1902 Encyclopedia > China > Chinese Literature (cont.) - The Book of History

(Part 44)


The Book of History

This Book of History takes us back to about the time of Noah. It consists of a number of records of the Yu, Hea, Shang, and Chow dynasties, embracing the period from the middle of the 24th century B.C. to 721 B.C. These, and a number of other MSS., attracted the attention of Confucius when he was at the court of Chow, and selecting those which he deemed of value, he complied them in a work which he called the Shoo king or Book of History.

This work, as Mr Wells Williams says, "contains the seeds of all things that are valuable in the estimation of the Chinese ; it is at once the foundation of their political system, their history, and their religious rites, the basis of their tactics, music, and astronomy." For the most part it consists of conversations between the kings and their ministers, in which are traced out the same patriarchal principles of government as guide the rulers of the empire at the present day. "Virtue," said the minister Yih, addressing the emperor, "is the basis of good government; and this consists first in procuring for the people the things necessary for their sustenance, such as water, fire, metals, wood, and grain. The ruler must also think of rendering them virtuous, and of preserving them from whatever an injure life and health. When you would caution them, use gentle words, when you would correct, employ authorityt." "Do not be ashamed of mistakes, and thus make them crimes," was another piece of wholesome advice offered to the emperor by his advisers, the effect of which is still observable in the outspoken confessions of official incompetence which are daily to be met with in the columns of the Peking Gazette.

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