones!
There is piefoot and brownie,
Blackie and bay,
Fine horses for the chariot.
O that for ever
We may have horses so good!

Stout and strong our stallions
In the paddock meadows;
Look what strong ones!
Brown and white, gray and white,
Chestnut, dapple-gray,
Sturdy horses for the chariot.
O that for all time
We may have horses of such fettle!

Stout and strong our stallions
In the paddock meadows;
Look what strong ones!
Scaly coat, white with black mane,
Roan with black mane, gray with white mane,
Fleet horses for the chariot.
O untiring
May these horses breed!

Stout and strong our stallions
In the paddock meadows;
Look what strong ones!
Gray and white, ruddy and white,
White shank, wall-eye,
Powerful horses for the chariot.
O without slip
May these horses sire!



Fat and strong, fat and strong,
Fat and strong, are the chestnut teams.
Early and late are the [officers] in the court,
In the court, discriminating and intelligent.
[They are as] a flock of egrets on the wing,
Of egrets anon lighting on the ground.
The drums emit their deep sound;
They drink to the full and then dance;
Thus rejoicing together.

Fat and strong, fat and strong,
Fat and strong are the teams of stallions.
Early and late are the [officers] with the prince,
With the prince drinking.
[They are as] a flock of egrets on the wing,
Of egrets flying about.
The drums emit their deep sound;
They drink to the full and then return home;
Thus rejoicing together.

Fat and strong, fat and strong,
Fat and strong are the teams of iron-greys.
Early and late are the [officers] with the prince,
With the prince feasting.
‘From this time forth,
May the years be abundant.
May our prince maintain his goodness,
And transmit it to his descendants!’
Thus they rejoice together.



Oh, stalwart, stalwart,
Stalwart that team of browns!
At dawn of night in the palace,
In the palace that is growing light,
There throng the egrets,1
Egrets that sink down.
The drum goes din, din.
They are drunk and dance.
Heigh, the joys we share!

Oh, stalwart, stalwart,
Stalwart those four steeds!
At dawn of night in the palace,
In the palace, drinking wine,
There throng the egrets,
Egrets in flight.
The drum goes din, din.
They are drunk and must go home.
Heigh, the joys we share!

Oh, stalwart, stalwart,
Stalwart that team of grays!
At dawn of night in the palace,
In the palace a feast is set.
From this day as beginning
Every harvest shall have surplus,
Our lord shall have corn
To give to grandsons and sons.
Heigh, the joys we share!

1. As we have seen above (no. 136), dancers held egret plumes in their hands, and “the egrets” here means the dancers. They are compared to strong steeds; it is possible that they wore horse-masks or were in some way accoutred as hobby-horses. Not, however, quite in the way familiar to us; for the ancient Chinese drove horses, but did not ride them.



Pleasant is the semi-circular water,
And we will gather the cress about it.
The marquis of Lu is coming to it,
And we see his dragon-figured banner.
His banner waves in the wind,
And the bells of his horses tinkle harmoniously.
Small and great,
All follow the prince in his progress to it.

Pleasant is the semi-circular water,
And we will gather the pondweed in it.
The marquis of Lu has come to it,
With his horses looking so grand.
His horses are grand.
His fame is brilliant.
Blandly he looks and smiles;
Without any impatience he delivers his instructions.

Pleasant is the semi-circular water,
And we will gather the mallows about it.
The marquis of Lu has come to it,
And in the college he is drinking.
He is drinking the good spirits;
And may there be given him the old age that is seldom enjoyed!
May he accord with the grand ways,
So subduing to himself all the people!

Very admirable is the marquis of Lu,
Reverently displaying his virtue,
And reverently watching over his deportment,
The pattern of the people.
With great qualities truly civil and martial,
Brilliantly he affects his meritorious ancestors.
In everything entirely filial,
He seeks the blessing for himself.

Very intelligent is the marquis of Lu,
Making his virtue illustrious.
He has made this college with its semicircle of water,
And the tribes of the Huai will submit in consequence.
His martial-looking, tiger leaders,
Will here present the left ears [of their foes].
His examiners, wise as Gao-tao,
Will here present their prisoners.

His numerous officers,
Men who have enlarged their virtuous minds,
With martial energy conducting their expedition,
Will drive far away those tribes of the east and south.
Vigorous and grand,
Without noise or display,
Without having appealed to the judges,
They will here present [the proofs of] their merit.

How they draw their bows adorned with bone!
How their arrows whizz forth!
Their war chariots are very large!
Their footmen and charioteers never weary!
They have subdued the tribes of the Huai,
And brought them to an unrebellious submission!
Only lay your plans securely,
And all the tribes of the Huai will be got!

They come flying on the wing, those owls,
And settle on the trees about the college;
They eat the fruit of our mulberry trees,
And salute us with fine notes.
So awakened shall be those tribes of the Huai;
They will come presenting their precious things,
Their large tortoises and their elephants’ teeth,
And great contributions of the southern metals.


Waves of the Pan

Oh, merry the waves of the Pan;
Come, pluck the water-cress.
The Lord of Lu has come;
See, there are his banners.
His banners flutter,
His bells tinkle.
Both little and great
Follow our duke on his way.

Oh, merry the waves of the Pan;
Come, pluck the water-grass.
The Lord of Lu has come
With his steeds so strong.
His steeds so strong,
His fame so bright.
He glances, he smiles,
Very patiently he teaches us.

Oh, merry the waves of the Pan;
Come, pluck the water-mallows.
The Lord of Lu has come,
By the Pan he is drinking wine.
He has drunk the sweet wine.
That will give him youth unending;
Following those fixed ways
He assembles the thronging herds.1

1. Of his guests? Meaning very uncertain. Comparison with no. 180, verse one, suggests that they must be animals; or war-captives?

Reverent is the Lord of Lu,
Scrupulously he keeps his power bright,
Attentively he carries out every attitude and pose,
A model to his people.
In peace truly admirable and in war,
Casting radiance on his noble ancestors,
Pious toward them in all things,
Bringing upon himself nought but blessings.

Illustrious is the Lord of Lu,
Well he causes his power to shine.
He has made the palace on the Pan,
Where the tribes of Huai come to submit.
Valiant the tiger-slaves2
At Pan, offering the severed ears;
Our lord questions skillfully as Gao-yao,3
While at Pan they offer the captives.

2. Military officers.
3. Legendary judge, whose portrait in after days was hung in law-courts. His name means “drum,” or “drum-post.”

Magnificent the many knights
Who well have spread the power of his desires,
Valiant on the march
They trimmed the tribes of the south-east.
Doughty and glorious,
Yet not bragging or boasting,
Not sharp in contention

By the Pan they announce their deeds.
“Our horn4 bows were springy,
Our sheaves of arrows whizzed;
Our war-chariots were very steady,
Foot-soldiers and riders were untiring.
We have quite conquered the tribes of Huai;
They are very quiet, they have ceased to resist.
We have carried out your plans;
The tribes of Huai have all been dealt with.”

4. This expression evidently implies that horn entered into the composition of the bow; but whether as a strengthening to the tip or as part of the substance of the arc we do not know.

Fluttering, that owl on the wing
Has roosted in the woods of Pan;
It is eating our mulberry fruits,
Drawn by the lure of our fame.
From afar those tribes of Huai
Come with tribute of their treasures,
Big tortoises, elephant-tusks,
And great store of southern gold.5

5. “Jin” may well not mean ”gold.” But archaeological evidence is not at presrm so complete that we can exclude all possibility of “gold” being mentioned circa 650 BC, the probable date of this poem.



How pure and still are the solemn temples,
In their strong solidity and minute completeness!
Highly distinguished was Jiang Yuan,
Of virtue undeflected.
God regarded her with favour;
And without injury or hurt,
Immediately, when her months were fulfilled,
She gave birth to Hou-ji.
On him were conferred all blessings,
[To know] how the millet ripened early, and the sacrificial millet late,
How first to sow pulse, and then wheat.
Anon he was invested with an inferior State,
And taught the people how to sow and to reap,
The millet and the sacrificial millet,
Rice and the black millet;
Ere long all over the whole country;
[Thus] continuing the work of Yu.

Among the descendants of Hou-ji,
There was king Da,
Dwelling on the south of [mount] Qi,
Where the clipping of Shang began.
In process of time Wen and Wu,
Continued the work of king Da,
And [the purpose of] Heaven was carried out in its time,
In the plain of Mu.
‘Have no doubts, no anxieties,’ [it was said];
‘God is with you.’
[Wu] disposed of the troops of Shang;
He and his men shared equally in the achievement.
[Then] king [Qing] said, ‘My uncle,
I will set up your eldest son,
And make him marquis of Lu.
I will greatly enlarge your territory there,
To be a help and support to the House of Zhou.’

Accordingly he appointed [our first] duke of Lu,
And make him marquis in the east,
Giving him the hills and rivers,
The lands and fields, and the attached States.
The [present] descendant of the duke of Zhou,
The son of duke Zhuang,
With dragon-emblazoned banner attends the sacrifices,
His six reins soft and pliant.
In spring and autumn he does not neglect [the sacrifices];
His offerings are all without error.
To the great and sovereign God,
And to his great ancestor Hou-ji,
He offers the victims, red and pure.
Then enjoy, they approve,
And bestow blessings in large number.
The duke of Zhou, and [your other] great ancestors,
Also bless you.

In autumn comes the sacrifices of the season,
But in summer the bulls for it have had their horns capped.
They are the white bull and the red one;
[There are] the bull-figured goblet in its dignity;
Roast pig, minced meat, and soups;
The dishes of bamboo and wood, and the large stand;
And the dancers all-complete.
The filial descendant will be blessed.
[Your ancestors]will make you gloriously prosperous!
They will make you long-lived and good,
To preserve this eastern region,
Long possessing the State of Lu,
Unwaning, unfallen,
Unshaken, undisturbed!
They will make your friendship with your three aged [ministers],
Like the hills, like the mountains!

Our prince’s chariots are a thousand,
[And in each] are the vermilion tassels and the green bands of the two spears and two bows.
His footmen are thirty thousand,
With shells no vermillion-strings adorning their helmets.
So numerous are his ardent followers,
To deal with the tribes of the west and north,
And to punish [those of] King and Shu,
So that none of them will dare to withstand us.
May [the Spirits] make you grandly prosperous!
May they make you long-lived and wealthy!
May the hoary hair and wrinkled back,
Marking the aged men, be always in your employment!
May they make you prosperous and great!
May they grant you old age, ever vigorous,
For myriads and thousands of years,
With the eyebrows of longevity, and ever unharmed!

The mountain of Da is lofty,
Looked up to by the State of Lu.
We grandly possess also Gui and Mong;
And we shall extend to the limits of the east,
Even the States along the sea.
The tribes of the Huai will seek our alliance;
All will proffer their allegiance:
Such shall be the achievements of the marquis of Lu.

He shall maintain the possession of Hu and Yi,
And extend his sway to the regions of Xu,
Even to the States along the sea.
The tribes of the Huai, the Man, and the Mi,
And those tribes [still more] to the south,
All will proffer their allegiance:
Not one will dare not to answer to his call,
Thus showing their obedience to the marquis of Lu.

Heaven will give great blessing to our prince,
So that with the eyebrows of longevity he shall maintain Lu.
He shall possess Chang and Xu,
And recover all the territory of the duke of Zhou.
Then shall the marquis of Lu feast and be glad,
With his admirable wife and aged mother;
With his excellent ministers and all his [other] officers.
Our region and State shall be hold,
Thus receiving many blessings,
To hoary hair, with a child’s teeth.

The pines of Cu-lei,
And the cypresses of Xin-fu,
Were cut down and measured,
With the cubit line and the eight cubits line.
The projecting beams of pine were large;
The large inner apartments rose vast.
Splendid look the new temples,
The work of Xi-si,
Very wide and large,
Answering to the expectations of all the people.


The Closed Temple1

Holy is the Closed Temple,
Vast and mysterious;
Glorious was Jiang Yuan,
Her power was without flaw.
God on high succored her;
Without hurt, without harm,
Fulfilling her months, but not late,
She bore Hou Ji,
Who brought down many blessings,
Millet for wine, millet for cooking, the early planted and the late planted,
The early ripening and the late ripening, beans and corn.
He took possession of all lands below,
Setting the people to husbandry.
They had their millet for wine, their millet for cooking,
Their rice, their black millet.
I le took possession of all the earth below,
Continuing the work of Yu.2

1. For names herein, see Important Legendary and Historical Figures in the front of the book. Ed.
2. See no. 261.

Descendant of Houji
Was the Great King
Who lived on the southern slopes of Mount Qi
And began to trim the Shang.
Till at last came King Wen and King Wu,
And continued the Great King’s task,
Fulfilled the wrath of Heaven
In the field of Mu:
“No treachery, no blundering!
God on high is watching you.”
He overthrew the hosts of Shang,
He completed his task.
The king said, ”Uncle,3
Set up your eldest son,
Make him lord in Lu;
Open up for yourself a great domain,
To support the house of Zhou.”

3. The Duke of Zhou.

So he caused the Duke of Lu
To be lord of the east,
Gave him the hills and streams,
Lands, fields, dependencies.
The descendant of the Duke of Zhou,
Son of Duke Zhuang2
With dragon-painted banners made smoke-offering and sacrifice,
His six reins so glossy,
At spring and autumn most diligent,
In offering and sacrifice never fading:
“Very mighty is the Lord God,
A mighty ancestor is Hou Ji.”

4. Duke Xi, 659-27 BC.

Of a tawny bull we make offering;
It is accepted, it is approved,
Many blessings are sent down.
The Duke of Zhou is a mighty ancestor;
Surely he will bless you.
In autumn we offer the first-fruits;
In summer we bind the thwart5
Upon white bull and upon tawny.
In many a sacrificial vase
Is roast pork, mince, and soup.
The vessels of bamboo and of wood are on the great stand;
The Wan dance is very grand.
To the pious descendant comes luck;
The ancestors have made you blaze, made you glorious,
Long-lived and good;
Have guarded that eastern realm.
The land of Lu shall be for ever,
Shall not crack or crumble,
Shall not shake or heave.
In long life you shall be Orion’s peer,6
Steady as the ridges and hills.
A thousand war-chariots has the duke,
Red tassels, green lashings,
The two lances, bow lashed to bow,
His footmen thirty thousand;
Their helmets hung with shells on crimson strings.
Many footmen pressing on
Have faced the tribes of Rong and Di.7
Have given pause to Jing and Xu,8
None dares resist us.

5. A bar placed on the horns, to mark the animals as sacrificial.
6. Similar formula are very common on bronze inscriptions. See Guo Mo-ruo, on the Zong Zhou bell inscription, Kao shi, 1, 53 verso. Some inscriptions have the character for “3” instead of the proper character for “Orion’s belt,” just as here. I only accept this explanation provisionally; the relevant inscriptions have not been satisfactorily deciphered.
7. The Rong tribes raided the Zhou capital in 649; the Di attacked central China at a number of different points toward the middle of the seventh century BC.
8. Jing are the southern people known later as Chu. The Xu (in south-west Shandong and Anhui) were regarded as non-Chinese, but at this period often fought in ailliance with the Chinese. We know from the Zuo zhuan that Duke Xi took part in an expedition against Chu in 656 BC.

The ancestors shall make you glorious, shall make you blaze,
Shall make you long-lived and rich,
Till locks are sere and back is bent;
An old age easy and agreeable.
They shall make you glorious and great,
Make you settled and secure,
For thousands upon ten thousands of years;
Safe you shall live for evermore.

To Mount Tai that towers so high
The land of Lu reaches.
He took Gui and Meng,9
Then he laid hands on the Greater East,10
As far as the coast lands.
The tribes of the Huai River came to terms,
There were none that did not obey.
Such were the deeds of the Lord of Lu.

9. Two hills near the Tai-shan. “He” is Duke Xi.
10. See on no. 203.

In his protection are Fu and Yi;11
In his hold the realms of Xu
As far as the coast lands.
The tribes of Huai, the Muan, and the Mo,
And those tribes of the south—
There were none that did not obey,
None that dare refuse assent.
All have submitted to the Lord of Lu.

11. Hills in south-central Shandong.

Heaven gives the duke its deepest blessings.
In hoary age he has protected Lu,
He has made settlements in Chang and Xu,12
Restored the realm of the Duke of Zhou.
Let the Lord of Lu feast and rejoice,
With his noble wife, his aged mother,
Bringing good to ministers and commoners,
Prosperity to his land and realm.
Very many blessings he has received;
In his time of sere locks he has cut new teeth!

12. Western Shandong.

The pines of Mount Chu-lai,13
The cypresses of Xin-fu 14
Were cut, were measured
Into cubits, into feet.
The roof-beams of pine-wood stick far out,
The great chamber is very vast,
The new shrine very large,
That Xi-si made;
Very long and huge;
Whither all the peoples come in homage.

13. Hills near the present Dai’an.
14. Also near Dai’an.

Some critics make out that the last line but two must be interpreted “Xi-si made this song.” Such a meaning can only be got by altering the text. Xi-si was a son of Huan, Duke of Lu (711-694 BC). This is a Court poem and very much exaggerates the military and political importance of Lu at this time.


These hymns are from the state of Song, whose people were descendant Shang; while they probably contain older Shang material, they must date from Zhou times, perhaps the seventh century BC. Ed.



How admirable! how complete!
Here are set our hand-drums and drums.
The drums resound harmonious and loud,
To delight our meritorious ancestor.
The descendant of Tang invites him with this music,
That he may soothe us with the realization of our thoughts.
Deep is the sound of the hand-drums and drums;
Shrilly sound the flutes;
All harmonious and blending together,
According to the notes of the sonorous gem.
Oh! majestic is the descendant of Tang;
Very admirable is his music.
The large bells and drums fill the ear;
The various dances are grandly performed.
We have admirable visitors,
Who are pleased and delighted.
From the old, before our time,
The former men set us the example;
How to be mild and humble from morning to night,
And to be reverent in discharging the service.
May he regard our sacrifices in summer and autumn,
[Thus] offered by the descendant of Tang!



Oh, fine, oh, lovely!
We set up our tambourines and drums.
We play on the drums loud and strong,
To please our glorious ancestors.
The descendant of Tang1 has come;
He has secured our victories.
There is a din of tambourines and drums;
A shrill music of flutes,
All blent in harmony
With the sound of our stone chimes.
Magnificent the descendant of Tang;
Very beautiful his music.
Splendid are the gongs and drums;
The Wan dance, very grand.
We have here lucky guests;
They too are happy and pleased.
From of old, in days gone by,
Former people began it,
Meek and reverent both day and night,
In humble awe discharging their tasks.
May they heed our burnt-offerings, our harvest offerings,
That Tang’s descendants bring.

1. Tang was the ancestor of the Shang people, said to have been enthroned in 1766 BC. Ed.



Ah! ah! our meritorious ancestor!
Permanent are the blessings coming from him,
Repeatedly conferred without end:
They have come to you in this place.
The clear spirits are in our vessels,
And there is granted to us the realization of our thoughts.
There are also the well-tempered soups,
Prepared beforehand, the ingredients rightly proportioned.
By these offerings we invite his presence, without a word,
Nor is there now any contention [in any part of the service].
He will bless us with the eyebrows of longevity,
With the grey hair and wrinkled face, in unlimited degree.
With the naves of their wheels bound with leather, and their ornamented yokes,
With the eight bells at their horses’ bits all tinkling,
[The princess] come and assist at the offerings.
We have received the appointment in all its greatness,
And from Heaven is our prosperity sent down,
Fruitful years of great abundance.
[Our ancestor] will come and enjoy [our offerings],
And confer [on us] happiness without limit.
May he regard our sacrifices in summer and winter,
[Thus] offered by the descendant of Tang!


Glorious Ancestors

Ah, the glorious ancestors—
Endless their blessings,
Boundless their gifts are extended;
To you, too, they needs must reach.
We have brought them clear wine;
They will give victory.
Here, too, is soup well seasoned,
Well prepared, well mixed.
Because we come in silence,
Setting all quarrels aside,
They make safe for us a ripe old age,
We shall reach the withered cheek, we shall go on and on.
With our leather-bound naves, our bronze-clad yokes,
With eight bells a-jangle
We come to make offering.
The charge put upon us is vast and mighty,
From Heaven dropped our prosperity,
Good harvests, great abundance.
They come,1 they accept,
They send down blessings numberless.
They regard the paddy-offerings, the offerings of first-fruits
That Tang’s descendant brings.

1. The ancestors.



Heaven commissioned the swallow,
To descend and give birth to [the father of our] Shang.
[His descendants] dwelt in the land of Yin, and became great.
[Then] long ago God appointed the martial Tang,
To regulate the boundaries throughout the four quarters.
[In those] quarters he appointed the princes,
And grandly possessed the nine regions [of the kingdom].
The first sovereign of Shang,
Received the appointment without any element of instability in it,
And it is [now] held by the descendant of Wu-ding.
The descendant of Wu-ding,
Is a martial king, equal to every emergency.
Ten princes, [who came] with their dragon-emblazoned banners,
Bear the large dishes of millet.
The royal domain of a thousand Li,
Is where the people rest;
But there commence the boundaries that reach to the four seas.
From the four seas they come [to out sacrifices];
They come in multitudes;
King has the He for its outer border.
That Yin should have received the apppointment [of Heaven] was entirely right;
[Its sovereign] sustains all its dignities.


That the Shang were fundamentally different in origin from the Zhou is suggested by the fact that they had a quite different type of origin myth. The Shang were descended from a lady called Jian Di, into whose mouth the “dark bird” (the swallow) dropped an egg. This is the typical eastern Chinese origin myth. The ruling family of Qin, which came from eastern China, gave an almost identical account of their origin. In the origin story of the Manchus a magpie drops a red fruit. In some Korean stories the egg is exposed just as the child is in the story of Hou Ji, and in succession dogs, pigs, cattle, horses, birds, so far from doing it injury, vie with one another in guarding and fostering it.

The Dark Bird

Heaven bade the dark bird
To come down and bear the Shang,
Who dwelt in the lands of Yin so wide.
Of old God bade the warlike Tang
To partition the frontier lands.
To those lands was he assigned as their lord;
Into his keeping came all realms.
The early lords of Shang
Received a charge that was never in peril.
In the time of Wu Ding’s1 grandsons and sons,
Wu Ding’s grandsons and sons,
Warlike kings ever conquered,
With dragon-banners and escort of ten chariots.
Great store of viands they offered,
Even their inner domain was a thousand leagues;
In them the people found sure support.
They opened up new lands as far as the four seas.
Men from the four seas came in homage,
Came in homage, crowd on crowd;
Their2 frontier was the river.
Yin received a charge that was all good;
Many blessings Yin bore.

1. Legendary date, c. 1300 BC.
2. I.e., the Yin frontier.



Profoundly wise were [the lords of] Shang,
And long had there appeared the omens [of their dignity ].
When the waters of the deluge spread vast abroad,
Yu arranged and divided the regions of the land,
And assigned to the exterior great States their boundaries,
With their borders extending all over [the kingdom].
Then the State of Song began to be great,
And God raised up the son [of its daughter], and founded [the Family of] Shang.

The dark king exercised an effective sway.
Charged with a small State, he commanded success;
Charged with a large State, he commanded success.
He followed his rules of conduct without error;
Wherever he inspected [the people], they responded [to his instructions].
[Then came] Xiang-tu, all-ardent,
And all [within] the seas, beyond [the middle region], acknowledged his restraints.

The favour of God did not leave [Shang],
And in Tang was found the subject for its display.
Tang was not born too late,
And his wisdom and virtue daily advanced.
Brilliant was the influence of his character [on Heaven] for long,
And God appointed him to be model to the nine regions.

He received the rank-tokens [of the States], small and large,
Which depended on him, like the pendants of a banner;
So did he receive the blessing of Heaven.
He was neither violent nor remiss,
Neither hard nor soft.
Gently he spread his instructions abroad,
And all dignities and riches were concentrated iin him.

He received the tribute [of the States], large and small,
And he supported them as a strong steed [does its burden];
So did he receive the favour of Heaven.
He displayed everywhere his valour,
Unshaken, unmoved,
Unterrified, unscared:
All dignities were united in him.

The martial king displayed his banner,
And with reverence grasped his axe.
It was like [the case of] a blazing fire,
Which no one can repress.
The root, with its three shoots,
Could make no progress, no growth.
The nine regions were effectually secured by him.
Having smitten [the princes of] Wei and Gu,
He dealt with [the prince of] Kun-wu, and with Jie of Xia.

Formerly in the middle of the period [before Tang],
There was a time of shaking and peril,
But truly did Heaven [then] deal with him as its son,
And sent him down a minister,
Namely A-heng,
Who gave his assistance to the king of Shang.


Always Furthering

Deep and wise was Shang,
Always furthering its good omens.
The waters of the Flood spread wide.
Yu ranged lands and realms on earth below;
Beyond, great kingdoms were his frontier,
And when this far-flung power had been made lasting
The clan of Song1 was favored;
God appointed its child to bear Shang.

The dark king2 valiandy ruled;
The service of small states everywhere he received,
The service of great States everywhere he received.
He followed the precepts of ritual and did not overstep them;
He obeyed the showings of Heaven and carried them out.
Xiang-tu3 was very glorious;
Beyond the seas he ruled.

God’s appointment did not fail;
In the time of Tang it was fulfilled.
Tang came down in his due time,
Wise warnings daily multiplied,
Magnificent was the radiance that shone below.
God on high gazed down;
God appointed him to be a model to all the lands.
He received the big statutes, the httle statutes,
He became a mark and signal to the lands below.
He bore the blessing of Heaven,
Neither violent nor slack,
Neither hard nor soft.
He spread his ordinances in gende harmony,
A hundred blessings he gathered upon himself.

Great laws and little laws he received,
He became great protector of the lands below.
He bore the favor of Heaven.
Far and wide he showed his valor,
Was never shaken or moved,
Never feared nor trembled;
A hundred blessings he united in himself.

The warlike king gave the signal;
Firmly he grasped his battle-axe,
His wrath blazed like a fire.
None dare do us injury.
The stem had three sprouts;4
None prospered nor grew.
All the regions were subdued;
Wei and Gu were smitten,
Kun-wu, and Jie of Xia.5

Of old, in the middle time,
There were tremblings and dangers.
But truly Heaven cherished us;
It gave us a minister,6
A true “holder of the balance,”
Who succored the King of Shang.

1. From whom sprang Jian-di, the ancestor of the Shang.
2. Xie, child of the lady who swallowed the egg.
3. Grandson of Xie.
4. The “three sprouts” must have been three kindred enemies, but who they were we do not know.
5. Xia was the dynasty that Tang the Victorious overthrew. We know very little about Wei, Gu, and the others.
6. The famous Yi Yin, who is connected with the Shang version of the deluge myth.



Rapid was the warlike energy of [our king of] Yin,
And vigorously did he attack Jing-Chu.
Boldly he entered its dangerous passes,
And brought the multitudes of King together,
Till the country was reduced under complete restraint:
Such was the fitting achievement of the descendant of Tang.

‘Ye people,’ [he said], ‘of Jing-chu,
Dwell in the southern part of my kingdom.
Formerly, in the time of Tang the Successful,
Even from the Jiang of Di,
They dared not but come with their offerings;
[Their chiefs] dared not but come to seek acknowledgment:
Such is the regular rule of Shang.’

Heaven has given their appointments [to the princes],
But where their capitals had been assigned within the sphere of the labours of Yu,
For the business of every year, they appeared before our king,
[Saying], ‘Do not punish nor reprove us;
We have not been remiss in our husbandry.’

When Heaven by its will is inspecting [the kingdom],
The lower people are to be feared.
[Our king] showed no partiality [in rewarding], no excess [in punishing];
He dared not to allow himself in indolence:
So was his appointment [established] over the States,
And he made his happiness grandly secure.

The capital of Shang was full of order,
The model for all parts of the kingdom,
Glorious was his fame;
Brilliant, his energy.
Long lived he and enjoyed tranquillity,
And so he preserves us, his descendants.

We ascended the hill of King,
Where the pines and cypresses grew symmetrical.
We cut them down, and conveyed them here;
We reverently hewed them square.
Long are the projecting beams of pine;
Large are the many pillars.
The temple was completed, the tranquil abode [of his tablet].


Warriors of Yin

Swiftly those warriors of Yin
Rushed to the onslaught upon Jing and Chu,
Entered deep into their fastnesses,
Captured the hosts of Jing,
Divided and ruled their places;
Such was the work of Tang’s descendants.

O you people of Jing and Chu,
You must have your home in the southern parts.
Long ago there was Tang the Victorious;
Of these, Di and Qiang1
None dared not to make offering to him,
None dared not to acknowledge him their king,
Saying, “Shang for ever!”

Heaven bade the many princes
To make the capital where Yu wrought his work.2
The produce of the harvest they brought in homage:
“Do not scold or reprove us;
We have not been idle in our husbandry.”

At Heaven’s bidding they3 looked down;
The peoples below were awed,
There were no disorders, no excesses;
They dared not be idle or pause.
Heaven’s charge was upon the lands below,
Firmly were their blessings planted and established.

Splendid was the capital of Shang,
A pattern to the peoples on every side,
Glorious was its fame,
Great indeed its magic power,
Giving long life and peace,
And safety to us that have come after.

They climbed yon Mount Jing4
Where the pines and cypresses grew thick.
They cut them, they carried them,
Square-hewed them upon the block.
The beams of pine-wood stuck out far,
Mighty were the ranged pillars.
The hall was finished; all was hushed and still.

1. These are different Di from the ones mentioned above. They and the Qiang were related to the Tibetans.
2. In the lands rescued by the Great Yu from the flood.
3. The ancestors.
4. In northern Henan. This ballad, ending with the building of a palace, is very similar to no. 300. It is not clear whether the palace here referred to is one built by the men of Shang in old days or one built by the men of Song, their successors, about the seventh century BC.