WITH this Book there commence the documents of the Shû that may be regarded, as I have said in the Introduction, as contemporaneous with the events which they describe. It is the first of the 'Speeches,' which form one class of the documents of the classic.
The text does not say who the king mentioned in it was, but the prevalent tradition has always been that he was Khî, the son and successor of Yü. Its place between the Tribute of Yü and the next Book belonging to the reign of Thâi Khang, Khî's son, corroborates this view.
Kan is taken as the name of a place in the southern border of the principality of Hû, with the lord of which Khî fought. The name of Hû itself still remains in the district so called of the department Hsî-an, in Shen-hsî.
The king, about to engage in battle with a rebellious vassal, assembles his generals and troops, and addresses them. He declares obscurely the grounds of the expedition which he had undertaken, and concludes by stimulating the soldiers to the display of courage and observance of order by promises of reward and threats of punishment.
There was a great battle at Kan. (Previous to it), the king called together the six nobles, (the leaders of his six hosts), and said, 'Ah! all ye who
are engaged in my six hosts, I have a solemn announcement to make to you.
'The lord of Hû wildly wastes and despises the five elements (that regulate the seasons), and has idly abandoned the three acknowledged commencements of the year 1. On this account Heaven is about to destroy him, and bring to an end his appointment (to Hû); and I am now reverently executing the punishment appointed by Heaven.*
If you, (the archers) on the left 2, do not do your work on the left, it will be a disregard of my orders. If you, (the spearmen) on the right 2, do not do your work on the right, it will be a disregard of my orders. If you, charioteers 2, do not observe the rules for the management of your horses, it will be a disregard of my orders. You who obey my orders, shall be rewarded before (the spirits of) my ancestors; and you who disobey my orders, shall be put to death before the altar of the spirits of the land, and I will also put to death your children.'*
77:1 The crimes of the lord of Hû are here very obscurely stated. With regard to the second of them, we know that Hsiâ commenced its year with the first month of spring, Shang a month earlier, and Kâu about mid-winter. It was understood that every dynasty should fix a new month for the beginning of the year, and the dynasty of Khin actually carried its first month back into our November. If the lord of Hû claimed to begin the year with another month than that which Yü had fixed, be was refusing submission to the new dynasty. No doubt, the object of the expedition was to put down a dangerous rival.
77:2 The chariots were the principal part of an ancient Chinese army; it is long before we read of cavalry. A war-chariot generally carried three. The driver was in the centre; on his left was an archer, and a spearman occupied the place on his right. They all wore mail.