Page:A history of Chinese literature - Giles.djvu/21

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9
BOOK OF HISTORY

to exchange what they had for what they had not, and to dispose of their accumulated stores. In this way all the people got grain to eat, and all the States began to come under good rule.”

A small portion of the Book of History is in verse:—

“The people should be cherished,
And should not be downtrodden.
The people are the root of a country,
And if the root is firm, the country will be tranquil.

. . . . . . .

The palace a wild for lust,
The country a wild for hunting,
Rich wine, seductive music,
Lofty roofs, carved walls,—
Given any one of these,
And the result can only be ruin.”

From the date of the foundation of the Hsia dynasty the throne of the empire was transmitted from father to son, and there were no more abdications in favour of virtuous sages. The fourth division of the Book of History deals with the decadence of the Hsia rulers and their final displacement in B.C. 1766 by T'ang the Completer, founder of the Shang dynasty. By B.C. 1122, the Shang sovereigns had similarly lapsed from the kingly qualities of their founder to even a lower level of degradation and vice. Then arose one of the purest and most venerated heroes of Chinese history, popularly known by his canonisation as Wên Wang. He was hereditary ruler of a principality in the modern province of Shensi, and in B.C. 1144 he was denounced as dangerous to the throne. He was seized and thrown into prison, where he passed two years, occupying himself with the Book of Changes, to which we shall presently return. At length the Emperor, yielding to the entreaties of the people, backed up by the present of a beautiful concubine and some