A great officer or (other) officer should go out or in at the ruler’s doors, on the right of the middle post, without treading on the threshold.

Whenever (a host has received and) is entering with a guest, at every door he should give place to him. When the guest arrives at the innermost door (or that leading to the feast-room), the host will ask to be allowed to enter first and arrange the mats. Having done this, he will come out to receive the guest, who will refuse firmly (to enter first). The host having made a low bow to him, they will enter (together). When they have entered the door, the host moves to the right, and the guest to the left, the former going to the steps on the east, and the latter to those on the west. If the guest be of the lower rank, he goes to the steps of the host (as if to follow him up them). The host firmly declines this, and he returns to the other steps on the west. They then offer to each other the precedence in going up, but the host commences first, followed (immediately) by the other. They bring their feet together on every step, thus ascending by successive paces. He who ascends by the steps on the cast should move his right foot first, and the other at the western steps his left foot.

Outside the curtain or screen (a visitor) should not walk with the formal hasty steps, nor above in the hall, nor when carrying the symbol of jade. Above, in the raised hall, the foot-prints should be alongside each other, but below it free and separate. In the apartment the elbows should not be held out like wings in bowing. When two (equals) are sitting side by side, they do not have their elbows extended crosswise. One should not kneel in handing anything to a (superior) standing, nor stand in handing it to him sitting.

In all cases of (a lad’s) carrying away the dirt that has been swept up from the presence of an elder, it is the rule that he (place) the brush on the basket, keeping his sleeve before it as he retires. The dust is not allowed to reach the elder, because he carries the basket with its mouth turned towards himself. He carries the (elder’s) mat in his arms like the cross-beam of a shadoof. If it be a mat to sit on, he will ask in what direction (the elder) is going to turn his face; if it be to sleep on, in what direction he is going to turn his feet. If a mat face the south or the north, the seat on the west is accounted that of honour; if it face the east or the west, the seat on the south.

Except in the case of guests who are there (simply) to eat and drink, in spreading the mats a space of ten cubits should be left between them. When the host kneels to adjust the mats (of a visitor), the other should kneel and keep hold of them, declining (the honour). When the visitor (wishes to) remove one or more, the host should firmly decline to permit him to do so. When the visitor steps on his mats, (the host) takes his seat. If the host have not put some question, the visitor should not begin the conversation.

When (a pupil) is about to go to his mat, he should not look discomposed. With his two hands he should hold up his lower garment, so that the bottom of it may be a cubit from the ground. His clothes should not hang loosely about him, nor should there be any hurried movements of his feet. If any writing or tablets of his master, or his lute or cithern be in the way, he should kneel down and remove them, taking care not to disarrange them. When sitting and doing nothing, he should keep quite at the back (of his mat); when eating, quite at the front of it. He should sit quietly and keep a watch on his countenance. If there be any subject on which the elder has not touched, let him not introduce it irregularly. Let him keep his deportment correct, and listen respectfully. Let him not appropriate (to himself) the words (of others), nor (repeat them) as (the echo does the) thunder. If he must (adduce proofs), let them be from antiquity, with an appeal to the ancient kings.

When sitting by his side, and the teacher puts a question, (the learner) should not reply till (the other) has finished. When requesting (instruction) on the subject of his studies, (the learner) should rise; when requesting further information, he should rise. When his father calls, (a youth) should not (merely) answer ‘yes,’ nor when his teacher calls. He should, with (a respectful) ‘yes,’ immediately rise (and go to them).

When one is sitting in attendance on another whom he honours and reveres, he should not allow any part of his mat to keep them apart, nor will he rise when he sees others (come in) of the same rank as himself. When the torches come, he should rise; and also when the viands come in, or a visitor of superior rank. The torches should not (be allowed to burn) till their ends can be seen. Before an honoured visitor we should not shout (even) at a dog. When declining any food, one should not spit.

When one is sitting in attendance on another of superior character or rank, and that other yawns or stretches himself, or lays hold of his staff or shoes, or looks towards the sun to see if it be early or late, he should ask to be allowed to leave. In the same position, if the superior man put a question on a new subject, he should rise up in giving his reply. Similarly, if there come some one saying (to the superior man), ‘I wish, when you have a little leisure, to report to you,’ he should withdraw to the left or right and wait.

Do not listen with the head inclined on one side, nor answer with a loud sharp voice, nor look with a dissolute leer, nor keep the body in a slouching position. Do not saunter about with a haughty gait, nor stand with one foot raised. Do not sit with your knees wide apart, nor sleep on your face. Have your hair gathered up, and do not use any false hair. Let not the cap be laid aside; nor the chest be bared, (even) when one is toiling hard; nor let the lower garment be held up (even) in hot weather.

When (going to) sit in attendance on an elder, (a visitor) should not go up to the hall with his shoes on, nor should he presume to take them off in front of the Steps. (When any single visitor is leaving), he will go to his shoes, kneel down and take them up, and then move to one side. (When the visitors retire in a body) with their faces towards the elder, (they stand) by the shoes, which they then, kneeling, remove (some distance), and, stooping down, put on.

When two men are sitting or standing together, do not join them as a third. When two are standing together, another should not pass between them.

Male and female should not sit together (in the same apartment), nor have the same stand or rack for their clothes, nor use the same towel or comb, nor let their hands touch in giving and receiving. A sister-in-law and brother-in-law do not interchange inquiries (about each other). None of the concubines in a house should be employed to wash the lower garment (of a son). Outside affairs should not be talked of inside the threshold (of the women’s apartments), nor inside (or women’s) affairs outside it.

When a young lady is promised in marriage, she wears the strings (hanging down to her neck); and unless there be some great occasion, no (male) enters the door of her apartment. When a married aunt, or sister, or daughter returns home (on a visit), no brother (of the family) should sit with her on the same mat or eat with her from the same dish. (Even) the father and daughter should not occupy the same mat.

Male and female, without the intervention of the matchmaker, do not know each other’s name. Unless the marriage presents have been received, there should be no communication nor affection between them. Hence the day and month (of the marriage) should be announced to the ruler, and to the spirits (of ancestors) with purification and fasting; and (the bridegroom) should make a feast, and invite (his friends) in the district and neighbourhood, and his fellow-officers – thus giving its due importance to the separate position (of male and female).

One must not marry a wife of the same surname with himself. Hence, in buying a concubine, if he do not know her surname, he must consult the tortoise-shell about it. With the son of a widow, unless he be of acknowledged distinction, one should not associate himself as a friend.

When one congratulates (a friend) on his marrying, his messenger says, ‘So and So has sent me. Having heard that you are having guests, he has sent me with this present.’

Goods and wealth are not to be expected from the poor in their discharge of the rules of propriety; nor the display of sinews and strength from the old.

In giving a name to a son, it should not be that of a state, nor of a day or a month, nor of any hidden ailment, nor of a hill or river. Sons and daughters should have their (relative) ages distinguished. A son at twenty is capped, and receives his appellation. Before his father a son should be called by his name, and before his ruler a minister. When a daughter is promised in marriage, she assumes the hair-pin, and receives her appellation.

The rules for bringing in the dishes for an entertainment are the following: The meat cooked on the bones is set on the left, and the sliced meat on the right; the rice is placed on the left of the parties on the mat, and the soup on their right; the minced and roasted meat are put outside (the chops and sliced meat), and the pickles and sauces inside; the onions and steamed onions succeed to these, and the drink and syrups are on the right. When slices of dried and spiced meat are put down, where they are folded is turned to the left, and the ends of them to the right.

If a guest be of lower rank (than his entertainer), he should take up the rice, rise and decline (the honour he is receiving). The host then rises and refuses to allow the guest (to retire). After this the guest will resume his seat. When the host leads on the guests to present an offering (to the father of cookery), they will begin with the dishes which were first brought in. Going on from the meat cooked on the bones they will offer of all (the other dishes). After they have eaten three times, the host will lead on the guests to take of the sliced meat, from which they will go on to all the other dishes. A guest should not rinse his mouth with spirits till the host has gone over all the dishes.

When (a youth) is in attendance on an elder at a meal, if the host give anything to him with his own hand, he should bow to him and eat it. If he do not so give him anything, he should eat without bowing. When eating with others from the same dishes, one should not try to eat (hastily) to satiety. When eating with them from the same dish of rice, one should not have to wash his hands.

Do not roll the rice into a ball; do not bolt down the various dishes; do not swill down (the soup). Do not make a noise in eating; do not crunch the bones with the teeth; do not put back fish you have been eating; do not throw the bones to the dogs; do not snatch (at what you want). Do not spread out the rice (to cool); do not use chopsticks in eating millet. Do not (try to) gulp down soup with vegetables in it, nor add condiments to it; do not keep picking the-teeth, nor swill down the sauces. If a guest add condiments, the host will apologise for not having had the soup prepared better. If he swill down the sauces, the host will apologise for his poverty. Meat that is wet (and soft) may be divided with the teeth, but dried flesh cannot be so dealt with. Do not bolt roast meat in large pieces. When they have done eating, the guests will kneel in front (of the mat), and (begin to) remove the (dishes) of rice and sauces to give them to the attendants. The host will then rise and decline this service from the guests, who will resume their seats.

If a youth is in attendance on, and drinking with, an elder, when the (cup of) spirits is brought to him, he rises, bows, and (goes to) receive it at the place where the spirit-vase is kept. The elder refuses (to allow him to do so), when he returns to the mat, and (is prepared) to drink. The elder (meantime) lifts (his cup); but until he has emptied it, the other does not presume to drink his.

When an elder offers a gift, neither a youth, nor one of mean condition, presumes to decline it. When a fruit is given by the ruler and in his presence, if there be a kernel in it, (the receiver) should place it in his bosom. When one is attending the ruler at a meal, and the ruler gives him anything that is left, if it be in a vessel that can be easily scoured, he does not transfer it (to another of his own); but from any other vessel he should so transfer it.

Portions of (such) food should not be used as offerings (to the departed). A father should not use them in offering even to a (deceased) son, nor a husband in offering to a (deceased) wife.

When one is attending an elder and (called to) share with him (at a feast), though the viands may be double (what is necessary), he should not (seek) to decline them. If he take his seat (only) as the companion of another (for whom it has been prepared), he should not decline them.

If the soup be made with vegetables, chopsticks should be used; but not if there be no vegetables.

He who pares a melon for the son of Heaven should divide it into four parts and then into eight, and cover them with a napkin of fine linen. For the ruler of a state, he should divide it into four parts, and cover them with a coarse napkin. To a great officer he should (present the four parts) uncovered. An inferior officer should receive it (simply) with the stalk cut away. A common man will deal with it with his teeth.

to be continued >>

English translation: James Legge from the Book of Rites


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