Sacred Books of the East/Volume 3/The Shu/Part 4/Punitive Expedition of Yin
Book IV. The Punitive Expedition of Yin.
Hsî and Ho, the principal ministers of the Board of Astronomy, descended from those of the same name in the time of Yâo, had given themselves over to licentious indulgence in their private cities, and grossly neglected their duties. Especially had they been unobservant of an eclipse of the sun in autumn. The king considered them worthy of death, and commissioned the marquis of Yin to execute on them the sentence of his justice. Where Yin was is not now known.
The principal part of the Book consists of the speech made by the marquis to his troops.
1. When Kung Khang commenced his reign over all within the four seas, the marquis of Yin was commissioned to take charge of the (king's) six hosts. (At this time) the Hsî and Ho had neglected the duties of their office, and were abandoned to drink in their (private) cities; and the marquis of Yin received the king's charge to go and punish them.
2. He made an announcement to his hosts, saying, 'Ah! ye, all my men, there are the well-counselled instructions of the sage (founder of our dynasty), clearly verified in their power to give stability and security:—"The former kings were carefully attentive to the warnings of Heaven,* and their ministers observed the regular laws (of their offices). All the officers (moreover) watchfully did their duty to assist (the government), and their sovereign became entirely intelligent." Every year, in the first month of spring, the herald, with his wooden-tongued bell, goes along the roads, (proclaiming), "Ye officers able to instruct, be prepared with your admonitions. Ye workmen engaged in mechanical affairs, remonstrate on the subjects of your employments. If any of you do not attend with respect (to this requirement), the country has regular punishments for you."
'Now here are the Hsî and Ho. They have allowed their virtue to be subverted, and are besotted by drink. They have violated the duties of their office, and left their posts. They have been the first to let the regulating of the heavenly (bodies) get into disorder, putting far from them their proper business. On the first day of the last month of autumn, the sun and moon did not meet harmoniously in Fang. The blind musicians beat their drums; the inferior officers galloped, and the common people (employed about the public offices) ran about. The Hsî and the Ho, however, as if they were (mere) personators of the dead in their offices, heard nothing and knew nothing; so stupidly went they astray (from their duties) in the matter of the heavenly appearances, and rendered themselves liable to the death appointed by the former kings. The statutes of government say, "When they anticipate the time, let them be put to death without mercy; when (their reckoning) is behind the time, let them be put to death without mercy."
'Now I, with you all, am entrusted with the execution of the punishment appointed by Heaven.* Unite your strength, all of you warriors, for the royal House. Give me your help, I pray you, reverently to carry out the dread charge of the Son of Heaven.
'When the fire blazes over the ridge of Khwăn, gems and stones are burned together; but if a minister of Heaven exceed in doing his duty, the consequences will be fiercer than blazing fire. While I destroy, (therefore), the chief criminals, I will not punish those who have been forced to follow them; and those who have long been stained by their filthy manners will be allowed to renovate themselves.,
'Oh! when sternness overcomes compassion, things are surely conducted to a successful issue. When compassion overcomes sternness, no merit can be achieved. All ye, my warriors, exert yourselves, and take warning, (and obey my orders)!'
- That is, here, such warnings as were supposed to be conveyed by eclipses and other unusual celestial phenomena.
- A similar practice existed in the Kâu dynasty.
- See the Introduction, p. 13.
- Similar observances are still practised on occasion of an eclipse of the sun. See Biot's Etudes sur l'Astronomie Indienne et Chinoise, pp. 357–360.
- Khwăn is perhaps a part of the Khwăn-lun mountain in the west of the Ko-ko-nor, where the Ho has its sources. The speaker evidently thought of it as volcanic.