Chinese Song Dynasty Confucian Scholar and Neo-Confucian
Zhu Xi, or Chu Hsi
Chinese Song Dynasty Confucian Scholar and Neo-Confucian
As for the final court judgments, the judges cannot recklessly use the laws of pardon or amnesty. I also call on those
scholar-officials well-versed in the Classics, histories, and the
ways of the ancient sage-kings to . . . prepare a text of the remarks of authorities both today and in antiquity on crime and
punishment, and utilize this text to train individuals . . . planning on entering government service, and to also provide this
text to all officials involved in deciding cases. This way we
can make all understand the ways in which the ancient sage
kings prepared and promulgated their decrees, laws, and teachings, as well as gaining an appreciation of how they established
the great elements that comprised their punishments ….
Ultimately, this will give us the means to assist in realizing
proper education in this world.
Those who have joined the compact should examine themselves with regard to the foregoing faults and mutually admonish one another. If the fault is slight, confidential admonition is in order; if it is great, group admonition is called for.
If the person charged will not listen, then at a general meeting
the head of the compact, so informed, shall try to reason with
him and if he agrees to reform, the matter shall simply be recorded in the register, but if he resists, will not submit, and
proves incorrigible, all shall agree to his ejection from the
compact lists a variety of individual faults that compact members
should strive to avoid, including:
1. Drunken quarreling, gambling, fighting, litigation.
2. Excessiveness and abnormality in conduct.
3. Irreverent and unyielding conduct.
4. Stating what is not true and not being trustworthy.
5. Making up statements of false accusation and slander.
6. Managing things to one’s own undue advantage.
Now some people are unfilial to parents and disrespectful to
brothers. They often violate their parents’ instructions and
commands and even fail to provide for them; they easily become angry and fight with their brothers and even refuse to
help them out. They defy Heaven and violate principles. I
deeply lament and feel sorry for them. They should urgently
reform their conduct[;] otherwise[,] they will invite immediate
disaster … 135 [W]ith respect to [these instructions], I only
wish that everyone understand what is right and be a good person. Everyone should realize that if he does not offend the
authorities, there is no reason why he should be subject to punishment. All should earnestly follow these instructions so
that peace and harmony will be with them. If anyone does not
follow them and dares to be defiant, the law of the state is clear
and officials must be impartial [in enforcing the law]. Everyone should deeply reflect on this so he will have no cause for
Proclamation of Instructions: Following are items of instructions to be observed:
1.Instructions to members of community units on matters
about which they should encourage and remind each
other: All members should encourage and remind
each other to be filial to parents, respectful to elders,
cordial to clansmen and relatives, and helpful neighbors. Each should perform his assigned duty and engage in his primary occupation. None should commit vicious acts or thefts, or indulge in drinking or
gambling. They should not fight with or sue each
other. If there are filial sons or grandsons, or righteous husbands and virtuous wives, and their deeds
are noteworthy, they should be reported. The government, in accordance with provisions of the statutes,
will reward them and honor them with banners.
Those who do not follow instructions should be reported, examined, and punished in accordance with
2.Injunctions to members of community units on matters of
which they should mutually watch and investigate
each other: People should always be alert to save water, prevent fire, investigate thefts and robberies, and
prevent infighting . . . People in the same community
unit should watch each other. Anyone who is aware
of a crime but fails to report it will share the punishment.
The ancient sage kings injured human bodies [through punishment] in order to punish evil. They [did not decide on this
course of action lightly but rather] had exhausted their mindand-hearts; therefore, they enacted and continued to use corporal punishments because they could not bear to see government go off to one extreme [to tolerate evil and crime, helping
only criminals]. Today, the punitive laws of penal servitude
and exile are unfortunately no longer sufficient in order to stop
and prevent the treachery of the crimes of theft and debauchery. Furthermore, some of the punishments levied today
are far too excessive: those that should not have been executed
are being executed, such as individuals that have committed
crimes like violent robbery . . . a more fitting punishment for
these individuals would be to castrate them or cut off their legs; although this would cause harm to their limbs, [these punishments] would nevertheless preserve their lives and destroy the
root of their desires to commit evil, as well as [physically] preventing them from having the means to engage in those crimes
again. Would this not preserve the intentions of the ancient
sage-kings as well as appropriately [dealing with the problems]
of our age. Moreover, for the ruler to accomplish his ambitions and be successful in his actions, he must have the tools of
cultivation and the techniques of education.
When the ancient sage-kings governed, their method of ruling
was rooted in a desire to be lenient.112 However, today, we
must root governance in severity. We must first govern with
strictness to rectify existing problems, and only after we do this
will we have the means to obtain proper success. Today’s
government officials act mercifully but unsystematically and
not in accordance with laws and regulations . . . the result of
their lenient acts is to allow those powerful criminals to be
more successful. The innocent people will not be able to experience and enjoy the mercy of these officials, but rather suffer misfortune at their hands and policies!
The Canon of Shun has the most detailed discussion of punishments … the Five Punishments were used to deal with
repulsive and evil criminals, such as murderers or those who
commit assault, as well as those who plunder, rob, and commit
acts of debauchery. Those that committed these crimes could
not be granted amnesty. [When the Canon of Shun passage
speaks of] “enacting banishment as a mitigation of the Five
Punishments,” it refers to exile-type punishments that were
used to deal with those offenders whose crimes were a little bit
less serious than murder, assault, plunder, and acts of debauchery. Exile was also suitable for dealing with those whose
crimes were deserving of the Five Punishments but where their
particular situations demanded some measure of compassion,
or where there was uncertainty in the facts of the case and the
law, or for those close to or related to the emperor, or for those
who had been recognized by the state for meritorious service
[to the realm]. “The whip in the magistrates’ courts” and “the
sticks in the schools” were the punishments for the court and
schools, suitable for dealing with light infractions of the law.
“Money to be received for redeemable offenses” is suitable for
extremely light offenses, or those crimes which although are
deserving of the Five Punishments, have some uncertainty in
the application of the law or some other situational quality which allows for some latitude in sentencing. These Five Punishments [as set forth in the Canon of Shun] cover serious to
light crimes; each provision is principled, correct, and has the
backing of a relevant textual legal provision. “Inadvertent offen[s]es and those which could be ascribed to misfortune were
to be pardoned” means these types of crimes . . . should be directly pardoned without need for redemption through fines.
But, “for those who transgressed presumptuously and repeatedly,” even if their crimes should be pardoned or their penalties
reduced according to the law, these offenders cannot simply be
exiled; they must be punished [severely]. These two sentences [in the Canon of Shun] show the possibility of one’s
sentence become more serious or occasionally becoming lighter. Our statutes today also provide for such measures . . .
[thus], this [passage in the Book of Yu] is the foundation and
basis of the punishment system of the great ancient sage-kings.
Although the sage kings levied both harsh and light punishments . . . they were always guided by and acted out of the spirit of Shun’s remark, “Let me be reverent! Let me be reverent! Let compassion rule in punishment!” There was a
proper place for both severe and light punishments . . . thus,
[from all this above], how can one say that the sage kings always in every case simply chose to levy light punishments.
We confer a da she [Act of Grace] on the world.
On the fifth day of this first month, just before dawn, all criminals are to be pardoned, whether or not the criminal cases have
already been completed, whether or not the crimes have been
discovered, without distinguishing between the serious and the
minor and including those not forgiven under the terms of
chang she [ordinary amnesties]. Officials who have
been dismissed, degraded, censured, impeached, or expelled
from office are to be given grace. All those registered for
penal labor, whether men or women, are to be freed according
I have heard that in antiquity Shun was worried that the people
were not kind to one another and did not adhere to the wuchang [the Five Constant Virtues], and thus he appointed Xie to be Minister of Education in order to teach the
people the principles of human relationships: there should be 1)
love between a father and son; 2) righteousness between a ruler
and minister; 3) separation of functions and jobs between a
husband and a wife, as they should each know their place and
proper responsibilities; 4) a proper order between old and
young; and 5) loyalty between friends. Shun was also afraid
that despite his attempts to educate the people, there would be
some that did not follow these five preceding precepts, and
thus he commanded [his minister] Gao Yang to draw up legal
punishments and codes to protect, defend, and complement the
five teachings, but he hoped that eventually there would be no
need for punishments. The sangang wuchang [the Three Cardinal Guides and the Five Constant Virtues]82 is
the concentrated essence of the Principle of Heaven (Tianli)
and human relations, and indeed the fundamental root of governing according to the Way. Thus, when the ancient sage
kings governed, they used education to illuminate these principles and punishments as mutually supporting; although
sometimes they would punish first and then educate, or educate
first and then punish . . . they always gave careful instructions . . . and their actions always emerged from a concern for
these Guides and Virtues.
Laws and regulations are tools of governance. Punishments
are complementary methods for governance. Virtue is the
root and foundation of rites. Although we cannot eliminate
regulations, laws, and punishments, they are only good for
keeping people away from committing crimes. Virtue and ritual, however, are the means by which people will move away
from evil and navigate toward good.
Compassion, hating evil in oneself and others, humility/deference,
and notions of right and wrong are all feelings and emotions.
Benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom are the nature. The mind-and-heart unites both nature and feelings. What
Mencius meant by “seed” (duan) [is actually] “tip” or
“endpoint.” By following the manifestation of the feelings,
the root of the nature can be discerned. This is just like when there is something inside and one can see its endpoint outside.
People have these four seeds just as they have the four
limbs. To have these four seeds but to deny their potential
in oneself is to rob from oneself. Zhu Xi’s commentary:
Every human being must have four limbs. If one accuses himself of being incapable, [his incapability] is actually simply obscured by material desire .
a person’s mind-and-heart does not go beyond these four types
of mind-and-hearts [that Mencius mentioned] . . . if a person
lacks these four types of mind-and-hearts, he cannot be called a
human being . . . . The mind-and-heart of compassion is the
seed of benevolence; the mind-and-heart that is ashamed of
evil in oneself and that hates it in others is the seed of righteousness; the mind-and-heart of humility and deference is
the seed of propriety; the mind-and-heart of right and
wrong is the seed of wisdom.
All people have a mind-and-heart that cannot bear to see
the suffering of others.
Water flowing to the sea without getting dirty is similar to one
whose material force with which he is endowed is pure and
clear and who is good from childhood . . . water that flows only
a short distance and is already turbid is like one whose material
endowment is extremely unbalanced, impure, and is evil from
childhood . . . water that flows a long distance before becoming
turbid is like one who, as he grows up, changes his character as
he sees something novel and attractive to him, and loses his
child’s heart . . . thus although man is darkened by material
force (qi) and degenerates into evil, nature does not cease to be
inherent in him [in other words, the li inside him is still there
and is still fundamentally good] . . . Because of this, man
must increase his effort at purification.
Heaven-and-Earth has no other business but to have the mind
to produce things. The qi [material force] of the origination
[the Supreme Ultimate, including li and qi] revolves and circulates without a moment of rest, doing nothing except creating
the myriad [of] things. Heaven-and-Earth reaches all things
with this mind. When human beings receive it, it becomes the
human mind. When things receive it, it becomes the mind of
grass, trees, birds, and animals. All of these are simply the
one mind of Heaven-and-Earth.
The Supreme Ultimate is simply the Principle of the highest
good. Each and every person has in him the Supreme Ultimate,
and each and every thing has in it the Supreme Ultimate . . . the
Supreme Ultimate is an appellation for all virtues and the utmost good in Heaven-and-Earth, human beings, and things . . .
it is the ultimate of Principle.
Among the pressing matters faced by the state, there is none
more important as comforting and providing for the people.
The foundation for comforting and providing for the people
lies in the emperor’s upright heart and proper, skillful enactment of laws, regulations, and moral standards. In [openly]
enacting these regulations and standards, the laws of the imperial court will not simply arise from the whims of an individual [ruler], but rather emerge from the virtuous and fair policies
of the emperor, policies that are not selfish, biased, or hesitant.
Moreover, the successful implementation of such regulations
cannot rely solely on the work of an emperor, but instead necessitates the participation of virtuous ministers.
The transmission of Dao [the Confucian Way] was
made fortunately possible because of the work of specific individuals. From the Zhou Dynasty [1046-256 B.C.] onward,
only a few people have been able to successfully tackle the
challenge of transmitting the Way – and, out of these, only
around one or two have been able not only to transmit, but also
to develop and make the Way fully manifest in their studies
and in society. From Confucius onward, his disciples Zengzi
and Zisi were able to carry forth the Confucian Way. Only
when Mencius came on the scene later was the Confucian Way
developed and empowered. After Mencius, Zhou Dunyi,
Cheng Hao, Cheng Yi, and Zhang Zai were able to recover and
continue the transmission of the Way after a hiatus. [Finally],
it was only not until Zhu Xi came on the scene did the Way become developed and manifested.
If only to know but do not act, it is tantamount to ignorance.
Someone asked: "Can Sagehood be learned?"
Reply: It can.
"Are there essentials(yao)?"
Reply: There are.
"I beg to hear them."
Reply: To be unified (yi) is essential. To be unified is to have no desire.
Without desire one is vacuous when still (jing xu) and direct in activity
(dong zhi). Being vacuous when still, one will be clear (ming); being
clear one will be penetrating (tong). Being direct in activity one will be
impartial (gong ݀; being impartial one will be all-embracing (pu). Being
clear and penetrating, impartial and all-embracing, one is almost [a Sage].
Non-polar, yet Supreme Polarity" explains existence [polarity or differentiation]
within non-existence [non-polarity or undifferentiation]. If you can truly see it, it
explains existence and non-existence, or vice versa, neither obstructing the other.
The alternation of yin and yang is called the Way" is the Supreme Polarity.
Question on "The alternation of yin and yang is called the Way": Is this Supreme
Polarity? Reply: Yin and yang are simply yin and yang. The Way is Supreme
Polarity – that by which there is alternation of yin and yang.
Yin and yang are qi, that which is within form [i.e. physical]. That by which
there is "alternation of yin and yang" is order/principle (li), which is above form
[i.e. metaphysical]. "The Way" means the same as order/principle (li).
The operation of Heaven above has neither sound nor smell,
and yet it is the
pivot (shuniu) of the actual process of creation and the basis of the
classification of things. Thus it says, "Non-polar and yet Supreme Polarity!" It is
not that there is non-polarity outside of the supreme polarity.