Sacred Books of the East/Volume 3/The Shu/Part 3/Tribute of Yu

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Book I. The Tribute of Yü.


Hsiâ is the dynastic designation under which Yü and his descendants held the throne for 439 years (B.C. 2205–1767). On the conclusion of his labours, according to what was the universally accepted tradition in the Kâu period, Yü was appointed by Yâo to be earl of Hsiâ, a small principality in Ho-nan, identified with the present Yü-kâu, department Khâi-fǎng, which thus still retains the name of Yü.

It has been repeatedly said in the Introduction that the Tribute of Yü describes what was done before the death of Yâo. The reason why it got its place as the first of the Books of Hsiâ was, no doubt, because the merit set forth in it was the ground of Yü's advancement to the throne.

Altogether the Books of Hsiâ are properly no more than three;—a fact which shows that in so early a period the duty of the recorder was little exercised, or that the destruction of its monuments in the course of time was nearly complete. We may assume that it was in consequence of both of these things that, when the collection of the Shû was made, only three documents of Hsiâ were found, to go into it.

The word 'Tribute' in the name of this first Book is not to be understood only in the sense of a contribution paid by one nation to another in acknowledgment of subjection, but also as the contribution of revenue paid by subjects to their proper ruler. The term, moreover, gives a very inadequate idea of the contents, which describe generally the labours of Yü in remedying the disasters occasioned by the inundation with which he had to cope, and how he then defined the boundaries of the different provinces, made other important territorial divisions, and determined the quality of the soil in each province, and the proportion of revenue it should pay, with other particulars. The Book, if we could fully credit it, would be a sort of domesday book of China in the twenty-third century B.C., in the compass of a few pages. In the classification of the Books of the Shû, according to their subject-matter, this is rightly considered as a Canon. The first section of it is divided into one short introductory chapter, and nine others, each containing the account of one province.

Section 1.

1. Yü divided the land. Following the course of the hills, he cut down the trees. He determined the highest hills and largest rivers (in the several regions).

2. With respect to Kî Kâu[1], he did his work at Hû-khâu, and took effective measures at (the mountains) Liang and Khî. Having repaired the works on Thâi-yüan, he proceeded on to the south of (mount) Yo. He was successful with his labours on Tan-hwâi, and went on to the cross-flowing stream of Kang.

The soil of this province was whitish and mellow. Its contribution of revenue was the highest of the highest class, with some proportion of the second. Its fields were the average of the middle class.

The (waters of the) Hăng and Wei were brought to their proper channels, and Tâ-lü was made capable of cultivation.

The wild people of the islands (brought) dresses of skins (i.e. fur dresses); keeping close on the right to the rocks of Kieh, they entered the Ho.

3. Between the Kî and the Ho was Yen Kâu[2].

The nine branches of the Ho were made to keep their proper channels. Lêi-hsiâ was made a marsh, in which (the waters of) the Yung and the ℨü were united. The mulberry grounds were made fit for silkworms, and then (the people) came down from the heights, and occupied the grounds (below).

The soil of this province was blackish and rich; the grass in it was luxuriant, and the trees grew high. Its fields were the lowest of the middle class. Its contribution of revenue was fixed at what would just be deemed the correct amount; but it was not required from it, as from the other provinces, till after it had been cultivated for thirteen years. Its articles of tribute were varnish and silk, and, in baskets, woven ornamental fabrics.

They floated along the Kî and Thâ, and so reached the Ho.

4. The sea and (mount) Tâi were the boundaries of Khing Kâu[3].

(The territory of) Yü-î was defined; and the Wei- and ℨze were made to keep their (old) channels.

Its soil was whitish and rich. Along the shore of the sea were wide tracts of salt land. Its fields were the lowest of the first class, and its contribution of revenue the highest of the second. Its articles of tribute were salt, fine cloth of dolichos fibre, productions of the sea of various kinds ; with silk, hemp, lead, pine trees, and strange stones, from the valleys of Tâi. The wild people of Lâi were taught tillage and pasturage, and brought in their baskets the silk from the mountain mulberry tree.

They floated along the Wăn, and so reached the Kî.

5. The sea, mount Tâi, and the Hwâi were (the boundaries of) Hsü Kâu[4].

The Hwâi and the Î (rivers) were regulated. The (hills) Măng and Yü were made fit for cultivation. (The waters of) Tâ-yeh were confined (so as to form a marsh); and (the tract of) Tung-yüan was successfully brought under management.

The soil of this province was red, clayey, and rich. Its grass and trees grew more and more bushy. Its fields were the second of the highest class; its contribution of revenue was the average of the second. Its articles of tribute were earth of five different colours, variegated pheasants from the valleys of mount Yu, the solitary dryandra from the south of mount Yi, and the sounding-stones that (seemed to) float on the (banks of the) Sze. The wild tribes about the Hwâi brought oyster-pearls and fish, and their baskets full of deep azure and other silken fabrics, chequered and pure white.

They floated along the Hwâi and the Sze, and so reached the Ho.

6. The Hwâi and the sea formed (the boundaries of) Yang Kâu[5].

The (lake of) Phăng-lî was confined to its proper limits, and the sun-birds ( = the wild geese) had places to settle on. The three Kiang were led to enter the sea, and it became possible to still the marsh of Kăn. The bamboos, small and large, then spread about; the grass grew thin and long, and the trees rose high; the soil was miry.

The fields of this province were the lowest of the lowest class; its contribution of revenue was the highest of the lowest class, with a proportion of the class above. Its articles of tribute were gold, silver, and copper; yâo and khwăn stones; bamboos, small and large; (elephants') teeth, hides, feathers, hair, and timber. The wild people of the islands brought garments of grass, with silks woven in shell-patterns in their baskets. Their bundles contained small oranges and pummeloes,—rendered when specially required.

They followed the course of the Kiang and the sea, and so reached the Hwâi and the Sze.

7. (Mount) King and the south of (mount) Hăng formed (the boundaries of) King Kâu[6].

The Kiang and the Han pursued their (common) course to the sea, as if they were hastening to court. The nine Kiang were brought into complete order. The Tho and Khien (streams) were conducted by their proper channels. The land in (the marsh of) Yün (became visible), and (the marsh of) Măng was made capable of cultivation.

The soil of this province was miry. Its fields were the average of the middle class; and its contribution of revenue was the lowest of the highest class. Its articles of tribute were feathers, hair, (elephants') teeth, and hides; gold, silver, and copper; khun trees, wood for bows, cedars, and cypresses; grindstones, whetstones, flint stones to make arrow-heads, and cinnabar; and the khün and lû bamboos, with the hû tree, (all good for making arrows)—of which the Three Regions were able to contribute the best specimens. The three-ribbed rush was sent in bundles, put into cases. The baskets were filled with silken fabrics, azure and deep purple, and with strings of pearls that were not quite round. From the (country of the) nine Kiang, the great tortoise was presented when specially required (and found).

They floated down the Kiang, the Tho, the Khien, and the Han, and crossed (the country) to the Lo, whence they reached the most southern part of the Ho.

8. The King (mountain) and the Ho were (the boundaries of) Kâu[7].

The Î, the Lo, the Khan, and the Kien were conducted to the Ho. The (marsh of) Yung-po was confined within its proper limits. The (waters of that of) Ko were led to (the marsh of) Măng-ku.

The soil of this province was mellow; in the lower parts it was (in some places) rich, and (in others) dark and thin. Its fields were the highest of the middle class; and its contribution of revenue was the average of the highest class, with a proportion of the very highest. Its articles of tribute were varnish, hemp, fine cloth of dolichos fibre, and the bœhmerea. The baskets were full of chequered silks, and of fine floss silk. Stones for polishing sounding-stones were rendered when required.

They floated along the Lo, and so reached the Ho.

9. The south of (mount) Hwâ and the Black-water were (the boundaries of) Liang Kâu[8].

The (hills) Min and Po were made capable of cultivation. The Tho and Khien streams were conducted by their proper channels. Sacrifices were offered to (the hills) ℨhâi and Mâng on the regulation (of the country about them).* (The country of) the wild tribes about the Ho was successfully operated on.

The soil of this province was greenish and light. Its fields were the highest of the lowest class; and its contribution of revenue was the average of the lowest class, with proportions of the rates immediately above and below. Its articles of tribute were—the best gold, iron, silver, steel, flint stones to make arrow-heads, and sounding-stones; with the skins of bears, foxes, and jackals, and (nets) woven of their hair.

From (the hill of) Hsî-khing they came by the course of the Hwan; floated along the Khien, and then crossed (the country) to the Mien; passed to the Wei, and (finally) ferried across the Ho.

10. The Black-water and western Ho were (the boundaries of) Yung Kâu[9].

The Weak-water was conducted westwards. The King was led to mingle its waters with those of the Wei. The Khî and the Khü were next led in a similar way (to the Wei), and the waters of the Fêng found the same receptacle.

(The mountains) King and Khî were sacrificed to.* (Those of) Kung-nan and Khun-wû (were also regulated), and (all the way) on to Niâo-shû. Successful measures could now be taken with the plains and swamps, even to (the marsh of) Kû-yeh. (The country of) San-wei was made habitable, and the (affairs of the) people of San-miâo were greatly arranged.

The soil of the province was yellow and mellow. Its fields were the highest of the highest class, and its contribution of revenue the lowest of the second. Its articles of tribute were the khiû jade and the lin, and (the stones called) lang-kan.

Past Kî-shih they floated on to Lung-măn on the western Ho. They then met on the north of the Wei (with the tribute-bearers from other quarters).

Hair-cloth and skins (were brought from) Khwăn-lun, Hsî-kih, and Khü-sâu;—the wild tribes of the west (all) coming to (submit to Yü's) arrangements.

Section 2.

The division of the Book into two sections is a convenient arrangement, but modern, and not always followed. The former section gives a view of Yü's labours in each particular province. This gives a general view of the mountain ranges of the country, and of the principal streams; going on to other labours, subsequently, as was seen in the Introduction, ascribed to Yü,—his conferring lands and surnames, and dividing the whole territory into five domains. The contents are divided into five chapters:—the first, describing the mountains; the second, describing the rivers; the third, containing a summary of all the labours of Yü thus far mentioned the fourth, relating his other labours; and the fifth, celebrating Yü's fame, and the completion of his work.

1. (Yü) surveyed and described (the hills), beginning with Khien and Khî and proceeding to mount King; then, crossing the Ho, Hû-khâu, and Lêi-shâu, going on to Thâi-yo. (After these came) Ti-kû and Hsî-khăng, from which he went on to Wang-wû; (then there were) Thâi-hang and mount Hăng, from which he proceeded to the rocks of where he reached the sea.

(South of the Ho, he surveyed) Hsî-khing, Kû-yü, and Niâo-shu, going on to Thâi-hwâ; (then) Hsiung-r, Wâi-fang, and Thung-pâi, from which he proceeded to Pei-wei.

He surveyed and described Po-khung, going on to (the other) mount King; and Nêi-fang, from which he went on to Tâ-pieh.

(He did the same with) the south of mount Min, and went on to mount Hăng. Then crossing the nine Kiang, he proceeded to the plain of Fû-khien.

2. He traced the Weak-water as far as the Ho-lî (mountains), from which its superfluous waters went away among the moving sands.

He traced the Black-water as far as San-wei, from which it (went away to) enter the southern sea.

He traced the Ho from Kî-shih as far as Lung-măn; and thence, southwards, to the north of (mount) Hwâ; eastward then to Tî-khû; eastward (again) to the ford of Măng; eastward (still) to the junction of the Lo; and then on to Tâ-pei. (From this the course was) northwards, past the Kiang-water, on to Tâ-lü; north from which the river was divided, and became the nine Ho, which united again, and formed the Meeting Ho, when they entered the sea.

From Po-khung he traced the Yang, which, flowing eastwards, became the Han. Farther east it became the water of ℨhang-lang; and after passing the three Dykes, it went on to Tâ-pieh, southwards from which it entered the Kiang. Eastward still, and whirling on, it formed the marsh of Phăng-lî; and from that its eastern flow was the northern Kiang, as which it entered the sea.

From mount Min he traced the Kiang, which, branching off to the east, formed the Tho; eastward again, it reached the Lî, passed the nine Kiang, and went onto Tung-ling; then flowing east, and winding to the north, it joined (the Han) with its eddying movements. From that its eastern flow was the middle Kiang, as which it entered the sea.

He traced the Yen water, which, flowing eastward, became the Kî, and entered the Ho. (Thereafter) it flowed out, and became the Yung (marsh). Eastward, it issued forth on the north of Thâo-khiû, and flowed farther east to (the marsh of) Ko; then it went north-east, and united with the Wan; thence it went north, and (finally) entered the sea on the east.

He traced the Hwâi from the hill of Thung-pâi. Flowing east, it united with the Sze and the Î, and (still) with an eastward course entered the sea.

He traced the Wei from (the hill) Niâo-shû-thung-hsüeh. Flowing eastward, it united with the Fêng, and eastwards again with the King. Farther east still, it passed the Khî and the Khü, and entered the Ho.

He traced the Lo from (the hill) Hsiung-r. Flowing to the north-east, it united with the Kien and the Khan, and eastwards still with the Î. Then on the north-east it entered the Ho.

3. (Thus), throughout the nine provinces a similar order was effected:—the grounds along the waters were everywhere made habitable; the hills were cleared of their superfluous wood and sacrificed to;* the sources of the rivers were cleared; the marshes were well banked; and access to the capital was secured for all within the four seas.

The six magazines (of material wealth) were fully attended to; the different parts of the country were subjected to an exact comparison, so that contribution of revenue could be carefully adjusted according to their resources. (The fields) were all classified with reference to the three characters of the soil; and the revenues for the Middle Region were established.

4. He conferred lands and surnames. (He said), 'Let me set the example of a reverent attention to my virtue, and none will act contrary to my conduct.'

Five hundred lî formed the Domain of the Sovereign. From the first hundred they brought as revenue the whole plant of the grain; from the second, the ears, with a portion of the stalk; from the third, the straw, but the people had to perform various services; from the fourth, the grain in the husk; and from the fifth, the grain cleaned.

Five hundred lî (beyond) constituted the Domain of the Nobles. The first hundred lî was occupied by the cities and lands of the (sovereign's) high ministers and great officers; the second, by the principalities of the barons; and the (other) three hundred, by the various other princes.

Five hundred lî (still beyond) formed the Peace-securing Domain. In the first three hundred, they cultivated the lessons of learning and moral duties; in the other two, they showed the energies of war and defence.

Five hundred lî (remoter still) formed the Domain of Restraint. The (first) three hundred were occupied by the tribes of the Î; the (other) two hundred, by criminals undergoing the lesser banishment.

Five hundred lî (the most remote) constituted the Wild Domain. The (first) three hundred were occupied by the tribes of the Man; the (other) two hundred, by criminals undergoing the greater banishment.

5. On the east, reaching to the sea; on the west, extending to the moving sands; to the utmost limits of the north and south:—his fame and influence filled up (all within) the four seas. Yü presented the dark-coloured symbol of his rank, and announced the completion of his work.

  1. Ki Kâu embraced the present provinces of Shan-hsî, K'ih-lî, the three most northern departments of Ho-nan, and the western portion of Liâo-tung. It had the Ho—what we call the Yellow river—on three sides of it. On the west was all that part of the Ho which forms the dividing line between Shen-hsî and Shan-hsî. At the south-western corner of Shan-hsî, the Ho turns to the east: and in Yü's time it flowed eastwards to about the place where Kih-lî, Shan-tung, and Ho-nan all touch, forming the southern boundary of Ki Kâu. Thence it ran north and east, till its waters entered the present gulph of Kih-lî, forming, so far, the eastern boundary of the province. The northern boundary must be left undefined.

    It would be foreign to the object of the present publication of the Shû, and take too much space, to give notes on the details of Yü's operations in Ki Kâu and the other provinces.

  2. Yen Kâu was a small province, having the Ho on the north, the Kî on the south, the gulph of Kîh-1î on the east, and Yü Kâu, Yü' s seventh province, on the west. It embraced the department of Ta-ming, with portions of those of Ho-kien and Thien-king, in Kîh-1î, and the department of Tung-khang, with portions of those of Kî-nan and Yen-kâu, in Shan-tung.
  3. Khing Kâu, having mount Tâi and Hsü Kâu (the next province) on the west and south, Yen Kâu and the sea on the north-west and the north, and the sea on the east and south, would be still smaller than Yen Kâu, and contain the three departments of Khing-kâu, Lâi-kâu, and Têng-kâu, with the western portion of that of Kî-nan, in Shan-tung. From the text we should never suppose that it passed across the sea which washes the north and east of Shan-tung, and extended indefinitely into Liâo-tung and Corla. This, however, is the view of many Chinese geographers.
  4. The western boundary of Hsü Kâu, which is not given in the text, was Yü Kâu, and part of Khing Kâu. It embraced the present department of Hsü-kâu, the six districts Thâo-yüan, Khing-ho, An-tung, Hsü-khien, Sui-ning, and Kan-yü, department of Hwâi-an, with Phei Kâu and Hâi Kâu,—all in Kiang-sû; the whole of Yen-kâu department, Tung-phing Kâu and the south of Phing-yin district in the department of Thâi-an, the department of Î-kâu, and portions of those of Kî-nan and Khing-Kâu,—all in Shan-tung; with the four districts Hwâi-yüan, Wû-ho, Hung, and Ling-pî, department of Făng-yang, with Sze Kâu and Hsü 'Kâu,—all in An-hui.
  5. The Hwâi was the boundary of Yang Kâu on the north, and we naturally suppose that the other boundary mentioned, the sea, should be referred to the south of the province. If it were really so, Yang Kâu must have extended along the coast as far as Cochin-China, and not a few Chinese scholars argue that it did so. But that no southern boundary of the province is mentioned may rather be taken as proving that when this Book was compiled, the country south of the Kiang—the present Yang-𝔷ze—was unknown.

    Along the greater part of its course, the province was conterminous on the west with King Kâu, and in the north-west with Yü Kâu. We may safely assign to it the greater portion of An-hui, and a part of the department of Hwang-kâu, in Hû-pei. All this would be the northern portion of the province. How far it extended southwards into Kê-kiang and Kiang-hsî, it is impossible to say.

  6. Mount King, which bounded King Kâu on the north, is in the department of Hsiang-yang, Hû-pei, and is called the southern King, to distinguish it from another mountain of the same name farther north in Yung Kâu. Mount Hăng, its southern boundary, is 'the southern mountain' of the Canon of Shun in Hăng-kâu department, Hû-nan. Yang Kâu was on the east, and the country on the west was almost unknown. King Kâu contained the greater portion of the present provinces of Hû-pei and Hû-nan, and parts also of Kwei-kâu and Sze-khüan. Some geographers also extend it on the south into Kwang-tung and Kwang-hsî, which is very unlikely.
  7. Kâu was the central one of Yü's nine divisions of the country, and was conterminous, for a greater or less distance, with all of them, excepting Khing Kâu, which lay off in the east by itself. It embraced most of the present Ho-nan, stretching also into the east and south, so as to comprehend parts of Shan-tung and Hû-pei.
  8. Liang Kâu was an extensive province, and it is a remarkable fact that neither the dominions of the Shang nor the Kâu dynasty, which followed Hsiâ, included it. Portions of it were embraced in the Yü and Yung provinces of Kâu, but the greater part was considered as wild, savage territory, beyond the limits of the Middle Kingdom. It is difficult to believe that the great Yü operated upon it, as this chapter would seem to indicate. The Hwâ at its north-eastern corner is the western mountain of Shun. The Black-water, or 'the Kiang of the Golden Sands,' is identified with the present . The province extended over most of the present Sze-khüan, with parts of Shen-hsî and Kan-sû. I can hardly believe, as many do, that it extended far into Yün-nan and Kwei-kâu.
  9. The Black-water, which was the western boundary of Yung Kâu, was a different river from that which, with the same name, ran along the south of Liang Kâu. Yung Kâu was probably the largest of Yü's provinces, embracing nearly all the present provinces of Shen-hsî and Kan-sû, and extending indefinitely northwards to the Desert.