Reminder from the last issue:
In China, as the rule was passed from Emperor Yao to Shun, then to Yu of the Xia Dynasty, and then to Tang of the Shang Dynasty, the government was consistently based upon the principle of maintaining equilibrium.
After Tang died, Tai Jia overturned Tang's entire legal system, so Yi Yin banished him to Tong for three years. After that Tai Jia was regretful and blamed himself. In Tong he studied humaneness and righteousness for three years following Yi Yin’s instruction. Later he returned to the Buo again. The reason that Yi Yin banished Tai Jia was to teach him how to govern. When Tai Jia fully understood how to govern the country, Yi Yin returned the power to Tai Jia. This kind of public spirit and courage in taking responsibility is truly a model of political tutelage. This is truly an example of what Mencius respectfully called a "sage-governor." A sage-governor must certainly have a resolve like Yi Yin; otherwise he will be called a usurper.
After five hundred years, King Zhou of the Shang Dynasty was licentious, so the country was in turmoil. The Shang Dynasty ended and the Zhou Dynasty started. King Wen, whose kingdom was only one hundred square miles, was known far and wide for his humaneness. The Chinese people devoted their hearts to him. This was possible because King Wen's virtue was impeccable. To be impeccable is to be sincere. A verse by Confucius praises, "The reason King Wen was a man of the literati was because he was sincere." King Wen, considering the populace to be like his own children in making policies to practice humaneness, would first benefit widowers, widows, orphans, and the solitary elderly. He considered it the government's responsibility to care for these people. His son, King Wu, was a military expert and united the empire. In his governing he maintained the attitude, "Don't underestimate those who are close and don't forget those who are far." (Mencius) He was sincere, respectful and trustworthy. He was especially good in employing the worthy ones and had ten top officials helping him and that enabled him to successfully govern the entire empire. Among the ten was one woman. This is ample proof that women were in government in China as far back as three thousand years. Confucius called Emperor Wu a "great filial one," because he continued his father's will and carried on his work. He placed importance on "distinguishing the royal kindred, ordering the noble and the lesser, arranging the services and making distinctions of seniority." He occupied the places of his forefathers, practiced their ceremonies, and performed their music. He revered those whom they honored, and loved those whom they regarded with affection. Thus he served the dead as he would have served them alive; he served the departed as he would have served them had they continued to be with him. Thus it is said that he was filial to the utmost. Filiality is the root of humaneness. Rites and music are the practice of virtue. He was a ruler endowed with the Way. He was both a man of the literati and a military strategist. It is fitting that it’s said of him, "He held the governing of the country in the palm of his hand."
When King Wu died, his son King Cheng was still young. The Duke of Zhou, King Wu's younger brother, took on the responsibility. Based on his own literary and military talents, he quelled the turmoil, expanded the territory and strengthened the country. He established rites and music and made the virtuous foundation upon which the country long endured. Confucius considered that not only must a person have great virtue, he must also be in the right position, before he can assume such a responsibility. The Duke of Zhou also used the system of education whereby people were trained in both the literary and military arts. He insisted that the heads of every rank in the government be skilled in both literary and military arts in order to be qualified. That way, government could remain humane internally while countering invasions from outside. It was no accident that the Zhou Dynasty lasted seven hundred years. Throughout history there has never been any government that can surpass a humane government, because it is loved by the people.
Heaven protected China through the three great sage-emperors, Yao, Shun, and Yu, who were born in a time sequence that enabled them to yield the throne to one another and to establish the fundamental ethics of public-spirit, sincerity, humaneness, equilibrium, and practice for the country. Even though things altered in the interim, after 500 years, Tang and Yi Yin appeared and revitalized the fundamental ethics. After another 500 years, history repeated itself when King Wen, King Wu, and the Duke of Jou were born and governed in sequence. Public-spirit, sincerity, humaneness, equilibrium, and practice once again were embodied, taught and applied without cease. After another 500 years, Confucius was born. Even though he did not occupy any position in the government, he was able to propagate this system and became venerated and renowned as a teacher of ten thousand generations.
Confucius was born at the end of the Zhou Dynasty. At that time the central government was nothing but an empty shell. The feudal lords divided the land and made themselves kings. Although Confucius cherished the hope of revitalizing the Zhou Dynasty, he never succeeded in finding a king who would make full use of him on a permanent basis. Because his ideals were too high, he was unwilling to go along with the crowd, and so he traveled through many states for fourteen years, experiencing all kinds of difficulties and dangers. He had the will but lacked the opportunity and so he gathered many students and disciples, numbering three thousand. Among them were seventy-two who mastered the six arts.
→To be continued