Summary of the Rules of Propriety Part 3

When his father or mother is ill, (a young man) who has been capped should not use his comb, nor walk with his elbows stuck out, nor speak on idle topics, nor take his lute or cithern in hand. He should not eat of (different) meats till his taste is changed, nor drink till his looks are changed’. He should not laugh so as to show his teeth, nor be angry till he breaks forth in reviling. When the illness is gone, he may resume his former habits.

He who is sad and anxious should sit with his mat spread apart from others; he who is mourning (for a death) should sit on a single mat.

When heavy rains have fallen, one should not present fish or tortoises (to a superior). He who is presenting a bird should turn its head on one side; if it be a tame bird, this need not be done. He who is presenting a carriage and horses should carry in his hand (to the hall) the whip, and strap for mounting by. He who is presenting a suit of mail should carry the helmet (to the hall). He who is presenting a staff should hold it by its end. He who is presenting a captive should hold him by the right sleeve. He who is presenting grain unhulled should carry with him the left side of the account (of the quantity); if the hull be off, he should carry with him a measure-drum. He who is presenting cooked food, should carry with him the sauce and pickles for it. He who is presenting fields and tenements should carry with him the writings about them, and give them up (to the superior).

In every case of giving a bow to another, if it be bent, the (string of) sinew should be kept upwards; but if unbent, the horn. (The giver) should with his right hand grasp the end of the bow, and keep his left under the middle of the back. The (parties, without regard to their rank as) high and low, (bow to each other) till the napkins (at their girdles) hang down (to the ground). If the host (wish to) bow (still lower), the other moves on one side to avoid the salutation. The host then takes the bow, standing on the left of the other. Putting his hand under that of the visitor, he lays hold of the middle of the back, having his face in the same direction as the other; and thus he receives (the bow).

He who is giving a sword should do so with the hilt on his left side. He who is giving a spear with one hook should do so with the metal end of the shaft in front, and the sharp edge behind. He who is presenting one with two hooks, or one with a single hook and two sharp points, should do so with the blunt shaft in front. He who is giving a stool or a staff should (first) wipe it. He who is presenting a horse or a sheep should lead it with his right hand. He who is presenting a dog should lead it with his left hand. He who is carrying a bird (as his present of introduction) should do so with the head to the left. For the ornamental covering of a lamb or a goose, an embroidered cloth should be used. He who receives a pearl or a piece of jade should do so with both his hands. He who receives a bow or a sword should do so (having his hands covered) with his sleeves. He who has drunk from a cup of jade should not (go on to) shake it out. Whenever friendly messages are about to be sent, with the present of a sword or bow, or of (fruit, flesh, and other things, wrapped in) matting of rushes, with grass mats, and in baskets, round and square, (the messenger) has these things (carried with him, when he goes) to receive his commission, and deports himself as when he will be discharging it.

Whenever one is charged with a mission by his ruler, after he has received from him his orders, and (heard all) he has to say, he should not remain over the night in his house. When a message from the ruler comes (to a minister), the latter should go out and bow (to the bearer), in acknowledgment of the honour of it. When the messenger is about to return, (the other) must bow to him (again), and escort him outside the gate. If (a minister) send a message to his ruler, he must wear his court-robes when he communicates it to the bearer; and on his return, he must descend from the hall, to receive (the ruler’s) commands.

To acquire extensive information and remember retentively, while (at the same time) he is modest; to do earnestly what is good, and not become weary in so doing – these are the characteristics of him whom we call the superior man. A superior man does not accept everything by which another would express his joy in him, or his devotion to him; and thus he preserves their friendly intercourse unbroken.

A rule of propriety says, ‘A superior man may carry his grandson in his arms, but not his son.’ This tells us that a grandson may be the personator of his deceased grandfather (at sacrifices), but a son cannot be so of his father. When a great officer or (other) officer sees one who is to personate the dead (on his way to the ancestral temple), he should dismount from his carriage to him. The ruler himself, when he recognises him, should do the same. The personator (at the same time) must bow forward to the cross-bar. In mounting the carriage, he must use a stool.

One who is fasting (in preparation for a sacrifice) should neither listen to music nor condole with mourners.

According to the rules for the period of mourning (for a father), (a son) should not emaciate himself till the bones appear, nor let his seeing and hearing be affected (by his privations). He should not go up to, nor descend from, the hail by the steps on the east (which his father used), nor go in or out by the path right opposite to the (centre of the) gate. According to the same rules, if he have a scab on his head, he should wash it; if he have a sore on his body, he should bathe it. If he be ill, he should drink spirits, and eat flesh, returning to his former (abstinence) when he is better. If he make himself unable to perform his mourning duties, that is like being unkind and unfilial. If he be fifty, he should not allow himself to be reduced (by his abstinence) very much; and, if he be sixty, not at all. At seventy, he will only wear the unhemmed dress of sackcloth, and will drink and eat flesh, and occupy (the usual apartment) inside (his house).

Intercourse with the living (will be continued) in the future; intercourse with the dead (friend) was a thing of the past. He who knows the living should send (a message of) condolence; and he who knew the dead (a message also of his) grief. He who knows the living, and did not know the dead, will send his condolence without (that expression of) his grief; he who knew the dead, and does not know the living, will send the (expression of) grief, but not go on to condole.

He who is condoling with one who has mourning rites in band, and is not able to assist him with a gift, should put no question about his expenditure. He who is enquiring after another that is ill, and is not able to send (anything to him), should not ask what he would like. He who sees (a traveller), and is not able to lodge him, should not ask where he is stopping. He who would confer something on another should not say, ‘Come and take it;’ he who would give something (to a smaller man), should not ask him what he would like.

When one goes to a burying-ground, he should not get up on any of the graves. When assisting at an interment, one should (join in) holding the rope attached to the coffin. In a house of mourning, one should not laugh. In order to bow to another, one should leave his own place. When one sees at a distance a coffin with the corpse in it, he should not sing. When he enters among the mourners, he should not keep his arms stuck out. When eating (with others), he should not sigh. When there are mourning rites in his neighbourhood, one should not accompany his pestle with his voice. When there is a body shrouded and coffined in his village, one should not sing in the lanes. When going to a burying-ground, one should not sing, nor on the same day when he has wailed (with mourners). When accompanying a funeral, one should not take a by-path. When taking part in the act of interment, one should not (try to) avoid mud or pools. When presenting himself at any mourning rite, one should have a sad countenance. When holding the rope, one should not laugh, When present on an occasion of joy, one should not sigh. When wearing his coat of mail and helmet, one’s countenance should say, ‘Who dares meddle with me?’ Hence the superior man is careful to maintain the proper expression of his countenance before others.

Where the ruler of a state lays hold of the cross-bar, and bends forward to it, a great officer will descend from his carriage. Where a great officer lays bold of the bar and bends forward, another officer will descend. The rules of ceremony do not go down to the common people. The penal statutes do not go up to great officers. Men who have suffered punishment should not (be allowed to) be by the side of the ruler.

A fighting chariot has no cross-board to assist its occupants in bowing; in a war chariot the banner is fully displayed; in a chariot of peace it is kept folded round the pole. A recorder should carry with him in his carriage his implements for writing; his, subordinates the (recorded) words (of former covenants and other documents). When there is water in front, the flag with the green bird on it should be displayed. When there is (a cloud of) dust in front, that with the screaming kites. For chariots and horsemen, that with wild geese in flight. For a body of troops, that with a tiger’s (skin). For a beast of prey, that with a leopard’s (skin). On the march the (banner with the) Red Bird should be in front; that with the Dark Warrior behind; that with the Azure Dragon on the left; and that with the White Tiger on the right; that with the Pointer of the Northern Bushel should be reared aloft (in the centre of the host) – all to excite and direct the fury (of the troops). There are rules for advancing and retreating; there are the various arrangements on the left and the right, each with its (proper) officer to look after it.

With the enemy who has slain his father, one should not live under the same heaven. With the enemy who has slain his brother, one should never have his sword to seek (to deal vengeance). With the enemy who has slain his intimate friend, one should not live in the same state (without seeking to slay him).

Many ramparts in the country round and near (a capital) are a disgrace to its high ministers and great officers. Where the wide and open country is greatly neglected and uncultivated, it is a disgrace to the officers (in charge of it).

When taking part in a sacrifice, one should not show indifference. When sacrificial robes are worn out, they should be burnt: sacrificial vessels in the same condition should be buried, as should the tortoise-shell and divining stalks, and a victim that has died. All who take part with the ruler in a sacrifice must themselves remove the stands (of their offerings).

When the ceremony of wailing is over, a son should no longer speak of his deceased father by his name. The rules do not require the avoiding of names merely similar in sound to those not to be spoken. When (a parent had) a double name, the avoiding of either term (used singly) is not required. While his parents (are alive), and a son is able to serve them, he should not utter the names of his grandparents; when he can no longer serve his parents (through their death), he need not avoid the names of his grandparents. Names that would not be spoken (in his own family) need not be avoided (by a great officer) before his ruler; in the great officer’s, however, the names proper to be suppressed by the ruler should not be spoken. In (reading) the books of poetry and history, there need be no avoiding of names, nor in writing compositions. In the ancestral temple there is no such avoiding. Even in his presence, a minister need not avoid the names improper to be spoken by the ruler’s wife. The names to be avoided by a wife need not be unspoken outside the door of the harem. The names of parties for whom mourning is worn (only) nine months or five months are not avoided. When one is crossing the boundaries (of a state), he should ask what are its prohibitory laws; when he has fairly entered it, he should ask about its customs; before entering the door (of a house), he should ask about the names to be avoided in it.

External undertakings should be commenced on the odd days, and internal on the even. In all cases of divining about a day, whether by the tortoise-shell or the stalks, if it be beyond the decade, it is said, ‘on such and such a distant day,’ and if within the decade, ‘on such and such a near day.’ For matters of mourning a distant day is preferred; for festive matters a near day. It is said, ‘For the day we depend on thee, O great Tortoise-shell, which dost give the regular indications; we depend on you, O great Divining Stalks, which give the regular indications.’ Divination by the shell or the stalks should not go beyond three times. The shell and the stalks should not be both used on the same subject. Divination by the shell is called bu; by the stalks, shi. The two were the methods by which the ancient sage kings made the people believe in seasons and days, revere spiritual beings, stand in awe of their laws and orders; the methods (also) by which they made them determine their perplexities and settle their misgivings. Hence it is said, ‘If you doubted, and have consulted the stalks, you need not (any longer) think that you will do wrong. If the day (be clearly indicated), boldly do on it (what you desire to do).’

When the ruler’s carriage is about to have the horses put to it, the driver should stand before them, whip in hand. When they are yoked, he will inspect the linch pin, and report that the carriage is ready. (Coming out again), he should shake the dust from his clothes, and mount on the right side, taking hold of the second strap he should (then) kneel in the carriage. Holding his whip, and taking the reins separately, he will drive the horses on five paces, and then stop. When the ruler comes out and approaches the carriage, the driver should take all the reins in one hand, and (with the other) hand the strap to him. The attendants should then retire out of the way. They should follow quickly as the carriage drives on. When it reaches the great gate, the ruler will lay his hand on that of the driver (that he may drive gently), and, looking round, will order the warrior for the seat on the right to come into the carriage. In passing through the gates (of a city) or village, and crossing the water-channels, the pace must be reduced to a walk.

In all cases it is the rule for the driver to hand the strap (to the person about to mount the carriage). If the driver be of lower rank (than himself) that other receives it. If this be not the case, he should not do so. If the driver be of the lower rank, the other should (still) lay his own hand on his (as if to stop him). If this be not the case (and the driver will insist on handing it), the other should take hold of the strap below (the driver’s hand). A guest’s carriage does not enter the great gate; a woman does not stand up in her carriage; dogs and horses are not taken up to the hall.

Hence, the ruler bows forward to his cross-board to (an old man of) yellow hair; he dismounts (and walks on foot) past the places of his high nobles (in the audience court). He does not gallop the horses of his carriage in the capital; and should bow forward on entering a village. When called by the ruler’s order, though through a man of low rank, a great officer, or (other) officer, must meet him in person. A man in armour does not bow, he makes an obeisance indeed, but it is a restrained obeisance. When the carriage of a deceased ruler is following at his interment, the place on the left should be vacant. When (any of his ministers on other occasions) are riding in (any of) the ruler’s carriages, they do not presume to leave the seat on the left vacant, but he who occupies it should bend forward to the cross-board. A charioteer driving a woman should keep his left hand advanced (with the reins in it), and his right hand behind him. When driving the ruler of a state, (the charioteer) should have his right hand advanced, with the left kept behind and the head bent down.

The ruler of a state should not ride in a one-wheeled carriage. In his carriage one should not cough loudly, nor point with his hand in an irregular way. Standing (in his carriage) one should look (forward only) to the distance of five revolutions of the wheels. Bending forward, he should (do so only till he) sees the tails of the horses. He should not turn his head round beyond the (line of the) naves. In the (streets of the) capital one should touch the horses gently with the brush-end of the switch. He should not urge them to their speed. The dust should not fly beyond the ruts. The ruler of a state should bend towards the cross-board when he meets a sacrificial victim, and dismount (in passing) the ancestral temple. A great officer or (other) officer should descend (when he comes to) the ruler’s gate, and bend forward to the ruler’s horses. (A minister) riding in one of the ruler’s carriages must wear his court robes. He should have the whip in the carriage with him, (but not use it). He should not presume to have the strap handed to him. In his place on the left, he should bow forward to the cross-board. (An officer) walking the ruler’s horses should do so in the middle of the road. It he trample on their forage, he should be punished, and also if he look at their teeth, (and go on to calculate their age).

English translation: James Legge – From the Book of Rites


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