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The Doctrine of the Mean
What Heaven has conferred is called The Nature; an accordance with
this nature is called The Path of duty; the regulation of this path
is called Instruction.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chung-ni said, "The superior man embodies the course of the Mean;
the mean man acts contrary to the course of the Mean.
"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 said, "Perfect is the virtue which is according to the
Mean! Rare have they long been among the people, who could practice
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.
"There is no body but eats and drinks. But they are few who can distinguish
The Master said, "Alas! How is the path of the Mean untrodden!"
The Master said, "There was 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
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 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, its 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."
Tsze-lu asked about energy.
The Master said, "Do you mean the energy of the South, the energy
of the North, or the energy which you should cultivate yourself?
"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.
"To lie under arms; and meet death without regret:-this is the energy
of northern regions, and the forceful make it their study.
"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 inclining 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!"
The Master said, "To live in obscurity, and yet practice wonders,
in order to be mentioned with honor in future ages:-this is what I
do not do.
"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.
"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."
The way which the superior man pursues, reaches wide and far, and
yet is secret.
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 practice; yet in its utmost
reaches, there is that which even the sage is not able to carry into
practice. 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 his 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.
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "The hawk flies up to heaven; the
fishes leap in the deep." This expresses how this way is seen above
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.
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.
"In the Book of Poetry, it is said, 'In hewing an ax handle, in hewing
an ax handle, the pattern is not far off. We grasp one ax 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.
"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
"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 require 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 practicing the ordinary virtues, and careful
in speaking about them, if, in his practice, he has anything defective,
the superior man dares not but 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
his words; is it not just an entire sincerity which marks the superior
The superior man does what is proper to the station in which he is;
he does not desire to go beyond this.
In a position of wealth and honor, he does what is proper to a position
of wealth and honor. 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.
In a high situation, he does not treat with contempt his inferiors.
In a low situation, he does not court the favor of his superiors.
He rectifies himself, and seeks for nothing from others, so that he
has no dissatisfactions. He does not murmur against Heaven, nor grumble
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.
The Master said, "In archery we have something like the way of the
superior man. When the archer misses the center of the target, he
turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself."
The way of the superior man may be compared to what takes place in
traveling, 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
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."
The Master said, "In such a state of things, parents have entire complacence!"
The Master said, "How abundantly do spiritual beings display the powers
that belong to them!
"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
"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 the heads, and on the right and left of their worshippers.
"It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'The approaches of the spirits,
you cannot sunrise; and can you treat them with indifference?'
"Such is the manifestness of what is minute! Such is the impossibility
of repressing the outgoings of sincerity!"
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.
"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.
"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
"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 his
emoluments of dignity. It protected him, assisted him, decreed him
the throne; sending from Heaven these favors, as it were repeatedly.'
"We may say therefore that he who is greatly virtuous will be sure
to receive the appointment of Heaven."
The Master said, "It is only King Wan 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
"King Wu continued the enterprise of King T'ai, King Chi, and King
Wan. He once buckled on his armor, 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
"It was in his old age that King Wu received the appointment to the
throne, and the duke of Chau completed the virtuous course of Wan
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.
The Master said, "How far-extending was the filial piety of King Wu
and the duke of Chau!
"Now filial piety is seen in the skillful carrying out of the wishes
of our forefathers, and the skillful carrying forward of their undertakings.
"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 offerings of the several seasons.
"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
"They occupied the places of their forefathers, practiced their ceremonies,
and performed their music. They reverenced those whom they honored,
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.
"By the ceremonies of the sacrifices to Heaven and Earth they served
God, and by the ceremonies of the ancestral temple they sacrificed
to their ancestors. He who understands the ceremonies of the sacrifices
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!"
The Duke Ai asked about government.
The Master said, "The government of Wan 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.
"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.
"Therefore the administration of government lies in getting proper
men. Such men are to be got by means of the ruler's own character.
That character is to be cultivated by his treading in the ways of
duty. And the treading those ways of duty is to be cultivated by the
cherishing of benevolence.
"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
honoring the worthy. The decreasing measures of the love due to relatives,
and the steps in the honor due to the worthy, are produced by the
principle of propriety.
"When those in inferior situations do not possess the confidence of
their superiors, they cannot retain the government of the people.
"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
knowledge of men. In order to know men, he may not dispense with a
knowledge of Heaven.
"The duties of universal obligation are five and the virtues wherewith
they are practiced 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 practice
"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 ignorance. But the knowledge being possessed, it comes to the
same thing. Some practice 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."
The Master said, "To be fond of learning is to be near to knowledge.
To practice with vigor is to be near to magnanimity. To possess the
feeling of shame is to be near to energy.
"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.
"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 honoring 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.
"By the ruler's cultivation of his own character, the duties of universal
obligation are set forth. By honoring men of virtue and talents, he
is preserved from errors of judgment. 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 errors
in the practice 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 an 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.
"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 honor to virtue-this is the way for him to encourage
men of worth and talents. Giving them places of honor and large 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 labors:-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.
"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 practice is singleness.
"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 difficulty with
them. If one's actions have been previously determined, there will
be no sorrow in connection with them. If principles of conduct have
been previously determined, the practice of them will be inexhaustible.
"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.
"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 the 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
"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 practice of it.
"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 labor. 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 labor. 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 labor. While there
is anything which he has not discriminated or his discrimination is
not clear, he will not intermit his labor. If there be anything which
he has not practiced, or his practice fails in earnestness, he will
not intermit his labor. 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.
"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 fun 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.
Sincerity is that whereby self-completion is effected, and its way
is that by which man must direct himself.
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.
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. But 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.
Hence to entire sincerity there belongs ceaselessness.
Not ceasing, it continues long. Continuing long, it evidences itself.
Evidencing itself, it reaches far. Reaching far, it becomes large
and substantial. Large and substantial, it becomes high and brilliant.
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.
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.
Such being its nature, without any display, it becomes manifested;
without any movement, it produces changes; and without any effort,
it accomplishes its ends.
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.
The way of Heaven and Earth is large and substantial, high and brilliant,
far-reaching and long-enduring.
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 Hwa 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 trees 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 it, articles
of value and sources of wealth abound in it.
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 Wan!" indicating that it was thus that King Wan was
what he was. Singleness likewise is unceasing.
How great is the path proper to the Sage!
Like overflowing water, it sends forth and nourishes all things, and
rises up to the height of heaven.
All-complete is its greatness! It embraces the three hundred rules
of ceremony, and the three thousand rules of demeanor.
It waits for the proper man, and then it is trodden.
Hence it is said, "Only by perfect virtue can the perfect path, in
all its courses, be made a fact."
Therefore, the superior man honors 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 practice of all propriety.
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?"
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.
To no one but the Son of Heaven does it belong to order ceremonies,
to fix the measures, and to determine the written characters.
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.
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
The Master said, "I may describe the ceremonies of the Hsia dynasty,
but Chi cannot sufficiently attest my words. I have learned the ceremonies
of the Yin dynasty, and in Sung they still continue. I have learned
the ceremonies of Chau, which are now used, and I follow Chau."
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.
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 honored. Unhonored, he cannot
command credence, and not being credited, the people would not follow
Therefore the institutions of the Ruler are rooted in his own character
and conduct, and sufficient attestation of them is given by the masses
of the people. He examines them by comparison with those of the three
kings, 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.
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.
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.
It is said in the Book of Poetry,-"Not disliked there, not tired of
here, from day to day and night tonight, will they perpetuate their
praise." Never has there been a ruler, who did not realize this description,
that obtained an early renown throughout the kingdom.
Chung-ni handed down the doctrines of Yao and Shun, as if they had
been his ancestors, and elegantly displayed the regulations of Wan
and Wul taking them as his model. Above, he harmonized with the times
of Heaven, and below, he was conformed to the water and land.
He may be compared to Heaven and Earth in their supporting and containing,
their overshadowing and curtaining, all things. He may be compared
to the four seasons in their alternating progress, and to the sun
and moon in their successive shining.
All things are nourished together without their injuring one another.
The courses 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.
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.
All-embracing is he and vast, deep and active as a fountain, sending
forth in their due season his virtues.
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.
Therefore his fame overspreads the Middle Kingdom, and extends to
all barbarous tribes. Wherever ships and carriages reach; wherever
the strength of man penetrates; 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 honor and
love him. Hence it is said,-"He is the equal of Heaven."
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
Call him man in his ideal, how earnest is he! Call him an abyss, how
deep is he! Call him Heaven, how vast is he!
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?
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 it is 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
a one, we may be sure, will enter into virtue.
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 equaled is simply this,-his work which
other men cannot see.
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.
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.
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
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, sound
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."
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Translation of "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus" by Augustus is
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