Examining into antiquity, (we find that) Gao-Yao said, ‘If (the sovereign) sincerely pursues the course of his virtue, the counsels (offered to him) will be intelligent, and the aids (of admonition that he receives) will be harmonious.’

Yu said, ‘Yes, but explain yourself.’

Gao-Yao said, ‘Oh! let him be careful about his personal cultivation, with thoughts that are far-reaching, and thus he will produce a generous kindness and nice observance of distinctions among the nine branches of his kindred. All the intelligent (also) will exert themselves in his service; and in this way from what is near he will reach to what is distant.’

Yu did homage to the excellent words, and said, ‘Yes.’

Gao-Yao continued, ‘Oh! it lies in knowing men, and giving repose to the people.’

Yu said, ‘Alas! to attain to both these things might well be a difficulty even to the Di. When (the sovereign) knows men, he is wise, and can put every one into the office for which he is fit. When he gives repose to the people, his kindness is felt, and the black-haired race cherish him in their hearts. When he can be (thus) wise and kind, what occasion will he have for anxiety about a Huan-dou? what to be removing a lord of Miao? what to fear any one of fair words, insinuating appearance, and great artfulness?’

Gao-Yao said, ‘Oh! there are in all nine virtues to be discovered in conduct, and when we say that a man possesses (any) virtue, that is as much as to say he does such and such things.’

Yu asked, ‘What (are the nine virtues)?’

Gao-Yao replied, ‘Affability combined with dignity; mildness combined with firmness; bluntness combined with respectfulness; aptness for government combined with reverent caution; docility combined with boldness; straightforwardness combined with gentleness; an easy negligence combined with discrimination; boldness combined with sincerity; and valour combined with righteousness. (When these qualities are) displayed, and that continuously, have we not the good (officer)? When there is a daily display of three (of these) virtues, their possessor could early and late regulate and brighten the clan (of which he was made chief). When there is a daily severe and reverent cultivation of six of them, their possessor could brilliantly conduct the affairs of the state (with which he was invested). When (such men) are all received and advanced, the possessors of those nine virtues will be employed in (the public) service. The men of a thousand and men of a hundred will be in their offices; the various ministers will emulate one another; all the officers will accomplish their duties at the proper times, observant of the five seasons (as the several elements predominate in them) – and thus their various duties will be fully accomplished. Let not (the Son of Heaven) set to the holders of states the example of indolence or dissoluteness. Let him be wary and fearful, (remembering that) in one day or two days there may occur ten thousand springs of things. Let him not have his various officers cumberers of their places. The work is Heaven’s; men must act for it!

From Heaven are the (social) relationships with their several duties; we are charged with (the enforcement of) those five duties – and lo! we have the five courses of honourable conduct. From Heaven are the (social) distinctions with their several ceremonies; from us come the observances of those five ceremonies – and lo! they appear in regular practice. When (sovereign and ministers show) a common reverence and united respect for these, lo! the moral nature (of the people) is made harmonious. Heaven graciously distinguishes the virtuous – are there not the five habiliments, five decorations of them? Heaven punishes the guilty – are there not the five punishments, to be severally used for that purpose? The business of government! – ought we not to be earnest in it? ought we not to be earnest in it? Heaven hears and sees as our people hear and see; Heaven brightly approves and displays its terrors as our people brightly approve and would awe – such connexion is there between the upper and lower (worlds). How reverent ought the masters of territories to be!’

Gao-Yao said, ‘My words are in accordance with reason, and maybe put in practice.’

Yu said, ‘Yes, your words may be put in practice, and crowned with success.’

Gao-Yao added, ‘(As to that) I do not know, but I wish daily to be helpful. May (the government) be perfected!’

English translation: James Legge
Ctext

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