Page:A history of Chinese literature - Giles.djvu/22

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CHINESE LITERATURE

fine horses, set him at liberty and commissioned him to make war upon the frontier tribes. To his dying day he never ceased to remonstrate against the cruelty and corruption of the age, and his name is still regarded as one of the most glorious in the annals of the empire. It was reserved for his son, known as Wu Wang, to overthrow the Shang dynasty and mount the throne as first sovereign of the Chou dynasty, which was to last for eight centuries to come. The following is a speech by the latter before a great assembly of nobles who were siding against the House of Shang. It is preserved among others in the Book of History, and is assigned to the year B.C. 1133 (Legge's translation):—

“Heaven and Earth are the parents of all creatures; and of all creatures man is the most highly endowed. The sincere, intelligent, and perspicacious among men becomes the great sovereign, and the great sovereign is the parent of the people. But now, Shou, the king of Shang, does not reverence Heaven above, and inflicts calamities on the people below. He has been abandoned to drunkenness, and reckless in lust. He has dared to exercise cruel oppression. Along with criminals he has punished all their relatives. He has put men into office on the hereditary principle. He has made it his pursuit to have palaces, towers, pavilions, embankments, ponds, and all other extravagances, to the most painful injury of you, the myriad people. He has burned and roasted the loyal and good. He has ripped up pregnant women. Great Heaven was moved with indignation, and charged my deceased father, Wên, reverently to display its majesty; but he died before the work was completed.

“On this account I, Fa, who am but a little child, have,