Huangti (Yellow god) was the son of Shaotien. His surname was Kungsun, and his prename Hsienyüan. Born a genius he could speak when a baby, as a boy he was quick and smart, as a youth simple and earnest, and when grown up intelligent. In the time of Hsienyüan, Shênnung became enfeebled. The princes made raids on each other and harassed the people, but Shênnung could not chastise them, so Hsienyüan exercised himself in the use of weapons of war, so as to be able to punish irregularities. The princes all came and did homage, but Ch‘ihyu(stupid criminal), the fiercest of all, could not be subdued. ‘Blazing god’ (i.e. Shênnung) would oppress the princes, so they turned to Hsienyüan, who practised virtue, marshalled his men, controlled the five elements, cultivated the five kinds of grain, pacified the nations, and went over all parts of his country. Training black bears, grizzly bears, foxes, panthers, lynxes, and tigers, he, with their aid, fought with ‘Blazing god’ in the desert of Panch‘uan, and, after three battles, realised his wishes.
Ch‘ihyu was a rebel, who did not obey the Emperor’s command, so Huangti, levying an army of the princes, fought against Ch‘ihyu, captured, and slew him in the desert of Cholu. The princes all agreed that Hsienyüan should be the Emperor in place of Shênnung, under the title Huangti. Those in the empire who would not submit, Huangti pursued and chastised, and when they were subdued he left them. He made cuttings in hills, opened roads, and was never at rest. Eastward his empire extended to the sea, Ball hill, and the ancestral T‘ai mountain; westward to ‘Hollow cave’ and Cock’s-head hills; southward to the Yangtze river and Hsiunghsiang hill; while in the north he drove out the Hsünyu. He made a treaty on Kettle hill, and built a city on the slopes of Cholu. He was constantly changing his residence, while his troops formed an encampment about him. He ordered his officers to be named after cloud omens. He appointed a chief and deputy superintendent over international affairs, and the various states being at peace, he worshipped the demons and spirits of the hills and streams with the fêng and shan ceremonies in numbers. He obtained a valuable tripod, and made calculations of future events, appointing ‘Chief of the winds,’ ‘Strength-governor,’ ‘Everfirst,’ and ‘Great Swan,’ to direct the people to act in accordance with the celestial and terrestrial arrangements, the dark and bright prognostications, the disputations on life and death, the planting of the crops, plants, and trees in their seasons, and the transformations of birds, beasts, insects, and moths. He also prepared a record of the movements of the sun, moon, and stars; the flow of the tides; and the properties of clay, stones, metals, and gems. He devoted much careful attention to these things, and his observation was applied to ascertaining how fire, water, wood, and other elements could be used economically. There was an auspicious omen of the earth’s energy, and he was therefore called ‘Yellow god.’
Huangti had twenty-five sons, of whom fourteen received surnames. He lived at Hsienyüan hill, and married a woman of ‘Western range’ land called Leitsu, who was his principal wife, and bore him two sons, both of whose descendants held Imperial sway. The eldest, named Hsüanhsiao, or Chingyang, dwelt on the Chiang stream, and the other, who was named Ch‘angyi, dwelt on the Jo stream. Ch‘angyi married a woman from the Shu hills (Szŭch‘uan) named Changp‘u, who bore him a son, Kaoyang, who possessed the virtue of a saint. Huangti died, and was buried at Ch‘iaoshan, and his grandson, Ch‘angyi’s son Kaoyang, came to the throne under the title Emperor Ch‘uanhsü.
Emperor Ch‘uanhsü, or Kaoyang, was Huangti’s grandson and Ch‘angyi’s son. Calm and unfathomable in his designs, and thoroughly versed in all matters, he exercised his talents in cultivating the ground; he recorded in their seasons the movements of the heavenly bodies, relied on spiritual influences in framing laws, taught reform by controlling the passion nature, and sacrificed with purity and sincerity. Northward his rule extended to ‘Dark mound,’ southward to Annam, westward to the moving sands, and eastward to ‘Coiling tree.’1 of animate and inanimate things, of spirits p. 281great and small, of those on whom the sun and moon shone, all were equally subject to him. Emperor Ch‘uanhsü had a son, Chiungchan. Ch‘uanhsü died, and Hsüanhsiao’s grandson Kaohsin came to the throne under the title of Emperor Ku.
Emperor Ku, or Kaohsin was Huangti’s great grandson, his father being Chiaochi, whose father was Hsüanhsiao, whose father was Huangti. Neither Hsüanhsiao, nor Chiaochi came to the throne, but Kaohsin did hold Imperial sway. Kaohsin was a clansman of Ch‘uanhsü. Being born a genius he spoke from babyhood. He distributed his benefits everywhere, regardless of self. Intelligent enough to understand things afar off, and clever enough to search into minutiæ, he followed Heaven’s laws, and knew the people’s needs. Humane yet dignified, kind yet truthful; he practised self-culture and all men submitted to him. He secured the revenue of the land, and spent it economically. He governed and instructed all his subjects, and they profited by the instruction. He made a calendar of the days and months past as well as future. He knew all about spirits, and worshipped them respectfully. His appearance was elegant, and his virtue eminent. His movements were well-timed, and his dress gentlemanly.
Emperor Ku was thoroughly impartial all over his empire. There was no one on whom the sun and moon shone, or on whom the rain and wind blew, who was not devoted to him.
Emperor Ku married a daughter of Ch‘enfêng, who bore a son named ‘The highly meritorious.’ He also married a daughter of Ch‘ütz‘ŭ, who bore a son Chih. Emperor Ku died, and Chih reigned in his stead. Chih reigned badly and died, and his brother ‘The highly meritorious one’ reigned under the title of Emperor Yao.
Emperor Yao was highly meritorious. His benevolence was like that of heaven, and his wisdom that of a god; when approached he was genial as the sun, and was looked out for as clouds in dry weather. He was rich without being proud, and esteemed yet not lax. He wore a yellow hat and plain silk dress, and drove a red car drawn by white horses. “He was able to display his supereminent virtue, by bringing into close alliance the nine degrees of kindred, and they being rendered harmonious, he forthwith regulated the people, and his people having become enlightened, the various states were at peace. He then commanded Hsi and Ho in reverent accordance with their observations of the wide heavens to record in a calendar the laws affecting the sun, moon, stars, and zodiacal spaces, and respectfully to communicate to the people the seasons (adapted for labour). He also commanded Hsi’s younger brother to reside at Yüyi, called the bright valley, so as to hail with respect the rising sun, and arrange the labours of the spring; and the day being of medium length, and the culminating star (the central one of the) ‘Bird’ quarter of the heavens, he was to determine midspring, when the people begin to disperse, and birds and beasts to breed and copulate. He further commanded Hsi’s third brother to reside at the southern frontier to arrange the transformations of summer, and respectfully observe the extreme limit (of the shadow), and the day being at its longest, and the star in the zenith that called ‘Fire,’ he was to fix the exact period of midsummer, when the people are most widely dispersed, birds moult, and beasts change their coats. He further commanded Ho’s younger brother to reside in the west at a place called Dark Valley to respectfully convoy the setting sun, and arrange the completing labours of the autumn, and the night being of medium length, and the culminating star Hsü (β in Aquarius) to determine mid-autumn, when people begin to feel comfortable, and birds and beasts look smooth and glossy. He further commanded Ho’s third brother to reside in the northern region in what was called the sombre capital, to examine the hidden things, and the day being at its shortest, and the culminating star Mao (ε in Pleiades) to determine midwinter, when people get into cosy corners, and the coats of birds and beasts are downy and thick. The year consisted of 366 days, an intercalary month being added to adjust the four seasons. Authentic directions were given to the various officers, and their several labours commenced. Yao said, ‘Who can obediently manage these matters?’ Fangch‘i said, ‘There is your adopted son Tanchu, who is developing his intelligence.’ Yao said, ‘Oh! he is unscrupulous and wicked; I cannot employ him.’ He said again, ‘Who will do it?’ Huantou said, ‘The minister of works, who is generally popular, and has displayed merit, could be employed.’ Yao said, ‘The minister of works is talkative; if he is employed, his depravities, although he is apparently respectful, would overspread the heavens, he will not do.’ He said further, ‘Alas! O president of the four mountains, the waters of the flood rise up to heaven, and in their vast expanse encompass the mountains, and overtop the hills; the common people are troubled about it. Is there a capable man whom I could set to deal with the matter?’ They all said, ‘Kun might do it.’ Yao said, ‘Kun disobeys orders, and ruins his companions. He will not do.’ The President said, ‘Ah! well! try him, and if he is found useless, have done with him.'” Whereupon Yao adopting his suggestion, employed Kun “for nine years, but his work was not completed. Yao said, ‘Alas! O president of the four mountains, I have been on the throne seventy years; you are able to carry out the decrees, do you occupy my throne.’ The president replied, ‘My moral qualities are of such a low order that I should disgrace the Imperial throne.’ Yao said, ‘You must all recommend one of your esteemed relations, or even an obscure stranger.’ All the courtiers said to Yao, ‘There is an unmarried man of the lower orders called Shun of Yü.’ Yao said, ‘Yes, I have heard of him, what is he like?’ The president said, ‘He is the son of a blind man; his father was unprincipled, his mother insincere, and his brother arrogant, but he managed by his dutiful conduct to be reconciled to them, so they have gradually improved, and not been extremely wicked.’ ‘Shall I try him?’ said Yao. He then married his two daughters to Shun, and watched his behaviour towards them. Shun sent the two women down to the north of the Kuei river,” and treated them with the ceremony due to them as his wives. Yao praised Shun, and told him” carefully to show the harmony of the five human relationships, and when they could be obeyed,” they became universal among the various officials, who “at the proper times arranged the visitors at the four gates in the right order, and when the visitors at the four gates were submissive,” the princes and strangers from distant regions became one and all respectful. “Yao sent Shun into the hills and forests among rivers and swamps, but although fierce winds and thunderstorms prevailed, Shun did not miss his way.” Yao then taking Shun to be a holy man, called him and “said, ‘For three years your deliberations have been excellent, and I have found that your words can be carried into practice. You shall ascend the Imperial throne.’ Shun yielded in favour of some one more virtuous than himself, and was unhappy, but on the first day of the first month Shun accepted Yao’s resignation in the temple of the accomplished ancestor,” who was Yao’s great ancestor. “So the Emperor Yao being old ordered that Shun should be associated with him in the government of the Empire.”
In order to observe Heaven’s decrees, Shun thereupon “examined the gem-adorned armillary sphere, and the jade transverse, so as to adjust the position of the ‘Seven Directors.’ He then offered a special sacrifice to the Supreme Ruler, sacrificed purely to the six honoured ones, looked with devotion to the hills and rivers, and worshipped with distinctive rites the hosts of spirits. He called in the five tokens, chose a lucky month and day, gave audience to the president of the four mountains, and all the governors, returning the tokens in due course.
In the second month of every year he went eastward on a tour of inspection, and on reaching T‘aitsung he presented a burnt-offering, and sacrificed in order to the hills and rivers. He then gave audience to the chieftains of the East, putting in accord their seasons and months, and rectifying the days. He rendered uniform the standard tubes, the measures of length and capacity, and the scales; and regulated the five kinds of ceremonies. The five gems, the three kinds of silks, the two living animals, and one dead one were brought as presents to the audience, but the five implements were returned at the conclusion.
In the fifth month he went to the south, in the eighth month to the west, and in the eleventh month northward on his tours of inspection; in each case observing the same ceremonies as before, and on his return he went to the temple of the ancestral tablets, and offered up a single ox. Every five years there was one tour of inspection, and four audiences of the princes at court, when they presented a full verbal report, which was intelligently tested by their works, and chariots and robes given according to their deserts.
Shun instituted the division of the Empire into twelve provinces, and deepened the rivers. He gave delineations of the statutory punishments, enacting banishment as a mitigation of the five chief punishments, the whip being employed for public officers, the stick in schools, and a money penalty being inflicted for redeemable crimes. Inadvertent offences, and those caused by misfortune were to be pardoned, and those who offended presumptuously or repeatedly were to be punished with death. ‘Be reverent, be reverent’ (said he), ‘and in the administration of the law be tranquil.'” Huantou approached, and spoke about the minister of works. ‘I cannot even give him a trial as a workman,’ said Yao, ‘for he is really profligate.’ The president of the four mountains recommended Kun as the proper person to look after the deluge. Yao regarded it as impracticable, but the president vehemently requested that he might be tried, so the trial was made, but without good results. Of old the people had felt that it was undesirable that the three Miao tribes in the districts of Chiang Huai, and Ching should so often rise in rebellion; so Shun on his return spoke to the emperor requesting that “the minister of works might be banished to the ridge of Yu” to reform the Northern Ti tribes, “that Huantou might be detained on mount Tsung,” to reform the Southern barbarians, that “the chief of the three Miao tribes might be removed to Sanwei (three cliffs)” to reform the Western Jung people, and that “Kun might be imprisoned for life on Mount Yu” to reform the Eastern barbarians. “These four criminals being thus dealt with, universal submission prevailed throughout the empire,” Yao had sat on the throne seventy years, when he secured Shun’s services for twenty years; “then, being old, he directed that Shun should be associated with him in the government of the empire, and presented him to Heaven.”
Yao had abdicated the throne “twenty-eight years when he died, and the people mourned for him as for a parent, no music being played for three years throughout the empire,” for which reason he was remembered. Yao knew that his son “Tanchu was a worthless fellow,” who was not fit to reign, and so the authority was conferred on Shun. As it was conferred on Shun, the empire got the advantage and Tanchu was injured. If it had been conferred on Tanchu, the empire would have been injured, and Tanchu gained the advantage. Yao said, ‘We certainly cannot cause the empire to suffer loss, and the advantage go to an individual.’ In the end the empire was given over to Shun. “After the death of Yao, when the three years’ mourning was over, Shun gave way to Tanchu, and retired to the south of the southern river. When the princes went to an audience at court, they did not present themselves before Tanchu, but before Shun; litigants did not go before Tanchu, but Shun; and the singers did not sing in praise of Tanchu, but of Shun. Shun said, ‘It is from Heaven.’ Afterwards he went to the capital, sat on the Imperial throne,” and was styled Emperor Shun.
Shun of Yü was named Ch‘unghua (double splendour); Ch‘unghua’s father was Kusou; Kusou’s father was Ch‘iaoniu (bridge cow); Ch‘iaoniu’s father was Chümang; Chümang’s father was Chingkang; Chingkang’s father was Ch‘iungchan; Ch‘iungchan’s father was Emperor Ch‘uanhsü; Ch‘uanhsü’s father was Ch‘angyi. From him to Shun we have seven generations. From Ch‘iungchan to Emperor Shun they were all insignificant common people.
Shun’s father, Kusou, was blind, and his mother having died, Kusou married again and had a son, Hsiang, who was arrogant. Kusou loved his second wife, and frequently tried to kill Shun, who avoided him; when he made slight mistakes he was punished, yet he obediently served his father, stepmother, and brother, and was day by day generous, careful, and never negligent.
Shun was a native of Ch‘ichou, ploughed on Li mountain, fished in Thunder lake, made pots on the bank of the river, fashioned various articles at Shouch‘iu, and went now and then to Fuhsia. Shun’s father, Kusou, was unprincipled, his mother insincere, and his brother, Hsiang, arrogant. They all tried to kill Shun, who was obedient, and never by chance failed in his duty as a son, or his fraternal love. Though they tried to kill him they did not succeed, and when they sought him he got out of the way.
When Shun was twenty years old he was noted for his filial piety, and when he was thirty the Emperor Yao asked if he was fit to reign. The presidents united in bringing Shun of Yü forward as an able man, so Yao gave him his two daughters in marriage in order to observe his conduct at home, and bade his nine sons put him in charge of a post so as to note his behaviour abroad. Shun lived within the bend of the Kuei river, and was especially careful. Yao’s two daughters did not dare, on account of their rank, to be proud, but waited on Shun’s relations, and were constant in their wifely duties, while Yao’s nine sons became more and more generous.
When Shun ploughed on Li mountain, the inhabitants yielded the boundaries; when he fished in Thunder lake, the men on the lake yielded to him the best place; and when he made pots on the bank of the river, his vessels had no holes or flaws in them. If he dwelt in a place for a year he formed an assemblage, in two years it became a town, and in three a metropolis. Yao gave Shun clothes made of fine grass-cloth, and a lute, and built him a granary and shed for his oxen and sheep. Kusou again tried to kill Shun by making him go up and plaster the roof of the granary, while he set fire to it from below, but Shun, protecting himself from the fire with a couple of bamboo hats, came down and escaped with his life. Kusou after this told Shun to dig a well, which he did, making a secret tunnel at the side to get out at. When Shun had gone right in, Kusou and Hsiang filled up the well with earth, but Shun came out by the secret passage. Kusou and Hsiang rejoiced, thinking that Shun was dead, and Hsiang said, ‘The plot was mine, but I will go shares with my father and mother; I will take Shun’s wives, Yao’s two daughters, and the lute as my share, while the oxen, sheep, granary and shed shall belong to my parents.’ He remained, however, in Shun’s house playing on the lute, and when Shun went thither Hsiang, startled and not well-pleased to see him, said, ‘I was just thinking of you, and getting very anxious.’ ‘Quite so,’ said Shun, ‘and so you possessed yourself of all these things.’ Shun again served Kusou, loved his brother, and was still more careful in his conduct. Yao thereupon tested Shun as to the five cardinal rules, and the various officers were under control. “In former days the Emperor Kaoyang had eight talented sons;” the world benefited by them, and “they were called the eight benevolent ones. The Emperor Kaohsin had also eight talented sons, and men called them the eight virtuous ones. Of these sixteen men after ages have acknowledged the excellence, and not let their names fall to the ground. In the time of Yao he was not able to raise them to office, but Shun raised the eight benevolent ones to office, and made them superintend the land department and direct all matters, arranging them according to their seasons. He also raised the right virtuous ones to office, employing them to spread throughout the country a knowledge of the duties pertaining to the five social relationships, for fathers became just, mothers loving, elder brothers sociable, younger ones respectful, and children dutiful; within the empire there was peace, and beyond it submission.
In ancient days the Emperor Hung (Huangti) had a son devoid of ability, who shut himself off from duty, and was a villain in secret, delighting in the practice of the worst vices, and all men called him Chaos. (The Emperor) Shaohao had a descendant devoid of ability, who overthrew good faith, hated loyalty, extolled specious and evil talk, and all the people called him Monster. Ch‘uanhsü had a son devoid of ability, who would receive no instruction and acknowledge no good words, and all the people called him Block. These three men everyone was distressed about until the time of Yao, but Yao could not send them away. Chinyün had a son devoid of ability, who was greedy in eating and drinking, and pursued wealth blindly. All the people called him Glutton, hated and compared him to the three other wicked men.
Shun received visitors at the four gates, but banished these four wicked ones to the four borders of the empire to manage hobgoblins;” and those at the four gates rightly said “there were no wicked men among them.” Shun “went to the great plains at the foot of the mountains, and, amid violent wind, thunder, and rain, did not go astray.” Yao then knew that Shun was fit to accept the empire, and “being old, caused Shun to be associated with him in the government,” and when he went on a tour of inspection Shun was promoted and employed in the administration of affairs for twenty years; and Yao having directed that he should be associated in the government, he was so associated for eight years. Yao died, and “when the three years’ mourning was over, Shun yielded to Tanchu,” but the people of the empire turned to Shun.
Now Yü, Kaoyao, Hsieh, Houch‘i, Poyi, K‘uei, Lung, Ch‘iu Yi, and P‘êngtsu were all from the time of Yao promoted to office, but had not separate appointments. “Shun having then proceeded to the temple of the accomplished ancestor, deliberated with the president of the four mountains, threw open the four gates, and was in direct communication with officers in all four quarters of the empire, who were eyes and ears to him. He ordered the twelve governors” to talk of the Emperor’s virtue, “to be kind to the virtuous, and keep the artful at a distance, so that the barbarians of the south might lead on one another to be submissive. He said to the president of the four mountains, ‘Is there anyone who can vigorously display his merits, aud beautify Yao’s undertakings, and whom I can make prime minister?’ They all said, ‘There is Baron Yü, the superintendent of works,'” he can beautify the Emperor’s labours. “Shun said, ‘Ah! yes, Yü, you have put in order the water and the land, but in this matter you must exert yourself.’ Yü did obeisance with his head to the ground, while declining in favour of Millet, Hsieh, or Kaoyao. Shun said, ‘Yes; but do you go and set about it.’ Shun said, ‘Ch‘i, the black-haired people begin to be famished. Do you, Prince Millet, sow in their seasons the various kinds of grain.’ He also said, ‘Hsieh, the people do not love one another, and the five orders of relationship are not observed. You, as minister of instruction, must carefully diffuse abroad those five lessons of duty, but do so with gentleness.’ He also said, ‘Kaoyao, the southern barbarians are disturbing the summer region, while robbers, murderers, villains, and traitors abound. Do you, as minister of crime, exercise repression by use of the five kinds of punishment—for the infliction of which there are three appointed places—and the five banishments with their several places of detention, and the three degrees of distance. Be intelligent and you will inspire confidence.’ Shun said, ‘Who can direct the workmen?’ They all said ‘Ch‘ui can do it’; so he made Ch‘ui minister of works. Shun said, ‘Who can superintend my uplands and lowlands, pastures and woods, birds and beasts?’ They all said, ‘Yi is the man’; so Yi was made imperial forester. Yi did obeisance with his head to the ground, and declined in favour of the officials Fir, Tiger, Black Bear, and Grizzly Bear. Shun said, ‘Go and act harmoniously.'” Fir, Tiger, Black Bear, and Grizzly Bear were accordingly his assistants. “Shun said, ‘Ah! president of the four mountains, is there anyone who can superintend the three ceremonies?’ They all said, ‘Baron Yi is the man.’ Shun said, ‘Ah! Baron Yi, I will make you arranger of the ancestral temple. Day and night be careful, be upright, be pure.’ Baron Yi declined in favour of K‘uei or Lung, but Shun said, ‘Let it be so,’ and made K‘uei director of music and teacher of youth. ‘Be straightforward’ (he added) ‘and yet mild; lenient and yet stern; firm, yet not tyrannical; impetuous, yet not arrogant. Poetry gives expression to the thought, and singing is the prolonged utterance of that expression. Notes accompany that utterance, and are harmonized themselves by the pitch-pipes. The eight kinds of instruments can be adjusted, so that one shall not take from or interfere with another, and spirits and men are thereby brought into harmony.’ K‘uei said, ‘Oh! I smite the stone; I tap the stone, and the various animals lead on one another to dance.’ Shun said, ‘Lung, I dread slanderous speakers and injurious deceivers, who agitate and alarm my people. I appoint you minister of communication. Day and night you will issue and receive my orders, but be truthful.’ Shun said, ‘Ah! you twenty and two men, be reverent, and you will aid in their proper seasons the undertakings of heaven.’
Every three years there was an examination of merits, and after three examinations there were degradations and promotions both far and near. The people’s labours generally prospered, while the people of the three Miao tribes were divided and defeated.” These twenty-two all completed their labours. Kaoyao was chief minister of crime, and the people were all subservient and obtained his genuine services. Poyi was director of ceremonies, and both upper and lower classes were retiring. Ch‘ui was head workman, and the various kinds of work were successfully accomplished. Yi was head forester, and hills and swamps were brought under cultivation. Ch‘i was director of agriculture, and the various crops ripened in their seasons. Hsieh was minister of instruction, and the people were friendly together. Lung superintended the foreign department, and men from afar arrived. The twelve governors did their duty, and the people of the nine provinces did not dare to rebel. But Yü’s labours consisted in making great cuttings through the nine hills, making thoroughfares through the nine swamps, deepening the nine rivers, and regulating the nine provinces, each of which by their officials sent tribute, and did not lose their rightful dues. In a square of 5000 li he reached the wild domain. To the south he governed Annam; on the north he reduced the western Jung tribes, Hsichih, Chüsou, and the Ch‘iang of Ti; on the north the hill Jung tribes and the Hsichên; and on the east the tall island barbarians. All within the four seas were grateful for Emperor Shun’s labours; and Yü then “performed the nine tunes,” and the result was that strange creatures and “phœnixes flew to and fro.” Men of illustrious virtue in the empire began from the days of Emperor Shun of Yü. When Shun was twenty years of age he was noted for his filial piety, at thirty Yao raised him to office, at fifty he assisted in the administration of Imperial affairs, when he was fifty-eight Yao died, and when he was sixty-one he sat on the Imperial throne in Yao’s stead. After he had occupied the Imperial throne thirty-nine years, he went on a hunting expedition to the south, died in the desert of Ts‘angwu, and was buried at a place called Lingling (broken hillocks) in the Chiuyi range in Chiangnan province.
After Shun had come to the throne, and was flying the Imperial flag, he went to pay a visit to his father, Chüsou, and addressed him in a grave and respectful manner, as a son should do. He raised his brother Hsiang to the rank of prince. Shun’s son Shang-chün was also degenerate, so that Shun, being prepared, recommended Yü to the notice of Heaven, and seventeen years later he died. When the three years’ mourning was over, Yü also yielded to Shun’s son just as Shun had yielded to Yao’s son, but the princes gave their allegiance to Yü, and he thereupon came to the Imperial throne. Yao’s son Tanchu, and Shun’s son Shangchün, both held territory so that they might be enabled to perform sacrifices to their ancestors; they paid the due observances, such as religious ceremonies and music, and they went to the audiences as the Emperor’s guests. The Emperor did not dare, without due notification from his ministers, to act on his own responsibility.
From Huangti to Shun and Yü all the sovereigns had the same surname, but different dynastic appellations, and so displayed their illustrious virtue. So Huangti was called Yuhsiung (possessor of bears); Emperor Ch‘uanhsü was Kaoyang; Emperor Ku was Kaohsin; Emperor Yao, Taot‘ang; Emperor Shun was Yuyü (possessor of foresters); and Emperor Yü was Hsiahou (prince of Hsia); and he had also the name Ssŭ (sister-in-law); Hsieh had the family name of Shang with the personal name Tzŭ (son); and Ch‘i had the family name Chou with the personal name Chi (queen).
The historian has to remark on this as follows: Most scholars say that the five gods are deserving of honour, but the Book of History only refers to Yao, and those who come after him, while the book of the ‘hundred families’ speaks of the Yellow god. The style of the latter work is not, however, very refined, and the officials and gentry hardly ever refer to it. Confucius handed down these works, viz. ‘Tsai yü’s questions,’ the ‘virtues of the five gods,’ and ‘the genealogies and names of the gods,’ but the literati doubt that they have been so handed down. I have travelled westward as far as ‘hollow cave’ hill, northward beyond Cholu, eastward I have crossed the sea, while southward I have floated on rafts along the Yangtzŭ and Huai rivers, and all the elders whom I met again and again talked of the places where the Yellow god, Yao, and Shun dwelt, and how very different their customs and teachings were. In short, those who are attached to the ancient literature must be familiar with their sayings.
I have looked at the ‘Spring and Autumn’ classic, and the ‘Narratives of the States,’ which make the ‘virtues of the five gods’ and the ‘genealogies and names of the gods’ very clear. I have inspected these works, but not thoroughly examined them, and the portions I have quoted are none of them unimportant. There are defects in the book, and occasionally the views of others may be noted. Scholars should not think too deeply over the book, but take the general drift of it, when it can hardly be called superficial. There are a few investigations into doctrine, which I have discussed in the concrete, and then selected some of the more elegant sentences for quotation. Thus I have compiled the first chapter of the ‘Original Records.’
Translation by Herbert J. Allen from Sima Qian’s Historical Records.