KÜN-KHĂN was the successor in 'the eastern capital' of the duke of Kâu, who has now passed off the stage of the Shû, which he occupied so long. Between 'the Officers of Kâu' and this Book, there were, when the Shû was complete, two others, which are both lost. We must greatly deplore the loss of the second of them, for it contained an account of the death of the duke of Kâu, and an announcement made by king Khăng by his bier.
Who Kün-khăn, the charge to whom on entering on his important government is here preserved, really was, we are not informed. Some have supposed that he was a son of the duke of Kâu; but we may be sure, from the analogy of other charges, that if he had been so, the fact would have been alluded to in the text. Kün-khăn might be translated 'the prince Khăn,' like Kün Shih in the title of Book xvi, but we know nothing of any territory with which he was invested.
The following summary of the contents is given by a Chinese critic:--'The whole Book may be divided into three chapters. The first relates Kün-khăn's appointment to the government of the eastern capital. The concluding words, "Be reverent,"
are emphatic, and give the key-note to all that follows. The second chapter enjoins on him to exert himself to illustrate the lessons of the duke of Kâu, and thereby transform the people of Yin. The third requires him to give full development to those lessons, and instances various particulars in which his doing so would appear;--all illustrative of the command at the commencement, that he should be reverent.'
1. The king spake to the following effect:--'Kün-khăn, it is you who are possessed of excellent virtue, filial and respectful. Being filial, and friendly with your brethren, you can display these qualities in the exercise of government. I appoint you to rule this eastern border. Be reverent.'
2. 'Formerly, the duke of Kâu acted as teacher and guardian of the myriads of the people, who cherish (the remembrance of) his virtue. Go and with sedulous care enter upon his charge; act in accordance with his regular ways, and exert yourself to illustrate his lessons;--so shall the people be regulated. I have heard that he said, "Perfect government has a piercing fragrance, and influences the spiritual intelligences.* It is not the millet which has the piercing fragrance; it is bright virtue." Do you make this lesson of the duke of Kâu your rule, being diligent from day to day, and not presuming to indulge in luxurious ease. Ordinary men, while they have not yet seen a sage, (are full of desire) as if they should never get a sight of him; and after they have seen him, they are still unable to follow him. Be cautioned by this! You are the wind; the inferior people are the grass. In revolving the plans of your government, never hesitate to acknowledge the difficulty of the subject. Some things have to be abolished, and some new things to be enacted;--
going out and coming in, seek the judgment of your people about them, and, when there is a general agreement, exert your own powers of reflection. When you have any good plans or counsels, enter and lay them before your sovereign in the palace. Thereafter, when you are acting abroad in accordance with them, say, "This plan or this view is all due to our sovereign." Oh! if all ministers were to act thus, how excellent would they be, and how distinguished!'
3. The king said, 'Kün-khăn, do you give their full development to the great lessons of the duke of Kâu. Do not make use of your power to exercise oppression; do not make use of the laws to practise extortion. Be gentle, but with strictness of rule. Promote harmony by the display of an easy forbearance.
'When any of the people of Yin are amenable to punishment, if I say "Punish," do not you therefore punish; and if I say "Spare," do not you therefore spare. Seek the due middle course. Those who are disobedient to your government, and uninfluenced by your instructions, you will punish, remembering that the end of punishment is to make an end of punishing. Those who are inured to villainy and treachery, those who violate the regular duties of society, and those who introduce disorder into the public manners:--those three classes you will not spare, though their particular offences be but small.
'Do not cherish anger against the obstinate, and dislike them. Seek not every quality in one individual. You must have patience, and you will be successful; have forbearance, and your virtue will
be great. Mark those who discharge their duties well, and also mark those who do not do so, (and distinguish them from one another.) Advance the good, to induce those who may not be so to follow (their example).
'The people are born good, and are changed by (external) things,* so that they resist what their superiors command, and follow what they (themselves) love. Do you but reverently observe the statutes, and they will be found in (the way of) virtue; they will thus all be changed, and truly advance to a great degree of excellence. Then shall I, the One man, receive much happiness, and your excellent services will be famous through long ages!'