What the Great Learning teaches,
is to illustrate illustrious virtue; to renovate the people; and
to rest in the highest excellence.
The point where to rest being known, the object of pursuit is
then determined; and, that being determined, a calm
unperturbedness may be attained to. To that calmness there will
succeed a tranquil repose. In that repose there may be careful
deliberation, and that deliberation will be followed by the
attainment of the desired end.
Things have their root and their branches. Affairs have their
end and their beginning. To know what is first and what is last
will lead near to what is taught in the Great Learning.
The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue
throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states.
Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their
families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first
cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons,
they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their
hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts.
Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to
the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in
the investigation of things.
Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their
knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their
thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their
hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated. Their
persons being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their
families being regulated, their states were rightly governed.
Their states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made
tranquil and happy.
From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of the people, all must
consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything
It cannot be, when the root is neglected, that what should
spring from it will be well ordered. It never has been the case
that what was of great importance has been slightly cared for,
and, at the same time, that what was of slight importance has
been greatly cared for.
In the Announcement to K'ang, it is said, "He was able to make
his virtue illustrious."
In the Tai Chia, it is said, "He contemplated and studied the
illustrious decrees of Heaven."
In the Canon of the emperor (Yao), it is said, "He was able to
make illustrious his lofty virtue."
These passages all show how those sovereigns made themselves
On the bathing tub of T'ang, the following words were engraved:
"If you can one day renovate yourself, do so from day to day.
Yea, let there be daily renovation."
In the Announcement to K'ang, it is said, "To stir up the new
In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "Although Chau was an ancient
state the ordinance which lighted on it was new."
Therefore, the superior man in everything uses his utmost
In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "The royal domain of a
thousand li is where the people rest."
In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "The twittering yellow bird
rests on a corner of the mound." The Master said, "When it
rests, it knows where to rest. Is it possible that a man should
not be equal to this bird?"
In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "Profound was King Wan. With
how bright and unceasing a feeling of reverence did he regard
his resting places!" As a sovereign, he rested in benevolence.
As a minister, he rested in reverence. As a son, he rested in
filial piety. As a father, he rested in kindness. In
communication with his subjects, he rested in good faith.
In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "Look at that winding course
of the Ch'i, with the green bamboos so luxuriant! Here is our
elegant and accomplished prince! As we cut and then file; as we
chisel and then grind: so has he cultivated himself. How grave
is he and dignified! How majestic and distinguished! Our elegant
and accomplished prince never can be forgotten." That
expression-"As we cut and then file," the work of learning. "As
we chisel and then grind," indicates that of self-culture. "How
grave is he and dignified!" indicates the feeling of cautious
reverence. "How commanding and distinguished! indicates an
awe-inspiring deportment. "Our elegant and accomplished prince
never can be forgotten," indicates how, when virtue is complete
and excellence extreme, the people cannot forget them.
In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "Ah! the former kings are not
forgotten." Future princes deem worthy what they deemed worthy,
and love what they loved. The common people delight in what
delighted them, and are benefited by their beneficial
arrangements. It is on this account that the former kings, after
they have quitted the world, are not forgotten.
The Master said, "In hearing litigations, I am like any other
body. What is necessary is to cause the people to have no
litigations." So, those who are devoid of principle find it
impossible to carry out their speeches, and a great awe would be
struck into men's minds;-this is called knowing the root.
This is called knowing the root. This is called the perfecting
What is meant by "making the thoughts sincere." is the allowing
no self-deception, as when we hate a bad smell, and as when we
love what is beautiful. This is called self-enjoyment.
Therefore, the superior man must be watchful over himself when
he is alone.
There is no evil to which the mean man, dwelling retired, will
not proceed, but when he sees a superior man, he instantly tries
to disguise himself, concealing his evil, and displaying what is
good. The other beholds him, as if he saw his heart and
reins;-of what use is his disguise? This is an instance of the
saying -"What truly is within will be manifested without."
Therefore, the superior man must be watchful over himself when
he is alone.
The disciple Tsang said, "What ten eyes behold, what ten hands
point to, is to be regarded with reverence!"
Riches adorn a house, and virtue adorns the person. The mind is
expanded, and the body is at ease. Therefore, the superior man
must make his thoughts sincere.
What is meant by, "The cultivation of the person depends on
rectifying the mind may be thus illustrated:-If a man be under
the influence of passion he will be incorrect in his conduct. He
will be the same, if he is under the influence of terror, or
under the influence of fond regard, or under that of sorrow and
When the mind is not present, we look and do not see; we hear
and do not understand; we eat and do not know the taste of what
This is what is meant by saying that the cultivation of the
person depends on the rectifying of the mind.
What is meant by "The regulation of one's family depends on the
cultivation of his person is this:-men are partial where they
feel affection and love; partial where they despise and dislike;
partial where they stand in awe and reverence; partial where
they feel sorrow and compassion; partial where they are arrogant
and rude. Thus it is that there are few men in the world who
love and at the same time know the bad qualities of the object
of their love, or who hate and yet know the excellences of the
object of their hatred.
Hence it is said, in the common adage,"A man does not know the
wickedness of his son; he does not know the richness of his
This is what is meant by saying that if the person be not
cultivated, a man cannot regulate his family.
What is meant by "In order rightly to govern the state, it is
necessary first to regulate the family," is this:-It is not
possible for one to teach others, while he cannot teach his own
family. Therefore, the ruler, without going beyond his family,
completes the lessons for the state. There is filial
piety:-therewith the. sovereign should be served. There is
fraternal submission:-therewith elders and superiors should be
served. There is kindness:-therewith the multitude should be
In the Announcement to K'ang, it is said, "Act as if you were
watching over an infant." If a mother is really anxious about
it, though she may not hit exactly the wants of her infant, she
will not be far from doing so. There never has been a girl who
learned to bring up a child, that she might afterwards marry.
From the loving example of one family a whole state becomes
loving, and from its courtesies the whole state becomes
courteous while, from the ambition and perverseness of the One
man, the whole state may be led to rebellious disorder;-such is
the nature of the influence. This verifies the saying, "Affairs
may be ruined by a single sentence; a kingdom may be settled by
its One man."
Yao and Shun led on the kingdom with benevolence and the people
followed them. Chieh and Chau led on the kingdom with violence,
and people followed them. The orders which these issued were
contrary to the practices which they loved, and so the people
did not follow them. On this account, the ruler must himself be
possessed of the good qualities, and then he may require them in
the people. He must not have the bad qualities in himself, and
then he may require that they shall not be in the people. Never
has there been a man, who, not having reference to his own
character and wishes in dealing with others, was able
effectually to instruct them.
Thus we see how the government of the state depends on the
regulation of the family.
In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "That peach tree, so delicate
and elegant! How luxuriant is its foliage! This girl is going to
her husband's house. She will rightly order her household." Let
the household be rightly ordered, and then the people of the
state may be taught.
In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "They can discharge their
duties to their elder brothers. They can discharge their duties
to their younger brothers." Let the ruler discharge his duties
to his elder and younger brothers, and then he may teach the
people of the state.
In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "In his deportment there is
nothing wrong; he rectifies all the people of the state." Yes;
when the ruler, as a father, a son, and a brother, is a model,
then the people imitate him.
This is what is meant by saying, "The government of his kingdom
depends on his regulation of the family."
What is meant by "The making the whole kingdom peaceful and
happy depends on the government of his state," this:-When the
sovereign behaves to his aged, as the aged should be behaved to,
the people become final; when the sovereign behaves to his
elders, as the elders should be behaved to, the people learn
brotherly submission; when the sovereign treats compassionately
the young and helpless, the people do the same. Thus 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 display in the
treatment of his inferiors; what he dislikes in inferiors, let
him not display in the service of his superiors; what he hates
in those who are before him, let him not therewith precede those
who are behind him; what he hates in those who are behind him,
let him not bestow on the left; what he hates to receive on the
left, let him not bestow on the right:-this is what is called
"The principle with which, as with a measuring square, to
regulate one's conduct."
In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "How much to be rejoiced in
are these princes, the parents of the people!" When a prince
loves what the people love, and hates what the people hate, then
is he what is called the parent of the people.
In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "Lofty is that southern hill,
with its rugged masses of rocks! Greatly distinguished are you,
O grand-teacher Yin, the people all look up to you. "Rulers of
states may not neglect to be careful. If they deviate to a mean
selfishness, they will be a disgrace in the kingdom.
In the Book of Poetry, it is said, "Before the sovereigns of the
Yin dynasty had lost the hearts of the people, they could appear
before God. Take warning from the house of Yin. The great decree
is not easily preserved." This shows that, by gaining the
people, the kingdom is gained, and, by losing the people, the
kingdom is lost.
On this account, the ruler will first take pains about his own
virtue. Possessing virtue will give him the people. Possessing
the people will give the territory. Possessing the territory
will give him its wealth. Possessing the wealth, he will have
resources for expenditure.
Virtue is the root; wealth is the result.
If he make the root his secondary object, and the result his
primary, he will only wrangle with his people, and teach them
Hence, the accumulation of wealth is the way to scatter the
people; and the letting it be scattered among them is the way to
collect the people.
And hence, the ruler's words going forth contrary to right, will
come back to him in the same way, and wealth, gotten by improper
ways, will take its departure by the same.
In the Announcement to K'ang, it is said, "The decree indeed may
not always rest on us"; that is, goodness obtains the decree,
and the want of goodness loses it.
In the Book of Ch'u, it is said, "The kingdom of Ch'u does not
consider that to be valuable. It values, instead, its good men."
Duke Wan's uncle, Fan, said, "Our fugitive does not account that
to be precious. What he considers precious is the affection due
to his parent."
In the Declaration of the Duke of Ch'in, it is said, "Let me
have but one minister, plain and sincere, not pretending to
other abilities, but with a simple, upright, mind; and possessed
of generosity, regarding the talents of others as though he
himself possessed them, and, where he finds accomplished and
perspicacious men, loving them in his heart more than his mouth
expresses, and really showing himself able to bear them and
employ them:-such a minister will be able to preserve my sons
and grandsons and black-haired people, and benefits likewise to
the kingdom may well be looked for from him. But if it be his
character, when he finds men of ability, to be jealous and hate
them; and, when he finds accomplished and perspicacious men, to
oppose them and not allow their advancement, showing himself
really not able to bear them: such a minister will not be able
to protect my sons and grandsons and people; and may he not also
be pronounced dangerous to the state?"
It is only the truly virtuous man who can send away such a man
and banish him, driving him out among the barbarous tribes
around, determined not to dwell along with him in the Auddle
Kingdom. This is in accordance with the saying, "It is only the
truly virtuous man who can love or who can hate others."
To see men of worth and not be able to raise them to office; to
raise them to office, but not to do so quickly:-this is
disrespectful. To see bad men and not be able to remove them; to
remove them, but not to do so to a distance:-this is weakness.
To love those whom men hate, and to hate those whom men
love;-this is to outrage the natural feeling of men. Calamities
cannot fail to come down on him who does so.
Thus we see that the sovereign has a great course to pursue. He
must show entire self-devotion and sincerity to attain it, and
by pride and extravagance he will fail of it.
There is a great course also for the production of wealth. Let
the producers be many and the consumers few. Let there be
activity in the production, and economy in the expenditure. Then
the wealth will always be sufficient.
The virtuous ruler, by means of his wealth, makes himself more
distinguished. The vicious ruler accumulates wealth, at the
expense of his life.
Never has there been a case of the sovereign loving benevolence,
and the people not loving righteousness. Never has there been a
case where the people have loved righteousness, and the affairs
of the sovereign have not been carried to completion. And never
has there been a case where the wealth in such a state,
collected in the treasuries and arsenals, did not continue in
the sovereign's possession.
The officer Mang Hsien said, "He who keeps horses and a carriage
does not look after fowls and pigs. The family which keeps its
stores of ice does not rear cattle or sheep. So, the house which
possesses a hundred chariots should not keep a minister to look
out for imposts that he may lay them on the people. Than to have
such a minister, it were better for that house to have one who
should rob it of its revenues." This is in accordance with the
saying:-"In a state, pecuniary gain is not to be considered to
be prosperity, but its prosperity will be found in
When he who presides over a state or a family makes his revenues
his chief business, he must be under the influence of some
small, mean man. He may consider this man to be good; but when
such a person is employed in the administration of a state or
family, calamities from Heaven, and injuries from men, will
befall it together, and, though a good man may take his place,
he will not be able to remedy the evil. This illustrates again
the saying, "In a state, gain is not to be considered
prosperity, but its prosperity will be found in righteousness."