Hsi's Remark. Master Ch'eng I said, "The Great Learning is
a surviving work of the Confucian school and is the gate through which the beginning student enters into virtue. It is only due to
the preservation of this work that the order in which the ancients
pursued their learning may be seen at this time. The Analects and
the Book of Mencius are next to it. The student should by all
means follow this work in his effort to learn, and then he will
probably be free from mistakes."
The Way of learning to be great (or
adult education) consists in manifesting the clear
character, loving the people, and abiding (chih)
the highest good.
Hsi's Remark. The above is the text in one chapter. It is the
words of Confucius, handed down by Tseng Tzu. The ten chapters
of commentary which follow are the views of Tseng Tzu and were
recorded by his pupils. In the traditional version there have been
some mistakes in its arrangement. Now follows the new version
fixed by Master Ch'eng I, and in addition, having examined the
contents of the text, I (Chu Hsi) have rearranged it as follows:
Chapters of Commentary
1. In the "Announcement of K'ang"
it is said, "He was able to manifest his clear character." " In
the "T'ai-chia" it is said, "He contemplated the clear Mandates of Heaven." In the
"Canon of Yao" it is said, "He
able to manifest his lofty character." These all show that the
ancient kings manifested their own character.
Chu Hsi's Remark. The above first
chapter of commentary explains manifesting the clear
The inscription on the bathtub of King T'ang read, "If you
can renovate yourself one day, then you can do so every day, and keep
doing so day after day." In the "Announcement of K'ang,"
it is said, "Arouse people to become new." The Book
of Odes says, "Although Chou is an ancient state, the
mandate it has received from Heaven is new." Therefore, the
superior man tries at all times to do his utmost
renovating himself and others].
Chu Hsi's Remark. The above second
chapter of commentary explains the renovating of the people.
3. The Book of Odes says, "The
imperial domain of a thousand Ii is where the people stay (chih).”
The Book of Odes also says, "The
yellow bird rests (chih) on a thickly wooded mount." Confucius said,
"When the bird rests, it knows where to rest. Should a
human being be unequal to a bird?" The Book of Odes says, "How
profound was King Wen! How he maintained his brilliant virtue without
interruption and regarded with reverence that which he abided (chih)." As a ruler, he abided in humanity. As a minister,
he abided in reverence. As a son, he abided in filial
piety. As a father, he abided in deep love.
in dealing with the people of the country, he abided in faithfulness.
The Book of Odes says,
"Look at that curve in the Ch'i River. How
and green are the bamboo trees there! Here is our elegant and
accomplished prince. [His personal life is cultivated] as a thing is cut
and filed and as a thing is carved and polished. How grave and dignified!
How majestic and distinguished! Here is our elegant and accomplished
prince. We can never forget him!"
"As a thing is cut and filed" refers
the pursuit of learning. "As a thing is carved and polished" refers to
self-cultivation. "How grave and how dignified" indicates
precaution. "How majestic and distinguished"
expresses awe-inspiring appearance. "Here is our elegant and
accomplished prince. We can never forget
means that the people cannot forget his eminent character and
perfect virtue. The Book of Odes says, "Ah! the ancient kings are
not forgotten." [Future] rulers deemed worthy what they deemed worthy
and loved what they loved, while the common people enjoyed what they
enjoyed and benefited from their beneficial arrangements. That was why
they are not forgotten even after they passed away.
Chu Hsi's Remark. The above third
chapter of commentary explains abiding in the highest good.
Confucius said, "In hearing litigations, I am as good as anyone.
What is necessary is to enable people not to have litigations at
all." Those who would not tell
the truth will not dare to finish their words,
a great awe would be struck into people's minds. This is called
knowing the root.
Hsi's Remark. The above fourth chapter of commentary explains the root and the
5. This is called knowing the root.
This is called the perfecting of knowledge.
Chu Hsi's Remark. The above fifth
chapter of commentary explains the meaning of the investigation of things and
the extension of knowledge, which is now lost. I have ventured
to take the view of Master Ch'eng I and supplement it as follows:
The meaning of the expression "The perfection of knowledge
depends on the in-vestigation of things (ko-wu)"" is this: If we wish
to extend our knowledge to the utmost, we must investigate the
principles of all things we come into contact with, for the
intelligent mind of man is certainly formed to know,
and there is not a single thing in which its principles do not
inhere. It is only because all principles
not investigated that man's knowledge is incomplete. For this
reason, the first step in the education of the adult is to instruct the
learner, in regard to all things in the world, to proceed from what
knowledge he has of their principles, and investigate further until
he reaches the limit. After exerting himself in this way for a long
time, he will one day achieve a wide and far-reaching penetration.
Then the qualities of all things,
whether internal or external, the refined or the coarse, will all
be apprehended, and the mind, in its total substance and great
functioning, will be perfectly intelligent. This is called the investigation of
things. This is called the perfection of knowledge.
What is meant by "making the will sincere" is allowing no
self-deception, as when we hate a bad smell or love a beautiful color. This
is called satisfying oneself. Therefore the superior man will always be
watchful over himself when alone. When the inferior man is alone and
leisurely, there is no limit to which he does not go in his evil deeds.
Only when he sees a superior man does he then try to disguise himself,
concealing the evil and showing off the good in him. But what is the use?
For other people see him as if they see his very heart. This is what is
meant by saying that what is true in a man's heart will be shown in his
outward appearance. Therefore the superior man will always be watchful
over himself when alone. Tseng Tzu said, "What ten eyes are
beholding and what ten hands are pointing to—isn't it
frightening?" Wealth makes a house shining and virtue
makes a person shining. When one's mind
broad and his heart generous, his body becomes big and is at ease.
Therefore the superior man always makes his will sincere.
Chu Hsi's Remark. The above sixth
chapter of commentary explains the sincerity of the will.
7. What is meant by saying that
cultivation of the personal life depends on the rectification of the mind is
that when one is affected by wrath to any extent, his mind
will not be correct. When one is affected
fear to any extent, his mind will not be correct. When he is affected by
fondness to any extent, his mind will not be correct. When he is affected by worries and anxieties, his mind will not be
correct. When the mind is not present, we look but do not
see, listen but do not hear, and eat but
not know the taste of the food. This is what is meant by saying that
the cultivation of the personal life depends on the rectification of the
Chu Hsi's Remark. The above seventh
chapter of commentary explains the rectification of the mind in order to
cultivate the personal life.
8. What is meant by saying that the
regulation of the family depends on the cultivation of the
personal life is this: Men are partial toward
for whom they have affection and whom they love, partial toward
those whom they despise and dislike, partial toward those whom they
fear and revere, partial toward those whom they pity and for whom
they have compassion, and partial toward those whom they do not respect.
Therefore there are few people in the world who know what is
bad in those whom they love and what is good in those whom they dis-like.
Hence it is said, "People do not know the faults of their sons and
do not know (are not satisfied with) the bigness of their
seedlings." This is what is meant by saying that if the
personal life is not cultivated, one cannot regulate his family.
Hsi's Remark. The above eighth chapter of commentary explains the the
cultivation of the personal life in order to regulate the family.
9. What is meant by saying that in
order to govern the state it is necessary first to regulate the
family is this: There is no one who cannot teach his own family and yet can
teach others. Therefore the superior man (ruler) without going
beyond his family, can bring education into
in the whole state. Filial piety is that with which one serves
his ruler. Brotherly respect is that with which one serves his elders,
and deep love is that with which one treats the multitude. The
"Announcement of K'ang" says, "Act as if you were watching over
an infant." If a mother sincerely and earnestly looks for
what the infant wants, she may not hit the mark but
she will not be far from it. A young woman has never had to learn
about nursing a baby before she marries. When the individual families have
become humane, then the whole country will be aroused toward
humanity. When the individual families have become compliant, then the
whole country will be aroused toward
When one man is greedy or avaricious, the whole country
be plunged into disorder. Such is the subtle, incipient activating
force of things. This is what is meant by saying that a single word may
spoil an affair and a single man may put the country in order.
(Sage-emperors) Yao and Shun led the world with humanity and the people followed them. (Wicked kings)
Chieh and Chou led the world with violence and the people
followed them. The people did not follow their
which were contrary to what they themselves liked. Therefore
the superior man must have the good qualities in himself before he may
require them in other people. He must not have the bad qualities in
himself before he may require others not to have them. There has never been a
man who does not cherish altruism (shu) in himself and yet can teach
other people. Therefore the order of the state depends on the regulation
of the family. The Book of
Odes says, "How young and pretty is that peach tree!
luxuriant is its foliage! This girl is going to her husband's house. She
will rightly order her household." Only when one has rightly ordered
his household can he teach the people of the country.
The Book of Odes says, "They were correct and
good to their elder brothers. They were correct
good to their younger brothers." Only when one is good and
correct to one's elder and younger brothers can one teach the people
of the country. The Book of Odes says, "His deportment is all
correct, and he rectifies all the people of the
country." Because he served as a worthy example as a father, son, elder
brother, and younger brother, therefore the people imitated
him. This is what is meant by saying that
order of the state depends on the regulation of the family.
Chu Hsi's Remark. The above ninth
chapter of commentary explains regulating the family to bring order to the
10. What is meant by saying that
peace of the world depends on the order of the state is this:
When the ruler treats the elders with respect,
the people will be aroused toward filial piety. When the ruler treats
the aged with respect, then the people will be aroused toward brotherly
respect. When the ruler treats compassionately the young and the
helpless, then the common people will not follow the opposite course. Therefore
the ruler has a principle with which, as with a measuring square,
he may regulate his conduct.
What a man dislikes in his superiors,
let him not show it in dealing
his inferiors; what he dislikes in those in front of him, let him not
show it in preceding those who are behind; what he dislikes in those
behind him, let him not show it in following those in front of him; what
he dislikes in those on the right, let him not apply it to those on the
and what he dislikes in those on the left, let him not
apply it to those on the right. This is the
principle of the measuring square.
The Book of Odes says, "How much
the people rejoice in their prince,
parent of the people!" He likes what the people like and dislikes what
the people dislike. This is what is meant by being a parent of the
The Book of Odes says, "Lofty is the Southern
Mountain! How massive are the rocks! How majestic is the Grand Tutor Yin (of
The people all look up to you!" Thus rulers of
states should never be careless. If they deviate from
the correct path, they will be cast away
the world. The Book of Odes says, "Before the rulers of the Yin
(Shang) dynasty lost the support of the people, they could have been
counterparts of Heaven. Take
warning from the Yin dynasty. It is not
to keep the Mandate of Heaven." This shows that by having the
support of the people, they have their countries, and by losing the
support of the people, they lose their countries. Therefore the ruler will first
be watchful over his own virtue. If he has virtue, he
will have the people with him. If he has the people with him,
he will have the territory. If he has the territory, he will have wealth. And
if he has wealth, he will have its use. Virtue is
the root, while wealth is the branch. If he
the root as external (or secondary) and the branch as internal (or essential),
he will compete with the people in robbing each other.
when wealth is gathered in the ruler's hand, the people will
scatter away from him; and when wealth is scattered [among the people],
they will gather round him. Therefore if the ruler's words are uttered
in an evil way, the same words will be uttered back to him in an evil
way; and if he acquires wealth in an evil way, it will be taken away
from him in an evil way. In the "Announcement of K'ang" it is
said, "The Mandate of Heaven is not fixed or
unchangeable." The good ruler gets it and the bad ruler loses
it. In the Book of Ch'u it is said, "The
of Ch'u does not consider anything as treasure; it considers only
good [men] as treasure. Uncle Fan (maternal uncle to a prince of Chin
in exile) said, 'Our exiled prince has no treasure; to be humane toward
his parents is his only treasure.”
“In the "Oath of Ch'in" it is said,
me have but one minister, sincere and single-minded, not pretending to other
abilities, but broad and upright of mind, generous and tolerant toward others.
When he sees that another person has a certain
of ability, he is as happy as though he himself had it, and when he
sees another man who is elegant and wise, he loves him in his heart as
much as if he said so in so many words, thus showing that he can really
tolerate others. Such a person can preserve my sons, and grandsons and
the black-haired people (the common people). He may well be a great
benefit to the country. But when a minister sees another person with a
certain kind of ability, he is jealous and hates him, and when he sees
another person who is elegant and wise, he blocks him so he cannot
advance, thus showing that he really cannot tolerate others. Such a
person cannot preserve my sons, grandsons, and the black-haired people.
He is a danger to the country." It is only a man of humanity who can
send away such a minister and banish him, driving him to live among the
barbarian tribes and not allowing him to exist together with the rest
of the people in the Middle Kingdom (China). This is what is meant
by saying that it is only the man of humanity who can love or who can
hate others. To see a worthy and not be able to raise him to office,
or to be able to raise him but not to be the first one to do so—that is
negligence. To see bad men and not be able to remove them from office,
or to be able to remove them but not to remove them as far away as
possible—that is a mistake. To love what the people hate and to hate what the
people love—that is to act contrary to human nature, and disaster
will come to such a person. Thus we see that the ruler has a great
principle to follow. He must attain it through loyalty and faithfulness and
will surely lose it through pride and indulgence.
There is a great principle for the
production of wealth. If there are many producers and few
consumers, and if people who produce wealth
so quickly and those who spend it do so slowly, then wealth will
always be sufficient. A man of humanity develops his personality by
means of his wealth, while the inhumane person develops wealth at
the sacrifice of his personality. There has never been a case of a ruler
who loved humanity and whose people did not love righteousness. There
has never been a case where the people loved righteousness and yet
the affairs of the state have not been carried to completion. And there
has never been a case where in such a state the wealth collected in the
national treasury did not continue in the possession of the ruler.
The officer Meng-hsien" said,
"He who keeps a horse [one who has
become an official] and a carriage does not look after poultry
and pigs. The higher officials who use ice in their sacrifices do not
keep cattle and sheep. And the nobles who can keep a hundred carriages
do not keep rapacious tax-gathering ministers under them. It is better
to have a minister who robs the state treasury than to have such a
tax-gathering minister. This is what is meant by saying that in a state
financial profit is not considered real profit whereas righteousness is
considered to be the real profit. He who heads a state or a family and is
devoted to wealth and its use must have been under the influence of an
inferior man. He may consider this man to be good, but when an inferior
man is allowed to handle the country or family, disasters and injuries
will come together. Though a good man may take his place, nothing can
be done. This is what is meant by saying that in a state financial profit
is not considered real profit whereas righteousness is
considered the real profit.
Chu Hsi's Remark. The above tenth
chapter of commentary explains ordering the state to bring peace to the world.
There are altogether ten commentary chapters. The first four generally discuss
the principal topics and the basic import. The last six chapters
discuss in detail the items and the required effort involved. Chapter
five deals with the essence of the understanding of goodness and
chapter six deals with the foundation of making the personal life
sincere. These two chapters, especially, represent the immediate task,
particularly for the beginning student. The reader should not neglect
them because of their simplicity.